mcgillianaire: (Default)
(via [profile] jhall)


Create Your Own Visited Countries Map


28 countries which include Bahrain, Ireland, Netherlands, and Qatar where I didn't exit the airport and I know most people wouldn't count them, but I do so. :-P The closest I've been to the southern hemisphere is Singapore in the summer of 1989 (1.17N). And I've yet to hit up Latin America, Africa and Oceania.



Create Your Own Visited States Map


19 states + DC which includes Tennessee which I've just flown through and a couple that I've just driven through. I'll be spending a weekend in Nashville this month for a stag-do so I guess this list will be more *legit* than my countries visited.



Create Your Own Visited Provinces and Territories Map


Four years in Canada but just the three provinces visited. I'll be returning to Toronto (and Canada) for the first time in 11 years this September for a college mate's wedding.



Create Your Own Visited European Countries Map
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Here's a scenario: let's assume Britain votes to remain within the EU, but only by the narrowest of margins. Following the lead of their members, several Brexit Tories cross the floor to UKIP, throwing the government into chaos. A group of moderate Labour MPs frustrated at their inability to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader, form an alliance with David Cameron, George Osborne and their rump Tories to try and prop up a minority administration. The Orange Book Lib Dems (all three of them?), after much soul-searching and fearing their continued irrelevance also decide to reluctantly join the alliance. At the next general election, the alliance merges into The Centrist Party and competes with UKIP, Labour, SNP, Greens and rump Lib Dems. Imagine that.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
I voted for Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) respectively in the London Mayoral election. In the London Assembly, I voted for Nick da Costa (Lib Dem) in my Enfield and Haringey seat and allocated my List vote to the Greens.

Another year, another #ToryFreeZone at the ballot box. A unique year as we return to the polls next month for the EU referendum. I've yet to make up my mind on that. It all boils down to whether the sovereignty gained is worth the inevitable economic uncertainty in the immediate and medium-term post-plebiscite. As a weak social democrat, one cannot easily dismiss Lord Owen's support for Brexit, nor that of the Green Party's Jenny Jones. They are very reasonable people with whom I don't always agree, but they are of the firm belief that the EU cannot be reformed in its present state and I am inclined to concur.

Unfortunately, the fact Brexit is also supported by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson (among other odious creatures) makes it extremely difficult to convince oneself that this is indeed the right choice, made worse by the prospect of accepting a post-Brexit negotiation on their terms rather than the Owens and Joneses of the world, who would have very little say on it.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
The problem with British politics is that there are two centre-left parties competing against each other in a first-past-the-post voting system, rather than forming an electoral alliance to defeat the Tories at any cost. Ideally, the Liberal Democrats would not even exist under present circumstances, and I say that as someone who has almost always voted for them and whose political philosophy most closely matches mine. But it cannot be denied, a vote for the Lib Dems in Labour-Tory marginals is an indirect vote for the Tories. And who suffers? The people who want and need a centre-left government.

Given the extreme unlikelihood of the Lib Dems dissolving anytime soon and despite their recent electoral woes, anyone who seeks an alternative to a Tory government should encourage an electoral pact. The pact needn't cover the entire country, simply the constituencies where either party can defeat the Tories. A similar pact could be struck with Plaid in Wales and SNP north of Hadrian's Wall. The idea of a pact is nothing new, even in Britain, but it gained traction in my mind after the recent French elections. The Front National were resoundingly defeated in the second round after the Socialist Party withdrew some of its candidates. This enabled Sarkozy's centre-right party to win instead: the lesser of two evils. Such emergency measures can be viewed as the political equivalent of gamesmanship, going against or rubbing disturbingly close to the boundaries of fair democratic play. But in politics as with life, one must constantly make choices and in this instance, the choice was between explicit racist extremists and a more preferable, though not entirely tolerable lot. We should learn from them.
mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)
There are different ways to achieve political ends. Violence is a time-tested method to disrupt and divide peaceful societies anywhere and everywhere in the world. The scale of the tragedy may differ from place to place, but the intent and outcome are always the same. It matters not who the perpetrators are or what they claim to be fighting for. Throughout history, groups of people are prepared to use force to sow seeds of distrust. They want us to cower in fear. They want us to blame the other. They want us to target refugees. They want us to question everything. We must not succumb, now more than ever. Dozens of innocent civilians have been murdered. We know them, for they belong to our human family. Political boundaries and cultural distinctions are irrelevant at times like this. Toute notre solidarité avec le peuple de Paris et Beirut en ce moment de douleur. May the souls of the victims rest in peace, and may their families and friends find strength to overcome this calamity.
mcgillianaire: (Ari G)
Congratulations to Canada for throwing out the Tories and electing a majority Liberal government. About time, I might add. But is it just me who is uneasy with a seemingly growing trend of nepotism at the highest levels of Western democracies?
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)

mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
1590s, originally cole florye, from Italian cavoli fiori "flowered cabbage," plural of cavolo "cabbage" + fiore "flower" (from Latin flora; see flora).

