The End is Nigh! Or is it? – “Factfulness”

by Hans Rosling et al

It would be easy to fill our blog with just a list of events and topics that depress you. Here’s just a sample: Climate change, populism, the refugee problem and our response, political “leaders”, fake news, hate speech, consumer waste, knife crime, endangered species, insect decimation, locusts in Africa, child abuse, hunger, sex discrimination, obesity, Brexit, plastic in whales’ stomachs, Trump’s inability to put a sentence together without the words “wonderful” or “beautiful”, floods, fires and now a deadly virus. It’s enough to make you want to emigrate – but where to???

If you want a breath of fresh air and the chance to say to yourself, “Pull yourself together!”, then this is the book you need. Hans Rosling (1948-2017), Swedish head of the Division of International Health at Karolinska Institutet and advisor to the WHO and UNESCO, co-founder of Médecins sans Frontières, combines his experience and knowledge of world health with statistics. Sounds dry and boring, doesn’t it!

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Underground Sustainability

In January, I told you about the “eco etiquette” and my attempt to reduce my own ecological footprint. In the meantime I have changed a number of processes and products in my everyday life and I am still in the process of finding out how big its effect might be. It is a complex undertaking… For some issues it is made easy for me: there is a credible book, an expert or a reputable website that can help. In other areas it is more complicated.

An example of this is the matter of how you would like to organize your parting from the Earth. Is there an “green” burial? You start at the end, so to speak, but everyone has to consider it eventually, so why not now? In addition to the relevant literature, I discovered a fascinating source of information on this subject: the local crematorium organised an open day.

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Great, I can choose!

The two-part article “Too much bloody choice!” (published on 21st and 28th February 2020) ignited an impassioned discussion in the Harlequin team. We wondered whether it was an issue that affects all sections of the population or just the 50+ generation. Therefore, we were curious to hear the younger generation’s view. We are very happy to post a guest contribution by Ricarda Fillhardt, who looks at the “agony of choice” from a different perspective. Ricarda is a student and currently lives in Edinburgh.

I certainly doubt an excess of choice makes us happy. Just last week I spent so much time trying to decide what to watch on Netflix that it was too late once I had (semi-content) settled on a film and went to bed instead. I also recently decided to treat myself to a wellness day on my birthday and must have spent hours on tripadvisor trying to find the best option in the vast amount of saunas and wellness centres my home town had to offer. However, this rarely occurs to me as a problem. I grew up with choice.

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Too Much Bloody Choice (Part 2)

After spending months digitising my CD’s I decided to go for streaming as Tidal offered lossless sound quality and almost infinite choice of rock, jazz, blues and classical music. They even have stuff I recorded off Radio Luxembourg on AM with the signal fading regularly on a tape recorder! At first it was paradise – listen to virtually anything you want, when you want without the risk of buying a CD (or an LP) for a fair bit of money and discovering you don’t really like it. But after a while I got the “Ben and Jerry’s” again: instead of examining my limited number of discs and deciding on the strength of the cover or the memory of the disc’s contents as I’d played it so often, I was again stumped by the infiniteness of it all.

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Too Much Bloody Choice (part 1)

When I was a kid if you had any choice at all it was “Take it or leave it”. As time progressed, we actually got BBC Home Service (for topical events, Women’s Hour, the original soap “The Archers” and half-hour comedies), the Third Programme (heavy culture) and the Light Programme (for music Dads and Grandads appreciated) on what we called the wireless.

I can first remember being utterly flummoxed by the range of choice when visiting Ben and Jerry’s ice cream factory in Vermont years ago. After an entertaining tour including us having answer questions with “moo” instead of “yes” we queued up to get ice cream. From a distance we could make out the numerous varieties, most of which were new to us then, so we pondered which to choose.

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Nostalgia and sustainability – The Eco Etiquette

While sorting through my mother’s estate, I came across the “Öko-Knigge” ecological etiquette guide (unfortunately not translated into English). Rainer Griesshammer’s book was published in 1984, and I gave it to her sometime in the 80s as a birthday present – which proves that the admonishing index finger was not only pointed from mother to daughter, but also vice versa.

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Lukewarm champagne and tepid speeches – the office Christmas party

In the course of my working life I have participated in many – and different – office/company Christmas parties: with tea and cookies in the office, with pizza and games in the canteen, at the sausage stand at the Christmas market, in a specially rented small theatre (including performance) and at the big ball in an “exclusive location”. The number of guests has varied between 5 and several hundred, and as far as dress was concerned, anything from jeans to evening gowns.

But one thing all Christmas parties had in common was of course the speech by the management. Often this address has weighed on the shoulders of the selected (or coerced) managers since the previous October. And it also entails different strategies, depending on whether the previous fiscal year was successful or not.

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Fitness the Dutch Way – the “Vierdaagse“

Having repeatedly reported on the Dutch people’s preference for deep-fried delights on harlekin.blog, I would now like to address the issue of how the citizens of my adopted country manage to keep fit despite these temptations.

From my observations, I can say that this must partly due to the fact that cycling is still extremely popular in the Netherlands, even in sub-optimal climatic conditions. All manner of more or less roadworthy versions of child seats, child trailers, etc. are to be seen often with mothers or fathers and three small children distributed around the bike.

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My Life as a Digital Nomad

Part 2

With the start of the new millennium, conditions for mobile work got better. The number of Deutsche Telekom DSL connections grew from 0.6 million in 2000 to 13.3 million in 2008. The introduction of Skype in 2003 by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis made it possible for the first time to make video calls without having to pawn house and home. So I (finally) had video at my disposal in addition to telephone and email, which had become prevalent by then. My laptops became lighter and more powerful and had integrated modems.

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