Sunday, 31 December 2006

Happy New Year - Europe

Western Europe has just passed into 2007, and the UK is not far behind. To all across the continent and beyond to the east and west:

All the Best for 2007

Close of year

Evening folks,

It's coming up for 10 pm, and I've checked my alerts for the last time this year.
At the start of 2006, I never thought I'd be deeply involved with J-land, something I barely knew about then. But here I am. I am quite flattered by the expressions of support, received over recent days. I'll keep entries coming, more or less frequently than at present.

In an hour's time, continental Europe will see in the New Year, with the UK following on an hour later. Do I do New Year's resolutions? Nope, I don't, I never keep them.

Stay safe if you're suffering with the inclement weather and look forward to reading more entries from y'all in 2007. You may get one more entry out of me by 11 pm UK time.

Hurricane warning - 31 December 2006

The last hurricane update for 2006, as the New Year looks set to spring a nasty surprise on the island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. The east coast of the island looks set for a direct hit on Tuesday evening, with winds of 90 mph, gusting up to 125 mph. Tropical cyclone Clovis will impact Madagascar due east of the capital, Antananarivo. I reiterate my appeal for relaying this information there, as the Malagasy media are not up to date with latest developments.

Northwestern Australia is also in for an unwanted visitor later in the week; a tropical cyclone looks set to form south of Java - probably the same one that contributed to the sinking of a ferry there earlier today - and will move south. Residents there will need to monitor the BOM website closely.

Hogmanay Cancelled!

The famous celebrations of Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year) at Edinburgh were cancelled within the last half hour, on account of extremely strong winds. Winds were gusting up to 85 mph at Campbeltown and 75 mph at Tiree, which is 150 miles south of here. Other cities cancelling their events are Glasgow, Liverpool and Belfast. London is considering its options, as things are quite blustery there as well.

Edinburgh's celebrations were called off for the same reason in 2003. Although there are fears that this might adversely affect the city's reputation, Scotland is known for its ferocious weather.

Strangely enough, Stornoway is reporting just 13 mph winds at the moment, which is force 4, a moderate breeze. Sixty miles to the south, at Benbecula, winds are blowing at force 10, 49 mph. Malin Head, 250 miles further south, is enduring winds of 55 mph.

Call for support

Mary Jo has advised us that her father passed away at 6pm EST last night. Please call round to her journal and leave a message of support. She does need some space right now. Thanks.

New Year's Eve

Unpleasant weather out here, with near-gale force winds and heavy rain. The Met Office expects 40 mm / 16 inches today. The New Year meanwhile, has arrived at our antipodes. I'm joining Petar (PVodogaz) shortly in his New Year celebrations on-line - at his end, it's now 23.26, so only 34 minutes to go there. Here, it's more like 11 hours 34 minutes.

Have good one!

Saturday, 30 December 2006

Fireworks display

Please find above just over 100 pictures of the Stornoway fireworks display, taken this evening between 8.15 and 8.45 pm from the Goat Island jetty. I need to process the webcam video, and will place that on YouTube or something.

Enjoy!

Invite

Petar (PVodogaz) is inviting us all to join him in an AOL-only chatroom to bring in the New Year in Australia. The room will be open from 0900 GMT (0400 EST, 0100 PST).

Australia will ring in the New Year at 1300 GMT tomorrow. That is 8 am EST, 5 am PST. So if you can: why not join him. He'll also be in that room between 0100 and 0500 GMT (that's 2000 until midnight EST, or 1700 until 2100 PST) tonight.

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Requiem


For him? No.

His hands were tarnished with the blood of thousands of his countrymen, women and children. Many are not known, but unto God. And to me, Allah is the same as God. One man alone cannot do this. He had a clique around him within the country he ruled until 2003. He was supported by foreign powers, pumped up with arms and technology for some misguided geopolitical aim.

Men, women and children are still dying in Iraq today. Civilians. For no fault of their own. Soldiers of many countries are still dying in Iraq today. Because they were sent there to clear up the mess that global politics had left in Iraq.
Saddam Hussein was hanged this morning. It won't change anything in the Iraq of 2007. What should have been done, wasn't done. Not in 1980, not in 1991.

More leaders like him remain in power. I'm glancing down at Zimbabwe, ruled for 26 years by a president who has successfully destroyed the economy of one of the more affluent nations in Africa, and is continually extending his own term in office by decree. He won't be bombed, invaded, incarcerated, will he now?

This entry is dedicated to Saddam's victims of past, present and future. His legacy, and the legacy of those that mismanaged this dictator will continue to haunt the Middle East and the world for years, if not decades to come.

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Christmas Thanks + New Year Wishes

I would like to thank all of you who sent me Christmas e-Cards over the festive season. I'm afraid I'm very bad at sending them back, so please forgive me for doing a blanket thank you.

Starting at 1200 GMT tomorrow, the New Year will wrap itself around the globe, until at 1200 GMT on 1 January, it will be there for all of us. Again, please be careful with any fireworks, don't drive if you've had alcohol beforehand and have a happy, prosperous 2007.

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Addendum

The New Year's fireworks display is held tonight, Saturday 30th December, because New Year's Eve is on Sunday - the Sabbath, on which people should go to church and not engage in frivolities. That's the line towed in Lewis (strict protestantism).

Last year, New Year's Eve was on Saturday, but the fireworks (normally let off at 12.30 am on 1 January) would have been let off during the Sabbath, which will not do. So, it was held on Friday, December 30th. Same this year.

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Fireworks display

The New Year fireworks display in Stornoway will take place at 8 pm tonight, local time. This can be viewed on my webcam, which I'll reposition after nightfall to capture the spot where the fireworks will be let off from.

8pm UK time
3pm EST,
2pm CST,
1pm MST and
12 noon PST


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Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie (image courtesy BBC) is a world famous percussionist, who was awarded the title Dame in the Queen's New Year Honours List.

I am not given to wax lyrical about many of those awarded honours under the British system. However, I will make an exception in the case of this lady. Born in 1965, Evelyn was profoundly deaf by the age of 12. This has not deterred her from becoming a star in the field of music. She has 1,800 pieces of percussion instruments, some designed by herself.
Evelyn gives over 100 concerts each year, and she is often performing barefoot, in order to feel the vibrations from the instruments. Apart from that, she also gives masterclasses.

Evelyn Glennie was awarded the OBE in 1993, and is also very active for those who suffer from partial or total loss of hearing. Her website already reflects the new honour, which is equivalent to the title Sir for gentlemen.

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Saddam Hussein

Iraq's former dictator was hanged this morning.
Next chapter.

Friday, 29 December 2006

Friday 29/12/06

Rain and galeforce winds dominate the morning, but the sun comes out after midday. Muirneag makes a late crossing; my ship tracking website shows her half way across the Minch at 1pm. We head out for a drive to ness in the afternoon. Rain falls on the Barvas Moor, although it tends to clear up nearer the coast. Impatient drivers overtake below blind summits. Pass through Barvas, where the new Community Centre is nearing completion, Shader, Galson before heading into South Dell. This is a tiny backwater, sporting three roads. The last house in Aird Dell stands for sale. I spoke to its last occupant in May 2005, a few months before his death. I cannot recollect his name now, but he quizzed me about my religious convictions. We park near Eoropie Beach by about 2.45. Although the swell is running high, the wind is not excessive in strength. Rabbits run riot on the Eoropie machair. There are no facilities open anywhere; the tearoom is shut for winter. No sign of any tourists at all. Next stop: Rubha Robhanais, the Butt of Lewis. When you're there, it's Next Stop: North Pole or Newfoundland. It's there that the battery in my camera ran out. We return to Eoropie and drive up the road to Port Nis via Cnoc Aird, then to Eorodale. The return journey to Stornoway is commenced along the 2½ mile long Cross Skigersta Road. The moors look dark brown, with bright green patches of grass. The sun does come out occasionally, although dark clouds hang over the spine of the island. At Dell, a car is being pulled out of the ditch by a tractor. Once you leave the roadway, you're in trouble as the verges are very soft. Return across the Barvas Moor in pouring rain. Return home at 4pm, after picking up some logs for the fire. Meal tonight is sweet & sour chicken, with added pineapple. The wind, which had abated during the afternoon, now picks up again. I find, once the camera has recharged, that I have taken 5,000 pictures with it, bringing the total of pictures taken in Lewis and Harris to 5,500.

