Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Rocket Jones has moved!

Sorry for the confusion. You can find me here. Please update your links. Thanks!

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Moving day

Thanks to the generosity of Pixy Misa, I have made my escape from BlogSpot.

As the Darwin Award finalist once said, "Hey y'all, watch this!"

Lightning Research

Two guys are talking, and the first says, "My wife drives like lightning."

"Drives fast, eh?", says his friend.

"Nah. She hits trees."

Over the last couple of days, we've had massive waves of thunderstorms plow through the area, leaving thousands without power. The storm last night put on a spectacular light show, with frequent lightning in every direction.

Other than flying a kite in the rain (not recommended despite historical precedence), how do we learn about this phenomenon?

It is possible to artificially generate lightning to study it, but it's difficult and expensive. In addition, you're not necessarily duplicating the environmental conditions that produce lightning. An alternative is to use rockets to induce a lightning strike in a specific area where scientific instruments are located.

There are some spectacular photos on that page, as well many interesting links. If you're interested in seeing the process in action, there are QuickTime movie clips here and here.

Military Wisdom

"Aim towards the Enemy." -Instruction printed on US Rocket Launcher

"When the pin is pulled, Mr. Grenade is not our friend. -U.S. Marine Corps

"Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs are guaranteed to always hit the ground." -U.S.A.F.Ammo Troop

"If the enemy is in range, so are you." -Infantry Journal

"A slipping gear could let your M203 grenade launcher fire when you least expect it. That would make you quite unpopular in what's left of your unit." -Army's magazine of preventive maintenance.

"It is generally inadvisable to eject directly over the area you just bombed." -U.S. Air Force Manual

"Try to look unimportant; they may be low on ammo." -Infantry Journal

"Tracers work both ways." -U.S. Army Ordnance

"Five-second fuses only last three seconds." -Infantry Journal

"Bravery is being the only one who knows you're afraid." --David Hackworth

"If your attack is going too well, you're walking into an ambush." - Infantry Journal

"No combat-ready unit has ever passed inspection." -Joe Gay

"Any ship can be a minesweeper... once." -Anon

"Never tell the Platoon Sergeant you have nothing to do." -Unknown Marine Recruit

"Don't draw fire; it irritates the people around you." -Your Buddies

"If you see a bomb technician running, try to keep up with him." - U.S.A.F. Ammo Troop

And to prove this last point, check out this story titled "Can You Outrun a Nuclear Missile?
Yes, But Only If You Don't Obey The Guard's Orders to Stop!

Jamestown fort rediscovered

I'm not sure, but I think Jennifer's list of punishments said that forgetting where your fort was rated 18 lashes.

Read about the history of Jamestown.

Wednesday, August 27, 2003

Aerial Photography

Ray Dunakin flies camera-carrying rockets and gets the most amazing photos. See lots more in his online photo-albums.

If a tree fell on Ashcroft...

...and no Americans were around to see it, would you still hear cheering?

Alphecca has mentioned it, and I’ve ranted about it a couple of times. I wish I could have put it as eloquently as this.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) now claims in a letter to Senator Orrin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee that hobby rockets can be used to make "light anti-tank" weapons with a range of up to five miles. The best the United States military can do is only 3.1 miles with the LOSAT anti-tank missile system. How ridiculous is it to claim that a terrorist can cobble together anti-tank weapons superior to what is produced by Lockheed-Martin for the US Army? This absurd claim strongly suggests that Department of Justice and ATFE simply fabricated claims without any research or supporting analysis.

It’s clear that many Senators, Representatives and the media simply accepted the Department of Justice & ATFE claims at face value. This blind acceptance was dramatically illustrated by the Senator Schumer and Lautenberg press conference on July 29. During the press conference, they repeated the false claims, which were then repeated in the New York Times and various wire stories.

The Amateur Rocketry Society of America has been conducting research to show the truth about the false claims made by the Department of Justice and ATFE. Every claim made in their letter on the dangers of rocketry in America is provably false. The ARSA has since published reports on the technical feasibility of using hobby rockets as anti-aircraft or anti-tank weapons.

Or as one rocketeer put it: “I'm going to put in a resume to the DoD, as it's obvious I can do better the Thiokol, or Lockheed who are wasting millions of my tax dollars.”

(the above includes excerpts from numerous posts in the Rocket newsgroup)

Columbia Accident Investigation Board - Final report

Available here, downloadable in whole or by chapters.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Name Calling

Zionazi. Jewpropagandist.

This is the crap that Michele dealt with over at 'a small victory'. She pointed out two wildly different versions of the same story, one posted by Newsday, the other by Indymedia. She points out that the IM version seems to be lacking in credibility, not only because of the source and it’s obvious bias, but because of the lack of facts.

And as one commenter pointed out, she handled it as an adult, which meant that he could indulge in name-calling.

Hey, it’s only fair, right? I mean, they started it.

I think this is what bothers me the most about politics today. You have a great mass of people who are so politically correct that they cannot call a shovel a spade, but off to either side are groups who must label everyone who doesn’t agree with them with the most vile and juvenile terms they can come up with, and they happily revel in the slime. But at it's root it's the same problem, the true message is less clear because of intentional distortion.

Zionazi. Jewpropagandist.

Here’s two more:

Paleosimian. Colon Bowel.

Yep, both sides do it.

Hyperbole? Humor? Venting? Maybe, but there are others out there who use the same terminology, only they hate. I’m talking about that mad, incoherent, unthinking, genocide-is-possible, room-for-nothing-else hatred. They hate and they use words like that because it demeans and dehumanizes and belittles the object of their hate.

There are a few popular blogs that I don’t read because I don’t like the general attitude. A friend called it mean-spirited, and that’s as good a term for it as any. I’m not slamming personal style, because it’s exactly that – personal. I just don’t read them, and I probably miss out on some good stuff too. But at the same time, if you spend that much time calling someone clever names, your audience may miss the meaning of the message you’re trying to put across.

And isn’t conveying your message the whole point?

Catchy Title Needed

I need a snazzy name for these rambling link-filled muse-o-rama's. C'mon peoples, gimme a hand here. I thought maybe "Around the Horn", but that's already used by a loser of a sports show. I also thought of "Link-o-rama" (lame), "The Melange" (sounds medically undesirable), or "Best Links on the Net" (delusional). Think about it.

Mookie is afk for the next day or so. She’s visiting her best friend, who moved about an hour south of us last year. They bought a few acres and built one of those log houses, doing most of the interior work themselves. Mookie spent many a weekend there helping out, framing walls and perfecting basic carpentry skills. They’ve worked their butts off doing it, and it shows, because the place is beautiful.

But Mookie and her best bud don’t get to see each other nearly enough because of the distance, so we took her down there Sunday so they could spend some time together before school started. Which also means that mom and I are child-free for a few days. Heaven!!!

Oooo, another bug story… this morning as I was getting into my truck I noticed something stuck in the rear window. It was still dark so I couldn’t see it real well, but the first impressions I got were ‘brown’ and ‘leaf’ and then something about the shape… I pulled the flashlight out of my lunchbag and took a closer look and it was a big ol’ moth. Yep, it was a mottled brown, and the wingspan was bigger than my palm. Kinda neat, if you’re into moths. I left him alone, because I'm a nice guy.

At this point, someone is thinking ‘flashlight out of my lunchbag’? (humor me) What kind of idiot does that? Short answer: guys do. I always carry a mini-mag flashlight in my bag, along with a Leatherman, and I always carry my Swiss Army knife. I notice on the knife page that they’ve reworked the ‘Angler’, which is what I have. Mine is an older version, and has scissors instead of those cheesy pliers, and a Phillips-head screwdriver instead of the corkscrew. I like mine better, in case you’re interested. Everyone, and I’m talking about you ladies too, should carry a knife all the time. It’s just a damn handy tool to have at hand. Try one of these Victorinox Classic (available in pink too), or even a good ol’ fashioned Boy Scout knife.

Al of You Can Call Me Al (go figure) mentions the movie Momento. He recommends it and I agree. Fair warning though, you’ll never see it on the Lifetime network. The other day I was rummaging through the bargain bins at Wal-Mart, and ran across a two-DVD set of old old old John Wayne movies. These are the one-reel flicks he made as a young man, classic black and white westerns from the 30’s and 40’s. I’m waiting for a rainy weekend podner. I also picked up Altered States, which is best viewed, well, in an altered state.

