Friday 31 January 2014

Home security for boats

Recently we updated our burglar alarm at our home. (château 'Wits End') We chose a wireless type of alarm system, just for the ease of installation. The alarm system had to be able to protect the three floors of our home as well as two external conservatories, garage and garden shed. As we spend increasing amount of time on our boat we wanted a system that could send alert messages to our mobile phone.

Sourcing: There are many different wireless alarm systems available on the market and you will certainly be spoilt for making a choice. I downloaded several instruction manuals for different systems so that I could get a good idea of the variations available.

Facilities: The alarm system chosen had a wide number of additional facilities available. Such as wireless smoke detectors, wireless alarm sounders and a panic alarm. The ability to reset, arm and disarm the alarm via a simple text message. 

Video clips, sound recordings  and even still photographs can be captured and automatically uploaded to your smartphone. Depending on installing of additional recording devices. One thing I liked was that the door bell is also linked by wireless to the alarm and it records the time and date of the door bell being pressed.

Installing: Easy installation is essential, however it is also essential that each trigger unit should be able to communicate with the central alarm control unit. But the central control unit also needs to have a good signal with a mobile phone network.  Sighting of the control unit in this instance is to ensure a good signal from the wireless telephone network was essential.

It then struck me that such an expandable system would also be an ideal alarm for installation on a boat. 

Wireless Water Detector
So I started to look around for a starter wireless system with similar facilities including the sending of text messages. A system that can be expanded by adding sensors to up the level of protection needed. On a boat modern gas detectors can be used to detect smoke, raised temperatures and a wide range of combustible and toxic gases.

Gasses such as Carbon Monoxide. Propane and Methane. The units transmit warnings via wireless when dangerous levels of gas vapours are detected. 

Another alarm that would be useful on a boat would be a sensor for detecting water leakage. Which can be used in any place such as the bilge where there is a need to protect against water leakage.

All the more usual sensors and detectors are available, such as door, window and PIR (passive infra red) types. PIRs come in many configurations for a wide variety of applications. The most common models have numerous fresnel lens segments, giving an effective range of about ten metres (thirty feet), and a narrow "curtain" coverage.

A typical small expandable system with three door sensors, for the front back and side doors. Two PIR movement sensors, water level sensor , smoke detector, CO and gas sensor. Will cost about a hundred pounds to install. This would come complete with a 115db siren which is amazingly loud and painfully uncomfortable in a small area like the inside of the boat. Usually supplied with two fob style remote access controllers. Some even come supplied with an App for your smartphone.

Factor into the running costs the need for occasional battery replacement and a pay as you go sim card. Several providers are making low cost PAYG sim just for this purpose which will cost from £3.50 a month up to the usual £10 a month.

TalkTalk do a PAYG sim card which costs £3.50 a month (12 month contract) with 250 texts messages a month allowance. Click Here

Remember: If you do not make or receive a chargeable call at least once in any 6 month period a standard Sim Card will be disconnected and you will lose any remaining credits balance on your Account. As long as the system does something to create a chargeable action every few months, or you manually poke it to send something, it should be fine.  My alarm is one that you can set to send a text a status report on a periodic basis and thus maintain the SIM card activity.

You could also use Family Mobile (my choice) they run off the back of EE (T-mobile/Orange) You don't have to pay a monthly top up. You top it up when you get your SIM and the credit lasts until it runs out and they won't cut you off if you don't use the credit within a certain time frame. Cost is 4p per text. Click Here

Thursday 30 January 2014

Three Writers

I have in the past written about some of my personal hero's. There is one however that I have only touched lightly on in the past. I'm not sure why, but I have never gone into any detail of why I admire this particular individual so much. There is something about left wing politics that seems to produce outstanding writers. As a writer you soon learn to recognise certain traits and styles that other writers possess. It my be their great eloquence on a particular subject. Or it might be their broad depth of knowledge. There are few writers in the world that can command the respect of other writers purely through their raw indefatigable integrity. One such writer was Paul Foot.

My list of favourite writers is a long one. The list of those that I admire for other than their writing is a bit shorter. The list however includes two people we would refer to today as investigative reporters and one as a career politician.
Ludovic Kennedy, a well known campaigning, investigative reporter and broadcaster. Kennedy often wrote for a number of leading publications of the day. Kennedy was also particularly interested in miscarriages of justice. He wrote and broadcast on the subject on numerous occasions. Private Eye magazine sometimes referred to him as 'Ludicrous Kennedy' an accolade that he enjoyed. In the BBC sitcom Till Death Us Do Part, bigoted Alf Garnett referred to him as a Russian Mick. Kennedy questioned several criminal convictions. Including the conviction and hanging of Timothy Evans. Kennedy contended that Evans was innocent. That the murders of his wife and baby had been committed by John Christie. Serial killer Christie was hanged three years after the hanging of Evans, following the discovery of six more bodies. After a long campaign, Evans was posthumously pardoned in 1966. The scandal helped in the abolition of the death penalty in the UK. His book '36 Murders and two Immoral Earnings' is recommended reading and available on Amazon.