Feline lifesaver

Read a story today of an Australian cat who saved its owner's life. The animal scratched his owner's face as he lay asleep, because of smoke in the house. The man awoke, roused the rest of his family who all managed to flee the house without injury. The fire is thought to have been caused by a cigarette in bed.

It reminds me of a cat in South Yorkshire who was able to predict its owner's epileptic seizures. The animal would sit bolt upright in front of his owner and stare him intently in the face. The seizure would occur minutes later.

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Notes on Friday

Weather today actually better than yesterday, although quite breezy. The wind touches galeforce in the morning, but after midday, the sun came out. Amidst the odd spell of rain, there were bright intervals. Our journey today took us to Ness, the far north of Lewis. I cannot put pictures on just now, as the battery in my camera ran out, and is now recharging.

Dire warnings in the forecast for winds up 80 mph across Glasgow and Edinburgh overnight, and another windy spell late on Sunday - being Hogmanay, everybody is superworried in case their party gets blown out. We are used to high winds in these islands, but hurricane force winds in a city are no laughing matter in actual fact.
The tornado in London earlier this month showed the power of the wind, and older people in the Central Belt will remember a devastating hurricane in 1968 (I think it was).
Some ferry sailings on the West Coast were cancelled today, but our ferry is on. It will be more like a Vomit Comet today - the sea is rough.

Severe weather

Well, the gales are creeping in, it's blowing at force 7 now, 30 mph winds. The Met Office is full of dire warnings, winds gusting up to 80 mph. They've got this section on their website "what to do in severe weather". Well, here's what NOT to do in severe weather.

This chap came to stay with us early last spring, and it was lashing it down with rain. He had to go to a meeting in a building 10 minutes' walk up the road. After breakfast, he looked out of the window and noticed that it was wet. Mrs B offered to call a taxi. "No I'm fine, I've got an umbrella". The one thing that was not immediately obvious when looking outside was the force 8 gale. Umbrellas do not survive that sort of abuse. Our chap stepped outside, unfurled his umbrella and nearly took off down Island Road. He retreated inside and mrs B did call that cab after all. You don't trifle with a Hebridean gale.

This image (courtesy BBC) relates to the winds generated by an Asian typhoon last year - 114 mph.

Thursday, 28 December 2006

Thursday 28/12/06

Another grey day with low cloud and high temperatures. Mrs B's son now has a car at his disposal, so after a cheese on toast, we head out for the West Side at 1.30pm. Visibility is good to start with, but the onset of a rainfront curtails that. Pass by the two windturbines on the Arnish Moor, near the Grimshader road. They stand in a hollow, at a lower level than the main road. We proceed to Cameron Terrace, where we turn off to Achmore and Loch Ganvich. The sky lowers further as we pass the lonely miles across the spine of the island. We bypass the Callanish Stones on the way north towards Carloway. Nobody stirs as the rain falls on the village of Tolsta Chaolais. Grey houses stand amongst the yellowed grass and brownish bracken. The geese, which flock the loch during spring and summer, have gone for winter. Once in Carloway, we take a peek down the Borrowston Road, which ends above Carloway Pier. We also have a look at the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, which stands deserted. Proceed to Dalmore via Upper Carloway. The houses at Dalmore look rundown, an overwhelming stench of manure emanates from a yard, where a sorry sheep stands up to its haunches in muck. Rain falls on a cold wind as we venture out to the cemetery, which stands directly above the beach. At 2.45, we drive the few miles east to Dalbeg, where ducks and geese populate the loch, now devoid of waterlilies. Only the sand provides a splash of brightness on this dark December day. Return to Stornoway through Shawbost, Bragar and the Barvas Moor. Darkness falls as we enter town. Mrs B goes for shopping, whilst her son drives me round some of the streets, and out to Cuddy Point. Light has completely failed by then. Supper is a very nice roast with vegetables and mashed potatoes. During the evening, the wind picks up to force 7, in anticipation of much worse tomorrow. A helicopter crash yesterday off Morecambe is now known to have claimed the lives of 6 men, with a 7th still missing. The search for him has now been called off, due to the onset of darkness and bad weather.

NOTE: Not all pictures are of the best quality, but they were taken from a moving car

Wednesday 27/12/06

As it is the holiday week, we continue with the late starts. Read about people having a less than cheerful Christmas, some are lonely, others desperate, yet others missing those that have gone before. Go out to a fairly busy Somerfields for some food. Booze is stacked up high. Sigh. Weather is singularly uninspiring. We have microwaveable meals for supper, as the beef is not defrosted, and it's a 1.5kg lump. Mrs B watches 10 episodes of Rising Damp between 3 and 8pm, Rising Damp being a British sitcom from the 1970s and 80s with Leonard Rossiter as a cantankerous, frustrated landlord in a seedy bedsit. Also watch a documentary about ABBA, showing it's lonely at the top.

Year's End

Picture from Hometown

Well, we're into the last few days of 2006. It's very dark now, even during "daylight" hours. Went for a drive round the West Side this afternoon, will publish pictures later today. Had to put the camera on shortest possible exposure all the time due to low light. Nonetheless, am not dissatisfied with outcome.


I am once again saddened to see people pushed into a situation where they have to go private with their blogs. It seems to be affecting those in J-land who are in most need of support.

I have snagged a few graphics from Donna to cheer up this entry. Yes, it's all lighthouse. One of my outside blogs is called Arnish Lighthouse, and I look out on that particular lighthouse. I would also like to use it to attempt to light up those amongst us who are going through a dark phase at the moment. Both J-landers, as well as those reading the blog (unkindly referred to as lurkers). You know who you are. Aye, like everybody else, there are things in my life I do not mention on here.

What I write on here is related to what it says at the top. To give the wider world an insight into the small community of the Isle of Lewis. In addition, I relay news items from the north and west of Scotland, and things that hold my interest. People do not feature heavily in it, and are rarely referred to by full names. In addition, I write certain entries because of what I read in others' blogs. Yesterday's Christmas Gloom entry was intended in that vein. Yes, I write as a J-lander.

Although it's only December 28th, and there are still 3 full days left of this year, I would like to wish Scots at home and in diaspora a good Hogmanay; those that let off fireworks please take care; and all a prosperous and healthy 2007.

Picture from Hometown

Storm warning UK

The Met Office is forecasting a very disturbed spell of weather over the next few days, with short periods of damaging winds expected to affect many areas of the UK. Two waves of severe weather are expected during Friday night and New Years Eve, with gusts of 70-80 mph, over N Ireland, Wales, western England and the southern half of Scotland. Furthermore, winds could turn very squally almost anywhere, particularly across southern England and Wales for a short time on Saturday Peak wind strengths are enough to lead to disruption. The public are advised to check for subsequent forecasts in the areas affected as areas at risk may change. See disruption map for latest risk assessment. This warning will be updated at around 1000 Friday 29th December 2006.

Hillwalkers escorted to safety


Stornoway Coastguard reported the following successful rescue mission this afternoon.


At 3:40pm today, Stornoway Coastguard received a report from a group of eight Hill Walkers on the island of Harris that they required assistance due to poor weather conditions and fading light while climbing on the 743m height Mulla-Fo-Dheas.

The party of 8, all adults and thought to be from Lewis and Harris, were well equipped but found themselves in an area of very steep terrain with wet slippery rocks underfoot when the weather closed in and mist reduced the visibility to just 50 metres. As darkness was only an hour or so away they took the precaution of informing Stornoway Coastguard and requested assistance to get the party off the hill.

