Monday, January 31, 2011

I'll leave the tip

Well, part of it anyway.

It's the day before what is predicted to be an epic ice storm here in Columbus, but you wouldn't have guessed it from today's weather. The first blue sky for as long as i can remember and a pleasant 32 degrees. Perfect for heading to the hangar right after work. I'm ready to put on the left wing's wing tip.

The wing tip on the RV-12 is a cleverly crafted collection of intricately shaped aluminum parts that are assembled into a wing tip whose feature list starts and stops at "pragmatic." It's easy to assemble and strictly utilitarian. Note the absence of "aerodynamically sophisticated" and "aesthetically appealing," for it is neither of those.

As an example of the cleverness of the design, consider the hand hold that is molded into the wing tip to provide a good grip when moving the wings around. Remember, they're designed to be removable, and given the cost of dropping one, it's nice to be able to get a good grip on them. This little part doesn't look like much, but watch how easily it gets converted into a hand hold.

Two simple (almost) 90 degree bends later:

Then, just because Van's likes to introduce some suspense to every story, it gets set aside while we rivet in a little tip rib.

Once your attention is diverted, here comes the big, shocking plot twist! It gets clecoed into place.

Hmm. It still doesn't look like much. It needs a little more plot development. Unfortunately, that requires work on the bottom of the wing. I need a helper to flip the wing, but when the airport is as deserted as it was today, there's no one standing around that I can enlist as an aid. That leaves the not-so-fun method:

See that little sliver of exposed belly? Well, there's another little sliver of exposed back on the other side, and it's pressed against the cold plastic of the creeper. Brrrr!

I'm under there to cleco on the bottom skin of the wing tip.

I had to roll around on the creeper to do the riveting, too. My new riveter has been giving me trouble - it starts to do a "soft" pull where it seems to be having trouble getting a good grip on the rivet's mandrel. Then it starts refusing to spit out the pulled mandrels. That means it's time to take the silver nose cover off and tighten up the assembly inside there.

I can't seem to get it tight enough to stay together because it would require a thin wrench to get a good grip on the back cylinder. The nice replacement parts kit that came with it had such a wrench in it, but because it was such a nice replacement parts kit, I put it away somewhere where it wouldn't get lost. Which, of course, means that I now have absolutely no idea where I put it.

I put on the front half of the top skin. That was a real chore because as soon as I removed all of the clecos that were holding the top skin to the outermost rib, that rib did what it does every time I remove the clecos: it jumped way out of alignment. That's probably an indication of bad fluting. I had to corral it back into place with more clecos.

At that point I would have put on the last top wing tip skin, but I couldn't find it. Sure enough, I had left the top aft tips back home in the basement. On the plus side, that meant that they will be nice and warm, thus making the removal of the blue plastic much easier. On the minus side, it means you won't get to see the big finish where the cleverness of the design of the hand hold becomes apparent.

For now, here's a teaser:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Off topic: Sporting clays with the new gun

When you consider that my first full 10-station round with a 12 gauge was two weeks ago, and that it came right on the heels of my first time shooting a shotgun in my life, today was a resounding success. That round last week when I first tried a 12 gauge?

I shot 7 out of 50.

Today, with my new (to me) shotgun and two rounds of experience under my belt?

Missed 'em all!

No, just kidding! I can't believe how much better I did. Out of the first two pairs, I nailed three birds. It went on like that for the rest of the round. I finished with a total of 22 out of 50! Out of the five of us in the group, that was second best. The new gun worked great, but a big part of the improvement came from a suggestion from one of the guys I was shooting with. He's pretty new at it too, and he was also having the same problem I was having with trying to aim like you would with a rifle. They say with the shotgun you should shoot with both eyes open rather than with one closed as you would with a rifle. His advice was to ignore those guys and go ahead and just use one eye. It made all the difference!

I took my little camcorder with me today and while I'm a little disappointed in the jerkiness of some of the video, at least you can get an idea of what it's like.

