Monday, December 28, 2009

Using MP4 Video Files with Corel Video Studio 12

Normally I shoot video on a Leica C-Lux 2 digital compact camera. This is primarily a stills camera with the normal low resolution video camera setting, but hidden inside the menus is a widescreen high resolution mode at 848x480 pixels. I have successfully used this to create HD movies like this using Corel Video Studio 12. I export the .mov files from the cameras HD card, edit the movie in Corel Video Studio and then save as an HD file which upscales to 720p. Its not perfect but it does work, and it forces Youtube to recognise it as an HD file - allowing the full 848x480 resoultion to be utilised.

The advantage of the C-Lux 2 is that it has optical image stabilisation. The disadvatages over a camcorder are that it does not allow zooming during a shot and it only has a three times optical zoom which is not really sufficient. I have been considering getting a Panasonic HD Camcorder, but over Christmas I had the chance to borrow a Toshiba Camileo HD-DV Camcorder which shoots in 720p.

Although it shoots in 720p the lens is of an inferior quality to the Leica C-Lux 2. It produces a higher resolution video output but the mechanical resolution of the image is inferior to the 848x480 from the Leica, even after upscaling. Also, the Toshiba does not have optical image stabilisation which is very noticeable on a zoom.

I was able to copy the MP4 files from the SD card to my computer very easily but then Corel Video Studio came up with the error "file format mismatch" when I tried to import them for editing. Overcoming thisd was not particularly difficult as I have a program called Total Video Converter. I normally use this for converting video files to Ipod type MP4 for putting on my mobile phone but it can also convert files to Apple .mov format (which is the type of file produced by the Leica camera).
I set the program to maximum quality, .mov MP4 file type and accepted all the other default settings. Then I set the output directory to the same directory I had the original files in and ran the conversion. It did not take long to convert all the files and the converted versions appeared to be of identical quality to the original ones when I viewed them in Nero Showtime.

After analysing the original and converted files using Gspot I found this:

Original File - MP4 .mp4

Codec: avc1
Type: H.264/MPEG-4 AVC

mp4a: MPEG-4 AAC LC
48000Hz 128 kb/s tot , stereo (2/0)

Converted File - MP4 .mov

Codec: mp4v
Type: ISO MPEG-4

mp4a: MPEG-4 AAC LC
48000Hz , stereo (2/0)

I did a bit of investigating and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC was introduced in 2003. ISO MPEG-4 was introduced in 1998.

Corel Video Studio 12 was released in 2008 but it started as a much earlier product (Ulead Video Studio) so its underlying systems predate the newer MP4 format. I have done some research and it looks like the newest version "Video Studio x2" will handle H.264 MP4 files natively, although I can't guarantee this.

If I do change to a Panasonic HD Camcorder they use yet another file type so I will need to investigate what I need and maybe upgrade to Video Studio X2. Until then I will settle with using the video conversion process while I test the Toshiba camera.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

London Underground and Tube Information - Including tube map, underground route planner and other useful links.

As a regular visitor to London I got fed up searching for tube and underground information from my smartphone so I created this page to help me when I am on the move. I also put in some tips based on my own experience of using the tube and helping tourists and visitors to the city.

So if you are looking for London Underground information this site is worth bookmarking:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to Choose a Cornet Mouthpiece

"I wear size 9 shoes so you should too!"

If I was to say that to you, you would think it was daft, yet we hear this sort of advice about mouthpieces all the time.

I used to play on big mouthpieces (I played a Wick 2 in the front row in first section and championship section - what a mad fool I was), but after I changed my embouchure set up to get a smaller aperture I had to shift to smaller mouthpieces. I actually play on a 4B now. Its not ideal. I would prefer to play on a 4 or a 4 1/2 but my cornet has to have the shanks turned down slightly to get the gap right so changing mouthpieces is a chore, and I can't pass them on to anyone once they have been cut. This is entirely my fault as the instrument was gapped for a Bach mouthpiece when it was made - a huge error and not easily corrected on this particular cornet.

Some of the issues that affect mouthpiece choice:
  • Need for endurance (brass band cornet players play like violins in an orchestra so there is more need for endurance than with the trumpet meaning that rims are likely to be wider or flatter than trumpet).
  • Need for flexibility (thinner rims give more flexibility but increase attack, this is why I think the Wick rims are the way they are - to prevent very brassy attacks without sacrificing flexibility too much).
  • Resistance requirement (in general tighter feeling instruments work better with slightly more open mouthpieces and visa versa - this also has a lot to do with the mouthpiece gap). 
  • How much pressure you use when playing.
  • Whether you are required to play after the point when your lips have gone (a serious issue for brass band and big band players who have no choice in the matter!).
  • The sound model you are aiming for.
  • Physiology of the lips (children have smaller mouths and need smaller mouthpieces, people with big lips can't play on really shallow mouthpieces without adopting odd embouchures).
I think that resistance is the key. An instrument set up feels best is when the resistance of the whole system from the lips through to the bell is optimal for that particular player. This is where adjusting the gap can make a huge difference. By gap I mean the distance between the end of the mouthpiece and the beginning of the leadpipe. This has a huge effect on resistance and the feel of the instrument.  Incidentally, old cornets with  removable shanks usually have no gap so this is a relatively new issue (past 30 years or so).

That's my thoughts on the subject as someone who has been through more mouthpieces than hot dinners.

For a survey of cornet mouthpiece throat sizes and a discussion about how this affects resistance see this article:
cornet mouthpiece throat sizes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

How to make a Tin Whistle or Penny Whistle in E

To make an E whistle get hold of a cheap Clarke Meg whistle in D.

Measure up from the first hole (the one nearest the mouthpiece) 20mm and make a mark with a fine permanent marker.
Cover the mark with clear tape or tap very lightly with a centre punch to help the drill bit grip.
Drill a 5mm hole using very light pressure and a high drill speed as you don't want to buckle the tubing.

Measure down from the third hole (the third one down from the mouthpiece - the original third one, i.e. the fourth hole you now have in the tube) 14mm and mark again with a permanent marker and tape.
Drill a 5mm hole.

Now cover the original fourth hole with a bit of insulating tape (you may be able to get a bit the same colour as the whistle). This is a small hole anyway so its not much to cover.

Your whistle now has seven holes. Put your fingers on the top six holes and you should get a scale of E.
If you use your pinky to cover the seventh hole you will hear a concert D.

