Friday, December 31, 2010

Astropics With The Nikon D3000

Risking bone-numbing cold this morning, Carpenter hooked up his Nikon D3000 (their cheapest DSLR) to the back end of a Celestron 11" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope(f/10) to bring you these shots of things in the night sky. Viewing conditions were bad--50% cloud cover and extremely turbulent atmosphere. Above, this first shot of the crescent moon is at ISO 200 and 1/60 second shutter speed.

1/20 second, ISO 200. This is the sharpest focus that the clouds and atmosphere would allow.

This shot is so blurry, it's hard to tell if that's Saturn or a UFO. Out of ten or so shots, this was the best I could get.

This is the great globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. I was shooting through thin clouds, so I'm surprised it turned out this well. 30 seconds and ISO 1600.

I took this shot a few nights ago. It's the Orion Nebula. 30 seconds and ISO 1600. Lots of noise (graininess) and tracking could be better.

This is the Andromeda Galaxy, I think, also taken a few nights ago. Mrs. UC refers to galaxies as "smudges". Galaxies, and particularly nebulas, are unimpressive until long-exposure photography brings out highlights and colors.

                           .                                  .                                      .

David Dees' Latest Work

This is what store shelves look like 15 minutes after a hurricane hits. Are you prepped? For more of David Dees' work, go here.

The Federal Reserve, a private bank, is THE reason for the collapse of America. This insidious bank, with unknown owners, has allowed Congress to "borrow" (i.e., debase and hyperinflate our once-sound currency) the wealth of this country to finance unwinnable wars and unsustainable entitlement schemes. Everyone who holds a dollar is paying for these things right now in spite of rhetoric about how our grandchildren will pay for this ride.

                                    .                                        .                                                .

Lot Of Weather We're Having Lately

Mrs. UC snapped this shot of a shoestring acacia tree next to our house after a rain a few days ago. The desert is lovely after a rain and all the plants smile, but the clouds kill my stargazing. Click to embignify.

                       .                                        .                                               .

Ted Nails Another One

Ted Rall is one of my favorite cartoonists. If I was to tackle this idea in an essay, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting and focused as this cartoon.

                         .                                .                                  .

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Nikon D3000 Night Sky Shots

Lots to think about when you plan an evening's stargazing. After a week of solid clouds and rain(I still grieve over missing the lunar eclipse), Christmas eve was the first evening that promised some viewing and a work-less next day. But instead of clouds, we had chem trails which hung on into the evening. Yet another reason for me to despise the airline industry.

The cold, moist air which can form condensation on the telescope is less a problem in the early evening. Also, the half-moon didn't rise with its star-killing luminosity until later in the evening. So early evening Mrs. UC and I set up the Orion 80mm scope with the Nikon D3000 piggy-backed on top. Note that the next photos are taken with a Nikon 55-200mm lens. I didn't shoot through the scope because we were viewing, not shooting. I was mostly just testing how stable the tracking was.

This is Pleides, the Seven Sisters. Technically, a star cluster, but I also consider it a constellation. ISO 1600, f/11, 200mm, 30-second exposure. I tried to take a longer shot, but for some reason I couldn't get the "bulb" setting to work. So 30 seconds was the longest shot I could take.

This is the constellation Orion, the most-easily recognized figure in the night sky and it has plenty-o-bright-stars. ISO 1600, f/11, 55mm, 30-second exposure. (I'm banging my head on the table right now because I just realized I could have "opened-up" the aperture to let more light in. This pic just doesn't "pop" with stars like it should.)

Betelgeuse, the red giant on the left of this shot is in Orion. In the previous shot it's in the lower left corner. ISO 1600, f/11, 200 mm, 30-second exposure. The one success of the evening was figuring out the 3-star alignment to make the scope track the apparent motion of the stars, which is essential to taking long-exposure astrophotos. It took 4 tries and lots of bargle-farging. (Mrs. UC is a saint to put up with my foul language.)

                               .                                .                               .

Friday, December 24, 2010

Attack Of The Jones-Killas

So the rich keep gettin' richer and the middle class is disappearing. There's also that pesky "disproportionate gap" between rich and poor.

Some questions are panhandling on the corner. Who's doing all that classifying? Without invading my privacy, how can anyone assess my wealth to classify me? If someone does indeed have the necessary information, how did they get it and who's paying them to get it?

