Friday, 30 November 2007
Sybil reminded me that today, November 30th, is St Andrew's Day, Scotland's national day. The Government in Edinburgh has thought of turning this in a national holiday or Bank Holiday, but it hasn't come about. Don't think many people are really that fussed about it, to be honest.
St Andrew's cross is present across the UK and many other countries in the world as a danger symbol at railway level crossings.
As readers may be aware, Scotland is currently governed by the SNP, who aim to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom. My opinion is that the economic powerbase is too narrow. It is also little short of near-sighted to purely base it on North Sea oil revenue, which is likely to dwindle in the next few decades.
Splitting up the UK is a bad idea in my perspective. My impression is that it will be based on bad feelings going back to the Battle of Culloden in 1746, when the last pretender to the Scottish throne was defeated by the English. An episode of strife in Northern Ireland, justified by the Battle of the Boyne in 1688, has just come to a close. The antagonism between the English and the Scots is legendary, but is at most good-humoured, like two little brothers squabbling.
I was appalled at the scenes from the streets of Khartoum today, where a baying mob, swinging swords, were demanding the execution of Ms Gibbons. The demonstrators had gathered following Friday prayers.
I have repeatedly stated my respect for Islam as one of the great religions of the world, a close cousin of Christianity. I have also found out that provisions are made for those who are not adherents to that faith. Ms Gibbons made an honest mistake in allowing her class of 7-year olds to name the class teddy Mohammed, the Holy Prophet. Not all sections of Islam are opposed to that.
These scenes only reinforce the beliefs of some in the Western world who view Islam as an intolerant and violent faith. It also would appear that there are people in Sudan who do not appreciate foreign workers coming into their country, and will find any little fault to create mischief. Apparently, a school office worker reported the teddy incident to police.
Bearing in mind the current situation in Darfur (the region in the west of Sudan, scene of the displacement of hundreds of thousands in abhorrent circumstances), this incident does not come as a surprise.
The information stated that if you don't get through on 999 on a mobile, you will still be able to get through using 112.
That is not correct.
When you genuinely do not have ANY signal at all, you will not get through using either 999 or 112.
Everyone in the UK knows 999, but in recent years, 112 has been adopted as a Europe-wide emergency number, to be used in life-threatening situations.
When you dial 999 in the UK on a UK-registered mobile, the phone will go to maximum power output and make a connection using any mobile phone provider it can reach. The same happens when you dial 112.
When you engage in outdoor activities, you should never rely on a mobile phone to call for help. In the hills or mountains, you may not get a signal; out at sea, signals fade a few miles from shore.
A warning is also in order for the Canadian West Coast, which should anticipate hurricane force winds in the next couple of days. An extremely active low pressure system will pass northeast towards the Alaskan / Canadian border. This in turn will pull a low pressure system north out of Mexico across the Mid Western USA, with a large plume of moisture associated with it. NWS have issued a warning for a winterstorm likely to cause major disruption to transport systems.
Today is the last day of the Atlantic and East Pacific hurricane seasons.
A jetliner has crashed in southwestern Turkey overnight, and it appears that none of the 56 people on board have survived. The plane came down some 8 miles short of its destination. More information here.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
Have to say that this is actually way over the top for an innocent mistake, and reflecting badly on Sudan as a country and as a muslim nation. The Muslim Council of Great Britain previously called on the Sudanese authorities to drop the charges. It would have been patently obvious that there was no premeditated intent on the teacher's part to insult the Muslim religion, and even if it is not in order to name a toy after the Prophet Mohammed, such a harsh line is totally uncalled for.
It is reported this evening that the Sudanese ambassador has been called to the Foreign Office in London to explain what has happened.
Dad says, "Well son, let me try to explain it this way.
I am the head of the family, so call me The Prime Minister.
Your mother is the administrator of the money, so we call her the Government.
We are here to take care of your needs, so we will call you the People.
The nanny, we will consider her the Working Class.
And your baby brother, we will call him the Future.
Now think about that and see if it makes sense." So the little boy goes off to bed thinking about what Dad has said. Later that night,! he hears his baby brother crying, so he gets up to check on him. He finds that the baby has severely soiled his nappy. So the little boy goes to his parent's room and finds his mother asleep. Not wanting to wake her, he goes to the nanny's room. Finding the door locked, he peeks in the keyhole and sees his father in bed with the nanny. He gives up and goes back to bed.
