Friday, July 3

25 Years From Flight to Flight

Yesterday marked Canada Day and the first flight of the Bell Helicopter 525 Relentless in Amarillo, Texas. I do not know if this was coincidence or intent. I was fortunate to work on that program for much of its early development, though I was unable to see its first flight in person. It was one of the few “completely brand new” developments that most engineers get to see in their careers nowadays. It was a collaboration of the Bell sites in Texas and in Canada, as well as many suppliers. The first flight is shown below.

A while back I got to see “my own” previous first flight of a “completely brand new” aircraft. It was the YF-23 Black Widow II. It’s first flight will be 25 years ago next month (August 27). Its first flight is shown below. The quality isn’t as good since it was my own video shot at the event at Edwards AFB. Less than a year later, we had signs up around our area saying “will design the world’s most advanced fighter jet for food.” I pray the Bell 525 works out a lot better. Only time will tell. 

Sunday, May 31

God Bless Bike Mechanics

Interior of the LaVogue Bike Shop, in Hoquiam's "Historic LaVogue Building"
This last week, I was reminded that a bike mechanic is more than simply someone who knows how to turn a wrench on a fastener. He or she is someone that can get you back on the road, whether your problem was complex, or simply minor but irritating.

I decided to “multimode” by bike and bus into Aberdeen again, taking advantage of the “local knowledge” acquisition I did here on “Steve’s Day Out.” Well, as it turned out, I had problems of a different sort. My now venerable U Lock has been getting a little cantankerous lately, but still seemed to have a lot of life in it. After getting off the bus, I rode over to the nearby Walmart to see how THEIR film processing compared to that of Rite Aid. As it turns out, their film processing is both quicker and cheaper, though it is clear that the days of quick and good film processing are sadly behind us. Rite Aid has their film developing horse and buggy come by once a week while Walmart has twice a week service. Still, either of those are better than Tall’s “Camera” in Seattle which not only doesn’t handle film developing, but didn’t know of any place closer than about ten miles away.

To make a long story short, after completing my recon at Wallyworld, I rode over to Safeway in order to get groceries either not available at IGA, or with greatly superior value. Pulling up to their bike rack, my lock would not open. Golly! I tried again. Sheesh! Suddenly, it seemed I was 25 miles from home and on a shopping trip with a lock that wouldn’t open. While I felt lucky it didn’t fail with the bike locked inside at Walmart, shopping and a library visit now seemed out of the question. After considering options, I decided that the best option would be to ride over to neighboring Hoquiam and pay a visit to the only bike shop in Gray’s Harbor County.

Front of the LaVogue Bike Shop
The ride was uneventful, retracing a route I rode the week before, and in due time, I was at the LaVogue Bike Shop counter saying “I need a lock” as I plopped the frozen U lock down. The owner indicated that usually, the locks just needed lubrication and he tried that. Apparently, however, lube doesn’t help locks where the mechanism is falling apart beyond making stuff greasy. I indicated that the only thing it would be nice to save from the old lock was the cable which I use to attach the front wheel to the frame/rear wheel/bike rack combination. The owner stated he could probably get the lock apart and proceeded to put it in a vise until a potential customer diverted his attention. It is a wise bike shop owner that will ignore a bike sale in favor of hacking into a now-greasy lock.

U Lock in Happier Days
Still, I was not out of luck. The mechanic in the back of the shop inquired about the problem and I related how the lock was terminal, but I’d like to keep the cable or, if he couldn’t save it, to buy another to go with the new U lock. Being a guy with a golden touch, he cranked away on the lock and soon had it broken in two, with my old cable free to go with the new lock. In reply to my jesting “golly, if you don’t make it as a bike mechanic, you can always go into the business of breaking locks,” he said “yup, as long as I have a vise and a big hammer with me, I can break most any lock.” Well, perhaps a vise and a hammer is not the most subtle way to steal a bike, but I was reminded, once more, that bike mechanics are blessed. Anybody can adjust a working derailleur or replace brake pads, but fixing stuff not designed to be fixed is a talent not given to us all. And they DID sell me a new lock! I let them keep the key for the old one...

