Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

When Arecibo died

Spotted a follow-up video of the end

03/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , | Leave a comment

Oh joy etc etc etc… First snow of 2020 hit in the night

This came as something of a surprise when I was in the kitchen in ‘the wee small hours’ and glanced outside.

While the evening and advance towards midnight had been fairly grim, with steady and fairly heavy rain, I was the tiniest bit surprised to see that this had miraculously transformed into a light dusting of snow while I’d been in bed.

I’m afraid it was too cold to start wandering around in the dark, to find a suitable view that showed the first snow as it happened, so this pic had to wait until the following morning, and a scene could be found.

While I like a nice snowy vista as much as anyone else, I also have to be brutally honest, and say that I now miss the period we enjoyed some years ago, when there was a run of years when we didn’t get any snow at all.

Although I wasn’t recording temperatures, I was watching them, and was intrigued to see that some years saw winter come and go with me wondering when it was going to start – they seemed to reach down only as low as 5°C to 8°C. That’s why I remember them.

That said, I also thought the Christmas season wasn’t the same when our weather was similar to countries where they run around in bathing suits on the beach, downing cold drinks to keep cool.

Well. THAT’s not happening here, not this year at least.

First Snow 2020

First Snow 2020

03/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Sandyhills Park revamp – just yet another thing I’ve missed this year

I’m not sure when I first saw the plant and machinery arriving on the land that was once Sandyhills Park, but it wasn’t long before the place was ripped up, and the arrival (or should that just be ‘continuation’ in Scotland) of rainy weather soon turned into a mucky mud bath.

I thought I was going to be able to watch developments, but then we arrived in lockdown, and I seldom saw the place. When I did, it didn’t look as if anything was happening – all I ever saw was machinery sitting idle in holes, looking as if all work had stopped (which I’m sure it did, for a while at least).

Eventually I developed new routes to the shops (these works actually cut across, and closed all my shortcuts), and then saw very little once the evening got dark, and I couldn’t see anything when I did pass the site.

I did say ‘what was once Sandyhills Park above, AND meant it.

I was around when the land it was built on was freed up by the removal of the old prefabs which once covered it.

The original park was actually quite nice, with paths, walks, and even an exercise route laid out within its extent.

But that wasn’t to last, and after a few years, I estimate that roughly HALF of that park was sliced off – and consumed by a small housing estate built over it.

This left only a few  paths, some grassed area, and trees.

There was also a second area, below the high flats, separated from the main park by a road.

Maintained for a while, it was eventually abandoned and forgotten by the council’s Parks and Recreation staff, to become a hide for drinkers and addicts who left their broken glass and needles behind. It looks as if the council’s best efforts to dissuade them was to abandon loads of cut trees on the ground, to prevent anyone accessing the area. Let’s just say they left holes.

I’d normally make this more interesting by including a wiki page with details, but since PhotoBucket ate our pics, that doesn’t work well: Sandyhills Park Maybe I will restore them one day.

It may not be complete, but this post illustrates what they did to the original park to make space for the new houses The lost part of Sandyhills Park

The folk who live there probably don’t even know what was done.

Another change in routes meant I got to see the work there, and they have been busy – there’s now even a little bridge, and areas that look better landscaped.

I had no idea I had been walking past this in the dark.

Sandyhills Park Bridge

Sandyhills Park Bridge

No chance of walking across it at the moment.

Sandyhills Park Bridge

Sandyhills Park Bridge

Sad to say, it looks as if we won’t be getting a little burn or stream running under this one  – which is maybe just as well here, as it would make too handy a place to dump… er… things to be disposed of.

It’s not even going to be possible to walk under it.

At a guess, I’d say the rubble culvert is their solution to the endless flooding which plagues this lowest point in the land.

I guess/hope all the digging that preceded the cosmetic finishing was for connection to some sort of drainage.

Sandyhills Park Bridge

Sandyhills Park Bridge

The culvert carries on the right (in the above pic) and under the road to join with and area of the park on the other side.

It can be seen in this pic, which show another area which has been subject to flooding.

I’ve been caught out by this on many occasions in the past year, when I walked on the grassy area which lay there before, and found myself sinking into sodden ground.

More Sandyhills Park

More Sandyhills Park

Well, that it for now.

I have no idea when I’ll see this in daylight again.

Past Works

I have some older pics that show the sort of works that pooped up here – I wonder if they will still show up, or if they will be out of a job now?

This is the current appearance of the area where these works keep appearing. The new bridge to the right.

