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.
Posted by Picasa


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.
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa

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.
Posted by Picasa


#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.
Posted by Picasa

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.