One of the things that frequently bogs me down in blog posting is when I have a post to make that has a ton of photos, I end up not doing the post for weeks because I don't have the time to put together to edit, crop, and prep them. So the really good, dense posts end up being the ones that slow things down. So for this post, I'm just going to split up the posts, and do the image editing and writing when I have time to do them separately. So this is part 1 of something, maybe 3 for the whole trip.
In March of 2015, I took a trip to a conference in San Jose, California for work. The conference went the entire week, starting on Monday evening and going through Friday. The airline flights lined up in a wierd way; there basically wasn't any way to construct the trip to fly out of my normal airport (Knoxville, TN)(TYS) without adding several hundred dollars, so the base price ticket would have been flying out of Louisville, which more than I want to normally drive.
So I set the cost of the base ticket by the Lousiville flights. But if I'm driving out of Lousiville, I might as well drive slightly farther and fly out of Atlanta. That gives me MUCH more flexiblity in picking flights. In fact, it gave me enough flexibility to actually add a whole leg to the trip by only kicking in a bit more on the tickets myself. So instead of flying directly to California, I flew out of Atlanta to Minnesota first thing on Saturday, spent the weekend visiting family and friends, and then flew from Minnesota to San Jose on Monday.
Just about to leave the house at 04:20 in the morning. It amuses me that the clock with four hands (the long red one is the 24-hour hand; it's just after 08:20 GMT) are all pointing in basically the same direction.
It was first thing on Saturday morning, and it was a relatively warm spring-like day. There were a ton of people out at that time of the morning towing boats; I presume for the first outing of the spring.
By the time I got to the I-75/I-40 split on the west side of Knoxville, the sun was a bit up.
My suitcase, notable because it's bright red (easy to spot if they tell you the wrong carousel by one) and for having a tag for a conference that hadn't happened yet.
And it got interesting when we got to the airport. Enterprise rental
at MSP apparently had a surplus of cars, so they were offering to
upgrade to anything on the lot for a very small sum. They had an
electric blue almost-new Ford Mustang on the lot, so I took it.
The dash on the Mustang was interesting. The center box can be
configured for a number of different things. It can display text
or quasi-analog gauges:
The "vacuum/boost" gauge is amusing. One, because I'm pretty sure that car wasn't turbocharged. Also, I paid attention to that gauge while driving. It probably was connected to some sort of manifold pressure sensor, but it definitely wasn't reading true, or else the zero was (possibly deliberately) way off. To get the gauge to come anywhere close to 0 vacuum, you should have to bury the accelerator, and I could get it to hit "zero" with only moderate acceleration. Ah well, probably for the best.
So I visited family on Saturday. But I decided that with a magnificent car like that, it was a moral imperative to a least do a little road driving with it. It would be a shame to have something like that and just stay around the Twin Cities. So I pinged a college friend, who also lives in the Cites, and proposed that we take a Sunday morning road trip down to our alma mater. She was game, so I headed up to her house first thing Sunday and we did some driving across the state. The photos from the trip itself will be from the next post.
The Minneapolis skyline over the hood of the Mustang.
Me, ready to road trip. I kept me in this photo mostly because it amuses my wife.
This trip continued in a future post.
Photos that amuse me. I was driving somewhere and messing with the
Stratus with ForeFlight.
The rest of the stuff from early 2015.
The three cats enjoying the snowy view. It was really really cold in February:
February was the first big round of adoption paperwork. I sent the
first application packet with a commemorative inverted-Jenny stamp. I
figured we could use all the luck we could get (so far it's paid off;
things are going well).
Again, cold while driving.
And snow coming down. I highlighted a couple of big flake clusters with arrows.
One step back. We managed to leave a hose on the front spigot, and
the cold weather froze the tap, and the valve had a crack in it when
it was open. Here's before:
(As of this writing, December 27, the outside tape is still broken. Argh.)
Oooh--another technical success. And this one I did once and is
finished! I replaced the plug on the vacuum cleaner:
And one final photo of Pangur and Thrice watching the snow.
Before everything got crazy in March, here are some overall posts that kind of cover January and February. In two separate posts to avoid photo overload.
