Wednesday, 31 December 2008

And On It Goes...

Well, another day, another catastrophe, and another day of the kindness of friends and family.

After spending the night at my friend's, I came back to the house this morning to see how things were. Thank goodness I had turned off the water before I left last night. The pipe had thawed and when I did turn the water back on, the heavens opened, which is a bit disconcerting when it's happening inside the house. I turned the water back off sharpish, so luckily not too much damage was done but I am afraid that my stoicism gave way at this point and I crumpled.

I called the plumber and the insurance people then called my son and burst into tears.

Now, as it's getting dark, things are much better. The plumber (may his name be praised) came out this afternoon and has isolated the pipe so that at least I can use water elsewhere in the house. He'll come back and fix it properly in the New Year. My power has been declared safe to switch back on and I have access (hurray) to the internet again.

Having said all that, I am going back to my friend's house again to spend another night, just to get away from this bloody house. Which means that I will be bringing in the New Year away from home for the first time - that got me crying again. But I am grateful for the friends I have and I am trying to count my blessings.

Part of me wants to spend not another night under this roof and I may just put it up for sale in January and rent somewhere until I know what I want to do. It sounds like an over-reaction and maybe it is, but this house has worn me down and I have had enough. New Year, new life maybe.

Happy Hogmanay and Happy New Year to you all!

Monday, 29 December 2008

Sooooo Cold...



Greetings fellow bloggers, and a belated happy Christmas to you all. In the true spirit of schadenfreude, I thought you might like to hear about my latest woes - might cheer you up.

Christmas was pleasant and uneventful. We were pleased to have mild weather for a change. Then the weather turned cold...then my heating broke down...for the second time in a month...

"Oh well", I thought, "at least I know what to do this time". I have loads of electric heaters for just this eventuality, and my lovely wood-burning stove, so I set them all going and tried to keep the cold at bay. Only trouble was that this cursed house has eccentric wiring and apparently has only a 30A main fuse so...when I switched on my cooker as well...the fuse blew, melted the wire and sent noxious fumes swirling through the house. So, it's minus 5C outside and I have no central heating and now no electricity either - oh joy!

I was very fortunate to get an emergency repair done (eventually) on the fuse, through my very helpful insurers, so I now have power back but of course I can't put all the heaters on at once, so the house is EXTREMELY cold. The heating man is coming today so it might be fixed by nightfall but in the meantime I am in eskimo layers and wishing I lived in Australia.

Mind you, it is a sparkling day out there and if I can get my brain working I'll go and take some pictures to share with you. In the meantime though, please send me warm thoughts - every little helps!

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Do Something Powerful

Today is the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, more than ever, it is harder for the ordinary person to live a quiet life without fear or interference from the state. This document has never been more relevant.

I joined Amnesty because I was fed up with the little guy around the world being squished by bullies - whether terrorists or states, and deprived of the chance to live out their life in peace. This video shows how you can make a difference too:

Monday, 8 December 2008

Trivia

I've been preparing some more books for selling and came across a fab little book which I bet no-one out there has heard of but which is packed with witty aphorisms, and I just had to share some of them with you. The book is called All Trivia by Logan Pearsall Smith. Have a read at these -

People say that Life is the thing, but I prefer Reading.

I can't forgive my friends for dying; I don't find these vanishing acts of theirs at all amusing.

What's more enchanting than the voices of young people when you can't hear what they say?

and this one strikes a horribly familiar note...

Edification: 'I must really improve my Mind,' I tell myself, and once more begin to patch and repair that crazy structure. So I toil and toil on at the vain task of edification, though the wind tears off the tiles, the floors give way, the ceilings fall, strange birds build untidy nests in the rafters, and owls hoot and laugh in the tumbling chimneys.

I'd like to give you more examples of this forgotten writer's gems, but I need to go; I can hear avian giggling and chortling coming from somewhere and I must go and investigate...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Five of Me

I've tagged myself with a meme I found over at The Radula - check out Kate's brilliant t-shirts and stuff while you're there.

It's a Five Things Meme. Feel free to tag yourselves.

5 Things I Was Doing Ten Years Ago

Trying to settle in to Highland life and not finding it easy.
Getting used to being 40 (you know what that makes me now!)
Trying to lose weight.
Getting used to being an orphan, having lost both parents in six months.
Falling in love with the wildlife I was seeing for the first time - especially the hare.

5 Things on My To-do List Today

Feed the birds (done)
Clear the snow off my drive (done)
Do Christmas shopping (partial success - went shopping but didn't find anything...)
Strip wallpaper (that ain't going to get done now - tough)
Play World of Warcraft - later, once it's dark outside, with something daft on the telly...yum

5 Snacks I love

Cheddar Cheese Kettle Chips
Peanuts - salted, dry roasted, in the shell - anything
Thorntons chocolate covered vanilla fudge - trying to resist having a second piece as I write - oh stuff it, I give in.
My own choc chip cookies.
Cheeselets - only at Christmas, in their special tub - Twiglets too.

5 Things I'd do If I was a Millionaire

Depends whether you had the million to live on or to play with. If I had it to play with I'd...

Build a house.
Support a couple of charities in a substantial way.
Buy lots and lots of books, and lots of really good shelving to store them on.
Buy a shiny new car.
Start a bookshop and staff it so I could just waft in, buy lots of books and waft out again.

5 Places I've Lived

Nigeria - but I was too small to remember anything about it, dammit.
Inverness, when I was a child.
Ayrshire on the West Coast of Scotland, where I left my heart.
Walsall.
Inverness, again.

5 Jobs I've Had

School Librarian
Medical Librarian
Christmas Bookseller
Bookfinder (beginning to see a theme here?)
and Needlepoint Designer

Which Art Movement Are You?

If you're anything like me you'll find it hard to pick just one answer in this quiz - don't know if this makes me very artistic or just indecisive...

Pinched from Archie, that old curmudgeon -



You Are Romanticism



You are likely to see the world as it should be, not as it is.

You prefer to celebrate the great things people do... not the horrors they're capable of.

For you, there is nothing more inspiring than a great hero.

You believe that great art reflects the artist's imagination and true ideals.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Not All Bad

Hi all!

I have grumbled at length about living in the country, with its isolation, lack of coffee houses and, recently, the perils of its single track roads. But there are compensations...



This is the woodland track that lies just up the hill from me. On a day like this, I don't hate the place quite so much! The old dog and I usually stick to the roads but I couldn't resist striking out along this path yesterday when I saw that no-one else had walked that way since the snow had fallen. The snow lay soft and inviting and we both took pleasure from laying down our foot and paw prints. Leaving tracks in the snow is almost as much fun as stamping through the leaves in autumn - it's one of the few occasions when you can behave like a child without attracting stares.



And this is the view as we walked back, our pioneer tracks before us. My little dog has dementia but she loves her daily walks and it was joyous to see her bouncing through the snow like a young thing.

