Books, life the universe

Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Janus Stone

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths is an excellent spooky and atmospheric read. Set in Norfolk it features forensic archaeologist, Ruth Galloway. She is prickly, highly educated, overweight and pregnant with DCI Harry Nelson's child. At the start of the book she is debating when and if to tell him about the baby. She is also involved with two archaeological digs - one at Swaffham and one in Norwich. Nelson calls for her expertise when a headless skeleton of a child is found at the Norwich site.

Ruth's investigations soon put her in danger and she is unsure who to trust. Who is Max Gray and why does he want to be friends with her? He is in charge of the Swaffham site but he wants to know about the skeleton found in Norwich. Can Ruth trust him? Cathbad, the Druid, makes a welcome reappearance in this book as does Shona, Ruth's flaky friend.

Full of atmosphere, the Norfolk background comes vividly to life. Pagan and Roman religions are contrasted with modern Catholicism. Modern day evil is much to the fore. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and felt it was a worthy follow up to The Crossing Places. The characters are realistic and the climax on the Norfolk Broads is well done. I look forward to the next book in the series.

Saturday, 30 January 2010


This is an interesting book - Connected: Why Fat is Catching and Money is Contagious by Nicholas A Christakis and James H Fowler. It could have done with being about 50 -75 pages shorter as I felt the authors got a little carried away with the subject. It is all about social networks and the way they work. Some of the experiments which have been conducted in the past on this subject are relatively well known. There's the 6 degrees of separation - where people managed to send an e-mail to someone they didn't know by first of all sending it to someone they did now - on average it takes 6 people to make the chain to anyone in the world. Well anyone with an e-mail address. There's also the old trick of standing in the street and looking up at something on a building or in the sky and seeing how many people stop and do the same thing - works best if there are several of you.

But the book builds on this idea and covers all sorts of things such as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases among high school and university students; why so many people voted how they did in the last US Presidential election; how one person losing or gaining weight can influence others not immediately connected with them.

I found the chapter on American politics a shade confusing but the rest of the book was interesting and actually quite positive in outlook for the future of mankind. The one thing that struck me as most enlightening in the age of more and more government regulation was that co-operation between people flourished where there was less regulation. Hmmm - definitely food for thought there then!

Friday, 29 January 2010

The Unfinished Clue

The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer is one of her mystery titles - as one might expect from the title. Very Golden Age in feel, with its background of a country house party. The corpse is played by Sir Arthur Billington-Smith - an irascible retired army general married to Fay - who is a bit weak and wishy washy. However her tearful and nervy demeanour is quite clearly caused by her husband's constant criticism of her. By the time the murder is committed the reader would happily have done away with him too.

The guests - virtually all suspects - are Fay's sister, Dinah Fawcett, Sir Arthur's son by a former marriage, Geoffrey and his intended bride, Mexican dancer Lola, Sir Arthur's nephew, Francis, the Hallidays - a married couple and Stephen Guest, who is in love with Fay. There are also regular visitors to the house who are potential suspects. The local police force find the crime to be beyond their capabilities and send for Scotland Yard in the person of Inspector John Harding.

What follows is a fascinating mystery with excellent characters and plenty of red herrings. The solution is there when you look back on the story but it is not particularly obvious when you first read it. I enjoyed the relationship between Dinah Fawcett and the man from Scotland Yard which was well done as were the relationships between the various characters. A good light read with virtually no violence on the page.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Sex-Change Society

Melanie Phillips' The Sex-Change Society and the Neutered Male published in 1999 is currently annoying me. It is interesting reading but her theme as might be assumed from the title is that men have become irrelevant in British society which has been re-made to suit women. Her viewpoint is extreme and at times she reminds me of an inept tree surgeon busily sawing off the branch on which she is sitting. Women should do what they're best at and stay at home bringing up children and doing the housework. I keep wanting to yell at her - does that include you?

