Rummage through this blog

Friday, 23 June 2017

Review: Outbreak

Outbreak Outbreak by Timothy W. Long
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable post zombie apocalypse romp. Follows the standard model but feels fresh

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Scouts Out: Books One and Two

Scouts Out: Books One and Two Scouts Out: Books One and Two by Danny Loomis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Enjoyable special forces romp in space as us humans fight each other in a slightly different setting to normal. Scope is left to continue on subsequent books without it being a drag to keep reading but there isn't a book 3 yet as far as I can see.

View all my reviews

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Review: Alamein: The Turning Point of World War Two

Alamein: The Turning Point of World War Two Alamein: The Turning Point of World War Two by Iain Gale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyable read with a good use of fiction to demonstrate factual events avoiding the trap of dry recounting of facts like a tick list and the book is a sensible length. Definitely worth the read.

View all my reviews

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Stratford-Upon_Avon Butterfly Farm

Pictures from Stratford-Upon-Avon's butterfly farm, well worth a visit :

Butterflys

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Photography lessons learned

Between us we took something approaching 2,000 photos in our 2.5 weeks sojourn in Brazil. While taking photographs is "cheap" today there certainly is a case for taking the right photo at the time to reduce post processing time.

But there are probably two other lessons.


  1. If taking photos for panoramas I need a system to clarify where a set of shots start and end to reduce trial and error.
  2. More importantly, at the start of each trip make sure all of our devices have their time synchronised just like in all the best war movies before an attack - finding photos almost randomly spread and manually trying to get them into the correct sequence is a pain.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Spain?

Madrid, rolling hills and mild clear weather. Unfortunately  we are stuck in the terminal for 5 hours, no, the plane arrived ahead of schedule, 5:45 in the terminal. Euro exchange rate is bad and Burger King is hideously expensive. Still no McDonald's and having not left the airport I guess we never actually reached Spain.

Flight back to Heathrow and drive back home, via, finally, McDonald's, uneventful.

Home at last.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Brazil, day 18, the final day

Last day so down to Copacabana Beach to body surf in the waves. Beach is surprisingly busy but still we get whistled at a couple of times by the life guards, it seems that anything neck high is considered risky but then when most the the populace cannot swim no surprise.

Fjnal drinks back at the paderia before check out and more Fjnal drinks around the pool at the top of the hotel.

To our surprise the shuttle was on time and the journey back to the airport, passing fabulous views across to Sugarloaf and our last view of the Frigate birds soaring overhead, trouble free.

Overnight flight to Madrid, plane more spacious than the last but wish i had taken a jumper.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Brazil, day 17, Rio

Fabulous sunny start to the day starting with a short walk along the cooling,  tree lined avenue to Urca where we picked up the cable car to head up to Sugarloaf Mountain with its great views across the city of Rio de Janeiro and across to Niteroi and surrounding cities.

Very hot on the journey down and a madcap bus ride, 581, to Corcovado, I think on one corner we were only on three wheels,  for the funicular train up to Christ the Redeemer. Just our luck he was shrouded in clouds which meant more people at the top hoping to catch a fleeting glimpse of the views.

Returning on another exceptional bus ride, this one with a grumpy driver and apparently zero rear suspension, smashing through every pothole raising cheers from those on board.

Time for a splash in the rough waves before dinner and clag at a local paderia with time on our return for Alex to test out the gym in the hotel.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Brazil, day 16, Rio here we come

Made an attempt to check-in for our flights to Madrid. The Iberia site says flight check in is open. Check in is going fine until attempting to put one of our party's detail in, for his birth year there are only 4 months listed, none correct.

Tried on another tablet and a PC for home and the airport to no avail. Messaged Iberia, who are notably faster at public Facebook responses than private messages. They say that we cannot check in until 24 hours before the flight, so why did the website say we could check in? No answer.

Flight to Rio de Janeiro, on Latam, went without a hitch and tried again on the machines in the airport which just say contact your agent. No Iberia staff available before 5pm.

A new message, tickets booked through Latam using Iberia can only check in at the airport on the day. Seems deeply suspicious and suggests we are likely to get the dregs of the seating. Not impressed.

Finally made it to the hotel and dropped bags to walk down to Copacabana Beach, enormous sandy (windswept and drizzly too) expanse.

