Saturday, 30 July 2005
The Coal Delivery
I woke up the other day with a childhood memory vivid in my mind. Why does that happen? Is it because one of my old brain cells fired a last message before it expired so that another brain cell could download the information and save it?
The memory I recalled was watching a man delivering sacks of coal. We had two entrances, the front door and the kitchen door. To get to the kitchen door, you had to walk past the front garden, down the side of the house (the length of our front room) and past the entrance to the coal cellar, where the deliveryman was unloading our coal.
Before and probably during the war, the coal deliveryman would have used a horse and cart but I remember that this man arrived in a flat-bed lorry with the one hundredweight sacks of coal neatly stacked on top. So, I was probably seven or eight years old. I remember he had to climb onto the lorry and move the sacks to the edge ready for unloading. His face and hands were completely black from coal dust and he was wearing a sort of cap or head cloth, which hung down his back. He would grab hold of a sack by the 'ears' at the top, turn round, bend forward and pull it onto his back. He then had to walk quite a few yards to the coal cellar, down some steps and then 'pour' the coal out of the bag. The poor man must have had lungfuls of coal dust doing that! He was certainly at risk of getting chronic Bronchitis or Emphysema
(especially if he smoked as well) or Black Lung Disease
, a form of chronic lung disease affecting coal miners.
It was probably late autumn - that was the time when my Dad would have been thinking about stocking up on coal for the winter. However, the man was very hot; I could see the effort he made to pull a sack onto his back and the strain on his face as he took the weight. A hundredweight is equal to 112lbs or 8 stone and, after delivering ten of those, anyone would be feeling somewhat weary! He must have been relieved when the last empty sack was folded and placed on his lorry. I remember his cheery voice as he knocked on the kitchen door to confirm all was done and to get his delivery note signed.
There are some very interesting historical photographs here
, including a photograph of an old receipt for one ton of coal delivered in December, 1934, and costing just £1-2s-6d — £1 12½ pence in decimal coinage! Today, most house coal is delivered in small clean 25kg bags (about 55lbs) costing between £5.40 to £6.65 although, I believe, you can still get loose coal delivered in sacks.
Wednesday, 27 July 2005
Spyware and Anti-spyware
Last week, I started getting pestered with more pop-up ads than usual. In particular, one full-page advertisement about gambling. Every time I closed it down, up popped a little warning box asking me if I was sure I wanted to download "surfya". I most certainly did not
as it is probably spyware. A quick check on Google implied that it had caused no end of trouble to many unfortunate people. Thank goodness my system warns me before installing unwanted programs.
I checked all my anti-spyware programs and made sure they were up to date and, in so doing, discovered that SpywareBlaster and Ad-aware both had new versions available. Downloaded and installed the new versions then I ran Pest Patrol and Ad-Aware just in case I had picked up an unwanted 'nasty'. Apparently, a clean PC - but "surfya" was still trying to install itself. Then I remembered that "Spyware Warrior", Eric Howes, who operates the Rogue/Antispyware Website
, had recommended installing at least two of everything from his list of Trustworthy Anti-Spyware Products
. I had installed SpywareBlaster some time ago. I went back to his site for advice and promptly downloaded SpywareGuard as well. Hey presto - no more giant advertisements appearing and not one hint of "surfya" trying to install. Peace at last!
Don't forget to update ALL your anti-virus/anti-pest software at least twice a week or even daily. My Norton AntiVirus does this automatically which is a great help. Remember, new 'nasties' are appearing all the time and, if you do not keep your programs updated, your protection will become completely useless in a very short time.
Tuesday, 26 July 2005
Getting Enough Sleep?
Topic: Health Issues
My daughter sent me a link the other day to this BBC Interactive Game, Sheep Dash
, part of the BBC's section on Sleep
. The game is designed to test your reaction time and see how alert you are. Five sheep will leave the flock and dash for freedom and you have to hit them with a tranquilliser dart! You are then rated as a Sluggish Snail, an Ambling Armadillo, a Bobbing Bobcat, a Rocketing Rabbit or a Turbo-charged Cheetah! If you make a mistake, you get a 3-second penalty. Well, I've had several goes at different times of the day. Mostly, I score as an "Ambling Armadillo" although a couple of times, I did reach "Bobbing Bobcat" - and a couple of times I was a "Sluggish Snail" because I got a penalty! So my reactions are slow and I am probably tired. Is it possible for anyone to score as a "Turbo-charged Cheetah"? To me it seems impossible but then I was never any good at Space Invaders either! Do let me know if you get there.
