Touch the skies

Like most of us online folks, I’ve been enjoying some pretty nice videos created and posted to the internet. Some of them are made using small high resolution cameras, like the Go Pro. If you visit that site, you’ll see some high quality, creative and innovative work, often set to just the right music. I wanted to give this a shot, but since I couldn’t afford the Go Pro,I searched for a smaller, cheaper alternative. This winter, I purchased a small camera that is literally the size of a keychain. In fact, it is called a 808 HD Car Key Micro Camera (#16). The only details I will bore you with is that it records using a 1/4” CMOS WXGA HD Sensor using H.264 video format with 1280 x 720 resolution. In other words, true 16×9 HD format. If you want to learn more, RC Groups has a well maintained forum here. For about $40, I couldn’t resist seeing what I could do with it.

The main reason I wanted something like this was to fly my remote control airplanes and helicopter with it. I’ve made a few test recordings with my heli, but the first one I wanted to publish was a recent flight with the Sig FourStar 40 airplane that Adam and I built some years ago. The kit was a gift from Adam’s godfather, Dr Jeff Morgenthaler. Adam has flown it in the past quite a bit, but not in a while. He let’s me fly it now, but I give him title of Owner/Builder. On this day, it was very windy. The plane is fairly light, so my take off was poor; the landing was worse, but the plane is fine. My ego, thanks to the peanut gallery, is in tatters. However, when setting the flight to music, the video seems to take on a somewhat more acceptable life of it’s own. Being the perfectionist, I’m now scripting a series of maneuvers for a higher quality flight video, as well as designing some better camera mounts. But for now, I hope you enjoy the movie

PS: The music I used is entitled “It’s for You,” recorded by Lyle Mays and Pat Metheny in 1981 on the album “As Falls Witchita, So Falls Witchita Falls”. I discovered it in a movie I saw in high school called Fandango, recommended by my high school buddy, Marc Eckhardt. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I think the song communicated what I was trying to capture in my little video.

Rites of passage

It’s a little ironic that one often speaks of life events from the point of view of a young person. Last weekend, I drove Adam to Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA. At first, I was thinking of the same point in my life 26 years ago, recalling the excitement, the emotions, the constant discovery, and the transition to independence that all kids must experience when heading off to a college far from home. I sensed Adam bucking at the reins, impatient for me to let go, to leave. But then I found myself thinking of my parents, especially my dad.

22 years ago, after college, and my last summer at home, Dad and I drove up to Michigan, where he dropped me off to start my professional career in the fall of 1990. I remember my mom crying in the driveway as we drove away from the house, and I wondered if I’d do the same. Since I kept the car we drove up in, Dad flew home on an airplane. But last weekend, I knew that I would be driving home from Pittsburgh, so during most the weekend at Carnegie-Mellon, knowing that I faced this long drive home alone, I kept thinking of Dad, and wondered what he felt like flying home to Texas, being alone on the plane for about as long as it takes to drive from Pittsburgh to Detroit. And then he would have to face mom, without me, just like I would have to face Cyndi, without Adam.

So many times during my parenting life, I think of my Dad. This summer, for example, I get up to go to work while my kids are still asleep. The house is quiet, except for my footsteps in the kitchen and the hallway. When I was in middle and high school, my room was next to the kitchen, and I remember hearing Dad’s footsteps in the kitchen, as he ate breakfast and put his dishes away early in the morning, before Mom or my brothers got up. This is exactly what I’ve been thinking about this summer in the mornings, literally walking in his footsteps.

Sometimes, things break in the house, or something goes wrong with the car and matters have to be attended to immediately, despite my plans for something else entirely. Once, we had a drainage problem in the sewer line from our house to the connection under the street during a very heavy rainstorm, and I had to drop everything I was doing, move items away from the growing puddle in the basement, mop and wet-vacuum the water, and run to the hardware store for some plumbing equipment to save the basement. During that time, I remembered: when I was a kid, we were all dressed up to head to a wedding or quinceanera, only to discover something was seriously wrong with our car. Dad immediately went back in the house, changed, came back outside, got oily and messy and sweaty, fixed whatever it was, and then cleaned up, got dressed again, and off we went.