Sandyhills Park Works Area

Sandyhills Park Works Area

When they weren’t doing much, this is how things looked.

Sandyhills Park Light Works

Sandyhills Park Light Works

But, when they were being more serious, things looked like this.

Sandyhills Park drainage works

Sandyhills Park Heavy Works

03/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian, council | , | Leave a comment

Sad times – How can ‘we’ have allowed Arecibo to be lost?

Arecibo Entrance Sign

Arecibo Entrance Sign

Although I no longer pay any attention to what used to be referred to as ‘news’, I do listen to the chatter of those who share my interests.

It’s been sad to watch the gradual decay of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico:

The main instrument of the observatory was the Arecibo Telescope, a 305 m (1,000 ft) spherical reflector dish built into a natural sinkhole, a cable-mount steerable receiver mounted 150 m (492 ft) above the dish, and several radar transmitters for emitting signals. Completed in 1963, the Arecibo Telescope was the world’s largest single-aperture telescope for 57 years, surpassed in July 2016 by the Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in China. The Arecibo Telescope suffered catastrophic structural failure on December 1, 2020 after two cable breaks in the previous months. The Observatory also includes a radio telescope, a Lidar facility, and a visitor’s center which are expected to remain operational after assessing the damage from the main telescope collapse. The observatory was an icon of the Puerto Rican space and science industry. (Wikipedia intro, December 2020)

While the disgusting behaviour of Donald Trump (I won’t say criminal since he has yet to be convicted of anything or impeached – if he hasn’t already managed to enact changes to laws to make that impossible) has seen thousands of people die and millions of dollars go astray, there was no funding on hand to maintain the observatory, or keep it in service.

My mind can’t really wrap itself around the complete and utter failure which has seen this facility be destroyed.

I can’t really add any worthwhile comments to what those involved have already offered.

But, I can imagine that Carl Sagan would have a very, very sad face today, were he still alive.

The Arecibo radio telescope’s massive hanging platform has collapsed

2020’s continuing list of losses just seem to go on and on…

Arecibo Trashed

Arecibo Trashed

Pic clip via: Rest in Pieces Arecibo observatory

Arecibo entrance sign pic: Mutante, CC BY-SA 4.0 <;, via Wikimedia Commons

02/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | , | Leave a comment

Calculator charger given up as ‘Lost’ wasn’t

Happy Cat

Since I’m stuck on a run of ‘Irritation’ posts that looks to be potentially long-lasting, I thought I should take advantage of a very surprising and uncharacteristic piece of good luck.

Many years ago I lost a ‘Good Friend’ when I turned my first scientific calculator on one day – and it didn’t.

Despite many years of careful use, almost daily, it just gave up and stopped dead. No warning. No indications of any problems. Just dead.

I really expected it to be something silly and trivial, maybe something as simple as a failed rechargeable battery pack, a failed connection or contact somewhere, or some sort of failure, corrosion, or contamination of the PCB.


There was nothing obvious or simple, and being one of the first VERY serious calculators of this type, it was full of custom ICs with little chance of spares.

At that time, I NEEDED such a calculator and made the mistake of buying a replacement from the same maker, now not only scientific, but programmable and complete with an inbuilt magnetic strip card reader.

I say ‘mistake; as I’d anticipated this later model as being similar to the original, but with more facilities – but I was sorely disappointed as it was horrible to use, and where the first was completely intuitive to use, the second was completely unintuitive, and had carried over very little of the operating ease of my ‘Good Friend’.

Fast-forward a few decades, and I was tidying up some of my junk archives, and reunited the old, dead, calculator with its original manuals and box (which I’d used for storing other junk stuff.

BUT… try as I might, while I still had the replacement (which I never really used), and its manual plus charger, try as I might, I could NOT locate the charger for the first one, not could I remember what happened to. I couldn’t recall what had happened to that charger, mainly because until I discovered it was missing, I had always believed it to be lying at the back of the shelf where the dead calculator had been laid to rest.

Despite a serious hunt around that area, that charger was not to be seen anywhere.

I’ve puzzled over this for some weeks, and continued to poke around and recheck the shelves lest I just missed it.

But no luck, until…

I was looking in a drawer where I sometimes stuff random junk – stuff that is generally working, but that I have no use for, but might, one day.

I spotted a bunch of mixed cable, some mains, some low voltage, and what looked like a tiny adapter or power supply buried beneath.

