Archive for March, 2011

Grover is my inspiration.

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Last weekend after reading Grover’s Own Alphabet N started asking me to make letters like Grover. After a few we decided to kick it up a notch.

This turned out to be pretty good entertainment for adults and children alike… at least until R eventually got hungry and we had to rush through the last several letters.

So here you go…

IMG_0165
IMG_0203
IMG_0198
IMG_0218

(also a little shout-out to Dr. Suess’s ABC).

Supermoon Rising!

Sunday, March 20th, 2011

No this is not a review of the latest disaster flick based on completely silly internet hoaxes. In any case, there were no obvious signs of tidal damage as N and I watched the full moon rise. N got very excited as the first glimpses rose above the trees. This is later on when the atmospheric distortion was quite obvious. You can just see the distant trees silhouetted at the bottom of the image.
It’s not the sharpest image, but then it was through a 200mm with a 1.4x extender. Even with the tripod, the wind shake was significant at times. Most of the chromatic aberration is due to the atmosphere since this image was from the center of the frame where I’d expect the lens to be behaving at its best. Green on top and red on the bottom is typical of horizon shots (and leads to the famous green flash).
Supermoon 2011

Links for ISS Viewing

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

I’m getting requests again for links to ISS (and shuttle) viewing prediction sites. I primarily use the following sites:

  • Spaceweather.Com’s Simple Satellite Tracker Very easy to use, just enter your zip code and get a list of upcoming satellites you can see. These tend to be highly visible items and/or items of special current interest. They also have smart-phone versions for iPhone and Droid.
  • Heavens-Above.Com This site is a bit more technical, which means you can get more information if you’re willing to provide more information. You can register on the site and it will remember your latitude/longitude and some other preferences. This site provides nice sky charts with the satellite passes drawn on them. I’m pretty familiar with the night sky, so find this more useful than compass coordinates and elevation (particularly on those partly cloudy nights).

There are many others, of course, so if there’s another that you like, feel free to add it to the comments.

So Long Discovery

Monday, March 7th, 2011

N and I went outside just before dinner to watch the ISS and STS Discovery pass overhead. We were out just a bit early, so we also looked at the gorgeous crescent moon (completely illuminated with ample Earth-shine) and bright yellowish Jupiter hanging in the fading light of dusk.
The stars were sharp and clear. Without any adjustment for my eyes the Pleiades popped out almost directly overhead, with orange Aldebaran staring down nearby. I pointed out Orion’s belt and the red star Betelgeuse[1]

I spotted the pair low in the north west sky, barely brighter than the sun’s fading glow (and Syracuse’s contribution). They were only a few outstretched fingers apart (~2 degrees) and climbing slowly. I pointed them out to N who found them without too much difficulty. The pair made a pretty visually striking scene following each other slowly ‘up’ into the sky. The leading dot (the ISS I think) was much brighter at this point. (Edit: Reviewing orbital data shows that ISS was the trailing dot. It was, as I recall, brighter at higher elevation.)

As they ascended, they got brighter and brighter until near zenith the two outshone Jupiter and may have even surpassed Siruis [2] N followed them most of the time, with occasional comments about planes or the moon, but as I started talking about the astronauts that lived up there he became more quiet. I said we could wave to them, and he did so enthusiastically.

As they started descending into the south east, I explained how they would pass into Earth’s shadow and fade away. He asked when they would be coming back to Earth. I said some would be coming back in a few days and others would stay for some time. As they started to fade we both said “Bye-bye astronauts!” and “Have a safe trip home.” Indeed, we wish safe voyages to the astronauts, and one more safe return to you Discovery.

  1. N thinks Beetle-Juice is a hilarious name for a star. []
  2. I estimate they easily reached magnitude -1, but quite probably reached -2 or -3. By this time they were closer to 10 degrees apart and moving quickly. Edit: Looking at the predictions retroactively shows calculations for -1.3 for STS and -3.6 for ISS. []

Newegg rocks.

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

We do almost all of our electronic purchases online and the vast majority of that goes through Newegg. We have purchased literally thousands of dollars of computer and related equipment from them in the last 3.5 years.

Our last two purchases are typical examples. On the morning of the 23rd of February I ordered a new UPS. A big, bulky, heavy piece of electronics. The price was the best I could find anywhere and the shipping was free: standard 3-day UPS. My confirmation email shows that they processed the order at 10AM Eastern Time (Wednesday). The unit was on my front steps by 4PM on Friday. It came from California. UPS rocks too.

Yesterday afternoon Kristin’s mouse gave up the ghost. She ordered a new one at ~2:30 PM (according to when the order confirmation was received). It was on the steps at 2:30 PM today.[1][2]

Tonight as I read my email, I noticed a special “e-blast” coupon for 15% off any mouse. I get on their live chat support, tell them what happened and bang, $6 credit. No begging, no pleading, just done.

This is how to get repeat business (and a nice testimonial on a random blog).

  1. Time according to UPS tracking, we found it at 5PM. This item came from New Jersey. []
  2. This item was $1.99 for the standard “3-day” UPS shipping. Still the best overall price. []

Helped Around the Knee in the Curve

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

I had my follow up visit with the Orthopedic Surgeon today (Dr. Todd Battaglia). After the nurse removed my stitches[1], Dr. Battaglia and I discussed the surgery itself, complete with snapshots (below the fold).

He made a few main points about the surgery, all of which bode well for a complete recovery. First, he mentioned that there was significant tissue irritation in and around the knee joint. Second he examined the medial meniscus and the ACL and found that they were (as expected) undamaged and in fine condition. The cartilage at the base of the femur was also in great condition. The most interesting finding was with the damaged meniscus itself. He suspects, but of course cannot be sure, that I may have been born with a discoid meniscus. You can read more by following the link, but the basics are that in utero the menisci are complete discs. During development the interior of the disc is reabsorbed leaving the crescent shape present in most people. In some people (he said 5-10%, but the wikipedia source says more like 3%) this material remains. This is ultimately good news because he was able to remove the damaged tissue and leave plenty in place to support the joint into the future.

Finally, after some discussion on my PT progress we decided that he should draw some of the fluid off the knee to immediately remove some of the swelling. Apparently I am somewhat behind the curve here in the amount of swelling and how long it has persisted. The difference in mobility was immediate and remarkable. I also feel that I made considerably more progress with my stretches this evening.

Ok… now for the good stuff (Medical images You have been warned!):
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  1. I really enjoy the juxtaposition of a surgical technology that allows the interior of a joint to be excised with two small holes and the stone age concept of sewing the wounds shut. []