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.