Monday, August 28, 2006

Doctor Vector's Existential Funk

Normally I'm not a fan of the "here's whatever boring shit I'm dealing with this week" blog post. Cuz...vomit. But here comes one.

One of the best teachers I ever had in my life used to work in a school for the mentally handicapped. One of the best things about her was that she had zero tolerance for bullshit, and she spoke very openly and frankly about...everything. Especially the un-PC stuff that goes on everywhere, including the "special school". The people who taught at the school were forbidden to call someone a "biter". He or she was an "individual who bites". And so on. A couple of behind-the-scenes acronyms that the teachers used to describe their students when they (the teachers) were having a smoke break, far from the ears of the administrtion, were OTL and DAP. OTL is Out To Lunch and DAP is Dumb As Post.

I've been OTL lately, and I don't mind telling you about it. In fact, I've been telling you about it all along, just not identifying it as a problem.

I'm also lazy, so the rest of this post is just copied and pasted from an e-mail I sent Mike a week or two ago.

...It's not that I don't want to do useful dinosaur work; it's that I can't get myself to do any.

On July 20, I had my first really productive day since moving to Berkeley. I was poring through refs all day, figuring things out, building momentum on a problem. By sundown I was feeling pretty good, partly because I had learned some things and gotten some work done, and partly because I felt like I was tipping into being On. Which I really needed, and still need, to be.

Then that night I got the invitation to the rocket launch. The lightning bolt that should have fired me into paleo-mania shot me into rocket-mania instead. It's not just that I didn't fight it. I felt powerless to fight it. So I spent the last month doing the minimum amount of work possible for the UCMP and geeking out on rocket stuff the rest of the time.

I know the rocket mania won't last forever. It will sputter out and something else will take its place. I dearly hope that it's paleo-mania, because I need to get some work done. One of the reasons that I set up the rocket blog is so that when I go "off" rockets I won't lose all the information I've dug up over the past month. Hopefully it is something I can come back to in six months and pick up where I left off.

The launch was Saturday. Everything worked out perfectly. I got my rockets built, and I flew them successfully. Then I shelved them. Vicki got me a nice big toolbox to serve as my rocket toolkit and range box, and I got all my rocket stuff off the table. The lab, such as it was, is no longer in existence--everything is packed away. Yesterday I forced myself to sit down and work, and I did.

But it was robot work, and I can't stop thinking about rockets.

I am honestly starting to think that I might be slightly bipolar, or obsessive/compulsive, or whatever the term is these days for someone who flipflops between crazy mongoose energy and utter apathy and sloth. Intellectually, I know that it is time--well past time, in fact--to put the rockets away and get back to paleontology. But I can't seem to convince my subconscious of that. Thinking about rockets is like scratching an itch, like finally finding a comfortable position when you've been tossing and turning all night. Speaking of, I've been dreaming about rockets. Designing them, building them, and launching them in my dreams.

The other thing is, matters paleontological interest me not at all right now. Sauropods, pneumaticity, body size...bleh. I just don't care. I can't muster up any feeling one way or the other. All of those things that I love thinking about all the time when I'm On have no more fascination for me right now than the fine points of corporate tax law. And when things do eventually flip, I will feel about those things the way I feel about rockets now, and rockets will be completely off my mind for a few months. But I don't know how to force the flip, or whether it can be forced at all.

I don't know what to do.

I am going to leave the rockets in the closet. I am going to get back to paleontology and just work until I fall in love with it again. If you have any comments or suggestions, I'd love to hear them.


So. Mike responded that I'm not nuts, I'm just undisciplined. Well, who can argue with that. But the undisciplined guy who has a hard time concentrating on work during the day is sharing a head with the nut who dreams about rockets at night, who can't stop thinking about rockets even though he wants to.


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Saturday, August 19, 2006

Rocket launch

Hey, Vectorites. I've been busy with other stuff. My rocket-related business is now posted at RocketHack, and photos of today's launch are on my Flickr site. Stay tuned.

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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Building the Thunderhawk, Part II

More rocket construction pics. Go here for the first set.

This picture follows on pretty closely from the last one in the first set. Here both wings are attached, but no cockpit, muzzle brakes, or screamers. The rocket is still laying on its side.

Here we're getting close to the end of construction. Just in front (to the right) of the fuselage transitions you can see the cockpit canopy in blue. I Dremeled it out of a breath mint container; the other half of the container is laying in front of the rocket. The red screamers (noisemakers) are glued into the dorsal and ventral pods, and I added cardstock panels to strengthen the fins.

Here's the ass end of the rocket in dorsal view. I wrapped masking tape around the gun barrels to make muzzle brakes. The detail bits at the front of the aft fuselage are made from spare model airplane parts (green), more of that breath mint container (blue), and a pen cap (black), plus a piece of small dowel rod.

Time to detail the solar panels. This is fiberglass screen, cut with scissors over a traced wing pattern with a half-centimeter inset on all sides. Good shot of the cockpit canopy here too.

At first I painted the whole rocket gray, thinking I'd go for black-on-gray coloring like a TIE Interceptor. But it looked too dull, so I repainted the whole thing red. The nose, solar panels, gun muzzle brakes, and fuselage braces are black, and you can see that the fuselage braces are still masked off. Still a fair amount of work to do. I need to paint the cockpit canopy, touch up the paint in about a dozen places, put on decals, and glosscote the whole thing. But it's coming along.

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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Oh HELL yes

Here's a free PDF of NASA monograph #31, American X-Vehicles: An Inventory--X-1 to X-50.

Truly, it doth rock.

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