Bag of Spoons
Just off the A1(M)

Tue, 20 Jun 2006

Planet Spotting

We are still learning to use our new telescope. The problems are with getting the sighting scope lined up, using the fine-adjusters properly and keeping the telescope steady. I may need to consult someone with more experience of these things.

We were told that Jupiter was in a good position for viewing at the moment. Sure enough, a bright object was visible to the south before any stars appeared. I set up the telescope upstairs with a chair to sit on. Eventually I got it lined up. We could clearly see at least two of the moons (possibly Europa and Callisto). There may even have been a third (Ganymede?), but it was difficult to be sure. Jupiter itself was a white blob with no hint of the stripes. That might have been different with our more powerful eyepiece, but that would make it harder to get the planet in view. Tilly and Bob both had a look too. This was the first time any of us had seen the moons of another planet for ourselves.

My admiration for Galileo has increased as he was able to use a much less powerful telescope to make detailed observations of Jupiter's moons. He probably had less light pollution spoiling the view.

Update: I was able to track the position of Jupiter and it's moons using KStars, part of the Linux KDE project. I also have AstroInfo on my Palm that shows less detail, but is useful when I am travelling. Both are free (speech and beer).

[13:08] | [] | Comments | G

Fri, 02 Jun 2006

Climate Chaos

I watched the second part of Are We Changing Planet Earth? last night. David Attenborough put on his serious face and acted naive as various scientists told him how doomed we are.

It's scary stuff and something has to be done. There was a quote from the NZ Greens about politicians planning ahead as if we lived on an infinite flat earth with limitless resources. The fact is that we live on a small planet and when we mess it up we have nowhere to go. Global warming will lead to more extreme weather, displacing or killing millions of people. As millions in the second and third worlds demand their modern luxuries the change will accelerate.

Everyone can do something to help, and if we all do something it will make a difference. Many of the things people could do either cost nothing or will save them money, it just requires a little thought. Ultimately we may have to do without some things. I won't list all the standard tips here again. They can be found in plenty of places.

One of my favourite quotes is, 'we don't inherit the world from our parents, we borrow it from our children'.

[08:02] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 08 May 2006

Half a Life

As I reach a certain significant age I get to thinking about how short-lived most of our possesions are. I do have a few items that have been with me for around half my life time.

There's probably a few other items that have hung around that long, but may just be stored away somewhere. It seems that most electrical items are doing well to last half as long as the above if that. As for computers, three years and some will consider them redundant. Mine are slightly older than that.

Updated 8/5/06 to add watch

[09:16] | [] | Comments | G

Wed, 03 May 2006


I know lots of other people have mentioned this, including the BBC, but I still think there is a certain coolness about the fact that in just over three hours it will be 01:02:03 on 04/05/06. I know it's just numbers, but I like patterns. I'm not geeky enough to plan on staying up to witness this moment.

And of course tomorrow is also Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

Update on the telescope is that we all had a look at the moon this evening. It's only a cresent at the moment, and it wasn't even fully dark, but we still had a great close-up view of the craters. We even used the extra eyepiece to get a closer view, but focusing got a bit tricky. I'm sure I haven't even got the telescope properly mounted on the tripod as the fine adjusters are tricky to use. Still, we are making progress.

[21:55] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 01 May 2006

Eye to the Telescope

Not the KT Tunstall album, a fine work. We recently acquired a Newtonian reflector type telescope. This should allow us a close-up view of the moon, stars and planets. We just need to learn how to use it properly. It came without instructions, so I am scouring the web for useful information.

How much we can observe from home may be limited by all the artificial light around us. It's a struggle to even see the Milky Way. I'm waiting for the moon to be properly visible so we can check out the craters.

[14:21] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 23 Mar 2006

I don't believe it

According to this article atheists are America's least trusted minority. They reckon 3% of the population are non-believers, but how many people who say they are Christians are just trying to conform?

Thank God Dawkins the UK is not quite so disillusioned. Here it causes a kerfufffle when our openly Christian PM says he will be judged by the deity.

[09:03] | [] | Comments | G

Mon, 20 Mar 2006

I Can Fly!

On Saturday we went to Milton Keynes for a spot of indoor skydiving at Airkix. I didn't know this is what I would be doing in advance as it was a late birthday surprise. The experience consists of a short training session where you are told the safety rules and shown how to adopt the appropriate position in the air stream. Then it's on with the suit, goggles and helmet and off to the tunnel. This is an impressive sructure. You stand on a mesh above a deep hole with some complicated vents. Above you is a 10m stack with some powerful motors on top to suck the air through.

You only get a couple of minutes flying time but it feels like longer. You are supported by a 100mph wind and a little help from the instructor. Everyone managed to fly around the chamber, but without much real control. It's a very strange feeling. The instructor showed off by ramping it up to 140mph and pulling some impressive moves.

It was a unique experience and I may be tempted to try it again, even though it's an expensive one. I've never been that keen on the idea of jumping out of a plane, but so this is a good alternative.

There was a little more 'air time' on Sunday when I took the kids kite flying. The single string flew well until we broke it. A few crashes caused one pole to break through the fabric again. We also have a twin string parafoil that we had never flown before. We gave it a go, but have not worked out how to get it flying yet.

I rounded off the weekend with some African rhythms at Secret Bass. I've not been for a while, so it was good to get into it again.

[08:49] | [] | Comments | G

Tue, 07 Mar 2006

Still Here

Been a bit busy to report anything in the last week or so. I've been to Dublin for the second time this year for work. I spent part of one evening in a pub watching the Ireland friendly within sight of the ground. Not that I'm a football fan. I expect to be back there in the near future. Last weekend we were in North Wales for a family party. They had a fair bit of snow there so we managed to fit in some sledging.

All that was whilst suffering from a nasty cold that has given me a blocked nose and dry lips. I wasn't going to let that stop me getting on with things. The whole family seems to have had it to some degree.

Upcoming is the Herts LUG meeting on Wednesday. A few evenings back I did manage a quick game of netPanzer with some of the guys on IRC. Blowing things up (virtually) is fun, but I didn't quite get the hang of the strategy aspect. I don't play many games and this was one of the first times I've played a multi-player game over the internet.

[09:07] | [] | Comments | G

Sat, 11 Feb 2006


I just read this article that backs up a lot of what I've been thinking lately. It should be required reading for all those irrational people who insist on believing in bronze age, or older, fairy tales. Thank Dawkins for those who are more enlightened.

The word 'atheist' should be redundant. We don't have special words for people who don't believe in astrology or ghosts, except maybe 'sensible'.

Meanwhile I expect the muslims will be storming the US Supreme Court where Muhammad is also depicted. As the Koran seems to forbid any pictures of real things I hope all those protesting muslims have no family portraits at home and do not allow themselves to be filmed.

[19:45] | [] | Comments | G

Thu, 09 Feb 2006

Face of the Prophet

It seems that my earlier suspicions about this 'scandal' were not far off. The infamous cartoons have been around for five months, but only recently seem to have caused major problems. They even appeared in an Egyptian paper without causing riots.

Those wanting trouble have used them as an excuse. Let's get back to real issues that matter.

More details, including the cartoons, at Wikipedia.

Inevitable profiteering elsewhere. I heard that some flag sellers in muslim countries have been doing good business too.

[21:03] | [] | Comments | G

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