Apple Mead Drinking Time

Remember when I’d just started this blog and I wrote about mead? Remember the Apple and Clove mead I made back then? If not look here.

It was bottled in December and six and a bit months later Kim and I fancied a glass of wine so we cracked open a bottle (it mean what else could we have done?). The cork came out with a pop and a delicious apple-ly smell!

The clove have left a bit of sediment so using a tip I got off my Grandad I strained it through some kitchen roll and it was ready to drink.

I am glad to say it tastes amazing! Nice and syrupy with a good taste of both clove and apple (I kind of has me hungering for a ham sandwich). I’d recommend the recipe in the link above to anyone.

Finally, as I may have said before I don’t tend to calculate how strong my brews are so I can’t give you a percentage for its strength but I’ll comment in the morning on how my head feels which should give you a guide. Sometime soon I’m thinking of having my second ever attempt at making beer. Keep your eyes peeled for that!


Craft Marketeering

I’ve been meaning to write this for a while but have been distracted by travel both business and leisure. But today I am going to switch from astronomer to anthropologist.

For the past 2 years I have attended all but one* of the craft markets that FinestImaginary has attended. Whilst at these events I have encountered a new species of Man, of which I count my self a member. These are the Craft Marketeer’s Boyfriend/Husbands (or CMB/Hs***). Who and what are these increasing population of modern manhood and how does one identify them? Well… allow me to provide you with a CMB/H spotters field guide:

CMB/H’s are usually identified by the following characteristics

  • Slightly scruffy facial hair, somewhere between stubble and full beard
  • Check/Plaid shirt or a geeky t-shirt
  • More often than not jeans
  • A large majority wear glasses

Behavioural Traits:
CMB/Hs are found staggering, early in the morning, bleary eyed into any venue which will that day host a craft market. They are seen carrying large suitcases of stock to the respective tables of their marketeer, probably struggling under too much wait from some misguided sense of machismo****. They help set-up the stall, check everything looks good and is laid out in its right and proper place all before the market opens to the public and the marketeers begin to ‘do their thang’. At this point the CMB/H will shrink behind the stall and try not to put off any potential customers.

Not to be confused with:
Hipsters, fishermen, lumberjacks or members of the Fleet Foxes.

So now you’ll be able to spot them. Enjoy!

Being a CMB/H has its benefits, I’ve got to wander round some interesting places for example Saltaire, Sheffield and Leeds. I’ve even gone into my office on a weekend (IKR?!) when we’ve been to Manchester! Which has allowed me to take some fairly nice pictures.

This wandering round is usually due to my fear of putting of potential FinestImaginary customers by either distracting Kim or just getting in the way. But there is only so far you can walk and shortly after nipping back to the market for lunch I have generally walked around all surrounding area and could do with a nice sit down and a pint… but you can’t drink on your own (or at least I can’t!) so I never have :(

So, in the dying sentences of this post I am proposing the following to my fellow CMB/Hs. Kim and I will be at the Reet Sweet fair at Leeds Corn Exchange on June 5th… so I propose to go for a pint at Whitelocks at 2pm, any CMB/Hs who wishes to join me are more than welcome to! (I look like this).

Hope someone shows up! (p.s. we can all buy our marketeers a cupcake on the way back to offset our guilt / any trouble we might be in ;)).

* I was observing in Australia for the one I missed, luckily it was the middle of the night here so I was able to get a running commentary of how it was going over gmail chat**.
** The best quote of which being “I’ve been sooo busy I haven’t had the chance to have a wee!”
*** I’ve added the H to avoid confusion with the Cosmic Microwave Background which we are much much younger than.
**** Or they don’t have to go allllll the way back to the car! (I’ve done it before!).


ALMA Community Days, ESO

Last Week I had the pleasure of visiting ESO Headquarters in Garching bei Müchen, (Germany).  They were hosting their ALMA Community Days, a two day “mini” conference. The topic of these community days was “Towards Early Science” and that’s because at the end of March ALMA put out its very first call for proposals (wooo!!!) named cycle 0.

I figure the easiest way to get across all the information we were given over these two day (and to keep it entertaining) is to do a short travel diary. (If you’re interested in just the science skip day one).

Day One: Travelling caused exactly zero change in my morning routine e.g. Get up, walk to town, get on a train headed to Manchester. Airports are airports so I won’t bore you with what I did there except to say travelling with only hand luggage and the invention of automated check in machines makes your life very easy!

The Lufthansa flight was nice and uneventful plus, considering my last two instances of international travel were Manchester-Sydney and Manchester-Hong Kong, at ~2 hours really short. Off the plane, no baggage to collect so straight out and on to the S-Bahn which recommended I go to Munich then come back out to Garching… who am I to argue.

I got to Garching shortly after leaving Munich (because in Germany the trains run on time! A totally alien concept for someone who uses FTPE everyday). Garching is a pretty little town as I hope these pictures illustrate.

