Monday, December 31, 2007

Decision making

As I write this, I'm squinting my left eye against the bright sunlight streaming in through the window. It seems odd, then that I just got off of the phone with the friendly folks down at CF Airtronics, whom I just called to cancel the two year transponder check that I was planning on having done today. Chances are that I could have gone - Highland Co. is a short flight of maybe 20 minutes or so. It's just that there are two little things bothering be: DUATS is forecasting temporary 900' broken ceilings, and while the AWOS at Bolton is reporting ceilings unlimited, it is also reporting winds at 11 knots, gusting 19.

So, what to do? Neither of those conditions are absolute show stoppers. The temporary 900' ceilings, if they occur at all, would probably be exactly as stated: temporary. The winds, while directly across the runway and therefore more of a factor than if they were more closely aligned with the runway heading, are nothing I haven't dealt with before. On the down side, however, the risk of the 900' ceilings lasting until the forecast improvement at 5pm means that if it were to occur, it wouldn't clear up until after dark. And I'm not keen on night flying at all. You also have to consider that I've flown relatively little in the last few months and my skillz are a bit rusty.

It's really down to a risk/benefit at this point, and given that the transponder check is something that's easily rescheduled, there isn't any real benefit in having it done today. When you place a zero in the benefit column, even a smallish rating in the risk column makes it the hands down winner.

I'm staying home.


It's never good to second guess these things, but it's clear as a bell outside, with 5 knot winds.

Oh well.

I spent the time in the usual manner: trying to come up with a good project as a follow-on to the kayak, without breaking the bank. I think I might have a plan. I found a web site that offers plans for a stitch & glue canoe called the Hiawatha for $30. The idea for a canoe came to me when I was considering building a second kayak for Egg or guest, but reluctant to spend $800 on another CLC boat. I looked for cedar strip canoe kits, but they were priced at $1,200+. This would be an occasional use boat, and I was hoping to keep it reasonable, and certainly wanted to keep it cheaper than the sail boat would be.

Enter the Hiawatha:

The plans are sure affordable, but they call for two 4' x 8' sheets of 1/4" plywood. To do it right, they suggest the use of marine grade plywood, priced at $50 a sheet. There's a slight ouch factor to that, but not nearly as painful as the $140 shipping charge. That, I simply will not pay. I googled around for awhile and came across a few opinions regarding the type of plywood to use for building small, limited use boats. Quite a few people were of the opinion that a boat of this type could be built with 1/4" exterior grade plywood from Lowe's, as long as one was willing to live with increased weight and a more difficult to finish wood. I checked Lowes dot-com and found BC grade exterior 1/4" plywood for around $16.44 a sheet. And, of course, $0.00 shipping, assuming I can coerce the owner of a sufficiently sized vehicle to help me pick up a couple of sheets.

There's still going to be the $150 worth of epoxy and glass to buy, but I can live with that. I already have the tools I'll need to build it, and it looks like it would be a nice boat for Egg and guest to use.

Definitely something to consider...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Gray day, no play

I had hoped to fly down to Sporty's today to grab a couple of free hot dogs and buy a 2008 calendar sans shipping charges (insert obligatory observation regarding economic benefits of aircraft ownership here), but it wasn't to be. A 2500' ceiling put paid to that idea.

I had no choice but to "spend" my final remaining kayak job: putting on the toggles that hold the hatch covers in place.

The first step is to apply to foam seal to the inside perimeter of the hatch covers, with the obvious intent being to keep water outside of the hull. This was a pretty simple job, with the only complexity (and it wasn't very complex, at that) being to cut a diagonal edge onto the end of the foam strip so that there will be overlap at the join point:

Bending the foam around corners was very straightforward:

Putting the hatch in place on the boat, though, showed the possibility (very real probability, to be honest) of a problem: the foam is pretty thick and pretty dense, and it seemed that it was going to take a great deal of pressure to get the hatch cover flush with the deck:

The problem becomes more apparent when you look at the grain direction on the toggle:

With the grain running perpendicular to the pressure from the hatch cover, it seems that it would take very little strain to snap it in half. It is plywood, of course, so it has cross plies, but it's so thin that I think it is still susceptible to breakage.

