Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Great Britain

I've just watched Bill Bryson's TV documentary about the UK, named "Notes From A Small Island" after his book.
One of the points he makes, which applies to most of Northern Europe as well, is that there is precious little dangerous nature here, unlike most of the world including the US. For example we don't get weather like this. (Interestingly, minus 40 degrees is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius, I don't know how that happened.) And we don't get really hot summers either. I love it.

A thing I noticed during the multi-hour show was that everything interesting or impressive he had to tell about Great Britain happened centuries or decades in the past. Almost everything he mentioned, he then ended up by saying: "but in the past few decades, this has been disappearing" or words to that effect. I don't think amongst all of the many places he visited there was a single growth area. How can such a great nation with traditionally a disproportionate number of great minds in science and arts just taper off like this? It's odd.

Maybe an exception was central London, though that was mentioned for sort of negative reasons: people who grew up there can't afford to live there now. For some areas, apparently even people who earn a quarter million pounds ($0.4M) per year can't afford to live there, because the house prices are driven up by people earning millions per year. (In my native Denmark nobody is poor, but virtually nobody earns more than a quarter million pounds per year, I think.) This kind of situation must be artificial, it seems so weird. There's no way a modest-sized house can be worth ten million pounds, or an executive can be worth a bonus of such a sum.

posted by Eolake Stobblehouse @ Tuesday, January 13, 2009   33 comments links to this post


At 13 Jan 2009 21:34:00, Anonymous neeraj said...

"Interestingly, minus 40 degrees is the same in Fahrenheit and Celsius, I don't know how that happened"

T[Fahrenheit] = T[Celsius] x 1,8 + 32

... just by definition.


At 13 Jan 2009 22:41:00, Blogger Alex said...

Never got into Bryson. I can identify with his book title "Stranger here myself".

All the big cities are pricing normal people out of the area. It's a shame it's happening. Those who can afford to live there are driving out poorer people who then have to commute to crappy minimum wage part time jobs.

As for nothing happening in the UK, the things that happened centuries ago probably didn't happen every week, and the things that were happening decades ago only lasted for 10-20 years anyway.

From what I hear from my parents, Britain is taking on a cosmopolitan population, this is a big change. Britain is changing it's role from a manufacturing nation to something else. A lot of small things are happening because of these changes, but not big enough to track.

A lot of tradition gets diluted when you get to our newly educated populace, church is less important, gender roles are changing, wakes week is gone (as factory work changes), and holidays are oft overseas not a Margate or Skegness (through budget and education). The overflow of the cities has taken our quite villages from us.

It is not the Britain my parents were raised in, nor is it the Britain I left. It is a new beast, changing, evolving. Maybe the essential bulldog spirit will prevail, but with so many other influences who can tell.

At 13 Jan 2009 22:45:00, Blogger Alex said...

Hmm, -40F, can't think what that would be like, that's 110F below the outside temperature here now (70F). (smug grin ;-) ) However, Saturday morning was 50F, so I can empathize.

At 13 Jan 2009 23:04:00, Blogger eolake said...

Ooooh, rough.

At 13 Jan 2009 23:08:00, Blogger eolake said...

Yeah, maybe new great things will emerge.

It seems people are moving away from the small islands. I wonder if the houses there are cheap.

At 13 Jan 2009 23:09:00, Blogger Alex said...

You need a weather pixie so we can see how cold it is in Bolton.


Small Islands? You mean Hawaii, or Guernsey and Jersey, or Manhatten?

At 14 Jan 2009 00:08:00, Blogger eolake said...

No, I mean islands in the UK with less than 500 inhabitants or so.

At 14 Jan 2009 00:37:00, Blogger Alex said...

All the ones less than 500 population are off the coast of Scotland. That gets pretty tough out there.

My parents are on Anglesey, and I see them being unreasonable distances from hospitals and daily services. And of course, we got a flat tyre touring Scotland, on Skye, and couldn't get a repair. Maybe I'm just a townie through and through.

Some islands I'd consider are

Fort Perch Rock,
Isle of Ely
Mont St Michel
Eilean Donan
Isle of Skye

At 14 Jan 2009 13:50:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Come and live here in Canada Eolake.So few people and so much room. For the prices you're talking about you could get a few thousand acres with a big home on it.In my area for that kind of money a small winery might be available.You can get a nice home here for far less than a million bucks and I live in the warmest part of Canada a few hundred miles from Ray.A bit snowy and cold right now though. cjg of eroticalee

At 14 Jan 2009 13:59:00, Blogger eolake said...

