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HOWTO: ISS Viewing
outdoors : by Tommy - October 5th 2011, 09:08PM
outdoors
The fact that there's a space station orbiting above the globe right now has become somewhat passe in pop culture. Not many people are truly wowed at the news of it. Within seconds, a few clicks of a mouse will take you to hundreds of pictures and videos of the International Space Station; but did you know you can see the space station yourself? No binoculars or telescopes needed! I figured I would write up a HOWTO for the uninitiated. It isn't hard, it just takes a little know how.

For starters, you need to know a few terms used when talking about satellites (the ISS is a satellite of the planet Earth).

Azimuth
The first term when dealing with satellites is azimuth. Azimuth is a technical term that means the same thing as heading, bearing or direction. Most people are comfortable with the cardinal directions North, South, East and West. The cardinal directions are fine for general directions, but to know exactly where something is we need to be more specific. When dealing with an azimuth, a number of degrees is stated. 0 is North, 90 is East, 180 is South, 270 is West, and on around to North again. Kinda get the picture? It's a full circle divided into 360 degrees. (Also note, there's technically no such thing as 360 when dealing with Azimuth, because 360 would be the same as North, but that's already 0.)

Altitude
It's not entirely what you think. Sure altitude means height, but we're not talking in feet or meters here. Remember, we're dealing with observational angles here, so knowing how high something is is of little consequence to us. Altitude in astronomy means "angle above the horizon". Altitude is expressed in degrees, just like azimuth. 0 is at the horizon, 90 is straight up. 45, you guessed it, is right in the middle.

Continue reading...

tags: iss space astronomy satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

 
The Right Camping Gear
outdoors : by Tommy - March 30th 2008, 09:37PM
outdoors
I've been on a camping kick recently and realized last week that having the right gear makes a huge difference in comfort. About 2 weeks ago for a pre-Spring Break camping trip, we went with some friends up to Beaver's Bend, Oklahoma. While we were there the zipper on my sleeping bag broke. I didn't have a sleep-mat so, needless to say, I had a very lousy night. After we got back I ordered a nice Slumberjack mummy bag that actually fits my tall frame.

Last weekend we went to Caddo Lake State Park here in Texas. I picked up a cheap $5 foam mat at Walmart, which wasn't the softest but it was better than nothing. The new Slumberjack bag was downright awesome - I've never slept so comfy in a tent before. It was while laying in my new bag that I realized it's all about having the right gear.

That was it, for my birthday I wanted the right gear. My birthday came early this year in the form of an additional paycheck from some extra hours I picked up. We went to Whole Earth Provision Company and REI in Dallas this past weekend in search of a few essentials. I first picked up a nice, new Kelty Coyote backpack for containing all my new loot. The sales rep at REI loaded me down with about 30lbs. After getting the pack adjusted I walked around the store, it was wonderful. Again, it was all about the right gear. I also picked up a Thermarest sleeping pad to cushion me from the ground. I can't express how awesome these mats are - You just have to feel them, otherwise you won't understand. Never again will my back sleep on terra firma.

Another problem I ran into while at Caddo Lake was poor cookware.

Continue reading...

tags: camping gear

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

 
Hummingbirds
outdoors : by Tommy - March 12th 2008, 02:48PM
outdoors
It's 2008 Hummingbird season. Depending on where you live you can expect the influx of hummingbirds in your vicinity very soon. Being in northeast Texas, I anticipate that I'll have them here sometime within the next 2 days.

My feeders are ready to go. I dug them out, cleaned them up and checked their hanging hooks. I mixed up a batch of hummingbird nectar (see below) and filled one feeder up. The others will come out after I see the first hummers here. Walmart has some great wide-mouth feeders for less than $4 that are super easy to clean and plenty of feeder holes. If you have a window that's easy to get to, why not put up a hummingbird feeder. They're one of the best forms of entertainment while sitting outside doing nothing. The little birds will dive-bomb each other and dog-fight all around you trying to protect their precious sugar water.

Hummingbird nectar recipe
1c table sugar (don't use honey or any other sugar)
4c tap water (nothing special here)

You can make more, just keep the 1:4 ratio. Stir the sugar until it dissolves in the water. Don't use red food coloring - it isn't needed and can be bad for the birds. You don't have to boil it either. If you do, just remember not to put boiling hot water in your feeder! Store any leftover nectar in a 2 liter bottle in the fridge until needed. Check your feeder every few days for any signs of contamination (bacteria and mold love sugar water). If it is dirty, empty the feeder rinse it out (don't use soap!) and refill.

To find out when hummingbirds will be in your neck of the woods, check out this cool migration map (if you're out west, you get birds too), and here's a some video of hummingbirds from YouTube.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 7 | Full article )

 
Ultra-Light Alcohol Stove
outdoors : by Tommy - March 8th 2008, 01:55PM
outdoors
While looking at various camping stoves, like the MSR WhisperLite and Pocket Rocket, I came across the old alcohol stove design. I was curious how they worked and found several howto videos on making your own alcohol stove.

Of all the videos I found this one was probably my favorite. I was able to track down some Bud Light in aluminum bottles. It's not Shiner, but it's not the beer I want - it's the containers.

I followed Russell's howto video and was able to hack apart a bottle and assemble it into a modest imitation. It wasn't the most sound design, so I made another. The second stove turned out better than the first and I was actually able to boil a standard sized pot of water!

Pics are forthcoming.

update: From the moment I lit the stove, it took 10 minutes to boil 2-1/2 cups of water (what my dehydrated meal calls for). Not too shabby.

tags: camping stove efficient

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

 
Geocaches placed
outdoors : by Tommy - November 22nd 2004, 11:41AM
outdoors
This weekend, while in Longview, Jennifer and I visited another geocache in that area. It was relatively easy to find and was made out of a waterproof Army surplus ammo box.
This got me to thinking how easy it is to make and place a geocache. So, we went over to the local army surplus store and picked up a couple of ammo boxes of our own. Then went to Walmart to see what knick-knacks we could find to put in them. I took them back to Alpha Omega and spray painted them to help conceal their location when they are placed. We placed them Sunday afternoon and I logged their coordinates today.
So, two more geocaches are in the Longview vicinity if any of you are in that area and have a GPS.

Links to the two geocaches:
  • Trinity Bucket
  • Industrial Bucket


  • What the heck is a geocache? Visit www.GeoCaching.com for more info.

    Grendel sez: Well, it appears we had a few geocachers find our ammo boxes. Nice to see someone actually went out in search of them! Click on the links above to see the comments for each cache.
    Let us also hope it does not get blown up like this one in Indiana.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

     

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