Nothing to do about that, though, until the toggles are in place and I can try it. The toggles are very easy to install. It's just a matter of measuring the location, drilling a hole, and screwing in a stainless steel screw with a finish washer, toggle, and a dab of silicone. A lock nut holds it all in place:

With that done, I tried to put the forward hatch cover in place, but as I expected, as soon as I tried to push the toggle into place to hold the cover, I heard an ominous cracking sound. I released the pressure immediately rather than break the toggle. After pondering the situation for a few minutes, I decided that a UABT (Use A Bigger Tool) strategy was called for:

I only have two of those straps, and I want to leave them on there for a few hours with the hopes that the foam will compress and more or less stay compressed before I remove them and do the aft hatch.

I'm not impressed with the whole toggle design - it seems like it will wear easily and be failure prone. I'd look for a better solution if I cared, but fortunately I don't. I don't think I will be using the boat in such a manner that I need to carry anything in the storage areas, so those hatch covers are on there to stay. If I need to carry anything like a bilge pump, I'll just put it under the deck bungee lines. Those, by the way, won't go on until after the varnish is done.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Doing the relaxing thing

Ah, 'tis the time of year when three will get you ten, although I opted for the four will get you eleven deal this year. Four vacation days, when combined with holidays and weekends, netted eleven total days off. I like to call it "retirement training," although I take to it so readily that I'm not sure retirement is something that I will need to dedicate a lot of practice time to.

Helps when the weather is nice, of course, and when last I took keyboard to pixel, such was most assuredly not the case. Today is the proverbial horse of a different color, though, as was yesterday, but that one didn't count. Today was mid-40s and sunny, albeit the weak tea of a sun that we get in late December. This time of year the old sun is just tuckered out and can't manage much more than a feeble afternoon effort in crawling across the southern horizon, but beggars/choosers and all of that, right?

Brave Sir Hogarth has either finished, lost, or simply forgotten about his Christmas gift from yesterday, so he found himself somewhat at a loss for recreational activity today, which is eerily similar to my situation.

Long past the age when I could spend a day or two rubbing the novelty off of new toys over the first few days after the "big day," I get cabin fever nearly immediately. Thus, 'twas good fortune indeed that the two of us had a day that lent itself to us getting out of doors and communing in a communal way with what passes for nature here-abouts. Brave Sir Hogarth is quite the rabid fan of our local dog walking park, named by the parks department somewhat whimsically as the "Wag Tail Trail." Brave Sir knows it by a different, more canine oriented moniker, of course, that being "The Long Trail of Interesting and Intriguing Smells:"

He enjoys leaving his mark, as it were, to the maximum extent possible, whether that be with periodic spritzings of recycled water, or when that runs dry, the practice of scratch marking:

I read somewhere that in the actual wolf pack, only the higher ranking wolves scratch mark, which fits well with Brave Sir Hogarth's over-inflated and self-aggrandized sense of his position in our pack.

The tall grass and weeds are all brown and hibernating, of course, but still interesting to look at:

Having met my obligation to the hound, I dropped him off at home for his after lunch but before tea nap, and went to the airport to share another little jaunt with Papa Golf. The weather was nice enough for the prolonged preflight that I like to do when I haven't flown for awhile, and everything on the plane looked good. The engine started with the alacrity and aplomb to which I have become accustomed, and all seemed in order.

A call to Bolton Ground resulted in taxi directions to runway 4, which was not unexpected given the light breeze out of the north. As I was heading down to the parallel taxiway, I saw one of the rental 172s heading back in. At just about the same time I saw him and realized that my ride out to the runway was obstructed, the ground controller amended my taxi clearance to "taxi to taxiway Alpha, hold at Alpha 3, the 172 is going to come up the main ramp."

