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Thursday, June 29, 2006

And after there was Google...

How a geek saves himself from drowning...

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Long before there was Google

From its first publication in 1858 and well into the 20th Century, for answers to the common questions of everyday life many people referred to the handy reference book Enquire Within Upon Everything first published by Houlston and Sons of London. The 1905 front page declares "Whether You Wish to Model a Flower in Wax; to Study the Rules of Etiquette; to Serve a Relish for Breakfast or Supper; to Plan a Dinner for a Large Party or a Small One; to Cure a Headache; to Make a Will; to Get Married; to Bury a Relative; Whatever You May Wish to Do, Make, or to Enjoy, Provided Your Desire has Relation to the Necessities of Domestic Life, I Hope You will not Fail to 'Enquire Within.' "—Editor.
There were many editions over the years and I have in my possession the 1905, one hundred and second edition and the 113th edition dated 1923. These books were really popular at the time and can still be found in second-hand bookshops in the UK. Many items, to our 21st Century eyes just seem quaint and some others quite bizarre and I intend to quote a few in the blog from time to time.

For now here is the 1905 item: Dr Clark’s Pills for Nervous Headaches. – Socotrine aloes, powdered rhubarb, of each one drachm; compound powder of cinnamon, one scruple; hard soap, half a drachm; syrup enough to form the mass. To be divided into fifty pills, of which two will be sufficient for a dose; to be taken occasionally. By the 1923 Edition the Headache item starts: Aspirin…is prescribed as an anti-rheumatic remedy and for relief of headaches and other pains. It should be taken only under the supervision of a medical man.
And here, now don’t even think to use this if the occasion arises, is the 1905 treatment for Drowning: “Attend to the following essential rules: -
1. Lose no time.
2. Handle the body gently.
3. Carry the body face downwards with the head gently raised, and never hold it up by the feet.
4. Send for medical attention immediately, and in the meantime act as follows
5. Strip the body, rub it dry; then wrap it in hot blankets and place it in a warm bed in a warm room.
6. Cleanse away the froth and mucus from the mouth.
7. Apply warm bricks, bottles, bags of sand &c., to the armpits, between the thighs and to the soles of the feet.

And so the article goes on….and finishes with:
Cautions: Never rub the body with salt or spirits. Never roll the body on casks. Continue the remedies for twelve hours without ceasing.

The Amazing Clock

Move your mouse around to try it!

Regular visitors will notice that I have changed the Template for my blog again. I hope you approve.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pillow Lavas in the Welsh Mountains

If lava flows from a volcanic vent under seawater the margins of the rock cool quickly and form great pillows of basalt. The underwater photo is from the internet, but the other is an example we found in an exposure of very ancient rock near the Cregennen lakes in North Wales last Saturday.

My Photos of the Day

I had some good results over last weekend. Here is a close up of en emerging bracken frond and a view from the Roman Steps - an ancient, probably not Roman stone paved trackway over a mountain pass near Harlech. From these it seems I've got more to learn about landscapes than close-ups with my new camera. There are so many possible settings.

Monday, June 26, 2006

My Photo of the Day

Arrived home very late and so just the one photo for now from my trip to Wales.
More later with some explanations of what we saw.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Plans for the Weekend

Off to explore the Harlech Dome tomorrow, staying over with the WEGA Geology group for two nights. Should be an interesting visit led by a very knowledgeable man from Swansea University. Back to Bristol on Sunday night. The Harlech Dome is an area of very old Cambrian rocks to the south of Snowdonia.
Here is a J M W Turner painting of Snowdonia from the
National Gallery of Scotland.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Really sad news today.

Beached whale catcher at Grytviken in South Georgia - November 2005

At the risk of being labelled a sentimentalist, I declare that today's news from St Kitts has saddened me. Pro-whaling nations have won their first vote towards the resumption of commercial whaling for 20 years. The International Whaling Commission meeting in St Kitts has backed a resolution calling for the eventual return of commercial whaling by a majority of just one vote.
Whaling had been a fact of life, my Children's Encyclopedia had pictures of whaling as a valid industry and in Britain we had been used to margarine and other products containing whale oil. Even in the 1960's I remember seeing whale catcher ships on the docks of several Norwegian ports and thinking nothing of the sight. I now know so much more about whales, their intelligence, longevity and slow reproductive rates among other things.
Why start again? Populations of many if not most species had been reduced to near extinction levels due to the improvements in the location of whales and in the exploding harpoon by the middle years of the 20th Century and the massive industry then more or less stopped. Japan and other pro-whaling nations would now have us belive that recovered whale numbers are damaging commercial fish stock and must be managed.
These days the growing industry of ecotourism allows many people the thrill of watching whales in their natural habitat and in the knowledge that the remaining whale catching nations only take whales "for scientific purposes." [Norway doen't even use that excuse!]
Have a look [and listen] to this and join me in doing what you can to save the whales.

