That’s not how you launch a balloon

That’s not how you launch a balloon

Aug 25

A balloon is supposed to be at rest in the air mass and anything attached to the balloon had better be at rest in the air mass as well or there’ll be trouble.

This is how you launch a balloon.
Turn up at Mildura Airport. The stars are hard and bright and it’s perishing cold. The professionals look like Americans, but they aren’t, they are Australians. They bought their cold-weather gear when they were in America, training. They’re locals, they know what it’s like out here at five o’clock in the morning.

The Met boys would call the wind `Calm’, but when they launched their four o’clock met balloon they noted very carefully which way it drifted. The launch vehicle is parked out in the field facing what might laughingly be called downwind.

The launch vehicle is an ordinary flat-bed truck. There’s a frame mounted on the front above the windscreen and the rig is tied to the frame with rope. On the back of the truck is a wooden crate and a large tarpaulin. Two men unroll it and a third follows them sweeping it. Two more men park a giant scale on wheels at the other end of the tarpaulin. A semi-trailer backs up to it carrying a couple of dozen gas bottles running the length of the tray.

On the launch vehicle the crate is opened and the balloon taken out and carefully unfolded along the tarpaulin. The far end is threaded through the rollers on the scale and the rollers closed. The near end is attached with rope to the top of an unfurled parachute which, in turn, is attached to the top of the rig. On that rope is a, what, I don’t know what its proper name is, I call it a squib. It’s an electrically detonated explosive that shoots a knife through the rope. There’s more of these on the ropes holding the rig to the frame.

A fat tube connects the gas bottles to the top of the balloon. An initial hiss turns into a shriek that goes on for half an hour. The professionals wear ear muffs the rest of us stand well away. People watch the scale as the bubble at the top of the balloon inflates. When the bubble is around ten meters diameter the scale shows that the total lift is enough. The gas is cut off.

In the sudden hush the driver of the launch vehicle starts his engine. A command is given and with a great crash the top roller of the scales is flung back. Flapping and fluttering the bubble starts to rise and the vehicle moves off slowly downwind. The driver man oeuvres to keep the bubble over the payload, until the balloon is stretched at full length vertically above the vehicle, like a giant exclamation mark in the morning twilight. Balloon, payload and launch vehicle are all at rest in the air mass. The squibs on the ropes are fired, the vehicle brakes and the balloon serenely moves away, beginning its hour-long journey to the edge of space.

That’s how you launch a balloon.

Everyone busy, the airport has to be cleared and open for the seven thirty Melbourne flight.

You watch the balloon until it is out of sight, then wait a little longer and it blazes forth, golden, as it enters sunlight.

A bit of breakfast in the project’s tea room, with the telemetry jangling the background. Eight o’clock and it’s a beautiful day, sun shining, sky blue and the balloon still visible through a telescope, no longer an exclamation mark, more like a rounded, inverted delta. There isn’t much wind at altitude today, so the recovery crew hasn’t left yet. They tell tales of previous recoveries, how once the rig landed on an island in the middle of the Murray river and they had to find a boat to get it back, of the time the balloon went south-west into the Sunset country where wind-blown sand hones mallee roots to razor sharpness and they had to drop four sets of tires from the air before they could get it out, of the occasion the cut-down command didn’t work and they thought the mechanical timer would bring it down in Canberra but that didn’t work either and it drifted into restricted airspace over Newcastle where the spotter plane couldn’t follow it and it was washed up on the shore at New Zealand months later, of the day when there was no wind at all and the spotter pilot spent the day in a deckchair looking straight up and it came down less than mile away.

Early afternoon, and the chill from this morning still hasn’t left you. They send the cutdown command on a telephone dial. On the third try it works. The squibs on the rope attaching the balloon to the parachute fire, the rig drops away and a line from the top of the parachute to the top of the balloon pulls open a rip panel and the balloon falls away. The spotter pilot follows the rig under its brightly colored parachute to the ground and guides the recovery crew to collect it. They are back by half past five, everything is packed away and down to the pub to celebrate a successful day.

Momedy: Cute!

Momedy: Cute!

May 28


I lookover artwork that depicts the bond between mother and child through anthropomorphized animals and mythic creatures.

This print by Ashley Goldberg is called “Come To Me,” and is just so adorable it makes me go “Awwww” in the same way my in-laws do over Anne Geddes prints.

Image courtesy of Ashley Goldberg and

Ashley’s website is and it has links to other stuff she sells on, as well as images on I’ve become her number one fan. Good thing she works out of St. Louis, Missouri, and I’m broke courtesy of a recent trip to Tofino to learn to surf otherwise, I’d be camped outside her studio, living in a rental van, so I could be the first one to see what genius print would emerge from her imagination each day.

Her prints are perfect for the nursery, or your home office (where they’ll give you a guilt trip for parking your kid in front of the TV when you flee to check email), or as a baby shower gift for non-Geddes-inclined parents-to-be.



