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

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.

2015 Texas Trip: NASA

2016 August 03 08:28

Continuing a series of posts that I last worked on, in....er.... February, one of the places we visited in Houson (visiting my brother and sister in law) was the NASA Center in Houston. As a space nut, this was a pretty awesome trip.

The guest rooms we stayed in were very well-equipped:

While we were out on the town for a day, I charged all my stuff.

A few highway photos while we were driving into town.

Houston is VERY big on flyover-overpass exchanges. Here's a good example.

A bit of skyline.

Another overpass set; at least three layers!

A lot of the stuff on display at NASA in Houston is so big that it doesn't particularly lend itself to photography without serious wide-angle gear, and I just had my phone. I attempted to take a few shots to commemorate the occasion.

Here's one of the shuttle carrier 747's with an engineering mock-up shuttle on top of it, parked outside the museum:

Another highlight of Houston NASA is that they have a complete Saturn-5 laid out in a horizontal display building. This is looking down the first stage from the second stage. The first stage is sitting on its ground carrier vehicle; look at the enormous tires!

An (I'm guessing) engineering test Command Module (the brown bit) with its escape tower on the right.

As of this trip, I have now seen all of the Saturn-5 rockets on public display in the US. There's one at Saturn Apollo Center at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, there's this one at NASA in Houston, and there are two at Huntsville, Alabama, one inside like the other two are, and one stacked vertically outside (which is REALLY impressive to see). I've read there's one more Saturn 5 first stage outside somewhere in Louisiana; maybe I'll go fly over it someday.

Outside the Saturn 5 display building, they have some rocket engines, and this. It's a "Little Joe" test vehicle that NASA used to test the escape system for the Apollo Command Module. You can see it here, sitting with a command module mounted on top of it.

Another flyover interchange.

Oh yeah; the kid

2016 August 02 07:49

Oh, right. The *other* thing that's been going on in our lives is that we've adopted a kid. We started the process of international adoption from China last February (2015), aiming to travel to China in May of 2016, right after the end of the spring semester. We managed to hit that perfectly; we travelled in May the week that my wife finished finals.

The paperwork process is long and annoying. I may post about it sometime. It involved background checks and lots of getting verification of the previous layer.

Early in the process last year, the adoption agency we were working with started a program bringing kids from China who were in danger of aging out of the adoption system and bringing them to the US for three weeks. We were part of the way through our initial paperwork, so when the social worker was at our house, we talked about that program. They had a couple of kids still without host homes, so at that point we decided to sign up. It was a way to try out parenting and help the program, without the commitment to keep the kid.

Not surprisingly, one of the things that can happen (and they hope happens) in the hosting program is that the hosting parents fall in love with *that* kid, and decide to adopt them. We definitely did that. We wanted to answer three questions with the hosting. 1) Are we capable of being parents? 2) Do we want to be? 3) Do we want to be parents to *that* kid? By the end of the three weeks, we knew the answers to all three questions was YES. So once the kid had headed back to China, we formally requested to be able to adopt him specifically, then continued the rest of the paperwork.

One of the things my wife and I did as preparation for the trip and for adopting a Chinese child who didn't speak english was to take a year of beginning Mandarin. Here I'm taking one of our exams in the second semester. One of the dialogs was all about location words. So the dialog is about the computer that is ON the desk, and the dog that is UNDER the desk. The teacher had props for the dialog, which I thought was hilarious.

We flew out of Lexington to head to China for the adoption. Our flight was early enough in the morning that we got a hotel room with shuttle service to the airport. Here are our suitcases, ready to go to the airport for the big trip.

A nice, auspicious sunrise on our initial climbout.

The adoption took place in the province of Jinan, China. My wife, kid, and me at the big central park in Jinan City. The sculpture in the background is reminiscent of the Mandarin character for the name of the city.

There will be more posts about our trip and about raising a kid, but I wanted to get the topic out there.

Plane is fine

2016 August 01 16:49

While I'm catching up on the status of things....

The plane is fine. In the annual this spring, we dug into the hydraulic system. The hoses were original, and pretty stiff. The flap up/down control was super-stuff. It turns out I was wrong about the diagnosis of that; it was the cable, not the pump. That's fixed. The retraction speed is fixed. We don't really know what the problem is with the pump that had been in there, but I bought another one and that one worked fine. I still have the bad pump to try to figure out what was up.

The brakes still act slightly funny; it will be interesting to find out if it's better or worse when it's cold. We'd decided that the old problem with the mag checks might have been a weak plug, so we put a massive back in the bottom of #2. However, a couple of flights later, I had another bad mag check, so bought and installed a brand new fine-wire plug there, and it's been fine ever since.

I need to take it down to Knoxville tomorrow to get its IFR sign-off. After that, I can start flying it more, potentially.


2016 August 01 16:28

My blog server had pretty severe bit rot. I hadn't kept up with the site maintenance, I'm afraid. I don't know exactly what the problem is, but for at least this calendar year, I coudln't reboot the server without serious work to get it back running again. I think what probably happened is that something in the emulation layer got out of synch with something in the packaging, and so it just woudln't boot correctly. I got the great folks at my hosting site, vps.net to get the server running again a couple of weeks ago, and so I managed to pull a full backup, but then within the last week it died again.

Ove the past couple of days I backed up the backup, so I have everything from the old server image in multiple places. Last night and this morning, I bit the bullet and had the server completely re-installed. Now I've re-installed everything from the blog. If this entry shows up (It will be the first August 1, 2016 entry) then we know it worked.

When doing stuff like that, you discover all your sins in the installation. Like the fact that the blog is all packed into /var/www like it should be, but some of the support script are in a directory in my home directory. Ooops. And the includes are scattered around in wierd places.

More on that in a while. The house is fine, the cats are fine, the plane is fine. The family is fine, and has had another (human) member added to it, which is very exciting.

All for now. This has been a systems test; please ignore. If this were an actual blog post, I'd have a picture of an airplane instrument panel or some electronics or some such.