Five years!

August 22nd, 2010

Five years ago, on this very day, at this very minute in time, 11:36 AM, a blog was born!

I had this before Facebook (then called “The Facebook” and only open to uni students with valid uni email addresses) was public!! Blogs were still cool then.

To the Air Show!

August 12th, 2010

 

Rhyl Airshow

Went to the Rhyl Air Show on Sunday. It was a good day. Even if I did get a £35 PCN for parking on double yellows. But all in all, I spent the whole day taking photos. My telephoto lenses look like tinker toys compared to some of the stuff that I saw there. But all in all, it was an excellent day out.

Rhyl AirshowSome of the displays were awesome, such as the Red Arrows, and the Yakolevs, when one of them stalled their plane deliberately and then somersaulted it in freefall, regained control, and flew on. We waited for a Lancaster bomber to flyover, but unfortunately we were a day late for that, as it was in Mold on the day we went to Rhyl.

On top of those, there were the Breitlung Wingwalkers (previously sponsored by Utterly Butterly), a Spitfire, a Douglas A-1 Skyraider, and the RAF Falcons, who were almost an hour late due to low cloud cover forcing them to forever circle around above.

Eventually they made the jump which meant it was time for us to leave. Rather than get stuck in the traffic, we made a rush for Conwy and stopped there for eating purposes, before heading down through Llanwrst along the A470 and back via the A5.

Rhyl Airshow

 

Crazy Drunken Times

August 2nd, 2010

Chris, now with Animation!
Summer is here, and it is being enjoyed. To the max. Family BBQs, random nights out, parties, and soon even a camping trip.

There’s plenty more to come.

Also, It seems when I get near alcohol, the good times automatically flow. Just check out this Helium rap battle. It was awesome.

Returned from Cuba!

June 30th, 2010
Playa Esmerelda (Emerald Beach)

Playa Esmerelda (Emerald Beach)

On Sunday I returned from Cuba with a whole ton of photos (449 to be precise), memories and high blood alcohol content. Two weeks in the Sun and warm climate of Eastern Cuba, in the state of Holguin. The hotel we stayed at was the Sol Rio de Luna y Mares, an all inclusive resort near the town of Guardacalava with all the free food and drink you can drink. We flew with Thomson Airways on two of their old First Choice liveried 767s. Luckily, on the way, the plane was at a plane stand and not at your standard jetway, so it was a bus to the plane and going up the stairs, which I much prefer to walking down a steel tube. Holguin’s airport had no jetways at all, so the same experience was had, as can be seen in the below photo!

B767 at Holguin's Frank Pais international Airport.

B767 at Holguin's Frank Pais international Airport.

I, of course bought some consumable souvenirs for the journey back!

Cohiba Cigars!

Cohiba Cigars!

This includes five 9 inch Cohiba cigars produced in Holguin at the factory we visited (No photos allowed so the camera was left on the bus!), some smaller “cigarellos”, which are cigarette sized cigars, and finally a bottle of Havana Club Special Blend Rum. This was most good! We visited the factory on a large tour, that included a steam train ride on “the second oldest train in Cuba”, and going up a large mountain to get a view of Holguin city. All in all this tour alone was pretty awesome. A free meal was thrown in too, as well as some Cuban dancing and music!

Our hotel had it’s own beach. It was shared with another resort that was merged into ours in 2002, so all the more for us. There was also a separate “no children allowed” luxury hotel that had access to our beach, but they seemed to lack our beach facilities, which included free usage of small catamarans. This hotel was described by ours as “The best Hotel in Cuba”. Our hotel was owned 100% by a Spanish company, but as Cuba does not usually allow large private business, they have to share the profit 50/50 with the Cuban Government. I was surprised to learn that tourism is not the largest source of income for Cuba itself, but the export of it’s ample Doctors to Venezuela in return for oil is!

Myself at the Marina

The beach and Atlantic Ocean

I drove a speedboat, twice. While it cost some extra cash, I enjoyed it so much the first time the second. Another motivator was that I didn’t get any photos of myself driving one the first time so I insisted we go again!

