Thursday, 31 January 2008

Evening notes



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.

Electrifying Eigg

The islanders of Eigg are set to switch on their own mains electricity tomorrow. The weather is going to be abysmal, but if you keep an eye on the BBC (BBC Scotland, Highlands & Islands in particulary), you'll see the festivities. Meanwhile, here is an image sent by one of the leading people in the island, of the windturbines at Grulin. No, Grulin has been derelict for 170 years. The peak in the distance stands 1350 feet high, as seen from about 300 feet above sealevel. Sorry, I know Eigg like the back of my hand.


Call for support

Another J-lander has passed away, Walt, writer of The Diatom Project. I learned of this through Sunny's J-land Angels blog, courtesy Jeannette [jeanno43] who flagged it up.

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.

Harmless cannabis

I have never, ever, believed that is true. And today I read a report that yet another aspect of cannabis use makes it more of a danger to health than previously thought. It is actually more dangerous than smoking ordinary tobacco.

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.

Make money on YouTube

Do you regularly upload videos to YouTube that attract thousands of viewers? Well, you could be in line for a windfall. Find out more from YouTube on this link. A full report is available on the BBC website.

Thursday notes

Had a very wild night, which saw the windows flexing under the force of the winds. Rain was pouring down as well, with more water than anything else in the atmosphere. Temperatures are set to decrease, with snow on the hills and maybe even down to sealevel. Conditions in mainland Scotland will be atrocious overnight, as another severe gale will spring up, causing drifting of lying snow. The forecast for inshore waters, up to 12 miles from the coast, mentions winds of force 10 or 11 through today. The result is that not many ferry services are running according to schedule, if at all.

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

Evening notes

Rain lashing down, winds are howling at force 9. Again. It's still winter, obviously. We're in for a short, sharp shock of winter, after which the Atlantic will resume its sway.

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.

J-land Photoshoot #127

The theme was OLD. Well, you can't get any older on Earth than this

Those rocks, found near the Butt of Lewis [the northernmost cape in the island] are 3,500 million years old. The oldest on the surface of the Earth.

Wednesday notes

Cold day with occasional wintry showers. We should anticipate gales tonight and tomorrow night, followed by a cold blast from the Arctic. This will only last for a day (Saturday).

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

Coincidence

In the years before World War II, signalboxes were manned and lived in. One such stood near a railway junction in the west of England; there were also a number of sidings. In the 1920s, a family lived in the box who had a beautiful young daughter. She had caught the eye of a young man, living in the stationmaster's house, on the other side of the tracks. Although her father forebade the love, well, nothing stands in the way of love, will it now? So, the young woman sneaked out every evening to be with her young man. Her father found out one evening, and there was an unholy row in the signalbox. As the row went on over the signals, the father had to change them for the approaching express from London. His daughter took the chance, dashed down the steps and started to cross the lines. The express was early, and before she knew what has happening it was upon her. The driver was too late in seeing her, her white face and billowing hair in the headlights. He braked hard, but could not avoid a collision. The young woman was dead.

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.

Call for support III

Joni's sister has had to go into hospital today after she was diagnosed with pneumonia. It is hoped she won't need to be in for very long. Please call round, if you haven't already done so.

Call for support II

Courtney [foreverpixie89] has announced that her marriage is over. She attended the Journals Chatroom when that first started, and we were witness to verbal abuse by her "husband". She was talking for some time of ending her marriage, but now that it has actually happened, it has left her heartbroken. Courtney is partially deaf, and vulnerable - something her "husband" took advantage of. Please call round to offer moral support.

Recycling


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.

Call for support

Please call round at Anne's [ksquester, Saturday's Child] as her dog Luke is very ill. This has happened before, and Luke has recovered. Let's hope the same happens this time round.

Tuesday notes

I have just emailed the Mauritius Weather Office, with a formal recommendation that the country be put on Yellow Alert over TC Gula. The latest forecast vindicates that admittedly bold move. I'm not normally that assertive, but if I have close on 800 people from Mauritius looking at my wee blog, somebody is short of information.

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.

