Sunday 30 November 2014

Litter Defence Volunteers

In 1967 there were reportedly 5,000 ‘Litter Defence Volunteers’ criss-crossing the country pushing the ‘Keep Britain Tidy’ slogan. Then came the children's favourite the Wombles to pick up and carry the baton forward. 

Who will ever remember in 1988 when that Nora Batty look-a-like, Thatcher, and her trumped up anti-litter campaign. Plus the memorable they came up with “Bag it, bin it, together we`ll win it” as part of her campaign against litter.  

Thatcher Quote: 'We have seen this morning a beautiful park lovely trees, lake, plants disfigured by litter. The litter is not the Government's fault. The litter is the fault of the people who knowingly or thoughtlessly throw it down and pollute the environment in which they live. There is a law against it, there are about 1500 prosecutions a year—but that is but a small part of the problem.'

However, if you want to get a better insight into the real workings of government, you could do worse than to have a read at this article by the 'Plastic Hippo'. 

Is it time to bring back a new version of dads army. The battalions of grey granddads who were also known as the Local Defence Volunteers. To pick up and run so to speak with the CaRThorse cavalry of litter pickers working on the canal towpath. 

Fast forward and to today and the Canal and River Trust has started to create its own  battalions of Litter Defence Volunteers.  So you to could soon be working with your own version of Captain Mainwaring.  We're doomed I tell you, doomed.




As one of the Keep Britain Tidy campaigns, this 1968 film shows Litter Defence Volunteers or ‘LDVs’, striking against 'public enemy number one' a litter bug. The formation of LDVs was a play on the 'Local Defence Volunteers', otherwise known as the Home Guard, who formed Britain’s last line of defence against invasion during the Second World War. 


Saturday 29 November 2014

Boat Improvements (2)

As always things in life undergo gradual change. This started me thinking about what changes I could make to the boat to improve life aboard.  Because our requirements have changed with retirement. From long weekends and occasional holidays. To spending a great deal of time on the boat but not quite as live-a-boards. 

My old boss had a rather interesting question that he put to the staff meetings. It would go something like this - "I know that we may not all be happy working here. But if there was one thing that you could change to make things better what would it be." Over the years some changes were made to working practice as a result of ideas being expressed.

Like my old boss, I would never make a change just for the sake of it. There would always need to be a tangible benefit from making any change. Since we purchased the boat, we have made a few small but significant changes. In this instance because of the readily availability of a new technology. 

Following on from Boat Improvements (1)  I shall describe some other changes that we have made to Rosie while we have owned her. 

Sometimes when we were out but moored up for an extended period we would have to run the boat engine to recharge the leisure battery bank. Wherever possible we would try to synchronise our boat movements to the need to charge the battery bank. I this respect we were fairly successful in our endeavours. Now that we are retired and there is less impetus upon us to move. We needed to look at alternative ways to charge the battery bank.  

Three very different methods came to mind. We could use a separate petrol generator. There was also the possibility of wind generation as well as solar generation. I spent a great deal of time exploring each one. I eventually settled upon solar generation as the best way forward. Each system has its own benefits and pitfalls. Solar gave the best alternative option in our particular circumstances. 

Solar panels  are improving their efficiency almost daily and come in several different types.
Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar Panels are the most easily available.

Typically solar panels also have a long operational life. Plus they have no moving parts. A long warranty period is typical for most solar panels. Reputable solar manufacturers produce solar panels with a 25-year long warranty. 

Monocrystalline: Monocrystalline solar panels have the highest efficiency rates and are in the region of 15-20% conversion efficiency.  Last but not least they perform better than other solar panel types in low-light conditions.
Polycrystalline: The efficiency of polycrystalline solar panels  are improving almost daily and are typically around the 13-16% mark. These are the cheap as chips panels to purchase.
To all intent and purposes you can ignore the information above as panel manufacturers build their panels to conform to certain output ranges. the main difference being the physical sizes of the panels. Usually described in watts  typical panel values being 80 and 100 watts.  The anticipated output will vary depending on the amount of sunlight falling on the surface of the solar panel. In over cast conditions the panel output will be reduced when compared to bright sunshine on a cloudless day. 

Panel Wiring Diagram.

At the time we purchased 3 80 watt solar panels. This gives a theoretical top figure of about 20 amps. However, because we are well north of the equator, in good conditions the three panels tend to peak at around 12/15 amps.However, on a typical summers day the figure is around the 8 amp mark. In the winter months the typical clear winters day figure is around 2/4 amps. Another point to remember is the length of daylight hours varies from summer to winter.