At Carnegie-Mellon, Adam showed me the student center, where the campus store was, and I found the section, with all the swag: shirts, sweaters, hats and so on. I started to shop for souvenirs for the family. Then I stopped; I figured if Adam felt strongly about it, he would make time to pick out his own souvenirs for us, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. But I wanted something for myself. And when I found what I wanted, I thought of my Dad yet again, because he has one just like this, just from a different school. Rites of passage aren’t just for kids, are they?

In Which Aaron Submits a Remix to a Contest

One of the things Aaron has taken on this summer is to enter into a remix contest, held by one of Aaron’s favorite online musicians, Dave Brown, of Boy In a Band.

The rules are described here, in a video. Aaron’s remix can be found here, while his tutorial(required for submission) can be found here.

The tutorial is simple, huh? I can probably do this in my sleep. In fact, the only place I can do this in my dreams. Way to go, Aaron!

Mid-American Fun Fly 2012

This weekend, I was able to attend the Mid-American Fun Fly, held at Detroit’s Gross Ile Airport, which is on an island in the Detroit River. Last year, I was only able to attend a few hours at the end of the event, but this year, I could attend for two of the three days. We had use of an 8000′ foot runway, so I was able to fly as often as I wished, but I also spent a lot of time watching the pros.

Unless you are a fan of R/C helicopter flying, you won’t know any of the pro pilots who put on some amazing demonstration flights. In my mind, the best of these pilots is Bert Kammerer. I didn’t take any pictures of him flying because I was too mesmerized by the talent. Here is a video of him from 2011, but this weekend he was flying the SAB Goblin and tossing it around like this. Yes, he flys this low to the ground all the time. Before this weekend, I thought some of what you see in the video isn’t possible, especially the fastest, twitchiest moves, which looks like the camera is misses some frames, but I was standing there about 20 feet away, and I’m telling you, he make the this machine do that in real life!

Here is a a couple of pictures of Bobby Watts, who is best known for his night flying skills. . Bobby and Bert collaborated to produce some inexpensive instructional videos at that I’ve purchased online to help me learn to fly. Here’s Bobby cutting the heads off some flowers:

DSCN043901_web DSCN044101_web

Here’s a friend of mine, Jesse James(yes, that’s his real name) flying inverted as well. Jesse has given me some valuable advice to improve by flying skills, especially explaining the more subtle aspect of helicopter dynamics:DSCN046101_web

I also met Anthony Avalone, who wrote an article in the April 2012 edition of Model Aviation Magazine that prompted me to convert my helicopter to flybarless. He brought helicopters that are almost identical to mine, except his are the next two and three sizes up. So I had to take a ‘family picture’ of our helis:


Congratulations, Adam!

I apologize up front for being short on words. Today was very big day for our family. Of course, we are very proud. The occasion was cause for a weekend long celebration, with his godparents, and my parents coming to town. I am hard pressed to think of a happier time. We love you, Adam!



My mom and dad


Godparents Jeff and Tricia

Cyndi’s sister, Debbie

Precious friends Robert and Rochelle( Arianna’s godmother)

The “Fambly”

Jack and the…Dept of Natural Resources?

It seems the Lego guys have have decided to intervene. We walked in to the bathroom tonight and found this. Anyone remember the Doozers from Fraggle Rock? I hope the paper work isn’t going to be a hassle…

Arianna says the guy dressed in white is fronting the money in the yellow chest. A generous benefactor?


Cherry Blossoms in Washington, D.C.

A few weekends ago, I visited my friends, Patty, Dave and their kids, in Washington, DC. I hadn’t planned on seeing the famous cherry blossoms because they normally bloom later in the spring, but the unseasonably warm winter/early spring brought them out for my trip.

