Thursday, 30 November 2006

Signs on doors

Sign over a Gynaecologist's Office:
Dr. Jones, at your cervix.

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In a Podiatrist's office:
"Time wounds all heels."

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On a Septic Tank Truck in Oregon:
"Yesterday's Meals on Wheels"

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At a Proctologist's door:
"To expedite your visit please back in."

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On a Plumber's truck:
"Don't sleep with a drip. Call your plumber."

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At a Tire Shop in Milwaukee :
"Invite us to your next blowout."

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At a Towing company:
"We don't charge an arm and a leg. We want tows."

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On an Electrician's truck:
"Let us remove your shorts."

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On a Maternity Room door:
"Push. Push. Push."

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At an Optometrist's Office
"If you don't see what you're looking for, you've come to the right place."

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On a Taxidermist's window:
"We really know our stuff."

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On a Fence:
"Salesmen welcome! Dog food is expensive."

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At a Car Dealership:
"The best way to get back on your feet -- miss a car payment."

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Outside a Muffler Shop:
"No appointment necessary. We hear you coming."

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In a Veterinarian's waiting room:
"Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!"

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At the Electric Company:
"We would be delighted if you send in your payment. However, if you don't, you will be."

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In a Restaurant window:
"Don't stand there and be hungry, Come on in and get fed up."

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In the front yard of a Funeral Home:
"Drive carefully. We'll wait."

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At a Propane Filling Station,
"Thank heaven for little grills."

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 And don't forget the sign at a Chicago Radiator Shop:
"Best place in town to take a leak."

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Storm footage

This shows a few minutes of the conditions at the Coastguard Station this morning. Enjoy!

Hurricane update - 30 November

Typhoon Durian is making for Manila, forecast to bypass it by 40 miles. Winds are at 125 knots, some 150 mph. I notice from the hits on my tropical cyclone blog that the Philippinos are very worried - 22 hits, and most of them from the Philippines.

A tropical storm is passing through the Comoros Islands, west of Madagascar and heading south through the Strait of Mozambique.

Another system has formed in the Solomon Islands. People on San Cristobal need to watch for system 04P coming through at hurricane strength on Saturday.

PLEASE RELAY

St Andrew's Day

Today is November 30th, St Andrew's Day. Scotland's National Day.

It's not an official public holiday here, although it is being observed in certain quarters. Moves are afoot to make it a holiday.

Next year, there will be elections for the Scottish Parliament, for the 3rd time since certain powers were devolved from central government in London to the Scottish Executive. The current Scottish administration is a mixture of Labour and Liberal Democrats, with Conservatives and Scottish Nationalists (SNP) in the opposition. It is deemed likely that the SNP will make substantial gains in the May 2007 poll, and could even form an administration.

The SNP wants independence for Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom [which incorporates England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland]. The year 2007 carries special significance, as the Act of Union between England and Scotland was enacted in 1707, i.e. 300 years ago. In order for independence to work, Scotland needs a sound economic base. The SNP leader, Alex Salmond proposes to take the oil revenues from platforms in the North Sea to Scotland, away from the UK.

That isn't going to happen.
Is it now. Central government in London, ceding the oil millions to Edinburgh?
Like heck they will.

The SNP play on Scots nationalist feelings, with figures like Sean Connery (he who couldn't master the Lord of the Rings plot, only to lose out on a quarter of a billion), hearkening back to historic figures like Bonnie Prince Charlie and William Wallace. All fine and dandy.

The only thing is that the rivalry between England and Scotland is proverbial. The depth of this negativity came sharply into focus during the Football World Cup this summer. England were in the finals, Scotland were not. People in Scotland who decorated themselves in English colours (the flag of St George) were assaulted; the images of the disabled man and the 7-year old boy who suffered that fate are a painful memory. It is stupid beyond belief, because England and Scotland are constituent parts of the United Kingdom.

Separating Scotland would only fan those flames, and is economically speaking nonsensical. Devolution has worked reasonably well, helping to focus on Scottish issues. The infamous Mid Lothian question still needs to be addressed. This is the issue where Scottish MPs are allowed to vote in the UK parliament on matters pertaining only to England, whereas English MPs do not have the same rights regarding Scotland, as the debates on Scottish affairs are now conducted in Edinburgh, out of reach of English MPs, if you like.

Leaving all this tedious politics to one side, I would like to wish Scots, home and abroad (you're better off abroad with the weather we're having today, check this link) a happy St Andrews Day.

Stormy day


Sitting here, looking out on a force 9 gale, which will probably get worse. Wind is going to get a hefty speeding ticket, doing 51 mph in a 30 mph zone. Gusting to 63 mph. Only North Rona, 70 miles to the north, is worse, with 70 mph. There are no ferries in the islands at all - way too windy. By the way, the picture is a bit blurred, as I took it through a window. I may go out later today for pictures.


Typhoon Durian is barrelling through the Philippines, with winds of 160 mph as it hurtles past Manila. Another tropical storm is growling through the channel between Madagascar and Mozambique in southern Africa.

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Manila threatened by typhoon

URGENT - PLEASE RELAY

Typhoon Durian is forecast to pass over the Philippines over the next two days. As shown on the graphic, linked from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii, the path of the storm will take it directly over Manila with winds of 100 to 130 knots, that is 125 to 150 miles per hour, with gusts of between 150 to 165 knots, equivalent to 170 to 190 mph. The expected time of arrival in Manila is 2100 GMT, or 5 am local time on Friday, 1 December.



Molly Campbell

Picture courtesy BBC ScotlandThis is Misbah Rana, known in Scotland as Molly Campbell, pictured after the verdict in the Lahore High Court earlier today. After a 3 month battle through the court, the Pakistani court decided that Misbah had to be handed over to the British High Commission within 7 days.

Molly, aged 12, had flown to Pakistan with her older sister last August to be with her father. Before then, she lived with her mother, Louise Campbell, in Stornoway and went to school there. The Court of Session in Edinburgh had decided, when Molly's parents separated, that her mother should have temporary custody of the girl.

Following the Lahore court ruling, Molly will be returned to Scotland where the Court of Session will rule on her permanent custody. Naturally, the girl herself will have a say on the issue. Her mother is said to be elated at the outcome; Misbah was very upset. She has made it very plain that she preferred to be with her father. It could have been that way, as an informal arrangement had been in the pipeline. Under this, Misbah would have stayed in Pakistan, but spent holidays in Stornoway. Unfortunately, her father insisted that she wouldn't be able to leave the country until she was 14, a stipulation branded as unreasonable by the judge, as he threw the proposal out.

I wonder how Molly's return to Stornoway will go down here. She has made some unpleasant statements about her treatment in the community here, alleging racism. At the end of the day, I am just pleased that the rule of law, whether in the UK or in Pakistan, is seen to be upheld, and that nobody is above that.

