Powered by the Sun

by David Fredericks 29. October 2009 10:39

Well, we finally did it - we installed a solar electricity system on our house.  I say "finally" because we've been talking about solar for a couple of years but I couldn't overcome my inertia to call some contractors.

First, a short review of solar electricity for home use.  Photo-voltaic (PV) solar panels generate electricity when exposed to sunlight.  They generate Direct Current (DC), the type of electricity generated by batteries.  Your house uses Alternating Current (AC) electricity so an inverter must be used to transform the DC from the panels to AC for use in the house.  Electricity that is generated but not consumed on the premises (excess) feeds into the power grid and helps power everyone else.  When you are generating excess electricity, you get a credit from the power supplier, in our case, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E); this is what happens when your electric meter spins backwards because you are generating onto the grid.  When the meter spins backwards, it subtracts from your kilowatt hour usage, giving you a credit.  You will use some or all of this credit when the sun goes down and you are no longer generating any electricity at all.  In this way, the power grid sort of acts like a virtual battery to store the electricity you generate so you can use it later.  Actually, the meter spinning backwards doesn't actually happen any more because PG&E uses new, smart digital meters for solar installations that do not have that spinning wheel, but you still get the credit via electronics.  If you are a PG&E customer, you can get your last two years of electricity usage in kilowatt hours by month on their web site.  This is useful in planning the capacity of your solar system.  PG&E also has some energy audit stuff on their web site but it mostly deals with stuff you probably already know. 

To help determine the real power usage of some of the devices in the house, I use a "Kill A Watt" model P4400.  I picked it up on Amazon.com for 20 bucks.  You plug it into an electrical outlet and then plug the device you want to measure into it.  It gives a variety of readouts but the two most important are the watts consumed in real time and a cumulative kilowatt usage over time.  Using it, we have determined that we need a new refrigerator and computers that are not in use should be turned off or put to sleep.

In July, I started my search for contractors and began my education of solar electricity.  There is a wealth of information about solar electricity on the internet.  The California Energy Commission (CEC) maintains a list of solar contractors on their web site.  The list can be searched using various criteria; I asked for contractors that did business in Santa Clara County and then I looked at their web sites to get a feel for their capabilities.  I settled on four contractors and started calling.  The four I chose where Horizon Energy Systems, Renewable Energy Concepts (REC), ReGrid Power, and Vista Solar.  All of the companies except REC sent out a representative that was a salesman that also did the pre-engineering work on the system design; REC sent a person that was sales only.  Ultimately, they all made proposals but I eliminated REC early on because their proposal was made without measuring the sunlight available and the price seemed to shift around a lot.  ReGrid was very late with their proposal because their rep got sick; unfortunately that dropped them out of consideration.  Vista and Horizon had very similar bids but Horizon's plan produced more power by using photo-voltaic panels that produced more power.  We accepted the Horizon proposal but I want to stress that we could have done business with Vista or ReGrid just as easily.  I liked all three of these companies; they were all professional, courteous, knowledgable, and patient.  REC was the only company of the original four that made me uncomfortable.

I'm going to discuss the price here because I think most people considering a solar electric installation would like to know what it might cost.  Each installation is unique but should be in the same ballpark as our cost for an equivilant sized system.  Our installation was relatively standard:  a south-facing roof with a few shade tree issues.  Our system is probably larger than average at 6.7 KW DC (5.5 KW AC).  It consists of 30 Sharp photo-voltaic panels (model ND-224U1F) that are rated at 224 watts DC, a Fronius IG Plus 6.0 240 volt inverter, a couple of circuit breakers, rails and hardware for the panels, and all installation labor.  Also included with our system was a thermostatically controlled attic fan to help reduce our air-conditioning load in the summer.  The price, with tax but before rebates and credits was $38,711.  The California Solar Initiative (CSI) rebate, paid directly to the contractor, reduced this by $7,683.  We paid Horizon the remaining $31,028 but will receive a 30% federal tax credit of $9,308 when we file our income taxes next year.  That reduces that actual out of pocket expense to $21,720.  Based on current electricity price trends and our own usage patterns, the system should pay for itself in a little over seven years.  It also adds about $40,000 to the value of our house.  I'm not including about $2,800 in tree work as we had a severe shade problem at the west end of our roof.  We topped some trees, removed three trees, and planted three more trees to replace the removed trees (the new trees are a shorter variety so they won't cause the same shading problem).