I also got several short videos on the D5000, which I am still in the process of uploading. I want to preserve a high a resolution of my photos as possible, so I have uploaded at the full photo size, usually around somewhere between 3MB and 7MB, now, times this by 473! I have been uploading during off peak times when bandwidth is truly unlimited for me (no silly usage clauses you get with the major ISPs). In short, the videos come later. They’ll be on Flickr as all but two are under the 90 sec limit.

All in all, I had an excellent time, but like all holidays, it had to end sometime and I came back home! Anyway, it is nearing the time of the necessary photo montage of some of the more interesting parts of the holiday. This time, however, there will be a small twist; I shall include a bit more than the usual four!

Myself at the Helm!

Myself at the Helm!


Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010
Old American cars are abound!

Old American cars are abound!

As are old American Steam Trains!

As are old American Steam Trains!

Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010

The Hotel

The Hotel

Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010 Cuba June 2010

So, as can be seen, an excellent time was had!

Cuba!

June 17th, 2010

Just a quick blog post from another country, which I do believe I have never done before.

Even though it’s the rainy season here I have yet to see any rain, although though massive behemoth T-Storm clouds can be seen every so often in the distance.

So the weather is good, the women are good looking and the beer is free!

See you in a few weeks with a tan and a boat load of photos!

Mountain: Glyder Fach

May 25th, 2010
The path upward!

The route we took upward

We climbed another mountain on Sunday. This time it was the turn of Glyder Fach; second highest of the Glyderau, second to Glyder Fawr. That was just next door, but we descended once we reached the top of Fach. The wat up was exhausting, as the Glyderau are rather rocky, and it was steeper than sections on Snowdon and Cadair Idris. We eventually reached a flattish area near the top which was very boggy and filled with sinkholes! One last rocky climb over giant rocks got us to the top. However to get to the actual summit, a massive rock pile needed to be climbed. Eventually I made it up, but one of the others had to leave my D40 on a rock near the bottom to climb up! After sliding down rocks and stepping over deep gaps in this big pile, we could turn our attention to leaving. Before we left, I attempted to take a group photo, but couldn’t find a person to take one, so tried putting the timer on. Unfortunately the rock I put the camera on was not that flat, so it missed most of ourselves off it!

The Cantilever Stone

The Cantilever Stone

On the way down, we followed what I thought was a path, until half way down a treacherous and steep rocky descent when we stop to let the girls catch up (catch down?) with us, I took a look at the map that had been in my bag. Horror struck my face.  I realised it was not a path that we had followed, but a boundary between some local authorities! After carefully negotiating our way down this near vertical side of the mountain using sheep paths and small areas of grass, we made it to a “cwm”, which we walked down. We followed a boggy riverbed to an actual river, and then followed that to the car.

Unfortunately, while we made it down with only immense aches and pains, a couple saw me flaunting a map before the descent and decided to follow us! They had no idea we had gone completely the wrong way and blindly followed us. Along one of the more hairy sections, where the only places to put your feet was a wet stone or grass, we saw the woman break down and burst into tears! Not good times.

This wasn’t the only problem. The boggy area evidently becomes a dangerous torrent in times of heavy rain. Not that there was any water, but the deep, concealed holes it had scoured out remained, and there was an instance of someone falling in a particularly deep one, jarring their leg! I managed to slip off a rock and, while not falling over, I jarred my back in a way that putting too much weight on it caused shooting pain up my spine.

The route down

The route down

Despite these hazards, the lower part was the worse as it was thick with mountain bracken which scratches your legs. In this area though we came across a waterfall, which we used to refill our water bottles, and/or wet ourselves in! However I had used non waterproof sun lotion, so it worked itself into a soapy mixture which was pure white. Not good!

The rock descent really took it’s toll on me; my legs are torn to ribbons in the number of deep cuts present! Combined with the sunburn they received followed by the minor scratches from the bracken, and they are sore all over. At least I’m not limping like the others!

After this was over, we retreated to the Saracens Head hotel in Beddgelert for a pub dinner and a pint. I myself had a Welsh Beef stake and chips, and a pint of Bulmers Pear Cider in the absence of the normal stuff. Well deserved after that climb!

Now, enjoy a 720p HD video of the entire ordeal! The D5000 seems to be alright with the quality of these things, just need to use a tripod! Or as orudge suggests, Steadicam!

