Satelite Recovery – Lyme

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Behind the house - It was nice to see the English countryside again.

Near the new house - It was nice to see the English countryside again.

My mum has recently moved to a new house in a lovely country village near Lyme Regis on the edges of Dorset and Devon. The area is very nice and the house is, ‘in essence’, a very nice little house. Unfortunately, it has some issues. In fact it has a lot of issues. We knew most of these before we bought it but decided (with a very complex budgeting and evaluation I did a few months ago) that it was still a good idea. Amongst the extra problems that turned up, were that the chimney needed replacing. This was taking place at the time I was there and had involved the removal of the satelite dish which was on the old chimney. I was tasked with temporarily hooking the dish back up.

   

Nearby old mill thing.

Nearby old mill thing.

New chimney.

New chimney.

 

The plan was just to bolt it directly to the scaffolding. However, the various available clamps and shackle things were either too big for the dish pole, or too small for the scaffolding poles. The solution, was to mount the garden umbrella stand (a perfect medium diameter) upside down onto the scaffolding and then mount the dish to that. The alignment was done by calculating the magnetic bearing (I think it’s the right-ascension) and using my phone and watch compass to get this direction roughly right. Lacking a signal meter, the fine tuning was done by pointing my mum’s laptop camera at the sky box’s signal screen on the TV, winching my own laptop to the top of the scaffolding and then using Skype to look at the TV through my mum’s laptop’s camera. The slight complication was that the builder was using the winch for a bucket of wet cement at the time. So my poor laptop which has really been put through its paces over the past 4 years, had to be sealed in a bag and put into wet cement, dangling 3 stories above the ground.

Laptop with all my work on, in a bag, at the top of the scaffholding.

Laptop with all my work on, in a bag, at the top of the scaffholding.

Dish.

Dish.

It turned out that the HTC compass is insufficiently accurate even for the first approximation, so some drawing of lines on Google map’s satellite images was used instead.

     

View from the scaffolding. The chimney was massive in the original photos, but stitching them together removed it completely.

View from the scaffolding. The chimney was massive in the original photos, but stitching them together removed it completely.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Gradually getting to graduation, [ London – Salisbury – Lyme Regis ]

May 15, 2011 2 comments

My primary reason for going back to the UK this time, was for my PhD graduation ceremony from Imperial College, on this day. While Tuesday had a few small problems, Wednesday started out as a complete disaster. My mother and brother were on their way up from Devon/Dorset, and they had my suit which I had to wear under the fancy robes they give you to prance around in for the day. Unfortunately their train was late, owing to a person at Clapham junction trying to occupy that space beyond the platform that rapidly moving trains also occupy.

Mother and suit, on their way through London.

Mother and suit, on their way through London.


 

Meanwhile, I was at Imperial trying to convince the people from whom we hire the Robes, that I did in fact have a reservation despite not being on their primitive paper list. Proving this, required my ID number which was in a text message on my other phone back in Greifswald. Alternatively, it might be in my e-mail, which required Internet access. Getting access to this particular technology at the ‘Imperial College of Science and Technology’ proved incredibly difficult. The public access machines in the lobby were all broken (BSODs, BIOS errors, and various other flavors of epic fail). I did still have an account for the WiFi but they kindly reset everyones password every few months.

I went up to shout at IT services but the girl on the desk was so cheery and helpful that the shouting didn’t happen. She fixed the problem pretty quickly. Waving the laptop in the woman from the robe company’s face achieved the robes and the suit finally turned up, with family, ten minutes after the time that officially won’t let anyone in. We missed the precession thing at the start, but they did let us in so I had my moment of wandering across the stage of the Royal Albert Hall, with my associated reading of my name and handshaking with various important university types.
 

Me in the silly hat they shouldn't have given me.

Me in the silly hat they shouldn't have given me.

On stage in the Royal Albert Hall. Worth 4 years of work??

On stage in the Royal Albert Hall. Worth 4 years of work??

 

We than did a little wandering around at the reception, scoffed some ‘cans of peas’ (canapes) and I said hi to the five odd people I actually know at Imperial. After that we got the tube back to Waterloo and the train out to Salisbury from where my brother drove us back to my mum’s new house near Lyme Regis on the Devon/Dorset border.

The new house near Lyme.

The new house near Lyme.

Categories: travel

Easy (to miss the) Jet [ Greifswald – Berlin – Gatwick – London ]

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, that was quite a week! I’ve been in England for a week and a day and am now sitting on the train back to Greifswald writing this while watching the masses of lightning over northern Germany. In order to not write everything in one post, I’ll put a short entry in for each day of my mini-holiday, each day of this week. So here’s the first:

Tuesday 3rd May: Greifswald – Berlin – Gatwick – London

Having spend many hours sitting around airports and train stations on previous attempts, I decided this time to try to make the connections a bit closer. I left only 30mins between the train arriving at the airport and the departure gate closing time. The only alternative was having a 2.5 hour wait at Berlin airport. Unfortunately, the train from Greifswald was late into Berlin Hauptbahnhof so I missed the connection. A taxi from there to the airport solved that problem for only 35€. I gave him 40€ for driving like a maniac, as I needed since even then I made it to the departure gate only 30 seconds before it officially closed. As it happened, the flight was 30mins late, so it wouldn’t have been a problem.

