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* * *
The other day our fridge freezer was making funny noises.  Yesterday afternoon I thought the butter was a tad soft.  H came home, made a cup of tea and promptly got out the thermometers.  The fridge is currently a balmy 14.5°C, the freezer around -9°C, good thing it's Friday and not the beginning of the week, food stocks are low.  All the same, I reckon there are a couple of lots of sausages which are in need of being eaten fairly soon.  Come to think of it, the fridge has smelled of food the past three days.  Not an unpleasant smell, just a food smell - which is unusual when it's running at it's usual low temperatures.  The sky was clear last night so it's colder today.  If the worst comes to the worst I suppose we can always put things out in the rabbit hutch - that's assuming the outside temperature is below 14.5°C, which it can easily be in that corner of the yard at this time of year.  Of course, in the long run we're going to have to get someone out to look at the beastie.  The guarantee ran out a while ago.  Such is lif.

  I've been noticing various sites getting ready to celebrate St Patrick's Day, 17th March, eg; here and here.  What I haven't noticed is various sites getting ready to celebrate St David's Day, Ist March.  Now I know there are a lot of people with Irish ancestry worldwide.  Goodness only knows there are enough of them in the States.  There are a lot of people with Welsh ancestry worldwide too, me included.  The difference is that, unlike those of Irish or Scots heritage, we don't make almighty fusses about it.  Just a daffodil here, a leek there and maybe some Welshcakes or some cawl.  Oh, and once upon a time (1970s), a rugby team to be feared!

  A peeve - you know how people put pictures into their blogs, Dear Reader?  Particularly when there's a run of pictures.  They tend to arrange them

  *picture*
blank line
  *title*
blank line
  *picture*
blank line
  *picture*

  etc, a little like here.  All of which means that, unless the caption/picture combo is really obvious, you're left wondering quite to which picture does the caption apply.  Dear Reader, please, if you publish pictures, do make it obvious to which picture the captions apply.  Some of us are not as quick off the mark as you!

  Now we all know that things like Freedom of  Speech and Freedom of Expression are supposed to work all ways.  We also know that they seem to work more one way than another.  Eg: If I were to make some remark about black people, or if a black person was to make a remark about white people.  Or if someone was to suggest a day to celebrate heterosexuality - you know, to 'balance' the Gay Pride parades etc.  Well, Eduardo Cunha, president of Brazil's Chamber of Deputies - lower house of the nation's parliament - has suggested Brazil has 3rd December for a 'Heterosexual Pride' day.  Apparently Snr Cunha is already a controversial figure.  This suggestion has propelled him into the stratosphere with some supporting and others parodying his suggestion.

  I must admit to becoming a little tired of having Gay Pride thrown in my face.  Good grief, they can get married now if they want to.  Why don't they shut up!  But I suppose if you've been an oppressed minority for years then you might get a bit loud when you're finally allowed out of the closet.  Maybe give them a few more years and they'll tone themselves down.  One can hope, I suppose.  No, Dear Reader, I'm not homophobic, gays/lesbians/bis/trans are all people, and people for whom Christ died.  I'm just a bit tired of all the headlines, and mention angry about the redefinition of marriage - by divorce as well as anything else.  Not to mention the way the rainbow has been hijacked.  I also wonder occasionally whether being heterosexual will some day become an unfavoured condition.  But there we are.

  And Finally - a collection of rare objects, including a shield though to have been collected by Capain Cook in 1770, are set to return to Australia for the first time.  I'm not entirely sure whether the artifacts are being returned or are merely going on tour.  Should it be the former I can see the Greek government getting uptight about the Elgin Marbles all over again!

  Now, where's the number for that appliance repair person.  It may be chillier outside this weekend but a fridge at the balmy temperature of 14.5°C  and a freezer around -9°C are just not to be contemplated.  Particularly if we want anything to last.

  Y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
mildly annoyed
Current Music:
Habanera - Chabrier
* * *
  Apparently today is international Tell a Fairytale Day.  Yes, I know, Dear Reader, there are more 'Days' than there are actual days in the year, even in the Leap year, such is lif.  Anyhew, pick your Fairy Tale - Grimm, Perrault, Disney (srsly, Dear Reader?), favourite children's story book, your ol' Mum/Grandma/Grandpa, and away you go.  Do you have a favourite Fairytale, Dear Reader?

