Tuesday, August 29, 2006

News Release

Heritage Park Observatory Receives New Telescope

Cedar Park, TX (Special)—The Heritage Park Observatory announced Monday the acquisition of their newest telescope, an achromatic 80-millimeter refractor. Commonly referred to as a "short tube 80" or ST80, this telescope increases the observatory's capabilities, according to Chief Astronomer Jeffrey Phillips.

"I'm excited about the new possibilities the ST80 brings to our facility," said Phillips. "We'll be able to observe sixteen times as much of the sky with this low-power, wide-field instrument. It's a great complement to the observatory's existing ten-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope. Plus, the blue color is nearly an identical match to the LX200."

The ST80 has a focal ratio of f/5, with a focal length of 400 millimeters. It is attached to the LX200 with a "piggyback" rail and adjustable rings. The telescope was purchased from JAT Observatory in Fairless Hills, PA.

Along with the telescope, the observatory received its first significant rainfall in nearly seven weeks.

Monday, August 28, 2006

More Proof That Katherine Harris is a Whackaloon

MIAMI, Florida (AP) -- U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris told a religious journal that separation of church and state is "a lie" and God and the nation's founding fathers did not intend the country be "a nation of secular laws."

The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will "legislate sin," including abortion and gay marriage.

I guess that a basic course in U.S. history isn't required to run for Congress.

<Edit> Apparently, I'm not alone.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Tom DeLay's Lawyers

Lawyers: Scrap the DeLay-related indictments
GOP operatives say state law is too confusing.

By Laylan Copelin
Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The law that helped drive U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay from office and put two of his allies under criminal indictment can't be understood by the "man in the street," defense lawyers argued this morning.

Lawyers for Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, two DeLay lieutenants who operated Texans for a Republican Majority during the 2002 campaign, argued that the 3rd Court of Appeals should throw out indictments brought against their clients because the state's ban on corporate campaign money is confusing.

These are the guys I'm going to call when the IRS comes after me for not filing, because there's no way in hell the tax code can be understood by the "man in the street."

Thursday, August 17, 2006


That's the Trifid Nebula, M20, at the top, the Lagoon Nebula, M8, in the center, and a portion of the Milky Way, lower left.

12 x 30 seconds @ f/6.3 through the 100mm Canon macro lens, riding piggyback on top of the LX200.

The Trifid Nebula, M20

Same setup as M8, except 12 x 30 sec. exposures, and binned 4:1 in processing.

The Lagoon Nebula, M8

The Lagoon is one of my favorite summer objects. It's a nice combination of open cluster and diffuse nebula. Click for a larger image.

Shot from the Heritage Park Observatory. Meade 10" LX200, f/6.3 focal reducer, Canon Digital Rebel XT @ ISO 800. 24 x 30 seconds unguided. Levels stretched in Photoshop.

A little blobby, but I'm pretty happy with this unguided shot.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


I kind of miss working on the jewelry store account sometimes.

Cool Clouds

Click for a larger image.

First Day of School

Wow, was that a lot different than last year! We had to hold Ian back until the bus stopped and opened the doors for him to get on.

We went to the school open house last night, and when we went around the corner to Ian's classroom, he saw his teacher and went running up to her and gave her a big hug. I have high hopes for the year.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Joke I Found on the Internet

A stupid question deserves an appropriate answer....

I was in Wal-Mart buying a large bag of Purina for my Golden Retriever and was in line to check out.

A woman behind me asked if I had a dog.

On impulse, I told her that no, I was starting The Purina Diet again, although I probably shouldn't because I'd ended up in the hospital last time, but that I'd lost 50 pounds before I awakened in an intensive care ward with tubes coming out of most of my orifices and IVs in both arms.

I told her that it was essentially a perfect diet and that the way that it works is to load your pants pockets with Purina nuggets and simply eat one or two every time you feel hungry & that the food is nutritionally complete so I was going to try it again.

I have to mention here that practically everyone in the line was by now enthralled with my story, particularly a tall guy behind her.

Horrified, she asked if I'd been poisoned and was that why I was in the hospital.

I said no..... I'd been sitting in the street licking my balls and a car hit me.

I thought the tall guy was going to have to be carried out the door.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Trouble Comes in Threes

I took the first week of July off from work with the hope of spending several nights in the observatory only to be thwarted by clouds. Fast-forward to the Sunday night before going back to work--I'm walking Buddy the Golden Retriever around the block when a pit bull comes out of his yard, crosses the street and bites Buddy twice, once on the back and once on the leg. The owner comes running and is trying to pull his dog off, I'm using unkind language about my intentions toward his dog, and finally get the pit off Buddy with a full-force kick to the side of his jaw, hard enough to lift him off the ground.

Buddy's recovered fine after a trip to the vet for stitches and antibiotics. CPPD and Animal Control paid the other guy a visit. I'm out $125 but am willing to walk away as long as I never see that animal again.

I'm jumping ahead, though. On the way home from work on Monday--it's already bad enough having to go back to work after a week off--I'm making a right turn at a traffic light. I'm stopped and looking over my left shoulder, and as soon as I look forward and start to go the car behind me rear-ends me. There's not much damage apparent, but we swap info anyway. I wait it out for APD, all the while angry that I'm now dealing with two police departments on two days. I HATE the culture of victimhood, and here I am, a victim twice over.

The other driver's insurance comes through, and I should have my own car back from the body shop any day now. That "little tap" is setting Farmer's Insurance back $800 plus a week of rental car.

At this point I was afraid to ask what else could go wrong. I really didn't want to find out, but alas. We started getting some outstanding nighttime weather, and I was in the observatory with the telescope, camera, new MacBook and a can of orange soda. Picture the scene: camera attached to the back of the scope, cable from camera to laptop curling around the soda can. Slew the telescope, cable pulls can over, soda spills, laptop dies. Jeff beats himself up for not acting on his original thought that maybe the soda might be better not sitting by the computer. Craptastic.

But, the extra $9 a month I pay on my homeowner's insurance for computer coverage came through. The hard drive in the Macbook was undamaged, so I was able to swap it right into a new machine. All is well.

So, that's my July. I've had worse, but it could have been better. In the end everything is pretty much as it started, so I can't really complain. But where would be the fun in that?