Thursday, 31 January 2008
I am honoured to receive the Nice Matters award, and will do an entry later. Many thanks to Jeannette, and congratulations to others in J-land who are also being honoured in this way.
The freight ferry Riverdance, pictured above, is reported in serious difficulties in the Irish Sea. Crew and passengers are being airlifted off in the most atrocious of conditions. The vessel, which carries freight between Heysham and Warrenpoint, was apparently struck by a freak wave and is currently listing at 60 degrees after cargo shifted. Winds in the Irish Sea are currently blowing a full force 10, with gusts to 70 mph.
Earlier today, I received an email from someone in Canada who kindly forwarded an Internet link and hopefully later on a picture of one of the casualties on my Faces from the War Memorial site. Donald Martin, who originated from 59 Back (this village is too small to warrant street names) had emigrated to Australia. From the 49 documents, a sequence of events became clear, that is very sad to view.
A young man of 27, Donald had set forth to war from the town of Pyrmont, NSW. He left his lodgings at 109 Pyrmont Road, took all his belongings with him and signed up with the Australian Imperial Forces in 1916. He was duly transferred to the British Expeditionary Forces headquarters in Alexandria via Mudros. A note is made of him being subjected to disciplinary action after being found "out of bounds" without a pass. Donald went into the trenches and was killed in action on 29 July 1916. Where his remains lie buried is not known, but his kit was returned to his father in Back during 1917. It took a lot of correspondence back and forth for this to be traced, as the military police was sent to his last address in Pyrmont, where his poor landlady assured that Donald had taken his effects with him.
I never read his journal, and wish I had.
Please leave a comment, as I have a faint hope his wife Bonnie might read them and gain what comfort they bring.
It is well documented that long-term smokers run an increased risk of developing a lung disease known as emphysema. Sufferers find it extremely difficult to get their breath. On average, this disease begins to manifest itself around age 65 in smokers. Heavy users of cannabis display symptoms on average around age 41.
Leaving that to one side, the effect on users' mental health can be catastrophic. People with a propensity towards mental health problems run an increased risk to developing psychosis. Young people who use cannabis sometimes show a distinct decline in mental faculties.
Cannabis harmless? Never.
The storm, which will affect the whole of the UK through today, has already claimed one life. A lorrydriver died when his vehicle was blown over on the M6 motorway near Tebay early this morning. Dozens of other lorries [semis to American readers] were also blown onto their sides in gusts reaching 70 to 80 mph in places. Rail and road travel have been severely disrupted in the north of England, with police advising not to travel unless it's absolutely essential.
Still on the weatherfront, Mauritius and La Reunion have dodged a silver bullet. Tropical cyclone Gula was eroded by the proximity of tropical cyclone Fame, southwest of La Reunion, meaning it is now a strong tropical storm which will NOT directly affect either island. Tropical cyclone Gene meanwhile is set to pass east of New Caledonia on Friday. By that I mean Friday my time; it will be Saturday morning local time. New Caledonia is 12 hours ahead of my timezone, GMT.
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
Heard a pitiful story of an pilot who had suffered a mental breakdown at the controls of a commercial airliner. He wanted to talk to God. The plane, flying from Toronto to London, landed in Ireland. The man was taken off to be taken to hospital, as he had suffered a mental breakdown. The passengers disembarked, but were flown on to London 8 hours late.
Hurricanes flying round my ears at the moment. Gula is bearing down on Mauritius with winds of 90 mph - will need to check the 3pm forecast for an update, as I believe the storm is weakening. The authorities in Mauritius have finally woken up and issued a "Class 1" alert, equivalent to La Reunion's Yellow Alert. The flood of hits on my TC blog continues, with nearly 800 until now.
