A 208 Welsh Aquaduct that is still working to this day..

Today we are in Wales, and the photos are of the magnificent 208 year old Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, which is a navigable waterway that carries the Llangollen Canal over the valley of the River Dee in North East Wales. Completed in 1805, it is the longest, and highest aqueduct in Britain, a Grade 1 listed building , and a World Heritage Site. When the bridge was built, it linked the villages of Froncysyllte, at the southern end of the bridge, with Cysyllte township of Llangollen parish (from where it takes its name).

The aqueduct was built by Thomas Telford, who was a Scottish civil engineer, noted around the British Isles for being a road, bridge and canal builder. The aqueduct  is 1,007 ft (307 m) long, 11 ft (3.4 m) wide and 5.25 ft (1.60 m) deep. It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft (38 m) above the valley on iron arched ribs, carried on nineteen hollow masonry piers (pillars). Each span is 53 ft (16 m) wide. Despite considerable public scepticism, Telford was confident the construction method would work. It was opened on 26 November 1805, having taken around ten years to design and build at a total cost of UKL47,000. Adjusted for inflation this is equal to £2,930,000 as of 2013 ($4,400,00), and the structure is still standing, and working today – 208 year on. The towpath is mounted above the water, with the inner edge carried on cast-iron pillars in the trough. This arrangement allows the water displaced by the passage of a narrow boat to flow easily under the towpath and around the boat, enabling relatively free passage. Pedestrians, and the horses once used for towing, are protected from falling from the aqueduct by railings on the outside edge of the towpath, but the holes in the top flange of the other side of the trough, capable of mounting railings, were never used. The trough sides rise only about 6 inches (15 cm) above the water level, so the helmsman of the boat has no visual protection from the impression of being at the edge of an abyss, a very uneasy feeling for many boaters who cross the valley on the aqueduct. I have a fear of heights so as much as I could stand on one side of the bridge and admire both the structure and the wonderful view, there is no way I could walk across.

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The London Double Decker Bus..

Tonight we look at the “Double Decker Bus” which is common all over the UK, Europe and most of the old British Empire. It’s starting to catch on here in the USA, mostly in large cities as open air double decker buses for sightseeing. Bus the Red Double Decker Bus is known all over the world as being a part of London.. l remember catching the number 17 double decker every school day – so l wanted to know it’s history (the double decker bus, not the number 17!)

Well the earliest buses were called “omnibuses” and were operated in the UK in the 1830’s. As this was well before the invention of the combustion engine, they were pulled by horses. It was the UK that first invented the “double decker” in  1847 when a company called Adams & Co manufactured a vehicle with an upper deck that was accessed by a ladder. The horse drawn double decker (see photo 1), was introduced in London by the Economic Conveyance Company, and to encourage people to use the upper deck, fares were half the cost of sitting inside on the lower deck. In time the ladder was replaced by a staircase, and the last horse drawn bus operated in London on the 4th August 1914. The first motorized double decker was called the B-Type (see photo 2) and was introduced in London in1910, this was followed by the first enclosed double decked the N-1, again in London in 1923 (see photo 3). It was the first double decker bus to feature a fully covered top deck, and was considered luxurious at the time with upholstered seats rather than wooden benches. The NS.1 stayed in service until 1937. From 1938 the iconic red double decker buses ran in London, all through the second world war, and in 1954 the first of a modern replacement for the double decker was built – The Routemaster (see photo 4).  This is the bus that every tourist to London saw until it was withdrawn from use in December 2005. I used to love being able to jump on and off that open platform of a double decker bus on my way to school, something, I thought, that kids of today will never experience with the new modern era of buses. But then London introduced the new “21st century Routemaster (see photo 5) and it has the open rear platform. Well done to the makers and developers, what great forward thinking, keeping this tradition alive.

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All about Rice.