The installation was done in mid-October and took four days.  The working crew size varied from seven (on the first day) to three (on the last day).  Part of the work included relocating three plumbing vent pipes in the roof.  They spent a lot of time getting the rails straight on our somewhat wavy roof.  Here are some progress pictures.

First, the roof before any solar work:

Day 1 - a driveway full of Horizon Energy trucks:

Day 1 - a roof full of Horizon Energy workers:

Day 1 - the first rail is getting installed:

Day 1 - the first rail is complete:


Day 1 - two rails are installed by the end of the day:

Day 2 - the rest of the rails are installed:

Day 3 - 30 Sharp photo-voltaic panels arrive:

Day 3 - Fronius inverter installation:

Day 3 -panel test fitting; also, this was the day the vents were moved:


Day 4 - about half the panels are installed and wired together by noon:

Day 4 - testing a string (10) of panels; that's a 250 VDC 9 amp spark:

Day 4 - securing the tops of the panels at the end of the day; the shade in this picture is now gone after some tree work:

First day of operation - 6 KW from the sun:

Finally, here's a link to a short video that shows our PG&E meter spinning backwards (this is the old meter before PG&E installed a newer, smarter meter).

The solar system has been operating a couple of weeks now and we have generated more electricity than we have used.  When you connect a solar system to the PG&E grid, your electric billing changes to an annual reconciliation.  A year's worth of generation is subtracted from a year's worth of usage and if you used more than you generated, you pay PG&E.  However, thanks to a shiny new law in California, if you generate more than you use, PG&E pays you.  I think we will be a little short on generation this year but we might be able to conseve our way into the black.  In any case, our carbon footprint just got a whole lot smaller.


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Morgan Hill Living | Solar Electricity

Nuevo Dos Gatos

by David Fredericks 14. June 2009 09:41

When some people lose a beloved pet, they say they won't get another because it is just too painful.  It certainly was painful when we lost Max.  But the reason it was so painful is because he touched our lives so profoundly.  The emptiness without Max was enormous.  Our solution was to get a kitten (Muffin did not get a vote in this decision).  In fact, we did even better; we got two kittens.

Please welcome Hank and Bella, nuevo dos gatos.  They are not siblings but they were raised together in a foster home and are very close.  In this first picture, they are just waking up from a nap; so far, they always sleep together in some variation of this arrangement.

Most of our pictures of the dynamic duo have been while they were sleeping or resting.  That is because the rest of the time they are moving too fast.  Wow, what energy!

Hank is about 11 weeks old and is a short-haired orange tabby.  Except for the length of his fur, he is similar to Max.  Here he is bouncing off of the window sill on his way after Bella. 

Bella is about nine weeks old; a short-haired tuxedo cat.  Her black fur is actually a dark gray with some striping.  Here she is up close, examining the camera. 

The last kitten we had was Max, some 12 years ago.  I forgot how busy they can be.  Here they are looking through the window screen, probably thinking how nice it would be to be out there stalking birds or bugs.  When they get a little bigger, they can try it out.


So far, Muffin's response has been hissing and an occasional growl.  Otherwise, she has been mostly disinterested.  She did however suddenly remember how to go out her cat door.  For the past few weeks, she has been waiting for me to open a people door so she could go outside; then she would return through her cat door.  Today, she got tired of waiting for someone to open a door and went out by herself.  Sometimes I don't understand her.

Here is the final snap of Hank and Bella in one of their brief periods of slow down.  The larger black and white cat in the background is some kind of neck-warmer that Doris uses.  It has always creeped me out because it sometimes looks real.  Hank and Bella don't think it is a cat but they do like it's softness. 

Hank and Bella came from Humane Society Silicon Valley.  The new HSSV facility in Milpitas is incredible.  Take a look at their web site for more info.

I'll try and get some better-posed cat pictures and post them before these guys get too big.  For now, it is kinda like the carnival came to town.


