Sunday, 31 August 2008


Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car-crash in Paris in the early hours of Sunday, 31 August, 1997. A protracted legal battle turned out that her driver was drunk at the time and driving at excessive speed. Although harassment by reporters may well have had some bearing on the accident, a direct link has been discarded. Diana died in a vehicle she was sharing with her friend Dodi Al-Fayed, son of Harrods owner Mohammed Al-Fayed. Dodi died too, but his father has been vociferous in his conviction that the British Royal Family had conspired to get rid of Diana in this fashion. An inquest has ruled that such a conspiracy theory could not be substantiated. Mr Al Fayed has stated that he does not intend to pursue the matter further, to everybody's great relief.

Hurricane update - 31 August (II)

Gustav is approaching New Orleans at a speed of about 18 mph. The storm appears to be intensifying, with winds currently at 115 mph. The National Weather Service has issued Hurricane Local Statements for the Gulf Coast. These can be accessed through the NHC website - if you are in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama or Florida, please read. In the case of Louisiana, as a matter of extreme urgency. Hurricane force winds will start to affect the Gulf Coast itself early tomorrow morning local time, with tropical storm force winds (i.e. galeforce and higher) from now onwards. Gustav is 215 miles from New Orleans, and the radius of tropical storm force winds is 220 miles.
Once Gustav makes landfall, it will probably grind to a halt and start to dump vast amounts of rain on Louisiana and surrounding states. It'll be up to 20 inches.

Once Gustav has disappeared off the weather maps, by the end of the coming week, the USA might be facing another hurricane hazard: Hanna. This is a tropical storm, affected by adverse atmospheric conditions as it approaches the Bahamas. After a jaunt southwest, the storm could well head northwest: into Georgia and South Carolina by the weekend. This is very long term, and the NHC isn't even sure about the short-term forecast for this system.

Labor Day

Would like to wish our American friends a happy Labor Day on September 1st (tomorrow), and hope y'all have a great vacation!

Piping up

There was a young Scottish lad named Angus who decided to try life in Australia.  He found an apartment in a small block and settled in.After a week or two, his mother called from Aberdeen to see how her son was doing in his new life. "I'm fine," Angus said, "But there are some really strange people living here in Australia. One woman cries all day long,  another keeps banging on the ceiling,  and there is a guy next door to me who bangs his head on the wall all the time." "Well, ma wee laddie," says his mother, "I suggest you don't associate with people like that." "Oh," says Angus, "I don't, Ma'am, I don't. No, I just stay inside ma apartment all day and night, playing ma bagpipes."

Sunday 31 August

Fairly nice day, with some brightness in the sky. Better than what is headed for the northern Gulf Coast. Gustav will probably be a category 4 hurricane, not quite as bad as a cat 5, but still bad. If you're on the Gulf Coast, please follow all advice and orders from the authorities. You can't weather winds of 140 mph. Nothing will be left standing - remember Katrina?

The program I highlighted earlier in the week, Dateline London, was retimed unexpectedly. The webversion will be available tomorrow.

Another earthquake, measuring 6 on the Richter scale, has struck the region in China that was devastating by a huge tremor in May. 22 people died in yesterday's quake; rescue efforts are hampered by rain.

Hurricane update - 31 August (I)

Anyone in the city of New Orleans should evacuate NOW. Follow all directives from FEMA and similar government agencies. I have already had reports of people making a hurricane shelter by boarding up 4 doors in a room in the centre of their house and thinking they can survive a category 5 hurricane in that. There is not a 100% certainty they will.

Gustav has just made landfall in western Cuba with winds of 143 mph. On reemerging into the Gulf of Mexico, it will crank up to sustained winds of 160 mph, gusting to 190 mph. Although slight weakening is forecast as the storm heads across the Gulf, taking a direct hit from a cat 3 hurricane is not pretty.


Saturday, 30 August 2008

Hurricane update - 30 August

Hurricane Gustav is deepening rapidly. I am tracking Hurricane Hunter missions on Google Earth (if you have Google Earth, Open this link: Central pressure has fallen by 12 mbar (from 971 to 959 mbar) in the 4 hours between 05.19 and 09.53 GMT, and winds of 100 knots (115 mph) are being measured around the centre of the storm. Hurricane force winds are approaching the south coast of Cuba, and the Hurricane Hunter is reporting intense lightning activity on the northern wall of the eye.

Cuba and the Isle of Youth should prepare for a storm surge of 14 to 19 feet. I don't want to even think about that. What will happen in the Gulf of Mexico is anyone's guess. Atmospheric conditions and oceanic conditions are not as favourable there as they are right now, south of Cuba, so the rate of strengthening may well level off tomorrow and Sunday.

There is NO reliable indication on the point of landfall, but preparations are on-going along the Gulf coast.

Saturday 30 August

Another breezy morning, but the sun is out for the moment. Summer is really over, no doubt about it. Mind you, points further south and east probably disagree with me as they see the mercury topping at 80F today.

Hurricane Gustav is getting nasty, packing winds well in excess of 100 mph as it heads towards the Isle of Youth off Cuba. Beyond that, it's the Gulf of Mexico and pick your own point of landfall. Your guess is as good as mine, and I haven't got a clue, because the National Hurricane Center hasn't got a clue either. Spare a thought for the poor souls in Cuba, who can anticipate a storm surge of nearly 20 feet when Gustav rolls by.

Hurricane Gustav also brings a lot of rain, 25 inches. Australia, conversely, is suffering from drought. A drought of men. There are more women than men in Australia. Read the article, while I close this entry to avoid making ribald comments.

Friday, 29 August 2008

Just the ticket

The line-up for next November's US presidential elections is now complete, and what a flipping rogues' gallery it has become. As I've said earlier in the year, ain't I glad I don't have to go and vote for any of 'em.

McCain is superannuated, and in order to counteract that, they've taken on the governor of Alaska - Ms Palin, aged 44 - as deputy. I can't STAND her drawl, broader than the Yukon River itself.

