Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The NOVA Project

Bayourat Rocketry talks about the NOVA Project. It's way cool. It's like the super-Apollo Project. Rockets as tall as 137 meters (450 ft) [the Saturn V was 363 ft], capable of delivering 459,000 kg (over a million pounds / 500 tons) to escape velocity*.

Once we had gone to the moon, the next logical step was to send astronauts to Mars. That requires a lot of cargo, because you have to feed and house a crew of perhaps ten for a year, rather than three for a week. The Saturn V, with 5 F-1 engines and capable of lifting 45,000 kg (100,000 pounds / 50 tons) to escape velocity, was simply not capable. Enter such rockets as the GD-B, with 16 F-1 engines, and the GD-F, with 4 larger motors. 450 feet tall, lifts a million pounds. It would have used the gigantic M-1 motor.

(image from Bayourat; of unknown ancestry)

On Wikipedia

College Mail

Because I'm a total nerd, I've been plotting recently what colleges have sent me informational mail. That's currently a pile about 5 inches thick, with about 350 pieces of mail from 120 colleges.

Some observations:

A large number are concentrated in Boston, New York, and Philadelphia. This makes sense. From New Haven to Washington DC, though, is littered with colleges that want me, in a path that exactly follows the I-95 corridor.

Several other highways also go past multiple colleges that want me:

I-89 in New Hampshire and Vermont

I-90 in Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Illinois

I-85 in the Carolinas and Georgia

The strangest geographic artifact, though, is that the majority of the colleges that have sent me mail form a gigantic teardrop shape. Its peak is Bowdoin College in Maine. It extends westward through New York, Pennsylvania, the Midwest, and its tip is Texas A&M. Through New Orleans, up I-85 in the South, and up the I-95 Corridor in New England. It's 500 miles wide and over 2000 long, and there's only one inside it: Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


I'm actually getting back on the building bandwagon. Slowly, because building Nell is incredibly hard. Turning flat balsa into a macaroni shape? Check. Assembling a rocket out of flimsy quarter-inch tubing? Working on it. Putting BENDS in that tubing, while maintaining structural integrity? It's tricky.

But I love it. I love Jim Flis's kits. They're so ridiculously cool. There's no one else who would attempt a front-motored frame-based finless scale rocket, much less kit it. And they take skill, and careful work. It's not standard work, so you really have to think. I love it.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More T-shirts I want

Let's see. We have Dune, science, engineering, and text-based adventure games.

I am the Kwisatz Haderach (Dune)

Occam's Razor (science)

Engineering: It's like Math, only louder

A wizard has turned you into a whale... (text-based adventure games)

All shirts are from Topatoco. They're awesome folks. They're a company that sells shirts from awesome webcomics like Questionable Content.

Zipf's Law

In formal terms: The frequency of a word is inversely proportional to its rank in the frequency table.

It seems obvious, I admit, but it's actually a nifty mathematical law. It means that the second-most-common word will appear half as often as the most common. Thus, you will see the word 'interpretation' once for every 5000 times you see 'the'. (Except, of course, in a literature class, in which case all bets are off).

That's in theory. In practice, the actual ratio for those two works out to 4248, which is pretty good. 2 and 10000 ('of' vs. 'calves') work out to 8653:1. It's not perfect, but a useful guesstimate.

Handy wiki article.

Wiktionary (one of Wikipedia's sister projects) has a handy gathering of word frequency lists here. The list I used is here.

The One Time At Band Camp...

On the first days, it was the squad leaders, and it was good.

On the second day, the freshmen came too, and it was chaos. But order eventually came, and marching was taught, and it was good.

On the third through sixth days, everyone came. There was rain, and there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth. But music was learned, and tired lips played new notes, and it was good.

On the seventh day, the marching routines came together. Not all was perfect, but much was good. Then, from buckets and pockets (and bras..), the seniors pulled water balloons and silly string. Freshmen were soaked. Sweet watery death fell from the sky. Revenge was gained on all who weeped and gnashed teeth, and it was good.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Things that suck: Rain

Rain sucks. We've had marching band the last two days, and we haven;t been able to get outside because of the rain. In a total of twelve hours, we've been out marching maybe an hour, tops. That means lots of playing, so my lips hurt a lot.

