Archive for August 2007

Down the pan?

Posted by on August 31st 2007 in Name and Shame, Rambling on...

Here's another thread about Gear Zone.


It’s the migration season

Posted by on August 29th 2007 in Blog on Blog, Just for fun

Just like in those epic documentaries by Sir David, we can see a mass migration taking place. Vast herds of bloggers are moving across the landscape, leaving behind the featureless wastes of WLS and Blogger, heading for the fertile land of WordPress. Only one pair of migrants hasn't made it so far, it's possible that the crocs got them at the river-crossing.

Here's to Darren and Ali & Lay (if they get a move on)!

All my own work

Posted by on August 27th 2007 in Blog on Blog

This link says it all.


A different sort of map

Posted by on August 27th 2007 in Maps

I found this interesting map while surfing:

Cooh, eh?

The source site is


Posted by on August 26th 2007 in Just for fun

According to various online authorities, this blog is rated "G" - acceptable for general consumption.

That just goes to prove that this blog really isn't a proper hard-core outdoors blog at all, thus confirming the previously-stated opinions of various self-appointed online experts... but it is cleaner than OM's Bennachie thread! 🙂

At last – the refund arrives

Posted by on August 16th 2007 in A bit of a rant

Just checked the bank balance - the refund from Gear Zone is there, so my bank can now claim it back to cover the credit that they gave to me last week.

I'll wait for things to settle down a bit before I start taking any further action.

Communication from Gear Zone

Posted by on August 15th 2007 in A bit of a rant, Thanks

Last week my bank's Debit Card Services decided to credit my account with the money that GZ owe me, while they sort the matter with GZ's bank. My thanks go out to Lloyds TSB Bank plc. and their good customer service, nice one!

There was no word from GZ until yesterday, when they sent me an email, details as follows:


Dear Gear-Zone Customer

We have processed your refund as requested. We apologise for any delay and any inconvenience that you may have experienced with your order. We have had some severe technological issues which we have now resolved. We are also recruiting a new customer services team to ensure that your future transactions with Gear-Zone will be to the highest standard.

Again, please accept our sincerest apologies for any inconvenience caused.


Gear-Zone Ltd

I wonder how many other disgruntled folk have been given the same lame excuses... just what are these "severe technological issues"? FFS, their computers must be up and running, or they wouldn't be able to take orders. And what's with "recruiting a new customer services team"? You mean they had a whole team that was trained to ignore the phone? Sorry, but it just won't wash. I've been bullshitted by experts, these paltry excuses are so lightweight that I could stitch them together to make a tarp. As for "... to ensure that your future transactions with Gear-Zone will be to the highest standard" - ROFLMFAO... it doesn't take a genius to work out that there will be no future transactions originating from me. Those "sincerest apologies" are not accepted.

A quick check of my account reveals that no such refund has been received yet.

Ho hum.

Watching the Perseid Meteors

Posted by on August 14th 2007 in Astrostuff

I spent Sunday night and Monday morning outside watching the skies. The weather conditions were good (plenty of cloud-free sky until 03:00) but there was a fair amount of light-pollution to contend with, and the local bat population was out in force too.

Visually, my count (of meteors, not bats) was 124 in about 5 hours, but I could only see about a quarter of the sky from my place. This works out to approx 100/hour, in line with the IMO predictions. They were mostly standard trails that just fade out, but there were some fireballs that were bright enough to cast shadows and which ended their existences with audible bangs. Cool stuff.

I ran off about 200 shots with the Nikon D50, trying various settings, managed to catch a few but the photo quality isn’t too hot, and I didn't catch any of the fireballs. I shot most of the pics in RAW mode, so I was able to enhance/butcher them. Samples are below.

I reckon I'll have to play about with the camera settings a bit more before the next meteor shower. I got my best pics with a manual 30s exposure at max aperture whatever focal length I used (18-55mm zoom, the standard kit lens), ISO 200, all other settings were as per the camera defaults. The main pitfall, I found, is that the camera takes about 25s to save the RAW image after the shutter closes, this takes up nearly half of the available viewing time, and typically the best meteors fizz past while the camera is in save-mode... it's as if the damned things know what's going on, and are determined to be unrecorded. Next time, I'll try using shorter exposures and rely on post-processing to get the image right.

