Monthly Archives: July 2006

Now there’s a change

Well, the long-promised change in the weather turned up just in time for me to go back to work. It was quite sunny this morning, though a bit cooler than of late. By lunchtime, it was very cloudy and much cooler. At some point this afternoon, there was some quite major rain, which made a pleasant change.

But in a stunning piece of good timing, when I walked home, a lot of the cloud had cleared, and it had dried up nicely.

And now, there’s a nice breeze blowing, and it’s much cooler than it’s been for what seems like ages.

But I hear that we can expect more sun and heat in August. We shall see.

And for those fascinated by my weight[1], it was unchanged today. But I’m trying to be good, and going back to having a sandwich only at lunchtime. Let’s see what that does for me…

The Fastest Stupid Car Ever

I don’t generally watch Top Gear[1], as I’m not all that interested in cars, other than as things to avoid when I’m walking. However, this video has made me think that I should reconsider my hard-line policy. This is silly. No, it’s very silly. We see a sequence of increasingly silly custom built vehicles. Now that would be quite silly enough. But no. They just have to go that little bit further. A race is held. You really have to watch this. You probably won’t believe what you’re seeing.

Thanks to Bob[2] for alerting me to this one.

[1] BBC TV motoring programme
[2] Hi Bob! :wave:

The Last Ever Top of the Pops

I mentioned a while ago that the BBC were pulling the plug on Top of the Pops after 42[1] years. Well, today’s the day, and I’m currently watching the hour-long final show. And they’ve done a nice job of it, really. Lots of former presenters are in the studio: Jimmy Saville, Tony Blackbum Blackburn[2], Dave Lee Travis (aka DLT), Janice Long and many more. They’re showing various collections of clips, good, bad and execrable, things I thought I’d never see or hear again, things I hoped I’d never see or hear again[3], and all that kind of thing.

A decent send-off for something that used to be a national institution.

Update: A nice touch at the end. After the closing credits, Jimmy Saville (who presented the first show, and who must be at least 300 years old) was shown walking backstage. Shaking his head sadly, he turned off the main power switch, and the studio went dark for the last time. Jimmy then wandered off, still shaking his head…

[1] Good choice of number :cool:
[2] Old DLT joke
[3] Though it can be interesting to revisit things years later. Sometimes music I didn’t like at the has grown on me. Though not in the case of the Spice Girls :uhoh: , who were every bit as dire as I remembered….

Well, that was a pretty good week off

At the start of my week off, I gave myself a list of things to do. As it’s back to work tomorrow :eek2: , I thought I’d check that list and see how many items I can cross off.

  • Go to the South Tyneside coast, especially Souter Lighthouse
  • Visit the Roman fort at South Shields
  • Go to the North Tyneside coast, especially St Mary’s Lighthouse[3]
  • Visit Tynemouth Priory
  • Go to York
  • Take some pictures of buildings in and around Newcastle[4]
  • Firtle with the resulting images in Photoshop and put the results on show
  • Relax a bit
  • Not keep up with work email :smile:

Hmmm, not bad at all. And I went to an airshow as well. I’ll aim to get St Mary’s Island in on a weekend before too long. And I’ve started the Photoshoppery, but that will take a while…

My weight has been bouncing up and down all week, in a manner that seems directly related to my activity level. So if I do some more of that activity thingy stuff, I should be able to get it back down again. Probably.

Sunderland International Airshow 2006

Today, I went to the Sunderland International Airshow. It’s the 18th year it’s been run, and what with one thing and another, it’s the first time I found a tuit at the right time. I remember my dad taking me to shows at RAF St Athan when I was a kid, and I haven’t been to a real live air display since. I’ve seen them on TV, but that just doesn’t capture the feeling of being there. It also doesn’t capture the feeling of being drenched, of course. Although I’m sure the weather was fine for some shows, I have an abiding memory[1] of rain being a major problem at these events. The forecast had been for showers today, but they’ve been saying that for ages. Apart from some rain last night, it’s been remarkably dry lately. And remarkably sunny. And remarkably warm.

