Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The Night Sky in April

Feeling starry? This excellent video from the Hubble site tells you what to look for in the April sky.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Can't Win With Some People...

Nails, heads, and the hitting thereof come to mind...yep, it's xkcd again...

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

It's Talk Like WIlliam Shatner Day!

Hey! William Shatner (Captain Kirk to you non-Trekkies) is 80 today. Let's all celebrate a cultural icon by talking like him, just for today...phasers...to stun...

Monday, 21 March 2011

Happy Birthday Gem!

Today, my Jack Russell terrier is 17 years old. Seventeen is a good age for a dog, though terriers have been known to live to 20.

Gem had always been an incredibly healthy dog, only ever visiting the vet for her annual booster shot. But three years ago, she developed doggy dementia (yes, dogs can get it too) and so, since then, I have effectively been her carer. Many times over these years I have thought I was losing her. She would have a bad day or a bad few days, and seem to be at death's door, but always she sprang back to (relative) sprightliness.

Then she developed cataracts and is now effectively blind. And still she soldiers on, She is amazing (and fearless). On encountering a new place, she will quarter the room, banging into chair legs and bouncing off walls, until she understands the layout. Then, sometimes after an hour of this, she will settle down and sleep. I am sure her doggy brain is then processing all the information she has painfully absorbed. I have moved house twice in the last three years and, each time, she has been able to find her bowls and her bed within a day.

(or the Aga!)

She has given me far more over the last three years than I have given her.Yes, she is now somewhat incontinent and, every day, I have puddles and steaming piles to clean up. We can't go for long walks any more; and she can't interact with me the way she used to - she's not such a strong presence in the house. And yet, I am so glad she has survived all this time. I wouldn't have changed a day of her company. Well-meaning friends tell me it would be "kinder" to have her put to sleep. Kinder to whom? Not to the dog, surely. She's had three years of cuddles and sleeps by the fire and gentle walks among the trees. Who is to say that her life is less worth living than that of a puppy?

I have come to believe that the way we treat our pets is a microcosm of the way we treat the weak amongst our own species. If you think it's okay to put a dog to sleep just because she's old and not as much fun as a puppy, then what would you do if you had that power over the life of you old auntie? I think I know the answer to that one.

We have settled down into a calm and pleasant routine. She eats well enough, we try to take a small walk every day, and we have a wonderful cuddle every evening, watching the telly. When she tires on her walk and I pick her up to carry her, I get a lick on the nose as a thank you. She knows enough about what's going on to be grateful to me for helping her out - how amazing is that?

So, happy birthday Gem! Now that you've made it this far, who knows how long you will carry on. I think we should aim for the big two-oh. You've amazed everyone with your determination and strength. To celebrate, here is a picture - my favourite, I think - of Gem in her prime. I was taking a picture of a sunflower in my garden, a lifetime ago when my husband was still alive and the world was normal, and didn't spot that Gem was careering across the grass in the background.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Friday Giggle

If this doesn't make you smile, I'll eat my hat...

Monday, 14 March 2011

Seventy Years Ago

'Terraces', one of a series of Clydebank Blitz paintings by Tom McKendrick.

On the 13th and 14th March 1941, the German Luftwaffe bombed the town of Clydebank, near Glasgow. It was targetted because of the important work being done there - munitions and shipbuilding, mainly. 260 bombers came, in three waves, aided by a full moon and pretty much destroyed the town. In a town housing 50,000 people, only 7 properties survived undamaged.

The news of the blitz was largely kept from the wider public so that one young soldier, returning home on leave to surprise his family, knew nothing of the raid and arrived home to see his home destroyed and all of his family dead, except his father. How do you ever recover from a thing like that? The true death toll will probably never be known. The official figure is 529 but the actual figure is certain to have been higher than this.

As a Scot, I take the Clydebank Blitz personally but I have an even closer link, as my grandfather worked with the Auxiliary Fire Service and was involved in the efforts to battle the raging fires those two nights. He died before I was born and so I was never able to ask him about his experiences.

There was an excellent documentary on the BBC last night - I'll put the link here, though it will only be available for a week:

Clydebank Blitz

It was impossible not to be moved and angered by the personal stories of those two nights but mainly I was left with the realisation that this must be what it is like to be an innocent Iraqi during the "shock and awe" bombings, or to be a resident of Dresden during the huge bombing raid of '45. It never stops. The Germans may not be bombing us now, nor we them, but there are plenty of ordinary people enduring bombing campaigns of the magnitude, or worse, of the Clydebank Blitz. Why do we allow it?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Kitchen Hints #176

You KNOW you are going to try this...

Friday, 11 March 2011

Deathbed Conversions...or Not

Christopher Hitchens, the journalist and prominent atheist, has been seriously ill with cancer recently. In this wonderfully clear-minded vid, he rebuts, in a nice clear voice, once and for all, the old chestnut that atheists will always recant on their deathbeds. He also conjures up a teasingly gleeful alternative scenario...

Nice to see him looking a bit better and thanks to Archie for finding the link in his vast archive.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Artificial Intelligence

xkcd does it again...

Hope your Spring is going well (if you're in the Northern hemisphere - otherwise - happy autumn!) ... we have snow...