September 30, 2003

Two thoughts about baseball

The Giants will take it all this year. If you don't agree, too damn bad.

The Orioles fired manager Mike Hargrove today after four losing seasons and are going to talk to Hall of Famer Eddie Murray about taking the job. I'd love to see Murray as manager, but it's not going to help. The Orioles will continue to suck as long as Peter Angelos is the owner.

Posted by: Ted at 10:00 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Isn't this obvious?

Fairfax county Virginia is having some problems. There's some super-peeping tom running around that the police can't catch, and tonight on the news there was a report about a perv who hangs around the bus stops in the early morning and exposes himself to high-school girls.

We have a national registry for this kind of crap. We're not using it to it's full potential.

Peeping Tom, meet Joe Exposure. Problem solved.

Posted by: Ted at 06:59 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Busy, busy, busy

The first of the month is always the busiest day for me, and when it happens on a wednesday it just doubles the workload. Guess what tomorrow is? I also picked up a new end-of-the-month task, and I have to go into D.C. tomorrow for half a day, so things are going to be hectic in real time.

(Translation: if blogging sucks, blame anything and everything else.)

By the way, thank you for the long list of words for the next Google Junket. I really don't like to whine like that, but it works for Bill, so I figured I'd give it a try. Bill's not home right now, anyone care to take bets that's he lying in a gutter drunk with Collins?

Some out-of-the-way stuff for your reading pleasure:

King of Fools won this weeks New Blog Showcase. Excellent article.

Backstage writes about kitties and theater (theatre for you uppity types), which pleases Jennifer and Mookie.

Mookie also claims that my (alleged) jokes just come across as snotty. True? I don't think I have the charm to pull that off like Bill.

Casual Brain Rotting, courtesy of Random Nuclear Strikes.

Hold The Mayo - the truth served plain. Yum.

(aside: If Laughing Wolf ever invites you over for dinner, be fashionably late. He likes flava fava beans. [doh!])

Ladies and Gentlemen, I present to you, The Ministry of Minor Perfidy. Where "evil isn't just our hobby, it's our job."

Enjoy your roasted stomach, infidel. Or maybe the pain is from laughing hysterically because Allah is in the house.

I'm a gardener. Much like Samwise to Frodo, I am to, uh... someone else. Ok, maybe not. But the point I'm trying to get to here (the looooong way around), is to go visit Starhawk. He posts beautiful pictures of cool growing things in his garden. He's also a WiFi wizard. What's WiFi?

Victor thanks everyone for remembering his birthday. He's made mention (repeatedly) that he's younger than I am, yet he can't remember telling anyone when his birthday was. Victor, when you're asking the doctor about Rogaine and Viagra, better check into the memory pills too.

Hmmm... that was testy, eh John?

Posted by: Ted at 02:20 PM | category: Links
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Commercial break

LeeAnn talks about a couple of commercials she's seen on TV, and it reminded me of my recent favorite.

The guy standing on the beach, putting notes in beer bottles and tossing them into the ocean. If you watch sports, you've probably seen it. Cracks me up every time.

"Nice to meet'cha!"

Posted by: Ted at 10:02 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Homeless, literally

Last night on the evening news, I watched a story about a homeless guy. It was presented as one of those "it could happen to you" scenarios where the successful professional is reduced to poverty. Implied was the fact that it was our economy at the root of his troubles.

Well, not quite. As the tale was told, it became apparent that someone was spinning this story as hard as they could. I'm going to tell you the story, without the editing and innuendo and camera work designed to elicit emotional response.

This homeless guy is a freelance writer. He's an older man, and a few years ago his business started to fall off. His solution at the time was to give up his apartment in Los Angeles (I want to say Laguna Beach, but I'm not positive), and spend the summer living at local camp grounds. His truck is full of camping equipment.

He's still not getting the amount of work he used to, so he's still living out of his truck. He has a cell phone. He uses public library computers to do his writing. He's not hungry, in fact in one shot they show a couple of cardboard boxes full of food in his truck. We're told that we should feel sorry for him because he doesn't have health care insurance, and that his ex-wife and kids don't want to see him because they're embarrassed about him being homeless.

