Monthly Archives: December 2011

Another disappointment

With Chelsea and Manchester United losing this was a great opportunity to narrow the gap with the top and stretch the lead over the chasing pack and we drew 1-1 losing two valuable points.

Once again we have been leading in a game and failing to see the opposition off and the strikers must take responsibility for this.

Being third at Hogmanay is a huge achievement, but we must take more advantage of these weaker teams or Manchester City is going to run away with the title.

Have a great Hogmanay everyone.

No knighthood again!

It was a great disappointment to discover, yet again, that my knighthood has not materialised. Do you think it was something I said in my last post about David Cameron?

On the other hand it was maybe because I did not make any political donations and refused to take advantage of my insider knowledge to make money out of the failure of Northern Rock.

I think my parents named me Anthony Geoffrey Harmsworth as they thought “Sir” would go very well in front of it.

Oh well, never mind, better get stuck into building up the good works again next week. Perhaps I can help Salmond get our independence for us then we can join the Euro and make the English change their money when they come over the border.

Guess what, the weather has improved. It is actually not raining so maybe a chance to go for a walk with our friends at Chanonry Point after lunch today. Could see the dolphins or meet up with the burning ghost of the Brahan Seer (Google him).

Have a great Hogmanay everyone!

Wettest year on record in the Highlands

Let’s hope the dreadfully wet weather we have experienced in the last couple of months is coming to an end. It says on the news that Scotland has had its wettest year on record and, hey, we still have a day to go!

On Boxing Day I used a wheelbarrow to bring some logs nearer the front door and by the following morning there were four inches of rain in the barrow. I’m sure not quite that much fell, as the barrow sides slope, but it must have been a good 2 inches or 5cm.

Our car parking area is a quagmire and our friends up the road say that where they normally park their car is like a ploughed field, too.

The rain has been continual and it has made the grass, particularly on slopes, slimy and treacherous which reminds me of the Liberal Party. You have to be so careful you don’t fall flat on your face, so take care Danny boy!

The SNP have had a great year, obtaining an overall majority and continuing their regime of good governance. Our first minister, Alex Salmond gave a short New Year address in the National Museum surrounded by exhibits on Baird, who invented the first TV in colour in the thirties, Stevenson, Fleming and all of our other great inventors. Even Malcolm Canmore in 1057 invented camouflage for military purposes and used it for the first time in a military manoeuvre at Dunsinane. Why is it that Scots have always been great inventors?

The Queen and Prince Philip are about to enter another jubilee year and I suppose, with Scottish Independence on the cards, we should all be reassuring the English that we have no intention of not sharing our monarch. Yes, Queen Elizabeth the first of Scotland (2nd of England) can trace her lineage all the way back to our most famous king, Robert the Bruce. She does a great job on loan to those south of the border and in the commonwealth, too, but let’s remember whose monarch she is!

The dreadful rain today didn’t help as we moved our friend and neighbour into a nursing care home in Inverness after spending about eight weeks in the Royal Northern Infirmary. I was very impressed with the refurbished Kingsmills Care Home. They were so friendly and helpful and we saw a number of members of staff who were helping to get him settled.

He has a comfortable en suite room and we brought his 28″ flatscreen telly in from his home and a few other bits and pieces to make it more homely. He could be in there until the spring when it might be possible for him to come home if proper home care can be set up.

Currently there is virtually no home care for the Drumnadrochit area which means that a care home is the only real solution. With the population ageing, the government is getting quite worried about how the cost is going to be met. Scotland has a slightly different regime to England , but both have similar pressures.

In Inverness today there is still no obvious sign of a recession. More traffic than I have ever encountered in the city and the huge Tesco store car park was full to overflowing causing tailbacks on the A96. It is amazing that the shops are only closed for one day, but people feel the need for stocking up on, probably, the busiest day of the year.

If you read my Black Isle turkey item a couple of days before Christmas you might be interested in a comment on it from people who own the Black Isle Turkey brand name. I bring it to your attention as it appears that what we’ve been buying the last few years is not quite what it was supposed to be.Nevertheless it was a fabulous bird and tasted brilliant.

Right now we’re settling down for a Korma. Partying on the 31st, but early in the day with friends from Chanonry Point.

On God and Religion – some thoughts

A popular perception of the deityThis morning the television was showing a Jewish Rabbi talking about God and the interviewer asked him what was before God.

