Tuesday, January 31, 2006

APod's and EPod's

I really liked these two from the astronomy (apod) and earth (epod) pic of the day sites.

Contrails in arizona - post missile launch the cloud could be seen an hour after sunset cause it was so high.
Aurora and volcano. Only in iceland. Liz beat me to the post.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Waikiki - Where was that again?

Most postcards you get from the islands show either Waikiki n Diamond head, or one of the surf breaks on the north shore. Since tourists own Waikiki and it seemd silly to get on a bus for an hour just to go there, I haven't been there to hang on the beach on a weekend in many months. It's 2 miles from where I work...... It's really interesting seeing the diversity of people there. Just don't buy anything. Even with the kama'aina you're still gonna pay $4 for rice.

My one splurge this month was a super-wide angle lens. When will the camera madness stop? I don't know. It was good fun to try this thing out on faces. It's like those funny mirrors at carnivals.

Liz is laying straight.

Now she's really U shaped but looks almost normal, except for the strange "bends" in her side....

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tons More Pictures

for those who like that sort of thing...... (parents).
Liz has been going through my old pictures and pulling out the good ones. She manages to do this since her job keeps her tied behind a computer doing nothing all day. Really, nothing. She used to call and ask for interesting web research projects to keep her busy. Now she's discovered blogging, picture viewing, and all sorts of other wastes of time. It's paying her twice what I'm making yearly but turning her head into cheeze. Sound familiar? But I digress.....

There's a bunch of new pics up on my site. Older pics from 2003 and a few more trips around da ailans. Check it.

Pharma Number II

I got some interesting comments from the drug cost statistic post. I'd like to clarify it. That was not an attempt to say that drugs should cost less. That was just a statement about profit margins. The materials cost is negligable so that what you pay goes directly to human resources, r+d, profits, rent, etc. The cost of the drug has nothing to do with the cost of materials, just the cost of production (people, rent, marketing, etc). You can do a lot when you're making hundreds per month on something that costs cents.

I've heard some interesting statistics that I haven't been able to verify, but I might believe... There are about 25 billion perscriptions in this country right now. That's 10 pills per person. I don' t know about your grandparents but I've seen those pill boxes. Thoughts?

The thing I really wonder about is why we need so many meds right now. Are the people downing pills in the morning that much better off? I haven't found any good statistics.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Life this Week

It's Saturday morning. In starting this thing, I wanted to use it to try and keep a journal of life as is. I can't say I have much memorable that happened this week. I've got 2 papers drafted, that might get published sometime this year.... Classes were busy. I think the only thing memorable is Jeff's General Relativity course. The guy is really intuitional with almost everything. He's got a really neat way of understanding space-time and how things interact. I guess I could sum it up by saying that he's not hung up on the mathematical details and tries to appeal to your intuiton. That's my style. I suck at math.

So this week, like the last two and the 12 to come was just sitting and listening to people talking, interspersed with writing and making figures.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

New Pics Up

For those who like pics, check out the 4 new folders under "local" on my site.

A Blurb from Mom

Here's a forward from my mom, an ER nurse. She's been bitching about this for years now. I should post a story about the "national shortage" of the cheap medicine that happened when a more expensive one was just approved (same drug company, damn good marketing ploy, kick you in the face result).

Did you ever wonder how much it costs a drug company for the active
ingredient in prescription medications? Some people think it must cost a
lot, since many drugs sell for more than $2.00 per tablet. We did a search
of offshore chemical synthesizers that supply the active ingredients found
in drugs approved by the FDA. As we have revealed in past issues of Life
Extension, a significant percentage of drugs sold in the United
States contain active ingredients made in other countries. In our
independent investigation of how much profit drug companies really make,
we obtained the actual price of active ingredients used in some of the
most popular drugs sold in America.

The data below speaks for itself.

Celebrex: 100 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $130.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.60
Percent markup: 21,712%

Claritin: 10 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $215.17
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.71
Percent markup: 30,306%

Keflex: 250 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $157.39
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.88 Lipitor: 20 mg
Consumer Price (100 tablets): $272.37
Cost of general active ingredients: $5.80
Percent markup: 4,696%

Norvasc: 10 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $188.29
Cost of general active ingredients: $0.14
Percent markup: 134,493%

Paxil: 20 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $220.27
Cost of general active ingredients: $7.60
Percent markup: 2,898%

Prevacid: 30 mg
Consumer price (100 tablets): $44.77
Cost of general active ingredients: $1.01
Percent markup: 34,136%

Since the cost of prescription drugs is so outrageous, I thought everyone
should know about this. Please read the following and pass it on. It pays to
shop around. This helps to solve the mystery as to why they can afford to
put a Walgreen's on every corner.