The Coastguard Rescue Teams from Tarbert and Scalpay were despatched to a track some two miles south of the party. The Coastguards walked up the track to meet the party of 8 and, as the visibility was better at low levels, were able to used white parachute flares to guide the part in the direction of the path.

The eight hill walkers were located, safe & well, at 5:15pm and escorted off the hill. All were in good spirits and none required medical treatment.

Watch Manager Martin Collins says:
Although the Hill Walkers were equipped to spend the night on the hills if the need arose, it was felt that with the temperatures expected to drop overnight it was safer to assist them off the hills. We were able to keep in regular contact with the party via mobile phone until they were met by the Coastguard team.

It is unusual for the Coastguard to be involved with mountain rescues using our Rescue Teams but without a dedicated Mountain Rescue Team on the islands then the Coastguards have the skills and knowledge to deal with this type of incident.

NOTE: The above map shows in detail the area where the rescue took place. The track that the report refers to is visible in the bottom left corner of the image. This is reproduced with the kind permission of the Ordnance Survey.

Helicopter accident

A helicopter, operated on behalf of gas company Centrica, has crashed into the Irish Sea west of Morecambe, Lancashire this evening. The seven people on board are feared dead; six bodies have been recovered from the water, the search continues for a seventh.
The helicopter was flying personnel to and from to gas platforms in the Morecambe Bay, a routine mission. Conditions were said to be cold but clear this evening.

Liverpool Coastguard is coordinating the rescue mission, with helicopters from RAF bases in the area participating in the search.


Wednesday, 27 December 2006

Advance Storm Warning - UK

The year 2006 looks as if it's going out with a bang. A major Atlantic storm system will move in on Friday, with a subsidiary depression scooting by on Sunday. The weather charts suggest some damaging winds, so follow the forecast closely.

Gerald Ford

I learned today that former US President Gerald Ford died last night. He was 93. Gerald Ford took over from Richard Nixon, after he was deposed following the Watergate Scandal. He is credited with pardoning Nixon and terminating the Vietnam conflict. Personally, I only knew him by name, as I did not start monitoring the news intensively until 1977, when Jimmy Carter took over at the White House.

Below image courtesy The History Place


Christmas Gloom

Came across a few entries showing the reverse of the Christmas Cheer. The first is by Indigo, who had to deal with a suicide attempt in her immediate circle over Christmas. It was fortunately unsuccessful.

The second is by Mary, who went to the nursing home where her father is now. She came across so many elderly people in there, whose children or grandchildren had promised to come, but never came.

I do not want to put a dampener on the many of you who have had a great few days, myself included. However, there are many lonely people, for whom Christmas is a time that their loneliness comes into sharp focus. In the Northern Hemisphere, it also coincides with the shortest days of the year, leading to desperate actions in some instances.

Less severely, it is at Christmas too that we have to confront family issues, and I came across that full-on in one of the private blogs I read. Many people have had a great time with their relatives, but not everybody is that lucky.

Again, I sincerely hope that everybody had a great time this weekend, but spare a thought for those that did not.

Call for support

I would like to call for support. I was pointed to a blog by a lady whose father is apparently terminally ill. She could do with some support, so please call by Mary Jo.

Monday 25/12/06 - Christmas Day

Preparations for Christmas dinner mean we don't see our beds until about 2.30 a.m. Nonetheless, we do manage to get out of bed at 11 o'clock. The weathe rtoday is grey, overcast and windy. Temperatures peak at 9C. We start the day on Buck's Fizz [champagne with orange juice] with toast. Presents are opened meanwhile, and mrs B has a fair old collection from friends and relatives. My present was unfortunately not of the correct size. We start Christmas supper after 2pm, with parmaham and melon, accompanied by a glass of Cava. Not my favourite tipple. The main dinner is honey glazed turkey, very well prepared. This is accompanied by roast and mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and peas. A glass of red wine is spilled - into my lap, thank you. The new table cloth is inaugurated in splendid fashion. Dinner is very nice. It gets dark by the time we reach the Xmas pudding, but a candle or two help the atmosphere. Everybody is quite replete after that. We wile away the hours with the Repeat Hell that is Sky Television. One of mrs B's summerguests telephones from Australia at 7pm, where it is 6 am on Boxing Day. Also in Australia, snow has fallen in Tasmania. Across the Indian Ocean, tropical cyclone Bondo is weakening on passing down the Mozambique Channel. Spend an hour or so sorting out pictures on FlickR. The new moon is out in early evening. Later on, we have some sausage rolls and baguettes with the last of the turkey.

Sunday 24/12/06 - Christmas Eve

Cloudy day with a moderate wind, which makes it feel quite cold. Temperature 7C. Bondo is passing down the northwestern coast of Madagascar, with winds forecast at 120 mph. Brunch is bacon & eggs. Go out for a walk to the Coastguard Station and on to the Battery. We return down Rigs Road to Island Road, and from there to the filling station to see how busy that is on Sunday. Very busy. The other petrol station, on Rigs Road, is closed. On return mrs B warms up her black & blue fingers (cold!). Prepare for dinner which is served at 8pm. Start with a prawn cocktail, a lasagna as main course and a sweet after. Sit down by the fire with a coffee. Upload more than 400 pics to FlickR. Watch the Watchnight Service from Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh on BBC1, which neatly takes us into Christmas Day 2006.

Saturday 23/12/06

Today, I head out for some Christmas shopping of my own. The shops are all packed, full of Christmas cheer. NOT. The problems at the airports are being resolved, now that the fog is lifting. Down in Madagascar, tropical cyclone Bondo is weakening as it nears the island. Mrs B's sister comes to call after dark, after which the lady of the house herself goes for a final shop at Somerfields. Quite a few members of her family call in today. Supper is a microwaveable meal, and the lottery yields no result. A competitor in the associated show breaks down in tears under strain of winning £17,500. Dear me. Very quiet evening. A woman is reportedly hurt by a gun, fired from a room above her. It went off by accident. See earlier blogpost.

The above flower is actually on a Veronica bush outside, at the moment.

Friday 22/12/06

Very late start today. Mrs B goes out to complete her Christmas shopping. Two hours later and a good many £££ lighter she returns from the supermarket trip from hell. Each check-out had a queue of about 12 trolleys in it, I'm sure that's the same the world over. Fog continues to play havoc with planes, trains and automobiles (pun intended). Everybody is trying to get away. One family drives instead of flies to - Sweden. A journey of some 1,500 miles. It's a shambles. Mrs B is having her second son here over Christmas and the New Year, but his journey is delayed because flooding earlier this month washed the railway line away between Perth and Pitlochry. I venture into town at dusk, to take the above pictures. Dinner is a pastabake.

Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Thursday 21/12/06

The shortest day of the year. Fog dominates the news, as it causes the cancellation of most domestic flights within the UK. By late evening, 48-year old Stephen Wright from Ipswich is formally charged with the murder of 5 women around that town. Another suspect, who had been held since Monday, was released on police bail. A stern warning is issued to reporters not to prejudice the trial. I take delivery of Christmas flowers, which cheer up an otherwise very drab day. Strong winds overnight and in the morning delay Muirneag - the poor old tub is 6 hours late coming in. This means that supplies for the shops won't be on the shelves until late afternoon or early evening. I head for Somerfields, which has a depleted look about it. I do manage to obtain copies of the Gazette, Free Press, P&J and the Hebridean. The latter paper is being published for the last time, and will be incorporated in the Stornoway Gazette.

Christmas catch-up

Boxing Day is drawing to a close. Went into town this afternoon to have a look round the two shops that were open. Bleugh. Never go to a sale. It's a non-descript day weather wise, grey and dull. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean on BBC1 and couldn't see what the fuss was about. Wafer thin story, soporific sword fights, for goodness' sakes, I've seen better pirate movies than that. Give me Hornblower or Captain Bligh any time, thankyou.