Can a black man ever become president in the USA? I'm extremely cynical and say no. He did get the endorsement of Bill Clint'n - dragged out of Wandering Willy's mouth by a team of a dozen horses. What's the name of his sidekick, Bidet? OMG, I'm sorry, Biden.

Roll on December.

Nice Matters

Rosemary has worked tireless on the Nice Matters award, and has finalised the website, the journal and the logo. Call round at the journal and leave a note of praise for her work!

Friday 29 August 2008

A stiff breeze is blowing in the islands, yet the clouds sit at ground level. Further east, temperatures are set to soar into the mid 20s Celsius / 70s Fahrenheit, but we feel the effects of the Atlantic.

Tropical storm Gustav is grinding across Jamaica with winds of up to 70 mph, close to hurricane force. Once clear of the island, Gustav will really get down to business as it veers northwest across the far west of Cuba - the system may be packing winds of 125 mph by that time. The Cayman Islands will be in the way as well.

Tropical storm Hanna is expected to do something strange - veer southwest towards the Bahamas. Due to the rotation of the earth, tropical systems usually head northwest in the northern hemisphere. There is no indication yet where Hanna will make landfall (if at all); the same applies to Gustav.

A couple of other weather systems are marching across Africa, ready for the conveyor belt across the Atlantic - maybe to become hurricanes as well.

29 August 2005

Some archive pictures of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Katrina, exactly 3 years ago today. In memory of those who died. In the hope that some lessons were learned.

Hurricanes show the tremendous force of mother Nature and actually serve a very useful purpose. They disperse the energy of the sun which is radiated down onto tropical seas to higher latitudes. Hurricanes are in fact quite small weather systems, albeit intense. The depressions that visit us here in Scotland for instance extend for up to 2,000 miles in winter - wouldn't like to think of the amount of energy contained in them.

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Crisis in the Caucasus

On Saturday 30 August, a discussion will be held on the BBC programme Dateline London about the current problems in the Caucasus (Georgia &c). Dateline London is a forum for foreign journalists, based in London, to discuss topical subjects. One of the journalists will be from the Russian news agency Itar-Tass, which makes it a certainty that Georgia will feature heavily. Bearing in mind the sharply differing views in Moscow and Washington on said country, we should be in for a lively discussion.

Dateline London is broadcast at 12.30pm on BBC News 24, to be repeated at 2.30am on September 1st. The programme can be watched on the Net for 7 days after Saturday.

J-land photoshoot #138

Many thanks to Krissy for highlighting my picture of a bowl full of mackerel for the photoshoot. The fish were left outside the door, and subsequently put into a thick layer of salt. A couple of days later, they were boiled in water twice (in order to remove the worst of the salt) and served with milk and boiled potatoes. Very nice, but an acquired taste.


Thursday 28 August

Drizzly and grey, with a fair breeze blowing outside. Sun is trying to get out, but to no avail.

Tropical storm Gustav has transposed itself to the west of Haiti, meaning that Jamaica could be in for a nasty surprise in a day or so. A new tropical depression, with the prosaic name of 08L, has formed in the Atlantic, which is expected to become a hurricane in 3 days from now. Where it will make landfall from being 500 miles northeast of the Windward Islands is not known at this point. Hurricane season coming to a crescendo.

I have to add that the panic mode, in which the state of Louisiana is descending, would be ridiculous if it wasn't so potentially serious. How big a typeface do I have to use to say: nobody knows where Gustav will make landfall and there is time enough when they do. Yes I know, tomorrow is the 3rd anniversary of Katrina, but this is daft.

Telling your bank it's pants by doing so in your internet password is not deemed funny. One man has a battle royale with his bank to change his password back from "no it's not". Read more here.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Alerts cleared

Finally cleared the backlog and am now more or less up to date. Will try to keep abreast of developments, as I've found myself MIA for 4 or 5 days now lol.


A brief note for everyone to ponder.

Your average hurricane carries energy, equivalent to the world's electricity generating capacity - multiplied by 200.

Wednesday 27 August

My original entry got eaten by AOL, so got to start all over again. Sigh.

I've now cleared 50 of the 150 outstanding alerts, will carry on later today. Suppose I'm starting to put some clear water between the weekend and myself. It's a nice clear day in the isles, if a bit breezy.

Hurricane Gustav is a tropical storm, having lost a lot of puff in the traverse of the mountains in Haiti. The storm is getting underway again, heading for southeastern Cuba and Jamaica. It seems likely that the Gulf of Mexico will see Gustav after the weekend.

A computer virus has made it to the International Space Station via someone's laptop. It won't do much harm, but it's a pain.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Well, I'm still not catching up with alerts, pre-occupied as I am very badly this week. I intend (famous last words) to sit down tomorrow and go through the lot with a fine comb. Met someone very nice over the weekend, who went away on Sunday and, well, erm, you know...


The 7th anniversary of 9/11 is nearly upon us, so I have contacted the site-manager for Project 2996, Dale C. Roe,  to ask what was doing this year. This was (part of) his reply:

The two years since the first project2996, have been hard on me.  Numerous illnesses for me, plus an iffy job market, have really really sapped my time.  The biggest stumbling block is that I need a program to automate signups, and allow users to come back and enter in their own URLs for their tributes.  I had intended on writing this myself, but for the past 6 months or so I've been working 3 jobs and just haven't had the time.

So again, for this year I'm going to ask people to randomly pick a name and write a tribute and post it on their own blog.  Anyone who sends me the permalink, I'll be happy to post it up on the project2996 website.  Then for the coming year I'm going to try to give myself a short deadline to try to solve this project.  I'd like to get geared up so that things are running well for next year, giving me a solid 2 years before the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
I'll be posting something about this on the project2996 blog in the next couple of days.
Thank you for your continued interest in the project and in remembering our fallen.
Dale C. Roe

Tuesday 26 August

Grey day in Stornoway, although the breeze has dropped a little when compared to the last few days. Summer has definitely gone - a process already started 4 weeks ago.

