Quick trip to Shepherdstown, WV

At the end of the day yesterday we decided to go to Shepherdstown. We enjoy going the “back way” through the woods, near the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and on into this quaint college town. Until recently we went mostly there on a motorcycle. Since it was so late in the day we decided to take my car.

Gloria at the “China Kitchen”

We went there to eat at a Thai place that was closed so our second choice wat the “China Kitchen”. It’s a dumpy little place that is a stand-by restaurant for us. Tonight the food was actually pretty good. But the decor has a lot to be desired. That’s OK, we have no problem with dumpy places as long as the service is good. We were served by an elderly gentleman that was quite attentive. We enjoy each other’s company so most of the “noise” around us blends in after a few moments.

Folklore says there are ghosts in this little town. When we went back to our car there was a woman in period clothing talking about the history of the town. I couldn’t hear what she was saying in front of this church but there was an interested crowd in tow.

Shepherdstown was very busy during the civil war. There was a hospital there that tended to the wounded soldiers and others who were fallouts of that conflict. The folklore says the spirits of so many lost during that time are still trying to find their way. I think most of them ended up in the coffee shop we go to from time to time.

We took the road less traveled back home. It was very dark and I got lost a time or two because we took the road backward from what we normally do. As we were coming back through Harpers Ferry I got to see a train slowly traverse the tracks, through a tunnel on it’s way to DC with coal. Normally I’d have video of that. But I forgot to push the record button. 🙂

There is lots to do around Shepherdstown if you are ever in the area. Every time I go back I see something new. There are lots of little shops and tons of history to see there.


I lost it!

Lately I’ve really enjoyed piloting radio control fixed wing aircraft. A goal of mine is to build an autonomous aircraft that I can program on the ground and have it fly the circuit and come back home. Not a small circuit but one that covers many miles with many waypoints.

This is not necessarily an expensive task but it is very time consuming. With the advent of drone technology the other technology that drives that market is widely available to be used in fixed wing operations.

But that is a few months away. Maybe a winter project.

In the mean time I’ve been flying smaller aircraft from the ground. They are not intended to be flown “out of sight” of the pilot on the ground.

This is my SkySurfer 1500.

In years past this hobby has been very niche and can be extremely expensive. Lately, however, all of the parts are becoming very cheap. I don’t know if it’s just availability of things or it’s just easier in all aspects of the hobby. This one comes ready to fly right out of the box with some assembly. I found the assembly easy. Flying? Not so much.

Unfortunately I’m used to drone flying. If you fly a drone  and things get a little out of hand you can ask the drone to fly itself off of all of the instruments that are now on them, including GPS and inertial sensors with the aid of a six axis gyro. It’s really kind of nuts what they can do. I’ve seen the drone hover in 20 mile per hour gusty wind and not move an inch.

Fixed wing flying is not so easy. Once you launch the bird it flies just like a normal airplane. If you get too slow it will stall. I think I stalled the aircraft 25 times before I had a successful flight back to the ground. It’s just not the same as quad copter flying.

But after I got the hang of it every flight got easier and easier until I was doing basic acrobatics without any problem. I’m still programming my brain to react to things like control reversal in inverted flight and when it’s coming straight at you. In this case left is right or up is down. You have to fly like you are in it, not looking at it.

Flying my 1500

Flying RCs is very relaxing and can really take the edge off a long day at the office. Every once in a while I put in a second battery and do it all again! I’ve been able to play with things like strobe lights for night flying and every flight I try to do something “new”. Slow flight, rolls, loops, low passes and the like.

One of the things I like to do with my drones is this thing we call “FPV”, or first person view. What you do is put a camera on the aircraft and look at the video as if you are actually piloting the bird. It takes some getting used to because it is disorienting until you get used to it.. In a drone it’s easy because the drone can fly itself while you play with the video. But I’ve gotten good at it over the years.

So, I thought, I’ll put one on my fixed wing plane. So I ordered one off the Internet from China and it took the slow boat to America. I finally got it and bench tested it before installing on my plane. Everything works great!

On July 3, 2017 I decide I am going to test out the system.  I had Gloria look at the video through the goggles while I walk far away on the ground with it in my hand while it is powered by a battery at high power. She said it looked great. It’s time to mount it on the plane!

Mounting it is as simple as putting it on the front of the plane and snap it into place with magnets. We do a final ground check and I launch it into the air. It looks a lot like the picture above of me flying my 1500. It’s way up there. The whole time Gloria says the video looks great.

So I decide to give it a try. My thinking is that I’m going to get it where I can see it on the ground and then when I put on goggles I’m going to make left hand turns in the air space above my property and never let it get too far away.

It all started out OK but soon I became disoriented and didn’t know where I was. Suddenly I couldn’t hear it either. Gloria couldn’t see it. We had really no idea where it was and so had no idea how to bring it back home! For a minute I tried to get it to a place I could recognize my surrounding but in the end I lost the video feed and my little plane flew off into the sunset without me at the controls!

