Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Toy

A depressing feature of an otherwise cheerful Christmas was the realisation that just about everything we bought or were given seemed to have been made in China. The goods are getting higher tech, too. We seem to be moving towards an economy where we use our unique comparative advantages to make ... er ... nothing.

Still, as Tim and Chris would say, we benefit from cheap goods from China. They leave us with more money in our pockets to buy ... other cheap goods from China.

As a child I loved astronomy. As an young adult I had no money, as a parent I had no money to spend on myself. A pair of Boots binoculars was my total stargazing kit.

There have been cheap Far Eastern telescopes around for years, sold in catalogues and chain stores. The Tasco's of this world, and pretty dreadful they were.

But the Chinese upped their game. A few years back a decent starter telescope was £400-500. Now for about £280 you can buy a small but optically sound telescope with 'goto' capability - in other words you can tell it via a hand controller where to point in the sky, or choose a star or planet from a list, and it'll point itself and stay pointed as the stars move.

I wasn't prepared to pay such a 'vast amount' for the Celestron. How about a Skywatcher, made in China but with vastly improved optics from the telescopes of a few years back. They do refractors and reflectors, including some big Dobsonians at ridiculous prices - £350 for 10" aperture ?

Alas the big beasts are a pain to carry, transport and set up. And in the end it's a big boys toy which may not get a lot of use. Something a little cheaper was needed.

£165 will buy you this Skywatcher 130PM, if you go to the right place. And to my delight the right place turned out to be just a drive up the A38, where Chris Livingstone Telescopes did me one at that excellent price. Nice chap too. His telescope prices are as good as any I've seen in the UK.

He will also do you a Toucam Pro II CCD webcam and telescope adaptor at a reasonable rate.

Blogging may be light if we get a lot of clear nights.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

History, Blood and Language

"They're bound together by their history, their blood and their language" said the BBC interviewee approvingly.

Another frothing right-wing Brit, condemning himself out of his own mouth ?

No, an upbeat portrait of Romany Gypsies. They're allowed that sort of thing, you see.

Monday, January 01, 2007

What Elephant ?

Two Mail on Sunday stories :

On the BNP ballerina :

The BNP is certainly repellent, with its knee-jerk hatred of foreigners and history of organised thuggery ... when one of the country's principal ballerinas, a 36-year-old woman who spent much of her recent working life as the Sugar Plum Fairy, decides to join the British neo-fascists, there is an argument that something has gone badly wrong ...

What could it be that's gone badly wrong ?

"Using the word immigration is now a greater crime than cold-blooded murder," she claims.

Elsewhere in the MoS, this story - "How families are flocking West to escape the rat-race".

The middle-classes are fleeing urban Britain and the grim battles of the rat race. The search for a better quality of life has fuelled an exodus to the South West and East of England, sending property prices soaring.

A new study shows 2.38m left London in the past ten years, while another 2m from the South East headed for the escape routes.

Searching for a better quality of life, eh ? Consisting of ?

"better schools, lower violent crime, warmer weather, the region's beaches and countryside"

Halifax economist, Tim Crawford, said: "It is a quality of life issue. People are fed up with the over-crowding, congestion and hassle of city life.

"By contrast the South West has clean air, is less crowded, there are good schools and good transport links back to London and the south.

"There is also an increasing number of major employers in the South West, for example the Met Office relocated to near Exeter."

Ah yes. Nearly 4.5 million people have gone to work at the Met Office.

So London's emptying then ?

The figures for London show that some 2.38m people have left since 1996, while at the same time 1.61m arrived from other parts of the country. This amounts to a net loss of 774,000.

However, this fall has been more than made up by a huge influx - just under 1m - of foreign immigrants to the capital. At the same time there were 453,000 more births than deaths.

The net impact of these changes was to increase the capital's population by 600,000.

I'm sure the people-leaving-London phenomenon has nothing to do with the people-coming-to-London phenomenon. And the Mail are sure too, 'cos they sure don't mention it.

P.S. You have to feel for the Halifax spokesman, trying to find new ways of saying the same thing while avoiding the bleeding obvious. Last year they were leaving to 'escape the frantic lifestyle'.

Inter-Tribal Warfare

Ken Livingstone : "The 'We are Londoners, We are One' campaign celebrates the fact that London is one of the most diverse cities in the world. It is one of the things that makes it a great city to live in and visit."

Random Acts of Reality blog : It later transpired that the beating was in part due to the 'inter-tribal' warfare that often takes to the street of London. Country 'A' hates Country 'B', and so they decide to beat each other up. The ambulance service and A&E departments along with the police are the lucky souls who get to pick up those pieces.

(Tom Reynolds blog should need no introduction - it's a great blog in its own right, and full of insights into the good and bad sides of multicultural London. He's alo got a book out.)

Compare And Contrast

An environmentally aware leader who shares what he has with our feathered friends :

"A military nurse who cared for Saddam Hussein said the former dictator saved bread crusts to feed birds and tended a small plot of weeds while in jail."

A brutal dictator who starves little birdies :

"Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, today announced that from Monday 17th November the feeding of pigeons by people, other than those authorised by the Mayor, will be prohibited. "

First They Came ....

For Scott Burgess - and I did not speak out because I was not a clever, literate son of Louisiana.

Then they came for Drinking From Home ... he's been silent for six weeks. No farewell message ...

Is it a Guardian hit-squad or are they BBC mercenaries ?