I Still Swear by the Combination of a U Lock and Cable

Monday, May 18

Steve's Day Out

Ocean Shores "Station" is Just a Covered Bus Stop - Aberdeen is Two Stops Away
For a while, I’ve been wanting to make a multi-mode trip from Ocean Shores to Aberdeen. Gray’s Harbor Transit has the very reasonable fare of $1 each way and the bus covers the trip in about 45 minutes, with no stops before it gets to Hoquiam and Aberdeen. That is far less than it would cost for gas alone if one were to motor the same distance and each bus has a two-bike rack on the front. Taking my bike on a bus rack is also something I haven’t done in the past. I found the bike rack pretty easy to use, but the beach cruiser tires did not fit the slots properly and the bike's wheelbase was also a bit too big. Still, it mostly worked OK and the bike didn't fall off the bus.

Oops. Wrong Library!
To make a long story short, I got off in Hoquiam, intending to visit the Hoquiam library. Lesson One: Make Sure the Library is OPEN on the day you plan to visit. No problem, since I got there at nine, I Googled the Aberdeen Library and found it would open at 10 and it was just after 9AM. Lesson Two: Sometimes, when you Google something, it finds something else as I discovered after reaching the “Spellman Library” at Gray’s Harbor College, which is in the middle of nowhere, though still “in” Aberdeen. While it was a nice library, I discovered that they don’t even have wifi for “regular” visitors, unlike the Aberdeen Timberland Library (which is a very nice library). Apparently it IS possible for "normal" people to obtain lending privileges at the Spellman Library, though it is difficult to get there on bike from the main part of Aberdeen. Across the street from the college is a traditional mall that's in the process of dying. One wonders why investors ever thought Aberdeen needed a mall in the first place. I'll avoid any speculation, but it isn't the sort of place you'd go except in a hard-core motor culture.
Aberdeen Timberland Library is for Us "Little" People. Unlike the College Library, it Has Bike Racks Outside
the Front Door and also has WIFI for the General Public
After some shopping, and upon getting ready to board the bus home, I saw that Aberdeen has bike lockers provided by Gray’s Harbor Transit. Oddly, the same transit agency didn't see fit to provide as much as a simple bike rack at their Ocean Stores Station. Anyway, it was a fun day and I expect I’ll go back again before too long. Safeway has a FAR better selection of groceries than the Ocean Shores IGA and the Aberdeen Library is a big step up from its Ocean Shores counterpart as well.

Simpson Ave Bridge Across the Hoquiam River - Sign Requires Bikes to Use the Sidewalk
Bridge Was Closed to Roadway Traffic so that Didn't Seem Bad at All!

The Bridge Grate Shows WHY Cyclists are Required to Use the Sidewalk. It'd be Dicey Even for Motorcyclists

On my Ocean Shores blog, here, you can see some of the Aberdeen sights that motorists seem to miss. My own favorite is the rusty vintage truck, though the carved gargoyle is a close second.

Aberdeen Bike Locker Rules and Regulations

Loaded Up on the Bus and Ready to Come Home

Saturday, May 16

Who are "THEY" Anyway?

Closest Thing to a Bike Rack at the Ocean Shores WA IGA
Of course, this post COULD be titled “I’m no more dead than Rantwick!”

Are "THEY" Canadians?
Seriously, this all started back in late April. I’d ridden my bike to the IGA espresso stand and was picking up some groceries while I was there. One of the IGA employees asked how I was doing and I gave my standard answer that included a desire for a bike rack. She replied, starting this whole thread; “We had one but they trashed it.” Hmm, who WERE these beings anyway? Initially, I wondered if she thought that cyclists trashed the rack. Not bloody likely since cyclists were the most obvious beneficiaries of even a bad rack. Before long, I wondered if a gang of Canadian thugs had trashed the rack during one of their cross-border raids. That seemed more likely, but still remote. Perhaps some militant motorists wreaked vengeance on any symbol of cycling. That theory was supported by my observation that somebody ran something big and heavy into the McDonalds bike rack.

Might THESE People be "THEY?"
Before long, the mystery deepened. In response to an IGA survey, the manager noted that they had ordered a bike rack. This was in the first week of May. Well, that rack still hasn’t arrived, so perhaps “they” intercepted it.

Perhaps Chandra Snuck up to Ocean Shores to be "THEY?"
I also heard about potential “they” scofflaws in the local news when I heard that motorists were zooming down shoulders in Seattle in order to pass stopped school buses, narrowly missing students that were about to board. Scary. However, as time went on, I realized that the “they” are almost all of us.

Might "THEY" be the Mormon Church?
Which brings me back to wanting a real bike rack at the IGA...

