Category: astronomy

Tues. Jun. 18, 2024 – starting at the BOL but ending at home

Hot again, with a chance of rain. It was crazy hot in the sun yesterday. I took my time, and went inside to cool down for an hour after working for a while. It was nice when the sun went down. Today should be the same if it doesn’t rain here. Houston had rain, areas around here had rain, but we didn’t get any and might not today either.

I got a late start, but I attacked several of the tree issues. I used a rope saw (chainsaw blade in the middle of two ropes) to cut down the huge dead branch of the tree closest to the house. It’s been worrying me for 2 years. It came down WAY too easy. Spent the rest of the day cutting that up and doing some trimming and cutting in other trees around the house. I got most of the ‘widow makers’ down, but there are couple hanging on, but not over the stairs to the yard.

I used the lawn mower with a trailer to move the logs and branches. Stacked some, burned a lot. Threw about a third of the “dry stuff” burn pile on the fire too. Big pile of coals, and there will be bushels of ash. Maybe I’ll add the ash to the garden plot. Can’t hurt, right?

Today I’ll do my wrap up in the morning and try to be homeward bound by noon or earlier. I’ve got pickups in Houston at 2pm. Wife will work remotely, then head home with the kids when she’s done. Starlink is working out well for her. I’d stay if it wasn’t for the pickups. One of the lots was 500 count of needful things, and several of the lots will be good additions to the BOL.

Chatted with my buddy and he’s continuing to pick and pack the purple hull peas. I think he said we were up to 17 quarts and they still have blooms, so we’ll get more. The experience is eye opening wrt the amount of space a real food garden takes without a lot of tricks. I’ll have to put some more thought into our fall garden. It would be nice to have something grow besides peas. (he loves them)

I think I need to buy some fresher seeds too.

There’s always something, and many of the things have steep learning curves. Hunting, fishing, and gardening are among the steepest, and considering the importance of food, it’s past time to start climbing the curve if you aren’t already on it. Since I suck at all three, I’ll keep stacking food.

Stack some for you and your dependents…


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Sat. May 27, 2023 – a beautiful day

Cool but clear, 68F when I went to bed, and I’m expecting the same when I wake this am.  Damp, of course.   It was 82F in Houston last night, but only 72F on the water.   Sunny and hot during the day.  I think today will likely be the same.

Yesterday was weird.   I was feeling stressed and disconnected all morning.  Make several errors that I don’t usually make.  Took forever to get out of town, and then there were half a dozen accidents, one serious, on the way to the BOL.  Oh, and a grass fire on the freeway right of way too.   Heavy traffic in the usual places.

But I finally got here, and it was beautiful.   So I cut the grass.   Broke the mower.   I’ll fix it.   There is a bushing on the steering column that keeps the gears in alignment that was so worn the gear stripped a little bit.    It wasn’t a problem until it was…   No way to lube it, so I’m thinking it normally outlasts the mower.  Not in this case.   If I can find the part, I can easily replace it.  The damaged gear on the column is a bit harder.   I can shim it (remove the end play) and use a different part of the gear to contact the rack, if the bushing will hold it in alignment.

If I can’t find the part, it will be easy enough to make a replacement.   I’ll clean up the gear as best I can, and run with that.  It’s always something.   Worst case, I buy a new mower.  This one came with the house (we did buy it, but at a pretty good discount.  I would like to get some more use from it if possible.)

We did have a fire and roast s’mores.   Conditions were variable low clouds, so no observing.   Maybe tonight.   Shortwave had a lot of fading and noise.   Still nice to sit by the fire and listen to rock and roll oldies.

X1 is with us for the weekend and seems to be coming out of her shell a bit.  She wasn’t shy but there was a reserve.  She seems more natural this weekend.  Hope it’s helping.  Kids and wife were all in the water and out on the kayaks, so that was nice.    I can’t imagine we’ll get too many more weekends that aren’t sticky hot before summer starts in earnest.

My plan for the day is projects.  Always projects.   And maybe a little fishing.

