"Take a look to the sky just before you die, it's the last time you will." Metallica/For Whom the Bell Tolls
Posted at 12:00 pm by Rob in Main
For the first time last week I got to see an Elio in person.
To recap, the Elio is a two-seater (tandem) vehicle that drives like a car but, because it has less than four wheels, is legally classified as a motorcycle. It has a traditional gasoline engine under the hood, and due to the vehicle’s aerodynamics combined with its low (1,200 lb) weight, it gets 84/mpg. It also has a five star safety rating. The Elio, designed and built here in the United States, will go on sale in 2016 for $6,800.
If you want to read more about the Elio, I wrote a more in depth article a while ago.
Elio is taking both refundable and non-refundable reservations in amounts of $100, $250, $500 and $1,000. If you make a refundable down payment and the car doesn’t make it to market, you get a refund. Those making non-refundable reservations will get their cars first, and will also get 1.5x their reservation price off the cost of the vehicle. All those with non-refundable reservations will get their cars first and in the order of the size of the donation.
I’m currently in the non-refundable $100 reservation group, which puts me in the fourth group. I’ve considered upgrading, but as a bigger guy, I have concerns as to how comfortable the Elio would be (or if I would even fit inside one).
Occasionally the Elio team travels around the country showing off the Elio. Last week I was finally able to see one in person and actually sit inside.
Wahoo — I fit! The front of the Elio is actually very comfortable.
Here’s a picture of Susan in the front with Mason in the back.
Perhaps to make the front appear even roomier the driver’s seat is pushed all the way back, which doesn’t leave a lot of room for the rear passenger. My son, age thirteen, is 5’8″ and felt cramped.
None of the pictures I took show how small the trunk actually is. It’s small. The trunk’s measurements are 27″x14″x10″. For comparison, American Airlines allows 22″x14″9″ for carry on bags. Essentially you’ll have enough room back there for one carry one bag and a couple of sandwiches or something. If you’re planning on travelling solo, the rear seat folds down flush with the trunk and you can take more stuff with you. If you’re planning a two man trip… I don’t know what you’ll do. Every night I sleep using a CPAP, and when I travel I take it with me. It’s a carry on bag of its own, leaving no room for baggage at all if Susan and I were to take an overnight trip. There are talks of aftermarket saddlebags or a roof rack, both of which would affect the Elio’s slick lines and aerodynamics, but the trade off would be more storage. Bottom line, it appears to me the Elio will function as a two-person “around town” vehicle or a one-person road-trip vehicle.
Currently I am holding a reservation spot with a $100 down payment, but based on what I saw I am thinking about upgrading to the maximum $1,000 spot. My only trepidation at the moment is that the car was originally slated for a 2014 release date and it has already been pushed back 2 1/2 years to mid-2016… and with where I would end up in line I most likely wouldn’t see mine until 2017, if the car ships at all. $100 isn’t much to hold a spot for a car that might eventually see the market, but $1,000 is a serious investment. Decisions, decisions.
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
Susan had a business meeting last week in Ft. Worth, so I decided to take some vacation time and spend the week with her down in Texas. I’m not sure why they decided to have a meeting in the one place that’s hotter than Oklahoma right now but they did, so during the day while Susan was at work I decided to cool off by visiting some of Ft. Worth and Arlington’s thrift stores and antique malls.
Ho-ly crap! Ft. Worth and Arlington have some amazing thrift stores and antique malls! After two days of shopping I made myself stop because I was finding so many awesome things. Tomorrow I’ll share some of the toys and other things I found, but today I thought I would share the lunchboxes I found.
First up, Mr. Michael Knight — a.k.a. the Knight Rider.
When I first started collecting retro lunchboxes, plastic ones were $10 and metal ones were $20. That price included the thermos. Over the past ten or so years those prices have doubled, although occasionally you can find good deals if you look long enough. This Knight Rider lunchbox isn’t in great shape. Although the pictures are forgiving, one side is faded, the handle is broken, and it didn’t come with a thermos. Fortunately, the price reflected all of this. Even though it’s not in great condition it’s a good 80s piece.
Next up, baby Muppets!
I never cared for The Muppets Take Manhattan, but I sure did like the Muppet Babies cartoon when I was a kid. I liked the adventure aspect of the show and all the movie parodies they used to throw in. Catch me on a good day and I will perform the theme song for you … in character.