Also, rain means humidity. Which means no rocket building.

NAR membership renewed

I just renewed my NAR membership. This means that I will officially reach L1 certification - no junior about it - on my birthday in March. That means I can buy my own high-power loads, use electronic-controlled charges, and a few other privileges.

The NAR also recently implemented a neat user database system. Members can log on to see their membership status, renew it, stuff like that. Apparently a huge upgrade over the old system, which was only accessible on one aging computer.

Unfortunately, when I went on to renew, I didn't notice that the credit card expiration default date wasn't correct, and the transaction failed. Fortunately, Marie Stumpe contacted me and the issue is all worked out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

On the Workbench

I've got a lot of rocketry projects currently going on.

36" parachute: The lines were fried by the plume of a G64, then snapped by the vortices created by the fast-moving blunt object. They will be replaced.

Pyramid: Needs to be more stable, so that means nose weight. Going to change the motor mount a bit, so that the 29mm mount can possibly be swapped out for 38 or 54mm.

Nell: Needs to be finished. The thin tubes connecting everything are going to be ridiculously tricky.

A.R.V. Condor: Gliders need better glide-testing.

Rama: One of my refurbishment jobs. Going to replace the launch lug, rebuild and refinish the nose cone, and replace the motor mount. And maybe the fins. Heck, maybe I should just rebuild it entirely.

Bullpup: Going to redo the paint job. Strip it off, prime, paint, draw on markings.

MLAS: build.

No Crimp (13mm superroc): build.

Launch Report #41: CATO 164

Pretty good day at CATO, though it didn't get off to an auspicious start. Conflict with some grumpy old farmer, who supposedly has the rights to mow the town field we use.

First flight for me was Rama on a D13-4W reload. Nice fast flight with good chute deployment. However, due to the odd shape of the motor casing, it was sticking out the back of the rocket quite a bit, and it was not entirely stable during boost.

Second flight was the A.R.V. Condor on a B6-4. The gliders didn't glide very well - too nose-heavy - and all three parts fell into deep, thick grass. With the help of another CATO member and some of the Civil Air Patrol kids who came to the launch, I found the booster and both gliders. The life to fly another day.

Third flight was the 29mm Pyramid (of FLAMING DOOOOM!) on a G64. I taped a 36" parachute to the back and let it loose. Unfortunately, the quick-link came loose and swung into the thrust, diverting it to the side, and causing the parachute to get ripped off by the fast-moving air. Fortunately, it went in a high arc over and beyond the crowd, and landed in the field. Undamaged. That 3/16" bamboo lite-ply is gorram unbreakable.

Al Gloer disagrees. 2.125" packing tube = potential 54mm motor mount. We agreed that sometime, it'll take on the Aerotech I599N Warp Nine reload. That will likely rip it apart, but if it doesn't, it'll be spectacular. I won't even need a Level 2 certification (which I'm planning to get next year anyway).

Final flight was my Fliskits L-13 on a C6-3. Perfect flight - slow boost and perfect chute deployment. Jim Flis was there, and he took a picture of me with it. How awesome is that?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A.R.V. Condor: Finished!

Some of the old waterslide decals fell off and broke before I got the clearcoat on. Oh well. I build 'em to fly; looking good is just a bonus.

Day 3 of Hiking: Presidential Range

Saturday was our biggest day of hiking. Three peaks - Mt. Jefferson (5812 ft), Mt. Clay (5533 ft), and Mt. Washington (6288 ft). (Yes, I know Mt. Clay isn't technically a peak because it's only 125 feet above the col (mountain pass) separating it from Washington. But to hell with that, it's hard to climb!)

We took the Caps Ridge Trail up Jefferson. It starts at 3006 feet, so it's only a 2800-foot climb to peak. Unfortunately, that's over just 2.5 miles. Wonderful hike - the views are amazing almost from the start, and getting to the summit is quick - but it's brutal. Free-climbing 50 feet of rocks on a 60+ degree angle is tough.

