Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Tomorrow is 1 May, and we're within weeks of the Atlantic hurricane season. In some years, the first tropical system can occur in the first weeks of May, so if you're in Hurricane Alley: BE PREPARED.
He discovered LSD (lysergic acid diethylamine) in 1938. He was experimenting with a crop-fungus, called Claviceps Purpurea. This forms so-called ergots on wheat and related plant species.
In the Middle Ages, people would eat rye-bread, made from infected rye, and it would send them mad. It was referred to as St Anthony's Fire.
Hoffman discovered the hallucinogenic properties of LSD, when he accidentally ingested some his invention. He described the effect as: "Everything I saw was distorted as in a warped mirror". LSD causes hallucinations, which may recur even after ingesting only a single dose.
Derivatives of lysergic acid are used in medicines, such as older migraine preparations (ergotamine) and in obstetrics (ergometrine), to prevent bleeding.
This month, April, sees the official and biological birthdays of two of Europe's Queens, and I'd like to contrast them, as contrast they do.
Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Northern Ireland [...], was born on 21 April 1926. She celebrates her birthday in private, with no public ceremony. On the second Saturday of June, the ceremony of Trooping the Colour is taken at Horseguard's Parade in central London. Until 1987, the Queen would take the parade on horseback, but her advanced age has excused her from that now: she takes it seated in a carriage. There is a whole website dedicated to the ceremony, which I would like to link to.
Queen Elizabeth II will be on the throne until her death. Prince Charles is next in line for the throne, but there are voices of doubt within the UK, whether he should give way to his eldest son, Prince William.
Her Majesty, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was on born on 31 January 1938. She too celebrates her birthday in private, but a public ceremony takes place on 30 April. Her mother, the late Princess Juliana (who was Queen between 1948 and 1980), had her birthday on that day. Juliana had the people come to her palace at the town of Soestdijk, east of Amsterdam, for a file-past. Beatrix decided to come to the people. Each year in her reign (she ascended the Orange throne 28 years ago) she visits two towns in one of the twelve provinces in the Netherlands, with a clutter of relatives in tow. Public festivities are laid on in all towns in the country. Read more here.
I foresee Queen Beatrix abdicating, like her mother did, to make way for her eldest son, Willem Alexander. He is 41 this year. Beatrix was 42 when she ascended the throne in 1980.
What changed when the Internet came into your life? I have posted the same question on Magic Smoke, so leave a link to your reply on a comment there. Here is my answer.
Before the WWW:
1. If I wanted to look something up, I would go to the library and read a book
2. I would make phonecalls and write letters
When the Internet came into my life:
3. I found I could gather information from across the globe at a click of a mouse
4. I could listen to radiostations from all over the world without fiddling with a shortwave radioset. That did spoil the thrill of listening to Radio Australia on SW.
5. It was possible to interact with people in real-time from all corners. It did spoil the thrill of receiving a letter, weeks later after writing your own, from a far-flung outpost.
6. It became possible to learn about any part of the world in an instant, without leaving your desk chair.
And I can go on for yonks.
I have very little time for football players, who run about on a grassy pitch for 90 minutes per week, and earning ridiculous amounts of money for it. And building the most appalling mansions. And engaging in cross-dressing sessions.
Here in Stornoway, 36 jobs have been axed at the local Harris Tweed mill, which lies about half a mile away on the eastern side of town. The place was taken over by a new owner last year, and business has been shrunk rather badly.
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
The oil prices have gone through the roof, everybody that drives a vehicle is squealing over the petrol prices. Sorry, I don't drive. The hauliers are complaining that they can't pass it on to their customers (like they don't, tsk). Yet, BP has announced a huge profit ($7.8 bn) in the first quarter of 2008. Someone is making a lot of bucks out of all this, and why? Here in the UK, we're paying in excess of $10 a (US) gallon - in my part of the country it is £6 a UK gallon. The US gallon is 3.78 litres, the UK gallon 4.54 litres. The taxman nets quite a bit of that apparently. So, I restate my question: why is the price of oil gone so mad?
Got a polite email back from the Burmese Met Department, saying they would consider putting warnings in English on their website. Meanwhile, they were a wee bit out in their forecast for tropical cyclone Nargis, which will make landfall in northern Myanmar on May 2nd, according to them. My information is that this will happen a day later, and my sources are pretty reliable.
In Jersey, a second man (aged 68) has been arrested in connection with alleged child abuse at the former children's home at Haut de la Garenne. More than 100 people allege to have suffered abuse at the home, where fragments of teeth, bone and a child's skull were unearthed during the investigation.
I was horrified to learn that the state of Virginia in the US was struck by 3 tornadoes yesterday afternoon. More than 200 people were injured, and a lot of damage done to the area around Suffolk, VA.
