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Thoughts on the ISIL destruction of Nimrud

nimrud-banner

So ISIL are back in the news this morning although to be fair it seems that they are never far from the news these days. This time its because they are destroying or rather, have destroyed, the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

My first thoughts on reading this were initially shock which quickly morphed into pragmatism. Yes its terrible that these artifacts are being destroyed but lets face it, better this than destroying more human lives although sadly no doubt it will not be long before they're back in the news for doing that too.

I have to admit I hadnt even heard of Nimrud before today so any outrage I felt at its destruction was always going to be tempered by that however I wanted to look into things a little and see exactly what it was that was being destroyed.

Nimrud is the Arab name for an ancient Assyrian city once called Kalhu which sits just south of Mosul on the river Tigris in northern Mesopotamia. After Nimrud had existed for about 400 years, the city became the second capital of the ancient Assyrian Empire in 879 B.C.

nimrudIt remained as the Assyrian capital for about 170 years, until the capital was moved -- first to Dur Sharrukin and then to ancient Nineveh.

It continued to be a major Assyrian city and a royal residence until it was destroyed during the fall of the Assyrian Empire in the seventh century B.C. at the hands of an alliance between the ancient Babylonians, Chaldeans, Medes, Persians, Scythians, and Cimmerians.

The ruins of Nimrud had covered an area of about 360 hectares and were located about 1 kilometer from the modern-day village of Noomanea in Iraq’s Nineveh Province.

So by the looks of the pictures and description, this place was quite the big deal in archaeological and historical circles.

It is indisputably a tragedy and arguably a war crime however I think its important to bear in mind that everything that was valuable enough to be moved had been moved to the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad.

The sooner the cancer on humanity that is ISIL or, as they are known more commonly in the Arabic world, Da'ish is excised and destroyed the better. One hopes that Arabic powers and indeed more global powers are doing all they can to achieve. I fear the world will have to cry a lot more tears for human lives however before that is achieved and in that context, tragic though this story is, it represents a sideshow in the terrible story of the Middle East in the 21st century.
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My first jump

The overwhelming feeling during my first static line jump was that I had to resign myself to dying, if that was what was going to happen that day.

Sitting in the open side of an Cessna at 3200 ft and looking at the ground wheel of an aeroplane close enough to be able to touch it can do strange things to your mind when you've never done it before. It was cold because I was at altitude, because the side of the plane was missing and because I was terrified. I was sat on the floor of the plane with my right leg dangling in space and my left one kind of hooked up in front of me and I knew there was no way I wasnt going to jump. That may be why I was so terrified.

I could see the ground way below but I wasnt really able to focus on it. My heart rate and blood pressure were probably through the roof but I didnt notice it. I only noticed that I was terrified. So then came the shout, “Head up! Go!” I didnt think for a second and just launched myself out of the door. I immediately felt like I was going to flip over onto my back as I could see the plane directly above me and then moments later the static line snapped tight and pulled me forward as it pulled open my rig. I realised I had been holding my breath instead of counting and exhaled the word “parachute!” as I looked up and saw it open and above me. I felt like I’d just won the lottery. I was overjoyed for a second and once I’d done my checks I waited to hear the radio in my ear telling me what to do but nobody spoke. I thought I better start planning how I was going to land for myself. I felt OK I guess until I looked down past my feet at the distance between me and the ground then I decided only to look ahead. Thankfully the voice eventually talked to me and guided me down to earth.

Walking back to the hangar I felt overjoyed. I wanted to cry but I didnt. I talked to anybody that would listen to me as the adrenalin drained away and then somebody asked me if I wanted to go again. I did and so I did.  I was hooked. I’ve nearly done 500 jumps now and I cant ever imagine not being a skydiver now. It changed me forever.
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Vegetable Halloumi Burgers in Mini Pittas

HalloumiBurger_n_lg

 



Ingredients





















































  300 g Carrots, raw, grated
  1 medium Courgette, grated
  1 small Onion(s), finely chopped
  50 g Sweetcorn, thawed if frozen
  150 g Plain Tofu, chopped
75 g Breadcrumbs, Fresh
  1 medium (raw) Egg, whole
100 g Halloumi, finely chopped
1 tablespoons (level) Coriander, Dried
1 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoons Black pepper
8 portion(s) Asda Organic Mini Pitta Pockets, (or similar brand)



Instructions



  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/fan oven 180°C. Mist a large baking sheet with low fat cooking spray.

  • Put the carrots into a large mixing bowl and add the courgette, onion, sweetcorn, tofu, breadcrumbs, egg, cheese and coriander. Season, adding just a little salt.

  • Form the mixture into 8 burgers and arrange on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.

  • Warm the pitta breads and split them open. Fill each one with a burger and some salad, then serve at once.

