April 23, 2005

Carnival of the Recipes

Up at Be's place. She's a gal after my own heart, leading off with desserts.

Mmmmmm, dessert.

Posted by: Ted at 06:18 PM | category: Recipes
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Good writing is

I've told you about the McCovey Chronicles before, and I'm telling you again. Grant can flat out write, and he's funny as hell too.

Here's a recent gem, about something he saw at the San Fransisco Giants site:

The Budweiser Clydesdale horses will be on display near SBC Park on Friday (3-10 p.m. PT) and Saturday (11 a.m to 6 p.m. PT) in parking lot A across from the Lefty O'Doul bridge.

And his response:

The horses are a constant reminder that Budweiser tastes like something you'd milk from a horse.

He also links to blogs from many other teams, so if you don't know of one for yours, chances are he's the guy to see.

Fer instance, who knew about the Orioles Warehouse?

Posted by: Ted at 08:42 AM | category: Links
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Rocketry - Clusters

Matt asked in my comments section for help on clustering model rocket motors. An excellent topic! This is a beginner's guide at best. It's enough to help you be successful, I don't claim it's definitive.

What is Clustering?
Clustering is when a rocket has more than one motor that ingnites simultaneously. A perfect real-life example is the Saturn V rocket that took men to the moon. The first stage had five engines that lit all at once at lift off, and the second stage had five more smaller motors that fired all at once when the first stage dropped away (that's a good example of a staged rocket too). A variation on the theme is when the main motor(s) lift the rocket and then additional motors ignite in the same stage. These are called "airstarts" and are more complicated and difficult because on-board electronics must be used for the ignition system and the timing has to be correct. Good examples of that concept are today's Delta family of rockets and the ESA's Ariane. In fact, most current heavy lifters use combinations of airstarted boosters to increase their lift capacity and to tailor the thrust profile over the boost phase.

Why do Clusters?
In the early days of model rocketry, motor classes were very limited and the only way to get more power was to cluster available motors. Nowadays the selection of motors is excellent so it's less of a neccessity. That's not to say there aren't still good reasons for designing cluster rockets today. Many TARC rocket contest teams have gone with clustered motors because the smaller Estes motors are cheaper, more reliably ignited and more readily available. Personally, I love clusters because they're cool.

Design Considerations
On the model rocket level, the main consideration must be "what if all the engines don't light?" I've made test flights of my cluster rockets where I intentionally didn't ignite all the motors, to check the performance even when underpowered. You should be trying for a rocket that can still fly safely on half power. It might not be a great flight, but safety is always first.

Another consequence of not lighting all motors is unbalanced thrust. If two motors are firing and the third isn't, then the rocket has to work harder to stay stable because the thrust is trying to tip the rocket over into an arc.

There are a couple things you can do to minimize this. First, you can put your motors close to the main axis of the rocket. If all the engines are tucked in right next to each other then the imbalance is minimized. Conversely, if your motors are in outboard mounts on the fin tips, well, a motor that doesn't ignite is a much bigger problem. I don't recommend fin-tip motors. Ever.

Another way to keep stability is to aim the motors at the rocket's center of gravity. Tilt each motor mount in slightly (or not so slightly - this is an extreme example that works wonderfully), and once again all the motors can easily compensate for the one(s) that didn't ignite. Check out that Delta link above and notice that the booster engine bells are slanted out to achieve the same effect. Obviously, you'll need to have a good idea ahead of time about the design and how it'll balance out. I use an older version of Apogee Components Rocsim to design complex clusters.

One other way is to induce spin in your rocket. Spin increases stability (but increases drag), and if the rocket spins on the way up then the unbalanced thrust is evenly distributed all the way around. What happens is that you wind up with a wacky corkscrew or the rocket looks like it's wagging it's tail end on the way up. Some rocket designs do this on purpose. It's fun to watch.

Igniting Clusters
The key to reliable ignition of multiple motors is to be meticulous.

