Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Astron Invader

Only 2 things:
1) Use a lot of wood glue if you build one, because this glides and loops fast and undergoes a lot of stress.
2) No flight pics, sorry, cause it's hard to get a picture when it power loops.
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Here's Rokit, my D12-casing-based prank rocket that actually flies. Note the old, crappy, badly-painted nosecone and masking tape that looks like it's holding it together.
The nose seperates as normal, pulling out a streamer and shock cord, but the body tube actually will seperate from the D12 casing if you remove the tape. This allows me to put wadding inside the B6 casing that actually holds the 13mm motor to save space for the streamer inside the tiny body tube.

Here's a better view of the business end. The fins only appear to be masking-taped on; they really have a good amount of CA (superglue) holding them on. You can also see the thin layer of CA I applied to the face of the fins to strengthen them. Note also the bent red paper clip as an 'engine hook'. The fit of the 13mm motor into the 18mm casing is so tight that it doesn't really need a hook; it's just there for show. I have, however, used a paper-clip-engine-hook on Cohete with much success.
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Lots o' Pictures!

I tried to upload 9 pictures, but Picasa wouldn't let me. Grrr.
Here's Mach My Day, my 18mm machbuster. For scale, consider that the 70mm-long D21 will fit all the way up to the front of the fins, so the whole thing is only about 8.2" long. The whole thing would fit in a 16oz water bottle. Note the long, skinny fins - more strength and less drag - and the paintless, weightless magic marker coloring.
Revealed: my newest Goonybird, Pigasus. It's a kitbashed Baby Bertha that takes medium-delay 18mm motors. Everything is from the kit - the wings are 2 of the original fins and the feet and ears were cut from scrap balsa from the kit. It's all pink paint and black Sharpie except for the wings which are white and silver paint.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008


74 bucks of rocket motors. Unfortunately, due to the new year and slow 3rd class HAZMAT shipping, it won't come for two whole weeks. :-(

WTF, mate?

About 3 hours ago I closed my laptop to go to work. When I got back, I had to re-login. Grrrr. The error report said it had a blue screen, which is interesting enough since Vista can apparently recover from a blue screen all on its own. It closed out my internet window with my rocket order on it, grrr, but that's no big deal, just 5 minutes to redo. The WTF? moment came when I realized that it rearranged my icons. Only Microsloth could come up with such a non sequitur.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Evil Bert!

And other oddrocs.
Evil Bert
I need say no more.
This gave me an idea. I took an old D12-0 casing, hollowed it out, and stuck a hollowed-out 18mm casing in for a 13mm engine mount. I stuck on 3" of BT-50, an old, crappy nosecone, and 3 fins. I superglued the fins on, but I put masking tape on top so it looks like I taped them on. I stuck a streamer in the body tube and the 'Rokit' is ready to fly. I can't wait to freak out the RSO at CATO.

BIG order

I'll finalize this tomorrow, but I'm planning to make a big order of rocket motors online from Hobbylinc. I mean 35 motors plus spare parts big. That's 200 Ns - almost as much as I've flown since September. And I bought B6-0s, B6-4s, CA, and plastic cement today.
The list:
  • A3-4T (4)

  • A10-3T (4)

  • 2x A8-3 (3x2=6)

  • A8-5 (3)

  • B6-2 (3)

  • C6-0 (3)

  • C6-3 (3)

  • C6-5 (3)

  • D12-0 (3)

  • BT-20 tubing

  • BT-50 tubing

  • 2 18mm engine tubes

  • 4 centering rings

  • BNC-20

This is 35 motors, or about 29 flights depending on how I use my booster motors. With the parts, I plan to fix Rama and give it a 24mm or even clustered motor mount, possibly build an SR-71, build a heavy rocket glider ("The turkey"), and more. Including shipping, it's only going to be about 74 bucks - roughly 2 bucks a motor, plus some parts.
They have very good prices ($5.49 for 3 and 4-packs of A motors and $1.09 body tubes), good shipping, and they don't charge extra for Hazmat delivery. yay.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Paveway Pictures


Here's the finished product. Despite my crappy paint job, it looks pretty good.

The nose area. I think that this section alone looks like a pretty cool little rocket. Just 6" long and made from BT-20, it could fly on anything from MMX to a composite D for Mach+ speeds. I'll make one sometime when I have spare BT-20.
A fuzzy view of the rear. You can see how the 2 side-of-the-fin plates bowed in towards each other.
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Woody Hayes Quotes

Woody Hayes was the coach of Ohio State Football from 1951 to 1978. He was a very good coach, but he had one hell of a temper. He also had some great quips:
  • You can never really pay back. You can only pay forward.

  • That will take care of you, you son of a bitch. (After shoving a camera into an intrusive photographer)

  • There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.

  • It does not matter the size of the man, rather the amount of effort the man is willing to put forth.

  • Nobody despises to lose more than I do. That's got me into trouble over the years, but it also made a man of mediocre ability into a pretty good coach.

  • One thing you cannot afford ever to do is to feel sorry for yourself.

  • When asked why he went for two despite a 36-point lead against Michigan, Hayes quipped, "Because I couldn't go for three.

"There's nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you."


One of my awesomer presents this year was an Estes 1:8 scale model of the GBU-24 Paveway III. Although officially OOP (Out of Production), they're available on Amazon as of this writing. The kit itself is great. It's 21 inches long with an 18mm motor mount. The only picky points I have are that the fins don't fit well into the tail cone and that the engine mount needs to stick out half an inch further than in the instructions so that the motors can be easily loaded.
The real thing is a 14-foot long, 2000 pound Mk. 84 gravity bomb containing 945 lbs of high explosives fitted with forward stabilizing fins and the GBU (Guided Bomb Unit) laser guidance system. They can glide 90,000 (18 miles) from 30,000 feet (6 miles) - a 1:3 glide ratio, incredible for what is essentially a car-size, car-weight, and car-cost (55,000 dollars each) pipe bomb.
Being a geek, I intend to paint mine as realistically as possible. Most GBU-24s are a flat olive green; however, the grey-and green paint scheme on the box matches the GBU-24B/B model. I will follow this pattern, but I will add the clear (silver on mine) nose and more reddish frontal section.
EMRR's review of the kit
The kit on Amazon
A thorough review of the GBU-24 series
A picture of the B/B model from the Czechoslovakian Army
A comparison of 3 models of the GBU-24
MEGA image of the GBU-24

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tough Computer

My computer is pretty tough. After a 3-foot fall and flip off the couch cause I tripped on the power cord, it din't even blink. I'm impressed.

(Of course, that might also be why the RAM failed 3 months later)

One Thousand Visitors

Is kinda cool, having four digits (13 bits BCD), but am waitink for 1024 visitors. Then am needink 11 bits to say number of visitors.

WANT motors

Estes carries 27 different motors in their catalog. There are 6 13mm motors (1 plugged), 12 18mm motors, and 9 24mm motors (1 plugged, 3 3.75" E motors). That's a pretty good selection. Add the Quest Micromaxx, A6-4, and D5-0/P motors and Aerotech and Apogee D composites and you've got a pretty good low power range. There are a number of motors I'd like to see, though:
  • More MMX motors: The 1/8A.5-1 is nice, but maybe a booster (1/8A.5-1) and a 2" long, full 1/8A (0.31Ns vs. 0.18 Ns) for slightly bigger models would be nice. It's essential for them to improve the igniter design, especially if Estes would try their hand with 6mm motors, so they can be launched without a special MMX pad. Even using toothpicks as igniter plugs, I have only about 30% ignition rate.

  • Improved mini motors - including the 1/2A and A 18mm motors. The system now is rather wonky, with several nearly identical motors and no boosters. Currently, the A10-3T, A8-3, and A3-4T motors are almost identical. Excepting the plugged A10, there are 8 1/4A thru A motors is Estes's lineup. I say change the system to:
    • 1/4A3-2T

    • 1/4A3-4T

    • 1/2A3-2T

    • 1/2A3-4T

    • A3-0T

    • A3-3T

    • A8-3

    • A8-5

    This only requires 3 new motors, adds a booster motor, eliminates all but 1 duplicate (the -3 motors, but in different sizes) and replaces the crappy 1/4A3-3T, which is useless for gliders and streamer duration models, the main uses of 1/4A motors, with a -2 delay for the gliders and a -4 delay for the high-altitude models. In addition, it chucks the 1/2A6-2, which can't get any 18mm model about 100 feet but costs almost as much as a full C6. Personally, I'd be fine chucking the 1/4As altogether and getting 2, 4, and 6 second delays on the A3-xTs, but the 3 people who actually fly 1/4A competition would complain.
    Note that A10 and A8 motors are misnumbered and are really both A3s. Motors ending in T are 13mm motors, all others are 18mm.

  • More booster motors! The current C6 and D12 are all fine and good, but any 2-stager on a C6 is gone from any small field and a D12 requires at least a 1000-foot square field by NAR rules (Although I safely fly my 24mm saucer in 300ft soccer fields, but it's not a normal rocket). I want a 13mm booster, an A8-0, the return of the B6-0, the return of the C11-0 (for flying Comanche-3s and actually getting the top part back), and an E9-0 for big rockets; the biggest booster currently available is the D12 because composites don't make good booster motors. I realize that big motors get Estes more money because people lose more rocket kits and pay to replace them, but they should be aware that most of their customers fly off small fields and want their rockets back. Their kits are too light for D and E boosters anyway. The only Estes-weight rockets that can be recovered on those boosters are saucers like mine.

