Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Help Save Barrel #270 From The Battleship Iowa

The US Navy has decided to "purge" all remaining materiel in the inventory for the four Iowa class ships.

Were trying to get some of this, and the one thing on the Iowa "Hot List" right now is barrel #270, which was originally installed on the ship in 1942, and saw service in WWII and the Korean Conflict.

This barrel was also the "Lead Barrel" for all of the Iowa ships.

The barrel was replaced in 1955, and has been in storage since then.

The Navy will freely give us the barrel, but we're responsible for getting it from the St. Juliens Creek Naval Annex in Chesapeake, VA to California.

Moving a 70' long, 120 ton item from coast-to-coast isn't exactly easy, and the estimated cost of constructing a cradle and moving the barrel is between $120,000 and $150,000.

So far we've raised only $500, so we have quite a ways to go.

I don't think I've ever directly solicited funds here for any reason, but I am now.

If you can spare $5, $10 or whatever, please go to the fund raising site and donate what you can.

If we don't save it, the Navy will torch it into 8' long sections, and sell it for scrap.

Here's the Fund Raising Site, and more information can be found at:


Thanks, everybody!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Just A Common Soldier.........

A buddy of mine sent me a link to this, and I'd forgotten how poignant it was.

Thank you all for your service.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Been Busy With TV Repair

Well, my wonderful Panasonic TH50PZ85U 50" plasma took a dump a few weeks ago, and I finally repaired it.

It started suffering from the "10 Blinks of Death", where the power LED would blink 10 times, wait, blink 10 times, etc as soon as you plugged it in.

When it goes into this "SOS" mode it won't turn on, and is completely dead except for the power LED.

It had been acting up this way for 6 months or so, but unplugging it for a few minutes would clear the fault, so we kept using it.

It finally got to the point where unplugging it for a few days didn't clear it, so I started researching what board inside to replace.

Since the set was made in 2008, it's not "officially" supported by Panasonic any longer, but there are a few failures they'll fix under an "extended warranty", but this wasn't one of them.

Thanks to my good friends over at the AVS Forum, I was able to diagnose, and repair, the problem.

The problem is a 1uF "chip" capacitor on a daughter board on the "P" (power supply) board failing, and bringing down the +5 Volt logic power supply.

And it's not just a chip cap, but a very small chip cap, as shown in this picture from the forum member who figured it out, and posted the info on the forum:

First step was getting the set off the wall mount, and over to my temporary "work bench", the coffee table with a nice, thick comforter on it to pad the GLASS screen-side:

Then I had to remove all the $$##@@!! screws holding the back panel on so I could access the printed circuit baords inside.

NOTE: The "P" board has already been removed in this shot.  It sits just above the connector assembly (the "A" board), and just below where all the connectors are dangling:

This is the "P" board in place before I pulled it:

The "P" board is mounted to an aluminum plate, and once the "P" board is on-the-bench, there's more $$%%##!! screws to remove before I can get to the backside, so I can unsolder the daughter board:

Finally, the board is free of the aluminum plate, and on-the-bench:

And why are there so many screws on the back of the plate? To attach to all the individual heat-sink plates on the power transistors!:

Finally, after unsoldering the daughter board, I can clamp in my PanaVise, and remove the failed capacitor, which is the greyish colored rectangle mounted longwise up-and-down, to the left of the Integrated Circuit (wonder when we're going to be forced to change the name of ICs?), towards the top edge of the board:

And here's the board with the failed part removed:

Since there's NO WAY I'm going to get an exact matching part, and it would be VERY difficult for me to get something that small soldered back on, I went with a 1uF, 35V, leaded Tantalum capacitor. I had some of these left over from some long dusty project, so I trimmed the leads, and bent them to fit the pad spacing on the little board, and then tinned them. The package (a "JimPak" from Jameco Electronics) these caps came from said there were ten in the package for a price of $2.95, so in small quantities they go for 30 cents. The original chip cap in there was probably about ONE CENT in the quantities Panasonic buys!:

At last, the new cap is soldered on the daughter board, and the daughter board soldered back on the main board:

I'll stand this upright, and put a dab of Dow 5140 NON-corrosive RTV on it, and let it cure overnight, as having parts "hanging by their leads" like this is generally a Bad Idea unless you use some "staking compound" to protect them for vibration and thermal cycling, which can cause the solder to fracture, and the part fall off:

While waiting for the RTV to cure, I went ahead and bought some window-sealing tape, the 3/8" thick stuff with adhesive on one side, as the original tape had disintegrated from age and heat. Each of the cooling exhaust fans at the top of the set had similar tape applied to seal each fan to the cooling holes in the sheet metal back panel. They did this to ensure that the fans would exhaust the air through the cooling holes. If the fans weren't sealed tight, there's a very good possibility that instead of the heated air being exhausted from the cabinet, it would simply recirculate within the cabinet, rendering the fans pretty much useless.

