Monday, 30 April 2007

Monday walk

Went on an amble round the outlying district of Laxdale this afternoon. Weather was glorious, sheep were snoozing with their lambs and everything had turned green. Have a look yourself.

Over the sea to Eilean a'Cheo

What?

It has been decided that the Isle of Skye (which I glimpse during spells of clear weather from 50 miles away) should be given the Gaelic name Eilean  a'Cheo, Isle of Mists. The official name for the place is An t-Eilean Sgitheanach [An tellan Skeeyanach], the Winged Isle, as the Norseman called it. Viewed from the sky (sic), the island has many promontories, which jut into the Minches like so many wings.

Local people, and particularly the tourism trade, have expressed misgivings over this renaming exercise, as the name Isle of Skye or just Skye is a brandname, known the world over. Pronouncing the guttural Ch in Cheo presents many English speakers with a problem as well.

When it ain't broke, don't fix it. Political correctness gone too far, is my verdict.

A similar exercise was undertaken years ago when the poor old Western Isles were renamed Na h-Eileanan Siar. Everybody else still calls them Western Isles.

Contrasting Queens

This month, April, sees the official and biological birthdays of two of Europe's Queens, and I'd like to contrast them, as contrast they do.


Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland [...], was born on 21 April 1926. She celebrates her birthday in private, with no public ceremony. On the second Saturday of June, the ceremony of Trooping the Colour is taken at Horseguard's Parade in central London. Until 1987, the Queen would take the parade on horseback, but her advanced age has excused her from that now: she takes it seated in a carriage.  There is a whole website dedicated to the ceremony, which I would like to link to.

Queen Elizabeth II will be on the throne until her death. Prince Charles is next in line for the throne, but there are voices of doubt within the UK, whether he should give way to his eldest son, Prince William.


Her Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was on born on 31 January 1938. She too celebrates her birthday in private, but a public ceremony takes place on 30 April. Her mother, the late Princess Juliana (who was Queen between 1948 and 1980), had her birthday on that day. Juliana had the people come to her palace at the town of Soestdijk, east of Amsterdam, for a file-past. Beatrix decided to come to the people. Each year in her reign (she ascended the Orange throne 27 years ago) she visits two towns in one of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands, with a clutter of relatives in tow. Public festivities are laid on in all towns in the country. Read more here.

I foresee Queen Beatrix abdicating, like her mother did, to make way for her eldest son, Willem Alexander. He is 40 this year. Beatrix was 42 when she ascended the throne.

Monday notes

Another beautiful day on the Costa del Hebrides, where temperatures are soaring to a stifling 16C / 60F at the moment. Ferry came in 5 minutes ago, a wee bit on the late side, expected to carry one guest for tonight. Another will arrive by the end of the afternoon.

The five men, accused of planning a murderous bombing campaign across the UK in 2003 and 2004. This is NOT the 21 July 2005 alleged bomb plot. An extensive report is carried by the BBC.

Why do I read blogs? Well, there is a question. I have built up my network of journals through the usual method: commenting in other people's journals and leaving my own link. One of my remits is to highlight any journals where the writer needs some extra attention. In recent times, people have approached me directly with links, sometimes to journals that I had not heard of before. I read entries, but do not comment very regularly.

One aspect of J-land came into sharp focus yesterday - you only know about what the blog author tells you. Or what you have read in that particular blog from the moment your eye fell on it. These days, family relations can be convoluted, with marriage break-up being a 1 in 3 certainty. More often than not, children are involved, and more often than not a degree of animosity and acrimony creeps in, with bad feelings and hurt. A journal is public (if you make it public of course), by which I mean that everyone can read it. One glance at my Sitemeter shows me I have readers which I know nothing about. And Jeannette found out that her whole family is reading. She found it out in the most negative way possible. Other people have lost jobs through blogging.

Write what you want, however much or little, however frequent or infrequent. It's a free world. But be mindful who might be reading. It might be hostile eyes.

Close of day

Not a good day in J-land, for the reasons I outlined in earlier posts. I hope that Kim's hope comes true. And I hope that a little break from journaling will see Jeannette back with us shortly. Can only wish her strength with the treatment she is due on Wednesday.

Ever gone swimming in the sea? No, I didn't, water is too cold round here. Heard a story of a local lad who put on a wetsuit and took a paddle in the harbour - only to be followed by a seal. We have a colony of grey seals in the harbour, and they are inquisitive. They are also BIG. Which brings me to the point - if you ever come to the Western Islands and Highlands, and want to watch seals, whales, porpoises what have you. Don't bother with the organised boat tours. You can stand on the quayside here at Stornoway and watch the seals at play. I have a video on YouTube, showing just that. You can take the scheduled ferry service and enjoy the wildlife during the crossing.

Back tomorrow.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Update on Kim

Mary [frankandmary] asked me to relay the latest info on Kim [demandnlilchit]. I copy email:

Kim I shaved my legs for this? had a bit of an unexpected (& for me still unacceptable) turn.  I ran an oncology practice years ago.  She & I have been emailing each other back & forth these last few months.  She offered me more insight than I could offer her.  This is the email she sent me today:   In hospital since thur, fluid between lungs& chest wall...drained...ca in brain n spine now.... Dr's still optimistic..... ..ok to spread info... K.   I would love to say some wonderful profound thing, but my heart hurts too much for me to think of it at the moment. They say Action is eloquence.  I can't think of a better way to describe Kim.

Call for support

Copying parts of an email I wrote to Jeannette (Jottings) today, after she decided to suspend blogging for a while following a very nasty comment, threatening litigation. I do not know the background to that story, so restricted myself to:

I think it's reprehensible for anyone to behave like this, but have seen repeated instances of it across J-land. I feel particularly like this, bearing in mind your physical condition.
You have my support, and hope you resume writing in a private journal as soon as possible. Do not allow this person from hell to spoil something you have done for so long. Also, remember that it was you that brought many a person into J-land. You're one of the community's pillars.

Sunday notes

Another brilliantly sunny day, with temperatures on the right side of moderate: 15C. Fifty miles to the south, in the Isle of Skye, the mercury has apparently topped 20C, but I'm quite happy with what we got.

A cargoship, the Isle of Man registered Kielder, came in around midnight last night. She looks as if she's carrying a cargo of coal. As Sunday is a day of rest, she lies idle on the Newton side of pier no 3. Tomorrow, we're likely to see a procession of lorries going and forth to take the coal to the various coalyards.

Down in Folkestone, Kent, dozens of homes have been damaged by yesterday's earthquake. Through today, people have been assessing the damage, and some properties are not safe to enter. Whether the appearance of a 6 inch crack in a chalk cliff in Hampshire is related to the quake, which happened 150 miles away, is not certain. Police evacuated the beach below the cliff as a precaution.

Earthquakes are rare, but certainly not unheard of in the UK. The British Isles sit in the middle of a so-called tectonic plate, which make up the earth's crust. There are a multitude of cracks, along which rockformations move. Each movement results in a quake. Because the islands are not straddling two adjacent plates, a situation found in (e.g.) California, massive, devastating earthquakes do not occur here.


Earthquake!

Just wanted to relay my earthquake experiences, dating back to 1992. Said quake measured 5.2 on the Richter scale, and caused damage comparable to what was seen in Kent today. I was 60 miles away from the epicentre, on the European continent.

It was a moonlit night, and I awoke at 3 in the morning. There was not a sound. Not even the sound of traffic on the motorway, a mile and a half away. The moon shone into my window, and I half expected the cat to jump in through. It didn't. The whole scene felt wrong, somehow. Very wrong.

