Thursday, May 28, 2009

Channelling My Inner Corey Feldman

AKA: "God, I love this street!"

This morning, as I pulled into the street on my way to work, I noticed a flurry of flapping in the air in front of the car. It was early for our feathered friends - 5am and pitch dark is too gung ho for even the most enthusiastic early birds - so I suspected moths.

I was sorta right. I drove through a small cloud of bats, no doubt chasing some sort of edible before heading for the ol' belfrey.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Quiet Tales

A new story is up over at Quiet Tales.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Happy Little Trees

Dogette was kind enough to ask, "where are the happy little trees?"

I've posted some more recent painting efforts over at Quiet Tales, my story - and now watercolor painting - blog.

Go. Look. Laugh.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Educated Opinion

Mookie, on why West Side Story makes no sense:

Do you really believe that you can run through Spanish Harlem shouting "Maria!" and only one girl is going to answer?


Pure Unadulterated Awesome

The Americans in uniform are the obvious reason for having the best military the world has ever seen. But toys like this can only help:

Thanks to Brian J for the pointer.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Connecting With History

This morning I headed out to the National Park for another hike. I've done all the short-ish loops around the visitor center, but still found a hidden gem. While I'm walking along, mildly annoyed because the interstate is within hearing range of this particular trail, I come across a marker in the middle of a fork. The marker explains that the left branch was an old road that was finally abandoned in the 1930's, but had been used for hundreds of years before that, first by the local indians, then the settlers. The road was used by George Washington and his troops as they marched north to Valley Forge.

As I stood there, I could almost see the rows of colonists silently march by, warily watching for ambushes in the woods. It seemed somehow appropriate that I should find that bit of crossroad this weekend, so I saluted them in thanks and moved on.

I've also decided that my trusty, dependable work boots (which I've had forever and have held up spectacularly well), are too dadgum heavy. I need some new hiking boots.

Tomorrow I head to the far end of the park for a trail loop where old farmland has been reclaimed by the woods.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Movie Review - Blitzkrieg: Escape From Stalag 69

Nazisploitation. In the realm of exploitation cinema, lovers of this subgenre surely occupy their own special place in hell. I'm not sure I'll be joining them, but they better save me a place, just in case.

Despite the exploitative elements here, Blitzkrieg - Escape from Stalag 69 succeeds on levels beyond the base foundation. If you're expecting things like naked women, cruelty, torture, domination and abuse, then you're going to find some of that. But there's more. This flick is long on dialog and character development, and there is a lot of story going on.

Ok, plot: WWII is winding down and the Kommandant of Stalag 69 is running amok, to the point that his chain of command is asking questions. The prisoners have figured out that before the camp is captured by the Allies, the Kommandant plans to kill all witnesses. They desperately look for the chance to activate their escape plans while the Kommandant, equally desperate, schemes and stalls for time before his superiors end his reign of terror.

Sometimes billed as "the only Nazisploitation film ever filmed entirely on Long Island", the entire budget for the movie was about $10,000. In a couple scenes some WWII reenactors are employed, so you're seeing authentic era uniforms on the Germans.

The Russian woman Natasha (played by Tatiana Kot) absolutely steals the show. Beyond that, the acting is uniformly enthusiastic, if somewhat uneven. Considering the subject matter, there are moments on screen where the scene is delivered with a giant wink.

Blitzkrieg runs over two hours, and besides the movie itself, the DVD is jam packed with extras. You can play the movie with commentary by Writer/Director Keith Crocker, the production designer and Ms. Kot. There's a 'making of' featurette, a long Q&A with the cast at the New York City premier, bloopers, deleted scenes, production stills and more.

Bottom line: not a great movie, and by most measures, not even a good one. Still, Blitzkrieg - Escape from Stalag 69 is an interesting effort that attempts to move beyond its legacy even while paying homage to its 70's predecessors. Unsophisticated fans of exploitation may be disappointed because of all the story interfering with the sleaze, but I enjoyed it.

Too bad the gorilla footage ended up on the cutting room floor, and the Japanese General could've used a little more screen time too.

Toys For Guys

Personally, none of these really float my boat, but I can see where some might like 'em.

Wallet Tools.

Progress, Of A Sort

Remember when I posted my very first watercolor painting?

Well, here's one of my more recent ones. I've been practicing, as you can tell.

Click and it gets much much bigger.


At work, we don't get any vacation from now until Spring 2010, but we can take a few days off here and there. I looked at the calendar and decided to take my few days sandwiched around the long weekend, so I've got six glorious days off. Imminent burnout averted.

