In View on February 25, 2011 at 7:08 am
This is sort of like Goodyear Blimp pilots, but on a smaller scale. Brooke Owen is a chief hot air balloon pilot for Rainbow Ryders, a balloon company in New Mexico.
Brooke Owen with his gear. Photo by Popular Mechanics.
What Owen enjoys most are the tranquility and unpredictability of the journey. “Wherever the wind blows, that’s where you’re going,” he says.
Click through for the info on the gear shown in the picture, including a good ol’ Garmin GPS that Owen uses to help with navigation.
In Watch on February 22, 2011 at 7:19 am
Ken Burns has a younger brother named Ric who also makes documentaries. His film New York: A Documentary Film aired on PBS from 1999 to 2003, and includes a segment on the building of the Empire State Building:
This video is Part 1 of 3 that cover the Empire State Building. Kottke.org has the other two parts embedded in one easy-to-view page here. Jason Kottke also calls out some highlights, including this one:
At the peak of construction, the workers were adding 4-5 stories a week. During one 22-day stretch, 22 new floors were erected. From start to finish, the entire building took an astonishing 13 months to build, about the same amount of time recently taken by the MTA to fix the right side of the stairs of the Christopher Street subway station entrance.
Two years ago when they were building the Ritz Tower in downtown L.A., there was a stretch where they were putting up a floor every five days. I remember that seeming like a screaming pace. These guys were going 4-5 per week!?
In Read on February 16, 2011 at 7:03 am
During southern California’s 2009 wildfire season, Popular Mechanics did a profile on the pilots who fly the tanker planes used to aid firefighting efforts:
Their mission: Stop the fire’s advance by laying down lines of retardant. The flying is aggressive and dangerous–since 1958 more than 130 crew members in large tankers have died. Until recently, aerial firefighting was the last vestige of a seat-of-your-pants aviation culture of tinkerers and pilots who ruled wildfire attacks for 50 years.
The flying, says [pilot Joe] Satrapa, was always “right on the edge.” He’s tall and broad-chested, 66, with a ruddy face, a gray mustache and 17 years of tanker flying since retiring from the Navy in 1991. “No two drops are the same. You’re close to the ground; you’re looking out for trees and poles. You’ve got wind shears and crosswinds and convection columns that can flip you right on your back, and smoke and pieces of ember the size of grapefruits. You’ve gotta plan your escape route every time.”
There’s lots of history and detail at the link, including a video from the cockpit of an air tanker.
In Read, View on February 4, 2011 at 7:01 am
Wired Raw highlights a unique profession in today’s modern age:
Despite these inefficiencies, there are a few places where typewriters still clack away. New York City police stations, the desks of a few stubborn hangers-on, and, increasingly, the apartments of hip young people who have a fetish for the retro. Mechanical devices with a lot of moving parts, typewriters require maintenance by technicians with specialized knowledge and years of experience. A surprising number of people still make their living meeting that demand.
Berkeley Typewriter co-owner Jesse Banuelos. Photo by Jon Snyder/Wired.com.
The piece takes a look at three unique shops located in the San Francisco Bay area. I know I’ve passed Berkeley Typewriter, which is right down the street from where I’ve stayed with friends at Cal.
In View on January 27, 2011 at 7:21 am
Adam Avery runs his very own brewery in Boulder, Colorado. He started brewing beer in college and has since grown his hobby into a 137,000-case-per-year operation.
As usual with these Popular Mechanics profiles, click through for an interactive graphic highlighting Avery’s gear:
Adam Avery with his brewing equipment. Photo by Popular Mechanics.
Number 3 in the graphic above is a hydrometer, which measures the amount of sugar dissolved in the unfermented malt.
I have a friend who attempted to brew cider one time without the help of a hydrometer. He misread the recipe and put 16 times the amount of sugar into his mixture before bottling.
Too much sugar at that stage means too much bottle fermentation. This doesn’t mean super-alcoholic cider (like you might think), but rather super-carbonated cider, which proved to be quite explosive.
Since the sugar he used was a type of corn syrup, the cider also tasted like tortilla chips instead of apples.
In Read on January 19, 2011 at 7:03 am
Scott Kennerson is a luthier in Michigan who has discovered a niche in making custom aged guitars. He builds new instruments and then distresses them in ways that naturally occur over the life of a guitar:
Proper distressing requires a deep understanding of how a guitar is played: Knowing where a sweaty palm wears the finish from the neck, a belt buckle scrapes paint from the body, a cigarette tucked into the low E string burns the headstock. It also means knowing how time changes the tone and feel of a guitar.
Scott Kenerson of SMK Music Works. Photo: Jim Merithew/Wired.com
Kenerson can build a new guitar that looks old and plays like butter in about 10 hours. It’ll run you about $1,500.
His instruments are available at a small music shop near his house (Motor City Guitar) or directly from his website, SMK Music Works.
In Read on January 18, 2011 at 7:01 am
Here’s a story The Atlantic did last summer about how the flavor designers at Jelly Belly go about their work:
The development process begins with a very specific idea. The taste must be instantly recognizable, says Lisa Brasher, a fifth-generation member of the founding family and executive vice chairman of the board. “When you say ‘pickle,’ do you mean sweet or dill? When you say ‘potato chip,’ do you mean regular or barbecue? Those are very important questions for us.”
- Photo by House of Sims.
The article also has stories of when flavors go wrong, like raw garlic or barf (which apparently “sell like hotcakes”).
In Read on January 12, 2011 at 7:34 am
Bill Pace, shown on the left below, had passed out while driving his car on the highway in Seattle. Duane Innes was in another vehicle and engineered a crash that saved Bill’s life.
Bill Pace, left, and Duane Innes.
“Basic physics: If I could get in front of him and let him hit me, the delta difference in speed would just be a few miles an hour, and we could slow down together,” Innes explained.
So he pulled in front of the pickup, allowed it to rear-end his minivan and brought both vehicles safely to a stop in the pull-off lane.
The plan is straightforward enough, but the quick generation and execution are remarkable.
In View on January 11, 2011 at 7:14 am
Alex Stupak is the chef at New York’s wd-50, and he uses unconventional tools and techniques to come up with new and interesting culinary creations:
Stupak starts with a traditional dish, then designs something new–such as balsamic vinegar encapsulated in vanilla ice-cream nuggets–using high-end food additives and unusual equipment. The flavor combinations and textures are intriguing, and the food tastes great–which is what Stupak and his customers really care about.
Alex Stupak, Molecular Chef
Click through for an interactive version of the graphic.
In Read, Watch on January 7, 2011 at 7:21 am
Gurcharn Sahota runs Elite Detailing, where he has perfected the art of the car wash:
“What we actually do is a higher form of cleaning.”
SWNS has the original story here, including a description of his cleaning lab (in his parents’ garage):
He built a Formula 1-style pit for scrubbing the underneath of cars and layered the entire workshop floor and walls with specialist tiles imported from Italy which help reflect flecks of dirt on the cars.
Sahota’s services can run as high as £7,200, or $11,000. Sounds expensive, but consider that he will spend as much as 250 hours with your car and will use wax that costs $13,000 per tub.