Dickieville ... May 2006

(all photos can be seen in the photo gallery)

Tasha continues to drive much of our day to day schedule, demanding as all puppies are.  But she continues to be soft and cute enough to get away with it.  One of her favorite games now is “attack Dave’s slipper.”  Every morning when I come down, I immediately get a small furry creature attached to my foot that I have to drag around the kitchen while I get coffee and breakfast.  Patric has acclimated to Tasha rather well, and enjoys playing with her and reminding her that he’s the lead dog in the house. 

Tasha gives new meaning to "fuzzy slippers"

Of course, it wouldn't be fun if we didn't have a Cardinal family nesting in the bushes outside our front door, making it impossible to take Tasha out in the three and a half seconds of warning she provides before she piddles on the floor.  Actually, I'm kidding... Tasha isn't quite house broken but she's doing pretty well, and we decided the birds had to live with our needs.  The nest was right outside one of our windows, and we peeked regularly to see how the three babies were doing.  One died, but the other two went from the ugliest little critters you've ever seen, all nasty naked necks and gaping mouths looking for food from mommy to adorable young birds capable of flight in three days.  It was pretty amazing.  The shots below are a little fuzzy because the window confused the camera's distance settings, but you have the mom, the dad, and the chicks.
Brie is continuing to play on the Acton Boxbourgh High School Tennis team (pictured below... you can spot Brie because she's the only one looking cool in shades).  They just recently won their 8th match, qualifying them for the State tournament.  I'd say their names but a) that's a lot of names and b) I don't know all of them.  Brie has decided that we have to get matching doggie-vests for Patric and Tasha that have a tennis ball and "AB" on the back.  Apparently the tennis team will have corgi mascots despite the team name being "Colonials."  Obviously, she's just looking for an excuse to dress the dogs up.

In the meantime Will has a new, dark obsession called “Airsoft.”  The BB guns of my youth with the little metal BBs have been replaced with high tech, amazing realistic weapons that fire plastic or ceramic BBs.  These, in theory, may sting but can’t actually break skin.  Will has a Smith and Wesson pistol, a fully automatic AK-47, a fully automatic M-16, and a sniper rifle with a scope.  The automatic weapons are electric.  The AK-47 is actually pretty amazing and fires an accurate stream of bbs at 300 or so FPS.  It also cost about as much as a real gun.  Will occasionally joins with other neighborhood kids to have a shooting war, wearing scary looking masks to protect their eyes.  I long for the good old days when you could pump up your Crossman 760 powermaster enough to put a metal bb through a coffee can.  That’s when shooting wars really count.

And while Will is figuring out out to annihilate everything in the neighborhood, Brie and Kate are using the (finally) nice weather to spruce up the yard and plant a herb garden (the marigolds are there to keep the deer and rabbits away). 

  2006 first launch

Out of the five rockets we currently owned, the small yellow flea was still out of commission with a broken fin and the white pre-built Aries (Still missing the payload section from a bad launch last year) needed a parachute.  That left the black Intruder, which we had launched a couple of times last October, and our two virgins, the blue three-finned Triskilian, which I had finished in the early winter, and the big, bad, mid-power "Phoenix" AIM-54C.  The AIM-54C, the most complicated rocket I’ve built to date, was about ten hours into construction, in theory needing only some detail painting of bands and rivets to make it look like its real world counterpart.  As it stood, it was a uniform glossy white and, in my opinion, looked pretty good, which lead to the following conversation:

Kate:  “It looks like a marshmallow.”

Dave:  “It’s got a giant point at one end.”

Kate:  “OK, it looks like a marshmallow on a stick.”

Dave:  “It’s over two feet tall.”

Kate:  “OK, it looks like a stack of marshmallows on a stick.”

Dave:  “Great.” 

From left to right:  The AIM 54C, the Triskilian, The Intruder, the Aries, and the Flea

The Trisk was the first launch, and while I was getting the “A” engine, Will pulled out the parachute to add the flame-retarding wadding, unaware that I had prepped all the rockets before we left.  I jammed the parachute back in… which turned out to be a bit of a mistake.  The launch went fine, but at apogee, the parachute charge blew the engine compartment apart instead of expelling the parachute.  The Trisk came down like an arrow and embedded itself in the ground with the remaining bits of its fins littered around it. 

Death of a Triskilian....




Gone... boom, that is!

Watch your head!

The aftermath is not pretty.

Launch number two was the AIM.  This was the first launch we’d ever done on a “D” mid-power engine, which was much larger than the standard A/B/C engines and, like the C, was packed to the top with gunpowder.  It didn’t disappoint… the launch was spectacular, much more impressive than its smaller cousins.  Better yet, the AIM was large and heavy enough that it only went two or three hundred feet into the air, low enough that drifting into the trees wasn’t a problem.  The parachute deployment went well, except the line to the nosecone snapped, more of a problem with the AIM because the nose cone is actually made out of paper stiffened with CA glue instead of balsa wood.  It survived the free fall perfectly, however, and the rest of the rocket came down on the Mylar parachute without incident.  I tied off the nosecone a little more securely and we did two more launches on the AIM, all of which were picture-perfect.

The Intruder launch went well, along with the parachute deployment, but the plastic chute had been wrapped up for two long and didn’t fully open.  The Intruder didn’t hit too hard, but the two side fins are a little fragile and were attached with standard white glue, since I’d built it before I switched to using the much stronger CA glue.  They broke off, effectively sidelining the rocket until I can repair it.


That left us with the final launch of the day, which I approached with some trepidation.  I’d gone ahead and purchased one Aerotech “blue thunder” composite fuel engine for the AIM.  At $12 a pop, they are expensive, but the composite fuel (the kind used in some military rockets) is much more powerful than standard gunpowder; in fact, about three times more powerful.  The trepidation came from the assumption that the AIM would, therefore, go two to three times higher and that we might lose it in the trees.  And, long story short, that is exactly what happened.  I wish I could say the launch was impressive, but “scary” would have been a better description.  Snapping pictures of the AIM on the “D” engines at launch caught it a few inches off the ground.  With the Aerotech the rocket was gone by the time I could snap the shot, and the liftoff was so violent it ripped the guide tubes off the side of the rocket.  The sound was loud enough that Will literally fell over. 

At the end of the day, the count was three for three.  Three rockets launched, three rockets lost, destroyed or “blowed up.”

I think I’ll stick with standard “D” engines from now on… or maybe “E” engines, but that’s definitely it.  In the meantime, I’ve purchased another AIM-54C and a "Hawk" MIM-23A from the same maker (The Launch Pad).  Where the AIM stands a proud 27 inches tall, the Hawk weights in at 37 inches.  It should be pretty impressive.