Law in action

These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters who had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place. [with thanks to Rhonda]


ATTORNEY:   Are you sexually active?
WITNESS:      No, I just lie there.
________________________________
ATTORNEY:  What is your date of birth?
WITNESS:   July 18th.
ATTORNEY:  What year?
WITNESS:   Every year.
_____________________________________
ATTORNEY:  What gear were you in at the moment of the impact?
WITNESS:   Gucci sweats and Reeboks.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  This myasthenia gravis, does it affect your memory at all?
WITNESS:   Yes.
ATTORNEY:  And in what ways does it affect your memory?
WITNESS:   I forget.
ATTORNEY:  You forget? Can you give us an example of something you forgot?
_____________________________________
ATTORNEY:   How old is your son, the one living with you?
WITNESS:    Thirty-eight or thirty-five, I can't remember which.
ATTORNEY:   How long has he lived with you?
WITNESS:    Forty-five years.
_____________________________________
ATTORNEY:  What was the first thing your husband said to you that morning?
WITNESS:   He said, "Where am I, Cathy?"
ATTORNEY:  And why did that upset you?
WITNESS:   My name is Susan.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Do you know if your daughter has ever been involved in voodoo?
WITNESS:   We both do.
ATTORNEY:  Voodoo?
WITNESS:   We do.
ATTORNEY:  You do?
WITNESS:   Yes, voodoo.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Now doctor, isn't it true that when a person dies in his sleep, he doesn't know about it until the next morning?
WITNESS:    Did you actually pass the bar exam?
____________________________________
ATTORNEY:  The youngest son, the twenty-year-old, how old is he?
WITNESS:   Uh, he's twenty-one.
________________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Were you present when your picture was taken?
WITNESS:   Would you repeat the question?
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  So the date of conception (of the baby) was August 8th?
WITNESS:   Yes.
ATTORNEY:  And what were you doing at that time?
WITNESS:   Uh...
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  She had three children, right?
WITNESS:   Yes.
ATTORNEY:  How many were boys?
WITNESS:   None.
ATTORNEY:  Were there any girls?
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  How was your first marriage terminated?
WITNESS:   By death.
ATTORNEY:  And by whose death was it terminated?
_____________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Can you describe the individual?
WITNESS:   He was about medium height and had a beard.
ATTORNEY:  Was this a male or a female?
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Is your appearance here this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
WITNESS:   No, this is how I dress when I go to work.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?
WITNESS:   All my autopsies are performed on dead people.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  ALL your responses MUST be oral, OK? What school  did you go to?
WITNESS:   Oral.
______________________________________
ATTORNEY:  Do you recall the time that you examined the  body?
WITNESS:   The autopsy started around 8:30 p.m.
ATTORNEY:  And Mr. Denton was dead at the time?
WITNESS:   No, he was sitting on the table wondering why I was doing an autopsy on him!
____________________________________________
ATTORNEY:   Are you qualified to give a urine sample?
WITNESS:    Huh?
____________________________________________

And the best for last

ATTORNEY:   Doctor, before you performed the autopsy, did you check for a pulse?
WITNESS:    No.
ATTORNEY:   Did you check for blood pressure?
WITNESS:    No.
ATTORNEY:   Did you check for breathing?
WITNESS:    No.
ATTORNEY:   So, then it is possible that the patient was alive when you began the autopsy?
WITNESS:    No.
ATTORNEY:   How can you be so sure, Doctor?
WITNESS:    Because his brain was sitting on my desk in a jar.
ATTORNEY:   But could the patient have still been alive, nevertheless?
WITNESS:    Yes, it is possible that he could have been alive and practicing law.

Urgent info from AOL

If you receive a pop up like what's shown above - disregard it,

Or if you receive a 
pop-up advising you that you have an invalid Direct Debit mandate and that AOL was unable to bill tyou .

The pop-up is genuine, however this pop-up is being delivered in error, and should be disregarded.

If any member is concerned at receiving this pop-up, please ask them to contact AOL Member Services on 0870 3 20 20 20 [UK only] or at AOL Keyword: Live Help.

Tuesday, 28 November 2006

Journals Problems

Notice a forest of complaints about the slowness of the Journals site. Found this gut-wrenching explanation on StephanieBamBam's blog (she's our techie person): Pamela Anderson and Kid Rock (or summat) are getting divorced.

Oh

( @ ) Y ( @ )

Gaddaffi

Image courtesy BBCRemember Moammar Gaddaffi? The Libyan leader and expert turn-coat? Well, today he was coming to Nigeria for a summit. In his entourage were some 200 heavily armed bodyguards - all female - with a considerable amounts of weapons and ammunition. When he turned up at Abudja Airport, security staff refused to allow the entourage to travel with their heavy complement of weaponry. Flying into a rage, Gaddaffi stormed off and proceeded to walk the 40 km / 25 miles to Abudja. The Nigerian president, who also happened to be at the airport, intervened and suggested that the weapons would be allowed in, provided they were registered first. The Libyans rejected that, saying they would fly home. Fine with us, said the outraged Nigerians - you are still welcome, but only with 8 pistols as with any foreign security detail. Several hours later, the whole shebang was allowed into the country, with the superfluous weaponry left on the plane.

Gaddaffi has been in power in oil-rich Libya for more than 35 years. As I indicated in the first paragraph, he is a master turn-coat. During the 1970s and 80s, he was a well-known sponsor of the Palestine cause, and was also caught red-handed shipping armaments to the IRA in Northern Ireland. Libyan nationals were implicated in the bombing of PanAm flight 103, which crashed at Lockerbie, southern Scotland in December 1988. He himself was at the receiving end of Ronald Reagan's bombs in 1986, when US jets bombed Tripoli, the Libyan capital in retaliation for a bomb attack on a bar in Berlin, frequented by GIs, blamed on Libya.

Gaddaffi performed the most amazing U-turn in 2003, after Saddam Hussein was overthrown in Iraq. He started a reconciliation process with the United Kingdom, which had previously regarded Libya with animosity, after a siege at the Libyan Embassy in London, in 1984, resulted in the shooting and killing of a woman police constable. The shots were fired from inside the Embassy building. I reckon that Gaddaffi saw that his name would be next on the list.

Who is the best-known Scot?

The Loch Ness Monster
No, not Robert Burns, the poet.
No, not John Logie Baird, who invented television.
No, not Sean Connery (more of him later in this post)
The results of a poll amongst 2,000 British people to say who the best-known Scottish personality was yielded this result:

1 Loch Ness Monster 29%
2 Robert Burns 27%
3 Sean Connery 12%
4 Robert the Bruce 9%
5 William Wallace 7.5%
6 Robbie Coltrane 6%
7 Billy Connolly 4%
8 Lorraine Kelly 2.5%
9 Ewan McGregor 2%
10 Lulu 1%
(source: BBC Scotland)

Of Sean Connery then.
He is kicking himself right now. It was revealed in the papers this weekend, that he was offered the role of Gandalf the Grey in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy. Sean Connery turned down the lucrative role, as he could not grasp the complexities of J.R.R. Tolkien's intricate story. So, he forfeited 225 million pounds, in retrospect. (that is about 400 million dollars). Is Tolkien's story really that complicated? It's not the easiest read, but I managed it at age 11, thank you.

Dusk

Well, the sun has set on a weatherwise very disturbed day. Although Tuesday started nice enough, it was very windy. A spell of heavy rain was accompanied by galeforce winds, which nearly took mrs B away, umbrella and all, at lunchtime. Umbrellas are useless in the islands here. Although it did clear up afterwards, some beefy showers spoiled the afternoon. The moon is out now and the showers have died down.

