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

Roger's original music ]

Martinis at Midnight

Monday, March 29, 2004

hello jupiter!!

after over a week of having my telescope, and almost a week of cloudy weather, tonight i finally had clear skies with enough time to learn how to handle this monster. to refresh your memory i just bought a 10" reflector and an equatorial mount from Orion. big scope... ~120lbs assembled. it took me about 20-30 minutes to set up and balance the entire system. once it was all balanced and the drive motors were activated, the remainder of the evening was incredible.

first i wanted to take a look at the moon. i've always been fascinated with the moon. i even named a band i was in LunaBlue. anyhow i found the moon and it was awesome. the best views were through the 25mm eyepiece. the 10mm eyepiece showed a lot of detail on the surface of the moon, however i liked the less magnified view of the entire moon.

next, i tried again to find saturn. i tried this a week ago without much luck. all i could see was a large bright dot that could have been anything (airplane, ufo, duck with a flashlight). i know it wasn't venus, i know where venus is... anyhow, tonight i found saturn and i was speechless. the rings shown nicely through the 10mm eyepiece, and i even attempted to take a digital picture right through the telescope simply by holding the camera up to the eyepiece. it didn't turn out too bad for my first attempt.

at this point i was extremely satisfied with what i had seen, but i decided that i'd make a quick attempt to find jupiter. not only did i find jupiter and see it's big spot, but i also could see two of it's moons. it was simply breathtaking!

i'm now looking forward to getting some shorter (higher powered) eyepieces. i'm never satisfied, i always want more.


for anyone wondering how the pinewood derby timing system work, come back tomorrow. i'll be posting an final installment to that chapter.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

i've not much to add tonight. i am tired, and ready for bed.

it was hard to tell how the pinewood derby software is going to work tomorrow. one of the software's shortcomings is that it is only compatible with win 9x or me. the computer we had tonight was xp. my software didn't work, however i'm fairly confident that it will work tomorrow when we get a low-tech computer. there are still bugs in the software, but hopefully they won't wander and we can steer clear of them.

i'm a tad bit torqued about the weather we are having. it's been cloudy every freakin' day since monday... according to Mr. Weatherman, we may not have a clear night until next weekend... i am very anxious to try my telescope in good conditions.

thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

quick post

i thought the pinewood derby timing program was "in the bag". tonight i compiled a release build, pumped it all through install shield to make a CD installation, and then i find a major bug (issue, problem, defect, screw up).

i was simply testing the version i installed off my cd and what did i find... half my data isn't being saved when i do a save. i may try to fix the bug tomorrow evening, but i think the best approach may be to write all the data down with pen and paper. tomorrow night we will be setting up the race track along with it's timing hardware and software. saturday morning is the race.

ahhh.... stress raining down keeps the flowers of hypertension blooming.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

string theory introduction

i like the string theory website http://superstringtheory.com/basics/basic4.html because they analogize string theory with guitar strings. that rocks!

back to business. string theory states that on a sub-atomic scale, everything is made of up tiny vibrating strings of energy. that means that all the things we learned about protons, neutrons, and electrons being the smallest pieces of stuff, is all wrong. in fact protons, neutrons and electrons are make up of quarks, which are held together with gluons. it's the quarks and gluons that, according to string theory, are made up of these tiny strings.

what's really cool about string theory, is that it brings together the facts and theories of Einstein's general relativity, and the facts and theories of quantum mechanics. the laws of general relativity and quantum mechanics are quite different, and this has troubled physicists for years. why would the laws of physics be different for something that is very very small and something that is very very large? what physicists have been searching for is a theory of everything (toe). string theory is still a theory, but it does provide possible explanations for why the laws of physics change based on size.

string theory predicts that these little vibrating strings of energy make up the smallest constituents of matter. the direction and rate at which the strings vibrate dictate the type of particle it creates. the odd thing is, that in order to create the necessary number of particles that are known, the little vibrating string must vibrate in more than the normal 3 dimensions that we understand. in fact it may require as many as 10 dimensions or more to allow the strings to vibrate in as many ways as needed.

so where are these other dimensions? nobody knows for sure. they may curl back inward upon themselves or we may not have the capacity to fully understand where they are.

one thing is for sure, the universe in which we live is much more complicated than we ever imagined.

the more you know, the more you know you don't know...

