Tuesday, December 04, 2012

What is wrong with using Amazon?

I was vaguely aware that are are 'issues' with Amazon but am embarrassed to admit that I hadn't followed it up. Have now read this: http://www.housmans.com/boycottamazon.php and will think at least twice in future before using Amazon!

Update January 2015:
The other day I came across Wordery on eBay while looking for the New Oxford Style Manual, following recommendations from translator colleagues. I proceeded to order the book from Wordery and was well impressed. Based on my experience so far, I can recommend Wordery as an alternative to Amazon for book orders.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Best Friday humour ever (probably), and food for thought: Die lustigsten und skurrilsten Grabkreuze – plus: Dumb Ways to Die

See below for your entertainment (in German, sorry), but also food for thought - note last paragraph.

On a related note, see "Dumb Ways to Die", an Australian rail company's public safety warning video at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2012/nov/28/dumb-ways-to-die-video

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Britain is standing on a ledge, while Europe screams, 'Don't do it!'

Interesting thoughts on the future of Europe by Timothy Garton Ash in the Guardian, 21 November 2012: 

Beyond the predictable tedious horror of this week's EU budget summit, which starts tomorrow, what is the best Europe we can hope for over the next few years? There's an awful symmetry between the answers given by British Eurosceptics and continental Europhiles. Both pose a binary choice: either Britain follows Germany and France in a drive for "more Europe", or Britain stands further apart. Fed up to the back teeth with each other, both sides are close to the point when they are ready to say: "Very well, alone." You go your way, we go ours.

And both are wrong. If there were more political imagination on both sides of the Channel, we would work towards a Europe that has not one hard core but at least two. Germany, France and other eurozone countries have to deepen their monetary union, with a banking union and elements of a fiscal – and consequently political – union. For the foreseeable future Britain will not be part of it. It does not follow that the eurozone must be the hard core of everything the EU does. Why should it be?

The hard core in which Britain should keep a leading role is the EU's foreign and security policy. Here, Germany rather than Britain is the awkward customer. Over the past 20 years Germany has built its own bilateral energy relationship with Russia and its own trade- and investment-driven special relationship with China. Last year Germany sided with China and Russia in refusing to endorse UN backing for the French- and British-led intervention in Libya. Most recently, Berlin vetoed the merger of EADS and BAE, which would have given Europe a global aerospace giant. Who were the bad Europeans there?

Because of its historical hang-ups and domestic interests, Germany is incapable of giving a bold lead in the external power projection that the EU needs if it is to defend our shared interests and values in a world of emerging giants such as China. Because of its historical hang-ups and domestic interests, Britain is not prepared to join the emerging German-led monetary and economic union.

OK, why not have a division of labour? Why not let Britain take a leading role in a hard core for foreign and security policy, while Germany leads in the economic and monetary one? France would, of course, continue to play a very important part in both. Countries like Poland hope in time to do the same.

Yes, this would be complicated; but organisational complexity is not the real obstacle to such a dual-core Europe. Rather, it is the lack of political imagination and will. This is most spectacularly apparent in Britain. David Cameron has got himself into a corner where he cannot be seen to favour "more Europe" in anything at all. Whatever his personal convictions, so terrified is he of his own Eurosceptic Conservative party backbenchers and of the rising vote for the UK Independence party that the symbolic politics of saying "not a penny or an inch more!" trump any pragmatic calculations of national interest.

If the sum of money in the EU budget were really the issue, we'd have a deal. Relative to overall expenditure, the difference between London's and Berlin's target figures is small. But such sums can be made to sound enormous, and Cameron to look weak, on the front page of the Daily Mail. Politically, that appearance is the reality.

Britain may be off on a planet of its own, but some leading continental politicians don't help either. They remain wedded to an outdated vision of a Europe of "concentric circles", with France and Germany at the magnetic core of the innermost circle. Yes, they acknowledge that we may have a "multi-speed" Europe – with an avant garde of France, Germany, Belgium and others going faster, Spain, Sweden and Poland somewhat slower, and Britain bringing up the rear. The somewhat condescending implication is: "You'll all get there in the end."

But this multi-speed metaphor completely misses the reality, and the danger, of what is happening. We already have a multi-group, multi-tier Europe, and it is on the brink of becoming a multi-directional one. When the component parts of any political community start travelling in different directions, that community is no longer integrating – it is disintegrating.