This bugs me in so many ways. First of all, this man gave up his home voluntarily, he made a conscious decision to move out to reduce expenses. Second, he hasn't tried to get another job (as far as the story was told), he's just plugging away at the same job he had. Granted, the job market isn't the best, but an experienced writer can get work. While I admire his determination to work on his terms, don't paint him as some kind of victim when he doesn't succeed. Third, a lot of people don't have health care. I'm a lot more sympathetic to children or folks who were put out of work by factory closings than I am by him. How much does that cell phone cost every month? Add that to whatever he'd earn working part time at McDonalds and see if maybe that just wouldn't cover it, if it's that important to him. I don't think it is, I think we were supposed to think "universal health care would be a good thing" instead.

This guy isn't tragic. He's not a victim. He's made choices with consequences. Nothing was shown that would keep him from making changes in his life if he wanted to. We used to admire people like him because of their integrity, their refusal to change to meet society's standards. But in today's world, since he doesn't fit the "norm" as defined by whoever crafted this story, he's held up as an example of failure.

I intentionally used the word "crafted" about this story, because it was obviously slanted to lead viewers towards certain conclusions. I just hope it bothered more people than just me when they watched it.

Posted by: Ted at 07:47 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 29, 2003

Rocket Jones' Great Random Google Junket

I got three words to work with. Three. Lousy. Words. You can do better than that. I mean, how hard is it to open the comments and type in a word. Any word.

Victor, Susie, and Pixy Misa are cool. They get links, you don't. Until you gimme a word.

Victor: Calendar.
Susie: Redundant.
Pixy Misa: Obstreperpous.

calendar + redundant
A live journal blog. Not the most exciting start.

Calendar + obstreperous
Legal stuff. A calendar of events at a seminar or something. Among the things you can learn are how to "Deal with obstreperous opposing counselÂ…". I watched Jaws the other night, and I think the correct method is to stuff a compressed air tank down his throat and start shooting with a rifle.

obstreperous + redundant
A list of unusual words beginning with the letter ‘O’. Now this is kinda cool if you like words. I do.

Wasn't that fun and exciting and stunted and short and abrupt? Yeah, I thought so too, so I threw in a couple more just for fun.

ambient + penumbra
"As is readily apparent, smooth penumbras require high oversampling."
Sounds like the Vulcan edition of the Joy of Sex.

Michigan voter information.

And just to prove that I'm not terminally bitter, here's one I found just because.

cheese + pizazz

"A premium quality no-fat cheese, Pizazz™ is less than one percent fat and cholesterol free while providing an excellent source of calcium and protein. This fat free pasteurized process cheese product is specially manufactured using a proprietary process that was developed by Century Foods. The flavor, aroma and texture is retained resulting in a healthier fat-free, cholesterol-free cheese that melts, stretches and tastes like full fat cheese. The perfect answer for today’s healthy diet aware cheese consumer.

Pizazz has a firm and uniform body that minimizes fines when shredded and reduces loss for precuts. Packaged in 20 pound exact weight box with liner for pre-cutters and shredders or coated box that improves rectangular shape and minimizes trim loss, shredded or diced in bag in box."

Comments demanded.

Posted by: Ted at 11:37 AM | category: Google Junket
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Xtreme Stoopid

Since when did teetering on the brink of Darwin Award immortality qualify as sport?

The other day I saw a picture in the paper in which a horse was jumping over a barracade. It was a nice photo, a head-on view that captured the grace and power of the horse as he completed his jump. Completely ruining the majesty of the picture was the idiot on roller blades behind the horse, hanging on to a towrope, midway through the same jump.


IÂ’ve seen two events that epitomize the stupidity. I canÂ’t even bring myself to call them sport. Yes, they both require skill and physical effort and possibly even talent, but so does rock climbing.

