Tag Archives: equipment

Recent intermission

Standard

Reading time has been rather gobbled up.

I may have selected this based on a subconscious connection with grass and the breaking of impenetrable sod:

Somehow I have managed to miss reading it down all the years; meeting as an adult, it raised quite a few questions.  One concerns the apparently reckless way the father takes his family off on a dangerous journey.  We have gone soft now.  Or perhaps it didn’t seem as dangerous, when any life was dangerous – even staying tucked into the most secure and prosperous home could not protect you from the epidemics of infectious disease which cut swathes through many a family.  Or perhaps pressure of poverty was strong enough to drive the migrants on. Then there’s the way Ingalls apparently makes the decisions without input from his wife (ah the good old days – ‘she for god in him’ etc.) And worst, of course, are the passages dealing with the native Americans.  Ingalls is portrayed as liberal, humane, but assumes that the western country is his to take because the inhabitants “weren’t using it”, and he is furious when, having illegally moved into Indian reservation land, he and other settlers were required to leave “their” farms. Ugly.

Then there is this delicate little sippet of a book.

Ah, the pure sensory pleasure of its satiny dust jacket, the smooth crispness of the coated paper, the careful balance of text and image, the reposeful colours, the spine coherent without wilful springiness, the clean smell rising from every page turn. This made it quite difficult to concentrate on the actual subject matter, but it too was charming in its miscellany of science, technology, art and history, and although the coverage is very slight, there’s a further reading list handy at the back.

One phrase, though originally intended to be satirical, spoke truth to me as an observer:  Thomas Tomkis in 1615 characterised a telescope as “an engine to catch starres”.

Siphonophore or salp?

Standard

Horticulture is all very well,

housework is never all very well, but no doubt it is good for one’s character (just some cushion plumping still to be done),

but they interfere with the important things in life, namely watching someone colour in the floor of the Pacific stripe by stripe.  I feel like Slartibartfast.

Then there is the crucial business of blue water going by for an hour, or possibly two, occasionally diversified by some passing gelatinous improbability, until we arrive at the main event:  the ocean floor, a varying number of kilometres but always a Very Long Way Down.

Here one can inspect more gelatinous creatures, the occasional fish, and a variety of coral.  Unfortunately, being live from the other side of the world, they usually reach bottom just at the time all British people should be in bed.  What technical genius, though, not only to send ROVs to that depth, but to live stream HD video to all and sundry, along with baffled commentary from assorted specialists.  It’s just as much fun as reindeer – though I do occasionally wish the scientists were speaking Norwegian.

For those who live in another hemisphere, or don’t mind propping up their eyelids with matchsticks:

http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/media/exstream/exstream.html

Remnants

Standard

Reindeer and the garden have cut severely into reading time.  In a remnant, I have caught up with one of my Bargains.

Reading about the ancient games was a strange mixture:  some aspects so familiar, and most so entirely alien.  I offer one quotation.

Kleomedes of Astypalaia, though denied victory in the boxing at the 492 BC Olympiad – because he killed his opponent – and despite a subsequent fit of madness that caused the deaths of sixty schoolchildren, … was likewise paid heroic honours, sanctioned by the Delphic oracle.  (p 168)

Hmmmm.

Elsewhere, I stole some time from the garden to go shopping.  Prize of the day was buttons.  Not quite sure what to do with them, but buttons always come in.  (Don’t they?)

 

How to be a stinker

Standard

The horrible dry north-easterly is blowing, has been blowing, will continue to blow, and apart from an untimely shower on Sunday we haven’t had a drop.  Oh for a mild moist westerly!

Under a thick overcast the wallflowers continue to bloom as they have since March, unwatered in the stony parched soil, the rich colours relieving the gloom.  I’ve already sowed seed to get next year’s started.  What would I do without them?  Meantime, the herbaceous clumps which will replace the wallflowers, when they do finish, are waiting in the wings.

The roses are suffering but still trying, aided by a few watering-cans-worth here and there. Hoping to support their struggles, I barrowed around lots of black lumpy material from the compost bin.  The stench was outstanding, though of course compost shouldn’t stink.  Mystery explained when a big glop of green gel oozed from the spade, gaggingly odorous.  One of us must have thrown some over-date eggs into the compost bin, and somehow they never broke, even while two years worth of organic waste was mashed down on top of them.

Century egg, anyone?

Not very joined up

Standard

One of those random days where none of the bits matched any of the other bits.

We started with reindeer of course, striding away across the snow.  Not feeling like doing any striding myself, I ripped back some knitting.  Do you know how difficult it is to unravel wool which is both hairy and decorated with sequins?  Not so much ripping as delicately untangling each row and removing the snags one by one to avoid spoiling the yarn.

The reindeer were having a little rest.  Some of them were asleep.  The ones that were asleep chewed slowly.  The ones that were awake chewed less slowly.

I cut the grass.  I promised myself I wouldn’t complain about cutting the grass.  Look: this is me not complaining about cutting the grass.  I decided the time for curlicues was past, and mowed straight over the violets.  Most of them were finished anyway, and now they all are.

Checking in on the reindeer:  they were stepping steadily in the chilly sunshine.  A few paused to suck and gnaw at exiguous strands of lichen glued flat to black rocks.  I meditated on stripes.  Tricky things, stripes.

Episodes of social engagement followed. The sea was blue and sparkly, the hills pale green over the pale chalk, but I couldn’t enjoy – bank holiday weekend, so all the ordeal of homicidal motorbike riders and suicidal cyclists and lost tourists looking at the view instead of the road.  Bad combination.

