Archive | May 2011

Vulcan and Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump

My final day trip out whilst living in Calgary was down to Vulcan(!) and then to Head-Smashed-in-Buffalo Jump. Both were great fun. The first was nice and geeky – a must for any Star Trek fan – just to say you have been to Vulcan. Its a pretty small town and the diner we had lunch in made me think that time hadn’t really progressed here. The tourist centre was good fun and of course when in Vulcan you dress up…
and take photos of the Enterprise:
Was lots of fun.
The more historical and cultural part of the day was found down past Fort Macleod at [Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump]. There we were shown how the native people for thousands of years drove large herds of Buffalo over the side of cliffs as a means to survive. Really interesting how much preparation went into it and the techniques they had to use almost all of the animal. Quite fascinating. Its a UNESCO site and pretty cheap, well worth the drive down.
Many more pictures over on my page.

A review of my time in Canada

This coming Friday I leave Canada after almost 2 years working in Calgary at the [Institute for Space Imagining Science], University of Calgary. Apart from missing t’other one and family I’ve had a pretty good time here in [Alberta]. Canada is an interesting place, full of lots of different things todo. Not sure I could do it permanently though, there is just something missing. It could be described as culture or history but I don’t think that’s it. There is culture and though I don’t really fit into the culture of Calgary (oil/cowboy town) its really grown on me. I do like lots about the place and the people. Heck, its not many places were cars stop for you when you are 20 metres from the road. I just can’t quite place what makes me feel odd here at times, there is something but I don’t know what. At times I feel that this is simply missing my family (and that has been very very hard throughout this) but I don’t think its just this. Maybe its that feeling of missing home. Though I don’t think it can just be that. Then again though I moved out of home when I was 18 for University I never did leave Birmingham. Could I just be missing Birmingham? That’s definitely true, but I think something I got over after about 6 months. I’ve never gotten over missing my family but I think that’s expected. I talk to t’other one everyday and my folks every Saturday and Sunday. This has made life bearable, because without Skype I’d have probably never come nevermind lasted this long. Anyway, I really just can’t place what it is about Calgary that just doesn’t feel right. I think I’d probably have the same feeling in any North American city though, the roads are just to darn big. Having 3 lanes going one way outside of my place just says that. Well there is a bit of a rant. Its not a rant I had planned though. I was just going to write about my time here in Calgary and some of the more fun things I’ve done, I don’t want to bore you with the sad times and the anguish of missing people. So then… onto the highlights! These really don’t fully span the fun I’ve had here… but a taste – my blog over the last couple of years is testimate to my time in Calgary. Oh I’m not even including the epic trip back at Christmas to the UK that went via Paris and I got back home from Canada on a boat.. or my time in Puerto Rico.
I’ve actually put together [50 highlights of Canada in a flickr album]… for the purpose of this post I’m just gonna cover 10 topics – and I think what I’ll write about will embrace quite a few of the pics. These aren’t in any particular order…
1. Snow and using it for fun.
Calgary is definitely an excellent place to live if you enjoy outdoor winter sports. It has its own ski hill within the city and is not far from tons of what I’m told are excellent ski hills. There is the problem, I can’t ski at all. But when in Rome…
me Snowboarding at COP
.. yep that’s me get ready to try to snowboard. When my mate Christian decided he wanted to learn to snowboard and well I went along for the ride. For me it wasn’t much of a ride and more simply FAIL. Yes I fell over, yes I couldn’t get up on the board – apart from once when I feel down straight on me face. [I actually wrote a blog post about this]. I even gave ski’s a go… and well that was more FAIL. Yes I completely wiped out getting on and off the ski lift – and when I got back down to the bottom and I fell off the magic carpet (a flat escalator to help newbies) I decided it was time to go for a beer. Oh a couple of months later a my mate Steve came over to visit me from England [we saw how its properly done]
Snowboarding World Cup @ COP
2. Mountains.
Calgary is wonderfully placed right next to the rocky mountains. Of course in the winter this helps the previous fun… but in the summer it means lovely hiking. I wouldn’t say I took that too seriously, I’ve been for a couple of fun day hikes and been on a bunch of tours with [Brewsters] and saw/did some cool things. Including bears:
