Sunday, December 25, 2005

God's gift for Christmas? (click for audio)

On the day that Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, I think its fair to take out a few moments to think about the whole issue of the claims of Christianity itself.

As I was working today, I was challenged again by hearing one of our interviews with a special guest called John Blanchard. John has spoken at my Church a few times and he speaks articulately for the evangelical view that faith is based on relationship, not religion.

I have posted John's interview on this page and it makes interesting listening to anyone who may consider the importance or existence of God at this time.

To listen to the audio, please click on the TITLE of this post and may I wish people of all faiths and none, a very peaceful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Tis the season to be merry

Click the ^^^^^title^^^^^ to see festive house lights taken to the next level

The music you hear also plays to accompany the christmas lights but after many people simply camped outside the house for front row seats the owners had to pull the plug.

...No wonder the USA contributes 25% towards global warming, I've a funny feeling theres a good 10-15% going up in lights right there :-)

Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Vatican Photographs

For the last few days I have been in Rome, fulfilling a long time ambition to visit the Vatican. I am not a Roman Catholic but for anyone who's vaguely interested in Church History. St Peter's must be top of the list of places to visit.

Its the worlds largest Church in the worlds smallest country and although there are bigger golf courses than the whole Vatican state itself, you'll be hard pressed to find other places which such a great and varied collection of art and sculpture.

Anyone who wants to see some of photographs from my visit may do so by clicking on the "Vatican Photographs" text above the banner at the top of this entry.

Friday, December 09, 2005

The value of God?

I arrived home today to find my latest coin had arrived for my collection. This is a special coin with a special story.

Coin collecting may not be everyone's cup of tea but most people can identify with some coin or other. Some coins seem rather normal but others ooze intrigue and interest after a few hundred years underground or even underwater.

Whether its pirates pieces of eight or medieval coinage from the darkest streets of London, I love wondering about the history behind these tiny discs of metal. If only they could speak. Whose hands could of held them?

My new coin certainly falls into this category. It was minted around 35AD in Jerusalem and its a standard shekel which would have been changed at the temple into temple money (this was coinage bearing no idololoturous imagery). The old coins would never be used in the house of God.

Problems soon arose however as people who changed this money soon realised that they could charge a premium for doing so. Over time, the cost of changing coinage grew and grew meaning that poorer people couldn't afford the better offerings once inside.

It was this system which angered Jesus greatly. On one occasion He stormed through the temple, turning over the money tables as he went "This is supposed to be a house of prayer..." He said "but you have turned it into a den of thieves!"

What's it worth?

This coin is also very special for another reason. Although its minted approximately two years after the crucifixion of Jesus, this coin is the same type as the infamous '30 pieces of silver'. This was the price for which Judas agreed to betray Christ to the authorities. As I held this coin for the first time today, I wondered for what price I betray the faith which I claim? The coin looks so small especially in comparison to the life of a man yet sometimes people seem to betray their beliefs for even less than this.

For anyone who's interested. This coin is valued today at £186.28 which means that using the same '30 piece rule' the price on the head of Jesus would be £5588.40.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Today at Old Trafford

A few days after the death of one of the greatest footballers of all time, tributes are continuing to grow outside one of his old clubs, Manchester United

I was outside the ground taking photographs for work. I arrived just after lunch and was amazed to see most of the pavement in front of the ground occupied with all kinds of tributes and messages from members of the public.
George Best certainly lived up to his name, he was a great footballer during his day and he was probably the first 'modern' footballing superstar. His private life may well have been checkered by alcohol abuse, bust ups and court appearances but the UK people watched with sadness as George Best failed to recover from a complicated and protracted illness.

Largely thanks to the media, everyone can identify with death if they have followed the story via the news channels. We have heard all the details and even seen pictures from his bedside so it is no wonder that when the news came on Friday, lots of people were genuinely saddened. I was also saddened by that fact that after his Doctor had given him 24 hours to live, George best would have been able to read his obituary in the paper the next day. I can't help but wonder why the media chose to make as much of this as they did. It has been said that people from the UK now show collective grief on an unhealthy scale at times like this and whether this is true or not. It has probably been largely fueled by the hourly updates on his condition which were broadcast for two or three days solid.

George Best will definitely be remembered for his football, but like some footballers of today he seems to have been the 'flawed genius' He struggled off the pitch in many ways but according to those who met him, he was a gentleman who had time for most people. Over the last few days most people at Old Trafford made time for George Best. They carefully looked over the masses of cards, scarves and shirts which have been place outside the ground.

I felt strangely moved by being there today. Not just by the awareness that someone from the media spotlight, to whom I had become attached has died, but was also moved by watching other people as they came to be a part of what was happening. I spoke with a family from Glasgow who had come to lay flowers and I also spoke with a man from Nigeria who seemed deeply moved by what he was seeing even though he was unaware as to who George Best was.

As I left and as I look back over my photographs, I am challenged in many ways. What makes a hero? Why can so many people seem to be so affected by events such as these and why is our society so defunct when people obviously care so much? Whatever the answers to questions like these are, my thoughts and prayers rest with Georges family.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Bush's 'exit strategy' needs a re-think

Its not looking good for President Bush. Not only can he not get out of Iraq, he's now having problems getting out of press conferences too.