From there, we headed south. A few hundred feet below the summit is Monticello Lawn - an improbable field of grass on a flat plain, over a mile about sea level. More descent to 5000 feet at Sphinx Col, then the 500-foot climb up Clay. At Clay Col, we split up. I headed on the Gulfside Trail up Washington; everyone else took the Westside Trail around.

I booked it. 1.0 mile and 900-foot grain up Washington in 28 minutes. Tapped the signpost, bewildered the stupid tourists, started down. Down 1.5 miles and 1300 feet in 26 minutes. That's incredibly fast for alpine hiking. I actually caught my family on the way down, even though their route cut off 0.7 miles and 600 feet of climbing.

"You're slow. I just ran up Washington and I still beat you here."

We rested at the Lakes of the Clouds hut for a few minutes and refilled water. (I ran out halfway up Washington. Speed-hiking 2 miles with no water: not fun). We took the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail down. It's very steep at the top, but the waterfalls are awesome. We managed to hike 10.5 miles in the Presidentials, including 2 very steep trails, without getting rained on. Pretty rare.

Total distance, as I said, was 10.5 miles. Absolute vertical was precisely 3282 feet. Total vertical... somewhere around 10000 feet.

Here's an awesomely cool map:

View Jefferson - Clay - Washington in a larger map

You'll note the computed map distances don't match real life, like they do on the other map. Why not? Different trail types. The Hight-Carter Dome loop is dirt trails, straight up the sides of mountains, and only a few bits above treeline. The Presidentials route is mostly above treeline, twisting around rocks and winding up steep slopes. The actual traveling distance is up to a quarter longer than the as-the-crow-flies distance.

Day 2 of Hiking: Carter-Moriah Range

On Friday, my aunt, uncle, and two younger cousins (ages 9 and 13) joined us for hiking. We hiked up Mt. Hight (4675 ft) and Carter Dome (4832 ft) in the Carter-Moriah Range. The parking lot was at around 1500 feet in altitude, so it was a pretty steep climb, but Nineteen-Mile Brook parallels the trail for 1.9 miles. The final climb up Mt Hight gains 800 feet in half a mile, but the views from the top? Fucking incredible.

Carter Dome, though 150 feet higher, is not bald on top like Hight. They took the fire tower down a few years ago, so you can't see a think from the top. The 1.2-mile trail down to the Carter Notch Hut drops 1500 feet (standard medium-difficult trail is 1000 feet per mile). At one point, there's a side trial to a rock outcropping called the Pulpit. From that point, it's 500 feet down to the Hut, and only about the same forward. Incredible views.

There's two small tarns (alpine lakes created by glaciers) near the hut. Water is ridiculously cold. There were people swimming. Crazy bastards. The hut was very convenient for filling up my Camelback (portable water bladder and flexi-straw, for easy drinking). I drank 50 fluid ounces (3.3 pounds) of water in the first 6 miles. That's a lot of water.

Trip back down wasn't terribly exciting. Total for the day was 10.0 miles. Absolute elevation gain was 3330 ft. Total vertical was ((4700-1500)+(4700-4600)+(4800-4600)+(4800-3300)+(3300-1500))=6800 ft.

I made a nice-looking map on Google Maps. All distances agree with the trail map, and important points are marked. We did the loop clockwise.

View Mt. Hight and Carter Dome in a larger map

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A.R.V. Condor: So very close to completion

I sanded and painted the gliders yesterday. Spent an hour applying decals today. Pictures will be forthcoming.

I need to test the gliders and apply a clear-coat of gloss (to protect the waterslide decals) before its first flight on Saturday at CATO.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Hate Stupid Tourists

I'm still finished up some maps and stuff for my big post about days 2 and 3 of hiking. Until then, my extremely angry rant about stupid tourists, the varieties that step on rare plants and put themselves in danger. It's exceptionally bitchy, and, as was pointed out to me, extremely condescending. Which, I realize is pretty bad, but I was substantially pissed at the time. Enjoy (or don't).

