Monday, March 28, 2011

No pictures, so did it really happen...

Saturday, on the way back from Albuquerque, I had the opportunity to meet Steve of Scooter in the Sticks fame and Dom from Redleg's Rides. When I first started to ride, these are two of the first blogs that I started reading. I think I just googled (if it's used as a vowel, it doesn't need to be capitalized, right?) for other rider's blogs and these two popped up near the top of the list. And from links on their pages, I discovered many other bloggers that I really enjoy following.

After landing in Denver, I got a call from Dom who told me which gate Steve was flying out of and to look for someone wearing a plaid coat. The plaid coat was easy to spot as it may have been the only one in the airport. It was great meeting the artist who got me interested in photography again and hearing of his experience with Dom's Ural sidecar rig. Unfortunately, it was too short of a visit but it sounds like he may be attending the BMW MOA rally in Bloomsburg, PA, this summer so hopefully I'll be able to visit again.

I exited the "secure area" to the main terminal to visit with Dom. After reading his blog for so long, it seems that I've known him for years. Since my next flight was delayed due to some massive computer failure at Alaska Airlines, we had an opportunity to talk for a couple of hours. Topics ranged from sidecars to IPv6 (two obviously related topics.) I'm really looking forward to his experiences assembling his new sidecar rig. And I'm even more anxious to getting a car attached to my R100RT. With the way fuel prices are going up, I may want the rig ready by next fall. The next time I'm in Denver, I really need to add an extra day. He said that I need more ride reports on this blog and fewer whale bone arches....

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Polar Technology Conf

Thursday Evening - Today was the first day of the Polar Technology Conference and the amount and value of information presented is incredible. Designing systems that can run unattended (no maintenance including batteries) for years that run in really harsh environments is being done. They are talking low temperatures of -75°C (-103°F!), Iridium data links, solar and wind power systems, and power budgets ranging from micro-watts to a few watts. Incredible! I would really enjoy being involved in some of these projects.

Friday Morning -This morning much of the discussion was on power infrastructure including observatory platforms deployed in Antarctica. One observatory platform uses 5 diesel engines with 6000 gallons of fuel combined with about 1.5KW of passive solar that is designed to run for two years without maintenance (visits are expensive). Data is relayed out using Iridium and Openport including all monitoring and control. Pretty slick system. Today, the presenter fo used on the power infrastructure available to support science. Another presentation had some horror stories of trying to get wind turbines up and running to support an RF sensitive antenna array. Trying to get bearings with grease that works down to -90°C and no maintenance opportunities for at least a year. Apparently, if you just need your experiment to run during the Antarctic summer, no problem at all. Just use solar and people are around. Winter is the real challenge.

Friday Afternoon - There was a long discussion about the use of fuel cells in an Arctic environment. A German system is being used in the Canadian Arctic and in Alaska outside of Toolik Lake. Overall partially successful though it is critical to manage heat and waste. Since tbe fuel cell produces liquid water as a waste product, it tends to freeze once it leaves the insulated enclosure. The interior of the fuel cell also needs to be kept above freezing.

A while back, I mentioned that this structure showed up on the beach. There was a presentation which explained what it was, what they were doing, and why it was shut down after only a couple of months. They are looking to deploy a number of these along the coast and they wanted to develop a portable, standalone module to provide power and two way data for a series of high frequency radar units. I had talked to the radar group last year but didn't realize that this power module was part of the project. 425 watts of wind & solar with backup diesel power. Pretty cool!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


I'm on my way south again to the Polar Technology Conference in Albequerque, NM. This is a very small conference to bring together scientists and providers of technology together. Based on the agenda, I'm sure I'll learn lots. The first picture is inside the Denver International Airport. I don't get here too often and I saw a bit more of it than I usually do. The track really caught my attention as it reminded me of some sort of amusement park ride. This is the third airport of the day that I've needed to wait around in. At least there's free wi-fi. There were some great views of the mountains south of Denver on the flint out but the plane windows were really dirty. This area looks like a great place to ride.

This statue is in the Albequerque airport and must mean something though I don't understand the significance to the airport or the city. Both of these pictures were made using an iPhone app called Pro HDR. I like the results better than the built in camera app and doesn't have the weird, unnatural colors that are sometimes identified with HDR.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Fata Morgana or Hillingar?

This evening while driving towards the Point, I noticed this arctic mirage. The cliff of ice is the distance doesn't really exist and after a couple of minutes, it started to slowly vanish. Initially, it looked like I was in the middle of a crater as this "cliff" ran most of the way around. This is similar to a mirage in the desert but is caused by very cold air near the ground layered with warmer air higher up. This is the reverse of the norm where the air temperature gets cooler the higher up you go. Light bends towards the higher air density (colder air) so the ice features which are probably well below the horizon appear to be floating in the sky. It is an interesting effect and I had not noticed it on earlier visits. This view is looking roughly southeast towards the Elson Lagoon and since it is much shallower and protected by the Point from the recent storm surges, there are fewer ice features. I'm told that arctic mirages are referred to as hillingars. Fata morganas are a specific type of mirage common in the arctic where both an upright and an inverted image are seen and I think that I can see that in these images.