A few days ago, Mr Bush tried to make a hasty exit from a press call which was part of his trip to China. He refused to answer a follow up question asked by one of the journo's and tried to make good his escape by exiting stage left pronto.

He was met by a set of imposing double doors, which despite the full weight of the Presidency being brought to bear, refused to move. Much like Chinese policy on Human Rights really. For a split second, it looked like the President's "third way" thinking was being employed to a problem that generally is solved by either a push or a pull. Rather than haranguing the cornered victim, the press pointed out that the President had, in fact entered the room from behind a curtain.

Mr Bush joked "I was trying to escape. Obviously, it didn't work" He then made a generally more successful attempt at both leaving the room and ducking the question.

As the Presidents 'general awareness' was maybe, unfairly seized upon by the amused onlookers. I was reminded of some other political 'gaffes' which have taken place. You'll be pleased to hear that I've included pictures where possible.

1992: Dan Quayle and the 'Potato Kid'
Remember this? The Vice President was keen to 'correct' William Figueroa's spelling mistakes in front of the press. However, adding an 'e' onto potato turned out to be 'chips' for the big guy. Quayl(e) was Bush senior's VP at the time although both would be replaced by Clinton and Gore. (he does look a bit like Bill Gates though)

John Prescott "appears to throw a punch"
This is the moment when the Deputy Prime Minister to Tony Blair decided that the best way to deal with hecklers was to hit them. Admittedly the guy who was on the end of this political jab (pundits noticed it was 'to the right' of usual policy) had just thrown an egg at Mr Prescott. His PR people must have worked overtime to try to fix this mess. Remarkably, the public sided with Mr Prescott and his approval rating increased after this incident, mind you, I wouldn't like to tell him otherwise would you? It was also great to see how the news channels reported the incident too... Along with those pictures came the caption "Prescott appears to throw punch". Who says the days of investigative journalism are over?

Even the : can't redeem this one!
Its back to Bush I'm afraid! (and not a Segway in sight!). This one isn't really his fault but even one of the harshest punctuation marks available is unable to save the poor President here. I'm not quite sure who actually writes these things but I'm sure that in retrospect, this may have been phrased differently. When this was originally aired on UK TV, its reported that someone added that "The Hurricanes been pretty bad too"

John Gummer's fast food fiasco
Its 1990 and the UK is gripped by the fear of BSE. Mad Cow disease is crippling sales of beef so the Tory government minister decides that the best way to show people how safe it is to eat meat is to publicly 'force feed' his four year old daughter a nice wholesome burger in front of the press. It's fair to say that the results are mixed. No one was quite sure that the beefburgers in question were actually fit for human consumption aside from BSE and the public seemed 'edgy' over the use of children in politicking. Why didn't he just kiss babies like most of them do?

Its back to 'Bush Bashing' I'm afraid for these last two
President George W. Bush has certainly been dragged over the coals as far as the press go. His image has not been entirely wholesome and once the media have it in for you, its difficult to shake the satirical stereotypes. That said, this President has encountered his fair share of bumps and bruises, cuts and calamities, most of which seem to have been captured by photographers or shown on live TV to a global audience. One which enjoyed plenty of airtime was when the President fell off his Segway scooter. In all fairness, I think most Segway riders have done exactly the same The physics is simple really: stop and you fall off.

Bush's mishaps on two wheels has inspired many cartoons and email attachments like this one.

And finally I must leave you with this. It seems that as long has we have politicians who are human (and make mistakes), we'll also always have 'photoshoppers' and bloggers such as myself to, sometimes unfairly pass comment.

Going down?

I am concerned, I am very concerned. First it was computer code breaking, then it was phone phreaking. Next came spamming and computer 'conning' but now as I trawl through the wonderful www, I have been shocked, no stunned; to find a new type of mechanical exploitation which is gaining popularity. Move over cash machines! Here comes elevator 'hacking'.

Picture this, you are on the top floor of your hotel and its checkout time. You can't really use the stairs with your luggage but you know that the lift will need to stop several times on its journey from the top to the ground floor... What a pity!

Now imagine you are on the 20th floor, Halfway down. You too need to check out and you also have luggage. You notice that the elevator is on the top floor so you press the call button, expecting the elevator to stop and pick you up as part of its journey. The numbers decrease 30, 29,28... You grab your bags 23,22,21. You step forward and wait for the reassuring ping accompanied by door movement but what's this? It just sails past.... Swwiisshhh! 19,18,17......1

The elevator has been 'hijacked' by some unscrupulous 'easy rider' who has 'expressed' his way from the top floor to checkout in time. This vertical 'joy rider' has circumnavigated the circuitry and broken the elevator code of ethics to save his skin while you have to wait 10 mins for the lift to go back up then pick you up on the way down again but how can this be?

It amazing what bloggers write about...

Allow me to quote from an unnamed source. "You can 'hack' the elevator quite easily. This will work on early all the lifts, even those with a key for service mode. The only lifts that this won't work on is the 1992 Otis models along with the Desert Elevators ELD5433 and ELF3655.

Now at this point, I'm not sure what is most disturbing, the fact that there are people who are prepared to actually do this, or that there are people who have taken the time to research lift model numbers and specifications. Frankly I'd rather 'save face' and visit a few more floors on my journey, but hey!

