May 31, 2005

Hmmmm...

Ok, I was able to see Mr. Helpful from work (during lunch), but from home I get a 404 Forbidden screen. Apparently my IP or something has been banned by his server.

Posted by: Ted at 04:06 PM | category: Links
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Tweakin'

Ace, among others, has cowbell.

Random Nuclear Strikes has Professor Booty (not safe for work).

What'cha think, a little Rocket Jones bouncy-bouncy for special occasions?

careful, you'll put an eye out!

Posted by: Ted at 03:56 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Ashamed to be a native Californian

So the California legislature has passed a bill to limit textbooks in the state to 200 pages. *sigh*

You realize, of course, that this effectively limits them to 100 useful pages, since half will be printed in Spanish.

I'm not even sure if that's a joke or not.

Update: Oops, I wasn't clear. The bit about 200 pages tops is true, the part about half being in Spanish is my (poor) attempt at humor. If it were true, there'd be 25 pages in English, 25 in Spanish, 25 in Vietnamese, 25 in Ebonics, 25 in ...

Posted by: Ted at 11:18 AM | category: Links
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A couple of quickies

Squipper, aka Cindy, is enjoying her homemade cinnamon bread. Inexplicably, the USPS delivered it to her yesterday morning. Odd, that.

What the heck happened to Mr. Helpful? I must've missed the memo, did he move into a new place on the net?

In vacation news, I had a long list of things to take care of while I was off, and I got about 90% of it done. I also brought work home, but only spent about 15 minutes with it before putting it away again.

I also went to a very cool picnic on Saturday for my friend Bob, who recently got his associates degree in IT and is ready for a career change. Bob is a quiet guy, he and I knew each other for years before we did more than nod good morning in the hallway. He's been going to night school for awhile, sticking to it through new kids and family and work and everything else life could throw at him. Congrats, Amigo!!! (he reads this blog, but seldom - if ever - leaves a comment... like I said, real quiet)

Posted by: Ted at 05:53 AM | category: Links
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Geekspeak for "Corvette"

faster_bigger_173.jpg

Posted by: Ted at 05:18 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Just Finished

Over the holiday weekend I finished reading Daniel Defoe's Moll Flanders, a fictional story about an interesting lady. It was written in 1722, four years after his classic Robinson Crusoe.

What amused me though, was the title of the work as presented on the first page:

The Fortunes & Misfortunes of the Famous Moll Flanders &c. Who was Born in Newgate, and during a Life of continu'd Variety for Threescore Years, besides her Childhood, was Twelve Year a Whore, five times a Wife (whoerof once to her own Brother), Twelve Year a Thief, Eight Year a Transported Felon in Virginia, at last grew Rich, liv'd Honest, and dies a Penitent. Written from her own Memorandums.

Ms. Flanders (not her real name, we never learn that) is an extraordinary character, and despite the gruesome litany of her exploits given above, she's not an unkind person and is easy to be sympathetic to. The place of her birth, Newgate, was a prison of the day, where her mother was under a sentence of death.

An excellent read, once you get into the flow of the archaic writing style and vocabulary.

Posted by: Ted at 04:57 AM | category: Square Pegs
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May 30, 2005

Memorial Day

From the plaque "To Honor U.S. Servicemen and Women Held Prisoner by Terrorists", in memory of Colonel William Richard Higgins, USMC:

He died far away,
Before his time,
But as a soldier and for his country.

I posted this piece about Quantico National Cemetary last Memorial Day.

Update: Nic has posted some wonderful pictures of the various memorials around Washington D.C.

Posted by: Ted at 06:04 AM | category: Links
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May 29, 2005

More Team America Pictures, Audio and Video

Jerry O'Sullivan has posted some stills and videos of TARC 05 on his website. There's a whole heap of good pictures there covering the entire day. Especially nice are the shots of Vern Estes, Paul Rodgers (who built the Goddard rocket and dressed the part), and the beautiful field at Great Meadow where we fly every month.

