I caught a nebula!

Tonight the skies were a bit more clear, so I tried talking photos of M42, the Great Nebula in Orion. It’s not exactly a Hubble image, but it’s at least recognizable. I tried experimenting with different settings on my camera and lens to see what worked best.

This image was taken with

  • Camera: Canon 50D
  • Lens: Minolta MC Tele Rokkor HF, plus Fotodiox MD-EOS adapter
  • f-stop: 8
  • Exposure: 17s

Pleaides – more experiments in astrophotography

So lately I’ve become more curious about what kinds of photos of the stars I can make with my equipment. Tonight, clouds moved in fairly early, so I wasn’t able to do much, but I did get this image of the Pleaides.

A few things I note are, in no particular order:

  • The image was made with a Canon 50D using a Minolta 300mm lens (and a Minolta-Canon adapter).
  • The camera was mounted piggy-back on my Orion StarBlast 4.5 EQ telscope.
  • This was about a 10 second exposure.
  • It shows off the chromatic aberration of the lens I was using.
  • I’m in a heavily light polluted area, so that also affects the image quality.
  • I had a blast doing this and I want to make more images!


It was silent except for the wind. That was bad. The engine had shut down after being shot, and now the Sopwith Pup was trailing smoke and slowly gliding downward. The German pilot had broken off and left, leaving Lt. Daniels to drift alone in the sky, terror filling him, yet also giving him a firm resolve to keep his craft flying level. If he could just manage to glide down under control he might be able to land in a field.

That wouldn’t solve all his problems, of course. The Germans controlled the land below, and he wasn’t too far from the front either, so someone was bound to see him come down.

Closer to the ground now. There was a long hedgerow ahead with a road beside it. He might be able to use it as a runway. Banking the plane slightly, he lined up for the approach. Now he could see a pair of houses, one on either side of the road, with fields behind them. Low, one story houses, with what looked like barns nearby. He hoped someone down there was a doctor; the road looked rough and the landing would not be easy.

He was falling faster now, the wings of his plane unable to provide enough lift to keep him up. He pulled up the nose slightly to slow his descent. Only 50 feet or so now remained between him and the ground. He could hear the rustling of leaves as the wind blew through the hedge.

40 feet. Pull up just a bit more. The craft caught the air and obligingly slowed and began it’s final landing.

30 feet. 20 feet.

He was still going too fast, but he no longer had room to spare. He lowered the nose and let the wheels touch down. The front wheels hit with a jarring thud that shook everything. There was now a tremendous noise of rattling and squeaking as the plane lumbered down the road. The rear wheel came down now, and the plane bounced along lurching from side to side, and Daniels could barely keep it moving in a straight line.

Suddenly a woman appeared on the side of the road ahead. She must have come from one of the houses to see what was happening. The plane bounced again and threatened to go towards her. Desperately, Daniels swung the rudder to try and turn away from her, but he went too far. The plane swiveled to the right and clipped the hedgerow, and that was it’s doom. The Pup flipped up and planted its nose in the ground. With a great crunching the left wing hit the ground and collapsed as the aircraft rolled over onto its back. Daniels saw the road come up at him, and he lost consciousness as he hit.

It was a clear autumn day and Yvette had been up since dawn, milking the cow, cleaning, and generally keeping busy about the farm. It was harder with Claude gone, but he was in the army, and the German advance had passed by their farm before the trenches had been dug in. After that, all she could do was hope that he was still alive and that he would come home again someday. Poor Genevieve across the road had it worse, though, since she knew exactly where her husband was: in the family graveyard behind the house, killed by a stray artillery shell as the German advance swept through the area.

But that kind of gloomy thought had no place on a fine day like this. The sun was shining bright and bringing some unexpected late September warmth. There were crows calling back and forth across the fields, empty now after the harvest, little though it was, and in the air she could hear a faint buzzing of … bees?

