Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Stars at Night...

...are big and bright in New Madison, Ohio.

Since I got my new digital camera, one thing that I had been itching to try is a bit of astrophotography. Nothing special, just pictures of the stars. I had seen numerous images of the stars flowing in circular arcs and thought those were just way cool and wanted to do it quite badly.

However, in my former life of having film cameras there was too much expense involved in purchasing decent film, taking the experimental pictures, developing to see if the images were worth anything, then doing it all over again. With a digital SLR, I get instant gratification. I can see instantly how sucky the picture is and deviate the camera settings from there.

I had taken long exposure pictures a number of times before, all while getting eaten by mosquitoes, to no avail. I would get maybe one bright star, or the entire picture would turn out as bright as daytime even though it was taken at midnight!

I perused a number of websites of people much more skilled in taking pictures than I and noted what kind of settings worked for them and plied them to my experimentation. Armed with this info, I decided that trying to take a decent night-sky picture in the city was futile and took the show on the road to the country. I had to take a repaired computer to my friend "B" who lives in the middle of nowhere, just outside the small town of New Madison, Ohio, not far from Richmond, Indiana.

It was dark.

Fig. 1: Treeline with Venus & Milky Way.
Sony alpha 200, Minolta fixed 28mm, f2.8 at 30 sec., ISO 800
, full manual.

This was my first exposure! Yay!

Fig. 2: Venus & Milky Way No. 2 (Higher Sensitivity)
Sony alpha 200, Minolta fixed 28mm, f2.8 at 30 sec., ISO1600
, full manual.

Fig. 3: Venus & Milky Way No. 2 ('Normal' Sensitivity)
Sony alpha 200, Minolta fixed 28mm, f2.8 at 30 sec., ISO800, full manual.

Figures 2 and 3 are the same sky location, just a different setting for the "film speed". This is essentially how sensitive the "film", or in this case the imaging sensor, is to light. This sensitivity allows the camera to pick up all the light coming in from the fainter objects, but as you can see the higher sensitivity causes a loss of contrast.

You can click the pictures for larger versions at 1280x857. If you would like (yeah, right!) the full 10 megapixel image, let me know and I will send them to you.

Fig. 4: Looking straight up.
Sony alpha 200, Minolta fixed 28mm, f2.8 at 30 sec., ISO 1600, full manual.

Fig. 5: The Big Dipper
Sony alpha 200, Minolta fixed 28mm, f2.8 at 30 sec., ISO 800, full manual.

I am definitely going to go back out and experiment some more. I like this instant gratification thing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The '80s

Since I am on vacation this week I managed to get caught up with all the programs that I had recorded on my DVR.

One of the programs is "Alf", one of the quintessential television programs of the 1980s, which is now shown regularly on WGN out of Chicago. I had seen is advertised and set it to record, but I had not watched it up until now.

Just hearing the theme music set off a series of brainfarts that threw me back in time. All I could think about during my time of watching the several episodes that I had recorded was all the good times that I had during the '80s. Don't get me wrong, though, I had more than my fair share of bad times in the '80s and some of that crap came back to the forefront of my memory, too.

Back then, mother was married to Douchebag number 2. Since he was a douchebag, she would send me nearly every weekend and practically all summer to live with my grandparents. My mamaw and I would spend lots of time together, mostly going to the grocery and garage sales or watching TV.

I vividly remember arriving Friday evenings and we'd plop down in front of the TV. Our favorite program to watch together was, of course, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Friday nights were also watch Dallas and Falcon Crest. I am almost ashamed to admit that guilty pleasure! Friday nights was also when I would watch some "late night" educational TV on Discovery channel. A program by the name of Beyond 2000, out of Australia was on, as well as a program from England which I can still find on occasionally The Secret Life of Machines. I know, I'm a nerd.

Saturdays we would watch copious amounts PBS programming. This Old House, The Frugal Gourmet, The Victory Garden, Hometime and of course we would watch Bob Ross paint a picture or two. There was also a great technology program on called The Computer Chronicles.

It was not only the weekend that I would watch some of this great '80s programming. Alf was on through the week, as well as other great shows like MacGyver, Family Ties, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, V, Webster, Benson and, of course, Mr. Belvedere.

One program that I remember vividly, yet not fondly, was Too Close for Comfort. This was a pretty good show, but it always seemed to be on when there was some sort of really bad weather out. I have my grandmother to thank for my fear of bad weather. I would have a panic attack whenever I heard thunder or saw lightning. So bad was my fear of storms that I would cover my eyes in bed and listen to a headset radio all night long to tune out the noise from the storm.