The next morning, the little boy say's to his father, "Dad, I think I understand the concept of politics now. " The father says, "Good, son, tell me in your own words what you think politics is all about." The little boy replies, "The prime Minister is screwing the Working Class while the Government is sound asleep. The People are being ignored and the Future is in deep s**t."
Up here, it is a bright and sunny day, but with some high clouds indicating the change in the weather. We'll get strong winds tomorrow, but a secondary area of low pressure will scoot across the English Midlands, carrying high winds to its south.
On the Internet front, an major attack on people's PC security has been thwarted, but a call was put out for people to get their copies of Windows and Internet Explorer up to date. Read more here.
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Dualling the road will not reduce the accident rate to zero, but should at least enhance safety.
Meanwhile, a petition is circulating amongst staff at the local Health Board against the sitting management for failing to address a £3 million shortfall. This deficit has existed for the past three years if not more, and was one of the reasons why the top tier of management was nearly completely replaced a year ago. Next Monday, the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Health will come to Stornoway to conduct the annual review of the Health Board.
Over in France, the situation has eased somewhat, with only relatively minor disturbances. It is always worrisome when reports say 'only a few police officers were hurt, and only 20 cars were torched'. A judicial review has been promised to the relatives of the two young men who died in a road traffic accident, involving their motorbike and a police patrol vehicle. It was this incident that sparked off three nights of violence across France.
Up here in the north of Scotland, our main trunk road, the A9 between Perth and Inverness, is a source of frustration and accidents. It was suggested last month that it be turned into a dual carriageway along its entire 110 mile length. Costs of that project are put at £600 million ($1.2bn), and may not start for another 3 years, in April 2011. The (devolved) Scottish Government has reiterated its pledge to improve safety on the A9, which has claimed 80 lives in the past 5 years.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
At the time, I lived near a forest and the cats had plenty of mice to get along with. Sometimes, they would bring one home that was still in working order. Cat would throw the mouse in the air, allow it to run away, then catch it again.
One other time, a mouse was found sitting on the doormat. Someone stood on the mouse, then went to get the cat. Cat sniffed at the mouse, looked up as if to say "it's my job to kill the mouse, you whatsit" and walked away. Another time, three little mice were found in a flowerbed. Cat was brought in, who immediately despatched two before proceeding to torment number three prior to its demise.
The best story is about the logfire. A basket of logs was brought in, and a mouse jumped out. Cat went after the mouse and finally caught it. Cat was thrown out the door, mouse and all. Every occasion the log basket was brought in the house, the cat would start sniffing the room to see if another mouse had jumped out.
After one of the cats died in 1988, the mice had a field day. They ate the fruit, including oranges, they gnawed the potatoes. I hate mousetraps ever since I found a mouse cut in two by the infernal apparatus. There was only one thing for it. A new cat was brought into the house, and after it grew up, it proceeded to catch three mice a day, every day for years. I don't know where those tens of thousands of mice came from, to be honest.
My attention was drawn to John Scalzi's Monday Photoshoot, which was all about Light effects. As far as I am concerned, the best light effects occur between sunset and sunrise, strangely enough. I have a large number of sunset pics, but decided to feature this eerie image of the moon rising.
I took it late in the evening of 29 June this year, when there was a Lunar Standstill at Callanish. Contrary to the druid worshippers who congregate at the Callanish Stones at either of the solstices each year, the Stones are actually a Lunar monument. On 29 June, the moon rose at sunset (it being a full moon), passed behind Roineabhal to reemerge to the right. That is the point at which this photograph was taken. Roineabhal, a hill some 8 miles south of Callanish, appears to be the head of the Sleeping Beauty Mountain. It is a range of hills in the east of Lewis, which are shaped in the form of a reclining woman, when viewed from Callanish.
Although it was close to midnight, it was not dark (as can be discerned in this picture) and there were dozens of people at Callanish to witness the phenomenon.
I am a wee bit melancholic, viewing this picture. It is now late November, and the sun barely puts in an appearance. Particularly on a day like today, with grey skies and continual rain, it hardly gets light. Sunset will occur at 3.45pm.
A major discussion is going on in the islands about ferry services on Sunday. The Lord's Day Observance Society is opposed to instituting a Sunday ferry, as it would violate the Sabbath. I can say a few things about that. First, planes already fly in and out of the airport. Second, ferries already sail between Harris (which is contiguous with Lewis) and North Uist on Sunday. Thirdly, ferries also sail on Sunday from North and South Uist to the mainland. Legally speaking, they haven't got a leg to stand on.
