One wing and a prayer…


Don and I moved one of the Cozy wings out to the hangar yesterday so that we could complete the attachment of the winglet. We had debated putting the winglet on while the wing was still in Don’s basement and I’m soooo glad we didn’t try that. Getting the 10+ foot long structure out of his basement and through his pristine living room without scratching or denting any of his walls or furniture was nerve-wracking enough. If the winglet had been attached, it would have been impossible and what an embarrassing story that would have made. After we get the winglet attached, we can hang it up on a wall in my hangar and do the same with the next one.

I’m amazed that the wing fit in the Durango without needing a tie-down. It went nearly up to the dashboard and we hung the obligatory red flag on the end of it which extended about 4 feet out of the back of the tail gate. I drove very carefully to the airport with Don keeping a watchful eye on the wing from behind. Of course, with one end of it rubbing up against my shoulder, I’d be the first to know if it was in any danger of slipping out the back. The fuselage made a similar trek last summer in the Durango with just a few inches to spare. Terri helped me move it so we could make some room in the garage for her Ducati.

Hopefully, this will allow us to move forward with the next steps of the construction.

Zen and the art…


It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written anything so I thought I’d go ahead and put down a few words just to show what I’ve been doing. I got my motorcycle running last month but realized it had a battery that needed replacing. After doing that, I’ve been riding it nearly every day to work. I even took Terri’s bike to work one day just for the variety’s sake and it was a blast. Her Ducati Monster is light, nimble, and very powerful with lots of low end torque.

I was not looking forward to replacing the battery on the BMW. The battery was only 2 years old. I know, I know, I should have kept a trickle charger connected to it during the winter to make it last longer. The complicating factor is that the battery is buried under the fairing which is held on with 17 screws. I didn’t know how difficult it would be to remove and reinstall but it is certainly more work than on any other motorcycle I’ve owned. It turned out not to be as bad as I had imagined, probably on par with the cowlings on my plane which I’ve removed and reinstalled many, many times. Still, for having to do routine maintenance, such as topping off the water levels in the cells, 17 screws are way too many. So I replaced it with a sealed battery, which requires absolutely no maintenance.

I made the decision to go with a Hawker PC680 sealed lead acid battery from Portable Power because I’ve heard good things about these batteries on both the BMW forums as well as from my canard buddies who use them on their experimental aircraft. So I actually bought two, one for the bike and another for the plane because its battery will need replacing soon too. The only issue about these batteries is they don’t have posts like regular batteries, so I had to fabricate posts from copper pipe. It wasn’t too difficult. I just squeezed some 1/2″ dia copper pipe in a vice, bent it, drilled it, and then did some trimming on the band saw. You can see the results here.

The next item on agenda is doing the annual inspection on the airplane. It’s due this month and so I better get to it before I find myself grounded. My friend Don also wants to finish the wings on the Cozy that we’re building so it is time to get them out of his basement and to the hangar where we can fit them to the spar and fuselage and install the winglets.

I’ve heard the expression that a man’s life is complicated in proportion to the number of vehicles he owns that have internal combustion engines, and I can certainly understand that claim. What I really need is one of those Airspeeders they used to get around on the Star Wars movies. That could replace my Durango, motorcycle, and airplane in one fell swoop and would do away with those pesky internal combustion engines too .

Blogs and Wikis


I’ve been hearing a lot about blogs and wikis lately. I first heard about blogs back in 2001 when a high school girl was profiled in the local newspaper and was getting upwards of 10,000 hits per day on her blog. This got my attention, and so I decided to check it out. I started my own blog at the time, primarily to figure out what it was all about but didn’t bother to make it public. I was just writing notes to myself. I’ve since resurrected that blog here and try to post to it about once a week. In 2002, my high school class was planning a reunion and so I started a group blog for that activity. It was quite active for several months before and after the reunion and was a lot of fun. It still gets a few postings a month, mostly from me, and I can see from the web server logs that it gets checked out about 10 times daily on the average, which is a lot since we only had about 170 members in our graduation class.

Wikis are a newer phenomenon. They are pages that allow anyone to edit them. In reality, there are some checks and balances to mitigate vandalism such as moderators that can remove defaced entries by reverting to a previous version of the page. The most famous Wiki is Wikipedia, which is a free on-line encyclopedia and it really seems to work well. Wikis do seem like they have the potential to become FAQ/Knowledgebase replacements.

