Nasa’s James Webb telescope is awesome beyond words.
The recent launch of this telescope, as a successor to Hubble, can see right back more than 13.5 billion years. The universe was formed 13.78 billion years ago. The reach of the James Webb telescope is therefore 98% (97.96) of the life of the universe. But the superlatives about this telescope are almost never-ending. For example it will, in time, be able to explore the tiny planetary worlds far, far away. We may in time see signs of life, as in water, vegetation, or industrialisation, connected with those planets.
The James Webb is in orbit some million miles away from Earth and will, in fact, be orbiting the sun.
One could go on and on speaking about this achievement but I will resist. I want to share a three things with you.
First the release of this early image and a portion of the associated text:
NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has delivered the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe so far. Webb’s First Deep Field is galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, and it is teeming with thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.
Webb’s image is approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length, a tiny sliver of the vast universe. The combined mass of this galaxy cluster acts as a gravitational lens, magnifying more distant galaxies, including some seen when the universe was less than a billion years old. This deep field, taken by Webb’s Near-Infrared Camera (NIRCam), is a composite made from images at different wavelengths, totaling 12.5 hours – achieving depths at infrared wavelengths beyond the Hubble Space Telescope’s deepest fields, which took weeks. And this is only the beginning. Researchers will continue to use Webb to take longer exposures, revealing more of our vast universe.
Second, why is it named after James E. Webb (1906- 1992)? James Webb was NASA’s second administrator and known for leading Apollo, the series of lunar exploration programs that landed the first humans on the Moon. (A good Q&A is here: https://www.jwst.nasa.gov/content/about/faqs/faq.html )
Last thing to share is some music! ‘Floating in Heaven’ by Graham Gouldman and Brian May
First, Ricky Gervais, then Ella Henderson singing her latest release.
There are many videos on YouTube that are worth watching.
These two are well-worth sharing with you.
The first is Ricky Gervais, a well-known atheist, as are we, presenting an eleven-minute debate on religion.
Though it must be said that my old country has God Save The Queen and my new country has In GodWe Trust and I cannot see those changing in what is left of my lifetime!
The second is a fabulous rendition of Brave by Ella Henderson. Ella is a British singer and this performance is when she was invited to the UK TV programme The Graham Norton Show earlier on in the New Year.
Alfie has had his operation and all is well! I don’t know more than that at the moment but I do want to share the journey from New York to Minneapolis with you. Because it is such a story of love and devotion.
(And I have just heard that Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, has died – oh, dear.)
The week we travelled to the US, the East Coast was experiencing one of its winter storms. Snow threatening our progress overland to our destination. With this in mind, we worked with James Gallagher at Enterprise close to Westhampton Private Airport near Maine just outside NY, we arranged for a Jeep Gladiator to be waiting on the tarmac for us. The plan was to land, walk down the steps and into the Jeep, then drive around 20 hours across 9 States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota) taking it in turns, and stopping only when tiredness took hold to sleep. When I say drive around 20 hours, that’s just driving, not stopping to fuel, use a bathroom, eat, rest. Over 1,300 miles. A mammoth task.
The plan hit the rocks as the jet approached Westhampton and were told the runway closed due to snow. We were diverted to JFK, and then Ubëred two hours back to our original airport. We could have tried to get a four wheel drive from JFK but we already knew getting something in the middle of a bad storm would be near impossible. Trying to fly internally from JFK to Minneapolis was off the table too as we had bought a lot of luggage with us, which we intended to leave in the US. Trying to get this through JFK, with all of this and a dog, a dog that potentially could have been turned away at the gate for being too big, was not worth trying to modify our plan.
Snow on the ground we got our Jeep, and just had James had said when he sourced it for us – it looked unstoppable. He’d kindly shovelled out most of the snow from the pick-up bed. We headed out through rush hour NYC traffic towards Minnesota following the quickest route on Google Maps. Surprisingly through the Bronx. We made it through the other side and eventually stopped somewhere on the outskirts in search of a toilet and food. A Gladiator sits high off the ground, and we were already tired. As we pulled up outside a potential watering hole Renée opened the door and fell out, hitting the ground audibly so. Alfie was in her arms but had the foresight to recognise trouble and jump to safety. We went inside, one of us limping, to check ourselves over and eat. Luckily just bruising; limbs and pride. We were there a couple of hours, much longer than we intended, but the food and rest needed. It was a big, clean hotel and would have been a good place to stop, at the expense of making the next day even harder. We pushed on. Before doing so I looked at Google maps and realised I’d made a schoolboy error. Living in London and owning old cars is a constant maze avoiding paying the Congestion Charge and ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone). My phone was still set to avoid these tolls, hence our route through the the centre on New York. Worse, the fastest route would now see us backtrack some of the way we’d just driven.