I have just gone through the 118 alerts (pertaining to about 35 journals, and including comments) that crowded my inbox over the past two days. I hope everybody had a nice Christmas, although I was sorry to read of at least one disaster. At least someone had the big question popped to her - congratulations, Nelishia.

Made in China

Anybody noticed how much of our consumer stuff is made in China these days? And how little is actually manufactured in Europe - cannot speak for the USA. Many small companies were squeezed out of business over the past years by producers in countries like China, where workers were paid very low wages.

This does have an implication. The day may come that China holds the monopoly of manufacture, and could use that as a leverage tool. You see the same happening in countries surrounding Russia, that are depending on its gas exports. The balance has shifted to China in fair trading, and by fair economics. We are beginning to see the first stages of this leverage.

Because of the increased income out of exports, standards of living are beginning to rise in China. Workers demand higher wages, seeing on their new TV's what we are enjoying here in the West - so prices of consumer goods will rise too, in our shops. Bearing in mind that there is no real competition left - maybe I'm wrong - this spiral could have serious consequences a number of years down the line. China is a giant.
It is beginning to wake up.

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Saddam Hussein

The appeal lodged by the former Iraqi dictator's legal defense team against his death sentence has been rejected. Saddam Hussein is now to be hanged within 30 days. There is an outside chance that the sentence could be overturned by the president, but the trial judge has stated that it cannot be commuted.

Dramatic as though this may seem, Saddam Hussein has been reduced to little more than a footnote in current proceedings in his country. His supporters will probably transported into a frenzy of rage, but the situation in Iraq is now so chaotic that this won't make much of an impact.

Saddam Hussein was a monstrous leader, whose invasion of Kuwait in 1990 gave the American forces an opportunity to remove him from power. They did not do so for diplomatic considerations. Thirteen years down the line, the pretext of 'weapons of mass destruction' was used to invade Iraq and depose its president. The pretext was hollow and unfounded - Saddam had got rid of his nasties some time before, realising he was in a stranglehold.

The balance of power in the region has now shifted firmly towards Iran, Iraq's eastern neighbour. Although its president, Mahmoud Ahmedinajad, has made some pretty outrageous statements, I have him down as a very shrewd player. His own wings were clipped in recent elections, which saw several hard-line politicians removed from power. Ahmedinajad is a highly educated individual, who hides his intellect behind rhetoric and populist speeching. Beware.

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Website updated

I have updated two pages of my website on AOL - the frontpage and the images page. Have a look, hope you enjoy.

Toot Tone - seen this one before?


Earthquake - Taiwan

Taiwan was shaken by an earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale today at 12.26 GMT (1½ hours before this post), a rather larger event (by a factor of about 7,000) than the one at Dumfries I referred to in a previous post. A 1 metre high tsunami is thought to be heading for the Philippines, although no formal tsunami warning has been issued. There are no reports at present of damage or casualties in Taiwan.

Map courtesy BBC

Earthquake

An earthquake has shaken southwestern Scotland this morning at twenty to eleven. The tremor registered at 3.5 on the Richter scale, the largest quake in the UK this year. Although a small tremor on a global scale, the event shook walls and houses and left people in a short-lived state of alarm. No damage or injuries are reported from the district of Dumfries and Galloway. The tremor is thought to have centered on the town of Dumfries, pictured left (image courtesy BBC), although it was felt as far away as Lockerbie, 10 miles to the east. Below is shown the seismogram from Edinburgh (courtesy British Geological Survey).


Monday, 25 December 2006

Boxing Day

Right, having survived the good food day that is December 25th, I am now ready to switch the calendar over to Boxing Day. Only one shop will be open in Stornoway tomorrow, and that's Woolworths. Everyone else will be able to sleep off their excesses. Those far to the west of me, hope you're having a great time finishing off Christmas Day.

See you all tomorrow.

Webcam

As regular readers know, I have a webcam, which has been running since December 14th, 2005. Since then, it has attracted 36,000 viewers. This means I've had an average of 100 viewers every day. 76% come from the USA and the UK. Googling brings me a fair number of visitors, as does my parallel blog Arnish Lighthouse on the BBC.

Hosting a website from your own computer means you need a have wide bandwidth window, as it can easily eat up up to 20 GB in a month, as I've found out to my cost. Using www.camstreams.com means that they host, and only pull the stream from your webcam when it's needed. Little plug for them, I know, but they provide a good service.


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Christmas Day

I promise to give a full account of today's proceedings, but at the moment I'm too full up. Just a heads-up to advise everybody not to overdulge (oh, yeah, sure) and have a good time.


Note on picture: That's Christmas pudding you're seeing in the bowls, and it's that dark because the picture was taken at 4pm.

Merry Christmas

Whilst watching the Watch Night service from Rosslyn Chapel in Glasgow, the midnight hour came and went, so it's here.

Merry Christmas all!

Sunday, 24 December 2006

Hurricane update - 24 December

Tropical cyclone Bondo has intensified again and is now blowing winds of 130 mph around its centre, with gusts topping 160 mph. The cyclone's centre is now located 25 miles off the Malagasy coast, which means the highest windspeeds are impacting the country's coast. Bondo will continue to raze the northwestern coast of Madagascar, and is not expected to weaken significantly until Tuesday.

Once again, the Malagasy news media are not up to date with their warnings, and I'm dreading the news reports.


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Gun safety

Yesterday, a domestic servant was injured in a hotel in Bonar Bridge, Sutherland (north of Inverness) because a gun went off accidentally in a room above the dining room in which she was at work. The owner of the shotgun had been cleaning the firearm when it discharged. The bullet penetrated the floor and ceiling, hitting the cleaner.

I have been tought firearms safety, and when you are going to work on a gun, you first of all remove all ammunition from the weapon. Then, just in case, you point the gun away from people and (if inside) point it into a corner of the room.

The man whose gun went off has vowed never to shoot again. He's strongly advised to stick with that. I will not easily forget an encounter on the Corrour Estate in central Scotland 5 years ago, when I was stopped by a group of deerstalkers in an all terrain vehicle. Their guns pointed straight in my face, not intentionally as a threat, whilst they asked me where I was going. I was on a public right of way, and I advised them accordingly. I should have told them to point their guns away from me as well.


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Saturday, 23 December 2006

Christmas Crush

Just back from my Christmas shopping (doesn't take long in my case), in a packed town centre. Long queues at the butchers' (not required), the bookshop (had to buy papers). Woolworths' was a nightmare, with kids flitting in and out of aisles and a shop assistant with a bad cold. It's a non-descript day weatherwise, although I gather the fog may be lifting down south. In Woolies, the Boxing Day sales items were hidden (badly) behind black plastic, and they'll be about the only shop open on Boxing Day.

Well, I wish everybody good luck with their Christmas preparations, a Merry Christmas, stay safe and all the rest of it.

Hurricane update - 23 December

Tropical cyclone Bondo is about to make an unwelcome appearance in northern Madagascar, with winds of 100 mph. My tropical cyclone blog has seen a sudden surge in popularity, with about 30 or 40 visitors each day from all over eastern Africa. Mauritius, Madagascar, South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya. I was appalled by the lack of accurate information from Madagascar newsmedia, but I hope that the info on my blog will somehow filter through.

Bondo is likely to be the last cyclone of 2006. Although it was mercifully quiet in the Atlantic, after the dreadful seasons of 2004 and 05, the hurricane season of 2007 is not foreseen to be as quiet again. During the summer of 2006, climatic conditions (El Nino and large sandstorms from the Sahara desert) suppressed the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic. El Nino is likely to subside during the winter.

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New widget

My sidebar now shows a random selection of pictures of my FlickR album. You can get your own thingymeloo if you click on the widget. It has my FlickR username adb402004 alongside it. As below:
Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr

Tag Generator

For those of you who are interested in generating Technorati Tags (and who are NOT in the USA), have a look at this blog post. This chap has a tag generator, which coughs up the HTML which you can then copy into your journal post - in HTML mode. You can drag the link to the browser (in Firefox). Great!


