Rick's Blog

Topic Date Summary
Hello, world! in 14 different languages 2022-01-01 Here I list out a small collection of Hello, world! examples. Enjoy!
Chickpea Cauliflower Curry 2020-08-07 This is a quick and easy one-pot recipe that tastes fantastic. In less than an hour, your family can enjoy this hearty Indian/Thai inspired dish!
My New Guitar - a Telecaster! 2020-04-09 So, I hope everyone is staying safe and doing well during these unusual times. My family and I are doing fine and keeping busy. One of the things I decided during this COVID-19 outbreak/lockdown was to renew my passion for playing guitar.
Building WinVICE 2.4 2020-03-06 WinVICE is a Commodore emulator that lets you run Commodore 64, VIC-20, PET, etc programs on your modern computer. I prefer an older version (2.4) the most as I feel newer versions have too many extra features that I don't require. I am also interested in Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), and I'd like to set up WinVICE on an older computer and run a Commodore BBS on it. One item has gotten in my way: any versions of WinVICE that I use will not report the presence of a modem carrier tone to the BBS software (DCD).
Betelgeuse fainting spell is finally over? 2020-02-22 According to a recent update from the Astronomer's Telegram (issue 13512 - http://www.astronomerstelegram.org/?read=13512 it is clear that decrease in brightness of Betelgeuse has stopped, and now it is increasing. This is based on photometry from the last two weeks or so that indicates Betelgeuse's visual magnitude has increased from it's lowest point of ~1.614 back up to ~1.575.
Betelgeuse Is Fainting?! 2020-01-12 With a diameter of about 700 times that of our Sun, Betelgeuse would extend out past the orbit of Mars if it was plunked into the middle of our Solar System. It's surface temperature is lower than our Sun's (3500K vs. 5778K) so it glows with a distinctive red colour. It is a semi-regular variable, which means it does dim and brighten over time - so in some respects this fainting (dimming) is normal.
Seeing and Transparency Scales 2020-01-10 This is a handy guide as often when I'm observing I want to make a note of the seeing and transparency but I always "gut" feel it as 1-5 for seeing and 1-7 for transparency. This gives me a bit more of an objective way to rate it.
Welcome to 2020! 2020-01-01 I did notice when I looked through the content of my websites is that my "web pages" were more like blog entries than actual web pages. Web pages usually contain unique content that expresses an idea in some decent level of detail. Were you to print out a good web page, it would likely take 6 to 60 pieces of paper to print out. Most of my web pages would only take 1 or 2 - that's why I thought the venerable Web Log (blog) format would be suitable.
Astrophotography 2019-04-08 The following article was written by me in September, 2000. I thought it would be great to put it up here for posterity, as digital cameras were just becoming the norm, so the focus of my article is using film cameras. Imagine! (BTW: I'm still no good at astrophotography!)
Microscopy 2019-04-08 I've always had a microscope, but its always been a cheap, toy type. Some have had metal bodies, but all have had horrible plastic optics, clunky focusing mechanisms, and wobbly stages to mount your slides on. My daughter Jen has recently become very interested in microbiology, so we decided to get a better microscope.
My Telescopes 2019-04-08 I got my first telescope during the Christmas of 1979. It was a spindly little 40mm reflector from Sears and it came with just one eyepiece. It’s wobbly little wooden legs and plastic mount could barely keep the optical tube steady long enough to get a decent peek, but I managed to use that scope to explore the wonderfully cratered surface of the Moon, to see the moons of Jupiter and bask in the splendour of the rings of Saturn. That scope opened the world of astronomy to me.
XEphem Astronomy Program 2019-04-08 One of my favourite astronomy programs is called XEphem by Elwood Downey. It is a wonderful Unix/Linux application that not only shows you the night sky down but also a wealth of information regarding the planets and other sky objects. I have the purchased version which comes on 3 CD-ROMs. Since I run a super lean version of Arch Linux, I found there are a few things that I need to have installed before installing XEphem.
Testing Optics 2019-04-08 I actually wrote this article a long time ago - probably around the year 2000 - but I think it outlines some basics of testing optics that, at the very least, will help you discern whether you have an optical problem or not with your telescope (and/or eyepieces). Enjoy!
Buddhism Basics 2019-04-08 A long time ago (it doesn't matter when), somebody (it doesn't matter who) had an epiphany and realized that there was a better way to deal with the anxiety, stress and suffering that each of us face in our daily lives. This person came up with a simple plan to achieve this goal.
Messier Marathon 2019-04-07 Usually twice a year (once in Spring and once in Fall) you have the opportunity to view all 110 of Charles Messier's objects in one night of viewing. It takes quite a bit of preparation and even some practice - but it can be done! I have put together a quick and easy-to-follow guide that will hopefully help you in accomplishing this gold standard endeavour of amateur astronomy.
Observing Targets 2019-04-07 Many astronomers have favourite books that catalog all manner of interesting objects in the sky. For me, it is certainly Burnham's Celestial Handbook. I have others I like as well (Norton's, Turn Left At Orion, Cosmic Challenge - to name a few), but what I really like is a definitive list of objects to look at in the sky. I have started that - building a list of targets in each constellation which I (and you!) can use while observing.
XEphem and SOHO Images 2017-01-02 The NASA web server that dishes out SOHO images has recently been updated to use SSL (HTTPS) connections only, and this causes XEphem to be unable to retrieve the latest images. Contributor Lutz Mändle created a patch to allow this connection to be reestablished.
VIC-20 Real Time Clock in VICE 2015-11-22 The beauty of this is that you could program a BBS to use this. The internal RTC gets messed up when either the tape or disk storage units are accessed - so using the D12C887 provides a separate, accurate clock with which to tag things like messages and files. Obviously, it does not worry about dates - but that could easily be accommodated by a subsystem.
Hires Image of Pluto! 2015-09-24 New Horizons successfully flew by Pluto and returned some stunning images. Of all of them, this hires image is absolutely amazing - click on it and wait for it down download, and then zoom in to 1:1. Bask in the detail and incredible beauty of our system's noble outpost!
Making Planet Globes 2015-04-08 Arts and crafts time! Ever wish you could put together your own model of Europa or Venus? Now you can, as PDS, NASA and USGS provide you and your kids some printable maps that can be taped or glued together. I was thinking of using a 12 inch ball to give my globe some strength. Looks like a fun afternoon to me!

My name is Rick Towns and I am an amateur astronomer and computer programmer from Canada. This is a collection of interesting posts I've gathered over the years.