The rioting in a Paris suburb has escalated severely, with further clashes in Villers-le-Bel leaving 80 police officers injured, several by shot-gun pellets. Despite calls for calm from the families of the two teenagers, killed in a roadcrash between their motorbike and a police patrol car, riots have been more intense than 2 years ago. A degree of organisation, drawing in people from outside the area, is being discerned. A hint of more severe responses by police, other than rubber bullets and teargas, was given.
I have emailed Malika (one of the admins), as I'm not very happy with this situation.
Monday, 26 November 2007
I would like to discuss it further by placing it in a broader historical perspective, but in doing so am liable to cause offense. I want to state in advance that none is intended.
There are several historical parallels to be drawn in the case of the Aboriginals.
First of all, the Native Indian people of America. The Spanish Conquistadores slaughtered and brutalised them under the pretext of a religious imperative. European settlers fought them, and treated them equally like savages. Having subjugated them by the end of the 19th century, the Indians were stuffed into reservations and treated like the last-rate citizens. Their land was taken from them, their culture destroyed. I have yet to hear an apology from the US administration, although it was in fact genocide on a stupendous scale. It happened a long time ago, and nobody alive today was involved in that. Still, the United States carries a communal guilt in this field, which they are not prepared to confront.
Many of the conflicts in the world today are born of colonial rule by European powers, Great Britain, France and Portugal being the prime suspects. The legacy of British rule in particular can safely be described as catastrophic. I am talking about Pakistan and India, at perennial loggerheads for 60 years, nuclear powers in opposition to each other. I am talking about the Middle East, a colossal mess far, far worse than India, which was left in total disarray after the British pulled out at the end of the first half of the 20th century. I'm not expecting an apology soon from the governments in London, Paris or Lisbon.
World War II left two nations with a gruesome legacy to come to terms with. Germany, which has the death of tens of millions on its conscience, as well as Japan. The barbarity of both regimes is well documented. There have been a few expressions of regret from the government in Bonn, latterly Berlin. Very little has been forthcoming from the Japanese, who were not so utterly vanquished as the Germans were. Emperor Hirohito was relieved of his status as deity, but never faced a war crimes tribunal, unlike leading surviving figures in the Nazi regime in Germany.
Saying sorry for past misdeeds does not undo the past. Apologising is about recognising by present generations that a wrong has been done by the nation in the past. I appreciate that legal repercussions may ensue of an apology in the case of the Aboriginals.
I headed my post Communal guilt, as that what this is about. This is not about individuals, this is about a nation. In my personal opinion, it would show Australia as a matured nation, that is prepared to stand up for its actions.
Was pleased that everybody survived the sinking of MS Explorer, but it must be a disconcerting thought that the contents of your suitcase lie at the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean until the end of time.
Riots are once more blighting the 'banlieues' (suburbs) of Paris, following an incident where two youths on a motorbike collided with a police car. Back in 2005, days of rioting resulted from a similar incident. The then interior minister (now president) Nicolas Sarkozy branded the youths responsible as 'scum'. There are serious problems underlying the riots, because the perpetrators, black and muslim youths, feel excluded from the rest of society. Calling them scum is a fantastic way of pouring oil on the flames, and I hope Mr Sarkozy will confront the problems in his backyard, rather than pull up a smokescreen and calling names.
I am very pleased that the Australian prime minister elect, Kevin Rudd, has announced his intention to apologise to the indigenous people of his country, referred to as Aboriginals. Between 1915 and 1969, Australia adopted a policy of forced integration, where Aboriginal children were fostered with white parents. They are referred to as the Stolen Generation. I think it is more than time that the Australian administration apologised to their indigenous people, for destroying their culture, way of life and health. For plying them with booze and discrimination.
The flag? It's the Australian Aboriginal flag.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
Mother Nature is unpredictable, and it only goes to show that forecasters are still only able to forecast 5 days in advance - at 80% accuracy.
After Mr. and Mrs. Fenton retired, Mrs. Fenton insisted her husband accompany her on her trips to Wal-Mart.
Unfortunately, Mr. Fenton was like most men--he found shopping boring and preferred to get in and get out.
Equally unfortunately, Mrs. Fenton was like most women-she loved to browse. One day Mrs. Fenton received the following letter from her local Wal-Mart.
