Wednesday, 31 October 2007

The Youth of Today

...many of the problems of today's society may be down to the fact that modern kids tv programs don't have decent theme songs. The songs we carry through life enter our heads from an early age. I'm not talking about the actual program, but the music.


My childhood "The Flashing Blades"; "The Banana Splits".

Current childhood "Spongebob", "Watch my Chops".

'nuff said.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Trail Bites

Claire Maxted left her routes post and went bivvying in the Lakes. PTC is now Trail's lightweight expert. Trail photographer, Tom Bailey, gives some advice and takes some cracking photos to illustrate an article on Robert Macfarlane's book "Wild Places".Simon Ingram gives the lowdown on his Summer ML training and Graham Thompson tests the new MSR Reactor stove in the open.

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Stonehaven Fish Supper


Haddock supper from Carron chippy. Well, there's an artillery link there. Mike wanted something that wasn't fried, so i left him going to other places. Where he failed to get served, so left. After eying up some crows on the beach, he heads back into the square to see if anyone is now willing to take his money - especially as cashmachine broke down with his card still in it.

Dunnottar Castle


Visiting Dunnottar Castle (wiki).


I always thought it was NTS, but it isn't. So, we saved our pennies and went to laugh at the folks trying to launch a kite in the sheltered bay they had chosen to have their barbecue in. And tried taking photos of water on a stony beach. Both of us were just shattered, and heart wasn't in it. Even when some kids started barking. It was a sort of non-day.





If you notice from the other shots, the crevice is missing here: don't fall off the edge, kids.

Summertime Blues

Spring forward...fall back. I've lost track of which watches/clocks/times that I've set back end which I haven't. Never a good idea to do this after some medicinal drinks - look, honeyed beer must be medicinal. And the Isle of Arran Dark, Sunset (seemed appropriate) and Blonde, and Saké (ooh, there's a video tutorial). And medicinal pizza (5 portions covered there), and garlic bread (good for the blood-flow), and crisps (more of the 5-portions of fruit/vegetables a day).


I must get hold of a tokkuri - do they make one in the shape of a hat with straws?

There's a webcam on the clock of Big Ben in London - but the quality is too poor to make out the time. Well, that's sodding useless. Oh, radio's just agreed that it is 01.30am, and we have an "extra hour from no-where" - huh? Sorry, but did I miss something? Has some Time Lord agreement given me an extra hour on my lifespan? I think not, it is just a mechanical ruse so fewer kids get knocked down walking to school, and the farmers have more daylight to work the crops.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Outdoors Manning

John Manning, until recently and for 13 years previous, the deputy editor of TGO, has a new website at  He specialises in writing about walking and the great outdoors, especially backpacking.

Click here to see a drama-documentary of his escape over the Border. Many aspects have been fictionalised...okay, all of them have.

Last of the Summer Shine

Stopped off on the way back from Aboyne to catch the last of the sun shining through the clouds. End of British Summer Time overnight.



Chris Townsend in Aboyne


Just had a pleasant time with Chris Townsend in Hilltrek in Aboyne. He signed my well-thumbed "backpacker's handbook" and i bought a signed copy of his new book "guide to walks in the north-west highlands". Over free tea and shortbread, he told me tales of derring-do about being a mountain and wilderness writer and photographer. And the scoop? Well, that's private.

All i will say is that he is taller in real life.


Only 400 Scottish Wildcats

I caught up with last night's "Landward", and was captivated by the article about the near-extinction of the Scottish wildcat. You can catch the programme online here.

Amongst a variety of people being interviewed was Peter Cairns of the Tooth & Claw project

In 2004, a team of scientists attached to WildCRU (Wildlife Conservation Research Unit) and the National Museums of Scotland estimated that as few as 400 wildcats remained. A previously quoted population of around 5,000 is now believed to be attributable to feral domestic cats or hybrid mixes of domestic and wildcat.

Further information and some more stunning photographs at the Scottish Wildcat Association (or Trust)

Click here to visit the Scottish Wildcat Trust website

You can see some wildcats in captivity at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kincraig. Link

Mostly Painless

Just renewed my car tax online through and it was remarkably painless. I was surprised that the joined-up-government could find my paperwork, as the real reason that I did this instead of supporting my local (1.1 miles away, says Google Maps). So, less money for the Post Office, more cuts, etc - sorry, but I would have gone in and supported the local-ish community, except I couldn't find my last insurance document in amongst all my paperwork.

Usually I'm more organised, but the company changed, and piles of new documents came through the post...etc etc. Much easier for the computer to handle it all, and allow me to go about my business.

Oh, just found that if you right-click on a Google Map, you can set the "get directions from here", and then "to here" when you find the destination. I always thought you needed post codes or addresses. Sweet. Now, I wonder if it can be set to plan off-road trips? Probably not.

Off to Aboyne do see Chris Townsend.

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Blog Comments

I've just noticed a wee addition to Blogger's Comment options - under the Word Verification (if you use one) is a check box where you can Email follow-up comments to ...

Huzzah. No more excuses for not re-visiting comments that you have left elsewhere. This'll hit services like coComments.

