Dec 17

After all these years of cursing Windows Remote Desktop when it came out of full screen mode, I took the twenty seconds necessary to find the hotkey combination that puts the RDP window back into full-screen.  For future reference: Ctrl-Alt-Break.

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Apr 2

Again, we settled on Disneyland as our Spring Break get-away destination.

I've been to plenty of amusement parks, but Disneyland (just like they advertise) truly is the "Happiest Place on Earth".  Customer service rules the day at Disneyland - from sun-up to sun-down (and late into the night...the place doesn't close until 12).  It never ceases to amaze me the attitude of every single associate that you interact with while in the park - from the moment you enter the security check point, the tone is set with genuine smiles and positive attitudes...and it never diminishes.

What amazes me more, is the effect that this has on the guests as a collective.  Where else could one expect to wait in-queue for upwards of an hour, often with young kids in-tow, and not be witness (or party to) complete societal meltdown?  I'm convinced that there is something infectious in the attitudes of the Disney-ites, which somehow inspire behaviors, that have otherwise become all too foreign in our interactions with others.  Stranger still is the willingness with which we, as customers, pay a dear premium to experience what amounts to this transformation in, and of ourselves.

If only we could all agree to adopt our Disney-inspired behaviors and attitudes as we pursue our day-to-day activities and interactions - perhaps then we could advertise "Happiest Place is Earth".

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Dec 21

As I mentioned in the previous article, I captured about 3gb of Lunar Eclipse video via the scope-cam using wxVideoCapture.  Of seven segments, four were keepers for post-production.  I condensed this down to two segments and converted from .avi to .flv format using "Video Converter" from koyotesoft for a grand total of 1mb of web-friendly video.

The first video (eclipse 45) is just a scenic traversal of the moonscape.

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The second video (eclipse 13) is an attempt at capturing the terminator - the line of transition between the eclipsed and non-eclipsed portion of the moon.

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Again, I struggled with focus, which is a problem I hope to solve one day soon with an eyepiece focuser - the one disadvantage to the SCT-style telescope design where focus is achieved by moving the entire mirror within the body of the scope, instead of just the eyepiece.

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Dec 21

Having been especially overcast all day, I was expecting to be disappointed for the grand Lunar Eclipse event occurring on the Winter Solstice - the first time in nearly 400 years.  However, miraculously, at just about 1 hour prior to the beginning of the event, the skies cleared and conditions became near-perfect for viewing the eclipse.

I setup for close-in lunar shots via the scope-cam - took about 3gb worth of video for a total of approximately 10,000 frames.  I've not had a great deal of success in getting, and maintaining sharp focus while using the scope-cam, so stacking proved relatively futile as you can observe here:

2010 Lunar Eclipse - Stacked

I'm happier with the following single-frame extracts:

Eclipse 2010 MoonscapeEclipse 2010 Event Horizon

In addition to the scope-cam, I shot about 40 photos through the SLR.  The two that I'm the most pleased with are here:

Eclipse 2010 Near Full 1Eclipse 2010 Near Full 2

I especially like the second one for the tree limbs in the foreground...I think it gives an interesting effect.  I should point out that none of these were colorized in post-production, nor where any filters used, etc...this is all natural coloring.  Enjoy!

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Sep 30

I've had a devil of a time getting the kind of shots that I desire via the DSLR telescope mount.  While I think this is partially a matter of poor patience on my part, and lack of skill/experience factors greatly, the whole setup just didn't click (so to speak).  Results were sketchy at best regardless of my varied approaches.  I do think potential exists, but not without some tutelage from someone who has been at it a lot longer than myself.

Enter webcam astrophotography...I've had my eye on this for awhile, did some reading recently, and stumbled across an article by Gary Honis.  In Gary's article, he provides a very clear step-by-step tutorial on re-engineering the Microsoft Lifecam Cinema HD webcam to make it suitable for astrophotography.  So, for less than $40, I picked up the same via eBay and commenced to produce my own based on Gary's instructions.  Altogether, my conversion took less than 40 minutes - the hardest part being the disabling of the built-in super-bright (blue) LED which sits just under CCD collector and would otherwise create far too much light pollution.  I tried no less than four different kinds of paint to disable it and still have not completely drown out all of the light that it emits.