I was pleased to note that the Australian government intends to issue a formal apology to the Aboriginal people over the way they were treated in the past. This is aimed in particular at the so-called Stolen Generations, children born to Aboriginals who were forcibly taken away from their parents and placed with white families or institutions. This happened between 1915 and 1969. Australian PM Kevin Rudd has said that there will not be a compensation package. Instead, community and healthcare facilities will be improved for the Aboriginal community.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
Twenty years passed. It was now in the years after World War II, and to alleviate the shortage of rolling stock, an old engine stood sighing in the sidings at the station. An express train came roaring up from London through the dark evening and passed the green signal ahead of the station. As the locomotive drew level with the signal box, the driver caught sight of a ghostly white face dashing up across the lines, jumping in front of his train, trying to cross ahead of the engine. He harshly applied the brakes, and the express juddered to a stop at the top end of the sidings. The driver jumped out of his cab and ran towards the rear carriages, which were level with the signalbox. Nothing to be seen. There was no body. What was standing in the siding next to the mainline was the old engine. The signalman, who was still there after twenty years, leaned outside to see what the commotion was about. He climbed down to the tracks and glanced past the back of the carriages - and recognised the engine. It was the very locomotive that had mowed down his own daughter, all those years ago.
This statue currently stands outside the Iraqi palace, Now home to the 4th Infantry division. It will eventually be shipped home And put in the memorial museum in Fort Hood , TX
The statue was created by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad.
Kalat was so grateful for the Americans liberation of his country; He melted 3 of the heads of the fallen Saddam and made the statue as a memorial to the American soldiers and their fallen warriors.
Kalat worked on this memorial night and day for several months. To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.
with thanks to Frances, text amended.
Celestial bodies will feature prominently in the news, I just hope they don't end up in my porridge. An asteroid tends to mess up your coiffure and all that. One has just shot past at 8.33 this morning, passing at just over half a million kilometers. That's a close shave. Another asteroid will slam into Mars tomorrow, if astronomers get it right.
Fiji is clearing up the mess, left behind by cyclone Gene. The system, formally of tropical storm strength, carried gusts of 90 mph. Water and power supplies are interrupted, and the authorities said they were caught out.
That is not correct. On Sunday 27 January, the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Hawaii issued the first warning for Gene at 2100 GMT, following a Tropical Cyclone Formation alert at 0900 the same day. The Fijian's own warning centre did not properly pick up on Gene at that time, saying there was a low probability of a cyclone forming.
I realise that Hurricane forecasting is difficult, and that the systems themselves are more unpredictable than usual. However, I don't believe in hurricanes blowing up out of nothing.
Mauritius is NOT on Yellow Alert, which I reckon is a mistake. My Tropical Cyclones blog, having received 760 hits this morning, contains a recommendation that the country be placed on Yellow Alert.
Monday, 28 January 2008
In this incident, a fuel depot blew up north of London, severely damaging houses and an industrial estate, but fortunately without loss of life. If the fueltanks in the centre of Stornoway blew up - well, doesn't bear thinking about.
Tropical cyclone Gula is causing concern in Mauritius. Although it isn't due for another 3 days, I have already had 400 hits on my TC blog in the last 16 hours alone. Last year, TC Gamede attracted thousands of hits on my old, AOL-based, TC blog.
Cyclone Gula is heading straight for Mauritius and La Reunion. Local information is scant, but they should anticipate the storm to come barrelling through on January 31st. This date lies as yet outside the normal forecast range, but it could be a category 2 or even 3 hurricane. My tropical cyclone blog has attracted 250 visitors today, mostly from Mauritius.
Cyclone Gene, a tropical storm with winds of 55 knots, will pass through Fiji during the next 12 hours. It is headed for Vanuatu and New Caledonia, but will not intensify much.
The row over the Lewis windfarm continues, with a delegation from the Western Isles Council jetting off to Edinburgh to ask the First Minister to reverse the decision.
Another row relates to the famous Lewis Chessmen
of which this is an 8 foot representation near the site of their original find, in 1831. Our local MP has called for their return to the Western Isles. The figurines reside in the British Museum in London, which is forbidden by Act of Parliament, from disposing of its assets. It would require another Act to undo this, which seems extremely unlikely, after the UK Culture Minister referred to the idea as a "load of nonsense" and to the Scottish First Minister as coming up with (I quote) "a pound of policy mixed with a pound of posturing". The formal reason for the refusal is that the Lewis Chessmen were made in Norway, and taken to the island by the Vikings - they do not originate here. Personally, I think that the things have lain here for so long that at least it could be acknowledged by having a few of them in the museum here. Not likely.
Sunday, 27 January 2008
We were dressed and ready to go out for the party. We turned on a night light, turned the answering machine on, covered our pet parakeet and put the cat in the backyard. We phoned the local cab company and requested a taxi. The taxi arrived and we opened the front door to leave the house.