  And to what isn't a fairytale - six months ago Israel was bombing seven bells out of the Gaza strip and, reputedly at least, the Palestinians were doing the same to Israel.  As is usually the case with one big, well armed, heavily backed proponent and a much smaller, less organised opponent the 'results' were uneven.  Several Israeli soldiers were killed, several thousand Palestinians (mostly civilians) were killed and injured.  Much Palestinian infrastructure was destroyed.  Aid was promised for rebuilding.

  Six months later the aid, largely, hasn't materialised, things haven't been rebuilt.  Palestinian refugees are still in makeshift shelters.  There are fears, especially from Israel, that aid money may be diverted to provide arms.  It may, but I tell you one thing, Dear Reader, promising aid, then not delivering it is a sure way to incite discontent, disillutionment, eventually distrust and perhaps even desire to wreak vengeance on those who have promised much but given virtually nothing.  So it could be that, in their desire to prevent aid being used to supply arms, aid-promising countries and Israel have but generated more willing to fight against them.  Whatever happened to treating people as people.  Real people.  Cos that's what the Paletinians are, even the fighters - people.

  For that matter - you've probably heard people in this country (UK, though I expect it's similar in the rest of Europe and the US) complaining about how much money is sent abroad in the form of Aid.  Money which, they say, could be better used at home, on our people.  Yes, well.  First of all such monies as are sent abroad as Aid only amount to 0.7% of the total budget spending.  That's a few million pounds, barely a drop in the ocean - either 'out there' or here.

  Then there is the matter of 'buying power' - while 0.7% of our total spending might not get that much here, it'll get a lot more 'over there'.  But most of all, if money is spent improving living conditions for people 'over there' - you know, such basics as clean, safe water, sewage disposal, clinics, education, agricultural advice, training, advocacy, then people's lives improve and they might prefer to stay in their own countries rather than emigrating in search of a better life.  Of course, areas subject to wars will always generate refugees, some of whom may go thousands of miles looking for a better and safer life.

  Which brings us to the other 'beef' some people have - Immigration.  "Why do we allow so many foreigners into our country only to have to support them with benefits etc?"  They ask.  Well, for one thing, most immigrants are eager to work for their living, and most do - they don't come here for the benefits.  Which then provokes the accusation that the immigrants are 'taking our jobs'!  Except that the jobs in question were vacant because the resident British weren't willing to do them.  The jobs the immigrants are doing are not being taken from UK residents after all.

  Now some who complain about immigrants are racist - that's skin-colour-based racists.  Others are just anti-anyone else, regardless of colour.  Though colour, or distinctive dress, does make it easier to pick on people. Heck, when you really get down to it, some of them are virtually agin everyone except themselves!  As I've mentioned before, there's been so much immigration to the UK (and US) over hundreds of years, that everyone is an immigrant.

  So there's your choice - give money as Aid, to help people achieve a better life in their own countries.  Lean on the fighters to promote peace.  Or have them trying to come here in search of the better life they can't get at home.

  And here's the Fairytale - Every afternoon, as they were coming from school, the children used to go and play in the Giant's garden.

  One day the Giant came back.  He had been to visit his firend the Cornish ogere, and had stayesd with him for seven years.  After the seven years were over he said all that he had to say, for his conversation was limited, and he determinded to return to his won castle.  When he arrived he saw the children playing in the garden.

  "What are you doing here?" he cried in a very gruff voice, and the children ran away.

  "My own garden is my own garden," said the Giant; "anyone can understand that. and I will allow nobody to play in it by myself."  so hi built a high wall all round it, and put up a notice-board.

    TRESPASSERS
    WILL BE
    PROSECUTED

  And the story continues . . .

  There's another story, first told by Aesop, of a little dog* who would run up and down barking and preventing the oxen from eating their hard-earned fodder, for all it couldn't eat it itself.

  Y'all have a good, and unselfish, day now!



  *The real tyrants are always the short ones!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
Overture, Dido and Aeneas - Purcell
* * *
The sky was clear around sunset last night too, so I went and had a quick star and planet gaze.  They're all still there.  It was still chilly.  I mentioned yesterday that Canada is having it Seriously Cold, so some Canadians have headed south to where it is warmer.  Stephanie, aka the Yarn Harlot, and her Mum are two, they're currently enjoying the beach, etc, in Mexico.  Pardon?  Dear Reader.  Of course Stephanie is knitting, and learning to snorkel - see here.  It's amazing what you can do when you relax.