The Gladiator proved its worth as the elevation climbed and snowfall increased. We kept going until tiredness eventually became too dangerous to ignore and we stopped somewhere, somewhere being my best guess at where as I was so tired. A room at a Holiday Inn. Alfie making friends with the front desk saw the $80 dog fee waved. We didn’t sleep long, maybe three hours and returned to the Jeep early around sunrise. Throughout the entire trip Alfie had sat up front on Renée’s lap as the rear seats of our crew cab style truck full of luggage (the pick up bed empty so our stuff remained dry and safe). I’d read that these Jeeps were not great over long distances, and my previous longest time in one, a Rubicon, was between Fargo and Minneapolis on roads closed due to snow. It was cold and as a passenger I got leg ache. From the driver’s seat it wasn’t too bad. I’m sure most people buy slab sided trucks like this, original Land Rover Defenders and G Wagons simply because they look good, but there is no denying when the conditions get tough they are incredibly capable. Well, maybe not the G Wagon as that’s simply a fashion accessory.
“Watching a sleeping poorly dog, all of us crammed up front with the heater blowing full pelt to keep warm, hour after hour, made me question my original judgement of travelling this way
Watching Alfred, a poorly dog, asleep on Renée’s lap, all of us crammed up front with the heater blowing full pelt to keep warm, hour after hour, made me question my original judgement of travelling this way. My thinking was to have Alfred in the air for the minimum time and then get him the rest of the way by road where he would not be squashed in a bag, could go pee whenever he needed, and I could deal easily with any seizures. The whole private jet decision happened very fast and I hadn’t really adjusted to the revised plan. Also the plan had been to land at Westhampton, not JFK where we could have easily boarded a domestic flight to Minneapolis. Hindsight always great, and beating yourself up over something already done when tired completely pointless. The important think was we were in the USA, and on our way to get Alfred the help he needed. Given the obstacles in our way just two days ago we really should be patting ourselves n the back.
Eventually, around three hours out from our destination, I could drive no more and we stopped in one of the fantastic US rest areas. These places are free from gas stations, usually have vending machines, and clean toilet facilities. They feel safe and good places to stop for a snooze. It was cold though, with a lot of snow and ice on the ground. We slept a while with the engine running and heater keeping us warm. When it is this cold, global warming is the last thing on your agenda.
“We slept a while with the engine running and heater keeping us warm. When it is this cold, global warming is the last thing on your agenda.
I’ve been in this situation before. Driving while tired is super dangerous. I suspect more so than alcohol (within reason) and up there with texting. As a pilot once said over the tannoy of a flight to Bahrain years ago: better to get there late than not at all. But before long, Renée woke me and wanted to carry on. I managed the next hour before handing over the driving to her to get us the rest of the way. The two of us had dug really deep to make it.
Arriving at the Canopy in Minneapolis was a welcome sight. Alfred’s surgery was scheduled 10 days from now but we had an option to bring it forward should he deteriorate rapidly. We were where we needed to be. A huge victory and I could literally feel the stress lifting from me.
Of course, we were only actually part way there, the real challenge was to come.
And of course, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, little Alfie has arrived in Minneapolis and has had his operation. In due coarse I will bring you the latest.
Back on Monday I spoke of Rik and his company Ahead4Heights.
Rik then sent me another piece of news about a film that he produced at short notice for Brixham Council.
Recent projects being a the Front page of the local rag, a roof inspection in Teignmouth for one of the largest local roofing contractors who is now on board and promising more work.
More interesting was a commission from Brixham Council for a short film showing the natural beauty of an area near Brixham in order to oppose a planning application for 400 houses. I received a call on that Friday telling me they needed the film for the public inquiry the following Tuesday! With only that Sunday looking good for flying I managed to fly, edit and upload the film later that evening so they had it for Monday morning, it was played at the hearing and has become a pivotal part of the evidence and was watched over 600 times over the following few days.
The land in question is dog walkers heaven and used by all the local residents.
Here is that front page of the Herald Express.
I regret that it is probably far too small a file to show the details. Never mind!
My son, Alex, recently shared on Facebook a video posted by Rik Christiansen who is the son of my elder sister, Rhona, now dead unfortunately.
This is what Alex said:
Anybody who needs Drone survey’s, my cousin has a business in Devon
Please go across to Rik’s website, Ahead4Heights, and also watch his promotional video; luckily on YouTube so it may be shared.
