Archive for 2008

Only a thin covering on the top

Posted by on December 22nd 2008 in Blast from the Past, Pics, Rambling on..., Thanks

Jerome's been kind enough to send me copies of his pics taken during our walk around Cwm Idwal back in April this year, when we attended the OM Beddgelert Meet. Mountain-lovers will be impressed by the way he's captured the interplay between crag and cloud above the Idwal Slabs and Glyder Fawr, but my attention has been distracted by the degree of insulation-loss on the head of the beardy bloke in the foreground. No wonder it was a tad chilly on the top!

Thanks for the pics, Jerome!

A time for giving

Posted by on December 19th 2008 in LMAO!, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Merry Christmas, folks!

Here's a little something to get you into the swing of things:

Greetings and Disclaimer

From us (hereinafter called the Wishor) to you (hereinafter called the Wishee) Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all...

... and a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2009, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the Wishee.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms:
This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal;
This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the Wishor are acknowledged;
This greeting implies no promise by the Wishor to actually implement any of the wishes;
This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain Wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the Wishor;
This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first;
The Wishor warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the Wishor;
Any references in this greeting to The Lord, Father Christmas, Our Saviour, or any other festive figures, whether actual or fictitious, dead or alive, shall not imply any endorsement by or from them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

Thanks to Andy for the above text.

Outnumbered and surrounded

Posted by on December 7th 2008 in Blogroll

OK, I've given in. I've started using Google Reader.

Yes, I know that I said that I wouldn't, but the number of blogs that I follow has reached a level where visiting each one via a traditional blogroll link is getting too time-consuming. I'll still be blogrolling the sites that I follow, and I'll still visit each site when there's new stuff to see/read, so I'll only be using GR as a finder of new content. I still maintain that relying solely on GR is a way of missing out on the artistic content of a lot of fine blogs out there - some folk go to great lengths to make their spaces on the web into comfy places to spend a few minutes, rather than repositories for text and a few pics.

On the subject of blogroll links, I've added a fair few more to mine over the last couple of weeks - I'm convinced that this whole outdoors-blogging malarkey is snowballing. Recent additions include:

And of course there's the link to the social experimenter's "secret blog"...

Have a mooch around and see if there's anything that piques your interest.

Pier pressure

Posted by on December 3rd 2008 in Astrostuff, Making stuff

Monday evening was spent at the pub(s) with Nick, putting the world to rights and pretending to be professional bar-billiards players. Among the many topics of conversation, we returned to a couple of old favourites - telescopes and the night sky. We had discussed telescope piers before and had done a bit of research, so we decided that it was time to make our first prototype.

The next morning, with a dog-eared sketch in my hand and a dog-eared pair of steelies on my feet, I went to see the Nick at his business premises - it was time to wield the 5mm steel. Four hours later, after 2 hours of work and several brews, we stood back to admire our handiwork. It's rough-and-ready at the moment, we're not going to get it galved and painted until we're sure that it's up to the job, so after I've concreted it into the garden I've got to do some flexure, resonance and vibration-damping tests on it. This could take some time, so don't expect regular reports, but when we do get it right we'll let you know.

Now, where did I put that spade?

More Risotto

Posted by on November 30th 2008 in Dehydrating

Last time we went shopping I nabbed a small pack of mixed fish from the "nearly out-of-date" shelf at the local supermarket, it seemed just right for knocking out another batch of dried food. The pack contained 4oz each of salmon, cod and smoked haddock, all in good condition. During a spare half-hour this morning I used it to make another variant of fish risotto, I had to adjust the standard recipe as follows:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped >>> 1 larger onion
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stock cube (veg or fish) >>> 4 level tsp stock powder
  • 0.85L / 1.5 pints boiling water >>> 2 pints
  • 0.25kg / 9oz risotto rice (risotto, arborio and carnaroli are best, long-grain will do at a push but the results aren’t as good, any other rice just doesn’t work) >>> 12oz
  • 0.25kg / 9oz smoked fish, skinned and cut into chunks >>> 12oz as detailed above
  • 1 large cupful of frozen peas >>> added 1/3 cup runner beans
  • large knob of butter
  • 1 pinch of salt (optional)
  • Some freshly-ground black pepper (optional)
  • Cooking-times were extended by roughly 20% each

It's now in the dehydration stage, filling the kitchen with a wonderful hunger-inducing aroma. There should be enough for 4 large meals.



Posted by on November 29th 2008 in Rambling on...

Today I didn't:

  • go walking or camping;
  • go kite-flying;
  • go Christmas shopping;
  • test any outdoor gear;
  • attend the OBF meet in Cambridge;
  • do any DIY;
  • take any pics;
  • clean the car;
  • buy any outdoor gear;
  • buy any astro gear;
  • install any plugins;
  • lurk on any forums;
  • see the sky;
  • allow the cat indoors;
  • clean out the aquarium;
  • cook the dinner;
  • watch the telly;
  • shave;
  • find anything worth blogging about.