The blogger continues "your 'laughing' if its the Dover (Model Numbers: EL546 And ELOD862), cos I've tested this personally" He finishes with "This is a rather fun hack, so the next time you are on an elevator, give it a try, you have nothing to lose, And this concludes Hacking Elevators 101!"

Beating life's ups and downs?

So what's the secret to squeezing those seconds from your journey time while thoroughly frustrating the other 27 people left standing? We'll I'm not actually going to say. The reason for my post here is to write about what others have written, it isn't to 'spread the good news'

Suffice to say, what next? Will we be overclocking toasters or maybe hacking precise medical instruments to see if theres a hidden 'game' in there somewhere? It seems to me that wherever technology is concerned, there's always someone (usually with a blog too) to exploit and manipulate the rules either for fun or in this case, for that ultimate 'high'.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

42 Years ago today...

November the 22nd 1963 saw the assassination of the 35th President of the United states of America. 42 years later, his death is not only remembered. Its still affecting the country.

Conspiracy theories aside, the death of Kennedy marked a turning point in US history. Much like 911, America changed on 1122 too. The establishment felt vulnerable and over the coming months, the USA would change its foreign policies away from peace to war.

Of course, no-one can really say what would have happened if the bullets had gone a foot to the left but after the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedys near-miss with nuclear holocaust, it seemed that he was keen to broker peace with communist Russia, and quickly. Kennedy also seemed luke-warm over Vietnam, maybe to the point of withdrawing troops.

If Kennedy had lived and if peace with Russia had come 20 years earlier and if Americas involvement with Vietnam had not been so substantial, maybe we'd live in a very different world. It was Kennedy who vowed to put a man on the Moon and he never saw it. Maybe if he had, then we would not have seen the cold war continue and the USA become what it has. Maybe we wouldn't be looking at the USA as global 'defenders' and maybe we wouldnt be looking at war in Iraq?

I leave you with this, its based on US Congress figures as to the cost of the continued conflict in Iraq to the US taxpayer. Ironically, the first human casualty could have lost his life 42 years ago?

Monday, November 21, 2005

Phones from the future?

you may not give it a second glance but ever since I picked up my new mobile, I couldn't help thinking I'd seen it somewhere before.

But similarities aside, does this phone warp us to new planets never seen before in phoneland or does the Razr look sharp but fail to cut the mustard? No-one can deny that Motorola's new Razr is a slick looking piece of kit. Barely the thickness of your actual telephone bill and certainly slimmer than its manual, the V3 looks good. The aesthetics also carry over to the 'feel' too. The phone is so thin, it has to be made of metal and the device certainly seems sturdy and strong with no 'squeaky battery compartment syndrome' which seems to blight many other handsets once you get to grips with them. Both the screens on the V3 are also great, so could this be the perfect phone? Does it operate as well as it opens?

I had to change my phone, by necessity not choice. Previously I had a Nokia 9500 which may have had all the character (and weight) of a housebrick but delivered well in the usability stakes. It was a sad day when after a freak 'droppage', the phone slowly began to disintegrate, plastic cover first. This was also coupled with a trip to the beach where the tide came in and the speakerphone function went out. I truly was sad to consign my N9500 to the mobile phone 'purgatory' which is my bedside drawer, containing such delights as a Nokia 702 (my first love), a Nokia 1700 (my first hate), a Sony Ericsson p800 (with cracked LCD screen) and a SE k700i (disappointing apart from the radio).

With all this hardware to hand, I think I know what I'm looking for in a mobile. The N9500 came really close to perfection for me with a great keyboard and fab software (albeit sllooww!) The Razr does suffer from bland 'in-screen' presentation but for me, that's just about where the bad features end.

This phone delivers really well, The beautiful chemically etched keypad lights up ethereally and entices you to get pressing its comfortably sized buttons and although the menus seem lengthy, the features are good with a built in VGA camera (buy a proper one if you want a real camera) and usable bluetooth capabilities and connection options.

Not only did I love my N9500 for its keyboard, I liked the calendar too. The V3 has a calendar, and although it isn't as good, its usable thanks to its great keypad. Couple this with full mac & pc compatibility and the PDA functions are adequate for most.

I didn't intend to actually review the handset here however that is how this is going so I'm going to sum up. As a photographer with 2 ipod's and 2 Apple Macs to go with them, the V3 fits in with my prerequisits such as elegant design and usability. Its a great handset which performs very well in most departments, and great looks aside, I don't feel as though this phone will let me down quite as quickly as my old housebrick.

I'd be interested for any extra comments here. Maybe you have a mobile memory of your own or maybe you have a question about the V3, I'd be happy to comment further on this if needed.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Lord Lichfield dies

The renowned royal photographer Lord Lichfield has died at the age of 66. Patrick Lichfield who was regarded as one of the UK's top photographers held a fellowship of the Royal Photographic Society amongst other special photographic achievements.

He captured many 'iconic' images during his life and will be remembered by many for the Photographs from the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981. Prince Charles, was in fact his cousin.

Photography draws people together and the work of Lord Lichfield was admired by many but especially understood by photographers. Although his style of photography is as popular as ever, His uniqueness has been lost.

