Archive for the “News” Category

The New Forest Observatory is run by Prof. Greg Parker from Brockenhurst in Hampshire.  Do not be misled or confused by others using a similar name.

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I have reproduced below an e-mail conversation from a rather persistent fellow representing a very well known Publisher.  For obvious reasons the Publisher’s name is crossed out as is the guy I’m having the conversation with – but all the same I think you’ll get the gist of it.


Urgent Image Request Dear Sir,

I am XXXXXX XXXXX, Picture Researcher with XXXX.

XXXX publishers (part of the XXXXXX Group) would like to use an image of Gamma Cas on one of our spreads of our educational children’s book XXXXXXX.

We have really liked your image on NASA website It would be great if you could give us the permission to use the image in our upcoming book.

XXXX always clears images for world, all language, all edition rights including E-books and Digital Spinnoffs of this book.

We have a very tight schedule so it would be great if you could get back to us on this as soon as possible.

Thanks and Regards



My New Forest Observatory does provide deep-sky images, non-exclusively for publication purposes.  The images are not available for free.


Prof. Greg Parker


Re: Urgent Image Request Thanks a lot for your urgent reply but we are interested in using the image in the link I have provided earlier. If you can provide us that image at A4 size at 300dpi we are happy to pay you 20GBP as this is what we have been paying to the well known agencies we are registered with.

We will also give you a credit in the book. I hope you will give us a chance to work with you and agree to our rights and rates.

Also, we might get in touch with you again for other images we like from your collection.

Thanks and Regards


Thank you – I understand what image you require, it is the one I provided from the NFO to APOD.

Your rate I’m afraid is insufficient for an A4 size at 300 DPI.  Thank you very much for your interest.


Prof. Greg Parker


We wish to use the image at 1/4th size. It is not the final rate we can surely negotiate the prices. This is the rate we have been paying to our agencies. Please let me know what rate you want to give us the image at if it suits our budget we can use the image. The size of the book is really small and we have a really low budget on this project.

Thanks and Regards


Books are always “really small” and budgets are always “very low” but the images that are requested take many hours to acquire with very expensive equipment and very expensive programs (and computers) – so it looks like we will always have an impass here :) :)

Yesterday I sold a photomicroscopy image (about half the size of the image you are requesting) to Harvard Medical School for £196.  They considered this a “low” budget.  I think you can see that you will not be able to afford my image for your book, but thank you for your interest.


Prof. Greg Parker


And finally, thank goodness, this totally pointless conversation mercifully came to an end.

Please can I ask you – if you want some “free” or “cheapo” deep-sky images, to kindly go elsewhere







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The money from the Post Office Savings Account is now finally back in my Lloyds Bank account having spent 1 week and 3 days in limbo.

This was not resolved by the Post Office finally seeing sense and getting their act together – it was resolved by my son, who is a photojournalist getting onto the Post Office’s Press Office and rattling a few cages.  Nice to know my son has more clout than the old man :)  But that’s by the by.

Although the Post Office needs to take a fair portion of the blame here, this episode of serial nonsense was not entirely their fault – in fact you could say it was not their fault at all, but the fault lies with Experian!  Experian are a bunch that have got together to stick their nose into your monetary matters and they have a credit report on each and every one of you.  Now, when I was on the phone to the Post Office and I was about to reactivate my account – it was Experian that put the kibosh on things.  How?  Well the Post Office, before it actually reactivates your account does a quick check with Experian and Experian will get back with a yes or no for immediately reactivating the account.  This is a purely automated process, there are no people talking to one another or anything sensible like that – oh no.  So of course in my case the word that came back from Experian was NO!  And THAT is why I have spent 1 week and 3 days trying to get my hands on my own money.

So what did Experian, this faceless wonder, have a problem with?  I don’t know, but they are looking at it for me right now.  How very kind of them.  In fact I just have an e-mail from “The Customer Relations Team” telling me this.  Great isn’t it – one person would have written the e-mail, someone who presumably has a name – but the e-mail comes from a faceless “team”.  Do you see what I’m getting at here?  Let’s carry on.  I asked the Post Office guy at the time what could possibly have led Experian to give a “no” answer to reactivating my account.  The only thing he could come up with at the time was a possible recent change of address.  As I have been at the present address for over 25 years I didn’t think that could be the cause.  The P.O. man of course didn’t have any idea what the problem was because THERE WAS NO COMMUNICATION WITH A PERSON AT THE OTHER END just a “no” automated reply.

There is a bunch of people out there, working for this “Experian”, who can make your life unpleasant, financially, and not just by malice, but by basically screwing things up with duff information.  I have heard of this before from other people, but it’s something else when you experience it for yourself – maybe that’s why they call themselves Experian?  The next installment of this monumental cock up will be what Experian has to say on the matter.  They will get back to me withing 4 weeks – wow – quickly as that – amazing, when you can actually close down someone’s account instantaneously.  Bit of a disconnect here don’t you think Experian??

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Tom How has lots of variations of camera synchronisation software for budding mini-WASP imagers.
Check out details here:

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So did the Post Office finally come to their senses and sort things out to my satisfaction then??

