Author Archive.

Every Which Way but Luss

Posted by on March 30th 2014 in Campaigns and Petitions, Pics

Here's a reminder that voting for the Woodland Trust "Transform the Trossachs" project closes tomorrow (Monday).

If you want to support this project you can find more details here.

The good news is that it looks like they've already started the transformation, with a little help from Photoshop: 

 

 

 See how easy it was?

Right turn: Clyde.

:-)

Recent additions to the F.A.K.

Posted by on March 28th 2014 in Illness and injury

A few changes to the first-aid kit:

I never bothered with a Styptic Pencil when I used to wet-shave, but of late it's been handy to have around for those minor nicks and scrapes on various bits of me. Being on Clopidogrel and Aspirin means that even the smallest cut can take over three hours to stop bleeding, but one application of this stick stops most leaks within seconds. Stings a bit, though. Costing less than two quid, weighing only 12g and lasting for many years, it's a worthwhile addition to a first-aid kit regardless of background afflictions.

 

 

I've changed tack on tick-removers. For years I'd been using a Care Plus Tick-Out, it was good for pulling out the big ticks but iffy for the tiny ones. Now I'm using the O'Tom Tick Twisters that I liberated from the cat's med-box, these babies cope with all sizes of ticks and are a lot easier to use and to clean. Two sizes per pack, a choice of colours, piss-cheap from the vet's, and only 2g for the pair! What's not to like?

 

 

The final one needs no explanation:

 

Mind-map

Posted by on March 26th 2014 in Maps, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Sometimes a bit of idle surfing can get you to where you didn't realise you wanted to be...

During a short "free period" I'd been poring over some maps. Real maps. Big flappy unruly Ordnance Survey paper sheets. If you remember these things, you'll remember the faff involved in folding them away neatly after use. You'll likely also remember that repeated use destroys any stressed/strained intersections of  folds.

Anyway, duty called so I put away the maps. Some DIY was required, a drill was necessary, and the all-singing, all-dancing one that I'd bought for my Dad (so that I could borrow it permanently) was, for some strange reason, at my Dad's place. No matter, a detour to the local Lidl during a cardio-exercise walk resulted in the acquisition of a cheap cordless jobbie.

Back at the ranch I did the DIY and decided that the cheap jobbie was in fact quite good. So good that I looked into buying a spare battery-pack for it. At some point during the web-search I got distracted by Wikipedia's page on Li-ion batteries and found myself reading about their flexibility (see here).

I got side-tracked by the Miura Fold/Solar Panel Array thing...

And Google took me here and here...

And then the dropping penny reached its target.

Yeah, I know it's been done before, but I've a mind to give it a try for myself on a newish real map once I've ironed-out all of those standard-issue O. S. creases. I might start with a Memory-Map printout and work my way up from there.

Here's a YT clip of how it works:

 

(Late) Observing Report 13th-14th March 2014 (Another Moon Mosaic)

Posted by on March 25th 2014 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

There's not much to report here, no stargazing was done - poor seeing and too much haze for visual observing of faint and/or fuzzy targets. The Moon was about the only thing worth pointing the scope at. Suffice to say that 26 slightly hazy .avi files were taken, stacked, trimmed and stitched to make this image:

 

Moon (13/03/2014 @ 22:00 approx). 26 panes stitched with iMerge.
Each pane is ~300/~3000 stacked frames. DMK mono CCD camera
on the GSRC6M.

Delivery mileage only

Posted by on March 24th 2014 in A bit of a rant, Shiny new kit

Due to the disintegration and subsequent disposal of my "holy" Trezeta Peaks I was in the market for a new pair of knocking-about boots. Nothing technical, just something suitable for the lowland walking required as part of the cardiac rehab programme.

I found some on clearance on the Go Outdoors website - the reviews were middling but the price was right so I took a chance and ordered a pair. All I had to do was sit back and wait for them to arrive.

Of course, that's when it started to go awry. Go Outdoors did their bit perfectly - I was kept informed via email and they sent me a working tracking-number. It was the courier that managed to conjure a balls-up from what should have been an easy process. I waited in on the assigned day, referring hourly to the tracking page that kept telling me that the goods had been scanned as "out for delivery" at 08:45 on Tuesday. Sometime after 16:00 I checked again only to find it telling me that I'd been "carded" at... wait for it... 10:24. No way! I'd been in all day, at no time more than 30ft from the door, and I'd seen nowt, heard nowt, and there wasn't a card.

I got Go Outdoors to contact the courier to find out WTF was going on. The courier insisted that he'd called at and left a card at our house, "the one with a white door" but he couldn't confirm that the door bore the correct number. Hmm... most of the houses in our Close have a white door. Anyway, the boots were on their way back to the distribution hub and couldn't be redelivered that day. I insisted on a redelivery before noon the next day.

Not content with the Tuesday balls-up, the courier tried to compound the error on Wednesday. True, he did arrive in good time, but my correction of his "Hello, mate" to "Hello, sir" didn't go down well and the parcel he bore didn't look right. He got annoyed when I took the time to inspect what I was being asked to sign for - it was an insulated polystyrene crate with "Fresh Food - Handle With Care" or something similar printed on the sealing-tape. I took great pleasure in refusing to sign for it, pointing out bluntly that he really should try harder to match the address digits on the package label with either of the two sets of digits identifying my property - the food parcel was for number 11, we're at 20-something. After uttering a curse he took back the food parcel and threw it through his open driver's door. It hit the passenger door and fell onto the seat, I assume that the contents didn't benefit from the impact.

