January 31, 2004

I'm cute *and* fluffy!

Best line from Lilo & Stitch.

Posted by Ted at 03:44 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Cult Flicks

This is getting to be a bad habit

The Dallas Stars beat the San Jose Sharks last night 3-1, which is something like their twelfth win in the last 15 games between the two teams.

So in keeping with the rules of our Inter-Munuviana Hockey Whoopass Jamboree, the Dallas Stars logo will be displayed up top in my banner for a day or so.

Congrats Helen.

Posted by Ted at 12:16 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Munuvian Daily Tattler

Mixed feelings about this one

The X From Outer Space.

I always considered myself the guy who never met a Japanese monster movie he didn't like, until now. I kept waiting for this movie to fall over the precipice into the "so bad it's good" category, but no matter how hard I wished, it just stayed firmly in the 'bad' place.

From the TV guide:

A spaceship returns to Tokyo with a spore, which grows into a spear-spitting monster.

There was actually more plot than that. Basically, the spaceship is sent to Mars to find out why the previous six ships haven't reported back. The Japanese suspect a mysterious UFO is causing the disappearances. The UFO appears, spaceship finds sparkly egg spore and returns to earth where the egg hatches spore grows into a giant monster named Guilala (Goo-La-La). Which attacks Tokyo.

"Fireball" and "spear" must be synonyms in Japanese.

Scientists find solution. Monster is reduced back to spore, and they "Shoot it out of the universe" on a rocket to nowhere. Tokyo saved.

Love triangle not resolved, no further mention of UFO nor missing spaceships.

Plenty of cheesy 60's pop music in the soundtrack if you like that sort of thing. If you ever have the chance to see this one, run screaming in the opposite direction. If you can do that and shoot fireballs at Tokyo at the same time, so much the better.

Update: I did some further digging and found the following in a movie review:

they defeat GUILALA using a rare material known as "Guilalium", which blocks GUILALA's main drive; it stops the flow of energy. Using some remaining jets, the Japanese Defense Air Force literally bukkakes the mighty monster into his small, harmless spore form. This movie marks the first bukkake scene in history.

That ought to be good for a few Google hits, eh? Anyway, this movie does seem to have it's champions among the cult movie afficianado's.

Posted by Ted at 09:13 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Cult Flicks

January 30, 2004

Superbowl commercial preview

Pepsi. Hendrix. Great!

Posted by Ted at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

All those hours spent playing video games

Darren Rowse has a blog devoted to UAV's - Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

Nifty stuff for military buffs and/or tech heads.

Posted by Ted at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)
Category: SciTech

213 Things Skippy is No Longer Allowed to Do

...in the Army, that is.

According to Avalanche Company's Sgt Stanford, SPC Schwarz was quite the soldier.

Among my favorites on the list:

16. Must get a haircut even if it tampers with my 'Sampson like powers'.

33. Not allowed to chew gum at formation, unless I brought enough for everybody.

34. (Next day) Not allowed to chew gum at formation even if I *did* bring enough for everybody.

44. I am not the atheist chaplain.

61. If one soldier has a 2nd Lt bar on his uniform, and I have an E-4 on mine It means he outranks me. It does not mean ‘I have been promoted three more times than you'.

84. Must not use military vehicles to ‘Squish' things.*

Ya know, I could go on and on. Just go read the darn list.

I don't remember where I found this, if it was from your site, let me know so I can give credit.

*I can relate to this one. Once on duty I was caught driving across a field trying to run over a bunny rabbit**. When asked why, I answered "because I knew you'd be mad if I shot it."

**The bunny rabbit was in no real danger. If you don't believe me, try it sometime.

Posted by Ted at 06:55 AM | Comments (6)
Category: Square Pegs


Over at Murdoc Online, he has a nice comprehensive article (with pictures) about the proposed replacement for the current US Military M16 combat rifle and M4 carbine.

If I'm very very good, maybe Santa would bring me one.

Thanks to Spoons for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 06:28 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Military

January 29, 2004

Go say hello

Josh Cagan, who doesn't like you, writes stuff like this:

It's for a jury to decide. Although, in a case where it's Solomon vs. the Hiltons, how does one assemble a jury of peers? Do you try to find 12 millionaire scumbags? Or six millionaires, and six scumbags?

Or do you just save yourself the headache, and clone Larry Flynt 11 times? But then, would you let them retain their ability to walk, or do you shoot them in the spine as soon as they come out of the cloning chamber? Or do you let half walk, and shoot the other half in the spine, you know, for balance?

This is why I'm not a lawyer. I'm far too thoughtful. And I'm off my point.

Posted by Ted at 08:52 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

More places to see and people to do, International style

Thanks to the Gray Monk, via GDay Mate, another map-generating site, this time of the world showing the countries I've visited.

(in the extended entry)

create your own visited country map
or write about it on the open travel guide

For the geographically disinclined, that's Canada, US, Mexico, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg and England. I'm such a homebody.

Posted by Ted at 08:38 AM | Comments (0)
Category: About Ted

More range than a rover

Spirit and Opportunity are on the surface and doing their thing. Despite some problems, the fact that we can successfully land and communicate with two robot vehicles on another planet over 40,000,000 miles away says a lot.

Knowing that more that a couple of rovers are in the works, I went digging over at Rocket Man's blog, looking for a certain something we'd talked about...

A couple of weeks ago, Ted from Rocket Jones also sent me an email about a Mars Airplane currently being developed under the Mars Scout Mission program –

Manassas, VA. Aurora Flight Sciences Corp. announced today an order from the NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va., for a full-scale prototype of a proposed Mars airplane. The aircraft is being built as part of the Mars Scout Aerial Regional-Scale Environmental Survey (ARES) project of which Dr. Joel S. Levine is the Principal Investigator.

In 2002 Aurora and NASA Langley successfully demonstrated a half-scale version of the airplane in a series of low altitude and high altitude drop tests. The new airplane is to be a full-scale version, designed to demonstrate flight-weight components and actual aerodynamics. The prototype plane is scheduled to make its first flight later this year with a deployment test in the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

Ted was lucky enough to actually see some of the projects Aurora Flight Sciences Corp is working on as he told me in the email -

The reason I know about these people is that the owner of the company and his kids are in our rocket club. Good people, as they say. I've been in Aurora's building and all of the hardware and projects are probably like Disneyland to an engineer. To me, it was just cool.

That's right, they're well into developement of a semi-remote controlled robotic glider aircraft that will soar the skies of Mars, mapping and using radar to gather yet more data about the red planet.

There are some intriguing video clips of the testing at the Aurora site. One in particular clearly showed the tail surfaces unfolding after being released from the high altitude balloon which carried it aloft.

The reason for the extreme altitude testing is because the atmosphere of Mars is very thin compared to earth. The ARES glider will actually fly much closer to the surface once it deploys on Mars.

Posted by Ted at 06:45 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Space Program

If I didn't have such a dirty mind, I might've thought of this

Carol points the way to Tom, who hilariously photoshops a spam. Bravo!

Posted by Ted at 05:06 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Links

January 28, 2004

A little innocence can be a dangerous thing

Absolutely work safe, I promise.


Thanks to TL Hines for the pointer, his take on it is priceless.

Posted by Ted at 09:36 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Links

How it should be

So the owner of the Washington Capitals hockey team got into it with a rowdy fan at the game. Said fan had a sign (which was a pretty good one), and owner and fan tussled. End result: fan on ass, fight over.

Owner apologizes, and the fan says 'no hard feelings'.

That's how hockey fans disagree. Gentlemen, I salute you!

Posted by Ted at 07:28 PM | Comments (5)
Category: Square Pegs

It's been lovely, but I must scream now

Like I said, we're in the middle of implementing a brand new computer system. This morning one of our users was asking about a common everyday work process that he has to do, and the on-site support person said this to him:

"I don't know, we never thought of that."

Excuse me, but you've spent six years and mucho dinero (think really big number followed by lots of zeroes) designing this system and YOU DIDN'T THINK OF THAT?!?!?!?!

Posted by Ted at 12:01 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

Composed on the way to work this morning

Four-wheel Driving Fool

(sung to the tune of Hootie & the Blowfish’s – Only Wanna Be With You)

Look out the window,
Nasty weather outside,
Let’s climb in my SUV
And go out for a ride.

Snow and ice?
Ain’t no big thang,
I bought this big ol’ jeep,
To make up for my wang.

Ain’t no weather too cruel,
I’m a four-wheelin’ fool.
I rode the short-bus to school,
I’m a four-wheelin’ fool.

(There should be more, but I expect that by this point the idiot will be ditch-bound.)

Posted by Ted at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinaahhhh!!!

I mentioned bread dipping oil in this post, and the excellent samples that SilverBlue and I tried. I first heard about it on the radio when a local restaraunt advertisement talked about it.

Here's what I did to make my own version. It's pretty good.

Bread Dipping Oil

1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried thyme
2 cloved finely minced garlic
pinch salt
2-3 grinds black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid. Let flavors combine for several hours at least. Store in refrigerator, use within 3-4 days.

Pour into a shallow dish and dip pieces of crusty Italian or French bread into it.

You could also start with a flavored olive oil, and use rosemary, oregano and/or parmesan cheese. This one begs for personal variations.

Posted by Ted at 07:45 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Recipes

Memorable advertising slogan

In the extended entry.


Posted by Ted at 06:34 AM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Super Bowl trivia

(shamelessly stolen from ESPN)

Super Bowl facts from 1 to 38

1. This marks the first time ever that both Super Bowl teams take their name after a state or area, not a city.

2. Only two teams have ever won a Super Bowl while committing more turnovers than their opponent (Colts in Super Bowl V, Steelers in Super Bowl XIV).

3. The Panthers defeated the Eagles in Philadelphia for the NFC championship. It's worth noting that the last three Super Bowl champions all won their conference championship games on the road.

4. The Panthers will be the fourth different opponent the Patriots have played in a Super Bowl (Bears, Packers, Rams, Panthers).

5. Carolina will try to become the fifth first-time winner in the last five Super Bowls (Rams, Ravens, Patriots, Buccaneers).

6. A Panthers win would make the Patriots the sixth different franchise to lose three Super Bowls.

7. Who knows, He Hate me could become, "He's the MVP!" There have been seven kickoff returns for touchdowns in Super Bowl history. On the contrary, the Super Bowl is still waiting for its first punt return for touchdown.

8. Eight of the last nine Super Bowls that happened two weeks after the Conference Championship Games have been decided by 10 points or more (only exception was Super Bowl XXXII when Denver beat Green Bay 31-24).

9. If the Panthers win Super Bowl XXXVIII, nine different clubs will have walked away with at least one championship in last the 11 seasons.

10. A Patriots win would make them the 10th franchise to win two Super Bowls, and ...

11. ... would make the Panthers the 11th different team to lose in the last 11 Super Bowls.

12. Tom Brady's jersey number -- the most popular number worn by a quarterback in Super Bowl history.

13. Peyton Manning didn't reach the big game, but this is the 13th straight year a Tennessee Volunteer has reached the Super Bowl (Shane Burton and Deon Grant of the Panthers).

14. The Patriots enter the game on a 14-game winning streak, a single-season mark only topped by the undefeated 1972 Dolphins who scored 14 points in their Super Bowl VII win.

15. The Panthers are the first team to reach the Super Bowl just two seasons removed from going 1-15.

16. If Brady wins the MVP, he will be one behind another quarterback that he has been receiving favorable comparisons to: Joe Montana (who wore No. 16).

17. Jake Delhomme becomes the third quarterback in Super Bowl history to wear No. 17 (Billy Kilmer, Doug Williams).

18. Delhomme will try to make the Panthers the 18th different franchise to win a Super Bowl.

19. Brady and Delhomme better start practicing saying, "I'm going to Disney World." A quarterback has been the Super Bowl MVP 19 times.

20. The Patriots and the Panthers have won a combined 20 straight games entering the Super Bowl (including playoffs). That is the most ever in the Super Bowl era.

21. Both teams feature top defenses. The lowest scoring Super Bowl was Super Bowl VII when Miami and Washington combined to score 21 points.

22. Twenty-two of the previous 37 Super Bowls have been played on grass fields. This may become the first to be played on a grass field indoors (though the NFL wants to keep the roof open).

23. Half of 46: Jake Delhomme becomes the 46th different quarterback to start a Super Bowl. Forty-six is also the amount of points New England gave up in its first Super Bowl vs. the Bears (with a 46 defense).

24. The lucky number for both the Panthers and Patriots. Both Ty Law and Ricky Manning Jr. wear No. 24 and had three interceptions in the conference championships

25. The team that scores first is 25-12 in Super Bowl competition. However, the team that has scored first has lost the last two Super Bowls.

26. Active players on the Patriots and Panthers have combined to win 26 Super Bowl rings (23 Patriots, 3 Panthers).

27. Expect a blowout in this year's Super Bowl. Twenty-seven of the previous 37 Super Bowls played have been decided by more than seven points.

28. No team has scored exactly 28 points in a Super Bowl, but teams getting over that plateau are 20-1 in Super Bowl play (only loss: Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII).

29. The team leading at the half has won 29 of the 37 Super Bowls played.

30. This is the first Super Bowl in Houston in 30 years. The last time was Super Bowl VIII when the Dolphins defeated the Vikings 24-7.

31. The Patriots are looking to become the first team to win the Super Bowl after being shutout in Week 1 (They lost 31-0 at Buffalo).

32. Super XXXII ended the NFC's 13-game win streak in Super Bowls. Including Denver's upset of Green Bay, the AFC has won four of the last six Lombardi Trophies.

33. The team that gains the most total yards has won 33 of the previous 37 Super Bowls.

34. Last year's Super Bowl MVP wore No. 34 (Dexter Jackson of the Buccaneers). Could the Patriots Chris Akins be this year's Dexter Jackson?

35. The last Super Bowl quarterback to wear No. 17 was Doug Williams. He led the Redskins to 35 first-half points in Super Bowl XXII.

36. Of the 43 Patriots that played in their Super Bowl XXXVI triumph, 26 are still with the team.

37. Of the first 37 Super Bowls, only one has been won on the final play of the game. Will Adam Vinatieri make Super Bowl XXXVIII another one to remember?

38. Stephen Davis must carry the load for the Panthers to win. Speaking of carries, the most ever in a Super Bowl is 38 by another one-time Redskin: John Riggins in Super Bowl XVII.

