Every cloud and all that

November 17, 2008

So it looks like the dire state of our economy might have some benefits I didn’t foresee.  Namely we might now be able to have a sensible conversation about joining the Euro and working on further integration with our  neighbours, all this without cowering before the little Englanders banging on about the Great British Pound and how they will talk our bull dogs away or something.  Just a quick aside but what made the pound great?  Well you could point to our role in the industrial revolution and consistently level of innovation but I don’t think we should forget piracy, slavery, aggressive foreign wars and human rights abuses but maybe that’s just me. 


However back to the point, there seems to be a growing amount of discussion on the blogs and it came up in the Observer this Sunday.  The EU is even letting misshapen fruit and vegetables in so perhaps the UK has a chance.


All the pointers are that things are going to be pretty dire in the next few years and then once we have recovered from that the climate might get us.  So what’s to lose?  Our influence with the US and other major powers?  Well frankly this is more illusory  than we care to imagine and is based on our over reliance of the City which is broken and our nuclear arsenal (which keeps us as one of the 5 permanent members of the UN Security Council)  – which as more people get their own is starting to become less relevant.


Add to this the fact that trade with other European countries makes up over 50% of our exports and you have to wonder what the objection really is?  If the market is saying the euro and the £ are converging in value shouldn’t we listen to the market?  We wouldn’t be immediately giving up soverinty and sticking the Queen in the Tower of London – mostly we would be banding together with like minded countries to make something that is greater than sum of it’s parts.  At least we would have a currency which is seen as a global reserve and much more stable.


Fundamentally I think that being part of a bigger group makes you more secure and should make you behave better as you have to get a consensus and do things for the common good.  Also I like the other Europeans nations in general and my recent experience from visiting their capitals and meeting people is that surprise surprise they really are quite like us!  Also you can get their by train – in fact apart from the channel you can almost walk from Europe to China.




Arab Media Watch – is it objective?

November 16, 2008

Very short post on Arab Media Watch, which is basically to say are they having a laugh? Of all the descriptions of John Pilger I could muster ‘objective’ is not one of them.  Does the Arab world need this lot? Surely they are getting on fine with their own media and anyone who is interested enough would go to the source not this blog?  Yes it looks like a blog to me and not an objective review of the reporting about  the middle east.

If they want to address what they see as an imbalance then maybe that is OK, but to call stuff like this objective is pushing it bit.

I love the RSA and Matthew Taylor is my hero

November 13, 2008

Slightly gushing I realise but at the moment the RSA is second only to the BBC (expect soon I love ‘In Our Time’ and Melvyn Bragg is my other hero – sorry Matthew) in my list of things that I think prove that the barbarians are not even in the same town let alone at the gates.  In what is increasingly supposed to be a celebrity obsessed and dumbed down country the resurgent RSA fills me with hope.  Why might this be?

They have the biggest free public lecture series in the world (strictly I think this is biggest outside academic institutions) which covers serious topics for sometimes up to 90 minutes without a break, yes people really can concentrate for that long.  These events cover politics, economics, the arts and even some fun stuff in a structured and engaging way which more often than not leads to real insights.

The lectures are broadcast live on the web and are then downloadable from the website, so RSA geeks like me can carry them all around on our MP3 players.*

They have a purpose and vision that they actually put into action.  For example The RSA Academy at Tipton and their new curriculum framework Opening Minds.

They have a huge range of speakers and contributors from Clay Shirky to David Cameron to Robert Peston to Jack Straw ( at least twice so well done Jack).

Matthew Taylor is a proper clever person who seems to have coherent and interesting things to say about almost any topic you care to mention, he must have a brain the size of a planet.  Annoyingly he seems like he might even be quite a lot of fun too.  Also in a marvellous piece of circularity his dad is on the BBC!

Lots of people I know in my work and private life seemed to have joined or started attending in the last 12 months, and whisper it quietly women and ethnic minorities are reasonably well represented.

They have a strange but interesting building that is a bit difficult to find your way around and surprisingly you can go in at street level in John Adam Street go down a flight of stairs and end up on the Strand.

They have lots of ways to get involved which are both run by them or started by members, I have been tempted to try and help out Primethinkers which helps individuals and the voluntary sector develop business ideas.

So what’s not to like?  Free lectures which are educational and fun with the opportunity to build some social capital.  Finally it gets me away from work and is an interest that doesn’t involve drinking or watching TV.

* I do have a small gripe though – they aren’t podcasted and the file names and info are not very user friendly.


November 11, 2008

It would be nice to think that by the time some of today’s veterans are in their 100’s we will have stopped adding to the list of those we need to remember at such a rate of knots – given the present amount of conflict in the world this seems unlikely.

Two things really brought it home on Sunday the amount of human sacrifice there has been this century alone. The first was Jock Stirrup who when being interviewed informed us that British Service people had died in every year bar one since the 2nd world war. This is a tragedy not only for them and their families but those on the other side of those conflicts.

The second thing that did it was the Robert Capa and Gerda Taro exhibition at the Barbican. It reminded me that I know next to nothing about the Spanish Civil War, Flesh summed up how strange and horrific the photos were by thinking out loud that it would be a bit like somebody knocking on the door and asking to go to fight on Hampstead Heath. The exhibition ended with WWII where Capa was on on hand from the start of the D-Day landings to the end in 1945. The courage of these Citizen Soldiers never ceases to amaze me and I feel lucky beyond words that I am not from a generation that has had to go through that.

After all that emotion during the day it was probably a mistake to watch Schindler’s List which did rather get the better of me, quite why the site of the actual survivors did it I am not sure but there was defintely some blubbing.

My First Post

November 10, 2008

As an engineer I like to do things in a fairly logical fashion so having been tempted by this blogging stuff – here is my first post.  Now bear in mind that as an engineer I spent a long time studying stuff like maths and physics and very little time on important stuff like spelling and grammar.

So why am I adding my ramblings to an already crowded blogosphere?  It might be an early mid-life crisis or it might be that it’s a good way to communicate with my girlfriend who spends most of her time blogging when not at work (apparently this is because I watch too much TV – another good reason to start writing maybe?).  I think it’s actually that I have written a couple of guest posts and longish comments and found that I enjoyed it.

So what can be expected from this blog?  Difficult to say really but it is likely to cover politics (recently joined the Labour Party), the RSA, work (as I spend a lot of time there at the moment and if not there then thinking about it), walking long distances and still drinking inappropriate amounts of brown booze.  People who know me would probably tell you I’m prepared to offer an opinion on most things so who knows where this might get to.