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Are We on the Brink of Utopia?

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clouds.jpgPerhaps the time when we can take a moment and look up is closer than we think. Even though there is much evil going on in the world, are we in the First World finally moving towards a point where our lives will not be filled to overflowing with work, but we will be able to have more free time than we ever dreamed of – time to ponder greater questions? READ MORE

Happy Independence Day Finland!

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320px-Flag_of_Finland.svg1917 – The Russians have a revolution and Finland takes the opportunity to declare independence.

Well , the story is a bit more complicated than that. From Wikipedia:

From the 12th until the start of the 19th century, Finland was a part of Sweden. It then became an autonomous Grand Duchy within the Russian Empire until the Russian Revolution. This prompted the Finnish Declaration of Independence, which was followed by a civil war where the pro-Bolshevik “Reds” were defeated by the pro-conservative “Whites” with support from the German Empire. After a brief attempt to establish a monarchy in the country, Finland became a republic. Finland’s experience of World War II involved three separate conflicts: the Winter War (1939–1940) and Continuation War (1941–1944) against the Soviet Union and the Lapland War (1944–1945) against Nazi Germany. Following the end of the war, Finland joined the United Nations in 1955, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in 1969, the European Union in 1995, and the eurozone at its inception in 1999. During this time, it built an extensive Nordic-style welfare state.

Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid, such that today, Finland has a nominal per-capita income of over $46,000 (2012).According to some measures,Finland has the best educational system in Europe and has recently been ranked as one of the world’s most peaceful and economically competitive countries. It has also been ranked as one of the world’s countries with the highest quality of life.

Antonyms – Dystopia and Utopia

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Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games

A dystopia is a community or society, either real or fictional, where most of us would not like to live because it is either undesirable or frightening – the opposite of a utopia. Obviously, there is a certain amount of subjective leeway involved in the definition, as almost any society can be a utopia for some, but a dystopia for others. However, in the real world, there is pretty general agreement that, for vast numbers of people at least, the former Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Idi Amin’s Uganda and the current North Korea totally fail in the utopia department, and qualify to be described as dystopias.

In fiction, the creation of a dystopia is often used, for example, to warn us of where our politics or use of resources may be leading us, or simply to create a background where the heroes can triumph over the villains. George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run and Susan Collins’ The Hunger Games all depict the kind of societies which, although fun for some, are the kind of places where there is serious room for improvement.

Examples of utopian ideals in fiction include Aldous Huxley’s Island, but after remembering that book my mind went blank so after a little research I realised that most books set in fictional Utopias are from antiquity, and don’t seem to be such a popular genre in modern times. To some extent this is not so surprising, as a good story needs that essential element of conflict, followed up by some kind of resolution. Perhaps in a utopia the greatest conflict might be boredom, but then it wouldn’t be utopia any more.

Finally, as regards a utopia on Earth, I think even the most beautiful places are only a utopia for some, or for some time. The palm-fringed beach-side property on the friendly Caribbean island, most people’s idea of heaven on earth, is still a worrying place; the possibilities of hurricanes, tsunamis or human aggression are always there, and many rich people in beautiful places have to live behind protective walls. However, a utopia is a fine goal and if we all pitch in and try to make our own societies a little more utopian, then surely that is a step in the right direction?

What, for you, is your most glaring example of a dystopia, and your next-best thing to utopia? I’d love to hear your feedback on this.

Thoughts on approaching 60

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Fisherman
I must admit that I have been avoiding the whole subject of becoming 60 years old. I mean, it’s such a big number, such a milestone, such an image. People will think, “Oh, he’s 60 now, he’ll soon be retiring and getting ready to relax in his Golden Years. We should cut him a bit of slack and go easy on him. After all, he’ll soon start slowing down and forgetting stuff …”

Young ladies will start opening doors for me, instead of the other way round.
I’ll visit offices and the assistant will kindly ask, “Can you use a computer?”
I’ll be tempted to respond, “Yes, of course, how can I help you?”

The trouble is, far from slowing down, I feel like speeding up! Not physically of course – I would like to run a marathon some day, but at my own speed. I absolutely love biking, but I’m not interested in entering the Tour de France. What I mean is that my mind has never been so full of new and creative ideas. There is so, so much that I want to do. I have recently discovered the joys of filming, video editing and even acting, albeit as an extra. New technology has opened up a whole new world to ordinary people. Making movies is now something that anyone with the will can do. Thanks to YouTube, we can all now have our own TV channel. This is brilliant! I want to do it, and I’ve started already.

So, far from going to seed in front of the TV, with an occasional visit to the health centre and the library bus, and joining the other seniors in the park to discuss my latest ailment and what medicines I am currently on, I view this big number 60 as just the beginning of the next exciting phase of my life. I am going to do a ton of stuff that seems to have been on hold. I’m going to write great books, make great movies, try my hand at acting, get my mind round quantum physics, figure out the mystery of black holes and prove that travelling faster than the speed of light is no more difficult than breaking the sound barrier.

All this I am going to achieve whilst still earning a living and prospering. Screw New Year resolutions, they never work. This is my plan for the rest of my life, which starts, by the way, not tomorrow, but right now. There’s not a moment to lose!

Does Leap Day happen every four years?

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The answer to this question is yes, and then again no.

We think that Leap Days occur every four years because we have learned that the year is 365.25 days long, and therefore once every four years we need an extra day to catch up. However, it’s not quite that simple. Read more …

Valentine’s Day around the world

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St Valentine’s Day and similar days celebrating love
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In the UK, sending cards, flowers, chocolates and other gifts to prospective or current romantic partners is traditional. However, in Wales, many people celebrate Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St Dwynwen’s Day) on January 25 instead of (or as well as) Valentine’s Day. The day commemorates St Dwynwen, the patron saint of Welsh lovers … read more:

The Top Seven Military Big Spenders …

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The Top 7 World Military Budgets by Country - the figures in the bottom axis show proportion of GDP.

 At just over $687 billion dollars a year the USA tops the charts for Military Big Spender of the World by such a big margin that we can only compare other countries with each other. However, the combined defence budgets of the 27 EU member states in 2010 amounted to $299.7 billion (1.63% of European Union GDP ). This makes the EU a significant 2nd (not represented on the chart as it is not (yet) a country) … read more:

 

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