Days like this bring out the best in country living - true, I was housebound - not wanting to risk the hired car in the snow - but how lucky I felt to be walking completely alone in the woods with my dog. Looks like it'll be the same today. It's cold and dry. No more snow but the roads are still not clear and the new cautious me won't be going anywhere until they are. So it'll be another walk up the hill in the light and the chill air, and maybe we'll go left instead of right and hope that no-one's been that way either, and we'll stamp our little mark on some more of the land, and the balance will swing back to staying on here...

Monday, 1 December 2008

XKCD Does it Again

This tickled me:



from the excellent (and scarily intelligent)

XKCD

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Sunday Smile

This'll put a smile on your face, or I'm not a puddock (which I am).



Pinched from the inspirational azahar

Friday, 28 November 2008

Hugs Please!

Hi everyone

I am shamelessly using this post to get sympathy. I was in a reasonably minor car accident yesterday and now that the shock has worn off I'm feeling miserable (and sore).

I live up a hill on a single track road and it was as I was heading up the hill yesterday that I met someone coming down rather fast. There's not a lot you can do in those circumstances except try to minimise the impact by moving to the side. No-one was injured beyond a few bruises but the cars were a hell of a mess - it was a big bang!

Luckily a friend and neighbour was passing and she stuck to me for the rest of the day while I sorted, or at least tried, everything out. Thank goodness for good friends.

The guys who were in the other car seem so far to be reasonable and we have agreed that it was a no-fault accident. Let's just hope that good spirit continues, although you can never tell what people will do once they've gone home and had a think.

The accident was bad but dealing with the insurance company was worse. Four hours later I was no closer to getting the car shifted, never mind a replacement car, which is part of the deal. I seemed to have been shifted from one call-centre to another, all of them talking complete gobbledegook, for hours on end.

Eventually I had the brainwave of calling the RAC to see if they could do anything. (In the meantime I had had the cops on the phone because a neighbour had complained that my car was obstructing the road - very neighbourly, very supportive). The RAC were wonderful. Their cover included dealing with accidents as well as breakdowns, so they sent a guy out and in less than an hour they were there taking charge. They took my little car away to the car doctors, patted me on the head, and sent me home. I can't speak highly enough of them.

My friend insisted that I went and had tea with her, so I forgot about it all for a while, apart from cursing selfish and stupid neighbours periodically. When I was finally back at home I decided to have one last go at the insurance company to try to understand what was going on - they still hadn't even arranged for the tow, never mind anything else. I was very lucky and spoke to a guy who actually spoke in English instead of robot-speak and he explained exactly what was happening, and told me in very simple terms what I should do the next day.

So at last I can relax. There is a car on the way, my garage is estimating repairs which the insurers are likely to accept...I think that's it. Of course I still have to find out which neighbour called the cops so I can put a hex on their house but apart from that I have done all I need to do. I ache all over and my wrist is sore but I know I am very lucky not to have been more seriously injured. I want to get back out on the road as soon as possible to test my confidence but this stupid accident has dented it a bit I fear. So all hugs gratefully received :)

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Galactic Smoke Rings


I had to share this stunning picture with you all, which I saw on Astronomy Picture of the Day. It was taken only last week by the Hubble Space Telescope so it's right at the forefront of our knowledge of what the Universe looks like.

It shows two very different, but neighbouring, galaxies. Each is unusual because of its ring structure but look at how different they are. Apparently, and I'm not a scientist so you'll have to forgive me if I get the detail wrong, the galaxy on the left passed through the one on the right and, just like a pebble hitting a pond, it left behind an outwardly moving 'ripple' of, in this case, incredibly densely packed stars. Astronomers believe that the red patch at the bottom of the blue galaxy marks the original nucleus of the galaxy that was struck.

It must be incredibly exciting to be an astronomer just now. Every month brings dazzling new observations of objects countless light years away - the pair of galaxies above lie 400 MILLION light years away from us - and our understanding of the universe we live in advances. I wish I'd stuck in at science at school now...

Images like these make me glad I'm alive in the 21st century because they tell me about the Universe I live in without needing to be a rocket scientist. They show me how stunningly beautiful it is out there, how unimaginably big it is and how terribly, terribly small we are.

If you want to find out more about galaxies, and even help to catalogue them, take a look at the Galaxy Zoo website.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

The Tyranny of Cats

This video made me laugh like a fool - hope it does the same for you:



There is so much talent out there - this is as good as anything I've seen on the conventional media. Quite cheers me up.

Oh, and it's not just cats. I have very similar experiences with my Jack Russell - they don't scratch so much but they are great at asking to go out outside just as the penalty kick is about to be taken. Gotta love 'em.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

What the Election Should Really be About

I haven't said much about the US election - I'm a Brit so I really feel it isn't my place to pontificate on a subject I know little about. Suffice it to say that if I was an American, I'd be voting for the candidate who believed in evolution, the value of scientific research, gay rights and, above all, who genuinely wanted to make the life of individuals better.

So I want to draw attention to this open letter to Senator Obama written by my friend Kate over at The Radula. In it, she describes her circumstances, how longstanding illness has interfered with her capacity to earn a living and how she hopes, with health care and education support from the state, to get back into work so that she can provide for her family and make a contribution to society. Without that support, she cannot hope to do so.

She offers Senator Obama her support and urges him to hold good to his promises on health care and welfare if he becomes President. It's a great letter - honest and without a trace of self-pity, despite the tough times she has had. I hope both candidates get to read her letter. Politicans should be reminded more often that they are there to represent us, to make our lives better - if they don't, what good are they?

Saturday, 25 October 2008

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Scary but Funny

Pinched from that rapscallion Archie, a very funny yet deeply disturbing tableau of a possible future. Laugh while you sweat...

Palin in the Oval Office

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Mouse Traps and the Mile Cry Club

Hello fellow bloggers!

I bought a brilliant little book this week called Fictionary: words that don't exist but should and it's had me snickering to myself periodically. It comes from the girls who run the Daily Candy website and it provides a useful reference for those baffled or irritated by the modern world. It's especially good for grumpy oldies, as I myself aspire to be. Try these for size:

Mouse Trap: An Internet purchase that looks a lot different upon arrival than it did in the picture.

Promotion Sickness: the queasy feeling one gets when someone really stupid gets promoted.

The Mile Cry Club: The babies and children on a plane who spend the entire flight crying, screaming and kicking your seat.

Then there's Drailing and Drimming - emailing and instant messaging when you are drunk - never a good idea...

...and one that strikes far too close to home for comfort:

Inshopnia: A disorder marked by making unnecessary online purchases in the wee hours due to insomnia - oh yes, been there, done that, bought the t-shirt, and the bag, and the CD, and the mousemat...


Friday, 10 October 2008

A Sock's Eye View on the Financial Crisis

There isn't really much to laugh about this week but there are two jolly socks in Edinburgh who made me giggle - hope they do the same for you...

Back with a Snap!

Hi guys! Been away doing things in the 'real' world for a while but I'm back now. I might actually be getting a life - who'd have thought it? Anyway, to break us back in gently, I thought we could do a quiz, so WHAT KIND OF REPTILE ARE YOU?