Dear Mrs. Fenton,
Over the past six months, your husband has been causing quite a commotion
in our store. We cannot tolerate this behavior and may be forced to ban both of you from the store. Our complaints against Mr. Fenton are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras.
1. June 15: Took 24 boxes of condoms and randomly put them in people's carts when they weren't looking.
2. July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.
3. July 7: Made a trail of tomato juice on the floor leading to the women's restroom.
4. July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, "Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away."
5. August 4: Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&M's on layaway.
6. September 14: Moved a "CAUTION - WET FLOOR" sign to a carpeted area.
7. September 15: Set up a tent in the camping department and told other shoppers he'd invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the bedding department.
8. September 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, "Why can't you people just leave me alone?"
9. October 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he picked his nose.
10. November 10: While handling guns in the hunting department, he asked the clerk where the antidepressants were.
11. December 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the "Mission Impossible" theme.
12. December 6: In the auto department, he practiced his "Madonna look" by using different sizes of funnels.
13. December 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled "PICK ME! PICK ME!"
14. December 21: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed "OH NO! IT'S THOSE VOICES AGAIN!"
And last, but not least...
15. December 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile, then yelled very loudly, "Hey! There's no toilet paper in here!"
Tropical storm Lando / Hagibis is on its way back from Vietnam, but will probably be little more than a depression by the time it passes through the archipelago. It will wave hello to the third system, which is just forming east of the islands.
Vanuatu has a tropical depression forming in its midst as well, but no major problems are anticipated from that in the short term.
The situation in Zimbabwe does not just affect humans, it also has a negative impact on wildlife. Protected species, like rhinoceros, can no longer be protected, leaving them vulnerable to poachers. I will not link to the BBC story, as it contains a gruesome image of a rhinoceros, shot through the head. I did complain to the BBC, but they have decided not to change the image.
The passengers and crew of the MS Explorer, which sank off Antarctica on Friday, have been flown to Punta Arenas in Chile, from where they will be repatriated. Nobody was injured in the incident, although many were left shaken after their ordeal.
Saturday, 24 November 2007
Dear Sir/madam, automated telephone answering service
Having spent the past twenty minutes waiting for someone at Leith police station to pick up a telephone, I have decided to abandon the idea and try e-mailing you instead. Perhaps you would be so kind as to pass this message on to your colleagues in Leith by means of smoke signal,carrier pigeon or ouji board.
As I'm writing this e-mail there are eleven failed medical experiments (I think you call them youths) in West Cromwell Street, which is just off Commercial Street in Leith. Six of them seem happy enough to play a game which involves kicking a football against an iron gate with the force of a meteorite. This causes an earth shattering CLANG! which rings throughout the entire building. This game is now in it's third week and, as I am unsure how the scoring system works, I have no idea if it will end any time soon.
The remaining five walking abortions are happily rummaging through several bags of rubbish and items of furniture that someone has so thoughtfully dumped beside the wheelie bins. One of them has found a saw and is setting about a discarded chair like a beaver on speed. I fear that it's only a matter of time before they turn their limited attention to the bottle of calor gas that is lying on it's side between the two bins. If they could be relied on to only blow their own arms and legs off, then I would happily leave them to it. I would even go so far as to lend them the matches. Unfortunately they are far more likely to blow up half the street with them and I've just finished decorating the kitchen.
What I suggest is this : after replying to this e-mail with worthless assurances that the matter is being looked into and will be dealt with,why not leave it until the one night of the year (probably bath night) when there are no mutants around, then drive up the street in a panda car before doing a three point turn and disappearing again. This will of course serve no other purpose than to remind us what policemen actually look like.I trust that when I take a claw hammer to the skull of one of these throwbacks, you'll do me the same courtesy of giving me a four month headstart before coming to arrest me.I remain sir, your obedient servant ?????????
I have read your e-mail and understand you frustration at the problems caused by youth playing in the area and the problems you have encountered in trying to contact the police.As the Community Beat Officer for your street, I would like to extend an offer of discussing the matter fully with you. Should you wish to discuss the matter, please provide contact details address / telephone number) and when may be suitable.
Regards PC ??? ?????????????Community Beat Officer
COMPLAINERS SECOND LETTER
Dear PC ?????
First of all, I would like to thank you for the speedy response to myoriginal e-mail. 16 hours and 38 minutes must be a personal record for Leith Police station and rest assured that I will forward these details to Norris McWhirter for inclusion in his next book.