Clag on the top of our building and Alex took a dip in the roof pool.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Brazil, day 15, last day on Florianopolis

Santo do Antonio de Lisboa, lunch in Sambaqui, Canasvieras

Brazil, day 14, turtles at Project Tamar

The rain feature is here to stay it seems so a late start led us to take a look at Praia de Mozambique, the turtles at Project Tamar and onto Barra de Lagoa

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brazil, day 13, Monday

That rain is certainly doing its thing again this morning discouraging positive action.

Resigning ourselves to using umbrellas we head into the center of Florianópolis town for a little souvenir shopping. By the time we arrive the weather has perked up and the sun is showing a little which makes the town centre feel more vibrant. Good job too because we forgot the umbrellas.  Alex now has sunglasses, flip flops and a Brasil t-shirt, I have less money and we have all seen the old banyan tree at the centre.

Returning via the point of land where the Fort is, we again splashed in the waves at Praia do Forte, very shallow and for a treat empty because the moment it started raining, oh yes, we found ourselves the only ones in the water.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Brazil, day 12, waves

There is definitely a pattern forming of rain in the mornings improving as the day proceeds.

For us that mean hitting the beach, Praia do Campeche, around late afternoon where Roger, Alex & I proceeded to play in the crashing waves on a large sandy beach with the occassional surfer visible. 

Back home to watch the Argentinian Moto GP, home made pizza and clag, Roger successfully predicting his own win. 

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Brazil, day 11, beaches.

There was heavy rain again overnight so the morning was grey and cool so another slow start day, it's already becoming a habit, up early but sit around chatting and drinking coffee.

The strange thing is that washing simply is not drying here, the weather is hot for us but direct sun has been limited over the last few days due to a lot of loud cover and the humidity means clothes are struggling to dry.


As I type I can hear the ground canaries and little doves scrabbling around in today's seed ration.

Alessandra and Alex cooked some chocolate fairy cakes filled with hot chocolate sauce which were a hit and home made chicken pie leftovers made for a great lunch.

Eventually we got going and a reduced party headed to investigate a beach and some falls.

We failed to find the falls at Praia de Solidao but subsequent googling would suggest the local signposting let us down, still the nearby sandy beach yielded the bony remains of some sand dollars urchins, light coloured mussels with distinctive mother of pearl insides and a rocky areas covered in sand hoppers which moved away from us in droves.

We rescued a fish which had gotten itself washed too far up to beach and found that sand dollar remains make great skimming stones.

Driving back we stopped, further on the same stretch of sand, at Praia do Santinho Acores, where the beach was in use as a way point on a round island (140km) run (good day for it, relatively chilly and a decent wind). Whilst Roger and I watched the running and surfers Alex braved the, admittedly warmer today, South Atlantic with some decent waves.


Saturday, 8 April 2017

Brazil, day 10, Friday

Good plan for day, a slow start and off to Ponta do Caetano for what Google maps suggested is a twenty minute walk to Praia de Naufragados.

The ensuing walk through the rain forest, seeing monkeys, birds, insects, streams, lots of green and the deep red clay where the topsoil had been washed away was an amazing, hot, sweaty 2 hour walk before reaching a deserted beach.

At the beach horses wandered around on the sand while we gathered our courage for a swim in the South Atlantic. Using the danger of a passing jellyfish (it must has been 4 cm across) as an excuse we took our sandy bodies for the walk back.

Back at the car park welcome cold drinks and a chat with the lady who had created a car park so she could chat to people.

Brazil, day 9, return to Florianopolis

Typical on the day we are leaving the falls,  inspite of a worsening forecast, the weather is beautiful.

So a lovely day for airports, Florianópolis and Rio de Janeiro, arriving back in Florianópolis at the end of the day.

Great pasta dinner a glass of wine before all falling into bed exhausted.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Brazil, day 8, Iguacu and Argentina

The day started well inspite of the forecast but soon caught up with expectations and I was clearly mistaken yesterday, today we have tropical rain and later lightning.
So Iguacu falls are stunning and much rain  means good falls but sufficient rain that visibility  was reduced and everything soaked. Genuine soaked to the skin, squelching shoes, rather damp cameras and that was before it worsened on the walk to the open sided bus trip back to the exit.
Taxi into Puerto Iguacu, Argentina, in time for siesta time, an ice cream and back to Brazil for drying clothes and people on all available surfaces.

