Summer 2016

Summer 2016
Summer in Tsukahara

Spring in Tsukahara

gkimbal's Spring in Tsukahara album on Photobucket

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Coloring Up the Countryside

Spring is in full bloom. To celebrate 5+ years in Tsukahara, we decided to add some color in the yard. The flower baskets are an inexpensive way to brighten things up. Handsman and Gooday have a huge selection of flowers on sale right now. The baskets were purchased at Daiso (100 yen shop). It only takes a few minutes to put a flower basket together and it should provide color until autumn. Of course, the deer have other ideas…well, I’ll enjoy them while I can.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Crab Nebula

The Crab Nebula is the remains of an exploded star. The star exploded almost a thousand years ago (1054). The explosion was bright enough to be viewed during the day for 23 days according to . It is popular target for astrophotographers. The total imaging time is 20 hours in HaRGB. Preprocessing was done in CCDStack2 and post processing in PixInsight. Image processing has been challenging. PixInsight offers so many options which provides solutions as well as problems. I’m slowly climbing the learning curve. In this image, I wanted to focus on star color and detail in the nebula. Stay tuned for more images.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ScopeDome: Update

ScopeDome has been temporarily repaired and readjusted. I believe the "basic" design of the dome is sound. However, the manufacturer’s assembly instructions are inaccurate and misleading. A permanent repair will be made during tsuyu (rainy season) to prevent any loss of precious imaging time. I will replace the metal lathe with 6061-T6 aluminum. I found that the original aluminum is too soft for what is required. Securing the new lathe will be accomplished using aluminum blind fasteners. The old metal strip will remain and the new strip will be layered on top. All of the seams will be offset to maintain electrical continuity. In the event of the new strip prematurely wearing, I can remove the aluminum blind fasteners. I will also replace the wire connectors going to the lathe and rollers. The crimps are of poor quality and some of the crimps only have one or two thin strands of wire.


I conducted several experiments with the rollers and the metal lathe to determine how much pressure is required to have sufficient voltage to power the shutter. Of the eight rollers, I only needed five rollers to make contact at the same time. The manufacturer requires all eight rollers to make contact at one time. If the dome is slightly out of round, the metal lathe will wear through and fail eventually. Since only some of the rollers need to make contact, this reduces the pressure applied to the metal lathe from the rollers. The dome turns with little friction and the metal lathe remains in good shape. I will also perform regular inspections of the metal lathe to check for any unusual wear. I’m confident that these steps will prevent this failure from happening again.

Lessons learned (reality check): 

1. Don't expect any useful help from ScopeDome if something goes seriously're on your own.

2. ScopeDome will be very quick to point out their warranty information. Be sure to understand the warranty BEFORE you decide to purchase. What that means is that once you give them the money...good luck. If a part is needed, you pay for the shipping costs from Poland even if the dome is brand new. They may or may not cover the cost of the actual part. In my case, they would cover the cost of the metal strip, but not the shipping. The shipping would have been extremely expensive and painfully slow.

3. ScopeDome uses Skype as a way to help troubleshoot a problem. It is a useful tool, but useless if something goes seriously wrong. Make absolutely sure you have the ability to troubleshoot and repair the dome on your own. If not, then you will have an expensive piece of junk sitting on your property.

4. Get used to the fact that something will go wrong. There is an insecure and uneasy feeling about owning a ScopeDome. I gave up on reliability. It doesn't exist when you own one of these.

5. ScopeDome advised me to either tear down the entire dome or drill into the outer fiberglass cover to gain access to the fasteners holding the metal strip. Both pieces of advice clearly shows that something is seriously wrong with the design.

I hope this will be helpful information to someone who is considering purchasing a ScopeDome. There isn't much user information out there about these domes. Maybe they all work perfectly as mentioned by the manufacturer...maybe they don't. Please choose carefully as this is a major investment in the enjoyment of the hobby and reliability is a critical factor.


Monday, March 6, 2017

ScopeDome: ALERT!!!

This is an alert for anyone who has or is thinking of purchasing a ScopeDome.

The problem started with the 8A fuse on the main controller board blowing. The fuse was replaced and then it blew again after several rotations of the dome. The 220VAC power supply also sparked and smoked. If I had not been in the dome at the time, there could have been a fire.

I suspected that the brown and white wires were shorting. I was correct. I removed the covers and exposed the rollers and wiring. I was “horrified” at what I discovered.