Tuesday, March 17

Rise of Japanese Cameras

Leather Case and Light Meter Have Both Seen Better Days, but the Nikon S is Pretty Good
Inspired by Limom’s camera chronicles, and Chandra’s newFujifilm X100T, I thought I’d tell a camera story of my own. It’s about the camera my dad brought home from him when he came back from Korea at the close of the Korean War. It is a Nikon S.

Rarely, a product is so good that the company from which it comes is renamed to that of the product. Even less often, that product started out with its name copying an established brand. Nikon is such a company. It got established after WWII by producing excellent cameras that were far less expensive than those produced by the Germans; the previous leaders. This happened starting with the first cameras that Nikon produced. These Nikons were rangefinder cameras and came from a company struggling to re-establish itself. The company, Nippon Kogaku, produced outstanding optical products, but the closest they came to a camera before WWII was the production of lenses for Canon. Ironically, as it was to turn out, they got their start in optics by bringing some Germans to Japan for help in the wake of WWI.

These early cameras were, arguably, better than anything that came from Germany, which found itself with part of its camera factories in the Russian Zone. Nippon Kogaku synthesized the best elements of the Zeiss and Leica products and they called it “Nikon.” Nikon was a merging of the Nippon part of their name and the Ikon of Zeiss Ikon fame. Later, Zeiss came after Nikon for trademark infringement, but they’d waited too long.
At the Right of the Camera are Where the Flash Attachments Go. Plug into "F" for Fast Shutter Speeds
Anyway, this camera, a Nikon S, was the first large selling Nikon. It was actually their third try at a camera, starting with the Nikon 1 that first saw the light of day in September, 1946. Nikon was a fairly sentimental bunch and their early cameras all started with a “609” prefix in honor of the first Nikon 1. Well, until they ran out of numbers and moved up to “610” and beyond. Our camera, purchased new by my dad when he was in Japan on R&R from the Korean War, is 6105314. LOTS of American servicemen purchased the Nikon S and the steadily improving cameras that followed it. The lenses were so good that professional photographers purchased the lenses to replace the German ones on their Leica cameras.

The third picture shows the various knobs on top of the camera. All three knobs AND the shutter release rotate when the film is being wound. The shutter speed control is really odd. There are actually two different knobs there. One controls the “slow” shutter and the other controls the “fast” shutter. The fast shutter runs from 1/30 to 1/500 seconds exposure. Later, Nikon combined the two shutter speed dials into one and increased the maximum shutter speed. Truly this is something from a different era, considering that the shutter itself is made from cloth.

Besides the Knobs, the "A/R" Lever Decides Which Way the Film Winds
The fourth picture shows another oddity compared to more recent film cameras. There are two knobs that must be turned from “S” to “O” in order to remove the entire camera back. Three  more oddities I’ll mention. First, since the camera is entirely mechanical (not even any light meter in the camera), there’s nothing in the camera to indicate what speed film might be being used. Hence the pink note attached to the camera back. Second, while the lens is interchangeable (using a bayonet that’s the same as the Zeiss Contax), there is no way to reflect different lenses through the viewfinder. It is set up for a 50mm lens, pure and simple. Third, while the film advances the same as a normal 35mm for each shot, the negatives are 2mm shorter than standard. This is because Nikon originally wanted to get more photos off each roll, but the US Occupation authorities nixed it because they weren’t compatible with Kodak.

Postit Pad Helps Remember What Speed Film is in the Camera
In closing, the camera is built like a tank. It weighs just a hair under 2lb, which is the same as a modern Nikon DSLR with a zoom lens, and which is just a bit more than my Praktica camera (really a renamed Zeiss made in East Germany) with its own 50mm lens and its built-in light meter. I’ve heard that using the “Sunny 16” rule works great, and I think we’ve got another light meter sitting around somewhere. I’ve also heard that it is almost impossible to find a flash unit that will work with the camera nowadays. Oh well, one probably doesn’t use a 60 year-old camera to take indoor flash pictures anyway.

For more on Nikon history, go here, here, here, or here. I especially recommend the first and second sources for their story on the older history of Nippon Kogaku and the Nikon rangefinder cameras. The last reference covers many other major camera companies.

Nikon Labeled their Early Lenses in Cm. Hence, This Camera Has a 5cm Lens Rather than a 50mm
Lens Locks into Focus at Infinity. Button on Front Unlocks the Lens Focus