Breast Cancer - advice

Kimberleigh (Demandnlilchit) has posted an entry full of very useful advice for any ladies that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I would recommend that very strongly.

Hurricane update - 28 November

The Philippines are once again headed for a visit by a typhoon. Durian is brewing up east of the archipelago, and is likely to impact Luzon over the weekend. The system will pass by the far north of Luzon on Sunday. Winds by that time will be between 95 and 110 mph. Other areas in the Philippines are also likely to be affected. Those interested should consult the PAGASA website for detailed advice.


Monday, 27 November 2006

Call for support

Just asking for people to drop round to Robyn's as her mother has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer.

Nasty evening

Just to give an eye-witness (or rather: ear-witness) account of current weather conditions. It's now 5.25 pm; the sun set at 3.45pm.

Although the day did start nice enough, I'm now listening to heavy rain lashing the windows, driven on by a southerly gale. Some forecasts project a force 10 storm overnight, which explains why the ferry is staying in Ullapool until tomorrow morning. Nonetheless, the Met Office does not see fit to issue us with a severe weather warning.

Sunday 26/11/06

The day starts bright and sunny, with not a cloud in the sky. There is hardly a breath of wind. Cloud increases gradually after midday. The workmen are not working today (it's a Lewis Sunday). I head out for a walk at 1.40pm to take advantage of the good weather. Forecast for the remainder of the week is poor. After a slice or two of mrs B's fruitloaf, I walk down towards the Battery. Encounter a pussycat, sitting on top of a bin. Proceed to Sandwick Bay, which is as smooth as a mirror. A woman sits on the shinglebank, looking out across the water towards Arnish, and the blades of two windturbines, which peep over the hilltops. That is new. The Shiant Isles can be made out just left of Kebock Head; the Skye mountains loom very faintly through the haze beyond them. The Shiants are 20 miles away, Skye is 50 miles distant. The seats by the Sandwick Cemetery have been vandalised. Beyond there, I walk down the road through the village of Lower Sandwick. At the end of the road, a large ram stands in a field over looking the Minch. Children play outside the last house. When I cross over to Stoneyfields farm, it gets very boggy and wet. Jump over the gate and try not to get too scratched on the gorse. Have to cross a stream using an upturned fishbox. The path towards the Iolaire Memorial is flooded, but I manage to squelch my way past the problem. No wreath has been laid there this year. Cloud has increased considerably, and I can see rain moving up from Skye, 50 miles away. Go back the way I came, and the rain finally catches up with me on Miller Road. Return to Mrs B's at 3.15pm, 90 minutes after setting off on this 4½ mile jaunt. Darkness falls after 4pm. The sliding door has been repaired and is now sliding nicely along.

Saturday 25/11/06

Reasonably nice day with occasional sunshine. The Press and Journal, my daily rag, did not arrive today. Buy The Scotsman instead, but don't find it a lot of good. Somerfields have rearranged their supermarket shelves, making shopping a bit of a search party. Lottery didn't yield any prizes, and mrs B is considering stopping buying tickets. Flooding is reported from England; heavy rain is falling in Lochaber and Argyll. The hurricane season will be ending this week, but the Western Pacific spawns a new typhoon. It will affect the Philippines by next Friday with winds of around 160 mph. The two workmen will be staying over the weekend, in order to complete their job at the Carloway Health Centre.

Stats

Today, I took notebook 10 into use. As I may have mentioned in the past, I write a diary in a handwritten notebook, which I then transcribe on here. In recent times, I have taken to write on here what  comes to mind during the day, or at the inspiration of others' entries. Nonetheless, book 9 carried me from mid July until yesterday. It was fat, had 200 pages, and am initiating book 10 at page 1,391. This one only has 120 pages. On average, I use 1 to 2 pages a day.

Sunday, 26 November 2006

del.icio.us / AOL 'improvements'

Anybody participating in this? It is a links-exchange basically, and my link (under username ADB42) is somewhere in my sidebar.

I was pleased to note the comments on my post "AOL is not talking to itself".
I do not get personal to people when I have a gripe against an organisation (like AOL). At the end of the day, I am deeply moved by those who endeavour to improve our lot by attending all manner of conferences on the advancements on the Internet. Web 2.0, Widgets, Woo Hoo, you name it. I would like to suggest that the AOL experience be bucked up first, before we improve it further. Although we're now on version 9, AOL doesn't feel that much better than the version 4 I unearthed somewhere over a year ago.
I suggest they talk to people like Mozilla, who manage to make upgrades to their excellent Firefox browser totally painless and user friendly. I upgraded to version 2.0 recently, and I only had to download the latest version of this del.icio.us plug-in. That was all. And it's still working.

AOL doesn't talk to itself

I didn't tell you about my experiments with various bits of AOL software that I've been trying out of late. Well, a salutary tale.

I do the majority of my journaling and other Internet activity through a Firefox browser (i.e. not through AOL), as my ISP is actually not AOL. And I'd almost recommend switching away from it, as the service they provide is crap beyond belief. When comparing to other ISPs. Of course, it's a question of money, and whether you have a lot built on the paid section of AOL.

Which leads me neatly on to AOL Open Ride. That is a horrendous piece of software. There are 4 windows, all tied to a coloured blob in the centre called Dynasizer. When you drag the blob, the 4 windows resize. Wow. The four windows include your buddylist, your email, your AOL Welcome screen and a browser window. Big deal.
AOL Open Ride is intended for those who don't pay for AOL, currently only in the US. If you need any of the specific AOL-only services (chatrooms and the like), your AOL Client software (which is required for going on-line if you use AOL as ISP) kicks in. Dreadful and cumbersome. That's AOL Open Ride. Avoid.
Things went downhill when I removed it. I had to download a piece of software before I could log on to AOL. Nice one if you have to use AOL for going on-line in the first place.

Oh, I also had AIM installed. Just for the heck of it. This jumped up every time I started the computer, although I had specified in my set-up that I didn't want that.

In the end, I removed everything called AOL from the computer and reinstalled AOL 9.0 from the CD-ROM. Now, if you remove AOL 9.0 from the PC, you're left with a PFC on your desktop. This contains all your personal settings. When you re-install your AOL, you won't have your bookmarks or anything there. You have to copy the PFC back into the AOL systemfiles in order to get everything back the way it was.

I find AOL about as bad as Microsoft in terms of software not talking to each other, even though it's made by the same company. I recently tried out Internet Explorer 7.0, which I couldn't wait to get rid of. Beware: Automatic Update may install it on your computer before you're aware of it.

End of rant.

Sunday Stroll

As the weather looked ever so promising at 2 o'clock, I decided to go for a walk. As the sun sets just before 4pm, I couldn't go far. So, to the Iolaire Memorial it was. This is a walk of 4½ mile / 7 km roundtrip. It basically leads along the shoreline from Stornoway to Lower Sandwick and beyond to Holm Point. The map below shows the Gaelic names: Steornabhagh, Mol Shanndabhaig and Rubha Thuilm.

For reference: in Gaelic an H after a consonant changes the pronounciation of the leading consonant. BH becomes W, TH becomes voiceless and SH becomes H.

Some pictures are a bit fuzzy; the light is not very good at the moment, and the slightest motion will of course blurr the picture. Of course, as the progression of pictures shows, the weather decided to deteriorate fairly rapidly, but all I got was a few spots of rain.