The metal plate that the rollers ride against had completely worn through. A piece of the metal plate (brown wire) was touching a metal post (white wire) and shorting together. EEK!!! I managed to cut and break off the existing metal plate where it had worn through.

I sent the photos to ScopeDome. I already knew what the response would be. I was blamed for adjusting the rollers improperly. I adjusted the rollers  to remain in contact with the metal strip, but still allowing easy movement of the dome with one hand. Obviously, that was not the correct way to adjust the rollers. So, what is the correct way?

I was told that ScopeDome has 40 domes of this model around the world and they have never seen anything like this. If that were correct, one in forty is not very reliable for a product of this type. The dome is less than a year old.

I was told that ScopeDome would replace the thin metal strip, but I would have to pay the shipping costs or have one machined in Japan. The problem with that is that the nuts that secure the bolts holding the metal strip are inaccessible. ScopeDome suggested that I cut holes in the fiberglass ring cover to remove the metal strip. That's ridiculous! Not only would that look awful, it would create way for water to enter the dome.

The metal strip should have been secured with bolts and nut plates instead of nuts. I also suggested that ScopeDome make a roller that uses spring tension that rides on top of the metal strip instead of gouging it. That way a customer can not misadjust the roller. ScopeDome responded :

“We realize that the dome is not a perfect construction but it is compromise between functionality and production costs.”

Currently, I have a dome that does not work, and a bad power supply. I do not see a solution except to disassemble the entire dome and start from scratch. This would also require that the telescope and all of the electronics be dismantled.
Please take this into consideration before purchasing a ScopeDome. If something goes seriously wrong, you are in trouble. Poland is a long way from Japan, and ScopeDome was very quick to point that out to me when I asked for help. 

I'll update when the situation changes...hopefully for the better.    George

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Thrown Together

Instead of posting three blogs, I decided to throw everything together. Alright then, here’s some photos of the built-in pantry shelves I’ve been working on these shelves for the past few weeks. Before the paint even dried, Erika was already stocking them. 

The sliding door into the pantry was also painted along with the trim. This was required because the original bare wood door would attract mildew in the hot and humid summer. Eventually, all of the interior bare wood doors will be painted. I like the finished's very American.

In an effort to stay healthy, we have been drinking smoothies made from various fruits (banana, blueberry, pineapple) and vegetables (komatsuna, carrot). It tastes great, but the color of smoothie is a poop brown…not so good. Well anyway, it’s supposed to be healthy. Cheers!

The next project on the endless list of things to finish on the first floor is the entryway. The closet will be changed into an area that is a walk-through. The main reason the area is being remodeled is because it has no floor. I don’t know why it was built this way in the first place. The outside vent lets freezing cold air into the house. I will install a new floor and finish the walls. I'll also add some built in lighting. It should open up the entry area, but stay warmer in the winter. 

                          This is a view of the underside of the stairs.

                  I'll need to coat the bottom of the stairs with some paint.                            Then I'll cover the bottom with plywood and wallpaper. 

We’re really looking forward to getting the first floor done this year.      George

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Caldwell C30's a start. Caldwell C30 is my first attempt at processing images with PixInsight. I chose this galaxy as my first project because C30 is considered a twin of our own Milky Way. The galaxy is about 40 million light years away. With only four hours of integration time, the image is lacking in detail. However, upon closer inspection, several other galaxies are visible. Next winter, I'll increase the integration time and add Ha to the mix. The image was acquired in LRGB @ 600 seconds each, 3x3 binning, -28.0C, direct guide with dithering. Nothing fancy here. I wanted to test the optics, imaging train, and mount. I have not been disappointed. I'm very impressed with how well Software Bisque SkyX camera add-on works. The autoguiding features are very easy to setup and use. FocusMax 4 works extremely well with Image Link. I found that I have eliminated plate solving issues by using Image Link instead of Pinpoint when autofocusing with FocusMax 4. I can have the entire system running from initialization in under 10 minutes. That includes initializing and syncing ScopeDome, homing the mount, autofocusing, and plate solving for pointing accuracy. I'm not quite ready for automation, but it's very close. I'm slowly incorporating CCDAP, one step at a time. Please stay tuned for more astropics.     George

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Alaskan Sourdough (Revisited)