I did a little better on the Face Memory
test which assesses your ability to remember how long ago something happened - your 'temporal' memory. If you're tired you won't be as good at remembering when you saw or did something. The test is in three parts so you need about 20 minutes to complete it, as you have to take a break of five minutes between each part. In each of the first two parts, you are shown photographs of twelve faces. Then in the third part you are shown 48 photographs and asked to decide which you have seen before and whether in part one or part two. My 'Recognition' score was 100% - I recognised all 24 photos. However, I only matched 18 photos to the correct part - a 'Temporal' memory score of 75%. The average recognition score is 92% and the average temporal score is 68% so, considering my age, I didn't disgrace myself.
Apparently, recognition memory for faces is unaffected by sleep loss. However, the area of the brain that controls temporal memory can be affected by prolonged sleep loss and/or ageing. The BBC tells me; a healthy 65-year-old who sleeps normally would be able to perform this test similarly to a 20-year-old who has gone without sleep for 36 hours!
I probably average around 6½ hours sleep. Obviously not enough so, I off to bed right now. Goodnight!
Saturday, 23 July 2005
An Insidious 'Cancer'
There is a cancer eating away at all of us. It started, as many cancers do, as one or two small insignificant eruptions. They appeared to heal but unbeknown to us, the cancer continued spreading its invasive destruction beneath the surface. Then it erupted again with a huge devastating effect. The cancer would need to be cut out. However, it seems that all the operation succeeded in doing was to divide and spread the cancer further. Will it ever be cured?
I am talking about the cancer of terrorism, about Al-Qaeda. It probably all started with the bombing of the World Trade Center
in February 1993 followed by the killing of American soldiers in Somalia in October of that year. Then a truck bomb blew up outside the Khobar Towers military complex in Saudi Arabia in June 1996 killing another 19 US servicemen and injuring hundreds more. Two years later, in August 1998, US embassies in East Africa were bombed - 224 people died, including 12 Americans. In October 2000, the USS Cole was bombed in the port of Yemen - 17 US sailors died. In September 2001, the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York were destroyed - at least 2,985 people died in this horrific attack.
In April 2002, there was an explosion at an ancient synagogue in Tunisia, the following month a car exploded outside a hotel in Karachi, in June a bomb exploded outside the American Consulate in Karachi. In October, bombs destroyed a nightclub in Bali, Indonesia, killing 202 people, most of them Australian citizens. There was also an attack on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya.
In 2003, suicide bombers killed 34 at housing compounds for Westerners in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Bombs went off in Casablanca, Morocco. There was a suicide car bomb at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia. More explosions in Riyadh, suicide car bombers attacked two synagogues in Istanbul and a week later, a British bank was bombed. In March 2004, ten terrorist bombs exploded on trains during the Madrid rush hour. In Iraq, there have been countless bombs and suicide attacks, Muslim against Muslim. It seems that civil war is imminent and that no one can stop it.
Now, this cancer has reached London with the attacks on 7th July followed by more bungled attempts to cause yet more carnage last Thursday. I hope they catch them - those four would-be suicide bombers. Thank goodness their bombs failed to detonate. These particular terrorists were weak mutations of the original cancer. It seems that they were ignorant, unskilled and probably stupid as well - 'Homo Hostilis Inscitus
' an offshoot of Homo Hostilis
! Unfortunately, it is the stupid and the ignorant who are dangerous, who are most likely to be 'brainwashed' into committing terrorist crimes. Now they have struck again in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el Sheikh.
What on earth does Osama bin Laden
hope to accomplish by all this? It seems that their principal stated aims are to drive Americans and American influence out of all Muslim nations, especially Saudi Arabia. They also want to destroy Israel and to topple pro-Western dictatorships around the Middle East. Bin Laden has also said that he wishes to unite all Muslims and establish, by force if necessary, an Islamic nation adhering to the rule of the first Caliphs. According to his 1998 fatwa (religious decree), it is the duty of Muslims around the world to wage holy war on the U.S., American citizens, and Jews. Muslims who do not heed this call are declared apostates (people who have forsaken their faith).
I used to think that other religions were just different paths leading to one God and that all religions were intrinsically good. I was naive. The Muslim hatred of Jews as stated in the Koran
is particularly unbelievable - see Stephen Pollard's article of 20th July, "Ban the Koran?
", in which he highlights the stupidity of the Incitement to Religious Hatred Bill. My dictionary defines 'religion' as:-
- The quest for the values of the ideal life.