Here’s a new blog to check out: Ramblings of an Average White Guy. Robert is looking around and seeing all of the different styles and approaches to blogging, and trying to define his place in it all. Best advice I can give you is; Study Bill. Do the opposite. Bill whines a lot about his inadequacies, which gives him plenty to blog about. That doesn't work for everybody.

Personally, I keep a little piece of paper with notes and ideas, and I’m usually working on two or three things that need more research done, so I always have something to post. Unless I don’t feel like it, because this is for fun, and I refuse to obsess.

Welcome, Robert, and remember: PC’s are for people who lack the ability to think big (from one mainframe guy to another).

In War news, the forces of the evil superhero NetFlix-Man (no link without reciprocity) are still way behind the power curve, with debate heating up about what they shall be named. Weeks ago, I suggested ‘girlie-shirt wearing loser persons’. They should’ve taken my suggestion, because so far, they look to be the blogging equivalent of the U.N.

Also, I’ve noticed that somewhere along the line the allies of Glenn have been misidentified as the Axis of Evil Naughty. It ain’t true folks! Please keep the carnage tidy, there may be collateral damage civilians about.

Hey, I haven’t linked to Jennifer in a while. She thinks I’m “totally cool” (note the quote marks), and she’s not afraid to put it in writing. I think we’ve got a date too.

Victor is discussing beer, hooters, chicken wings, and women’s professional soccer. It’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds.

Tuning Spork (love that name) talks about Deep Throat not once, but twice! Woohoo! Close your raincoat, ya perv, we’re talking politics here. Good stuff, and interesting to read in the exact same way that Victor’s wasn’t.

Over at Winds of Change, read Ad Astra, without NASA for an excellent review of the ‘state of the space program’. Lots of good links to supporting information too.

For the best roundup of blogging links around, go see Kelly at Suburban Blight. Scroll down for the aforementioned Cul-de-sac, because she’s got mucho interesting stuff to say, and it’s worth a leisurely look.

Tiger gives us a peek into the law, Texas style. No six-gun blazin’ frontier justice here folks, though he does wear a nice tie.

In my world (which is infinitely more interesting than he-who-shall-not-be-named), life has lately been about my oldest daughter going to school way far away from home. I got to wondering if there were any rocket clubs in the general area of her school, so I did a little research. Lo and behold, within a day I got an email telling me about two local rocket clubs in Michigan, their websites (here and here), and an invitation to join them. I love the people in this hobby!

Come to think of it, I need a kickass closing line for this thing too.

It's called 'Go Fever'

The report outlining circumstances that led to the loss of the shuttle Columbia is to be released today.

Early word is that this report is going to be very critical of NASA management and engineering practices, so much so that Sean O'Keefe, who heads NASA, has told employees that:

"we need to not be defensive about that and try to not take it as a personal affront."

Like any organization, especially government entities, NASA tends to bloat with bureaucracy and inane rules for rules sake when left unchecked. Unfortunately they have a mission that is simultaneously one of the most difficult to accomplish and one of the most misunderstood by the general public.

As an example, I've had conversations with people who don't believe that the shuttle is real. Their reasoning is that the shuttle couldn't possibly carry enough fuel to keep its engines burning for an entire 10 day flight. And everyone knows that if the engine isn't running, then you stop, and if you stop flying then you crash.

These aren't stupid people, they just lack the most basic understanding of physics. These are taxpayers and constituants of ambitious politicians who are willing to sacrifice the long-term for political gain today. It makes perfect sense to say we are wasting millions to send a few people into space for no reason, as long as your audience has no real idea about the science being done and the benefits thereof.

Years ago, a paper was done that reached the conclusion that the way to cut costs in the space program was to launch more missions. The counter-intuitive reasoning was based partially on analysis of the German V2 program in WWII and economies of scale, it also assumes that demand for commercial access to space will be there if costs come down.

NASA needs this reality slap upside the head, I'm just sorry that it took the deaths of the Columbia crew to spur this review. NASA needs to do a much better job of public education, because this country has forgotten the fact that America is the world leader in space flight and related technology. Yes, we've got partners from around the globe, but not one of them could do it without us leading the way. That includes China and their fledgling space program, which is based on old Soviet technology and methodology. The shuttle has become ho-hum, and there's no reason that should be so.

Don't believe me? Go see a shuttle launch in real life. Feel the earth shake under your feet, and hear the roar drown out the voices around you, see the flame - too bright to look at directly - accelerating the shuttle skyward with pure brute strength. Trust me, there is nothing ho-hum about it.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Dark corners of the web

Well, not really. Just a couple of interesting and unusual links for y'all.

I need a quick show of hands here. How many of you read Soldier of Fortune magazine? Ever? Ok then, who's ordered books from Paladin Press? This company offers some of the most unusual books on the market. Yes, I own more than a couple. I was young and stoopid once, ya know. And they are fun to read (disclaimer: use common sense and don't believe everything you read). Besides, how can you not love a company that has a category called 'Revenge and Humor', eh?

They claim that this site is wildly popular. Surf around a bit and you realize that it's not nearly popular enough.

Chainmail bikini's and lingerie. Google is your friend.

Ever try to assemble something where the instructions were translated into English by a Japanese who wasn't quite fluent in the original German? Welcome to Engrish.com! Featuring Pads of Mousing. Make purchase for Happy Time!

Happy Monday Morning

Just a few odds and ends to kick off the week.

Frank Zappa said it best, "Just make sure you do it right the first time, 'cause nothings worse than a suicide chump." This woman is a suicide chump. If you really want to kill yourself, it's just not that hard. It sounds unfeeling, but I'm tired of 'Iamgoingtokillmyself(pleasesomebodystopme)'.

We've got sedums planted in the front yard along the picket fence, and right now they're covered with thousands of tiny pink blooms. I love to sit outside and just watch the activity around the flowerbeds. It's like the worlds busiest airport in miniature. You see bees of all types, mayflies and other insects too numerous to count buzzing in and out and around. Look close enough and you'll notice at least a half dozen spiders spinning their webs in strategic places. And butterflies. Butterflies love the sedums. And early in the morning, you can catch the toads out sunning themselves before it gets too hot and they retreat back into the darkest corners of the bed.

I didn't put this in my launch report, but something pretty cool happened while I was retrieving the rocket that landed behind the barn silo. I was walking along a dirt road skirting the meadow, and suddenly I was engulfed in a cloud of butterflies. There must have been close to a hundred of them. Painted Lady's, sulpher-somethings (the ones with white wings), and some small metallic blue ones. My first thought was that it was like being in a Disney movie. Happened again as I walked back through the same area after fetching my rocket. You've got to enjoy the little things.

I want to die on my one hundredth birthday. Shot dead. In bed. By a jealous husband.

I believe in planning ahead, so I need a date for early September, 2059. Any takers?

The Doobie Brothers' Jesus Is Just Alright is kickass driving music. Locomotive Breath by Jethro Tull is another great one. What makes you crank it up while driving?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

More information about the Brazilian rocket tragedy

After two successful test flights there was a long delay in further flights (reason unknown, I'm still looking into it), and since resuming their VLS program there have been two failures in flight requiring destruction of the rocket, and now this accident on the launch pad.

From MASA Planet, a rocketry newsletter:
"...The rocket consists of seven solid propellant stages—three in the core vehicle and four strap-ons—with additional solid motors used for roll control. The first launch attempt was at Brazil's Alcantara site on 2 November 1997, but one of the SRBs failed to ignite.... Although the rocket maintained attitude and an upright trajectory, it eventually deviated from its planned course and the rocket and its SCD satellite payload had to be destroyed. The second launch, on 11 December 1999, was more successful, but the second stage failed to ignite and the rocket and payload, a Brazilian SACI satellite, again had to be destroyed. A third launch attempt may occur in 2003. "

No official word yet on what the cause of the explosion could have been, although speculation is suggesting that the previous ignition problems may have provoked a more rigorous pre-flight test of the igniters. Perhaps too rigorous.

Bobby Bonds

Ok, I'm doing this from memory, so if I get something wrong...

Bobby Bonds in left, Willie Mays in center, Jim Ray Hart in right field.

Willie McCovey at first (Orlando Cepeda had been traded to the Cardinals a couple of years before), Tito Fuentes playing his rookie season at second, Hal Lanier at shortstop, and Ron Hunt - king of hit-by-pitch - at third.

Dick Dietz behind the plate. He had one spectacular year, but this one isn't it. He's only an average catcher. On the mound is Juan Marachal, Gaylord Perry, and in relief is ancient Don McMahon. The 'closer' doesn't exist yet.

