So often we hear comments made about the incredible number of people there now are on this planet we call Earth. For instance the population of the world is fast approaching seven billion. That sounds a lot of people. Suppose we gathered them all together in one place on the planet. Have a guess, what sort of space do you think they would take up?
Great Britain? France & Germany Combined? The whole of Europe? Go on, have a guess!
Well let’s work it out. Life and underground designers apparently allow three square feet per person of space. Well let’s give our population a little bit of breathing space, shall we, let’s give each of us double that, six square feet. OK if every person in the world was gathered together in one place and were given six square feet of space we could get then all in the City of Los Angeles or the Emirate of Dubai. Wow, that’s a lot of space left in the world! Perhaps we aren’t so crowded after all, it just seems it when you are in a city.
(Source: National Geographic)
At this moment, what sounds are going on around you? (You may have to take off your iPod earphones to give an answer.) In our aurally blitzed world, concern is growing that we are fast losing our ability to listen — really listen — to the people and the world around us. This has inspired a university researcher to launch an awareness-raising “sound map” of Britain, as well as prompting our nation’s highest judge to suggest that we should stop expecting future generations to listen to each other and instead leave them to communicate by screen. But a growing body of research shows that there is a high psychological, physical and social cost to losing our listening skills.
“We are so bombarded by sounds that we no longer tune in to our surroundings,” says Charlie Mydlarz, an acoustic engineer at the University of Salford ...
There is another way to cope with the fact that increasingly people are not listening, and that is to give up bothering to use verbal communication. Hence the warning last week by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, that the next generation will be incapable of listening to anyone closely. “My grandchildren don’t learn by listening to people talking at them,” he said, predicting that in 15 years’ time the oral tradition of the courts may have to be rethought and juries given evidence via computer. Lord Judge’s fears are echoed in a report, commissioned by the Government, which admits that we don’t adequately teach our children key listening skills.....
“Listen” is the first word in the Rule of St Benedict, by which many monks conduct their lives of deep contemplation. This sense of sacred connection is also at the heart of the Chinese written character meaning “to listen”, which is made up of the symbols for ears, eyes, undivided attention and heart. In the Jewish tradition, there is an old rabbinical saying that reminds us to keep shtoom and pay heed: “When God gave us one mouth and two ears, it was to tell us that we should listen twice as much as we talk.” When we open these doors of perception we can relax in the quietly attentive delights of book readings, recitals, concerts and lectures. Children growing up in a world of blaring noise, in which they face information overload, rapid-fire communications and too-busy parents, may be robbed of such pleasures.
(Source: Extracted from Times article by John Naish Oct 2009)
The Intruder by Joseph Brandes, twelve years old, and three months after the birth of his baby sister
Our house is very often visited by relatives who come from out of town and spend two or three weeks with us. Most of them are very nice but it is still an inconvenience to have all of these extra people in your house. Recently, we had a relative come to our house late one evening. It was a young lady. She came about three and a half months ago and is still with us. We are very much inconvenienced with this young lady as her habits are very different from ours. She likes to sleep during the day and at night she keeps us awake to amuse her. We must always keep her in good humour as she becomes cross at the slightest irritation. She has her meals regularly enough but they are not at the same time as ours and this is a big problem. She also doesn't eat what we eat. She has her own special foods. She smiles when in good humour with such a broad and pleasant smile we can't help but smile back at her even though she has disrupted our lives completely. In spite of all of these things, we hope that she never leaves for we love our baby sister very much.
(Source: Chicken Soup for the Soul)
The Dating Game
In 2002 the digital media pioneer Rufus Griscom wrote a short article in Wired magazine predicting that "twenty years from now, the idea that someone looking for love won't look for it online will be silly, akin to skipping the catalogue [in a library] to instead wander the stacks because 'the right books are found only by accident'."
What Griscom lacked in romanticism, he certainly made up for in prescience. Online dating makes up the largest sector of paid content on the web after pornography; the US market alone generates $1 billion in revenue annually.
The largest online dating web-sites boast populations to rival countries: the Match.com empire has more citizens than London, New York and Paris combined.
Is there any land on Earth that doesn’t belong to any country?
Yes, there are two such places.
The first is Marie Byrd Land in western Antarctica, which is so remote that no government seems to want it. It's a vast swathe of the Earth's surface, spreading out from the South Pole to the Antarctic coast and covering 622,000 square miles. This is larger than Iran or Mongolia, but it's so inhospitable that it supports only one permanent base, which belongs to the USA.
Marie Byrd Land is named after the wife of US Rear-Admiral Richard E. Byrd (1888-1957), who first explored it in 1929. The remote research station was the inspiration for John Carpenter's classic horror film, The Thing (1982).
Although Marie Byrd Land is the biggest remaining example, there is one small tract of Africa that can claim the same status.
The Bir Tawil Triangle lies between Egypt and Sudan and is owned by neither. In 1899, when the British controlled the area, they defined the border between the two countries by drawing a straight line through a map of the desert. This put Bir Tawil in Sudan and the piece of land next door, called the Halai'b Triangle, in Egypt. The boundary was redrawn (using wigglier lines) in 1902. Bir Tawil ('water well' in Arabic) went to Egypt, and Halai'b to the Sudan.
Bir Tawil is the size of Buckinghamshire — 770 square miles — and you'd think both countries would be fighting over it, but they're not. What they both want is Halai'b. Whereas Bir Tawil is mostly sand and rock, Halai'b is fertile, populated, on the Red Sea coast and ten times larger. Egypt currently occupies it, citing the 1899 boundary. Sudan disputes the claim, citing the 1902 amendment. Both disown Bir Tawil for the same reason.
(Source: The Second Book of General Ignorance)
The world's most disputed territory is the Spratly Islands, an archipelago of 750 uninhabited islets in the South Pacific: 4 square kilometres (1½ square miles) of land spread over 425,000 square kilometres (164,000 square miles) of sea. Rich fishing grounds and potential oil and gas fields mean that six nations claim them: the Philippines, China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Apart from Brunei, all maintain a military presence in the area. To strengthen their claim, the Philippines pay a rotating team of public sector employees to live on one of the Spratlys. It isn't a popular posting: the charm of a tiny tropical rock that can be walked round in thirty minutes soon fades.
(Source: The Second Book of General Ignorance)
A Significant Point in History
“I think I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today, and I hope that any of my friends and colleagues or former colleagues who are affected by the political reconstruction will make all allowances for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act.
I say to the House as I said to ministers who have joined this government, I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering
You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea, and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs – victory in spite of all terrors – victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
Let that be realised. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward towards his goal.
I take up my task in buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. I feel entitled at this juncture, at this time, to claim the aid of all and to say, 'Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”
(Source; Winston Churchill’s Speech to the House of Commons 13th May 1940, three days after having been elected Prime minister of a new coalition)