If you've got the connection speed, I especially recommend the video of the on-board camera carried aloft by the Nike-Smoke. Awesome!

Also, someone passed along this link to an NPR spot that focused on one of the all-girl teams that competed. You can click on the 'listen' button for the related audio.

Posted by: Ted at 09:33 PM | category: Rocketry
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Iron Birds fly again

A group of historical flight enthusiasts are flight testing the first of five Me 262's that they're building. This Messerschmitt design was introduced near the end of WWII and was the first practical operational jet fighter.

Thanks to Transterrestrial Musings for the pointer.

Posted by: Ted at 01:12 PM | category: Links
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It didn't end with Burt

SpaceShipOne may have been first and the winner of the prize money, but the main goal of the X-Prize competition was to develop commercially viable vehicles for the business of space.

SpaceX has just completed a successful test firing of their main rocket motor (with picture!). A more detailed update is promised after the weekend.

Posted by: Ted at 12:53 PM | category: Space Program
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Skewed perspective

Rachael and I were talking about blogs and blogging the other day, and she mentioned how many of her friends have Live Journals that they use as a place to vent and rant.

If you've ever spent any time skimming through Live Journals, you'd come away with the impression that half the teens in America are Columbine-capable manic depressives with a severe death wish.

Rachael admitted to being worried about some of her friends that she doesn't see very often, because she reads their Live Journals and expects them to be seriously screwed up in the head. Then, when they get together she's a little freaked by how normal and happy they are.

That's the problem with blogs in general. Your place to rant and rave or bare all or throw out wry commentary is nothing more than a mask. Intimacy is simulated by the details and personal nature of one's posts, but we're all just looking at the face the author wishes us to see. When you don't understand that or forget, then you get a very skewed perspective on who a person is and what they're really like. Little wonder then, that not only is it almost impossible to adaquately explain what blogging is to someone who's never heard of it, but that the whole blogging phenomenom is so misunderstood by pretty much everyone (media, politicians and even bloggers themselves).

Posted by: Ted at 07:09 AM | category: Square Pegs
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May 28, 2005

TARC 2005

All right, this is the post you've been dreading waiting for: What Ted and Mookie did for this year's edition of the Team America Rocketry Challenge. FYI, we had the name first, waayy before the movie came along. Neener neener.

Quick recap: 712 student teams comprised of 10,000 young ladies and gentlemen from across the US (and one DoD school in Germany) entered the contest, vying for $60,000 in scholarship money (plus extra goodies, more on those later). Each team had a teacher sponsor, and many had mentor volunteers from the National Association of Rocketry. Bottom line though, the kids themselves had to design, build and fly the rocket without adult assistance.

The challenge was to build a rocket that would be aloft for exactly 60 seconds, carry one or two fresh eggs, and return the eggs unbroken. The rocket could be a single stage model, but would incurr a 3 second penalty. Carrying only one egg incurred an additional 3 second penalty. So if a team built a single-stage rocket that carried one egg and stayed aloft for 61 seconds, then their score would be 1 (the difference from the target time of 60 seconds) + 3 (single stage) + 3 (single egg) = a score of 7. Note that whether their time was long or short didn't matter (a time of 59 seconds in that example would result in the same score of 7), and it's scored the same way. A lower score is better.

Clear as mud? It's harder to explain that it is to understand.

So all 712 teams were required to make a qualification flight. The flights were witnessed and the results were sent in for tabulation. The 100 best scores were selected for the finals. Five finalists couldn't make it for various reasons and alternates were selected in order from the top scores. To give you an idea of the difficulty of the challenge, less than 300 teams were able to enter qualification flights.

At the finals, each team made a single flight for score. Talk about pressure!

We drove to the Friday night briefing at the newest high school in the county. First we had ours (the volunteer range crew), where we learned the details needed for the following day. While that was going on, the cafeteria was quickly filling with excited students and teachers. Teams had to register and then pick up their equipment. Many teams has shipped their rockets ahead to Aurora Flight Sciences (based in Manassas, Virginia and owned by one of our club members). Because of postal and airline regulations, most teams had pre-ordered rocket motors to be delivered at the contest.

