Shooting the Moon

Waxing crescent moon shot with Nikon D3100, 500mm f/8 manual focus, 1/15 second at ISO 800

Last year I got a reasonably sharp photo of a full moon with a Nikon D7200 using the $500 Nikkor 18-300mm zoom lens at f/6.3, 1/160 second, ISO 160. This month I pulled out an old Nikon D3100 and a $100 catadioptric 500mm f/8 lens for a bigger challenge: The cheaper lens really falls short in terms of sharpness. Here is the best I could do with each lens (the more recent shot on the right is colored by atmospheric smoke from western wildfires):

But right now there are some interesting astronomical phenomena: Mars is near its closest approach to earth and is visible to the naked eye. Here the moon passes about one degree below the red plant (top left):

Mars, top left

I turned the camera on Jupiter, which is presently close to Saturn and very prominent in the night sky. With the same lens, shooting 1/2 second at ISO 800, I get the following photo showing all four Galilean moons:

Jupiter and moons Ganymede, Io, Europa (all left of the planet) and Callisto (far right)

Climbing Table Mountain

10,400 ft on approach to Table Mountain peak – The Rock

The peak of Table Mountain is a prominent rock about 50 yards long that, from 11,100 feet above sea level, offers stunning views of the Grand Teton and surrounding canyons. I figured the 11-mile loop would be a great leg workout. But I grossly underestimated the effect that altitude would play on this excursion.

The trails start at 6,800 feet. I opted to ascend via the 4-mile-long Face Trail. The first mile covers over 2,000 feet in altitude, so it’s like climbing a mile-long flight of stairs. I could tell the air was thinning as the trail leveled out above 9,000 feet and I was still breathing heavily to maintain a decent walking pace along terrain that would normally constitute a light stroll.

Topographic map of trails (white) from 6,800ft head on left to 11,100ft peak on lower right.
Continue reading “Climbing Table Mountain”

I like Pandemia

The coronavirus pandemic has transformed America into a place I’ve wanted to live for a long time.

  • Urban living has lost some luster. Friends who used to be die hard city slickers and urban evangelists eventually got so sick of the government quarantine rules, the riots, and the prolonged inability to venture forth from their $4,000/month walk-in-closet “apartments” that they took extended leaves of absence to visit Free America. This was enabled by:
  • Telecommuting. I’ve been saying this for many years: Office workers rarely benefit from physical presence in an office. And now that companies were forced to test my assertion and see the benefits in increased productivity (and the prospect of reduced office costs) many are planning to encourage or even require “WFH” (work from home) permanently.
  • Business travel has seen a commensurate collapse. I am no longer alone in my disdain for the “one meeting business trip.”
  • There is a new respect for personal space. Casual handshaking is out.
  • Large in-person gatherings have been curtailed. Sporting events, theater, church. All of these barbaric and dangerous affairs have been replaced: Cramped pews gave way to in-person worship with close family and friends or larger teleconference gatherings. The unprecedented array of television entertainment has fully supplanted the olde tyme amusement of live theater. And professional sporting spectacles, thankfully, pretty much just went away.
  • In Free America restaurants that opened for seated service spaced their tables at comfortable distances. Food handlers wear face coverings. Serious attempts are made to sanitize high-touch surfaces, including menus.
  • You can wear a neck gaiter to cover your nose and mouth anytime, anywhere, and nobody assumes you’re a robber.

I saw a Starlink satellite train!

Last night after sundown I happened to be outside looking up at the waxing gibbous moon when I saw a satellite zipping near it in low earth orbit. And not far behind it another. And another – all spaced roughly 15 seconds (travel time, north to south) apart on the same orbit. They kept coming in what appeared to be an unbroken chain, and I could clearly see six to seven of them at a time. That’s an astonishingly dense satellite network, so it made me wonder if it was part of the astonishingly large LEO satellite network being built by Starlink.

Today I tried to confirm what satellites I could have been seeing, and it looks like there was indeed a Starlink train passing overhead at that time. The reason they were so close together is that Starlink satellites are launched 60 at a time in “trains” that gradually spread to the network’s operational altitude and separation. I must have spotted this one near the beginning of its transit of my location.

So that was very exciting, but I didn’t have equipment adequate to record it. Instead, here is a photo of a full moon I captured with a Nikon 7200 DX and 300mm lens last November:

Full moon photo by David Bookstaber

Thanks for the COVID-19 reassurance

I’d like to thank every organization with which I have ever had contact for emailing me in recent days with your Updates and Important Messages about the COVID-19 pandemic. I am glad that you made time to reach out to me while you are busy “closely monitoring developments with respect to COVID-19.

I am inspired by the businesses that have “implemented plans to ensure that we can continue to serve our customers.” To list just a few:

  • A hotel I stayed at last year.
  • The mail-order company I ordered a pipe fitting from 3 years ago.
  • The law firm that I consulted while creating an LLC five years ago, but haven’t contacted since.
  • The company that represents said LLC in Delaware, whose only job is to forward me a tax bill once a year.
  • The self-storage facility I haven’t visited in six months.

Stores. Restaurants. Clubs, forums, online newsletters. Really, every organization – regardless of whether I have ever had any contact with you or even know what you do.

I can’t tell you how reassuring it is to read, over and over, that:

Our focus is always on the safety and well-being of our customers, employees, and suppliers. We will continue to share guidance and information as it becomes pertinent.

For those that have modified their functions, let me say that I could care less whether some of your employees are working from home. I am invariably rapt reading about the sanitation protocols you have implemented. Surely I am sleeping more soundly knowing how the college I attended twenty years ago has modified its services to current students; or knowing how a medical practice I haven’t visited in three years is handling scheduling of current patients.

Cookie Currency

Cookies and Tea
Keep Calm – David Will Fix It

These chocolate chip cookies are a so good that I honor them as payment for home repairs.

Yum … delicious, grey-market barter. Not dependent on fiat currencies, and beyond the reach of all but the most tyrannical governments. You can even have the recipe for free:

Chocolate Chip Coconut Cookies (High Altitude Recipe)

  • 1 C. + 2 T.  unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 6 T. butter, melted
  • 1/2 C. brown sugar
  • 1/4 C. minus 1 T. white sugar
  • 1 extra-large egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 C. chocolate chips
  • 1/3 C. coconut
  • 1/3 C. chopped, toasted pecans (optional)
  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Cool the melted butter slightly.  Beat melted butter and sugars together.
  3. Add egg, yolk, and vanilla.  Beat until blended.
  4. Add salt and baking soda, beat or mix well.
  5. Stir in flour by hand until just incorporated.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips, coconut, and pecans until just incorporated.  Do not overmix.
  7. Form into balls 2 tablespoons each.
  8. Bake 12-15 minutes or until cookies are just beginning to turn golden.
  9. Let cool on baking sheets for about 10 minutes before removing.