Today is the 300th anniversary of the ratification of the Act of Union of 1707; the acts were passed in both the English parliament and the Scottish Parliament, in both cases with large majorities. This basically did two things:
1) Create a new state, the Kingdom of Great Britain.
2) Dissolve both parliaments and create a new parliament of Great Britain.
Gordon Brown a few days ago used this to launch a counter-attack on the nationalists (like this guy), and rightfully so. He said there was now a dividing line in Britain which pitted "those of us who are prepared to support the shared values of the union" against "those who are prepared to play fast and loose with the union and put the whole future of the union at risk".
He also went on to say that having an English parliament would tear the union apart.
Of course Mr Opportunism himself, David Cameron used this as an attack, not just on that position but on the union itself and shows how far the Tories will go just to try and get a vote, even at the expense of destroying the country. They figure they can't win in a parliament of the whole union, and reckon they have a better chance if it's cut up so they just have to win English seats.
The trouble is New Labour went ahead with devolution which got us into this mess. The English nationalists use this as an excuse to get an English parliament and break up the union, or help their nationalist pals in Scotland to get Scotland out. They say why should Scottish MPs be able to vote exclusively on Scottish issues, yet the Scottish via the union parliament are able to vote on English issues.
It's gotten to the point where the English nationalists are saying Gordon Brown shouldn't be prime minister because he's Scottish and they've got their own parliament bla bla bla. Hate Brown for the right reasons, not the wrong ones.
Anyway the solution to this is not the creation of an English parliament as the English nationalists would want.
It's to shut down the Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly, unify all the laws to apply across the land, separate the church from the state, unify the banks. Unify the football and other sports leagues (a lot of the nationalists do like football) and "national" teams, remove any legislation designed to promote division, such as the Welsh Language Act. Ban the use of St George's flag, the cross of St Andrew, the Red Dragon on public buildings. Discourage the use of England, Scotland and Wales when not used in a historic or geographic context. Perhaps even move parliament around the country every 2 or 3 terms too, after all we've got those new parliament buildings now, might as well use them for something after we wasted so much money on them.
Well over 70% of the population support the union, the lack of support for the two main political parties in the UK is just opening up the flood gates to all sorts of nationalists, and that needs to be addressed, perhaps Brown has the right strategy of over-inflating the ability of the nationalist elements in order to drum up resistance to their unrealistic nonsense.
Breaking up the union is nothing but looking backwards, whenever a union of nations breaks apart it is always a disaster for the people. We must look forward and create and develop new unions, with the rest of Europe, and eventually the rest of the world.
Comet McNaught is now the brightest comet in over 40 years, its reached magnitude -5 (that's brighter than Venus), which means in theory it is possible to see it in daylight.
It's very close to the Sun so it's probably best to position yourself so something is covering the Sun, like a building, but still exposing the sky near it. If you're at mid-northern latitudes it'll be towards the left hand side of the Sun. It's only a few degrees away (just over twice the width of Orion's belt) from the Sun, so it will be hard to spot in the glare.
If you've got a pair of binoculars they'll probably help locate it, just make sure the Sun is covered before you start looking through them. Looking directly at the Sun can cause permanent damage to your vision.
The weather forecast at the moment says 6% cloud for Yeovil at 15:00. So with a bit of luck I'll be able to get some images of it. Hopefully it'll be even brighter by then.
Update: No luck spotting it here. Got the telescope set up at around 15:45 and ready to roll, cloud then covered the area for about 30 minutes, couldn't locate it in the few minutes before it would have passed below the roof tops. Will try again closer to noon tomorrow, weather permitting but the forecast doesn't sound good with 100% cloud cover.
Comet McNaught has now entered the joint ESA and NASA Solar & Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)'s field of view, which has been looking at the Sun continuously for over a decade now.
The Sun is in the centre blocked out by a small disc in front of the camera, you can see Mercury to the lower left of the Sun, with Comet McNaught to the left of the image.
They've got an animation (under LASCO/C3) of the passage so far, which really lets you see the solar wind starting to push the tail back. When the comet has moved out of the field of view I'll also put up an animation. The comet should be visible in SOHO until the 15th or 16th. After that people in the southern hemisphere should definitely try and look at this comet.
Earlier this week at the CES Microsoft announced some of their Ultimate Extras, this is a feature in the Ultimate Edition of Vista which periodically pulls down new applications as Microsoft release them. They announced three for launch on the 30th of January; Hold 'Em Poker Game, BitLocker and EFS Enhancements and the one I'm most interested in Windows DreamScene.
Basically it allows you to use an MPEG2 or WMV as your desktop wallpaper. Microsoft ship both HD and standard resolution videos which seamlessly loop with the software too.
The sales outpaced the first month's tally for Windows 2000 [...] Commercial revenue from Vista in December was 62.5 percent above that racked up by Windows 2000 in March 2000, its first month after launch.
The marketing muscle behind the consumer launch should allow Vista sales to businesses to start eclipsing what Microsoft saw with Windows XP.
"Sometime after January 30, when Microsoft makes Vista available to the general public and ratchets up the marketing campaign, I suspect that we will likely see sales of Vista in the commercial channel begin to meet or surpass levels previously set by XP," Swenson said.
Well that's encouraging.
Managed get a few images of Comet McNaught yesterday evening, but only just as its now so close to the Sun and its been cloudy the last month.
This was taken with a Canon EOS 350D with a 55mm lens, ISO400 with an exposure of 1/3rd of a second. Gamma tweaked in Paintshop Pro. I'll probably post some more images on my gallery over the next week or so.