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Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘united kingdom

[URBAN NOTE] “Creative young Brits are quitting London for affordable Berlin”

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The Guardian‘s Johanna Kamradt reports about a new trend in intra-European migration.

The building that houses Agora, tucked away in a small side-street in residential Neukölln, in an old lock-making factory, is easy to ignore.

Outside a handful of people in their late twenties and early thirties are milling about, smoking, working on their MacBook Airs, chatting. On the short walk from the front gate to the front door snippets of three different conversations in English can be heard. Inside is a sea of laptops on desks, with workers fuelled by cortados, flat whites and a daily changing menu, written in English; a woman with a strong German accent orders a coffee in English, because the woman behind the counter doesn’t speak German.

Dani Berg manages Agora’s “food platform” (which includes pop-ups and “performance series”), as well as the cafe. She moved to Berlin just over a year ago, after spending a decade in London.

“The first time I visited Berlin was eight years ago. People told us not to come to the district I now work and live in, Neukölln, as it was considered to be dangerous, and it wasn’t even in the guidebooks or anything. Now it’s filled with tourists and expats.”

Her decision to leave London was mainly a financial one. “I was working seven days a week and paying £800 for a shared flat in Lewisham. We kept moving further and further into south-east London, until I felt I needed to leave entirely. I’m part of a big exodus; I know many people who have moved from east London to south-east London and then to Berlin. The New Cross to Neukölln Express.”

[. . .]

Berliners are noticing how rapidly the city is growing and changing, and how much rents are increasing (despite a recent price cap). Berlin is now the third most visited city in Europe, having surpassed Rome, with only London and Paris ahead of it; many of these visitors are deciding to stay for good. With 45,000 new inhabitants in 2014, Berlin’s population is now more than 3.5 million, marking the 10th year in a row that the city has grown by a similar amount. In 2013 an estimated 10,000 Brits were living in Berlin – this number increased by 35% within a year, rising to just under 13,500 as of November 2014.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 7, 2015 at 10:55 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “John Graves Simcoe, Napoleon Bonaparte & the politics of horse shit”

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Spacing Toronto’s Adam Bunch tells the story of how John Simcoe came to grief over the matter of horse shit in the middle of the Napoleonic Wars.

Woodbury Common is high in the gorgeous green hills of Devon. It’s just a few kilometers from the Simcoes’ summer home in the seaside town of Budleigh Salterton. And it’s not too far from their country estate in the Blackdown Hills, either. It’s a beautiful place: gently rolling hills covered with flowers, shrubs and short grass. It’s typical heathland; in fact, if you look up “heath” on Wikipedia, the first photo you’ll see is a photo of Woodbury Common. It’s one of England’s official Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

At the very highest point on the Common, you’ll find a patch of trees. They’re growing on the remains of massive earthworks. The big ditches are what’s left of the ancient Woodbury Castle: an Iron Age hill fort built in the days of the druids; it’s more than two thousand years old. From the lands around the castle, you can see for miles and miles in every direction — all the way back down to the sea. It’s the perfect spot for a military base. In fact, the British army still trains there to this day.

And so about two hundred years ago, you could find thousands of Simcoe’s troops camping on Woodbury Common as they awaited Napoleon’s arrival — and with those camping men came hundreds of horses.

That, finally, bring us to the horse shit.

With all those horses trotting around, there was, of course, plenty of dung on Woodbury Common. And the question of who was ultimately responsible for it — Simcoe’s troops or the local land owner — sparked a fight that nearly ended in a duel. But not for the reason you might think.

The principal owner of the lands around Woodbury Common was a man by the name of Lord Rolle. History would eventually remember him as the man who tripped during Queen Victoria’s coronation and rolled down the steps to the throne. He and Simcoe didn’t get along at all. Rolle was pretty pissed off by the inconvenience caused by all the men camping on the Common. And he was even more pissed off by the fact that they were cleaning up after themselves. Simcoe was making sure that all the horse shit was being collected and taken away. Rolle was furious. He wanted that horse shit for himself. It was valuable manure.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 6, 2015 at 7:50 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes that you can now LARP at Casa Loma.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the odd reddish marks on the surface of Saturn’s moon Tethys.
  • Crooked Timber takes issue with David Frum’s misrepresentation of an article on Mediterranean migration.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the discovery of the aurora of a nearby brown dwarf.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes evidence of carbonation on the Martian surface and suggests the presence of anomalous amounts of mercury on Earth associated with mass extinctions.
  • Geocurrents maps the terrifying strength of California’s drought.
  • Language Hat notes that Cockney is disappearing from London.
  • Language Log notes coded word usage on the Chinese Internet.
  • Marginal Revolution links to a paper examining the effects of hunting male lions.
  • The Map Room links to new maps of Ceres and Pluto.
  • The Planetary Society Blog examines the Dawn probe’s mapping orbits of Ceres.
  • Progressive Download traces the migration of the aloe plants over time from Arabia.
  • Savage Minds notes how hacktivists are being treated as terrorists.
  • Window on Eurasia notes how the Ukrainian war is leading to the spread of heavy weapons in Russia, looks at Russian opposition to a Crimean Tatar conference in Turkey, suggests that the West is letting Ukraine fight a limited war in Donbas, and looks at the falling Russian birthrate.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