I am ever-so-slowly collecting parts and tools to put my 1972 VW
engine back together. I'm going to tap the case to plumb in an oil
filter. To do this, I got the proper drill bit, tapered ream, and 3/8
And, in a fit of organization, I put them in a box and labelled them! Amazing!
Rare picture of all three cats:
A minor home improvement. This is in the "library" on our ground
floor. I put a rack for coats on the left wall here, so that when we
have coats to hang up, we can do it somewhere other than the official
coat closet in the center of the house which is far away from the
doors and also where the cat food lives.
Pangur disapproving of whatever I'm saying on the phone.
I made some moderate effort earlier in the year to organize my stuff
on the main floor (culminating in the drawer that serves as a desk
from the last post). Here's my half of the library table desk
organized (which I'm sure was short-lived, but an important step nonetheless).
Also in the organizational front, I got some nice storage trays from Harbor Freight and made organization out of the chaos of the socket trays in the tool box.
And finally Thrice doing her Meerkat impression.
At the Cabin over Christmas. Burning paper trash here. I just liked
the shot of the burn barrel and the creek.
It's been a hell of a year. As of October, all of the settings of the Back to the Future movies are now in the past. Our "Log In Date" for our adoption portfolio was mid-November, so that's exciting. We're taking Mandarin Chineese (mostly spoken, some written).
Aaaaaaand my father-in-law died a couple of weeks ago. :-( Thus we ended up here longer than expected, and we had (and still have) lots to do. Oy. An ugly transition. Very sad. We're still getting used to it.
So I'm going to try to get posts up that summarize the interesting bits of the year. Here's the one for this trip.
One interesting thing: my wife and I gave this record/CD/tape player/radio to my father-in-law in...it must have been 2002. I tried to play a CD in it, and the drive is jammed. Apparently he used it so much that he wore out the drive mechanism. I'm incredibly gratified.
This is the back of the Explorer about to head back from the memorial service. The cylinder on the right is a 1/6th keg of beer, so that we wouldn't run out when all the people came back to the house. We swapped it in before the night was over. People got a kick out of my walking across the road to the liquor store and bringing the keg back with my funeral clothes on.
And I got some Taurus driving in while running errands; some day driving
and some night driving:
And I got to drive the Explorer a bit. It's fairly new one, so it has the fancy digital dash.
And the climate controls are complicated enough to launch a space ship.
Charging back-up cell phone batteries. The cable is obviously better because it has glowy lights in it. :-D The charger is one of the a great set of Sprint chargers that are both car chargers and wall chargers, and they have lights on them.
My Christmas present to my self is this comically large tap handle. I got this because I'm going to tap the engine block of my VW for an oil filter, and the tap is large enough that it doesn't fit in a normal tap handle. The beer can is for scale.
I was sitting on the couch studying for my Chinese language final. This photo is absolutely not posed; Jasper came, sat down with me, and put the royal paw on my books. I think it's a hilarious pose; it's great that he looks so stern.
I've had a long-term project around the main floor of the house to kind of get my stuff organized in a longer-term way. I like having a working desk that I pile stuff on to work on or sort, but of course that gets piled up. So I cleared out this drawer, so it can be the "to be sorted" or "to be gone through" piles, so it's out of the way. Of course, as is no surprise, Pangur is helping.
All for now. More entries on the year as I get photos edited.
Wow. What a year I've had since February. February was vey snowy, and March wasn't any different. (All the things I mention in passing here I will hopefully write a whole blog post about with photos. I just want to get the sequence down here while I'm thinking about it.)
At the beginning of March, I worked with my wife on her professional organization's conference, which almost got snowed out. So the planning and the aftermath of that took more time an concentration than we expected (we drove there and back; much snow). In the middle of March I took a conference trip to San Jose California (flew commercial). On the way, due to airline weirdness, I spent a couple of days driving around Minnesota. Then the conference in California, and then I spent a day at the Computer History Museum in Montain View, and then flew back home. Then, with less than a week at home, I flew wife and I to Houston to visit her brother there. Much touristing was done, then we flew home.