I dropped off, only to be awoken by the frightening sensation of my bed heaving back and forth in situ, and beams in the house creaking ferociously. This lasted for about half a minute. The electricity went off, but my wind-up clock showed the time: 3.22 am. Fortunately, my radio was battery-powered, and when I switched it on, mention was made of an apparent earthquake that had shaken areas in a 75 miles radius. Later that day, reports came in of collapsed chimneys and tiles off roofs. It was lucky that it happened in the middle of the night; the falling masonry could have caused injury. 

Saturday, 28 April 2007

J-land news

Dawn [princesssaurora] has had the results of her CT-scan. She put out an alert last night, but the entry was deleted by her. Dawn wants to tell her family, who read her journal "Carpe Diem" herself. She said I could relay the deleted entry, which I do below:

Epidermoid cyst/tumor

These cysts are more common than dermoid cysts. They are usually benign, but they will slowly recur if not removed completely. Unlike the dermoid variety, they occur more frequently in the brain than in the spine.

Epidermoid cysts are most common in middle-aged adults. The most common sites in the brain for these cysts are the cerebellopontine angle (see figure 3) and the pituitary area.

The treatment of choice is surgical removal. "  

However, mine is in the base of the skull to the right at reaching up toward the right ear, but not near it yet.  It is NOT in the gray matter at all, it is between the dura (the protective lining around the brain) and the skull.  Called the 'intracranial epidermoid cyst/tumor'

I will be going to an ENT about treatment/removal since it is not infiltrating brain matter.  They most commonly handle these.  Next week, I start that process.

This is the BEST possible brain tumor to have.  They are slow moving, benign and since it is not in the gray matter that is great.

However, it does not address ANY of the symptoms I was having.  The wonderful radiologist, who spoke to me personally, and another physician have told me the same thing - see an MS specialist.  And, that is something I will also be addressing soon.  Believe me, that is wayyyy better than having the tumor/cyst causing it!

I am going to delete this tomorrow am.  The kids are going to be told that I have a growth on my skull bone that an ENT has to check and maybe remove.  That is all for now.  Don't want them to worry too much! 

Thank you... obviously your prayers have worked.  Believe me, I read everything there was to read on the possiblilities.... and this was the BEST possible outcome!  I CAN and WILL handle this fine.  :-D

Saturday evening

Brilliantly sunny day, temperatures of 15C, just right. Another session with the high-pressure waterhose cleaned up part of mrs B's backyard. Before I could use that, I had to rehome about 20 or 30 earthworms (or parts thereof) which had taken up residence under some tarpaulins. Also went out to visit one of mrs B's relatives in hospital, who had taken ill last night. No luck on the lottery - who has devised that inexecrable piece of TV called "The People's Quiz"? I just cannot stand it.

Clarification

Just to clarify that I use the Swindon seismogram, because that was the nearest seismic monitoring station to Dover - which is still 150 miles away to the east. The quake centered 12 miles south of Dover, or about 8 miles east of the town of New Romney. I have not heard anything from France, but that's more than 20 miles away. Reports of damage appear to be limited to something like a 15 mile radius.

Was pleased to hear of Sam (GaBoatMan)'s encounter with Jeannette [Travels, private journal] (jlocorriere05) in Savannah, GA. It is always nice to meet someone in person that you in a way communicate with through J-land. I have met one person in the flesh that I previously encountered on AOL.

Saturday notes

Afternoon all from a brilliantly sunny Stornoway, with hardly a cloud in the sky. It's actually quite warm, and when I went to the shop a minute ago, I did not need a coat. First time this year.

Southeast England was shaken by a magnitude 4.3 earthquake at 8.18 am this morning. People ran out into the streets, masonry fell and a few homes were declared uninhabitable. It is one of the strongest quakes in the area for many years. Apparently, earthquakes in 1580 and the 14th century even claimed lives. The epicentre was located 7 miles south of Dover, in the Dover Straits. The quake was described as a "minor adjustments of rocks in the earth's surface". Full details on the British Geological Survey website.

Below are shown the seismograms for Plockton (about 650 miles from Dover) and Swindon (150 miles from Dover). The difference is striking. Both graphs courtesy BGS.



Swindon

Inside the Chapel

How did I get the pictures "inside St Moluag's Chapel" if the place was locked? Simple. Put the camera against the window, do not use flash and hey presto!
Below image is digitally enhanced - the original is the one with just a rectangular slit of light.


Friday, 27 April 2007

Ness pictures

Have included pictures of my short walk in Ness, North Lewis, with this post. Found 14 Iolaire graves in Ness cemetery, which was located on a hillside and littered with stones. And snails. Walked parallel to the coastline north to the next village, Eoropie, and visited a very old chapel there. That is, walked round the outside. The doors were locked. St Moluag was a follower of St Columba, who is reputed to have brought Christianity to Western Scotland.

Friday notes

Beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky. Am heading north this afternoon to Ness, to visit the last of the cemeteries in the island for my Iolaire project. If I have time, I'll go along the coast to Eoropie, a mile or so away, but there is barely 90 minutes between buses.

Congratulations to Krissy for winning Journals Tournament IV, well done!

I'm not a message board frequenter, but I happened across this moanie one last night, about gas prices in the US. $4 a gallon, oh shock horror. So I wrote a cheeky post, saying that where I am, gas prices are $9 a gallon. Which is true - £1 / litre = $2 / litre = $9 / gallon. A gallon, you see, is 4½ litres.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Call round at Morgan's

Morgan [sneezy7125] has had a dreadful couple of days, with one fellow student dying and several others seriously injured in a roadtraffic accident. If you're a reader (she has a private journal) please call round. If you're not, leave me a note and I'll relay.

Call for support

Was asked to relay a request for support for a 3-year old boy, Malachi, who is featured on Treesrgreen78's blog Garden of Friendship. Read more there.

Creatures

The body of the spider in the previous entry measured about 8 mm, not 8 cm as portrayed on the screen (winks). Now, perhaps you like this better. This moth measures about 8 mm in reality.


Who's afraid of this?

Thursday notes

Nice sunny morning in the islands, no fog but a brisk wind. It did get rather cold overnight, 2C is nippy. Our three guests from last night have left; the third is staying for another two nights. Business is picking up now that the season has started.

Have you recently had your bloodpressure checked? In a recent survey, it was found that more than a quarter of people were not aware that high bloodpressure puts you at increased risk of a stroke. Every 5 minutes, someone has a stroke in the UK. Forty percent of those could have been prevented, if high bloodpressure had been treated. One third of stroke victims will die within 10 days. One third will make a full recovery within a month. The final third will survive, but with significant after effects, requiring rehabilitation. Many are aware that high bloodpressure puts you at risk of a heart attack.

The problem is that high bloodpressure does not cause symptoms, and the medications used to treat hypertension come with significant side-effects. However, the advice is simple. Have your BP checked, and take any medications as prescribed. Don't fall victim to the silent killer.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Journals outage

Joe the Journalseditor informs us that there will be a brief outage on AOL Journals tonight around midnight EDT, which is 5 am BST. However, bloggers in the States (for whom times vary between 9pm PDT to 12midnight EDT) may be affected by brief outages or slowness.
I put my hope in brief.

What's your maths like?

There was this article on the BBC website which caught my eye. About the staggering difference of standards when comparing British to Chinese school pupils. By the way,if you think you can manage the second question (I can't), you're free to enter it on the webpage, linked from BBC on-line.

Have to say that I found the trigonometry question ridiculously easy, for university standards. I was taught maths until I left school, and was into differentials and the like. Three-dimensional maths was for the real boffins, and I wasn't one of them.




Call for support

This call for support is different from the usual. Jeannette [jeanno43] asked me to relay this, which I am more than pleased to do.
Please Will You Sponsor?

