Blog Archives

Taste of Freedom

The heat wave continues here in Nashville, but the mornings have been pleasant this week, not the awful steam bath they’ve been for the better part of two months. It’s been so ugly that it’s kept me cooped up as I was all winter…which isn’t a help when I’m trying to avoid going utterly stir crazy!
Being able to get out this week’s been therapeutic, blowing the cobwebs out of my brain and helping me get my mind right. Just being out in the world is a delight, and being able to give my reflexes and reaction time a good workout through flying my small R/C aircraft is a healthy thing. I repeat: these aren’t toys, but flying aircraft that respond instantly to every subtle control input. Please, whatever you do…don’t call them drones.

All this in a tiny and very portable package of foam and electronics that weighs just over an ounce is still a miraculous thing for me. Remember, aircraft like these were only a pipe dream just a few years earlier.

Despite the wonderful boost being able to participate in aeromodelling provides me, it remains just a taste of liberty that will only be restored to my life once fundraising is complete and I can get out of here in my Honda. I hope everyone out there is current with the state of the Indiegogo campaign and is aware that it will continue until it’s complete. Period. I’m relying on you, my friends and allies in the liberty movement to prove to the world how effective peaceful voluntary action can be in resolving situations like mine in their communities. We’re approahing the halfway mark…we can complete this quickly with your help!

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Some Motorgliding To Inaugurate Spring

I enjoy writing essays on current events and critiques on U.S. policy as much as anyone, but if I keep my face in that stuff too much along with the unpleasant effects of being so limited in my range, my mind threatens revolt by going absolutely bonkers.

Thank goodness the spring weather’s arrived. The past couple of winters have been a bit more difficult to deal with; being not only dependent on my wheelchair for movement but cooped up in the house for months at a time tries the sanity…I confess there might have been some baying at the moon forthcoming if the weather hadn’t changed.

It’s still a touch chilly around dawn, but certainly not cold enough to stop me from resuming my dawn patrol expeditions to do some flying with one of my micro aircraft on my lap at the parking lot I use about a mile away. Today after months of casting wistful glances at the Nine Eagles box in the corner of the living room, I took the little Sky 500 motorglider my friend Karen made possible for me as a Christmas present along, fired it up, and gave it a toss into the light morning breeze.

What a fun little aircraft! Sailplane flying would probably bore the adrenaline junkies out there, but it suited me fine today. I had a handful of the little cells that power the Sky…they set me back a whopping five bucks plus another eight added for a wall charger for them when I ordered my present…and that gave me over an hour and a half of flying today. Some people disdainfully scoff at the hobby, but these aircraft are far from toys. R/C flying involves my old professional skills to do it well, it’s therapeutic by making me use my weak hand, and I’ve found few activities that can match it for taking one’s mind off real world problems.

The tiny Sky 500 performed better than expected, climbing well under power and showing a surprisingly flat glide with power off at altitude. It was nicely responsive, dealing well with the gusts and chop that had picked up toward the end of my session. It’s hard to be certain, but I swear I found some patches of lift where the plane gained height even with the motor off…the goal of motorless soaring for models and their full size counterparts.

Today’s outing has whetted my appetite for more soaring. Since I no longer have a car payment to make, I do believe I’ll allot the $70 or so for this plane’s bigger brother, the Sky Surfer, as my next addition. While I’m at it, it might be fun to obtain one of the inexpensive keychain video cameras that are popular these days to get some aerial video.Between the planes I enjoyed last year and these new ones, I’ll have a great diversion from fundraising, blogging and column writing for months to come!

While I fervently hope that I’ll be able to drive long before next winter, I’m grateful to this hobby…it’s a true sanity saver!

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Not Long Now

It’s a glorious day out there, about 70°F, just a bit of a breeze and sunny again. Too bad it’s just for a day or two but it’s proof that winter’s on its deathbed, which is fine by me.

My handful of 1/8″ neodymium magnets showed up so I can get the Slick’s cowl properly secured. A couple of pairs of these will hold a few ounces, so I won’t have to worry about losing the flyweight foam hatch. I mean to be prepared for that first warm day when I can wheel out to the parking lot and commit some aviation.

