Weight and Stuff Report – 24 June 2016

Weight: 218.7 pounds (15 stone 8.7 pounds, 99.2 kg)
Steps taken: 6,263
Updated to include post-holiday shockingly lower weight

I had a moderately early start today – had a routine medical appointment[1] then a quick visit to Tesco’s this morning.

I then went to the MetroCentre, where I once again couldn’t decided to buy something, which probably means I’m not going to.

Here are a couple more items from the Helicopter Museum, starting with a Dragonfly:

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/40s
Focal length 17mm
ISO 12800
Taken 10:26, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.3732′ 0″ N 2° 55.7995′ 0″ W

And this would appear to be a Wombat:

Wombat Autogyro

Wombat Autogyro

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/25s
Focal length 16mm
ISO 12800
Taken 10:35, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.3732′ 0″ N 2° 55.7995′ 0″ W

[1] Apparently I’m still alive and various things revealed by blood tests are all working normally

Stuff Report – 23 June 2016

Steps taken: 2,785

And here I am home again after a slightly annoying journey back from Wales.

I plan these things carefully to minimise the chances of things going wrong, but sometimes that’s just not enough. I got the train from Pencoed just fine, but it was delayed by a broken down train in front.

By the time they’d managed to move that out of the way, we were running about twenty minutes late. Now that wouldn’t be too much of a problem, as if things were on time, I’d have forty minutes to wait for the next train anyway. But as the train was running late, it terminated a stop early at Gloucester rather than moving on to Cheltenham. Mutter.

So, I had to wait for the next train to Cheltenham. The good news was that my connecting train was also delayed, so I wouldn’t miss it. The bad news was that the delay to the first train meant I wouldn’t have time to buy a sarnie at Cheltenham. Never mind, I thought, I’ll get something on the train.

Ah. Would you believe there was no refreshment trolley on the train? Yeah. So I was a wee bit hungry by the time I got here…

Here are some more photos from Monmouth. This is a statue of Charles Stewart Rolls (as in Rolls-Royce), whose ancestral home was in Monmouth:

Rolls

Rolls

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/4.5
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 45.5mm
ISO 640
Taken 14:02, 15 June, 2016
Location 51° 48.7132′ 0″ N 2° 42.9428′ 0″ W

And this in Henry V:

Henry V

Henry V

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/4.5
Shutter speed 1/950s
Focal length 35.3mm
ISO 200
Taken 14:03, 15 June, 2016
Location 51° 48.7252′ 0″ N 2° 42.9348′ 0″ W

And this is one of the current population:

Quack

Quack

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/2.8
Shutter speed 1/680s
Focal length 55mm
ISO 200
Taken 14:35, 15 June, 2016
Location 51° 48.5414′ 0″ N 2° 43.1835′ 0″ W

 

Holiday Report – 22 June 2016

Steps taken: 10,538
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click through, or you’ll miss lots of photos. There are seven nicely varied Cardiff photos in this post.

While Geoff had a mostly relaxed day in, I took myself to Cardiff on the train. I had a wander around the city’s wonderful Victorian arcades, which are all looking very good these days, mostly occupied by independent retailers and more little cafes than seems possible. Here’s a typical arcade:

Royal Arcade

Royal Arcade

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/9
Shutter speed 1/60s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 500
Taken 11:28, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.7907′ 0″ N 3° 10.6049′ 0″ W

I spotted something odd above a doorway:

Birdhouse for your soul?

Birdhouse for your soul?

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/100s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:26, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.8715′ 0″ N 3° 10.8319′ 0″ W

After pausing for an espresso and a toasted teacake in the Plan Café in the Morgan Arcade, which I always like to visit when I’m in Cardiff, I headed for Cardiff Castle:

Clock Tower

Clock Tower

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/350s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:57, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.8921′ 0″ N 3° 10.9003′ 0″ W

I took the optional tour around the quite wonderful rooms – this was well worth the extra £3, as the guide really knew his stuff, and how to talk to a group. It helped that the group was quite small. More photos of the interiors will follow, but here’s a sample. This is known as the Arab Room:

