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Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Maze of Maize

Overshadowed by the spectacular ejection charge anomaly of Hellboy last night, was Curtis' prison-break flight. He caught some wind up high and drifted off into the corn field. It was getting dim out, so I planned to come back the next day in the full light of afternoon and walk the rows.

I've lived within site of growing corn, lived my whole life in the suburban midwest where agriculture and development tend to overlap and intertwine. But I've never walked in a field of mature corn.

Last time I retrieved a rocket from this field, it was just spouts, inches tall. Still, it's in rows, right?

You can see the rows from the highway. Corn is planted in militarily uniform rows.

Or so it appears from a distance as you drive by really fast. The reality is much more chaotic.

The widest lanes between rows was about what I imagined the whole thing to be. The narrowest just force you to pick a different direction, cross over a row or two. There are also random corn stalks growing in the aisles between the corn, causing little dead-ends.

It's hot. Dirt gets into your shoes almost instantly. And the blades of the plants are only not-quite sharp enough to cause paper cut like wounds on your arms.

Also, by two or three rows in, you can't see anything to give you your bearings. We could hear traffic on the highway side of the field, but without that it would be very easy to get totally lost in there.

And finding the rocket? We were lucky to just find the way out. And on to Wal-Mart for some calamine anti-itch cream for our arms.

Hellboy Eats the Dirt Buffet

The video is pretty low-res, I had my camera accidentally set to 'compact,' a setting I didn't even realize it offered. It's fine if you want to create the impression the video was taken with a cell phone. You can, at the end, hear the cymbal crash sound of eleven ounces of rocket coming to a sudden and complete halt after falling from maybe 500 feet.

It's what's called a lawn dart, and I haven't had one in a very long time. I've had a few core samples, rockets that ejected the nose cone but not the parachute. If the rocket's shape is aerodynamically stable, it will come down pointed straight down and as the term implies, take a core sample of dirt when it hits. Which is generally the end for a rocket.

And I did have Mr. Creosote (the first one) impact before the recovery charge could blow the nose cone. But the last time I had a recovery charge just not fire was a long, long time ago, and a much smaller rocket. Fortunately, it's a fairly rare sort of motor failure.

Hellboy was getting to be about my favorite rocket in the fleet. Huge and light. And he had the fewest imperfections in his paint job of anything I've done lately. So it sucks hard for him to be Parabolaboy like this.

Here's a testament to how safe model rockets are, though. As I say he fell from a good 500 feet, came in ballistically, nose cone in place. And he weighed about eleven ounces with a spent motor. I wouldn't want him to land on me (or anyone else), but he only dug in about three inches into the ground. The paper tubing absorbed the energy of the impact, shredding thoroughly in the process. Meaning that if he'd landed on someone's roof this way, it's not like it'd punch a hole in the roof. It'd make a noise you'd hear in the house, but permanent damage to anything other than the rocket would be unlikely.

The good news is the nose cone and fin can are unharmed. So as spectacular as this damage is, I can repair it by replacing the majority of the airframe tubing. So I guess my next project is Bionic Hellboy.


We got to the purple park and I got out the sidewalk chalk, but Mo made a bee line for the swings.

I guess she'd been in dire need of some serious swinging. She's kind of frightening to watch, she doesn't always seem to be holding on, she'll take hand off to cover her eyes, etc. Yet she's never had an accident doing it, and she always gets this kind of altitude.

It occurred to me after that I could have made the shots appear more dramatic by crouching down. But at the time I just clicked away standing up, to give you some idea of how much altitude. I'm 6'4", and these were shot from the full upright position.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Frisbees & Rockets

We headed to the park between ice cream courses. It was hotter and windier than it had seemed at Mom's, but we got some launches in.

My bro brought a frisbee. I neglected to bring the fleet of kites, but oh well.

I took the usual launch videos but they turned out to be crap. I accidentally toggled it over to 'compact' and the camera shot them 160 pixels wide. Not that I don't have enough videos of model rocket launches. Or maybe it's impossible to have enough.

