May 19, 2008

Team America Rocketry Challenge 2008

Yesterday was the Team America Rocketry Challenge for 2008, rightly billed as "the largest model rocket contest in the world."

You can look through my archives for posts about TARC from previous years, but the short version is that teams of middle and high school kids design, build and fly rockets designed to accomplish three goals:

1.  Get as close as possible to 750 in altitude.
2.  Be airborne for exactly 45 seconds - from first motion to touch down under parachute.
3.  Carry aloft two raw eggs and return them undamaged.

This year, around 650 teams from all fifty states and Puerto Rico accepted the challenge.  Over 60% made successful flights and sent their results in to be scored.  The top 100 teams were invited to The Plains, Virginia for a one-day flyoff to determine the winner.

There were a few new wrinkles for this contest, besides the usual alteration of the objectives to keep things fresh from year to year.  This time around, the top 18 teams were required to make a second flight, and the scores from these two flights were added together.  This way, consistency was rewarded and the contest was less likely to be won by a team making that one perfect lucky launch.  A presentation event was also added which teams could enter to explain their process and thinking as they designed, built and tested their rocket designs.

Here are some highlights that I remember... (oh, and lots and lots of pictures here!)

Posted by: Ted at 02:34 AM | category: Rocketry
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May 18, 2008

Mee Moving Into Nu Digs

Ok, many suggested alternatives to abandoning blogging on Rocket Jones. Ultimately, you are all wiser than I, because I found that it really bugged me to just up and walk away.

Pixy has set me up over at the new Minx-based Rocket Jones. I believe that your links will be fine as is, because the "old" domain will get redirected to the new one in the near future. Pixy is kind and does nifty things like that, and although it is now literally possible, I really don't want to have his babies, but I am extremely grateful for what he does.

I am in a transitional phase in my life at this time, so I think I'm going to get back to basics: Rockets, movies, a little introspection and storytelling and humor. I think I'm excited about writing here again, because it took me a while to figure out exactly what my priorities were, and how to best satisfy them.

So use the link above to get to the new place (which make you laugh look away in embarrassment marvel in awe at my wicked CSS artistry. And one day soon, the "old" link to Rocket Jones will automagically take you to the new gingerbread house in the woods.

Posted by: Ted at 07:59 AM | category: Links
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May 10, 2008

The Spam Has Won

I give up. The only thing I do around here lately is clean up the mess, and it's just not worth my time anymore.

See you in your comments.

Posted by: Ted at 08:44 PM | category: Square Pegs
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May 04, 2008

Buy Me Some Peanuts And... What the Hell?!?!?!

Minor league baseballs teams do some wacky things for promotion nights, and almost anything goes as long as it draws a crowd. Seldom though, does the concession menu enter into the equation.

The Sioux Falls Canaries and Dakota Provisions are teaming up this summer to bring Fowl Balls to concession stands at the Birdcage. The venture makes Sioux Falls Stadium the first sports venue in the country to offer their fans a chance to enjoy turkey testicles.

Yep. Deep fried turkey testicles. Offered with a variety of dipping sauces. The local poultry processor has some 32,000 extra Tom-bits left over at the end of each day, and someone became a marketing legend by convincing folks who should know better that nothing says baseball quite like a piping hot basket of Fowl Balls.

I wouldn't eat the fries at that stadium either.

Don't even mention corn dogs.

Posted by: Ted at 06:02 PM | category: Square Pegs
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May 03, 2008

Home Sweet Home

Hello all. Got home last Sunday morning (early AM). Been berry berry busy. All work-stuff that was supposed to get done by "backups" didn't. Most did, but still spent a day catching up.

On the home front, our dishwasher went kaput while we were gone. Of course, the kids didn't notice, so an inch of dirty water sat in the bottom and went rancid. Ick. Then Liz's laptop went kaput too. She's out right now, getting it taken care of. Thank heavens for our "stimulus" check.

That was sarcasm, by the way. I refuse to say "thank you" to someone who magnanimously decides to give me back some of my own money.

Arizona was beautiful, we fell in love with the place. The vacation will get it's own separate post, maybe tonight.

Gotta run. Things to do.

Posted by: Ted at 01:02 PM | category: Square Pegs
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April 19, 2008

Things I've Learned Because of My (Twisted) Love of Nunsploitation Movies

I explained about exploitation movies here on Rocket Jones, including that unholiest of sub-genre's: nunsploitation. As it turns out, my limited personal collection includes four that are considered true classics of the type (and there are a surprising number of 'em out there). At the link above, I reviewed School of the Holy Beast, which is Japanese nunsploitation. Which leads to the first thing I've learned.