I was just passing the turn I would have to make if it were I that was going to divert to the main ramp and the 172 that would continue down Alpha, and my right foot, having such a short memory that all it could recall was having heard "main ramp," and knowing that the opportunity for turning onto the main ramp was increasingly fleeting, hit the floor (taking the right rudder pedal along for the ride) and turned us onto the main ramp.

This, as you might expect, caught the controller somewhat unawares, and his nicely crafted plan to keep us little airplanes from meeting nose-to-nose fell apart around him. He quickly instructed the 172 to keep on truckin' down the taxiway, and then patiently explained to me the multitude of ways that I am an idiot. Nicely, of course, as he's one of the friendlier controllers. I knew already that my impetuous foot had led me astray, so there was nothing for it other than to reply with a weak "my bad," and continue on my way.

The takeoff was happily non-eventful, and I soon had us up to 3000' and loafing along at a fiscally responsible 1900 RPM, netting a ground speed of 132 knots. Having given no real thought to the topic of where exactly to fly to, I decided on-the-fly (so to speak) to head down to the south and overfly Deer Creek Lake, or more accurately, what's left of it.

Now, I'm the first to poke fun at Saint Algore and his highly lucrative business of passing off periodic climatic trends as a cause worthy of the highest order of fruitless panic (and encourage others to donate! donate! donate! to the cause) while himself living a lifestyle of pervertedly conspicuous consumption, and I don't believe for an instant that draconian masturbatory legislative acts such as the banning of incandescent lightbulbs will make one iota of a difference, but I cannot deny that we are in the throes of a drought:

Boat ramp to nowhere!

Sad, that, when considering the effort I recently put into building a boat.

Turning back to the north to head back to Bolton put me in the position of a nice, long straight in approach to the same runway that I had recently departed from. The tower asked for a position report when three miles out, and I actually remembered to comply. It would have been a bad day to forget, what with having already embarrassed myself once already.

I've been thinking of modifying my approaches a bit, with the idea that I might like to keep some altitude in the bank earning interest a little longer than I have been, having been using the same type of flat approach that I used to use in the Tampico. It makes for an easier landing, but has the unfortunate aspect of increased (albeit very slightly) risk of not having any options for a happy ending whatsoever if something untoward were to happen to the engine whilst dragging myself around the pattern.

First try today, then, for a higher approach. At about a mile and a half out on the straight-in final, I was doing an indicated 140 mph, and the altimeter was reporting 2,200', which is 1,300' above the ground. I pulled the throttle to idle and left the flaps up. I held altitude until we slowed to the best-glide speed of 100 mph, which is also maximum flap extension speed. That would be nice when it came time to drop the flaps, assuming I had excess altitude and/or airspeed to worry about. If it was the case that the glide got me to the runway at a good landing altitude, I planned on a no-flaps landing, which could be the case depending on the scenario I was faced with if ever doing this for real.

At 100 mph and a little less than 1 mile from the runway, it still looked like I was going to have altitude to spare, but I knew that it only felt that way because I was higher than my normal approach. A look at the 700 foot-per-minute descent rate disabused me of any thoughts that I might actually end up too high on the approach. Sure enough, as I got within a half mile or so of the runway it was apparent that I was sinking too quickly to make the runway. I experimented with slowing to 80 mph indicated, but that only exacerbated the problem. I finally had to use a little throttle to extend the glide far enough to reach the runway. While I wasn't able to glide all the way to the runway, I did make it as far as the open grass area (open, yes, but watch out for those runway lights!) just short of the runway. It would have certainly been a survivable landing if I had actually had to make it. It was good practice too, and I intend to do it again.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Do what to the who now?

I got up early to check the Weather-out-the-Window(tm) forecast this morning, and it looked promising:

Then I checked DUATS. Winds: something-in-the-teens gusting something-in-the-twenties. Too rich for my blood; I folded.