The first photo below is a stunning hillside view of rice fields, or “paddies” in China. By the way the vivid purple fields are where fertilizer being applied to the water for growing the rice in. The second photo shows the rice, fully grown and ready to be harvested. China is the world’s Largest producer of rice in the world, and accounts for 26% of all the worlds rice production. Most of us eat rice, but do you know its origins, and how it is grown and harvested? Rice, is one of the oldest foods on the dinner table. Archaeologists can trace it back to about 5000 BC, and historians note that it was mentioned in relation to China, where they held annual rice ceremonies, as early as about 2300 BC. They believe that the plant was also native to India and Thailand. Rice came to the West via explorers, soldiers, and traders. It thrived in many climates but not so well in others. Because the plant requires much rainfall shortly after it’s planted in the ground, followed by plenty of hot, sunny weather. Rice is a member of the grass family. The only raw material needed for commercial production of rice is the rice seed or seedlings. Nowadays, additional use of herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizer can increase the yield. More than 1 billion people throughout the world are actively involved in growing rice!

So how is rice grown? – Rice seeds are sown into soil pots, and grow very quickly, just a few weeks, into rice seedlings. The seedlings are planted into the flooded fields between February and April, the rice farmer in China generally grows rice on a hill side in sectioned off fields that have a levy around them to hold the water in the field. The whole hillside is divided into “paddie fields” with a series of levies and sleuth gates. Once the fields have been sown with the rice seedlings, the gates are used to control the level of water in the different fields on the hillside. The water is so important for the growth of rice, and it takes 5000 litres of water to produce 1 kilo of rice! The rice grows very quickly in the water, once the plants have reached full growth (approximately three months after Planting the seedlings) and the grains begin to ripen—the tops begin to droop and the stems turn yellow—the water is drained from the fields. As the fields dry, the grains ripen further and harvesting is commenced. Once the rice is harvested, at the processing plant, it is cleaned and hulled. At this point, brown rice needs no further processing. If white rice is desired, the brown rice is milled to remove the outer bran layers. And that’s a little insight into rice and how this grain is grown that is the staple diet for over half of the world’s population. Two last quirky facts about rice. The average American consumes 25lbs of rice per year. They don’t eat all 25lbs, 4lbs comes from drinking beer!! And in Japan two of their most popular cars brands are named after rice. Toyota, meaning “Bountiful Rice Field,” and Honda, meaning “Main Rice Field”

Rice Field Terraces in Yunnan, China 11820297-golden-paddy-rice-field-ready-for-harvest

Do dogs collect frequent flyer miles?

This story is recalled by a Braniff Airlines Captain back in the 1970’s: We went to south Florida and back on day 1 of a four-day trip. On the return leg to Dallas, my First Officer asked if he could go out to the parking lot to check on his dog. I inquired as to what was going on, and he responded that he was moving and had to get out of his old place and couldn’t get into his new place until after  we ended the 4 day trip. I asked if he had heard of Kennels, but he replied that he was on B scale wages,  and couldn’t afford it. This was April, but I was concerned about the heat. The F/O responded that the windows were all cracked in his car, and that he had plenty of food and water. Then I inquired about the probable mess. He responded that the dog was in an airline crate as he was only a small dog, and the mess would be contained. That was the final straw, as I was surveying the back jumpseat on the Boeing 727. I asked if the crate would fit. The F/O responded yes but wanted to make sure that’s what I had in mind. I said “Yes – go get the dog”. Needless to say security gave him some flack, and the Agents and Flight Attendants were incredulous, but we strapped in the dog and taxied out. I was thinking that I may have saved this dog’s life or at least made him more comfortable for 4 days. I had second thoughts as I pushed up the power for the first takeoff and the dog started to howl. The people in first class must have thought that the pilots were really strange. It all went downhill after that. We found ourselves walking through the various terminals for the next four days, carrying a dog and getting very strange looks from the public and crew members. Then we had to load the dog into the Van for the ride to the hotel every night. We tipped the drivers extra to keep their mouths shut and drop us off at the back of the hotels so we could keep the news of the extra guest to ourselves. We kept this up for four days. It was a strange trip, but the dog survived, and seemed to enjoy it.135979928-300x300-0-0

Hello – is there anybody there?