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I Finally Switched to Windows Vista

by David Fredericks 31. May 2009 05:21

I've been using Windows XP Pro as the operating system on my primary desktop computer for a long time but I want to move to Windows 7 when it arrives. Microsoft says that it will not have an upgrade from XP to Windows 7; a clean install will be required. So I mulled this over a little and decided to move to Windows Vista so I would have an upgrade bridge to Windows 7. I rationalized that the furor over Vista had died down a little as Microsoft whittled away at the problems. Also, the 64 bit version of Vista seems to be working okay for a lot of developers (my peers).


Okay, I would migrate to Vista Ultimate x64 and therefore be ready for Windows 7. Let's pause and check compatibility. Microsoft provides a nice little tool that scans your hardware and your software and gives you the good and bad news. Hardware wise, only my rather old Visioneer 7300 USB scanner didn't pass muster.


After making a backup of the current system, I started the install of Windows Vista Ultimate x64 SP1. First issue – the upgrade option was disabled; only a clean install was allowed. Web research found that there is no upgrade path from XP 32 bit to Vista 64 bit. I should have stopped right here. After all, the primary reason to upgrade was for a smooth transition to Windows 7; if I continued, I would still have the pain of a clean install and myriad software installations. But I had new system fever! I wanted to use more memory than the 3+ GB limit in 32 bit XP. I wanted some change in my environment. Besides, my office needed a good cleaning and I could clean while my PC was busy with the various installations. Actually, I could probably clean most of the neighborhood while waiting for installations to complete.


I bumped my PC up to 9 GB of RAM. I wanted to run multiple virtual machines and the extra memory would be useful (I thought). Back to the Vista installation. Except for answering the normal questions about keyboard and time zone, it was pretty much a hands-off experience. I now had 64 bit Windows Vista Ultimate running on my PC. After a little visual customizing, I attacked the hardware drivers. Most of the necessary Vista 64 bit drivers were on a CD and they all installed without complaint. Everything was working okay. Once the NIC driver was installed, I was able to connect to the LAN and also the internet. Downloading and installing the latest NVIDIA drivers allowed me to turn on Aero. My Vista experience test rated my system at 5.9. What the heck does that mean? I know that it is a good value but 5.9 is kind of an odd number – perhaps a bit overly precise.

I added some gadgets to the sidebar – more on Vista gadgets later. Then I got started on my long list of software to install. Here is my list and the compatibility issues I encountered. The draft of this blog entry included a list of all the software that I installed, the majority of which installed with not anomalies. Since most of that was superfluous information, I have reduced the list to just those programs that had some sort of exception (not necessarily bad).


Always my first install on a clean system. I'm using an older version, 9 and it installed and works fine on Vista x64. No issues. I did decide to upgrade to version 12 Pro, even though I had to purchase it anew.

NOD32 Anti-Virus

With “32” as part of the name of my anti-virus software, I thought I might be in for some shopping. However, a quick check of the NOD32 website showed that they have a Vista x64 version. I downloaded and installed it. My existing registration info worked and the PC was protected from evil-doers. Version 4 of NOD32 has a completely new interface so I'll have to figure out later if I have an optimum setup. For now, the basics seem to be in place.

Windows Mail

My preferred Email client is Outlook Express. In Vista, OE has been replaced by Windows Mail, a slightly improved version. I imported my old Emails and Address Book from the backup I made before the Vista Install and setup my Email accounts manually. This was relatively painless and only took a few minutes. What I wasn't able to retrieve were the numerous Message Rules that I had created in Outlook Express. The rules are stored in the registry and are a pain to migrate, so I started over. They needed a good house cleaning, anyway. Windows Mail includes a Junk Email filter which, so far, is reasonably effective at screening Spam. I was using Cloudmark for Anti-Spam filtering but may not need it any longer.

Using Windows Mail was short-lived due to Palm issues documented below.

Directory Opus

This is a replacement for Windows Explorer and is very important for my work style. A check of the GP Software website revealed a version for 64 bit Vista. I downloaded and installed it. The existing registration info worked and it was up and running. I am, however, having to re-customize it. This probably could have been avoided with a little preplanning, but, c'est la vie!

Remote Desktop

This wasn't really an install, just some configuration work. I use RDT to control and monitor six different servers and the first thing I noticed was that, under Vista, my remote connections startup much, much faster. This is the most positive difference that I have seen with Vista; though, by itself, doesn't justify this amount of work.