The show is held on the sea front at Seaburn – an easy 30 minute ride on the Metro from Gateshead, followed by a ten minute walk from the station to the sea. I had to stand all the way, as a lot of people had the same idea. They do the same show on the two days, but in a different order. Yesterday, when I stayed at home, the conditions were not too good – lots of low cloud, which makes flying displays a bit tricky. Today, however, was as near as damn it perfect. There was some scattered cloud, but it was high enough and scattered enough not to be a problem.

I got to a suitable vantage point about 15 minutes before the flying started. Having closed the show yesterday, The Red Arrows were first on. It’s a lot of years since I’ve seen them do a show, and they’ve developed their routines since then. Very impressive precision formation routines, scary crossover bits, all very impressive.

Other fun stuff included some very nify parachute work from The Falcons. They jumped from their Hercules from about two miles up and over a mile away. They then did some fancy manoeuvres invloving drawing hearts in the air with their smoke trails before landing on a rather small section of beach that had been cleared for them.

There was a display by a Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight[2], which was quite wonderful. It’s amazing how they keep these planes flying after so much time – the Spitfire has been doing displays for 49 years, which is a tribute to the skills of the ground crew. And while they obviously can’t throw them around too much, the pilots did put on an impressive show. Good stuff.

And there was more. Much more. A Dutch helicopter did a demonstration of a rescue operation, the Navy’s Black Cats helicopters did a fine show, and there were some impressive aerobatics on show.

The RAF showed off the still amazing after all these years Harrier[3]; the new Eurofighter Typhoon, which is quite large, very loud, and can climb at an incredible rate; and the now quite old as these things go Tornado[4]. All great stuff.

But I’d like to give a special mention to The Blades. Flying four Extra EA-300LPs, this new team, led by a former leader of the Red Arrows, put on a superb show. It was quite something to see prop-driven planes doing the kind of tricks that the Arrows do – including those cross-over thingies. Very impressive – well worth seeing if you get the chance.

The show ended at around 4:30, and I came home.

Now, I can hear the legions of Losing it[1] readers shouting, “so where are the pictures, then?”. Well, there’s a story there. Last night, I very sensibly charged the Canon’s battery. Wouldn’t want to run out of power at a crucial moment, would we? And this morning, I removed the battery from the charger, and put it right next to the camera[6], intending to replace it in just a moment. And yes. When I was ready to go, I picked up the camera, managed not to notice the battery sitting right next to it, and put the camera in my bag. And off I went. I think it hit me when I was about two stops from Seaburn. I suddenly realised that I had forgotten the battery. By this time it was too late to go back, so there I was with a camera I couldn’t use. :oops:

But, while I’m a bit annoyed with myself for forgetting something so obvious[7], in a way it turned out to be not all that bad. Not having to think about taking pictures meant I could just relax and enjoy my first airshow in over twenty years. And unless something really gets in the way, I’ll be going back next year. I might even be able to work the camera properly by then. :grin:

But if you wish to mock, feel free. I’m sure I’ll survive.

[1] Quite possibly a false implanted one :lol:
[2] Unfortunately, the Lancaster that normally does the shows has been grounded with an engine problem
[3] Doing the full hovering, spiralling, standing still and otherwise being impossible stuff
[4] Does remembering when it was a prototype make me old?[5]
[5] But then, I remember Concorde when it was a prototype
[6] You can tell what’s coming, can’t you?
[7] I should have a spare battery soon, so there will always be one in the bag, which should avoid a repeat of today’s fun

Taking it easy

I decided to have another relaxed day today. Sat around, went to Tesco’s, sat around some more. I posted some stuff here, and I’ve been updating some old posts – I’m gradually moving all the images in the site into Gallery2, which involves editing some old posts so they get their thumbnails in a different way. I’ve still got lots more to tweak, but it will make the site a bit more consistent once it’s done, so I think it’s worth the effort.

It looks like the weather really is changing now – it rained earlier this evening, and it was cloudy for most of the day.

I’m still planning to go to the airshow tomorrow. I do hope it won’t be a case of usual airshow weather[1].

[1] I’ll explain that when I do a report on the show :laugh:

Eerie Indiana – The Complete Series

Now here’s a little gem I haven’t seen for a while. Eerie Indiana was a short-lived TV series that was first shown in 1991-2. I seem to recall that those nice Channel 4 people showed it in their “youth” slot at 6:30. I don’t recall seeing it since then, but it stuck somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind.