After much rummaging in the back of his van he emerged with another package. "Definitely yours, mate!", he proclaimed. "Definitely yours, sir!", I insisted. Of course, I took some time to inspect the package, just to be sure, but eventually I signed for it and took it indoors. I expected him to return immediately to his van but in a final act of dumbness he looked around, turned back to me and asked "Which one is Number 11, mate?"

What else could I say?

"You mean "Which one is Number 11, sir". Try the one with the white door".

He scowled and drove the 20 or so yards to number 11. Or it could have been any number between 9 and 14, I really couldn't have cared less.

I think that there's a lesson to be learned here - courier drivers should be capable of visually comparing digits even if they're unable to actually count.

Oh, and I've yet to find out who received the card, if it ever actually existed.

Anyway, the boots are fine. So far they've been walked into town and back and have done light duty in the garden and around the house. Later this week I might treat them to a walk to the pub followed by a stagger home. I'll keep you posted about how they fare in wilder parts.

Trezeta Cyclone Mids. Cheap, very comfortable, durability TBD.

Sinister, dexter

Posted by on March 22nd 2014 in Rambling on...

Due to complaints from readers, I find myself forced to blog more often. Looks like I'll have to scrape the bottom of the barrel once more... let's start with some politics.

I took this interesting little test and it produced a mildly-surprising result - I thought that I "dressed to the left" with a liberal tendency, but the output says otherwise. I can see that I may have to reassess my stance:

 

 This might be a bit of a game-changer.

Incessant bollocks from the Beeb’s Sochi crew

Posted by on February 16th 2014 in A bit of a rant, On the box

Is anybody else fed up with the interminable spouting of "really really" and "very very" by the Beeb's presenters, commentators and pundits?

Many instances of "very unique" haven't gone unnoticed either.

The worst one so far, IMHO, is "really really very very good indeed".

It's all too much for anyone who cares about the English language. I fear I'll be watching the rest of the spectacle with the sound muted.

Their maths leaves a lot to be desired, too. Online, we're told that the GB Men's Curling Team needs to beat China in order to advance into the semis...

 

 

yet the results and fixtures table paints a very different picture:

 

 

Sorry, Beeb, you get zero marks for technical merit.

We’re expecting a storm tomorrow

Posted by on January 31st 2014 in Great Escapes

Third Party

Posted by on January 28th 2014 in Car stuff

I've been asked to sort out motor insurance for a relative who's not computer-savvy.

For yonks this relative has been brand-loyal to one insurance company, I won't tell you which one but I can tell you that it's well-known, palindromic and based in East Angular. The renewal letter says that the premium for the next year is a shade over £430 for a car that's valued at only £250, and that a £20 discount can be had for renewal online. That means we're working on beating a figure of about £410. See, I knew that my A-Level in Pure & Applied Maths would come in handy one day.

Anyway, back on the 'puter we plugged my relative's details into a well-known insurance-comparison site, and sat back to wait for the flood of results.

Premiums ranged from a paltry £274.77 to a whopping £1946.17!!!

Figuring that my relative would prefer to be insured through a reputable "heard of" company, and wouldn't want an online-only service, we looked at the cheapest quote supplied by a well-known company. The best suitable deal turned out to be with a popular breakdown recovery organisation. Their verified like-for-like premium would be a shade over £330. Not bad - a saving of over 80 quid.

Because we'd saved the quote on their website, they sent an email confirming the terms. In that email they kindly provided the name of the company with which they arrange the cover... yep, you've guessed it, it's the current insurer.

Now I'm no business guru but I'll wager that the popular breakdown recovery organisation isn't acting as a go-between for free, so let's assume that they're on something like 10% commission, say £30 for the sake of easy maths. That makes the premium differential a tidy £110, well over 25% of the current renewal.

Or, to put it another way, the current insurer is hiking the premium by about 33% when dealing direct.

Which begs the question... why didn't the current insurer offer such a good deal as the popular breakdown recovery organisation, for what is, to all intents and purposes, exactly the same service? That failure to do so may well cost the company some business - I suspect that when I tell my relative about how the current insurer's premiums vary so much depending on the supplier, brand-loyalty may well go out of the window.

No Meerkats were harmed in the production of this post.

Wade along now, nothing to see here.

Posted by on January 26th 2014 in Rambling on..., Weather

You've not been holding your breath since last November, have you?

I'll see if I can scrape together enough stuff to make a half-decent post sometime soon.

And now for the weather. Or rather a question about weather...

How is it that the Norwegians can forecast our weather more accurately and in more detail than our own Met. Office can, and provide better charts to boot?

Here's theirs (click it to go to the yr.no website for the Full Monty):

Yep, you just copy the URL for the chart and paste it into your website as an image, it updates as required on refresh. No sign-up required. And it's usually very accurate. Good, eh?

And ours? Well, if you register with the Met. Office you can make a basic widget:

 


This Hinckley weather forecast is generated by the Met Office Weather Widget

Or you can go to their website to view their registration-free (but usually not-so-accurate) up-to-date chart which you can't copy/paste. Not so good, eh?

Go figure.

Welcome to 2014.

Bring yer wellies and thermals.

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