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And her big son 'Kosmo'.
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Thursday, September 29, 2016
Botanical info wantedt the end of May I photographed this pretty growth on the bark of a walnut tree in Germany and have been unable to identify it. Is it a lichen? A fungus? Can any blog-reader tell me the (latin) name?
Here is a close-up. The individual yellow pieces are just a few mm across.
My best guess is Xanthoria parietina, but that lichen usually grows on rocks.
Sunday, September 25, 2016
Tour through a submarine : Alliancehilst in Portsmouth last saturday I took the little ferry over to Gosport to the Royal Navy's submarine museum where I did the guided tour through HMS Alliance (active service 1947-1975).
HMS Alliance was a class A diesel-electric boat, designed during WW2, 281 feet long and with a displacement of 1620 tons, now the last of its kind. She could dive to 500 feet, did 8 knots (electrically) submerged and 18 on the surface under diesel power. She had a snorkel, and so could run under diesel power at periscope depth. In 1958 she was refitted as a cold-war hunter-killer; the WW2 gun was removed as were the external torpedo tubes etc, making her more streamlined, 2-3 knots faster and quieter. For museum display (after 1980), doors were cut in the hull fore & aft for tourist access.
We entered through the forward door and walked aft with everything explained well by former submariners. I'll spare you the photos of the mess rooms, of which there were three, a bare one between bunks for the stokers (lowest rank), a better one for the able seamen and a chintzy one for the officers. The command room contained two periscopes, one for a wide angle view (shown here) and a target periscope for firing torpedoes. The photo on the right shows the wireless room - I noticed the cold-war crypto gear had been removed ;-) Pipes and valves and gauges and wires everywhere!
Aft of this was the engine room. 2 huge inline diesel engines at the front and behind, electric motors (240 tons of lead batteries were under the floor).
Just to give you an impression of the size of each cylinder, this is a rocker arm between the pushrod and a valve. My hand shown for scale. Everything accessable for easy(?) repair while submerged and under way.
The boat used the old Mk.8 torpedo, last used successfully in the Falklands war. 21 inch diameter, 21 feet long if memory serves me correctly. Short range (3 minute run at 50 knots), non-homing, and contact detonation so you had to aim well. Old, but reliable, with an anti-hot-run tube-trigger.
The Alliance also had a pair of rear facing torpedo tubes for attacking any other boat chasing her. In true old submariners' style, the rear torpedo tubes were also used by the crew to keep cans of beer hidden (see my photo).
Afterwards, in the museum, I looked at the Holland I, the Royal Navy's first submarine. Built in 1901 it had a range of 20 petrol-electric miles at 7 knots, and could dive to 100 feet. Crew of nine (and a few mice to detect a build up of petrol fumes and carbon monoxide ;-). One of the first periscopes, external magnetic compass, and a load of 3 small torpedoes. Technology advances!
I enjoyed the tour through the Alliance, but there was one thing missing. The stench! If you have ever served on a diesel-electric submarine you will know what I mean; it's unforgettable! The smell of diesel fuel; of diesel exhaust re-inhaled by the snorkels; of human sweat, body odour and farts; of cooking (the galley is next to the doorless head (aka toilet); of excretions [sure, the crap gets pumped into a crap tank and the sub goes to periscope depth at night to blow the crap-tank, but to avoid a telltale air bubble, the air in the emptied crap-tank is recycled into the sub :-(].
Memories are made of this ;-)
Thursday, September 22, 2016
Nelson's Victoryhilst in Portsmouth last saturday we spent a day touring the Royal Navy's historic dockyard, one section of which is dedicated to Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, who won the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, but died there. A ship's figurehead shows how large he was in reputation, but a 1:1 statue shows how small he actually was.
As small as Nelson may have been, his flagship HMS Victory (actually captained by Thomas Hardy) is huge, much bigger than I had expected from childhood history lessons, c.f. the guy in the foreground of my photo. Currently, the top sections of the masts are off for restoration, but imagine how tall it was too!
Even the anchor cable was as thick as my upper thigh!
