Saturday, July 20, 2019

Going Deep Sky

It was not a great night.  The air was turbulent and you could see Saturn and Jupiter burbling.  (Something best done only with mutually consenting planets.)  The Sun is now setting early enough for me to pursue the fainter dark sky objects.  The big reflector has the Sky Commander digital setting circles.  These have been an occasional source of frustration.  You aim the telescope at two of several dozen bright stars and press ENTER.  It should then let you pick any of about 8000 objects, and as you rotate the mount in azimuth and elevation, it shows you how many more degrees to go. The instructions warn you to sight in stars at high magnification to reduce error.  I can see why.  I did it at 78x and the results were disappointing.  Tonight I used 222x to align on Arcturus and Polaris.

The first target was M13, a (sort of) nearby globular cluster.  I showed it one person several years ago and he described it as looking like diamonds on black velvet.  Yup.  I was not exactly on target but it was bright enough for the finderscope to hint at it,  Using the 40x eyepiece it was obvious.  At 78x, a sack of diamonds.

M57, a planetary nebula in Lyra was next.  No luck.  This surprised me because I used to find it pretty easily with my smaller reflector; it is a bit less than halfway between beta Lyrae and gamma Lyrae. 

M5, another globular cluster, was in the field at 40x; no hunting.

M51, the Whirlpool Galaxy was next.  This is a faint galaxy with a low surface brightness.  I have seen it once through another 17.5", an Obsession in the Angeles National Forest.  I was so interested in looking through that size of Obsession that I flew to LAX and rented a car.  It really looked like a spiral galaxy!  Of course it was a very dark sky, and I had lots of time to dark adapt.  Tonight I needed to move around a bit before it was in the eyepiece and our skies really are not that dark.  It was visible, but it will not be a cloud pleaser until North Korea EMPs Boise dark.

So I tried it on Jupiter and Saturn, which were easily visible with the naked eye.  Neither was exactly where Sky Commander expected.  I am thinking the asphalt is not terribly level where I have parked Big Bertha which might explain the near misses.  Tomorrow night, I will use a level.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Gun Control: Federal Style

7/18/19 Los Angeles Times:
A U.S. Customs and Border Protection watch commander at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has admitted to running an illegal gun operation, authorities said.
Wei Xu, 56, of Santa Fe Springs was arrested Feb. 5 after an investigation involving undercover officers to whom Xu sold three guns out of the trunk of his car, including an “off-roster”pistol not certified for sale in California, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
He has been on unpaid administrative leave since his arrest and will be fired, said Ciaran McEvoy, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office.
In court Wednesday, Xu pleaded guilty to illegally selling guns on the internet, some of which he obtained by using his power as a law enforcement official, and to creating a fake company to avoid paying taxes, prosecutors said. He also pleaded guilty to illegally possessing unregistered firearms and making false statements to a federal agency about his involvement with a Chinese company to get a secret-level security clearance.
“Mr. Xu’s public life as a federal officer masked his private greed and disrespect for the law,” U.S. Atty. Nick Hanna said in a news release. “Public officials promise to act with integrity when they take an oath of office, and we will zealously prosecute those who mock the laws they have sworn to uphold.”
Elsewhere, machine guns were found in his possession.  The Chinese company whose connections he hid: Can you think of a better way to destabilize America than making sure gangs had machine guns?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

SSD Drives

I have toyed with the idea of replacing the 1TB drive in my Lenovo with a SSD drive.  At these prices, it is mostly the hassle that stops me.

WD Blue 3D NAND 1TB PC SSD - SATA III 6 Gb/s, 2.5"/7mm - WDS100T2B0A  $115.  I do not need more room, but more speed is attractive, especially running linuxCNC in a VM.  Remember when hard discs were so expensive that you often found yourself backing up non-current stuff to tape?  Or am I dating myself?  (Don't need for that!  On Tinder, do you just keep swiping right -- or is it left -- hoping for someone more attractive than yourself?)

Fortunately, This Mass Murder Did Not Involve Guns

7/19/19 Reuters:
TOKYO (Reuters) - A man shouted “die” as he doused an animation studio with fuel and set it ablaze in Japan on Thursday, public broadcaster NHK said, killing at least 33 people in the nation’s worst mass murder in nearly two decades.
Japan has very strict gun control; people with antisocial tendencies find other ways to do mass murder.

Monitor Flickering

I have an antique Viewsonic monitor which several of my readers have repaired over the years usually when it just went black.  I am now getting occasional flickering of different colors, sometimes localized, sometimes broadly distributed.  I am sure that this means it is on its last legs.  Any guesses as to what is going to fail?  Would it make more sense to buy a new monitor when this fails?  I can get a 22" 1920x1080 for $80 at Amazon.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Finally, Sharing Files Between VMWare client and Windows

I have tried to get VMWare tools working so many times.  Now it works.

Windows Virtual PC

I tried to install Windows 10 in Windows Virtual PC, but it did not recognize my Windows 7 product key, so I am installing Windows 7 and debian at the same time.  They are just crawling, compared to VMWare.  I am pretty sure virtual Windows 7 will automatically upgrade to Windows 10.  (I have the automatic upgrade disabled on the host Windows 7.)

VMWare keeps your mouse captive in a virtual machine window until you Ctrl-Alt.  Windows Virtual PC requires the equally obscure Ctrl-Alt-right arrow.  At least VMWare warns you.  It also appears that whichever virtual machine starts installing from an ISO first takes priority.  Of course, only yours truly would do something as silly as install Windows 7 and debian at the same time.

