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Sun And Stars

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"Just like being on holiday" observed a shaven haired monster of a man sat with his family on the streetside tablle under a cafe awning. "Swindon On Sea".


He's right. There's a huge crowd of people milling around aimlessly for no other reason than aimlessly milling around. Come on people, do something! There's shops all around you. Stop obstructing the pavements with aimless miling and buy stuff. Save the economy and create new job opportunities for me to apply for.


The Bike Sheds

I was right too. I knew I would get slapped for being slow off the starting blocks with last weeks job search and sure enough my mentor at the programme centre took me to task for my unmobile phoning style. At least she was nice about it. She is quite a nice lady, bless her, but whereas she can spot minute grammatical errors at three hundred paces, she does have slight gaps in her education.


I noticed a vacancy for a bike-hut mechanic. Someone actually gets paid to build and repair those things? Oh, I mused aloud, I suppose it has some perks, especially with the opposite sex.


"Why's that?" My mentor asked me.


What? You never had bike sheds when you were at school?


"I never used bike sheds" She commented with a look of confused innocence. Why am I not suprised to hear that?


The Planet Sun

There was a news item on the web page about Stonehenge being an overrated tourist attraction. I mean, what do the public expect? Hordes of dancing dwarves sweeping majestically across Salisbury Plain? Guest appearances by has-been rock bands? And so the conversation got around to the inner mysteries of our most famous megalithic monument.


"Stonehenge?" My mentor wondered, "Isn't that the one aligned with planets?"


Not as far as I know. The sun and moon certainly.


"But the Sun is a planet." She stated authoritively. Oh please! No, dear, it's a star, and I was eventually thrilled to discover that although she has stellar recognition difficulties, the time wated in class was not all in vain. She knows what a star is.

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It makes you wonder about the state of the society with comments like that, doesn't it? I'd like to sit here and tell you that the college-aged youth of Northern California are above such uneducated comments. Sadly, a group of my students decided to tell me that the hills nearby (which are about 1000-1300 feet high) are mountains, and are as high as our local Mt. Hamilton (4196 feet) or Mt. Diablo (3849 feet), and are as high as the Sierra Nevada to the east. The next sound was the smacking of my forehead against the whiteboard.


I then suggested that they go to Google Earth and look at the topography of the area...they still couldn't discern that our hills (which is really what they are) weren't all that mountainous or all that high...at least, not for around here. To them, if something isn't flat, it's a mountain. I suggested that they needed to understand the English language a bit better...and to go on a hike.

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I thought you yanks defined mountains as bumps in the landscape higher than a thousand feet above the surrounding scenery? I know we do. Sadly we don't have mountains in Darkest Wiltshire, as our tallest spot is Liddington Hill (just down the road from me) which rises about 600 feet at most. Other than that we have a country lane in Wroughton, immediately south of my home town, which is so steep it might as well be classed a mountain because you need oxygen and ropes to walk up it. So there you have an alternative definition :)

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Ah...if that's the case, then neither Mt. Ham or Mt. Tam, nor Mt. Diablo, would qualify; people bike up the mountains frequently, thinking that the Tour of California is a minor version of the Tour de France. Either way, the concept of reading a map, even online, has escaped many youth here...and being the kid who had the atlas in her bedroom growing up, and therefore studied it heartily, this makes me feel heartbroken.

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