The local TV stations would often have a little graphic in a corner of the screen depicting the current bad weather. I remember channel 2 here in town would display a stylized "w" in the corner with either a little lightning bolt if there was a storm watch, or a little tornado if there was a tornado watch. The little "w" would turn bright red if there was a warning. I was so afraid of that tornado symbol, just thinking about it would send me in to a panic attack! (Thinking of it right now is making me a bit edgy!) I have, however, almost outgrown these irrational fears. Note that I said "almost".

I have often longed to go back to the '80s to relive some of the good times. Back when my mamaw was still alive, back when TV was actually pretty decent. But then I remember that you have to take the bad with the good and there was more bad for me, it seems, back then. But if I could go back knowing what I know now...

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Follow up to "Please Stop...Fire...Neighborhood"

Fig. 1: Playing with Fire
Sony alpha 200, 300mm, f5.6 at 1/250".
Klicken für größeres Bild!

Fig. 2: Later that same evening...
Sony alpha 200, 105mm, f4.5 at 1/2".


I tried to think of a better title for this post than a simple follow up to my previous post "Please stop setting fire to my neighborhood" but I really couldn't. I thought of a few, such as:
  • - Please stop setting fire to my neighborhood, part two
  • - Please stop setting fire to my neighborhood, part deux
  • - Burning Children for Fun and Profit
  • - Pyromania
  • - Douchebags on Parade
...but none really seemed to fit.

The pastor and elders of the church across the way cleaned out the hedgerow around the parking lot and churchyard and now the conflagratory actions of the pyromaniacs living behind the church are out in the open for all to see.

Kinda strange that this "parent" would allow his/her children to get so close to an open flame. Of course it is kind of difficult to determine who is the parent and who is the child here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I better get this back!

I get a lot of email. As per usual, about 98% is crap that I can delete straight away. There are a select number of people that I get emails from that I automatically delete because they are forwards of some crap email that they got and just HAVE to send along.

You've probably gotten such emails (almost always, the subject is prefixed with "FWD:", which is a telltale of pseudo-spam) that have a cutesy picture or some new nugget of wisdom from the crabby card-lady Maxine or a flash animation saying how much of a valued friend that you are to the person that forwarded it to you.

If I was really your friend, you would not clog my inbox with crap like this.

The ones that really irritate me are the chain letter type. You know the ones. "You are a great friend! This email shows you are special to me! Show someone else you are special and pass this on to as many friends that you have. If you send this to 4.3 million people in the next 5 nanoseconds, the love of your life will appear and murder you with a piano-wire garrote."

Sometimes these have an addition, which makes it oh so much better! Sometimes this addition is even in the subject line! I better get this back! Oh, yeah, like I am really going to do that.

There is an elderly gent that I have known for a number of years, K. His wife and I used to work together years and years back. They are a very sweet couple. (They knew Elvis personally. True story.) K has nothing better to do all day than to surf the interwebs. He goes everywhere and picks up every piece of spyware and every virus out there, much to my chagrin since I have to fix it. The most aggravating part, however, is the mass of emails he forwards. Everything from these sappy emails to links to some inane piece of information that I have no need to know. But, I just click delete because there really is nothing that I can do about it. I get nearly twenty emails a day like this just from him. Sometimes they are exact duplicates!

Don't people have something more constructive to do than to put together a sappy email with angel pictures and roses with sparklies with some poem detailing how "special" someone is to you, and tells them they have to forward this email to everyone they know otherwise bad things will happen? To top it off, there is a demand that the receiver has to reciprocate and send the email back to the sender who had it originally to start the process over again? Does the sender really want it back? Would they have sent it off to begin with if they wanted it in the first place?

It really rings my chimes that these "I better get this back!" email usually have a statement to the effect that if I don't send this back, then I am not a real friend. Harumph, I say.

A friend would rather have a short, "Hey, how ya doin'? Just thinking about ya!" email than some horrible, long drawn out poem that could not normally get published in a journal or book so the author has to blast it across the interwebs for all to see email that makes unreasonable demands.

A real friend would not forward such things in the first place, thus allowing bandwidth savings for good uses of the interwebs like downloading pirated films, hard-core pr0n or the latest virus and spyware.

If you forward this to 10,629 people within the next 4 microseconds, something terrific will happen to someone you don't know somewhere. If you fail to do so, the fleas of a thousand camels will infest a thousand camels. And I had better not get this back. I didn't want it to begin with!