That decision, of course, left me with an empty day to fill. The kayak is just about done and is so close, in fact, that I've been hoarding jobs like a widow hoards cats. I only have a few minor things to do until there's nothing left but the varnishing. I decided to spend one of my projects today: the installation of the backband. The backband is a kind of floating cushion to acts as lower back support while paddling. You can see in the photos how it works. Note the bungee cord behind it that supports it in position, because I'm going to talk about it a little bit.

You run the bungee cord through four little hoops sewn into the back of the backband cushion, and then knot it to keep it in place. Here are the instructions for knotting it:

Next, tie the bungee in a loop which passes through all four loops on the back of the backband. Use a simple, loose overhand knot near one end, then follow the knot backwards with the other end and pull the resulting knot tight.

Ok, the first part was easy. The second part? Do what??

It took me 20 minutes to figure that out!

The final step is to screw a couple of clamps into the under side of the coaming, which could only be done with a stubby Phillips head screwdriver. At this point I encountered what I call a Tool Dispersal Issue(tm), which is when the tool I need is in the hangar and I'm at home, or vice-versa. That was an excuse to get the Miata out for a short drive, since it's been sequestered in the back of the garage, parked in my the snow plow/lawn tractor.

In any event, the backband is now installed:

The only two jobs left are installing the deck lines (more bungee cords that are mounted to the top of the deck and are used to hold things in place, like the bilge pump and possibly a packed lunch), and the hatch covers. Once those two are done, there's nothing left except varnishing and re-doing the fore end pour that I screwed up last month.

What's next? Good question. I'm still kicking around the idea of the sail boat, but I'm not sure I want to spend the money. The kayak was expensive, the sail boat would be more than twice what the kayak cost, once you include the sails and related gear. The project itself looks great, though, and I'm sure I'd enjoy it every bit as much as I did the kayak. It's a dilemma.

I also thought about some other things I could do down there (and yes, it has to be a basement project) that would be cheaper, like build an R/C plane, but I'm not sure of that either. The problem with an R/C plane, for example, is that while the kit itself isn't much, I would eventually want to put and engine and radio in it, and that alone would be over $400. And, well, you know, I have a real airplane to fly. So I'm not sure I'd actually use an R/C plane all that much. And that is a requirement: I only want to build things that I can use.

I'm taking a class at the A&P school starting Jan 7, so at this point I'm more or less waiting to see how that affects my desire to be down in the basement with a project. It might be enough just to be at school two nights a week. That will carry me through until Spring, when it gets a lot easier to do things outside. Like, you know, kayaking!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Not getting the message

Guess who called today. Go ahead, guess!

Ok, I'll tell you. CCR, Inc.


Saturday, December 15, 2007

Winter blows

And it blows in hard, whenever it wants to. Here's today's Weather Out the Window(tm) Report:

It's a thin layer of snow, to be sure, but it is just the beginning stages of a storm that will eventually include what the forecasters have taken to calling a "winter mix," which is, I think, proof positive that Crappy Winter Precipitation, Inc. has hired a media relations/PR agency. The snow will be followed by what I, unbeholden to any stakeholders serving on the board at Crappy Winter Precipitation, Inc. and therefore able to call it as a see it, have taken to calling "Pink Rain." We get the weather radar on our local cable service, and on that feed good old normal rain ranges in hue from green to red, with yellow in betwixt. Snow is white. The nasty crap that isn't quite rain and isn't quite snow, and exhibits the defining trait of being the worst-of-both-and-best-of-neither is displayed in pink. It falls as rain, the freezes when it hits the ground. I hates it, I do, I hates it with a passion.