Arab Room

Arab Room

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/4
Shutter speed 1/55s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 3200
Taken 13:28, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.916′ 0″ N 3° 10.8877′ 0″ W

And this charming chap is lurking in the ceiling outside the door to the Winter Smoking Room, apparently to scare away the ladies so they wouldn’t interrupt the gentlemen’s cigars. Or something:

Guardian

Guardian

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/4
Shutter speed 1/60s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 2500
Taken 13:16, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.9035′ 0″ N 3° 10.8847′ 0″ W

After the tour, I walked through the undercroft which has been opened up to show how it looked when the tunnels were used as air raid shelters in World War II. This brought me out at the North Gate, which gave me a good angle on the Norman keep:

The Keep

The Keep

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/550s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 14:47, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.9688′ 0″ N 3° 10.8708′ 0″ W

(That’s been given a bit of a tweak with Tonality Pro, in case you’re wondering)

One other item from the Castle that I don’t recall seeing on my previous visits is this sculpture called The Abandoned Solider, whose dedication plaque reads:

To honour those who have valiantly fought for our country but are not being treated as the heroes they are.

It was a bit dull and grey with light rain falling, so I had to use flash to capture it properly, which led me to this stark black and white treatment which I think works well.

The Abandoned Soldier

The Abandoned Soldier

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/400s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:37, 22 June, 2016
Location 51° 28.9122′ 0″ N 3° 10.7793′ 0″ W

After the tour, my creaky old legs were in need of a rest, so I had a sit down in the café, which may have involved a Welsh cake. I then had a slow walk back to the station and got the next train back to Pencoed. And here I am, aching a bit after my longest walk in, err, oh. That’s after my longest walk of the year so far. Yay, etc.

 

Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Endurance

This is a companion to the recently reviewed Xeelee: Vacuum Diagrams, and includes a number of more recent stories set in the same future history. Some of the same characters and situations return, but often seen from different angles and perspectives.

I was most intrigued by a sequence of stories set on “Old Earth”, a massively modified environment which has a time gradient – the higher up you go, the faster time passes. This leads to some interesting interactions between people living at different levels, such as the society where an elite live at one level, with their servants living at a higher level. There’s fun and games with Machines that have either forgotten their original purposes or have just gone a bit wild.

It’s another very readable collection, best enjoyed while Vacuum Diagrams is fresh in your mind[1]. More Xeeleeness may follow…

[1] So not very long after in my case. Not that I forget things…

Holiday Report – 21 June 2016

If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click through, or you’ll miss a load of train photos. Really – there are eight photos in this post!

Today’s trip was a visit to the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway. We caught a steam-hauled train from Cheltenham Racecourse station to Toddington, where we saw the engine change ends:

Today's transport (1)

Today’s transport (1)

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 55mm
ISO 2500
Taken 11:45, 21 June, 2016

And could see the fire burning nicely:

Fired up

Fired up

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 18.7mm
ISO 2500
Taken 11:45, 21 June, 2016

We had a look at some of the railway’s other toys, including this shunter:

Diesel Power

Diesel Power

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 25.7mm
ISO 1000
Taken 11:52, 21 June, 2016

and an engine that probably won’t be going anywhere for a while

Not in service

Not in service

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 55mm
ISO 640
Taken 11:53, 21 June, 2016

and we even spotted Thomas hiding on a siding

Thomas in hiding

Thomas in hiding

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 33.2mm
ISO 500
Taken 11:51, 21 June, 2016

We had time to have a closer look at the engine

Today's transport (2)

Today’s transport (2)

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 42.7mm
ISO 1250
Taken 11:58, 21 June, 2016

…before getting some lunch. I had a very good sossy sarnie while Geoff had a bacon butty[1]. We both had some quite acceptable coffee with that. It was then time to get our next train, which took us to the current end of the line before coming back to Toddington and then on to Cheltenham

More of today's transport

More of today’s transport

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/9
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 16mm
ISO 640
Taken 12:39, 21 June, 2016

It was a lovely old DMU, and for the return leg of the journey we were once again sitting behind the driver, which allowed us to see things like this through the front window.

Getting mixed signals...

