QUESTION YOURSELF – THE BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE PART 2

One of my friends wrote an eloquent and meaningful poem on Facebook, and it captures not only the beauty of words, but also the problem of being too sure about oneself in debate, and the need to examine one’s own biases. [Skeptic friends, take heed]

(Check our her Twitter & YouTube, she posts some interesting, controversial and original stuff)

Debates can get heated, doesn’t feel nice to be questioned,
Our own mind’s picture, of a situation, seems threatened,
The instinct is to scramble, for a support to our position,
We don’t always step back and consider thought-omission.

We like to be right, it feels good to have knowledge,
If a view seems absurd, they must have missed college!?
They can’t be right, it doesn’t fit my agenda,
Must be time for ridicule “Oi, go play with your double ender!”.

But wait, step back, question everything, remember?!
That means your own axioms, too, that’s no surrender.
Combine the positions and question each angle,
Hopefully your opponent will follow your example.

It’s unlikely you’ll agree within a short conversation
But the discourse is important for further investigation.
Without common ground, you won’t find a solution
To the issue you see as a societal pollution.

So, stay calm and controlled, keep your words ever relevant,
Your discussion may be fruitful, if you stay in your element.
And remember, end of discourse, is not the end of introspection,
Plant a seed of encouragement, for personal reflection.

 

She also wrote another one, here, on a somewhat different subject. The wit is still as strong, and the tone is a little more cutting – but sometimes you have to be bold to get your point across.

MY HERO – TATTOO STORIES PART 1

Remember how I’ve written before about the significance that tattoos hold for me?  Well this is a very special one, and today is a very special day.  Len was my grandfather, and today would have been his 100th birthday.  As you can probably guess, he was a heavily-tattooed sailor, and also an engineer like me (well, maybe no-one is an engineer like me – haha).  He fought in WWII, which was the reason he ended up moving to my birth town in the first place.  Funny how events lead to conclusions.  I got this tattoo to remember him by, as sadly he died when I was in my teens.

 len

We were pretty close, but I wish I’d had more time to speak with him, as he’d lived an exciting and fulfilling life.  And he was so easy to speak with – he had a way of speaking effectively and eloquently with just about anyone, no matter their background and social status.  He was a great guy, but he didn’t put up with bullshit.  He worked hard, achieved great things, and was pragmatic and personable.  He’s the only individual I could ever consider a role model.  My dad sent me a copy of his military record, and it contained the most glowing reference from his Commanding Officer that I have ever seen (he was discharged in the 60s due to ill health).  I’m not sure where it is right now, but if I find it I will post it here.

I used to see him a lot, as he lived very nearby, and we parked the family car at his house, so we had excuses to be there all the time.  And I loved to see his cats.  I grew up around cats and I feel like I understand them in a way that I just can’t with dogs.  So many great memories, and he lives on in ink on my arm.  Until my time is up.  But at least they’ll be able to identify my body if I’m lost at sea.

M*********ING VOTE!!! (OBVIOUSLY NSFW)

WAKE THE F**K UP OBAMA AD Samuel L Jackson Voting Ad

This video was for the Obama election campaign in 2012, but I feel the spirit is the same for our referendum today.  If you want a better world, then you need to vote for it.  None of that “but my voice is only one in a sea of many” crap, voter turnout in the UK is so low that an unused vote is a route for bizarro fringe parties to take hold.  Don’t even get me started on “protest voting“.  Demographically, older & richer people are more likely to use their vote, and younger & poorer voters more likely to stay at home on Polling DayThe ones not voting are those who will be most affected by the outcome.  And at the moment, older voters lean more towards Leave, and younger voters towards Remain.  If us young’uns don’t get out there today and participate in the democratic process, then we have no-one to blame but ourselves if we get the wrong result.  People gave their lives for us to have this right, and we sadly lost an MP to political extremism only last week.  What matters more than a human life?  The right to vote is more than just a right, it is an honour.  Use it as you wish, but please use it.

HOW WILL THE UK VOTE IN TOMORROW’S EU REFERENDUM?

We’ve already seen evidence of what happens if you allow the Great British Public to vote on anything important, with the RRS Sir David Attenborough saga. (Click here for an article taking itself waaaaaay too seriously)

How many spoiled papers are going to be for "Votey McVoteface"? I feel an FOI Request coming on!

So why are we even voting on one of the most politically destabilising issues of our time?  Both sides have made good points and bad, and some downright hilarious ones too.  But if we are to believe the Remain campaign (and our own Prime Minister), then leaving the EU is a terrible idea.  And this question has been put to a population that cares more about a cake contest than who will run the country for the next four years.  Even if you’re politically opposed to the EU and would like the UK to be “independent”, it makes no sense to vote “out”, because we’d still have to obey EU laws and pay the fees, but we’d have no say on those laws.  So we’d be literally choosing taxation with no representation – unless the UK goes totally renegade (and who knows what would happen with This Guy in charge).

But I have heard so many “Brexit” voices, all believing the same untruths, ignoring the facts and complex details of how the EU actually works (who wants to listen to the workings of the Council of the EU, when the Daily Mail’s going on about straight bananas and bent cucumbers?), that I’m scared it’s a genuine possibility, nay, probability.

So, you’ve probably guessed that I, like a lot of other EU scientists, want to remain in the EU. On a purely selfish level, I want to keep my EU citizenship, and I may have to go live abroad and become a citizen of somewhere else if we vote to leave. Mind you, if we become a miniature version of the Empire, with our own tin-pot Trump as leader, it might not be worth staying anyway.