Paul Foot, is my favourite amongst the investigative reporters. Paul actually hated the investigative title. He told Tony Harcup, who was researching a book on journalism. "It's a complete fraud. The idea that there is a race apart called investigative journalists. It leads to hierarchical notions of grand journalists, as opposed to less good ones." Paul spotted a simple and very elementary fact, which is that the world we live in is run by hypocrites and humbugs who are mainly helping themselves to money that has been provided by someone else and then slapping themselves on the back. Whatever his political approach, he recognised that the most powerful weapon to use against such people is mockery. Paul was a life long member of the Socialist Workers Party. Whilst my own brand of politics did not align with the SWP. I did go along to public meetings where Paul was the invited speaker. My one abiding memory of Paul was at a meeting in Sheffield where he did this curious double conversation. Each side of the conversation required him to face a different direction as he played two parts. The place was in complete meltdown with everyone in paroxysms of laughter. He was a member of staff at Private Eye where he ran the 'In The Back' pages. Where he would highlight the shortcomings of the leading lights of  politics and business. Eventually a close friend of both of us did an introduction. I was to find that he was a genial and friendly character. I remember that I was desolate when I heard of his untimely death. Richard Ingrams delivered a fine tribute to Paul Foot in his book 'My Friend Footy: a Memoir of Paul Foot' Is recommended reading and available on Amazon.

Tony Benn, is formerly Viscount Stansgate, and a retired British Labour Party politician. Benn's campaign to renounce his hereditary peerage was instrumental in the creation of the Peerage Act. He held the position of Postmaster General, Minister of Technology then Secretary of State for Industry, before being made Secretary of State for Energy. Benn has topped several polls as the most popular politician in Britain. Since leaving Parliament, Benn has become involved in the grass-roots politics, and has been the President of the Stop the War Coalition for the last decade. His book 'Letters to my grand children' is recommended reading and available on Amazon. I have written about Tony Benn before. Click Here

Wednesday 29 January 2014

National Archive Podcasts (4)

I love history at a local, national and world levels. The National Archives contain some interesting records of British Imperialism around the world. There are also important records relating to life in the united kingdom. These records can also be used by anyone who is interested in genealogy. The documents come in all forms. I like to listen to the research outcomes in the form of lectures as the archives come under greater and greater scrutiny. The files are captured in MP3 format. There is obviously a bias towards history and family history in my choices.

At the age of five years, Duleep Singh found himself on the golden throne of the Punjab, one of the most powerful independent kingdoms in India and a thorn in the advancement of the British Empire. After the Sikh Wars against the British Empire, the infant ruler was separated from his mother, surrendered the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond and was removed from power by the East India Company. Click Here to listen.
In the mid-19th century, the Zanzibar slave market was notorious as the last place on earth where human beings could still be bought and sold. Click Here to listen. 
The first railway murder, an examination of documents reveals how the 1864 murder of Thomas Briggs caused a sensation in Victorian society. Click Here to listen.
Dr Louise Chambers investigates why, in the 1950s, the Ministry of Pensions was inundated with requests by individuals to change their gender identity on their employment and pension records. Click Here to listen.

Tuesday 28 January 2014

Fatal Boat Accident.

Boats are by their very nature craft that require a great deal of knowledge and awareness of safe practice. With experience comes the problem of letting down your guard even momentarily. This is an article lifted from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent. Dated 24th February 1866 which highlights such issues.


A melancholy accident occurred at Great Yarmouth on Friday week, resulting in the loss of the master and four hands belonging to the smack Spitfire. About seven p.m. a man named Harper, in the employment of Mr. Brown, merchant, was directed by his master to proceed across the river Yare on a business errand. Mr. Brown's private residence is at Smithtown, while his office is in Yarmouth, the river, which is about 200 yards broad, running between. 

There was a strong flood at the time, but Harper rowed a small boat across in safety, and, having executed his commission, he was about to return from the Newcastle and Hull Steam Packet Wharf, when Mr. S. Barber, master of the smack Spitfire, a man about 45 years of age, his son, about 15, Filler, his mate, a man named Taylor, and another fisherman, requested to be ferried over to their boat, lying near Mack's Yard, on the Southern side. Harper assented, and rowed them over, but imprudently agreed at their desire to take them back again. 

Three of the men stood up in the frail craft, and Harper, perceiving that he could make but little headway against the current, told them to sit down. In doing so these men caused the boat to heel over, and it at once capsized. Harper, who is a good swimmer, contrived to grasp be master's bag, which contained charts, and swam for the shore; but he was compelled to drop the encumbrance, and he landed much exhausted upon the quay. The other men and the youth were carried down by the stream and drowned; the boat was also lost. Barber leaves a wife and a numerous family; the mate Filler was single, but Taylor was married.

Monday 27 January 2014

Tony Blair Arrested.

You may have read that Tony Blair was given something of a surprise un-welcome when he visited a restaurant. Twiggy Garcia was working at Tramshed in East London when the opportunity arose to confront the former warmongering Prime Minister. As Mr Blair was dining with friends and family, the DJ turned barman laid a hand on the former Prime Minister’s shoulder and tried to arrest him for “crimes against peace. Namely the decision to launch an unprovoked war against Iraq.”