After the range crew brief, the students filed in. Mixed in among the students were the volunteer from AIA (blue polos) and the NAR (white polos and khaki pants). Mookie and I talked to a couple of teams that were sitting near us before things got started.

In order to run an event this big and keep it strictly fair for everyone, things have to run on schedule. The two guys who put it together again this year are retired military, and have a unique way of driving that point home.

When everyone was seated, the contest director stood in front of the group and pointed to a digital clock on the podium. You know, the kind that synchronizes itself via a radio signal to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) (similar to this). He called a time check and hack exactly on the hour. There were some snickers amongst the kids, but it was emphasized that each team had a set prep 'window' and set launch 'window'. Failure to make your flight during your window was an automatic disqualification. No exceptions. That put notice to everyone that the schedule wasn't merely a suggestion of when things should happen, it listed when things *would* happen. Gee, just like the real world, eh?

After some remarks by the head of the NAR and AIA, the safety and information briefing was done, followed by a neat little presentation by Dr. Jay Apt, who flew on the shuttle four times. He started off by asking everyone to imagine the most fun they'd ever had, and then imagining that times 100. Then he said, "Space flight is even better than that". He went on to give a short autobiography, touching on his postings at various observatories (he's an astronomer by training), and showing the things he did to become an astronaut (it wasn't easy and he did some career moves specifically to get into space). A very impressive show. Dr. Apt is a trustee for the NAR and a helluva nice guy.

After the briefing, Rachael and I headed home for some sleep. We had to be back at the field at 6am the following morning.

The field had been set up the day before by about 25 volunteers who worked through about 2" of rain in four hours, all of it blowing straight sideways. Mookie and I have volunteered to help set up in previous years, but couldn't do it this year because of work and school commitments. I'm a bad person for not feeling guilty about that, because those guys worked their tails off in miserable weather.

The field was wet and squishy but there were no massive mud pits, thanks to the fact that it's like a huge front lawn and there's great drainage of the entire area.

Mookie was tasked to be a runner for the day, shuttling flight cards and paperwork amongst the various checkpoints (egg issue, safety check, range control, etc). They had enough runners to adaquately cover the main places, so she spent much of the day with me, running notices up to the PA and radio announcers and escorting teams and teachers to their media interviews.

I was one of two designated bad guys (referred to as "trolls" during the pre-brief). Along with a rocketeer from Florida named Bruno, we handled access to the flying field through the only open gate. Past us, only student teams were allowed. No parents, no teachers, no advisors. We said "no" a lot to folks all day long and even caught a few who tried to sneak casually stroll by, thinking that the rules couldn't possibly apply to them. On the upside, every single team and rocket went past us, and we got to see many of them up close and talk to the kids. I can honestly say that no team went onto that field without hearing Bruno, Mookie (when she was around) or I wishing them good luck. We also answered lots of spectator questions and made sure the media folks knew where things were.

Early in the morning, after a group of students sang the National Anthem (with a Jr ROTC color guard display) there was a helicopter flyover by the Marine Helicopter Squadron-1 (HMX-1), the first Marine aviation unit ever established and the unit responsible for all Presidential helicopter flights. Last year it was a pair of F18 fighters, but apparently the jets on afterburner scared the crap out of some local folks who thought some sort of emergency was going on. The choppers were cool though, check here and here for pics of the aircraft involved.

There was a "pool feed" for local television stations to tap into during the event, and I've heard from several people that they saw reports on various news programs. The winning team appeared on the Today show.

Also, there were plenty of VIP's around. Rachael and I spent a few minutes talking to Vern Estes and his wife Gleda. They attend a lot of rocketry events all over the country, and Vern mentioned that he'd never imagined this many young people all flying rockets in one place at one time. Mookie got her picture taken with the Estes, and her field pass autographed by Vern himself.

