Sunday, 30 September 2007

Journals

Been updating my journals list on Technorati and find that I'm monitoring about 145 journals. Just one or two, eh?

Hurricane update - 30 September

Typhoon Lekima will strike north Vietnam on Wednesday, with winds of 85 mph and heavy rains. I have found a website for the Vietnamese weather service, but I don't speak Vietnamese. Nonetheless, if anybody does, here is the link. Vietnamese weatherservice
The storm will make landfall on the coast near position 18 North 106 East,  early on 4 October (that's Wednesday evening GMT).

Please relay.

Disclaimer

Previous entry did NOT relate to me, I've barely shown my face out of doors today, the last time I sat in a car was 7 days ago, and I don't drive.

Bad day?

I rear-ended a car this morning.  I tell you, I knew right then and there that it was going to be a REALLY bad day! The driver got out of the other car, and wouldn't you know it! He was a DWARF!! He looked up at me and said "I am NOT Happy!" So I said, "OK, then, which one ARE you?" The day just deteriorated after that.

Quiet morning

This morning started windless. Not long after I took the above series of 4 pictures, a gentle breeze picked up, creating ripples and dispersing the mirror-like aspect of the water. Enlarge the pictures to view to full effect.

Women Drivers League

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She's wearing her helmet the wrong way round

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Sunday notes

Sunny morning, which started windless but a breeze has now picked up. The basin, across the road, was like a perfect mirror. Not any more. Temperatures have risen to 13C from an overnight low of 2C.

Not much to report on the hurricane front, with only a typhoon threatening Hainan Island and Vietnam. Two earthquakes occurred in the Pacific, one near Guam and the other off New Zealand. Neither resulted in damage or casualties.

A UN envoy has spoken to the Burmese opposition figure Aung San Suu Kyi, much to my surprise. Same envoy also spoke to the country's military leaders.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Photography

Since I resumed my photography hobby in April 2005, I have taken 15 spools of old-fashioned film (totalling 400 pics or so) and 9,600 digital pictures. The counter on my digital camera suggests I have depressed the shutter 10,555 times since February 22nd, 2006.

I am clicking away quite merrily with the digital camera, because it doesn't cost me a thing to take pictures. The only cost appears when I transfer them onto CD-ROMs (which cost about £1 or $2 each) or if I have them printed. The latter is expensive, at 50p / $1 per print in the photographer's shop.

My pictures are dominated by clouds and general weather conditions. Other subjects are the general landscape in Lewis, if and when I get out and about and the Stornoway townscape, which is quite unique in its own right. No high-rise buildings. Another subject matter is boats. Being on the waterfront means that any boat that puts its nose round Arnish will make it into my album, unless it's the middle of the night.

Saturday 29 September

The pictures I took through the day. The two pictures marked "Sea mammal rescue practice" include people in wetsuits practising how to deal with seals, dolphins, whales and other large marine creature that come ashore. On Tuesday, a whale was found dead at Garynahine (some 15 miles southwest of Stornoway), and back in May, two dolphins had to be euthanised at Lower Sandwick (just down the road from here). The Coastguard team is trained to handle that; any veterinary intervention naturally involves the local vet.

Autumn afternoon

On the penultimate day of September, it was not too warm, but quite sunny. Visibility is fantastic, can see the Applecross Forest 60 miles away. By the way, a forest in Scotland means that there are mountains. Very few trees in this neck of the woods. The Applecross Forest rises to over 2,000 feet. No wind either, so I'm scratching a few midge bites. Sunset will be in about 40 minutes.

I am a bit surprised that since autumn started 6 days ago, everybody seems to be going bananas over Halloween. One brave soul even mentioned the X-word. Christmas. Erm, as I said, it's September 29th. Never mind.

Following my rant over daft comments, I was greeted this morning by a comment-to-be-moderated on the TC blog by some idiot wanting to sell me watches. His comment duly got rejected, and although I normally only get comments from a fellow hurricane watcher in Australia (Petar, he used to write the Syrophenikon blog on here), I've now restricted those that can comment to Blogger users.