On Monday night, Steve Wilson, an investigative reporter for Channel 7
News in Detroit, did a story on generic drug price gouging by pharmacies. He
found in his investigation, that some of these generic drugs were marked up
as much as 3,000% or more. Yes, that's not a typo.....three thousand
percent! So often, we blame the drug companies for the high cost of drugs,
and usually rightfully so. But in this case, the fault clearly lies with the
pharmacies themselves. For example, if you had to buy a prescription drug,
and bought the name brand, you might pay $100 for 100 pills.
The pharmacist might tell you that if you get the generic equivalent, they
would only cost $80, making you think you are "saving" $20. What the
pharmacist is not telling you is that those 100 generic pills may have only
cost him $10!

At the end of the report, one of the anchors asked Mr. Wilson whether or
not there were any pharmacies that did not adhere to this practice, and he
said that Costco consistently charged little over their cost for the generic

I went to the Costco site, where you can look up any drug, and get its
online price. It says that the in-store prices are consistent with the
online prices. I was appalled. Just to give you one example from my own
experience, I had to use the drug, Compazine, which helps prevent nausea in
chemo patients.

I used the generic equivalent, which cost $54.99 for 60 pills at CVS. I
checked the price at Costco, and I could have bought 100 pills for $19.89.
For 145 of my pain pills, I paid $72.57. I could have got 150 at Costco for $28.08.

I would like to mention, that although Costco is a "membership" type
store, you do NOT have to be a member to buy prescriptions there, as it is a
federally regulated substance. You just tell them at the door that you wish
to use the pharmacy, and they will let you in. (this is true)
I went there this past Thursday and asked them.

Sharon L. Davis
Budget Analyst
U.S . Department of Commerce
Room 6839
Office Ph: 202-482-4458
Office Fax: 202-482-5480
E-mail Address: sdavis@doc.gov

Timing Box is Done!

I finally finished the timing box and gave it a first run this weekend. I had no idea that it would suck up this much time...... The two key components were an LM555 timing chip to keep time and a relay switch to do the shutter opening and closing.


I just thought I'd point out a very cool website - this guy Mike likes to go chase down tornadoes with his camera. If I ever have a mid life crisis and decide that I have to go do something daring and neurotic, I might just do this.....
Check out Extremeinstability

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Poor Man's Night-Lapse

Don't you love it when you're sitting in some cramped room, and you've been working for hours, when you suddenly realize that what you're doing is not really as cool as you thought it was, and all the work you did for the last week was kind of pointless....... That's when you go and grapple for a while. Make sure you either go with the really big guy, or the tiny one. Those who have felt this will understand.....

So, the thing I realized is that my timing box isn't really as useful cause there's a much better way to do night timelapse. Take a small thing (rock, button, coin, whatever) and just set the exposure on your camera to max and duct-tape the shutter down with the small thing. The time your camera "thinks" is basically constant from frame to frame so that by using the exposure, you can set the video rate. Dammit. (sarcastically) I didn't really want the box anyway, so there. (picture me pouting in the corner)

Hopefully I'll have all the new timelapse up on the IfA website soon......

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Growing Crystals

A two month experiment has just come to an end. I dissolved a pound of table salt in a plastic rubbermaid thing and let it sit out. Interesting. Perhaps I felt that I should have had a bigger chemistry set when I was a kid. Acutally, I think it was just that I got hooked on blowing up fish and frogs with firecrackers and was disappointed that the walmart chemistry sets didn't do the same. Why do most of us go through a laugh-at-blowing-things-to-pieces phase? What the hell is that?


I have to copy Liz on this one - an awesome pic she found on the Earth Pic of the Day (EPOD). I found it in one of my pic folders. Stunning.......

Martin, King

I was listening to some interesting talks by Alan Watts while soldering my little circuit today during lunch (yes I spent my holiday at work...). Interesting stuff. Try it - 1, 2.

I retro-posted some pics from my last day on the big island - look to the archives if you care. They have the last of the cool SLR pics. Pity.

I just got the ok to try to publish 2 papers by the end of March. I know most must be wondering why the hell it takes years to get something published. All I can say is, it's a bitch when you have to have everything right or somebody is going to publish another paper saying how full of shit you are........

Actually, I was doing an ADS search for papers on spectropolarimetry and surprisingly, I came up here for the mission and here for some random abstract submitted to a conference (in England) that I didn't get to go to...... I had no idea that I had two things already out there. Go figure.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Kailua Timelapse

The Z2 has been successully hacked!! There were some really interesting cirrus the last few days - and I caught them evolving! Timelapse here as .mov I think the most notable thing about this day was how Liz and I both decided that the housing market here sucks and I really don't feel like a cinder block studio in the ghetto is worth $900 a month. Welcome to Hong-Kong density living.....