She propagates the myth that feminism is a conspiracy to destroy the traditional family. She fails to mention that the nuclear family - non working mother, breadwinner father and 2.4 shiny faced children - has really only been in existence since the middle of the 20th century. Prior to that many people lived in an extended family with children, parents and grandparents frequently living in the same house. I would argue it wasn't feminism which destroyed the family but the State Pension which made it possible for people to retire from work and still have money to support themselves without having to live with their children.

In the extended family there was always someone at home for the children. Mother and father may well both have worked but there was no need for a babysitter or childminder as granny or grandpa were always at home when the kids returned from school. You only have to look an census records from 1841 onwards to see this time and time again. Even relatively low income families could often afford to have a maid to help with household chores as well. The nuclear family therefore is a relatively modern invention.

She argues that easy divorce has shattered the family structure to the detriment of men who can only find security and an identity in the traditional family where father's word is law. In fact the picture she paints of men is of a nation of wimps who only exist if they have a defined structure and defined roles to fulfil - and this was even before feminism. Men only exist in relation to women and if you change that relationship men can't cope. She seems to wilfully misunderstand feminism's view of the family and men. Except for the extreme feminists, most women are not anti men and anti family. Feminism was about giving women more choices but not about stopping them having traditional female roles if that's what they wanted.

On one hand she is arguing that feminism has destroyed men but she isn't really putting forward a good case for saving them anyway. Is it really feminism and easy divorce which has created all the single parent families? Or is it simply that attitudes have changed and illegitimacy and divorce are no longer social stigmas? Attitudes have changed radically and I saw a good example of that the other day. It was an article by a lady who had given up her illegitimate child for adoption because she was 18 at the time and unmarried. The comments were dreadful and many were along the lines of 'How dare you give your baby away? I could never do that'.

These comments fail to take into account the morals of the time and the lack of support for unmarried mothers in the 1950s and 1960s. No cheap childcare, no benefits and free council house. Bringing up the child yourself was not an option unless your mother was willing to look after the child while the girl went out to work.
This is an interesting book but very one-sided and I find I can only read a chapter at a time. I dislike the cover as well.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Georgette Heyer again

I'm gradually working through Georgette Heyer's novels again and have just finished Sylvester - or the Wicked Uncle. I wasn't so impressed by this one when I first read it about 40 years ago but I was probably too young to really appreciate it. This time I found it a really entertaining read with some memorable characters. Sylvester himself - who is complex and eventually willing to look hard at his own faults. Phoebe - the heroine - who lands herself in so many scrapes. Tom - her childhood friend - who is always trying to rescue her from the scrapes often to his own detriment. Then there's 6 year old Edmund - Sylvester's nephew and son of the lovely Lady Ianthe who couldn't keep a secret if she tried. Sir Nugent Fotherby - Lady Ianthe's intended second husband and one of the most notably silly dandies in fiction.

I stayed up much later than usual in order to read the last 100 pages last night - even though I knew the ending and it was well worth it. Great story with interesting characters.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Evil children

Like many people I have been shocked by the court case involving the two brothers who tortured two boys because they 'were bored' and had nothing else to do. Why could they do it? It appears they had been expelled from school and allowed to run free and do what they want. They had actually been taken away from their parents and were living with foster parents at the time so someone was taking an interest in them and their behaviour. However I can't see anyone could blame the foster parents as the damage had already been done before then. Their parents didn't care about them and they could watch violent DVDs and smoke cannabis and drink alcohol.

If you contrast this case with the one of the mother who fled to Ireland when she was pregnant because she had been told she was not intelligent enough to bring up a child. Even going to Ireland didn't help because the child was taken away from her at birth by Irish social services acting on behalf of the UK authorities.

Why the difference in the two cases? Both stories raise worrying issues such as - should there be a test parents have to sit before being allowed to have children; all children of parents whose IQ is below a certain level should be take a way at birth; forcible sterilisation of the unfit - horrible shades of 1930s Eugenics. There are so many ethical dilemmas here and even though the two brothers are clearly seriously disturbed they are still human beings and even in the days of the death penalty we did not hang children. What can we do - or should we do - to ensure all children have the best possible upbringing and the chance to make the best of whatever abilities they have?