Alerts

I only had 18 emails this morning? Normally, those across the pond put anything up to 40 to 70 alerts in my Inbox overnight, but I guess that Thanksgiving and Black Friday (can someone fill me in why it is called Black Friday?) left everybody knackered. Well, good morning America, good afternoon UK and good evening Australia!

Sunny day / Trailer driving

It's a nice sunny day today, which will be the ONLY sunny day of the week. Rain and wind will be coming our way overnight. Severe gales on Thursday, but that's still 4 days away.

A note to drivers in the UK: if you are towing a trailer, you may need to sit an additional driving test. This morning's Landward programme (the Scottish counterpart of Countryfile on BBC1 at 11.30 am) gave that warning. A trailer over 750 kg in weight requires a B+E license. If you only have a B-license, you need to apply to sit an additional test. Landward focused on driving horseboxes which, by virtue of the animal inside, are usually over 750 kg in weight.

Saturday, 25 November 2006

Hurricane update - 25 November

Just an advance warning that a typhoon is brewing up over Micronesia, called Durian. This system will pass within 40 miles of Yap (look it up, it's part of the Federated States of Micronesia) as a tropical storm. Local forecasts (long live the Internet) do not mention the system yet, neither does the Philippines PAGASA weather agency. And it's the Philippines that could yet get an unwelcome visitor later next week. Again.



Rural Post Offices

There are plans afoot to withdraw funding, worth £150 million, from outlying post offices by 2008. For the Isle of Lewis, this would mean that post offices in places such as Gravir and Kershader in Lochs, Garrabost in Point and Ness would be closed.

BBC Alba's excellent Eorpa program featured a lengthy report on the issue on Thursday night. The post mistress in Garrabost explained that the PO is not just for selling stamps, it is also a focal point for the local community. A fair chunk of PO business has been overtaken by modern technology; you can apply for a car tax-disk on-line these days, and more than 3 million Britons took that opportunity over the last year.

If PO's like the ones mentioned were to close, customers would have to travel to Stornoway, in the case of Lewis, to do their postal business. This means a 30 mile journey one-way in places like Ness, Uig and South Lochs. Many customers in the out-lying districts are quite elderly, and bus services are so scarce (in places like Lochs and Uig) that your entire day will be eaten up simply for a stamp or going for your pension.

A petition was handed in to Downing Street earlier this autumn, containing 4 million signatures, to plead with Prime Minister Tony Blair to rethink his proposals. The Garrabost post mistress was amongst those handing in the petition. The answer was a blunt NO.

It is now important, more than ever, to make the most of your post office, whether it be in Stornoway or in any outlying village. Do whatever you can there. Once it's gone, it'll be too late.

This obviously applies to ALL rural post offices, across the UK. Not just in Lewis, not just in Scotland, but right across the country.

Time

Natalie asked the questions: "were you ever late" and "what is your concept of time".

Was I ever late? Yep.

I normally do go out of my way to be on time, and hate being late. Circumstances etcetera sometimes do put paid to that though.

Time is the 4th dimension, the only constant in our lives. It marches on inexorably, and we have NO influence over it whatsoever. Although clocks and the like are a man-made invention, designed to mark off points in life, time itself was there before the solar system existed, and will continue beyond its expiration, in 5,000 million years' time. Only within 'black holes', which have such strong gravitational fields that even light cannot escape does time appear to get warped.

Polonium 210 and the Russian spy

Former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko died in hospital in London last night after suffering the effects of alleged poisoning. Mr Litvinenko fell ill after leaving a sushi bar in Piccadilly, central London and was admitted to hospital with progressive multi-organ failure. In a letter, drafted before his death, Mr Litvinenko accuses Russia's president Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning.

Mr Litvinenko was a former KGB-agent who fled to the UK and became a British citizen earlier this year. Initially, he was thought to have been poisoned with the heavy metal thallium, but it was now revealed that polonium, a radio-active element, was found in his system. Three other locations in London have been shown to also be contaminated with this substance.

The isotope polonium-210 (chemically referred to as 210-Po) is only harmful if ingested. The particles it emits on degrading are so-called alpha particles (basically helium atoms minus electrons) which cannot penetrate the skin. It is extremely harmful once ingested. A report today states that those behind the murder of Mr Litvinenko balanced the dose of 210-Po quite carefully. A huge overdose would cause him to collapse and die, but a lesser dose would see him dead, but leave the culprits time to cover their tracks.

During Mr Litvinenko's illness, fingers were pointed at Mr Putin, who used to be head of the KGB in the Soviet era. He has categorically denied any involvement, and reports on news-feeds quote him as saying that Mr Litvinenko's death was not unnatural and that his unfortunate demise is used as a pretext for stirring up trouble for Russia. His remarks were made before the discovery of 210-Po was made.

Friday 24/11/06

Very nice day, quite sunny with some clouds. Storms are expected over eastern England, but we're very calm - in the eye of the storm you see. The Russian who is thought to have been poisoned died last night in hospital. The circles of this stone in the pond are beginning to spread. He was found to have a large amount of polonium-210 in his system. How did it get there. See separate entry. Ferry was 20-30 minutes late getting into port today. Head into town for a few purchases. Gulls sat on the quayside of a virtually empty Lazy Corner and a seal bobbed in the Inner Harbour off the Esplanade Quay. Had a nice meal with mrs B whilst watching television.

Thursday 23/11/06

Very dreich day, in which not much happens. A boat lies on the slipway at Goat Island, which looks like a converted old lifeboat. It's absolutely tipping it down, so I'm very grateful for being given a lift round town. I don't drive. I notice a big dollop of seaweed on the Goat Island causeway, left there by the gales a few days ago. Heard that the Medical Director to Western Isles Health Board is going into retirement, seeing as his position has been made redundant. He was one of the evil trio that were on my quitlist. Today was Thanksgiving in the island.

Friday, 24 November 2006

Wednesday 22/11/06

Reasonably nice day, which starts early as I watch the 7.15 ferry depart for Ullapool. Radio Scotland accuses it of being 45 minutes late, but it's timetabled to leave at 7.15, not 6.30 a.m.. Later on in the day, mrs B starts to chase up her errant guests, who apparently missed their ferry in Uig (Skye) and spent the night in their van. At least they did turn up in the end. Fairly bright day, which sees a heron fishing in the basin. Journals still fail to cheer up mrs B.

Rest & Be Thankful

This piece of stunning mountain scenery can be viewed at a place called Rest & Be Thankful, located in Western Scotland. The map below shows in detail where it is; north of Glasgow on the A83 Glasgow to Campbeltown road.

Thought I'd mention it, now that our American friends are in post-Thanksgiving mode.

 

We're used to this


The British Met Office [weather buro] has issued a severe weather warning for southern parts of the UK. Over the weekend, winds could reach force 8 to 10, even 11. This could cause structural damage, bring down powerlines as well as trees. Naturally, people need to be aware of that. You always have idiots who'll go to a promenade and play chicken with the waves. Remember those people that got swept away on the southern coast of England a few weeks ago?