Bourbon Dolphin inquiry

An inquiry into the recent sinking of the anchor-handling vessel Bourbon Dolphin off Shetland commenced today in Alesund, Norway. The first mate gave evidence today. He is the sole survivor who was on the bridge at the time of the capsizing, in which 8 crew members died, including a father and son.

According to the survivor, Geir Syversen, there appeared to be communication difficulties with another anchor-handling ship, the Highland Valour. More details here.

My picture of the other vessel involved, the Highland Valour, has drawn a lot of attention, 134 hits in the shipspotting website.

Sidebar

I have rearranged my sidebar this afternoon. From top to bottom, but not in order of relevance:

- local info
- hurricanes
- J-land
- solidarity

Hope you like it.

Below is a breakdown per country of the last 100 visitors to this blog, courtesy Sitemeter. The two visitors from the Faeroes (between Iceland and Scotland) probably arrived here because I mentioned a fire on board a Faroese fishing vessel off Chile on Sunday.

Journals and entries

Joe the Journalseditor mentioned the number of posts he made on his journal Magic Smoke, and how you can find out how many entries you've made yourself. Quite simple: enter into your browser journals.aol.com/screenname, where you obviously replace screenname with your own screenie - or anyone's screenie. It should return the names of your journals, the date you started them and the number of entries.

I started this journal on 8 October 2004, but if you look back to the first entry, you'll find it's actually 17 November 2004. My Northern Trip started on 11 August 2004, when I travelled north to Scotland. The diary-entries for the period between August and November are contained in a separate blog, Northern Trip - The Start.

The Northern Trip blog started life as an on-line diary. It wasn't until I got involved with J-land in April 2006 that it started to expand. The number of entries was more or less the same as the number of days - but that parallel has disappeared. This entry will make it number 2,599; if you add the preceding blog to it, it will mount up to 2,702.

The diary entries now take a back-seat, and I am even thinking of placing them in a separate blog. I have already copied diary entries up to May 2006 into three Blogger blogs, called Lewis Lines 2004, 2005 and 2006. I find Blogger less than userfriendly - I am not terribly good at HTML, and do not understand the way their blogs are laid out.

Other blogs I keep are the Tropical Cyclones journal which has 445 entries , since I started it on 17 July 2006. The TC blog is linked to this one, in that I relay warnings if land is threatened by a hurricane / typhoon / cyclone (all the same thing).

Don't forget my Recipe Book, which has 10 entries since 28 April 2006.
Apart from these, I have extracted entries on two events into separate journals:

Royal National Mod, which was held in Stornoway in October 2005, and
St Martin's Storma violent storm, which battered this town on 11 November 2005. I gave it that name, because it happened on the nameday of St Martin.


Recommended reading

As I mentioned a day or two ago, Petar [pvodogaz] will be leaving AOL in the next few days. He is closing down his Syrophenikon journal, before restarting blogging on LiveJournal in June. I recommend his latest entry, for the simple reason that it contains a fairly detached review of his reasons for change. I think whenever a change needs making, a we all make up a balance sheet of good and bad of what we leave behind.

Also, please go round and say good-bye.

PLEASE NOTE: The entry and the journal will be deleted after Saturday morning, 28 April.

Lifting fog

This sequence of pictures shows dense fog in Stornoway this morning - disappearing within half an hour. The captain of the ship that was blasting his horn through proceedings must have felt some relief when it lifted to a height of some 50 metres. At the moment, it is raining steadily. As of tomorrow, the weather should improve.


8.10

8.16

8.26

8.32

8.37

Flagging up for support

Barb [evanmyangel88] is currently going through chemotherapy treatment, and her latest entry is a detailed rundown of proceedings at her hospital. Doesn't sound like fun to me. Pop along, will ya, and offer some moral support.

Call for support

Cathy [onestrangecat] is having her tonsils out tomorrow (Wednesday 25th), so make a quick dash to her journal to buck her up a bit. She's not looking forward to it.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

CarnivAOL

The next edition of CarnivAOL is due. Please send full URL's of any of your own entries to Barbara (bhbner2him (at) aol (dot) com) before Sunday 29 April '07. The latest compilation of vanities will be published in Barbara's blog "Life and Faith in Caneyhead".

Change in weather

Suddenly the clouds broke, and the afternoon continued in blazing sunshine. The wind dropped away. Did a bit of cleaning with a high-pressure hose, but the dirt that that displaces finds its way into all sorts of corners.

The BBC journalist Alan Johnson (pic + link in sidebar) is apparently in good health, according to the Palestinian authorities. Demonstrations and protests are continuing, with the BBC website registering its 50,000th signature in protest at his continuing kidnap.

Iraq continues to dominate the news headlines for all the wrong reasons. I was surprised to see a member of the British armed forces, on return from a turn of duty, saying that all British troops should withdraw from Iraq now, as no aim to no mission is being achieved. Pretty strong language, that.

They walk among us

I was at the checkout of a Kmart.  The clerk rang up $46.64 charge. I gave her a fifty dollar bill. She gave me back $46.64. I  gave it back to her and told her that she had made a mistake in MY favor and gave her the money back. She became indignant and informed me she was educated and knew what she was doing and returned the money again. I gave her the money back again... same senario!  I departed the store with the $46.64.   

I walked into a Mickey D 's with a buy-one-get- one-free coupon For a sandwich. I handed it to the girl and she looked over at a little Chalkboard that said "buy one-get one free." "They're already buy-one- get-one-free" , she said, "so I guess they're both free" She handed me my free sandwiches and I walked out the door.    

One day I was walking down the beach with some friends when one Of them shouted, "Look at that dead bird!" Someone looked up at the Sky and said, "Where?"    

While looking at a house, my brother asked the real estate agent which direction was north because, he explained, he didn't want the sun waking him up every morning. She asked, "Does the sun rise in the north?" When my brother explained that the sun rises in the east, and has for sometime, she shook her head and said, "Oh I don't keep up with that stuff."

I used to work in technical support for a 24/7 call center. One day I got a call from an individual who asked what hours the call center was open. I told him, "The number you dialed is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week." He responded, "Is that Eastern or Pacific time?" Wanting to end the call quickly, I said, "Uh, Pacific."

My sister has a lifesaving tool in her car designed to cut through a Seat belt if she gets trapped. She keeps it in the trunk.

My friends and I were on a beer run and noticed that the cases were discounted 10%. Since it was a big party, we bought 2 cases. The cashier multiplied 2 times 10% and gave us a 20% discount.

I couldn't find my luggage at the airport baggage area, so I went to the lost luggage office and told the woman there that my bags never showed up. She smiled and told me not to worry because she was a Trained professional and I was in good hands. "Now," she asked me, has your plane arrived yet?"

While working at a pizza parlor I observed a man ordering a small pizza to go. He appeared to be alone and the cook asked him if he would like it cut into 4 pieces or 6. He thought about it for some time before responding. "Just cut it into 4 pieces; I don't think I'm hungry enough to eat 6 pieces."

Tuesday notes

Still a breezy day, and there are raindrops on the window BUT the sun is coming out. At last. You can only have so much of drab, grey, wet weather.

Over in Russia, Boris Yeltsin has died. He was the one that held a speech, standing on top of a tank outside the Russian Duma, the Parliament. He was also the one that had said building shelled. Yeltsin is credited with killing off communism in Russia, terminating the Soviet Union. He succeeded Michael Gorbatchov, who laid the groundwork for it. Yeltsin was aged 76 and died of heartfailure.

The hurricane season is in a quiet spell, prior to the commencement of the northern hemisphere season on 15 May in the Eastern Pacific. Looking at the satellite picture, things are coming nicely to the boil there. The North Atlantic still has plenty of fronts about, which preclude the formation of hurricanes. Season here will commence on 1 June.