  I relax with knitting, ok, so casting on 360 stitches can be a bit stressful, but I've got some markers I can position strategically and, provided they don't fall out, it's not too bad.  I finished the second sleeve of my DK cardigan yesterday and started on the body.  I am knitting this in the round and then plan to steek.  Aaaarrrggh!  So far it's going ok.  It's also ideal TV knitting, just round and round knit with the odd few purls and a YO where the steek will be.  I also relax by listening to music, often Classic fM, though the persistent ads aren't that relaxing.  The trick is to have the radio loud enough to hear the music but not so loud that the ads are too intrusive.  That takes a bit of fiddling with the volume dial!

  Listening to music also helps with my tinnitus.  Oh, it's not bad.  You know the kind of very high-pitched note TVs emit when they're on?  It's like that, so doing something which is absorbing, or having music on, helps mask it.  Fortunately it's not so loud as to be troublesome when it's quiet - which is just as well at night.  I know other people have tinnitus which sounds like an iron foundery, so I'm not complaining.  Anyhew, just as one can get tinnitus with one's ears, one can, apparently, get visual 'tinnitus' - see what Peter White 'sees' now that he can't.  Can't see, that is.  It's amazing what the brain will try to fill in in the absence of 'real' information!

  Back to the Year of the Sheep, as the authorities are calling it in mainland China.  Believe it or not China does have an internet.  Not so long ago they had a social media platform, Weibo, with over three hundred million accounts and celebrity bloggers, Big Vs.  Now there are around 275 million and Big Vs are watching what they say.  In fact one Big V, Charles Xue, was arrested for soliciting prostitutes, though the Chinese state media made it clear that his role as a government critic on Weibo was a key reason he was targeted.

  Ordinary Weibo users have been warned to tone down their activity, or make sure it is unremarkable.  Users face up to three years in prison if any controversial post they write is viewed more than 5,000 times, or is forwarded more than 500 times. Now the government has ordered that every social media user has to register their real name.  That way, if someone dares to even appear to criticise the government they can come down on the 'offender' like the proverbial ton of rectangular building things and imprison them for three years.  And when you get a prison record in China, particularly for anti-government activities, you are really stuck with it!

  Some China watchers reckon that the government is shooting itself in the foot by curbing the freedom of expression of the Chinese people.  If the government thinks that as long as people can shop online, all will be ok, they are going to be in for a shock.  As the Yellow Umbrella protests in Hong Kong have shown, the desire for freedom isn't going away.  Some day the current consumer generation may well want to get their hands on things that money can't buy.

  Meanwhile those of us who do have free web access and freedom of speech had better value it.  All this talk about international terrorism, internet grooming, radicalisation etc could scare us into letting our governments curb our hard won freedoms in the name of 'security'.  And there will always be some in government who share views about freedom of speech for the general population with the Chinese government.  Don't let them catch us unawares.  And don't, please, go wasting your freedom by trolling.  Cos that'll bring about restrictions in the end too.

  That'll do.  Y'all have a good, and watchful, day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
Chanson de Matin - Elgar
* * *
So yesterday was alternately clear, bright and sunny and raining.  Around sundown it was clear, so I went outside to have a look at the sky and lo! There was Venus doing it's duty as evening star, well up above the 'ahses, but the sky was still too bright for Mars to show up.  Back indoors for half an hour or so then try again.  This time there was but a green glow to the west, to the east the sky was completely dark, and there, shining out were, from west to east:- Venus and Mars, not on top of each other but still close, higher up the sky the crescent moon, to the south Orion with Aldebaran, the eye of the bull, up from his belt and Sirius, the dog star, twinkling red/white/blue, down from his belt, thento the southeast, bright and clear, Jupiter.  H checked with the Stellarium program and said that, had we a telescope, we'd have been able to see Uranus above Venus and Mars - think we'd probaby need dark skies too, and if the telescope was pointed at Jupiter we'd have been able to see the rings side on and some of the moons.

  There now, just occasionally everything lines up, up above the line of the 'ahses in between, the clahds in between have the decency to part and we can do some star and planet spotting.  I'm particularly chuffed that we got three in one go!  *Satisfied and wondering smile*  Ok, bring on the clahds!  Did you get to see anything, Dear Reader?  Were you even interested enough to bother looking?  We didn't hang around too long, it was chilly!

