Monday, 31 December 2018

Monday, 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve Moon

Really clear views of Venus in the South and a setting full Moon in the West as we went walkabout first thing this morning. Unfortunately by the time we had returned home Venus had gone all shy and was hidden behind thickening cloud. Fortunately the Moon did stay in view while I set up the 70D with the 100-400mm zoom lens and gave an opportunity for a few shots before it too disappeared behind the gathering clouds.

Moon 24Dec2018 IMG_5225

Moon 24Dec2018 IMG_5219

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Monday, 17 December 2018

Monday Montage

The final WidsMob Montage modified photo of 2018 was

Montage 55

which Adrian, Bettina, The Weaver of Grass, Wilma and Ragged Robin correctly identified as


the flower bud of a Christmas Cactus. Now in full bloom at just the right time.

Many thanks to everyone who has joined in and contributed guesses, usually correct, over the past year. I will have to have a hard think (not easy) in the new year what to do for some puzzle photos in the future.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Nestbox Visitor

Every few days I check the video recordings to see whether any activity in the camera nestbox has been recorded. All I usually see is a spider creeping about. That was until I checked yesterday and was delighted to see a very brief visit by what appears to be a Blue Tit. The visit was less than ten seconds so I grabbed a couple of blurry stills:

11Dec2018b      11Dec2018a

It just hopped down to the bottom and immediately hopped back up to the entrance hole.

Friday, 14 December 2018

Talking Pictures

Mainly of interest to UK residents.

Do you prefer to watch older films which didn't have to rely on gratuitous violence and foul language to be 'entertaining'? If so you may be interested in a free film channel I only found by accident.

Called TalkingPicturesTV it can be found on Sky, Freeview, Freesat, Youview and Virgin. They show a whole range of films from 1930's to 1980's. They include comedy, war, drama, mystery, SciFi and westerns plus some old public service information films, some from the British Film Institute and interviews with starts of yesteryear.

Obviously someone has to pay to keep a channel viable so, as is the way of things, it is supported by advertising breaks.

You can find details about the channel and the schedule on talkingpicturestv HERE.


I have no connection with them other than being delighted to have found the channel.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Meteor Scatter

We are entering the annual Geminid meteor shower.
Instead of pretending to be a brass monkey standing outside watching for them I decided to try using them to communicate using amateur radio.

This is done with a special computer program which repeatedly sends bursts of very short signals for fifteen seconds and then listens for any signals for fifteen seconds. The transmissions are sent out in all directions. With luck a small portion will be scattered from the ionised trails left behind each meteor as it burns up in the atmosphere and picked up by another amateur radio station. Hence the mode of communication is known as meteor scatter.

I had installed the latest version of the software I use and gave it a try out.
Many amateurs link the software to automatically report any signals it decoded to a web site so I could see that my signals were being picked up in France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden as well as the UK.

Last night I made my first ever two way contact using meteor scatter with a station in Wales.
The program looks like this.

Screenshot (2018-12-12 6.36.42 pm)

The top section shows a visual representation of any signals received.
On the left are the decoded signals.
On the right is what I send and what is sent to me.
M1BTR is my callsign. JO03 indicates approximately where I am in the country.
CQ means a general call for anyone to reply.
R, or sometimes RR, means message received.
73 is the code used for Best Wishes. Usually used as a Good Bye at the end of a contact.
Other numbers can refer to the strength of the received signal, time, and the frequency being used.

Many colours are used to make it easier to see what is what.
Red for messages transmitted to me.
Yellow for messages I transmit.
Green for any station I have made a successful two way contact with.
White for a message that is being sent between two other amateur radio operators.
Pink for a general call from a station I have not contacted yet.
A dark mauve would be used for a country I have not contacted at all.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Indoor Rainbows

Standing on the mantelpiece is a tall candle stick which has a cut glass (plastic?) section.
When the low Sun shines through the end window I end up with various rainbows displayed.



Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Animated Text - First Attempt

Had a bit of a blenderising session with Blender running in Ubuntu.

Watched and followed the detailed instructions in the superb YouTube tutorial by tutor4u
(Wood Chipping Text Animation) but chose a different texture.

Next stage will be to use a different font now I have found out how to choose the one I want.
That's the theory, anyway.
It also needs a bit more depth / thickness.
Finally I need to find out how to make the background transparent.
Green screen wouldn't work as the hedge is green.
Might try a blue background.

