Tag Archives: news

Step 1 of another journey complete

When I applied for a job 22.5 years ago after graduating from the Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg in Germany I don’t think I would have imagined in my wildest dreams something I’m doing now. And with that I’m not talking about recovering from heart valve surgery. Said job turned out to be in Swindon in England while I had been born in Germany and had lived most of the next 26 years in Germany (apart from almost a year in the US for an internship).

In early 1995 I boarded a ferry to Harwich to start what at that point I probably thought was going to be just an episode in my life. I don’t know for sure but I think most if not all of the other foreign hires hired at the same time have long since returned to their countries of origin. But 22 years later I’m still here (with one short interruption 1998-2000 where my then employer sent me to Munich in Bavaria. Which as a northerner born in Bremen is a foreign country as far as I’m concerned). I’ve changed employer and I’ve moved home from Swindon to Aldermaston Wharf, but otherwise I’m still here.

Having been in the UK for so long I had started to think about it a few years ago: Naturalisation. Applying for citizenship. I feel the UK is my home now. Germany feels more and more like a foreign country (especially as I only go back to Germany a few days every year, if that. There have been years where I didn’t go at all). I find myself defending my chosen home against unjustified (and sometimes even justified) criticism. I find it more natural to speak, write, think and dream in English than in German. But apart from reading up on it a bit on the internet I hadn’t done a lot about it just yet, it was just on the radar. Then the Brexit vote came along.

The Brexit vote changed a lot. For a number of people I know it means they don’t feel welcome here any more. Some are making plans to move back to their country of origin (or elsewhere), others I think have even already done so. For me the plans I’ve had in the back of my mind have become more urgent. I’ve decided to stay and sit it out, make the best of it. I might regret it if the UK really goes down the drain as is entirely possible. I’m strongly against Brexit (as are millions of others, which is often forgotten) and think it’s one of the dumbest ideas ever. But I don’t feel it’s right to run away from the place which has become my home, with all its faults. I don’t feel it’s right to run away from all my friends which have given me enormous support and mean a lot to me. So I’ve decided to push ahead with naturalisation.

Picture of a UK residence documentation card
My Permanent Residence Card

The first step of that was to apply for a Permanent Residence Card. After a few weeks of gathering all the required evidence that I had legally and lawfully lived in the UK while exercising EU treaty rights (or something along those lines) I sent off my application in very early October, just before I left for the hospital for my operation. Then the nervous big wait began. I had read that processing an application could take up to six months (especially since the Brexit vote as the Home Office has been inundated with applications) and that in some cases applications were rejected for formalities. Today the both dreaded and anxiously awaited large A4 envelope (because of all the documentation to be returned) was sitting in my letterbox when I arrived home. When I ripped it open as soon as I was up in my flat one of the first things I saw was what you see in the picture. Relief, everything was fine. Step 1 of the journey is complete, I’ve obtained my Permanent Residence Card.

Now on to the next steps. I’ve got to pass a language test (I’m fairly confident about that, I know the differences between their/they’re/there, you’re/your,  it’s/its and should have/should of) and I’ve got to pass the Life in the UK test (which apparently teaches you such important things like when and where the first curry house was opened, but not which telephone number to dial in an emergency. But then I know the latter anyway). So the next few weeks, may be even months, will be spent studying this:

Mobile phone users should be more alert

Mobile phone users should be more alert, that’s probably true in many cases (and I include myself here). But I don’t think in the sense as reported in Mobile phone users should be more alert, says ex-security chief.

We could and should all probably be more alert to our surroundings. To notice the little things, may be an animal, or a beautiful view, or a person in need of help. To enjoy life by enjoying the little pleasures of seeing or hearing or smelling what’s around us. To notice others and may be enjoy something with them or help them with something and make their day better.

But I very much doubt it needs to be out of paranoia about possible terrorist attacks. If you just walk around looking out for possible terrorist threats you’ll just make your life a misery.

Oh, and as far as the Munich events (or lack thereof) go, unless there are any confirmed arrests I don’t believe there was anything. If there were any terrorists with bombs ready to attack, surely closing the train stations wouldn’t have stopped them? I should think they would have just improvised and found another busy enough target?

Drones, Quadcopters, UAVs, Guns and Turtles

With Christmas rapidly approaching I expect quite a few drones/quadcopters/UAVs have been purchased (or will be purchased shortly) to be found under Christmas trees the next few days (depending on where you live).

At the same time there’s still a lot of scaremongering going on in the popular press about them bringing down planes and causing all kinds of other havoc. This has recently brought the FAA in the US to introduce mandatory registration for all drones heavier than half a pound (and heavy fines for failing to register a drone). To many this smells of overkill (pun intended) with some interesting reactions:

I’ll Register My Drone When You Have to Register Your Gun

Indeed, you can buy a gun (designed to kill things) without much hassle (and no registration) in many states in the US, but even a fairly small toy drone requires registration. Somehow doesn’t seem proportional.

Slightly tongue in cheek, but also with a serious background about how humans perceive risks, Popular Science titles:

Airplanes hit more turtles than drones – as of press time, no FAA calls for turtle a registry

From that article you might also want to follow the link to Could drones pose a threat to airplanes? for some more realistic thoughts about the risks (or rather largely lack of it).

Nevertheless, should you find a drone (or better a quadcopter or UAV, drone is frequently associated with the military type) under your Christmas tree I would urge you to not just take it out of the box, charge it and fly the same day. Instead, read up on it as much as you can. Study the manual. Learn about the weather. Think about getting insurance in case something goes wrong. Visit the forums of the manufacturer and read about the mistakes others made in order to avoid them (e.g. try the DJI Forums if it’s a Phantom or Inspire and read posts like TOP 10 common pilot errors). While I’m against the overregulation I think we’re beginning to see I’m also of the opinion they are not a toy and need to be handled with great care and responsibility. Think before you fly.

I’ve walked/driven over that bridge, now it’s gone

If you actually know a place in the news it makes it much more real than if it’s a place you’ve never even heard of. I’ve been to Pooley Bridge twice, among other things to go on an Ullswater Steamer cruise. While there I crossed the bridge giving the village its name a couple of times, both in the car and on foot.

Picture of an old bridge over a river
Pooley Bridge in April 2012

Storm Desmond and the related rain has now destroyed the old bridge, built in 1764. Not to mention the flooding and misery it has brought to other parts of Cumbria. Carlisle (where I usually stay overnight on my journeys to Islay) has also been badly hit. I’m not sure of the exact area, but I believe one of the hotels where I sometimes stay is flooded as is the park where I go for my morning run.

As far as I know nobody has died and I hope it stays that way, at least people seem to be safe. Still, it will be a long hard slog for those impacted by the floods.

The privacy risks of Big Data

Kind of a follow up to the It’s not a question of if, but only of when post from a few weeks ago. A fascinating but also scary read how it is possible to identify individuals from theoretically anonymised data:

Riding with the Stars: Passenger Privacy in the NYC Taxicab Dataset

Similar to this there is a lot of information in an itemised bill. Or a record of all websites visited…