I was quite surprised this guy was happy to stand there as the plane taxied in using its engines.

I was quite surprised this guy was happy to stand there as the plane taxied in using its engines.

Berlin

Berlin

The flight itself was uneventful except for some nice views of Belgium at night and I turned up at Gatwick airport at about 10pm. After 3 months of mostly only over-hearing German, I was treated
to the sound of some loud and very sterotypical London builders behind me while choosing a sandwich in Gatwick M&S. There was something oddly pleasant about that as a welcome home.

Belgium

Belgium

See

See

By just after midnight, I made it to a friend’s place near Canary Wharf and my first of many Sofas/Mattresses of the week. Unlike many hotels, they had free Wifi and could provide me with something to charge my new power hungry phone, since I left my power lead at work in Greifswald. So, that was the very start of my travels complete.

Categories: travel

Avast, ye wind be too strong!

April 25, 2011 2 comments

An SZD Pirat.

An SZD Pirat.


… (continued)

Today (Monday) I did go back down to Schmoldov. As well as the Puchacz, we took an SZD Pirat out of the Hanger (We pronouce it in English as ‘peerat’ but in Germany say actually say ‘pirate’). I was pretty much just told to get in it and fly it. Fortunately, my own experience told me that while it was calm on the ground behind the trees, the wind would be very strong higher up and probably 90′ cross, so I did the necessary mental preparation. Sure enough, the winch launch left me downwind, despite a lot of lay-off and the flight consisted mostly of pointing into wind. The Pirat looks a bit like a K6 and feels like a K8 to sit in but turned out to have much better penetration. On this account, my unnecessarily cautious close approach left me using almost full airbrakes the whole way down.

The second flight was a student and instructor in the Puchacz after which the Winch driver called end of play. (The cables were still drifting well downwind after release and wearing against the edge of the cable guides). There was also quite a bit of high cloud cover in the morning, so the thermals would never have been brilliant if anything. So that was it, and at lunch time we all gave up and went home. I took an even more scenic route through some forest which was nice, but a little too long to want to do again. A slightly disappointing but pleasant and technically still successful day.

Wheels slipping? Just add a tub o' concrete.

Wheels slipping? Just add a tub o' concrete.

Cross wind and high cover.

Cross wind and high cover.

Categories: gliding

Aerial guided navigation.

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment
Flying at Schmoldov at last.

Flying at Schmoldov at last.

Greifswald in merky skies (contrast adjusted).

Greifswald in merky skies (contrast adjusted).

Last weekend I once again cycled down to Schmoldov airfield but this time joined up to the club properly and actually flew there. I flew with an instructor who tried to speak a little English but it was actually easier in the end for me to speak German. He was very quiet for the first 20 mins of the flight and said he was just enjoying the view (not that there was much, it was very merky). I decided to wander over to the south edge of Griefswald to take a photo. I will fly over the top of it later but I couldn’t see the airfield anymore so didn’t want to push out too much. Later on, I asked him to fly while I took some photos of the area and with some awkward German language we discussed and found a better route home for me on my bike, that involves less main road.

 

New route home over the main road.

New route home over the main road.

Up close and personal.

Up close and personal.

I flew with him for a second time, after which he said I should fly the Puchacz (the two-seater) by myself on the following weekend before flying their single seaters, not sure why.

This weekend, they flew all four days of Easter – from Friday through to Monday. I went down there first on Friday. I flew with an Instructor again and then flew the Puchacz twice by myself. So now I’ve at least flown solo in Germany. Yay!

 

If towing gliders with an oversized vehicle, use an undersized child.

If towing gliders with an oversized vehicle, use an undersized child.

Solo in a Puchacz in Germany.

Solo in a Puchacz in Germany.

The day was blue and the thermals very tight, so it was hard work but with some quick centering and a lot of bank I managed to stay up for over 40 mins on 0 – 2 knot climbs. This turned out to be the longest flight so, after being declared the champion of the day and having a beer, I cycled home. Trying get home before dark against the wind was hard work, so I was too tired to cycle back on Sat or Sun and used those days to get done all the annoying little jobs that you never get around to doing.

 

Action Shot.

Action Shot.

Videoing is harder while cycling than while flying.

Videoing is harder while cycling than while flying.

continued …

Categories: gliding

HTC Desired, and finally acquired.

April 19, 2011 1 comment

On Friday evening, I finally got around to buying a new phone, or at least to trying. I went for food and a few beers with two friends from the IBZ and we popped into the T-Mobile store on the way. The woman who served us didn’t speak English but she did a good job of understanding my German and the one of my mates who speaks German helped out on the complicated bits. I signed all the documents and she told us I had to come back in half an hour after it’d been unlocked and registered.