Admin note: A little work under the blog hood

Late last night I was made aware of a problem with the presentation of this blog in web browsers other than the one I use. Everything looked fine in my Google Chrome browser, but apparently the fancy background image was causing other browsers to play the fool. I got up this morning dedicated to finding a fix for the problem, but shivering in the gelid environment of the early morning homestead clutching a mug of coffee in both hands in a futile effort to keep both me and the coffee warm was not conducive to a great deal of troubleshooting.

I just ended up removing the image.

While doing so, I found that Google has added all kinds of new configuration settings that I'm sorely tempted to play with. For now, though, it seems that I've gotten everything back into working order. I'm going to finish up my now tepid coffee and get ready to go clay pigeon hunting. If anyone is still having presentation issues with the blog, feel free to drop me a comment.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

That dog might be onto something...

It's been a relatively easy winter this year with respect to snow and ice storms, and even the temperatures seem friendlier than last year. But...

This has to be the grayest winter ever. I can't remember the last time I've seen anything more than a sliver of blue sky. Today was no different; 35 degrees under gray, hazy skies, and a wind chill of much lower than 35 degrees as a result of the 11 - 14 mph winds. It's so depressing that I strongly considered following Brave Sir Hogarth's lead and just crawling back into bed. Well, my bed, not his. But even so, he sure does make it look comfortable!

I couldn't do it, though. I'm still in the middle of a step in the plans and that tends to encourage me to get out to the hangar and get through that step. It's the purgatory-like feeling of betweenness that does it, I suppose, but I just can't stand leaving a step partially completed. Before going out to rivet the stepping area doubler onto the top of the wing, I decided to check around on the internet and see if there was a better way of handling the situation with trying to break the leading edge of the double, given that it has a row of pre-dimpled holes in it that precludes the use of the normal tool. I had tried putting the doubler in my vise and simply bending the edge a little bit, and while that seemed to work, it also seemed to be a little too brute force to be comfortable.

I found an answer on Torsten's blog:
I decided to work around the problem of the pre-dimpled holes by clamping the doubler in a vise with wood as a buffer and bent it right behind the line of rivet holes, about 3/8" from the edge. This worked pretty well and a visible crease was created that ensured that once the rivets were set, the edge would still be in touch with the skin.
So there ya be! Good enough for T, good enough for me!

Before I clecoed the doubler onto the top skin, I checked the adhesion of the new primer I'm using. This primer isn't self-etching like the other stuff is, so I was afraid that it might flake off. That didn't appear to be a problem, though. It was a nice, tough finish. And according to the fellow at Napa, this stuff should provide better corrosion protection than the other stuff. His opinion was that the other stuff was better if you were going to paint on top of it, but for an interior part that was never going to see a top coat the Zincrom was the better choice. Of course, the Napa guy has never built an airplane so he may be completely off base. On the other hand, I don't work at Napa and am by no means an expert on the topic myself. In any event, some protection has to be better than no protection, so I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.

The bend that I made using the vise must have been adequate because the edge of the doubler fit right up snug against the top skin. Well, the bottom part of the top skin, to be completely precise.

That doubler was apparently the last thing keeping me from riveting the rest of the top skins, so at the urging of the wonderful folks at Van's, I pressed on with that.

I still have an inspection panel to install and the wing tip to do before I can call this wing done and start on the next one, but even at this stage I have completed an aerodynamic form that, if I was capable of propelling it though the air at 100 mph, would be capable of lifting 10 times its own weight. That feels momentous, somehow. I decided to commemorate the event with a nice self portrait.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You may feel some mild irritation...

I don't feel guilty about having one of those days now and then that seems as if it's just one irritation after another. I used to, though. I'd tell myself happy things like "I still have some of my youth left" and "I have most of my health," and that "I have a great job that I actually almost always enjoy doing, a happy family life, and hey, I'm a pilot that owns a sexy little low-wing monoplane."

