World Sparrow Day

House_SparrowWorld Sparrow Day is an international initiative observed on 20 March  by the Nature Forever Society of India in collaboration with the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France) and numerous other national and international organisations across the world, to raise awareness of the plight of the house sparrow and other common birds in urban environments, and to raise awareness of threats to their populations.

The Nature Forever Society was started by Mohammed Dilawar, an Indian conservationist who started his work helping the house sparrow in Nashik, and who was named one of the “Heroes of the Environment” for 2008 by Time for his efforts. The idea of marking a World Sparrow Day came up during an informal discussion at the Nature Forever Society’s office. The idea was to earmark a day for the house sparrow to convey the message of conservation of the house sparrow and other common birds and also mark a day of celebration to appreciate the beauty of the common biodiversity which is taken so much for granted. The first World Sparrow Day was celebrated in 2010 in different parts of the world. The day was celebrated by carrying out different various kinds of activities and events like art competitions, awareness campaigns, and sparrow processions as well as interactions with media.

World Sparrow Day also has a broader vision to provide a platform where people who are working on the conservation of the house sparrow and other common birds can network, collaborate and exchange conservation ideas which will lead to better science and improved results. It aims to provide a meeting ground for people from different parts of the world to come together and form a force that can play an important role in advocacy and in spreading the awareness on the need of conserving common biodiversity or species of lower conservation status.

Severn Valley Railway 50th Anniversary Spring Steam Gala 2015

skpThe Severn Valley Railway 50th Anniversary Spring Steam Gala takes place from March 20th-22nd 2015. During the Gala an extensive timetable will be in operation and the Home fleet of GWR Manor Class No. 7812 Erlestoke Manor, Ivatt Class 4 no 43106, GWR 28xx class No. 2857, GWR Prairie tank 4566 and Battle of Britain Class Locomotive 34053 Sir Keith Park will also be in operation. There will also be many stall along the line selling all kinds of books, DVD’s and other railway paraphernalia. The replica of Richard Trevithick’s locomotive “Catch-me-who-can” will also be in steam.

The Boiler Shop in Bridgnorth will also be open to the public, allowing people a glimpse of how work is progressing on Hall Class Locomotive GWR 4930 Hagley Hall and West County Class locomotive 34027 Taw Valley. In addition LMR 600 Gordon, LMS Black 5 45110, LMS 8f 48773. Jinty 43783 and, Lady Armaghdale Can be also be seen among many other locomotives at the Engine House at Highley. Visitors will also be able to see how work is progressing on class 3 tank engine No.82045. Visiting locomotives for this years include

  • GWR 4270 heavy-freight 2-8-0 locomotive, which was Built in 1919, and is owned by Jeremy Hosking and is on loan from the Gloucestershire and Warwickshire Railway as part of its Spring tour of Heritage Railways in England and Wales.
  • The 0-6-0 Pannier Tank No. L92 is also visiting. This was originally Based on Severn Valley Railway metals during its early preservation life and will be running in striking London Transport maroon livery – the livery it carried when based at Bridgnorth in the early days.
  • Coal Tank 1054 is also visiting this year. It wasBuilt in 1888, is owned by the National Trust, and is visiting us from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, courtesy of the Bahamas Locomotive Society.
  • The War Department DUB DEE heavy Freight Locomotive No. 90733 is also visiting. This was built in 1945 for the war effort, and was shipped to Europe to aid troop and supplies movement on the continent. Following the end of hostilities, the locomotive found work in the Netherlands and Sweden, before being repatriated to the UK in 1973. No. 90733 is the only locomotive of its class preserved and is on loan from the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway in West Yorkshire.

Tracker – Mark Knopfler

Lately I have been listening to The album Tracker by Mark Knopfler, like his previous solo album Privateering, Tracker is full of beautifully crafted, immaculately performed, lyrically stunning, melodious gems with poignant lyrics, and musical styles which encompass traditional Celtic Folk, country, Rock and Blues.