Lord Lichfield fell ill a few days ago whilst staying with friends in Oxford. My sympathies go especially to his family at this time.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Some more 'funnies'

Based largely upon the phenomenal response to my last post and all of your comments that came flooding in (don't let the 'zero' counter fool you). I've decided to upload one or two funny pics. The kind that sometimes do the rounds via email.

Hope you like them....

We start with this picture which shows how pranksters in the workplace aren't always welcome...

Next up, here's a great little bargain. Just one owner and incredibly low mileage...

Moving on to this holiday snap (which is genuine BTW) , it shows why choosing to sunbathe on this beach is just plane crazy...

Still on the aeronautical theme, America's new stealth fighter surprises its strongest critics who say it doesn't work...

And last but by no means least, The RAF reconsiders its 'work experience' policy after a slight mishap which could have ended much worse...

Hope you like them and if you have any good ones that I've missed then,

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Men in coats

This is well worth a watch and is very well put together.....

Who says the age of comedy is dead?


Thursday, October 27, 2005

It may not have felt like it here in the UK today, but Autumn has crept in across the countryside. With temperatures still relatively high, the leaves have turned golden brown and mostly behaved themselves by falling to the floor.

Autumn is a great time to take photographs as the days become shorter which means that light levels tend to be more interesting. This is coupled with some lovely reddish brown colours which really do look good in the pictures.

I was out today capturing some of the settings around my local nature park and had a great time walking in the warm morning air and also chatting with some of the other walkers. I also spent some time at one of the squirrel stations and it was great to see them all gathering food for the winter months.

One thing that did slightly amuse me was that in the midst of all the wildlife. People generally only ever commented on one thing. Despite nimble little squirrels and dainty little rabbits and some beautiful birds, people only seemed to be interested by the presence of rats.

"there's one of em!" they would shout "saw a family of six before, some of um are big buggers too" I would politely nod and smile before taking more pictures.

I can't help thinking that sometimes we are surrounded by some really beautiful animals, birds and flowers yet we only really take notice of the bad things. I didn't meet anyone today who commented on anything but the rats, but as soon as you look though the camera viewfinder, you can't help but notice much more.

I wonder if there's a way of looking out for things like that in life itself? Or are we too preoccupied with trying to spot vermin?


For anyone who wants to take a look at a few of the photo's I took, take a look at my 'flickr' badge about half way down the Right hand side of the window. Click on it for a proper view of my Flickr pics

Monday, October 24, 2005

EF 70-200mm f2.8L IS USM (and its MINE!)

Ok so no-one said that blogs had to be interesting and this entry will mean nothing to most people. But for the chosen few, this will be a big deal (and yes, I did start the last sentence with a conjunctive).

Most people who know me, know that I like to take photographs. Even a casual visitor to this blog will see that so to anyone who doesn't know much about snapping. This lens could be considered a weapon of mass destruction, especially if you dropped it on your toe.

This lens is quite heavy but very well built. Its a zoom lens which means that it makes things look closer than they really are and although zoom lenses can be hard to use to take good pictures due to camera shake, this one has a trick up its sleeve.

This lens uses something called IS. It stands for image stabilization and its basically a middle lens inside which can detect shake. It then moves in the opposite direction and thus cancels it out and your pictures still look nice and sharp, even at 200m (roughly 4 times larger than life).

I'm looking forward to putting this lens through its paces and I dare say that some of the pics will end up online so even for those who don't have a clue about what this post is all about, you'll probably see for yourself soon.

**Edit** Image posted below

Saturday, October 15, 2005

The errr.... Moon!

This may be a sight you've seen a thousand times, but for me its a first. Now I'm not saying I've never seen the Moon before but this picture is the first decent quality one that I have ever taken of our natural satellite.

Astrophotography is very difficult to master. Sometimes the photographs take nearly 30 minutes to expose and within that time the objects have actually moved in the sky! So to keep your pictures sharp, you have to spend lots of cash on a special tripod that moves your camera at the same rate in the same direction, which prevents the star from drawing a 'line' across the picture.

Fortunately my picture here is rather easier to take. For anyone who wants to know its at 300mm f8 and a shutter speed of 1/40 sec at ISO 100. The moon is very bright (a full Moon casts shadows!) so I have always struggled to capture surface detail and on the other few times I have tried, the air humidity has made it near impossible to keep the image sharp. This evening has been pretty good though and I don't mind admitting, I'm pretty pleased with the picture too.

The light is good, the details are crisp and if you look closely, you can see Neil Armstrong waving, so Maybe it is conclusive proof that we have landed after all?

I did once ask a scientist a question along the lines of "If we point the Hubble Space Telescope at the Moon, would we be able to see the landing sites from Apollo?" The answer was 'no' because apparently the extreme amounts of light reflected off the Moon would break the telescope. Looks like the brightness causes problems for telescopes as well as cameras.

In fact, its been quite a week Moon wise. All of my photography comes amidst the announcement that China looks to be setting its sights on the Moon as well. They have announced the launch of their own 'Apolloesque' missions in 2007. There are 12 men who have walked on the Lunar surface so far and although NASA has announced that they're going back (maybe they left something?), the next people to visit could be flying a different flag.

