Rat Island

Well I survived the computer incident. Just.So now I have the means again to regularly feed my Guardian Online addiction. I was interested to read an article in the environment section about mass tourism in the Galapagos Islands. My earlier blog entry about Lonesome George made my eyes pay attention to this article, and I was interested to see that a rat had been found on the island this week. Nothing special there you may say, but not being indigenous to the islands, there has been cause for concern.

The allegation are currently aimed toward the MV Discovery, a cruise ship with a capacity of around 500 tourists. Arriving from Panama, it could easily have provided safe passage for the rat, which would have then disembarked for a tour of the island. There is the argument that this is just a coincidence, and indeed it could very easily be just that. But what cannot be ignored is that with the increase in tourism, it is highly likely that there will be a wide range of ecological effects on the islands.

1968 was the year that the Galápagos National Park Service was established, and they set themselves the task of creating a working tourism framework, that would protect the islands, but open them up to the undoubted interest of nature lovers around the world. They placed restrictions on the number of visitors allowed on each arriving boat, plus the requirement of a qualified guide for every twenty visitors.

The Galápagos National Park Service were the forerunners of eco-tourism, realising the need to maintain a balance between conservation and tourism. However, the situation now places the islands themselves in a very precarious situation. This huge rise in visitors will place a strain on their existing facilities, not just having an effect on the wildlife, but also on the experience of those people genuinely interested in the islands. The average EasyCruise passenger is not going be passionately interested in the islands as a whole, instead it's just a whistle stop tour; hurried photo opportunities in order to back in time for the lobster dinner and cabaret.

The Galápagos need tourism, no doubts there, but at what price? Their tourism needs to focus on sustainability, and needs to find the balance that it had kept so well until recently. Without this the islands will surely succumb to idle feet pushing back the hedges even further, and before long irreparable damage will have been done. This is a modern day problem that has spread to many delicately beautiful, eco-tourism destinations; the danger is that by losing sight of what makes these places so special we run the likely possibility that we will crush them with our crowds.

James' bane

Just going to start off by saying that this is the second time I've written this blog entry. Microsoft Shitty Explorer (not using this by choice I might add) just erased my last entry due to its crap Popup blocking system. OK i should have saved a draft, so I guess it's my fault, but just give me a break here. Why is there a need to refresh automatically, surely it would have the same rules if I just had to click on what I wanted to open again and it would work. A pox on you Microsoft, you and your software.

So my entry went something like this. I have always found that over the years that through having a geekish interest in computors, I have found more and more ways to become frustrated with them. Despite an above average ability when it comes to computer related problems, I find that there are just new and different problems which the average user probably never encounters - nor would they want to.

My most recent anatagonism has come in form of trying to install Windoze XP on my brand new PC. Basically, the laptop that I hd borrowed to take to Uni slowly died, and so I needed a new computer. My Mac was getting on in years, and although I love Macs, I felt a PC might be a better all round option for me. At least until I have more money and can afford a beautiful, stable, excellent Mac once again.

Being reasonably confident, I decided to buy my components for my PC separately as it would enable me to end up with the kind of computer that I acutally wanted, as opposed to a cheap run around. So everything arrived, nice and shiny, and I couldn't wait to get everything working so I could play Half Life 2 online...I mean do some important Uni work!

Problem 1: Accidentally bought the wrong RAM. Schoolboy error, but it was no big deal as I had another 512mb that was compatible, so at least I could get up and running. A quick chat with the nice people at Novatech, and they told me to post it back and I'll get the suitable replacement. Ideal.

Problem 2: So I put everything together, power up and begin to install Windoze. Shouldn't be too dificult, the format goes fine, but I start getting error messages relating to the copying of files over to the installation folder. Well maybe they're not important file, I think, so I skip them and carry on.

Problem 3 I reach the installation stage, everything goes fine. Install is done and it's saving the settings. I get to the last minute of the install, and the system reboots. Hmm, I'm sure it wasn't supposed to do that. I'm dismayed to then find that my computer is locked in a perpetual loop of crashing and rebooting. So not the easy task I expected.