It may be safer to start with a 4mm drill bit and test the tuning as making the holes bigger sharpens the notes.
You could then file out to 5mm with a round needle file.
You can also give a few strokes across the new holes with a half round needle file to take off the sharp edges from the drilling.

The hole spacing is a bit irregular but it works.
Now t0 make a D whistle from a C whistle with a bottom hole for the concert C!

Monday, November 16, 2009

How many instruments can I actually play?

Someone asked me this yesterday so I did a quick tally:

Instruments I can play to an advanced/professional level:
Flugel Horn
Soprano Cornet
Piccolo Trumpet

Instruments I own and can play to a reasonable amateur level:
Tenor Horn
French Horn
Natural Trumpet

Instruments I own and have a basic ability on:
Guitar (8 or 10 chords and a bit of picking)
Voice (tenor -  amateur standard)

Instruments I can pick up and get some sort of useful tune out of:
All of the other brass instruments

So I can't play any reed instruments or stringed instruments that are played with a bow.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Is This It? - More on The Alpha Course

Posters like this are appearing outside churches across the UK as part of the Alpha Course. There is one outside Morningside Baptist Church which I pass every day. This has made me think further about the issue so I present these thoughts as additional to my previous article on the subject.

Is this it?

What exactly is "this"? Its not explained on the poster so presumably we are to make up our own minds. I am sure that the people behind Alpha would say that the question is about existence and the meaning of life, but clearly it is aimed at our satisfaction with the substance of every day life as its during every day life that we are passing and reading this poster. The provocative question seems to be aimed at people who are disatisifed with life. Not just marginally disatisfied with some aspect of their life, but thoroughly disatisfied with everything, and possibly even depressed.

Evangelical churches are increasingly relying on exploiting people's disatisfaction with life rather than celebrating what life has to offer. They seem to have got into the business of telling people that life is pointless without God (or more properly their very narrow depiction of God). This is all very negative. What about people who simply don't have the ability to believe in God or people who live genuinely fulfilled lives without God? This is the crux of the matter. I know lots of people who are perfectly contented without any religious belief.

This advertising campaign by Alpha - like much of evangelical Christianity - is misleading, because it makes the unsubstantiated claim that without believing in God and Jesus there can be no satisfaction, enjoyment or fulfillment. Clearly this is not true. Most people have no fervent religious beliefs, but live generally happy lives whilst many people with religious beliefs feel unfulfilled and unhappy. There seems to be no connection at all between personal fulfillment and religious belief.

So how did the church get here? The simple answer is "lifestyle evangelism".  Evangelicals facing an ageing church membership and declining numbers moved away from concentrating on the issue of sin, with all its negative connotations, to a strategy of attracting people to the faith through other Christians who displayed themselves as examples of how enjoyable and fulfilling life could be. Its not quite flirty fishing, but its heading there. The problem is that "it" does not work for everyone. Churches are themselves full of people who do not feel particularly fulfilled so its a strategy which is bound to fail.

This has done untold damage to battalions of people who have filtered through churches and found that "it" did not work for them. This is why most growing evangelical and charismatic churches are full of very confident, clean cut, younger people with professional occupations. Its not God that has made them like this. They have self selected themselves because they already fit that lifestyle and like attracts like.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Edinburgh City Mission - Another Example of Creationism Becoming Mainstream in British Evangelicalism

Edinburgh City Mission has always been an evangelical organisation, but recently it has moved to a more aggressive American style fundamentalist position.

A look at its web site shows two projects which are specifically aimed at promoting creationism rather than helping people in need (which was always its primary objective).

On their
Cultural Ministries page I found:

"Literature Table - Edinburgh University

An estimated 12% of the cities population are students, 26,000 of which are part of the University of Edinburgh. Although the university was founded by John Knox and the Reformers, the Enlightenment of the 18th century gave birth to the Humanism, Evolution and Atheism of Hume and Darwin. Today the University probably stands as the world stronghold of humanistic evolution, and the International Science Festival gravitates around it.

ECM has a table outside the library and hot drinks are served to hundreds of students. Using literature and thought-provoking questions on posters, a natural bridge is built along which the Gospel is freely shared. By this means a small, but growing number of students are becoming Christians, and many are being deeply challenged."

And under Partner Ministries (since removed) I found:

"The Edinburgh Creation Group

In November 2006 ECM co-pioneered a special outreach to the scientific and intellectual community based near the University. Deeply concerned about the godless attitudes around them, which can be traced back to the Enlightenment and Evolution, they sought to set up an effective ministry to dismantle the humanistic idol and present the truth of Creation and of Christ. In this way Edinburgh Creation Group was born, the team being made up of scientists and an historian. Since then leading scientists and experts have given regular weekly term-time talks using PowerPoint presentations to classes of students and others. These have been filmed and put on the Edinburgh Creation Group's website. The result of this has been that over 20,000 people world-wide have now watched the talks via the internet videos."

This is another example of creationism becoming a prime focus of British evangelical Christianity. This just further alienates anyone with a brain from engaging with Christianity and it turns these groups into fringe cults.

Its interesting that the current Executive Director of Edinburgh City Mission attends a church which has had internal strife over the whole creationism issue in the past and (as far as I am aware) does not hold a creationist position at the moment. 

What we are seeing here is the tip of an iceberg. An iceberg of struggle going on within evangelicalism in Britain on a range of issues from Christianity to Israel - all, of course, imported from the USA as part of their political agenda often through the funding of ministerial positions and Christian organisations in the UK from the USA or the promotion of US based preachers here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

A Rather Annoying Ringtone

This very annoying mp3 ringtone is recorded from an old Siemens office phone system.

Right Click Here and choose "save as" to download it.

Very chirpy but sure to be heard even in a noisy environment.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Is the Apha Course Asking the Wrong Question?

I have noticed this banner like this outside two churches (one in Kirkliston and one in Edinburgh). Both are advertising the Alpha Course, but they also say something about how the Church views outsiders.

The Church's view of God is very fixed and it seems to be asking people to agree or disagree with it. By asking "Does God exist?" this campaign is targeting people who already have a similar view of God to the people in the church in an attempt to get them into the church and get some bums on seats. This approach is not likely to engage with someone from a different cultural background (like Hinduism, Buddhism or new age spirituality) who has a totally different idea of divinity - or indeed anyone who is a thinker and has bigger questions.

For me the question should not be "Does god exist?" but "What is God?", and if he, she or it does exist: does it matter?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Considering Making Changes to my Blog

My blog is currently published using Blogger, but hosted on my own web hosting account.