Monday, 28 April 2008
I was looking for information on that hurricane which could be heading their way across the Bay of Bengal later this week, but I can't do much with stuff like:
Footage on TV this evening showed the subterranean passageways which were home to Elisabeth Fritzl for 24 years, never seeing daylight. Two of her offspring had never seen daylight in their lives (5 and 18 years). Mr Fritzl's wife did not have a clue what was going on beneath her feet. She believed that Elisabeth had gone missing in 1984. The cellars were hidden behind bookshelves, and were soundproofed. Read more here.
My focus will be on the above tropical cyclone in the Bay of Bengal, now named Nargis, which has blown up into a hurricane. The storm is expected to pack winds of 115 knots (that's 130 mph), gusting to 135 knots (155 mph) by the middle of the week, and will still not be anywhere near land. As I indicated last night, Myanmar and Bangladesh can expect to be hit hard by this system by the end of the week.
The strike at the Grangemouth oil refinery is in full swing, but tankers are delivering relief supplies of fuel. The refinery will be started up again by tomorrow morning, but it is not clear (to me) how long it will be before fuel supplies return to normal. Panic-buying is inevitably occurring, with some petrol stations running on empty already.
Sunday, 27 April 2008
The Grangemouth refinery is now on strike, with only a skeleton staff on to keep the place on "hot stand-by" which should allow a quick resumption of production after Monday. Meanwhile, the megaphone diplomacy between management and workers continues - they are talking to everyone apart from each other. Extra fuel supplies are being shipped in by tanker from elsewhere in the UK and Europe.
Chechnya is one of those forgotten wars. It is a region in the south of Russia, which sought independence from Russia / Soviet Union in the 1990s. Boris Yeltsin, the then president, tried the iron fist approach. It failed, and cost thousands of lives. Relative peace is now reigning in the region's capital, Grozny, although the place crawls with armed men, and rubble is still very much in evidence. As is the threat of more violence. Read more here from this chilling report.
Saturday, 26 April 2008
The Somali pirates continue to ply their trade. A Spanish fishing vessel and its 26 crew were released unharmed after a ransom of $1.2m was paid to the pirates. Somalia, in the Horn of Africa, is a country without government and ruled by various warlords. The US tried to intervene there in the 1990s, without success.
The recount in Zimbabwe has brought no reversal in favour of Mugabe, I'm relieved to learn. The outcome of the presidential elections will be known on Monday - to the candidates and their agents. When Johnny Public will know is anyone's guess.
A train was robbed near Marseille, France - for cushions bearing the Playboy logo. The train was brought to a halt by sleepers being placed across the tracks.
I was very sad to learn that the jazz musician and BBC radio personality, Humphrey Littleton, has died at the age of 86. I knew Humph best as the host for the spoof radio game show "I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue", which featured such famous items as "Morning Crescent" and "Swanny Kazoo", not to mention Samantha who had to go off to meet her gentleman friend, usually accompanied by a double-entendre.
The oil refinery at Grangemouth has now shut down complete ahead of tomorrow's industrial action. Fuel supplies should not be jeopardised, although the government is losing £50m a day once the pipeline from the North Sea oilfields shuts down at 6 am tomorrow morning. The strike is over pension rights.
Friday, 25 April 2008
Angola is allowing the Chinese freighter, reportedly carrying arms for Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, to dock. Only goods destined for Angola will be permitted to be discharged. Luanda is an ally of Harare, but the ship with ammo is probably too hot a potato for them to get involved in. Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean authorities claim the country is under attack from its coloniser (the UK) and its allies. Robert Mugabe is living in the past by the sound of things.
The hurricane season in the southern hemisphere is in its last week, and will come to a close on April 30th. Two weeks later, the Eastern Pacific and 4 weeks later the Atlantic season will kick off. The Northwestern Pacific spawned a typhoon last week, so the focus is definitely shifting north.
If you live in Hurricane Alley, please review your preparations and contingency plans.
[image courtesy baggas.com]
Petar [pvodogaz], now blogging on LiveJournal, reminds us that today is ANZAC Day. The Australian and New Zealand boys were sent to Gallipoli, west of present-day Istanbul, to mount an attack on Turkish forces during World War I. Due to misfortune, poor navigation and various other causes, the soldiers ended up on the wrong beach, one that was fronted by a high cliff. The Turkish soldiers, who sided with Germany, could just mow them down with their machine guns as they crested the top. It was slaughter.
The fuel panic in Scotland is spreading UK wide. The refinery at Grangemouth is the landing point for oil from North Sea platforms, and the planned strike (next Sunday and Monday) could cut off one third of the UK's supplies. Here in the far north, our fuel is delivered by tanker boat, which is due to resume deliveries by Tuesday. The Border Heather left Stornoway at 8 this morning.
Mugabe's police have stormed the head-quarters of the opposition MDC under the pretext of looking for criminals. However, they have also taken away computers and dozens of activists. This is not going well at all.
