Astronomy Gear & Sheboygan Brats

On March 28, the 8th annual Astronomy Swap N Sell event will take place at the Aviation Heritage Center in Sheboygan Falls, WI. Created and sponsored by the Sheboygan Astronomical Society, this has become a favorite event amongst area astronomy enthusiasts. Late March is the perfect time to dust off the cosmic cobwebs that set in over the long midwestern winter, and the prospect of seeing friends from across the state — and even the region — really gets my astronomy juices flowing.

It begins with breakfast at a nice place on the way. My go-to for this was the Madison Avenue Inn nestled in the tiny town of Cascade, WI — but now it’s¬†gone. Hopefully, we’ll find an alternative to Taco Bell’s “AM Crunchwrap” that one of my friends likes so much.

The Madison Avenue Inn of Cascade, WI was an eclectic little place that had the most wonderful egg bakes. Too bad they closed permanently last year :(

The Madison Avenue Inn of Cascade, WI was an eclectic little place that had the most wonderful egg bakes. Too bad they closed permanently last year ūüė¶

How do you get to the Aviation Heritage Center? Just drive to the Sheboygan County Memorial Airport, and the building you’re looking for is hard to miss!

Parking under a USAF jet is only part of the fun -- there is a "sound effects" button on the mounting post that will really add to the experience!

Parking under a USAF jet is only part of the fun — there is a “sound effects” button on the mounting post that really adds to the experience!

Once inside, you pass through the little museum into the main room, where all the action is. It’s important to know that there is a full kitchen off to the left of this picture, where you can get Sheboygan-style brats (yes, a double-brat on a Johnston Bakery hard roll). You can also get “regular” brats if you want, as well as other snack-type items and beverages. I heard that this year they are adding a “Pluto Burger” so we’ll just have to see what that’s all about…in the interest of documenting the event, you understand.

Plenty of astronomy people and gear at the Sheboygan Astronomical Society's annual Swap 'N Sell event!

Plenty of astronomy people and gear at the Sheboygan Astronomical Society’s annual Swap ‘N Sell event! Cafe tables are shown to the left and stretch back to the serving counter at the kitchen.

You can find all kinds of telescopes, binoculars, eyepieces, books and other fantastic stuff. It’s different every year, and the more people who attend, the more there is to choose from, which is great because as word gets out the event is getting bigger.

Gear 1Gear 2Gear 3Gear 5Gear 6

Everyone has such a great time, regardless if you’re buying, selling, or browsing! It’s nice¬†to see old friends and make new ones.

Mickey and Charlotte are two of the many members of the Northern Cross Science Foundation who attend the Swap N Sell.

You never know¬†what¬†you’ll find at the Swap N Sell. I’ve been looking for a copy of the¬†Glass Giant Of Palomar for years, but didn’t want to pay the huge asking prices for the relatively rare book. A few years ago at the Swap N Sell, I found a copy at an excellent price, and in fact, I gave the seller more than he was asking. The Stokes Sandpiper 15-45x65mm angled spotting scope is long out of production, and I was delighted to find it as well.

In 2013 I scored some awesome stuff at the Swap N Sell, and then joined some friends in a trek up to see Dr. Phil Plait at UW-Fox Valley, where I got a signed book!

In 2013 I scored some awesome stuff at the Swap N Sell, and then joined some friends in a trek up Menasha to see Dr. Phil Plait talk at the Barlow Planetarium, where I got a signed book!

Each year there are a few astronomy-related talks as well. People such as Michael Bakich from Astronomy Magazine have spoken in the past; this year, I’m giving a talk:

PN Title Slide

So, mark your calendars and tell your friends about the Astronomy Swap N Sell on March 28. As the event runs from 9am to 2pm, early arrival is advised. I hope to see you there, and maybe we can even do a little business to boot!

Songs Of The Season … from a long time ago.

Songs Of The SeasonMany years ago (back in 1988) a Christmas album was recorded by the choirs of Port Washington High School in Port Washington, WI. I was on Facebook tonight and a few people started posting about this album, talking about how great it would be to have it in digital form. That’s when one of my old classmates, Michele Champeau-Krueger, indicated she had a CD made from it and the files resided on her computer. Well, after a few more Facebook posts and some emails, I had the files on my Macbook. After a little bit of work, I was able to create MP3 files with tags and album art (iPhone 5 in one hand, album jacket in the other). Michele had all¬†13 songs, but I didn’t realize two songs were on the same track at first, so I initially uploaded a “weird” set. I’ve since¬†split the two songs into separate tracks, fixed the album name tags so they have the correct title, and have updated the set on this blog (you’ll see it as “Songs Of Christmas.zip”. So, thanks to Michele, I can now offer the fabled “Songs Of Christmas” PWHS Choirs Album to the infintesimally-small portion of the Internet that is interested in such a thing. There is no copyright on the album jacket or label, and the original performers are asking me for this, so I think we’re good. If not, just let me know.

Merry Christmas PWHS Grads Of The 1980s! Songs Of Christmas

AstroChef?

I’ve added a new section to my blog for Food & Cooking, where I’ve published my own version of jambalaya that’s diabetic-friendly and healthier than the traditional recipes I’ve come across, but still true to the signature flavors of the dish. I’ll share other recipes, cookbooks, and restaurant dishes here too, and would love to see your comments and feedback.

The Everyone Tripod Design Change & Drawing Publish

A lot of people have been asking me for the design details of the Everyone Tripod. It’s been a long and cold winter, so I’ve not had a change to put it through its paces until recently.

One thing I learned from using it “in the field”¬†was that¬†having the leg sides exactly parallel¬†didn’t make for easy height adjustment, since the side clamping force¬†was therefore produced equally along the full length of the leg assembly. A simple solution¬†was to¬†slightly increase the width of the brace plate “ears” so they stay clamped tightly when the lower bolt is loosened for height adjustment. Since this set up a gentle “wedge” shape along the length of the entire leg,¬†I needed¬†to¬†increase the width of the top of the leg assembly (where it attaches to the hub) a little more than the brace plate ears. If you’re making your own hub, that’s a simple dimension to change, but if you’re putting this on an existing hub, just add some extra fender washers between the outside of the hub and inside of the leg pieces. In my situation with the Celestron Nexstar 102GT, three washers on each side produced the necessary spread.

After making the necessary design adjustments, I am now publishing my SolidWorks design drawings in PDF format. Note that I’m still showing the leg sides¬†as parallel, but you can also see where the extra washers and brace plate ears seem to “interfere” with the legs. Depending on your exact cuts and design, the leg sides will have a varying about of “wedge” to them; using the dimensions and BOM I’ve included, it’ll work out fine for the Nexstar 102GT and similar mounts.

You can find the PDF drawings below; be sure to download all four. If you make your own version of the Everyone Tripod, please let me know how it works for you and include a picture of your creation!

Everyone Tripod Assembly Drawing
Everyone Tripod Leg Side Drawing
Everyone Tripod Leg End Drawing
Everyone Tripod Brace Plate Drawing