First element is from Latin caulis "cabbage" (originally "stem, stalk") which was borrowed into Germanic and is the source of cole in cole-slaw and of Scottish kale. The front end of the word was re-Latinized from 18c.; the back end was influenced by flower (n.). The boxer's cauliflower ear is from 1907.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary

----

I was inspired to make this entry after I saw an intriguing tweet which said that the introduction of cauliflower to England could be dated to a dinner given to the Privy Council in November 1590 (Joan Thirsk, Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads and Fashions 1500-1760 (2007) p. 289). A subsequent Google search produced another interesting tidbit from the author's note of Ian Mortimer's historical fiction work, The Final Sacrament (under the pen name James Forrester):

"I stated in my Time Traveller's Guide to Elizabethan England that the cauliflower was introduced to England at a dinner for the Privy Council in 1590, but subsequently I noticed one in Joachim Beuckelaer's painting in the National Gallery, Four Elements: Fruit and Vegetable Market (1569) and another in a work by the same artist dated 1564, so clearly they were available in the Low Countries in the 1560s."

While Wikipedia offers a short excerpt into its origins and journey through Europe before its arrival in This Sceptred Isle:

"For such a highly modified plant, cauliflower has a long history. The oldest record of cauliflower dates back to the 6th century B.C. Pliny wrote about it in the 2nd century after Christ. In the 12th century, three varieties were described in Spain as introductions from Syria, where it had doubtless been grown for more than a thousand years. It is found in the writings of the Arab botanists Ibn al-'Awwam and Ibn al-Baitar, in the 12th and 13th centuries when its origins were said to be Cyprus. They were introduced to France from Genoa in the 16th century, and are featured in Olivier de Serres' Théâtre de l'agriculture (1600), as cauli-fiori "as the Italians call it, which are still rather rare in France; they hold an honorable place in the garden because of their delicacy", but they did not commonly appear on grand tables until the time of Louis XIV."

And there you have it, the etymology and history of the beloved cauliflower. If you're anything like me, you'll never look at another cabbage flower (or the next one, at any rate) the same way again... bon appetit!

Potpourri

Sep. 18th, 2013 09:30 pm
mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
also pot-pourri, 1610s, "mixed meats served in a stew," from French pot pourri "stew," literally "rotten pot" (loan-translation of Spanish olla podrida), from pourri, past participle of pourrir "to rot," from Vulgar Latin *putrire, from Latin putrescere "grow rotten" (see putrescent). Notion of "medley" led to meaning "mixture of dried flowers and spices," first recorded in English 1749. Figurative sense (originally in music) of "miscellaneous collection" is recorded from 1855.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary
mcgillianaire: (Did You Know?)
"the sea between southern Europe and northern Africa," c.1400, from Late Latin Mediterraneum mare "Mediterranean Sea" (7th-century), from Latin mediterraneus "midland;" the original sense being of "sea in the middle of the earth," from medius "middle" (see medial (adj.)) + terra "land, earth" (see terrain). The Old English name was Wendel-sæ, so called for the Vandals, Germanic tribe that settled on the southwest coast of it after the fall of Rome. The noun meaning "a person of Mediterranean race" is from 1888.

SOURCE: Online Etymology Dictionary
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Why UKIP is a party of extremists

It's not often one agrees with a Tory, or worse still, freely and publicly admit to it. But on this occasion I've made an exception because Matthew Parris has largely articulated what I think of the Great British public's latest political squeeze:

"The spirit of Ukippery is paranoid. It distorts and simplifies the world, perceiving a range of different ills and difficulties as all proceeding from two sources: foreigners abroad, and in Britain a ‘metropolitan liberal elite’ (typically thought to be in league with foreigners). None of the problems it identifies (with immigration, with EU bureaucracy, with the cost of the EU, with the ambitions of some Europeanists, with political correctness, with health-and-safety, with human rights legislation etc) are anything less than real; but to the un-extremist mind they need to be tackled ad hoc, one by one, rather than seen as the hydra-headed expression of a single monster.