  Slightly differently, you remember in history lessons, Dear Reader, how the plague (aka Black Death) spread across Europe in the Middle Ages and left the continent severely underpopulated?  In fact so underpopulated that peasants in the fields found their labour at a premium and thus got a wage increase!  Anyhew, you may remember that the disease was thought to have been spread by black rats coming home from the East with returning Crusaders.  No longer. Scientists in Norway now reckon that gerbils were to blame.  Srsly, Dear Reader, Gerbils!

   Apparently they have found correlation between outbreaks of plague in Europe and warm temperatures in Asia causing the gerbil population to rise and fleas to spread.

  All of which is interesting but I remember my 'A' Level Statistics teacher telling us that just because two, or more, things appeared to be correlated didn't actually mean that they were.  You have to look at your data VERY carefully first.  The scientists are going tho check DNA from skeletons across Europe to see whether the correlations are real.  Meanwhile if you have a pet Gerbil, Dear Reader, you might want to ensure that  a) it is flea free and b) it isn't in contact with other gerbils, particularly if they have fleas!  Although modern medicine might actually be in a position to cure anyone of plague - provided they recoginsed the condition in time!

  Then you may have heard that this winter Canada is experiencing Seriously Cold temperatures.  I mean, a lot of Canada gets Really Cold winters but this year is colder.  So one Canadian has suggested that his city - Edmonton, Alberta, flood some roads, let them freeze, making a 'skateway' so that Edmontonians can skate their way to work, the shops, school and ice-hockey games.  It would be fun, he reckons, it would give our citizens opportunities to exercise (important at this time of year) and it would encourage people to come out and move about (also important, though not too popular at this time of year).  Whether Edmonton takes him up on his suggestion remains to be seen.  Should you be travelling to Edmonton, Dear Reader, I'd suggest getting in some ice-skating practice and, maybe, hiring some skates when you arrive!

  And Finally - you heard of the killing of Egyptian Christians in Libya last week.  There were various outraged reactions.  There were several anti-whoever-did-it reactions.  There was (at least) one Christian reaction.  You see, Christians are told to forgive.  To bless those who persecute them and to pray for those who harm them.  To hand the whole sorry situation over to God and to leave it there.  "Vengeance is Mine!" Says the Lord, "I will repay."  And personally, given the choice of having a human enemy coming after me or having the Living God . . .  Besides which, continually taking vengeance on one's enemies merely perpetuates the vendetta.  Forgiveness stops it.  Forgiveness can make friends of enemies.  Goodness only knows we need more friendship in the world.

  Y'all have a good, and forgiving, day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
thoughtful thoughtful
Current Music:
Make Me a Channel of Your Peace - attributed to St Francis of Assissi
* * *
So, Dear Reader, did you get to see the Venus/Mars/New Moon conjuction this weekend?  Friday evening, when it happened, it was raining here.  Clahds in between, strike one!  Saturday evening it was clear, had been all day.  I forgot to look, strike two!  I set a reminder for yesterday evening, then cancelled it as, you've guessed it, it was raining again.  Clahds in between, strike three!  H looked up the conjunction on Stellarium, a sky/astronomy program we have, he said that it looked as if it would have occurred at about 10 - 20° elevation above the horizon.  Round here house rooves go up to about 23-25° elevation.  Ahses in between.  Strike Four!

  Honestly, Dear Reader, doing any kind of astronomy around here is fraught with all sorts of discouragements.  If the stars/planets/celestial events are above the surrounding houses, if the night is clear or overcast, if aforementioned celestial bodies/events are sufficiently bright to shine out through the streetlights . . .   In the past few years the local streetlights have been replaced by ones which are designed to direct most of their light down onto the road and pavements rather than end up as light pollution in the sky.  This is a Good Thing, though not all that much help when trying to star gaze as the streetlight sources are are another two or three metres above any would-be observer!

   Consequently I do most of my 'stargazing' via The Sky at Night and other astronomy programmes, or online, where there are many useful websites, or even with the Stellarium program.  It's not at all the same as seeing the events/bodies for myself, but it's better than perpetual 'ahses or clahds in between.  And just so you can see what all the fuss was about, a photo of last Friday evening's three-way conjuction this time sighted near Delhi.

