Archive for August 2011

Holiday Blues

Posted by on August 17th 2011 in Uncategorized

Guess the location:

25m from sandy beach, east coast
Fine view of 30 offshore turbines, of which only 27 are working
10m from four lary Essex families who only break out the beer after the bar & excessively-loud disco shut at 01:30 every night
Caravan lacking in equipment and cleanliness

Wish you were here?
Wish I wasn't.

The good news?
There are only three more nights to endure.

Finding gold

Posted by on August 10th 2011 in Blog on Blog

I follow a lot of blogs, for a lot of reasons. Sometimes for the adventures, sometimes for the humour, sometimes for the contentious issues.

It's not often, however, that I set aside the time to read one in it's entirety. Such a blog would have to be something truly special, a real attention-grabbing, thought-provoking soul-stirrer.

If you're looking for such a thing I urge you to pull your chair to the fireside, (re)fill your glass and settle down for a few hours at

It'll be time well spent.

Review – Montane Lite-Speed H2O Jacket – First thoughts

Posted by on August 8th 2011 in My reviews, Shiny new kit

This item has been supplied on a "review-and-keep" basis by Adam Smith, representing Go Outdoors.

The jacket being reviewed is the Montane Lite-Speed H2O, the Go Outdoors link is here and the Montane link is here.

This jacket is billed by Montane as "THE WORLD’S LIGHTEST WATERPROOF JACKET" and who am I to argue with that claim? Go Outdoors are pushing it as a "Running Jacket", I can assure all and sundry that I'll not be running anywhere in it! No, this jacket is competing with the proofed Montane Featherlite Smock for a place on my "must take" fellwalking-kit list. Sadly I didn't get sent the Black version, but I've no doubt that this Fluoro-Yellow jacket will perform just as well.

If you want the proper spec it's best if you follow the links above, I'll add that the actual weights for the one supplied to me are: jacket 174g, stuffsac 14g (5g if you hack off the Velcro strap and plastic loop), those weights are for a size L.

Although it's a minimalist jacket it looks to be well-constructed with excellent stitch-work and taped seams throughout. The zip is a tad awkward to get moving, I reckon that it needs a bit of "running-in". The hood is basic, it has a single-handed draw-corded captive toggle system for closure but no stiffened or wired peak or anything else techie. The hood stowage is neat with three Velcro patches for keeping the collar closed, the only niggle here is that the FreeFlow H2O fabric is so lightweight that I get the feeling that it (or the stitching) will give way before the Velcro opens. It doesn't, of course. The hemline has a drop-tail and another of those excellent draw-corded closures. Cuffs are "self-fabric" which to the terminally-confused means that the ends of the sleeves are simply folded over a bit of elastic and then tube-stitched. TBH I don't like these cuffs, I much prefer the cuffs on the original Featherlite Smock which have a much better fit and feel. Aside from some reflective bits here and there, that's about all there is... no pockets, no vents and, oddly, no hanging-loop.

I had expected this jacket to be quite similar to the Featherlite Smocks that I already have but it is significantly different. Then again, it has a different job to do. I'll report back when it's been baptised, or when I've been released from custody after being arrested by the Style Police for wearing it in public.

According to Go Outdoors the Retail Price is £90.00 but they're currently in the sale at only £36.82 - perhaps it's time to get one for yourself? If that don't float yer boat, they have plenty of other waterproof jackets for your perusal here.

Oh, nearly forgot! Packed size. Many sources claim that the Lite-Speed H2O is about the size of a small grapefruit. Well, we don't do grapefruits here and so I can't confirm those claims, but I can say with no fear of contraception that it's a bit bigger than an orange, a bit bigger than an apple and quite a bit shorter than a banana...



Observing Report 3rd-4th August 2011 (Garradd through the cloud-gaps)

Posted by on August 8th 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

An odd night - a lot of isolated clouds but with crystal-clear dark skies beyond. I'd got my night-pass from my better-half and wasn't going to waste it, so I got set up for imaging Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd which was up there in the constellation Pegasus, visible as a fuzzy white patch through the binoculars. I set up the scope for a 50-shot run of 300s exposures and let the kit run on auto while I got on with other stuff.

As I expected, most of the exposures were rejected due to the clouds, and I ended up with just three useful frames. Then it rained stair-rods.