The cat we put out in the yard, scoots back into the house. We didn't want the cat shut in the house because she always tries to eat the bird. My wife goes out to the taxi, while I went inside to get the cat. The cat runs upstairs, with me in hot pursuit.
Waiting in the cab, my wife doesn't want the driver to know that the house will be empty for the night. So, she explains to the taxi driver that I will be out soon,
"He's just going upstairs to say Goodbye to my mother."
A few minutes later, I get into the cab.
"Sorry I took so long," I said, as we drove away. "That stupid bitch was hiding under the bed. I had to poke her with a coat hanger to get her to come out! She tried to take off, so I grabbed her by the neck. Then, I had to wrap her in a blanket to keep her from scratching me. But it worked! I hauled her fat ass Downstairs and threw her out into the back yard!"
The cab driver hit a parked car.
The fate of the windfarm will be decided within the next 3 weeks. Scottish Ministers have indicated that they are 'minded to reject' the planning application. This gives the developers a final chance to bring up material that would change ministers' mind. Such material would have to include indications that NO violations of the Wildlife and Habitat Directives from the EU would be committed in building the windfarm. That is not likely.
Western Isles Council has staked much on this windfarm, hailing it as the salvation of the local economy. They say it would bring 400 jobs and £6m per annum into the local economy, as well as boosting the local Fabrication Yard, which would make the turbine towers. The problem is that opposition to the whole project runs at 90% of the populace, and it has created deep divisions within the island community. It's not just "an opportunity of a lifetime" that stands to be lost. A lot of "face" also stands to be lost if the windfarm is not approved.
If not here, then where?
The tide in the implementation of renewable energy is slowly turning, and has done so in the three years I've been in Lewis. New technologies have surfaced, such as wave- and tidal power. These have far less environmental impact than windturbines. The Western Isles could play host to such plans, without it being (too much) of an intrusion on the landscape and wildlife habitats. Windfarms are deeply unpopular across Scotland, and plans are being thrown out on a regular basis. Rather than going for wholesale windpower, a mix of renewable energy sources (including wind) should be deployed.
New nuclear powerstations have been ruled out by the current Scottish (devolved) Government, leaving a 40% gap in their energy supply calculations. There will not be a nuclear powerstation in this neck of the woods. With 25,000 residents, the islands do not need this.
Don't forget, you're talking about nationwide energy provision.
It is the 63rd anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp from the Nazis. It was iconic for the mass-slaughter of 6 million Jews and others, not deemed fit for life by the deranged ideologies of Adolf Hitler and his henchmen. Auschwitz was preserved for posterity as it was in 1945, minus some furnaces and huts. I have never visited the site, and am most unlikely to.
Holocaust Memorial Day is not only to remember the victims of the atrocities of World War II, but also preceding and following genocides. Such as in the former Yugoslavia
like at Srebrenica, above, where 7,000 men and boys were led away under the eyes of UN forces. None of them returned alive.
Another event mentioned in news reports today was the 1994 massacre in Rwanda, East Africa, where rivalries between Hutu and Tutsi tribes left hundreds of thousands dead.
An internet search on any of these events makes for profoundly depressing reading. Apologists for and deniers of the Nazi atrocities can expect to be prosecuted. I have also found disturbing evidence of people seeking to justify the events in Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, trying to shift the blame onto the victims. Do not think that the end of armed hostilities in the former Yugoslav republics has ended the enmity between the different ethnic groups there. Watch Kosovo. Watch Bosnia.
No more genocides.
Don't hold your breath though.
Two hurricanes in the Indian Ocean, one is about to slam into northwestern Madagascar with winds of 100 mph. And I don't think anybody knows what's going to hit them. Number two is forming northeast of the islands of Mauritius and La Reunion and heading straight for them. Keeping a very close eye on the two of them.
Fifteen local councillors held a private meeting on Saturday in Stornoway to discuss options to salvage the windfarm application for North Lewis. Scottish Ministers have indicated that they are minded to reject it. Whether full council agrees with their modus operandii is not clear, but they intend to appeal to First Minister Alex Salmond to intervene. Problem is that allowing the project to go ahead as stated, would expose the UK as a whole to massive fines from the EU. Large swathes of the island's interior are Special Protected Areas under EU law, something wholeheartedly endorsed by the islands' council a number of years ago.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
Just been going through the submissions to the AOL Community Photoshoot, so hop along to these links for the line-up:
Interesting detail: The MV Clansman is supposed to go for its overhaul immediately after completing this afternoon's runs. The normal vessel, MV Isle of Lewis, is on its way north from Gourock after refit.