Says us up north: We had that last week, and did we get a warning? Barely. We don't get sombre-faced weathermen, soberly warning us of high winds. Nah. We're just the peasant cousins oop north.

Here is the text of the warning

Severe Gales
Expected from 21:00 Fri 24 Nov to 15:00 Sat 25 Nov

The Met Office is expecting a vigorous depression to move north across the United Kingdom Friday night into Saturday morning. There still remains some doubt as to the exact track and depth of the low, but it now appears that southern and eastern parts of the United Kingdom are most at risk from disruption. Gusts of 65-75mph are expected. Gusts to this strength are infrequent across the southeast and likely to lead to disruption to transport and power supplies. The strongest winds are expected later Friday into Saturday morning, with winds easing through the afternoon. This warning is expected to be superseded by Flash messages, otherwise an update will be provided by 1030am tomorrow, Saturday 25th November 2006.

  Map showing risk of disruption

Female Circumcision

This is not for those easily upset.

In certain countries, it is a common custom to 'surgically' remove the clitoris from young girls. It is said to prevent promiscuous behaviour. Unlike male circumcision, which can benefit boys in terms of hygiene problems, female circumcision serves no purpose and is often referred to as female mutilation. Moves are now afoot to outlaw the practice. Read more in this story from BBC News.

Sidebar

I've updated my sidebar, now that the midnight hour has passed. It includes two new images, which I would like to explain. One is of a bearded chap with a bishop's crook, the other of wrapped presents.

On 5 December, certain countries in continental Europe, such as the Flanders region of Belgium, Holland and western parts of Germany, celebrate the festival of St Nicholas.

St Nicholas was a bishop in western Turkey in the 6th century AD (I think), of the bishopric of Myra, the present-day Smyrna. After his death, the Ottomans took over Turkey and his bones were pilfered from his tomb, to be transferred to Spain. St Nicholas is the patron saint of children and of travellers.

In the regions I mentioned, St Nicholas arrives on the third Saturday of November by steamship from Spain. He is accompanied by a host of helpers, called Black Peters. You have to remember that Spain was overrun by North African 'Moors', who had a very dark complexion. St Nicholas comes bearing gifts for those children who have been good over the past year. For those that have been bad, he can order Black Peter to take them back to Spain in the sack that held the pressies. St Nicholas, or Sinterklaas, rides a white charger and takes to rooftops to drop presents down the chimnies. He will take back in return a carrot for the horse. In order to get the presents, the little ones are required to leave a shoe by the fireplace. The culmination is on December 5th, the eve of the nameday of St Nicholas, which occurs on the 6th.

Older children and adults draw lots to buy presents, and you are required to pen a rhyme, denouncing the recipient's misdeeds over the past year. The most excruciating poetry can result. The intrusion of Santa Claus over the last decade or so has led to a revolt, and some towns ban Santa Claus until December 6th. Funny thing is, Sinterklaas and Santa Claus are the same...

Thursday, 23 November 2006

The difference 33 years make

Then and Now...It's going to get worse before it gets better!

Scenario: Jack pulls into his high school parking lot with shotgun in gunrack.

1973 - Vice Principal comes over, takes a look at Jack's shotgun, goes tohis car and gets his to show Jack.  They discuss hunting and the shootingsports and agree to hunt Jack's dad's farm for pheasant later in the week.

2006 - School goes into lockdown, local police and the FBI called, Jackhauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again.  Counselorscalled in for traumatized students and teachers.

Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fistfight after school.

1973 - Crowd gathers.  Mark wins.  Johnny and Mark shake hands and end upbest friends.  Nobody goes to jail, nobody arrested, nobody expelled.

2006 - Police called, SWAT team arrives, arrests Johnny and Mark.  Chargethem with assault, both expelled even though Johnny started it.  Bothstudents forced to attend mandatory counseling for "bullying" and "conflictresolution."

Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.

1973 - Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by Principal.Sits still in class.

2006 - Jeffrey given huge doses of Ritalin.  Becomes a zombie.  Schoolgets xtra money from state because Jeffrey has a disability.

Scenario: Willy breaks a window in his father's car and his Dad gives him a whipping.

1973 - Willy is more careful next time, grows up normal, goes to college,and becomes a successful businessman.

2006 - Willy's Dad is arrested for child abuse.  Willy removed to fostercare and joins a gang.  Willy's sister is told by state psychologist thatshe remembers being abused herself and their Dad goes to prison.  Willy'smom goes on Welfare.

Scenario: Mark gets a headache and takes some headache medicine to school.

1973 - Mark shares headache medicine with Principal out on the smoking dock.
2006 - Police called, Mark expelled from school for drug violations.  Car searched for drugs and weapons.

Scenario:Bonnie turns up pregnant.

1973 - 5 High School Boys leave town.  Bonnie does her senior year at aspecial school for expectant mothers.

2006 - Middle School Counselor calls Planned Parenthood, who notifies theACLU.  Bonnie is driven to the next state over and gets an abortionwithout her parent's consent or knowledge.  Bonnie given condoms and toldto be more careful next time.

Scenario:Juan fails high school English.
1973: Juan goes to summer school, passes English, goes to college.

2006: Juan's cause is taken up by state Democrat Party.  Newspaperarticles appear nationally explaining that teaching English as arequirement for graduation is racist.  ACLU files class action lawsuitagainst state school system and Juan's English teacher.  English bannedfrom core curriculum.  Juan given diploma anyway but ends up selling drugs for a living because he can't speak English.

Scenario: Kevin takes apart leftover firecrackers from the 4th of July,puts them in a model airplane paint bottle, blows up a red ant bed.
1973 - Ants die.

2006 - BATF, Homeland Security, FBI called.  Kevin charged with domesticterrorism, FBI investigates parents, siblings removed from home, computersconfiscated, Kevin's Dad goes on a terror watch list and is never allowedto fly again.


Scenario: Johnny falls while running during recess and scrapes his knee.He is found crying by his teacher, Mary.  Mary, hugs him to comfort himand cleans and bandages his scrape.

1973 - In a short time Johnny feels better and goes on playing.

2006 - Mary is accused of being a sexual predator and loses her job.  She faces 3 years in State Prison.  School reassesses studies the "problem"and decides children might get hurt during recess.  School cancels allrecess in the future because children may take part in "harmfulactivities" during recess.

Hurricane update - 23 November

With the Northern Hemisphere's hurricane season in its last week, the attention now shifts south.

Hurricane Yani is brewing up south of the Solomon Islands, and Rennell Island, the southernmost island of the archipelago, is on tropical cyclone watch. The cyclone will veer west later on. No land is threatened beyond the Solomon Islands - Yani is 1,200 miles east of Cairns, Queensland, Australia.

Journal Heads-up

Lisa-Jo has asked me to publicise this journal, written by a mother with a very sick 10-year old child. Rayanna is suffering from a condition I have never heard of, craniosynostosis.
She spends a lot of time in hospital. I think we should all call round and offer support to mother and child.



Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Vitamins

Just thought I'd share my thoughts on the vitamin phenomenon. I happen to know that there are thousands of preparations for sale from shops dubbed vitamin and/or mineral supplements. Which I think are a comprehensive rip off.

Vitamins are components needed by the human body, which it cannot make itself. You have two categories: those that are soluble in fat (such as vitamins A, D, E and K), and the ones that are soluble in water (vitamins B and C). If you don't take enough of any of them, you develop quite serious health problems.