Thursday, 24 April 2008
10.14pm (extended exposure)
Weather has been very changeable. After a bright start, rain commenced just after 11, and did not stop until about 4pm. The sun came out again at 4.15. It's still quite cool. It is generally agreed that we've had a bad winter, with lots of gales and snow.
Over in Zimbabwe, claims and counter-claims about the outcome of the presidential elections continue to fly around. Meanwhile, the Chinese are considering recalling the ship that is carrying arms for Zimbabwe. Dockworkers in Durban, South Africa, refused to unload it over the weekend.
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
The strike at the Grangemouth refinery will go ahead this weekend, after talks between trades unions and management broke down. An agreement was reached to maintain safety at the plant during the strike - the refinery is currently in the process of being shut-down. Panic-buying of fuel has been reported across Scotland, with some pumps running dry. Officially, there should be no dearth of fuel, as there is 70 days' supply available across the UK.
For a change some hopeful news from the Middle East. Israel has signalled to its northeastern neighbour Syria that it is prepared to return the occupied Golan Heights in return for peace. The area was occupied in 1967, and has seen several settlements being established there. The two countries are technically still at war. Turkey appears to be a peace broker. It would be quite an achievement to have at least one fuse removed from the powderkeg that is the Mid East.
So the recount in Zimbabwe has produced a win for Mugabe's Zanu-PF. Now, that is an absolute surprise for me, isn't it for you? Who would have thought that. Dear me.
Hilary Clinton has won the PA primary, which puts her back on track to win the Democratic nomination for the presidential poll in November. I have to agree with the majority of commenters on here that the current pool of choice for the White House augurs poorly for the US.
Naturalists along the west coast of Scotland are concerned about the high number of stranded sea mammals this winter and spring. The strandings are blamed on the use of sonar by naval vessels, something denied by the Ministry of Defence. The latest casualty is a minkie whale, which was beached near the outflow of a loch between Barvas and Brue on the west side of Lewis. Looks like a place to avoid in the next few weeks - I have personal experience of the whiff given off by a decomposing whale, and it's not pleasant. Found one near South Dell in 2005, and it stank to high heaven. Even more so when I came across the same carcass again 3 months later.
Tuesday, 22 April 2008
Iran is on record as vowing to obliterate Israel, an illegal statement under international law. Its president is a firebrand, even recognised as such by his own cabinet and hierarchy. His opinions should be treated with caution, and echoing an illegal statement from an avowed opponent of the US is just plain pandering to the hawks in Tehran, and to Islamic-based terrorists of Al-Qa'eda variety.
If that's Mrs Clinton's opinion on foreign affairs, than I will say that the international community needs her like a hole in the head.
A notice on the SYHA website caught my eye. The youth hostel at Loch Ossian is not served by trains on April 25 and 26, due to engineering works. It can only be reached by train, unless you want to walk for 11 miles from Rannoch Station or 15 miles from Tulloch. I've done the latter in 2001, a nice trek. There is no road to the hostel. I have made a few entries on this unique location.
No, I did not write the piece about Zimbabwe. It was forwarded to me by Sybil and she is trying to ascertain the author.
The people on Christmas Island, northwest of Australia, have just weathered tropical cyclone Rosie, which was a tropical storm with winds of force 9 to 10. The only thing they have to contend with this night (it is 9 hours later there than here in the UK) is high tides.
The majority of people who express an opinion on the rejected Lewis Windfarm are happy it will never happen. The reason for its rejection was apparent 4 years ago, when the planning application was launched. The Special Protected Areas were in place in the 90s, and I don't understand that nobody bothered to check up on that.
Monday, 21 April 2008
And crashed down the unlit corridors where his wife has collected her loot,
Screaming “You may not condemn me - there are by-laws and statutes and fines”
But the Devil replied “God’s law trumps that, and by his law you’re mine.”
Come, see what you’ve done to your people, see what you’ve done to your land,
And then I’ll haul you back into the light, and see if you understand;
Then the Devil seized him by his neck and dragged him up into the night
And Bob hung limp, for one against one was not his idea of a fight
They spiralled down to a wasteland, and Mugabe sprawled on his face,
“Spare me, spare me” he whimpered, “spare me this terrible place”,
For he saw charred beams and scattered bricks, filth and ruin and weeds,
And through the dawn came children, sifting the dust for seeds.
“Eight years ago” said the Devil, “this place was heavy with maize,
There was fruit on the trees and crops in the earth and grass for the cows to graze,
It was farmed by those who loved the soil, who knew it and tended it well,
And now it’s farmed by cellphone, from the Monomotapa hotel.”
“Racist” screamed Mugabe, “Imperialist, Colonist, Queer!
These people are free, that’s down to me and that’s why I rule here!”
“Free to do what?” asked the Devil, “to cower and cringe to survive?
