Thursday, October 30, 2008

The 5 Reasons Luke Skywalker Is a Complete Idiot

As found on the internet...

We all know Luke Skywalker as the main protagonist throughout the original Star Wars movies and onward into the novels of questionable quality. We all grew up wanting to be him—learning to use the Force, blowing up the Death Star, saving the galaxy. But the thing is, despite all his badass moments, he actually kind of sucks. Perhaps not as much as his father Anakin, but that could be due to Mark Hamill’s acting ability, in that he can act. Sure with the emotional music and all the screen time Luke Skywalker seems to be the hero, but really he’s an idiot who makes bad decisions and has a series of terrible ideas, and he's lucky it all kind of works out for him, his friends, and the Rebel Alliance in the end.

5) Trusting the Force to Help Him Blow Up the Death Star

I have never really figured out what was so special about Luke using the Force in attacking the first Death Star. As far as I could tell, it did nothing but give Darth Vader a slightly higher level of difficulty in blasting his X-Wing, which he seemed to aptly overcome as he blew up R2-D2, and proceeded to almost blow the crap out of Luke’s X-Wing had Han Solo not saved his ass with the Millennium Falcon. Some might say his use of the Force involved him turning off his targeting computer and trusting himself to shoot the exhaust port. If that’s using the Force then I am using the Force every time I turn off my cruise control in my car. I mean, they make targeting systems for a reason, Luke—and chances are, the Rebels would prefer to trust your X-Wing's highly sophisticated on-board computer than a mystical power you spent a few hours learning yesterday afternoon.

4) Refusing to Listen to the Only Living Jedi in the Galaxy

Luke gets a vision of his dead mentor Obi-Wan telling him to go to Dagobah to get training from the Jedi Master, Yoda. Luke obeys, goes out to Dagobah, finds Yoda, and then proceeds to ignore him at every important turn. Yoda tells him not to go into the scary cave with weapons, Luke doesn’t listen. Yoda gives him a lesson about overcoming great obstacles, and Luke doesn’t take it to heart, can’t lift his own X-Wing and gets all pissy. Yoda and the Ghost of Obi-Wan both tell him not to go running off to Bespin to save his friends as he’s going to endanger everything they fought for. Luke doesn’t listen, goes off to Bespin, helps nobody and gets his damn hand chopped off.

Well done, Luke. Why should “Obi-Wan coming back as a ghost to give important instructions” convey any significance to you? Why should not pay attention to the one muppet who knows how to use the Force? You're just a jerk who nearly turned into a Hoth-sicle—you surely know better than both of 'em!

3) His Insanely Stupid Plan To Rescue Han Solo from Jabba The Hutt

Let us imagine that Luke Skywalker is trying to tell you his plan to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.

Luke: "Okay so, first we get Lando Calrissian posing as a guard inside Jabba’s Palace."

You: "How do we do that?"

Luke: "We just get him a costume and he—just walks in."

You: "Um, okay, say it’s that easy. So then Lando gets Han out of the carbonite and we pick them up and get away?"

Luke: "No. What happens next is that I put my lightsaber in a hidden compartment in R2-D2 and send R2-D2 and C3PO to Jabba the Hutt as gifts."

You: "Wait, why-"

Luke: "Just listen. Next we have Leia pose as a bounty hunter arriving at Jabba’s palace with Chewbacca captured. She’s going to hand over Chewbacca to Jabba."

You: "Wait, why? Wouldn’t that mean we would now have to rescue Han Solo, Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C3PO? That just makes it more difficult, right?"

Luke: "Just go with me here. Next, Leia is going to sneak around at night and get Han Solo out of the carbonite, but get captured."

You: "What? Why would we get everyone captured like that?"

Luke: "Now I’ll show up, use my Force powers to get in to Jabba’s fortress, get past the guards to an audience before Jabba and then use my Jedi mind trick to get Jabba to release everyone. If that doesn’t work, then I’ll get captured."