It really was one of those “I don’t believe it” moments as I recognised the missing charger I’d been searching for in all the WRONG places for weeks, trying to find it, or get a clue as to where it has gone.

Meet the missing charger, lifted from the drawer, just as it was found.

Lost Calculator Charger

Lost Calculator Charger

Note to self:

Don’t take pics of dusty black items against a grey background – the view may look just fine to the eye, but to an image sensor they just might just all smoosh together, like a very bad B&W pic. (It’s not B&W – there’s a glimpse of red mains wire in there).

Although it might seem silly to be so pleased at digging this charger up, I recently missed the chance of buying a working model of the original calculator for a good price – I really screwed up that opportunity, and since then have only been able to find non-working junk at hugely inflated prices.

I’ve probably missed the one and only chance I had – but, one notable point of nearly ever offering is… NO charger included.

While the missing charger is trivial and easily dealt with, the point is having the RIGHT item, and not a lash-up.

So, it MAY come in handy one day – if old age doesn’t see me off before another good one turns up

02/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian, Lost | | Leave a comment

Caught on the job – Santa

One more try to get a decent pic of Santa (now that the lights are back).

Since I’m never going to get a decent nighttime shot with an ordinary 750 mm (35 mm) lens, which I have to use, and I’m never going to own a superfast long lens that costs the same as a small car, it’s time to change tactics.

First, time to change ‘walkies’ time so that I reach this place in daylight, or dusk at worst. Next, go covert (sneaky) and find a closer view without having to talk to a new friend (apparently know locally as ‘The Polis’), or garden owner.

All possible, and with only one small downside – no time to play with camera setting – this is strictly a ‘Grab and Go’ mission.

Back home? Check!

Not arrested? Check!

Not beaten up? Check!

Have picture? Check!

Santa caught On the Job

Santa caught On the Job

Just for fun

On bright sunny days, I can crop a section which is one quarter of the total area, and it still holds enough detail for a repeat of that crop without the result being horrible – with a little tidying, it can be almost as acceptable (for my purposes at least) as the original image, even though its area has been quartered… twice. I should perhaps add that I’m referring only to images from my dSLR, not the compact (but it can give it a run for its money at a sunny ISO80).

I’m often surprised at how similar shots taken under adverse conditions can be, even if the camera is different.

Out of interest I clipped a similar part of two recent pics.

The one on the left is taken with a small sensor compact, but which has a very long zoom and multiple stabilisation options. ISO1600.

On the right, a similar section clipped from a large sensor dSLR with a slightly shorter zoom, and only one active stabilisation system. ISO1250.

Santa Compared

Santa Compared

The dSLR just has the edge, but it’s surprisingly close.

This is from scientific, but then again, it’s also a real situation.

Although I’d probably hand the trophy to the dSLR, I should add that the compact slips into a pocket without showing.

But the dSLR – has a zoom lens that triples in length while in use, weighs as much as the camera body (which does NOT fit in a pocket, even without a lens), and is almost the same size, even at its shortest length


01/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

Dumb and Dumber ‘frustration’ post revisit

Not pleased catI didn’t have any pics to illustrate the first of the ‘Frustration Series’ of posts, which began with the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ speaker terminal fiasco.

Although I’m currently fighting with another ‘frustration’, it also provided an opportunity to grab a quick follow-up pic for that previous post.

While the terminals themselves are absolutely fine, the same can’t be said for the stupid screws, and their bid for freedom as they try to get out of the back of the panel.

I’ll sand the offending mounds down later, which are impressively high given that the screws are no longer that the thickness of the panel – shorter, as the mounting plate is at least 2 mm thick.

I had to use them  – there really was only ONE of the shorter, desired length in the box, and a load of the slightly longer ones.


Speaker Terminal Irritations

Speaker Terminal Irritations

01/12/2020 Posted by | Civilian | , , | Leave a comment

Tumble no more Liquid Rosin Flux bottle

A little background, lest my faithful readers be unfamiliar with the Star Trek Tumble Not Mug.

I’ve no idea when I first came across these, other than while watching Star Trek, but I do have painful memories of seeing the price of these things, probably at one of the science fiction conventions I used to attend. I can’t remember how much they cost back then – but it was enough to confirm I wasn’t THAT big a Star Trek fan. Even today, the first web site I looked at which was selling them had a price of 44 € attached.

