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

give me a brake

2007 October 27 00:57

Well, my beetle is under the knife again. I didn't have the luxury of waiting this time.

I new that it was leaking brake fluid slowly; I figured that one of the hoses or the fittings or something was leaking. I did run the rear brake circuit out of fluid one time, but I thought I'd been keeping up with it since then. But the other day I discovered the rear brake fluid circuit empty, refilled it, and noticed that it was very low again. So this time I filled it and went back and checked frequently--I discovered it was losing it while the car was sitting, and losing it fast. This is right after filling up:

and this is a couple of hours later; the car hasn't moved or been touched:

So it's definitely leaking out somewhere. But not under that car that I can see. Well, anyway, I need to get in there and replace some of the brake components; I'll just work on the leak at the same time. In the process of getting the car jacked up to get the wheels off the ground, I discovered this:

This was just after having the rear end up in the air. Apparently the reason that the leaking brake fluid doesn't run out on the floor is that it's accumulating inside the car. When I had the car nose-down, some of it leaked out the drain hole in the frame head.

But the car is successfully up in the air, and I have completed my very first hub/brake dis-assembly:

I'm very pleased with what I found inside the brake drum. The brake shoes are worn and are probably due to be replaces, but they're not over-worn, so I don't have to worry about the conditions of any of the other components. The drum itself is in very good condition. The surface does have a little bit of surface rust and the braking surface is fairly smooth and doesn't look worn down. I would say this is the strongest evidence yet that the car really only does have 80-some thousand miles on it.

It turns out that the adjusting stars aren't rusted solid like I thought, they're just gunky and thus couldn't be adjusted properly, because some yahoo left off the rubber covers on the inspection holes. So the adjusting stars won't have to be replaced; I can just clean and lubricate the ones that are in there.

damn stores these days

2007 October 24 23:54

I had a major grumpy old man moment yesterday. Since electrical stuff is something I'm interested in, I feel that it's incumbent upon me to install after-market devices in my beetle as a way of customizing it. I'd like to have a mount for a GPS that's powered from the car, and since it currently doesn't have a working radio at all, before I take it on any major trips, I'd like to install a Sirius radio in it.

By the way, reason I went with Sirius over XM is that Sirius carries NFL football games, so that means that I can't listen to Indy Car racing...oh well. The radio display that they have for games is neat:

Instead of title and artist, the lower two lines of the display list the teams playing and the current score. That way you can flip to another channel and get the score of another game quickly. A clever way to make the experience more efficient.

Before I start hanging extra devices on the electrical bus of the beetle, which isn't that robust anyway, I want to have instrumentation on the electrical system. I want to have meters to measure the voltage of the system and the current flowing to (or from) the battery and the total electrical draw. I went to Radio Shack thinking that they would have something. Well, it turns out they don't. Not a single blessed panel current meter in the store, and the clerk's method for searching for it was to log onto the Radio Shack web site and search for it there. I could have done that from home, thanks.

And that was my Grumpy Old Man moment. As recently as 1995, Radio Shack was an electronics gadget store; that is, if you wanted to build something out of wires and components, that was where you went to get the parts. I guess that they as a franchise are following the path that they need to to survive, but it saddens me that what was once a paragon of useful stuff is now primarily a reseller of digital TV items, cell phones, and crappy remote control toys and stereo equipment. Granted, they do have some amounts of component-level merchandise, but that's like 20% of the store or less.

Star City, and help wanted at NASA

2007 October 21 21:35

There's a nice article about the Russian space launch site (it's apparently physically located in Kazakstan and is "rented" by Russia).

On a completely different note, NASA has opened the application period for a new class of astronauts. There's an official job listing and NASA has an explanatory page. Interestingly, this job listing has visit requirements, but they allow for "correctable to" and allow for laser eye surgery. Given the very strict vision requirements for air force pilots, this is very cool.

long commute

2007 October 10 08:48

The Expedition 16 crew launches to the International Space Station this morning. Coverage is available on the NASA channel.

another kind of hours

2007 October 08 21:06

On Saturday morning, I took my first training flight in a taildragger at Sevierville in a Cessna 140. I liked Jack Shipe, and I think I'll go back. So I now have a new category in my log book, hours in "tailwheel".

It was my first time down there, and so he was mostly just checking me out to make sure I knew what I was doing. I think I passed muster pretty well. The 140 is a nice little airplane. I'll have to get used to paying attention to switching tanks; like many airplanes except the Cessna 150 and 172, the 140 does not have a "both" tanks position for the fuel selector, so you actually have to pay attention to which tank you've selected.

One of the critical phases of flight is as you're preparing for landing, usually a time that's too busy to be reading a written check list. To memorize the critical points of this flight phase, aviators often use a variation on the acronym "GUMPS": Gas: fuel selector on appropriate tank (the fullest one in the 140) Undercarriage: gear down (the gear is fixed in the 140) Mixture: Rich Prop: forward (fast) (the 140's prop is fixed so it doesn't have this control) I'm not sure what the "S" is; "switches"? Some use the variation "GUMPFS", which includes "flaps". Since the flaps are part of the energy management process of the decent, I don't think it's necessary to do that.

After being out doing maneuvers, we came back to the airport and did two landings, one wheel and one three-point. Jack mostly did the landings, so I don't really have much of an impression yet. Ground maneuvering is definitely harder, as the coupling between the rudder pedals and the tailwheel is very loose in the 140. My mention here of the GUMPS checklist is because I haven't drilled it, and thus I didn't actually select the fullest tank, which is what you're supposed to do.

A couple of things about the interior of the 140. I've always thought that having two switches, one for each magneto makes much more sense than the composite key-type rotary switch that's in most modern airplanes. That 140 has the two switches, and I do like it.

Another thing I really do like about it is having the turn-and-bank indicator in the center of my field of view. I have a tendency to over-rudder, and having that indicator right in front of me kept me more honest than having it down in the corner.

(Oh; I've updated my pilot skill matrix appropriately.)

fun behind the scenes

2007 October 05 09:36

I picked up a DVD of Goonies at my local big-box store earlier this week because I've always loved the movie and the box listed a commentary track. I don't know if there are multiple DVD versions of this out, but the one I have has the ISBN of 1-4198-5512-3.

I was surprised to see that it was directed by Richard Donner. Stephen Spielberg wrote the story and he was one of the producers, but didn't actually direct the film. It shouldn't have surprised me, he's directed other movies that I love, particularly the first Superman movie.

The commentary track is really cool. It has Richard Donner, and most of the principle cast members who played the kids in the film. It's obvious that they liked making the film, had a lot of fun doing it, and it was neat for me to be able to watch it together and comment on it.

gentlemen, start your engines

2007 October 04 08:02

Fifty years ago today, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, into orbit. This action heightened the tensions of the Cold War and launched the technological space race betweeen the two countries. The United States won the first incarnation of that race by putting six two-man crews on the surface of the moon and returning them to the earth. Since then, the Soviets (now Russians) have had many more successes with orbital space stations than the US. However, the societal implications of the space race (including the creation of NASA) cannot be underestimated. Time has a "Top 50 highs and lows" in the space race, which provides an interesting overview of space events.

A recent interview with Boris Chertok, aide to the father of Soviet space flight Sergei Korolov, brings up some interesting points, including the claim that the whole exercise was put together at the last minute. He also points out that the "object" that people on the ground could see wasn't Sputnik I at all, but its upper booster stage, which was in roughly the same orbit.

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article about the buildup to the space race. It points out that the US under President Eisenhower had been sending bombers into Soviet air space for years, and the ICBM buildup that led to the Sputnik launch was started to counter that threat.