  • Longer-delay motors Most Estes kits do fine on, at most, the -6 delay B6 and -7 delay C6 and D12, but very light, competition-type rockets need some longer delays. We're talking A3-6Ts, A8-7s, B4-6s, and D12-9s or the return of the D11-9, plus maybe and E9-10. We could also use an A8-1 for gliders on small fields, too small even for a b4-2 with a well-trimmed glider.

  • The return of the C11s. They used to be great for flying light 24mm models without losing them, but now all we have left is the C11-3, which is the least useful because it can be replaced with a D12 in low, slow rockets and still get them back.
  • One last request: a slow-burning C, like a C2 or C3, for gliders and competition. T'would be nice.

But dreams are just that. I'm pretty happy with what we have already.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Launch Report #11

I managed to go out and launch rockets with the cousins today. How 'bout you?
No pics, sorry, cause my dad's memory card died (was full, I think) right before I was about to launch. I launched 2 rockets on 2 flights on 3 motors for 32.5 Ns (mid E) total.
First was my new secret Goonybird, to be revealed soon, on an A8-3. It was a good flight that landed about 30 feet from the pad even in 10 mph winds. I'd estimate 250 feet.
Second were my dual saucers - 24mm and 18mm - on a D12-0 / C6-0 combo. The lower motor boosted it to about 100 feet, then the upper to about 200. Weirdly, I swear the D12 went chug-a-chug-a-chug, firing in spurts. Although the 18mm saucer went twice as high, it recovers faster and the 24mm saucer landed after it, about 20 seconds after launch.

So far. I've flown 41 flights on 46 motors on 20 different rockets for 207.42 Ns (low H). This is 4.51 Ns (mid-high B) per motor and 5.06 Ns (low C) per flight.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

A merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

History Day!

Boy, haven't done one in a while. On some other fateful and entertaining Christmas Eves:
1761: Jean-Louis Pons, the greatest comet discover of all time (37) is born.
1818: James Prescott Joule, a physicist, is born. The joule, the SI unit of energy, will be named after him
1865: Several former Confederate officers form the KKK. Their organization goes on to terrify, kill, injure, and abuse the civil rights of millions of innocents.
1906: The first public radio broadcast is made.
1910: Max Miedinger, inventor of the Helvetica typeface, is born.
1943: Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the supreme commander of the Allied Forces. He will go on to demolish Nazi Germany and become one of the last decent Republican presidents.
1953: 151 people die in the Tangwai Disaster. Many lives are saved, however, by a few brave men.
1968: Apollo 8 becomes the first manned spacesraft to orbit the moon.
1979: The first ESA Ariane is launched.
1980: Karl Donitz, Admiral of the German navy in WWII, dies. He was among the greatest submarine tacticians, regardless of ideology.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cape Cod RR system

Cape Cod has a rather extensive railroad system, although it's rarely used any more. It'll take me a while to get all the links, pics, and GEarth files in, but I intend to get a fairly comprehensive overview. For now:
The sole entrance is Buzzards Bay Railroad Bridge, a 544-foot vertical lift bridge - the 2nd longest in the US. Within 1/10 mile, the main line splits in two. One now-defunct line heads down to Woods Hole, while the other heads north along the canal. It services the waste-to-energy plant and heads east. At the Yarmouth Wye, one end heads south into Hyannis, where it ends just past the station. The other end heads east, then ends at Rt. 134 in South Dennis. The old bed has been converted into the Rail Trail, which runs up into Westfleet to the Marconi National Seashore, where marconi transmitted the first transatlantic radio messages. Some of the old tracks leading to Provincetown are still faintly visible.
Cape Cod Central Railroad map
Map of Old Colony Railroad from 1901
Mass. Gov. site on the Rail Trail, with history of the RR
Map of the Rail Trail
NPS guide to Marconi National Seashore


After 3 tests, 3 projects, and a thesis paper due in 7 days, I'm finally on vacation. This means more posts, more geekery, and hopefully more visitors. Unless I get a deluge tomorrow, it looks like I'll reach 1000 hits on Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

How True

The mouseover text, even more importantly, reads: And the ten minutes spent striking up a conversation with that strange kid in homeroom sometimes matters more than every other part of high school combined.
Link to the comic
Oh, and by the way congratulations to Randall Munroe on reaching 512 (=29) comics a few weeks ago. You officially require 10 digits of binary now to number your comics!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Fun with Paint and Picasa.
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#1: This is true.
#2: A quick note on demonstratives: "This" is to refer to something that is being referenced currently, not a previously mentioned something. "That" can refer to either a previously referenced something or a new subject which is a distance away. Thus, one should only say "This is true" when introducing a new subject, NOT when responding about said subject. Is this a national problem or is it, like 'idear', confined to New England?

Dead Tree edition #1

I just finished the first draft of my sophomore English paper, nominally 5-7 pages.
9 full pages in 12 font
15629 characters, 2924 words, 126 sentences, 19 paragraphs.
6.6 sentences per paragraph
23.2 words per sentence

My paper is about how the electoral college is truly, royally screwed up and how to fix it. There are serious problems with it, particularly that with the way it's set up mathematically, a candidate could win the election with 21.8% of the popular vote.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Launch Report #10

It was freezing out yesterday, but blue skies and no wind. I launched 4 rockets on 4 flights on 5 motors, for 5.625 Ns (low C) per flight and 4.5 (high B) per motor.
First came my experimental and probably against-NAR-rules Spudnik. It consisted of a potato with an A8-3 in it and 4 skewers for stick fins. It's of course named after Sputnik. I launched it off a potato-greased 12" rod (because running the rod through the spud makes a lot of friction) and aimed at 30 degrees downrange.
(BTW, 12" x 1/8" hollow aluminum rods are very useful. I have one as a micromaxx launch rod and another bent as an umbilical rod for use with a future heavy glider on my 3/16" rod. )
It was Kaputnik. It went about 15 feet up, not even enough to use its proprietary mashed-potato recovery. I chucked the spent potato into the woods to be composted. I'll try again sometime with a C6, or maybe even a D12.

Next came the Screaming Yellow Zonker! on a B6-0 / A8-3. It flew well, to about 250 feet. The upper stage was barely stable even while spinning; from now on I'm thinking C6-0 / A8-5. Sorry, no pics.
This is the smoke trail from Cohete on an A3-4T. Note how sparky the Estes mini motors are, much more so than the 18mm motors. It flew great to about 200 feet with no damage. The shock cord is getting frayed and I'll have to replace it soon.
 This is Transwing lifting off on a C6-3. It looked good, almost actually sleek and rocketlike, as it was colored orange by the sunset. The 3-second delay was a hair too long; I wish a C6-2 was possible.
 Here's a great shot: the fully deployed Transwing gliding high in the air. The wing panels stayed up at about a 45 degree angle - I'll have to use stronger rubber bands. (Obligatory thanks to mandachan for the rubber bands) It got about 20 seconds of nice circling gliding before it hit the treeline about 20 feet up. The only damage to the glider was a ripped tape wing hinge, but I replace those every flight anyway. The pod-pod's streamer refused to unfurl and plastic wad recovery was hard on the frozen ground. The plastic hook that holds the glider was broken but was easily glued. Otherwise, a great flight.

Since I started keeping records in September, I've launched 38 flights on 43 motors for 174.92 (low H) Ns, which is 4.603 Ns (high B) per flight and 4.068 (mid-high B) per motor.
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Oh my!

As I write this, the Patriots are beating Oakland 35-14. With 10:05 left. In the first half. At this rate, the Pats will win 105-42. The defenses and especially the special teams (3 punt / kickoff returns for TDs) need some work.

The Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay

By the time the US entered WWI, German U-boats ruled the Atlantic. During the war, they would sink four times the tonnage that they would in WWII. The Emergency Fleet Corporation (EFC) built 285 wooden steamships. Unfortunately, they were poorly designed, leaky, costly, etc. After the war, they were eventually towed to Mallows Bay, a small bay on the Potomac; burned; and sunk. By a 1993 survey, at least 88 of the EFC ships plus the Accomac - a seagoing car ferry - , a Revolutionary war longboat, and 12 barges and more lie in the cove, forming one of the largest shipwreck fleets in the world.
The full story from the state of Maryland
A good set of pictures
A discussion of kayaking there
The site in Google maps:
View Larger Map
Another ship graveyard, this one on Staten Island, NY:
View Larger Map
And on Long Island:

View Larger Map
The last on is in one Gravesend Bay. The tiny white ship in the middle is actually a tiny yellow submarine intended to salvage valuable from the Andrea Doria with. I've seen this one out the window on a flight either into or out of LaGuardia. I saw the minisub with binoculars.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Suggestions for Google Earth

Just some ideas for the DevTeam. I assume someone or some bot from the hive overmind will eventually discover this:
1) 3D buildings in the flight sim. I understand that some people's connections are slow, but it's a pain to turns on the buildings every time I want to see them in the flight simulator. Just make it so you can set 3D buildings to automatically be on.
2) Some new airplanes. The F16 and SR22 are nice, but I want more:
2a) How about a WWII plane? A Supermarine Spitfire, P51 Mustang, or Zero would be cool, for more altitude and speed than the tiny SR22 but similar low-speed landing and maneuvering capabilities.
2aa)This also raises the question of dogfights, Air-to-air missiles, and even bombing in Gearth.
2b) How about a 747? Nice for when you want decent speed, altitude, and landing abilities, plus a challenge in landing a big plane on the runways.
2c)Ideally, though, I want an SR71. Mach 3 speed, 100-mile-radius turns, and 90,000 foot+ max altitude. I want to be able to go places fast. If they can program in the 'dipsy-doodle' maneuver (dive a bit to get through Mach 1, then push the nose up and climb very, very fast), then that would be great.
3) Speed control is a pain, especially for the F16. Afterburners (for 1400 mph flight) and speed brakes (for landing) would be very helpful.
4) Some sort of autopilot. The [5] button to center the turn and roll surfaces helps, but it'd be nice to have a function that automatically kept the plane in a straight, flat line if you hit it while in stable flight. Someone outside Google ought to program a terrain-following system. Now that'd be cool.
5) Navigation. At very least, a compass so you know what direction you're going, but preferably a little screen with a downwards facing map.
Just a few ideas.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Political News

Which of course is very rare here.
And good political news is even rarer.
First, the Bush Administration has actually done a bit of good for amateur geeks like me. According to here, they have unleashed a bazillion new laws. Some are evil, like supporting environment-damaging oil shale mining and limiting Congress's ability to stop mining, logging, and drilling on public lands and letting federal projects be allowed to ignore the endangered species list. Others are seemingly random, like laws about records for adult performers and magazines and expanding prisoner DNA collection. However, it also includes limiting explosive restrictions on rocket motors.
That is a good thing. Hobby rocket motors are not explosive. They are designed to be slow-burning*, to only emit gasses out one end, to hold together firmly, and, for reloadable casings, to be used more than once. Explosives are instant-burning, fragmenting, omnidirectional, and one-use**. If a hobby rocket motor explodes, then it's called a CATO, and it's bad. Even then, usually only the paper motor casing (if it's a single-use motor; reloadable casings are designed to fail without too much damage to the casing) and maybe the rocket are destroyed; no one has EVER been hurt by a CATO while following the NAR safety code in the last 45 years. That's over almost a billion flights.
According to Dick Stafford, effective February 2nd there are some important changes. Currently, all rockets over 1 lb need an FAA waiver and all over 3.3 lbs need more than that, plus certification. With the new rules, Class 1 rockets are up to 3.3 lbs and no longer need a waiver. (Both rule sets also say no more than 4.4oz (125g) of propellant, which includes some H motors like I plan to certify on.) Up to O class motors are class 2 and will require some extra documentation. Class 3, Advanced High Power Rockets, can have up to mid T motors and can go up to 150 km up. They're mostly semiprofessional stuff. Class 4 is anything else without a human in it.

This means that small rockets, from 1/8A to mid H, can now be flown freely anywhere with a big enough field. Great news.

*(except maybe this one)
**Except for dishwasher-safe stun grenade canisters. I'm not kidding.

Second, Obama is looking to create lots of new jobs by spending lots on infrastructure stuff like highways, electricity distribution, bridges, etc. Great news. Lots of domestic jobs + repairing the failing infrastructure = WIN. It also sounds like a new New Deal.

A date which will live in infamy

Today marks the 67th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. 2468 people lost their lives that day and millions more over the next four years because a bunch of war-loving, hotheaded imperialists who had taken over Japan's throne ignored the advice of the best strategists and generals and attacked a far-stronger nation. May all the sacrifices on both sides never be forgotten.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's just one of those days

This was yesterday.
Today I felt mostly better. It was good getting one of my thesis papers off my back. But when I got home I went up to my room, flopped on my bed... and woke up unable to see a thing and no-one around. Turns out I slept 3 solid hours and it was 6:00 when I woke up and it turns out my parents are at the church advent festival.
It's just one of those days.


Holy Crap.
*Angry rant*
Congratulations, CEOs of financial institutions everywhere. You have officially screwed the largest economy in the world by using lending practices that no 5-year-old would do: you lent money and sold houses to people who you knew could pay up so you could steal every cent from their pockets, take away their home, and ruin their lives. It's estimated you'll do 1.4 million foreclosures this year alone and thus screw about 3.5 million people in 2008. I hope you qingwa cao de liumunges live just long enough for my generation, who will bear the brunt of your evil, to send you to jail for the rest of yours lives.
*/Angry rant*

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Is not on tonight. Sigh.
But there's another type of bones. Bones files. If you die in NetHack then, depending on where you die, you might leave a bones file. It includes a ghost named after you and your stuff, mostly cursed. The ghost is annoying and hard to kill, but sometimes you can find usable stuff. A few days ago, I accidentally angered Izchak, a shopkeeper. Bad Luck. Shopkeepers are powerful and hard to kill, as a lawful character murdering a human is bad, and killing Izchak is looked down on by others because Izchak Miller was a major part of creating NetHack you tragically died from cancer in 1994. Needles to say, my unlikely Valkyrie died. Unfortunately, she also left a bones file with an angry Izchak. That bones file killed 3 other promising Valkyries.
I took the unusual step of deleting all the bones files on my computer - all 4 of them. I consider this fair because I deleted all, including those that might have benefited me. This is the same situation as if I loaded the game onto a new computer, for example. The game didn't declare death by trickery, so I think it's fair. If you have any complaint, please comment.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New York, New York.....

We went on a bus trip to New York City yesterday. It was great except for getting up at 5:30 to go. We were dropped off at 10:15 outside the Winter Garden theater, home of "Mamma Mia", which we saw 2 years ago. We walked down to the Empire State Building but we didn't go up to the top because the line was ridiculously long. As we were leaving, an unmarked black van pulled up and an officer in bulletproof vest and helmet stepped out carrying an M16 / M4 automatic rifle. Seriously. We walked a few blocks away, just in case. We ate a light lunch at Starbucks ( one of several hundred on the island) and headed uptown. We watched the Zamboni at the ice rink for a mi nute, then headed to Radio City Music Hall for the show. The place is amazing. The lobby has a huge chandelier about 30 feet tall. The hall itself is huge - I could probably fly my Transwing on a B6-2 in there. The show was great and I am extremely jealous of the Rockettes' abilities to do perfect column turns. Afterwards, we walked to the UN complex. We went inside and I saw a model of Sputnik - very cool. We had dinner at 'Burger Heaven.' Interestingly, we've eaten at a place called 'Cheeseburgers in Paradise' in St. Croix. We watched "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" which was mildly amusing and very crude humor.
Overall, a great day.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Farvell RNGbane the Valkyrie

(My player-character, not the rocket)
My best-ever game of NetHack died today. I will now say it in narrative form. (Note to the rude: I play a Valkyrie, a female p-c, because they are the easiest type to play, fight better than other types, and can easily get Excalibur. )
RNGbane the stripling started out good. She went through 3 levels of maze and 3 of the Gnomish Mines before reaching Minetown. She accidentally angered the guards and was forced to kill them in self-defense. That, however, gave her a good set of armor. She ascended to the mazes, went down some more, and entered the puzzle-levels of Sokoban. She solved all four levels and defeated hordes of monsters. She then collected her trophy - a bag of holding - which doubled the weight she could carry - and then promptly destroyed it by putting a wand on cancellation in it. Her wands, rings, and most of her food were lost, but she recovered. She returned to the Mines and soon found another BoH. She acquired much money, gems, and 21 daggers to throw. She went to the end of the mines and acquired a luckstone. She stepped onto a polymorph trap, became a Master Mind Flayer, and sucked a few brains out before returning to human form. Returning to the Mazes of Menace, she descended deeper. After a hitting another polymorph trap and becoming a unicorn, she lost her T-shirt, cloak, and body armor, but all were soon replaced. She found the portal to her Quest but was not yet ready for it. 2 levels later, she hit another polymorph trap and became a stronger Valkyrie. Now she was ready. She easily made it to the Quest's final level. Finally, though, she was done in by a Fire Giant with a wand of sleep. She died with 162 Hit Points at XL (Experience Level) 14 on depth level 17. She had gathered 159,000 points - her personal best. Farvell, RNGbane.
She will rise to fight again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cold Observing

I took my scope out into the freezing air once the turkey's tryptophan wore off. I saw 4 things that I'd never seen before.
  • The Orion Nebula was fantastic. I could see 4 stars in the trapezium (the group of stars in the central region). I also spotted M43, a nearby nebula, and M78, also in Orion - both new to me.

  • Next came the Pleiades (The seven sisters) and the double cluster - both were spectacular.

  • Amazingly, I managed to see not only the Crab Nebula, M1, but also a bit of wispy detail. It's one of the youngest objects in the sky - the supernova that formed it was first visible in 1054.