Windows 7 is running in Windows Virtual PC.  The free upgrade to Windows 10 ended in 2015 (no surprise), so I bought Windows Professional 10 from for $28.50.  They are sending a DVD, but in the meantime, I have a Windows 10 product code so that I can test it out, and decide whether the GUI hacks make it acceptable as an upgrade from the soon-to-be abandoned Windows 7.

Windows Virtual PC is so slow that I am installing Windows 10 in VMWare.  Even in VMWare, Windows 10 creeps along.

I am persuaded.  I can make Windows 10 look and act enough like Windows 7.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Jupiter & Moon

All of these pictures need me to master the use of a Bahtinov mask to get a sharper image.
1/30 sec., ISO 100, 25mm eyepiece projection

The prime focus pictures of Jupiter showing its Galilean satellites suffered some weird swirl.  I think my exposure delay was too short (2s) for the scope to stop moving after pressing the button.

Some of these prime focus images are better than usual because I am now using a 2" diameter adapter for the camera.
1/200, ISO 100 2000mm f/4.5 converted to gray scale

This picture of Tycho may benefit from GIMP, but it is late and GIMP loads slowly.
1/60; ISO 100; 25mm eyepiece projection

Saturn was too close to the Moon; just washed out the sky.

Math is Racist

7/17/19 College Fix:
"Math equity” doesn’t mean 1 + 1 = 2.
The term refers to the growing insistence among educators that teaching math in the classroom comes with some inherently biased methodology that must be addressed.
Proponents of “math equity” also stress the importance of social justice issues such as race, diversity and gender in math education — a trend that’s catching on.
More professors and educators are tweeting under the hashtag #MathEquity to share strategies on the topic, and webinars and other pedagogical sessions on it abound.
“Equity-based mathematics teaching requires more than implementing new curriculum or using specific practices because it involves taking a stand for what is right,” the website for the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics states.
“It requires mathematics teachers to reflect on their own identity, positions, and beliefs in regards to racist and sorting-based mechanisms. It involves noticing students, learning about the worlds they live in, and building mathematics that comes from these worlds. And finally, it involves engaging other educators in partnerships to build equity-oriented communities.”
As I commented:
Many years ago, when I was taking the required multicultural studies class, the text we were using asserted that even the boolean logic of computers was Western in origin and thus suspect of having general applicability outside the West. Glad to know our missiles and aircraft stop working in the Third World. What did Winston confront in 1984? 1+1 = whatever the Party says it does. 
Another comment I must emphasize to those whose children are still K-12:
Homeschool and teach your child to become the CEO of Brawndo.

Today's Linux Disappontments

I was not thrilled with ubuntu GUI, so I downloaded the debian KDE ISO.  It starts up in the shell with no obvious way to start a GUI.  (This is why I am skeptical of Linux.  Almost nothing is adequately documented; unsurprising for a system that makes no profit.)

I am pleased to see that Microsoft has something call Window Virtual PC, which does what it sounds like.  Trying to start it running either Windows 10 or 7 and it complained that I need a 686 version, not x64.  Everything that I have downloaded so far has been 64-bit, without problems.  So I am now downloading the 32-bit versions.

I Think This Would Be Just Perfect for Chicago Gangs: Leave It There

7/16/19 CBS Miami:
Frank Robb, the owner of Crocodilian Specialist Services in St. Augustine, took his talents as an alligator expert to the Windy City, when authorities asked for his help capturing an alligator that had been on the loose at a local park for several days.

A Reminder of Our Past Sins

The culture that put men on the moon was intense, fun, family-unfriendly, and mostly white and male
Be ashamed.  Be very ashamed.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Running Ubuntu Linux

From a USB hard drive.  First step: see if the Lenovo USB Dock works. Maybe install VMWare with Windows 10 as client.  The GUI that it defaults to is certainly different from Windows--way different. To see all your applications, click Activities in upper left corner.  I think Debian's GUI is more intuitive.

My, that was fun.  I was informed that I should do a full update of the distribution, something like "sudo apt-get update"; it turns out that 109GB free on a 111GB drive is not enough.  So I verified that I could access files on the Windows hard drive.  I double clicked a very small Excel file, expecting either a complaint about no file type associated (or optimistically) opening LibreOffice Calc.  Instead both screens went black and dead.  I am increasingly unimpressed with Ubuntu Linux.  Microsoft is in no danger.

Maybe I will install Windows 10 on this USB hard drive, and use that to see if I can live with Windows 10.

But first, I installed Oracle VirtualBox to see if the problem installing ubuntu under VMWare might not be there under VirtualBox.  I must have installed VirtualBox in the past and there is a linuxCNC client under it, but it runs so slowly as to be useless.

I thought of installing debian on the USB hard drive, but it appears that Rufus deleted that ISO when installing on the USB hard drive.  Like I said a few days ago, Linux is so hard to get working in a useful manner that I am very close to just upgrading to Windows 10, perhaps dual boot Windows 7 & 10.

Selling the ScopeRoller Business is Like Breaking Up With a Girl

I am negotiating the sale of ScopeRoller to a reader in Europe.  You have a some very good memories and a few bad memories (in this case, dealing with unhappy customers and an unfortunate interaction between a spinning drill bit and my thumb), but the fit for your life now just doesn't justify keeping it going.  You start going through stuff that you shared in preparation for shipping it its new home and you feel a sense of loss, even though you know the breakup is the right thing to do.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

How Did Epstein Become a Billionaire (Is He?)