  • blogTO notes that ferry tickets for the Toronto Islands can now be bought online.
  • Discover‘s Crux considers SETI.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper considering habitable exoplanets around nearby red dwarf stars, defends the potential existence of exoplanets at Kapteyn’s Star, and looks at the Epsilon Eridani system.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that a second Scottish referendum on independence is possible, according to Alex Salmond.
  • Joe. My. God. notes that Mormons are unhappy with the Scouts’ gay-friendly shift.
  • Language Hat considers the history of family name usage in Russia.
  • Languages of the World examines in two posts the argument that primitive peoples have simple languages.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money considers the strategies of Spanish populist group Podemos.
  • Peter Watts considers the peculiar thing of people lacking large chunks of the brain who nonetheless seem normal.
  • Diane Duane, at Out of Ambit, is quite unhappy with an impending forced upgrade to Windows 10.
  • Personal Reflections’ Jim Belshaw notes how labour-saving technologies improved the lives of women.
  • The Planetary Society Blog considers proposals to explore small solar system bodies.
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer considers what would happen if Bernie Sanders won the nomination of the Democratic Party.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog links to statistics on the population of Abu Dhabi.
  • Window on Eurasia notes the depopulation of South Ossetia and looks at the Russian Orthodox Church’s hostility to Ukraine’s Uniate Catholics.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell notes that although Labour apparently did a good job of convincing potential voters it was right, it did a worse job of getting them to vote.

[DM] “On ‘The Wetsuitman'”

I have a post up at Demography matters inspired by a posting on Reddit. Through that site’s Unresolved Mysteries forum, I came across an English-language article in Norway’s Dagbladet, “The Wetsuitman”. Written by Anders Fjellberg and featuring photos by Tomm W. Christiansen and Hampus Lundgren, it’s a superb if very sad piece of investigative journalism that takes two wetsuit-clad bodies found on the shores of the North Sea and uses them to examine such phenomena as Syria’s war refugees and the desperate attempts of migrants to enter the United Kingdom from France.

This is a must-read.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 25, 2015 at 1:12 am

[LINK] “The future of Scots”

Harry Giles’ Open Democracy essay explores, in English and Scots, the likely prospects of the Scots language, faced with a lack of standards. The status of Scots has interested me for a while, as a speech form that has lacked much recognition or support but has continued nonetheless. (For how long?)

What does it mean that Fiona Hylop, when launching Creative Scotland’s Scots Language Policy this month, stumbled over the part of her speech that was written in Scots?

Government speeches are written in a peculiar idiom of English. We’re used to hearing the empty words of public relations slide smoothly by, and most of the Culture Secretary’s speech was written in this easy tongue. So no wonder that, when she ran into the Scots of her speech’s final lines – words that mixed archaisms, contemporary urbanisms and variant grammatical forms into a new old language, words stuffed with anxieties of class and identity and nation – she was scunnered. To me, it’s grand to think that Scots might still foul the wheels of government.

Hyslop talked about growing up in England with a mother who spoke English for the most part but switched immediately to a rich urban Scots when phoning home.Perhaps, then, unlike the language of government, the words of the policy launch speech seemed strange and unfamiliar anyway: for the most part, they belonged to the literary (but still beautiful and useful) canon of Scots rather than the agile vernacular her mother spoke down the phone. This longed-for language – a formal, standardised Scots suited to journalism and cultural policies – belongs to the government websites of some Scots’ longed-for state, and as such it’s closer to the language of Westminster than the language of Craigmillar.

A language has numerous registers, each suited to different circumstances. Even a technically monolingual person speaks to their closest friends in a different language – with a different, if overlapping, vocabulary, grammar, intonation and pronunciation – than they would in a job interview. A language also has numerous dialects, varying from region to region, some of which might stake a claim to being a language as well. So when Creative Scotland’s Scots Language Policy (laudably) welcomes all the varieties of Scots, what does that mean?

Written by Randy McDonald

July 23, 2015 at 10:22 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

  • blogTO suggests that the Pan Am Games are not turning out to be a disaster.
  • Centauri Dreams looks at innovative designs for fast small space probes.
  • City of Brass celebrates the end of Ramadan.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze notes the discovery of Jupiter analogue HIP 11915, and links to a paper arguing that hot Jupiters could evolve into hot Neptunes.
  • The Dragon’s Tales notes that there are no more large impact craters expected to be found on Earth.
  • A Fistful of Euros notes the latest on surveillance in Germany.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money notes the gay hints in late 1970s Wonder Woman.
  • Marginal Revolution notes that the Yemeni capital of Sanaa is running out of water, looks at the hard time of immigrants on the Canadian job market, and notes Singapore’s public campaigns for manners.
  • Russell Darnely of Maximos62 makes the case for a return of the Elgin Marbles to the Parthenon.
  • Progressive Download’s John Farrell notes a new book on the historical Adam.
  • Torontoist reviews the Stratford Festival.
  • Towleroad notes how Scott Walker tried, pathetically, to backtrack from his anti-gay comments on Scouts.
  • Window on Eurasia notes Dagestani discontent with pollution allegedly produced by the Russian navy in the Caspian, looks at the awkward approach of the Russian Orthodox Church to Orthodox churches in South Ossetia, and argues Kazakhstan is a role model for Russia.
  • Yorkshire Ranter Alex Harrowell looks at the political economy of the BBC.
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