I passed!

I passed the Life in the UK test, and it only took six bloody minutes in the end! So the next step is to fill out lots of forms, have an interview and give the government lots of money. And that’s only for Indefinite Leave, citizenship is still a long way off.
if you’re curious about whether you’d pass, check out these sample quizzes.

BBC: Plans to outlaw inciting gay hate

Plans to make inciting hatred against gay people a crime have been announced by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.
The law would cover gay, lesbian and bisexual people and may be extended to cover disabled and transgender people.
Mr Straw said it was time for the law to recognise society was “appalled by hatred and invective” directed at people because of their sexuality.

No advice about what to do if you spill someone’s pint

People ask if the Life in the UK test book really does tell you what to do if you spill someone’s pint down at the pub, but it doesn’t say! How am I meant to adapt?
It does say ‘women should not use unlicensed minicabs’ – I’m not sure how I feel about that. Is it sensible, or does it make it seem like any woman who does get an unlicensed minicab is recklessly asking for trouble? What message does it send?

Interesting piece from the BBC: UK ‘exporting emissions’ to China

The New Economic Foundation (Nef) says such reliance is adding to CO2 levels because China’s factories produce more CO2 per item than British ones.
The report also says many similar goods are both imported and exported, adding needlessly to CO2 output in transport.

Nef also said the international trade pattern prompted higher greenhouse gas emissions from transport but had little discernible benefit for the consumer.
During 2006, the UK exported 15,845 tonnes of chocolate-covered waffles and wafers, but imported 14,137 tonnes.
During the same period, 20 tonnes of mineral water were exported by the UK to Australia, while the UK imported 21 tonnes. And thirty-four tonnes of vacuum cleaners went from the UK to Canada, with 47 tonnes travelling the other way.

I’ve been around

After hours poring over passport stamps, emails with flight, train and ferry details, another passport and even checking when photos were taken so that I can fill out a form saying when I’ve been out of the UK over the past five years, I’ve worked out that on 32 different trips over 279 days since July 2002, I have gone to:
Greece (Athens), Netherlands (Amsterdam plus ?), Italy (Milan, Rome), Denmark, Spain (Bilbao twice, Barcelona, Madrid), Finland, Estonia (Tallinn), Germany (Baden Baden, Berlin), Hong Kong, China (Shanghai, Shenzen), Macau, Australia (Melbourne), Turkey (Istanbul, Konya, Antalya), Slovenia, Hungary, Ireland (Dublin, festival, M’s dad’s place, Wexford, Cashel and Waterford), France (Paris), Poland (Warsaw, Krakow), Vietnam, Cambodia (Siem Reap, Angkor Wat), Russia (St Petersburg, Novgorod, Moscow), Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia (Bratislava), Austria (Vienna, because Ryanair landed us not only in the wrong city but the wrong country!), Portugal, Belgium (Brussels, Brugge), Morocco (Marrakech), Bulgaria (transit only, really, but it did take days and I did get out though it was probably illegal) Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, Transndneistr, Laos. I think that’s 34 countries in total.
And yes, I did used to be very naughty about flights before I realised that carbon off-setting probably doesn’t do enough to make up for the damage flying does.

The myth of Mars and Venus

There is a great deal of similarity between men and women, and the differences within each gender group are typically as great as or greater than the difference between the two. Many differences are context-dependent: patterns that are clear in one context may be muted, nonexistent or reversed in another, suggesting that they are not direct reflections of invariant sex-specific traits.
If these points were acknowledged, the science soundbites would be headed “Men and women pretty similar, research finds”, and popular psychology books would bear titles like There’s No Great Mystery About the Opposite Sex or We Understand Each Other Well Enough Most of the Time. Of course, these titles do not have the makings of bestsellers, whereas the “men and women are from different planets” story is a tried and tested formula. What does the myth of Mars and Venus do for us, that we return to it again and again?

The genius of the myth of Mars and Venus is to acknowledge the problems many people are now experiencing as a result of social change, while explaining those problems and conflicts in a way that implies they have nothing to do with social change.

Extract in The Guardian