 
Controller Connections


The next important bit of kit that you need is a device to control the panel. A solar charge controller or solar panel regulator is an essential component of most solar charging systems. This device sits between the solar panels and the battery bank.  There are standard PWM (Pulse Width Modulated) controllers and the more advanced MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller. The MPPT controller improves the charging efficiency of the solar system by up to 30% so it is an easy choice to make.


Its almost three years (February 2012) since we installed the controller and panels.  The MPPT controller has in that time recorded adding 18723 Ah (Ampere Hours) into the battery bank, averaging 19ah per day.




Friday 28 November 2014

Boat Improvements. (1)

As always things in life undergo gradual change. This started me thinking about what changes I could make to the boat to improve life aboard.  Because our requirements have changed with retirement. From long weekends and occasional holidays. To spending a great deal of time on the boat but not quite as live-a-boards. 

My old boss had a rather interesting question that he put to the staff meetings. It would go something like this - "I know that we may not all be happy working here. But if there was one thing that you could change to make things better what would it be." Over the years some changes were made to working practice as a result of ideas being expressed.

I would never make a change just for the sake of it. There would always need to be a tangible benefit from making any change. Since we purchased the boat, we have made a few small but significant changes. In this instance because of the readily availability of a new technology.

The first change was to modify the on board lighting systems. Spread around the boat are a mixture of ceiling and wall lighting. The changes did not involve purchasing and then installing new fittings. It involved a simple exchange of 'bulbs'. We changed from using halogen bulbs to the new LED (light emitting diode) types. 

If a light bulb was to fail, its a simple task to change it and so it is with LED light bulbs. Its the same 12 volt 'electrical power' that is being used. It does not require the services of an electrician. It might not as in our case require the use of any tools. However, as a result of new technology selecting LED lights does require a bit of forethought if you are to get it right first time.

Halogen
LED Type
In our case the bulbs used in the ceiling fittings are designated as being G4 types. These are used in many different applications. However, the fittings for our halogen type had a reflector. 

Fitting the new LED type of bulb means that the reflector is no longer required and can be ignored. because The bulb shape has changed and the led type now lays flat across the fitting.


The new led lights come in different colours, by this I don't mean red white of blue. But a small variation in couler usually expressed by temperature. In this case I don't mean temperature as hot or cold to the touch. 



Spot Light
We talk about a cold white (slightly blueish) or a warm white (slightly reddish) light. This colour is measured in degrees on the Kelvin scale.  Depending on where the lights are to be located so you can create an ambiance.  We used - 5500k - in the kitchen area and - 1800k - lights in the bedroom and lounge areas.  A more pure white light - 3500k - was used in spot lights used for reading.

Ceiling Fitting
So why did we choose to change the internal lighting on the boat. There are a number of reasons why we made the choice. One was to improve the ambiance as we always felt that the halogen light was too bright in the lounge area. Because the lights were bank switched in the lounge (all on or off) we even removed every other bulb just to lower the intensity of the light.

Halogen lights get very very hot almost within seconds of being turned on. When it comes to lighting any heat created is wasted power.  Halogen lights are electrically very inefficient. The LED lights get ever so slightly warm to the touch after they have been switched on for a while. LED lights are electrically very efficient. However, the main reason for the change was to lower the demand on the leisure battery bank when providing electrical power for  lighting.  

When we purchased Rosie the lighting configuration was as highlighted in the area list below. The figures in brackets are the power consumed for each bulb in the unit of power consumption which is expressed as watts.  The conversion of Watts to Amps at fixed voltage is governed by the equation Amps = Watts/Volts Saloon: 6 (20w) and 4 (20w) Kitchen: 4 (20w) Bathroom: 4 (20w) Bedroom: 6 (20w) Aft cabin: 2 (15w) Navigation: 3 (15w) Tunnel: 1 (40w)

Saloon:  10 x 20 = 200 watts. Kitchen: 4 x 20 = 80 watts. Bathroom: 4 x 20 = 80 watts. Bedroom: 6 x 20 = 120 watts. Aft Cabin: 2 x 15 = 30 watts. Navigation: 3  x 15 = 45 watts. Tunnel: 1  x 40 =  40 watts. Giving a grand total of 595 Watts.  which converts to 595/12 = 49.58 Amperes. 

However, when I measured the actual amps used with all the items turned on. Power consumption measured 56.2 Amperes on Rosie's digital ammeter. The actual power used will vary a little for each bulb. The figures quoted on the packaging are nominal. All the little additional bits in our case totalled about 6 amps or 72 watts just over 2 extra watts per bulb.