That couldn’t be right. She looked around to find where the sound was coming from, but there was nothing in the yard except for the cow and her calf eating their fodder. The buzzing got louder and now she could hear two distinct tones of it. “Ah” she thought. “Airplanes.” Scanning the horizon towards the front she found what she expected: a British and a German airplane were dueling to the southwest. The front was 17 miles away and normally all she knew of it was the passing of German convoys – always smaller when coming back – or the distant muffled “krump” of artillery fire. But sometimes the airplanes would make it this far and entertain her with their acrobatics. She knew they must be engaged in deadly combat, but from her distant view they always looked like graceful dancers performing an aerial waltz to some music that only they could hear.

Today’s planes were no different. They came together, then pirouetted as they passed by one another. The tan British plane traced an elegant arc as it swung back around, and the black German plane mirrored it. They came together again, and repeated their dance. And again! Yvette hummed to herself as she watched. The end of the dance was always the same, with the men giving each other one last bow before heading each to their respective homes. She supposed aerial combat must be very difficult. She smiled as the planes passed by each other again in their dance, the Brit doing his left turn and the German … doing something different this time. Instead of turning left as before, he pulled straight up and described a little corkscrew shape as he turned 180 degrees, so that suddenly he was coming straight down at his opponent from above and a bit behind. As the two passed by once more the tan plane began trailing black smoke! Satisfied in his victory, the German left. “Why doesn’t he stay to witness the end” she thought?

But her eyes now turned to the stricken British plane. She could no longer hear the buzzing of its engine and she watched in horror knowing what must inevitably happen as gravity once again took command. But the craft was still flying level, and it turned towards her. It was coming almost directly at her now. “The road! He must be trying to land on the road!” She dropped her rake and began running down the lane to the road to get a better view. There were trees along her side of the lane and she found it difficult to see the plane as it neared the ground. It was close now! She heard it thump into the ground as she came to the end of the lane, where she flung open the gate without realizing how close she was.

She looked up and could see the plane bouncing towards her so close that she could see the eyes of the pilot through his goggles. They did nothing to conceal the fear in his face and for an eternal instant their gazes met in shared horror of the situation. But then the aircraft turned sharply to it’s right, struck the hedge, and flipped over on it’s back, coming to rest not 20 feet from her. She cried out as the pilot was thrown to the ground nearby with the unmistakable sound of cracking bones.

Two plates shattered on the floor with a clatter that echoed the loud crashing sound from the road, which is what had startled Genevieve into the dropping the plates to begin with. She looked up from the sink and out the kitchen window – there was a cloud of smoke and dust rising over the hedge. Coco, her dog, began barking furiously and jumping at the door. “Get down!” Genevieve said as she went outside to see what had happened.

She ran down the lane towards the hedge as fast as she could, thinking that a car must have crashed, but when she arrived at the road she saw her neighbor pulling a man away from a ruined airplane. “No” she said quietly as she stared numbly at what was in front of her. “No, no, no!” she yelled, and ran over to help Yvette. Together they pulled Daniels away from the wreckage and to a place in the grass beside the road.

“He doesn’t seem to be badly hurt”, said Yvette, “but there’s no telling when he’ll wake up. He has a few cuts. Do you have any bandages at your house?”

Genevieve did not respond. She simply stared silently at the pilot as he lay there. Yvette had removed his goggles and cap to reveal a young man in his mid 20’s, perhaps her own age. He had sandy hair and a freckled complexion that gave him a boyish look.

“Genevieve, do you have any bandages?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, no I don’t” she replied, finally pulling out of her thoughts, “but he seems mostly OK. I’m sure the Germans will take care of him when they arrive to get him.”

“What?” said Yvette. “We can’t let that happen. Here, help me pick him up. We’ll hide him in my cellar. There’s an old priest hole in there that we can use.”

“No” replied Genevieve.

“What do you mean ‘no’?”

“I won’t help you hide him. The Germans would just search the house and find him anyway. Let’s just keep him safe and wait for them. It probably won’t be long.”

“Are you serious?”

“Of course. It’s for the best”

Yvette stood up and put her hands on her hips. “Do you hear what you’re saying?” He was fighting for us. He was fighting to free our land from the invaders, and you just want to give him to them? That’s madness!”

“It’s just realistic. The German camps are only a few miles away and it won’t be long before they arrive to investigate. If we try to hide the Englishman they will simply search our houses. They’ll turn over everything, and they’ll find him. I can’t let that happen.”