You Are a Crocodile



You are incredibly wise and knowledgeable.
In fact, your wisdom is so deep that it sometimes consumes you
People are intrigued by you, but you find few people intriguing.
You are not a very social creature.
You are cunning. You enjoy deceiving people a little.
You are able to find balance in your life, and you can survive anything.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The Joys of Grumbling


I've lived in the country now for ten years and am still full in the throes of a love/hate relationship with it. Love the wildlife, the space and the quiet. Miss the buzz of town life - the culture and the carry-outs!

So when I found a little book on my shelves this morning with this subtitle: Many hundreds of examples of those chagrins and mortifications which have beset, still beset, and ever will beset the human race and overshadow its journey through this earthly paradise, the whole being conveniently displayed in an alphabetic arrangement for purposes of Comparison, Consolation and Diversion, I knew there would be a chapter on country life. And there was. Here are a couple of grumbles from the very chapter:

"And in my situation at Stamford there was not one person, clergy or lay, that had any taste or love of learning, so that I was actually as much dead in converse as if in a coffin."
That was the Rev William Stukeley writing in 1726. A few years later, here is an extract from a letter by Elizabeth Montagu:

"Though I am tired of the country, to my great satisfaction I am not so much so as my Pappa; he is a little vapoured, and last night, after two hours' silence, he broke out with a great exclamation against the country, and concluded in saying that living in the country was sleeping with ones' eyes open."
Oh yes - I get that one. I've written myself, that getting through late winter here is like living in a big sock - constantly dark and gloomy and nowhere to go.

But nothing compares to this marvellous litany of despair from Sir John Dalrymple in 1772, proving that there is nothing new in trying (and failing) to live the good life:

"I pulled down as many walls round the house as would have fortified a town. That was in summer: but now, that winter is come, I would give all the money to put them up again, that it cost me to take them down.
I ordered the old timber to be thinned. The workmen, for every tree they cut, destroyed three, by letting them fall on each other. I received a momentary satisfaction from hearing that the carpenter I employed had cut his thumb in felling a tree.
I made a fine hay-stack; but quarreled with my wife as to the manner of drying the hay, and building the stack. The hay-stack took fire; by which I had the double mortification of losing the hay, and finding my wife had more sense than myself.
I paid twenty pounds for a dung-hill, because I was told it was a good thing; and, now, I would give any body twenty shillings to tell me what to do with it."


Fabulous stuff! There really is nothing new under the sun (or in the dung-heap).

Monday, 18 August 2008

Laptop Love

Oh, this is so close to home it's embarrassing. Found through the lovely Selma over at Selma in the City, here is Meleah Rebeccah's video dedicated to the new love of her life - oh how familiar it all looks!

Sunday, 17 August 2008

The Real Olympic Spirit

I came across this fab video on Youtube. In the midst of the sound of world records being annihilated thanks to high-tec swimsuits, at an Olympic Games (sadly) free of any gaffes, as far as I can tell (the Chinese games will really be something for London to live up to), relive with me a moment of the TRUE Olympic spirit, from the Sydney Games:



This is what the Olympics should be all about. Bring back the keen amateur, I say!

A Jolly Comma Am I

And on the basis that you can't have too much of a good thing... have another quiz!




You Are a Comma



You are open minded and extremely optimistic.
You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.
You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.
You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.
Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.
You excel in: Inspiring people.
You get along best with: The Question Mark



Any question marks out there?!

Sneaker or Slipper?

Yee-ha! Guess I'm just a little bit country. Now where's Robert Redford?




You Are Cowboy Boots



This doesn't mean you're country, just funky.
You've got a ton of attitude and confidenceYou're unique, expressive, and even a little bit wacky.
You wear whatever you feel like – and you have your own sense of styleYou are straight shooting and honest.
You tell people how it isLow maintenance and free wheeling, you're always up for an adventure.
You should live: Where you can at least get to wide open spacesYou should work: In a job that allows you to take change



What kind of shoe are you?

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

And I Have To Thank...



I am very chuffed, and a little embarrassed, to have been honoured by Steph over at
The Panic Room with this award. Too many people to thank to name them all - my hairdresser, my dog, my therapist, my nail consultant...okay, I made that last one up...but most of all my readers - that happy (and small) band of frog-lovers. Thank you all for the comments you make, and the inspiration you give me, not to mention the great posts that you do which I then pinch. Anyway, enough of that before I start to cry. I'll just clutch my award and my bouquet to my heaving bosom and trip back down the steps in my six-inch stilletos, which don't seem like quite such a good idea now...thank you all, thank you, thank you...

Oo - I forgot. I'm also presenting some awards. Here we go -

And the first award goes to Selma for Selma in the City: this blog always lifts my spirits, and not because she lives in beautiful Sydney. Her writing is simple and poetic and shows me how it should be done.

Next is Archie over on the brilliant Archie's Archive. He has a wicked sense of humour (I'm still laughing at the cuckoo clock joke) and his weekly quizzes have become a vital part of my Fridays, as I battle to win the dunce's cap just one more time.

My third nominee is Jenny for her blog Widow in Oxfordshire. She is funny, witty and honest about learning to live alone, and her photos are always gorgeous. Go Jenny!

Isn't blogging fab? I just wish we could all meet up - I know we'd all get on so fabulously. Keep on blooging everyone!

Monday, 11 August 2008

Some Days Are Just Like That

Thanks to the very handsome Bear over at A Toy's Own Story for this:


(Click the picture to make it bigger)

Find more at Bear & Kitten

We've all had days like kitten...now, where did I put my knitting needles...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Sock Joy!

Oh frabjious day! Thanks to Archie, who introduced me to raincoaster, who introduced me to the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre - God, I love the internet!

Enjoy the looniness of the wittiest socks in Edinburgh:

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Giggle Thursday

I've pinched so much from Archie's Archive, I was determined to find my own material for a while, so when I saw this story last night I giggled but tied my blogging fingers together. But this morning I'm still giggling so, with a low curtsey to Archie...

The other night I was invited out for a night with the girls. I promised my husband that I would be home by midnight. Well, the hours passed and the margaritas went down way too easy. Just before 3 a.m., a bit loaded, I headed for home.

Just as I got in the door, the cuckoo clock in the hall started up and cuckooed three times. Quickly realizing my husband would probably wake up, I cuckooed another nine times. I was really proud of myself for coming up with such a quick-witted solution (even when totally smashed), in order to escape a possible conflict with him.

The next morning my husband asked me what time I got in and I told him “Midnight.” He didn’t seem pissed off at all. Whew! Got away with that one!

Then he said, “We need a new cuckoo clock.”

When I asked him why, he said, “Well, last night our clock cuckooed three times, then said, “Oh shit,” cuckooed four more times, cleared its throat, cuckooed another three times, giggled, cuckooed twice more, and then tripped over the coffee table and farted.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Dance Like a Human

This was on the Astronomy Picture of the Day today - not the usual gorgeous shot of stars or galaxies. Instead, an inspiring, heart-swelling video of people dancing. Nice to feel glad to be human for a change. Enjoy (and maybe envy Matt a little, or a lot!)
Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Just the Thing for a Grotty Saturday

Pinched from the amazing Archie over at Archie's Archive, if this doesn't make you at the very least giggle or, if you are me, have to add incontinence pads to your shopping list, then you are already dead:



Click to make it readable.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Sunshine and Showers

Hmmm - you can tell I'm stumped for anything interesting to write here. Yes, it's quiz time again! What kind of weather are you? The thing about these quizzes is that it's lovely if you come out as something marvellous. A bit like horoscopes, I suppose. You tell people about the good ones. Hence...I am SUNSHINE!