A healthy diet and being outdoor for a period of time each day should ensure that you have adequate intake of all vitamins. The same applies to minerals.

Vitamins, in my personal opinion, should only be taken if a clinical deficiency exists, which leads to diagnosable health problems. The doctor can then prescribe or suggest a treatment course.

Update

Couple of notes on yesterday's diary entry.

Our guests did not turn up.

The man who was arrested in connection with the alleged assault in the Castle Grounds was actually charged with wasting police time. No assault took place; nobody came forward for medical treatment in connection with an assault on Saturday night.

The ferry is back on its normal schedule, although Radio Scotland re-jigged our timetable, by stating that the ferry was late leaving Stornoway at 7.15 am, as (according to the BBC) it should have left at 6.30. Nonsense.

Thanksgiving


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving; and I am in the one place in the United Kingdom where it is observed. As the graphic intimates, it is a festival to celebrate the gifts of the past harvest. In Europe, this Sunday will be Thanksgiving as well. There is a Prayer Sunday for the new crops early in spring in certain European countries.

For those celebrating the festival: have a great time with friends and family.

Journals Tournament IV

Registration has opened for the 4th Journals Tournament. More information here. It was great fun back in late summer, and do recommend it for all to join in. Kellen is awaiting your call!

Butt dust

What, you ask, is "Butt dust?" Read on and you'll discover the joy in it! These have to be original and genuine . . no adult is this creative [with thanks to Rhonda]

JACK (age 3) was watching his Mom breast-feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: "Mom why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?"

*******************************************************************

MELANIE (age 5) asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn't remember any more. Melanie said, "If you don't remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six."
 ********************************************************************

STEVEN (age 3) hugged and kissed his Mom good night. "I love you so much that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window."
 ********************************************************************

BRITTANY (age 4) had an earache and wanted a pain killer. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a child-proof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: "How does it know it's me?
*********************************************************************

SUSAN (age 4) was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. "Please don't give me this juice again," she said, "It makes my teeth cough."
 *********************************************************************

DJ (age 4) stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: "How much do I cost?"
 *********************************************************************

MARC (age 4) was engrossed in a young couple that were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: "Why is he whispering in her mouth?"
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CLINTON (age 5) was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, "I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in?"
 *********************************************************************

JAMES (age  4) was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt." Concerned, James asked: "What happened to the flea?
****************************************************************

TAMMY (age 4) was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, "Why doesn't your skin fit your face?"
*********************************************************************

The Sermon I think a certain Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon..."Dear Lord," the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without you,we are but dust." He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter who was listening leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

Tuesday, 21 November 2006

Tuesday 21/11/06

Weather a lot better than of late, with some sunshine. Wind down to force 6, and the ferry is running. Only one sailing (as opposed to the usual 2) on account of adverse sea conditions. Ferry comes in just after 3pm, 2 hours late. Mrs B's guests were due to come today, but were reallocated on the ferry from Skye to Tarbert (Harris). They are expected in Harris at 9.30pm, and in Stornoway by 10.30pm. Yesterday's backlog on the run from Ullapool had to be cleared first, hence the massive delay. The effect of a day without supplies shows in the Somerfields supermarket: no fruit, no veg, no milk, no bread. Am going back to the shop at 7.30, just before its 8pm closing time. Everybody in the shop was discussing the bare shelves. Never seen them that bare.
Over the weekend, a teenager was injured at Achmore, when the car she travelled in went off the road, hit a fence post and turned 180 degrees. She had to be transferred to a mainland specialist hospital, as she requires plastic surgery for cuts and gashes to her face. The A858 road from Leurbost to Garynahine is plagued with bends for the first 4 miles to Achmore, then turns into a straight run for the next 6 miles, but with blind summits.
Over the weekend, a man was assaulted in the Castle Grounds near the Bayhead Bridge. Someone has now been arrested and charged, following extensive investigations by CID [the UK equivalent of the American FBI].
At time of typing, 11.20pm, the guests due in from Harris have not yet materialised. The directions that the tourism agency Visit Scotland gives for any B&B in the town of Stornoway directs visitors to a street in the Battery, a quarter mile away to the east.
They're probably lost; or have gone into a different establishment in the town. There are 3 B&B's along this street.

Good morning

I won't be saying much about the weather: it's breezy, but not to the extent of the last few days, and not too cold. It will remain very changeable. Ferry is running today, so all back to normal.

Added a novelty to my blog: a GeoVisitor thingy. It sits directly below my Sitemeter. This item logs the location of all my visitors (I am positioned in Berkshire, west of London LOL). One visitor I managed to track down to a street west of Newton, Kansas. No, I won't come and cold-call on you.

Here in the UK, there is a Russian dissident in hospital with suspected thallium poisoning. Thallium is a rare metal and very toxic. Quantities as little as 1 gram can kill. I was not surprised to see a picture of the chap in hospital - with no hair. That is the least of the effects of thallium poisoning. It is actually used in homicides, dubbed inheritance dust. The man in question had been critical of Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, who used to be high up in the USSR's secret service, the KGB. Russia denies any involvement in his predicament, but it is suspected that the man was poisoned during a dinner invite.

Along similar lines, twenty-eight years ago, Bulgarian dissident Giorgi Markow was shot in London with a pellet containing ricin - fired from a converted umbrella. Last year, the trail to Markov's assassin was finally opened. Read the full story here.

Anyway, I trust our American friends are all busy preparing for Thanksgiving. Good luck, and don't over-indulge.

Monday 20/11/06

The wind veers round to the southwest this morning, and we're having another gale. All ferries to the islands are cancelled, as winds in the Minch could reach force 11. One report from North Rona, 70 miles north of here, gives winds of 66 knots (74 mph) and gusts of 92 knots (100 mph). Someone was assaulted in the Castle Grounds near the Bayhead Bridge over the weekend. Angry white riders in the Basin. Two climbers went missing in the Cairngorms last night, but were located late in the morning. They could not be resuscitated. After a roll or 3 at lunchtime, I head for the Coastguard Station to take pictures. The wind is now from the west, so it's sheltered there. The wind is also less strong than yesterday. The rain comes down with a vengeance, making it cold. Down to Somerfields for a few bites to eat. The wind gradually dies down during the evening. Mrs B's son and his family are staying the night once more.

Monday, 20 November 2006

Counter

It's finally happened: my AOL hitcounter has slouched back from 16,000 yesterday to 74 this afternoon. I'll stick to Sitemeter from now on.

Sunday 19/11/06

Day starts fairly bright, but the weather soon goes downhill. A gale blows up, and windspeeds quickly reach force 8 or 9. Head out at 3pm to catch some pictures of the conditions behind the Coastguard Station - see entries made on the day. Heavy spray flies over the causeway, and large swells come in off the Minch. The wind appears to increase after nightfall, with curtains of spray coming over the causeway. The gulls have a great time hovering on the 40 mph winds. Walk round the Battery, but nothing much stirs. At 5pm, the wind is at 45 knots (50 mph) gusting to 55 knots (63 mph), much like elsewhere down the west coast. That is the topspeed; after 7pm, the gale gradually abates. Mrs B's son comes to stay the night, because of refurbishment work on his house.