You: "Okay, if you can just use your Force powers to get in to the palace and all the way to Jabba, then let's just have you go in right now and get Han out."

Luke: "No, that's stupid. I’m going to get myself captured. Because then you see, we’ll be taken to the sarlacc pit and then, when we’re on the skiff, I’ll get sent out first and then R2-D2 will manage to get to the top of Jabba’s sail barge and shoot out my lightsaber, and then with Lando’s help, we’ll just—rescue everyone and then everything will be fine!"

You: "That is the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard of."

Luke: "I’ve thought of everything."

You: "Clearly you didn’t."

2) Throwing Away His Lightsaber in Front of the Emperor

So Luke decides not to put his lightsaber through Darth Vader’s head once he realizes that he’s going along the same dark path as his father. So what does he do next? He tosses away his lightsaber and then proclaims to the Emperor that he is a Jedi. Thus, he has no way to defend himself when the Emperor blasts him with lightning and if it wasn’t for his Father saving his butt (please note how many times Luke gets saved by someone else) he would have been a charred piece of Tatooine bacon. Okay, yes, tossing away the lightsaber makes a definitive statement of renouncing Father-killing, but what did he think would happen other than the Emperor kicking his ass? Did Luke think that perhaps he would proclaim “I am a Jedi, like my father before me,” and the Emperor would suddenly shout “No! You are the purest good! I am nothing in the presence of your light!” and then fling himself backward into the chasm? Why didn’t Luke just try to give the Emperor a big hug and kisses and call him a ‘snookle bear.’ He’s a master of the Dark Side, so of course he’s going to kick your ass. Luke was warned not to underestimate the of course, he does exactly that.

1) Not Joining the Dark Side

No, seriously! Luke gets dumped on his whole life—his adoptive parents get killed, all his friends get injured or killed, the girl he falls in love with turns out to be his sister, his father turns out to be one of the most evil people in the galaxy, his hand gets cut off. Then he gets a chance to co-rule the galaxy. Who wouldn't take that offer at that point?

What has Luke had to look forward to after the original trilogy? Mostly trying to start up the whole Jedi Order by himself, which is a ton of work, and watching Han have almost constant sex with Leia. Between that and ruling with Vader, it's not unlike a choice between working in your local library and becoming President. Not really much of a choice there. And you can comment all you want about the Dark Side being a path to pain and suffering and a loss of humanity, but let’s face it—the Dark Side is simply cooler. Members of the Sith have neat custom lightsabers, get to slap everyone around, and just plain look cooler. For Halloween, how many Luke costumes do you see people wearing nowadays? Zero. How many Darth Vader costumes do you see? Still too many to count. Bad is good, baby.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wings Over Houston

Ian and I went to Houston Saturday with the Wades for the Wings Over Houston Airshow. We all seemed to have a good time--I know I did. Check out all the photos here.

My favorites were the Tora! Tora! Tora! and Thunderbirds flights, along with touring inside the B-17. Ian liked the explosions and trying on the pilot helmet.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Thursday, October 23, 2008

NGC 7635, The Bubble Nebula Again

I was so happy with the results on the Bubble through the AT80EDT that I went back with the LX200 and shot it again. 24 x 5 min. Looks like I had some mirror flop or flex somewhere, because I know the guiding was spot on. Still, not too shabby for the unmodded camera.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

M52, an Open Cluster, and NGC 7635, the Bubble Nebula

AT80EDT on the LX200, 24 x 5 mins, Digital Rebel XT @ ISO 1600

I planned this shot to frame M52 & the Bubble, but when I processed  it I immediately went, "what the heck is that up there?" The bonus object is NGC 7538, a diffuse nebula. I guess I need to pay more attention to Starry Night Pro when I'm planning the next one, eh?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Whole Bunch of New Photos

We've been busy here at Casa P. Somehow I managed to get the family to sleep in the tent two weekends in a row. The first weekend in October was the Central Texas Star Party. We had an impressive lightning display Friday night (which I totally failed to get any pictures of) and a very windy Saturday night which shut down most of the observing. It was still a pleasant weekend out.