In those days, I live and breathe Giants baseball. I loathe the Dodgers. American league? Ha, might as well be double-A, for all I care about them. Except for a mild interest in the A's in Oakland. I'm an avid collector of baseball cards, and my uncle taught me a game he made up using dice and baseball cards, like an early low-tech rotisserie league. I'm a stat-junkie, back before every waking moment of a players life became statisticized. Imagine my surprise years later when I come back from overseas and discover that these little rectangles of cardboard are worth big money! "Hello mom? What did you ever do with my old baseball cards? Really? Would you send them to me? Thanks!" I went to just one card show, and the family had a very nice dinner one evening thanks to a Reggie Jackson rookie card in 'good' condition.

On my birthday, my uncle takes me to see the Giants or the A's, depending on who's in town. We usually go two or three times a year, and the ultimate was a double-header at Candlestick under the lights. Cold as hell, and eating ballpark hotdogs (before Candlestick concessionaires got weird with the menu's).

Closer to home, we usually saw one or two minor league games a year with the Cub Scouts. The local team is the San Jose Bees. Kansas City Royals single-A farm team I think. They used to hold promotions like the fastest guy on the team racing a horse or something.

Closest to home, we played baseball constantly in season. My hero - always and forever - is Willie Mays. I wasn't fast enough to play center. Hell, to be honest I sucked as an outfielder. Not enough arm for pitcher (good control, lousy velocity), but good enough at third or first base. So I usually played second base. I always thought playing catcher would be cool, except that catcher was where you put the kid who was picked last. Like right field, except if you didn't have enough players for two teams you played 'no right field' and you were out if you hit the ball into right.

As a hitter, I had no real power, but I could hit to the opposite field when the situation called for it. Which was usually good for extra bases because of the normal quality of our pickup-game right fielders. I was also the best bunter in the neighborhood, which did me no good at all because I was too slow to take advantage of it.

To my horror, it turned out that I was one helluva fast-pitch softball pitcher. Now in those days, softball was what you played in PE because they wouldn't let you play 'real' baseball. Girls played softball for chrissake!

Everyone had their own glove and bat, and the bats were wood. Your favorite bat was always owned by someone else. All was right in the world when dad would take you out to buy a new glove. You'd been griping for month that your old glove was shot. You'd been saving every cent you had to help pay for it, not because your limited income allowed you to contribute any real money, but to show your sincerity. And when you get to the store, the baseball glove aisle stretches for miles and you spent an hour in heaven trying on glove after glove. Finally you decided on two, the one you couldn't afford (hope springs eternal) and the glove you could settle for. You also bought a brand new baseball. Your old one would be ruined because you'd heavily oil your glove and then tuck the ball into the pocket and slip it between the mattresses on your bed. This is how you broke it in. Your hands ached all day from constantly massaging the stiff leather, and you'd sleep on and around this uncomfortable lump in your bed. You wore that glove everywhere, playing catch with yourself if no one else was around. Your friends all ooohd and aaahd over your new glove. Your hand smelled like sweat and leather and glove oil for weeks. Painstakingly, carefully writing your name on your new glove, so that no one would rip it off. Your name would become part of the glove forever, so getting it right was critical. Laughing your ass off when someone screwed up their name, like running out of room and having to squeeze the last 's' in all weird.

Baseballs. For some reason, our neighborhood tended towards rubber-coated baseballs. Which were ok, except when they got waterlogged (like from playing on a rain-wet field) became permanently rock-hard. I'm sorry, 'rock-hard' doesn't begin to convey the degree of hardness. If you needed diamond dust, and all you had was your wifes wedding ring, soak a rubber-coated baseball in the sink overnight, then use it to pulverize the diamond. I mean, these things were lethal hard. Regular baseballs were more expensive, but much more highly prized. And of course, your name was prominently written on it. Not some fancy players-autograph style either, you wrote your name in big block letters on the ball. On each leather panel too, so you could see the name no matter how you held it.

I hate what baseball has become. But I loved it then, and when I think of baseball today, I tend to remember it that way, back in the sixties. Watching Bobby Bonds and the Say Hey Kid. That impossibly high leg kick that Marachal did each and every windup - that none of us could ever duplicate, though lord knows we all tried. Taking your heavy windbreaker to Candlestick, because you knew that when the sun went down it would get cold.

Thank you Bobby Bonds for everything you gave to me as a kid. You had a rich but troubled life and I hope you've found peace. I hope you find also that you were fully and completely appreciated - if by nobody else than at least by a little white kid who so desperately wanted to be a big leaguer, but knew there was never ever a chance. You helped me love the game I could never be great at.

Saturday, August 23, 2003

Launch Report

For the last few days we’ve suffered oppressive heat and humidity, but a thunderstorm-spawning cold front passed through last night. Today was absolutely beautiful, with temperatures in the low 80’s, just enough wind to be comfortable, and a bright blue cloudless sky.

Mookie’s trip to Michigan last week put her behind on her summer homework, so she decided to stay home and buckle down. I only took three rockets today, deciding to concentrate on the higher end of the motor range I normally fly.

First up was a veteran named the FY2K. You can tell what was going on in my life when I built this rocket. It’s rather small, but takes a relatively large motor for it’s size, so it screams off the pad and gets great altitude.

Which is exactly what it did this time. People don’t expect a rocket this size – not much bigger than your standard Estes stuff – to be this loud and smokey, so as usual folks jumped and kids screamed in fright and wet themselves (just kidding). But it does get their attention. So she’s boosting arrow-straight, on a slight angle into the wind, and leaving a thick dark line of smoke behind her and just as she arches over at the top the neon-yellow parachute is ejected and fills instantly. Perfect.

I noticed something tiny fall away, and someone says it must be the ejection wadding (protects the chute from the ejection charge). So as we’re watching the rocket descend under chute from almost 2000 feet, out of the corner of my eye I catch a glimpse of something.

Wheeeeeeeee-thunk! The freaking nosecone screams down and hits the ground about 10 feet from where a group of us are standing. It weighs more than a quarter of a pound, and to have that sucker freefall down and almost hit us was way too much excitement. I’m embarrassed about it, but kinda proud too that I judged the wind that well. Thank goodness it didn’t hit anybody. It’s plastic and rounded – not pointy – but it still would’ve hurt.

The rest of the rocket, still under chute, drifts much farther than it should because a large portion of its total weight took the express back to earth. It finally settles down beyond a barn silo, and I walk about a half mile to find it in good shape in a meadow.

Now it’s time for the main event: Ain’t Misbehavin’. And I immediately run into a snag. I’ve forgotten the binder I keep the checklist in. This is far and away the most complex rocket I’ve ever attempted to fly, so I have a detailed checklist to make sure I remember everything and do things in the right order. Step 1 should be: “bring the checklist, stoopid”.

Fortunately, some friends with lots of experience are there to help. This is my first hybrid-motor rocket, and the first flight relying entirely on electronics to deploy the parachutes, so I’m grateful for the assistance. Everyone likes my design to arm and disarm the ejection charges, and since the wind is picking up we decide to go with a slightly smaller chute to bring it down faster.

Three quarters of an hour later we’re ready to go. I get a quick lesson on how to use the remote box to fill the tank with nitrous, and as soon as we see a plume venting from the side of the rocket we do a quick countdown and I press the button.

She hesitates on the pad for a second, and then an electric-red flame erupts from the nozzle and she starts to climb. This is the smallest possible motor I can use in this rocket, so the flight is slow and low, and at apogee the altimeter fires the ejection charge and the parachute deploys perfectly. A very sweet flight.

The altimeter measured 608 feet, which is just fine for a maiden flight, especially one full of personal firsts. I’ve already figured out how to trim at least a pound off of her weight, and can double the motor power with no problem on the next flight, so 2000 feet plus isn’t out of the question.

So that’s what I flew today (didn't get to fly the third rocket). There were many other interesting flights. Roger brought his television rocket. It transmits a rockets-eye view of the flight to a receiver station on the ground, which feeds it into a video camera to record the flight. Neat stuff. There were also several RC rocket glider flights made, and a very interesting monocopter (1-bladed helicopter – weird but cool). There were also a lot of kids and parents flying little rockets. I enjoy watching the kids make flights, their wonder and joy is contageous.

Today was a great day.


I'll leave you with this, then get back to loading up the truck for today's launch.

A blonde lady is speeding down a highway, and gets pulled over by a blonde cop. He asks her for her license and registration, and as she's digging through her purse, her compact comes open and she see's her reflection in the mirror. Thinking it's her license, she hands the open compact to the cop. He looks into it and says, "If I'd have known you were a cop, I wouldn't have pulled you over."

