Earth hit by solar storm

So reads the headline of an article on the Science and Technology section of the BBC News. This refers to the large sunspot cluster which has developed on the sun from which a flare erupted on Thursday. The result of this flare is that the Northern Lights will be seen by far more people and places than is normal. There will also be other effects, such as telecommunications disruptions as the particles from the sun can cause interference.

I have always wanted to see the Northern Lights, but as yet have failed to be in the right place at the right time. Most of Britain suffers from light pollution so the chances of seeing anything in London are zero. The Astronomy photo of the day May 16, 1999 shows what Europe looks like at night from satellites orbiting the earth, this kind of explains why we can see so few stars. There are some good galleries of aurora photos available on the web. Here are links to just a few of them:

So, what causes Aurora? Well, Auroras, Paintings in the sky seems to be a really well written set of common questions and answers, i.e. What makes them happen?, written in an easy-to-read style,
with pictures to illustrate the points.

And finally, the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute have maps for predicting where Auroras will be on a particluar day.

The strike was still

The queue at Farringdon Station for the ThamesLink

The strike was still happening when it was time to go home. I left the office at around 6pm and decided to try my luck at Farringdon tube station as the Metropolitan line was running a limited service between Liverpool Street and Amersham. They weren’t joking about limited. I stood on the station for around half an hour before getting fed up and deciding to walk again. (I would have had to walk between Baker Street and Paddington anyways). So, off I trotted, back the same route as this morning. The queues for the buses were too long to wait in (and having waited 30 minutes already, I just couldn’t face any more standing around). So, I eventually made it to Paddington and onto a train back to Ealing. I’ve not been so physically tired for a long time. I reckon I walked around 6 miles today just to get to work. Now that’s dedication…

So chaos in London

People milling around outside Paddington station

So, chaos in London today as the RMT union members strike for better safety on the underground. The Transport for London site has this helpful message “Due to Industrial Action, Tube services throughout London are severley disrupted.” Meanwhile, has a more helpful page indicating what services are running.

So, I got a train from Ealing Broadway to Paddington and then walked from there to work at Chancery Lane. It’s about 3 miles and took about an hour. It wasn’t too bad, not something I’d choose to do everyday, but at least it was dry and sunny and not too cold.

It was quite entertaining watching people take to the streets, with cycles, micro scooters, roller blades and on foot. I passed many people with maps in their hands, some looked as if they’d bought A-Z maps especially as the mapbooks looked very clean and new.

As usual, photos taken with the eyemodule.

saw couple of interesting

I saw a couple of interesting articles in the Metro again this morning. The first was a selection of images from The Mollecular Expressions Photo Gallery. These are digital photographs taken through microscopes that can magnify up to 1,000 times. Interesting images are dinosaur bones, Meteorites, wines and vegetables. I particularly like the lettuce picture displayed below (with permission of Michael W. Davidson from the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory).

lettuce under a microscope

The other interesting article was about getting free music over the internet. A new service, BitBop Tuner, can be downloaded and will then scan on-line radio transmissions for the track you want to listen to. It will also allow you to track the type of music you want to listen to and find you likely radio stations. It scans playlists too, so should be able to find you radio stations who are about to play the track you’re interested in. All sounds pretty good to me.

On my way into

Metro cutting

On my way into work this morning, I took a look at the Metro and a 3 paragraph story caught my eye, the Evening Standard have a version of it ‘Scared’ Eubank on scooter charge. Basically, this is the story of how Chris Eubank was charged for riding a Go-Ped around the streets of Brighton without a helmet. (A Go-Ped is a motorised scooter about which there are very few laws in the UK). What amused me in the Metro article was the following sentence “PC Simon Rideout had to start the blue lights flashing and the siren sounding before the ex-boxer pulled over”. Now, the thought of a police car chasing a Go-Ped is entertaining as Go-Ped’s aren’t exactly the quickest method of transport known to man. Chris Eubank received a conditional discharge and had to pay £35 in costs.

The BBC have a couple of related articles, the first in December 1999 Illegal skateboard driver escapes jail which was about someone who was found guilty of riding a motorised skateboard while disqualified from driving, the second in October 2000 Police back scooter ban which was about the “issues” with the motorised scooters in regards to the UK law.

One of the shops in Ealing Hippie Heaven has a bigfoot Go-Ped in it’s window, and they really do look cool. (They’re not cheap though :-()

Every few weeks seem

Every few weeks I seem to get another one of these internet test things, this one kind of appealed The All-New What Breed of Dog Are You?. I’m apparently a Bernese Mountain Dog! This means that I’m down-to-earth, strong, and sweet. Awww, nice!

It allows you to add other people to your “pack” and you can see what type of dog all of your friends are, so far I seem to have a mixed set of friends, including some who didn’t like what dog they were the first time and so changed a few answers to become something different

spotted TiVo Data Collection

I spotted TiVo’s Data Collection and Privacy Practices linked from another blog ( and it makes kind of interesting reading. I’m not sure whether I’m surprised by this or not, I guess I knew Tivo was capable of this as the capturing of viewing data is what makes Tivo work. The paragraph “TiVo permits its subscribers to disable the collection of viewing information and diagnostic logs by calling TiVo toll-free at 1-877-367-8486 (1-877-FOR-TIVO).” is kind of interesting though.

On further investigation, CNN ran a story on the subject yesterday Privacy group criticizes TiVo for collecting info

Photo quiz

I took the following photograph with the eyemodule last night, but what is it of? Is it a photo taken from a rocket as it approaches a planet surface? Is it a knee?

what is it?

