Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006, Hello 2007

Well today was a very rainy day so not much was done outside. I was out shopping and I saw the sun come out late in the day which means possible rainbow.

While driving about 10 minutes later I started seeing a vertical line in the eastern sky with a color spectrum. It was not much of an arc since the water in the atmosphere must have been raining in that small section of sky.

So long 2006 may things get better in 2007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Gift

My nephew was given a Slinky as a gift. It is a great fun for being a toy that is over 60 years old. It is still made in Hollidaysburg, PA. MIT has highlighted the inventor at this website.

The company has a website at :

We enjoyed trying to get it going down the stairs.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Ahhh, Christmas is here at last. The weather in Louisville is cold (30-40s F) with a chance of snow later today which might end up being rain.

A few things I try to do each Christmas besides spend a lot of time with family and attend religious services is read the story "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. I have a book with 4 of his stories published by Gramercy Press in 1982. I keep the ribbon on page 531 to mark where the Christmas Carol begins. Surprisingly, it is a somewhat short story ending on page 585.

I also try to watch a version of Christmas Carol on DVD. There are three that I have: Scrooge from 1951 starring Alastair Sim, A Christmas Carol from 1984 starring George C. Scott, and A Christmas Carol from 1999 starring Patrick Stewart.

We also try to watch Bill Murray in Scrooged who has some great lines in the comedy adaptation.

I also try to watch It's A Wonderful Life.

I wish everyone a happy Christmas and a safe new year. As Tiny Tim says at the end, "God Bless Us, Every One!"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

USB Gadgets

Reading the Pursuits section of the Wall Street Journal for December 23, page P2 showed some USB gadgets. Three items were profiled and of those I have a version of one: USB Microscope QX5. I have the one developed by Intel when they were making educational toys. It is a great product even if it is packaged like a toy. I have posted some microscope pictures taken with it on earlier blog posts.

The gadget that caught me eye though was the USB missile launcher from It reminds me of a Hawk anti-aircraft missile battery used by the military. Apparently, you can use the computer to aim the battery and fire it. I guess if someone enters your work area, you can unleash a foam missile barrage to drive them off.

I went to the Think Geek website and they also have the USB rocket launcher which has larger range than the missle launcher and the laser guided missile launcher to help improve targeting accuracy. What an arms race they have going!

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Painting Journalist

Today's Courier Journal had an interesting article about an Louisville artist, Ashley Cecil. She goes to community events and takes pictures or a sketch pad. After recording the event, she paints it and then sells it. When she sells it, she donates part of money to an organization (e.g. paints a scene from Habitat for Humanity (HFH) event and then donates money to HFH).

Check our her website which explains this much better.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Emergency Supplies for Car Revisited

Today's Louisville Courier-Journal showed an article about how to prepare your car for winter driving. They included an article about checking your car's anti-freeze levels and quality, the oil levels, keep the gasoline in the tank above 50% capacity to avoid freezing, air pressure and tread condtion, battery condition, and inspect the belts.

They recommend the following for storing in your vehicle:
  • Blanket or sleeping bag
  • Warm clothing
  • Small can of waterproof matches
  • high calorie food
  • fully charged cell phone
  • shovel
  • container of sand or cat litter
  • booster cables
  • flashlight with extra batteries
  • water container
  • tow rope
  • first aid kit
  • tool kit
I like the idea of tow cable and the sleeping bag. I sometimes carry my sleeping bag. I would add an emergency radio. The radio I have seen in the past is from Grundig or Elan (might have those names spelled wrong). The radio has a dynamo that you crank to charge it up. It has an LED light which saves battery energy and a cell phone charger port which can be really handy.

I am wondering if there is a product that people in the car in Oregon could have used to help air searchers see their vehicle better. Maybe a flashing LED or strobe that can be powered from a solar charger. I looked on the web and there seems to be some products out there using electronics that stand out. Maybe cars should carry an emergency dynamo for charging cell phones and batteries.

Small airplanes carry some sort of beacon device that goes off when they crash or something like this. Maybe cars can have this too. Of course, cars can with the Onstar system and maybe this a reason to get such a system that goes off when the car is in an accident or stranded.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Web Links

I will use this post to archive some web links from a notebook computer I use.

This blog entry lists some interesting medical software sites:

This site has some computer security links:

This site has a variety of different circuit designs:

This site is the ultimate boot CD

Links to explore about the NBC show Heroes

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Supplies to Carry in Vehicle

After the unfortunate events that befell that family in the Oregon wilderness, I thought about items that should be carried in the vehicle to help with emergency situations.