Friday, August 22, 2003

Expensive shit

European soccer champ AC Milan signed a young Brazilian player known simply as "Kaka" for about 2 million a year.

That's why it's called rocket science

A Brazilian rocket being prepared for launch exploded on the pad, killing twenty technicians.

Major-Brigadier Tiago da Silva Ribeiro, general coordinator of the project said, "We have had no glitches of any kind so far."

Well, make that one. Keep trying compadres, you can do it!

Bonus Silent Service

According to submariners, there are only two kinds of ships: Submarines, and targets. To understand the frightening power of modern submarines and torpedos, check out the video and picture slide show on this page.

From the page:

"The torpedo warhead contains explosive power equivalent to approximately 1200 pounds (544 kg ) of TNT. This explosive power is maximised when the warhead detonates below the keel of the target ship, as opposed to striking it directly. When the detonation occurs below the keel, the resulting pressure wave of the explosion 'lifts' the ship and can break its keel in the process. As the ship 'settles' it is then seemingly hit by a second detonation as the explosion itself rips through the area of the blast. This combined effect often breaks smaller targets in half and can severely disable larger vessels."

Note that the 'smaller target' in the video is 372 feet long and weighed 2,750 tons!

"MK-48 and MK-48 ADCAP torpedoes can operate with or without wire guidance and use active and/or passive homing. When launched they execute programmed target search, acquisition and attack procedures. Both can conduct multiple reattacks if they miss the target."

They have a range of 5 miles and can strike a target when launched from a submerged position beyond the horizon.

Silent Service Stuff - 3

Continuing the series, a look at some of the historical figures whose names have been proudly carried by US Navy submarines. Part 1 is here, and part 2 here. In this section, I present to you the Henry M. Jackson (SSBN 730), Hyman G. Rickover (SSN 709), William H. Bates (SSN 680), L. Mendel Rivers (SSN 686), Richard B. Russell (SSN 687), Ethan Allen (SSN 608), and George C. Marshall (SSN 654).

Henry M. Jackson
Senator Jackson served as a member of both the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy and the Armed Services Committee for many years and was the ranking Democratic member of the Armed Services Committee at his death. He was an expert on nuclear weapons and strategic issues and a member of the Select Committee on Intelligence.

Hyman G. Rickover
Admiral known as the "Father of the Nuclear Navy." Led development of the U.S.S. Nautilus, the world's first nuclear submarine.

William H. Bates
William H. Bates of Massachusetts was devoted to the vital importance of the nation's seapower. He served in the U. S. Navy for ten years, resigning his commission as Lieutenant Commander after being elected to Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his father, George J. Bates. Congressman Bates served as representative from Massachusetts' sixth district from 1950 until his death in June 1969, becoming the senior Republican member of the House Armed Services Committee and the second ranking House member of the Joint Atomic Energy Committee. He was a vigorous advocate and effective supporter of the development of nuclear power for Naval vessels.

L. Mendel Rivers
Mr. L. Mendel Rivers served in the U.S. House of Representatives for 30 years. As chairman of the House Armed Services Committee in the 89th, 90th and 91st Congresses, he maintained an abiding commitment to America's defense posture.

Richard B. Russell
In Washington he became known as a supporter of a strong military, agriculture, and, unfortunately, segregation. He was appointed to the Senate Appropriations Committee, which he chaired for years.

Ethan Allen
A notable victory of the Green Mountain Boys under Ethan Allen, occurred on the morning of May 10, 1775, when they silently invaded the British held Fort Ticonderoga and demanded its surrender "In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress". The captured cannon and mortars were transported across the snow covered mountains of New England and their installation on the heights over Boston Harbor enabled Washington to force the British to leave that important seaport.

George C. Marshall
America's foremost soldier during World War II, served as chief of staff from 1939 to 1945, building and directing the largest army in history. As a diplomat, he acted as secretary of state from 1947 to 1949, formulating the Marshall Plan, an unprecedented program of economic and military aid to foreign nations.

Delta Skelter

A couple of weeks ago, I was stunned when my daughters told me that they had never seen Animal House. We had been discussing classic movies, because I've been introducing them to Alfred Hitchcock, Cary Grant, John Wayne, etc.

Last weekend we rented the video and the girls enjoyed it. It's been a while for me too, so it was like rediscovering an old friend (tired cliche, but true). Today in the news is the announcement that the DVD is about to be released, and they held an anniversary party featuring members of the original cast and a reenactment of the parade.

Screw the Prowler, I want a DeathMobile!

Blogger Problems et. al.

...and I've got some things to say today! Might as well wade in and hope for the best.

Annika points the way to a story that’s beyond weird. Don’t we have lab animals or something for that?

This is sweet (graphic-intensive). Thanks to Cherry’s Ramblings for the pointer.

And to cleanse the palette, Jeff at Alphecca discusses Gephardt.

Actually, maybe you should've read about Gephardt first, then gone to the sweet stuff to mask that nasty slimy political aftertaste.

Oh for crying out loud. Why don't you just tie a mattress to your back? Then again, no one will accuse Kin of conducting a half-hearted battle.

Rachel Lucas announced that she was goint to rent Bowling for Columbine and then review it. We haven’t heard from her since. Would one of our Texas friends please check the local hospitals for attempted suicides. Might want to check with the police too, for attempted homicides. No telling how she reacted, but ‘violent’ is probably somewhere in the description.

And finally, a quick tour around the War Front:

They called me “despicable”! Why, thank you, that’s quite kind. I'm taking this in the spirit it's intended, and using it as an opportunity to practice my cartoon impersonations. Tom Tuttle from Tacoma would approve! Furthermore, as a personal reply, I’ve added you to the blogroll over there on the right, and from here on out all references to the Alliance will be pink. (Lucky for you that I’m near-illiterate when it comes to html, or it would be bright pink instead of this black-looking pink you will see from now on. Ha!)

Bad Money has designed Alliance currency. Now how can you not like a guy who thinks you only need one coin, and that has naked women on both sides! Welcome to the blogroll.

Next up on our tour of the Alliance is Not Quite Tea and Crumpets. Clever and dastardly. I want to party with this guy.

Tiger felt a little left out. Sorry my friend, everyone always forgets Switzerland.

Oh yeah, new tagline.

Update: Rachel Lucas has posted her review of the movie. Her head didn't explode, but I bet it was a near thing. I'd also like to personally thank her for watching this and telling me about it, so that I don't have to.

Thursday, August 21, 2003


Q: Do you really all hate Frank?
A: No. Unless we really do, then yes. We need a policy decision made here, I think.

Q: Frank sure seems violent and sadistic. Is he like that in real life?
A: Everyone on the internet assumes a new persona. It’s like a rule. Frank isn’t really sadistic. Not even to monkeys. Frank may not even be a male! No one’s met him, so we don’t know for sure.

Q: So he doesn’t really hate monkeys? That’s a relief, because monkeys are so cute.
A: Oh no, he hates them. He kills them on sight, just in very non-sadistic ways.

Q: He doesn’t blend them like I keep hearing about, does he? That’s sick.
A: No. Frank is afraid of monkeys, so he picks up their limp bodies with a stick and throws them over the back fence to his neighbors dog.

Q: What’s with the weapons he constantly brandishes?
A: Frank is into the eastern culture and martial arts. Martial arts were invented by the orientals because they had gunpowder but thought the only use for it was fireworks. They needed something besides knives and sparklers, so they invented Kung Pao (literally: spicy Pao). Later, when Americans were perfecting Manifest Destiny, the resident Indians (another eastern culture) reacted by doing Kung Paleface and massacring the white man. The US Army invented the Cattleing gun and shot cows at the Indians, which horrified them because they worship sacred cows and won't even eat at Burger King. The defeated Indians all moved to Cleveland and Stanford, Connecticut, except for those who opened casinos to screw the white man out of his money twenty-five cents at a time.

Q: So what’s this ‘Axis’ thing I keep hearing about?
A: The Axis of Naughty is a group of small-time wannabe writers who lack real social lives, so they post various articles and read each others work and act like those cliques you hated in high school.

Q: Where does Frank fit into this picture?
A: Same boat.

Q: There are a lot of Glenn’s around. Who are they?
A: Glenn is witty, insightful, and above the petty tribulations of the common man. The other is in the same boat as the rest of us. Uh, I think he's black too.

Q: Rocket Jones compared Frank to Aquaman. That’s just mean.
A: He felt bad about it and wrote a letter of apology to DC comics.

Q: How did Jennifer get to be head of the Axis?
A: She promised to send pictures of herself in her underwear to everyone who voted for her.

