Friday, September 21, 2012

Shuttle Update

NASA TV and SpaceflightNow have LIVE video of the Endeavour and the 747 carrier aircraft taxiing towards the runway at Edwards AFB

My Avation Week

OK...I'm up...

After a week in the high desert celebrating aviation's past by watching aged warbirds push the envelope at the Reno Air Races, today I witness personally the future of American Manned Spaceflight retire with a "Victory Lap" around Northern California before the Space Shuttle Endeavour becomes a museum piece in a Los Angeles museum.

I'll keep this short because I've got some driving to do to get into my photo vantage point.

My SF Giants' magic number is 3. #GoGiants

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Things I Like

It’s Wednesday night and I’m feelin’ it alright…

Giants’ Baseball
My San Francisco Giants began the night with a Magic Number of 7. For those not familiar with MLB minutia, the Magic Number in this case is the total of Giants’ wins added to LA Dodgers’ losses. When the Magic Number reaches zero, the Division Title is secured. The Giant s are playing an inspired version of baseball this month .

It’s all too rare when the Giants and their arch rivals the LA Dodgers are battling down to the wire in September.

I like when Tony Bennett sings “I left My Heart” after a Giants home victory.
Tuesday night, Tim Lincecum pitched his best game of the season…he had command of all his “stuff” and had a quality start and tallied the win…and Tony Bennett sang.

Wednesday night, Matt Cain recorded his 15th win and Tony Bennett sang.

When I was eleven years old, the Giants and Dodgers battled down to the last game. The pennant was decided by a playoff game…which the Giants won, sending them to the World Series vs the New York Yankees. My Dad pulled me out of school to attend Game 2 of the World Series at Candlestick Park where Yankees’ pitcher Whitey Ford humiliated the Giants’ batters with a 1-0 shutout.

49 years later, the game is so much deeper to me…exciting yes, but it’s so much richer to 60 year old me. Baseball has entered it’s second “Golden Age”. Most teams have built new, smaller, stadiums. Dodger Stadium built in 1962 is the third oldest park in the majors after Boston’s Fenway Park and the Chicago Cubs’ Wrigley Field. These new more intimate parks really showcase the National Pastime to today’s fans.

Broken Stuff
All my life it seems like my stuff breaks all at the same time. Flurries of failures…It’s not just the new camera that needs do go back for replacement. My trusty old document shredder finally gave up the ghost, and a pair of my summertime shoes, Merrill Jungle Mocs finally blew out. It’s time for a new Winter pair of Merrill Orbits too.

My Fellowes shredder is more than ten years old, but I finally fed it something that disagreed with it. I spent an hour or more with a bottle of shredder oil and some dental tools trying to make it happy again…FAIL

I hit the internet and looked at new ones. I was prepared to spend around $80 or so, when I decided just to go to Reno and do some hands-on research. Office Depot, COSTCO, and REI are all on the same street, so I hit REI for some new Jungle Mocs before perusing the shredders at Office Depot.

There were no $80 Fellowes machines at Office Depot. The in-store prices were 25% higher than their online prices, and the $129 model was too wimpy for this shopper.

Next door at COSTCO, they had one Fellowes shredder. This one does 12 sheets at a time and eats credit cards and CDs! $99-SOLD! I grabbed a bale of toilet paper, and trolled the SD Cards and there was a $5 Off deal on the pair of 16GB cards I put off last time I was there…WIN!

I got home and assembled the new machine before the Giants-Rockies game. I fed it the first hank of credit card come-ons, and was surprised at how quiet the thing was! No grinding sound, just a firm steady whir…the loudest noise was paper crinkling when the paper ran up against one side of the feed slot!

The best thing? You don’t even have to open the junk mail! This thing eats anything! I read the instructions to find out one thing: How often do I oil it? It says oil it each time you empty the waste bin.

I shredded away during the ballgame, ripping through a year’s worth of junk mail backlog, and oiled four times. The authoritative whir of this machine is almost comforting!

This was an awesome buy all around! Amazon's price is $122.49 I win.

Giants magic number now 5. Giants at AT&T Park today at 12:45PM

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reno Air Race Aftermath

I found a story from Reno's ABC-TV affiliate KOLO8 on the attendance at this year's Reno Air Races to be a little off" from years past, but the story doesn't give any numbers...the numbers they do report are staggering. RARA's insurance premium went up more than six times! From $300K to $2Million

That ain't hay!

 New Camera Update: 
Without time pressure from the Air Race schedule, I had the time back at the DaveCave to diagnose the new camera’s problem. When making 1080i videos, there’s a visible spot just to the right of the center of the image. It’s in the top third of the field of view, so it’s really obvious when the sky is the top half of the images…

After Thursday’s action, I found a speck of who knows what on the lens. A spritz of Windex on a Q-Tip, a little rubbing then dried with a special No-Lint microfiber LCD Cleaner Cloth, and I was good to go for Friday.

