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Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bermuda Triangulated

We lost another.

Gonzo, it was explicable. The maiden voyage of that one, the parachute didn't deploy properly and it went plummeting. It wasn't a real suicide attempt, just a cry for help.

Second launch, that one caught a good stream and wasn't even losing altitude when it cleared the tree line.

We started writing my phone number on the rockets after that.

That original rocket, the one with an altimeter, the Elephant Lobster, it's still with us. It wasn't windy today, but breezy for rockets. So we launched that one first. It's the older one, plus it's heavy. 2.6 ounces, least likely to go to Oz.

Sure enough, it did it's usual spiral descent, never really under canopy, just rotating around the parachute as it falls, maybe 200 feet from the launch pad.

Okay, Scribble was a much higher flying rocket. Unlike Gonzo, who was more or less Elephant Lobster's peer (like these nicknames? We got a whole bunch), Scribble goes so high you can't see him. 1100 feet max compared to 600 according to Estes' materials, on the same engine. What a difference 1.6 ounces makes.

Scribbles maiden voyage the shock chord didn't hold. The tail/tube fell unrestrained to earth, the nose cone and parachute eventually got tired of being way up there.

L-R: Grandma Mary, Mo, My Bro, Aunt Arlene, Aunt Joy, Em & her Hippie Dad

I re-glued the shock chord and hoped. I wonder if the glue I use is the problem. Super Glue should do anything, but maybe the gooey wad of rubber cement is what's called for. I'll never know.

Well, unless I get that phone call that says, 'I found this rocket on my porch' from someone two miles away from the launch, and see the thing with the chord still attached. Or when the yet-to-be-purchased Scribble II does fine with Super Glue.

We did the countdown, we watched, the ascent was spectacular. Can't wait to see what Cousin It, Scribble's yet-to-be-assembled younger sibling (.42 ounces, but still a C engine, should go a good 1800 feet) will do. If I ever see it again.

Because it went out of sight, and there was the puff of smoke and nothing.

I thought I spotted maybe the nose cone, maybe the shaft, but it was a bird on second look. Nothing. No falling tail section, no loitering nose cone, nothing. Gone.

Bermuda Triangulated, to take one of Chuck Palahniuk's more apt coinages. Gone like a train in Bill Frisell's lexicon.

Sucked into a wormhole? Secret experiment by an Estes engineer to prove a C engine can put shit into low earth orbit?

So then we went to the pool. When it's 100º out with a heat factor of 106º, what's the alternative? The pool wasn't quite bathwater warm, but it's not as shockingly cold as I'd like on a day like this. When we left, I was miserable with heat before we got to the car.

But we had to leave, my Mom was expecting us for pizza. My Aunt Arlene is in town. She was here last weekend for Mom's birthday, but I forgot my camera. And that was burgers on the grill. This was Pizza Slut. I thought we'd settled on Godfather's (my preference), but when it came I was like, 'Godfather's has made their boxes look just like Pizza Slut boxes. Then I saw the Pizza Slut logo.

But there's no such thing as bad pizza.

Pizza is a rare treat these days of Single Dad Economics. Like trickle-down economics from the other side of the trickle. Still, when you have pizza less than once a month, any pizza is great pizza. You know, like sex when you're married.

Note: this is not a slam against my ex, one of the few people who ever bothers with this blog. It's universal that sex decreases exponentially after the exchange of rings if not the exchange of phone numbers. They could easily allow the Pope to get married without compromising his celibacy if they could find a chick to give him a ten year head start.

When we lost Gonzo, Em said she would never launch a rocket again. Actually, I think, she said she'd never take a chance again. Really? Live like the boy in the bubble?

But today, when Scribble disappeared, she was, if anything, more excited by the fact that none of us could even figure out where he went. We thought we saw his nose cone on a softball diamond in the distance but it was a Twix wrapper.

Bermuda Triangulated, she said. And I was like, Where'd you hear that?

Just another day in Small Town America...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry

Okay, I'm no David Banner, I wont be turning green and hulking out, but it's not like I don't have cause to.

The City has billed me for testing the possum Mo bit. This is because she found the dead animal in my yard and bit it; if it had bitten her, my tax dollars would be at work.