The battery of your launch controller must be well charged, don't try to ignite a cluster at the end of the day with your worn down AA's. Invest in a small sealed cell motorcycle or lawn tractor battery. They're cheap and deliver plenty of power when you need it. Rechargable batteries used in cordless power tools or RC vehicles work great if you connect them in series. Better yet, find a local club and use their launch setup, it'll almost certainly be good enough to fire clusters all day long.

For model rocket engines, use the Estes igniters. Quest tigertails are too finicky to deal with. You can make them work, but to me it's not worth the extra hassle. Pick through your igniters and select the ones with a good blob of pyrogen on the end. You want the igniters to go instantly when you press the button.

Also, check inside the nozzles of each engine. You should see black up inside. If you see light gray, then there's excess clay from the nozzle blocking the propellant, and it won't matter how good your igniter is, it's not going to help. If you need to, you can gently scrape the inside clean with the end of a straightened paper clip.

All right, your battery is charged up, your motors are ready to go and you've got a handful of blobby little igniters.

Wiring Clusters
Here's where the 'meticulous' bit comes in again. Once you've got the cluster hooked up to the ignition system, take a minute to carefully inspect everything. Make sure igniter wires aren't touching except where they're supposed to. Make sure the clips are hooked up securely and not touching the blast deflector, the launch rod, or other exposed metal. You need everything to be absolutely perfect. It's not hard, just fiddly.

Start by putting the igniters into each motor and inserting the ingniter plug. If you want, you can carefully remove the paper tape that Estes puts on their igniters. I just fold the ends out of the way.

cluster wiring

Click on the image for a bigger picture.

For two-motor clusters (assuming that they're right next to each other), all you need to do is twist one leg of each igniter together. You'll end up with two 'tails' consisting of the two igniter leads, which you hook up to the launch controller clips. Just like in the upper left part of the diagram.

For three and four engine clusters (or more complex motor arrangements), you're going to need a set of clip whips. These are easy to make, see below.

Notice in the diagram for three motor clusters that one leg from each of the three igniters are twisted together in the middle. Then I take two of the remaining leads and twist them together. One ignition clip goes on the set of three twisted together and the other clip is attached to a clip whip. The other, dual ends of the clip whip are connected to the twisted pair and the single lead, respectively.

Four motor clusters in a square pattern are simple. Twist the two leads together from each corner so that each igniter is connected to the ones on either side. This time you'll use two clip whips to connect oppsosite corners together, and then the igniter clips from the launch controller attach to the clip whips. It sounds more complicated than it really is, check out the diagram.

bus bar ignition

Another alternative is to use a "bus bar" setup. With this method, you take a length of heavy solid copper wire and wrap a leg from each igniter around it. If needed, a second bar is used for the other side of each igniter. Finally you hook the bus bars up to the launch controller ignition clips.

There's no need for the bus bars to be straight either. I've seen some people use a three-quarter circle of wire to eliminate the need for a clip whip when doing three-motor clusters.

Making a clip whip

A clip whip is just a way to deliver electrical current to more than one place at once. No matter what kind you make, one end will always have a single clip that hooks up to the ignition clip, and the other end will have two or more clips.

Making a pair of three-whips will cover 99% of your needs. You'll need eight mini-clips (available at Radio Shack) or small alligator clips and three or four feet of solid core copper wire - none of that stranded wire for this.

Cut the wire into lengths between 6"-8" long, then strip the ends. Solder clips onto one end of each wire (you can get by without soldering, but it's not nearly as reliable. If you don't know how, find a friend who can, it's worth the trouble.)

Here's the magic part. Take four wires and twist their ends together, then solder to make a solid connection. Ok, so that's not so magical, but that's really all it is! You can use a wire nut if you want, and/or cover the connection with electrical tape. I lay one wire opposite the other three so that it's obvious which connection is which, but it doesn't really matter. I also use different color wires for the three leads, to help me keep my cluster wiring straight.

So there ya go. That's most everything I know about clustering model rocket motors. There are a few things I've left out, but these are the basics, and if you're careful there's no reason you can't have a near 100% success rate with cluster ignition. Using these exact same methods, I've only had two motors not ignite in the last seven or eight years, and even then the flights were safe.