Brown Bear in Jasper National Park
partially frozen lakes:
Bow Lake
[Places with funny names] (yes this is called lake Minnewanka – pronounce it like a Brit and you will chuckle):
Me and sign for Lake Minnewanka
Lunch on a beach @ Lake Minnewanka
oh lots of mountains..
Mountain Pan
walking on a glacier:
us on the Athabasca Glacier
oh and more snow / [freezing my face off on top of a mountain at -20C or something like that]:
me on top of Sulphur mountain
3. Hockey.
During my time in Calgary I’ve become a fan of Ice Hockey (aka Hockey in Canada). Its a great game, full of excitement. Much better than playing Brett Hull hockey which absorbed a large portion of my time playing SNES. Of course the Canadians are as passionate about hockey as we are football. I think my interest really peaked when I was watching the Olympic coverage and Canada got to the final. Great afternoon watching it in Melrose on 17th Ave. Since then I’ve been to a bunch of [WHL and NHL games]. All I will say is GO FLAMES GO!
Flames vs Boston Bruins - Kipper
4. The Calgary Tower.
[I’ve been up the Calgary Tower on 3 occasions], I think spanning most of the day. Its always been fun, bit pricey but worth doing. The Calgary tower, though not the largest building, really dominates the downtown skyline. You can basically use it to find your way home too. I think it looks pretty nice at night and phenomenal when the giant flame is on.
me at Olympic Celebration
Calgary Tower @ Night (bw) from 1st St station
5. A city full of nature.
Calgary might be ranked as one of the world’s top eco cities but I don’t think people give it the credit it deserves. I mean everyone laughed about that title and well given the size of the roads/cars its quite funny. Then you think about the fact that there is one giant provincial park inside the city and many lovely nature sites.. I’ve seen quite a bit of wildlife in the city.. include [deer] and [coyotes down at Fish Creek]..
Up close with a coyote @ Fish Creek
Deer @ Fish Creek
6. The Cold
I’ve never been so cold in my life. I’m not quite sure how cold it has gotten to during my time here but I’m sure there was one day when it hit -40C. Now that’s cold. I remember the first winter and every day blasted my new record for the coldest temperature I’d ever experienced. The second winter it was… “oh it’s only -20C”. I still thinks its odd thinking -6C is a nice warm day and having the urge to wear shorts. biggrin.gif The cold weather does give some cool sites though.. and weird sensations when your nose freezes and your trousers (pants in Canada) go stiff within a minute of walking. Watching the [Simple Plan gig for the Olympics] outside was probably the coldest I’d ever bin. This was almost matched by the [outdoor Heritage hockey game at McMahon Stadium].
7. Stampede
I don’t think I really could have a discussion of my time living in Calgary and not mention the world famous [Calgary Stampede could I]? One giant rodeo with people partying for a week.. not a bad thing really. Still I was bemused by most of the activities that took place but I feel that I might have experienced something culturally significant.
8. Beer and Bars.
Who serves a pint like this?
Orange beer
Is what I thought the first time I had it. But yes having an orange in my beer has grown on me. I’ll miss some of the excellent beers of Wild Rose and Big Rock. I’ve had some epic nights drinking their products.. so a big thank you to them! Oh and a big thank you to all the bars I’ve been to… special mentions probably have to go to the epic Blink Monk on 12th Ave (right by were I live) for the many many fun nights, Melrose (on 17th Ave) for the hockey nights, Kilkenny (up at Brentwood) for its epic happy hours and to the Yardhouse (on 17th Ave) for its epic veggie burgers and friendly staff.
9. Tim Hortons.
I didn’t think I would be saying this… but Timmy’s I’ll miss you! Not many places were you can get an excellent donut and a coffee for around $2. I’ve spent many hours waiting in line-up for you. I hate to think how many hours are lost over the whole country waiting for Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons… open a few in England – I’ll come!
outside of Tim Hortons in Claresholm
10. Simply Calgary.
As I said before times have been hard in Calgary but I think I’ll miss it. I’ll miss my friends and I’ll miss the city.. there is something about this place that has made a place in my heart. [Go Stamps], [Go Flames], [Go Hitmen], [Go Roughknecks], [Go Vipers]! There might not be much todo for tourists but if you ever go to Western Canada don’t miss out on Calgary as you will be missing something.. I’m not quite sure what but you’ll be missing something. Something tells me this city really hasn’t blossomed yet – I can see myself coming back in 20 years and it being very different and well I can see this place being fantastic.
Calgary Downtown and clouds
Oh and to all my friends here… thanks for making my time in Calgary the dogs bollocks. You lot rock!
Thank you Calgary.
oh and …. hello Cambridge…..