Japan has a small but strong Catholic population, mostly centered around the city of Nagasaki. As a seaport, missionaries first arrived in Japan there and many stayed to do their evangelical work with great success. Also, as a seaport with strategic military value, Nagasaki was selected as a target for an atomic bomb in World War II. The bomb devastated one of the few areas of Japan with real ties to the western world.

Nunsploitation movies sometimes aspired to more than casual nudity and sex while bashing the Catholic Church. The best of the group tell interesting stories that are set in a religious context. Tragic lives, murders most mysterious and the exploration of religious fervor as compared to mental instability make for a movie that's more than sacrilege for sacrilege's sake. The truth can be even more sad and terrible than lurid fiction.

In 1963, Jeanine Deckers recorded an album in which one song, Dominique rose to number one on the US charts. She was better known as The Singing Nun, and was played by Debbie Reynolds in a movie of the same name. I still remember how the movie ended, with a long elevated pull-away shot of her riding away in a jeep, to live happily ever after. One assumed.

Reality was much less kind. Jeanine Decker left the order a few years after recording her first album. Despite donating almost all of the profits from her music to the Dominicans, the Belgian government decided that she owed back taxes. Unable to overcome the resultant financial difficulties, she committed suicide with her long-time lesbian partner and they were buried together.

Like I said, I have managed to collect a few exceptionally powerful examples of nunsploitation films. I'll review them in the coming months, and hopefully I can convince you that the genre is more than just "Nuns Gone Wild".

Posted by: Ted at 11:07 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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Apparently, this "fragile" planet we live on is a tad more resilient than folks like to admit.

The healthy condition of the coral at Bikini today was proof of the atoll's resilience and ability to bounce back from massive disturbances if the reef was left undisturbed and there were healthy nearby reefs to source the recovery.'' But Ms Richards said the research also revealed a disturbingly high level of loss of coral species from the atoll. "Compared with a famous study made before the atomic tests were carried out, the team established that 42 species were missing compared to the early 1950s. "At least 28 of these species losses appear to be genuine local extinctions probably due to the 23 bombs that were exploded there from 1946-58, or the resulting radioactivity, increased nutrient levels and smothering from fine sediments.''

I'm not surprised. I've maintained for years that mankind's biggest contribution to the universe was our ego. If we all disappeared today, nobody would even know we'd existed in a few tens of thousands of years. Mother Earth would simply continue on, and gradually absorb our minor cosmetic modifications. We may even manage to alter her evolution slightly, but to think that we're more than a self-important experiment in a global-sized petri dish is pure hubris.

We do need to be aware of and take care of our environment, but it's more because of the "all our eggs are in one basket" situation the human race is still in. Mankind isn't a visitor here, we are part of Earth. As much as the atmosphere and the oceans and the various ecosystems, we are an integral part of her.

Thanks to Wizbang for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 08:45 AM | category: SciTech
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April 17, 2008

Quickie Movie Review

I've said many times that when it comes to horror movies, I'd rather be scared than grossed out. Even so, I am giving high marks to Evil Aliens. This is an out and out gore-fest with some amazingly over the top blood and guts. In spite of it all, it still manages to be funny as hell.

The humans aren't pushovers and use most everything at hand as weapons. The aliens are all too... human, I guess, especially when they do something clumsy or stupid. It's an even match.

If you can deal with the gruesome amounts of blood, then I heartily recommend this one. It's going on my "to buy" list.

Posted by: Ted at 08:48 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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April 16, 2008

Cue John Denver

Liz and I are headed to Arizona for a week to visit my Dad. We've been busy getting ready for the trip, plus other big happenings that I'll talk about when we get home. I really doubt they have more than an email connection, so you'll probably miss me long time.

Posted by: Ted at 06:11 PM | category: Square Pegs
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April 13, 2008

First Game of the Season (for us)

We went and saw our first Potomac Nationals game of the season last night. The team (single A minor league) has a lot of familiar names from last year, and they've started off on a hot streak. As for the game, the P-Nats - I *still* hate that nickname - spotted the Kinston Indians seven runs in the first five innings before roaring back to tie it up by the eighth. The P-Nats won it in the bottom of the 11th.

We didn't see that though, because a cold front moved through the area and it got very chilly and windy. We lasted through the 10th, then went to the car, figuring we'd watch the fireworks from the parking lot. Twenty minutes later, another wave of folks started coming out, so we figured they went another scoreless inning and we left. By the time we got home, the P-Nats had won.

I can't even give a report on this year's fireworks show. Someone told us that there was a curfew after which the fireworks couldn't be done, which makes sense, but the time they remembered sounded much too early for a Saturday night. I dunno.

We also did some talking to the stadium management last night about season tickets and reserved seating. They're willing to allow Liz to park her electric scooter someplace convenient (for her) in order to have access to the field-level box seats. I have never seen the staff *not* go out of their way to help someone at the stadium. They are the standard by which I measure other customer service.