The UN says that the production of opium in Afghanistan has dropped when compared to 2007. Fewer provinces now grow the opium poppy, used to produce heroin. Helmand province, scene of operations for the British contingent, accounts for two-thirds of all opium produced in the country.

The Russian government has recognised the break-away regions of Abchazia and South Ossetia in Georgia as independent states. That will really help the situation down there; more to the point, it puts the lie in statements from the Russian government that they are there as peacekeepers. Over the weekend, a US warship docked at the Georgian port of Batumi with humanitarian supplies - it should have gone to Poti, further north, but this port is held by Russian forces, and the Americans don't want a face-to-face confrontation with Russian troops.

Hurricane update - 26 August

Hurricane Gustav is approaching the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince from the south with winds of 90 mph and higher. The storm will lose a little of its strength in traversing the southwestern peninsula of Haiti, but is then expected to intensify to (at least) category 3 strength on its approach to eastern Cuba. Gustav will pass to the south of the island. The forecast for the end of the week is full of uncertainty, and whether this hurricane will make it into the Gulf of Mexico cannot be ruled in or out.

Monday, 25 August 2008


I have about 110 alerts to go through, but I'm unfortunately not in the mood today. So I didn't think it fair to skim through entries. Will try again tomorrow.

Hurricane update - 25 August

At 6pm GMT today, the tropical cyclone in the Caribbean was found to be a tropical storm (Gustav), with winds of 60 mph. The storm will head northwest towards Haiti, and make landfall on the southwestern peninsula as a category 1 hurricane, with winds of at least 75 mph. The storm will continue towards eastern Cuba, but lose intensity as it crosses the mountainous east of the island.

Monday 25 August

Bright sunny afternoon, after a morning of torrential downpours. We had four American cyclists in from NH, who took the bus to town rather than walk. They departed on the ferry at lunchtime, but they're having a bumpy crossing - it's a full force 6 out there.

On the hurricane front, I need to raise awareness of two systems:

Tropical Storm Julio is heading north up Baja California, and although it is weakening, its pall of moisture is expected to bring 1 to 2 inches of rain to the southwestern United States.

Tropical depression 7 formed southeast of Haiti just now, and will head that way. NHC is forecasting up to 25 inches of rain for Hispaniola. Its longer range forecast is full of uncertainty, and there is no certainty whether Florida is once more in the firing line. Follow the NHC output if concerned.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Sunday 24 August

Breezy but sunny / bright, with the odd shower in the distance. Yesterday, I went to the Butt of Lewis and the Callanish Stones, showing one of the guests round. The southeasterly wind was strong, and went up to galeforce by the end of the afternoon. Had to hold on to the Stones at one point - then the rain came. Could show the guest the phenomenon of horizontal rain.

I only made the chat quite late last night; I hope everyone that wanted to join was able to, and that a good time was had by all.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Saturday 23 August

Overcast and windy today, with gales forecast for our neck of the woods. Autumn is on its way, September is only 9 days away. Rain is also on its way, but it looks like windborne spits and spots on the radar imagery. Will be off to have a look at the Butt of Lewis and Eoropie, always spectacular in high wind conditions.

I may not be back on time for the 8pm start of the J-land chat, but do go ahead anyway.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Friday 22 August

Late entry for today, which was a cool but fairly bright affair. We had yet another cruiseliner in (the Astor), which arrived at midday and left at about 7pm. Received more information for my wargraves project - delivered by hand.

I am pleased that there are now 20 entries in the Anniversary blog, together with more comments etc. Keep them coming in - also don't forget tomorrow's Anniversary Chat in the Journals Chatroom, link on every journal's frontpage.

Repeating the times:
8pm UK, 3pm EDT
11pm UK, 6pm EDT

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Anniversary Entry

J-land has been around for 5 years, and I have been part of the community for a little over 2 years, although I have kept this journal for nearly 4 years. Three years and 318 days, to be precise. It started out as a diary, in the days that I was travelling hither and thither across northern Scotland. After I settled here in Stornoway, it gradually extended its remit, and I first came across the community of journalers when I got wind of the VIVI-awards in 2005. In April 2006, the death of one journaler, Pam (his1desire), prompted my entry into the community proper.

Northern Trip became more a view on the world from this corner of Scotland, and a view of Scotland for the world. That's the remit on the header of the blog. I have also made it my business to highlight those in need, something which has now taken off on the Call for Support journal. I have encountered hundreds of different people from America, the UK and elsewhere. Some have come and gone, others have stayed. Sadly, some died. It is a unique community, and one I am happy to be part of. I particularly appreciated this last May, following the unexpected death of my mother.

I hope J-land continues to go from strength to strength, and look forward to its second lustrum in 2013.


Please call round Helen's blog Pictures within Pictures. She combines photographs with poetry, which makes for a fantastic combination.

J-land is 5 today!

Today five years ago, AOL launched AOL Journals, now called Blogs. It was the foundation stone for what we know as J-land today.

Go to the Anniversary Journal and make an entry or comment on this momentous occasion, if you haven't already done so.

Don't forget there is an anniversary chat in the Journals Chatroom (link above every AOL blog) at 1900 GMT (8pm UK time, 3pm EDT) on Saturday 23 August, as well as at 2200 GMT (11pm UK, 6pm EDT) - in fact you can have a J-land chat any time you want in there.

Thursday 21 August

One month back in Stornoway today. It's a fairly bright morning, with the sun trying to come out. A cruiseliner lies anchored south of the lighthouse - it's the Delphin Voyager. Not seen her in before. As per usual, passengers are ferried ashore in tenders, and then they're taken for tours in coaches.

I have just gone through my outstanding 'alerts' (I use a feedreader, not AOL's alerts), so am up to date on that score.

