Thursday, July 22, 2010

Long ago... way before kids, me and Donna went on a camping trip with the guy in the next room, Simon. He drove trucks, delivered animal feed to small, remote farms on Dartmoor. We hung out together a lot and at the time I'd have called him my firmest friend. So... packing an ancient tent into an equally ancient Ford Cortina we headed off to Cornwall. Maybe three hours from home...

First full day down there I take everyone to a place I knew as a kid. The beach, Mawgan Porth, just below the airbase of RAF St. Mawgan from where the Nimrods would hunt the Atlantic for Russian subs. The cold war was in full swing at the time and these huge planes would haul themselves off over the beach every evening heading for their vigil over the North Atlantic. A beautiful bit of coastline... typically Cornish, and in the last days of summer with the first hint of Autumn in the air, it was a desolate and lonely place.

I regaled Donna & Simon with my memories of high summer, childhood visits to this, by now, almost mythical beach, as the three of us hunted the lanes and farm tracks for those little for sale signs "Free Range Eggs", "Goats Milk"... you know the kind. We stocked up on local food and headed for the sands.

Sand grains scudded past my bare feet, hurried along by a very brisk wind, as we looked out to sea. Impossibly blue, sand & waves & scents & textures that I can still recall so vividly. We had muesli, local organic goat's milk and local organic honey... plastic bowls & the odd errant sand grain thrown in. The waves looked very surfable. I'd been surfing here years ago & the first of the Autumnal winds meant the waves were running to 8ft or so... tempting!

We had no surfboards with us, but me and Simon had a set of fins each. Long, black flexible fins. Made for scuba diving... I'd seen body surfing before, pick a wave and stiffen your body, fin hard with the swell and wait for that magical moment when the wave takes over and you skim towards the shore. Sounded like a plan!

We left Donna on the beach, I glanced back and saw her tidying the bowls & straightening the blanket. She looked up, smiled a smile that is still imprinted on my memory and waved. Me & Simon ran into the water... the waves even in the shallows swept in like steps. Ankle deep one second, knee deep the next. We put on our fins and dived seawards, arms tight to our sides. Out past the white water, where the sea suddenly cools and the swells are long and full. We turn, face to the shore and wait for the moment. Just before it breaks, timing is everything!

I feel the wave building behind me, slow, oily dark... the first hint of fear. I hear the sound of the white water at it's crest as I fin hard for the shore. To late! It's breaking already! What feels like a thousand tons of ice cold, hard water slams into my back, pushing me under. Tumbling, disorientated as the daylight fades and it goes dark. I hit bottom hard. Gravel, sharp stones, sand... dragged mercilessly across the sea bed by the undertow.

I right myself, feet down, to kick off the bottom for the surface. Painfully aware I had no time to take a lungful of air before I went under I feel the ache in my chest and my muscles start to complain from oxygen deprivation. Arrow straight I push for the dim daylight above. Kicking hard I realise one fin has been ripped off my feet. What to do? Kicking with only one fin is so lopsided, so asymmetrical as to make the remaining fin useless. I decide to kick the last one off. I realise my mistake as soon as i try swimming upwards unaided. Naked in the water i'm suddenly slow, too bloody slow. The surface so far off...

My lungs bursting I break into the air, take a huge, groaning gasp... But the relief is momentary. Out of the corner of my eye I spot the next wave towering 8 maybe 9 feet above my head.Foaming white and milliseconds away from hitting me. I glance to shore... surely we didn't swim that far out! Then it hits me again. The breaker that started out off the Grand Banks, unchecked across thousands of miles of ocean, driven for days by strong, steady winds nails me to the sea floor once again. Drags me back, out to sea across shingle and boulders, dark, cold... strangely quiet.

It hurt! Not just the oxygen dep, not just my muscles complaining but the sea bed is so dark, sharp, rough. I get dragged maybe 50yds out to sea every time this happens. I have no idea how many times I managed to get to the surface seconds before the next wave shoved me back down to that cold, dark world of fear and pain. Ten? Twenty? Maybe more... It couldn't go on like this. It started to dawn on me there was only one way today was going to end. And I wished it would hurry the fuck up!