May 19

I will complete what I start. I’ll do it well and with a ton of passion. My art, no matter how trivial I might think the commission at the time will go on and do great things for me! I hope everyone feels the passion in each piece. I’ll feel a sense of relief, but also a sense of excitement of the new projects to come!

Supporting Actions:

Set aside four hours a day to work.

Keep from taking on any more commissions.

Keep off the internet except for an hour or so each day.

Get sleep.

Right now I’m down from 15 to 5… Yay! I’m on the road.

Background Information:

I get really excited when I start art pieces, but I really have to force myself to finish, and a lot of times I feel like I don’t do my best. I’d love to really jump into a project and finish it and really, really feel good about every mark I make. 🙂

Mack Daddy vs. Freaky Polygamists

Mack Daddy vs. Freaky Polygamists

Sep 09

Mack doesn’t know about you, but the Daddy’s still kind of freaked out, still got the heebie-jeebies about that polygamy sect raided in Texas. First, there was the compound itself:

Freaky! Looks like headquarters of the alien takeover of Planet Earth. And there is probably a honeycomb of tunnels underneath it.

Then there were the women that emerged from it:

Creepy! Invasion of the body-snatching unibrowed Amish Stepford Wives! Yeee-ipes!

Apparently they never cut their hair, they just roll it up like that, because they plan to use it one day to wash the feet of Christ.

Wacky! And they dress like that because they want to look as similar as possible, because the husband-figure bounces from one to the next and they don’t want to seem too different from one another. Or something…

Nutty! Mack cannot help but wonder: If they’re all exactly the same, what’s the point?

But then a thought occurred to the Daddy. Maybe it’s those freaky women who secretly love it. Women these days are always complaining what big babies men are, how high maintenance their husbands are, etc: maybe it’s a relief to the polygamists’ numerous wives only to have to deal with the husband’s issues say, 1/10th of the time.

The Mack also found himself musing upon whether the women compare notes…sexually? Of course they do! Sexually and on every other front! Wife #1: “He’s been really gassy lately, have you noticed?” Wife #2: “I know, it’s gross.” Wife #3: “We’ve got to change his diet.” Wife #4: “He needs to eat more greens,” etc.

And I wonder if there are any nights when they all have a headache. That’d be frustrating. Or maybe a relief.

Who knows? Mack Daddy doesn’t understand polygamy. Mack believes you should choose one woman wisely, then stick with her long as you can.

It’s very important to choose carefully in the first place, the Daddy believes: measure twice, cut once, as tailors say.

And of course, luck is involved. Luck is a huge factor. When people asked Calvin Trillin, author of About Alice– a description of his marriage (which he wrote after his wife’s death) so touching hardened New Yorkers would hand it to total strangers on the subway-what his secret was for staying happily married so long, he would simply say: “I wandered into the right party.”

(In his case a Greenwich Village boho mingler at which jazz probably featured in the background.)

He was lucky to meet the right woman in the first place, in other words.

I was lucky too. I was extremely fortunate to wander into a particular book-launch where I was thunderstruck by the hypnotic beauty of the woman who would later become Mrs. Daddy.

She was wearing a floral dress, and standing shyly by the canapes. Her hair was slicked back, giving her a sort of feral, predatory look. “Cha-a-a-rge!” the Daddy’s DNA commanded, and I took a run at her with steam coming out of my ears, and collar, and invisible dry-ice machines secreted in various locations around the room.

I did not care whether she was a woman of virtue, character, common sense– but when the dry ice cleared, and it turned out she was-well, it was very lucky for the Daddy.

You too, my bloggies, I hope such luck for you. I know it doesn’t work out a lot of the time, it can all end in tears, custody battles, etc.

But when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing.

Best of luck. Pay no attention to freaky polygamist sects. Look for that one perfect pearl. In matters of love, the Daddy firmly believes: it’s quality over quantity.

Week ending on 5/16/10

Week ending on 5/16/10

Dec 04

15 lb OxiClean – $12.99 after $4.00 coupon
Orville Redenbacher’s 94% Fat Free Popcorn, 32 count – $6.69 after $3.00 coupon
Ziploc quart freezer bags, 216 – $6.84 after $1.75 coupon
Trident salmon burgers, 3 lbs – $9.24 after $3.75 coupon
Tillamook sliced medium cheddar cheese, 2 lbs – $6.89
TOTAL: $47.08
SAVED: $41.05
compared to grocery stores

2 x V8 Splash Juice, 64 oz each – $6.00 (received $1.00 ECB)
4 x Pepsi Fridge Mates, 12 pack – $12.00 (received $3.00 ECB)
1 x small cactus – $2.99
TOTAL: $11.35 out of pocket, after using a $4.00 off $20.00 coupon and a $7.00 ECB. I also received a total of $4.00 ECBs to use on my next order.
SAVED: $21.16