So, nothing doing on the outdoor activity front, unless you count the time spent plowing the snow off of the driveway before the pink rain can get on it and convert it into that messy, slushy, icy mess that I call Hell Snow. I had some work to do on the kayak though, having not quite gotten around to it last week. Today's job was to mount the foot braces. This requires the drilling of holes through the side of the hull, which is why I've been putting it off. Nervous work, that is. The directions call for the drilling of a pair of holes on each side, with the distance between the holes specified at a very precise 11 7/8". Me, I don't have the confidence in my measuring to do it that way. Instead, I measured the location of the first hole, drilled it, then ran the bolt out from the inside to the outside, and temporarily mounted the foot brace on the outer side of the hull. I was then able to very precisely drill the second hole simply by drilling through the bolt hole of the foot brace. All I had to do then was coat the bare wood inside circumference of the holes with epoxy, position the foot braces inside the hull, start the bolts in a few threads, coat the exposed threads of the bolts with silicone sealant, and drive the bolts on in. Nothing to it:

It leaves exposed bolt heads on the side of the hull, of course, which I'm not overly thrilled about, but I imagine I'll eventually get used to them being there:

As long as I had epoxy mixed up, I went ahead and coated the toggles that will hold the hatch covers in place. I didn't want to do them one side at a time because I didn't want to have to mix up an entire new batch of epoxy tomorrow for such a small job, so I hung them from some twine strung between two clamps and got both sides covered at once:

They're probably stuck to the twine now, but that's a bridge to be crossed tomorrow.

The picture above of the foot braces mounted inside the boat has an interesting story behind it. I've been looking for a small, light camera tripod for awhile now. Specifically, I decided I needed one the day we visited the Grand Canyon, and I had to pile up rocks and pebbles to prop the camera up to get a picture of me and the Missus. I had to scrunch down on the ground to make sure it was properly aligned, and after I set the self-timer and ran back to be in the picture, I noticed that I was being laughed at. Why? Because I had sand all over my face from crawling around trying to get a look through the viewfinder. Last week, I found what I was looking for: I ordered a Gorillapod. The Gorillapod worked perfectly for holding the camera up in the bottom of the kayak so I could get the picture of the foot braces. This thing is so cool that I decided I'd use it to take a picture of itself:

Ain't that slick!! That's a nifty little gadget, there.

Oh, and this was pretty neat. I just finished a game review for an Xbox 360 motorcycle/ATV racing game that you can read here:

What's cool is that I got an email today about it. This is the entirety of the email:

"best review i have ever read"

I thought that was pretty cool. I've gotten emails about reviews before, usually asking for clarification or more details, and once with a correction, but never one like that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

How stupid are these people?

We've been getting harassing phone calls from a company that shows up as 'CCR, Inc.' on our caller ID for a few weeks now. They call at least twice a day, and have sometimes called up to five times in one day. When you answer you get a recording insisting that you call someone named Sean Lee back at (866) 250-4656. Yeah, like hell I will. The number shown on the caller ID is 216 896-1172, which is not a real phone number. Well, it's real in the sense that it's 10 digits long, but it's not a number that will be answered.

Finally having had my fill of this, I spent some time this afternoon googling around trying to find out who these punks are. It took awhile to wade through the 100s upon 100s of identical complaints from people having the same problem, but I finally found a web site and contact phone number. There's a lot of dead links - it's no surprise that they move their URLs around a lot.

I finally found them, and urge you to call them at:

Corporate Collection Services, Inc. (CCS)
3220 Chagrin Boulevard, 4th Floor - Cleveland, Ohio, 44122
216-464-2565 Phone * 216-831-4287 Fax

I finally got a snippy woman on the phone (she didn't respond well to my insistence that they stop making harassing calls to my number) who took my phone number and entered it into their system.

"Are you Brett Bush?"

"No, I'm not."

"Ok, we'll remove you from our list."

I then googled my own phone number, and proved to myself in less that 2 seconds that I'm NOT Brett Farking Bush.

Rather than harass me for weeks with phone calls, couldn't they have spent 3 seconds doing that for themselves? Failing that, could they have at least provided a legitimate phone number to call them at?

And they wonder why everyone that finally finds and calls them seems so goshdarned upset all the time.