One area where I deviated from Gary's instructional - for mounting, all I had on hand was a spare 1.25" mounting tube, not an eyepiece extender as is called for in the article, but the tube that an eyepiece might be screwed into.  To get a solid mount, I simply returned the modified webcam back into its original housing and gave it three wraps of black electrical tape - experiment with the best amount/placement for your own.  Of minor deviation - I did not replace the microphone as it really didn't seem necessary to me.

To test, I setup for an equatorial alignment (though the video wouldn't prove it...it's very bouncy due to all the fiddling I was doing at the time), zeroed in on Jupiter, and shot a short 40 frames using wxAstroCapture.  Post production of the output AVI was done with RegiStax to get my still photo, and Koyotesoft's free-be video converter to pare down the AVI to a lighter weight mp4.

These are not knock-your-socks-off image quality as I still have a fair amount to learn.  Also, I should point out that this sequence was taken on the first cool(er) night of ~70F following a 5-day heat wave of 95F+ temps, so there was a lot of crap in the air, and the famous Bay Area marine layer was moving in quickly as evidence of the cooler temps tonight.

Jupiter via the scope-mounted-webcam

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Sep 24

I've just returned from another trip to Nashville, TN.  I've been a number of times, always for business, but truly enjoy it each and every time.  The Nashville area is beautiful - old stately homes with character, the friendliest people, great dining, and a real pulse.  I don't always make it a point to see sights when travel, but made it a point to re-visit the Parthenon in Nashville's Centennial Park before heading out to the airport this past trip.  I took photos this time using my iPhone - these hardly do the structure justice, but fairly well capture the enormity of the only 1:1 reconstruction in the world of the original in Athens, Greece.  This reconstruction features, just as the original, all of the engineering oddities that are said to lend to the appearance of perfect form by way of optical illusion - including the slight tilt of the columns, the slight uneven spacing between columns, a bulging in the columns, and a slight arch in the horizontal members.

Originally, the structure was built as part of an expo just prior to 1900 - a celebration of Tennessee's 100 years.  As I recall, the original was built primarily of wood, and not intended to last long (as it seems most expo buildings are not).  A celebrity in inanimate form, the structure was later rebuilt over ten years time in stone, brick, concrete and still stands today.

Below are some photos that I took - the exterior looking from the West...this would would be considered the back-side of the building.  Interior shots include Athena - this is an artist's rendition based on historic input of what the original (long since destroyed) might have looked like.  Other shots include the motifs which adorn the East and West pediments and allow close examination of the detail that was incorporated into these amazing carved murals.

Parthenon exteriorAthena standing inside the ParthenonAthena, I included this to capture the sense of scale.Parthenon West PedimentParthenon West PedimentParthenon West PedimentParthenon East PedimentParthenon East PedimentParthenon East Pediment

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Sep 5

I've been watching a particularly bright body in the South-Western night sky these past few evenings.  Fairly convinced it was Jupiter,  I confirmed the same and had a closer look.  It'd been ages since I'd setup the telescope, and it was in about a dozen parts all packed safely away, but I simply couldn't resist a closer look.

I was rewarded with a nice image of Jupiter's banding and a bonus of no fewer than four moons visible.  Some further investigation has revealed that I just might have captured Uranus in the very same shot - up, and to the right of Jupiter, at about 45 deg.  Very rewarding Laughing

Jupiter Sep 2010

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Jul 4

Celebrated the Fourth of July (2010) with a wonderful train ride through Niles Canyon - riding the historic line through the beautiful scenery, weather was perfect, and the association was running their steam equipment on this day (the Robert Dollar #3 was in service).  We rode the historic bus (#128, a classic 1958 GMC) from the train station into downtown.  Niles was all but shutdown for the Fourth, as expected, but still able to get a decent lunch, look through a couple of antique stores, and visit and tour the historic Essanay Silent Film Museum.

Followed this with fireworks in San Ramon - for once, it was not bitter cold once the sun dipped down...of course the proper ground cover and sleeping bags helped!  The show was good this year, though in the higher flying days, say five years back, the show was much more grand.  Still, who can complain about an evening of free entertainment that brings out the entire city, and folks from all around the surrounding area.

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Feb 16

I've made it to page one of Google search results (as an exclusive hit) - never mind the LinkedIn and Facebook results which link to generic portals listing all "Adam Krause's" (btw, I am #2 in the LinkedIn results Smile ).  Anyway, right down there at the bottom - the link to my Sourceforge user profile.  <sigh> perhaps someday I'll get a page-one listing by my name in association with PigsLipstick.com...someday.