7/11/19 New York Intelligencer discusses how real hedge fund billionaires have never heard of Epstein's firm, nor do they know of any any customers.  They suggest that whatever money is invested may be under threat of blackmail:
I think he’s engaged in blackmail. The reason I think this is that I read the Palm Beach police report when they did the search warrant. Epstein had advanced warning they were coming, so he scrubbed the place as much as he could, but he left wires and audiovisual cables for uploading video files to computers, and I guess the Palm Beach Police themselves installed some of his audiovisual surveillance equipment in his residence — it’s a service they apparently do, putting in security cameras for residents. And some of his victims, like Virginia Roberts, in her court filings, said that Epstein remarked to her that “information is king,” and mentioned that Bill Clinton was there because “he owes me a favor.” He bragged that that’s how powerful he was. So I suspect, based on that evidence, that’s it’s likely, since that’s the way Epstein operates, is he uses information to his advantage. Does he get investment money for his hedge fund that way? That’s a strong possibility. Does he not have to pay back investors maybe using the blackmail information as a threat? That’s a possibility.

Hint: If you are rich or powerful, or plan to be so, don't do anything that might be criminal or embarrassing in front of a possibly hidden video camera.  Even better:  don't do anything that might be criminal or embarrassing.  The scrubbed Wikipedia page has been unscrubbed.

Most Oppressively Stupid Thing I've Seen Since the California Assault Weapons Ban

7/3/19 MSN:
There’s an interesting discussion happening over at the Grassroots Motorsports forum right now, and presumably at many other places off-line. It’s about laws in Sacramento County stating, essentially, that almost any auto repair you do on your property is illegal. Of course, this is deeply troubling to almost everyone reading right now.
Similar laws do exist in other counties and states, of course, but since there’s been some conversation recently around the Sacramento County laws, we may as well start there. The laws in question have to do with Sacramento’s Zoning Code, the website for which has an explanation of the codes related to auto repair.
The code states that conducting “minor vehicle repair” or “minor automotive repair” is legal at a residence, and defines “minor automotive repair” as:
Brake part replacement
Minor tune-ups
Change of oil and filter
Repair of flat tires
Other similar operations...
2. Is Minor Vehicle Repair Permitted at Residences?
Yes. However, it is unlawful for any person to engage in, or permit others to engage in, minor vehicle repair or maintenance in any agricultural, agricultural-residential, residential, interim estate and interim residential zones under any of the following circumstances:
1. Using tools not normally found in a residence;
2. Conducted on vehicles registered to persons, not currently residing on the lot or parcel;
3. Conducted outside a fully enclosed garage and resulting in any vehicle being inoperable for a period in excess of twenty-four hours.
Here we have some issues. How exactly do you define “tools not normally found in a residence?” A socket set? A torque wrench? A brake drum puller? This feels like a rule that’s dangerously open to interpretation with pretty minimal supporting evidence.
Number two is clearly there to prevent people from running off-the-books repair shops, but what if you’re working on a friend’s car? And number three means you can’t do anything unless you have an actual garage, and whatever you’re doing you better get it all wrapped up inside of one day, which, as most of us who’ve dealt with one stubborn, time-sucking, hard-to-reach bolt know, is not always possible.
Of course, “Major Automotive Repair,” that is, anything not explicitly defined under “Minor Automotive Repair,” is not legal anywhere on your own property, even if you’re doing it in the sanctity of your own closed garage.
One commenter on the Grassroots Motorsports forum reported that he’d already been issued a $430 fine for working on his car in his garage: 
Call it the professional car mechanic's relief act.  Thanks to Small Dead Animals for the tip.

Friday, July 12, 2019

8-32 socket head machine screws 2" length minimum

1. Ideally, at least 2" of thread.  They do not need to be fully threaded as long as there is at least 2" of thread.  The diagonal holder adjustment needs longer screws now that I know where the mirror needs to be.  It does not appear anyone makes these longer than 1.75".  I could use a non-socket head screw, but it is too easy to lose grip on the head and drop the screwdriver.  Also, a dropped socket head wrench this size will do less damage if it hits the mirror.  (Remember the dropped wrench in that Titan II silo.)  This may be the solution, depending on the thread length of the >2.0" long screws.

2. The other item, somewhat easier to find is a 1/2" 8-32 hex head screw.  Working in the confined space of a 3" telescope tube means that I cannot used a socket head screw.  A hex head screw can be held with a small adjustable wrench while tightening down the acorn nut on the outside.  Easier solution to #2: put the acorn nut on the inside of the tube.

Boy, This Makes Me Feel Old

NASA is figuring out how to keep the Voyager spacecraft alive (for which I badly wrote telemetry software):
With careful planning and dashes of creativity, engineers have been able to keep NASA's Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft flying for nearly 42 years — longer than any other spacecraft in history.

Reasonably Clear Tight But Windy

I had the 8" f/7 reflector and the slight movement of the spider to improve centering of the beam in the center of the mirror made collimation easier. I am not seeing better images, perhaps because of the wind and turbulence, Even the Moon reached its limit with the 283x eyepiece. 

I do need to put some phosphorescent paint on the screws that hold the finder to make a rough target for the finder.  Black plastic against a black sky does not work.

I also want to have the aluminum end cap welded.  Parks Optical used to be the supplier of high end fiberglass telescope tubes.  I think they went under,  Parks might have retired or died.  They supplied aluminum rings to protect the ends of the tubes which are not spectacular tough.  One has cracked; probably a casting defect aggravated by too tight a fit on the end of the tube.  I am going to hit up a precision welding shop in Horseshoe Bend, run by some pro-gun California refugees,  Even a few millimeters enlargement in diameters reduces the risk of stressing the ring again.