You Are Sunshine



Soothing and calm

You are often held up by others as the ideal

But too much of you, and they'll get burned



You are best known for: your warmth



Your dominant state: connecting

Break Dancing or Break a Leg?

Which dance are you? Go on, you know you want to know. I am surprised but delighted to be break dancing. Highly unlikely that I will ever be seen doing it for real, but in cyber space I'm body popping like mad.



You Are Break Dancing



You are a rebel and a rule breaker.

You are uniquely you, and you expressing your individuality.



And while you're different and a bit weird, you're no slacker.

You're extremely hard working. Having unusual talents is not as easy as it looks!

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Asparagus On Mars


The news from the Mars Lander expedition gets more exciting every day. Picked this up over on the BBC - analysis of a Martian soil sample has shown that it is not the highly acidic stuff scientists were expecting. It is alkaline, and indeed appears to have traces of magnesium, potassium, sodium and other elements - much as you might find in your own garden. "You might be able to grow asparagus in it really well" said Sam Kounaves, the project's lead chemist.

You can keep up-to-date with the mission on the Nasa site.

You Know You Have So Done All These Things...

Are you having a boring/miserable/angry Saturday? I know I am. This may or may not cheer you up. Whether it does or not, I bet you recognise yourself in it, if you have ever entered the slightly scruffy cybermart that is Ebay...



What's the worst thing you've ever found yourself successfully bidding for? Amongst my own personal fave worsts have been an ancient portable typewriter, which looked gorgeous but which I was never going to use, let's be honest - it's gone to the charity shop now, and probably hence back onto Ebay. And I did once buy some unstrung beads - who knows what planet I was on when I bought them...

Friday, 27 June 2008

Electronic Bees

A random Friday bit of human ingenuity...picked up over on Boingboing



Clever isn't it?

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Life Photo Meme - Ancient



The most ancient living thing I could think of around here was the Scots Pine - Pinus sylvestris. I am lucky enough to have four very old specimens in my garden, and this is the biggest and grandest of them:



Scots Pine, despite their name, are the most widely distributed conifer in the world, according to Trees For Life. Nevertheless, we do feel a special bond with them here in Scotland. Much of the North of Scotland was once covered in forest it is believed - an almost mythical forest known as The Great Caledonian Forest. There are only a few 'islands' of ancient woodland left in a sea of commercial forestry, but conservation work is being done to try to redress the balance.

The ancient forests had several hardy tree species in them - birch, pine and rowan - but the grandest, largest and most striking were and are the Scots pines. Each one is different - a unique individual. Eleven different growth forms have been identified, from tall and straight to spreading and multiple-trunked and this must help explain the great variety in their appearance. One of the pines in my garden was struck by lightning a few years ago and lost its growing tip. Now a few years later, it is bravely sending out a new leader skewed off to the side. Another one is tall and straight, but with many dead branches, and is a rather scruffy looking individual. The one in the photo above is the grandest - standing in the centre of the lawn and dominating (and dwarfing) everything around. I measured its girth at 8ft and 9 inches this morning, which makes it an extremely old specimen - 300 years or more.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Life Photo Meme - Home



Home is the theme this week so I thought this pair of photos fitted the bill rather well. The first shows that most domestic of settings - washing (namely a very tasteful sock) hanging on the line



But look closer at the clothes peg...

.

I loved the way that my faded, weathered clothes peg provided the perfect camouflage for this beautiful moth. I don't know what kind of moth it is, but its common name is now The Sun-bleached Clothes Peg Moth!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Where in the World...?


I don't know about you, but I am embarrassingly rubbish at geography. I can just about point to Paris on a map, but anything east of Germany and I am really struggling.

Do you remember those old jigsaws we used to have at school in the good old days? The ones that were in the shape of the counties, and you fitted them together to create, in my case, a lovely map of Scotland? That's what I need now, I thought, a painless way to get all this information into my ageing brain in a visual way. I've been hunting but couldn't find anything that really worked, until I came across a pretty good substitute, on the Ordnance Survey website.

There you can complete electronic jigsaws of England, Scotland or Wales(satisfyingly like the old primary school county jigsaws), of Europe (I found this very difficult), or of the World.

Have a go - treat your brain to a workout and banish those embarrassing geographical gaps too - maps this way...

(Redneck map above courtesy of http://www.rednecks.info/world-map.html)

This'll make you smile...

Thanks to Bear over at A Toy's Own Story for bringing to my attention The Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain - I know, it sounds like a hideous idea, but they are wonderful - funny and sometimes rather profound - honestly. I'll never hear Wuthering Heights any other way now - listen and marvel for yourselves:



But I have to say that their version of Smells Like Teen Spirit is my absolute favourite:



Find out more about them on their website. You can hear clips, buy their CDs (yes really) and you might even be lucky enough to find they are playing a gig near you.

Enjoy!

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Life Photo Meme - Honour an Invertebrate!



Dorid has nominated this week Honour an Invertebrate in her Life Photo Meme.
I am thrilled about this as it gives me the chance to post one of my favourite photos - of a Great Black Slug delicately nibbling a mushroom:



I took this picture a few years ago. I saw from the window this black creature getting stuck into a mushroom and rushed out with my camera, thinking it must be a vole or a shrew. I didn't know at that point either that slugs could be so big (and handsome!) or that they eat fungi. In fact, if you see holes in a toadstool in the garden or out on a walk, it is most likely that it was a slug that did the eating, and not a little furry mouse.

After watching this guy for ages, slugs became a favourite of mine. This one in particular is so beautifully marked. It reminds me of Durer's Rhinoceros, with its armour plating effect - see the pic full size to see the detail.

Friday, 30 May 2008

The Building of Stonehenge


I find that I haven't posted here for a fortnight - most embarrassing, and I can't think why, except that the weather has been unusually good here in the wild and wacky north, and so I have been a-busy digging and planting and mowing and pruning.

Okay - excuses over...I picked up this interesting piece on the BBC website. Permission was granted recently for a limited archaeological dig on the ancient site of Stonehenge and new information is beginning to emerge about the building and history of the place:
The Building of Stonehenge Check out the video - it's very evocative.

The work was done in April and is to be shown in the Autumn on the BBC Timewatch programme. There is loads of information on theTimewatch page. I can't wait.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Which European City Do You Belong In?

Hurray! I got Paris!




You Belong in Paris



You enjoy all that life has to offer, and you can appreciate the fine tastes and sites of Paris.

You're the perfect person to wander the streets of Paris aimlessly, enjoying architecture and a crepe.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Doctor Who - Be the Director


Is this the coolest thing on the planet? The BBC has given us the chance to make our own Doctor Who trailer - I know, it's so exciting. I wish I was ten so I could actually tell people I was doing it. People in my real world think I'm weird enough as it is without telling them I play at making Doctor Who trailers when I should be washing the dishes.