  • Finally, I looked at M31 - the Andromeda Galaxy - and saw M110, a smaller galazy that orbits it.

I'll add more detail soon.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Turkey Day, everyone. Now go eat your 3000 calories for today and watch the parade, or football, or get ready to wake up at 3 AM tomorrow to go shopping. And don't forget to remember the Discoverers of America First America Settlers First English Settlers first Europeans to attempt to live in Massachusetts: the Pilgrims!

I'll be up in Massachusetts visiting my aunt, uncle, and two very geeky younger cousins and collecting my awesome sister from college. Be back tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

New Boost-glider

My 'glider' (It is still unnamed) is decent, but the horizontal tail of the glider is warped and so the glider doesn't fly well. Last night I built an entirely new glider for the same pop-pod. It's a standard glider with raised outer wing sections (for stability) and the tail fin below the body (so the exhaust doesn't burn the fin). It weighs only about 10 grams - .35 oz.
The cool thing about boost-gliders is that for one booster, you can have several different gliders for different looks, flights, altitudes, motors, etc. A glider can be built in a hour from a buck's worth of balsa which you can buy almost anywhere, but the pop-pod takes several dollars worth of nose cone, body tube, motor mount, and streamer. I plan to build several experimental gliders - flex-wing, delta-wing, etc - to use with my pod.

This is my 100th post. I'm amazed that I've kept this up this long.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cloud Hopper

Is back in action. Fin reglued, engine mount reglued, baffle removed, and shock cord remounted. She'll fly on a B6-4 at CATO 144.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Some of my fleet has been injured lately, but they're coming back:
  • The Cloud Hopper left CATO with a broken fin, a busted engine mount, and a a ripped-off baffle. I've reglued the fin, wiped off the mud, and I will soon reglue the shock cord and engine mount. I don't plan to build a new baffle.

  • The Mongoose came out with a soaked body tube and a busted nose cone. I reglued the cone, dried the tube, and it's ready to go.

  • The Jinx has been cleaned, washed, and dried.

  • The Dual Saucers and the Astron Invader have been de-mudded.

  • Rama is getting a new motor mount

  • My secret Goonybird is under construction.

  • The pen rocket has had its missing fin replaced. As is my custom, replaced fins are left unpainted.


An F16 can fly itself. I left mine at 15000 feet over the Alps and it's still flying, at over 50000 feet. I'm curious to see how long it'll take to finally crash.

Mad Science!

Anything marked with that is probably not a good idea to try.
Anyway, I used a bit of nail polish remover to remove some superglue from a project. I soaked the excess up with a kleenex and went outside, with parental permission, to burn it. I just dropped a match in and it burns with a small blue flame for several minutes. Very cool!
Kids, do NOT try this at home. I am a trained professional idiot and I take basic but nonobvious safety precautions like using a metal pan.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


45 years ago, one of our most courageous presidents was killed. He had shown extraordinary heroism both in World War II and in the Cold War. He single-handedly found rescue for his PT boat crew and he faced down Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and dozens of nuclear missiles in 1962.
3 years ago, we lost Lauren Candler. May she never be forgotten. Remember.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finally getting the hang of it

I'm getting a lot better in the GEarth flight simulator. I can stay airborne almost indefinitely in stable flight, I can recover from some nasty instability things, and I can fly through the Grand Canyon at Mach 1.2... for about 45 seconds. (It's really hard to fly at 1800 feet second in something maybe 1000 feet wide, okay?) I can take off and land in a F16.
A few of my observations:
    Hit [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[A] to activate the flight simulator if it isn't in your 'Tools' menu.
  • To turn on 3D buildings in flight mode, pause the flight [spacebar], hit [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[B], check next to '3D buildings' in the layers tab, hit the [Ctrl]-[Alt]-[B] again, then [spacebar] again to restart your flight.

  • You can fly thru the 3D buildings with no problem. Terrorists wannabees take note.

  • When landing:
    1. Get to 1000 feet about 2 miles away from your airport.

    2. Hit [Page Dn] until the lower left indicator is almost at the bottom - you're now almost gliding with your engine off.

    3. Hit [G] to put your landing gear down.

    4. Hit [F] twice to put flaps at 40%

    5. glide in to 300 feet up, the put flaps at 100%

    6. Touch down at no more than 120 mph.
    7. Hit [,] and [.] together to brake to a stop.

RNGbane the Valkyrie

Customized for cold-weather performance. (buh-dun-ching!)

The explanation: RNGbane is my new Micromaxx-powered delta-wing boost-glider. The XB-70 was a proposed Mach 3 bomber from the late 1950s. The 6-engined beast would have reached 2000 mph at 70000 feet, enough to completely blow by the Soviet defenses. It's famous for its delta-wing profile:

which my mini plane models.
Valkyrie is also a class of warrior in NetHack, which I play almost constantly. They're the best characters to play during the difficult early game. The random number generator (RNG, also Random Number God) controls much of what happens in the game. It's usually hated for the unlucky things it does. The Banes are special weapons in NetHack that do extra damage (ie, Dragonbane does extra damage against dragons). Thus, my character RNGbane is named, jokingly, to be extra lucky with the random numbers.
Valkyries, being warrior women of the far north, have resistance to cold attacks in NetHack. Thus, it's safe to test RNGbane in 30 degree weather.

I'll explain how it works soon.

Go Bucks!

The OSU buckeyes are favored by 19 points over Michigan today. They need a big win today to get a BCS berth. If Michigan State beats Penn State, then OSU will share the Big Ten title with them.
OSU's most famous fan:

Go Buckeyes!

Random Quote

A night of blood I've long awaited
But be this your death or mine

It's an XKCD thing
Another interesting idea...

How to screw up Seniors night for marching band

Normally, marching band is great. But Thursday sucked:
1) The game: It was Ledyard (us) against unbeaten New London, #3 in the state. Channel 8 was covering the game - if you live in CT, watch Saturday night at 8. Therefore, we were extra stressed and had to play 4th quarter, rather than getting off after halftime.
2) The temperature: 30 degrees Fahrenheit(-2 Celsius). And marching band uniforms restrict jackets and hats and it's impossible to play with thick gloves. I could not feel my finger by halftime. During third quarter, my valve oil flash-froze in the cold. It took an hour after the game before I could feel my toes and walk normally again.
3) Put a 200-watt speaker 2 feet behind the band. Turn it up really loud. Nuff said.
4) Announce the outgoing marching band seniors - at the wrong time. Doh.
Ledyard won, 27-6. This means they've got a guaranteed playoff spot. Go Colonels!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Launch Report #9 - CATO 143

It was cold and very windy - 15 or 20 steady with 45+ gusts - so I didn't fly much - only 57.5 Ns out of my planned 165. The field was soaked everywhere with many puddles and the grass was long.

Update 1/4/09: pictures are HERE

  • First came my Cloud Hopper on a B6-4. It had a beautiful flights with both streamers deployed. The baffle fried; I'm removing it. One fin broke off at landing, and the engine mount fell out later. All will be repaired except for the baffle.

  • 20 seconds later came the Cohete on an A3-4T. It boosted straight up and came down with no damage. It came back with plenty of mud.

  • Next came my 24mm saucer on a D12-0 staged to my 18mm saucer on a C6-0. It was a great crowd-pleaser. The big saucer roared up to 60 feet on the long, throaty burn of the D, then the small saucer went up to about 200 on the C. Both recovered safely, but the smaller saucer tends to flip on recovery rather than drift down pointed down. These two will fly together again.

  • Next came the Mongoose on an A8-3. It flew great, but it landed in a puddle.

  • Next came the Astron Invader on a C6-3. It did about 6 turns in a helix, continued roughly straight for 3 seconds, then glided for close to 30 seconds. I recovered it about 500 feet downrange.

  • Finally came the Hi-Jinx on B6-0 / A3-4T. The lower stage failed to eject and the Jinx has a bit of melting. They were recovered 600 feet downrange at the edge of the tree line. Both will fly again.

I flew 6 rockets on 6 flights with 8 motors. So far, I've flown 34 flights on 38 motors for 152.42 Ns (a high G), for 4.01 Ns per motor and 4.48 per flights (both mid to high Bs).

There were some other great flights. A ten-year-old kid launched at least 6 flights. One of his Der Red Max flights lawn darted, but the next landed safely literally at my feet. The RSO yelled at me for not looking up, but I was watching it all the way. One of his 3 flights on a Quest seeker tipped over from the wind and went over the line of cars at 15 feet up before lawndarting. Al Gloer (the CATO president) remarked, "I wonder what it was seeking."

Al Gloer's saucer was LOUD on a G79. It echoed at least twice.

Gary Tortora's Mini Mad Dog (4 feet long, his real Mad Dog is ~15 feet tall) had an altimeter failure and lawndarted. He recovered everything but the nose cone, which was at least 3 feet underground!

Al Gloer and I plan to drag race our Comanche-3s next time. Hopefully his is not painted red (stock color is orange) so we can tell ours apart.

Due to the wind, nobody flew much so the total was nowhere near the goal of a total M.