Inside, there are 104 cannon spread over three decks, the headroom is really low (4 feet) in places. The cannon were cast in one solid piece and then reamed out so that they were strong enough. Those slots you see in the deck's ceiling are for the hammocks to be hooked in. When not in battle the sailors slept between their guns, we were told.
The crew also ate between their guns, there were no separate galleys for the able seamen. It was rather claustrophobic with 800+ seamen on board! BTW, I've made these indoor photos brighter, because it was rather dark in there.
Finally, I took these photos of the ship's bell and battle drum.
Then, no photos, I learned to read some flag signals and to use the excerpt provided from the flag code book to read Nelson's famous message before Trafalgar England expects that every man will do his duty!. Nelson had done his. He died at Trafalgar as I mentioned above. An interesting detail : Nelson's body was preserved in a barrel of brandy for the trip home to a hero's funeral :-)
Tuesday, September 20, 2016
The cake that Hils made :-)hat a pleasant surprise! Thankyou, Hilary :-)
At the weekend the remainders of the class of 66 (Physics degrees @ City University, London, UK) got together in Portsmouth (UK) for a golden jubilee of graduating. Our hosts were Ron (holding the cake in the photo below) and his pretty young wife Hilary, who baked a jubilee fruit cake and decorated it very professionally (details below).
There are eight of us in the photo, another three could not attend for various reasons. Also, R.I.P those old classmates who have shuffled off this mortal coil before us; the meetings get smaller :-(
Hilary put in 3 hours of effort decorating this cake (+baking time). On the icing you can see below (left to right) a marzipan degree scroll enscribed "Class of '66", a black mortarboard, the digits "50" made out of sparklers, the golden jubilee number "50th", and the coat of arms of our university.
And it tasted great too :-) What a pleasant surprise. Thankyou again for your effort, Hils, and to you and Ron for your hospitality at the weekend :-)
Friday, September 16, 2016
Body Doubles ;-)fter Hillary Clinton fainted on nine-eleven, the alt-right has started a crazy conspiracy theory that a body-double emerged from Chelsea Clinton's place to obviate talk that Hillary was ill. As if anyone keeps a mom-clone in their pad all the time (apart from Howard Wolowitz) ;-)
The first thing that struck me was the use of the term "Body double" instead of the perfectly good word "Doppelgänger", presumably because the deplorables wouldn't understand the latter ;-) The use of the term "Clone" would be MUCH more disturbing although nowadays within the realms of possibility.
However, the use of the term "Body double" implies there is such a thing as a "Brain double", which in Donald's case would be hard to find amongst the deplorables.
The existing POTUS doesn't have a permanent body double, I am led to believe. If he needs one, he just calls MAD magazine and Alfred E.Neumann blacks up and takes over as the pseudo-POTUS, leading the nation as usual. What, me worry?
All of this reminds me of the 1993 body-double movie Dave, which I enjoyed immensely. Go watch it if you get the chance :-)
Apropos Chance, I can also recommend you go watch the movie Being there, a magnificent 1979 performance by Peter Sellers.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
The coward who ran awayifteen years ago on Nine-Eleven, the man appointed (by judges, not by a fair election) to lead the American people ran away (aka took flight)!
Instead of leading from the front like a true leader, he boarded Air-Force One and got the hell out of there (the Hell of Florida, where JEB reigned). At least until the others on board realised that, since they were the only big plane in the sky, they would have been an easy target if there had been a serious attack on the American government. Then they put down on an Air Force base and the coward hid underground.
Later he claimed to have seen (on TV) the first plane hit the north tower on 9/11, which was not televised until ½ day later. Prior knowledge?
The conspiracy theories run thick and fast (like Dubya, thick, and his lies, fast).
Is this the America that the self-Trump-eter (also a Republican like Dubya, and a Putin fan) wants to make great again? Gawd help us all!
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Bruisesuch! That hurt! I'd stumbled and banged my thigh hard against the corner of a table-top. And since then I've been watching the bruise and marvelling at the various colours and wondering how they arose. This is what I've discovered about bruises.
