fivemack: (iguana)

I think there is real music on the book: though I'm not sure the average mother of a newborn would really appreciate that large a trumpet.


Jan. 25th, 2015 11:16 am
fivemack: (iguana)
Suppose you have taken a photo with some stars in it, and you can't remember exactly what you were trying to point at at the time. For example, this one


I've had to mangle it a bit in Photoshop to make it more obvious that it's a field full of stars.

If you go to and click 'upload' and send them the full-size, unmangled-in-Photoshop version of the picture (available here) then after forty seconds of processing in the cloud you get back

Center (RA, Dec):(96.103, 34.407)
Center (RA, hms):06h 24m 24.652s
Center (Dec, dms):+34° 24' 25.689"
Size:43.5 x 28.9 deg
Radius:26.107 deg
Pixel scale:36.5 arcsec/pixel
Orientation:Up is 129 degrees E of N

and a version of the image with the stars and constellations marked on it:

fivemack: (iguana)
With a clever bit of mechanism to keep it pointed in the right direction, you can get quite reasonable pictures of the stars with a moderately fancy camera and lens from a desolate fen a mile outside Horningsea:



fivemack: (iguana)

Very much like last year; I spent less on computers (it is not entirely unreasonable to have a personal belief that computers should not be bought in even-numbered years, and neither Intel nor the ARM ecosystem managed to release anything terribly tempting in 2014).

I've now been doing this for a decade, and it hasn't changed very fundamentally since then:

fivemack: (iguana)
Why is it that volcanic ash makes good fertiliser?

It contains minerals pulled up from the upper mantle and pulverised into conveniently absorbable powder; but is it purely a coincidence that it tends not to contain chromium, cadmium, arsenic and heavy-metal fluorides (fluorides mentioned specifically because volcanic steam does contain non-negligible HF)?

I suppose the volcanoes that erupt great clouds of sulphur tend to be known as sulphur mines, and obviously people won't farm next to volcanoes whose outpourings make plants wither, but it seems unaccountably convenient that they so often work.
fivemack: (iguana)
Take three eggs, some bacon, and some bread; also 330 grams of icing sugar, some peppermint essence, red, yellow and blue food colouring, and four bowls; if you have one of those electric zeroable scales, it's really useful if three of the bowls are of the same weight. We will call the bowls A, B, C and D. You also want a non-stick baking-tray or the non-stick bottom from one of those non-stick cake-tins with removable non-stick bottoms. Separate one of the eggs, put the egg-white in a big bowl, and then make scrambled eggs with bacon on toast with the egg-yolk, the rest of the eggs and the bacon.

Fortified with a healthy cooked breakfast, you may now proceed.

Whisk the egg-white until that it be well-whisked, add the 330 grams of icing sugar, add the peppermint essence and combine (using either or the spoon or the whisk) until you have a big cohesive blob of perfectly white dough which has many of the accidents of toothpaste but is significantly less good for the teeth.

Split the blob into three portions in the three bowls; you can do this with gratifying exactness using electric scales, provided the bowls are the same weight so you can swap bowl without re-zeroing the scales. I am assuming from henceforth that the blob weighed 360 grams.

In bowl A, make some grooves in the top of the blob with a fork, add yellow food colouring, and then stir vigorously until all is incorporated. In bowl B, do the same with red food colouring. In bowl C, do the same with blue food colouring.


Now, the food colouring has for some reason made the dough go rather runny, so now would be a great time to stir in a bit more icing sugar.

You now have three options. If you are in fact Paul Hollywood in disguise, you will have six spare piping-bags. If you are moderately organised and possess an infinite supply of greaseproof paper, you can make reasonable impromptu piping-bags by cutting a slit to the middle of a quite large square of greaseproof paper, rolling it into a cone, filling it, and then cutting the end off.


If you failed to think of the greaseproof paper, the dough is much easier to manipulate with wet hands; since it sticks to everything, you'll be washing your hands regularly in any case, and so just don't dry them after rinsing.

