Archive for the 'New tricks for an old dog' Category

Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the Sundering Seas…

Posted by on November 29th 2012 in New tricks for an old dog

You've spent many a year wading through many of the works of the Tolkiens.

You've paddled around in the children's books.

You've dipped your toe into The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, vowing to go in knee-deep next time.

You've dived into the mysteries of Arda and have navigated the ways of Middle-earth many times.

The end of the voyage is in sight, the Quest is almost completed, each reading now extends understanding's depth rather than its scope.

But Lo!

There's more!

 The Fall of Arthur.

Scheduled publication date: 23 May 2013

You can pre-order it from Amazon - see here.

I suppose I'll have to get me a copy. My bookshelves will look bare without one.

A different sort of wind-power

Posted by on June 8th 2011 in New tricks for an old dog

I had a major panic this morning when I tried to boot up the laptop - all it would do was throw out a series of loud alarm sounds, briefly show the words "fan error" with no other info, and then shut down with a final loud beep. Tried to boot it seven times without success.

On the last three attempts I'd noted that there wasn't any sound from the fan like there usually is. The fan diagnostics are obviously on the laptop, without the ability to boot I couldn't access them so I had to use a bit of brain power instead. My limited diagnostics experience told me that the problem was probably one of the following:

  1. Fan motor knackered
  2. Fan motor/rotor stuck
  3. Fan control software knackered
  4. A loose connection somewhere

Fearing the worst and an impending bill for a replacement fan, I set off around the house on a rant just to let off some steam, scattering cats everywhere and almost tripping over the Dyson. It's part of my problem-solving process, you see. Lateral motion prior to lateral thinking, if you like.

I knew that the problem wouldn't be dust and fluff - I keep the innards of the fan scrupulously clean after having had a processor fry-up on a previous laptop due to a clogged-up fan assembly. When I blew into this fan's inlet grille I couldn't make the fan rotate so I figured that the motor/rotor was stuck but I had no idea how to free it. There's no way of poking it to get it moving, it's well-protected.

When I'd calmed down I got sidetracked, thoughts drifting off to the next kit review and how I'd deal with it without the laptop... this led to me thinking about the "beer-chiller" that Mike will be reviewing... I remembered that the last time I plugged one of those into my car without the engine running it flattened the battery within 5 minutes, which meant that I had to bump-start the car...

Then a radical idea popped into my head: "Can I bump-start the laptop? Maybe if the system "thinks" that the fan is running, it'll boot and let me get to the diagnostics".

Well, they say that necessity is the mother of invention. I raced back upstairs and grabbed the Dyson. With the crevice-tool attached it was set loose on full whack next to the fan outlet grille while I booted the laptop again... and, in a fine example of how British invention and ingenuity triumphs over Far-Eastern technology, it worked!

The fan diagnostics report no problems, so all looks to be well. Booting is faultless. Looks like the fan was inexplicably stuck but it's running fine now.

Kipper tie?

Posted by on February 17th 2011 in New tricks for an old dog

You never know, this might be just the stuff to encourage me to get out more:

Now, where can I lay my hands on a sledge and some Burberry gabardine?

I solemnly swear to stay out of gear-shops for the rest of the year

Posted by on October 24th 2010 in New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

Despite being a fairly-well-balanced biped I figured that I'd need some outriggers while pootling about with the new snooshows.

After a discussion of my needs with the guys at The Outdoor Warehouse in Windermere, I spent the next couple of days considering the options.

Two days later I returned, reconsidered the options and bought these slimline clackysticks:

Mountain King Trail Blaze Poles

Yes, I know that they're meant for "fast & light" use rather than "slow & middle-age-spread" crawlers like me, and I'd read PTC*'s report stating that "snowshoeing made them nervous". Nevertheless, seeing as they are going to be used more for balance than for weight-bearing or Nordic strolling, and that I'm no heavyweight and thus I'm unlikely to overload them, we all figured that they might fit the bill as well as any of the others on offer.