Former rockstar Gary Glitter (real name Paul Gadd) is back in Thailand after being refused entry into Hong Kong. Gadd spent 3 years behind bars in Vietnam for child abuse. Should he return to the UK, he will probably be banned from travelling abroad. More on this story here.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008


You'll have to forgive me for not doing the rounds this evening, I'm going to bed now. Looking at it objectively, tropical storm Fay was a bit of a damp squib. Yep, she produced winds of force 10 to 11 on the Beaufort scale, but at the moment, it's rain that seems to be the memorable feature. Someone measured 22 inches (550 mm) out of Fay. Gather that's not unwelcome in the Sunshine State.

The aircrash at Madrid came to my attention shortly after it happened, and the deathtoll has sadly exceeded 150. We can only keep the family and friends of those that died in our thoughts at this time, and hope that the root cause is found soon.

One other thing caught my eye just now: fruit juice can interfere with medication. It is already known that you cannot take grapefruit juice with several medicines, and now oranges and apples are also suspect - a component in them may prevent the absorption of the medicine from the intestine. Before you stop drinking orange juice or cut out apples: ask your chemist first. And, much more research is needed to confirm all these theories.

Van Gogh

Don Maclean sang a song about the 19th century Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh. This video, on Youtube, uses Maclean's song as a backdrop to a slideshow of Van Gogh's work.

Wednesday 20 August

Overcast and a little breezy, but not too cool. Still keeping an eye on tropical storm Fay, which was near Cape Canaveral at midday GMT, 8 am EDT. The storm will inch out to sea, but is expected to veer inland again in one or two days' time.

A plane, operated by Spanair and bound for Gran Canaria has come off the runway at Madrid airport at 1245 GMT today. Seven people are known to have died in the incident, which took place in fine weather conditions.

Received feedback from New Zealand regarding a wargrave from 1926 in the Scarista Cemetery, which I visited last Thursday. They had warned of a waiting time of several weeks, so that was a pleasant surprise. Got some barebone details, which is all I require, but should I want to know more then the price will be NZ$25.00 (just under £10 or US$20).

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Close of day

Tropical storm Fay, inland over central Florida, has intensified a little. The storm will slowly move north and out to sea. It will come back to haunt Florida as a category 1 hurricane, and could pass across to the Gulf of Mexico. Keep an eye on the NHC for forecasts and advice. There is a tropical storm warning out for southern Georgia as well.

Here is the link to pictures from my visit to Crossbost this afternoon. Researched the gravestones I found, with help from local people in the area.

Visit to Crossbost

Jumped on the bus this afternoon to visit the graveyard at Crossbost. It took me 45 minutes to trawl the old part of the cemetery, which is located above the seashore near the church. Found 19 wargraves, mainly family memorials, in addition to the 13 graves of victims of the Iolaire disaster, which I located in April 2007. I then had about 40 minutes to walk up and down the village street, which undulates some distance from the shore of Loch Leurbost / Loch Erisort. Nice views to be had from there. I'll post a link to pictures later.

Tuesday 19 August

Tropical storm Fay came ashore in the last hour near Cape Romano, 55 miles south of Ft Myers, FL. Maximum sustained winds were close to 60 mph, in other words not at hurricane strength. The system will move inland, northwards over the Florida peninsula, and reemerge over the open waters of the Atlantic by Thursday. A shift west will push it back inland and bring about its demise.

Currently, the main dangers from Fay lie in copious amounts of rainfall (up to 10 inches) and tornadoes. If you are in Florida, please continue to monitor output from NHC and NWS.

The weather in the Western Isles is grey, windy and cool. The mercury is at 15C / 59F, which is nearly 5 degrees C lower than yesterday. It should stay dry though - which is  a heartfelt wish of those in Northern Ireland, who have been awash in recent days.

I've studiously ignored the TV show Big Brother for the past couple of years, particularly after a horrendous series featuring Jade Goody opening her mouth too wide against an Indian filmstar. To make recompense for the perceived / alleged slight of racist behaviour, Ms Goody has recently appeared on the Indian version of Big Brother. Yesterday, Jade withdrew from the series after she was advised that she had been diagnosed with cervical cancer.

Whilst hoping that the cancer can be treated successfully in Jade, I also hope that Ms Goody will take the opportunity to use her celebrity status to raise awareness of cervical cancer, and the necessity to take a regular smear test. In the UK, 2,700 new cases of this cancer are diagnosed each year. It is the second most common form of cancer amongst women under 35.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Fatal coach crash

A double-decker bus, carrying foreign workers on a day out, has crashed near the Alton Towers themepark in Staffordshire, central England. The vehicle collided with a car, then went over a bridge and fell 45 feet on to its roof. One person is known to have died, 44 are injured of whom several seriously. A number have been airlifted to hospital in Birmingham. Weather conditions were described as severe, with a torrential downpour occurring. Coach and bus drivers, contacting the BBC, stated that the roads to the theme park were very narrow and difficult to negotiate.

Details of this incident are still coming in.

Signally flawed

With the advent of mobile phones, British Telecom have embarked on a program of removing public telephones from the streets of the UK. In the Scottish Highlands, they have hit a snag though. Out of the 192 phones, earmarked for removal, 151 have been recommended to be maintained by Highland Council. Large swathes of the Highlands don't have a mobile phone signal at all, due to remoteness or the presence of hills or mountains. Should the proposed plans go ahead, the 56 miles between Gairloch and Ullapool would have just * one * phonebox, and the 32 miles between Garve and Ullapool none at all.

Highland Council says that public phone booths are essential in reporting incidents or emergencies, particularly in remote areas.

Monday 18 August

Bright and sunny, and already getting quite warm. Another brilliant summer's day on its way. Not for those south of the Scottish central belt, I regret to say; the Met Office weather radar shows wet weather spreading over southern Scotland and moving in from Ireland towards England. I think I'll enjoy the 20C we're promised for today.

Bad weather has caused a dam breach in the Grand Canyon area, prompting the evacuation of about 400 people on account of flooding.