The Parks tubes changed over time.  When I bought mine it eighed nine pounds; within a few years they were 13 pounds.  It suffered one unfortunate accident.  My wife and daughter pulled a liitle too close and damaged the tube.  I did a creditable job ptching the damage with fiberglass, epoxy,sanding and paint.  You would never know,

Squaring Numbers in Your Head

I mentioned that binomial expansion of (n+1)2 gives n2 +2n + 1, which makes this far easier to do in your head than multiplying and adding columns. Bu there is a more general solution. (n+i)2 gives n2 +2i + i2.  Now any power of 10 is easy to figure by factoring: 40 = 4 x 10 x 4 x 10 = 16 x 100. And therefore 452 is 402 + 2x5x40 + 52 = 1600 + 400 + 25 = 2000+25 = 2025.  This is really fast.

And even as the digit count grows:  2022 = 2002 + 4 x 200 + 22 = 40,000 + 800 + 4=n 40,804.  If you can factor by 2, awesome, but if you are within ten of a power of ten, this is easier.  I love figuring out techniques, which is why as a software engineer I always looked for ways to solve a requirement by building a tool which had an application to solve the problem.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Too Funny

Instapundit points to this unlikely news story at KFOR:
Logan Co. man allegedly driving stolen vehicle filled with uranium, a rattlesnake, and Kentucky Deluxe
POSTED 10:34 PM, JULY 10, 2019, BY UPDATED AT 04:14PM, JULY 11, 2019
The comments at Instapundit will cause beverage spatter on your screen.

VMWare Workstation 15 Player Crashes

On the off chance that the crashes when I tried to installl Windows 7 and Ubuntu might be related to the version, I updated to 15.1 partly because even LlinuxCNC was now crashing.  Not a solution.  Windows 7 apparently has a VM.  Trying to install it right now.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

More Credit Card Fraud

American Express wanted to verify information for a Blue Delta SkyMiles Credit Card.  Someone (not me) applied for one online.  They promptly notified credit reporting agencies.

I was wondering how someone obtained my Social Security Number, address, etc.  Of course, every medical provider wants it to verify identity, and with good reason.  My wife pointed out that SSNs have likely become a valued black market item because illegal aliens need them to work. 

Some years ago, someone filed a bogus 1040 with my SSN to get a tax refund which IRS mailed to me, and I later had to send back.  This should have set off alarm bells at IRS; I have not received a tax refund in decades.

But the Democrats need those illegal aliens for voting, and the owners of the RINOs need cheap agricultural and sex workers, so that is all that matters.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Another Mass Murder That Does Not Matter Because No Gun

Port Angeles, Wash. (2019)
7/5/2019: A man burned a trailer containing his wife, and three children, killing them all.  His journal entries show a carefully planned crime.
Category: family
Suicide: no
Cause: unknown
Weapon: arson[1]

As I Tell My Students...

Puritans were so concerned about sexual sin because in England dissipated noblemen would take advantage of the innocence of young women, and as soon as they started to show, abandon them to deal with the shame of bearing an illegitimate child.  This is why the rake is a recurring theme in Georgian and Victorian literature and art.  (I am thinking of Hogarth's A Rake's Progress series of engravings in the field of art.) 

Young women are not quite so innocent anymore.  This is an unfortunate but necessary accommodation to "the way of the world" (to quote Dr. Gosnell).  So billionaire rakes have to go younger.    7/8/19 AP:
Jeffrey Epstein has been ordered jailed at least until a bail hearing Thursday after he pleaded not guilty to federal sex trafficking charges.
He made his first court appearance Monday following his arrest over the weekend.Prosecutors say Epstein, a registered sex offender, is a significant flight risk and are asking that he be detained until his trial.
They say he has three active U.S. passports and has frequently traveled in and out of the country on his private jet.
The 66-year-old Epstein is accused of creating and maintaining a network that allowed him to sexually exploit and abuse dozens of underage girls from 2002 to 2005.
Prosecutors said several alleged victims have come forward since Epstein's arrest.
Trump said a few nice things about Epstein a few years ago, so the Democrat presstitutes are running with this.  But 7/8/19 ZeroHedge quotes a lawyer who would not let this case go away:
Edwards: The only thing that I can say about President Trump is that he is the only person who, in 2009 when I served a lot of subpoenas on a lot of people, or at least gave notice to some pretty connected people, that I want to talk to them, is the only person who picked up the phone and said, let’s just talk.  I’ll give you as much time as you want.  I’ll tell you what you need to know, and was very helpful, in the information that he gave, and gave no indication whatsoever that he was involved in anything untoward whatsoever, but had good information. That checked out and that helped us and we didn’t have to take a deposition of him in 2009. 
And even some Democrats (like Nancy Pelosi's daughter) are admitting:
This Epstein case is horrific and the young women deserve justice. It is quite likely that some of our faves are implicated but we must follow the facts and let the chips fall where they may - whether on Republicans or Democrats.
7/6/19 Miami Herald:
At the time, Epstein owned an island off St. Thomas. The Herald report continues: “His plane records show that during the time he was abusing young girls, he was flying former President Bill Clinton, Harvard professors and administrators, Nobel-prize winning scientists, actresses, actors, philanthropists and a who’s who of wealthy and powerful people to his island.” 
7/7/19 Fox News:
It was unclear exactly to whom Pelosi was referring, but Epstein has long been connected with high-profile figures, including Britain's Prince Andrew and former President Bill Clinton. Court documents obtained by Fox News in 2016 showed that Clinton took at least 26 trips flying aboard Epstein's private jet, known as the "Lolita Express," and apparently ditched his Secret Service detail on some of the excursions. Records showed that President Trump may have flown on the jet at least once.
The president previously called attention to Clinton's dealings with the financier.
"Nice guy -- uh, got a lot of problems coming up, in my opinion, with the famous island, with Jeffrey Epstein," Trump told Fox News' Sean Hannity in 2015, referring to Clinton's connections with Epstein. "A lot of problems." 
And why would you ditch your protective detail when going on a ride.  I mean on the Lolita Express, of course.