4 ears of corn – $1.00
2 mangos – $1.34
2 x Wild Garden Hummus, 13.4 oz – $3.49
2 x Hy-Vee egg noodles, 12 oz – $1.56
KC Masterpiece Original BBQ Sauce, 18 oz –  FREE after $1.00 coupon
Dubuque Plumper Extra Lean Beef Franks, 16 oz – $0.99
2 x Jimmy Dean reduced fat pork roll sausage, 16 oz – $3.00 after $1.00 coupon
Jimmy Dean fully cooked turkey sausage, 9.6 oz – $1.00 after $1.00 coupon
2 packages of boneless skinless chicken breasts, 4.23 lbs total – $7.96
California Pizza Kitchen pizza for one – $1.50 after $1.00 coupon
2 x Digiorno Flat Bread Melts – $4.00 after $1.00 coupon
2 x Edy’s ice cream, 56 oz – $3.98
Hy-Vee plain fat free yogurt, 32 oz – $2.08
Yoplait Go-Gurt, 8 count – $1.65 after $0.35 coupon
2 x Arm & Hammer 2X liquid laundry detergent, 44 loads or 68.75 oz – $4.98 after $1.00 coupon
Cascade gel dishwashing detergent, 75 oz – $3.63 after $0.25 coupon
TOTAL: $47.13
SAVED: $52.50
compared to non-sale prices

2 x Old Spice Swagger body wash – $4.49 after B1G1 coupon (also received $4.50 in register rewards, which makes this free)
2 x Lysol toilet bowl cleaner – $1.99 after two $0.50 coupons
2 x Kotex tampons, 18 count – $4.50 after $1.50 coupon (also received $2.00 in register rewards)
Welch’s 100% grape juice, 64 oz – $2.00 after $1.00 coupon
TOTAL: $12.66 out of pocket, after using $2.00 in register rewards. I received a total of $6.50 in register rewards for my next purchase.
SAVED: $18.25

GRAND TOTAL: $118.22
TOTAL SAVED: $132.96

I think it was a great week considering I saved 53%, but how much longer is this stocking up stage supposed to last? I must admit I’m not trying too hard to stay within any kind of budget. I’m just saying yes to any good deal at this point because I like variety and eating well. If anyone’s wondering, we’re slowly eating all this food and the only food that spoiled was not because I overbought something. I foolishly left bananas in a bag on top of the fridge. Oops!

There are still a few great deals left at Costco, but I’ll get more later this month. The only two things I’ll go back for tomorrow are milk (we still have drinking milk, but I want to try making crockpot yogurt) and “ultragrain” unbleached flour. I have a batch of dough for Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day sitting in the fridge and no flour to shape it with.

Interested in American Football? Age 14-16?

Interested in American Football? Age 14-16?

Dec 04

Interested in American Football?
Age 14-16?
Want to represent your city?

Then why don’t you give us a try! The Cassidy Jets are recruiting junior kitted (age 14-16) players for the 2009 season and beyond! American football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and Coventry is already home to one of the best teams in Europe!

Will my size and ability affect my chances?
Described as the ultimate team sport, nothing feels better than scoring the game winning touchdown or making a big tackle on the opposition. Given the nature of the sport every shape, sex and size can be accommodated and you will see game time against teams from all across the UK. The 6’4” 260lb lineman is as important as the 5’8” 185lb star player.

What chances are there to progress in this sport?
There is a natural progression from Junior football into Youth football and then ultimately into the Jets senior team. But if you are good enough there are chances to play at a professional level. There are many professional leagues in the USA and Canada, to which European players are being recruited. There are at least 5 former BAFL players currently playing professional football over there, ranging from the Arena Football League to the NFL. American football is also played all over North America at high school and collegiate level and if you are good enough and have the brains there are opportunities to play over there to continue your football and your education. Danny Wardell, the Jets Free Safety, has spent the past year with an NCAA Div 2 college in Minnesota and more US colleges are looking towards Europe for players. Similarly there are teams across Europe that play at semi pro level equal to the Jets that are always looking for good young players so you can see that in American football terms the world is your oyster!

Where and when do you train?
Both Junior and Youth train at Woodlands School and Sports College, Broad Lane, Coventry. Training starts at 12.30pm and finishes 3pm, although you will need to be there for noon so we can sort you some equipment. You will need to use the entrance to the Power League Centre to access the changing facilities. All sessions are coached by qualified BAFCA and CRB checked coaches.

What do I need to start training?
All you will need for your first training session is normal sports wear, T-shirt, jogging bottoms or shorts and football boots. You may need to wear extra clothing depending on the weather. You will also need to bring along a drink. One essential item you do need is a gum shield, which you can find in most sports shops and usually cost £3.

How much does it cost?
When you begin all it will cost is your registration fee for the league and club membership, which is £50! Broken down, it works out at a bargain 97p a week over the whole year! The club will help with your kit, providing your helmet and shoulder pads for training and games. Eventually you may want to purchase your own kit and this can range from £100 to £300.