Archive for Education

Road trip games

Jonathon Ramsey on Autoblog: Our Top 5 Favorite Road Trip Games Of All Time — (No, We’re Not “There Yet”).

Road trip games, those boredom-battling tests of concentration and quick vision meant to speed the hours, are some of the closest things we have to auto mythology.

Like early tales of Zeus and the Chupacabra passed down by oral tradition, they mean a lot to us, some of them make us laugh and some scare the pants off us, and no one knows from whom, when or where they originated.

I Spy, Road Trip Bingo, A is for Armadillo, Alphabet, Cow Poker … what are your favorites?

These days, it seems that parents are looking at other ways to keep the kids occupied. Consider the Raspicar wireless media server projectI wanted a way to stream video files to different Ipads and ipods I own to entertain my 4 children during long car drives.” Maybe the Pokemon Go phenomena will get an adaptation to automotive travel? 

It used to be we’d get maps at gas stops and plot travels and take notes on locations on the paper maps. No more. It’s electronic maps, wikipedia, and a whole lot of games on a tablet. Things have changed.

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Nash 100 years setting the stage for the modern car

Jason Torchinsky repostrs that the Nash Turns 100 Today: Here’s Six Reasons Why It May Be The Most Influential Car Company Ever.

Nash Motors would have been a century old today, and while I suspect that most modern gearheads probably don’t give Nash much thought, they really should. For a defunct car company, we still feel Nash’s influence a surprising amount, in ways that are pretty basic and fundamental to how cars are today.

Nash was a player in developing Flow-through ventilation and modern car HVAC systems that are now taken for granted. The minimalists can also look at Nash’s Reclining seats and car-sleeping ideas. A lot of things we take for granted these days was non-existent not that long ago. Many baby boomers might remember cruising down 66 through the desert with only an evaporative cooler stuck in the window. Big innovations and small ones have made a lot of the risk and discomforts of getting there as things fading in memory.

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Summer reading

Looking for something with a bit less fluff than the usual for keeping the mind exercised this summer without having to dip into the wallet? Take a look at the U.S. Army Center of Military History.

On Vietnam, the volumes include Military Communications: A Test for Technology and Engineers at War as well as everything from a history of the special forces to logistics to medical evacuation to social and general history material. 

Choose your war, from the Revolution to Iraq and you’ll find reading on about any military topic from unit histories to medal winner stories to global government and social issues. There’s enough good stuff to find your own gems.

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What can I tow?

G.R. White thinks tow ratings are overrated. This is despite efforts like the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) J2807 tow-rating standard.

Alongside power, economy and payload, trailering ratings are the Holy Grail of light truck marketing. However, despite recently adopted Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standards that put everyone on the same footing, the value of tow ratings is almost irrelevant in the real world.

There’s only one way to know what your pickup can tow, and it involves a trip to the scales, knowledge of what Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR), GVWR and Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) are and how to calculate it all. Sure, the salesman is correct when they say your truck could pull this or that, but will they be in court or the service drive with you if something goes wrong?

The problem is that measures like in the J2807 standard have carefully specified conditions and assumptions and the actual usage may or may not reflect those conditions and assumptions. White also runs afoul of the measurement problem in his suggested solution as well. J2807 is an attempt at a s usability measure determined by actual performance evaluation. Weight ratings are engineering specifications that are estimated from design and materials considerations. A key item that should raise a red flag is when White refers to the legal system as the only time that argument has any merit is in cases of gross negligence.

Of course, you do not want to abuse the engineering specifications for your rig but you do need to be aware of their source. GAWR and wheel and tire ratings, for example, are close to individual component specific and that means they need careful attention. GVWR is more vague as it is about the vehicle as a system of parts. GCWR is even less precise as it depends upon assumptions about frontal wind area and other factors that depend upon specific circumstances. It also pays to keep in mind that, as engineering specifications, these ratings have a safety margin built in and there are also usually conditions and assumptions considered that can be manipulated for special circumstances. Speed and temperature are two of those conditions and assumptions that can be manipulated to adjust ratings, for instance. Sometimes, like for tires, these conditions are actually specified.