- A particular system in which the quest for the ideal life has been embodied.
- Recognition on the part of man of a controlling superhuman power entitled to obedience, reverence and worship.
- The feeling or the spiritual attitude of those recognizing such a controlling power.
- The manifestation of such feeling in conduct or life.
- A point or a matter of conscience.
Perpetrating acts of terrorism is hardly the 'ideal life'. So why has the terrorists' Fundamentalist 'religionism
' taken a wrong turning? Why is it that this evil branch of one of the world's main religion seems to be stuck in the Middle Ages? And what about suicide bombers? They are like small greedy children believing that if they die a 'martyr's death', they will be rewarded by meeting 70 virgins in the after-life. I actually find this particular bit of the Koran a real insult to women. If there is an afterlife for these self-styled martyrs, I believe it will be the opposite of the eternal debauchery they expect because they will discover that they do not have a corporeal form after death! No, they will be in a hell of their own making.
That reminds me of a marvellous description I once heard of the difference between heaven and hell. In hell, there was a very large banqueting table full of marvellous food laid out in the middle of the table. The people sitting around it had been supplied with very heavy long-handled spoons, spoons with which they could reach the food. But they were starving and screaming with anger and desperation because they could not manage to put one spoonful of food in their mouths to ease their hunger. In heaven there was an identical banqueting table and identical spoons but, unlike the inhabitants of hell, the people seated at the table were happy and laughing. Being good and kind, each person was busy using their long spoon to feed the person sitting opposite them on the other side of the table. The moral here is that the state of heaven or hell is a reflection of a good and generous nature or of an evil and selfish nature.
Sadly, there is no easy inoculation against the cancer of evil but we will continue to fight it, to tease it out wherever it erupts. We will show the terrorists that we are not afraid and we will prevail because we have right and justice on our side.
Wednesday, 20 July 2005
Americans First On The Moon
Eagle touch-down in 'football pitch'
On the 20th July 1969, history was made when the Apollo ll mission became the first manned lunar mission to land on the moon. This is part of the leading article in The Daily Telegraph, a London newspaper, for Monday, July 21, 1969.
Two Americans became the first men in the moon last night when Apollo ll's lunar module Eagle touched down on the moons surface at 9.18 p.m. B.S.T. Aboard were Neil Armstrong, 38, mission commander, and Col. Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, 39, Eagle's pilot.
As the lunar module settle gently on the Sea of Tranquility, Armstrong reported: "The Eagle has landed. We are breathing again. Thanks a lot".
Almost immediately, Mission Control began referring to Eagle with a new radio call-sign of "Tranquility Base". Armstrong radioed that the earth was "big, bright and beautiful."
He said: "We are in football pitch-sized crater." Houston congratulated Eagle with: "Beautiful job, you guys." A voice from Eagle replied: "Don't forget the one in the module."
Overhead at a height of less than 70 miles, Col. Michael Collins, 38, orbited the moon in the command module Columbia, to which Armstrong and Aldrin are due to return tonight.
P.S. If anyone is interested in the whole article, please let me know.
Tuesday, 19 July 2005
"The Lion King"
Our grandchildren, Stephanie and Elliot, have been very busy for some time rehearsing all the songs for their summer term school play. So, this afternoon, it was off to Aldingbourne County Primary School to watch them performing in the production of "The Lion King". Every child from the Infant School had a part and the staff did a really fantastic job with all the make-up; it must have taken all morning to 'do' all the faces! As usual, all the children with speaking parts were exceptionally good - there are some budding actors there - and not one mistake! Stephanie, who had the main role in the Christmas play, had to be content this time with being one of the pack of 'hyenas' and Elliot, who also had a speaking role in the Christmas play, was one of the 'giraffes'.
Despite arriving over 25 minutes early, all the seats on the aisle were taken. So, rather than sit somewhere in the middle, I went to the back where I could stand up without blocking the view when I wanted to take some pictures. Well, if you don't stand up, all you can see is a sea of heads even though the stage is slightly raised. It definitely wasn't the best vantage point as the flash on my camera wasn't powerful enough from that distance and all my pictures came out rather dark! Oh, well, there is a tool called Paint Shop Pro - trouble is, I am not a 'pro' when it comes to using it! Still this picture of Elliot hasn't turned out too bad after adjusting the brightness a little. He certainly looks as if he is enjoying himself. Sorry, Stephanie - the one of you is really, really dark!