I didn’t drag the computer out to the show Friday because the car would be parked in a lot far from my location until I headed out to the Fenceline after noon, so I didn’t see the blemish again until I got home and downloaded the photos and videos…the blemish was still there…

Interestingly, the blotch doesn’t show in the still photos, or in videos made at 720i, just at Full HD…exactly why I bought the thing! I hope getting a replacement camera isn’t a long drawn out story

Precious Metal Update:
When I last saw Precious Metal, she was turning on final to land after losing a landing gear door on lap three of the Breitling Gold Race Sunday afternoon. PreciousMetal’s Facebook fan page reports:

“Hi all, yes we were forced to mayday out of yesterday's Gold final. Ended up 7th but could have taken 3rd had the right clamshell gear door not blown off during the start. Apparently a spring broke on the uplock mechanism and allowed it to open up. No wonder we don't operate the gear over 170...

The airplane will be ferried to Teeters shop in Salinas this afternoon for repairs. We'll keep you all updated.”

Autumnal Light
Regular readers will remember that every year I write about seeing with my own eyes the first traces of what I call the Autumnal Light out a the races. Um, that was a No-Go this year. It could have been the high cirrus cloud deck early in the week, or the smoke haze for the weekend. Tuesday morning, there's a snap of Fall in the air and the haze is still hanging in around Truckee.

 Evening Camera Update: 
Well I spent another hour trying to clean whatever’s mucking up my images on the WB750. With an illuminated magnifying glass and a can of compressed air, I Q-Tip-ed and Windex-ed, blew DustOff into every possible orifice…all to no avail. She’s going back to sender just as soon as I have a secure broadband connection.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Let the Outsmarting Continue

“Let The Outsmarting Begin” has become our tagline whenever SturgeUrge and I launch a boat into salt water. Originally, we’d chime in together when our panga was pushed into the surf out of La Playita, the sleepy fishing village 25 miles east of Cabo San Lucas on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. It turns out we’re experts at outsmarting ourselves.

SturgeUrge and I have a deep and long history of going to Plan B after a scratchy day of fishing…of course, the next day it’s wall to wall Plan A. Yes, even our Mexican pangueros shake their heads in dismay…simple fishermen from a country that doesn’t do Multi-Tasking see the folly of SturgeUrge and TruckeeDave…

It doesn’t have to be a team effort either…as I demonstrated all by myself Sunday in the Valley Of Speed. Imagine my surprise when the Air Races ran ahead of schedule mid-day Sunday. The Unlimited Silver Race ran the exact ten minutes ahead of schedule that I needed to make it out to The Fenceline in time to get set up to roll video of the race.

Instead I pulled over across Red Rock Road from the Silver Lake Volunteer Fire Department Station, a half a mile as the crow flies from the racecourse, and shot the video from the driver’s seat…no tripod needed…I rested the pistol grip of my camera shade gizmo on my left hand which sat on the driver’s side windowsill. Out of the wind, the radio play by play recorded perfectly along with the images.

I didn’t bother to deploy the “Ansel Adams Wedding Veil”, and I headed back into Lemmon Valley after the race to pick up a few things and a tank of gas.

I made quick work of my list and was back out to the Fenceline an hour before the Unlimiteds were scheduled to take off.

Well, somehow the show went from 10 minutes ahead of schedule to an hour behind schedule in the blink of an eye! I busied myself refining the camera gizmo…

Back at the DaveCave Saturday evening,  I had downloaded and viewed all my captured video fromSaturday at the races…not the most professional camera work, but the major flaw was the omnipresent wind noise. The racing was good so the noise didn’t really register…probably due to my dehydration and fatigue at the time.

With time on my hands waiting for the Show Program to catch up with reality time, I decided to build a windscreen for the stereo microphones on the new camera.  I’d brought the extra weather stripping from the gizmo project, and with my new “titanium bonded” sewing scissors, I cut up tiny pieces of the weather stripping and built a little castle around the camera’s mics…it worked like a charm!

When the Breitling Gold Race finally came down the chute, it was more than worth the wait. Strega lead Rare Bear and September Fury onto the race course. Strega was never headed, but that’s only part of the story. Rare Bear paced the P-51 for four laps with Shuttle Pilot, Hoot Gibson hot on the Bear’s heels in September Fury. Precious Metal was a solid fourth and sounding fantastic. On lap four, Precious Metal didn’t come around and I asked “Where’s Precious Metal?”

Mayday came the answer. I looked up and saw Precious Metal flying wing and wing with the Safety Plane. One guy said PM lost a landing gear and everyone groaned “Oh no!” Moments later the show announcers said the P-51 lost a landing gear door…whew!