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Prestwick Airport ready for takeoff as the UK spaceport.

prestwickThe Civil Aviation Authority has shortlisted Campbeltown, Prestwick and Stornoway airports to host the UK’s first spaceport, after narrowing down the field of possible locations to five in a consultation. Prestwick Airport, currently owned by The Scottish Government, and a strategically positioned airport on the Clyde Estuary coast in Ayrshire welcomed todays announcement from Westminster along with South Ayrshire Council which establishes the framework around which the selection of the first UK spaceport will be made.

One of the key drivers of the push is the well established notion that the country needs to have a fully operational Spaceport by 2018 in order to further vitalise the blooming UK space industry. The new location will become a centre of operations for the launch of new high tech instrumentation and satellite based technology and vehicles. Furthermore it may well become a major technological hub for all UK companies involved in the space industry providing launch and maintenance facilitiues for such companies as Virgin Galactic and Spacex.

Iain Cochrane, Chief Executive of Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: "Prestwick Airport has been a pioneer of the UK aerospace industry and aviation since its foundation in 1935. I believe Prestwick offers the perfect conditions for space launches and our extensive developed concrete airfield and 3km runway provide the facilities needed for all types of re-usable spacecraft in development.

Screenshot_7"We have an experienced high-tech aerospace workforce and a substantial aviation and high-tech engineering industrial footprint. Our Scottish Enterprise incentive zone supports the growth of the space industry. Our universities in Glasgow and Ayr are at the forefront of space and aerospace engineering research and teaching. While we have safe over-water flight paths, we also have over 4m people within a 2 hour drive giving us access to the widest range of specialists and expertise. This combination of features is unique amongst the sites being considered and positions Prestwick as the leading candidate to become the UK's first Spaceport."

Andrew Miller, Chairman of Glasgow Prestwick Airport, said: "Winning the Spaceport for Scotland and Prestwick will create a platform for revenue growth and industrial development for the next thirty years and more. It is a truly strategic development that will underpin jobs and growth regionally and nationally. Prestwick is the only site that can release this potential. It will drive transformational change both at the airport and local level and also in Scotland and the UK as a whole."

Prestwick Spaceport Director Stuart McIntyre said: "We have been working hard to structure our programme since the consultation programme closed last October. We have a detailed understanding of what is required and have already begun our bid preparations.

"We have secured strong support from our stakeholders in the region as well as internationally. We are determined to offer the global space industry a highly capable facility that will exploit Scotland's perfect location for polar orbit launches and space programme research and development. Prestwick will sit at the heart of an end-to-end space industrial capability allowing commercial space application developers to realise their designs, launch them to orbit and distribute their service to their global customers."

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Chair of the Glasgow Prestwick Airport and Aerospace Stakeholder Group, applauded Prestwick's bid: "Glasgow Prestwick Airport has extensive developed facilities and the ideal infrastructure and resources to deliver a first-class spaceport for the UK. This includes a significant amount of land for aerospace and spaceport industries. With direct motorway access, we are less than half an hour from Glasgow and easily accessible from all parts of the UK – you really couldn't ask for anywhere better to fulfil this important role. Aerospace is a major part of our lives in Ayrshire and we look forward to making the Glasgow Prestwick spaceport a reality and welcoming the space industry to this wonderful part of the world."

The UK Government selection programme is expected to run until October 2015 with Prestwick one of the possible locations being considered alongside Newquay in Cornwall, Llanbedr in Wales and a number of alternative Scottish sites.
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Bangers and mash with onion gravy

This is a great recipe for a quick and simple dinner. Quite unusual with ketchup adding to the gravy making it sweet. The recipe below serves 2 with 10 points per serving using weightwatchers sausages. Vegetarian sausages can also be used.


BangersMash_n_lg



Ingredients





































  1 medium Onion(s), thickly sliced
4 individual Weight Watchers Premium Pork Sausages
  500 g Potato(es), Raw, peeled and diced
  5 tablespoons Skimmed Milk
1/2 teaspoons (level) Ground Nutmeg
1 tablespoons (level) Cornflour
150 ml Fresh Vegetable Stock
1 tablespoons Tomato Ketchup

Instructions



  • Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6/200°C/ fan oven 180°C.

  • Toss the onion and sausages with cooking spray and seasoning and spread out on a baking tray. Roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then turn the sausages over and stir the onions around. Return to the oven for 5 minutes, then remove the roasted onions to a plate and cook the sausages for 5 more minutes.

  • As soon as the sausages and onions go in the oven, add the potatoes to a large pan of boiling water. Cook for about 15 minutes or until tender, then drain.

  • Heat the milk in the pan, add the drained potatoes and mash together. Add nutmeg and seasoning to taste.

  • While the potatoes are cooking, blend the cornflour with a little of the stock in a non stick saucepan, to make a paste. Mix in the remaining stock and ketchup and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the roasted onions and simmer for a further 2 minutes. Pour the onion gravy over the bangers and mash to serve.

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