How could I possibly justify having a bad day??

Well, I finally rationalized that I can only appreciate the preponderance of good days if I also now and then have a bad day. You know, for comparison and all.

Today was one of those days. The bad ones, I mean. It's been building up for awhile.

We're going through one of those periods at work where the parent corporation sends us new PCs. The computers are on a three year lease, which I'm sure makes things easy for the folks in accounting since they don't have to track umpteen thousand depreciating capital assets, but it makes my working life pretty miserable now and then. Our business unit runs almost entirely on custom software, and as the developer of said software it falls to me to configure the new PCs as they come in. That's empty time that could be spent doing something more productive, but it is what it is and I plod on through. The problem this time around is that the machines aren't coming in with the correct call center software, so I have to install it.

That doesn't sound like such a big deal, but it's not something that we normally do and therefore don't know how to do. No worries: a helpful sort down in Texas provided me with instructions:

Install the 1st base package, then apply patch SR2, SR2-E5, 7.2.5, and 7.2.6.


I started the install of the base package and was immediately presented with a screen asking for a password. Do you see a password in the list of steps above? Me neither.

A day later I had the password and pressed on with the install. It was not painless. Various steps failed and required the removal of every preceding step. Long story short (too late!!), it took more than two hours and a few dozen reboots to get the program to run. Oddly, though, the program had small black squares where buttons should be. I grabbed a screenshot and sent it down to Texas.

Another day shot.

This morning I arrived to find a reply in my inbox:

"That's a known problem. You need to do this, this, and this."

Are you asking yourself what I asked myself? Are you asking yourself, "If this was a known problem that I was inevitably going to run into, wouldn't it have been nice to have been told that from the get-go?"

I have to confess that I was more than mildly irked.

Way more.

On the bright side, though, the fix worked. Flush with success, I moved on to the next new PC. I slogged through the install, hurdling over installation errors and rebooting with the aplomb of the newly confident. At the end, we ran the program. The buttons were fine! Unfortunately, though, none of them worked and the user couldn't log in. I fired off another email to Texas. I got a reply a couple of hours later:

"Oh, that's a known problem."

I thought it best to work on something else for awhile. I thought it to be critical that I not reply to that email.

Sometimes the cure for an irritating or frustrating day at the paying job is to spend a little time working on the RV-12. It doesn't always work, but it usually does. All I wanted to do tonight was take the remainder of the parts out to the hangar and to get the doubler that goes on the top skin at the wing root primered and ready to rivet on. I stopped at Napa and let the guy at the counter talk me into a different type of primer than the grey stuff I was using. This stuff is colored like Zinc Chromate (although I don't think it has either Zinc or Chromate in it) and is supposed to provide better corrosion protection. That's all I'm using it for, so that seemed like a good thing.

Before priming the part, though, I had to test fit it. And before test fitting it, I had to remove the blue plastic. That, as it turns out, would have been better to do in the warm basement rather than at the much colder hangar, Julyuary or not. It was no fun at all getting that stuff off. In fact, it was irritating. But I got it done and got the doubler clecoed on.

The plans first asked that I dimple three of the holes. Van's, ever schizophrenic on the topic of which holes they will dimple and which they won't, had thoughtfully left three for me to do.

I don't mind that, really, as they're pretty easy to do once you get out the dimple dies and set up the squeezer. But really, as long as they're doing all the rest, would it kill them to do these three and save me the trouble? But that's not what really irritated me. No, what ended up irritating me is that that had dimpled all of the other holes in the first place. "Why would that bother you?" you ask. Well, consider this. As the plans mentioned might be required, I have to put a break on the edge of the doubler to get it to sit flush against the wing.

Which in itself is not hard to do. I've already done it plenty of other times. I even have a special tool for it! A tool, it must be said, that won't work if the edge has a bunch of dimples in it!

That? That's irritating!