Home again, I made sure the herd was all right.  Their humans were amusing themselves by drawing giant patterns in reindeer, right across the valley floor – by laying a trail of what looks like pony nuts, which the reindeer rush into lines to feed upon.

Watering plants next.  It’s supposed to rain tomorrow, at last, and the timing is rubbish as usual, with hundreds of people in tents, poor loves, and an early garden show kicking off.

Back with the reindeer.  I’ve turned the sound off.  It’s getting a bit late in Norway and the screen caption says it’s -12°C.  The current shot:  A reluctant northern night is gathering.  A small snowmobile van thing is shown slowly approaching the camera position over a wide field of snow.  It passes the camera position.  The camera pans to keep it in view.  The van thing progresses across the snow.  The camera centres on its little flat square doors.  It goes further away over the snow.  It goes further away some more.  It goes away a bit more.  The now tiny back view of the van thing disappears gradually over the brow of a snowy hill.  The camera continues to look at snow on the now empty hill.

I think the reindeer and I are stuck with each other for the duration.

Anyone like ships?

Standard

If so, here’s a little tour.

I don’t often visit this stretch of water.  Today it contained a particular treat.   (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

Hit pause

Standard

I don’t know why it should be so disconcerting.  There you are, vaguely watching a TV programme from 1991, and you suddenly see a prop which is exactly the same pen you bought for yourself nearly 30 years ago. The programme is ancient history.  And you are still using the pen.

Rather circuitous

Standard

The grass has been a spring meadow, studded with primroses, daisies, violets, narcissi, the odd grape hyacinth and bluebell, and even a few naturalising cyclamen.  When nearly knee-high, it has to be cut at last – a beastly job, choking the inadequate mower.  It also takes an inordinate time to guide the mower in dumpy arabesques around the primmies

circumambulate ungraceful wedges of turf round the spring bulbs

and leave strange linear features which will turn into strange linear colonies of bluebells next year.  Because of course I want to preserve and develop this jewelled turf and enjoy it again each spring.  Meantime – we do look a bit odd.

Elsewhere, the now-venerable crab apple is about to burst into the full performance.  Who knows how many thousands of blossoms?  I counted forty on a six-inch twig.

This tree holds its crabs well, and has been feeding the birds all winter; now the last shrivelled fruits are being pushed off by the new leaves and flowers.

A very different creature, the pittosporum is turning its inside-out black flowers …

… strange, very strange …  (even stranger if you click for full size image) …

… until, as daylight fades, they set loose their perfume.

Eleven rules for newt-watching

Standard

1    Wait for a fine day.  The sun’s rays penetrate the goopy water.

2    Don’t eat a meal consisting largely of smoked mackerel before newt-watching.

3   Have patience.  Get your eye in. Look at the small swirls of the water.  Spot a striped nose.  As a newt dives, its paws turn, showing pale palms like tiny gloves.

4   Close focus binoculars can be good, but while gawping at a nose in one part of the pond you may be missing half a dozen amphibians frolicking elsewhere.

5   Remove some of the blanket weed from the pond, along with some dead leaves.  No doubt newts and their prey need cover and plenty of plant food, but I doubt that a solid mat of blanket weed is ideal.  The newts will, of course, immediately hide from the uproar.

6   Continue to have patience.  It was a surprisingly short time before newts began to emerge in twos, threes, even fours.  They looked as if they were complaining about having their furniture arbitrarily rearranged.

7   Bring your good camera out with you.  Otherwise you will be stuck with your feeble phone camera …

8   but don’t bother to take many photos. What with reflections on the surface and random sludge in the water, they won’t look like much anyway.  You need to keep watching.  More patience …

9   Observe:  time will begin to reveal individuals  One with a prominent pale dorsal stripe; another spotted like a leopard; a juvenile looking as if carved from the best unblemished chocolate; one as green and sleek as an olive; yet another veined and striped around the head; another green one, striped and speckled with bronze; one black as night, with its fiery streak of belly limned with blue.

10  Continue to observe:  if you are lucky, as I was, you will see one doing the waggle dance.  A number of other newts came to observe, compete, join in.  The movements became stronger, and the group sank into the deep shadows, where they may or may not have consummated the mating.

11   Give up before your knees become agonisingly welded to the paving stones.

Feel free to guess which of these rules I adhered to.

Don’t panic

Standard

(!YES!  !PANIC!)

It all started so promisingly.

The baby 5″ is quick to set up and I took a couple of snaps for the fun of it, before the sky was properly dark.

I even managed to catch a little of the earthshine, though it needed a time long enough to over-expose the lit crescent of the moon.

The 5″ was, however, not giving a good image of Jupiter, and I lugged out the 10″.  Given that we’re talking astronomy here, no surprise that the clouds came up in a moment, and wiped the sky like a sponge across a blackboard.  At this point everything began to go wrong, a maddening saga involving collimators, flat batteries, lost screws, and the impending disintegration of the whole primary mirror assembly on the 10″.  And it wasn’t even April Fools yet.  I secured the primary before sulking off to bed, but it’s going to be a vile job to realign everything.

This afternoon was bright but it was the mist in the downs which was making me happy.

Driving home, I could see four complicated sky layers, all apparently doing different things.  By the time I could photograph, only two of the layers were obvious: the low grey layer which was the one sitting on the hills, moving quickly to the right, though there was almost no breeze at ground level; and the high white cumulus, drifting almost imperceptibly to the left.

Made me think of Jupiter all over again.