There came a point where the fear of death outweighed the hurt & the struggle. The future i would never know, the people I loved I knew i'd never see again. Donna sat on the beach waiting... But I couldn't face any more. I knew I was beaten. I knew the ocean had won. My last glimpse of the sky, blue, so beautifully blue. The sound of the last wave... I almost welcomed it's arrival. Pushing me downwards, back into the dark.

I relaxed... my muscles glowed as I stopped fighting. Limp as a rag doll I let the sea do what it would with me. Almost curious. Would it hurt? What would that bolt of cold, hard sea water feel like as it entered my lungs? I was surprised to find myself at peace. Acceptance. Acceptance of my mistakes and my final end. Comfy... Warm... and so achingly sad!


One last thought hit me! My epitaph! Not carved in stone in some crow haunted cemetery, but in the thoughts of the people I loved. How would the tale be told? They'd know nothing of my last, painful, lonely struggle. The last they saw of me was wiping organic honey and organic goats milk off my chin! My last meal would be the penultimate chapter. But what a meal! A tree huggers, sandal wearing, hippy, vegan meal. Bloody muesli! With bloody goats milk and honey! OMFG no way! I'm NOT going to have that as the defining moment at the end of my life! Raw buffalo flesh ripped out with my teeth maybe! A 20lb bass caught with my bare hands and cooked over an open fire would be fine! But organic goats milk! For fuck sake! No!

That, strangely, was the thought that saved me. Not the fear of death, i would have welcomed death at that point with immense gratitude. Never seeing Donna again was a huge part of the sadness that went along with the calm, eerie warmth I felt, but it wasn't the catalyst for my last, desperate fight to the surface. Not experiencing the next 60 years i'd already got used to. It was that damn last meal!

I hauled myself off the bottom. Struck out for the dim vestige of daylight seeping down through maybe 60ft of boiling, seething water. Surface! Breath! Oh fuck that felt good! Then everything started hurting again. The pain, the fear all flooded back. I turned 90 degrees and managed two strokes towards the headland. The beach now an unattainable distance away my only hope was reaching that last promontory of rock before I was swept out into the bay proper. Another wave knocked the breath out of me as back down I went. This time anger, a rage filled me. Energy I had no idea I had, red, angry... I hit bottom, crouched and lunged back upwards. This time three strokes before the next wave. The rocks now closer but would I manage to reach them before I was dragged out past their jagged, welcoming, longed for solidity.

Now within maybe 20ft of them I saw Simon standing, looking at me as I broke surface once again... I waved, tried to scream for help, cut short by the next wave my scream was was silenced by the sea as it once again swamped me. Next glimpse is of Simon. Waving arms, shaking his head in an unmistakable "No!". He had blood all down his chest, arms and legs. What the hell had happened to him? Either way, knew he wasn't going to leap in and rescue me. Didn't blame him... Never have.

The first solid object apart from sea floor brushed my fingertips. The rocks! Next time up I grabbed onto them with both hands. The joy of touching solid land short lived as the next wave dragged me off, barnacles & crags ripping my skin. Again I reached out with both hands and managed to get my knees wedged hard against them. Bright, white searing pain as the shells of limpets dug into my skin. The wave drained away. Thousands of gallons of water tried to prise me off but I clung on. Free of the water at last I climbed upwards a few feet. Another wave on it's way... I strained upwards for a better handhold... It's then I felt Simon's hand grasp mine and pull me upwards.

We hugged... Neither of us could talk... Breathing was far more important. My legs gave way. We both sat there, blood seeping from cuts and scratches and mixing with the seawater, coating us in livid red.

"I couldn't get back in Les... Couldn't.. I heard you shout... but i'd have never got out again!"

I hugged him again...

"I know Si, I know... Don't worry man. I know..."