After I’d got to my hotel and importantly got the WiFi password from the front desk, Twitter came to my rescue as I was at a lost for what to do till the community days started the following day. Luckily @Astronomer was at ESO already along with fellow UK ARC member, Jaime Pineda and a whole bunch of other ESO fellows! So I joined those guys for a curry* which was good fun.

Day Two: The first day of the conference comprised of talks from 0900 to 1720. I won’t list everything that happened but here are some interesting bits taken from my pages of notes from the day.

  • Cycle 0 specs were recapped, 16 antennas, 400m baselines, bands 3,6,7 and 9 observations. See for full details.
  • So soon after the announcement of cycle 0 observations there was talk of cycle 1, when ALMA will possibly have >40 dishes and spend 75% of its time on Science. Which is something to look forward to next year!
  • Thanks to an unusually cloudy day at the ALMA site observations of the Sun were made, despite the ALMA antennas not yet having solar filters fitted (the clouds being used as a substitute) and in the resulting images you could make out Solar prominences and regions on activity of the surface which were highly comparable to the NASA SDO satellite images made at the same time!
  • Finally, for those of us who like a bit of public outreach, the ALMA proposal review committee are keen on astronomers pointing out in their proposals how the science they intend to do can be used to engage the public with ALMA and the science ALMA can do! Whilst this won’t be taken into consideration for time allocation, it is nothing but a GOOD things as hopefully it will boost the public profile of ALMA and shine yet another spotlight on the wonder that is modern astronomy!

The afternoon comprised of Science Talks surrounding the various aspects of what ALMA is capable of, but this really deserves a post of its own so … watch this space! Until then here is an angry looking me outside the ESO sign trying not to get run over (and in my Jodcast t-shirt!).

Day Three: This day was a day of tutorials, for A) the Observing Tool (OT) and  B) Simulations of ALMA observations. The OT is a piece of software which will be used by astronomers to plan and submit their observations with ALMA. If their proposals are approved then the OT also allows user to perform the in-depth observation scheduling needed by the telescope. (I could write a whole article about how clever this software is but I recommend reading this webpage instead!).

When proposing observations it is useful to have some indication of the types of observations you hope to achieve. This can be achieved by comparison to previous work or through simulation. As ALMA is a new array simulations are going to be prominent in the early rounds of proposals whilst comparisons to existing mm/sub-mm arrays cannot reliably be made yet.

I was a tutor in the simulator tutorial where I gave a short demo of the Observing Support Tool (OST) a web based simulator we are hosting in Manchester. (Another really clever piece of software which I could also go on and on about!  I’m one of the people charged with the task of keeping it ticking over, the machine it runs on is on a desk about 2m in front of mine so I can literally keep an eye on it). These next two pictures show a really rough simulation I did using the OST of what you’d see if there was a really massive pint somewhere in the Galaxy with the original image on the left and the simulated observation on the right.

These sessions seemed to go pretty well and everyone got on well with the OST and the more heavy weight simulation task simdata in CASA. We ended at 1630 and I had that same worn out feeling I used to get at the end of a day of teaching undergraduate Lab (however the participants in this days tutorials were much much more inclined to being there!).

Day Four: Up at 0600, on a bus at 0637, on a train at 0702, on a plane at 0915, on another train at 1105, another bus 1200, home! Travelling with only hand luggage FTW!

* Of all the places in the world I’ve eaten an Indian style curry Germany now ranks 2nd! The full count down goes 1st UK (Manchester/Bradford), 2nd Germany, 3rd Canada and 4th the USA (sorry USA but I’ve yet to have a good curry in your nation).


30 mins to make music?

Earlier this evening I said to myself:
“Self… could you make 3 mins of original music from scratch in a timed 30mins?”

I didn’t know the answer so I gave it a go… and its turns out that… No, I can’t. What I can do is record 2 and a bit mins of 12-bar and noodle about in a badly on top of it, with time rapidly running out, in… errm… about 45 minutes (after giving up on my original 30mins were up).


Made on this Ibanez SA160 (circa 2001) and GarageBand. I’ll do better next time…

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Plan Bee

We’ve all been hearing for sometime that bees are in decline, I think even Dr. Who has made reference to it. This is a pretty bad thing.

from wikipedia

For one no bees means that there are less insects pollenating plants and flowers which is really bad seeing as the are a major factor in crop pollination. This article from the Independent highlights the international spread of this problem and its impact on food production and these BBC articles provide some reasons why this decline might be happening.

A second issue that makes the lack of bees a bad thing is the lack of honey. No honey = no mead = Bad. Anyway all this leads me to my insignificant contribution to boosting bee numbers by purchasing and affixing in my garden a beehouse.

It is near the region of garden I have currently designated “fruit bush section” but as it currently stands is “badly needs weeding section”, with the hope that the fruit bushes I am in the process of buy will attract some bees…

Well we’ll see how it goes, hopefully some bees will move in and then I’ll take it into my head that getting some hives would be a good idea, (it really isn’t). Anway I shall keep you posted as to how both Plan Bee and Operation Fruit Bush progresses.