Sunday, June 29, 2014

“They be aliens son.”

A week or so ago, John and I were chuckling over a number of UFO sites where it seems the most outlandish interpretations of photos and videos are quickly assigned to any images that purport to demonstrate that “we are not alone”. They always seem to discount the vastness, grandeur and complexity of the natural world, and in equal measure under estimate the creativity of human beings. And who knows how secret government programs factor into the mix. The default position of professional believers seems to be that if they themselves can’t explain those photos, then nobody can, so clearly other-worldly aliens must be the cause.

Eventually I mentioned that at my old retroDynamics blog, one of the most popular posts was one on how to build a UFO in 7 days. Well, a plastic model of one of course, and in this case the alien life-form that built it was me :-) So, without further adieu, I’ll control the vertical and I’ll control the horizontal while I reach into the time-machine and respectfully submit for your consideration, How to build a UFO in 7 steps and 5 evenings and UFO! from way-back in 2010.

How to build a UFO in 7 steps and 5 evenings
9 September 2010
Ok. Well you’ve realized that since this is retroDynamics, it’s a model UFO, and not a ‘real’ UFO. Still, the model is an interesting - as well as quick and easy - project. But, as it turns out, not easy enough for me :-( , since I still managed to make a big mistake – read on for the gory details.

1. Buy this kit
I don’t know if it’s still relatively easy to get, since I bought this one a few years ago. It’s claimed to be a 1/48 scale replica of an alien craft being housed at the infamous Area-51.

2. Pick out the 4 parts you’ll need and wash them
The main hull of this vehicle is moulded in clear plastic so that you can get a clear view of the interior components. I wasn’t interested in the interior, so I pulled out the four parts that comprise the hull: the upper and lower saucer halves, the upper ‘bridge’ unit and the pointy little antenna that glues to the top of the bridge.

They need a little sanding along their edges to remove flash and roughness. Then you need to wash them thoroughly in warm water with a mild soap – I used a liquid organic dish soap for this job. It turns out that all model kits have mold release residue coating their parts to some degree or another. This needs to be washed off to prepare the parts for painting. Many times I’m lazy and skip this step. I’ll paint a little bit on the parts and keep going if it sticks ok. Bodies and fuselages are an exception: I always wash them. Since the saucer halves are clear in this kit, I really noticed the difference after they were washed; illustrating rather dramatically that I shouldn’t be so lazy and make a practice of washing all the parts in all kits.

3. Mask the saucer halves
I decided to spray the inside of the saucer halves, so I covered their outsides with masking tape to prevent overspray from marring the clear outer surface. The parts were then attached to discarded protein jars for easy handling during the spray painting process.

4. Spray the colour
I sprayed everything with alternate passes of Krylon bright silver and Krylon nickel to give a little variety to the surfaces. It turned out to be a little more subtle than I would like, but at least it’s relatively smooth.

5. Let the paint dry
I left the parts out on the back deck over night to dry and outgas a bit before bringing them in the next day. Krylon dries to the touch in about 15 minutes, so maybe this is a bit of over kill, but giving the paint a little time to outgas seems worth it. One saucer half got blown over during the night, but no damage was done.

6. Apply decals
There are 6 black decals that go on the upper bridge. I sprayed the bridge with Testors glosscote before applying them in order to get a good surface for adhesion. The next day, after the decals had dried overnight, I sprayed the bridge again with glosscote to protect the decals. Well, I thought it was glosscote. The spray can I picked up went on clear and glossy, but when I returned home from work in the evening, it had dried cloudy. I screwed up. I have a number of partially used cans of glosscote (some with only partial labels I’m ashamed to say) and it turns out that the can I used wasn’t glosscote after all, but was a matte spray. I wanted to get finished, so I went on to the final step of gluing the three pieces together. For a better model, I should have corrected this error by sanding, re-spraying the colour, and re-colouring the windows with paint instead of decals since I had ruined the ones in the kit.

7. Glue it together
Some carefully applied thick superglue was used to glue all the parts together.

Voila, a ufo!
Well, a rather unconvincing ufo, but not too bad looking if photographed in low light situations and viewed from a distance, at odd angles, in low light (I’ll say it twice); maybe it might look ‘authentic’ to someone who wasn’t looking too closely. Hence, the distant crash poses. Now all I need to do is figure out how to fake an in-flight photo without pesky wires to get in the way ;-)

15 August 2010
I shot this photo of a ufo landing with a Pegasus Area 51 U.F.O. kit and an LED flashlight. The flashlight has both green LEDs so as to preserve your night vision and regular clear ones when you need lots of light. I turned on both lights, buried it in the sand and placed the model over top to get that eerie glow. I waited to take the photos until twilight. The basic photos turned out a little dark since my camera isn’t too good in low light, but the images had enough definition that allowed me later to push the contrast and brightness in order to get an interesting image.
The Pegasus kit is very simple. It’s not a challenging build, but it is fun. The only complaint I had was that it was supposed to have 4 landing gear doors in the open position, and another 4 in the closed position so you could build it either landed, like I did, or in flight. My kit had 5 in the open position and 2 in the closed. No big deal. If you wanted to build the inflight version, the open door variants could be easily modified.
But, overall, the mouldings are good and it’s easy to put together.
I don’t know what colour a ufo is supposed to be, so I went with a paint scheme that interested me. The upper disc is a fogged mixture of Krylon aluminum and Krylon flat black sprays. The bottom disk is simply Krylon flat black - to represent some sort of protective covering for atmospheric entry in case aliens have such concerns :-)
All the windows come tinted green in the kit, and to prevent a viewer from looking inside I sprayed the inner surfaces with Krylon aluminum.
The landing legs are brush painted with a variety of bottle paints and given a wash of thinned flat black paint to blend the colours a bit. I painted one of the leg cylinders red to punch-up the colours and add some visual interest. I had an art teacher once who said a painting needed to have some red somewhere or it would look dead. I never slavishly apply that idea, but I find that it’s a pretty good thing to keep in mind.

Friday, June 27, 2014

“Where’s the ribs?”

Debra, the CEO of the 30 Squares media empire, was reminding me recently that since the cheddar, jalapeno corn-bread muffins post back in January has been one of the most popular posts of the year, shouldn’t I post a picture of the equally delectable ribs since the Canada Day holiday was coming up. She’s right, and there it is. These are indeed the best ribs to be found on planet Earth, but we have them only once, maybe twice, a year. The recipe is storied and steeped in secrecy, but I can say this: it’s the cardamom that makes them pop. Yeap, cardamom: the accidental ingredient. One day, maybe a decade ago, maybe closer to two, the yet-to-be CEO accidently gabbed the wrong ‘c’ ingredient from the shelf. It was supposed to be coriander, but cardamom was in its place. By the time we realized what had happened, it was too late. We expected the worst, but were pleasantly surprised by the excellent flavor that resulted. History was made. Coriander was forever banished from the recipe.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Explosion at a grain mill

One of box cars which was standing on track, between buildings at time of explosion; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood.

I don’t have any notes that say exactly when this event occurred, how it happened, or if anyone was injured or killed. My guess is that it happened sometime in February or March of 1944, possibly somewhere near Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Photo by William Henry Wood

From the photos I recently obtained, it looks like my Uncle Bill, William Henry Wood, travelled a lot to grain handling facilities for about a year or two as part of his job as a junior auditor at Purity Flour. One assignment was to assess the aftermath of an explosion at a grain mill.
There is no annotation accompanying this photo, but as you can see, the explosion occurred on the top level of the mill building. Photo by William Henry Wood.

From studying the photo albums it looks like he and another young auditor, Mr. Bill Paterson, from the Montreal office were sent out west by train in February of 1944 to do auditing work at various Purity Flour sites. It also looks like at sometime during that trip, in either late February or early March ’44, they were sent out to this grain handling facility explosion site - I speculate that it was near Winnipeg, Manitoba, but it could have been anywhere between there and Calgary, Alberta - to meet up with the local auditing team and bring back a record of what had happened and an impact assessment. From the photos it appears they arrived after things had been contained and clean-up had started.
Another view of the explosion site on the top floor of the mill. I presume all that ice on the wall was from a fire-fighting effort or simply from burst pipes. A rail siding is also clearly visible. Photo by William Henry Wood.

A zoomed-in view of the gash. Photo by William Henry Wood.

Same side of the mill building as the others, but this time looking in the opposite direction. Those dark, rectangular blobs in the centre may be boxcars. Photo by William Henry Wood.

South side of mill, showing south wall of packing room leaning out between elevator and mill; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood. The picture clearly shows the track between the mill and elevator buildings, and off in the distance, still on the track, is that damaged boxcar that had debris fall on it shown in the lead photos. I guess it was pushed down the track during clean-up.

A zoomed-in view of the blown-out packing room wall on the top floor of the mill. He was likely standing on the tracks between the mill and elevator to get this shot. Photo by William Henry Wood.

Looking out through hole torn in wall by explosion. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood. Looks like they went up to the room where the explosion occurred and had a look around. I can’t imagine that the building had been stabilized, maybe it was, but this seems very risky.

Looking down at the wall (south) on the elevator side. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood. Yeah, it looks like he leaned over the edge of a structure of questionable stability to get this shot.

Flour & feed damaged by water, out in the sun to dry out. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood.

Water damage on the ground floor. Annotation and photo by William Henry Wood.

There are also some photos of the reconstructed facility, and I’ll post them in a future instalment.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

TTC Flexity Outlook on a training run

[Photo of a Bombardier Flexity Outlook in Toronto Transit Commission colours by Vince Pugliese. It was shot on an iPhone and post-processed with Instagram filters. This and other photos can be found on Instagram.]

Vince sent me this photo he took of one of the TTC's new Bombardier Flexity Outlook streetcars on a training run. The Toronto Star reports that the first vehicles will enter regular service on the TTC's Spadina line later this summer on 31August. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Amtrak to New York City

A couple of weeks ago I went to New York City via Amtrak from Albany. That’s the train at Albany station waiting for us to board. The trip was on time, and the staff were friendly and efficient. Overall, quite a pleasant experience, and I’d certainly do it again.
New York: buildings, buildings and more buildings. An urban model builder’s paradise. On this trip I happened to be near the retro-70s-futuristic Solow Building - shown in the photo above - located at 9 West 57th Street. I had never seen it up close before. Amazing. Some rough calculations suggest an N scale model would stand around 1.8 m tall. In HO? I’d need to buy a new, and much taller, house! Clearly, some selective compression would be in order to build something suitable for a model railroad.
New York City’s Penn Station. Busy doesn’t begin to describe it, but again, it seems efficient. We didn’t experience problems or delays. One odd railroad related thing I saw underground as our train approached the platform was a rustic, old flat car parked on a siding whose markings clearly said ‘Rio Grande’. We zoomed past before I was able to snap a picture. It seemed like an out of place time traveller.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Eagle Spacecraft Models, meet the Balsa Disk Fliers

[Cover image of Eagle Book of Spacecraft Models sourced from John Guy Collick]

Vince sent me a link to a review of a most excellent old book published in 1960 called Eagle Book of Spacecraft Models by Ray Maimstrom. I’m a sucker for these sorts of old-school model building books. I searched and found it for sale at an online reseller, and although it’s a little pricey for me, the seller had a photo of this interior page describing  how to build a free-flying model airplane in the shape of a ‘Martian Flying Saucer’.
[Sourced from an ad at Abe books; won't say which one as I might still buy it :-) ]

I immediately flashed back to some posts at my now defunct blog, retroDynamics, about some simple disk-wing hand-launched gliders I made some years ago from balsa wood and styrofoam. They won’t go to Mars :-) but they’re good for some pleasant backyard fun. For a change of pace, here are the old posts:

13 April 2009
Circular Wing Glider
I’ve been reading about airplanes with circular planform wings, and building some simple flying models, for a year or so. Hopefully I can write more about them in the future, but, thusly inspired, I built this very simple balsa glider back in January.

The wing has a diameter of 6 inches. The mass of the glider, less the nose weight, is 10 grams; the clay nose weight adds 3 grams and puts the balance point ahead of the wing’s quarter-chord.

It flew fairly well. For awhile. I launched it from the back deck of the house by pitching it high over the snow drifts piled up in the backyard. During construction I had inadvertently glued a small twist into the tail fin - which I couldn’t quite twist back out - which caused the glider to turn to the right, sail over the 8 foot side-yard fence, and crash against a wall of my neighbour’s house precipitously close to her kitchen window. Luckily no damage was done and I was able to inconspicuously retrieve the plane without having to explain to her, or my wife, why a man of my age was assaulting her house with a toy glider.

That was the last flight. The raw balsa had absorbed a lot of snow and the whole thing warped too much to be flyable after that. That and the impact on the nose-weight snapped the canard from the fuselage. Now that summer is almost here I’d like to try and build a few more of these; some from foam as well as balsa.

21 July 2010
First flight of a disk-wing glider with a K-F step
I tried flying this disk wing glider with a Kline-Fogleman step in the backyard last evening after the wind had died down.

The disk has a diameter of 6 inches and the total mass of the glider is 5.5 grams. A paper-clip attached to the nose was used to place the centre-of-mass a bit ahead of the quarter-chord.
Synopsis: It felt too light when it left my hand, veered in a large arc to the left, crashed into a tree, and broke off the canard.

I clumsily tried to glue the canard back on with super-glue - it was originally attached just with white glue which was no doubt why it broke off ! - but, I got the alignment all wrong. I decided to call it quits for the evening, and spend a little quality time some other day on fixing the plane.
I did try to fly it immediately after the crash without the canard. It didn’t flip end-over-end, just made a short and graceful arc to the ground.

17 August 2010
Trimmed flight of the K-F disc glider
I fixed-up the broken KF disk-wing glider and gave it another try. The wing and canard were re-glued with a thick super-glue, and the balancing clay mass was moved all the way forward to the nose. Total mass is now 8 grams. The centre-of-mass is about halfway between the leading edge of the disk and the trailing-edge of the canard.

I flew it a little in the backyard to get the trim worked out before trying to fly it in a larger field. This way I can run down to the workshop to easily fix things if needed. I shot a short video of some of the backyard test flights, but for some reason I couldn't get them uploaded, so some imagination is required at this point :-) The glider was launched from roughly 5 feet above the ground, and it flew for about 22 paces before crashing. It seemed surprisingly resilient and didn’t break or distort after a few fly-and-crash sessions.

I think the model has a lot of drag, the canard is getting a bit beat-up from a few crashes and re-glues, and the disk is probably too thick for such a small wing and low-speeds. Anyway, I’ll try flying it in a larger field before starting to build another variation.

19 August 2010
Disk wing glider without K-F step
This glider is the same basic size as the one with the K-F step. I took it out to the backyard to get it trimmed for flights in a bigger field.
The centre-of-mass is just a little bit ahead of the disk's leading edge, and the total mass is around 6 grams.
Once trimmed, it seems to fly ok - well, I know that isn't too quantitative :-) I think it flies a little worse than the one with the K-F step, but this too isn't based on any quantitative. I need to devise some sort of test that would demonstrate what sort of effect the K-F step does have.

19 March 2012
Unfinished: Disk wing glider with curved K-F step
Back in 2010 I was playing around with disk wing gliders and one that had a Kline-Fogleman step. I made up some parts for a variant that had a curved step, but never got around to gluing the pieces together. I thought the model with the K-F step flew better than one without, but that was just a feeling and never proven. I need to get out the glue and give this one a try.

I checked around my workbench and those pieces are still there - maybe a summer project.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

…showing results for: El Moore…

[The El Moore Apartment Building in Detroit. Image sourced from DetroitYES]

Sometimes Google search really outdoes itself. While searching on E L Moore some days ago, it returned links and images to an amazing, but now down-on-its-luck, apartment building located in midtown Detroit called the El Moore. As you can see from that photo of the façade it has the signature vibe of a potential E. L. Moore build. A 2012 post at curbed Detroit says it’s under renovation by new owners and might be finished by 2016. dETROITfUNK also has some excellent photos. I hope all goes well with the renovation and it gets restored to its former glory.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Broadview, Saskatchewan, 1944

C.P.R. Dominion No. 3. At Broadview, Saskatchewan, at 5 P.M., Feb. 22, 1944; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood.
The C.P.R. No. 3 At Broadview, Sask, Going West on Feb. 22, 1944; photo and annotation by William Henry Wood.