The website that inspired Twiggy Garcia's actions, is George Monbiot's Arrest Blair website, has now awarded him a quarter of their funds, a total of £2222. Mr Monbiot explained Twiggy Garcia's actions satisfied their conditions as he not only attempted the citizen's arrest but attracted the attention of the media. In Mr Monbiot’s words the bounty is deserved for “keeping the issue – and the memories of those who have been killed – alive, and sustaining the pressure to ensure that international law binds the powerful as well as the puny."
Teflon Tony it seems continues to live up to his nickname. I have always thought that there is considerably more to this story than meets the eye. Prime ministers have a certain way of distorting the truth for instance the recent revelations about Thatcher and the miners strike. For Bliar Blair it all hinged on weapons of mass destruction that did not exist. Weapons inspectors who mysteriously commit suicide after revealing that there were no weapons. The document Iraq – Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception and Intimidation (more commonly known as the Dodgy Dossier) was the document used by the British Prime Minister Tony Blair's and his New Labour government. It was issued to journalists by Alastair Campbell, Blair's Director of Communications and Strategy, and concerned Iraq and weapons of mass destruction. These documents were ultimately used by the government to justify its involvement in the invasion of Iraq.
The term Dodgy Dossier  came around with Glen Rangwala's discovery that much of the work in the Iraq Dossier had been plagiarised from various unattributed sources. The most notable source was an article by then graduate student Ibrahim al-Marashi, entitled Iraq's Security and Intelligence Network: A Guide and Analysis. Whole sections of Marashi's writings on "Saddam's Special Security Organisation" were repeated verbatim including typographical errors, while certain amendments were made to strengthen the tone of the alleged findings (e.g., "monitoring foreign embassies in Iraq" became "spying on foreign embassies in Iraq", and "aiding opposition groups in hostile regimes" became "supporting terrorist organisations in hostile regimes").
This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace - See more at:
Without exception, all of the allegations included within the Dossier have been proven to be false, as shown by the Iraq Survey Group. The document was based on reports made by the Joint Intelligence Committee, part of the British Intelligence. Most of the evidence was uncredited. On publication, serious press comment was generally critical of the dossier for the lack of any genuinely evidence. 

The Chilcot Inquiry revealed that it was being denied access to 25 notes sent by Tony Blair to George Bush, and 130 documents relating to conversations between the two architects of the Iraq War, in addition to dozens of records of cabinet meetings. Such is the honesty of Blair and Bush. There is no more serious test of a democracy than the ability to hold its leaders to account over why and how decisions are taken, especially when a war is declared on false pretences and results in a tragic and bloody disaster of the magnitude of the Iraq War. 

The scale of the crime - the estimates range between 500,000 and 1,000,000 deaths and counting as a result of the conflict. I am looking forward to the day when the true evidence about Tony Blair appears on the new My Society SayIt website. I hope it will follow the format of the trial of Charles Taylor who was the 22nd President of Liberia.
This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace. - See more at:
This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace - See more at:
This site offers a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace - See more at:

Warning: The transcripts located here on SayIt (Click Here) contain large volumes of graphic, harrowing testimony about war crimes.
Summary: In June 2003, whilst he was still president, he was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Special Court for Sierra Leone. In August 2003 he resigned and moved to Nigeria in exile. In 2006 he was arrested and charged by the Special Court, which began a legal process which was to last seven years. In April 2012 the Special Court ruled that he was guilty on 11 counts, and was sentenced to 50 years in prison. This is how the serious documents and evidence of war criminals should be published in future.

Solving Windows 7 Device Problems.

Identifying computer hardware problems and then finding the correct or updated drivers is always a problem. While the version of Windows DVD provides enough to get the system going, you'll probably find that the screen resolution is wrong and some bits of more obscure hardware such as card readers and trackpads don't work correctly after a reinstall. This means you need to track down the right drivers.

If you received a driver disc with your PC, everything you need should be on there. If not, or if your driver disc is a few years old and you want to check for newer versions, you'll need to do a bit of detective work.

Open up Device Manager and right-click on a piece of unidentified hardware. Select Properties and on the Details tab choose Hardware IDs from the drop-down list. Make a note of the VEN and DEV numbers, take these to PCI Database and you can find out what the device is and who made it. Once you have this information it should be straightforward to track down and download drivers on the manufacturer's website.


Sunday 26 January 2014

The encounter with a pike!

This artical was lifted from the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent dated 10th March 1866. So next time you fall into the water, forget about Jaws the shark and think about jaws the Pike!


Mr Chomondley Pennell, in a work which he has just published on the habits of the pike, gives the following curious statement from a letter addressed to him by Mr. George Longhurst, of Sunning Hill. "One of my sons, aged 15, went with three other boys to bathe in Inglemere Pool, near Ascot Racecourse. He walked gently into the water to about the depth of four feet, when be spread out his hands to swim. Instantly a large fish came up and took his hand into his mouth and clamp on the wrist, but, finding he could not swallow it, relinquished his hold, and the boy, turning round, prepared for a hasty retreat out of the pond."

"His companions, who saw it, also scrambled out of the pond as fast as possible. My son had scarcely turned himself round, when the fish came up behind him and immediately seized his other hand, crosswise, inflicting some very deep wounds on the back of it ; the boy raised his first bitten, and still bleeding hand, and struck the monster a hard blow on the head, when the fish disappeared. The other boys assisted him to dress, bound up his hand with their handkerchiefs, and brought him home. We took him down to Mr. Brown, surgeon, who dressed seven wounds in one hand ; and SO great was the pain next day that the lad fainted twice. The little finger was bitten through the nail, and it was more than six weeks before it was well. The nail came off, and the scar remains to this day."

"A few days after this occurrence, one of the woodsmen was walking by the side of the pond, when he saw something white floating. A man, who was passing on horseback, rode in, and found it to be a large pike in a dying state; he twisted his whip round it and brought it to shore. Myself and son were immediately sent for to look at it, when the boy at once recognised his antagonist. The fish appeared to have been a long time in the agonies of death; and the body was very lean and curved like a bow. It measured 41 inches, and died the next day, and, I believe, was taken to the Castle at Windsor."