The Frenchman, the last-but-one French survivor, Louis de Cazenave, died earlier in the week at the age of 110. A tribute was paid by the French government, as the last of the "poilus", the hairy ones or French footsoldiers. Quite a contrast.
If you're in the UK, don't forget to take part in the RSPB bird watch weekend. For one hour, watch out for birds in your garden or park and count the largest number on the ground or alighted at any one time for one hour. Do not count the total number of one species, as you cannot tell whether it's the same birds returning. File your report here, where you can also find more information. Off to my own count.
Friday, 25 January 2008
It was reported this evening that the windfarm, proposed for the north of Lewis, is set to be rejected by Scottish Ministers. The project was for 181 turbines, each standing 450 feet tall, marching from Port of Ness in the north to Bragar in the west and Stornoway in the south. This would have meant one turbine for every 400 yards.
The windfarm was approved by the Western Isles Council, who had hailed the proposal as the salvation for the local economy. WIC convener Alec MacDonald expressed his deep disappointment at the likely rejection. Saliently, the Isles MSP [Member of Scottish Parliament], Alasdair Allan, was happy at the turning-down of the windfarm, saying it was too big for Lewis.
The main reason for Scottish Ministers not to approve the windfarm would seem to be environmental considerations. The islands are peppered with environmental designations, and the bird charity RSPB was most vocal in its opposition.
A formal decision is likely within the next few weeks.
If the decision is confirmed as a rejection, this puts the other two projects (in Eishken and Pairc) in doubt as well, to my mind.
Tobermory - Kilchoan: disrupted
Ardrossan - Brodick: disrupted
Oban - Barra/South Uist cancelled, vessel turned back
Oban - Colonsay cancelled
Oban - Mull disrupted
Morvern - Mull disrupted
Mallaig - Skye cancelled
Small Isles cancelled
Today is the
249th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns, Scotland's famous poet
and writer. Contrary to popular belief, Burns was able to write in the
King's English as well as Scots dialect. Supper tonight will not include haggis, in spite of Scots First Minister Alex Salmond's praise for the master of the puddin' race, as I do not particularly relish offal. Will post the recipe in an entry on Recipe Book, see if you'd like to try it out.
I'll copy Burns's most famous poem here:
Is there, for honest poverty
That hings his head, and a' that;
The coward-slave we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, and a' that
Our toils obscure, and a' that
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that -
What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, and a' that,
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine,
A Man's a man for a' that.
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show and a' that;
The honest man, though e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that. -
Then let us pray that come it may,
As come it will for a' that,
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth
Shall bear the gree, and a' that.
For a' that and a' that.
It's comin yet for a' that
That Man to Man the warld o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that
I was quite surprised to hear of the French Nick Leeson, the rogue trader who lost £3.5 billion ($7bn) by trading with tens of billions. Thought regulations would have been tightened up after Mr Leeson brought down Baring's Bank in 1995. Speaking on BBC TV last night, Nick Leeson explained that the banks are not as much interested in the regulatory side of their business, rather than in making money. This chappy knew how to cook the books, apparently.
The contraceptive pill has been credited with lowering the rate of ovarian cancer in women who use it, according to a report on BBC News. Since its introduction in 1961, 100,000 cases of the disease have been prevented. Calls were made for the Pill to be made available over the counter, but it should be born in mind that the hormones in the Pill could contribute to an increase in cases of cancer of the breast and cervix. It does have serious side-effects, which mean that a doctor does have to keep an eye on the user on a regular basis.
Thursday, 24 January 2008
It put me in mind of a walk I took in southeast Lewis nearly 3 years ago, when I walked from the Eishken Lodge to Balallan, 7½ miles. Halfway up the road, I came upon a ewe which lay virtually motionless on the ground. A glance told me that the crows had already pecked out its eyes. Beside the ewe stood a young lamb (this was on April 20), looking at me uncomprehending. If it had been able to speak it would have said "Why won't my mum get up? She won't give me any milk and I'm hungry". The late afternoon sun shone through its ears, showing them pink. It could not know that its mother's death would mean its own demise within a few days, unless a shepherd or farmer came by. Which would be very unlikely along that road, it being in one of the remotest corners of Lewis.
