Sunday, September 28, 2014

Last Gasp, The Movie

Two cameras this time, which worked well enough, but I need to build a little sound mixer to get some of the engine sounds in with the ATC sounds.

The Six Seasons of Ohio: The Last Gasp of Summer

While there are four commonly accepted seasons to the year, I contend that there can be more than that, or less, depending on the location. Los Angeles: one, or so I hear. Ohio: six.

The Six Seasons of Ohio are Winter, Fake Spring (also known as "Ha! Just kidding!"), Spring, Summer, Last Gasp, Fall, and Winter.

We're in the dead of Last Gasp now. One week of gorgeous weather before it all starts down the inexorable path to winter. Winter: the home of February, the worst month of my life.

The thing about Last Gasp is you really have to get as much out of it as you can. I started on Myday when what was supposed to be a simple flight for breakfast became anything but.

I had been pestering a co-worker to take a ride with me - we will refer to her as Annie Girl - for awhile, and we were finally able to get a day scheduled. I decided it would be a good time to try a place that I've been wanting to go to. The attraction of the Plaza Inn is that it has its own grass runway. So does Urbana, of course, but I was in the mood for something new. I checked in with The Jackson Two to see if they would like to join in, and it soon became a group of four.

Annie Girl met me at the airport gate bright and early on what had to be one of the prettiest days of the year. Things had cleared up in her afternoon schedule, so we would have the entire day to use if we so desired.

I desired. I wanted to get up to Put-in-Bay as Last Gasp is the very best time to go. The crowds are down, but the stores and restaurants are still open. That was just fine with Annie Girl, so it looked like everything was falling into line.  Right up until I started the preflight and noticed the glaring lack of a fuel cap.  I thought that to be somewhat odd, and definitely out of the ordinary. Where could it have gone.....

I must have left it sitting on the wing when I filled up at Circleville (KCYO) last week.

Suddenly, the Best Myday Ever looked like it was about to take a turn for the worse. Luckily it was still early enough to alert The Two that I wouldn't be able to join them, unlesssssss.......

Yep, they had a spare fuel cap and would be happy (I'm assuming that part) to drop it off.

Getting the replacement cap fitted didn't go as well as you imagine a simple task should go, but it didn't matter. No harm, no foul, and brunch is just as good as breakfast.

Off to Mt. Victory we went, with The Two leading the way. It's a short flight of only 40 nm or so, but it was as enjoyable as could be. Smooth and clear air made it very simple to fly just off of the left wing of the leader.

As we got close to the airport, we dropped back and let Lead reconnoiter the runway. Hmmm, there's a guy mowing the runway, and he's completely oblivious to the two airplanes circling the airport. What to do....

A low pass with airshow smoke (Kyle was right - there is a productive use for a smoke system!) did the trick and we were soon parked by the restaurant.

I'm so selfie!

I've had corned beef hash on my mind lately, and although I am usually disappointed in the canned stuff they serve at restaurants, I always hope that they will get it right.

I was again disappointed.

This is what it's supposed to look like:

After breakfast brunch, we headed north to the islands.

The Two trailed behind us far enough to leave Annie Girl and I room for what could have been fairly erratic and unpredictable flying, but she turned out to be a very steady stick.

 I think from now on, whenever someone asks me why you would go to all the trouble of building an airplane, I'm just going to show them this picture - it's the RV Grin!

The Put-in-Bay airport office is now guarded by a vicious Doberman that is the fear of all transient pilots, except one:

The weather was still simply fantastic, so while The Jackson Two puttered off in a rented golf cart, Annie Girl and I made the hike around the perimeter of the island. This is a well documented walk on this blog, but in case you have missed it before, here are some reminders:

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Another camera test

There were a few more things that I wanted to test with the new camera. First, I wanted to try out the fancy new image stabilization built into the camera. The purpose of IS is to sense the types of small movements that arise when trying to get a "still" shot without a tripod. In other words, it is an electronic solution to shaky hands. This typically works well for its intended purpose, but certain types of vibration can cause unintended effects,

As I may have mentioned previously, I also want to be able to capture the things I hear in my headset rather than just the drone of the engine. This requires an external microphone jack on the camera, and it also requires some means of feeding an audio signal into the jack. In the past I have attempted to do this by placing a very small microphone inside one of the ear cups on my headset. That worked pretty well in that it captured both the muted sound of the engine and the radio traffic from communication with control towers and the like. Unfortunately, the little microphone fell out of the ear cup without my noticing every single time.