After a couple of adjustments (failures) since my last sourdough post, I think I’ve finally found a reliable and consistent way to make and bake bread in a wood stove. Here’s some things I’ve learned:
1.   It’s not as easy as some internet sites claim. Making a loaf of sourdough bread is not hard, but it’s not easy either. Expect to fail…many times.
2.   Don’t be afraid to experiment. Eventually you’ll find the right amount of ingredients.
3.   The starter is on its own schedule. When “its” ready, that’s when you bake…not the other way around.
4.   Kneading is not required. Just mix the ingredients, cover and let it rise.
5.   Place the dough in the oven and leave it alone! Find something to do and forget about the bread until it’s done. Don’t be tempted to peek. Every time the wood stove is opened, precious heat is lost. Unless another fire is started, you just lessened the chances of a successful loaf.
6.   Baking bread is really frustrating. Make sure the starter is active, the brand of flour is the “good stuff”, keep the proper wood stove temperature (450F), acquire some knowledge of the starter (when to feed, rise times, when to bake), have a patient spouse (you’ll waste a lot of flour).

As I write this post, I’m eating the best bread I have ever tasted. Isn’t that worth the frustration? You bet it is…yummmmm.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

We're up and running!!

"Most" of the calibrations are completed. The imaging train is robust and reliable. CCD Inspector shows that collimation is required, but almost no tilt exists in the imaging train. The Edge optics are providing a nice flat field. Seeing has not been very good and trying to lower FWHM has proven to be a challenge. I believe after collimation the numbers will improve. However, that will have to wait as the dome gets very cold at night this time of year. 

I have been imaging Caldwell C30 for a couple of nights. The darks, bias, and flats have been integrated in PixInsight. Stay tuned for a first image along with a description of the target.

I’m having some trouble with getting LUM flats that aren’t distorted. I’m using a light box and the RGB flats are acceptable. The QSI CCD requires flats that are approximately 35700 ADU’s. I’ll need to get this worked out before I can move forward with the processing.

Sorry for all the technical jargon, but every once in a while I’ll throw in a post like this to interest the astrophotographers reading the blog. Believe it or not, there are quite a few of them lurking out there. Your comments are always welcomed!            George

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Fun Weekend

We enjoyed having guests stay at our home over the weekend. It was a pleasure to have the house filled with laughter and conversation. I want to thank everyone for coming!

Two boys experienced riding a tandem for the first time. The tandem was quite a spectacle in this village. Tandems are very rare in Japan. I was exhausted after two laps around Tsukahara.

Pizza for the dinner...10 pizzas to be exact. The girls are learning how to roll pizza dough.

Everyone had a chance to toss pizza dough and add toppings to their pizzas.

Playing darts was a big hit with the kids. They put plenty of new holes in the wall!!

Mr. Ito, a successful business owner, enjoyed making crepes. He's really good at it! We also had waffles and real maple syrup.

The kids tried to beat Lucky at playing soccer. The youngest, Daichi, played better than all of the senior high school kids.

Only Lucky was supposed to hitch a ride, but the "city" kids were tired of walking. The adults ended up walking with Kiley around Tsukahara.

Chi-chan helped Erika with preparing breakfast early in the morning. Thank you Chi-chan! 
Note: Erika did the editing of the photos.

The boys ate a lot.

It was a great time! The kids experienced an overnight stay with us and we hope it was memorable. Hopefully, everyone learned something!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Six years to make a loaf of bread?

The title of the blog sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. My hygienist in Washington gave me some sour dough starter as a going away present. Debbie, my hygienist, knew that I wanted to make sour dough bread in Japan. She gave me some of her own starter that was handed down from generation to generation. The starter came from Alaska. Alaska starter is well known to be flavorful and hearty.

I have been taking care of the starter for the past six years. Every few weeks I discard half of the mix and add more flour and water. I then stir the starter and keep it refrigerated.

I was hoping to have an oven by now, but that hasn’t happened. Instead, I decided to try baking a loaf in the wood stove. I have discovered that baking in a wood stove is fun, but controlling the temperature is tricky.

Baking sour dough requires an oven that is around 200C (400F). The temperature needs to remain constant for about an hour. That sounds easy enough, but I soon learned with my first loaf that bread turns into charcoal quickly…oops!

The second loaf was better and the flavor and texture were wonderful. I didn't get the rise I was hoping for. No problem! I love eating my rejects!! The starter needs another week of feeding and it should be ready to go. I also need to be more patient with the oven temperature.

I'm looking forward to baking more bread and incorporating the sour dough into pizza crust. Stay tuned...                               George