  • Can email articles and photographs in from my Google G1 mobile phone.
  • Don't need to maintain any scripts on my hosting account as it uploads via FTP.
  • Some evidence that Google indexes Blogger pages more quickly because Google own Blogger.
  • Its published under my own domain name.
  • By hosting the pages outside the Blogger/Google network I have some protection from pages being taken down for legal reasons. Anyone complaining would have to contact my ISP, and because they are in Ireland it makes any threat of legal action slightly more difficult.
  • No ads.
  • Publishing via FTP from is getting slower and slower because it insists on uploading all the pages in the blog rather than just the ones that have changed.
  • Not hosting it on Blogger's own servers means I can't use some of the new Blogger features like "followers".
  • Means maintaining a web hosting account for it with sufficient resources and enough reliability (my hosting is actually very reliable, but Blogger hosted blogs have greater redundancy).
  • Some difficulty maintaining my custom Blog template when Blogger make changes.
  • People leaving comments have to have a Blogger account or I have to leave it entirely open (which is undesirable).

Because of these issues I am considering moving to either a Blogger hosted blog or a Wordpress blog.
This is how I have compared the different options.

Blogger hosted blog:

  • Reliable.
  • All Blogger functions will work.
  • Publishing should be faster.
  • Templates should be easier to update.
  • Will still be able to post via email.
  • Ads may appear on my blog.
  • Less security against malicious takedowns and legal threats.
  • Possible to have it under a new domain - for a fee.

Wordpress hosted blog:

  • Reliable.
  • Better templating than Blogger.
  • Ads - but only shown to people who have not logged in as Wordpress users.
  • Less functions/gadgets than a Blogger hosted blog.
  • Possible to have it under a new domain - for a fee.

Wordpress blog hosted on my own hosting account:

  • More control over malicious takedowns and legal threats than a Wordpress hosted blog.

  • Will have to maintain and update my own copy of the Wordpress scripts.
  • Server load issues of running the scripts might cause problems for my web host or increase my hosting costs.

In addition to this I need to decide what to do with my existing blog. I might just let it continue to run, but add new posts to the new blog. The new blog will (of course) have a zero page rank initially. Either way I know that the current system I am using is starting to creak heavily and I need to make a decision. Any suggestions or advice gratefully received.

Are Ad Blockers a Bad Thing?

Having used Firefox as my main browser for the past few years witht he "Ad Block Plus" plugin I gradually got used to seeing web pages with very few ads in them: nice clean pages which loaded faster, especially on a mobile connection. It therefore came as a bit of a shock to have to switch browser this week due to an ongoing fault on my PC which seems to be caused by a bug in Firefox. Now I am seeing web pages in all their ad-rich glory.
Its actually not been too bad and there have been a few advantages. For example, there was an ad on Facebook which actually took me to a useful service that I was interested in using. I have also seen ads on forums that are about the products being discussed there, so I can see how they became the subject of critical debate.  This brings me round to one of the core purposes of advertising which is to provide information to consumers. The Internet does this better than any other media, whilst being weaker at lifestyle selling than television or print media. This is why price comparison websites have done so well. Its direct information of use to the consumer. In the past I have bought a number of products which have been brought to my attention by online advertising. Even my domain name - - came from an ad that the .nu registry ran on Geocities back in 1998.
So does advertising lead to greater consumer spend or greater consumer choice. I think it could be either or both. From my point of view seeing the ads makes the web a  more interesting and informative place.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Embouchure Lip Exercises for Trumpet

I recently made a video that discusses and demonstrates embouchure lip exercises for trumpet and other brass players.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Potential T-Mobile Fraud Security Problem

A very interesting thing happened today which I want to make other T-Mobile account holders aware of.
I received a voicemail mesage from T-Mobile last night telling me that someone had tried to order additional lines on my account and they thought it was an imposter. I phoned them back and they said it had been an order for four lines, that the person had identified themself as "Gordon" and had my correct account password. As the password has not been used for anything else and I have never written it down this means that either someone was able to get it out of my head without me knowing or T-Mobile has a security problem. I have definitely not been caught in any phishing scam. T-Mobile, of course, deny there could be any problem with their security but for someone to have my name, mobile number and account password is very suspicious.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Youtube needs to change its rating system to improve the quality of ratings and prevent votebotting

YouTube needs to change its rating system as it is currently not doing the job it was intended for.
Firstly, its not clear what you are rating as one to five stars. Is it picture quality or content quality or whether you disagree with whats in the video? Users seem to use ratings for all of these purposes. Secondly, there is the problem of "votebotting", where automated scripts fire off one star ratings to a selected group of videos to reduce where they appear in Youtube's search reults. This seems to be most common by religious fundamentalists against the various atheist channels. Often these videos get many more votes than they actually get viewings which makes an illogical nonsense of the ratings system.
I want YouTube to make their ratings system more like Ebay's with specific one to five star ratings  for picture quality, content and like/dislike or agree/disagree.  This will stop the general confusion over what is being rated. If this is combined with captcha or a similar technology then it will prevent votebotting. I am not convinced that votebotting is that difficult to stop as I have written online applications which prevent multiple attacks for things like the testing of credit card numbers or blocking password slamming. I am no expert, so the people at Youtube should be able to come up with something much better than I could.
This way we can have a ratings system which adds to the accuracy of search on the site and makes it a level playing field that does not favour the dishonest.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Advantages of Clarke Original Tin (or Penny) Whistle over other types.

Having played most of the different types of penny whistle over the years I have concluded that the Clarke original is the best design amongst the mass produced whistles, for the following reasons:
  • The tone of the instrument is fuller than the whistles with the plastic tops; almost flute like.
  • The conical bore means that it is more in tune across its whole range.
  • Although it is not tuneable they always seem to be well in tune at normal pitch (A=440Hz).
  • The wooden fipple plug is naturally warmer and the windway is larger which means that it is less likely to be blocked by condensation.
  • It has a more even response, requires less air in the upper register than some of the tighter whistles, although it needs a bit more air in the lower register.
  • Because it can take more air it is potentially louder than some other whistles, but the volume is more controllable.
  • There is a bigger separation between the lower octave and the upper octave overblow which allows for a greater dynamic range in the lower octave without accidentally squealing the note that is an octave above.
  • It is inexpensive: you can get a Clarke original whistle for under £10.
  • They are made in the keys of  C or D.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Creationist visits the Doctor

A humorous look at the paradox of being a creationist in our modern, scientific world.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

How the British tax payer is funding Televangelists

The three largest UK based Christian television networks are all funded from donations from viewers and supporters. These are channelled into them through registered charities which the channels have set up for this purpose.

