Unsettling

I am upset – concerned, worried – about something.

It’s Brexit.

Brexit has made the UK quite unlivable for international professionals, hasn’t it? And it wasn’t that fantastic to start with. By that I mean that the UK was already pretty isolated relative to places like The Hague or Amsterdam. Brexit has aggravated this big time.

It makes me feel trapped, or, limited, rather. Constrained. And I don’t like that, this idea of suddenly having markedly fewer options.

We EU citizens in the UK find ourselves in the bizarre situation that friends and family can no longer visit the way in which this still was possible before Brexit. Now, they’d likely be placed in a migration detention centre upon arrival and deported from the UK. There is a heck of a lot of that happening.

For similar reasons, I can no longer do things like fly to Amsterdam or Brussels or Paris and back, can I? Even if it’s to visit and work with clients and colleagues.

Because there is no guarantee that I would be let back into the country. I cannot prove that I was residing here legally. We, EU citizens in the UK, have no tangible evidence of that.

This is an utterly ridiculous situation.

Did you know that I can’t even send gifts to people in the Netherlands without them having to pay for receiving those gifts? I’d pay VAT here and then they would have to pay VAT – BTW – and/or import tax over it. But I can freely send gifts to the States or to Canada. OK, that’s the EU’s doing, granted.

When you read stories like a Danish pastry chef being forced to return to Denmark because she is not allowed to visit her boyfriend here for 3 weeks and Italians being thrown in detention, their luggage taken away and even denied access to any meds that they had in their luggage, you become really concerned about what this country is turning into.

In spite of Covid, the numbers of EU tourists being thrown in detention and/or expelled upon arrival have skyrocketed. There already was the problem of foreign academics often being unable to attend conferences – keynote speakers or not – and workshops because of the same colonialism and paranoia, even before Brexit.

This really bothers me. This idea that you’re in a kind of China or Hong Kong now, or Myanmar. Or Belarus. That is what Britain feels like now.

When I grew up, long before Schengen, we – my parents and my siblings – crossed two international borders all the time. One of my uncles lived across the border, near Eupen. That’s in Belgium. They speak German there. He had horses and also lots of cattle. We had cousins who lived in France visit us. They spoke French. (Only French, yes.)

We used to go to the Sunday flea market in Liège. That is in Belgium. They speak French there. We also visited the caves of Han, in the Belgian Ardennes, doing touristy stuff. We would sometimes drive into Germany, go for a walk in a forest and then have a picnic.

This photo in the article below, it is of a Bach performance that I took part in, in the Neues Kurhaus in Aachen. That is in Germany. They speak German there as well as a local dialect.

That sort of thing would not have been possible at all if I had grown up in the kind of setting that Britain now has created for itself.

(This is all apart from Covid, clearly.)

The idea of not being able to travel to other countries is so alien to me that I find it really upsetting. Why can’t I travel? Like I already mentioned, that is cecause I have no guarantee that I would be allowed back into the UK. I have no proof of my legal status. None of us EU citizens who live in the UK do.

From Amsterdam, I’ve hopped onto trains to go to Brussels and Paris and Perpignan, as well as Oxford, and then on to Plymouth. I’ve hopped into a car to drive through Germany and Denmark to Sweden. I’ve cycled to Germany, too. Twice, I’ve hopped onto a bus to go to Alicante. I’ve hopped onto a flight for a day trip to Málaga, in Spain. I’ve flown to Athens in Greece and to Frankfurt in Germany.

Freely.

From the UK, I have flown to Amsterdam a few times. Day trips. I have also gone for longer as well as by bus a few times.

The idea of no longer being able to do this sort of thing is unsettling to me. It makes me feel even more trapped and isolated in the UK than was already the case.

Hmm.

It will be interesting to see how this is going to work out post-Covid.

Fridge-style heater malfunctioning?

It could be a problem with the heating, it could be the switch (try flipping it faster or slower), but it could also be that the water pressure is too low.

In the latter case, you will have to top up the level.

Check the documentation for your heater. Mine is the Heatrae Sadia Electromax and its pressure needs to be above 1 bar.

See the black “hand” indicator in the image below? That is the pressure. Other heaters can have two zones marked red and one marked green between which your pressure needs to be.

Some heaters will stop working and activate an alarm light if the pressure gets too low. If it happens in the winter, you may wake up in a cold house with no hot water for your shower.

Here below you see the filling loop that allows you to top up the water level and the two black valves – indicated with a blue arrow – that you will need to flip for this to happen, for this particular heater. Other heaters will likely have something similar.