Dear stupid tourists: I really don't like you. I realize that not everyone can hike Mt. Washington. But just because you took the cog railway or drove up does not give you the right to be a total asshat. The fact that your chosen method of transportation brings noise and pollution to a beautiful mountain is not a good start.

No, it's not the world's biggest observation deck. This mountain is a rare alpine habitat. If you want to walk around and gawk at the mediocre views*, that's fine. But stay on the fucking summit. It's leveled, rocky, and not a habitat. Do not even think of walking down. If you get even a few dozen feet below the summit, you will see plants. Many of these plants don't grow anywhere else. If you stray off the trails (and chances are, you don't know how to follow rock cairns), you will step on these plants. I'm a reasonable experienced hiker with a good hiking pole and excellent rockhopping ability, and I still stay on the trail unless absolutely necessary.

And, even if you can stay on trails, what the fuck are you doing attempting to hike? It's 1.5 miles from the summit to the nearest shelter, with 1500 feet of vertical drop. That's over an hour hike, over bare sharp rocks, on an exposed ridge with nasty northwest winds. Summit conditions during summer are mid 50s and 20 mph winds, on the nicest of days. In the three hours it will take you to make the round trip, it may be hurricane force winds, dense fog, driving rain, and lightning at the top. (I only wish I was making this up...) So why the fuck are you attempting to make the trip in a t-shirt and sandals, with no water, and a child who doesn't want to be there**??? People die up here, and you could be one of them. I've been climbing since 9 this morning, and I am covered in sweat, and I am wearing two shirts and hiking boots, and I have 50 oz of water, a jacket, and a poncho in my pack, plus an excellent telescoping stick. And I carried them up the last three thousand feet, you lazy fuckers.

* The views from Washington suck majorly. There's clouds on the summit 55% of the time, and haze pretty much the rest of the time. Better views are found a few miles north or south along the presidential ridgeline, or over on Mt. Hight a few miles east.

** Little kids can hike. My cousin is nine, and he was ahead of us for almost the entire ten miles yesterday. But he's intelligent, athletic, and fully capable of hauling his own food and water and using a pole. He's also eager. Forcing a young child to go on a technically difficult hike: extremely bad idea.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

First day of hiking

Today, since we had to drive up from CT, we didn't have time to do a long hike, so we chose a shorter but still nice one, called Hedgehog Mountain. It was a 5-mile loop.

Going up was very nice. At 2.0 miles, we reached the summit of Little Hedgehog, with the East Ledges giving excellent views of Mt. Chocoura and others. At 2.9 was the summit of Hedgehog Mountain proper. It's a small mountain at 2532 feet, but starting from 1250 feet, the vertical climb was strenuous. The steeper down route was very quick.

My old steel-toed boots were hurting my toes, so I'm now the proud owner of a new pair of hiking boots. Also, wool socks are wonderful things. They saved my feet from massive blisters today.

I'd like to take this opportunity to be a proper hiker and mutter under my breath about tourists. We're staying in North Conway, which unfortunately is entirely overrun by stupid tourists. People who come to shop and drive up Mount Washington in their giant SUVs and such. Honestly. You can shopa t home, folks. Get off your lazy asses and hike a little.

In related news, this hotel room needs a lawn, so I can get out my imaginary cane and sit on the non-existent porch and yell at kids to get off it. Because I am a grumpy old man.

Also in related news, the people next door are like a living stereotype. Giant truck (that does not even fit in the large parking space), all the right window stickers; loud, fat, and annoying; the kid doesn't wear a bike helmet, and dumb as rocks. As in, the mom was playing a trivia game, and thought that 250mL was a third of a liter, and wasn't sure if Georgia was east of Alabama, and thought that NaCl symbolizes Calcium, not salt. (Granted, alcohol comes in 750mL bottles, which might explain things).

To quote Daria: "I don't have low self-esteem. I have low esteem of everybody else."


