With Wings As Eagles: Craig P. Steffen's Blog

My next car

2017 September 06 23:38

At some point my 2008 VW, which has been my trusty steed for over 8 years and 145,000 miles, is going to fall out from under me and won't be worth keeping. I do a lot of my pre-car shopping from rentals. I've liked Hyundais for years, but due to a rental I had recently when I was getting my airplane back from annual, the Hyundai Accent is now at the top of my list.

For one thing, it's just a pretty car, especially the white ones.

I have to say, I really like the combination of the big analog gauges at the sides for rpm and speed, and the digital strip gauges for temp and fuel at the top.

I like the gear shift setup and the feel and the action of the gear shift. And it has manual shifting when you want it. It doesn't have the sport shift that my VW does, but I'm not sure how much I'd miss that.

It got over 44 miles per gallon during the time I was driving it, which is crazy-good for a gasoline car.

And it was nice to drive. One annoying thing was the rental didn't have cruise control. I know they come with them, so I'd want to be sure to get that or have it added. (This is a blog post that's as much a reminder to myself as anything.)

Chunky Master Switches and Electric Eyes

2017 May 09 00:14

So. This blog is mostly about computers and airplanes and cars and tech stuff, but now for a series of posts about the human side of the house. My wife and I started the process to adopt a kid from China in early 2015. We flew to China in May 2016, finalized the adoption and Visa paperwork (that whole process is a series of posts in itself), and flew home with him two weeks later, and he's been our son for about one year.

I may talk about the process of adoption at some point. In this post I want to put down something that I've been holding in my long-term memory since we took the trip. In brief, we flew over on a Thursday through Friday to Beijing. Saturday we touristed around, partially to get our internal clocks on China time, then slept one more night in Beijing. On Sunday we took a bullet train to Jinan to meet up with our son (again, we'd hosted him in the US the previous year). We finalized the adoption Monday, touristed around Jinan a couple of days. Then we flew to Guanzhou (near Hong Kong) and stayed there for almost a week until we could have our appointment at he US Consulate to get his entrance Visa to the US the following Monday. Then that Wednesday we flew home.

The shortest stay we had was in Beijing, and we were super-jet-lagged. We had so little time in the hotel in Beijing, and in this room, that I don't have that many photos. I did manage to get some of the light switches, which I found very interesting, and I want to discuss here. My records indicate that the hotel we stayed in in Beijing is the "Novotel Beijing Sanyuan".

Here's a rough diagram of the room, from memory.

As is characteristic of hotel rooms in China (and I've more recently been told, other places in the world too) There's a sensor near the door (rougly in position "A" in the room diagram above, at shoulder level) that turns on the electricity in the room when you insert a card (presumably your hotel door key card). Here's a photo, with the light switch for the light right by the door:

When you insert your key card, the electrica power in the rest of the room turns on:

My hand for scale here. The light switches are the big chunky grey things, as below the card sensor. The light that illuminated this area was the one thing not controlled by the card sensor (maybe; I don't remember that part well).

Here's the desk, with a couple of outlets above it:

The outlets and phone jacks, a little bit closer:

Which included an outlet right next to the phone that was the one thing in the room that was always on, so I used that to charge our laptop:

There were a fair number of receptacles in the room. This one is to the right of the desk on a little shelf (for charging appliances, I suppose). This one is fairly typical for receptacles for non-China devices. All the various pin patterns are there, including US, UK, European, Austrailian. I'm not sure a South African plug would work.

Here's a China-style receptacle. The bottom is the Chinese plug, the upper one fits a two-pin European one or an American/Japanese plug.

Then there's a triple-switch by the bathroom that controls the lights in and around it:

This is what drove me crazy about the room until I figured it out. Here is the group of switches next to the right (standing at the foot of the bed) side of the bed.

The top one is the "master" switch, which feeds all the others in the room (except the 24-hour outlet, I guess). It took us quite a while to figure out how this worked. It's clearly labelled, as you can see, but there's a delay when putting the card in the sensor by the door, and there may have been a delay when you turned on the master until everything turned on. Due to the delays, it took us a while to figure out the right combination so that everything would in fact turn on. We finally got it, but it was frustrating.

I loved the feel of the switches. They're big and chunky and had a nice heavy click to them.

I posted a video on youtube walking around the room. I also took a video of the timing of the card sensor turning the lights on and off.

So this was our hotel room in Beijing in China in May of 2016, and its interesting switches and its minor electrical mystery. I'm sure I'll talk more about this trip in a future post.