A new camera – The Nikon D5000

April 24th, 2010

Yes yes yes, I know it’s only been two years and five months since I bought the D40, but I have upgraded to the D5000! The kit I purchased came from Jessops, and had a new 70-300mm Tamron macro lens thrown in. But, it is a most awesome camera and I enjoyed today’s quick trip to the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, followed by a quick trip up the Vale of Llangollen along the narrow and bendy Rhewl road, and then back along the Worlds End Pass road. The camera is as easy to use as the D40, just about the same weight, yet comes with a whole slew of new features that boggle the mind, such as on the go retouching (including a handy perspective feature which tries to straighten out any non straight buildings due to lens angles); as well as HD movies, and a swivel screen that, with live view, allows you to reach over obstacles and see what you’re looking at.

The movies are okay, but ‘ve got to figure out where the mic is so I can shelter it from wind with my hand. As it’s mono there’s no noise cancellation, and the slightest breeze becomes a mighty hurricane.

The two new lenses are most awesome. One is a VR version of the same 18-55mm I already possess, and the other is a telephoto macro that can zoom further than the 55-200mm, and also pick out finer details on Macro mode. The two photos here are made using the Tamron lens. Hopefully the 70mm will also be more adaptable for indoor use, as currently I need to switch between the two. However I suppose I could sell my VR 18-55 and VR 55-200 and simply purchase the 18-200mm. This would leave me with the two best lenses, although the larger the lens, the heavy the camera for normal use. This should now be less of a problem, as I have a new bag with the kit. It fits all three lenses, and all the accessories I possess, such as the remote, and the crazy USB it uses. On that note, the camera interfaces with Windows 7 quite well, having come out over a year ago, the Nikon devs would have had time to work on it – The icon on the taskbar is an image of the camera, and mousing over shows battery time, and a button to go straight to the photo folder. Most usefull.

As can be seen above, that’s everything the kit included. It was £689 from Jessops including the postage, but this comes down with the £200+ from the D40 I’m going to be selling, and the £50 cashback from Nikon. I could potentially get £300 off it in total. I leave you with the video test. I apologise for the sound, but there was a slight breeze!

Conquering Mountains

April 22nd, 2010

Well, on Sunday the 21st March, me and two friends from work successfully climbed Snowdon, the highest mountain in England and Wales, at 1085m (3500ft (ish)). Three weeks later, we climbed Cadair Idris. With Snowdon, the journey was filled with much peril and adventure but we persevered and made it to the peak and then back to the car park in eight and a half hours. That’s more than a full working day. Hell, throw in the drive times and intial picking up of people it was more than 13 hours!

We made it up and down with no major problems, apart from a ridge near the top which was very narrow and flanked by steep, near vertical 1000ft drops. The weather was horrible, although initially sunny and clear, this became cloudy. Then overcast. Then rain. Then heavy rain. Then heavy, freezing rain. Combined with the Snow at the top, which in places was in excess of 8ft, this was the worst weather I had ever experienced. Below is a truncated video of the 13 minute Facebook one. Sorry for the crazy Aspect ratio, first iPhone video.

With Cadair Idris, it was completely different. The weather was sunny and clear all day. So much so that we burned ourselves. The climb was a lot easier, and the views, perfect. We got lost in Dolgellau for a short while, but made it to the Snowdonia National Park Car park for the Pony Path. On the way down, I broke the strap on my birthday watch when I fell and smashed the steel buckle to pieces between a rock and my wrist. Almost two weeks later, and the scratches the buckle left in my wrist are still present. Cadair Idris was particularly busy, so we stopped and waiting on a particularly comfortable piece of grass for people to overtake until we were relatively alone. We made it up and down inside six hours, but the weather was partly to blame of this; we weren’t exactly rushing up the mountain, and stopped several times to take in the view and the weather.

We will be climbing Glyder Fach in May; hopefully we can be photographed on the Cantilever Stone!

Cadair Idris was definitely the better mountain to climb. We will be retackling Snowdon’s other paths inevitably, including the notorious Watkin Path. There’s even been talk of learning to rock climb!