It is, of course, a natural question. If God created the universe and the earth in just seven days, where was he before that?

Scientists and atheists suffer the same dilemma. They can take the universe back to the big bang and the question is then posed, “What came before the big bang?” or “Who made the big bang?”

This is where you find yourself stuck with one answer or another. You either believe that God existed in some other plane and magicked the universe out of something he had to hand, or you believe that the big bang was an accidental occurrence which popped into existence from another location or perhaps was the result of a big crunch.

So the God believers are rather stuck with a further question as to where their deity exists. Is he, or she presumably, living in a community of gods in some suburb of heaven or does he live in some splendid isolation.

Let’s have a look at his creation.

We could go back to pre-Copernican times and see a creation which was perhaps a few thousand miles in diameter. At this size I suppose that it was not too unexpected that people thought it could have been the creation of a deity and religion took off in a big way.

However, as we start to learn more about the extent of the universe it all becomes rather silly. Very few people are able to grasp the size of the solar system, let alone our galaxy, the local cluster of galaxies or the whole universe.

But it really is important to get some grasp of the sizes involved.

A journey to the moon takes a couple of days, Mars would take six months and the outer planets take years to reach. The 1975 Voyager has only just passed out of the confines of the solar system … our backyard, and it has been travelling for over 35 years at enormous speed.

To start to understand distances in the cosmos we need a larger unit of measurement and light years are the usual scientific measure. This is the distance travelled by light in an earth year.

It is a simple calculation: 186,000 miles per second X 60 in a minute X 60 in an hour X 24 in a day X 365 days per year. The product of that is 5,865,696,000,000 miles or 23,462,784 the distance to the moon. Are you getting some idea of the distance of a single light year. If the late lamented space shuttle at its maximum 20,000 miles per hour were to set off to travel just one light year it would take 33,480 years to cover it. Just try to grasp the magnitude of that. If it had been able to start at the dawn of recorded history it would have covered only 15% of that single light year.

The M31 galaxy - our nearest neighbouring galaxyBut a light year, in the scheme of the universe is a tiny distance. The nearest star is five light years away and would take the shuttle over 150,000 years to arrive. But then things start to get really big, mindblowingly big! The image shows a galaxy. This one is called M31 and is the nearest neighbour to our own Milky Way – yes the Milky Way is a galaxy just like this, but we don’t see the shape because we are around half to three quarters of the way out along one of its spiral arms.  If you want “big” you might think this is it because the diameter of our galaxy is around 110,000 light years across. Our shuttle could cross the galaxy in just 16,500,000,000. If it started when the universe came into existence it would still be travelling and would only have covered 80% of the distance, because the universe is only 13,500,000,000 years old.

Our galaxy is also rotating. It rotates once every 50,000,000 years.What is all the smoky material you can see in M31? They are stars. Our galaxy contains some 300,000,000,000 stars or about 40 stars for every man woman and child on earth.

M31 is actually more than twice the size of our own galaxy and contains around 1,000,000,000,000 stars. It is about 2,500,000 light years away from us so the good old shuttle could get there in just 83,700,000,000 years. As a comparison, some scientists believe the universe could have died by that time! Seven times the current age of the universe to get from one galaxy to the nearest neighbour travelling at 20,000 miles per hour. Get the idea? By the way, we will collide with M31 in about 4,500,000,000 years so better get some life insurance quick.

However, we are only part of an insignificant local group of galaxies. Since the use of the Hubble space telescope the estimated number of galaxies in the universe has grown rapidly and is expected to exceed 300,000,000,000 and each of them contain 200 to 300 billion stars. So how many stars are there in the universe?

It is 75,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 and we now know there are planets around lots of them. Hundreds discovered in just the last couple of years with the new generation of telescopes.

So Earth is a poxy little planet in an unspectacular solar system, two thirds of the way out along an undistinguished spiral arm of a galaxy which is itself is not even the largest member of a group of about 30 local galaxies in an universe made up of 10,000,000,000 groups of such galaxies.

And you believers think that this entire universe was created by a supreme being who did it all so that he could watch your piddling little lives and take an interest in whether you used a swear word yesterday, had a carnal thought today or forgot to pray to him last week. You must be having a laugh!

It is all absolute baloney.

Mind you, at least this explains why praying never works. If you pray for something and it happens then it is pure coincidence and you all know, full well, that the bulk of things you pray for are never fulfilled. Why? Because no one is listening, stupid!