At the moment, Britain appears to most of its European partners like the middle-aged businessman in a New Yorker cartoon, standing on a ledge outside his office window, 18 floors up. A few of our European friends (in the Facebook sense of that word) are saying: "Go on, jump. Get on with it!" But most are urging us not to. Earlier this year in Siena, I heard the Italian president, Giorgio Napolitano – an 87-year-old former communist – passionately call on Britain not to detach itself from Europe. That same evening the Polish foreign minister, Radek Sikorski – a still youthful anti-communist – was delivering an almost identical message to an audience at Blenheim Palace. From left and right, east and west, young and old, the cry goes up: "Don't do it!"

This message from Britain's concerned co-workers at the office window would, however, be more persuasive if they at least allowed for the possibility that the company might in future do things somewhat differently. My idea of a dual-core Europe is one way of imagining that.

Let me be clear: there's fat chance of this PM and Tory party being more positive about any aspect of Europe until after the next election. Then it will take an "in or out" referendum to bring Britain back off the ledge – or make it finally jump. But, starting now, there is an important debate to be had about what exactly it is the British people should decide to be in or out of. Many of the matters on which Eurosceptics concentrate – the working time directive, European arrest warrant, etc – are secondary. Meanwhile, the eurozone will do what it has to do, or it will fail. There will then be an important negotiation to ensure that the result does not harm British interests – through the regulations of the new banking union, for instance, or creeping changes in the single market.

The real question, however, for pro-Europeans in Britain – but also pro-Brits in Europe – is this: are there any major areas of policy where Britain could, should and would be prepared to do more in and for Europe, and thereby for itself? If we can find a good answer to that question, we will change the terms of the debate on both sides of the Channel – and we might even end up with a better Europe.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

What makes a good translation agency?

An updated version of this blog post can now be found on the HE Translations website at https://hetranslations.uk/blog/goodagency

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stunning photo of deer in Bradgate Park at sunrise with Leicester in background

See http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Hello-deer-ndash-Shan-s-opportunist-picture-proud/story-17094332-detail/story.html

Unfortunately the quality of the picture in the online version of the article is a little inferior, so I took the liberty of scanning it – see below.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where did you get that hat?

Published in the Leicester Mercury today:

Friday, October 12, 2012

Big screen cash 'should be spent on tree planting'

See Leicester Mercury article at http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Big-screen-cash-spent-tree-planting/story-17072972-detail/story.html

Background: Some of you may be aware that I have been 'on the case' re. the tree replacement moratorium since I became aware of it a few weeks ago in the context of a diseased tree that was removed on Aylestone Road.

Today's Leicester Mercury article came about because reporter Dan Martin spotted my pertinent comments in the minutes of the last Conservation Advisory Panel (CAP) meeting, at which Sir Peter Soulsby gave a presentation on the Connecting Leicester project - see http://www.cabinet.leicester.gov.uk:8071/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=289&MId=5154&Ver=4.

On a more general note, it goes without saying that the Civic Society wholeheartedly supports the Connecting Leicester project - see http://www.thisisleicestershire.co.uk/Architects-given-green-light-square-designs/story-17025639-detail/story.html.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Ebb and Flow: Great Britain's ever-changing coasts

The interactive Wipe the Water Away! photo gallery offered by Spiegel Online is amazing!

Click here to access the interactive Wipe the Water Away! photo gallery.

Friday, February 17, 2012

German President quits

I haven't really followed the German President saga over the last few months in great detail, but it is worth bearing in mind that, as reported by BBC News, the president's role is largely ceremonial, to serve as a moral authority for the nation. It is blatantly obvious that Wulff failed to do that. As Der Spiegel put it: Wulff hat es selbst vermasselt. Es bleibt das Bild eines Gernegroß, der zu klein war für das Amt, dem letztlich seine Mittelmäßigkeit zum Verhängnis wurde (loosely translated as: Wulff has only himself to blame. What remains is the image of a show-off who was unable to do justice to the role, whose mediocrity was ultimately his undoing).

With the invaluable benefit of hindsight it seems clear now that Joachim Gauck would have been the better choice.

Wulff-Rücktritt: Er hat es vermasselt

Ich habe das ganze Bundespräsidententheater der vergangenen Monate zwar nicht so richtig mitverfolgt, aber wenn mich nicht alles täuscht hat Roland Nelles in seinem Spiegel-Artikel den Nagel auf den Kopf getroffen:  

Wulff hat es selbst vermasselt. Es bleibt das Bild eines Gernegroß, der zu klein war für das Amt, dem letztlich seine Mittelmäßigkeit zum Verhängnis wurde.