If you look at the picture you'll see a telegraph pole bottom right. From the top of that pole track right along the green band of seaweed until you see a white dot. That white dot is at the base of the rock we climbed out on. You can see the climb we had to do to get back up off the headland and down onto the beach. Both of us naked, our trunks and fins long gone, covered in blood, we somehow managed to get through the brambles, stinging nettles and mud. We must have looked a mess when we eventually made it back...

... a crowd had gathered on the beach, all looking silently out to sea. We'd have to get through them to find Donna. Wondering what was happening we asked the first few people at the back of the crowd. "What you all looking at?"

"Couple of guys caught in the riptide... both drowned... Oh!"

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Go See Religulous!

Religulous by Bill Maher is a brilliant, laugh out loud, hard hitting swipe at religiosity around the world. If it's not showing where you live search one of the torrent sites (Pirate Bay for example) and watch it.

His conclusion, that we, as a species, have to grow up or die is so very important to get across to people. And he's right again that time is short if we are to survive this dangerous mix of bronze age myth and modern warfare / weaponry that surround us now.

This film needs to be shown annually in every school on the planet, with "The God Delusion" handed out as the end credits roll.

We laughed our tits off, we gasped at some of the rank stupidity of the theists, we cheered at the end... and we just have to go to that religious disney land in Florida SOON!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Sour Creek Dome

If you take a look at the unfiltered plot of the continued uplift of the Sour Creek Dome here... (third graph down) you can see for the very last section a new line emerging. The most recent "cloud" of data points are marked in red. See the highest one? If you look to it's left you can see a trail of points going back into the main data set.

The Sour Creek Dome is quite a large area... and by the amount of data points appearing with each update it's obvious they are sampling at more than one location. But from the graph it looks like that one datum point on the dome has very recently broken out of the trend, risen above the background noise, and is uplifting much quicker than the rest of the dome.

I think someone should perhaps home in on this single datum point and "cast a net" around it so we can see what's happening with greater resolution. More pixels if you like. It looks to me like most of the dome is slowing perhaps with just a single point continuing the trend of the past few years. Either way, more resolution please? Has anyone go a link that plots these datum points on the dome with separate graphs for each one?

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Yellowstone Supervolcano

Just a quick heads up for something I've been watching for a couple of days. Yellowstone National Park in the US (home of "Old Faithful") is actually the caldera of a massive volcano. Mount St. Helens (1980) was a damp squib in comparison. St. Helens prduced 0.3 cubic km of rock and ash, the Huckleberry Ridge eruption of Yellowstone (2 million years ago) produced 2500 cubic km of rock and ash!

Here's a quick summary of events a map showing where the quakes are happening... live output from local seismographs...

If you look at Yellowstone Lake recorder from a few days ago and that of the same recorder currently you can see the difference. These pages of data from the recorders can be refreshed to update them in real time.

I don't know if you saw the BBC's dramatised documentary "Supervolcano" but here's a page about the effects and previous eruptions of Yellowstone.

Looks like the swarm is marching northwards towards the Sour Creek dome...

This is a place of recent, continued uplift... (Scroll down to second image)

Here's a plot of the uplift... (Third graph down)

Someone on one of the groups said it was all fluff and hype and that it was mainly wind and dump trucks causing the hectic plot at Yellowstone Lake and that we should...
"Keep an eye on Old Faithful's recorder to see output without the wind making everyone excitable"

Well, if you do that here.. Looks pretty dramatic to me and not much like wind or passing trucks!

Keep your heads down!

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Israel

You have to stop the mad fundamentalist settlers stealing land, the wall building stealing land, dividing farms, the checkpoints stopping commerce, splitting communities, the tanks against stone throwing kids, the starvation, the withholding of fuel, medicine, water, electricity... No
wonder your hollow words are not heard.

You haven't got the mindset to do this, otherwise Gaza and the West bank wouldn't be as they are, but if you, and your family, all your people, were forcibly removed from their homelands by a violent invader, all because of words in a work of fiction... wouldn't you fight back? Imagine... just for a few minutes, honestly... put yourself in their place, your homeland stolen,
your family starving and ill, unsanitary conditions, shot at, check points, anger... go on, try it!