Secondly, I was delighted to hear that our street has it's own Community Beat Officer. May I be the first to congratulate you on your covert skills. In the five or so years I have lived in West Cromwell Street, I have never seen you. Do you hide up a tree or have you gone deep undercover and infiltrated the gang itself? Are you the one with the acne and the moustache on his forehead or the one with a chin like a wash hand basin? It's surely it is only a matter of time before you are headhunted by MI5.
Whilst I realise that there may be far more serious crimes taking place in Leith, such as smoking in a public place or being Muslim without due care and attention, is it too much to ask for a policeman to explain (using words of no more than two syllables at a time) to these twats that they might want to play their strange football game elsewhere. The pitch behind the Citadel or the one at DKs are both within spitting distance as is the bottom of the Albert Dock.
Should you wish to discuss these matters further you should feel freeto contact me on ??? ????. If after 25 minutes I have still failed to answer, I'll buy you a large one in the Compass Bar.
P.S If you think that this is sarcasm, think yourself lucky that you don't work for the cleansing department.
I was very sad to hear that the MV Explorer, which was holed in the Southern Ocean yesterday, has gone to the bottom. The Little Red Boat will never call in here again.
The two typhoons in southeast Asia have both changed course. Typhoon Mitag will strike northern Luzon tomorrow, with winds of 110 mph. Reports from the Philippines that it could pack winds close to 140 mph appear exaggerated. Having just pushed out the latest tropical cyclone update, I would say that atmospheric conditions do not favour such a strong strengthening.
Tropical storm Hagibis was about to strike land in Vietnam, leading to mass evacuations along the coast near the resort of Nha Trang. However, Hagibis scratched its head, decided it didn't like Vietnam and preferred to head back out to sea again. It will pay a farewell visit to the central Philippines on Wednesday - although it already passed through the country earlier this week.
Friday, 23 November 2007
A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.
The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous "yes."
The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.
"Now," said the professor as the laughter subsided, "I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things--your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions---and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.
The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.
The sand is everything else---the small stuff. "If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
"Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first---the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand."
One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represented. The professor smiled. "I'm glad you asked.
It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend."
Please share this with someone you care about.
There was a strong southerly wind, with temperatures of 7C, but it felt more like freezing out there. The church stands near the eastern end of an isthmus (the Braighe, pronounce Brye), linking the peninsula of Point with mainland Lewis. The graveyard is very exposed, and I'm STILL trying to warm up.
This is the last week of the Atlantic hurricane season, but it came to a close with Noel. Last May, the 2007 season was hailed as one of the worst to be expected. It has turned out to be a below average one.
MS Explorer has been evacuated of all passengers and crew after it struck an iceberg at around 0500 GMT. The vessel is now listing at 45 degrees and expected to sink. All those on board were transferred to another tourist ship, the Nordnorge, which has transferred them to King George Island nearby.
It is a dramatic end to a £5,600 cruise for all the passengers. This sum does not include international flights. Explorer was an old lady of the sea, which has been plying polar waters for 38 years.
Local news did not mention the imminent closure of one of the prawn processing plants in Stornoway. Stornoway Shellfish, which employs 14, is located outside the busstation but has not had deliveries of shellfish from local boats for 3 weeks. It had allegedly failed to keep up payments to said boats..
Have to say I once more enjoyed last night's journals chat, this time without disruptive or rude elements.
The above ship, MV Explorer, is currently listing at a 25 degree angle and taking on water near the South Shetland Islands, off Antarctica. She is a cruiseliner, the leading name in cruises to the polar regions. It is not known at this stage what has caused this emergency. All its 100 passengers and 52 of its 54 crew are in liferafts, and another vessel, the Antarctic Dream, is within an hour's sail.
Explorer visited Stornoway twice in the nearly three years I've been in Stornoway, the last (and by the look things final) time on May 12th this year.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
I have this nifty gadget from the Met Office, which shows latest weather readings, radar and satellite images. Only works on Firefox or Windows Vista.
The English Football Association have sacked national team manager Steve McClaren after last night's 2-3 defeat to Croatia. Why the entire 11 am news bulletin had to be given over to that is beyond me. It is said though that England's failure will lead to an economic slump. In the sportsware sector. And also more widespread, because the feel good factor is gone, so workers will be less motivated. Tsk.
The data crisis (you know, personal info regarding 25 million people gone missing) is deepening, as it now appears that senior management allegedly sanctioned the actions taken by the junior clerk at HM R&C in Newcastle, to download sensitive informatin, put it on a disc and send it through the internal mail. I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer should take political responsibility and quit.