Take 60 grams of the blue goo from bowl C, and either pipe it into elegant blobs, or use an improvised pipe to pipe it into blobs, or do your best with wet hands to roll it into sort of drippy blob-shaped shapes. Transfer 30 of the remaining grams into bowl D, leaving 30 grams in bowl C.

Take 60 grams of the red goo from bowl B and blobify it. Transfer 30 of the remaining grams from bowl B into bowl D beside the blue, leave 30 grams in bowl B.

Take 60 grams of the yellow goo from bowl A and blobify it. Transfer 30 of the remaining grams into bowl C (which you will recall contains the remains of the blue), and the rest into bowl B (containing the remains of the red). Put bowl A into the dishwasher.

Stir well the contents of bowls B, C and D. It is at this point that you discover that food colouring doesn't combine in quite the same way as colours in Photoshop do; touch up by adding a bit more of whatever colour appears to be absent, until you have bowls which a kind observer could imagine were green, orange and purple:


Blobulate the contents of the orangish, greenish and purplish bowls, place all things into the dishwasher, and leave the mints somewhere reasonably warm to dry.

fivemack: (iguana)
All the notes in the Notes app made after 11 May 2012 and before this morning have vanished from my phone. I can still make new notes, the old notes are still there in the Notes app on the Mac and in the Notes app on the iPad, though notes made on the phone don't seem to be syncing to the Mac.

Quitting the Notes app and restarting it doesn't help. The power switch on the phone has broken, so I can't try rebooting the phone.

Any advice?

Conclusion I got the power switch repaired (at the shop at the Milton Road / Arbury Road junction); disabling and then re-enabling synchronisation with iCloud made the notes come back. My contacts had also vanished, but again disabling and re-enabling synchronisation brought them back.

I suspect 11 May 2012 is relevant because it'll have been the day I updated the phone to iOS 5.1.2
fivemack: (iguana)
I'm not in Kyrgyzstan any more; I've just scheduled my photos to appear every eight hours or so, because I thought that would be nicer for my readers than posting 25 of them in a great bolus of which you'll skip all but the first.


Sep. 15th, 2014 12:30 am
fivemack: (iguana)

Lunch in an outwardly-unprepossessing restaurant on the main street of a little dusty town on the edge of the Ferghana Valley (possibly Kochkor-Ata)
fivemack: (iguana)
In the pub on Thursday, some dismay was expressed that I had posted pictures from upstream and from downstream of this dam but had unaccountably not shown the dam itself.

This is the second dam (the one at if you like scrolling around Google Maps); there is a bigger dam at but it is three kilometres from the road over a 4000-foot-high ridge, and besides it is considered a strategic facility of Kyrgyzstan and visitors are not encouraged.

The second dam has a convenient car park and viewpoint just overlooking it, and this rather splendid statue (I think in concrete painted sort-of-brass-colour) of САТЫКЕЙ БААТЫР, about whom all the information I can find on the Internet is in Kyrgyz, a language with a vague resemblance to Turkish but written in Cyrillic script further to deter casual readers.

fivemack: (iguana)
This dacha by Saray Chelek lake (roughly was once reserved for important members of the Kyrgyz Communist Party.

The lake itself is really quite pretty, and a short walk up into the hills around it gets you to many smaller but equally attractive lakes:


fivemack: (iguana)

These are also Very Wide images; click on them for the full version. I have done something slightly odd with the scaling which I hope makes the small versions look particularly good on Retina displays. The top is the view south from the first major pass on the M41 road out of Bishkek - the thing with red roofs in the far right is a ski resort and you can just see a chair-lift on one of the row of pylons coming down from it. The bottom is one of the passes on the road from Kazarman to Naryn.

fivemack: (iguana)

In the unlikely event that any of my readers can read calligraphed Arabic, I'd be quite interested to know what the text is
fivemack: (iguana)

This is actually the Burana Tower, which is the bottom half of the giant minaret of the now-vanished giant mosque of the now-vanished late-ninth-century Karakhanid city of Balasagan. The Karakhanids have also now vanished.

You can climb it by a spectacularly claustrophobic staircase

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