Grow up and learn to live without this nonentity crutch. Do good because it is good. Do no harm, not because you fear a vicious reprisal at the end of your pitiful life, but because it is good for other people.

Next time we’ll maybe have a look at how the eye is obviously the product of evolution. One of the mainstays of the creationists!

If I have hurt your feelings then I apologise, but, frankly, you should not be reading this. There is an ancient book beginning with a B which is packed with nonsense ravings and you might find that more amenable as it will not bore you with any facts.

Oh dear, I seem to have worn the colour off my zero key!

What’s up with the world?

Britain's top warmongerThis is the head of the British military. Can you imagine a half-grown public school kid like Cameron being able to manipulate or control a man like this whose entire existence requires war, death and destruction? I’ll come back to him later.

At Loch Ness, the rain is lashing the window and the far side of the loch is almost invisible. The car parking area is still a quagmire and trying to get tradesmen to provide quotes at this time of year is its usual waste of time.

I couldn’t believe what I was seeing this morning. Nick Clegg giving a Christmas Message. Not impressed with this jumped up lackey giving his advice to the rest of the country. He and his big boss seem to believe that they are our saviours, having seen off the devil incarnate … Gordon Brown. Mind you, he had five times the capabilities of Ed Milliband!

Now we watch as budgets get cut on the railways – give it five years and the fatal crashes will start all over again.

They reorganise our health service which means cuts. Reorganisation costs a fortune and the budgets remain the same so cuts are inevitable. Do none of them understand that?

Then look at the deteriorating roads, and lengthening dole queues. Law and order getting worse, so they cut the number of front line officers, but the Department of War continues to have massive amounts of our national cake in order to allow generals, like the toy soldier above, to play with junior soldiers lives in unimportant backwaters of the world causing a hundred times the number of local casualties in the process. Sorry, my mistake, it is the Defence Department, isn’t it? Where did I get the idea they are responsible more for fighting wars overseas than defending the people of this country. We’re always being attacked by other nations, aren’t we?

The first world war lasted four years, the second world war lasted five years and they have finally found a way to have a third world war which they can keep running forever and ever. It started in Kuwait and has been going on ever since. After the fall of the USSR we had an almost unique period of peace and then they had to give conflicting messages to Hussein and he invaded Kuwait. The western world has been fighting Islamic nations ever since, creating more and more fanatics wanting to hit out at everything and everyone associated with the western nations. Tens of thousands of worthless deaths in their countries which can be put down entirely to our interference. If we are not seen as war mongers then we are certainly the people who have created a world full of irrational hatred which can only get worse.

However, the rich still get richer. No one has stopped the six figure bankers’ bonuses and our pension and insurance companies continue to think FTSE 500 companies need to have bosses earning giant lottery wins every year. Obscene through and through.

But I suppose, when it really comes down to it, no one is poor any more … well no one who really matters, anyway!

 

Bale and Modric not for sale – Sky News so annoying!

It is so annoying that every time Modric or Bale have a brilliant game the media starts asking ‘Arry if he will sell them. Why is this?

They don’t ask if Arshavin’s for sale because he has a good game for Arsenal or Rooney if he scores a couple for Manchester United so why the hell does this question keep being asked of Spurs?

We are third in the premiership and there is no reason anyone should be sold so for goodness sake stop asking the question.

Gareth Bale the Spurs Hero

Gareth Bale scored both of Spurs' goals tonightWell it took a while for us to break Norwich City down, but it came in the second half and we completed a very important victory. We gained two points on all of our main rivals for top four slots and reduced Manchester City’s lead over us by two points, too.

After tonight we are just seven points behind the two top clubs and we still have one game in hand. Win that and the gap is just four with Manchester City away coming up soon. What a game that will be.

Some of the play tonight was reminiscent of the Super Spurs of 1961. Parker is being compared to Dave Mackay, but I think he has real qualities of Danny Blanchflower, too. I notice that tonight ‘Arry made him captain and I have a feeling that role will stick.

Adebayor is thoroughly enjoying himself at Tottenham and I hope he can make the move permanent in January.

As for Modric, why would he want to play for Chelsea? Has-beens who are languishing several points behind us before the game in hand.

Other superb features were the young Walker, perhaps now the best right full back in Britain and of course Benoir on the left at his very best.