Rare Bear hung with Strega until he pulled up and a mayday was called, but I said: “The Bear is just coolin’ her down” Rare Bear struggled all week with overheating issues, and she was good for only 3-4 hot laps before the temps got out of hand.

The post-race commentary allowed that the Rare Bear crew pulled an all nighter redoing the cooling and spraybar systems. The Bear runs a Pratt & Whitney R-3350 Air Cooled radial engine. To reduce drag, they’ve tightened up the engine cowling, upsized prop spinner, so not enough cooling air reaches the cylinders. To compensate, they’ve added a water spraybar system that blows water onto the oil coolers. They didn’t get the kinks with the spraybar system worked out so they pulled out to save the engine.

Rare Bear made some circles above the course and landed without incident.

When all was said and done, Strega recorded her eleventh Reno Championship. There was no talk about retiring her as there had been all week.

The traffic out of the Valley Of Speed was light again. I heard a snippet on the news that the crowds were down this year. They attributed this to the late word that the Show would go on.

When I got home Sunday evening, I downloaded and viewed my video. Here’s where the outsmarting made itself obvious. The wind screen “castle” worked great, the ladder and monopod worked great too…one problem…your cameraman still couldn’t track the action.

Had I deployed the Ansel Adams Wedding Veil I’m sure my results would have been better… Let The Outsmarting Continue!

As I write it occurs to me that I should get a better tripod with a video-friendly fluid head, and equip it with a laptop shelf and view the action on a 15.5 inch screen with a homebuilt sunshade instead of a 3 inch screen on the camera! To quote Homer Simpson: D’oh!

I’ll edit the video and post it on the CorduroyPlanet YouTube Page later this week, and the still photos will go up on CorduroyPlanet’s Flickr Page this week.

You might take a look at or in the meantime

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Saturday Stuff

I took my sweet time getting out to the Air Races today. I awoke fairly stiff from marching around the pits all morning Friday. I blew out of the DaveCave before 9AM, to pick up a package from the Post Office, pick up some vine-ripe tomatoes from Spud’s Fruit Stand, and hit the hardware store for some nuts and bolts for my camera shade thingy.

As luck would have it, Mr Landlord was in town and we spent a half hour talking all things digital…cameras, iPhones, iPods, mothers who resist computers even though they’d find them right up their alley once they learned their way around the things.

I was kinda worried because the wind was ripping in Truckee…I could only imagine what was happening out at Stead.

I put all the pieces together and took the new unit up to the street where there was full sunshine. My gizmo worked like a charm. I wouldn’t need the black veil as long as I kept my cowboy hat shading my bright, smiling face.

Even with fill flash you can read the screen!
Even though my results were better than expected, I rigged the black cloth with black duct tape and stick-on Velcro…call it a contingency plan…I was headed out to the High Desert after all.

I loaded up the ice chests (Grocery shopping before the Gold Heat) packed the car, and showered before heading down to the library to check the winds at Stead via the library’s free WiFi…SW winds at 18 MPH…the races were a GO, so off I went.

I had travel time plus an hour and a half before the Gold Heat began, but given the wind, I thought I ought to get close enough to hear the FM broadcast of the show, so I crested the hill into the Valley Of Speed and hit the new Taco Bell drive-thru.

While I enjoyed my crunchy tacos, I listened to the show commentators and compared the goings on to the schedule I printed from the RARA website. They were wrapping up the Jet Heat, which was on the schedule after the Unlimited Gold Heat…adjustments were made…I postponed the grocery shopping and headed out to the Fenceline.

Things were a little more crowded than Friday, but not as bad as I expected. Luckily my timing was perfect…I set up my 6ft step ladder, rigged my tripod, and watched the F-18 demo and the NAVY Heritage flight.

My neighbors who were by now well done from baking in the high desert sun since Wednesday, had too much fun catcalling me…”Down in Front”, “You’ll blow over, Dave”.

They weren’t kidding, the wind was fierce, though not enough that I was in any danger of being blown off my perch. I ran some test video, and everything looked A-OK. I would have used the black veil if the winds were reasonable, but I thought the flapping material would screw up my sound…as it turns out, the stereo microphones on the new camera picked up the wind noise in a big way.

The Gold Heat didn’t disappoint. Strega lead from Rare Bear, who lead September Fury. Strega was really pouring on the coal, and the three leaders didn’t back off until the fourth lap. Precious Metal lead the also-rans, but sounded as awesome as ever.

Strega won it going away, posting an average speed of 472.642 MPH. I expect Sunday’s Breitling Gold Race to be a barnburner. I don’t know if Rare Bear was sandbagging…or if the Bear knows he’s got nothing for Strega. Professional courtesy perhaps? Team Strega announced that they’re retiring the multi-time Reno Gold Champion after this year’s races.

I don’t have a favorite, all I want is a hard fought race with zero maydays, that has a pass for the lead.

Gentlemen, Have A Race!