Day 662 – That Comet

It all seems so long ago now. In a galaxy far, far away.

But it was actually less than 3 weeks ago when the boy wonder and I stood on the front stoop at Suiderstrand and tried to find Comet Leonard somewhere in the vast Western skies over the South Atlantic Ocean.

A little route finding via instructions on the internet and a bit of good fortune, and there it was (sort of) in plain view. Kind of about that far [indicates an approximate distance] across to the left at about 10 o’clock from Jupiter.

Don’t bother looking now, of course.

Things will have moved.

We tried a million (only just an exaggeration) different ways of photographing it, fiddling with the ISO and the shutter speed on most every shot, and given that the wind was PUMPING, the locals had the place lit up – appropriately enough – like a Christmas tree, and we didn’t have any specialist equipment like a tracking mount and the like, I’m fairly happy with the results. A little tweak here and there in Lightroom has made a difference too.

Here are a few of our efforts:

Both at 211mm | 6s | f5.6 | ISO 6400

Yes, some streaking because of the exposure length required to get enough comet action, but actually, that only serves to make it look like it was moving very fast. Which it was of course (see below), but this isn’t whizzing in and out of the stars like you see in a movie or a cartoon. And yes, those two above are crops because even at 200mm, it’s still just a tiny smudge in the sky:

200mm | 8s | f5.6 | ISO 8000

In fact, even at 150mm (the widest my chosen lens could get) you’re still getting quite a good zoom on the thing. I should have taken a shot of the whole sky. The more I think about it, the more I realise that we did well to find it, let alone shoot it.

150mm | 2s | f5.6 | ISO 16000

A quick wave to (and a wish upon) the photobombing shooting star on that one.

Many people (with or without better equipment than me) will have taken many better shots of Comet Leonard, but I don’t care. We went out after dinner, stood in the relative darkness and the northwest wind with a tripod and a basic DSLR and took photos of a little 1km diameter ball of ice travelling away from us at 254,411 kph (70.67 km a second!!) and already 106,909,845 km distant.


More Comet Leonard information.

Day 631 – Breeze

It’s time to head home. Back to the hustle and bustle of Cape Town, the city just 6000 miles from civilisation…

It’s been a good break down in Agulhas. I could have been a bit less lazy, but sometimes a pre-nap nap is just what you need before your nap.

And the weather could have been better: several bouts of heavy rain throughout the week, and today – when the sun is shining and the skies are blue – a gale force wind. Not a metaphorical gale, either. This is actually fully 60kph and up from the east, and that actually puts it into Admiral Beaufort’s Force 8 category: quite literally a gale.

Doors have to be hooked back, the beagle’s ears are flapping wildly, the dirt roads are drifting into the sky and a plastic chair has escaped to the far side of the garden. It’s actually quite nice if you can get out of the it, temperature-wise at least. But it’s omnipresent: noisy, constant and wearing.

The tailwind should make for a quick and economical trip home, at least.

Day 629 – Holiday vibes?

It’s always good when I’m sitting outside with my laptop, but I’m struggling to see the screen because of the filtered sunshine coming through the slatted roof of the braai area. But while many people might be all geared up for summer holidays, I’m yet to feel the vibe: iffy health, cancelled family visits and wildly uncontrollable virus numbers are really dragging me back. Oh, and the weather has generally been slow to kick in as well.

So today, with the unforecast sunshine and gentle westerly breeze seems to have bucked the recent trend and it does seem like summer might have arrived. For the last hour or so, at least.

Still, I’ll take it. Especially as I’ve just seen what’s coming in from the South Atlantic…

That’s the view from the deck right now. My filtered sunshine has already disappeared, and it looks like I’ll be heading back inside for shelter shortly. This is really not helping me get into the holiday spirit.

I might have to go back to relying on beer and braaivleis.

Day 628 – Beagle emergency

But first of all, hello and welcome to any new readers that might have given a member of my family a D-dimer result recently.
Thanks for that. Ultrasound was clear (for that, at least), prognosis is all good. Happy days.

And talking of medical things, we had a minor beagle-related emergency at the cottage today. After the rain – yes, in December: I am also aghast – we had planned to take the beagle to the beach for a quick snorf and walk. We had got no further than the car park when she grabbed a small piece of sardine from the floor, yelped and indicated that she had got a fishing hook in her lip, by proudly displaying the fishing hook protruding through her lip.

Clearly just discarded by a fisherman. If only there had been a bin nearby for your waste. Oh wait, there was. You were just too lazy to use it.
Great. Thanks, wanker fishermen.

It very quickly became very evident that we weren’t going to be able to remove the hook ourselves. They are made to stay in lips, be they piscine or canine. And that meant a trip to the vet, 43km up the road.

Halfway there, we realised the we had no money and not enough diesel to get us there and back. Cue Samsung Pay on the boy’s cellphone (gotta love technology) and a quick R100 splash and dash at the Struisbaai Caltex.

The vet was friendly, helpful, Afrikaans and very efficient. A quick shot of sedative, a quicker shot of local anaesthetic, some MASSIVE wire choppers and a quick snip later, we brought an exceedingly drunk beagle back home. I’m happy to say that a couple of hours later, the beagle has wobbled around the room once and then struggled back to the beanbag and fallen asleep again.

Which sounds like a wonderful idea to me.

Day 585 – Municipal Election day

It is, as you may have gathered from the title above, Municipal Election day in South Africa. A great day to avoid social media. (OK, that’s every day but especially so today.)

Gotta love politics.


But today marks another opportunity to choose the least worst party to run things in your locality for the next 5 years. I say “least worst”, because the best performing municipality in the entire country (and it was Cape Agulhas, nogal!!) scored just 65/100 on a local news site’s ranking system. Nationally, the average score was 45.

Room for improvement? Definitely. But who’s going to be able to do it?

Well, love them or hate them (and remembering that we don’t use social media as any sort of barometer for anything around politics, kids), there’s clear evidence that the DA run municipalities better than other parties run municipalities. 8 of the top 10 and 15 of the top 20 here are controlled by the DA, and that for a party that only runs 25 of the county’s 278 municipalities.

Are they perfect? Far from it.
Would they make a good national governing party? I’m not convinced.
Are they the best party for running municipalities? Yes. Yes, they are. Clearly.

I’m not a DA member. I’m not even allowed to vote.
I’m only allowed to pay my taxes. Then other people get to decide what happens to them.
I’d just like them used well.

Too much to ask? Too much to ask.

The fact is that what is – somewhat obviously – the best choice to run your local municipality can only score 65% for doing just that, is a sad indictment on just how poor out political choices are at the moment.

Still, you should do YOUR research and you should vote for whomever you believe will run YOUR ward best (or least worst), and not be swayed by promises that can’t be kept by municipal councils – even if that party sweeps to a landslide victory in your ward – you’re not going to end lockdown or enable Western Cape secession. Look out for promises that they know they’ll never have to keep.

Oh, and obviously avoid anything or anyone who has anything to do with Patricia de Lille.
That’s just common sense.