I try to carry 1 or 2 flashlights in the car. Usually, a D cell or AA cell Maglite. Other things I have:
  • poncho
  • pen
  • tire gauge
  • manual air pump
  • philips screwdriver
  • expired cell phone with charger (still works with 911 calls)
  • fire extinguisher
  • first aid kit
  • quarters and other change
  • phone book
  • sometimes a floor jack that can lift 2.25 tons
  • small shovel if chance of snow
  • 5 gallon bucket of sand in case of snow (more buckets for weight)
  • blankets in case of snow
  • bottled water (at least 3 bottles if snow)
  • saline for contacts
  • window reflector to keep sun out in summer when parked
  • Powerbars
  • canned tuna or fruit & can opener
  • sometimes in the winter, a candle in a sealed jar
  • thermometer to check vent air temperature

I think the things I use most are the air pump and tire gauge. I try to keep the tire pressure correct for better gas mileage and tire wear. I have helped a number of people with tire issues because of it.

The one thing I might add is an empty gasoline container. A couple of tools to add would be a cresent wrench and some adjustable pliers.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Interesting Website on Traffic Flow

I read some of the postings from this website and see some of the things he is talking about while driving in the traffic in the morning. The big thing is avoid traffic by leaving early to get away from all the rush at certain times.

I sometimes try some things mentioned, like go the speed limit after coming out of congested area instead of pacing with cars around me who drive 70+ mph and then end up hitting their brakes 2 miles down the road where another congested area has formed. You have to fight the herd mentality and realize that you are just wasting energy trying to get to the end of the next line really fast.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Call to the Night Sky

I was getting in my car tonight and looked up and saw a very clear night sky with lots of stars. It is tempting to go out with the telescope and start viewing but last December I went out to take images of the moon and got really sick. Christmas time was not very festive at all with me being sick it seemed like the whole month of December.

So as the siren of the night sky calls... for now I will avoid that opportunity to get sick.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Long Absence

I have not been doing a good job at keeping the blog up to date. I have been working on a sunroom for the house and it takes up a lot of my time outside of work. Also several rooms in the house have now been tiled as we replace the linoleum.

Here are some pictures of some hot air balloons that came over the neighborhood at the end of October.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

More Watermelons

I have picked all the watermelons left in the one patch. The largest I weighed was a Charleston Gray at 26 lbs. The next was a little more than 24 lbs and it was a Charleston Gray as well. They were the last ones picked along with a smaller Mountain Hoosier melon.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Watermelon Harvest

I began harvesting the watermelons last week. A picture shows the wheel barrel with some melons. The two striped melons are Crimson Sweet and weighed about 10 lbs each. The three solid green melons are Mountain Hoosier and they weighed about 8 lbs a piece. The smaller melons with the whitish haze on them weigh between 2.5-7 lbs a piece and those are Sugar Baby melons.

I also picked on the Charleston Gray Melons and it came in at 19.8 lbs.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Tasting the First Watermelon

The watermelon tasted great. This Sugar Baby melon had quite a lot of seeds. It weighed in at 5.1 lbs.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

First Melon of the Season

It is a Sugar Baby that only weighs 3 lbs so it is pretty small. The vine was dead so I picked the melon. There are about 6 Sugar Babies left, 3 Mountain Hoosier, 6 Charleston Grey, 2 Crimson Sweet, and 4 Rattlesnake.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Vintage Indiana

We attended a great festival yesterday that highlights some of Indiana's wineries. The event is held in downtown Indianapolis at the Military Park. The fence off the park and then set up lots of tents to house the wineries, restaurants, information booths, and art dealers. The event runs from 11am-7pm.

More information can be found about it at:

I visited about 11 different winery tables and probably sampled 14 different wines. When you enter the park and you have an adult tasting ticket ($17 if purchased early) you are given a wine glass. You present the wine glass at the winery table and tell them which wine you would like to taste. They pour a sample usually to the line at the bottom of the glass that might fill it 1/8 of the way up. After you taste that you can ask for more samples. If you find a wine you like you can purchase it at the tent. If you want to buy a lot, you can have them send it to a wine pick up tent and they will box it so you can get it to your vehicle easier.

My favorite wine was the Catawba from French Lick Winery. Usually the Red wines from wineries which I think are made from Concord grapes are what I like to sample. Fruity wines like blackberry and cherry are also some I like to sample.