Saturday 25 January 2014

Arrogant Rude Smug and Humourless

The British have a thing about the Germans. Its a love hate relationship that has spilled over from two bloody conflicts into one of establishing our respective sporting prowess. I suppose that makes us into a nation of 'Germanophobes'. In football we look upon beating Germany as a better result than winning the world cup. Unless of course we were to beat Germany in a world cup final. Some German words are now well known to the English have tended to come via films or children's comics of the 50's with a wartime element. They are always full of words like Achtung, Blitzkrieg and Schnell as well as Hun, Jerry and Fritz. Today comparisons with Germany’s past have become far less common, as has the use of the words Goosestep and  Nazi.

The Germans (like Australians) apparently think that we are a nation of moaners, to be honest that's fine by me.  A good moan can be enjoyable in a dark sort of way. Especially if the target for the moan is the Germans, I think it indicates a healthy scepticism of people who eat raw cabbage and sausage. Then there is the heinous crime of appropriation of those sun-loungers seats by the pool, which the German allegedly make a panzer raid on at the crack of dawn. Anyone that is happy to drink warm fizzy beer whilst wearing short leather trousers should be viewed with a certain amount of healthy suspicion. 

Talking about leather, a few years ago I was on holiday in Marmaris. Whenever I get to Marmaris a visit to the bazaar is essential. I was on the look out for a leather jacket. After visiting a few shops and consuming a few glasses of hot apple tea. I found a jacket that I liked. There was a German tourist in the shop who was also trying on the same type of jacket. He asked about price. When he was told the price, I said it was more than I wanted to pay. The salesman said - wait a moment there is a price for the English and a special one for the Germans. It seems that Turks go to work in Germany and find that there is a great deal of hostility towards them. The Turks repay the Germans the compliment. I paid less than half the price that the German tourist paid.

The British people love giving derogative attributes to the Germans. As far as we are concerned they are arrogant, rude, smug and humourless. Yet at the same time, for some reason we love poking fun at ourselves and the Germans. 'Dads Army' was one such program on television. There is only one thing that is better that this. That's is to poke fun at the Frogs (Cuisses de Grenouille) and the Krauts (Sauerkraut)  at the same time, hence the popularity of Ello Ello. 

So it seems that whilst we had to put two fingers up at the French whilst giving them a sharp reminder at Agincourt. Which was after all a major English victory in the Hundred Years' War. Or having to put the little frog upstart in his place at Waterloo for calling us 'a nation of shop keepers'.  There is not much hope for a change for the better towards the Germans in the foreseeable future. Or is there. In this 2011 YouGov poll the English prove to be much more positive about the Germans than they are about the French. A majority of Britons – 61 per cent – view Germany as a friendly country, compared to just 40 per cent who see France in the same way.  


Friday 24 January 2014

Windows 7 Reinstall

I have had to do a re-install of windows on my laptop. Most new computers come with a version of windows pre-installed on the recovery partition on the hard drive. On switch on the computer will also prompt you to create a recovery disc, the first time it boots up.  So if you've done so then you can boot from the disc and restore the system. 

But like me, a lot of people skip this step either because they don't have a blank disc to hand, their PC doesn't have an optical drive or they're just feeling lazy. If you skipped this, you won't therefore have a recovery disc handy when things go wrong.

The problem with recovery partitions, is that one of the most common causes of PC problems is a failed hard drive. This means that in most cases if the worst happens the recovery partition will have gone AWOL, along with the rest of your data.

You can find the following Windows 7 versions to download on Digital River:
Once you've downloaded the appropriate ISO file from Digital River you can burn it to a DVD to create an install disc. Downloading like this has the added advantage that you get a version with the latest service pack rolled in, so you save time on doing updates once the install is done. Check the licence key label on your computer to ensure you get the right version of the OS for your system before you start to download. You will also need the windows licence key off the windows sticker. Make sure you have a note of your licence key handy - on laptops it's often written on a label underneath, making it hard to read and type in at the same time.

Because you've installed from full version media using an OEM key, you probably won't be able to activate Windows automatically afterwards. That's not a problem, you'll just have to use the telephone method. This will mean a few minutes dealing with an automated system, but it's a free call to get a code, then you'll be good to go.


Thursday 23 January 2014

Irena Sendler

I remember going to the cinema to watch 'Schindlers List' and being sickened by the brutality of the German labour camps during the war. Oscar Schindler was immortalised forever for the numbers of Jewish people he managed to save.

A few days ago, I read a story about Irena Sendler who was made of strong stuff. Irena was born as Irena Krzyżanowska in 1910 in Warsaw to Dr. Stanisław and Janina Krzyżanowski, a physician. Her father died in February 1917 from typhus contracted while treating patients whom his colleagues refused to treat in fear of contracting the disease, among the  patients were many Jews.

After his death, Jewish community leaders offered her mother Janina, help in paying for Irena's education. Sendler studied Polish literature at Warsaw University. She opposed the ghetto-bench system that existed at some prewar Polish universities and defaced her grade card. As a result of her public protest she was suspended from the University of Warsaw for three years.

In August 1943, Sendler who was now known by her 'war name' of Jolanta was nominated by the underground to head its Jewish children's section as an employee of the Social Welfare Department, she had a special permit to enter the Warsaw Ghetto to check for signs of typhus – something the Nazis feared would spread beyond the Ghetto. During these visits, she wore a Star of David as a sign of solidarity with the Jewish people and so as not to call attention to herself.

