30 January 2011

Empire - Birmingham Great Park

In the gents you get to choose your star...

Wondering - in the ladies are their star names attached to the stalls?

Grrr... Garmin

Why do I keep buying Garmin?

I have bought three GPS units and they have all failed - the electronics have been perfect - it is the construction that lets them down - is this by design I wonder?

This post is about GPS - but I could write similar on Canon cameras and lenses - seems like paying £1000 still does not get you something that will last more than a couple of years (the EOS 350D camera suffered total power-loss (common complaint) and the lens has a design flaw - the iris ribbon cable flexes when you zoom - and then cracks (very common complaint), or Timex watches or Casio cameras - in fact any portable electronics at all.

The GPS first to fail was my E-trex summit (right) "The case is completely waterproof to withstand immersion in one meter of water for up to 30 minutes." - that might be be so when it is new but in warm climates the glue bonding the rubber rand to the hard plastic case goes "tacky" - the rubber starts to move about - and water gets in - my first unit failed while hiking in Sri Lanka on (a very rainy) Adams Peak - first I knew there was condensation inside the display and then no display at all.  Garmin replaced the unit f.o.c even though it was out of warranty - the replacement has a few missing pixels, the glue has given way (so I keep it in a plastic bag) and finally the battery contact wire snapped and ping-ed off into the undergrowth.  Not good in mist on top of the Carneddau - some aluminium foil from my packed lunch and pressing on the cells with my finger whilst using the unit got me safely out of the mist (see also "to MacGyver") .

The second was my Nuvi 360T (left) - the power switch is soldered on to the main circuit board - but there is no bracing support behind it - so eventually the wire legs bend and/or the solder breaks and then the on/off switch stops working.  Another common fault - mine failed after 10 months.  Garmin sent replacement unit - and this one failed after two years - out of warranty - so I split the case, cut out the switch cover, braced the switch with part of a cable tie and then sealed it up with duct tape.

So that is 4 out of 4 failed so far... and finally my Forerunner 350 (centre)

  • First the display got scratched - OK on a rock whilst orienteering in the Lake District. 
  • Then the beep went quiet - I suspect the piezo-buzzer is no longer in contact with the case (if it is like my failed Timex running watch there is a spring that ensures contact - and this fails) - problem is you can (easily) accidentally stop the timer and there is now no warning sound. 
  • If it rains the watch turns itself off - allegedly putting tape over the breather hole on back of the case will prevent this. 
  •  Finally one of the buttons went flat and squidgy and on pressing no longer made contact with the corresponding switch inside the case.  Fixed with a piece of silicone rubber eraser and more duct tape.

Friends tell me that the battery will go next - but there is a fix with an after market Nokia phone battery that just about fits - and will give greatly extended endurance.

Why do I keep buying Garmin - The internet leads me to expect no better performance from rival manufacturers and at least Garmin have replaced faulty units without fuss and, being a popular brand,  there is lots of help posted to the Internet by other sufferers.

29 January 2011

A.R.D.F. & A.R.T.

To Hightown Dunes near Liverpool for ARDF.  Organised alongside a MEROC Saturday Series orienteering event - it was great to see hordes of school children storming round their courses - most in personalised orienteering kit - it was clear this was not just a one-off but a regular activity.

From the car park could be seen of Antony Gormley’s sculpture 'Another Place' on Crosby beach.  Another example of art that seems to make a connection with the non-connoisseur and my second Gormley

It was -2 overnight - just enough to freeze seawater and make "beach ice"

The statues are from a cast of Mr Gormley's own body and are "anatomically correct" - this picture carefully framed to preserve modesty

The "nipples" and similar objects on the "buttocks" result from the clever positioning of the charging and air release channels required as part of the casting process

 Already being colonised by sea life and a subject of study by marine biologists

As it was a lovely day - and my course only took me 30 minutes I detoured through central Liverpool - my first re-visit in 30 years - I can happily wait another 30 before repeating and then through the tunnels to see "West Float Docks" - where we used to race coxed-fours in the late 1970's - stomach pumps were on hand in case anyone fell in, New Brighton, Hoylake and the view over to Hilbre Island (not enough time to walk over the sands as we did on a church outing) and then West Kirby - where I failed to find my childhood favourite ice cream parlour (not least because,  on checking - it is in Parkgate!  (Nicholls))
Merseyside is only 100 miles from home - but it feels foreign - it looks different and so do the people.

17 January 2011

From the Sublime to the Brzeg

Another flight, another strange cloud formation

Returning from Florence to Poland I am staying for the first time in Brzeg - at least they built a hotel - just a bit late as I am now nearly finished with the project.  For many years it was a closed town with a Soviet Airforce garrison and then has suffered from being stuck in between Opole and Wroclaw - where most of the investment has gone - there is some serious catching up to do.