Sandro and Walker sealed  the route to goal and allowed Gallas and Kabul the freedom to be confident in their centre back roles, passing us out of trouble instead of just booting the ball upfield.

Rafa was great working with the Ade and Bale.

Friedel was all he needed to be.

A terrific rounded performance.

We shall see. What will the future hold?

Boxing Day – can I do any good with this blog?

TailgatingI wonder whether I can put an argument to you … yes all of you.

This is a great shot, but there is a real story here.

I have always taken great care not to drive too close to the vehicle in front and I have been observing drivers for many decades. What I am going to describe here has been gradually and noticeably getting worse.

From observation of drivers, not one person in  a hundred reading this blog is innocent. Seriously almost every reader is guilty. Why is that? Why do so many  people take their lives in their hands almost every day.

Driving too close togetherMany years ago, the government ran a campaign to try to stop people tailgating. They simply asked drivers to watch the car in front and when it passed a lamppost, or mark on the road, they were to say the words, “Only a fool breaks the two second rule” and if, before they had finished that sentence, they passed the same mark or lamppost then they were driving too close.

It seemed to be a very effective campaign and I have followed it ever since.

However, people are following it less and less. The next time you are behind the wheel just test it a little. Watch the two cars in front of you. Monitor the first one passing a landmark then the second one. In my experience the average gap being left is, “Only a”. Often it is “On” and rarely as great as “Only a fo”. Check it. I’m not making this up.

In fact I get so sick of people tailgating me that if I get the opportunity I will flick my left indicator to get them past me or even pull into a layby briefly. What is fascinating is that I can then watch that car drive right up behind the next car in front and sit 0.25 seconds behind that … even if it is a truck. This is SO dangerous.

Do you really want to end your life like this? And what of your passengers? And what of all the people’s journeys you will be disrupting as the police close the road for YOUR fatal accident?

Interestingly, the other day, I was driving into Inverness with Wendy and was holding a good two to three seconds between us and the car in front. We were both doing a steady 55mph and I noticed that there was a car behind holding a good two second gap, too. This really is a very rare occurrence, but it does happen occasionally.

UNTIL another car came up behind him. Some sort of Lemming madness took over and he started to close the gap with me until both of them were around “Only a” behind me and each other. Why did he do this? Was it some subconscious fear that the car behind him was going to cheat him somehow, perhaps try to steal his place in the queue.

So they followed me like that until we got to the bus stop at Dochfour Estates and I could enter the loop and get rid of both idiots, then following them into the city at a safe distance while both of them got closer and closer to the original car in front.

As is  usual in these instances, the cars rarely try to overtake the car in front and, along the mile straight to Inverness, with nothing coming the other way, neither of the two vehicles tried to pass the first one.

Are these drivers insane? There seems to be no other explanation than a death wish. They even do it behind trucks in situations when it is obviously impossible to overtake.

In fact the overtaking drivers close the gap too, but they are alert and looking for the gap in the traffic to let them get by. They should be helped to overtake, not find you deliberately and dangerously closing the gap with the car in front to make life difficult for them. It is absolute madness. It is not illegal to overtake so why not facilitate it and make everyone’s day that much safer and less hassle. Open the gap … you shouldn’t be that close anyway!

So, it is only 364 shopping days to Christmas. Would you like to see next Christmas? Or would you like to kill yourself and your other front seat passenger in the most horrible way.

The truck or car you are following at a distance of “Only a fo” suddenly has a deer jump out in front of him and slams on the anchors.

You don’t see it, of course, but when the brake lights go on and the gap starts to narrow, your brilliant reactions come into play and you slam on your brakes.

The gap is still closing … it is obvious you are not going to stop in time  … five yards, four, three … your passenger screams … you cover your eyes … the back of the vehicle in front impacts … your engine crumples, pushing back into the driver’s compartment crushing your passenger’s legs (is it your wife, mother, child, sister, friend?) … the windscreen smashes …. your head stops short of the windscreen as it is at the extent of your seatbelt … the back of the truck forces its way into your car … the truck and fragmenting windscreen impacts your head and that is the last you know … but it continues to crush your chest and leave you and your loved passenger as bloody dead heaps.

Perhaps the kids and the dog in the back will survive, but how you died will be imprinted on their minds for the rest of their lives.

“Only a fool breaks the two second rule!” – you know it makes sense.