Stacking up skills.   Do something this week you wouldn’t normally do.  Especially if it’s fixing something, cooking something, or learning something.


Lot of people here for the long weekend.  I hope to meet some more of the neighbors.   Meatspace, and meet-space.




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Sun. Mar. 19, 2023 – Headed back home, stuff to do there too

Cold this morning.   40F or less.   It stayed cold all day yesterday and the sun only poked through for a short time in the afternoon.  Whatever today ends up being, if it doesn’t rain, I’ll be happy.

Got some small stuff done.  Finished weed-wacking my property and the HOA lot.   Picked up trash along the shore and the community dock.  I hate litter and it doesn’t take long.   Put up another flag pole holder.   Lot of visible patriotism up here.  It’s nice to see.

Helped stand up a 50ft antenna tower and learned a few new things.

Our guests had headed home while I was out, but they had a good time.   It was nice to have people here to share with, and nice to see D2 having fun with a friend.   If it was just a bit warmer, it would have been even better.   Can’t control the weather, I’m not a Bildeburg after all… 😉

Today will be wrapping up everything, getting ready to head home.   If I can cut the grass again, I will.    Some of it was so long it basically got flattened rather than cut.   I don’t want to leave it long for next visit.   There are a couple more smaller projects I can get knocked out too if I’m motivated.

I will say that cold HURTS.   My fingers, knees, nose, ears, and lower back are always sore in the cold.   Still as Kurt Cobain said, the pain lets us know we’re alive.   This weekend I was ALIVE.

Stack up some meatspace people and skills.   Build relationships while people are still open to them.  They won’t be if things get bad, and who you know, and who knows YOU will be very important.



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Sat. Mar. 18, 2023 – meatspace baby

Cool, but clear.   Damp, well that’s a given.  Cleared up yesterday and dried out a bit.  I was able to do some work in the sun in shirtsleeves, but it got chilly when the sun went down.

While it was up though, I got some work done.   Got the remainder of the grass mowed.   Got the loose deck boards screwed down on the dock.    Installed white and red rope lights around the edge of the dock.   Put them between the slats on the benches.   Standing, you see them and they mark the edge of the bench and the dock, seated, you only see the glow cast under the benches, but it’s enough to move around, and know where the edges are.   The red is specifically for any astronomy nights.

Spent some time repairing two of my patio heaters.   They wouldn’t stay lit, which suggested thermocouple issues.   Cleaning with a fine sandpaper is usually enough, and that worked on one unit.    The other turned out that the t-couple nut was loose.  Tightened that and it worked fine.   Just in time to provide some much needed heat for movie night.

Found a few minutes to sight in the finder scope on my wife’s 8″ dob.  Unfortunately last night was overcast.   Maybe tonight it will clear up.

Couldn’t do the annual service on my mower because I still haven’t brought a complete tool kit up here.   I needed a socket driver extension to get to the wheel and oil drain bolts.  Oh well, next time.

I finished my mowing anyway, and then did the HOA lot next door.  Part of the community, solid citizen, all around good guy, that’s me.

Speaking of which, I’ll be headed to a not quite a neighbor’s house on the lake this afternoon to help with an antenna tower raising.   More meatspace, more networking.  More finding my place.

Go forth and help someone.  Stack up some community.  We’re all gonna need friends, come the day.


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Wed. Feb. 8, 2023 – Hey Joe, where ya goin’ with that gun in your hand..

Dare I say “warm” today?  It was 69F when I went to bed and that is arguably “warm”.   So lets go with that- warm and wet today.  Overcast and rain possible.  Yesterday was “warm” and certainly damp.   Overcast and mixed clouds until dusk then misty drizzle for a while.  Yuck.

Did some pickups, won some items, dropped off about 30 pounds of lego at the auctioneer.   I put it in gallon ziplok bags, each about 1 pound.     I tried for a mix of small pieces, minifigs, and bigger plates.   I also tried to keep stuff that should be together as a kit together.   Since I scooped it out of surplus bins, that last part is kind of hit or miss.  🙂   I’m hoping to do better than just the bulk rate of about $8/pound.   If it sells well, I’ll package another 30-50 pounds for the next auction.