Stonehenge carried by Ice?

It has been accepted wisdom for so long that the ancient stones of Stonehenge were dragged and rafted there by human action from the Precelli Hills in South Wales, an amazing task even with today's technology. A new theory emerges stating that the stones had been carried to the area by the natural action of glaciers then trimmed thousands of years later by the ancient British. I wouldn't like to bet on either theory, but what else is there? ;-)
Have a look at the BBC link.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

My Photo of the Day

Well fed Teal at Slimbridge last winter.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rock Art in the Western Cape

In December 2002 I visited Cape Town and while there went to the Cedarburg Mountains. It was far too hot then to do the full walk which takes in many other sites but I was determined to do a little exploring to see some of the Rock Art of the San people who formerly occupied this mostly wilderness area. Please compare my photo above with the middle photo of this linked page.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Picture of the Day and an old formula

Sheep on the Bryn - Shropshire/ Welsh Border Country.

Nothing to do with sheep, but I'm probably in for something bad to happen this week! You probably don't want to know this, but I cut my fingernails last Sunday and have just read the following old rhyme!

When to Pare the Nails

  • Cut them on Monday, cut them for health.
  • Cut them on Tuesday, cut them for wealth.
  • Cut them on Wednesday, cut for a letter.
  • Cut them on Thursday, for something better.
  • Cut them on Friday, you cut for a wife.
  • Cut them on Saturday, cut for long life.
  • Cut them on Sunday, you cut for evil,
  • For all of that week, you'll be ruled by the devil.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dialects and the Treasures of Britain

As all will know, there still is a rich variation in accent and dialect to be found in the different parts of the UK. In the British Library Collections we can freely sample local voices online and also view writings and images in many differerent and fascinating categories as you will see. Many of the 650 recordings were made in the 1950's and sometimes later recordings can be compared to hear the shift towards more standard english.
To hear a particular Dialect open the website; go to Advanced Search, then choose the option to search by Place Name or Postcode, Enter. Type in the name of a place in England, for instance: Dudley [in the West Midlands, heart of the Black Country], then scroll down to Object Type, and choose Recorded Speech, then click on search. I found two recordings, the first of which is:

Quarry Bank Dudley. Roy talks about his early work driving the pit ponies at the Beech Tree Colliery in the 1940s. ...

Turn your sound on and Click the recording and it will play for you. Choose whatever place you like and recordings from that or nearby places can be found. Fascinating I hope you agree.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bristol's Finest

Recently we had the excellent news that the SS Great Britain has been awarded the prestigious Gulbenkian Award and I can do no better than to quote: "It combines a truly groundbreaking piece of conservation, remarkable engineering and fascinating social history plus a visually stunning ship above and below the water line. Most importantly, the ss Great Britain is accessible and highly engaging for people of all ages." Lord Robert Winston, Chairman of the Gulbenkian judges 2006.
I have been on board several times over the years but not since the latest phase of conservation. In fact I had thought to myself that considering the state of the rusty ironwork and rotten wood within the ship, that I could never be saved, given our often damp climate. I was of course wrong and so much has been done over the last few years.
When I was in Port Stanley six months ago I saw the mizzen mast of the ship [top photo] and this gives some idea of the state of preservation at the start of the project. Now the ship has six splendid new masts and provides a fine view as one drives into Bristol city from the west along Hotwells Road. [bottom picture]

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Adventure & Travel with the Cerise Cover

I've bought a new mug!

When Penguin first published their books in 1935, they had very plain covers for the instantly popular and cheaply priced paperbacks. For many years (off and on) I have been collecting "Pink Penguins", officially Cerise, which denoted Travel & Adventure. The main other colours were Green for Mystery & Crime and Orange for Fiction, though Penguin No.1 was Dark Blue for Biography: Ariel (A life of Shelley) by Andre Maurois.

