Archive for the ‘Vardo’ Category

A Return Update

5 March 2015

It has been a weird beginning to the year for me.

I fully meant to return to this blog well before now, but somehow writing for my blog just wasn’t a priority. From time to time, I’d think of something to write about, but I just never sat down and actually did so.

From an amateur radio standpoint, I’ve been working to develop something I refer to as The Thumper. It’s based on something I read about in a blog post where the ham described his fondness for CW (Continuous Wave, aka Morse Code) and an on-the-air experience meeting a group of deaf learning ham radio and cw. The original Thumper was mentioned only in passing, and described as “a device that attaches to their forearm and taps them to indicate the Mose Code being received.” I have various issues with LED displays and my current tactile transducer setup leaves much to be desired. For The Thumper, I’d started by utilizing an Arduino driving a RC servo and while that does work to an extent, it has an inherent speed limitation that I don’t like. Almost anything over 10 wpm keeps the servo at the end of travel, making it impossible to detect the characters. I’m now looking at using a vibrator similar to those in cell phones, compliments of a good friend and fellow ham. Although not what I originally envisaged the vibrator does show better promise and a nice theoretical response to faster CW speeds. Coupled with a LED, it may turn out to be the best solution for me to listen to the radio. I know, but the combination might turn out to be better than the parts. Right now, I’ve only got the Arduino driving the vibrator. Still to be done is receiving and converting over-the-air CW signals provided via the audio jack of my radios.

Plans are under way for more Owyhee explorations, and while doing that I fully intend to try HF radio work from way out in the middle of nowhere. I’m building an end-fed, multi-band wire antenna that should be tuned to each band: 10m, 20m, 40m, and 60m. It’s only mobile in that you can easily carry it coiled up in the vehicle, to use it you have to park and deploy it. We’ll see how that works in practice, but I’ve got good expectations. I’ll be focusing, of course, on CW and PSK but when solo. If I have a friend along, I’ll be trying some phone work as well. More than likely, I’ll be band scanning and if I hear anything, I’ll pause on that and see if I can contact the other person.

Photography-wise, I’m currently teaching a beginning photo class, but with a twist. In all my previous classes I noticed that there was never a deaf or hard-of-hearing person attending. This time, I told the community education group that I would teach a beginning class in sign language. When I shared this idea with the few deaf community members I knew, the enthusiasm was outstanding. In the end, due to various reasons, there were only three in my class. We’re having a blast and there would have been at least two more were it not for an age limitation posted on the community education web page. That limitation didn’t apply to my class, but that exemption information was not passed on to the people that wanted to sign up. Word’s starting to get out there about this class, though, and I’ve mentioned I’ll offer it again, the same way. One of the reasons for doing this is that I just felt like turning the tables on the regular offerings…they’re oriented towards hearing people, the deaf have to get an interpreter. This time, though, it’s the hearing that have to get an interpreter if they try to attend.

I have also been investigating the use of the Shutterbug Remote with my Pentax K3 DSLR. Testing with an iOS device showed that the remote works well with the K3, but I’m getting crashes using the Android version of the app on my Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Testing with a Samsung Galaxy S5 shows it works reasonably well with that phone, so now I’m trying to determine whether or not it’s a setting, a FW, or a HW issue with my Note 4. An email to the developers has not provided any response, so I’m very unimpressed with the customer service aspect of their website. Enough that I’m not providing a link to it. It would be really nice to get this remote working with my phone as it’s a great little device which when used as an intervalometer provides better timing control capabilities than the built-in intervalometer mode of the K3. If I can’t get it working, I’ll definitely have to create an Arduino intervalometer or something.

I’ve built a new woodworking bench (above) in my garage along with a DIY woodworking bench vise (below). These will come in handy when I start building the Vardo.

On the Vardo front, I’ve started gathering materials to modify the trailer for the Vardo. It took me a while to figure out the best way to use my flatbed trailer for the Vardo, and still be able to easily use it as a flatbed trailer. One of the things I had to deal with was me being “greedy.” The flatbed trailer is 12’ by 6’ and I had been doing my designing based on that entire area.

Image of a 6 foot by 12 foot utility trailer with one pair of wheels. Sides are an open framework of angled metal. Tail gate is about 4 feet tall when up and contains a metal mesh. Parked next to a blue-green 1992 Chevy Blazer in front of the garage in the driveway.

This is the new utility trailer that will become the base for the Vardo. I’m especially happy to get the all metal bed.

