Martha McSally Disappoints

A couple of days ago I sat down to write about Martha McSally and what a disappointment she is. On paper she should be a great representative for me. I live in Arizona and I retired as an officer of the U.S. Air Force. However, she’s such an embarrassment that I’d like her to move to another state and stop bragging about her military service.

Of course, her latest disappointment is voting down subpoenas for information relevant to the current impeachment trial of President Trump. She voted along with her other Republican colleagues. This was no surprise. I’ve learned not to expect much courage from her as a representative. Previously, she represented Arizona’s 2nd congressional district, my district. When her votes faced local controversy, she refused to meet with her constituents and opted for less personal (and safer for her) phone telecons or conducting “town hall” meetings in towns with small populations and limited venues. Her fighter pilot bravado was never evident. She doesn’t defend her positions and she avoids personal confrontations.

Notice how cowardly she was when she was when she called the CNN reporter a “Liberal Hack.” She is running down a hallway, pitches her (undeserved) insult over her shoulder, and ducks into an office. Now she’s selling shirts to capitalize on her “proud brave” name calling incident.

It’s true that our representatives are never perfect and not everyone will agree with every position, but I expect them to be brave enough to support their positions. Sometimes representatives are presented with a bigger picture and we by necessity must trust them to make the best decisions in our stead. That’s why I vote less on a candidate’s stated positions and more on the person’s character.

Here again, Martha disappoints—she lacks honor. Of course, I could say the same about many of the senators. However, not all of them took the oath that every Air Force Academy cadet takes when they are accepted in the into the Cadet Wing after Basic Cadet Training:

We will not lie, steal or cheat, nor tolerate among us anyone who does.Furthermore, I resolve to do my duty and to live honorably (so help me God)

Fortunately, when it comes to choosing a U.S. senator for Arizona this fall, I have a better choice. Let’s all vote for Captain Mark Kelly.

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Happy New Year from Arizona

Can you believe that I used to post on my blog daily? I can’t believe it. There never seems to be enough time. Many of my friends are retired and they all complain that they are busier than they have ever been. I’ll have to second that.

A lot has happened since my last posting on October 16th. Halloween and the Night Before Halloween happened. It was one of the best! The theme was Aliens from Outer Space. As always, much of the fun was creating the props associated with the theme. What is less fun is finding a place the store them after the event is over. Anyone need a collection of pumpkin based aliens? I may have to put them on Craig’s List. Right now, they’re hanging around the storage shed and getting in the way every time we visit it.

I know next year’s theme will not be Aliens from Outer Space so letting them go to another home might be the way to go.

 

 

 

 

 

Right after Halloween, Nancy and I decided to celebrate our 45 years together with a 15-day cruise to the Hawaiian Islands from San Francisco.

It was a goimg_7505-smallod long cruise and about 5 pounds too long. We got to see 4 of the Hawaiian Islands—Hawaii, Oahu, Maui, and Kauai. Our last port of call was Ensenada, Mexico. The stop in Ensenada was necessary because of the Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1886 which applies to passengers on foreign flagged cruise ships. It was a long cruise with many days at sea. Luckily, there was plenty to do on the boat. We saw a few movies and sang Karaoke. We also climbed a lot of stairs. Because we usually end up eating so much while cruising, Nancy and I always take the stairs—never the elevators. Most of the activities are on decks 14 and 15 and our cabin was on deck 7 which means we were always climbing stairs. However, we had to laugh on each trek about superstition. There is no deck 13 on the Grand Princess which means we always got to skip from 12 to 14. It was like a free space in the center of a BINGO card. By the way, we didn’t play BINGO (we’re not quite THAT old). Make no mistake there were plenty that were. Rascal Scooters and wheelchairs were everywhere.