One event consists of two guys jumping out of an airplane. During the freefall period, one guy does all kinds of acrobatics with a boogie board strapped to his feet. HeÂ’s literally surfing the sky. The second member of the team has a video camera strapped to his head, and his job is to film the first guy. Their score is the combined totals of not only the acrobatics, but the quality of the camera work. How well in-frame did he stay? Interesting angles?

Calling this a sport is stretching it. To be truly extreme, forget the parachutes and let’s see how dedicated you are to your ‘sport’.

The second ‘sport’ is a classic example of piling on. Add complexity beyond all reason and common sense, for no reason other than to be more extreme. The first time I saw this event, they led in with a montage of guys on motorcycles, doing tricks and leg kicks and stuff while in mid-air after jumping off a ramp. Ok, this is a step up from Evel Knievel, whose daredevil stuff I don’t consider a sport either.

But weÂ’re piling on, remember? This event is a winter sport. These fools are screaming down this chute on a motorcycle with spiked tires and up a ramp covered with ice! The landing area is ice too. And the simple leg kicks and such are so last year. These guys are pulling out all the stops and doing back flips on their motorcycles, and one dude brought the crowd to their feet by getting off his bike in mid-air and letting go of the handlebars. This guy actually flew alongside his bike for a couple of seconds before getting back on in time to land. On ice.

I mentioned talent. Apparently a complete lack of common sense qualifies.

In the last year, a major extreme skateboarder – supposedly a professional – died of massive injuries when he fell multiple stories from a hotel fire escape. He was riding the handrails down on his board.

Two world-class mountaineers died when they decided to be the first to ski down a mountain from the summit. The peak was mostly ice, and the last time one was seen he was on his back, sliding out of control. The other managed to accidentally snag the rope of a group of ascending climbers, and almost killed most of them as well as himself.

Even television commercials are appearing that make fun of the excesses of extreme sports. This after a long run of commercials showing us how cool it was to be extreme. I’m sick of the word ‘extreme’.

I'm looking for investors for my new NASCAR towed-luge league. Any adrenalin junkies out there? This could be the next big thing.

Update: Forget luge, check out Extreme Ironing, the "latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt."

Posted by: Ted at 10:42 AM | category: Square Pegs
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September 28, 2003

Losing a limb

I was the first one home friday, so I went out to clean up the backyard. I had just finished raking leaves when Mookie got home from school, so I had her throw something into the oven for dinner. Meanwhile I was checking out the tomato plants. It's been a real disappointing year for tomatoes, but we've got several little ones started. This late into the season, what these guys need is plenty of sunlight. One thing our backyard doesn't have is plenty of sunlight.

I'd been putting it off, but I was on a roll so I decided to to take down a big limb in the maple tree to open up the yard to late afternoon light. There are only two problems. First, this limb was waaaay up there, and second, it hung over the fence into the neighbors yard. I could care less about the neighbors yard, but I did not want to drop this massive limb on the fence that I paid for.

Mookie was in her room which looks out over the back yard, so I moved under her window to holler up and noticed a humongous spider seemingly hanging in mid-air right outside her window. Perfect. [evil grin]

Rachael poked her head out the window when I yelled and I asked her to come down and give me a hand. As an afterthought I told her to look to her left and she almost decapitated herself pulling her head back inside. Down below I'm laughing like a madman.

Together we moved the bench swing out from underneath the limb. I pulled out my 'high limb cutter'. What this is is a chainsaw blade strung between two long pieces of rope. You toss the rope over the limb, use the ropes to position the blade to cut, and then pull back and forth on the ropes to saw through the limb. Simple and effective.

Wonder of wonders, I tossed the rope over the correct limb on the very first try. Mookie is impressed. Now I did have a plan in mind, I'm hoping to saw through the limb about 4 feet out from the trunk, and let it splinter off so that it pivots down and misses the fence when it falls. Later I can saw the rest of the limb off cleanly close to the trunk.

Worked like a champ. Sorta. The limb began to break, swung down and missed the fence, but it didn't break completely free. Next I grabbed my pole saw (one of the neatest tools ever invented by man) and started hacking smaller branches off of the limb. Once I've cleared a path for the ropes again (which are still around the limb), I moved into a better position for leverage - and out from underneath - and started to saw away again. In moments the limb fell.

