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Hey, what kind of experience is not lived? As with the card game poker, there are "tells" in life.  When people  use of the phrase "lived experience" tells me is that person uttering it is a bit of a waste of space. The same goes for non-Americans using the words "gotten" or "normalcy". What's the point of replacing perfectly acceptable words such as "got" and "normality" with these grotesques? Don't people know that "normalcy" was a word made up by Warren Harding, until recently reckoned to be the stupidest man to ever become president of the United States? Harding was mocked at the time for not knowing there was a word "normality". Recently, I heard a radio presenter lamenting the lack of either, I can't remember which, a fulsome investigation or fulsome explanation. I think, suspect, that she thought the "ful" in fulsome somehow meant "fuller" or more detailed. But I'm getting fed up having to guess what people who should know how to use the language are trying to say. 

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I seem to remember being told as a kid not write in books. Certainly, it's not something I've ever done. I recently came across a book discarded by the Edmonton Public Library because it had been heavily, very heavily, marked up by a "reader". Most of the comments were inane, some were profane. All, I reckon, were a waste of pencil lead. I can't know for sure because I just went through the book with a rubber and erased them all, most unread. Now, I guess sometimes comments added by readers are useful; to correct an error for example. And marginalia from a person famous for their interest in the book's subject might even add value to its second hand value. But most of the capitalised scrawl in this book was simply vacuous comment. Whoever was responsible obvious has no friends prepared to listen to his or her thoughts. My overwhelming reaction was "Get a Life". 

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I'm not one of those who deplores the wearing of socks with sandals. But, personally, I wouldn't wear socks with "Jesus Boots".  Socks kind of negate the point of sandals, which is surely to give the feet as much air circulation as possible. 'Least, that's what I think. But if people are going to wear socks with sandals, why wear white ones? They must get dirty black and greasy pretty quick as a person trudges the city streets. Can they ever be white again? What are people who wear white socks with sandals trying to say? That they are so rich that they only wear a pair of socks once? Or that they are so wealthy that they can afford to employ someone whose job is to get their socks blindingly white again? What is it with sandals and white socks?

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There are groups of people who feel they have been discriminated against when it comes to making a living. They have a good case. But now they have escaped that sad state of affairs they  want what they call positive discrimination. I encountered one such group recently. I won't identify them because they are far from alone in this misguided belief that they are entitled to engineer an unlevel playing field to make up for past years of poor treatment. No-one should be discriminated against on grounds of skin tone, gender or creed. It's a waste of talent. But so is creating an unlevel playing field which favours only certain groups. 

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Those of you who keep up to date with  Book Briefing will have noticed that I quite often mention when American spelling is used in what I thought were British books. There's nothing wrong with American spelling, in several instances it makes more sense than the British version. My problem is that most of the visitors to this site are based in the United Kingdom. So, I use British spelling. Overexposure to American spelling can result in me failing to spot when there is an alternative British version I should be using. And then there are the word processing programs which automatically substitute American spellings and the danger of me failing to notice the change if I get too used to the "wrong" version. 

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A recent British Royals visit to the Caribbean again raised the questions of reparations for slavery, long ago the basis of the former British colonies' economies. Interesting. The slave owners were compensated when slavery within the British Empire was banned in the 1830s. So, it seems to me that perhaps the fairest thing would be for the descendants of the slave owners to pay reparations to the descendants of the slaves. Meanwhile, what about reparations for the descendants of those forced from their homes by the Highland Clearances?  Or of the Scots held in bondage until the early 1800s and forced to work in the coal fields? 

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I was listening to an American radio programme called Democracy Now. The presenter asked a guy how old he was and he said he was twenty- three. She then said she had some tape of his twenty-two year old twin sister. Obviously "twin" means something different in the USA. Sadly, very sadly, the exchange is a good indication of journalistic standards on Democracy Now. I listen to it because it covers stories often given short shrift by mainstream media in North America. But way too  often the people interviewed are not challenged on what they say and only their point of view is supplied. There is little attempt at objectivity or truth. Instead, the programme often simply provides a platform for people who are just as dogmatic as those who appear on the unashamedly right wing American  media. No wonder the USA is so polarized. 

