Solar Eclipse 2017

In my ongoing aim to photograph astronomical phenomena, I recently went to the USA to capture the 2017 solar eclipse. As with the super blood moon, it’s been described as a “once in a lifetime” event, however I saw the 1999 eclipse (in Romania) and I might go to the 2024 one too (also in the USA), so it’s probably just a “three times in a lifetime” event (which is probably more common than a lot of things).

Having bought a special filter for my camera to protect it from the sun, I connected my camera to my computer and set it up to take a photo every minute.

The first few shots were slightly out of focus but do show the moon gradually moving across the sun (or does the sun move behind the moon?).

The main issue was with the sun moving across the camera field of view and disappearing off the edge. The answer was to redirect the camera but sometimes it took time to re-find the sun (the viewfinder couldn’t be used because the filter wasn’t suitable for human use, and the electronic display doesn’t work when connected to the computer). Therefore I missed a few of the shots, but I still got enough to produce this awesome timelapse:

[ADDITION: This is over about a 3 hour period and each ‘sun’ is about 3-5 minutes apart]

And here’s a simpler linear version:

I also captured several images of the corona (after taking the filter off):

Following some post-processing in Photoshop, I produced a more detailed shot of the corona:

And here’s a shot of the sun without the moon blocking it:

The Pizza Incident (aka Cheesegate)

Just over two weeks I was in a Surrey pub with some colleagues. It was a warm sunny afternoon so we were sat in the beer garden enjoying some drinks. I was getting hungry and the place had a special pizza oven so that seemed like the thing to go for. A few other people had already got one, so I ordered a pizza too.

As always, I ordered the spiciest pizza possible and waited for it to turn up. By the time it arrived, I was even hungrier and couldn’t wait to eat it. I grabbed a slice and took a bite…

Not only was it ridiculously spicy, but it was also almost 1000 degrees. In my shock and subsequent haste to put the slice down, I got some cheese down the front of my lip. It took me some time to notice since my mouth was literally on fire.

Anyway that bit of cheese burnt my lip and it later started to blister. A couple of days later, my lip was double its normal size and remained that way for a few days. It then started to scab over which made it look even worse.

Where I was going is this: during that time no-one asked me what had happened. Whether people assumed I had some horrible lip disease or had come across some terrible misadventure but were too afraid to ask, the actual reason was pizza related and probably less/more* exciting than you were hoping. Hopefully that clears it up…

*[delete as appropriate]

Power up!

About two months ago, I was getting off a flight and noticed that my backpack (containing my laptop) felt rather warm. I didn’t pay too much attention to it, thinking that maybe my laptop had turned itself on for some reason, or I was just imagining it.

At the hotel, I noticed that my laptop casing was coming apart. I assumed the man in the row behind me had been careless putting my bag into the overhead locker.
img_20161106_2131237

I pretty much ignored it until last week when I decided to take a look inside. And this is what I found:

If it’s not that obvious, the battery had expanded to approx 150% of its normal size, and this is what had pushed the casing apart.

I contacted the manufacturer who put me touch with their UK authorised repairer. Unsurprisingly the warranty only lasts one year for the battery (my laptop is now over three years old), however they were willing to sell me a replacement.

Here’s a comparison of the old battery and the new:

And here it is fitted snugly into the laptop:

Oh, and I saved myself about £85 by fitting it myself.

(For the observant ones out there, yes, I did take the opportunity to clean out the fans too.)

Super Blood Moon

So this morning, was the Super Blood Moon 2015 (technically called a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse).

It was described as a once in a generation event since the next one isn’t until 2033. I have no idea what this actually means since that’s only 18 years time and I intend to still be around then.

Anyway, I set my alarm for 3am in order to see the red moon at its peak (3:47am). I had intended to climb a nearby hill, however I decided I was much more comfortable at home, plus the moon was visible straight out of my bedroom window so I decided to just stay in.

It was quite strange to see a red moon, but I was expecting it to be a bit bigger. I’m sure it was bigger than normal, but I’m sure I’ve seen it larger before.

It took a while to work out the settings for my camera and I ended up taking 10 completely black images before I discovered that increasing the ISO allowed the moon to be recorded (even though I could see it in the viewfinder). The internet suggests that a focal length of 1000mm is best for moon photos, but my maximum lens only goes up to 250mm so the moon is still quite small in my photos. The alternative is to have a reference object to show the size (e.g. a landmark) but there aren’t many of them outside my bedroom window. I’m sure the settings I used weren’t ideal, and it probably would have been better if I was outdoors, but here are some of the photos I took:


[Note: for some reason one of the photos doesn’t appear to be loading. If it’s still not loading by tomorrow, I’ll have another look]

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 5

So here we are, the final day of my holiday at home. Having woken up late and having somewhere else to be mid-afternoon, I didn’t have much time.

