Thoughts and essays about music, physics, martinis and pretty girls.

[ about the author ]
Name: Roger L. Smith
Location: Grand Rapids, MI
Interests: Astronomy, Science,  Bicycle Racing, Music,  Photography, Tennis, and why...
Occupation: Computer Scientist, Software Engineer

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Martini Records

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Martinis at Midnight

Saturday, March 24, 2007

life got busy

i haven't posted in about 7 months... dang! where does the time go?

i guess once the kids went back to school, things sorta got crazy. then before i knew it the holidays were upon us and immediately after that, it all got insane (but in a cool way).

since the beginning of january, i've been a part of FIRST

take a moment and check out the link; it'll do a much better job of explaining than i can do.

it's been the busiest, craziest and probably to most enjoyable winter i have ever had. i've been a mentor for the Creston-904 team. we kicked butt in chicago last weened and will kick more butt at GVSU next weekend. our team was on the winning alliance in chicago and will be going to the Championship in atlanta in three weeks. i'll be at both competitions, and i intend to blog the entire event. it'll be a little delayed, since i won't have immediate internet access.

anyhow, i'm back and i will post more in the near future. sorry for the absence, my life got busy...

Friday, August 25, 2006


yesterday Pluto was "demoted" (as all the press headlines read). it is no longer called a planet, but a "dwarf planet". so what? i guess why i'm writing this is the press' use of the word demoted. it seems like they are telling the world that Pluto now is less important than it was the day before. that is utterly ridiculous!

i feel that most of the most interesting places in our solar system aren't on planets at all. the moons of Jupiter and Saturn are without doubt some of the most interesting places we know of. actual liquid was recently discovered on Titan (a moon of Saturn).

so what if they change the classification of Pluto? it certainly isn't because it is less interesting, it is only because it doesn't really conform to the characteristics of the other 8 planets.

let's all get over it and move on.

Monday, July 17, 2006

observation log ++

this past saturday my family and i attended the summer picnic at the graaa and had a real nice time. it was a clear evening and even though the observatory was going to be available, i decided to bring my family (and our guest) home for some observing here.

i set up my scope in the warmth of a typical july evening, only to realize that Jupiter had already moved further west than i expected. to avoid the trees i needed to move the scope down the driveway (south) . i took the tube off the mount and moved the mount + counter weights to a better position. now, sweating like a pig, i proceeded to mount the tube and balance the system. things worked out well from there, we viewed Jupiter and moons for a while. the bands shown nicely, however the red spot (and jr) were not visible. after a while of observing Jupiter i moved on to the Ring Nebula (which i can find now given a little time). i tried all my eyepieces on the Ring and decided that my 10mm worked pretty good, given the conditions. all in all it was a short/sweaty night of observing, but well worth it.

yesterday we took in the al gore movie "an incovenient truth". i'm not going to post a review, but i "got" the movie and i think people need to see it. our worlds future is at stake, we need to keep it safe. life is not all about money, but helping keep the Earth around for a while longer might be part of it.

today i watched the shuttle land; i was at work (i watched NASA tv online), it was a beautiful thing. i'm very glad that everything went well for this mission. keep it up NASA, you guys are awesome!

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

a few months ago i told myself that i would be more committed to writing in my blog, and obviously that hasn't happened. hopefully i'll get back on track and continue to log my thoughts and adventures.

over the last few days i've kept one eye on NASA TV while going on about my normal fourth of july weekend activities. i wasn't too surprised that Discovery didn't launch on saturday or sunday, but i was hoping that i'd get the chance to watch the full coverage at home rather than secretly watching it online at work. i really hoped it would go either monday or tuesday. well, as everyone knows, Discovery took off yesterday in a flawless launch. i was glued to the tv for about 2 hours before lift off and about the same after. i did watch a little tennis and cycling in there too, so that my family didn't think i was completely nuts. before lift off, my kids would just look at me and shake their heads as i intently listened to the sporadic technical chatter and watched the shuttle on the pad; the only visible motion - gas venting out it's back end.

before launch day i learned the ISS and shuttle would both have an orbit that would allow them to be visible during the evening for the next day or two. once the shuttle launched i checked heavens-above for times and trajectories of its orbit and it turned out that we just might be able to see it.