Posted by Ted at 05:30 AM | Comments (5)
Category: History

January 27, 2004


Football season is almost over. It's too cold to start playing baseball. I'd feel bad if I cross-checked Mookie into the fence playing backyard hockey (I'd still do it, but I'd feel bad). Basketball? This time of year you spend an hour waiting for the next 10 minute game to start down at the Y. So what should the sports-minded among us do?

Calvin-ball. Leagues forming now.

Posted by Ted at 06:38 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Links

Places to see, people to do

Thanks to Daniel, I now have a personalized US map showing all the states I've visited (in red).

Being in the military helps, especially if you drive from one assignment to another.

For those eagle-eyed individuals, I do not have teleportation superpowers, Texas has airports.

And I may have driven through Arkansas on a trip from Minnesota to Mississippi, but I'm not positive, so I didn't mark it.

It's in the extended entry.

create your own visited states map
or write about it on the open travel guide

Posted by Ted at 07:50 AM | Comments (6)
Category: About Ted


Daughter Mookie is contemplating an area blogger meet. She's already gotten some interest in the event, and is soliciting ideas. If you're from the Maryland/DC/Virginia area, or might like to travel a bit to attend, visit her and leave some feedback.

Posted by Ted at 06:54 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Links

Going to Mars, on someone else's ruble

Over at Jen's History and Stuff, Pete posted a nice review of US Mars exploration missions to date (he also included the UK's Beagle2).

As an addendum, here's a quick list of Soviet Mars missions.

October 1960: Two unnamed Soviet spacecraft achieve Earth orbit only, fail to fly past Mars.

October 1962: An unnamed Soviet spacecraft achieves Earth orbit only, fails to fly past Mars.

November 1962: Soviet Mars 1 spacecraft radio fails en route to flyby of Mars. A second, unnamed Soviet spacecraft achieves Earth orbit only, fails to fly past Mars.

November 1964: Soviet Zond 2 spacecraft flies past Mars, but radio fails and no data are returned.

May 1971: Soviet Kosmos 419 lander achieves Earth orbit only. The Soviet Mars 2 orbiter-lander arrive at Mars in November 1971; no useful data received after lander burns up. Soviet Mars 3 orbiter-lander arrives December 1971; lander operates on surface for 20 seconds before failing.

July 1973: Soviet Mars 4 spacecraft flies past Mars in February 1974, but fails to enter orbit. That same month, the Soviet Mars 5 spacecraft arrives in orbit, but operates for only a few days.

August 1973: Soviet Mars 6 and 7 combination flyby module-lander spacecraft arrive at Mars in March 1974. Mars 6 lander smashes into Mars; Mars 7 lander misses planet.

July 1988: Soviet Phobos 1 orbiter and lander fail one month after launch. Phobos 2, launched five days after Phobos 1, is lost March 1989 near the Mars moon for which it was named.

November 1996: Russian Mars 96 orbiter and landers fail on launch.

And in July, 1998, the Japanese took a shot at Mars with their Nozomi spacecraft. It failed to enter Mars orbit in December 2003.

Posted by Ted at 06:17 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Space Program

January 26, 2004

I know just what I'd do with my refund too

Thanks to Phillip Coons, I found this online petition in support of revoking the federal tax exemption of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They've collected over 10,000 signatures in the first week.

Heather, did you know about this?

If we get a rebate from our taxpayer subsidies to these eco-terrorists, I'm gonna buy a pair of fur earmuffs.

Posted by Ted at 07:29 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Links

Honoring Fallen Comrades

McQ of QandO posted this article (same title, I used theirs) about the return of the fallen from Iraq.

At various times I've seen some folks make a point of slamming President Bush or the media for not making a big deal out of this. They attempt to make this a political issue, or try to paint it as uncaring or unfeeling in some way. They have the right to their opinion, but I think they're absolutely wrong about it.

Don't think for a second that our military sons and daughters make their final homecoming under shameful secrecy.

Posted by Ted at 06:50 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Military

Funny but true in a sad sort of way

Pixy left a comment on one of my earlier posts that perfectly sums up a problem most of us have had.

Microsoft error messages SUCK.

Or to illustrate:

Weather was bad in Seattle, but the traffic reporter insisted that they get airborne anyways. Reluctantly, the chopper pilot agreed.

It didn't take long for them to get hopelessly lost in the thick fog. After flying around for a while, desperately searching for any landmark, they glimpsed the ghostly outline of a skyscraper not too far away.

Easing closer, they spot a conference room full of people, and soon enough the people notice the helicopter hovering outside.

Thinking quickly, the reporter scribbles on a piece of paper and holds up his makeshift sign: "WHERE ARE WE?"

The people immediately grab some paper and after a little discussion write their own sign. Holding it up, it says "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER."

The pilot immediately flies away and without problems heads directly to their airport where he lands safely. The reporter is stunned and asks the pilot how he managed it.

The pilot answered, "Well, their answer was technically correct but completely useless, so I knew that it was the MicroSoft headquarters building. From there, I could find our way home."

Posted by Ted at 11:41 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Square Pegs

Mean-assed Bird

My wife called me at work.

"Ted, there's a woodpecker out back. He's tearing up the wood around the tomatoes."

"Chase him away."

"No. I'm afraid of it."

We had just gotten back from Germany, and were renting a house in Maryland. Nice place on a large lot, with a fair sized garden patch lined with telephone pole sized timbers.

Liz gave me more details, and the more she told me, the less plausible it all sounded. I told her that I'd take care of things when I got home in a few hours.

Oh. My. God. She wasn't exaggerating a bit. Examining the aftermath, the timbers looked like someone had machine gunned it. Foot-long splinters were everywhere, and the wood was peppered with holes big enough to poke your finger into. The wood was shredded. Our landlord was a jerk, and he was going to be pissed for sure.

Later, as we ate dinner we heard the woodpecker again. I went out on the deck and I swear this sonuvabitch was the size of a chicken. Once again he was attacking the timbers around the garden, and the splinters were flying. He flew off when I approached him, but reluctantly. I had an uncomfortable flashback to Hitchcock's The Birds.

He returned a few more times over the next few days, and on the weekend I threw rocks at him when he went after the wood siding under the eaves of the house. He finally did leave, never to return again.

Good riddance.

Posted by Ted at 08:36 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Boring Stories

That explains it

The problem with the Mars rover.

Posted by Ted at 06:13 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs

January 25, 2004

A couple of links*

The snow is beginning to fall, accumulation tonight is expected to be 4"-8" (historically we're on the light end in my neighborhood), and they're calling for a second wave consisting mainly of freezing rain and sleet. Boy howdy.

Wow. The weather report just said that this pattern could go right through wednesday. Alternating waves of snow and sleet.

I spent late last night watching crappy horror movies (The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave, Blood Tide, and some Frankenstein I can't recall the exact title of), and this morning watching a couple of John Wayne movies (circa 1934 - The Lucky Texan and 'Neath Arizona Skies), wrapped around a trip to the grocery store and raking those dang monkey balls out of the backyard. I also did a little indoor gardening - nothing illegal mind you - trying to overwinter a few favorite plants from the garden. Mixed results so far, a couple are really thriving, a couple aren't doing so hot. Nothing dead yet though.

The main reason for the grocery run was to pick up some EV Olive Oil, Balsamic Vinegar and a loaf of Italian bread. Yesterday at the mall, SilverBlue and I sampled some incredible bread dipping oil. Rather than spending $15 for a bottle, I decided to try making my own. After buying small bottles of the two main ingredients, that price doesn't seem so out of line.

Early taste tests are promising, I'll post what I did later. When I asked Mookie to try it, she immediately gave me a detailed critique. The mall is across the street from her high school, and she and her friends often go into that particular store to sample the goodies. She's very familiar with the various bread dipping oils they offer. Who knew?

Speaking of crappy horror movies (I know, clumsy... sue me) kinda like this story over at Travelling Shoes. Where we read:

British use of cluster bombs in the Iraq war could count as a war crime and justifies further investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor in the Hague, a group of international lawyers say.
"The U.S. cannot be tried before the court because it refuses to sign up to it. The UK did."
If you remember all the way back to May of 2002, the Bush administration had decided that there was a strong likelihood that any International Criminal Court would be used as a means of persuing politically-motivated war-crimes charges against American soldiers and officials. And so the president "unsigned" the Clinton-era treaty which had tentatively committed the United States to participate in the court.

That decision now looks prescient.

You should go read the whole thing.

Jay at Sophont passes on the word that the Whole Earth magazine has closed it's doors. I remember their catalogs.

Say Uncle has this post about identifying Pit Bulls. Well worth a look.

More Mars stuff from Minor Perfidy Minister Bucket.

Sometimes there's no good way to end one of these posts, ya know?

*and a whole heap o' rambling on, eh?

Posted by Ted at 08:40 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Links

Now *This* is one mad cow

Here. (warning: language alert, might wanna swallow that drink too.)

Posted by Ted at 08:10 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

Michael's Crafts Rockets & Scouts Promotion

Event Sold Out almost two months ahead of schedule.

Posted by Ted at 07:59 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Rocketry

Happy Birthday!

Today the excellent blog by Publicola is one year old! Stop by and say hi, and if you read a bit, you might find yourself returning often. He's that good.

Not to mention that the man downright knows his funk.

Posted by Ted at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Links


Opportunity has landed successfully and is sending back astounding pictures. That makes five scientific probes examining Mars right now. Spirit and Opportunity rovers on the surface, two more US satellites in orbit, and the European satellite.

In related news, the BBC has admitted that it was only joking when it claimed that evidence of an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator had been detected.

Oh drat.

Posted by Ted at 09:13 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Space Program

January 24, 2004

Blog Meet

I got the chance to meet SilverBlue, PoloRandy, Tink and Roxette Bunny this afternoon when they wandered northwards into my neck of the woods. I felt like I was getting back together with old friends, and we spent an hour talking about anything and everything. What was especially fun was to watch these four interact like the family unit they are.

Roxette Bunny was not as tall as I had imagined. And if I may be non-politically correct ungentlemanly for a moment, Tink is a real cutie! *wolf whistle*

PoloRandy and Tink had tickets to a basketball game and had to leave, but John and I walked and talked our way through Potomac Mills mall for awhile longer before I had to say adios.

A lot of bloggers do their thing because they have opinions to share, or they want to improve their writing. For me, today was what it's all about, it's the people I meet online and the friendships that grow there. For me, blogging is all about you. Thanks for stopping by my friends, and I hope you come back again soon.

Posted by Ted at 06:04 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Munuvian Daily Tattler


There should be no one surprised at the escalation in attacks and casualties against coalition forces the last few days.

A prominent Shiite leader has called for his followers to be reasonable and wait for the UN to make a determination about whether early elections are possible.

And the UN won't come in unless 'security concerns' are addressed. It doesn't matter what you think about that, it's the way it is.

So all the Baathtards have to do is make it bad enough to scare away the UN (not hard to do), and then the Shiite leader will be frustrated, which ratchets up the pressure on everyone. Just what the Baathtards want.

Kofi Annan will play right into their hands (again) and not allow his team to go to Iraq. U.N. stands for "Unmistakably Nutless".

Posted by Ted at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Politics

You can hear the screams echoing from afar

The Oakland Raiders are searching for a coach, but not just any coach. The coach they're looking for must be offense-minded, yet timid enough to be firmly under the thumb of owner Al Davis. Special requirements indeed.

Or, as the San Fransisco Chronicle put it last week "Al is Searching for a Spineless Jellyfish".

So today we hear that Davis is interviewing Miami Dolphins assistant coach Norv Turner. Turner spent more than six seasons in the DC area, being wishy-washy while guiding the Redskins to the playoffs just one time. The man may be an offensive genius and a genuinely nice guy, but he's about as stern as PeeWee Herman. I shudder to say this, but he's a perfect fit for what Al Davis wants.

Dude, if you thought Raider Nation was classless before (and I prefer the term 'colorful'), wait until you see this year. It's going to get ugly.

Posted by Ted at 12:03 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Square Pegs

Newspaper Ads

1. Free Yorkshire Terrier, 8 years old. Hateful little dog. Bites.

2. Free Puppies: 1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor's dog.

3. Free Puppies: 1/2 German Shepherd, part stupid dog.

4. Found: Dirty White Dog. Looks like a rat... been out awhile... better be a reward.

5. For Sale: Snow Blower. Only used on snowy days.

6. For Sale: Complete set of Encyclopedia Brittannica - 45 volumes. Excellent condition. $1000 obo. No longer needed - newlywed and wife knows everything.

7. For Sale: Nordic Track, hardly used. $300. Ask for Chubby.

8. Nice Parachute. Never opened, used once.

9. Joining nudist colony! Must sell washer and dryer - $300.

Posted by Ted at 08:32 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs

Rat movie sighting

Last night / this morning on FX was a movie titled The Rats. From the movie guide:

An exterminator and a PR executive battle a colony of vermin that infests a department store and threatens New York.

Rocket Jones, doing my part to bring rodent-related cinema to your attention. Victor and Nic would give it two (tiny scrabbling clawed) thumbs up, I'm sure.

Posted by Ted at 08:15 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Links

January 23, 2004

Two down...

Many have already written about the passing of Captain Kangaroo. I grew up watching him (and Romper Room with Miss Maryann, and Beany & Cecil). He was my first best friend.

Also, the incredible Ann Miller has left us. In my opinion, she was the greatest female tap dancer of all time, and one of the overall best as well. If you've never seen her work, on January 27th, the Turner Classic Movie (TCM) network is going to air a tribute to her with four of her movies - On the Town, Easter Parade, Kiss Me Kate, and Hit the Deck - and an interview from 1997. I'll be setting the TiVo for this one.

Posted by Ted at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Cult Flicks

Hockey news

Jaromir Jagr (45 pts) to the New York Rangers for Anson Carter (17 pts). More importantly, the Caps will save about 7 million a year on his salary - I haven't heard yet what Carter makes, but it won't be close to that.

Rumors are rampant that the Caps are shopping goalie Kolzig, forwards Lang and Bondra, and defenseman Gonchar. Lang is a newcomer, the others are long-time Caps and would really be missed for more than their ice time.

In fantasy hockey news, I dropped rapidly in the standings when both of my goaltenders realized that they were human and quit playing over their heads. Things have settled down now, and with the return of two good players from IR, I'm slowly climbing back into contention (currently 5th place).

Posted by Ted at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs


I don't talk a whole lot about work. Let me just say for the record that this week was the culmination of literally years of effort (and millions of taxpayer dollars), and I am so freaking glad it's almost over.

