Sunday, August 30, 2009

Rocket Party

I took the family out to have a little "rocket party" last Saturday. I had been working on a rocket with an onboard digital video camera and it was finally finished. (More information on this over at my Tinkering Lab blog.) So I also dug out some of my older rockets to re-launch. A couple of them needed a little fixing up, but no big deal. I bought each of the kids a simple rocket they could assemble and launch. And after getting my launch controller fixed up again (the switch had gone out) we were all set to go.

I found a huge field that is apparently used for growing wheat, but is vacant right now. It's close to home and free of trees and structures for our rockets to get stuck on. It rained a little bit while we were there, which almost spoiled the whole thing. But it eventually stopped and the winds didn't get too strong to kill the party.

The kids were funny to watch during the launches. Even though the rockets aren't that loud, the kids would plug their ears and flinch away. They even seemed to be a little scared of the launch controller, hitting the switch and almost running from it.

We did have one mishap with Rachel's rocket. Somehow the engine blew up on it. It was just mini A engine. Immediately after clearing the launchpad and about 20 feet in the air it just popped and fell to the ground. Rachel was so concerned for her rocket that she immediately ran to it and picked it up. Unfortunately it was still very hot and she burned the tips of her fingers. After letting it cool and upon further inspection we found that the engine had blown a hole in its side and the inside of the body tube actually caught fire. It was still smoldering when she grabbed it. I don't know if it was a faulty engine or just a really old engine (one of my old leftovers) that had exceeded its shelf life. I've launched many many rockets and never seen that happen before.

Aside from that major downer, we all had fun.

Anyway, here are a couple videos of my "Big Daddy" rocket with the onboard camera:

I'm so glad I caught the rocket on that second launch or it probably would have really munched it. The parachute can be repaired so we hope to have it flying again soon.

During our little rocket party we also got to see some jets from the airshow going on at the nearby Hillsboro airport. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds gave us some noisy flybys. We were close enough to get some cool views of the jets, but we weren't in any of the flight paths to be too concerned about our rockets interfering with the low flying aircraft. But we still made sure not to launch when the jets were flying around us.

That photo is of a very large plane that flew by. I'm not even sure what it is but it's HUGE! The picture doesn't even do it justice. It took us by surprise and I didn't have my camera out fast enough, but when we first saw it, we can only describe it as a "flying cruise ship." It looked too big to be flying. And to see it flying so low just made it stand out all the more.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Trek in the Park

Last Saturday we made a trip into Portland to see Sand in the City. It's a yearly fund raising event for Kids on the Block where they feature sponsored sand sculptures.

Click on the picture below to go to the web album for more photos.

But this was just a side trip. Our real goal for the afternoon was to go see Trek in the Park. An outdoor production of an episode of the original Star Trek series. This was the first year this group has put this on and they have plans to do it again next year. This episode was Amok Time.

Even with very minimal set pieces they did a terrific job. Also, fortunately, the actor playing Kirk did not channel Shatner but gave his own performance. The acting was great, the audience was great (everybody gave a big cheer at even their very simple transporter "effect"...standing in position while the sound of the transporter played off-stage). And while the pictures show a very full and engaged audience, what you can't see is that the audience was overflowing with standing room only and people even watching from behind "back stage."

They gave us a preview of next summer's performance. That episode will be Space Seed, with...everybody say it...KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHN!!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Serenity & Empire

Last Saturday I attended the annual Can't Stop the Serenity charity event in Portland. This event was started in 2006 right here in Portland and has caught on worldwide. I didn't hear about it or start attending until 2007, but I've been every year since. It's really fun and is for a great cause.

Unfortunately I didn't take my camera this year so I don't have any pictures of the fun costumes people wore. But this year a reaver actually showed up. He looked great and was creeping people out. Last year we had a couple Blue Hand Men. They also stayed in character the entire time, intimidating everyone around them.

The screening was at Cinema 21. It's an old theater that has been restored. Comfortable seats. Not so great sound system though. Either that or the audio on these film prints of Serenity is just deteriorating more rapidly than the image.

Then on Thursday a friend at work told me that KUFO was having a charity screening of Empire Strikes Back on Friday. I haven't seen Empire on the big screen since it's first theatrical release in 1980. It was so long ago that I don't even remember going, but I must have because I knew all about it before I saw it on TV and video years later. I missed it in theaters for it's special edition release in 1997 (I think I was so disappointed with the special edition changes in Star Wars that I didn't even want to bother with Empire). So this was going to be a special treat for me and I had to go.