Tropical storm Fay has claimed the lives of 50 passengers, when their bus was swept away by a river in southwestern Haiti. The storm passed over Haiti on Friday, and dumped vast amounts of rain on the country. Four people died in the Dominican Republic, east of Haiti.

Hurricane update - 18 August

Tropical storm Fay has passed over Cuba and is currently in the Florida Straits, heading for southern Florida. It may be worth noting that the centre of Fay is currently to the east of the forecast track, heading for the extreme south of mainland Florida. Next update from NHC is due at 8 am EDT.  If you are in the affected area, please consult the Hurricane Local Statements, currently issued by the NWS centres in Key West, Miami, Melbourne, Tampa Bay and Tallahassee, FL.

I relay the current warnings: please consult the NHC website for up to date information.

A hurricane watch is in force for the following areas (hurricane conditions possible within the next 36 hours).

Florida: from Card Sound Bridge westwards to Tarpon Springs
Florida Keys: from south of Ocean Reef to Key West, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay

A tropical storm warning is in force for the following areas (tropical storm conditions likely within the next 24 hours)

Florida: South from Jupiter Inlet, and south from Bonita Beach, including Lake Okeechobee.
Florida Keys: south of Ocean Reef to Key West, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay

A tropical storm watch (meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours) is in force in the following areas:

Florida: North from Jupiter Inlet to Sebastian Inlet

A second tropical cyclone merits monitoring at this stage, this time east of the Philippines. Tropical storm Nuri (Karen) is heading straight for Luzon Island, and will be a category 1 to 2 strength typhoon by the time it reaches there on Wednesday. ThePhilippines authorities have raised signal number 1 (lower tropical storm strength), and are issuing updates on a 6-hourly basis.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Hurricane update - 17 August (II)

Although Fay is at present not a strong tropical storm (maximum sustained windspeeds 55 knots), everyone in Florida is advised to keep a close eye on the storm's progression. NHC is now drawing a parallel with Hurricane Charley, which affected the state in 2004 as a category 4 hurricane.

Hurricane Local Statements have been issued from the NWS offices in Key West, Miami, Melbourne and Tampa Bay. If you are in the areas concerned, please read these statements and keep abreast of updates on them.


Saturday, 23rd August, 8pm BST / 3pm EDT or 11pm BST / 6pm EDT (and onwards), Journals Chat (link above each journal):


1938, 1956, 1968, 2008

On August 21st, it will be 40 years ago since Soviet tanks invaded Czecho-Slovakia to suppress the liberal regime. The C/S leader Alexander Dubcek was removed in favour of Gustav Husak, a puppet of Leonid Brezhnev's USSR. The Czech people resisted by non-violent means, with Jan Palach setting himself on fire in protest.

Do we see an echo of this, and the 1956 invasion of Hungary now in Georgia? The times, like I said last week, when the USSR did not tolerate dissent around its borders? I am sorely tempted to say 'yes', in spite of all the rather empty sounding reassurances from Moscow. Condoleezza Rice's statements to me echo of 1938, when Neville Chamberlain did a successful exercise in planting his head in the sand in the face of aggression from Adolf Hitler. I don't like what's happening there.

J-land @ 5

Donna has excelled herself once more in the production of these tags, commemorating 5 years of AOL Journals. You can snag them from here. If you store them on-line, please remember NOT to do so on AOL, as that'll lose you the animation.

Sunday 17 August

A nice sunny day across the islands, although there is a fair bit of a breeze, which takes the edge of the 20C we're having at the moment. Quite busy keeping an eye on tropical storm Fay, which is getting its act together south of Cuba. Not a lot changing, except an extension of the warning areas along the West Florida coast - please keep an eye on the NHC website if you're in the firing line. You may find 4 to 10 inches of rain coming your way over in southern Florida over the next day or two.

Looking at the Hurricane Local Statement for Key West, a mandatory evacuation for visitors is underway since 8 o'clock (local time) this morning. People in mobile homes and/or in low-lying areas may also be mandated to evacuate to safety. High-profile vehicles should be out of the Keys by midday Monday.

The statement for Miami does not appear to indicate immediate action at this stage, but urges preparedness. Please read through it carefully, and keep up to date with the latest version of it.

It should be stressed that only official government advice should be followed (such as disseminated through NHC) - rumours will be rife at this point in time.

Hurricane update - 17 August

Tropical storm Fay is currently south of Cuba, and will move across the island towards Florida. The NHC expects the storm to be close to or at hurricane strength when it reaches the Florida Keys late on Monday. Hurricane local statements are in force from Key West and Miami.

I summarise the watches and warnings currently in force across southern Florida:

A hurricane watch (hurricane conditions possible within the next 36 hours) is in force for the Florida Keys from south of Ocean Reef to Key West, including the Dry Tortugas and Florida Bay; and along mainland Florida from Card Sound Bridge westwards to Bonita Beach.

A tropical storm watch (meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours) is in force along the southeast coast from Ocean Reef northward to Jupiter Inlet and for Lake Okeechobee.

These are reviewed every 3 hours, next update due at 0800 EDT. Please follow any advice given by NHC or local government agencies, and review your hurricane preparations NOW.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Lunar eclipse

Tonight, at 9.20pm, the moon appeared left of the power station, with a sizeable chunk of it missing. In other words, the lunar eclipse was already in full swing. The peak of the eclipse occurred shortly after 10 o'clock, with the moon rapidly reverting to normal shape as I type.

Saturday 16 August

Bright and fairly sunny today, although a fair amount of cloud is drifting around. It is pleasantly warm, with temperatures at 20C / 68F. No need to guess where I've spent the last hour or so: outside in the sun, reading a book. The link points to the reviews by readers on the Amazon website, and I broadly agree with them. Nonetheless, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Hurricane update - 15 August

Tropical storm Fay formed this evening over the east of the Dominican Republic. The National Hurricane Center is still working its way through the possible future track that this cyclone might take. Florida might be in the firing line early next week. As things stand at the moment, Fay could make landfall in Florida as a strong tropical storm, with winds of 60 knots (that's 65 mph). Please monitor NHC output for updates and advice.