Now up to this point, everything went as planned, which gave me a false sense of competence.

Next comes the classic 'uh oh' moment. The limb dropped vertically, hit the ground and started to fall directly towards me. I'm up against the fence, in between the compost bin and a pile of bricks, so there's nowhere for me to go. In the blink of an eye, the splintered end of the limb crashed to the ground in front of me. How close was it? Lets just say that I'm glad I wasn't aroused. Now it's Mookie's turn to laugh hysterically, and she claims it's cosmic payback for the Paooki prank.

Once my heart started again, we cut up the limb into manageable pieces and finished cleaning up. I don't even like tomatoes.

Posted by: Ted at 07:39 PM | category: Boring Stories
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Biography - Robert Goddard

I've been collecting links and making notes for an upcoming biography of Robert Goddard, the Father of American Rocketry.

Instead, you should read this, because Chris Winter has already done a magnificent job telling the story of this fascinating man and his accomplishments.

Thanks to Spacecraft for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 06:34 PM | category: Space Program
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Someone's in the kitchen with Dinahhhhhh!

I posted this recipe back when I first started on blog*spot, and it never migrated to the new digs. Oldest daughter called yesterday and mentioned that she misses it, so I'm reposting it for her. Now that we're moving towards cooler weather, my thoughts turn to homemade soup. This is one of our favorites.

Chicken Enchilada Soup

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb chicken breast fillets (about 3)
1 clove garlic, pressed
½ cup diced onion
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup Masa Harina (corn flour)
1 cup enchilada sauce
16 oz Velveeta
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 cups water

1. Add oil to large pot on medium heat. Add chicken breasts and brown 4-5 minutes per side. Set chicken aside.
2. Add onions and saute until theystart to become translucent (~2 minutes). Add garlic and cook another minute. Add chicken broth.
3. Combine Masa Harina with 2 cups water and whisk. Add to pot.
4. Add remaining water, enchilada sauce, cheese and spices. Bring to a boil.
5. Shred chicken to bite sized pieces and add to pot. Reduce heat, simmer 30-40 minutes until thick.

Top with shredded cheese, crumbled tortilla chips, sour cream, scallions, and/or pico de gallo.

I don't shred the chicken, I cut it up into bite-sized pieces before cooking it.
You'll find Masa Harina in the ethnic food aisle of the grocery store.
A box of Swansons Chicken Stock = 4 cups.
You can use canned enchilada sauce, but it's noticably better if you make your own. Easy to do too.

Enchilada Sauce

1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp minced onion
½ tsp dried oregano
2½ tsp chili powder
½ tsp dried basil
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried parsley
¼ cup salsa
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1½ cup water

Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.
Add garlic and sauté for a minute.
Add everything but the water and mix well.
Add the water, bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low and simmer 15-20 minutes.

You can use the leftover sauce as a marinade. Add the juice of one lime or a splash of vinegar for tang.

Posted by: Ted at 05:02 PM | category: Recipes
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Happy Birthday Victor

Have a great one!

Posted by: Ted at 01:44 AM | category: Munuvian Daily Tattler
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September 27, 2003

Nigeria orbits first satellite

Nigeria, Great Britain, Turkey, and South Korea all shared a ride with two Russian military satellites. Photo here.

Posted by: Ted at 07:54 PM | category: Space Program
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Surreal quote of the day

From this story about deporting illegal aliens caught on the U.S. side of the border with Mexico.

The Mexican government has protested the U.S. practice of handcuffing migrants with a chain that wraps around their waists during the airplane ride.

"If they have to deport us, they shouldn't treat us like criminals," said Martin Romero, 38, a field worker from Durango. "It's humiliating. We're just working people."

No, you're breaking the law. That makes you a criminal. And what is this 'migrants' crap? More political correctness, because we wouldn't want to hurt the criminals feelings now, would we.