Very well, you ask, if immigration/foreigners/Brussels are not the overwhelming cause of the problems of modern Britain, what is? I would reply that there is no overwhelming cause, but many: some insoluble. I’d number among these a general decadence arising from nearly 70 years of peace, security and rising incomes. The uncompetitiveness that renders us easy prey for the manufactories of, not Europe, but China and the developing world; the levels of welfare provision that rob indigenous Britons of hunger to work (not the poor immigrants who then take the work)… but this analysis lays many of our problems at the door of many of the voters attracted to Ukip, and is of less interest to the party.

It is the single-cause, single-prism, single-root-explanation way of interpreting the world and its sorrows (a way of thinking and seeing that has its attraction to all human beings) that leads to (or is the fount of) extremism: it is one of the reasons religion, with its forces-of-evil focus, has so often led people that way."

You can read the rest of the article here. To me, UKIP is the acceptable face of xenophobia. And because it's the first such party to shake up mainstream politics, in a way that the far-right could only dream of, it's attracted many of their supporters. Those of us who do not identify with such politics should be worried, because UKIP is led by an ambitious, able and articulate leader, Nigel Farage. To outward appearances, he seems a perfectly reasonable English gentleman. Only some of that is true. He's certainly English and he's probably a gentleman, but he's definitely not reasonable. He may not be preaching to the lowest common denominator, but it's awfully close to it. It's still demagoguery and it appeals to our worst instincts.

Turquoise

Nov. 30th, 2011 09:00 pm
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)
Precious stone, 1560s, replacement from Middle French of Middle English turkeis, turtogis (late 14c.), from Old French turqueise, feminine adjective "Turkish," in pierre turqueise "Turkish stone," so called because it was first brought to Europe from Turkestan or some other Turkish dominion (Sinai peninsula, according to one theory). Cognate with Spanish turquesa, Middle Latin (lapis) turchesius, Middle Dutch turcoys, German türkis, Swedish turkos. As a color name, attested from 1853.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary
mcgillianaire: (Hooka Pipe)


Ever wondered what happens when you combine Indian sitar music with Spanish flamenco? Look no further than this latest album by the daughter of Pandit Ravi Shankar. The last time I listened to Anoushka, she was touring the world playing ragas alongside her legendary father. Dad and I even had the pleasure of watching them both live in front of a packed audience in Montreal some years ago. But this album is quite different and even magical in parts, particularly Track 2 embedded above.

LINKS:
Guardian Review
Link to Album in Spotify
mcgillianaire: (Football player)


Earlier today I tweeted about a unique solution the Turkish Football Federation had applied to punish Fenerbahçe for a pitch invasion during a pre-season friendly. Instead of the usual alternative of playing matches behind closed doors in front of an empty stadium, they decided to bar men altogether and open up the gates free of charge to only women, and children below the age of 12. And guess what? 41,000 women and children filled the stadium to capacity for the Istanbul-based club's Super Liga match against Manisaspor. The match ended 1-1. In future I'd like all football associations to apply the same punishment. It's great to see a stadium full of passionate female football fans, even if it sounded a bit like a Bieber concert.
mcgillianaire: (Ari G)
From Wikipedia:
    "Fanta originated when ingredients for the production of Coca-Cola became difficult to import into Germany during World War II. As a result, Max Keith, the man in charge of Coca-Cola Deutschland during the Second World War, decided to create a new product for the German market, using only ingredients available in Germany at the time, including whey and pomace – the "leftovers of leftovers", as Keith later recalled. The name was the result of a brief brainstorming session, which started with Keith exhorting his team to "use their imagination" ("Fantasie" in German), to which one of his salesmen, Joe Knipp, immediately retorted "Fanta!"
(via Dan Snow's History Fact Twitter)
mcgillianaire: (Royal Coat of Arms)
In practice, the Irish president is a ceremonial figurehead, much like our Queen and the Indian president. But because of the notoriety attached to Sinn Fein's candidate, it has garnered far wider media coverage than it deserves. What intrigued me was how the current deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland could stand for the presidency of another sovereign state. The possibility of such an event reinforced the complex legal relationships shared by members of the British Isles.

The relevant starting point for the legal relationship between Ireland (as a whole) and Great Britain (England, Wales and Scotland) began with the merger of the two Kingdoms in 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Following a fight for independence, the majority of Ireland seceded from the UK and formed the Irish Free State in 1922 (but retained the British monarch as Head of State and remained a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth). Northern Ireland (comprising six of the nine Ulster counties) remained a part of the UK. A new constitution introduced in 1937 declared (Southern) Ireland a sovereign state and in 1949, the Irish Free State proclaimed itself a republic and severed all remaining ties to the British monarchy and the British Commonwealth. And so it has remained till today. In 1973, the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (now known as the European Union) as separate members, while in 2002 the Republic adopted the Euro currency along with eleven other EU member states. Although the UK did not adopt the Euro, it's obvious that theirs is a shared but complicated history.