And yes, I am running thin on blog content at the moment, making this one of my all-time greatest wastes of blog space.

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Feb 7

Have had my fair share of firsts recently, here is yet another:


Catching a connection in Phoenix, waiting at the gate to board, TSA shows up for surprise ID inspections as people board.


Now, I've flown plenty in the past few years, and observed a general lessening of security measures at the airport which made this event seem all the more out-of-place. Even so, I, like those around me, take it in stride outside of a few raised eyebrows and the odd nervous remark.


This event would surely have passed with little recall had it not been for the follow-on which really got me wondering about profiling. Nearly the last to board, a group of three young men, of apparent Middle-Eastern descent (I'm guessing Turkish) boarded.


Presentable in appearance and dress, a little loud, clearly agitated...one of the gentlemen, after taking his seat for a moment, stood abruptly, and began voicing concerns over the luggage that was taken from him and checked at the gate. Pointing out, rightly, that there was still plenty of overhead space available, and still his luggage was checked at the gate for stowage below.


Though this particular gentleman calmed down in due time, he and his colleagues continued to draw attention through the remainder of the flight - perhaps a little too much attention from the airline wait-staff.


Was this a case of profiling? Was his, and his colleagues' luggage subjected to seizure and search? Was this out of place in context of the fact that these three men sat in a row that, according to the online reservations and seating choices, had not been occupied even 12 hours prior to the flight?


 


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Jan 24

In my entire life, I've never been witness to a lightbulb burning out during mid-use.  Sure, plenty have burned out as they were powered-on or bumped.  This I've come to expect - mostly during situations which necessitate light, and usually where the risk of physical peril is above average.

But alas, this is the first I've been sitting quietly at a desk, in absence of any apparent external influence, and where the bulb simply fails.  Might this be an omen?

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Dec 15

I just overheard my young daughter, telling my younger son...

Be clear, be quick, be gone.

I love it!  It scares the heck outta me, but I love it!

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Oct 4

First signs of Fall - a crisp morning breeze and a hint of fireplace smoke wafting through the air. Of course the Bay Area will tease us with one final mini heat wave - Indian Summers are the rule in Central California.

Oh, and the second tell-tale...a fine pot of white bean soup prepared for dinner last night. Looking forward to the warmth and economies of winter cooking - soups and stews rich in vegetables, broths, and "cheap" meats where a little bit goes a long way.

Sent from my iPhone

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Sep 21

If there wasn't such a valuable lesson learned in this exercise, I would be far less likely to share.

How I Stole my Domain from Myself:

  • Step 1: Register a domain name for two years, assign an administrative email address using a free email account (Hotmail works well), set a password to administer the domain with the registrar.
  • Step 2: Promptly forget the admin password for the domain name.
  • Step 3: Never use the email address that you set in the admin record for the domain with the registrar.  This ensures two things:  A. that you forget the email account's password, and B. that the free email account expires for lack of use, thereby making item A irrelevant.
  • Step 4: Wait until right before the domain expires and frantically try to execute your master plan to consolidate all domain registration and hosting with a single vendor - realizing only then that you have neither access to the domain administration, nor the email account required to retrieve the password.
  • Step 5: Since the email account is expired, re-register using the requisite address, have the registrar email your domain admin password to the newly created (with old address) email account, log into the domain admin panel, unlock the domain and execute the transfer.
  • Step 6: Revel in the incredible ease with which you just hijacked your own domain from yourself simply because the email address used for the domain was, itself, hijack-able.
  • Step 7: (Optional) - check to see if Coca-Cola, Microsoft or Toyota were dumb enough to do the same.

Moral of the story: never, ever use a free email account in the contact records for your domain names.

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Aug 16

Went to The Boardwalk today with the family - I sure enjoy that place.  I may have mentioned before, it's the only amusement park on the West coast that does not charge admission - and to boot, an all-day ride pass is only $30.  That's awfully hard to beat, even if they don't have 100's of rides.  Today, despite sub-90deg weather, the water was perfect and (probably because of the sub-90deg weather) the sand wasn't so damn hot that it practically formed a top-coat of glass underfoot.  The kids had fun, the drive was pleasant, the crowds were negligible, and as usual, the carnival food was better (at 1/4 the price) than Six-Flags Vallejo. 

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