Yes the battle for that tiny trophy is on again. In 2013 we send another team of aspiring Australian Cricketers to England's green and pleasant lands to try and claim back the priceless urn. So I have decided write my version of an Ashes Diary with my hopes, despair and whim.
I'll be watching on TV, but with the BBC radio commentary due to their old world charm, eccentricity and wit. I will miss the voice of the late Christopher Martin Jenkins this time, mind you I still miss the bearded Wonder Frindall and Brian Johnston.
Well the Aussie selectors have announced the squad. Some inclusions have caused me to raise an eyebrow, Hughes and Rogers in particular. Rogers because I hadn't heard of him, obviously a quiet achiever, and Hughes for getting another chance. He'll have to put away that cross bat flailing outside off stump or the English bowlers will ensure that he will finish the tour scraping around in the secondary matches.
Here we have just passed Anzac Day where we remember the fate of plucky young lads in the First World War daring to take on overwhelming odds. This Test side is about to board similar long boats and row ashore under heavy fire. Reputations and careers will be scarred or lost if the campaign flounders.
Emotionally I feel the same sense of trepidation as in 1989 when a young Australian side arrived in England and was derided. Beyond all my expectations they triumphed. The mighty Poms who had humiliated us at home in 86/87 (I was at the MCG watching Merv Hughes sky the ball to Gladstone Small to hand England the Test in three days, and the Ashes in Three Tests) floundered about laughably like Keystone Cops. This time I can't see a repeat of '89, instead it will be more like my Anzac reference earlier, young lads charging over the top and being cut to pieces, or as Yallop described his 78/79 Ashes campaign, "Lambs to the Slaughter."
The image was a cartoon I drew for my old cricket club newsletter back in 1997 when the Aussies returned in triumph.
Moody monochrome magic. Old school photography turns everday reality into dreamy wonder. This shot of Bushranger's Bay in Victoria was taken on Kodak Tri X 35mm film and stored away for the last 16 years. I pulled it out and scanned it to put on my flickr account. It was amasing how much the negative had deteriorated in the intervening years, despite storage in a cool dry dark environment. There were originally just a few marks and a couple of scratches. Now there were loads of tiny marks as if the silver had just fallen off the strip. Here is the image after a bit of restoration with Procreate Painter Classic and a graphics tablet. More could be done but how many years do I want to waste on one image. I found it amusing to be patching up old spots and scratches, after viewing other digital photographers work on the web where they were busy trying to make their pristine images look old. The modern digital SLR image is just too clean to make look old and grainy even after the artists have fiddled, but it is quicker than waiting 16 years fr the effect to occur naturally.
After about 10 years of indecision, I finally bought a digital SLR camera. The Pentax K-r. A colleague at my astronomy society had one so I was aware of its capabilities. The first requirement was to be able to use my existing collection of K and KA lenses that date back to the 1980s. The K-r is very backward compatible in this regard. One feature used in the model choice was interval shooting for time-lapse. This will give me the ability to survey the night sky for an extended period in my aurora hunts. The jpeg image at right is one frame from a test run at interval shooting. 28mm lens aimed at a truck hubcap to make a fish-eye image, ISO 1600, 15 second exposure at F2.8. On later inspection 30 seconds or a higher ISO value would have been better. Also after about 2 hours dew descended on the mirror ending the show. Click on the image for a more detailed view. It is a mirror image with South at top, West to the right. Crux is just visible in the upper centre portion.
I'll see if I can upload the short time-lapse movie later.
I want to do Bulb setting and long exposures, but where is the cable release? One thing with the new cameras is the absence of a cable release socket. Pentax insist on an IR remote control (at additional expence of course), but I found that my old Sony VCR remote controls index search button will fire off the shutter. You have to set up remote control in the cameras menu first so that one button push will open the shutter then a later button push will close it. Easy.
So now I am ready to try some guided long exposures, but as expected with all new adventures in astronomy, it has rained for three days now. Hmm.
Classic motorcycle racing came to Phillip Island again in January. Being a sucker for old aircooled four stroke noise I had to be there. I thought if the racers were game to race on period machines then I should record some of the day with period camera equipment. Yes I took a Pentax K1000 with me and some print film and snapped away. the processing costs of C41 film is getting out of hand but to obtain that retro look in photos it can't be beaten. This image of Levi Day on the ex Bill Horsman Honda CB72/77 special was scanned as a greyscale from a colour negative. The image wasn't super sharp, being panned and a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second, but the blurry areas take on that old grainy look. The only thing spoiling the retro look was the modern helmet and leathers. I have seen other photographers on flickr trying to get that retro black and white look but they have started with a digital camera and done a bit of Photoshop to rough it up, but it still looks sharp and gleaming. If you look at old published photos of motor racing they contain a lot of grain and look rough. I think I only got halfway there. Now I have plenty of slides from prior classic motor race meetings so maybe I'll try the same technique with those.
The Island Classic is still one of my favourite days out, wide open spaces, sea breezes, and thunderous gonad rumbling machine noise.
