November 2009 Archives

Swiss adventurer hits sea while trying to fly from Morocco to Spain on jet-powered wings

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Yves is still out there pushing the envelope. His latest attempt to stretch the distance of his jet powered wing didn't go as far as hoped. He was attempting to fly between Morocco and Spain

Looks like strong winds may have been his undoing.

"strong winds buffeted him. At one point he flew through clouds and was lost from sight. Below him, a ferry sailed from Morocco to Spain. Sterzel says Rossy went down about a third of the way into the flight, but did not crash. Rather, it was his decision to ditch."

He was quickly rescued. No immediate word on the damage to his wing, or how soon before he tries again. As the sponsor is quoted as saying "Nothing worthwhile has ever been achieved on the first attempt,".

Simple DIY Laser Light show

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Ok, I read this interesting article in my latest copy of Make about how to make your own simple laser light show. My particular test device is acoustic based. In short it is real simple, just aim a laser pointer at 2 mirrors attached to the cones of speakers that are wired to your stereo. In my case to keep it real simple, I wired the speakers in parallel - they are both receiving the same signal. Other configurations could have the two speakers wired separately to the Left and Right signals. In practice I doubt this will make much of a difference.

Here's the basic block diagram layout:


I started by mounting my laser pointer. Since I'm just playing around with what it might produce I didn't take time to build a nice box or anything. I just used a vice grip (pliers) to hold the pointer's switch on and then stuck them in a bench vice.


This is shot across my shop to a pair of PC speakers being held in place temporarily by a helping-hand tool. The mirrors are front side coated. They are cut from a bar mirror that came out of a laser printer. I attached them to the speakers with 2 sided tape.


The end result is a neat laser pattern that changes and dances to the music. Bass beats cause the most dramatic effect, although simple voice (radio DJ) generates the most interesting patterns.


I made a couple of videos of the unit in action. As you can tell, the little speakers sound awful. A better setup would be mount the mirrors to the voice coil and remove the cones - this would make the system quieter. Than place in an insulated box with an opening just large enough for the light to escape.

The patterns are dimmer, but more impressive when shot 30 feet across my basement onto the far wall.


New planes!

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The fleet grew by 2 on Wednesday. In Manitoba, the 11th of November is a holiday (only if not on a weekend?). So while cruising the web in the morning I spotted that Eliminator RC was having a swap meet at 3 in the afternoon. With nothing else to do than spend money, I went and spent money.

I bought 2 planes. The first is a complete kit. Plane, battery, radios - even the charge adapter for the PolyQuest battery.


The top is nicely coloured and will look sharp on the field. It is a four channel plane (similar to my Fokker). The wing has an asymmetrical airfoil and some dihedral so it should not be too hard to learn to fly.


The under belly has bright blue and will hopefully help keep me oriented.


The other 'bird' I grabbed was this oddity. Its a 3 channel foam plan with a brushed motor. Should run on a 2 cell LiPo once I get a speed controller, etc. It only came with the drive train (motor, gears, prop). No battery, radio or servos.


Should be fun getting these ready over the winter for flying. Who knows? My order from HobbyKing may arrive in time to get the foamy airborne some pleasant fall / winter day. Stay tuned!

Fokker repaired and ready for battle

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Recap - this is what it looked like back in August...

Well it's done. Just waiting for a nice warm calm fall day. Might have to wait until spring though.

First part I repaired was the firewall / engine mount. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I had not lost any bits. A full reconstruction was done.


To repair the wing, I started by using a razer blade to open the skin. I carefully cut along a good rib making sure to leave a good rib in the opening so the skin would have something solid to adhere to later. The mess inside was substantial.


To ensure the wing would remain straight, I propped it up with some styrofoam blocks. Once all the pieces were glued back together (which took a few evenings), I carefully closed the skin back up - again, using thin CA to reattach the skin to the ribs.

Fokker wing repair

I strengthened and sealed the cut by applying a layer of monokote (unfortunately I only had yellow, remnants from my Hummer which I have yet to fly).

Fokker wing repair

Next it was onto the cowling. 


What a mess. At times I felt like a federal aviation disaster investigator. I started by aligning larger pieces and holding them in place with scotch tape from behind. Once I had the pieces lined up, I dripped thin CA along the crack and let it set overnight before moving on to the next piece. In the end only a couple small holes remain in the cowling. I may buy some red electrical tape to repair those.

Fokker Repaired

Here she is. Ready for another attempt. 

The lower wing received very minor damage. The peg that holds it in place at the front was snapped off - simple repair, just glue another piece of wood and sand down to fit. The other bit of damage was one of the holes that a bolt goes through to attach the wing was widened slightly - won't worry about that as the wing doesn't move once assembled.

The prop is a higher pitch prop (10x80 vs 10x47), however, that seems to give me a better throttle curve (for some reason the old setup only used 3/4 of the throttle range - the new prop seems to expand that to 7/8). The prop came from my Sophisticated Lady which is grounded until I buy a new gear set.

Change of plans - getting to the root of the problem

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So, I'm at work trying to plan out my day and my wife calls. Our sewer has backed up. Well, now at least I know what I'm doing for the rest of the day... sigh.

Long story short, after a few valiant attempts at determining the problem (for starters the backflow valve was missing the valve part - apparently they come unscrewed and get washed away), I acknowledged this was beyond me. I did however, buy a new backflow valve and a plumbing snake - these are great for cleaning out drains in the house (they are not much good once the problem is further down the line). They do have one major drawback - after boring through whatever is clogging your drain, you have to pull all that wet messy line out and then put it away somewhere - YUCK. So I came up with a clever and simple storage facility. An ice cream pail.

Snake in a bucket

Cut a hole in the lid, feed the snake in and coil it up inside.

Snake in a bucket

By the way - the professional arrived a couple hours later with a much larger, powered snake and blade. After an hour or so of feeding it back and forth through the sewer to the street, he had amassed quite the pile of tree roots.


I have an ugly poplar tree on our front yard. See, 30+ years ago the city developers figured these fast growing trees were the perfect thing to quickly provide foliage to new neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, these trees are notorious for converting their anchor roots into a fine mesh of feeding roots when they encounter leaking sewer pipes. In the past 40 years, Winnipeg has gone from 2 or 3 companies that clean roots out of sewers, to over a dozen. The guy who did my house says they respond to 20-25 calls per day!

So the logical answer is get rid of the tree right? Not so fast. Even though it is on the grass between my house and the street, it is not mine. It is the cities. And they won't cut them down. Instead they will graciously reimburse me for 50% of my bill up to a $50 maximum and only once per year. Not bad, except these bills tend to be $140-170 plus taxes. So in the end the city barely covers 25% of the cost for a problem they created.

Another alternative is to replace the sewer line from the house to the city line - that is if I don't plan on sending my kids to collage and wish to live in debt forever. Thanks a lot.

Any way, that was how I spent the day. At least I ended up with a small hack.