You can't even say that the well off and more intelligent make better parents because child abuse is no respecter of class or wealth and as far as I can see has always happened. Parents from every section of society can be neglectful and ignore their children. Is there an answer? Or is it, as ever, a situation of looking at each case on its merits and hoping to God someone gets it right at least some of the time?

Friday, 22 January 2010

Bad Science and Big Pharma

The posts of the last couple of days have reminded me of how so many people have realised that drugs companies are in their business to make money. Yes it's good people realised that anyone selling anything is in it for the money. Any business - unless it's non profit making - is in it to make money. Unfortunately many people seem to have taken this idea to extremes and assume that anything with a money element must be fraudulent. The recent example is doctors getting paid extra to do Swine Flu vaccinations - a job which is over and above their normal work. To many this seems to mean doctors will make them have Swine Flu vaccinations to get the money whether it is good for the patient or not.

So doctors get paid for treating you therefore they will tell you treatment is needed when it isn't? Medicine goes in cycles like anything else and individual doctors are going to disagree on the right treatment for people. This is a fact of life that many people seem unable to grasp. Any professions will incorporate different opinions on the same subject.

People have to be paid for doing a job. GPs are self employed - they need to make enough money to live on and to run their businesses. Drug companies endeavour to persuade doctors to buy their products for their patients. The NHS wants doctors to prescribe generics as far as possible because it's cheaper. It's all a balancing act and money will come into it somewhere. Bringing in the financial element does not automatically render the transaction corrupt.

Drug companies research new drugs and when they discover one which works they have to test it rigorously and market it once they have approval. This whole process is very expensive and they need to cover those costs before they make a profit. It is in the interests of the drug companies to develop drugs which work and which have the minimum of side effects. It is not in their interests to develop drugs which maim or kill. What business wants to gradually reduce the number of its customers in such a fashion? Ben Goldacre's book Bad Science is interesting and informative but you need to take on board more than just the fact that drug companies make money out of selling medicine to ill people.

Thursday, 21 January 2010


I have been blogging here since the end of 2006 and no post has attracted as many comments as yesterday's has done. Obviously Homeopathy is a very hot potato at the moment - which I had failed to realise.

I did not say whether I believed or disbelieved and I'm not about to do so now. What I am in favour of is free speech. What I am not in favour of is attempting to intimidate people into agreeing with you which I can't help feeling is what are trying to do with their campaign. The whole thing leaves a nasty taste and reminds me of the vitriolic debate which the Swine Flu vaccine attracted in certain quarters.

I need not repeat here some of the totally outlandish conspiracy theories which surrounded that vaccine. But much of the Internet debate I read on the subject struck me as people getting very forceful and insistent that everyone should believe what they were saying because they had the only right answers. The people who were arguing for the vaccine and for people to make decisions about it based on their own individual circumstances were far more measured and controlled and using much less emotive language.

In fact if you want to convince me of anything then at least use rational and non-emotive language or I shall immediately think you have a personal axe to grind - likewise insults don't work. By the way if we're talking about complementary therapies then please do not spell the word as 'complimentary' which means something completely different.


I have just been reading the FAQs on the above mentioned website and come across Q4 which talks about confusing correlation and causation and suggests if you get better after taking a Homeopathic remedy then you would have got better anyway and it is your immune system which has caused the recovery or the placebo effect. Why on earth don't we make more use of the placebo effect? But you could argue the same thing for allopathic medicine - whatever is said here about scientists being really clever mortals who can get rid of these effects. Science does not have all the answers in my opinion any more than it has ever had all the answers at any period of mankind's history. Flat Earth anyone?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Why campaign against Homeopathy?