Had to download new drivers for both network attached printers. However, when I got around to testing the printers, they were very, very slow. Again, on the web, I found a very easy fix. I installed the printers by specifying a local port (even though they are on the network) and the local port points to the UNC name of the printer. This totally fixed the problem with printing speed.

Palm Desktop

I have been using the Palm Desktop software for many years as my calendar and contacts. I've tried using MS Outlook but didn't like it much. However, Palm Desktop doesn't have a 64 bit USB driver so I can't sync my Z22 PDA. A little Google work found that I should be able to sync using the Z22 infrared port. For about $20, Amazon is sending me a USB-IRDA dongle. Hope it works.

Follow-up: received the USB to IRDA dongle. Installation was simple; plug it in and Vista found a driver on the internet and installed it. That was the good news. The bad news is that I can't get the Z22 to recognize the IRDA and the PC. Also, the new Palm Desktop version 6 does not import my calendar and contact categories when it imports the rest of the data. I think my solution will be to share the Palm Desktop data with my laptop and sync the Z22 with the laptop. Since I don't have to sync very often, this should be an acceptable bypass. I am very disappointed in Palm – they have steadily deteriorated over the years and I think if the new Pre isn't a super hit, they are not long for the world.

This particular issue turned out to have huge ramifications. See my future article on “How Vista Changed My Life”.

MS Visual Studio 6 SP6

VS6 installed okay but got a compatibility error warning about C++. Since I was only installing VB6 to support some legacy apps, I ignored the warning. Seems to run okay. SP6 went on okay, as well.

Follow-up:  Uninstalled VB6 and moved it to the Legacy Virtual Machine.

MS Visual Studio 2003

Installed okay (slowly) but got compatibility warning for entire product. There is a long list of issues that I can maybe live with; however, this might be a good candidate for running in a Virtual Machine. I'll decide later as it is also for supporting legacy apps. Maybe I should put all tools for legacy support in a single VM running XP.

It is a little later and I have removed VS 2003 from the Vista system, installed Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 with a copy of Windows XP Pro (32-bit). I installed VS 2003 on the Virtual Machine and worked out a scheme to backup development changes to a network drive. This VM will be my legacy development system (more on MS Virtual PC later).

Install Note

About here I noticed that System Restore was not working. When I tried to restore a checkpoint, it got an error near the end and then, all of my checkpoints disappeared. During the process of investigating this annoyance, I found that my non-defragable system space was scattered all over my C drive. I guessed this was because I installed Vista on top of XP which already had some restore space. Again, a long quest for a solution, but the only real fix was to start over and begin by formatting the C: drive. I did this and reinstalled everything up to this point; so from here back, I did everything twice, except for the single format and two previous legacy installs. This time around, I cloned an XP virtual machine and installed VB6, VS2003, and Access 97 to use just for maintaining legacy applications.


Had a little trouble here. After installing and updating to version 1.1, I fired it up and did not have any sound after the first cut scene. Poking around on the internet, I found a suggestion to enable XP compatibility mode in the Bioshock shortcut and Viola!, it fixed the sound and the game is working great. Also, my first experience with DirectX 10 (don't notice anything different, though).


Installed version 8.2 along with the required QuickTime. This was the first iTunes installation that went perfectly smoothly. Before I installed iTunes, I relocated the “Music” folder by editing the properties and changing the location field. It used to be necessary to use TweakUI (or hack the registry) to make this change. This is an improvement. After installation, iTunes actually found my music correctly; I was quite surprised. iTunes will become a big player in “How Vista Changed My Life”.

QuickBooks 2009

Installed okay but location of company data has moved so I had to adjust my backups. By the way, QuickBooks 2006 would not install at all; the setup program immediately exits after Vista gives an incompatibility notice.


At this point, a couple of weeks later, the Vista system is running smoothly. With the few exceptions above, all necessary software installed with no problem. I disabled UAC fairly early on as it is a big annoyance. My PC is pretty well protected otherwise so I don't think UAC helps me at all.


Though Vista has some changes to the look and feel, my day-to-day usage is about the same as before. Putting my legacy development software into a virtual machine has worked quite well. My memory utilization has improved with the 64-bit system so the swap file is not as active. The extra memory in this computer is really only useful for running virtual machines as it looks like Vista never uses more than about 3 GB.

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Rolex GrandAm Race at Laguna Seca

by David Fredericks 18. May 2009 14:15

On Sunday (May 17), Hollis and I drove the Red Menace down to Monterey and attended the Verizon Festival of Speed. That's the sponsor's name for the Rolex GrandAm Race at Laguna Seca. For those of you that don't follow this form of road racing, two classes of race cars compete simultaneously. The DP (Daytona Prototype) are special-built racing cars in an aerodynamic coupe body. The slower class is GT (Grand Touring), replicas of street cars.

DP body/chassis combinations are built by a just a few manufacturers. Riley is the most common. There are also a few from Dallara, Lola, and Crawford. The real variety comes from the many engine manufacturers involved: Ford, Pontiac, Porsche, BMW, Lexus, and Honda. Over in the GT class, the contenders include Mazda, Porsche, and Pontiac, along with a couple of very slow (comparatively) Corvettes. The Mazda's look like normal RX-8s but have a tubular chassis with a carbon-fiber replica body and a three-rotor Wankel engine that produces about 420 HP.

The GrandAm rules are constantly jiggered in an attempt to maintain parity among the top group of competitors. This often results in some interesting racing. Sunday's winners in the DP class were Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (yes, son of Dan) in the Gainsco Pontiac-Riley operated by Bob Stallings Racing. The GT race was dominated by the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 driven by Nick Ham and Silvain Tremblay. A selection of pictures from before and during the race are in the gallery. The complete results are listed at MotorSports.com.

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Motor Sports

Max is Gone!

by David Fredericks 11. May 2009 12:06

Well, I haven't blogged for awhile and I am sorry to have to resume with some sad news. Our dear Max, the orange cat in the DosGatos picture, has passed away. About a year ago, Max was diagnosed with fibro-sarcoma in the form of a large malignant tumor. He underwent surgery but the prognosis was that he would not live out the year. Well, he beat that and up until about three weeks ago, we thought that he was going to beat it completely. Then his cancer returned with a vengeance and his suffering ended today, May 11. Doris and I are extremely saddened by his passing but we are both happy that he was with us these last 12 years.


We got Max from Nike Animal Rescue Foundation (NARF) in mid-1997 when he was about eight weeks old. Max and his two sisters were raised by a foster family after his mother died when he was three weeks old. I had always wanted an orange cat, and Max was an orange tabby (though Doris always referred to him as butterscotch). He was cute and he loved people. Unfortunately, Muffin didn't think he was so cute and never did any more than barely tolerate his presence. As he grew, we realized that he had just about the longest and densest fur of any cat we had seen. That hair, combined with his general lack of personal hygiene, made grooming Max a never ending but mostly fruitless task.


Max sleeping in a hat (about nine weeks old)


Baby Max could sleep anywhere, anytime (about nine weeks)


Max was a big cat, peaking out at over 19 pounds. He had many aliases but Sweetie Boy was the most common and the most descriptive. Though he loved almost all people, he loved Doris most of all. He liked to sleep on her pillow with his body wrapped around her head like a hat with ear muffs. If she sat in a chair, he wanted to curl up on her lap. He liked to stretch out on your body and touch your face with his paw. And he had the best purr. It is so soothing and comforting to pet a cat and listen to that purr.


Young Max and Muffin sleeping in with Doris.


Max loved being outdoors. When we lived in Santa Clara, he would wander all over the neighborhood, sometimes more than a block away. His wandering worried us a lot and we often combed the block when he didn't come home at a reasonable hour. Once, when he didn't come home, we called the Humane Society, and sure enough, he was there. We bailed him out and then I went door to door to find why someone had trapped him and sent him to kitty jail. I finally found the culprit - his excuse was that Max was hunting and killing wild doves that frequented his backyard. He didn't like this very normal cat behavior and then went on to tell me how he was a dove hunter himself and enjoyed the "sport" of shotgunning those creatures. He didn't see the irony!


First time outside and he immediately climbed a tree (about three months old)



Max returning from a foray into the neighbor's yard (about one year old)


Since I work at home, my day was never complete without spending some unproductive time with Max on my lap. He always had to be in the same position: head on my left, feet facing me. He would sink his claws into my side and proceed to knead my torso. It was painful for me but heaven for Max; he would purr and purr. At night, we often fought over part of the bed - he liked to sleep on the corner of the bed where I liked to put my feet. Even when I won the battle at night, I would wake in the morning to find him stretched out on his corner with my feet moved to another part of the bed.