April: Got a front mini-porch put on the house. Got a new phone. April 6, my maternal Grandmother died, so my wife and I made plans to fly up to be at the funeral. We flew up on April 10 and back on April 12. Then the rest of the month was getting my airplane annualed. This was the most normal annual I've had, but still, it ended up being extended for a week because we had to get a part of adjust the front landing gear.
Plane annualed and flown home at the beginning of May. Mid-May, flew my plane to Texas (dodging storms), then flew commercial to Oregon for a several day work thing, then commercial back to Texas. Then a Mooney event in Texas, and then attempted to fly home. Got to Mississippi; the electric pump on the plane failed when I went to fly home. So that was a week and change of wrangling to get that back.
Sometime early in the spring, we decided that we were going to start actively pursuing an international adoption from China. We decided to target bringing the kid home in summer of 2016. We spent a lot of time in May, for instance, sending out from background checks from all the states we've each lived in since turning 18 (turns out I've lived in several.).
The first big component of the paperwork was the home study. This included three visits with a social worker. The first two were in May, the last one was June 10. During that visit, the social worker talked about their upcoming hosting program. We told her that we hadn't been interested, but it turns out, they'd lowered the fees. So we decided to sign on.
So as of June 10, suddenly we were preparing for having a kid in the house. So things suddenly got super-busy. June wasn't bad; I didn't have a lot of trips, but lots of paperwork and working in the room that our guest would be staying in.
At the beginning of July, we went (flew commercial) to Minnesota to Convergence. Then we came back and spent time finishing prep for the kid. He arrived on July 16th, and flew back to China on August 9th. That's a whole story for another time. The conclusion is that we can be parents, we want to be parents, and in face we're going to pursue being parents to that child (which you can do if you're the host family).
So now starting 3rd week of August, my wife and I are both taking spoken Chinese. The 2nd weekend of September, we went to the planning meeting of the conference that organization will be throwing in March. The next weekend we hosted a Chinese Med School instructor (I took him flying). This weekend my wife is at a conference; but I'm writing this blog post because this is the first real chance I've had to catch up in forever.
Yesterday and today I ordered a bunch of parts for my vintage VW. I hope to put it back together in a few weeks.
Phew. Just typing that made me tired.
Final answer: busy summer, and we're super-excited that we'll be adopting a really great and sweet kid this coming year. Not a ton of flying, but some good stuff in March and in May.
Details on a lot of this stuff in the (hopefully near) future. This was just the overview. Photos too.
I normally get at least a couple of cell phone photos of the rental cars I drive, but this trip, I didn't manage to do it.
R and I flew Delta from TYS to MSP to attend Convergence and see friends. Our original plans had been to go to Oshkosh and GenCon later on in July (this year they're the same week) but there's a Big Exciting Thing happening the last two weeks of July and the first week of August which shifted our schedule (more on this in another post in the near future, I'd imagine).
We flew up on Friday morning on the direct flight, and so we got to the hotel at around 11am. Even though we spent most of the weekend at the hotel, we went ahead and rented a car for the sake of convenience. It also meant that we could go directly to the hotel as fast as possible to get our badges (which turned out not to be a problem).
We rented a car from Enterprise. They didn't have any compacts, but has it turned out, they had a Toyota Prius available. I wouldn't have reserved it; my understanding is they're typically a premium-cost vehicle, but they had it available and it was only a slight upcharge from the reservation we'd made. So we rented it and drove it around the city from Friday morning when we got in through Tuesday late afternoon when we left.
It was interesting to drive, not too different than other cars with a couple of exceptions. Steering as normal. I had to really push down a lot on the gas pedal to accelerate well; I later found out that was probably because we were in "eco" mode; it apparently changes the value on the accelerator curve. Acceleration actually wasn't bad, except for the squishy pedal. The one thing that was really strange was when the gas engine would just stop when you were driving slow (like driving around a parking lot). That's eerie the first time it happens.
Proximity key fob for ignition, which is fine, and push-button start. Since it's a Prius, of course, it may or may not actually start the gasoline engine when you start it. THe proximit fob unlocks the door before you touch it, which I HATE; you can't check before you leave the car that the driver's door is locked.
The gearshift is purely electrical, so it has an odd feel. You have four postions that you move the gear shift to from rest; Reverse, Neutral, Drive, and Braking. Park is a separate button next to the gear shift.
