Archive for July 2011

Observing Report 24th-25th July 2011 (Messiers, Jupiter and Moon but no Sun)

Posted by on July 28th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

Sunday evening was still and clear with good seeing so I made my excuses and headed to the shed for another Messier Object imaging session. For some reason the northern skies were darker than I'd expected so I had a look around there and decided to try to image M81 and M82 in one hit. After a bit of jiggery-pokery I got the 1000D rotated to get a decent framing and then I set to with the hardware and software. After a couple of hours I'd got some decent subframes so I moved to a different target - M74. This thing isn't called The Phantom for no good reason... it's hard to image because it's so dim. I upped the exposure from the standard 5 minutes to a more realistic 15 but still didn't get useful results so I scrubbed the attempt.

By then the Moon was rising and the sky was lightening. Jupiter had already risen and was an obvious target so I opted to go for a wide shot with the webcam and CCD camera in order to pick up some Galilean moons.

That finished, I turned the scope towards the Moon which was by then well above the horizon with the Sun not far behind. Just enough time to grab some CCD data to make another big mosaic.

I had intended to go the last mile and get some early-morning sunspot images but before the Sun reached a suitable position I was too knackered so I called it a morning, packed up and got me a few ZZZZs before the usual waking-up time.

Clickable results as follows:

M81 (aka Bode's Galaxy, NGC 3031, lower-right) and M82 (aka The Cigar Galaxy, NGC 3034, upper-left),
a pair of galaxies in the constellation Ursa Major.
Subs: 24 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

L to R: Jupiter, Europa, Io, Ganymede.
Luminance: 100/1000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3,
DMK mono CCD camera on the 6" R-C.
Colour: 100/1000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3, SPC900NC webcam on the 6" R-C.

 The Moon.
14-pane mosaic created with iMerge.
Each pane 500/2000 frames stacked with K3CCDTools3.
DMK mono CCD camera on the 6" R-C, unguided.

Baffled… again

Posted by on July 25th 2011 in Rambling on...

It's all a tad confusing down at the George Eliot Hospital ITU....

Fail 1: When visiting on Friday I was accompanied by a child and an adult, and all three of us were allowed at the bedside at the same time. This afternoon the visiting-party was me and two children, but on arrival I was told that only two people were allowed at the bedside so we would have to take turns. Somehow I was supposed to comply with that decree and with the rule that all children must be accompanied by a responsible adult at all times. I still can't figure out how to do that.

Fail 2: It seems like the Unit isn't always the Intensive Therapy Unit. Staff also referred to it as the Intensive Care Unit, the Intensive Treatment Unit, the Critical Care Unit and another title that I can't recall. Just to add to the confusion, there is a separate Critical Care area. Ask for directions and it's a Q&A session to figure out where you really need to go. It isn't just the staff though - signs and posters have the same confusing terminology. It's hassle and/or stress that ITU-patient visitors can do without.

Best of all, though, is Fail 3: Usage of communications devices... just look at these signs on the ITU security-doors:



Clear as mud

as are my pics (taken with the phone)  :mrgreen:

The North-South Divide

Posted by on July 23rd 2011 in In the garden, LMAO!

My neighbour Brian's a great bloke. He's from The Smoke and despite living in The Midlands for the last 30 or so years he's not lost his accent, his relaxed approach to life or his liking for the watered-down beer that they serve down there.

He likes to grow stuff in his greenhouse and he has a friend who does likewise with other crops. Each year one will start, say, the beans and the tomatoes, the other will start strawberries and peas or something like that - you get the gist of it. When the plants are ready to grow on, Brian and his mate do swaps so that they both have a fuller range to plant out later in the season. Often, Brian gives us some of his surplus plants, and for the last few years we've had some potted house-plants and some fine runner-bean plants from him.

For some time now we've been considering getting a greenhouse of our own and I've been accumulating materials to make a suitable base for said structure. When we told Brian of our plans he was ready with advice about how to build and what to plant, and he offered us some lentils that his friend had, telling me that they'd be perfect for a greenhouse. Well, I've no idea about growing those, so I declined and said that we wanted to start off with some simple crops. Tomatoes, courgettes, perhaps a melon or two. Lentils sounded like too much of a challenge for the first year.

