The Texas TrailWritten by James Collins
The Texas Trail
A few weeks ago I received an email from my ISP company. For those who don't know what that is, it's a company which hosts websites. This particular organisation is very large and very well known. I'll call it 'Wahoo!' The email was to effect that due to an error on their part, Wahoo! had not been billing me for last six months. Since fault was theirs they were going to cut their losses and not charge me.
Very civilized of them to write off back-payments like that, I thought, and then I forgot about it for a week in my usual efficient manner. After all, we were only talking about a few dollars a month. A week after first bland and kindly email another one came. No more Mr Nice Guy. This one announced that Wahoo! intended to delete my site in three days, and would I like to back up my files? Ok, I thought, no problem. I should have backed up my files some time ago; this would teach me a lesson.
It was only when I sat down to begin saving my pages that I realized I didn't know how to do it! I called in a friend who was attending an evening class in computer maintenance, and he couldn't do it either. I should explain here that I started my website two years ago and there were now 112 pages on it. Some of these were link pages and some contained only one image (enlargements of smaller images), but still - a lot of pages.
Having begun in complete ignorance I'd like to think that now I'm almost an expert in designing web pages, or at least my own pages, although I'm not sure I would have started at all if I'd known how much work was involved. On other hand I'm not so good on basic, ordinary computer operations, as I was finding out.
By this time cut-off point was just two days away and it was week-end, as it always is when ship starts to sink. I now pressed panic button. You know when Ripley clicks home detonater in 'Alien' and klaxon starts up, ship fills with steam and that annoying 'speaking clock' voice starts to count down seconds? That was me. (Nobody can hear you scream in your computer room). At least Ripley had a gun size of a small car to give her confidence. Anyway, I finally managed to find a professional who was willing to give up his week-end to help out - for a price. Even he took a day to figure out how to save my pages.
Out of AfricaWritten by James Collins
Out of Africa An Improbable Tail A few weeks ago there was a small stir of excitement in our area, which briefly lit up gloom of our northern Scottish winter like Northern Lights, which are quite visible to us at this latitude. Apparently a man - a Marine, no less - had walked, wearing nothing but a grin and a beard straight out of Lord of Rings, from south of England into Scotland, up past Loch Ness and Highlands where I live, and on to very northernmost point, John O'Groats - in winter. A Scottish winter, at that.
I'm not sure where his starting point was but he must have walked about six hundred miles. Forest Gump would have been impressed. It was either a very brave, or foolhardy course of action, depending on your point of view but it certainly bought him his fifteen minutes of fame. There he was on TV, being carefully filmed from waist up, way they used to film Elvis Presley in early days. "Everyone", he said, "should be free to follow my example if they've a mind to". 'Not even as a joke', thought whole of Scotland, 'and even less in winter' The police didn't see funny side of it either. He was arrested five or six times and spent several nights in prison cells, covered by a blanket (the police's idea, not his). I remember scanning local papers for headline 'Man arrested for palely loitering', but it wasn't to be. I still think they missed one there.
" He was certainly persistant. He finally arrived at his destination and no, he didn't throw himself off a high point into North Sea, which some people thought (I won't say hoped) might be logical end to his journey. As far as I know he got dressed, took a train to his hometown and quietly faded back into obscurity, leaving us with a memory, like Cheshire cat's grin. All this was, I suppose, to make point that he had inalienable right to freeze anytime he had a mind to. Well, point taken, but this little saga set me thinking. Why have we never had our own coat, like other animals? 'But we do', I hear you cry, 'and anyway I'm not an animal'. Oh yes you most certainly are, Madam, and besides, I mean kind of coat you're born with.
"Almost every animal, from a mouse to a moose has a coat. Ok, elephants don't, and maybe hippos, but I suppose they have extra thick skin to compensate. No, beyond dispute, we are only animal that has to keep warm by getting dressed every morning by fire. The reason we are coatless seems fairly obvious. Didn't we start out under hot sun of Africa, and so had no need of a natural coat? Hmm... then how about gorillas, who share 98% of our genes? They're pretty hairy, no question, so why didn't they shed their coat? You don't see them prancing about in their bare skin?
Alright, let's try it from a different angle. Why did we move out of Africa? I have a theory. Suppose other animals started snickering behind their paws as they watched us tottering around on our spindly legs? Or maybe we just thought we detected a sardonic look or two. No, really, I'm serious. Anybody who's ever played tag with a dog in garden knows how clumsy they think we are. Just watch as Bracken feints to left and then effortlessly switches direction in mid-stride as Master sprawls into rosepatch. And they're our friends.