My taxi driver lives on what was originally "Adolf Hitler Straße" then was something else under communism and is now Ul. Jana Pawła II

Every Polish town has the necessary for the "Three Memorials" Race - from your starting bar visit the John Paul II Statue, The Popiełuszko Memorial and the Katyn Monument
According to the sign outside my hotel Brzeg is on a spur on the pilgrims route to Santiago De Compostella (The Lesser Polish Way and then the Via Regia) - a bit of a hike.

It is also where your Crunchies, CurlyWurlys, Picnics and DoubleDeckers now come from - hence the Christmas lights sponsorship

The view from the restaurant at Hotel Arte (not to be confused with the nearby Art Hotel on which it appears to be modeled)

A new take on the "egg timer" - this tea timer runs backwards!

14 January 2011

Oh to live in Italy and eat "proper" every night

I really love Italian restaurants, I love the way that solo diners still get treated properly, I love the way that the chef pops out of the kitchen to discuss selections and propose new dishes with regular diners - and how Italian waiters are the best in the world.

On 14th January it was "Trattoria Di' Sordo" in Florence.  The literal meaning of which is "Inn of the Deaf" - strange.   Just around the corner from my nice hotel - Orcagna

 According to Wikipedia: A trattoria is less formal than a ristorante, but more formal than an osteria. There are generally no printed menus (tick), the service is casual (tick), wine is sold by the decanter rather than the bottle (tick), prices are low (sadly not as this is €-land), and the emphasis is on a steady clientele rather than on haute cuisine (looked that way to me). The food is modest and mostly following regional and local recipes (tick)

The real clincher for me was the ambulance outside and two members of the local paramedic fraternity stocking up for the long night ahead...

I had...

Anti-Pasti: Parma ham, salami and a tasty strong Pâté

No really the bland beans were an ideal accompaniment for the rich gravy. Simple and tasty
I skipped the pasta course - so there was room for panna cotta and a nice glass of grappa and finally


and then a 5 minute walk to my nice comfortable bed


Florence, but no Dougal

In Florence they have...

Hydraulic Police

Very nice views from the Boboli Gardens (up by the porcelain museum)

This one grabbed my attention - can you guess where it is? 
(click the picture for a larger version)

Very Italian (above and below)


Rather tight parking - no idea how the wee Fiat-500 is going to escape as it was similarly blocked at the front

Just round the corner from the Uffizi is a large planter filled with a large olive tree.  Attached were plaques in "many languages" stating that the tree of peace was placed here so that no one would forget the tragedy of May 27th 1993.  A quick straw poll amongst the gathered round tourists revealed that none of us could forget the tragedy because no one had any clue what the plaques were going on about.  The "planters" should really have thought of this and had at least left some clue as to what it was all about*

A crowded cafe early on a Sunday morning - churchgoers chat over espresso before moving on to celebrate mass - possibly in the church where Dante met the love of his life, married his wife and other stuff - I found this little chapel very moving.


A minute or so before the start of my flight from the sublime Florence back to cold, grey, foggy Brzeg.

* Italy Italy, May 27: A car-bomb placed by mafia in the neighbourhood of the Uffizi museum in Florence kills five people and wounds 40.

02 January 2011

I wonder...

I bought a secondhand book through Amazon - there were two "bookmarks" left by previous readers...

Which is just sweet and...

Which gets me thinking...

It is just a candle

Like how many safety warnings do you need?

I guess these mean:

  1. Don't leave unattended
  2. Keep away from children
  3. Keep away from other candles
  4. Keep away from curtains
  5. Remove labels/ribbons?
  6. Keep away from drafts
  7. Do not use near heaters, TVs or sunlight?
  8. Do not hold a lit candle
  9. Place upright on a stable support
  10. Something about a candle snuffer - when the candle goes out and is smoking?
  11. Do not blow the candle out - use a snuffer
  12. Don't pour water on the candle
  13. Something about extinguishing when the wax level gets very low?
  14. Don't light a candle that you have placed in a container?
  15. Keep the wick trimmed to (no more than?) 5mm
  16. Don't let spent match heads fall into the candle
  17. Candle will burn for about 30 hours

Paranoia: You Are Always Being Watched

Disturbed that I had seen no birdies in my garden since the snow melted - I topped up the seed level in my window feeder...

And waited:

+25 Seconds: Wood Pigeon
+30 Seconds: Great Tit
+45 Seconds: Blue Tit
+60 Seconds: Great Tit
+120 Seconds: Magpie
+155 Seconds: Chaffinch
and so on - a "visitor" every 30 seconds or so


All time feeder list: Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, (acrobatic) Magpie, Long Tailed Tit, Green Finch, Wood Pigeon, Bull Finch, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, Dunnock (spilled seed), Rat (ditto) and possibly a Siskin and other stuff that moved too fast for a positive ID