Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Not quite catching the moon

So after the nearly full moon in the last post, it then clouded over for the better part of a week, denying the oppourtunity to photograph the full and waning moon. I'll just have to try again next month.

It has been a busy week, mostly aviation related due to an airshow over the weekend (photos to come in the next few posts). Still moon related though, A link to this was passed on to me today, and I liked it so much I thought I'd share it. It is pretty much self explanatory, and it works beautifully (even if the moon at 0:39 is upside down to my southern hemisphere eyes):

Also moon related is this little thing I found. You know how all the moon landing-hoax theorists go on about the whole thing being filmed in a soundstage? Well Michael Bay has done pretty much just that for the new Transformers movie:

Aside from the obvious (to me anyway) accuracy fails with the Apollo spacecraft, and the clever (if misleading) use of real footage, it is remarkable how Bay's depiction of the astronauts looks almost nothing like the real footage, in more ways than are obvious. Not that I would expect accuracy or realism from a Bay movie, but it is an interesting theory tester, and hopefully might convince a few hoax proponents of the lunacy (pun intended) that the hoax theory is. On the other hand, it might inspire a whole new wave of people who don't know any better to fall for the poorly researched, utterly discredited non-science woo that sadly still undermines one of our greatest acheivements.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catching the Moon II

Listening to: MP3 player on alphabetical by song title, which is almost random anyway. Have just had 'Which way to America' by Living Colour, 'Whiskey in the Jar' by Thin Lizzy, 'White Wedding' by Billy Idol, and appropriately, 'Whole of the moon' by The Waterboys.

Gibbous Moon last night 17 Jan. I tried a different white balance setting for this one compared to the half moon in the previous post to get a slightly more natural colour. The Tycho crater (upper centre) and it's impact rays are also starting to show a bit better as the moon gets closer to full. I'm still playing with ways to deal with the contrast between the dark maria and the lighter parts so that both of them resolve nicely.
Tonight is too tropical, hot and wet and decayed cyclon-ey (seriously, 20+ degrees, even though it is raining and nearly 1030 at night) for a photo, so I took advantage of a break in the clouds last night to get this shot.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Bad Science ownage

Vaccine denier gets owned on Sydney radio by host in possession of actual facts (link).

Okay so it is a bit of an ambush, and the host doesn't even pretend to be unbiased, but it makes me smile to hear bad science taken apart like this.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Somebody think of the children!

Dire Straits now officially offensive after decades of being one of the safest rock bands ever.

I get that a throwaway lyric that is actually a quote, in a song that is a parody of both the quoted and the thing he was referring to, could be considered to be offensive language.

But I don't why has it taken twenty five years of virtually continual airplay of a song that was the biggest hit off a monster album (including a radio edit produced at the time of the original release that doesn't feature said lyrics, after they caused controversy then) before anyone got riled up enough about it to officially complain. Again. Especially when there are far more and worse examples of homophobic or otherwise derogarotory or potentially offensive lyrics and themes in other innocuous sounding hit songs.

For example there is one very popular mainstream radio song from the late 90's, with a bouncy catchy riff, and very inoffensive sound, widely played by radio and featured in a few hit movies and TV series even, that is actually about crystal meth addiction, and features lyrics that explicitly reference sex and drug taking. I love the irony of it getting almost daily airplay on my local family friendly mainstream radio station among others. No-one listens to the lyrics apparently :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Retired but still working

