Archive for 2012

Last treat of the year

Posted by on December 31st 2012 in @ the movies

Just got back from the flicks, went to see this brilliant movie about cars 'n stuff. "Skiffle", I think it was called, although the background music didn't sound like Lonnie Donegan had had any part in it.

Anyway, they had James May getting shot dead on a train, then he was alive again and, totally out-of-character, he even pulled a bird in the shower, before having a spate of bad luck trashing vehicles just like he does on Top Gear. He didn't like driving his mum's posh car so he ditched it in favour of an old Austin Martin that he'd been doing up in his garage. He and his mum used that one to get away to a bothy, in what's left of Scotland's wild countryside, for a bit of a shooting holiday. Then he got that car trashed too. Come to think of it, he's not really that good with cars.

I don't usually go in for James May films but I thought I'd catch one of the Craig David ones before he gets replaced by Idris Elba.

I'm giving it a 10/10 rating despite the misleading title.

The Spirit of Christmas… Jaded and Black

Posted by on December 29th 2012 in A bit of a rant, Name and Shame

When I was in industry the adage was "When times are hard, the first thing to suffer is Quality".

It's fairly obvious that in retailing the first thing to suffer is Customer Service...


Retailer 1: Reader's Digest.

  • 16/12/2012 - order for Christmas presents - items shown as in-stock on website - order raised online.
  • 16/12/2012 - email from R.D. - order confirmed.
  • 19/12/2012 - package arrived from R.D. - the paperwork was correct but the wrong item was in the package.
  • 19/12/2012 - I called R.D.'s customer services department and spoke with Mel, a very pleasant and professional woman who checked the order and the stock, apologised, confirmed that the correct item was still in stock and said that she would arrange an exchange via courier.
  • 20/12/2012 - no courier.
  • 21/12/2012 - no courier. I called R.D.'s customer services department again and spoke with a different woman. She was rude and uncooperative, she told me that she didn't know which courier service was being used but a few minutes later told me the name of the courier service, she couldn't be bothered to trace my consignment (she told me that the computer system couldn't trace items, which was a bare-faced lie and I told her so... the paperwork accompanying the first package was generated by R.D. and clearly states "C-round 4049, Drop 49, Van 16"), and she refused point-blank to let me speak to her supervisor or to anyone else there. After I'd ensured that she was recording the conversation I allowed myself to use, rather than lose, my temper. Despite me having to prove my identity by providing my full name, my address and my postcode, she refused to give me her full name. She did tell me that her first name is Jade. Fed up of being stone-walled by this awful woman, I had to hang up the phone before I really lost my rag and said something that I would have regretted later. This was, by far, the rudest customer service experience I've ever had to endure, and that's saying a lot - some readers may recollect my run-ins with F***d & T**k and with G**r Z**e... well, those experiences pale into insignificance compared to having to deal with the bile and bullshit spouted by the less-than-wonderful Jade.
  • 21/12/2012 - phoned my bank to cancel the payment, was told that it was pending and would have to complete before any action could be taken by the bank or by Visa.
  • 24/12/2012 - payment now showing on my bank statement, payment date 21/12/2012
  • 24/12/2012 - the courier arrived to collect the item that had been sent in error, R.D. hadn't given her anything to give me in exchange.
  • 29/12/2012 - still no reply from R.D. No replacement item, no apology, no refund. I phoned R.D.'s customer services again a few minutes ago and spoke with Brian who was very polite, professional and apologetic. He reviewed the situation and told me to expect the item within the next few days. Time will tell. Either way, one of my relatives is still waiting for a Christmas present.


Retailer 2: Blacks.

  • 16/12/2012 - order for Christmas presents - items shown as in-stock on website - order raised online.
  • 16/12/2012 - email from Blacks - order confirmed.
  • 17/12/2012 - payment taken, in contradiction of this statement in their FAQ: "Q: Am I charged for the items as soon as I order them? A: No - we will only charge you once your order is despatched."
  • 19/12/2012 - order inexplicably cancelled by Blacks. No explanation, no apology, no mention of a refund.
  • 19/12/2012 - items no longer showing on website.
  • 19/12/2012 - email from me to Blacks asking for an explanation.
  • 19/12/2012 - automated email reply from Blacks, "Thank you for contacting us. Our Customer Care team has received your email safely. Your personal customer reference number is listed in the email header. We aim to respond to all emails within 48 hours although some emails may take a little longer."
  • 29/12/2012 - ten days later and still no refund or response from Blacks.
  • 29/12/2012 - another email from me to Blacks, asking for an explanation, an apology and a refund.
  • 29/12/2012 - automated email reply from Blacks... yes, you guessed it... "Thank you for contacting us. Our Customer Care team has received your email safely. Your personal customer reference number is listed in the email header. We aim to respond to all emails within 48 hours although some emails may take a little longer."
  • I'll give them those 48 hours, if they still can't resolve the problem during that time I'll have to get the Visa folk to sort it out. Meanwhile, two more relatives are short of their Christmas presents.