In this case, the loop is behind the lower panel, which you will need to take off. With other heaters, the loop may be located higher on the heater.

I’ve encountered the low-pressure problem before in England and letting agents and landlords usually have no idea what to do about it. Calling the helpline for the heater does not necessarily get you anywhere either and the manual may actually have been written for maintenance and repair technicians rather than for consumers.

When you flip both switches, you will hear the water run and you will see the pressure go up, slowly.

In this case, it needs to be between about 1 and 1.5, generally speaking. (If you run the central heating, the pressure may go up higher.) Leave any other valves alone!

Try wearing very different clothes and dying your hair in unnatural colours

If you are white and want to begin to understand how ONE mere aspect of what you look like – such as skin colour – can dramatically change how people treat you, try changing your hair or clothing in a way that changes how people perceive you.

If, like me, you are one of those studious-looking types, dye your hair blue for example. I talked about this in the video that I will post at the bottom of this post.

You could also change the way you dress. I experimented with this in my late teens. I had just moved out of the region in which I had grown up and was now living in Leiden. What kind of coat I wore changed how staff in stores treated me. Cream-coloured casual jacket versus long grey coat.

When I was living in Baarn and working in Amsterdam a few years later, I spotted a coat in a shop window that I saved up for and later bought. I loved its design, the way the front of the coat turned into the collar. It was by “Lieverdje”.

I moved to the De Pijp neighbourhood in Amsterdam a little later. I was wearing this coat when one of my sisters was staying with me and we went into the Ferdinand Bolstraat. I remember we shopped at the HEMA store there. My sister said that she noticed people turning their heads to look at me (my coat) and said that she had not expected that that would happen in a place like Amsterdam.



In those days too, I dyed and henna’d my hair at times, but not as remarkably as I did later when I was in my late 40s and beyond. When I dyed my hair then, I noticed that very different people would sit next to me in public transport and that I was met with the occasional hesitation and disapproval.

I was the exact same person. Only my hair was different. Gone were my “trustworthiness” and “reliability” in the eyes of many.

I have also noticed that when I don’t dye my hair and allow it to be grey/white with remnants of dark-brown, particularly younger women like to sit next to me in public. They know that they will likely be free from any kind of harassment when they sit next to me, whereas sitting down next to another young woman may even increase the chance that both get hassled.

When I decided I was going to quit my job and enrol full-time at university again in my mid-20s, I prepared for the big drop in income I would experience by purchasing a bunch of cheap jeans as well as a stack of blouses and simple pullovers.

I had very idealistic expectations with regard to academia. I didn’t think that what I looked like would make a big difference, but I had seen in magazines that jeans and pullovers seemed to be the dress style of choice for the university environment. And when, before enrolling, I went to talk with the university mineralogist I had made an appointment with to discuss my intended career change, I felt highly overdressed.

I didn’t realise that I would end up looking very dull to lots of people, for years. This was not helped by the fact that I looked much younger than I actually was. Live and learn! I feel that it does not really matter what other people think of me, but it can certainly impact your opportunities and shape them this way or that way.

Who spoke these words?

“we are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.”

The dogs who can

Detect Covid. Instantly. I think this was already reported first over 6 months ago, but repeating the message does no harm. Humans are not by definition the superior species.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/24/faster-than-pcr-test-dogs-detect-covid-coronavirus-london-bmj

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2021/may/20/dogs-can-better-detect-covid-in-humans-than-lateral-flow-tests-finds-study

Why Green is good for you

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/21/asthma-in-toddlers-linked-to-in-utero-exposure-to-air-pollution-ufps-study-finds

Asthma in toddlers linked to exposure to air pollution while in the womb, study finds.

A “huge” increase in the number of visits to doctors by children with asthma problems occurs after a week of raised air pollution, according to another study. The number of inhaler prescriptions also increases significantly, wrote The Guardian a few days ago.

It added that dirty air was already known to increase hospital treatment for severe asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/may/18/air-pollution-linked-to-huge-rise-in-child-asthma-gp-visits

Need more?

Adolescents who were exposed to air pollution as infants have less lung power.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/aug/24/infants-exposed-to-air-pollution-have-less-lung-power-as-adolescents-study

Diversity in the news

This morning, I was pretty upset when I read on the BBC site how the Scottish Borders Council had brushed off concerned parents with lies and false reassurances regarding abuse of several still very young autistic children. The kind of abuse that occurred would also be horrible if it had happened to non-autistic children.