Trip to Austin, Part 3

2017 February 12 17:30

Sleeping overnight in Meridian, Mississippi on the way back home, I was figuring the trip was going pretty well. I'd been delayed by half a day by weather, but that was vastly better than several of my colleagues. So I headed to the airport first thing Monday morning to fly the last leg home.

.....aaaaaand there was no response from the electrical fuel pump. It's not NECESSARY to fly the plane, or even to start it, but it IS the backup in case the engine-driven fuel pump fails. So I had it towed to the local repair place:

Here's the culprit, ready to be shipped off as an exchange for an overhauled pump:

The shop on the field was mostly a turbine-airplane place, but I was able to help a mechanic get the proper access panel off and get him to the electric fuel pump. I then arranged to overnight the bad pump to the people with spares, and my wonderful wife (thanks darling!) shipped a check to the repair place (they don't take credit cards). Then I rented a car a drove back home, and left the plane there to be fixed once they got the pump back.

I ended up renting a Hyundai of some sort. I felt it was good omen when songs like this kept coming on the satellite radio:

Obligatory instrument panel photo (pretty efficient car):

And a nice underpass on the way home.

I did get the airplane back eventually. But first, other house stuff.

Trip to Austin, Part 2

2017 February 10 09:07

Back in Austin, the plan was to fly my plane to Kerrville to the Mooney fly-in, so that I could, finally, have my plan parked on the field in front of the Mooney factory. The weather was crappy enough that I decided to leave it tied down in Austin

and rent a car and drive to Austin instead.

My vague memory of the original planned sequence was this. I flew commercial from Oregon to Austin Friday morning. I got into Austin mid-afternoon Friday. I had planned then to fly my airplane to Kerrville and stay Friday and Saturday nights, and then fly all the way home on Sunday.

(My vague recollection is): The weather was bad in Austin when I got there, so I decided to wait to Saturday morning to fly. I was so tired I mostly went to bed. Saturday morning, the weather was slightly better but I'd have to be doing an instrument approach into crappy weather into Kerrville, so I decided not to. I rented a car to drive to Kerrville and back. (A lot of this is because I was giving a talk on electronic flight bag solutions that I hadn't finished yet. I'm a really really bad procrastinator sometimes.)

I rented the car in a huge hurry Saturday morning because I had to get on the road. I drove to the hotel in Kerrville and then sat in my hotel room for an hour finishing my talk. I gave the talk, that was fine, and then that evening was the banquet, which I stayed for the food and about the first half of the entertainment part. Since I was leaving so early the next morning, I ditched out of the rest of the evening.

I left super-early Sunday morning, like 4am. My plan was to race the thunderstorms that were coming in to Austin and try to get off the ground going east before they hit. It was interesting to drive with thunderstorms right behind you in the dark on roads you don't know. I got to Austin, and before I could get out of the rental car, it was bucketing down rain.

The car was GREAT to drive; I found out later one of the reasons it accelerated so smoothly is that it has a continuously-varable transmission. What with all the hurrying, I never got a photo of the outside of it. I just have these three instrument panel shots. I managed to figure out from screenshots that this is a Nissan Maxima. Very nice car.

Mooney was prototyping a plane that they're going to be selling. A small two-seater. Here's a couple of shots inside.

Note the single-level engine control in the center console. All glass-panel; I think that's a Garmin 500? And with an iPad mount already built-in. And USB power jacks in the center console:

As usual, there were tours of the Mooney factory. Here's the final assembly area:

And the wing assembly jigs:

The oval holes in the wings are fuel tank inspection/service hatches. These mooneys will have fuel tanks that fill more of the wing than mine. My tanks only have three service hatches per side.

I dropped of the rental car just as the storms hit. So I ended up chilling in the FBO for several hours. I actually used their pilot nap room to make up for having such a short night. I left mid-afternoon; too late to make it halfway home but early enough to get fuel in Meridian Mississippi again.

So I grabbed a hotel there for the night.

The saga of leaving Meridian the next morning will be the next post.

Trip to Austin, Part 1

2017 February 10 08:40

Ok, so we're up to May 2015. After the long annual, I had another trip scheduled. This one was a weird double-trip that happened because a work event ended up being the the week that I had a (previously scheduled) Mooney event in Texas the following weekend. So what I ended up doing was combining the travel for the trips. I few myself to Austin, Texas in my plane, then the next morning, grabbed a United flight to Oregon via LAX. I did the work event in Oregon, then flew back to Austin. The Mooney event was in Kerrville, which is near San Antonio. My plan had been to fly my plane from Austin to Kerrville, but when I got to Austin from Oregon, the weather was crappy enough that I just rented a car instead. I drove the car to Kerrville, went to part of the event, and then drove back to Austin early early the next (Sunday) morning. The trip back is another story.