Anyway, every time I've mentioned the greenhouse (or lack thereof) he's been banging on at me to go and get those lentils. He said that they'd cost me nowt, as his mate just wanted to get rid of them. Eventually I relented and decided that we could give them a shot. I asked him if they were red or green lentils, he said they were grey so I assumed that they were some sort of Puy lentil variety. He said that they'd be good up by the fence where the soil was banked up against the gravel-boards . When I asked him how big they are, he said "about five foot".



Yesterday we were out in his van collecting some slabs that I'd bought over eBay. On the way back he suggested that we should swing by his mate's house and have a look at those lentils, I agreed and so the detour was made.

He led me to the side of the house where there was a mound of surplus building materials. "There you are", he said, "take what you need, we can put them in the van right now if you want them."

I stood there confused, bemused and amused. There were six of them. They were grey and five foot just as he'd said.

Problem is, they aren't lentils...

they're lintels...

grey, five-foot-long, 8" x 10" cross-section steel-reinforced concrete lintels.

I had to explain the difference. The ordeal was not unlike this. If he offers me any peas next year, I'll be wary.

Four legs good, two legs bad, legless better!

Posted by on July 22nd 2011 in In the News, LMAO!


Russia classifies beer as alcoholic.


You've got to admire a nation where, until now, anything containing less than 10% alcohol had been considered a foodstuff.


The girls have been baking again…

Posted by on July 18th 2011 in Celebrations

62 things to do eat before I'm 50:




49 Not Out, just in case you were wondering.

The Keeltappers and Grunters Social Club 2011 Wildcamp Weekend – Part 4 – Facts and Figures

Posted by on July 16th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, Wildcamping

Some lists, numbers and thoughts about last weekend's outing...

Kit carried:

  • LA Warp 70 pack
  • Argos Pro Action Hike Lite tent
  • Sleeping: Lifeventure Downlight 900 sleeping bag, POE Max-Thermo mat, Ajungilak air-pillow
  • Jetboil PCS with spare half-full Coleman 100 canister, plaggy legs and long-handled spoon
  • Clothing: Rab Corrie eVENT jacket, Montane Featherlite windproof trousers, 1 spare kegs, 1 pair spare socks, 1 spare baselayer top, Buff
  • Food: 2 Decathlon Aptonia dehydrated meals, 4 cereal bars, 4 Pepperamis, 2 packs instant custard, 4 Cofresh coconut bars
  • Drink: teabags, sugar, milk-powder
  • Navigation: Maps (printed on A4), A5 mapcase, compass, HTC Wildfire running MMTracker
  • Wash-kit
  • 5h1t-kit
  • First-Aid kit
  • e+Lite headtorch
  • D50 dSLR in LowePro bag
  • Hipflask (Drambuie)
  • Ciggies

Total carry-weight at start: 11.7kg

Kit worn:

  • Rab VR Climb jacket
  • Quechua Bionnassay trousers
  • Baselayer top
  • LA Mountain Cap
  • Aku Croda boots
  • Socks
  • Kegs

Taken but not used:

  • Rab Corrie eVENT jacket
  • Montane Featherlite windproof trousers
  • Buff
  • Compass

A few observations:

  • Crumble a Cofresh coconut bar into a pack of Sainsbury's Instant Custard (the "Basics" 6p a pack stuff), rehydrate it and it makes a simple, quick and tasty hot breakfast. Next time I'll take some dried fruit to add too. Papaya and banana, perhaps?
  • The Downlight 900 sleeping bag was excellent, but I've told you that already.
  • The Decathlon Aptonia dehydrated meals (Chicken and Rice Curry, Shepherd's Pie) were much better than any other brands that I've tried before. More taste, more chunks, quicker to rehydrate. More e-numbers, though - I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. The integral holding-area on the side of the bags was a useful touch, as was the printing of the fill-lines inside the bags.

According to Memory-Map:

  • Total distance: 14.3 miles
  • Total ascent: 4302 ft
  • Total descent: 4292 ft (where the missing 10ft are is anybody's guess!)


  • Wainwright tops vistited: 7 (Hallin Fell, Steel Knotts, High Raise, Rampsgill Head, The Knott, Rest Dodd, Beda Fell)
  • Wainwright tops considered optional but not visited: 6 (Wether Hill, Kidsty Pike, The Nab, Brock Crags, Angletarn Pikes, Place Fell)
  • Wainwright tops ticked off the to-do list: 4 (Hallin Fell, Steel Knotts, Rest Dodd, Beda Fell)



[umap id="106156" tp="9" size="c" w="600px" h="800px" alignment="center"]

Review – Hi Gear Pitch + Go SS pop-up tent – First thoughts

Posted by on July 15th 2011 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

This item has been supplied by Adam Smith, representing Go Outdoors.