A tropical storm warning is in force for the following areas (tropical storm conditions are likely within the next 24 hours):
Dominican Republic: Entire north coast, and for the south coast east of San Pedro de Macoris.
Haiti: northward from Gonaives
Cuba: provinces of Guantanamo, Santiago de Cuba, Granma
Bahamas: Southeastern Bahamas, including the Acklins, Crooked Island, the Inaguas, Mayaguana, the Ragged Islands as well as the Turks and Caicos Islands.

A tropical storm watch (meaning that tropical storm conditions are possible within the next 36 hours) is in force in the following areas:
Cuba: provinces of Holguin and Las Tunas
Bahamas: Central Bahamas, including Cat Island, the Exumas, Long Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.

Friday 15 August

Quite a contrast in weather to yesterday; today was overcast with some showers. The sun did put in an appearance at various stages during the day. Spent some time in the library, trying to learn more about WW1 and WW2 casualties from the isle of Harris. This follows on from my visits to cemeteries there over the past week or so.

Don't forget the lunar eclipse tomorrow - not visible in the US unfortunately. In the UK, there will be a partial eclipse, starting at sunset, i.e. moonrise. Up here in northern Scotland, sunset is at 9.10pm. Further south, it's a lot earlier.

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Pictures 14/08/08

Pictures can be viewed here, but these are appetisers.

Thursday 14 August

Another visit to South Harris today, with mrs B in attendance. Like yesterday, the bus left at 10 am and took us to Scarista in 2½ hours; this includes a half-hour stop-over in Tarbert (filled in with coffee and carrot cake) and photo-stops along the way. A Czech lady alighted north of Tarbert at Maraig, intending to march through the hills to the main town of Harris. The weather being sunny and warm, it won't have taken her long.

At Tarbert, the usual posse of tourists joined the bus, filling it up to capacity. We were dropped off at the church at Scarista, where I photographed more wargraves, including several private ones. By this I mean family gravestones, which refer to death by war. Trying to find access to the beach was tricky, and curtailed our time there - the return bus was due at 1.45. It delivered us to Stornoway at 3.30.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Pictures - 13/08/08

Pictures for today can be found here. There are several pictures of plaques on the Tarbert War Memorial (on their sides), which you may want to ignore.


Tears and sorrow

That is the caption used by satellite TV channel Russia Today, in its reporting on the crisis in Georgia. The station portrays the military action there as brought on by the Georgians, and necessary to counteract genocide. What a load of tosh. If anything, it's the Russian forces that are committing genocide in Georgia, bearing in mind the thousands of dead.

Wednesday 13 August

Very nice day, up to a point, which I spent in Harris. Took the 10 am bus down to Luskentyre; when you get off the bus, you're only at the road-end. To reach the beach, there is a 3 mile walk ahead of you.

Luskentyre is a small village, some 10 miles southwest of Harris's main town, Tarbert. The hamlet is strung out along a river estuary, which merges into an area of stunning sands. When I turned up, it was 11.30 am and sunny. I made my way down the road and had lunch in the dunes. Then it was a hop down the beach, which overlooks the island of Taransay (infamous for the Castaway 2000 project) and the west coast of South Harris.

My primary objective was to photograph more wargraves in the local cemetery, but it had eluded my attention (and memory) that Luskentyre has two graveyards. The second cemetery had 4 wargraves in it; the first one, nearest the beach, was too recent.
I had wanted to sit by the beach, but the midges were ferocious at times of no wind.
Also, it started to rain, and I got pretty wet on my way to the bus shelter. Bus stops do not exist here, you just flag down the bus. Service W10 was 15 minutes late, as the driver had to do the tourist thing, stopping at all the beaches and letting people off to take pictures. Some intrepid souls are reported to have taken a bath in the sea at such points. If I say that water temperatures at this latitude are 12C / 54F, would you be tempted?

As I kicked my heels at the Luskentyre road-end, a woman came jogging out of the village and headed up the main road towards Tarbert. She was chaperoned by two dogs. An hour later, as I left Tarbert for Stornoway, the same lady appeared in the village main street - she had covered the 8 miles in an hour on foot. The A859 road is pretty busy (by Hebridean standards), and whenever a vehicle appeared, she had to get self and dogs off the road.

I returned to Stornoway at 5.15. The driver had to stop to answer a mobile phone call, and also to drop off people at various points along the way - in other words, he was 10 minutes late.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Blown away

An inflatable dog turd the size of a house wreaked havoc in Berne, Switzerland, when a freak gust of wind (sic) blew it away. The giant stool brought down a powerline, smashed a window and came to rest in the grounds of a children's home. The excrement was in fact an art work which had floated in a pond outside a museum.

Harris Tweed loom

Last Friday, we went to the Gearrannan Blackhouse Village. Once there, we found that the weaving loom was in operation. I managed to video 19 seconds of it.


Many thanks to Dirk for pointing out the broken links in the picture post. Have corrected the mistake; I typed in an "s" too many.


This crisis played out over the past 5 days, but I can only now sit down and write a comment on it. It appeared to me that Russia was reverting back to the bad old days of Soviet communism, where any dissent from neighbours would be violently quashed. The years of 1956 (Hungary) and 1968 (Czecho-Slovakia) spring to mind.

Georgia has been beset by two separatist movements within its borders, aided and abetted by the administration up in Moscow. The region of South Ossetia has seen its citizens being issued with Russian passports, providing a pretext for Moscow to mount a full-scale military invasion of the area, leaving thousands dead and tens of thousands displaced. It was not until an intervention by US president George W. Bush (characteristically late) that Moscow backed off, with troops withdrawn from South Ossetia.

Georgia is led by a president who aims to join NATO, and had the country been a member of the alliance, it would have precipitated a direct confrontation between the USA and Russia. An extremely dangerous scenario. Membership of the alliance, with the on-going unrest in mind, seems only a remote possibility at this stage.

