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Friday, 17 September 2004

Is there something in the water?

So let me see if I have this right...

-- In the past few weeks in Lancaster, almost every councillor (except the Greens and some Skerton reps) have voted in support of a bypass route they've all consistently rejected in the past...

-- Rather than spend money on toilets in Morecambe and Lancaster the latest idea sure to benefit public hygiene is to close them for all but limited times, so don't drink too much while you're out enjoying yourself (although pissing in back alleys, bus station walls and shop doorways are of course acceptable alternatives). It's also OK to sell off toilets -- Lancaster's Brock Street toilets went for £58,000 or thereabouts - after redevelopment the property now must be worth almost triple that. Meanwhile in other countries, even impoverished Turkey, public toilets remain open some even with attendants to stop the vandalism that has necessitated closing them here. Rather than improve the loo situation the 'Toilet Task Group' has left us with stinking sheds in car parks well away from town centres where they might be some use...

-- after protesting vociferously about the closure of local post offices (not that it did any good) the city council had no qualms about closing their offices in Ryelands where people from Halton and other outlying areas in North Lancaster were happily paying their council tax rather than add to the traffic numbers by driving to the town hall to pay there. Apparently this is due to some inter-department rivalry over budgets - a solution could have been found but it would have meant co-operation...

I was just wondering, when the "silly season" ended at the end of August, did anyone tell our Council?

Star Trekking...


After the weirdness of getting RAF Magazine off the ground (so to speak), I'm now preparing to step back in time (for me, anyway) to edit Star Trek Magazine again.

I was the launch editor on this way back in 1995, Titan Magazine's first regular magazine, so it feels weird going back to it. Currently working up ideas for 2005 in between playing catch up from the holiday.

Funny time for Trek, what with people saying it should be rested (unlikely to happen) and other really supporting the latest show, Enterprise.

Personally I'm looking forward to seeing what show runner Manny Coto does with what might be the series final fourth season, I was impressed with his previous show Odyssey 5.

Yalikavak, Turkey 2004


Just back from our first 'proper' holiday in five years -- Turkey again but this time it was Yalikavak on the Bodrum peninsula. Been to Cavus and Cappadocia in the past.

We went with Manos, enduring the torture of two night flights in a week and the most ludicrous system of transfers I have ever had to suffer. Fortunately I was not one of many who had to wait for over an hour in a car park in the middle of Bodrum, in the middle of the night, waiting for said transfer. There were a lot of disgruntled people about.
Yalikavak is advertised as a 'quiet' resort but it's nowhere near as quiet as Cavus.

That said it was not really noisy -- there are no discos in the town, although there were several bars. It's probably one of the best Turkish resorts I've ever been to in terms of range of restaurants available and as usual the Turkish hosts were very friendly.

Personally, of those we tried I would recommend the Half Ada, Mustis and a fish restaurant on the quay whose name sadly escapes me but served the best calamari I've ever had. It's right next to an excellent patisserie.

We stayed at the Hotel Ali Baba which is fairly big. If you ever go, I'd advise not staying in rooms overlooking the main street which despite offering a great view of the bay, can be very noisy. It also was far from the levels of cleanliness we've experienced in Cavus but staff were friendly enough when you could find them!

There are several trips offered by both local operators and Manos, including Dalyan (tremendous fun slapping mud everywhere), Ephesus and Pammukele. However, don't expect Manos to tell you anything about any more accessible antiquity sites, their rep was too busy trying to get us to go pub crawling in Bodrum. Not their finest moment!

We would definitely visit this resort again. There are many good hotels not listed by Manos such as the Windmill and the Hotel Miray which are both medium-sized hotels off the main street and pleasantly located. Because of rumours floating around that Manos and Air Tours are considering pulling out of the resort, we checked both of these out -- room prices at the Miray are 25 pounds per night. The hotel is of a comparable size with the Ford and the Atici in Cavus

Windy weather prevented boat trips, although plenty were on offer -- it was quite funny having Turks complain about the cold while we're still sitting supping an Efes in a t-shirt wondering what they're on about!

There are some souvenir shops in Yalikavak (one stocks glass goods from Dalyan that is simply stunning) but if you want a larger range then take the dolmus into Bodrum during the day (if you want the Turkish equivalent of Blackpool go in the evening!).