Close of day

I still have 25 alerts sitting in my Inbox, but it's 12.20 am, and am feeling a wee bit melancholic following the last entry. I'm closing proceedings for tonight, hope in vain that the weather tomorrow will be better (no, it won't, it'll be crap AGAIN) and wish y'all g'night.

J-land news

I had a message from Petar [pvodogaz] today, saying he is leaving AOL on 1 June. He is in the process of stripping down his Syrophenikon journal (linked to above), and has deleted the other journals he had on AOL. A new journal, outside AOL, will take over on June 1st.

Please call round - before the journal is deleted at the end of next month, read the latest entry and leave a word of support. I had some great help from Petar over the Tropical Cyclone season in Australia. At New Year, I had this strange experience of bringing in the year 2007 - at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, listening to a Sydney radiostation on-line with Petar at the other end of an IM.

I'll keep in touch - hope many of you out there will too.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Get a life

Lori posted this link, which I particularly could benefit from LOL

Ships' photos

I have been selecting about 50 pictures for upload to the website shipspotting.com.

If you have any good pictures of ships, you can register free of charge. The site is actively moderated. It helps if you can get the IMO-number for the vessel in question. The IMO number is a unique registration number, allocated to virtually all ships. There are exceptions. It is also appreciated if you can include a link to further information abut the vessel you are picturing. I intend to feature a handful of boats in future entries, to highlight the story behind them.

Monday notes

The flow of sewage into the Firth of Forth has been stopped, now that a replacement for the faulty pump at the sewage works near Edinburgh has been installed. Questions are still being asked about the handling of this emergency, and advice about water safety in the Firth remains in force.

On a related point, celebrity Sheryl Crow (whoever she may be) has urged us to cut back on the use of loopaper. She reckons that one square per restroom visit should suffice. Really? Oh bum.

It's a wet and windy day (again) in the islands, and I don't see much improvement in the offing. The Coastguard were kept busy early yesterday. At 2 am on Sunday, the helicopter had to fly across to Achiltibuie, north of Ullapool, to rescue a camper who had fallen over a cliff. Two emergency calls from ships, relayed through a satellite, proved to be false alarms. However, a walker in the Cuillins hills in Skye had to be rescued at 10 am.

The Police in Stornoway were also busy this weekend, with the usual procession of blackguards out on the prowl. A car was vandalised in the town centre, and attempts to steal another vehicle in a carpark on the edge of town proved fruitless. A collision on the road to the airport left two people in hospital.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Sewage in the Firth of Forth

Due to the complete failure of a pump at a sewage-treatment works near Edinburgh, sewage is being discharged into the Firth of Forth. Since the emergency commenced, on Friday, 100,000,000 litres of partially treated effluent has been discharged into the sea. The solids have been removed, but the bacterial load of the water is still high.

Warnings have been issued to people in the area not to touch the seawater, not to eat shellfish (which filter seawater to obtain nutrients) and basically stay away. The works' operators, Thames Water, say a pump should be up and running later tonight. Questions have been asked about the length of time it has taken to get repairs completed, and about the technical state of the installation. Not discharging the effluent into the sea would have meant that it would have backed up into the streets of Edinburgh.

Visitors to local beaches have been fiercely critical of the situation, and the way information has been disseminated - or not, as the case may be. Read more here.

Fire on fishingboat

I was alerted to a fire on board a fishing boat off the Chilean coast last night, as I was trawling a ship photos site. The boat, the Hercules, sailed from Panama on March 24th, and was located more than 300 miles offshore from the Chilean city of Ancud when a raging fire took hold and destroyed the ship.


Image courtesy portal.fo [Faeroese webportal]

I copy from the shipspotting website:
At 4 o'clock (british time) this morning fire broke out on giant trawler HERCULES imo 8907060.

4 ships took part in the rescue of the crew.
The ship is somewhere in the Pacific, probaly near Chile.
Hercules is under Faroese flag. Two week ago they started fishing for horse macerel.

She was built in 1991 and measures 5000 DWT.

One hour ago the owners Thor Fisheries explained in a press release that 1 member of the crew is dead and 10 are missing.
The crew was 116 men of different nationality Norwegian, Asian, Faroese and other.
The fire has spreed and the owners are facing "a total loss" of the ship.
The survivors are onboard sistership Poseidon.

Further updates from the BBC. I have supplied the above info to the BBC, as they did not have that as of 1pm today.

Sunday notes

Another dreich day, with wind, rain and low clouds. The tops of the Arnish hills, which are only 60 metres / 200 ft high , were shrouded in mist. Now the rain has come in, and it's even worse. Oh well, at least it's not freezing cold. Noticed the bright sunny day down in London, perfect for the Marathon - although they did say it was a tad warm for the athletes. Hope all who participate manage to finish.

France is going to the polls today to elect a new president. The country has been in the doldrums since the introduction of the Euro as currency in 2002, and has suffered a degree of civil unrest in deprived areas of cities like Paris. The presidency of Chirac, which is coming to a close, has been referred to as a period of stagnation. We shall see what the new incumbent will bring. If an outright winner does not emerge from today's poll, a run-off between the two leading candidates on May 6th will produce the next president to the 5th Republic.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Call for support - II

Dawn [princesssaurora] has had the results back from her MRI-scan, and it doesn't make for good reading, I'm afraid. However, the full picture is not yet clear, and another test is required.

She put out an alert, but deleted the entry to prevent her children from reading it. Please call round to give moral support. Waiting for a test and afterwards for the results to that test is the hardest part of it all.

Quiet Saturday in J-land

It's very quiet in J-land today - so far, I have only had alerts for 22 new entries since midnight last night. Well, real life will be taking precedence over life on-line, and all will be revealed in the days to come, I'm sure.

Call for support


Helen [madcobug] pointed me to a journal by Sam [akasamdodsworth] who recently lost his father after a struggle with ill health. Please call round.

Colonel Templer

The Colonel Templer is a boat which is currently in port here in Stornoway, and I've decided to do a bit of research on her. She is an old lady, built in 1966, and I found an image of her, docked at Hull in 1991, having hit on hard times.

A major conversion in 1992 made her more presentable than above, and she is currently marked A229 and is deployed by the Ministry of Defense for underwater research. A complement of 6 officers, 8 crew helps to keep the boat going to the benefit of 12 scientists. A comprehensive breakdown of all her features can be found here. The Colonel Templer is available for chartering, under certain conditions.

Cringeworthyness: 10/10

Bonny Prince Charlie

It is reported that David Niven's rendition of Bonny Prince Charlie in a 1948 movie has been rated as the most cringeworthy portrayal of a Highlander in movie history. Niven, who is English, put BPC about as a suave character, forever immaculately dressed, irrespective of whether he had been crawling through the heather or been jumping on and off boats.


I have little respect for BPC, who made one error of judgment after another. The tide of history was already turning against a resumption of the Scottish throne. England and Scotland had been unified under one crown in 1707, a Jacobite uprising in 1715 had failed and Bonny Prince Charlie's attempt to "raise the clans" in 1745 ended in catastrophe at Culloden. Many clans disregarded his call to arms, being well aware how the balance of power was shifting. Even though he managed to reach Derby, 200 miles north of London, Charlie was no strategist and allowed his supply chain to be cut off.

After the defeat at Culloden, a harsh crackdown was initiated against the people of the Highlands and Islands, suppressing their culture and heritage. A price was put on Bonny Prince Charlie's head, and he flitted from island to island, even making an appearance here in Lewis. He turned up at Arnish Cottage - which was destroyed in 1975 to make room for the Fabrication Yard. Were you to rebuild it at the exact location where it used to stand, you'd find it floating in the air, some 70 feet above the ground. Charlie was told by the burghers of Stornoway that they would not betray him, but neither could they permit him to stay.

He disappeared again, finally to flee Scotland dressed as a woman - Flora MacDonald lent him her clothes.