If you remember a family RV experience as a kid back in the 50’s or 60’s, you will recall a family sedan or station wagon with a 100-200 hp engine and a three speed transmission towing a trailer weighing maybe a ton or so. Downshifting on nearly any grade was to be expected and their wasn’t much in the way of creature comforts such as air conditioning or even bucket seats. These days, the tow vehicle is an SUV or pickup truck with nearly double the power of that old sedan and a transmission with double the gears, too. The trailer likely ways four tons or more. People seem to get irritated if their automatic transmission downshifts out of overdrive going up freeway grades and turning off the AC as suggested on I15 going East of Baker is not a consideration.

Yes, it’s prudent to make sure your rig is competent and capable before you buy but people also learn from experience. You find a tow vehicle and a trailer that fits your needs and is comfortable for your RV experience. The choice isn’t a permanent one as your needs, interests, and preferences will change over time. Equipment also keeps getting better, too.

Take care. Drive safe.

 

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An update on the motion of our regional representative to remove WBCCI affiliation with the SNU:

SNU members and friends,

Keep in mind that there will be no change in SNU operations or planned activities from any WBCCI decision. 

It is the WBCCI that is at risk as its decision will be about whether or not its Constitution and Bylaws mean what they say and whether or not the SNU represents its purposes and activities as represented to the state of Ohio and the IRS. This is why a page on _Questions to consider if you value WBCCI_ has been posted on the SNU website. See the index page for WBCCI Governance.

If you value the WBCCI, it is time to examine this case of its behavior and to make a stand – speak your voice – about what it is doing, how it functions and what should be done to make it a healthier and more vital organization.

Correspondence and presentations from WBCCI members and officials and other information has been added to the website to provide background and depth for the current case. More is added as it is found. Be an informed member of the organization and do your part to make WBCCI an organization that upholds its legacy and purpose; an organization where we can take pride in our membership.

Also don’t forget! Next week is the rally at Hickison Petroglyph Recreation Area – camping, with friends, in our Airstreams, to enjoy and learn about the special nature of the Eastern Slope of the Sierra and the Great Basin. This is also Amateur Radio Field Day weekend so it will be a good time for members with ham radio licenses to exercise their emergency communications skills, too.

— 

SNU HQ

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Don’t buy blind

Steve Lehto says Don’t Buy An RV! – Lehto’s Law Ep. 45 in an 18 minute Youtube video. He’s a consumer protection lawyer and has lots of sad tales to tell.

Published on Aug 19, 2015 — Why you shouldn’t buy an RV – or what you should know before you do. Recreation Vehicles are very different from cars when it comes to how the law protects you.

His point is that an RV is a complex collection of many systems put together by folks under a lot of pressure and often bought by people who don’t really know what they are getting into. Automotive Lemon Laws and consumer protections are not as stringent for RV’s and the risks are significant.

Caveat Emptor (wikipedia) applies. Know what you think you are buying. Check to see that what you think you are buying is most likely what you are paying for. And know the RV lifestyle needs and requirements related to the particular RV you are buying. Expect things to break or not work as you expect and know what to do when that happens.

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Maps, USGS, online

From the other side of the country the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped takes note of Nearly Every USGS Topo Map Ever Made. For Free. from the USGS Map Locator and Downloader — “an incredible treasure trove for both map junkies and casual hikers alike.

One important thing to note is that, in general, the most recent topo maps listed are markedly different from their predecessors. Part of the new US Topo Series, these maps have been created as PDFs with geospatial extensions (GeoPDF), which gives you the ability to turn on and off different layers (contour lines, place names, water features, etc.) for viewing, depending on what information you are interested in. Unfortunately, however, trails are not currently included as one of these layers—a significant drawback for hiking.

Lastly, and one of the single-most useful online tools I’ve discovered in recent years, is the ability to overlay every USGS topo map on top of Google Earth, another free (and extremely powerful) tool to add to your trip planning quiver.

While you might be able to take the digital copy down to a local printshop to get a large paper copy, buying the paper copy from the USGS store might get you a better copy at less cost. There’s just something about a big map with lots of detail that isn’t there with the same map viewed on a display. Each has its uses: one is great for virtual exploring with a big table and a good light. The other works for active navigation and map editing. It’s also a lot easier to carry around an extensive map library when it is in the form of digital storage rather than large sheets of paper.

Right now, the Appalachian Mountain Club’s Equipped blog has posts on the status of the New England fall color and Railbikes. Looks like a good blog to watch, even if I’m getting back east anytime soon.

