19 Nov 2017

world population peak about ten billion

In this brilliantly clear video Swedish statistician Hans Rosling uses boxes to explain why the world total human population will never reach 11 billion.

10 Nov 2017

Carmageddon hubcap sculpture

Carmageddon – the hubcap sculpture. Is there anyone with artistic inclination among my friends who would like to collaborate with me on making a sculpture? I call it Carmageddon and it is basically a large sphere covered in hubcaps. Thinks of it as a rollerball coming down the road to crush cyclists, pedestrians and any other kind of non-motorised traffic. The sculpture is a protest against car culture, obviously.

3 Nov 2017

Accidental Anarchist film

Accidental Anarchist: Life Without Government is a rare instance of TV putting anarchism in a favourable light. You can see the trailer at www.accidentalanarchist.net. Produced by BBC Scotland and shown on BBC4 Storyville on Sunday 23 July 2017 at 21:50, the one-hour film tells how:
Carne Ross was a career diplomat who believed western democracy could save us all. But after the Iraq war he became disillusioned and resigned. This film traces Carne's worldwide quest to find a better way of doing things - from a farming collective in Spain, to Occupy Wall Street to Rojava in war-torn Syria - as he makes the epic journey from government insider to anarchist.

29 Oct 2017

gender identity politics

I’m bewildered and confused by the public debate about gender identity. As a heterosexual man I have never felt troubled with my gender identity. I have my share of other personal issues, of course, as well as an awareness of being a privileged male in a patriarchal society. But gender has only become an issue in my life in the last few years: partly because of personal acquaintance with some trans gender people and partly because of the acrimonious debates in left liberal circles on the subject. I want to support feminism and at the same time I'm worried about being transphobic. But I don't want to fall in with the ideology,  as described in the blog gendercriticalgreens, that 'there is such a thing as “gender identity” entirely separate from one’s biological sex, that being a man or a woman is a feeling unrelated to biology, and that the only way to be supportive to trans people, and indeed to avoid being seen as transphobic, is to adopt this ideology.'

17 Oct 2017

TEFL Colchester


  • Fresh Beginnings (Migrant and Refugee Support Centre in Colchester) provides practical help to refugees, asylum seekers and migrant workers around Essex including free English classes for refugees - six a week: Mon, Tue, Thu, 10.30-12 and 12.30-2 at the Bunting Rooms off Head Street.. 
  • Local Quakers are also involved in helping provide free English classes.
  • Refugee Action Colchester - on Facebook -  provides one on Wed 10am-1pm. 
  • Volunteering with Refugees is an online course to help volunteers understand how they can best support the linguistic and social needs of refugees at www.futurelearn.com.

9 Oct 2017

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig - GoodReads calls it 'one of the most important and influential books written in the past half-century.' Here is my favourite one of the 6,662 Reviews (by Richard):

25 Sep 2017

Stop 350 Mersea

Stop 350 is a campaign group founded in November 2016 to campaign against Colchester Borough Council plans to build 350 new homes on Mersea Island, which equates to an 11% increase in the island's population.

18 Sep 2017

Only Connect

“Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.” E.M. Forster

7 Sep 2017

Tonio Kröger

Just read an old school report from my VI form German teacher who said I was a bit like Tonio Kröger when I was 17. Tonio who?

4 Sep 2017

Alliston: prosecution of cyclist for furious or wanton driving

In 2016 more than 400 pedestrians were killed on UK roads. One of these casualties, Kim Briggs, died following a collision with a teenaged cyclist, Charlie Alliston, on 12th February 2016. This is a very rare occurrence and has received much publicity. We are inured to the 400 or so pedestrian deaths linked to motorised traffic but not to the vanishingly rare occasions that are linked to bicycles. Alliston has just been convicted of 'furious or wanton driving'. The best blog on the subject is at The Cycling Lawyer: The Alliston trial and here is a link to a good summary in the guardian.

20 Aug 2017

anti-Israel is not anti-Jewish

I'm outraged by Israel's treatment of the people of Gaza and the other Palestinian territories it occupies. I'm almost as vexed by the special status given to Israel by the West, which results from its position as the USA's outpost in western Asia, from which the USA can try to control the region's oil resources for its realpolitik ends.

14 Jul 2017

13 Jul 2017

urban myth of devils interval banned by church

Is it an urban myth that the so-called 'devil's interval' was banned by the Catholic church in the middle ages? (It is also called the diminished fifth tritone and it's the distinctive interval in Jimi Hendrix’s Purple Haze.)

26 Jun 2017

Gerald Priestland The Future of Violence

Comments on Gerald Priestland's The Future of Violence, Hamish Hamilton, 1974.