Saturday 18/11/06

Make a nice lazy start to the day, and continue in that vein. Weather is cold but acceptable. Not much wind. Went to the shop, saw the ferry come and go, had the sweet and sour chicken dinner. Did a few puzzles, caught up with alerts. Aye, a lazy day.

Friday 17/11/06

Pictures were shown in a separate entry on the day.

Grey and cold today, with the sun disappearing behind highlevel clouds. The newsreader on the lunchtime regional news tells us that 200 mourners died erm gathered in church. Oh dear. Go for a walk to the coastguard station and Goat Island, where I took the pictures. The sun is setting by then, and the colours are beautiful. The vessel Aqua Boy is up on the Goat Island slip. Two seals play in the water behind the island. A video yields the best results. The light is low, and the movements precludes any decent pictures.

Thursday 16/11/06

Heavy rain commenced just after midnight. The day dawns cloudy but with some bright intervals, which lengthen nicely through the morning. Showers do continue, and as the afternoon wears on, the temperature falls to a very meagre 3C. Hailshowers fall after nightfall. Mrs B goes into town during the morning, and in the meanwhile her nephew turns up. I go into town myself, to buy a new computermouse. I have worn out the old one. It was no longer tracking properly. Temperature had gone right down, making it feel cold. Sunset this afternoon was devoid of any colour. Watched Coast on BBC2, about Cornwall and the Scilly isles. Nice program.

Pictures 20 November

Mentioned today's weather conditions - here are the pictures associated with it. The wind has veered round to the west, so they are not as spectacular as yesterday's. We are 'only' having a force 7, as opposed to yesterday's force 9. Nonetheless, it does show what a bad day looks like.

Update

I don't like doing negative updates, but there is nothing for it in this instance.
I reported on the two climbers, who were airlifted off the Cairngorms earlier today, after being stuck in snow and ice overnight in atrocious weather conditions. Reports from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness state that both have died. They were from Aberdeen, and men, aged 18 and 23.

Only goes to show that the Scottish mountains may not be the highest, but 4,000 feet is 4,000 feet, the weather is the way it is, and should be taken seriously.

Call for support

Just to ask people to nip round to Lu-Anne's journal. She has just come home from an emergency visit to the hospital, and I think she could do with a bit of attention from J-landers.

Batten down the hatches

I was asked by several commentators how people here cope with the current stormy conditions in the islands. Well: they do what it says in the header: batten down the hatches.

The islands are used to storms in winter. You make sure (in advance) that you have stocked up on food and essentials, as the ferry may well be cancelled for days on end. You also prepare for the possibility of a powercut. So, candles, oil-lamps and gas- heaters are on stand-by. Or you use a coal- or wood fuelled fireplace to keep warm.

There is no fear of the weather, just a healthy respect. If Mother Nature decides to throw a tantrum, like she is doing this week, the only thing you can do is sit tight and sit it out. Fishermen stay in port, and you only go outside if it's necessary. Farmers may have to tend to their animals, people have to go to work or to shops.

When I heard of the missing climbers in the Cairngorms, I wondered if those guys had checked a weatherforecast before they headed for the mountains. It was known in advance that those storms and blizzards would strike.

Storm - day 2

Another rain- and windswept day, with the wind sneaking up to galeforce again, possibly as high as force 10 or 11.

Two climbers who had gone ice-climbing in the Cairngorm mountains (30 miles south of Inverness) were reported missing last night. They have now been found, fortunately. No word on their condition as yet. Winds reached 120 mph on the nearby 4,000 ft high mountain tops. Waist-deep snow and blizzard conditions has made this a miraculous rescue.


Caledonian MacBrayne, our regional ferry company, has cancelled virtually all ferries up and down the west coast of Scotland.

I'll try to go out before nightfall, 4pm, to get more pictures. However, in heavy rain it may affect the camera, so it depends.

Internet Explorer: back to 6

I have kicked IE 7 off the computer here. This is a load of garbage and poorly tested. You can uninstall IE 7 easily, by going to Control Panel and select Add/Remove programs. You will be reverted to IE 6.

1) Following install, I found that settings were not copied from IE 6, so every time I closed IE, it would close the connection on me. Which I don't want.

2) I would find myself prompted to reconnect, even if I wasn't using IE, and even if I was still connected.

3) I had two or three major crashes with it within 2 days. The last one happened as I had 5 tabs open, so it sat there for 15 minutes whilst transmitting an error report to Gates HQ.

Mozilla Firefox recently upgraded to version 2.0. This went without any hitch, and I hardly know the difference. I can have any number of tabs open, without mishap. I have buttons above the browser windows, linking to my most-used sites. If you want to give it a try, you can download it for free.

Sunday, 19 November 2006

Closing proceedings

The wind has now died down to a moderate, force 4, breeze. The barometer is very low, showing 974 mbar. We're in the eye of the storm. Tomorrow: back to force 9 or 10 winds. More spectacular pics to come, hopefully. It's a mixed blessing.

The computer room is in use as bedroom tonight, so I'm closing proceedings for tonight. Back on Monday.

Weatherreport for Stornoway at 17.20


Wind from the S (170 degrees) at 46 MPH (40 KT) gusting to 59 MPH (51 KT)
Visibility 5 mile(s)
Sky conditions mostly cloudy
Weather Rain
Temperature 44 F (7 C)
Dew Point 41 F (5 C)
Relative Humidity 87%
Pressure (altimeter) 28.94 in. Hg (0980 hPa)

Latest in-shore waters forecast

This is the latest bulletin with the wind and weather forecast for my area.

Ardnamurchan Point to Cape Wrath including Outer Hebrides
Issued by the Met Office at 1700 UTC on Sunday 19 November 2006.

24 hour forecast:
Wind: south or southeast veering west severe gale 9 or Storm 10, occasionally Violent Storm 11 around Outer Hebrides.
Weather: rain then squally showers.
Visibility: moderate occasionally poor, becoming good.
Sea State: very rough or high, occasionally very high around Outer Hebrides.

Outlook for the following 24 hours:
Wind: west veering northwest severe gale 9 or Storm 10, later decreasing 5 to 7.
Weather: squally showers.
Visibility: good.
Sea State: very rough or high, occasionally very high around Outer Hebrides.

Storm Images

As promised, some pictures which I took at the Coastguard Station. This is the blocky building you see in some of my pictures. Winds were very strong, and latest reports show windspeeds heading straight for severe gale force 9. Gusts are already exceeding 50 knots, force 10. The southerly winds whipped up the swell from the Minch, and that created some magnificent breakers against the causeway. The video below shows what conditions were like.

Storm!

Last night, I wrote about the weather forecast, threatening us with gales. Well, they're here. Last reading showed 41 mph winds, that's 36 knots or a full force 8. The wind gusted up to 55 mph, 48 knots or equivalent to force 10. We're going to get even stronger winds later tonight.

Sunset at the moment is at 4pm, so I'm going out in a minute and hope to return with plenty of stormy pics. My webcam is showing some sort of view, but only for another hour (after posting this).

Will post pictures later. Live weather reports from Eoropaidh [25 miles north of here, near the Butt of Lewis] can be seen here; click on Weather. You can see a better webcam image on that site as well.