Oh, and somebody living in Ohio named Brett Bush? Yeah, Google quite easily found him, too.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Weather: it's all relative

In the summer, when the average daily high temperatures tend towards the 80s and 90s, 40 degrees would be considered downright frigid. We'd be cowering in our houses, bedecked in thick blankets and poking fun at Al Gore and his Chicken Little get-richer-quick speeches about the imminent doomsday we all face from Global Warming unless we all go back to living in stick-and-leaf lean-tos and foraging for our food. But in December, when we've all had an empirical reminder of just how COLD 10 degrees is, 40 degrees is considered balmy. 40 degrees in December, combined with cloud ceilings that are actually higher than Danny DeVito's chin, is considered positively flyable!

I've been stewing for awhile about only having a few gallons of gas left in each tank of the plane, still concerned about getting condensation in the tanks from the exposed interior aluminum sides despite having been told by a fella at the A&P school that this is just a pilot myth. He won't be there in the plane with me should he ever be proven wrong, though, so I decided to hedge my bets and take a quick hop over to MadCo to tank up. MadCo managed to avoid replenishing their fuel inventory during the recent price hike, so they still have a somewhat reasonable price. I was afraid they'd get stuck with a few thousand gallons at a $5-plus rate, but they're still at the $4.42 level they were at last time I filled up. Good news, that.

I was in a bit of a rush, knowing that a 5:08pm sunset didn't leave me a lot of time to get out there and back before dark, but I forced myself to take my time on the pre-flight. This would be the first flight in 18 days, which is three full weeks if you don't count the Sundays, and that's getting to the point where I start to get nervous. I drained a bit more fuel from the sumps than normal to make sure there was no water in it, and I spent a little more time than usual peering, poking, and prodding at the pieces-parts that make a plane fly controllably.

The engine popped to life after just two blades, exhibiting an enthusiasm for flight that I always find contagious. A strong running engine calms the nerves and focuses the attention significantly, so by the time I keyed the mike to request taxi permission from Bolton Ground I was more or less back in the saddle. That's not to say that the events of the ensuing takeoff didn't seem to occur at a faster pace than they do when I've been flying regularly, of course, because they did. Before I knew it, we were off of runway 4 and headed west towards MadCo. Even the short trip out there seemed shorted than usual, but that might have been due to the tailwind that had us clipping along at 172 knots.

That tailwind became a headwind as we turned final for runway 9 at MadCo, and that suited me just fine. It had the effect of slowing things down to the pace of a Robert Redford directed movie, and with the rustiness of 18 days without flying to consider, that was a good thing. I made a greaser of a landing, marred only by a last minute swerve to the right as I diverted my attention to looking for the flap switch, a switch that falls readily to hand without even a sideways glance when I've been more regular in my flying schedule.

As I was standing on the ramp having the plane fueled, I was forced to acknowledge that while 40 degrees is not 10 degrees, it ain't 75 either. 40 degrees is cold when you're standing around in a light jacket on an open airport ramp, and that's all there is to it. Once the tanks were topped up and Visa had its say, it was nice to get back into the confines of the cockpit and get the heat generator hanging on the front of the plane back into operation.

The ride back to Bolton took a little longer than the trip out without the help from a tailwind, but by this time it was clear that I'd make it back before dark so I was able to relax and enjoy it. The only traffic in the pattern was a Cessna doing touch & goes, with another Cessna at the end of the runway just about ready for takeoff. The tower controller, just as I knew he would, had tasked me with reporting a two mile left base to runway 4. At the three mile point, my internal clock told me that the Cessna on downwind was only moments away from reporting midfield and getting cleared to land. Rather than get stuck behind him, I juiced up the throttle a tad and reported the two mile left base just a wee bit before a more honest and ethical guy would have. The tower controller couldn't see me, of course, because I had fibbed a titch about my position, but a couple of steep wing rocks got his attention and he cleared me to land. Because I had bumped up the power a bit and I deliberately land long on 4 anyway, I was positioned to get down and off the runway without any undue negative influence on the T&G Cessna. No harm no foul, one could say.