Are the poor to be pitied? Are the rich to be hated? If the poor all worked harder and rose "above their station", could we all breathe a sigh of relief at the return of the middle class? If the rich gave away all their wealth, could we stop hating them? If they made a second fortune, would we have to start hating them again?

And that notion of a "disproportionate" gap, is there a "proportionate" gap--some number of poor and rich that's just right? Economist, please!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Ben

I copied this from Alan at SnarkyBytes. I don't normally screw with YouTubes, but this one caught my attention, and ten seconds in, I was hooked.

Ben Bernanke is just a message boy for behind-the-scenes "powerful interests" who are playing us. And small point of clarification, the privately-owned Fed doesn't print money. The U. S. Treasury prints Federal Reserve Notes because having the taxpayers completely pay for the largest Ponzi-scheme counterfeiting operation in the world is hugely funny to the hidden owners of the Fed.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Food Line Mindset

When I was a young carpenter, I saw that guys with special skills or tools kept busy and made more money than other carpenters. I did piece-work back then, mostly hanging fascia board on tract homes for 50 cents a foot. When the first programmable calculator came out, I bought one and spent two weeks making a program to calculate my cuts for the different roof pitches. I took great pride in my work and expended considerable effort improving my skills and maintaining top-quality tools. Even with my work ethic, however, I was unemployed from time to time.

Whenever friends or family suggested I file for Unemployment Insurance, I felt insulted. I tried to explain the subtle distinction between being unemployed and being unemployable, but no one understood why I wouldn't claim "my" money. "It's your right!" was all I heard.

These days my work is heavy-commercial concrete formwork on mega-resorts and such.  I do layout with AutoCAD and a surveyor's total station. I probably couldn't keep up with the young bucks, slugging stakes into the ground with a sledgehammer, and I'm glad I don't have to. But even with my mad layout skills, I'm just about out of work. Las Vegas is dead and I don't expect it to recover anytime soon.

When the boss hands out the layoff checks, my fellow carpenters will nervously talk about taking a vacation at "window E". But "my" unemployment money, the taxes my employer was forced to pay, has long-since been spent. To make unemployment payments, the State of Nevada has had to borrow 100's of millions of dollars from the Federal Government which had to borrow it from the Federal Reserve which had to print it on pieces of paper. And nobody sees anything funny in this?

In two weeks or so, I'll take my vacation at Window E. I'll ignore the damage to my dignity and jump through the flaming hoops and demeaning forms to collect my unemployment "compensation". I'll do it because, well, since my America died, I'm just not the same man.

I See Dead Ideas

The more viciously our government kicks us in the nuts, the more eagerly people flock to the polls to elect different nut-kickers. Voters don't mind slavery, they say. They just want kinder masters and special privileges. Well, good luck with that.

Laws are no longer made by a rational process of public discussion; they are made by a process of blackmail and intimidation, and they are executed in the same manner. The typical lawmaker of today is a man wholly devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

H. L. Mencken

Do you still think government is a good idea? Do you still think government can be contained or throttled back?


Friday, December 10, 2010

Man In The Moon

I like the thin crescent moon. I took this shot with my Nikon D3000 hooked to the back end of an Orion 60 mm refractor telescope, using it as a "prime lens". Length of exposure was 1/6 second at ISO 100. In Photoshop all I did was a little cropping.

Earthshine! This shot was 3 seconds long, same scope. I allowed the blown highlights in order to get the earthshine. Notice this pic is a little blurry. I wasn't tracking the motion of the moon with the motorized tripod, and the moon hauls ass across the sky. Mrs. UC showed me how to use "levels" in Photoshop to emphasize the earthshine in this pic.

Work is brutal right now and I had to sacrifice some sleep to get these two shots. The big layoff is coming (nature of construction) around Christmas, so I'll have more time then to play with my toys.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Astrophotography With The Nikon D3000

This is a Celestron CPC 1100 (11") Schmidt-Cassegrain Telescope with GPS controller. It's sitting on a Scope Buggy. This sucker's heavy, so the buggy is great for taking the scope out to the front yard. My Nikon D3000 (Nikon's cheapest DSLR) is mounted on the back of the scope.

Moonshot! For sheer drama I like the thin crescent, but a half-moon is not too bad. The full moon is too bright and feature-less for my taste. This shot was taken at 100 ISO with a 1/30 second shutter speed. The f-stop is determined by the scope, and I don't know what it is.

