Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Crew of STS 125 visits NASA Headuarters for a Tweetup

What goes up must come down.

Image (from) above: From the left are astronauts Michael J. Massimino, Michael T. Good, both mission specialists; Gregory C. Johnson, pilot; Scott D. Altman, commander; K. Megan McArthur, John M. Grunsfeld and Andrew J. Feustel, all mission specialists. Image credit: NASA

Follows an excellent video on YouTube in which the crew of STS 125 discuss the mission in detail and take loads of questions from the floor and teh interwebz. Being one of the gazillions of folks who followed this mission online in real-time, it was a most interesting watch.

The vid is 1:23:35 in length. If you don't have the time to watch it in full, McDawg recommends watching the section featuring the video of the mission from the team, section 0:22:00 to 0:43:00.

H/T Karen James on FriendFeed

Monday, 20 July 2009

Walkman 'v' i-Player - A Case Report

Since McDawg's daily commute to work only takes ~ 10 minutes, unlike ~ 46.7% of fellow rail users, McDawg has not been that interested in succumbing to owning an i-pod, etc.

During 2001 - 2005 whilst flying and training it around the UK, for musical entertainment, having ditched ye olde Sony Walkman Cassette Player by then, one had moved onto a Portable CD Player and for the latter two years, had access to a Sony Vaio Laptop (albeit with an utterly shite battery life) thanks to my work in the voluntary sector.

Two new gadgets I bought myself over the duration were my first ever digital camera and latterly, a portable mini-disc recorder/stereo mic. The former namely used when a fellow Trustee and I travelled across the pond for the first time in 2002 for a Conference and the latter for recording digital audio of various meetings.

I've since replaced the former with a much better model (with 2-Gig memory) in 2008. I thought I had left the latter in Wash. DC in 2004 but to my surprise, I found out a few weeks ago that it had been refound by my Dad in a travel case that I borrowed from him for that trip. I'll collect it shortly (he's currently on vacation, so arrangements in place for a pick-up from friends) as I intend to record some funky stuff next month in London.


What I found most attractive about this gadget was that it apparently allowed rapid transfer of data from gadget to computing device (my case, a PC) via firewire. What was extremely irritating however was that due to DRM (Digital Rights Management) issues, there was no connectivity between devices. This was more than frustrating bearing in mind the fact that I was a) harvesting original (not Copyrighted) material and b) was doing so for a Registered UK Charity. In the end, I sussed out how to slow-transfer data via an analogue connection, but this defeated the purpose of purchasing such technology.


As of late last year, one has on occassion borrowed (for long journeys) another mate at works' i-pod and since they have yet to learn how to add music to it, have done so for them, more than once and have a meaty/healthy i-tunes collection on my PC.

Two weeks ago, I purchased a 6 month old 8Gig Walkman for just £35 from a mate at work. They deleted their personal stuff (photos and rightly so) but left on their MP3 collection.

What was interesting to me was that the Walkman ONLY (emph on only) synchronises with Windows Media Player (WMP). Hell, I do use WMP for watching stuff, but my WMP Library only contains a small fraction of my files.


I learned yesterday that i-tunes, apparently does not connect with other platforms such as Sony Walkman. I was going to ask about this via teh Interbewz, but did some digging, and after downloading a duff patch, found this one that did what I wanted it to do.


Whilst in theory, the i-tunes and Walkman platforms are not compatible, they do talk to each other (anymore) if you know how.


"There's Evian, then there's tap water"

Sunday, 5 July 2009

"It's All About Steam"

What do you mean, it's all about steam ? was what I thought to myself when considering how to write this post. So let's STEAM on to the post itself.

But before we do, here's a cracking live version of a related song by Peter Gabriel et al to set the scene (sorry, I'm a Muso by trade):-

Yesterday, about 35 invited guests spent a most enjoyable afternoon on the Maid Of The Loch, Loch Lomond’s Paddle Steamer. Many of us (McDawg included) incorrectly assumed that we would be setting sail on her, but alas, whilst she's in the water, she ain't sailing at the moment. But there are plans well underway to change that. Read on.

(Photo c/o The Maid's website)

The Maid Of The Loch website can be found here. This page on Wikipedia is also quite informative.

Before alighting The Maid, guests were welcomed by a very special guest "Wedgie" who was parked up just next to The Maid:-

This event was a triple birthday celebration. "Wedgie" has just turned 50 and it's owners, both 70. See this related previous McBlawg post.

As per the invitation, all attendees were aware that aside from all the celebtrations, there was a fundraising for a good cause aspect to the days proceedings, and they gave generously, I am reliably informed.

After a rather superb lunch, McDawg nipped off to explore all three decks of The Maid, taking photos suitable for both private and public viewing. My favourite for public viewing is this shot of The Queen's Restaurant on the lower deck:-

Prior to everyone leaving The Maid, I caught up and introduced myself to Marie, who was our tip-top catering assistant for the afternoon. I explained that I was a blogger and would blogging about The Maid and tagging the post to highlight her (The Maid, not Marie - LOL) in the blogosphere. "Every little helps", as we discussed. The Maid whilst aquired by Dumbarton District Council in 1992, is very much in the hands of "a charitable organisation, the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC), to take over ownership and carry on restoration".