If you walk down a certain street in Taupo an unexpected shape becomes apparent. Spot the odd thing out...
The Taupo McDonald's features an extra dining area in the form of a retired DC-3. I'm not sure if this is awesome or completely undignified, but at least it is still around.
It is actually a reasonably historic airframe (with even a compiled history listed here ). Besides being a veteran of the pacific second world war with the US and Australian Air Forces, it was used by SPANZ (South Pacific Airlines of NZ (wiki) ) in the 1960's to unsuccessfully challenge the then government owned airline monopoly in NZ. As an enticement to travel, particularly with tour groups in mind, SPANZ DC-3's were fitted with enlarged windows for the passengers, the modified aircraft being dubbed 'Viewmasters' . Here is what the McDonald's DC-3 looked like when it was an airliner. Post SPANZ it was converted to be a crop-duster/top-dresser, before winding up here.
While the engines are long gone, the propellers can be rotated as you walk past if you are tall enough to grab a blade. Either deliberately or accidentally, they were re-installed in fine pitch (blades parallel to the plane of rotation), minimising the chances of a strong enough wind from the wrong direction setting them twirling pinwheel-like and bopping passer-by. I'm not sure if that scenario is even feasible, but it sounds fun (unless you are one of the ones bopped).
Also earning a living in retirement in Taupo is this Russian (probably Soviet when it was built) Mil Mi-8 helicopter attached to a local scenic helicopter flight company base and cafe. A bunch of these were brought out to NZ in the 90's as heavy lift helicopters, mostly for logging operations with varying degrees of success. This one has been parked up near Huka Falls for a while, having wound up a long way from its place of origin. The Mi-8 (wiki) was/is the Russian equivalent of the Huey, only a lot bigger and gruntier.

About an hour and a half down the road south at Mangaweka is another DC-3 preserved as a billboard/cafe, that has become something of a landmark over the years, sitting on a corner of the main north-south highway. It has recently been repainted into not-authentic-for-it's-history (found here) , but thematically appropriate enough colours:
Which is good, because for most of the 2000's it looked like this:
The cookies aren't that bad, but if planes could be embarrassed....
Back in 1999 it still wore the colours of FieldAir (pic), the last owner that actually flew it (minus the Rangitkei River Rats and 747 titles naturally), and one of the companys that used DC-3's as top-dressers into the 1980's. Prior to that it was an airliner for NAC, the National Airways Corporation (wiki) that was the domestic arm and forerunner to Air New Zealand. NAC called their DC-3's 'Skyliners', which has been referenced in the titling on the nose and tail of the new colour scheme.
Incidentally, props are due to my lovely wife, for recognising the Mangaweka DC-3 as a DC-3 without any prompting or even discussion from me. This is a feat worthy of note :)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Catching the moon*

I've been playing around with photographing the waxing moon over the last few days. It is a deceptively tricky subject, and I haven't quite got the hang of it yet.

Cresent Moon, 08 Jan 2011:
Half moon about 15 minutes ago:
* Papa, please get the moon for me is one of Charlotte's favourite stories at the moment. Pointing out the moon will usually get a "Catch the mooooonn daddy!" in response

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Car Wash

Away that is (just in case you were thinking of your car as a big heavy thing)...

The footage is from Toowoomba in Queensland a couple of days ago. More background here.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Instant Rapids

First you need to find a rocky watercourse downstream from the sluice gates of a hydro-electric power station reservoir.
Then, just
And you're away:
The Aratiatia Rapids on the Waikato River north of Lake Taupo are one of my favourite things. They are dry most of the time, but several times a day the sluice gates used to control the reservoir level are opened and the rapids run again. The gates open for half an hour on each occasion, with the rapids fully developing in less than ten minutes. Once the gates close they are mostly dry again after a quarter of an hour. I've seen them many times and the spectacle of watching them fill, run and empty hasn't gotten old yet. Some blurb about the whys and hows of the rapids is here, with a cool 1960's geological and general description of them and nearby Huka Falls here.
Just downstream of the gates there is a pool about 50 metres across that acts as a sort of header for the rapids themselves. To give an idea of scale, inside the red box at centre left of this pic is a supermarket shopping trolley (which isn't visible at the resolution of this copy, but trust me its there on the hi-res version):
I don't know how it got there either, but there are also a few traffic cones scattered around the upper reaches as well as other stuff people have tested the rapids with. Anyway, a few minutes after the gates open it looks like this:
Another part of the same pool:
Making the rapids cooler is that they are totally free to view, you just have to know how to get there. There are three separate vantage points to watch from, each with a different perspective worth checking out (during our stay last week, we went to the rapids three times to go to each lookout. And because Charlotte enjoyed seeing the 'water falling out'). It is only a very short detour from SH1 if you are passing by and looking for something more interesting than the usual rest-stops to take a break. Recommended for residents and tourists alike :)
And because movies sometimes convey things better than stills, here are some appropriate youtube vids I found:
Filling up
Drawing down
And someone running the rapids in a kayak....

