A double negative can be positive

 

During one ten year (evil?) spell, my kitchen’s built in electric oven managed to burn out three baking elements… each time in a dramatic, 220 volt flash of bright light.

Anyway, the last time that occurred (early 2010), I vowed it would be the last time. I’d have to be nuts to, ever again, get suckered into replacing one unreliable part with another… a component likely riddled with an inherent design flaw and/or shoddy workmanship. There’s even an apt, time-honored proverb that has my back…

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”

There’s not even a contingency for a third time, mainly because nobody should ever be THAT foolish.

Well, it was soon afterwards that I switched the circuit breaker to “off” and repurposed this lemon of an oven into an additional storage compartment for pots and pans and its open door as a much needed additional workspace.

The bad news was that, just as I had begun my search for a new oven, many an appliance dealer told me that manufacturers no longer offer models small enough to neatly slide into my kitchen’s existing hardwood cabinetry. Long sigh.

Not wanting to incur the dust and debt of a major kitchen remodel… the bad news snowballed. No oven meant I could no longer bake, made from scratch, homemade bread, dinner rolls, pizzas and apple kuchens.

And so, I’ve settled for less… i.e., gone the toast route… well… that is until just recently. Alas, just as the pandemic had driven us into quarantine, my damned toaster went kaput. Now, I’ve gotta ask, just how the hell does such a device… and a reputable name-brand model at that… ever give up the ghost?

Seeing how I’d never want to become a COVID-19 ghost, I’ve had to back-burner toaster shopping, too.

And so, once more, I’ve settled for less… or might that be more? Lately, I started utilizing my double boiler to warm up store bought bread… usually configured as PB&J and jam only sandwiches.

I’ve gotta tell ya, this has been like a blast out of my distant past. If I didn’t know better, I’d swear I’ve been scarfing down fresh outta the oven, made from scratch bread, which is nearly identical to what I used to bake.

Who’d have ever believed it possible that dual appliance breakdowns could prove an unlikely point… namely…

A double negative can be positive.

 

Stay Safe at Home! Stay Publicly Masked! Stay Healthy!

 

 

 

 

The DIY Pandemic Mechanic

 

“Desperate times call for desperate measures.” Not a new adage by any means but, against the unattractive backdrop of COVID-19, these very words did serve as my save my own butt, call to action. After all, the alternative would be to go out in public. The consequences might include getting gravely ill and, eventually, dropping dead. Now, on to my story…

“The Problem” arose about ten days ago. Just as I was completing my weekly yard work, years worth of metal fatigue had finally weakened my electric weed whacker’s, built into the handle, connection prongs. On the plus side, I was damned lucky they hadn’t totally broken off and lodged within the extension cord’s outlet.

Essentially, this was a device, with an otherwise perfectly functional motor, which had been rendered utterly useless. Ordinarily, I’d have hopped into my car, headed over to the nearest home improvement store and blown about fifty of my hard-earned dollars to purchase a replacement.

But, seeing how the malfeasance, negligence and ignorance of my homeland’s infantile leader had rendered running life’s simplest errands arduous and perilous, I rapidly scuttled such an undertaking. On the plus side, I may’ve even avoided a much too soon meeting with the undertaker, too.

However, unlike said “leader”, I realized I could avoid COVID-19 by donning my thinking cap and getting down to work.

After all, this involved a repair task that any self-respecting electrician could do in her / his sleep. And, since I do have approximately 30, mid 1970s era, electrical engineering college credits under my belt, I felt qualified to get ‘er done.

True, sans a manufacturer’s schematic diagram, I’d need to pay particularly close attention during disassembly… i.e., mentally map out the details of this device’s inner-workings (e.g., wiring, polarity issues, how the trigger switch interfaced, etc.).

The very fact that I’d need my Allen wrench to remove the handle’s five screws, amply emphasized the manufacturer’s public safety concerns. This was their way of posting a KEEP OUT / NO USER SERVICEABLE PARTS WITHIN sign. I mean they certainly did not want DIY’ers getting electrocuted.

My game plan was to [1] sever the wires to the two prongs, remove and discard them, [2] strip off approximately two centimeters of each wire’s insulation, [3] splice on a short segment of similar grade wiring (with a preexisting attached plug) and [4] exit this wire out the old prongs’ preexisting apertures. My having two rolls of different color duct tape certainly did come in handy to address the wire polarity and new insulation issues.

Prior to reassembly I decided to run a test. To protect myself from potential electrocution, I donned a pair of insulating, plastic gloves (just in case I had, somehow, mucked this up). Triggering the motor, in an instant, it roared back to life (with absolutely no sparks flying / tripped circuit breaker). Tightening the five screws to secure the handle’s cover, it was Mission Accomplished!

