Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cuckoos Egg laying habitats

An interesting study has found that Cuckoos keep their eggs inside their bodies for a day longer than most other birds this allows their chicks to hatch much earlier than other birds young.

Many species of Cuckoo (incuding the one we see in the UK) lay their eggs in other birds nest. The young Cuckoo hatches first and then "throws out" all the other eggs and is given all the food brought from the unsuspecting foster parents.

The Cuckoo strategy of delayed laying gives it an edge.

Researchers don't know why cuckoos have evolved a longer egg retention time, it's possible the trait may have predisposed them to parasitism.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

You need to Win

The labour party has a new leader. Whatever your politics a strong opposition is essential to a democracy, Margaret Thatcher once lectured Frances Pym for saying he wanted to see a strong opposition but he was right. Democracy needs checks and balances.

Now I suspect that Ed Milliband isn't really red Ed but I think he ought to be a bit wary at some of the plaudits being thrown at him by his own party.

A union delegate lent over to Neil Kinnock and said "We've got our party back" and Kinnock said "I thought that was so accurate as an instantaneous response to the leader's speech".

Now may I'm sure that at least one labour councillor who reads this blog occasionally (Hi Corinna!) will agree with that but let me ask a question. What did Kinnock achieve? Did he make much difference to our lives? Uh no! Oh its oft stated he made Labour Electable but in 1992 he blew it and let Norman Lamont and John Major cock up the economy (no blaming any one but ourselves for that).

Blair may not be to everyone's cup of tea but he can at least point to increased spending on health, education and the minimum wage. Kinnock can point to his appearance on Have I got News for you.

As Roy Hattersley once said its easy to appeal to your core vote and get xx% of the vote and be in perpetual opposition. As Blair, Cameron and Clegg know without power you can't achieve anything. A lesson that Ed Milliband had better learn damn quick. The British people are conservative with a small c and they don't like extremes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

boy with an amber necklace

In 2005 the skeleton of a boy with an amber necklace was found near Stonehenge.

Tests have subsequently found that the boy was 3,550 years old and that the boy grew up around the Mediterranean Sea. This was determined after analysis of different forms of the elements oxygen and strontium in his tooth enamel.

Apparently the boy was about 14 or 15 years old and the Amber necklace and the position of the grave next to a Bronze Age burial mound close to Stonehenge indicates that the boy was likely to be of high status.

I find it fascinating that even so long ago people were moving about over so such long distances.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Banning Books in Schools

I didn't blog yesterday. There would have been a time when I'd have been desperately trying to think of something but now? nah!

Yesterday was momentous I was reading a book realised I was cold and went and turned the heating on!!! I had hoped to wait til October. Hey ho.

There's a piece on the BBC website about the increasing number of books being banned in US schools.

Main reason's parents object are bad language, sex or sexuality.

Writer Lauren Myracle says a typical e-mail reads: "What gives you the right to take away my child's innocence?"

but as Myracle says to engage with teenagers you need to write honestly about them.

I appreciate that kids are growing up ridiculously early these days, in some ways, but I suspect they are influenced much more so by their parents and surroundings than books.

The small town of Stockton, Missouri had a struggle over Sherman Alexie's book The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

The opposition to the book was led by lawyer and parent Mike Holzknecht.

The book is just chock full of vulgarity, profanity, obscenity and sexual explicitness involving minors. People around here, where it's pretty rural and conservative, they will go a long way, but this book was so far over the edge. It doesn't belong in a school.

Holzknecht goes on to say he moved his family to Stockton because he felt it was a place with good, shared values.

Whereas I sympathize with Mr Holzknecht wrapping our children in cotton wool doesn't necessarily protect them. You can't go from the famous five to adult fiction over night.

One of my aunt's found a pack of cigarettes in her daughters possession she said nothing about it and trusted her daughter to make the right decision. As she said saying no would have just made her daughter continue when she really didn't want to.

Very often if we say no kids find it much cooler and try stuff they shouldn't.

There is a strong difference between the UK and the US. Challenges to books are much rarer in the UK.

In the US, locally-elected school boards can have books withdrawn when parents petition them in the UK, control lies almost exclusively in the hands of headteachers,.

Sally Duncan (the School Library Association) says that she can recall one primary school that refused to have any Harry Potter books because of the supernatural content.
Parents are perhaps less likely to complain about the content of books in the UK as, by and large, we are a less 'religious' society.