And now for the obligatory photo montage. Only the last two are from Snowdon. I didn’t want to break my camera with rain! Not that it matters much, but there’ll be a post on that in a few days…

Climbing Cadair Idris Climbing Cadair Idris Climbing Cadair Idris Climbing Cadair Idris Climbing Cadair Idris Chris has the horn Group Photo

Christmas, and 2009

January 20th, 2010

2009 has been an excellent year! Many exciting and different things have happened, from Edinburgh earlier this year to Alton Towers in August and then London just two weeks ago.

There was also the TT meet in York back in July which I hurriedly left to get to the annual unofficial Avox summer party which was awesome even more so. The journey back was perhaps the fastest I had ever driven my car, definitely over 110mph for at least most of the M62. I managed the entire York to Coedpoeth journey in 1hr 35mins! Speeding through towns and villages is dangerous and I do stick to the speed limits there, but the motorways, everyone seems to go faster anyway!

I got quite some things for Christmas, namely a few DVD box sets. I also spent money on other people this Christmas! Not going mad and buying a D40 like I did two years ago when I should have been paying for the car repairs.

I have now come into possession of a fancy iPhone 3GS. I have upgraded my phone, but downgraded my contract. I now pay £10 less!

Of course, the Winter of 2009/10 will always be remembered as the one with all the snow. It first fell, to my memory, on or before the 18th of December. I look outside today, on the 20th January, and it is partly still there. This is the longest there has been a snow covering where I live since the 1960’s. I liked it. I kn The added danger of driving on the snow and ice made the journey to and from work a lot more exciting and varied, a feeling I used to try to induce by trying a new route or shortcut every day. I have only been driving since 2006, but I can tell the amount of traffic on our roads has grown exponentially even in these past four years.

I could once, given a minute or two early departure from Redwither Tower (which we always used to do, running for the cars!), I could be at home by 5:15. Now, in 2010, I cannot get home until after 5:30. The only hope is the industrial estate access road project, the last of which I heard was meant to start work on Dec 1st. This has not happened which has mostly annoyed me!

Oh well, here’s to more blog posts this year.

P.S.: BTW, this is my first attempt at a post with Windows Live writer. It’s quite good, if I do say so myself, for a Windows program (see image below)!!

.livewriter

A week Off

December 11th, 2009
Just Guess

Just Guess

Last week I had a week off. During that week, I went to Cardiff to watch the Australia vs Wales rugby game, which we lost, stayed over for a night, and then also went to London later in the week.

On Saturday we went to Cardiff. it was a standard drive, I’ve even driven there and back in a day without stopping just as part of one of my random drives once. We have an early start, and then drive. I went in my own car, and arrived first, parking in an NCP next to the Hotel. We then wandered to the Stadium, and watched the game. It was disappointing for us, as the Welsh team just didn’t seem to make any attacks until it was far too late.

Welsh attack!

Welsh attack!

After the game we walked all the way to Cardiff bay in the pouring rain, but couldn’t find a place to eat, so caught the train back. It was a beaten up old Class 121, which must be the oldest thing on the British Rail network, as it appeared to be made from wood! Once we got back to Cardiff Queen Street, we found it closed, so had to catch another train to Cardiff Central, which was teeming with drunken Wales supporters by this time. We saw quite a few Australians, but this was true of last year as well, they seem to be the only people who make an effort to get here! We eventually made it to a KFC and then retreated to the hotel

The fine urban view.

The fine urban view.

The hotel itself is The Big Sleep Cardiff, they apparently have a few UK locations. The Cardiff one was an old Office tower block converted to a hotel. It wasn’t bad, and there was kind of a view (left). Fortunately, we all got a good nights sleep, and, as in Edinburgh in February, me and my Dad got in a few drinks at the Hotel bar before bed.

After a few days of really late sleep ins, we went to London, through Wrexham & Shropshire. Although taking a lot longer than alternatives, the service was direct, and generally a pleasure to use, not to mention value for money. Although it was dark outside, as we caught the 5:12 from Wrexham.

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast

Tower Bridge and HMS Belfast

We got to Marylebone at around 9AM – and hopped on a tour bus. This took around around all the major sights, which I promptly took photos of. During this tour I am certain I viewed an A380 flying over the city. Even though they have apparently made a touch and go on the nearby Broughton Airbus wing factory, I have never seen one. Missed a photo though, unfortunately.