Irena and her co-workers organized the smuggling of Jewish children out of the Ghetto. Under the pretext of conducting inspections of sanitary conditions during a typhus outbreak, Sendler and her co-workers visited the Ghetto and smuggled out babies and small children in ambulances and trams, sometimes disguising them as packages. Children were often placed with Polish families, the Warsaw orphanage or Roman Catholic convents.  Sendler and her  group of about 30 volunteers helped rescue about 2,500 Jewish children.

Debórah Dwork, the Rose professor of Holocaust history at Clark University in Massachusetts and author of “Children With a Star” said "She [Sendler] was the inspiration and the prime mover for the whole network that saved those 2,500 Jewish children. She and her co-workers buried lists of the hidden children in jars in order to keep track of their original and new identities. Irena assured the children that, when the war was over, they would be returned to Jewish relatives."

In 1943, Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo, severely tortured, and sentenced to death. Irena was saved by bribing German guards on the way to her execution. She was listed on public bulletin boards as among those executed. For the remainder of the war, she lived in hiding, but continued her work for the Jewish children. After the war, she and her co-workers gathered together all of their records with the names and locations of the hidden Jewish children and gave them to their colleague Adolf Berman and his staff at the Central Committee of Polish Jews. However, almost all of their parents had been killed at the Treblinka extermination camp or gone missing.

In 1965, Irena Sendler was recognized by Yad Vashem as one of the Polish Righteous among the Nations. A tree was planted in her honour at the entrance to the Avenue of the Righteous at Yad Vashem. In 1965 Irena was also awarded the Commander's Cross by the Israeli Institute. In 2001 she was awarded the Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta. In 2003, Pope John Paul II sent Sendler a personal letter praising her wartime efforts. In 2003 she received the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest civilian decoration. In 2003 she received the Jan Karski Award, "For Courage and Heart" given by the American Center of Polish Culture. In 2007, she received the Order of the Smile an international award given by children, to adults distinguished in their love, care and aid for children. In 2009, Sendler was posthumously granted the Audrey Hepburn Humanitarian Award. The award, named in honor of the late actress and UNICEF ambassador, is presented to persons and organizations recognised for helping children.

In 2007, Sendler was honoured by the Polish Senate. Polish President Lech Kaczyński stated
"she can justly be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize". The Polish government presented her as a candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize. This initiative was officially supported by the State of Israel through its prime minister, Ehud Olmert, and the Organization of Holocaust Survivors in Israel residents. The authorities of Oświęcim (Auschwitz) expressed support for this nomination, because Irena Sendler was considered one of the last living heroes of her generation, and demonstrated a strength, conviction and extraordinary values against an evil of an extraordinary nature.

The Nobel Peace Prize 2007 was awarded to Vice President Al Gore. For a presenting a slide show on Global Warming. The controversial  'An Inconvenient Truth' is a documentary film made of Al Gore's slide show about global warming.   
In 2007, a group of global warming sceptics challenged the UK Government's distribution of the film in a lawsuit. Mr Justice Burton, ruled that 'An Inconvenient Truth' contained nine scientific errors. An Inconvenient Truth...Or Convenient Fiction? is an American documentary film by Steven F. Hayward, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Hayward set to address what he observed as inconsistencies in the film An Inconvenient Truth. Described as a "point-by-point PowerPoint rebuttal." In their review of the film sharing the inconsistencies of actual events when compared to the predictions of the Gore film, The American Spectator referred to the film as "a dose of reality."
Irena Sendler nee Krzyżanowska died in Warsaw on 12 May 2008, aged 98. Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory. Irena Sendler.

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Dog Owners Beware!

Just a heads up for boaters who own dogs.

Signs have been put in place in the New Forest warning dog owners about a little-known disease that has killed 17 dogs across Britain in recent months. The Forestry Commission notices tell owners to take their pet to a vet should it develop lesions on its legs, paws or face. Vets say the disease - which leads to kidney failure - is most likely "Alabama Rot", (Idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular disease) which was first seen in the US in the 1980s. The actual source of the disease is as yet unknown. However, the Environment Agency has ruled out chemical contamination in water supplies. Whilst the majority of the dogs that have died in the past year were in the New Forest, but there have been other instances in Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham. The notices say owners should take their dog to a vet even if the lesions appear a week after a walk.

Alabama Rot had been associated with greyhounds, but the deaths in Britain in the past year have affected a variety of breeds. David Walker, from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hursley, Winchester, said: "What I would say is that if you see a skin wound on your dog then don't just leave it. Ordinarily you might say I'll leave that for 24, 48 hours - I would say don't do that, get down to your local vet." Mr Walker said his practice first saw cases in December 2012 and since then vets had developed a "much better handle on what the disease is. There was a theory in the 1980s that Alabama Rot might be related to a toxin produced by E. coli bacteria, but his team had looked very hard for the bacteria and the toxin in infected dogs and not found either - so the 'trigger' of recent cases remained unknown."
There is some original research published in the late 80's Click Here A more up to date report is also available Click Here. So the lesson is: Any unexplained wound should be checked as a matter of urgency.

Tuesday 21 January 2014

Off my Trolley?

In the town where I spent my formative years. I can just about remember the trams running past our front door. They were later replaced by a trolley bus service. At the same time there was a more usual diesel engined bus service as well.  Because of the need for the overhead cables, many areas around the town were never equipped. There was the added complication of turning the bus around at the terminus. Sometimes the trolley bus pantograph would come off the overhead wire and the bus would come to a stop. Then a long bamboo pole was used by the conductor to reconnect the pantograph back onto the overhead line. The pole was stored in a long tube under the chassis of the bus. 