Someone pointed out that the teacher in question may have been out of her depth. There appears to be a large knowledge gap regarding how to care for autistic children. I spotted a video on YouTube some time ago that also struck me as representing a hiatus in know-how and knowledge.

I contacted the Scottish Borders Council. They’ve already gotten back to me to say that they’ve passed my message on to the relevant department.

Last week I read something in Metro UK that illustrates a point that I have made in my book “We need to talk about this” about the new eugenics, namely that technology will eventually be able to address many of the needs of so-called disabled people. With the singularity around the corner, we will all start interfacing with technology in very new ways that should be able to bridge at least part of the gap between able-bodied people and so-called disabled people.

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/new-brain-implant-turns-visualized-letters-into-text/

https://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/stanford-university-experts-b934772.html

https://med.stanford.edu/content/sm/news/all-news/2021/05/software-turns-handwriting-thoughts-into-on-screen-text.html

Kindle edition of “We need to talk about this”: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B0852SRDCR/

Paperback edition of “We need to talk about this”: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1692436414/

How a face mask got lost in the Farlington Marshes (gorgeous skies and thunderstorms)

I am badly in need of some long walks for health reasons (including my eye pressure), so I went to the Farlington Marshes yesterday. To demonstrate that I really need to catch up on long-ish walks and get back in shape, I found myself oversleeping this morning.

I got caught in a thunderstorm and the associated strong wind grabbed my face mask and deposited it at the bottom of the seawall. It wasn’t high tide, but I saw no way of getting to it and I had to let it be, slightly upset. Because you do not go to a nature reserve and then leave litter behind. Certainly not a face mask. It fell from one of my coat pockets.

A little later I encountered steps in the seawall so I went down them, and back. When I got to the face mask, the wind had blown it half-way up the slope again. I unfolded my umbrella and hooked the mask with the tip of one of the umbrella’s ribs so that I could pull it towards me. I know that in the eyes of some people, this may be something rather silly to do, but I’ve always been rather conscientious. Not obsessively, mind you, but even when I was still a kid, my mother already called me her little trooper. (My siblings too have a tendency to take action rather than stand by and watch.)

I too often feel silly and sanctimonious when I do and write these things. Why do some people feel that such things are silly? Because they believe that their actions are futile. But they’re not. Each of us doing these silly little things adds up to major change.

On a personal level, being able to retrieve the face mask made my day. 🙂

I had my special phone with me – which I needed for the Home Office app – and its camera grabbed the gorgeous skies magnificently. Enjoy!

How to change your personality

This was the heading of one of the e-mails I received this morning.

Personality is not set in stone. For starters, it is part of the result of the interactions with others. I have noticed that not only am I perceived very differently in England, I feel very different here and it’s almost like I become a different person every time I leave England and return to it.

It’s hard to explain in terms of hard science and I bet that particularly physicists and mathematicians will reject this idea as nonsensical. But who we are and how we behave is also dictated by our surroundings and how the people around us treat us.

This is directly tied into otherisation and everything that stems from it including those health disparities so many people are eager to mention at the words, which, granted, probably also has something to do with the verbal attractiveness of the phrase “health disparities”. I do it too.

A podcast from the British Psychological Society. I haven’t listened to it yet.

https://digest.bps.org.uk/2021/05/18/episode-25-how-to-change-your-personality/

Are our personalities set in stone, or can we choose to change them? In this bonus episode of our PsychCrunch podcast, Matthew Warren talks to former editor Christian Jarrett about his new book, “Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change”.

Christian discusses the evidence-based methods you can use to alter your personality, whether you are an introvert who wants to become the life of the party or simply wish you were a little more open to new experiences. He also explains how our personalities evolve over the course of our lifespans, even when we’re not consciously trying to change them, and ponders how they might be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘go back to your country, we don’t want you here, you are a virus’

This also happened in the Netherlands.

I remember having started petitions about this as soon as it started happening in the UK. “Incidents include individuals being spat on and assaulted, with an unprovoked attack on a 26-year-old woman in Edinburgh, the beating of a university lecturer out jogging in Southampton and a physical assault on Singaporean student Jonathan Mok on Oxford Street in London.

Donald Trump was not helping. Boris Johnson was not helping.

How can we make this better? How do we create a strong voice against this sort of thing? I have so many questions and so few answers.

Politicians who say something – frequently quite innocent – that others misunderstand are often forced to resigned. When top politicians – sometimes “jokingly” – deliberately whip up aggression, they tend to get away with it and are often even applauded for it. I guess this is also why some people love watching mud-wrestling? But discrimination and hate tend to beget discrimination and hate. I have also seen it in myself. There is only so much you can take without getting really angry.