Not certain yet what the finished video will be like.
The first idea was to have the message appearing from a wind blown hedge.

Monday, 10 December 2018

Monday Montage

A reminder of last week's WidsMob Montage modified photo

Montage 54

which started out as


and was correctly identified by Adrian, Ragged Robin and Wilma as a cactus plant.

This will be the last puzzle picture for this year.

Montage 55

which was a photo of what?

If you would like to have a guess then please leave it in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Still Flowering

This Faucaria has been flowering for nearly a month.


As with many succulents the flowers only open when there is sufficient Sunlight on the plant.
Today they didn't open until mid afternoon, once the thick rain clouds had moved away.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Grub Up

On Monday I had to visit our nearest village Post office and general store.
I always have a good look at the chilled area where produce from local butchers can be found.
The packaging not only gives a use by date but also the date it was packed.
A reassurance of how fresh the produce is.
Along with my favourite chicken and steak pies I spotted a pack of lamb steaks which I couldn't resist.

Today was the day to do something with them.
Out with my old, heavyweight deep frying pan.
Fry briefly in Olive Oil to seal them.
Then cover with with a 'gravy' made with chicken Oxo and Bisto beef gravy granules.
Cover the frying pan with a perforated lid.
Simmer while potato chunks and mixed veg are cooking in the steamer.
Sliced carrot, green beans, peas, cauliflower, etc..

The enticing, mouth watering odour was making us both drool while we impatiently waited.

I am getting a share, aren't I?

Not to worry. Plenty for both of us.

My share

Penny's share

Needless to say her share disappeared in no time

I finished off with a Sainsbury's individual strawberry trifle

As Dell Boy would say - lovely jublby.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Sunrise, Moon and Venus

Yesterday morning dawned cold and frosty with a fairly clear sky.
Ideal to see Venus which was shining as bright as the Moon.
Both appearing close together in the morning sky.

Moon and Venus DSCN9245

Venus is the tiny white dot near the top, right of centre.
To the naked eye it looked really bright.

With the temperature at 0C and an icy lane it was time to use my shoes which have ice spikes fitted for the first time this back end.

Frosty Bin

2018-12-04-10.49.25 ZS PMax2

Wheelie bin lid covered in frost.
Canon 50D + macro lens. 11 stacked photos

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

The Blob (video)

The common experience of all microscopists confirms the assertion made by Dr. Goring, that the most fascinating objects are living creatures of sufficient dimensions to be easily understood with moderate magnification ; and in no way can objects of this description be so readily obtained, as by devoting an occasional hour to the examination of the little ponds which are accessible from almost any situation.
The above quotation is from Marvels of Pond-Life by Henry J Slack F.G.S., second edition published in 1871.

In the same drop of water as the rotifer shown a few days ago was this almost transparent blob which appears to be an amoeba. The video was tinted to show it up better. No sound track this time.

This is a single cell creature with a nucleus (the dark dot) contained in a membrane. It captures its food by changing the shape of its membrane, surrounding and assimilating it. An activity I haven't managed to see as yet.

I count myself lucky to have spotted it. I have examined various drops of water over the past few years without seeing one. Optical magnification was around 400x.

Monday, 3 December 2018

Monday Montage

Last week's WidsMob Montage photo was

Montage 46

which started out as


and identified by Adrian, The Weaver of Grass, Ragged Robin, Wilma and Mick.
An activity which seems to have various names.
This is a photo I took some years ago on a visit to Covenham Reservoir in Lincolnshire.

For this week a non moving subject

Montage 54

but what is it?

Please leave any guesses in the comments.
They will be revealed, along with the original photo, next Monday.

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Micro Video

Spent a while experimenting capturing microscope video clips on the iPhone6s.
The Apple photo app does a reasonable job but I found the free version of 'Moment - Pro Camera' gives plenty of manual control over still and video recording. The second section of the video was shot in 4K. Uploaded as 1080p

I put one small drop of water, from some old rain water which was full of green algae, on a concave blank slide. The largest living thing seen was the rotifer - still far too small to see with the naked eye. Magnification was around 250 times.

Colour fringing at the edge of the video can have two causes:
Phone not perfectly aligned.
The standard for objective lenses says that the centre 60% should be sharp but the outer 40% will show signs of softer focus and possible colour fringing.

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Sunbeams and Sunset

Sunbeams across the sky while the Sun is hidden by dark clouds


Short lived colourful Sunset to end the day

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