This is a short promotional film that showcases Ahead4Heights abilities within the drone industry as well as our production and editing skills. All footage, music, sound design, editing and production was created in-house. We are a complete solution.
It is not the first time I have written about Rik! Here is a previous post.
Jean and I belong to a local group of Freethinkers and Atheists and at our Zoom session held last Saturday someone mentioned how he was a follower of Sangah’s music. We hadn’t previously heard of the South Korean musician but these days it didn’t take much effort to find out a lot more.
Sangah has her own website from which the following is noted:
Sangah Noona was born in Seoul, South Korea. Shortly after beginning her piano lessons at the age of five, her piano teacher was able to hone her talents for music, and suggested that she seriously consider pursing music for her future. She grew up with her piano as her best friend. She loved to practice, usually spending five to seven hours a day. At the age of nine, she had all but decided to focus her attention on becoming a musician. Before moving to the United States in 2010, she was able to have many great experiences and fond memories as her musical career flourished in South Korea. After moving to the US with a fresh start, she was able to live at a more manageable performing pace, but as she can’t live without music in her life, she will never stop performing! Sangah’s overall objective for music, including her teaching, is being able to share her gift of music with others.
This is the company that my daughter helps to run. She is Maija and together with Polly and Chloe they run Sound UK. This is what Maija said in her recent email:
20 years of extraordinary music
We hope the New Year finds you and your family well.
2021 is special for Sound UK as we celebrate 20 years of bringing you extraordinary music. We’re marking this milestone throughout the year. This includes 20 Artists for 20 Years, which shines a spotlight on key artists in Sound UK’s life. First up is the incredible Elaine Mitchener later this month…
To kick off our 20th birthday celebrations, we hope you enjoy this 60 second film about our work. You can watch it on the link below.
Polly, Maija and Chloe
20 years of extraordinary music. sounduk.net
Music credit: Landing – Collectress
Film edit by: Lee Matthews, iconic image
I find it a brilliant short video and I hope some of you out there will also watch it.
A look, courtesy of my daughter, at Sarah Nicolls’s 12 Years project.
Again, this is not about dogs, well not in a direct way. But, indirectly, it affects all of us, young and old, and, inevitably, it affects our dear dogs.
I’m writing this in response to something that came my way as an email sent from my daughter’s company, SOUND UK. The company holds to the view that: Sound UK produces extraordinary musical encounters for all.
Sarah Nicolls has her own website and on her About page this is what she presents.
My name is Sarah Nicolls. I am a visual artist who makes pictures with language, books with pictures, prints with type, and animations with words. I combine image, visual narrative, and time in prints, books, and ephemera that are often research-based. I am interested in urbanization, local history, climate change, the history of science and technology, alternative economies, found language, and the history of publishing. I have written a collection of self-help aphorisms, I publish a series of informational pamphlets, and I organize a range of participatory walks and programs around the series.
For twelve years, I ran the studio programs at the Center for Book Arts in NYC, organizing classes, public programs, readings, and talks, coordinating publications, running residency programs, and teaching interns. I learned everything I know about letterpress and bookmaking while I was there. Now I teach at Pratt Institute and Parsons School of Design, and work on a variety of projects.
I also do illustration and design work for individuals and institutions. Do you have an interesting project in mind? Contact me here, I welcome commissions and collaborations.
Well back to Sound UK. This is Sarah.
“What she does should be happening every week of the year” The Guardian
Acclaimed pianist and composer Sarah Nicolls’ new Inside-Out Piano project 12 Years was inspired by the 2018 IPCC Special Report saying we had just 12 years to radically change our behaviour to save the planet. Starting on the second anniversary of the report, 8 October, Sarah launches 12 nights of online performances.
With her striking vertical grand piano, Nicolls combines original music and recorded speech in an absorbing performance. Piano melodies and textures interweave with phone calls between three fictional characters challenging each other to either worry less or do more. We hear from environmental experts, survivors escaping from a wildfire and a glacier melting, eloquent speeches from Greta Thunberg and finally the sound of hope emerging. There is humour and humanity as well as time for reflection.
On selected nights leading climate scientists will also join Sarah for exclusive post-show discussions online, specifically to talk about what we can all do.
See list of speakers below.
“This should be prescribed viewing/watching/listening for anyone even remotely concerned with the welfare of our planet.” Ciaran Ryan, Galway Jazz Festival
Plus, if you would care to listen to a track on Sarah playing her piano, then feel free:
I’m bound to say that I am reasonably hopeful of living another twelve years but, at the same time, reasonably expectant that life could become very interesting indeed!