Posted by: Ted at 05:23 AM | category: Rocketry Resources
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Daniel's "Five Things" Meme

Five things that people are wild about that I just don't get.

1. Washington Redskins - I never really disliked the Redskins until I moved into the area. Every year it's the same thing, instead of eternal optimism like Chicago Cubs fans display, the Skins fans are arrogant as hell. Right up until the moment they admit to themselves that they suck. Again.

2. Drinking - My parents were social drinkers, and I grew up knowing what beer and various liquors tasted like. I'm not anti-drinking, but I seldom think to myself, "a scotch would taste good right about now". We've always got alcohol in the house, but some of it's pretty damn old. If we go out somewhere I'll occasionally get a beer with dinner, but it's not something I do very often for some unknown reason.

3. TV - I watch very little, mostly hockey and football. If that's not on, I'll switch over to a music channel (Sirius, the satellite radio stations) and leave it on in the background. Very occasionally I'll catch an ad for something on the History Channel that I'd like to see, and sometimes I'll even remember and make a point of watching it. Other than that, eh.

4. SUV's - There are some who legitimately require 4-wheel drive and off-road capability. Medical personnel in the winter come to mind, or someone who lives way back in the country. But the soccer moms and Joe Commuter have as much need for a Cadillac Escalade as a tank needs a kickstand. They're a fad people, and you're certainly free to drive one. But they don't make you special, they don't allow you to drive as if the roads aren't wet/snowy/icy, and I hope you're going freakin' broke pumping $2.50/gallon gas into it every third day.

5. New Movies - I can't remember the last time I went to a movie theater to see a movie. I rarely hear of a movie that fires my interest enough to even remember it, let alone want to see it. Mostly I'll scan the movies for the week and I'll see something I remember being a megahit some months back, and then I'll set the Tivo to record it. Eventually I'll watch it. Maybe.

Looking back over these five, I really come across as an anti-social bastard. I think that a better explanation is that I'm pretty easy-going, so if there's something I "don't get", it's annoying enough to be a peeve.

Here are Daniel's lists.

Wanna run with this? Go for it and let me know and I'll post a link to yours.

Posted by: Ted at 04:32 AM | category: Links
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April 22, 2005

Today is Earth Day

I had no idea.

I'll dig up a patch of the back meadow after work so I can see the dirt underneath.

Posted by: Ted at 06:13 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Oh great, another post-nuclear mutant nightmare to worry about

After the world blows itself up, it won't be enough to watch out for the mutants roaming the blasted landscape. Scientists have discovered a species of ant that builds group-sized traps that allow them to subdue insects many times larger than themselves.

Giant ants waiting in ambush. Sweet dreams.

Posted by: Ted at 06:05 AM | category: SciTech
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Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Life has been kicking my ass lately. Yeah, I know that's not news. It happens to everyone, but I offer it up as the lame excuse for the light posting on Rocket Jones, both in quantity and quality.

This morning my XHTML final is due. We were given a set of specs and a bunch of content and turned loose to whup it into a site. It's got image maps (those pretty pictures you click in different areas for links), input forms, lists inside lists, tons of text formatting and anything and everything else the instructor could think of to toss in there. Individually, nothing too difficult. Except that we're doing this all from scratch - no Front Page, no Movable Type or Blogger. Every last bit of code is by hand. Believe me, finish a test like this (10+ hours for me so far, mostly at home in the evenings), and you freakin' know XHTML.

Daniel, I haven't forgotten the meme you tossed to me. I just haven't had a chance to give it any thought. Although when I do come up with something, I'll be able to format it beautifully. Heh.

Ooooooooooooklahoma! - Mookie's school musical - opened last night. She said it went well. Liz and I are going tonight.

Everyone else in the family (wife, kids... not the dogs, so not everyone), has had some sort of drama or minor tragedy happen this week (I'm not trivializing the tragedy aspects, it's minor in that nobody died). I'm rather proud as I watch events unfold and see how everyone keeps their cool and just deals with the crap that life dishes up sometimes. Maintaining composure and doing the right thing doesn't mean you're unfeeling, it just means that you can save the tears or hurt or frustration for later, when it won't be so inconvenient to let it out.

