Archive for February 9th, 2009

Snippets of the day

My blogs are kept short as they are on the Internet and it is not beyond a reader investigating further if my jottings have awakened an interest for further knowledge. So, dear reader, don’t be lazy and as “Sergent Carter” said to “Inspector Regan” in The Sweeny, in the sixties, “Let your fingers do the walking” although in this case it referred to the printed Yellow Pages!

Jacqui Smith’s second home – I will let yesterday’s newspaper tell this story…

Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith has claimed more than £116,000 in Commons expenses for a ‘second home’ while effectively lodging with her sister.

Ms Smith claims the maximum parliamentary second-home allowance, currently a tax-free £24,006 a year, on the detached house in her West Midlands constituency, where her husband and two young children live and which she bought for £300,000 five years ago.

She is able to do so because she has told the Commons authorities that her ‘main home’ is a house in London owned solely by her sister, Sara, where she stays on some weekdays.

Clint Eastwood – has just made another successful film; Gran Torino. Clint, at 78 years of age, is showing no signs of slowing down! Long may he reign! His career spans 53 years of acting and 37 years directing! This film is what Hollywood terms as a low budget film ($30M) and, amazingly, only took 32 days to complete. It almost recovered its cost on the first weekend ($1M short) and its debut was at number one! It has since gone on to make over 300% profit in a matter of weeks!

The film doesn’t make a big deal with continuity, and in one scene there is a doll used for a baby, instantly recognisable. Clint looks, believe it or not, 78 years old! He doesn’t care about much other than making a good, no great, film!

Google and read the reviews, you will see this is a film to go to, and ladies, over 50% of the audience are women. And whenever Clint does something great, just listen to the geriatric audience cheering! I’ll be amongst them soon!

University of the Third Age, or U3A as it is called for short. No, this is not something that Tony Blair thought up with his “third way” ideas! U3A started out in France but has now become international. It is for people who have retired and the general idea is that those who have good knowledge of any particular subject impart their knowledge to others who wish to learn more about the subject.

Pam and I attend the Hampstead U3A group which hires the basement of the old Belsize Park Town Hall. They have dozens of subjects which range from learning languages, to art and drawing, to politics and history and a huge gamut of other subjects. Each class lasts for one hour and classes start and around 10:00 am and go through to 4:00 pm Mondays to Fridays.

A huge lecture theatre is hired on Monday mornings and lectures this year have been by the Alison Weir (author and Historian), Tony Palmer (film-maker) Steve Norris (politician) Peter Shore (writer-critic) Lord Butler (civil servant), Lord Adair Turner (climate change) and so on. There is an old African tribal saying “the death of an old person is like the burning of a library” (Words slightly changed to be more meaningful.)

Authors and Google – Are you thinking of writing a novel? Then why not use Google Maps to portray accurate information if you are writing about a country or a city you have never been to. Google Street Scenes will help you bring your article to life and convince those who have been there that you have as well. Use the Google search engine to find out more about the area you are writing about. Use Google Trends to find out what the masses are thinking on any particular subject. Everyone has one good book in them, start writing!

Racism – I think we make too much fuss about racism. I don’t hate people from the Indian continent because of the Pakistanis hated for Indians, or because of the caste system of segregation both in India and Iran. Or the hatred between the Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq. Or the apartheid situation between tribes in Africa, such as the Mashona hating the Matebele in Zimbabwe, or the mass extermination of the Tutsis by the Hutu in Rwanda (500,000 killed in 100 days in 1994).

But if one white Englishman says “damn you” to one militant black in this country all hell breaks loose. Incidentally, was the apartheid in South Africa worse than the one in Zimbabwe or Rwanda? Yes! According to the media.

The Rwandan Genocide was the 1994 mass killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwanda’s Tutsis by Hutu militia. Over the course of approximately 100 days, from the assassination of Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April up until mid July, at least 500,000 people were killed. Most estimates indicate a death toll between 800,000 and 1,000,000.

Last but not least; Esperanto – Many of you will have thought Esperanto is dead. But it isn’t and the reason why it has never made the mainstream is very much the same reason why Linux has not become more popular as a computer operating system. The reason is quite simple, it is controlled by the Geeks.

The geeks do not want the “great unwashed” to take part. Yes they want it to grow, but slowly so they can keep control.

So if it is not widely used, how do they benefit? The answer is quite simple really. Because it is a small community, people are more friendly. Someone who speaks Esperanto can go anywhere in the world without knowing the country’s language. They contact the local Esperanto group and the attend a meeting when they get there. People at the meeting welcome them and offer to show them around. They only need to know Esperanto which is the easiest language in the world to learn. For example, There are no irregular verbs or having to think if a word is masculine or feminine – remember trying to learn French or Italian?

If you type “Esperanto” into your search engine you will get up to 2,500,000 hits! More than enough to show you the language is alive and well, and living on the Internet!

The umbrella organisation is called Universala Esperanto-Asocio and the British branch is known as Esperanto-Asocio de Brito.

You can learn the language through books, CDs or web courses and once you have learned, you can email like-minded people in every country in the world. And visit them on holiday!

Many years ago an experiment was tried. Two identically bright classes of school children were chosen. One learned Esperanto in their first year, and French in year two and year three. The other class learned only French for the three years. Guess which children could speak French better? Yes, the ones which learnt Esperanto first.

This doesn’t mean that knowing Esperanto helped them learn French better, but by knowing two languages (English and Esperanto) they had more knowledge of language differences to draw from as it is well known that a third language is always easier to learn than a second language.

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