It was actually a very cold, very bright evening and I just couldn't get the color of the sky to come out right. I probably needed to play around with the exposure but just standing outside for a couple of minutes seemed way too long to be outside. In this photo, the road looks paved but in reality it is snow covered gravel shaded by the 15' snow berm on the ocean side of the road. This section of road has been rebuilt numerous times over the last year due to storms. You will notice in this Google Map image that this strip of land is not much wider than the road with the Arctic Ocean on one side and the Elson Lagoon on the other.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Couple More Snow Pictures

If the sight of snow drives you crazy, please ignore this post. Up here, there will be snow for several more months.

I've been spending the week in Barrow getting the last pieces of the audio/video infrastructure installed (finally). Over the last eight months, some of the cables were getting pretty worn since they were running along the edge of the room even though they were enclosed in a split loom. I moved all of the cables above the ceiling, added another audio splitter to allow the use of a VoIP soft-phone instead of the conference phone. I also added a third Sony remote pan-tilt-zoom camera in the room to allow even more flexibility. I also needed to rebuild a Drobo as I couldn't access it remotely. Some things just need to be done "hands on". I have been using one in my office for years and it has worked flawlessly. I'm not sure of the origin of the problem with this one as it wasn't hardware. I'm thinking that it may be the number of files as I have been using it for raw and processed netflow data which are about 10 files for every 5 minutes. And I had years of data archived. I didn't loose any data since I have been automatically making a copy in my office. This is another attempt at using the hdr feature in my iPhone and I think that I like the way it came out. The effect is pretty subtle compared to another app that really exaggerates the color.

When I flew in on Monday evening, there was a huge open lead in the ice i.e. open water. Unfortunately, I was on the wrong side of the plane to get a good photo. But since the plane was almost on final they wouldn't allow photos anyway. The wind must have changed over night as the lead had closed. The person who picked me up at the airport mentioned that it looked like a "water sky" over the ocean which indicated open water. Due to the cold temperatures (-21°F and windy) there was a dense fog over the lead and I think that this is what she may have been referring to. This photo shows some of the ice ridges that form due to ice sheets crashing into each other. I really like the way the skies have looked over the last couple of days.

I keep forgetting to call the Beemershop. Once I get busy I seem to forget things like that....

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

March Airhead Mtg.

Denali from the Hagelbarger Turnout
Yesterday evening while headed for the monthly Airhead meeting in Fox, I noticed that Mt. McKinley, aka Denali, was visible through the haze. This was about 7pm and was taken with my phone (crummy digital zoom). I really need to try and remember to bring my other camera. The mountain is over 200 miles away and some hills block the view from my home and office. At the meeting, I talked to Richard Miller who recently opened a classic & vintage motorcycle restoration/repair shop in town (MMW 907.451.7600). He had recently sent out a set of heads for overhaul and got them back in a couple of weeks. The machine shop isn't BMW specific but is a automotive machine shop in National City, CA, called MotorWorks and they do have a lot of experience working with motorcycle heads. He said that it looked like they did a great job. Oh well...

He suggested that I replace the pushrod tube seals while I had the heads off since they usually get pretty hard and brittle with age and heat. Since the pushrods are below the cylinder, they tend to leak oil after a while. This requires pulling the cylinders and he mentioned a method to do this without removing the pistons from the cylinders. With the piston at TDC, slowly pull the cylinder until you can see the piston skirt sticking out of the bottom of the cylinder. Remove the circlip holding the wrist pin into the piston and separate the piston from the rod. Sounds pretty simple and it turns out that one of the other members was planning on doing this procedure this Saturday afternoon on his R100GS. I think I know what I'll be doing on Saturday afternoon. Ted at the Beemershop also recommended replacing them and was going to include new cylinder base and pushrod seals whenever the heads get shipped back.

Still no real rush to get the bike back together as there is still quite a bit of ice on the roads and night time temperatures still drop to about -15°F when the skies are clear. March has always been one of my favorite months since it is usually clear and sunny the entire month. Great for x-country skiing.

2010 Nike+ Stats

I just looked at my Nike+ walking stats for last year and it really shows a sad, downhill trend. After being laid up last May from my surgery, it has been very difficult for me to get going again. Pretty sad, only ¼ of the miles in 2010. Actually, it wasn't as bad as these stats make it appear since last summer, my old iPod Nano died and that was what I was using for Nike+. The iPhone also works with the sensor but it seemed to draw a lot of power since the app had to be running in the foreground. Nike has since released another app that doesn't need the sensor but it uses the gps and still needs to be running in the foreground with the display on. It'll drain the iPhone battery in only a couple of hours. Seems to be a step backward. Last December while I was in San Francisco, I picked up one of the new iPod Nanos (6th generation) as it has the Nike+ app on it. Unfortunately, it doesn't have the radio receiver for the sensor built in as the iPhone does and if you use the built in pedometer, it uploads to a different area on the Nike+ site. I haven't tried it with the external radio receiver yet but I suspect that the battery life will be dismal since it is only about half the size of the old Nano.