Observing Report 21st-22nd November 2008 (Shooting Unicorns)

Posted by on November 25th 2008 in Observing Reports

After the disappointment of being unable to observe the Leonid meteor shower earlier in the week due to rain and cloud, things were looking up (pardon the pun) for the alpha-Monocerotid shower on Friday night. The day had been cold and clear, and what wind there was had turned to a gentle breeze by 21:00.

I decided to make do without the hassle of setting up the mount, and made do with a static setup with the D50 on a fixed tripod, taking a variety of exposure-sets across a range of focal lengths. The MaxIm DL5 software on the lappy controlled the camera and downloaded the pics while I sat next to the tripod and watched events the good old-fashioned way. The only problems encountered were due to the cold, at -3C the D50's batteries don't perform well, only lasting for 200 shots before they needed to be warmed up or recharged. Having a couple of spare batteries is a godsend for such conditions. The cold didn't affect me, though - I was wrapped up in my Alpkit Filo, astrobreeks and Skee-Tex Original boots, nice and comfy.

The session began at about 22:00 and during the next four hours I observed 12 meteor trails (10 alpha-Monocerotids and 2 sporadics), of which 9 were fully or partly within the field of view of the camera, which took a grand total of 412 pictures.

At about 02:00 the clouds rolled in and ended the session. After clearing away the kit, I went through all of the photos, and guess what...  there's not even the slightest sign of any meteor trails on any of them, despite cranking up the enhancement levels to ridiculous levels! Typical.

So, I'm sorry, but there's no nice photo of the event to show to you. As a last resort, before binning all of the pics, I dubbed 77 of the 30-second frames together to make a small video showing Gemini rising, a few jet-tracks and the clouds that ended observations:


Get the Flash Player to see this content.


Hot Pants

Posted by on November 18th 2008 in Shiny new kit

So, did you look at the kit-list? If you did, you'll have noticed that I don't have a great choice of legwear. Montane Mojo shorts for the few days of summer (and for scaring kids and old ladies), and Lowe Alpine Schoeller trews (variant unknown - TKMaxx clearance stock) for the rest of the year. Together with baselayer LJs, windproofs and/or the shell-salopettes, they've been sufficient to cope with everything except the very coldest of the conditions that I encounter.

Well, now even that eventuality has been covered - after a renowned expert approved the choice, one pair of Mountain Hardwear Compressor Pants has been acquired.

I bought these to cope with several scenarios... I'll wear them while standing/sitting outside with the scope during the freezing hours of winter nights and mornings, I'll take them on colder wildcamps so that after-dark wanderings aren't so chilly, I'm even tempted to try them in conjunction with a belay jacket, sleeping socks and a 2-season sleeping-bag in the winter. I've been experimenting with them, and I've found that they're a quick and easy fit over the shell-salopettes with no loss of loft, so I'll try them as the leg-wear equivalent of a belay-jacket.

They're not over-specced, but they have almost all of the features that I wanted:

  • Outer: Superlight 15D Ripstop
  • Lining: 30D Micro Taffeta
  • Reinforcement (seat and knees): Taslan
  • Double Velcro® waist closures with laminated tabs
  • Deep handwarmer pockets - zipped, microfleece-lined
  • Adjustable Velcro® ankle-cuffs
  • Articulated knees
  • Elastic waist with drawcord
  • Front zip fly
  • Full 2-way side-zips with internal baffles
  • Thermic Micro™ synthetic fill
  • Drawstring bag included

Mine (size m/m) weigh in at 590g without the drawstring bag.

They're incredibly warm for their weight, and they don't restrict movement at all - the lining doesn't bind on midlayers, and is comfy over bare flesh. The only thing that's missing is a back-pocket, but I can cope without one.

And they really do make my arse look big!

Now all I need is a cold weekend wildie to put them to the test.

Thanks for your opinion, Petesy, it's much appreciated.


Posted by on November 18th 2008 in Shiny new kit

I wonder what's in that little bag...

A jigsaw piece, perhaps?

The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle

Posted by on November 17th 2008 in Rambling on..., Shiny new kit

On Saturday I bit the bullet and parted with some hard-saved cash in exchange for what may well be the one item that completes my outdoors kit-list. The stash has been growing for nearly three decades, some of the original bits expired or were outgrown and have been replaced, some bits are still going strong, some are past their best but still perform adequately, but there's nothing there that I don't trust, nothing that I won't use sometime, and no gaps now that the final item is installed (to be fair, that item still needs to be tried and tested before it gets listed). All I have to do now is keep replacing the stuff that wears out... although if somebody was to donate a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir, I wouldn't refuse to take it 🙂

For those that have a hankering for kit-lists, mine's been updated and posted here. Seekers of bleeding-edge hi-tech or ultralightweight stuff will be generally disappointed. I've not listed the family-camping kit or the stuff that we've bought for the kids.

And that final bit of kit? You'll just have to wait a bit longer before I tell you about it and put it on the list.

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