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

pinewood derby timing program update

as i mentioned earlier, i have been trying to put the finishing touches on a piece of software that i have been writing. the software manages a pinewood derby race (for cub scouts). it keeps track of each car, and the times that are accumulated for each race. it also provides a way to enter cars into the race and it automatically creates a race schedule. using the parallel port on the computer, it reads a switching device that i made which uses infrared leds and phototransistors to detect each cars elapsed time. the software times each race, and eventually computes a winner.

all major problems have been fixed in the software, however there are still a few lingering minor problems that need to be addressed. i have 3 more days to fix and test.

the hardware has been stored away for a year and hopefully it will still work when it is hooked up.

this may seem rather mundane to you, however it has been a huge source of stress in my life over the past few weeks. i know, i need to get a life... i just don't think i can afford one right now.

Monday, March 22, 2004

second night out with the new telescope. i tried my hardest to see the rings of saturn, but couldn't do it with the conditions here or the eyepieces i have. i'm not even sure if more powerful eyepieces would have helped. i found saturn (i think) quite easily. once spotted with the naked eye i honed in on it with the finder scope. tonight was the first time i connected up the battery pack and hand controller unit to try out the equatorial drive. this has to be the sweetest thing i have ever seen. friday night it must have taken me a half an hour to get venus on the 10mm eyepiece without using the drive motors. tonight i had saturn within a minute or two. anyhow, the sky was kinda hazy and there was a lot of light pollution which made it difficult to see any detail. from saturn it was a quick hop to look at betelgeuse. i gave betelgeuse a once over and then it was time to pack up. tomorrow i think it's going to be cloudy and maybe rainy.

wubba wubba

Sunday, March 21, 2004

i have no new bits of science to offer today. i don't have any new songs, poems or music to offer either.

today was shot with trying to remove some nasty spyware from my computer. this stuff caused my computer to continually lock up and try to open a lot of web browsers and made my computer completely useless for almost the entire day. i finally managed to run my virus scan which showed nothing and then i downloaded a spyware detection and repair tool which found a whole lotta wrong. this tool righted the wrong and eventually my computer came back to life. i don't think i've ever tickled that little reset button more than i did today, and i don't think my computer liked it very much.

well tomorrow is another day, with all the wonders and joys of a monday.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

it was too cloudy tonight to look for saturn, which was a drag because it was clear most of the day.

i have 1 week to finish changes to a pinewood derby timing system that i have been working on for a long time now. a week from today is the race and i still have some bugs in the software. i built the hardware for last years race, which consisted of a battery powered circuit that used infrared led and phototransistor pairs to detect when a race car passed over the finish line in each lane. for the most part, the hardware worked really good, however the software had a few problems.

i've just about solved all the problems, but i'd like to have it as clean as i can get it for the race. i'm hoping to offer the software for a reasonable price over the internet. if you have any interest in this type of software, or how i built the hardware or designed the software, contact me through email.

i'll be making another post about the outcome of the race and the success or failure of the timing system.

Friday, March 19, 2004


a few days ago i posted that i had ordered myself a telescope. the fed ex guy made the delivery today, and i ended up with 4 huge boxes on my porch. i now have an Orion Atlas 10 EQ to use as a window on the universe. after setting it up in my house, with cloudy skies hanging low, a minor miracle happened. the clouds all seemed to go away. i rushed to take down the scope and move all the components outside then began re-assembling the unit on my deck. with my new eye pointed toward venus i began searching through the finder scope to locate something besides the tops of trees that venus was slowing sinking behind. eventually it all came together and venus showed herself before setting behind a line of trees in the west. before she sank away i did manage to get some good views through the 25mm eyepiece and then finally through the 10mm eyepiece. venus appeared as a half lit sphere, not very big but impressive considering my novice astronomer status. you can tell i'm a novice because i set the scope up on my deck. that wasn't a good idea, since every step i took made the whole thing vibrate. my scope is now packed away waiting for tomorrow night. tomorrow's goal: saturn.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