I saw the sealing foam when I pulled the back panel off and smiled. This is truly a case of "Been There, Done That, and Got a Monetary Award For Thinking of It" in my career. One of the places I worked at was having trouble with severe overheating of a large motor control cabinet that had all the other Engineers scratching their heads. They had plenty of properly sized fans in the cabinet, but hadn't thought about exhausting the heated air from the cabinet. I was asked to help recalculate the airflow requirements and to check that the correct size fans had been used, and when I went over to where the things were being built, I just about fell down laughing.

There were NO holes, lovers, or vents in the cabinet! All the carefully sized fans were doing was moving the air around inside the cabinet, and letting the cabinet and all the sensitive electronics inside slowly cook to death.

I ordered some vents (with air filters) installed at the bottom of the cabinet to allow cooler, ambient air to be drawn inside, and some grilled fans installed at the very top of the cabinet to exhaust the heated air.

The temperature inside the cabinet dropped SEVENTY FIVE degrees, failure rate of the system dropped to about zero, and I got a nice check from corporate headquarters in recognition of solving a problem that had been costing the company thousands of dollars in warranty repairs.

Back to the TV set.......

I replaced the foam seals on the fans, vacuumed out all the dust that had accumulated over the years, and spent some time installing all the screws that held the aluminum plate to the "P" board, and put the board back in the set, and installed the back cover.

I had to lay on my back to see the power LED as the set was face-down on the table, and when my wife plugged the set in using a short AC cord, the power LED DID NOT flash, and I could cycle the power switch on and off with the LED staying off when the power switch was off.

Since my son was working, my stepson came over, and we put the set on the desk top stand, connected all the cables to it, and powered it up.

It worked just fine, so we shut it down and installed it back on the wall mount, where it ran for several hours last night.

I really like this TV, and I'm glad I was able to repair it!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

RAIN! In SoCal In July!

In July.....in L.A!

Pretty unusual, and my rain gauge indicates about .18" since it started, which is a HUGE amount for us to get in July.

Hopefully we'll have a wet winter so we can catch up on the enormous rain deficit that we have.


Storm total was .30"


 Received another .23" on Sunday, bring the storm total to .53", and breaking the record that was recorded sometime in the 1800's.

Friday, July 17, 2015

CHINA To Buy Sea Launch?

Just got an email informing me there was a new post on a spaceflight forum I hang out at.

It referenced this article on the Space News website.

Ever since Sea Launch laid off about 60% of their staff last August (me included), they've been in limbo about the future. Since all they launch is commercial payloads, if the commercial satellite guys don't want to fly on them, they're pretty much SOL for business.

And nobody was booking a launch on them......

Turns out all the post bankruptcy launches had been sold earlier, and they were just clearing the backlog, hoping that successful launches would show the industry that Sea Launch was back in business, and new bookings would follow.

Now, I'm not sure why they couldn't get additional business, those things were way above my pay grade, and any assumptions I made about why customers stayed away would have been, and still are, pure speculation.

Typically, the satellite builder (Boeing, Loral, Astrium, etc) books the launch, and retains control of the satellite until it's at it's assigned orbital "slot" and fully checked out. Then the satellite builder hands over the keys to the satellite operator (Dish, DirecTV, EUTELSAT, INTELSAT, etc) and they take control. So, when you provide launch services, you not only have to court the satellite operators, but the builders as well.

Strange bedfellows, as they say, and there was some ill will I know of between at least one operator and Sea Launch.

So, as the article says, Sea Launch has been "twisting in the wind" since their last launch over a year ago, with no bookings in sight, and bills piling up. According to a friend who still works there, the last of the Boeing contract people have gone to other Boeing sites, other companies, or to retirement.

And Boeing still has a sh1t load of property on site, and on the ships, and is owed well over $400 million from two of the original partners that defaulted on their guarantees to the banks that loaned Sea Launch the money it needed before they went Chapter 11.

One of the things that amused me was that Sea Launch was having a "garage sale" to dispose of unneeded/surplus equipment.

The one item mentioned specifically was the Spacecraft Adapter (SCA), which is the structure that the satellite mounts to, and in turn is bolted to the Interface Structure/Payload Support (ISPS) that mounts the entire Payload Accommodation to the Block-DM upper stage. The satellite mounting part of it is pretty standard, as some years back most of the satellite builders decided to agree on a fixed number of mount types, which makes it easier for everybody involved in the business. This meant you could "stock" maybe 5 or 6 different SCA designs, rather than having to design/build/test/certify one for each launch.

I find this very interesting, as that particular SCA will ONLY fit a Boeing ISPS that was designed to ONLY mate to a Block-DM.