We arrived back home in early December feeling pretty good but that didn’t last long. Our refrigerator decided to take a vacation while we were taking ours and we were welcomed home to spoiled food. No problem. I bought the extended warrantee. Long time readers of this blog might remember the “fun” I had with a Sears refrigerator a while back. Spoiler alert! I threw it in the trash. Having a warrantee isn’t a great deal of help getting the repairman to the house and having an “American” Whirlpool refrigerator is not guarantee that the repairman will care enough to order the needed part and finish the repair. However, the Home Depot monitored the situation and issued me a full refund for the cost of the refrigerator. In the end, it worked out. Aside from the lost food, the hassle of relying on a garage refrigerator during a huge party, and the wasted time, I guess I don’t have any complaints.

Did you get your flu shot? I did. They say that if you get the flu shot and still get the flu your symptoms will be less. If that is true, I think I would have died. The flu hit me so hard in early December that it hurt to think. It made me go to the doctor and I NEVER go to the doctor. Luckily after about 11 days I healed enough to prepare for our next big party.

Another big thing that I missed blogging about was the annual Winter Solstice celebration. It was another fun and personally rewarding event. It is a bit less work than the Halloween party but has a similar number of people. It was held on the 21st of December and started at sunset when we lit the fire in the pit. The party goes on into the night and finishes out a bit after midnight. It’s always a great time. Our ancestors knew that Winter Solstice is the perfect time to have a big celebration. Those in the Northern Hemisphere knew that the days would stop getting shorter and the Sun would hang around longer each day. To celebrate, many lit a celebratory fire right at sundown as we did. Winter Solstice is the end of a solar cycle—the end of the year essentially. It is in the coldest part of the year and the official start of the Winter season.

We love the Winter Solstice and really appreciate that many of our friends love it too. Some folks spend the entire time around the fire pit. Some play card games. Many sing Karaoke. The potluck is always a hit along with the Hams and other fixings that we supply. It always a great way to end a year and even better when it was a not-so-great year like 2019.

I sat down to discuss how disappointed I am with the latest news involving Martha McSally, but I’ve rambled on enough. I guess it’ll have to wait for next time. Happy New Year Everyone!

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Halloween Fogger

Greetings. Here’s a peek behind the scenes of “Lacey’s Scary Graveyard.” If you clicked in the link in the last sentence, you got to see a short film of the graveyard as it appeared in 2017. A friend of mine filmed it and I think he did a great job putting it together. Filming a Halloween Haunt in the daytime is necessary but seeing the “real thing” at night is SO much better. When filming a Halloween Haunt at night, it is difficult to capture the ambiance and the blending of light effects. Daytime filming gives better detail, but nighttime viewing gives you the experience.

Fog in a Halloween haunt is not essential but when the weather is calm it is good to have “ground hugging” fog around the grave sites. It adds so much to the experience.

Halloween fog machines are simple devices, but they are prone to failure. I’ve not had many that last over a couple of years. Also, the fog that spews from these devices are not inherently “ground hugging.” They must be augmented with “fog chiller” devices that use ice. There are many, many YouTube videos that show how to construct fog chillers. Some use beer coolers and some use trash cans but all of them require the addition of ice. I’ve tried many. I’ve tried the kind that coils a good length of 4″ tubing in a trash can filled with ice where the output of the fog machine is fed into the tube, into the trash can, and out. I’ve also built and used fog chillers where the output of the fog machine is fed into a beer cooler through a hole and the chilled fog exits another hole. In the second version the fog comes into direct contact with the ice.

Up to this point, my most successful chiller was a simple tube with small holes drilled in the sides. The tube was filled with ice, capped at the end, and the fog from the machine was fed into the other end. This worked great if the fog machine generated fog and there was ice in the tube. The ice didn’t last long and it was messy.

In 2017, I saw a YouTube video that described a water only fogger that used a fountain mister. The fog was continuous, didn’t require special juice, and used a lot less power than the regular fog machines. In practice, it did produce ground hugging fog but not a lot of it and it seemed to dissipate quickly. I used it but I wasn’t completely satisfied.