If all the lights were to be left switched on, 0ur 500ah leisure battery bank would be depleted very quickly. In 5 hours our battery bank would have given up 281 amperes which is more than half of its theoretical capacity. (500ah) I use the word theoretically as the quicker you discharge any battery the less total capacity the battery has to deliver. In 5 hours at this rate our leisure batteries would have been well on their way to being discharged.

With the majority of the lights converted over to led. When all the lights are turned on throughout the boat our power consumption is 3.9 amps or 37 watts. Which is equivalent to just 2 of the old halogen bulbs.  Which is a significant saving over the original 56.2 Amperes (674 watts) of halogen consumption. We could leave the lights turned on for 72 hours to half discharge the battery bank now. Which is 14 times longer than before.



 



Thursday 27 November 2014

Your Bedtime Routine (4)

Continued from Your Bedtime Routine (1), Your Bedtime Routine (2), Your Bedtime Routine (3).

Despite launching the most adventurous social reform agenda in British history, the Labour government also set about constructing a new secret state apparatus to fight the Cold War at home and abroad, as the world entered the atomic age. Furthermore, with independence being granted to India in 1947, post-war Britain took the first steps towards dismantling the empire and assembling a commonwealth based on influence and mutual respect.

The end of the war in 1945 did not result in the immediate end of shortages and rationing. By 1948 rations had fallen well below the wartime average. In some cases, they even applied to goods that had not been rationed during the war - such as bread.

This Richard Massingham film is a bizarre contribution from the Crown Film Unit, and addresses the challenges Britain faced in the austere post-war era. Wartime enthusiasm and self-confidence had become seriously eroded by the crisis-laden year of 1947. Domestically, the continuation of rationing, including for the first time bread (between 1946-48)


Fuel, like so many other commodities, was at a premium. Indeed, coal remained rationed until 1958.

As well as rebuilding and reforming the nation in the immediate post-war years, Britain also staged major events such as the 1948 London Olympics and the Festival of Britain in 1951. Considering that all of these achievements occurred despite continued rationing and economic uncertainty, the accomplishments of 1945-51 were very impressive

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Protecting Yourself.

Thinking of buying a push bike for use when out on your boat?

There are plenty of cycles offered for sale second-hand on places like eBay and even in flea markets held up and down the length and breath of the country. I was astounded to learn that a bike is stolen every few seconds. These provide a ready and easy source of income for opportunist thieves feeding a drug habit.  Now you can check in an instant from your mobile phone if that bike that you are thinking of buying is stolen. Have a look on 'Check That Bike'  before you part with any money. 

If you buy stolen goods, the general rule is that you are not the legal owner. In other words, you do not have good title. This applies even if you paid a fair price and didn’t know that the goods were stolen. The person who originally owned them is still the legal owner. The only exception to this rule is where goods are insured, such as cars. In this case, the goods would become the property of the insurance company after the real owner's claim had been paid.

Year on year insurance premiums go up  and we all end up paying out. Have a look round you, how many valuables can you see?  If you are like me you have the odd valuable items on your boat, maybe a mobile phone, a TV set or even a camera. All such items provide rich picking for scrotes. But you can fight back, by first of all recoding a description, make, colour, type and any serial numbers for such items. Then you can upload the ownership information to another bespoke website 'Immobilise Property Register' that the police can also check recovered items against.


Tuesday 25 November 2014

Smartphone Apps for Boaters (33)

No matter which genre of smartphone you own or are thinking to buy. The apps that are available will have an influence on how happy you are with the phone. There are plenty of top quality apps that you can download. However for me There's always a remarkable sub-selection of apps that are totally free. 

The wonderfully named 'Android' phone seems to have cornered the market in the same way that VHS did with tape systems. Android's open source strategy is the main factor for its success. Being a free platform has expanded the Android device install base, which in turn has driven growth in the number of third party multi-platform and mobile operator apps available.

Anyone can take a photograph. This app will help to make you a better inland waterways photographer. 

Learning photography is unique. Often the moment you need to ask a question is the moment you are furthest from home. Now at home or on the go you can get the photography advice and tips you need no matter where you are with the PicturePerfect app. 

