Author: Tom Campbell

1966 Buick Riviera For Sale $10,500

1966 Buick Riviera for sale. White with black interior. Runs well. It is a delight to drive. It has the optional bucket seats and center console with slide shifter. 93,000 original miles. The car has been in our family since purchased new at Covert Buick in Austin, TX. Original 425cid Nailhead engine and TH400 transmission with switch pitch torque converter. Original owner’s manual.

Front end recently redone including new Redhead steering box. Timing chain, timing cover, oil pump and motor mounts recently replaced when timing cover cracked during water pump replacement. Recent aluminum radiator, Koni shocks. Edelbrock carb. MSD coil.

It needs fresh paint, carpet, and the front seat reupholstered. It leaks brake fluid from a rear wheel cylinder, and transmission fluid in small amounts from the front seal when the car sits for a while. Air Conditioning is not charged. It suffered a minor collision in the driver’s side rear quarter panel several decades ago.

The car is located in League City, Texas. It has never flooded, and was kept high and dry in the garage during Hurricane Harvey. Asking $10,500. Please send inquiries to info@giantspacesquid.com

Thanks for looking!

Calvin G White (WF5W) Silent Key

Cal_White

The world lost Cal White this past Friday. It is a loss most folks will not mark, nor feel, nor understand. Nevertheless Cal is gone and the world is now short one of its best people.

I met Cal at the marina. I kept my sailboat Solitaire in the slip next to his boat, Sea Pumpkin. We quickly discovered we were both amateur radio operators, but he was far more advanced and more active than I was. He shared his knowledge and passion with me, and pressed me into getting my extra-class license, and joining the Texas DX Society.

When I sailed across the gulf to Cape Canaveral for the NASA Morpheus mission, Cal kept in touch with me both coming and going, and ran phone patches so I could talk to my wife, Dee Ann. Hearing his voice was a tremendous comfort to me. Having sailed across the Atlantic himself he understood my communications needs and limitations better than I did. You can read about his sailing adventure, The Penguin here.

Cal traveled to more countries than I ever will, and set up a radio station in many of them. We had plans to do a DXpedition, and do some more sailing, but we didn’t get around to them in time. Cal did manage to sucker Dee Ann into getting her amateur radio license (KG5EUB). She is now studying for her general class so we can continue to talk without Cal’s assistance when I’m offshore.

So here’s to you Cal. I guess I’ll hold my nose and drink a non-alcoholic beer in your honor. Maybe I’ll finally learn Morse Code too. And maybe I can try to be a friend and mentor to some unfortunate dreamer that pulls his boat in next to mine someday. I won’t be as good as you though. Fair winds my friend. KD5TIO, QRT.

 

Water Hyacinth & Nausicaä’s Toxic Jungle.

2015 was the year of the Water Hyacinth on Clear Lake, Texas. This floating plant has been here for a number of years, but this was the first time I saw huge mats of the stuff drifting the length of the lake. I also saw several of the tributaries totally choked with it.

Water Hyacinth, or more technically Eichhornia Crassipes, is a rather beautiful invasive species brought here from the Amazon. Since it won its freedom, it has taken over countless fresh water lakes and streams in the southern United States. Florida and Louisiana have been especially hard hit. They have spent millions trying to control the hyacinth in an effort to keep their waterways navigable. Water hyacinth can be spread numerous ways, including by the bilge water of fishing boats, and accidental releases from aquariums. You could even “accidentally” spread it by purchasing it on eBay and having it shipped to your door. I don’t recommend this.

Water Hyacinth can grow faster than almost any other plant, at a rate over 10ft a day, and can double in surface area every 14 days. When it completely covers a body of water it essentially damps out all wave action, which is the principle mechanism for oxygenation of the water. As a consequence, the water becomes oxygen depleted, and many aquatic organisms, including fish, can die.

So case closed, right? Let’s kill the stuff! We could harvest it and turn it into biodiesel. Or perhaps we could use it as fertilizer or turn it into jewelry or something, I don’t know. But hold on a second. Fixing nature has never been that simple. Plus, I can think of at least one nutty reason why we might want to leave the stuff alone, and let it take over Clear Lake, at least for a few decades.

Water Hyacinth has one interesting trait. It concentrates heavy metals and pollutants within itself, and it just so happens Clear Lake is one of the most polluted bodies of water in the United States. Its main feeder, Clear Creek, is full of Dioxin and PCBs. Consuming any fish from there is strongly discouraged.

But nowadays, Clear Creek is full of water hyacinth as well. After a heavy rain, acres of the stuff tear loose and drift into Clear Lake. After a few days of soaking in the brackish water, the hyacinth turns brown and dies. I can’t say how far it eventually travels, or when it finally sinks. Some certainly makes it into Galveston Bay. It is likely that bits and pieces make it out to sea. Perhaps some even falls as marine snow in the abyssal deep of the Gulf of Mexico.

Here I claim, without proof, that the hyacinth is slowly transporting its accidental load of industrial chemicals seaward, and then depositing it where, over the centuries, sediment will effectively sequester the toxins. So this brings us to Nausicaä. It seems that just maybe, our local aquatic toxic jungle is slowly working to rid us of our past environmental sins, just as hers did. Who knows, maybe a thousand years from now Clear Lake will be clear, and our descendants will reside right here, in the Valley of the Wind.

TraFAILgar Day

On October 21st, 2014, Trafalgar Day, the Bacliff Exploration Society launched Autosharktypus, by all accounts, the first Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) to grace the waters of Clear Lake Texas. The goal was for it to transit a couple of miles, remaining close to shore, ending up at the pub Boondoggles. Autosharktypus had worked fine the night before, but on this day it was not to be.

This effort was made to satisfy our sense of humor for the most part. After all, when rocket scientists aren’t allowed to build rockets they tend to get bored. If there’s any worthwhile takeaway from this story its that if you want anything memorable to happen in this life you can’t be afraid to fail. It is after all the only proven path to success. And who knows, if you get it right, you just might end up at Boondoggles!

Enjoy the video:

Back on the Water!

September 26, 2015.  After 3 long years Solitaire is ready to sail.

This has been a long time coming. On November 21st, 2012, Solitaire completed the voyage from Satellite Beach, Florida, back to Clear Lake, Texas, with a Volvo saildrive full of oily watery paste. There were four of us onboard, Zoran, Shaun, Erin and myself. We had a spirited sail from Fort Myers to a mere 50 miles from Galveston, where the wind died. We limped the boat into the slip the night before Thanksgiving, but it was clear at that point that she would go no further without a new propulsion system.

Now that the repower is finally complete, it is time to shake down the new power plant, and get to know Solitaire all over again. Normally, this would not be a sane time to take one’s family for a sail, but even with potential undiscovered mechanical issues, I figure Solitaire is more reliable than most boats around here, and plus, I hedged and joined Towboat US. Gosh I must be getting old.

Overall, I am very satisfied with the changes I made going from a saildrive to a conventional shaft drive. My only two minor complaints are that Solly could use a bit more prop, and the tiller vibrates a bit more than it used to. I can fix the former, and live with the latter.

It was a beautiful Saturday sail. Just when the kids started to get whiny, the dolphins showed up. Wow. I owe the species Tursiops Truncatus a six-pack of beer, and mark my words, I will deliver.

All hail the philosophical wisdom of Jack Handey:

“It makes me mad when I go to all the trouble of having Martha cook up about a hundred drumsticks, then the guy at the Marineland says, “You can’t throw chicken to the dolphins. They eat fish.” Sure they eat fish, if that’s all you give them. Man, wise up.”

-So say we all.

League City Smog

Smog from Bay Area Blvd

Smog viewed from Bay Area Blvd

September 23, 2015

It’s the first day of fall, and as the intense heat of summer begins to fade, its not uncommon to get some patchy fog from time to time. Such was the case this morning, so I thought, as I motorcycled my way to work. But when I got to the top of the Kemah bridge I could see this brown band emanating from Laporte, and then riding the light north wind down to envelop League City.

Maybe my exposure level is higher being on a motorcycle, but regardless, by the time I got to work my throat was burning. I hope my children are faring better in their classrooms following their walk to school through this stuff. Houston presently ranks 6th in the nation for worst air quality.

Why do we live like this? Because environment is a dirty word in Texas. The state government is in the pocket of big business. They are actively working to stop the City of Houston from helping solve this problem. Might makes right after all. Here’s a handy Texas Air Quality Forecast so you will know when to play it safe and stop breathing 🙂

Here’s more:  National Geographic: In Texas Environmental Officials Align with Polluters

The Goal

My aim is to lower the technological barrier so that everyone interested can play a role in exploring the world’s oceans. I think by now everyone can agree that our world is undergoing a period of rapid environmental change. It is imperative that we try to capture the state of the oceans today in order to help us understand, as fully as we can, what is occurring all around us.

Completely exploring a pond can take weeks, yet we need to perform this task for 71 percent of our planet, frequently immersed in total darkness, sometimes traversing under miles of ice, and regularly coping with pressures of over 6,000 pounds per square inch. It will take global collaboration to do this, an expansive partnership consisting of students, fishermen, offshore oil workers, retirees, merchant mariners, parents, children, IT professionals, gamers, radio operators, and so on, but all of them explorers.

In the months to come I will begin designing, building and testing a few of the subsystems and vehicles necessary to begin this effort. My intent is to make the plans freely available where possible for you to use as-is or to improve upon. As things progress I will come to need partners and associates of all skills and sorts, but first I must begin delivering on what I have promised. But now, coffee.

My New Direction

Find your passion and then follow it. Sagely advice to be sure. I have spent the last decade designing and building spacecraft, mostly for NASA. By and large it has been a rewarding experience, primarily because of the amazing people you get to hang out with. But as time slips by, I feel more and more compelled to make a difference. I personally think life is like a camping trip. You should try to leave things a little better than when you arrived.  My new way of doing this is by providing the robotics needed to enable us to explore our oceans.

I have always loved the sea. Although I’ve been confined to the surface, the little I have seen there has been astonishing. During my time devoted to the exploration of space, sailing was a pleasant distraction for me, but now things are going to change. I keep my sailboat, Solitaire, on Galveston Bay close to home. She will now be pressed into service to help me develop the tools to explore the oceans from top to bottom.  The Gulf of Mexico is on my doorstep, so this is where I shall begin. But first I have to get her working again, and then build some sea dwelling robots…Lots of work to be done. But now, coffee.