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Friday, 22 December 2006

Tagged

I've been tagged by Sugar!

"The Rules:
The player of this game starts with "3 things he/ she would love to get for Christmas" and also has to list "3 things he/ she definitely does not want to get for Christmas".

Then he/she tags 5 friends and list their names.
The ones who get tagged need to write on their blogs about their Christmas wishes, as well as state this rule clearly, then tag 5 more victims.
And the one who tags needs to leave a comment that says "you've been Christmas tagged!" in their comments and tell them to read your blog."

What do I want for Christmas?
I would like
- A White Christmas (fat chance, it's the warmest in the country at the moment LOL)
- An old-fashioned Christmas dinner (might just come true... )
- A laptop computer (hmm, how deep is my purse)


What do I NOT want for Christmas
- Discord around me
- Howling gales
- Disasters in the world


I am tagging: Jeannette (Jottings), Jeannette (Travels), Pam, Lisa and Lori.

Follow up

The single accused in the Ipswich murders case has appeared in court this morning. Stephen Wright, 48, was remanded in custody to return to court on January 2nd. I cannot relay all the rumours surrounding this case for legal reasons.

Tropical cyclone Bondo has collapsed off Madagascar following the onset of unfavourable atmospheric conditions, which sliced it in half. Winds at present are 75 to 90 mph, and Bondo will head southwest, impacting the northwestern coasts of the island over the weekend.

David Irving has returned to the UK, stating that he had been imprisoned for being a historian. A Holocaust survivor appeared on BBC TV this afternoon, stating that Mr Irving made a fool of himself by denying substantiated historical fact. Although David Irving suggested people would read his works on World War II in 200 to 300 years' time, methinks he will be a footnote, and one of the unpleasant ones.

Bird flu is back on the agenda, after thousands of poultry birds died in southern Vietnam. The panic brigade is also back in action, predicting that a flu pandemic could claim anything between 3 and 1,000 million lives. Although bird flu does not transmit between humans, it can be transmitted to humans, and it's only a matter of time before the virus mutates to a transmissible form.

Fog continues to wreak havoc with people's travel plans for Christmas in the UK, with all domestic flights cancelled from Heathrow and a handful of smaller airports like Norwich and Cardiff. Trains are full, as are some of the roads. Here in Lewis, it's been a drizzly day with poor visibility - not due to fog, but as a result of low cloud, associated with the drizzle. Temperatures were once again high, 11C this afternoon.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Wednesday 20/12/06

Cloudy day, but occasional chinks in the clouds let the sun through. Cyclone Bondo is approaching Madagascar, with its news media still not acknowledging its severity. At 2.40pm, the gastanker Sigis Lotta pulls into port. Go into Somerfields for the usual, and to Engebret's for lottery tickets. As the evening progresses, temperatures do not fall but stay at the very high 9C. Winds at the Butt of Lewis touch galeforce. Reykjavik touched +10C today, and by midnight still stands at +7C. Down in England, the dense fog causes no end of problems at Heathrow Airport. All internal flights are cancelled.

Tuesday 19/12/06

Cloud dominates the weather this morning, with occasional light showers. Another suspect is apprehended in the Suffolk murders investigation. The homes of both suspects now in police custody are subjected to a fingertip search. Weather today is cloudy but mild, we're the warmest in the country. Fog shrouds most of England, Scotland and Ireland. I monitor the progress of a category 5 tropical cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Madagascar will get a brush of it, but its newsmedia are behind the times. The Seychelles do mention it. Venture out to Somerfields for food. Mrs B goes to town herself to gather in parts of her Christmas shopping. Supper is another microwaveable curry. Somerfields have changed the packaging, suggesting you cut open the plastic foil covering the food. You have to cut it open using scissors, a guarantee to burn your hand on the steam.

Suffolk murders

Tonight, a major development in the hunt for the murderer(s) of the five Suffolk prostitutes, who were found dead around Ipswich over the last few weeks.

One man, arrested on Monday, aged 37, resident of Trimley St Martin, was released on police bail pending further inquiries. The other man, arrested on Tuesday, aged 48, resident of Ipswich, was charged with murdering the five women. He was officially named as Stephen Wright. In the interests of a fair trial, the Crown Prosecution Service issued a stern reminder to the news media to be cautious in their reporting on the case.

More details from the BBC News website.

Weather update

Quite strong winds, if not gales, here in the northwest today. It's dreich with drizzle and quite warm at 9C / 48F. Fog appears to be receding in the south of England, where it causes all the havoc with the flights. But it isn't gone yet, and neither are the delays. I see people on TV, stuck at airports, wanting to fly to a destination within the UK. Trains, buses, anyone?

Outside the UK, Tropical Cyclone Bondo is heading for northern Madagascar, and the Madagascar Tribune on-line talks about a tropical storm. That means winds up to 60 mph. My dear chaps, it's a 120 mph monster out there. You may get the 60 mph winds on your northern cape, and the northwest of the country will get a grazing of that over the days to come, as Bondo heads down the Mozambique Channel - intensifying as it goes.

Wednesday, 20 December 2006

Tagging

Now, Joe has told us that the tagbox is supposed to be sitting below the input screen when you write an entry. Not here in the UK, I don't think. Any other British writers with the same problem? I find that HTML such a handful, I mean: <a href="http://technorati.com/tag/Scotland" rel="tag">Scotland</a> is such a handful to type...

David Irving

This is a 68-year old British national who has been released from prison in Austria after being convicted of denying the Holocaust, a criminal offense in Austria. Irvine is in a detention centre pending his extradition to the UK.

David Irving has maintained his innocence, saying he has been jailed for expressing an opinion. He is controversial to say the least, and representatives of British Jews have stated that he is not welcome in the UK either. Further details in this BBC report.

I have previously stated my abhorrence at any attempts to belittle or deny what happened at the behest of the National Socialist government of Germany between 1933 and 1945, specifically the extermination of the Jewish and other perceived "inferior races". I am disgusted with those who stand up for people like David Irving, saying that his freedom of speech has been restricted. One appeared on BBC TV tonight, saying he was a scholar who would launch an idea into the arena and await the reaction. Scholars, historians, everybody is subject to the law. Controversial is one thing - denying documented fact about the premeditated murder of millions is foul.


Climbing incident


For the third time this winter season, the area of Coire an t-Sneachda in the Cairngorm Mountains has been the scene of a mountaineering incident. Two women were seriously injured following a fall whilst climbing. The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue team located the women after they called for help on a mobile phone. A search-and-rescue helicopter airlifted them to hospital in Inverness.

Fog


Picture taken 18 July 2006

Large areas of the UK are currently plagued by thick fog. Temperatures there have not crept above 5C today, with a few exceptions. Strangely enough, the far north and northwest by contrast have been very mild. Stornoway's maximum is +9C, and Lerwick is currently reading +10C. Bear in mind that darkness fell about 2 hours ago.

Meanwhile, the fog in England has severely disrupted flights in and out of Heathrow. Planes can land and take off in fog, but the frequency is decreased. Fog poses obvious hazards for road users as well. Common sense dictates the following advice for driving in dense fog, taken from the Thinksafety website, run by the Department of Transport

  • Watch out for fog - it drifts rapidly and is often patchy.
  • In foggy conditions, drive very slowly using dipped headlights.
  • Use fog-lights if visibility is seriously reduced, but remember to switch them off when visibility improves.
  • Don't hang on to the tail-lights of the vehicle in front. This gives you a false sense of security and means you may be driving too close.
  • Don't speed up suddenly, even if it seems to be clearing. You can suddenly find yourself back in thick fog.

Suffolk murders

This morning, an inquest was opened and adjourned into the deaths of 4 out of the 5 women murdered around Ipswich. The coroner stated that the police investigation was developing rapidly. He extended his sympathies to family and friends of the deceased.

Police have been granted leave to continue to hold in custody the two men arrested on Monday and Tuesday on suspicion of the five murders, Tom Stephens and Stephen Wright. Yesterday saw high activity from forensic teams around both men's houses.