to top off a great independence day, we went downtown to watch the fireworks. armed with shuttles local itinerary, we sat patiently waiting for the fireworks to begin, while watching the sky for Discovery. the city lights were bright and a thin layer of clouds formed around the moon and westward. my daughter sat with her camera, hoping to snap a picture of the shuttle amidst the blaze of fireworks, but the show didn't start when we thought it would and it was my son who first spotted the faint glow of Discovery emerging from the cloudy haze. the shuttle moved steadily across the sky but was too faint/small to show up on the digital camera. unfortunately we didn't get the picture we hoped and i only saw the shuttle for a few brief seconds, but nevertheless it was very cool.

the huge crowd downtown was oblivious to the event that had just taken place. would people have been interested if they'd have known what was happening, or do people just not care about science and space anymore? the fireworks started a few minutes later and were quite spectacular.

so, as NASA has returned to flight, i've returned to blogging. i hope that i'll have a few more posts before NASA launches Atlantis in late august.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

nothing to report

so it has been a few weeks (at least) since my last post. i've been kind of busy, but nothing unbearable, and i haven't really had a lot on my mind to write about.

i was close to posting an entry about my evening seeing nickel creek at the end of march, but i never got around to writing it. nickel creek (if you don't already know) is probably my most favorite music group (maybe of all times). i saw them in concert a few years ago and then again just a few weeks ago. i may also get the chance to see them again this summer. anyhow, this last concert was almost indescribable, and that's all i'm going to say. it was the best concert i think i've ever seen.

the breaks in the clouds we've had have come on nights that i've been too lazy to get my telescope out. the clear nights are coming a little more frequently now and hopefully i'll get back out to do some observing again soon.

thanks for reading and i'm going to try to be posting a little more regularly in the coming days.

take care my friends.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

back to kisses

lately this blog has been completely devoted to my feeble endeavors into the world of astronomy and astrophysics, but not this post...

today i returned to my roots (sorta). you may know that i am a self taught (extremely amateur) musician. i've been playing guitar for about 25 years, and writing some songs along the way. i am (by training) a software engineer (computer dude). i've been developing software to put food on the table since i graduated from college. i can still remember sitting in my dorm room with my commodore 64 thinking "it would be so cool to write music with a computer".

that technology came into the publics grasp not long after, however, i then heard the calling to write acoustic folky songs; i needed to be a purist, at least for a little while. i put away the amps and invested in a nice acoustic guitar. i learned some finger style guitar work and actually had a lot of nice comments on the songs i wrote. then came the drought.

for the past 3+ years i haven't accomplished anything musical; until today. today i sat down with my computer and some cool high tech software and cranked out some music. it was fun. it was a lot of fun. finally, again to be in control of what i was listening to. if i didn't like what i heard, i could change it. i could make it what i wanted.

i wrote a couple simple electronica tunes (remembering in the beginning to give them a kiss "Keep It Simple Stupid"). i can't wait to try something more complicated and maybe even play guitar along with the computer. maybe tomorrow... :)

stay tuned, more science stuff coming soon.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

good night

in my last post i mentioned that the next post would be about stardust @ home. well, stardust @ home is running a little late and so am i. i haven't had the time to go through the tutorial, but i plan to do that in the next week or so.

tonight i did get the telescope out and this time i had the patience to polar align it and also to set the setting circles. i'd never really taken the time to learn how to use setting circles but tonight i decided i'd give it a try. it was actually very easy once i figured out a few basic things. maybe i'll post an entry in the near future about what i learned.

after my scope was aligned, i jotted down the RA and DEC coordinates of a few objects that i wanted to find, and headed back out into the crisp, clear evening. the first thing i headed for was M1 (the crab nebula). wow, it was incredibly easy; i could have never found this without using the coordinates and the setting circles. M1 was very very faint in my slightly light polluted sky, but i could still make it out.

the next object on my list was M35 which again appeared very faint, and i am not totally convinced that i found it. however, i guess it did look something like some of the amateur astrophotography images i later found online.

since i was in the neighborhood i took a look at Saturn, and it was quite beautiful tonight. after a nice gaze, i moved along to M45 (the beehive cluster). this was again easy to find and a nice object to view. finally i located M67, which is another dense open star cluster.

all of these objects were quite easy to find once the scope was properly aligned; provided you have the coordinates.

all in all it was an excellent evening to be looking up. i found a few new objects that i've never seen before and i am anxious to get back out and try it again. there are 2 words that come to mind right now, and they are "good night".


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