Wednesday, April 20, 2005

What an Interesting News Day

Perhaps it really was an interesting new day or maybe I just read a bit more closely. Whatever the reason, there were a few titbits of news that made my eyebrows rise. So, for the benefit of you, my dear readers, I have summarized some of it for you here (and, where suitable, given my comments as well). From Tuesday’s Times:

In an article about the desalinisation plant that the Mayor of London vetoed:
‘London is already drier than Madrid and Istanbul, according to Thames water, and climate change is likely to make the problem worse.’

Interesting. I’ll bet London gets foggier, though.

In an article from Australia:
‘A teenager stole a Melbourne tram and drove it so well, picking up passengers during a 40-minute ride, that the tram company has not ruled out offering the 15-year-old a job. Transport officials said that he had managed to switch tracks manually, manoeuvre the 27-tonne tram through big junctions and reverse into a big station. In June, the boy will appear in court to face nine charges, including theft and endangering life, after twice taking a tram – the first time driving for several hundred yards only. Yet Dennis Cliché, of the Yarra Trams service, said that the company was impressed with the boy’s driving. “Anybody who passes the mustard for or recruiting policy, we’d be glad to offer a job to, provided he’s old enough to hold a driver’s license.”’

Interesting. Evidently the recruiting policy neglects the line asking about any felonies. It also makes you wonder just how someone manages to steal a tram…I mean, what’d they do? Leave the keys in when they popped out for a cup of coffee?

In an article about the upcoming election:
‘Hopeless Cause of the Day: “The first door I knocked on, I was told to burn in hell. I felt things could only get better after that.” -Lucille Nicholson, who is contesting Easington for the Tories. Labour is defending a 21,949 majority.’

Interesting. Now here’s an optimist, but I suppose she does have a point. (Note for people not from here…evidently Ms Nicholson [no period after the Ms – they don’t do that over here] is in the Tory party campaigning in a district – Easlington – that is overwhelmingly full of Labour party supporters.)

In a letter to the editor:
‘Sir, A letter from my daughter’s primary school in Essex reads: “Change to the School Menu – In response to recent publicity, ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ have been taken off the school menu and replaced by ‘Chicken Teddies’.”’

Interesting. Reading this letter, I am left with two possibilities. First, the Essex primary school has begun dressing birds in lingerie. Either that, or there’s a growing market for disguising disgusting processed bird bits with cute names. I can only hope for the Avian Nighties.

In an article about London’s 2012 Olympic bid:
‘Selling Points:
‘London will pay for a flexible return economy airfare for every team member of the 200 countries expected to attend the Olympics and Paralympic Games. Cost: £10 million.
‘London will give each visiting country a £30,000 voucher towards accommodation for pre-Games training camps. Cost: £6 million.
‘All competitors in the two Games to have £60 worth of free phone calls. Cost: £800,000.’

Interesting. England has a terrible shortage of qualified maths and science teachers yet in order to come teach here, I had to pay not only my own airfare, but also for my own visa to stay here. If only I could run fast or jump really high. But I guess I need to remember the old saying: Those who can, get free airfare and phone calls. Those who can’t, teach and pay their own way. Which leads me to the next article…

From a commentary about the main political parties and their promises of more teachers, more doctors, more nurses and more police. Due to the length, I’m not putting everything here, but I’ve made certain not to change the meaning at all:
‘The main political parties each promise us more teachers, more doctors, more nurses and more police. They do not make these promises recklessly. They have calculated the cost, and they are confident that it can all be afforded without any increase in tax (except the Lib-Dems who plan to squeeze the rich).
‘Yet calculating the cost is not enough. They are looking at only half the issue. … You should not buy everything you can afford. A purchase is only wise if the object’s value exceeds its cost. Otherwise, you end up worse off. …
‘Government spending is no different. It is a good idea to employ thousands of extra teachers, policemen and so on only if they are worth more than they cost. Yet our big-spending politicians never even address this question. … How do they know the spending is worth it?
‘It is a serious problem, because there are grounds for doubt. Consider education. Extra teachers must be recruited from the ranks of those who do not now fancy the profession. This will require the government to increase teachers’ pay. As the number of teachers increases, so will the cost of each teacher.
‘Yet the value of each additional teacher will decline. Suppose the number of teachers was doubled, cutting the class sizes from 30 to 15. The quality of education would improve, but it wouldn’t become twice as good.
‘With increasing costs and diminishing returns, we must eventually arrive at a point where the cost of extra teachers exceeds their value. Each new teacher only makes us worse off. Perhaps we have already passed this point, not just for teachers but for police, doctors and nurses too. Our politicians neither know nor, apparently, care. …’

Interesting. The value of each additional teacher will decline? Each new teacher only makes us worse off? What is the value of a generation of educated children? What is the value of one child who was unable to learn in a class of 30 who is finally able to learn to read in a class of 15? Just how does one calculate the value of education? Just how does one calculate the cost of ignorance?

Let’s work the argument in reverse. Rather than saying that as more teachers are recruited and will cost more money per teacher, let’s say that if fewer teachers are needed, it will cost less per teacher. And, sure, if we double class size from 30 to 60, the quality of education will decline, but it wouldn’t become half as good.

This also seems to imply that, basically, as long as England can get people willing to work under these conditions, why bother doing anything about it?

But, rather than thinking MY life is bad, I bring you today’s final news item.

From an article about health (or something like that…it really seems to bugger any categorization)…oh, and the ice cream reference is a rather lame transition from the previous article…just disregard and keep reading:

‘An unfortunate chap whose case is detailed in DOCTOR (April 12) could have done with some ice cream but made do with yoghurt. He was chopping chillies but had to heed a call of nature. Result? Severe irritation of a sensitive area “normally tucked safely away from exposure to kitchen condiments”, as the urgently summoned GP delicately describes it. Ouch. But after a couple of hours immersed in cool, southing yoghurt the irritated member was restored to health. ‘I am told that a jock strap can support a yoghurt-dipped penis, carton and all,” writes the angel of mercy.’

Interesting. Where to begin? When you consider it, at least all he had to do was…um…wee. Think about it. It could have been much, MUCH worse.

And on that note, that’s it for today’s news. I mean, how could I possibly top that one?

Oh, How Awkward Can I Make Things?

After this sentence (‘Either that, or there’s a growing market for disguising disgusting processed bird bits with cute names.’) from the news article, I’m kinda disappointed I didn’t try for more d-words in that sentence. Couldn’t I have tried with disgusting namesa bit harder to use ‘digesting,’ and ‘dismembering,’ and ‘disagreeable’ as well?

How about:
‘I’m disappointed that there is such a disagreeable market for disguising disgusting pre-digested dismembered bird bits with cute names.’

And what happens when you quote a letter that not only quoted another letter but also needed to put specific terms in quotes? You end up with this:

‘Sir, A letter from my daughter’s primary school in Essex reads: “Change to the School Menu – In response to recent publicity, ‘Turkey Twizzlers’ have been taken off the school menu and replaced by ‘Chicken Teddies’.”’


Okay, here’s a challenge for you (although it will probably be disappointing in actuality): diagram that sentence (you know, the one about the twizzlers and teddies).


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