There was however one Monday-Friday only museum that I wanted to visit during this week, the Metropolitan Police Heritage Centre.

To get over to West London, I had to take three Overground trains, having to zig-zag across South London to get to West Brompton.

The museum is very small and only took about 5 minutes or so to look around, which was good as I didn’t have much time. The sign on the door implied that it was only open by appointment, whereas the website states that appointments are appreciated. When the man inside saw me peering through the door, he happily let me in. I wasn’t even the only person there in this small museum, as a group of three other people turned up when I was inside. The photo below pretty much shows the entirety of the museum.


One of the interesting items was a document detailing the requirements for police officers in 1829. Here are some of the more interesting ones:

* Your working hours will be eight, ten or twelve hour shifts, seven days a week. No rest days are allowed and only one week holiday per annum, unpaid.
* Every encouragement will be given to grow beards, as shaving is regarded as unhealthy. However, beards must not exceed two inches in length.
* You are NOT allowed to sit down in public houses at any time. [Does this include standing?]
* No meal breaks are allowed, the top hat may be used to hold a snack.
* Before attending for medical examination and interview to join the police it is advisable to have a bath.

Having seen most of the items in a few minutes (there wasn’t much to read), I headed back for my afternoon appointment. I decided to take a different route home, using the District line to Wimbledon where I changed to Tramlink. This was my first trip on London’s tram system and I planned to explore more of it and then get the bus home, however I realised I was quickly running out of time so transferred back to the Overground to complete the loop.

And I would have been back in time, if my afternoon engagement hadn’t been cancelled.


Several months ago I bought some fish from my local Food Assembly. Not having much clue what to do with so much fish, I put most of it in the freezer. Today seemed liked the perfect opportunity to use up one of the dabs I had stored.

Searching the internet, I came across Jamie Oliver’s recipe for Mediterranean-style Dab with bacon, olives, tomatoes and pine nuts. Surprisingly, this recipe was incredibly easy to follow and I completed it in the same time as stated (30 mins). The hardest part was eating it, given the amount I had on the plate (I served it with salad and new potatoes), and also the bones in the fish. A successful meal to round off the week.
IMG_20150911_183550

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 4

Today I headed back into the City of London for a tour of Guildhall.

First though, I popped into the church of St Lawrence Jewry next door, which is actually a very recent church building, rebuilt after being bombed in WW2. The Jewry part of the name refers to this being in the Jewish part of the city until 1290.

Our tour guide, Pat, advised that this tour only lasts an hour, but could easily last well over two, so would be fairly rushed. We were also told that photos could be taken but discretely, so apologies that the interior photos are taken on my phone rather than my camera.

The tour started in the Great Hall which was being set up for the afternoon’s Court of Common Council meeting. A few members of the group were training to be Blue Badge Tourist Guides and were scribbling frantically in their notebooks. The remainder of us just listening as Pat explained all the statues in the hall and the symbolism of all the particular objects. The main theme within the entire building is of history and tradition, combined with rebuilding following the Great Fire of London and the Blitz. Many of the rooms have changed usage over the various centuries although most of them are used as meeting rooms today, mainly to be hired out to businesses or for wedding receptions.


We then had the option of coming back in an hour to see the council meeting. However I had to be getting home to get the evening’s meal ready (even if Thameslink had other plans).


My meal for this evening was another one suggested by colleagues at work – kebabs.

I chose to make two different kebabs: “Chicken kebabs” from “Nosh for graduates“, and “Yogurt-Marinated Chicken Kebabs with Aleppo Pepper” from Serious Eats.

Both of these recipes wanted to make a marinade which the chicken would then soak in for a few hours before cooking. This made the cooking process seem less onerous as it broke it down into two distinct parts. The recipes were designed for BBQs and large quantities so I reduced all of the ingredients in each by about 60% as I only planned on making two skewers of each. I did make a few deviations from the recipe. In the first recipe I swapped mushrooms for courgette, and, whilst writing this, I realised that I missed out the red pepper. In the second recipe I used smoked paprika and dried crushed chili peppers as the first step. I also swapped red wine vinegar for white wine vinegar as that’s what I already had, although I’m sure it made absolutely no difference.

I then grilled the kebabs on my George Foreman grill (which will now need a lot of cleaning) and served it with pitta bread and hummus. I did look at making my own hummus, however since I don’t own a food processor or a blender or a pestle and mortar (and no intention of buying any of them just for this) I didn’t. It was a fairly simple recipe and it all tasted good.