I love to discuss this issue with people I know, both pro- and anti-EU types, but I know that it’s very unlikely that I will change many people’s minds – those who have decided are fixed in their opinions, and for those who are undecided, I am just one voice in a sea of many.  Most ordinary citizens (and even those working in sectors with outcomes affected by the vote) don’t know all of the issues, and I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who can say with confidence that they know what is best for Britain (except for John Major, who is in a better position to advise than pretty much anyone else).

Either way – get out there and vote!  Whether you think the EU is about democracy or dictatorship (again, I bet that 99% of the UK population can’t define these terms), your vote matters.  Do you really want to not even make it on to the losing side, because you were sat about on the substitute’s bench?  At the very least, do your research on the issues and become more politically aware.  There’s no excuse – more information is available to us than ever before.

Take care, All.

AND VOTE!

THE BEAUTY OF LANGUAGE – PART 1

I have just started learning to speak German – I have a number of reasons for wanting to do so:

  1. I went to Frankfurt and Dusseldorf on a work jolly (there was a lot of actual work done too, but I cannot deny that the alcohol was in full flow), and I felt so inspired by everything I experienced while I was there.  Germany (the bits I saw) is a lovely place, and I’d like the opportunity to work there in the future.  Engineers are also sought-after in Germany (they have a more robust manufacturing sector than the UK, as well as having similar service industries -like consultancy, where I work now).  And being bilingual is a very, very, useful thing for employers, especially if one of your languages is English – one of the universal business languages.
     
  2. I wanted to learn a new language, or to re-learn French.  My language education at school was slightly above the bare minimum, but not immersive enough to lead to fluency.  I also struggled with speaking and listening (um, rather important things when learning a language), although my written French is very good.  I liked the structure and patterns in French sentences; it’s a logical language with an easily understood set of rules.  Only trouble is, I don’t seem to have an ear for French.  I have difficulty understanding others, and there must be something seriously up with my pronunciation, because I am apparently unintelligible to the average French person.  However, German seems like a very easy language for an English speaker to pick up.  I’m able to pronounce the words correctly, it sticks well in my memory, the syntax is closer to English than French is, and it’s also made up using a set of rules (I do like rules).
     
  3. I have always considered myself a European, and I would like to spend more time on the continent.  However, my hand may be forced soon, because if we are dumb enough to vote Brexit next week, then I’m off to Germany to gain citizenship there.  Culturally, the UK seems about 40 years behind the rest of Europe, and I’d rather keep up with the rest of the world than lag behind it.  We’ve also caught a glimpse of what a detached Britain would be like over the last few months, and it is ugly as sin.
     
So those are my reasons for learning the language, and of course, it has its own unique beauty, as all languages do. However, I found something rather special when browsing a glossary of words. I’d heard the word “Fledermaus” before, as a friend invited me to a performance of the operetta Die Fledermaus, and so I knew that it meant “bat”. But what I didn’t know is that it is not a direct translation of “flying mouse” or “winged mouse”, there is something prettier behind the name. I found this website, which tells you more about its etymology: https://zipcon.net/~swhite/docs/language/German/stories/

So a Fledermaus is not a “flying mouse”, or a “winged mouse”, but a fluttermouse. This is just lovely. No matter how harsh German speech may sound, it has its moments of poetry. Of course I crave more, and while I’ve not yet discovered all the beauties of die Deutsche Sprache, I have found a couple more words that are just pulchritudinous:

Nacktschnecke: meaning “slug”, translates directly to English as “naked snail“.  This reminds me of a joke:

 

What did the slug say to the snail?
“Big Issue, please?”

 

Entschuldigung: this means “sorry”, with no hidden content.  But the word itself sounds quite funny when said out loud.  It’s like I could never apologise to anyone in German with any conviction.

 

I am very much at the start of my language learning.  I want to be able to speak it as well as a Native.  However, I’m only at A1 Beginner level with Busuu.  But I feel pretty confident about my ability – as well as learning, it feels like I’m really understanding and appreciating the language.  Maybe I’ll do a whole post in German soon….

 

Bis bald,
Die Wissenschaftlerin

BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT OF THE WEEK

Urgh, you know the concept of “negging“?  It’s a PUA tactic where the picker-upper offers a backhanded compliment to his mark, in order to break her down by making her feel insecure.  It’s totally gross, and that’s not exactly what happened to me – but it felt a lot like it, a bit like when someone makes you feel stupid by telling you what an intelligent person they know you are – so why do you disagree with them?

So, I had a hospital appointment this afternoon, inconveniently located in the affluent suburbs of South Manchester.  Sometimes I have enough time to be able to walk it from the railway station, sometimes not.  This was very much a “not” situation, so I jumped in a taxi.  Here is the full transcript of our conversation on the journey:

 Well, when you put it like that, yeah, it does sound insulting.

Well, I guess he had a point. Being a psychiatric patient is clearly the worst possible thing one can be. But after I’d finished my dirty protest in the back of the vehicle and stripped naked and started setting fire to nearby objects, I paid the fare and was able to move on with my life knowing that I’d never have to see that ignorant jerk again (some of the previous sentences may have been embellished for effect. Perhaps.). But for the whole journey, I was both cringing and fuming. I wanted to challenge his viewpoint, but I also wanted to get to my appointment safely and swiftly. And so I just sat there in silence, staring daggers at the back of his head and feeling powerless.

Maybe he meant to compliment me on how “normal” I look. Because a professional 30-something couldn’t possibly experience mental ill-health, right? And we all know how important it is to conform. I guess I should be glad I don’t look like a nutter, eh?