I ended up putting the edge in the vise and gently adding a bend to it. Only time will tell if it will be enough. Either way, it will be on the bottom of the wing where only judgmental types like me will ever duck under to look at it.

I went ahead and applied the primer. It sure is purty! And somehow that brown just looks more protective than the grey!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


What else could explain this heat wave? It must be Julyuary! While the temperatures were down to about 36F by the time I got to the hangar, I think they got has high as 40F during the day. The days are getting longer, too. If I get up for work at 4:45, I can be home again as early as 3:45 pm. That gives me a good hour and a half of natural light to work with.

I've been using the nice weather and extended hours to finish up the top skin on the left wing. It's just about done; all that remains is the doubler that will go over the area where I still some day be stepping as I get in and out of the airplane. I've read a lot of folks talking about waterproofing under that doubler since it seems as if it was specifically designed to trap water, so I'm going to have to stop by NAPA to pick up some good primer to treat the area with.

Here's the wing, just about buttoned up:

It's nice to be able to work in just a light sweatshirt for a change!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The down side of winter projects

The down side of winter projects is....

...winter is cold!!

The reason I need winter projects so badly is that I get cabin fever something fierce. I have to have something to keep myself occupied. In fact, February is the worst month of my life because it is so hard to find something to do that doesn't involve being outside. When I started on the RV-12, my hope was that I would consistently have work that I could do down in the basement, but for the second year in a row that hasn't worked out. Last year I was forced to move to the hangar to build the tail cone. I started the fuselage in the spring and was able to spend some days in the basement that would have been nicer spent outside. This year it's the wings.

It's 6 degrees Fahrenheit outside today.

I'm inside, and I'm staying there. At least there's football on TV!

I did go out for awhile this morning, and I'll share the details of that with you since I told you about shooting Sporting Clays last weekend. I might have mentioned that I'd be wanting to get my own shotgun rather than being dependent on borrowing a gun. To that end I did some research to try to find a reasonably priced gun that offered reasonable quality in return. From what I've seen in retail stores, there is exactly one low-cost over/under shotgun, and web reviews were not favorable. That gun costs $450 new. The next one up in price (and I was assured that this was a terrific deal by the guy at the counter) was $899. Marked down from $1,200, I think. Didn't matter. You could mark down the Hope diamond from $12,000,000 to $5,000,000 - I still can't afford it.

I started looking for used guns. That's not as easy as you might think. Craig's List won't sell them, nor will eBay. I finally came across (which for some reason I keep reading as '' - a strange mental tick, that) which is kind of a Craig's List for guns. I spent a week perusing the listings and finally found one that I was interested in. It was a Remington 310 over/under (made in Russia) for $400. It took a week for the seller to get back to me, and that was just to tell me that it was already sold.

I decided to expand my search from Columbus to all of Ohio and BAM!, I found a Verona LX-502 (Italian made) for an asking price of $525. That was a pretty good price, but somewhat over my budget. The seller accepted an offer of $460. That was only $10 over budget, and he was kind enough to meet me in Washington Court House, thus saving me a couple of hours of driving. We had a nice breakfast at McDs and chatted about guns, work, taxes, and wives. He seemed a decent and likable sort; that has been my experience with everything that I've bought or sold on Craig's List, as well as everyone I've met in shooting and gun shows.

So, here's my new sporting equipment:

I also found a few videos on YouTube that someone from the place I went last weekend has been uploading for the last couple of weeks. I suspect that it's hard to do Sporting Clays justice with a handheld camcorder, but you can kind of get the idea:

(20 gauge shells are yellow - that's why there was surprise over them being red)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Chipping away at it...

I've been chipping away at the job of getting the left wing skinned an hour or so at a time. Most of last weekend was taken up with outdoor recreation, so airplane work has been relegated to evenings after work.

