BBC Sunsets

I don’t know if i have yet said it on my blog, but i’m currently contracting at the BBC. I’m having a really excellent time, working on the Olympics 2012 website. For the record let me just say, i love the new BBC Sport website! :)

I’m working at White City, on the 5th floor of Broadcast Centre. We have a phenomenal view out to the west, a full clear view of the sky. For reference, here’s what it looks like in the early morning. The sun has just risen and the rays are spreading across the landscape …

Morning view (wide)

But the real fun comes at sunset! We get the most amazing scenes! Here are some taken by talented photographer Dineshraj Goomany:

Sunset

Sunset

Sunset

These photos by Dineshraj are absolutely stunning. I would love to learn to be that good at photography!

We have downloaded sunset reminder apps, and we have made it our mission to photograph the sunset every day. As Dineshraj was away the last 3 days, it was up to me to keep it going.

Monday looked so promising …

Sunset coming!!

… but the clouds came just at the sunset …

Yesterday's sunset

Tuesday was so cloudy (and full of smoke from a nearby fire) that you wouldn’t even know a sunset was happening …

Pitiful sunset

Wednesday was a phenomenally beautiful sunset! Here it comes about ten minutes before the set …

Sunset pending

… we got these amazing gradients in the sky …

I love it when the sky does gradients!

… it was so clear, i could see exactly which buildings the sun was setting behind …

There it goes

We’ll be continuing to photograph the sunset as often as possible, so follow Dineshraj on flickr for all the best shots! :)

We make no promises how long we’ll keep this up, as the sunset gets later every day! :)

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A perfect day

Today was an immensely wonderful day. From the first glimpse of the sun shining through the curtains, to the beautiful sunset, and the amazing sight of the sunlight reflecting off the planets Venus and Mercury, i loved every minute of it.

I stopped on my way to the workshop to take this photo of some pretty daffodils stretching their heads towards the morning Sun:

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Yellow is my favourite colour, daffodils are my favourite flower, and Spring is my favourite season! It’s such a cheerful time of year!

At lunch time i enjoyed the usual buzz of Winchester’s Market Square as everyone flocked to enjoy a lunch al fresco:

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Personally i chose to eat my lunch with Enrique at the Cathedral green, a favourite hotspot for picnics, sunbathing, relaxing, playing music … today it was full of people out to enjoy the sunshine just like we were:

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We ate our lunch listening to French students playing Uno and watching children turn cartwheels! :)

Back at the workshop my pair and i finished a big task that has taken us several days, which was very exiciting to get to the end. After work i decided to celebrate the weather a little bit more, and i took a walk up St Giles Hill before going home.

In the early evening i was happy to see the setting Sun cast this long shadow as i walked across the River Park leisure centre:

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Long shadows bring back happy childhood memories with my Nanna: we used to go out on the green near Nanna’s house and try to jump on each other’s shadows! We would always crouch down or jump out of the way! :)

Later on, just after the sun had set and the glow was still in the Western sky, i went out to catch a glimpse of those two planets, Venus and Mercury, that have been so popular lately. I was delighted to get a photograph, as i have tried to photograph Mercury before without success. The two planets together looked stunning.

Conjunction of Venus and Mercury

My appreciation of the Sun has been significantly enhanced since watching Professor Brian Cox on Wonders of the Solar System on BBC2 recently. Today i had a really profound sense of the Sun, 93 million miles away, and the feeling that every ray of light had travelled for 8 minutes directly in a straight line from the Sun, to land on my face.

I thought of the Sun’s importance to our existence here on this planet, and i imagined how the Sun might look from other planets and moons. Finally, i looked around at all the other stars in the early evening sky and wondered whether any life forms on other planets might right now be turning their faces towards their own star, the source of their existence, loving it as much as we love our Sun.

It was a really special day.

Holidays!

So my epic holiday is nearly over … i go back to work tomorrow after more than 3 weeks away. I actually can’t wait to get back! I so enjoy the work that i do, and i appreciate the structure of knowing what is going to happen each day.

Here is my holiday summary:

  • A few days at home relaxing and getting ready
  • Four days in Germany
  • A week in De Panne, on the North coast of Belgium over Christmas
  • Back home and time with family and friends
  • Dealing with horrible damp mouldy walls that got really bad when we were away

For more details and photographs, read on … but beware of the mould pictures if they might squick you out!

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Earthshine

Tonight i saw a wonderful example of “the old Moon in the arms of the new”, better known as earthshine.

When the Moon is new (and right now it is very new – just a thin sliver of sunlight is peeping around the side) then someone standing on the Moon would see a full Earth. Think how bright a full Moon can be for us on a clear night – the reflection of the Sun provides us a lot of light on such nights. Imagine how much more brightly it works the other way around – so brightly in fact that we can see the Moon shining with the reflection from the Earth.

Earthshine moon and Jupiter

If you do not see the silhouette of the trees, turn your screen brightness up. Then you should also see the earthshine on the unlit part of the Moon.

Our camera is not made for night time, but it does have a 3-second exposure. Unfortunately the tiniest shake shows up greatly exaggerated. I managed to capture this shot with the camera stuck against the window frame using blu-tack, and using the two-second timer feature. Otherwise the act of me pressing the button causes too much of a shake!

Oh by the way, i forgot to say, there’s Jupiter shining as brightly as anything, too! The combination in the early night sky made for a beautiful sight, of which my photograph only conveys the tiniest fraction. If you have a clear night tonight or tomorrow, do have a look. It’s incredible.