In the morning, FM reception in one of the radios in the house had gone to pot, but another radio did have coverage. Except for our local station, Isles FM 103.0, which had lost its 'analogue', whatever that be.
MV Muirneag, our freight ferry, was cancelled due to the high winds overnight, and will not sail tonight either. The ferry from Barra and South Uist has also been withdrawn for today. As I'm closing this post, a heavy shower passes over with hail and sleet.
Got this from Barbara [Life and Faith in Caneyhead]. Freerice.com is a game that benefits the hungry in the world. You are given a word and 4 possible meanings, only one of which is correct. If you give the correct answer, 20 grains of rice will be donated to the United Nations Food Programme. When you give an incorrect answer, you go down a level. When you give several correct answers, you go up a level. The maximum level is 50, although most people do not get beyond 48. My best level is 46, and this addictive game has yielded 2,200 grains of rice so far from me. How will you do?
The NHS in the Western Isles is once more under scrutiny when it became clear that the Chief Executive, suspended on full pay in August, is still suspended on full pay, 5 months later. He is enjoying an annual salary of £100,000 ($200,000), which boils down to £2,000 ($4,000) per week - for doing nothing. He was suspended after irregularities were discovered in the CV he had used for applying for the job a year ago. His salary could pay the wages of 5 nurses, and an outcry has arisen over the lack of action from Health Board managers. NHS WI was rocked by allegations of bullying and harassment by senior management and is hampered by an unresolved shortfall of £3.5m ($7m), although the Finance Director had promised a break-even point come this April. The FD came into post with a £77k relocation package.
Wednesday, 23 January 2008
Very often, my pictures have no colour in them (apart from grey), due to the weather conditions. Below picture was taken in March 2006, after a fall of snow left Sandwick Cemetery (a mile up the road) looking black and white. You'll be hard pressed to find any colour at all - apart from the blue in the sky.
The Indian state of West Bengal is affected by bird flu, H5N1 variety, which is prompting an increasingly extensive cull. Yesterday, a number of 2 million fowl was quoted, but as the outbreak spreads, this number could rise. Controlling the birdflu in West Bengal is very difficult, as many birds roam free, and have to be chased and caught before they can be despatched. Although the current form of the virus does not transmit to humans (other than through close contact with birds), people are dumping dead birds in wells and streams, and are reluctant to hand their live birds over to officials.
It is suggested that the UK could see the onset of broadband speeds of 100 Mbps, as towns and cities are supplied with fibre-optic cabling, needed for such speeds. BT (British Telecom) have been reluctant to make such an investment, but cable operator Virgin are making a start. BT are concerned that they may not be able to recoup their investment. At the moment, broadband speeds tend to be well below those advertised; my own broadband connections runs riot at 1Mbps, although it is advertised as "up to 8 Mbps".
Tuesday, 22 January 2008
- it is an artificial voice, pretty good but
- not all words are pronounced correctly
- there are gaps where no gaps should occur
Nonetheless, a nice gimmick.
Want to subscribe yourself? Visit the website. It takes a number of hours for them to process you. You cannot embed code into your AOL journal the way they suggest you do (you can if you're on Blogger or such like), but the link to the podcast page is working though.
Here in Stornoway, the tables are turned. It's blowing and it's wet. After my glib remarks that we were having the best weather in the country, the rest of the country is now bathed in beautiful winter sunshine and I'm in the dreich weather. Oh well, can't have it all. Overnight, the temperature rose from -2C at midnight to +6C at the moment.
Monday, 21 January 2008
Heard of a mid-air collision between two small planes over Los Angeles, where 5 people died, including one person in a car dealership who was hit by debris. Apparently, there was no airtraffic control applying in the area.
The tropical cyclone which was threatening New Zealand has transformed into an 'ordinary' depression, although the country is being lashed by rain and gales. No other cyclones appear to be on the cards.
Just want to make it clear that I had nothing to do with the picture of the men in a tub with a powersocket floating on flipflop. This was forwarded to me, and it sent a chill down my spine. How can anyone be that stupid, indeed.