We All Scream

Mom made homemade ice cream today. Me and the girls and my bro and his frau descended on her house for an orgy of Popeye's fried chicken (why go to the work of frying chicken while you're going to the work of making a batch of ice cream, right?) and the ultimate August dessert.

Thing about homemade ice cream, at least the way my Mom makes it, is it's an immediate consumption deal. Put it in the freezer and it turns to stone. Still tastes good, but it's rock hard. And it seems to go from solid to liquid more than solid to soft after that.

But fresh from the ice cream freezer, it's about the best way to get a brain freeze I know. And yes, I always get a brain freeze with this stuff.

I don't know if it's because it's soft and that means more contact with the tissue, or if it has to do with actual temperature with the salted ice around the canister or what. I can take small bites, I can try to go slow, but every damn time I get a godsplitter brain freeze, one that feels like it's going to hang on forever. Actually, I get about one of these per bowl. I was good for three bowls today.

Between the first two and the third we went to the Meadow for some rockets and frisbee. Me and the girls returned for seconds on the ice cream once we'd worked up a good case of heat stroke.

I have an ice cream freezer that was a gift to me and the artist formerly known as Frau Lobster. At the time we got it, we were pretty strapped and when we went to buy ingredients to use it, the cost was prohibitive. We never seemed to get around to it again. That ice cream maker must be almost 15 years old and it's never made ice cream. Maybe I need to remedy that situation.

Then again, looking at my gut, maybe not.

I decided to get my range box straightened out a bit after lunch while Mo did her sidewalk chalk thing and I found a Guillow balsa airplane. I bought this at Hobby Haven with a couple of chuck-gliders thinking Mo would have fun with them. She tried to throw them like baseballs and they bored her.

This one wanted to corkscrew into the ground but after about a dozen bad launches I got it to fly. In a corkscrew, but a good one. After two turns it planted itself in the arms of a tall evergreen.

I had maybe $2.50 in this toy, so I was prepared to let it live up there if that was its choice. But my bro was not to be denied. He had to get it down, hook or crook.

Then, once it was down, I didn't have the balls to fly it again, at least not in Mom's yard.

Friday, August 29, 2008


So the press and bindery areas are backed up and I'm running out of work.

I wish I could run a press. But nobody has time to teach me, they're covered up.

Our delivery driver knows how to do a bit of press work and a lot of bindery work.

So I volunteered to run deliveries so he can work on a press.

It's a fun change of pace. I get to see where some of this stuff I set up is going, meet some people who are usually just names on purchase orders or proof cover sheets.

And since I have a few sore muscles, I'm guessing the activity is good for me, too.

All That Noise

With all the hoopla going on right now, I hear a lot of discussion of the relative merits of Obama and McCain.

Which one do I want to win? This hits my ears like dialogue from the Philip K. Dick novel The Man in the High Castle. That novel takes place in an alternate history where Hitler won World War II and has died in office. America is divided spoils, the east of the Rockies it's a Reich colony; West of it, Japan is in charge.

And people have these discussions about who the next Reichschancellor will be. The discuss the merits and lack of merit between Goebbels and Göring. It never seems to occur to the characters in the novel that both are evil men, wouldn't even be in serious contention if they weren't.

So when Hillary says we can't take 'four more years of the last eight years,' I agree. But she's forgetting that the eight years prior to that were also shameful. But Clinton proved that if a President doesn't resign, he cannot be forced from office no matter what. By standing his ground when he was caught perjuring himself on video tape and not getting tossed out of office, he enabled the abuses of subsequent administrations. Bush's bald-faced lying about why we invaded Iraq, illegal wire-tapping, violation of the Geneva Conventions at Gitmo are the Clinton legacy: nobody even bothers trying to impeach because it's obvious W. wouldn't go quietly.