I've come in early every day and I've worked through lunch every day. My 'office' is a refrigerator, and I don't mean I'm chilly, I mean it's damn cold in here.

My big accomplishment this week is arranging 17 years worth of data into useful form and then putting it out there for other folks to upload into a brand new computer system due to roll over like a dead dog come online monday. Well, almost all of the data. It turns out that we're going to be short some .8 million records because we're running out of time. And I'm not coming in to work this weekend. Screw it, I was all set and ready to go, but some genius had to make unneccessary last minute changes that destroyed our carefully planned schedule.

Enough whining. They can get it monday.

Posted by Ted at 02:29 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Boring Stories

Mars series complete

Buckethead has finished his five part series on going to space over at the Ministry of Minor Perfidy. Great stuff. Bravo!!!

Posted by Ted at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

January 22, 2004

Women love guitars

And guys love women with guitars. Porn star Jenna Jamison is the new spokesmodel for Jackson Guitars. These pictures are nice because even if you're not an axe freak you can enjoy them. Nothing dirty here, just a beautiful girl and her beautiful guitar.

This heads up courtesy of Fleshbot (not work safe).

Posted by Ted at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

Where were you when...

Some folks will never forget where they were when they heard that JFK had been shot. I remember every second of my morning at work when the shuttle Challenger tragedy happened. I also vividly recall where I was when I found out that John Belushi had died. Everyone has different events that touched them in deeply personal ways.

This story is about my most memorable 'where were you' moment. It actually has a happy ending, although it was by no means a sure thing at the time.

It was the early 1980's, and my best friend Paul and I were on leave from the Air Force. We'd gone to his hometown in southeastern Minnesota - near Mankato, Little House on the Prairie country - for R&R. We'd spent this particular day road drinking, at least that's what I call it. Basically, we were out running around to all the various small towns dotting the area, visiting his old friends and stopping for a beer at every bar we happened across.

In one town (Blue Earth? Good Thunder?), we stopped at this little hole-in-the-wall biker bar, obvious from the line of dusty Harley's parked out front. We walked in and went to the bar and ordered beer. There were 8 or 10 people in the place, and they all looked like stereotypical bikers. We were getting a pretty good looking over because, well, with our military haircuts we didn't exactly blend in. Drinking our beer, I glanced up at the TV going in the corner and asked the bartender to turn it up.

President Reagan had been shot. Attempted assassination. He was conscious, and was heading into surgery.

Paul and I bought a round for the whole bar, and as all these bikers came up to see what was going on, Paul lifted his shot and said "To the President". I echoed him, and then so did every biker.

I'll never forget that moment.

Posted by Ted at 07:20 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Boring Stories

Happy Chinese New Year

Google says it too!

Posted by Ted at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

January 21, 2004

Bill, unplugged

This is too funny!!! And it's just what you get for getting Mookie grounded.

Thanks to Phillip Coons for the pointer.

(warning: first link expires in 14 days)

Posted by Ted at 11:31 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Links

Coming to you directly from the Mothership

Make my funk the P-funk.
I want my funk uncut.
Make my funk the P-funk.
I wants to get funked up.

-- Parliament

Live Free and Wax Funky.

Posted by Ted at 08:22 AM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Posting problems

This is a test, because so far not one darn thing will actually post... I'm getting 'server timeout messages'.

Update: Ka-wham! The bit I've been trying to post just showed up with this one, but none of the pinging happened.

Posted by Ted at 07:33 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs

Rocketing Around the Blogosphrere

This special Rocketing edition is brought to you by people on the move. Specifically:

annika - who never capitalizes her name and has chosen to become a Munuvian. Yay!

Sarah - who does capitalize, is Trying to Grok and is also warmly welcomed into the Munuvian fold. Yay!

Jon of QandO, who has not only moved, but added a second blogger, one McQ. I assume that this is not a Beeblebroxian development.

Finally (as in "this is the last one", not "it's about damn time"), the Happy Furry Puppy Story Timelessness of Norbizness now has his own domain.

Much adjusteth of blogrolls should commence.

All righty. Now that the general housekeeping is out of the way, let's go look around, eh? It's freakin' cold out, and that means my hibernation instinct is at war with my inner-Canadian. Conflict: sleep now vs drinking to unconsciousness.

Roberto of DynamoBuzz fame follows the most underreported political story of the campaign (so far). That's right, the eBay auction of General Wesley Clark's sweater. I will not make fun of it, because the proceeds go to a veteran's group, which is a very good thing. Instead, I'll mention that in the comments Roberto and yours truly swap 'pocket protector' stories. I definitely come out ahead in that exchange.

Starhawk and Serenity both link to pictures of a rock in Iowa. Not the one around Dean's neck, but this one. (Serenity, your permalink for that post wouldn't work for me)

As usual, Ghost of a flea provides countless diversions and interesting posts. Being the shallow 'ooo-look-at-the-pretty-pictures' type, I'll mention Eyeball, which is a collection of aerial photographs (and detailed maps) of American landmarks. But there's much more to see when you visit the flea.

And I'm a poet, and don't I know it.

Did I mention I'm really cold?

I've decided that the next time I want to bet on something, I'll ask JimiLove, and then bet the opposite.

The Meatriarch always has insightful and thought-provoking things to say which is why I wait for the movie, and these days are no different. He makes valid points for why we as a community (the blogosphere) should be branching out beyond our narrow borders and making ourselves heard on the outside. He also talks about great barbeque, dog breeds (not for barbeque), and other diverse topics to entertain and inform. He's also Canadian, but probably posts before doing most of his drinking because he's usually coherent.

I give this guy a hard time, mainly because he deserves it. To his credit, he's never threatened me. This go-round, he points the way to a nifty little site where you can have your very own crappy handwriting converted into a font. How cool is that?

"OTA OK". Ever get one of those on your mobile phone? Petrilli did and tracked down why. Apparently it's not an uncommon thing.

It's been awhile since I've done the synergist bit, but these two adjacent stories at Phillip Coons' place just beg for it:

Running mate rumor
Dick Cheney will step down as VP candidate and the likely replacement is Giuliani.
Sara Lee Drops Jimmy Dean as Sausage Spokesman

So, Giuliani (or Condi Rice according to some) becomes VP candidate, Cheney gets his folksy on by selling us processed pork (big change there, eh?), and Jimmy Dean... Well, it takes all kinds of critters to make Farmer Vincent fritters. See how easy that is?

There isn't one single thing worth linking to over at Sanity's Edge. Read everything, because Paul is on a roll, and it's all funny.

Say Uncle leads the way to a report via Publicola that a pro-Kucinich Site had some... er... issues with some graphics they ripped off linked to. Actually, the pro-K folks (not to be confused with pre-K) were blissfully unaware of the link switcheroo that was (justifiably) done to their targets.

SilverBlue, because I haven't lately. Tink for the same reason. I enjoy my daily visits to both.

And a quick rundown on those newly added but currently unalphabetized on my blogroll. What exactly does it mean to be so mis-filed? Not a thing, except that I haven't gotten around to it yet. They may or may not consider being mentioned by me an honor, I'm afraid to ask.

California Yankee - I grew up in the Bay Area, and this name just seems wrong, like being a New York Gia... nevermind.
GDay Mate - from Oz. Not the halucinegenic poppy-filled Oz, the other one.
SpankysPlace - Even the staff doesn't like being at the Emergency Room.
J-Walk Blog - Where Glenn often gets his inspiration.
Symphony X - Culture, classical music and art. Lynn and Daniel both linked to this site recently.
The Eternal Golden Braid - An emphasis on space and technology.
Dustbury - I don't have a handle on this one yet, having just started reading there. But he's nice to Mookie, and that counts for something right up front.

I'm still cold.

Posted by Ted at 06:13 AM | Comments (7)
Category: Links

January 20, 2004

In case you were wondering

Today is Liz's first day back at work after her long vacation. She didn't want to go. Ahhhh, normalcy prevails.

Posted by Ted at 01:48 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Seriously

For Jose*


*Who is now happily married and no longer fits this category.**

**As far as I know.***

***Thanks to Tiger for the spare footnotes.

Picture found at and all credit due to the always hilarious Curmudgeonly & Skeptical.

Posted by Ted at 10:45 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs

Gotta love this guy

Over at Backstage, Tim is under tremendous pressure with work schedules, and then he has a chance encounter with a couple of environmentalists:

So I asked them, very politely at that, if they had ever spent much time working in a forest... The response I received apart from the icy stares was that they were serious campers... It was at this point that I laughed at them, told them they needed to try working for a living, and then headed over to the bar for a refill, not to return to the table...

I suspect I've made a couple more enemies... Screw 'em... They would go crunch under the tracks of a logging crawler just like that dreaded underbrush...

He handled it well I think. :)

Posted by Ted at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

Who calls shotgun?

Maestro Headquarters - where you can download the public version of the software that they're using to control the Spirit and Opportunity rovers on the Martian surface. Right now, the software contains the data used when scientists tested the rovers, but soon they'll be uploading the actual terrain data from Mars!

The site also has an online users manual, discussion forums, and online help.

Posted by Ted at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

Movie Review

Another in a series of Cult Flicks and Trash Picks posts.

Riki-Oh, The Story of Ricky

A friend at work lent me this one, with plenty of warning which I'll pass along to you. This is the most violent movie I have ever seen, with the blood and gore reaching absurd levels.

Basic plot: Ricky gets sent to prison where he winds up the target of practically everyone. He wins in the end.

It takes 90 minutes to tell the tale, and along the way people are disembowelled, chopped with machetes, impaled and... jeez, I can't go on. It's that graphic. Oddly though, you tend to de-sensitize and the story is just enough to keep you watching, if for no other reason than to be able to say that you've seen it (uh, that would be me Tim). The cartoonlike quality of the acting helps with the belief suspension too, especially the characters reaction to pain. And there's plenty of pain spread around for everyone. For instance, one guy is ripped open, and with his dying breath tries to strangle his opponent with his own entrails (I don't think so, Tim).

Anyways, I'll return it to my friend and thank him, and now I can say I've seen it. This movie is only for dedicated blood-freaks and Asian cinema devotees.

Posted by Ted at 06:53 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Cult Flicks

January 19, 2004

Cul de Sac

Kelley at Suburban Blight has been mixing things up lately by posting her Cul de Sac's at irregular intervals and there's a new one up now. I must be livin' right, because my timing was good enough to be included. :)

Posted by Ted at 08:37 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Links

Published writer

Yep, that's me. Honesty compels me to admit that I did once have a letter published in Penthouse. Because of the younger and/or more sensitive folks who visit and read, I've put the text of my letter into the extended entry.

Dear Sirs,
I eagerly look forward to every new issue, and the first thing I turn to is the Penthouse Letters so I can marvel at the exploits of your readers. Someday I myself hope to have sex.

Thank you,

Posted by Ted at 01:02 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Boring Stories

Someone's in the kitchen with Dinaaahhhhh!!!

This recipe is kinda special to me, because it's one that my mom used to make when I was growing up. I didn't get the recipe from her, because she was a 'dump and taste' type of cook and never wrote anything down. Mom called it chili, and I suppose it's what an Iowa farm girl would think of as chili.

Five years ago mom passed away and my wife and I went home for the funeral. As they do, friends brought over casseroles and easy dinners, and I was delighted when one of the neighbors brought over a big pot of this chili I remembered so well. She had gotten my mom to show her how to make it, and gave me the recipe. I call it California Chili, because that's what mom called it

California Chili

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 lb. ground beef
1 large can peeled and diced tomatoes
1 can tomato soup
2 cans red kidney beans
1 can chili without beans
chili powder to taste (~2 Tbsp)
salt & pepper to taste

1. Saute the onion and green pepper in olive oil until tender, add the garlic in the last minute of cooking.
2. In a soup pot, brown the ground beef. Drain. Add the saute'd mixture and all of the remaining ingredients. Rinse each can with 1/2 cup of water and add to the pot.
3. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Posted by Ted at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Recipes

Build It - 8

This is a series of posts where we’re building a basic model rocket online. Each post shows part of the process step by step, including pictures and passing along tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. You can find the rest of the series here. To learn more about what model rocketry is about, see this Q&A.

The main part of the post is in the extended entry so you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to, but I hope you follow along because when we get done you’ll have built and flown your first model rocket. Questions asked from before are answered too.

We're ready to play with paint!

If you want to, you can spend a little time with some extra-fine sandpaper to smooth the glue fillets we applied along the fins. Like anything other paint job, prep is 90% of the way to getting a great finish.

First step is the primer. Use Krylon or Rustoleum, grey, white, or ruddy brown, whatever you can find as long as it's sandable.

You'll need to make a simple tool to hold the rocket while spraying paint. The easiest way is to roll up a sheet of newspaper into a tight cone, and then slip it into the motor mount. You can use a couple strips of masking tape to hold it together. Then you hold the 'wand' with one hand while spraying paint with the other.

The key to getting a nice finish using spray paint is to use light coats. By light, I mean you should still be able to see through the paint until after your third coat. The primer dries quickly, so this doesn't take a long time. You want to spray many light coats instead of one or two heavy ones.

Once you've got complete coverage (up to 4 or 5 coats), let it dry - read the can, it's usually less than an hour - and then lightly sand the entire rocket with that extra-fine sandpaper. Let the rocket sit and dry for at least 24 hours.

It's possible to get near-professional results with this method, but you're going to put in plenty of sandpaper time and effort. If you wanted to, you can repeat the entire priming/sanding process two or more times, and running a tack cloth over the surface in between each sanding session.

Next comes the color coat. Once again, I tend to stay with Krylon or Rustoleum. Since the Fat Boy has white decals, I'm going to use a dark color so they show up well. If I were going to paint the rocket a lighter color and I'd used a dark gray or brown primer, I'd then spray a couple of light coats of white first, just to lighten up the final finish coats.

The same spray techniques apply with the color coat. Spray multiple light coats to prevent runs and drips. Read the can carefully and follow their directions for drying times. Sometimes you have to wait a minimum of time between coats, or put the next coat on within a certain time frame.

I suppose I should mention that you should always paint outside. Even if it's cold out, you can go out, spray the coat of paint, and then bring the rocket inside until it's time for the next coat of paint.

Once you get the rocket completely painted with the color coat, let it dry. Because of the many coats used (or if you got impatiant, the thick cover coat), the rocket needs to sit for at least 24-48 hours, and longer is better.

Next time, we'll mask the fins and paint them a different color for contrast.