And I would have gotten away with it too, if it hadn't been for those meddling kids. The Cessna waiting to take off on runway 4 was the airborne traffic guy, and the tower guy is fully aware that he has a schedule to keep. In order to fit him into the flow without delay, the T&G Cessna would have to extend his downwind for a mile to let the traffic bird takeoff behind me but in front of the T&G Cessna. Technically, I don't think the extra $1.25 on the T&G guy's rental bill for his slightly extended flight is completely my fault, but I suppose an argument could be made that I owe him 65 cents or so. I'm good for it, and the check is in the mail.

With all of that going on around me, and with a bit of a crosswind thrown in besides, I could be forgiven for having a less-than-stellar landing, but that absolution won't be necessary. I greased it. As I was rolling out towards taxiway Alpha 4, the tower asked if I'd be able to make that turnoff, almost as if he had some doubts.

"Of course, my good man," I wanted to say, but didn't. "That was my plan all along."

And it was.

And I did.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

I (used to) crack me up

Towards the end of the annual Happy Holidays card signing marathon, I was handed one addressed to our family optometrist. That was an opportunity that I just couldn't resist. She will be receiving a card signed:

20/20 D A V E
20/15 G A M B L E


Update: Pointed out in the comments is that they've probably seen this little joke many, many times before, which now that I think about it, is probably true. That got me to wondering if any of my other little bon mots are cliched and overworked.

For example, it is my habit when asked for a phone number at a retail establishment by a female employee to give her the number (I've long since gotten over my rebellious refusal to give it to them) but tell her "not to call after 9:30 because my wife is home by then." So, is the reason that they never laugh at that 1) it's not funny, 2) they don't get it, or 3) they've heard it so many times before that I'm lucky not to get punched in the nose?

To my credit, at least I've stopped responding to the server at a restaurant asking me "if I want a box for that" with "no, but I'll wrestle you for it," albeit not because it's trite, but because one of them actually took me up on the offer once.

I think I'm still safely unique in referring to Sams Club as IBC (Impulse Buy Central) and/or WFPWJ (Wal-Mart For People With Jobs), but those too are wearing thin with friends and family.

I think I need new banter!

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Google pulls head out, pictures fixed. Women and children least affected.

Blogger has lived up to its reputation of often being worth exactly what you pay for it (to be fair, it's skads better than it was a couple of years ago) by stating the the picture problem is "fixed." Of course, by "fixed" they mean that you have to go back to all of the affected posts and manually edit the machine generated photo link tags. I look at computer code all day, every day, so it's not that big of a deal to me, but I can't help but feel sorry for the Muggles.

Anyway, you can click on the pictures to see larger versions again, and rest assured that Google is heartrendingly sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused. Me? I absolve myself of all responsibility, as usual.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Build a sailboat? Support for the idea from an unexpected source

If you've been following along, you will know that I'm just about finished with the kayak build project. As excited as I am about having it done and getting it out on the water, I'm a little sad about finishing it. If you've been following along for quite awhile, you'll remember that the whole project came about from my desire to build something that I could use, but something more viable than an airplane. I already have one of those, thank you very much, and the time and dollars required to build a new one are things that won't be available for a number of years yet.

I've really enjoyed building the kayak. The satisfaction of seeing it come together, the solving of myriad small problems during the build, and the relaxing effect of working on something tangible (idle hands, Devil's workshop, you know the drill) are things that I'm going to miss when it's done. I briefly considered trying to sell it when it's done, but I'm actually more interested in using it. We have good rivers for it nearby, and it seems like it will be a nice, relaxing couple of hours out on the river paddling it downstream in peaceful solitude on the occasions that I can arrange for drop-off and pick-up.

Now, let's dissect that last sentence, in the hope of justifying the expense of acquiring a new project, namely a sailboat, to build.

First: "out on the river." We have lakes, too.
Second: "paddling." Well, good exercise or not, that's work, eh?
Third: "peaceful solitude." There's a difference between that and forced solitude. It's a one-hole boat, and just as with an RV-3, there are sure to be days when I'd prefer to have company.
Fourth: "arrange for drop-off and pick-up." Hmmm. There will be days when I want to boat, but can't arrange for the appropriate transport.

