Ravings From The Bog

Chelsea Goalie Peter Bonetti is 67!!!

Now I KNOW I’m getting old! It came as a shock today to read in the snoozepaper that Peter Bonetti is 67 today. I followed Chelsea back in the 1970s (when I’d no sense! lol).

In the same article, it announced that Michele Dotrice, (lovely wife of Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do ‘Av ‘Em) was 60 and that old rocker, Alvin Stardust, was 66!

When I sensibly digest these facts, I realise that these Entertainment folk age at the same rate as me – the lovely Michele is 16 years older than me and always will be… But, that doesn’t help me much when it comes to fretting that I’m fast approaching old age!


Hidden Belfast: Bank of Ireland, Royal Avenue

I have admired this building since first spotting it around 1976 when traipsing down to the Belfast Central Library to borrow some LPs that were beyond the financial reach of a 14 year old. The Art Deco building reminds me in some ways of a church organ with it’s straight vertical lines and height versus it’s width. 

The facade could do with a good cleaning to restore it’s brightness and help the strong contrast with the dark green parts of the building. Last time I looked, the building appeared to be occupied on some level. It would be a real shame to allow it to slide into dereliction.

Sick Palin Action In An Oil-Rich State

This tight-fisted, unsympathetic and churlish action in Alaska would be shocking in any oil-rich Western society or state, but from local government lead by a woman, and especially one who hopes to lead the US, it is, frankly, incredible.

Rape Kit Controversy

Even in tough budget times, there are lines that cannot be crossed. So I was startled by this tidbit reported recently by The Associated Press: When Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the small town began billing sexual-assault victims for the cost of rape kits and forensic exams.

Ms. Palin owes voters an explanation. What was the thinking behind cutting the measly few thousand dollars needed to cover the yearly cost of swabs, specimen containers and medical tests? Whose dumb idea was it to make assault victims and their insurance companies pay instead? Unfortunately, her campaign is shielding the candidate from the press, so Americans may still be waiting for answers on Election Day.

The rape-kit controversy is a troubling matter. The insult to rape victims is obvious. So is the sexism inherent in singling them out to foot the bill for investigating their own case. And the main result of billing rape victims is to protect their attackers by discouraging women from reporting sexual assaults.

That’s why when Senator Joseph Biden, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, drafted the 1994 Violence Against Women Act, he included provisions to make states ineligible for federal grant money if they charged rape victims for exams and the kits containing the medical supplies needed to conduct them. (Senator John McCain, Ms. Palin’s running mate, voted against Mr. Biden’s initiative, and his name has not been among the long list of co-sponsors each time the act has been renewed.)

That’s also why, when news of Wasilla’s practice of billing rape victims got around, Alaska’s State Legislature approved a bill in 2000 to stop it.

“We would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence,” said Alaska’s then-governor, Tony Knowles. “Nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.”

If Ms. Palin ever spoke out about the issue, one way or another, no record has surfaced. Her campaign would not answer questions about when she learned of the policy, strongly supported by the police chief: whether she saw it in the budget and if not, whether she learned of it before or after the State Legislature outlawed the practice.

All the campaign would do was provide a press release pronouncing: “Prevention of domestic violence and sexual assault is a priority for Gov. Palin.”

Eric Croft, a former Democratic state lawmaker who sponsored the corrective legislation, believes that Wasilla’s mayor knew what was going on. (She does seem to have paid heed to every other detail of town life, including what books were on the library’s shelves.)

The local hospital did the billing, but it was the town that set the policy, Mr. Croft noted. That policy was reflected in budget documents that Ms. Palin signed.

Mr. Croft further noted that right after his measure became law, Wasilla’s local paper reported that Ms. Palin’s handpicked police chief, Charlie Fannon, acknowledged the practice of billing to collect evidence for sexual-assault cases. He complained that the state was requiring the town to spend $5,000 to $14,000 a year to cover the costs. “I just don’t want to see any more burden put on the taxpayer,” the chief explained.

“I can’t imagine any police chief, big city or small, who would take on the entire State Legislature on a bill that passed unanimously and not mention to their mayor that they’re doing this,” Mr. Croft said. Even if he didn’t inform her, the newspaper article would have been hard for her to miss.

In the absence of answers, speculation is bubbling in the blogosphere that Wasilla’s policy of billing rape victims may have something to do with Ms. Palin’s extreme opposition to abortion, even in cases of rape. Sexual-assault victims are typically offered an emergency contraception pill, which some people in the anti-choice camp wrongly equate with abortion.

My hunch is that it was the result of outmoded attitudes and boneheaded budget cutting. Still, Ms. Palin has been governor for under two years, and she’s running for vice president largely on her experience as mayor of tiny Wasilla — a far superior credential, she’s told us, to being a community organizer. On the rape kits, as on other issues, she owes voters a direct answer.

SOURCE – New York Times

How Cool Is This Soviet Secret Weapon?

I’d love to have a blast along a frozen lake in one of these…

Was it a boat? Was it a plane? A bit of both in fact. The Ekranoplan was one of the more obscure products of the fight for technological supremacy in the Cold War. Nigel Paterson, who joined Top Gear presenter James May for a test “flight”, recounts its secret history.

In September 1966 an American spy satellite flew over a Soviet naval base on the Caspian Sea and took a series of photographs. This being the height of the Cold War, the results created quite a stir among the American intelligence community, because they showed an object, more than 100m long with inexplicably stubby, square wings, quite unlike anything they had seen before.

Their first guess was that this was a conventional aeroplane, possibly a seaplane, but one that was incomplete and much bigger than any aircraft the US had.