Q: Pretty clever! Can I see the picture?
A: Nope. I got the good picture because I voted for her first. Everyone else got a joke picture.

Q: Can I ask some more questions?
A: Depends on the comments I get.

Happy Anniversary!

On August 20, 1953, The Army Redstone Arsenal team at Cape Canaveral, Fla., launched the first Redstone rocket. The Redstone was powered by a rocket engine developed by North American Aviation's Rocketdyne unit, which was later used to launch America's first satellite and make Alan Shepard the first American in space.


At the rocket launch this weekend, I plan to fly a couple of my big projects. I talked about our hybrid-powered Ain't Misbehavin' before (pictures here), but I also want to launch a rocket that my oldest daughter and I worked on together. Tinkerbelle was a real learning experience for us, because it introduced us to some new construction materials and techniques. That's what I love about this hobby, you learn something new with each and every rocket you build and launch.

Now here and here are a couple of big projects. This is the kind of stuff that Bill Whittle talks about in his essay Trinity. People pushing the envelope and doing awe-inspiring things - as a hobby. Because it's fun.

Have I mentioned lately how much I HATE the BATFE and Ashcroft and the asinine Homeland Security Act?

Once, a group of us were discussing 'rocket-widows' and 'rocket-widowers' (yes, there are lady-rocketeers), and one friend talked about her husband who worked with satellites. His point was that the rocket is just a vehicle to get the important part - the payload - to where it needs to go. To him, rockets were about as interesting as a bus.

Probably like most of you are thinking, eh?


Something new for the BATFE to regulate. Ashcroft must be doing the happy dance.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Must Read

Bill Whittle has posted a brand new essay over on Eject! Eject! Eject! Responsibility.


I've been remiss in not inviting any and all to our club rocket launch this weekend. On saturday, from 9am-5pm, west of Manassas, Virginia. Check out the NOVAAR site, directions and a map are available from the main page. If you’re in the area, come check it out. If you’ve got rockets of your own to fly, bring ‘em along. If not, you’re welcome to fly one of ours.

Mookie is home. I heard about the music situation. My wife let the girls pick out their traveling music, and it was best described as a 'compromise'. Translation: no one was happy with it.

Thanks to DFMoore for this link. If I have to read Maureen Dowd’s crap, at least I can treat it like a word game and have some fun with it. Much easier on the blood pressure.

If this is true, then it’s your moral obligation to not go.

The Maestro composeth.

Victor is the originator of the InstaTactic. What an evil and twisted mind he has, which is a good thing since he’s on our side. Now if we could just get him to tweak those colors a tad. The text is about two shades too light on that background.

Read. Laugh. Litigate!

Kevin at Wizbang offers good advice:

Quick Tips for a successful Wedding Reception
Do: Have an open bar
Don’t: Invite trailer trash

Visit Susie. She’s recovering from Monkey Pox. If you must bring a gift, I'd suggest anything but tins of popcorn.

Need a suggestion for that hard-to-shop-for pervert on your list? Try this. Hell, I'm tempted, just for the conversation value. Makes a great paperweight for your desk at work too!

And finally, Jennifer seems to be having site problems. At least I haven't been able to get there. A conspiracy theorist whispered in my ear that it's sneaky plot to renege on her offer of cheesecake. Hmmmm…


What really happens when you ignite a rocket motor? I'm talking about the magic inside that makes everything go whoosh and get gone real fast. Here's the best explanation of the process I've ever seen, courtesy of Peter Clay. I wish he was my chemistry teacher way back when...

Burning Nitrocellulose BP* is sorta like a party that gets WAY out of hand.

Think of the Saltpetre molecule as an unhappy family. Handsome, dashing, not too faithful Mr. K (Postassium) is stuck with homely, unresponsive Ms. N, who is kind of a loner generally but is very protective of her three lovely daughters, all named O. Actually, it was the daughters that attracted Mr. K in the first place. There are eight such families in this party, all exactly alike. Pretty dull, huh?

Think of Sulfur as eight attractive middle-aged women holding hands in a circle.

Think of Carbon as an eligible young sailor, who is not much interested in the ladies in the circle but has his eyes on the lovely daughters.

Still, nothing happens until some additional couples come into the room behaving in a romantic and suggestive manner. Then:

Each Mr. K gets excited, lets go of Ms. N and grabs an S from the circle. Each Ms. N gets disgusted, lets go of her daughters; thus 24 of them are turned loose.The twelve C-men descend upon the now-free O's like wolves, and each one ends up with an O on each arm. Each Ms. N, alas, ends up alone, but it's OK; she's used to it.

Now all the happy new couples are looking for space and some distance from the others. They push hard against everybody else, and rush for the door. If the door isn't big enough, they may just push out the walls.

8KNo3 + S8 + 12C ==> 8KS +8N + 12C02 + heat.

21 molecules that are solid at room temperature have *suddenly* become 28 molecules, of which 20 are gases at room temperature. In addition, a great deal of heat energy has been released, forcing these products to expand further. Of course the reaction is never pure, and further reactions take place after all this is exposed to the outside air while still hot.

* Nitrocellulose BP is simple black powder held together with Nitrocellulose binder. It's the kind of rocket motors you buy at hobby shops, and it's safe and reliable.

Wakeup call for the UN and the world

Typical terrorist target - 'soft' and full of civilians. The idea is to create maximum casualties and shock. But when the whole world condemns an attack like this, where is the benefit? Other than the morale-boosting effect among the terrorists themselves, what is the point? I've been doing a lot of reading lately about the history of the middle east and it's peoples, trying to get inside their heads, as it were. I just don't understand this kind of thinking. Is it truly a religious experience for them? It seems so much more likely to me that those at the head of these organizations are cynically 'using' Islam as the means to recruit and control the cannon-fodder they need to further their plans. Power. Control. Influence. More of. All of history says so.

Once again, this attack proves that as far as the terrorists are concerned, the only good westerner is a dead westerner. And the word 'civilian' is defined as 'easy target'.

In response to the murder of Sergio Vieira de Mello, the top UN official in Iraq:

the Mercosur trade bloc saying in a statement that "this aberrant criminal act constitutes an attack on the whole international community."

Think they’re starting to get it?

Meanwhile, Australian Prime Minister John Howard condemned the bombing and said Vieira de Mello's death underlined the fact that "nobody is safe from terrorists."

"There is no hierarchy of targets when it comes to the mindless acts of terrorism," he said.

Well, we already knew that he got it, but it's nice to hear it confirmed.

French President Jacques Chirac expressed deep dismay and anger in a message to the UN secretary general, saying: "Such hateful acts arouse nothing but indignation and the strongest condemnation."

From the French, he means. From the Americans, it means we’re going to hunt you until we find you. Count on it.

Earliest reports from the scene quoted UN officials as complaining about the lapse in security and pointed fingers at the US. That nonsense has stopped.

Annan said the U.N. plans to reevaluate its security measures.

Except for a new concrete wall built recently, U.N. officials at the headquarters refused heavy security because the U.N. "did not want a large American presence outside," said Salim Lone, the U.N. spokesman in the Iraqi capital.

Latest reports say that the cement truck was parked on the other side of a concrete security wall, on an access road near the hotel. Basically, since the terrorists were kept farther away from the target, they used a bigger bomb.

Security wasn’t breached.

Tuesday's bomb blasted a 6-foot-deep crater in the ground, shredding the facade of the Canal Hotel housing U.N. offices and stunning an organization that had been welcomed by many Iraqis in contrast to the U.S.-led occupation forces.

The above blip can be filed under 'Everyone automatically hates the Americans'. In the big fathead folder labelled 'Media'.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

I don't remember...

...if I've posted this before or not, but it's my all-time favorite out-of-context quote:

Would you, could you, with a goat?

Dr. Suess probably made a fortune on the side writing porn.


Over on the right is a new tagline, and links to my compatriots in the Axis of Evil Naughty. Remember, it's all about the oil links.

Frank works for the online-dating service owned by NetFlix.

For anyone in the DC Metro area, the Greaseman is back. He's sunk to doing a late-afternoon show on "Country that Rocks", down near Fredericksburg. I was never a fan of his, but it's still sad.

Frank wants all the ladies to vote for him as 'sexiest blogger'.

Frank has extremely tiny feet.

Haiku of Love (dedicated to Frank)

Oo, oo oo oo oo
oo, oo oo oo, oo Frank oo
Frank, oo oo oo oo

(sorry, the Babblefish translator doesn't do monkey to english via japanese. It's ok though, because Frank understands.)