After the contest flying was over, several demo flights were made. There was a celebrity impersonator present who did a pretty good Albert Einstein (100 years ago he introduced the theory of relativity - Albert, not the impersonator), and then the Goddard rocket flight. Then nine high power rockets took to the sky, dwarfing the rockets that the students flew and showing them what the next step was if they wanted to pursue the hobby. Big wow factor, including a very nice flight made by a rocket sporting an Animal Motor Works "Green Gorilla" motor which fires with, you guessed it, a brilliant emerald green flame.

Then it was time for the awards. Speeches, VIP's, giant "prize" checks, photos of all the teams, special awards given by the various aerospace companies for things like best craftsmanship, lightest successful rocket, teamwork, etc. I can't quote her exactly, but The Director of Education for NASA said something I thought really brought things into perspective:

You designed and successfully flew a payload carrying vehicle. It launched safely, completed the mission it was designed for, and brought the payload it was carrying back unharmed. (pointing to the three NASA astronauts on the platform) I think they'll agree that you've conquered the important parts of this challenge, especially the 'bringing back the payload unharmed' part.

This contest is truly a space program in miniature, and for the third year in a row the kids kicked its butt.

If you go to the TARC site (click through the opening pages), you'll find photographs of many of the teams and what awards they won. The final results are up too, and I'm amazed at the precision these kids achieved. Remember that the challenge was a targeted time aloft of 60 seconds, and 43 teams out of 100 were within 10 seconds of that. Six teams were within 2 seconds of the target! Two teams dropped out of the top 10 because they decided to design and fly a less complex single-stage rocket and accept the time penalty involved.

The shortest successful flight was just under 18 seconds. The rocket arced near horizontal right off the launch rod. Staging was perfect, except for the horizontal part, and just as everyone was expecting it to slam into the ground (about 20 feet above and 200 yards downrange) the chute ejected. The recovery was abrupt and violent, but the chute opened, the eggs were intact (!!!) and everything else held together.

After the awards ceremony I got to play troll again and manage access to a huge catered BBQ. Talking to the caterer, they fed 400 people in the first 20 minutes, and almost a thousand in all in less than an hour. Mookie and I got our food (I was the last in line) and sat with an adult from one of the teams. Don't know if he was a parent or teacher, we originally thought he was just quiet, but it gradually came out that he was royally pissed at another adult who talked the kids into changing their parachute size at the last minute, and it cost the kids a place in the top 10. It was very uncomfortable because the students and adults were sitting at three or four different tables and nobody would talk to each other. I'm glad I didn't have to share a ride home with them!

As we headed to the truck after a long and happy day, Rachael and I noticed that Vern and Gleda Estes were walking in front of us, holding hands.

Posted by: Ted at 09:37 AM | category: Rocketry
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May 27, 2005

Possible Motive

Iraqi forces have announced that they'll be establishing a cordon around Bagdhad before conducting security sweeps. Like a lot of folks, my first reaction was to question why would you announce something like that?

Thinking about it, I wouldn't be surprised if they're hoping that the terrorists (screw that misapplied "insurgent" label) make some conspicuous movements in response. Right now, a lot of Iraqi citizens are sick and tired of the bad guys inflicting civilian casualties. There might be some very directed action taking place thanks to tips provided by the locals.

Posted by: Ted at 07:53 PM | category: Military
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All collectedly gathered together for your surfing pleasure

Got a *lot* done yesterday and finished up the evening by watching one of Misty Mundae's more recent efforts, Bite Me! Giant mutant spiders in a strip club. You know I'm loving it.

Boss: What's gotten into you?

Crystal: Spider venom, and I like it.

Consider that a mini-review and recommendation.

Speaking of clitorises... clitoris's... clitorii... what's the plural of clitoris? Oh well, doesn't matter... Speaking of female anatomy, wegglywoo points out an article that proves once again that there are always new things to discover right under our noses (ahem).