The weather was nice with partly cloudy skies and a nice breeze. The park has a lot of old large trees that make it nice to sit under the shade and listen to the bands that play at the main stage while drinking wine and eating cheese/sausage/fruit.

Here are some pictures I took of the event:

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Really Cool Lightning from May 25 Storm

I got caught out in an intense storm after work on Thursday May 25th. After taking cover in a Kroger parking lot to wait out the driving winds and heavy rain. The parking lot was like a small stream with sheets of water pouring over it. While I waited out the storm, two small trees blew over.

As I drove back I aimed my digital camera toward the sky and set it in movie mode. It captured a pretty neat video that maybe I will post on YouTube if I can find some editing software.

The drive back had quite a sky show. I just wish I could have caught more of it on video.

Here are a few frames from that movie:

Louisville Hike & Bike Part 2

I found that another blogger was also at this event and they had camera. Here are some pictures they took of the festivities.

Also he has a neat story about his impressions of the ride:

One last thing, next year I need to bring my camera!!!

Mayor's Healthy Hometown Hike & Bike

I spent part of Memorial Day cycling with over a thousand other people from downtown Louisville to several of the parks. The day was sunny and hot. The temperature may have gotten to 90. The ride route was excellent in that I ride a similar route a lot during cycling season. The hills in Cherokee park did not disappoint with a number of riders hauling up them. I did not maintain the pace with the group I climbed up wiht though if I would have left the seat to start pedaling I might have made it to the top of the hill with the fountain. Fun stuff!

A couple of things I need to remember for next year: 1) Put on sun block. My arms are reddish looking though they do not hurt. 2) Get a second water bottle for the bicycle. I had to stop and refill my bottle during the ride. 3) Fix my trip computer so I can tell my distance and speed. 4) Do not get their so early if they start the ride at 11 am or ride around some before starts.

When the Mayor Abramson open the event with some remarks, he said it is hard to please everyone. Last year people wanted a later start so they could get the kids ready to start and this year people are saying why are we not starting. I think a compromise would be to have a staggered start. Let the faster, more seasoned riders start first at an earlier time. Maybe 15-30 minutes later let a moderate paced group start. Last let a slower, more relaxed pace group start. This would let the police close the roads off at intervals so the traffic does not build on some roads for long periods of time.

I thought the traffic control people did an excellent job this year. Also the EMS and police were patrolling the route helping people who had wrecks or were suffering from heat issues. We did see something kind of interesting. A car stopped because a cyclist collided with it. Apparently, the driver stopped a stop sign and the cyclist behind him ram the car thinking he would go through the sign. Stop signs are the bane of cyclists since you lose that forward momentum.

All and all a nice day but being out in that sun was draining.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Voyager II at the Edge of the Solar System?

NASA JPL released a podcast today that talks about the Voyager spacecraft launched in the late 1970s. The link to this can be found below.

The main discovery is that Voyager 2 while about 2 billion closer to Sun than Voyager 1 is encountering the edge of the solar system. Since the power generator will maybe last till 2020, the spacecraft will still be sending data when they might reach interstellar space. I find this intriguing because these craft along with some of the NASA Pioneer probes (and maybe some Russian spacecraft) could one day be the only remains of life on Earth.

According to the entry for Earth on Wikipedia, the Sun will become a red dwarf in 5 billion years. The increased radiation should wipe out most life on Earth at this time. As the sun cools that will be it for our solar system. More about this can be found at the link below:

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Wild Violet

Here is a picture I took while at our annual family Easter egg hunt. It was growing in the yard with some others.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Birds in Bathroom Vents

I am amazed at how persist birds are at finding nesting areas. The birds near our house have figured out how to get through the flaps that cover vent pipes that lead to bathroom vent fans. The covers are maybe 4 inch by 4 inch in area and have 4 one inch slats that are hinged that open when the fan is blowing air out of the bathroom.

We would hear a bird moving in the pipe on Saturday mornings in the upstairs bathroom. So I went into the attic and found that the 3 foot flexible pipe contained dead grass and twine. I tried to block the pipe with mesh but the bird pushed through it. So we got a ladder and installed a bird/rodent cage over top the outer flaps. The cage can be obtained from Home Depot for about $10.

