Sunday, September 24, 2006

On a Mission

Our Church (First Dunboe in Articlave) is running a mission this week, and it started today. Meetings are being held in the Church and Church Hall, and the Rev Alistair Smyth is our guest speaker.

We had the usual turnout for our Sunday morning worship, and a larger than usual turnout for the Sunday evening service in the Church. Alistair delivered an interesting and challenging message on both occasions, for both unbelievers and veterans of the faith.

We meet again on Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:30 PM in the hall, Friday at 7:30 in the Church, Sunday morning as usual at 11:30, and in the evening at 7 (I think).

I would urge anyone with access to the Creator to petition Him regarding all who will attend, that the word will not fall on deaf ears. Also we hope that those in the village who received a leaflet through their door will be persuaded to come along and join us!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Relay Racing

For better, or for worse my Dad had talked me into participating in the Lower Bann Canoe Challenge, as part of a relay team. The event was 10km, starting at Drumaheglis Marina, with the first relay changeover at Camus, and the second at The Cutts. The end of the race was between the two bridges on Strand Road, Coleraine.

It was interesting to take part, although it has to be stated that the sit-on-top model of kayak is definitely not designed for this type of venture. However, we didn't come in last, which I suppose was something. In fact, if you only count the relay teams, our two teams were first and second, although I should point out that we were the only two teams entered.

For a map of the race check out

Anyhow, it certainly made an interesting Saturday. Afterwards we took off to Downhill where I attempted to set up my new 4m PKD Buster kite, which proved largely unsuccessful due to hugely blustery wind conditions, and also apparently incorrect kite settings. It did fly well a few times pulling me at speed down the beach, mostly on my feet, but I will admit that my neck, hair and pockets all ended up filled with sand :)

Thursday, September 21, 2006

On the Wee Agivey

This evening I returned to the "Wee Agivey" river where I spent many childhood days creating various dams, bridges, boats, rafts and other feats of engineering. This visit was not entrepreneurial, but rather fun.

After the recent persistant rain the river was swolen by 12-18" so Dad and I took the kayaks down. I was a little nervous about this venture, but I have to say it was a lot safer, and a lot more fun than I had thought.

The water was high enough to clear all the rocks, and parts were flowing nice and quickly. I think I would have preferred a little more of a flood, and I would certainly have liked a longer run. The run we were doing was probably 0.5-1 mile, taking about 5 minutes or so. We managed to get it done 4 times before sunset. Great fun.

For the location see :

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

PKD Buster 4.0 Metres

A short while ago SWMBO and I had a falling out (well, to be accurate, she fell out, but that's immaterial). So if She Who Must Be Obeyed is not speaking, it seems she cannot be obeyed. This seemed to be a perfect opportunity to do something that would normally need approval, without getting approval.

So I ordered another kite. This time its a PKD Buster 4 metre traction kite, a well reviewed budget kite. I managed to pick it up from eBay for about £70, which is a very reasonable price for such a kite.

It arrived last night, and as stated in the eBay description the bridle lines were tangled. About 15 minutes of head-scratching, and string tugging later they were all untangled, and ready to fly. If only it wasn't dark and raining :((

Looking forward to giving it a try, and hopefully not ending up in Traction!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A beautiful September evening

Today was another long day. Recently every day has been a long day due to work stipulating that long days sould occur. That will solve program problems, you see.

This has been a long weekend too, cumulating with getting up a bit earlier today to see Sister-in-law off after a brief stay. Today has been a very peaceful day, we just went at our own pace, very little to do, and dinner made for us at Mums.

Tonight we popped to the beach at Castlerock, because we'd been telling the kids we could, but hadn't gotten around to it.

It was a beautiful evening, one of the nicest of this year, with no wind, hazy sunshine and not a breeze. The kids spent a while paddling in the sea, and digging in the sand, and then we decided it was time to go. On the way up the road we decided to pop over to Downhill to see what it was like there, and while standing on the beach, looking towards Benone, I could see a kite in the distance.

So we went up the road to Benone, and on the beach we could see the kite to the Downhill side, and took a drive down. We stopped, and I thought it was rude to sit and watch without speaking, and went over. Turned out to be a pleasant fellow called Kevin*[1] who had his 4m and 7m kites pegged out. After chatting briefly he offered me a go on the 4m, and it was great! The wind was fairly light, but still enough to pull me along much to the kids amusement - I think I need one of those! We played for a little while, and then drove off into the sunset, past Kevin getting pulled along the beach by his big kite.