Anyway, here's the link Trailer Maker - go ahead and try it. I was so desperate to share my news, especially with my Whovian blogging friends (and you know who you are!) that I haven't actually made mine yet. I'll save it as a special treat for once I've done some proper grown-up work.

Happy Monday everyone!

...Update...Update...

Well, I ignored the tottering pile of dishes in the kitchen and did the much more creative thing of having a bash at the trailer. Here's my first go - I'm sure you can do better...

My Trailer

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Mencken Makes Mincemeat of Politicians

Monday's Bit of Wisdom almost sneaking under the wire, but not quite, of the Monday deadline - must do better, must do better...

I found these thoughts of the American journalist H.L. Mencken. Famous for his biting wit, I had no idea he was a seer as well - how else could he, writing in the early part of the 20th century, be describing political life in 2008? Plus ca change...

A couple of salvos in the general direction of politicians first:

A good politician is as unthinkable as an honest burglar. 1925

If there had been any formidable body of cannibals in the country he would have promised to provide them with free missionaries fattened at the taxpayer's expense. (of Harry Truman's success in the 1948 Presidential campaign)

He could (and I'm sure would) have been writing these two today:

The worst government is often the most moral. One composed of cynics is often very tolerant and humane. But when fanatics are on top there is no limit to oppression. 1956

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. 1923

And my favourite:

Puritanism. The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.


Have a great week everyone, and remember - "There is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible and wrong" (Mencken, 1920)

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Blog No. 3

I began another blog a couple of weeks ago and I reckon it's ready now for visitors so I thought I'd have a little ad for it here.

Called Rosehip or Prune?, it is a place to share experiences about being middle-aged and unwillingly sinlge, whether through death or divorce.

Widowed at 47, it's now getting on for three years since the Golfer died and I am still not as 'back to normal' as I would have liked to be. This, no doubt, is a reflection as much of my preconceptions of what widowhood was (grieve like mad for six months, begin to get better for the next six, then get back out there and get on with your life) as of any deficiencies in me, but still, widowhood is not at all what I thought is was going to be, and I thought it might be useful to tell other people what it's like and, especially, to hear from other people in the same boat.

I believe that divorce can be as traumatic and certainly as life-changing as bereavement so I'd love to hear from the divorced and crinkly too.

So come on over and visit at Rosehip or Prune? - look forward to seeing you!

Friday, 2 May 2008

The Rhyming Cephalopod

I found an excellent poem over on The Digital Cuttlefish, via The Barefoot Bum, via Kel's blogroll over on The Osterley Times...can you tell I've been hitchhiking round the blogosphere today?
Here are the first couple of verses to get you going:

By chance of birth
We're here on Earth,
More lucky than we know
With such a brain
As can explain
The way these things must go

That life began
Not with a man
Named Adam, and his Eve
But molecules
In tidal pools
That replicate and cleave


Find the rest of the poem at The Digital Cuttlefish

Pollution Saves Lives!!

Unashamedly purloined from Daddy Papersurfer, here is the Friday Funny for this week:


Makes you think...or at least have a quiet snigger...Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

A Quick (And Late) Bit of Wisdom

Hmmm... don't know what happened yesterday to my Monday Bit of Wisdom. Without further excuse, here is a short, and late, thought to ponder on, courtesy of Jean-Paul Sartre:
"Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you."

I quite like the defiance in that. Not mad keen on Sartre generally - much prefer the humanity of Albert Camus - but this is a good one.

And, seeing as how I was late with this one, here's another for free:
"Every existing thing is born without reason, prolongs itself out of weakness, and dies by chance."


That's much more like the jolly old Sartre I've come to know and avoid - what a happy thought at the start of the week...

Friday, 25 April 2008

Friday Funny For This Week

Maybe I'm feeling particularly childish today (must be cos it's Spring or something) but I giggled like a giggling fool at this - The Potter Puppet Pals in Wizard Swears (Caution: contains free and gratuitous use of multiple naughty wizard swear words)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Hermit or Hugger?

How misanthropic are you? Try this test from Blogthings and find out. I'm rather disappointed at coming out as only an aspiring hermit - I must try harder...



You Are 67% Misanthropic



Here's the truth: Most people suck. You are just lucky enough to know it.

You're not ready to go live alone in a cave - but you're getting there.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Monday's Bit of Wisdom #5


This week's thought comes from the witty pen of Terry Pratchett, via the very useful The Wit and Wisdom of Discworld:
On the veldt of Howondaland live the N'tuitif people, the only tribe in the world to have no imagination whatsoever.

For example, their story about the thunder runs something like this: 'Thunder is a loud noise in the sky, resulting from the disturbance of the air masses by the passage of lightning.' And their legend 'How the Giraffe Got His Long Neck' runs: 'In the old days the ancestors of Old Man Giraffe had slightly longer necks than other grassland creatures, and the access to the high leaves was so advantageous that it was mostly long-necked giraffes that survived, passing on the long neck in their blood just as a man might inherit his grandfather's spear. Some say, however, that it is all a lot more complicated and this explanation only applies to the shorter neck of the okapi. And so it is.'

The N'tuitif are a peaceful people, and have been hunted almost to extinction by neighbouring tribes, who have lots of imagination, and therefore plenty of gods, superstitions and ideas about how much better life would be if they had a bigger hunting ground.

Of the events on the moon that day, the N'tuitif said: 'The moon was brightly lit and from it rose another light which then split into three lights and faded. We do not know why this happened. It was just a thing.

They were then wiped out by a nearby tribe who knew that the lights had been a signal from the god Ukli to expand the hunting ground a bit more. However, they were soon defeated entirely by a tribe who knew that the lights were their ancestors, who lived in the moon, and who were urging them to kill all non-believers in the goddess Glipzo. Three years later they in turn were killed by a rock falling from the sky, as a result of a star exploding a billion years ago.

What goes around comes around. If not examined too closely, it passes for justice.


This marvellous passage comes originally from The Last Hero, and I am dashing out first thing tomorrow to buy a copy!

Sunday, 20 April 2008

At Last! A Voice for the Stork Theory

Pinched from Dorid over at the Radula, here is Sexpelled! - a very funny response to all the fuss over the Expelled movie - read all about it on Pharyngula.

I think this little video is by far the best way to respond - with humour, instead of getting as angry and vein-popping as the ID brigade do. Enjoy!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Kiwi!

A cute vid from Youtube:



Mind you, it may be cute, but it brought a tear to my eye at the end. Kind of sums up hope and sadness and resilience all in one fluffy little bird...sniff...

Watching Logie

There is a gem of a series on BBC Radio 4 at the moment - World on the Move. In it, they track, using satellite technology, the annual migration of various animals, including an African elephant, salmon, leatherback turtles, eels and birds, including Logie the osprey. I'm particularly interested in her, as she is flying back to her nest near Forres, not that many miles from me.