One huge thing that this car fell down on was that it didn't have a "your lights are on" warning buzzer.
So all in all, a perfectly fine car to drive. I'm glad I drove one, but I wouldn't go out of my way to do it again. The gas milage frankly isn't enough better than conventional cars that I'd want to have one for that reason, and putting up with its quirks makes that easier.
I meant to come and have the annual of the plane take 3 or perhaps 4 days. *sigh* It's not super-bad, I get to stay and play with the parents-in-law who are awesome, but it's been two weeks as of tomorrow and I miss my wife and cats.
This post is about what I've been doing. Early on we cleaned and check
spark plugs; everything looking healthy there.
One of the big things I've done this trip is take all the belly panels
off my plane for the first time. Here they are laid out with piles of
I forgot to put something in the picture to scale; the panels are about 2 feed wide, top to bottom in the image. There's about a few hundred screws holding them to the airplane.
Getting the screws out wasn't trivial. Three of them had actually
completely frozen, so I had to cut a slot in their heads with a dremel tool to
get them out.
Another thing I got to mess with was taking off and putting on the
I painted the pressure plate (highlighted by the red arrow), and then installed the forward bulkhead with new screws. Just waiting for the mechanic's approval to put that part back together.
So what's the fuss about? Why did I stay longer? Well, I needed to
have a spacing collar installed in the nose gear for better handling.
THe collar is the silver ring; the white plate is the pressure plate
at the top of the gear doughnuts.
And as long as we're taking the nose disk shock tower apart, I decided to have the shock disks in the nose gear replaced.
Also, while I've been driving back and forth to the hangar (1 h 20 min
each way) I've been testing chargers to see which one worked best
charging my iPad mini.
So tomorrow, hopefully by mid-day the nose gear will be back together and I can start planning for the trip home.
Here's what I've been doing with the Stratus. Here's my working
cardboard template that I'm getting into shape.
I'm basically making a basket or tray that holds the stratus along the axis of the airplane, so that I can see the status lights, and so that it doesn't slide off into my lap from the glare shield. I did this very early in the year.
A few weeks later, I put together a more precise version of the tray.
Here I've put it together.
Eventually the thought is to make the tray out of Aluminum so it's stiffer, but the cardboard will do for a short-lived version.
The green cord is a USB power cord that runs along the top of the glare shield and then comes over by the pilot to power the iPad.
The cardboard tray, cable tied into place on the compass mounting tube, with the Stratus sitting in/on it. And the power cable to the Stratus:
Here's what the setup looks like from outside the windshield:
If I park the airplane just right, I can get the car into the hangar
with the airplane still in it and shut the door:
A closer view of the above shot. You can see the oil cooler nicely here in the lower corner of the cowl. You can also see the Stratus in its mount under the windshield.
And after a couple of hours of futzing and prepping, the airplane is
ready for its trip to Texas (another post).
The weather was likely to be fairly cold the morning that we left; you can see the extension cord going in the oil door on the cowl; it's attached to the engine heater plug and comes from a timer on the other end. I set it to start warming the oil several hours before we got to the hangar. It worked great.
An addendum to the last post. When I went to test the Bolse charger in flight, I noticed that it kept popping the breaker. The below photos are the "before" of the inside of the lighter socket.
Here's the bottom of the socket.
The outer barrel is connected to ground. The center stud at the back is connected to positive voltage through a breaker. There's a tang also connected to positive voltage that sticks out toward the camera that's also at positive voltage. Notice on this side (which is lower right in the socket as it sits in the plane) there's a nice cutout in the barrel for the tang to make sure they don't touch.
Now here's two other shots of the other side of the lighter socket.
Note that there are TWO cutouts, but the other tang lands directly in between them. In other words, if the tang gets pushed out from the center, it touches the side of the barrel. As you can see, it's done so quite a bit; the edge of the tang is eroded.
What it looks like to me here is that the barrel and the pieces that sits in the back of the barrel don't match. I presume there's a three-tang pattern and a two-tang pattern, and someone later replaced the back part of the barrel with the wrong piece. Since it causes shorts, I almost wonder if it wasn't a former owner doing some "hangar fairy" maintenance. Also mildly amusing that no one since then noticed it.