This year, I found a YouTube video that combined the two types of foggers, a “Robert’s Fogger.” It looked interesting and did all the things that I needed a fogger to do. Unfortunately, I had invested some effort in making the water only fogger that used a computer fan to blow water mist out of a plastic container. My initial thought was to get a “Y” PVC pipe and combine the outputs of a fog machine with my mist fogger. My plan was to pipe the two streams into the original pipe with the small holes drilled in the sides. If it worked as I had hoped I wouldn’t need ice and I’d still get the ground hugging fog for my graveyard. In the process of testing the hypothesis the computer fan on the mist fogger container failed. So, I removed the 4″ computer fan and inserted a 4″ hose and fed the output of the fog machine into the input. It worked just like Robert’s Fogger did in the video. As bonus, I was doing all my testing on a table so that the output of the mister container was roughly 3 feet below on the ground. In between fog machine pulses, the mist maker continued to deliver fog to the output due to a siphon effect.

I’m looking forward to testing this out this year. I’m hoping that Halloween fog is something that I don’t have to worry about.

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Why I Love Halloween

<<<Can you guess the theme of this year’s Halloween display? I’m well into my “silly season” of Halloween preparations. I’ve finished two homemade props so far and bought a few. My workbench has been cleaned from the building and switched over to the electronic fabrication configuration. I’ve brought an old laptop out of retirement, tested a few boards left over from last year, consolidated the components, and I’m about ready to start coding for Halloween Spooktacular activities.

BTW the theme, in case you didn’t get it, is Aliens from Outer Space.

I’ve done a bit of preparation, but I don’t take credit for starting until I’ve worked on my first “new” prop. Two years ago (https://azatheist.com/2017/09/09/its-never-too-early-for-halloween/) I started building an ambitious project in honor of the release of the Steven King movie “It.” This year my theme was inspired by the “Storm Area 51” news articles. Apparently, it has been cancelled (https://www.airforcetimes.com/news/your-air-force/2019/09/11/storm-area-51-event-canceled-after-everyone-realizes-its-a-horrible-idea/). However, “the die has been cast.”

(I know it’s not “Talk Like a Roman Day! Avast matey. Now you be knowin’ wha’ day tis.)

I started with a DIY video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WwGnaL-vTo) by This Southern Girl Can. In the video she builds a cute movie inspired prop from Dollar Tree parts including foam rubber foot balls and plastic Ninja fighting sticks. It looked great and I loved both versions of “Little Shop of Horrors” and stage play I caught in Montgomery Alabama in 1987. In the movie Audrey II—the people eating plant—comes from outer space. Perfect! It looked easy and cheap…err inexpensive. It was settled then. I’ll start with “Little Pot of Horrors.”

I followed the video closely and only added a couple of touches like the glowing veins and the mesh tubing lips. It came out great…some of my friends are angling to steal it for their own. I may have to chain it down during the night before Halloween party. I was then anxious to move on to the next challenge.

I wanted my next prop to be built around a piece of motorcycle fairing I found in a field a few years ago. I always saw an alien in it. It is not unusual for me to pick up potentially useful “junk” when I’m walking around in the neighborhood. The alien in this piece was too strong to be ignored. For a few years I’ve been tripping over it. Every time I came in to my workshop it would be looking at me and asking me to do something with it. This year the theme of the Halloween display would be about aliens and I knew that if I didn’t use it , it was going to the curb.

I’m a member of a FaceBook page “Halloween DIY Projects” (https://www.facebook.com/groups/851677191523170/). This shouldn’t surprize ANYONE. So I posted the picture of the fairing on the page and asked if others could see an alien too. Many people saw it and agreed that there was an alien in there. One person saw the beginning of a jet pack. However, one person simply posted “My Tallest.” I had no idea what that meant until after I did a Google search (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_3OByb-Gd88) Then my pathway was clear. I will HAVE to build an Invader Zim prop!

