Saturday, 30 April 2011

This sucks

Imagine you're in bed and want to change position and your head gets slammed with a baseball bat instead. You need to visit the bathroom and if you survive the battering on getting up you then deal with extreme dizziness because you're now on your own two feet and your mind doesn't know if the bathroom is in front or behind you and can't figure out why the room is spinning. You're then rewarded with another slam of the baseball bat just because you have to pee (don't ask about no. 2). Even a simple cough or yawn means another swipe to the head. Blowing your nose is out of the question unless you enjoy screaming - and that will invite another blow to the head as well. Just turning your head a few degrees - wham!

This is like nothing I've ever experienced before and hope will never experience again, and I hope none of you do either. When I'm confident the diagnosis I've been given is the right one I'll let you know what it is, because you don't want this.

The cats are becoming a little pissed off with me I think, but maybe this is what's really going on:

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


I haven't posted much recently and unlikely to do so for a little while. For most of last week I felt as though I'd been in a car wreck although didn't feel particularly ill. Unfortunately this culminated in a very frightening episode on Easter Sunday during which I thought I was in real trouble. Today I've finally received a diagnosis which seems to make sense and if it's correct have a week or two of hell in front of me but after that should start to recover. Hopefully I'll be back posting regularly soon!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Landing in Hilo, Hawaii

Still too busy to do much photography or write blog posts, but I did come across this today and enjoyed the video. Not so sure about the music, it's not my kind of stuff, but found myself swaying to it after a minute or two!

Hilo doesn't see too many large jets although there is a daily FedEx service and suspect this is taken from the flight deck of one of those flights. Some of you who read my blog will no doubt be familiar with the flight into Hilo (although perhaps not from the front of the plane) but for those who aren't, the flights generally parallel the Hamakua coast on the north east side of the island until getting to North Hilo and then turn south into Hilo Bay which is where this video takes things up. Then, at the last minute, there's a left turn over Hilo's shoreline to line up with the runway as they fly over Ken's House of Pancakes, one of the more popular restaurants in Hilo!

You can't see my house from here, but for the approach into Hilo Bay part, my house would be on the horizon to the left a few miles beyond Hilo. Mauna Kea is out of sight on the right.

Although my camera hasn't been out of the house for a week or two now, I did collect some recent pictures of the Hawaii coastline and put them in a Flickr slideshow. I think all the pictures have appeared on this blog before, but feel free to take a look using the following link - Hawaii coastline.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Surreal sunset

This is another shot from over a month ago over at Waikoloa. It was one of the strangest sunsets I've ever seen. An approaching front plus a bank of vog a few hundreds yards out to sea made things look very surreal. Two weeks later Pam and I visited again but we couldn't get here because the beach was closed after the tsunami. I haven't been back since. I wonder what it looks like now?

Monday, 11 April 2011

The rough and the smooth

Been a little busy recently so my apologies for not posting much. I haven't even picked up my camera for the last week so you know things must be bad! Actually, nothing bad is happening, just lots of things going on combined with some bad weather. I actually made it back to the summit last week, but only for a couple of hours and it was nasty. Winds were gusting to 60-mph, it was very cold and foggy, so even if I had my camera I doubt I'd have taken any pictures. It was nice to see UKIRT again though. I miss the place.

In the meantime, a nice warm post-sunset shot from Waikoloa taken a month ago...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

I think we're in for a pasting

Thunder is rumbling all around, flash flood watches and warnings have been issued and the rain is starting to increase. It's snowing at the summit of Mauna Kea and I closed UKIRT for the night several hours ago. We received warning emails all afternoon as the day crews evacuated the various observatories.

Given my house seems to be a natural lightning conductor, I think I'll be shutting down for the night as well...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

UKIRT: publication record smashed

I'm a bit behind with things I'm afraid, but since I hinted about news of UKIRT's productivity almost two months ago it's only right I post the final result. It turns out that the number of publications in 2010 that use UKIRT data has beaten our previous record. In fact it's fair to say the record has been smashed.

Our previous record was 84 peer-reviewed publications which occurred in 1997 and was then repeated in 2009 when UKIDSS really got going. Last year (2010) there were 118 papers. Given all the cutbacks UKIRT has suffered over the last few years I think this is quite a remarkable result.

Counting publications to measure observatory productivity may not be the best method but it is what most other observatories do so does enable us to measure productivity relative to other observatories (and UKIRT has always done very well in this respect). Peter Coles wrote an interesting piece about using publications very recently although it was aimed more at UKIDSS than UKIRT (UKIRT and UKIDSS do not use the same methodology for counting papers although the majority of UKIDSS papers end up being counted as UKIRT publications).

In any case, the huge increase in publications demonstrates that UKIRT is more productive than ever and something all of those that have worked at the telescope over the years should be very proud of.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Pau hana

In the islands "Pau Hana" translates to "after work". I live on the wrong side of the island to watch a sunset after work since it takes too long to drive there, but the sunsets on the windward side aren't too bad either...

Friday, 1 April 2011

Maui, Kahoolawe and Molokini

Another shot from Makena on Maui. Who wouldn't want to live here? Unfortunately, as pointed out by a good friend and colleague, it seems you have to open your wallet every time you take a breath there. It's not the cheapest place to spend a vacation...

Kahoolawe is the island on the left, Molokini to the right. A glorious sunset sky towards the top and an empty wallet down below in my pocket!

More cuts to the science budget

Despite all our hard work in keeping UKIRT operating over the last few years and our change to Minimalist Mode described here and here, the UK government has seen fit to cut back even further. I don't know how we'll deal with this since Minimalist Mode really means that - we can't cut back any more.

By the end of the year UKIRT will have to reduce the size of its primary mirror to less than two metres. For three decades UKIRT was the largest dedicated infrared telescope on the planet with a primary of around 3.8 metres (about 12.5 feet) but the UK government has decided that this costs too much to maintain, so by the start of 2012 the diameter of the mirror must be reduced to save costs. This will save money in both staff and utility costs as there will be less of a mirror to clean, fewer staff will be needed given the reduced area to operate and utility bills will reduce by about a factor of four given the reduction in primary mirror area.

There is also a rumour going around that all of our computer monitors will be reduced in size by a similar amount to save electricity. In the meantime I have been asked to look at shortening the length of the fibres between Hilo and the summit of Mauna Kea as a further cost-cutting exercise and one possibility is using a company such as FedEx or UPS to transfer our data down from the summit after each night and thereby bypassing the need for a fast and expensive network connection entirely.

On the brighter side we managed to fight off one of the other proposals in the government scheme which was to keep the dome closed during the night in order to save heating costs.

This will be an interesting year to say the least...