And, most excitingly, you can actually track her progress online as she heads for her summer home. Her mate is already there waiting for her - he arrived on the 10th April. The latest news is that she is in the Lake District, so she only has a few hundred miles to go, out of a journey of over 3000 miles. She spent the winter on an island off the West coast of Africa and set off for Scotland on 12th March. You can track her progress at The Highland Foundation for Wildlife website.

It's fascinating, and a bit humbling (one of those times when humanity is put firmly in its place as just another species amongst many talented species) to see the scale of the journey, to see the planning and forethought, and presumably also the memory, that she must be capable of. She seems to stick close to the coast whenever she can, not surprisingly as she lives on fish, and I loved her bit of island hopping as she headed up the west coast of France.

I wish I'd known about this series earlier, and I'll definitely be following her progress, and that of the other animals on the site, in the autumn.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Friday Funny

Hey, it's Friday again! Don't know about you lot, but this particular Friday doesn't look too bad - the Sun is shining, my light tanks are full to the top, thanks to the rapidly lengthening days...but still, it's Friday, so here is the official Funny Friday post:

I've highlighted Overheard Lines before - such an elegant site and always something to make you giggle. Here are my picks for today - hope they make you laugh too:

24-year Old, In response To Her High Score On An IQ Test:

"This will show those people who think I'm more stupider than I really am!"

One Wins Every Single Election That Their Country Holds; The Other's a Democrat
Girl states she doesn't think "just anyone" should be able to vote in presidential elections.
Guy: "What, you're not a Communist, are you?"
Girl: "I don't really know the difference between Communists and Democrats."

High School Student at Lowell High School
"She's a two faced bitch, but not in a bad way."


Do You Have Enough For Everyone?
Girl to Guy: "If you do that, you won't get a treat. And you know what I mean by treat."


Brilliant! Happy Friday everyone!

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Why Do We Do It? - a rant against market researchers

Here follows a rant.

I was at my local uber-hypermarket today - reluctantly, but I was in the area anyway and popped in for a few things. I survived in a reasonably calm frame of mind, and was leaving the store when a market researcher grabbed me. I should have walked on but, hey, it was a nice Spring day and I, stupid mug that I was, felt like helping my fellow human.

I left the shop ten minutes later feeling as if I had been stripped. Why do we do it? Why do we tell total strangers the most intimate details of our lives without even the promise of cold, hard cash?

Not only did this woman know my opinion on the biggest supermarket brand in Britain and their effect on my neighbourhood (told her that one in no uncertain terms), and which supermarket I used usually (it ain't this one - something she obviously found hard to believe), and about my shopping habits generally, she also knew...my full name, my address, my age, the fact that I am widowed without any children at home, and that I used to run my own business but that I wasn't doing that any more. Why did I tell her these things? WHY?

I nearly walked away from her twice actually, when I felt she was getting too personal, but politeness kept me there, and so she kept on digging, and I kept on squirming. What made it worse is that she didn't stay objective. She kept on making assumptions and interjections. When I said I thought that the best thing the company could do for the locality was to support local producers of food and other goods (it was all I could think of in response to the question) she then, when I was reluctant to say what the occupation of the head of the household was, said (forgetting in the ten seconds since I had told her, that I was a widow - thanks) "Is your husband a farmer?" Stupid cow.

I am so angry with myself for falling into this trap again. I swore I'd never do another survey after I let one of them into my house and they left with apparently every detail of my life and I was left feeling violated. That's what you get for being nice - no more Ms Nice Puddock! That is it! I came home and cut up my Uber-hypermarket loyalty card and tattooed onto the back of my hand - DO NOT EVER EVER SUBMIT TO ANOTHER SURVEY EVER AGAIN!!!

The Wonder of Dark Skies


I picked up this photograph over on APOD. Just look at that sky - a photograph of the sky over the town of Flagstaff, Arizona - yes, that's right, this is a photograph of the sky over a large town.

In 2001, Flagstaff became the world's first International Dark Skies City. And, apparently, it isn't that hard to make our skies dark again. It is mainly a matter of thinking about the kinds of lighting we use - shielded street lights, more focussed billboard lighting - it's not rocket science, it just requires a bit of thought.

To show you what you could be seeing in the skies above your town or city if we got our lighting right, take a look at these photos, taken by Todd Carlson - the first during an electricity blackout near Toronto, the second once the power had been restored...


Why aren't we all jumping up and down to get our own skies looking like this? In the ten years since I moved to my rural location in the North of Scotland, the quality of my skies has become poorer as settlements in the surrounding area have grown. Maybe it's time I started trying to do something about the skies around here. If we can't have dark skies in the least densely populated part of the UK, what hope is there for anywhere else?

Find out more about dark skies and good lighting practice at
The International Dark Sky Association

Monday, 14 April 2008

The Martian Philosophy of Life (Monday's Bit of Wisdom)

I was so fed up with life in general that I had given up hope of finding anything vaguely uplifting or thought-provoking for today, so I thought I'd look for something that would help me, and maybe it might help you too.

I am trying really hard to find some point to life - being an unemployed atheist widow whose kid has flown the coop does have a tendency to remove most of the obvious ones - so I turned to a little book which I have quoted from before and found this:
But what makes life worth living? Any short answer will sound trite, but there really is no mystery about it. Ray Bradbury put it pithily in his short story And the moon be still as bright. This tells of Martians rather than humans, but the moral of the story translates.

"The Martians realized that they had asked the question 'Why live at all?' at the height of some period of war or despair, when there was no answer. But once the civilization calmed, quieted, and wars ceased, the question became senseless in a new way. Life was now good and needed no argument."

When times are hard and life is going badly, life can seem pointless. But when life is good there is no need to question. As in the example above, if one's work and home life are going well, it is in a way senseless to ask why such a life is worth living. The person living it just knows it is.
From Atheism - a very short introduction by Julian Baggini

I don't think this is a complete answer. In fact, I think both Baggini and Bradbury must have been in happy longterm relationships when they wrote these statements - it shows. But there is a kernel of something simple yet profound there. When you are living a good life, it is worth living. When things are going badly, you wonder what's the point of it all. Simple.

Not that this helps much if you are not happy in your work or home life - in fact, it might make people in my situation even more depressed. But the very fact that there are times in your life - when you are busy and occupied and happy - that you do not feel it necessary to ask the question "What's it all about?", is interesting.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Friday Fun Time

Yay! Three weeks in a row I've managed to come up with something funny. Maybe I've found something I can stick to. Today's little gem comes from The Onion - it's daft but it made me giggle. Hope it does the same for you.

Oh, all right, since you've all been good little bloggers this week, you can have another treat. Courtesy of Archie's Archive, why not try the Muppet Personality Test? I came out as Rowlf the Dog, who I don't remember at all, but who looks pretty chilled...I can only aspire...



You Are Rowlf the Dog



Mellow and serious, you enjoy time alone cultivating your talents.

You're a cool dog, and you always present a relaxed vibe.

A talented pianist, you can play almost anything - especially songs by Beethoven.

"My bark is worse than my bite, and my piano playing beats 'em both."