Mach My Day is, of course, named after Dirty Harry's famous line. However, it's showing some similarities with the Man of Steel.
  • Faster than a speeding bullet: the muzzle velocity of a Colt M1911, the modern Colt .45, is 830 fps. MMD will reach 1200 fps.

  • More powerful than a locomotive: almost. At 1200 fps, it will have a kinetic energy of 72000 foot-pounds (K=mv2; 1200fps and 1/20 lb), which is equal to a Class 08 shunter (the most common locomotive in the UK and maybe the world) traveling at... half a mile per hour.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Tomorrow's Lineup:

Here's what going up tomorrow:
-Comanche-3 on D12-0/B6-0/B6-6 (30 Ns)
-Dual saucers on D12-0/C6-0 (30)
-Mach My Day on a D21-7T (20)
-Unnamed rocket (see below) on C6-0/C6-7 (20)
-SpaceShipOne on a C6-3 (10)
-Transwing on a C6-3 (10)
-Scissor-wing Transport on a C6-3 (10)
-Astron Invader on a C6-3 (10)
-Hi-Jinx on B6-0/A3-4T (7.5)
-Screaming Yellow Zonker! on B6-0/A8-3 (7.5)
-Cloud Hopper on a B6-4 (5)
-3M on an A8-3 (2.5)
-Cohete on an A3-4T (2.5)
This works out to 165 Ns, just over my goal, with a D12-0, an A3-4T, and an A8-3 (25 Ns total) left over.

And More...

Same deal for naming my 24mm / 18mm saucer pair. Blog post credits are non-transferable and expire 1 week after being earned.



Name the rocket in a comment, and if I like it you get to choose the subject of one of my next posts.

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The Lineup

Here's what going up tomorrow:
-Comanche-3 on D12-0/B6-0/B6-6 (30 Ns)
-Dual saucers on D12-0/C6-0 (30)
-Mach My Day on a D21-7T (20)
-Unnamed rocket (see below) on C6-0/C6-7 (20)
-SpaceShipOne on a C6-3 (10)
-Transwing on a C6-3 (10)
-Scissor-wing Transport on a C6-3 (10)
-Astron Invader on a C6-3 (10)
-Hi-Jinx on B6-0/A3-4T (7.5)
-Screaming Yellow Zonker! on B6-0/A8-3 (7.5)
-Cloud Hopper on a B6-4 (5)
-3M on an A8-3 (2.5)
-Cohete on an A3-4T (2.5)
This works out to 165 Ns, just over my goal, with a D12-0, an A3-4T, and an A8-3 (25 Ns total) left over.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Ummmm..... hi.

We have a little brown bat (Myotis Lucifungus)in our shutter.
I was outside test-gliding my Scissor-wing Transport and I see a bird-like shape flying from my house, out to the street, and back. On its second flight out from the house, I clearly saw its size - about 8 or 10 inch wingspan- and its bony little wings. It disappeared behind one of our shutters. The gap between the shutter and wall is only about 1.5 inches - this is a very skinny bat!
The little brown bat is one of the most common bats in North America. They can weigh up to half an ounce. They are echolocating insectivores. No little brown bats have ever been known to infect a human with rabies ir any other disease. Go team ant bat!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Flight Simulator

Google Earth has a truly awesome flight simulator built in. You can choose between an F16 capable of Mach 2 and a Cirrus SR22, a high-performance propeller plane. You also can choose between starting at your present location, or on a number of runways around the world. Taking off is hard, though.
You can steer with mouse, joystick, or keyboard. A joystick would be good, but keyboard arrows (plus a few other commands) work well. Using the keyboard commands is pretty simple. The arrows control roll and pitch, [space] is pause, 5 resets the controls to neutral, G toggles landing gear, and F increases and Shift-F decreases the flaps.
And it's free, and GEarth lets you look at the entire planet in 3D. It's awesome. I've done such things as fly 200 ft over Mt. Washington at 1100 mph and buzz my house at Mach 1.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


I feel sick. And I've gotta work. An explanation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


No, it's not an Egyptian god.
We have about a dozen fish in our two tanks, and all are fairly boring. I have one African Dwarf Frog, Houdini, and he's far more entertaining. He's about an inch long and fairly acrobatic. He'll sit still for literally hours, then embark on a furious display. He's got five toes on his back feet and four on his front feet.
He can breath in air or water. He will swim to the top, then extend all appendages and slowly float down.
His species, H. boettgeri, is native to central Africa.
Obligatory wikipedia link

Launch Report #8

This is one of my just two rocket posts this week, by bet with mandachan.
I launched a 4 rockets today on 4 flights on 4 motors.
  • First came Jinx on an A3-4T. This is absolutely the perfect motor for this rocket. It goes just high enough to keep it in sight, then comes down 50ft from the pad (without a parachute, of course) in 10mph winds.

  • Next came the Cohete, my motor-with-a-stick-on-it rocket that's a lot more stable than it looks. It boosted high (300ish feet) on an A3-4T with a bit of spin. It recovered safely by tumbling.

  • The first flight of my 18mm saucer came next. It went about 40 feet on a B6-0. It will do much better on a boosted C6-0, but this was just a test.

  • Finally came my Cosmic Cobra on a B6-4. It ejected just after apogee and the helicopter blades on the nose cone deployed nicely. The main body, interestingly, glides rather nicely.

The rocket gods were kind to me today. I found an someone's lost Alpha III in the woods; I can salvage the parachute, fin unit, motor hook, and launch lug. I also found my missing Pen rocket. The one missing fin will be easily replaced.

Rama's motor mount crumpled today, so it's scratched for Saturday. The scissor-wing transport will fly instead.

So far, according to my spreadsheet, I have flown 28 flights on 30 motors, for a total of 94 Ns - a low G motor. I am averaging 3.16 Ns per motor and 3.4 Ns per flight - both low B motors.

Veteran's Day

The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month. 80 years ago today. Remember.

Regards to Andy Weir

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Book: Storming Intrepid

The latest infusion of entertainment into my literary lifestyle is Storming Intrepid by Payne Harrison. It's a technothriller set in the 1980s. The basic idea is that the US has one more component to put in place for an absolutely perfect missile defense shield with a gamma-ray laser ('Graser') is space. The Soviets, of course, have a few tricks up their sleeve like secret agent, dinner-plate shaped bombs, and the good old Politburo (the almost omnipotent all-controlling government entity). So, of course, they hijack the space shuttle. The US, of course, must do everything in their power to get it back, like running an SR-71 through most of Russia (and getting at least 20 missiles shot at it), launching a space shuttle full of Stinger missiles, and launching a super-secret space fighter at the shuttle. Humor aside, it really is a great way to spent two hours.

Getting Ready

On saturday, I'll be attending CATO 143, my first since 2004. Their goal is to fly a total of 10240 Ns, equivalent to an M motor, on G and smaller motors. My goal is to make one of those G loads - 160 Ns. Here's some of my possible flights:
Comanche-3 on D12-0/B6-0/B6-6 (30 Ns)
Staged saucers on D12-0/C6-0 (30)
Alpha III (my friend's) with a booster on C6-0/C6-7 (20)
Mach My Day on a D21-7T (20)
SpaceShipOne on a C6-3 (10)
Transwing on a C6-3 (10)
Astron Invader on a C6-3 (10)
Rama on a C6-3 (10)
Hi-Jinx on B6-0/A3-4T (7.5)
Screaming Yellow Zonker! on B6-0/A8-3 (7.5)
Cloud Hopper on a B6-4 (5)
Cosmic Cobra on a B6-4 (5)
Cohete on an A3-4T (2.5)
That's 167.5 Ns so far, and I can do more flights and more rockets up to about 200 Ns.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Launch Report #7

Durnit, I lost my pen rocket. I launched it in my yard and it went up, up, and over my house, and into oblivion. It's still possibly findable, though, with its red fins.
And missing makes 25.

And baby makes 26!

Even since the last update, my fleet has changed. I made an 18mm saucer as an upper stage for the 24mm saucer. Just a little bit of posterboard, an 18mm engine tube, and an engine block made from an old engine.

My Fleet!

Okay, I finally got my fleet together... and promptly forgot a couple. But here's almost all of it:
From L to R:
Back row:
Unnamed saucer (24mm)
Astrocam (18mm)
Mongoose with booster (18mm to 18mm staged)
Cosmic Cobra (18mm)
Screaming Yellow Zonker (18mm to 18mm staged)
Rama (18mm)
Wizard (18mm)
Cosmonaut Alexi Leonov (Loadstar) (18mm to 18mm staged)
Bullpuppy (18mm)
Jinx (13mm)
Cloud Hopper (18mm)
Booster stage (18mm)
MaxTrax altitude tracking capsule (hanging)
Cohete (lying down) (13mm)
Comanche-3 (24mm to 18mm to 18mm staged)
Front: (large rockets)
Scissor Wing Transport (18mm)
Unnamed boost glider (18mm)
Astron Invader (18mm)
Transwing (18mm)
SpaceShipOne (18mm)
Front: tiny rockets:
Pen rocket (MMX)
Hummingbird (MMX)

For scale, the Comanche-3 is 41" long and 1" in diameter.

