Archive for June 2011

Observing Report 26th-27th June 2011 Part 2 (A late-morning crescent Moon)

Posted by on June 30th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

After doing my bit to get the rest of the family off to work, school or whatever I went back to the obsy to pack away the kit. By then it was getting on for 10a.m. , the sun was beating down again and the sky was clear and blue. High up and almost due south I could just make out the thin crescent of the waning Moon, and I was compelled to have a pop at it with the DMK. A red filter was needed to cut the blue glare and to reduce the effect of the bad seeing and so the resolution's not great, but it was worth playing those ten minutes of extra-time...

Moon (27/06/2011 @ 10:05 approx).11 panes stitched with MaxIm DL5.
Each pane is 150/3000 stacked frames. DMK mono CCD camera on the GSRC6M.

Observing Report 26th-27th June 2011 Part 1 (A double and a cluster)

Posted by on June 29th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

A warm clear night after one of the hottest day of the year so far. Clarity was good although the seeing was only fair at best. Still not much full darkness but managed to get two targets before it got too light...

Albireo, the fifth brightest star in the constellation Cygnus.
Albireo appears to the naked eye to be a single star but through a telescope even low magnifications resolve it into a double star.
The brighter yellow star makes a striking colour contrast with its fainter blue companion.
Subs: 10 light @ 150s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

M39 (aka NGC 7092), an open cluster in the constellation Cygnus.
Subs: 12 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it

Posted by on June 29th 2011 in LMAO!


Allegedly, Ella cleans and tidies her room at least once every week. Lately, however, we've come to question the effectiveness of the process.

The festering aroma in there was getting worse with each passing hot day. There was something in there, something bad.

Eventually an investigation was needed, so I donned the HazMat suit and ventured inside.

At length the cause was found...

in her school-bag...

unused since before the start of her GCSEs...

Friday 13th May, in fact.

Besides the collection of paperwork, used foil and moulding sarnies, there was an "interesting" array of fruit in various states of decomposition.

Anyone care to work out the number of oranges in the picture below?



A stern rebuke and a pair of yellow Marigolds were issued.


Lumbar Jack

Posted by on June 28th 2011 in Illness and injury

I had intended to get away with Mike last weekend to do some coastal walking/drinking and sea-fishing on the Lleyn, but during the preceding days I was a competitor in a BG! v stepladder v gravity competition while hedge-cutting. As usual Sir Isaac was triumphant, I was awarded third place and now my lower back is crocked. No bruises or broken bones but plenty of muscle-pullage.

This means that I didn't get to test the Lifeventure Downlight 900 bag that Adam Smith sent for review. Even worse, I didn't get to help Mike to test his beer-coolers.

There's a second opportunity for me to test the bag the weekend after next, as I've planned a wildcamping weekend in The Lakes. Whether I'll be match-fit in time is a moot-point - all this forced rest isn't conducive to staying in shape. Besides, a week of doing absolutely jack will send me round the bend.

Looks like I've a week of DVDs and blogging to look forward to.




Posted by on June 24th 2011 in A bit of a rant

Although the lappy's CPU fan hasn't caused any more trouble, it sounds like it's on the way out. Working on the basis that surfing for a replacement would be difficult after it croaks, I've been trying to source a replacement.

The obvious place to start looking was the IBM/Lenovo webshop. That's the UK webshop, so the part should already be in the UK. It found the required part, not cheap at £23.17 plus VAT, but it was what I expected to have to pay for a genuine replacement part.

What I didn't expect was the size of the shipping charges. FFS, I wanted it shipped, not a ship!!!

That's just mad. I've had huge packages, containing telescopes with delicate optics worth hundreds of pounds, sent fully-insured almost halfway around the globe for less than half the shipping cost of this fan which, even when packaged, is small enough to fit through a standard letterbox. How can it cost so much for p&p? For that price I'd expect them to do the main send on a NASA space-shuttle and have the final delivery done by The Pope driving a DeLorean.

Needless to say, I've dropped the idea of buying from IBM and now I'm looking elsewhere.


Caught red-handed

Posted by on June 23rd 2011 in In the garden, Rambling on...

Recently there's been a spate of burglaries around here. Notices have been put up in shop-windows and other prominent places, advising the public to be alert and vigilant. We're out to catch the thieving bastards one way or another.

With this in mind, you can imagine how I felt about an hour ago when I was sitting in the kitchen having a well-earned cuppa and I heard somebody moving about on our back yard and trying the door-handle. I looked up and through the patterned glass I could see a shadowy figure the other side. I grabbed the nearest defensive item (a decent bit of rough-cut 2-by-2 left over from a recent DIY job) and made my way slowly and silently to the door...

The intruder was still there. By then my pulse was racing and the adrenaline was kicking in.  I jumped up to the door and flung it wide open, knocking the intruder to the ground (the door opens outwards). Jumping though the doorway I shouted something profane at the prostrate figure before me, and took up a stance a sensible distance away from him while holding the 2-by-2 in a state of readiness in case he got a bit shirty.