Thirteen-year-old Marshall Teller has moved with his family from New Jersey to the small town of Eerie, Indiana. At first it seems normal enough, but Marshall soon comes to realise that Eerie is the centre of weirdness for the entire planet. The only problem is that nobody, apart from his friend Simon, seems to realise it.

Item: Elvis lives on my paper route
Item: Bigfoot eats out of my trash

In the nineteen episodes, Marshall and Simon come up against the Mummy, the Eerie Wolf, an intelligent ATM, a tornado with a mind of its own and much, much more. In Eerie, a heart transplant can have unexpected consequences, putting your watch back an hour can get you into serious trouble, and you really don’t want to try playing any records backwards. In later episodes, things are stirred up a bit by the appearance of a mysterious (even by Eerie standards) boy (“with prematurely grey hair” ) who claims not to know his own name, but eventually calls himself Dash-X after the plus and minus signs on his hands.

In Reality Takes a Holiday, Marshall finds himself living a nightmare when his home is transformed into a TV studio, and he’s about to be terminally written out of a show called (yeah, you guessed it) Eerie Indiana. It seems his character is to be replaced by Dash-X. Even Simon can’t help Marshall this time, but he finds a way out just in time. This episode included one of those lines I’ve never forgotten:

You’re not my family – you’re Pod People!

which is the kind of thing that only people who’ve watched the right movies will understand.[1]

Lovely stuff, very silly, lots of fun. I watched the whole thing over two evenings.

Oh yes, and to any readers who might happen to be resident in Indiana[2], I always knew there was something weird about you. :tongue:

[1] And no, I’m not telling you, so there! :tongue:
[2] Hi Twisty!!! Hi Tom!!! :wave:

Getting in close

One of my excuses reasons for getting the Canon 30D was that I wanted to be able to take pictures of my coin collection. I vaguely mentioned a while ago that I was starting to collect coins again after a break of a few years, but I didn’t get round to going into any detail. The main reason for that was that if I just talked about coins, it would be a bit dull without pictures. I did try taking a few with the Sony camera, but it couldn’t really handle the close-up focusing required. When I was planning to get a DSLR, I thought I might need to invest in a specialist Macro lens for this kind of thing, but as both my lenses have at least some close focussing ability, I thought I’d give it a try. This was taken on my desk, using the halogen desk lamp as the only light source[1]. Had to tweak it a bit in Photoshop to get it looking more or less natural, but it’s not bad for a first attempt. I’ll probably have a go with a tripod next.

Welsh Pound

Welsh Pound

The coin is a silver Piedfort[2] proof version of the 2000 £1 coin. I got it for a moderately reasonable price, and as it has the Welsh Dragon :cymru: , it was an essential addition to the collection.

More coin experiments will follow, depending on my tuit supply. :laugh:

[1] The on-camera flash just reflects off the coin back into the lens. Not useful for small shiny objects.
[2] That’s a special, limited edition coin which is twice the thickness of normal circulating coins.

Exercise and weight report

Well, after a couple of low-activity days, it’s not surprising that my weight has crept back up a bit. And I have been drinking huuuuuuuuuuuge amounts of iced water these last few days, so I’ve probably put back the loss due to dehydration. On the other hand, I still weigh less than I did last week, so maybe all that walking is having some effect.

On the exercise front, I’m limiting that to walking for now – I won’t attempt anything more intense until the temperature drops a bit. I want to get fitter without actually killing myself…

Canon EOS 30D – first week

Well, I’ve had my new toy for a week now, and I’ve been spending a fair amount of time playing with it[1], and getting used to it. I know I’ve got a long way to go before I’ll get the best out of it, but I do feel sufficiently motivated to make the effort. While I was at Tynemouth today, I found that I was taking more time to compose my pictures – trying to get it right rather than just pointing the camera in the general direction of the subject and pressing the button. And with the lenses I currently have, I’ve got a lot of flexibility in what pictures I can take.

So, was it worth it? I think so. It’s going to challenge me to get the best pictures I can, and it’s certainly been motivating me to get out and go to places.

Talking of going places, at the weekend, I aim to go to the Sunderland International Airshow, which should be good. And a good opportunity for more camera fun. :bouncy:

[1] Including random tests, I’ve taken a little under 600 pictures so far. Which is a lot more than I’ve done with any previous camera.