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jiu Jitsu Dizzy....

The semester started monday. It's been pretty full on so far. I feel a bit like I shouldn't be in classes since I'm supposed to be done now, but there's some really cool stuff here. Not to mention that if I didn't take classes, I'd be stuck in my little cave behind a computer all day which is retarted. I've got a tuition waiver dammit. I'm going to use it.

The redeeming part is that everybody is back for grappling and the boxing classes started up too. The BJJ group has hella-people now. Newbies everywhere. I can't say how much I really like those two classes. There something about fighting that just makes everything relax and puts you right in the moment. It's probably that if you don't your going to get jacked in the face and not enjoy the next few minutes. At least that's how you learn right? Something that most people don't know is that most fighters are particularly well adjusted people. Probably because they get all their nasty shit out someplace healthy like the gym instead of by snapping one day. There's a telescope in Texas that still has 6 bullet holes in it if that gives you any idea of the kind of people I work with here...... I was up late at my office one day maybe a year ago and outside in the hallway I heard two guys basically screaming at each other, one accusing the other of cheating at a video game, probably star trek vs star wars or something. I mean, 4am on a wednesday at work and you've obviously been playing video games way too long. Not that I've got total rights because I was still at work at 4am, but at least I was there working and took the next week off to go out into the "real world" and hang out at the beach. And then there's the people who try to say they know a lot about kung-fu cause the played Tekken for a year. I think I'm picking up habits from Sean. Ranting about retartedness is pretty fun.....

Old news, I know, but this was a cool part of the tournament finals - can you guess where I was half a second later? Perhaps..... on the ground....... But that's ok cause I got to choke him and win.
Classic "passing the guard" shot. Notice the shirtless guy in the background. I suppose he was one of those people who still get aggro at tournaments. He almost started a fight with one of our guys. Perhaps it's all the steroids - he had a 10-pack and weighed 220.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

No More SLR

This will be the last of the timelapse for a while. I've turned the SLR back in for my refund and given it up for a little while. A $700 camera is nice, but considering that is an enitre paycheck, that's a little much.

I managed to catch something increadably beautiful. This has to be my favorite timelapse so far. It's short but sweet - here in mp4 or a smaller version here in mov

And this is the last of the star-trail shots. This one was taken over an hour. I'm working on hacking the 'joint' camera that liz and i bought a year ago. If I can make it work, perhaps I can resume this quality lapsing.......

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Big Island Drive 2

Rocks at Onomea Bay - 4 sec. The diversity of sand here is pretty cool. Red, black, green, and the more usual coral tans....

Onomea again.
could it be..... Onomea
enough already.....

Timescales again - water on rocks is cool.....

Smearing out kolekole beachpark.

smearing out of Onomea Bay.
More water on rocks. Liz loves rounded, vessiculated basalt. Mmmmm tasty jargon.

We basically did nothing but sit and watch the water and talk the whole time. I suppose that after that oxygen and sleep deprevation that we had been reduced to piles of contemplative mush. It's one of those love-hate things I guess. You see some really pretty stuff but it hurts.... Like everything really.

Big Island Drive 1

Part one of the big island drive. One of the benefits of being a working astronomer is that usually you get a day or two on either side of a trip to go see some cool stuff. Well, that's what Jaquie and I did. We drove down the windward side of the big island. Beautiful stuff. And the rain wasn't all that bad - it was so dry at Hale Pohaku that my lips and nose had been bleeding for 3 days. The rain felt good. I'm so glad that I'm over my hatred of it, instilled at a young age in a cloudy grey land where sun is a once-a-month affair in winter.....

Waipio Valley on the Kohala side.

Waves breaking at Laupahoehoe - SLR's are nice cause of the 1/4000 shutter. Too bad I'm not rich.

I got some neutral density filters just before going over - they rock. This was a 30 second exposure. I'm really starting to enjoy smearing things out. For those inclined - to me it relates to spatial and temporal lenght scales - everything has a fractal nature to it's scale. Take a picture of this waterfall at 1/10000 and see the droplets and shock waves propagating inside the droplets. At 1/100 you see the bulk gravity waves in the water (ripples, surface waves). At 1 you're starting to see foot sized variations in general flow patterns, say a wave bending around a rock. At 10sec all that is smeared and you just see streaks of white - the bulk variation in the density from the rocks underneath. I wonder what 10000 seconds might look like.......
I really liked the color of this one.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

An Interesting Rant

Can you tell that I don't have much to do up here.....

Check this rant out. It's a little heavy on the cursing, but perhaps that's just how he/she chooses to express him/her-self.