My abiding memory of the trolley bus was how quiet the buses were and the amazing turn of acceleration that was available. Nowadays the only place left where trolley buses can be seen, is the sea front at Blackpool. Where the trolley service still continues today. Its as much a visitor attraction as anything else.

Powering a trolley bus and the electric trains through overhead lines is one thing. Have you ever given any thought about utilising a canal barge that uses electrical power that gathered from an overhead power line. A system that would work much like the old trolley bus services did. It might seem to be an outlandish idea. But once upon a time it was a tried and tested way of replacing steam and horse drawn motive power.

Low Tech Magazine: 'For many centuries, canal boats were propelled by men, horses or mules on the towpath beside the water. Before diesel power took over, engineers developed several interesting methods powered by electricity: trolley boats, floating funiculars and electric mules. Many of these ecological solutions could be applied today instead of diesel engines. Because of the very low energy requirements, they could easily be powered by renewable energy, generated on the spot by water turbines located at sluices. One trolley boat line is still in use.'

Monday 20 January 2014

Frozen River Thames.

Sometimes its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the past. Reading old newspapers can throw up some interesting stories. In this instance 200 years ago the Thames was frozen. Here is what we would call today a public interest story.

Cheltenham Chronicle – Thursday 20 January 1814

A pig was yesterday seen sailing down the river Thames, between Westminster and Blackfriars Bridge on a large fragment of ice, with great gravity. He occasionally squeaked with a peculiar shrillness, which a waterman construed into a call for a pilot, he put off, and after a strong, contest with the floating masses of snow, succeeded in delivering the swinish navigator from his perilous situation. Whether he was not rescued from one death to meet another, is a question which no doubt has been already solved. It is conjectured that the animal was feeding on the banks of the river, and imprudently venturing too far on the ice in search of some delicious morsel, was carried away by the stream. 

Hopefully the pig was not disgruntled about its adventure!  


Sunday 19 January 2014

National Archive Podcasts (3)

I love history at a local, national and world levels. The National Archives contain some interesting records of British Imperialism around the world. There are also important records relating to life in the united kingdom. These records can also be used by anyone who is interested in genealogy. The documents come in all forms. I like to listen to the research outcomes in the form of lectures as the archives come under greater and greater scrutiny. The files are captured in MP3 format. There is obviously a bias towards history and family history in my choices.

In 1834 the British government introduced the Poor Law Amendment Act (the introduction of the 'Workhouse System'). This was one of the most important pieces of 19th century social legislation and it touched the lives of millions of ordinary men, women and children. Click Here to listen. 
This talk uses records of the law courts and government departments to describe the uneasy relationship between sport and the law, covering various sports including football, cricket, golf and horse racing. Click Here to listen.
How did a small group of men discussing democracy in the coffee houses of London of 1792 lead to one of the most sensational treason trials of the eighteenth century? Click Here to listen.
Jeff James discusses the records that reveal the dreadful reality of life on board prison hulks for the men, women and children detained on them. Click Here to listen.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Looking Back - Easter Island

Sometimes to get a good perspective on how things are stacking up. Its good to take a look back at what people were saying and doing in the recent past. Its called foresight or in some circles technology foresight. Much of the research into foresight techniques has been rather fuzzy work and has been very elitist. Foresight attempts to go beyond the normal and gather information from much more diverse sources. Foresight is intended to be used for long-range planning that's influenced by using a structured and systematic approach. Foresight is helpful to examine alternative paths and not just what is currently believed to be most likely or business as usual. Measuring how effective foresight is requires a benchmark. The benchmark to measure against, is what has taken place in the recent and distant past.

Looking Back this time - it's about Easter Island and our collective understanding of the issues surrounding the history of the tiny pacific island.

Our current perspective and understanding of Easter Island culture is as follows: The island is a small 63-square-mile patch of land more than a thousand miles from the next inhabited spot in the Pacific Ocean. In AD 1200 a small group of Polynesians made their way there, settled in and began to farm. When they arrived, the place was covered with trees as many as 16 million of them, some towering 100 feet high. These settlers were farmers, practicing slash-and-burn agriculture, they burned down woods, opened spaces, and began to multiply. Pretty soon the island had too many people, too few trees. Then within a few generations, the island had no trees at all.
The popular conception is echoed in Jared Diamond's book 'Easter Island' Jared said "Easter Island is the clearest example of a society that destroyed itself by overexploiting its own resources. Once tree clearing started, it didn't stop until the whole forest was gone. He called this self-destructive behavior "ecocide" and warned that Easter Island's fate could one day be our own.
When a Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggevin, happened by in 1722, he wrote that islanders didn't ask for food. They wanted European hats instead. And, of course, starving folks typically don't have the time or energy to carve and shove 70-ton statues around their island. When Captain James Cook visited some 52 years later in 1774, his crew counted roughly 700 islanders (from an earlier population of thousands), living marginal lives, their canoes reduced to patched fragments of driftwood. And that has become the lesson of Easter Island that we don't dare abuse the plants and animals around us, because if we do, we will, all of us, go down together. And yet, puzzlingly, these same people had managed to carve enormous statues almost a thousand of them, with giant, hollow-eyed, gaunt faces, some weighing 75 tons. The statues faced not outward, not to the sea, but inward, toward the now empty, denuded landscape. When Captain Cook saw them, many of these "moai" had been toppled and lay face down, in abject defeat.
That is as they say is the story, that the island civilisation collapsed. However, an alternative theory is that Easter Island was a success story. Because, Hawaiian anthropologists Terry Hunt and Carl Lipo say that the clans and families on Easter Island didn't fall apart. The island did become much more desolate. The ecosystem was severely compromised. And yet, say the anthropologists, Easter Islanders didn't disappear. They adjusted. They had no wood to build canoes to go deep-sea fishing. They had fewer birds to hunt. They didn't have coconuts. But they kept going on rat meat and small helpings of vegetables. They made do.