Frank claims to be a superpower. He ranks right up there with Aquaman in super-ness, alrighty.

Sometimes it's the best part

I heard a radio commercial yesterday that had me laughing out loud. It was one of those Bud 'celebrates-the-little-man' spots, and it was a tribute to the guy who invented the Giant Taco Salad. Some bits of it (from memory):

Thanks to American ingenuity, we've managed to invent what no one thought possible: the 12,000 calorie salad.

Ground beef, beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and - if there's any room left - a few shreds of lettuce.

You might ask, "is it healthy?" Yes it is. Because it's a salad.

Good stuff.

Context – an Official Statement by the DisInformation Minister of War

Greetings, fellow freedom fighters! That’s right, you are all, each and every one, a freedom fighter. You are fighting for the freedom to be unlinkless from *spit* Frank *spit*.

Some claim that this war is all about the oil. They are wrong. Read my lips, especially those way in the back who can’t hear me (and next time get here earlier).

This war is about links. We do not need oil. How can I make such a claim? Let me explain. Think about a vast deserted wasteland, hostile to human life. A person without proper training and equipment would last mere days before dying lost and helpless. Yes, I’m talking about the bedroom of a teenager - specifically Mookie. Parents will understand and confirm the truth of my words. Now the desert of the middle east is a lot like Mookie’s room. The same dangers and pitfalls. The same forbidding terrain. The same potential to discover vast wealth under the seemingly worthless surface!

Tell me, where the logic is of going for oil against Frank, when we have a potential bonanza already literally under our thumb feet? Especially since while said oil exploration is going on, we can sit comfortably downstairs and have a pre-discovery party, and I can make a nice pot of homemade soup and we can play pictionary or trivial pursuit. On a side note, I presume that no one will object to the Clampett method of oil exploration. At best, up from the ground comes a-bubbling crude. At worst, we’ll have rustled up some food. Makes a nice change from Wagglty Tail energy drink.

Geography is also against Frank and his ridiculous claims about this being ‘about the oil’. I mean, he lives in Florida for pete’s sake! Now if he were claiming that this war was about the retired senior citizens, then that would be believable. It’s Florida, after all. Or maybe he’s screaming that we’re attacking him because we covet ‘people who can’t work a voting machine’. Plenty of those where he lives. My in-laws live in Florida and after the last election I sent them a bumper sticker that said, “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted For Gore and Buchanan”. They were not amused.

There is no oil in Florida [DNW!] (Like the DenBeste-esque hook there? I gave him the idea. Really! It’s the truth, just ask me.)

Frank compares himself to greatness. He sees himself as powerful and all-knowing in a historical sense, yet his actions indicate a lack of perspective and an inability to learn from history. Note that I am comparing actions here, I am not making personal comparisons (unless it makes you giggle). Fully engaged in a war with the Axis of Evil Naughty, his reaction is to immediately turn and attack a ‘sleeping giant’, a giant who awakens and turns his vast resources against the soon-to-be-crushed Frank. Remember that cartoon titled “The Last Great Act of Defiance”? A mouse is flipping off an eagle diving straight at him, sneering into the face of death. That mouse is Frank-like, and that mouse is an idiot. He’s gonna be dead. Instantly. So quickly you can’t even put it on the next cartoon, because it’ll be long over by then. But people loved that mouse. Because people are stupid, which is what Frank counts on. He has no respect for you. You are beneath him, he believes.

He sees himself as an epic leader, a leader who will be remembered through history. But he is doomed to irrelevance, like a certain other ex-leader. People will remember Frank when he occasionally pops into someone’s comments and makes a nonsensical remark implying his imminent return to power. He will then disappear again, sadly hiding Gollum-like, never comprehending that he’s mostly forgotten and not even worth pursuing any longer.

Some have compared Frank to Wile E. Coyote, and there are valid points to be sure. But this misses the mark in that Wile E. Coyote actually had a goal in mind when he did stupid things – namely to catch the Roadrunner. Closer examination of motives shows that Frank is actually closer to Marvin the Martian. He even claims to look good in black!!! What he doesn’t say is that he also looks good in the leather tu-tu. In fact, he’s been spotted in his neighborhood with a scrub brush tied to his head (although we won’t see that in his Peace Gallery I bet). Now in all fairness, reports of his unusual haberdashery are based on eyewitness accounts from the admittedly elderly. Their eyesight is not always crystal-clear, but we feel safe in trusting in their wisdom, gained through long life and experience (which is probably why most of them want nothing to do with Frank either).

So if Frank is indeed Marvin the Martian, then that makes us – the Axis of Evil Naughty – Bugs Bunny and Duck Dodgers of the 24 1/2 Century! While he frantically waters his Martian Birds to meet our threat, we are stealing his Illudium Q36 Explosive Space Modulator. Ha! And when he resorts to summoning Gossamer, know that we are well-groomed and prepared with scissors and aprons to catch the excess hair.


Frank, Frank, Frank - relent and add our links now, before it is too late. You cannot afford the second front. You cannot run and hide forever. Get it right this time and vote for peace. Offer the olive tree, not just your ‘negotiated’ branch, the whole unconditional tree.

Do the right thing, and you may just hear that earth-shattering kaboom!


Monday, August 18, 2003

Busy day

More this evening probably. In the meantime, treat yourself to a classic love story, retitled for the small screen as "Tales for the L33t". And speaking of screens, it's best not have a mouthful of liquid while watching - you've been warned. Thanks to Pixy Misa of Ambient Irony for this one (and "Tales for the L33t Part 2" too).

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Those were the days

I'm watching Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a 1961 movie starring Walter Pidgeon and Barbara Eden. In it, a US atomic submarine tries to save the earth from being incinerated when the Van Allen radiation belts catch fire. Yep, kinda silly, but still a fun movie.

An interesting scene in the movie took place at an international conference of scientists, when a European expert insisted that the world should wait and see what happens, because he believed that everything would be ok if mankind didn't interfere. An American admiral devised a solution that required intervention, and after some debate the Euroweenie demanded that America not act unilaterally. In fact, he called for an 'international vote' to make the decision. The Americans ignored him and went to save the day.

Sound familiar?

Bonding With The Boys

Someone posted this story to the rocket newsgroup a few years ago. I have no further information about where it came from or who originally wrote it, but I still laugh every time I read it.

Bonding With The Boys

About 2 weeks ago, I was looking around the Web for the BIGGEST sky rocket that I could get shipped to me via common freight carrier.

I located a fireworks importer in Wisconsin who had this mondo sky rocket -- biggest thing I had ever seen -- called a SkyDragon. These things are 48 inches tall and are mounted on a 1/2-inch wooden dowel.

Pure aerospace engineering. I plopped down a bunch of money and had him send me two cases of these things. They arrived at the freight dock a few days ago and I had to drive the van over to pick them up. Two boxes each 2 feet by 2 feet by 4 feet in size containing 80 rockets each. The 'Class 4 Explosives' sticker on the side of each box was a real bonus. I am gonna have to save them for the scrapbook.

That night, me and the kiddos had a gen-u-ine rocket launch ceremony. I placed one of these beauties in a liter-size glass bottle and the bottle fell over. Hmmmm-- this thing was waaay too big. I looked around the shop for a pipe to set it in, but realized that the only dirt I could drive the pipe into was in plain sight of my neighbor's house. I knew he was a cool guy, but I didn't want him to call the cops. You see -- 'projectile-type' fireworks are totally illegal in this county. I was surprised that the Buncombe County Sheriff Department wasn't waiting for me at the loading dock when I picked these things up.

Anyhow, I finally rigged a launch pad by prying up one of the driveway drain grates with a crowbar and sitting the stick into the deep pit. Looked sorta like an ICBM silo with its hardened lid slid aside. I asked which of my three kids wanted to light the fuse, but all took a few steps back and politely declined. Chicken-shits. Kids just aren't made the same nowadays. They fulfill their danger quotient by shooting bad guys in video games. About as far from real danger as you can get, if you ask me. I told the little weenies to stand back as I bent to light the device with a Bic lighter. The lady at the fireworks importer promised me that these things would NOT make any noise. I told her that they HAD to be relatively quiet so I could shoot them off in my neighborhood without causing "undue alarm". She said I wouldn't have any problem. I emphasized the particular legal problems I would have if there were any type of loud report at apogee. I emphasized the fact that I lived right next to a National Park and that any type of firework that was discharged or assumed to be discharged on that property would get me sent before a FEDERAL judge right before I got sent to the COUNTY judge She again assured me I would have no problem.