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I heard a radio programme recently in which an author was in the final stages of publication process. Part of what needed done was send advance copies to fellow writers who would write a positive blurb for use on the book cover. The writers had to guarantee to say something positive. In my naivety I always thought advance copies were sent to a number of writers and the most encouraging responses were selected for the cover blurb. But I'm pretty sure I heard a writer on the programme promise to write something positive before even seeing the book. I suppose appearing on the cover of someone else's book is free publicity and an endorsement of the blurb writer's credibility as someone whose opinion counts for something. 

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Many years ago I heard a BBC radio programme hosted by a young sounding Welshman. He was far from a typical BBC type and was a real breath of fresh air. At the end of the broadcast it turned out the presenter was former Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston, horrifically burned during the 1982 Falklands War. Sadly, the BBC and most major media outlets attempting to diversify their workforce think only in terms of skin tone, gender and sexuality. This means they still recruit almost exclusively from the upper middle classes. You don't hear a lot of presenters from Wester Hailes or Castlemilk. I can't help thinking that they would have a different, and valid, take on life from some woman from a privileged home in Home Counties whose parents happen to come from Pakistan. 

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I used to know a TV journalist who was always talking about "The Flavour of the Month" (FoM). Sometimes it seems the job scene all too often works on that principle. As the years go on and "positive hiring" practices  demand FoM criteria are more heavily based on skin tone and sexuality, things are just getting sillier and sillier. And the quality of the work done is plummeting. Right now in the Canadian media, it seems thst every newsroom must have least one Australian. But it seems it has to be an Australian woman. Most are at least competent. Which is an improvement on the results generated by the usual hiring  based on skin tone, sexuality and apparent lack of English language competence. Progress. But still a long way to go before ability becomes a factor in getting a new job. 

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Performance bonuses are an interesting but flawed idea. The notion that someone should be paid according to the quality, or quantity, of their work, or even a combination of the two, at first sounds like an excellent idea. But it's not. Greed quickly finds a way to circumvent commonsense.  Some  of the most common abuses involve bonus based on financial performance. Simply cook the books to maximise the bonus. The criteria for performance bonuses soon become  be all and end all of production and quickly defy common sense unless very carefully thought out. Paid a bonus based on the weight of screws your factory produces in a month? Make giant size screws which are easy to manufacture but no one has much use for. 

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There are people out there who don’t like folk who travel the country and live in caravan encampments. These  people get a hard time from the Bleeding Hearts. I remember one  such an encampment near my mum and dad’s. One day the field, which was a short cut between two neighbouring villages, was occupied by some tough looking characters. The savage dogs that wandered between the caravans and the surrounding area made using the short cut impossible. Even worse, the occupants of the caravans made their living from laying asphalt driveways. That kind of business generates some highly toxic by-products which would be very expensive to dispose of safely. That’s probably why they were just tipped it into the stream next to the encampment. I can’t say whether the driveways lasted for any substantial period of time  but I suspect it was just long enough for the encampment to have moved a couple of hundreds miles away from any disappointed customers. A knee jerk dislike of Travellers is a terrible thing. But so is a knee jerk assumption that they all, each and every one of them,  represent a rich cultural tradition.

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I’ve always reckoned that a person could be punched in the head seven times in the course of their life time and never go down. But if those seven punches were all delivered in the space of as many seconds, then they  would end up on deck. Life’s like that. It’s more about luck than we’d like to admit. That’s why farmers and fishermen are amongst the most religious and god fearing members of most communities. They realise just how tenuous our lives really are and how little control of them we actually have. It’s scary.

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The Winter Olympics are a bigger deal here in Canada than they are in Britain. No great surprise, Canada has more snow and I think nets more medals in the winter games than in the real Olympics which attract more countries. I hate the Olympics. But in one minor way the winter gamed are slightly better than the summer version. One of the things I have against The Games is that many of the competitors begin preparations as children. They often are pushed, bullied, and exploited by adults who should know better. It's child abuse. But many of the events in the Winter Games though basically circus tricks involve competitors who only took up the event as a late teenager or young adult. So, less child abuse. Though events such as ice dancing are more on the traditional Olympic model. 