  Back to Earth, a good news story from Africa, and you'll agree, Dear Reader, there aren't that many. A hundred-year-old slum of Nairobi, Kibera, is finally getting a major revamp.  Roads, electricity, toilets, sewers, clean water, even Wi Fi are being installed as part of a government improvement plan.  There is fifty percent unemployment in Kibera, so job creation schemes are being instigated, local people are being encouraged to make their own jobs.  And, of course, once the people of Kibera have seen that the government is treating them as real people, they are beginning to do things for themselves as well.  All being well Kibera will slowly transform from an horrific slum to just another suburb of Nairobi - which can only be a Good Thing.

  Hmmm, wonder if they can see the Venus/Mars conjunction easily from Kibera?  Or, for that matter, if it'll be visible tonight?  Maybe I'll just set myself a reminder.  Will you be looking, Dear Reader?  Lowish in the sky, to the southwest.  Y'all have a good day now, and a good viewing!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
happy happy
Current Music:
London Suite - Knightsbridge, Eric Coates
* * *
So, Dear Reader, did you get to see the Venus/Mars/New Moon conjuction this weekend?  Friday evening, when it happened, it was raining here.  Clahds in between, strike one!  Saturday evening it was clear, had been all day.  I forgot to look, strike two!  I set a reminder for yesterday evening, then cancelled it as, you've guessed it, it was raining again.  Clahds in between, strike three!  H looked up the conjunction on Stellarium, a sky/astronomy program we have, he said that it looked as if it would have occurred at about 10 - 20° elevation above the horizon.  Round here house rooves go up to about 23-25° elevation.  Ahses in between.  Strike Four!

  Honestly, Dear Reader, doing any kind of astronomy around here is fraught with all sorts of discouragements.  If the stars/planets/celestial events are above the surrounding houses, if the night is clear or overcast, if aforementioned celestial bodies/events are sufficiently bright to shine out through the streetlights . . .   In the past few years the local streetlights have been replaced by ones which are designed to direct most of their light down onto the road and pavements rather than end up as light pollution in the sky.  This is a Good Thing, though not all that much help when trying to star gaze as the streetlight sources are are another two or three metres above any would-be observer!

   Consequently I do most of my 'stargazing' via The Sky at Night and other astronomy programmes, or online, where there are many useful websites, or even with the Stellarium program.  It's not at all the same as seeing the events/bodies for myself, but it's better than perpetual 'ahses or clahds in between.  And just so you can see what all the fuss was about, a photo of last Friday evening's three-way conjuction this time sighted near Delhi.

  Back to Earth, a good news story from Africa, and you'll agree, Dear Reader, there aren't that many. A hundred-year-old slum of Nairobi, Kibera, is finally getting a major revamp.  Roads, electricity, toilets, sewers, clean water, even Wi Fi are being installed as part of a government improvement plan.  There is fifty percent unemployment in Kibera, so job creation schemes are being instigated, local people are being encouraged to make their own jobs.  And, of course, once the people of Kibera have seen that the government is treating them as real people, they are beginning to do things for themselves as well.  All being well Kibera will slowly transform from an horrific slum to just another suburb of Nairobi - which can only be a Good Thing.

  Hmmm, wonder if they can see the Venus/Mars conjunction easily from Kibera?  Or, for that matter, if it'll be visible tonight?  Maybe I'll just set myself a reminder.  Will you be looking, Dear Reader?  Lowish in the sky, to the southwest.  Y'all have a good day now, and a good viewing!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
happy happy
Current Music:
London Suite - Knightsbridge, Eric Coates
* * *
It started sunny today, and it's been warmer this week.  My aran weight, wool and alpaca, cardigan has been feeling a tad warm and prickly at times.  So today I put on the yellow/peach/green/purple chunky (wool/acrylic) cardigan.  It's better in the front room - warm due to solar heating, however here in the second coldest seat in the house it just isn't enough.  *Cue sneezing*  So I've got the aran cardigan round my shoulders and I'm wearing my woollen mitts as well.

  Did you see the new moon/Venus/Mars conjunction last night, Dear Reader?  I didn't, it was overcast and raining.  Maybe it'll be clear tonight to have a shufti.  We'll see.