By running as registered charities these organisations receive a number of benefits that amount to taxpayer funding of their operations, which includes evangelism and in some cases campaigning against evolution and environmental concerns like global warming.

The benefits that Christian TV channels receive from the taxpayer through their charitable status include:
  • the ability to reclaim tax on donations given by individuals through Gift Aid.
  • business rates relief for any buildings they are using.
  • exemption from paying corporation tax on their profits (surpluses)

The value of these to the organisations is difficult to determine in full, but Gift Aid alone can amount to a substantial part of their income.

Gift AID is a reclaim of tax from the government on donations made by UK tax payers. I have examined the accounts of three UK based Christian Television networks to try and estimate how much they are earning from Gift Aid. One (UCB) state explicitly in their annual accounts how much they receive in Gift Aid. The others I have estimated.

At least two of these channels (God TV and Revelation & Genesis TV) are not in the mainstream of the Christian religion and speak out against evolution and environmental concerns.

Channel: UCB TV and various radio channels

A staggering 16.3% of their donated income came from the government through the Gift Aid scheme - a total of £859,000 in state funding.

From their Accounts for year ended 31st December 2007
Total Income £6,819,108
Total income from donations £5 241 108
Total gift aid (according to their annual report @ 16.3% confirmed) £859,000

Charity: THE ANGEL FOUNDATION, Registered Charity 1079501

God TV is not regulated by OFCOM. It operates under a foreign broadcasting licence and is outside OFCOM regulation allowing them to use fundraising techniques which would probably not be permitted if they were under a UK licence.

We do not know how much they are receiving in Gift Aid donations as they do not separate it out in their annual accounts. However, if we conservatively estimate it at 10% then it would mean they received at least £1M per year from the government to fund their operations. The figure could be much higher.

From their Accounts for year ended 31st March 2008

Total Income £12,174,673
Total income from donations £11,166,574
Estimated gift aid @ 10% of donated income £1,116,657
Estimated gift aid @ 15% of donated income £1,674,961

Charity: REVELATION FOUNDATION, Registered Charity 1100573

We do not know how much they are receiving in Gift Aid donations as they do not separate it out in their annual accounts. However, if we conservatively estimate it at 10% then it means they are receiving at least £167,000 from the government to fund their operations.

From their Accounts for year ended 31st March 2008

Total Income £1,740,988
Income from Donations £1,677,136
Estimated gift aid @ 10% of donated income £167,713
Estimated gift aid @ 15% of donated income £251,570

Issues this raises

Should taxpayers money be going to fund religious broadcasting organisations whose principal aims are evangelism?

If the government is to continue funding organisations like this, should this not be conditional on them operating under UK broadcast licences so they are regulated by OFCOM? For example, God TV gets money from the UK government but does not have to abide by UK broadcasting restrictions. This means they can use fundraising techniques which would be dubious under UK broadcasting regulations, but still get Gift Aid on those donations from tax payers.

The other side of the coin

It could be claimed that Gift Aid us a reclaim of the tax the donors have paid on their earnings, but the reclaim is at a notional "blended rate" which may be more than the donor has paid in tax. If the money was not given to them by the government then the government could spend it on things that would benefit the wider community.

Changes to charity law in the UK

The Charities Commission has recently published new guidance to charities that they must be able to show "public benefit". Its not clear how they will apply this to existing charities, but it will be interesting to see how religious charities and in particular Christian television stations will be able to prove a public benefit when they have such narrow sectarian aims and objectives. I suspect they will get round it by having very broad aims in their charity memorandum and articles of association, but in reality pass the vast majority of the funds raised straight to the TV channels they are operating.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Why are Christians so uncomfortable with the idea of evolution?

Why do some Christians trust creationist opinions over scientific ideas that have been worked out by many scientists over many years? Presumably they are quite happy to take medicines that have also been developed by scientists over many years, without feeling the need to question its effectiveness.

I think the answer is that just as Galileo showed that the sun does not revolve round the earth, evolution challenges Christians to accept that they are not the centre of the universe. A rather humbling notion, especially for the self exalting kind of Christians who tend to be the ones who are very pro creationism.

Can you be a Christian and believe in evolution?

I would say a definite yes to this question. It is a clear demonstrable fact that most Christians do believe in evolution but there are a vociferous minority of fundamentalists who do not, and who intend to convert other Christians to a belief in creationism (a belief that the earth is 6500 years old and was created in six days with all its life forms fully formed).

Therefore in the tradition of Plato's conversations I present this fictional discussion between a fundamentalist and an enquirer which is based on the sort of reasoning that I heard regularly during my time as a fundamentalist.

Do you have to believe in creationism in order to be saved and go to heaven?

No, you just need to have faith in Christ. This is all that is required.
See Acts 16:31 and Romans 10:9.

Most professing Christians do believe in evolution. For example, the teaching of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Methodist churches all allow for belief in evolution, so why do we need to believe in the biblical account of creation?

Those people are not true Christians.

So you would say they are not saved then?

It is possible they are saved, but it is not certain as they have rejected the bible as being the word of God.

So you are saying that I do have to believe in creationism to be saved?

No, I didn't say that.

Yes you did!

Well its an issue of living the best way possible.
Those who are closer to God and more conformed to his will for their lives will receive a greater reward in heaven.
See Matthew 16:27 and 1 Corinthians 3:11-15.

So there are different classes of salvation?

No, I didn't say that.

Yes you did!

Well if you want to be a true Christian and be absolutely sure of receiving your maximum reward you do need to believe in a lot more than the basic gospel message. This includes creationism, premillenial dispensationalism, the special status of Israel and a number of other things. Believing in these things is God's will for the Christian. They are revealed in his word and will be confirmed to you if you get into a church that preaches the whole word of God and you pray about it.

So if I don't believe in those things I am not a proper Christian?

No, I didn't say that.

Well you seemed to imply it.

Well its what I believe, and what all my friends believe. The bible does seem to say these things so they must be true. Therefore if you don't accept them you are rejecting the whole counsel of God and not living in truth. You therefore run the risk of being rejected by God.
See Matthew 7:21-23.

That's very interesting but I am not sure I agree with you.