PicturePerfect makes learning photography and improving your skills easier than ever by giving you instant access to the Discovery Center’s comprehensive collection of tutorials. These quick and easy-to-follow lessons cover everything you need to know to master your camera. Learn the basics, including setting up your camera, to more advanced elements, such as achieving proper lighting and exposure. Tutorials are carefully categorized and organized according to skill-level, allowing you to find exactly what you’re looking for in just a few easy taps. PicturePerfect is optimized for devices with larger screens such as tablets but will also work on a wide variety of smaller devices. 

Make PicturePerfect your personal teacher and take your photos further!

Features: 
  1. Find inspiration with a gallery of stunning photos from around the world.
  2. Learn photography by watching easy-to-follow tutorials in a structured course format.
  3. Get written tutorials and sample content to continue your learning offline.
  4. Get access to exclusive one-on-one personalized training with a pro.
Discover even more ways to love learning photography.

Monday 24 November 2014

HDR photographs (3)

Continued from HDR photographs (2)

I have started messing around more and more with panorama pictures. This time rather than combining the images as you would in creating an HDR image one on top of the other. The panorama is made from overlapping the edges of images to create a sweeping image.

This time you take any number of pictures. But you need to ensure that you don't leave any blank gaps in between the individual images.   When I take a series of photographs I tend to sweep from my left to my right. I look for an object on the right hand side and place that towards the centre of the next image.

You also need to turn off any automatic exposure settings, so that the images are all taken using the same exposure settings. Here is one where the two images are slightly different and the joint can be seen.


Panorama images may might appear to be difficult to create. requiring some wizardry with a photographic editor.  But, it's more a question of choosing the right software application rather than being artistically gifted. I use Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) for creating panoramas because it is so simple and easy to use. 

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images.


So you might well be thinking what has creating panoramas to do with HDR photography. Well, I have been experimenting with photographing the same panorama scene at different exposures. then using HDR to combine the two panoramas. I have managed this with up to six images but it requires some manual tinkering.

It has taken a great deal of experimentation to get the technique right. However, sometimes getting the wrong result can make for unusual images. Which all goes to prove the point there is no such thing as a bad photograph.






Sunday 23 November 2014

HDR photographs (2)

Continued from HDR photographs (1)

Against the Light
If you are stood inside a dark building with a bright light shining into and dazzling your eyes. If you look around and shade your eyes you will be able to make out some of the details. Your eyes adapt to the prevailing conditions. However, if you try to take a photograph nothing will turn out. The problem is not with your camera.  The issue is that the dynamic range (tonal values) of the scene exceeds what the camera is capable of capturing. 



Yet photography against the light can create some very evocative and mood rich images.  Here is one image looking directly at the sun. this creates deep shadows and plenty of reflections.
Shaded Sun


However, it is possible to improve the tonal range of your camera using HDR techniques. To take HDR images (High Dynamic Range) you need a camera set up on a tripod so that the images taken stay in register. Later, when the images are combined together, each overlays over the top of the other. If the images are slightly different the images may be blurred. (more on this later) 

Here is an image where the sun is shaded out by the trees and clouds. Thereby creating a rich strong sunset image where the reflections also play a big part.


However, some DSLR cameras (digital single lens reflex) can take, two, three or more images at different exposures almost instantaneously. My Canon 550D has an option where three photographs are automatically taken, at three different exposure settings. Some modern smart-phones such as the Samsung S4 also have HDR built in to the camera.

There are a number of bits of software that you can download for HDR combining and editing of digital photographic images. Some of the software can also correct images that are out of register. (often called ghosting for obvious reasons)

Fusion-HDR: This program allows you to enhance and combine multiple images. It is also able to separately align and correct hand held images. Best results were obtained using SUM operator rather than HDR operator.

Luminance HDRLuminance HDR is an open source graphical user interface application that aims to provide a workflow for HDR imaging. This software has built in automatic anti-ghosting.
Picturenaut: Picturenaut was born in the German photo community. It has been in the works for four years, with consistent improvements according to user feedback. It has always been freeware, thus setting the standard for making high quality HDR Imaging accessible and easy.

Continued from HDR photographs (3)

Saturday 22 November 2014

HDR photographs (1)

Normal Exposure
You may be wondering what HDR (HDRI) photography is all about. HDR, to give it its full name is High Dynamic Range and is sometimes also referred to as High Dynamic Range Imaging. HDR is a technique used in stills photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity (tonal range) than is possible using standard digital  photographic techniques.

Over Exposed
HDR images are created by capturing and then combining together different exposures of the same subject matter. You can create HDR images with any digital camera by photographing the same scene two or more times. By using different exposures values for each image taken. 