The good news is that all items ordered from Amazon, Play and eBay etc. arrived in good order and in good time.

Happy New Year!

He knows if you’ve been bad or good

Posted by on December 23rd 2012 in Celebrations, Just for fun

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why...

Santa Claus is coming to town.

Here's hoping that you've all been good.

Merry Christmas, folks!

Bigging it up

Posted by on December 23rd 2012 in Bargains, Just for fun

9" is short and lightweight?

I'm beginning to feel rather inadequate.

Boot deals in clearance section @ Outside

Posted by on December 22nd 2012 in Bargains

If you're going to be heading up some serious stuff anytime soon and you're in need of some new footwear, have a look at what's on offer at Outside.

They have Raichle Expeditions down from £600 to £150, and they have good deals on boots for mere mortals as well!

Just to let you know that I have no affiliation with Outside, they just sent me an email and I thought I'd share the joy.

An interesting campaign

Posted by on December 18th 2012 in Campaigns and Petitions

I'm not sure that I can support or recommend this one, it's like being given the option to choose which guns the firing-squad should use at your own execution.


Stand up to Trump: Email Alex Salmond

Observing Report 13th-14th and 14th-15th December 2012 (Geminids Part 1)

Posted by on December 15th 2012 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

The best period for seeing the Geminids was from dusk on Thursday to dawn on Friday. I was ready early with the D50 set up on the mount, toting the 35mm prime, and intending to track a bit of sky around Taurus. The evening started cloudy but I was convinced that there would be some clear spells before sun-up. Suffice to say that there wasn't a single cloud-gap all night and I gave in to sleep at around 4 a.m. when the mist came down and then froze. It had been a wasted night, and the fact that folk in other places had been seeing the best Geminid display for many a year was really rubbing it in.

The forecast for the next night was slightly better, the cloud was supposed clear sometime around midnight, so I decided to have another go even though the meteor-rate would be much lower. Same kit, this time tracking a vague area between Lynx and Ursa Major. The clouds did part and there was still a fair number of Geminids whizzing about, I took 300 pics and managed to catch just the one meteor trail. It was a promising start.

I re-aimed the camera and rattled off another 35 shots in the direction of Camelopardalis before the constellation became obstructed by the observatory roof. By this time Leo had risen so far that it was fully in the field of view so I aimed at that and ran off another 300 shots before it clouded over fully, ending the session.

After a short sleep and a wonderful afternoon of festive shopping I got around to processing the images, here's the best of the Geminids that I caught on camera:

 Geminid meteor in Ursa Major
Main image: 19 x 30s subs @ ISO 400, stacked with DSS
Luminance layer: 1 x 30s sub processed in PS CS3
Final layering in PS CS3

Here's a screenshot from Starry Night Pro Plus 6, showing roughly where the FOV was:


 The FOV of the 35mm prime on the D50
The red triangle marks the radiant point of the Geminid meteor shower
Compare the two images and you'll see that those naughty twins appear to have shot the Great Bear up the arse

Observing Report 10th-11th December 2012 (Part 2 – Away in a manger…)

Posted by on December 12th 2012 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

Here's another one - M44 - Sir Patrick Moore's favourite object on the Moore Winter Marathon list.

The refractor has introduced some odd colours to the mix, I've left them in and enhanced them because they look a bit Christmassy 🙂

M44 (aka NGC 2632, Praesepe, The Beehive Cluster, Cr 189), an open cluster in the constellation Cancer.
Subs: 12 light @ 300s, darks and bias frames, ISO400.
Spikes added using Noel's Actions.
1000D on the C80ED-R refractor, guided with PHD.

Observing Report 10th-11th December 2012 (Part 1 – Kemble’s Cascade)

Posted by on December 11th 2012 in Astrostuff, Observing Reports

Here you go - Kemble's Cascade - a fine asterism and one of the objects on the Moore Winter Marathon list.

To me it always looks like a waterfall of colourful stars spilling from the NGC1502 cluster:

Kemble's Cascade, an asterism in the constellation Camelopardalis.
2 stitched images. Subs: 12 & 8 light @ 150s, darks and bias frames, ISO800.
1000D on the C80ED-R refractor, guided with PHD.
You'll need to click it to see it in any great detail.

You won't need a telescope - you should be able to see the Cascade well enough through binoculars, and it's a fair size - you could fit five of our Moons into the above pic.

It's easy to find too, so long as you can locate the Big W:

Gone from The Castle Gate

Posted by on December 10th 2012 in In the News

Yesterday's passing of Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS, is sad news to countless folk who are expressing the loss better than I ever could. I'm not good at that sort of thing so I'll leave it to them.

In many he inspired a love of astronomy but in me he also kindled a love of classical music:



Last night the sky was calm and clear, as close to perfect as it gets here, so it seemed fitting that I should get outside and have a look at The Moon and some objects from the Moore Winter Marathon and from his Caldwell Catalogue.

I'll post some pics later if they pass muster.

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