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Monday, September 25, 2006

Three Brazilian Soldiers

I couldn't resist copying this, though it's probably been flying around the internet for weeks already:
Iraq, George W Bush, Republican, Ignorance, War on terror,


Donald Rumsfeld briefed the President this morning. He told Bush that Three Brazilian soldiers were killed in Iraq . To everyone's amazement, all of the color ran from Bush's face, then he collapsed onto his desk, head in hands, visibly shaken, almost whimpering. Finally, he composed himself and asked Rumsfeld, "Just exactly how many is a brazillion?"

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Exxon and Global Warming

The worst revelation this week that has filtered trough to me is (and I quote) that the oil giant ExxonMobil gives money to scores of organisations that claim the science on global warming is inconclusive – which it isn’t. It’s a strategy that has set back action on climate change by a decade, and it involves the same people who insist that passive smoking is harmless. This is revealed in Heat a new book by George Monbiot and quoted in The Guardian newspaper. The article is to be found at The Guardian and I won’t quote more of it here, just saying Shame on you Exxon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I'm home!

I returned yesterday from an excellent trip "Up North" taking in many of the beauty spots of Yorkshire and then into Lancashire before driving home. There were no major disasters and all the places I stayed were good and the various Guest Houses or Bed & Breakfast places looked after me well. I can now do without massive breakfasts of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, black pudding, tomato and mushrooms - with toast, marmelade for several months. The weather was much better than expected and as you will see, had plenty of sunshine.
I took nearly 300 photos some of which have been published to a new folder on Flickr. Please take a look. Three more days including today, then back to work on Monday. The highlight of the trip and where I did the most walking was Malham where stunning limestone scenery dominates the landscape with waterfalls, disappearing streams, cliffs and bare pavements of well weathered rock, in the joints and cracks of which are many species of ferns, protected there from wind and thriving in moist conditions and a thin soil.
Sadly I did not manage to find the wonderful Sandbeck Yew Tree, described in my 18th Century guide book [see previous post], it had probably been felled many years ago. I do hold out some hope to hear more of it as I left my address with Mr Molyneaux who said he would pass it to the local historian.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Modern and Ancient

I was forgetting that I had plans for today! It is the annual Heritage Open Day during which many historic buildings not otherwise open to the public are available to view in all the counties of England. Near to me here in Bristol is the village of Westbury-on-Trym where two houses that I had never visited previously were my destination this morning. The first was The Concrete House, a classic “Modern Movement” house built in 1934 and still with many of its original fixtures and fittings. Then by contrast, not far away in the centre of the village, is Elsie Briggs House, a largely unaltered house built in 1445 and still occupied and used as a house of prayer. It is the oldest continuously occupied house in Bristol. So, a morning of contrasts – judge for yourself, look at my photos and follow the link if you would like further information. I try and go to different places each year on open day and it will take a lifetime to see them all, just in this area.

Chatting On Line

I have no idea of the actual numbers of people around the world who are at this minute, typing away at their PC’s chatting on line with people they have never met and never will meet - in all probability. However if the total number shown at the foot of my Skype box for total users on line is any guide, then it will be a substantial percentage of that number, which now as I write is 4,524,889, plus all those using other service providers world wide.

I realise that the Internet is used for all sorts of dubious purposes and that sex and images of sex do make up a huge part of total Internet traffic but there is a genuine and interesting social interaction going on with one to one chat. It is in fact a cultural phenomenon that is, in my opinion allowing people to learn about each other’s cultures, lifestyles and interests in ways never before possible. Ordinary people are talking with other ordinary people, often the other side of the world. Naturally there is a bias towards the “haves” rather than the “have-nots” as it needs an Internet connected computer to join in. Then it needs a little bit of expertise to know what to do to find people with whom to chat and not all computer users feel comfortable doing that. I am one who does feel comfortable chatting with strangers on line; and I get a sense, at an early stage, that the other person is, or is not, someone I can have an interesting conversation with. Several times I have been messaged by people whose only conversation is “Hi, how are you? They want to chat, but the words just don’t come and especially if their on line profile tells me nothing, I get bored by writing back “Ok tell me about yourself, where are you, what are you, how old are you, what do you do? It is necessary for effective communications for people to have posted in a profile, answers to all these questions and more. Profiles should allow one to see immediately a person's main interests and preferred language and a lack of profile might mean that the person has a lot he or she wants to hide.