Posted by Ted at 10:26 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Build It

January 18, 2004

Two questions about the AFC Championship Game

1. What in the world is that logo along either sideline of the Patriots field? It's a subdued gray-blue and looks like a stylized volcano or hands reaching up. Any idea?

2. Could someone in the New England area please Please PLEASE wait at the airport and kill make mute Phil Simms before he can broadcast again? If killing is too extreme, I'd settle for removal of his vocal cords. By the fourth quarter the play-by-play guy (Gumbel) has to fight to get a word in edgewise as Simms rambles on and on and on.

Update: Hmmm, Tiger brings up a good point. In today's world, hyperbole isn't always acceptable. So for the record, I don't advocate the actual murder of anyone, even someone as annoying as Phil Simms (or Chris Collinsworth for that matter). It was a rant, ok? Anti-Nike: Don't do it.

Posted by Ted at 05:52 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

More thoughts on space

According to media sources, President Bush's vision for space hasn't fired the imagination of the people. I'm not so sure about that. Look around the blogosphere and you'll see plenty of mention about it, and everywhere you look in mainstream media there's a related story. I think for now it's a quiet buzz, as if people are toying with the idea in their mind, and discussing it around the water cooler.

Have you noticed how little we're hearing about how there are no real benefits to going? If NASA has done one thing right, it's been getting the word out (again, quietly but pervasively) that we've gotten a lot of everyday technology back from our space program. People today do realize that there is a return to the money spent on space, and I'm not talking just about Space Food Sticks.

Mala of Wrong Side of Happiness has an impressive list of them, plus this link to even more (.pdf document). A good point is made in her comments that being associated with the space program doesn't neccessarily mean that it was directly invented by or for. A lot of basic technology is discovered but has no immediate practical application, and the space program has excelled in taking these little bits of existing science and finding real-life uses for them, which then make their way into everyday life.

Major thanks to fellow Munuvian Victor for passing along the link to Mala's blog.

Over at The Ministry of Minor Perfidy, the inaptly named Buckethead is doing a great series of posts on space exploration. I particularly like this idea:

To prepare for the Mars mission, we should have some experience with long duration flights. We can do a dress rehearsal of the Mars mission by mounting an expedition to one of the Near Earth Asteroids. These asteroids are small bodies of rock or metal that have orbits that cross Earth’s. Some of these asteroids are very close to Earth, at least in terms of how much fuel we need to burn to get to them. Rather than a three-year mission to Mars, we can plan a one-year mission to an asteroid.

And you can bet that someone will figure out a way to make a buck with said asteroid, which means someone with vision in private industry will want to go back. And that's how the process gets kick-started again, this time with less government.

Finally, Chirs Hall pointed out these two fine space related sites:

A space blog, The Eternal Golden Braid.

Also, Sylvia Engdahl's Space Subsite.

Many thanks Amigo!

Posted by Ted at 09:19 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Space Program

1/5 of the Friday Five

I know lots of people do the Friday Five. This week I saw (among others) Tink and Dawn answer, and one question in particular jumped out at me.

4. Have you received any gifts with messages engraved upon them? What did the inscription say?

When I was stationed in Germany, I was in charge of a wonderful group of people. These men and women were the type you could give instructions to, then leave alone knowing that they would get the job done. I was very protective of them because they made me look good.

Occasionally, one of my people would be on the phone getting frustrated with a nitwit-du-jour, and because of the nature of our work, it was usually someone of higher rank. If it went far enough that I needed to get involved, I'd say "Let me talk to that twinkie."

When I left that assignment, my people gave me a beautiful plaque (it's hanging above my desk right now) that has this inscription:

"Good Luck and Don't Let the Twinkies Get You"

Posted by Ted at 07:27 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Boring Stories

Toys for darkness

We use these to make our rockets visible for their entire flight at night launches, but you could easily come up with some cool ideas for your own use.

First up is Glow, Inc. This company sells glow-in-the-dark paints and powders, and theirs are the best I've ever seen. Not the pale and barely-visible luminescence we're used to, these are incredibly bright and last for hours. I bought the sampler powder pack, and have been playing with various application techniques. Very cool.

If you've ever seen the Indiglo watch faces, you know that they get very bright with the touch of a button. The folks at Night Launch offer sheets of this material up to 3" wide and 16" long in multiple colors. I got one of their starter kits for Christmas last year and believe me, this is neat stuff to play with.

Both sites offer plenty of great ideas on how to use their products, as well as occasional special offers and discounts. New products are also announced periodically.

Posted by Ted at 06:36 AM | Comments (2)
Category: SciTech

January 17, 2004

G-rated suggestion

Next time you need to refer to somewhere remote, instead of "Bumf**k, Egypt", try "Unpronouncylvania" instead.

Posted by Ted at 02:02 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Personal questions

Last week I had to do the interview for my security clearance update, which is routinely done every five years or so. The Special Agent came to my place of work at the time agreed on, and we sat down so she could conduct the interview.

These interviews start off with about five minutes of "Privacy Act..." and "Civil Code..." and "You can..." and "If you so desire...", accompanied by much form signing and reading of paperwork.

Then comes the personal questions. Most of it is just verifying that what you told them on your paperwork is correct, and asking for certain amplifications to an answer here and there. It's the price you pay for the clearance, and in this neck of the woods, the clearance is worth extra bucks on your resume.

After a standard series of questions about "illegal substance" use, I asked the agent whether anyone still answered with "I didn't inhale". She laughed and said that she had never had anyone use that line.

I told her about my last interview, when asked if I ever smoked marijuana that I had replied "I suppose the politically correct answer is: I didn't inhale". That agent wasn't amused, so I quickly revised my answer to a simple 'no'.

The interview was easy, because I'm boring. The agent said that for this purpose, that's a good thing.

In the next month or two, the neighbors will tell me about being visited by an agent asking questions about me. Personal privacy is a relative thing.

Posted by Ted at 08:09 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Boring Stories

New Smithsonian

National Museum of the American Indian, opening September 2004.

There are benefits to living close to Washington DC.

Posted by Ted at 07:04 AM | Comments (0)
Category: History

January 16, 2004

Words is words

President Bush made a pretty speech the other day, long on rhetoric and short on details. For those disappointed - and I was one at first - remember that one constant throughout our national relationship with GW Bush is that people tend to badly underestimate him.

RocketForge has an interesting post with some budget projections that don't seem at all unreasonable. This, of course, assumes that you're already somewhat pro-space.

Rand Simberg of Transterrestrial Musings posts some amusing email from a rabid anti-space citizen. The main thing I got out of the exchange (and comments) is that whatever side of the debate you're on, if your mind isn't open then you're an idiot and just wasting everybody's time. The link is to his main blog page, there's much worth looking at, so scroll down and enjoy.

Rocketman has a nice roundup of opinions and articles about the speech, and Laughing Wolf has an interesting take on what it says and what it doesn't say.

My attitude about space exploration is unchanged since before the speech. Like a little kid, "Aren't we there yet?"

Posted by Ted at 09:32 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Space Program

CSI - TMI edition

Flathead County, Montana is home to the newspaper Bigfork Eagle, which recently had an article containing all the sordid details about a recent law enforcement investigation. It's brief and you really should read it all for the chuckles interspersed with "ewwww" moments. Here are the last two sentences of the article:

"It appears we have a serial horse rapist," Dupont said.
The sheriff's office is investigating, and Dupont advised horse owners to be vigilant.
Posted by Ted at 07:06 AM | Comments (4)
Category: Square Pegs

Speaking of Mars

Robert Zubrin wrote an interesting book called The Case for Mars that talks about what it would take to get there and back. The Mars Direct Manned Mission Homepage has autographed copies available, plus lots of other information including downloadable versions of several papers written by Robert Zubrin.

Posted by Ted at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

Paying for space

On the newsgroup Rec.Models.Rockets, A. Mericas said:

I think the space program should go the way of College Bowl games: corporate sponsorship. I can see it now: "The Nike Command Module has just separated from the Pepsi Lunar Module. In the next 15 minutes they will enter the Dodge Powered Decent phase. If all goes as planned, the OfficeMax landing will occur at 15:00 Hours, Miller Time, near the Sea of Tranquility, Ford Country."

Houston, we have a Microsoft Moment.

Posted by Ted at 06:43 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

January 15, 2004

Tonight's Google

Another special logo, check it out.

Posted by Ted at 08:27 PM | Comments (3)
Category: Square Pegs


It's what I always imagined chocolate milk in prison would taste like.


Posted by Ted at 01:58 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Square Pegs

Something sweet in the kitchen

I'm not sure if this would fit in under 'lustful' or 'pandering' on my Going to Hell score, but the mens magazine FHM posted some very nice pictures of Food Network hottie hostess Rachel Ray.

Provocative but work safe, unless your workplace is very conservative.

Update: Phillip Coons has a link to the WaPo article online.

Posted by Ted at 07:16 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Links

It's not flying cars, but it's still pretty cool

Imagine walking into a room of your house and the sun is blaring in, so you press a button and the window becomes opaque. The news is on so you tune another window to your favorite channel, and when that's over you put some music on and the sound is perfectly balanced because your chair sits in the sweet spot between two - windows?

Coming to a home in a ritzy neighborhood near you some time in the near future.

Posted by Ted at 06:32 AM | Comments (0)
Category: SciTech

Now you know

Ocean salvage companies spent many years looking for the remains of the Titanic, studying the local currents and projecting possible search areas. Because of the depth of the seabed in that area, as well as the frigidity of the water, the actual searching was accomplished with robotic submersible craft carrying cameras.

RMS Titanic, Inc. was formed once they confirmed the location of the wreck. Here's the picture that finally convinced them that all their years of work had paid off (in the extended entry, as usual):


That link, by the way, is the real website for RMS Titanic, Inc. There's some pretty cool history and pictures there.

Posted by Ted at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

January 14, 2004

I'll save a couple of seats, but only for the ladies

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Low
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Low
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)High
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Oops, forgot to thank Lady TwoDragons for the pointer.

Posted by Ted at 01:21 PM | Comments (6)
Category: Square Pegs

Ransom Center

The official full title is the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin, which is where you can find this nifty interactive page about the Anatomy of a Page from the Gutenberg Bible.

Thanks to Trish of Design Kitten for pointing it out. She also has some links to one of her favorite artists, Tamara de Lempicka. Art-deco style, very nice.

So let's just run around and say hello to some new (to me) blogs, maybe you'll find something interesting and to your taste as well. And just how can I do this while being 'insanely busy'? Simple, mon ami! It's called 'downloading 1.8 million audit trail records', and the job will run for another short while, giving me this chance to scoot hither and yon.

Cruising around, I stumbled across Thud Factor, who has a picture of a rocket-propelled turtle. That's an auto-link right there.

I'm sorry I lost the link to who sent me to this one. They deserve trackback for pointing the way to The Brick Testament. You say it sounds like the Bible done in Lego? Yepper!

Just because I love the name of her blog, drop by and say hello to Mona at But That Sounded SO Good In My Head.

Another one, for the title. Graigs Transparent Soap (which used to be Spider Behind My Toilet).

Trailer Park Girl, and Hotel Illness.

Here's an odd little blog. Lunch. "i write about my lunch. you write about your lunch. we read about other people's lunch."

And here's The Sandwich Project, just...

Job is done. Must go.

Evening Update: Long day, surf a little before bed. Found this next one, and it's sooooo what I want to do with my life since it looks like the lottery thing ain't gonna pan out.

Evil Plan Generator. All I need now are some henchmen and a beautiful but evil assistant/bodyguard. Accepting resumes, duties negotiable.

I'm annoyed because somewhere I read a very funny bit I wanted to share. I even saw a link to it from one of my regular stops later on. Damned if I can find it now. Any help? It really is worth a look.

Found it! Infinite Monkeys, and I found it again thanks to Sophont. Enjoy.

Oh, and Jim, it's very funny. Hop to it now, dinner won't fix itself!

Posted by Ted at 07:19 AM | Comments (6)
Category: History

Build It - 7

This is a series of posts where we’re building a basic model rocket online. Each post shows part of the process step by step, including pictures and passing along tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way. You can find the rest of the series here. To learn more about what model rocketry is about, see this Q&A.

The main part of the post is in the extended entry so you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to, but I hope you follow along because when we get done you’ll have built and flown your first model rocket. Questions asked from before are answered too.

Parachutes. Technically, these are parasheets, and real parachutes aren’t measured in diameter, but in square inches (or feet) of canopy. Model rockets have been doing things their own way since the beginning, and it works just fine. The Fat Boy has a purple and white chute, which is 18” across. Estes 12” chutes are orange and white, and 24” chutes are red and white.

Lately, Estes has been including pre-assembled parachutes in its kits. If you have one, all you really need to do is make sure that the knots are tight. If you want to make the parachute better, follow along as I explain the steps to construct one of the Estes chutes, and re-do a couple of simple things.

Lay out the plastic sheet and using an x-acto knife and metal straightedge, cut it out on the outside lines. It’s a hexagonal shape, and the parachute shrouds will be tied into each corner.

At this point I always stick a binder reinforcement onto each corner. These little self-adhesive paper rings are available in the stationery section of most stores, and keep the strings from tearing through the plastic. Alternatively, you can use a small square of duct tape (about ¼” square). Whatever you use – if you use anything – make sure it lays flat so the strings can’t catch on it.

Stretch the string out and fold it back on itself twice. You’re going to cut it into three equal lengths. While we’re at it, we’ll start calling them ‘shroud lines’ too instead of the ‘strings’.

Using a sharp pencil point or thick needle, punch a hole in each corner of the chute, inside the reinforcement ring or tape square. Thread an end of a shroud line through, then tie a double knot and pull it tight. Tie the other end of the shroud line to the corner immediately to either side. Do all three shroud lines in the same way, so that each corner has one line attached and you have three loops of line coming off of the chute.

While it’s flat, decide whether you’d like to cut a spill hole. This is a hole in the apex of the canopy that lets the air out from underneath. The reason for it is that without it, a chute will tend to oscillate in the air as the air spills out from the edges of the canopy. If you remove enough, it’s also a good way to increase the speed that the rocket comes down, since you’re removing a part of the canopy. On real chutes, adding a spill hole can actually increase the efficiency of a canopy, which will increase its descent rate.

Estes chutes have the optional spill hole already marked. Just use your xacto knife to cut out the dotted lines around the center logo. I do recommend doing this for the Fat Boy, because that 18” chute is awfully big for the weight of the rocket.