With thanks to Monika for the title of today’s post!
My father was born in 1901. He had two wives. Me and my sister, Elizabeth, are the result of the relationship between our father and his second wife; Betty. Our father died in 1956; December 20th.
My father first was married to Maud and they had two daughters, Rhona and Corinne. Rhona died in 2003 and Corinne died in 2014. Although Rhona and Corinne were half-sisters I prefer to think of them as sisters!
Both had children. But I want to concentrate on Rhona. She and Reider, Norwegian by birth, had four children: Rolv; Greta; Rikard; Marit.
As is the way in this modern world, Rikky who lives near Torquay in South Devon, recently called in to see my brother-in-law, John, and John remarked to me that Rikky’s new wife, Jazz, was gorgeous. I asked Greta for a telephone number and, hey presto, Rikky and I were in contact with each other.
This is a little bit from Rik’s bio.
So you may remember I was with Amanda at the time of Mother’s passing, seems a long time ago now. Well that ultimately came to nothing and I ended up living alone with a couple of huskies in a small flat in Torquay. I had invested a large chunk of Mother’s inheritance into a PA system and set up and ran a sound engineering business for years as well as running quite a successful tribute band to ‘The Doors’. The PA company eventually ended after going into a partnership with a friend who also invested a chunk of cash allowing major upgrades to the kit.
Unfortunately I soon found out he was more interested in holidays to Spain than actual PA work, the problem being I had now sold vital parts of my rig which was replaced by his. We went separate ways and he took his gear with him leaving me without a full system, BIG lesson learnt.
At that point I went back to employment as an engineer for a company servicing and repairing lifting hoists to the health care industry. Four years in and the company went into administration.
Later Rikky says:
Back to work again this time to DPD as a delivery driver for a couple of years following in Rolv’s (Ed: brother) tyre tracks. This was when I also met Jazz on a random night out with friends. We immediately realised that we had many mutual friends and had actually met before many years ago when I was playing in her Dad’s Jazz band! This was around 19 years ago when I was 30 and Jazz was only 16. I only have a vague memory of her then sitting in a corner of the rehearsal room furiously scribbling in a sketch book.
Not much has changed there except she now holds a degree in Art and Design. She is also a Holistic Therapist and has trained in many holistic therapies including Reilki, Reflexology and Massage and is a very talented and beautiful woman. I feel incredibly blessed. She has two daughters Sanije and Latoja (nine and eleven) who I consider as mine; their father left the country last year and went back to Albania which actually has been a blessing for the girls as he is a difficult man to say the least.
So the driving job became another engineering position this time with a company specialising in fire alarms, a couple of years in and the contract I was working on was TUPED over to LiveWest which is one of the largest social housing companies in the South West. Two years after that and the company merged with another housing company, the role changed slightly so I was offered voluntary redundancy which I took giving me the financial opportunity to retrain as a commercial drone pilot and so here we are today.
We can accommodate all your aerial requirements from photography to cinematography, inspections to 3d mapping.
The name of Rik’s website is Ahead4Heights which strikes me as apt. And from the About page of that website, one reads:
Here at Ahead4Heights we have a passion for flying drones and creating visually stunning aerial films and photography. We are PfCO certified by the Civil Aviation Authority and hold full public liability insurance giving you complete confidence in us to provide the service you require.
With our post production studio facility we are able to add voice overs and original music written to your brief if required as we have our own in house composer and audio recording engineer.
Our UAV fleet consists of a variety of drones from the market leading DJI Inspire 2, capable of filming in incredible 5.2k resolution and producing the RAW file format standard for the film industry to our Pixhawk based quadcopter (equipt with a 4k camera) which we use for autonomous flight taking photos used to generate 3d mapping of locations useful for the construction industry.
Finally we have a heavy lift Tarot 680 hexacopter which is used as a backup drone and also for specialised payloads such as thermal cameras and high power lighting.
If you simply want aerial photos for property sales, photos and footage for weddings and events we will be happy to offer our services to you.
We can also carry out inspection work on roofs, tower masts and bridges etc where specialised safety equipment and scaffolding would otherwise be required. Utilizing both the high resolution and thermal imaging cameras we are able to identify problems with the insulation of properties, stress points in structures and damage to roofs and guttering.
Ahead4Heights also holds certificates in the building and setting up of drones so if you require a drone built to your special requirements we would be happy to discuss. We would also offer a full maintenance package with any build projects.
A couple more photographs.
And, of course, one more of the dogs! That is Storm and Tia.