Work continues on getting the blog visible to new viewers and potential donors. One factor I hadn’t anticipated is coalescing, not the ‘star factor’ of a well known personality on YouTube, but it should be a steady and visible source of new viewers and will also lend more credibility to the blog which could ease the concerns of those high profile YouTubers and perhaps convince them to spend the 5-10 minutes it’d take to make that critical endorsement video. I certainly understand some reticence on an entertainer/celebrity/pundit’s part if they weren’t completely sure I was the real deal. I’d have thought Tom Woods’ endorsement would suffice, but if not, so be it.

One way or another it’ll be nice to get some more forward movement…not to be maudlin, but it’s a drag being houselocked on  a nice day for a thousand times or so; I can’t wait to get out, go to a restaurant, fly my bigger airplanes…you know the drill.

The comforting thought is knowing it’s gonna happen, sooner or later. As I mentioned recently, you don’t see a disabled guy in a wheelchair pulling for Ron Paul every day, and certainly not one who truly wants us eased out of this Social Security trap…and can explain why this is desirable and important. That alone should be good incentive for liberty lovers to donate, get me sprung and out and about in public!

Yep, sooner or later. Of course, I vote for sooner…

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Well Hey There, Slick

With all this nice weather, I’m trying to keep my mind away from anything grim, so when this arrived a couple of days ago, it was just the thing to get me thinking hard about the upcoming flying season.

This is a scale replica of the full sized competition aircraft, the Slick 360. It’s my first fun purchase since I paid my Element off, and at around a hundred bucks for it, the micro receiver that’s compatible with my nice transmitter, and a few batteries, I’ll bet it delivers lots more fun this spring than you’d expect a month’s fun budget would yield. Yes, that’s my lighter sitting next to it to give you an idea of its tiny size!

This is a real gem and was just introduced this past fall by Durafly, a line of aircraft HobbyKing’s making. I fell in love with its lines when I first saw it…and it’s even more impressive in person; the fit and finish of the plane is top shelf.

The motor powering it’s another marvel…it’s a strong brushless outrunner about the width of a thumbnail. Look closely at the pic…that’s a small wooden match sitting beside it. This stuff just keeps getting better all the time, and it’s dirt cheap to boot.

I don’t think I’ll have any trouble flying it once I get back up to speed practicing with simpler planes. Now, whether I can do the maneuvers the fellow in the video below is doing so casually is another story. I’m certain to have a blast trying, for sure.

Every year I say it, and it’s the truth each year: there’s never been a better time to be involved with the hobby!

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Pancho

This one kinda came out of left field today and caught me by surprise…but I’m glad it did.

I was idly scrolling through instant view movies on Netflix this morning, looking as I often do to put on something interesting for background sound while surfing around, writing a bit of correspondence and of course scratching out a blog post. I have no idea why, but playing movies seems to clear my mind better than music does. Usually it’s some old favorite that I know practically word for word and don’t even need to watch to know what’s going on; I hit the ‘play’ button and get on with whatever I’m doing.

Not today. I selected a recent addition to the Netflix streaming titles, The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club, hit ‘play’ as usual…and didn’t take my eyes off the screen for the whole hour and four minutes of this film made in 2009.

I’d been mildly familiar with Pancho’s life since I got into aviation but never got the full story until today. I’d heard she was not a typical woman of her times, and after watching the film I’d have to say that’s a major understatement. Florence Leontine Barnes was on the dumpy side and had a face that’d stop a clock, but she’s one of the most magnificent women I’ve ever learned of. A flyer since 1928, she was a barnstormer, air racer and entrepreneur, operating her Rancho Oro Verde Fly-Inn Dude Ranch for many years near Muroc Field, a haven for pilots of every cut and stripe. It adopted its famous nickname, the Happy Bottom Riding Club, from a guest describing his horseback riding experience, and more than lived up to it through the years. That ranch was the location of  too many boisterous adventures to catalogue, flamboyant personalities coming and going, and must have practically hummed with fun and creative energy.

