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

2015 Texas Trip: prep and travel

2016 February 20 23:28

Then at the end of March 2015, I flew my wife and I to Texas in our plane. It was pretty awesome. First we had some prep. As part of that, I made a tool to try to not make too much of a mess of the plane when removing the oil filter, which I needed to do to change the oil. (I *really* wanted to have summer oil in the plane before flying it to Texas in April.)

Bandsaw out.

Saw some 4-inch PVC pieces to shape.

Primed, painted, and ready to glue together.

Here's the finished piece, sitting below the oil filter. This is a catch pan to sit under the filter as you unscrew it from the back of the engine that catches most of the oil that drains out of the filter itself as you disconnect it. That keeps that oil from running down the front of the firewall and out on the nose landing gear tire and making a mess. (In the later oil change, I discovered that leaving it to drain for a couple of hours to let the filter mostly drain also helps a lot.)

It was supposed to be chilly the morning that we left, so I took advantage of the engine heater we'd recently installed. Here I've plugged the source end of the extension cord into a light timer.

The other end plugs into the heater plug inside the cowl; here you see the end of the extension cord going into the oil door.

I got the Stratus mounted and power cables run to it, so that I could use it all the way down and back. A nice addition for long-distance flights.

Flying down, I took the Stratus out of its mount on the windshield because it seemed to be overheating. I was very amused to see that it still picked up ADS-B ground stations and GPS signals just fine, sitting here on the throttle and having no view of the ground and almost none of the sky.

We flew the whole flight down IFR. We took two legs to fly it. Flying into KIAH at the end of this flight was my first time flying into a class B. It was fun and interesting. The controllers were very nice to me. Taxiing was fine, except for my blowing my taxi instructions slightly and getting yelled at by the ground controller.

The FBO was clearly used to bigger planes, but they were very nice and accomodating. They parked our plane along their flight line, with cones to make it more visible.

There's a plane taking off (indicated by the arrow) on the runway right behind our plane. Neat!

2015 California Trip: Part 2

2016 February 20 22:24

After I went to Minneosota, I went on for the real purpose of the trip, to California to the GPU Technology Conference. When I got to my hotel, I opened the hotel directory to look something up, and I swear this was on the page as I opened it:

One interesting thing about this (clearly well-funded) conference is there were several neat cars in the conference center hotel:

I think that these were there to advertise some outing that the conference was advertising. I looked into it; it took more than half a day, so I decided not to do that.

Interestingly there were a bunch of power pods around the conference, with power cords set up for charging. (NVIDIA was the major sponsor of the conference.)

Given all of the security problems with plugging a USB device into an unknown device, I'm slightly surprised that they did this. But people definitely used them. It's definitely not the sort of thing you'd want to do at DEFCON, but that's another story.

I picked up three books at the book store:

The hotel was really close to the San Jose airport. Most people probably woudln't/don't think that's an asset. But it was great watching airplanes flying over low.

The view out my hotel window. The view did not suck. I grew up and mostly have lived in the midwest, so having palm trees immediately outside of my hotel is terribly amusing to me.

I rode public transit around the bay area while I was there. Not something I do strange cities very often, but I'm really pleased how well I did. I took the train up to Mount View to have lunch with a friend, and came back one evening.

Out waiting for the train, saw another plane flying over.

I realize that Buffy the Vampire Slayer was in SunnyDALE California, rather than Sunnyvale, but this station amused me nonetheless.

I stayed in California one extra day at the end, so I went to the Computer History Museum in Moutain view. It's AMAZING. They have tons of fantastic artifacts.

Here is a Babbage Difference Engine that someone built. It's a mechanical that was envisioned (but never actually built) by Charles Babbage. When people talk about "turning the crank" in a calculation, the crank is indicated the green arrow. Apparently turning the crank is an important very skilled job.

A NeXT Cube. With the original WORM drive, even. I don't know that this is the machine that the World Wide Web was created on, but it was on a machine basically identical to this.

The museum has a PDP-1 computer from DEC. Here's the front, with racks of paper tape for the loader and the paper tape reader. It was pretty cool to see it play Space War.

And then I flew home to Atlanta. This was directly above the parking lot where my car was. I would have loved to stay and watch airplanes for an hour, but since I started on the west coast, I lost three hours, so I needed to head out so that I wasn't getting back *too* late.

2015 California trip: Part 1

2016 February 04 08:33

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 gauges:

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.