Friday, October 31, 2008

Questions about the European Union

I am constantly trying to learn more about you. All kinds of things. And you have been very kind in the past to give me first-hand information about a wide variety of subjects. This time, I hope you will tell me a little about the European Union.

As usual, I suppose I could Google these questions, but it is ever so more interesting (and understandable) when you tell me from your direct knowledge and experience.

Since this is such a broad subject, let me use this post to ask some very basic questions. Don't laugh at my ignorance, even if you think the question is obvious. I assure you it isn't obvious to me.

1. I have read that the EU is governed by a council, and that it has a president. First question: is that president elected by all the citizens at large in the EU countries?

2. Is the election for the EU president held on the same day for all countries?

3. How important is the president of the EU to, say, a common bloke living in Yorkshire? (For example, Is the average EU citizen concerned about who is president of the Union, and would a different president greatly affect the average citizen's life on a daily basis?)

4. Can the EU council declare war? Enter into binding treaties? Negotiate territorial boundaries of member states?

5. What is the extent of the EU legal system jurisdiction? For example, are EU citizens subject to the EU courts, and does the EU have it's own prisons to house those who have violated EU law?

6. Since the EU handles such things as travel by citizens without passports, it is obviously much more than simply an economic entity. Is there a EU "national" identity card? Do voters register simply as EU citizens?

I have many more questions about your EU. But let me stop here for now and look for your answers in the comments to this post. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wight or Wong?

Old English, Middle English or Old High German? Most of you are asking yourself that question as you read this important post.

From Old English "wiht", wight is a Middle English word used to descwibe a cweature or a wivving being. I
t is akin to Old High German wiht, [also] meaning a cweeture or thing.

In its owiginal usage, the word (wightly) descwibed a wivving human being, but more wecently, the word has been used within the fantasy genre (á wa "Night of the Wivving Dead" cweator George A. Womero) to descwibe undead or w-w-waith-like cweetures: Corpses with a part of their decayed soul still in wesidence. Notable examples of this include the undead Bawwow-Wights from the works of J. Ah. Ah. Tolkien and the wights of Dungeons & Dwagons wole-playing game. [Okay, not actually "notable".]


Modern German "Wicht" is a cognate, meaning "small person, dwarf", and also "unpleasant person"; in Low German it means "girl". The word is a cognate with Dutch wicht, German Wicht, Old Norse vættir and Swedish vätte. It is not (wepeat NOT) related to the English word "witch". The Wicht, Wichtel or Wichtelchen of Germanic folklore is most commonly translated into English as an imp, a small, shy character who often does helpful domestic chores when nobody is looking (as in the Tale of the Cobbler's Shoes). [Zzzzzzzzzzzz]


The Isle of Wight is an uninhabited island in the Iwish Sea. Or maybe not. (Some people call that one the Isle of Man and also claim it is inhabited.) But, if inhabited, the inhabitants which inhabit it (the Isle of Wight) must be disagweeable in the extweem. Fer sure.

Forging ahead...

I am starting to feew wike Kelly must feew wike doing a Piwate post. At any wate, this is more Petra's pwovince, her being the official (more or less) bwogger of the undead.

Where was I? Ah, yes, the Isle of Wight.

The word "wight" has been used by many classic authors throughout histowy. Pweese don't negwect to weed the fowwowing wist:

Geoffwey Chaucer (1368-1372), The Book of the Duchess, wine 579:
"Worste of alle wightes."

Geoffwey Chaucer (circa 1379-1380), The House of Fame, wine 1830-1831 (my own pussonal favowite):
"We ben shrewes, every wight,
And han delyt in wikkednes."

[doesn't that just bring a tear to your eye? It does to this American. "We ben shrewes, every wight, And han delyt in wikkednes." Chwist. I am deep in wikkedness even as I type this. But you are even wuss: you ah WEEDING this dwivvel.] And:

William Shakespeawe (circa 1602), The Mewwy Wives of Windsor, Act I, Sc. III:
"O base Hungarian wight! wilt thou the spigot wield?" [Yes! I wilt! I WILT!! I wilt wield that fwikken spigot!]

[I think it was about in here someplace where Max broke free of his leash.]

John Milton (1626), On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough, verse vi
"Oh say me true if thou wert mortal wight..."