The nice lad behind the counter even allowed himself to be talked into chucking in a pair of Leki Snow Baskets for free, and declined my offer to let him keep the original baskets that I'll have no use for as I'll not be using these clackysticks to annoy people while doing general fell-walking.

I'll let you know how the sticks fare after I've had a chance to make them nervous myself. Whether the report will be posted from home after a successful deployment, or from hospital during recovery from broken ankles and/or frostbite, only time will tell.

Decathlon gear-raid

Posted by on October 16th 2010 in Bargains, New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

Just got back from a raid on the Nottingham branch of Decathlon. As usual they have a range of bargains and we took advantage in order to kit-out the kids for the winter. I'd been keeping my hands in my pockets pretty well - up until the final minutes all I'd put in the basket was a pair of fleece gloves for a quid, a couple of dehydrated packet-meals at £4.99 a shot and a pair of socks for about the same.

But then I found these:

TSL 225 Rando snooshows

Yep, that's £69.00 reduced to £44.99



FWIW, they had one pair left when we departed.

------ ooooo OOOOO ooooo -----

Additional pics:

Crunchy crystals

Posted by on October 12th 2010 in New tricks for an old dog

On Sunday I rediscovered something in the kitchen - a couple of tins of Carnation condensed milk that I'd stashed after turning them into caramel two months ago (using the regular boil-in-the-can for two hours method). As expected, the taste is as glorious as ever, but the inadvertent ageing has allowed the formation of large sugar crystals throughout the gloop which lends a curious crunchy texture to the stuff.

I had intended to use the caramel as a cake-filling, but there's no way that this can will last that long - I'm off to find a bigger spoon!

Observing Report 4th-5th August 2010 Part 1 (First Lunar mosaic)

Posted by on August 5th 2010 in Astrostuff, New tricks for an old dog, Observing Reports, Pics
Tags: ,

Unexpected clear sky last night was the cue for another look at the heavens. Jupiter was the main target, no shadow-transits this time but good views of the Great Red Spot. There'll be pics later when I've had time to clear the backlog of image data (yes, I'm still trying to find time to process the lunar data from the previous session).

Until then, you'll have to make do with my first ever lunar mosaic - 12 stitched images from the same camera/scope combo that I usually poke skywards. The image alignment is a bit off in places, I'll do it better next time. Click it to see the BIG version:

 The Moon (05/08/2010 @ 05:10).
12 stitched images, each 50/500 stacked frames.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C8N.

Observing Report 21st July 2010 (Sunspots in Active Region 1089 – Session 1)

Using some black plastic sheet, some Meccano fasteners, some Superglue, some sticky-tape, a Cornflakes box, a cardboard tube and a pair of Val's old knickers, I constructed a safe solar filter using the some of the Baader AstroSolar Safety Film that I got for my birthday. It fits securely over the front of the C80 refractor:



OK, so I lied about the box, the cardboard tube and the knickers, it turned out that I didn't really need them :mrgreen:

Anyway, it needed testing properly so I nipped up to the obsy and grabbed some .avi footage of Active Region 1089, where there is an impressive array of sunspots. After processing in K3CCDTools3, Registax and PSCS3, I've ended up with the following two images which are essentially the same except for the application of a little equalization in the second image:

Sunspots in AR1089 (21/07/2010).
100/1000 stacked frames.
DMK mono CCD camera on the C80ED-R.

 As previous but equalized in PSCS3

I'll try to get more footage of this thing over the next few days to see how it changes. I'll probably use a bit of the leftover solar film to make filters for the D50's lenses, and then get some full-disc shots.

BE WARNED: Never view the Sun without a suitable Solar Filter! Solar observing is dangerous and can be hazardous to eyesight and equipment. Don't moan at me when you've burned holes in your retinas, set fire to your person/possessions and/or fried the chip in your camera. Proper solar-observing kit comes with serious safety advice - ignore it at your own peril!