Wait! Outdoor recreation?? Isn't it bitter cold in Ohio? Well, yes it is. Luckily, I've gotten pretty tolerant of the cold temperatures from having spent so many hours in the frigid hangar. Sunday dawned sunny and clear, but the morning temperature was 11F and forecast to do no better then 18F. That certainly wasn't the weather that I had been hoping for when I had scheduled my activity a couple of weeks ago, but I'd been looking forward to it anxiously for so long that postponement wasn't even a consideration. So what was this exciting thing that I was going to do? Well, I thought that I'd be trying trap shooting, something I've wanted to try forever. I had a borrowed 12 gauge Remington over/under, a box of 100 shells, and the ability to dress for and tolerate the cold weather. It was on!!

So why "thought?" What happened? It seems I didn't ask enough questions so fully understand what we were going to do. We were actually going out for a couple of rounds of "sporting clays." Me, I had never heard of it. Just in case you haven't either, here's what Wiki knows about it:

Sporting clays is a form of clay pigeon shooting, often described as "golf with a shotgun" because a typical course includes from 10 to 15 different shooting stations laid out over natural terrain. For safety, the course size is often no smaller than 35 acres.

Unlike trap and skeet, which are games of repeatable target presentations, sporting clays simulates the unpredictability of live-quarry shooting, offering a great variety of trajectories, angles, speeds, elevations, distances, and target sizes.

A typical course consists of 10 to 15 stations, with each station presenting targets from trap machines. Usually 5 to 10 targets are shot at each station by a squad of up to six shooters for a total outing of 50 to 100 targets per person. Targets are thrown as singles and pairs. A pair of targets may be thrown as a true pair (or sim pair, i.e., thrown at the same time), as a following pair (thrown sequentially), or on report (the second clay launched on the report of the shooter’s gun).

Numerous hunting conditions can be simulated by combining various speeds and angles with different types of clay targets. Each station is unique. Throughout a course, the shooters might see targets crossing from either side, coming inward, going outward, flying straight up, rolling on the ground, arcing high in the air, or thrown from towers. The possible target presentations are limited only by safety considerations, the terrain, and the imagination of the course designer. The configuration of the stations is often changed to maintain interest for the shooters and for environmental preservation of the course.

Yeah, well, wiki isn't known for its stimulating writing style. It was far more fun than that dry description makes it sound. Still, I like the "golf with a shotgun" description; I've always thought that was the way the game should be played.

"Waggle that driver a tenth time, punk. Make my day...."

Yeah, that's the way golf should be. But it isn't, so they invented sporting clays. Whereas golf has famously been described as a "good walk ruined," sporting clays is a good walk punctuated with the opportunity to shoot at stuff. With a shotgun! I enjoyed it immensely, but I have to tell you one important thing about it: it's HARD. It probably isn't the best thing to start with if you've never fired a shotgun before.

The problem is that, unlike target shooting with a rifle, you can't tell where you missed. All you know is that the little clay pigeon blithely kept flying. You can't tell if your aim was off, if you didn't lead the target enough, or if you led it too much. You just don't know. I only managed to hit 10 out of 50 on my first round. I think before I try it again I will have to spend some time shooting at a fixed target in order to ensure that I'm at least pointing the gun at the location I think I'm pointing it. I tried to talk one of the guys into holding up a target for me, but surprisingly none of them were willing to help out.

With that having taken up most of the weekend, the RV-12 was left sitting until I got back to the paying job and had a few free hours in the evenings. I managed to get the flaperon hinge brackets riveted in using the LP4-3 rivets (they still seem a little short), but that took an entire work session. The location of some of the holes was horrid. I also sprayed a little corrosion protection on them; they will be inaccessible for inspection and/or repair once the skins are on. The RV-12 wings are insanely short of inspection ports. The only one is on the left wing and it's only there to allow access to the stall warning switch.

The next couple of nights were filled with installing the top skins. That was more or less straightforward, although getting the molded stiffener to fit down into the slot of the ribs without assistance requires a bit of finesse and patience, two qualities that I often find distinctly lacking in my repertoire.