I was going to have a big Vardo that had luxurious room inside. Kind of a contradiction to my original plans for a simple, cozy Vardo, actually. As a result, one of the things I had to figure out a way around was the six tie-downs on the trailer bed near the sides. I finally realized that they provided a perfect way to fastend the Vardo to the trailer, a la pickup campers: straps built onto the framework of the Vardo that connect to the trailer tie-downs via turnbuckles. To do that meant I had to narrow the width of the Vardo box to fit inside the tie-downs enough that I could hook them into place and tighten. It’s only a 6” loss in width, give or take, but it also freed up the solution to another issue: I wanted to put the same kind of mesh that I had on the tailgate along the sides of the trailer. That way, things put in the trailer wouldn’t roll out under the existing side rails. And I could use that now open area to store poles for awnings, and other such gear.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of fishing lately, for rainbow trout. Normally I would catch and release trout, but my wife and I have found that we like the fish. I’ve learned to fillet them so that we don’t really need to worry overmuch about bones while eating. Only about 15 minutes from my house is a great little pond where, so far, I’ve always managed to catch my limit every day. I didn’t use to fish that much, or to enjoy it, but I’m finding I do. I’ll probably go fishing rather regularly while retired, using that to supplement our diet with fresh fish on a regular basis. It’ll be interesting to see how the fishing goes as the weather warms up.

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Stars Over Wickahoney

21 August 2014

These last two weeks have seen me focusing on three things: my Vardo, my writing, and my astrophotography.

Vardo

After much thought, I jumped at the chance to get a utility trailer, 6 feet by 12 feet, for a really good price. My original base, seen here, would have given me a 6 foot by 8 foot Vardo. The new trailer will let me have an 8 foot by 12 foot vardo plus a drop-down porch if I work it right. The extra room is very welcome and more appealing to my wife as well.

Factoring in the cost of paint, steel wool, a new trailer light system, new wheel bearings, sandpaper, new tongue, and sheet metal just to get that old base rebuilt into a foundation for the Vardo, getting this new trailer was actually cheaper. And the plan is to be able to remove the Vardo if I need to use the trailer for hauling stuff.

Image of a 6 foot by 12 foot utility trailer with one pair of wheels. Sides are an open framework of angled metal. Tail gate is about 4 feet tall when up and contains a metal mesh. Parked next to a blue-green 1992 Chevy Blazer in front of the garage in the driveway.

This is the new utility trailer that will become the base for the Vardo. I’m especially happy to get the all metal bed.

That tailgate will make a very nice sized porch with the addition of some drop-down or other legs if I do it right. I’ve already got some ideas how to work it and still be able to use it as a ramp if needed. It’ll be good for scraping off mud or stamping off dirt and sand before going inside, all that stuff will just fall through the grating.

Construction should be starting after the middle of September due to vacation plans and other such interruptions. The goal is to have it ready by 4 July 2015, when we go to Haines, Oregon, to my wife’s brother’s place. All her cousins and his friends get together then and have these huge motormansions (her term, not mine) or behemoth trailers. She’s tickled pink with the idea of seeing our cute little Vardo tucked in the field with all those. She’s even been coming up with ideas and suggestions for stuff in it. She’s apparently been talking about it so much so that even the oldest granddaughter made me agree that “it won’t just be a box on a trailer, but it’ll be a cute trailer.” I showed the granddaughter the pictures of Paleotool’s Vardo that I’m using as my guide and said, “it’s going to be like that.” She approves of that design, just like my wife. Clearly, I’m going to be spending a lot of time this winter in the garage and driveway.

And in trouble if I don’t get it done!

Besides, I’ve been dreaming of all the places to go camping around here. Farewell Bend. Cascade Reservoir. Bruneau Sand Dunes. Steck Recreation Site. Leslie Gulch. Those are just off the top of my head, there’s so many more.

Writing

Lately, I’ve been trying to go swimming every Tuesday and Thursday. I don’t always make it, but when I do I just swim laps. That has been very conductive to my writing process as it lets me just swim along and think about the storylines, back stories, future stories, or just mentally write. I don’t always remember those exactly (I need a waterproof laptop!) but I do remember enough to get a lot of it written down.

Recently, I’ve been trying to focus on the next short story, Scarle’s back story, as decided in my last blog posting. The last two times I went swimming, though, my mind drifted away from that and instead focused on another part of the overall story. It was something that I’d been wondering how to tell without revealing any secrets. Throughout the Tales of Pa’adhe I’m scattering little subtle clues that I don’t amplify or even, usually, reference again in the tale they appear in. They’re usually presented in passing and should be easily found in hindsight, but they all point to one thing and I had no idea how to present that to my readers.

I now have a solution to that conundrum and have written half of it. Unfortunately for my readers, this can only be told in The Final Voyage. But at least I clear everything up with it. As soon as I finish writing that section up, it’s back to Scarle’s back story and what’s supposed to be the current Work In Progress.

Astrophotography

Strictly speaking, I probably should just say “photography” since I’ve been busy with more than just astrophotography planning, photography-wise.

