Archive for September, 2008

Bailout: Round 1

Monday, September 29th, 2008

I’ve got so many thoughts and emotions running around my head that I will have to take some time to sort out things rationally. However, my irrational response is as follows. I find it somewhat befuddling/amusing that it is the republicans that are against the Wall Street bail out! Aren’t the Republicans the ones who are supposed to be in favor of big business and against the average Joe? Did they want more? We’re they repelled by the cut lines to the golden parachutes for CEOs? And conversely, why are the Democrats so gung-ho in support of this? Is it because of the help for those who borrowed under ‘unsavory terms’ for their mortgage from predatory lenders? I don’t know, but it isn’t making sense to me right now.

I must admit that if I was a republican in the house and had just sat through yet another partisan tirade from speaker Pelosi, I’d probably vote against it too. Of all of the people (and I use that term loosely) in the house, ol’ Nancy scares me the most. Today she had a golden opportunity to demonstrate a non-partisan side of her persona and she completely failed the test. If and when this bill comes back up for a vote, I would only vote for it if Nancy agreed to step down as speaker afterwards.

The thought of Obama and Nancy running things together was worrisome. Now it is frightening. It might actually be sufficient grounds for me to reconsider McCain. I’ll wait to see how Palin comes across in the VP debate before I change colors.

Good god it would be great to have a real choice beyond these two non-starters.

How did we get into this mess?

Friday, September 26th, 2008

Here is another article that caught my imagination. As I read this I could not believe what I was reading. Why do people have to be told these things? We have been saving for retirement for quite some time. We keep our cars for at least 10 years. We did not build the biggest house we could have qualified for (although it will be paid for in 2 years). We do not have to have everything – every new gadget, fashion, or trendy experience to be happy. We do not have to give the appearance of affluence to be affluent (whatever that really means). At the same time we do not deny ourselves very much. Perhaps I would define this as being realistic and living realistically. Setting proper expectations is the key to happiness. I’m sorry but the problems we currently face with the mortgage meltdown and financial collapse is primarily a manifestation of having unrealistic expectations. We have taken a huge and hopefully short lived hit to our savings as a result of the excessive lifestyles, unrealistic expectations, and outright greed of others, but I know we will be alright. I can’t say the same for everyone else because I think they believe they deserve more than they will ultimately obtain from the future. There is a bigger collapse looming than the current market crisis, it is a return to reality from this fantasy many of our neighbors are living. As I drive to work each morning I often wonder how these neighbors of mine afford to keep up the appearance that they strive to uphold. Now that the housing bubble has burst somewhat (I say somewhat since the valuations here have not changed much, only the growth has slowed a bit) we have an opportunity to examine our role in this calamity. I suspect few will take the opportunity to do so but rather bemoan that they are being denied their rights.

Teaching skills not facts

Friday, September 26th, 2008

I was sent this link by a coworker as it sort of applies to one aspect of what I’m working on in my current detail assignment. It paints a rather bleak picture of the capabilities of our youth (which for me is anyone under the age of 35) and our education system. With this ‘No child left behind’ unfunded mandate (or should it be ‘all children left behind’?) we have established a system where the metrics require that we teach our kids what to think instead of how to think. We teach to the test now. When I got my Ph.D. I realized that it only meant that I was self motivated and knew how to think – nothing more, but also nothing less. Please view the video the link above points to. Realizing there is a problem is the first step in solving it.

Tropical Storm Hanna

Sunday, September 7th, 2008

Weather Data

Weather Data (click to enlarge)

Tropical Storm Hanna passed closely by yesterday afternoon. Aside from some tree damage and a broken mail box post, the storm was not much to talk about. This image presents some of the data from my weather station. The top graph shows the Humidity in percent (the red and green lines are the temperature and dew point – not to scale). The highest wind gust was 35 MPH. The third panel shows the temperature (red) and heat index (orange). The bottom panel shows the barometric pressure in mb (gray) and the rain (cyan). Hanna produced 0.85 inches of rain total.

Freddie and Fannie

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

CNNMoney reports that our government is about ready to put both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae into a conservatorship. Apparently the markets were not taking the bait and had not been buying back into the stock of these psuedo-companies. What scared them off I suspect was the news a few weeks ago that the Secretary Paulson of the Treasury department was approved to do whatever was required to keep the Mortgage buyers/repackagers/insurers Freddie & Fannie afloat.

I believe this is a huge mistake. The report goes on to say that if Freddie and Fannie are not able to continue supplying low interest funding to the mortgage market, buying the mortgage loans, giving what amounts to government insurance (assurance), and repackaging those loans to feed them back to the market – banks will have to raise interest rates on mortgages and raise credit standards for borrowers!?! Isn’t that what banks should be doing? Making sure the borrowers deserve the loans they apply for and pricing those loans to properly represent the inherent risk? Isn’t this a return to what got us into this credit crisis in the first place? I think the terrible mess that Freddie and Fannie helped the industry generate needs to be completely unwound rather than restored to do more damage. Let Fannie and Freddie fend for themselves. Since the story that triggered this post is based on ‘media reports’ I hope that they turn out to be wrong and that when the real announcement is made next week that it ends up being good news. I won’t be holding my breath though.

M13 & Friends

Thursday, September 4th, 2008
M13 & NGC 6207

M13 & NGC 6207 (Click Image)

I revisited a favorite target last night, M-13 the globular cluster in Hercules. I’ve imaged this before, but I wanted to see if I could capture the nearby galaxy (NGC 6207). I was worried initially with the polar alignment of my mount. I am not set up to autoguide my mount and expected that my currently poor polar alignment would severely limit my exposures. I decided to use my Tak Epsilon 180 astrograph (500mm fl f/2.8) with the FLI ML8300 camera. A few nights earlier I was able to take 300 second exposures with a 100mm lens and was hoping I could get 2 minute exposures with the 500mm Tak. I had to shorten the exposures to 90 seconds each in order to eliminate star trails. Nevertheless, I did manage to capture NGC 6205 along with one other tiny background galaxy. This image is a stack of thirty 90-second exposures with dark frame subtraction. I applied a little RLD, but not much else (other than curves adjustment in DeepSkyStacker & PhotoShop).

North American Nebula

Monday, September 1st, 2008
NGC 7000 & IC 5070

NGC 7000 & IC 5070 (Click Image)

This a monochrome white light image of the North American nebula (NGC 7000) and the nearby Pelican nebula (IC 5070). This was just a quick test image composed from a stack of five 5-minute images. I was testing a new adapter that allows me to use my Canon EF series lenses on my FLI ML8300 camera.  I used the 100mm f/2.8 macro lens for this image along with the IDAS Light Pollution filter. No flats were used and the images were unguided. The stars are a little large with extended rings around them – the 100mm lens probably needed to be stopped down a bit or I was not quite at best focus. Focusing was very sensitive and difficult to adjust. The adapter worked quite well with a positive lock and good alignment woth the focal plane. Next test will be using my Takahashi Epsilon 180.