Friday, September 4, 2015

Black and White

Experimenting with some of my airplane pics.
B-25 Cockpit at Salem, OR airport


Final for 31R at Boeing Field in a C177


Downtown PDX

Columbia river and PDX

Vancouver Lake

Monday, August 17, 2015

Hanging Out in the Skies

I am currently working on getting through my cross country fight training. Every time I get to climb into a plane is an opportunity to learn something. In between my own flight training I have had the privilege to ride along and fly with my friend Jordan who is currently working on getting his CFI and building hours to further his training.

Getting to do some right seat time is a different perspective. Different hands on different controls, gauges are harder to read because of parallax and, the view out of the aircraft is from the 'wrong' side. It is a blast though and I look forward to every time I get to climb into an aircraft. Yesterday the three of us (me, Jordan, and my flight instructor Andy) took a flight in a Cessna 177RG Cardinal up to Boeing Field. We landed and visited the Museum of Flight before taking off again and heading back to Aurora. It was one of the most fun times I have had in an aircraft yet. Good company and a high performance aircraft to try out and some crazy complicated airspace to contend with. Not to mention beautiful scenery.

My own flight training has been going great as well. This week I will be doing the first of my dual cross country flights. Flying out to Kelso and returning to Aurora. The difference between this flight and some of the other 'fun' flights being though, I have to do all the planning, radio work, and navigating. A lot of things to juggle at once. Should be fun!

I love it when a lesson can be both fun and informative. (Really, they all are but, some more than others.) There has been a lot of smoke and hazy in the valley lately due to wildfires that make visibility a thing. Not so much a thing to reduce visibility to un-flyable levels but, enough to make it a bit challenging anyways. During one lesson in the haze I was practicing diversions. Changing course to different airports and mentally calculating how those changes will affect the flight. Fuel burn, estimated time in route, course to follow, etc. I have flown around this area enough that in normal conditions I could just point the aircraft at just about any local airport and just go there. The haze made me work for it. It was a fun challenge flying to all these places when I couldn't readily see them.

During another lesson while talking about how much it would be nice to get out of the haze I asked if we could go higher. We ended up going *much* higher. It was my first time getting to fly at 12,000'. Not only was it just really dang pretty up there but, I learned a lot too. Engine performance and leaning the fuel mixture, the Diamond still does a respectable 500 fpm climb even at 12K'.  I also learned a lesson I wasn't expecting to learn. At around 10K' I was starting to receive more frequent reminders to watch my heading and attitude. I was getting frustrated at the fact that I seemed to be unconsciously turning. It took a few minutes to realize that with my nose pointed up in a climb and the diminishing ground references due to the altitude, that I was experiencing nearly instrument conditions. Even though it was nice and clear out, it was getting harder for me to judge my position by visual reference alone. I had done some simulated instrument time under a hood but never had it sneak up on me 'for real'. Once I started trusting and monitoring my instruments more, things got a lot better. On arriving at 12K', we turned around and started a descent back to the airport. In perfect timing I was instructed to go under the hood and fly back using VOR navigation by instrument reference (which was part of the original lesson). Coming down from that altitude I had plenty of time to get a feel for the lack of visual reference and just fly the plane. It was a very cool lesson. Sometimes the things that stick are the lessons you were not planning on learning.  

DA-20 at 12,000' looking west about 30 miles from the Oregon coast.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Learning to Fly

There is nothing cooler than flying. I had my first *real* flying lesson on February 28th. It has only been a little less than 5 months but, it seems like a *lot* has happened since then. My plan had been to start taking lessons in a Cessna 172. I picked that aircraft to train in because I figured it would be the easiest thing to find to rent when I eventually get my pilot's license and it was a plane I had heard of. I had ridden in the right seat of a couple 172's when I was in high school so it felt at least a little familiar.

 The first few hours in the 172 were fun. (Really, 99% of everything I get to do in the sky is fun but, whatever.) Mostly spent learning basic maneuvers like turns, climbing, descending, stalls, etc. Gradually, introducing more and more aspects of normal flight. Learning the traffic pattern and operations around the airport and getting more comfortable with takeoffs and landings. Every lesson a little more would be added to the growing list of things to learn. Simulated engine failures seem to happen on a fairly regular basis and you never know when your instructor is going to get grabby with yanking back the throttle.