Venus – transiting the Sun

The Venus transit
The Venus transit... at astrosoc
[Full version of image]
[The transit of Venus]. This is a bit of a blast from the past. On June 8, 2004, Venus past between the Earth and the Sun – causing a shadow to appear on the surface of the Sun, as can be seen in the image above. This black and white image is just one small section of the Sun but the event was viewable with simple projection telescopes and some people tried with their eyes with proper solar glasses (never look at the Sun directly). The above image was taken using a simple camera connected to a 3.5″ Newtonian Reflector at the [University of Birmingham Astronomical Society]. The eclipse lasted about 6 hours and was visible from most of Europe, Africa and Asia. The last time it occurred before 2004 was in 1882. The next time is [June 6th 2012] (North America favourable) but there won’t be another one until 2117 – so if you want to see it worth planning for it.

M106 – a barred spiral

M106 - final processed
[Full version of image]
Messier 106 is a barred spiral galaxy in Canes Venatici. It was discovered in 1781 by the metric French astronomer Pierre Mechain. It is about [22 million light years] from the Earth. The blue colouration of the stars suggest lots of young stars forming. From its X-ray/radio properties it is classified as a [Seyfert galaxy] and at the centre is a [supermassive blackhole] which powers strong jets of material.

M1 – the Crab Nebula

M1 – the Crab Nebula
M1 - the Crab Nebula
[Full version of image]
[Messier object number 1], the Crab Nebula, is the most famous supernova remnant. It was first observed in 1054 AD when the progenitor star exploded in a supernova explosion. The explosion probably created a “star” some four times brighter than Venus in the sky. It is some [6,500] light-years away from the Earth. At the centre of this stunning object is the Crab Pulsar – a rapidly rotating ball of neutrons known as a neutron star. It is some 30km in radius but rotates at 30.2 times per second! With binoculars this can be seen as a faint blur but is an excellent small telescope object.

M27 – Dumbbell Nebula

M27 – Dumbbell Nebula
Dumbbell Nebula
[Full version of image]
[The Dumbbell Nebula] is a planetary nebula some 1,360 light years away from the Earth. A planetary nebula is an emission nebula consisting of an expanding glowing shell gas and lasts only a few tens of thousands of years – so rather short in the life cycle of stars. At the centre of the nebula is a white dwarf – actually its the [largest known white dwarf].

Messier 92

Messier 92 – a globular cluster
[Full version of image]
[Messier 92] is a globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. This not be confused with a handgun! It is a really nice object with a small telescope or binoculars, though it is bright enough under excellent conditions with the naked eye.

M101 – Pinwheel Galaxy

M101 – Pinwheel Galaxy
M101 - Pinwheel Galaxy
[Full version of image]
[The Pinwheel Galaxy] is a beautiful face-on spiral galaxy that is some [25 million light-years] with a measured size that is about twice as large as our own Galaxy. You can’t really tell in my photo above but in much more detailed photos (e.g. [this one by the Hubble Space telescope]) you can see that M101 appears to be asymmetrical. It is believed that this was due to a tidal interaction with another galaxy as it passed by.