I've been lucky enough to spend some time with one of the Apollo Astronauts. Charlie Duke was in the backup crew for the ill fated Apollo 13, but was on Primary crew for 16. Its amazing to hear about his time on the moon and he very kindly signed my book for me too. To listen to him speak, you definitely feel that Lunar exploration falls into the "because its there" category of why we do things. So for anyone who may wonder why the Chinese are launching their Lunar series of missions in 2007, I suppose the answer may be "because its still there" Or it was for my photographs anyway.

'X' really does mark the spot here

Charles Duke also left a momento on the lunar surface... A photograph of his own! (image use courtesy of NASA)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Podcasts to go with this blog

If you can't get enough of this blog and my writing then I've got good news for you. Being someone with far too much spare time on his hands and the kind of work schedule that makes Eddie the Eagle Edwards look 'busy', I am pleased to announce the introduction of my blog linked podcast.

Now before you all get too excited, I will only be doing one per month and there will be many blog posts that never make it to the mic, but every now and again, I will be commenting in mp3 stereo on some of the things that I usually only write about. If there is any audio linked to any particular post, it will be indicated by the little icon below. So keep a look out!

How do I tune in?
There's two ways you can access my podcasts, one for those who are all 'appled up' with iPods and the like and one for those who are not.

I'm leading the iPod generation: If you find yourself forced into the limelight through your excellent taste in personal entertainment and if there's nothing you like more than iPod shuffling down at your expensive gym then:

1. Open iTunes
2. Click on the podcast icon (near the shop one)
3. Find the 'directory search' button, click it, type in 'pauls podcast' then check the logo's are mine before hitting 'subscribe'. Job done, you will now enjoy the nasely sounds of my voice on your iPod automatically whenever I have anything new to say.

i what? Ok so maybe you havent taken a bite from the forbidden fruit just yet or maybe you don't even have an mp3 player... You can still tune in on your humble PC (I'm guessing you have a Packard Bell?)

1. Visit
2. Click on the podcast icon to hear the respective bits of audio
3. Ponder my magnificence (this point is optional)
4. Donate lots of money to me via PayPal (alas! Also optional)

Saturday, October 08, 2005

5... 4... 3... 2... 1...

Today was launch day for EESA's Cyrostat satellite and I was on hand at the Leicester National Space Centre to talk science with the white coat people and drink champagne after 'lift off'.

I think that my lack of a PhD in physics soon became apparent at the press conference and it was amid muffled comments of "who's the guy in the tee shirt?" that I hastily teleported elsewhere, but not before I'd got the Cryosat team to sign my press pack. Hellooooo ebay!!!!

The 93 million pound satellite was launched to map Earth's ice caps in high res detail using two radar mapping sensors. This will show scientists how the polar ice regions are reacting to global warming. Even with my limited knowledge, I suspect they could be melting but I guess the 163 million dollar question is, how fast?

I decided to gate crash the party/press conference during a visit to the National Space Centre at Leicester and all in all, I had an excellent time 'nosying' around the exhibits, especially the one which explained how to 'go to the toilet in space'. I always thought that you floated there and that the real question is what do you do when you arrive but rest assured, the answer to both questions can be found at one of the exhibits. At the press conference, someone asked how you go to the toilet at Antarctica? The answer? 'Very quickly'

So let me finish today's post by encouraging anyone who has a passing interest in science, astronomy or films with Phasers or Light sabers to take a look at what's on offer at the centre. If your lucky you may be able to wormhole your way into some extravagant launch Party (Yes lets do launch!), or you may just have to put up with the excellent exhibitions and multimedia rich displays but whichever you find yourself gravitating to, the centre could leave a black hole in your wallet, you have been warned!

STOP PRESS..... I've just flicked the news on to see a press conference where not only is there a suspicious man in a tee shirt, but there's an announcement that the rocket and satellite have broken up during the launch process. It looks like its curtains for Cryosat and maybe popping the champagne corks at T+ 2 minutes, may have been a little presumptuous.

Monday, October 03, 2005


Look carefully up into the heavens this morning and you should witness one of natures finest phenomena,

Today across Europe and parts of Africa, the Moon will get in the way of the Sun and cause an annular eclipse. Now it won't be as spectacular as a total eclipse which is where the sun is covered completely, but according to NASA, we should see the moon sit in the middle of the suns disc so that only a thin band of light remains.

I went to Newquay for the '99 total eclipse and somehow was one of the three people in Cornwall who actually saw something other than cloud and during the last total lunar eclipse, I was fortunate enough to see something again. Admittedly it was a group of thieves breaking into a local shop. So it was with a certain sense of trepidation that I cast my gaze heavenward this morning.

Images of a burning ring of Hydrogen, Ninety-Three million miles away or even three or four cosmic criminals a mere hundred yards in the distance were not to be, so I decided to tuck into my Mars bar instead. The most celestial object that I am likely to come into contact with today.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

This Blog featured on BBC website

This is a special blog entry to welcome visitors to my site who have clicked through from BBC Scotland. I do hope you enjoy your visit to my online web log.

I was thinking what I could write for any 'click through' visitors and decided that I'd talk a little about blogging itself, after all its because of my blog that my article was featured and you are here.