Saturday notes

It's a bright and sunny day, with the mercury at 13C / 55F at the moment, which is better than we've seen for some days. As Linda in Washington state correctly observed, we're at the latitude of southern Alaska here, 58N, but our climate is directed by the Gulf Stream, which comes straight from the warm Caribbean.

Regarding my last Call for Support, don't thank me - I asked for J-land to shine, and it did. I noticed 18 comments in June's blog, and I'm sure it won't stop there. Well done all!

The low tides at the moment have their impact - the ferries in these islands are disrupted. Any sailings near low tide time are cancelled or retimed. On a related note, the airfield on the island of Barra, 110 miles south of here, is on the beach. Planes can only land at low tide. Which left a guest on a previous occasion to sigh: "What a place. If the tide is out, the ferries can't sail, and if it's in, the planes can't fly!"

Friday, 28 September 2007

Call for support


I would like to highlight June's Journey, written by a lady of 46, nearly 47, who appears very lonely indeed. Housebound with a disability, only able to move with a cane, and suffering with mental health problems like depression. Having written 4 entries, she has had zero comments in total. June hopes to find new contacts through her journal.

J-land - here's your chance to shine.

Friday moan

I have this guestbook, which appears in my sidebar and on a few webpages. All I get on it is c**p. Initially, there were some useful and constructive comments, but now it's all spam. Think I'll shut it off.

I'm generally fed up with Bravenet at any rate. Have moved my website to a different hosting provider, because Bravenet would only show the webpages with advertising over it.


On the subject of comments, I had some really appreciative comments [sarcasm alert] on some of my videos, hosted on-line. "I have more viewers than you". Wow, that is a pearl of wisdom and feedback if ever I read one. "My video of this is longer than yours". No it's not, it's a minute shorter.

Enough ranting for today.

High Tide / Low Tide

Below compilation shows pictures from broadly identical locations at 7.30pm last night and at around 3pm this afternoon. High tide last night, and low tide this afternoon. The difference in waterlevel is 5 metres / 17 feet.






























Call for support

Please call round at Lisa's [seraphoflove9001] journal. She had a fall earlier today, and was persuaded to attend ER.

Bluetongue and foot & mouth

Several more cases of the animal disease bluetongue have surfaced across the UK, and the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have formally declared this an outbreak. Bluetongue is different from foot and mouth, currently present in Surrey, in that it is transmitted by midges. Only a very cold winter will kill off the midges, but experiences in mainland Europe have shown that it is capable of surviving an average winter there.

Bluetongue does not affect humans, but is fatal in 70% of cases in sheep and leads to a 40% drop in milk production in affected cows. The economic impact is clear.

On the subject of agriculture, farmers and crofters in Shetland have called for a mercy cull of tens of thousands of lambs that can now not go to market or export because of the restrictions in place on account of the foot and mouth outbreak in Surrey, 1,000 miles to the south. Normally, these animals would now go for slaughter or breeding elsewhere in the UK or indeed outside the country.

Friday notes

Cloudy but fairly bright, with occasional sunny intervals today. Temperatures still no great shakes, 11C again. Down south, they're breathing a sigh of relief as the mercury crosses the 60F boundary again in an upward movement.

Still horrified by events in Rangoon, but still nothing anybody can do about it. I'm waiting for movements out of New Delhi or Beijing, as I said a day or so ago. The UN can come and talk their heads off, but it's India and China that pull the strings in Burma.

A new edition of the Highway Code has been published, which hints that smoking behind the wheel could leave you in deep water. Lighting a cigarette distracts you from the road, and could even leave you with zero hands on the steeringwheel. A prosecution for driving without due care and attention could follow. Critics have said that the Highway Code treats drivers like small children. However, that is unfortunately the way some drivers do behave on the road.


Thursday, 27 September 2007

Update Lorenzo

I'm pleased to report that NHC have updated their latest advisory to include a rainfall statement. <grins>

Picture blog

I am currently compiling a Blogger blog with pictures from various villages in Lewis. Bearing in mind that there are about 100 settlements in the island, that should keep me going for a bit. It is called Heather Isle Views - one of the bynames of Lewis is Eilean nan Fhraoich, the Isle of Heather.

