January 02, 2006

Before I start, however: I share two stories at opposite ends of the year just past.

Eleven-year-old Tilly Smith has been honoured by French magazine Mon Quotidien as their Child of the Year. Tilly is credited with having recognised and alerted locals to the sudden ebb of ocean water which usually precedes a tsunami, triggering an urgent evacuation which saved the lives of everyone on that section of oceanfront. She had learned the pattern of a tsunami in geography class. (Do English literature classes still teach Pearl Buck's The Big Wave? That was where I first learned of it.)

And an early Christmas present had come to the small town of Vic, Spain (population ~37,000), on December 22 of last year: every one of the first prize tickets of the gigantic lottery known as "El Gordo" had been sold there, 17,000 tickets, for a total winnings infusion of €510 million. (For those not familiar with the system, a single number drawing translates into winnings for everyone holding a ticket from that series.)

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