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  • >>>NOTE: I did not mention Dobsonian scopes. These are large diameter telescopes with heavy bases mounted at ground level that are nicknames light buckets because they can take in so much light (due to their large diameter tubes). I have never used one of these or seen one close up. They must be excellent for deep sky observing.

**UPDATE: I was too dogmatic about the use of altazimuth scope mounts. They can work for low power observing with repositioning about every 15 seconds, but require some tricks to be learned to use at higher power since the field of view has narrowed and it is more difficult and repeatedly necessary to readjust the scope to bring the target back into view. If the scope you want has this mount then try it out. Be sure though that it is a stable and sturdy mount/tripod configuration to minimize jiggle from touching the scope or wind. AN EXCEPTION IS THE DOBSONIAN SCOPE. These all use alt-azimuth bases on the ground or floor and apparently work fine.**

The recent close approach of Mars (and the presence of Jupiter and Saturn in the same quadrant of the sky) and the transit of Mercury across the Sun has stimulated my interest in observational astronomy. Here are my cryptic suggestions to anyone interested in starting this hobby:

    1. Learn the constellations. Six-10 are enough to find your way around the sky and appreciate the imagination of the ancients. Also enjoy the satellites and occasional meteorite or even a visible comet.
    2. UPDATE: Hints: After reading about the prominent constellations go to a semi-dark location. Take your children or mate too! Pretend that you live in the ancient world and observe constellations as imagined by observers without optics in those days. Don’t bring any optics, but do bring your constellation guide (planosphere or cell phone app). Lying on a blanket is good.
    3. UPDATE: You will need a red light to read your star charts in the dark without losing your night vision. [[This can be purchased of course, but DIY too–>  small plastic box (Jameco, Digi-key, others), 9V battery and connector, super bright red LED, push button on/off switch, and a resistor to limit current. There are online nomograms to determine resistor value]].
    4. Binoculars. They open up a whole new world of sky exploration. View star clusters, galaxies, nebulae. The images are not large, but some become visible with low power. The planets don’t look any better, but you can see the 4 Galillean moons of Jupiter and the Moon is fabulous. Best of all binos are portable and easy to set up.Eventually you may want to build a viewing support (It’s all on the internet)
    5. Telescopes. Refractors and reflectors and their variations have pros and cons for whatever is your intended use.In general the refractors are best for planetary observation and the reflectors for deep space objects, but there is great overlap. Buy quality and only cry once. Realize that as the price goes up, up, and away the improvement in viewing  becomes less and less. An astronomy scope needs a sturdy tripod and an equatorial mount: no camera tripods, no altazimuth mounts will satisfy you.
    6. References: a rotating star chart, Stellarium (the free computer program that is EXCELLENT), 40 Nights to Knowing the Sky, Binocular Highlights, and Touring the Universe Through Binoculars (more advanced and technical).
    7. A few astropix–>Sun Dog, IMG_2447IMG_2317Space-X on the way up (not my photo), Sun filtered by smoke from Canadian fires, Moon, several of Jupiter, one photo showing bands of Jupiter, Mercury transit of the Sun (the tiny spot on the lower right side). Then eclipse of the moon in progress ( not my photo).
    8. IMG_2679




{The red poppy became the symbol of WW1 after the armistice}

Want to discuss this? Leave a comment and come on back later.

Some references: Indie Neidel on You Tube, The Great War; All Quiet on the Western Front (novel); Poilu (autobiography and documentary of a French soldier’s four years at the front); Paris 1919 (the Verailles Treaty and afterwards); The Great War (coffee table photographer’s documentary, mostly British and some American pix and hx.)

The Battle(s) of the Somme: July 1-Nov 13, 1916. British and German armies each experienced ~400,000+ casualties during the course of the battle. The French had ~200,00 casualties. The British experienced 57,000 casualties of which 19,000 were dead right there on the first day of the actual battle.

**Cryptic explanation for first day British losses: A week long artillery barrage preceded the attack. This proved unsuccessful due to many shells being duds, use of antipersonnel shells predominantly which did not damage barbed wire, and the excellent German fortifications. The British troops were mistakenly advised it would be an easy assault…

Rapid troop movement on the field was not possible in those days. The British high command still believed the infantry frontal assault was effective. The highly organized assault (since there was no radio communication for on site changes in plans everything had to be planned out in detail before the assault) started at 0730 local time and the infantry advanced at a walking pace heavily encumbered with gear. (They were to start running when near the enemy line). Modern artillery and machine guns decimated them and when they arrived at the barbed wire it was  intact and they could not move.

A report of the disaster reached high command at 1400 local time.**

The British and French won the engagement in the end.

UPDATE: How does an event like WW1 occur? In the upper echelons of civilization there are relationships and alliances between countries held onto by “honor and law.” Greed and lust for power are amplified emotions at this high level of kings, dictators, and presidents where much power already abides.