If you ever want to make your own model rocket parachute, it’s easy to do. Any plastic bag material will work, or you can use the heavier plastic from those rolls of picnic tablecovers. Whatever you use, add some color if needed with permanent markers or hilighter marker because a clear plastic chute will be invisible at altitude.

For shroud lines, you can use heavy carpet thread, braided nylon, dacron or kevlar, or a brand of dental floss called Glide. The Glide is made of teflon and is fire resistant, which is a good thing for our purposes.

To attach the parachute, gather all of the shroud lines and thread them through the plastic loop on the nosecone. Pull the lines through and open them enough to slip the canopy through. Keep tightening the lines by lightly pulling on the canopy until the shroud lines snug up against the nosecone loop.

Alternately, you can attach the chute to a fishing swivel using the same steps. This way, you can move the chute from one rocket to another just by opening the swivel and reattaching it to another nosecone loop. You might need to use needlenose pliers for this. There's a picture of fishing swivels here. The shroud lines go through the small loop at one end, and the big end opens like a safety pin so you can attach it to the nose cone.

Now a little bit about aerodynamics and what makes these rockets safe to fly. For the Fat Boy kit, it should be perfectly stable as built, assuming you didn't add a bunch of weight at the aft end. Not all kits are naturally stable, so if it comes with a chunk of clay in the kit, you'll need to put it inside the nosecone as the kit instructions direct. In any event, you should at least do a quick check on a completed kit. The following tells how and why.

On standard rockets - fins at one end, nose cone at the other, nothing really odd going on in between - there are two places on the rocket that are critical to stability. First is the Center of Gravity (CG) and it's the point where the rocket weighs the same in either direction, like a fulcrum of a teeter-totter, or perfectly balanced scales. In the exact same way as a teeter-totter, you determine the CG by balancing the rocket on a pencil or some such (I use my finger - it's close enough). The point where it balances is the CG. Put a little pencil mark there.

I talked a little bit about the CG here without naming it (the bit about the hand out the window). The CG is the point that the rocket will rotate around as the fins correct the flight path.

The second place is called the Center of Pressure (CP). This one is a little harder to explain, but just like the Center of Gravity is where all the weight of a rocket balances, the CP is where all the various aerodynamic forces balance. These forces include thrust, drag and gravity, as well as the roll, pitch and yaw of the flying rocket.

To determine the CP, the easiest way is to make a cardboard cutout of the rocket outline, then balance it on something like you did for the CG. The difference here being that the cardboard is only two dimensional. It also represents the rocket flying through the air sideways (90 degree angle of attack), since it's presenting the largest possible cross-section to view. What this does is give the most conservative CP of the airframe. This CP will be farther forward - toward the nose - than any other angle of attack.

Your rocket will be stable if the Center of Gravity (CG) is in front of the Center of Pressure (CP) by at least one diameter of the main body (caliber). So if the CG is twice as far in front of the CP as the body diameter, then the rocket has two calibers of stability.

All this is great for regular rockets, but the Fat Boy is rather short and squatty, so the margin for stability is shortened a bit, and you'll find you probably have around 3/4 of a caliber stability, which is fine for that kit.

To move the CG forward, you can add weight to the front of the rocket, or add length. To move the CP backwards, you can either add length to the rocket, or increase the size of the fins, or the number of fins, or sweep them backwards.

Having the CG too far ahead of the CP is called 'overstable', and can cause the rocket to be overly sensitive to wind gusts. It can behave like a weathervane and cock sharply into a breeze, just like a, uh, weathervane.

One last thing, you should measure the CG when the rocket is prepared to fly - motor, chute and the works, because that's how the rocket will actually fly. Sounds dumb, but it's not. The motor can shift the CG significantly backwards.

A simple test for stability is called the 'swing test'. Find the rocket's CG (remember, ready to fly configuration), and tie a long piece of string around it at that point - use a spot of tape to hold it in place. Then take the string and swing the rocket around your head like you were using a rope lasso. The rocket should settle into place and look like it's flying horizontally around you. Sometimes it will settle in tail first, that's ok. And for certain weird cases, a rocket will tumble as unstable, even though in actual flight it'll be fine. But for 99% of the time, this is a good test, and even scale models of real rockets have been checked this way by engineers in informal testing.

Or you can trust the kit. :) Where the CP and CG become important is when you design your own rockets.

The math to determine the CP isn't that difficult, and was worked out in general form by Jim Barrowman in 1966. Known as the 'Barrowman Equations' (duh - and the link is a .pdf document), they simplify the process by making several assumptions about the rocket and aerodynamic environment. They're still a useful approximation and are still frequently used.

So what kinds of practical use is all this CG and CP hocus-pocus?

Well, for our rockets, we want them to be stable so that they fly straight and safe, especially since model rockets are unguided, and rely on fins to keep it going straight up.

In general, an airplane (real or model), wants the CG and CP to be closer together, so that they're neutrally stable. That way, the plane is easy to steer because the airframe isn't fighting to keep itself pointing in the same direction. A military fighter is going to be closer to unstable, and thus more nimble, than a passenger jet.

Military missiles, especially air-to-air versions like the Sidewinder, are purposely designed to be unstable. They can turn-on-a-dime, figuratively speaking, and the only thing that allows them to fly straight at all is the onboard guidance computer, and controls like fins that rotate, tiny steering rockets along the sides, or thrust deflection. Larger missiles without fins steer by changing the direction that the engine bell is pointing, using the rocket thrust itself to steer.

Posted by Ted at 06:24 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Build It

Inter-Munuvian Hockey Whoopass Jamboree

Congrats to Helen and her Dallas Stars, who defeated my beloved San Jose Sharks last night 3-zip. In accordance with our informal bet for the season, the Stars logo will be displayed up top for a day or so.

Posted by Ted at 04:53 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Munuvian Daily Tattler

January 13, 2004

Mars Fullscreen Panorama

Too cool.

Posted by Ted at 08:08 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

It takes two

At work we had one of those know-it-all managers. He's since retired, and it was a huge loss of experience and knowledge, because between the two of us we knew it all.

He knew everything in the world except that he was an idiot.

And I knew that.

Update: My gratitude to all who didn't comment on the incorrect spelling of 'knowledge' above. I said I only needed to know one thing...

Posted by Ted at 08:14 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Square Pegs

Project Pluto

Back in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, the military started looking towards the 'next' weapon. Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) were all well and good, but everyone was feverishly working on anti-missile systems and the first country to perfect them would render much of their opponents’ nuclear inventory obsolete at a stroke. Project Pluto was conceived as a hedge against that possibility, but has been nearly forgotten over the years and achieved near-mythical status.

So what exactly was Pluto? Simply put, Pluto was an atomic robotic aircraft, designed to fly faster than the Soviet defenses could react, dropping bombs and missiles at targets along the way as it went about its mission. Pluto would be powered by a ramjet, and fly just above treetop level at Mach 3+ (~2500mph).

From a Department of Energy document:

The principle behind the ramjet was relatively simple: air was drawn in at the front of the vehicle under ram (under great force) pressure, heated to make it expand, and then exhausted out the back, providing thrust.

The notion of using a nuclear reactor to heat the air was fundamentally new. Unlike commercial reactors, which are surrounded by concrete, the Pluto reactor had to be small and compact enough to fly, but durable enough to survive a 7,000 mile trip to a potential target.

The name of this experimental RamJet was Tory II-C, and a working model was actually built and successfully run for a few seconds in 1961.

This .pdf document contains a picture of the Tory II-C test engine, which was mounted on a railroad flatcar. The technician working on the engine gives an idea of the scale of the engine, and just how large Pluto would've been.

This site is a nice look at various types of ramjets and how they work.

From the Sci.Space.History newsgroup:

Much of Pluto's rationale was lost when effective ABM systems failed to appear. The concept always had problems with attack routing -- many of the approach routes to the Soviet Union are over friendly or neutral territory -- and with detectability -- it might be hard to catch, but it would be awfully easy to track, since a *less* stealthy aircraft is difficult to imagine. The deathblow was the problem of how to safely test an ultra-high-speed necessarily-unmanned aircraft with global range and a tendency to kill everything under its flight path. Sure, you can run the tests over the Pacific, but what happens when one has a navigation failure? And for that matter, assuming everything works and your test is a success, what do you *do* with the thing at the end of the test? It's intensely radioactive and has no landing gear...

There was also some debate about whether Pluto actually needed warheads. Once again from Sci.Space.History:

The reason why folks wondered whether the thing needed a warhead was the radiation emitted by the engine itself (a completely unshielded half-gigawatt reactor) plus the shockwave generated by a fairly large aircraft doing Mach 3 at treetop height.

Sometimes you have to wonder how we ever survived to see 2000.

You can find more historical context in this paper titled The Decay of the Atomic-Powered Aircraft Program. The paper "examines the technical and socio-political aspects of the United States Air Force's Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion (ANP) program and associated programs, including the reasons the ANP program was undertaken, and the reasons it was canceled after a decade of work."

Posted by Ted at 07:56 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Military

Night Launch

In December an Altas rocket was launched from the west coast (Vandenburg?) at 2am. This series of pictures were taken by D. Bishop from his home 100 miles away in the high California desert. He was kind enough to post them on the Rec.Models.Rockets binaries newsgroup.

The fuzzy sky that the rocket trail eventually disappears into is the light pollution of the Los Angeles light dome.

Details, in his words:

I was using my Topcon Super D 35mm SLR film camera on a tripod holding the shutter button down with it set on "B", I was only using asa 100 film, and that would not have captured enough to realy show. The whole flight, from first liftoff light to where it was getting lost in the L.A. light dome (I hate that) took up the first 8 mins (about) as it was heading southwest away from me towards orbit. By the time I got inside my trailer out of the cold, it was already over India.

For each shot I was doing a mental count releasing the button at or about the count of 20.

As usual, the pictures are in the extended entry. There are seven photos, but each is rather small, so this isn't a huge bandwidth killer.








Posted by Ted at 05:20 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

January 12, 2004

Mars - Well, that didn't take long

In the extended entry.

Uncle Sams on Mars.jpg

Photo by D. Bishop and posted to the Rec.Models.Rockets binaries newsgroup.

Posted by Ted at 06:25 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Space Program

Busy busy busy

Work is going to be insanely busy for the next week or month or so.

Posted by Ted at 06:20 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Seriously

Build It - 6

This is a series where we build a model rocket step-by-step. You can find the rest of the series here.

The main part of the post is in the extended entry so you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to, but I hope you follow along because when we get done you’ll have built and flown your first model rocket. Questions asked from before are answered too.

If you have questions, please leave them in the comments or email me.

This time we’re going to do the last of the glue work, and it’s quick and easy.

For each side of each fin, run a small bead of glue along the edge where the fin meets the body tube. Then take your finger and smooth the glue into the crease. Don’t wipe too much glue away, just try to leave a smooth rounded fillet. If you’re using brown carpenters glue, the gel formula will keep the glue from running and you can do all the fin fillets at one time. Otherwise, just do one or two at a time and let it dry before moving on to the next. These glue fillets add lots of strength to the fin joint and you should always do them.

We didn’t glue in the motor mount before attaching the fins, so lets do that now as well. Apply the glue fillet to the seam where the centering rings meet the body tube, just like you did with the fins. Smooth it with your finger, and since we’re using wood glue I recommend putting a second coat on after the first is dry. Do this for both ends of the motor mount – top and bottom. The top fillet is deep inside the body tube, so what you can do is take a long scrap of the balsa that the fins came from, and use that to apply the glue. Don’t worry about being perfectly neat, the important thing is getting the joint glued.


The instructions tell you to mark a line between the fins to help you align the launch lug. Instead of that, I usually install the lug in the corner where the fin meets the body tube. This way the lug is automatically lined up vertically (the pre-cut fin slots help), plus it’s stronger for the extra surface to glue against.

Finally, it’s time to glue the shock cord mount into place. You should have a ‘paper sandwich’ which has the elastic coming out of one end. Use a good bit of glue, and attach the mount to the inside of the top of the body tube, with the elastic pointing up towards the nose cone. Make sure you get it far enough down inside the body so that it doesn’t interfere with the shoulder of the nose cone.


You can trim the elastic to a length of about 24” or so before or after gluing the mount into place.

The reason for making the shock cord longer is a phenomenon known as the 'estes dent'. What happens is that during the flight, the nose cone is ‘fired’ forward by the ejection charge. If the shock cord is too short, then the nose cone stretches the elastic until it zings right back at the rocket, crunching the top of the body tube. Using a longer shock cord prevents this from happening. A good rule of thumb is to make the shock cord 2-3 times the length of the body tube.

Once the shock cord mount is dry, use more glue to make sure it’s firmly glued into place. This part is going to keep your rocket attached to the parachute and nose cone, so use some care here. You also want to make sure it's as flat as possible, so that there's nothing to snag the parachute on it's way out.

When everything is dry, tie the end of the elastic shock cord to the plastic loop of the nose cone. Use a double knot and make sure it’s tight.

At this point, the rocket is ready to fly except for the parachute. In the next day or so I’ll put up the next part talking about the parachute and some information about flight stability. We’ll also get ready to paint the rocket.

Posted by Ted at 05:16 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Build It

January 11, 2004

Benefits of the Space Program

(besides shooting morons into the sun)

Everybody's talking about the Moon and Mars and going there and what we should do there and why we should go and on and on and on and on.

I used to have a great link to a site that clearly set out what kind of benefits mankind has gained from the monies spent on space programs. Not just the intangibles ("we learned things"), but the solid using-it-now-on-Earth technologies as well. I lost that link somewhere along the line, and I want to point some friends to it. I've done some Googling, but the list is long and so far not what I'm looking for.

So I'm asking for help here. Do you know of a site that has that kind of information? A place where Joe Taxpayer can go and read and say "Gee, I didn't realize...".

Posted by Ted at 10:02 AM | Comments (7)
Category: Space Program

2003 Rocket Stats

I do a summary of our family's rocket activities every year*, and this year y'all have the chance to look it over if you'd like. *yawn* It's in the extended entry.

*We've kept complete records of every flight we've ever made. It's a good way to gauge our progress as we advance in this hobby, and helps us to figure out what happened when things go wrong.

This year has been very satisfying because of the various group projects we were involved in. On the individual level, we only launched about half as many flights as we normally make in a year, but the move into new technologies made for some exciting times and we’re eagerly looking forward to 2004 and beyond.