Better blogging

So yesterday’s post was actually not the last post of the year! :)

A few nights ago i saw somebody’s blog had little icons next to comments, showing the country, browser and operating system of each commenter. I found that quite interesting and decided i wanted the same on my blog. I discovered that it is part of the FireStats plugin and so i installed it. Little did i know the impact that it was about to have on me!

FireStats reveals a whole lot of fascinating information about who is visiting your blog. Suddenly i can see the most popular posts, find out the search terms that people used to get here, or the referrer page that sent them here. I used to think i was just writing my blog for a few friends, but now i see that people are coming from all over the world, mostly for information about CouchDB and … Caturday! HAHA! I haven’t done a Caturday post for ages! Perhaps i should start doing them again!

So i put up the “Currently popular” widget in the navigator. It’s pretty nifty because it changes every day. I also installed a few more plugins and made a few tweaks:

  • I enabled title slugs in the URL for all my posts. The old URLs still work, however.
  • Yet Another Related Posts Plugin puts links to related posts at the bottom of each post. It calculates ‘related’ by category, title and content. It’s pretty good! I have been reminded of old posts that i’d forgotten about!
  • Unfancy Quote Plugin has removed the so-called curly quotes that were appearing where i did not want them – ie in example code
  • WP Super Cache ensures speedy rendering of pages, particularly if hundreds of people were to look at a page all at once. Instead of continually querying the database, once it knows the content of a particular page, it can just display the cached version.

WordPress plugins are so for the win!

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In other news, i finished reading Design Patterns today. It wasn’t such a hard read as i thought it would be; it’s actually quite easy to read one or two patterns at a time. The summaries are also very useful, for comparing and contrasting different patterns.

The State and Strategy patterns were quite obvious. Mediator seems almost the same as Observer to me. No matter how many times i read and understand the difference between Adapter and Bridge, i cannot seem to remember it long-term. Memento is my favourite pattern. It’s like asking someone, “Please remind me of this in a minute!” and they say, “Oh, okay” even though they have no idea what it means!

Visitor seems to me like the stupidest pattern ever, but maybe i have misunderstood it. It seems to contradict everything that makes sense about object-oriented programming, to have something that goes around doing things to other objects, violating encapsulation, and it has to be hard-coded to deal differently with different objects. It makes me think of Aspect-oriented programming actually.

I went to the library and borrowed a book for the holiday: Why Is Uranus Upside Down? And Other Questions About the Universe by Fred Watson. A nice bit of light reading, i think! ;)

Rosh Hashanah

Happy Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year) to all who celebrate it. I was thinking about maybe going to Southampton for the celebrations, but after a weekend away i feel i need a night in.

Also, happy new moon, new month to everybody. I have been particularly fascinated with the moon the last couple of months. It’s one good thing about the days getting shorter; i get more interested in the night sky and love to see what i can observe. I recently obtained a pair of binoculars and i can spend ages looking at the moon through them. I would love to get a telescope! :)

In other news, i hear Tom Felton has an album out. It seems Tom is pretty good on the guitar, but unfortunately does not have a singing voice to match …! Here is a little medley of Tom Felton music.

The telescope and the moon

Last night i went to visit a friend with a telescope and we had a great time looking at the moon, stars and Jupiter. Through the telescope i also saw three of Jupiter’s moons, looking like tiny pinpricks of light.

We had clouds to contend with, but our moon just looked so beautiful, even with a few clouds covering it.

The Moon through a telescope

You see it through a telescope and it just hangs in front of your eyes. You totally appreciate that it is a gigantic sphere floating through space around us. It is truly breathtaking to see in 3D. And this was just through a telescope designed for bird watching! I think i will get a proper astronomy telescope and see what we can discover!

I saw Jupiter!

The camera is a total sham when it comes to photographing stars and planets.

Wherever you are tonight, look at the full moon, and have a look for Jupiter too. It is beautiful. I wish i had some good equipment for viewing and photographing such spectacular celestial sights. This is about the best i could do.

Full moon and Jupiter

Tomorrow i’ll try photographing earlier in the evening, when it might come out better.

I’m not the only person who has been photographing Jupiter tonight …! :)

Shooting stars!

I saw a shooting star! :D

I persuaded my partner to come out with me; we went to a field nearby where it was much darker and we could see the Milky Way! I pointed out Mars, Orion, Pegasus, Triangulum, Andromeda, the Plough and the North Star. That’s about as much as i know at the moment. We saw a very bright star, it seemed to be pulsating and flashing hues of red, green and blue. At first i thought it must be an aeroplane, but it stayed perfectly still, and on consulting maps since we got home it was almost certainly Vega. A very bright star, quite nearby, spinning fast, circled with dust and possibly one or more planets! :D

I am hoping to go out tomorrow evening and watch the very best of the Geminids meteor shower, but i wanted to go out tonight whilst it is so clear, in case it is cloudy tomorrow. I just turned back towards the Plough to get my bearings when i saw it – a meteor shoot straight across, really fast and really small, but no mistaking what it was. Unfortunately it was too quickly gone for my partner to see it too, but i feel really pleased that i saw it! :)

Everyone in Europe must seriously look for shooting stars tomorrow evening at 17:45 GMT. There’s going to be like an average of one a minute. You’re bound to see some if the sky is clear enough!