The post-1745 repression continues to echo to this day. Only in the last decade or two has the Gaelic language and culture started to make a come-back. The clans, as were, died at Culloden, and in fact, good riddance. They had crashed from supremacy in the 15th century, as Lords of the Isles, to petty squabblers.

The popular perception of Scotland as the land of the clans does not ring true in everyday life. A place like Lewis is overrun with surnames starting with "Mac" [Gaelic for 'son of'], but surnames are a Napoleonic invention. People would adopt the name of their landlord. Clans still exist, but in my opinion only in a genealogical sense.

Bonny Prince Charlie was portrayed in a cringeworthy fashion, but his place in history warrants nothing better.

Saturday notes

Quiet day here, weather dreich. That means wet, windy and miserable. It's not really cold, 11C is quite acceptable for April in these parts.

The family of the gunman who committed the VT atrocity have apologised for their son's actions, saying that they could not recognise him from those actions. They are victims too in a way. It just plain hurts to read another story related to that tragedy.

Forgot to mention a few days ago that a plan has been mooted to improve transport links in the southeast of Lewis. The district of South Lochs is 12 miles south of here by sea, but by road it is up to 30 miles. An engineering study is being commissioned to build a causeway / bridge across Loch Erisort from the village of Laxay along the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road to the townships of Kershader or Tabost in South Lochs. I know South Lochs very well indeed, having spent 3 months there in 2004/5.

The purple lines are my interpretation of the press reports, where I think the bridges may go. There are two possible locations.




Call for support

Kim [demandnlilchit] has had confirmation that her breast cancer has spread. Please read her entry for full details, and leave a message of moral support. She has told Sugar that she would prefer if we remove the badge with her name from our sidebars - which I have done and would ask anyone else to follow this request.

Addition: Kim very much needs our support, but doesn't want to be reminded of her illness each and every day. Hence the request re. the badges. Thanks.

Friday, 20 April 2007

Friday evening

Watching TV - for the sake of it. Watching the news is like reverse Prozac. Makes you depressed. It's never been any different. Le Pen for president in France? Hmpf. Bearing in mind the disillusionment across the Channel, it's not unheard of.

The story of the ghost yacht off the Queensland coast reminded me of the three men lost off the Flannan Isles lighthouse in December 1900. When that light was found unilluminated by passing ships, the authorities went to the islands, 35 miles west of Lewis, to find the lighthouse unattended. The light was ready to be lit, a meal was on the stove and three places had been set at the table. But sight nor sound of the keepers.

Have been busy annotating my pictures on Flickr, of which I still need to do about 1,250 - the pics of June and July 2006.

Heard the one about the farmboy who was asked to feed the animals before breakfast? He went out and kicked the cow in the shed, the pig in the sty and the chicken in the yard. He returned inside for his breakfast and was presented with a bowl of dry cereals. His mother explained.
"You kicked the cow, so no milk. You kicked the pig, so no bacon. You kicked the chicken, so no eggs." At that moment, his dad came in and kicked the cat. The boy turned a radiant smile to his mum and said "Do you tell him, or will I?"

Message

Jeanie [kirkbyj05] is having computer problems, but has let us know through Sybil [sybilsybil45] that she is still thinking of us in J-land.

Friday notes

Cloudy day with occasional pale glimpses of the sun, and a very meagre 7C / 45F. The wind doesn't help. Two people just called at the door, looking for a room. One was to spare, so they were happy. A few days ago, another couple called round who were arguing over rates. The chap got very narky, probably the wind under his kilt (he was not Scottish, but was wearing one), and mrs B asked him if he wanted the room - well, in that case, no. It is rare to get such fusspots, although not unheard of. Most people are glad to get anything - you'd be surprised how busy Stornoway can get in April.

This is also the season when the Barra-to-Butt cyclists appear on our roads. These are the intrepid pushbike riders who cycle from Barra to the Butt of Lewis, a distance of about 130 miles. By the law of averages, the wind is in their backs, but in spring, northeasterly winds are quite common. Quite a few of them have a dream of a time whizzing up the level road the length of Uist, then cross over to Harris. Things get a wee bit hilly beyond Leverburgh, but the real blow comes 4 miles out of Tarbert - when the giants of the Clisham range loom up ahead.

The Clisham is our tallest mountain, 799 metres, or well over 2,600 feet. The road reaches 190 metres / 630 feet. The average incline is 1 in 10. Very steep on a bike. This image shows the hill from the top.

Apart from underestimating the distance (the Western Isles usually occupy that small box on the upper left hand corner of the map of the UK), the Clisham is the mountain from hell. On the other side, the road plunges down to sealevel through an area frequented by a flock of sheep. Try going downhill at 30 mph and more, and dodging sheep.

Call for support


Would like to ask people to call round at Gina's [motoxmom72], who is under a lot of strain at the moment. She suffered flooding in the house with the recent nor'easter, and her mom is having cardiac tests.

Close of day

No, I felt actually quite sick when the BBC News played a substantial section of the tape, recorded by Seung Cho before he went on his murderous, pre-planned rampage. They tried to justify it, saying it showed an insight into the contorted mind of that individual. The excuse sounded hollow. They knew they were morally wrong.

As you know, I am a strong supporter of the BBC, and have been for more than 20 years.  It is rare for me to criticise their journalistic stance, and in this matter they have been led by NBC. That corporation really should be slammed for releasing this into the open. I am totally unable to imagine what the families of the deceased must feel when seeing the ramblings of that sick mind, justifying the deaths of their loved ones.

BBC: rap across the wrist
NBC: boycot.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Alan Johnston

I have added the below image regarding BBC correspondent Alan Johnston to my sidebar, to show solidarity with his plight. Mr Johnston, correspondent in Gaza for 3 years, was abducted on March 12th, and has not been seen since. The Palestinian authorities have today declared that he is alive. If you want to join in the appeal, visit the BBC website.
Alan Johnston banner

Thursday evening

Still fairly sunny but quite cold. Went out for a bit of shopping around town this afternoon, for stuff like papers, sweeties, food and other items.

Notice an abundance of tribute sites for the VT tragedy, but think the official one is most appropriate. I do not understand why that video, sent to NBC by Seung Cho, was released for viewing on the Internet. It is particularly harrowing, knowing that he sent it off, having already killed two people and was on his way to killing another thirty. I sometimes wonder whether decency takes a backseat to sensationalism on some of the US networks. Cannot say I am able to watch many of them - Sky TV relays CNN and a couple of business-related channels like Bloomberg.

The incorrect attribution I referred to in an entry yesterday has been cleared up. The blog-aggregating site "breeds" had printed the name of one blogger, but linked it to me. The other person, the real Paula Neal Mooney, has been in touch (doesn't news fly in J-land and beyond) and I explained the situation. Matter closed.

Still on matters J-land, received a postcard from Linda [lsfp1960] from Phoenix, AZ. I think I prefer our 45F today over the 100F she has experienced out there.

Thursday notes

Nice start to the day, if cold - temperatures 7C and not likely to get much higher than that. Double figures are out of the question. Occasional sunny spells, the odd squall of wind. Still a fair few boats in after yesterday's crush for the quays. Hordafur II has left port, and is currently south of Point. The Border Heather, our tanker, has finally docked.

People are beginning to put their pleasure craft in the water. One was being taken out of one of the boathouses on Goat Island. Two days ago, one two-masted craft was set adrift by the wind, and lay beached on Goat Island as well. Pictures to come in the diary entry. No damage done. I had to smile when they appeared to anchor in the shallowest part of the basin, but later that day, they were in the normal anchorage.

