November 2007 Archives

The Moon and Mars are Friends

Believe it or not, trying to take a picture of the Moon with a regular digital camera doesn't work very well.

The big blurry thing is the Moon. The little blurry thing next to the big blurry thing is Mars. It looks better through human eyes, trust me. Apparently Mars is going to wandering around the sky quite a bit over the next few weeks, so go out and have a look. It'll be the reddish star-looking thing that isn't twinkling.

Some day, far into the future, I'll get myself a camera adapter for the telescope, but for now I'll have to settle for my precious memories, and photos that look like something out of an American remake of a Japanese horror movie.

Other things I spotted tonight, without bothering with the telescope:

Orion (not that hard)
Castor and Pollux
The Hyades Cluster (I think)
The Pleiades (surprisingly easy to find if you know what you're looking for)

I also may have spotted the Orion Nebula, conveniently located just about where Orion's genitals would be, but I wouldn't have been able to distinguish it from the surrounding stars without the telescope.

No, I'm not turning this into an astronomy blog. I'll have plenty to say about New Jersey v. Delaware later this week, never you mind.

Asstronomy Update

I took advantage of the Thanksgibbons holiday to try to get my new telescope firing on all cylinders, with limited success. On Thursday I tried to align the viewfinder, which I had been having a lot of trouble with because it was so wobbly. I tried tightening it with both of the allen wrenches that came with the scope, only to find that neither allen wrench fit the bolt. I then realized that the viewfinder hadn't been installed properly -- the front tab was entirely out of its slot. I corrected this problem with a flat-head screwdriver and continued the alignment process, somewhat concerned that I had to use sheer physical force to solve a problem with the new telescope this early in the game (my repair job involved pushing down on the tab with the screwdriver until it snapped into place rather unwillingly).

The rest of the alignment process didn't go so well. Aligning the viewfinder requires getting six screws into agreement as to where the viewfinder should be pointing, which is difficult enough without introducing your own idea as to where you think the thing should be pointing. Ultimately I got it to where the image that appears in the lower right quadrant of the viewfinder appears in the center of the telescope, which is close enough for rock 'n' roll as far as I'm concerned.

Last night was exceptionally clear, so Dr. M and I took the scope out to see if we could use the computer to find cool shit. I pointed the scope north (using a compass) and leveled it as best I could to get it into the "home" position, told it what city it was in, and then told it to point at the moon. I figured this would be a good start, since I could see the moon without the telescope and would therefore be able to tell if the telescope was behaving properly. The scope got itself into the general region of the moon, but was far enough off that I had to correct it with the directional buttons on the hand controls. I tried to memorize how far I had to push it in either direction to get it pointing where it thinks it's pointing, but that didn't work very well. I have my own ideas as to how to fix this problem, and I'll report on my progress assuming my patience holds up.

Imprecisions aside, however, we did end up seeing some cool things. First on the list was Mars (yes, the planet), which I could actually also see with my unaided eye. Without the scope it looked like a reddish star, but through the scope there was definitely a discernible disk and a distinct orange color. I'm also pretty sure we saw the Pleiades, and some star clusters that I forgot the name of. Next time I'll bring my star charts and hopefully get a better sense of where things are and what I'm looking at.

I'm still pretty excited about all this.

"Astronomy" with an Extra "s"


As a result of circumstances I won't get into, I'm now the proud owner of a somewhat fancy and extremely complicated astronomical telescope. The fanciness and complexity stem largely from the fact that the thing has an on-board computer that automatically finds various points of interest in the sky. I haven't had a chance to use the computer yet, but the lenses seem to work just fine, judging by my recent sighting of shadows on the surface of the moon.

I have high hopes for the telescope given the fact that, in my new locale on the Peninsula, I'm sufficiently far away from the purple glow of San Francisco's light-polluted night sky to actually see several stars with the unaided eye on a clear night. So far, in addition to my moon-gazing, I've pointed the scope at various random points in the sky and been able to see lots and lots of stars. Unforunately there's still a great deal of light pollution, and the damn scope is so sensitive that it picks up the dim glow of nearby street lamps that are outside the field of vision, and as such the stars aren't terribly bright. But still, pretty cool.