We were out this evening digging a sidewalk that will go around the side of the house and I heard a bird fluttering near the house next door. It looked like a starling with a plastic wrapper in its mouth. It was trying to get into the flap but could not after 3 attempts. The fourth attempt it took its talons and grabbed onto the bottom of the frame and swung up using its beak to pop open one of the flaps. It got the flap open and squeezed into the hole but lost the plastic wrapper. I wish I could have caught this with the camera.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Way to Improve Cleansing Power of Bleach

I read today that bleach can be enhanced as a disinfectant by adding white vinegar. The vinegar makes the bleach more acidic thus able to kill more microbes. Read more about from this release by the American Society for Microbiology.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Gas Mileage

My gas mileage has leveled out around 30-32 mpg where I was getting around 35 mpg. I am wondering if the cold weather has caused this loss.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Astronomy Audio Shows

I was reading an article on and it mentioned a book called Moonrush by Dennis Wingo. I remember this name from when I was at University of Alabama Huntsville. He was involved with the student space society (SEDS) and their satellite (SEDSAT). I was involved in the IEEE so I was too busy to get involved in that group. The satellite was a neat idea but I think its optical system failed when it got up. Shortwave listeners might still be able to get data packets from it. See this page for more information about the SEDSAT

So I looked for the Moonrush book I found that there was show call The Space Show. You can download MP3s and listen to them later.

I found this show from Starizona called Let's Talk Stars. The show is hosted by astronomers Dave and Wendee Levy.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Vehicle Heater Temperature

I decided to measure the temperature of the heater in the car and truck. It has been in the teens to 30s F around Louisville so I am definitely using the heater more. The Ford Ranger truck always seemed to have a hot heater. I used a meat thermometer to measure vent temperature. The vent temperature came out to be 160 degrees F when the air flow was selected for front vents, lowest air flow rate and full heat.

The Nissan NX-1600 puts out 110 degree F air when the vent is selected for lowest air flow rate, front vents, and full heat. If the flow selector is set to front and floor vents the temperature on the front vent is 80 degrees F. If the defrost vent is selected, the front vent goes to 60 degrees F. The vent is also set to allow fresh air in so that makes the air cooler. The outside air was in the 30s when the measurements were made.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Moon Pictures

I was able to go out and get some pictures of the moon tonight. The temperature is much warmer than when I was out last collecting pictures. There was quite a bit more light and the camera seemed saturated at times.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

More Websites

A site with news for the science world that seems geared toward life sciences.

I found this site selling solar energy equipment.

This website is quite a gem. It talks about incentive programs in Kentucky encouraging the use of solar water heaters and power generation. Starting this year federal energy tax credits are in place. This site has quite a lot of information about solar water heating. After reading some of this information, I definitely will consider installing a system. It would be tricky to get plumbing from the roof to the hot water heater with the house already finished though.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Airplane Sites

I think this site has the neatest software. It tracks flights across the United States. The animated map showing all the planes as red dots over a 24 hour period gives an eye opening view of the planes in the air.

This site has lots of airline plane pictures.

This site has lots of airplane news.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Big Storm

Today we had a thunderstorm move though the Louisville area during the Gator Bowl being played by University of Louisville & Virginia Tech. The storm brought tornadoes and representation of trouble to the area's football team. Things went down hill for UofL in that 4th quarter. They had a good season and next year should be even better.

Here is a picture of the storm heading in. Since temperatures were in the 70s F, the cold front created quite an energetic storm.

After the storm, the sun came out and with evening storms that means a possibility of a rainbow. A double rainbow appeared as rain was continuing to fall. Very neat.

Close up of a rainbow. If I had a wide angle lens, the entire rainbow would appear in the image. It made a complete arc from visible horizon to horizon.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Microscope Images of Print Characters

It is the new year! I spent the day upgrading the locks on the house after reading the October 2005 Consumer Reports article on home locks. Home Depot and Lowe's have quite a number of items you can buy to re-enforce your locks. I could not find the brand of strike box the article said to use but I did find a strike box at both stores.

I also thought what would different print look like under the computer microscope. So I cut out samples to view from the Louisville Courier Journal, Wall Street Journal, and a HP Photosmart 2610 inkjet. Here are the images I generated.

The image on the left is the Courier Journal (CJ) s character magnified 60 times.

The image on the right is the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) s character magnified 60 times

Comparing the two, the CJ s is darker and has more ink spots or smudges. The fonts are different and of different sizes so an exact comparison is difficult.

Image on left is CJ dot magnified x200. There looks to be a blue fiber in the paper, I wonder if this means it is recycled paper?

WSJ dot magnified x200 times. Their press looks to be using less ink than the CJ press.

Image on the left is dot made by HP Photosmart 2610 printer. Not sure dpi setting when page was printed. A few stray black dots also font seems to produce square dots instead of round ones. Paper quality was much better than that of the newspapers shown in earlier images.