Sorry, I was up way late and up way early. Sleep deprivation makes me silly. It's a serious article though, and has some interesting implications for current surgical techniques.

Since we're navigating around the female form, it might be useful to be able to actually navigate, eh? And what better way than by sextant, especially an actual working sextant you build yourself using AOL cd's, mirrors and lego? Thanks to the Ministry for this nifty link.

Mookie picked up the soundtrack to Spamalot. Excellent. I especially enjoyed "The Song That Goes Like This". By the way, that is also one of the best home pages I've ever seen.

One Hit Wonder Central, courtesy of the Llama Butchers.

Gir has tagged me with another meme that goes on the ol' "get to it later stack", alongside the one from Elisson.

Squipper (who has a loaf of home made cinnamon-raisin bread heading her way at the speed of USPS) points out an amusing list: "Things I'd Probably Say If the Bush Administration Were Just a Weekly TV Show and I Were a Regular Viewer". In a completely non-partisan manner I'd like to mention that you can replace "Bush" with "Clinton" or even "Republican" or "Democrat" and the list would still be perfectly spot on.

(I know that contest was a long time ago and I'm just getting around to sending Cindy her prize, but I prefer to think of it this way: I take a long time to satisfy a lady.)

A while back I linked to "By Ourselves, For Ourselves" over at Random Nuclear Strikes. Basically, it's a series of practical essays on survival if the shit ever hits the fan. I consider these a must-read, and the latest installment is up.

You might not like guns, but you should understand the purpose of the 2nd Ammendment. And if you think it's terrible that the government tells you who you can or cannot marry, or what you can or cannot do in the privacy of your own home, yet you remain anti-gun, then I say you're foolish to discard the ultimate Constitutional remedy provided by the men of wisdom who designed that document. Another link from Random Nuclear Strikes.

The Everlasting Phelps has a new advertiser that sells Japanese products. I got a kick just browsing the catalog, and just might order the "Respect the Emperor, Expel the Foreign Barbarians" t-shirt.

Lynn S has been on a roll lately, with links to this page of vintage pulp Octopus covers, and this group blog called Drawn!, which is all about illustration, and which led me to By It's Cover and The Planet of Sardines.

I love the internet.

Posted by: Ted at 06:01 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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May 26, 2005

Vacation

Peeps, I'm taking a couple of days off for an extra-long weekend. This is my first real time off since last August.

I'm not doing anything special, just some down time. I've got a long list of little things to do around the house which I may or may not bother with. Rocket Jones falls into that category, so if you don't hear from me for a few days, well, you know I'll be back soon enough.

In the meantime, go visit Alien Loves Predator. Really. I had tears from laughing so hard.

Posted by: Ted at 07:11 AM | category: Square Pegs
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Bub could be trained to do simple tasks, but then so can the average teenager

zzbub.jpg

"All your base are belong to us."

Posted by: Ted at 06:57 AM | category: Cult Flicks
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May 25, 2005

Snippet

Female: I hate having my period.

Me: Look at the bright side.

Female: What bright side?

Me: In school, you never had to go do a problem at the black board while sporting a boner.

Female: *snort*

Posted by: Ted at 07:28 PM | category: Square Pegs
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Resurfacing

Professor Chris Hall appears after a long absence at his new site, under the same old name: Spacecraft.

You've been missed!

Posted by: Ted at 07:24 PM | category: Links
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Tipping Point

We've heard that term used a lot lately. There are the personal variety ("I've had enough!") and the group version (Lebanon is an excellent example, as is the Ukraine).

Here is one Canadian's declaration of having reached their tipping point.

Wow.

Thanks to Debbye for pointing that out.

Posted by: Ted at 11:45 AM | category: Links
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Way to go, Little Debbie!

Around this time of year, Little Debbie starts coming out with various 4th of July themed goodies. I noticed that on the back of the box for their "Stars and Stripes" cupcakes they've put a primer on how to display the American flag.

Posted by: Ted at 06:10 AM | category: Square Pegs
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