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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who's Better Than Me?

So the beer I brewed a few months ago is finally on tap.

And it is so fine. Malty, big, a bit nutty, a hint of chocolate.


Monday, July 30, 2007

A Stout Fellow

Mr. Creosote is under construction. I bought a nose cone that will fit a BT-80 tube, and used a single section of BT-80 I've had for awhile. I was going to make it two sections tall, 36", and do a long inner tube like Thor's Candycane has to reduce the interior volume and ensure ejection.

But I lack BT-80 couplers. So this is basically a bigger version of Dudley, a BT-60 rocket who served honorably. He survived more launches than almost any other rocket I've built. He's a large part of why I like to build larger rockets but stick to low power motors. Well, that, and I don't have to worry about FAA restrictions with my little A through C powered fleet. Since most of my favorite launch sites are within five miles of an airport, this is a consideration. If I was to start launching Cheetahs on F engines, I'll have to start worrying about waivers and flight paths and crap like that.

So here we have Mr. Creosote. For the name, it was between that and Phat Bastard, which Em objected to on the grounds that I shouldn't say 'bastard' around my kids and I objected to on the grounds that you shouldn't spell 'fat' with a 'ph.'

I'm thinking of ways to make his paint job look tuxedoish.

I've been experimenting with techniques employed by mid and high powered rockets. Not that Mr. Creosote needs it, but it's good experience if I ever do decide to build a bird that does. Plus, it's fun.

First off, I've used white glue almost entirely for all my models to date. A bit of Super Glue gets in there, the occasional plastic cement, but mainly Elmer's Glue All.

This is my first foray into epoxy. I've never mixed epoxy before. I got the five minute kind, and I think next time I'll try the 60 minute. Five minute epoxy just doesn't give you any working time. I try to line up elements I'll need glued: fins for the booster stage of the Echostar, a fin for Mr. Creosote, a motor mount and centering rings. And the stuff still turns stiff way too fast.

Plus, the longer cure epoxy is stronger. Which is a laugh, since I'm glue balsa onto paper tubing, and any epoxy is about fifty times stronger than either of those items. And a C6-3 is barely going to get Mr. Creosote high enough for his parachute to open, let alone take off with such ferocity that it rips the fins clean off.

This actually happens in the world of high powered rocketry. A world I don't even tangentially participate in. It's not hard to exceed the speed of balsa when you start launching big boy stuff.

I also used sanding sealer on the fins this time. I have a jar left from an early rocket I built, which had instructions calling for it. It amounts to doping the wings, making them stronger without adding much weight. Since it's almost entirely unnecessary, I don't always use it, and that makes the jar last and last.

The other thing I'm trying out is epoxy putty fin fillets. These are supposed to increase stability and strength of the fin-body joint, but also reduce drag. I don't understand how they reduce drag, but that C shape joint is better than an L shaped joint aerodynamically speaking.

You just cut off a bit from a stick of the stuff, roll it around to mix it, then roll it into a snake. Then mold it into the fin joint like so.

The putty is tricky to work in because when you try to smooth it with your finger or a tong depressor, it wants to crack. I used some regular epoxy to smooth out my fillets when they were dry. They're still not as smooth as I'd like, but not bad for the first time?

One thing that is nice about it, I had Marty Graw pull off his launch lug one time, and I'm pretty sure Mr. Creosote's launch lug would stay on in the shock wave from a nuclear blast.

Now if I had some BT-70 tubing to go with that one nose cone...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

And That, Your Honor, Is Why I Killed Her!

Okay, this isn't Mo's first assault on my CPAP. The nose pillows have been an object of fascination going back pretty much as far as she was old enough to be fascinated by anything. There's not much to them, two little wisps of rubber, but you can only get them from an outfit like Apria, and they cost $52 a pair.

Luckily, most of the time I've been on the CPAP, I've had insurance that adequately covers the outrageously overpriced consumables.

But it's not like you can just run to Wal-Mart when you need another pair. Right?

And sleeping without the CPAP, well, if I'm gonna wake up feeling all hung over, shouldn't I at least get the good drunk in first? Because sleep apnea roughly translates to a close brush with alcohol poisoning for the way you feel the next day.

I mean, before I got diagnosed and treated, I thought this was the way everyone felt in the morning: raw in the throat and more fatigued than when I went to bed.

And of course, it's Sunday when this happens. Nobody who sells this stuff keeps Sunday hours. But I started trying to find someone anyway, while fuming at Mo in her time-out chair.