I will be praying for you, that God will reveal the truth to you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tin Whistle (Penny Whistle) player in West Lothian near Edinburgh

Here are some clips of me playing the penny (tin) whistle. For more up to date clips please see my YouTube channel.

I also have a CD for sale in aid of charity - click here for info.

If you are interested in me doing any playing for you please contact me.

Cooley's Reel

Dashing White Sergeant (set)

Rocky Road to Dublin

I also play other styles of music on the whistle including baroque and early music:

Pachelbel's Canon

Quel Sguardo Sdegnosetto by Monteverdi

Gabriel's Oboe

Friday, March 20, 2009

Jack the Ripper - An Introduction

My decision to start writing articles about Jack the Ripper (as the Whitechapel murderer is commonly known) may come as a surprise to some people. It may also unsettle some of my friends as it becomes apparent that I have a fairly in depth knowledge of the case. I would like to reassure my friends that there is nothing sinister here and I am not a closet sexual serial killer! My reason for deciding to start writing is the sheer amount of disinformation, assumptions and false evidence which is out there. In particular the number of "celebrity suspects"who have been proposed by various authors keen to sell books. These range from the artist Walter Sickert to J M Barrie. Clearly they could not all have been the murderer so we know that most, presumably all of them, were not. There was only one Jack the Ripper and there are a few things we can be quite sure about based on crime scene evidence, witness testimony and post mortem investigations on the victims. I also want to discuss some of the interesting issues within the case such as the date pattern of the killings, the alleged ripper letters and the Goulston Street graffito.

I need to say right from the start that I believe it is impossible to identify a particular individual as Jack the Ripper. Too much time has passed since 1888; the police scene of crime investigation was not as thorough as it would have been nowadays and most of the paperwork and original evidence is missing. However, I think we can determine enough about the killer from the remaining evidence and the circumstances of the killings to be able to eliminate the celebrity suspects and find something which is much closer to the real killer.

My own interest in the Whitechapel murders started when I was a boy, but I only became concerned about it in 1988 when the Michael Caine film was widely screened on TV, billed as a "drama documentary". The film was based on Stephen Knight's book "Jack the Ripper, The Final Solution" which was the first book to put forward the royal conspiracy theory. I got the book out of the library, read it, and found the whole theory preposterous. Even after all this time the general public who have no detailed knowledge of the case generally believe there was a royal conspiracy or some sort of royal family involvement in the case. Before I write anything else I need to thoroughly refute both of the royal theories in order to provide a clear desk on which to set out my ideas for discussion. This is where a blog has great advantage over a magazine article. You can comment on what I write and discuss my articles with myself and other readers through the comments facility (Google account required).

The Royal Conspiracy Theory

A detailed explanation of Stephen Knight's royal conspiracy theory and how it came to be written can be found in this Wikipedia article.

To summarise:

Prince Albert Victor, the grandson of Queen Victoria, falls in love with and secretly marries Annie Elizabeth Crook. Annie is a working class, Roman Catholic woman and as such he is prohibited from marrying her. The marriage is held in secret with Mary Jane Kelly (the Ripper's last victim) as a witness. The prince and Annie had a daughter who was looked after by Kelly. Kelly and some of her friends decide to blackmail the prince and the royal family employ their doctor Sir William Gull to kill them. The prince's illegitimate daughter by Annie, Alice Crook, grows up and becomes the mistress of the artist Walter Sickert, eventually having a son with him called Joseph Gorman, or as he likes to be known Joseph Sickert.

Why the royal conspiracy theory does not work:

  1. If Albert Victor had married a Roman Catholic and had a child there was no risk to the monarchy as the marriage would have been void under the Royal Marriages Act. There might have been a scandal of some sort, but there was never any risk to the heredity of the monarchy and Albert Victor would not have even needed a divorce in order to marry someone more suitable.
  2. Sir William Gull had had a stroke a year before the murders and was incapable of doing them.
  3. There is no evidence that the coachman John Netley ever existed. Proponents of the royal theory say there is a census entry with a misspelling, but as an amateur genealogist myself I know that misspellings are not as common as they appear. They are usually transcription errors when the sheets were compiled or put on computer. The original sheets are nearly always correct. There was no John Netley.
  4. Mary Jane Kelly could not have acted as a nanny to the illegitimate child as she was apparently living in Wales at the time with a man called Davies.
  5. Joseph Gorman (Sickert) eventually admitted he had made the whole thing up.

The Prince Albert Victor Theory

The second royal theory is that Prince Albert Victor acted alone in killing the five women.

To summarise:

Prince Albert Victor, while travelling abroad, was infected with syphilis from a prostitute. Deranged by the developing Syphilis he sets about killing prostitutes in London as revenge. The royal family find out and place him secretly in an asylum where he eventually dies from syphilis.

Why the Prince Albert Victor theory does not work:
  1. He can be placed elsewhere at the times of three of the murders by multiple reliable witnesses.
  2. There is strong evidence that Albert Victor was a homosexual (see the Cleveland Street case) and homosexual serial killers normally kill men, not women.
  3. Three days after the final killing Albert Victor went on a state visit to Denmark and was not confined secretly to a mental hospital as proponents of this theory claim.
  4. He does not match the witness descriptions. The prince was too young compared to the average age of the killer given by witnesses.
  5. Even if he had died from Syphilis he woudl not necessarily have become deranged or psychotic. Advanced Syphilis only very rarely causes psychosis. The other symptoms including dementia are much more common and would have prevented Albert Victor undertaking the energetic life he clearly did (hunting, fishing etc).

Now that I have laid the royal conspiracies to rest I hope it will encourage casual readers to look beyond them to see what the evidence can tell us about the real killer.

If you would like to read a good book on the subject I would recommend The Complete History of Jack the Ripper by Philip Sugden which is an unbiased account of the events of the Whitechapel murders. He is a proper historian and its an unbiased account based on the evidence as well as being one of the cheapest books on the subject.

A full list of my planned articles:

Jack the Ripper - An Introduction
Jack the Ripper - The Letters
Jack the Ripper - The Timings of the Murders
Jack the Ripper - Can psychological profiling help?
Jack the Ripper - What can the killing of Mary Jane Kelly tell us about the killer?
Jack the Ripper - My Suspect
Jack the Ripper - The Goulston Street Grafitto
Jack the Ripper - Suggested Books and some reviews

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Doctor Who Tardis Ringtone

I have made a ringtone of the tardis take off noise as an mp3 file.
I did it by looping the sound effect recording of the tardis taking off from the original first episode from 1963.