McCain, it's pretty clear, is promising four more years of the last eight. He's clearly out of touch with anyone who's done an honest day's work, something he hasn't done that I can tell since he got out of the Army. Being a war hero only goes so far: if you're a Legion bar fly thirty years later, still talking about 'Nam but not doing anything productive, you're a bum. McCain substitutes a will to power for the alcoholism, making him less pathetic and infinitely more dangerous.

Obama? For a start, try to picture a decent human being coming out of Chicago politics a winner. There's a better chance that John Junior Gotti is actually innocent than that Barack Obama is. All those funds he's raised? He didn't get that money not promising powerful people things they should be denied. And he believes in government, despite all the evidence that any time the government attempts to 'help' people, the people are in for it. Look at 'liberated' Iraq if you want to know what kind of savior Uncle Sam is. Look at New Orleans three years ago (and since) to see what happens when you trust the federal government to protect life and property.

For the record, I think it's a forgone conclusion that Obama is the next President. I don't think he did himself any favors by picking Biden: if Biden was such a draw for the ticket, how come he's never been a serious contender on his countless Presidential bids? Still, Obama will clinch it on the coat-tails of W.'s failures. I don't see how it's possible for McCain to distance himself sufficiently from Bush at this point, he's done.

I think McCain's running mate, Sarah Palin, might almost be a decent human being (she hasn't been in government that long, and relatively small-time government at that). But decent people don't do well in Presidential politics. Maybe McCain was trying to one-up Obama on inexplicable VP picks.

So who am I voting for? Barr/Root, of course. I know their chances of winning are up there with flying pigs but at least they haven't made a thousand Faustian bargains just making it through primary season.

And for you Dems who are dismissing McCain's pick of a chick because you did it 24 years ago, I got you trumped. My party put a woman on the ticket in 1972, the first time there was a Libertarian ticket.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Grilled Chicken Casserole

I hate to cook like this in the summer, but I was running near out of leftovers to take to work. And I'd caved and eaten fast food for lunch far too often of late. It costs too much money, but more than that, I'm getting too fat.

Come right down to it, this isn't a 'light' casserole, but it's lighter than fast food.

To start, I had some chicken breasts I was grilling. Mo downed one, Em flirted with one, and I included her leftovers with the third breast, which would have been mine. It looked pretty good by itself, but this way I get to stretch it out over a few meals.

I did a big batch (10 cups of chicken broth to 3 cups of brown rice) of risotto with lots of garlic while I waited for the charcoal to be tame enough to cook the chicken. Meanwhile I cut up a bunch of fresh broccoli, a green bell pepper, some baby-bella mushrooms and onion.

I sauteed some yellow onion with the mushrooms, also chopped some fresh green onions to top the casserole off with.

I added a 26 oz can of 98% fat free Cream of Mushroom. See also a lit (maybe a pound and a half) of shredded low-fat mozzarella.

I added some sesame seed oil for a savory accent, and plenty of black pepper.

Oops, I did it again: I overflowed my casserole dish and had to use two dishes to finish this. Which included some sesame seed oil, a few stiffed door charges and whatnot.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Trouble in Mayberry

I rely on the local DPS (our combo police, fire & ambulance department) to protect my home and property. So I hate to think they've only got one bullet for their gun, and are required to keep it in their shirt pocket so no one gets hurt, but I wonder.

Nothing wrong with a bit of Mayberry, for the record. After living in a seedy neighborhood in KC's Old Northeast for a few years, it was refreshing to not hear gunshots in the night on a weekly basis or have to swerve to avoid stoned prostitutes stumbling into the main drag at night. Right after we moved here, my then wife and I opened a checking account, received an offer from the bank employee to hook us up with her oldest daughter for baby-sitting and left the bank to realize we had just opened a checking account without being asked for ID.

We could have been anyone, really. But since we were claiming an address in town, we were neighbors, and who would suspect her neighbor?

The town has grown a lot since then, but it still has a lot of small town to it.