Off to New Hampshire for 4 days of hiking. Posting will be light until Sunday.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Updated Copyright Information

My work is now under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Sharealike 3.0 unported licence.

I even have a handy little infographic:
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Basically what this means is:

If you want to copy small portions of text - quoted - for informational, parody, or other noncommercial uses, you are allowed to, with a few limits.

Number one, you must attribute it to me, The EGE, with a link to amateurgeek.blogspot.com . Can't claim it as your own, and you have to make clear what's mine.

Number two, sharealike. That means that if you want to use my information or pictures, I ask that you release the work under some sort of similar licence. If you're going to borrow my work, I would like you to allow others to do the same with yours.

Third, it has to be noncommercial. If you are using it for any purpose in a for-profit company, or if you are getting paid for whatever you're using the information in, or if you get paid for putting ads on the website / blog you wish to use my stuff on, let me know first. I'll probably say yes.

Fourth: this is not required, but if you're gonna link to me or use something I wrote, drop me a line. Thanks.

Building and Painting: Pictures

Been getting some more work done on the Nell lately, mostly on the aft section. Glued on the BT-70 section, glued the shroud and reinforced with wood glue (It'll be directly in the motor flame), and cut holes. Plus, glued on the wire on the back. Here's what it looks like now:

I've also got most of the painting done on the A.R.V. Condor. The booster is primed, and painted. The gliders are just primed; the #1 glider has its nose cone painted as well:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I Love Data

Not the android. Cool guy and all, but annoying after a while.

No, I'm talking about hard data. Facts. Information. Numbers. I love it. Call me a lifeless nerd (I do not deny), but some days I'd rather sit in the glow of my laptop screen and process data than do most anything else.

For example, my spreadsheet of data of all my rocket launches. It does everything. Automatically computes stats for every rocket and motor I've launches since October 2008. I'm still updating it to be more automatic, but it works nicely.

Ideally, it'll automatically compute everything. Add a new flight, it'll automatically add the impulse for the motor, update the number of flights for that particular rocket, add the reference number for that rocket, and update the number of flights with that particular motor. As of yet, all those things have to be updated manually.

But, once I finished sorting through all the errors today, I discovered some interesting stuff.

One odd bit is when I looked at the total impulse I've flown of each motor type. The two H165s from my certification last summer amount to 330 Newton-seconds, more than any other motor. 35 C6s equal 308 Ns, and 18 D12s make 302 Ns.

One more cluster flight with the Buckeye IV, though, and 4 more D12s will put it on top.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Painting the A.R.V. Condor

I've got some painting done, all on the booster. The gliders will take even more time.

First, coat of grey primer, then a coat of grey on the nosecone. Forgot it outside on the painting tree for a few days, but the waterproof primer protected it. Then, today, I got a nice coat of white.

Unfortunately, grey primer = dark white. For the gliders, to make them easier to find, I will use a white primer and thus get nice bright white paint.


So, yesterday, I went biking on the South County Bike Path in Rhode Island. Pretty nice bike path, even if my back tire did give out halfway through...

But, one of the cool parts about it is that it starts at the Kingston railroad station. Kingston is unique in that it's right in the middle of one of only two sections of track in which the Acela Express is permitted to travel at 150 mph.

Waiting for my folks to get their bikes ready, I walked up to the bridge over the tracks. As I walked back down, mandachan called and I answered. I walked over to the edge of the northbound tracks. As I watched and she listened, an Acela came through the station at full speed. Way cool. The train was only about 10 feet from me, and I got quite a breeze. From nose to nose, the 663-foot trainset passed in just three seconds.

And that is why they have these interesting warning signs:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Telescope repair

Well, repair isn't quite the right word. But I got the damn thing to work a let better now.

I wasn't working with my big 8-inch reflector; it's in perfect shape. But it's big and heavy, and a pain to bring outside. I can't take it out for five minutes to look at Jupiter; if I'm bringing it out, I'll be out for an hour or two.