Liz also got the scoop on the new stadium. Our county won't chip in on the funding because of current budget shortfalls. Imagine that, a little fiscal responsibility from our elected officials! So the current plan is to sell the naming rights to the new stadium and using that money combined with what the team has already committed to build the new place. It'll be located right behind where first base is now, and be partially dug into the ground, amphitheater style, like the Frederick Keys stadium is. If they sell the rights quickly (the process of looking for a sponsor has begun) or make a bunch of money for it, they may have the stadium ready for next season, but they're realistically planning for a 2010 opening.

So there you have it - first game of the season. As expected, most prices went up a quarter or fifty cents this year. Parking is now four bucks, bleacher seats are eight. Still a bargain.

Who's up for a Saturday blogmeet at the game?

Posted by: Ted at 08:26 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 12, 2008


My wife Liz got this in her email.

Two California Highway Patrol Officers were conducting speeding enforcement on I-15, just north of the Marine Corps Air Station at Miramar. One of the officers was using a hand held radar device to check speeding vehicles approaching the crest of a hill.

The officers were suddenly surprised when the radar gun began reading 300 miles per hour. The officer attempted to reset the radar gun, but it would not reset and then turned off.

Just then a deafening roar over the treetops revealed that the radar had in fact locked on to a USMC F/A-18 Hornet which was engaged in a low flying exercise near the location.

Back at the CHP Headquarters the Patrol Captain fired off a complaint to the USMC Base Commander. The reply came back in true USMC style:


Posted by: Ted at 09:31 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 11, 2008

Bulk Trash Pickup

One of our "goals" we decided this past winter was to simplify and get rid of the vast amounts of crap we've accumulated over the years. To this end I've gone through about a quarter of the basement, hauling up various crates o' stuff for Liz to go through and decide whether or not it can be tossed. We've given the garbage guys a real workout some weeks.

Tomorrow is bulk trash pickup day. Instead of loading big crap into the truck and hauling it to the dump, they come to us. All you need to do is to haul it to the curb and it's gone. I spent a couple of hours going through the backyard, being ruthless about what was to be kept. When my son got home from work, we hauled it all out front, including an old couch. That wreck of a piece of furniture should've gone out long ago, but I didn't want to leave it out in the weather all winter. Tomorrow, finally, it's buh-bye.

The weather is gorgeous right now, so I started the front yardwork. I'll finish that up tomorrow morning, and lay out the plan for the new front flower bed. Right now, it's a simple rectangle running along the front picket fence, lined with brick. What I want to do is sweep a curve out to run about halfway up the side fence. We'd have about 1/4 less grass but a much larger area for flowers. I've got the bricks already, so it's a matter of getting the mortar, doing some digging and getting things planted. It won't happen tomorrow but I can at least lay it out and see what it'll look like in reality and not just in my head.

Last year's work on the side "perennial" flower bed is looking good too. Things are coming up green and fast, and it looks like even the couple of annuals we had planted as filler have re-seeded themselves.

One funny thing is that we only had two daffodils come up this spring. I know for a fact that we should have seen forty or more, but instead there are only two, and they're scrawny little things that didn't even bud. I finally remembered that I'd dug up all the bulbs last year and was supposed to replant, but forgot. Not that it mattered, because I couldn't find the damn things. I was certain that I'd bagged them up into a brown paper bag and tossed them in the coolness under the basement steps, because that's what you do. You're also supposed to toss them in the freezer for a week before planting to simulate winter, but damned if I could find them again.

I now recall that I had thrown all the bulbs into an enormous planter last summer, covered them with dirt to protect them and dragged it into the backyard. Now, in the middle of my trashy looking backyard, there's a gorgeous display of daffodils just bursting out of this planter. Hopefully this fall I'll remember to put them back out front where they belong.

Tomorrow evening it's minor league baseball time! Our first game of the season, and I'm looking forward to the fireworks show afterwards.

Life is good if you can appreciate the little things. Enjoy your weekend!

Posted by: Ted at 08:09 PM | category: Square Pegs
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April 10, 2008

Movie Reviews: A Pair with Joel Moore

Joel David Moore does not look like your conventional movie star. Tall, lanky, and kinda geeky, I inadvertently wound up with a double-feature of his movies thanks to Netflix. I'll start with the weaker of the two.

Hatchet - This movie bills itself as "Old School American Horror". More correctly, this is a flick that presents nothing new or original. I'm not saying that it's a bad movie, because it's well made, well acted, and there's plenty of blood, gore and gruesomely realistic special effects. If you're a fan of slashers, you'll certainly enjoy this one. You'll also be happy to hear that they've left it wide open to make Victor Crowley the next Michael Myers (Halloween), Jason Vorhees (Friday the 13th) and Freddie Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street).