Behind it are real or perceived power imbalances and when Presidents and PMs signal that hate towards a specific group of people is okay, it shifts that perceived power imbalance even more.

https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2021/may/19/confronting-hate-against-east-asians-a-photo-essay

A message from Joanna (Andy Hall case)

In my inbox just now…

We are relieved that at last, after an eight-year legal battle, and much campaigning, migrant rights activist Andy Hall has been cleared of the last remaining charges against him by Thailand’s Supreme Court.

In a final ruling on May 11, 2021 Thailand’s Supreme Court dismissed lower court rulings that Hall was guilty of defaming pineapple company Natural Fruit and liable to pay the company 10 million Thai baht (approximately 265,000 Euros or 319,000 USD) in damages.
 
Importantly, the court also ruled that Hall’s research and publication of allegations in interviews and in writing, concerning serious labor rights abuses against migrant workers at Natural Fruit, was both done in good faith and was accurate.
In response to the ruling, Andy Hall said in a press release:[1]“I welcome today’s ruling. But after years of ongoing judicial harassment that has taken a heavy toll on me, my family and my colleagues, this is not a victory. My activism for over a decade in Thailand was intended only to promote and uphold the fundamental rights of millions of migrant workers in the country. These workers continue to find themselves without a voice in high-risk situations of forced labour and subject to systemic human and labour rights violations in global supply chains.’’The Freedom United community has been united in support of Andy Hall throughout his battle, with nearly 137,500 supporters around the world signing our petition — raising the profile of his case internationally. Several of you even stepped up to donate to help with Hall’s legal fees.

Watch Andy Hall’s message of thanks to the Freedom United community and everyone who supported his campaign for justice.
 
Thank you for your continuous support as we’ve campaigned to get all charges dismissed against Andy Hall. At last, justice has been delivered.

In solidarity,

Joanna and the Freedom United community

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Hall_(activist)

24 May. Documentary about the pandemic. You may want to watch it.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/may/18/nurse-who-cared-for-boris-johnson-resigns-over-lack-of-respect-for-nhs-workers

After you’ve read that article in the Guardian, about how disgusted Jenny McGee from Invercargill became with how Boris Johnson expressed his gratitude in practice, watch this compilation to see what he said at the time.

(20 May 2021: And then read about the latest revelations, by following the link under the video.)

https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/dark-money-investigations/uk-government-blocked-release-of-companies-in-vip-covid-lane/

Settled status is highly unsettling

As I’ve said a few times, EU citizens legally residing in the UK – people who have “settled status” – are now probably the world’s only undocumented legal immigrants and there is no guarantee at all that if I were to travel out of the UK, say, a year from now, I would be let in again.

Think I exaggerate?

Think again.

This kind of incident’s already happened.

And it just happened again. It happened to thousands of people who were told by the Home Office that they currently are not officially legally residing EU migrants in the UK and that the time to apply for settled status is running out while they’ve even had the British nationality for decades.

Now imagine that this kind of hiccup occurs when you happen to be abroad. If having the British nationality does not protect you enough, then having settled status surely means zilch. Because you cannot prove your status if the Home Office software has a hiccup and tells the Customs officer to stop you from entering the country.


https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/17/immigration-letter-sent-to-long-term-british-citizens-causes-alarm

And this is not funny either:
https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/17/handcuffed-detained-denied-medicine-eu-citizens-uk-border-ordeals

I just filed a complaint (with IPSO) about an article in the Times

I am still trying to locate my log-in, but what was visible without logging in gave me enough to warrant a complaint. (See screenshots below.) This is what I wrote, about this article:
https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/its-time-we-stopped-pandering-to-travellers-2slbdvbvp

This article attempts to evoke intolerance and hate for a specific group of people. In her book “Cruelty. Human evil and the human brain”, Oxford neuroscientist Kathleen Taylor states that even mild otherisation primes people for aggression. This is more than mild otherisation.

I have heard (English) people who travel the world in a van or RV (often very well-paid YouTubers) say that as soon as they left the EU and arrived in the UK, they were met with a great deal of negativity. These are not Travellers, Roma or Gypsies but people like you and me and this is already the status quo.

I also know of a case in which a group was (online) planning to go attack two vans (with English people) parked in a remote location in Scotland, remote in order to limit the risk of Covid as much as possible; the people in those two vans were staying separated by 5 to 10 metres. These too were not Travellers, Roma or Gypsies but people like you and me.