The trip down was exciting. The whole lower midwest, including a lot of Texas, was being hit by thunderstorms that day. Here's the view on my iPad dodging the storms on the way down.

I stopped for fuel in Meridian, Mississippi. It's an army pilot training base, so my Mooney was parked among a bunch of army training airplanes.

I staying in Meridian for a while, waiting for the storms to pass. I left there with enough time to get to Austin just before dark.

The next morning, flying out of Austin, United had a fantastic system for getting boarding groups lined up. This is so much better than most other airlines where people sort of hover around the boarding gate until their group is called. It was noticably faster.

Leaving Austin in someone else's plane.

Coming into LAX, we could see the big canals that are used in lots of movies.

And lots of big interchages.

At work in Oregon, this is the villiage just down the street from the resort where our meetings were. Here's my "Prisoner" throwback selfie.

The weather for most of the trip was pretty temperate (if stormy), but one morning during the trip we got snow. This is the view out of my room in the evening.

All for now. The next entry will continue with being back in Austin.

Back from the holidays

2017 January 22 07:37

The holidays were great. They were relatively short, but that worked out well for us. No snow this year at the mother-in-law's. The kid had his first Christmas, and got pretty spoiled, which worked out pretty well.

And then we all got sick after we got back, so January was really busy once we were recovered from everything. The kid has a passport, so the long slog of adoption paperwork that started February of 2015 is basically done. His paperwork for applying for stuff will always be slightly more complicated than for other people, but he now has ID that shows he's a US citizen and he can fly on planes with official ID and stuff.

I've been trying like heck to get ahead of things just a little bit; only slightly successful. I've been going through some tubs of "need to go through this" stuff that I filled when I moved offices about 2 1/2 years ago. Once through those, then I'll hopefully get back to working on unsorted boxes from the basement.

And I'll be trying a little bit to be a producer not a consumer. Youtube has been really bad for that. It figures out what I want, and it can always show me something that I'm interested in. It knows I like space stuff, and computer stuff, and some narrow slices of car stuff (and it's good at guessing what).

Thus trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon. Internet pal Wil Wheaton (at wilwheaton.net) had until yesterday an unbroken blog-entry-per-day streak from December 1. He and his wife Anne were in the Womens' March in LA yesterday and there's no entry from them, so they may have gotten home late and he didn't write. So I'm trying to hold up the tradition in a weird way.

More on politics in another entry. This one is just to prime the pump. Talk to you later.

Long 2015 annual (supplemental)

2016 December 19 08:42

A few photos taken in and around the time of the long annual. The cats looking resplendant.

And again.

Also during this time, we were gearing up for a big project that went over the summer through the fall. We'd been thinking about adopting a child internationally, and this spring we got serious about it. It involves a LOT of paperwork and scanning and stuff, so here I'm doing that.

Among the various paperwork required are statements about your household and asseets, so I took an artsy photo of the house,

and had to go to the local police station to get fingerprinted (slightly odd).

One other thing: While I was at the parent-in-law's that spring, I went to the regional battery store and got a proper battery for their generator. It's shown here, installed.

This brings the chronology up to May 10, 2015.

Another long annual (part 2)

2016 December 19 08:42

Spinner bulkhead re-attached with new hardare.

Getting inspection panels re-installed without dropping them inside the plane is sometimes tricky, especially when they're on vertical walls. Here's the trick my mechanic taught me about that. Form a handle with tape:

which allows you to hold it in place until you get the first couple of screws attached:

All buttoned up, ready to fly.

Getting ready to fly the plane home after the annual; charging all the things.

Heading home, loading the plane.

Another long annual (part 1)

2016 December 19 08:41

April/May 2015 was the first annual for my airplane since the propellor was replace and engine overhauled in 2013-14. This was the first semi-normal annual. Still plenty of work done, but not major systems were replaced.

Taking apart the spinner to annual the propeller.

The pressure plate was a bit rusty and wasn't holding pressure on the front spinner bulkhead.

We painted the pressure plate so it at least wasn't corroding.

Prop dome with the spinner bulkhead removed.

Electric fuel pump, fuel selector and fuel system sump at the bottom of the photo.

While parts came in and we worked on stuff for the annual, I was driving my father-in-law's truck around.

When we had a break, I took a couple of days and drove to HQ and spend a couple of days in the office. Here's the office recharging setup.

I spent a good bit of time during this trip testing chargers in the truck for use in the airplane.

