Stuck in London

That unpronounceable volcano in Icelsnd has prevented me from being at home this weekend.

I can’t argue with the NATS decision to stop air flights, so I’ll have to consider a bus-ferry ticket this weekend as an alternative in case Ryanair decide to not fly again for a few days.

There is some hope about the restrictions being lifted by tomorrow, but the restrictions are looking likely to be back in place by Wednesday. The ash models are showing no real movement except to reach Canada..

Idiot driver – 05 LK 6659

Silver Mondeo hatchback. Try to learn how to use your mirrors on a motorway. Don’t overtake when you don’t have a space to come back into, and you’ve just forced your way back in with oncoming traffic. Also learn the correct time to use a rear foglight. Also don’t be afraid to give a safe gap to the car in front. By the way your rear valence is broken…


For the first time I attended Duibhir’s Samhain party on the 31st of October. Great night, loads of photos in the gallery or at gallery
I went as Achmed the dead terrorrist, with my skull face and Jingle Bombs.
Great night!

Resurrection of the old newtonian scope as a dob

Back when I was in about first or second year of Secondary school, I sold my Tasco 60mm alt-az telescope and I sank all of my savings at that point and then some into the purchase of a new and shiny telescope. It was manufactured in Scotland by Solis Scientific, and hte ad was placed in Astronomy Now. The primary mirror was 222mm in diameter and 1250mm in focal length, came with 25mm and 18mm eyepeieces and a 2x barlow. The mount was a reasonable pier mounted German equatorial with manual slow motion controls. It got great use for a good few years for seeing such things as Stephan’s Quintet, the spiral arms of M51, and the solar panels of Mir. When I went off to UL it fell into a bit of disuse, then my parents moved house and the mounting was uprooted and the scope went into storage in the bedroom.

So yesterday I went on a mission to get that scope back into service. I didn’t want to re-use the german mount as it was more than a little shaky and poor at damping vibrations. I decided to build myself a Dobsonian mount for this scope after looking at a few options such as re-tubing it and obtaining a better german mount. Given that this scope is an exercise to see if I will get enough use from a larger scope again to see if it’s worth saving up for a 10″ lx200 or similar over the next 2 years.

I went to B&Q and a few other places, getting a worktop offcut, a sheet of MDF, some castors, boxes of screws, and a few tools that I didn’t have such as a wood saw and a surform. I built up the altitude bearings by hand from 2 sheets of scrap mdf I located at home, cutting rough circles out with the handsaw and smoothing the 4 circles by hand with a surform. These I have strapped to the tube, it works quite well actually. The azimuth bearing is a centre bolt with 3 castors. It’s not butter-smooth but it’s good enough given it took 4 hours from shop visit to first light.

I can safely predict there will be no breaks in the cloud this week – typical for a ‘new’ telescope and the first star session!

My thoughts on how to reduce road accidents in Ireland.

We really need a properly structured driving school setup with trained instructors, competent and consistent testers possibly with video review of the test, and having to spend enough time and money to actually go through the testing process that those that make it through realise that driving is not a right but something earned with a lot of responsibility. Recertification should be a requirement each decade to get a license renewal. The more time and money it costs to get driving, the more people will see it as something that carries a great deal of responsibility and should drive with more care as a result.

The roads need to be independently surveyed with the risks assessed – surface roughness, camber, ‘bumpiness’, risks due to possible collision objects (e.g. ESB poles at the road edge, biker-dicer cable divides on dual carraigeways etc). The roads that are assessed in this manner can then be prioritised for repair/replacement to make it that much safer if the event of an accident. How many of us know of accidents where serious injury or death was caused by collision with a signpost or pole, that would have had a softer crash if they were three feet to the left?

The responsibility for the councils to keep the decisions on repair and upkeep of the roads in their area needs to be removed and put into e.g. the NRA. Councils should be able to tender for the projects, but they should have to compete between each other for the right to work on the roads. This idea would make it more consistent that roads would be repaired in the same manner, with proper repair methods used.