Hurricane update - 29 January

Tropical cyclone Gula is ambling around some 450 miles north of Mauritius, but will start moving southsouthwest within the next 24 hours. Mauritius should anticipate the cyclone within 48 hours; La Reunion is on Yellow Alert - because of tropical cyclone Fame, which is approaching the island from the west, and Gula, coming in from the northeast.

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

Afternoon jottings

Rain pelting down, wind blowing up the street. Not a nice afternoon to be out and about. A gastanker is moored in the towncentre, to deliver another consignment of LPG for us to cook our suppers on. Yippee. In years to come, this hazardous sort of activity will hopefully be relocated 2 miles down the coast to Glumag Harbour, and out of the town centre. Does anyone recall the Buncefield explosion in December 2005?

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.

Hurricane update - 28 January

Three tropical cyclones on the go, although one is collapsing in Madagascar. The two others are:

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.

Monday notes

Dark, grey, wet and windy. Yes, it's still January.

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

Call for support

Please call round at Phyllis, as she has had a very rough week. Lots going wrong for people around her, and a health scare.

Going out

with thanks to Sybil

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.

Mobile phone tracker

Want to know where your mobile phone is?
Want to know where your other half's mobile phone is?

Well, help is at hand. This site tracks any mobile number, working on GSM technology, by satellite triangulation.

Windfarm - explanatory notes

The events surrounding the Lewis Windfarm can appear confusing if you're not down on the ground, in northern Scotland. I'll try to explain a few points raised in comments to previous entries on this subject.

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.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2008

Today is January 27, Holocaust Memorial Day.

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.

Sunday notes

Overcast, but with some chinks in the clouds. Bit breezy this morning, but not a bad day.

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

Evening notes

The ferry finally left at 5.40pm, and is due back at 12.30am, in about an hour's time. With a guest on board, who cannot go home on the bus. Last bus left 20 minutes ago. It's a bit blustery outside, and there is severe weather across the country. Northern England has been having it in the neck, with 70 mph gusts blowing over lorries on the A1M motorway yesterday and powercuts today.

Just been going through the submissions to the AOL Community Photoshoot, so hop along to these links for the line-up:

Beginners
Advanced

Break-down

The ferry has still not left Stornoway, 3 hours after its billed departure time. Apparently, the bow-vizor is stuck. The captain and engineers are assessing the situation. Meanwhile, passengers are waiting on both sides of the water.

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.

A tale of two veterans

Two veterans of World War I passed away this week. One was German, the other French. The German veteran, Erich Kästner, aged 107, is though to have been the last survivor of the Great War, and his death went nearly unnoticed. He had been married to his wife Maria for 75 years until she died in 2003, aged 102. Germany does not keep track of its veterans, with two defeats in both World War having left major scars.

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.

Saturday notes

Not much wind, no rain and no sun here today. A boring grey day.

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.

Hurricane update - 26 January

Madagascar should be under warning for tropical cyclone Fame, which is heading for the area west of the city of Mahajanga, on its western coast. Fame is expected to carry winds of 80 mph by landfall. It is only a small cyclone, but 80 mph winds are not to be trifled with. Like last year, I am struggling to find any reference to it in the official Malagasy media, so please spread the word if you have any connections in that area.
Updates here.

Friday, 25 January 2008

No windfarm in Lewis?


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.

Sunrise colours

I regularly check the webcam looking out over Mt St Helens in Washington State. Noticed these startling colours at sunrise, with the plume of smoke coloured grey on one side and orange on the other side. Incidentally, sunset will occur in 30 minutes' time at my location.


Ferry cancellations

The Disruptions table on the Calmac website is awash with colour this afternoon, meaning that lots of service are disrupted. A full gale blows to the south of us - we appear to be in the eye of the storm.

Tobermory - Kilchoan: disrupted
Ardrossan - Brodick: disrupted
Oban - Barra/South Uist cancelled, vessel turned back
Oban - Colonsay cancelled
Oban - Mull disrupted
Morvern - Mull disrupted
Gigha cancelled
Iona cancelled
Islay disrupted
Raasay disrupted
Mallaig - Skye cancelled
Small Isles cancelled

Robert Burns

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

Friday notes

Last night's gale ceased at midnight, but not after wind gusts of 76 mph had occurred. There is now a force 4 blowing, and the day has brightened up after a very wet night. Although the wind has dropped, the sea takes a little longer to return to calm, judging by this recent webcam image from Eoropie.