Two powerstruggles going on around the world. South Africa has cut off electricity supplies to its neighbours, with Zimbabwe and Mozambique worst affected. South Africa is suffering increasing powercuts, due to a failure to invest in its electricity grids and generating capacity. The Gaza Strip has been plunged in darkness after Israel stopped supplies of fuel. This brought the sole powerstation in the area to a halt, and could potentially jeopardise the generators used by hospitals to keep going. Don't think that will solve any problems the two sides have with each other, in fact, it will make it worse.
Sunday, 20 January 2008
As she was still in mid-rant, she heard a tap on her window and looked up into the face of a very serious looking police officer. The officer ordered her to exit her car with her hands up. He took her to the police station where she was searched, finger printed, photographed, and placed in a holding cell. After a couple of hours, a policeman approached the cell and opened the door. She was escorted back to the booking desk where the arresting officer was waiting with her personal effects.
He said, 'I'm very sorry for this mistake. You see, I pulled up behind your car while you were blowing your horn, flipping off the guy in front of you, and cussing a blue streak at him. I noticed the 'What Would Jesus Do' bumper sticker, the 'Choose Life' License plate holder, the 'Follow Me to Sunday-School' bumper sticker, and the chrome-plated Christian fish emblem on the trunk, Naturally... I assumed you had stolen the car.' Priceless
She doesn't want links to recipe blogs, just emails. There is not enough space in comments sections (allowing only 2,000 characters) for all the details. When you email Zoe, please add @aol.com to the screenname - I do not post whole email addresses on here, as that is an open invitation for spammers.
The Nicolson Clock Tower in Stornoway. Used to be part of the school, but now standing all alone in the middle of a skate-boarding rink.
The co-pilot on flight BA038, which crashlanded at Heathrow last week, said he feared a catastrophe in which all would die when his plane lost all power. Instead, it glided to the ground and juddered along the grass. John Coward was at the controls at the time.
Not so lucky were the 11 passengers on a light plane in Angola, which crashed on an internal flight between the capital Luanda and the country's second city, Huambo. None survived. Angola's national carrier, TAAG, has such a poor safety record that it is not allowed to fly to the European Union.
Going around the world on his own in a record time of just over 57 days was French yachtsman Francis Joyon. In doing so, he shattered Ellen MacArthur's previous record by 14 days. She did it in 71 days and 14 hours (and a bit). Joyon had to combat gales and a near broken mast. Ms MacArthur has stated that records are there to be broken.
She will not attempt to regain that crown just yet, as she has previous commitments.
Saturday, 19 January 2008
A deep depression, ex Tropical Cyclone Funa, is forecast to move from the tropics and lie northwest of the North Island by midday Monday. Strong, very moist northeasterlies are expected to spread over northern New Zealand during Monday, bringing rain to the northern half of the North Island. Heavy falls are likely from Northland down through Coromandel Peninsula, Bay of Plenty and northern Gisborne, with a moderate risk of rainfall amounts reaching warning criteria. There is also a low risk that northeast winds could rise to severe gale about exposed parts of Northland on Monday.
The depression is expected to continue to move southwards during Tuesday and cross the South Island during the afternoon or evening. Rain is likely to spread over much of the country during this time, especially central regions. There is a risk of rainfall accumulations reaching warning criteria over many areas, as per the chart, and most especially about the ranges of Nelson and the South Island West Coast. Strong winds are also expected close to the depression, with a risk of severe northerly gales around Taranaki and Cook Strait early Tuesday and possible severe west to northwest gales over many eastern areas from Hawkes Bay down to Southland later on Tuesday and Wednesday, as per the chart.
There is still some uncertainty about the intensity and track of this depression
as it crosses the South Island on Tuesday and people are advised to remain up to
date with the latest forecasts as the situation evolves.
In order to make this tribute, I spent hours in the library copying details of those who lost their lives as a result of World War II whilst on service to the United Kingdom. It is restricted to the Isle of Lewis only. For this conflict, each area has compiled their own Roll of Honour; only one village appears to have fallen by the wayside. Tong, located 4 miles north of Stornoway along the road to Tolsta.
Sometimes, you find that several people lost their lives in the same incident. One that jumped out at me was the sinking of HMS Rawalpindi on 23 November 1939.