Sunday, 17 July 2005
Update on my Biopsy
Topic: Health Issues
My appointment for the result of my biopsy was at 10:30 am last Friday. This time, I was careful to allow a whole hour for the drive to Worthing and, of course, I arrived 15 minutes early. Then I had to wait until nearly 11 o'clock before I was called.
I knew the answer before I went in - something about the attitude of the nurse who called me and the compassionate look she gave me! I felt I was walking into the dock to be sentenced. Yes, the consultant stated without mincing words, the microcalcification is an early form of breast cancer called 'Ductal carcinoma in situ'
(DCIS). Nobody knows when it could start changing to invasive DCIS so he explained that the area of microcalcification, plus the immediate surrounding area, would need to be removed - a lumpectomy. I would also need a localisation mammogram to pinpoint the area. "It usually entails spending just one night in hospital and you can go home the next day." He added, "We would like to do it here, although it would be possible to send all the notes and x-rays to St. Richard's in Chichester." I read between the lines - we are much more experienced in our specialist Breast Care Unit here than they would be in Chichester...
"I can offer you Thursday, 11th August. Would that be okay?" I gulped - so soon! Well, no point putting it off, I suppose. Did I have any medical problems or was I on any medications? "We will need to send you another appointment for you to be assessed by the anaesthetist prior to surgery". I duly signed the consent form and left the room feeling slightly dazed to wait to see the Specialist Nurse.
She explained everything in greater detail. Because there is no lump, I will need to come down to the Breast Cancer Unit for a mammogram prior to surgery for a procedure called 'localisation'. This entails inserting a fine wire into the area of microcalcification to guide the surgeon to the right spot. Well, at least I don't have to worry about waking up and finding they have done the wrong side! However, I was taken aback when she explained that I would need to check into the hospital at 7:30 am on the day. Argh! 7.30 - I'm usually still fast asleep at that time! My first concern was how to get to the hospital. Would I be able to leave the car overnight in the hospital car park as my husband has never learnt to drive? She wasn't sure but told me to ask the car park attendant on my way out.
I adjourned to the canteen for a coffee and an iced doughnut. The caffeine and the sugar gave me a boost and I felt better. On the way out, I stopped at the Car Park Attendant's hut. Was it possible to leave the car in the car park overnight, I asked him. I was very relieved when he confirmed that it wasn't a problem. He explained that there would be plenty of spaces at that time of the morning and that my parking ticket would carry on for as long as necessary. Probably will be a lot cheaper than taking a taxi from Chichester.
Friday, 15 July 2005
Have I had my Head Buried in the Sand?
Did you know that suicide bomber's families were given financial hand-outs? Neither did I! That is why Joanna's comment on my "Compassion
" post for last Wednesday, surprised and shocked me. Apparently, Saddam Hussein was in the habit of donating $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers
. And charities from other Arab states (some of them 'our allies') have also been in the habit of paying money to families of Palestinians killed in the fighting, including suicide bombers.
Now all this was way back in 2002 but is this form of passive support for terrorism still continuing today? Does it extend outside of Palestine? Will the families of the London bombers receive a large financial hand-out 'in compensation' for their loss? The thought sickens me.
Yesterday, I read a post by The Gray Monk
in which he reports this:
"It was interesting this morning to hear a young Muslim woman saying on TV that she felt it was right that Muslims should defend one another and support the struggle for recognition and their religion - but at the same time declaring that the bombers were soiling the name of Islam. She represents the dichotomy that all adherents to Islam face - the Koran specifically commands that they support and defend each other against "the infidels". It also states categorically that no "believer" - ie; any Muslim - is bound to give allegiance to any "infidel" or any government of "infidels". In other words, and this is enshrined in the Sharia Law, any Muslim living in a non-Muslim country owes it no allegiance. This is a major reason why, in any Muslim country, you will find no Christian (or any other religion) in the Civil Service or in any position of authority over any Muslim."
Well, what about Christian, Tariq Aziz
, who was Iraq's foreign minister under Saddam Hussein? But seriously, the thought that there might be some fundamentalist Muslims who live in the United Kingdom, benefit from our schools and universities and our health service and yet feel that they owe this country 'no allegiance' whatsoever is quite chilling.