Someone actually wrote a poem entitled "On the Death of a Fair Infant Dying of a Cough"????? No fucking way! Not even a Pewgwim Pwogwessing! Stwike me BWIND if I wye!!!

Elmer Fudd (1959), On the Chasing of a Coughing Bugs Bunny, issue 429
"Oh you wetched wascally wabbit! [Ka-POW!] You are always wong and I am always wight!"*

*Some poetic license possibly taken by this blog author.

My fwend A. has actually seen both the Isle of Wight and the Iwish Sea. And perhaps even has touched one or both.

Th-th-th-the-that's all, fowks.

Harry having fun in Afghanistan

Although Prince Harry is currently fighting for the British Armed Forces in Afghanistan, it hasn't stopped the young prince from having fun.

In between battles, he found an old and abandoned 125 cc Honda motorcycle, and with the help of his army buddies, they push started the motorcycle into life, and off he went.

But apparently he returned.

It was refreshing to see the prince throwing off the cares of war for a few minutes, and having a chance to act like just a regular bloke.

It's not an African adventure trip* but at least he got some fun on his motorcycle in the desert.

*The young prince, along with his brother William, will be cycling for charity in Africa soon. (If he is able to get permission to leave the Afghan battlefront.) Read about this daring upcoming event here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Go Sharks!

As some of you may know, I have been trying to learn a little about rugby lately. Some of you have come to my aid. Thank you to all who have given pointers in comments, and thank you to Sage for making a special post on her blog (mostly for my benefit, I think.)

Today I am happy to have a special guest post from FrostyGirl, from the South African point of view. The SA point of view means SHARKS! of course. Thank you FrostyGirl.

As Sage has written a very comprehensive post on rugby and it’s rules I will share the other side of rugby with your readers.

What does rugby mean to the average South African? Fun, fun, fun! Braai’s (with heaps of Boerewors and Biltong), Castle Largers (a local beer), quality wines, seeing old friends and making new ones.

Having said that, we take the game extremely seriously and support our teams with great fervor, but you rarely see any acts of hooliganism as you do at soccer games.

How do we prepare for a home game?

It is a very festive occasion; we arrive at the stadium (Shark Tank) hours before the game, as you have to get a good spot on the outer fields close to the entrance of the stadium to have your braai (barbeque) and meet up with friends. In South Africa we are known to have one of the best pre-game atmospheres in the country. It does not matter who our team plays against, the opposing team’s supporters know that they will be welcome at the “before” party and the “after” party, regardless of the outcome of the game! Yes, you read correctly, the party carries on after the game. It has become so popular that companies now have “hospitality tents” erected and invite their clients to rugby and entertain them for the whole day…and most of the night.)

Of course we show who we support by wearing our team’s colours (colors for the Americans) just as most supporters of various games do. It is a real family outing as most females and children enjoy the game as well.

Before the game starts they have different forms of entertainment, i.e. skydivers do accurate landings in the stadium, Zulu dancers do their war dances, mini rugby games where the tiny tots (6-10years old) play a ten-minute game against each other, etc. Then it is time for the Sharks sexy ladies to come on field and cause the blood pressure of the guys to go up a notch, because they are clothed in bathing costumes and each one has a letter of the team drawn on them. SHARKS!

By this time the stadium is packed, the spirits are high and everyone is ready for the next 80 minutes of action packed, thrill a minute, totally physical game of rugby. The roar from the crowd when the teams run onto the field is deafening and if it is a good game the Mexican wave goes around the stadium many times amid a lot of cheering.

Now you can imagine what the atmosphere is like when the Springboks (our National rugby team) play against the All Blacks (New Zealand National Team) at the Shark Tank! These two teams have been rugby enemies (but we love them to bits) for many years and it is every South African rugby lover’s dream to watch a test match between them as the All Blacks play a wonderful game of rugby.

