we have a new hybrid

What do you get when you cross a Fishin’ Buddy 2250 and a Hummingbird TX400? I’m a little reluctant to post this after seeing how Tommy’s Blog was picked up by an outsider and understanding the true value of this new creation but in the spirit of scientific communication…

My old portable fishfinder finally gave up the ghost in a cloud of smoke this morning. Luckily having anticipated this day, I had purchased a new fish finder at a significantly discounted price about a year and a half ago. I never opened the box on the new one since it was designed for permanent installation and not portable like the Fishin’ Buddy. The new one had lots of features but portability meant I could easily switch it from boat to boat and I chose to go with portability and let the technically better one stay in the box. So when the smoke cleared, I knew it was time to bite the bullet. I sketched up a design which would operate on both machines and recombine them into a new product which had all the good features of the TX400 and the 2250. The picture says it all. My main man George had all the tools and miscellaneous bits and pieces to make it happen, Behold the Hummingbird Fishin’ Buddy 22400 a hybrid portable fishfinder. I still need to add some new battery connection terminals before it’s ready for a flight test but suspect I’ll beat the space shuttle off the pad.

shuttle launch

Something about this new shuttle launch has me scratching my head wondering. Seems they have made a number of design changes and operating procedures to correct problems of past flights. As I understand it, they have added any number of cameras and arranged for heavy duty external optical coverage from start to finish so that they can spot any area damaged during launch. The news said 107 external cameras. In addition I think they were going to do a close pass at the space station for that crew to take a look. Not sure if that’s going to happen routinely or only if they suspect a problem. In the event there’s a problem, they will be able to leave the shuttle to attempt a fix or go to the space station where the crew leaves the vehicle and waits for another shuttle to pick them up within 45 days.

Here’s my problem. First with all that camera coverage, suppose they spot a problem. Maybe it’s something that’s happened with all shuttles but they’ve never had the intense scrutiny before. Somebody is going to have to make a decision as to whether the damage is mission threatening, requiring corrective action or ok to land. Think about having that call to make. Can you really make the call to offload the crew onto the space station knowing that this would be the second shuttle to experience damage on launch. It would be clear that the fixes didn’t work or that other problems exist even if the original set was fixed. Does it make sense now to launch a third flawed shuttle design with virtually no time to work the problems? If you offload the crew onto the spacelab, you now have a time constraint on getting them off due to logistic limitations on the spacelab. Most importantly, you will be endangering the space lab crew and the rescue team as well as the original shuttle crew. I can’t really see a mission director making the decision to go forward with the rescue knowing that the rescue crew would be flying a flawed vehicle. So if you can’t make the decision to launch the rescue mission, why make the original decision to let the first crew transfer to the space station? You can’t. So instead you send someone from the original crew outside the vehicle to fix the problem. The guy who makes the fix says he thinks it’s ok and they go ahead with the landing attempt. I think that’s part of the operating plan. There’s been no mention at all of a possible Russian rescue so I have to assume that wouldn’t work – maybe no extra space for “passengers”.

So my take on it is that there is no viable rescue that involves the space station and another shuttle. That has been known from the get go when concepts for an escape module totally independent of the shuttle were set aside. I’m not sure why the space station option was even mentioned unless it was for political reasons – to help justify space station funding and make that project seem to have a real purpose. In my opinion, f there’s a life threatening problem on this launch, even if the repair is effected in space and the crew returns safely, I think that kills the project. No more manned launches until a whole new craft is designed and manufactured. Personally I think this will come off without a hitch but they will slow down future events and get working hard on a new solution.

Owl update – no new sightings on our property. George took another couple of shots at one yesterday morning as he was chowing down on a Koi but missed.

owls, gar, and hurricanes

The other day George told me that a fish owl was nailing his Koi and not to be alarmed if I heard a gunshot from his area. I had never heard of a fish owl and mentally blew it off. In the past 2 days I’ve had 4 major owl sightings and believe maybe it has moved onto our property down by the lake. The first sighting was Friday AM when I saw it in a pine tree at the far side of Grover’s. Then about mid day I was heading down to the lake and upon entering the jungle, a fairly substantial owl flew up from the palmettos to one of the bay trees. He kept his eye on me as I walked by but didn’t fly off. I went down and messed around on the lake – a small swim to cool off and some general straightening up. He was still on the same perch when I left. Last evening I saw him fly back to that same area, highly visible on a limb. At that time a small bird starting harrassing him – diving on him. The owl was disturbed and flew off to Grover’s with the small bird still darting and diving on him. He was there on our property again early this morning. I can’t say that I’m seeing one bird or several. It seemed to me that the first bird was much larger than the one last evening but owls are kind of hard to judge. And I can’t say this is a fish owl living on George’s Koi but for sure it’s an interesting experience. I’m hoping he’s big enough to nail a cat or ten but suspect he’s feasting on our bumper crop of squirrels. I can tell you for sure that I have not seen the first sign of a squirrel in an area that is usually hopping. I’m going to wait a day or so to post this on the chance that I may be able to sneak a photo. He lets me get fairly close so it’s possible.

Update. More sightings and further discussion with George lead me to believe there are multiple owls – the fish owl and another, larger kind. George said he has taken about a dozen shots at the fish owl up by his house but consistently missed – “bad sights on the gun”. I spotted the large one this morning but wasn’t able to get close enough for a decent photo. I also got a closer look at the exact spot he was roosting and noted it was right next to a squirrel nest. I know he hasn’t cleaned out the nest because I’ve seen a couple of those homeowners entering and leaving and have not seen a “for sale” sign anywhere nearby.

Fishing still bad. I’m convinced that it’s due to the rain and the increased level of tannic acid that brings. All small lake reports are poor while large lakes seem consistently better – makes sense. The large bodies of water dilute the acid and have a faster top to bottom turnover. Small lakes concentrate the acid along the shore from runoff and generally remain calmer and more stable. I think the acid forces the bass away from the shorelines and into sweeter, cooler water. Along with the warm, acid water comes gar. I’ve noticed a sharp increase in gar population in close to shore and have reduced that population by two this weekend.

Hurricane Dennis report – nothing to report. A bit breezy with a squall or two. We did lose power last night for an hour but that happens from time to time independent of the weather conditions. Measured about 3” in the rain gauge between Sat morning and Sunday morning. By our standards, that’s fairly wimpy. My nephew Glenny in Pensacola was, per his mother, riding it out. That was when it was a cat 2 storm with 115 mph winds. Maybe he’ll rethink that based on this mornings update which showed a strengthening to cat 4 with 145 mph winds. It did show a slight shift to the west – not as far as I personally expected – so now Mobile is the dead-on target instead of Pensacola. Not too much solace but still………. Our friends, Joe and Joan Richburg, moved from Eustis to Fairhope AL and that looks like ground zero for Dennis. On Friday they were planning to stay put but won’t be at all surprised to hear they flew the coop. Good luck to all.