Anyone who thinks they may hold information is still encourage to contact Suffolk Police. Those wanting accurate updates should check the BBC News website.

Hurricane update - 20 December

Tropical cyclone Bondo is now approaching maximum intensity as it approaches the northern tip of Madagascar. Current sustained maximum windspeeds are 150 mph, gusting to 185 mph, which will increase further to 160 mph sustained and 190 mph gusts near the eye of the storm. Below picture is a classical image of a tropical cyclone, and this first cyclone of the Indian Ocean season immediately shoots it as a category 5.


The trajectory, as projected on Google Earth, showed Bondo passing within 100 miles of the northern cape of the island of Madagascar. Although the winds will not be the main problem, rain will be. Bondo will veer around the northern cape and pass over the Comoros Islands (another area of concern) before running down the Mozambique Channel.

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Caroling through J-land

To participate: 
1) Make an entry titled "Caroling Through J-Land" with these same instructions so others can play along. (you can copy & paste)
2) Visit as many journals as you can and look for their entry titled "Caroling Through J-Land". Leave the title of your favorite carol, along with your name and link to your journal for other carolers
.
3) Spread the word so we all can meet new friends and spread some Christmas cheer!
4) Caroling ends this Sunday night at midnight to give everyone plenty of time to make the rounds
.
Happy Caroling and Merry Christmas! 
My favorite carol is : How a Rose, ever blooming

Tags: caroling thru j-land

Beta no more

Joe, the Journalseditor, has advised us NOT to use the beta.-prefix for any journal URL anymore. Up to yesterday, you could get a preview of any upgrades by prefixing your journal URL with beta., but this is no longer possible.

Please adjust your URLs, also when commenting.

There is supposed to be something for adding tags without typing a whole sea of HTML, but it doesn't show on my entry-form. Awaiting update from Joe. Further info in this entry.

Delivery charges

Here in the islands, we are charged extra for delivering items just because we live in an island. Fair enough for large things (more than 25 kg / 55 lb in weight), but not so for anything lighter than that.

The Royal Mail will carry items up to 25 kg at a flat rate, related to weight and dimensions, irrespective of destination. Why companies have to charge us through the nose, or refuse to deliver in these islands is beyond me.

Five Members of Parliament are currently raising this problem, with a view of hopefully putting a stop to it. It's ridiculous.

Bondo

This is a very rapid update on tropical cyclone Bondo, which leaves me concerned. This system is forecast to pass 80 miles to the north of Madagascar, with winds of 160 mph, gusting to 190 mph.

I have just researched the Madagascar news media, which appear to be blissfully unaware of this severe cyclone. As matters stand at present, Madagascar can expect tropical storm force winds and heavy rain, as of tomorrow.

To the north, the Seychelles also stand to get a swipe of Bondo, in the shape of 50 mph winds, correctly forecast on the Seychelles weather service website.

Upgrade R10

This appears to be running into problems. For the time being, I suggest you omit the beta. prefix from a journal's URL. Journals CANNOT be viewed (at the moment) with a beta-prefix. Have reported it to Journalseditor and Stephanie.

Hurricane update - 19 December

Tropical cyclone Bondo is now barrelling down the Indian Ocean with winds of 90 knots (100 mph), 900 miles east of the northern tip of Madagascar. It will intensify further, with winds topping 105 knots, 120 mph, tomorrow. By which time Bondo will be passing close to the northern tip of Madagascar.

All detailed information on this cyclone is in French (which I understand), but below map shows what's going on. The group of islands close to the northern cape appears to be in particular danger, as is the archipelago of the Comoros. Bondo will weaken after passing Madagascar, but is still expected to pack hurricane force winds.



Monday 18/12/06

Awake to a brilliant dawn, with the mainland hills very clear - even the Lochalsh hills, south of Applecross, can be discerned just left of the Arnish Lighthouse. The Storr and Trotternish hills on Skye peep out above the hills on the Arnish Peninsula. The sun rises at 9.11 am, and 4 minutes later it appears above Holm Point. We're having the sun for 6 hours 23 minutes. At 10 o'clock, Suffolk Police announce they have arrested a man for questioning on suspicion of murdering the 5 prostitutes killed around Ipswich. During the morning, high cloud moves across from the west, but does not cover the sky. Manage to entice mrs B's nephew to drive us round to Arnish, just for a wee spin. Ice covers puddles, and it's very cold, only just above freezing. The snowclad hills on the mainland stand out clearly. Can't get over the arrested man down in Suffolk, who gave a rambling, 30 minute interview to the BBC and was also featured on the frontpage of the Sunday Mirror yesterday. Supper is chicken jalfrezi curry, out of the microwave. Spend the evening watching garbage TV by a large fire. Now, I never realised there was that much difference in quality regarding coal. One variety burns well - in a fire that's already going. The other variety gets the fire started. There is a cheap way of making firelighters: old newspapers. Roll up three sheets of newsprint, from the corners, into rolls of half an inch thick. Bend these sticks into pretzels.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Sunday 17/12/06

Starting off fairly sunny, but cloud takes over through the afternoon. Our guest has his cooked breakfast at 9.30; I have mine a wee bit later. No further news on the missing diver (post script: he turned up safe and well on board his ship). Another tropical depression develops in the Pacific. Go out for a walk at 3.15, to the Coastguard Station and round to the Battery. Large numbers of starlings congregate on the radio relay mast and the telephone wires. Go on down Miller Road and to Sandwick Cemetery. A man tends to a grave there as I walk up the hill to the top of Oliver's Brae. This 'brae' is characterized by the two huge mansions (picture below taken on 30 January 2006).


The view from Oliver's Brae now incorporates the snowcapped Harris hills. Carry on down Seaforth Road, where a number of cats skulk around their front doors. One is particularly friendly, and I remember it from a late night foray (at 1 a.m.) along Seaforth Road, on a mission to see the midnight gloaming back in May. Other felines seen along Seaview Terrace, and the black cat along Newton Street. Mrs B has her grandchildren in, who are using the bathing facilities, as their own are being done up. Dinner is browned minced meat & onions, mashed potatoes and runner beans. Temperature has sunk to freezing by 6pm, but is back up to 6C at 10pm.

Happy Hanukkah!

Before I forget

Happy Hanukkah!

Picture courtesy Jewish Mag.com

J-land subjects

First of all, thanks everybody that checked up on Penny (Firestormkids04). I flagged this up in red print because someone up my street died of carbonmonoxide poisoning last March, and in the initial stages you get a headache and feel sleepy. Good to hear everything seems to be in order now.

Now, Stephanie has told us that upgrade R10 is going into 'production' tomorrow between 4 and 6 AM EST, that is 9 and 11 AM British time. Expect delays and outages during those hours, and hopefully none afterwards. The previous roll-out was a bit of a disaster, but Steph advises us that it's now all hunkydory. Judging by the usual comments that announcements like this have elicited in the past, I'll add: seeing is believing. Sorry, Stephanie.

That's all for this entry, I'm slightly square-eyed after watching car-crash TV all evening and roasting in front of a huge coalfire. Fortunately, there aren't that many alerts to go through, which is actually backed up by Technorati. I would suggest all to sign up to this (totally free). It's simple and painless, and makes your blog that little bit more prominent on the web. I use it to aggregate the 113 J-land journals that I keep an eye on. It shows you who links to your journals, and it sometimes coughs up a surprise or two.

Sunny Monday

Try again. Today was the first fully sunny day in ages. After looking at wind and rain for weeks and weeks on end, this was a pleasant surprise. When I put on the diary entry, later today or tomorrow, you'll see the pictures. Starting at a stunning dawn, leading up to sunset at 9.11 a.m. For now, I'm including a video of a drive through the centre of Stornoway this afternoon, showing that traffic can be 'heavy' here as well! OK, it was the speedramps LOL.