Star Trek Tumble Not Mug

Star Trek Tumble Not Mug

Somewhat more recently (well, pre-lockdown) I was wandering around a foreign (not my ‘hood) Poundland when I came across a mug which was labelled as being unspillable. While a little more than £1 (can’t recall actual price, but between £2 and £5), I grabbed a couple since I seemed to be going through a phase of knocking tea/coffee off my bedside table. I’d changed the table, and layout of goodies kept on it, and couldn’t get out of the habits learned of many previous years. I thought these might have been a solution until I learnt the new layout plan, but the plan failed. First problem was the size of these new mugs, they were huge compared to ‘normal’ mugs. Apart from being larger to accommodate a lid (untended to help keep the contents hot), their height was also increased to accommodate the automatic sucker fitted to the base.

While they are kind of clever, the use of a sucker to hold them down also means they won’t work on any sort of porous, rough, or uneven surface. That’s the second problem.

In use, the idea is that the large, soft sucker in the base is held on the surface below by air pressure, then, when the mug is lifted by the handle (and it MUST be raised by the handle or it will not be released from the surface below), the movement of the handle opens a small valve which breaks the seal and allow atmospheric pressure into the sucker, allowing the mug to be lifted.

Sucky Mug

Sucky Mug

So, referring back to where I described spilling a bottle of liquid rosin flux FOR THE SECOND TIME, I had been on the lookout for some means of preventing a THIRD occurrence of this fun-filled experience. If you’re familiar with rosin, you’ll also understand just what a disaster spilling the stuff is, and how much hassle the clean-up is.

I didn’t include a pic of the bottle before, but it deserves to be seen such is the stupidity of it shape, which all but ensure it will roll over the rounded edge of its base at the slightest nudge,

MG Chemicals Rosin Flux

MG Chemicals Rosin Flux

While 125 ml is about 125 fl oz (US) – or 120 fl oz (Imperial) – I’m curious about the 100 ml reference shown on the left of the label, which I can’t make any sense of.

While I couldn’t come up with anything sensible that was inspired by the Tumble Not Mug, the idea did keep me on the look out for anything similar.

I noticed some slim glass tumblers with thick heavy bases at the back of my bench, use for long screwdrivers and probes – because they don’t fall over!

While these were much taller than the flux bottle, I had a look at my collection of such glass – and got lucky. A nice little short one.

While I’d like it to be a snug/closer fit, the base is an almost perfect match for the bottom of the bottle, and it doesn’t move around inside the glass.

Given its weight, it would take more than the light tap I gave the bottle before to knock it over – the CG (centre of gravity) is nice and low thanks to all that glass at the bottom.

Protected Rosin Flux Bottle

Protected Rosin Flux Bottle

I’ll still be looking for something better, but at least this bottle -now more than half empty – will no longer be spilling its guts all over my bench and current projects at the slightest provocation.

01/12/2020 Posted by | Blogroll | , | Leave a comment

Seasonal burglar caught with his lights on (just)

Apologies in advance for a terrible pic – but there is a reason.

I noticed the ‘Seasonal burglar‘ I spotted a few days ago was back in action, in the dark this time, but not trying to hide.

It’ so long since I last took a night shot I just fired up the camera and grabbed a quick test shot to see how it was set up, and if the view I had from a street away was any good.

Turned out he was just about to share in my recent run of bad luck, and it took a moment for me to realise what had happened in the instant between taking the pic, and lowering the camera from my eye.

The place was in darkness, and all the lights were out!

Couldn’t time that if you tried.

Local Christmas Lights (bad shot)

Local Christmas Lights (bad shot)

On the plus side, I remember the days when I would have been impressed by a shot like this, as it’s the equivalent of a handheld night shot taken with a 750 mm lens using a 35 mm camera – THAT would just have been a smeary blur.

Since they didn’t come back on while I waited, I dug into the archives…

Here’s one I made earlier (well, a few years ago, to be accurate).

Climb Santa Climb

Climb Santa Climb

If I’m down this way again, I might try to do better – if they fix the lights 😉


30/11/2020 Posted by | Civilian | | Leave a comment

Japanese caliper with ‘foreign’ guts follows Chinese in misbehaviour

I’m always amused (or disappointed) by those who kick items because of xenophobic tendencies they try to hide, or deny.

China is probably currently enjoying the brunt of that, although the reality is not their goods are rubbish, but their culture is different, as the legal and technical demands of their infrastructure.

I recently posted about a digital caliper problem which turned out to be nothing more than a dying battery – but still got hints about ‘Chinese rubbish’.

In a spooky coincidence, my rather more expensive Mitutoyo digital caliper decided to join its Chinese cousin a few days later.