On the bright side (pardon the pun), the ultra-cheapo tripod (given to me by a workmate a few years ago) worked a treat, no shake at all, it's just a tad fiddly to set up with the camera pointing straight up, but that's nothing that I can't fix by knocking up an extension/spacer. The only other thing that would make life easier is a 90-degree viewfinder adapter... I'll try eBay for that, I reckon.

Holiday at home – Saturday 2

Posted by on August 12th 2007 in Great Escapes

Bosworth Park.

It was another hot still day so we started off with a walk around the nature trail and through the woods. The kids had a great time catching grasshoppers and trying to identify the wild flowers and the trees in the arboretum. As evening approached, a good breeze got up so we set up the new powerfoil kites and had fun trying not to decapitate folk who were determined to walk underneath the lines.

12 pics, click any of the following to access the lot.


Holiday at home – Friday

Posted by on August 10th 2007 in Astrostuff, Great Escapes

Not so much of a Great Escape today - we've had a lazy day. Besides, the kitchen cupboards were empty, so a shopping trip was in order.

We're currently outside watching the skies - it's the lead-up to the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. We've been counting about 10/hour from our back garden. Here's some info taken from the IMO Meteor Shower Calendar 2007:

Perseids (PER)

The Perseids were one of the most exciting and dynamic meteor showers during the 1990s, with outbursts at a new primary maximum producing EZHRs of 400+ in 1991 and 1992. Rates from this peak decreased to ~ 100 —120 by the late 1990s, and in 2000, it first failed to appear. This was not unexpected, as the outbursts and the primary maximum (which was not noticed before 1988), were associated with the perihelion passage of the Perseids' parent comet 109P/Swift-Tuttle in 1992. The comet's orbital period is about 130 years, so it is now receding back into the outer Solar System, and theory predicts that such outburst rates should dwindle as the comet to Earth distance increases. However, some predictions suggested 2004 —2006 might bring a return of enhanced rates ahead of the usual maximum, and in 2004 a short, strong peak happened close to that anticipated pre-peak time. After that, activity seemed to be roughly normal in 2005, and the moonlit 2006 return was still to come when this text was prepared, but nothing untoward was predicted for 2007 in any case. An average annual shift of +0°05 in the ? of the “old” primary peak had been deduced from 1991 —99 data, and allowing for this could give a possible recurrence time around 9h UT on August 13 (? = 140°16), if so a little after the most probable maximum, that of the “traditional” peak always previously found, which is given above. Another feature, seen only in IMO data from 1997 —99, was a tertiary peak at ? = 140°4, the repeat time for which would be 15h UT on August 13. Observers should be aware that these predictions may not be an absolute guide to the best from the Perseids, and plan their efforts accordingly, so as not to miss out, just in case!

Whatever happens, and whenever the peak or peaks fall around August 13, new Moon on August 12 creates perfect observing circumstances this year. For mid-northern latitudes, the radiant is sensibly observable from 22h —23h local time onwards, gaining altitude throughout the night. The UT morning-hour maxima suggested here would be best-viewed from across North America and northern South America, while the possible ~ 15h UT peak would fall best for Far Eastern Asia.

Visual and still-imaging observers should need little encouragement to cover this stream, but telescopic and video watching near the main peak would be valuable in confirming or clarifying the possibly multiple nature of the Perseid radiant, something not detectable visually. Recent video results have shown a very simple, single radiant structure certainly. Radio data would naturally enable early confirmation, or detection, of perhaps otherwise unobserved maxima, assuming more than one takes place, if the timings or weather conditions prove unsuitable for land-based sites. The only negative aspect to the shower is the impossibility of covering it from the bulk of the southern hemisphere.

We also saw the International Space Station (with damaged Shuttle) pass overhead just before 23:00 - an impressive sight, especially with decent binoculars. NASA have a website dedicated to orbital tracking of the ISS and the Shuttle, for real-time graphics of the orbital path, have a look here.

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