Archive for March 2009

For Scott

Posted by on March 29th 2009 in Rambling on...

Crumble pic as requested:


Lyme Disease petition

Posted by on March 28th 2009 in Illness and injury, In the News

Lyme Disease is on the increase and it can be a particularly debilitating condition. If you've been bitten by a tick and you suspect that you might have contracted Lyme Disease, you should go to your GP as soon as possible. Unfortunately, there's a fair chance that he/she'll have no idea what you're blabbering on about. Even if they do know, there's (allegedly) a lack of proper clinical guidelines for dealing with the condition. This needs to be put right, as early and ongoing proper treatment is much more successful than delayed action.

To this end, Gill Reese of Lyme Disease Action has raised an online petition, which can be found at .

Here's the pitch:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to put in place Clinical Guidelines, SPECIFIC to the United Kingdom, for the diagnosis and treatment of all patients, including children, who have acquired Lyme disease or associated Tick-borne diseases.

These guidelines should be part of a national strategy to combat this increasingly common threat to health in the United Kingdom and should address the UK presentation of Lyme disease and other emerging Tick-borne Diseases.

Please sign the petition (and get as many others as possible to sign) before it closes on April 7th. The current number of signatories is 1775 - that's nowhere near enough.

Thank you.


Posted by on March 27th 2009 in Rambling on...

The OS Outdoors Show 2009 was in full swing at the NEC today and there were plenty of OutdoorBloggers forum members there doing the rounds and reporting their findings and opinions. Notable among the roving reporters is John Hee, who didn't take long to start adding details to his blog. Hopefully his reports will fill out with more juicy details when he gets back to base and has time to collate his data.

I'm not attending this year, for a couple of reasons. First up, I was never going to attend as a punter, as I've done that bit three times before and although it's a good way to meet old friends, the day eventually turns into a shopping spree. OK, so there are some good deals to be had, but there's not much that I need. Second, WD's offer of a press-pass came to nothing when all went silent after he took the huff over the way I manage my blog's RSS feeds.

No matter. The weekend's set fair, and I've plenty of outdoors stuff to keep me occupied.

Stay happy  🙂

Fiddler’s elbow

Posted by on March 24th 2009 in Astrostuff, Congratulations!, Illness and injury

Just because I was named after a famous violinist shouldn't mean that my life has to be up and down like the proverbial fiddler's elbow, but just lately that's the way it's been.

I'm now about to start week two of a bitch of a cold, which I caught after a pleasant evening of beers with Nick and Steve. Personally, I blame the guest brew. Other may well be more specific and blame the quantity of the guest brew, but I couldn't possibly comment. Either way, it's having a prolonged effect. I've missed so many things over the last fortnight that I'm considering rebooting the calendar and starting again at Jan 1st, and giving it another shot.

The first "miss" was Titan's transit of Saturn on the 12th, which couldn't be seen directly here but which I was going to watch from an antipodean site via the web. Titan transits like this don't happen very often, as they only occur when Saturn's equatorial plane is roughly in line with the Earth, and it'll be ages before I get another chance. If you're interested, there's a pic and a cool movie of the Feb 24th transit over at, reproduced here (with permission):


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After four days of living under a duvet, I managed to crawl out to attend a family get-together on Sunday to celebrate the 80th birthday of my mother-in-law, but the day after that was spent undercover again.

On Tuesday I had no choice, as I had to spend most of the day at the local A&E due to "unusual circumstances". Wednesday was pretty much the same.

Thursday and Friday were more duvet-days, which meant that I missed my chance to don the "Father Jack" costume at what turned out to be an excellent fancy-dress birthday party for a good friend, but there was no way that I was going to miss Saturday's pool-party celebrations for our Annabelle's 10th birthday:



Mother's Day was spent at home feeling rough, which meant that Chris was a bit short-changed when it came to celebrating her day, and I didn't get over to see my mum either, so I've a lot of grovelling and catching-up to do this week.  😐

Anyway, I'm on the mend now. Even the boiler-fixing man says that I'm on the up, and he should know - he's been here three times during the last few weeks wrestling with (and losing to) our unruly Halstead Quattro, which has decided to play up now that it's a teenager.

Let's hope that tomorrow's better, and that the boiler gets fixed soon thereafter.

Of course, all this means that dates for our annual wildie, originally scheduled for sometime during the next two weeks, have had to be reconsidered.

I'm off to do some more coughing. Bye for now. :sad:

Never rub another man’s rhubarb

Posted by on March 19th 2009 in New tricks for an old dog

I've never tried forcing it before...


Oo-er, Missus


What’s in a name?

Posted by on March 19th 2009 in Congratulations!

News just in from the Manning household is that John and Steph now have a beautiful baby girl named Sierra Jane. Well done, folks!

It's interesting to note that outdoors folk still name their kids after places that they hold dear. Ian and A Pennington have their Skye Farsai, we have our Elanor Skye and Annabelle Shannon, no doubt there are many more proudly-named geo-kids out there. Long may the trend continue, I say.

Luckily, my parents weren't as outdoorsy as most, otherwise I'd probably have been called "Osmington Mills", which sounds quite posh but wouldn't have fit with my working-class background.