But when the pictures were examined more closely, intelligence analysts calculated that, even if completed, it would actually fly really badly. This, coupled with the position of the engines, located well forward of the wing, made them realise what they were looking at was something entirely different. They had stumbled on one of the most top secret military projects of the Soviet era. The object was soon dubbed the Caspian Sea Monster.

What they were looking at was, in fact, an Ekranoplan; a wing in ground effect or WIG craft designed to fly at very high speed a few metres over the top of the sea. It sounds not unlike a hovercraft. But where a hovercraft floats on a skirt of air, the Ekranoplan sits clean above the surface and relies on a well known, if little understood aerodynamic phenomenon called “ground-effect”.

In very simple terms the wing produces a dynamic cushion of air when it’s close to the ground and the Ekranoplan effectively rides upon this. It’s the same effect that pelicans use when flying low over the sea and it’s a remarkably efficient way of flying, actually increasing lift by as much as 40%. All of which means the Ekranoplan was far more efficient than conventional aeroplanes.

But even more crucially, its ability to fly just a few feet above sea level lent it one huge military advantage – the fast and efficient Ekranoplan was stealthy, capable of carrying troops and armoured vehicles rapidly under the gaze of enemy radar.

But all this was still a mystery to the West in the 1960s. It would be a quarter of a century later, in 1991, before the first photographs of these “sea monsters” were finally published and their existence confirmed.

Back in the 60s, the Ekranoplan project was so secret even to use the “E” word was forbidden in public. Not that nosey foreigners were likely to stumble on one during their travels. Developed on the Volga River near Nizhny Novgorod – formerly Gorky – this was a city closed to foreigners during the Soviet era.

The project owes much to the development of hydrofoils – fast boats that lift out of the water as they pick up speed. Today, hydrofoils are a staple of many ferry operators around the world, but it was the Soviets who had invented them.

The Ekranoplan was handled by the Central Hydrofoil Design Bureau, under the lead of its chief designer Rostilav Alekseev. With the personal support of Soviet premier Kruschev, the project was given what amounted to an open chequebook.

The original Caspian Sea Monster spied by the Americans was a colossal 540-tonne research craft. At 100m long, it was bigger than a Jumbo Jet and twice as heavy as any contemporary aircraft, but much more efficient and capable of flying at up to 400km/h.

But such a craft was clearly considered unwieldy and after years of research the Soviet military scaled down their ambitions, developing and producing a smaller 125-tonne Ekranoplan, which entered service with the Soviet navy as rapid transports. Even then, the Ekranoplan was a machine with mighty potential.

Each could to whizz up to 300 troops on its split-level decks, or two armoured vehicles, swiftly and efficiently across open water.

A CIA report from the end of 1988 – just a year before the fall of the Berlin Wall – considered that initial deployment of the Ekranoplans to the Soviet Baltic, and Black Sea Fleets was due to begin in the early 1990s. But geopolitical events intervened.

Of the 120 craft planned less than a handful were ever built or saw service and after the end of the Cold War the entire Soviet Ekranoplan project was abandoned – the surviving monsters were mothballed at the same Caspian naval base where they were first discovered by the American spy satellites.

Yet the technology behind the Ekranoplan continued to grip military minds in the West. In 1993 the US even sent its own team of analysts to assess the technology of the advanced Soviet Ekranoplan project with a view to developing their own for heavy sealift transports.

Today, a private company, ATTK, (Arctic Trade and Transport Company), is once again producing Ekranoplans in the very same shipyards where the first prototypes were designed, built and tested. But these civilian heirs to the Caspian Sea Monsters are altogether smaller and more pocket-sized affairs, designed to be used as personal craft or water taxis.

The Aquaglide is a compact 5 seat, 10m craft with a cruising speed of 170km/h. Unlike its jet-powered forebears, it’s powered by a Mercedes car engine, but the engines still sit in front of its short stubby wings. Two variable pitch propellers can push air under the wings and help develop the cushion that allows the craft to become airborne. And like their heftier siblings they are capable of flying over water, ice, or land.

Part of the problem with the development of Ekranoplans, has been their classification for matters of legislation and licensing. Were these aircraft or ships? The matter was only resolved as late as 2005 by the International Maritime Organisation who deemed that Ekranoplans were, in fact, “high flying ships”.


September 25, 2008, 7:15 pm
Filed under: America, Art, Culture, Entertainment, Family, Society, Thoughts, TV | Tags: , , ,

This week saw the UK release of HBO’s The Wire, Season 5 – I have watched four episodes already and it was definitely worth waiting for! It’s the best TV drama ever made by a country mile. It is one of those programmes that you hope never end. I’m savouring every moment of it and no doubt I’ll go back and watch it all again from Season 1 when 5 is over. If you haven’t seen it, buy it, rent it, borrow it or steal it – it’s worth every minute in a cell! LOL

Graphic Porn
September 21, 2008, 10:49 pm
Filed under: Art, Blogging, Culture, Entertainment, Fun, Life, Taboos, Thoughts, Weird & Wonderful | Tags: , , , , ,

I wonder how many hits this title will attract? LOL

Apple Touches Down In Belfast
September 21, 2008, 5:40 pm
Filed under: Apple Mac, Belfast, Culture, Economy, Life, News, Thoughts, UK, Uncategorized | Tags: , , ,

In the words of Etta James – At Last, My Love Has Arrived…

The Apple store opened in Belfast on Saturday and I have rearranged my day off this week to make my first visit tomorrow. It looks quite small on the BBC news report compared to those I’ve been to in New York, London and even Amsterdam, but I’ll hold off on making judgements until tomorrow. I might as well treat myself with lunch at Nandos while I’m at Victoria Square – no-one else will! Awww, poor me…