if i had a million dollars

a few weeks ago i posted a quick way to win $1,000,000. all you have to do is enter and win the grand challenge. if you don't remember what the grand challenge is, go back through my archives till you find it. the first ever grand challenge was held this past saturday, and i watched the action unfold over the internet with my own web browser. the funny thing was, there wasn't much action. all 15 entries had disabled within 4 hours into the race. the farthest anyone made it along the course was 7 out of the 142 miles.

with that in mind, i've begun to plan for my own entry in next years race. if anyone wants to be a sponsor, let me know...
as i start to piece together the details of my plans, i'll try to post them. if anyone has any good ideas, i'd like to hear them.

so what i want to know is this: when i win the 1 million dollars from the government for inventing their next wave of defense technology, how much of that do i have to pay back to them in income tax?

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

a little more 5-7-5

terror on tv
election ads run rampant
when will it all stop

cold weather again
the young sun hides from spring sport
flowing sap drips slow

good tv is gone
plain sketches on paper view
radio plays on

industrial folk
mix emotional cocktails
martini records

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

i think it's amazing that we can use the hubble space telescope to see the formation of galaxies at the beginning of time over 13 billion years ago. at the same time we can discover something like a 10th planet in our own solar system. maybe not really a planet, more like a minor planet, a chunk of frozen dirt, that's orbiting the sun a long ways away. if you want to go there, take a coat, it never gets above -400f.

in some ways the human race seems so highly advanced. yet when it comes to understanding the universe that we live in, we are just scratching the surface. we need to continue to explore the universe with tools such as the hubble space telescope. in my opinion, we gain a lot more information from the hubble than we ever could by attempting a manned mission to mars. i'm glad the president places a high value on space research, however i'm not sure that going back to the moon and then to mars is the right path to take. an extended vision of space exploration, such as the president has defined, may be exciting, however i think it's only cheap way to pocket votes in november.

if you want to know more about hubble check out http://www.hubblesite.org/

Sunday, March 14, 2004

pictures in playboy

since 9th grade i've had an ever-growing fascination with astronomy. back then i learned that there were more than just planets and stars in the universe. in fact some of the most beautiful things ever imagined are simply clouds of gas that span light years. there are some very interesting galaxies too. all of these things i've wanted to see, with my own eyes. not an image on a computer, or a printed page in a book. i want to see the real thing. pictures in playboy are really nice, but they don't compare to the real thing. what i've wanted for many many years now, is a telescope that will allow me to see with my own eyes, the true beauty of our universe.

for the past two years i've been hiding money away, waiting for today. i didn't know it would be march 14, 2004 when i started, i didn't know when the time would come. but today, the time came. i ordered a telescope. a huge telescope. one that will allow me to see the heavens. one that will allow me to take pictures of the heavens.

so from time to time, i'll be writing about the trials and tribulations of a very amateur astronomer jumping in way over his head in the vast oceans of space / time. i'll be posting details of my scope, and all the problems i have setting it up, and getting it to my back yard for the first night of viewing. hopefully some day i'll be posting links to my photos of deep space.

as for the pictures from hubble, there's nothing that can compare. pictures from playboy, there's nothing that can compare.... unless you seeing, with your own eyes.