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just your average everyday camping ground

This is our tent and campsite in Taupo on Monday evening last week. Pretty normal looking.
But looking at the neighbours (you can just see our blue car poking out from behind the 4x4), reveals an unusual concentration of cars and tents spread across three sites:
Oh, and a drag racer.

Turns out a version of the West Family was encamped next door, in the form of a 10 strong family based racing team. The young'uns amongst them partied like it was 1999 for the two nights they were there next to us (we lent them a tent post to help prop up their communal awning. In return I was offered a beer. Or a bourbon and cola), which is great if you are in the mood, and I get their enthusiasm having done the same thing (if not quite so noisily) at their age. If you aren't in the mood though, tents are rubbish sound insulators, especially when the party is only a few meters away, and you have a two-year old who you not only want to keep asleep, but will get up and then wake you up at 7am no matter what.
Things culminated around midnight when one of them tripped over the recycling bin full of empty bottles and cans, and then fell on to his own tent, which was funny as hell apparently, but caused the dad of the party (and presumably the head man in charge) to get up out of his tent and do some law laying down of the late night noise in public and consideration for other campers kind, which saved us the trouble of doing the same thing. They left the next day and we got three further nights of peace and quiet after dark.
At the other end of our row in contrast we had the F__king Europeans (french and german going by the accents. They spoke in english to each other). After putting on a show with the light poi at dusk, they put on a show of another kind in the not quite dark, by getting all frisky on it and not quite discreetly shagging on the bonnet of one of their cars (to the accompaniment of some pretty average dance music from one of the car stereos) technically in the shadows, but plainly visible to any passerby (and they were next to an access way, so there were many of those) who glanced their way for more than half a second. Their activities were described in great detail by the aforementioned young'uns next door, one or two of whom made not so subtle reconnaissances to check that they really were seeing in silhouette what they thought they were seeing.
They left before dawn, presumably wanting to leave the site with a bang (sorry, couldn't resist the pun). Wednesday the 5th saw the end of the New Years public holidays, so the camp quitened down a bit after all that early excitement as people went home to go back to work.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Canberra completed

One of the last things I did in 2010 was complete the Canberra* model started here, and updated a little here. The build took a lot longer than planned, mainly due to some fundamental quality issues with the markings. Still, I got it done just before new years, and duly presented it to my father in a custom bought case. He spent a lot of time around the real things during his Air Force career, and is quite pleased with his new lounge ornament. My mother is a little less enthused though :)

The model is about a foot long if you want an idea of size:

* The British manufactured English Electric Canberra B(I).12 (the B(I) stands for Bomber (Interdictor)) was used by the RNZAF as a bomber / attack aircraft from 1959 to 1970, and were replaced by the Skyhawks that ultimately served until 2001. The model represents a Canberra as they looked from around 1964.

Incidentally, the Canberra itself is one of the outstanding designs in aviation. One of the first jet powered bombers to enter service, the first one flew in 1949. The last British operated Canberra's left RAF service in 2006. Wiki history of the Canberra here.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Up at the lake

Evening on Lake Taupo, 06 Jan 2011.
We've been camping and chilling and off-line up in Taupo for most of the week. Now we are back home, so normal service will resume shortly. Probably once I can figure out what day it is without checking.

Sunday, January 02, 2011


After getting clipless pedals fitted to my bike a couple of months ago, I now have clipless shoes to go with them after dropping the right suggestions in the right directions before Christmas. Oxymoronically, this combination now results in my feet being firmly clipped to the pedals for better pedalling (the 'clipless' refers to an earlier attachment method before these things were invented). For now my cycling accessory world is complete. After a couple of rides the noob look is already worn off:
I find the action of clipping in oddly reassuring. After a couple of rides with them I am not quite used to the sensation, but have yet to fall over due to forgetting to unclip before coming to a halt. (This is a rite of passage for clipless initiates apparently).

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Seeing in 2011

Last night was blurry, but in a good way. I didn't want to spend too much time posing or forcing shots, so opted to go for a slightly more impressionistic approach. It was a fun night.