Did they hell. This is what happened.
Last week I wrote a letter to the local newspaper spelling out the sick joke that is Post Office Savings.
My son works for said newspaper as a photojournalist.
The Editor put my son onto the case and he got through to the Post Office Savings Press Office – all this happened this morning before lunch.
Now at 4:15 p.m. I get the first phone call during this whole episode from the Post Office Customer Services bunch telling me my money had been transferred to my Bank account and the PO account closed.
Isn’t that amazing?
Thank you son – great job done, clearly you carry far more clout than your old man!!

Why am I not saying it has been completely sorted yet?  Because the money has not appeared in my Bank account yet.  Funny how in this age of digital money transfer it doesn’t appear straight away in my account – NOT!!!

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The short answer to this age-old question is that it does.  To see how it does you unfortunately need to read what comes below.  However – what I find much more interesting is why we have difficulty in understanding what is going on with mirrors – perhaps the simplest “optical device” known to man.  Why aren’t our brains “wired up” in such a way as to see the answer to these mirror questions immediately?

If you delve back into my posts on here you will find a pretty comprehensive explanation of how mirrors “laterally invert”.  There you will also find the answer to this “mirror question” – they don’t.  As I haven’t actually looked back to see what I wrote back then, I can’t remember if I covered the top-bottom inversion in a mirror, so I will do so here.

Everyone is aware of lateral inversion in a mirror, it occurs when we look into a mirror THAT IS IN THE VERTICAL PLANE, which is the “normal” place for a mirror as it is usually on a wall or somewhere similar so that we can shave or adjust our hair.  As I mentioned before – a mirror does no inverting at all – it merely reflects light straight back, that’s all.  If you are reading the words on a page in a book, and THEN ROTATE THE BOOK 180 DEGREES to see the words reflected in a mirror – then  of course it appears as if the words are laterally inverted.  The mirror simply reflects back to your eye what is placed directly in front of it, and what you have placed directly in front of it is a book that you rotated through 180 degrees giving the appearance of a lateral inversion of the letters on the page.  Simple, and a nice example of symmetry.  BUT – there is the relevant question, why not top-bottom reversal, and what is the symmetry requirement to see top-bottom reversal??

There is no top-bottom reversal in a vertically aligned mirror because you only rotated the book around in the horizontal plane, you didn’t also stand on your head.  O.K. but if that’s the case then by symmetry surely there is a way a mirror can invert top-bottom?  Yes there is.  Before giving the answer away, can you work out what you have to do to the mirror to see this?

The answer is that you need to move the mirror from the vertical plane to the horizontal plane – take it off the wall and lie it flat on the ground.  Now look at objects reflected in the mirror.  What do you see?  You have been aware of this effect all your conscious life.  You have stared at the surface of a still lake/pond and seen the reflection of distant objects from the water’s surface.  So why wasn’t it immediately obvious to you that the distant mountain’s reflection in the water was top-bottom inverted?  Because it is so obvious?  Then if it is so obvious why didn’t you automatically know the answer to the question – how does a mirror invert top-bottom then??

I’m really not sure why there is such confusion over this, but I’m pretty sure it has more to do with psychology and recognition that it does with Physics.

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So where were we on this nonsense?  Oh yes, last Monday I went into the Post Office at Lymington with my passport and a statement from Southern Electric (just received, so within 2 months) which were copied and certified (for I.D. and address) and these went off First Class to the Post Office address.

Checking my account I could see that it still wasn’t reactivated on Thursday.  O.K. so another phone call to the Post Office to find out what is going on.  Very helpful guy on the end says yes they had received the verification documents and my account will be reactivated the next day (Friday).  Why not today, and why not immediately??  I know far better than to ask.

So here we are on Friday.  I try to get into my account a couple of times, and of course I can’t.  So another call to the Post Office.  You can see what’s coming already can’t you.  The address verification was not valid.  Clearly doesn’t matter that the guy yesterday said my account would be reactivated today – that was yesterday and that was someone else.  Because this was a statement of usage from Southern Electric and not a Bill it was not acceptable.  Doesn’t matter that the address is the same one as on my account and on the letter as well as the statement – oh no.  So another trip into Lymington Post Office with an actual Bill plus a Bank statement (strange they both have the same address as the unacceptable Southern Electric statement) and they were sent off.  But not before the jobsworth behind the Post Office counter tried to halt proceedings by asking to see the letter from the Post Office which surprise, surprise hasn’t arrived here yet.  You couldn’t make this crap up could you?  I took my wife along today as I needed someone there to prevent me trashing the place in case I met Ms. Jobsworth – which in the event I did.  My wife made it clear that Ms. Jobsworth just needed to certify the documents and send them off and it would be best not to pursue the business about the letter.  Extremely reluctantly she did as she was asked, but not without referring to the f***ing letter at least half a dozen more times.

So we have another trip to Lymington, another half hour on the phone, and another 3 hours of my time to go onto the Invoice the P.O. will be receiving for my costs on getting my account reactivated.  We are well over £500 now and still counting.