Russia's government deserves to be censured in the strongest possible terms for endangering security in an already unstable area (there is a simmering conflict between Georgia's southern neighbour Armenia and Azerbaijan), and I hope they are dissuaded from mounting any further adventures in neighbouring countries whose politics they dislike.

Georgia has left the Commonwealth of Independent States (which encompasses Russia and the former constituent republics of the USSR).


The pictures of yesterday's walks in the Castle Grounds and at Tolsta / Garry can be viewed here. There are no annotations; am badly behind with those.

A few dozen shots of this morning's amble from the airport back to town can be seen here.

Tuesday 12 August

Nice sunny day, and warmer than of late, with the mercury at 18C / 64F. After seeing my father off at the airport at 8 am, I walked back to Stornoway along the shoreline. This is a walk of some 4 miles, but taking 1½ hours due to the relative difficulties that you encounter along the way.

Kept a quiet afternoon, catching up with some local history work among other things.

Monday 11 August

The last day of my father's visit saw us traversing the Castle Grounds from the Waterwheel to the Creed and back to the YM bridge in about 2½ hours. Pictures will follow - I took 86 today, and I haven't put them up yet.

Lunch was salted mackerel - very nice, but the milk and tatties were absolutely necessary. At 2.50, the bus left for Tolsta, and we went for a flying visit to Garry Beach. Unfortunately, the tide was in, and we had a bus to catch back to SY. Had we missed the 4.45, it would have meant a 2-hour wait.

Weather started off a bit iffy, but the sun came out and the mercury made it to 18C / 64F. Looked outside a minute ago, and if you look south at midnight, you'll see a bright star. That's actually the planet Saturn, and a pair of binoculars will show the rings. 

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Sunday 10 August

A day of varying fortunes in terms of weather. We set off for the Iolaire Memorial in the morning, which is a few miles by road. Apart from the historical context, the site has got some very nice views down the Minch. A jaunt round Stornoway Harbour brought us to Arnish after midday, a mile from the Memorial by sea, but about 7 miles by road. The Fabrication Yard was empty and looking derelicht, devoid of any signs of activity. The place was overrun by ragwort, a plant deemed a noxious weed by law, and requiring eradication. We kept a quiet afternoon, reading books and the like.

Saturday 9 August

Weather today is nothing short of grotty. It has been raining or drizzling all day, and we've barely seen the sun. The morning started out cold, but we managed to get up to 17C / 63F. During the afternoon, we drove along the Pentland Road to Carloway, and the Blackhouse Village at Gearrannan a few miles beyond. A man was working a Harris Tweed weaving loom. The Village was quite busy - a place to get out of the rain. After a repeat visit to the gallery at Morven (Barvas), we returned to town. We're hoping for better weather tomorrow.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Friday 8 August

In the morning, we took the bus to Melbost to take a walk along the Braighe. Nice idea, except when we reached the Aoidh Church at the eastern end of the Braighe, the heavens opened. We got suitably soaked on the way back to Melbost, and had to change clothes when we reached our Stornoway base again. Did not anticipate rain - object lesson: don't trust the Met Office forecasts.

In the afternoon, our trip went by car to Great Bernera, and in particular the beach at Bosta and the Iron Age House. The lady guide was able to give us 10 minutes' worth of explanation, after which she hurried to catch her bus home. Bosta is a beautiful beach, and I'll upload photos tomorrow (Saturday) to share the imagery.

Thursday, 7 August 2008


Photographs of the trips to Ness (yesterday) and Harris (today) are available, click on the relevant link. I took over 120 pictures today; have not yet annotated, just enjoy.

Thursday 7 August

After breakfast, we headed off by bus to Harris. £8.40 for a return to Rodel, which is a journey of 55 miles one way. The bus was pretty full with holiday makers, who were heading for the Isle of Skye; the service connects with the 11.50 ferry to Uig from Tarbert.

The weather was a bit iffy on crossing the Clisham, but you are in the mountains there, so no surprise. At Tarbert, the bus turned into a tourbus and as we hared south, the driver pulled over at regular intervals for a photography break. This was to view Luskentyre, Horgabost, McLeod's Stone and Scarista beach. At Rodel we had the grand total of 12 minutes to race round St Clement's Church. I also located 5 wargraves, which I duly added to my collection. At 1pm sharp, we made for Leverburgh, 4 miles to the west, where we disgorged the 21 tourists; us two changed buses to return to Tarbert along the eastern side of the island. The main route passes along the western shores. Had the southbound service kept up a brisk 50 mph pace, the northbound service turned into a dizzying 45 mph race around sharp hills, sharp bends, up and down, left and right - without much of a break. We left the wee bus in Tarbert with a distinct feeling of vertigo. It was a stunningly beautiful journey though.

On returning to Stornoway at 3.30pm, we went for a cuppa. Dinner was fish & chips.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Wednesday 6 August

That's my birthday nearly over, but it was one to remember. Here I was, dragged downstairs at 9 a.m., as something had arrived 'from my country'. Only to find my father sitting in the kitchen here, who had arrived unexpectedly (well, I was the only one NOT in the know) from Holland to help me celebrate.

We duly set off by bus to Ness for a walk down the coast from the Butt of Lewis to Aird Dell, a distance of a good 7 miles or so. The weather today has cooled down even further, and the force 5 northeasterly felt decidedly cold when the sun was away. It has been quite a while since I ventured along the coast south of Swainebost, and I did feel my muscles.

You'll have to forgive me for not following entry alerts for the next 7 days or so, as I only have a wee while in the late evening to do my Internet activities. I will keep y'all posted regarding our outdoor forays.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Tuesday 5 August

Nice bright, if cool day, with a brisk wind blowing. We're once again at 60F, but the sun takes the edge of the lower temperatures.

Upper Texas has taken delivery of tropical storm Edouard, which was a notch or two below hurricane strength; 55 knots (65 mph) were the strongest sustained winds on landfall at the McFaddin Nature Reserve. The storm is moving into central Texas where it will dump a lot of much-needed rain. Edouard disrupted oil production and deliveries.