I liked the 172 but, it wasn't a match made in heaven. I swear Cessna made their planes to fit basketball players. There were two 172's available to me and each had their issues. The one pictured is a nice plane. 180 HP so it has a lot of power for a 172. Problem was I did not fit in it very well. My short little legs and equally short torso meant that I had to be sitting on a bunch of cushions to see over the instrument panel but, then my short little legs had trouble getting full rudder deflection. Added to the fact that with all those cushions the yoke is now crammed in my lap. Not very comfortable. There was another 172 that due to where the yoke was located on the instrument panel fit me a little better but, it was still a bit of a stretch. Plus, it seemed everyone liked flying those two aircraft and the way my luck went I had a fair amount of trouble getting the plane when I wanted it.

My first flight instructor that I had up to this point I found out was going to be leaving to take a job in another state. I was sad to learn this as I really enjoyed flying with him but, it opened up a window to try something new. With a new instructor and a suggestion, I was going to take a ride in a plane I had never heard of. A Diamond DA-20. With adjustable rudder pedals, I could finally be half way comfortable. I consider myself a very lucky person. Not only did I find an aircraft that fit me a hell of a lot better than the Cessna, I ended up with another amazing flight instructor.

To say I had to learn to fly all over again would be an exaggeration but, I had a fair learning curve switching from the Cessna to the Diamond. I didn't have all that much time in the 172 but, the DA-20 feels entirely different. Much lighter on the controls and a stick verses the Cessna yoke. Also, no nose-wheel steering meant I had to learn how to taxi all over again. For more than a couple hours, this was the hardest thing for me to get used to. It was like trying to drive a shopping cart with a leaf blower. 

There are things that spoil me in the Diamond though. Fuel injection means no carb heat to worry about. It has 3 flap settings to keep track of: Take-off, Landing, and none. It performs very well. It loves to fly. It more so loves to glide though. 37 feet of wingspan and a fairly light, sleek airframe. Simulated engine failures in this aircraft are almost glider lessons. My instructor yanked my power at 3,500' one day and I landed at a local airport. 8 miles away! It is also pretty. the view from the cockpit of a Diamond beats the pants off a 172. (Pictured right is the view from the right seat of a DA-40 I took last week.)

 After a few hours getting used to the new airplane, things started to get more serious. Now I have to get comfortable taking off and landing this thing and flying a proper traffic pattern. While the takeoffs aren't so bad, landings proved to be a big challenge. (They still are.) There was a point during a lesson when I was in the 172, where I landed and looked over to my instructor where with a big grin told me that the landing had been completely mine. I kind of looked at him with this gaze of joy and shock that must have been fairly comical. It took me *much* longer to get to that point in the DA-20.

Those light responsive controls that make the Diamond so much to fly when I am a few thousand feet off the ground were awesome for making me really nervous closer to the ground. The more nervous I got, the tenser I would get, and the worse I would fly. (Funny, still works that way I notice.) Add in those big glider-ey wings and some now summertime float from the heat of the runway and maybe a bit of wind, and this plane doesn't *want* to land.  I spent many a sweat filled hour up in the pattern doing lots and lots of touch and goes with my instructor.

All of this pattern work was in preparation for an aspect of my flight training that I was having a hard time wrapping my mind around. The initial solo. Basically, all I had to do was make three trips around the airport with a full stop landing and taxi back to the runway each time around. Trouble is by definition, solo requires that I have to do it by myself. I have wanted to learn how to fly really bad for a long time. When I am with my instructor I feel perfectly safe. Learning to put that same trust in myself was (is) something that was (is) harder to learn that I thought. It did get easier though. As me and my instructor spent more and more time grilling the hell out of pattern work I did start to relax a bit and become more confident. My landings were starting to not suck so bad and I had fewer and fewer instances where he had to intervene or where I heard the words "That should have been a go-around".  On June 23rd I did it. I was able to fly away with only me in the plane. (Pic above taken by my flight instructor on the ground) It was a beautiful and perfect day and it was an experience I will *never* forget.

It is just a little over a month since I solo'ed. I have flown about 12-ish hours since then and solo'ed one more time. This time out to our practice area. That flight was less joy-filled towards then end when changing winds, a mystery radio fiasco, and a jet made my trip back into the airport a little more stressful but, it worked out. Lessons are continuing adding more and more things to learn to get me to my next hurdle, cross country flight.