Without a doubt, the high point of our year was the Team America Rocket Challenge. I mentored a group of students from T.C. Williams high school in Alexandria, Virginia, and although they didn't make the finals, they made a qualified flight that ranked 110th out of almost 900 teams. Not bad for kids who had never flown a rocket before.

Mookie and I also volunteered to help out at the finals held in Northern Virginia. One hundred and one teams from all over the country participated on one cold, miserable, rainy day. It was still a spectacular event, and we had the chance to meet NASA shuttle astronauts, the Director of NASA, Senator Mike Enzi of Wyoming and author Homer Hickam of 'October Sky' and 'Rocket Boys' fame. As neat as that was, the best part of the day was watching the student teams make their flights.

We also participated in the Alpha 40 Project, making the official flights for Virginia. In a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Estes Alpha design, two pairs of Alpha's are being flown - one pair in each US state and Canadian province, and the other pair in Europe and Asia and Australia. Once the flights are completed, one of each pair has been promised to the Smithsonian Air & Space museum and the other pair will be donated to the Vern Estes model rocket museum.

During the summer, Mookie and I also volunteered to do a talk and demonstration launch for a middle school program called TEMS.

Liz and I assembled our first homemade parachute using ripstop nylon. It worked great, but was fairly labor-intensive and probably not worth the cost savings. I’m planning to try my hand at sewing my own quarter-spherical chute using the rest of the ripstop nylon, if I ever get around to it.

This year we also made the move into hybrid motors. Unlike the traditional black powder or amonium perchlorate motors, the hybrids use plastic fuel grains and nitrous oxide. Very cool, and (so far) completely unregulated by Uncle Sam.

Using hybrid motors means using electronics for parachute deployment. We've now made several flights with the G-Wiz altimeter, which uses both an accelerometer and a barometric sensor to determine the peak altitude of the flight and to deploy the parachute at a specified time.

9 launches attended.

42 rocket flights made, in 28 different rockets.
3 clusters flown (multiple motors at liftoff).
2 staged flights (more than 1 motor, ignited one after another)
4 rocket glider flights
1 helicopter recovery flight
4 UFO/saucer flights

34 black powder motors (Estes)
12 amonium perchlorate motors (Aerotech)
2 hybrid motor flights (RATT-works)

smallest motor flown: 1/4A
biggest motor flown: H (an I motor was attempted, but unsuccessful)
most often flown: C


Most flown rocket:
Snitch – 4 flights (31 flights total) – UFO/saucer model.
Next most flown:
Bootlegger – 3 flights (12 flights total, all on G motors).
Pacifyer – 3 flights (4 total, all on D motors)
Barenaked Lady – 3 flights (6 flights total, on D/E motors)

Rockets destroyed: 1 – top stage of a scale Soviet SA-2 Guideline SAM, tilted off rod, slammed into ground under power (2nd flight).
Rockets retired: 1 – Cinderella II, marginally stable, retired for safety reasons (3rd flight).
Rockets lost: 1 – Higher Calling. Extreme altitude bird (4th flight).

Notable damage:
FY2K, nosecone separation at altitude. Rocket recovered under chute, nosecone recovered undamaged (7th flight).
Bootlegger, chute didn’t deploy. Hit the ground hard – crunch – repaired (12th flight)
Bad Medicine, shock cord pulled through airframe. Body recovered undamaged, nosecone recovered under chute (3rd flight).

Most flown rockets:
Snitch – 31 flights – Estes ready-to-fly UFO/saucer
Vampyre – 27 flights (1 in 2003, this rocket has also flown at least once each year since 1997) – scratchbuilt, my design
Venom – 23 flights – Estes kit
YJ-218 – 20 flights (2 in 2003, this rocket has flown at least once each year since 1998) – twin-engine cluster, scratchbuilt

Posted by Ted at 02:08 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Rocketry

Creepy Little Kids Trying To Sell Me Things

What is this new television advertising trend where odd children are used in commercials? It all started with Mazda and that 'zoom zoom' kid. Tonight during the football games, Volkswagen started running an ad with another kid who looks just a little 'off', and now IBM features this truly disturbing young blond freak.

Then again, since I remember them I suppose the commercials are a success.

Posted by Ted at 12:14 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

January 10, 2004

They don't even try anymore

The Weekly World News doesn't even pretend to be serious anymore. This week's headline sums it up: Bat Boy Led Our Troops to Saddam's Hole!

I miss the good ol' days, when you knew they were full of crap, but they didn't serve it up with a big ol' wink.

When I was stationed in Germany, in our office we had this big bulletin board. On it were various stories from the tabloids, by category. Bigfoot story, UFO story, and so on. Every week, we'd pick up a copy of each of the tabloids, cut out the best stories, and put them up as well. Then everyone would vote on the 'best' for each type of story. That one stayed up and the loser was removed. It was entertaining, and we kept up with the important news.

Totally unrelated. My wife hates going to the grocery store with me, because in line at the register I'll track down a copy of the Weekly World News and read it out loud to her. I make sure everyone can hear me. My favorite parts are Dear Dottie and Ed Anger. Are they even still around? It's been awhile.

Changing gears again, my 'brush with fame' bit for the tabloids involves a WWN story from a few years ago, about a possessed dishwasher in Italy and the priest who performed the exorcism on it. The 'priest' in the photo was a co-worker of mine, the 'owner' of Satan's appliance was his girlfriend, and the Italian kitchen was located all of about two miles from my house. I don't care though, it's still all true.

Posted by Ted at 07:07 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Boring Stories

Too good to miss

If you're not already reading Curmudgeonly & Skeptical, you should be. He's posted some laugh-out-loud stuff lately. I especially enjoyed the links to this subliminal site and the simple solution to an age-old problem. Both are mildly naughty.

Speaking of subliminal, here's a nifty version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start The Fire". Thanks to SilverBlue for this one.

Ah Flea, thanks for this link to 'The Sweetest Thing'.

A Saturn concept car. Thanks to Not Quite Tea and Crumpets.

LeeAnn introduces us to Clip Clop Comix. This kind of humor is exactly what most scares people about me my style!

Posted by Ted at 06:29 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

January 09, 2004

Bread Pudding

Denita posted her bread pudding recipe, and since I've been looking for a great recipe for this for a long time, I immediately had to try it.

Some bread pudding is delicately flavored, with a consistancy like a steamed dumpling and just a hint of cinnamon. Not this one. Her recipe makes a bold, savory pudding that I have fallen in love with.

I learned a couple of important things from my first crack at it. In her recipe she calls for 1/2 to 2/3 of a loaf of bread. This first time I used probably even more than that - about 3/4 loaf of sourdough - and it was too much bread. Listen to Denita, for she is wise.

I also had to improvise a bit. I didn't have the 'pumpkin pie spice' called for, so I used 2 tsp Allspice and 1 tsp Ginger instead. Close enough. The recipe also calls for dried apples. I pared and diced half of a fresh Granny Smith apple and it worked well. She also mentioned almond extract but didn't list an amount (she's one of those 'that looks about right' cooks that I envy so much), so I used 1 1/2 tsp.

I didn't make her caramel syrup either, because I was pressed for time. *hangs head in shame* I had some ice cream topping in the fridge, so I used that instead. Bad zoot, naughty zoot! Denita, let the ritual spankings begin. :) As partial penance, I'll list a couple of bread pudding toppings I've come across, they're at the end of this.

Variations, variations. Cooking is when it's ok to play with your food. Right off the bat, I think I'll add more apple and nuts to the basic recipe. Personal taste, and I'll do that the third time (second time, I'll just cut back on the bread, because that might make things just right). Rachael and I also talked about using pineapple instead, probably with vanilla extract instead of the almond, and reversing the Allspice/Ginger amounts. Or use ground cloves instead of Allspice because it might go better with the pineapple. One variation I've seen but not tried is to make chocolate bread pudding by adding two squares of melted baking chocolate to the custard mixture.

Denita herself talks about pre-soaking the raisins in rum or kahlua. Yum!

Bottom line, if you look up 'comfort food' in the encyclopedia, there will be a picture of bread pudding there. For breakfast with a cup of coffee or tea, or as dessert after a bowl of chicken noodle soup, this is a wonderful version of a classic.

All right, those toppings I promised...

Whiskey Sauce

1/2 stick butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup bourbon

Cream the butter and sugar together, then slowly beat in the bourbon. Drizzle over warm bread pudding.

Brown Sugar Sauce

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 stick butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Melt together over low heat. Do not boil.

Posted by Ted at 08:12 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Recipes

An interesting twist on comment spam

I've now encountered a few new comments that almost don't fit the category of 'spam'.

They come from ficticious but believable names, not something obviously botted together to defeat the filters (we've all seen them in email).

Instead of being link-filled messages, the only 'spammy' part of the message is the URL of the sender. It'll be to something about diet aids or breast enhancement, etc. The email addresses are usually obvious dead-ends.

The comment text itself is something meant to be inspirational. "Be a better person, be a friend" type stuff. Totally unconnected to the product being shilled in the URL.

The telltale signs of spam are subtle for the most part. Except that so far, each one of them has targeted an old old post. Like all comment spam, they hope to get lost in the midst of your archives.

It's kind of ironic that a spammer is giving me advice on how to be a better person. So I'll leave you with this quote from my Tagline Archive:

Imagine standing at a street corner and spitting on people to get their attention, then trying to sell them something. Spamming is a better marketing method than that only in that you get punched less often. -- Esa A. Peuha

You did notice the new tagline up there on the right, didn't you?

Posted by Ted at 12:51 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Square Pegs

PB&J and other random edibles

Peanut Butter & Jelly. Mmmmmm. I still eat a PB&J for lunch once or twice a week. Somewhere I once read that the most nutritious way to make it was to go heavy on the peanut butter and light on the jelly, so that's what I do. Extra chunky please, although I don't turn my nose up at creamy either.

According to the commercials, "Choosy Mom's Choose JIF", and I agree. I'm not a big peanut butter snob, but you should never buy the store brand just because it's cheaper. It sucks. Trust me, your kids are just too polite to complain.

And you can keep the Wonder bread, I like mine on whole wheat.

We lived in Alabama for several years, and my dad did too in his younger days. I've had southern cooking and it's yum. My dad loves grits and hominy. I've tried both, and think they're disgusting.

And biscuits for breakfast. Hell, any meal is better with biscuits. Except at breakfast, I'll take that whole wheat again - toasted. And skip the butter if you're offering orange marmalade.

I just recently found out that black-eyed peas are actually beans. So now I can say "I don't like black-eyed peas, even though they're actually beans".

My mother-in-law eats black-eyed peas every year on New Years day for good luck.

We lived in Montgomery, Alabama and our corner house had four pecan trees. One year, we had a bumper crop of pecans. Luckily, my wife makes the best pecan pie on the planet. Of course I'm biased, because I'll take pecan pie and a glass of milk over almost anything else.

Lima beans are the alien pods that telemarketers and spammers come from.

Succotash is two syllables too long.

(mental list: bonfire entry... check)

Posted by Ted at 06:29 AM | Comments (7)
Category: Square Pegs

January 08, 2004


Posted by Ted at 04:42 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Square Pegs

Georgetown Hoyas

Someone left a comment last night in a post from way back, asking what a 'hoya' was. The return address looks suspiciously like spam, so instead of linking to it or emailing directly as asked, I'll answer the question here, because it is kind of interesting.

Many years ago, when all Georgetown students were required to study Greek and Latin, the University's teams were nicknamed "The Stonewalls." It is suggested that a student, using Greek and Latin terms, started the cheer "Hoya Saxa!", which translates into "What Rocks!" The name proved popular and the term "Hoyas" was eventually adopted for all Georgetown teams.

That's from the official website of the GU athletic department.

Hmmm... I don't think they're named for a family of tropical vines and shrubs found in SE Asia and Australia.

Posted by Ted at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)
Category: History

Yuppie-dom as a group have now officially jumped the shark

Driving home yesterday, I heard on the radio the advertising for a new business that combines cosmetic dentistry and day spa services.

Their slogan was (something close to): "Why have a perfect smile if your whole face and body aren't just as polished?"

How freakin' shallow can you get? This place is advertising dental laminations and laser whitening to go along with your epidermal peeling and deep tissue massage.

Shallow enough to place an ad in the personals stating "SWF with brilliant straight smile looking for SWM with same." No shit, I saw that one*.

I'm getting to the point where I like seeing a pretty girl with a little gap in her front teeth or a slightly crooked smile, just because it gives her some personality. Everyone nowadays looks like airbrushed Playboy models between the lips.

*Yeah, I see the personals. We've got a couple guys at work who post ads there and want to talk about various potentials. With everyone. Whether you want to or not.

Posted by Ted at 07:10 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Square Pegs

Joe Gibbs

More thoughts about the Washington Redskins rehiring former coach Joe Gibbs.

I'm trying to figure out whether owner Dan Snyder is a loon or a genius. No more making fun of the team for how far they've fallen, because as of yesterday the Redskins are the most intriguing show in the game.

Plus, Snyder bought himself another two years of breathing room. It's another win/win situation, just like Spurrier at the beginning. Who knows how it'll turn out? If it does go sour, it'll take local fans a while to work up the courage to blast Gibbs. The man is an icon around DC.

Fans around here are walking on clouds right now. Did they really hire Joe Bugel too? I don't even like the Redskins, but it's going to be fun to see what happens for the next couple of years.

Update: Deion Sanders is one bummin' unit. He had his burgundy suit dry-cleaned and everything.

Posted by Ted at 06:11 AM | Comments (3)
Category: Square Pegs

DUI - Drawing Under the Influence

Courtesy of Coyote's Bark, this haunting series of drawings by an artist as he progresses through an acid trip.

Posted by Ted at 05:59 AM | Comments (5)
Category: Links

January 07, 2004

This Rocks! (no pun intended)

NASA's Stardust spacecraft is headed home after it's flyby mission to collect samples from a comet.

An estimated 10 million particles of dust traveling at six times the speed of a rifle bullet blasted the spacecraft as it flew past the comet Wild 2, members of the mission said. Stardust shot 72 black-and-white pictures of the dark nucleus of Wild 2 during Friday's swoop past the frozen ball of ice and rock.
To get its unprecedented close-ups, Stardust flew through the comet's coma, the fuzzy shroud of gas and dust that envelops it. The images show features on the comet's pocked surface as small as 66 feet across, seen from about 150 miles away, said Ray Newburn, a member of the Stardust imaging team.