If a road has a problem, then it should be repaired to a known standard – none of this putting tar and chips into potholes full of water. Pothole repair to be done properly. Repair not patch, though patches would be a good temporary measure with a fine for leaving it too long without repair.

The correct placement of speed cameras would go a little way to making it a safer environment to drive in. The camera locations should be known exactly, well advertised on an individual basis in advance, and the camera location itself to be visible from oncoming traffic. Traffic cameras should be painted in flourescent and reflective colours, and the road should be marked in a really obvious way for the 50 metres coming up to the camera location. By proper location I mean halfway around a tight bend, at the top of a blind crest, or directly outside a primary school entrance. The object of the exercise is to make it really obvious that there is a camera there so no excuse for speeding through that area. Hidden and obscured cameras and cameras on straight and level roads should not be allowed.

The traffic enforcement by the gardai should be independent of other gardai duties and have proper and published guidelines for speed and poor driving enforcement. There should be no hiding in bushes and the presence of a marked car should be obvious when arriving at a location being monitored.

Traffic management gardai should be more vigilent on poor driving on such things as lane discipline on multi-lane roads, roundabout signalling and lane choice – none of this arriving in the left lane and heading right to be tolerated. Aggressive driving to be taken as antisocial behaviour and processed accordingly. More monitoring of driving without due care and attention – parents with small kids I’m looking at you, as well as business people on phones.

Foreign-registered cars should have the headlights adjusted in the same manner as we have to adjust ours when going to the Continent, and there should be the ability to impound vehicles that are not Irish-registered if involved in the breaking of any traffic law – that’ll keep a lot of the non-Irish cars behaving better than they do.

VRT should be reduced/removed from imports of cars – this should allow people to upgrade their ****boxes to a safer machine that would otherwise not be possible at the moment.

I also think that for a 3-year period after earning a drivers license that there be a limit on the type of machine that can be driven by a newly-qualified driver, be it based on vehicle weight, carrying capacity, power-to-weight ratio, or rated engine power (or all of the above – if exceeding any requirement then it’s a no-no) with heavy penalties and/or confiscation of a vehicle exceeding the spec that was being driven by a new licensee. The tax renewal of a vehicle would be the way to make that obvious to a guard at a traffic stop, with vehicles meeting the spec having a marker on the tax disc, and the new licensee having to keep a P sticker on the windscreen as well. That should allow a new licensee to learn their roadcraft in a vehicle that won’t allow them to get into huge trouble if they screw up. The momentum difference in a high-speed crash compared to a lower-speed incident can make the difference between serious injuries all-round and a few deaths.

Overall we (the Irish) as drivers need to understand that we aren’t the best drivers around, that we do make mistakes and that we share the roads with others that make mistakes. Anything we can do to make the results of those mistakes less fatal is a good thing.

Endeavour, and ISS

There’s something awe-inspiring about seeing the fruits of mankind’s endeavours, there are some times when it’s all brought home just how far we as a species have come.
To see tonight, the space shuttle Endeavour and it’s just-jettisonned fuel tank pass high to the south, about mag -6 and -5 in brightness, and really moving quickly across the sky – it’s almost religious.
Florida to Ireland in 19 minutes – that’s a good time. I wonder if the lads in Shannon ATC had flights on hold in case the shuttle needed to abort?

The Rules of Beer

* Beware of little bald wizened smiling old men
* Beer is food
* Premium isn’t
* It is ALWAYS beer time
* It is always a good plan
* Beer is a credit card for pain
* Tomorrow is far away
* It’s not taste that counts, but side effects
* There is no such thing as “One”
* Beer will fix it (temporarily!)

(all credits go to Daren and Mel for their brilliance)

Holiday planning?

Upcoming fun and holidays – depending on the availability of holidays at work.

Verdon gorge for a weekend and a day or 2.

Wales for a bit of MTB with Mullins and gang.

Then there’s Istanbul with Sarah.