The first thing I noticed is that the bruise does not appear immediately and when it does, it is not necessarily at the spot where you hurt yourself. That's because the damage (small capillary blood vessels breaking well under the skin) may be separated from the surface by planes of tissue. You can see these planes in meat you buy from a butcher's shop. So the blood flows along these planes before reaching the surface. So the bruise appears elsewhere.
The bruise starts off a purple-red colour due to the haemoglobin in the blood. White blood cells try to repair the damage of the haemoglobin, breaking it down into bilirubin (yellow coloured) and biliverdin (green). Thus the green and yellow replace the purple as the repair progresses. Later these breakdown products get removed too and so the colours fade. This may take several weeks.
The "structure" you see in my bruise is small subsurface capillary blood vessels, not leg hair (well, two of those also ;-)
Where would we be without scientific curiosity? :-)
Tuesday, September 6, 2016
Seeing Llareggub*o the next morning we rode to Llanberis again to check whether the little train up Snowdon was running. Not! Again due to the summit being in the clouds. But, being a steam train freak, I wanted to ride at least one narrow gauge railroad while in Wales. So we could have gone to Bala, but I'd ridden their train a decade ago, so we went to Porthmadoc instead, just in time to see the train's arrival from Blaenau Ffestiniog.
So I took a train ride from Porthmadoc to Blaenau Ffestiniog and back. Frank, a biker not a steam train freak, rode his bike there. The locomotive was named after David Lloyd George, first welsh prime minister of Britain.
And off we went in a cloud of steam : childhood memories reawakened :-)
After this delightful but short tour, we decided to head for Caernarfon Castle where Charles was crowned as Prince of Wales. There was a man dressed as soldiers of the Royal Fusiliers were during the first world war. I remarked that he looked much like Baldrick from the Blackadder TV series, so he took me prisoner at gunpoint! Never mess with a Royal Fusilier! ;-)
Then it was across the Menai Strait to Angelsey to the village with the longest name : Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Luckily the station platform bears a sign with a pronounciation guide for the non-Welsh among us, breaking it into 15 syllables :-)
The pub across the road from the station even provides an English translation on a sign above the entrance :-)
Otherwise, due to the poor weather, we saw LLareggub* and so rode across England in the sodding rain to Hull and headed for home via Rotterdam.
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Monday, September 5, 2016
Snowdoniafter leaving Ireland, our plan was to ride north up through Wales before crossing England to catch the night ferry home from Hull. This so that I could show Frank the beauty of the Snowdonia National Park in north Wales, see the low-level flying in the Mach Loop and take the rack-and-pinion narrow gauge train to the top of Snowdon (Wales' tallest mountain). Alas, as Burns wrote "The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft a'gley" and low-level cloud put a stop to both of these planned items :-(
FWIW, Crib Goch in Snowdonia is the wettest spot in the United Kingdom :-(
We rolled our motorcycles off the ferry at Fishguard and rode up the coast road to Aberporth. Fifty years ago I'd worked there on hush-hush guided missile R&D, so we stopped at my old B&B pub and looked at the beach. The beach car park (for swimmers) now even has an unclassified mosaik in the wall bearing an image of a guided missile and a red drone :-)
Turning inland, we rode toward Bwlch (not a typo, think of W as a vowel in Welsh) to our B&B in the Mach Loop, tucked in under the Cader Idris mountain. The idea was that next day we would clamber about 300 feet up the hillside and watch the low-level jet fighters etc. come screaming through the valley BELOW us. However, low cloud meant no flying that morning :-( So no 400 knots at 50 feet, 5 G overbank. Here's a pilot's view. We stood at the 1:33 mark.
Instead we did a tour through Snowdonia, here we are (above) at the Crimea pass on the way to Llanberis. The base station of the Snowdon mountain railway is in LLanberis but they told us that the top of the mountain was still in the clouds so the train was only going half way up :-( So, change of plan.