After the tour, we walked around some of the minor attractions, and then made motions to head for Marylebone, where there was a pub where we had some beers. Then we got on the train. The return route was slightly different – it avoided New Street and went via Birmingham International instead. Even though this happened, we were only five minutes late. There were a bunch of Shropshire ladies talking about their horses and how slow the train was – I swear those type of people would purchase Easyjet tickets and then complain about the service.

Anyway, it was a good week off, and as Christmas fast approaches, it looks like I’m going to have some more things to post as christmas draws near.

Obligatory photo montage, attack!
London 09 photoLondon 09 photoLondon 09 photo
London 09 photo

Best disaster film ever?

October 7th, 2009

Yawn

September 24th, 2009

It has been almost 20 days since my blog post, and nothing has happened.

This disturbs me very sprites.

To combat this I shall plan a trip to London and also go to Thorpe Park.

Alton Towers!

September 6th, 2009
The journey there was filled with much japery.

The journey there was filled with much japery.

So, yesterday a bunch of us Avox types went to Alton Towers. It was a great day out, and as I haven’t been since 2004, a lot had changed, and I was able to try out Rita: Queen of Speed and the Spinball Whizzard for the first times. In all, 11 of us went, and that equals good times.

I got up around 7:30, and left to go get petrol and screenwash at 8am. I was meant to pick up three people at twenty past, but they were late and only came out around half past, the time we were meant to leave! With an hour and a half journey ahead, we were supposed to be at the towers for 10am, however we only got to the rendezvous point with the other cars at Redwither Tower at 9:40. One person also didn’t turn up; we waited for a bus that arrived, then left at 8:45, fifteen minutes later than expected. We drove to the Uttoxeter junction where we were to get off the dual carriageway the A500, and had a McDonalds breakfast, another 15 minute delay. Eventually we were there for half past, but the entrance traffic meant we were in the queue for our first ride for 11:00. A car with two in was delayed after the car in front hit a hound from a chase (it was fine). After an hour of queueing for the Spinball Whizzard (the closest ride to the entrance) without them , we only had six hours of ride time left.

Oblivion, originally codenamed Secret Weapon 4, was the worlds first vertical drop steel rollercoaster

Oblivion, originally codenamed Secret Weapon 4, was the worlds first vertical drop steel roller coaster.

So we quickly sped to the X-Sector, where Oblivion was situated and met with the two late peeps who by this time had been on Rita, after this we would go to Rita, and then the water rides and the Forbidden valley. However, we went on Enterprise, an old ride after Oblivion. Here we split off as two of the group wanted to try other rides and had been on Rita, and two wanted to go to the Sea Life centre and were scared of Rita, so off we five went; however, two people were hungry so went to Burger King instead. At this point, there were four groups, all of two, apart from our own threesome. After queueing for Rita for around ten minutes, it broke down, so we left for The Rapids instead, the burger king was nowhere to be seen, so off we went. This was fun, especially as I didn’t really get wet except for the arse (wet seat), while the others did.

We sped off for Nemesis, and met with the Burger King couple. The queue was maxed out, so we went into the single riders queue again (we had for Rita and Oblivion), and so waited 20 minutes instead of the 45 in the main queue. After that,  we went on Air as well, but two of the group split off (they weren’t fussed about air and wanted to ride Ripsaw). We met with the two that went on the Spinball Whizzard here, and as they hadn’t been on it, being late because of the hound!

If you’re lost, there are now nine of us, I may have neglected another couple that vanished between Oblivion and now. We were outside Duel, a Zombie shooting ride, waiting for the two SeaLife people. They took their time so we went in anyway, we shot some doods, and I was fourth when it came to the score, I think.

The Congo River Rapids!

The Congo River Rapids!