Can't it still get very cold in winter?

At 14 Jan 2009 16:10:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like most Canadians I live within a hundred miles of the USA border.In my case about 600 miles to the northern California border.It's probably not any colder here in southern BC than where you are in England.I think we hit a minus of 35 degrees for a day or so a few weeks back but right now we're in our fog time of the year.Just enter Penticton BC Canada in google maps and have a look around the area.You might like Kelowna which is about 40 miles up the lake and about a quarter million people.A lot of grape growing around here these days and BC wines are pretty good.Penticton is also the home of Ironman Canada if your inclined to that sort of effort.I used to live in Vancouver but Ray can give you the tour on that city. cjg of eroticalee

At 14 Jan 2009 16:19:00, Blogger eolake said...

Thank you very much.

At 14 Jan 2009 17:24:00, Blogger Alex said...

Hmm, the UK is more Northerly than the US/Canadian border. The UK is however quite a bit warmer. You can get to below freezing, but not by much.

600 miles N of the Californian Border, that's an interesting reference, I forget how far it is from California to Canada, but it's two states worth, Washington and Oregon.

For reference California has 840 miles of coastline, and it it 847 miles from Lands End to John O' Groats.

At 14 Jan 2009 20:23:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

Don't believe it, Big E. British Columbia is a very expensive place to live. They also get tons of rain. I guess if you've lived in England you'd be used to that. I think if you were going to move anywhere it should be somewhere tropical with lots of casual nudity.

At 14 Jan 2009 20:48:00, Blogger eolake said...

The latter sounds nice, but I don't like warm climates.

At 14 Jan 2009 21:39:00, Blogger Alex said...

If I may ask a personal question, why did you settle in the UK in the first place?

And in the UK, filled with picturesque villages and thronging metropolises (wow the spell checker preferred that over metropoli), why choose a small industrial town in foothills you ne'er ascend?

At 14 Jan 2009 21:58:00, Blogger eolake said...

1) Because it's in Europe, they speak English, and I save 30% in taxes over Denmark.

2) I had Net friends in this town.

At 14 Jan 2009 22:00:00, Blogger eolake said...

Also I got in at the right time (2001) and place so I could buy an apartment cash, £34000 for a 1.5-bedroom. (They're over £70000 now.) A great deal.

At 14 Jan 2009 22:04:00, Blogger Alex said...

Ah, that's about as valid as my transposition story.

1) Project brought me to Bay Area for 6 months

2) Found Miss Right and liked the town she lived in.

I also didn't know I was staying, so I left it almost too late to buy.

At 14 Jan 2009 22:10:00, Blogger eolake said...

I did know I was staying. I knew I'd be staying for years. The Q is whether it'll be decades. I'm not sure whether the occasional pull from DK is real or just nostalgia.

At 14 Jan 2009 22:33:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

The latter sounds nice, but I don't like warm climates.

I'm not big on the sun either, but there's nothing that says you have to go out in it. If it was a warm climate without the hideous amount of humidity we get here, I might be okay with it.

At 14 Jan 2009 22:37:00, Blogger Alex said...

Joe, I didn't like heat either, but the lower humidity around here make 90's tolerable. I still wilt over 100 though.

At 15 Jan 2009 03:42:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Minus 40 is far worse when there's wind. (Well, d'uh!)

It's a simple equation, really. You take the formula that Neeraj correctly mentioned, then you seek whether there exists a common value. Namely, it would be the answer to the equation :
X = 1,8 X + 32
That's X = -(32/0,8) = -40

I noticed that coincidence in a Physics exercise when I was in school, and made the verification. Yes, I sometimes got bored in Physics class. The level of my mates was quite low...

It's nearly 6 AM, the juice is about to go out again, gotta log off. See y'all tomorrow. Hopefully.

Unless it gets cold. Electricity in Lebanon doesn't like cold. Or rain. Or heat. Or dust. Or wind. Local technology is SO wimpy!

[Pascal (P-04Referent) has left the chat room. Leaving the door open! With the weather we're having! Tsk, tsk, such poor manners these Albanese...]

At 15 Jan 2009 18:17:00, Anonymous neeraj said...

Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"Namely, it would be the answer to the equation :
X = 1,8 X + 32
That's X = -(32/0,8) = -40"

Yes, thanks for the addendum ... I thought it as evident, but maybe its not so for everybody.

More visually oriented people may prefer a graphical solution instead of an algebraic one:

Draw a X/Y-coordinate cross with X = Celsius and Y = Fahrenheit, then draw the linear functions (=> straight lines):

1. Y = 1.8 X + 32
(=> shows the general interrelation between Fahrenheit and Celsius)

2. Y = X
(=> shows all points where Fahrenheit and Celsius are equal)

There is exactly one point of intersection, and that is for X = - 40

At 15 Jan 2009 18:28:00, Blogger Alex said...


I still don't get it.

Can you re-write as a matrix multiplication and row reduce to upper echelon form. Then we will get a set of equations, and we can do the back substitution from there.

At 15 Jan 2009 20:38:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 16 Jan 2009 00:51:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

"It seems people are moving away from the small islands. I wonder if the houses there are cheap."
Depends. My great-grandfather was from lovely French Ile de Ré. He chose to sell his house and leave for the continent. Nowadays, the house prices there have skyrocketed, making all the inhabitants reluctant fiscal millionaires, because of its huge touristic popularity.
Then again, my great-grandpa left after hearing that the sea levels might rise in the future. And it IS happening. Beaches and cliffs everywhere are getting slowly eaten by the anger of a shunned Nature.
Not such a fool after all, he was. :-)

@ CJG,
Not a dumb idea. I'm thinking the people in Quebec seem to be very nice and welcoming, it would be a very pleasant place to inhabit. Even the weather is getting more "tolerant". Which is worrying in itself...
Canada also has a very low crime rate relatively. I saw Michael Moore verify with amazement that people never lock their doors when they're at home.

Alex measured on the termometer...
"The UK is however quite a bit warmer."

That's thanks to the Gulf Stream and the North Atlantic very special climate. Canada is far too vast to enjoy it anywhere except on the East coast. Also, warmth spins counter-clockwise above the oceans in the Northern hemisphere, therefore Canada receives more cold air coming from the Pole.
Latitude isn't everything.

Ah yes, Neeraj, the most friendly method of graphic solution. But I think it was never accepted in Maths class as an official means of solving an exercise.
Unlike the suggestion from Alex. I once used it, and the teacher accepted it simply because he didn't understand it enough to contradict me!
I also used such elegantly simple methods as infinitesimal fartorization, imaginary numbers trigonometry, quantum chromodynamics, ectoplasmic pataphisics, Kabbalistic interpretation and good old Lebanese nitpicking bickering.
But the legal status of the latter is questioned by the Geneva Convention board. They say my lebanese tongue should be registered as a lethal weapon and used exclusively against Israel. (I think their exact words were "self-defense and/or protection of your invaded homeland in official warfare". Same thing, according to Saint Sheikh Yassine. May he rest in 10,452 pieces. According to the latest count.)

At 16 Jan 2009 00:55:00, Blogger Pascal [P-04referent] said...

Well, yeah, we Arabs INVENTED mathematics ("algebra" comes from "al-Jabr", officially), so I patriotically love numbers.
My fave is 6x10+9. So elegantly symmetrical, so... sensual, almost. An arithmetic yin-yang, don't you think?

At 16 Jan 2009 01:03:00, Blogger Alex said...


114, that's almost gross (144). Now where did I leave my bodmas

For you HP users try


60 10 9 + x

captch - satch

At 16 Jan 2009 01:04:00, Blogger Alex said...

oops ignore the


At 16 Jan 2009 10:56:00, Anonymous tc said...

Eo had wanted an island so...I recommended the San Juan Islands. The weather is still quite tolerable there and, IMHO, the most gorgeous place to be (if we're talking islands), this side of any hurricane-prone tropical destination and...a compromise to the colder Canadian winters. Nothing beats the west coast weather. :-)

At 16 Jan 2009 17:00:00, Blogger Joe Dick said...

Well, yeah, we Arabs INVENTED mathematics

Hm...nice try, Pascal, but no one's buying that one!

At 16 Jan 2009 19:18:00, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's something for you Eolake. www.remax-pentictonbc.com Have a look down the page at 332 Parsons Road.listing #45421. cjg of eroticalee


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