If they're selling that, then it pretty much means they won't be doing any more business with Boeing.

And that makes me wonder what will happen to all the Boeing property, and Boeing controlled and operated ITAR sensitive equipment that's still on site.

Anyway.......we BEGGED them to let us sort through all the surplus equipment and "junque", and assign it a keep/sell or scrap status when they were asking for ideas about cutting costs and raising money.

We were continually shot-down for various non-reasons.

They have at least 15 high-end copy machines that need some minor maintenance/repair sitting in the warehouse that they could have sold to an independent copy machine service, but didn't.

They have a brand new roof-mounted chiller for a large HVAC system just sitting there that could have been sold but wasn't.

They have TONS of stuff sitting in the Payload Processing Facility parking lot that could have been sold either for scrap metal value, or to be refurbished.

They have thousands of pounds of copper wire and cable in storage that was never going to be used.

They have at least four pallets of surplus desktop computers that could have been sold, or stripped of good parts, and the parts sold.

And on, and on, and on...

And then I read on the same forum that ownership of the platform had already been transferred to the Chinese, with the platform listed as "Scrap Value". And as another poster pointed out, selling ships to the Chinese for "scrap value" worked out real well in the case of the ex Soviet aircraft carrier the Varyag.

I checked the IMO listing for the Odyssey, but all it shows is where it's flagged, not who owns it.

Anyway......it's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming weeks.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Back and Beat!

Typical 5+ hour flight in Economy class. At least the seats were big enough to kinda-sorta get comfortable in.

No video display in the seatbacks this time, so if you wanted to watch a "free" movie, you had to download (they said) the United app, pay the $12.99 Internet connection cost, and then stream the movie over WiFi to your device. I paid the fee and browsed the Web on my smartphone, and set my wife's tablet up, only to find out their streaming doesn't support Android yet. I set up my wife's friend's laptop so she could watch a movie, and she eventually gave up about 3/4 of the way through the movie, as the video was stuttering, and "buffering" rather than streaming. Might have been a laptop problem, but I noticed other passengers were griping about it, too, so I'm guessing they just don't have the WiFi bandwidth on board to support so many streaming connections at once.

Landed at LAX about 20 minutes early, which meant NO GATE for us to pull up to.

Crept along the taxiway until we finally got a gate assignment, and wound up deplaning about 10 minutes later than originally scheduled.

Then a nice 45 minute wait for our luggage. There were four aircraft using the same luggage carousel, so naturally a quiet pandemonium ensued.....

Then out to the curb where we checked in with Super Shuttle to let them know we were ready for pick-up, and then a NINETY MINUTE wait for the not-so-Super Shuttle to gather up enough passengers to make it worth their while to make the trip from LAX down to Long Beach.

The total cost of three, two-way tickets on the Shuttle was $96, vs $80 to park for a week at LAX.

Next time I think we'll take the Jeep and park it. I thought the extra $16 would be worth it to avoid the aggravation of driving out of LAX at night, but I'd rather put up with that than sit there for an hour and a half waiting for our "ride" to show up.

FINALLY got home, semi unpacked, thanked and paid the dog-sitter (long story about how that came to be....), got slobbered on by the dog for 30 minutes, and hit the hay about 0300.

Had fun in Hawai'i, and saw a lot of cool things, and met some very nice people.

It's a beautiful place, but I'm not sure I could live there. I was astounded at the humidity (it felt like Illinois in August) compared to here on the West coast, and although the fuel prices (except for Diesel @ $4.80/gallon!) were about the same, the food prices were significantly higher.

And then there's always the worry that if TSHTF, you're stuck there with a looooong supply chain to other places for food and medical stuff.

Still, quite a marvelous place to visit.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Headed Home Sunday Morning

The girls went ziplining on Hilo, and I spent the day wandering around looking like a tourist.

The luau the other night was fun, and yes, I ate some poi. It's not too bad if you dump a little salt on it, and if it's the only way you have to get your carbs, then it's the only way to get your carbs!

Part of the entertainment was a brief history of Polynesian cultures as represented by dance, so naturally they started with the hula, and then did other dances from the other islands, ending with the required torch-spinning dancer. Pretty impressive stuff, and very well done.

So, after dinner (pizza from a local place called "Get Sum", and it's really good!) I'm going to try and pack everything back in to my bug duffle so we can lug it to the airport tomorrow morning. I didn't buy a lot of stuff; a tee shirt for my son, two 8 oz bags of "Kona Joe's" 100% Kona coffee, and few other trinkets, so everything should go in the bag, including the stuff the girls bought.

I'll post some pix after we get back to the mainland.......

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Hawaii, So Far

Sorry about the lack of posting, but the wife crammed our schedule so full of things to do, that we've been getting back to the timeshare at around 2200, and I'm just too beat to post!