During the build of the plane, there was an optional step that involved the procurement and installation of a headset jack that would siphon off some of the headset audio, with the explicit purpose being precisely what I wanted. It would only provide the headset audio, and because it costs a tremendous amount of money to buy a video camera that comes with a mixer that allows simultaneous capture of both the external microphone and the in-camera microphone, I had to choose between headset audio or ambient sound. I can have one or the other, but not both at the same time.

I installed the optional jack, but because I was never able to get the similar music input jack to work, I have always assumed that the headset audio jack would not work either. I was anxious to find out.

This little video shows the results.  The IS works pretty well for its intended purpose, but I will clearly need to remember to turn it off when using the camera in the airplane. Quite surprisingly, the headset audio worked like a champ!


Every now and then I run into someone that wants a ride in the -12 in the worst way, but seems to always run into some kind of last minute problem. You might be tempted to believe that perhaps this person really isn't all that interested and may simply be making excuses, but there's a discernible vibe that goes with that. With Trevor, I wasn't feelin' that vibe.  But try as we might, it just never seemed to come together.

Along cam this week's Myday Eve, and the weather forecast was looking good, and Trevor had no work obligations until a lunch meeting. Hey, I thought, breakfast at Urbana!

The plan worked perfectly, right up until I pulled up at the airport gate and realized that sometime between my first glance a The Weather Out The Window(tm) and my arrival at the airport, a patchy fog had moved in. I've dealt with this before, but in the former cases I have dealt with it poorly. The previous strategy was to sit around the airport waiting (or hoping) for the weather to left, all in pursuit of what is quite frankly a somewhat below average breakfast. This time I decided to try something different: we would go off airport for a better breakfast, then come back for a postprandial flight.

And I knew just the place, too.  There's a small diner in nearby West Jefferson that has the best breakfast menu for miles around, and it would only be a 15 minute drive. It's a rather pleasant drive too, so off we went. We would go to The Country Table, a restaurant that I like so much that I even wrote a Yelp review about it.
As much as I like to go out for breakfast or brunch (precisely which depends completely on how late my wife insists on sleeping in) on Sunday morning, it has gotten to be a bit of a nightmare. Unless you're up before the roosters, all of the breakfast places in Columbus are so crowded that breakfast becomes brunch or brunch becomes lunch before you have any hope of even being seated. Carryout is, of course, not an option for breakfast.  If I wanted to eat at home, it isn't hard to scramble some eggs. 
For those of us that live on the west side and enjoy a short drive through the scenic country that rolls alongside the Darby Creek, though, there is another option. The Country Table Restaurant, located mid-way through West Jefferson, offers a reasonably priced, tasty, large-portion breakfast with no waiting around hoping that your name will be called before you begin to feel faint from hunger.   
From the outside, The Country Table is a small unassuming place and as such doesn't attract the hoards of hungry post-church breakfast seekers that crowd the Bob Evans, IHOPs, and Perkins. In fact, I write this review somewhat reluctantly as I feel that I've happened across something so good that I ought to keep it to myself lest it become as popular and crowded as the places back in Columbus.
While the breakfast menu is not page-after-page extensive in the manner of the aforementioned chains, it provides for most everything one could want. And, unlike my friends at Bob Evans who seem to take some kind of perverse joy in removing menu items at random, I have yet to arrive to find my favorite selection removed from the menu. 
Both the ambiance and service are country casual, which is to say not in-your-face with faux cheerfulness, but not hurry-up-and-get-out distant. You truly do feel welcome and your patronage valued. There is nothing fake or corporate about this place.  Coffee refills are typically timed just right - refilling too soon ruins the ever-critical coffee-to-sugar ratio, while refilling too late leaves me cranky. 
My breakfast of choice is the Country Fried Steak smothered in country gravy with hash browns well done, eggs fried hard, and a side of sourdough toast.  I also enjoy the breakfast skillet, although I have trouble finishing it all.  If I time it just right, the skillet will last me from brunch until a later dinner.
It was closed. Locked up tight. That was a bit of a surprise - I see this now and then with small family-owned businesses that close on Monday or Tuesday mornings, but never on a Friday. Peeking in the windows, I could see that all of the furnishings were gone.

So by "closed," I guess I mean "gone."

Damn that Trevor!  Snake bit!!


The last time Co-pilot Egg and I had taken the canoe out for a float, we drove past a decrepit looking lost-in-time ramshackle that may nor may not have been an existing business. The faded sign out front said Henry's Restaurant. Knowing my penchant for seeking out largely unknown diners, you will not be surprised to learn that I suggested that we embark on a bit of a breakfast adventure - we would continue our trek to the west and see if I could find it again.

Just as I was beginning to think that I had gotten my wires crossed and might have to beat an ignominious retreat back to the airport, we found it.

Be honest: would you glance at this place and think "Oooh, yummy?"