Democrats are using their control of social media to persuade Christians that the Republican Party is too Christian.  Consider the alternative.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Bored? Curious? Hungry?

Ever wanted to know what dark secrets evangelical Christians are keeping from you on our quest for control over your life?
Emphasis, bring a side dish to share, if you are able.  Unless your notion of a side dish for breakfast is squid and escargot quiche.  If your idea of breakfast is a cigarette and beer, please come -- you probably need to be here.  That's 3633 West Floating Feather, Meridian.

Windows 10

I see that Microsoft has discontinued support for Windows 7.  I hate Windows 10.  (Is that clear enough?)  It reminds me of a cell phone GUI that has metastasized I have disabled automatic update to Windows 10 on both my PC and my wife;s PC.  This page at howtogeek tells how to make Windows 10 look more like Windows 7. Has anyone tried this?  Are there any applications that do not survive the 7->10 change?  Anyone else who has resisted assimilation?

Yes, I love Linux.  But transitioning my wife to Linux might lead to murder.  To be honest, I have yet to see a completely reliable Linux, at least compared to Windows 7, which is a known set of problems.  I also need to retain Microsoft Office for compatibility with papers submitted by my students and I have yet to see LibreOffice do this perfectly.

Perhaps I could run Windows 10 under VMWare for a month or two before committing?

First step: Get my Windows 7 product key to download the Windows 7 ISO for VMWare.  The label Lenovo claims has the product key is not present, but they do have a dandy little VBS script to retrieve it here.  But instead of running it as a Visual Basic Script, it opens it in Bluefish, an HTML editor.

I verified that the VBS extension is tied to the wscript program in windows\system32.  I get no script engine for file extension ".vbs"

I tried installing Ubuntu 18.04 under VMWare Client, and it did the blue screen "I have no idea what happened" message that is only slightly more elegant than old blue screen of death from Windows98 days.  Twice.

I believe there is a way to boot Ubuntu from a USB drive.  I may try that as an experiment.  I have a spare 120GB USB drive.  Let's see if I can get the Lenovo to boot from it.  Yup. Not sure how to get it to tali to the Lenovo dockimg station.  Nothing obvious, check in the morning.

I was having trouble downloading the Windows 7 Professional ISO.  Microsoft Technical Support did a great job resolving it.

Unfortunately, Windows 7 Professional install in VMWare causes the blue screen "I have no idea what happened" message.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Things That Are Kind Of Fun When You Are Little in California

PJMedia has a number of videos of earthquakes in California.  They just had a 7.1 in Ridgecrest.  One of these videos was from El Segundo.  If you are a fellow California refugee, you know how big this must have been.  Ridgecrest is remote, that a co-worker told me that at the time, they had one stoplight.  There was no jury duty because the nearest courthouse was outside the distance that California required you to go for jury duty.

What A Spectacular Night

Dark and stable air.  Even the Moon was well behaved, being only a few days old and producing little skyglow.  I rolled out my 8" f/7, which uses a Coulter Optical mirror from when they advertised +-1/25th wave accuracy, and again I see it.  (For those who do not drool over telescope mirrors: how close a mirror's shape is to a perfect paraboloid is measured relative to a wavelength of light.  A minimum acceptable telescope mirror is 1/8th wave.  Before Hubble's optics were fixed, it was about 1/2 wave.)  Tonight, Jupiter's dark cloud bands in both hemispheres were clearly visible, along with just a hint of the turbulent clouds at the boundaries of those bands.  And that was only 112x!

What makes this even more impressive is that the telescope is not well collimated.  It uses a diagonal mirror holder made by Edmund Scientific back in the 1960s, which has no collimation adjustments, so the laser beam is not hitting the center of the mirror and it still performs beautifully.  Properly collimated, this 60 year old scope should do even better!

Because I have been making such a holder for the 3" f/4.5 reflector rebuild (taking forever, it seems), I am planning to make one for the 8" f/7 reflector as well.  This should be much easier.  I do not have the size constraints.  Building a mirror holder that needs to be 1" diameter is really difficult.  The bigger telescope uses a 1.83" minor diameter diagonal mirror, so lots of room.

Speaking of the rebuild that took over my life, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  The spider legs are 24 gauge steel.  I used my metal brake bender to put the bend where they meet the inside of the tube.  I had toyed with using epoxy to hold the legs to the 1" square block that holds the collimation screws and mirror holder, but this really did not work very well.  So I did what I should have done in the first place: drilled and tapped 6-32 x .15" holes in each side of the 1" square and drilled through holes for them in the spider legs.  I had some 6-32 x .125" socket head screws hiding in my plastic disorganizer of screws.  I had to make locations of the holes in the spider legs and the 1" square pretty precisely, so I broke down and did it right with an edge finder. 

I often do not do it right because screwing the edge finder on and then off used to be a bit laborious.  I started using an anti-seize compound on all my threads and the edge finder just unscrews by hand now.  I am now getting the precision that distinguishes a fool with a mill, from a beginning machinist.

Holding the spider legs in position in the mill vise was at first a problem. Supporting them with parallels was a problem because without underlying support, the center drill would just bend the steel, not penetrate it.  So I bought a small piece of 1/2" aluminum that is just slightly narrower than the legs.  This provides adequate support and elevation.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Remember: Americans Hate Trump

So when he speaks:

And the full very powerful unifying speech.  In spite of NBC's best efforts there a few shots of the crowd:

More Reasons to Not Use Antisocial Media

Dr. John Lott made a factual statement, and Twitter locked his account:

Something You Do Not Want to See on Your Annual Kidney Stone X-Ray Analysis

Mild degenerative changes of the lumbosacral spine and hips.