The face was free, but I needed a few more items. The ACE store near my house gave me a few scraps of plexiglass for the eyes. My backyard is full of those puzzle EVA foam mats that I should have thrown away years ago. I had some Dollar Tree scraps. I only needed to buy some PVC piping and connectors and they cost me less than $20. Now to add the voice!

Happy Halloween!

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International Aerial Robotics Competition—Mission 8

The first attempt at Mission 8 of the IARC (International Aerial Robotics Competition) finished on August 1st in Atlanta Georgia. No team completed the mission, as expected, but three of the teams did qualify and had an opportunity to demonstrate their capability in the arena. By far and away, the Norway Team (Norwegian University of Science and Technology) with 5 flying attempts was the best prepared but Olin (Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering) and St. Olaf (St. Olaf College) each made 4 flight attempts. Other teams present were Missouri University of Science and Technology, Pennsylvania State University, PES University (from Bangalore, India), University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Texas at Austin. Teams travelling to the competition face many challenges. For example, the PES University Team’s vehicle was destroyed going through customs from India. The Georgia heat melted one team’s vehicles and they had to scramble to replace their propeller shrouds.

This contest has been held once a year for 28 years. The goal has always been to stretch the technology and it was created to be “hard.” It was/is/and always will be a competition based on autonomous vehicles. This year was the first year that the autonomous vehicles could be directed by a human operator through voice or gesture commands. Also, this is the first year that the mission was hindered by active sentry drones. There were four of them and their mission was to prevent the human in the arena from completing the mission. The rules explain in detail what is required and there is also a promotional video that dramatizes the task.

The next opportunity for college teams to meet the Mission 8 challenge will be at the Asia/Pacific Venue on August 24-25 in Kunming, China. Thirteen teams from China and 3 from India are slated to attend. The past two missions were completed at the Asia/Pacific Venue. It is possible but unlikely to have one of the Chinese teams complete the mission and collect the prize money. That would bring up Mission 9 and severely disappoint the creator of the competition. He wants the challenge to be tough enough to take a couple of years to accomplish. On the Past Missions page of the IARC Website one can see that Professor Michelson got his wish on every mission except for Mission 5.

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Well “I Think”—An Old Story

Hello readers! Are you as frustrated as I am? It seems frustration is a way of life now that we’re under the current administration.

There were times in my Air Force career when I was frustrated to the extreme. I worked for a hardnosed, base, paranoid, and small-minded Chief Master Sergeant. I was a shop chief and had enough work for about three or four individuals. The Air Force had assigned me seven technicians. It all worked out and had a happy ending, but I was frustrated. My solution required that I get my old-school boss to accept some “creative” management. It all worked out for the best and I was rewarded with an opportunity to become an officer but here is a conversation that I had with the “Chief” that helped me persuade people that I was officer material:

Me: Hey Chief! If I said you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch you’d probably bring me up on charges, wouldn’t you?

Chief: Yes! I would bring you up on charges.

Me: But Chief, I could THINK you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch and you couldn’t do a damn thing to me, right?

Chief: Yes. That’s right. You can thing whatever you want.

Me: Well Chief, I think you’re a Son-of-a-Bitch!

We both had a laugh about that, and I got the “Chief” to allow me to make a management change that kept up the morale and got the mission done. We ended up as good friends and the Chief was an advocate for my application for the Airman Education and Commissioning Program. I retired as a Major on the first day of 2000.

In short, we were on the same page. We communicated and understood each other. The Chief wasn’t afraid of me and I wasn’t afraid of him. Together, we got things done. I set up his retirement ceremony and he supported my application to the commissioning program—win, win. Wherever he is, I’m sure that he’s doing OK and I’m also doing OK.

Perhaps, history can repeat itself. I can’t say without legal threat that Donald J. Trump is a racist. However, I can THINK that he is a racist.

Therefore: Donald J. Trump, I think you’re a racist!