Under Exposed

In this example I have taken three photographs. One is normally exposed using the cameras standard settings. The second one is over exposed by overriding the standards settings and increasing the exposure time. The third one is under exposed in the same way by reducing the standard speed.


Combined Images
Standard cameras can only take photographs within a limited exposure range. Resulting in the loss of detail in bright or dark areas. The HDR techniques compensates for this loss of detail by capturing multiple photographs and then combining the images together to produce a photograph representative of a much broader tonal range.



After the images have been combined together to give increased detail in the highlights and shadows. Its possible to fine tune the HDR settings to give a much more appealing look and feel to the photographs.

At the same time its also possible to remove items from the finished image. In this example I have removed overhead power lines and also removed several other items and their corresponding reflections in the water. At that point I added a watermark identifying ownership of the copywrite of the image.

Friday 21 November 2014

Sludge Sucker Pilot

We have a maceration pumpout system fitted on Rosie and we have followed the operating instructions religiously - However, there has always been a certain 'air' when the tank reach the halfway point. We never found additional 'blue' to be all that effective in reducing the smell either. 

So we have moved over to using a different and much more eco friendly product, called 'Odourlos'. But as blue is a bacterial 'killer' we needed to reduce the level of residual blue in the tank before we could go more eco. First we had to let the 'toilet blue' contamination flush out of the holding tank - so to speak. So we did the usual pumpout which was then followed by a half fill of water. This was then followed by ten minutes of 'rocking the boat' to agitate the water around inside the holding tank. Then pumping it empty again. 

During our next period before the next pumpout we did not notice any significant increase in the amount of odour or strength. A second pumpout was followed by another boat rocking session to splash the water around again. Then it was the final pumpout. We have now moved over to using the new eco 'Odourlos'. No ensuing smells and we have just done a  'fragrant free' pumpout. For the first time we have been truly odour free. 

The product is described as having a blend of enzymes, friendly bacteria and surfactants * to break down waste in marine holding tanks. Eliminates holding tank odours completely. Breaks down waste and toilet tissue. Safe for any black water tank system. 100% organic and biodegradable.
* Surfactants are compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid. Surfactants may act as detergents, wetting agents, emulsifiers, foaming agents, and dispersant.
I had a chat with a 'sludge sucker pilot' who spends his working day going from place to place poo pumping. He said some systems have a covered holding pool to which a handful of pellets are added after each pumpout. This creates a foam across the surface of the tank contents. The bacterial culture is anaerobic and the smells are trapped below the foam. Maybe Odourlos works the same way!

A blend of enzymes, friendly bacteria and surfactants, to break down waste in marine holding tanks.
  • Eliminates holding tank odours completely
  • Breaks down waste and tissue
  • Safe for any black water tank system
  • Safe for chemically sensitive people
  • Non-staining
  • 100% organic and biodegradable
- See more at: http://marinestore.co.uk/Odourlos_Holding_Tank_Treatment_1Litre.html#sthash.pZwjNtjB.dpufRegardsMick n MagNb Rose of Arden

Thursday 20 November 2014

Danger knot benders at work

I love the history and artistry of the knot benders work. The skill and craftsmanship are second to non.  I even have a few small examples of their skills on the boat. I have been giving some thought for quite a long time about getting a length of rope and having a go at the hangman's noose. But the junior deck officer on board Rosie does not want to play along!

Well the autumn has arrived - the promised late Indian summer seems to have gone away. The wind and rain have beset the canals for the last few days. Yet, autumn for a camera freak offers some wonderful opportunities for grabbing a few interesting photographs. So while there is still enough sap to hold the leaves a little longer. In a few days the wind will strip the leaves back once more, heralding in the impending winter.


Abbey
A cruise along the Trent and Mersey was needed to give us a break away from mourning the loss of our precious little dog Abbey.  

Abbey was a real character who along with our other dog Poppy, became the center point that our whole retirement life afloat revolved around.  

It was good to be out and moving once more. We bumped into a couple of friends who we last saw in 2012. Geoff and Mags on board Nb Sayella  who we first met at on the Selby Canal while on our cruise up the river Ouse to Ripon.

The Rose of Arden blog has reached another milestone: This is the 2000th posting, in just under 5 years. 

Wednesday 19 November 2014

CaRT Elections.

I am of the mind that its never to early to plan for the next round of CaRT elections. It also gives sufficient time to learn from the mistakes of the past. There is a need to find four people with a track record of success in their respective field and who are actually truly electable. The previous CaRT Council Elections are now history. But we should also learn a valuable lesson from what went before. A great deal of time and effort will be needed to find and then getting elected four truly non aligned and 'independent' boaters. 