Some real news that caught my eye. A freight rail service has been agreed between North and South Korea. Although the logical next step, passenger services to Pyongyang and China, has been opposed by the North Korea, this is very encouraging news. Particularly as the North Koreans have been persuaded to shut down their nuclear program.
Iran's president, Mahmood Ahmedinajad (pronounce: I'm a dinner jacket) has come in for criticism in recent days. That's rare. It is another encouraging sign in the uncertain and dangerous times we live in. Yesterday, a female writer came out with some critical notes, and now a newspaper in Tehran has described his actions as dangerous. Well, let's hope we get some more criticism to moderate our little firebrand on the peacock throne.
Typhoon Hagibis is heading for southern Vietnam, and will make landfall tomorrow near the popular beach resort of Nha Trang, with winds of 75 knots or 85 mph. I cannot read Vietnamese, but hope they have their precautions in order, such as mass evacuation to high ground.
Typhoon Mitag is approaching the Philippines from the east and will slam into Luzon Island on Sunday, with winds at 110 knots, that is 120 mph. The Philippines weather agency PAGASA is raising warnings ahead of Mitag's arrival.
Wednesday, 21 November 2007
Just as well that their pilots know where to find the place.
It was also claimed in a recent newspaper column that when president George W. declared war on Saddam Hussein, many of his subjects didn't have a clue where eye-rack was. Worse than that, many people in this country point out their local DIY superstore as a major local landmark.
The spate of sat-nav mishaps continues, with non-celebrity Jade Goody driving blissfully up Oxford Street (a pedestrianised area) in London, telling police that her sat-nav told her to go there. Why is it that people can't read a map anymore? I mean, I'll never forget the American numbskull who drove into a river because her satnav told her to.
The tree was a symbol of hope for Anne Frank, as it was always there, outside the one window open to the outside world. It is now disease-ridden with fungus, and in danger of falling down in high winds. Amsterdam City Council did order it to be cut down, but a legal move has opened a window of opportunity to explore other avenues for it to be preserved.
The Anne Frank House has NOT opposed the felling of the tree, saying that the safety of its neighbours and hundreds of thousands of visitors each years is paramount. More on this story here.
A J-lander that came to my attention only a few weeks ago has passed away. Sugar told us that Barb (http://journals.aol.com/babe73boo/my-reason-for-reasoning) lost her fight with cancer and is now at rest. Please call by her journal to leave a message for the family.
French public transport has been severely disrupted by a strike over terms and conditions, including special benefits. To make matters worse, signal equipment has been destroyed or damaged by allegedly militant strikers, determined to scupper attempts to reach a deal between government and trades unions. As a result, high speed rail services across the country have been delayed. The action has been condemned by union leaders, as it jeopardises the safety of the travelling public. The government, led by president Sarkozy, has pledged not to give in to the strikers' demands. The strike is unpopular with the French public, as it has played havoc with their daily commutes.
French trades unions are very militant, and have a record of successfully thwarting government proposals that they deem go against their members' interests. A militant element is a known part of that. British trades unions used to be like that, but were emasculated by Margaret Thatcher's government in the 1980s, following a year-long strike by coalminers.
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Another tropical storm, Mitag, will be at typhoon strength when it makes landfall in the eastern Philippines on Friday, with winds of 65 knots / 73 mph. The Philippines weather agency PAGASA will issue warnings nearer the time of landfall. Please note that the Philippines will use a different name for Mitag.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer (the Finance Secretary) has made a statement in the House of Commons and the head of HM R & C has resigned. The implications are extremely serious. Although no evidence has so far emerged that the data have fallen into criminal hands, people are urged to carefully check their financial details, like bank and building society account statements and credit arrangements.
This affects 7.5 million families, 10 million adults and 15 million children.
Further details on the BBC News website, including recommendations on actions to take.
Although it is not strictly speaking the Government's fault, it is the actions of a Government agency that are in the spotlight here, and the head of HM Revenue and Customs has already quit. Chancellor Alistair Darling, barely 5 months in post, should consider his position, also in view of the Northern Rock disaster.
This bank had to be bailed out, to the tune of £25bn, this summer. Thousands of customers rushed to withdraw their deposits, and there are now questions over the safety of taxpayers' money. Should the bank have been given all that money, I wonder.
