Tuesday 11 April, 2023

Easter post

I don’t know when it started (maybe it was a lockdown thing) but the villages in this part of the country suddenly started acquiring charming knitted hats. On our way back from Norfolk on Saturday, we stopped at a village shop to buy a paper, and outside it stood this topically-topped box.

I wonder what Trollope (who was a Postal Inspector in Ireland, and sometimes dipped into the “lost letter” boxes for fictional ideas) would have made of it.

Quote of the Day

“To the University of Oxford I acknowledge no obligation: and she will as willingly renounce me for a son, as I am willing to disclaim her for a mother. I spent fourteen months at Magdalen College; they proved the fourteen months the most idle and unprofitable of my whole life.”

  • Edward Gibbon

Funny that, and he wasn’t even in the boat club.

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Gilbert & Sullivan | A Policeman’s Lot | Pirates of Penzance


Best listened to on radiograms powered by thermionic valves. But lovely to sing in one’s bath.

Long Read of the Day

What’s Missing From the Cultural Narrative About Gen Z

Really good, sensible essay by Alfie Robinson challenging a lot of the patronising nonsense currently being peddled about Generation Z, i.e. those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s. The tenor of this sanctimonious harping is that members of Gen Z are more risk-adverse than their predecessors and engage less in underage drinking, smoking, and drug use.

Worse still, they are allegedly not just remaining “ensconced for longer in the protective cocoon of adolescence, reliant on their parents for everything from health insurance to transportation to conflict mediation; they also appear to be far less interested in ever leaving the cocoon at all, having persuaded themselves that independence is too fraught with danger to be worth it”.

Robinson tackles these criticisms head-on.

First, if we dig into the evidence, many of the “aversions” being described here are not the result of coddling or puritanism, but are to a large extent adaptations in the face of economic trends. Second, regardless of the underlying causes, a great number of these abstinences should be applauded, not condemned. They represent major improvements in the quality and length of people’s lives: the fruits of a more conscientious generation and a sign of true maturity and adulthood.

Bravo! This generation is responding intelligently to the economic and other pressures that preceding generations — especially including my own ‘Boomer’ one — have landed them with. Just to take one simple example — home ownership. The very first thing I did after I got an academic post was to go out and buy a house — in central Cambridge. Today, no junior academic could do that. In fact, nowadays even tenured professors are finding cities like Oxford, Cambridge and London unaffordable.

Books, etc.

My reading material for the next week. I’m reviewing it for the Observer later in the month. It’s a bracing history of how technology has always benefited elites, with trickle-down improvements (sometimes) for the rest of us. If we don’t get a grip on the contemporary tech industry (and start introducing redistributive taxation) we are in for an even more grotesque re-enactment of this ancient tradition.

My commonplace booklet

National alarm test on April 23 at 3pm.

BBC report

A siren will go off on nearly every smartphone in the UK on Sunday 23 April, the government has announced. The 10 seconds of sound and vibration at 15:00 BST will test a new emergency alerts system.

The alert system will be used to warn of extreme weather events, such as flash floods or wildfires. It could also be used during terror incidents or civil defence emergencies if the UK was under attack.

So, as Corporal Jones used to say in Dad’s Army, Don’t panic, don’t panic!

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