Last year sometime, I bought a charger to go in the airplane. It has
three outputs, with different current capacities marked on the
It worked pretty well for my accessory electronics in my airplane while I was flying. The 2.4A output was enough to charge the Stratus GPS/ADS-B unit, and the lower 1.5A output would charge my iPad.
Well, I got another one to charge the two devices, a newer one without
the labels, with the hopes that since all the outputs were the same,
it would be able to supply full output current to all three outputs.
Not so much, it turns out. Only output that can charge the Stratus is the top on, and the other ports act the same as the labelled one. So in other words, the unlabelled one is the same as the labelled one just without the physical labels. Oh well. More recently I've been investigating other charging solutions. (Both of the 3-output white chargers are "Bolse" brand.)
One interesting thing I ran into while testing the newer charger was
that if I pushed it into the power socket (formerly lighter socket)
all the way, it would trip the breaker. Looking inside, you can see
The yellow dot indicates the tang on the hot part of the socket. You can see it's scored on the edge where it's touched the side. I suspect that someone put the back part of the socket from a car into the socket from the airplane. This is something I'll have to talk to my mechanic at annual (which is soon). My temporary solution is the red cardboard strip that keeps the tang from touching the grounding barrel.
The reason that I'm getting the charging stuff set up is that I
bought an iPad mini 2 for my electronic charts.
Next to my hand is my old iPad 1 that I've had for a few years, and farther away from my hand is the mini. Both are running foreflight here.
I have a RAM ball mount on the bottom of the pilot's yoke in my
airplane. I have a RAM mounting arm and an iPad mini mount to hold
the mini in front of the yoke. Here you see how I've modified the
arm, so that the arm will sit up flush with the yoke shaft:
And here's the iPad mini on its mount on the yoke. This is basically
my view sitting in the pilot's seat.
The full-size iPad is pretty bulky, but the mini is perfect. I can read the approach plate (as shown) but I can see the panel and switches just fine. I've flown four big cross-country flights with it mounted this way, including a real instrument approach in significant IFR conditions, and this worked great.
Oh, and another thing: The Bolse charger wasn't able to charge the Stratus and the iPad mini continuously for all the flights. Sometime during the second flight, it stopped charging the stratus. I don't know if it gets too hot or what, but the flights were finished under battery power. Which is fine, but I wish I could get a solution that would continue to charge for arbitrary amounts of time.
I realized the other day that I don't have any ANY photos of the
airplane in the last dozen or so blog posts, here here are a couple.
This was March 1 when I went out to the hangar and test the fit of the
iPad and test the charger. After two weeks of basically being snowed
in, we were able to get out of the house, but the hangars still had a
ridge of snow from it falling off the roof of the hangar building.
And just because it amuses me, a closer version of that same photo:
I love the asymmetric look of the nose, the landing light on the right side and the oil cooler on the left. If you look closely, just to the right (from our point of view) in the windshield is the Stratus taped to the glare shield. The saga of the mounting technology for the Stratus is another post entirely.
The one real problem I've ever had with my 2008 VW has been the wiper motor. I had the motor replaced early on under warranty, and then a couple of years later, I had the gear mechanism replace on my dime. I guess it's just under-engineered, because it started to intermittently fail over the winter, and failed completely in January (when I was loaning the car to someone--OOPS!).
It failed on me COMPLETELY when I was out shopping. I drove it home, in a bit a rain, very slowly. I do NOT recommend that. I won't do it again. That was kinda scary.
Anyway, I got it home (that was a Friday, I think) and so I got out
the big manual for the car. I decided that getting to the wiper motor
assembly didn't look too bad, so I brought that car into the garage
and tore into it. It wasn't, indeed, that bad. Here's the motor and
wiper arm assembly out of the car:
and so first thing Saturday morning, I drove down to the VW dealer in Knoxville and bought a new motor.
Pangur, inspecting the new motor:
I installed it, and so by mid-afternoon, less than 24 hours after it had completely failed on me, the car was recommissioned. So it may well happen again, but now I know I can repair it quickly for only the cost of the part itself.