And if your body, your life, was the last thing you had to fight with, then wouldn't you use that to protect all that you hold dear? Your kids, your partner, the last remnants of your homeland?

I can't believe all this came from a UK prime minister... Churchill. Sickening. That a so called "holy" book was taken as literal truth so that a mainly European people could invade a part of the middle east that had been permanently occupied since we got out of Africa and displace the people into foul slums, chipped away at, made smaller and smaller until they're bursting at the seams, and then starved and shot at.

Disgusting... absolutely disgusting. And you wonder why they fight back with
outdated rockets and suicide bombers?

Yes, the holocaust was foul, a nauseating chapter in human history. But two wrongs don't make a right. And Israel can't do what it's doing now BECAUSE it still suffers the pain of the Nazi death camps. I'm NOT an anti Semite... i'm an atheist / humanist and what you are doing is plain wrong! I don't hate you because you're a Jew, i hate what you are doing! There's a difference, and if you won't see that difference then it's a choice YOU have made, you choose to hide behind your people's history when you should have LEARNED from your people's history.

Of all the world's people, that it should be the descendants of the survivors of the Holocaust that should Ghetto-ise and murder thousands upon thousands of fellow humans is an outrage. This current pogrom against the Palestinians is no exception. Of all the worlds people i would have thought the Jews would be able to recognise the pain of others and LEARN from the atrocities
of the past.

It's just made you bitter, violent, blinkered... your forefather's suffering and your religion has rendered you blind to the suffering you're causing. As bad as Hitler? Well, ask the starving kid crying for his dead Mother in Gaza this morning as the smoke clears from your fighter jets most recent missile attack runs on residential areas and your ground troops prepare to go in with
tanks and assault rifles against "soft" targets.

Hitler's Blitzkrieg, "Lightning war" in English. It took the form of air assault to soften up the target and then mechanised troops pushing in and through... this is exactly what your armed forces are doing now. The only difference is that the Nazis had armies, air forces, navies to fight
against. Not women, children and desperate civilians formed into rag tag resistance outfits out of date, sparse weaponry. A few rockets and Kalashnikovs against your armed forces.... disgusting.

TALK! This is not a fight, it's a fucking turkey shoot. You should be ashamed of yourselves, as individuals and as a people. If those of your previous generations that didn't make it out of the camps could see what you are doing to these people they would hang their heads in disbelief and

I do to...for my own species stupidity, and the futileness of "my invisible friend is better than your invisible friend". Stupid, stupid humanity.... when will we ever fucking learn!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Radio 4 "Thought for the Day"

Please visit Pledgebank : "Thought for the Day"

"Thought for the Day" is a slot during BBC Radio 4's "Today Programme" in which airtime is handed over to religious commentators to try to interpret world events in the context of their texts and bestow their wisdom upon us all.

The fact that this interruption occurs during the BBC's flagship radio news programme, which is otherwise supposed to apply exacting standards of evidence, makes it totally and utterly incongruous. Not only is "Thought for the Day" on during this programme, but it is given absolute peak time at approximately 7.47am, just as many people are waiting for the 8am headlines and getting ready to leave for work.

In addition, the fact that humanist, non-religious contributors, are excluded from the slot gives the impression the BBC believes morality is the exclusive remit of religious people, which is offensive, unrepresentative and untrue.

As such, "Thought for the Day" is an insult to intelligent listeners. It is high time there was a concerted campaign insisting that it either:

1) accept non-religious contributors (for example A.C. Grayling)


2) be removed from The Today Programme's schedule all together

During the week commencing 1st January 2009 I will email the Today Programme to object to Thought for the Day in writing - but only if 100 other people do the same.

Although the Today Programme often passes the TFTD buck to the BBC "Religion & Ethics" unit (a conflation indicative of how they view matters) we will address our mails to where the problem appears:

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Help for a Friend....

Can YOU help?
This forwarded for a friend..

I am suffering from acute hepatitis and liver failure.

I have been in hospital for over a month now and my doctors are
calling me an anomaly.