Next month it is the cars' turn to revive yesteryear at the island, and I will be there. Perhaps I should dress in period as well this year.
In 2008 I wrote about my attempts to record radio outbursts from Jupiter but was plagued by severe background noise around 20-22Mhz.
This year I've cut dipoles to test 24 and 28Mhz looking for a quiet region of the spectrum. 28MHz proved the quietest.
The Moxon antenna (http://www.moxonantennaproject.com/) for 10 metres was my choice. 28.5 MHz had been quiet at night during the winter so was chosen as the band. A beam antenna for this frequency is not to large and unwieldy, and I have a very quiet background. However, the Jupiter storm signals are even weaker up at this band, so there is still a challenge ahead.
Once the antenna was built I was committed for the season. Come spring the sunspot levels had increased and the ionosphere activated to allow long distance DX transmission by ameteur radio operators on the band I was using. The band was now often crowded in the evenings. This narrowed the time window of operations but didn't prevent it.
Using predictions from the Kochi National College of tech http://www.kochi-ct.ac.jp/cgi-bin/jupiter/jup.cgi website to choose when to listen, I recorded the speaker sound from the (1984 vintage) Sony ICF7600D radio with the voice recording function on my Mp3 player. This allowed up to 8 hours recording in a file about 130MB in size. Once the file was transferred to the computer it could be played back at the predicted time segment for analysis. Various surges and swishes in the hiss can always be heard but only once (for Dec 4) have I heard ker-ash type sounds expected. I still have another month of available time windows before Jupiter is too low in the evenings.
Is the Moxon any good? I've heard good amateur DX from the Netherlands, Germany, UK, USA, and Taiwan. While on a signal if I turn the antenna about 180 degrees there is a definite decrease in signal strength. So it functions as a true beam antenna with front to back ratio!
For Jupiter, so far I'm not convinced that it has worked. I am now planning wire Yagi beams for lower bands, maybe around 19Mhz where the jupiter storm signal should be stronger. If I can find a spot near there that is quiet enough.
Having recently read Bram Stoker's Dracula I was impressed by some of the images created by his great descriptions of scenes. One in particular was of Dracula descending his castle wall, 'Once more I have seen the Count go out in his lizard fashion.' So I was inspired to sketch the scene. Creepy.
I 've also been listening to the HP Podcasts having read a bit of Lovecraft lately and they mentioned I.N. Hubbard's illustrated version of 'At the Mountains of Madness.' It could never be as engaging as the original text, but a worthy attempt to bring it to life.
If you are a dabbler in cartooning or scribbling then classic literature serves as a great inspiration. Give it a go and sharpen your skills.
I went to the Phillip Island Classic races on Saturday to see old style motorcycle racing and listen to 4-stroke noises from the V-twin and singles classic era.
It was an action packed day with riders crashing on the high speed pit straight.....twice. Rex Wolfenden of T-Rex Racing (pictured) blew his motor right in front of us going into turn one. ( a short and expensive weekend for the Melbourne engine builder.) Immediately after that there was a big crash at turn one where a bike flipped in the air after dropping the rider. The rider got up, kicked his bike, lifted and inspected the bike, dropped the bike and kicked it again. It was great to see that there are other workmen prepared to blame their tools.
In the international challenge for forgotten era machines It was basically a two way fight between Steve Martin and Britain's Jeremy McWilliams. Although in heat 2 Martin went missing late in the race and McWilliams must have backed off and was pipped on the line. A much needed win for the UK went begging there. Since the UK guys have been easily beaten in prior years I decided to reflect my English heritage and lend some support by draping a St George's Cross over my car.
On Sunday I followed some of the results live at computime.com.au.
Final points were, Aus 1154.6, UK 807.7, Others 706.3
McWilliams topped the rider points over 4 races due to the Martin DNF.
Old timer, the ever reliable, Robbie Phillis was 5th in the points due to consistency despite not being at the front in each race. I remember watching him on TV racing in the Castrol 6 hour when I was a kid. He may be older but hasn't got slower.
An innings defeat at Adelaide, and England look invincible. Well the Aussies have an uphill battle in the remaining Test Matches if they are to reclaim the Ashes. I say they when I actually mean we. I feel personally resposible, it hurts me so. I was there that day 24 years ago at the MCG when Mike Gatting's men won the Test and the Series and took the Ashes home. I was trying to play top level cricket in Victoria at the time and felt that the system (that involved me) just wasn't up to it. For the next 18 years I kept up my involvement as a player and administrator, doing my bit to help prop up Aussie cricket from the bottom. When I retired from it all we suddenly lost the Ashes in 2005, lost a series at home to South Africa, lost the Ashes again in 2009. It is as if it is all unravelling. Are we really going to return to the bad days of the mid 1980s where Australia was at the bottom of the Test ladder. It took years of rebuilding to reach Number 1. To get out of this predicament it is not just who to select in the next Test, but how to invigorate the grass roots and rebuild all over again.
I am involved again assisting with juniors, so again I feel personally responsible when our cricketing reputation takes a downturn. C'mon kids you are propping up our cricket future, give it all you've got.