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For the survivalist or some interesting reading of classic home how-to literature

The Survivor Library says it is about how to survive when technology doesn’t – classic survivalist meme. The Library Index includes 106 categories of ‘how-to’ out of copyright books. The cookbooks collection has an extensive collection mostly from the 19th century up to about 1922. The books are available in both PDF and epub versions. The epub version works for your eBook reader but sometimes the conversion has glitches.

If you are interested in science, technology, and home-making as it was 150 years ago, this library should provide many interesting resources.

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Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains, A visit with pictures by a geologist

She says she is Looking for Detachment and the latest post is about a geologist’s First Trip into the Ruby Mountains of Nevada. The event was the 2nd Annual Great Basin Rendezvous of the Nevada Mineral Exploration Coalition.

If you want to see what you’ve been missing in North East Nevada complete with a bit of geology, take at look. Here’s an example:



“At this point, where a falling rock sign appears on the side of the road, the overall U-shaped nature of the glacially carved canyon can be seen.
 The main part of Lamoille Canyon forms the foreground right of the road and highway sign, and it continues to the far left where cliffs of brownish gneiss, marble, and granite abound. The Right Fork of Lamoille Creek shoots off to the right, into the U-shaped canyon where its eastern, sunlit slopes are covered by green, yellow, and orange aspen trees.”

there’s more … go see!  

Go visit, too. Fall is time for color and sharp horizons in Nevada. As always, prepare for very cool mornings and beware of the potential for early storms. 

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Squirrels

Some call them rats with PR. They don’t hibernate but they do hunker down when it’s cold or the weather is bad. Since they live off nuts with an occasional bird or bird egg and insects and whatnot, we probably ought to avoid putting out peanuts for the Blue Jays. Most of those peanuts get stashed and that means the squirrels can probably get a good meal robbing the Blue Jay stash. They are ‘cute’ but there are reasons people don’t like them around. GruntDoc has a nice picture about why the War on Squirrels got started. They chew on wires and other things.

A few years ago, some squirrels built a nest in the V of my B-Van V-8 engine. The smell of roasting sagebrush on the annual spring trip to the smog and lube center was quite nice but also quite a fire hazard. It took a bit of doing to get into the area to remove all the debris and clean things out. Now, its just another item on pre-trip the checkoff list.

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Read cheap; take it with you

The University of California Press has made 700 books available for reading free of charge. OpenCulture has the story.

“The University of California Press e-books collection holds books published by UCP (and a select few printed by other academic presses) between 1982-2004. The general public currently has access to 770 books through this initiative. The collection is dynamic, with new titles being added over time.”

The University of Chicago Press also provides some free material.

The OpenCulture page also has a number of links to other resouces that provide free media including eBooks, audio books, and movies.

If you have a Kindle reader, check out dailyfreebooks for thousands of free eBooks including promotional copies as well as copyright expired material.

Of course, don’t forget Project Gutenberg, the “first producer of free ebooks” based on volunteer efforts.

Then there is the local library. Did you know many loan books for eBook readers? For example, you can find a book at the Washoe County Library website and it will not only tell you which branch has the book available or allow you to place a hold on the book, it will also tell you if the book is available in the electronic edition. To help you out, there are even workshops such as the one at the North Valleys Library branch on January 18.

What is nice about the electronics media revolution is that you can haul around significant personal libraries and not burden your RV. Thousands of books or movies will fit in a typical backup drive or eBook reader or tablet.

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Fire and Wind

The fire season is looking towards a season change to winter. Fires and winds can make a difference in your travel plans. A couple of websites that provide useful information are from ESRI and HINT.FM

ESRI, a company that develops geographic information systems (GIS) has a public information map that shows the database of wildland fires, winds, and air quality alerts. Click on a marker and you get a popup with additional information.

The wind map is a personal art project. It shows wind data from the National Digital Forecast Database for the continental U.S. The winds are flowing lines whose intensity indicates the winds speed. If you are looking for a synoptic overview of what the winds on the continent are doing, this work of art can be fascinating.

For a more traditional view of weather along a planned route, don’t forget the wunderground road trip planner. If you’ve got your route set up in Google Maps, GmapToGPX might help you transfer the route to your GPS.

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Sacramento to Gerlach Botanical Travelogue

If you want to know what is growing along the Truckee River corridor and then north to the Black Rock Desert, Tipidan’s Burning Man Botanical Travelogue provides a good summary.

“Herein we present, for the enjoyment and edification of Burning Man enthusiasts everywhere who travel through Nevada en route to their spatial and temporal goal: a botanical travelogue! I am a botanist, and this cyber-nature-walk will include many plants that you’ve seen by the side of the road for years in this desert. It’s time you became better acquainted!”

“The tops of the ridges that flank the Truckee River are covered with growth of a very interesting tree, the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany. It too, is in the rose family” … ” extremely hard, wavy grained, and nearly impossible to cut with either axe or chainsaw”

“The City of Reno sits squarely within the Sagebrush Zone, but climate and human intervention have made Reno a much more interesting place. Reno has Japanese Red and Black Pines, numerous Ash, Big Tree Sequoia, Eastern Red Cedar, California Incense Cedar, true (Atlas) Cedar, Catalpa and my personal favorite, European Beech.” … “Reno is really a grand horticultural experiment in an early stage.”

Russian olive, tumbleweed, the Dutch Elm stories and many more … There is much to see and a bit of help like Tipidan offers provides a pointer to just what is out there.

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Tuft’s Rocket Science 3: Airstream Interplanetary Explorer

What some people do with an Airstream trailer. One example is Edwin Tuft. See the pictures!

It helps if the name is familiar, if you know what a Feynmann diagram is, and you remember the Pioneer Space Plaque, you’ll understand,

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Find your antipode

Ever wonder about that idea of ‘digging to China’ ? Free Map Tools has a map tunneling tool that will show you your antipodes on a map. For the SierraNevadaAirstreams.org territory, the antipode is in the Indian Ocean off Madagascar.

The site has a few other tools that might be fun to play with …

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LED lighting – DIY strip lights

LED lighting is an attractive option in RV’s. LED’s aren’t necessarily the most efficient in terms of battery draw for light output but they do allow for a more focused light that is tailored for what you want to do. Most LED’s run at about 50 lumens per watt:

LEDs are efficient for some applications – “Compare to 14-17.5 lumens per watt for standard “A19″ 120 volt 60 to 100 watt incandescents, and typically 16 to 21 for most halogen lamps rated to last 2,000 hours or more, typically 50-70 (at optimum temperature) for most compact fluorescents rated 13 to 26 watts, and 85-100 for 32 watt T8 fluorescents operated with electronic ballasts.”

You can get battery operated LED ‘puck’ lights, strip lights, lights on a gooseneck, and all sorts of other innovative lighting solutions. The FLEXIT light (says its at Home Depot stores) puts a bunch of LED’s on a flexible pad with a magnetic base that holds 3 AA batteries. That allows spreading the light out a bit as well as shaping the light source for a particular need. You can also see the variety when browsing through the big retail outlets.

One common issue with lighting is the color. Most of the ‘white’ LED lights are like miniature fluorescent light bulbs and have the same color options and concerns as standard fluorescent light bulbs. Jason suggests using a CD you might have handy to see the color spectrum of a light (How do LED lightbulbs compare to CFL and incandescent? | JasonMorrison.net)

You can get LED lights designed as replacements for the common light bulbs in your RV. There are even models designed to replace fluorescent tubes. These tend to be rather expensive. If you have a bit of a do-it-yourself bent and some creativity, you might be able to supplement your RV lighting with LED’s without too much effort. One way to do this is to get a 5 meter (16 foot) reel of LED lights and go to town. These LED strip lights are very common and provided in many varieties with costs running from a bit over $10 to more than $100.

The LED strip lights are long flexible circuit boards with an adhesive strip on the back. They are usually configured as 100 separate 12v LED light circuits. You can cut the strip between the light circuits to configure how you want to make your light source – from 100 small lights to one long light source. The typical 3258 SMD (surface mount device) strip circuit used in these has three white LED’s that drop the voltage about 3.4 volts and a 150 ohm limiting resistor. At Amazon – HitLights LED Flexible Lighting Strip Cool White or Bright White, 5 Meter or 16 Ft, 3528 Type, 300 SMD, 24 Watt (sponsored link – new idea here being tried out!) is a $14 item that has a clip for a coaxial power connector.

A strip of LED’s like this has a total light output just about on par with that of the typical 2 bulb T-8 18 inch fluorescent fixture used in many RV’s.

For household use, you need a 12v power supply. One $38 offering that includes both the power supply and a dimmer is 5 Meter Reel Warm White 3100k Flexible LED Ribbon 300 Leds 16 Ft with Free Dimmer and Free Transformer By Ledwholesalers, 2026ww-31k. You can use the dimmer in your RV 12v system.

The simple LED light control for ~$7 is PWM Dimming Controller For LED Lights or Ribbon, 12 Volt 8 Amp, 3301. The whizbang version with a remote control $11 – PWM Dimmer for LED Lighting with 12 button Wireless Remote 12 to 24 Volt 6 amp, 3317-DM. These dimmers use PWM or pulse width modulation just like a lot of solar charge controllers.

note: SierraNevadaAirstreams.org is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon. — check the links and you help support the website.

Several tests have been run with inexpensive LED strip lights – pictures to show color differences and how a camera adjusts for light output will be provided soon.

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Death Valley National Park for the paeontologist

Into fossils? Death Valley? Maybe guitar recordings? Check out the Fossils in Death Valley National Park website. It is another one of those ‘busy’ pages with a lot of pictures and a lot of information. Check it out.

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Swan Lake Wildlife Study Area

Just north of Reno 1800+ acres have been set aside in the Lemmon Valley Basin as a wildlife study area. It is a favorite birding area and now there is a gazebo at the end of planked walkways through the marsh. It is the backyard of several large industrial warehouses at Military and Lear near the Stead Airport.

There are a lot of signs to explain what you can see. See the photo galleries linked at our Swan Lake Wildlife Area page.

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Speed Cameras

As stories circulate about an LA cop who won a lawsuit by claiming he was given quotas to meet in regards to traffic citations (Report: LA police officers who alleged ticket quota system win $2M judgment) and others about stepped up enforcement on the roads based on budget constraints, there is a Washington Times story about a Business owner [who] casts reasonable doubt on accuracy of speed cameras.

Five times and counting before three different judges, the Prince George’s County business owner has used a computer and a calculation to cast reasonable doubt on the reliability of the soulless traffic enforcers.

He’s got 40 more in the queue from his drivers, too. Since the speeding citation provides two pictures to show the vehicle on the road, Mr. Foreman can use the time and distance interval between the pictures to estimate speed of travel. Since that calculation doesn’t show the speed claimed in the citation, the citation is often dismissed.

Mr. Foreman’s tickets were all issued in Forest Heights, a town of about 2,600 where officials expected $2.9 million in ticket revenue this fiscal year, about half the town’s $5.8 million budget.

The claim is that “speed kills” and that enforcing speed limits is a safety issue. The problem is that speed, as a cause of crashes, is way down the list and that is excess speed for conditions rather than exceeding the speed limit. In part, this is why cell phone banning while driving is so popular in legislatures recently because it is distracted driving that is fundamental to most crashes. That cell phone banning has a long history going back to banning microphone use in the CB era forty years ago.

The micromanaging of drivers, the use of artificial criteria for citation under the banner of safety, and the revenue proportions all denigrate the actions taken. Quotas and questionable accuracy compound the issue. Driving becomes more a game with the authorities than it does safe travel from place to place. That does not bode well for either safety nor for due respect for the authorities.

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Lezak’s Recurring Cycle

Those TV weather guys are often rather strange. One took note of a pattern in winter storms and now uses his idea of recurring cycles to aid in his forecasting about winter storms. Lezak’s Recurring Cycle posits that a unique weather pattern sets up in October or so each year to establish atmospheric conditions. That pattern cycles and repeats over and over during the winter until it slowly falls apart during the next summer.

LRC & April 10th Storm says

We are currently in the fourth cycle of the LRC which has had a cycle length between 45 and 54 days centered at right around 49 to 50 days. A major storm is now expected to form over the western states. We can go back to cycles 1, 2, and 3 and see very clearly this part of the weather pattern and how it is now repeating in cycle 4. Remember it isn’t just this one snapshot in time, but the entire weather pattern that is cycling. Take a look at the next three maps, and you can click on any map to make it a larger picture:

This year has been particularly interesting as the storm cycle is on top of the La Niña phase of the Pacific Ocean’s tropical temperature pattern. As wikipedia notes “Expected La Niña impacts during November – January include …

For the contiguous United States, potential impacts include above average precipitation in the Northern Rockies, Northern California, and in southern and eastern regions of the Pacific Northwest. Below-average precipitation is expected across the southern tier, particularly in the southwestern and southeastern states.

That is what has been the case in the 2010 – 2011 Winter with near record snow in the Sierra’s reinforced at intervals during the winter. Since this cycle is just shy of two months, anybody planning monthly meetings requiring travel might want to see if they can use the idea to help plan meeting dates.

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