But unlike the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947 which for all intents and purposes, resulted in both sovereign states pursuing agendas virtually independent of the other, the same cannot be said of the Republic and UK. And that's despite the acrimony that existed between the two countries, whether at a governmental level or by the average bald-headed chap on a Clapham omnibus. In fact it is somewhat surprising just how interconnected the two sovereign states are at every level.

In terms of trade, Ireland is the UK's fifth biggest trading partner, receiving around seven percent of British exports, while British trade with Ireland is still greater than its business with the emerging economies of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) combined! British retailers such as Tesco and Marks & Spencer have a high-profile presence in Dublin (probably attracted by the 12.5% corporation tax in the Republic compared to 27% back home) while Ireland is a crucial market for goods produced in Northern Ireland. So much so that some British MPs recently concluded that devolving the setting of corporation tax to the Northern Ireland Executive would help businesses in the region to compete with the Republic.

At a sporting level, one could argue there is an even greater degree of cooperation. In many sports such as hockey, cricket and rugby union, they are organised in an all-island basis, with a single team representing Ireland in international competitions. But in football, there are separate organising bodies and teams representing Northern Ireland and the Republic. And at the Olympics, a person from Northern Ireland can choose to represent either Ireland or Team GB.

But we return to politics and elections. Since 1949, when the Republic was proclaimed and Ireland left the Commonwealth, Irish citizens have retained full voting/candidature rights in the UK at all levels as they could before 1949 as British subjects. This includes general, EU and local elections. Similarly, British citizens have more voting rights in Ireland than other EU and non-EU citizens in that they can vote at Irish general elections but like the others, they cannot vote in presidential elections and referendums. Therefore we now have a situation in which a Northern Irish-born Irish national, MP at Westminster, MLA of the Northern Irish Assembly and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is standing for the presidency of the Republic. But thanks to the current legal position, British citizens in Northern Ireland will not be allowed to vote in the presidential election unless the Irish constitution was changed, as one Sinn Fein MP (UK) has proposed. Still with me?

In more ways than one, Sinn Fein is the political glue that binds the British Isles together. It is the only political party to still participate in elections at Westminster, within Northern Ireland and in the Republic. Its current leader (Gerry Adams) is a former member of the Northern Irish Assembly and British House of Commons, positions which he resigned from in order to become a member of the Irish parliament earlier this year. And like all former and current Sinn Fein MPs at the British House of Commons, he never took the oath of allegiance/affirmation which meant they could never attend or vote on proceedings in the House. As the political wing of the IRA, it should come as no surprise that there remains to this day a frosty relationship (to say the least) between the British monarchy and Irish republicans. In fact, even when the Queen visited the Republic earlier this year as the first British monarch to do so in a century, Sinn Fein did not take part in any of the main ceremonies. But Martin McGuinness has said he will be prepared to meet all heads of state "without exception", if he is elected President of Ireland. His victory in the forthcoming election would be worth it just for that historic handshake alone.
mcgillianaire: (Default)
"And on Saturday thousands of pages of transcripts of intercepted phone calls were published. In one call dated 1 January 2009, Mr Berlusconi allegedly tells Mr Tarantini that 11 women were waiting outside his door but he only "did" eight of them because "you can't do all". In another, he describes himself as "prime minister in my spare time". [BBC News]
mcgillianaire: (Default)

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque for the blue tiles adorning the walls of its interior, was built between 1609 and 1616 during the rule of Ahmed I. Like many other mosques, it also comprises a tomb of the founder, a madrasah and a hospice. While still used as a mosque, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque has also become a popular tourist attraction.

10 More Pics )
mcgillianaire: (Portcullis Logo)


Carlsberg Special Brew was invented for Winston Churchill to commemorate his visit to Copenhagen in 1950. Here's what the beer company's official website says about it:
    "Originally called V-øllet (V-Beer), the drink followed the Danish tradition of producing a new beer to celebrate outstanding events such as a royal occasion or European coronation. Churchill's favourite drink was cognac, so in brewing him a commemorative beer, the brewers at Carlsberg created a stronger lager with cognac flavours among its tasing notes. At Christmas in 1952 Special Brew was launched throughout Denmark, and has been available in the UK since the '70's. Special Brew is a full bodied, fruity tasting, strong lager with a good clean bitterness."
I wonder if he liked it. Either way, I'm certainly looking forward to impressing my friends with this lager nugget the next time I'm at a pub that stocks it.

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