The largest of the particles to strike Stardust's twin bulletproof bumpers was probably the size of a .22-caliber round, scientists said. The spacecraft fired its thrusters about 1,200 times to compensate for the battering it received during the flyby, said Benton Clark, of Lockheed Martin Space Systems, the probe's builder.

Stardust is expected back in 2006. There's lots of good information and more links about the mission and spacecraft at Chris Hall's blog.

Posted by Ted at 01:20 PM | Comments (1)
Category: Space Program

Eerie parallels

A virtual twin to our Sun has been located in the claw of the constellation Scorpio. By galactic measurement, at a mere 46 light years away, 18 Scorpii is practically a next-door neighbor.

In further news, the top story there claims that szkikka-diva Btirrny Psrrses dmennqued less than 29 sluds after vrinkking.

Posted by Ted at 01:07 PM | Comments (0)
Category: SciTech

Rocketing Around the Blogosphere

Jumping right into it.

Annika has started a nice little weekly thing called the Huge Comment. Visit her and check out this week’s, because it’s a doozy. It also gives me the chance to point to Publicola, who I don’t visit near often enough. Read all the good things Annika says about him, because she says it better than I could, and she’s right.

Over at Bad State of Gruntledness, we’re promised pictures of the mighty carrier USS Midway coming into her final home port, where she’s to be converted into a floating museum.

Bill wants begs everyone to quote him more. Ok, just for you old-timer. “rhymey”… “bestest”… “fruiting”… “To be perfectly honest, I don't know anything”… and he also goes into this weird Jimmy Carter love thing. On second thought, don’t’ bother going there.

Instead, go visit Roberto at Dynamo Buzz, where he links to the Greatest All-time Hollywood Speeches. Do ya feel lucky punk?

Candy posted the link to this trippy psychic compass.

In a similar vein, Gee, ya THINK!? posts lots and lots of stiletto heels and boot pictures. What is the connection? Well, when I think of psychics, I picture the movie Scanners where the guy goes all spastic and throbby until his head blows up. Seeing a woman in thigh high stiletto heeled boots makes me throb too (and you sickos were waiting for some twisted fantasy about Miss Cleo).

Margi Lowry posts the lyrics to an oldie some might wish left forgotten, but not I! Many thanks, and may your mojo remain abundant. I'll be singing that on the way home.

Pictures time! We've got links to pictures. First up, the uber-sarcastic Norbi - known exploiter of happy furry puppy - cracks me up with not one, but two bits of captioning genius! From the top (blogspotted), scroll down and look for the picture of the Croc-dude. Then keep on going until you get to his first post of 2004, titled If You'd Like, You Can Stop Reading After The First One. He's right, the first one is by far the funniest, but the rest pale only in comparison.

Also, in our photos category we present Glenn over at Hi, I'm Gollum Black! and his link to a gruesome photo of a Paki homicide bomber. Or the identifiable part anyways. Warning, high ick factor.

Starhawk posts a picture of his dogs for all you Rachel Lucas fans suffering withdrawal, and he talks about the stock market.

Meanwhile, Marc Scribner of Idiot Villager points out that the 'destabilizing' effects of US foreign policy has resulted in huge positive gains in the Arab stock markets. Damn Americans, spreading western-style prosperity all over like it was a good thing or something.

If you voted when I asked, then you rule! If not, then you missed your chance to say "I knew Jezebel Diary before they got big." Thanks to us, they won the online poll and will now open for the Suicide Girls at their tour stopover in Seattle, Washington. And I bet if you go to the show, you can go to the side door and tell the guard there that you’re with the band. If that don’t work, just tell him Ted sent ya.

It’s also time to do it again – well, soon anyways – as The Meatriarch has been nominated for the Weblog awards. Vote people, because it’s the democratic thing to do, unless you hate democracy, in which case you should vote anyways so that the people’s voice can be heard above the imperialistic claptrap of the bourgeouis.

Damn, Tom Tuttle of Tacoma would be so proud!

Two states south is California. Kurt explains the origin of his blog name, posts pictures of his kids, and entertains from the Artichoke Capital of America. I just made that last bit up, I think the artichoke capital is north and west of him, closer to the coast. Anna of Primal Purge fame is another Californian, as is the California Yankee. I know LeeAnn and Mr. Navarre of the above mentioned Disgruntledness are also currently Californians. In traditional Munuvian fashion: Yay!

Finally, for the morbidly curious, you might want to compare the Dead Pool picks of Kelley, Kevin and Kin. It's only a weird coincidence that they all start with 'K'.

Dead? Dead... mmmm steak. Visit the Laughing Wolf for interesting conversation and cooking posts.

Jumping right out of it.

Posted by Ted at 07:30 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Links

Redskins News

On the way to work this morning, I heard a report that owner Dan Snyder has offered a huge amount of money to former coach Joe Gibbs to return to the team.

Typical Snyder - throw lots of money at someone unlikely hoping to solve everything in one heroic move. I mean, c'mon... Gibbs has been out of the game for a long damn time.

The Redskins running game sucked last year, maybe he should offer John Riggins big bucks to come back.

Theismann is available I bet. Or even better, Sonny Jurgenson!!! Throwing long to Art Monk. Jeez, the Redskins have become a parody of themselves. I can't even hate them anymore because they're so pitiful.

Posted by Ted at 07:18 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Square Pegs

Donating Blood

Here in the DC area, the supply of O+ blood (the 'universal' type) is almost completely depleted.

If you're eligible, please donate. If you don't know if you can, then please call your local Red Cross or hospital for information.

The pool of eligible doners was slashed in the last few years as tens of thousands of people (many military) were removed from the rolls because of possible mad cow exposure in Europe. Your help is really needed.

Posted by Ted at 07:06 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Square Pegs

January 06, 2004

Good news

Just heard from oldest daughter Robyn, who's back in school up in tropical Michigan. She's been working with the admin folks to see if she would get credits for her high school International Baccalaureate (IB) classes.

Thanks to the IB courses and the community college classes she took, after one semester she's now officially a sophomore.

(proud papa mode on) She's majoring in math, with a minor in education, and talking about going on for her Master's at Michigan State so as to teach at college level. (screw it, I'm proud and it's staying on for awhile)

Posted by Ted at 12:06 PM | Comments (2)
Category: Family matters


The Udvar-Hazy aerospace annex opened in early December, 2003. Museum officials were anticipating about 3 million visitors per year, which proved to be a bit underoptimistic. Almost a quarter-million people have visited the site in it's first three weeks of operation, and the staff is currently working on ways to reduce the wait to see the exhibits.

Posted by Ted at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Links

Pete Rose

I don't like him as a person, and I hated him as a player, although I could admit that he was great.

Like it or not, Baseball's Rule 21 says that betting on baseball calls for a 1 year suspension, and that betting on your own team calls for a lifetime ban.

Pete Rose has just (finally) admitted that he bet on his own team.

This asshole is baseball's equivalent of North Korea. He denied for 14 years that he bet on games, even though a special investigator found solid evidence. Now he admits that he did bet, but only after he became a manager. Yeah, right. I believe you, you lying sack of shit. You're admitting it now because you're running out of time to get into the Hall of Fame. In a few more years, you'll be handed over to the veterans committee, and you know full well they'll never vote you in.

The afterlife better have a special place reserved for Pete Rose, one where guys like Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn could stop by and use his head for batting practice. I bet it'd be popular. If the lines get too long, I'd suggest saving a spot for Bud Selig too.

Just knowing I could do that if I went to heaven would make me be a better person here on earth.

Posted by Ted at 07:15 AM | Comments (4)
Category: History

The Countdown

Everyone recognizes the countdown. Even if you don't speak the language being used, you know from the deliberate and measured cadence that something important is going to happen shortly. But did you know that the countdown wasn't invented by a rocketeer?

In the 1929 German movie Die Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon), film director Fritz Lang* needed a way to increase the drama of a scene leading up to the takeoff of the rocket ship. He came up with the idea of having one of the main characters counting down the last minute before the launch as the tension built.

It was prescient, as the countdown became a valuable tool when real rocketry became a complex and precisely timed exercise.

When asked in an interview if he got the idea from the rocket club VfR**, Lang answered that the they did nothing special when launching a rocket; someone walked up, lit the fuse and then ran like hell.

*Lang also directed the silent classic Metropolis in 1926.

** The VfR - Verein fur Raumschiffarhrt (Society for Space Travel) was a popular German rocketry club whose members included a young Wernher Von Braun, physicist Hermann Oberth, and science author Willy Ley. The group attracted the interest of the German military and with their support and encouragement developed much of the basic technology that eventually culminated in the V2.

Source: Spaceship Handbook, by Jack Hagerty.

Posted by Ted at 06:57 AM | Comments (4)
Category: Space Program

January 05, 2004

Saying Thanks

Blackfive points the way to this guestbook. I urge each and every one of you to go there and show your support to the troops coming home after sacrificing so much for the rest of us.

Posted by Ted at 02:23 PM | Comments (0)
Category: Military

The pissing contest ends here

I was wondering whether or not to respond here to The Bartender or not, and had basically decided to leave it alone. I’ve got no problem with someone vehemently disagreeing with my opinion, but he’s made it personal on his blog.

As he mentioned in the comments here, we had a private email exchange where we were talking about various points in my first post. It was friendly enough, although when someone warns me up front that they’re going to be sarcastic and then closes by telling me they’d better end it before they get really ‘shitty’ about it, well, that fits my definition of ‘incensed’.

I thought that bit about Tijuana was funny. After seeing it labeled ‘that little punch’ by Madfish, I carefully reread it. Sorry guy, I still think it’s funny, and I think you need to take the chip off your shoulder and work on your sense of humor.

Apparently I also didn’t include enough disclaimers about “this is my opinion”, or “to my eye”, or “this means nothing more than what you want it to”, because The Bartender took every bit of it personally.

I visit all the Mu.Nu blogs at least once a day. I consider that the least I can do as part of the Munuvian family. All families have occasional strife, and sometimes the best thing to do is walk away.

It’s a big internet Bartender, enjoy it. I am. 'nuff said.

Update: my original post is here, and the followup is here.

Posted by Ted at 01:39 PM | Comments (4)
Category: Munuvian Daily Tattler

Tactical UAV under development

Brigham Young University is testing new miniature surveillance aircraft for the Air Force. Designed for small unit tactical use, these flying scouts weigh in at about three ounces and further miniaturization is in the works.

According to one of the engineering professors involved,

"They could program it with a laptop or a PDA and give it a GPS location, or they may have a map on their laptop or PDA, and they may just select a point on the map and just say, 'Go there,' and then they will take the airplane out, throw it in the air and it would get there."

Future plans call for the ability to launch several at once and flying them in a coordinated manner for maximum coverage of an area.

A year or two ago I read about this concept, and the article likened it to a swarm of bees spreading out through city streets. I had no idea things had progressed this far. Further details (and pictures) can be found in this .pdf document from the BYU engineering department, titled "Unmanned Air Vehicle Testbed for Cooperative Control Experiments".

Posted by Ted at 07:22 AM | Comments (1)
Category: SciTech

Retro-Rocketeer Shirts

If you remember the old rocket companies of our youth, you might want to check out these shirts with the classic Centuri logo.

Or these cool SciFi designs.

Hmmm... "Space Cadet" or "It's the Law"... "Mad Genius" or Still Life. Too many good choices.

He's got some very nice celtic designs too.

Posted by Ted at 06:55 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Rocketry

January 04, 2004


Mark Oakley, who writes the excellent Rocket Man blog, has updates on the so-far successful Spirit rover, which landed on Mars yesterday and is already sending back pictures. If you get the NASA channel on your TV (213 on the Dish satellite network), you can see them live. Too cool.

It's not all techno-speak at his place either, as he uses a little Heinlein to make fun of a few moonbats.

Posted by Ted at 08:17 AM | Comments (2)
Category: Space Program

Ted - South Park style

My friend Kyle is a scathingly brilliant caricaturist (props to the first person to identify the reference there), as evidenced by the cartoon of me in the extended entry.

He drew it a couple of years ago, and it still makes me laugh.

I hope he burns in hell.


Posted by Ted at 08:05 AM | Comments (7)
Category: About Ted

Build It - 5

This is a series where we build a model rocket step-by-step. You can find the rest of the series here.

The main part of the post is in the extended entry so you don’t have to deal with it if you don’t want to, but I hope you follow along because when we get done you’ll have built and flown your first model rocket. Questions asked from before are answered too.

Cardboard tubes, balsa, paper and plywood all fall into the category of wood products, and the best adhesive is wood glue. A well-fit joint will be stronger with wood glue than even epoxy or industrial grade cyano-acrylate (CA) - AKA 'superglue'. The technique to make these indestructable glue joins is called the 'double-glue method'.

That 'indestructable' claim isn't exageration either, because the materials being joined will break before the glue bond fails. It's not unheard of to have a fin break just beyond the glue.

So what's this secret way to glue rockets together? It's simple.

1. Lay a light bead of glue along the root of the fin.
2. Put the fin into place so the glue gets onto both parts to be joined. In this case, the fin root and the body tube.
3. Pull the pieces apart. There should be a light coat of glue on both pieces. Let it dry almost completely.
4. Put another bead of glue on the fin root, then press the two pieces together for good.

The reason this works is because the first coat of glue penetrates the materials to be joined, and the second coat chemically bonds with the first, locking eveything together. This makes for an incredibly strong joint.

For the Fat Boy, I suggest just sliding the motor mount assembly into position without glue (the metal motor hook will be sticking out the bottom), then gluing the fins into position. Use plenty of glue on the fin tabs which go into the slots of the body, and less on the parts of the fin root that don't fit into the slots.

It's fairly important to get the fins straight, but vertical alignment is more important that being perfectly spaced or perpendicular to the body tube. Since the Fat Boy has slots that the fins fit into, this is taken care of for you. When gluing the fins into place, take the nose cone off and set the rocket body upside down on your work surface so that you can look down at it and better gauge alignment. Looking from above, all three fins should point to an imaginary spot directly in the middle of the motor mount tube. Wipe excess glue away with your finger, smoothing it into the joint where the fin meets the body tube.


Tip: If you've already bought motors, put one in the motor mount because it's easier to 'aim' the fins at the small nozzle than it is at the imaginary point in the empty tube.

Leave that be and let's assemble the shock cord mount. Hopefully you've taken my suggestion and picked up a package of 1/8" sewing elastic, because the length supplied with the kit is just too short.