Win or lose we party after the game and the smell of braaiing boerewors and steaks permeates the air and a lot of analyzing of the game takes place over a cold Castle or other drink of choice and then eventually we start back home having had a wonderful day in the sun (hopefully, but we do the same even if it rains). The worst game in the rain we had was during the 1995 RWC when we hosted the games and the Springboks were playing in a semi-final against the French team. It literally poured down, the game was delayed, as they had to try and sweep the water off the field. If the game was cancelled the French team would have automatically gone through to the finals, so you can imagine that no South African was going to allow “a bit of rain” to rob them of this game. It was a nail biting game, but eventually we won and went through to the finals against the All Blacks. The rest is history, we won the championship and Nelson Mandela came onto the field (wearing a number 6 rugby jersey the same as the captains number) to hand the trophy to the Springbok captain Francois Pienaar and the party went on for a very long time that day!
Read the story about it here.

Every four years all the rugby playing nations (USA has a team too) play in the Rugby World Cup (RWC) to see who is able to lift the trophy at the end and be declared CHAMPIONS. Our Springboks became the world champions last year for the second time since we have been allowed to enter the competition and they made our Nation very proud.
Thank you FrostyGirl! It was great of you to do this post. I love the way you write!

And, check out another Sharks post (a little more earthy, as is her wont) at Briget's BecauseICan blog. Get down, little b.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Rugby Anyone? A general explanation of the major rules of the game, with a loose comparison to American Football.

Did you ever try to explain something you really didn't understand, just by reading the rules and trying to restate them in your own words? That is what I just tried to do with rugby, and the below is what I came up with. Holy cow! Not satisfactory in the least! I think I will try to get someone who knows about the game of rugby to do a guest post. But you may be amused by my own attempt, below.

Rugby Football (usually just called "rugby") is named after Rugby School, Warwickshire, where the modern game was developed. However the modern game descends from much older variations of football games. And, descending from modern rugby are Australian Rules Rugby, American Football, and Canadian Football. Rugby Union and Rugby League are the two main variations of the game, and both include professional and amateur teams.

In rugby, ground is gained only by running or kicking the ball; the forward pass is not allowed (as it is in American Football.) The Union version has teams of 15 players; League, 13. (American Football has 11 players.) The following additional rules will refer only to the Union Version.

As with American Football, the ball may be advanced by either carrying it or kicking it. Usually, in rugby, the ball is carried rather than kicked. In American Football, the ball is seldom kicked except in specific situations, leading to the erroneous belief that the rules don't even allow for kicking on any play. In American Football, the ball is either carried or "passed" forward. In rugby a pass may not be forward (advancing toward the goal. In Rugby, a pass means in a non-forward direction. Such a "pass" (sideways or backwards) is called a "lateral" in American Football. Both games allow any number of non-forward passes during a play.

In rugby, play is continuous and possession of the ball is contested after each tackle, and is thus more continually physical, rather than being physical in "spurts" like American Football. In American Football, the possessing team is simply allowed 4 tries to advance the ball 10 yards, and play stops between tries. Although opposing players certainly try to take the ball away from the runner in American Football, if the opportunity arises, the object is more to tackle him before he gains too many yards. (The possession of the ball changes if 10 yards are not gained in 4 tries.)

In rugby, a tackled player must immediately give up the ball, either by passing it or simply releasing it if no pass is possible. At that point the loose ball is contested, just as it would be in American Football if a tackled player were to accidentally lose control of the ball on the way down. An American might go so far as to say that, in rugby, the ball is "fumbled" each and every tackle, and a fight for possession ensues each time.

In rugby, the ball-runner's team mates must stay behind him. Thus American Football-style "blocking" is not allowed in rugby. (In American Football, players may run in front of the ball carrier and "block" defensive players for him.)

Points are scored in rugby (or American Football) by either advancing the ball over the goal line, or by kicking the ball over the goal crossbar. In American Football, and additional method of scoring is allowed by the legal reception of a forward pass while standing in the goal area.

Infraction of rules in American Football are enforced by taking away yardage from the team in possession, or giving yardage to them if the foul was on the defensive team. Different amounts of yardage penalties are assigned for various penalties; 5 yards for minor infractions, 10 yards (rare) for certain specific infractions, and 15 yards (common) for major infractions.
The field: A rugby field (pitch) dimensions are (apparently, according to the rules I read) flexible. "No more than 70 meters in width and no more than 100 meters in length." May it be smaller? Guess so. An American Football field is exactly 100 yards long from goal line to goal line (with an additional 10 yards on each end which serve as "end zones"; and 160 feet wide. A goal post is centered at the very back of each end zone, in American Football. In rugby, the goal posts are on the goal lines (try lines) themselves. I think. And there is an area at each end of the field, beyond the try line, which may not be less than 10 meters deep. Apparently it may be more.