Glittens: they work for shooting sporting clays and shooting rivets:

Little blocks of wood hold the leading edge skins up so the top skins can slide in underneath.

Getting the stiffener into the slots is probably frustratingly difficult even when you've had a good day at work.

I hadn't.

Finally in the slot!

Temps in the 30's feel almost balmy to me now:

Balmy or not, those rivets will have to wait until next time.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Three Little Kittens Lost Their Glittens...

Wait. Glittens?

Well, yes.

In another of those instances where I have an idea for something that needs to be invented, only to find that it already has been, I ran across a pair of glittens at Walmart this morning.

The idea came to me a few days ago when I was out in the hangar riveting on the final bottom skin on the left wing. I was fairly comfortable in the 28F degree weather with the notable exception of my fingers, where I had cut the tips off of my gloves to provide better dexterity when working with little things like rivets. I figured that I needed to invent a pair of gloves with removable finger tips so I could have the best of both worlds.

As it turns out, it has already been done. Someone has combined the mitten with the glove, to create what I am calling the "glitten." It's a wild and crazy idea, almost as crazy as, say, combining an apple with a grape.

The wing had been flipped over on Friday night and was thus ready to have the leading edge of the skins folded back onto the top of the wing and riveted. I initially was under the impression that I would be riveting the skins in their entirety, but I quickly noticed that the notch in the ribs that will fit with the stiffened edge molded into the top skins would be covered if I did so.

The sent me scurrying back to the plans in an irrational panic that I had somehow managed to get the bottom skins installed so incorrectly that they were reaching too far over the top of the wing, an idea that I understood was clearly preposterous after just a couple of seconds of contemplation. A closer look at the plans showed where I had gone wrong: only the first few rows of rivets were to be installed.

But before I could do that, I had to get the skins wrapped around to the top of the wing and clecoed down. That was a bit of a battle, but persistent and tenacious pushing, shoving, and clecoing got it locked into place. I then grabbed the Sharpie(tm) and marked the areas to be riveted. Incorrectly, as it transpired. The big left parenthesis looking mark should start one more hole to the right.

Some of the clecos went in with more than a little difficulty, lubricated only by copious application of low-order (high-order words like F-bombs and the similar being reserved for really serious situations such as mis-cutting something or creasing a wing skin while trying to get it into the car) swear words. Given the difficulty of some of them, I thought it prudent to take a look under the hood to make sure that all of the clecos had caught rib flange rather than simply pushing the flange out of the way. That happened once before when I was putting the skins on the horizontal stabilator.

In all of the excitement, and likely distracted and intimidated by my vociferous application of off-color language, my photographer apparently forgot my standing order to never photograph my bald(ing) spot. There'll be hell to pay for that!

Once the skins were in place, the riveting was easy. Then those flaperon hinge thingys that I put together a couple of weeks ago needed to be retrieved from wherever it was that I had put them so I couldn't lose them and installed.

First, the little triangular bracket gets riveted to the bottom skin.

Then the actual assembly gets slid up through a slot in the wing to fit between the bracket and the wing rib. It's a very tight fit and the first one did not go easily at all. In fact, it took a lot more pushing, shoving, and swearing to get it in there. The second was a lot easier because I smeared a little Boelube on the part first, rather than depending on shouted invectives to provide lubrication.

It's hard to see, but the hinge mount thingy is sandwiched in there. It's still clecoed because I found it hard to believe that the normal LP4-3 blind rivets would be used to attach a part that thick; it seems to me that a longer rivet would be more appropriate. I decided to wait until after I had gotten home and researched it a little bit before using the shorter rivets. I have been unable to find anything that says that the shorter rivets aren't used there, so next time I'm out there I'll finish the job.

For now, here's the wing just about ready for the final sealing that will come when I add the top skins.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'll never get this thing done!