Thursday, March 11, 2004


i had to make a trip to the local library tonight, and i took a few moments to browse through their collection of music cds. i found the cd chimera, by the group Delerium which Aimee suggested that i might like. i checked it out along with Robert Plant - sixty six to timbuktu and i also needed a little blues fix from John Lee Hooker - the healer.

right now i'm listening to Delerium and i really like this group. i wish i new more about them, http://www.delerium.com has a minimal amount of information, as does the liner notes of the cd. anyhow, a special thanks to Aimee at foxfires for sharing that bit of info.

just when i think i'm starting to make traction, and think the top of the hill is getting closer, it snows again and i slide back down to the bottom. it did snow again today, but i guess that really didn't have anything to do with the sinking and slipping feeling i had this evening. i'm ready for this all to change. my life needs a change... spring has to be just around the corner.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

she bangs

two years ago, i couldn't get enough of the reality show "american idol". what an awesome concept they came up with, make some nobody a star, sell a lot of records, and commercial time and the hope that maybe next time it could be you. last year i watched every show and in the end i wasn't very happy with the final two, but i was sure that clay was going to win. when he didn't win, i was shocked and said "just wait and see what the record sales show". well, i think clay's cd has out-sold ruben's many times over which got me to thinking about how the show might be "rigged". at the same time our runner up from year one was getting booted from his record deal and kelly's cd was out, but i didn't think it was all that great.

now i thought these kids were supposed to be the best in the united states. i really haven't seen anything yet that shows me that anyone from "idol" is a new pop sensation. simon doles out heaping loads of criticism, which can be rather funny at times, but his show hasn't created a true american idol yet. a couple quick "pan-flashes" maybe, but simon can't even find a grease fire let alone something that'll burn down the house.

i've watched a little bit of the show this year, and read some of the headlines. what has caught my eye is william hung. he was the guy that sang the ricky martin song "she bangs", and basically got laughed out the door. now as season three starts to settle down and focus on the next winner getting a recording contract, william hung has already signed his. william signed with fuse music network and koch records. his debut cd will be released april 6.

i guess it just goes to show you that the big guys in the recording industry haven't a clue as to what the general public wants, and rather than try figuring it out, they'd rather force feed us junk that simon tells us we should like. well simon, she bangs!

roger smith

musician / owner
martini records

Monday, March 08, 2004

been reading other blogs tonight. 'tis interesting what goes on within the human mind.

still recovering from yesterday's experience at the movie theater.... at this point i don't know what to think.

i was hoping to post an introduction to string theory tonight, but it just didn't seem like the right time...

i've been downloading songs from song ramp tonight.

they have lots of good artists with free downloads of mp3 files. i hope everyone is well.

take care...

Sunday, March 07, 2004

the passion of the christ

today i wasted 3 hours going to see the most disturbing and worst movie i have ever seen in my life. the movie was only 2 hours long, but we had to get there almost an hour early because it was feared that the show would sell out. the show didn't even come close to selling out, however we had "great seats", i guess. good thing we were right in the middle of the theater to get a good view of all the blood and torn flesh.

i'm not sure what prompted mr. gibson to make this film. as a person that somewhat feels lost in the world of religion, this movie completely turned me off to ALL religions. it did open my eyes more to things i see it even in my own church; people making reference to other religions as bad or evil, or at least not as good as our religion. this movie did not make me feel closer to God.

it seems to me that religion is just a good excuse for violence. good old fashioned violence in God's name. look at a lot of the wars of our time; caused by differences of religion. i never intended to go into a religious rant, that is not the purpose of this blog.

at any rate, i would not recommend the passion of the christ to anyone. period.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

it doesn't happen unless you try

tonight i'm listening to deep forest - "music detected". i like this cd, although i've been a deep forest fan since their first cd about 10 years ago. check them out on-line at http://www.sonymusic.fr/deepforest/. i really really like a world beat / european style lately. i think i should have been european. i tend to relate more closely with european sport than american.

i seemed to have caught up on some sleep and the cold that had cast a shadow on my days has started to fade. it's amazing how good one can feel after getting 7 hours of sleep. 5 hours per night wears you thin after a while.

i started writing a little bit of a new tune today. it seemed good to be playing my guitar again. i want to try to learn some new techniques and record something fresh and new. it doesn't happen unless you try.

i've also been thinking about where i am in my life and career . i'm an aging software engineer. who wants an old programmer? nobody. i wonder what i'll be doing in 10 years. collecting un-employment? something new? i doubt that i'll be programming computers... i'd love to try building guitars. i've never tried it, but is sounds like so much fun.

i also have this ever growing interest in physics, astronomy, string theory and finding the hidden secrets of the everything. i want to know where we all came from. this magnificent invention that we call the universe must have an engineer. i want to know God. but, it doesn't happen unless you try.