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 3

My initial plan for today was to attend a talk on Benjamin Franklin’s experiments with a kite and lightning at Benjamin Franklin House.

However, one the other attractions I wanted to visit this week was the London Fire Brigade museum. This is only open Mondays to Fridays, and also happens to be closing down at the end of this month. When I found out that the only way to see this museum (at least in full, and without waiting a few years whilst a new museum is built) was this morning, I decided to choose this museum over the kite/lightning talk. [The Benjamin Franklin House is still on my to-do list, but it is open at weekends too.]

The museum is in two parts, the first part is based in the original fire appliance shed from the mid-19th century where there’s a selection of old fire appliances from the early hand carts to more modern fire engines. The first appliance we were shown was an 1860s manual pump that required 20 people to operate. Since there weren’t that many firefighters, locals were given beer tokens in exchange for helping out. Apparently it was very popular!

The second part of the museum is housed within the adjoining house, originally occupied by the first London Fire Chief, Eyre Massey Shaw. This had a more structured museum type structure with exhibits and placards, however since this was a tour we didn’t get to read most of it and were instead shown a few key items in each room. The tour I was on had some descendants of James Braidwood (Massey Shaw’s predecessor) so the tour focussed on some of these elements. There was also a current firefighter on the tour so there was some discussion over the bits that had stayed the same since the beginning, and the bits that had changed (seemingly for the worse – the tour was given by an ex-firefighter). The World War 2 room contained two shells. There used to be 5 until a previous tour noticed that 3 of them were still live!


Since today is Wednesday, Great British Bake Off day, I decided to make a pie. I choose to do ‘Winter Warming Meat and Potato Pie with a suet pastry crust’ from “Nosh for Graduates”. I mainly followed the recipe, however I substituted some of the water for beer, simply because I thought this would be good, but I’m not sure if I could actually taste it at the end. The recipe took surprisingly longer than expected. The book reckons about 55 minutes total, but I started about 6 and it was well after 8 by the time I was eating. Maybe I just need more practice. I also hadn’t noticed that it said “serves 4” and found myself with a lot more pie than I was expecting. I actually made 3 pies, two of which are now waiting in the freezer for another time.

The only other issue I had was in making the dough for the top. The recipe says to roll out the dough and lift it on top of the potato layer. I’m not sure if I had it too runny, but I definitely couldn’t lift it, and resorted to using a spoon to place it on top. It all worked out fine though, and it was another successful (if delayed) meal.

Adrian’s week off in London: Day 2

Today’s adventure started off with a trip on the Overground


the Underground

and then the Emirates Air Line

This was my first trip on the Dangleway and it was everything I expected from a not-very-popular tourist attraction. The in-cabin video wasn’t playing so I had a nice quiet ride across the Thames by myself.

At the other end of the cable car, I arrived for the purpose of my outing, a tour of the Royal Docks as part of the Totally Thames festival. The tour was led by Gary, who was studying for a Masters in Heritage at nearby University of East London, and Matt, who works on a nearby historic boat. This was the first time the tour has been run so it was a little bit uncertain and read off the notes, but they had obviously researched the topics and knew what they were talking about. The tour covered the history of the docks, the recent (and ongoing) rejuvenation projects and the social history of the area. The tour was helped by audio samples from local residents (available here) and historic photographs.

At the end of the tour, Matt asked if anyone wanted to look round his boat, the SS Robin. This boat is the world’s oldest complete steamboat (from 1890). The boat is less famous than the Cutty Sark or HMS Belfast, although apparently of equal historical significance (it lacks the military history or the exotic routes – it just went around the UK). Boats don’t have the same heritage options as buildings, and therefore it is harder to preserve them or stop them from being scrapped. For example, there is the ethical heritage question of “is it better to keep a boat in the water but to have to replace large parts of the hull, or to keep the original structure but store the boat out of the water?”. In this case they went for out of the water (but then is it still really a boat?).

Finally I headed off to get the DLR as my final mode of transport for the day.


Food-wise, today I decided to cook Mexican food. I could have just used a pre-made pack, but I wanted the challenge so I followed Jamie Oliver’s chicken fajitas with homemade salsa and guacamole. It was a lot of effort to make the dips and they are slightly chunkier than they could have been, but it did feel worth it after. For a quicker meal I might consider buying some pre-made sauces (unless it was a special occasion). I was hoping I would be able to freeze half of the chicken mix, so I added an additional chicken breast, however I should probably have added an additional pepper too. In the end I just ate it all in one go (apart from the dips). Doing some nachos as well would probably help with this.