I suppose that blogging is what journalism was. Journalism itself was born out of a process of people who journaled what they saw or what they heard and this is basically what lots of people do in their blogs today. The world of journalism has grown a lot since those days of a single weekly newspaper, yet its still possible to see those same basic traits of story telling in everything from TV reports to newspaper features and yes, even humble blogs like this one.

Some blogs like mine are pretty obscure while others can attract thousands of visits a day but for many web writers (or 'Bloggers') its not the number of people who visit that is important, rather its just the ability to record thoughts down in a way that's inkeeping with 21st century life.

What kind of people 'blog'?
The world wide web has often been associated with a certain kind of person. Someone who spends far too long huddled over the box on the desk in the corner of the room or maybe a social misfit who has problems keeping personal hygiene in check but as we march on into the digital age, this image should be erased from everybody's hard drives. We now live in an age of online shopping, holiday planning, photo sharing and music downloading. Computers have become communication tools like the telephone and in some cases the two have even been combined. Its out of this kind of culture that the blogger pops up. Anyone who can type and use a mouse can blog so you will find entries from every kind of person, not just the computer whizz's

Should I blog?
If you like what you see here then yes, if you think you can do better than what you see here then yes definitely! Once we realise that blogging can be another way of communicating to family and friends (and complete strangers!) about who we are and what we do then blogging can appeal to anyone. From family members who want to post pictures and text from holidays or periods away from home to hobbyists and group members who want to share their work within a community, bloging can make a really effective way of saying something powerfully and effectively.

How can I make a start?
You are only a few clicks away from having your own blog, even as you read this. There are many free blog sites on the web, like this one at and its really easy to set up your blog and get typing in a matter of minutes. You could even make a start after reading this! If you do, be sure to post a comment on this page and let me know, the link is at the bottom of the article

And finally
Once your blog is set up, you'll often find things to write on (or 'post') so always be ready with your mobile phone camera, just in case you capture a picture to go along with your text. And, if writing is not enough, you can even feature your work as an audio recording called a 'podcast'.

The guardian recently had the headline "we are all journalists now" and with podcasting and online web loging, more and more people are realising that there is a platform for what they want to communicate and who knows, maybe some of it will end up on the BBC's website?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Rosslyn and its secrets

Its strange to think that the answer to one of histories oldest mysteries may lie in a tiny Chapel in Scotland but according to some, the strange marks on the wall and the even stranger fourteenth pillar may mark the resting place of the most prized relic in all Christendom, the Holy Grail.

Its the cup used by Christ at the last supper and the center of endless myth and folklore tales. But what's it doing in Scotland? Well, never one to let my blog-fans down, I had a snoop round the place to try to find out.

It may only be a novel, but Dan Brown's Da Vinci code does contain some truth, or truthful myth at least. In Browns book, the hero, Robert Langdon, jet-sets all over Europe to try to unravel a religious code which has been hidden away within works of art and architecture. Langdon is drawn into a world where the unfamiliar is hidden in the familiar and he is forced to look at some of the worlds greatest works of art in a completely new way.

I won't spoil the story for those who haven't read the book, but part of Langdon's trail sees him visit this small Chapel just south of Edinburgh. Its a tiny place which looks quite unassuming from the outside but on the inside, the lavishly decorated interior holds a wealth of mysteries waiting for any 'wannabe' code-breaker. Moses seems to have horns, some of the angels are carved upside-down and there are numerous masons marks scattered around the walls. They seem to be architectural graffiti, but could they symbolise something more?

Many books point to something special at Rosslyn and although Browns book is a novel, hes chosen a very infamous site. The Chapel has been linked with Freemasonary along with a mysterious order of religious warriors called the 'Knights Templar' who supposedly found the cup of Christ and buried it somewhere underneath or inside the Chapel at Rosslyn. Here the hushed worlds of secret societies and unearthed relics mix to find their final home at Rosslyn and according to some historians, this isn't by chance.

Some believe that the Knights Templar amassed many relics over the centuries, treasures which were hidden in key Churches and Chapels for protection. When the order of the Templars was outlawed and its followers executed, some say that their secrets died with them, others claim that the Secret societies left clues etched on the walls and in ancient manuscripts and works of art. To such an end, treasure hunters have almost taken the Chapel apart, piece by piece, looking for either the Ark of the Covenant, the cup used by Christ at the last supper or even manuscripts said to be written by King Solomon himself. They have found nothing. Nothing, apart from more mysteries that is. Mysteries like a sealed chamber which at the moment, remains sealed or more markings and inscriptions which seem to come from within the walls themselves as the layers of paint fall away.

As I wondered round, my mind was caught somewhere between folklore and my personal beliefs. Everyone loves a great mystery and even though I don't subscribe to Dan Brown's 'facts' on which he bases his novel. Its amazing to see how some parts of church history blend easily with shadowy figures, lurking precariously between fact and fiction.

I wasn't the only person wondering around the Chapel either. Along with the solitary American 'Brownie' tourist, security guards occasionally popped in to check that studio lights and equipment were still in place. It turns out that Robert Langdon himself will be visiting the Chapel in a few days! Well Tom Hanks actually, who plays the part of Langdon in the upcoming film based on Dan Brown's book.

So once again at Rosslyn, fantasy invades reality and what an ideal setting. As the actors run between the ancient pillars, they will be writing the newest chapter in the Chapels story. A tale which started centuries ago. A story not written with words, but strange etchings on stone which in some ways, contain more than words ever could.