Getting mixed signals…

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/11
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 55mm
ISO 640
Taken 13:36, 21 June, 2016

And after that we took a scenic, Severn Bridge toll-avoiding route back.

[1] Alliteration at no extra change. That’s the kind of service we provide here.

 

Holiday Report – 20 June 2016

Steps taken: 2,242

After yesterday’s rest, it was back to some holiday activity today. We headed to West Wales and the Gwili Railway, which we previously visited four years ago. We were met there by our brother for a rare gathering of the Bessant Boys[1].

I took notice of an important notice:

Be warned!

Be warned!

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/105s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 10:42, 20 June, 2016

For the benefit of younger readers and furriners, forty shillings is two whole pounds.

We took a ride up and down the line, behind this quite tasteful diesel engine:

Today's transport

Today’s transport

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/4
Shutter speed 1/480s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 11:54, 20 June, 2016

And saw some steam engines like this one:

Not in service

Not in service

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/70s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 10:41, 20 June, 2016

And this one:

Great Western

Great Western

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/4
Shutter speed 1/240s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 11:53, 20 June, 2016

And also appreciated a rather nice DMU:

DMU

DMU

Camera X70
Aperture ƒ/4
Shutter speed 1/200s
Focal length 18.5mm
ISO 200
Taken 11:46, 20 June, 2016

We then went for lunch at the Roadhouse Restaurant before parting. My garlic mushrooms and chilli con carne we very nice indeed. After that, we headed off in different directions….

[1] Apparently the sanity vacuum generated by all three of us is a danger to shipping, or something, so we’re not allowed to do it too frequently

Stuff Report – 19 June 2016

Steps taken: Not a lot
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click the link, or you’ll miss some cool aircraft photos.

After all the travelling around of the last few days, we’re having a relaxed day in.

So here are some more photos from yesterday’s air show, starting with this nifty Beech 18:

Beech 18

Beech 18

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/13
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 400mm
ISO 800
Taken 13:06, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And moving on to a rather nice autogyro:

Calidus Autogyro

Calidus Autogyro

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/11
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 365.7mm
ISO 400
Taken 13:52, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And this lovely little Wasp, which if we’d hung around at the Helicopter Museum instead of going to the seafront, we might have seen up close:

Wasp

Wasp

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 400mm
ISO 500
Taken 12:52, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And while we left too early to see the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, we did get to see this Hurricane showing off quite nicely:

Hurricane

Hurricane

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/11
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 560mm
ISO 500
Taken 13:41, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And here’s another Red Arrows shot for you:

Reds

Reds

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/6.9
Shutter speed 1/1000s
Focal length 328.7mm
ISO 400
Taken 14:29, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

This was a great exercise for the 100-400mm lens and the 1.4x teleconverter – it’s amazing how much detail the X-T1 captured of some of these aircraft which to the naxed eye were just dark shapes against the sky.

 

 

Holiday Report – 18 June 2016

Steps taken: 2,523
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click the link, or you’ll miss some cool aircraft photos.

Today’s activity involved another expedition into Foreign Parts, specifically to Weston-Super-Mare[1]. First stop was the Helicopter Museum, where we saw lots of helicopters (oddly enough), including this special Lynx:

It's a record breaker

It’s a record breaker

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/40s
Focal length 27.4mm
ISO 12800
Taken 10:21, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.3732′ 0″ N 2° 55.7995′ 0″ W

And from there we headed to the sea front for the Weston Air Festival, where we saw some planes being a bit more active, including this lovely pair of Gnats:

Gnats

Gnats

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/600s
Focal length 400mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:01, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

This Russian Yak 50

Yak 50

Yak 50

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 359.6mm
ISO 320
Taken 12:20, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

A slightly loud Typhoon

You only get an Oooh with Typhoon

You only get an Oooh with Typhoon

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/10
Shutter speed 1/800s
Focal length 400mm
ISO 200
Taken 12:34, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And one of my favourites, the lovely Catalina

Catalina

Catalina

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/13
Shutter speed 1/500s
Focal length 400mm
ISO 640
Taken 12:55, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

And the ubiquitous Red Arrows, who had to do their “flat” display because of some annoying cloud cover. This isn’t a spectacular as their full display, but still shows off the skills of the pilots:

Crossover

Crossover

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/6.4
Shutter speed 1/1000s
Focal length 140mm
ISO 250
Taken 14:29, 18 June, 2016
Location 51° 20.7893′ 0″ N 2° 58.8498′ 0″ W

More photos will follow….