Max was not too fond of fast-moving little people and usually went outside when the grandchildren visited. He hated the sound of loud machinery; lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners terrified him. And he liked to bully Muffin for no discernible reason, reinforcing her disdain. But otherwise, he was quite mellow and mostly liked to just hang out. Want to watch TV? Max would watch with you, albeit with his eyes closed. Eating something tasty? Max would be glad to share it with you. Want to sleep? Sure, move over a little for Max.


When we moved to Morgan Hill in 2003, Max finally had the yard that he wanted and he almost never went beyond it's boundaries. He let Muffin have the house and he took the outdoors. He spent most of his time outside in one of his favorite sleeping spots: the front deck in the corner, the back deck against the railing, and behind the back deck in a bare spot under the trees. He is buried under the latter.


Max in his Morgan Hill backyard (seven years)


Max, we miss you. And we always will.


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Cats | Max | Morgan Hill Living | Muffin

Switch to BlogEngine.NET

by David Fredericks 20. August 2008 16:03

Today, I switched my blogging software from WordPress to BlogEngine.NET.  The installation was extremely easy and was operational within a few minutes of downloading the version 1.4.5 package.  I followed the Screencast provided by Al Nyveldt to simplify the installation.  Everything was pretty intuitive. 

I have a few minor reasons for switching.  WordPress is somewhat unforgiving if you make an incorrect setup choice and it uses PHP which is a little shaky when used with IIS.  WordPress also uses MySQL and we are an MS SQL Server shop.  Both WordPress and BlogEngine.NET are free and open source but we are ASP.NET developers so BlogEngine is just a better fit.

Now I have to convince some fellow bloggers so we can get PHP and My SQL off of the server.


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BlogEngine.NET | Computers

35th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races

by David Fredericks 19. August 2008 23:10

I finally got to go to these very interesting and nostalgic auto races at Laguna Seca.  This was the 35th annual Monterey Historic Automobile Races.  Back in the day, I used to go to races at Laguna Seca regularly and I love the track.  It was great to go back.  My son Alec and my friend John Enright went with me on this trip down memory lane. 

We almost didn't go.  Originally, we had tickets to the Champ Car races that were scheduled for last May.  When Champ Car folded, the Laguna Seca folks offered me an exchange for Monterey Historic tickets and off we went.  We had Suite reservations over the pits that included breakfast and lunch on Saturday and Sunday and an open bar on both days.  We didn't make it for breakfast on either day, the buffet lunch was okay but not great, and our total open bar use for the weekend was about four sodas and a couple of cups of coffee.  So what I am saying is, skip the suite, take some camp chairs up to the corkscrew, and enjoy the racing for about $350 less.

The good things about the suite were 1) it had it's own bathroom, 2) there was TV coverage inside,  3) you had a good view of turns 10 and 11 (but not at the same time), 4) you could see the entire front straight, and 5) access to the paddock area was just a few steps away. 

There were eight historic races on Saturday plus the "Race of Legends".  Sunday had seven races.  All races were 10 laps.  There were also demonstrations of Mario Andretti's World Championship winning 1978 Lotus 79 (driven by Mario himself) and a group of legendary Toyota racing cars led by Timo Glock driving the 1992 Toyota Eagle Mk III (an IMSA GTP powerhouse:  2.1 liters, 750 bhp). 

We watched all of the races but a few had special significance for me. On Saturday, Group 4A included 1956-1961 Sports Racing Cars over 2500 cc.  These were cars I grew up with when I went to the races at Riverside and Pomona in 1958, 1959, and 1960.  Some of the cars that I saw race 50 years ago were in this race.  In particular, this race was won by a 1958 Reventlow Scarab, just like the 1958 Riverside Grand Prix, though I think this is the sister car to Chuck Daigh's winning Scarab.  Better yet, the second place car in this race was the same 1958 Ferrari 412 MI that Phil Hill drove at Riverside in '58 - qualified second and chased Daigh most of the race.  The Maserati Tipo 61 "Birdcage" that Dan Gurney and Stirling Moss drove to victory in the 1960 Nurburgring 1000 was also in this race.  Probably the sweetest sounding racer was David Love's 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa (early version with Scaglietti body).  This beautiful car has competed in all 35 of the Monterey Historic Races!