We rode instead over to see the ruins of Harlech castle and listen to the warlike Men of Harlech being belted out by a male voice choir. Harlech has one of the steepest hills I ever rode (40%+), "unsuitable for motor vehicles";-)
Then we took a ride along the back roads of the Snowdonia National Park for the spectacular scenery. Pity the cloud base was so low though and the rain drizzling; incessant steady rain is so discouraging to me :-(
Finally, to Betws-y-Coed for our B&B for the night, the river wasn't running as high as I'd expected, given the rain. We stopped at Capel Curig, where I camped in February snow 50+ years ago at the (motorcyclists') Dragon Rally.
So there were a lot of memories to talk about that evening in the pub and we still had another day for a 2nd try at the Snowdon mountain railway :-)
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Thursday, September 1, 2016
They know where we live !uesday's breaking news included the major jaw-dropper that SETI may have discovered extraterrestrials! The Russian SETI station received a signal much stronger than anything we humans can produce, with a signal structure indicating it was NOT from a natural source! If you're shitting your pants at the idea of Donald Trump, think about what THIS implies!
Meanwhile, other SETI stations are looking at the same piece of sky (star HD 164595, 94 light years away, which has a planet in the inhabitable zone) and trying to observe the signal over several hours.
Let's assume it IS an extraterrestrial artificial signal. Then, going by the signal strength, it is from aliens far more advanced than we are. Now let's assume they are listening too. We first started sending radio signals, thus betraying our presence, in 1897 (Marconi), which they could have received in 1991 our time, i.e. we've been audible to them for 25 years now (i.e. expected arrival here earliest 2085) . The latest "news" they could have received would be from 1922 our time (i.e. 94 years ago).
So what happened in 1922? The year 1922 began with the British Empire at its largest extent, covering a quarter of the world and ruling over one in four people on Earth. The first portion of the Imperial Wireless Chain, a strategic international wireless telegraphy network created to link the British Empire, was opened, from England to Egypt. Radio stations expanded. The BBC began radio service in the UK, broadcasting from station 2LO in London. KZKZ-AM, the second radio station in the Philippines, began broadcasting as did WLW in Cincinnati, KGU in Hawaii, etc. Nevertheless, despite the GB empire, in almost every country, communist parties were being established.
What might the radio stations have reported that was interesting to the aliens? Nils Bohr received the 1922 Nobel prize for his annular model of the atom; so they know how un-advanced science-wise we were 94 years ago.
If they were hostile, they might have launched a star-imploding torpedo at Sol at some high sub-C speed. We'll never know. In the meantime, we need to force research to get us to Proxima Centauri B (a planet around the nearest star to Sol) before said torpedo hits. Or the signal might "just" be the genome for a virus which decreases our intelligence (e.g. Zika or Fox News).
If they are helpful (remember, they don't know about Donald Trump yet), that signal might be a bootstrap AI to accelerate the AI singularity here or a basic education to get us as a species up to the minimum standards required for interstellar coexistence :-)
I'll opt for the latter and, meanwhile, go change my underwear ;-)
Just glad signal-detection happened in MY lifetime. Too bad I won't be around in/after 2085 for first contact. Today's kids still have 69+ years to prepare.
What are your reactions to this news?
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Botanical info wanted
Tour through a submarine
The cake that Hils made
The coward who ran away
They know we're here!
The Kennedy Homestead
Always On :-(
Kissing the Blarney Stone
Berlin's Burka Ban?
Gap of Dunloe
H-plates at last :-)
The South Pole Inn
The Monorail @ Listowel
The Colour of Guinness
Foynes Flying Boats
Ain Bulldog Blog
Finding life hard?
Not Always Right
Rants from t'Rookery
Spork in the drawer
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Blog Dewey Decimal Classification : 153
FWIW, 153 is a triangular number, meaning that you can arrange 153 items into an equilateral triangle (with 17 items on a side). It is also one of the six known truncated triangular numbers, because 1 and 15 are triangular numbers as well. It is a hexagonal number, meaning that you can distribute 153 points evenly at the corners and along the sides of a hexagon. It is the smallest 3-narcissistic number. This means it’s the sum of the cubes of its digits. It is the sum of the first five positive factorials. Yup, this is a 153-type blog. QED ;-)
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