The cruel practice of the seal cull is running into problems with ice off the Newfoundland coast, eastern Canada. Several boats are hemmed in by ice, and some crews have had to abandon ship. There is a controversial entitlement to cull 270,000 seals annually. A comparable 'tradition' lives about 250 miles north of here in the Faroe Islands, called the Grindadrap. Pilot whales are dragged ashore and slaughtered there and then.


Incorrect attribution

I was browsing through the blogs that link to my journal (a function on Technorati), and found that I was being referred to as Paula Neal Mooney on a dogbreeds blog. Eh? Well, you all know my name is Guido, and I'm male. But, leaving that to one side, it is nice to see your blog being plugged. As well as CeCe's!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Good news

I am always glad to be able to report a positive outcome on one of my Calls for Support.

Pennie (blondepennierae) had a bleed on the brain in December, apparently her second, and has been hospitalised since then. Yesterday, she came home. Read all about it in her latest journal entry

Busy boat day

It's fairly heaving with boats around Stornoway today.

This is the AIS screen at 4.56pm today. The Dirk Diederik, a Dutch fishing vessel did not come into port. Apart from the ferry back and forth to Ullapool, we have the tanker (Border Heather) at anchor a few miles to the south. The wind is a strong westerly, which makes manoeuvering difficult. The image below was taken on 2 March this year.
Border Heather

The second boat in is the Aqua Boy, a live-fish carrier. She is pictured below on an image I took on 17 November 2006, when she was on the Goat Island slipway.
Aqua Boy

Thirdly in is the Hordafur II, the successor of the boat which is always alongside pier no 2 in the town centre. She is a fish waste processing vessel.
Hordafur II

Fourth was a Norwegian fishing vessel, the Ganthi. She was very low down in her bows, but left port nonetheless.
Ganthi

Finally, the coastguard tug Anglian Prince is in.
Anglian Prince

Wednesday notes

Weather deteriorating rapidly through the day. At 5 am, it was fairly bright with some fluffy clouds about. By 8 am, the cloud had rolled in. Another 3 hours later the rain began and now the wind is picking up. Won't improve until later tomorrow.

Zimbabwe gained independence 27 years ago. As has been widely publicised, the country enjoyed some relative prosperity until recently. A crackdown on white farmers and dissidents has left the economy in ruins, with inflation now at 2,000% and unemployment at 80%. AIDS is rampant. President Robert Mugabe, aged 83, has now blamed the woes on greed by business. He is due to stand for re-election in 2008. His hatred of the former colonial power, Great Britain, is undiminished, and he has banned the BBC from his country.

More revelations have emerged about the student who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech on Monday before turning the gun on himself. A picture emerges of a depressed, lonely individual whose disturbed writings in themselves were a writing on the wall. This was picked up by tutors, but this extreme outcome was probably never anticipated.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

What to do to telemarketers

1. If they want to loan you money, tell them you just filed for bankruptcy and you could sure use some money.

2. If they start out with, "How are you today?" say, "I'm so glad you asked, because no one these days seems to care, and I have all these problems. My arthritis is acting up, my eyelashes are sore, my dog just died . . . "

3. If they say they're John Doe from XYZ Company, ask them to spell their name. Then ask them to spell the company name. Then ask them where it is located, how long it has been in business, how many people work there, how they got into this line of work if they are married, how many kids they have, etc. Continue asking them personal questions or questions about their company for as long as necessary.

4. (This works great if you are male) Telemarketer: "Hi, my name is Judy and I'm with XYZ Company. " You: Wait for a second and with a real husky voice ask, "What are you wearing?"

5. Cry out in surprise, "Judy? Is that you? Oh my God! Judy, how have you been?" Hopefully, this will give Judy a few brief moments of terror as she tries to figure out where she could know you from.

6. Say "No" over and over. Be sure to vary the sound of each one, and keep a rhythmic tempo, even as they are trying to speak. This is most fun if you can do it until they hang up.

7. If MCI calls trying to get you to sign up for the Family and Friends Plan, reply, in as sinister a voice as you can, "I don't have any friends, would you be my friend?"

8. If the company cleans rugs, respond: "Can you get out blood? Can you get out goat blood? How about human blood?"

9. After the Telemarketer gives his or her spiel, ask him or her to marry you. When they get all flustered, tell them that you can't just give your credit card number to a complete stranger.

10. If the Telemarketer is selling raffle tickets, tell him or her that you work for the same company, and that employees cannot participate.

11. Answer the phone. As soon as you realize it is a Telemarketer, set the receiver down, scream, "OH MY GOD!" and then hang up.

12. Tell the Telemarketer you are busy at the moment and ask if he/she will give you their home phone number so you can call him/her back. When the Telemarketer explains that telemarketers cannot give out their home numbers say, "I guess you don't want anyone bothering you at home, right?" The Telemarketer will agree and you say, "Me either!" and proceed to hang up.

13. Ask them to repeat everything they say, several times.

14. Tell them it is dinner time, but ask if they would please hold. Put them on your speaker phone while you continue to eat at your leisure. Smack your food loudly and continue with your dinner conversation. For added effect, clanging of cutlery and dishes is recommended.

15. Tell the Telemarketer you are on "home incarceration" and ask if they could bring you some beer.

16. Ask them to fax the information to you, and make up a number.

17. Tell the Telemarketer, "Okay, I'll listen to you. But I should probably tell you, I'm not wearing any clothes."

18. Insist that the caller is really your buddy Leon, playing a joke. "Come on, Leon, cut it out! Seriously, Leon, how's your momma?"

19. Tell them you are hard of hearing and that they need to speak up... louder... louder!

20. Tell them to talk very slowly, because you want to write every word down.

Windy day pictures

Just to clarify: I took all the pictures, related to the "Windy Day" theme outside, and in the full force of the hurricane. Windspeeds that day topped 65 mph at the time I was taking the pictures; out in the open sea, the wind went in excess of 90 mph - sustained speeds.

A hurricane in Scotland refers to the windspeed. The designation bears no relation to tropical hurricanes, to which I frequently refer in this blog. Just like the nor'easter that battered the eastern US in recent days, we get intense low pressure systems. Although the recent storm system in the US had a central pressure of 975 mbar, I have a lowest reading of 959 mbar on record. A depression with a central reading of 916 mbar occurred near Iceland some years ago. The difference with a tropical system is their size. A hurricane only measures a few hundred miles across. North Atlantic weathersystems extend for thousands of miles. The very deep depressions that give us high winds may influence the weather as far away as the Azores, which lie east of Portugal, at latitude 40 North. We are at 58 North. Sometimes, we get swipes from low pressure systems that are centered near Svalbard, at latitude 80 North.

Tolkien - new book published

The Tolkien Estate have released a new book, called "The Children of Hurin", compiled from original notes by J.R.R. Tolkien by his son Christopher. J.R.R. Tolkien, who died in 1973, is most famous for "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings". The latter work was put into three movies between 2000 and 2002.

An interview with Adam Tolkien, including excerpts with a 1968 interview with Tolkien and a shorter interview with Alan Lee, the illustrator, can be viewed on the BBC website.

I am a very long-standing reader of Tolkien's works, to which I was introduced at age 11 in primary school. The teacher read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to us in class. I always found the succeeding work, The Silmarillion, and about 11 other works singularly difficult to digest.

The above graphic comes from the Tolkien-website.


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Planned outage

copied from Stephanie's blog

Starting at midnight tonight EST (9pm PST) [5 am BST Wednesday] the site may be inaccessible for approximately two hours. The downtime will most likely be sporatic, but you will have some difficulty reaching pages for a while.


The downtime is necessary due to some work that the engineering folks will be doing to improve performance of the site.

Again - the site will probably be DOWN from 12 am until 2 am EST tonight (Wednesday morning, 5 to 7 am BST). Should you have problems accessing the site after 3 am or so (although you should be sleeping...) please let us know.