Also on Saturday was Group 7A, 1966 to 1974 Can-Am Racers.  These were the cars that introduced me to Laguna Seca in the early '70s.  Somewhere around here I have a picture I took of Mark Donohue coming out of the Corkscrew on his way to victory in the magnificent Sunoco Porsche 917/30.  Can-Am was one of the peaks in the ups and downs of American auto racing.  In this race, Bobby Rahal came from the middle of the pack to win in a 1970 Lola T310.  It shows that in these types of racing, the driver is far more important that the car in determining the winner.  This race was mostly Lolas and McLarens.  Unfortunately, the last Can-Am Champion Shadow DN4 was entered but did not start.

The best race of the day (meaning that they were really racing without tiptoeing through the corners) was Group 6A, 1966 to 1970 Trans-Am Cars.  There were 34 cars entered and there were lots of races within the race.  Boy, are they loud!

My favorite race on Sunday was Group 6B, 1968-1978 Formula One racers.  A lot of the cars in this race had been backmarkers in their first life but there were still a few special cars here.  The 1978 World Championship Lotus 79 finished third.  Second place saw a very sharp 1977 Wolf WR4.  First place went to one of the most unique F1 cars of all time, the 1976 Tyrell P34 six-wheeler.  The F1 racers accelerated up the front straight at an amazing rate - easily the fastest cars of the weekend, including the monster Can-Am racers.

 It was a great weekend of unique racing cars strutting their stuff.  I did not take any video but did take about 800 stills, of which, 94 are here.


by David Fredericks 30. July 2008 11:21

We just got back from Alaska (actually, it was a couple of weeks ago).  Doris and I, accompanied by our friends and travel buddies, Dennis and Kathy Sweeney, did a two week stint in the 49th state.  We cruised the Inland Passage from Vancouver, BC to Whittier with stops in Ketchikan, Juneau, and Skagway with pauses at Glacier Bay National Park and College Fjord.  The vessel was the Coral Princess (2,000 passengers).

Then, we trained up to Denali National Park and Preserve and stayed a couple of days at the Denali Princess Lodge.  Next were two more days at Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge.  Finally, back to Anchorage and then home.

Everyone should do this trip at least once in their lifetime.  It would be especially good with kids.  There are some pictures here to give you a flavor of the trip.

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Buck in our Front Yard

by David Fredericks 1. June 2008 12:01

Yesterday morning we had a four point mule deer buck foraging in our front yard.  We get lots of does and fawns but bucks usually stay farther up the hill, so this was an unusual visit.  Here is a short (less than a minute) video of him before he wandered away.  Muffin (cat numero uno of Dos Gatos) was laying on the front porch at the time and was somewhat upset about this visit as she does not like deer.

By the way, despite my previous analysis of inexpensive video editing software, I have drifted back to Adobe Premiere Elements.  I recently applied an update to Ulead VideoStudio and afterwards, the help file was gone.  That, and thedifficult interface, made be revisit Adobe Premiere Elements.  After spending a little more time with it, I realized that some of my previous misgivings were caused by ignorance on my part.  I figured out how to do a couple of export options and, viola!, it does do what I want it to do.  I then thought I should update to the recently released version 4 but after reading some reviews at Amazon, I decided to stick with version 3 for now.

So my new video toolbox for creating videos in streaming Flash format is simply Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 and Sothink Video Encoder for Adobe Flash version 2.3.  Nice and simple (and cheap).

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Morgan Hill Living | Video

34th Long Beach Grand Prix

by David Fredericks 21. May 2008 22:43

This is a belated post about the 34th Long Beach Grand Prix - also the last ChampCar race.  My son Eric and friend Ralph accompanied me to the LBGP April 18-20.  We all had a great time, absorbing the spectacle and the sounds.  We had grandstand seats at turn six which also includes a view of about a third of the main straight leading up to turn one. 

We drove the Shinka down to Long Beach for it's last outing before retirement.  I took some pictures at the race, all from near turn six.  I'll add some more comments about the weekend later.

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Motor Sports | Travel

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