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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.