Granted, I’d NEVER recommend repairs of a technical, potentially DANGEROUS nature to folks with no training. But, success such as mine, does demonstrate how, desperate times don’t necessarily require measures that are all that desperate. It is entirely possible for us to draw upon our own unique (sometimes latent) talents to work the problem… to reassert our DIY / can-do spirit.

Such an attitude will come in handy whenever a “leader’s” go-to-hell-you-are-on-your-own attitude is as good as it gets.

 

Stay Safe… Stay Home… Stay Healthy…

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Key Apollo 13 Mission Moments ~ Part 3

Well folks, what can I say… other than… “Houston, I’ve had a problem!” (Houston = WordPress Readers)…

Not unlike the actual, original Apollo 13, mission (04 / 11 – 17 / 1970), my originally planned mission to blog about… recreate / relive… the key moments of this flight had all started out well, but, within days, the problems began to pile up.

You see, against the backdrop of our raging global pandemic, I had prioritized that damned subject matter too damned much. I wound up losing sleep over it… so much so that, instead of keeping up with my detailed Apollo mission timeline transcript, I wound up snoozing through too many of the very events I should’ve been covering.

Obviously, since I could not go back in time to fix the problem (i.e., to synchronize / top off my posts with the appropriate WordPress timestamps), my premise “lost air”… not unlike how, following an explosion, the crippled Apollo Service Module had vented life sustaining oxygen into the unforgiving vacuum of deep space.

Fortunately, all’s not lost. There’s still one key event, ISO a timestamp, that’ll neatly wrap up this pandemic truncated series…

Yes, indeed, the very finest moment of the Flight of Apollo 13 occurred on this very day, when Command Module pilot Jack Swigert successfully navigated Apollo 13 through that unforgivingly narrow, 2° wide, reentry corridor. Following a fiery reentry through Earth’s atmosphere, Swigert, along with crewmates Jim Lovell and Fred Haise, finally made it home, splashed down in the South Pacific Ocean (coordinates 21°38′24″S 165°21′42″W) at 18:07:41 UTC or 12:07:41 CST… or stated more conventionally, at approximately 12:08 p.m. Houston time. From that moment, onward, the Flight of Apollo 13 would be dubbed: NASA’s successful failure mission.

A brief aside re our above clip… I’ve opted to go the Hollywood route because Director Ron Howard’s film far better captures the palpable tension and raw human emotion of the moment… and all set to the swell of a symphonic musical score that’s even backed by an angelic choir. We even get to witness the steely-eyed missile man, Flight Director Gene Kranz (portrayed by actor Ed Harris), blink back tears upon the realization that he / his entire ground crew’s ceaseless, concerted efforts had saved all three astronauts’ lives.

To this day, I still shudder at the mere thought of how Lovell, Swigert, and Haise had been one error in judgment away from becoming entombed within the inky, icy void of outer space… throughout eternity.

Checking my wristwatch I see this post’s “splash down” time is nearing… with just enough time for a few parting thoughts…

• NASA’s historic and heroic team effort… their flawless, improvised (literally on the fly) rescue mission… had been… still is… and shall… perhaps, throughout perpetuity… represent human ingenuity and resolve at it’s very finest.

• Seeing how, at present, humankind has monumental stumbling blocks to overcome, inclusive of an unpardonable, political leadership vacuum (of astronomical proportions), only God knows how long it’ll take before we Americans can even begin to reclaim our can-do spirit. It’s likely that the half-century old high bar, which NASA had established during Apollo 13’s week long mission shall remain out of reach for the foreseeable future.

• For now, from a technological standpoint, April 17, 1970 / 18:07:41 UTC, will remain humanity’s finest hour. We can only hope that someone… maybe some inventive soul, who’s yet to even be born… can equal or top this feat long before the final sentence of the final page of our story gets written.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Key Apollo 13 Mission Moments ~ Part 2

SUBTITLE: “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

 

As of my 10:06 p.m. (U.S.) blog posting time, on this very April 13th night, 50 years ago… and 56 hours into the mission of Apollo 13… catastrophic consequences erupted following a routine “housekeeping” chore of “stirring” the spacecraft’s liquid oxygen tanks… so grave a situation that this necessitated the moonward bound astronaut Jack Swigert’s Earthward transmission of this spine chilling distress call…

“Houston, we’ve had a problem here.”

Mere moments later his mission commander, Jim Lovell, echoed that message, nearly verbatim,

“Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

Fred Haise, their crewmate, could’ve easily dittoed that, too, for all three of them were now “going down” with their rapidly “sinking” ship.

That S.O.S.… oft misquoted as “Houston, we’ve got a problem.” perhaps forevermore… will remain humanity’s phrase for calling attention to disasters great and small.

What happened next? Well, once Flight Director Gene Kranz’s ground crew had concluded that the quadruple failure of the spacecraft’s life sustaining hardware was irreparable, he had no other option but to immediately scrub the originally planned lunar landing and preside over the “launch” of a (literally on-the-fly) rescue mission.

Step one was to repurpose the Lunar Module into that of a lifeboat. The big problem… that craft was only intended to keep two astronauts alive for far less hours than it would take to get all three astronauts back to Earth… alive and well.

Up until April 17th, via my subsequent YouTube clip enhanced blogs, I’ll be recreating more key moments to chronicle the Apollo 13 rescue mission… NASA’s historic and heroic team effort… which will showcase human ingenuity and resolve at it’s very finest.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting Key Apollo 13 Mission Moments ~ Part 1

One half century ago, on this very day, at 13:13 (Houston time), NASA blasted off Apollo 13 astronauts… the veteran Jim Lovell and rookies Fred Haise and Jack Swigert… sent them successfully rocketing into Earth orbit (in spite of a second stage rocket’s untimely shut down of one of its five engines).

Everyone had (prematurely) breathed a sigh of relief that they had gotten that typical “one” mission glitch under their belts so soon… or so they thought…

Approximately three hours later, the crew reignited their SIV-B third stage rocket, to commence and complete the TLI maneuver (TransLunar Injection), which sent them hurling onward for a week long, one half million mile, round trip odyssey to the Moon. All started out well, but…

Barely two days into their mission, Swigert transmitted earthward, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” and that statement was soon echoed, nearly verbatim, by Commander Lovell’s “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”

That phrase… oft misquoted as “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”… perhaps for the rest of humanity’s existence… will remain our synonym for calling attention to disasters great and small.

For the next seven days, it is my intent to recreate key Apollo 13 mission moments via my YouTube clip enhanced blogs.

My commitment goes way beyond my being a NASA geek (backdating to their earliest Project Mercury and Gemini manned missions). While I had been repeatedly WOWED throughout their early successes it was during Apollo 13’s quadruple failure of vital spacecraft systems that these pros had WOWED me even further… maybe even more than when I witnessed Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong become the first human to take his “one small step” onto the lunar surface.

Being impressed to such a degree involved… still does… my indescribable feelings upon witnessing NASA’s Flight Director / Manager Gene Kranz and his entire ground crew promptly setting aside ambition to masterfully improvise… literally on the fly… a rescue mission… to make saving the lives of Lovell, Haise and Swigert PRIORITY #1!

Kranz said it all when he addressed his team, thusly…

“Let’s work the problem, people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing. We’ve never lost an American in space, we’re sure as hell not gonna lose one on my watch! Failure is not an option!”

It was during film director Ron Howard’s dramatization of the flight of Apollo 13, that actor Ed Harris (in the role of Kranz) had dubbed this rescue effort “NASA’s finest hour” and I wholeheartedly concur. From a technological perspective, I’ve yet to see a finer example of humanity’s can do / never give up spirit.

My game plan on this historic day is to watch (actually re-watch) the above YouTube clip… the PBS 1994 Documentary: “APOLLO 13: To The Edge And Back” and I invite you to do so, too.

Hey, that’s not a bad way to wile away the hours, together, while still complying with social distancing protocols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DIY Project! Landing a Commercial Jet!

(Don’t Try This At Home… DUH… It Ain’t Airborne!)

Had I not just seen this clip with my own eyes, I would’ve never believed such an intriguing, instructional video even existed. But, considering how there have been 580,527 views since Oct 25, 2019, folks, indeed, do hunger for such know-how.

Granted, clocking out at 31:55, this may be way too long for some of you. With that in mind, I’ve cut-to-the-chase by cuing up this presentation to begin at the 24:21 mark. If you do not plan on hanging around for the clip ending rehash, your run time will crunch out in just under 6:00. Of course, if you’d like to view this, in its entirety, you can still “rewind” to 0:00.

Who knows? Knowing your stuff, someday, might even make you a front page news hero standing upon the world stage!

Let’s now hang out on the flight deck, where YouTube’s Mentour Pilot will get us all up to speed… or… more to the point… down to a safe landing speed…

“What if a Passenger was the ONLY one left to land the plane? Could a passenger theoretically do it, without ANY previous knowledge or training? In today/s Special video, I will go through the required steps that will have to be taken in the cockpit in order to set the aircraft up for a safe auto-land. There will be around 20 different individual steps that need to be taken and none of them can be omitted or done in the wrong order. This all depends on the passenger getting into contact with Air Traffic Control and being reasonably close to a suitable runway. If you want to download this video and keep in your phone or mobile device, you can do so inside the Mentour Aviation app.”