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

Gale

It's blowing a hoolie out here, with winds of 40 mph gusting to 60 mph. Hope the electricity supply stays up; the line comes up through Skye, and a contact near the Dunvegan sub-station reported several large dips, which we also experienced. It is lashing down with rain, spray flies over the causeway and it's a horrible evening.

Innocence

Win told the story of a girl of 3, who survived home alone for 3 days. by eating out of the fridge. Read Winivere's entry for the whole story.

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.

Anniversary of blog


You may have spotted the wee Blogoversary tag in my sidebar, which counts down to the date my blog has its anniversary (8 October in my case). When you visit the site, you can generate a tag for your own blog. Another nice gimmick.

Rice game

Don't forget you can store your score and vocabulary level in the Rice Game by clicking on Options and selection the relevant option. It is ONLY stored on the PC you are working on. Banners are available from the Banners tab.

Winter's day

Our day started in fact very badly, with a ferocious thunderstorm around 1am. Thunder is rare in the islands, occurring mainly in winter. Thunder will occur if the atmosphere 6 miles up is 40 degrees (or more) colder than down on the ground. The thunder was particularly bad in Ness, North Lewis, but we got a couple of bad flashes and thunderclaps.

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.

Free Rice


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?

Thursday notes

Very cold start to the day with heavy showers of hail, sleet and snow. The radar shows a rash of them on their way to our coast. Gales overnight will herald a transition to a mild Friday, with maximum temps of 10C, as opposed to 5C today (50F and 40F respectively).

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

Psalm singing

Religion is a subject that I'm being cautious about. However, just wanted to share the music of Psalm singing in the Hebrides with you, by virtue of this website. It explains the way it is done here, with audio clips. Rumour has it that there are areas of Alabama and the Carolinas where the Afro-Americans conduct their services in a similar manner. Hope you enjoy!

Call for support

Monica is currently very concerned about the health of her 2-year old granddaughter Amelia, who was rushed into Intensive Care yesterday evening. Please call round if you haven't already done so.

J-land Photoshoot #126

Theme: Black and White.

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.



Reading out

I have had a few comments to the effect that people would like to hear me read out entries. I'm afraid I have a policy of not putting voice or face on-line, for reasons of privacy. Sorry!

Wednesday notes

Happy Hump Day across the pond, otherwise a bright day after a very wet and windy start. At the moment, we're in double figure temperatures (10C), which are set to fall as colder air marches southeast. It is very changeable at the moment, with the Atlantic in full flow. Stormforce winds are possible overnight, but of course, we do not merit a warning.

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

Call for readers

Cece [raeganfay, writes "Nowhere, USA"] has posted for the first time in 2008, and would be grateful if some people called round. She has been a busy bee by the sound of things.

Turning pages

Lori [helmswondermom] highlighted an on-line service (Turning the Pages) by the British Library. You can leaf through various works, with text both in print and in audio, and small excerpts of music.

Entries read out

Cracked it. If you click on the Odiogo logo in my sidebar you will be taken to this page. It will show the last dozen or so entries. When you click on one of them, it will be read out. A couple of notes on that:

- 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.

Tags:

Audio blog - update

Morning all. I mentioned in my last entry from yesterday that I had found a website that could convert blog entries into MP3 soundfiles. Got the answer back this morning, which implies that I have to tweak the underlying HTML code for AOL Journals, to which we do not have access. Yes, we can put a little code into sidebars and entries, but the template is beyond our reach. I'll put an email out to the Journals team 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

Audio blog

I am currently trying to get my blogfeeds converted to audio-files. I discovered this on another blog, where the written parts of entries were transformed to a "podcast" using www.odiogo.com. Worked quite well on Blogger. Don't (yet) know if AOL is similarly covered, but that should become clear by tomorrow.

Evening notes

Best weather in the country to be had in the Western Isles, judging by all the problems with flooding, rain and snow in England. Temperature at the moment -1C / 30F under a clear sky. Over on the mainland, overnight lows will be -6C / 20F.