In other news, the oral surgery she had, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of the 9th Circle of Kansas is willing to pay for the surgery but not the anasthesia. If they want to try and do this shit with her awake, I'll try to find their fingers so they can be reattached. Assholes. I can buy a license to shoot deer, yet insurance executives are protected by stupid laws.

Deer are at least useful. And good to eat.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Limits: I don't like them.

Years ago, I was going to be a Famous Luthier Some Day. This was before I found out I was an inept carpenter. I built some bee hives for my homebrewing hobby (making beer led to cider led to mead), and I was lucky to get them built to where bugs would call them home. I let my uncle do the instrument making.

Still, I impose limits on myself. I don't dive because I'm afraid of belly-flopping again. Even though I last made an earnest diving effort 25 years ago. Yet I hassle my own kids to face their fears and do what seems impossible.

So anyway, I've always wanted a motorcycle. If not always, at least since Jimmy Carter was President, okay? It's always been a someday kind of thing. Someday I'll buy a bike.

There's a few ways it could happen. I could shell out a couple-three grand for a decent used bike, ready to roll. I could spend more money than a car would cost for a testosteroney chopper. I could buy an old Honda or Yamaha and learn to clean fuel systems and replace rings and gaskets.

I was 33 when I learned to change the oil in my car. Not real mechanical.

Or am I? Is the 'not mechanical' thing just a script I run? I mean, changing the oil isn't hard. And there was a time when I knew nothing aobut water chemistry or cell biology, but when I got into making beer I was able to learn it. I went from being a C and D math/science student with some college to reading grad school yeast culturing texts. Might I not learn chain maintenace for a 1975 CB-750?

I have a coworker who fixed up an old Honda CB 350 to commute to work on. He's saving a good $75 a month on gas. I don't have quite such a long commute, but as long as I'm running with no air conditioning, why not have fun with it? Especially if I can buy and fix up an old bike for less than what one month's car payment would be?

Then the question becomes, do I buy a small engine like a 350 and accept that I won't be doing any road trips, or do I seek out a slightly larger engine, a touring bike I could theoretically make a White Castle run to Cincinnati on?

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Confederates in the Air Center

The Confederate Air Force had their WWII expo this weekend.

I didn't think I'd get to take the girls to it. It's their weekend to be with Mom, and I had to work freelance, and that's the way the cookie crumbles, right?

Except it wasn't.

Normally I'd get to do dinner Thursday if I'm not going to have them the weekend. But Thursday, Em was staying the night at Grandma's on a cousin sleepover bender.

So we had Thursday dinner on Saturday. Still, there was the air show we were missing.

Fortunately, the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster let me borrow an hour this morning.

I think this is the first air show I've ever been to where it wasn't 105º in the shade. Of course, at an airfield, there is no shade, so generally, vintage aircraft equals 120º temperatures if you're lucky.

It was maybe 80º when we got to the show. And not a metric 80º like you'd expect.

The size of things amazes me. Tires half the height of a guy should not be on something you want to fly in. And past 60 years of age, these planes are suffering physical symptoms worse than the few veterans who remember flying them new. Witness the oil slick on and around the tire of the B-29.

You could, if so inclined and adequately funded, take a ride in these pups. A twenty minute joy ride ran from $80 for a wimpy Cessna that differs only cosmetically from the one your dentist flies to $400 for a ride in a real Japanese Zero.

I could fly most of the way to Japan for the price of a ride in that Zero.

Still, if I had the bread, I'd have signed up. Even more if they'd had my favorite plane of that era, the F4U Corsair. The gull wings get me. Or maybe it's because I remember the TV series glamorizing Pappy Boyington, I don't know.

But Mo is one menacing tailgunner, I know that.

Plus, both girls liked standing in the bomb bay. It seems so small, compared to the hug plane itself. Doesn't seem like it would carry enough mayhem to be worth fighting in.

We got popsicles from the shaved ice van, and then Mo tried to break away from me to play a drum set that was there for a band getting ready to play. I thought she'd peel her hand off to get away from me.

How The Other Half Lives

On the way to the air show (what I'm really about to post about) we had to wait for a mile long parade of motorcycles. I'm not sure what charity this run was for, where it started or ended, but damn, for a buy with chopper envy to see several hundred bikes go by.

Em always objects that Mo would jump off, or that motorcycles don't seat three people. But then, we see gorgeous sidecars, trikes, etc., with kiddos on board.