Mo was in the time-out chair for a record amount of time, because while I didn't completely lose my rag (can I get an attaboy?) I was thoroughly angry and nothing I could say seemed to convey that this was not funny. So every time she laughed, I tacked on a minute. I had to reset the timer on the microwave because it will only let you hit the 'minute-plus' button so many times before the button ceases to do anything.

Every time I had to add the minute, I told her, 'That was a mean thing to do to Daddy, he needs that to sleep at night and can't get another on a Sunday.' Or 'This is bad, you don't seem to get it.' 'Nope, this isn't funny, and you can sit in that chair for hours for all I care.'

So I'm calling through the Yellow Pages medical supplies, and the only guy who answered on a Sunday was a guy who supplies stuff for dialysis patients. He said he slept with a CPAP, too, so he could sympathize. 'Apria and Lincare are about it, I think,' he said.

So I tried the latter since I knew Apria, where I've gotten my stuff from in the past, wasn't open Sundays. I got an answering service, and after some runaround, they told me they couldn't help me if I wasn't already a patient. But that I should try Apria, because they should have someone on call.

Well, sort of. First I got a subsidiary who could almost help me.

Mo is still in the time-out chair all this time, by the way. I'm not sure this time-out didn't extend past the half hour mark.

At long last, I get a guy at Apria who will meet me at their building and get me fixed up. Talk about above and beyond.

Mo, meanwhile, had finally managed to get paroled from the chair and wanted to play Kid Pix, but I'd pulled the plug on everything I could think of. No video games, no videos, no treats of any kind.

This finally, at least, got Mo to where she wasn't laughing in my face. Now she was whining while I explained that I love her even when she makes mistakes, but she did a very bad thing and there's consequences to that. If I could think of more things to take away, I'd do it because this was beyond bad behavior. And stop biting your toes. And your fingers. Do you need a bandage? Then get that toe out of your mouth.

When I was getting ready to leave for Apria, by the by, it started to rain heavily. So I waded through the ankle deep water to my car and ran my errand. The waters were receding when I got back.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Zum Suds

Okay, I might lose my Y chromosome for admitting this, but I like smelly soap.

Specifically, I like Indigo Wild stuff. A lot.

But it's expensive. So when I got an email coupon for a free thing of Zum Scrub, I had to redeem it. It's one of several things I'd thought I'd try, or that I thought my daughters would like, but when I started to put together an online order, I saw I suddenly had $60 worth of stuff in the shopping cart and said to myself, 'Self, you can't afford this!'

So I logged off.

Anyway the factory has a store, and the store is way cool. Very worth a visit. I'll have to find a way to take my honyocks there sometime when they're making soap. The place reeks, all the essential oils and whatnot just fumigate the joint. Plus, the employees all bring their dogs to work, and not just purse dogs, a collie licked my feet.

The best part: they have barrels of reject soap for cheap. It's mix and match, bars that came out dented, scratched, or breathed on wrong that won't pass muster to wear the label at almost six bucks a bar. You don't get the label (no loss there), and you get the soap for half price.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Field of Dreams

Okay, this is a soccer complex not far from where I live. It's huge, and devoid of annoying trees. It's always frustrating when, say, they raze a school and create what would be a perfect park for rocket launches, but then plant it with tons of rocket-hungry trees.

What's more, little of it is paved, so streamer recovery is more viable. I use a lot of parachutes because they land the rocket gently. But with a little breeze, it's easy for them to land the rocket in another zip code, lost forever.

Streamers keep a rocket unstable, which is enough to keep terminal velocity under control unless the rocket is very heavy or it lands on pavement.

Of course, even though 95% or more of this rocket field is grass, one of my streamer recoveries found asphalt. He'd have found a tree if there was one available, so I guess it was any port in a storm.

Mo loved the park because she could run a long ways away before I got antsy and started calling her back or pursuing her.

Em declined to come along. Then, when we got back, she was made that I'd launched without her. Hello? Eleven years old much?

Mo helped recover rockets this time, which surprised me. She never has before. Of course, the one that is made to look like a crayon, she bit its nose cone. She likes to eat crayons, so I guess I should have seen that one coming.

That, and she likes to push the button for launch, but can't bear the excitement of watching. So she pushes the button while hiding her face in her armpit.

Then she decided to just lay on the grass. When I asked if she wanted Daddy or Mo to push the button, she said she wanted to, but she wouldn't come do it.