Me neither, but that's kind of the whole point of seeking out places that only the locals know about.

The front side of the menu is standard breakfast fare. As it turns out, so is the back side. I ordered from the back - a three egg sausage and cheese omelet and sour dough english muffin, $4.00.

I knew what to expect regarding the "and cheese" - places like this use American "Cheese" (this is the complete and total extent of my food snobbery - I do NOT consider a yellow slice of vegetable oil to be "cheese") for everything. Fortunately, the sausage offered a complete redemption. Crispy on and tasty, and obviously locally sourced. I wish I had remembered to ask the waitress where I could buy some.

I like the place. I've decided that I will now refer to it as "Hank's."

Back at the airport, the clouds had lifted and Trevor finally got his ride.

I'm going to go out on a limb and opine that he enjoyed it immensely.

Back home, I found that my new camcorder, suction cup mount, and quick release latch had arrived.

It looks like the suction cup doesn't provide a very firm mount for the pan/tilt gadget.

That's okay, though, because the suction cup without the pan/tilt works very well. I will proceed with building the wing panel that the pan/tilt will bolt onto. That would offer the best of both: I could have the new camcorder fly in the cockpit for the pilot's eye view and have a (borrowed) GoPro mounted outside on the wing in a "best of both" setup!

I did want to do a quick test of the new camera, so I took it out to record some of the daily play session with young Cabot Bennett. The resulting video is a little shaky - I was throwing the Flying Squirrel while holding the camera in my left hand.  Still, I think the new camera works very well.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Camera mount update

I have decided to test the camera mount from inside the airplane, not the least because it lessens the risk of dropping, breaking, or in some other way damaging a $300 - $400 camera. I think I also prefer the in-plane view with commentary and radio traffic included. That means I will need a camera with an audio input jack, which I don't currently have, but them's the breaks.

I went ahead and bought the more robust mount from Servo City. The other one just wasn't going to be solid enough.

I've also shopped around for a good, and I mean very good, suction cup mount. I don't want it to add excessive vertical length to the mount for fear that the camera view will be limited to the instrument panel, and I don't want it falling off.  I also has to be affordable - you can easily spend hundreds on these things.

I found this:

The picture makes it look gigantic, but consider that the stubby bolt protruding from the center is only 1/4" in diameter, so this picture is slightly above actual size. I will add at most one inch to the vertical measurement of the all-up mount and pan & tilt stuff.

I like it because it is pump activated, and the pump doubles as a suction indicator. If it is getting ready to drop, the red line becomes visible and you just pump it again. It reportedly can carry up to a 15 pound payload - whatever camera I end up mounting to it (it won't be the one I'm testing with) will weigh less than a pound, and the pan & tilt mechanism won't add a whole lot more. Even at two pounds combined, pulling six G's would rip the wings off of the airplane but this mount would still be within published specs.

It costs $47.50.

I went out to the hangar with just the pan & tilt to see what it looks like in its current state:

That ought to work!

The servos are pretty jumpy, some of which is caused by my trying to hold the mount steady against the canopy, but the rest is electrical.

I also still have the problem of the centering springs on the joystick wanting to constantly return the camera to its center rest position. I'm thinking that I can address that by adding a switch the only applies power to the servos while a momentary switch is held down. That way I could position the camera where I want it, then just let go of the button, Tapping the button would re-center the camera.

Future versions could include a handful of 'memory' buttons that would store the current camera position and return the camera to the stored position when pressed. That experimentation I did a couple of years ago with the Arduino prototyping board would come in handy for that!

That seems pretty workable.

Rainy Days

It seldom wakens the spirit to take the first glance outside in the morning and see rain. Not that it had rained, mind you, but that it has and is still raining. To be clear, it matters not whether it is a workday, a weekend day, or a Myday, although the grievance with a rainy workday is simply that of a person that detests driving in inclement weather.

All of that having been said, a clever person has backup plans. A less clever person does not, but given a few minutes with a warm cuppa in hand, might come up with a few. And every now and then, a plan just pops up of its own accord.

This time around, both happened. The unforeseen plan was really more of a chore - the morning ablutions were interrupted by the *SNAP* of some piece of mechanical functionality in the inner workings of the commode. With the device rendered difficult to use if not entirely bereft of utility, 'twas plain that a trip to the local hardware store would be on the agenda.

But first, my thoughts hearkened back to those halcyon days when Co-pilot Egg was eager and ready to accompany her daddy on just about any adventure, but Sunday mornings were reserved for going to the zoo. And there she was, wide awake and ready to go at what by her wont is the break of dawn, but for your's truly is mid-morning. Back in the day, we would try to be the first through the gate, what with us both understanding the benefits that accrue to the early risers. Standing three deep trying to see what's going on with some exotically behaving animal was as frustrating as missing a parade for the forest of heads in front of us blocking the view, so an early arrival gave us unobstructed quiet time with the zoo residents.