Stray cats and dogs were very apparent. I don't know if Cavus has the same problem it used to have with cats but we have come across this local charity -- http://www.bodrumhayvanhaklari.org/sahipsizeng.html -- (with links to others in Turkey) offering neutering services etc. It's one of the first such groups to get off the ground in Turkey but has been operating for about three years.

Personally, having experienced for the first time just how bad the end of season can be for both cats and dogs (dogs are culled in Yalikavak), with kittens aplenty in evidence that are unlikely to survive the winter, I think such campaigns deserve support.

Yalikavak was not Cavus but it is the kind of small size resort many in this group may find appealing.

Web Links:
• Yalikavak Hotels: http://www.allbodrumhotels.com/hotellist.php?locationid=78

2007 Update: Reading this again, all the restaurants have changed hands and modernised and the Ali Baba is no longer part of any UK tour operator's portfolio!

Thursday, 15 July 2004

London Visit

It's hot, it's sweaty and it's taking over the country. What is it about the place that draws so many to it? You end up with black snot if you walk its streets. I don't actually think it's that more expensive to live in (other than rent and house prices), a meal out costs about the same as it does in most places in the UK. It's noisy and set to get worst -- my local council has just proudly announced it has taken over local licensing so that means London will now be potentially exposed to round the clock bar opening and the resultant noise nuisance.
But I still enjoy coming here. There's still an electricity to walking the streets, the thought that anything might happen, which it almost certainly won't in sleepy Lancaster unless you do it yourself, which I'm these days unlikely to do.

London. There's no escaping.

Saturday, 12 June 2004

Are Jet Skis a menace?

Local bird lovers in Lancaster are up in arms over jet ski use on the River Lune, concerned for the safety of nesting birds. Several people have also complained to Virtual-Lancaster, the local web site I write for, about the noise the jet skis make and raised safety concerns.

Jet skiers now regularly tear up the Lune beyond Skerton Bridge -- despite a voluntary agreement made some years ago not to go further.

Some local bird watchers have called for a ban on the machines, saying that unchecked, the jet ski problem will only get worse. They are especially concerned by jet ski use further down the Lune, on the marsh channels where birds are nesting.
"One of the things I love about living in Marsh is the access to countryside, says local Ian McCulloch. "Five minutes walk down the footpath next to Coronation Field and you're surrounded by fields, another five and you're at Marsh Point. Which is great unless it's a sunny Sunday afternoon, and the river is full of screaming jet-skis from the Golden Ball on the opposite bank. In a spot which is gloriously quiet apart from them it seems a bit much."

"I've never seen so many nesting birds on the River Lune as I have this year," one Skerton resident told Virtual-Lancaster. "They're an absolute delight and a wonderful sight for both locals and visitors alike. "Sadly, it appears the increasing number of jet skiers on the Lune are determined to rob us of this wonderful natural attraction."

Local councillors are beginning to wake up to the issue, with promises of investigation and possible action. Lancaster councillor Ron Sands, cabinet member responsible for tourism, feels action must be taken, pointing out that new speed restrictions on Lake Windermere, due to come into force next year, will lead to what he calls "a search by the hundreds of displaced skiiers for alternative habitats to destroy."

Up until now however, although there has been some discussion among local organisations with environmental interests -- such as the Morecambe Bay Partnership -- no clear plan to address the problems jets skiers cause has been agreed. Nationally, government has yet to find time to address concerns raised by several local authorities about jet ski use, even though the machines have been in use for over five years in the UK.

Jet skis, which can reach speeds of more than 70mph and can be legally driven by children, remain unregulated.

One problem in addressing the issue, according to local bird watcher Jon Carter, is that there are no local jet ski clubs who could advise users on where to use their machines safely. Those using the Lune at present are all independent jet ski owners who may be ignorant of local concerns and complaints.

Locals point out there is likely to be more jet ski use on the Lune in future and the dangers they pose to personal safety. (Earlier this month, a 32-year-old man was seriously injured in a collision between two jet skis off Ardrossan beach in North Ayrshire. A man was killed on a North Yorkshire lake last year, after a collision between two jet skis).

In the US, where jet ski use is more prevalent, steps have been taken against them on both conservation and noise pollution grounds. Several national parks have banned jet ski use outright, after numerous studies revealed they can cause lasting damage to park resources and wildlife. Hawaii has classified jet skis as "thrillcraft" and banned them from some coastal waters during the whale calving season. In California, the Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary severely restricted personal watercraft because of the threat posed to sea otters and other users of the 4,000-square-mile sanctuary.