Unfortunately, when we returned the shop was closed. OK, fair enough, but this meant I had to wait the whole weekend. I turned up on Monday morning, but it doesn’t open until 10:00, so I back I went again on Monday evening. I turned up, explained that I needed to pick up a phone I’d payed for on Friday. She said I had to pay another 250 € security and come back in half an hour. I explained that I’d already done all of this and was quite annoyed, but she said that no, I have to wait again. So I signed all the same papers again and came back later.

When got back there, I tried to ask them whether, with the 250 € paid now, the whole contact will still cost the same by the end. They didn’t understand at all and the two of them now just kept telling me I had to pay 250 € for security. I tried the question several ways but still they didn’t seem to get it. I was pretty sure at the time that my German was at least OK and that they were just being useless. Today, I repeated what I had said in the shop to a friend a work, without saying what I meant in English. She understood immediately and even said the German wasn’t too far off correct.

Conclusion: they’re idiots, rather than just not understanding my German :p . They did give me a phone though, so off home I went relatively happy. And Here it is, next to my old phone, my iPAQ and my laptop, to give a nice range of recent age, portability and power:

My family of mostly pointless gadget.

My family of mostly pointless gadget.

When I originally unpacked it, I realised they’ve given me the wrong one. With some anger driving me I raced to the shop on my bike for a 4th time, in an attempt to get there before they closed. They had already locked the doors but the woman was still inside, so I knocked and explained to her that they had given me the wrong phone. With a lot of whining and moaning she said I would have to come back the next day. I said no. This wasn’t what I paid for, and I’m not coming back for a fifth time. She said that she’d already switched the computers off. At this point, speaking the language would be useful as I’ve have told her quite a lot more. Now, if she had said he had to for example, pick her children up from school, or something like that, then fine, I’d have left it. No, she was basically saying that she wanted to go home and couldn’t be bothered to sort the mistake they’d made right now. So I had to instead admit defeat and go home, promising that I would return the next evening.

As it happens, I’ve decided to keep the Desire HD as it is a little cheaper (they charged me the correct amount for it) and is still quite cool. Also, this way, every day for a few weeks, the woman will be awaiting and dreading my return. Mwa ha ha.

Categories: language

Finally flown.

April 10, 2011 1 comment

Yesterday, I finally flew a glider in Germany.

The airfield at Schmoldov was still too wet so instead, we took two of the club’s gliders (a Puchacz and a Janus) and one private one (a DG-1000) down to a place called Pasewalk, about 100km south.

Leaving Schmoldov.

Leaving Schmoldov.

 

Rigging the Puchacz at Pasewalk.

Rigging the Puchacz at Pasewalk.

We rigged the gliders and joined in with the Pasewalk club. Unfortunately, me and Damian didn’t get to fly until the very end of the day. It was a little annoying to be watching everyone else and hearing them on the radio enjoying good thermals and then to have nothing left when I flew, but at least I finally flew.

The first question from my instructor was ‘So, is this your first flight?’. Err, yea, I don’t think anyone had told him that I was already quite experienced. I think he was fairly new to instructing and it was probably a little unfair to both myself and to him, for us to fly together. But we did anyway.

My instructor in the front.

My instructor in the front.

I had to sit in the back, for a silly insurance reason (the stupid bureaucrats are convinced that the person in the front seat is necessarily in charge, when in truth it is usually the other way around). Also, he flew the launch and landing which was quite disappointing. It was completely blue and there was no vario or slip string in the back and no electric vario at all so it was quite hard work. Despite this I managed to find a weak thermal and convince the Puchacz to stay up for 22 minutes. I think the instructor was quite impressed that this was even possible, especially since I’ve not really flown from the back before and was flying entirely by feel for most of the time. For part of the time I got him to read out the vario for me :). It was a nice enough flight though and just good to finally fly.

Pasewalk town.

Pasewalk town.

Yet another shot of me in a glider.

Yet another shot of me in a glider.

 

3ft above the airfield boundary, with no brakes!!

3ft above the airfield boundary, with no brakes!!

I’ve now seen German gliding in action, and on the whole its much the same. The winch launches were all very nicely flown and the thermalling looked good from the ground, even with several gliders circling together. The circuit patterns are the rectangular type, rather than with our diagonal leg, but I can get used to that. My only major concern is with the approaches, which were shallow enough to make me uncomfortable. It works fine at that field, where there is a perfectly flat field behind the landing area to undershoot into, but it would probably be lethal in more exciting terrain.

 
 
 

Damian gets ready for his first flight.

Damian gets ready for his first flight.

Damian also got his first flight which I think he enjoyed. It’s always good to introduce someone new to our world. After that, we packed up the Janus and the DG-1000 turned up from a 5 hour, 200km jolly, down to the edge of Berlin and back. We had a few beers and headed back to Schmoldov and home. I think the beer helps my German too. It doesn’t make me any better of course, but just makes me care less about how I sound, so I try to say more.

 

The launch point from above.

The launch point from above.

Nice end to a good day :)

Nice end to a good day 🙂

All in all, a good day and hopefully next time, they might clear me to fly solo.

Categories: gliding