So, since the only thing we have planned for today is a luau at 1800, I stayed here while The Girls went out running around.

Monday we took a drive up to the Northern end of the island to see the original (1880) King Kamehameha, and had lunch in the "artist's village" of Hawi. If you're ever in Hawi, stop by the "Local Dish", a small eatery. The food was great, the service excellent, and the staff very friendly.

Tuesday we flew over to O'ahu to see Pearl Harbor, visit the Arizona Memorial, and see some radio friends on the USS Missouri.

When we were on final I was watching the marine traffic below, and saw a boomer headed out for her patrol.

The Arizona Memorial is a very somber place, as you'd expect. The young Navy guys who run the motor launches from the museum to and from the memorial exhibited some of the best boat handling I've ever seen. I didn't need the small pack of Kleenex I had in my cargo pocket, but came pretty close to it several times.

After that, we went to Schooner's for dinner, and then our taxi was waiting to take us to the airport, and our flight back to Kona.

Yesterday we went on a tour that took us from our "base" here in Kailua to "Kona Joe's" coffee farm, then down around the Southern tip of the island to the "Black Sand Beach"  (actually fractured lava) where we saw 5 sea turtles napping on the beach, and finally to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, where we went through the Thurston Lava Tube, took a walk through the rain forest, and then went to Volcano House for dinner.

After a leisurely dinner, we headed over to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory to wait for the sun to set so we could catch the glow from the current eruption, and visit the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

Then it was a two hour drive back to Kailua, and time to hit the hay.

I'd post some pictures, but in my haste to grab the smallest, lightest laptop I have, I forgot to put a card reader in the bag, so I can't get the pix off my wife's camera onto this PC!

She said she has a "cable for the camera", so if she does, I'll grab the pix that way, and update this post.

Been a very interesting vacation so far, but my wife crams a lot of stuff to do into our vacations, so it's been going by in a blur!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Arrived in Kona OK

Got to LAX two hours early, had only one bag to check (at $25 each way, and no, it wasn't oversize/overweight!), so flew through that, and then went through the usual Thousands Standing Around drills.

Went to the gate, and began the wait......

We saw our aircraft arrive from Houstan and deplane, and then watched them clean it, fuel it, and swap out the crew.

Then they told us that we'd be boarding late because the catering truck had not arrived......D'OH!

The catering truck arrived, but because they did their unpacking and stocking the galley using the First Class seating area, they let us peons in Economy Class board first!

The flight had DirecTV with "100's of Channels!!", BUT only over the CONUS. Once we flew out of the SoCal spot beam(s), it reverted to a 10-movie DVR. I watched the flight map for about 25 minutes or so as we climbed at around 1500'/min to our cruising altitude of 36,500' and 550MPH, and then that stopped working. Since I don't know where the displayed info comes from, I'm clueless as to why it froze the display and popped up a "The Flight Map Application Is Not Available".

So, I started watching the Avengers: Age Of Ultron about 30 minutes in from the start. Had more than enough "flight time" to watch it from that point, and then the complete movie, start to finish.

Not a bad movie, but they're starting to get pretty formulaic.

1) Introduce the characters
2) Set up the plot
3) Bad Guy triumphs at first, and things look bleak
4)Apocalyptic battle, and the Good Guys win


ANYWHO........arrived in Kona at KOA about 30 minutes early, waited for our (well....mine, really) bags, took the shuttle to the rent-a-car place, got the car, got my Garmin RoadMate up and running, and drove to the timeshare my wife's friend "owns", where they informed us the unit wouldn't be ready until 1600 local, but they'd call us if it was ready sooner.

And I'm learning all about "Island Time", as NOBODY is in a hurry to do anything!

I'm kicking back right now, and the wimmens are out doing some grocery shopping. This is a pretty sweet timeshare, and we have a full-sized kitchen with "all the major appliances", our own washer/dryer and vacuum cleaner, and the kitchen even came stoked with a decent supply of coffee, creamer, sugar and sweetener.

I couldn't bring my full-size DSLR and lenses, as it was just too big and too heavy to stuff into my duffle, so I'll either borrow my wife's little camera, or use the GoPro in single-shot mode when we go to the Arizona Memorial and the Missouri on Tuesday.

And I'm beat and dehydrated from a six hour flight. I shudder when I think of the globe trotting Old_NFO does!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Independence Day!

Can't find any quick pix of fireworks

OK, I found a decent "fireworks" picture, but go outside tonight and enjoy the real thing!

I'm busy packing for our trip to Hawaii. I'll try and do some posts on the road if my wife's tablet will cooperate!

Meet Luna!

 Great name for our new pup, eh? She's camera shy, and "Red Eye Removal" doesn't work for dogs! She's two years old, p...