No, I was working with my other 'scope. It's a small (60mm) and not terribly good-quality scope, a gift from my dad's coworker who no longer wanted it. It's not bad; the main lens is good quality and achromatic (uses two types of glass to minimize false-color images) and the tripod is good and sturdy. The long-focal-ratio design means that the economy-quality eyepieces work decently well. But, it had some problems.

First, the focuser. It's made of plastic, and a number of the rack-and-pinion teeth had broken off. It barely worked. I disassembled the whole thing, and took the back of a knive and cleaned out the teeth. Removed lots of gunk, broken teeth and bad grease. Reassembled, tightened, not perfect but waaay better.

Next, the bearings. It was originally intended to be a go-to telescope, with a neato little electronic controller. Well, I'm too much of a purist to drop a benjamin or two on something I can do myself, so I don't have the fancy controllers, and I took off the motors attached to the scope a while ago. The problem is, the left-right and up-down motions just kept getting worse. Either too loose, or too-tight and jerky. No good. I couldn't track stuff that way.

So, I took it apart. I mean everything. The entire altitude bearing. End knob, tension washer, washer, gear, washer. Then I saw the problem. The motor assembly (which includes a worm gear that turns the gear than moves the scope) was attached by three tiny screws. One of them was not tightened. Tightened it up, reassembled, all systems go. Loosen the knob to move quickly; tighten and turn a handle attached to the worm gear to close in on or track objects.

Azimuth (left/right) movement had a similar problem. I took it apart, to discover it was MISSING a screw. Somehow, it had been assembled msising an important little part. I found a matching screw in my junk box, and that fixed it right up. The motions are all rock solid now.

Finally came the finderscope. It's a pretty cheap scope; the lens is plastic. Terrible optical quality; looking at bright stars or the moon results in colored reflections. But the more pertinent problem was that it was misaligned with the main telescope. So I aimed it at a mailbox down the street that wasn't in line with a house* and centered it in the main scope. Adjust finderscope, check main scope, repeat. Ten minutes of tedious work, and I got it perfectly dead centered. Aligned the crosshairs on the top of the post, and it's right in the eyepiece at 175x magnification.

For a comparison with similar fields of view, what I was doing was akin to looking through a mailing tube, and then switching to one of the tiny hollow coffee stirrers. It was actually pretty impressive.

Now, off to observe!

* This was the result of me going up to my mother and asking "On a scale of one to serial killer, how creepy would it be to take my telescope out and watch the mailbox down the street?"

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Marian Call: Nerd Anthem

I really have nothing to post about until I get some building done tomorrow (after I go to work and get new lenses for my glasses, how exciting) so I'll share this video.

It's a fan video, slideshow to a Marian Call song. The song could not be awesomer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Very little to post about

Didn't see the aurora last night. Too cloudy.

There was a tornado spotted yesterday morning about 5 miles south of here. Not a very common sight in Connecticut.

Got the booster of the A.R.V. Condor primered.

Playing Nethack.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Possible Aurora Tonight!

On Sunday, astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, using images from the SDO, discovered 4 large Coronal Mass Ejections on the surface of the sun. By pure chance, they're aimed directly at earth. Between this morning and tonight, we're getting blasted with streams of high-energy particles moving at 1.2 million miles per hour.

Not to worry. The Earth's thick atmosphere and powerful magnetosphere will prevent any dangerous radiation from hitting us. In fact, most of the radiation will be low-energy photons, with wavelengths between 450 and 650 nanometers. Conveniently, visible light.

In other words, we're getting an aurora tonight. The first two were at 0700 and 1700 UTC (Greenwich Mean Time) today; the next are at 0000 and 0600 UTC tomorrow morning. For those of you on the US east coast, that's 800 tonight and 200 tomorrow morning. It'll be visible down below 45° N.

And it's gonna be cloudly tonight. Bugger.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Nell building pictures

The funny-shaped forward section:

And the beginnings of the rear section:

Starting work on Nell

I've started work on my second Fliskits Goddard model.

First, you cut the tubes. Pieces of BT-20 (18mm), BT-55 (33mm), BT-60 (1.63" / 41mm) and BT-70 (2.1") have to be cut to length, and you have to cut a piece of BT-2 (0.22") into several pieces.