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Camp Quest Arizona Recovering

Coming off a natural high after spending a week at Camp Quest Arizona. Spiritually, I’m doing great. Physically, not so much. Every year recovery takes a wee bit longer. I missed a 4th of July party and opted to spend time with Nancy in front of the TV. We enjoyed a dinner of hot dogs, pork and beans, and potato salad. I could hear the fireworks, but the Lazy Boy was so comfortable…After a bit, I had to get up and walk. I like to walk four miles every day, and this time of year it’s best to walk after dark. I usually start at 9 P.M. and it takes a bit less than 90 minutes. This time, I took my Panasonic Camera. Normally, I only have my phone camera, but the last couple of days my headlamp was illuminating Wolf spiders that were carrying their babies on their back. I really needed the camera that has an optical zoom so I could hopefully capture momma spider and her babies. I’ve included one of the best pictures, but it really doesn’t do it justice. When wearing a headset, the Wolf spider eyes reflect very brightly. The momma spiders have a few dozen extra eyes and the effect is awesome when I’m wearing a headset. I’ve been trying to capture the image on the iPhone camera, but the effect was disappointing. Also, the momma spider would jump into her hole while I was setting up the shot.

On the fourth, I took my Panasonic Lumix camera with me and captured a few photos using the optical zoom capability and the built-in flash. It made the walk take a bit longer but now I get a chance to share a great picture of a momma Wolf spider. I saw at least 5 momma spiders with babies.

Today, the 6th, I didn’t see any piggy backing baby spiders, but I did see a lot of little spiders on the trail. Perhaps the babies are now on their own.

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Camp Quest AZ 2019 Final Report

The Camp Quest AZ mythical creature is Muggy—a bipedal humanoid wild creature thought to be a native of the Mogollon Rim. Every Camp Quest has its own mythical creature. I believe when Ed Kagin first started Camp Quest in 1996 in Boone County Kentucky for the children of secular families he played a game with an invisible unicorn in his garage. It was a challenge aimed at showing that a negative could not be proven. Back then, there was only one location for Camp Quest. Now, there are 14. Camp Quest Arizona is one of them.

This year we had 46 campers including 6 LTs (Leadership Trainees). Campers age from 8 through 15 and LTs are aged 16-17. We also had 21 adult staff members. Including a Camp Director, Facilities Director, Programs Director, Camp Cabin Director, Medical, LT Director, 4 Program Staff and 11 Cabin Staff.

From my point of view, everything went well. We had 8 electives this year. Each camper gets to select two. This year they got to choose from: Archery, Fishing, Drama, Drumming, Robots, Rockets, Self-defense, and Survival Skills. My elective was building robots. All 13 campers that signed up to assemble Runner robots were successful. For the last hour of our 4 hour program they played with the robots in a small arena made of lawn edging material.

I also had the pleasure of introducing all the campers to the history of the catapult and we built two versions—the onager and the trebuchet. It was great fun being the target after assembly. The ammunition were Nerf Rival foam balls, completely harmless when hurled by catapults made from popsicle sticks and tongue depressors.

Also, I showed some of the campers how to build an analog clock. (You know the one with the face and the three hands?). They each decorated their own clock faces with stickers and markers. Then we attached the movement. Once the battery was inserted (properly) the clock started working. Hopefully, the campers will put their clocks on the wall to remind them of what a wonderful time they had at Camp Quest Arizona 2019.

The other “maker” elective was Rockets. Lauren taught her group how to build and launch rocket made from old soda bottles. This was the first year for this program and the campers that selected it had a great time building and launching their rockets.

The LTs (16 and 17-year-old campers that help with camp operations) had a maker activity as well. They upcycled refuse items back into usefulness.

Camp Quest AZ 2019 high lights: (leaving out the meals and such)

Day Before—Most staff check in with their children (if any).

First Day—Campers arrive, are checked in, cabins assigned, treasure hunt, staff led opening campfire, bed.

Second Day—First day of electives, quiet time, team games, afternoon activity, evening activity, bed.

Third Day—Same as Second Day.

Fourth Day—Hike, quiet time, team games, afternoon activity, evening activity, bed.

