An amazing day

Zaidman & Smith, travelling on the massive cruise liner Queen Elisabeth 2, stopped in Malta for a day earlier this week. From DanceMetaphor:

Valletta, Malta. The port was absolutely stunning, square sandstone buildings, brilliant sunshine and gorgeous blue water. We awoke early, arranged to meet up with some crew and caught a taxi into town. We ate in a cute little cafe, with cute maltese staff serving us. Quality food for the first time in weeks!! And then we met up with Francis the Mad Maltese Taxi driver. He took us in his mighty chariot.... a 1974 Datsun with vinyl bench seats, doors that flung open when turning right, no seat belts and 3 million kms on the clock!!! 50 minutes later we were in Golden Bay Beach. One of the only sandy beaches close to the ship.

Paul started squealing and jumping about when he saw the para-sailing and jet-skiing and there wasnt much stopping him. Off he went for his first ever jet-ski experience. You could hear his excitement from the beach, it was fantastic.We then hopped onto a 20 seater boat where the driver took us out of the bay and into another bay where we saw the most magnificent electric blue waters. We entered these fabulous limestone caves and took a dip in the clearest water I have ever seen. We moved onto these little alley ways of limestone with crystal clear, bright blue water and found another cave to swim in...

This is an amazing place, the QE2, it has gut wrenching lowes (literally) and exhilarating highs. Its a roller coaster ride, thats for sure. Our day in Malta will keep us inspired, happy and energized for the next few weeks. The next two days are at sea, then we are in Lisbon Portugal and then another sea day and back in sunny Southampton. After this cruise we do another short weekend cruise and then off to Norway again! Ahhh... we've been away nine weeks now... over the half way mark... its an amazing experience!!

Europe of misunderstandings

In this special feature on Cafe Babel states that "our linguistic diversity is one of our riches but, as the failure of the Brussels Summit shows, Europeans do not understand one another. The simplicity afforded by a single language is complicating the struggle for multiplicity." In this piece Lindsey Evans asks, Are you speaking my language?:

The Maltese start learning a foreign language aged 5, Finnish schools teach up to 4 different foreign languages, and 80% of Danes are fluent in another tongue. Then there’s the British… British kids lag behind in languages (EC) Multilingual communication is the oil that keeps the wheels of international co-operation turning, makes intercultural understanding possible and strengthens our sense of world citizenship. And it comes in pretty handy for global trade. People with language skills have better job prospects, better brain function and, if a poll of UK dating agencies is to be trusted, greater sex appeal and self-esteem. What better reason to become a polyglot? - a selection of articles

Sun, sand, beaches and studying

Candice is trying to concentrate on her medical studies:

In retrospect, this year has been a rollercoaster...mentally, emotionally... moving miles across the Atlantic and landing here. Malta. The island of sun, sand, and beaches, beaches, beaches. But I'm here to study, study, study... something that I painfully must admit, I did not do this year. I don't know how I managed to pass... that is if I managed to pass. I guess I'll find out in July. At least I know how much I'm gonna have to work next year if I ever want to step foot in a hospital in scrubs with scalpel in hand...


Go to buy something, you'll find it's been lying there for ages. It's either something lying in a shop window, gaining dust and becoming yellow due to the sunshine (and we have a lot of that), or it's old technology still being sold at yesterday's prices. I mean you can shop online and get a cheaper deal within the EU... Even if you want to buy a DVD, it's often cheaper to get it from websites like than to get it from D'Amato or Exotique. The prices are often twice as expensive at the local shops I mentioned, and you can't find anything different from standard Hollywood fare and little else. Try to get a tv show dvd box set. You will get strange looks...

Exploring referendum results

A new Eurobarometer survey just published explores the results of the French and Dutch referenda on the European Constitution in an attempt to throw some light on why citizens voted as they did. The citizens of France and the Netherlands rejected the EU's new proposed Constitution - 54.8% against in France on 29 May, and 61.6% against in the Netherlands on 1 June. The failed referenda are widely seen as a turning point in the European construction process, which is also held up by disagreements over the Union's budget for the 2007-2013 period. This new survey demonstrates that the public across Europe tends to increasingly identify the Union with too much economic liberalism, and there is also a perceptible dissatisfaction with Brussels and a growing resentment to the EU's enlargement.