The Chapel of Rosslyn redies itself for Hollywood

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trouble ahead?

The current stand off between Iran and other UN states over the issue of nuclear energy and weaponry will come as little surprise to many, what may surprise some is that according to an obscure code hidden within the Bible, the world could be heading towards nuclear holocaust next year. Is it time to take the Bible code seriously? Could we be heading for disaster or can this be avoided? And what are we to make of this supposed Bible Code, does this prove the Bible is really the word of God?

It was back in the 1960's that serious research was carried out on ELS sequences in the book of Genesis by US and Israeli mathematicians and code-breakers. The concept of codes is certainly not new, and hundreds of ancient writings including Roman and Greek texts contain hidden codes. During the last World war, entire intelligence teams were established to devise and decipher codes like the supposedly unbreakable Enigma code. What does seem shocking though is that code words seem to appear in the Bible which group together, relating to events and making sense in our modern world, even though the Bible text comes from thousands of years ago.

We are not talking about obscure 'Nostradamus' like prophecies here either, no mysterious stars which rise or fall, but real names and even dates. Encoded by the name 'Kennedy' we find 'assassinated' and even the name 'Oswald'. Even the words 'President' and 'America' are there, encoded in a book which was written over three thousand years before the USA even existed, let alone Kennedy himself.

Before Dan Brown's excellent novel 'the Da Vinci Code' stirred the world. An American Journalist called Michael Drosnin collated much of the written work on these so-called Torah codes and 'serialised' it into understandable text in his bestselling book, The Bible Code. Although many people believe the code to be little more than mathematical coincidence, no-one denies that the words are actually there, rather the debate circles around probability. Its not difficult to find words like 'Kennedy' in the Bible, but whats the probability of finding other relevant ones nearby?

Although the code only supposedly works by looking for events past, Drosnin claims that encoded within the Books of Moses supposedly dictated by Almighty God Himself, is a warning of a nuclear holocaust in 2006. And as the Iranian state continues to push its nuclear program forward, it looks increasingly like there could be problems ahead but could the codes be right?

I'm not sure what to believe of the codes. At its heart, I think there is truth, There does seem to be extra information hidden within the Bible text, unseen by a casual reader but there nonetheless. But does it really contain the entirety of human history within its letters? Jewish tradition claims that God Himself dictated the words for Moses to write and it was God himself who actually wrote the law on stone.

Included within the very handwriting of God, can we find a snapshot of Hitler, or the twin towers or even a nuclear holocaust waiting just around the corner?

Personally, I am more interested in what the Bible has to say in the plain text and I know that if everyone who claims to follow it, both Jew and Christian obeyed it, then the chances of war would be much slimmer. Maybe thats real Bible code. There for all to see yet few to understand.

Monday, September 12, 2005

iPod Nano

Apple's replacement for the iPod mini has been launched and mine arrived today so here's my own very special blog review.

It seems as though Apple, can't really put a foot wrong when it comes to music. With over half a billion legal downloads, ten million registered users and 2 million tracks to choose from, iTunes is top of the pops when it comes to the digital music store but iTunes didn't just 'happen'. ITunes itself, has been built on apple's 'platinum' musical reputation which it earned when the world first cast a cautious glimpse over one of the new millenniums most iconic gadgets, the iPod.

The concept of music on the move is certainly not new and it certainly wasn't Apple's invention either. It was Sony who made the breakthrough with its cassette 'Walkman' and even though one of mine was knicked from my person after a biking accident, I was hardly ever seen outside without headphones and when I wasn't falling off bikes, I was carelessly crossing the road with countless near misses thanks largely to my mobile entertainment device. It's because of this history that I feel perfectly qualified to cast my reviewing eyes (and ears) over the new iPod Nano.

I grew up with portable music players; be it cassette, CD, minidisc or mp3, I've owned them all. I even had a cool DAT recorder once which offered incredible sound quality before I dropped it. After which it had an incredible rattle. The iPod nano enjoys excellent quality using AAC encoding and with he capacity for approximately one thousand songs, it all adds up to a vast music collection on the go.

The sound is delivered to the listener through the infamous white ear buds which provide a medium quality sound to the listener. Anyone who invests in a high quality pair of headphones will vouch for the iPod's quality. The battery will pump out music for 14 hours too so there's plenty of juice in there for tunes on the go.

The iPod used iTunes software to manage its contents and the software is just as well designed as the player. The two seem to be an extension of each other and changes to one will reflect on the other when they are connected together once again.

Size wise, its about an inch wider than a standard business card and its less than a centimeter thick so its easy to find a pocket for it and although I wouldn't choose the back pocket, the unit does feel sturdy and well built so I wouldn't worry too much about wear and tear.

The Nano can also be used as an external harddrive which connects over USB2 and you can also store your photo's on it for viewing on its compact yet clear colour screen, you can even play pictures and music together too.

With added games, alarm clocks, stopwatches, calendars and more, the iPod nano loses none of the functions of its bigger brothers and after a days use I can say without doubt that this is the best iPod I have ever owned. It may not be quite as useful to me as my iPod Shuffle but the Nano will undoubtedly work right into my lifestyle like countless walkmans and music players before it and that for me, is a recommendation in itself.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Photographing a crime scene


After producing the Sunday Breakfast programme as normal, a call came through from Birmingham to ask if anyone had photographs from a suspicious death which had been reported in the area earlier in the morning.