I've just read about this campaign:

Apparently it is going to stage a mass 'overdose' outside Boots branches on 30 January to highlight how useless Homeopathy is. Why? What harm does it do to anyone if people believe in Homeopathy? Even if it only works as a placebo it is still not to be sneezed at since in drug trials a placebo often comes out quite well. What this campaign are basically saying is that other people shouldn't believe in it because they don't. They appear not to realise that Homeopaths will not try and treat you when they know you have something which needs conventional medicine and they will not tell you to throw out all your conventional drugs and just take Homeopathic remedies.

I'm sure Her Majesty the Queen will be duly impressed - and amused.

I find this sort of thing makes me very angry. How can you campaign against someone else's views? I don't like tattoos and body piercings but I wouldn't go and march up and down outside a business that sells these things. It is a matter of individual choice.

Monday, 18 January 2010

The Serpent Pool

I finished Martin Edwards' The Serpent Pool last night and I really enjoyed it. I loved the way all the links were revealed between the various characters and the denouement. I can't really say too much about the plot without revealing all - suffice it to say the mystery is complex and satisfying. The development of the characters - DCI Hannah Scarlett - her partner, rare book dealer Marc Amos - and historian Daniel Kind - is interesting. All three are rounded characters with faults as well as good points. As ever in this series the Lake District plays a big part in the story and broods over all.

I read it over three evenings and found it compelling reading. I liked how all the clues built up but I still didn't work out completely who was responsible before the end. I liked the background - Thomas De Quincey, rare books and printing. I recommend it. I have posted a review on Amazon which last time I checked hasn't yet appeared.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The future of work?

Having read Richard Donkin's book - The Future of Work - I am intrigued by anything new in the work arena. Funny I was never that interested when I was working! Though that's not quite true and I've always found management theory of interest. I came across this website mentioned in an article: where people can register their interest in work of just a few hours' duration. It has been in operation for quite some time and it can help people recovering from illness to get back into the jobs market or it could be of use to someone who just wants to do a few hours work here and there. I haven't fully explored the site yet but the idea seems a good one.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Serpent Pool

The Serpent Pool by Martin Edwards is the latest in his Lake District series of murder mysteries featuring historian Daniel Kind and DCI Hannah Scarlett. I was lucky enough to receive my copy from Amazon way ahead of its publication date of 8 February and I started it last night. I was still reading two hours later and it is a totally gripping story. As ever watching the links between the characters being revealed and trying to work out in advance what is happening keeps you glued to the page.

I did wince over the first few pages as the thought of burning books always makes me very uncomfortable and reminds me of hearing of the books lost at the British Museum Library during the Blitz. I will say no more about the book until I have finished it but in my opinion it is the best so far in the Lake District series.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Working in supermarkets

I'm always interested in reading about other people's work and I can't be the only one as there seem to be quite a few books published featuring people's working lives. I've come across Anna Sam's book Checkout: A Life on the Tills before but for some reason had not bothered to buy and read it. Possibly because it is translated from French and sometimes translations can be a little clunky in my experience.

But I overcame my prejudices and decided to get a copy. I started it last night and have almost finished it. I found it probably one of the funniest of the books I've read about supermarket life. Her experiences with the customers and their purchases are very well drawn with a wry understated humour which comes over very well in translation. It is very well done and if you want to know what working in a supermarket is really like you will find this book worthwhile. It will also teach you how to be a better and more considerate customer!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Future of Work

Richard Donkin's The Future of Work is a fascinating book. It discusses how working practices have changed over the last half century and how go-ahead firms are adapting to the opportunities provided by new technologies. Companies like Microsoft and Google are way ahead of the mainstream in the way they treat their employees. People communicate by video conferencing instead of travelling the world. Offices are open 24 hours a day so that people can work at the time of day or night that suits them.

Then there are the state of the art office complexes which provide gyms, health services, Internet access and concierge services. Apparently where employers have completely revamped the way they treat their employees staff turnover has declined by as much as 90% - suggesting it is not just money which motivates people to do a good job. Companies are experimenting with the modern form of piecework - teams given a deadline by which to deliver a project and left to get on with it. How they achieve the desired result is up to them.