Today I was reading the Social Customer Manifesto weblog and came across a link to another blog that talked about using blogs and wikis for product support purposes. As some of you reading this may know, I do ‘volunteer’ product support for several products, such as the Yaesu FT100 radio, the HP de100c Digital Entertainment Center, and the HP DVD Movie Writer products. This is done using Yahoo groups and associated FAQs. From time to time, I’ve thought about other approaches, such as using a user community/content management system like PHP-Nuke, vBulletin, or Infopop but decided I didn’t want to immerse myself in the headaches associated with learning and supporting that kind of infrastructure for 3 separate communities. Yahoo Groups is easy to use and although it’s far from perfect, it’s free and people often times already are members of other Yahoo groups so they know how to use the system.

A few months ago, I was having an on-going email discussion with some of my Entcon buddies regarding corporate blogs and how they were the up-and-coming way to help connect the corporate world with its customers without the extraneous layer of the PR department and information filtering that exists between people creating products and those purchasing the products. I’m not sure that today’s corporation is ready for that kind of unedited, unscripted PR quite yet. Sure I do a little of it on the user groups I mentioned, but it’s very limited in scope. If I were to become a product support conduit for every question about all of HP’s products, I’d probably never have a minute’s rest. There are a few HP execs blogging now. I even noticed there are podcasts from Nora Denzel.

GM is doing some corporate blogging now, but it’s mostly to promote new products, not to get feedback or provide product support. It’s interesting to note that they are getting some feedback on a few of their blogs from their own employees!

So it remains to be seen if corporate blogs and wikis will emerge as a sort of kinder, gentler and more intimate way of connecting companies with their customers, and I’ll be keeping lookout for any evidence that it’s actually occurring.

A week of intrigue for Podcasting


The world of Podcasting was rocked this week with the announcement that Adam Curry, the Podfather himself, would be joining Sirius satellite radio to produce a daily 4-hour show made up of podcasts. It appears that he has signed up some of the most high-profile podcasters, initiating a veritable talent grab, some might complain. I have blogged before about Podcasting twice and once about Satellite Radio. The podcasters he signed are Chris Rockwell, of the Daily Download, Dawn and Drew from the Dawn and Drew Show, Madge Weinstein of Yeast Radio, Michael Butler of the Rock and Roll Geek Show, the Skinn brothers from the Skinny on Sports Podcast and Steve Gillmor from The Gillmor Gang. I’ll warn you in advance that some of those shows have very raw language in them, particularly the Daily Download, Dawn and Drew, and Yeast Radio.

The podcasting community seems a little worried about this new direction since podcasting has historically been a completely bootstrapped industry with little influence by main stream media or advertising revenue. Most podcasters seem to do it out of a sense of community and passion for the material they speak about in their podcast. But when people engage in an activity for any length of time without any compensation for it, they are likely to become jaded, especially if what started as a hobby turns into something that feels more demanding, like a second job with no pay. I guess time will tell whether this is a step in the right direction for podcasting or a hijacking of what was a new and promising creative outlet.

Adam Curry likes to do promos for other podcasters and about a week ago he ran a promo for a Podcast called Cubicle Escape Pod, by Jonathan Brown and Matt Thompson that discusses bootstrapping your own startup while working at a regular day job. Sometimes contemplating an exit strategy is the only way to endure the hours toiling away in obscurity in a cubicle. This is especially true if you work for an employer that may at times seem fickle about the need for your services when they carry out periodic drive-by career terminations. Most ‘escape plans’ usually involve a certain degree of independence, not more of the same with another employer where the grass may look greener. The show is well-produced with a great website and has lots of insights and advice for those contemplating a startup. Even if you don’t intend to break away from your current employer, the show will get you to think more like an entrepreneur, which will certainly benefit your current situation. I’ve downloaded all of the shows from the Cubicle Escape Pod and have enjoyed them and look forward to see where this all goes since Jon and Matt talk about their previous unsuccessful attempt to create a startup and are planning to chronicle their new attempt through the podcast, although they’ve been somewhat slow in providing the details of their new company. I guess finding out what they are up to will give everyone yet another reason to keep tuning in to the show.