I would not be on line at all if I could not learn from the Internet, I don’t use it as a game, but as a tool to stimulate my mind and to learn from other people. I have made good and genuine friends with people who are able to speak, or are learning to speak English and these are the kinds of friends who have something to say about themselves, their lives and their countries. I remain fascinated!

As a finish to this post – a special thanks to my friends – they know who they are! - in Hungary, India, Poland, Germany, Austria, Washington, Iowa, Texas, Ontario, British Columbia, China, Taiwan, Sardinia, Lithuania, Philippines, South Africa, and I’m sorry if I’ve missed any off the list.

This is probably my last post for a few days as I’m off on holiday to Yorkshire until the 22nd September. Watch out for my photos after that – OK?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Beauties of England

One of my oldest books and one of my most treasured is this little travel guide to “The Beauties of England” which was printed in 1757. Just before I set out on a tour to the North of England next Sunday I thought it might be a good idea to compare travelling now with travelling in the 18th Century.
The only people who could afford to travel any distance away from home were the gentry and nobility and it was for them that this book was written. There were coaching inns but these are not mentioned in the book and one’s attention is drawn to the list at the end of the pages for each county of the “Seats of the Nobility and the Gentry.” And so like using a hotel guide today, our 18th century noble traveller with his coach and pair of horses would write a letter in advance to [for instance] the Earl of Carlisle at Castle Howard in Yorkshire asking for the favour of a visit en route to his own lands in Scotland. He would have to give an approximate date of arrival and give the numbers of his party, the numbers of his servants and his horses in order that the Noble Earl can delegate his staff to make suitable arrangements. What a carry-on!
Having arranged the accommodation, our traveller would then pay attention to the beauties and curiosities of the areas to be visited. I quote as an example: -
Near Sandbeck, in a Field called Cuckold’s Haven, is a remarkable Ewe-tree of a greenifh Colour, and very fingular form; its Branches rife one above another in natural Circles of Dimenfions as exact as if they were a Production of Art, and more beautiful; ‘tis hedged in, being efteemed a very great Curiofity. I will try and find if is there still – yew trees tend to live for hundreds of years.
There are hundreds of other little anecdotal snippets of information in the book, useful then in the 1750’s but I doubt if the Noble Earl will be welcoming me and my Ford to his country seat later this month. Note if you would, that the lower case letter s, if used at the beginning or in the middle of a printed word uses a font giving it the appearance of an f. Thus Yorkshire looks like Yorkfhire, Island becomes Ifland and Chester becomes Chefter.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Teaching English

Since starting my Blog in April of this year I have had much satisfaction from the favourable comments received from all over the world. These have been from people who were previously unaware of my humble existence and I thank them all for visiting.
I have also joined the internet phone network Skype and at various times while I sit here at the PC, I can mark my phone status as “Skype Me” which means that of the millions of people online at that moment anyone could find me and if they wish, text or voice chat with me, all for no cost. Almost all that have Skyped me have been genuinely nice people who in some way have found interests to share with me. One of the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences for me has been chatting with several non-English speakers who want to improve their English skills or show interest in other subjects within my own areas of expertise. While I have no qualification for teaching English, I think I do have a thorough knowledge of my own language and can give many people the benefit of that knowledge. If I don’t know the answer to a question of grammar or lexicon then I always know where to look and /or make intelligent use of Google!
Yesterday I was helping a head teacher in Hungary write a letter to a British charity. She has no budget for obtaining textbooks and needed a particular book that they publish for teaching English. The letter has been sent and I await the result, but for now I have the teacher’s profuse thanks heaping praise on my efforts, saying, “Even if I lived for 100 years I wouldn't be able to compile a letter like this.” I confess that I have a swollen head after such praise but am nonetheless very happy to receive it.
So if you have any questions about English usage please email or Skype me – I’ll do my best to answer. And here is an English rose in return.