“Who cares about the mess they’ll make? What difference does that make? I told you, I have a hidden place in the cellar where we can put him. He won’t be found and we can tell the Germans that we saw him run north towards town. They’ll go look for him there when they give up searching here. It will be fine!”

She looked eagerly at Genevieve hoping that her argument was convincing. She couldn’t understand the reluctance to help the pilot.

“Yvette, I know you think this is for the best, but please trust me. If the Germans search for him they will find him, and besides, he may be more injured than he looks. They can get him to a doctor who can take care of him.”

“I can’t believe you are doing this” said Yvette. “I know you hate the Germans. They killed your husband! Why do you suddenly want to cooperate with them?”

“I don’t”, Genevieve said, her voice rising, “but I’m just being practical! They know he’s here and they won’t stop looking until they find him. They…”

She stopped short as the young man moaned and began to stir. Yvette knelt down beside him and told him to move gently. He said something to her. “Genevieve, you speak English. What is he saying?”

Genevieve glared silently for a moment before answering. “He said ‘thank you’. And his name is Henry Daniels.”

“Can he walk” asked Yvette. Genevieve translated and Lt. Daniels said “I think my ankle may be broken. It hurts at least, but I should be able to walk with help.”

The two woman helped him to his feet and Yvette held him up on his left side as they walked slowly to her house. They got him inside and he sat while Yvette looked at his swollen ankle.

“I need to get the boot off, but right now it’s the only thing supporting his foot. Help me get him into the cellar first so I can hide him.”

“No, I told you the Germans need to take him, especially if he has a broken bone.”

Yvette was quiet for a moment. “Then get out. Go home. At least have the decency to keep quiet when they come looking for him. Can you do that? Can you at least not betray your own friends and allies?” She sneered that last remark.

Genevieve swallowed hard and turned to leave, going home without replying.

It was a bit more than an hour later when the knock came on the door. A sergeant and three privates were standing there, and before they could even say anything Genevieve pointed across the road and said “He’s hiding there. He may be in a hidden room in the cellar.” With a raised eyebrow, the sergeant ordered two of his men to wait here while he crossed over the Yvette’s house, meeting up with his corporal and three others. Yvette put up a brave act and tried to insist that the pilot had fled, but when she saw them go straight for the cellar she began screaming. One soldier held her while the rest searched. Behind a stack of crates they found the priest hole with Lt. Daniels in it. As he was led out he smiled at Yvette and thanked her for trying to help. He was loaded onto a truck and driven off, while the crew from a second truck worked at clearing the road.

Genevieve sat alone in her kitchen now, drinking cold, weak tea. She heard the front door open and close, but did not react. Yvette walked in and stood in front of her.


Yvette spat on Genevieve and the spittle ran down one cheek as Genevieve watched Yvette leave again.

She sat there for a long time, not even bothering to wipe her face clean. The clock chimed 2 in the afternoon.

Quietly, the cellar door opened and a voice asked in accented French “is it safe now?”

“I think so Corporal Henderson” said Genevieve, “but the Germans are still out there, so you should probably stay down there until nightfall. Go back down and I will bring you something to eat.”

“Thank you” he said. He paused a moment. “It had to be done, you know. If they’d searched here too … ” His voice trailed off and he shut the door again.

Another woman game developer driven from her home

Damn it!  Yet again, another woman game developer has been driven out of her home by death threats.

Game developer Brianna Wu leaves home after receiving death threats for speaking out in support of women

Brianna Wu, developer of sci-fi action puzzler Revolution 60, confirmed that she and her husband have left their home due to a credible threat on Twitter. An account spammed Wu with violent threats and made it clear that it was doing so because of her outspoken support of women in tech and gaming. The last tweet publicly published Wu’s home address. In response to that, she called the police, who came to her home.

It’s time for the FBI to start taking these threats seriously and go after the people responsible.

You can’t ignore trolls

This article is important: Why the Trolls Will Always Win

The take away is the very important point that “ignore the trolls” is the worst advice you can possibly follow.  It’s like ignoring bullies in school: they simply take it as evidence that they can abuse you without repercusions, so they escalate their attacks.

