Dickieville News Sept-Oct 2007

September is the traditional start to the school year, with Brie entering her Junior year and Will entering high school as a freshman.  A little less traditional are Brie's driving lessons and student permit, which have the neighbors commenting, "oh, I thought I recognized Brie as I leapt out of the path of that car."  It's also where things begin cooling down outside.  In September, we had a cold snap that dropped the temperatures below freezing.  This was right after our furnace broke down and the repairmen said he would order parts but it wasn't a problem 'cause it would be a while before we really needed it.

I've been traveling to London for one week a month as part of my new position as head of OTC Derivatives at State Street Global Advisors.  SSgA sends you business class (which is First Class at a slightly discounted rate).  There are a few choices; American, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic.  I've selected Virgin Atlantic as my carrier of choice; they have slightly more private sleeping "pods" (seats that fold out into small beds and have thin walls to separate you from the other passengers), better entertainment (movies played on command), and the following story.  I was settling in when an attractive young Virgin Atlantic Stewardess came up and asked me something in a Cockney accent so thick I couldn't understand her.  She repeated herself, and when I shook my head negatively to indicate I still didn't get it, she smiled a big, friendly smile, curled her fingers over imaginary motorcycle throttles, rolling them back and forth like she was revving the engine, and said quite clearly, "I NEED you."  I immediately thought (a) that's SERVICE, (b) this little sleeping pod isn't THAT private, and (c) I'm not sure what the motorcycle revving thing was but I was pretty sure I didn't want to find out. Then suddenly, it dawned me me... she was offering to knead me, aka a massage.   

A pleasant enough start to the fall season; Dave and Kate at Nashoba Valley Winery for Dinner to celebrate Kate's 51st birthday
Tasha in the grass

Kate flew out to Las Vegas at the end of September for her Father's memorial service.  You can see Kate's remembrances here, or see the PowerPoint  slide show of Hap's life here (you need PowerPoint to see it).  Will wrote something for school about it.

I have a constant enemy in my life.  It is called cancer.  Cancer has taken away people I love in my life.  It is cruel.  It robbed me of my Grammy seven years ago.  When she died it felt like a big gaping black hole in my stomach.  Three years ago it stole my favorite Uncle away from me.  He had taught me to throw boomerangs.  He taught me about rocks.  We made jokes together.  He talked with me not at me.  It was not fair.  Now, my biggest enemy has taken my grandfather away from me.  I saw him in June.  We talked, we laughed, and I helped take care of him.  I was supposed to see him again.  We were supposed to laugh together again.  Now I cannot.  He is gone.  I loved him.  I will miss him.


The Bob Willis Memorial get-together at RPI. You can see the details here


And below, Eric a couple of weeks later (still in the same shirt... phewwww...) and his sons come down for a little shooting action at my gun club. 

Eric with the Glock 22 (.40 cal S&W round).  Will gives helpful advice in the background... "you may want to put your other hand under the butt unless you want the slide to rip your thumb off!"

Below, Erik's son Ryan fires the "hand cannon," the S&W 460 Magnum.  That muzzle blast is the real thing... that's what you get for firing a round more powerful than a military sniper rifle out of a handgun.  The shrieking like a girl... I mean, a young man... in the post-muzzle-blast frame is the real thing, too.  The shot of the water jug exploding is a little bit of a cheat... that's actually a different shot (can't shoot from two perspectives at the same time, I'm not a professional photographer, damn it!), but it gives you the idea!. Can you say "vaporized?"


Which brings us to my second London story which is marginally related.  The British limo drivers tend to be a chattier bunch than their US counterparts, and driving back to Heathrow, one of them was quite entertaining.  He'd been a steward in British Airway's first class cabin and had met a large number of British and US politicians, including Nixon, Bill Clinton, and a handful of others ("amazing how personable they are are," he was telling me, "Except Hillary Clinton.  All the warmth and personality of a dead fish.").  Well, we talked about this that and the other thing, and managed to get on the topic of guns.   "I use to own five Browning 9mm pistols" he was saying, "but there was a terrible shooting at a school and the laws were changed, so I had to get rid of them."

"I'm sorry" I replied.

"Well, that's OK, I bought myself a nice rifle to make up for it."

"Really? What kind?"

"A Barrett."