Not pictured:
Wizard - found in woods. Salvaged a few parts.
Viking - flown once, scavenged for parts.
Not flyable:
Gauchito (13mm) - am replacing motor mount
38mm Saucer - not yet ordered
Secret Goonybird - still in creation
Mach My Day (18mm)

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Why I'm an atheist

I am considered a heathen by every religion on the planet, and boy am I proud of it. I feel no obligation to devote my life to a deity that that doesn't do anything for me, in return for a vague promise of eternal happy-happy-joy-joy and of course eternal damnation if I screw up. I'll take absolute free will, thanks.
I also do not care to have any association with any world-wide megacult that promotes such nonsensical activities as creationism / "intelligent design", geocentrism, and opposition to basic human rights including womens' reproductive rights, the right to marriage for all, etc, not to mention demanding 10% of the income of all its flock.
David Morgan-Mar has a huge, well-thought-out explanation of why he's an atheist and why people don't need religion to keep morals. A few selections:
"I like to think of myself as a moral person. I'm sure most of us do. And, while I don't think I've explicitly stated it at any point, watchful readers may have deduced that my religious beliefs fall into the realm of atheism. I'm willing to give some ground if God (or a god) manifests in front of me and does some miracle stuff, but failing that, my working assumption is that the Big Guy doesn't exist.

I've seen some very disturbing arguments made by some religious people (of more or less fundamentalist persuasions) to the effect of: If you don't believe in God, you can't be a moral person. I've never understood this, and it has always bothered me. How can people even make such statements? I don't believe in God, yet as far as I know I'm not a criminal, sociopath, drug dealer, axe murderer, or anything like that. I happen to think I live a pretty respectable life and have done vastly more good in the world than any of my few ill-considered rash actions that I promptly regretted soon after."

"How do we develop thoughtful morals in people, as opposed to God-given ones? We educate our children. We teach them the history of the world. The bad bits as well as the good bits. We show them what happens when people treat each other badly. We get them to think about what is right and what is wrong, rather than just telling them. If you tell people something as an edict from authority, sooner or later they're going to question why. It'd be nice to have answers that lead to essentially the same conclusions, rather than an emptiness that can lead people to think morals can only exist in a world with a God, or in people who believe in a God."

I don't think I can say much more than what Mr. Morgan-Mar said.
That's why I am proud to be a heathen.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Purple States

America is not red and blue states. It's purple states. The color represents the inclination towards McCain (Red), Obama (blue), and Nader, etc (green).
Not the very slight difference between Florida ("blue") and Georgia ("red").
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Monday, November 3, 2008

History Day!

Today is Novemember 3rd, or the 4th for those east of the US.
1493: Columbus 'discovers' Dominica.
1749: Chemist Daniel Rutherford is born. He later isolated nitrogen gas. Rutherfordium was named not for him, but for 20th centurt atomic chemist Ernst Rutherford.
1893: Edward Adelbert Doisy, codiscoverer of vitamin K, is born.
1911: Chevy enters the auto market.
1913: The US income tax is introduced. Productivity immediately drops to zero in mid April.
1918: Bob Feller, the "Heater from Van Meter", is born. His #19 was retired by the Cleveland Indians after he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1962. He pitched a no-hitter on opening day in 1940 - the only opening day no-hitter ever. He is now 90.
1926: Annie Oakley dies.
1957: Sputnik 2 is launched in to space carrying the world's first astronauts - a dog named Laika.
1964: DC residents are allowed to vote in a Presidential election for the first time.
1971: Mariner 10 is launched towards Mercury.
1978: 485 years after its 'discovery', Dominica gains independence from Britain.
1982: The Salang Tunnel Fire kills as many as 2000 is Afghanistan.
2007: Pervez Musharraf declares emergency rule in Pakistan, effetively becoming a dictator.

That's all for today, folks.

Doubles in the Death Zone!

If you get that joke from the April 2000 issue of Sky and Telescope, then methinks you have more ice crystals in the brain than me.
(It's from a joking editorial by Michael Battaglia saying that S&T should start the Journal of Extreme Astronomy to attract extreme sports fans to the quaint intellectual pastime of astronomy. One of the article stubs on the faked first front cover is titled "Doubles in the Death Zone: Everest without Oxygen" and shows a mountain climber hauling a big telescope up a cliff, But I digress.)
Anyway, I did a little observing with my big 8" scope last night. My view looked like a considerably fainter version of this:

Next I looked at Gamma Delphini, a little yellow-blue double star.
Next came my second-ever sighting of Messier 71 (M71), a globular cluster (giant ball of up to a million stars) in Sagitta (the arrow). It appeared as a faint, fuzzy blob significantly less impressive than Hubble's view:
(Update 11/4: I've removed this picture because it refuses to load. to see it, go here)
Finally, I looked at the Dumbell Nebula, M27. I saw it as an apple-core shaped grey blob (seeing colors in nebulae requires long-exposure photography). This ESO (European Southern Observatory false-color view happens to look like an apple core:

Then I was getting really cold from the 39° F weather, so I packed up and went in.
The awesome, free, high-resolution images from wikipedia might take a few seconds to load.

Shout out!

I just wanted to direct y'all to

mandachan's blog

because it's awesome (usually) and she's the one who inspired me to start my own blog. It's mostly semicoherent ramblings about baseball, but it's pretty entertaining. She's been blogging for over 10 months (forever for a blogger) and hopefully directing all my precious visitors to her blog will appease her.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Parachute Image

I installed Picasa, so this should show a decent image on how to make parachutes. If you want a better image, email me using the link at bottom or click on the image above.
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Launch report #6

I finally got to go out today and burn some motors larger than a pencil eraser! It was a bit windy, but all went well.
  • First up was Rama on a C6-3. It had a nice straight boost, very fast for its weight and drag, and ejected just after apogee. The parachute melted, though, and 'plastic wad recovery' doesn't work for a half-pound monster. There's no damage except a possibly dead chute and I need to reglue the fins. No biggie.

  • Next came the Cloud Hopper. She left off the pad on an A8-3; ejection was slightly late. I had the dual streamers stowed inside the hollow nose cone because the body is only long enough for engine, baffle, and nose cone shoulder. The baffle broke apart and the rocket separated. Both halves recovered with no damage, and she'll fly again, but probably without a baffle.

  • Next, I tried to fly my pen rocket on an MMX, but I just couldn't get the tiny igniter to light the tiny motor. sigh.

  • Next was the maiden flight of SpaceShipOne on a C6-3. This is a perfect motor for this rocket. The chute tangled, which prevented it from dying in the rocket-eating trees. (I've found bits of at least 4 rockets in them). It still recovered with no damage because the body tends to safely flat spin.

  • Next came the Hi-Jinx: A spare booster stage with a C6-0 in it staged to an A3-4T in the Jinx. It staged perfectly and the Jinx came down safely from about 600 feet. It landed on hard asphalt with no damage. The booster, amazingly, landed right-side-up on its fins.

  • My final two flights were my Cosmic Cobra booster with the Altitude tracking capsule and 2 tracking streamers inside. Both flights were great on B6-4s. The capsule read 168.5 feet (probably right) on the first flight and didn't record on the second flight.

I flew 5 rockets for 6 flights on 7 motors. I flew 2 A, 2B, and 3 C motors, for 45 Ns of total impulse - a low F motor. This makes for 24 flights on 26 motors, for 79.3 Ns of total impulse - a very high F motor. I'm averaging 3.3 Ns per flight and 3.05 Ns per motor - both are low B motors.

This may be a problem

According to Blogger, there are 32 other bloggers with an interest in taking over the world. 2 are dogs, 2 are cats, 1 is a baby, one is 251, and two are 252 years old. That leaves 27 terminations with extreme prejudice, 4 pets, one future lieutenant, and three medical labs to ransack. Life is so busy. Here is the list.

Launch Report #5

So I spent a hour downstairs today and came out with a decent looking Serenity mockup. No funny pointy nose, just a blunt easter egg half. I went out and launched it this afternoon. It was one of my more entertaining failures.
At ignition, it went 2 feet straight up, stopped, and feel down right as the ejection charge blew. It broke badly. 2 pylons broke into 5 pieces, the tail ring fell off, and the launch lug (a funny little thing that lets the rocket slide up the launch rod) stayed on the rod. It was obviously waaaaaaay underpowered. I'm not sure if it's fixable. I'm putting a poll up with options. You can choose multiple options, but don't vote more than once. Your choices:
  • Retire it: With non-flying decorations and a good nose, it'll make a decent static model.

  • Boost it: I can make a higher-powered booster stage for better launches.

  • Make a bigger version: I can make an upscale, perhaps with 13mm motors.

  • Glide it: with a few modifications, it'll make a decent unpowered glider.

You decide.

I'm sorry, Laura, that I couldn't let you watch, but I only was able to launch this today, which wasn't very exciting, and NAR rules generally prohibit spectators on experimental flights.

I burned one motor in one flight with one rocket, for a total of 0.18Ns of total impulse. So far, while keeping records, I have launched 11 rockets on 18 flights and 19 motors, for 34.3 Ns - a mid to high E motor.

If you every don't understand any of these rocketry terms, then leave a comment. I check all recent posts daily for comments and I'm automatically notified if anyone comments on older posts.