Nature's forces

I have now learned through various people in J-land that the body of one of the mountaineers, missing on Mt Hood in Oregon state, has been found near the summit. I would like to pass my sympathies to those left behind.

Here in Scotland, there have been (to my knowledge) at least two fatalities on the mountains this winter, and they are nowhere near as high as in the Rockies. But we're at latitude 57 N, so at 4,000 feet things can get very arctic.

Climbers and walkers should only attempt a climb or ramble if properly kitted out and sufficiently experienced, which includes being prepared for anything nature may see fit to throw. At the end of the day, Nature is infinitely more powerful than any of us, and if you are serious at your sport, you'll acknowledge that.

However, even the best prepared, kitted out and fittest may still find themselves in conditions that can get the better of you. It is something that will be at the back of your mind, and may well have been with the climbers on Mt Hood. Although it's a hollow cliche, at least he died doing what he loved to do.

Upload the right video first

Found I uploaded the wrong video just now (dork), but this one is just as interesting. Starlings on the wires and radiomast at the Battery Powerstation. It's more for the audio. Took this yesterday afternoon around sunset.


Hurricane update - 18 December

After making all this fuss over a possible typhoon hitting the Philippines, the system that the Joint Typhoon Warning Center had earmarked is now dissipating. Phew, say the Philippinos.

Cue next system, this time in the Indian Ocean. Tropical cyclone Bondo has formed east of northern Madagascar, which will be impacted on Thursday. There is no wind forecast for that day, but methinks it'll be around the 55 knots mark, some 60 mph. Will keep an eye open.

Urgent appeal

Just going through the overnight alerts from my American friends, and found an alarming one from Firestormkids04 who reported going down with carbon monoxide poisoning. It sent her to hospital (lucky!!!) and killed 4 birds. Is there anybody in a position to check by phone or directly whether they are OK, and whether the cause of the carbon monoxide poisoning has been eliminated?

PLEASE!

Missing diver - FOUND

The man who went missing off the dive support vessel Pelican in the early hours of Saturday morning has been found behind a bulkhead in a storeroom on the ship. It appears that he has been there for the last 42 hours. Aberdeen Coastguard has requested a helicopter to scramble and the BP Jigsaw helicopter will be evacuating the man from the ship sometime shortly after 12.30 am. Aberdeen Coastguard Watch Manager George Downie says: We are absolutely amazed and delighted that this man has been found. A very thorough search of the vessel was made several times over by the crew and there was no sign of him. The doctor onboard the vessel has examined him and found that he is suffering from a broken leg. He has been stabilised and has been given appropriate medication. The man will be taken by the helicopter to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

BREAKING NEWS

Police have arrested a suspect in the murder of five women in Suffolk. He was taken into custody at 7.20 this morning in the village of Trimley, near Felixstowe, southeast of Ipswich.

Sunday, 17 December 2006

Sunday's Pictures

Just to give you an idea of the images of today. I went out for a walk round to the Battery and Sandwick Cemetery this afternoon at sunset (3.30 pm). The starlings were flocking around their roosts, and when returning along Seaforth Road, at least 4 cats were skulking around frontdoors. One was VERY friendly, others didn't budge at the sound of my creditable cat imitations. The last picture, of the distant Harris hills under snow, didn't come out properly due to the low light and their distance (30 miles). Hope you can 'sort of' make it out.

Hurricane update - 17 December

December 17th, and still hurricanes about? Well, it's a typhoon actually, and it's in its embryonic stages. For the moment, Trami is a tropical depression, some 400 miles west of Guam. It is making for the Philippines, which will have to swallow its 5th typhoon in recent weeks. Current forecasts, very long-range so not too reliable, suggest winds of 75 knots, that's 85 mph when the centre of the typhoon makes landfall in northern Luzon Island on Thursday. The below image shows Trami at 15.56 GMT (that's 10.56 EST or 23.56 local time). This image will be automatically updated.

Please pass word around - the Philippine weather agency is off-line today.



Lost diver

Police have flown to the dive-support vessel Pelican, from which a 35-year old crewman was lost, presumed gone overboard yesterday. The man, Christopher McGonigle, from Northern Ireland was last seen at 3 am yesterday. He was employed by company SUBSEA7 as an operator for a Remotely Operated Vehicle or ROV.

Mr McGonigle's cabin has been searched and his 92 crewmates interviewed. The Coastguard have expressed extreme concern, as he has now been missing for 30 hours in waters which have a low temperature.

The below image, showing the Pelican, is courtesy BBC

Church noticeboards

These notices were in church bulletins or were announced in church services:


Ø Weight Watchers will meet at 7 PM at St. Martin's Church. Please use the large double doors at the side entrance.

Ø The Fasting & Prayer Conference includes meals.

Ø The sermon this morning: "Jesus Walks on the Water." The sermon tonight "Searching for Jesus."

Ø Our youth basketball team is back in action Wednesday at 8 PM in the recreation hall. Come out and watch us kill Christ the King.

Ø Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house.  Don't forget your husbands.

Ø The peacemaking meeting scheduled for today has been canceled due to a conflict.

Ø Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community. Smile at someone who is hard to love   Say "Hell" to someone who doesn't care much about you.

Ø Don't let worry kill you off - let the Church help.

Ø  Miss Charlene Mason sang "I will not pass this way again," giving obvious pleasure to the congregation.

Ø For those of you who have children and don't know it, we have a nursery downstairs.

Ø Next Thursday there will be tryouts for the choir. They need all the help they can get.

Ø Barbara remains in the hospital and needs blood donors for more
transfusions. She is also having trouble sleeping and requests tapes of Father Jack's sermons.

Ø The Priest will preach his farewell message after which the choir will sing "Break Forth Into Joy."

Ø  Irving Benson and Jessie Carter were married on October 24 in the church. So ends a friendship that began in their school days.

Ø  A bean supper will be held on Tuesday evening in the church hall. Music will follow.

Ø At the evening service tonight, the sermon topic will be "What Is Hell?" Come early and listen to our choir practice.

Ø Eight new choir robes are currently needed due to the addition of several new members and to the deterioration of some older ones.

Ø Scouts are saving aluminum cans, bottles and other items to be recycled. Proceeds will be used to cripple children.

Ø Please place your donation in the envelope along with the deceased person you want remembered.

Ø The church will host an evening of fine dining, super entertainment and gracious hostility.

Ø Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00 PM - prayer and medication to follow.

Ø The ladies of the Church have cast off clothing of every kind.  They may be seen in the basement on Friday afternoon.

Ø This evening at 7 PM there will be a hymn singing in the park across from the Church. Bring a blanket and come prepared to sin.

Ø Ladies Bible Study will be held Thurs. morning at 10 AM  All ladies are invited to lunch in the Fellowship Hall after the B.S. is done.

Ø The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.

Ø Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 PM. Please use the back door.

Ø The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare's Hamlet in the church basement Friday at 7 PM.  The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.

Ø The Priest unveiled the church's new tithing campaign slogan last Sunday: "I Upped My Pledge - Up Yours"

Saturday, 16 December 2006

Saturday 16/12/06

Nice morning, if showery, after the overnight low of -2C / 28F. Rose quite late. A diver is missing in the North Sea, 143 miles east of Aberdeen. No further updates. A French fishing vessel comes in for a crew change. That's been going on for nearly a year. They call into port. The old crew goes ashore, and a new one takes over. Brief handover, and 90 minutes later they are off again. The old crew are flown back to France, saving the boat a 1,500 mile roundtrip to its homeport of Lorient. It also saves the company 25% of the normal harbour dues. This discount is awarded if a vessel, coming in to change its crew, manages to do so within 24 hours. Accompanied mrs B to Lewis Crofters to buy potatoes, flowerbulbs and compost.