Knobs, flocking and scum

Posted by on March 12th 2009 in Astrostuff, Making stuff

The skies here have been bad for observing for many weeks, and on Monday there was no sign of it getting better during the next few days, so I decided that it was high time that I serviced the scope ready for the rest of the year. I knew that I was going to have to take the thing apart completely, so it was worth doing any major work in one go, rather than faff about doing it week-by-week.

The first job was the flocking of the inside of the tube. As supplied, the inside is sprayed with some sort of matt grey paint, and to be honest I've seen better paint jobs on Army Landrovers. Imagine Stevie Wonder repainting the stone-chips on your car using a paint-filled fire-extinguisher and you'll get some idea of what I'm on about. The paint does a mediocre job of cutting down on internal reflections, but it's not brilliant and if there are any scratches in it the reflected light can spoil an observing session.

So, I got hold of a couple of sheets of self-adhesive black flocking "paper" from Edmund Optics and set about dismantling the scope. The mirrors were safely boxed and stashed away from all danger, and the rest of the fittings were removed, labelled and stored accordingly. The flocking operation was fiddly but there were no major problems, aside from wrestling with the incredibly tenacious adhesive when the sheet wasn't quite in the right place.


A flocking brilliant job


The second job was the replacement of the collimation screws for the mirrors. I get annoyed that I need three tools to do the adjustments (the primary mirror needs a hex key for three grub-screws and a cross-head screwdriver for three countersunks, the secondary needs a different hex key for three other grubscrews) so I decided to replace the lot with something a bit more user-friendly. A lot of folk go in for the expense of "Bob's Knobs" which are thumbscrews and hence require no tools, but there's a problem at the back end of a Celestron Newtonian - the "pushmi pullyu" screw-pairings on the primary cell are pitched at only 12mm, so large-headed thumbscrews would clash. Besides, they're expensive for what they are, and I'm a cheapskate, so I opted for stainless Phillips panheads. The problem was, what size to get? I emailed the scope's manufacturer with the following question:

"Please can you tell me the thread sizes/specifications for the 3 sets of 3 collimation screws (6 on the primary, 3 on the secondary) on a 2007 C8N (the version with the thin-vane spider)?"

and received the following reply:

"Unfortunately the screws will be different because of various vendors that supply them. So we do not have specs on these.
Thank you,
Celestron Technical Services"

Wow, that was a lot of help. Not! Whatever happened to the idea of standardisation?

I had to resort to cadging some thread-gauges. M5 for the primary grubs, M4 for the secondary. A quick order to Stagonset resulted in the swift delivery of two dozen stainless screws various and change from a fiver. The six screws that I actually used (I didn't bother replacing the three cross-head countersunks) were 3-off M4 x 25mm @ 9p each and 3-off M5 x 12mm @ 12p each - simple, effective and way cheaper than posh knobs. Now the only tool required is the small Phillips screwdriver that was supplied with the scope. Sorted.


New screws for the primary

New screws for the secondary


Of course, using panheads instead of inset grubs for the primary meant that the rear mirror cover no longer fitted, so I ditched it and went for an open-ended setup. This is supposed to be a good thing anyway, as it allows quicker mirror-cooling and cuts down on thermal currents in the tube. The screw-holes for fixing the cover were opened out and tapped so that I could fit a set of rubber feet for the tube to stand on.


Showing some (gl)ass!


The last job before the rebuild was the cleaning of the mirrors. So many folk say that you needn't keep them fastidiously clean, but mine were caked with scum. They both had a bath in warm soapy water and a flush-off with distilled water before being rehoused. It was during that process that I confirmed that there was something odd about the primary mirror - the centre-marker wasn't central, as I've long suspected, as it explains why I've often struggled to get the scope collimated correctly. It needed to be fixed. I cut out a disc of paper the same size as the mirror and cut the centre out of it to make a template. Using it as a mask to protect the mirror, I gently peeled off the self-adhesive marker-ring and then stuck it back on in the right place - a full 5mm from where it had been. No wonder collimation had been a dodgy affair!

The properly-centred marker, complete with the scar where it was moved from.


Anyway, after the rebuild was complete I did a full laser-collimation within 5 minutes and the results were better than ever. All I need now is a clear night to do a star-test and all should be well.

Progress with the pier continues apace, but I'll tell you about that in a separate post.

Buddy, can you spare a Dime?

Posted by on March 5th 2009 in In the News, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Hey guys, let's not spread panic by using terms like "Monetary Inflation".

Let's call it "Quantitative Easing".

Hopefully nobody will notice what we're doing.

We've got an unlimited supply of paper, ink and fresh air, so let's get started.

Now, what design are we going to print on these new £650,000 notes?


For two pins…

Posted by on March 2nd 2009 in Just for fun

Two pins away from a perfect score:

I must admit that I did the "rail cheat" in the final frame, though.


Doldrums scraped!

Posted by on March 1st 2009 in A bit of a rant, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

Hmm... looks like I've been scraped: looky here.

I had no idea that my dross was so worthy.

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