So after work I went to my chiropractor, and after that, I tried to go home but there were emergency vehicles blocking the Viaduct. I use a capital V because it's just a bridge, but locals call it 'The Viaduct' as if it were the only one of its kind. Which I guess it is if you've never been outside our little town.

There were fire trucks around the base of it, and a cop car up on top. A cop and someone in a bright green city employee T-Shirt were up on the bridge. I thought jumper, but it's only about a 25 foot drop; unless you timed it with a train it would be hard to kill yourself jumping off this bridge. And if you were threatening to jump, I can't see a uniformed officer just hanging out with you.

I saw what appeared to be a propane tank from a gas grill laying against a wall on the bridge, but the two men didn't seem to be paying it any mind.

Then the Hazmat truck showed up from a neighboring town and I went around the long way to get home.

Then, taking my car to the garage for what will hopefully be the last time over the window not going up and down, I found the road was blocked even further from the Viaduct. The cop let me through since I was taking my car to a garage directly under the bridge and walking back. So whatever had the bridge shut down wasn't anything that dangerous, right?

While I was at the garage, a couple of other people had walked down and were badmouthing the DPS and speculating on an entirely Hank Hill level about what was on the bridge. A guy flew over in an ultralight, and one of them said how he'd heard they were trying to pass a law about 'those things' because one had crashed into a house somewhere.

I said, One of those crashes into your house, it might break a window if it hits it straight on. There are go-carts with more substance to them.

Undeterred he went on to talk about how if there was a problem with a cart, he heard you could jettison it and still have the parachute. Which makes since until you try to imagine what would make you need to drop the cart. If it looses power, you glide down and land. If it wasn't enough parachute for you and the cart, you'd never get up there in the first place.

So the guy went back to badmouthing the DPS bragging about what hell he'd given them when they hassled him over an out of state 30 day tag on a car he'd brought back from Arizona.

I left Dale and Boomhauer to their musings.

On the walk back, I asked the cop manning the road block what the story was, and he said a propane tank had fallen off a vehicle.

Okay. So pick it up.

My Dad came down so I could borrow his car while mine's in the shop and after I had dropped him, I went through Wal-Mart and bought too many groceries (never shop hungry or tired, right? I was both) and headed home. Surely the Viaduct would be open now. It had been four hours since the cops first showed up and shut it down.

Now there was a news van, a few more emergency vehicles including one towing what appears to be a large, red smoker. But since I'm pretty sure the Olathe Fire Department didn't come down to make burnt ends at the foot of our little bridge, I'm pretty sure it was a bomb can. Or whatever you call those things they detonate bombs in.

But the Sheriff's Deputy I asked told me it was a gas leak, and when I said I thought it was an awful small can to leak for four hours, he said 'They're just telling us it's a propane tank.'

You could tell he didn't believe it. He was weary of the lie but if he knew what it really was he'd been told in no uncertain terms not to share this with the endless stream of locals.

I guess the fear is we might panic. Better to think our hee-haw Department of Public Safety would shut down a bridge for hours on end without good reason than think of a genuine threat.

After negotiating my way around, town again, I asked the cop manning the road block on the other side, a different cop from the one who'd let me through to my mechanic, and he said they're still insisting it's a propane tank. He also allowed that he was tired of sitting there and hoped that whatever it was would be taken care of straight away.

Wonder what they'd do with a real situation. Then again, they just gave me a way better angle for a major plot element of the novel I haven't worked on much the past couple years...


I finally (after lengthy searching) found an incredibly short article about the incident featuring guys in protective gear picking up what turned out to be a tank of anhydrous ammonia.

Which was probably dropped off some mobile meth lab. Gotta love the war on drugs sometimes. It's never kept anyone from getting high, but it keeps the addicts busy. How boring if they could just go buy commercially made amphetamines and blow their brains up without burning down their trailer (and endangering firefighters and their neighbors in the process) or shutting down a bridge in a medium size town for half a day while local law enforcement agencies prove themselves to be a bunch of boobs.