Odds & Sods For Saturday, August 10th

Item The First: If you’re looking for another “Simple Astronomy” idea, try taking pictures of the Perseid meteor shower over the next couple of nights, August 10th through August 13th or so. (Even if you can’t do the photography, if it’s not cloudy you should go out and try to see some meteors. It’s fun!)

Simply put your DSLR camera on a tripod, turn the autofocus off, manually set the focus to infinity, pull the zoom on the lens back to get the widest field of view you can, set the exposure time to the longest you can get (or “Bulb”), and point it toward the northeast in a spot as dark and clear as you can find. Keep shooting (digital photos are cheap!) and see if you get lucky. And don’t forget to watch the skies as well as run the camera!

Item The Second: Earlier in August I wrote about favorite movies. Since then, of course, every now and then my brain kicks me in the ass and says, “How could you possibly have left this one out?!” OK, so add these to that list for me:

  • Blazing Saddles
  • RED
  • Hunt For Red October
  • Airplane!
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Patton
  • Hudson Hawk
  • All That Jazz
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  • Bill Cosby, Himself
  • Chicago (Hey, Chris, here’s my musical!)
  • 1776 (And another one!)
  • October Sky
  • Father Goose
  • Little Big Man
  • Contact
  • Tootsie
  • Deep Impact
  • Phantom Of The Paradise
  • Crimson Tide
  • Time Bandits
  • Defending Your Life
  • The Hallelujah Trail

Item The Third: After making my impassioned plea for someone to make an updated, new, and improved version of Outpost, my favorite old strategy computer game, it occurred to me that there’s another perfectly good thing that someone could raise money through Kickstarter for.

There are many crowdfunding campaigns to get small, independent films going. We’re also starting to see some bigger projects campaigning. Spike Lee is trying to use a Kickstarter campaign to raise $1.25M for his next movie (the campaign may or may not make it, closing August 21st), and the fans of the Veronica Mars television show raised over $5.7M earlier this year to bring the show back.

So why can’t the creators of “The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension“ ask the devoted and passionate fans of that movie to raise the starting funds for a sequel? Sequels were obviously planned. After the final credits rolled there was a card telling us to look out for “Buckaroo Banzai Against The World Crime League”. So let’s get it made!

Who’s in charge around here?

Item The Fourth: In the last “Odds & Sods” (item #1) I mentioned a great video by Ken Murphy. Now Phil Plait has mentioned it in his Bad Astronomy blog on Slate. He has a lot more information on some of the really subtle stuff that can be seen in the video and some other ideas for similar projects that can be done.

Item The Fifth: If you would be so kind as to bear with me while I vent (although you will be forgiven if you bail and ignore this section), the gremlin body count continues to rise like a smothering tide. With every two steps forward (item #5) there seems to be one back. I’m trying to consider it to be a cha-cha:


  • As previously reported, about two weeks ago we bit the bullet, dealt with Time Warner Cable’s “customer service”, and got our cable television problems solved. It was good for about four days, then went right back having the same problem, showing up as a really low-power signal with most channels blacked out because the digital cable boxes just weren’t seeing enough signal to decode. The earliest they could get us back on the schedule for another look was six days later — but mysteriously the problem went away “on its own” after three days. I’m guessing that this time it wasn’t just us having a problem, but something broken that was affecting a much wider area. If TWC got multiple complaints, they expedited the repair for the whole neighborhood.
  • Our washer & dryer are about a dozen years old. I’m not sure how long the “durable” in “durable goods” is supposed to be, but the washer went belly up mid-load last weekend with a strong smell of rubber burning. Probably a belt broken or slipped, which is something I’ve repaired in the past on older machines. But I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to get to the innards of the thing to do anything on my own. Meanwhile, the dryer works, but has something wrong with it that makes it very, very noisy when running. We’ll get both of them checked out on Monday to see if it’s a $200 repair or $2,000 for new ones.
  • My “MomDude-mobile” minivan had been getting more and more reluctant to start over the last couple of weeks and it was finally time to let the dealer tell me if it was the battery, the starter, or an electrical problem. I could have changed the battery myself if that’s all it was, but the symptoms made me suspect that it was something more complex. The good news is that they said it was just the battery, and that was relatively cheap to fix. The bad news is that now, a week later, it’s running really rough at high speeds. At 165K+ miles, I’m feeling that it’s on thin ice, but I don’t really need or want monthly payments on a new car right now.
  • In the last month I’ve had the DVD burner in not one, but two DVRs go belly up on me. The old Panasonic DMR-EH55’s were great for recording things on a big hard disk and then burning them off to DVD, but when the DVD drive dies you can’t just drop in a replacement, it’s all a proprietary unit. And they stopped making the proprietary replacement units years ago. So now I have hundreds of hours of stuff that I want to burn off to DVD, but can’t. Time to get creative and see if “my smart can be better than their stupid”.

Did I piss off someone who had some extra curses to sling about? Did I cut off a warlock on the freeway? Take the last bag of chips off the shelf just before a wizard could grab them? Let the dog poop in a witch’s front yard without cleaning it up? If so, how do I figure out who it is and apologize? (If it’s God being pissed about that whole “not been to church in forty years” thing, I might be screwed.)

FYI, I found that “cha-cha” picture on Facebook and traced it back as far as an Instagram account for “violetflame7”. If anyone has more accurate credit information, let me know and I’ll post an update.

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Filed under Astronomy, Movies, Odds & Sods, Photography

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