The prices are ever so slightly dear, if you bother to compare with other stores in town. The bag of compost weighed 20 kg / 45 lb, and was very cumbersome to carry. Had sausage rolls for lunch, after which mrs B received a string of visitors. Her grandson (aged 15) with 2 of his pals. Mrs B's sister called round with her husband. And an old family friend closed proceedings by 6pm. Supper is chicken korma. Lottery: a waste of money. Might as well set light to a £1 banknote (still have them here in Scotland). Hailstones fall down the chimney and hiss in the fire. The windfarms continue to fan the flames of dissent in the island. The Eishken one is as unpopular as the North Lewis one.

Friday 15/12/06

Nice sunny morning, in between the downpours of rain and hail. Great cloudscapes - see pics. Otherwise, not too bad. By 12.45, another heavy shower blots out the lights, and lights have to be lit indoors as the hail clatters down. Showers diminish and the temperature dives towards freezing after dusk. Go to Somerfields for shopping, but need to divert to Engebret's for papers. Pedestrians are not a consideration around the filling station. Supper is chili con carne, for the 2nd time within a week LOL. An apple crumble closes proceedings. Watch a lot of TV through the evening, mostly police chases. A man decided to sleep off his hangover in the middle of a railroad track. No further developments in the Ipswich murders. The night is very cold, temperature by midnight stands at -1C / 30F.

Thursday 14/12/06

The pictures do not require captions, they say it all as far as the weather is concerned. Showers, some with hail, strong winds and very dreich. The ferry is 90 minutes late, and arrives amidst a severe squall at 2.15pm (pictures 6 to 8). An official report is published into the death of Princess Diana in 1997, saying there was definitely not a conspiracy to murder. Diana's lover was Dodi Fayed, also killed in the accident, and his father continues to defend the conspiracy theory. Severe flooding continues to haunt mainland Scotland. The villagers in Milnathort, Perthshire, thought they were safe behind their flood barriers. Nope. A waste of half a million pounds. Kingussie is still under water. In the Trossachs, sheep drown in the flood plains of the river Forth, west of Stirling. Went to the shop in a gale and downpour. Very cold. After lasagna for supper, we suffer a town-wide powercut at 9.30, which lasts for 10 minutes. Having located a torch, I find Mrs B in the backroom. She gets the candles and oillamps out, but by the time every room in the house is lit, the power is back on. Although I am advised the Northern Lights may put in an appearance, nothing is visible.

Wednesday 13/12/06

Pretty awful weather today: persistent rain is replaced by high winds. A galewarning cancels a lot of ferry services, including the afternoon run to Ullapool. The Small Isles ferry went out, intending to call at all four islands, but ended up only visiting Eigg. Sailings to Muck, Rum and Canna were abandoned en-route. Highland Scotland is plagued by flooding. The playground of a school at Kingussie is under several feet of water. When I go into town, at 3.30pm, the wind blows at force 7. The Harvest Caroline comes into port to shelter. Away from the shelter of buildings along South Beach, you do feel the full force of the wind. Buy the latest book by Christina Hall "The Road to Glen Spean", which I discovered in the library last week. Have a nice, long bath at 5.30, then have mrs B's soup with rolls for supper. Down in Ipswich, 5 dead bodies have now been recovered from within a 6 mile radius. They were all local prostitutes. A massive manhunt has been launched as local residents express their horror. All girls, in their 20s, had turned to prostitution to feed their heroin addiction.

Tuesday 12/12/06

Weather remains on a similar footing as of late, with showers, low temperatures and strong winds. The ferries are severely disrupted. Ours sails at 7.15 am, but does not return for its lunchtime call. It departs Ullapool at 4pm, arriving here at 7pm. The North Lewis Windfarm is shrunk from 234 to 181 turbines, still 181 too many. MSP Alistair Morrison disappoints me by coming out in support of this monstrous project. He says a certain number of turbines are required to justify the interconnector to be built. The interconnector is the subsea electricity cable, linking the wind generators to the National Grid. He previously stated that the windfarm would not be built if the local population didn't want it. The island will not benefit much from this project, apart from a few dozen jobs in construction and a handful for maintenance. The few million of revenue for the local council pale into insignificance in comparison to the billions that the operators AMEC stand to make. The BBC gives out a report on how to claim back excessive bank penalty charges.

Monday 11/12/06

A very showery day, and one shower at midday triggers the streetlights. A few accumulations of hail quickly melt. Mrs B heads off into town, whilst I get up to date with weather and hurricane info. I don't show my face out of doors today. Strong winds blow all day. News from Suffolk mentions that several prostitutes have been murdered around the town of Ipswich. Mrs B does all the shopping, being driven around by her nephew. Sweet & sour chicken for supper.

Sunday 10/12/06

A very disturbed night, with strong winds hurling heavy rain against the windows. Windspeeds reach 51 mph between 6 and 7 am, with gusts up to 63 mph. Rain and wind relent through the morning, although it does stay wet throughout the day. Assist in putting up Christmas tree plus lights. Ornaments to be added tomorrow. Daylight is failing by the time the tree stands. News comes through of the death of former Chilean dictator Pinochet, at the age of 91. Good riddance. Supper: Chili con carne with sliced pineapple.

Journalseditor

I'm going to catch up with this past week in my own diary entries, so hold on for 7 alerts LOL.

Did I mention, by the way, that the JournalsEditor is now Joe again - back from being away. However, he asks that we direct any technical problems at Stephanie, as she is our techical person. Joe is also still working on AIM Pages, so he only has limited time.

Guest Editor Picks are being suspended - why don't we all make our own shortlist of 6 favourite blogs? I know we had the VIVI Awards just a month ago, but there are always new bloggers coming on the scene. I'll do ANOTHER entry on that, perhaps tomorrow. It's past 11 o'clock, so I'm past my best. Over the hill and far away, and all that.

Joe has given the HTML for continuous music to play in the background of blogs. Beware: this only works on Internet Explorer. I'm a Firefox user, and am working in blissful silence. In normal English, it doesn't work on Firefox, Opera, Safari or Netscape.

Missing diver

Aberdeen Coastguard is co-ordinating the search for a man who went missing from the dive support vessel Pelican in the early hours of this morning approximately 143 miles east of Aberdeen.

A search for a suspected man overboard is underway involving 10 vessels and 2 helicopters. George Downie, Watch Manager, Aberdeen Coastguard says:

Visibility is good, but we are very concerned for the welfare of this man. Sea temperatures in the middle of the North Sea will be cold and there is a two metre swell.

Our colleagues at the Norwegian Coastguard are assisting us with communications.
SUBSEA 7 can confirm that a situation has occurred onboard the DSND Pelican.
A full press statement will be released by the company once further details of the incident are known.
Relatives can contact SUBSEA 7 on 01224 625525 for further information.

J-land matters

I am aware I am not an avid commentator at the moment, although I do try to read what everybody writes. At the moment, although it's 12.40am, I've just gone through through 50-odd alerts, which is Friday's harvest.

Please visit Sunny. She is need of some support, as her husband has been diagnosed with cancer. As Sunny has cancer herself, it is a terrible blow.

The beta-release of upgrade R10 caused issues with alerts, so it was reversed. There are also problems with pictures, but visiting pictures.aol.com should show all your piccies that you uploaded to AOL.

Friday, 15 December 2006

HRT and breast cancer

Research has shown that not taking HRT reduces the chance for a woman to develop breast cancer by 7 to 12%. The cancers concerned were hormone-dependent in women aged 50 to 60, the age group most likely to be taking Hormone Replacement Therapy drugs. The improvements were seen after women stopped taking HRT. Some forms of breast cancer progress under the influence of oestrogen (one of the female hormones), and oestrogen is part of many HRT preparations.

The research group stresses that ladies currently taking HRT should not worry. Previous research has shown that there appears to be no link between HRT and breast cancer.

Anyone taking HRT who has concerns should discuss these with their physician.

Casualty


Cairngorm Mountain Rescue report that a man died following a fall in the Coire an t-Sneachda area of the Cairngorm Mountains, south of Inverness. He lost his life in the same area where two climbers perished last month, after being caught out in a severe blizzard. The name of the dead man has not been released, until next of kin are informed.