I jumped in the car and headed off to a nearby hospital where the body of a man had been found in the grounds, reports suggest he had died after a gunshot to the head. I arrived pretty early on and managed to locate a policeman on scene and after introducing myself, I was shown to the scene along with a cameraman from TV news.

It's a strange experience to come so close to such a shocking event. To know that nearby, lies the body of someone who has died in suspicious or unknown circumstances. There's often very little to see and today was no exception, however I was able to photograph the general area for BBC News and was able also to just take a moment to ponder what I was seeing first-hand.

This is the closest I have ever been to a crime scene such as this, although I have come into contact with police investigations in the past, this one was different. This one had affected my world, it had unexpectedly taken up my time and attention, albeit in relatively meaningless way. How horrible it must be then for anyone whose lives are affected directly by events like these, how must they feel?

While the news cycle invariably goes on and as headlines come and go, I cannot help feeling that there are people who's lives will never be the same again from today, even if mine has returned to normal by the morning.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Katrina brings the US to its knees - 52 states of emergency

THE USS ALABAMA NOW LISTS ABOUT 8 DEGREES AFTER IT FELT THE FULL FORCE OF HURRICANE KATRINA. All 43,000 tonnes of dead weight were unable to withstand the massive forces of the storm which went on to decimate an area larger than the whole of the UK.

Katrina's 140mph winds have leveled cities and towns and killed hundreds, if not thousands of people who were unable to leave before the storm made landfall at 6.10 on the 29th August. A few days on, and its effects are worsening even though the winds have long since dissipated.

Tens of thousands of people are now forced to live in squalor, dependent upon the authorities for rescue or aid which cannot and will not come quick enough for some. There are reports of the infirmed and elderly succumbing to infection and illness not uncommon to areas affected by the boxing day Tsunami off the coast of Sri Lanka.

There are, in fact, many parallels which can be made here. When faced by natures devastating power, no nation is safe. Regardless of industrial power or wealth, we are all at the mercy of the elements. The images of death and destruction, may look out of place on the US mainland but we should not forget the possible ravages of nature.

As the people in the affected areas deal with their upside down lives, the new threat of lawlessness is making matters worse. In scene's not dis-similar to Golding's Lord of the Flies, the ravaged and disaster stricken communities are struggling to adapt to the vacuum left by disaster and the removal of general law. Looting has been commonplace along with gun crime and even rape and murder. The natural disaster has taken on a sinister man-made twist, similar to those in Golding's anthropological novel.

In my blog here, I want to express my sadness to all who have been affected by Katrina and especially to those who are, or will be bereaved. My thoughts and prayers are with those in need.

(Donations to the American Red Cross can be made at

Monday, August 29, 2005

As I start back in schools radio this coming week I've been wondering why radio is so good. In today's age of multi-channel TV and lightning fast internet in the home, you'd be forgiven for thinking that radio is no longer required, but don't tune out just yet!

Someone once said that the pictures are much better on the radio and I suppose this is one of the main reasons why I love listening to it and working in it. Apart from making the audience think about what they can 'see' its also incredibly personal. The world of TV with all its lights and makeup is a million miles away from that personal voice which quietly speaks into your ear or keeps you company in the car.

I've worked in radio for three years now and where some seem desperate to climb from radio to TV, I've fallen in love with producing for radio. It's not an easy job, the hours can be bad and sometimes things seem destined to go wrong but what an amazing thing it is to be able to bypass the bright lights of everyday life and speak straight into the soul. Carefully crafted words and content connect with the audience who aren't distracted by what's visible. People listen to the voices and hear emotion. They hear the anger of victims of crime or hatred and they hear the enthusiasm tinged with nervousness of the new author promoting their novel. We can laugh with the reporters who are interviewing children in the classroom or we can cry with someone blighted by terrorism.

It was the latter as I heard one such interview which formed part of one of our recent programmes. I include an mp3 of it as part of my blog although if requested, I will have to remove it for copyright reasons.

Listen to this personal story of Lord Tebbit as it was broadcast on BBC GMR.


After those powerful words from Lord Tebbit, I have nothing more to add to this post.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

The IT man cometh...

As I write this to you, I do so one computer down.

My beloved Toshiba Satellite 4xxx is, alas! No more.

After a brief period of reprise, the intermittent power fault returned and I was unable to fix it no matter how much I 'waddled' the connection in the socket. After careful consideration, and as a fully trained (ex)Toshiba authorized technician, I therefore took the bold decision of taking it to bits for a 'look'

If you've ever wondered why laptop computers are so expensive, its because they are quite complex on the inside, and despite my vast knowledge of Toshiba products, I was unable to fix the problem even after forcing the outside casing into a position which held the power hole secure. In the end, I decided to perform a very technical procedure to 'encourage' the circuit to re-connect without the use of a soldering iron however as the following video highlights, my attempt was unfortunately unsuccessful.

'encouragement video'

It is with great sadness that I bade a fond farewell to my Toshiba 'grey lady'. She served me well (sob!)