Professors Hunt and Lipo say fossil hunters and paleobotanists have found no hard evidence that the first Polynesian settlers set fire to the forest to clear land in what's called "large scale prehistoric farming." The trees did die, no question. But instead of fire, Hunt and Lipo blame rats. Polynesian rats (Rattus exulans) arrived on the island by some means. Hunt and Lipo say that once they landed, with no enemies and lots of palm roots to eat, they went on a binge, eating and destroying tree after tree, and multiplying at a furious rate. As the trees went, so did 20 other forest plants, six land birds and several sea birds. So there was definitely less choice in food, a much narrower diet, and yet people continued to live on Easter Island, and food, it seems, was not their big problem.

Archeologists who examined ancient garbage heaps on Easter Island looking for discarded bones found that 60 percent of the bones came from introduced rats. So it would seem that they had found a meat substitute. So if everybody was eating enough, why did the population go into deep decline. Probably, the professors say, from sexually transmitted diseases after Europeans came visiting. Humans are a very adaptable species. On Easter Island, people learned to live with less and forgot what it was like to have more. Maybe that will happen to us. There's a lesson here. If you're waiting for an ecological crisis to persuade human beings to change their troubled relationship with nature you could be waiting a long, long time."

Friday 17 January 2014

Rotherham by the sea.

The film starts on the canal quayside – Sheffield Basin, Victoria Quays – with barrels stacked on the side. Several boats and barges are shown, including one with ‘Hull’ on the side, moored under the Straddle Warehouse. There is another with ‘Good luck’ on the side, and a teenage boy sits on top of the canvas coverings. The captain of the barge unties the rope from the canal side and takes the lid off the funnel revealing the smoke coming out. The barge sets off with the boy at the steering wheel. The barge passes under two railway bridges, the second, Northern Rail./ They continue past a signal box and then under the bridge taking the St Bernard Road. The barge passes under other bridges as it makes its way along the Sheffield-TinsleyCanal through Attercliffe. Factories can be seen on either side. - See more at:

Is Rotherham a Seaport Town?

This is an early colour film made in 1959 by Charles Chislett documenting a trip by barge along the Tinsley Canal and then by trip boat from Rotherham. The trip continues on along the River Don as far as the site of the Swinton flood lock. The full version of the film goes through to Thorne.

To watch the film Click Here The film starts on the canal quayside at Sheffield Basin now called the Victoria Quays. Cargo in the form of barrels are stacked on the side. (0:28) Two other boats and barges are shown, including one with ‘Hull’ on the side, moored under the Straddle Warehouse. There is a barge named ‘Good Luck’ (0:33) and a teenage boy sits on top of the canvas coverings. The skipper of the barge unties the rope from the canal side and removes part of the funnel so that the barge can pass under some of the low bridges.

The barge sets off with the boy at the steering wheel. The barge passes under two railway bridges, one is the electrified ' Great Central' line to Manchester, the other is the Midland railway.(1:24) They continue past a signal box and then under the bridge at Bernard Road. (1:58) It's a tight squeeze under the bridge. There are stories told of the need for crowbars if the level was up by a small amount. On the left is a steel works with someone looking through a window. (2:20) Note that there is a coal lift on the side of the building. (2:48) Then passes a building with an illuminated sign 'Coronet' on the top, plus a lamp post with a crown.

They pass under Pinfold bridge (2:32) and old canal buildings, including ‘Wilford and Co.’ The barge passes under the (3:08) Bacon Lane bridge which is another tight squeeze, as it makes its way along the Tinsley Canal through Attercliffe. Several steel factories can be seen on either side.

As they pass under Shirland Lane bridge, two young boys wave from a wall behind some terraced houses. (3:37) Its a sign of the times that such youngsters would not be out on their own today.

(3:49) The canal passes over Worksop road by way of an aqueduct.

(3:59) A passenger train, pulled by a steam locomotive, goes by on the left. Brown Bailey steel works in the background.

(4:15) Then Tinsley top lock (1) is opened. There is a glimpse of the railway sidings of TW Ward which can be seen in the background on the right in Carbrook.

The barge then pass through several more locks. (5:57) lock number 2 (what is now the top pond mooring at Tinsley marina)

(5:37) Lock number 3 (what is now the bottom pond at Tinsley Marina) in the Tinsley Flight.

(6:22) Lock number 5 with a lock keepers house that has now gone.

(6:41) Lock number 7/8 with Edgar Allen steel works in the background.

(6:50) Lock number 9. Sheffield Road Bridge and the Plumpers pub in the background.

Then with the two cooling towers of Blackburn Meadows Power Station. (6:56) Lock number 10 with Tinsley rolling mills to the left. Waiting for 'Clarence T' to exit the lock.

(7:14) A steam locomotive passes over the Halfpenny railway bridge, where the canal meets the River Don.

(7:18) There is a line of barges moored up being filled with coal. All that is left now are the huge mooring rings in the old wharf.

At this point the film edit goes out of sequence. The next two items should be swapped around.

(7:23) There is a large factory on the right which is the Steel Peach and Tozer steel works at Templeborough, which is now the site of Magna)

(7:26) Jordans Weir. Jordans lock is not shown in the film.