Campaigners against jet skis living in Cape Cod cited a catalogue of issues with the vehicles, arguing they pollute the air and water, create law enforcement problems, threaten public safety, endanger wildlife, destroy natural quiet and diminish visitor enjoyment.

It is now law to wear helmets and life jackets while riding a jet ski in some states and New York state now requires all skiers, regardless of their age, complete an 8-hour boating safety course before they can use a machine there, or face being fined -- see this report from Capital News.

Locally, Lancaster City Council already has byelaws in place to deal with motorcycle abuse and it is possible they could be applied to jet skiers. As well as Coun Ron Sands acknowledgement of the issue, local councillor Jon Barry told Virtual-Lancaster he was trying to find out if anything could be done about the problems caused on environmental grounds.

It remains to be seen whether any action will - or can be taken, especially given apparent government reticence to tackle the problem despite the dangers and destruction jet skis can pose if used improperly.

Links From Minnesota Public Radio:
The dangers of unregulated Jet Ski Use to swimmers (Both side of the argument put)
Environmental impact of Jet Skis

Wednesday, 9 June 2004

Shooting themselves in the foot

A warning to all freelance writers out there planning a trip to the US -- get a visa! And you might want to think about praying, too, as it's no guarantee of entry.

I had a call from BlackRat yesterday with news of recent US chicanery when it comes to dealing with people they might not like. Check out this story he's posted about a freelance reporter being arrested at US airports and sent packing if they didn't have a visa. More reports below from both sides of the Atlantic.

Basically, you could be arrested, thrown in a cell, body searched and deported if you don't have the visa journalists must have if they travel to the US. Since the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS) took over the duties of the immigration and naturalization service, their officials decided to revive a visa requirement, dormant since 1952, that required journalists to apply for a special visa, known as an I-visa, when visiting the United States for professional reasons. This visa requirement also applied to so-called "friendly nations" – 27 countries whose citizens do not have to apply for a visa in order to visit the US for personal reasons.

The Guardian reports the decision to restart the visa requirement is so little known that most foreign (and American) journalists have no idea it even exists. As a result, last year 15 journalists from "friendly nations" (Britian, Australia and others) were deported from the US. 12 of those deportations occurred at Los Angeles International Airport.

The American embassy in London has a slew of visa information on its web site but to be honest, you might be better off phoning them to get more information if you have the occupation "Writer" on your passport.

Oh, I've also discovered that US officials read these blogs and can take umbrage at what they see as the merest slight on Their Way of Doing Things. We must behave!

More on Journalist Arrests and Prohibitions:
Matt Welch in the National Post
Published 6 December 2003
Welcome to America
The Guardian, 5 June 2003 (registration required). When writer Elena Lappin flew to LA, she dreamed of a sunkissed, laid-back city. But that was before airport officials decided to detain her as a threat to security ...
Foreign Reporters cry Foul
The Christian Science Monitor 8 June. An American take on the situation by Tom Regan. He reveals "In each of these cases [of arrest and deportation], the journalists had no right to see a lawyer, no right to call their local consulate, and no right to appeal (these rules come courtesy of antiterrorism measures passed in 1996 and 2001). And the growing international outcry seems only to embolden the Immigration and Customs agents who are keeping the United States safe from celebrity hacks and technology journalists. 'A customs officer ... chose to make me sweat and to threaten me with deportation, even though I have a valid journalist's visa that does not expire for another two years,' wrote Andrew Gumbel, a correspondent of The Independent [who works for the paper in Los Angeles], in late July [of 2003]. 'A visa is not a guarantee of entry,' he told me. 'We've been deporting quite a few British journalists recently.'
Los Angeles: Allegations of Foreign Reporter Harassment at Los Angeles Airport
From the Progressive Community web site

When is a transit not a transit?


OK, here's a question about shared experience. If you couldn't actually look directly at the transit of Venus yesterday (unless you wanted your eyes boiled or something), is there a difference between standing out in your garden with a pair of binoculars trained on a piece of carboard and watching the six-hour "event" on TV?

Is the experience anything less since both methods of "sharing" are safe?

Where does experience end and watching start?