So far my favourite tracks are Wherever I Go, Basil, Beryl, Lights of Taormina and Silver Eagle. Basil, particularly, has a deep sadness and beauty and tells the story of unfulfilled Poet Basil Bunting, who is stuck in his dead-end job as a sub-editor for a newspaper, while the opening track “Laughs and Jokes and Drinks and Smokes” contains familiar Irish folk undertones. “Terminal of Tribute to” sounds highly polished and there is a fantastic duet entitled “Wherever I Go” featuring Ruth Moody. Here is the Track listing

Laughs And Jokes And Drinks And Smokes
Basil
River Towns
Skydiver
Mighty Man
Broken Bones
Long Cool Girl
Lights Of Taormina
Silver Eagle
Beryl
Wherever I Go [feat. Ruth Moody]
.38 Special
My Heart Has Never Changed
Terminal Of Tribute To
Heart Of Oak

Solar Eclipse

A Solar Eclipse will take place On Friday 20 March 2015, during which the moon will travel in front of the sun, casting a shadow over Earth. It will be the most ‘complete’ eclipse in the UK since 1999 and (weather permitting) the most coverage will be seen from Lerwick in the Shetland Isles, while Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh will see 94 per cent of the sun being covered, meanwhile London will see 84 per cent and Manchester will see 89 per cent covered. A total solar eclipse will be experienced in the Faroe Islands and Svalbard in Norway while the rest of Europe will experience a partial eclipse, blocking out most of the sunlight.

Britain’s first Solar Eclipse in fifteen years is expected to start at 8.30am in Britain on Friday. The eclipse technically starts at 07:41 UTC and ends at 11:50 UTC, but in the UK you may not notice much until around 8am. The eclipse will peak ( approx 90 per cent coverage) at around 9.30am before the sun returns by 11am. The most northern parts of Scotland will see up to 98 per cent of the sun obscured by the moon, weather permitting, while in London the eclipse will peak at about 85 per cent. That’s still better than northern Africa and the Middle East, where only 40 per cent of the Sun will be covered.If you want to see the full eclipse but aren’t able to travel north tomorrow, or clouds make any viewing impossible, the BBC will be showing the eclipse live on big screens around the country.

People should be aware that Taking photographs or looking directly at the Sun with the naked eye is extremely dangerous and can cause permanent damage to the eye or the Camera, so precautions should be taken when taking photographs. The lens in your camera, just like the one in your eye, can amplify the brightness of the sun and damage it. And since solar eclipses are all light, ensuring that the camera is set up right can be key to getting good photos, as well as keeping yourself and your camera safe. When taking pictures of any solar eclipse, it is recommended that photographers use a solar filter. Those small filters, which slot on the top of a camera lens or can be laid across it, can be bought easily online. They work by limiting the amount of lights that goes through the lens, protecting the camera from the bright light.

The National Eclipse Weather Experiment are also asking members of the public to record minute by minute weather changes – including air temperature, wind speed, wind direction and cloud cover during the eclipse on Friday morning. However The eclipse may be overshadowed by patches of cloud coverage across southern England and Wales, with clearer skies forecast further north. A few spots in the south-west of England, including Yeovil, Totnes and Barnstaple, are expected to have sunny intervals, whereas northern cities such as Lancaster, York and Newcastle should have sunnier days. Scotland, where the eclipse will conceal almost 98 per cent of the sun in places, will be largely clear, but Glasgow and parts of north-west Scotland may still be cloudy.