Once I get the computer set up I should theoretically be able to see the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, along with various nebulae and other shit that reasonably qualifies as cool. I'm not sure if the wacky Comet Holmes is still visible, but I may try to find that as well. I'm rather excited by all this.

Land of the Nerds


The Cal football team has decided to stop winning games for the time being, but that doesn't stop the Cal marching band from being a thing of awesomeness.

Simply glorious.

Beer Snobs of the World Despair


Rising gas prices I can handle, but when they start going after my microbrews, well, that's a whole nother thing. Apparently a worldwide shortage of hops is making beer more expensive (story here). Of course, this won't affect crappy beer, because life is cruel.

Land of I Scream


In our effort to find a suitable vendor of frozen yogurt near our new apartment, Dr. M and I discovered that, within a ten mile radius of where we live, there are:

12 Baskin-Robbinses
5 Cold Stone Creameries
2 Yumi Yogurts

What the hell, Silicon Valley?

The FCC Goes to the USSC


The FCC has filed a writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court appealing the Second Circuit ruling (which I blogged about here) striking down the Commission's eminently crappy "fleeting expletives" policy. SCOTUSblog has a lengthy discussion here with many an excerpt from the government's petition.

Here are a few reasons why this isn't very exciting.

First, the Second Circuit gave the FCC an opportunity to explain itself and save its policy rather than striking down the policy all together. The FCC didn't do this, and instead went straight to the Supreme Court. The government had its reasons for this approach, but given the Roberts Court's distaste for actually hearing and deciding cases, this little procedural foible will give the Court all the reason it needs to deny cert.

Second, the precise issue presented in the cert petition is one of statutory interpretation rather than constitutionality. So, even if the Court does decide to take the case, the Court is unlikely to get into the constitutionality of the FCC's indecency jurisdiction given the Roberts Court's penchant for deciding cases on narrow, boring, and unhelpful grounds. The Second Circuit opinion had a lot of dicta about the constitutionality of the FCC's indecency regime but ultimately decided the case on statutory interpretation.

Finally, one of the most glaring themes that has come out of the Roberts Court over the past two years has been "Hooray for the government," so if the Court reaches the merits of the case the FCC is likely to come out on top. And that's Bad for America, my friends.

So, I'll be keeping an eye on this as it develops but I'm not getting my hopes up.

My Third and Final Halloween Post

After many a technical difficulty, I bring you the long-awaited image of me in my Halloween costume. Behold! "Lazy Person!"

(My colleague on the left there unfortunately couldn't come up with a costume and just wore her regular work clothes.)

You'd think that, what with Halloween being my favorite holiday and all, I'd put a little more effort into my costumes. Really, the last time I got jazzed about a Halloween costume was in 2001, when I created this obscure yet wonderful get-up:

Yes, that's me as Gabe from Penny Arcade, yes, I made the T-shirt myself by printing out the two halves of the giant Pac Man on T-shirt transfer paper, and yes, my hair is partially spray-painted black. It's also the outfit I was wearing when I met my wife.

So, my Halloween resolution will be to develop a serious costume for next year, perhaps even something that will be recognized by more than one person at any given Halloween party.

Conversations with My Wife, Part II


Me: Did you know that there's a city in France called "Brest"?
Dr. M: Yeah. There's that treaty. The Brest... Brest-Litovsk Treaty or something.
Me: It's called "Brest."
Dr. M: It's spelled B-R-E-S-T.
Me: I know. That's the best part!
Dr. M: You're a child.

[Carving pumpkins.]
Me: So all this gooey stringy stuff on the inside is what they make pumpkin pie and stuff out of?
Dr. M: [Sighs.] No, Matt.
Me: So what do they use?
Dr. M: The pumpkin! The pumpkin itself!
Me: You mean the rind?
Dr. M: It's only a rind on the outer edge.
Me: Wow. We're really wasting a lot of food here.

Dr. M: My friend said the funniest thing today.
Me: [Interested.]
Dr. M: She said, "Do people ever come up to you and tell you how hot your husband is?..."
Me: [Elated.]
Dr. M: "...Because people tell me how hot my husband is all the time."
Me: [Disappointed.]
Dr. M: So I said, "Well, your husband is hot."
Me: [Scowls.]

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This page is an archive of entries from November 2007 listed from newest to oldest.

October 2007 is the previous archive.

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