So, do you think you know what it is? If so, then email me with your suggestion.

Guesses so far – Update 27 March 2001

There have been a few guesses so far:

  • a pint of guiness
  • a pint of beer
  • a street lamp
  • a bald head

None of them is quite right so far… altho one is quite close. So, any other suggestions?


March 2001

Friday 15 March 2001

We’d been talking about having a weekend away for a few weeks but were unsure of where to go. There were a few more limitations than usual because of the foot and mouth epidemic. So, it had to be somewhere coastal. I’d never been to Wales so this seemed like a good idea. Rich did some research and decided that, despite the long drive, Aberystwyth sounded like a good place to base ourselves. We did some research on the web and found what looked like a fantastic hotel in Chancery, 3 or so miles south of Aber. So, armed with an RAC route plan we headed off.

We left Ealing on the A40, joined the M40 and motored along until we got to the Warwickshire services where we had “dinner” at Burger King. We got back into the car and continued on our long drive — 220+ miles in total. The Welcome to Wales sign had a foot and mouth caution notice next to it. After a slight wrong turn, we finally arrived at the Conrah Country House Hotel in Chancery. We checked in, got shown to our lovely room and crashed out.

Saturday 16 March 2001

We got up and went down to breakfast. There seemed to have been only us staying there as ours was the only table set. We had a lovely, freshly prepared breakfast before returning to find that the room had been serviced already. This was very impressive.

We decided to head North and started off by driving into Aber and stopping at the sea front. We got the camera out and discovered that it had a totally flat battery.

From Aber we headed along the coast road to Borth. We got the kite out and got some good flying in during the strong gusts of wind.

From Borth we drove to Dolgellau. We parked up and headed to the bank (which had a dual language cash machine) and then to Boots to get a new camera battery.

We drove along a bit further, having a quick stop just outside Barmouth for a photo opportunity, before arriving at Harlech. The Lonely Planet made the castle sound interesting, and so we parked up and investigated. Unfortunately, it was closed due to foot and mouth threat (apparently they keep livestock in the castle grounds). So, we had to settle for a cup of tea and a danish pastry at a coffee place in the town.

From Harlech we headed further North to Port Meirion — famous for it’s mediteranean architecture and being the setting for the 1960s series “The Prisoner”. Admission was £5 per adult which we thought was too much for something we weren’t interested in. The road to the village had disenfected rags at the end over the road which all cars were driving over to prevent foot and mouth from spreading.

From here, we headed back south and drove via Aberdovy — a fishing village. We had a quick photo stop at Furnace, where there were some lovely falls and a water mill.

We drove back to the hotel, and after a quick chat with the donkey in the grounds we headed back to our room to collect our swimmers. The hotel had an indoor pool in the courtyard and so we spent a good half an hour or so there. The only minor problem was the walk back to the main house in the cold with wet hair!

One of the magazines in the room was the Johansens Recommended Hotels in Great Britain & Ireland 2001 book. This lists loads of places to stay in the same league as the Conrah, some of them look great.

We decided to dine at the hotel and so went downstairs to reception. The orders are taken in the lounges (there are several) and so we sat down in huge leather armchairs near a log fire. So, we chose a bottle of red New Zealand merlot and our food and sat comfortably in the lounge until dinner was served.

We ended up having about a 6 course meal — appetiser, starter, sorbet to cleanse the pallete, main course, cheese board and finally coffee. The coffee was again served in the lounge. The service was excellent, but unfortunately whilst the food was good, it wasn’t outstanding.

Sunday 17 March 2001

We headed down to breakfast and didn’t have the dining room to ourselves this morning. Again, breakfast was wonderful and feeling ready to start the day we packed our stuff and checked out.

We decided to head South today with the eventual aim that we’d take the M4 back to London. Our first stop was at Fishguard and we drove to the area near the Ocean Lab. We got out of the car, but only briefly as there was an icy cold wind.

Leaving Fishguard, we crossed one of the many small toll bridges to get to Pembroke dock. From here we headed to Pembroke and parked up before walking to Pembroke castle. This castle was open as there was no livestock around the castle, and so we paid our £3 each to get in. We also bought a guide book so we could figure out what all the buildings were for. It seemed like quite a big castle to me, with lots of towers and parts of it that just looked like how a child would draw a typical castle. The guidebook was useful as it showed how the castle had expanded over the years.

We headed our from the castle and went into the nearest cafe for some refreshments. This was the Richmond coffee house, and I started off by finding someones camera on a chair. We ordered tea and Bara Brith (a fruit cake type thing) and shortly discovered that the owner had some very odd ideas: mobile phones should be banned; the internet was evil (no-one knew what was happening on it); and no-one says thank you anymore, everyone says Cheers which makes him think of drinking…

After escaping, we drove down to Tenby and parked up for half an hour or so. We took the kite down to the lovely, long beach and flew it for a bit, but the conditions were a bit poor and it was a struggle to keep it airbourne. At least the sun was out.

We then headed off to join the M4 and head back home to London. We went over the Severn Bridge and were surprised (and pleased!) to discover that you only need to pay a toll going west (we were going east). We headed off along the length of the M4 and finally arrived back in Ealing after a really pleasant weekend.

It was pouring with

It was pouring with rain when I walked to the tube this morning, and the path I walk along to get to the station was flooded in parts. The “green” has turned into a muddy pool.

I decided to try my luck taking a photo with the trusty eyemodule and produced the following image – it is in colour, although that is kind of hard to believe.

a rain puddle