The last several days I’ve been planning for the trip back to Wickahoney this Saturday, 23 August 2014. We’ll be heading out Saturday, I’ll be shooting all night, and we’ll head back Sunday.

My main project is a time lapse of the Milky Way. It’s something that I’ve wanted to do for some time now, and I think the Wickahoney ruins are a perfect foreground for it. I want to start shooting around civil twilight when the stars are just coming out and shoot until 3 AM Sunday or my batteries run out. I’m hoping for some additional foreground “action” in the time lapse, but it depends on the timing of when everyone gets there, where we set up, and all that good stuff. We’ll see how that works out. I’ll definitely get the Milky Way time lapse, which may or may not be all that great. I’m still learning to shoot good Milky Way images.

I also want to shoot a 360 degree panorama for incorporating into Stellarium as one of my three personal landscapes. That’s simple enough and just needs decent light. High noon Sunday should be good for that to minimize shadows. I need to re-do the other two to get a sharper division between the distant land and the sky, but that’s a project for another time. Each new 360 pano that I do teaches me something and each gets better.

Finally, I want to shoot some video for another project. Originally this was going to be another time lapse, but I ran into problems there: I only have two batteries for my main camera, and I need those intact for the Milky Way time lapse. I could shoot this with my second camera, but I plan to use that for other astrophotography shots and can’t guarantee the battery capacity of that, either. I’ve decided, then, that I will shoot this as a video and try to achieve the desired result post-production. As a time lapse it would have made it easy to do certain scenes, but my homework last week seems to indicate I can do the same with a video file anyway. We’ll see.

It does indicate I need to do something about my camera battery situation. I’ve several ideas for that, one of which is just get another battery for both cameras. I’ll need to address this soon so I will be good to go next time I head out for an all-night time lapse like this.

UPDATE: Here it is Thursday and now they’re predicting Saturday as partially cloudy and Sunday as clear. Hopefully, the night will still be clear!

Fire and Ice

24 May 2013

Fire and Ice

Well, Fire and Ice was the title, based on two things I really like. My wife mentioned one to me and I answered with, “You know, if I just had ???? and ice cream I’d be in heaven.” Obviously, the ice cream is the ‘Ice’ part of the title, but what the heck was ‘Fire’?

Yeah, that’s how it goes here. I’ve still got a mind like a steel trap, it’s just a little rusted.

This week has been pretty good, actually. Except now it’s bugging me what the heck I meant by ‘Fire’.

Over the weekend I was able to remove the wheels from the trailer without having to cut any of the bolts. We were able to use a tire iron and a long metal tube that fit over that. As Archimedes said, “Give me a long enough lever and a place to stand, and I will move the earth.” The six foot lever we created certainly moved the nuts easily enough. Once we had those off we moved on to the hitch coupler bolted to the tongue of the trailer. That one we eventually elected to remove by cutting off the bolts and driving them out. Next was the safety chain. After spraying that with WD-40 and letting it set for several hours (only because we went and did some other stuff) two sockets took quick care of that.

Surprisingly, once the trailer was flipped over so that the bottom of the frame was accessible, that part was much less corroded with rust, and much of the original black paint was still protecting the frame itself. The downside, of course, is that I still have to remove all that paint to the bare metal so I can put new paint on to protect it. I think what I’m going to do here is to use a wire brush in my drill and as soon as I have a large enough area stripped to the bare metal I’ll paint it over then move on to the next part. Once all that’s done, then I’ll spray another coat on top, this time being able to paint the entire trailer at one shot.

Laptop? Maybe that’s the ‘Fire’, laptops do get warm. Have to think about that.

I got in some writing over the last week. This new Pa’adhe story is turning out to be one that might be easily expanded into at least a novella. I’m thinking about that, but don’t know if I want to do it or keep it a short story and expand it later on, incorporating the events of Ghost Ship into the novella in their proper places. I guess I’ll find out how this plays out as I write it.

This weekend is shaping up to be interesting. I will be shooting my niece’s wedding this Saturday, and Saturday night is the penumbral lunar eclipse that I hope to photograph. I’m thinking Sunday I will BBQ some steaks or burgers and maybe some veggies as well. Stuff grilled on the BBQ just tastes better. Then Monday I’m heading out to Leslie Gulch to find that giant’s skull I’ve misplaced. I’ll be showing the area to an HP engineer visiting Boise from China as well. She’s been helping me learn to play Xiangqi (Chinese Chess) and it only seems fair to show her that area in return.

It must have been the laptop that was ‘Fire’. I can’t think of anything else. And I’m absolutely sure that as soon as I post this to my blog site, I’m going to remember exactly what ‘Fire’ actually was.