Is the US more religious? Well I think they go on about it more. Going to church and quoting the bible doesnot necessarily make you a good christian for instance

My own reading in my teenage years was done at my sniffing around libraries and getting the books I wanted. My folks brought me up with "a code" and trusted me.

Forcing your views down your kids throat. especially in their teenage years, is in my view a counterproductive thing. Bring'em up give them support and advice but give them some leeway.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

In the footsteps of greatness

I had made no plans for this weekend but as Dad was fine I was foot loose! My colleague Trev as bought a Canon dSLR and he is borrowing a lens from Trish with a view to purchase. He is expecting to get it Thursday week but as I'm FAR too nice I phoned her up this morning and we arranged to meet so I could pick it up. We met at Chartwell home of no more than our third greatest prime minister (controversial!) William Spencer Churchill.

The house is very "liveable".

By this time we were a tadge hungry. We both showed amazing restraint and ignored the rather yummy looking rich chocolate orange cake and opted for the Tomato & basil soup.

Then back to the nearby village/small town of Westerham to visit Quebec House were General James Wolfe was born. Wolfe was the man who took Quebec from the French.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Well Dad has been in hospital for some tests and a minor op. The tests were first meant to happen a few months back but only half could be done.

The fear with the tests was that the result would be a form of cancer. Now my dad has an upbeat philosophy to life ..... fear the worst!

He went in yesterday an I didn't think he'd be out 'til tomorrow. So when he phoned to say he could come home I was off like a shot. The discharge sheet seems to suggest they found nothing major so sir was rather chipper this evening.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Artic Tern CE60645 reaches 30!

I first heardabout this on Radio 4 yesterday.

An Artic Tern ringed on the Farne Islands on 28 June, 1980 has been found alive and well on the Farnes.

It was first ringed by John Walton when he was a seasonal warden for the National Trust, he is now property manageer.

The Artic Tern typically lives 13 years so this is one old bird but the record is held by a bird rung in the USA which clocked up 34 years.

The Artic Tern has a 44,000 mile pole-to-pole migration, it is believed that detours mean they actually fly much more than this on migration. This bird would have flown well over a million miles!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Adaptations ? they don't work

I noticed a copy of Peter Robinson's Aftermath with a picture of Stephen Tomkinson on the front. My heart sank!

Peter Robinson is the author of an excellent series of books about Detective Inspector Alan Banks. Bank's is a London copper who moves to work in Yorkshire and there have been 18 novels in the series so far - Aftermath is the 12th.

My heart sank because most adaptations don't live up to the original - John Hannah as DI Rebus? ROTFLMAO on that one!

I remember finishing Robbert Goddards Out of the Blue and then watching the adaptation - it was laughable.

The adaptations change things. Lewis is the same age as Morse in the books, Hastings and Miss Lemon are seldom in the Poirot stories. Now those adaptations are actually well done and in keeping with the originals, just don't get me on ITV ridiculous Marple series!

The Sherlock Holmes (with Jeremy Brett) stories work so well becuase they are all short stories, novels usually need to get "cut". I think TV cops really need to be created for TV - if you've ever read the book you know they are different. In the case of Jack Frost with David Jason they frankly are so different as to make you think what's the point! The Frost series is actually well done but that's becuase they bare no relation to the original.

BBC1 adapted Alan Hunter's George Gently novels set in East Anglia and promptly moved him to the North East!

I am told there is one excellent adaptation of a police procedural that really works. It is of Henning Mankell's Wallander novels - I am not thinking of the adaptation with Kenneth Branagh but the swedish verion which is being broadcast on BBC4 on Saturday nights.

Sky are adapting MArk Billingham's superb DI Thorne series which according to the author has "signicant changes in character and story" - I could weep.

Tess Gerritsen says of the adaptation of her works "I think of them as a parallel world".

My own advice? Turn of the telly and curl up with the book!

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Out of focus blur" - bokeh

My colleague Trevor has bought a dSLR and been asking about out of focus blur and how you get it.

I thought I'd explain it in photos. Lie an idiot I did it with the panny which means these are approximations! Doh!!

I hoped these show how larger f stops give less depth of field and more out of focus blur (or bokeh!). f7.1 is smaller than f2.8

So this is approx f7.1

approx f4 you'll notice how less distinct the background is.

This is approx f2.8, unfortunately the sun was so bright I couldn't get the exposure right. But the depth of field is slightly less defined again.

Hope that makes it clear Trev!

I'd have liked to shown larger apertures but I was already at shutter speeds of 1/4000 of a second the pannies limit! I should have used the d300!!

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