Right Click Here and choose "save as" to download it.

Using MSN Windows Live Messenger with the Google G1 Gphone

Having recently bought a G1 gphone I have noticed that there is no MSN messenger or windows live messenger client included with it. In the Android marketplace there are various applications which claim to do MSN but I have not had any great success with them. Some seem to have been affected by recent operating system upgrades.

I also tried Ebuddy from the web browser but could not get it to work because of problems with the way it requires pop ups.

So far the only way I have found of doing MSN messenger is by using their old mobile interface which is located here.

Click Here to log in using the built in web browser in the gphone.

Its not ideal but it works.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

My contribution to Darwin Day

I made this video some time ago, but it seems appropriate to repost it to my blog on Darwin Day. creationists are still coming up with objections to evolution by natural selection that Darwin discussed and dealt with in his first edition of On The Origin of Species.

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? (Douglas Adams)

Saturday, January 31, 2009

How to use Gmail to with your own domain name for free.

It is possible to send and receive email from your domain based email address using the Gmail service (currently Google do not charge for this). This includes the Gmail webmail interface, its mobile accessible version, IMAP (with a very large inbox) and SMTP delivery from email programs like Outlook. These instructions explain how to set this up.

First of all you will need a domain name with email forwarding. Many domain registrars already provide this free when you register a domain name e.g.

There are a number of things you need to do in your domain registrar's control panel, the gmail web interface and your email program.

Things you need to do in your domain registrar's control panel:

1. Decide what email address you want to use at your domain name and set up a single email forwarder in their control panel or administration system to forward mail from that address to your gmail address.

Things you need to do on the gmail web site:

1. Create a gmail account through the google web site.
2. Click on the "accounts" tab in settings and under "send mail as" click on "add another address". Enter the address under your domain that you have set the forwarder up for in our control panel. An email will be sent to this address. You will need to recover that email (it will arrive in your gmail account) and click on the link to confirm you have the right to send mail from that address.
3. Now go back to the "accounts" tab in the gmail settings and click on "make default" next to your domain based email address.

You can now send and receive from your domain based email address using the gmail web interface. If you want to use an email program like Outlook then see the steps below.

Things you need to do to use an IMAP email program like Outlook:

1. Log into the gmail web interface click on settings (in the top right hand corner). Under settings click on "Forwarding and POP/IMAP". Enable IMAP. Do NOT enable POP3.
2. Click where it says "configuration instructions" and configure your email program accordingly, making sure you set up all the advanced settings or it will not work. You need to set it up as an IMAP account in your email program.
3. Make sure you enter the log in user name for IMAP as your gmail address and gmail password.
4. You need to set the email address in your email program as your domain based address so that it sends from the correct address. For example, in Outlook Express this is the address in the general tab in account settings (the field called E-mail address).
5. (optional) In Outlook Express you can hide some of the unused folders marked [Gmail] to keep things tidy. Do this by clicking on the account in your inbox area in Outlook Express and then on the "IMAP folders" button at the top of the page. I only have inbox, sent items and spam folders showing in my Outlook Express.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Windows says my external USB hard drive is full when it is not - problem fixed.

I am posting this because I spent a couple of hours trying to fix a fault like this on Friday night. I was moving a file to my USB hard drive and windows reported that the device was full. I did a check and the drive was only quarter full. I checked the disk for errors and there were no problems. It had not gone read only, and there were no errors. It also did not need defragmented and the size was reporting correctly in My Computer and Tree Size (a very useful free utility).

After much faffing around I finally discovered that Windows was misreporting the fault. The drive was not full - the file was too large for the FAT 32 file system on the drive (it was a 4.2 GB disk image and the file size limit is 4 GB). All my machines are formatted NTFS which has no file size limit. I have not used FAT 32 for a long time so the USB drive must have been formatted that way out of the box without me noticing.

So the moral of the story is: don't take Microsoft's error messages at face value. A lot of time would have been saved if Windows had reported the error as "file too large for FAT 32 formatted disk".

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

How to make a low D penny (or tin) whistle

This article originally appeared as a thread on the Chiff & Fipple forum. It was written over a two day period as a commentary on me building a low D whistle.

I have modified the original posts to try and make it read more like an article, but its still a commentary on what happened.

Part 1
I found these instructions:

and as I had a piece of 1 inch diameter aluminium alloy tubing I decided to give it a go.


Cut the tube to approximate length plus 2 cm to give me some leeway for error.

Cut the window and filed out the burrs.
To do this I put masking tape on the tube, marked it out in pencil, drilled the short edges with a small drill bit and used a fine junior hacksaw blade to cut the top and bottom, then I filed them out using a needle file.

Made the fipple plug.
To do this I cut a bit off the end of the handle of an old garden brush which was a good fit in the tube already. Put some sandpaper on my workbench and rubbed it backwards and forwards till I had taken enough off it to get an airway 17mm wide (to match the window)

Made the ramp.
I used a hammer and the round end of a radiator plug to "panel beat" the depressed area over a large number of strikes with the hammer. I tried to align the edge of the lip so it was straight but this is not easy with aluminium, I can see now why so many makers mill out the lips in aluminium whistles. Then I filed the edge slightly sharper to give me a start at being able to make a sound.

Shaped the wind way.
I put the fipple plug in the tube, taped the tube to my bench with gaffer tape and used a block of wood and a hammer to shape the top of the airway slightly flatter. Again a lot of short sharp strikes while moving over the area to prevent the tube being damaged. The wood protects it also.

Took whistle indoors and left it to reach room temperature then blew some air through it to warm it up. Taped the fipple block in place and was surprised to make a sound, this was a bottom C#.

Glued the fipple block.
I used impact adhesive because thats what I had.
I also used it to fill the gaps between the wood and the tube now that it had been slightly distorted.

Total time so far: one hour plus coffee break.

I had to leave it for the glue to set overnight.

Tools used so far:

Wood block
Mitre saw (to get the fipple block ends straight, although you could use any saw).
Junior hacksaw with a fine blade
electric drill and drill bits
needle files
chromatic tuner (could use a piano or other tuning aid)

Part 2


Checked for seal round the fipple block and all was OK
Warmed it up and tested the tuning, still just under C#.

Spent one hour (yes one hour) trying to get the manufacturers label off the tube!
It was laminated on with plastic and I ended up using solvent. I am not going to include this in the overall time for making the instrument.

