Molecular dispersion beyond the integrity point

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cheapskate Astronomer Builds A Sky-Tracker from a 24 Hour Timer

A couple years ago I saw the IOptron Skytracker.  Choked on the price.  $400? Really?

OK, it's DC. It will work anywhere. That's cool.  It's got a lot of torque, and an angle-adjuster built right on to it.  Nice.

But $400?  Dang.

Being the Cheapskate Astronomer, it occurred to me that a 24 hour timer went around once each day. That should work, as long as it rotates in the right direction.

I got mine at Home Depot during Christmas time when they had it in the Christmas decoration section.  It was just under $5.

Now you have to plug these things in, so it won't work out away from electrical power.  That is the big downside of this plan.

Also at Home Depot, I find that a 1 1/4 inch PVC union fits right on the part that turns.  It is important to note that the quarter-size part in the center does not rotate.  Only the outer ring with all those gray thingys you pull up or push down turns.

So here's what I buy.

That's a 1 1/4 inch union, a same size cap, a 3/4 inch 1/4-20 hex head bolt, zinc coated, a couple of nuts and fender washers.  I ended up using only one of the fender washers and one of the nuts.

Drilled a hole in the center of the cap.

Installed the bolt, washer and nut.
Now, tricky part. Glue the PVC union on to the dial of the timer. Work slowly and carefully, getting it centered, but don't let ANY GLUE get on the part between the dial and the part that doesn't turn.  I used superglue.
And here's how it looks glued up.
To mount the thing to a tripod, I simply glued a piece of wood to the back, then used a clamp to clamp that to the head of a cheap $20 tripod.  The tripod head has pan and tilt on it, so I lined the pipe union up with the North Star.

Then get your camera all ready, and mounted on the cap on the 1/4-20 bolt. Looks like this:
Without a multi-angle mount (ball-joint) I can't aim the camera anywhere but at the celestial equator.

Also, the piece of wood I glued on to the back of the thing interfered with the extension cord, so I had to trim it with a Dremel tool to allow the extension cord plug to plug all the way into the back of the timer.

But it worked.  It bore the weight of this small camera, and rotated, keeping aimed at one part of the sky the whole time.

With a ball-joint mount, I'll be able to point the camera anywhere in the sky.

And with that Canon Powershot camera and CHDK, I can take up to 15 second exposures and a script for intervelometer features, and take long exposure images of one part of the sky all night long, or at least until the batteries in the camera are drained.  Use rechargeable Li-ion batteries and you get a couple hundred images at least.

Total cost is less than $10 for the sky-tracker.
I'm not the first to try this. Here's one

and here's another:

Monday, April 7, 2014

DIY Telescope Pier, Failures & Success

How NOT to build a telescope pier using concrete

How TO mount your telescope pier to the earth

How to build a telescope pier using a welding gas bottle and two brake rotors

Friday, April 4, 2014

Unboxing and Assembling the Grizzly Soprano Ukulele kit

I ordered Grizzly Ukulele kit model H3125 from Amazon for $36.
It came in just a few days.

Box was smaller than I thought it would be.

Right off the bat I was impressed by the depth of the lines in the wood of the body.

All the parts were there. I didn’t like the tuners, so I bought machine tuners on Amazon for $5, black with gold plating.
Also, I bought a set of Aguila strings. Don’t recall the costs of those, but they’re available on Amazon all the time.
You don’t really have to do this, but I put the neck and body in the sun for about 2 weeks to deepen the grain and the contrast in the wood. The UV in the sunlight gives the wood a suntan look, and makes the darks darker.

I decided right away I wasn’t going to use the rosette sticker around the sound hole.
Fit of the neck joint wasn’t anywhere near as good as I would have liked, so I did some sanding and fitting.

Looking inside the body, there is some excess glue.  It looks like hot glue, or perhaps urethane glue.

Nice blocking.
Gap in this lining.

Neck joint before sanding:

The manual is really very good. Follow it and you can’t go too far wrong.

Once the neck joint was flush and the surfaces mated up, I glued up the neck joint. Rubber bands for clamping.

Next step is to glue on the fingerboard.  Again, rubber bands, & add pencils.

This is the glue I used.

Here it is, glued up and ready to start sanding.

Now I skip a few steps in the photos. I sanded the body, and beveled the fingerboard sides, smooth sanded the neck, then finish sanded everything except the fingerboard surface.
Then I masked the fingerboard and the spot where the bridge would be glued onto the top of the body, and started laying on coats of shellac.
I applied a few thick coats, then sanded most of it off to try to fill the pores. Then I layed on a few coats thinned with acetone. Finally I rubbed on about a dozen coats with a cotton wad, getting the solution thinner and thinner each time with acetone thinner.
Then I carefully measured, as the instructions said, and glued on the bridge.  The tuners went in pretty easy, but I had to clear out the holes, as some shellac got in there.
Here it is mostly strung up.