The farms are going, the work is gone, now only your thugs can thrive,
Preying on women and children, feeding on horror and fear,
Flying flags of hate and despair that had no business here;
Look at your mindless militias, look in each alien face,
Condemned by their own insanity, exiled for life from the race,
Watch them go into action, cheer as they take up the fight,
Beating up Zimbabweans for the crime of being white,
Red-eyed from drink, thick-tongued from drugs, watch them go off on a spree
Burning the homes of Africans who dared to be honestly free.”
Mugabe licked his lips and whispered, “All freedom comes at a price,”
“Indeed?” said the Devil “And for the record - what was your sacrifice?
Did you give blood to the struggle? How manytimes were you mortared?
Or did you play politics in a hotel, and wait till your rivals were slaughtered?
If ever you tasted honour or pain those tastes were long since forgotten,
Eclipsed by the flavours of power and greed, the aromas of all that is rotten.
Come, Mugabe” and up they flew and soared over country and town
And each time they swooped, hunger and horror reached up to pull them down,
And the souls of children streamed past them, and on and up into the light
And Mugabe whimpered and twisted, to shield his eyes from the sight
“Sons of despair,” said the Devil “and daughters of desolate selves,
It’s the West that gives food to your people, while your cronies are stuffing themselves, The West you despise and prosecute is the innocent’s sponsor and friend,
But when your young ‘veterans’ seize the supplies, these fragile lives have to end;”
“I did not know,” croaked Mugabe and the Devil applauded with glee:
“Save your lies for Mbeki, they make no impression on me.
Now, look at the shuttered factories, look at the overnight queues.”
“Blame the British,” Bob stammered, “the whites, the Norwegians, the Jews.”
But the streets sent up a whisper, a whisper as loud as a roar:
“The old man who stole three elections - it’s time that we showed him the door!”
A scream rose up from the city, a scream rose up from a cell,
And the Devil plunged them into the earth and a cameo from hell
Of shadowed figures with smiling lips that shone with delight and disdain,
Of a body convulsing and wrenching, shaking apart from the pain;
“Applaud your police,” said the Devil, “corrupted beyond repair,
And caress the electrodes, the batons and guns, and the innocent tied to the chair.”
But as Mugabe stretched out his hand the scene was gone in a flash,
And he stared instead at a drive full of Mercs and a house full of money and trash,
And then at the gloom of an upstairs room, heavy with malice and lies,
Where fat men sat and talked poison, avoiding each others’ eyes:
“Here are your generals,” the Devil hissed, “your ministers, judges and hacks,
They have fortunes and forex and farms they can’t farm, it’s only a future they lack,
Do they flee for Malaysia , Libya , France with their women and all they can pack?
Or do they just turn and remove you, and claim dispensation for that?
Look at the wealth that seeps from them, and then hold your nose at the stench
Of the paltry crew that cleave to you, the cowards, the fools and the French;
See them plotting and scheming; hear your folly despised,
Even your reptiles want you gone - you made them, are you surprised?
Now do you know what you are Mugabe, now do you understand?
You’re the Lord of the bloated thousand, and King of an empty land.
What gave you most pleasure Mugabe? Which wickedness tasted most sweet? The mass murder of Ndebele? The children with nothing to eat?
The whites you had casually butchered? The election results that you changed?
Or the war that you fought in the Congo , for diamond commissions arranged?
The perversion of half of the system? The enrichment of those you despise?
The limos and money and power? The lies and the lies and the lies?
I ought to admire you Mugabe; you’ve certainly earned your hellfire,
And all for small motives, self interest and fear, that aspect I have to admire;
Better by far that you never had lived, Robert Gabriel,
The world will heal the wounds you’ve left, but I cannot heal you in hell!”
Then the Devil’s right hand grabbed Mugabe, and Mugabe he screamed in his fright,
And scrabbled and pleaded and whimpered and begged…
And awoke to an African night,
And sweated and panted and shuddered, calling his aides to his side,
Reconstituting his ego, his vanity, evil and pride,
But then screamed again, recoiling, from that he could not bear to see:
The slogans burning his eyes from the walls and the words… we want to be free!
Enough is enough! Zvakwana!! Sokwanele!!
The Devil meandered down Second, and strolled up Samora Machel,
“The brave will inherit,” he murmured, “when I have Mugabe in hell:
And the dawn will return to Zimbabwe , and children will learn how to smile,
Zimbabwe is one of God’s countries… but at least it was mine for a while
At 7.45 am this morning, the first cruiseliner of the 2008 season entered port. MV Quest, shown above about to pass the Arnish Fabrication Yard, called in for a day visit. It departed after 4pm, headed for Staffa. This small island, west of Mull, is famous for its basalt columns, and sprang to fame when Felix Mendelsohn-Bartholdy was inspired through it to write his Hebrides Ouverture. I don't know how you can be inspired by chucking up your breakfast over the side, but there you go.