On my drone I have GPS guidance that works to bring itself back home if any communication is lost. This is called “return to home” mode and requires GPS to work properly. Since I was not thinking about going far I didn’t think I needed a GPS module for this little bird. Looking back, since I am not good with fixed wing FPV I think having a smaller circuit closer to the ground and GPS as a backup would have been a good thing to have. 🙂

So, I lost it. It’s gone and has not resurfaced yet. Who knows, maybe a farmer will run up on it when they are cutting hay. Maybe it’s in a tree and we won’t find it until all the leaves fall of the trees in the fall and a strong winter wind brings it back to earth.

In the mean time I am building another plane. All new parts which will likely fly better than the last one. It’s got a stronger engine with larger propeller, stronger electronic speed controller (ESC), stronger and faster servos, a new radio to drive it all. I’ve also got lamination that I am going to apply to the surface that will make it stronger and less prone to break if I were to ever crash. This one is not ready to fly so it’ll take a few weeks to get it up in the air.

But hopefully I’ll be back in the air soon. This time, I won’t lose it. Even without GPS.

I’ve been distracted

It’s Friday.

Although I’ve only worked 3 days this week the week seems very long. It’s always hard to start over after a holiday. Still, it’s nothing like three years ago. I don’t think I’d be walking this rock if the work load was still that high. So I count my blessings.

The weather has been very rainy lately with the system dumping over 3 inches of rain in the last two days (3.2 according to my rain gauge). I’ll never wish it didn’t rain but it’s nice when we get a break in between the rain showers. In the years we’ve lived here we get rain about every other day. Lately it’s rare when we get more than two days in a row without the rain.

Rain over the last two days.

In between and sometimes in the rain showers Mongie and I have been able to get out and take our walks. Not super consistent when it’s so wet for so long. For such a tough little boy cat he sure doesn’t like getting his paws wet. And doesn’t like staying outside after the sun goes down. He’s currently asleep and it’s only 11:15pm.

Mongrel trying to snag my scalp.

In between walks, dinners and work we slow down and take naps together. Generally if I’m around he is not far away either.

Afternoon siesta

On the evening of July 3 Gloria and I thought we’d go out to Skyline Drive to see if we could see any fireworks displays as the sun went down. We had no information on any major firework shows but often they are the day before the 4th holiday since the 4th is reserved for the big cities. Not always, but that is the way it is around our small cities.

Gloria reading at Hogback overlook on Skyline Drive.

We did see fireworks all over the place but we think most of the smaller cities did it on the 2nd or were going to do it on the 4th. We never did find any information on the web about any displays at all which seemed odd.

Nevertheless, there were all kinds of smaller firework displays that evening. We enjoyed our time up there. Lots of people stopped by while we sat there and spent the evening together.

Field day 2017

Field day has come and gone. What a busy time here at the farm. We set up 5 full stations as well as a GOTA (Get on the air) and satellite station. We are still crunching the numbers on how well we did but I think it’ll be a good year. We are still retooling after some of our core members have moved on to places we think they don’t need a radio. Everyone seemed to have a good time. It was well attended by the club, public figures and the public themselves.

Dad’s 80th birthday.

We surprised dad on his 80th birthday. Under the guise that we would spend our weekend together for his birthday every one in our immediate family came to Bryson City and surprised him by showing up at dinner where they were waiting for us to come through the door. Keeping it quiet for so many months was quite a task. The week before the weather report turned bad and dad decided he might not want to go! Well, we went after convincing him that we wouldn’t melt if we got a little wet. It turns out we didn’t get much rain to speak of at all the entire weekend!

The motel we stay at there is called the Fryemont Inn. I love that little place. In addition to your stay each day both breakfast and dinner are included in the cost of the room. When you are on motorcycles it makes it easy to have that covered and you only need to worry about one meal when you are out on the road. It an interesting little town in the smokey mountains. I’ve fallen in love with the area over the years. In particular, Andrews, NC for a number of reasons.

It was great to have everyone in one place and a good time was had by all. The weekend came and went very quickly. Time. It’s really hard to slow down the older one gets. We will see everyone again here soon.

I’m working hard to get caught up on my photography. I’ve taking way more photos and videos that I’ve been able to do post-production work with. Some of what I do is rather time consuming. It’s just the way digital photography works and I have to say is way better than the way it was when I first learned back in the 1980’s.

Thanks for checking in. Be blessed.

To my family: zw+pmaJNskHHBg2VM8VY5732IqZWxpSZoZnNrVTTL054xaJbQwY15xfG4z1wXVU37OogZ3hiLcgb0b+7RFEoDJG3Z7WxggaNEevgLr/3mlQRnaSsNXj5Eiu54nnFHMZ0QF7jptkk+KLf6fxQE/lNSTIoUJZFvHV6PmdfVNpR4hENhMgXWFTARf6hlC0+dt66waGlgzc+/WbiZT8u4ZDxwj4bUm6VXAGOhxR9hIxg85bf4idykdOo06yf9ONnki1tWcQGeD1KjPTQhqqsSI35iwdzoceZ5qlxIwskvWsWuj5xHTUB04Z4HjQZ5agbMRDoALx/rzPEcsH/3cAJuw==


Today I did something I have never done.

