The Falkland Islands

I don’t usually post about current events, but this one has me angry and disappointed.

Consider this: if Venezuela laid claim to Hawaii, passed laws saying it owned Hawaii, and petitioned the UN to get control of the islands, what would the US do? And how would America react if Britain refused to even acknowledge that Hawaii was part of the US? That’s what America did to Britain this week.

The dispute between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands seems to have been ignored in the US media. The UK Telegraph has been following the story over the last week:

The Falkland Islands are British. The people there consider themselves British. We fought a war with Argentina in 1982 for control of the Falklands, and Britain won. Argentina wants them, and in 1994, they changed their constitution to say it owns them:

The Argentine Nation ratifies its legitimate and inalienable sovereignty over the Malvinas [the Falkland Islands], South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands and the corresponding maritime and island spaces, being an integral part of national territory.

The recovery of these territories and the full exercise of sovereignty, respecting the way of life for its inhabitants and according to the principles of international law, constitute a permanent and unwavering goal of the Argentine people.

The statement from the US State department says this:

We are aware not only of the current situation but also of the history, but our position remains one of neutrality. The US recognises de facto UK administration of the islands but takes no position on the sovereignty claims of either party.

That’s a sad thing to read. A country Britain thought was an ally isn’t even going to acknowledge our sovereignty over a place we’ve had a colony on since 1765. This statement isn’t going to make South America love the US, it just alienates Britain even further.

Kakapo given NZ Government job

The Telegraph: Parrot that tried to mate with Mark Carwardine is given a government role.

The New Zealand prime minster has given the country’s most famous parrot a job in his government, it has emerged. An endangered kakapo parrot, named Sirocco, which rose to fame last year after it attempted to mate with the head of Mark Carwardine, the wildlife presenter, during the BBC’s ‘Last Chance to See’ series, has been appointed by John Key as the world’s first "spokesbird for conservation". Footage of the incident attracted more than half a million hits on the video-sharing website, YouTube.

Mr Key claimed that the notorious and rare bird will be the ideal ambassador for conservation.

The incident they’re referring to is immortalised on YouTube as Shagged by a rare parrot. The kakapo is a chubby green flightless nocturnal parrot that is horribly endangered. In 1993 there were only 51 known kakapo, now they’re up to 124, with 33 chicks transferred to sanctuary islands in southern New Zealand to hopefully boost the species further.

Two countries separated by chocolate

BBC News: The great transatlantic chocolate divide.

Anyone who has performed a chocolate taste test will know that compared with its British counterpart, American chocolate has a distinctly different flavour. To many, Hershey’s chocolate has a more bitter, less creamy taste than its British equivalent, and seems to have a grittier texture. It all comes down to what exactly chocolate is.

In the UK, chocolate must contain at least 20% cocoa solids. In the US, on the other hand, cocoa solids need only make up 10%. A Cadbury Dairy Milk bar contains 23% cocoa solids, whereas a Hershey bar contains just 11%. Much of Europe would scoff at either definition. The continental preference is for richer, darker chocolate, with a significantly higher cocoa solid count. Many European chocolatiers make chocolate with upwards of 40% cocoa solids, a world away from our elevenses bar from the newsagent.

I grew up with Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, Cadbury’s Bourneville Dark, and Nestlé Galaxy. I don’t like Hershey’s chocolate at all, it tastes like something is missing, or something went wrong with the milk. Hershey’s Dark is good, Green and Black’s is good (a Cadbury brand that made it to the US), Dove is good (re-badged Galaxy chocolate).

RIP Dorking’s white squirrel

BBC News: Squirrel’s accident ‘ends magic’

Residents of a Surrey town have set up a shrine and an online tribute page after a "celebrity" albino squirrel was run over. The squirrel had lived in St Martin’s churchyard off Dorking High Street for five years and was a favourite with local children and wildlife lovers. More than 220 people have joined a Facebook page in the animal’s memory since its demise last week. A makeshift shrine has sprung up and residents hope to put up a plaque.

We used to live in Guildford in Surrey and visited Dorking every so often. We never saw a white squirrel though.

There are some pictures of other white squirrels in Surrey on the BBC website. The odds against a pure white squirrel are one in 100,000, but Surrey has several of them. So much cuter than the dog-eating Russian black squirrels!

Mental health news

BBC News: Autistic impressions.

Hollywood movies rarely deal with disability – except for autism, when characters are typically shown as having special intelligence. Why do we like to think everyone with autism is especially gifted? In one evening, he memorised every name and number from A to G in the phone book. While waiting for a meal in a restaurant, he committed the entire tableside jukebox to memory. A dropped box of toothpicks? One glance and he is certain that 246 have spilt on the floor. His mind was like a computer and, for years, Dustin Hoffman’s Rain Man character has often been the first reference point for autism.

About one in every two hundred autistic people are savants. Autism is a spectrum disorder, with Asperger’s Syndrome being on the mild end, and geeks can test in the "you might have a problem" range for Asperger’s, as I found in an earlier blog post and essay. A new film, Adam, has a character with Asperger’s Syndrome, and it may be a more true to life portrayal. The comments on this article are interesting, especially the woman who refers to walking outside being "akin to an extreme sport".