Donkin makes the point that work needs to change. The old hierarchical structure needs to be modernised and for many businesses it is no longer suitable. There are other ways of getting a job done than the tried and tested methods.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

More Georgette Heyer

I am currently re-reading Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract - which was always one of my favourites. Adam Lynton returns from a successful career in Wellington's army when his father dies. He finds to his horror that his father has left him nothing but debts. His hope of marrying the beautiful Julia Overseley are dashed and he decides - on advice - to look for a bride with a fortune. He finds her in Jenny Chawleigh - daughter of rich businessman Jonathan Chawleigh. Jenny is one of Heyer's most down to earth heroines and she soon finds her metier in bringing Adam's houses back to their original standard.

Full of humour and delightful characters as well as an excellent portrayal of how two people who hardly know each other can make a success of marriage. I love it and I'm finding lots of aspects of the story which did not strike me when I first read it years ago. Jonathan Chawleigh - a glorious comic character - who may be deficient in taste in some respects but who has a heart of gold. Jenny who knows ultimately a man will be happy if he has a comfortable home and good food and is allowed to follow his own interests. Julia - who plays the tragic heroine to perfection. The ebullient Lydia - Adam's sister - who ends up loving Jenny as she would her own sister. A great read - not one of her more romantic novels but in some ways the better for it.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Facebook and books

I have taken a decision to deactivate my Facebook account. I'm really really not interested in the Facebook phenomenon and I can't be bothered to learn about it. Call me a dinosaur if you wish but I'd rather pick and chose which bits of modern technology I use. You could easily spend all day on the social networking sites if you chose and I'm going to limit myself to blogs I think. I have no interest in Twitter either.

I may however start a new blog - when I can think of a name for it - though I shall still be using this one. I've had a blitz on the more personal posts on this blog as well and in future it will be limited to books read, writing and subjects in the news - unless anything major, good or bad, happens in my life. The New Year is, I feel, the time to decide what's important and evaluate how I want to spend my time. A writing project is still under consideration as is an Open University Course as well as various maintenance projects around the house so life is busy - and enjoyable - apart from the usual 'down' feeling I get at this time of year.

Books currently being read: Richard Donkin's The Future of Work; Georgette Heyer's A Civil Contract; Susan Faludi's Backlash. Thoughts on these three in the coming days, I hope.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Is this the end of the snow? and freedom

Forecasts seem to be contradictory. We have sort of sleety rain which is gradually washing the snow away. But we got to this point about 10 days ago and then it all came back again. It isn't as cold today - and by that I mean it is above freezing for a change. I'd like to see some greenery again rather than a white landscape then I will feel as though spring is on its way. We seem to have had snow on the ground for most of the last month - which is the longest it's been around for several years.

While I don't like this weather I still wouldn't want to go and live abroad. I love this country with all its contradictions and inconsistencies. We still have freedoms many other countries don't have - even America. In the main we are not oppressed - in spite of what the media would have us believe. We can come and go as we please - even though there is CCTV in many places.

Maybe there are too many rules and regulations but we do not get the authorities suddenly telling you they're going to knock your house down because it shouldn't have been built in the first place - as you get in Spain. Our tax rates are not as high as much of Europe in spite of what you read. I could go on - but to me there are so many good things about this country that I wouldn't want to leave it - even for better weather.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Powder and Patch

I am currently re-reading Georgette Heyer's Powder and Patch - the shortest of her historical novels because it was first published by Mills and Boon and had to fit into their 50,000 words format. It is perhaps the most light hearted of the novels with witty dialogue and an interesting plot. Set in the 18th century it features a hero - rather than a heroine, as the female lead, Cleone, plays a relatively minor part in the story.

Philip Jettan is a country gentleman - earnest, worthy and just a tad boring. He is persuaded by Cleone and his father, Maurice, to acquire some sophistication and a little town polish. To this end his Uncle Tom takes him to Paris where he is transformed from a country gentleman to a sophisticated man about town whose only interest appears to be in his clothes and the latest scandal. But he is still the same Philip underneath it is only outward appearances which have changed. This is the original feel good read and I'm really enjoying it.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Work - continued

kcm's comment on yesterday's post started me thinking about work and how it could change and why it frequently doesn't. The organisation I worked for was always a bit slow to accept technological developments but even there VoiP phone calls were being talked about, hot desking in some places was becoming the norm rather than the exception and working from home would at least be considered as an option before I retired.