Wednesday, 13 July 2005
We now know who some of the suicide bombers
were. Young men who should have had a long life before them - sons, brothers and one also a husband and a father. We cannot begin to imagine what convinces a seemingly normal young man to blow himself up and, in so doing, also destroy those unfortunate enough to be around him regardless of their race or their religion. What hatred had they absorbed and from whom? There must be some 'master-mind' behind all this, some evil coward who would never forfeit his own life but who is so misdirected and consumed by evil that he will twist the minds of impressionable young men and brainwash them into such a pointless waste of life.
And what else have these young men done? They have destroyed their families for sure. My heart goes out to the anguished mother
who reported her son missing. To learn that your child is dead is a terrible shock in itself but to learn that your child was actually one of the perpetrators of such evil destruction must be an unbearable sorrow and an everlasting shame. These young men were not martyrs because their cause was twisted and evil but in a sense they were victims too. Their families most certainly are.
We cannot condone their crime against the British people but we can and should show compassion to the families they left behind.
Tuesday, 12 July 2005
Now Playing: Talk to the Animals
Topic: Nature and Our World
I've always believed that animals are far more intelligent than people give them credit for, especially the mammals and the birds. Well, how could animals have survived for many hundreds of thousands of years before the dawn of man if they weren't clever and resourceful? But do they actually think and plan, are they aware of self and can they communicate with each other? Many trained animals seem to exhibit signs of intelligence comparable with a three or four year old child! So, for instance, how long does it take a child
to realise that the image in a mirror is their own reflection? Well, about two years apparently. So it is not surprising that some animals
, such as dolphins, definitely recognise themselves in a mirror and that dogs and wolves have a very strong sense of family.
Do animals think and plan? Well, this story I read once about a horse indicates that they can. The horse belonged to a farmer who kept him in a field about ½ mile away from the farmhouse. One night, the farmer was woken up by the horse neighing outside his bedroom. It was pouring with rain so an annoyed farmer had to put on wellies and a raincoat over his pyjamas and lead the horse back down the lane. When they arrived at the field, the farmer heard a strangled "MOO". The cow in the field next door had caught her horns in the fence and, in her struggles to get free, had fallen upside down - she would not have lasted the night. So, did the horse know he had to get help and that he had to jump out of the field and run up to the farmhouse? I think he did!
We talk of 'bird-brained' as a derogatory adjective but just because birds have a different type of brain doesn't mean it is inferior to that of mammals. My late sister, Pauline, once owned a pet Brazilian Hangnest. He was very tame and I can remember laughing when I showed him a mirror and he started to display to his image. I also showed him a book with a picture of a Hangnest. But he was a wise little bird and he craned his little head and looked behind the book. He may not have been aware of self but, he had realised very quickly that it was not another bird and from then on he stopped displaying.
Without doubt, one of the most intelligent birds is the parrot. And now a scientist undertaking research with an African Grey Parrot
called Alex, has shown that he understands the abstract concept of zero and correctly used the word 'none' to describe an absence of objects. Alex
can count, understands colours and shapes and has a large vocabulary. He can also get bored and irritated and refuse to answer, "No!", "Want corn!"
, just like a small petulant child. Another grey parrot called, N'kisi
can use and apparently understand over 700 words and has an affinity for telepathy!
Teaching animals to mimic the human way of communication does not necessarily mean they have language skills in the wild although I believe many do. Take the Gorilla, Koko
, who has learnt sign language. She has told her keepers she wants a baby! I remember seeing a TV programme about her a long time ago. It was sad because she was shown lots of pictures of male gorillas in zoos and she picked the one she fancied! However, when he arrived, he did not show any interest in poor old Koko! So, she mothers tiny kittens instead. Then there is the chimpanzee, Washoe
and her friends. Washoe was taught signing and soon began to combine the signs into meaningful phrases, "You me hide
", "You me go out hurry
". When other chimpanzees were included in the study, they starting signing amongst themselves, even when on their own, and they taught signing to another chimp and adapted the signs for their own use. They were definitely talking to each other.
Scientists are just beginning to understand animal communication and I remember yet another TV documentary about Prairie Dogs. (You will know by now that I enjoy watching nature programmes on telly!) The scientist
studying these little creatures tapes their squeaks and grunts, which sound all the same to our ears. He then analyses the sounds on his computer and creates a sonogram, or visual representation of the sound waves. It seems that the prairie dogs have a rudimentary language
as he discovered that the little creatures had 'words' for various predators and for other animals such as deer or cows. They also had words for 'tall man' and 'short man' and they even added a sound to tall man to indicate he was wearing a red t-shirt. Amazing!
Perhaps, one day there will be a real Dr Dolittle
who really can talk to the animals.
Newer | Latest | Older