Plus, my idea about doing a street legal mini-bike, really a maxi-bike with a mini engine, it's been done. Many times. Full size choppers with 16hp Briggs Stratten engines. I want one. Bad.

But then, to, I want a camera that takes shots of such armadas that aren't jokes. I had to turn down a coworker looking to unload a high end digital SLR with three lenses. What he was asking was less than 25% of new retail, but it was still a ton of cash.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


Trivial, I know, but I love extremes.

I won't throw in with Rodney Dangerfield's 'I hate small food,' because I adore White Castles and mourn the passing of that chain from my area. If my car wasn't such a heap and gas wasn't so freakish expensive these days, I'd drive to Cincinnati to get a sack of sliders.

So when I did my grocery shopping last night (what do YOU do to really party on a Friday evening?), and I saw they had some unusually massive bakers, I had to get me some spuds.

Thing is, I actually bought more potatoes than I would have otherwise because they were so big. Each one is a meal by itself, my own private Idaho on a plate.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Pool Party

What could be better than swimming?

Swimming in the dark, of course.

This was a pool party for Special Olympics, participants, volunteers and families. It started at 8:00, when the pool normally closes. Well, for kids, it closes at 7:00, the last hour is Egyptian Swim, all Hebrews out of the water.

It's been so freakish hot lately, the pool was warmer than the night air by the end of the evening. The water was like the hug of a fat, child-molesting clown. But in a good way, because when you got out, the evaporation factor still worked to cool you off.

At first, Mo wanted a life jacket for the diving board. She'd gone without the one time, but since then she's preferred to bob like a cork. But then, after she'd tired of the diving board and ditched the jacket to do some regular swimming, they announced a contest. Well, first there was a race across the pool, and Mo couldn't give a shit about racing. But then they had a splash contest at the diving boards. I don't think she's got any more competitive instinct about the splashing bit, but I think seeing almost every kid there lining up and jumping in sans jacket might have made an impression.

Hard to say. Most kids are going in that way when we're there during regular pool hours, but maybe Mo thinks of this as a different set of kids. She knows most of them, from school and/or Special Olympics.

But she went over and over off the board. Jalinda, who took these pictures and emailed them to me (thanks!), tried and tried to get Mo in mid-air going off the board. But Mo kind of stands there thinkng about it for a while, and then with almost no warning, splash, she's in the drink. Then the challenge is to convince her to swim to the ladder so the next kid can go, rather than just floating under the board, waiting for the next jumper/diver to crash down on her.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Gutter Talk

I'm not particularly handy. Or graceful. Or the owner of a ladder.

The result is I have an ecosystem where a gutter should be. I blame bad design for this problem in part. Part of good design is low maintenance, in my humble opinion. Extend the eaves and slope roof lines way from doors and you don't need gutters at all. Or extend roof lines to where gutters can be reached with a minimum of climbing, if not from barefoot on the ground, say, standing on a chair at most. Or put dormers in the attic that open out to reach cleanouts.

Then we got a big rain, lots of rain. Enough rain I've got to replace yet another burned up pump. The excavation and landscaping for my home, when it was built, was inspired by the city of New Orleans.

So besides the burned out pump, the gutters are starting to come down. Another storm like this and I'll be able to reach to clean them out.

Do Ya Mind, Dad? I'm Eating My Vegetables

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Rachel & Troy Farewell Tour

It could be worse: I could post video of Rachel singing karaoke stuff, but she has a career to consider. And I have to figure out what I want in the blackmail deal.

Rachel and Troy's next engagement in Indiana, where Rachel got a prof gig. They have the usual problem of married academics, especially married academics in the same field: hard to find a school who wants them both at the same time. Still, they're both so oddly well-adjusted, I doubt this will be a long-term problem.

I imagine sooner or later their brilliance will land them someplace like Chicago or New York, some town lousy with colleges.

Rachel's been a friend since before high school, so I'll miss them. But then, I already do. For years I've hardly seen them even though I could have driven to their house in well under an hour. Go figure.

It is a little odd for me to think of her being a professor. Not that she wasn't half one at age 14, more because as much as she's changed since then, she's still Rachel. Maybe also because I can't imagine anyone roughly my age holding such a job.