Rawalpindi was an Armed Merchant Cruiser, converted from a passenger liner by adding 10 pieces of gunnery. While patrolling north of the Faroe Islands on November 23, 1939, she investigated a possible enemy sighting, only to find that she had encountered two of the most powerful German warships, the battlecruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau trying to break out into the Atlantic. The Rawalpindi was able to signal the German ships' location back to base. Despite being hopelessly outgunned, Captain EC Kennedy of the Rawalpindi decided to fight, rather than surrender as demanded by the Germans. The German warships returned fire and sank Rawalpindi within forty minutes. Two hundred and thirty eight men died, including Captain Kennedy. Thirty seven men were rescued by the German ships and a further 11 were picked up by HMS Chitral (another converted passenger ship). Captain Kennedy, the father of broadcaster and author Ludovic Kennedy, was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches. A detailed account, from the perspective of the Scharnhorst, can be read here.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain spoke in the House of Commons afterwards: "These men might have known, as soon as they sighted the enemy, that there was no chance, but they had no thought of surrender. They fired their guns until they could be fired no more, and many went to their deaths in the great tradition of the Royal Navy. Their example will be an inspiration to thosse that come after them".
In spite of these fine words, and in spite of later German reports, captain Kennedy was 'merely' [not my words] mentioned in despatches, and the crew have not been posthumously rewarded for their bravery.
This entry is dedicated to the 238 that lost their lives that day, and to the bravery of all 276 crew.
Friday, 18 January 2008
Later this evening, I endeavour to get up to date with the pile of alerts that awaits me in my email inbox. For now, I'm downloading stuff into iTunes (radioshows and the like) and entering my local history research into a spreadsheet.
Last weekend I found I had worn out my third computermouse in as many years. Dug out an optical mouse, which (probably) does not wear out.
New Zealand is glancing north, where tropical cyclone Funa is heading south from Fiji. Funa will veer southwest, to pass well north of the North Island. Tropical cyclones are notoriously unpredictable, so will keep a sharp eye on that one.
There has been no word on the cause of the crashlanding of the Boeing 777 at Heathrow yesterday. Praise has been heaped on the crew of the airliner. British PM Gordon Brown was on a plane just half a mile from the incident.
Again in New Zealand, an investigation has begun into the murder of a young woman from Orkney. Karen Aim was found with severe injuries in the streets of Taupo, before she died. Shock has been expressed by the local community on the North Island of New Zealand, as well as in Orkney [north of mainland Scotland].
Thursday, 17 January 2008
A British Airways Boeing 777 has crashlanded at Heathrow airport near London this afternoon, narrowly missing nearby houses and a busy road. There is unconfirmed speculation that there was a comprehensive power failure on board. All passengers and crew managed to evacuated the aircraft, 18 of whom had received relatively minor injuries. There is disruption at Heathrow, where one runway remains closed.
Further details, including contact telephone numbers, can be found on the BBC website.
I think that's atrocious. In law, it is a criminal offense to assist in suicide. By morality it is unspeakable to act like that. I am no longer a frequenter of chatrooms, but if I were to find myself in such a position, I would imagine there are several avenues open.
- keep talking to the person
- dissuade them in any way possible
- get them to speak to someone on the phone (Samaritans) or face-to-face
Failing all that, and fearing the worst has happened, I think an emergency call should be placed with police.
Above graphic shows where my viewers on the Tropical Cyclones blog are from. Bit of a mixed bag, really. Today saw 200 viewers, a good total for a day with an active cyclone (Funa) threatening Vanuatu, Fiji and possibly, possibly New Zealand.
Went to Ness (North Lewis) today to photograph the War Memorial there. It was a cold afternoon, but sunny, after the rainy start we had. Taking pictures took only a few minutes, but then I had 40 minutes on my hands before the bus came back. So, I ambled up the road through Cross, Swainbost and Habost. Another two memorials stand along the road to Ness, and I'll have to devise a way to visit them in one afternoon.
A few days ago, it was announced that a young man had taken his own life in the village of Brue, which lies 1½ miles west of Barvas. As the bus passed through, I could not help noticing the hundreds of yards of cars, parked along both sides of the A858 road towards Shawbost from Barvas. Obviously people attending the funeral service; a church is located along that stretch of road.
Out in the South Pacific, Cyclone Funa is now at hurricane strength, and may reach category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. Its eastern outliers may sweep Fiji through tomorrow (GMT), which will leave the place rather wet. Funa will remain over the open ocean, but is heading south. Puts me in a bit of a worry for New Zealand, which lies south of Fiji. This is long-term forecasting, and bearing in mind the unpredictability of tropical cyclones, is a hazardous assumption to make. Watch this space.