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One of my most precious possessions is an original document – Grey Owl’s farewell to the children of the British Isles. It dates from 1937 and it has something very important to say about fox hunting, something the Conservative Party that has just been voted back in would like returned to legality. Here’s what Grey Owl had to say on the matter.

“Could you promise me never to take advantage of the weakness of another, human or animal – never to take the life of a poor defenseless animal merely for amusement?
I’ll ask you, too, if you will never join in a chase where foxes, stags, or otters or hares, are driven to the last extremity of terror, and misery, until at last, with no chance of escape, they stand there looking for mercy, but finding none, surrounded by a horde of dogs and men, and sometimes, I am ashamed to say, women and even children, and then defenseless, terrified, helpless, and alone – no one near to help them – they are literally mobbed to death.
Is that fair play? Is that sport?
In that case, I ask you, please don’t be a sportsman or a sportswoman.
But, remember the word “sportsman” may mean something rather fine – consideration for those who are weaker than ourselves, who stand so much in need of the kindness for which they cannot ask.
Sportsmen claim that an animal that is to be killed for fun – can you imagine it? – should be given an even chance. Is that an even chance, a hundred to one, I ask you?
Fair play, good old British fair play – play the game – give everybody a square deal. Remember that brave people are always the kindest. But when we go out against a lesser creature a hundred to one, is that courage? – is that kind?
Remember that only those whose lives have been too easy, with too much money and not enough to do, who do not understand what hardship and pain can be, would inflict such misery on a helpless fellow creature. I have heard, this last time I am here, of a fox that ran into a house for protection, and was seized by a huntsman as he jumped through a window, bleeding from several cuts he had received from the broken glass; only trying, poor creature, to save his life – the only one he had – and was thrown to the dogs to be torn to pieces – alive – on Christmas day.
What joy for the hunters, what fun for the dogs, and at a time of the year when the whole world is full of goodwill to everybody. What a Christmas for that poor fox, whom God made as He made you and me!

Yes every man and his dog is fully aware that Grey Owl was a Brit. That isn’t the point. The point is in what he had to say, as valid today as it was 80 years ago.

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You probably didn’t think things could possibly get any worse didn’t you – I certainly thought that – absolutely no bloody chance.

So this morning I logged onto my Post Office account (I couldn’t even do that on Friday) and was amazed to find that I could.  Whoopee have they quietly reactivated it then?  No chance!  When I went to transfer out all my money to my Bank account – I couldn’t :(  Another phone number on the page and this time a helpful guy on the end of the line – how unbelievably refreshing.  He is so helpful he actually tells me what I need to do to reactivate my account without waiting for this stupid bloody letter – which – as you have already guessed, hasn’t arrived yet.  So what do I do?  I need to get my Passport photocopied (for identity) and a Bill copied (for address verification) and also get them certified at a Post Office who will then send the lot off.  Great!!  I can get things moving :)  Don’t be so stupid Greg – you know it’s not going to be that easy.  So, first thing I do is phone up the local Brockenhurst Post Office.  “Hello – do you have a copier so I can get some documents copied and certified by you?” – Answer “Yes, but the service costs £2.50″ – Me “That’s fine, I’ll be along shortly”.  After a quick lunch I walk into the village with all the documents and ask if they can copy and certify my documents – you know already what’s coming don’t you.  “We don’t have a copier”  Yes of course I lost it.  What now?  Well the newspaper shop across the road always had a copier.  Yes that was now closed as it was going to become a Sainsbury’s.  O.K. I’m beginning to get the message – in a past life I completely f***ed something up good and proper and now was paytime.  What now?  Two mile walk back home, jump in the car with all the paperwork and go to the main Lymington Post Office – they actually have a copier in there too!!  Very helpful lady, bits get copied, she certifies them, and even has a pre-paid envelope for them to go off First Class to the proper address.  Can’t believe that last bit APPEARS to have gone through.

Leave the Lymington Post Office in shock, and anger and high blood pressure and everything else you can think of.  Well as I’m in Lymington is there anything else I can do?  Yes there is, I think I’ll check out what high interest rate accounts there are going that I will eventually put this Post Office money into.  First stop, Lloyds Bank – my Bank.  Nobody on the Enquiries desk, no worries, plenty of other Banks about – I’ll go next door (can’t even remember what Bank it was now).  Me – “Hello is there anyone I can talk to about opening a new account”.  Them “I’m afraid you need to book an appointment for that”.  Me – “Don’t bother” and I walk out.  Plenty more fish in the sea.  So I go across the road to Santander.  Same question – same answer.  This time I part company with “You guys really don’t want the business do you?”

I had absolutely no idea whatsoever that the country had got into this panicked state about possible “dodgy money”.  How totally bloody ludicrous.  Am I the only one who didn’t realise what’s been going on out there??  This is just plain stupid.

So I did the best thing I could and came straight home and wrote this.

I am absolutely sure at the point that this is still not the end of the story.

Watch this space!!

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So far today I have received replies from the Financial Ombudsman and Experian.  No prizes for guessing this one though – nothing from the Post Office!!  You guys are really digging yourselves a big hole there.  The Financial Regulator (read Terminator as far as you’re concerned) is on your case.

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