Hurricane update - 27 September (II)

Things are moving fast, in spite of Lorenzo's snailpace progression into Mexico. The NHC is now expecting this system to become a hurricane before landfall. Bearing in mind the vagaries of Mother Nature (and this is one of her top ten tantrums), we could see a VERY nasty surprise north of Palma Sola on the Gulf coast. The NHC forgot to include the rainfall warning, so I sent off an urgent email to them. I don't normally get a reply, so I hope they pick it up.

From bulletin 600 on the Tropical Cyclones blog:

HAZARD SUMMARY
  • Maximum sustained winds are 70 mph, which will increase.
  • Rainfall totals over the Mexican state of Veracruz will be between 5 and 10 inches, with localised totals of 15 inches. Please note that the rainfall warning is carried through from previous advisories but is NOT present in the current NHC Public Advisory #10. Have advised NHC.
  • Storm surge flooding of 2 to 4 feet above normal tide levels (beware of the current equinoctial springtides!) can be expected with dangerous battering waves near and to the north of the point of landfall.
Hurricane warning
A hurricane warning means that hurricane conditions are likely within 24 hours and preparations to protect life and property should be rushed to completion.

Mexico: Palma Sola to Cabo Rojo

Tropical storm warning
A tropical storm warning means that tropical storm conditions are likely within 24 hours

Mexico: Palma Sola to Vera Cruz

Tropical storm watch

A tropical storm watch means that tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours

Mexico: Cabo Rojo to La Cruz

High tide at sunset

Tonight at 8 o'clock, the tide reached an equinoctial high at 5.5 metres / 18 feet. It is also a perfectly calm evening, with no wind. The wind gauge near the Coast Guard Station was still, not often seen. The sun set at around 7.10, but I had enough light to take the above pictures between 7.30 and 7.45.

Nocturnal image

Sandwick stroll

Bearing in mind that it was a nice day, I went for a stroll down the shore to Sandwick. I went as far as the graveyard, then turned back. 45 minutes was long enough. It was bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. Temperatures a paltry 11C / 52C, but no reason for complaint.

Hurricane update - 27 September

Tropical storm Lorenzo is in the Gulf of Mexico, and heading for the coast between Cabo Rojo and La Cruz in the state of Veracruz. Winds are topping 60 mph, a bad force 11, but it's the rain that'll do the worst of the damage. The system has a forward motion that can you could keep pace with on foot - 4 mph. The result is that it is going to dump rain (up to 15 inches) and do so for an awfully long time.

Nothing else in the Atlantic immediately threatening land.

Gruesome

Autumn is not my favourite season, watching the evenings draw in, noticing the drop in temperatures (never too warm up here at any rate, although I'm not complaining). I like the autumn colours, but you have to be quick to see them. One gale, and all the coloured leaves are gone.

Autumn contains a black day on the historical calendar, November 9th. On that day, now 69 years ago, Hitler's thugs went on the rampage on the streets of Germany to destroy anything Jewish they could find. I can't even remember the pretext. That night has gone down in the history books as the Kristallnacht. You don't really need to know German to be able to translate that into the Night of Crystal.  I stick to the literal translation in order to maximise the impact of the euphemism. In English, it is commonly referred to as the Night of Broken Glass, after the heaps of broken glass left on the pavements the next morning.

Today, the BBC publicised photographs taken at the Auschwitz / Birkenau concentration camp in present-day Poland, showing SS guards and officers having a high old time, in the middle of their industrial-scale mass murder. On one of the days that the pictures were taken, 150 prisoners arrived at Auschwitz, of whom 117 were summarily gassed. The images are put in the public domain to show that the people doing the gassing were ordinary folk - on the surface at any rate, and serve as a stark warning. Read this preliminary first.

I should warn, if warning is needed, that following this link will bring you to a page with images that will most likely offend.