It seems to me that the solution to all of these comes from the same place:

That boat comes from the same manufacturer as the kayak did. It's call a Passagemaker Dinghy. It can be built as a rowboat, power boat (4 hp or less), or a sailboat. In fact, it's all three! I doubt that I'd ever want to buy a motor for it, though. Motors that small are fussy and noisy:

("I think it's out of gas. Send Lassie there for help!")

And, of course, the whole point is to sail. Besides which, there's no need for the motor since the oars would be there for the days when I'm becalmed and need alternative means for getting back to shore. Our local lakes aren't very big.

For even longer than I've been fascinated with airplanes, I'm been interested in sail boats. I read all of the Horatio Hornblower novels as a kid, and knew the theory behind how sailboats work long before I knew jack about airplanes. I even owned a sailboat once, but it was a complex racing catamaran, and I was never able to use it much. I want something simple that can be rigged in just a few minutes and doesn't require a trailer or a place to store it.

When you think about my interest in both flying and sailing, they really both involve manipulating a wing to achieve a desired result. The only difference is the orientation of the wing.

While the simplicity of this little boat is nice, it's also very beneficial that it can be built such that it can be taken apart and the halves nested together for easy transport and storage:

It's pricier than the kayak, though, especially when it comes time to buy the sails and rigging. Those aren't needed until it's done, of course, but at some point I'd need them.

In any event, it's the cost that's the issue. Support for a new project at home may be questionable. I did run it past Co-pilot Egg, though, just to see if she'd be interested in learning to sail. Here's where I got some support that I wasn't really expecting:

"Sure! That's how the girls in the movies get all the guys!"

Wow, was that ever an unexpected (and somewhat frightening) answer! That said, buy-in from the co-pilot is necessary, but not sufficient. I'm going to have to think about it some more.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Google knows all

I brought the Garmin 295 back from the hangar today to charge up the batteries that I keep in it for backup in case I lose power from the airplane tonight. I spent a little time fiddling around with it, learning how to extract the track files and map them onto Google Earth.

To understand the results, re-familiarize yourself with this trip to Lima earlier this month that I made with Co-pilot Egg:

In this first screen shot of the trip, you can see where we stopped for gas at Madco, and you can see the leg where Egg was doing the flying:

The fine ground-to-air shots that Brandon took and sent to me were the result of a low pass down the runway, from which we flew a full left traffic pattern around again to landing. You can see that in the next two:

Back at Bolton, you can see how precise the alignment is between the GPS and Google Earth by the way it shows us right down the center of the runway:

Simply. Amazing.

Blogger, on the other hand, is still refusing to just open the larger image when you click on the smaller picture. Inconvenient, that.

Update: Blogger released a method for fixing the pictures, but it's a bit of a bother to do. Blogger: worth exactly what you pay for it sometimes.

Brace yourselves!

I'm going to mount the foot braces in the kayak today:

(Blogger is acting the fool today, and has seemingly unilaterally decided that "click on the picture" no longer means "show me the bigger version here in the browser," but now means "download the photo and open it into some application that you must choose." Sorry for any inconvenience, blah, blah, blah.)

I had to sit in it to test fit the location for them. The Shearwater is long enough for people over 6' 3" tall, and I'm nowhere near that. The braces have a 12" range, so I don't have to be overly precise, but it seemed a good idea to at least get them in the general range of where I want them. Ok, you're not buying that, are you? We all know I just wanted to sit in the thing and pretend to be paddling down the Big Darby. Hey, at least I didn't make engine noises like some people I can think of!

Co-pilot Egg's response to these pictures:

was "Pretty boat, funny face."

Sad news awaits her when she learns that funny faces are genetic!

Note the rolled up carpet "training wheels." I don't know how I'm going to get in and out of this thing when it's supported only by water!

This Baby's going Viral!

Watch for this YouTube to hit the million view mark over night, assuming it hasn't already: