Category Archives: Technology

Solar Impulse 2 in Tulsa – The Future is Now


The big news in Tulsa this week is that the Solar Electric Airplane, Solar Impulse 2, flying from Abu Dahbi around the world landed at our local airport a few days ago. American Airlines had a huge hanger available and they let the plane park there until the weather clears up. The owners of the plane made it available for public viewing for two days. So of course I had to go since there was no admission charge.


The airplane is amazing. It uses only solar electric power, with batteries, and can take off on its own power. It can fly for days at a time. It is about 74 feet long and has a wingspan of 236 feet yet its fully loaded weight is 5100 pounds. It has four engines, each of which can generate 17.4 horsepower. Its maximum service altitude is 27,000 feet but with supplemental oxygen for the pilot the aircraft can go up to 39,000 feet. I got all these stats from wikipedia because teasing it out of the plane’s website was kind of hard.


I figured out what the term “Cavernous Hangar” means. This thing is huge!!

The plane is amazing piece of engineering. It is so light and can generate enough power from solar panels and with the batteries on board it can fly pretty much indefinitely. It has a crew of only one person in an unheated and unpressurized cockpit. It uses an autopilot to fly when the pilot is sleeping. The project has a support staff of about 60 people a bunch of whom were in Tulsa. The control center is in Monaco. The spend a considerable amount of time plotting routes that avoid weather. The plane cannot take very much weather. 



The plane’s owners intend the project to be a demonstration of the feasibility of solar power and its practicality and I must say the demonstration is impressive.

I was most interested in how the thing took off. Surely I thought it was pulled by a truck or something but no, as the above video shows it takes off under its own power.


As interesting as the takeoff is I thought the landing was a very skillful and precise affair. It has to be perfect.

And a video about the landing in Tulsa. They are trying to get through tornado alley as fast as they can.


Leaving the hangar we got a glimpse of the Solar Impulse’s support aircraft, a funky looking Russian made Ilyushin II-76 heavy cargo carrier. According to my good friends at Wikipedia it can carry 40 tons of cargo a distance of 2700 miles and land on a dirt runway. I found it almost as amazing as they Solar Impulse.

Staying Comfortable the Neo-Luddite Way


Old Al Gore wouldn’t be happy with me. I got rid of our fancy schmancy programmable thermostat and replaced it with an old school unit with a rotary dial. I put the programmable unit in about ten years ago or so and have hated it every day since. It was hard to program, chewed up batteries, and was hard to read.  Our lifestyle is not really programmable. We are home when we are home and gone when we are gone. Not really anything that can be programmed so we have had in manual mode almost the whole decade.


That wasn’t much fun either when we were trying to raise or lower the temperature we’d press the up or down button and the thing had to think about it for a while then make a high pitched whine and then move the setting up and down way too fast so it took a while to get it set where you wanted. Plus the lighting was dim in the hallway and it was hard to read.

So now we just move the dial to the left or right. I feel that we just made a huge step forward.

Anyway, sorry about that folks. Can somebody pick up the extra carbon load we are going to have with this thing? Class, class, anyone?

Have you ever gone backward in technology in order to move forward? Tell us about it.

Christmas with the “P” Setting on the Canon SX40 HS

(A little over the top on the lighting intensity but that is how I’m rolling with my P mode this days.)

My “big” camera is a Canon SX40HS Powershot. It is a nice point and shoot with a Superlens which combined with great low light capabilities makes for great concert photos and is “concert legal” because it is is small and doesn’t have the separable lens. The only time I’ve ever been interfered with is at a Sting concert last year at an Indian casino in Thackerville, OK and all the ushers were doing was waving their finger at me. I’d put the camera away for a little while and then resume when they got busy waving their finger at somebody else.

(I think ice and Christmas lights go well with the P  mode.)

Anyways, the camera has been pretty much locked into the “A” for Automatic setting most of the time unless I used the low light option at a concert. I was using maybe 1% of the camera’s capabilities and I was okay with that.


The problem was that I was a little frustrated with several things. First off, taking pics inside under artificial light often gave everything a yellow cast and then taking pictures of things like Christmas lights didn’t turn out very satisfying. Also, taking of back lit objects led to dark shadows. I learned to live with all that. I don’t strive for perfection in my photos, I just forge on ahead and go with it.

(Heather and Rascal, with no yellow! And some detail on Rascal. He usually comes out as a black blob.)

But recently I’ve learned about the “P” setting on my camera and a whole new world has opened up. It’s got adjustments for everything that has been troubling me. It gets the yellow out of inside shots. It has ways of correcting the exposure on back lit objects. You can emphasize or deemphasize colors. I feel like I have a whole new camera!

(Nana, the world’s great MIL and Fiona.)

Sure, I read the manual a little bit but the fastest way to learn this stuff is via Youtube videos. My favorite are those made by an English lady who goes by “Snapdragon.” Here is her 5 minute video on the “P” mode.

I just love her voice. I understood her perfectly on this video. On some of her other videos I had to replay certain sections and I still had no idea what she was saying. Is their an English to Okie hack out there so I can get a translation?

So, I’ve been playing around with it. The bear shot above would have been almost impossible before I used the P setting. Now, I’ve learned how to get the camera to using the right exposure.


This is the kind of shots I was getting before learning the P setting.


I love inside shots without the yellowish tint.