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A lot of people have smart phones. I don’t. Two or threetimes a year that’s a problem. Here’s why I don’t have a smart phone. When Iworked at the Government of Saskatchewan I was supposed to be on call 24/7, via what was the cutting edge of technology at the time, The Blackberry. So, I’ve always associated smart phones with wage servitude. I’d rather not be available to idiots 24/7 every day of the year. But of course it’s getting harder and harder not to have smart phone. Proving you’ve had your Covid jags is way easier if you have  smart phone access to the government health app. I’m not sure how much longer I will be allowed not to have smart phone. I just hope I don’t become one of Those People, you know who I’m talking about.

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Sometimes my brain plays strange tricks. I inherited an old Canonet camera, circa 1963, complete with built-in light meter. For some reason it came into my head that I would need to get some black and white 35mm film for it. I mean, old camera equals  black and white. Of course that was nonsense. The lens and shutter don't care if it's colour or black and white film in the camera. And it's the film that capturing the light that's the key. In any case, there was colour film around in 1963. Maybe not great colour but colour nonetheless. There's even colour footage of the Second World War, a conflict most of us are used to viewing in black and white.

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I once won a prize that I could only claim if no-one else wanted it. Believe it or not I was once declared Employee of the Year. Actually, from what I can gather it was more of a lucky draw from a list of employees who had on at least one occasion gone above and beyond what was reckoned to be normal requirements  of their job. I won a watch, which soon stopped working. But even better, I could make one- time use of the corporate box at the local arena along with three friends. Or maybe I could go twice  with one friend . The arena played host to a lot of interesting events and concerts. However, it turned out that I and my friends could only get into the box if company management didn’t want to use it. Or if the promotions department didn’t need space in the box as a prize in one of their numerous competitions. So, not surprisingly, it turned out that as other people always wanted to see the same things as  I did, I never did get to claim my prize.

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Canada’s state broadcaster told me recently that the French had to invent the guillotine. Why would they need to that when the Scots already had an almost identical device, known as The Maiden?  What I suspect we have here is an information silo. Feed the information into the search engine and it tells  you what it thinks you want to know. A bit like all these people whose social media feeds deluge them with bizarre conspiracy theories. The Maiden, a frame with a 75 pounds of lead weighted blade, was first used in Scotland in 1565 and remained in service until 1716. Similar devices had been used in Europe since at least 1539. Halifax in Yorkshire claims to have inspired The Maiden, though it is not clear when it when its version was first used. So, if Mr Guillotine did indeed invent the device which carries his name, it was a case of reinventing the wheel.

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Folk live in such silos these days that they assume all their troubles are caused by their skin tone or some other marker. They don’t realise that most of their troubles come from a group of people who have been exploiting nearly everyone for generations and love to play divide and conquer. A classic illustration is the resurgence of the Klu Klux Clan in the American South of the 1920s. Money interests realised that they could smash working class solidarity if they could whip up racial division. Pitting white against black worked wonders when it came to keeping down the wage bill and forcing people to accept lousy working conditions. The great grandchildren of those same bosses still manage to do much the same thing.

* The 2021 Book of the Year has just been announced - Book of the Year 2021

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I always felt the winter solstice festive period was a season of two parts. Christmas was for family. New Year was mates and community. Most folk, at least in theory know how Christmas is supposed to go. But I'm beginning to wonder if the Art of Hogmanay is being lost. It's hard to say from here in Canada. If the Canadians ever got New Year, it was long before my time. I once went to the square outside Edmonton City Hall for Hogmanay. Folk just stood in their own little groups and didn't mingle. I think the square was almost empty by 12:15am. It was a poor imitation of something folk had seen on television beamed from New York. A similar event in Scotland, at least when I was young, would have have involved the whole crowd trying to interact with everyone else in it. Though there was the occasional empty bottle launched into the air. And everyone seemed to throw their home open to everyone else, even if they didn't particularly like them. Everyone was pals for one night, or at least pretended to be. But I gather things are a lot quieter in Scotland these days, and have been since  long before Covid came along. Maybe folk these days have nicer furniture that they don't want damaged or stuff around the house that they don't want people they barely know, if they know them at all, pocketing. Or maybe I'm just getting old. 

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