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.

Monday notes

Occasional showers here today and not warm, only 5C. Rain and snow are moving up through Scotland, but are not expected to reach latitude 58N where I am.

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

Toe curling


Yep, that powersocket floats on two flipflops.

Looks may belie the man - or the woman

A man was being tailgated by a stressed out woman on a busy boulevard. Suddenly, the light turned yellow, just in front of him. He did the right thing, stopping at the crosswalk, even though he could have beaten the red light by accelerating through the intersection.   The tailgating woman was furious and honked her horn, screaming in frustration as she missed her chance to get through the intersection, dropping her cell phone and makeup as she barely got stopped before the pedestrian crosswalk.  

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

Black and white

A White woman, about 50 years old, was seated next to a Black man. Obviously disturbed by this, she called the air Hostess. 'Madam, what is the matter,' the Hostess asked. 'You obviously do not see it then?' she responded. 'You placed me next to a Black man. I do not agree to sit next to someone from such a repugnant group. Give me an alternative seat.' 'Be calm please, the Hostess replied. 'Almost all the seats on this flight are taken. I will go      to see if another seat is available.' The Hostess went away and came back a few minutes later. 'Madam, just as I thought, there are no other available seats in Economy class. I spoke to the Captain and he informed me that there are also no seats in the Business class. All the same, we still have one seat in First class.' Before the woman could reply, the Hostess continued: 'It is unusual for our company to permit someone from Economy class to sit in First class. However, given the circumstances, the Captain feels that it would be scandalous to make someone sit next to someone so disgusting.' She turned to the Black man and said, 'Therefore, Sir, if you would like to, please collect your hand luggage, a seat awaits you in First class.' At that moment, the other passengers who were shocked by what they had just witnessed stood up and applauded.

Request

Was asked by Zoe [zoepaul6968] if I could post a request for any recipes to be sent to her. Her last entry on her journal Domestic Chaos gives details what she's looking for.

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.

J-land Photoshoot #125

Krissy's Photoshoot, #125, has as its theme T, an item beginning with the letter T or resembling that letter. So, let's have a Tower.

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.



AOL Community Photo Challenge - Hometown

Entering this in the Photo Challenge, as soon as I've decided on which category I'm in. Advanced? Suppose so, not entirely convinced. Here goes, it's actually an old picture, but it shows Stornoway's Cromwell Street on a busy afternoon in April 2005. Cromwell Street is the main thoroughfare and shopping street.


Sunday notes

Bright sunshine interspersed with heavy showers - and brilliant rainbows - today. New Zealand is getting severe gales and heavy rain out of the now-extra-tropical Funa. The whole country, north to south, will get a swipe.

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

Classical corner

Started this feature over Christmas, and I'll continue with this heartbreaking piece of music. It's the second movement of the second piano concerto by Shostakovich.

Call for support

Please call in at Barbara's [mastersblynn], as she lost her dog to heartfailure earlier today. At least Tiny is no longer in distress.

Journaler returns

Gina [motoxmom72] has not been absent for very long, but has announced her intention to return to J-land on an active basis. Things are getting better for her, although nothing is perfect. Give her a call.

Hurricane update - 19 January

Tropical cyclone Funa is currently hurtling south from the tropics towards New Zealand at a rate of 25 mph. Funa is going to transform into a non-tropical depression, but quite a vigorous one. The depression is not expected to make landfall on New Zealand itself, but its effects will be felt right across the country. I copy the latest Severe Weather Outlook from Met New Zealand. The next update will be issued within 6 hours of this post. Do not forget that New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT and 17 hours ahead of EST.

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.


Around Stornoway Harbour

Reasonably nice day here, if you leave the infrequent downpours to one side. Went to buy a few things in the town centre this afternoon. Decided on a stroll round the quayside, where a lot of fishingboats lay tied up (yesterday saw poor weather, tomorrow is Sunday) and seals frolicked in the water. Hope you enjoy the pics - the shower did catch up with me.