When I Fall

i'm only a tree, a piece of forest
not the tallest, not the shortest
standing straight among the rest
never an oak, but i do my best

stood strong all year, grew a ring
hug the breeze, wish i could sing
lost the leaves from my kelly crown
my branches clutter the mossy ground

still i'm special in this average place
a couple saplings grow in my space
they're growing fast, sturdy, tall
to take my place when i fall

i protect them from the wind and ice
i pray for them this is paradise
all too soon, the world they'll see
to discover what is responsibility

they'll hold hammocks or tire swings
or grow saplings with a million rings
but neither will be an ordinary tree
they'll be special just like me

i'm special in this average place
a couple saplings grow in my space
they're growing fast, sturdy, tall
to take my place when i fall

when i fall the sky will open
the finches and sparrows will move along
they'll settle in some younger tree
continuing on with their song

i think i'm special in this place
a couple saplings grow in my space
they're growing fast, sturdy, tall
they'll take my place when i fall

copyright 2004 © Roger Smith

listen to my original music at

Thursday, March 04, 2004

i'm still not feeling real good, this cold isn't bad, just annoying.

i'm making a serious effort to start writing and recording new music. i played with my demo copy of fruity loops tonight, and i'm looking into buying a licensed copy to do some actual work. i'm having a helluva time figuring out how it works. if anyhow knows of a place online for some good fruity loops tutorials, please leave a comment. if you have no idea what fruity loops is, and would like to know, check out their site.

stay tuned for some amateur posts on string theory and black holes.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004


last night i fell asleep on the couch. probably it was a good thing, because today i think i'm coming down with a cold. hopefully i'll get to bed a little earlier tonight too.

so what do you think about today? no more edwards, as kerry tries to take a breath. bush eases back and stacks the deck. i always hated politics, but as i get older, i get more interested. even though i believe my vote goes right down the crapper.

so there was water and or ice on mars at one time... do you think they played hockey? i wonder if they had SUV's to stylishly get around in the snow. i wonder what mars was like a few billion years ago... maybe they had some sort of internet with lots of lonely martians looking for temporary companionship. maybe that's where the green party originally came from. maybe ralph nader is really a martian.

since martians are supposed to be green.... and their planet is red.... maybe it was christmas time, all the time. maybe santa clause originated on mars. could that be why the elves look like they are from another world?

where did that darn easter bunny come from? after he leaves me chocolate eggs, i think he eats my garden to the ground. now the government should come in and do something about that! taking my healthy vegetables and leaving sugary, fatty chocolate. what are you going to do about that? ... mr bush, mr kerry, mr nader?

Monday, March 01, 2004

model rockets aren't just for kids

this past weekend i had the opportunity to take my son and daughter out into the field and teach them the fine art of flying model rockets. my son had spent the previous two evenings putting a rocket together, and was excited to have the chance to fly it. we used the standard estes rocket launch pad with a rocket that we powered with a single C6-7 motor. we learned that each motor's size is determined by the letter. a C size motor burns twice as long as a B, and a B burns twice as long as an A. we also learned that the 6 on our motor is the amount of thrust in newtons that the motor produces. the 7 is the delay before the recovery system is ejected.

but this type of sport isn't just for kids. the National Association of Rocketry is an organization specifically for the education and promotion of model rockets. there are many people that fly the big ones that can be seen on some of these sites.


most communities have local groups that fly rockets too. here is a link to our local group. we may be joining up with them to learn how to fly the big ones.


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