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Dawkins in Inverness - the movie

Via Richard Dawkins.net, here is the video of Richard's visit to Eden Court last week. It was a splendid evening and, despite having a dodgy throat, Richard set out the case for evolution and against religion elegantly and fully.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Vonnegut on Life (Monday's Bit of Wisdom)

Monday's Bit of Wisdom this week comes courtesy of Kurt Vonnegut, from his book A Man Without a Country:
"I turned eighty-two on November 11, 2004. What's it like to be this old? I can't parallel park worth a damn anymore, so please don't watch while I try to do it. And gravity has become a lot less friendly and manageable than it used to be.

When you get to my age, if you get to my age, and if you have reproduced, you will find yourselves asking your own children, who are themselves middle-aged, "What is life all about?" I have seven kids, three of them orphaned nephews.

I put my big question about life to my son the pediatrician. Dr Vonnegut said this to his doddering old dad: "Father, we are here to help each other get through this thing, whatever it is."


I concur.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Global Warming Takes a Holiday - maybe

Just picked up this interesting story over on BBC News - apparently, global temperatures are expected to dip this year, due to the continuing effects of La Nina.

Some scientists are now suggesting that either global warming has peaked, or that the Earth is better than we thought at regulating itself.

I haven't a clue, personally. I used to think global warming was probably real but whenever I see a bandwagon, I leap off, so once it became practically a crime to suggest that it might not be happening, I found myself tending towards that view, for the sake of free speech as much as anything.

But one thing's for sure - it looks as though we might be having another grotty summer here in the UK - dammit!

Another Funny Friday

I kind of ran out of steam on April Fool's Day, humour-wise, but I have struggled womanfully to dig up something mildly amusing...(it helps if you like Star Trek...or Monty Python...or both)



Oh, all right then, seeing you've all been good little bloggers this week - you can have another one - actually this one is really clever, I think - there's a lot of talent out there, I just wish I didn't have this irresistible urge to dash over to Ebay and buy lots of Lego...

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Dawkins in Inverness


Well, it was true - Richard Dawkins really did come to talk to us in Inverness. I can still scarcely believe it. You have to understand that most speakers, musicians, actors, and thinkers never venture this far north. If they do make it to Scotland, they stop at Edinburgh or Glasgow. But, for some reason, Richard agreed to come to see us here. We certainly have a recently, and splendidly, expanded Eden Court theatre, but I think it was down to the persuasive charm of the lady who did the interview - Paula Kirby - so big thanks to her.

Richard kept us spellbound for two hours - well, most of us - there were a few critics in the audience, including the elderly couple next to me who clicked their tongues in mild disapproval at random intervals. In the first hour Richard, responding to questions from Paula, set out his arguments for evolution and against god, and the whole of the second hour was thrown open to questions from the audience. I chickened out of asking a question but there was a steady stream of more intrepid people who asked questions from the full range of belief and non-belief, and Richard answered them all well, though he did become (characteristically?) irritated with a couple of people who asked silly questions. He dealt with the church brigade with great courtesy, I thought, but he must get tired of the same old same old - I don't know how he does it.

What did I get out of the evening? Well, apart from the thrill of hearing the great man (and, yes, getting a book signed by him!), it was great to hear the arguments laid out so clearly. It was learning about evolution that turned me, almost literally overnight, into an atheist, so I knew the basics already, but seeing and hearing Richard himself set it all out so clearly was useful. And I learned some new stuff, like the issue of 'design' flaws like those backward bits in our eye, which adds weight to the argument for evolution of the structure of the eye, step by blind step, rather than design by blueprint - that was very interesting.

He looked tired though, and he had almost lost his voice after a vigorous debate in Edinburgh the previous night, so I hope he will take a break now that his tour is over, and regain his strength. He is such an important figure, not just for atheists, but for all who believe in using their brains and he MUST take care of himself!

Richard's visit had another good effect (apart hopefully from giving some of the local loony brigade a sleepless night or two.) On his website, as the visit got closer, atheists in the area began to talk to each other - to the extent that we agreed to meet after his talk. And so I spent an hour talking to three new friends in the cafe after the lecture, each of us clutching our shiny signed paperbacks. Wonderful to share experiences and stories and we have decided to meet again and perhaps set up a local atheist group, where we can talk, support and maybe even take a bit of action. I think Richard would be pleased.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Flying Penguins!

And here, from the BBC, is a fabulous and exclusive piece of film - don't know why it was produced today - people might think it was an April Fool. It is gorgeous.

Are You an April Fool?

There is a long tradition of April Fool's gags in the media. The Guardian has a fun quiz to test how gullible you are.

I got 7 right but then I am old enough to remember some of them!

To further test your gullibility, check out Reasonable Robinson's excellent Gullibility blog

Monday, 31 March 2008

Monday Bit of Wisdom No. 2

In honour of Richard Dawkins' imminent visit to Inverness, I decided that today's Bit of Wisdom should come from his book Unweaving the Rainbow - in fact, it is the opening paragraph of the first chapter, and just the first of many arresting ideas in the book.
"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here."


It's quite a thought and, on a gloomy Monday, when you're feeling a bit sorry for yourself, it might even make your small life seem a bit more special - it certainly does for me.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

The Dawkins Rap

Picked this up over on
Pharyngula and had to share it.



Funny funny funny! I can't wait to see Richard do his rap for us in Inverness next week...

Atheist Blogroll Has a New Member - Me!

I am chuffed to bits to be added to the Atheist Blogroll. From now on there will be a permanent link in the sidebar so that you can keep up to date with what's new.

The Blogroll recently got its 600th member. If you would like to be added, check out Mojoey's blog.

Friday, 28 March 2008

Funny Friday!

I find Fridays really depressing - don't know about the rest of you - so I have declared Fridays on The View From the Pond to be Funny Fridays. Last week we had the magnificent Dave Allen on getting to grips with Catholicism (catch it here if you missed it last week) and this Friday I present more YouTube mirth, courtesy of Archie's Archive...it made me giggle - thanks Archie!

and have a fun Friday everyone!

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Following Blogs are Excellent

A big, humble, tear-soaked thankyou to Reasonable Robinson over at Gullibility for presenting me with this award. I am speechless. In fact, it's taken me a month to get over the shock...

I am, in turn, honoured to be able to pass on the award for Excellence in Blogging to:

A Toy's Own Story for wittiest bear on the web,

Too Many Tribbles for sheer intelligence (and being a sci-fi nut)

Greg over at Greg's Brain for being unique (and a little bit scary)

Dorid at the Radula - intelligent AND creative? - it just ain't fair!

Monday, 24 March 2008

The Monday Bit of Wisdom

In a new, and possibly regular (if I can get myself organised) feature - Monday is to play host, here at The View From the Pond, to a bit of wisdom from someone older and wiser than I.

In the essay On Suicide, David Hume, the 18th century Scottish philosopher and atheist, argues for a person's right to end their own life if they choose. I love this passage - it is very close to my own view and is startlingly modern.
"It is providence surely that has placed me at this present moment in this chamber: but may I not leave it when I think proper, without being liable to the imputation of having deserted my post or station? When I shall be dead, the principles of which I am composed will still perform their part in the universe, and will be equally useful in the grand fabric, as when they composed this individual creature. The difference to the whole will be no greater than betwixt my being in a chamber and in the open air. The one change is of more importance to me than the other; but not more so to the universe."