Another true story – The flight was running late and the cockpit crew were hungry. The passenger load in and out was full, and this was Orlando with lots of kids, so the Captain figured that he and the co-pilot had time for lunch – wrong…  As it turned out the Orlando ground crew turned the aircraft around in record time, and as the Captain and co-pilot were walking back to the gate they observed their aircraft being pushed back from the gate!  The Captain could not, at first take it in, had there been an unscheduled aircraft charge or crew swap? By now they were at the gate and quickly ran down to the tarmac. The aircraft had completed the pushback, but the Mechanic on the tug was doing some strange things. He had gotten out of the tug, walked out around and finally stood on top of the tug peering into the cockpit. It finally dawned on the Mechanic that nobody was inside. The cockpit crew figured out that this was still their flight and walked up to the aircraft, lowered the airstairs for the front door and climbed aboard. Needless to say the Flight Attendants and passengers were perplexed, but the cockpit crew explained briefly and the flight continued uneventfully. How did this happen? Well it was a comedy of errors,  there is a common interphone for cockpit to ground and cockpit to cabin communications on the aircraft. The Flight Attendant in the cabin had picked up the interphone to call the cockpit when, at the exact same time, the Mechanic had called the cockpit. The Mechanic said: “Are you ready?”. The Flight Attendant, assuming that it was the Captain, said: “Yeah, we’re all ready” and put the handset down. The Mechanic then said: “Brakes off”. There was no response, but procedurally correct communications were not predominant back then, so the Mechanic just started pushing the aircraft. The brakes were off which this is standard procedure after an aircraft arrives as the gate and chocks had been placed under the wheels. So the pushback was normal, but the Mechanic got no response when he asked for the brakes to be set and finally started nosing around. A most embarrassing situation, hope I don’t put too many people off flying with all these aircraft stories.


Lenticular Clouds

Today’s photo’s are of a meteorological phenomenon called “lenticular clouds”, which are a rare spectacle for many people, but if the conditions are just right, it’s not impossible to catch sight of them, normally over or next to mountains and a mountain and hill ranges. Their appearance is so distinctive that to the human eye they are often mistaken as close encounters of the third kind – and looking at the images below you can imagine why. The clouds, which form as layers, each layer mounted on the crest of the previous cloud, are created by the wind. It is basically the direction the wind is blowing and what’s in its path that forms the clouds. Stable fast air is pushed upwards upon meeting a barrier such as a mountain or range of mountains. The mountain barrier obstructs the upward-streaming winds, and this in turn produces a ‘gravity wave’ downwind from the mountain. Lenticular clouds will form when there is enough moisture in the air above the summit. This is the reason why lenticular clouds are often photographed enshrouding mountaintops.  An interesting tidbit is that pilots actively avoid straying too close to lenticular clouds because of the extreme turbulence the clouds bring with them. The photos below show the formations over the top of Mt Fuji in Japan, Palm Dessert in California (They had formed from the Rocky Mountains behind them). A line that formed over the Yorkshire Moors in England from a strong westerly wind that hit the Pennine chains of hills. And finally the Alps in Switzerland.

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Tonight the Scariest plaace in England….

A story for you tonight – It’s late, it’s foggy, you are driving in Kent, England, and the headlights of your rain-spattered vehicle are constantly fighting to puncture the grey haze ahead, battling to sweep aside the thickening gloom, in order to pick out the route ahead. As your eyes concentrate on the misty road, suddenly a figure steps into the road from the woods on the left, it is a woman, rain-soaked. However, before you can stop in time she has floated in front of the car, stared quickly into your tired eyes and fell under the front of the vehicle. You slam hard on the brakes, skidding to a halt, the image of her face stuck in your mind. She may be dead, or injured badly, writhing on the wet road under your wheels. You leap from your car, rush around the bonnet, awaiting to be met by the horror of the female you have just mown down. However, when you reach the front of the car, there is no sign of the figure, no traces of a body. Incidents like this happen at Blue Bell Hill, on the outskirts of Oxney Village, near Maidstone in Kent, giving it the title of the most scariest place in England. The dark, forbidding woodland with its ivy-covered trees and thick undergrowth seems to hold many secrets: a ruined church, an ancient stately home, strange trenches and rumour that it was once the site of a village. The Dover Road winds its way through these woods and the tortuous curves have been the site of many accidents. Drivers have reported seeing an old woman dressed in grey hobbling along beside the road, or of swerving to avoid hitting her. She is even reputed to have boarded a double-decker bus. This ‘Grey Lady’ is the focus of much of the mystery, but as we shall see, is only a small part of the fascinating history of Oxney. Earlier ghosts are said to include that of a gallant highwayman who was hanged in chains following his capture in the eighteenth century. Want some proof!!!
If you look at the photograph below, that was taken in the 1960′s looking out from the interior of St Nicholas Church. A dark silhouette can be seen at the bottom of the trees, to the right of the two tree trunks, that appears to be the highwayman! The negative to this picture has been professionally examined and certified as not having been tampered with. Want some proof!!! If you look at the photograph below, that was taken in the 1960’s looking out from the interior of St Nicholas Church. A dark silhouette can be seen at the bottom of the trees, to the right of the two tree trunks, that appears to be the highwayman! The negative to this picture has been professionally examined and certified as not having been tampered with.