MV Quest, shown alongside the ferrypier, is a small vessel, only 50 metres long, capable of carrying 150 passengers. A Swedish website gave more information. I can just about make out a few Swedish words, so will translate my findings below:
The MV Quest started life as the MV Saqqit Ittuk. It was built in 1992 at the Ørskov Shipyard in Frederikshavn, Denmark, for cruises around Greenland. The ship was based at Nuuk, Greenland. In 2004, it was sold to an Estonian company, but continued its work as a cruiseship around Greenland under the name Disko II. The ship was again rechristened Quest in June 2007, to work for a Bahama-based shipping line, still in the Arctic.
At 7.30 am, the first cruiseliner of the season, MV Quest, pulled into Stornoway. The ship had arrived off the east coast of the island just after midnight, but the pilot was not available at that hour. This marks the start of the real summer tourism season. Cruiseliners will keep coming until September.
Some very good news reached me in the last half-an-hour: the planning application for the North Lewis Windfarm, which comprised 181 turbines, each standing 450 feet tall, stretching from Port of Ness in the north to Bragar in the west and Stornoway in the south has been turned down by Scottish minsiters. The reason is that it is in violaiton of European directives on wildlife habitats. The developers are deeply disappointed, as is the local council, because this means an opportunity for 680 jobs across Lewis and mainland Scotland has been lost.
Sunday, 20 April 2008
NEVER put aerosol cans into a fire. As if you didn't already know.
Not so the Paris-bound passengers. Their train broke down 75 miles north of Paris, and a replacement train had to be called up to tow the break-down to Paris. At a snail's pace. It finally arrived in Paris Gare du Nord at 9 in the morning, some 10 hours late. The passengers are fuming - partially because all power was lost, leading to a loss of air-conditioning. Other passengers could no longer hold on to their enforced nicotine break, so it all got rather hot and bothered on there.
The SNCF has been ordered to report on Monday on lessons learned from the incident. Methinks it's easy. A train with a fault should not proceed at all. Period.
Pope Benedict XVI is wrapping up his visit to the United States in New York. He will go to the site of Ground Zero and offer prayers for those lost in the atrocities of 9/11, and for those consumed with hatred. He will then celebrate mass in a 55,000-seater stadium, for which demand of tickets has far outstripped supply. The Pope, who was a member of the Hitler Youth in the 1930s as well as the Wehrmacht (the Nazi army), has spoken openly about this episode in his life.
Christmas Island, an Australian outpost south of the Indonesian island of Java, is on tropical cyclone watch. System 95S is approaching from the northwest, and appears to be a fairly large storm in the making. It is not yet a tropical cyclone, but is expected to become one in the next 24 hours.
Saturday, 19 April 2008
The Callanish Stones are one of the oldest monuments in Scotland, some 5,500 years old. They are a burial site, but the graves were plundered thousands of years already. The Stones were noticed in the 19th century, covered in a 5 ft layer of peat. The peat was removed. It is thought that the Stones are a lunar monument (as opposed to a solar one, such as Stonehenge). Apart from the main circle, situated just to the south of Callanish Village, there are 20 other circles within a 3 mile radius.
Those are likely across Scotland and northern England from next week. A strike is planned at the refinery at Grangemouth, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, and as a precaution, the plant is being shut down. You can't shut down an oil refinery like an electric switch, apparently - it takes many days. The result will be severe fuel shortages across the whole of Scotland from April 25th, next Friday. Not only that, the majority of output from North Sea gas and oil platforms passes through Grangemouth, which means that those will be shut off as well.
The strike is a dispute over pensions, and will be held on April 27th and 28th.
Situation in Zimbabwe is getting murkier with the day. A partial recount is underway, with allegations that the ballot boxes "have become pregnant and reproduced", in other words, the ruling party has stuffed the boxes with false ballots for Mr Mugabe. Meanwhile, a Chinese ship with armaments on board, the An Yue Jiang, has left the South African port of Durban, after dockers refused to unload its cargo, which was destined for Zimbabwe. This was backed by a court ruling. The vessel is now thought to be heading for Mozambique.
China's southern province of Hainan has been struck by typhoon Neoguri - one of the earliest typhoons on record (since 1949 at any rate). Normally, the typhoon season commences in May. 100,000 people have been evacuated and 76 flights were cancelled from local airports. The typhoon has been downgraded to a tropical storm and is making landfall 120 miles west of Hong Kong. That city is under strong wind warning, as winds of 30 mph, gusting to 60 mph, lash the territory.