The shelter being reviewed is the Hi Gear Pitch + Go SS (camo print), the Go Outdoors link is here and the Hi Gear link is here.

No, I've not gone mad, I don't intend to use this shelter for camping. I will, however, use it as a night-shelter for me, my low-chair and my photography kit while out snapping the night sky in winter. I'll probably use it as fishing shelter too, and possibly as a beach-tent. You could sleep in it - there's plenty of room for one, fit two into it and it would be a bit cosy, but despite the two vents there could be condensation issues as it's a single-skin construction.

So, what do you get for your money? A bag, a tent and 10 steel pegs in a little slip-bag. That's it. Oh, and you get instructions for getting it back in the bag, they're sewn into the inside of the bag so there are no excuses for not being able to strike the thing. Things you don't get are: a spares kit, internal storage pockets, gear-hanging loops.

Putting the thing up is a doddle, just unpack it, pull off the integral retaining band and it pops up just like it says on the tin. There are six pegging points around the bottom edge and five guying-points so I'm either missing a peg or guying it incorrectly. No matter, I have hundreds of spare pegs and plenty of spare cord. When pegged and guyed it's surprisingly stable and copes reasonably well with a bit of a breeze. The fabric has a claimed hydrostatic head of 2000mm but I can't verify that. There's a small cowled mesh vent next to the front flap and a larger cowled mesh vent on the rear wall, the latter being held open by a Velcro strut. Both vents can be held shut by Velcro tabs. In a breeze the through-flow of air is reasonably good. The front flap is D-shaped, has a 2-way zip and two toggle/loop retainers to hold it aside when open. The front flap has a midge-net upper section which can be uncovered by letting down the zippered top section of the flap, this section has a separate toggle/loop retainer to prevent flappage. All seams are taped and the groundsheet fabric seems to be durable. The oval groundsheet is of flat, not bathtub, construction. Oddly for a camo thing the guylines are dayglo yellow, I might replace them with ODs for when I'm out on a "mission".

Wrestling the thing back into the bag is something of an art but once mastered it's a two-minute affair. The bag itself is well-constructed with an elasticated overlapping top, velcro closure and two webbing carry-handles. Both link-sites say "Easy to pitch with pre-attached guylines, this can go from rucksack to standing in seconds, so you can get on with having fun." Well, maybe... you'd probably need a 30"-wide rucksack...

Of course, camo gear doesn't suit everybody. Go Outdoors have a range of these things with a fair choice of colourways and prints so you don't all have to look like you're playing soldiers. Go Outdoors stock a range of conventional tents too - see here for details.

I measured the thing, here's the deal:

  • Total weight: 2075g
  • Height at front: 41"
  • Height at rear: 29"
  • Groundsheet max length: 88"
  • Groundsheet max width: 41"
  • Body max width: 47"
  • Packed diameter: 30"
  • Packed thickness: 2.5"

All in all it's a neat and simple bit of kit and I expect that it'll be fine for the uses that I have planned for it. I must admit that I quite like the simplicity of it. For me the only downside is that logo text that's plastered on the sides... it looks like "PITCH + GOSS"... around here, "goss" has an unsavoury meaning. Really, did nobody think that through before going to print?

Anyway, click the following to see a few pics of it pitched in the garden:


Hi Gear Pitch + Go SS (camo print)

I'll report back when it's seen some proper action, I've no idea when that'll be.

Review – Lifeventure Downlight 900 sleeping bag – First proper use

Posted by on July 15th 2011 in My reviews, Shiny new kit, Testing for review

This item has been supplied by Adam Smith, representing Go Outdoors.

The sleeping bag being reviewed is the Lifeventure Downlight 900, the Go Outdoors link is here and the Lifeventure link is here.

My "First Thoughts" review is here.

I used the bag on the recent two-night wildcamping weekend in the Lakes District and I had two nights of comfortable sleep in it in an open-fly tent in temperatures that dipped to +5C. On the same outing my walking buddy Mike was using a lightweight synthetic bag and he was cold on both nights despite being clothed and having his tent closed.