The Goal

Time to Hold a Going Out of Business Sale for ScopeRoller?

I have been doing this for 13 years now.  I am glad to have made a lot of people very happy by helping them get their heavy telescopes mobile.  I have learned a lot about running a tiny manufacturing business.  But it is taking too much of my time that should be spent writing books (including two sci-fi novels that are somewhat underway, and a technical memoir: Present at the Birth of the PC Age) and teaching.  Doing all the paperwork at end of year is also no fun.

I did it for a while for the money, but I now have all the money my wife and I will ever need.  Shortly I will start removing products for which I do not have materials in stock from the web page.  I will probably cut prices by 20% to try and clear materials and parts.  The leftover casters I can return to the manufacturer for credit minus 15%.  Some of the leftover aluminum tubing and flats can likely be sold on eBay.

I will miss doing this, but there are many things more important.  If I knew someone with a drill press and bandsaw, I might sell them the business.  I have priced my products so that I could make about $25/hour.  That's just very attractive anymore to most people, now that unskilled labor often pays $15/hour.

I am thrilled that I have received purchase inquiries.

Thursday, July 4, 2019


The movie is the most fun that I have had in a movie theater in a long time.  Worldwide electrical shutdown.  Aspiring songwriter/musician is hit by a bus during the few seconds of shutdown.  (Aspiring songwriter, but not any good at it.)  In the morning he wakes in a hospital, with serious head injuries and two teeth knocked out.  Somehow, the Beatles never happened.  A few other items are missing, some not real losses like cigarettes, some utterly critical: why live in a world where the only cola is Pepsi?

Anyway, he starts to reconstruct the Beatles songs as best he can from memory.  Can any of you honestly remember all the lyrics of "Eleanor Rigby"?  He, of course, rockets to international fame and fortune.  But there is the girl that has loved him for 20 years and was his first manager...

Sweet, romantic, interesting parallel universe idea, and nothing that would be inappropriate for small children.  And the Pakistani-British actor does a pretty decent job on the songs.  Go out and see it, now!

And the Remaining Decent Californians: Did You Get This Warning to Move?

7/4/19 KTLA:
Thursday’s shaking, which registered in the Los Angeles area as a long, rolling motion, and lasted for at least 20 seconds. It was felt in areas as far as Sacramento, Reno, Las Vegas and Tijuana, according to USGS’s website.
No injuries were immediately reported anywhere, but there appeared to be somewhat extensive damage in parts of Southern California from the quake.

No-Knock Warrants

I have long thought these should be issued only for very unusual situations.  The traditional reason was fear that drugs might be flushed while waiting for someone to open the door.  If the amount is huge (dealer or distributor level), this would require a heck of a toilet.  For a hostage or terrorist situation it might also make sense.  Otherwise, the risk that you might be mistaken for a home invader and shot at by the resident (which would almost certainly end in the resident's death.)  But for an unpaid gas bill?  7/3/19 KMOV:
ST. LOUIS COUNTY ( - Angela Zorich says she remembers the April day in 2014 like it was yesterday.
“I saw them and they're just pouring in, they're covered head to toe, they got helmets, they're like military style," said Zorich.
Her life forever changed after she says the St. Louis County Police Department’s SWAT team came with a no-knock warrant for an unpaid gas bill.
"Why is this cop able to call in a SWAT team because I didn't have gas service at my house?" said Zorich.
She recalls SWAT members kicking in her front door, before firing at her pit bull.
"They put me and my son on our knees to watch her die. The officer squatted over her while she was dying with the search warrant, and he said, ‘You know why we're here?’ and I said, ‘No I don't know.’ When he said, ‘We’re here because your gas is off.’ I lost it," Zorich said.
The county settled for $750,000.  I think police officers should go to jail for this.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


Preparing for the online American History class in the fall; processing mass murders; filling SciopeRoller orders; rebuilding my 3" f/4.6 reflector; busy, busy, busy.  Not sure if you can sign up for the American History class without being a College of Western Idaho student or not.  If you have a recent grad who needs some GE units for whatever school he is going to attend, it's an option.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Today's Useless Skill

Some years ago, my wife and I were on a long car trip.  She wanted the stereo off so she could sleep.  Bored out of my mind, I tried to find an easy way to do two digit by two digit multiplication in my head.  Some people count sheep; I calculate the squares of two digit numbers in my head to fall asleep.

1. Refactor the multiplicand to something simpler.  For some it is  so obvious that everyone immediately knows how,  40 x 40 is (4 x 10) x (4 x 10) = 4x4*100: 1600.  For all even numbers factor by two because multiplying by 2 twice is easy to do in your head.  22 squared is 11 squared (121) x 2 (242) x 2 = 484.

2. Non-prime odd numbers can be easy,  27 squared is 3x9x3x9.  9x9 (81) x 3 (243) x 3 (729).

3. Some multiplies have tricks.  If you are squaring a power of two: 32 is 2^5.  So 32 squared is 2^(5*2), which every software engineer of my generation has memorized:  1024.  Ditto for 64 squared: 2^(6*2)=4096.

4. For odd primes: (n+1)^2 = n^2 + 2n + 1.  21^2 is 20^2 (400, See #1).  400 + 2*20 + 1 = 441.

5. Some single digit multipliers have their own tricks.  n * 25 = (n * 100)/4 (again, easy to do in your head).  n * 5 = (n * 10)/2.

6. In time, syou do ome calculations so often that they burn into your memory.  The radius of Mars is .45 of Earth.  For calculating surface gravity relative to Earth, when I was a kid, I calculated 45 squared so many times that 2025 is in permanent memory.  Similarly, from calculating relativistic effects in high school physics, ,99 squared is .9801, so 99 squared is 9801.