One of the pickups was an equatorial mount for a telescope.   It’s a bit smaller than I thought, but seems nice enough.   It’s sturdy and the ‘scopes are light.   The limits are probably going to be whatever kind of mounting plate I figure out, and how sturdy the tripod ends up  being.   Tripod is definitely a deficiency with the cheap chinese ‘scopes, every one I’ve seen was very flimsy.   Fortunately I’ve got a dozen surveyor type tripods that are very sturdy and I think I can figure a way to mod one of them into something suitable.   Oh, and the mount has a little motor drive that is optional (it’s essentially a friction drive for the knob) and eventually it would be nice to figure out how to power and control that.  Projects.  I just can’t help myself.

For that matter, it would be nice to find the computer control for the little table top Meade ‘scope, then we could use that to “steer” us to an object, and look at it through the bigger ‘scope…   or maybe that’s all too  much fussing.   Dunno.   Very new to the whole thing.   We’ll figure it out.

Today, I need to keep knocking some stuff off the list.   I really haven’t been feeling it, but sometimes you just have to power through.   Getting a bit more sleep will help.    Actually getting stuff done helps with a virtuous feedback loop.

There’s an old saying that if you want something done, give the job to a busy man.   That only works to a point though.   The trick is staying under the saturation point.    Prepping is like that.   When you do it, and it works, you want to do more…   but sometimes you  just can’t muster the effort.   It’s ok.  It happens.   Move on, get back to it, and stack some stuff.



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Wed. Dec. 7, 2022 – “a date which will live in infamy”

Warm-ish but certainly damp.  And probably overcast for half the day.   Tuesday shaped up nicely by mid-afternoon.  It would be nice if today was clear from the start…

I didn’t get what I wanted to do done.   Had to pick up the kids from school in the afternoon, and that put the whole day’s tasks off.   Most of them will happen today.

Kid’s bus driver will be changing the route again, to pick up my kids earlier.   They won’t dig that, as I can barely get them out the door for the later bus.  Oh well.  It builds character, right?

School year is winding down, and the teachers are already starting to coast to the finish line.  D1’s spanish class is watching movies instead of starting more work.   They have finals next week and the teacher obviously didn’t stretch enough to get the timing just right.  Without books or a syllabus, it’s pretty hard to know what they should be doing anyway, which is the point, I think.

I did get some sorting done, and some stuff ready for Christmas presents.  I think I’ve got most everyone covered, I just have to actually get the stuff out and tagged.  I should do that while there is still time to correct any deficiencies.

Anyone have an opinion about me getting my wife a subscription to Astronomy magazine?    I found a couple of years of recent back issues at Goodwill to give her, but it would be nice to continue with a subscription if it would be helpful to a complete novice, who mostly wants to look at stuff in the sky, not white dots in a particular arrangement… or maybe recommend something very beginner, like how to align your scope to make viewing easier, what sort of things to look at, etc.  It should be something that would excite an interest.

So much to do before the end of the year.  So little motivation.   It’s a grind.  But it needs to be done.

Keep stacking, keep the faith.


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Fri. Oct. 30, 2020 – Tired. Very tired. But awake and engaged!

Cool and maybe sunny?  Windy and damp to a high degree of certainty.  50F when I went to bed.

Most of yesterday was sunny and windy in the 50s and 60s F.  I half froze cleaning the leaves out of the pool 🙂

I got a bunch of little things done yesterday.  Nothing worth writing home about, or indeed, writing here about.

I was tired and falling asleep in my chair all day. I got to bed late and didn’t sleep well.   I am hoping today will be better.

Still planning to do mostly Halloween prep.   I’ve got a few more things to put out, and the new stuff to pull together.  Child two needs additional work on her CV costume.  And all the normal stuff needs doin’…

So I better get going.