This morning I slept in and then headed down to Prince William Forest National Park, which is a quick six miles down the road. The goal this year is to hike all of their trails, roads and paths, and so I did their little nature trail loop to warm up. I stopped in at the ranger station and signed up as a volunteer for National Trails Day on June 6th. We're going to be renovating one of the more popular trails at the park.

That done, I headed out again for another trail loop. Prince William Forest is the largest contiguous chunk of piedmont forest left in the US, 17,000 acres of oak, beech and poplar trees encompassing much of the Quantico Creek watershed, which eventually empties into the Potomac river. I found myself paralleling one of the creeks that flow through, and spent a relaxing few minutes sitting by a small series of waterfalls, just enjoying the sound. I also came across a tree that had been gnawed on by a beaver. You know how they look in cartoons? Yep, just like that for real.

Finishing up my hike (about 4 miles, altogether), I drove the scenic route out of the park, making note of the various parking areas and trailheads.

Home by noon, and I will be going back tomorrow morning, and possibly a time or two more this break.

I have to admit, I did think about work once during the morning. Remember those waterfalls? I was sooooo tempted to call work just to say "neener neener".

Wanna Hear Something Really Scary?

In the New York Times (you know, the one with five pages of Obama merchandise for sale in it's online store):

President Obama told human rights advocates at the White House on Wednesday that he was mulling the need for a 'preventive detention' system that would establish a legal basis for the United States to incarcerate terrorism suspects who are deemed a threat to national security but cannot be tried, two participants in the private session said.

In other words, going beyond anything the Bush administration ever proposed. Don't forget that government report suggesting that veterans and churchgoers were potential terrorist threats.

No wonder there's a surge in firearm sales.

Thanks to Hot Air for the pointer.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Morning Commute Amusement

Dear Mr. Mercedes Benz Driver,

I wasn't amused when you cut me off as you weaved in and out of traffic in your oh-so-important way. I suspect the other drivers you cut off weren't amused either. What was amusing was your reaction when the blue lights popped on back in the crowd you slalomed through. You immediately pulled into the far right lane, trying to blend in with the line of slower moving cars.

Guess you forgot about that bike racked up on the roof, eh? You stood out like a punker with a mohawk at a bald men's convention. That attempted bit of camoflage amused me, as did the cop's reaction.

Enjoy the ticket, asshole.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


For the guys, anyways. Maybe for the ladies too.

Introducing the Shii.

Thanks to RNS for the pointer.

Team America Rocketry Challenge 2009

Yesterday was the 2009 Team America Rocketry Challenge. 100 teams of students from all over the US (43 states had teams entered and 36 states were represented in the finals) competed for scholarship money, educational prizes and more.

A high school from Madison, Wisconsin took top honors. Twice, in fact. They had three teams make the finals. One team won the flight competition and another team won the presentation award. Kick ass, and their teacher was a justifiably proud man.

Here's a brief recap for those reading about this for the first time. Teams of students (middle school, high school, 4H, Boy Scouts, Explorers, home schoolers, etc) are given a task and must design, build and fly a rocket to do successfully do that task. Adults can mentor and advise, but the kids do all the actual work. Teams make official entry flights and send the results in, and the 100 best scores are selected for the finals. A one-day flyoff determines the winners.

Seven years ago, the first TARC was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers first flight. The aerospace industry saw it as a chance to get kids interested in math, science and technology, because the industry is rapidly aging and new blood is needed. Some 13% of all aerospace workers are now eligible for retirement! Remember, the big catalyst for these guys was Sputnik and Apollo.

After batting around ideas about radio controlled airplanes and such, the organizers of the event, the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) decided to ask the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) to help out. And TARC was born.

It was so successful that it has grown to be an annual event, and the payoffs are starting to roll in. Companies are hiring the college graduates who participated in TARC as high schoolers. They're taking it that seriously.

How seriously? Last year our keynote speaker at the awards ceremony was Secretary of Defense Gates. This year it was the Secretary of the Air Force. We've had the Director of NASA. Buzz Aldrin has attended, as have many other astronauts.

So this year the challenge was to design, build and fly a rocket that would fly as close as possible to 750 feet and spend as close to 45 seconds as possible in the air from first motion to landing on the ground. The payload was a raw egg and it had to be carried sideways inside the rocket and be returned unbroken.

The prizes get better every year. Besides the scholarship money, telescopes were awarded, as were seminars and workshops for teachers. The winning team is going to the Paris airshow, courtesy of Raytheon, who also flew out the winning team from the UK to participate in our finals in the second "Transatlantic Championship". The kids from Great Britain won for the second year in a row.