I was delighted by the commentary by one of my favorite pilots of all time, Col. R.A. ‘Bob’ Hoover, throughout the movie, too. I’ve seen the man’s flying at airshows many times over the years, have met him personally more than once, and have his signature in my first logbook…a true gentleman and a great tie in to my own life with this movie.

There was plenty of footage of all sorts of great aircraft, but the highlight for me was Pancho’s 1929 Travel Air Type R Mystery Ship, a lovely machine and a long time favorite of mine, one of the prettiest ships of aviation’s Golden Age in my opinion. Once I’m mobile and can fly larger models again, I’m gonna build me one, I decided today.

If you’re at all inclined toward aviation, this film’s worth a watch. I like inspiring movies that are about real people and things, and I have zero patience with squishy stuff containing anything maudlin or syrupy…and this film delivers. After watching this film, I’m pretty sure I’d have been proud to count Pancho Barnes as a friend.

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Operation!

Nope, I’m not referring to the old board game.

operation

I’m talking about something I’ve been putting off for a while because I was concerned I might not be able to do it well with my dominant left hand so reduced in function, but is a task that anyone involved in the hobbies I like has to do sooner or later: soldering.

A few months ago my mom insisted I pick up a soldering station from Micro-Mark, a supplier of small tools and materials for hobbyists that aren’t usually found in stores. I have use for it, and she has a few pieces of jewelry needing repairs using silver soldering that’s a bit higher temperature than the rosin core solder I use. It’s a neat little variable temperature station that promised to put out higher heat than the anemic Radio Shack pencil soldering irons I grew to loathe. Best of all, it was only twenty bucks at the time, and is virtually indistinguishable from much pricier name brand units.

Last night I finally quit being a wuss and fired it up, since I’ve been meaning to shorten the leads on both the battery and electronic speed control of my little Red Arrows Hawk jet, both to save weight and clutter from the too-long wires. The speed controller was the hardest, the unit is buried in the jet’s fuselage so unless I wanted to disassemble the airplane I had to do the job with the wires in close proximity to the delicate foam of the fuselage. I have one of those ‘third hand’ gizmos with alligator clips and a magnifying glass to hold the project steady, but I still had to set everything up and maneuver the very hot (near 500° F) iron around that space without touching anything…very much like the old board game but if you mess up instead of a buzzer, you ruin the foam fuselage!

It took some patience and care, but I got all the joints properly soldered and then covered with heat shrink tubing that both protects and insulates the new solder joints. You really don’t want to get a short when the current from a lithium polymer battery’s live, they have an unpleasant habit of bursting into flame if that happens.

Success with an essential task that I haven’t performed since I became disabled is mighty gratifying, lemme tell ya. One more thing I can do that’s also good therapy for me. It’s getting to be time to start building something soon!

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Is It Spring Yet?

I know, I shouldn’t wish any of my precious time away, but I was looking at two of my Christmas presents today…it’s gorgeous weather out…and got to pining for the warmer weather.

As you may recall, I went out almost every morning with good (and even not so good) weather this past spring, summer and autumn to indulge my love of aviation with my ultra micro R/C aircraft. All of them are in fine shape and I’ll be flying them, but now I’ve got a couple more in the hangar.

I’ve already talked about my nano Red Arrows-schemed Hawk electric ducted fan jet model, shown here on the right. I’ve been applying some hobby-type TLC to an already decent machine to get it ready to really perform, and the Sky 500 on the left just arrived from China, a gift from my friend Karen. Incidentally, that’s my cell phone between them included for scale…these guys are small!

It’s another item that was sheer fantasy a few short years ago, a capable radio controlled sailplane that only weighs 40 grams, yet can climb under its own power to the altitude of choice, where the pilot can shut down the motor and cruise around looking for areas of rising air to stay aloft, soaring just as full size sailplanes do. To minimize drag, the propeller blades fold once the power’s off from the pressure of air passing it. I used to love flying my 6 foot span glider at the nearby Percy Priest dam here in Nashville, but haven’t been able to do anything like that since becoming disabled and stuck in the house…until now!