In the instructions is a diagram for the standard Estes shock cord mount, sometimes called a 'paper sandwich'. If you're building a different kit then follow whatever directions you've got, or use the following diagram to make one like ours. At the end, you should have a truncated pyramid shape folded twice with one end of the elastic embedded inside. Here, you should be generous with the glue, yet squeeze it out so that it's as flat as possible.


Let everything dry. Be patient, give it a couple of hours.

Next up we'll do the last of the glue work when we put on fin fillets, reinforce the engine mount, attach the launch lug and install the shock cord mount.

Posted by Ted at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Build It

Rat Movie Sightings

I got to watch two fun movies yesterday that met my definition of 'decent', and both had guest appearances by Victor and Nic's furry little buddies.

In the SciFi flick Angry Red Planet, the explorers are attacked by a weird giant rat/bat/spider creature thing that was pretty cool.

Towards the end of Attack of the Puppet People, two of the shrunken victims are chased by a rat as they make their way along a city street. A cat comes along and scares off the rat while the people make an escape.

Two great movies, two football games (although the Ravens lost, dammit), and two hockey games in the evening (the Caps... *sigh*). It was a pretty good day, ya know?

Posted by Ted at 07:30 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Cult Flicks

January 03, 2004

Style vs Substance revisited

There were some interesting comments left over my previous post about blog designs, and some excellent debate via email*.

Madfish Willie and others asked about my thoughts on color in blog design. Without going into a lot of theory about color and how to use it, I'll just mention a few personal opinions and invite your views.

Exceptions can always be found. If I said that blue should never be used in a blog, someone would point out that blue looks quite nice here.

White is cold and sterile, which is good for serious blogs or professional business sites. It makes for a crisp look, and is easily dressed up with a few small graphics and goes with any contrasting color.

Black is the other extreme, and like white any color can be used for contrast. A little more care should be taken here though because using too many bright colors turns the look into something resembling a Lite Bright, which is hard on the eyes.

In both of the above cases, I feel that using an off-color of white or black is often more effective. An extrememly light dove grey or deep charcoal is more interesting, even if it's not instantly obvious to the eye. As an example, when we painted the master bedroom in our home, I used the palest grey I could find on the walls. You couldn't even tell it wasn't white until I painted the window trim and closet doors pure white. The contrast was remarkable.

And that pretty much sums up my feelings on the subject. Less is more and subtle is better.

That said, it is possible to go too soft on the colors. I'll use our home again as an example, this time the kitchen. My wife picked out a very nice wallpaper full of grey-blue and grey-green. Plenty of color without being too dark or gloomy. There were also small bits of pink in the wallpaper, which I decided to use as the highlight color. My wife freaked out when she saw the paint I brought home for the trim in the kitchen, because it was bright bubblegum pink. It was just enough to jump out and catch the eye as a highlight color. Too much of it would make the room look like an explosion in a pepto-bismol factory.

My blog is another example of how I do this. Mostly soft grey and green, but the blues used for the date line and the banner up top are both pretty bright for contrast. Imagine those same blues (and the reds I use for links) on a straight white background. The page would look entirely different.

To my eye, pastels are easier to look at. Even bright colors like yellow and orange should be softened, especially if they're the primary color. Mookie did that on her blog, imagine the difference if she would have used a bright yellow or purple in her color scheme.

Contrast is important, and there are two ways to get it. First is by light on dark - black on white is the most obvious example, but white on dark grey, or dark blue on light blue work well. The second way is by colors - yellow on blue or brown on light grey - the idea in all cases is to make it easy for the eye to distinguish between design elements.

I've always heard that dark green is the most restful color for human eyes, but I've never been able to make it work as an effective background color. And just because this is Rocket Jones, I'll mention that according to government studies, the best visibility is obtained for rockets when painted black, white and red in large areas.

So there it is. I'm pulling on my flame-proof overalls, so feel free to let me have it in the comments.

* Madfish Willie was rather incensed by my opinions, but being men of the world we agreed to settle our differences the next time we're both in Tijuanna. We're going to meet at Rosarita's Cantina for lunch and the pony floorshow, followed by a switchblade duel to first blood. I expect we'll have enough tequila in our systems that the duel ends up in a draw, both of us managing to cut ourselves with our own knifes while trying to impress the working girls.

Posted by Ted at 12:30 PM | Comments (13)
Category: Munuvian Daily Tattler

How high did that rocket go?

Here's a simple and inexpensive way to get a fair estimate. There are three diagrams, so expand the extended entry to read the surprisingly easy method we use.

You actually only need a couple things to figure out the altitude of your flights. A theodolite, a tangent table, and a pencil. For reasonably accurate readings, you can make the simple theodolite shown in figure 1. It's basically a 1"x2" piece of wood, 2 foot long, with a plastic protractor screwed to the side. Add a couple finishing nails to sight along, a string with a fishing weight at the end to indicate the angle, and you're set.

figure 1

The tangent table can be found in any trigonometry textbook. Use the one shown in figure 2, or find one to your liking, they're all the same.

figure 2

Still with me? Good, believe me, this is simple. In fact, this explanation takes longer than the process.

Figure 3 shows the basic concept of determining altitude:

figure 3

The 'tracker' takes the theodolite and stands a known distance from the launch pad. In the diagram, it's where the black and blue lines meet. This distance is the baseline, and the farther the better (as long as you can see the rockets from there). Our usual launch area is a football field, so our tracker is usually 300 feet (100 yards) away from the pad. The tracker on one goal line, the launch pad on the opposite goal line.
When the rocket launches, the tracker follows the rocket with the theodolite, sighting it like a rifle, until the rocket reaches apogee (it's highest point). The angle is read (where the string marks it on the protractor), and this angle is written down.
Time for some simple math. The formula is on the diagram. Look up the tangent for the angle on the table, multiply that number by the baseline, and that is the altitude in feet. Simple!!!

An example: baseline is 300 feet. measured angle is 40 degrees. The tangent for 40 degrees is .839, so 300 * .839 = 251.7 feet.

This is only one method, there are many others. But this one is cheap, simple, and accurate enough for our purposes. You can find more information about altitude tracking in the Handbook of Model Rocketry, by G. Harry Stine.

Accuracy can be improved by using two trackers placed at 90 degree angles to each other to compensate for rockets that don't fly perfectly vertical. This is the usual method used at altitude contests. We don't bother when we're flying for fun. Truth be told, we seldom worry about altitude anyway, we just guesstimate using the good ol' Mark I eyeball.

Posted by Ted at 09:45 AM | Comments (6)
Category: Rocketry Rocketry Resources


If you live in a neighborhood under the control of a Homeowners Association (HOA), then it's quite possible that you've had a run-in or two with some power-mad board member who acts like he has more authority than he really does.

I've had a few encounters with my HOA over the years, and for the most part they've learned to leave me alone. I know the rules better than they do, and refuse to let them push me around.

The last bit of fun I had with the HOA was when they announced that nobody was allowed to have satellite dishes on their roofs for aesthetic reasons. I threatened to install a dish on my roof and disguise it with one of these fake rocks. I'd make that sucker look like a meteor crashed right through my roof, but the dish would be hidden.

Not surprisingly, they dropped their objections.

Posted by Ted at 09:20 AM | Comments (1)
Category: Boring Stories

January 02, 2004

I need a new category

...just for the neat stuff LeeAnn finds.


And thanks to Beth of She Who Will Be Obeyed, we have another little toy to play with: 6+=1!

Posted by Ted at 10:06 AM | Comments (5)
Category: Links

Top Space Stories of 2003

(Source: Universe Today, 12/31/03)

Columbia Disaster
Space exploration is an extremely dangerous business. This lesson was hammered home in 2003 when the space shuttle Columbia broke up above Texas as it was on approach to land in Florida. The lives of seven astronauts were lost in a few firey moments on February 1, 2003. Months of investigation revealed that a chunk of foam fell off the external fuel tank and smashed a hole in the shuttle's carbon-fibre wing panels. When Columbia was returning to Earth at the end of its mission, the open hole in the wing allowed hot gasses to penetrate the shuttle's heat protection. The Columbia Accident Investigation board placed the blame on the foam, but said that NASA's lack of safety allowed the accident to happen in the first place. While NASA is implementing the safety recommendations to get the shuttles flying again, the US administration is said to be planning a bold new program in space.

Chinese Space Launch
Previously unknown, astronaut Yang Liwei became an instant celebrity on October 15, when he became the first human the Chinese space program sent into space. Liwei was launched from the Jiuquan desert launch site and orbited the Earth only 14 times in 21 hours. Only the United States and Russia have ever been capable of sending humans into space before this year. Riding high on their accomplishments, the normally tight-lipped Chinese revealed more details of their space program this year: additional human launches, a space station, probes to the Moon, and eventually humans on the Moon. NASA was one of the first to congratulate the Chinese on their accomplishment, but some space industry experts believe that this will spur the agency on to a new spirit of competition.

SpaceShipOne Goes Supersonic
The space community was expecting US President George Bush to make some announcement about the future of US space exploration on December 17, the 100th anniversary of the first Wright Brothers flight. He didn't, but on that day Scaled Composites - an aircraft manufacturer in California - made news with the first rocket test flight of SpaceShipOne; their suborbital rocket plane. The unique-looking aircraft was carried to an altitude of 14,600 metres by the White Knight carrier plane and then released. It fired its hybrid rocket engine and blasted up to an altitude of 20,700 metres; breaking the sound barrier as it went. SpaceShipOne is considered the top contender to win the $10 million X-Prize which will be awarded to the first privately-built suborbital spacecraft which can fly to 100 km.

Disappearance of Beagle 2
In a perfect world, this would be a tribute to the successful landing of Beagle 2; Britain's $50 million, 70-kg Mars lander which traveled to the Red Planet on board the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft. Unfortunately, it looks like Mars has swallowed yet another spacecraft, and at the time of this writing the lander has failed to communicate home; either through Mars Odyssey orbiting above, or Earth-based radio observatories.
Beagle 2 was supposed to land in the relatively safe Isidis Planitia region of Mars and then search for evidence of microbial life for 180-days with a suite of sensitive instruments. The best opportunity to communicate with Beagle 2 comes in 2004, though, when Mars Express reaches its final orbit and will attempt to make contact. Maybe the recovery of Beagle 2 will make one of the top stories in 2004.

Mars' Closest Approach to the Earth
Mars took centre stage this summer when it made its closest approach to the Earth in over 60,000 years. Because of their orbits, the Earth and Mars get close every two years, but on August 27 they were only 55,758,000 kilometres apart. The mainstream media picked up the story, and for a while it was Mars mania. Astronomy clubs and planetariums that held special Mars observing nights for the public were totally overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up to have a peek through a telescope. And they weren't disappointed. Even with a relatively small 6" telescope and good observing conditions, it was possible to see details on Mars like its polar caps, dust storms, and darker patches. If you missed it this year, don't worry, Mars will be even closer in 2287.

Biggest Solar Flare Ever Observed
Our Sun showed a nasty side this year, with a series of powerful flares and coronal mass ejections. On November 4, 2003, the Sun surprised even the most experienced solar astronomers with the most powerful flare anyone had ever seen. It was so powerful that it momentarily blinded cameras designed to measure flares, so it actually took a few days for astronomers to calculate just how bright it was. In the end, it was categorized as an X28 flare. But this was just one of a series of powerful flares, many of which were aimed directly at our Earth, sending wave after wave of material our direction.
Incredibly, there were very few problems on the Earth - contact was lost with a Japanese satellite, and some communications were disrupted - but we got through it largely unharmed. The auroras, however, were awesome.
SOHO website

Farewell Galileo
On September 20, 2003, NASA's Galileo spacecraft finally ended its 14-year journey to the Jovian system with its triumphant crash into the giant gas planet. Galileo was plagued with problems right from the start, including a series of launch delays, and a failure of its main antenna. But NASA engineers were able to overcome these obstacles, and use the spacecraft to make some incredible discoveries about the Jupiter and its moons. Photos taken by the Galileo gave scientists proof that three of the moons might have liquid water under their icy surfaces. Passing through Jupiter's massive radiation took its toll on the spacecraft, and various instruments started to fail, including its main camera, which went offline in 2002. With the spacecraft failing, controllers decided it would be best to crash Galileo into Jupiter, to protect potential life on the Jovian moons from contamination.

Age of the Universe
This is the year we learned how old we are - well... how old the Universe is. Thanks to a comprehensive survey of the sky performed by NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), astronomers were able to calculate that the Universe is 13.7 billion
years old, give or take 200 million years. WMAP, launched in June 2001, measured the sky's cosmic background radiation, which was unleashed 380,000 years after the Big Bang - when the expanding Universe had cooled down enough for the first atoms to form. This wasn't the first survey of the cosmic background radiation, but the WMAP is so sensitive, it was able to detect extremely slight temperature changes in the radiation.

Spitzer Space Telescope
The last of great observatories, the Spitzer Space Telescope (previously named SIRTF) was finally launched into space on August 25, 2003. Almost every object in the Universe radiates heat in the infrared spectrum, which Spitzer is designed to detect. So objects which might be hidden to visible light telescopes, like Hubble, can be seen in tremendous detail with Spitzer. The observatory completed its 60-day on-orbit checkout period and calibration, and just before the end of the year the operators released four incredible photographs that demonstrated the potential of this instrument. Spitzer will help astronomers look at the dusty hearts of galaxies, young planetary discs, and cool objects like comets, and brown dwarfs. Spitzer may even help astronomers understand the nature of dark matter.

Mars Express Arrives
The search for the missing Beagle 2 lander overshadowed the success of the European Space Agency's Mars Express spacecraft, which went into a perfect orbit on December 25, and then performed additional maneuvers flawlessly. This is the Europe's first mission to the Red Planet, and it's got an important job to do. In addition to helping out the search for Beagle 2, Mars Express will begin mapping the surface of Mars with a powerful radar system which should reveal underground deposits of water and ice.

(end Universe Today article)

I would also add the tragic accident that cost the lives of many Brazilian technicians and scientists when their rocket blew up on the pad in August. I wrote about it here and here.

Posted by Ted at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)
Category: Space Program

January 01, 2004

I can't resist

The Redskins fired Barney Rubble Steve Spurrier. I hate the Redskins. Unrelated? Not entirely, especially if you use it as an opportunity to test your psychic abilities. Is it possible to cause a hex or jinx just by saying it out loud?

New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.

Whether you hate the 'Skins, or just because you love Science and Discovery, repeat along with me.

New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders.
New Redskins coach Deion Sanders...

Posted by Ted at 12:14 PM | Comments (5)
Category: Square Pegs
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