It must be Mental Health week at the BBC, they also have an article about two short films on schizophrenia, both of which are viewable at Time to Change.

Scottish big cat

BBC News: Policeman takes ‘big cat’ video

An off-duty Ministry of Defence police dog handler has taken a video of what he claims is a panther-sized big cat. Pc Chris Swallow was helping a friend with their garden in Helensburgh, Argyll, when he spotted the black creature on a nearby railway line. The officer, who is stationed at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, said the cat was as big as a Labrador dog. Big cats have been reported in the area in the past, with several sightings of the so-called Coulport Cougar.

The article has the video, but I can’t get it to play in Firefox, only in Safari. The animal walked along the train rail, which a dog wouldn’t have been able to do, and its tail was much longer than a dog tail. I love stories like this, I’ve posted about this before.

Urban legend says the cats are decendents of illegally imported big cats that either escaped from private zoos or were released in the 1990s. Big cats in Britain keeps track of sightings, but are they myth or fact?

Sounds of Doctor Who

BBC News: Doctor Who theme wins sci-fi vote.

The distinctive music to Doctor Who has been named the best television sci-fi theme tune in an online vote. It finished ahead of Red Dwarf, The X Files and Buffy The Vampire Slayer, according to website Total Sci-Fi. The music, which has remained with the programme throughout its history in various forms, was composed and arranged back in 1963. Total Sci-Fi editor Matt McAllister called it "instantly recognisable to fans just by its opening bars".

The Whomix Radio site is a compilation of fan remixes and reinterpretations of the Doctor Who theme, some of my favourites are Regenerations 2008, Whorhythmics, Toxic Adventurer, and The Monsters Are Coming. Click the download links to listen.

I started watching Doctor Who when Tom Baker regenerated into Peter Davison. Fifth Doctor was always my doctor, until Sylvester McCoy took on the role as Seventh Doctor. He was a dark, scheming Doctor with an agenda that he didn’t share. The theme mutated from all electronic, to guitars, to the new orchestral version with drums. The Regenerations track showcases all the versions of the theme.

Feel better

BBC News: 10 ways to beat the blues?

Charities are calling for a nationwide campaign to help promote mental health after a survey suggested more people are growing anxious. But what sort of advice might be offered? Blame a long winter, blame media fixations with bad news, blame the credit crunch and the thought of looming global depression – Britons are more fearful than they were 10 years ago, the Mental Health Foundation says. And more people are suffering from anxiety, which can lead to depression.

The list of things to cheer you up is:

  1. Lightboxes. St Louis had some sunshine last week and it makes everything better.
  2. Get out in the garden. I hate yard work, but I do have a fledgling pot plant at work.
  3. Get yourself out of breath. Karate group class an hour a week works for me.
  4. Cook a meal from scratch. In our shiny brand new kitchen.
  5. Stroke a cat. This is mandatory in our house.
  6. Pat yourself on the back. The article suggests encouraging self-talk to the mirror.
  7. Take up a lifetime hobby. Like knitting or spinning. Or programming and podcasting.
  8. Do something for someone else… for free. Use your time, energy, and money for others.
  9. Seek intimacy. Have friends, and spend time with them.
  10. Good things take time.

There is a nice set of comments on this article.

Take a break at 11:45 today

According to the Telegraph, Tuesday at 11:45 is the most stressful time of the week:

Researchers found that nearly half of British workers identified mid-morning on their second working day of the week as the moment when they were most under pressure. Most workers coast through Monday getting their brain in gear and catching up with gossip from the weekend through social networking sites.

But on Tuesday reality sets in and staff spend the first part of the day going through emails they ignored on Monday before planning the week ahead. And 11.45am is the point when everything comes to a head. Graham Waters from health supplement Bimuno, which polled 3,000 adults, said: "Traditionally people associate Monday as the worst day of the week, but this doesn’t seem to be the case – coasting through Monday means we’re worse off on Tuesday – both in terms of workloads and stress levels."

You have two and a half hours before the stress really bites you. I have the morning off work, so I’m going out for a bagel and a caramel latte. Chill!

Keep Calm and Carry On

BBC News: Soothing words and stiff upper lips

Keep calm and carry on.

Millions of copies of the "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster were printed on the eve of World War II, but never displayed. Now the message has taken on a new lease of life in our troubled peacetime. The simple five-word message is the very model of British restraint and stiff upper lip. Keep calm and carry on.

In 1939, with war against Germany looming, the Government designed three posters to steady the public’s resolve and maintain morale. These featured the crown of King George VI set against a bold red background, and three distinctive slogans – "Freedom is in Peril", "Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory", and "Keep Calm and Carry On".

The poster has been turned into t-shirts and mugs and other products by Barter Books in Alnwick, whose owner found one of the original copies. At the time, posters were a good means of communication between government and people. I could imagine this on the side of a bus.