[1] Note for any confused furriners: this is a seaside town, not a horse with unusual powers

Stephen Baxter – Xeelee: Vacuum Diagrams

Quite a long time ago, Stephen Baxter, who I’ve mentioned once or twice before (most recently when I muttered about his collaboration with Alastair Reynolds, The Medusa Chronicles), wrote a pile of stories set in an internally consistent future history, spanning huge spans of time and dealing with assorted alien species, but mostly the mysterious and ancient Xeelee, a race so advanced in science and technology that Clarke’s Third Law[1] would need a lie down in a dark room after encountering their toys. Not that the Xeelee are the worst thing in Baxter’s future history, oh no. There’s the little matter of the beings made of dark matter, who aren’t at all keen on all those nasty shiny things known as “stars” and are quite determined to so something about them. But humans and other races know little of that, and instead make futile attempts to disturb the great project that the Xeelee are working on…

The stories collected here cover much of that future history, with some linking narrative added to fill in the gaps, footnotes referring to the novels, and the whole thing rearranged into a proper time (nearly said timelike, but that’s another story altogether) sequence.

Things start off conventionally enough with the expansion of humanity into the solar system, with some convenient wormhole technology making it a wee bit easier to get around. There are invasions and occupations, and much much more.

There is a bit of a tendency towards extended infodumps (more physics than some people might be comfortable with in some stories), but for anyone who grew up on old-school 1930s-50s sf, that shouldn’t be a problem. Most of the stories are quite short, so if you don’t like one, there’ll be another along in a minute. I’d read most of them previously – many in Interzone, others in various anthologies, and it was a delight to be able to read them all in the proper sequence. It’s currently available at a very reasonable price in Kindle form, and on that basis it’s very highly recommended.

And if you’re interested in Baxter’s Xeelee future, there’s more to come…

[1] Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. But you knew that, right?

Holiday Report – 17 June 2016

Steps taken: 3,592
If you’re reading this on Facebook, make sure to click the link, or you might miss some photos.

After a good breakfast at our hotel, we headed off for today’s primary destination: the Fleet Air Arm Museum, where we saw some impressive exhibits, like this dual personality Sea King:

Choppy McTwoface?

Choppy McTwoface?

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/105s
Focal length 16mm
ISO 6400
Taken 10:57, 17 June, 2016

One side is in Royal Navy colours, the other in Royal Air Force yellow.

And there was this rather nice Seafire (that’s the naval version of the Spitfire, as the name suggests):

Seafire

Seafire

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/8
Shutter speed 1/18s
Focal length 27.4mm
ISO 6400
Taken 11:09, 17 June, 2016

But for me, the highlight was this not particularly sea-going aircraft:

I know that registration

I know that registration

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/5.6
Shutter speed 1/80s
Focal length 45.5mm
ISO 6400
Taken 12:08, 17 June, 2016

That registration is a bit of clue to its identity if the shape doesn’t give it away. Perhaps an interior view might help?

Geoff inside G-BSST

Geoff inside G-BSST

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/55s
Focal length 33.2mm
ISO 6400
Taken 12:09, 17 June, 2016

Or maybe this:

Concorde 002

Concorde 002

Camera X-T1
Aperture ƒ/7.1
Shutter speed 1/80s
Focal length 40.1mm
ISO 6400
Taken 12:14, 17 June, 2016

Yes, it’s Concorde 002, the British-made prototype. Its interior is stuffed with test equipment rather than the seating found in production models. I recall seeing flypasts from this plane at airshows a few[1] years[2] ago, when I was young and Concordes hadn’t entered into service yet.

After that, we stopped for a bit of lunch and decided to return to Pencoed rather than going on to somewhere else.

And here we are.

[1] Possible understatement
[2] OK, OK, decades