The last, and least significant digit, sometimes seemed to have fading segments.

Branded Mitutoyo, and therefore Japanese, it would have come in for some hate at one time, but that might have been misdirected.

Taking the cover off to access the interior, it turns out that the Mitutoyo label is merely branding, and the guts are stamped Sylvac – and that’s a Swiss based company with connections to Asia and India.

Wonder how the haters will manage to hate a company based in Switzerland?

Forgetting that nonsense…

After taking the cover off to service the connections to the LCD, I was thwarted in this aim after finding that the cover around the electronics and display was effectively riveted in place, so would have needed more disruptive dismantling to reach the display contacts than I was willing to undertake on a working item.

Although the fixings I just referred to can’t be seen in the pic below, they are hollow bushings through which the four machine screws (which hold the electronics package to the moving anvil) pass. The ends of the bushes are swaged to hold the metal cover to the electronics substrate below.

Mitutoy Caliper Open Display

Mitutoyo Caliper Open Display

As can be seen from the pic, all the digits in this particular numeric display are perfect.

Closer observation suggests that rather than a less than perfect contact from the electronics to the LCD being the culprit, there may actually be some dirt or contamination causing slight leakage, or crosstalk, of the segment drive signals.

The last digit sometimes loses segments, does not activate fully, and sometimes flickers in density, but this does not always happen to the same segment, or even number being displayed. Nor does it seem to be ‘cured’ by pressing on the display or area around it – the usual confirmation of failure of the elastomer based conductive contact to make clean contact with the LCD’s glass electrodes.

In trying to reproduce the problem, it seemed that the odd behaviour of some segments in the last digit were related to the numbers being displayed to its left.

Given that the item could not be accessed with destructive dismantling, and was reading fine otherwise, that was the signal to stop (before I really did break something).

What about the ‘rubbishy’ Chinese cousin?

Given that I had this item dismantled at least as far as the aforementioned Chinese caliper, I think it is perhaps worth mentioning that the two devices use EXACTLY THE SAME OPERATING METHOD!

I’m not going to describe the detail as that’s done in much longer, and more detailed, explanations online, often by the manufacturer’s own technical departments.

If you are interested, look up ‘capacitive encoders’.

These are as ‘magical’ (but with a lot higher resolution and accuracy) as the plastic vernier calipers worth only a few pennies I collected many years ago, stuck to the front of car and DIY magazines as free gifts.

Shockingly (for some people), these can be read close to better than one tenth of a millimetre if used carefully, because they have a mechanical vernier moulded into their scales.

I often use them to avoid either dirtying or damaging my nice shiny electronic calipers, and remain impressed by their ability to match their reading for most practical purposes.

30/11/2020 Posted by | Civilian | , | Leave a comment

Amazing! Someone apparently used their brain

It’s funny how your opinion of something can change in a moment, as you learn more about it.

In this case, I went from “That’s a bit silly” to one of near disbelief when I learned that the sign seen below worked automatically, needed no power, nor any attention by an operator or ‘responsible person’, to change the status of its indicator.

I spotted the sign pictured below as I was running towards a factory entrance gate, and thought that someone had come up with an idea to jog their lorry driver’s minds as the weather got colder, and would alert them to potential icy roads.

It also introduced me to the concept of QHSE, which wasn’t around in the days when I was responsible for managing such things – glad I’m out of it as it gets ever more complicated.

Silly Ice Warning Sign

Silly Ice Warning Sign

As you can see, when I got there, it wasn’t quite freezing, but heading that way – and turned out to be fairly accurate as we were heading towards the first genuinely frosty night we’ve had this year. I wasn’t watching closely, but I did notice the outside temperature fell below -1°C during the night.

I couldn’t poke this sign (lest I felt the warm and friendly hand of a security guard on my shoulder), so had to wait until I got home before doing some research online, and learn if it was ‘dumb’ or ‘smart’.

It’s relatively ‘smart’ having a simple thermal/mechanical actuator fitted to the blue vanes, requiring no external power or sensors, and able to rotate them into view as the temperature falls towards freezing.

Had it been manual – requiring an operator or ‘nominated person’ to keep it up date for current conditions – it could have been a bigger danger than the hazard it warns of, if it was not indicating those conditions correctly.

Since one is apparently not supposed to make a positive review of anything online, perhaps I should wonder if it still works if it has been raining just before it freezes.

Does the water which must get trapped between the moving vanes and the static housing freeze, and prevent the blue section from rotating into view?


29/11/2020 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

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