By the late 1950's plain covers gave way to pictures but still with a penguin in a cerise background on the spine, then by the mid-1960's the familiar penguin logo was all that remained; colour coded no longer. My collection started many years ago with the two volume edition of Apsley Cherry-Garrard's The Worst Journey in the World which led me to an enduring interest in polar exploration. I now have a nearly complete set of the Travel & Aventure Penguins and many other Polar books in my collection.

Together is interesting. Published first in hardback in 1923 (Penguin Edition No 502 in 1945) Norman Douglas has a companion "Mr R." which, unknown to the general reader, was actually a 15-year-old Italian, René - Douglas was 55 by then, though the book is not in any way overtly homosexual; that would have been impossible to publish in Britain at that time. It is an account of their travels in Austria. In another of his books Fountains in the Sand he travels to Tunisia which he portrayed as formerly prosperous in the days of the ancient empires, but at the time of his visit in 1912 sadly decayed, due in Douglas's view to the "fatalism of Mahomet and his religion".

Saturday, June 10, 2006

A visit into Prehistory

I was pleasantly surprised that a brilliant website that I found a few years ago hasn't substantially changed. Do have a look at the French GovernmentArchaeology site and in particular the Caves of Lascaux in virtual reality. There is a replica visitor centre near the actual cave but it is impossible now to visit the real cave because of the the further degradation that would occur if thousands of people were tramping through. Go there in cyberspace but... bring a torch!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Peeping over the Parapet

The World Cup starts today in Germany. For those of my friends in North America I might need to explain that this is the Soccer World Cup. I get some back chat here if I call football "soccer" but that is what we called it at school in London many years ago. Very many people in England are fanatical football supporters, for their local team, for a league or Premiership side AND for the National Team. Sales of England replica kit and other souvenirs have already broken all records this year and our Supermarkets have aisles full of shirts, mugs, boots, caps and pretty much anything else to which one can apply the "Red Cross on a White Background" flag of St George for England, including crates and crates of lager beer.

I for one wish the England team well, but confess to be less than enthusiastic about the month long event. As British, (Welsh and English ancestry) and with a sponsored child in Paraguay I have mixed allegiances. Wales did not qualify and Paraguay play England in their first round match tomorrow.

I am sure that sportsmanship prevails between all the teams now assembling in Germany, but I fear that English supporters may let us all down. Thousands are on the way to Germany or are planning football watching sessions in their local pubs throughout this country and a significant number of so called supporters will be spoiling for a fight at the slightest opportunity. Let us all hope that the tournament will be a great and memorable one for all the right reasons.

My Photo of the Day

The River Wye near Symonds Yat.

Another beautiful sunny morning here in Bristol. It's a shame I have to go into work, but there it is.

I'll drive there as I still have the lingering symptoms of a cold but that is the only excuse for not cycling to work this week. Maybe next!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

My Photo of the Day

Yesterday was my Bithday and so I took the day off and had a drive out of Bristol to see friends, returning in the evening in time to go to my regular Geology class and learn all about stratigraphy again. This beginners/refresher course is run by a very knowledgeable Dr Allan Insole who lectures for the full two hours with many slides illustrating the subject. I had last studied Geology in the 1980's with the Open University and find that there have been some improvenents and clarifications to the science over that time.
Anyway - here is a geological photo to greet the day! It's the Gullet Quarry pool at the southern end of the Malvern Hills, some of the oldest rocks in Britain.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Ducking Stool

This is the famous ducking stool used for punishing rogue market traders, witches and it seems anyone who transgressed accepted behaviour. It is kept at Leominster Priory Church and was last used in 1809. Here is a link to Crime and Punishment in Herefordshire

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Puzzle and a Rainbow

A friend of mine in Canada to whom I am distantly related has just sent me a link to an interesting early 20th Century picture postcard of a level crossing at the village of Bucknell in South Shropshire. The card had been sent to J. Herbert Esq of Chipping Norton in 1905 and the coded message reads: - “17.3.05. DD Kutu & mjof bt I’wf cffo litle up xsjuf gps & gbqbs xjui Csbttig’t xfeejoh go. Upu xfu mispoki mbtu npo & Tbu, po uif sproet. Mjab’t ysui eby po Uivst. mbtu (67). Tifoe npsf jeg. Rypus ujfxt po uif mbtftu. 494.”
I've had a go at translating the code, but some words seem easy some don't. Have a go!
Coincidentally I went to Bucknell last summer, and took a photo from the same level-crossing because of the remarkable horizontal rainbow showing against the distant hillside. See also GEOGRAPH LINK.
Here are both pictures