About two and a half months ago I started feeling a little 'off
colour'. I put it down to stress (of moving house recently and
starting a new job) and the fact that my partner (with whom I live)
had been feeling a bit poorly over a weekend (minor stomach ailments,
a little bit of diarrhoea) because that's how I had started to feel.

Within a week though I knew that it was a little more than that but I
had just started my new job and wasn't going to take a day off sick if
I could help it.

By the end of the first week, I was losing my appetite and feeling
nauseous and an intense itching had started.

Towards the end of my second week, I had not been eating more than a
few bites of food at a time and had had diarrhoea, vomiting and had
(unnoticed by me) begun to change colour to yellow.

On the Thursday of the second week, my partner bumped into me at a
train station on the way home from work and gave me a kiss. As we
pulled apart, he started looking at me strangely saying that I looked
like I had yellow eyes. Having no mirror, I waited 20 minutes and
checked it out in the mirror at home. Sure enough, I had a very
definite tinge of yellow to my skin and the whites of my eyes were
somewhat worse.

That evening, I was vomiting everything that I was eating/drinking
including water.

The next evening, I went to an NHS walk in centre and they told me
that I was jaundiced and to go home and sleep it off and I would
return to normal colour within 4-6 weeks.

On Monday, after having an entire weekend of no food/water and
vomiting bile, I decided that I had to take a day off work and went to
my doctor to arrange a blood test. (thankfully ignoring the first
doctor's advice of 'going home and sleeping it off')

He examined me and found my liver to be tender to the touch and he put
slight pressure on it and triggered off a gag reflex. I told him to
stop otherwise I would be sick and he proceeded to put a little extra
pressure on it and I threw up on the floor(!)

He told me to leave the surgery immediately and go and admit myself to
the nearest hospital and get myself put on a drip. He prescribed some
piriton (anti itching) and some anti sickness tablets. (My doctors
informed me that had I not admitted myself to hospital, then I would
have died from dehydration/starvation within a week. I am looking at
'multiple organ failure' because my liver, kidneys and gall bladder
are under a huge amount of strain.)

Within hours of being put on the drip I was feeling better and all of
the doctors that I had met until that point told me that had I 'gone
home and slept it off' I would have been dead by the end of the week.
(My symptoms apparently wouldn't have changed much – I would have just
got more tired and more grumpy/irritable which I probably would have
put to the hot weather and then I would have gone to sleep and not
woken up.)

After the first week in hospital in isolation, my appetite was
increasing dramatically and I was feeling a lot better. ( I was on a
standard saline and glucose drip and all of my vitals were around the
normal mark.)

My daily blood test results were fluctuating but the only thing that
had really changed was the INR (the blood clotting) and that was very
slowly returning to normal.

By the end of the second week, I was transferred to the Royal Free
where I was being quite sick. I was on N-Acetyl Cysteine and the
doctors had forgotten to mention that one of the side effects would be
severe nausea.

They have done 2 X-rays, 2 Ultrasounds, 4 CT scans and one Liver
biopsy and they still are no closer to a solution. They want me to
stay as a long term In Patient with no plans for treatment.

I am feeling physically better now and have done since about the end
of the second week in hospital, I am eating lots of different foods
(have been for a couple of 3 course meals in the last week, eaten
entire roast dinners (and desserts) duck, chicken, pork, eggs, dairy,
fish, fruit, drinking around 4 litres of pure water a day plus some
milkshakes and other fruit juices) I have been sick once recently and
that was due to overeating(!) I had had a three course meal and then
decided to continue to eat a huge pot of very acidic fruit.
Unfortunately saw the fruit again which was, to be fair, my own silly
fault. (but oh, it tasted good!!)

My liver no longer feels tender to touch and I cant feel it with my
fingers any more even though my doctors are telling me that its
getting more inflamed. They are saying that some of my blood tests are
very slowly turning for the worse and they want me to stay in hospital
'in case something happens/changes for the worse'

I am still in regular contact with a doctor from the first hospital
that I was at who has taken a personal interest in my case because its
so unique.

