Pomp and Circumstance, Land of Hope and Glory & “the graduation song”

Growing up, I was always aware of The Proms, especially The Last Night of the Proms, but since my Mum didn’t have a love of classical music, it was never something that I watched or ever had a desire to watch.

For some reason unknown to me, last week I ended up watching some of the pieces from The Last Night of the Proms of recent years and I fell in love. I must have listened to Land of Hope and Glory about thirty times, including blasting it out in my car on the way home. Land of Hope and Glory is a song with the words written by A.C. Benson to be sung over the music, Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 by Edward Elgar. It’s a truly patriotic song and easy to see why it caught on so quickly when Elgar played it for Queen Victoria in 1901.

Fleeting thoughts on Brexit result

Yesterday, the UK held an historic referendum in which it decided whether to remain in the European Union which it joined in 1973 or leave it altogether (Brexit).

Early this morning despite a tight race, the result was declared in favour of leaving the EU. I was very much in favour of remaining in the EU. I’m not very good at coherently collecting my thoughts into a single unified article, so here’s some thoughts I have on the whole matter:

A broad overview of British politics

It takes living in two countries, or a fond fascination with politics, to get to the point of analysing two different political systems. My personal motivation for doing this was to:

  1. Educate myself about a political system different from the one I was used to, especially since my daily life was going to be influenced by this system, and
  2. Enable myself to respond to inquisition about my own system from those around me such as my new family, friends and colleagues.

I moved to the States from the UK in 2006 and since then I’ve lived through 2 (and a half) presidential elections and 2 general elections. In this time, I’ve noticed that even though we’re two Western democracies, we’re vastly different.

Don’t skydive for charity

On a recent episode of QI, Stephen Fry made a very interesting point that should have you rethinking doing a skydive for charity.

A study found that over the course of 5 years, 174 people injured themselves doing a skydive for charity. The total cost to the NHS from these injuries was £600,000 or about £3,450 per person. The average amount of money raised per person was just £30 so for each pound raised, it cost the NHS £13.75 (includes money raised by people who didn’t hurt themselves).

To add insult to injury, most of the skydives (70%) were raising money for services provided by the NHS, so as well-meaning as people may be, the skydives actually cost the NHS money instead of raising funds for it.

So, the moral of the story? Don’t do a skydive for charity.

Social services suck, but we can fix them AND save money

This TED talk from an entrepreneurial front-line social worker in the UK gives a very considered and honest discussion of how the modern welfare state was created (in 1940s Britain) and how it simply isn’t a model for today.

Rather than just bash the system, as we all love to do, Hilary Cottam has come up with a radical new approach to social services in which resources are spent directly on helping people rather than on a system which manages said people. In fact, by spending far less, she’s been able to make significant positive changes in the lives of many people in South London who are all now helping one another.

Don’t bet a Brit at Fantasy Football

The guys at my office decided to start a fantasy football league this year and invited me.

Despite knowing little about football and not caring for it at all, I decided to join in as it’s a win-win for me: if I lose, I’m just the Brit that knows nothing about football, but if I win, I’m the stupid Brit that knows nothing about football that beat an American at their own game.

How to use roundabouts

Roundabouts are one of those things that just seem to baffle Americans for whatever reason. They’re simple to use and far superior to stop signs at junctions: they’re much safer and improve the throughput of traffic.

Having nearly had many fender benders on the small, single-lane roundabout near my house, I felt compelled to give a simple explanation of how to use roundabouts.

In short, give way to traffic on the roundabout. Yield signs are posted at the entrance to the roundabout, which should be treated the same as anywhere else on the roads: yield to approaching traffic. Whenever you approach the roundabout, look left (true for the US, not for the UK and other places where one drives on the left) and if the roundabout is clear, you can proceed.

The sad state of maternity leave in USA

With my love of John Oliver made well-known, his recent piece on maternity leave which he chose to air on Mother’s Day made me love him even more.

I was sickened to learn about maternity leave in the States when my wife became pregnant. Legally, a company doesn’t have to give you a single paid day off after you force a human being out of your vagina. The only law currently protecting mothers is the FMLA act which affords individuals up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for certain medical events (including birth) during which time your job is protected assuming you and your company meet all of the prerequisite conditions.