Germany's WPC's are being issued with bullet-proof bras. Ordinary bras, when struck by a bullet, would have their wiring pushed into the underlying tissues, causes serious injury. Read more here.

Monday, 4 August 2008


As I mentioned late last week, I'm participating in a proof-reading site. This evening, I proofed a handful of pages from the Bible - in the Dakota language. Now I obviously don't speak or understand that, but you only need to compare the scan of the original print with the output from the Optical Character Recognition software. Interesting.

Pity the site couldn't manage better feedback than: "You haven't done anything".

Alerts back

I'm getting Comments alerts again; apparently, a piece of kit @ AOL had stopped working. They've restarted it.

Advice: use a feedreader for your public journals.


A tornado has wreaked death and destruction in the French town of Hautmont, close to the Belgian border. On Sunday evening, the twister rampaged down the town's high street, demolishing hundreds of houses and killing three people; one of these committed suicide after his house was destroyed by the storm.

Sniffer dogs were brought in to search for survivors who might be buried underneath the rubble. The nearby towns of Maubeuge, Neuf-Mesnil and Boussieres-sur-Sambre were also affected, although the damage there was not as extensive as in Hautmont.

The tornado struck at around 11pm last night. Further pictures here.

Monday 4 August

Fairly bright if cool day (barely 60F).

The Russian author Alexandr Solzhenitsyn has died in his home country, aged 89. He was famous for exposing Stalin's gulags (hard labour camps), and left for the West in the 1970s. Solzhenitsyn returned to Russia in 1994. Tributes have been pouring in from inside and outside Russia.

When you're out on the beach with your children, please keep an eye on them when they dig deep holes or tunnels under the sand. A 16-year old died when a sand tunnel collapsed on him on a beach in South Wales

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Please do not react to invitations from If you do, the site will send invitations on, using your address-book, and without much thought for considerations of privacy. I have posted about this several times, but this week I have received about half a dozen emails from, indicating that this pernicious pest is still snaring people.

Hurricane update - 3 August

Tropical storm Edouard has formed off the Mississippi delta this afternoon (local time) and is moving west whilst intensifying. The system might reach hurricane strength by the time it makes landfall, at around midnight on Tuesday morning, in the northeast of Texas.

Tropical storm warnings are in force from the Mississippi delta west towards Intracostal City (tropical storm conditions likely within 24 hours), with a watch in place from Intracostal City west towards Port O'Connor, Texas. Here, tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours.

Please monitor output from NHC at 3-hourly intervals, as well as local hurricane statements, which are likely to be introduced later this evening.



An avalanche on the world's second highest mountain, K2, has claimed the lives of 9 climbers. The incident occurred when an ice-pillar collapsed, breaking ropes and causing an avalanche. Several climbers are thought to be stuck above the area of the fall, known as the bottleneck, and may have to make their own way down; fixed ropes were broken by the icefall.

The mountain is located in the western Himalayas, on the border between Pakistani controlled Kashmir and China. K2 stands 8,611 meters above sealevel, that's 28,251 feet. It has only been climbed by a few hundred people, and has claimed dozens of lives.

The highest mountain I have ever ascended is a very easy peak called the Sparrhorn, some 7 miles north of Brig in Switzerland, which stands 3,011 meters (10,020 feet) above sealevel.

J-land photoshoot #138

J-land photoshoot #138 - Photographer's Choice

A tub full of mackerel, left at the door together with two loaves.


Today's pictures can be viewed here. Including those of the fish-story.

Pictures from July 21st to 31st can be accessed through this page. You need to click on each individual date, then click on Details to see the full line-up with annotations.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Evening notes

Attended the exhibition at Barvas this afternoon, which was interesting. Afterwards, we took unexpected delivery of two loaves and rather more than five fishes. In fact, it was several dozen mackerel, one of them in the process of being eaten by another fish - a posture continued in death for both of them.

No comments alerts or private journal entry alerts all day. Great.

I make overseas phonecalls, and I did a little market research on mobile phone charges for those calls: varying from 5 to 90p a minute.

Community Photo Challenge

This month's subject is Summer Fun. Well, here is Eoropie beach in northern Lewis on July 25th. A rare beach scene in the Hebrides.

Saturday 2 August

Bright and sunny morning, with cruiseliner Mona Lisa anchored off the Arnish Lighthouse. A great improvement on yesterday's rainy day.

Are you a UK citizen or resident, and do you feel that hospital care for military service personnel, wounded in the line of duty, leaves room for improvement? Have a look at this on-line petition to the Prime Minister - needs signing before August 19th. Sorry, UK only.

I'm off to an exhibition later this afternoon, will post photographs either tonight or tomorrow.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Close of day

Darkness is falling now, and the evenings are noticeably drawing in. We had a glimpse of sun earlier this evening, and some strange colours on the clouds towards sunset time.

Have been keeping myself busy with an Internet proof-reading site Distributed Proofreaders. This site, pointed out to me by Lori, is run by volunteers, and intends to turn scanned books into e-books. Anyone can participate - have a look.

So Radovan Karadzic didn't like the witchhunt? Well, he should reckon himself lucky not to have suffered the fate that would befall many a witch in the Middle Ages - being burned at the stake.

Friday 1 August

Rain all morning today, so not a sight of the solar eclipse at 10.15 a.m.. Would have been nice, 40% of the sun's disk obscured, but it was not to be.

MV Muirneag returned to Stornoway, after being away for 5 days for repairs following her grounding last Friday. Thursday was an overcast day, and occasional drops of rain fell. It felt quite warm (for our parts) with the mercury at 21C / 70F.

A horror story in the news this morning from Canada, where a passenger on a long-distance coach was murdered, then decapitated in an apparently unprovoked attack. The other passengers fled the coach, and kept the culprit inside by barring the door. Police have taken a suspect into custody.