Brazil, day 7, Iguacu

Well the plan was for Park des Aves, the bird park, followed by Iguacu.
We totalled almost 4 hours in the bird park during which we were learning how tropical forests become so green. Yes, for those who haven't caught up, that is rain and lots of it.
So we spent the afternoon in McDonald's drinking coffee (and reeling from how expensive it was, approx  50% higher than home) and playing cards followed by dinner in a petrol station forecourt complete with beggars, human and animal.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Brazil & Paraguay, day 6, Monday

Up really early, before sunrise early, for the flight to Foz do Iguacu. Stunning views across open countryside on the flight, frequently with no roads or houses visible as the green of rain forest trees stretches the visible horizon.

Beautiful blue skies on arrival in Foz do Iguacu airport, a concrete strip and small building sited outside of town, no fences, just running into farmland and open countryside.

The airport was clearly designed in a time when the landing strip was servicing smaller planes, I am picturing the odd Cessna or private jet not something used for international routes as demonstrated by the need to drop the plane out of the sky the instant it was over the tarmac to maximise use of the available length for stopping.

Picked up by the hotel bus and checked in successfully with time for a wander around town which meant a decision had to be made. So we found ourselves awaiting the bus into Paraguay to visit the town of Ciudad del Este. The bus duly arrived and took off at warp speed, slowing only to navigate customs on the border with no need to show passports and ending at a bus station out of town as Estadio 3 de Febrero, way beyond our intended destination.

Now we have been warned that Paraguay is dirty and dangerous and we are not where we are supposed to be.

Indeed Paraguay is dirty but only in a way that a lot of less well off countries are, there is rubbish all over the ground, often right next to bins and I have to conclude that the difference to what we consider normal is that we have been indoctrinated at school, with adverts on television and by families and peer pressure to throw rubbish in bins and there are places that have not reached that stage yet.

Luckily for us, lost in Paraguay is a small story because we have our language expert, Ale, with us to get us going in the right direction, passing on the way the biggest, newest supermarket we have seen or will see in South America (or anywhere else I can think of for that matter). That did give us the opportunity to purchase cold drinks (including Aloe vera, strange but refreshing) although we had no clue how the currency related, we tried to figure out something but actually credit cards still work regardless of language.

Finding the bus stop back a conversation ensues because none of the locals can agree the best way back to town but we settle for a 5 minute walk. A 5 minute going on 20 minute walk in 33c was a reasonable challenge but finally made it back to a bus stop and a more leisurely ride back into Brazil and inspite of what the Brazilians told us, completely unmolested.

I suspect that is one of Alex's first foreign "adventures" where it really doesn't matter that we didn't know where we were and we were always within walking distance of where we started and never in any danger more than we would be in most cities beyond the fact that we notably stand out from the local population which unlike Brazilians appears to have retained a lot more of the indigenous South America look.

The stresses of the day meant an easy option for dinner was really required and one thing we had promised ourselves was to visit a Brazilian BBQ and luckily for us the nearest was literally around the corner from our hotel, Churrascaria do Gaucho (Steakhouse of the Gaucho in Google's half translated efforts). This is a place were a wide variety of meat and cuts of meat are brought to your plate to complement an eat as much as you like buffet and Alex was there trying pretty much everything, this boy is not destined to suffer from vegetarianism any time soon but space was saved for repeated trips to the desert section.


Brazil, day 5, Sunday

It does rain here.
Awesome pizza.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Brazil, day 4, Saturday, 1st April 2017. No fools in sight.

Today started with visiting the Cafe do Morante viewpoint over Lagoa Conceicao where the vultures could be seen gliding around the hillsides.

Following the road North we visited the Parque Estadual do Rio Vermelho which is an ecological park.
Yoda at Parque Estadual do Rio Vermelho

where a tour guide walked us through the edge of the rain forest talking about the forest and its conservation, the problems with invasive species and we were able to see a number of animals that had been rescued from captivity. Most will never be able to survive on their own in the wild but some, such as this Little Owl
I'm watching you
will be released in due course. Unfortunately, as with this Little Owl the animals can struggle to become truly independent, so although he was released on the other side of the lake he is found sitting in this very tree everyday. There aren't many opportunities to photograph wildlife which don't try to avoid being visible to humans and this little guy seemed to like the attention while remaining sufficiently aloof that he was never within touching distance.