For the next two days I tried a variation of installation technique, tricks and clever things. None of which worked. In despair I finally concluded that it must just be the disk, as it's the same files every install that are failing to copy. So a quick call later and a very good friend of mine has another copy in the post for me.

So now I'm waiting for that to arrive. In fact it may already be at home waiting for me. But I've started reading various posts on Tech forums, all suggesting that there can be other reasons for this error arising. Motherboard problems, faulty RAM and doggy CD drives. Oh joy. So now I'm stressing that it could be something much worse, and all this is happening in the week before I have to hand in all my work, which is currently sat on a laptop hard drive that I need to plug into my new computer so I can get the data off it. I'm sure it'll all work, it's just a little worrying right now. How will this drama end? Possibly in burning flames with a PC through the window.

If only I had bought a Mac...


Ahoy there!

I still find it absolutely unbelievable that the RNLI is still supported by the generous donations of the public. It's a service that saves untold numbers of lives every year; more often than not these lives are of young children who find themselves inadvertently in trouble in the summertime. It's important to recognise that the RNLI do not just patrol beaches in their RIB's, but they also risk storm and tempest many miles from land, risking their lives in order to save those in dire circumstances. There's is a service that is often overlooked in the public eye, but in the quiet of night they are always prepared to leave their beds and face the storm outside.

I just can understand that the RNLI is not a publicly subsidised service like the police or the fire brigade. Although, having said that maybe the season the volunteers are so dedicated and respected is because they choose to give up their own free time in order to provide this life saving service. Sometimes charitable generosity can provide much more than taxable income prised from our hands. The financial cost of keeping the crew trained and the lifeboats running are truly staggering, running costs are at around £120 million, with £24 million going on expenditure towards boat investment, equipment and shoreworks in order to maintain their efficiency. It cost around £1000 a year to train each volunteer crew member, and for each time an all weather lifeboat is launched, it costs an estimated £5,580 just to send her out.

At least now, thanks to programmes such as the BBC's Seaside Rescue, public awareness of the general scope of the RNLI's activities are being recognised. Fundraising totals are increasing every year, but consider this compared to fact that Children In Need this year raised half of the RNLI's total fundraising income in one night, compared to over the course of the year. I can't help but feel that the RNLI is being grossly overlooked by the public at large. More and more people holiday by the seaside, and all these people like to take advantage of the sea during the summer months. Yet due to factors such as poor equipment and education on sailing boats, or just a plain lack of common sense, these are the people who are facing life threatening situations. More often than not these casualties are young children, and the RNLI rescues on average, four children from the sea everyday.

I'm not suggesting that the RNLI is necessarily a more important service than any other, just than it appears to be woefully underfunded for the service that it provides. When the firemen went on strike a few years ago over pay disputes I felt no sympathy for them whatsoever. Fair enough, they probably do deserve a pay rise for the excellent service that they provide, but 40 per cent? And to go on strike for 8 days leaving parts of the country dangerously under covered in terms of fire protection. Imagine if the RNLI went on strike? Who could cover for them effectively? Hardly anyone in the entire country, there is no way you can teach someone how to skipper a Severn class lifeboat in fifteen foot swell and force eight winds and come alongside a stricken fishing boat in just a few weeks.

The difference between RNLI volunteers and those in other areas of the public service is that the empathy often felt between those being rescued and those on board the lifeboat. Many of the lifeboat crew have their livings linked to the sea, due to the very nature of the job a keen interest in the sea is required, and there is always the knowledge in the back of any seafarers mind that the RNLI are always there if the worst should happen. The fact of the matter is that anything can happen at sea, it does not matter how experienced you are, and the crew and skippers of these lifeboats understand this, it could happen to them, and it's just as likely to happen to you.

