Went to the opticians today.. She said I needed glasses for driving. I said “You sure? My eyes are fine when I drive!” “You must have noticed things were out of focus?” she said. “How”, I asked, “My eyes are always shut when I drive… Driving scares the hell outta me!”

Things come in three’s or so superstition tells us. Invariably, it’s usually the bad things too. This started back in March with a tooth that needed patching up after an ancient filling fell out. The Dentist asked that I be taken off one of my blood-pressure meds as it was causing my gums to swell and that was the start of it all. Incidentally, the same tooth finally broke in July and I had to have a crown fitted.

In June we started the process of seeking a new hypertension regime. Here we are in November, having taken a few wrong turns along the way, with three pills that finally seem to be doing the trick. All that remains is to tweak the dosage of one of them to get the pressure to the intended target. Naturally, during the course of changing meds, there were lots of blood tests.

On a visit to the Nurse on October 10th, I was informed that my blood-sugar level was ‘raised’. Apparently, I’m pre-diabetic. That was a little bit of a shock but perhaps not. What that means in real world terms is – I need to increase my exercise, reduce my food intake and cut out the sweet things. Now, I don’t eat a lot of sweets – I might have a chocolate bar twice a month and it’s rare that we have a dessert with dinner in our house. No – the sugar intake is almost entirely down to beer and that is something that I need to reduce.

So, much of October has been about adjusting to a new regime. I’m making a point of getting out for a brisk walk every day. As for the beer – ironically, I was already working on reducing my alcohol consumption and had made good progress over a 3-year period. In many ways this news has been the catalyst to ‘finish the job’ and I’m pushing on towards being alcohol free at home (apart from the very occasional single shot of whisky). One thing that has been helping this is the availability of alcohol free ales. You see, my ‘alcohol’ problem is not about getting drunk – I don’t drink to get drunk and forget bad things. I just love the flavour of beer – getting drunk is an unfortunate side effect!

Changing over to alcohol free beers has issues though. In the majority of cases, the brewers either use a yeast that stops fermenting before it creates alcohol or they actively remove their normal yeast before the alcohol is made. This has the effect of leaving significant levels of sugar in the beer. To give an example from one beer I tried – there were 18g of sugar in a 500ml bottle. However, all is not gloom and doom! There is an alcohol free beer that only has 0.7g of sugar in a bottle and… It’s actually a version of one of my favourite ales – Adnams Ghost Ship. How has the brewer achieved this? They have used a process called reverse osmosis after the normal fermenting stage has completed to remove the alcohol from the finished ale. The equipment required to do that is not cheap, so hats off to Adnams for being prepared to invest money up front for a small but growing market. I hope other brewers will see the trend and follow suit. Here’s the Adnams Ghost Ship 0.5 page.

So that my friends is why October saw very little in the way of blog posts – there’s been a bit of mental angst and a lot of life rearranging to do. Three things – Broken tooth, blood-pressure meds and pre-diabetes – can turn everything upside down. Now we move forwards and hopefully restore normality to this blog 🙂

While Anson Two-Two waits on Axon Station in the Zagoro system for his friend Jenckque, I have been out in ‘Humourist’ exploring again. That’s the joy of sharing a ship between the real me and my alter-ego Anson. He can be in one place while I go about my business somewhere else. My business on this occasion being to improve my Explorer status hopefully to the next level and just one step below Elite. The last two expeditions had taken me to the Helix Nebula and to the Binary stars 104 and 107 Aquarii. This time I hadn’t chosen a destination from my star atlas but picked on a random system below the plane of the galaxy in the general direction of the Pleiades Nebula – HIP 16388. My thinking was “Let’s see what catches our attention on the way.”