That lying bitch. That rocket engine had a burn time about as long as any I had EVER seen, and the ascent echoed off the surrounding trees. Diamond shock pattern extended from the back end. It kept going and going and going. When it hit apogee at about 1000 feet, the rocket disintegrated into a huge shower of silent red sparks. Pretty cool, I thought... until the shower of sparks burned out and suddenly transformed into a cloud of EXTREMELY bright and loud explosions. The kids scrambled into the back door "Three Stooges" style (ie: where all three try to get through the same closed door at once) and left me standing in the smoking haze waiting for the cops to arrive. The dogs that live along our street were all barking their heads off at the apparition they had just witnessed in the night sky. That ended the fireworks test for the night.

The next day, my oldest son Doug and I decided we were gonna "neuter" one of the rockets so it wouldn't make any noise. I took him into the closet where I store the gardening tools and he saw these two huge cases of fireworks standing there. The kid went nuts. He wanted to open BOTH boxes so he could see what all 159 rockets looked like lined up next to each other. This kid has promise. I told him: "Since mom only thinks I have a few of these things lying around, maybe that wasn't such a good idea." He mulled that over for a few seconds, then gave me a real big smile in agreement. We pulled one of the rockets out of the box and re-locked the closet door. He and I both sat down on the driveway and proceeded to take it apart.

It was a standard issue big-ass Chinese sky rocket. I bet they used these to kill people 500 years ago. As I sat there taking layer after layer of paper off, his brain was filling with the details of construction. Tissue, cardboard, plastic, fuses...etc. Realizing that he was mentally storing the design for some future project sorta made me shudder. All I was thinking was the fact that this thing was probably put together by a political prisoner in a hellhole somewhere who is probably gonna get "executed" so they can sell his internal organs on the transplant market. Probably not too far from the facts, but I managed to do a bit of explaining to him from the standpoint of aerospace engineering regarding how the thing worked.

Doug is probably the only 4th grader in the U.S. who can now describe the principle of thrust using a control volume model. The rocket was pretty simple. It had a very large booster engine topped with a warhead that contained the red sparkly things that exploded. Removing the warhead was as simple as giving a quick twist, and I assumed the neutered rocket would fly higher without the payload. I was correct. Doug and I did a daylight "stealth" test and were able to add about 50% to the altitude attained the previous night. We decided to modify four more rockets and put them aside in the closet for easy access. When this was done, Doug had a jar full of stuff that came out of the warheads including: 12 fuses about 3-inches long each, some paper, 4 plastic nosecones and a big handful of these little black balls about the size of 12-gauge buckshot that turned out to be the 'red sparkly popper things'.

It appeared that the outer layer was a simple gun powder coating designed to quickly burn off as red shower of sparks. I surmised that the inner core had some kind of magnesium thermite that gave off an intense white light and a loud bang. Pretty cool if you ask me. Lots of energy packed into one teeny little ball. I didn't want to see the popper thingies go to waste, so I told Doug we were gonna put them in a hole in the ground and set them off. He gave me another big smile. It's amazing how kids think alike... even when separated by 30 years. As I was digging a shallow hole with my hand, Doug asked if it would be alright to put an army man next to these things so that "When they go off, it would look like he was getting shot with a machine gun". Dang.... exactly what I was thinking. I agreed and he ran off to his room to dig something out of the mess.

He returned in about 3 seconds, out of breath and holding a cheap plastic imitation of Robert E. Lee on horseback and a Civil War cannon. I pointed out that they didn't have true machine guns in the Civil War, but we would overlook this for the purpose of the demonstration. He handed me the action figure and I placed it and the cannon next to a rather large pile of black beads from which a few of the fuses extended. I figured that three inches of fuse would take 2 seconds to burn, so I had at least that amount of time to stand up and take a few steps back. I neglected to recount the night before... when the warhead ignited IMMEDIATELY upon reaching apogee. Tricky Chinese. They had installed extremely fast-burning fuse in these things and that fact totally escaped me.

I squatted next to Robert Lee and gave a short eulogy. Doug laughed. I took the trusty Bic lighter and placed it next to the fuse. One flick got the lighter going and THIS IMAGE IS ONE I WILL REMEMBER FOR A LONG TIME. My hand holding a lighter next to a pile of explosives. There is usually a short but noticeable mental pause that occurs immediately before something bad or really stupid happens. It is where that little voice in your head says: "You dumbass."

The fuse burn time was in the 1/1000ths of a second range. The pile of little popper thingy's immediately ignited into a tremendously brilliant ball of fire. All I could think was "...th...th....thermite..." Unfortunately, when they are viewed at ground level, these little popper thingies become REALLY BIG POPPER THINGIES and have a tendency to jump up to
15-feet in every direction from their point of ignition. I instantaneously became engulfed in a ball of fire that sounded a lot like being in a half-done bag of Orville Reddenbacher's popcorn. It was all over about as fast as I could snap my fingers.

After the smoke cleared, Doug started laughing his butt off. That meant I was still in one piece. Doug does not laugh at dismembered limbs. He said I jumped about 10-feet, an action that I do not remember. I checked my clothes for burn marks, and found none. He checked my back to make sure it was not on fire. No combustion there. The driveway was peppered with black holes where the concrete had been scarred from these things. A close one. Another REAL close one. My mind ran the tapes again to re-hash what it had seen. All I remembered was being inside something akin to a 30-foot diameter ...... flaming dandelion. Whew.

We examined Ol' Robert E. at ground-zero. Instead of a machine-gun peppering, he got nuked. He and the horse he rode in on... and his cannon too. One side was untouched, but the other side was arc-welded. Real warfare. Doug examined it real quiet-like and then started laughing again. I assume he will remember the finer points of the lesson as he grows older. When I now speak of "almost being burned beyond recognition" he will have a slightly better understanding of what I mean. I hope that this vivid image tempers the knowledge he now has regarding rocket construction. Oh well.

After all, if your dad isn't gonna teach you how to get your ass blown off, who will?

Saturday, August 16, 2003

Alone again, naturally

The ladies are gone for the weekend, trekking to the Great White North to deliver oldest daughter to the liberal mind-control masters of higher education. Fortunately, we've trained her since birth to be skeptical and cynical, so I think she'll survive the experience. A prof or two might have a rough time of it though. One can only hope.

So it's me and the boys. Two male dogs and yours truly, for a change the house reeks of testosterone instead of estrogen. Ahhhhhhh. So what's on the agenda you might ask. Non-stop porn? High-carb beers and corn flakes for dinner? A reenactment of my bachelor party?

Nay, dammit. Those all sound wonderful except this morning something happened to me that makes Freddy vs. Jason look like a Lifetime movie.

Kidney stone.

If you're on the ground, curled up in a fetal position, then you've had the experience. If not, then I sincerely hope you never do. Mine are the minor 'grain-of-sand' variety, and it's nature's way of telling me to drink more water. A lot more. So I've spent the day chugging cranberry juice (acid is good for it's disolving effects) and water and tea and anything else liquid, and running to the bathroom every ten minutes. The worst is over, I'm past the screaming and dread phase, and I'll be fine by monday.

Figures the girls are gone. No one here to 'aw poor baby' and listen to me whine. The damn dogs just sleep and do other dog things like lick themselves. Right now, I'm not even jealous of them. It's a karma thing I'm sure, because I couldn't score any new porn last week at work, and the only thing in the house are 3 ancient tapes that would probably disintigrate in the VCR. Not that I need them, I could probably recite the dialog on them from memory.

You know what? Even in the present circumstances, I have the house to myself for 2 more days. It's still a good weekend.

Didja know?

The first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, flew in 1961. In 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon.

NASA defines space as beginning at an altitude of 50 miles. If you could steer your car straight up, you could drive to space in less than an hour.

Friday, August 15, 2003

War - what is it good for?

Mookie abandons the 'shot across the bow' and rakes the opponent with a full broadside! See 'A pictorial history of the war', which isn't really, but it used to be the 'logo page' until we added some new stuff and renamed it.

More coming soon, I'm sure. I grounded her for no good reason and she's pissed off!

War - and a call to be creative

You all remember Haiku, the 3-line Japanese version of the limerick. First line has 5 syllables, second line has 7, third line has 5 again. Well, this is your call to action!!! Round two of our crusade against the netflix shill (I've just started the rumor that they hired him because William Shatner wasn't available) consists of a sound and thorough thrashing of his (many) character flaws via ninja poetry.

Pick up your pens! Sharpen your wits!

