Monday, 11 November 2019

Mercury transit overcast Monday

So, would we see the transit of Mercury?

A little after the time of first contact, the sky was quite cloudy, with the sun hiding.

12:58 GMT, looking south

But the clouds were moving quickly, and there were blue patches.  Then around 2pm, the sky started to clear a bit more.

14:05 GMT, looking south west: blue sky!
lining up the telescope (note the existence of shadows)
We attached a solar filter to the front of our telescope, so it was safe to look through it at the sun.  But we had a very careful protocol: lining up using the tracking eyepiece (not looking through it), then carefully covering that unfiltered eyepiece before looking through the main eyepiece.

And we saw the transit!  A very small, very black spot, clear against the sun’s disk.  Amazing.  (No photographs of it this time, though: much poorer weather than previously, and no time to waste.)

Then it clouded over again; we got about 5 minutes viewing in total.

14:20 GMT, cloudy again: goodby Mercury! it was grest seeing you!

Monday, 28 October 2019


I stumbled across a new word the other day (new to me; it's actually old, and obsolete): apricity, the warmth of the sun in winter.

After a mostly very dull and wet October this year, finally we are experiencing some apricity.  It is one of those lovely clear, still, and crisp autumn days (does autumn count for using this word?), and although the air temperature is just a few degrees above freezing, there is warmth to be felt standing in the sun. 

berries and leaves benefiting from apricity today

Sunday, 27 October 2019

sequestering carbon, several books at a time C

My one-hundredth sequestration post!

The latest batch:

The Kagan book is not upside down; the title is printed on the spine in the opposite orientation to conventional, possibly because it is from a German printer?  Is the convention the opposite in Germany?

Saturday, 26 October 2019

20 years later

It is 20 years to the day since we moved into our newly-built and actually still-in-the-process-of-being-finished house:
Our house in November 1999; still not actually finished!
We were eager to move in asap, as we had sold our previous house, and had been living in B&Bs for a couple of weeks.  Never believe builders’ schedules, even after adding a couple of months to their estimate, as contingency!

Over the last two decades, we’ve had one major repair: the underfloor heating needed to be replaced due to faulty pipework. (No, of course none of the installer’s insurance, the NHBC construction insurance, or our buildings insurance covered it: when do they ever?)

We’ve made one major upgrade: in January 2014 we installed solar panels on the back roof, which conveniently faces south.  Inside, there has been continual shelf-building over the years, as we had 9000 books when we moved in, and have 14000 now.

But the main noticable change from outside is in the maturity of the garden:

our house today; less of a building site, more of a home
Looking forward to many more years here.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

the “customer” is not always right

One way that university lecturers, and departments, are ranked and evaluated, is by student satisfaction surveys.  Such a customer-based model does not inevitably lead to better eduction, however, as students are not necessarily the best judges of what they have learned:

College students think they learn less with an effective teaching method
They don’t even realize they’ve learned more.

While students learned more with active instruction..., every measure of satisfaction was lower.

Personally, I prefer a “fitness instructor”-based model, where the students pay the instructor for improvement opportunites and advice (and these should indeed be as well prepared and appropriate as possible), but they have to put in the time, effort, and sweat.  No pain, no gain.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019


Seen this morning

some orange fruits brightening up a dull day
the mild damp weather is perfect for fungi

Saturday, 12 October 2019

film review: Predestination (2014)

A young man relates his incredible history as an unmarried mother to a sympathetic bartender, who then recruits him into a secret organisation that explains, and causes, all his troubles.

The underlying plot logic is based on Robert Heinlein’s 1959 short story “—All You Zombies—”. I can’t say how comprehensible the movie is without knowing the background; it may need to be viewed twice to pick up earlier clues. To extend it from a short story, certain elements have been added, like more details on the secret organisation, the violin case, the Fizzle Bomber, and the loop’s closure. These additions are all fine, as they tighten the loop. (I do think it would have been interesting to try to include the organisation’s head in the loop, too, but that would have been quite a big deviation from the original story.)

The beginning is a little slow, being mostly narration with flashbacks, but once the narration has caught up to “the present day” (whatever that means in such a time loop) the action carries along on nicely. It follows the original short story’s plot very closely, including the time it is set – the opening bar scene is set in 1970 – which gives it a retro alternate history vibe, 50 years on from then. The main deviation is the added ending, which, amazingly, improves what is already an almost perfect time loop plot.

On the whole, this is a great realisation of a terse and densely plotted short story.

For all my film reviews, see my main website.