  For that matter, have you been enjoying celebrating the Year of the Sheep?  Honestly, I think Year of the Ram, or Year of the Goat, sounds much better.  Remember LJs mascot Frank?  Naturally (Communist) China, and probably North Korea, is promulgating it as the Year of the Sheep.  They definitely don't want their people acting independently at any time.  Just all go along with what your leaders tell you, like good sheep!

  Have a dose of Chinese New Year Cute - Red Pandas frolicking in the snow.  Try it full screen.   All together now, aaaaah!

  And if all that Cute leave you in need of refreshment - apparently to get a Really Good cup of tea you should let it stand for six minutes.  Or so says the British Standards Institute.  I seem to remember attending a lecture given by a member of said Institute some thirty-plus years ago.  He gave us each a handout on how to make BSI tea.  This was for testing varnish finishes on wood.  The next important thing, after letting the tea brew for six minutes, was to pour it out, didn't specify whether milk or tea first, then let it go cold.  Only then was it deemed 'suitable' for testing varnish.

  I remember wondering at the time quite how realistic a test this was.  After all, who can tell whether the next cup of tea we have the misfortune to spill onto our varnished wooden furniture will actually be cold tea?  I've spilled hot tea, and coffee, before now.  Indeed, as I like to drink my hot beverages while they are still hot, any tea, coffee or cocoa I spill is more likely to be hot.  Unlike with H.  He tends to get a hot drink, put it down for a while and then somehow forget it.  H drinks quite a bit of lukewarm or cold tea and coffee.  Maybe it's a man thing?  Maybe that's why the BSI speaker, a man, specified cold tea for varnish testing?  Am I right in thinking that the temperature of the spilled beverage might well affect the effect it has on any varnished surface?  BTW - note the correct use of the words Affect and Effect in the previous sentence!

 Then again, what effect might spilled Coke have on varnish?  Apart from leaving it sticky when dried, that is.  The other thing to know about the BSI 'kitemark' is that it is given for an aglomeration of the absolute minimum that participating industries can get away with, rather than any idication of particularly high standards.  Sorry, such is Lif!

  And Finally - immigration has been going on into the UK for donkey's years.  Apparently back in the Middle Ages one person in one hundred was an immigrant.  The most frequently used immigrant name was 'John Frenchman', or at least, that was the name written down, the immigrants' actual names may have been different.  Even then people were coming in from the rest of Europe because conditions and wages were better here.  Sound familiar?

  Considering that pre-Middle Ages most immigrants to Britain had come by the fleet-load, usually of conquering soldiers - see Romans, Saxons et al, Vikings and Normans - having immigrants come in singly or in families was easier for everyone.

  Bearing in mind that most people in the UK have immigrants in their ancestry, I don't think UKIP or other "Nationalist" parties really have a leg to stand on!  But when did logic ever affect prejudice?   Perhaps it's time to brew a nice, six-minute, cup of tea, drink it before it gets too cold, and think it all over?  Y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual, with two cardigans!
Current Mood:
amused amused
Current Music:
Palotzvian Dances, Prince Igor - Prokofiev
* * *
Should the sky near you be clear, Dear Reader, try going out after sunset, looking westward and viewing the conjunction of Mars, Venus and the crescent moon.  The forecast for here for today is overcast and rain.  So much for astronomy!

  Meanwhile for those Readers who like to plan ahead a bit, one month from now, on 20th March, 2015, a total eclipse is due, main visibility around 9.30 - 9.40 am.  That is, a total eclipse will be visible, clahds permitting, from the Faroe Islands, Svalbard and a a long line through the North Atlantic between Rockall and Iceland.  Places further south, eg: here, will only be able to see a partial eclipse - here around 84%, clahds permitting.  I mention planning ahead as some Readers might like to travel to the Faroe Islands or Svalbard, or even the relevant section of the North Atlantic, though I should think that all accommodations will be booked up by now by eclipse chasing astronomers.

  I suppose I'd better remind Readers that looking directly at the sun is NOT a good idea - you'll damage your retinas.  Look through a piece of smoked glass, special 'eclipse viewing' glasses or a few layers of cloud.  I remember the 1999 total eclipse.  Well, it was to have been a total eclipse if viewed from Devon and Cornwall.  I think Sis, B-i-L and their sprogs went to Cornwall to view the event - which, after much TV hype, turned out to be a bit of a non-event as Cornwall was cloud bound!