In the news, a two or three week old piglet was discovered among a load of toilet paper, being delivered in Ilkley, Yorkshire. The poor animal, since named Andrex for obvious reasons, was bruised and had suffered cuts to its snout, and was suffering from hypothermia. The RSPCA has taken it into its care. It was probably deliberately put in the lorry as a prank.
Well, at least there was the nest of kittens who made a mummy out of a pet rabbit.
Bangladesh continues to plead for more aid, following the devastation wrought by cyclone Sidr last Thursday. 150 mph winds and 20 feet high waves have basically flattened the south of the country, wiped out crops that were ready to harvest and killed more than 3,000.
On the cyclone front, a tropical storm is passing over the Philippines, and will finally make landfall in southern Vietnam on Friday. A second storm is brewing in Micronesia, and is set to bring a rerun to the Philippines over the weekend. Tropical storms tend to bring torrential rains, flooding and landslides to the Philippines. Finally, cyclone Bongwe is slowly getting its act together, 1300 miles east northeast of La Reunion. Whether it will reach the island cannot be predicted at this stage.
Monday, 19 November 2007
Off to the chili con carne with sliced peaches and rice. Anybody hungry?
A tropical cyclone has formed in the Philippines, just east of Mindanao. The storm will track west across the archipelago and may strengthen rapidly. The Philippines weather agency has named it Lando; the Joint Typhoon Warning Center has not named it yet, as system 23W is below tropical storm strength. A cyclone that has been hovering off Queensland for days has finally given up the ghost, as it was lacking sufficient warm ocean waters to keep it going. Another cyclone has formed in the central Indian Ocean, and Bongwe will reach hurricane strength later today. It is not threatening land; it lies 1,600 miles east of La Reunion.
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Found her journal courtesy the Journals Chatroom.
This lift links the River Oder, which runs on the border between Poland and Germany, and the Finow Canal, which goes west towards the town of Eberswalde. The canal has been in use for many years, although the new version was only constructed in 1914.
When I visited the area in 1995, I found it carried an air of sadness. It was only 6 years after the Berlin Wall came down, and East Germany was stuck in a timewarp. It looked like it was still 1950. The other thing was the former state orphanage near Eberswalde, called the Anne Frank House. It was for children who were NOT orphans at all, but taken away from parents who had fallen foul of the former communist regime, led by Erich Honecker. That made me positively sick. The electricity meters in the homes were marked "Volkseigentum" [People's Property], although the access to communal housing were paved with coal rubble.
On returning west, we passed the former crossing between East and West, and the paraphernalia of the border were still intact. Like the clearing, running the length of the border from Stettin in the north to the Czech / Polish / German border triangle in the south. The clearing was paved with deep sand, designed to show any footprins. Watchtowers, from which any fugitive were shot on sight still loomed.
If it wasn't for that, I would have found East Germany quaint. I remember from the 1980s the radio broadcasts on 188 kHz longwave, telling those who could be bothered about the skiing holidays in the socialist paradises of Zakopane and Sochi. But it was all deadly serious. Literally, deadly. We lost nothing with the demise of communism in Europe.
He noticed the poster, and remembered it when he got chestpain himself. He dialled 999 instead of waiting for the pain to go away. Had he chosen latter course, it would have been a fatal mistake. Read the full story here.
* Further background information on heart attacks can be found here, which is a US orientated link.
* For those in the UK, NHS Direct has more information as well.
* Please ignore those who say that heart attacks in women manifest themselves in a different way. THEY DON'T.
Three tropical cyclones around in the southern oceans today. They are all weak affairs and too far away from shore to constitute a threat. Guba is meandering offshore, 300 miles north of Cairns, Australia. Lee (now Ariel) is in the middle of nowhere, about to be torn apart by yet-to-be-named Bongwe to its northwest. Bongwe lies east of the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia, and has a distant possibility of constituting a threat to Mauritius or La Reunion. Those who have been with me through this year may remember cyclone Gamede back in February, which caused a lot of hassle in those islands.
The Atlantic hurricane season appears to have come to a close; there is only 2 weeks left of it, and atmospheric conditions are not conducive to cyclone formation. I don't expect cyclones to hit Florida when the overnight low there is -5C / 25F.
