Friday, August 20, 2010

Back home - debrief.

Back home and a few pounds heavier and a few £s lighter.
Here's a list of all who made it a good time.
  1.  The check-in staff at Qantas who moved us and others to Singapore Airlines after a volcanic cancellation.
  2. The coffee shop below the Peninsula Hotel in Singapore which was good for breakfast and a cool-off. They waived the bill on our last day! Very friendly people.
  3. Laraine and Mike in Perth. All the best - Laraine don't stop laughing!
  4. Keith at BTOW (Binocular Telescope & Optical World) in Perth who refused to sell new binos in favour of forcing the left ocular of my old ones back into the socket.
  5. Herbert Hoover (deceased) whose old home put the willies up us at bedtime.
  6. Fraser Ranges sheep station, nr Norseman. I will spend longer there next time. Moonless nights are fabulous.
  7. Laurie and Cheryl and family in Ceduna: laid-back people in a laid-back town in a laid-back landscape.
  8. The ex-Greek guy who runs the cafe on the front at Whyalla. This is a steel-making town but it resembles Scunthorpe in no way whatsoever! 
  9. Peter and Vicki in Port Augusta and the waiter in The Standpipe restaurant who looks like Roger Federer.
  10. David and Barb in South Island who are enjoying their lovely location on few resources. Good luck to you both.
  11. All at Explorers' Tours who pulled off the near impossible task of re-arranging when a hotel closed down near to the last minute. Very well done all.
  12. Bob Gray of the Sproud Ranch for the 4x4 drive in the Texas countryside and getting my bag back to me after the rain washed over the road too deep for our Hyundai.
  13. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection doing their job.
  14. All the staff in all the businesses of N America who ask, "How are you guys today". Honestly 'you folks', it sounds tedious and repetitive and gives one the urge to walk right out of the place.
  15. David and Doreen who have truly unlimited dedication to their family. And deserve the best cottage in Muskoka.
  16. Finally Will and Angela who kept the house intact while we were away!
All the best to you all.

Gerry and Sue

The negative list....
  1.  The large blond cabin attendant on Jetstar no-frills airline who did a good impression of the Julie Hagerty part in Airplane! the movie. Her style of ripping off a credit card slip would waken the dead.
  2. New Zealand Railways who seriously overcharge foreigners for no good reason.
  3. The restaurant manager at the Plaza Resort Tahiti who complained about too many customers being a problem!
  4. The 'very important' guy in the lounge at Toronto airport who plugged his mobile phone into the wall behind my left knee without saying a word, then called me an asshole for telling him to take it away when it rang. I suppose office furniture doesn't usually speak.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I got a Perseid!!

13 Aug 2010 about 2359 local time.
From Muskoka Lakes area of Ontario. 30sec at f5.6/Canon400D on 1600ISO (unadjusted or photoshopped).
Our view was restricted by trees but extrapolating for the wole sky we easily acheived 150/hour.
At least half left trails for a fraction of a second after. Nearly all the trails had a greenish tint. The one in the image gives a good impression and one can see the colour change fron green to orange during the descent. This one had a considerable radial velocity towards the camera, being close to the radiant.
The trail ends just below Algol. M34 is visible above and the Pleiades at edge bottom right.

Last night (15th) we were treated to thunderstorms in the area.....
The orange light on the lake is public lighting for the boat dock.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Canadian History

I have just been delving into Wikipedia's history of Canada (and Louis Riel for the sake of balance) in view of finding this banner hanging in a cafe....

If you zoom in and look carefully you can read the mottos* above and below the famous image of King Billy.
Suffice to say the passion has died since 1945. I'll say no more, but feel free to Google the subject.

*If you do not like this plural, replace with 'motti'.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Torrance Barrens

Three new blogs today after a break. This one needs no text, you will need to zoom in.....

Humming birds of Ontario

I have better pictures of these birds but this is the best one taken in flight. Taken through glass the feeder is hanging outside our friends weekend cottage. A more difficult shot would of them be feeding the young, which I saw them do in flight. Why an animal succeeds in such a difficult evolutionary niche is beyond my explanation...

They migtrate for the winter. Everyting here will be frozen solid for weeks.

It's official - laser pointers are A-OK

I pack all my astronomy gear in a separate hard case. Cameras, tripod and clock drive and binoculars together with a mains block for UK plugs clearly marked 'astronomer' (after working in the lodge in Africa). This time it was all protected by - I will not spare you the details - dirty washing packed into the free spaces. On opening in Toronto I found this note lying on top of the stuff. Beside it was my 5mw green laser pointer which had been carefully extracted from where it was situated and left out on top.

1. It was the pointer that had triggered them to look in the bag and perhaps mixed with astronomy gear it did not give rise to concern, hence the title of this blog. Nothing else was disturbed.

2. The case was locked with a combination. When I found it the numbers were 000, I use a different set.

3. The case was not damaged and 000 still keeps the case locked. My combo still works. 

It's a funny old world!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Says it all really

Here's some things that strike this foreigner as odd about drinking and eating in the US; and they are not what you might expect. All the staff show great enthusiasm and loyalty but the result reminds me of a 1950's BR caff.

1. Inebriated customer handles ice-cream cones in waiters' storage jar, takes one, and attempts to get a squirt out of the ice-cream machine long after it was switched off.

2. Barman starts washing the floor with mop while customers are still drinking. There was the mandatory slippery floor sign to go with it.

3. In a 'posh-ish' restaurant a waiter gets on hands and knees with dustpan and brush to remove crumbs and debris from under a table. This was made hilarious by the sight of his bum and the bow of his apron being the only bit to be seen.

4. Portions are usually too big, but never mind, doggy-boxes are readily available. In fact they look at you a bit funny if you do not want to take the uneaten bits home. This is not in a fast-food joint; this is a decent looking restaurant.

5. If you ask for wine they assume you only want a glass.

6. In the world's most famous beef raising area the local recipes decree that it is sliced and bashed and battered to oblivion before serving. Real steaks cost the same as London.

7. When you order more than one course you have to make it clear that you do not want it all at once!

[I apologize to all the places where we have eaten that do not do all the above]

Here are four views of a beer glass (DWI means driving while intoxicated)....

Bon appetit!