This is the Horse Head Nebula in the constellation Orion. ISO is 1600 and shutter speed is 30 seconds. At these settings, camera "noise" is not too bad.

Here's the Horse Head at 96 seconds. Camera noise is very noticeable in this shot.

These were the best of 40-something photos I took this morning. I got outside about 3 a.m. and came back in about 5 a.m. Temps were in the mid-30's, so you know I was freezing my ass off and was glad to come in for a pot of hot coffee. I also got a shot of Saturn, but it was poorly focused and blurry. Also, Saturn isn't at its best angle right now to see its rings.

I'm just starting out on this astrophotography thing, so I'll post more pics as I learn about what's in the sky and how to take better pictures.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Divining The Future

Something feels out of place, but I just can't put my finger on it. I've sat and thought until my thinker hurts, but I can't get a bead on the next big trend. Asimov used to say that it was easy to see the future, but I don't share his visual optimism.

Whatever happens, I hope it's interesting.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

UnderDog Flies Again!

"One of the most frustrating aspects of this fight against terrorism is that it has created a whole security apparatus around us that causes huge inconvenience for all of us."

"Frustrating". "Inconvenience". I can think of lots better words to describe what people have to go through to fly. How about "outrage", "crossing-the-line", or "no-fucking-way-I'm-ever-flying-again".

Then let's look at Obammy's words. Try diagramming his sentence. What's the subject? One. One is. The Divine Passive runs amok.

Why not just use bomb-sniffing dogs? They're natural crotch-sniffers anyway.


I don't know who this MaryJane is, but I like her. And I sure as hell like dogs more than I like people. Dogs not only have sensitive noses, but they are keen judges of character too. Start the dogs to sniffing politician's crotches. You first, Obama.


I have to admit that Tam noticed something that even cynical me missed. Here's Tam's take:



What you mean "us", Kemosabe?


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sweet Land Of Liberty

Right Wing - Send the army to string up barb-wire, close the borders and shoot brown people. Then scour the land to find and deport "illegals". If a foreigner wants to move here, let him jump through flaming hoops of fire and speak impeccable slang English and look, act, talk, walk, and worship at the same church as any knuckledragger in America. Is it too much to ask a brown person, upon being stopped by the po-lice, to recite the Constitution backwards?

Left Wing - Let the illegals take part in the great socialistic experiment that is America. Let them enjoy free overcrowded government-indoctrination schools, 8-hour waits at hospital emergency rooms, the prestige of food stamps, government-subsidized slum-housing; and joy-of-joys, someday their citizen-children might realize the American Dream of being plundered just like a real American.

I lean neither right nor left, but at my own stylish angle. A man oughta be able to live any-damn-where he wants to on this planet, and anyone who tells him otherwise oughta get his ass kicked. There. I said it.

Call Of Duty--Modern Class Warfare In The Land Of We

The wealthy Americans we should worry about instead are the ones who implicitly won the election — those who take far more from America than they give back.

... the superrich who have gotten spectacularly richer over the last four decades while their fellow citizens either treaded water or lost ground.

The top 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s pretax income in 2007 ...

... the dry accounting of what the cost[of "Bush tax cuts"] would add to the federal deficit. ... can we afford to borrow $700 billion?

Sometimes, Frank Rich can be a thoughtful writer. This particular article is a shoddy piece of work. Yes, I know that these snippets are taken out of their context, but pay attention to his words. There will be a test. 

First, the title of his article, Who Will Stand Up to the Superrich?, implies that these deep pocket sumbitches are an affront to us all. I'm not in awe of, nor insulted by, their existence.

"...those who take far more from America than they give back..." and " 1 percent of American earners took in 23.5 percent of the nation’s...income..." imply that wealth in America is a static quantity, something to be chopped up and distributed, if only "we" had more "power" to seize their wealth. Ayn Rand noted that it is an American expression to "create wealth". Being rich is subjective. Today it's billionaires, but if "we" ever get that "power", perhaps tomorrow, you, Mr. Middle Class, might be "rich". Carpenter shudders at a glimpse of a possible future.

"...can we afford to borrow $700 billion?" How indeed will we finance this "tax cut"? What's implied here is that future earnings of the wealthy are already "our" property. Wrap your head around that one.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The People Have Spoken. So There.