As always, thanks for your understanding. We know what a pain it is when we take the site down, but it is necessary to keep performance up.

Virginia Tech info



Those seeking immediate info on the Virginia Tech shootings, yesterday, should visit this link.
I have included the VT-logo in my sidebar, as a sign of solidarity with the victims and their families. It is also a rallying call to review gunlaws.
You can sign a guestbook.


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Monday Photoshoot - Windy Days

Want some windy days? Hold on to your sou'westers! These pictures were taken at the height of a hurricane on 11 November 2005.

Landraiders' Monument - Gress

The Gress monument relates to an unfortunate era in the island's history. In 1918, the Great War ended. One thousand islanders lay dead on the field of battle, another 200 had been killed at a stroke when the ship carrying them home sank just outside Stornoway harbour.

Lord Leverhulme had acquired the landmass of Lewis and Harris (which, incidentally is one, contiguous island) in 1918. He had great plans for industrialisation. A fishery station at Carloway, linked by railway to Stornoway. A whaling station at Bun Abhainn Eadar in Harris. A new port at An t-Obbe (now Leverburgh). Railways the length and breadth of the island. The plans basically never really came off the ground.

Many island men, half of whom had joined up for the War, wanted a piece of land. And when Gress Farm was occupied to get a piece of land, Leverhulme asked them to leave. Which they did not do. No action was taken against the landraiders.

I do not agree with the Gress monument, the way I do agree with the ones at Balallan and Aignish. It depicts Leverhulme (as the central pillar) standing in division between the crofters. That is too narrow a view. If action had been taken against the landraiders, AND if Leverhulme's money had not run out, the project might have been successful. As it was, Leverhulme sold Lewis in 1923. He offered the four parishes to its inhabitants at a peppercorn price. Only the burghers and crofters of Stornoway Parish, stretching from Tolsta to Arnish, took up the offer. It generated the first community buy-out in history, some 70 years before the first modern one, at Assynt, Sutherland. Uig, Barvas and Lochs were bought by private buyers.

The Canadian government advertised for workers to emigrate from Lewis, which they did en-masse in 1923. Four hundred young people left the island on ships like the Metagama, to start a new life in the New World. That sounds prosaical, but it was on the whole a disaster. No work on the land, no money. Some of them ended up in the automobile factories of Detroit. A far cry from the Hebrides.


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Landraiders' Monuments - Aignish

In 1888, pressure on land was heightened following the evacuation of Eishken. Although these people were not forced to emigrated, they were forced off their land, and into areas which were already congested. A mass trespass was organised at Aignish Farm, 7 miles east of Stornoway on the Point (Eye) Peninsular. Marines were drafted in, but although fists flew, no serious violence ensued. Several people were arrested and sentenced to prison terms of between 6 and 15 months. This monument stands on a knoll beside the cemetery, and only a few hundred yards from the ancient Eye Church. Eye is nothing to do with sight - it is the anglicised form of Aoidhe, the Gaelic name for the area.

Landraiders' Monuments - Balallan

I have now captured in pictures all three monuments to Landraiders in Lewis. These are erected in memory of 3 separate events in the last 120 years, related to the struggle for land in the island. I am going to devote separate entries to each.

In 1821, the area of Eishken, southeast Lewis, was forcibly emptied of its population. These people lived in 36 villages. The district was subsequently populated by sheep, and latterly deer for the shooting fraternity.

In 1887, a group of men, led by a Balallan schoolmaster, raided Eishken, killed some deer and had a great party. When the Sheriff arrived, he read them the riot act, upon which they left. Although the group was arrested, none were convicted of any offense. Under Scots law, the offense of trespass does not exist.

This monument stands about a mile west of Balallan (The Fair Village), in turn 17 miles southwest of Stornoway.

Call for readers

Just wanted to raise awareness of CeCe's journal Nowhere, USA. She complains of no readers and no comments. C'mon, J-land, we can do better than that!

Tuesday notes

Cold day in the islands, temperatures at 10 degrees with some showers. Did I see a snow-flurry just now? Went across to Goat Island a minute ago to have a look at a yacht that has appeared there on the shoreline. Had a word with one of mrs B's relatives, who has a boat in a boathouse and may be putting it in the water this week. Hope the weather relents sufficiently for him to use it.

The airport has reopened, after the airtraffic controller yesterday was struck down by a stomach bug. This closed the airport from mid-afternoon onwards yesterday. Local council expressed its disapproval. Sounds like we're bottom priority for getting airtraffic controllers.


AOL news

Our technical person, Stephanie [stephaniebambam] has announced that changes are in the offing. First, the way you pick pictures for your entries will be altered. In the near future you'll be able to include pics from Flickr as well as videos. In the next few weeks, this will go BETA, before it goes into mainstream. An announcement will be made when this will affect all journalers on AOL.

Secondly, Stephanie herself will be leaving her position (as is) with AOL within a few days. Any journal-related problems should then be relayed to the journalseditor.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Virginia shootings

I was very upset to learn of another shooting at a university campus, this time in Virginia. Latest reports tell us that 32 people died, including the gunman. There were two shootings, happening 2 hours apart. Although this is the worst such instance in US history, changes in gun control legislation seem highly unlikely. Particularly as I understand that one part of gunlaw, related to assault rifles, has been allowed to lapse. BBC News showed a filmclip tonight, featuring Charlton Heston declaring that they'll have to wrest his gun from his cold dead hand. He is, of course, a leading light in the National Rifle Association of America.

Now I do appreciate that it is enshrined in the US constitution for all Americans to keep and bear arms. But I wonder whether events like today's, which have been occurring at sad intervals over at least the last 40 years, are ever going to be matched with common sense. Guns appear to be for sale for all and sundry, even if they would appear to be wholly unsuitable for possessing a firearm.

US East Coast storms

A much publicised springstorm has battered the East Coast of the US, leaving 8 people dead. Tornadoes, flooding and high winds all contributed to extensive disruption. More details here.

Airport closed

As of 3.20pm this afternoon, Stornoway airport will be closed to all flights. This means that the 8 remaining flights, due in or out after that time, are all cancelled. The reason is airtraffic control regulations - in other words, lack of airtraffic controllers at the airport. This has been an on-going problem for several months. Although new personnel is said to be in training and the issue was promised to be resolved by April, this is about the worst disruption Stornoway Airport has seen due to this problem.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Intriguing

I have long been intrigued by Alaska's neighbour - the Russian province of Chukotka. It lies 45 miles west of Nome across the Bering Strait. Total population of the area facing Alaska is 5,200. The land surface area is 30,700 km2. The Russians have built an English language site, which is well worth a read.

I am also drawing attention to this area, because Karl Bushby is restarting his round the world hike there. And is once again running into Russian officialdom.


Tribute video

You may need to wait for up to an hour after I upload this video (which I did at around 11pm BST). It is a tribute in portraits of some of the victims of the Iolaire Disaster of 1919. It was the 3rd worst loss of life at sea in the 20th century, coming after Titanic and Norge. There is no sound, as I did not feel that music was appropriate. I've told the story several times, and would like to link to the last entry on the subject, which I made on New Year's Day, on the 88th anniversary.


Poetry

I'm not much into poetry, but I happened across Meg's [inquestoftruth]. Have a read!

Saturday 14/04/07

Our guests return home at 2.30 am. Breakfast for them at 9.30. At midday, Mrs B, her son and myself head off to Dalmore. It is a sunny but hazy morning in Stornoway, but ominous dark clouds loom over the West Side. Drizzle spits at Dalmore and Carloway. Sheep are a nuisance on the roads. Find 8 Iolaire graves, which adds nicely to yesterday’s harvest of 4 at Gress. Children are playing in the waves – bit too cold for my liking. We have sandwiches from Somerfields, before we return to town via Shawbost and Barvas. The sun shines on Back as we descend from the Barvas Moor, but a cloudy haze rests on the rest of the island. The afternoon stays quiet, and the sun returns – very hazily.