Here are two to get you started:

Restless sleep again
Has dark dream that no one knows
Secret monkey love

Strike fierce ninja pose
Yell 'Rarr' into silvered glass
Once again scares self

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinaaaaaaaahhhhhh...

Here's a recipe that's quick, easy and tasty.

Southwestern White Chili

1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/4 cup onion, chopped
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup green chilies, chopped
1 19oz can white kidney beans

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp cilantro
1/8 tsp ground red pepper

Sliced green onions
Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken and onions, cook 4-5 minutes.
2. Stir in broth, green chilies, and spices. Simmer 15 minutes.
3. Stir in beans, simmer 5 minutes.

Top with green onions and cheese.

Serves 4.

The Lighter Side of Looting

Over at Mr. Helpful, the latest episode of the Shatner Chronicles is up. Funny stuff. Trust me, I spent five winters in North Dakota. Remember that movie Fargo? That was a freakin' documentary. Uf-da!

Flight simulator

There's a popular radio-control flight simulator called PRE-Flight, and they've just released a simulation for download of Burt Rutan's White Knight and SpaceShipOne. You may remember that I talked about these and the quest for the XPrize.

Lots of neat simulators to play with, including the Apache attack chopper, SR-71 Blackbird, and the P51 Mustang.

War - update

Once again afraid-of-oriental-kids-on-halloween-boy is begging Jen to surrender. To his dismay, our Commander-in-Chief has seen through his craven and snivial actions and once again laughed upon his prostrate groveling form. (I’m guessing that she has way too many plans in motion to actually call them all off in time)

In other news, we are pleased to announce that annika did NOT join forces with said synchronized-swimming doormat. She did not ‘cross the Rubicon', she did NOT pledge her allegiance, she DID NOT place her pets in danger of puppy-orphanism, SHE DID NOT 'drink the kool-aid' – though if she did, I sincerely hope it’s the unspeakable stuff they used to serve us in the military that comes in 55-gallon drums labeled “Drink, mix, powdered, green-flavored”.

Speaking of unspeakable, [insert insult here] is trying to declare war upon Instapundit. That’s right, he’s decided to lead his army-of-the-deceived onto a cruise aboard the IMAO-Titanic in an attempt to conquer the Iceburgh (I spelled it germanically so it looks meaner).

Ha Ha!

A small and under-appreciated group of warmongers are attacking, yet they are like mere mosquitoes around a napping guy in a hammock on a beautiful spring day when he should be cutting the grass. Annoyance!

Would someone please silence that small yappy dog?

Niners won 14-10

Which is the diplomatic way of avoiding the words 'Raiders lose'.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

War - logo's are here

Following Jen's lead, if you are not interested in the Blog War between the Axis of Evil Naughty and monkey-boy, I shall henceforth title all of my war-related posts with the word 'War' (a command decision, which is why she makes the big bucks). So scroll on down you peace-mongerers, I'll keep posting other things as the muse demands.

Still with me? Hmmm. Over on the right column is our official Axis of Evil Naughty logos page, full of happy little pictures to bring fright and terror into our enemy. Major thanks to Mookie for these, she did her usual great job. As a little teaser, I've seen her "Frank Files" folder, and she has things in the works that may single-handedly bring mr. I-need-a-cool-name-for-my-army to his knees.

Cuddly little critters

The war on he-who-shall-remain-clueless nameless (-until-we-crush-him-like-a-bug, at which point we will gloat insufferably) continues. For those who doubt the ultimate outcome, ponder this wisdom from Jennifer:

"You can never have too many sharks with laser beams attached to their heads."

Which, amazingly enough, is the perfect segue (look it up Mookie), for my next... whatever you call what comes next.

It looked really out of place. Perched on my computer monitor at work was this cute, fuzzy little stuffed-animal puppydog. And tied to his head was a large, grey, cardboard shark fin, looking like something foolish children would swim around with at the beach to scare the unwary. The fin was outrageously large in comparison, prompting several protests and hate-filled letters from PETSA (you figure it out). It stayed there for months, and everybody would look at it with an odd expression, but nobody ever asked.

Until one day, someone did.

If this were "Ted's Universe", I would have scripted it just this way. Since it isn't (last time I checked), I just have to thank the fates for giving me this one. A manager and his posse were in my office to discuss a 'serious' problem and their proposed - and unworkable - solution. As we were wrapping the meeting up, he points to the puppy and asks what it was for.

I explained that it symbolized his management approach. You see, whenever a problem surfaced, this guy would raise hell, looking big and scary and frightening people into panic. But once you looked at the problem closely, you realized it was just a yappy little dog.


Raiders vs Niners tonight. Yes, it's only preseason, but this is the game of the year for our household, at least until the playoffs begin. My wife is a serious Niners fan. I've been a Raiders fanatic since I was knee-high to Daryl Lamonica. We decided long ago that if our teams ever met in the Super Bowl, she would go stay with her folks for two weeks until the game was over. I like the Niners, she likes the Raiders. But not when they go head to head.

And how, you may ask, does this fit under the title "Cuddly little critters"? Raider fans are cuddly, and Jeff Garcia has crotch-critters.


I was noticing something about the building where I work - there are signs everywhere. Most fall into the "DO" or "DO NOT DO" category, and have been printed by some chickenshit busybody concerned coworker who feels that we all need to be treated like children reminded to behave in a manner that meets his personal standards.

While reflecting on that (in the mens room, face to face with a sign telling me that courteous people flush), I realized that all of these signs said basically the same thing. So I'm going to write up a suggestion form and turn it in for management to consider. Think of all the untidy and non-standard mini-signs taped and stapled up all over the workplace, and we can be rid of all of them with one simple sign. In big neon letters, as you walk in the front door:


Calling Nurse Ratchet...

After laughing my way through an article at Right Wing News, I looked for the typical "If you enjoyed this satire by..." line at the end. It wasn't there, because the article was for real. Whoever said "God must love stupid people, because he made so many of them", knew what he was talking about.

Don't forget to say "Thank You"

Next time you read about someone calling America a bunch of 'cowboys', smile and acknowlege the compliment. In the meantime just grab a cup of coffee, a plate of beans, hitch up closer to the fire, and read this.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

It's official

Jen has declared blogwar on frank. As everyone knows, she has history on her side, so frank immediately folded like a cheap paper plate and offered to surrender. To the heartening strains of "Invader Zim's Song of Doom", she refused his cowardly act and sent him off to whimper and check his email. Ha!

As reported faithfully, completely, and unbiasedlessly by the DisInformation Minister of War. #1

An-a one, an-a two...

Since half of my posts today (so far) have made mention of music, I thought I'd make it an uneven three out of five.

I'm sick of Evanescence. Enough already!!! Come back in six months and I'll enjoy you all over again, but right now you're waaaaaaay overplayed.

The Counting Crows scored with their cover of Big Yellow Taxi - a major improvement on the original. Lose the extraneous background vocal by Vanessa Carlton (my CD version doesn't have it, the radio version usually does), and it's near perfect.

My favorite Frank Zappa: Thing-Fish, You Are What You Is, and Joe's Garage, acts I, II and III

High Flight

A part of this poem was quoted by President Reagan following the Challenger shuttle tragedy. You can read about the author here. Well worth a look.

High Flight

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

How many have you heard (of)?

Five bands who should have made it bigger than they did:

1. Rainmakers
2. Michael Stanley Band
3. Toronto
4. Hotel (from Birmingham, Alabama. Not 'the' Hotels)
5. BusBoys

Well, that was a big help

Tiger has been referring to various postings as being the 'snarkiest'. Unsure as to the meaning, I looked it up in the dictionary. It told me to "see Grok".

Daughters and other women in your life

Kin posted two parts on his 'rules for relationships'. He makes his case, and then nails his position - as far as us guys are concerned - by linking to Beer, Steak, Victoria's Secret and Kung-Fu Porn. He's my new hero. I won't steal his thunder, go see him for those links.

Next we get Mookie, and the view from behind the other chromosome. I mean the one that turns a sweet lovable child into an anti-social psychotic teenager overnight. I can't get the links to those specific posts to work right now, so just scroll down to her 'Idiots guide to Teenage Dating', parts 1 and 2.

Which brings us to Starhawk, who has apparently made the move from blogger (without giving us a redirect page and leaving me off his new blogroll - probably because I'm mean to Rachael). Starhawk has a daughter a year younger than mine, and he's pondering the purchase of a new shotgun. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Dads, the best advice I can give is to not listen to the song "Hey Mister", by Custom. Although it's a darn catchy tune. (warning: R-rated lyrics)