Hot desking met with a great deal of resistance from the staff as a whole - a resistance which I can understand to a certain extent. But with an organisation in which you can log onto a computer in any office in the country and get all your own services, data and files you really don't need to be confined to one desk or one office.

I used to do a job in which I was part of a virtual team - which did meet physically once a month but needn't have done - and I used to travel all over the country training managers. I could log in at whichever office I found myself and deal with e-mail and catch up with changes in information. To me this was great. To others not having a firm base was the height of insecurity. It will take time to change people's minds about this and to deal with the human issues involved.

For the last 10 years of my working life I was not based in the same office as my immediate line manager. I found this liberating but I soon realised, when I went back to being based in one office 4 years before I retired, that other people hated their manager only being available on the end of a phone or by e-mail. To me it was the norm - to my colleagues it was something totally alien and very uncomfortable. It is perfectly workable and makes the individual worker far more self reliant and able to solve their own problems but again resistance needs to be overcome.

I've just started to read what looks like being an interesting book - The Future of Work by Richard Donkin - which looks likes raising some - if not all - of the same issues.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Blizzard conditions today and books

Well that is a bit of an exaggeration but the wind is swirling the snow around the back garden and we have what looks like a lunar landscape in the making. There was more snow last night - though not very much - and it has been snowing today in short bursts. I managed to walk to the post office earlier but I would probably need to get out my wellies and dust them off if I wanted to venture out now. Next door's new dog will be starting to think that the world is always white as he has hardly known anything different.

I am currently reading Natasha Walters' The New Feminism. It was published in 1999 and actually presents a very much more relaxed attitude to many things which are a big issues now. For example she talks about surveys showing women are not bothered about what people think about their appearance - clothes, weight, hair etc. This is certainly not the case now with girls as young as 5 worried about their weight! Are we going backwards over such issues?

The author has some interesting things to say about the way working life is organised on the basis that the breadwinner is cut off from their domestic life on the assumption that someone will be at home to take care of it. If domestic responsibilities were more evenly spread between men and women then working arrangements would need to be more flexible. I've worked with men who have had to leave work at particular times to pick up children and no one bats an eyelid.

Flexibility and getting rid of the long hours culture are probably two of the keys to the problem. With ever changing technology more and more work can be done wherever it is convenient to do it. There is video and telephone conferencing for communication. I can't help feeling that much of the business travel undertaken these days says more about people's love of status and being seen to be important than about the necessity for a face to face meeting. When I was doing a job which involved travelling to apparently essential meetings I used to get fed up of the waste of time and effort some of my journeys were. Yes I liked the travelling but that didn't stop me feeling some it was a waste.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Are we the only area with very little snow?

We do seem to be the one bit of the country with only a very light covering. I know some schools in Lincolnshire are closed but I think it's mainly the ones in the north of the county on the Wolds. Here - below sea level - we have a light covering which is gradually melting because of bright sunshine and clear blue skies. When I look at the weather map it looks as though there's a narrow band across the country which is escaping the worst of it - and we're in it. Not that I'm complaining.

I hope everyone reading this is well and safe and hasn't had any nasty experiences out and about.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Snow again and heating

It snowed again here last night - though only about 2 cms. I don't think it's as cold out today as it was yesterday, because I've just been to the post office and the sun seemed quite warm. It's gone dull again now and there is more snow predicted.