And how to make colors pop out. Don’t be yakking at me about how I’m altering the pic to something unnatural. How about I just agree with you and we end the discussion! Sorry to be so blunt. I’m not much of a purist on the whole SOOC thing. I’ve learned on some of Snapdragons other videos on how to edit pics in camera. Given all the things that can be done to photos both during the exposure and afterward I don’t think that SOOC has a whole lot of meaning any more.


And I achieved, in a modest way, something that is almost impossible in a point and shoot. A little bit of bokeh. I know, I said a little bit. Snapdragon has over thirty videos on the camera and I’ve gone through a half dozen of them and will be looking at more. I don’t know if she covers other cameras or not but I bet you that whatever camera you have there are videos for it by somebody. Probably not with her hot English accent but you know, you can’t get everything you want in this world.

What’s next? She has videos on how to install and use “CHKD” on the camera. That stands for “Canon Hack Development Kit” and is something totally not sanctioned by Canon. It is internal software on the camera that enables one to shoot in RAW format and do all sorts of other wonderful things that typically can only be done on the “grown up” cameras. I am taking some time off over the holidays and I’ll be trying to install and use this mode. I just hope that I don’t turn my camera into a fancy paperweight.

So are using the full capabilities of your camera or is there a whole lot in there that mystifies you? I think with my new found skills on the P setting, I’ve gone from using 1% of the camera’s capabilities to about  2%. I still have a long ways to go and about two dozen videos.

The Pedal Pub

Introducing the latest European Import

The PedalPub – where you and your dozen closest friends and a designated driver can pub hop. You rent it by the hour.  Great mileage.

It’s technical innovations like this that keep America strong! It is good clean healthy exercise and fresh air and a chance to socialize and see what is going on around you.

They already have a Hate Group on Facebook so you know that this is catching on. I guess the problem is that the riders tend to get a little drunk and tend to take over the pubs they visit. Plus it ties up a lane during rush hour. Some of the former participants hate it because four of the seats don’t have pedals and so don’t contribute to the effort plus hills are a real problem. (Personally I’d zero on the freeloader seats if I were them.) These haters are obviously the same old Democrats who object to nuclear waste in their back yards and other economic development projects.

Kinetic Kites

I was reading my good old Scientific American the other day and they had an article on “Kinetic Kites.” These are wind turbines on a kite. They fly one thousand feet high where the wind is faster and more consistent. They are being developed by a company called Makani Power. Click through to their web site, lots of good information there.

(All Photographs by Makani Power) 

The electricity is transmitted to the ground via a tether line. To get into the air electricity is back fed up the teather to the wind turbines which are propellers during ascent.

It’s all computer controlled. During the power generation phase the kite flies in a circular pattern as shown below perpendicular to the wind direction.

The prototype generates 30 kw of power. About as much as an average automobile. The vision is that these devices would be stationed offshore. It is kind of hard for me to imagine.

Below is a one minute long YouTube Video on the technology. It is just so cool.

I work in the natural gas industry and I am strong  proponent of natural gas but I’m also an “All of the Above” kind of guy as far as energy is concerned including crude oil. This technology seems promising but I don’t think I would be a fan of a bunch of wind turbines offshore within sight of my favorite beaches. In the right area this seems like it could be promising. Wind Farms here in Oklahoma have destroyed some great views in some of the areas of our state.

What do you think? Are you into wind power?

Go Cheetah Go

No, this isn’t a Camera Crtters meme entry. This is about a robot named Cheetah that I saw in Scientific American magazine. that can travel four legged over ground. At least on a treadmill.

Cheetah is being developed by the DARPA “Defense Advanced Projects Agency” for possible military use. That’s all great and everything but can’t we use this technology for better uses? Like to help people rather than assisting in killing people? Don’t get me wrong, I want our troops to have the best of whatever is available as soon as we can get it to them, but still.

Ho about rescues in really rugged country. Rig one of these puppies up with a GPS and a detailed map and let it go find people people who need help. Or patrolling our borders perhaps looking for groups of illegal immigrants who might be dying of thirst in the Arizona desert. Or maybe for fire departments to send into burning buildings where they don’t know if anybody is in there or not. Or how about carrying tourists down and back out of the Grand Canyon and other pack trips.

I’ll tell you what though they have a lot of development work on this device. How is it going to deal with mud, sand, rocks, and water? They are going to have to seal the thing up. Plus where will it get its power? Batteries or a gasoline motor, or what? It’ll be fun to see where they go with this thing. Plus for military uses it seems quite noisy.

What do you think? You have any ideas for something like this?

Saving My Neck Downtown

I love Tulsa even though it has a few faults. One of the things that drives me crazy is that we get ice and snow here and nobody downtown clears their sidewalks. It’s not only irritating its dangerous.

I bought myself some slip on grippers for my shoes and life is now grand. Earlier this week after our recent ice and snow storm I had to make a few errands in one trip. I had to go to the courthouse and pay the real estate taxes, drop off and pick up some books at the library, and go the post office to mail some letters. Couldn’t do it before.

Snowy Travels

So I strapped on my new duds and off I went.


They took a little getting used to plus they are very noisy but I was able to walk on sheets of solid ice with no problems at all. And, as a bonus, you get to talk to a lot of people. A sheriff’s deputy at the courthouse wanted a pair and asked where I got them and so did a security guard at the post office wanted some for his wife.

The only thing is don’t wear these inside. I took a few steps in our lobby downstairs and took them off. I think they would scar a floor in now time. Fortunately they are pretty easy to put on and take off.

My life is changed. I can venture out at lunch now after ice storms.

I rate them four stars out of four.