The next best thing to an early start, however, was extant: rain. No one likes to go out in the rain.

Except us.

It has been some number of years since I have been to the Columbus Zoo, and those intervening years have been well spent. The zoo has made so many changes and improvements that it took a discerning eye to recognize the underlying familiar places and things. These improvements must not have come cheap; parking and admission cost a stunning $38 for the two of us, halfway to a year long season ticket. Had I been thinking as clearly as a second cuppa would have enabled, I would have done the math and just gone ahead with such a purchase. As it is, well... ouch!

Still, the days of having my little buddy ready and willing to do stuff with Dad are waning. Grab 'em while you can, sez I.

And so it was that we found ourselves strolling in the rain in a nearly deserted zoo.

Note the shirt she's wearing. It may be hard to tell, but the picture is that of a giraffe's face. You need to know that Co-pilot Egg is absolutely passionate about giraffes. In fact, other than visiting the cute little Arctic Foxes, there was no other goal at all in our visit but seeing the giraffes.

As such, she found the rest of the visit to be a huge bore. (That was a pun, son, and there'll be more than one before we're done.)

She also takes great joy in rivaling my "walking spell checker" abilities, and wanted to show me the misspelling in this sign. See if you can find it.

Well, we sure don't have to worry about her being too short for things anymore, and I have long since broken myself of the habit of calling her "Shorty."

Growing impatient with my slow pace, she rushed on ahead and vented her irritation on a moose, wrestling it to the ground by its antlers.

The zoo is laid out by geographical region, and in each region the zoo designers have gone to laudable efforts to recreate a veneer of the regional ambiance. I knew we were getting close to the Arctic region:

As they say, you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose.

Or, I guess more accurately, you could say you can pick your friends, and you can pick your nose, and you can pick a Polar Bear's nose, although the pithy wordplay kinda falls apart if you do.

Oh look! A sloth bear, a spectacled bear, and a spectacled sloth who seldom cleans her room.

Just kiddin' - that one was too easy to resist.

Dolphins and camels, two mammals who simply cannot look unhappy.

The giraffes are housed in the new Africa area. As I said, they go to great lengths to capture something of the local ambiance. I've never been to Africa, but I've seen movies. This is probably a pretty accurate rendition.

It doesn't even bother me that most of the 'decorations' are actually revenue generators.

I would like to have eaten here. The menu looked interesting and the prices weren't as high as you would expect.

It will come as no surprise that I found this Beech 18 to be a welcome sight. Even more intriguing to see a lion asleep on the wing. I thought that to be just a bit too convenient, but it is actually a real live lion. I wonder if they trained him to sleep there... it still seems just a bit contrived.

They even air-brushed oil stains on the engine cowling.

There doesn't seem to be anything similar to our EPA in Africa - they still have functional gas can nozzles.

This was my attempt to determine if this was a real, live lion. He was breathing, so I'm saying yes, yes it was.

If not, they sure went too far with the anatomical correctness!

How cool is this!  You can actually get inside the plane!

You can even simulate trying to start the engines. The sound was so incredibly realistic!!

The level of detail is just amazing. They actually pressed and colored the concrete to look like dry, broken clay, up to and including paw prints.


Egg saw the giraffes over in the distance, just waiting for visitors. It looked like that area was behind a fence, though, so when she asked to go over there, I replied, "It looks blocked off, Kenya even get over there?" Africa, Kenya, "can ya" -- get it?

Luckily, there was another place we could get to that had one of the friendlier giraffes visiting the few people that had braved the rain. His name is reportedly Shaggy.

I really can't see why, but then I just recently stopped calling a 5' 10" girl "Shorty."

No idea who this young 'un is, but it would appear that she shares Egg's fascination with giraffes. She stood there completely still, completely mesmerized.

Shaggy reciprocated.

I love this picture! Shaggy's photobomb.

The docents made a big deal out of these three gathering together. They say giraffes are very cat-like in that they are spare with their affections and don't often herd.

Shaggy turned out to be something of a camera hog.

The highlight of the day (we waited an hour for this!) was feeding the giraffe. They sometimes don't allow this when the weather is not so great, but the hour Egg spent charming the docents with her over-the-brim excitement and anticipation won the day. They simply had to let her feed Shaggy!

A good time was had by all.

We had no sooner finished that than the rain really started coming down, and we figured we had had enough.

Happy giraffe day!

Oh, the toilet repair? Three frustrating trips to Lowe's to get the right parts. It didn't take long to start missing our walk in the rain.