I'm sure I'm not the first and won't be the last to feel like time's a-wasting and I'm not getting any closer to getting my airplane done no matter how much I try. I looked at the in-dash thermometer while driving home from the paying job this afternoon and saw a passably comfortable 28F degrees. It looked like the snow we've had over the last couple days had abated, so I wouldn't have to clear the lengthy driveway of stately Gamble Manor again. Yep, nothing to keep me from just changing my clothes and heading straight to the hangar to finish up the riveting on the bottom of the left wing. It should be easy - the middle skin is already clecoed into place, a task I took care of last time I was out there.

It wasn't to be. Co-pilot Egg, who truth be told really struggled with the "backing up between some traffic cones" portion of her driving test, had had a little incident while backing out of the driveway earlier in the day.

Here's what met me as I turned into the driveway:

It's pretty clear what happened. When I had cleared the driveway last night, her car had been parked over in the corner of the apron and I had to work around it. When she got in it to go to school this morning, she couldn't see the edge between the driveway and the hill sloping down to the creek. She got a front tire off of the edge of the driveway, and because it's a front wheel drive car, the tire just started spinning when it got into the snow/grass of the yard. At that point it was pretty much pre-ordained that the harder she tried to get back on the driveway, the further the car was going to slide down the hill.

So, rather than go to the hangar and pull some rivets, I'm instead going to have to find a way to pull that car back up onto the driveway.


And I was in such a good mood, too. I've been chuckling the last couple of days over what has to be the best practical joke ever.

A couple of days ago, I was having lunch in the little kitchen we have at the office. One of the ladies I work with was very excited about her recent discovery of Grapples. What's a "Grapple?" Well, in short it's an apple that tastes like a grape.

Now if you're anything like me, you're wondering why we need apples that taste like grapes. I've always thought that grapes were doing a perfectly fine job of tasting like grapes and no assistance was needed from other fruits to fill that niche in the taste spectrum. It's not as if we need bananas that taste like tuna fish or pears that taste like artichokes, right?

Alas, someone disagreed with me and invented the Grapple. Naturally, the discussion veered around to the question of just how they get an apple to taste like a grape. The co-worker postulated that they must cross the apple seeds with grape seeds. I found that hard to believe, mostly because the Grapple looked exactly like an apple. If it was a true grape/apple hybrid, one could fairly expect it to look like something a little different than an apple.

To prove my case, I returned to my office where I Googled "grapple." That found many instances of the word 'grapple,' so I narrowed my search to "grapple fruit." Ah ha! A hit! And there it was: a "How Are They Made?" tab. Great! And the text is conveniently copyable:

How Is A Grāpple® Brand Apple Made?

Grāpple® brand apples begin either as Washington Extra Fancy Gala or Fuji Apples, depending upon the season. These "premium apples" are the ones that take on the grape flavor best. This Patented Process is complex and the ingredient mix primarily includes concentrated grape flavor and pure water (USPP #7,824,723). All ingredients are USDA and FDA approved and the process has been licensed by the Washington State Department of Agriculture.
There is nothing but flavor being infused into the apple. A relaxing bathing process prepares our apples for you or your kids. The apple takes on no additional sugars or calories. They are not genetically altered in any way. The apple is as healthy as ever but now has the new exciting grape flavor. The process is better explained by the Food Network's "Unwrapped" show entitled "Grapeful". Check your local listings orclick here to find out the next time it is on in your area.
Apples are a fantastic snack. Grapes are a wonderful snack. Try a Grāpple® brand apple today, and enjoy the best of both of them in one!