My main problem with this book is that Priestland does not really consider ‘structural’ violence. He dismisses it as ‘injustice’ that does not count as violence because it is not ‘physical’ (page 10-11). On the contrary, economic and social forces can be just as effective as physical forces in perpetrating violence. This is for at least two reasons. Firstly, economic and social forces can starve people into submission or death just as effectively as physical violence. Secondly, they can be - and often are - backed, beneath a thin veneer of civilisation, by physical violence from the same powers as carry out the structural violence.

There are countless examples of structural violence:
  • benefit sanctions and unemployment that starve people into submission;
  • the soft cops of social services that remove people’s children (and will call in the police if the parents resist)
  • schools that punish pupils in all sorts of ways short of coproral punishment. 
And so on.

Priestland is also mistaken about the role of the media in manufacturing consent. He thinks ‘the media have tried to cultivate sympathy for the Biafrans, the Bengalis, Uganda Asians, gipsies, Ulster Catholics and inner-city coloured people’ (page 12). But contrast this with the history of racism towards foreigners in the British media. In the 1930s there was the hatred towards migrants shown by the Daily Mail when it campaigned against allowing Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany into Britain. Most of the media had racist stereotypes of black people in the 1960s and 70s as muggers, druggies and sexual predators. The media today, especially the Daily Mail, are equally vitriolic about Muslims, asylum seekers and EU migrants. The targets may vary, but the racism of the media remains the same. Against that background it is hard to believe that there was a golden age of tolerance to foreigners in 1974 when Priestland wrote ‘The Future of Violence’.

23 Jun 2017

Know Your Rights at Age 14

Age 14? Welcome to the world of work!

Hans Christian Andersen - The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep - silhouette The general rule is that you can get a part-time job from age 14 - but it can only be in what is considered ‘light work’. This means you cannot do any job that could affect your health and safety or get in the way of your education. Examples of work which you can do are:
  • Delivering newspapers and leaflets
  • Shop work, including shelf stacking
  • Office work
  • Hairdressing
  • Working in a café or restaurant, but not in the kitchen
  • Work in hotels and other places offering accommodation
It’s worth checking with your Local Authority before taking on unusual work to be sure it doesn’t contravene local regulations and bylaws

How long can you work?

  • You can work for a maximum of two hours on a school day and only between the hours of 7am and 8am and 5pm and 7pm.
  • You can work on Sundays between 7am and 7pm but, again, only up to two hours.
  • You can work up to five hours on a Saturday between 7am and 7pm.
  • During school holidays you can work five hours a day from Monday to Saturday but, again, only up to two hours on Sundays.
  • You must have a break from work of at least 2 weeks a year.
  • You must have a rest break of 1 hour for every 4 hours worked.

How much pay can you get?

If you are under the compulsory school age of 16 you are not entitled to the National Minimum Wage and you do not have to pay National Insurance.

FountainSoda.jpg Other rights and responsibilities

  • You can go into a bar and order soft drinks.
  • If convicted of a serious criminal offence (in a Youth Court), you can be held in secure accommodation for up to 24 months or get a fine up to £1,000.
  • Wearing a seatbelt is considered your own personal responsibility, so buckle up.
  • Your parents can be granted a justices’ licence which will let you take part in public performances abroad. This can include singing, playing, performing, being exhibited for profit, taking part in a sport or working as a model. (Children and Young Persons Act 1933, section 25.)

Useless factoid

Wedding Bells (1921) - 4
Under a nearly 80-year-old law in New York state, children as young as 14 were allowed to marry if they obtained permission from both their parents and the court. The law was abolished yesterday so now you can only get married in New York state if you are 17 or over and young people aged 17 to 18 will need parental and court approval.

More info

See www.lawstuff.org.uk/at-what-age-can-i (published by the renowned Coram Children's Legal Centre, based in Colchester, Essex)

14 Jun 2017

Adlestrop

Yes. I remember Adlestrop -
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

Warum in die Ferne schweifen?


Warum in die Ferne schweifen,
Wenn das Gute liegt so nah?
Lerne nur das Glück ergreifen.
Denn das Glück ist immer da.

(Goethe, "Erinnerung")

11 Feb 2017

Great Man Theory of History

The Great Man Theory of History is that history can be largely explained by the impact of "great men" and the occasional "great woman". Examples would be that Hitler caused the Second World War and that Rosa Parks sparked off the Civil Rights movement by sitting on a bus.

12 Jan 2017

equinox and solstice

Great resource by Greenwich Royal Observatory at equinoxes-and-solstices. A year on Earth can be split into four as we orbit the Sun. Each fourth is marked by an equinox or solstice.

2 Jan 2017

Nicol Spence

Obituary in Higher, royalholloway.ac.uk alumni magazine:
Professor Nicol Spence (1924-2015)

Violence in the Bible

Violence in the Old Testament is mainly real and warlike physical aggression, consisting largely of Moses and others smiting their enemies, whereas violence in the New Testament is largely imaginary.