Spiral - This is a nifty little thriller. Here, Joel Moore plays Mason, a young man and aspiring artist who can barely function in society. He manages, thanks to near-OCD routine and frequent help from his only friend, who also happens to be his boss. He meets a girl and she begins to draw him out of his shell until it becomes clear that his personal quirks run far deeper and darker than anyone suspected. Chock full o' suspense and dread, this is well worth a rental.

Posted by: Ted at 01:30 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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Feeling Poorly

I've been fighting some sort of stomach bug since last Sunday. I called in Monday but thanks to a diet of turkey, crackers and olives (nice and bland) I was able to go to work Tuesday and Wednesday. Last night I figured it was safe to eat real food again, and besides, I wanted something hot.

Bad move, in retrospect.

Since I was up last night (translation: most of the night), I watched some movies.

Reviews a-coming.

Posted by: Ted at 09:00 AM | category: Square Pegs
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I Want Some

8.5" by 11" sheets of duct tape.

Thanks to the Rocket Dungeon for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 08:21 AM | category: Links
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April 07, 2008

Quote of the Day, Dahhhlink!

From Queen of Outer Space (195 :

Cruze: Professor, what do you make of all this? There's nothing but women!

Professor: Perhaps this is a civilization that exists without sex.

Turner: You call that civilization?

Professor: Frankly, no.

Posted by: Ted at 02:45 PM | category: Cult Flicks
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Knowing how to tie the right knot for a given application is important. Learning to tie a knot from a book can be frustrating as all git out.

Try this instead.

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for the pointer.

Psst. They show how to tie neckties too.

Posted by: Ted at 09:28 AM | category: Links
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1-3 Is Only Good In Baseball

Well, our efforts to find Ozzie a girlfriend have ended in failure. Again. You may recall that our first attempt was with a beautiful doe named Butterscotch. She was a bit too aggressive for Oz and they wound up fighting pretty much right off the bat. On the plus side, after we took Butterscotch back to the rescue she has since been adopted out. She was a wonderful and affectionate girl, just not a good match for our little basket-case named Ozzie.

Now, we have another little sweetie named Midnight Louise, Midnight for short. Not nearly as aggressive as Butterscotch, but she definitely has her limits. Several of our rabbits have nipped me as a warning, just letting me feel their teeth (nipping during treat time is another matter, that's just getting overexcited and mistaking a fingertip for another piece of papaya). Midnight is the first rabbit we've had to actually bite and leave a mark - a tiny little paper cut-like slice on the meaty part of my palm at the base of the thumb. I thought it *was* an old paper cut, until it started bleeding a little. It was just the once, and as we got used to each other her little warning displays toned down considerably.

But a few days ago her and Ozzie got into it. Fur was flying, but no blood was shed (which happens surprisingly often between "cute little bunnies"). Liz got them separated, but it was too late. I think I've said it before, that bunnies hold grudges, and these two won't tolerate the other for the foreseeable future.

So Midnight goes back to the rescue. She'll be fine, because she's a dream to take care of, and the *only* thing wrong with her is her inability to deal with Ozzie. Since the vast majority of rabbit-keeping homes in the world don't have Ozzie living in them, she'll make someone (else) very happy.

I think we're done trying. There's another option at the rescue, but we only have room for two rabbit cages, so the ladies have been staying in Ozzie's cage while he lives in a pen on the floor in Liz's sewing room. Liz wants her space back, so the pen goes away and Oz goes back into his cage. As odd as it sounds, Ozzie has become more affectionate towards the people (and dog) since we've been trying to pair him up. This whole exercise originally started because he was acting lonely, but it seems that he's decided that he prefers his humans to another rabbit.

Posted by: Ted at 08:02 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 06, 2008

So what's up?

Remember I talked about the new job at work? Oh yeah, it's been kicking my butt. Lately, life has been work and working around the house, with no time left for much of anything else. I've even taken a hiatus over at Wildside Cinema as a movie reviewer.

I'm playing with ideas to change the look here at Rocket Jones again, kind of as a way to see if that re-energizes me. I haven't had a lot to talk about lately, and most everything I thought worth posting was a link to someone else's funny post.

I'm here, and I expect things will be slightly less dead what with the hockey playoffs, the return of rocket weather, and some truly twisted movies that I've watched lately.

So check back once in a while, and I might surprise you by rearranging a few electrons in the meantime.

Posted by: Ted at 08:59 AM | category: About Ted
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Charleton Heston, RIP

The man is held in high esteem 'round here. Thanks for everything you shared with us.

Posted by: Ted at 08:43 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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