So elegant, so modest...and so true. That is one of the biggest challenges for the atheist, at least it is for this atheist - to accept that you are of no importance in the universe - no more than the chamber for all those particles, and yet to still find value in your life, even when things aren't going well. Still working on that one...

Sunday, 23 March 2008

I got a Ticket!

Update...update...update...

I am so excited. After failing to get a ticket for Richard Dawkins' visit to Inverness next month, I put my name down, without much hope of success, for any returns. A day later I got a call from Eden Court Theatre to say that there was a ticket available! Made my day.

It is still incredible to me that the mighty Richard Dawkins is coming to our neck of the woods. Although we have the cheek to call ourselves a city, we are far from it, and being so far north of anywhere interesting, we are usually missed off the itinerary of the British tours of anyone vaguely intellectual. So I have no idea why we have been so lucky - I'm just immensely, immensely grateful.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Dave Allen on God

Well, it's the first day of Spring, and we have snow forecast for the next three days, so I, for one, need cheering up. So here, for all of you out there who are feeling down, is the incomparable Dave Allen talking about his introduction to Catholicism...

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Dawkins comes to town

Good news - Richard Dawkins is venturing up to the far north and doing a talk here in the back of beyond.

Bad news - not a ticket to be found.

It is absolutely maddening. You know that people are just getting tickets because he's famous. It is for sure that this event will be wall-to-wall with people who just want to be seen at the right events.

Ah well. Maybe it's better not to go anyway. I am firm in my atheism and need no persuasion or support. If my place is taken by someone who will learn something about atheism, then I guess I can live with that.

Now I just have to keep a firm grip on my middle-aged dignity and not turn up with my copy of the God Delusion and a pen at the stage door...

Friday, 14 March 2008

The Mystical Book Meme

Thanks to Greg for tagging me with this dinky little meme. The rules are:

1. Look up page 123 in the book nearest to you right now.

2. Find the fifth sentence and write it down. Then write down the next three sentences.

3. Tag some other folk.

As chance would have it, I just got a lovely parcel of books from Amazon today, so I chose one of them - Boomsday by Christopher Buckley

"The idea of aging, self-indulgent Boomers killing themselves rather than becoming an oppressive financial burden to their children and the nation was not anathema to these young viewers. In fact, to them it sounded like a darn good idea. They especially liked the part where the government would eliminate all death taxes so Mom and Dad's money could flow straight to them."

Ouch! Far too close to home, that one!

I couldn't stop at just one book so, inspired by Greg's crack about me (not) choosing a bible as my book "de meme", I had to go to the atheist's bible - Richard Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker...

"But what we can say is that there is a length of 306 characters in cows, which is virtually identical to a length of 306 characters in peas. Cows and peas differ from each other in only two characters out of these 306. We don't know exactly how long ago the common ancestor of cows and peas lived, but fossil evidence suggests that it was somewhere between 1000 and 2000 million years ago. Call it 1.5 billion years ago."

He's talking here about DNA as an archival medium and it all gets a bit technical for me, but I love that image of a cow/pea ancestor long, long ago.

And finally, and talking about humour and science, I wanted to include a Terry Pratchett book as a tribute to that very witty writer. He was recently diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's and he did a round of interviews today talking about the condition. Brave man and I wish him many years of vigour. Here is p.123, line 5 of Witches Abroad -

"Could have been a big tornado or something somewhere." said Nanny Ogg. "Picked it up, see, then the wind drops and down it comes. You get funny things happening in high winds. Remember that big gale we had last year? One of my hens laid the same egg four times."

Perfect!

And I hereby tag


Dorid
Reasonable Robinson
and Jenny B

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Speechless...again

I'm beginning to wonder what is the point of highlighting these infringements of our personal freedom. It seems the more we complain, the worse it actually gets. One finds oneself coming out with spluttering cliches - "George Orwell wouldn't believe it." "Was this what we fought two world wars for?" - you know the kind of impotent fury one feels welling up whenever the latest story appears in the press.

But thanks anyway to Boing Boing for posting Heathrow Terminal 5 to fingerprint DOMESTIC passengers.

I have already declared that I am not going to step on any plane that requires me to take my shoes off to be checked for explosives (mind you, I don't have a life to speak of so the question of getting on a plane hardly arises) so it's easy for me to pretend these things are happening. But how far are we going to let this go?

Do we just have to let it run its course, knowing that the pendulum will swing back when some tipping point (to mix my metaphors) is reached? I fear so.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Spider in Sunspecs


Is this the coolest spider in Britain? You would swear he was wearing sunglasses. Actually, they are two enlarged eyes which give him, apparently, the best vision in an invertebrate, after cephalopods. Sadly, he is also endangered. Buglife, the invertebrate conservation group, is in court this week to try to save one of only two habitats where the Distinguished Jumping Spider is found in Britain. Unfortunately, tonight it looks as though that court action has failed and this precious piece of wetland will become the site of a huge Royal Mail depot. This fab photo was taken by Peter Harvey of
The Essex Field Club

Saturday, 23 February 2008

More Hilarious Overheard Lines

From that fabulous blog Overheard Lines - have a giggle at the wonders of human interaction...

Clearly the novelty of being pregnant is wearing off...
Woman: "Ohhh, what are you having?"
Pregnant Woman: "A baby."
Woman: "Awww, what kind of baby?"
Pregnant Woman: "Human."
Woman: "Okay, well, good luck!"


Undeniable logic...sort of
Girl: "Is that guy the pilot?"
Guy: "He's either the pilot or the co-pilot."
Girl: "God is my co-pilot."
Guy: "Then he must be the pilot."


Overheard in a Social Security Office...
Woman 1: "Nice blue color. Probably supposed to be for a calming effect, huh?"
Woman 2: "And if that doesn't work, we have the security guard."


...and finally...

Girl 1: "Man, these shoes are killing my feet."
Girl 2: "Oooh, they sound cute. Let me see."


Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, 21 February 2008

President Blair - Gordon's Worst Nightmare

I am grateful to Kel over on The Osterley Times for reminding me where I had seen this hilarious moment - the House of Commons (no really!)

For those of you not au fait with British politics, there is a widely-held belief that our Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, waited for years (and years) for Tony Blair to honour a gentleman's agreement between them made when the leadership of the Labour Party was up for grabs after the death of John Smith - the Granita deal, that Blair would effectively share power with him if Brown didn't stand for the leadership, and the image of him for those long ten years that Blair was Prime Minister, was of a large, grumpy bear sulking in 11 Downing Street, impatient for his turn. Eventually his wish was granted, he got to be Prime Minister, and Tony Blair disappeared from our shores, never to return (he hoped.)

Imagine his horror then, if Tony was indeed to return, not only in a position of authority, but possibly in one of greater authority than his. Cue Youtube...

William Hague, a former leader of the Conservative Party, having tremendous fun and demonstrating that there is some wit and intelligence in Parliament.