Personally, I’m in favor of fighting back against the trolls in real life.  Invesitgate, find them, hunt them down, file lawsuits for slander, do everything possible to make them pay for their crimes.


Vanduul Veronica

A collection of posts by “Vanduul Veronica” on the Star Citizen forums.



Hi, Eris here.  I’ll be flying support missions for OP – cargo runs to refuel and resupply, scouting missions, combat if needed though I’m a terrible pilot so far.  However, my friend Vanddul Veronica asked me to pass on a message for her.  I claim no responsibility for it.


This is a special broadcast of the Real Truth, your only source for accurate information in the Empire.

Hello, this is Veronica coming to you from my studios aboard the Crimson Blade with a special message for all those participating in Operation Pitchfork.  That message is:  give up!

I know all of you are fueled by an irrational fear and hatred of the Vanduul, but let me assure you that the Vanduul want only peace!  There is conflict between the Vanduul and we humans only because of the Empire’s colonialism and militarism pushing humanity into a pointless and ultimately unwinnable war against the militarily superior Vanduul.  The only reason Earth itself has not yet been overrrun is because the of the great patience and forbearance of the Vanduul people.

You see, the Vanduul elders know and understand that humanity suffers under the oppression of a tyrannnical government, suppressing the basic individualistic instinct of the human species and forcing us into an unnatural oligarchical society wherin the vast majority are made to serve the needs and whims of the eilte few who rule the Empire.  That’s why I have been asked to serve as a bridge between our people and a voice for the Vanduul, to let you know their true intentions and true nature.

Yes, they are warriors, great and strong ones.  But they also venerate nature and refuse to industrialize their worlds, preferring instead to leave them in a pristine state, allowing the native ecology to flourish.  That is why they reacted so strongly when the Empire invaded their world that we know as Armitage.  That is why they reacted with fury when the Empire destroyed Armitage with anti-matter bombs, eradicating the entire ecosystem.  That day, the Vanduul came to see humanity as a danger to the very existence of life in the galaxy, and so they have been at war with us ever since.  But with time, all wounds heal, and todays Vanduul leaders have come to see that humanity is misguided and can be led onto a path towards more civilised behavior.

So to all you Forkers I say this:  take this chance to turn the other cheek and see the Vanduul for who they truly are.  Extend to them the hand of friendship and they will respond!  Abandon your quixotic quest to defeat them, for you cannot.  Their true numbers and strength have never yet been revealed to human eyes and your operation is doomed even before it starts.

Remember, the Vanduul are not the enemy.  The Imperator is!


Uh, Eris here again.  Yeah, Veronica has some … interesting … views.  Please dont be too harsh on her, OK?  Her heart is in the right place, even if her head is a little screwed up.





From my studio aboard the Crimson Blade, this is Veronica with a special edition of the Real Truth.

Recently I had an opportunity to confront Imperator Roberts about the United Empire of Earth’s ongoing persecution of the peace-loving Vanduul people, and thanks to my hard hitting questions he was forced to respond. Under the intense scrutiny of a truly free press, this tyrant showed his true colors and cracked, finally admitting that not all Vanduul are the aggressive monsters that the Empire so loudly proclaims them to be. Although he continues to maintain that the Vanduul are humanity’s greatest threat, he has stated that humans may finally be allowed to open up peaceful trade with their traditional foes. This could be the crack in the wall that finally brings down the military-propaganda complex and lets the light of truth shine upon the people of the UEE.

This is Vanduul Veronica signing off, and remember …

The Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is.


10 For The Chairman



Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,

In a recent Spectrum press conference, High-Secretary Lesnick alluded to luxury ships like the Constellation Phoenix being constructed from “top-of-the-line components” instead of lower grade standard parts. Setting aside the oligargichal elitism of reserving quality goods for the Empire’s wealthiest citizens, what effect do these components actually have? Do they retain their cosmetic appearance better over time? Do they suffer fewer failures during operation? Are they harder for vandals and Vanduuls to damage? My loyal listeners demand answers!