I'm planning to launch tomorrow. Some possibilities:
  • SpaceShipOne on a C6-3. Estimated altitude 400 feet.

  • Rama (stable with big clear fins) also on a C6-3. Maybe 200 feet, maybe not. But it won't crash.

  • The Cloud Hopper on an A8-3. I'd say about 150 feet or so. The delay will be a bit long, but what the heck.

  • The upper stage of my Comanche-3 on either an A8-3 of B6-4. 250 or 500 feet.

  • Cosmic cobra booster with MaxTrax altitude capsule and 2 altitude-tracking streamers (they fall at 18 feet per second, so I just time them) for accuracy testing on a B6-4, to about 250 feet.

  • The Hummingbird Boost glider on a MMX, to maybe 50 feet.

  • Pen Rocket on MMX. I'm afraid of losing it in my yard since it goes so high - nearly 200 feet.

Saturday, November 1, 2008


After losing several hangers-turned-grappling hooks, I finally managed to get my 24" homemade parachute down from its leafy perch. A few tips if you ever need to get anything out of a tree, including a dead branch:
  • Use the right string: cotton thread frays. Synthetic thread (nylon, polyester, etc) doesn't; neither does fishing line.

  • Use enough: about twice the height of the branch seems good. I used about 70 feet for a 40-foot high branch.

  • Hook: use a 4" tall S-hook or bent piece of 1/4" thick wire. It's small and heavy enough to throw accurately and high (better than bent hangers), cheap, and catches thin branches well, but not big branches.

  • Attach a 5-10 lb. weight to the non-hook end of the string. Toss the hook over the branch around a foot from the chute. Pull it taught, then whip it around to break the branch if it's dead.

This can be applied to ugly dead branches, broken-off dead branches caught in lower branches, rockets, parachutes, model airplanes, kites, balloons - anything that can be caught in trees. I assume no liability for any damages. DO NOT use to shake cats loose from trees - cats don't always land on their feet, many will voluntarily climb down, and your local friendly fireman are glad to do it. Just covering all the metaphorical bases here.
I've created instructions for assembling the parachute. The material I have really is that sickly orange color. It's also available here

(If the image isn't there, then email me with the link at bottom and I'll send it to you.)
I'll add a parachute folding guide here soon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Awesome Book!

I happened to see The Time Traveler's Wife by Aubrey Niffenegger on the library shelf a week ago (I work as a page). I vaguely recalled it being recommended to be, so I read it - and it was awesome! It's one of the best and most though-provoking novels I've read in a long time.
The basic idea of the novel is that Clare is an artist for whom time passes normal, and Henry is a librarian who spontaneously time-travels and teleports - hereafter referred to as timeporting. At random times, he time-travels to a random place and time, usually within 50 years of his present. He stays the same age while timeporting, but his clothes, money, etc don't travel with him. He can meet himself, including when he teaches him younger self to pickpocket, steal, mug, and run to escape trouble.
The book opens with Henry, 28, meeting Clare, 20, in real time. Clare has known him for years, but he doesn't know her. In his future (his 30s), he has timeported back dozens of times to when she was a girl, eventually becoming a friend to her. (No awkwardness, just actually a very unusual friendship). They hit it off despite their unusual future / past. The reader then gets a very neat story of their unusual friendship (and later love story). The second part is less love story, but still very interesting.
The story is amazing on many levels:
SciFi - the timeporting is logically consistent, mainly because Henry's past actions make what happens now, which influence what he does while timeported, etc.
Romance - This is a good if untraditional love story with two believeable and entertaining characters.
Comedy - There are some truly funny scenes in the book, like when Henry teaches his younger self survival skills. It also strikes me as ridiculously funny that Henry mentions that Chicago's finest hate him because he keeps disappearing from custody.
Though-provoking novel - lots of symbolism, but also some interesting themes here. An English teacher would have a field day here, but even I appreciate it.
It's also very helpful that at every section, the date, time, and speaker (Clare or Henry) is given, as well as their ages.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Parachutes. Sigh.

If for some reason you passed by my house, you would see the following in the front tree:
  • a large orange mass

  • string. lots of it.

  • a lead fishing weight

  • a red wire hanger

  • a large washer

The explanation: I made a 24" ouyt of this orangeish plastic material. One its sixth test flight, it caught on the very tip of a branch that shouldn't be there 50 feet up. That makes for the orange mass, string, and the weight - for testing the chute.
Then, I made a grappling hook from a hanger and a washer to get it down. That caught too. Sigh. On the plus side, both the 24" chute and its 12" safely recovered baby brother work great. I will use the 12" chute soon.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Happiness comes in a box marked ' Hazmat'

My order came yesterday. Everything looks great. D12 motors - the first 24mm motors I own - are huge! The D21, an 18mm motor, is lighter than a C6.
I finished painting the Cloud Hopper and SS1 over the weekend. My mom did awesome work painting the face, ears, feet, and tail onto the cloud hopper. I'll post pictures later.
The decals on the SS1 stink. They don't fit quite right and portions of them aren't cut right. sigh.
That's all for now.

Welcome, Everyone!

I also now have visitors from the grand state of Texas, Britain, and either Germany or Denmark. So, I'd like to say:
Good Day!
Guten Tag!
Please, everyone, leave a comment so I know how you like my blog!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hey Sweet!

I have visitors from Connecticut, Ohio, Colorado, California, and either Puerto Rico or the US Virgin Islands (USVI). I only know people who first here in two of those locations. Awesome!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

History Day!

Today held two of the best battles in history. In 1881, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday took on Frank and Tom McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne. The McLaurys and Claiborne were killed. The fight has been in every other western since then.
In 1944, a far worse battle took place in Leyte Gulf in the Philippines. The US and Japan clashed in three seperate but connected battles. The superbattleship Musashi was sunk, US forces landed on the islands, the imperial Japanese fleet was effectively demolished, kamikazes were first used, and Taffy 3 took on a superfleet. 6 light carriers, 3 destroyers, and 4 destroyer escorts, collectively known as tin cans, took on 1 superbattleship, 3 battleships, 6 heavy cruisers, 2 light cruisers, and 11 destroyers. We lost 4 ships; the Japanese lost 4 sunk and 4 seriously damaged. The book The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors is a great account of the battle.
In total, the battle killed over 11,500 men. 64 years.
In other news:
1797: Giuditta Pasta, one of the world's greatest female opera singers, is born. Thousands, sadly, laugh at her name.
1825: the Erie Canal opens
1861: the Pony Express ceases operations
1940: the P-51 Mustang makes its first flight. It will go on to dominate the skies of Europe.
1943: The German Do.335 with propellers in front and back flies, amazingly. It will go on to dominate the 'Albatross attracted to airplane' category.
1947: Hillary Clinton is born. No comment.
1948: Killer smog kills 20 and sickens thousands in Donora, PA. Ken Griffey Sr. is three years old and survives the smog.
1955: Austria declares itself permanently neutral
2001: George Bush signs the Patriot Act into law. Any action beyond breathing is automatically illegal.

Cape Ann

Good book: The Last Fish Tale by Mark Kurlansky. It's about Gloucester, MA, a fishing city 10 minutes from Gordon College and my sister. This is a great history of Cape Ann. I have personally climbed on two of the rocky areas shown with sketches in the book - the Bass Rocks:
View Larger Map
The view in the book is looking from the rocks out to Thatcher Island and its twin lighthouses. I can't pinpoint the exact location. The other location is on Wingaersheek Beach on the north side of the cape. The view in the book is from the base of the big rock piles on the right looking towards the rocks on the left.
View Larger Map
While I'm on the subject of Cape Ann, a few other cool places:
Rockport, a neat touristy fishing village on the tip of Cape Ann. The main peninsula is Bearskin Neck, a lovely tangle of shops and fishing shacks. The larger squarish projection out from its bottom holds the famous Motif No. 1:

In the middle of Bearskin Neck are Top Dog, with very cool and unusual hot dogs - mac-and-cheese on a hot dog, anyone? - and Helmut's Strudel, the best pastry I've ever had. Next to the tiny parking lot at the tip is a 20-foot seawall, easily climbable. The greyish and green peninsula on the right side of the image is the Headlands, with lots of climbable rocks. Somewhere down from that is the house where the first transatlantic cable came ashore.
View Larger Map
At the very tip of Cape Ann is Halibut Point State Park - the closest point in the US to Spain and therefore to mainland Europe. The big pond is an old quarry. Granite was mined in a failed attempt to make a breakwater offshore to make Rockport in to a big shipping port.
View Larger Map
The breakwater can be seen offshore:
View Larger Map
There's also an old WWII artillery spotting station, intended to protect Boston in the event of a German invasion. It's now a mini-museum, with a 16" Artillery shell as big as me in the lobby. You can go up about 20' in the tower.
For a better picture of the pond and tower: go here
And finally, Gordon College, current locale of my awesome sister. It was founded in 1889 by Adoniram Judson Gordon, named after missionary Adoniram Judson (Gordon's name is thankfully abbreviated as AJ). It moved to the Fens in 1919 to about 1500 feet of Fenway. In 1950, it moved again to the small town on Wenham. It's a small nondenominational Christian College with about 2000 undergrads.