Tuesday, 11 May 2004

Marvel UK

In and out from writing Beyblade, Dick Turtle and editing RAF Magazine I've been spending some time thinking about one past job as editor at Marvel Comics UK back in the 1990s. This was prompted by the launch of a small newsgroup comprising stalwarts from that time, devoted to talking British comics.

I've learnt quite a few things about Marvel UK's operation from various people as a result in the past two weeks that I never knew before, and it's also suggested some ideas and thoughts for new projects.

Last week, I was busy on RAF and the Titan web site but in the middle of all that I started a ball rolling on a new comic strip with Paul J. Palmer, who draws strips for the Dandy and Lucky Bag called The Underversity. Hopefully have the first strip posted online next week. It uses the Really Heavy Greatcoat's Kevin, but in a new setting.

Also spent a lot of time catching up on Smallville, which I'm really enjoying in its third season. Although Titan has a Smallville Mag on the horizon I've no involvement with it, so I won't know what's going to happen and I can watch it without fear of "spoilers". A definite plus.

Wednesday, 28 April 2004

Connections

Strange how the world works. I find 20six via DotJournalism, then find BlackRat's blog (the guy writing some fascinating stuff about Iraq after a trip there). I link to that on my blog and he reads about me editing RAF Magazine and gets in touch.

It's the kind of thing that makes SF fans like me wonder about parallel universes. The What Ifs always start rattling round my head and send me racing for the latest book on quantum physics.

Saturday, 24 April 2004

Dick Turtle

It's a weird life. This week has been a mix of hassling freelancers for copy and me being hassled for copy -- one of those deadline crunch weeks. Beyblade Comic was Monday, Dick Turtle for Lucky Bag was Wednesday, then there was the ever-expanding Titan website (magazines this week) to update. New Alias Magazine on sale in the US and some new projects to create approvals pages for. All this on top of trying to get the first issue of RAF Magazine into the Titan studio. Still, plenty of interest in it from several quarters, which is encouraging after what seems like years -- and probably is -- of it being prepared for launch.

On top of that there's some mobile phone content I've been working on for Fonedream, a white label content company run by my old friend Graham Baines. Been a load of images to source for their colour backgrounds, and dealing with the picture libraries that supply them.

I'm also enjoying the distraction of discovering some of the blogs on this site -- anyone who's found time to read this will have realised I'm new to this. The Blackrat bloke's just published some brilliant pictures from Iraq and some fascinating observations on the situation there. All a far cry from writing about spacefaring turtles and beyblading teenagers...

Thursday, 22 April 2004

jog

Dropped in Lancaster's John O'Gaunt on Market Street for lunch. They do something called a "late breakfast". How late can a late breakfast be? Whatever. One of Lancaster's few remaining decent pubs -- it's not tied to any brewery and so has a varied range of beers, whiskys etc. It's also renowned for jazz, folk and other live music and the bogs have some great cartoons on the walls.

Been catching up with some old comics friends recently -- Dave Gibbons, Richard Starkings, Lew Stringer. We all got our break into comics at more or less the same time back in the 1980s and have been sort or reminsicing about old comic marts and drinking sessions. I suspect it's all a ploy for a major beer session at the British Comics Festival in Bristol, in May. Like I'm going to fall for that old trick...

Space Dogs

There's a bizarre exhibition at the Storey Institute Lancaster at present -- giant inflatable dogs created by the Space Cadets. As you sit there these giant white amorphous blobs are suddenly pumped full of air to become giant dogs.

You can hire the balloons for events and buy giant dog-shaped bean bags for £300 a pop.

Strangely, Teen Titans this morning was the green dog episode and an Alasatian has been barking continuously outside our window for part of the day, tied up outside the job centre. No connection. However, tomorrow I'll do something with dinosaurs in the hope of a T-Rex rising out of the sea near Morecambe and eating the local MP. You can hope.

Friday, 16 April 2004

RAF Magazine and other things

Today has been a busy day. I'm working on a new RAF Magazine for Titan which feels strange because a) I'm not a member of the RAF and b) given my past membership of various 'leftie' organisations and opposition to war in Iraq I have to wonder if because no-one approving the title seems to care about things like that, what does this say about anyone with a different view to the Establishment's in the UK?

Never mind. Grin and bear it, hmm? Just leave enough time to add a few more Greatcoat cartoons to dowthetubes while earning some pence. Got to do some things that you enjoy...

Outside the office there's a woman calling for her cats. She's called them Mulder and Scully. Mulder is always missing. She should have known better...

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