No matter, I've stacked and processed them anyway and the result's fair if not brilliant. Give me a clear night for this target and I reckon I could get a much better image. I'll wager that it won't happen soon though, what with all this glorious summer weather. I'll see what I can do in the coming months.

Anyway, it looked something like this:

Comet C/2009 P1 Garradd (04/08/2011 @ 01:09 approx), in the constellation Pegasus.
Subs: 3 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
1000D on the 6" R-C, guided with PHD.

Legal Theft

Posted by on August 3rd 2011 in A bit of a rant, Name and Shame

Chris has been banking with Lloyds TSB for about 40 years and in that time she's had acceptable service. Of late, however, things have been going a bit wrong...

A month or so ago she noticed an odd and unauthorised transaction on her bank statement. It was a debit against a Visa Debit card. The statement entry was "NFI*WWW.NETFLIX.CO US 07.99". There was also a fee for the Sterling > Dollar currency-conversion.

She called the bank and complained, the bank investigated and told Chris that "the transaction was for a subscription to a service that streams video to Playstations and X-Boxes". Chris explained that she has never set up such a subscription and that we've never owned either a Playstation or an X-Box. Eventually the bank gave her a refund and supposedly put in place measures to prevent it happening again. As part of those measures, Chris had to destroy her then-active debit card and wait for a new one. Lloyds TSB would further investigate the transaction and would send Chris the details thereof.

Happiness was restored... until last night...

Chris was checking her statement again and found that a further unauthorised transaction for the same bogus subscription, and against the same card, had been allowed after her first complaint. She was furious. She looked again at her statements and realised that both unauthorised transactions were against one of her Visa Debit cards that had expired way back in 2007! We were bemused as to how it would be possible to set up a new bogus subscription using details from a card that had expired four years ago.

When she phoned the bank this morning I had to leave the room and take cover. The bank got both barrels for many reasons - not only for their failure to prevent recurrence, but also for the fact that they'd not sent her those promised details of the first transaction AND for the revelation that they now expected Chris to cancel the bogus subscription herself, despite her having no details of the service or the perpetrator. They gave her a website address and effectively told her to get on with it. Unbelievable!

We checked the website and, after being redirected to here, we found that it proudly states "Sorry, Netflix is not available in your country... yet". So why would Chris ever want such a subscription?



We've done a bit of digging here and we reckon that it's possible (but not certain) that Chris's expired card details were nabbed from Amazon (UK), as it's the only place where we could find said details stored for an online service that Chris has used. Amazon did show the card as "expired". Chris has now deleted all of her card details that were filed with Amazon (UK).

This morning we contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service. It was explained to Chris that the practice of allowing transactions against expired debit cards is uncommon but not illegal - in some circumstances, it is allowed. It's difficult to see, however, how those circumstances apply in this case. Nevertheless, the F.O.S. will send a formal letter of complaint to Lloyds TSB regarding their failure to prevent further unauthorised transactions for the bogus subscription as per Chris's request.

Hopefully Lloyds TSB will address this matter before they lose yet another customer.

FWIW, Chris works for one of the Big Three worldwide express delivery companies, maintaining and developing their Global Accounts Receivable system. What she doesn't know about the legalities, complexities and ethics of international monetary transactions isn't worth squat. Lloyds TSB really shouldn't mess with her, maybe they should employ her instead!

So, dear reader, please be aware that the details of all your expired, cut-up-and-binned/burned Visa Debit cards aren't necessarily dead. They could come back to screw up your finances at any time.

WTFIGOH, Northeastern Illinois University?

Posted by on August 3rd 2011 in A bit of a rant, Blog on Site

WTF is going on here?

It wouldn't be so bad if the pic was of somewhere in Bulgaria.
It's actually a pic of the Eastern and the Far Eastern Fells of Cumbria, England.
I should know, it's my image!
Creative Commons?

Another link

Observing Report 2nd August 2011 (Sunspots and Active Regions)

Posted by on August 3rd 2011 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports, Pics

There's been a lot of sunspot activity over the past few days, far too much for me to pass up an opportunity to nab some image data.

Mouseover the pic for the labelled version:


Sunspots and Active Regions 02/08/2011.
1000D at prime on the C80ED-R.
Baader Planetarium AstroSolar™ Safety Film (neutral density 5.0).

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