Over the past several years I’ve worked to get closer to my camera and taking meaningful photographs that tell a story. So much of what I do doesn’t involve other people although that’s generally where the story is.

I love taking pictures of the landscape. It’s a one sided story as I tell how things look from where I’m standing. The landscape doesn’t talk back or ask all kinds of questions about what I’m doing with my camera and getting all up in my grill because I want to take a photo. I’m learning that’s fairly normal when you ask others to take a picture.

The internet is a cool place where you can get all kinds of perspectives from others who either enjoy what you do as well or you are trying to pique an interest in what they do.

Today is Sunday. On any given Sunday I head out with my camera(s) to go see what I can find. Often I’m on my motorcycle or in my car and stop in places I enjoy and take pictures of the landscape. Rarely, and I mean very rarely, it involves other people outside of my friends or family. Today I decided that would change.

So I asked a total stranger if I could take his picture and took them at length with his permission. Here’s that story.

When I first saw him I was on the other side of the street while he was playing a flute which is something you don’t see every day. I only had my small camera in my hand but I thought if I’m going to do this I need to get my professional camera since I had it with me. Why I don’t carry it more is another long story.

By the time I got my camera someone has come up to him and started a long conversation. I didn’t want to intrude and, frankly, wanted some camera time alone with him. Then another guitar player came up, another total stranger, and started playing with him.

I asked him if he was from around here where he told me that no one was actually from Shepherdstown, West Virginia.  He said he was there to minister to the young people that there is a life outside the blue glare of the various computer screens in their hands.

With his bible by his side I told him it may be easier to covert the children to be faithful than to pry the phone from their hand. We both laughed. I think we both knew it was true and that he had a long hard row ahead of him. You couldn’t tell it.

I shared lunch with strangers in a small restaurant in town. The restaurant serves the kinds of food you’d expect to have in a small, West Virginia town. To me the food is in the category of “comfort”. Iced tea, potatoes, green beans and hamburger steak smothered in brown gravy.

The owner’s daughter passed away recently. I do not know the details but I could tell everyone was upset over this current event.

Someone from DC came in to have a big meal and didn’t bring cash. All of the locals know this is not the restaurant you can do that. They let her write a check much to everyone’s amazement.

I’m always interested when I see someone write an actual check. Who carries a check book these days? Apparently people from DC do.

I’m also amazed at the kindness of people. All I had to do was ask. In order to publish anything related to an image of another person today I’d need their permission.  He gave that to me.

It was that easy to do something new. In my 40+ years of photography I’ve never asked anyone if I could take their picture. Today I did.

To my family: xErlhaxA9wfcGx6VOI9ymZv2LKxJzdPcoZbJrU/aaFJj2OYIaW0C5w7J


YouTube has really changed the way I look at creating. There are so many people with so many different perspectives who put their thoughts and ideas out there for everyone to use.

One of those people is Mic Bergsma. Mic is apparently deaf but you can not tell. I watch everything Mic puts out because our lives parallel in so many ways. The latest is his review of a gimbal for a regular DLSR camera. There are gimbals out there for speciality cameras and small cameras but this is the first I’ve seen of a gimbal that will work with a regular camera that is heavy with its lens attached.

Mic’s been a big help in my world. I appreciate everything he does and how he does it.

Not sure how much this crane costs but it’s something that would be nice to have in my tool bag.

To my family: zw+on75VskLJFxLULsdY6r2jbuNvyYPY

Moonset June 9

While sunrises are fun to watch if you look in the opposite direction often you will witness a moon set.

I have a Raspberry Pi pointing at the back of the house which captures events three times a day. There are three of these devices that capture what is going on outside at different angles simultaneously. I check on them every so often and find things like this.

Sunrise June 7, 2017

We get these crazy sunrises and sunsets around my home that I enjoy capturing each day. For anyone that knows me I am not a morning person. If there is a sunrise and I see it generally it’s because I stayed up to watch it vs got up to watch it. While getting up to watch a pretty sunrise generally not a priority it is fun when it happens. And it does happen from time to time.

Since I want to watch the sun rise what I’ve done is program a Raspberry Pi (3) with a camera to do time lapse sequences three times a day (morning, noon-ish and night) and store the sequence on a Pi-powered NAS device in my network. One day I’ll publish the code for all of that.

Here is what the video looked like the morning of June 7:

As I said to my family … When someone says you can’t “boil the ocean” show them this video. They can take it up with God.

To my family:  30Cw1qxU9wfBGQqbM9UZ/ab2NKwfxZaXyv+MrXDdOEo=

Garden Bounty

Today I worked a bit with Gloria in the garden where I found this very large and spicy radish. She tells me I’m the only person she knows that likes radishes. She never met my grandmother!

I remember spending summers with my grandmother where part of that day was in various parts of the garden. Sometimes it was strawberries. Sometimes watermelon. Sometime cantaloupe.

Then I’d go about my day with my .22 rifle and a box of shells on my own for the day.

Things have changed since then and I miss those days.

Hi world!

Hey there.

This is my first blog entry. Hopefully I can keep you updated on my life happenings, interests and the like.

My interests are broad and eclectic so it’s my desire to put some kind of structure around and document what I do.

Here we go…