While one of the biggest complaints is the dislocation caused by the long-distance deportations, the Mexican government rejected a U.S. offer to deport undocumented migrants back to their hometowns, at the U.S. government's expense.

Mexican Assistant Foreign Secretary Enrique Berruga said a previous program that deported migrants home in the mid-1990s was abandoned because Mexicans objected to being flown home.

Probably because if we just dump them back across the border then they can hook up with the next smuggler and try again. And keep trying until they make it successfully.

Posted by: Ted at 07:50 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Space Technology blogs

Besides my little niche fanatasism about space, there are some fine people out there writing about space, science, and the technology thereof. They're also all smarter than me, which is why I try to compensate by using words like 'thereof' (twice now). They write about a variety of other topics too, so check them out and tell them Ted says hey.

Rocket Man writes from an insiders point of view, because he works for the aerospace industry. Geez, that sounds dull. He's not, I just need writing help.

Spacecraft is a new one to me. He sent a nice email of introduction and put a mention of Rocket Jones on his blog, which sent a nice bit of traffic my way. For everyone who followed the link from his site, you should come back here each and every day, because I'm going to talk him into having a test at the end of the semester, just about me. Thereof.

Rocket Forge. Good stuff.

Samizdata. I just found out about these guys. So far, so very good.

Terrestrial Musings has been on my links roster for awhile now. If you haven't already, you should.

Winds of Change posts some excellent stuff about the space program on occasion. Same deal people. The link has been there, take advantage!

Laughing Wolf. NASA. Cooking. A man after my own heart. Wait, that just sounds paranoid, doesn't it?

USS Clueless. Stephen Den Beste gets into a good meaty science post once in a while. Fun to read. I probably misspelled his name, which is why I'm not prominently displayed on his blogroll. That and his damnably ethical behavior, which gets in the way of a good blackmail scheme.

Now Jeff at doesn't write about space, but his blog name Alphecca is named after a star he found on the star chart hanging next to his desk. Good enough for me.

Everyone needs a little down time when you can relax and play and get silly. But you also need to exercise the mind on occasion, to work that brain and the thought processes by chewing through something not thoroughly familiar. Collectively, these guys are 'brain taffy'. Yes, that was another blatant attempt at Google hits.

Brain Taffy.

Posted by: Ted at 10:20 AM | category: Space Program
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September 26, 2003

New Lunar Mission

The European Space Agency is ready to launch it's first ever lunar mission this weekend. Carried aloft by an Ariane 5 rocket, the payload will be put into orbit around the moon, where it will map the surface.

The interesting thing about this probe is the use of a low-thrust ion engine. NASA's Deep Space 1 probe was the first to use ion propulsion.

Posted by: Ted at 10:51 PM | category: Space Program
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Size doesn't matter

Nic was surprised by the description of the Air Munuviana rocket. She was thinking model rocket, like you might find in a hobby shop, toy store or Wal-Mart. High power rocketry works on the same principles, it's just bigger. Here's a picture I posted before of one of our larger rockets.

Posted by: Ted at 09:40 PM | category: Rocketry
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Robert Palmer

Dead of a heart attack at age 54. This sucks.

Posted by: Ted at 09:45 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Rocketing Around the Blogosphere

Short and sweet, you should check the following out:

Shooters Carnival, firearm information without the politics.

Sports Blog. The name says it all.

Despite what the media is telling us, things are going pretty good in Iraq. There's a new effort being put together on the internet called Frontline Voices, which will let the troops actually there tell their stories. Watch for the link, I'll announce it when it officially kicks off.

Chief Wiggles is in Iraq, and an encounter he had with a young child inspired him to begin a toy drive. Read about it and please, if you can, help out.

Completely changing gears here, LeeAnn tells about what it's like to like on Sesame Diablo Street.

The Flea talks about an upcoming Alien vs. Predator movie. In my humble opinion, that's a much better premise than Freddie vs. Jason, but the one I'm really waiting for is Gumby & Pokey vs. Davey & Goliath.

I saw this exhchange over at Caught in the XFire.
Stevie: Stupid damn plastic ass-bitin' chicken-livered monkey-lipped brainless dickless sack 'o poop computer.
To which Pixy helpfully replied: Hey, that's the same model I've got!