Further along we saw lines of ants marching across the sandy path with large guards either side of the column protecting the flanks of the the leaf cutter workers.

Lunch was fresh made pasteil in a roadside cafe, they are pastry pockets with cheese, ham etc inside then fried, combined with fresh squeezed cane sugar to drink, or Alex's new discovery, guarana fizzy drink.

After lunch we visited Praia do Santinho where the waves, like everywhere on the East coast pound the sandy beaches but on the wooded heights above the beach there are thousands of year old inscriptions to be found.

Praia do Santinho

back at home a fabulous home made chicken stroganoff and another helping, or two, of peanut cocktail.

Brazil, day 3, Friday, March 31st


More exploring today so off past Lagoa da Conceicao and then onto Dinas de Joaquina for "ski bunda" where Alex is able to use a snow board on the roasting hot sand dunes.
Ski Bunda
Was also had our first encounter with someone wanting protection money to park the car in the street - unfortunately the car has not yet reached classic status.

A short drive further on brough us to Praia Joaquina and onto the rocks ag Ponta do Retiro.
Praia Joaquina
Later....lunch in the town of Lagoa da Conceicao is cheeseballs, Pao de queijo, which demonstrates the Auntie Ale's are the best.

after lunch we visited the viewpoints at Mirante do Morro de Lagoa Conceicao for the views across the double lake
Lagoa da Conceicao
and then up to the top of the hill, Morro da Cruz, looking out across Florianopolis city and onto the main land.
Florianopolis
Back at home the waether is ideal for a BBQ accompanied by passion fruit cocktail (alcoholic) and peanut cocktail (alcoholic very). Perhaps the first time I discovered that my ability to play cards may be negatively impacted by alcohol.


Brazil, day 2, Thursday, March 30th 2017

Arrival in firstly Sao Paulo and a short flight later in Florianopolis.
Florianopolis Airport
It was a long flight and Roger is there waiting for us. It's hot and sunny and the trip to home, for the next few weeks, is through a typical environment of rain forest encroaching on human building efforts and humans fighting back. Unfortunately, the latter are winning but still everything is very green and fresh, a much deeper green than at home.

Arrive to find Ale suffering from a cold of all things and meet Sooty and Bruxa the dogs for the first time.

A coffee or two later and some nibbles before we set off to Villa Fattima where we see the view down part of the South-East coast with the waves rolling onto the beautiful beaches View from Villa Fattima

while being surrounded by wild growing papaya
Papaya

View from Villa Fattimaand plants that at home make small houseplants but here are tree climbing triffids.



















Leaving the hillside we stop at Lagoa de Peri, a shallow fresh water lake, for a paddle Lagoa de Peri
Leaf Cutter Ants

and our first encounter with leaf-cutter ants in the wild.

In amongst the trees we see bromeliads growing wild with air plants taking up residence in the least accessible places and hanging from overhead wires.







Driving on we come drive past the beach of Praia da Armacao which we could see from Villa Fattima and parking at Igreja Santana we walked along the beach

Ponta das Campanhas

to Ponta das Campanhas

Boats at Ponta das Campanhas

Ponta das Campanhas

where Alex demonstrates his mountain goat genes scrambling across the accessible rocks of the headlands with waves crashing all around us.








Ponta das Campanhas 
From the headland we can look over the bay of Praia do Matadeiro where whales would, in earlier years, been driven and slaughtered but now sandy beaches and relaxed people are the order of the day.


Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Brazil, day 1

Fortunately Nicky from The Flight Centre stepped in and resolved the issue of check-in for us, it seems the Latam are just plain incompetent and don't understand how flights are purchased nowadays. I would have provided feedback but inspite of asking for English language emails from Latam most of them still arrived in a.n.other language (Spanish / Portuguese, not sure to be honest) which I was unable to interpret. Much relief felt with flights finally sorted not many hours before needing to use them.

The drive to Heathrow and the parking was uneventful and unexciting, exactly what was required for that part of the journey. 

Getting the boarding passes in the airport proved to be simple and successfully passed through baggage drop off and security.

...and relax.....