An extra blog for Saturday..

Tonight’s we have an extra blog, well we are going to talk percentages;  no it’s not a math lesson, promise.. these are fun percentages, and we finish with a few “Do you know?” :

40% of all people who come to a party in a home, snoop in the medicine cabinet.

40% of McDonald’s profits come from the sales of Happy Meals.

48% of astronauts experience motion sickness.

52% of Americans drink coffee.

55% of all U.S. prisoners are in prison for drug offenses.

85% of men who die of heart attacks during intercourse, are found to have been cheating on their wives.

90% of New York City cab drivers are recently arrived immigrants.

99% of the pumpkins sold in the US end up as jack-o-lanterns.

Do you know – A hard boiled egg will spin, a soft boiled egg will not.

Do you know – A goldfish has a memory span of 3 seconds.

Do you know – A giraffe and rat can go longer without water than a camel.

Do you know – A fly always jumps backwards for a quick getaway when you try to hit it.

Do you know – A healthy individual releases 3.5 oz of gas in a single flatulent emission, or around 18 oz in a day – that’s 1lb 2oz….

Well l have learnt something tonight, if l just eat sprouts, and baked beans for two weeks l could potentially lose a lot of pounds….Have a great evening everybody.

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How To Fly Like Mary Poppins

Tonight’s photo, and video link shows a man called Erik Roner, who is professional skier from Southern California, who wanted to try and see if he could float down to earth from a hot air balloon “Mary Poppins Style” clutching a re-in forced patio umbrella.  In the video you see him climb up to a height of three thousand feet he then jumps, clutching his umbrella. The experiment works to a certain extent, and the umbrella does appear to slow down his descent, albeit without the grace of Julie Andrews, and then the umbrella cloth gave way! Fortunately, Mr. Roner anticipated this may happen, and opened his back-up parachute to float safely back to earth. Truly supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Howe the other half live..

There is a saying “How the other half live”, well today’s story is about how a Saudi Prince lives…

Some of us have been fortunate to, at one time or another, fly first class. And as you sit back with your legs outstretched you think “This is the life”. Well Saudi Prince Alweleed bin Talal Abdulaza Al-Saud is in a league of his own when it comes to flying.Forget first class, at present he owns 6 executive jets, the largest being a Boeing 747 jumbo jet which he has enough of, and has chosen to upgrade to the largest commercial passenger aircraft in the world, the Airbus A380. The sheer opulence of this flying machine needs to be seen to be believed. An ordinary A380 would cost somewhere around $300 million, but specially designed decor from a luxury designer means that the final cost will be around $400 million. So what do you get in an aircraft that costs you the world? The diagram below gives you an idea of the layout for the aircraft, but it includes A Wellbeing Room: The floor is a giant screen allowing guests to see what they are flying over. As if in virtual reality, they can crawl from the ‘magic carpet’ seating area to the floor, where scented breezes including forests and sea air give the impression of flying. Boardrooms that have holographic displays and live stock prices information. An on board Garage for parking the Rolls Royce. Turkish bath in the spa, and twenty first class seats/beds for the extra guests. Grand spiral staircase, four giant full suites, concert hall, car garage, and a space-age lift that shuttles between all 3 floors and drops into the tarmac. The features just go on and on. The photo below is a diagram of how the finished aircraft will look.  I wonder if he has to take his shoes off and empty his pockets when he goes through security?


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