I thought for a second... I'd heard that name before... it came to me.  "A Barrett?  Isn't that one of those military .50 caliber sniper rifles that can shoot through armor plate from over a mile away?"

"Yes, quite right!  But it is... what do you American's say, tricked out."

"Tricked out?"

"Yes, I have a high power infrared scope on it for shooting in the dark."

"So, you can't own a handgun, but you can own a rifle that can shoot a target through a brick wall from a mile away in the pitch black?" 

"Quite right."

Interesting country.


And a joint celebration, Kate and Dave's 17th anniversary, Janet and Bill Garber (Kate's Mom and Stepdad) 30th anniversary, and Bill Garber's 90th birthday party at the Herb Lyceum, one of our favorite restaurants.  Bill and Janet were on the whirlwind multinational tour, stopping in Minnesota to visit family and attend a conference, our place to visit for a few days, on to England for touring and visiting John Watts (an old friend), back to our place, back to Minnesota to visit the rest of the family in Windham (you can see the Johnson Family Reunion in Minnesota back in 2003 here), and finally back home after a month of traveling.  Bill actually came down with Pneumonia on the way back from England but thanks to fast intervention by Kate he was on antibiotics and feeling better in the few days they were at our place.

And below, the last launch of the season.  The Phoenix takes off with a new, improved engine mount that takes "E" black power engines.  And we try out the Estes Cosmos, a glider that launches on a "D" engine, and when the parachute back-charge blows, shoots the engine compartment out to parachute down while the main section glides to the ground.  This was nicknamed the "Sure to Crash And Burn" because, after putting it together, you are supposed to hand-throw the glider section to make sure it is balanced properly.  Which I did, where upon it immediately nose-dived into the ground and broke a wing off. I fixed it, but resolved to make the next test an actual launch because, having put several hours into it, I wanted to see it lift off at least once.  You can see a movie of the disastrous glider launch here or see the stills below.

The Phoenix on a "E" engine... we did recover it!

The Cosmos, ready for it's trial run

Liftoff.... looking good!

A beautiful arc and upswing... but wait a minute, it's supposed to go straight up until the engine quits....

Ya, engine is out and it's coming down very fast....

And, about the time it hits the ground, the parachute charge blows, sending the engine compartment flying out the back end (good) and the main section that holds the engine compartment out the front of the glider (not good).  We got all the parts back, however, so maybe it can be repaired.

Above, Kate does an unusual Girl's Night Out with our neighbor, Sheira to celebrate Sheira's 50th birthday.

Below, Brie and Dave do the Topeka Canyon trail to the top of... some mountain (ok, big hill) in Westford to enjoy the fall colors, the view, and to give the dogs a little exercise.


And story number three.  I had arthroscopic knee surgery on October 25th to repair some (as it turned out) fairly significant cartilage damage.  You have to talk to a nurse on the phone a few days ahead of the surgery.  It went this way:

"Mr. Dickie, I'd like to start with a few questions."


"Do you have a living will?"

Silence for a moment.  "Like, who gets to decide to turn off the lung machine if I'm brain dead or something?"


"Ummmm... no, no, I don't have a living will."

"In that case, the decision will fall to your wife, is that OK?"

"Yes.  That's fine."

"Good.  Next question.  Do you want to be an organ donor?"

Silence for another moment.  "Only if I'm dead."

The nurse, confused.  "I'm sorry, what?  If you're dead?"

"Yes, I really don't want any of my organs removed and taken away while I am having knee surgery, if that's OK."

Nurses turn... "Ummm, are you joking?"

"I don't know... are you trying to make me feel comfortable about this theoretically minor surgery? 'cause I have to tell you you're failing miserably."


And the influx of wildlife.  Attack of the ravens to the left, and a herd of turkeys to the right, both in our front yard.  And Turkeys are too big to be birds, so it's not a flock.  It's a HERD of Turkeys.  If only I had a shotgun and a wife that would pull all the feathers off.  And rub my feet at night.  Then life would be perfect.
And Halloween; above, the annual pumpkin carving fun, below, Brie's Halloween outfit for a party at one of her friends; she was a "Fallen Angel"  (no real plans for trick or treating this year so there is no picture of Will in costume)

And, last but not least, below, the first Katydids show of the season at the Conant Craft Fair (and Kate's fifth year there).  You can see examples of Kate's work at www.katydids-jewelry.com.