A large panorama of the Eagle Eye Observatory in the morning sunlight

While we in the area, we took a short side trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park. The cave is different from Carlsbad in that it was formed by flowing water--an underground river if you like. The tour took just over an hour and was well worth taking. I'm hoping to go back with the Cub Scouts soon.

The following weekend was the Pack 312 family camp out at Lake Bastrop. More great fall weather. Ian discovered that calling "Here fishy, fishy!" doesn't help much when attempting to catch a fish. It took him a while, but by Saturday night he was running around like a monkey with the rest of the boys.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The $700 FireWire Port

Let's face it--I love my Macs. And when Apple introduces new models, I get all drooly and my hands twitch around my credit cards. The new MacBooks and MacBook Pros introduced today are certainly drool-worthy: cool new milled-aluminum enclosures, way, way faster graphics, faster processors, etc. The MacBook even gets the backlit keyboard I've been lusting after. Oh, and they dropped the prices. Sweet!

But as Steve says, there's one more thing. The new MacBook? No FireWire port. No way to add one. Too bad, so sad. You want FireWire, get a 15" MacBook Pro.

The new MacBook. Notice the missing FireWire port.

So here's the deal. I use a wonderful little camera for planetary photography, the DMK21AF04.US. The "F" in that string of alphabet soup stands for FireWire. Sure, The Imaging Source also sells that camera in a USB 2 version. But you know what? There are no Mac drivers for it. And no matter what the USB folks say, FireWire has better sustained transfer rates. It's a fact, you can go look it up.

So what do I do? I put my credit card back in my wallet. Sorry Apple--you lost me this time around.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Make-Believe Maverick

From Rolling Stone:
In its broad strokes, McCain's life story is oddly similar to that of the current occupant of the White House. John Sidney McCain III and George Walker Bush both represent the third generation of American dynasties. Both were born into positions of privilege against which they rebelled into mediocrity. Both developed an uncanny social intelligence that allowed them to skate by with a minimum of mental exertion. Both struggled with booze and loutish behavior. At each step, with the aid of their fathers' powerful friends, both failed upward. And both shed their skins as Episcopalian members of the Washington elite to build political careers as self-styled, ranch-inhabiting Westerners who pray to Jesus in their wives' evangelical churches.

In one vital respect, however, the comparison is deeply unfair to the current president: George W. Bush was a much better pilot.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

M31, the Andromeda Galaxy & M45, The Pleiades

Not a bad night of astroimaging from the Heritage Park Observatory. First up is another attempt at M31, the Andromeda Galaxy. Tight focus and pretty good tracking--except for the third of the frames where the guider lost the guide star. So here are 20 x 5 minutes worth through the AT80EDT mounted piggyback & guided with the LX200, captured with the Digital Rebel XT with Astronomik CLS filter, via Nebulosity & PHD guiding. To do this justice, I really need a moonless night that I can devote the entire night to it.

Here's one of my favorite things to attempt to image--M45, the Pleiades. It's bright and easy to see, except for the blue nebulosity. You can start to see the "brush strokes" in this one hour shot (12 x 5 minutes, same setup as above). The same thing applies--this needs about six times more exposure to help kill the noise.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Tiger Cub

We'll see how this works out. "Don't take my picture--I look like a dork."

The Telescope: 400 Years and Counting

A nice essay on

Quick -- name the invention that has done most to redefine our place in the universe.

Hint: This invention was also the most seditious, blasphemous instrument of all time, shaking the very foundations of society.

The answer, if you haven't already guessed it, is the telescope. It's hard to believe that this instrument, often sold as a cheesy toy in gift shops, is perhaps the single most important scientific instrument of all time.

Now that the telescope is celebrating its 400th anniversary, it's a good time to take stock of this marvelous invention.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Time Travel

Part of me wonders what it would be like if you could travel back in time to repair your mistakes and make things better. Part of me worries this has already happened.