Saturday, 18 November 2006

Weather

Interesting weather in the offing for this corner of the globe. At 6pm tonight, the mercury touched freezing, 32F / 0C. The gritters duly appeared in the streets. Temperatures are rising now, and some forecasts suggest we're in for a spell of wild but mild weather. Winds of 58 mph, which is about force 11. If that happens, you can expect some spectacular pictures from me of wild seas. The upside of all that windiness is high temperatures: 10C / 50F from tomorrow onwards. Will keep y'all posted.

Internet Explorer 7

A few weeks ago, Microsoft brought out Internet Explorer 7. I decided to download it this evening, and I've been sweating blood over here. It knocks you off-line when you close the last window, asks you about every ActiveX-control that you want to run and it's a blinking nightmare. Why they were unable to update IE 6 to 7 and retain the settings is beyond me, but such is the power of Microsoft I suppose.

I think I'll just stick to Firefox, which is a good deal more user friendly. The only thing is that the browser within AOL is based on IE, so I have to deal with it to some extent.

Friday afternoon pictures

I took some 26 pictures yesterday afternoon, at around the time I shot the video of the seals. It was after 3pm, i.e. within an hour of sunset, which is at 4pm. In order to see them properly you need to enlarge them.

Friday, 17 November 2006

Hurricane update - 17 November

We are now within 2 weeks of the end of the hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere. The Atlantic has been quiet, with 9 named storms, and no hurricanes making landfall in the USA. Tropical storms Alberto and Beryl did impact on US territory, but only brought rain.

The Eastern Pacific still has a rapidly decaying cyclone spinning down: Sergio, who I reported on over the last two days. This region has seen 10 hurricanes, of which Hurricane Daniel was the most impressive. Fortunately, this was raging on its lonesome in the middle of the Pacific. A number of storms brushed the Mexican coastline, and Baja California has not been spared.

The Central Pacific saw its first hurricane in 4 years, and blimey was it a whopper. Ioke remained in my sights for nearly 3 weeks in the second half of August, sustaining category 5 strength for a record length of time.

The Western Pacific has been busy this summer, with the last supertyphoon occurring only within the last week. The Philippines and China have been hard hit.

As winter descends over the Northern Hemisphere, the Southern Hemisphere is warming up. An early cyclone (Xavier) cropped up near Fiji, but did not affect land. Because of the El Nino effect, the Southern Hemisphere season (2006/7) is expected to be quiet. El Nino means that the sea surface temperatures near South America are unusually high, which conversely means that they are lower elsewhere. This is also thought to have been the cause of the quiet Atlantic season. As the El Nino effect strengthens, the 2007 Northern Hemisphere season is likely to be quiet as well.

Abu Ghraib - Dutch style

Following the invasion of Iraq by coalition forces in 2003, allegations emerged of the mistreatment of prisoners by US troops in the Abu Ghraib prison at Baghdad. At least one soldier was convicted as a result. Today, similar allegations emerged surrounding Dutch troops. They are accused of depriving their captives of sleep by dousing them with water and playing high pitched noise in their cells. The government in The Hague has ordered an inquiry. Apparently, the abuse was reported but nobody was prosecuted in 2003.

At a tangent, and totally unrelated, memories surface of the Srebrenica disaster of 1995. The so-called safe haven of Srebrenica was located in eastern Bosnia at the height of the Balkan wars of the 1990s. It was supposed to harbour Muslims, and keep them safe from hostile Serb forces in the surrounding area. When the Serbs moved in with overwhelming force, there was little that the Dutch UN contingent could do. They were but lightly armed. Unfortunately, they did help the Serb forces to separate men from women and cart the menfolk off into the countryside to be shot. 8,000 are thought to have died. New mass graves have recently been found in eastern Bosnie, thought to contain the remains of those killed after the enclave was overrun.

Veils in Europe

It may come as a surprise to some to learn that the government in the Netherlands have decided to ban the wearing of the burqa, a traditional garment worn by Muslim women. Holland is famous for its liberal and welcoming attitude to minorities. 6% of people in the Netherlands are Muslims. Only 100 women choose to wear this dress. The BBC has published a very informative graphic on the types of dress for Muslim women.

The ban on the burqa, which completely obscures the woman's face, also applies to crash helmets with visors. A similar ban is being considered in Italy, which led to protests. Again, the BBC has published a webpage, outlining the attitudes on this issue across Europe.

Relations with the Muslim community in Holland have come under strain following the murder of film maker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam in 2004. He was making a film which was critical of the way women are being treated in Islamic society.

Transparency

Several writers in J-land have made entries or comments this week about transparency in their journals. How much of your life do you show in your journal?

Gerry (who writes Daughters of the Shadowmen) has found the courage to tell the story of a life of abuse at the hands of her family. It is a taboo subject in society, and some of the entries in her blog are very hard to stomach. Nonetheless, raising awareness and opening up the subject may help others who are too scared to speak about what happened to them, or perhaps is still happening. The subject of addiction, which haunts her partner Doc, is also openly discussed.

Lisa (Please don't take life for granted) tells the story of her complex illness, again raising awareness of the multitude of medical conditions that beset her. Apart from that, she is also letting us in on her private life, showing pictures and videos of her home and immediate family. There are many like her, quite a few ladies suffering from various forms of cancer blog on AOL, recording in greater or lesser detail the impact their disease makes, both physically and emotionally.

I have picked out two writers, although there are plenty others amongst the 100-odd journals that I have on my list that equally deserve a similar mention.

Lisa has mentioned that she uses a private journal for 'rants'. Several people have gone private in the year or so that I have been active in J-land as such. Reasons for that include wishing to shield the writings from unwelcome eyes. Family members, employers, crackpots.

And that is where the crux comes. How much of your life do you expose to the world in your blog. Because it's not just the people in J-land that read your blog. I'm aware of lurkers in Northern Trip. I limit myself in what I write about in my own blog. The weather (a hobby of mine), events in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Just to name a few. Oh, I nearly forgot: the diary. But that's where the limits come within easy range.

So, what do YOU write about. Or more importantly: what do you NOT write about.

Short Stories

Raven is starting up a Writer's Club (read all here) and I hope any budding or established writers among us are willing to contribute!

Boozy Teens

Revealing news item this afternoon: 14% of 14-year olds in the UK have an alcohol dependency. That's shocking. There is a drink-culture in this country, called "the great night out". Quite a few teens admit to drinking a litre of vodka in a night. The sad thing is that this has its adverse effect on health, both now and in the future. Long term heavy drinking leads to liver disease, and potentially (see the late George Best) the necessity for a liver transplant. Methinks it's a serious indictment of society that we have crowds of teenagers staggering about our streets at night, creating mayhem.

Although alcohol cannot legally be sold to under 18s, it is a recognised practice for under-age drinkers to ask an older person to buy it for them. The low price of alcohol is also a contributory factor. It is cheaper to buy certain alcoholic drinks than it is to buy bottled water.

Seals at sunset

Went for a walk round to Goat Island this afternoon. A few strange noises from the sea below me attracted my attention, and there were these two seals playing in the water. Light levels were quite low, so photographs came out all fuzzy. So I thought I'd better record a video. I shot two - with the results below. Enjoy!