The last time I was in DC at the same time the Cherry trees were blossoming was in 1987, when I visited Pam Troxler and Merrie Neurock during Easter of my freshman year at MIT. Pam was attending Georgetown University, and Merrie was still in high school, having moved from Texas to the DC area. I recall thinking they were very pretty back then, but now that I am older I think I appreciate them more(the misplaced modifier is totally intentional; it works both ways).

I took all these pictures on the last day of my visit. Patty dropped me off at The Washington Monument on her way to work that morning.

I walked from there to the Jefferson Memorial, which includes The Tidal Pool, where the majority of the Cherry trees are planted.

They were a gift from the Japanese government shortly after the turn of the century. I found out the first shipment had to be destroyed because of infestation and disease problems, but a delicate diplomatic crisis was averted with a second shipment, and these are the trees that stand today.

As you can see, the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The day before, Sunday, this place was far too crowded, but this morning, it was perfect.

There was a cute little girl having her picture taken by her mom, so I borrowed the subject, placing the Jefferson Memorial in the background.

There were people in paddle boats, like this one:

The dome of the Jefferson Memorial reminds me of the Great Dome at MIT.

The memorial itself is solemn and impressive. Hope you enjoyed the trip with me!

Jack and the…

Arianna got an early start on our garden this year. She used an egg carton to start some beans, and I think within a week, not only did they sprout, but they tried to escape. So she transferred the most troublesome ones to a higher security facility. With a fence. And then she posted a guard. Their former cell mates have also attempted escape from the egg carton(18 in all) and are all now in isolation on the window sill.

I pointed out to Arianna that the plants lean towards the light, “See how they’re trying to sort of reach the window?” To which she responded by turning them around 180 degrees. Later that day, they had already turned back to the window, which was faster than even I expected. One of us thought about making a movie, so she set up her camera to record the next flip. You know what? They turn around in about an hour!

I’d like to post the video, sped up somehow. But for now, here’s the pictures of the bean stalks, with the guard so you get a sense of scale.




The Trinity Cross

Yesterday, I received a very great honor from my church, Trinity Episcopal Church. Peter Gregory, Arianna’s godfather, delivered a very nice speech, and what his words could not convey, his emotions did. He is a devoted father and Christian. He sets high standards and has his priorities in the right place. And he himself was honored with the Trinity Cross many years ago. I was so happy that Cyndi was there at my side to witness(yes, she cried), and I immediately thought of my parents. Mom, Dad, this is for you. The note below is from Fr John, who describes what this is about:

PS: although the lighting makes it seem like gold, it is actually a beautiful pewter.

Dear Friends,

When I first arrived at Trinity, someone said to me, “why do we only honor people at the end of their lives?” It was a great question, and at the annual meeting in 1987 we began honoring people each year who had served Christ and this parish through many years of ministry and service. Every year at the annual meeting we choose a few people who have shown us the light of Christ day in and day out, and who make the ministries here better.

You cannot “win” this award, nor can you “earn” it. We pay tribute to a few people each year with the Trinity Cross as our way of saying, “you have inspired us, and served us for many years in the name of Christ-and we pay homage to you and give you our thanks.”

Someone recently said to me, how are the people chosen who receive the Trinity Cross. Usually I come up with a few names of people that I think have done outstanding ministry for a long time and talk to several other long time members, asking their opinions. And then I choose the 3 or 4 who best exemplify for that year the gifts of long standing service, excellence, and faith in our parish.

A few years ago I opened it up by asking those who have been awarded the Trinity Cross for their thoughts. It worked so well that we continue it this every year. So, let me know who you think should be honored . Please mail me the names of one or two Traditionally we choose 3 or 4. You must put your name on the nomination, and it would help if you could explain briefly why you believe they should receive the Trinity Cross. This will be kept in confidence.

The criteria that I use are:

  1. several years of service to the people of Trinity,
  2. great ministry, touched the lives of many, and
  3. an inspiring faith in Christ.

Believe it or not, this is how you were chosen.

God bless,
Fr. John