Paul is sharing his wisdom on dating. There's pearls there among the laughs.

At Velociworld, we get the rundown on public washroom habits. Very funny stuff, and no, IÂ’m not shaking his hand. HeÂ’s got a cool story about Goddard too. That always scores points with me.

Publicola is one of the good guys. I love this bit:

Of course it'd be cool if the producers of Cops & similar shows allowed me to just insert commentary over an episode or two for perspective. Instead of people seeing a police officer frisking a guy for everybody's safety that he/she stopped to ask some questions, you'd see the images along with a quick recitation of the 2nd, 4th & 5th amendments followed by an explanation of why the cop just threw some of the highest ideals of the framers out the window because that's what they taught him/her at the acedemy.

But my dream would be to feature the BATF. Then again a cursory glance would probably make people think they were watching a bad juxtaposition of F-Troop, Hogan's Heroes & 1984.

How can you not love this guy?

Those who donÂ’t learn history are doomed to be California Republicans.

An emergency 911 call can be incredibly stressful. Or stupid, depending on who's making the call.

I keep telling you to go over to Random Nuclear Strikes. Do you listen to me? Now they've got froot-loop trolls entertaining them.

Stupidity of television programming? Surely you jest.

Kate warns of the dangers of rampant random altruism. Hey, it was faith-based. Does that make a difference?

She also offers up a site that will make you burn in hell if you visit. Really, don't go there. If you do, I'll save you a seat.

I saved the coolest for last. Megan points the way to a virtual apartment building, where you can design and add your own place. No excuses now for the virtually homeless, or something like that.

Posted by: Ted at 08:09 AM | category: Links
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September 25, 2003

Unconventional thinking

Just for fun, I thought I'd share some of the more unusual rocket designs I've come up with. Each of these rockets has made successful flights. I just don't like to fly boring rockets.

First up is a tube-finned rocket, the Bad Medicine. Like the description says, the fins are lengths of tubing, which makes for a tough and very stable rocket. It adds more weight than you'd have with regular fins, so they're not as popular as standard designs. I prefer the cool factor though.

The Vampyre is one of the first rockets I ever designed from scratch. This one is a ring-fin. I'm still flying this little rocket, and she amazes people with the sheer speed and altitude she gets.

Still playing with the concept of asymetrical fins, I next designed the Starbow. This design flies acceptably, but it's not really a great flyer. The pictures suck too, this is pre-digital camera days.

Undoubtably the oddest design I've ever done, the Cinderella doesn't look anything like what most people think of as a rocket. She does, however, look like something you'd see in Earth orbit in a Chesley Bonestell painting. The picture shows the prototype, which worked so well I literally flew it to pieces (over 30 flights). She's now hanging from my workshop ceiling. A second model was built and finished with silver paint, but it didn't fly nearly as well. I've also partially constructed an upscaled version to fly on bigger motors.

Finally, the Barenaked Lady was a project that Rachael and I did together. Extremely lightweight despite six fins and her hefty size, she rocks on mid-power motors.

I just realized I don't have pictures posted of another odd-roc we did, named Invader Zim's Song of Doom. She used a funnel for drag stability instead of fins, and the nosecone was a green plastic easter egg with silver alien eyes made from duct tape. This one had problems from the outset. Not with the going up part, but with the coming down part. As in parachutes not wanting to work correctly. She finally destroyed herself by becoming a lawn dart, and we have the video tape to cringe over anytime we want to watch it. Embarrassing.

Posted by: Ted at 09:31 PM | category: Rocketry
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Poetic Justice

U.S. District Judge Lee R. West's telephone has not stopped ringing since he sided with telemarketers seeking to block a popular national do-not-call list.

"They are just calling to tie up our lines," said Rick Wade, operations manager at the district clerk's office. "They just keep calling to harass us, like the telemarketers harass them, I guess."

Ya think?

Posted by: Ted at 08:09 PM | category: Square Pegs
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