Sadly there are no new pictures of the DL900 in use in the tent - my lowly Argos Pro Action Hike Lite isn't big enough to accommodate both a laid-out sleeping bag and a photographer. I can report that the bag coped really well - it lofted fully within five minutes of being laid out, the zip didn't snag, the drawcords behaved themselves and it didn't retain any dampness in spite of its sweaty occupant. Stowing it in the neat dry-bag was easy and as I've said before it compresses to a flat shape that fits well in a pack.

I think that this bag could be used from early spring to late autumn if the user was appropriately dressed. Hopefully I'll be able to verify this later in the year.

It's worth bearing in mind that this is the mid-range Downlight bag. Go Outdoors also sell the 600 and the 1200 versions for those that need either less or more insulation. The complete range of sleeping bags on offer from Go Outdoors is listed here.

Overall verdict: Highly Recommended.



The Keeltappers and Grunters Social Club 2011 Wildcamp Weekend – Part 3 – Sunday

Posted by on July 14th 2011 in Great Escapes, Testing for review, Wildcamping

Saturday night was dry but a little more chilly than Friday, with a cool breeze coming from over the tarn. I woke briefly at first light and saw some Red Deer on the slopes above us, but unlike back in 2007 they didn't wait for me to get the camera out. I'd been warm enough with the flysheet open all night, but Mike had been cold again despite being fully-dressed in his bag. Again, sitting in the sunshine while demolishing a decent breakfast and lashings of tea was the cure.


Almost ready for action


One last shot of the island


By the time we'd struck camp the sun was well up and it was clear that it was going to be a hot day. The short pull up to the eastern shoulder of Angletarn Pikes afforded us a fine view of the tarn:


Angle Tarn


Once over the shoulder we got great views - on one side Heck Crag and Bannerdale, on the other Place Fell and Glenridding:


Bannerdale and Heck Crag


Glenridding and Place Fell


We plodded on past Heckbeck Head and up to the first cairn where the view of the ridge ahead opens out. Mike was clearly afflicted with some sort of madness, maybe the thought of going home had caused delirium:


The ridge to Beda Head


We parted company where a good path led off and down to the right - Mike had to be back at the car by noon and so would take the valley route, I wanted to walk the rest of the ridge. After our farewells the walk along the saddle and up the final rise to Beda Head was a doddle:


Looking back along the saddle to Heck Crag and Angletarn Pikes


Beda Head and the last bit of up


Beda Head cairn


Hallin Fell and Eastern Ullswater from Beda Head


That was enough high stuff for me. I descended the craggy northern ridge until I got to Nickles where a track led off to the right, down a steep bracken-clad slope. I was almost back at valley level when I noticed Mike dawdling along the Howe Grain road so I yelled to him and he waited a few minutes for me to reach the road.

We finished the walk together and after reaching the cars just before noon Mike reached into his car-boot and played his aces - he had a boxful of beers that had stayed ice-cold all weekend, thanks to the superb cool-box that he was testing/reviewing for Adam Smith / Go Outdoors. Needless to say, I had to help him to consume them, it's what friends are for.

Goodbyes were said again and we went our separate ways. It had been an excellent adventure - I'd had a great time in good company. 14.3 miles, seven Wainwrights visited (four that I can tick off the to-do list) and a couple of nights out might not be much for some folk, but it's good in my book.

Thanks, Mike.


Scots Pines at Knicklethorns


To be continued...

Smelling pistakes

Posted by on July 14th 2011 in In the News

Anybody that knows me knows that my "Inner Stickler" isn't backwards in coming forwards. I regard good spelling, punctuation and grammar as essential elements of a well-rounded schooling and if I had my way I wouldn't let kids leave compulsory education until they'd demonstrated high standards in such matters. Obviously, concessions would have to be made where there are contributory factors such as dyslexia and other health conditions.

I was intrigued when Chris phoned me today to point me towards an interesting article on the Beeb's website.

She specifically recommends reading comment number 31. To save you the trouble of finding it, here's the gist of it:


Eye have a spelling chequer,
It came with my Pea Sea.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss Steaks I can knot sea.

Eye strike the quays and type a whirred
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am write oar wrong
It tells me straight a weigh.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your shore real glad two no.
Its vary polished in its weigh.
My chequer tolled me sew.


I had to smile.

It was that wry smile that only occurs when all hope is lost.

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