I had some trouble with one string. The bridge was too skinny, and that string popped out on me.  I filed the slot a bit to make it wider, and now don’t have any problems with it.
The place where the bridge glues on you don’t put any coating or shellac on. You don’t have to use shellac. I choose to, but urethane would have been fine, or just about any finish.
I did not feel any need to adjust bridge height. It plays easily with the bridge and saddle as it came.

You can hear the results in a four ukulele side-by-side play-off my daughter Pearl made and put on Youtube at

Mine is the homemade uke. It has a pleasant but quiet and soft sound, not bright or sharp.
Keep in mind it’s also a $36 instrument. Honestly, I had $100 worth of fun putting it together, and got a wonderful little instrument to play at the end.
I heartily recommend the Grizzly kit, and am building another with my son.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Things Leftists Believe Conservatives Are Against

Here's a list of things that leftists believe about conservatives:

We're against entitlements.
We're against the minimum wage.
We're against the teaching of evolution as a fact in schools.
We're against the Headstart program.
We're against cutting carbon to stop global warming.
We're against education.
We're against science.
We're against children eating.
We're against gays.
We're against equal pay for women.
We're against veteran's care.
We're against the United Nations.
We're against the separation of church and state.
We're against everyone having medical care.
We're against voter's rights.
We're against people marrying who they love.
We're against food that's free from genetic modification.
We're against a woman's right to choose whether to keep or abort her baby.
We're against civil rights.

Some of these things we actually are against, some not.  Mostly we just don't want to pay for your oft'failed socialist ideas.  

They're your stupid, bleeding-heart programs.  If you can get them into law, then it's up to you to make them work.  Without our money or our consent.

Friday, September 27, 2013

How I Turned My Tablet Into An IP Camera

I was going on a three week trip and wanted to keep an eye on the house.  Knowing an IP camera would allow me to monitor the house remotely, I shopped them.  There are some great deals on IP cameras with pan-tilt-zoom, and I’ve played with a FOSCAM in the past.  But I didn’t want to be tied to their software, or mess with ip addressing or router ports.

I realized that a tablet computer with a built in camera has all the same gear as an IP camera, and more.  I have a Motorola XOOM tablet that I wasn’t planning to bring on the trip.  So I started playing with apps.

I tried several, finally ending up on SECuRET SpyCam.  It costs $4.49 in the Google Play store.  I settled on this software because it did not lock up the laptop, the menu options were easy to navigate through and the demo actually worked.

Another important thing that drew me to this app is that it uploads to Dropbox, which I could check with my laptop and no special software.  I set it up using the back camera, set the XOOM on the OEM Motorola charging stand and got it plugged in, arranged it on top of my desk facing the kitchen and family room, and pressed ‘Start’.
The angle of this stand pointed the camera down, so I needed it up high.  However any stand would work, or just prop the tablet up against something.  I hid it with a piece of paper, making sure to leave the camera lens uncovered.  If a burglar broke in he would be unlikely to see it.

We have a dog, two cats, three kids and a busy house.  It started triggering immediately and uploading 30 second videos to a folder on my dropbox account.

After we delivered the menagerie to friends & relatives to care for while we were gone, and just before we left the house, I sat down at my desktop computer and deleted all the junk videos.  It caught 3 videos of us leaving the house.  That's daughter #2 playing piano in the background, waiting for us to get ready to leave.  Then the camera recorded nothing for several days.

On vacation, after we’d checked into the hotel and relaxed a bit, I would point my laptop browser to my dropbox account and check the folder.  For days there was nothing but those three files of us leaving the house.  Then there was a windy day and the moving light through the windows triggered the motion capture.  I was able to see a 30 second video taken only a few hours ago, and know that the camera was working, uploading and that no one was in my house.

For the three weeks, there were about a dozen such videos, where the light from the windows changed enough to trigger the capture.  In each, I could tell no one was in my house.

The quality of the video was very good, and each 30 second video was about 23 MB.  This means that in a free Dropbox account (2 GB) you’ll only be able to store less than 90 videos.  That’s 45 minutes worth of video.  Files are date and time stamped, so it is clear when things happened.

If someone was in your house, you would easily be able to identify his face.  The video was that good.  And those tablet  cameras are amazingly good at seeing in the dark.  Also, you could forward a copy of the video file to the police, and upload it directly to Youtube.

Features I’d like to see would be some sort of heartbeat, or timer in the software to allow me to trigger the system, say once each day or once each 12 hours.  This would assure me it was working.  Also there is no feature in the software to erase files off Dropbox; no first-in-first-out feature.  I’d like that.  Also the file format of the videos is .3gp.  My laptop had no problem with this, but an Apple device I tried to use didn't like that flavor.
A very important point is that I turned off app-upgrades in the google play store.  This way no apps would upgrade, causing the tablet to restart.  I also shut down all the apps I could, so the camera app was the only one running.
For $4.49 and a little experimenting, I bought a lot of peace of mind.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Things Liberals Hate; a quick list of key words that un-hinge leftists

For your convenience, I've assembled a quick list of things that unhinge leftists.  Some take thought, others will cause your buddy, the liberal to convulse merely be mentioning the word or name.  'Sarah Palin' is good for this.  Casually injecting her name into the conversation will cause progressive-tards to spew hate-filled vile.  It's good for a laugh.

