Sunday, 24 February 2008

Bat (detector) Man defeats the 'Evil Black Box'...

Jenny is currently studying for a Degree in Computer Technology. As part of the course she has to produce a project outlining the stages of manufacture of an item. A bat detector (converts their ultra-sonic call into audible sound) was eventually decided upon.
We managed to source all the parts from a really good small electronics shop in Burton-Upon-Trent (that's where I was coming back from when we hit floodwater and broke my car a few weeks ago).
Thankfully a circuit board was included.
There was also a big bag of fiddly components.
It was at this point that I was informed that the study was to be conducted around the manufacture by a third party.... in other words, it was me who had to build it! Great!...
I did my best and was quite pleased with the aesthetics of the end product. Sadly, I was told that this was NOT what was required. Looks like I'd have to use the circuit diagram instead.
As I got to grips with the more serious side, I was very glad of the newly purchased 'Helpy-Hands'.
Why, oh why do they indicate the value of resistors with bands of colour. Very pretty, but if your a bit colour blind like me, they're an absolute nightmare.
"Dear Mr. Resistor manufacturer, can you please print the value of your merchandise in digits. I know you can do this cos you do it on your capacitors. Hell, we even print 'sell by dates' on eggs nowadays. Please keep up with the times...."
I never do get around to sending these sort of letters...
Look! Writing on the capacitors!
As the capacitors, transistors and IC sockets slowly took their places, the board (if you get really close) starts to resemble a little city... You can tell my enthusiasm was beginning to wane and my mind wander at this point.
Next, the fly wires, gain controls, frequency adjuster and IC chips fitted in their sockets.
I can tell you're excited by all this...Oyh! Wake up.
Don't worry, it's almost over...
Speaker, power indicator, battery connector, headphone socket and microphone, all attached.
All this stuff has to be crammed into an enclosure which isn't really big enough. My tip for doing this successfully is to swear loudly and bang your fists on the table. It won't go in any easier, but you'll feel much, much better.
Right, it's all done. I bet you thought it'd never finish....I know I did.
Where's my Degree?!

Monday, 18 February 2008


When preparing a salad, don't always assume that big is best. This large, heavy razor sharp cleaver although great for taking the legs off chickens can have its downside.
While using the large, heavy razor sharp cleaver to cut carrots which are rolling around, don't be distracted by images you may see on the TV. Especially don't let your attention be diverted by the cute Canadian Miss Chriqui, because you will miss the carrot and cut through your nail and deep into the flesh of your finger. It will hurt and be very messy...
Firstly, a digit count...9.98, good enough for me, anyway, there's no spares in stock. Practically minded as I am, this seemed the best solution to putting everything back together. After all the packet does say, "Sticks: china, metals, laminates, and much more....", perfect!
Right, tape it up and maybe a zip tag to hold it all together, that should do. I might avoid getting it wet in the shower, wouldn't want anything dropping off.
Conclusion; salads are good for you, cleavers are bad, and girls are dangerous....

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

"All Around the Wrekin", or, "The long way round"....

The Wrekin is a well known landmark hill and is easy to find despite the unhelpful signs.
At 1335 feet it is a bit of a slog, but pretending to admire the view halfway up allows you to catch your breath. It really doesn't help your self esteem, when, as you slowly puff your way ever upwards, local athletes using the climb as part of their training come bounding past like gazelles....
As I got ever higher the view unfurled itself, mist draped across the valleys.
'The Wrekin' is a corruption of the ancient English 'Uriconion', a Celtic name.
For some time after the Norman invasions it was called Mount Gilbert after a hermit that once resided on its slopes.
The summit is occupied by an iron age hill fort thought to be built by the Cornovii tribe, the same people that created the huge fort of 'Castle Ring' in Cannock Chase. The Wrekin was their capital.
To the West, the tips of the Welsh mountains poked through the low cloud.
We sat atop the sun warmed rock peak eagerly awaiting the spectical of the sunset.
I'd hoped to get a great photo of the hills, mist filled valley and perhaps the snaking glint of the meandering River Severn in the golden evening light, but the clouds rose and obscured the view.
We drank our flasked coffee and nibbled some Hazelnuts I'd roasted on a small fire.
Homeward bound, the toposcope more helpful than the local signs, we headed off....

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


With all this clement weather we are having, and therefore clear night skies, I actually managed to spot the International Space Station. Look, I even got a photo. What do you mean you can't see it?
Hang on, I'll zoom in a bit. See? Yes I know there's a lot of motion blur. I had to use a long shutter, and what with it being over 240 miles up in the sky and travelling at over 17,000 miles per hour there was a bit of unwanted movement.
Here's some video I snatched. It wasn't really darting about like this, but scribing a horizontal path. It was only visible for a few seconds, not surprising as it manages an orbit in 91 minutes!
OK, I've enhanced the video, now you can see it properly. I'm going to have to try and get some better footage. I'm sure with a little more zoom and a very steady hand you would be able to make out some detail. The problem is it's not visible for long enough to get yourself set up. Maybe next time, in another 91 minutes....

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Global Warming Strikes Terror in Middle England....

Although it may at first glance still appear wintery, spring has started early.
Already the daffodils are poking up. They were early last year but this time they are even more eager.
There's blossom on the trees...
...and not just some half hearted attempt, but masses.
Even the Yew's having a go at flowering/ budding...whatever Yews do (their sex life is none of my business).
The Iris are often one of the first up but not this soon.
The Camellia shouldn't be flowering for a few weeks yet.
12 degrees on a dull day and when the sun comes out it's positively barmy.
This is all due to that terrible global warming. Short mild winters, early springs, birds nesting in February. Bring it on!.....