Just randomly, and thinking of no-one in particular *cough* James: “accents are a British obsession. I know of nowhere in the world where so many people are annoyed by hearing another person pronounce or intone words differently from the way they do.” BBC

A quick round up of travel sites that have been mentioned in various papers recently. I haven’t used any of them myself yet, so bear that in mind that these aren’t exactly recommendations.
yoursafeplanet.co.uk is “a global community of local people who can offer information and support for travellers”, for a fee.
travellersconnected.co.uk is another online community with forums, photo galleries and journals.
thelmandlouise.com is “an online community of women worldwide which enables members to meet like-minded women, find travel companions and fulfil their aspirations”.
While on the subject of travel, this documentary tells you everything you need to know about eating Japanese food. If you try it out let me know how you get on.

More of me thinking about Australian identity. I don’t know if this writer is just an optimist or whether there is still hope for Australia.
“Perhaps it’s a reflection of the more dangerous international climate in which we live, but in the political and media arenas particularly, there seems a growing insecurity that not being able to narrow the essence of the national psyche down to a particular object or symbol makes us somehow less of a nation.
I beg to differ. One of the things I’ve always felt proudest of about living in this country is the very fact our character can’t be so easily typecast.

We don’t need another posturing, po-faced portrait of a popular figure cloaked in the national flag to tug at our heartstrings. That’s likely to make as many of us roll our eyes and cringe not just a little as feel our chests swell with pride.
Some would argue that’s unpatriotic. But that mild sense of cynicism, or what I’d prefer to call perspective, is a healthy Australian trait.

The love of a good, hard tussle, played in the right spirit, by men and women who get the job done without the need for boorish, egocentric self-promotion — that’s Australian. So is the team ethic, the love of the underdog, and the belief that enduring the hard times with grace makes the triumphs all the sweeter.” Blind barracking for the Aussie is not our way
Not being a sports fan, I can’t say how much the last paragraph is true, but I suspect those are exactly the values politicians are currently trying to undermine or co-opt.

The BBC’s perspective: Controversies cloud Australia Day.
“In past elections, Prime Minister John Howard has proved himself particularly adept at exploiting voter fears about the threat to Australian identity from asylum seekers and new immigrants.
This year, a rejuvenated Labor Party, under its new leader Kevin Rudd, is determined not to be outflanked.
In condemning the organisers’ decision, Mr Rudd was wrapping himself just as tightly in the flag as Mr Howard.”
Just lovely. The two major parties are building their platforms on xenophobia.
I’d like to propose that being unAustralian is the new Australian:
“Prime Minister John Howard regularly touts his ideas for a so-called “Aussie test” for new immigrants hoping to become citizens – an examination both of historical knowledge and Australian values, like “mateship” and fair play.
In announcing a major cabinet reshuffle this week, he also renamed the Ministry of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.
Quite deliberately, he dropped the reference to multiculturalism and replaced it with “citizenship”. ”
John Howard wouldn’t know mateship if it shouted him a beer in the pub.
And this is equally hilarious and scary:
“Speaking on Egyptian television, Sheikh Hilali said that Muslims had a much greater right to be in Australia than whites.
“Anglo Saxons came to Australia in chains,” he told the chat show Cairo Today, “while we paid our way and came in freedom. We are more Australian than them. Australia is not an Anglo-Saxon country – Islam has deep roots in Australian soil that were there before the English arrived.””
I’ll be sure to tell my Irish ancestors that they’re due a refund because they shouldn’t have paid their way to Australia.

I’ve just upgraded my Movable Type installation, and in the process of backing up, I dumped all the MT entries into a Word document. I’ve only counted since I started using blogging software (2002) so entries from 1996 until aren’t included, I’ve blogged 187,274 words, or 20,000 paragraphs.

And if you don’t already have an RSS reader, I’d recommend bloglines because you can use it from any computer and you can organise your feeds into folders. Make sure you choose the feedburner feed instead of the locally hosted ones.