You start with the nose section. You assemble the motor mount, cut out a conical shroud, and wrap it around. Then you glue that into the piece of BT-55, and you end up with an incredibly ungainly-looking thing.

Problem. I forgot to glue in the engine block. And where it's supposed to be is buried about 6" inside the larger tube. So, I use tweezers to get it roughly in place, apply glue with a skewer, and push it into place with a marker. Problem solved.

Rizzoli & Isles

In keeping with my apparent quest to watch every cop show on television, and because I was up late the other night, I watched an episode of Rizzoli and Isles on TNT. Pretty good, for a show with Abbie Carmichael from Law & Order, Kate Todd from NCIS, the shrink from The Sopranos, Jett Jackson, and George Tenet.

Seriously, though, it's awesome for 3 reasons:

1) It's set in Boston. Nothing's ever set in Boston. Granted, this guarantees a murder on the T by the middle of the second season, and one in Fenway by the third. Also, 'Boston-Cambridge University" as an obvious stand-in for Harvard.

But still, Boston. That means Boston cops, and a kick-ass Irish punk theme song, and finally a TV show not set in New York or LA. It also creates an interesting mini culture clash between those (Isles) who went to college, and the blue-collar cops (Rizzoli, and Detective Korsak) who didn't.

2) Its top-billed stars are two females. That alone is pretty rare. But these are two intelligent females, who are focused on their careers, and not vain nor utterly helplesss when it comes to men. That's practically unheard of. You wouldn't see it on CBS or NBC or ABC.

And: Isles, the coroner, is pretty damn cool. Think Temperance Brennan from Bones, but without the cripling personality flaws. She's still a bit awkward and tends towards overly complex descriptions of injuries, but she is definitely not the stereotyped television nerd like Brennan is.

3) It's funny as hell. The interplay between no-nonsense cop Rizzoli and nerdy coroner Isles is pretty good. Rizzoli's mother is funny. Detective Korsak is funny.

But the other guy detective, Barry Frost, has two of the best lines. He's the only black guy in the unit, and he derives as much humor out of it as possible. It's edgy, and not entirely PC, but not offensive.

..And that's all I have for now. Good night.

Blag hag

I recently stumbled across Blag Hag, an awesome blog about atheism and biology and politics and delicious sciencey goodness. Jen McReight is seriosuly awesome, a published biologist, and also an authority about all things nontheist. (Warning: it's frequently NSFW). I've spent about the last three hours reading through months of posts (including a 24-hour, 48-post blogathon for charity).

One of many, many interesting things I've found is this this about male privilege. Basically, as a guy, I have advantages in a whole lot of social situations. I didn't ask for them, I don't try to take advantage of them, but I have them, sheerly for having the luck to get a Y chromosome.

It's downright sobering, just how much latent sexism there is, even when things are supposed to be equal. Makes you think.

Lest I end this post on a downer, consider this fact, gleaned from a site she linked to: there is a genus of snails with the name Turbo. Yes.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Two new Aerotech Motors!

Two new Aerotech motors; one reload and one single-use motor, were certified effective July 27.

The first is the second single-use motor to use their 24mm x 95mm (The same size as an Estes E9) molded case. It's an F30FJ (Fast Black Jack / Black Max propellant); it'll be available in 4, 6, and 8-second delays.

Its initial mass is 70 grams; 31.2g is propellant. Total impulse is 47 Ns - an 18% F - with a burn time of 1.51 seconds.

The other new motor is a G138T-14A load for the 29/40-120 hobby case. It's a slightly detuned version of the H load (which is undergoing slight modifications for certification). The stock delay is 14 seconds, adjustable by drilling, and the propellant is a high-solids, high-impulse Blue Thunder blend.

Initial mass is 148 grams, with 70 grams of propellant. The 138-Newton average thrust makes it a high-power load; the 70 grams of propellant require hazmat shipping. Impulse is 157 Ns, burn time is 1.14 seconds.