Wednesday, 16 January 2008
This has left a shortage in organs, and in order to address this problem, the suggestion has been made that presumed consent be brought in. This means that everybody will donate their organs after death, unless they specify that they wish to opt out.
I can imagine that quite a few people will have problems with this idea, although I can understand why it has been mooted. I hope an intelligent debate with proper information can be held on this issue.
The Arnish Fabrication Yard, 1 mile west of me across the water, will have received a commitment to build the turbine towers for the North Lewis Windfarm. I hope this never comes off the ground, but that's in the hands of Scottish ministers. Even without the windfarm, Arnish should have plenty of work, what with all the windfarms they're building all over the world.
A Japanese whalingfleet is in Antarctic waters, with the intention of killing 900 whales, ostensibly for scientific research. Two vessels, manned by environmentalist campaigners, are following the fleet. Crewmembers from one ship boarded a whaler and were detained by its crew. Negotiations are grinding on to return the detained crew to their ship under mutually acceptable conditions.
From my perspective, the Japanese excuse for whaling is a load of rubbish. Any research on whales can be conducted without killing, and the numbers required are abhorrent. The whales caught by this fleet will end up on people's plates. I am one of the first to acknowledge the differing traditions of nations across the world, but I think it is time the Japanese woke up to the fact that there will be no whalemeat left for them to eat at all if they don't change their habits.
I appreciate the efforts of the activists from Greenpeace and other organisations to halt international whaling, although I'm not always happy with their methods.
Tuesday, 15 January 2008
Now, in order to keep the bank afloat, the Chancellor of the Exchequer (the Finance Minister) has given it £25bn. It has to find a new partner, which has been hard - but who wants to take on a bank with debts of that magnitude? So, by the end of the month, Northern Rock could stand to be nationalised to the tune of £55bn. That means that every taxpayer in the UK has to cough up £2000 ($3800).
I'm not a financial or economic analyst, but it has been pointed out that this started in February '07, under the stewartship of one Gordon Brown, currently Prime Minister. Sounds like he made a mess of things, and his successor Alistair Darling added to the mayhem. Totally unnecessary, and I'm very disappointed in Gordie.
His halo came clattering to the ground in October, when he dithered and dithered over the question of whether or not to call a General Election. He did not - because the polls said it would be bad for him. The polls? Who cares about the polls? I'm afraid that our Gordon has come out tops in the indecision stakes.
I thought the Czech Republic had gotten out of the Dark Ages years ago. Not so.
Evidence has come to light that the Czech Republic still has homes for those with severe physical and mental handicaps, in which the patients are kept in cage-beds. Like below.
This is an illegal practice, but is still prevalent in many homes across the Czech Republic. This country, part of Czechoslovakia until the amiable separation with Slovakia in 1991, is a prosperous nation, but with some very conservative views. The severely handicapped are kept hidden away, out of sight i.e. out of mind. An undercover team from the BBC visited one home and saw the practice with their own eyes. The patients are kept in cage beds, with nothing being done for them. The Czech Ministry of Social Affairs quotes funding problems for the continuation of the practice.
Follow the links for more background information, but please bear the above contents warning in mind. The report will be shown on the Ten o'Clock News on BBC1 tonight - it can be viewed live online from the link on this page.
For those in the US - 10pm British Time is 5pm EST, 4pm CST, 3pm MST and 2pm PST.
Did you know almost 2 million e-mails are sent every second? This is according to research by The Radicati Group. For many business people, e-mail is the main method of communication. And yet Lycos reports that e-mails sent in error are at the astonishing rate of 42 every minute, such as the sensitive documents a Government department inadvertently sent to the BBC about a contentious issue with a Financial Times journalist.
I've just read about a new and virulent form of MRSA. MRSA (Multi-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) is a bacterium that is resistant to most common antibiotics, usually present and contracted in hospitals. Form USA300 of the bug has now emerged amongst the gay community in San Francisco, with necrotising pneumonia the most common expression of it. Necrotising means the flesh or tissue are being "eaten" by the bacterium. This can be passed on between people through casual contact, but also by sexual activitiy. Good hygiene is therefore suggested.