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is.

re: https://forums.robertsspaceindustries.com/discussion/comment/3157196/#Comment_3157196




Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,


Recent reports indicate that a new propaganda film is in production and you personally are being given a writing credit. However, the production company involved, EA, is not known for it’s ties with the Empire and is even viewed as hostile by some. Can you comment on your role, if any, in this production and what implications it may have for your own future propaganda plans ?

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is.





This is Vanduul Veronica with a special broadcast of the Real Truth!

I want to talk to you about the new Constellation lineup from Roberts Space Industries.

While the commercial and the brochure both carry disclaimers about the Fair Chance Act, and while I’m certain RSI’s spokespeople will doubtless claim that the ad in no way promotes the exploitation of sentient species, I think we all know what the company’s real position is. RSI is concerned with one thing and one thing only: profit and power! Just consider their business model for a moment.

While they claim to make ships for the common people, like the Aurora, the simple fact is that the vast majority of their corporate income derives from construction and maintenance of the Empire’s largest warships, the destroyers, battleships, and the famous Bengal Carrier, pride of the fleet and symbol of the Empire’s willingness to crush its enemies wherever they may be. The Bengal Carrier is the ultimate tool of power projection used to terrorize human colonies and keep them in line, to reduce the Tevarin to a virtual slave race devoid of even a homeworld, and of course, to mercilessly hunt the the Vanduul and attempt to drive them from their own ancient worlds.

The new Constellation lineup only further shows RSI’s arrogant sense of self entitlement and willingness to ignore the needs of the common people in favor of the greedy wishes of the elite avatars of avarice who dominate Imperial society. To wit:

– The Andromeda is the baseline model and the one people are most familiar with. It is supposed to be a jack-of-all trades ship, but with its bristling guns and legendarily large compliment of missiles, it has become a favorite of smugglers and pirates who use the cargo hold and weaponry to terrorize innocent people throughout the galaxy. RSI knows this, and yet continues to sell the ship. The executives at RSI headquarters have blood on their hands from this ship.

– The Taurus, ostensibly the most pedestrian of the bunch and just a freighter. But is it? Consider that it’s weapons are every bit the equal of an Andromeda, save for one less turret – hardly a difference worth mentioning. This is to be the military transport of choice, ferrying weapons and troops to the places where they will be deployed against innocent civilians to keep us in line.

– The Aquila might actually make a fine exploration ship, but it’s obvious emphasis on planetary landing and exploration leave no doubt that it is to be a vanguard of a new wave of terraforming. Where you see an Aquila, you see the doom of an entire ecosystem about to unfold, carrying on the most horrific traditions of humanity’s past.

– The Phoenix is nothing but a yacht for RSI’s own executives and their ilk. A limousine to carry them to the corporate meetings where they plot and scheme to destroy what little freedom the rest of us still possess. In those leather seats you will find sitting the architects of humanity’s enslavement!

The new Constellation lineup is a microcosm of everything wrong with RSI and the Empire itself: crime, militarism, colonialism, and greed! I call on everyone to refuse to do business with Robert’s Space Industries. Boycott them! Smash their showrooms! Make their stock plummet and their executives run for their lives!

Together we can defeat them and bring true freedom to the people of the Empire.

This is Vanduul Veronica, signing off.

Remember, the Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is!




Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,

The Empire’s strategy of dividing its opponents and convincing them to fight amongst themselves is well known. How will this be applied to those brave explorers who push the boundaries of human knowledge? If, for instance, four people aboard a Constellation Aquila chart a new jump point, who will get the credit when reporting the discovery to the UEE? Will it be the ship owner? Will it be the first to file the claim? Or will you break with standard Imperial practice and encourage cooperation by giving all four claimants an equal share of the reward?

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not he enemy. The Imperator is.




Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,

There have long been rumors of a so-called “FPS” simulation for training your shock troops to conduct riot control operations against peaceful protestors, but this project has been shrouded in secrecy. During your recent press conference, however, you slipped up and actually named the company building it. Will you now lift the veil of secrecy and stop referring to [REDACTED] as “redacted”?

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not he enemy. The Imperator is.




Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,

The Empire’s colonialism has always been fueled by the limitless expanses of space available during humanity’s initial invasion of foreign worlds. But, as more and more citizens join in the race to the stars, there is a worry that we will run out of new things to explore and discover. How does the Empire plan to provide the steady stream of new locations needed to meet the demands of humanity’s so-called explorers? My sources tell me that the Synthworld project has been working on a “procedural generation” system as part of their planet building boondoggle. Does the Empire look towards this as it’s hope for quelling the riots that will inevitably occur when the People no longer have new worlds to explore, or will you simply use the standard governmental response of expanding the bureaucracy in California and New Austin?

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is.




Dear Imperator Roberts, tyrant and oppressor of the human race,

The Vanduul are a sensistve and intelligent star-faring species, far more ancient than humanity itself, and they have shown themselves to be excellent caretakers of their worlds by refusing to destroy ecosystems through industrialization, and also through zealously protecting these worlds from invaders, such as human colonists. Will UEE citizens ever be allowed the opportunity to interact peacefully with the Vanduul, or will the UEE continue to force conflict between our two races? I would very much like a chance to engage in trade with the Vanduul at some point and to be able to do more with them than simply fight!

With love,
Vanduul Veronica

The Vanduul are not the enemy. The Imperator is!




Hi everyone! It’s me, Vanduul Veronica, broadcasting to all human colonies from my mobile studio aboard the Crimson Blade!

Today I want to address one of the common myths that humans have about the Vanduul. No, not the one about them being violent and dangerous monsters – I’ve done more than my fair share to show how much of a lie that is! No, I mean the strange tales people tell about Vanduul food. Trust me, folks, it’s delicious! You see, we humans have become accustomed to eating highly processed, pasty, factory made so-called “food” that has been pumped out and fed to us for the past thousand years, but the Vanduul still believe in eating fresh meats and vegetables, the same way our ancestors did before they left Earth for the stars. That’s why the Vanduul don’t industrialize their worlds, you know – they want to keep the ecosystems pristine in order to assure that they have the best possible places to hunt and gather the incredibly rich variety of food they use in their feasts – and I do meant FEASTS! You’ve never eaten until you’ve been to a Vanduul wedding celebration. They serve only …

Whoops! That’s the perimeter alarm, so I’ve got to hit the jump point now – some folks in the UEE Navy just don’t want you to get true information about the Vanduul! I’ll be back soon with more news and music, though, so stay tuned!

This is Vanduul Veronica signing off for now. Remember: The Vanduul aren’t the enemy, the Imperator is!

Javascript countdown timer

Nothing too fancy here, but potentially useful to people. The other day a forum I maintain needed a way for users to add a countdown timer to their posts, so I wrote this bit of Javascript and added it as a new BBCode. Feel free to use it and share it.

The help text

[countdown]year, month, day, hour, min, sec[/countdown]

The date/time must be specified in UTC (GMT). sec is optional.

The BBCode


The replacement text

<script type="text/javascript">
(function() {
    var end_time = new Date( Date.UTC( {SIMPLETEXT} ) );
    var countdown_element;

    var els = document.getElementsByClassName("countdown_timer");
    for (var i=0, max=els.length; i < max; i++) {
        if ( ! /has_timer/.test(els[i].className) ) {
            countdown_element = els[i];
            countdown_element.className += " has_timer";

    var update = function() {
        var now = new Date();
        if (now.getTime() < end_time.getTime()) {
            var time_left = end_time.getTime() – now.getTime();
            time_left = Math.floor(time_left / 1000);

            var secs = time_left % 60;
            time_left = Math.floor(time_left / 60);

            var mins = time_left % 60;
            time_left = Math.floor(time_left / 60);

            var hours = time_left;

            var time_string = "";
            if (hours < 10) {
                time_string += "0";
            time_string += hours + ":";
            if (mins < 10) {
                time_string += "0";
            time_string += mins + ":";
            if (secs < 10) {
                time_string += "0";
            time_string += secs;

            countdown_element.innerHTML = time_string;
        } else {
            countdown_element.innerHTML = "time expired";
    setInterval(update, 1000);

First photo in years

I really don’t like having my photo taken – I don’t generally come out looking well.  But I haven’t had my photo taken in years, so I really had nothing recent, and tonight I rectified this.  After many frames, I finally got an image that I’m not utterly ashamed of, so here it is!  The first photo of myself in many years.