Boaters need someone representing them who is a communicator. After all, how many messages have you had from the last elected candidates. What feedback have you had on issues. Has your opinion been sought by your representatives.

One of the major issues was an imbalance that was evident at the time of the previous election. Which only became something of a concern in the robust post election discussion on various forums. The election favoured anyone who could command the weight of a large organisation to become the preferred candidate in their election machine. This is like the independent non aligned MP who gets steam rolled by the party machine.

It would be best to find suitable fresh faces that come without the 'baggage' created by any such alliances. Being a boat owner might be a 'desirable' trait in the person specification. But what will be needed is people who can bring a more 'essential' skills and knowledge of a broad church of other issues to the table.

Anyone wanting to stand next time should be putting together their own election team. For it will be a team event next time. Drawing upon the skills and knowledge of team members. They should also be building and publishing a personal manifesto and constructing a CV of their own. 

Quite often previous job applicants get advised not to re-apply again. Candidates for various political offices traditionally only get one chance of standing for election. If they are rejected once by the electorate they are already seen as rejects in the mind of the electorate and will continue to be rejected again in the future. So they move constituency and a new electorate. However, when it comes to the Canal and River Trust it will be the same electorate again.

The individuals deserving of our support in the CaRT council elections will need to be of good standing within the wider boating community. They will need to have previous experience in a similar role or bring a broad ranging knowledge of the Inland Waterways. They will need to have a track record in such a role. 

One of the concerns expressed from the previous election is that those who were elected last time have been almost invisible to the electorate. Their continuing allegiance to the Inland Waterways Association has been almost palpable. To elect anyone with a similar allegiance no matter how 'fleeting' would be to commit the same mistake again. For after all, who would these individuals actually represent. All boaters or a select minority.

Basic job description for candidate.

Responsibilities to include:

Representing the whole constituency (waterways) and the constituents (boaters) without fear or favour. Building an effective relationship with the electorate. Being actively accountable. Dealing with individual casework within the wider constituency. Attending CaRT meetings and serving on sub committees. A knowledge of budgets and legislation. A good level of education. Working closely with other elected members. A knowledge of working with charitable, voluntary, community and statutory organisations. Maintain an active presence in the constituency and to be able to respond to constituents’ problems and queries as appropriate. 

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Microwave Rice

I have been playing around with Microsoft ICE (AKA Microwave Rice) to produce some interesting images. It is a very versatile bit of software that is free to download. This view across the marina is a 180 degree panorama. This is made up of 63 18 Meg images. The original print size of the image is 273 inch x 60 inch (22'9" x 5' 0") and is a 179 Megs in size. The image below has then been reduced down to produce a thumbnail 18" x 4" inch version and is 1 Meg in size.

Autumnal sunrise from the back deck of my boat 'Rosie'.
The blurb about the Microsoft Image Composite Editor says that Microsoft ICE is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. Given a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location, the application creates a high-resolution panorama that seamlessly combines the original images. The stitched panorama can be shared with friends and viewed in 3D by uploading it to the Photosynth web site. 

Here is one I did earlier: Click Me

Or the panorama can be saved in a wide variety of image formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to the multi-resolution tiled format used by Silverlight's Deep Zoom and by the HD View and HD View SL panorama viewers.



The prototype image above gives an idea how the Image Composite Editor manipulates the images and then seamlessly joins all the edges together. The shape above is used to generate a CinemaScope type of image representation.  Where you can pan left or right as well as zoom into the image.

The Editor is free of charge and comes without support. However, if you have questions or issues, you may find help at the Image Composite Editor Forum, which provides user-based support.

Monday 17 November 2014

The Sexy Dodgy Dossier.

When Tony Blair wanted to take the country to war there was one or two small flies in the ointment. A simple lack of proof was the most significant one. The weapons inspectors could not find a shred of evidence of weapons that could possibly threaten us as a nation. 

But why let such a small problem stand in the way of everlasting fame. So he 'sexed up' what became known as the 'dodgy dossier'. In a way this whole idea of presenting something as being 'sexy' when in reality its something quite 'tawdry' is now commonplace. Its a public relations ploy that is oft used in advertising.

So I wondered if I could 'sex up' the waterways, it would certainly provide a challenge. There is an old saying - if it smells like a crock of poo, if it looks like a crock of poo. Then it usually is a crock of poo.

The Sexed up Dodgy Dossier.

