Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Why it's better to give than receive

At work today I've been entertaining some Chinese visitors. At the end of the visit they gave myself an a colleague a present. Mine was an official Olympic pencil case wrapped in Hello Kitty paper. My colleague got the same present, although the wrapping was somewhat startling. If you look at the bottom left, I think you'll find that something was lost in translation.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Water Boarding

I've always wondered what water boarding really is. Now I'm wondering no longer.

You can sign up to Amnesty internationals campaign to 'Unsubscribe Me' here.

And here is how the movie was made.

Friday, April 18, 2008

In Focus

The truth about Ritalin
(Click on t' picture to make it readable)

Monday, April 07, 2008

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Class of December 2007

They say immigrants steal the hubcaps
Of the respected gentlemen
They say it would be wine and roses
If England were for Englishmen again
-Something about England by The Clash

I've been in the UK now for over six years. It's therefore become time to be naturalised. It's either that or return to Aotearoa. As Miss Sarah might not go for that, I've decided to stay. In order to stay I have to sit the 'Life in the UK' test. Essentially, I need to prove that I have both the necessary knowledge of English and that I am familiar with what makes Britain British.

The good folks at the Home Office have written two books to help with this. The first is a book of knowledge, or 150 pages of history, law, advice about how to get advice, and general idealism. The second book is 20 sample tests, with answers.

Your sample questions:
1. What traditionally happens on Mother's Day?
A. Mothers make special meals for their families
B. People celebrate the mother of Jesus Christ
C. People give cards or gifts to their mothers
D. People hold fireworks displays.

2. What percentage of Christians in the UK are Roman Catholic?
A. 10%
B. 20%
C. 30%
D. 40%

3. Select the Correct Statement
A. It is illegal to pay workers below the minimum wage
B. It is legal to pay workers below the minimum wage as long as they agree to the wage rate

4. What is the distance from John O'Groats to Land's End?
A. Approximately 1,100 miles (1,770 kilometres)
B. Approximately 1,310 miles (2,110 kilometres)
C. Approximately 500 miles (800 kilometres)
D. Approximately 870 miles (1,400 kilometres)

5. What percentage of the United Kingdom's population is made up of ethnic minorities?
A. 1.3%
B. 16.8%
C. 29.3%
D. 8.3%

Answers for the non-British:
1. Seeing as 'A' is called 'Dinner' and happens every night, I figured I'd go with 'C'
2. A
3. B. I think this was aimed at those in the pay of 'gang masters'.
4 and 5. D. What I liked about these questions was that the options weren't in numerical order. Clearly while English is required, mathematics isn't.

So, on Friday, I sat the test. There were twelve of us in the room. Beside me was a Russian called Igor (you can't make some stuff up) and a large black Zimbabwean called Wellington. Wellington had been up for days studying and was frantically reading over his notes. Amongst the others were a Filipino girl, an Afghan, two Indians, and a south Asian who had decided that she would bring a Belgian driver's license rather than her passport as ID. We were all summonsed one at a time to sit in front of a computer, where we were presented with four options of how we would like our computer screen to look when we sat the test. While we waited, we were given cards that contained a screen shot of what the screen would look like. Finally, we were all called for one at a time to go to our computer, Wellington clapping everybody on the shoulder and wishing everyone good luck. I was second to last into the room.

We were told that we would we would have four dummy questions first, and then we would do the real thing. We would have 24 multi-choice questions, and we would have to get at least 18 correct to stay in the country.

I answered my dummy questions in less than 30 seconds. Two and a half minutes later, I'd been through the 24 questions twice, and because I was certain I'd got the first 16 correct, the last eight a further time. As I would have to wait for the rest to finish before finding out if I'd passed, I went out to shift my car. By the time I'd come back (less than ten minutes later) the waiting room was three quarters full, including Wellington, who was smiling broadly. Finally, the last person made it out and the supervisors came out with our results. Igor was the first to pass, followed by Wellington. He couldn't believe it. Finally, I got my certificate of passing and Wellington and I walked out. He was straight off to the pub (it was 10.30am). He'd been studying all week and wanted to celebrate. But then, if I was him I would too. If I'd failed, I'd have gone back to NZ. If he'd failed, he'd have gone back to a country where the government violently suppresses opposition, where the inflation rate is between 8,000 and 90,000%, and where it is estimated that only 20% of the population have a job.

It was an interesting insight into the people that make up my community in Oxford. I'm glad I'm staying.