I think humans are herd animals usually looking for a leader to guide them and tell them what to do. They need a servant-leader, but that sort is uncommon. Nationalism has a dark side : the enemy; kill him. The mass of humans have no contact with the great leaders and cannot influence their opinions and decisions. And the great leaders sometimes view the people as an abstraction. Memory of the suffering fades and resistance is often futile in rigid cultures. Once deep into war there is little a soldier can do to stop it except, perhaps, on the small unit level. So we have war over and over.

These are memorial pix from a tour of sites in France by a member of

These following photos are 100 years later by Photographer Mike Sheil:




I have always admired this poster.

The Wave is so elegant in her uniform, alert, and capable as she listens for signals with her Hi-Z phones and has her hand on her Vibroplex key ready to respond instantly to critical and not critical communications.

A copy of this poster is mounted on the wall on the first floor hallway at the Milwaukee VA.WWII_WomensWar-MorseCode

Morse; Inspector Lewis: great classic TV mystery on Public TV

Inspector Morse

Inspector Morse

Show Summary

Welcome to the Inspector Morse guide at Morse (played by the late John Thaw) is not the ideal policeman, his superiors think. He is prickly and sarcastic, a bachelor, an Oxford graduate, an intellectual snob, and he doesn’t always follow protocol strictly as he should. But he gets results. Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whately) is a plain family man, he follows orders, and the thing that keeps him from advancing in the Force is that he seems a little slow. The show takes place in and around Oxford, where many a mysterious murder occurs. Colin Dexter, the author of the Morse novels from which most of these dramas developed, appears in cameo roles in very nearly every episode. The books are: Last Bus to Woodstock (1975), Last Seen Wearing (1976), The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn (1977), Service of All the Dead (1979), Winter’s Crime (short stories) (1981), The Dead


DIY radio construction hobby

UPDATE 2/27/17  This radio is a vacuum tube regenerative (called valve in the rest of the world). It covers the AM broadcast band, as constructed, from about 600-1200KHz. It is a rebuild of a radio I packed into a small metal case that never quite worked. Now is it very good.

The schematic is to be found online by searching <One tube 12 volt space charge radio circuit>by Norman Leal.

It uses a space charge tube which were used in automobile radios in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s. Although the tube uses 12 volts dc it draws one half amp so it requires a 12 VDC, 750 ma power supply (wall wart type works fine). It likes my antenna: a loop of insulated wire, eleven turns with a loop diameter of eight inches. One end of the loop connects to the radio with a lead wire so the loop is elevated and the other end is not connected to anything. {a ten inch loop with three turns has beenrecommended}.

Advice. One turn of wire above the coil by 1/8 inch wrapped on the coil form is enough. The resistor listed as 4.7 Mohms was not effective and I used 9 Mohms with success. If you want to run an amplified speaker (LM 386 for example) take one lead from any ground point and the other from the NON powered input to the transformer. The radio can put out good volume with headphones or an amped speaker. The transformer is 2000:8 ratio. I added a 100UF and0.1uF capacitors to the 12 volt connection.

Where to get tubes??? Radio Daze, Tube Depot, Antique Radio Supply in the U.S.

If I were young and it was 1960, I would be listening to great Rock ‘n Roll at night under the glow of the electron tube!

My other (main) interest is DIY.
This is a regenerative radio (1920’s tech that works very well) that uses a ceramic resonator instead of a coil for the tank circuit. The design is from Peter Parker, VK3YE. It works well, but has a very narrow frequency range on the 40 meter band. The narrow frequency with a variable capacitor with a range of 16-116 pF provides great selectivity although some areas of the tuning range are dead.

A tank circuit is a combination coil and variable capacitor in parallel near or directly connected to the antenna that selects one frequency and excludes others as the variable capacitor it turned (“tuned”).

6/5/16: I added a switch and another ceramic resonator of a higher frequency and now have a 120 KHz tuning range (~40 KHz overlap).IMG_2667IMG_2662

Another 40 meter receiver (G3XBM),  a 1920’s look solid state regenerative for shortwave which uses three variable capacitors, and an AM broadcast band tube radio. IMG_2306IMG_2307IMG_2600IMG_2300

Beer bread

Five Minute Beer Bread

First blog post

Well, it could not be easier.

You Tube: “How to start a blog on WordPress step by step for beginners 2015” by James Stafford and his associates. I am paying about $10.00 USD per month for web hosting to make the blog internet accessible.

The Raspberry Pi website I initially set up was localhost only (Elaine and me).  Using Linux on Terminal was a great experience, but took me (non programmer) about 4 days to get going and I never figured out how to load images or do port forwarding. (Will pursue that later). (No, I won’t)


>>UPDATE: I decided I would post what I find interesting and /or what matters I know about. It is what I like and I hope you will find something you like here too.<<