Friday, 18 April 2008
As I was near the lighthouse, I noticed a sheep rolling over and over in a field. That is a bad sign, particularly at this time of the year when they are lambing. I went over to the ewe, which was heavily pregnant. I found that one of her legs was entangled in fencing wire, which was supposed to be electrified. Fortunately, it was not hooked up to the electric, it would have killed the animal. I tried to disentangle the ewe's leg, but found that the wire was wrapped tightly round her neck as well. The poor sheep was snorting and grinding her teeth, a very bad sign. As I did not have my mobile phone with me, I was unable to call for help, and the resident at the lighthouse's keeper's cottage was out. Don't even know if they have a phone there. The Fabrication Yard was deserted, and the reception was closed. So, I had to wait for close on 3 hours before I had an opportunity - I nipped into the police station on Church Street and left a message. They promised to contact the grazings clark, who would go and sort it out. I can see the area concerned from the window where I am typing, but don't know if anyone has gone there.
Anyway, I came away with 130+ photos as well as feeling knackered. It was a walk of 6 miles in total, a distance I have not recently covered on foot. I will put up pictures later or tomorrow.
Robert Mugabe, the much maligned leader of Zimbabwe, is preparing to mark independence day for his country - the 28th anniversary of liberation from oppressive white rule by Ian Smith. The outcome of elections for president, held 3 weeks ago, is still unclear. Pressure from the outside world is having no effect. Strange? Well, have a read of this assessment on the BBC News website, which offers an insight into why that is. Interesting. Meanwhile, credible reports keep emerging of beatings and torture in the country.
Typhoon Neoguri is passing just east of Hainan Island in China, and will strike the mainland tomorrow. Its power will be diminished, as atmospheric conditions will begin to tear the system apart.
Thursday, 17 April 2008
This certainly applies to a tropical disturbance in the South Pacific, which looked suspicious to my untrained eye this afternoon. The Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Honolulu marked it up as 94P, located between the Solomon Islands and New Caledonia, east of Australia, north of New Zealand. I was surprised when they did not think it could develop much. They changed their mind at 7 o'clock this evening, when they pushed out an alert that there is a likelihood of more than 50% that a cyclone could develop. Atmospheric conditions could give rise to a very nasty piece of work overnight, in the shape of a rapidly mushrooming tropical cyclone. Météo France at New Caledonia is still blissfully talking about a few showers with southeasterly trade winds - I think they could wake up to rather more than that by this time on Saturday.
It is a year ago yesterday that a mentally disturbed man went on a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech university. Thirty-two people lost their lives.
Guns are still too readily available to those in whose hands they should not belong. People with problems in mental health still fall under the radar, and do not reappear until it is too late.
Good morning from a brilliantly sunny Stornoway - but with a keen easterly wind. Not feeling warm at all. I managed to sort the problems with Internet Explorer, after a search on the Microsoft website. For a change, they gave some useful advice. Had to deep delve into areas of my PC that I didn't know existed. Anyway, IE 7 is back on the PC and working fine.
Typhoon Neoguri is approaching Hainan Island in southern China, and they are going on a raised state of alert. Not much information to be gleaned from the Chinese weather website, but they are aware that a category 2 typhoon is headed their way.
The mother of Shannon Matthews, the 9-year old who disappeared for 24 days in February and March, is to stand trial in November. She will be in the dock alongside the man accused of Shannon's abduction. Karen Matthews is accused with child neglect and failing to inform police of Shannon's whereabouts.
Wednesday, 16 April 2008
Binned. Back to IE 6.
Vitamins are not as good as some people make them out to be. They could even shorten your life. Vitamins A and D can cause actual harm if taken in doses greater than advised; in extreme instances death may ensue. A study has looked at the effects of anti-oxidants like vitamins C and E, and found that they did not extend life.
Tuesday, 15 April 2008
I've grown very dissatisfied with AOL webmail in recent times. I don't have a problem with the advertising (I just blank it out), but I do object to the fact that the advertising has to be loaded before the email message. So, here I am, waiting for "spe.atdmt.com" to load - to load - to load. Which it does, after I have changed to another tab in my Firefox browser. And it only loads when I make that change. It therefore takes ages to read my emails, to the extent that I have now pressed Microsoft Outlook into service, which has no such problems. I'm going to link this complaint to the webmail guys, because I'm well p'd off.
The local council have reassured horrified islanders that the fee for using the public toilets in Perceval Square in Stornoway will not be bumped up to 35p. At present, spending a penny costs 20p, and a statutory notice had been put up outside the loos saying that it would cost 35p. The council now say the price of a pee will now be 25p. A storm in a toilet bowl.
On the subject of excessive prices, the price of a litre of diesel has gone up to £1.31 ($10 a US gallon). Funny thing is, that our fuels get delivered by a tankerboat which also supplies remote places like Thurso, on the north coast of Scotland. Where fuel costs 20p less.
Zimbabwe could see the election results announced by the weekend, when the results of a recount are known. If the opposition candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, does not poll more than 50%, he will not be running in a run-off with Robert Mugabe, fearing violence on the streets. I never got over the South African president, Thabo Mbeki, saying that there was no crisis in Zimbabwe this past weekend. He is the one who denied that AIDS was a problem in his own country.