Halfway to HIP 16388 I found Gorgonea Tertia on my right hand side – don’t go reaching for your medical dictionary, it’s one of the 4 star systems that make up the Gorgon’s head in the constellation Perseus. So I decided to take a look and subsequently found Gorgonea Secunda adjacent. ‘Secunda produced my first Neutron star discovery. There I was closing on this star and it’s not activating the detailed surface scanner… I realised, almost too late, that this was a tiny object as stars go! If I’d carried on moving in at the speed I was going a nasty accident would have ensued  I was as close as 35 Light-seconds before the scanner kicked in – Most stars can be scanned from thousands of light-seconds away!

Now, as I was off my original route, I decided to look around for other potential destinations and spotted a purple fuzziness and a dimmer yellow smudge over to the left of my original track. Careful investigation of the galaxy map allowed me to identify the purple as LBN 623, the Gamma Cassiopeiae Nebula. That seemed like a good object to take a look at so I plotted a new course that would take me across the star fields between Human space and the Pleiades. Along the way I’d try and work out what the yellow smudge was.

When travelling outside Human space fuel for the ship is obtained by scooping Hydrogen from the Corona of Main-Sequence stars. Other star types can’t provide fuel, so it’s no good hugging a Brown Dwarf or a T Tauri type because they won’t return the love! The commonest stars found in most of the galaxy are Red Dwarf’s or M-Type stars, which is good because they are on the Main-Sequence. If all this talk of Main-Sequence has left you confused, take a look at the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram of star types which may help. The key point is that Main-Sequence stars are in the H to He conversion part of their lives and thus have free Hydrogen around them. You might also want to read about Stellar Classification.    The big problem for explorers flying around the outer regions of the galaxy is that you can meet star fields out there which have no Main-Sequence stars in them. The wise explorer always keeps one eye on the stars along the plotted route and the other firmly on the fuel gauge. The third eye is used to check the scanner and enjoy the scenery 😉 On the run across to LBN 623 I encountered one such star field and needed to do 16 jumps without refuelling to cross it. Fortunately Humourist, my Cobra mkIII, has big tanks and is quite fuel efficient so it did not present a major problem. But people do get caught out and then need to be rescued by the Fuel Rats!

So, there I am running towards LBN 623 which is becoming more sharply defined all the time. But whilst three of my eyes are doing the normal routine things the fourth is checking out that yellow smudge. It too is becoming more defined – It now looks like a yellow star with a massive ball of haze around it. I’m intrigued… I arrive at LBN 623 and enjoy its beauty – definitely ‘Pretty in Pink’! Then I turn my attention towards our yellow friend. Again, lining up the galaxy map as best I can, I find a possible candidate in HIP 4894 – a very large G Type star (similar to our Sun but much larger). So I set a route to that system. I won’t know if I’m right until I get there.

Jack-o’-Lantern, Will-o’-the-Wisp, Robin Goodfellow, Puck… we all know who he is don’t we. A Faerie spirit who enjoys playing pranks on travellers in the dark of night. He sets his lure – a light among the trees to entice the unwary from their true path. And he leads them on… approach the light and it seems to move further away. So you follow on and the light never gets any closer. The traveller at best finds himself lost or may stumble into a bog or ravine. Remember the Dead Marshes in Lord of the Rings? “The tricksy lights. Candles of corpses… Don’t you heed them! Don’t look! Don’t follow them!” So it was with my yellow ‘lantern’. I got to HIP 4894 only to find that I was no closer (Very nice star by the way!)

Now, finally, I became suspicious. Galactic objects that never seem to get any closer are usually very distant! Once again I turned to the galaxy map and using the ever present Andromeda Galaxy and the object’s apparent relative position, I started moving from distant star to distant star in the general direction within the 3D representation. It took a while but eventually I spotted a faint nebulosity on the map that I was able to home in on. From the angle it looked like a circular haze with a more solid centre. The Cave Nebula! I tried plotting a route but I couldn’t – somewhere in between there is an area where the stars are more than 23Ly’s apart. I’ll need a ship with better jump range than the Cobra if I want to go there. Jack had led me a merry dance! Here is a cockpit view of Jack-o’-Lantern and some shots of Humourist around LBN 623.

LBN 623
In the Pink, LBN 623
Under LBN 623