*[1] This caused an argument in the car with a misheard name, there were two votes for Kevin and one for Gavin, so if your name was Gavin, please don't be offended!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Made it! (again)

Another fantastic Saturday. This whole summer we made a decision to *spend* more time, and waste less. As I see it varnishing, grasscutting, weeding and other temporal activities are a sure second to spending time enjoying the beauty of the creation around us, and doing it with our family.

After breakfast we had to do a message in Coleraine and enjoyed a walk along the river. Afterwards we decided to go for a walk around the Convent wall in Portstewart, which disappointingly now sports safety railings - I liked it much better when a 8" high wall was the only protection from the 20' drop. After exploring some rock pools, and playtime in the park we had (expensive!) lunch at Morelli's on the Promenade.

After that the time had come to head towards the beach for another Castlerock to Downhill epic walk, this time with full family in tow.

It was another good walk, however there was a strong wind blowing across the shore which made it a little unpleasant. It was great, we ended up wading through at the same place on the way back again, caught a little by the tide, but still a great experience (and no drowning).

After that we went home for tea, and a rest! The silage was being lifted today, and not wanting to waste the good wind, and large, smooth fields we got the kite and headed up the road to the nearest huge field. The wind was just perfect - strong enough so that the kite would lift perfectly, not so strong that it would abscond with the kids. They both had a couple of turns, Matthew is getting good now, able to twist it two full turns, take it up and twist it back again. I think Kate is getting the hang of it too, but its a bit daunting for her, she makes use of the safety brake lines more frequently.

After we got them into bed I headed out again to see the sunset and high tide. Unfortunately I missed the sunset but I did enjoy a walk on the beach. With the extreme high tide in Coleraine I decided to go there too, and wish it had been daylight, the scene would have been spectacular. The water was level with the banks for a good bit of the river, at the car park in the Water Margin I looked over the fence to see the water *almost* level with my feet. Not so bad as long as it stays on that side of the wall!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Castlerock to Downhill

Anyone who can stand the excitement of following my blog will be aware of my plans to walk around the coast from Castlerock Beach to Downhill Beach tomorrow. Today being the day before the optimum time, I decided to go for a trial run. The tidal data shows the Low Tide today at 0.1m above chart datum, only 100mm above where it is expected to be tomorrow.

And I wasn't disappointed! I got the whole way around the coast, although due to the timing I wasn't there early enough to go as far as I would have liked onto Downhill beach, but nevertheless I managed the walk from Castlerock to Downhill and back, mostly on dry land. There were two places I had to cross water about 12-15 inches deep.

I met two old men on the way round, one said that he had been walking the beach for 60 years, and had ever before witnessed the water receeded so far!

You can see the route we took here : (Pretty cool tool!). 1.2 miles in total according to that, so a 2.4 mile round trip, that'll help in planning for tomorrows repeat attempt so we can arrive at the optimum time for the tides!

See todays photos here :

Code like this shouldn't compile

I have just found this code in a code review I am conducting, methods should not be written like this. I have posted it here for your reference. If you find yourself writing code like this, turn your PC off and go home. Compilers should have an extra check to ensure tokens do not consist of check, test, etc and a class name.

* @param obj1
* Object
* @param obj2
* Object
* @return boolean
public static boolean checkObject(Object obj1, Object obj2) {
boolean matches = true;

if (obj1 == null) {
matches = (obj2 == null);
} else {
matches = obj1.equals(obj2);
return matches;

In the dark

The Plough

I set out for a walk to Mussenden Temple last night to try to get a few snaps of the sunset. It was very poor in the end, and I didn't get anything worthwhile. However on the walk back to the car I looked over to the East to see the Full Moon rising spectacurarly over the horizon. It was beautiful, but unfortunately partly obscured by cloud. See all

The hours around midnight again saw me outside well wrapped, and wielding my camera. As forecast it was a perfect night for the sky, hardly a cloud to be seen.

Again, I was aimed at the moon, but my favorite picture of the night was the one at the top of this post. You'll have to click to get the full effect, but basically it is a 15 second exposure of the night sky, picking up the view towards the sea from our house, and The Plough (The seven brightest stars of the constellation Ursa Major) in the sky.

Best moon picts of the evening below, or click here to see them all

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Anyone who knows me will be aware that I will point a camera at anything. Usually the results are poor, but I compensate by taking loads of photos.

