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