So it was a long, satisfying day. My job again this year was access control to the team prep area. When we say that the kids have to do the work, we mean it. Adults are not allowed into the areas where the kids prep their rockets, or on the field where the kids set 'em up and launch them. The kids have to go through the safety check alone, and they have to know what's going on to pass that. I mostly spent the day answering questions from nervous parents and teachers who, for the first time, couldn't hover around the kids while they did their rocketry.

I spent quite a bit of time talking to the adults with the British team. We were laughing about the bureaucracy that exists in both countries. His daughter is 14 years old and has her explosives permit from the London police department. She also has a government license to handle explosives, both required in England to fly high-power rockets. She can legally purchase over 100 lbs of black powder. Yet because she's not 18, she can't buy fireworks, even though she's better qualified than the people selling them. Bizarre.

I also learned a bit about Mr. Arundel (pronounced Aaron-dell, not a-RUN-dell), who founded the Great Meadow foundation, the field we fly on. When he found out that developers wanted to buy that land and slap 200 homes on it, he bought it instead and turned it into the most beautiful equestrian park, and made it available to the public for all kinds of events. Like rocket launches. Mr. Arundel is one of those quiet heroes you never hear about.

Another long (at the field before 6am, home around 8pm), tiring, yet oh-so-rewarding day.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Last Night

Liz wears a wrist brace at night to help stave off the dreaded carpel tunnel.

Me: Where's your brace?

Liz: The palm tore and the little metal part is sticking out.

Me: So be a guy and duct tape it, or be a girl and go buy a new one.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Quiet Tales

Over at my other place, new stories. I won't always announce them here, so if you're at all interested, just drop on by for a quick look.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Funny Because It's True

Sykes = hero. This guy = naughty. What a surprise.

"From my own experience visiting the troops in the Middle East, I can tell you this though," Feherty wrote toward the end of his column. "Despite how the conflict has been portrayed by our glorious media, if you gave any U.S. soldier a gun with two bullets in it, and he found himself in an elevator with Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Osama bin Laden, there’s a good chance that Nancy Pelosi would get shot twice, and Harry Reid and bin Laden would be strangled to death."

Thanks to Ace for the pointer.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten

Thanks to Elisson for pointing this out:

Anna, who used to write at Primal Purge, now Twitters under the name - you guessed it - primalpurge, where she is as razor-sharp as ever. And since she no longer blogs, I’ll take what I can get. An example:

Can't find Hallmark’s ‘Thanks For Not Strapping Me In a Car Seat and Driving Me Into a Lake’ card for Mother’s Day.

It's almost, but not quite enough to make me become a Twit.

But What If He's Got A Pointy Stick?

Knives Infinity has a nice selection of multi-tools, axes, accessories and other goodies at decent prices. Knives too, but you kinda already knew that from the name of the place, eh? Victor especially will enjoy the Swiss Army offerings.

I've said it many times, *everyone* should carry a knife. It one of the most useful tools you can have handy.

Check 'em out and tell 'em Rocket Jones sent you.

Lifetoys - New Category

Actually, it's a carryover from a previous incarnation of Rocket Jones. I'm speaking about "Lifetoys", a series about little things I've found that make life simpler and/or more rewarding.

I've already covered PocketMods, Pilot G2 pens, Fisher Space Pens, and old fashioned writing actual letters on actual paper, and a software app called Evernote.

Stay tuned for additional goodies.

Quote of the Whenever I Feel Like It

Albert Einstein, describing radio.

You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

And The Horse I Rode In On, Presumably

Today's major chore was cleaning the gutter on the back of the house. Since we have a gambrel roof on our townhouse, you can look down into the gutters from the top floor. So there I am, high above the back patio, hanging out the window and using a high pressure blast from the hose to clean out the crud and leaves, when I happened to glance over to my right. There on the shingles of the roof is a spider, one of those hairy jumping types, making gestures at me. He's a beautiful silver-gray color that matches the shingles, and then I see his little brother nearby, also doing his thing. They were both rearing up on some legs and waving the others in the air at me, and I'm sure they were shouting little spider insults at me in their attempt to frighten me away.

I was out there for about ten minutes, and those two worked hard for most of that time to scare me off. I finally gave in (the gutter was clean) and retreated back inside.

They've got a story to tell tonight at the spider bar.


Good Morning

It's not raining at the moment. That's a good thing.

I'm sitting here at my desk, looking out the window into our backyard. Actually, I'm looking out over our backyard, because in the back our townhouse is three stories. So technically, I'm looking out into the middle of several very large trees in our backyards (including the neighbors on either side).

And there are two cardinals - a male and female, ahhhh, symmetry - flitting around about six feet from the window, seemingly oblivious to me despite the open window. Cardinals are the poodles of the bird world. Jumpy, nervous and hyper, so this is kind of a treat because you seldom get to watch them from so close.

