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Week of 1 November 2010


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Monday, 1 November 2010
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09:30 - Barbara is due back this afternoon. Malcolm and I can't wait.

Paul Jones called last night, just as I was almost finished watching the final episode of series 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He'd set up his 8" SCT in the front yard to image Jupiter, and invited me over to watch. He was using an adapted webcam, which he tells me is the equivalent of about a 5mm eyepiece in terms of magnification. With the SCT's 2030mm focal length, that amounts to about 400X magnification with just the webcam. He was also using his 1.8X Barlow, for about 730X, or my 3X Barlow, for about 1,200X.

Optically, even 400X is pushing it for 8" of aperture, or about 50X per inch. That's on the edge of what astronomers call empty magnification, which is the point where additional magnification makes the image scale larger but does not reveal any additional detail. In this case, though, empty magnification is acceptable, because Paul was trying to get image scale large enough to cover as much of the sensor as possible. The downside of that is that it makes it very difficult to get the object into the field of view. With my 3X Barlow in place, the true field of view was less than 2 arcminutes. Jupiter, at about 1 arcminute (1/60th of a degree) in apparent angular size, filled much of the frame. (For comparison, the full Moon has an apparent angular size of about 30 arcminutes, so the true field of view was about 1/15 of the Moon's diameter or roughly 0.4% of the Moon's surface area. Try finding anything with a field that narrow.)

Focusing was also a problem. It's very difficult to focus on Jupiter itself, because it's very low-contrast. There aren't any sharp edges or lines to focus on. So Paul was focusing on one of Jupiter's moons, which provides what amounts to nearly a point source to focus on. The problem is, even though Jupiter's moons are relatively close to Jupiter, they're still far outside a 2-arcminute field of view. So, if Paul got a moon in the field to focus the scope, he then had to find Jupiter again, which is much harder than it sounds.

I'm still working on the microchemistry kits.


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Tuesday, 2 November 2010
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08:14 - I'm dithering about whether or not to vote. Pournelle says this is the most important election in living memory, and he may be right. The problem is that there's no "none of the above" option on the ballot. I'd like to drive stakes through the hearts of the Democrats, but at the same time I don't want the Republicans to think they're any better. Neither party is fit to serve. I suppose the best we can hope for is gridlock.

I don't doubt that the Republicans will make massive gains today, but we really need some way to send them a message: "We hate you, but we hate you just a tiny smidgen less than we hate the Democrats. We wish all of you would eat shit and die." Otherwise, the Republicans are likely to believe their gains are some sort of mandate.

I suppose I will go and vote.



10:38 - I just got back from voting. If our precinct is any indication at all, this election will be a bloodbath for the Democrats. I always head over to vote around 10:00 a.m., because it's generally least busy around then. In prior off-year elections, I might have been voter number 65 or 70. This time, I was number 190.

Ironically, a high turnout is generally good for the Democrats. This time, I think it means disaster for them. All that extra turnout is pissed-off voters. They'd like to hand Obama his head, but since that's not an option they'll take out their rage on any Democrat whose name appears on the ballot. My guess is that the House will be Republican after this election. It's even possible the Senate will change hands. I hope so. Anything we can do to handcuff Obama is a very good thing. I hope Obama has a heart attack when he sees the election returns. Biden would be a shitty president, but he couldn't possibly be as bad as Obama.

I hope the Republicans take this election for what it really means. They're being elected to repeal ObamaCare and stop the bailouts and other corporate welfare dead. If the Republicans do take control, they'll have some pretty high expectations to meet. Obama's veto looms, of course, but we can hope that Democrats who want to remain in office will realize that they'd better vote to override any Obama vetoes. We can at least hope that this is the Left's last gasp.