7. If you need to do column by column in your head, it is simplest to do each multiply separately and add: 23 x 23 = (3x3) + (3x20) [69] + (20x3)[60 + (20x20) = 529.

8. Some operations are artificially simple to do: 1 digit by 2 digits.  Any two digit number ending with a one in ones column.  51 squared=51+2550=2601.  Similarly trivial if the ones column is 2.  62 squared=124(2 x 62)+120 (2 x 60) + 3600 (60 x 60).  The trick is to keep repeating the partial sums as you add them in your mind.

And eventually you can work this into a sequence of pounding your hoof!

Monday, July 1, 2019


please sign.  In every sense, they are a terrorist organization, relying on terror to achieve their aim of overturning the 2016 election.

Need This Newspaper Article

"Trial of Abel Clements," Petersburg Intelligencer, July 15, 1806

Not having any luck finding it online.  Texas State Library is the closest source.  Other holdings here.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

The Left Wants War

6/30/19 Daily Caller reports on the aggravated assault on gay Asian conservative journalist Andy Ngo.  (Milk shakes with fast drying cement and a beating.)  Portland's mayor has apparently given police orders not to arrest Antifa for violent crimes.  The left imagines that they will provoke civil war and win.  Yet another reason to resist gun bans.  The left is counting on intimidation of this sort:

They think that they are going to disarm the population and with no blowback.  They are going to be surprised.

Best to win elections.  Even winning a civil war is bloody, nasty business, with horrifying moral dilemmas.

And this poster, doubtless put up by a white Antifa member really catches where the Democrats are taking us:

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Source for 1/2" Wide .050" to .100" Inch Thick Steel?

I am trying to make the legs for the spider.  0.022" aluminum bends both in the mill vise and when the mill reaches the surface.  (I need to punch 1/4" diameter holes in one end of a 4" long piece.)  I can use steel instead--there is not much weight, and even .1" thick would not cause severe diffraction spikes.  The extra stiffness would help.  One proposal that I have seen is to use hacksaw blades, but they flex when I try to mill the round ends off, and they resist plunge milling very well.  So where might I find mild steel that is 1/2" wide and .1" thick.  Some utterly different use that I can use for this purpose.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Effective Ways to Express Disapproval of the Police

2/20/19 Idaho Press:
A 68-year-old Emmett man pleaded guilty Monday to lighting Emmett police vehicles on fire in 2017.
Darrel Rich pleaded guilty to two criminal counts — damage by fire to vehicles owned by an institution receiving federal funding, and damage by fire to vehicles used in interstate commerce, according to a news release from the Idaho U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Those charges stem from a July 2017 incident in which Emmett police officers responded to Rich’s home. After they left, Rich told his sister through “telephone communications” that police should “‘back off now or somebody is going to get hurt’” and told her that “‘if she call(ed) the cops on me again...we’re done.’”
Just after 12 a.m. the next morning, Rich drove to the Emmett Police Station and parked across the street from it, according to the release. He took a gasoline canister from the trunk of his Chevrolet Impala and poured the liquid behind four police vehicles parked in the department’s parking lot.
My wife saw this article this morning: "There are easier ways to get S'Mores."  He was apparently also convicted of felon in possession of a firearm.  I am so surprised.

When An MSNBC Apparatchnik Tells You Are Throwing the Election to Trump

6/28/19 The Hill:
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough called the second night of the first 2020 Democratic debates a “disaster for the Democratic Party” and said that he hopes voters were not watching the face-off, which aired on his network.
"With apologies to our friends and watching, last night was a disaster for the Democratic Party," Scarborough said Friday on "Morning Joe." "My only hope is people were not watching and I will tell you why."...
Scarborough also criticized the Democratic candidates for adopting a slate of progressive policy platforms, including decriminalizing border crossings and providing health insurance through a public option to undocumented immigrants, suggesting that they would not be able to beat Trump with that focus.
“It was a bad sign for me, as someone who desperately wants to see Donald Trump taken out of office,” Scarborough said.
They need to get out of their billionaire-only fundraising events.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Working My Way Through USA Today's Really Comprehensive List Mass Murders 2006-17

These are mass murders that did not have white suburban victims, so CNN was not going to cover them.

Chicago, Ill. (2010)
2/26/2010: Prosecutors charged three men with the murder of three men in a drug-related incident in which the killers slit the victims’ throats.  Police shot dead one of the suspects in a car chase the murders.  The same murderers also committed mass murders on 5/18/2010 and 9/2/2010.
Category: residential
Suicide: no
Cause: drug business
Weapon: knife[1]Chicago, Ill. (2010)
5/18/2010: Prosecutors charged three men with the murder of three men in a drug-related shooting.
Category: public
Suicide: no
Cause: drug business
Weapon: unknown[2]Chicago, Ill. (2010)
9/2/2010: The same happy band of murderers murdered four other persons, motive unknown.
Category: residential
Suicide: no
Cause: unknown
Weapon: unknown[3]

[1] “Southwest Side Man Pleads Not Guilty To Role In Triple Murders,” CBS Chicago, Jul. 18, 2012,, last accessed June 27, 2019.
[2] “Southwest Side Man Pleads Not Guilty To Role In Triple Murders,” CBS Chicago, Jul. 18, 2012,, last accessed June 27, 2019.
[3] “Southwest Side Man Pleads Not Guilty To Role In Triple Murders,” CBS Chicago, Jul. 18, 2012,, last accessed June 27, 2019.