I have an incredible amount of respect for those who serve around the country, giving up their free time, in order give those at sea some peace of mind. It is something I would love to be do myself, but in my mind I do not think I have the fortitude to do so. So instead I will continue to support the lifeboat from the shore, confident to know that when I'm at sea, if the worst should happen, I'll have some of the most dedicated and courageous people in the UK there ready to support me.

Visit the RNLI Website for more details.

Chicken Soup For The Cold

As much as I like to enjoy myself over the festive season, I always end up feeling worse off during the first week or so in January. I would probably bet that over the last four or five years I've managed to run my body down into a cold every year; I never learn of course. Restless nights, then struggling to get up in the morning, and I always need to get up in order to either go to work, or get Uni work done. I wasn't surprised to see picture in the Guardian yesterday of empty streets and offices in London, a direct result of the first sick days of the year being taken, and Scilly was no different.

According to my Dad the town hall was nothing but a ghostly cavern, devoid of the electronic hum of computer monitors and clicking keyboards. I'm sure some of these absences, here and in the capital are absolutely genuine, but after having plenty of relaxing time off over Christmas and New Year, it can often be hard to drag oneself back into the working routine, especially when you only have January to look forward too. It's possibly my least favourite month of the year. It's always cold, it's long, and still too close to the winter equinox that there is no significantly obvious change to the length of the days, in fact the it doesn't stay light any later in the day, it just gets lighter earlier. Not much use when you're still sleeping - mind you I guess the farmers will be a bit happier for it.

My one consoling January fact? It's National Soup Month in America. Maybe if they eat more soup and less steroid pumped cows they might be able to lose some weight. Mind you I expect their soup probably has chips and jam in it.

Well I might join our American bosom buddies and have some chicken soup for lunch, after all if the Ancient Egyptians thought it could cure colds, then maybe they were onto something. The actual scientific proof of chicken soup helping colds is pretty thin on the ground; a study did suggest that the nutrients and vitamins often contained in chicken soup might help slow the activity of white blood cells, which would act as an anti-inflammatory, hypothetically leading to a temporary ease from illness. However, any likely benefit from soup in general probably comes from steam from the soup getting into the nasal passages and acting as a natural decongestant.

That's good enough for me though, I'm in danger of inhaling my keyboard at the rate that I'm sniffing. Stay healthy, eat soup.


Achive Your Resolution In '07 - Free Report Shows You How!

Well I guess this is the usual time for both reflection and looking forward to the oncoming new year. The tired corpse of 2006 has now been put to rest and millions of people are already breaking their new year resolutions. I'm not normally one for resolutions, I don't have anything that I want to give up really. Although there are a few things I want to achieve this year, so maybe my resolution should be aimed at trying to achieve these goals. Seems sensible.

A quick google of New Year Resolutions reveals the sponsored results to be full of Loan companies claiming to help you fix your debt, anti-smoking companies, lifestyle coaches, affordable counselling and claims of being able to change the world this year with our company. As with most things in life, these companies are quick to exploit those aiming for the quick easy fix to their lives, and those with New Year's hangovers often look to others to help as opposed to helping themselves. I'm not totally cynical though, some things such as giving up smoking often requires external help, and if this helps them stop then I'm all for it.

The most popular resolutions are always the ones that we are most familiar with. Stopping smoking, losing weight, drinking less etc. But there are few resolutions that are more centred around giving and helping others more. Maybe that's what we all need to be thinking of more at this time of year. The supposed message of Christmas has long since disappeared under the gloss of crass commercialism, but maybe with some extra focus then the New Year could become a popular image for making a difference in the world. Whether this is done by giving money to charity, volunteer work or something as simple as planting a tree, these are surely more worthwhile endeavours in the long term. Someone can easily lose weight, improve their fitness, and help a charity by doing something like running a marathon. It's no easy feat, but the rewards are incredibly good and the achievement itself is a pretty big thing.

So for this year I'm planning on paying more attention to the three 'R's - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I want to put more effort into growing my own vegetables this year in an effort to eat more good food. Also I want to keep working hard towards my MA, and pushing my writing even further than before. Shouldn't be too hard.

Blydhen Nowydh Da