"Hate crimes against christianity" huh? Perhaps we're all commie bastards out to get you and there's flouride in the water that's part of a plot to destroy america or steal the 'dream mine' away from the owners of ken-taco-hut (mormons, TriCon Global). If only the scientologists would pick up on this, perhaps they too could be come a multi-billion dollar business.

It's a PLANET!!!

Holy crap. We just found a planet (Mars) and perhaps might do something useful since we know where we're looking finally. The thing is so damn bright that it's about time we found it. Someone should really keep this telescope working. The pointing was off by about 10x it's field of view (so that we would have had to take a tile of 100 exposures with the other project just to search the possible area.....)

So here it is, a planet. Yup, that dot. Great. Fabulous. Was this dot really worth staying up for 4 nights......

So, then we zoomed in on the dot. Finally, it's a dot in the middle of the picture . Even better. Nobel Prize..... doubt it. At least we can tell the staff that we really weren't kidding when we said that their telescope wasn't pointing well, and no, it's not that we're just stupid and don't know what a dot looks like. This week was full of enough frustration and computer bull-shit that I think I'll take the next week off. Oh, and now that we have it working, the weather is about 3 times worse than last night meaning we can't really see anything tonight anyways. Where's my whiskey. I'm going to bed.

I hope this is an insightful look into the daily life of a grad student. Not what one would expect.

To redeem this fairly bitchy post, here's something I snagged from the CSO recent results page. It's a map of a super nova remnant. To be honest, this instrument is really cool and if the weather is good, it can do some pretty good stuff, but you had better be intimate with it. Sleeping with it on a daily basis and wiping it's ass for it intimate.

A Funny Timelapse

I thought some might enjoy a lapse of me tossing and turning at altitude.....
in mp4 or mov

I've been playing a bit more with the beast. Here's the latest incarnation of the star's rotating...

Sugar Water

I've got an interesting midnight thought - We gave up on tonights observing because we couldn't even see Mars. As we get back to HP and I sit down to try to work on my thesis proposal, I thought I would get a drink. Not coffee, since I've been way too addicted to that lateley. So I went looking for something else. I noticed that there was nothing in this entire place that didn't read as follows:

High Fructose Corn Suryp
Flavorful Concentrate A, B, C
Preservative X,Y,Z
"Natural" Color and Flavor #'s 1, 2, 3.

I decided to go think about this and drink some tea, cause at least I have a little bit of an idea what might be in it. In some senses, Liz has ruined my future because it seems that after having a taste of good food and doing a little reading up on food manufacturing practice (not to mention pharmaceuticals and fucking - Kaiser - doctor - wannabe's), I can no longer ignore the 'form' of my food anymore and I'll forever be paying more to avoid having 'all natural ground meat product' with my 'flavored sugar water' for dinner, even though it would 'function' the same and shut my stomach up for a while.

If only quality were a virtue.....

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Sharc

We've given up completely on the Heterodyne observations. We couldn't stay pointed on anything work a damn. So, we're trying out a different instrument - an imager (not a spectrograph) called the SharcII. It is analagous to a digital camera, only we're going to be using it a wavelength of 0.35 millimeters (a thousand times bigger than blue light). It's very cold - I helped one of the tecs put in liquid helium-3 (which is a lighter isotope and hence very good at cooling and also very expensive). I think it operates at about 4 degrees above absolute zero. Pretty cool. The nozzel froze a bunch of crap onto it which would boil when you blow on it..... Good thing we had gloves on. Anyways, at .35mm we're seeing things that are around 10K (-280C). At least this way, we don't have to worry about pointing. It was a total pain in the ass to start up though... we started at 5pm and now, at 9, we might finally be taking useful images..... maybe.

Here's tonights sunset in mp4 form. Let me know if these are better or worse than the .mov's...

Star Shots

I decided to not do some timelapse and try for single shots - here are a few trials. I'll be doing more tonight from the summit.

The Damn CSO

So, we couldn't see much of anything again tonight because the pointing was absolutely horrible. As soon as we had finished centering mars on our instrument and moved away to do something useful, it began drifting off in an uncontrollable manner....... I think tomorrow we'll be switching to some imaging if we can....

Although, I have been giving "The Beast" a thurough run-through. I've also discovered a machine-shop up at the summit so that I can play around with it and do interesting time-lapse..

A shot from sunset yesterday.I found a cool animation of the water-vapor in the atmosphere..... click here for their website, or just download it from mine.

The inversion layer has been breaking down and letting the cumulus clouds get up a little higher - I've put together a small lapse to test out a new way of exporting movies. Try out this .mp4 file, or if you want the big .mov one, try this.
I also have been playing around with sunset timelapses. I had no idea how much the light varied - the camera needs to be checked every 10 minutes...... try this .mp4 file