Afternoon notes

Nice and sunny afternoon if a bit nippy. Am looking forward to a BIG high tide at 8 pm tonight, which should come in at 5.5 metres / 18 feet. Just as well it's a calm day, or otherwise some people here in Stornoway would have wet feet.

Not much happening on the tropical front, apart from a tropical depression east of Tuxpan in Mexico, which will be giving them a drop of rain - 5 to 15 inches to be precise - and a bit of wind, up to 55 mph when the thing comes ashore this weekend. I warned about some disturbances out in the Atlantic - well, nothing just yet.

Everybody is making a lot of bluster about the appalling situation in Birma (Myanmar), but until India and China stop backing up that regime, nothing much is going to change. The junta there have been in power for over 20 years, and backing from the regional powers has kept them there. It is dreadful that they are firing live ammunition at their own people, and unacceptable.

Thursday notes


An interesting item on the news this morning about
├śli Breckmann a senior politician from the Faroes (an island group midway between Scotland and Iceland), who called on the Highlands and Islands to emulate the Faroese model. The Faroes (the Sheep Islands), an archipelago of 18 islands, are an autonomous region of Denmark. They first voted for autonomy in 1946, but the result of that ballot were quickly swept under the carpet by the horrified establishment in Copenhagen. The Faroese speak their own language, which is a close cousin of Icelandic, and according to Mr Breckmann, it has been the language which has proven to be the cornerstone under their success. It is used in all aspects of daily life. The parallel with the Highlands and Islands is that Gaelic is spoken in the Western Isles (and that description stretches from Islay to Lewis) as well as in large swathes of the Scottish mainland. It should be noted that Orkney and Shetland do NOT have that link, as their heritage is more Scandinavian oriented.

Mr Breckmann has suggested that the H&I use their cultural identity and difference from the rest of the UK to foster economic prosperity and a sense of regional pride.

Methinks this is a very astute and valuable observation of the situation that our area finds itself in. This part of Scotland is often compared to outlying areas of Scandinavia, with particularly local politicians looking towards the Lofoden archipelago in Norway as an example to follow. On the other hand, we have a Nationalist Scottish Government, trying to set Scotland apart from the rest of the UK. I wonder what their stance would be on a Highlands and Islands (the larger part of the Scottish landmass) on a Faroese footing.

Source:
BBC Highlands and Islands

Image attributions
Windows on the Wild (map)

Cruiseatlantic (aerial photograph)

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Only a continent away

The extremely funny spoof of an advert for security company ADG (sic), and the problems with multi-tasking call-centres.

Captain America

A golden oldie, but always good for a laugh.

Sunset

Sunday sailings


Ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne (Calmac) have received 50 submissions from islanders in Lewis, asking for a ferry service on Sunday. At the moment, the ferry does not sail on a Sunday. The main reason is religious sensitivities from years gone by. In the 1960s, a minister of the church prostrated himself in front of traffic at Kyleakin in Skye to prevent a ferry sailing to Kyle of Lochalsh on the Sabbath. There is a bridge, toll-free, between Skye and the Scottish mainland now.

In April 2006, a Sunday ferry service was started between Harris and Uist, providing the first Sunday sailings out of the Long Island in history. Bearing in mind that elsewhere within the Western Isles, ferries ply their routes on a Sunday (e.g. Castlebay to Oban, Lochmaddy to Uig [Skye]) and planes fly in and out of Stornoway Airport, it is only a question of time before ferries sail on Sunday between Stornoway and Ullapool.

Bummed

I've recently spent a few hours on Amazon Mechanical Turk, looking for Steve Fossett in Nevada and doing some little things that have now gathered me a few dollars in gift certificates. When I looked on Amazon.co.uk, my balance was zero, although the correct balance did show on Amazon.com (US).

I contacted Amazon to ask if the gift certs could be transferred to Amazon UK, and the answer is no. Isn't it daft, that in this day of the supra-national internet, a quintessential Internet company like Amazon has to be so parochial that its gift certs cannot be used the world over, but instead only on the site of issuance?

So, now I have to look for stuff sold by Amazon US on Amazon UK. I have advised Amazon of my feelings, and asked them to help me find the stuff referred to in previous line.