Still, good to get together with friends, eat too much, etc. Derek and Kim made it, so did Melissa and part of her clan.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Walking Party

The Relay For Life was last night. Mo didn't want to get up at a quarter till one for the 'walking party,' but the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster covered for me so I could go walk the shift I'd signed up for.

We were out earlier, for the opening ceremonies, including a speech by DeeJo Miller. I mean, it's not like a new story to me, I've been following it for a couple of years. She blogs about it, and they used to live two doors down, so they're not exactly strangers. Not close friends, but I knew them well enough to say hello before all this. When we moved into this house nine years back, it was DeeJo who showed up on our porch with neighborhood kids in tow to welcome use with a batch of brownies. Yeah, I remember that.

Still, to hear her tell it, to imagine what it's like to try holding it together, or worse, what Hannah's had to go through. It would have taken a hard man to keep dry eyes.

The theme this year was Oscar night, or something like that. As usual, no one really knows what to do with that, but as usual the creative ones always come up with something that can stretch to fit. It's like parade floats, I suppose, a ton of arts and crafts work to go into something that is used once and often doesn't come off anywhere near as cool as it sounded months ago.

Fundraising-wise, this is the second year I hit up Cult members, and did a sort of mass email thing, too, using the ACS web site tools for that. It turned out to be an extraordinarily good idea, as I not only got a few Culties contributing, but one in particular decided he wanted to match all Cult donations to turn it up a notch.

He even matched the contribution of an ex-Cult member, who responded to my email, not to the thread at the Cult. For that matter, his match included his own original pledge, so it's hard not to be touched when someone is that enthusiastic about helping a good cause. What makes it even better, my employer matched all that. If you could keep that kind of multiplier going, well, you'd have a Ponzi scheme eventually. But a really altruistic, well intentioned Ponzi scheme.

I'm deeply grateful to everyone who contributed. Not to get political, but as DeeJo pointed out that the Federal government spends more money in Iraq in nine months than they have in thirty years on cancer research, and that's messed up. I mean, it's messed up in probably a different way than Deejo meant. I would probably see it her way if I was in her shoes. But for a guy like me who believes in voluntary charity rather than taxes and subsidies, you have to actually have willing contributors for the whole 'voluntary' thing to work.

Friday, July 07, 2006


Several years of dentistry kind of piled up on us. Mo will sort of sit for a cleaning, but the drill? Forget it. But when she developed an abscess, something had to be done.

So it was off to Children's Mercy for a general anesthetic, the only way anyone could figure she'd get through two extractions, plus some other drill & fill and the prophylactic treatments dentists have wished they could get done on her for years.

She wasn't too pleased with being there. She'd been bargaining, trying to suggest alternative activities, basically saying in her autistic way that she'd rather be picking butt hairs.

The stuff they gave her to make her sleepy before the gas must not taste too good, judging by her face. After the first dose, she told the nurse, 'Hello, boring.'

Then, after the second dose, she said, 'Boring, boring, boring.'

The gas was scented like bananas, so hopefully that made up for the yuck. She got to pick an aroma for it. I forget what other choices there were, but how come they don't do that for adults? Who says at 36 you shouldn't be able to get, say, beer scented anesthetic?

She did great, was still groggy when they discharged her and we wheeled her out. She's apparently back to normal already, asking to go swimming, eating like nothing happened, etc.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


Okay, my brother and his wife came down to start the festivities off. I know this video is really similar to one I posted recently, but damn. It's fun stuff.

I had launched Elephant Lobster already, but for some reason was out of proper recovery wadding.

This wadding, you crumple it up in the tube to protect the parachute from the charge that pops the nose cone and deploys the recover parachute. I don't know if it is supposed to just absorb some of the force, or if it's to protect it from scorching or what. What it looks like, is squares of toilet paper. Really pathetic toilet paper you'd have to use too much of for fear of shit soaking through onto your hand.

So we used a bit of a McDonald's napkin instead.

I don't know if that accounts for what happened next. As you can hear in the video, Scribble turned out to be an awesome, high-flying rocket. It's 1.5 ounce weight (compared to Elephant Lobster's 2.6 ounces) makes a huge difference, turns out. 2.6 ounces plus a .91 ounce engine, that's about a 3-1/2 ounce launch weight. But put the same Newtons under a 2.4 ounce takeoff weight, and it goes so high you can't even see it for a while. According to Estes' literature, this makes a 500 foot difference in the maximum altitude you can gain.