Fifth Day—Same as Second Day (except for the LT run Carnival in the evening), bed.

Sixth Day—Same as Second Day (except afternoon activity is replaced with free time and skit night in the evening), bed.

Seventh Day—Break camp, pack, cleanup, sign out campers, and go get lunch in Prescott Valley. Drive home. The End!

I might write more on Camp Quest AZ in the future. There’s a lot of detail missing in the quick listing of highlights above. I’m glad I went, and I’m glad it’s over too. I think everyone that went enjoyed the experience but are now feeling a bit sore, a bit tired, but overall satisfied with this year’s Camp Quest Arizona!

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More about Camp Quest Arizona

It seems like all I write about in this blog, when I bother writing, is about Camp Quest. It’s not like that’s all I do but it is the highlight of my summer. At the time of this writing I’m about two weeks from taking the trip to the higher elevations of Arizona and the Piney woods of Prescott National Forest. While I’m there, the phone connection will be spotty. I’ll have to climb up to a ridge to get enough “bars” on my ATT phone to download podcasts and call my wife. That’s not a complaint; that’s a feature! I suppose the 3-minute cold water shower is a feature too.

My part in the program this year is to teach the young campers the joy of being a maker and fixing things. We will be doing a lot of upcycling which I also enjoy.

Earlier, I wrote about “The Runner” robot that some of the campers will be able to construct in the post about building a new set of shelves https://azatheist.com/2019/03/12/a-new-set-of-shelves/).

Happily, the camp director selected as one of the programs that all the campers will participate in involves catapults. Little did she know that that was one of my earliest interests. When I was as young as most of the campers, I used to build catapults out of Popsicle sticks that were designed to chuck marbles at card house castles. My parents liked to play Pinochle and I had a lot of used cards for the castles.

The missiles we’ll be firing won’t be marbles. We’ll be using small foam “Nerf” balls that look like tiny golf balls. It’s going to be great to show the campers how to construct these simple devices using common materials such as Popsicle sticks, tongue depressors, fishing sinkers, rubber bands, and plywood circles. We’ll also be using hot glue so the building should go quickly.

Each camper will build two catapults. One will be a Trebuchet and the other will be a Mangonel. When someone pictures a “catapult” they more than likely picture the Mangonel. They used twisted rope to store the energy which is delivered to the missile causing it to fly. The Trebuchet is a bit more elegant. It uses a falling a weight to store and impart the energy to the missile.

The two models to the left normally decorate my home office. Both are capable of hurling metal balls about 30 yards, but you’ll notice that the Mangonel on the left in the picture is sturdier in construction. It uses twisted nylon rope to store the energy. There is very beefy stop in the front of the throwing arm to stop its forward motion and loose the payload. There is a lot of potential energy left in the system once the missile flies. On the other hand, all the potential energy in the Trebuchet is expended and transferred to the missile. Therefore, the device can be built a bit lighter.

These siege engines were constructed of wood primarily. They were in fact used in the middle ages and before but there are none that survive to this day. However, there are a few surviving key metal parts. After deployment and use, it is likely the wood had more immediate uses such as fuel and building materials. Most of the models in existence were constructed from drawings.

The campers are going to have a fun time building these and I’ll bet they come up with some inventive ways to used them at camp and after.

Eleven days and counting!

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Camp Quest Arizona 2019

This will be the sixth year for me at Camp Quest Arizona. I’m a volunteer and a program camp counselor. A program camp counselor is one that creates and runs activities at the camp. My position is voluntary. I don’t get paid. In fact, my participation is personally costly. I donate all the preparation time and the costs of all the materials I use.

This year, my campers will be building a small robot called “The Runner“. I’ll also be having the campers build two types of catapults: the Scientific American Catapult and the Scientific American Trebuchet. In addition, I’ll be providing the campers the ability to sing Karaoke.

I plan on taking a bunch of pictures and I’ll post them after the camp is over.

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