From this page, "Directors and volunteers are unpaid and LLSC has no staff. Yet this dedicated group have turned the Maid from a hulk in danger of sinking at the pier in 1992, into a successful business by 2001. Fortunately the Maid is in fresh water, so her hull is sound. Her steam machinery is also in good condition, and with further work can be made to operate for another 50 years. The original boiler was in a very poor condition, and had to be removed. Her wooden promenade and upper decks were so badly rotten they were replaced in 1996/7 with steel and aluminium respectively".

Oh yeah, the STEAM bit.

Just prior to departure from the car park, McDawg's Uncle Robbie (let's call him McRobbie) spotted something McDawg hadn't seen the last time he was here. (A drum-roll please - this is usually appropriate) The Balloch Steam Slipway Winchhouse !!

From here:- "Come and see us! You will be amazed at the engineering. The Winchhouse has not ever been opened to the public before, and our display panels will tell you everything you need to know. Parking is just 100 metres away and is also free".

McDawg & McRobbie entered the building JUST after it was due to close for the day. Whilst the machinery had just been powered down for the day, man it was rather hot in there.

"The rebuilding of the Balloch Steam Slipway is a major success for LLSC. Firstly, the project was completed to budget (at £620,000, and LLSC has no staff – we are all volunteers). Secondly, we were honoured to have a Royal visit; and thirdly it means that we can now seriously plan for the Maid to be overhauled ready for being brought back into sailing condition again. Without the slipway, this would not have been possible as any survey must include inspection to the hull, paddles, etc".

Whilst I didn't realise it at the time, the following shot (taken from the upper deck of The Maid) captures the steamhouse and slipway rather nicely even though I had zoomed in on the foreground activities.

All in all, a smashing day out and I think it's rather fitting to end on this note (from here):-

Maid To Sail Again!

"2008 was our best year so far: We secured MCA approval for the maid to sail again. An independent economic study demonstrated that an operational Maid would be viable; and we put two new aluminium masts on the ship. We also completed the renovation of the engine room with new lighting, and the complete refurbishment of the lower bar. Photos of both achievments are on the ‘Restoration’ page.

This year’s targets include concluding our plans for a public appeal for funds to get the Maid sailing again, adaptation of the Balloch Steam Slipway to take private boats out of the water for overhaul, renovation of the ship’s old crew accomodation, and painting the hull from bow to stern".

++Just spotted++. This is a superb piece of computer generated animation/graphics uploaded by Maxmodeller in Jan 2008

"The Maid of the Loch is currently undergoing a complete renovation and this sequence was produced as an educational aid whilst the engine is rebuilt". Maxmodeller, Jan. 2008.

"There's Something About Sarah"

"The advert was deemed to distressed to be broadcast"

There's Something About Sarah - Chapter One

So there I was. Stepped off the train from my daily commute to and from Queens Park and Glasgow Central Station, albeit at the weekend, working overtime.

Since the train was lengthier than normal (due to a certain Take That gig at Hampden Park that evening), one alighted the train at a part of the platform I rarely have navigated before.

And that’s where and when it struck me and prompted this post. 15.27 pm, Saturday 20th June 2009 to be precise.

Hang on a minute. I actually know the person featured on this poster. Blimey. How did that happen – what’s the story?

A billboard that normally is posted with adverts for fizzy drinks and all sorts of various advertising shite-ola.

My journey home (2 min walk) continued as usual, but I was understandably most perplexed. So I did what I would normally do, and logged onto the web for informationz.

The person in question was none other than Ms. Sarah Ezekiel, an individual I have had contact with via PatientsLikeMe, Facebook, and now, email.

But just who is Ms. Sarah Ezekiel readers of this post may ask. Previous post on McBlawg here.

Sarah is an extremely active individual who other than looking after her two children (Eric now 9 and Aviva, 12 years old) campaigns tirelessly in terms of raising awareness about Motor Neuron Disease (MND).

Chapter Two

When I got into my flat and logged onto the web, and specifially, PatientsLikeMe - ALS, a theme was clearly already well under construction.

"Have to post this photo taken by my carer in Tottenham Court Road tube station! The irony is that I may never see it because London Transport isn't very accessible for wheelchair users..." Sarah Ezekiel - Jun 13, 2009 04:26PM

Chapter Three

"Our Sarah's Story awareness campaign is being promoted on national billboard space for two weeks, thanks to the generous support of CBS Outdoor media.

The poster campaign aims to raise awareness of MND and encourage visitors to

The campaign will run for two weeks from 15 June. This means that the second week coincides with our MND Awareness Week (20 – 28 June).

There will be 48 sheet posters on 18 London Underground poster sites in zone one and over 80 mainline railway station sites right across England, Wales and Scotland.

This is the first time that the MND Association and MND Scotland have developed a joint awareness campaign".

LATEST: Some posters will remain at stations. View the Sarah's Story mainline poster sites beyond 28 June (13 kb) London Underground poster sites beyond 28 June (9 kb)

Chapter Four

In January, I placed a link to the video, Sarah's Story on FriendFeed. On 23rd June, I updated that entry to alert people to the fact that I was writing another blog post about it and asked people to consider leaving a comment. Follows the interesting discussion that took place.

Here is the poster in question (click to enlarge):-

As displayed in the above FriendFeed thread, the poster, the media and over the internet, the video has evoked wide ranging reactions.

Sarah has now created her own website and blog (coming soon).

Finally, I would like to publicly thank Sarah for her assitance in composing this post and for her continued role as an active patient advocate in the field of MND.