According to Eurobarometer, the majority of those who supported the Constitution were aged 55 or older (54% of all voters in France and 48% of all voters in the Netherlands). Among those who voted Yes, the most often cited spontaneous explanation was that the Constitution is "essential in order to pursue the European construction (France: 39%, Netherlands: 24%)

Among those who voted No, the relative majority of French citizens cited their fear of the Constitution's harmful effect on employment (31%) and the current status of their country's economy and the labour market (26%). Many French voters who chose Non also thought that the Constitution was "too liberal" (19%) or not "social" enough (16%). Among the Nee voters in Holland, the relative majority cited "lack of information" (32%) and they also cited their fear of a loss of national sovereignty (19%) or complained about the cost of Europe for taxpayers (13%)

In the Eurobarometer samples, 88% of the French and 82% of the Dutch respondents voiced their conviction that EU membership was a good thing. At the same time, while the French (along with the Spanish) widely support the notion of a Constitution for Europe being essential for European construction, the Dutch are far less convinced and most of them disagree

Overall, opinions on the European institutions are fairly negative: while 53% of the French saw them in a positive light, 61% of the Dutch respondents saw them in a negative light. Elsewhere in the EU, public support for the Constitution is on the wane too. In Portugal, a recent poll showed that 49.2% of the citizens would vote against the Constitution. Popular support for the Yes camp is decreasing in Luxembourg and Denmark. Both countries aim to hold a referendum on the issue in July and September, respectively. Some 57% of the public in Poland would support the Constitution, down from over 60% in May. Recent surveys in the Czech Republic and Ireland also show a slump in public support.

Read the Flash Eurobarometer reports: "The European Constitution : post-referendum survey in the Netherlands" (pdf – 829Kb) and "The European Constitution : post-referendum survey in France" (pdf – 555Kb); In Europe, division between old and new - Judy Dempsey for the International Herald Tribune writes that "Many West Europeans did not really absorb enlargement last year. Now, they are keenly aware of it, and fear the EU may be aggravating the threats of globalization by opening borders to cheaper labor and cheaper products."; Two visions for Europe; Immanuel Wallerstein on the ambiguous French 'No' to the European Constitution; From Wired Temples: A Pro-European NO?; Europe, Malta and the Labour Party; Alfred Sant writes To ratify or not to ratify; What the Maltese think about the EU: interview with the Malta Independent on Sunday about the results of the Eurobarometer report on Malta.

Top Ten Euro-cliches for journalists from Observer Blog - 'Malta is too plucky for words'

Google: The engine that rules the world

John Naughton, the Observer’s internet columnist, says that Google ( to whom we are grateful for Blogger) is set on global domination. From this week's Spectator:

Google’s business plan, like Microsoft’s, can be summarized in two words: world domination. In 1975 Bill Gates set out his vision of ‘a computer on every desk and every one running Microsoft software’. Google’s declared mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’. By this the company means all the world’s information. At the moment, for example, it is funding a massive project to digitize the entire text of the books in some of the world’s greatest libraries. When complete, a search will enable online perusal of any text that is out of copyright and selective browsing of copyrighted works (something that worries some academic publishers). In a networked world, Google’s role as the gateway to online information could give it tremendous power. We all know what power does to those who wield it. And if we don’t, a Google search for ‘power, action, corrupt’ will find 205,000 relevant pages in 0.34 seconds.

Married men earn more if their wives stay home

According to Reuters article at MSNBC, a recent report issued by the British Institute for Social and Economic Research concludes that it pays for men to have wives who stay home. Specifically, men with stay-at-home wives earned on average "3 percent more than comparably employed single men." The article goes on to mention that the wage increase "disappears if wives go out to work themselves or don?t do most of the housework," indicating that who tackles the household chores may be one of the determining factors.

I have no argument with that conclusion, as the possible reasons they mention (the husband may have more time to devote to income producing work or developing job-related skills if his wife is taking care of everything at home) seem logical. But a couple of items do kind of irk me about the whole thing.

First, there's absolutely no mention of families where those roles are reversed. I wonder, do working wives with stay-at-home spouses also see a 3 percent increase in wages, and if not, why?

Second, Reuters reports that the researchers analysis points to how "a marriage might allow a husband and wife to focus their activities on tasks to which they are most suited." Then they go on to say that "this would result in the man concentrating on paid work" and imply that women are more suited for housework. Sure, these may be traditional roles, but does that really mean that women are not as well suited to being the breadwinner? And, conversely, men are ill-suited to staying home? That's just pure bunk. As the Boston Globe recently quoted Jerrold Lee Shapiro, a professor at Santa Clara University: "There is no gene for diapering." To which I would add this suggestion: There's no gene for housework or at-home parenting either!

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