I was disappointed that I couldn't launch Thor's Candycane. I had C6-5s, but no C6-3s, and he doesn't go very high on a C engine, the biggest he can hold. I'm pretty sure a five second drop would be enough for him to eat high speed dirt before his parachute came out. I might build a booster stage for him, now that I know how. I've got another two stager, a kit I was given for Father's Day, that I'm building. It's remarkably simple. Debating between building a booster stage that would support a C6-0 and building a larger booster stage, maybe one that could support D and E engines. Need to do some ciphering to make sure he'll still be stable, too.

The amazing thing was the wind. It was mild when we got there, but it just vanished. Nothing. Zero miles per hour, you couldn't feel the air move unless it was you moving. The smoke from the rockets hung suspended, forming a lace over the grass, a cloud over the car, a column behind Mo.

It was so fargon cool.


Okay, I've gone from looking like Darth Mall to looking like an extra from Pirates of the Caribbean.

I haven't had a burn like this since the canoe trip when I was fourteen where I forgot to sunscreen my legs and the reflection off the bottom of the canoe cooked my legs so bad they're still freckled.

When I started to peel, there were spots where I bled. There wasn't enough skin left to hold me in. I had three kinds of sunblock in the car, it just didn't seem sunny when I got to the launch and I wasn't planning to stay for five hours.

Heed my pre-melanoma warning: you need to sun block even if it's cloudy and even if you think you'll be going back home in an hour or so.

Besides, if the cancer isn't enough to scare you, the way I felt Saturday night (see heatstroke) should.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Darth Mall Impersonation

Okay, I didn't mean to be out in the sun so long Saturday. And it was cloudy when I got there. By the time I felt my skin getting hot, it was four hours too late for sunscreen.

Damn, am I gonna peel or what?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Fellowship of the Übernerds

At one point, while we were launching rockets at Shawnee Mission Park, a 59 Cadillac convertible drove by. We all stopped and watched it go by.

Wow. A car that was built when it was cool to like rockets. I mean, I know, not as cool as being Quarterback or an ad man, but cooler than the sort of dork who played Dungeons & Dragons.

What was the 1950s analog to role playing games? I'm sure the outcasts had something, but those who still remember probably would rather you didn't know about those days.

I was amazed, though, by Bob's One Ring rocket. He was apologetic about not having the whole verse on it, like I could (of course) read Elvish.

Then there was Booker and his mid-to-high powered stuff. Booker is the most California guy you'll ever meet in Kansas.

Thing is: these are my people. This is the same, exact sort of nerd you find in a homebrew club. And joining KCBM did more for my brewing skills than any single book I could have read (and maybe more than two or three of them).

Going out to this launch, I got tips on how I'm tying my parachutes, so I shouldn't have so many failing to open. After the first launch of Thor's Candycane, he was re-tied correctly and his 'chute opened perfectly every time after that.

And I saw how simple multi-staging can be. Given that Thor's Candycane is so heavy a C engine barely gets him up, building a second stage for him makes perfect sense. I also learned that there are some more powerful composite motors that should fit his motor mount just fine, should be on the market any day.

I learned that crepe paper is flame resistant, and thus makes perfect streamers and can be used for recovery wadding. So instead of paying $5 for an envelope of wadding, I can pay 87¢ for a roll with about five times as much material at Wal-Mart.

I also learned that you can build a rocket out of the corner of a parcel post container. And that if the nozzle comes out of the motor (which is rare), everything burns to a crisp on the launch pad instead of flying. This is why you stand at least fifteen feet away.

I remember my first homebrew club meeting, when they found out I was doing a partial boil because I had a 4 gallon pot and no wort chiller, everyone wanted to help me get a bigger kettle, get more equipment, borrow something, etc. Just so I was making good beer.

When I said I wasn't doing any mid-power stuff for budgetary reasons, these fellow rocketeers started talking about loaning me casings for reloadable motors...

The Shot

Okay, my launch controller is a two-handed affair, so the only ways I've had of getting the shot of the rocket at ignition have been hampered by that. Still, plenty of times in the past year and a half, I've tried to get that shot, when my kids or some kid who came over to watch was pushing the buttons.

So at the KCAR club launch, we were using the club's big-ass launch controller, which uses a big car battery. This means ignition actually happens (usually) right when the button is pushed. And you can do this with one hand, which leaves a hand to hold the camera, if you're the one pushing the button.

So I was real proud of Apollo ½'s pic I got last week.

But today, with the better launch controller, and my much freer hands, I got the shot a ridiculous number of times.

I even got this one failing on takeoff.