My sun shall rise in the east…

November 15th, 2014

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Dawn breaking beyond the River Cam, taken from Grantchester Meadows last week.

The title of this post, of course, is a line from the excellent track ‘I’ll Find My Way Home’, by Jon & Vangelis, which is playing as I write this.

And here’s another bit of trivia for you: in the first episode of the ITV TV series Grantchester, we see Sidney and Amanda enjoying themselves by swinging out over the river on a rope attached to a tree branch. I recognised the tree immediately, but the usual rope (which you can see by clicking on the image to get a larger version) had been replaced with a frayed one for the purposes of the filming. The rope, of course, gives way when Amanda (Morven Christie) is way out over the river. I have come perilously close to the same thing in the past…

Out of Reach

November 14th, 2014

The pretty little village of Reach, just north-west of Cambridge, is in the middle of fen land, but was considered a port from Roman to medieval times because of the shipping that arrived there through the marshes. It’s where the northern tip of the Devil’s Dyke, affording transport by land, meets the southern end of Reach Lode, which provided transport by water, and it used to be the site of a great fair.

Nowadays, the pleasingly-named pub, The Dyke’s End, is one of my favourite spots for lunch, and, having taken Tilly for a post-prandial walk along the dyke last time I was there, I opted for the lode this time. And very fine it was too. The rainy morning turned into a lovely afternoon, and, though I didn’t have a proper camera with me, the iPhone did a pretty good job.

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Click for a larger version.

The Great Beyond

October 9th, 2014

The Great Beyond

Tilly, captured on her afternoon walk by my iPhone 6. It’s a pretty good camera in the right conditions, given the size of the lens. Click to see more detail.

If this shot looks vaguely familiar, you might have seen this one a couple of years ago.

Mysterious Trees I

September 27th, 2014

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On my last day in California, the fog rolled in, as it tends to around San Francisco. I was up in the Mt Tamalpais area fairly early in the morning, and got a few interesting photos. Here’s the first.

Doing the TWiT

September 21st, 2014

Almost exactly 15 years ago, a Californian TV channel sent me a webcam. To be precise, they sent me a 3COM camera which came with a PCI frame-capture card. Connecting this up was a bit of a palaver, because I ran Linux on my home machine at the time, and I had to create a new partition and install Windows 95 so that I could run the supplied software. But it was worth it, because this was ZDTV, who were doing an interesting experiment on their Call for Help programme: interviewing people in remote locations using these new-fangled webcams alongside a traditional telephone call.

By the time my segment came, it was well past midnight, and I got a laugh by holding up a clock to prove that I was somewhere in a very different timezone, and by saying that, though they thought they were very advanced in California, they were still in Tuesday, while some of us had already moved on to Wednesday some time ago.

There were other guests on the show, and we made minor history by being the first time ZDTV (and perhaps anyone) had done a three-way call using webcams as part of a live broadcast. The presenter was a very nice chap named Leo Laporte.

Since I seldom saw any American TV, I wasn’t aware at the time of Laporte’s gradually increasing prominence as the host of shows such as The Screen Savers on the same channel (which had by then changed its name to TechTV). But he soon gained more international exposure with the launch in 2005 of the This Week In Tech podcast — affectionately known as TWiT — which grew into the TWiT.tv network, consisting of around 30 different shows. I have been listening to several of them almost since day one.

As the network grew, they built their own studio in Petaluma, California. And it just so happened that I was driving through there on Friday, so I stopped off to have a look.

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I stuck my head inside the door and said hello, and the wonderful Debi Delchini immediately welcomed this stranger from across the seas and gave me a guided tour, despite the fact that I had arrived right at the end of her Friday afternoon.

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The TWiT studio, though not large, is cunningly divided into half a dozen different sets, to allow different moods for different shows.

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The mixing desk in the middle can rotate to face whichever one is in use.

There are cameras everywhere. Unlike traditional studios where large cameras roll about on substantial bases, we are now in a world were adding extra small broadcast-quality cameras is cheap compared to arranging the building around a few bigger ones.

Leo wasn’t there, sadly, but I did get to sit in his chair!

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There was, however, a show being recorded: Fr Robert Ballecer’s This Week in Enterprise Tech.

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I noticed that he was interviewing two people over Skype.

That’s good, I thought: it looks as if the format has caught on after all.

Arboreal Analysis

September 20th, 2014

Today I drove down through northern California. And there’s something that everyone says you should do when you’re driving through northern California: go and see the giant redwoods.

CarRedwoodLeggettNow, I was interested in doing this, but mostly just to make a change from the other scenery I’d been driving through this week. After all, I had seen some pretty big redwoods elsewhere, and, dash it, we have some rather substantial oaks back at home. Still, it was only a small detour, so I turned off Highway 101 into the ‘Avenue of the Giants’.

And I was awestruck.

I mean, I knew they were big: I’d seen pictures since childhood of the ones you can drive cars through. And other friends and family had taken photos on previous visits, which might look something like this:

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or this:

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or this:

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But I think I’d never really caught on to just how staggeringly large these things are because, compared to most other species, they are remarkably tall for their width, and that’s very hard to capture in photos. You can put things near the bottom of them, like people, or my small rental car:

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But that only shows you the scale of the very bottom bit of the tree.

But to give you an indication, this is Founders’ Tree (admittedly taken with a wide-angle lens):

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Now, this fellow is over 12 ft across, which is pretty impressive… but it’s over 346 ft high! If, like me, you find the raw numbers hard to grasp, that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty or Big Ben. It’s over twice the height of Niagara Falls; in fact, you have to go noticeably higher than Niagara before you get to the first branch.

These trees are, quite literally, awesome.

And yet, put a few of them together, let them grow for a millennium or so, and you get a remarkably peaceful and beautiful place.

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If you get a chance to see them, do so.

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Vulture culture

September 19th, 2014

Turkey vultures aren’t too keen on being rained on. When the sun comes out, they spread their wings out to dry.

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On the Rogue River, Oregon, this morning.