Petition

Dan [slapinions] has launched a petition for AOL to include a feature to download and/or print our journals. I noticed that several of my regular readers have already 'signed' (by virtue of leaving a positive comment), but if you would like this too, please go to Dan's blog and leave a comment.

World War II Tribute

I am close to completing my World War II tribute, but still need to process nearly 80 pages of the Word document which will be transferred to a Blogger site later. There is much more information about the casualties of WW2 than there was of WW1. Of course, it is much more recent. However, the Germans kept meticulous records of everything they did. Whether it was sinking ships or mass murder - meticulous notes had to be kept. The German word is "gründlichkeit" or thoroughness.
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

Journaler returns

Pennie [blondepennierae] has returned after an absence of 6 months. She was gravely ill early in 2007, with a bleed on the brain. It has left her with some after effects, which are at least frustrating. Call by, if you do not have her on alerts.

Evening notes

We had galeforce winds for a few hours, although the worst appears to be over. Walking in galeforce winds means that it is difficult to go in the direction you want to on account of the strength of the winds. 40 mph is quite a windspeed. Nonetheless, if you were in the centre of cyclone Funa, you'd be blown away with 90 mph winds. The disruption page of regional ferry operator Caledonian MacBrayne is awash with disrupted or cancelled ferries. Our ferry is off until tomorrow morning, as are the services around the Isle of Mull.

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.

Friday notes

Wet and miserable today, although not much wind at the moment. Rain looks as if it's on the way out. Not warm, 5C. We are under warning for severe gales, force 9 later today.

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

Close of day

I've still got just over 30 alerts outstanding, but am calling it a day.
More tomorrow.

Near miss


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.

Suicide on-line

Tonight's BBC News carried the disturbing tale of someone in an internet chatroom, announcing he was going to kill himself. Which he did. Nobody in the chatroom took any action at the time. In other instances, people have been encouraged to take their own life whilst in a chatroom, and given advice how to proceed.

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.

Evening notes


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.

Thursday notes

Wet and fairly windy start to the day, although some brightness is discernible on the eastern horizon. The weather radar shows a band of rain just moving northeast from the Butt of Lewis (the northern cape of the island, 25 miles from Stornoway), followed by a scattering of showers. Mainland Scotland is under warning for substantial hillsnow.

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

Organ donation

A debate has started in the UK regarding the question of organ donation. At the moment, people who want to donate their organs after death carry a note to that effect, and consent is usually sought from next-of-kin before organs are removed.

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.

Discrimination


It's not fair.
..

Hurricane update - 16 January

Tropical cyclone Funa has formed 450 miles north of New Caledonia. This is a French dependency in the South Pacific, north of New Zealand. Funa is expected to strengthen and pass over Vanuatu on its way to Fiji. So far, the storm will be nothing more than a tropical storm, but it will carry strong winds (up to force 8 on the Beaufort scale) and gusts to 50 mph. More details on the Tropical Cyclones blog.

Wednesday notes

Bright and sunny morning - in between the showers. The showers should disappear shortly, leaving us with at least a half-decent day to enjoy. Same goes for Gloucestershire in southwestern England, which was once again affected by flooding last night.

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

Recommended reading

Indigo [rdautumnsage] has written a hard-hitting entry about abuse within families. Think we should all read it, because one of the lessons from her story is that signs of abuse are obvious to those in the vicinity. If no action is taken, the consequences can be fatal.

Call for support III

Regina [wumzels2] is 54 today, so please call round and wish her many happy returns. Also offer some moral support, her latest entry doesn't make for easy reading.

Northern Rock

Here in the UK, a bank called Northern Rock fell foul of the sub-prime mortgage crisis earlier in 2007. In order to plug the holes in its finances, it asked for the Bank of England to bail it out. Did so in public. In September 2007, hundreds of its customers lined up to withdraw their savings, 6-figure sums.

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.

How to sink your money

A man went to buy a yacht in Florida. Pays something like $33k for it upfront, and goes to sail it to Europe. Slight complication: it is January and the stormy season. Reaches Bermuda, ends up in storm, falls and breaks his pelvis. Only one thing for it. Helicopter winches him off yacht, which is left adrift in the Atlantic, probably never to be seen again. Ouch.