View Larger Map
See! An informative and interesting post with nada about rockets!

Building Update

I actually found some free time yesterday afternoon and early this morning to do some building:
  • Rama is complete! I cut 3 3" circles from 1/16" cardboard, drilled holes for the engine tube, and glued the hole thing in with superglue. I tested the parachute by attaching it to the nose weight - 60+% of the total weight - by tossing it up in the backyard and watching its descent. It also added 3 clear plastic fin a week ago for stability. They violate my original plans for finless stability, but make it much safer. The original model Rama was incomplete and would have never flown. Rama 1.1 crashed. Now, Rama 1.2 is ready to fly on a C6-3!

  • Serenity is also making huge progress. She will be about 16 cm long, for a 1:400 scale from the original 63 meter ship. (See here) After two failed attempts, I drilled two perfect 5/16" holes through a yellow easter egg to hold the pen tube / engine mount. 2 inches of BT-60 (1.6") tube connect to the front of the egg. I carved up a large egg for the ring around the engine.
    I've also made the outboard tubes.

  • The Gauchito's engine mount failed a few days ago. I'm planning to get more tubing in an order.

The Wee Hours

It is 12:43 in the morning and I'm wide awake. I have been up 19 hours straight. And yet I am thinking perfectly straight. ...(Goes away for a while)
It's now 1:13. I've been up for nearly 20 hours and still operational. I fully intend to do two more blog entries and finish a book before going to bed.
It's amazing how I can go long periods without sleep and be fully functional at times when adults aren't.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

[Does little happy dance]

Yay lots of stuff! Yesterday i bought lotsa stuff from Hobbylinc last night:
  • BNC-5: Balsa Nose Cone for BT-5 tubing. This is for a 2-stage 13mm-motor rocket I'm planning. No details yet.

  • 2 18mm motor mount tubes. I always need more of these and they were a steal at 59 cents for two.

  • 15" of BT-50 Body Tube. (The 50 has no actual meaning. It's just an arbitrary number.)I've got a couple nose cones for this, but no plans.

  • 4 AR2050 (BT-20(18mm) to BT-50(24mm) centering rings. For putting a motor mount in BT-50.

  • A pack of A8-3s, for the Wizard and other small rockets.

  • A pack of B6-4s. Almost all my 18mm rockets use these.

  • A pack of C6-3s, for the SS1, Transwing, Invader, and Swissor-Wing Transport.

  • A pack of D12-0s, mainly for the Comanche-3.

  • A single D21-7 for Mach My Day. This was the most expensive single item in the order.

I will be havink fun next weekend!

Comcast stinks.

For two reasons. Number one, their 'high-speed' internet is pretty slow, even on a 100Mbps (Mega-bits-per-second) in-home wireless network.
Second, it says Google Chrome is out-of-date because it is not a 'modern, standards-compliant internet browser'. BS. Chrome is one of the best browsers out there. It's faster than IE, more secure (it doesn't need a third-party security suite), and it does well on the Acid 3 test. That test, the nastiest internet test around, checks for adherence to modern stuff like Javascript, ECMAscript, Document Object Modeling, and Scalable Vector Graphics. IE doesn't even support SVG without a plug-in. Webkit-based browsers like Chrome and Safari get between 75 and 100, Flock gets 71, Opera gets 85... and IE gets 14. And supports IE 6.0 (completely fails the acid 3), and not the superior Chrome. Wake up, Comcast!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Dos cosas sobre los cohetes

(Two things about rockets, en espanol).
First, it is confirmed that the A8-0 and A10-0T booster motors are coming back! According to this post on Ye Olde Rocket Forum (YORF), Estes is really going to rerelease them in the spring of '09.
Second, an update on my quest for NAR Level 1 Junior HPR certification. I've decided on a rocket - the Art Applewhite 10" / 38mm Delta Saucer. I think I'll go for the metallic gold one. This picture is from Art's site:

I'll have to borrow a 38mm Reload casing from a CATO (the rocket club I belong to) member.
A couple of sites which may prove useful to anyone else going for a Jr. L1 cert:
  • NAR guidelines for Jr L1: here
  • L1 certification form: here

  • Stability for Art Applewhite Saucers: here

  • One person's Jr. cert thread: here

  • A Jr. cert article: here

That's all for now, folks.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

A summary of Estes products

Just thumbing through the Estes catalog (the 2007 catalog, without all the 2009 rereleases). A breakdown by type:
  • 3FNC rockets (3-fin-nose-cone) - the basic, boring rockets. I have only 4 of these - a RTF (ready-to-fly) Jinx, a level 1 (basic construction) Wizard, my Pen rocket, and my Mach My Day - a modified Quest Pipsqueak. The catalog has 42 3FNC rockets - 4 RTF, 18 E2X (Easy 2 Construct), 12 Level 1, no Level 2 (harder to construct), no level 3 (harder to construct, this is my level), and 2 E-powered rockets, both level 2.

  • Scale Rockets - there are 16 in the catalog. 5 RTF, 1 E2X, 4 L1, 4 L2 (one cluster, one glider), 1 L3, and 1 E-powered (supposedly L3 but more like L4). I have the L1 Gauchito, L2 Bullpup, L2 SpaceShip1 (should be L3), and a scratch-built Rama.

  • There are 9 payload models in the catalog. 1 holds an egg, 2 are empty (1 designed for liquids), and 6 are functional payloads - 2 film cameras, 2 digital / movies cameras, a spin sensor, and a speedometer. 4 are RTF, 2 are E2X, two - both empty capsules - are L1, and the egglofter is L2. I have the OOP (out of production) Estes L1 Loadstar, an old Astrocam, and an altitude tracking capsule.

  • There are 3 staged rockets in the catalog - the L2 CC Express and the L3 Renegade (fantasy scale - basically a fancy-looking rocket) and the L3 Comanche-3. I have the Comanche-3, the staged-payload Loadstar, Mongoose, the Screaming Yellow Zonker (built from a Quest Totally Tubular), and a basic 18mm booster stage made from an old Estes viking.

  • There are 5 boost-gliders in the catalog. There are a pair (counted as one) E2X, and E2X pop-pod glider, an E2X parasite glider, an L2 boost glider scale model, and the L3 Scissor wing transport. I have the SWT, an old OOP L3 Estes Transwing, a 2/3 downscale of the 1965-67 Astron Invader, an MMX glider, and my scratch-built boost-glider.

  • I have the one helicopter (technically autogyro) bird in the catalog - my first rocket, the E2X Cosmic Cobra.

  • 5 kits can be considered fantasy scale - two L2 and 3 L3 (one is the SWT, another is staged). I have the SWT.

  • There is one tube fin rocket in the catalog - the L1 Super Neon. A larger version will be released in 2009.

  • There are 2 cluster rockets in the catalog - the L2 scale Thunderstar and the L2 36 D Squared. I have none.

  • Finally, there are 7 odd-rocs in the catalog: the RTF snitch flying saucer, the E2X Pop Fly, the E2X Converter, the L1 Porta-Pot Shot, the L2 Rock-it, and two E birds - the short and fat Big Daddy and the super-tall (6 ft 7) super-roc Mean Machine. I have too many odd-rocs to count, none of them in the catalog.

There are 42 3FNC and 47 others in the catalog, for 92 total, give or take a couple.

Codes and Classic Rockets!

Two interesting but completely separate things.

First, I figured out the code in this comic. The code is simply letter reversal: a switches with N, B switches with O, etc. The decoded comic is:

(Silent panel. Characters look up.)

Second, it looks like Estes will be releasing a bunch of its old kits in 2009. We're talking 40 old/new kits added to a line of about 90. Most don't hold a lot of interest to me since I wasn't around to see them the first time, but I fully support the idea. There have been a few hints of this with some classic kits like the Nova Payloader, Mean machine, Astrocam, Super Neon, and Scissor wing transport. If this actually goes through, I probably will buy a few, especially now that I have a job. It also appears that they might be releasing the A8-0 and A10-0T booster motors.
This is great news for two reasons. First, the small booster motors make it easy to fly 2-stage rockets in small fields. The A8-0s would be perfect for my Commanche-3 and Mongoose.Secondly, this shows a HUGE change is direction for Estes. In recent years, they've been heading towards the Wal-mart market, with cheap, plastic, no-assembly kits and a smaller selection of motors. (See next post) By releasing the older kits, which are better but require more assembly, they're showing that they still want the loyal hobby market and not just Wal-mart. I personally like some Estes kits, like the SS1 and Comanche-3, but recently Quest kits seem to be a better value for scratch-building - Mach My Day and the Screaming Yellow Zonker are both mods of the Quest Pipsqueak and Totally tubular kits. The rerelease of the motors is awesome too, because Estes has seemed to drop their low-margin motors like the B6-0 booster and the C11-0, C11-5, and C11-7 motors in favor of higher-margin engines like their 6-bucks-a-flight E9s and the A10-PTs for rocket cars. Even though these low-power boosters are less profitable, they are a great way for Estes to win back its loyal consumer base.
Wow, that short update turned out to be a very long happy rant.