Geology Tour & Master PPG Animation

2010 June 27

This was a decidedly non-flying trip but it was still quite productive in many, many ways! Of course the most relevant is having finished another animation for the "Master Powered Paragliding" series.

I begged off the incredible Basse Ham paramotor event in France so as to concentrate on "Master Powered Paragliding."  Going to Europe would have been a blast but it would have become a 10 day trip—just too much time away at this point. But I did do a 3-day Geology tour of of the famous Owens Valley—soaring Mecca for many hang glider pilots and some paraglider pilots. The idea being that I could also get a fair amount done during the travel and bus portions. It was difficult because the incredibly array of diverse and bright people made for fascinating conversation. And that's not before mentioning noted geologist/author/orator Donald Prothero, his Carnegie composer wife Theresa Levelle and noted author Michael Shermer.

More on that shortly, first the relevant part.

The Animation

We're making enormous progress on video one, especially after a filming stint in Salt Lake City with Steve Mayer and Bill Heaner. Most important is that over 33 minutes is on the timeline in final form. Of course final form is always subject to change until the fat lady sings and her performance is when disks are printed.

All the shooting is essentially done but, as I edit, missing shots become apparent along with occasional stuff that wasn't in the original script. That's a pain at this point since the scrip is already recorded, but, if it's important enough, I'll re-record as necessary and have already done so with several additions. I'm being mindful of time and have already done some chopping. You have no idea how difficult it is to chop content that has already been crafted but sometimes it just doesn't work when you sit back and watch it with others.

I've had a number of people watch completed sections and the results have been very encouraging. But I welcome comment because I know I only get someone's first impression once. 

The trip: I didn't bring my portable hard drive on which the editing is done so had to work on other parts. After a month editing, I figured I'd keep my animating skills up and chose an animation that I was kind of dreading. It would be easy in most regards but I wasn't sure how to do a couple parts. That's what makes any project both challenging and a bit stressful.

This animation: it's actually for video 2: advanced launching. In the beginning, as with all the videos, I cover some terminology and concepts. Here I'm addressing the myth that geared redrive machines eliminate, or even significantly reduce, torque. The scene opens split with two machines, a belted redrive and a geared model. Then this animation is used to nitty the gritty, including what happens during acceleration. It ends with a car revving its idling motor and rocking at each accelerator jab. You'll see.

The animation gets less than 20 seconds but it clearly reveals the concepts—enough that I felt it worth a rather intense effort. Having moving parts and arrows that point to what's being said, when it's said, with the appropriate motion, brings it all together.

The Geology Tour

Caution: non-flying content ahead!

Flying the 737, flying the paramotor, driving around out here, and life in general has built up curiosity about geology. Yeah, I know, it's a far piece from my well-beaten aviation path but, there it is, peeking round cranial corners. Tim Kaiser and myself share this latent interest and Tim, in fact, considered a geology career back when wrinkles were only on clothing. My interest is more recent, more like the last couple years.

On to the trip. We boarded a bus in Pasadena (near Los Angeles) then sat back for an informative description of million+ year old formations as we headed for Bishop. A tumultuous landscaped laid bare incredible forces where sedentary rock got heated, folded, eroded, layered again, and twisted around. It's still moving but it does so slowly enough or, more accurately, infrequently enough, that we can build roads over it.

Faults are at fault and California is riddled with them. At one point you can see thirty foot escarpments that formed in minutes when geologic forces overcame friction. Earthquakes out here are so common because a number of tectonic plates interact in complicated ways that aren't completely understood. Sure, the basics are well known, but you'd be surprised at how much nuance makes a thorough understanding so much more rewarding.

Other informative bits went beyond geology, like the Owens lake story and how its water was "robbed" by Los Angeles politicians and developers.

We had experts from many fields who obviously enjoy a good puzzle. Geology is nothing if not a good puzzle whose pieces become better-defined as aging methods and techniques improve. And improve they have been. I loved learning about JPL space missions from an engineer who works on them, military happenings at Edwards from a newly made Air Force Captain who is based there, biology from a biology professor and others. Michael Shermer was more interested in exploring the incredible scenery with his daughter than talking shop but, like everyone else, was just another lover of life, helping out, kibitzing, enjoying and partying. Patent attorney David had more interesting stories of major cases then we had bus miles. Then there was his stint as a nuclear engineer on a nuclear attack sub. This was one interesting group!

Don and his wife Theresa do these trips a few times a year and often sell out. I'm not surprised.

The area's history is actually quite complicated. Plate action, ice, water and volcanic shenanigans have written a fascinating story that geologists continue to piece together with increasing detail, especially in the last 20 years. What's impressive is how well they can piece together evidence from so many different directions. And it meshes with surprising accuracy.

During the drive home, organizer Theresa saw a *huge* dust devil with an impressive debris field churning up at it's terminus. Unfortunately, it lift off the surface before we could snap off a picture. What we got was cool looking, to be sure, but nothing like the mini-tornado that churned while Tim fuddled with the camera.

One last humorous mention. On day one, at the first stop, I left the camera case on a rock.  Great. Besides being the camera's home, it had a charger, lens, cleaning materials, and the transfer cable. But on the last day, air force David, who had his car, offered to drive us back there since our bus was stopping nearby anyway. So we got to where we thought the case was, fanned out and David saw it almost right away--the black case sitting, unmoved, on the black rock where I left it. Thank you David!

Next time I'm out here scouting for launch sites I'll have something extra to look for. And if the wind blows too hard I won't go wanting for entertainment. Thanks guys!


I completed this animation during driving portions of the Geology tour. It was tough, what with all the fascinating people but there were enough opportunities to be productive.



1. Devil's Pile Posts are lava beds that cooled in a way that caused them to break apart in these octagonal shapes. Our feet show their size.

2. Don't I wish my arms were that strong. The rock is pumice, and low-density, extremely lightweight rock born of gas-infused volcanic action and rapid cooling.

3. It took 730,000 years for this canyon to erode away. The humans behind Tim are looking at two foot long rattle snake that we kept our distance from. Two such snakes were spotted during our 15 minute stop.

© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!