Wednesday, 29 March 2006

Far from the madding crowd

Recently I was reading what seemed a fairly routine article in The Economist about the very low birth rate in Germany, when the final paragraph caught my attention:

“As humans withdraw, wildlife is returning, notably near the eastern border. The lynx can be found again. The Lausitz, part of Saxony, is now home to two packs of wolves. Some even expect bears to come back one day. Their reappearance might be the ultimate sign that Germans really are a dying breed.”

It would be great if the low German birth rate could spread to all other countries. Then we could look forward in the end to a sensible world population much lower than it is now, in which mankind could live in harmony with itself and with nature, on a greener and more pleasant planet. I'm not exactly a tree-hugger, but I see no sense and no benefit in the vast number of people now overcrowding the Earth. We all just get on each other's nerves, creating traffic jams and pollution and noise and garbage, and pushing up the price of land and accommodation.

Sunday, 26 March 2006

The horse that champed no more

I looked on the Web for the text of the poem The Listeners, published by Walter de la Mare in 1912. Walter de la Mare was an Englishman who lived and died in England; his poem was written in good English. However, curiously, there are various versions of it on the Web evidently typed in by Americans who have seen fit to correct his spelling: ‘Traveller’ becomes ‘Traveler’ and ‘champed’ becomes ‘chomped’. The verb ‘to champ’ is a perfectly good English word that has been in use since the 16th century; but too many people have their own concept of the English language and won't use a dictionary to check.

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Airport uninformation

Yesterday I drove to Barcelona airport to pick up my mother, who's visiting for a week. Her flight was due in at 21:25 but arrived at 00:15. She was told the delay was due to a strike by French air traffic controllers. Those people seem to be permanently dissatisfied with their jobs. I wish whoever employs them would put them out of their misery—either by doing what they ask, or by firing them (as in the USA in 1981).

But my main complaint is about the inadequacy of airport information. At 21:25, when the plane was due to land, it still hadn't taken off from Heathrow; but Barcelona airport wasn't aware of any delay. Later on, it announced a series of delays, apparently calculated arbitrarily on the basis that the plane hadn't arrived yet, therefore there must be some delay. We are in the 21st century: the airport ought to know where each plane is at any time. To know that the plane hasn't taken off yet, it doesn't even need to be in touch with the plane; it just needs to be in touch with the other airport, which really isn't difficult.