The skipper blows a horn (7:39) approaching Holmes lock.

(7:40) Approaching Ickles Lock. The water is still as fierce in the lock even today.

(7:50) The Steel Peach and Tozer steel works chimneys 'known locally as the 'seven sisters' are in the background.

(7:53) The confluence of the canal and the River Don. There are more factories as well as the steeple of All Saints’ Parish Church, Rotherham in the background, now Rotherham Minster.

(7:57) on the left is Guest and Chrimes brass founders.

(7:59) looking towards the river weir in Rotherham. I remember seeing a boat stuck on the weir around 1956/57 ish.

(8:03) Barge leaving Rotherham town lock. The old changeover bridge has been replaced with a footbridge. The lock keepers house has been demolished.

(8:13 ) A barge is being loaded with coal. A truck can be seen tipping coal from the Fenton drift mine located about three miles to the north. The coal is tipped down a chute and into a canal barge.

(8:21) The 'water gypsy' trip boat arrives below Rotherham town lock.

(9:38) A large group of people, mainly women, are chatting together on the canal side. The is at the site of the Rotherham Grand Central railway station. The group boards a trip boat Water Gypsy outside the 'North Notts Farmers' building. The rest of the film is taken from this boat. It moves off with the passengers waving to a passing steam train.

(9:58) A boat can be seen through the bridge hole moored at the Rotherham Wharf.

(10:15) The demolished Conisborough Lock, The film at this point must be out of sequence. This one has a white house next to it, and the film shows the lock being opened and closed.

(10:33) Eastwood lock.

(12:22) Wash Lane Bridge with the cracks even then. Now replaced by a new bridge.

(12:28) Aldwark Lock.

(13:01) The river is full of foam where it has passed over Wash lane weir. It was a common sight to see foam on the water at this point.

(13:50) Barge 'Goodwill' sister to barge 'Good Luck' taking on cargo at the coal stage.

(14:21) The now disused lock at Kilnhurst, is filled with foam. Now replaced with a flood lock.

Thursday 16 January 2014

The Richard Parry Bursary.

The big news story on the canal is the treatment that 'Maggie' the evicted boater received. The real problem within this issue is that there was no one who was 'Maggie's Friend'. By friend I don't mean a friend in the traditional way. What I mean is a nominated friend, someone within the trust. Someone who has an overview view of the situation and an in depth awareness of all the issues. As  Peter Humphreys (Explaining Maggie) clearly points out Maggie has problems that even she is not aware of. But the bottom line is Maggie has feelings and is much more vulnerable than most. We all should be dealing with her, with dignity.

Even to a crusty old curmudgeon like myself, the issues surrounding Maggie and her choice of lifestyle is obviously a very complex one. I don't actually know whether Maggie is still suffering from a mental breakdown, or in recovery from a breakdown. Maybe her situation is developing as a result of some other illness. However from her reported behaviour it was apparent that Maggie is very much at some risk. This should have been ringing alarm bells and alerting the trust. Here was someone who requires special handling. Not a section 8 seizure of her home and her only place where she feels safe. This sort of action might well send her deeper into stress and what remains of her to spiral into much deeper depression. I feel outraged that she is just left standing on the towpath for someone else to pick up the pieces or possibly a far worse outcome.

The trust is now seen to have an uncompromising attitude and strict adherence to a set of formal rules. The social services who are seemingly unwilling or unable to step-in and make a formal assessment of her state of mind. There are all sorts of formalities and hoops for Maggie to jump through even if she wanted to help herself. But it seems that she is obviously very frightened and understandably confused. When in such a state of mind, through illness or otherwise. Maggie and her behaviour in such circumstances is perfectly understandable. Maggie sees no one as a friend in her current mindset everyone is a threat. Maggie should be considered for sectioning and her treatment assessed by competent people. These are isolated, frightened, vulnerable and possibly bewildered boaters who are in fact our neighbours. Yet they are seemingly invisible in our community. 

I am going to offer another one of my out of the box solutions. I would like to see the establishment of the Canal and River Trust 'Richard Parry Bursary'. Available in times of need to those unfortunate few who have fallen through societies safety nets. The trust should not be adding to the problems but setting an example of the best kind. The welfare officer when appointed should be able to call upon the funds in the bursary in times of need. The bursary would give the vulnerable person some piece of mind and also give the trust additional time to address the complicated issues. The trust needs to learn the valuable lessons from this situation.

The trust's Chief Executive Richard Parry has stated that he will now be personally involved in reviewing all future cases involving illness prior to action being taken to evict boaters from the waterways. I commend Richard for his actions on this occasion, I am actually cock-a-hoop that someone has grasped the nettle.  However, the Canal and River Trust has still not agreed that it will meet its legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 not to apply its enforcement procedures in a way that discriminates against people.  As Pam Pickett has already said (Maggie - warts and all) Trustee Lynne Berry's has all the credentials needed with regard to the General Social Care Council and the Equal Opportunities Commission at her elbow. That is something for the Trustees under the chairmanship of Lynne Berry to address. The mantra of certain waterways mangers 'we are not social workers' just to conveniently absolve themselves from any notion of responsibility is no longer acceptable. I know that anyone with a scintilla of compassion would want to see the trust coming to aid the vulnerable, not adding to their problems. 

We don't know who will be next to have similar health problems to Maggie. It could be me, it could be you.  It could be someone we hold dear, it could be one of our boating friends. More than likley it will be a complete stranger, someone we have never met, but we still owe it to them to get it right. I hope that Maggie can get the much needed help she so desperately needs.