  We, H, S, D and I, were on holiday on the Isle of Wight.  It was sunny there, with passing clouds.  Come the time of the eclipse we propped ourselves up and lo!  There were a few clouds in between us and the sun.  Thus it was possible to view the, from there, partial eclipse as it happened safely.  That was interesting.  We watched the moon's disc slide across the sun's disc, it didn't actually get dark, just a bit 'bottom of the pond'-like.  Then the light brightened again - we went to have a coffee.  There had been much speculation about what animals might do as a result of the sun 'disappearing'.  We were at the Rare Breeds Park near Ventnor, the animals around us seemed not to be bothered.  Some were far more interested in the progress of a tractor carrying fodder!

  There was a lot of hype about that total eclipse - including inteviews with those who'd seen the previous one, and stories of just how long it might be til the next one visible from somewhere in the UK - maybe 2151!  Of course, unless you're a good way further north, next month's event will be but a partial eclipse, but if you were to go to the Outer Hebrides, and the weather was clear, you could clock 98% of totality, which isn't to be sneezed at, if you're into such things.  Hmmm, what is the likelyhood of it being a sunny day in the Outer Hebridies in March?  Considerably less than 98% I'd say!

  And Finally, and totally un-star-related, did you enjoy your pancakes on Tuesday, Dear Reader?  Other places have other customs.  In Ashbourne in Derbyshire they have the Royal Shrovetide Football game, which takes place over a couple of days.  Each year hundreds of participants try to 'goal' by banging the cork ball against one of the two stone plinths which are three miles apart.  There are few rules - pushing and shoving are essential but it is forbidden to harm other players intentionally.

  As with so many traditions, the origins are lost in the fabled mists of time, and a fire in 1890 which destroyed much of the town's written records.  What they do have is photographs and films of more recent games.  Much of the game seems to take place in Ashbourne's river, with team members wading into the freezing waters in pursuit of the ball.  What is it with men and ball games?  Hah!  I nearly wrote 'what is it with men and balls?'   On which note, y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual, with star chart
Current Mood:
cheerful cheerful
Current Music:
Venus, bringer of peace from The Planet Suite - Gustav Holst
* * *
Happy (Chinese) New Year!  Gung Ho Pak Choi!  Or whatever the correct phrasing is.  I told you having a multi-cultural society means you get more festivals to celebrate didn't I, Dear Reader.  Apparently if you do it properly the New Year celebrations can last up to a week.  Presumably the hangover lasts a bit longer, though being totally hung over doesn't sound to me all that auspicious a way to start a new year - for all it seems to be The Way to Do It when it comes to our New Year celebrations.  Come to think of it, most of our (Western) celebrations seem to involve lots of alcohol, although it has been reported that younger people these days are less likely to go binge drinking than their elders did/still do - which sounds good to me.

  Not quite so New Year related, I watched a programme about bears the other evening.  Did you know Paddington Bear is a Spectacled Bear?  Apparently that's the only species of bear living in South America, which is where Paddington hales from. Peru, Darkest Peru to be exact.  I imparted this deduction to H, who said that Paddington didn't look 'spectacled.  He supposed Paddington could have been some species of bear which is now extinct.  After all, Michael Bond first wrote about him around fifty years ago.  We did wonder whether Michael Bond, or his original illustrator, realised that there was only the Spectacled species of bear, even in Darkest Peru, back then, and that's why he never appeared to be spectacled.

  H then mentioned that while he may have haled from Darkest Peru, his Aunt Lucy had retired to Lima.  What, H wondered, did bears retire from?  What job had Aunt Lucy done before she retired?  I don't know if Michael Bond ever specified, all I remember is that she was retired.  Well, Dear Reader, any ideas?  From what might Aunt Lucy have retired?  I relate this conversation as an example.  Of quite what I'm not sure!

  Apparently as well as being the Year of the Sheep** (or Goat, or Ram, depending on who you ask) 2015 is also the International Year of Soils, thus designated by the 86th UN General Assembly.  Bearing in mind the basic requirement we all have for soil, and fertile soil at that, this sounds like a Good Thing - provided people take notice.