Paul A. Clark, "Criminal Use of Firearm Silencers," Western Criminology Review 8(2), 44–57 (2007):
The Lexis/Westlaw database contains 153 cases over the past ten years in which the evidence suggests a silencer was used for a criminal purpose — including unlawful possession of a silencer where no other crime was committed. That gives an average of about 15 reported cases each year, and assuming this represents close to half of all prosecutions, one can assume 30-40 total cases per year. This is out of 75-80,000 federal criminal prosecutions each year. Overall numbers certainly suggest that silencers are a very minor law enforcement problem.
Moving from the overall numbers and looking at more specific offences, it appears that use of silencers in truly violent crime is even more rare. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Ray Bradbury Theater

This was a 2000s HBO series where Ray Bradbury produced episodes based on his stories.  Some are excellent.  His story "The Veldt" came through exactly as I imagined it when reading it.  Like many of Bradbury's stories, there is often an amazingly effective projection of where things are going, and not in a positive way.  One story stared Bruce Weitz, who you may remember from Hill Street Blues as a rebel against an over connected world who murders all noisy electronic devices.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Today's Obscure Question

Say that I have several keywords such as "Lake Charles" and "Lee Roy Williams" that I want to do a search for, without having to enter each keyword by hand.  I will have a list of keywords produced by an awk script.  I would like to produce a series of searches (using whatever search engine is most familiar to you), so that I will double click a URL in a list of URLs, and have it take me to the list of matches.  There must be a way.

There is:
This explains the codes.

Now I just need to finish the awk that extracts all capitalized words out of the line.

This should output all words starting with a capital letter that include lower case letters, hyphens or apostrophes:
awk -F'\t' '/b[A-Z]+[-'a-z]*/{print $0} USATodayList.txt  
Use sed:
sed 's/\(\b[-a-z0-9[:punct:]]*\)//g' USATodayList.txt |sed 's/\bAM//g' | sed 's/\bPM//g'
I still need to delete capitalized words after quotes.  These are start of sentence.

I have a script that does the required filtering:
#  extract city, and description fields
awk -F'\t' '{print $4,"\011",$9}' USATodayList.txt | \
# remove all words entirely lower case
sed 's/\(\b[-a-z0-9[:punct:]]*\)//g' |\
# remove all AM and PM strings 
sed 's/AM//g' | sed 's/PM//g' |\

# remove all $ and quotes
sed 's/$[[:print:]]//g'| tr -d '"'|\
# remove certain high frequency words not likely to improve matching
sed 's/\b\".\b//g' temp.txt| sed 's/Police//g'| sed 's/He//g' | sed 's/Him//g' | sed 's/Him//g' |\sed 's/The//g' | sed 's/Three//g' |sed 's/Four//g' | sed 's/Five//g' | sed 's/Suspects//g' | sed 's/Prosecutors//g' |\sed 's/Deputies//g' |\
# remove hyphens tr -d '-'|\
# remove all \ following a blank
sed 's/ \\//g' 
Now what should be easy (should not say that), combine all those keywords into search queries.
#  extract city, and description fields
# skip first linetail -n +2 USATodayList.txt |\
awk -F'\t' '{print $4,"\011",$9}' | \sed 's/\"\\"/"/g' |\
# remove all words entirely lower casesed 's/\b[-a-z0-9]*//g' |tee nolower.txt|\
# remove all AM and PM strings sed 's/AM\|PM//g' |\
# remove all $ commas and quotes
sed 's/$[[:print:]]//g'| tr -d '",.' |tee nopunct.txt|\
# remove certain high frequency words not likely to improve matching
sed 's/\b\".\b//g' | sed 's/Police \|He \|Him \|His \|She \|Her \|Hers//g' |\sed 's/The \|Two \|Three \|Four \|Five \|Suspects \|Prosecutors \|Deputies \A \|There \|Before \|An \|When \|In |Investigators \|Just \|But \|According \| - //g' |\
# remove hyphens and double apostrophes
sed -e 's/--//g' | sed 's/\.\.//g'|\
# remove all \ following a blank

sed 's/ \\//g' |\
# and all apostrophes or commas remaining
tr -d "',;" |\
# replace all superfluous blanks and tabs 
sed -e ':loop' -e 's/\t\t/+/g' -e 't loop' | sed -e ':loop' -e 's/[[:blank:]][[:blank:]]/+/g' -e 't loop' | tee superfluous.txt|\
# remove superfluous +s
sed -e ':loop' -e 's/++/+/g' -e 't loop' |tee superpluses|\
# and the mysterious +blank
sed -e 's/+[[:blank:]]/+/g' |\# and the trailing blank
sed -e 's/+$//g' | tee trail.txt|\sed 's/ /+/g' |tee final.txt|\
# now build the URLs
awk '{print ""$0}' >>urls.txt

And it works!  I now have search URLs for every entry in the USA Today database of mass murders.
The more I look at, the more fearful of changing anything.  James Gosling, author of emacs, once described PostScript as a write-only language.  I largely agree with him, but sed isn't much better.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Evidence That Transgender is a Mental Illness

From PJMedia:
On Saturday, a library in the Seattle area hosted a "Teen Pride" event for children ages 9-19. The event featured drag queens, all sorts of explicit adult-themed advice, and a raffle for dangerous transgender chest binders. Three local moms, concerned about children being exposed to such things at a taxpayer-funded library, filmed the event in order to expose it. Police escorted them out by force, warning that they were guilty of "criminal trespass."
Does anyone in the LGBT activist elite know any straight people who aren't billionaires?  If you want to know what is going to drive LGBT back into a legally imposed closet, it is trash like this, and Drag Queen Story Hour at public libraries.

When I was young, drag queens, swishy guys, and bull dykes were signs of vicious stereotyping.  Now they are an identity.  Who would have thought those nasty stereotypes were somewhat true?

Another Mass Murder, But in Gun Control Heaven

At least five dead including the shooter.