Then we went to the rapids again. The 9 of us split into groups as the maximum seating per car is 8. I didn’t get very wet, again; but the other were even wetter. Once we were off the ride, two people went to meet the people who went on ripsaw earlier, and two others made motions for leaving the park. After this, our group of five finally headed to Rita, and rode it. The acceleration was immense but I still managed to smile for the camera. However a blue slushie meant my mouth was blue. It was twenty to six when we started queueing, after getting off, the park was closing, and we all made a beeline for the entrance. We did pause for a photo opportunity in front of the towers. The park was scarily empty by now, but as we got near the entrance, the familiar crowds had returned, and the queue for the monorail was estimated at 45 mins. Unwilling to wait in another queue, and with our aching feet beginning to blister, we walked for the car park. It took an age, but when we got to the car, we split into our three cars and left. Our car stopped in the same McDonalds we had that morning, and it was 9pm by the time we got back. I was attempting to catch up to someone using the estimated time of arrival on my TomTom as a reference (I caught up by 10 mins!), but I didn’t due to a series of slow cars.

All in all it was an excellent day out, and if you’ve thought of going, do so. I only wish it was 8am to 9pm opening times or something. It’d be worth it I think for the park!

Group Photo!

Group Photo!

Cambrian Steam Tour/Birthday Happenings

August 22nd, 2009
The Cambrian Steam Tour

The Cambrian Steam Tour

I’ve not been overly obsessed with railways since I was a child, but this was a great day out. On the 17th of August I went with the family on the Cambrian Railway steam train. We started out at 8am, and despite going the wrong way at a contraflow roundabout with a convoy system in effect, we made it to Macynlleth for 9:35. We powered out of the station. I’ve never been on a main line steam trip before, so being behind one at full line speed was most fun. Coal bits kept flying in through the windows, and cars were being left behind on the roads that followed us. We got to Pwllheli and had some fish and chips, before returning for 5:00pm. Seven and a half hours for a return journey was long, but it was a good day out. I believe our engine for the day was 76079, as evidenced by the photo to the right.

4MT 76079

4MT 76079

We saw both the Talyllyn and WHHR railways, who both conveniently had locomotives out waiting to greet our train. No better advertising than having a train whistle to the engine only to have it whistle back! There were only a few service trains in the morning, nothing really to wait for. On the way back though we had to wait at several stations for oncoming trains to clear the single track sections. While the level crossings at the stations are barriered, they are activated manually by plunger, so some people got up to leave before the stations!

This was all in aid of my birthday, which was on the 18th August, on the day we went to TGI Fridays in Ellesmere port for a family meal. As gifts, I had some money from my parents that allowed me to invest in some new computer hardware; a Cooler Master 850W modular power supply, an nVidia GeForce 295 graphics card, and a 1TB internal hard drive. The graphics card has allowed for much improved FPS rates in many games, and I’m certain that when combined with better processor and RAM, and a fully PCI-E 2.0 motherboard, will function excellently.

A power supply and 295

A power supply and 295

Two of the products are shown to the left. Putting it all together was easy enough, I took out the old PSU, then the old 8800GTS, and then put the new 295 in, followed by the PSU. The modular system was really easy to mess around with. Never seen a five pin Molex connector before though. I was surprised it all worked straight away, but then managed to bruise my chin by leaning on the fan grill for two long. There were multiple bruises and they looked like I had a fight with a dot matrix printer.

The guys from work got me a wonderful birthday card and cake, and then on Friday we went out for an Italian meal, and then a visit to one of Wrexham’s newest bars, Groove. I ended up treading on a piece of glass and then falling on my arse on the dance floor. Hurray me.

Finally, on Saturday, I ended up getting a watch from my parents. They originally wanted to get me a gold ring, but I don’t like jewellery, tattoos, not even face paints as a child, so instead they got me a watch. I like the watch, it’s a Rotary one, which means it’s waterproof, and has a leather strap. A photo can be seen below.

My new Watch

My new Watch

Woo new hardware

August 14th, 2009

I have bought myself a BFG Tech Geforce GTX 295 tonight, combined with a new PSU to power the computer with the new requirements. This, coupled with 64bit Windows in October, should really increase performance for the machine. They both should arrive on Tuesday, naturally I will photograph the installation process and post results here!

Also on Tuesday it is my birthday. Woo!

On Monday I’m off to Machynlleth, to ride on the Cambrian coast behind a mighty Steam engine. But first and foremost, tomorrow I am off to the wonderful Llandudno again.