They left in a hurry and were offered a place in an urban location at some distance, in England, by someone who sympathised and wanted to help them.

We need less of this, much less, not more.

I remember how a guy who I spoke with in my first year or so in the UK commented on a few Travellers parked within sight of my flat. I think the guy was delivering a parcel or something and I think he was even trying to ascribe some crime that had happened to them, even though there was no connection whatsoever.

I was flabbergasted at first. I was not familiar with the term “Travellers” yet and I had barely noticed the few vehicles. If anything, I liked it that they were there.

It is similar to what happened in my first year or so in the US. A colleague told me that the house next-door to theirs was empty and then to my utter shock added that they were hoping no black people would move in as that would make the value of their house go down.

How otherisation can affect a person

“After the letter, and the way the Home Office treated me, I became disillusioned. I was upset for a long time,” he says. He decided not to go to university, abandoned his hopes of legal training, took over a milk delivery business and became Manchester’s first black milkman.”

He had intended to go to law school. He was 21. His application resulted in a letter from the Home Office.

He did still get the law degree, from the Open University, in his late 50s. He also co-founded Windrush Defenders, an organisation that helps victims of Home Office mistakes.

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/may/12/guardian-200-anthony-brown-resisted-deportation-fought-for-windrush-survivors

Holy cow!!!

(Almost literally, I just realised.)

But, is this for real or is it just one more government tactic, something to be reneged on later? Because the UK government does not even recognise refugee children as sentient beings, does it? And it made promises towards them too, which it did not keep. Why this ginormous U-turn?

And, are these proposed changes genuine? The ban on ivory for example already exists, doesn’t it? And why would the ban on foie gras only be potential?

Is this news from the government mere cosmetics?

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/may/12/animals-to-be-formally-recognised-as-sentient-beings-in-uk-law

Continue reading

Bonkers! Nuts! Crazy! Insane!

Most of England just voted for excessive corruption and increasing deep poverty.

While even before the pandemic, about 30% of British children were already living in poverty.

Food poverty for severely disabled people has skyrocketed.

And the Tories break the law over and and over and over again. That is, the GOVERNMENT.

And that is what the majority of English voters vote for. Hate, death, excessive poverty and blatant corruption.

Over and over and over and over again.

It boggles the mind.

Thankfully, I am not the only one who feels that this is utterly bonkers voting behaviour. Plenty of English people feel the same way. They’re still in the minority.

But that is not going to last much longer, provided all other parties – except Labour and the Tories – join hands. Can they get over themselves? Can they finally get their acts together and just do it, please?

Labour is a lost cause. Forget about Labour. That is… not quite. Work on getting Labour’s voters to see what Labour really stands for – which is much too often racism, rancour, viciousness and disloyalty and inequality – so that Labour’s voters end up voting more in line with their values.

Remember that a lot of the problems we have today are also Blair’s doing. That was Labour, remember? Criminalisation of the innocent on the basis of mere personal biases was Blair’s special gift to Britain.

The Tories are running with it. Let’s make protesting illegal too, shall we? And let’s make sure that those pesky people who want to cycle, recycle and save badgers get on the watch list for potential domestic terrorism. That’ll teach them.

Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s also criminalise Roma, Gypsies and Travellers at the same time. Criminals, those folks, all of them, so let’s see if we can make their way of living a crime from now on. Maybe we can deport some of them then. (Note: this is me sarcastically pretending to be a Tory.)

The people who are finally going to turn Britain around will be those who are fed up with the fibbing, fed up with the lawlessness and the lies, fed up with the corruption, fed up with the poverty, fed up with the focus on increasing profits for the happy few at the expense of everyone else as well as the health of the planet, and fed up with the callousness.

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UK govt, put the health of people and planet first

Shift to a Wellbeing Economy: put the health of people and planet first

We urgently need the Government to prioritise the health and wellbeing of people and planet, by pursuing a Wellbeing Economy approach. To deliver a sustainable and equitable recovery, the Treasury should target social and environmental goals, rather than fixating on short-term profit and growth.

Sign this petition at https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/580646

Biotech Company Officially Unleashes Gene-Hacked Mosquitoes in Florida

“The biotech company Oxitec has, after a decade of pushing through regulatory hurdles, unleashed its genetically-engineered mosquitoes on the Florida Keys. The experiment, which is the first release of experimental gene-hacked organisms at an ecological scale in the United States, is now underway. Why?”

https://futurism.com/biotech-unleashes-gene-hacked-mosquitoes-florida

See also:
https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02087-5