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Wednesday, 3 November 2010
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09:43 - Well, that was certainly a bloodbath by anyone's definition. The electorate has definitively told Obama and his party to eat shit and die. Much is being made of Republican gains in the US House and Senate, but the state level gains may be just as important. As one example, North Carolina now has Republicans in control of both the State House and Senate. The last time that happened was in 1870, AKA Reconstruction. Those newly Republican state congresses will be the ones defining new US Congressional districts after the census, so you can bet most of those new Congressional districts will elect Republicans and most of the districts being eliminated will be those held by Democrats.

What's not being mentioned much in the news reports is the shift to the right among newly elected Democrats. For example, West Virginia elected a Democrat, the former governor, to their vacant Senate seat, but that new Senator is by no means friendly to Obama and his agenda. In short, I think a lot of Democrats are likely to be voting with the Republicans against Obama's programs. Frankly, I was hoping although not really expecting the Republicans to take control of the Senate as well as the House. But the actual results may be nearly as good. It's pretty clear that not only will Obama not be able to force through any more of his far-left programs, but that those programs that he has already forced through will now be facing a hostile Congress.

If these newly-elected Republicans--as well as those Democrats that managed to hang on--know what's good for them, they'll go to work immediately on taking a meat axe to taxes and spending, chopping regulations wholesale, and repealing ObamaCare. If they don't make dramatic progress on all these things by 2012, they'll be unemployed. And they know it.

The parting on the right is now a parting on the left.


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Thursday, 4 November 2010
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Friday, 5 November 2010
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08:25 - Some editors are more clueless than others. The victim, Monica Gaudio, wrote an article and posted it on her web site. Cooks Source (sic) magazine, a for-profit publication, used the article without permission or payment. The author contacted the magazine to demand an apology and a small donation to a non-profit as compensation for their use of the article. Here, in part, is the reply that Ms. Gaudio received from Judith Griggs, the editor of Cooks Source.

"Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was "my bad" indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered "public domain" and you should be happy we just didn't "lift" your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me... ALWAYS for free!"

I sincerely hope that Ms. Gaudio sues Cooks Source for copyright infringement and is awarded statutory damages. Just the editor's email response should make the case a slam dunk. If Jammie Thomas can have a $1.5 million judgment entered against her for non-commercial copyright infringement of a few audio tracks, it's only reasonable that Cooks Source pay a heavy price for its actions and attitude.

Of course, that's not going to happen. The copyright system is designed for the benefit of corporations, not to protect the actual authors. That's only to be expected, since corporations can pay the lawyers and have bought and paid for most of the politicians and judges.



13:26 - O'Reilly just emailed me to say that the third edition of Building the Perfect PC is off to the printers and due in bookstores on 1 December. As usual, Amazon has Barbara as the sole author. Their rule appears to be that if Barbara and I write a book, Barbara is the author. If I write a book, I'm the author. Barbara is horrified. I think it's funny. To be fair, Barnes & Noble has me as the sole author. The difference is, B&N will notice the problem and fix it eventually. Amazon won't.

I'm a very unusual author. Most authors treat their books like children. They cheer them on and follow their Amazon sales rank. They're elated if the book does well and depressed by every dip in sales from day to day. I, on the other hand, am more like a salmon. When I finish a book, that's it. I've done my job as well as I can do it, and whether the book succeeds or fails is out of my control. Once the book goes to the printer, I pretty much forget about it. I concentrate on the next project.

Which is what I'm concentrating on now. The microchemistry kit manual has my attention now and will until it's finished.


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Saturday, 8 November 2010
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09:58 - Interesting article in this morning's paper, listing the top zip codes in North Carolina for contributions to federal-level election campaigns. With a population close to a quarter million, Winston-Salem is the fourth or fifth largest city in North Carolina, but we're apparently quite generous in funding election campaigns for federal office. Winston-Salem zipcode 27104 was the number one zipcode in North Carolina for campaign contributions. Our own zipcode, 27106, which adjoins 27104, was number four statewide, and was only $5,000 short of being number three.


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Sunday, 7 November 2010
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