I have things to do today, so I supposed I should Carpe Diem.


I've posted a new story over at Quiet Tales. It's not so much... anything... like the first two.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Pssst, Over Here

Some doubt my mental stability, regular readers already know that I'm a few degrees off true. I've started a new site called Quiet Tales, where I'll be posting original stories.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Pole Positions

Thanks to LeeAnn for pointing this one out. It's the 2009 Pole Dancing Championships, and yes, it's safe for work.

Because I'm A Git, That's Why

Deadites has been commenting here for quite a while, and I even signed up with blogger to follow her blog, Dead Space. And then I promptly forgot her and never visited nor put her on my blogroll.

That has now been corrected.


The Washington Capitals have been a big topic at work. Yesterday:

Boss: Ted, I see you're not wearing a "playoff beard".

Ted: I am, you just can't see it when I'm wearing my work clothes.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

A Man's Prayer

I am a man.
I can change.
If I really have to.
I guess.

Replacing Chrissy Pronger

I always thought that Anaheim Ducks' player Chris Pronger was the biggest whiner in the league, but Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby now undisputably owns that crown.

Earlier this season, Crosby whined about Ovechkin being too enthusiastic when he celebrated goals. Ovie laughed him off.

In the playoff game the other night, Crosby asked the ref to make an announcement telling fans to stop throwing hats onto the ice after Ovechkin's hat trick. Long tradition be damned, Crosby was *upset*.

Now Crosby is whining about Ovechkin's "illegal" stick. Not that he's actually got the balls to challenge it on the ice. Big surprise there.

To be fair, Sidney Crosby is an amazing talent on the ice, but - and you knew that was coming - he needs to put on his big boy pants and stop the pissing and moaning every time something doesn't go his way.

A Little Funk With Your Morning Coffee

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

English To Become "Official" European Language

The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where! more komplikated changes are possible.

Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling.

Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as
replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vordskontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensi bl riten styl.

Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru...

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas.

Giddy With Delight - part 3

Caps 4, Pens 3. Ovechkin and Crosby both score hat tricks! Epic.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Giddy With Delight - part 2

Just heard from Rachael. She's just returned from her defense, and has been awarded "Distinction" for her costume design work for Medea. She also aced her final semester - 4.0 - which was enough to give her Magna Cum Laude.

Giddy With Delight - part 1

A box o' Amazon goodies showed up today. Inside was a copy of my favorite (and long-lost) book from childhood, "The Mad Scientists' Club" by Bertrand Brinley. Excellent stuff, especially if you have a young man in your life. This will be devoured immediately and then placed on my new "grandkids" bookshelf.

Also in the box was Victor Davis Hanson's "A War Like No Other", a look at the Peloponnesian War. Perfect for a history buff like moi.

I'll mention in passing how disappointed I am in Blogger that "Peloponnesian" is flagged as misspelled. Heathens.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Liz and I enjoyed a nice evening of baseball last night. Rain threatened, but the umbrellas were only out during pre-game activities. Our guys won rather convincingly, and used quite a few tools to do it. In the eighth, a walk, stolen base, sacrifice bunt and suicide squeeze scored one run, followed up by a towering homer. Little ball and big ball. Big fun.

The folks sitting next to me came down from Frederick (we were playing the Keys, a Baltimore Oriole farm club), and it was cool to talk to them. They're just as committed to "their boys" as the regulars are for our guys. One of the Keys coaches came by before the game and shook hands and said hello, he recognized them from the dugout. I love minor league baseball for things like that.

The night before last, the Washington National's closer was assigned to Potomac to pitch an inning as rehab before being activated from the disabled list. He came in, threw nothing but fastballs and was rocked for five runs in one inning. By single-A players. The Keys went through the whole lineup on him. He'll probably be back with the parent team tomorrow.

The folks who sit behind us have had season tickets for years and years. They host a couple of players each year in their home and have all the inside news. One of the pitchers was released (a 12.something ERA isn't going to cut it at any level). He was a Canadian kid and headed home immediately to find a job. As soon as he got home, he signed with the Toronto organization and did a u-turn back to the Florida instructional league. Good for him, I wish him luck. Honestly though, by next year he'll probably be out of baseball for good, unless he hooks up with a college as a coach somewhere.

Last year's manager was Randy Knorr and he was friendly and outgoing. This year it's Trent Jewett and he's the exact opposite. Maybe he'll lighten up as the season progresses.

Friday, May 01, 2009


The Potomac Nationals minor league baseball team has a new manager this year. His 16-year record as a minor league manager was 999-999 and they had a double header thanks to a previous rainout. They split the double header, so now he's 1000-1000.