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Archive for March, 2010

Age and Ageing

“I’ve changed my attitudes about what it means to age. Sometimes people decide

it’s their lot in life to be old, but people like Grandma bring colour and excellence to their lives.

That’s what I’ve tried to do too. I’m looking forward to the next stage.”

Cloris Leachman

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An open letter to Britain and the Netherlands

Inspired by McSweeney’s and an economic situation in world news which has irked me so, I decided to write the following:

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Dear Britain and the Netherlands,

On Saturday 6th, I read here that Iceland would be having a referendum vote. The vote would assess public opinion as to whether the Icelandic people should be responsible for paying back 3.8 bn euros (£3.4 bn) following the collapse of the Icesave Online bank. 340,000 British and Dutch clients were compensated, following the collapse, and now their respective countries want their money back; a ‘repayment scheme’ was the outcome of this. The scheme, however, would mean that every Icelandic citizen would need to contribute 99 euros a month for eight years at an interest rate of 5.5% expected to kick in on the eighth year of the scheme.

The reason I am writing is that I wanted to share a recent news story that I encountered on March 3rd. The Daily Express broke the story, ‘Ticket Tyrants even target flooded cars’. The River Ouse in York had broken its banks and overflown into the city centre, causing cars to move from their original parking places. When the flood had subsided, local council parking attendants had ‘awarded’ these sodden cars with tickets. Interviewed about the tickets, a council spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the flood, and suggested that affected drivers would need to give proof that their car had been moved by the river in order for the council to rebuke the fines. The council have been criticised for not having more “compassion”.

Anyone who has had a ticket will know – and I don’t because I cannot drive, but am assured – that appealing ticket fines is often a fruitless endeavour involving far too much effort with no guarantee of appeal. Moreover, if your appeal IS declined – and chances suggest it WOULD be – appealees must then pay the full fine rather than the reduced fee for having paid in a speedy manner. The outcome of this is that often, people end up paying the fee just to make life easier and because they feel that they have no other option.

So, what is the relevance of my mentioning this story?

Whilst I don’t blame the Icelandic government for suggesting such a radical payment scheme to you – I’m sure they considered it the ONLY solution they had to restore their reputation and thus raise their economic status at this time – I don’t agree with the way you have gone about coming to this conclusion, nor indeed the conclusion itself. You have forced the hand of Iceland by blocking their EU application, and worst still, immorally used the anti-terrorism act in order to block Iceland’s bank activity. And thus the relevancy is revealed: Yes. In this instance, you are to Iceland as the ticket attendant is to the owners of those cars, moved out of no fault of their own. The Icelandic people should NOT have to personally foot the bill following the decline of a bank that HAPPENED to be working out of their country. A rise in tax by 99 euros a month is a sharp increase that the people ARE going to miss, particularly with the world in this global economic crisis. You would be asking citizens for money they cannot spare, particularly those made redundant. From a personal point of view, if the foot were on the other shoe and Britain were expected to pay £89.65 (99 euros based on the current euro to pound conversion rate), I wouldn’t be able to afford my study, would go into debt and not be able to live comfortably. Whichever way you look at it, these deductions are unfair.

At this time, I wish to implore you to consider a more compassionate alternative that doesn’t penalise the Icelandic people.

Yours Concernedly,

Sophia Ho Chee

Mother Nature Network and the Endangered Species Infographic

The weekend is here. As is usual for me, today, I have mostly been reviewing old emails from news sites that I’m subscribed to so that I might know what is happening in the world.

One thing that caught my eye, being the enviro-centric person that I am, is this.

Let me start by saying that I have no doubt in my mind that us humans are having a negative effect on the world and the other species which inhabit it. However, this infographic by ‘Mother Nature Network’ – and by the way, I LOATHE use of the phrase ‘Mother Nature’ as it reminds me of the character ‘MOM’ in Futurama who is not the loving old biddy she promotes herself to be and conjures up an image of smug insincerity – only goes to show to me that we’re not being treated to the ‘real picture’ here. For once I would like to see what the net effect of our existence on this planet really is and not such a one-sided approach, even if this is an estimation. What I mean is that I so often see announcements of the amount of endangered species in the world and the invisible (or at times, blatant) finger pointing in our direction, much like a silent fart blamed on the autistic kid minding his own business, playing with the rubik’s cube in the corner. The repurcussion of such a portrayl of our apparent fault is that people start to think everything is hopeless and berate themselves. I, too, have been guilty of this, what with my idealistic tendencies and vegetarian ways. Guilt, in fact, was what drew me into abstaining from eating meat in the first place, but looking at it all from a logical perspective, berating oneself is not useful and just creates self-loathing where there should be action.

I wonder if it is as cut-and-dry as ‘it is our fault’. Statistics, after all, can be used for bad. In a recent meeting I attended as part of my day job, a colleague pointed out to the attendees that numbers and statistics mean nothing without comparative analysis and a degree of commitment to learn from mistakes. I thought to myself after hearing this, ‘how true’. In the context of our effect, how many species could we have actually saved or helped to create by mere proximity? Ultimately, what I want to see are numbers. Numbers that represent the GOOD we are doing so that I might be able to weigh the two in my mind and say, ‘well, we’re sort of dicks, but hey, we could be a lot worse given the circumstance! Now… to being better!’

I also wonder how much of other species extinction is due to a force outside of our control but that we simply assume fault and that this was not at all as nature intended it… Take bees, for example. Their ‘colony collapse disorder’ and what looks to be pending extinction, if we are to believe Einstein could possibly mean the demise of own species and those around us, but we don’t yet know why this has come to be. It would be so simple to say that it is all our fault. Indeed, one of the theories with regards to this mysterious decline is radiation from mobile phones. My thought is, maybe they were MEANT to die away, and for another species to evolve and take their place. Maybe it is life’s little way of reminding us that ‘evolution’ still applies here, even if we may have forgotten all about it.

There is a certain egotistical arrogance in assuming so melodramatically that we’re the problem and our effects are irreversible to the planet. Chernobyl, for instance – after the nucleur power plant went belly up and humans were vacating the area for fear of their safety – assumed it would never be inhabitable again, and now it is a ‘haven’ to wildlife.

I’m not suggesting what we’re doing here is fine; that we can rest our minds, keep destroying the ozone layer and its neat security system intended to protect all known life, keep destroying the coral reef, sucking the world dry of all oil and polluting the seas, skies and earth while washing it down with a nice gulp of animal slaughter. However, this planet is a self healing one, just as we are when we cut our skin, break our legs.. If we help the planet to recover a little, it will meet us part of the way but how can we even begin to reverse any damage we have done without knowing the extent of the damage we have caused..?

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Daydreams of the Deranged: The Super Villain.

If I were to be an office-themed super villian, I would be ‘The Shredderer’. Made mad by prolonged close contact with a perpetually-squeaking shredder, I vow to reek havoc on all who come in contact with me. My grin is maniacal, skin a sallow grey from a vitamin D deficiency caused by being locked in the stationary cupboard. I place a small dictaphone tape in the hand of my victims, with a recording of the same squeak that drove me mad so many years prior. I leave a trail of shredded paper nearby my victims, by way of a signature.

Ooh-er. Too much time in the office brings about some strange thoughts.