(use this time wisely, and keep stacking)

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Friday, 13 February 2015

08:51 – Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month. Barbara’s recovery continues. She’ll continue practicing driving over the next few days before returning to work on Monday. I just got back from walking Colin. It’s 23F (-5C) with a stiff breeze.

Congratulations to our friend Steve Childers, who just completed the Herschel 400 list. Barbara and I started working this list more than ten years ago, but quickly gave up on it. From our light-polluted region and using only a 10-inch telescope, it quickly became obvious that we had no chance at bagging all 400 objects on this list. Even the brighter objects were extremely difficult to see. Steve’s 17.5-inch telescope gave him a chance at bagging all 400 objects on the list, but even with three times the light gathering ability of our 10-inch it must have been extremely challenging, to put it mildly. But Steve’s persistence over the last ten years or so let him get it done. Steve joins a very small group of amateur astronomers who have successfully observed and logged all 400 of these objects.

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Monday, 18 November 2013

09:13 – The high today is to be 68F (20C), but that’s the last of the warm weather for a few days. Tonight is to be below freezing.

Meanwhile, there are not one but two comets visible in the pre-dawn sky, ISON and Lovejoy. ISON is very low in the east, and Lovejoy, which is nearly as bright, is considerably higher. Here are finder charts for the two of them. ISON is currently a dim naked-eye object, around fifth magnitude. Both are visible with binoculars. ISON has been hyped as the comet of the century, possibly to be visible during the day. We’ll see what happens. I remember Kohoutek, back when I was in college. It was touted as comet of the century, to be visible during the day. Technically, that was true. At maximum brightness, Kohoutek was brighter than Jupiter, which is visible during the day, if you know exactly where to look for it. But the implication of the news reports at the time was that Kohoutek would be as bright as the moon, which is 12 or 15 magnitudes brighter than Kohoutek turned out to be. Personally, I think these comets are a sign, sent to tell the world that Obamacare is a disaster.

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Wednesday, 7 March 2012

08:18 – Barring a miracle, it looks like Romney will take on Obama in November. Paul never had any real chance, and he knew it. Romney is a horrible choice, but at least he’s not as bad as the contemptible Gingrich. And neither of them are remotely as bad as the Ayatollah Santorum. If I were forced to choose between Obama and Santorum, I’d vote for Obama. What has the American electorate done to deserve only choices like these?

Paul Jones has a new toy. “Bought a Coronado PST in preparation for the transit (and, just ’cause). Here is a shot from this morning.  -Paul”

The Coronado PST is a small telescope that’s specialized for Solar observation. It blocks all of the light except the H-α wavelength, revealing details that are otherwise invisible. The transit Paul refers to is the transit of Venus across the Solar disk. Venus transits occur in pairs separated by eight years. The last was on 8 June 2004. We tried to observe that one, but were clouded out despite chasing it across two states. The next is on 6 June this year. Paul hopes to view that one, because the next one won’t occur until he’s 146 years old.

12:21 – Well, for anyone who’s keeping tabs on the Greek “voluntary” debt swap, with only about 24 hours left until the deadline we’re currently at 40.8% of the eligible debt being held by those who have approved the deal. The absolute minimum required is 66%. Less than that, and Greece won’t go ahead with the deal, which means a catastrophic default on 20 March. If holders of between 66% and 90% agree to the deal, Greece will enforce its so-called Collective Action Clauses to force all holders to accept the deal. Once again, that means catastrophic default. Only if more than 90% of debt holders agree will things proceed without the CACs being triggered. It’s unclear at this point what would happen to the < 10% of debt held by hold-outs. In theory, Greece could avoid formal default by paying off those bonds at face value, but the chances of that happening (or of the 90% level being reached) is so close to zero as not to matter. The real bitch is that even if the 90% level is reached, it's still insufficient to meet the terms required for the bailout to proceed. So, no matter what happens, Greece is going to default, one way or another. The next few weeks are going to be exciting.

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