Genius of Photography

BBC4 - one of the Freeview channels - starts a new series tonight called the "Genius of Photography". I have a Freeview box but the BBC transmitter fails to send a signal to my region, so I don't receive BBC4. I don't get a discount on my licence fee for this. I hope that they rebroadcast the series on terrestrial, as it looks quite good.

Being in the digital age, the BBC fails to say if the show is being transmitted over their "on demand" system. No doubt a dvd will be available at an extortionate price, and there will be a colourful book in the shops by Christmas - which is only 2 months away.

Links: BBC4. Magazine.

I have my camera under my desk. One Master Pack done (almost) after being at desk since 10am. It is sunny outside. I don't think I'll be here lon

Blog Shorts

Ali and Lay's blog has moved to

Chris Townsend will be at Hilltrek, Aboyne on Saturday: more details.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Space is Cold

Mike and me headed out of town to take some shots of the moon tonight. Only Mike's came out. I need more practice. ISO-100, f/11, 1/250th second exposure.


We then set up a speed trap - well, the traffic seemed to slow down as it got near the camera/tripod set up at the side of the road. 20-30 second exposures.


Shot in RAW, processed using RawShooter. Extra gear: hat, gloves, fleece.

Relative Dimensions

This time last year (Wednesday of my October break), was my 5th day of walking the West Highland Way. I was on the stretch from Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse. The blog allows me to jump back in space/time to remember the sights and sounds, the flies and the stillness. I love technology - enhancing humanity in new and exciting ways. Let's do the TimeWarp, again.

Mind wandering from paperwork...I must stay focused on what I came in to do and not get sidetracked! Once it is all done, then I can get outside and continue my break.

Test: Image Size

This is a test. Awoo. Awoo. Testing the size of the image. I changed upload setting from "medium" to "large". Will this have an effect on size of image that appears in blog next time that I blog from the phone.

October Sun


A few of us were going to meet up today to go through packs ready for the looming HMIe inspection. As we're on holiday, i took in the dSLR and went snapping through all the windows i could squeeze the 350d under and up. Hit or miss, but i've both ND filters on, so that is x8. Looks like i needed it. Shooting in RAW. This placeholder will be replaced later, after unwork.





Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Loch Glas' station


Oft seen from, but not pictured herself. Webcam link. Map link.


After that it was simply a matter of driving across to the east coast. Luckily my CF card was almost full by this time else I'd never have got home.


Ben Wyvis as the moon rises.


First shot at taking photo of Moon, and this is what I got. Two images side by side. Tripod with remote control, 4.5 seconds at f/5.6 and 200mm zoom. ISO-100. I used the only filter that I had packed, the polarising one. I'll need to read up on settings before making a proper attempt.

Loch Broom


Once across the Minch, and into safety of Loch Broom, the waves stop smashing against the first floor canteen windows. The sun starts picking out patterns on the sea and i gather my kit and head outside into the cold. My tribal buff worn beany-style, warm montane jacket and camera-bag slung tricorder-like below my green daysack. I involuntarilly start humming the Mickey Mouse Club tune from FMJ as the safety comes off the SLR and i start taking the shots that i have been mentally composing as i have been walking, moth-like to the sunlight.


The Hebridean Mission


As the town hall clock chimes 1.37, the ferry starts to depart from the dock. A cormorant attempts to dry its wings on a rocky outcrop. A seal lurks between the old piers. 3 minutes later and the peat-fired boilers of the boat start pushing up backwards. "left hand down a bit, Mr Philips" and we do the nautical equivalent of a handbrake turn. I can see the tartan furry dice on the bridge swinging at a 45' angle.


We are now in the capable hands of Captain MacAubrey as he attempts to slip past the blockading French squadron and thence across the Minch to the next part of my journey.

Landscapes as Living Spirit

From Jake Page's article "Sacred Ground" in "Native Peoples" magazine:

We had been profoundly privileged to join the Hopis on a pilgrimage they have made every four years or so since before memory to eight outlying shrines that denote the land that the Hopis feel spiritually responsible for, a vast area in northeastern Arizona. The elders had asked us to go on this pilgrimage to “document” it for National Geographic so the world would know of the Hopis’ responsibilities.
The priests prayed for the land and for the well-being of all living things that dwell there. Later they told us the pilgrimage had clearly been successful. Almost everywhere we had gone, it had rained the next day. So much rain fell around Grand Canyon Village after we passed through there that authorities had to close all the roads for 24 hours.


Tens of thousands of such holy places are gone, but thousands no doubt remain—modest little shrines here and there like those on the former Woodruff Butte—hidden in canyons, sitting atop high mountains and fronting our oceans. They include whole mountains, like the San Francisco Peaks north of Flagstaff, Arizona; entire mountain ranges, like the Crazy Mountains in Montana; as well as lakes, tiny springs still running in cities, and ancient burial sites.

I have purposefully removed the negative paragraphs. You can read yourself how one sacred place was used to make a road, or a landowner taking a bulldozer to another place. We humans are short-lived creatures - for good or bad, we seem to long to leave our mark on the landscape. Maybe we think that people will remember us for it? For good or bad.