He was a bit dazed and didn't look much of a threat so I backed off a bit and let him get to his feet. When he reached into his open shoulder-bag I tensed a little but I relaxed and was somewhat amused when he presented me with this:

(Click it)

He said he wasn't injured so I sent him packing after showing him the front door (complete with letterbox slot) and the front gateway, and after telling him to refrain from trespassing on our driveway to gain illegal access to our back garden via a gate with a "PRIVATE" sign on it.

Per Ardua ad Astra

Posted by on June 21st 2011 in In the News

For some suitable background music while reading this post, feel free to turn your volume right up and set these four tracks running: 

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Yet again the top brass tell it like it is and yet again they'll probably be ignored by the Government:


Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant has told MPs that intense air operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East are placing a “huge” demand on equipment and personnel.

In a briefing paper delivered to senior politicians and obtained by The Daily Telegraph, the RAF’s second in command said morale among airmen was “fragile” and their fighting spirit was threatened by being overworked.

Many areas of the RAF were “running hot”, he warned, while the servicemen’s sense that the nation valued their efforts was being undermined by the Coalition’s defence cuts.

The Air Force was also now finding it difficult to recruit staff, he said, with many specialities understaffed by up to a quarter.

In his conclusion, Air Chief Marshal Bryant — whose full title is Commander in Chief (Air) — warned that the ability of the RAF to deal with unforeseen emergencies would be rapidly “eroded” if the Libyan campaign went beyond September. “Two concurrent operations are placing a huge demand on equipment and personnel,” he said.



I'm beginning to get a better handle on this matter. Presented to Parliament way back in October 2010 The Strategic Defence and Security Review (.pdf) clearly underestimated the probability that new military conflicts (other than those in Iraq and Afghanistan) would arise. It is entirely possible, of course, that there was a complete disregard for any warnings that may have been issued by the intelligence services (there are precedents). Whatever, it's hard to believe the Government's claim to be supporting the armed forces in the currently-widening theatre of ongoing intensive operations.


Basically, the Government's line in October was:

We've cut the budget, we think that we can cope with the current situations and with a little bit extra on top, but beyond that, we're fcuked;

and now it's

We appreciate that our servicemen and servicewomen are willing to lay down their lives for the alleged greater good. As a reward for their unselfish commitments we'll under-fund them, under-equip them, cut their pay and slash their pensions.


It's all going to hell in a handcart. Or at least it would if the Government hadn't nicked the wheels to patch-up another Snatch Land Rover.



Perhaps we'll have to bring these back into service:

Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (image source)


Posted by on June 17th 2011 in Rambling on...

Am I the only person that thinks it rather odd that the word "Firefox" isn't pre-loaded into the British English Dictionary Add-on for the Firefox spellchecker?

I know that it isn't feasible to include every word and acronym, but not including your own product name does seem to be a bit of a fail.

Furthermore, I'd have expected plenty of techie terminology to be in there too, but it ain't so. Here are some words and abbreviations which I expected to be listed but which don't merit inclusion:


On (or possibly off) yer bike!

Posted by on June 16th 2011 in LMAO!, Video (YouTube, Vimeo etc.)

LMFAO at this:



Premium chat line

Posted by on June 16th 2011 in Car stuff, Discounts, Rambling on...

When my car-insurance renewal docket arrived last June I was so bemused by the hiked premium that I rang the insurers to check the reasons for the increase. After I'd listened to the explanation I was put on hold [cue the music] while the assistant went in search of a supervisor, and when the conversation resumed I was offered a 10% discount which I gratefully accepted.

Anyway, one year on and this year's premium was due. I did the usual exercise of finding the best like-for-like deals via the various price-comparison sites out there on the interwebnet thingy. The results weren't good - prices are much higher this year due to interest-rate hikes, the global financial meltdown and all of the natural disasters that have led to huge insurance claims.

Eventually this year's renewal docket arrived and to be honest when I was opening the envelope I was expecting to be faced with the 10% back on AND a huge premium increase. Imagine my surprise when I found that the premium had gone up by much less than I'd been expecting! In fact, it was such a shock that I decided to break out the plastic and pay for the whole year in one hit as opposed to by DD as I usually do. I phoned the insurers to sort the details and just as I'd calculated I saved having to pay about 43 quid in credit interest. During the conversation, and with no provocation whatsoever from me, the nice lass I was dealing with said that she was going to put me on hold for a while [cue the music again]... after a few minutes she came back and offered me a discount of just over 11%.


I do realise that I'm probably not getting any preferential treatment, and that other folk who make the call will be offered discounts too, but it does make me wonder how much other folk miss out by letting their renewals go through on auto and not bothering to make that call.

My thanks go to Rhona for sorting this for me.

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