Tuning of root note D
Cut the tube with hacksaw about 6mm at a time till I was showing a flat D.
Then very carefully took small amounts off (filing might be easier) until I hit it correctly.

Making of holes
I put masking tape right down the centre of the tube and marked the centre line in pencil. Then calculated the positions of the holes using the formula in the article. I decided to offset some of the holes as I have short fingers and I did this by looking at pictures of commercial whistles. Drilled the holes with a small drill bit and removed the masking tape.

Started on the furthest away hole, enlarging it with successive drill bits until it got higher in pitch and nearly in tune. Then used tapered reamer to adjust it more precisely. Could use a rat tail file for this or just successively larger drill bits.

Tools used today in addition to yesterday:

Tapered reamers (not necessary, could use a file or drill bits)

Time spent in total so far: about two hours in total

So far I have bottom two notes playing in tune. Next task will be to tune the other notes and then make sure the lip adjustment is right for a good tone on every note.

Couple of photos of the progress so far (click on image to see larger version):

You can see that the holes are all still small apart from the bottom one which has been tuned.
The rest will get bigger as I work my way up.

The mouthpiece will be cut at an angle and filed smooth. The lip will need adjusted to make a clear sound on all notes, but even in this state its actually sounding good on the two notes that work.

Part 3

I work from home so at lunch time I made a quick sandwich and started tuning the whistle. I did each note in turn, opening up the hole with successively larger drill bits till it was just below pitch, then I went back and used a tapered reamer to finely adjust the holes. It was a bit fiddly, but took half an hour to complete. Because I knew I would have to clean the holes I stayed slightly flat on the note so I can adjust again later. I was surprised at how big some of the holes were but they were in line with the sizes the author of the article ended up with. At this point I was glad I offset the holes.

Total time so far : 2 hours 30 minutes

I then used a half round needle file to de burr the top and bottom surfaces of each hole.
I used some P600 paper to clean up the lip which has improved the volume.

OK, we have a working whistle.

Here is a clip of me playing the Dark Island on it:

I still need to shape the mouthpiece and varnish the end of the fipple block to protect it. I think making that diagonal cut might be quite difficult with hand tools. Will do it later and report back.

A functional low D in under three hours using basic household tools, and I have never made a woodwind instrument before. I have to say, I am surprised and even slightly shocked. Its not an Overton or even a Susato but it works!

A couple of the notes are still a bit flat and need pulled up but I will do that with a rat tail file, gradually over the next few days. I will cut the mouthpiece to shape later today and varnish the wooden end. I may also adjust the wind way to make it more efficient and send more of the air onto the lip blade.

Photo of what it looks like with the holes correctly tuned (click on image for larger version):

I have shaped the mouthpiece end and am re gluing the fipple block, then I just have to varnish the wooden end to protect it. Going to lacquer coat it and also the top of the mouthpiece because I had a bad reaction to an aluminium trumpet mouthpiece once (so did a lot of people which is why they stopped making them).

If anything, resetting the fipple block made it louder. I meant to burn the top of the block to harden the surface a bit but its too late now. Maybe the next one I build. I can see me doing more of these. Maybe a very mellow C made from half inch plumbing pipe next.

Having made the angled cut for the mouthpiece I realised that there was going to be a tendency for my bottom lip to lever the wooden block up the way and slightly narrow the airway. To stop this happening I drilled a hole through the bottom of the tube and screwed the fipple block to the tube using this. The adhesive might be strong enough but a bit of over engineering does no harm.

I have now sprayed the mouthpiece end with clear lacquer and its going to take some time to settle down. Will give it another blow tonight and see how I get on. One not is noticeably flat in both octaves so one hole needs enlarged slightly and then that will be it.

I have adjusted the tuning again and recorded a bit of Hot Asphalt to try out a faster tune. I am glad I offset those holes.


This instrument has been well used and features on my new CD.

I went on to scorch the inside of the fipple block as a way of hardening the wood. This video is a final demonstration of the finished instrument. Having experimented with this one I have found an easier way of doing it. Instead of flattening the tube at the fipple end to make the air pass over the blade I could make the bit taken out of the block wider at the open end and narrower at the blade end. This is how the Clarke original whistles are made. I think I could reduce the air requirement by doing this and bringing the blade down to the level of the top of the fipple block. I will be building another one soon.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Early Scottish Music from the Skene Manuscript

The Skene Manuscript is one of the earliest written records of Scottish music. It belongs to the Faculty of Advocates and is kept in the National Library of Scotland. It was converted to staff notation and published with a commentary in:

From A Manuscript Of The Reign Of King James VI With An Introductory Enquiry Illustrative Of The History Of The Music Of Scotland By William Dauney, Esq. F.S.A. Scot., Edinburgh, 1838

This book is available for free download from Google Books - Click Here.

The music starts at page 215.

Contents of the Skene Manuscript
The manuscript is a collection of eighty five pieces of music written in mandore tablature. The mandore was a form of lute tuned to a similar pitch to the modern viola. The closest modern equivalent would be the mandola.

Here is a facsimile example of the original tablature (click on image to see a larger version):

The music contained in the manuscript was written for secular entertainment purposes and would have been played in the noble houses of Scotland. Some of the tunes refer to members of the family of James VI (e.g. Prince Henries Maske) and this music would no doubt have been played at the royal court. Much of the music is French influenced because of Scotland's close connections with France, but it does contain some specifically Scottish melodies including the first written down version of the Flowers of the Forest. Some of the melodies are written for specific types of dances.

Here are some excerpts played on penny whistle:

And here are some more, including the version of the Flowers of the Forest (the first written version of that tune):

A full commentary and explanation of the origin of the tunes plus any lyrics is contained in the book by William Dauney, referenced above starting at page 253.

Origins of the Skene manuscript

The date is uncertain, sometimes between 1615-1625, but possibly as late as 1630. Written by, or for, John Skene of Hallyards Castle, Lothian.

Sir John Skene was Lord Curriehill (1543-1617) a member of the Faculty of Advocates since 1575. Appointed as a judge he served as Lord Advocate from 1589 to 1594 and was involved in the prosecution of many alleged witches. His book Regiam Majestatem is a record of the laws of Scotland as they stood before James VI became James I of England.
He also served as Scottish ambassador to Holland.

Hallyards Castle was a fortified tower in the usual Scottish style. The foundations still exist to the north west end of the runway at Edinburgh Airport, although this is a later version of the house built by John Skene's son.