Bremner, Bird & AktoMan

I know I've been off on jankers for a few weeks now, so the only time I've been mentioned in the Blogger's Roundup was when someone else reckons I look like someone else.

First there was Alan's comment: Has anyone else noticed the remarkable similarity between Aktoman and David Mitchell?

And now Darren's weekly roundup says:

Proving himself a man of a thousand faces Aktoman impersonates Cameron McNeish in "GoLite GoPosteHaste"

I'd be happy when I look like a hillwalker again and can get some mentions under my own guise.

Monday, 22 October 2007

Introibo ad Altare Dei

Today was an overcast day. It threatened to clear up a couple of times, and then started drizzling again. As my old lecturer said: we have intelligent rain in Scotland.

After lunch at the Cala hotel (superb carvery for Gael-size appetites, even the starter was all the sushi, prawn cocktail and smoked salmon a hungry highlander could fill his plate with) I went off to fulfil my commission from FJ "Boats in the harbour. Fishermen working, stuff like that." Map link.


Earlier that day I had been catching up with podcasts on my new iPod arrangement, and caught up with some more of Michael Kickingbear's "Indigenous Peoples' Music" show (link). I shouldn't have been surprised then to see the crew of the Banff-boat, Ulysses, grinning and waving, looking like they'd just stepped out of a Kickingbear production!






Because of the inclement nature of the day, I decided to keep using RAW, and then used PixMantic RawShooter (free from, but just noticed they have been bought out by Adobe). After fiddling with controls, I seemed to hit on a system that worked for most shots (I think). Use White Balance pipette on an area of white in photo. Set exposure compensation to -0.5, Shadow Contrast +50, Highlight contrast -50 (or vice versa). Saturation 50. If that didn't work, try something else.

Considering the day was fluich, fuar, dreich and dismal, the balance isn't all that bad. Not good, as I need to work on it, but not bad. Oh, don't even think about correcting the pronunciation of a spoken language or two - I don't care. ' '

Daylight Saving Time

The local council misunderstands the term "daylight saving time" and forgets to pay for the sun to come up:


Map Link

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Miami Vice


Gaels Predicted

On a less techy note, here's my view this overcast morning. Towards Tongue across Broad Bay to Tiumpan Head. Map link.


Last night we were down at the ferry terminal waiting for some relatives to disembark, when some of the Mòd entrants returned. My Dad said that a large cup/bowl-full of malt whisky was being passed around onboard. Nice. The Gazette lists the 10 medals won by the Lochs Choir. Well done.



Mòd Links: Official Mòd homepage, Lochaber 2007.

I can't help but note that the Stornoway Gazette now carries the results of their online polls in pride of place under their name banner on page one. Is this democracy in action? What percentage of the populace votes? Can only one person vote at a time? Do you think online polls are worth the effort?

Sleep, Little iPod

I resurrected an old project: using the iPod to listen to podcasts instead of going to sleep listening to the radio. I used to listen to Radio 4 last thing at night, but these days the "comedy" isn't that funny, and then they have "today in Parliament" - so if I catch that instead it often gets my blood boiling and I'm suddenly awake, arguing with the radio. Oops, I just noticed that the BBC's link to "today in Parliament" hasn't been updated since 2004 - that says a lot.

With my current iPod accessory list, the options are either headphones or one of those short-range radio gadgets that allows me to play through a radio speaker. Not ideal as headphones are uncomfortable to wear in bed and the other system has to be switched off completely or the batteries die.

So, whilst in Tescos the other night/morning, I let my eyes fall on their range of external speakers. Most were unpleasing to the eye, others too expensive for this sort of thing. The Logic3 i-Station3 was neither. 6rms of slinky black docking station/speaker system for 25 notes. It could be set up to sync with a pc, and can run on batteries or can charge a unit through the mains connection. It even has little perspex speaker covers. Mainly, some thought has gone into the design. Manufacturer's link.

As to the 'sleep' function. I went looking for Apple software, but found that the iPod's clock already has a sleep function. Which has just kicked in, finishing the movie I was watching ("The Treasure of the Sierra Madre" recorded from TV years ago), and all it leaves is a blue light showing at the station's On/Off switch. Apple link.

Final stage is to add a shortcut to the Sleep Function to the Main Menu. Settings > Main Menu. Sadly only allows me to add the Clock to the Main Menu, and not the submenu item of Sleep Timer. iPod Manual PDF.

I can now drift off to sleep listening to podcasts instead of BBC Radio, and so their mundane regular shows lose another customer to the Internet and the world of OnDemand media. Not because I want to, but because the stuff that is being churned out at times that I am listening/watching is of variable quality. Unlike the Today show in the morning, which is great to wake up to.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Gone West, Life is Peaceful Here

In Ullapool early to catch the sunrise.






Ullapool - quiet at that time in the morning.





The ferry can be seen closing the distance.



I found these levers onboard. I wonder if it plays a sea-shanty too?


Point, on Lewis, comes into view.


Sgoth: a traditional Hebridean sailboat in Stornoway harbour. (multimedia)