We still have heating as well and I've just paid the bill. Boilerman came round this morning to make sure it was still working and to give me the bill - not as much as I'd feared so I paid it without haggling. It was clear he hadn't charged us for all of his visits - so I'm happy. The reason why it didn't get sorted sooner is because he was waiting for the bit that goes inside the oil tank itself which the tank manufacturer didn't want to sell him on the basis that it never goes wrong!! At least we saved having a new tank - which would have cost about £800 without the cost of installing it and transferring the oil!! He's not very good at leaving messages but I can live with that especially as we weren't without heating completely.

I'm just glad they didn't do what was originally suggested - replace the whole of the pipework from the tank to the house - because that wouldn't have solved the problem. No one would normally have thought to replace the bit in the tank - which is a filter and a pipe which goes nearly down to the bottom of the tank to take up the oil. Boilerman says if he gets a similar problem with any of the other boilers on this estate he'll do this from the start rather than trying everything else first - so he's learnt something as well.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Progress is being made

Our boilerman is here and may be fixing our heating problem. Well my fingers are crossed. MJR is disposed to ask questions about messages supposedly left for us - I prefer to move on and get the thing sorted. To me it doesn't matter who said or did what - all that matters is getting it fixed.

I used to do that at work where people were giving me long and complicated stories about why they hadn't rung or written. I just used to cut them short and say what was important was getting the problem sorted now that they had rung/written! It used to get results even from people who were hopeless at keeping in touch.

More later when we see if it's fixed.

LATER: - it's still working . . .

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Men, women and jobs

On a similar theme to yesterday - MJR was watching a TV programme about plane crashes. There was one crash in which the pilot had taken a risk and flown through an area of severe turbulence when he could have avoided it - trying to be the big macho man who could do anything - MJRs comment not mine! MJR then asked me if I thought if there were more female pilots there would be fewer crashes because women would be less bothered about their image and more concerned with avoiding risks to the plane and their passengers.

It made me stop and think and I wonder whether anyone has done any research on the subject. Do female airline pilots have fewer crashes? I haven't tried Googling.

Supermarket checkout operators - following on from KCM's comment on yesterday's post. It can be an interesting job - if you make it so as several books about the subject have shown - The Checkout Girl by Tazeen Ahmad; Checkout: a Life on the Tills by Anna Sam; Shelf Life: How I Found the Meaning of Life Stacking Supermarket Shelves by Simon Parke. I've read the first and the last of these and they were both interesting and entertaining reading. Both books showed how the job could be inteesting however mudane it might seem.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Women in the workplace

I was reading an article about the the possibility of there being more women working in the next 4 years than there are men. Not sure why this is news but it apparently is. Since there are more women in the population this might be part of it. Inevitably many of the comments were along the lines of the destruction of manufacturing has led to there being no jobs for men. My immediate thought was - so men are only capable of doing jobs that involve brute strength then?

The comment that stuck in my memory was - 'The most degrading sight I ever see is a man working as a supermarket checkout operator' So is the job itself degrading or is it degrading for a man to do the job? Either way the comment makes no sense unless you assume that men and women are meant to stick to their own particular jobs. I would have said it was more degrading to be unemployed.

Many of the comments suggested that men should not have to work in service industries as it's not natural. They used to in the 19th century - think of all of the ticket collectors and clerks in railway offices; then there were men doing what we would now call PA work; men being domestic servants; much clerical work would have been done by men because working class women frequently did not have the educational skills to do it. So when did such jobs become beneath a man's dignity?

Friday, 1 January 2010

Nice sunny New Year's Day and books

It really is a beautifully sunny day - though quite chilly.

I'm currently reading; Dorothy L Sayers' Have His Carcase; Georgette Heyer's The Convenient Marriage; I've also just started a Teach Yourself Book called How to be Happier by Paul Jenner. Not a book I would have bought myself but as it was free I thought it was worth a look. I've read about 50 pages of it and have come to the conclusion that I am happy most of the time so I'm probably not the best person to review this book. It covers things like negative thoughts; always thinking the outcome of anything will be dreadful; negative emotions; comparing yourself with others - unfavourably. It's interesting and easy to read but I suspect the people who could most benefit from it are unlikely to buy it. I do like the cover though and it makes me smile every time I see it.