Things leftists hate

  • Christians
  • Non-union jobs
  • Failure of Newsweek
  • The WSJ
  • Un-taxed Internet sales
  • White bread
  • People who ask, 'Hope for what? Change to what?'
  • America as the world’s only superpower
  • Term limits
  • Both paper AND plastic
  • Young energetic Conservatives
  • Falling newspaper subscriptions
  • MSNBC’s poor ratings
  • Red states
  • Gerrymandering
  • UniteRed
  • Benghazi
  • Undercover Acorn Pimps
  • Bestselling Conservative Books
  • Small Business Owners
  • People not on govt. assistance
  • Nuclear weapons
  • Closed borders
  • Religious Charities
  • Border Fence
  • Racial Wealth Gap
  • Cutting govt. spending
  • Tax cuts
  • Illegal Immigrant Sweeps
  • Sherriff Joe
  • Gov. Brewer
  • ‘Mission Accomplished’
  • disparate outcomes
  • Rupert Murdoch
  • Fox News
  • Michelle Bachman, all GOP women
  • ‘Under God’ in the pledge
  • Pitt bulls
  • Google Glass
  • Locally controlled schools
  • Assault Weapons
  • Informed votes
  • Pharmacists who refuse to sell Plan B
  • Politically insensitive speech (this list being an example)
  • Guantanamo Bay
  • Waterboarding
  • Right to Work
  • Conservatives owning newspapers
  • Paying for your own medical care
  • Gas Guzzling SUV
  • Strong Military
  • NRA
  • Kids bringing cupcakes to school
  • Talk Radio
  • Steak Houses
  • Successful people
  • Black Republican
  • Homeschooling
  • Salt on food
  • Kids running lemonade stands
  • Constitutional Originalism
  • McDonald’s Big Mac
  • The Koch Brothers
  • Flag Lapel Pins
  • Wal-Mart
  • The Boy Scouts
  • Happily Married Mothers
  • Non-Islamic Religions
  • Trans-fatty foods
  • Toilets that flush >1.6 gallons
  • V-8 engines
  • Apple Pie
  • All volunteer military
  • Capital Punishment
  • Flat Tax
  • Displaying the 10 Commandments
  • 44 Oz Sodas
  • Bacon
  • Calling terrorists ‘Jihadis’
  • Wishing someone Merry Christmas
  • The mere existence of wealthy people
  • Traditional Marriage
  • Over-funded retirement accounts
  • Gibson Guitars
  • The ‘I’m Proud to be an American’ song
  • Non-union Twinkies
  • Defunding NPR
  • 100 watt light bulbs
  • The Confederate Flag
  • The Debt Limit
  • Patriotism
  • Corporate money in elections
  • Nuclear Power
  • Sarah Palin
  • Voter ID
  • The Second Amendment
  • Fracking
  • American ‘Imperialism’
  • Islamophobia
  • Bottled water
  • Toy guns
  • Plastic grocery bags
  • Goldfish as pets
  • Horse drawn carriages in NYC
  • Barbie dolls
  • Crosshair symbols
  • The Pledge of Allegiance
  • The word "Welfare"

 If you find this list helpful, let me know.  It has many uses.  For example, in April 2013 a group of leftist congressmen published a 'Resolution' that, in part, claimed Global Warming forces women into prostitution.  I mocked this on Twitter by taking each item on this list and tweeting that it force women into prostitution.  For example: 100 Watt Light Bulbs force women into prostitution. 

See?  Good clean snarky fun.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Clues That The Bitcoin Phenomenon Is A Giant Scam

1.      They don’t exist.  OK, granted, most of what we consider ‘money’ doesn’t exist in the real world.  It resides on computers.  But I can, if I wish, hold a $100 bill in my hand.  Ever held a bitcoin?  It sounds like you should be able to, but you can’t.

2.      Only 21,000,000 of them will ever exist.  We promise.  Cross our hearts.  And how will this be controlled when no laws govern Bitcoins?

3.      No backing.  No ‘full faith and credit’ of anything.  Bitcoins are created by whose authority?

4.      Skyrocketing value.  Looks like a bubble to me.

5.      Anonymous money – untraceable – perfect for drugs & arms runners, money laundering, and avoiding taxes.  Governments are going to allow this for how long?

6.      Bitcoins are billed as an alternative to traditional banks.  Traditional banks may not like there being an alternative.

Whatever the heck a Bitcoin is, I’m pretty sure I don’t want one.