Also, the 501st Legion was attending. Nothing could stop me from going!

And this time I took my camera!

The movie was starting at 11pm. Doors opening at 9pm. I was expecting a long line so I got there at 6:30. Nobody there. I was the first one. Unfortunately I didn't want to stand around and I wasn't really sure where the line was even going to form, so I checked out the local shops for an hour. When I returned at 7:30 there were about 20 people in line. So, not first, but a great place in line.

The screening was at the Bagdad theater. A very cool theater that I now want to go back to more frequently. Like the other McMenamin theaters in Portland they serve food during the movie. Tasty food too from the looks of it (I was saving my money and didn't make an order).

Everyone who was in costume at this event was a member of the 501st Legion.

They walked up and down the line interacting with the guests.

Posing for photos.

Hamming it up.

And making every fan-boy (and girl) jealous that we don't have a costume as cool as theirs.

Before the movie started Cort and Fat Boy (who is actually very fit...I don't know why he goes by that name) got up on stage followed by those of the 501st Legion in attendance to welcome everybody and say a few words. According to Fat Boy, they were actually able to secure a print of Empire from Lucas Film because of the 501st. KUFO has midnight screenings of movies about once a month and have been wanting to show Empire for while. But Lucas Film wasn't going to play ball. So they decided to do it for charity, but even that wasn't breaking the ice. But as soon as they got the 501st to attend Lucas Film gave them the print. It's cool that they have that kind of influence.

After everyone came down off the stage they played a few fan-made movies that were absolutely hilarious. I don't know all of what they played but some were:

RVD2: Ryan vs Dorkman 2
Darth Vader Bing An A-hole

And a couple others I don't know the names so I can't find them online.

The theater was packed. Some were rabid fans, others mild fans, and a few who were dragged there by their boyfriend/husband. But everyone had a great time. Lots of yelling things at the screen, cheering, and shouting out lines. Perfectly acceptable behavior at a screening like this. And it was awesome to see it again (or really the first memorable time) on the big screen.

Thanks KUFO and 501st! You rock!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Star Trek

Star Trek is AWESOME!!!!

I grew up watching re-runs of the original Star Trek series. I was a fan of The Next Generation immediately when it came out. So when I thought the kids were old enough to understand and appreciate Star Trek I introduced them to it from the beginning. (I actually use the term "indoctrinate" though.) And much to my joy they too fell in love with it. (That's a tribble Rachel is holding that she has with her whenever we watch Star she took it too the movie too.) We are currently in the 6th season of The Next Generation.

The movie is not just AWESOME (!!!!) though, it's SUPER AWESOME with a side of AWESOME topped with a big scoop of AWESOME. If you don't know anything about Trek you'll have a blast. If you're a long-time fan (or newcomer) you'll love it from the first 30 seconds and on through the end.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Season Openers

Yesterday was the first game of the season for both David and Adam. David is playing soccer and Adam is in baseball.

And even though yesterday wasn't her first game of the season, Rachel has been enjoying dance. Here's a couple numbers she did at her last recital in December. (I forgot to post it up at that time.)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Snow Caving

Our first time snow caving. We went to Timberline Lodge on Mt, I mean Mt Hood.

Lessons learned:

#1 David learned that jeans aren't very warm in snow, especially when wet.

#2 I learned that a plastic tarp on an icy cave floor likes to quickly find the lowest point in the cave.

We slept horribly, but we had fun. Timberline Lodge is beautiful and I'd like to go back there in the summer...maybe even next winter for some skiing.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Why move? When I put together my last (first) blog I did it in kind of a hurry and never thought it would last very long or that I'd use it much at all (not that I have used it a whole lot). And at the time I made it I wasn't trying to be super creative with the name. Once I came up with a name I liked it just felt like it was too late or too much work to switch. But I figured I'd just go ahead and rip the bandaid off, so here it is. The new blog home. Same Blogger service, just a new URL.

Welcome to the Caffwa Cwanico!

Caffwa: How I said "Catherall" when I was a kid.
Cwanico: That would be how I probably would have said "Chronicle."

I've moved all my old blog posts here except a few. The geekier posts I've moved to an entirely new blog.

Introducing...the Tinkering Lab! I'll be keeping my more geek-centric posts there.