Back to the annual, all the belly panels off.

It was my first time taking the panels off. Over a couple hundred screws; I stripped three and had to extract them by cutting a slot with a dremel tool.

We did some work on the landing gear. Here's the plane on jacks, gear retracted, looking vaguely Airwolf-like.

Back To It

2016 December 14 08:40

It's been a long fall. And November was very rocky, for various reasons. Oy. Mostly the election. Double-oy. I frankly still have an emotional hangover from that, five weeks later. But trying to put the pieces back together, I guess I'm also trying to resume normal life.

So last time I was blogging about the past, I was back up through April 4, 2015, roughly. We continue the narrative from there. I bought a new phone then, so photos since are from my current phone, the Droid Maxx, which I got because it has MUCH better battery life than the LGE.

Here's Pangur reviewing the Verizon bag my phone came home in:

and the other cats editorializing what they think of all of this:

I was still working on commissioning the front stoop/porch. The gate didn't close well with two hinges, so I added a third spring hinge in the middle.

And finally, my mother's mother, who had been in declining health for years, died in such a way that we had a time window to go to the funeral. My wife and I flew to Omaha and then rented a car to drive up to South Dakota for the funeral.

In all my travelling for work starting in 1994 through now, twice I've randomly received a cheap rental car upgrade to any car on the lot. Once in 2010 when I was in Minnesota to get my instrument rating, and the other was trip I took in March of 2015 to California via Minnesota. I was all prepared to get compact sedan, but she wanted to get a fun car too, so we got a Dodge Challenger:

The drive up was along Interstate I-29 along with Missouri river valley, which has an 80 mph speed limit. We spent the time driving 85:

What was amazing was we got almost 30 mpg. The engine was only turning 1800 rpm:

It had Sirius Satellite Radio. Of course, this was on:

Not much of an entry, but I wanted to get back into it. That takes us through April 12, 2015.

End of Summer Surge

2016 August 15 08:12

Now that the summer is winding down, but full fall semester hadn't settleed in (that happens today) I had a bit of a chance to get ahead on some house projects. I have to say I'm still loving the solid-surface countertops we put in in 2007. Here is the sink, freshly cleaned for the first time in a while:

The 2016 Summer Olympics started just before the fall semester, and since we have another person in the house, we wanted to be slightly better set up for watching sports and eating in the TV room. We re-arrange the TV room so that most people had a place in front of them to eat, so that we don't have to have massive amounts of TV trays. Here are two seats along the right side of the room with their own tables.

Brats and hot dogs to roll in the end of summer and the Olympics opening ceremonies.

Opening ceremonies on th big screen.

We've been able to clean sort stuff that hasn't been really clean in a while, including the freezer.

We watch the Olympics on the big screen, onto to which we point a projector:

One of a our long-term problems has been the input filter on the project. Here's the cover; it's kind of an irregular shape:

The original foam filter disintegrated when I tried to change it. I put one in of a too-heavy cloth, and it's overheated several times in the last year. Before the Olympics started, I replaced that with a couple of layers of cheese cloth cut to fit, and that seems to have fixed it. It's now run for a couple of all-day stints without a problem.

A random picture of the cats.

Thrice is under the table, chilling. Pangur is on top, looking intently at the hummingbirds that are at the feeder we put out on the deck.

2015 Texas Trip: USS Texas and Battle Memorial

2016 August 03 08:51

On our other big sight-seeing day in Houston, we went downtown and the USS Texas memorial ship, and the memorial to the Battle of San Jacinto.

Battleship selfie. You know, like you do.

My wife, on one of the anti-aircraft turrets, taking aim at plagerism and comma-splices.

A lot of the gear on the battleship still kind of works, which is cool. This turret doesn't shoot, obviously, but the articulation works.

Bridge, which we couldn't go into but could photograph.

The engine spaces were amazing, but it was difficult to get photos, because everything's massive but you can't tell because there's nothing for scale. I did snag one photo of the engineering main instrument panel:

The battle site is an interesting walk-around, but not a lot to photograph, other than plaques and a lot of grass. The memorial itself is amazing and huge. Here it is looking like one of the final stars in Super Mario 64:

Everything really is bigger in Texas. Driving back to the house, we have to wait for a crossing oil tanker.

(I think we were actually waiting for the ferry, but I liked the photo.)

Flying back home, gratuitus instrument panel photos:

One nice thing about this trip was that it was the major long-distance trip that my wife and I have attempted to take in our airplane where everything went flawlessly. Two legs out, two legs back, the airplane was completely consistent and dependable.