During the previous eclipse scientists found that the temperature dropped by around 3 degrees C and wind speeds dropped by 1.5 mph and changed direction by as much as 17 degrees And created ‘cold cored cyclone’ conditions which may explain reports of an ‘eclipse wind’. It is hoped that the research will give an insight into how the sun influences the clouds, temperature and wind. This Friday’s eclipse is expected to start around 8.24am in London and will peak at around 9.31am when the moon will cast its biggest shadow over the Earth and Skies are expected to darken visibly in any location where the maximum obscuration. the next eclipse visible from Britain will take place August 2026

Edgar Rice Burroughs

JohnCarterProlific Adventure & Science Fiction Novelist Edgar Rice Burroughs sadly passed away on March 19, 1950 after suffering a Heart Attack. He wrote almost seventy novels during his career and created many popular enduring characters but he is perhaps best known for his creation of the jungle hero Tarzan and the heroic Mars adventurer John Carter. Burroughs was born on September 1, 1875, in Chicago, Illinois (he later lived for many years in the suburb of Oak Park). he was educated at a number of local schools, and during the Chicago influenza epidemic in 1891, he spent a half year at his brother’s ranch on the Raft River in Idaho. He then attended the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts, and then the Michigan Military Academy. Graduating in 1895, and failing the entrance exam for the United States Military Academy (West Point), he ended up as an enlisted soldier with the 7th U.S. Cavalry in Fort Grant, Arizona Territory.

After being diagnosed with a heart problem and thus ineligible to serve, he was discharged in 1897. Some drifting and ranch work followed in Idaho. Then, Burroughs found work at his father’s firm in 1899. He married childhood sweetheart Emma Hulbert (1876-1944) in January 1900. In 1904 he left his job and found less regular work; some in Idaho, later in Chicago.By 1911, after seven years of low wages, he began to write fiction. By this time, Burroughs and Emma had two children, Joan (1908–72), who would later marry Tarzan film actor James Pierce, and Hulbert (1909–91).During this period, he had copious spare time and he began reading many pulp fiction magazines. In 1929 he recalled thinking that …if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines.

So he started writing the exciting science fiction series Barsoom, which debuted in 1912 and featured a Confederate American Civil War veteren from Virginia named John Carter, who inexplicably finds himself transported to the planet Mars and discovers that far from being dead, Mars, which is known as “Barsoom” by the locals) is actually inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians called Tharks, Intelligent & scientifically minded red skinned people from the neighbouring City of Helium, villainous Warlords, intelligent Therns, Pirates, Giant White Apes and vicious thug like Warhoons. Carter discovers that the land is in turmoil and the various inhabitants are at war with each other over th planets dwindling resources and the situation is being manipulated by shadowy forces. So he undertakes a perilous journey across Barsoom, encountering many dangers along the way, in order to unite the population against a common enemy and fairly soon he finds himself in the midst of all-out war between the forces of good and those of destruction, the outcome of which will determine the fate of everyone on Barsoom.

Burroughs also produced works in many other genres including The Land That Time Forgot (1918),and had his first story, “Under the Moons of Mars”, serialized in All-Story Magazine in 1912. Burroughs soon took up writing full-time and by the time the run of Under the Moons of Mars had finished he had completed two novels, including Tarzan of the Apes, which was published from October 1912 and which went on to become one of his most successful series. Burroughs also wrote popular science fiction and fantasy stories involving Earthly adventurers transported to various planets (notably Barsoom, Burroughs’ fictional name for Mars, and Amtor, his fictional name for Venus), lost islands, and into the interior of the hollow earth in his Pellucidar stories, as well as westerns and historical romances. Along with All-Story, many of his stories were published in The Argosy. Many of his novels have also been adapted from film including Tarzan of the Apes, Land that time Forgot and John Carter and there is also a sequel to John Carter in the works.

Thanks to the enduring popularity of the Barsoom and Tarzan series of novels Burroughs set up his own company, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Inc In 1923 and began printing his own books throughout the 1930s.Then In 1941 At the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Burroughs was a resident of Hawaii and, despite being in his late sixties, he applied for permission to become a war correspondent. This permission was granted, and so he became one of the oldest war correspondents for the U.S. during World War II. After the war ended, Burroughs moved back to Encino, California, where, after many health problems, he died of a heart attack on March 19, 1950, having written almost 80 novels.