My new favorite vendor HobbyKing just started carrying these, so it was a natural choice when Karen told me she wanted to get me something nice for Christmas. If anyone seeing this wants to try one, HobbyKing has just added them to its US-based warehouse. Inexpensive to begin with, now you can save the time and money you’d spend if ordering it from Hong Kong. It’s ready to fly, including the needed transmitter with four AA batteries and one tiny rechargeable lithium polymer flight battery (I ordered a few extras so I can fly as long as I like, at about a buck each it’s no strain on the budget) and it’s entirely assembled…charge the flight battery, bind the transmitter to the plane’s receiver, and off you go! It’s remarkably easy to fly and made of crash resistant EPO foam, a heck of a deal for new or experienced pilots.

Yep, it ought to be a very fun spring!

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It’s The Little Things

Wow, I’m in a good mood!

It’s been a week, for sure, I already wrote about the fiasco that plumber caused and the generosity of the couple who replied to my craigslist ad and sent the plumbing company that cares for their rental properties to take care of it. I hadn’t mentioned that the first guy told me he’d seen that my bathroom flooring was in bad shape while he was under the house…one more worry I can’t afford to deal with. Well, not only did that first guy break the pipe that needed fixing to gin up another lucrative job for himself, but his story about the bathroom flooring turned out to be whole cloth as well, confirmed by the second plumber while he too was under the house. Mr. Roto-Rooter either does flooring or has a pal who does it…busted!

Today, since I was on a roll with the fix-it stuff, I hauled in my compressor that I used for airbrushing some years ago…until one day it started making a nasty clattering noise and quit charging the air tank. I almost threw it out, but held onto it on a hunch. It’s a midrange quality compressor and a new one would cost over a hundred bucks, so if it was fixable I figured I’d give it a shot. When I removed the cover from the air pump today, I saw the cause of the failure and the noise immediately…the slim copper pipe from the pump to the tank had fractured. I removed it…all 2 ounces of it, and called the manufacturer. Five bucks shipped, and it’s ordered and enroute. A few minutes’ work and I’ll have my nice compressor back for airbrushing and cleaning the dust out of my computer.

You gotta love it when a plan comes together…if my plans for another ‘publicity bomb’ work out, this could end up being a spectacular week!

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Krip Kam #3 video released!

This video is a result of my going for shakedown cruise with the wheelchair mount I assembled to allow me to take pics and videos from my power chair using a reasonably steady platform for my camera.

Even though I traveled a mile to the parking lot I use as a flying site while bearing my micro R/C airplane and gear as well as my camera, only to find that the wind had sprung up to a speed too high to fly in, it was a valuable trip for getting some experience with this sort of thing, and I’m pleased with the results.

I’m enjoying the whole video creation process, from selecting suitable music at Incompetech to trimming the individual clips to creating and placing titles, then putting it all together to make it tell a coherent story.

I hope I’m succeeding in this and improving my technique as I go…but you can be the judge of that! As always, comments, questions and constructive criticism are welcomed.

The Breakfast Club

My friend Karen dropped by today for breakfast after my mom taunted her with homemade waffles recently, and the goods were as tasty as promised. Karen’s not only a good friend, she’s familiar with the ins and outs of neurological disorders like mine and autoimmune problems in general. It’s always good to have friends you can really talk with, and while I certainly count myself lucky to have so many online friends, there’s nothing like hanging out with people in the 3-D world!

I went out earlier, well before breakfast with the intention of doing some flying at my usual parking lot. The weather was unseasonably warm and days where I can be out past my block are short, so it was worth a shot. Not too surprisingly, as soon as I got my little Aeronca Champ unpacked, the wind whipped up. It picked the plane up, spun it around and dropped it. No damage, but flying wasn’t going to happen.

It was a worthwhile trip though, I was able to take my camera with me and took a bunch of video while testing my now-complete camera mount. It’s as good and versatile as expected and I plan to have some fun editing my raw footage into a new Krip Kam video. It should be posted within the next couple of days, so be on the lookout!