Monday, 14 April 2008
The manufacturer, Fort Dodge, an apparent subsidiary of German chemical giant BASF, states in its internet blurb that ProMeris is a safe product. An internet forums for dog owners states the opposite.
When you use an anti-flea preparation, you must always remember that the chemicals concerned are toxic at the best of times. I was once ill for a couple of days after being too liberal with a canister of flea-powder. Not only was I unwell, so was the poor cat I tried (in vain) to rid of fleas.
If your animal suffers an adverse reaction to a medicine or other preparation, always consult a vet, and insist he report the incident to the manufacturers and the broader scientific community.
MSN have listed a series of measures you can take to keep your network to yourself and to keep your connection safe.
The Japanese whaling fleet which has been out in the Antarctic has failed to meet its target of numbers of whales killed. Because of disruption by Greenpeace and other environmentalists, they 'only' managed to harpoon 550 out of a quota of 850. Japan claims this is needed for research purposes. Everyone else says killing whales for research is not necessary, and the creatures are killed for Japanese palates.
Last year, a statue was erected at Helmsdale, northeast Scotland, in commemoration of those who had been cleared from Sutherland to settle elsewhere. Scotland's First Minister, Alex Salmond, hailed the artwork as a tribute to those Scots who had made their mark overseas. At the time, and to date, this remark sticks in my craw. If the people of Strath Kildonan made such a fantastic contribution overseas, why weren't they allowed to do that at home? Anyway, more such statues will be erected around the world, like in Winnipeg, Canada.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not seeking to demean the achievements of emigrants. It is just the way they were kicked off their land that gets me a wee bit hot under the collar.
Sunday, 13 April 2008
I have now reached page 2,000 in my hand-written diary.
My Northern Trip has been on-going for 1,343 days
I have taken some 13,800 pictures since April 2005
My on-line journal will reach 4,500 entries later this week
It has attracted just over 16,750 comments - thank you!
The first hint of the North Atlantic hurricane season has appeared in the Eastern Pacific. A so-called African wave has been spotted west of the 90th degree longitude West. African waves are responsible for a large number of the tropical cyclones which form during the Atlantic hurricane season. They are meteorological phenomena, in which bulges of hot, humid air are released at 24 to 48 hour intervals from the African continent. These rise up to 3 miles into the atmosphere, and, given the right atmospheric conditions, can develop into a hurricane. The waves are carried west on the prevailing easterly airflow in the tropics, and can reach as far west as Hawaii.
This early on, atmospheric conditions are positively hostile, and no cyclones are expected to form for another 4 weeks. Last year, the first Atlantic cyclone formed on May 9th.
The ferry does not sail (except if it has been cancelled before the weekend).
There are no scheduled buses.
Only the pubs are open.
And a few of the restaurants.
The streets are mostly deserted.
Except at church time.
The Chinese ambassador to London, Fu Ying, has complained that the Western press are 'against China', and that Chinese visitors to the British capital wanted to know where the 'gentlemenship' had gone to. Fu Ying stated that Tibet had complicated problems, where religion was intermingled with politics, but that it was loved by the Chinese. Was watching a program about Tibet pre-1950s last night, which undermined the latter statement.
Saturday, 12 April 2008
It has been decided to cut up the ship on site and recycle the resulting scrap. Further details on the Coastguard website.
Image below, dated 18 February, courtesy wainwrights-wandering.co.uk
It's now two weeks ago since Zimbabwe had presidential elections, but Mugabe continues to withhold the outcome. The international community is swinging into action to try to resolve the problem peaceably, but whether our war hero is amenable to that remains to be seen. If there were to be a run-off, it would be due next week. Bit difficult, now that political rallies have been banned.
A discussion has erupted about the use of larger measures for alcohol in pubs. One example is wine glasses, which have expanded from 125 to 175 or even 250 ml in size. Double measures for spirits are standard in some places - a visitor here mentioned the other day they were served triple measures in a pub in Stornoway. It's a recipe for disaster, and doctors have sounded the alarmbells.
Friday, 11 April 2008
A man in the Borders area of Scotland is £500,000 ($1m) lighter after falling for a sophisticated scam, perporting to sell shares - in non-existing companies. Using high-pressure sales techniques (hence the by-name "boiler room scam") the man was pushed into buying the shares.
Beware of emails pretending to bring you lottery wins. First question to ask yourself: did I recently buy a lottery ticket, and if so, did you check whether you had won? Normally, you have to go back to the retailer that sold you the ticket to claim any winnings. In doing so, you don't put down your email address, do you?
Beware of the West African email scams. They say they have the fortunes of an unfortunate individual who perished (e.g.) in the Concorde crash outside Frankfurt Airport in 2000 - except, Concorde crashed outside Paris. In order to get your share of the millions, you only have to give all your personal and banking details, including PIN codes and what have you.
If you ever fall for that, you may lose more than just money.