I believe that all government is evil, in that all government must necessarily make war upon liberty and the democratic form is as bad as any of the other forms.

H. L. Mencken

It's easy to let others grow our food or build our vehicles. I carpenter for people whose time is better spent working on their own specialty. It makes sense to specialize. If I had to eat only what I could grow or butcher, I'd probably starve. But each of us mostly chooses which specialties to farm out and which to retain, except for the production of security. Our government has a monopoly on that production. Sadly, our government has, with the limitless power of that monopoly, branched out into charity, medicine, retirement income--even building cars and mortgaging homes. Tea-bag all you want, tyranny is here and it ain't going away.


Understanding In America

Why should we bother to reply to Kautski? He would reply to us, and we would have to reply to his reply. There’s no end to that. It will be quite enough for us to announce that Kautski is a traitor to the working class, and everyone will understand everything.

V. I. Lenin

I was listening to BBC News on the drive to work the other day. The gist of the news was that in the US military's attempts to drive the Taliban out of farming communities in Afghanistan with the use of machine guns and bombs, the Afghan people are also being driven out. The poor farmers gather their remaining family, desert their bombed-out farms, and head for the nearest city to try to make a living.

So how do you differentiate between regular Afghan citizens and the Taliban (or Al-Queda)? Simple. Just call all of them Taliban and everyone will understand everything.

Yo Dawg, We Heard You Liked Liberty

Tyranny is always and everywhere the same, while freedom is always various. The well and truly enslaved are dependable; we know what they will say and think and do. The free are quirky. Tyrannies may be overt and violent or covert and insidious, but they all require the same thing, a subject population in which the power of thought is occluded and the power of deed brought low.

Richard Mitchell

We hardly knew ye, Richard, and now you're gone.

One of the most damning things about freedom is its quirkyness. If you're not confidant in your ability to make it on your own steam, then freedom is a scary thought, irrespective of assurances from free market advocates that freedom equals prosperity. Does it? Maybe, but aside from the carrot of prosperity, wouldn't a quirky world be more interesting than dull, gray tyranny? Would a few safety nets mixed in with freedom strike an ideal balance between freedom and slavery? Nope, because there's never enough plunder to keep up with people who want to live at the expense of others.

America has a strange paradox. We need welfare, in all its multiplying forms, because we don't have freedom to earn a living. We need Social Security because we are robbed of anything we might save. We need Medicare because increasingly-rigid control of medicine has made it unaffordable. Ad infinitum.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Chem Trails and Vapor Trails

H/T to David Dees.

What's the difference between a water vapor trail and a chem trail, you ask? Vapor trails disappear fairly quickly, but chem trails keep spreading out. I don't know the chemical content of chem trails, but it's probably nothing you want to breathe in. Call it a hunch.

Tin foil time. Thanks to David Dees for these pictures. For more of his work, go Here.

Are you snugging up that aluminum chapeau yet?

Mum's the word. Remember, loose lips sink dictatorships.


Saturday, October 30, 2010

Of Clouds and Chem Trails

Some purty clouds.

These are chem trails, which differ from vapor trails. Put on your Reynolds Wrap Sombrero and we'll discuss the difference.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

What She Said

If you only read people who share your opinions, if you only hear from the folks who think just like you, you will be living in a narrow, colorless and ultimately stupid world, no matter what your ideology.

Roberta X

Carpenter concurs. Go read more of Bobbi's words here.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Modest Proposal

Let's conquer Mexico and add it to the United States.

  1. We already swiped Texas to California from Mexico. Why not "complete the mission"?
  2. No more illegal alien problem. The second that all the Mexicans became citizens of a US possession, they would also become taxpayers. And since the majority of Mexicans are young right now, they can pay the Medicare and Social Security tab.  Is that great or what?
  3. We'd have a whole new cesspool of corruption and poverty to throw borrowed money at and "fix".
  4. While our troops are busy "defending America", they could take great vacations in some beautiful resort towns.
  5. I heard they have oil down there. Call Halliburton.
  6. It would add some really nice beachfront property to the assessor's tax rolls.
  7. No worries about "insurgents". The worst that could happen is that a pissed-off former Mexican might trim your bushes crooked on purpose.

I can't see any objections or negatives here. Politicians should jump all over this.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shooty Goodness, Arizona Style

Since Bobbi and Tam were having so much fun this weekend, Mrs. UC and I likewise exercised our 2nd amendment rights.