Call for support II

Doing the rounds, to find that Paul [plittle of former CarnivAOL fame] is awaiting the return of his wife, who has gone into hospital to donate a kidney to her brother.

Call for support

The writer of journal Inspiration has lost her sister a week ago. This comes after a period of estrangement from the family. Please call round.

Update

In response to the video evidence, presented by BBC reporter Clive Myrie, the Czech Ministry of Social Affairs denied that the cagebeds used were illegal. See my previous post for details on this story.

I thought the Czech Republic had gotten out of the Dark Ages years ago. Not so.

Czech Republic, 2008

Contents warning - may upset

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.

Email netiquette

with thanks to MSN

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.
Poor netiquette can annoy or offend your colleagues and clients. So before you send your next e-mail, consider these 10 warnings.

1. If you're not careful, your e-mail can get you fired. Apparently, abuse of company internet and e-mail is the single most common trigger for disciplinary action in the UK.

2. Be careful about recounting personal details in an e-mail, and the person you send it to. Remember the e-mail sent to colleagues at a law firm about Claire Swire's sexual preferences? It spread like wildfire as it got circulated all over the world.

3. Avoid sleaze and pornography. Two of Scottish Courage's city brewery workers were sacked after being caught distributing pornography by e-mail to staff at work. Is your job and family's security really worth that?

4. Does your company have a system in place to monitor your e-mail? Complain about the boss and chances are very high someone you really don't want to read your rant will see it - your boss.

5. Not all colleagues will share your sense of humour, especially when it comes to off-colour, sexist or racist jokes. After Chevron employees passed around an e-mail entitled '25 reasons why beer is better than women,' four female employees sued the company for sexual harassment.

6. When it comes time for employees' quarterly and annual reviews, do it in person and not the cowardly or impersonal way by e-mail. 

7. Lycos found almost a quarter of messages made fun of the person they were sent to and over 15 per cent included had sent critical e-mails to entirely the wrong person. Witness Alistair Campbell; he sent an expletive-laden e-mail tirade against a BBC journalist - to the journalist in question.

8. Another common mistake is forwarding messages which have previous conversations further down in the e-mail contents. Lycos also discovered 30 per cent of wayward messages revealed more than their senders intended.

9. DON'T USE ALL UPPERCASE! It's the e-mail equivalent of yelling. Your recipient won't be appreciative. And don't "ovrabbrvt" either.

10. BCC isn't always blind. When a recipient selects 'reply to everyone,' those listed in the BCC field will now show up in the new sender's 'to' field. If you don't want your BCC recipients revealed to others, send them a separate e-mail. The University of East Anglia's Sportspark was accused of breaking the data protection act after a staff member accidentally sent out all their customers' e-mail addresses to over a thousand people.

E-mail has become a much relied-upon business tool. According to industry analyst firm the Meta Group, 74 per cent of businesspeople said being without e-mail would present more of a hardship than being without the telephone. However, in the wrong hands, indiscreet e-mails can cost people jobs, clients, business deals and even marriages.

Tuesday notes

Morning all from a breezy but fairly bright Stornoway. It's not fair, in a way. The Western Isles are always portrayed as having the worst weather in the UK, but look at what's happening in southwestern England. Gales, downpours, floods. It's a repeat of last summer. Just checked the forecast and we're going to get rain and wind later today. OK, it IS fairly distributed.

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.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Evening notes

Although the day started nice enough, we got some rain around 3pm and clouds remained for the rest of the day.

Our freight ferry, MV Muirneag, was 8 hours late coming in - don't know why. Tonight's sailing is cancelled due to adverse weather. The forecast shows nothing worse than a force 6 from the northeast. Muirneag is not the strongest boat in the fleet, with only one engine and no bow thrusters. It ran aground in the Castle Grounds, opposite its berth, in January 2005, when high winds blew it away. In November 2005, it ventured out in the face of a storm, and ended up half-way to the Faroes.

The result of Muirneag not running is fairly serious. She carries our freight, including supplies for the supermarkets. We can expect therefore the same what we had today: empty supermarket shelves, or shelves full of goods that expire the next day, in other word no use.