It is illegal for children under 16 to use a sunbed, and there was a notice on the premises concerned. You should also not use it for longer than 6 minutes at a time. However, the shop was not staffed.
Personally, I don't see the point of sunbeds, but then I'm not vain. If such a service is available in a shop, it should be staffed to prevent under 16s using it. It has been shown that extensive sunburns at a young age causes the skin to age prematurely. (Excessive) tanning also increases the risk of malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
The three-masted sailing yacht The Ponant was seized by Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden, off Yemen, a week ago. An operation by the French military has freed the crew, although the BBC report says nothing about the fate of the boat. Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, and is plagued by lawlessness. The US tried to intervene in 1993, but had to pull out sharply after suffering high casualty rates. Ethiopia fought a war with Somalia over the Ogaden Desert in the 1970s, which makes the expected rate of success of its own intervention asymptotically close to zero.
This will continue to fester, endangering shipping (a year ago, a cruiseliner was under attack by said pirates) and regional stability. I wonder what will happen to sort out that mess. Like in Zimbabwe, the stakes are low (there's no oil there).
Thursday, 10 April 2008
Hurricanes are incredibly difficult to predict or forecast upon. Bearing in mind the super panic that sets in the moment one is born probably makes those in the know err on the side of caution.
If you're in hurricane alley, please start your preparations now.
The year is 1936. Adolf Hitler's Germany is hosting the Olympic Games, the 8th edition of modern times. Nazi Germany wanted to make the Olympics a showcase for the superiority of the Aryan race, one of his horrible misconceptions. History gave him a foretaste of his eventual defeat through the victory of Jesse Owens in four events. Owens was a black man, the grandson of a slave.
The Olympic Games have been abused for political ends ever since. 2008 is no different.
I have to sound one note of caution. Ostracising China at this point in history is like cutting off a limb. Do not forget that a large proportion of goods in our shops are manufactured in China. Particularly the UK has lost a large chunk of its manufacturing base to low-wage countries like China and India. A piece of fair competition without a doubt. I am not saying we should pass over the human rights abuses that occur in China, or Tibet - or any of its provinces or annexed territories. Whether the Olympics are the right forum, I very much doubt. It is one thing that protests occur in London, Paris or San Francisco. Any dissent on Chinese soil will be brutally and ruthlessly suppressed. I dread the passage of the Olympic Torch through Tibet.
1. WHAT WHERE YOU DOING TEN YEARS AGO:
Ten years ago I was having a 9 to 5 job in a hospital
2.Five Things On My To-Do List Today:
* get the regional papers in (it's Thursday)
* go to the museum to see new exhibition
* go to shop to buy stationery items
* do all the things I do on-line every day
* enjoy whatever the weather throws at me
3. SNACKS I ENJOY:
* my favourite eat is sweet & sour, never mind that it's not strictly speaking a snack
4. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WERE A BILLIONAIRE?
* never thought about it
5. BAD HABITS:
* you don't want to know LMAO
6. 5 PLACES I HAVE LIVED:
* various locations within about 600 miles of my present place
7. 5 JOBS I'VE HAD:
* I've had the grand total of three jobs - all related to what my screenie implies. I've worked in the army - again as same.
8 Five other people I want to tag
* well, this has been doing the rounds, but if anyone has not been tagged and feels like picking it up, please do.
I can't help noticing the continuing low mood in the community - does it become more noticeable because of Call for Support, or have things really gone onto a downer since last autumn?
Apart from real life issues like illness, death and relationship problems, there is also the phenomenon of trolls and overhyped expectation. I don't see the point of getting upset, angry and vicious, just because someone or everyone has stopped commenting in my journal. I don't see why several journalers find it necessary to apologise for not calling round. It is part and parcel of the community, I agree. However, circumstances can arise in real life, which may limit our time on-line, and we may be reluctant to disclose what those circumstances are.
As far as trolls go, I also don't see the point of harassing people. Haven't they got something more constructive to do? If you do suffer from a troll, flatly ignore. Push an email to the journalseditor for further advice.
A text-message was all it took to get the emergency services to a pair of walkers in northern Skye last night. At 11pm, a woman texted her mother in Birmingham, saying they were in dire straits above some cliffs, and the mobile signal was poor. The mother rang 999 and as a result, the Stornoway Coastguard helicopter and local rescuers went out to look for them. Their vehicle was located near an empty cottage, bringing the rescuers to the two ladies. They were cold and wet, but otherwise unharmed. As I said last night, it gets dark here after 9pm - what were they doing out near cliffs at that hour?
Wednesday, 9 April 2008
Anyone in the UK should mark The One Show on BBC1 at 7pm this evening. The islanders of Eigg, south of Skye, will feature in it. They will demonstrate how life has changed since they got 24/7 power. Until February this year, they relied on diesel generators for their electricity, leading to constraints. Ever since they won control of their island in 1997, the Eiggach have not looked back.