So the weekend is upon us. Things to do are already piling up like cop cars in a Blues Brothers movie, and I'll just take things one at a time and do as many as I can until the critical ones are taken care of or I decide that enough is enough and it's time for a nap.

I'll try to do better, but no promises for the immediate future.

Posted by: Ted at 05:55 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 21, 2005


Lock your doors

Posted by: Ted at 05:36 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Turn off your phones

Posted by: Ted at 05:34 AM | category: Square Pegs
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It's time to visit

Posted by: Ted at 05:32 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Rocket Jones

Posted by: Ted at 05:30 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Burma Shave!

Posted by: Ted at 05:28 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 20, 2005

I think I'm a funny guy

There's a short list of people on the 'net that make me green with envy amuse the hell out of me, and Anna is one of them.

Primal Purge is back.

Posted by: Ted at 06:38 PM | category: Links
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How warm was it?

It was so warm inside my freezer that Ted Williams was complaining.

Posted by: Ted at 12:20 PM | category: Square Pegs
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I hate ranch dressing, but you might not

This week's Top Secret Recipe is for Hidden Valley Original Ranch Dressing. It's only up for the week, so if you want it, grab it now.

I thought the background story was kinda neat:

Indeed, ranch dressing was invented at Hidden Valley Ranch near Santa Barbara, California, by a real salad-wranglin' rancher. In the '50s and '60s Steve Henson and his wife, Gayle, shared their 120-acre dude ranch with University of California at Santa Barbara students and other festive partiers for rousing weekend shindigs. The dozens of guests were serve meals of steaks and salads topped with Steve's special blend of herbs, spices, mayonnaise and buttermilk. As word got out about the fabulous dressing more guests were showing up at the ranch and walking home with complimentary take-home jars filled with the stuff. Eventually Steve figured he could make a little cash on the side by packaging the dressing as a dry mix and selling it through the mail. At first he was filling envelopes himself, but within a few months Steve had to hire 12 more people to help with the packaging. Soon Steve had a multi-million dollar business on his hands, from a product that for 10 years he had been giving away for free.

Dude ranch. Cowboy. Steak. Buttermilk. Don't mind me, just settin' out some Google-bait.

Posted by: Ted at 12:13 PM | category: Links
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Baseball Blog Meet

I talked about getting together at a minor league baseball game and got several responses from folks interested in meeting up. Most suggested a Saturday game to make getting around the metro area a bit simpler. Sounds like a plan to me.

So, the official word is: I and the family will be attending Potomac National's games on May 14th and June 25th for sure. They're both Saturday games with fireworks afterwards. We'll probably be seeing other games throughout the season too.

Leave comments or email me at Rocket Jones (one word) at gmail dot com.

Posted by: Ted at 11:58 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Royally pissed off, and I want to stay that way until after the phone call

Remember I wrote about "Bad Surprises"? Specifically, when our washing machine conked out and dumped an entire cycle of water onto the basement lake floor.

Oh, the joy continues.

Last night we discovered that when they delivered the new washer, the guys unplugged the freezer in the basement. We hadn't gone into the freezer since and only found it last night. We lost everything.

We called and raised hell. Sears is supposed to call back this morning. I faxed them an itemized list of all the food in the freezer.

Pissed off is an understatement right now. They have one chance to make it right. If they screw this up they'll have lost a lifelong customer.

Posted by: Ted at 04:28 AM | category: Square Pegs
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April 19, 2005

Pope Benedict XVI

Best of luck to him as he guides the Church through difficult times.

Posted by: Ted at 04:35 PM | category: Square Pegs
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So over the top, but I couldn't stop laughing

Thanks to Random Nuclear Strikes for pointing the way to this... I have no idea how to describe it, other than rude, crude and hilariously funny.

Posted by: Ted at 06:12 AM | category: Links
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Black Smoke?

I don't know much about the subject, but the only reason Pujols wasn't picked to be the top Cardinal right away has to be because of his age. Either that, or that bastard Rolen is campaigning behind his back.

Posted by: Ted at 06:07 AM | category: Square Pegs
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