So then my brother spots it coming down, but coming down fast. Not good, no parachute. But then you can see the parachute up there, sort of, maybe?

What was coming down was the body, the tube and fins. With nothing to even slow it down. Under canopy, the nose cone eventually landed. If there'd been even a slight breeze, it would have gone the way of Gonzo.

The shock chord (a rubber band type thing that connects the body and cone), it had broken off. The tube smelled a little like burned rubber, but the chord didn't look singed. Go figure.

I don't know if the napkin was the problem, the wadding burning, or if the stiffness of the napkin ripped the chord somehow or what.

Oh, and the burn pattern on the launcher, it's a face now.

We also played with balsa gliders, which are as flimsy as I remember from my childhood.

We also did the pool, and Mo went off the diving board without a life jacket. Yeah! After swimming under the board to the wall (against the rules, but at least she didn't drown), she started to climb out and then let herself fall back. I got the sense she was chicken to make sure it wasn't her imagination, that it really was that deep.

My Mom and Dad both came down, and we grilled brats and salmon for dinner, then went to see the town fireworks display.

And of course, I had to see if I could get pictures of the fireworks on my camera. Problem is, I don't even know enough about my camera to be dangerous. Owners manuals are impossible for me to read. Not because they're incomprehensible, which they might be, but because I'm wracked by a wave of ennui just thinking about one.

So I have no idea about anything except 'auto.' I've dinked around with the settings, but I tend to get photos like this:

So I was actually pleased to get a shot like this:

It's hardly original, and I could easily find better at a stock photo service, but hey.

More disappointing was the video I tried to get of the finale. My camera isn't really made for video, I think, it's more an afterthought. If you compare it to the motion picture capabilities of a 110 film camera, which is roughly what my digital works out to be the modern equivalent of, it's slick. But it tends to cut off after twenty-ish seconds because the batteries are tired. Or something. Plus, you can hear my commentary on the video, which is deeply lame.

Video Hosting

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Meet Scribble

Okay, I'm not Rocket Guy, but this has turned out to be something me and the honyocks get a real kick out of. We lost Gonzo to a jet stream with gusto, so we're back down to one rocket, and we were out of engines. Sort of.

Actually, I have some B and A class engines, but I fried some fire wires and I'm not dumb enough to try lighting solid fuel with a Zippo.

So we went to a hobby shop, seeking engines and, I thought, maybe another ready-to-fly model.

Wal-Mart price, $15. Hobby shop, same model, Estes supposedly ready to fly, $25.

BUT, the hobby shop had engines, fire wires, etc., for sale individually. Wal-Mart has engine packs, but mainly they just sell the RTF kits.

And Wal-Mart definitely doesn't have E class engines hanging there.

They also had kits, lots of kits. These were actually pretty reasonable, so I got this pencil-styled rocket for $8. We named it Scribble.

On the Fourth, we'll find out if I know how to glue...

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Monkey Read

This Hot!

We came close to triple digits today. Great day to have no air conditioner in your car, a kid who throws things (trash, toys, shoes) out the window if she gets a shot, another kid who gets pissed off if it's 'too windy' in the car.

I can't believe I ever thought a jeep or motorcycle would be any fun at all. My car is a circle of hell, and regrettably not a frozen one.

Still, can't wimp out, we did the Ernie Miller nature thing. Except we didn't do the trail because we were pretty sure buzzards would be picking our bones clean in about three minutes.

Bummer: they're supposed to have bees, an observation hive, but they rebuilt the place and, if I understood the lady with the thick accent working the place right, forgot the bees.

We met an owl, played with turtle shells, and threw it in pretty quick. Headed to the pool.

Where I rented a life jacket for Mo and introduced her to the diving boards. She's a pretty good swimmer, but I didn't want her to realize she really, really couldn't touch in 12 feet and panic. Two hours, over and over off the boards and 'swim to the ladder Molly. No, the other ladder, the one closest to this board.'

She's an addict.

Tomorrow, I might try her without the vest. Thing is, if I'm right about her ability, she'll be fine. If I'm wrong, I'm the guy who let the autistic girl who can't swim jump off the diving board into the 12 foot.