Archive for the 'Personal' Category

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A Quick Update

I decided a long time ago to stop posting “Sorry I haven’t posted…” entries whenever I’m too busy to update the blog, but I’m making an exception. I’ve only posted once in the past 2 1/2 months; I’m also behind on my email. To those who’ve emailed me in the last few weeks with no reply, I’m sorry.

I’ve been very busy at work for the last couple months, and will remain so for at least the next three months. Home’s been just as busy; with the kids finishing school for the year, there’s been a lot going on- banquets, recitals, and so on. What free time I’ve found has been spent trying to relax, largely away from the computer. I have found a little time for composing, but not nearly enough.

I bring this up now because I’m off tommorow for a 2 week vacation to Maine with my extended family. There’s a good chance there won’t be any updates here for a while, although its possible – I managed to post a picture from Maine last summer. I’ve got a few emails I’ll try to send tonight, but no promises… I’ve got to load the car, and the rest of the family arrives tonight in preparation for the drive tommorow.

As you probably haven’t noticed since I haven’t been posting, I turned off all comments a couple weeks ago due to a recent wave of spam that was getting around my controls. Since I’ll be away and unable to clean up any spam, I’m going to leave the comments off. You can always email me if you need me, just be warned that response times will likely be slow.

Backing into Success

Last week, the clock/radio display in my car stopped working. I drive a 2001 Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyder, and the clock/radio display is separate from the radio, sitting at the top of the dash, above the center vents (which are in turn above the radio). I decided to try and fix it yesterday, and managed to succeed in spite of myself.

Although the display didn’t work, the stereo continued to work. I had hoped the issue was just a blown fuse. After opening the fuse panel, I realized I didn’t know which of the 15 or so fuses to check. Instead of pulling each one, I ran in the house to find my owner’s manual. Ten minutes of searching later, I returned to the car, manual in hand, only to remember that the fusebox diagram is on the back of the fusebox panel cover. If I’d flipped the panel cover over when I removed it, I would have saved 10 minutes. Oops.

Upon reviewing the diagram and attempting to decode the hieroglyphics that are used in place of English, I didn’t see a fuse for the clock. I did see an extra fuse not labeled in the diagram. Of course, that fuse wasn’t blown. I also checked the radio fuse (even though the radio worked), what looked like the dashboard fuse (although the dash lights worked), and some fuse with a transistor icon (engine computer, I’d guess). No blown fuses.

At this point my only other hope was for a loose wire between the stero unit and the display unit. Checking for this meant getting inside the dash. Never a fun proposition in any car, I was fairly hopeful since the center dash portion of the Eclipse is a separate piece. After removing two screws down near the gearshift, the console cover lifted up and out.

I was on a roll, until I realized that I still couldn’t get to the display unit, which had a special cover that extends up and into the main dash. After spending 5 minutes looking for a way to remove this cover, I found the back moved a bit if I pulled a certain way. Five minutes after that, I had moved from the driver’s seat to the passenger seat, and managed to get the back of the cover to just pop out. After some more experimentation, I finally figured out the whole thing just “clipped” into place. With enough force applied to pull on it, it eventually popped out.

I removed the display, only to find the single cable connector block was securely attached. I removed the stereo, and found all cables securely attached there as well. I eventually disassembled the entire display unit, and could find no issues. Sensing defeat, I started putting everything back together.

Fortunately, this proved easy. After returning the stereo and display to their places and checking all cabling, I popped the display cover back in just as it came off, and put the center console cover back in place. Still seated in the passenger seat, I put the two screws at the bottom of the panel back. That’s when I saw it.

The Eclipse’s central dash extends down into the center console, which runs between the two front seats. Just in front of the shifter and below the screw I was replacing, on the passenger side, sits the cigarette lighter, pointed upward. In my car, the socket is always empty, ready to accept a cell phone charger. Inside the socket, I could see a dime, which I couldn’t see from the driver’s seat. At that point, everything fell into place.

After removing the dime and completing re-assembly, I turned the ignition and confirmed the display was still not working. I then checked the fuse for the cigarette lighter, which was of course blown. One replacement fuse later, I turned the ignition and watched the clock display spring to life. Had I checked that fuse when I started, I would have saved the better part of an hour. Oops.

Look Up

So yes, I’m back from vacation– have been for a week and a half, I just haven’t gotten back into the swing of posting yet. Dugh recently called me on it as part a post about astronomy software. This turns out to be an excellent coincidence, because I was away in Maine.

My father is from Maine, and I’ve been going there on vacation since I was a child. Maine is where my interest in astronomy was born. The skies on Mt. Desert Island are just incredible on a clear night- indescribable. Without the glare from polution and city lights, the sky is very dark- except for the countless stars. The Milky Way is so bright and packed with stars that you could mistake it for a cloud at first, until your eyes adjust and start resolving it into myriad distant stars. Every time I go back, all it takes is the first clear night to instantly rekindle my passion for the night sky. My brother-in-law, Bob, was with us for the first time (this was a big family vacation, 10 of us in all), and couldn’t believe the sky- he’d never seen anything like it.

While I was there, I visted Island Astronomy for the first time. It’s a small astronomy shop located in a family lighthouse. Visit the site, and you may recognize the picture- it’s very highly photographed. The shop’s owner, Peter Lord, is a great guy. I really enjoyed talking to him. Of course, I didn’t escape unscathed. Although I got an 10″ Dobsonian a last year for my birthday, I never have a scope in Maine because the Dob is too large to travel with. I solved this problem by buying an Orion 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain from Peter. It’s a small scope, but perfect for travel. I got some great views of Jupiter with it after the fireworks on July 4. Island Astronomy also has viewing sessions and workshops for novices- If you visit Bar Harbor (or anywhere else on MDI), be sure to take a trip to Bernard on the quite side of the Island and check out Island Astronomy.

In my comments on Dugh’s post, I mentioned that the best way to learn the constellations, named stars, etc., is a good book and a clear night. Even in areas without the spectacular views of Maine, you can learn about the sky just by looking. This time of year, the Big Dipper (part of Ursa Major) is high in the northern sky and easily identified. With a little knowledge, this familliar sky sight is your signpost to the North Star (Polaris), the Little Dipper, Arcturus (brightest of the Summer stars), Spica (another bright star), as well as the circumpolar constallations such as Draco, Casseiopia, and Cepheus. Also easy to find are the three stars of the Summer Triangle – Vega, Deneb, and Altair, as well as their constellations Lyra, Cygnus, and Aquilla.

For a great guide to learning these and more, check out H.A. Rey’s classic The Stars: A New Way to See Them. If the author’s name seems familliar, it is – he’s the author of the Curious George books. And yes, he illustrated The Stars. For something with a bit more info, I’d never give up my copy of National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Night Sky – it’s a great, highly portable guide.

However you like to enjoy the night sky, make sure you do so from time to time. Just go out, and look up.

Foggy Harbor

Still on Vacation. For now, enjoy a picture.

Foggy Harbor

Shot with my Kodak DX3900, in native b&w mode.


Just as I was was starting to get back in the swing of posting on a regular basis, I’m off on Vacation. Tommorow morning (well, later today) I head away for two weeks, with what will likely be very little to no net access. I’ll be back around July 11, hopefully with lots of good stuff to write about.