Week 38 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 30th Novemeber 2008

My girlfriend wants to go ice skating so we set off at about one o'clock for the ice rink in the King's Bastion Leisure Centre. There is nobody on the ice but a lot of people putting boots on so by the time she has her skates on it is quite crowded.

I hang around for a while and then go downstairs and eat a magnificent bacon and egg sandwich while reading all the grown-up Sunday newspapers.

Monday 1st December 2008


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There is some sunshine about but it is still very cold. A number of boats come in during the course of the day, including the cruise ship Costa Atlantica and an unknown gentleman's yacht with two awe inspiringly high masts.

The white boat is probably called Pelonis but maybe not. The dark blue hulled yacht is Shandor. It was for hire in 2004 for $150,000 pw but I am not sure what current rates are.

Tuesday 2nd December 2008

After showing you a few fancy boats here is TAKLIFT6 which has been parked round the corner for a few days but has just come back here.

During the day I read The Science of Startrek which is clearly written by a fan - albeit a heavyweight physicist, namely Prof. Lawrence M. Krauss. In it he mentions that we really should think of the space time continuum as a four dimensional space through which we travel at a constant velocity whether through "time" or "space". In the evening by total coincidence I watch What Time Is It? presented by Prof Brian Cox who makes the point that we travel through space time at the speed of light. The path of travel through space-time is known as a world line

I had never thought of looking at it that way before but it makes perfect sense - if you stand still, then time goes by at the normal speed but if you actually travel through space as well, then time slows down so that overall you are still travelling through 4-D space time at a constant velocity - namely the speed of light. In effect, you can choose whether to travel through time or travel through space. If you choose to travel through space then time will slow down for you and you can return home younger than your twin brother! This is a real effect that can be demonstrated with clocks.

This gives rise to the famous Twin Paradox as Einstein also stated that there is no such thing as absolute motion - all movement is relative to an observer so it would, on the face of it, seem to be as valid to say that either twin stayed at home so how can one of them age less than the other? Many Twin Paradox explanations invoke acceleration but, as the article just referred to says, this is incorrect. I have to say this is the first explanation of the Twin Paradox that I have read that makes sense - the three Inertial Frames are the key. For instance, I believe that this explanation rather misses the point as it does not address the paradox as such.

Actually, acceleration does play a role but in a subtle way - the situation is not symmetric - you can identify the twin who ages the least by saying he is the one that experienced a 180 degree change in direction (ie underwent acceleration in the technical sense of the word) but the fact that he ages less is not caused by this acceleration. In a truly symmetric situation they would both shoot off, turn round and meet again both having aged to the same extent (but less than if they had stayed still).

[Note: Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity deals with constant velocities whereas his General Theory of Relativity deals with acceleration]

Wednesday 3rd December 2008

We wander down to Casemates Square and gaze at Gibraltar's Christmas Tree. Not a bad effort considering that there are no fir trees for about a thousand miles. Where did it come from and how did it get there? Maybe elves dragged it from Norway.

After that we go for snack in Sacarellos which is at 57, Irish Town. It is the best and busiest coffee shop in Gibraltar but they have run out of Victoria Sponge, which is a serious matter. I content myself by reading The Daily Telegraph which I have just bought for 1.50 from a newsagent which is also called Sacarellos and is at 96, Main Street. Are they related? I think we should be told ...

Although I am not in sympathy with socialism, it looks like Barak Obama is doing a good job and has clearly read The Prince by Machiavelli. A conquering Prince should either totally destroy his enemy or raise him up with great honour and this is what he has done with Hillary. She now has enough rope to hang herself, with a bit of luck. Either way, the option of sniping from the sidelines is no longer open to her. With a bit of luck, she and Bill will screw things up so badly that they will finally retire to the ignomy they so richly deserve. The lad could do well.

On this principle maybe Osama bin Laden could be persuaded to become Director of the CIA? Must be more fun than sitting in a cave in Pakistan and he would know how to round up all the bad guys.

Thursday 4th December 2008


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Gibraltar has two proper bookshops - The Gibraltar Bookshop which is right at the Southern end of Main Street and Bell Books which is in Bell Lane. Neither of these is very good. In the former I bought two books and the bill came to 15.05. Between us my girlfriend and I found 15 in notes easily enough but then we started turning out our pockets for the 5p while the proprietor waited. Eventually we had produced 4p but she wanted her pound of flesh and after a further hunt round we found the final 1p. Petty or what? As a result they will no longer benefit from the 20 I spend in an average month on books - I will order them via Amazon.

As for Bell Books, the proprietor had never heard of
J K Galbraith or Damon Runyon - "did you say Damian Runyon?" - probably two of the most famous American writers of the last Century.

Down in Irish Town (a street that runs off the North West corner of John Mackintosh Square) there are three shops, all on the West side of the street, that buy and sell books with gold embossed covers which either show a smoking gun or a blond with a big chest. I forgot to photograph the last one (shop, that is, not chest) - it is the one with a load of old furniture outside. Actually, when you look at the prices you will realise that it is not a load of old furniture - it is actually exquisite antique furniture of the kind that you would be proud to have in your humble abode.

In the evening we go to see Nights in Rodanthe which makes Barbara Cartland look like Shakespeare. After an hour my girlfriend suggests we leave which we do. That's how bad it is.

Friday 5th December 2008

When it is cloudy in the Mediterranean, the light is perfect for photography - this is the tug Wellington.

In the evening I persuade my girlfriend to stay in and watch Michael Crichton's Westworld on TCM, rather than go to see another terrible film at the cinema.

Westworld is extraordinary. In it a group of human like robots (played by real people - principally Yul Brynner) rebel against being raped and murdered for the amusement of the paying guests. It must be one of the first portrayals of a virus spreading from computer to computer (or a meme, if you prefer).

It accurately anticipates that extraordinary technology will be used to pander to the baser instincts of men and women (the women guests act like Queens, ordering their servants about). It also illustrates a touching faith in technology and "experts" that has still not been totally extinguished. "Nothing can go wrong". Or "what is to stop me killing a fellow guest by accident?". To which the reply is "shoot me". When he pulls the trigger, the gun refuses to fire. Right.

This is a truly great film - up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Saturday 6th December 2008


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During the day we visit Morrisons where we stumble into a scene straight from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. My girlfriend bravely buys one of the pods and takes it home where, fortunately, it turns out to be a Christmas tree but they had me worried for a moment.

In the evening we go to see some nice people in La Linea where, as usual, Barney the Cat is the star of the show in his cool threads.


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