Sir Aurthur C. Clarke CBE FRAS Sri Lankabhimanya

2001British science fiction author, inventor Sir Arthur Charles Clarke, CBE, FRAS, Sri Lankabhimanya, sadly passed awa on 19th March 2008, born 16 December 1917. He was famous for his short stories and novels, among them 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Profiles of the Future, Rendezvous with Rama and The Fountains of Paradise. He was also a host and commentator in the British television series Mysterious World. For many years, Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, and Clarke were known as the “Big Three” of science fiction. Clarke served in the Royal Air Force as a radar instructor and technician from 1941 to 1946. In 1945, he proposed a satellite communication system—an idea that, in 1963, won him the Franklin Institute Stuart Ballantine Gold Medal. He was the chairman of the British Interplanetary Society from 1947–1950 and again in 1953.

Between 1937 and 1945, Clarke had a few stories published in fanzines, his first professional sale appeared in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946: “Loophole” was published in April, while “Rescue Party”, his first sale, was published in May. Along with his writing Clarke briefly worked as Assistant Editor of Science Abstracts (1949) before devoting himself to writing full-time from 1951 onward. Clarke also contributed to the Dan Dare series published in Eagle, and his first three published novels were written for children.Clarke corresponded with C. S. Lewis in the 1940s and 1950s and they once met in an Oxford pub, The Eastgate, to discuss science fiction and space travel. Clarke, after Lewis’s death, voiced great praise for him, saying the Ransom Trilogy was one of the few works of science fiction that could be considered literature. In 1948 he wrote “The Sentinel” for a BBC competition. Though the story was rejected, it changed the course of Clarke’s career. Not only was it the basis for 2001: A Space Odyssey, but “The Sentinel” also introduced a more cosmic element to Clarke’s work. Many of Clarke’s later works feature a technologically advanced but still-prejudiced mankind being confronted by a superior alien intelligence. In the cases of The City and the Stars (and its original version, Against the Fall of Night), Childhood’s End, and the 2001 series, this encounter produces a conceptual breakthrough that accelerates humanity into the next stage of its evolution. In Clarke’s authorised biography, Neil McAleer writes that: “many readers and critics still consider Childhood’s End Arthur C. Clarke’s best novel.”

Clarke lived in Sri Lanka from 1956 until his death, having emigrated there when it was still called Ceylon, first in Unawatuna on the south coast, and then in Colombo. The Sri Lankan government offered Clarke resident guest status in 1975. He was an avid scuba diver and a member of the Underwater Explorers Club. In addition to writing, Clarke set up several diving-related ventures with his business partner Mike Wilson. In 1956, while scuba diving in Trincomalee, Wilson and Clarke uncovered ruined masonry, architecture and idol images of the sunken original Koneswaram temple — including carved columns with flower insignias, and stones in the form of elephant heads — spread on the shallow surrounding seabed. Other discoveries included Chola bronzes from the original shrine, and these discoveries were described in Clarke’s 1957 book The Reefs of Taprobane. In 1961, while filming off Great Basses Reef, Wilson found a wreck and retrieved silver coins. Plans to dive on the wreck the following year were stopped when Clarke developed paralysis, ultimately diagnosed as polio.

A year later, Clarke observed the salvage from the shore and the surface. The ship, ultimately identified as belonging to the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb, yielded fused bags of silver rupees, cannons, and other artefacts, carefully documented, became the basis for The Treasure of the Great Reef. Living in Sri Lanka and learning its history also inspired the backdrop for his novel The Fountains of Paradise in which he described a space elevator. This, he believed, would make rocket based access to space obsolete and, more than geostationary satellites, would ultimately be his scientific legacy.
His many predictions culminated in 1958 when he began a series of magazine essays that eventually became Profiles of the Future, published in book form in 1962. A timetable up to the year 2100 describes inventions and ideas including such things as a “global library” for 2005. The same work also contained “Clarke’s First Law” and text that became Clarke’s three laws in later editions. Clarke Sadly passed away on 19th March 2008 in Sri Lanka. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1998 & was awarded Sri Lanka’s highest civil honour, Sri Lankabhimanya, in 2005.