I spend all day every day in hospital watching DVDs and reading books.
I eat all of the meals that I am given (and sometimes more) I took
myself off of the drip called N-Acetyl Cysteine because the doctors
said that it wasn't actually doing anything except making me feel

I am drinking, my bowels are moving freely of their own accord. I no
longer feel any nausea/sickness; don't have diarrhoea, don't feel
lethargic (I feel very energetic some days and most days am to be
found roaming the hospital wearing a night dress and holding a laptop
under my arm in search of entertainment!)

My initial symptoms

* Sickness/vomiting – not even being able to retain sips of water
* Lethargy
* Diarrhoea (very pale stools, cream in colour)
* Intense itching
* Severe lack of appetite
* Very dark urine (looks like coca cola)
* Jaundiced (yellow – bilirubin count average 600)
* Inflamed liver (to 1/3 its size again) tender to touch

What they have done

After a month in hospital – they have tried me on a 6 day course of
steroids and a drip called N-Acetyl Cysteine which lasted for about 5
days neither of which has had an effect.

I was kept in contact isolation for a week because they thought that I
was infectious and then realised that I wasn't. Then I stopped being
sick and have only been sick more recently as a direct side effect of
N-Acetyl Cysteine and over eating.

They did a liver biopsy (Through the jugular) and informed me that
half of my liver cells were dead and the other half were newly
regenerated and at some point in the last 2 months my whole liver had
inexplicable died and began regenerating.

Take my blood sugar levels every 3 hours and only pull arterial blood
for analysis. (ouch!)

(Official names for steroids used: Prednisolone (8 X 40mg tablets)

(Names of all medication consumed in hospital –

Vitamin K (1 X10 mg) for two days

Cholestymmine (1 X g) for three days

Mebclopmnide (3 X 10 mg) for three days

Clinitra (3 X energy supplement drink) for one week

Prednisolone (40 mg) for 3 days

Omepazle (20mg) for 3 days

Calcicle D Fote (3 days)

Aqueous Menthol Cream (as required)

Piriton (As required – no more than every 6 hours)

What has been ruled out

* Malaria
* Hepatitis A,B,C,D,E
* Exotic diseases
* Sexually transmitted disease
* Auto immunity of the liver

My current symptoms

* Jaundiced (bilirubin count around 650-700)
* Dark urine and pale stools. (fluctuate in colour quite
dramatically depending on what I've eaten, but will usually change
* Itching

Other information

* I have not been in a position where I have had my drink spiked.
* I do not take any recreational drugs and have never done any.
* I do not/have never smoked.
* I do not take the contraceptive pill.
* I do not drink excessively and my monthly consumption of alcohol
would have to be less than 6 units (2/3 small bottles of cider)
* I am not depressed/suicidal and did not try to commit suicide by
taking paracetamol/aspirin.
* I do not generally take other forms of medication
herbal/prescribed or other. (I can remember the last medication that I
took, - a piriton for the itching before I came to hospital, a nasal
spray to counteract what I thought was the beginning of a cold and an
anti inflammatory (Ibuprofen) to counteract the swelling as a result
of the itching. (All of which were taken AFTER the initial symptoms
had occurred.)
* I do not eat shellfish usually, though I do buy small prawns and
have prawn cocktail jacket potatoes.
* I have not been exposed to anyone with liver disease and there
is no history of it in anywhere in the family.
* Though I travelled to Rio de Janeiro (Brasil) in January, I did
not pick up any exotic diseases and this is not a result of anything
that I have picked up as nothing has shown up in my blood.

n.b Just as an after note – it has been noted by several different
people on different occasions(including nurses and two doctors) that I
appear to get less yellow towards the end of the day: my theory is
that I am drinking and eating so I am pushing things through my system
and the yellow fluctuates.

If you know or have any idea what this is, please please could you let
me know because no one here has a clue!

My doctors are going a little crazy with my case and am now in the
**** hospital in London. I am in a specialist liver ward and
they don't know how to treat me because they don't know that the cause

Please pass this onto anyone who may be able to help me because I cant
be the only person in the world to have this happen to them!

Thank you very much!