The ball: In rugby the ball is a "prolate spheroid". An American Football is almost a prolate spheroid. (A rugby ball is fatter.) In both cases, the balls are shaped the way they are because that is how pig bladders are shaped, though pig bladders are no longer used.

Conclusion: Rugby is a lot more complicated than American Football.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Oh to be Applecrossed!

"Between the mainland mountain masses and the Island of Skye lies the Applecross Peninsula. Home to just 238 people, and accessed by only two roads, this is a haven from the noise and clutter of modern life. The Gaelic name for the area, ‘a Chomraich’, means ‘The Sanctuary’. Its not the easiest place to get to but you’ll never forget the journey or the time you spend here, however brief. Over the 2053’ road called the Bealach na Ba, if the cloud has lifted, you’ll see the kind of views normally reserved only for sweaty mountaineers. Panoramas to the Outer Hebrides and South to the Kintail mountains will keep you gazing until you need to descend to the village for warmth and sustenance. We could wax lyrical about the fantastic beaches, the calm waters of the Inner Sound and the gentle hills above the crofting townships, the food, the music, the sunsets and more." [From the Applecross Peninsula website.]
Best Pub in Scotland? Some say.

"We would like to remind residents that the Applecross Inn is a lively bar and this does generate some noise, which can be heard in the bedrooms..." [Judith Fish - owner of the Applecross Inn since 1989]

"For my money, this is the best pub in the whole of Scotland. Indeed, were it not for the Slap and Tickle, the whole of the United Kingdom." —Queen Elizabeth II

Walk your child to school today

Today is International Walk to School Day.

Do it today. But also do it at least once a week. Want some exercise? Do it every day!

Also, in an email from the British Embassy in Washington, here are some things going on that affect British schools. An interesting read.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Losing America, part deux

"Now where did I put it?"

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Losing America

George III (George William Frederick)
1738 - 1820 (reigned from 1760, though his son was regent from 1810)
Married Sophia Charlotte, 1761
15 children (9 boys and 6 girls)
Purchased Buckingham House (now Palace) in 1762
American connectons: the state of Georgia is named after him. The largest city in North Carolina is named after his wife. Ummmm. And something else...

In 1785, the first American ambassador the the Court of St. James's, John Adams, presented his diplomatic credentials to the king.

Can you imagine what that meeting might have been like? Not long before, Adams (and many other American "Founding Fathers") had a price on his head and would have been hanged on sight by the British. And now, here he is, alone in the same room, one-on-one, with the most powerful man in the world, a man he had committed treason against. Talk about tension being thick enough to cut with a knife!

The very fact that the king was receiving Adams carried with it the implication that Great Britain now recognized America as separate and sovereign. This was a pretty momentous day for the Americans. And I can't help but wonder just how fast John Adams' heart was thumping as the door closed behind him and he stood alone before the king.

Of course we don't have to guess at these things: history always affords written records of such important meetings. But of course more went on in the room than Adams later wrote down. I wonder. Hardly any small talk, one would think.

Adams made his small speech, introducing himself. Very much agitated and nervous, as he later wrote. The king was polite but also affected by the moment of the occasion. The king made a comment about Adams' affection for France (Adams was recently the American minister to France) and Adams replied that he really loved only one country, his own, to which the king replied simply, "An honest man will have no other."

Adams, of course, was not able to completely follow the king's conversation (George III was a pronounced stutterer) but he was able to follow the drift of it. The audience was short. Not friendly exactly, but amicable enough.

After John Adams came a long line of distinguished American Ambassadors - the United Kingdom, after all, is very important to the United States. President John Kennedy's father was one of these ambassadors. The current ambassador to the U.S. is one Nigel Sheinwald. I got an email from him just the other day (or at least from the British Embassy's news department) telling me that Her Majesty's Prime Minister was pushing for the American Congress to pass the $700 billion bank bailout legislation promptly, in the interest of the world's economy. He didn't mention whether or not the UK would help pay it back. I am guessing "no." Sigh.

Times change. Or do they?


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