Tonight I decided the moon would be a suitable subject, given its recent popularity. After many overexposed shots, and noting my clear lack of a camera suitable for these types of shots, I managed to get this shot, which I have to say is poor, but nevertheless much better than I expected.

Anyhoo, thanks to AF for the pointers that led to me standing outside, freezing waiting for the cloud to clear!

File EXIF information (for anyone vaguely interested :)

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BrightnessValue : EV7.8
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SubjectDistanceRange : Distant view

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

2006 Perigean Spring Tide

This week sees a rather unusual tidal event. Since my recent interest in boating, and continued fascination with the coast I have read a little about tides, and the science behind them.

As you may know, tides are believed to be caused by the moon's gravity pulling on the water that makes up 2/3 of the Earths surface. As the Moon moves around the Earth it attracts the water towards it. This creates two bulges, one at the side of the Earth adjacent to the Moon, and another at the opposite side of the Earth. The Moon orbits round the Earth about once a day.

Another interesting factor in this complex system is the momentum the massive body of the sea, meaning the Moon has a similar effect to pushing someone on a swing, so that the highest tides actually lag a few days behind the new/full Moon. Just as with pushing a swing, it is important that the water is pulled at the correct time and the Moon does this well.

The Sun adds further complication to the equation by itself providing a weak pull on the seas. When the Sun, Moon and Earth are aligned twice a month at New Moon and Full Moon the combined force brings a a "Spring Tide", when the ranges between high water and low water are greatest. The Moon is full this month on Sep 7 2006 at 18:44.

The Earth's cycles provide a further input to the tides, with stronger tides being felt at the Equinoxes, in March and September. These tides are referred to as equinoctial tides, and will occur this year on Sep 23 2006 at 04:03.

Due to the eccentric orbit of the Moon, sometimes it is closer and sometimes it is further away from Earth, and therefore tides vary in magnitude. The point at which it is closest to the Earth is called the Perigee. This week it is closer than it has been in the last 413 day cycle. The Perigee will occur on Sep 8 2006 at 3:08 when the Moon will be a distance of 357174 km from the Earth. This month also sees the Northernmost Moon of the century on Sep 15 2006, at 1:27 a.m., and a Lunar Eclipse on Sep 7th

Although the combination of Full Moon, Equinox, and Perigee is not simultaneous, they are sufficiently close together to have a measurable combined effect leading to the largest tidal range for a quarter of a century.

The tide table for Coleraine presented below shows the lowest tide being on Saturday Sep 9 at 14:57 BST, conveniently in the middle of the afternoon.

Apparently when the tide is low it is possible to walk around the coast from Castlerock beach to Downhill beach, so come rain or shine I'll be out around with camera in hand to attempt the walk. Of course a storm with an onshore wind at sea could rise the low tide sufficiently to make it no different to a normal tide, so lets hope that the weather remains temperate. If there are no further posts to this blog please assume that I have drowned.

References :

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

StaxRip - convert to AVI

After being used to AutoGk for ages, and its temperamental behavior, it was a great relief to find StaxRip - from the website :

"With StaxRip you can easily convert your DVD's, DVB captures and many more formats into MPEG-4"

Just tried it last night, managed to compress Ice Age from 3 VOB files to a 1GB AVI file, including the AC3 soundtrack, and the quality looks fine(certainly good enough for kids movies)The one pass mode seemed to work in almost real time... I didn't time it exactly, but usually these things take an age - good stuff

Thanks for the recommendation uknova!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Red Arrows

Today the peace and tranquility of the North Coast was shattered by the roar of 9 Hawk T. Mk.1 jet planes screaming across the sky. The Red Arrows\ provided the finale for the fifth annual international air show hosted in Portrush in a spectacular fashion. Needless to say the entire coast was lined with cars and people wielding cameras, and I believe the coastline pretty much came to a stand still for the twenty minute show.

We hadn't really put a lot of effort into getting there on time, and so only managed to pull up on a kerb between Portstewart and Portrush, and therefore missed the centre of the action, but nevertheless it was a super viewing spot. Next year we will endevour to get to the West Bay area to get the full effect.

See more pictures here

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Crash [2004]

While renting a couple of movies for the kids, I also picked up a copy of Crash, which is one of those annoying films - I think I didn't like it. See, what I mean is, well, it was slow, dull, perhaps not the action packed genre of film I really like. Thought provoking in parts, certainly packed with diverse charactors, all racist in one form or another, all mixed up about life. Certainly not one I'd wish to see again shortly.

IMDB for Crash