I want to be the sexy poet, the laureate of the navigation;
weaving words that rhyme, that don't create frustration; 
writing of the warm sunshine, and of the dappled shade;
a special dossier of poetic words, each one carefully laid.

There's much that's bad along the cut, and little that is good;
its a rose tinted myopic view, all dodgy and misunderstood;
to paint the opposing picture, in words that hide the truth;
seeing through the tissues of lies, would not require a sleuth.

Employ a public relations guru, to cover up the unwanted truth; 
a spin doctor a charlatan a sooth sayer, with a remit so uncouth;
friends of a rubbish dumping ground, are few and far between; 
now to gloss over all of the bad bits, with fifty shades of green.

Well gosh and golly, shall wonders never cease;
I only went and got the job, I hope that you are pleased;
the remit was very easy, the requirements I fulfilled;
I only have to sugar coat, what is a very bitter pill.

So I shall try and spin the truth, but reality will still prevail;
you might read between the lines, as I spin my doctor's tale;
as I take up my new found career, just to tell it like its not;
hide and bury away the truth, and build my pension pot.

In the first two lines of verse, I write the sexed up prose;
 use spin doctor wit and guile, I as you might well suppose; 
but in lines three and four, will be the the well hid truth;
as I busily sex away, and your ruffled feather smoothed.

The canal is a fragrant place, with wonders to catch the eye;
that certain wonderful  heady scent, and an ever cloudless sky;
I'm straining at this lock gate, this thing refused to move;
I'm told that I'm enjoying it, but the aches and pains disprove.

The canal water is clean and clear; and flowers all abound;
gently flowing and leak free, is this never empty pound;
will this lock ever find a level, will the boat never move;
I can't call this a pleasure, as the heavy paddles prove.

Sweeping weeping willow trees, and reed mace growing wild; 
are the things that should have you, about the cut beguiled;
but scraping along the bottom, as the bubbles breach the top;
no maintenance and collapsed banks, prove the cut a flop.

The canal is a wonder of nature, a place that all should come;
 we will chug you to be our special friend, our best ever chum;
now all the blue green algae, is used to add colour to the cut;
as a PR guru I can say this, because of the bull we have a glut.

See all the rose and castle painted boats, once they had no peers;
see all the cheerful whistling lock keeper, and happy volunteers; 
the boaters are now just ignored, their opinion counts for nought;
its a Cyclist Angler Ramblers Trust, that make the acronym CaRT.

The partnerships are raising funds, and of cash there is enough;
people rushing forward with donations, create a throng a crush;
waterway partnerships are broken, and continue to cost despite;
I'm still spinning turning twisting, to make you believe their right;

Trustees have done a wicked job, a glorious future doth abound;
directors are all under paid, for their achievements do astound;
for it is just another old boys club, with the token girl in place; 
much mutual embarrassment, and an ever reddening face.

Rare plants and special wildlife, everywhere can be found;
insects and birds of every kind of hue, kingfisher duly crowned;
biffa bins are always over flowing, from one month to the next;
words I spin like a child's top, as the dodgy dossiers sexed.

Now I'm coming towards the end, my PR job well done;
tomorrow is yet another day, and much more will be spun;
fifteen verses of fractured truth, and only time will only tell;
delaying the sound of a lone bell, that tolls the cut's death knell.

The Alternative Canal Laureate

Evan Keel.








Sunday 16 November 2014

English Waterways

As CaRT continues to gently wring its hands over the 'misplaced vanity' surrounding the catchy new name it chose. Then all the money which was unnecessarily spent on the creation of new notices and notice boards, patch stickers and not forgetting the vehicle paint jobs. Then add into the mix the unintended consequence of the large number of CaRToon acronym it spawned, such as Cycling Angling Rambling Truss. Things don't seem to be wooing the paying punters into digging deep.

What's in a Name.
I have always wondered why the 'old guard' ejected from BW choose a new name like CaRT. When there were much better and much more meaningful names available. I suppose British Waterways - sort of says it all. But British Waterways or BW was a name chosen in an era prior to the waterways own government inspired regional devolution (Bonfire of the Quango's) into the third sector. (see note1)

‘It'd be great if everyone referred to us by the name that we at the Trust prefer to use, but I know we can't be too precocious. As long as people don't call us British Waterways!' Richard Parry CEO CaRT.

Well, that's a pretty clear statement from the school prefect. It would seem that the name change was chosen to disassociate the new charitable organisation from its less salubrious predecessor.  But that could only be successful if their was a root and branch change to a much more timely and effective operational structure.