Saturday, 17 November 2007
Two young women who went missing in 1991 have been traced to a house in Margate in Kent, where their remains were found buried in a garden. House and garden will now be scoured for possibly other corpses. A man has been charged with one murder. For legal reasons, I cannot give further details about Peter Tobin. One set of human remains is yet to be formally identified. A parallel with Rosemary West, whose house at 25 Cromwell Street in Gloucester turned out to be a house of horrors, with a dozen corpses buried in and around it, cannot be avoided. Her partner Fred committed suicide, but she is serving life for her crimes
Off to supper - vegetable curry.
Cyclone Sidr is no more, but its after effects are of catastrophic porportions, as could be expected from a category 4 storm. Although the deathtoll is "only" 1,100 at this stage, (I say "only" as previous cyclones have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives), the devastation in the country is huge. Suggest to read this overview by the BBC.
Tomorrow will be the 20th anniversary of the deadly fire at Kings Cross in London, in which 31 people died. The fire engulfed the underground station and swept up escalators, to devour the tickethall in temperatures of 600C. A family dinner will be held in memory of at least one of the victims.
Friday, 16 November 2007
Enjoyed the journals chat this evening, with people trying out their audio and video links; some worked, others didn't. Was weird to see the folks over in California in bright sunlight, whilst I said goodbye to the sun some 6 hours previously.
The deathtoll in Bangladesh has continued to rise; the latest number is 700. The Daily Star has said that the number could exceed 1,000. Cyclone Sidr has now disappeared off the weathermaps, but its impact on Bangladesh has been immense. There was a nationwide powerfailure, with obvious impacts on infrastructure. The above link gives all the latest info, and I dread to think what the eventual toll might be.
Queensland, Australia, is on cyclone alert between Lockhart River and Cape Tribulation, as cyclone Guba grumbles 250 miles offshore. The storm is currently quasi-stationary, but is expected to commence a southsouthwesterly motion - straight for the shore. Forecasters think the cyclone could strengthen to 95 knots / 110 mph. It is slow moving, so landfall is still quite a few days away.
The first thing that I noticed from the 14 stones I photographed this afternoon was that I didn't recognise about half the names. I am familiar with the 1,150 names of people that died during hostilities in World War I, but other names turned up at Sandwick. These were presumably men who died when their ship went down, and their remains ended up up ashore.
The afternoon was cold, with a strengthening wind. Sandwick lies quite exposed, open to the wind. The sun shone between the clouds, offering opportunities for some great pictures of cloudscapes and shadows.
The last picture is our current petrol price: £1.11 per litre. This equates to $10.40 per gallon.
Cyclone Sidr is fizzling out over northeastern India, having killed at least 200 people in Bangladesh. A 5 metre / 17 feet tidal wave swept ashore as a result of the storm surge. It is still too early to fully assess Sidr's impact, but reports compiled by the BBC talk of flattened houses, downed trees and powerlines and the coastal strip cut off.
Regarding AOL Journals, I notice that the UK journals now also have Journals Chat. The disclaimer regarding the ads in the top banner has now been restored. Doesn't mean I'm too happy with them, but I've learned to ignore them.
Thursday, 15 November 2007
Following a catastrophic cyclone in 1970, when half a million people were killed, Bangladesh built a cyclone rescue network, including shelters, across the country. The impact of subsequent storms has been greatly reduced.
Tasers are used by police and other security services for temporarily disabling people who are behaving in a violent or disorderly manner or resisting arrest. They work by having two electrodes fired into the subject and a 50 kilovolt discharge of electricity passed through the prongs. This is very painful, provokes a temporary loss of muscle conrol and makes it possible for police to restrain the person concerned. The devices have been hailed as a non-lethal restraining aid, alongside the truncheon and teargas.
Tasers are not without danger; in Canada, 18 people have died after the devices were used against them. High electrical voltages disrupt the body's electrical currents, which are essential for it to function. Nerves and muscles work by virtue of electricity. A severe electrical jolt could disrupt the function of the heart and cause death.
A Polish man, who spoke no English, became agitated at Vancouver International Airport. He had come to visit his mother, but she could not see him, as the arrivals area at Vancouver is screened off. She had left after 6 hours, and he panicked. The gentleman threw furniture around in a waiting area, police arrived and tasered him twice. He became very still, and an ambulance team found that he had died.
This is a tragic case, which is subject to a formal investigation. I can therefore not comment on the specifics. I appreciate that situations can arise where a measure of violence may be required to bring someone under control. We often see on TV people behaving disorderly as a result of alcohol consumption. My personal opinion is so severely slanted against violence of any sort that it is not possible for me to make a balanced judgement on the matter.