Hard earned Guinness drunk, everything is good, we are on holiday.20170329Brazil-PageFamily-0060.jpg

The plane was packed and hot but seat back entertainment worked well.

Brazil, day - 0

Check-in, painful, took almost 24 hours and several phone calls and a desperate lack of support from Latam to be point of being obstructive.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Jackdaws, they are from hell.

My lack of perfect fitting is letting me down.

The Jackdaws have exploited the small gap available and are happily taking advantage of the safer environment I have provided fir them.

Still no contact from the vendor.

Friday, 17 March 2017

The power of solar, 1 week on...

The evil jackdaws have demonstrated themselves to be too annoying scrabbling around under the panels at an unseemly hour of the morning so sterner discouragement is required.

Rumour has it that a shotgun might be (a) noticed by the neighbours, (b) over the top and (c) actually illegal.

That means something far more sensible is required, no an axe won't work, far too inaccurate.

Last year I did research all of the companies that cover our area and discovered that the minimum price for a commercial business to add some mesh around the panels to prevent entry was approx £1,000 which is frankly ridiculous for 1 to 2 hours' work. That price would then sky rocket when said businesses discovered we do not live in a bungalow hence a ladder or indeed scaffolding would be needed. If I lived in a bungalow I would have no concerns about getting up a ladder in the first place!

I did also contact the provider of the panels, last year : no response, this year : no response. It is strange they have emailled me and asked for data and support but when I try to contact them nothing. Yes I have tried phoning and inspite of allegedly being an active business they don't answer the phone either. I think one more try tomorrow before naming and shaming is applied - that Google search throws up a lovelly "write a review button".

Chicken wire, now that sounds good.

So 25 meters of chicken wire duly purchased from Amazon, folded to the correct height and wrapped around the panels. Lots of swearing and sweating from me up a ladder with a pole pushing chicken wire 3 metres above my head and hoping that it will stay in place. Move ladder along, repeat swearing ,sweating and pushing. No I didn't have that thought, you did.

Nearing the end and happily cable tying the mesh at the bottom to discover that I am being stabbed by the chicken wire. Strange I think, it is PVC coated and I don't recall any exposed ends so open hand to look, nothing, use other hand to move wire and more spikes. Oh hang on, there are no spikes, only electricity flowing through the chicken wire!

Chicken wire checked and it is only touching the frames of the panels and possibly the ends of the mounting rails. There are no apparent loose wires and the wiring still is in one piece using its waterproof connectors as far as I can see.

The final stages of tidying the chicken wire and making a good fit is now in abeyance. I suspect I am lucky that I remained on the ladder, thank goodness for grey British days I guess. my efforts are not a perfect fit, at the top there is a gap in one place, which I had planned to resolve by manouvering the chicken wire so it was a tight fit along the top, and at the bottom it is pretty loose but not hanging down.

More phone calls to the vendor, pretty sure I shouldn't be getting shocks from the panels.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Solar Panels Update aka nature too close to home

It's clearly that time of year again, that time of year that we hear the pitter patter of little feet, that time of year that twigs are deposited en-mass behind the solar panels and subsequently into the gutters.



Yes, it appears to be jackdaw nesting season and thanks to encouragement of our neighbours (sorry USA readers, neighbors) there is a thriving flock and thanks to our neighbors finally understanding hosting them in one's loft space is less than ideal now look to other locations for a place to nest.

The next best nest site appears to be under my solar panels so the ritual of shooing the birds away and making sure that the pile of twigs doesn't get the opportunity to become a nest has begun.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Lightroom, draining the light from my soul

A new update of Lightroom from Adobe. hurrah, lots of new features, there's the Reference View and performance enhancements according to one site.

Adobe's "What's New" shows Reference View.

Great get downloading.

Can I find the Reference View? Certainly have not found any performance improvements within Lightroom yet.

Lots of websites heralding the arrival of "Reference View" ... it hasn't arrived on my copy...finally an Adobe page that announces it's not on your version only on the pay monthly version, pure coincidence that I found that particular page.

So once again Adobe are releasing features in a product priced for heavy users / professionals but forgetting your basic home user which is a real shame.

Features in Lightroom that I know about that I would like to see come to my desktop so far :


  • Dehaze
  • Reference View

What a shame Adobe cannot be up front and honest about the quality of support provided for, what I assume, as a community of users it wants to forget exist.