If just one of you changes your driving method then I know I might have saved a life or serious injury. Driving close to the car in front really does not get you to your destination any quicker … well except maybe by two seconds!

99.9% of drivers are risking dying this way!Do yourself a favour – check it next time and every time you are in a car as passenger or driver and insist that the one in control of the car does not break that rule unless actively overtaking.

Otherwise you could be the mangled corpse behind the white blanket!

We wish you a very merry Festive Season

After some sixty years, it never ceases to amaze me how Santa can visit some seven billion people in a single night.

Last night, despite gale force winds and horrendous rain, he still arrived. We actually heard the reindeer struggling for a footing on the corrugated roof of our croft house and when I went outside this morning I could see several scrapes on the roof from when they must have pushed off back into flight.

Christmas Presents under the tree - December 2011Somehow Santa managed to squeeze down the chimney loaded with presents, ate the minced pie and drank the brandy (we thought he’d like an upgrade) and still remembered to put the granny back on the chimney when he left.

What a heap of presents. Famous Names liqueurs, a megaphone for calling errant clients back to the car, pen tablet and a magnifier because I’m having trouble reading tiny print. Also some Amani Code, a railway mug and some chocolate buttons.

Wendy got a cashmere sweater, long knitted jumper, chocolate orange, toy money, a Monet puzzle and Tony Benn autobiography. No reflection on particular politics. She likes autobiographies.

Friends gave us a bottle of champagne, more chocolates and a fiery sauce. Got an Oliver apron and a basset candle. Thank goodness for no more ornaments!

The turkey is about an hour from ready and the Gewurztraminer just being removed so it is not too cold. The fire is live and if you’d like to waste a minute watching it click this: SHORT FIRE VIDEO.

So what is happening around the world this Christmas 2011?

The pope, surrounded by gold candlesticks on gilt mounts, jewels and cardinals dressed in fantastically expensive and ornate robes had the cheek to tell us we need to see beyond the glitter of a commercial Christmas.

The archbishop of Canterbury was drifting around looking as if he is in a marijuana haze from an overindulgent Christmas Eve. He tells us society is breaking down.

Obama praises the troops who have returned from Iraq with hardly a mention of the deaths which occurred just days later seeing more Iraqi civilians being blown up.

Cameron goes to Afghanistan to praise the British troops who continue to be slowly depleted by roadside mines and bombs.

God has been up to his usual tricks too. He managed to let a family get blown up in Liverpool, a gunman go on the rampage in the states and a churchload of worshippers get blown up in Africa. Of course, children saved from death are seen as God working miracles while those who die … well they are dead so will not live to say how prayer saved them. Such total nonsense. It is always the people who have miraculous escapes who speak about their faith and miraculous rescues. Well, let me speak for the 70 billion people who died in the last 2,000 years and never had their prayers answered. How many “God save me” pleas went out before they fell to their deaths, got burned alive or blown up, murdered or hung in error. The lack of their voices is just one of the many proofs that God does not exist.

An outdated bible calls for stoning of adulterers, even worse for rape victims in other religions and it will never cease to amaze me how otherwise intelligent people can accept that Christ was the son of a supernatural being who created the entire universe.

Pretty hopeless planning that. Not only did he fail to get the message to the world’s entire population, but he has signally failed to demonstrate his existence in any tangible way. Of course believers accept the childish myth that he requires faith, when we all know these myths are not real.

Oh, yes, now back to Santa …

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year – make the most of it, because the afterlife is a fantasy invented to suppress the masses.

Wonder what comments I’ll get to that post!

Not a very festive looking Christmas Eve

Had to nip out for some milk, bread and mincemeat and also to deliver a card to some new friends we’d forgotten to add to the list. The turning area by the house is a quagmire, it is pouring with rain and the loch is the same colour as the sky, a pale grey. The hills opposite are lost in the rain.

The road to Dhivach was flooded in two locations and full of potholes, the supermarket had run out of mincemeat, but managed to find some in the post office shop while I was picking up the mail.

Wrapping presents this afternoon and Wendy has to stuff and prepare the turkey. Think I’ll make up the fire ready for an open fire tomorrow morning.

Hope you all have a good Christmas. Don’t get up too early tomorrow, remember that Santa now has over 7,000,000,000 people expecting deliveries. Probably keeps the sherry industry in business, not to mention that mincemeat again!