Can I ask people to join me in registering their disappointment with Amazon? If many more people join in, we can make them turn into a truly supra-national company.

Wednesday notes

Overcast day with some sunshine and a few minor showers. Feeling cold outside, temperatures now only in single figures.

The local council have a 7-tonne headache on their hands, in the shape of a dead whale. The remains of the creature, which died of natural causes, lie on the shores of Ceann Tulabhig, southwest of Callanish. We're having high tides at the moment, so I would think that at high tide tonight, which comes in at 5.5 metres, they might be able to float it off and take it out to sea. Alternatively, it could be loaded on a low-loader and taken to the council dump, which would require a 16 mile journey to Stornoway by road. The third alternative is described in below video.
 


Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Hapless drunk

A man had had one too much to drink and managed to drive his van off the A830 road between Mallaig and Fort William, in the West Highlands. The driver knocked on the door of the nearest house, a B&B. When the proprietor opened the door, the van driver said: "Listen, can you give me a lift? I've had too much to drink, and I've crashed my van. Please don't tell the bobbies, OK?" The man at the B&B said he couldn't take him in his car until he had dressed properly, so he asked the driver to wait. The proprietor went upstairs and changed into his full police uniform. He then proceeded to charge the driver, put handcuffs on him and placed him in the back of his police car, which had been hidden in the darkness beside the house. After a while, police from Fort William, 40 miles away, came and took the drunk away. The van meanwhile had been reported by motorists as blocking the A830 with lights blazing and keys still in the ignition. The hapless drunk was fined £500 and banned from driving for 18 months.

Temperature warning

40 degrees- Californians shiver uncontrollably. People in Scotland sunbathe.

35 degrees- Italian cars won't start. People in Scotland drive with the windows down.

20 degrees- Floridians wear coats, gloves, and wool hats. People in Scotland throw on a T-shirt.

15 degrees- Californians begin to evacuate the state. People in Scotland go swimming.

Zero degrees- New York landlords finally turn up the heat. People in Scotland have the last bbq before it gets cold.

20 degrees below zero- Californians fly away to Mexico. People in Scotland think about a light jacket.

80 degrees below zero- Polar bears begin to evacuate the Arctic Scottish Boy Scouts postpone "Winter Survival" classes until it gets cold enough.

100 degrees below zero- Santa Claus abandons the North Pole. People in Scotland throw on their Big jumpers.

173 degrees below zero- Ethyl alcohol freezes.. People in Scotland get frustrated when they can't thaw their kegs.

460 degrees below zero- ALL atomic motion stops. People in Scotland start saying "chilly, you cald an aw?"

500 degrees below zero- Hell freezes over. Scottish people think about supporting England in World Cup!!!!

Ferry cancelled

The ferry is on its way in, but will not be going out again today. Sun is out, but conditions out in the Minch atrocious.

Updates

The whale stuck in Loch Roag is reported to have died, I am just hearing on the Highland News. It was found at Garynahine, 2 miles east of Callanish, at the very end of the loch. Further details here.



The little Chinese girl, nicknamed Pumpkin, who was abandoned at a railway station in Melbourne, Australia, has been reunited with her grandmother, who will take her back to China. The child's father is now the subject of an international arrest warrant; he apparently flew to Los Angeles after leaving his young daughter behind in Australia.

I am very concerned after hearing that a walker failed to return from a walk on Ben Nevis yesterday. The Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team is on the scene to try to locate the man, who failed to return to his accommodation on Monday. As I reported previously, the weather today is very poor. Although it is now starting to clear up here in the islands, the weather in the mountains is bound to be severe.

A BBC report, due to be aired on Radio 4 at 8pm tonight, suggests that serious mis-selling of mortgages in the UK. Borrowers were basically told to lie about their income, in order to get a mortgage that they were actually unable to afford. This is related to the sub-prime crisis in the US, which brought on the run on the Northern Rock bank last week. If mortgages were indeed sold to people whose incomes were too low, then we're sitting on a timebomb here in the UK as well.