The castle was affected by undermining and was a partial ruin by the 19th century. It was finally demolished in 1975 when the airport runway was extended.
The family also owned Curriehill Castle in Currie.

Location of Hallyards relative to Edinburgh Airport (click on the image to see a larger version):

Closer view (click on the image to see a larger version):

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

English translation of the Scots lyrics for Freedom Come All Ye

Freedom come all ye is one of the most significant Scottish songs. It describes the post war collapse of empire and presents an internationalist image of a world of freedom and justice where Scotland will have its own place free from the stain of imperialism.

The original Scots lyrics are rather impenetrable even for Scottish people so I thought I would have a stab at an English translation.
I started with the English translation found in the Wikipedia article.

This does not scan with the melody, is not singable and loses any poetic sense.
It tries to translate "Broomielaw " which is a place name, which does not seem worth doing.
I also don't think its necessary to take all the Scots words out of the song to make it more accessible.

So here is my attempted translation:

Freedom Come All Ye
Original Scots Lyrics by Hamish Henderson, this version by Gordon Hudson

Rough's the wind in the clear day's dawning
Blows the clouds head-oer-heel across the bay
But there's more than a rough wind blowing
Through the Great Glen of the world today
It's a thought that would make our vermin
All those rogues who strut and swagger without care
Take the road and seek other lodgings
With their vile schemes to sport and play

No more will our fine lads be commanded
to march to war at a braggarts call
Nor wee weans from pitheads and clachans
Mourn the ships sailing down the Broomielaw
Broken families in lands we've vanquished
Will curse "Scotland the Brave", nae mair, nae mair
Black and white to one another married
Will make the slums of their masters bare

So come all ye at home with freedom
Never heed those prophets of doom
In your house all the bairns of Adam
Will find bread, drink and painted rooms
When Maclean meets with friends in Springburn
All the rose and cherry trees will turn to bloom
And the black lad from Nyanga
Will break the powers of his masters doon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Differences between the film Bram Stoker's Dracula nd the original book

Having recently read Dracula by Bram Stoker I decided to watch the film "Bram Stoker's Dracula" to see how close it was to the book.

It is pretty faithful to the narrative in the book and even makes reference to the diaries, but there are a number of changes:

  • The film starts with legend of Vlad the impaler which is not in the book
  • Renfield is a lawyer, who had been working on the property transaction before Harker.
  • Character of Dracula is less threatening initially in the book than in the film, where the vampire explantion is more overt from the beginning (I suppose because film goers won't find it a surprise).
  • Draculas ownership of Carfax Abbey is stated early on in the film rather than it being a surprise later in the book that it is next to the asylum.
  • Dracula has a shadow that operates seperately from his body movements in the film.
  • The carriage driver is not revealed as Dracula at any point
  • Mina and Lucy do not stay in Whitby and none of the action is set in Whitby.
  • Seward suggests a larger animal like a cat to Renfield, but in the book Seward is slightly bemused by Sewards request.
  • Shaving incident is not as in the book, the book only has no reflection in the mirror,
  • The baby is given to the female vampires not in a bag, thus making it require less imagination.
  • The female vampires are not described as being like Dracula physically which removes the incest angle.
  • Seward is injecting himself with morphine.
  • Dracula appears as a wolf rather than the wolf escaping from the zoo being controlled by him which is not in the book
  • The wolf still escapes from the zoo but it seems to be poseessed by Dracula
  • The ship Demeter does not wash up at Whitby with a dead man lashed to the wheel
  • Lucy is more aware of what has happened to her earlier on rather than it being dream like.
  • She does not seem very ill comopared to the description in the book.
  • Dracula only appears as a bat briefly at the end of the film in the abbey scene, not at the windows of the house.
  • Dracula seeks out Mina rather than him being spotted and not wanting to be discovered.
  • There is a theme of love in the film associated with Vlads wife killing herself which is not in the book
  • Scene in the cinema and the entire relationship between Dracula and Lucy is not in book
  • Lucy's mother does not appear in the film and does not die
  • No communion wafer for cleansing the boxes of earth, holy water used instead.
  • The undead Lucy does not attack children in the park, and seems to have abducted a sleeping child.
  • Search for the boxes does not happen in the film.
  • Renfield does not plead to be allowed out.
  • Ship to Transylvania does not divert
  • Burnig with wafer takes place in Transylvania rather than before the journey.
  • Mina trying to save Dracula is not in the book.
  • The vampires do not turn to dust when their heads are severed.
  • Dracula transforms into rats

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ancient burial mounds in Livingston, West Lothian

I came across the following article in the Google Books version of the Edinburgh Encyclopaedia by D. Brewster, published 1830.

There are several remains of the original British in habitants still visible in the county particularly a large cairn of stones upon Lochcoat Hill and another on the banks of the Forth about a mile west from Barnbugle Castle Near Kirkliston there is a circular earthen tumulus surrounded by large rough stones at some distance from each other and some sepulchral tumuli on the south bank of the Almond opposite to Livingston House.

This got me wondering if these ancient burial sites still existed in Livingston.

Where was Livingston House?
Livingston House was known locally as Livingston Peel and stood between Eliburn and Livingston Village

According to W.F. Hendrie's "The history of Livingston":

By 1483, the tower from which de Leving defended his lands stood on a rampart of ground and was surrounded by a thirty foot moat, full of water.

Livingston Village grew around the peel, and the foundations of the peel have been recreated in Peel Park which is adjacent to Leving Place (itself named after the family who originally built the peel). I have highlighted the location on this aerial photograph.

Click on the photo to see a larger version:

The peel eventually belonged to Sir Patrick Murray (1632-1671) who acquired it in 1652. He created a garden in the grounds with over 1000 species of plant which eventualy moving to Edinburgh on the site currently occupied by Waverley station. It became the Royal Botanic Garden and then moved to its present site in Inverleith, Edinburgh.

Where are the burial mounds now?
I did a search on Microsoft Live Maps which has good aerial photography of Livingston and directly due south of the Peel site is the Kaims area (streets like Kaims Drive and Kaims Place). Kaims may suggest a series of mounds (kame or kaim being the Scots word for a mound, used mainly these days as a scientific term for certain types of glacial feature). There are still some undulations to the east of the houses next to Alderstone Road near the entrance road to the football stadium.

Click on the photo to see a larger version:

Are these the same mounds referred to in the 1830 article or have they been cleared to make way for some of the houses and development in Livingston?