Had a couple random for fun flights in there too. Went up with a friend on a commercial multi-engine lesson and got to ride along in a twin engine Piper Apache. Last weekend got to take the cyclic of a R-22 helicopter for a few minutes. Also got to fly (for the second time now.) in a fancier version of the plane that I fly, the Diamond DA-40 (pictured below). So far I have had some pretty awesome opportunities. Flying is cool.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Flying with Style

Got to take a 'discovery flight' Saturday. Thinking about doing something I have wanted to do for a long time. Get my pilots license. A beautiful day over Portland.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

SS-581 Blueback

Since I was I elementary school this has been one of my favorite local things. OMSI's very own decommissioned submarine.The Blueback is the most modern Navy submarine on public display and it is sitting pretty in the Willamette just a short trip from home. It has been several years since I last toured the sub and I found out recently that they offered a tech tour. Lasting over 5 hours it definitely was thorough. Very enjoyable and for a tech geek like myself very much worth the trip. Some pics: 

Monday, September 2, 2013

URU thingies!

This year marks 10 years of URU. A multiplayer online game that is based off the Myst games. (

I have not played the entire 10 years but, I did make friends there, have fun, etc. and thought it would be fitting to post some of the Myst/ URU related projects I have worked on over the last several years.

For the tl;dr peoples: scroll down to the pictures. Pictures are where the shiny things are.

A brief history of my Myst obsession:

1993: Myst comes out and I get to play it on our new at the time Apple PowerPC. One of the first games I ever owned on CD-ROM.

1997: Riven comes out and I get to play it on our less than new computer of the day. Takes me almost a year to complete it on and off.

2001: Myst 3 is released and I rush down to buy it. While the game is pretty, the story isn't as good as the first two (IMHO) and I end up beating it by walkthrough sometime later.

late 2003: I get URU: Ages beyond Myst. On Christmas 2003 I got the single player incarnation of URU. URU: Live was going on but I thought I would do the single player version first. Unknown to me: the funding for URU: Live was pulled just 2 months later.

2004: In the same month: Myst 4 comes out and I join Until URU. Myst 4 was ok but now I get to play URU with other people! Since Live was canceled, in sept. of 2004 Until URU was released as a fan-operated client/ server system. It was now possible to play URU multiplayer again for the first time since Live was canceled.

 2005: In early 2005 I became a co-admin on the Great Tree shard. I had great fun with great people and got to learn a little bit about how the game worked and some simple python coding. (There were far more skilled people in the programing areas than I.) Had great fun playing both in Until URU and in Alcugs (an open source port of the game that was being developed).

2006- 2013: Things in here are kind of a blur. I participated in two beta tests, two Mysterium conventions, the beginning and ending of a couple incarnations of URU, and then kinda disappeared off radar due to RL, other hobbies, work, lack of interest, etc.

Most of my projects can be divided into two groups: Music videos from in game events and metal working projects. These were done in my most active years on URU which were 2004-2007ish. Coincidentally, the years before I got a full time job lol.

      [Photo by Ashtar]

These were some keychains I machined out of brass in 2005. I made 6 of them iirc (and one for myself ;) )

 A CNC milled Great Tree logo in aluminum

A CNC milled D'ni ring in brass (I wish I had a better picture than this..)

A replica of the KI used in URU (kinda like a fancy communications/GPS like device)

A remote controlled wheeled traffic cone. Cones are something of an inside joke to people who play URU. We would move them around in various ways. Make art out of them, surround someone with them, use code to put them in very odd locations, etc. I made this for a Mysterium in 2006. The motor I scavenged for this was woefully underpowered and by this picture it was on it's last legs. I did get a pic 'chasing' Rand Miller (Atrus) with a cone though. Mission Accomplished.  :)


I didn't have a full version of fraps (the screen capture program I used to make these) until the middle of the 2nd movie. So you will see the watermark on some (ok, a lot) of the footage.

These two were uploaded to Youtube by Tomala a few years back. I need to sort out some issues before uploading the rest. It seems the files no longer want to be read by my old mac and I may have to re-render them. I may not have all the pieces anymore. I used to have all my URU videos hosted on a private server but, it appears it is longer up. :(

UU2: My second URU movie. Made with footage right before and beginning when I got my adminKI. I don't know if it is my slow computer or if it is a bit out of sync but it is all I have up atm.

Having fun in UU: My last full song length video. Made mostly with footage of me and some friends messing around on the Slackers, H'URU project shard, and possible the Great Tree shard. Again, not sure if it is my slow computer but it seems a bit out of sync.


Hoped you enjoyed the Myst ramblings. I may add more to this post as I re-discover things buried on old hard drives.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Doug Rogers

One of my favorite people passed away last week. Words can not describe how much he meant to me or how much I will miss him. He not only helped me to be where I am today by getting me started in the world of machining but, was a true friend. I will miss his snarky sense of humor (even when it was at my expense) and I am thankful for the short time I knew him. Thank you for everything Doug. You will be sorely missed.