  Perhaps not such a Good Idea is something which is catching on in Boston.  Boston, Massachusetts, USA that is, not Boston, Lincs, UK, nor yet Boston, Scarborough, UK.  The whole of New England has been suffering under particularly heavy falls of snow this winter.  In Boston they've had depths of seven feet!  So some of the more whacko residents have taken to jumping into it.  From their first floor windows (that'll be second floor in the States)!  It's gotten so bad that the mayor, Marty Walsh, has warned residents against doing it.  Whether this serves to cut the number of 'jumpers' or suggest the idea to more bored Bostonians suffering from cabin fever remains to be seen!  I dunno, once Americans were hardy people, pioneers, principled.  Now they seem to be either money-grubbing, tread-on-the-faces-of-the-poor capitalists or adult aged adolescents.  Yes, I expect there are still plenty of 'good people' 'over there'.  They just don't make the News!

  I think I've knitted one sleeve of the DK cardigan.  Only think so, mind you.  What with all the various calculations my mobile died last night and had to be recharged.  Measuring the 'finished' sleeve I reckon it'll be too short - must try it on today and see.  I also reckon that knitting in the round on four dpns is faster than knitting magic loop with a circular needle.  That written I shall continue knitting the sleeves magic loop.  At least I don't run the risk of losing needles and having them slipping out of my work.  My 4mm dpns are metal, thus heavyish and prone to slippage.   Ah well, I don't mind frogging and knitting the sleeve again, though the way the weather is going this month I shall be needing a lighter weight cardigan soon.  I didn't bother putting the fire on last night - no wonder British Gas owner Centric is reporting a big fall in profits.

  And Finally - you know how you just have to make those 'whuuum' noises when you use a light sabre?  Well, Dear Reader, here's a way to get the best noises.  Pity their fighting skillz just don't cut it!  Y'all have a Happy New Year of the Sheep/Goat/Ram now!




  *The grammatically correct way of writing this title would be - From what do bears retire?  But that, IMO, doesn't sound as good.


  **Understandably enough, the Chinese (Communist) Government are marketing this as the Year of the Sheep, and strongly suggesting that the Chinese people should be more sheep-like!  As are the leaders in Hong Kong, cf the yellow umbrella party.  The last thing China wants is a lot of goats or rams defying and even challenging the leadership!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
cheerful cheerful
Current Music:
Ashokan Farewell - Jay Ungar
* * *
As the sky was clear around sunset last night I had a look.  Venus was shining brightly shortly after sunset, well above the 'ahses too.  Trouble was it wasn't yet dark enough to see Mars.  Ah well, 'tis sunny at the moment, perhaps it will still be around sunset and I'll have a look a bit later on.

  Meanwhile for those who are struggling to think of yet another  at least eight digit, alphanumeric password, try this.  I was only ever going to work for a musician!

  I was putting the recyclables out yesterday - out into the recycling bin, things do build up so indoors.  Anyhew, I had a quick shufti round the garden.  The Winter Jasmine is still flowering.  We still have two snowdrop blooms in a tangle of green and the crocuses are starting to come through.  There are two dark purple ones in the bath, others are pushing through in other places.  w00t.  Slightly less w00t! -  next door have yet to shift their stuff off our shed roof, or collect what has fallen into our yard.  Time for another letter?  Or merely time to lever the stuff off the roof back into their yard and carry the stuff in our yard back round and dump it on the pavement outside their house?  It's bad enough the way their dogs keep barking.

  Aaaarrrggh!  Safari just crashed, again.  Seems to be when I have a couple of windows open, then try to watch a video, it all gets a bit much for the poor browser.  Maybe it's time we changed browsers?  I don't know, that's not my department.  I merely report the fact that it keeps crashing!

  You remember last week I mentioned a trainee police horse called Brian, Dear Reader?  And how Thames Valley Police would be changing his name to something more macho if he passed their tests.  And how men called Brian everywhere, not least Brians in TVP, got together to protest?  Well, it turns out that they needn't have gotten quite so upset. Brian failed his police horse trial.  Apparently he was very nervous out and about and didn't settle in an urban environment - which is where most police horses get to work.  TVP said that Brian was a lovely horse, but not for them.  So it's back to his previous owner for Brian.  Always look on the bright side of . . .

  Which seems to be enough for Ash Wednesday.  Y'all have a good day now!
Current Location:
as usual
Current Mood:
cheerful cheerful
Current Music:
Dances with Wolves - theme tune, John Dunbar
* * *

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