The mission: to ventilate these plastic containers on a still Sunday morning in the Arizona desert.

The Smith & Wesson 44 magnum has a little kick and always raises up after a shot. I have a pry-it-from-my-cold-dead-fingers kinda love for this gun.

This is my Grandmother's 16 gauge shotgun.

Mrs. UC clicks off a few with her S&W .38 Special.

My Sweetie shows good form while clearing a stovepipe malf on her Glock 9 mm--notice her finger is off the trigger. Just one of the reasons I love her.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Playing With Block Quotes

To the man with an ear for verbal delicacies — the man who searches painfully for the perfect word, and puts the way of saying a thing above the thing said — there is in writing the constant joy of sudden discovery, of happy accident.

H. L. Mencken

This is just experimentation. Pay no attention. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Star Shots

Mrs. UC took some pictures this morning. This is a shot of the constellation of Orion. Click to embiggen.

A piece of our house in this photo of the star cluster Pleiades, the Seven Sisters. At this time of morning, it's almost directly overhead.



All the trouble in the world, and no shortage of Moses's wanting to lead us out of said trouble.

Richard Mitchell described the goal of a true education, the ability to choose the better from the worse. Seems simple enough, but that choosing can only happen in a mind, a mind quietly asking and answering in turn. Mitchell wrote about "moments" of education, looking-up-from-the-page-and-wondering moments.

The ills of this world will not be solved loudly, e.g., wars, talk-radio, speeches from "leaders". You and I will quietly settle this and let the world continue its shouting match.

Comment Section

Jim from RangerAgainstWar emailed me last week to ask why I commented on one of his posts and not on the one he thought was better. I sat and thought about it. What catches my commenting attention isn't at all predictable. Sometimes it's the overall idea; sometimes just a cleverly-worded sentence; sometimes just to say hey-I'm-out-here-and-I-read-your-blog.

I comment sparingly on posts because I'm loathe to seem a toady. I've seen some blogs where the same fellow comments on every post to the point of nausea. Sometimes I'll want to comment on a post, but I don't, because my comment will be lost among the high number of comments. Some bloggers can write "I went to lunch today" and get 62 comments. Others will sweat over a masterpiece of eloquence and wit, and not receive a single comment.

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
Lord Bacon
Keep on bloggin', dudes and dudettes.


Some Thoughts On Safety

This is Mike. He's modeling a fall-protection system called a retractable lanyard. We call them retracts or yo-yo's, and they are an enormous pain-in-the-ass. Imagine 20 carpenters all trying to work on the same deck area with 20 yo-yo's. But here's the beauty part: Safety rules require lanyard tie-off if you are over 6 feet above ground, and most retracts are 50-footers--got the picture? Yep, it's that stupid. In this picture, Mike is about 15 feet above ground and his yo-yo is fully extended to its 50-foot length. All that retractable does is slow him down, but if he is caught without the damn thing, it's automatic termination.

Yours truly was "suspended" from work for one day last week. His crime? Walking past some red danger tape. Guilty as charged. At the time it seemed the safest way to get from point A to point B, but the superintendent would hear none of it. I enjoyed the day off and was glad the suspension wasn't permanent.

Carpenter's question-of-the-day: Does it make sense to spend millions on production-losing rules and bullshit "devices" to save the even higher cost of insurance and lawsuit? We could unwrap that one all day long and still have leftovers to last the week.

When rules overrule judgement, does individual responsibility vanish? Do carpenters quit thinking about the safest way to do something and just robotically follow the rules? Should safety rules play to the lowest common denominator, or should natural selection have a hand in who keeps working?

Saturday, October 9, 2010


What if you were an inmate in a prison, and you were hatin' life? You decide to make a break for it and try to enlist some of your buddies to join you in your great escape. But they aren't interested; they like the prison system and just want to change it a bit to better suit their needs. One of your friends thinks that the cafeteria should have a better selection of food; one thinks the gym should be open longer; another wants more books in the library. The inmates elected a new warden and replaced some corrupt guards, but strangely, their hoped-for change didn't happen. You try to explain to your fellow prisoners about the animating contest of freedom, but the homeboys ain't buying it--no, no, too scary, they're used to the "services" that the prison provides. Is everyone here insane, you wonder. You feel lonelier than ever.