What of devolution.
So what is the future for CaRT now we have the already devolved the Scottish Canals. Who devolved away with a name that has something of a national identity ring to it. One no doubt, that is something of pride to our northern neighbour. Since the recent Scottish referendum shows a significant swing towards 'Jock' wanting a stronger independent and national identity.

Will there be even more changes now that the Welsh have indicated that they will also be heading down the road of even more regional devolution. Will there be a Welsh Canals for the 'Boyo's' in the valleys.  One thing for sure the Welsh will want control of their waterways. So what are the odds on the name being chosen by the Taff's being Welsh Waterways. 

I can't see the devolved English regional government in future wanting to pick up the tab for the Welsh Waterways. The government has already promised that England will also be given its own devolved regional government. The Cornish folk are have been thinking of home rule for some time now. The 'Tykes' in Yorkshire will be watching and planning. 

So now we have the likelihood of a devolved English government. One that I imagine will be wanting a single English Waterways authority or agency. Operating under a name that has something of a national identity ring to it. One that will no doubt be something capable of generating national pride.  English Waterways could be the name. Is CaRT a safe pair of hands for government to place trust in?

But herein lies a naming problem.  There is a significant set of waterways outside of CaRT's remit. Is it CRT or CART or even CaRT. CaRT doesn't actually control all of the existing English canals or English rivers. There are already sub-regional waterways devolution in areas such as the Broads. So are we ever likely to see a unified English Waterways system. One that is operating under one coherent management remit. 

Are we ever going to see a 'real authority' for the English Waterways. Rather than something that resembles a fragmented - rail franchise look-a-like. We all know how well British Rail has performed since it was broken up. With confusing intercity connections, weird pricing structures and the constant risk of a banker like bailout being required. There is a significant mind change in Joe Public already as the calls grow ever louder to bring the whole rail network back into public control. 

So what of the EA.
I still can't see the EA managed waterways changing hands any time soon. The government is going to be far to busy jumping through political hoops in the run up to the next election. Devolution will be a serious issue for all the political parties. Even more so for UKIP who would like to see government devolved away from Europe and returned to the English. I anticipate that the vexed devolution issue will muddy the canal waters even more for a long time to come.

The Environment Agency has undergone something of a refit. It is now a much leaner and fit for purpose organisation. Many hard lessons have been learned about flood control and mitigation. Lessons have been learned about taking a balanced approach and not being commandeered by environmentalist and the infrastructure managed for newts and frogs. After the furore over last winters flooding - I can't see any government placing control over any portion of national flood management in the hands of a charity. Certainly not after the mauling they got in the media and from the public last time. CaRT is not a safe pair of hands for government to place trust in.

Not a consultation. CaRT has however, moved on and tainted itself in the minds of the giving public.The debarkle over visitor moorings - the fiasco brewing around an enforcement team that simply doesn't have sufficient staff to enforce a tea break. Now the latest home goal is the waste of time consultation that has already ruled out what most boat owners wanted which is to get rid of the tainted bidding system.

Third sector or third rate.
Through its sometimes weird and bizarre actions, such as evicting ill, vulnerable and elderly people from their homes. Leaving them stood on the towpath in just the clothes they are wearing. To end up living on the grass verge in a tent. This huge multimillion pounds worth of self inflicted bad publicity. A fiasco that was the subject of a petition on '38 degrees' which was seen by up to 3 million 38 degrees members and signed by in excess of 7,000 individuals. 


This charitable incident has the look and feel of a third world humanitarian disaster. One that charitable organisations would be expected to react to with support, rather than being the instrument that created the problem. Eviction of the vulnerable is not a charitable situation in anyone's mind. CaRT is not a safe pair of hands for government to place trust in.

Feint light in the tunnel.
I always try to end on a positive note. The on, off, on, off retirement of Tony Hales would be another good issue to resolve once and for all. It was welcome news that another ex BW grandee (Finance Director, Philip Ridal)  has now decided to go.  Once again I can't help but feel that this is a positive move. A friend has now whispered the name of another of the grandees into my shell like ear. Apparently they will be throwing off the mooring lines and drifting off into the twilight by the end of the year. So the ever shortening list might well be giving us all an extra surprise Christmas present.

Note 1 - Francis Maude wrote at the time 'The changes are intended primarily to increase accountability, but will also support the aims of the spending review by reducing costs and support our ambitions for a Big Society by encouraging alternative devolved or non-state delivery models'.