The fact that the text could be copied started me thinking, and that usually leads to trouble. I thought that maybe I could enhance that text a little bit and have a little fun by emailing it around. Interestingly and provocatively, it turned out that not only could I enhance the text, but I could also paste it back into a screen shot of the web site. A few minutes in Paint and the deed was done:

You'll have to click on the picture to make it big enough to read it. Basically what I added was that formaldehyde and carbon monoxide are used in the processing but that consumers needn't worry about any ill effects unless they are elderly or very young. I printed off the screen shot and took it back down to the kitchen. I honestly thought that it was so outlandish and that these folks knew me so well after a decade of working together that they'd never fall for it. Even so, I went in with a stoic game face and cavalierly handed the screen shot to the lady with the Grapples, acting for all the world like there was nothing at all special about it. As she was reading the first paragraph, I could tell when she had gotten to my additions by the amazing heights her eyebrows were reaching. I struggled to keep my face neutral as she passed the page around to some of the co-workers that had tried slices of the Grapples, apologizing profusely for having fed them formaldehyde.

I wasn't able to keep up the charade any longer and burst into laughter. And I'm still laughing about it today!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Preventing Dave from Freezing

I didn't leave the house for two days. Just between you and me, nothing says "MOVE TO FLORIDA" like the single-digit temperatures and gloomy Ohio winter weather. I'll work in the hangar just fine when temps are in the 20's, I'll bring the propane heater when they're in the teens, but single digits keep me at home.

I'm not necessarily sold on Florida, but it has obvious benefits. Not all are weather related, either. There's more than one climate that I have to consider when pondering a move. One that may not be as obvious as the weather is the tax climate.

While Ohio's weather can be distinctly unfriendly to pilots and airplane builders, its tax climate is fairly benign, at least when it comes to owning an airplane. In Ohio, my annual airplane registration costs substantially less than the annual renewal of the license tags on my car. Florida is the same way. Not all states are, though. Many states charge an annual property tax on things like airplanes. These taxes, even at percentages as small as 3%, are prohibitive. Florida specifically exempts airplanes from those taxes but many of its neighbors do not. Georgia and the Carolinas do not. My choices seem to be Florida or Tennessee. It's not easy to make a determination because states don't consider it to be a relevant enough factor to mention on their taxation web sites.

When the weather gets bad enough to keep me at home, I spend a lot of time on the computer using Google maps to look at prospective retirement locations. Sure, retirement is a couple of decades away, but it's nice to have a plan, right? Besides, it kills time.

This weekend I found another way to kill time: I had the introduction, tail kit, and fuselage kit portions of this blog archived into a PDF file. PDF? Preventing Dave from Freezing?? No, it means Portable Document Format. Which in human-speak means you can read it on just about any computing device. The nice part about it is that people can download it and have it right on their computer/iPad/Kindle and not have to be teathered to the internet to read it. Does anyone care? I don't know, but I wanted to have a backup of it for myself and figured it would cost me nothing to share it with the world. Just in case.

Here's the link:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


It takes a long time to get acclimatized to unpleasant things, but as it turns out it takes no time at all for the opposite to occur. For example, I've been working nine or more hours per day over on the other side of town for more than fifteen years. In that time I've gotten used to the thirty-five minute (nominal - far longer in bad weather, rush hour, or when a truck flips over on the highway, an event that happens with uncanny frequency) commute each way and the long work day. After seventeen days off, though, today felt like it lasted a week. The drive seemed to take forever and even though I was insanely busy all day trying to crawl back down into the day-to-day rut, the clock seemed to crawl.

I had also gotten used to working in the hangar with temperatures down in the low- to mid-20's, but the last few days have reached unbelievably warm temperatures in the 40's and 50's. Today was no exception, although it had dipped down into the high 30's by the time I got out to the hangar.

I was freezing out there! I have to start over from scratch on getting used to the colder weather.

Fortunately I was only out there for a little less than an hour and a half. My goal is to rivet on one wing skin a day until the wings are completely covered. It's actually fairly boring work, so I'm not sure there will be much to write about until it's done. I was pretty cold for the last third of the rivets and couldn't wait to get back to the warm house.

Plus I wanted to get home and get ready to watch THE Ohio $tate University try yet again to defeat an SEC team in their annual BcS bowl.

Go Buck$!!