Review – Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams – First Thoughts

Posted by on July 14th 2010 in My reviews, New tricks for an old dog, Shiny new kit

So, down to the preliminary review of the contents of Package 2 - a pair of Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slams from Fitness Footwear Ltd..

I'd opted for the Army Green and Black version, on the basis that it would be a fairly neutral colour-scheme, nothing too flash. I mean, this is the first pair of trainer-type shoes that I'd acquired during the last 30 years (aside from some "trendy" toe-tectors), so I didn't want to overdo it (I must admit to being tempted by the Charcoal and Red version, though). The first image below shows the things in general, but the colour is better-represented in the second pic:



With some trepidation I pulled them on over a pair of thin trainer-socks and was pleasantly surprised by the fit, as I'm usually hard to please when it comes to this sort of thing. The arch-support is just right, and that's important to me as I have "flexible flatfoot" - a condition that's never a problem unless I'm barefoot or in flat-soled footwear. The best thing about the fit, though, is the security - with significant padding around the heels and below the ankles these things grip onto my feet perfectly, there's no slipping and sliding around inside, it's almost as if they're glued on. The soles flex in just the right place and don't have excessive torsion, and at the moment they have impressive grip on all sorts of surfaces. My only minor gripe is the sizing - I've been a size 8  for a few decades now, but these feel more like a 7.5  - there wasn't as much space beyond the toes compared to the other 8s that I own. That said, I reckon that 9s would have been too big and I guess that I'm just between sizes for this brand/model.

Within the hour they were being used on another trip up and around Croft Hill in scorching weather (more on that later). OK, it's not a major expedition, but there's some variation of terrain and plenty of steep grass to contend with. After a few hours and a few miles, all still felt good - no sweatiness, nice and cool, and very comfy. I kept them on for the rest of that day, and wore them non-stop all the next day, and there's been no soreness or rubbing.



So, what would I use them for? I reckon I'd use them on long low walks in good-to-reasonable conditions, but I'd need to build up more confidence in them before committing to wearing them up on the higher and/or rougher Lakeland Fells. It's just that I'm used to proper boots rather than what some other folk would call "Jessiehikers". Maybe I need to make that leap of faith and just do it. Regarding how they fit into my collection of outdoors footwear, they neatly fill the gap between my Keen Newports and my AKU Croda GTXs (all of which reminds me that I need to update my gear page).

I do like them, in just a few days they've become the footwear of choice for the school-walk, trips to the shops and just general dossing. I'll give them a decent work-out over the summer and report back in due course.

If you're interested in laying your hands on some Merrells, have a look at the sale items here.

Observing Report 2nd-3rd June 2010 Part 1 (M13)

I managed to escape from the house last night and took refuge in my obsy. The skies weren't particularly clear, mainly due to the pending moon-rise, and the seeing was only middling, but I managed to get some dSLR pics of some Messier objects. For the first time I took some flat-frames as well as the customary lights and darks, it wasn't the hassle that I thought it would be, mainly due to me thinking laterally and adapting the "white tee-shirt method" by using a white microfibre cloth over the end of the scope.

The results are worth the extra effort, I reckon - there's less hassle trying to get Photoshop to correct the vignetting inherent in images of this kind. I'll probably knock-together some sort of white-screen contraption for the end of the scope now that I've got a better idea of what works.

Here's the first couple of pics, the target was M13 (aka The Hercules Globular Cluster, NGC6205) and it looks like I've managed to catch the faint smudge of NGC6207 near the top edge of the uncropped version:

M13 (The Hercules Globular Cluster, NGC2605) in the centre, NGC6207 to the upper-left(ish).
Subs: 50 light @ 60s, 50 dark @ 60s and 20 flat @ 2s, all ISO200.
D50 and MPCC on the C8N, guided with PHD.

 Cropped version

There's more...

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