Friday 13/04/07

Brilliantly sunny morning. Following a hearty breakfast, our 4 guests pile into a taxi to go to the piping competition. The program on Isles FM, which was cancelled 2 days ago, will now be aired this afternoon. Temperatures 16C. Dandelions and daisies are out to greet the sun, and very large bumblebees are buzzing around, looking for a nesting site. The fence is being put up across the backyard, at last affording some privacy. Mrs B and myself head off on the bus to Gress at 2.50. I locate some more Iolaire graves, whilst Mrs B locates several graves of relatives and friends. Two neighbours from down the street give us a lift back. Catch up with our guests: one is from Inverness, the other from Harris and an older couple from Elgin. They are all quite musical, with a mouth organ and an electronic chanter in evidence. I bring out my Ceol nam Feis book, which contains many tunes as well. One of the 4 does not go out to attend the late evening ceilidh, and I entertain her until midnight.

Thursday 12/04/07

The chap from Northern Ireland had a nice time round Timsgarry yesterday. He left for home on the Tarbert to Uig (Skye) ferry. A second guest left on the 7.15 ferry. I rose rather later than that, but decided to make the most of the weather. After lunch, I took the 2.30 bus to Barvas. I alighted at Morven some 20 minutes later, but found myself floundering through bogs behind the gallery. Found 4 Iolaire graves at the cemetery. Decided not to run the gauntlet of a herd of suckling cows to the north of the graveyard, so made my way through the dunes to the south. Arrived at the cliffs on the coast at 4 pm. Had a cup of tea, which the strong winds blew out of the cup. The swell and surf were quite spectacular. A couple had driven up in their car. Walked down the coast into the strong wind – reported to be between force 5 and 8. Reached a stretch of sandy beach, before going inland at the firing range. Came to the end of Loch Street at 4.45. The waterlevel in the loch is very low at the moment. Found lambs along the way. Waited for the 5.25 bus at the junction, and chatted to a regular bus user until that time. Returned to town at 5.40. Tonight, 4 guests arrive on the ferry who will attend the PM Donald MacLeod Memorial competition in the Caberfeidh Hotel. Canvassing has started for the local and Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 3rd. In the evening, an anchor handling tug capsizes west of Shetland, leaving 5 crewmembers trapped in the upturned hull. A small Danish vessel is alongside at Arnish.

Wednesday 11/04/07

Overcast but dry, with some chinks in the clouds. Muirneag comes in at 8 am. Our guest is off to Uig on the first bus of the day – at midday. Mrs B’s eldest son turns up unexpectedly. Was going to relay Isles FM through the webcam, but the announced program item was cancelled. Went to the shop to get the food for tonight, a chicken curry. A plane is reported crashed near Oban, which appears to have happened on Monday. The wreckage was not located until yesterday. Those on board, an Essex councillor and his family, have all died. Fairly mild today, with temperatures of about 14C. Tomorrow’s maxima on the mainland will reach 18C. Supper: chicken balti.

Tuesday 10/04/07

A grey morning, with more scandal and counter-accusations regarding our MP and his romp. As the morning progresses, a Belfast man comes to stay, who is all into beaches. He is off to Gearrannan and may visit Dalmore. The drizzle is never far away. A boat goes up the slipway, and is followed by another vessel. Weather deteriorates and it’s very wet when I go out for a hairtrim at 2.30pm. Temperatures about 11C form one of the redeeming features of the weather today. Have to walk round every papershop in town to find a Press and Journal. Supper: spag bol.

Monday 09/04/07

A very quiet day, as it’s a Bank Holiday. Ferry is running and the shops are open. The scandal surrounding our MP continues to rumble. The leader of his party, the SNP, is due in the islands today. Went into town for the papers, and to view the yacht “Challenger” which I found at Crossbost on Thursday. No boats at Lazy Corner, plenty of gulls though. Posters for the elections adorn every available lamppost in the town. The weather today is not too bad, some pale sunshine and some wind. Temperatures 12C. A fish salad is our supper, and we finish off the Cava with orange juice during the evening.

Sunday 08/04/07

The wind picked up overnight, and it is overcast by morning. Drizzle starts after midday, and it’s decidedly unpleasant. News surfaces about the MP for the Western Isles, Angus MacNeil, who has admitted to having a “three-in-a-bed” session with two teenage girls. The young ladies, both from Lewis, were chatted up and plied with booze by MacNeil in Lerwick in 2005, and things got steamy but apparently not sexual. Angus MacNeil has initiated the cash-for-honours inquiry, that has been lapping at the heels of Prime Minister Tony Blair. The girls were daughters of prominent members of society in Lewis. Easter supper is roast lamb with vegetables.

Saturday 07/04/07

Our latest guest, a tutor for musical instruments, came in at 1.20 am. He went out again at 9.30 to teach a few more students. It’s a very sunny day, but the wind is on the increase. Temperatures reach a very acceptable 12C. No cyclones, although the remnant of Jaya may revert back to form. This system is slowly moving down the Mozambique Channel between Mozambique and Madagascar. . Nip down to the shop, where I find paper prices (for Saturday editions) have gone up. A teenage boy has hanged himself in North Uist, which has left the community stunned. At 15, he appeared to have a great career ahead of him as a sportsman. Lyrics, copied onto his website, gave a hint of the underlying reasons for his suicide.

Sunday notes

Pretty dreadful weather, with intermittent rain and a stiff breeze. Although temperatures in London are set to top 26C / 79F today, out here in the sticks it's 12C / 54F with little prospect for improvement. I can reveal that later on in the week, temperatures will take a tumble, with northwesterly winds bringing in cold air from the north.

The weatherstation at Eoropie, 25 miles from here, has broken down. This is apparently the 4th unit that the operators have gone through in 5 years. It seems that the salt, carried from the sea less than a mile away, is the problem for the machinery.

A remembrance ceremony was held in Shetland this morning for the victims of the Bourbon Dolphin tragedy on Thursday. Relatives of the victims will be flown over the site of the incident later today. It took only 5 minutes for the boat to capsize. Read more here.

Saturday, 14 April 2007

Bloglinks

It's funny where your blogposts can end up. At the time of the crisis between Iran and the UK over the captured sailors, I wrote about it. Only for the post to end up on the  blog-aggregating site www.doxdo.com from Iran. Obviously because one of the tags on the post was "iran".

Cyclone George ravaged the area near Port Hedland, Western Australia last month, which is something I reported on as well. It promptly ended up on a blog from someone in Yorkshire.

Having your blog on Technorati can lead you to some interesting corners of the blogosphere.

FDA recalls olives

Carlene [tendernoggle] has news of a recall of olives, which were found to be contaminated by botulinum bacteria - which can cause fatal illness. Read more here

Visit to Dalmore

My trawl of the island's cemeteries continues, with a visit to Dalmore this lunchtime. On leaving Stornoway, it was very hazy but sunny and feeling warm - out of the wind. The mercury had risen to 14C / 57F by midday. As we drove down the A858 towards Carloway, grey clouds reared up out of the Atlantic, and by the time we reached Dalmore, about 3 miles east of Carloway, spits and spots of drizzle fell.

Dalmore is famous for its beach. It is UNSAFE to swim there, but three people were going down the beach for surfing. There was a good swell going. I also noticed some children in the water - skinny dipping, although that was difficult to ascertain from a distance.

In the cemetery, I managed to locate 8 graves of Iolaire victims. This leaves me with the Ness cemetery, which I'll probably visit in the course of next week, depending on weather and transport.