This lunchbox has a space theme on one side and a fairy-tale castle on the other, with more movie parodies (like Indiana Jones) around the edges. The thermos didn’t come with a lid but I had a spare that fit it.
And speaking of Muppets…
I’ve seen similar Sesame Street lunchboxes for sale before but they’re usually marked around $60 with a thermos (I got this one for half that). The characters on the lunchbox are repeated on the thermos in a school-like setting (which makes sense). I like how not even being on a lunchbox makes Bert happy. Oh, Bert.
The current lunchbox collection now looks like this:
I did a bit of rearranging with the new lunchboxes. I moved all of my Star Wars lunchboxes to the bottom shelf and placed them next to the Photon one. I also made a Jim Henson row with the Muppet Babies, Dark Crystal, the Muppets and Sesame Street. I thought about moving Road Runner, Jungle Book, Dragon’s Lair and He-Man all on the same row for an animation theme, but I like Super Mario and Dragon’s Lair being together for a video game theme. Maybe I’ll move Pac-Man down there too. I just realized I have too much free time.
Posted at 8:15 pm by Rob in Main
Last month my family and I took a 2,800 mile road trip where we drove from Oklahoma to Iowa, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. On the last night of our vacation we visited to the Mall of America in Minnesota, and while we were in the mall we visited the Peeps store.
My souvenir for the entire trip was a blue coffee mug from that store that said “Inside We’re All The Same,” underneath five bunny Peeps. The next morning we packed all our bags into the car (with the gift bag containing my mug on top) and drove 800 miles back to Oklahoma. When we got home, I opened the SUV’s rear hatch and my mug immediately fell out and smashed into a dozen pieces in my driveway.
My souvenir. Busted.
I did what anyone in my situation would have done. I kicked the car’s tire (it was a rental), threw away the broke pieces of glass, and then voiced my pain to the world via Twitter. After that, I checked the official Peeps website (https://www.peepsandcompany.com) with the intent of replacing the mug. I paid $10 for the first mug; replacing it would have cost me another $10, plus $8/shipping. I decided to live without the mug.
Before I tell you what happened next, let me tell you why I bought the mug in the first place and why I was so bummed it broke. My house is filled with collectables, mementos and knick-knacks. Instead of coming home with yet another pot holder or magnet, Susan and I decided to start collecting coffee mugs from the many places we visit. And the thing is, we decided to start doing this while we were standing in the Peeps store. I saw the mug and we came up with the idea right there. The Peeps mug was literally going to be the first official mug in our new mug collection.
And I broke it.
So anyway, this story — like pretty much any story involving Peeps — has a happy ending. About a week ago I was contacted by someone from the Peeps corporation through Twitter who offered to replace the mug for free. I graciously accepted their offer and sent them my address.
This morning, this arrived:
And guess what was inside?
Not only is this the first official mug of our vacation mug collection, but it now has a super awesome story to go with it. And, this mug even came with something that the other one didn’t.
Thanks again to the cool people at Peeps and Company for hooking me up with the mug. It’ll be used often and the story will be retold often.
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
The massive amounts of rain we’ve received in Oklahoma over the past month has had an affect on us. After the water level in the pond behind our house rose significantly, We’ve seen several displaced snakes up near the house, for example. The mosquitos are bad this year from all the standing water and will continue to be bad throughout the summer, I’m sure.
Also, recently, I’ve noticed water seeping in to the garage when it rains. The concrete is only wet about a foot into the garage and not enough to damage anything, but long term this seems like a problem. A visual inspection of the garage door revealed that the seal that runs along the bottom of the door appears to be worn out. Susan assured me that this would be a quick home repair, and so we decided to tackle it Sunday afternoon.
The project began by removing the old piece of rubber from the bottom of the garage door. It was permanently affixed to a strip of metal that was screwed to the bottom of the door. Mason took all the screws out and the trim piece came off. Progress!
Then Susan went to Home Depot and came back with two different rolls of seal, neither of which looked like anything we had removed. One needed to be glued to a garage door with a flat bottom (ours is not), and the other needed to be slid into a metal track. Setback!
Another trip to Home Depot later and we now owned 20′ of metal track. We only needed 16′ so I used the Dremmel to cut down the last piece of track. 20 screws later and the metal track was now attached to the bottom of the garage door. Boy this is going great!
Now it was time to slide in the rubber gasket. We got really good at this after the third or fourth time. Once it was finally in place we cut off the excess. Almost done!
Then we went to shut the garage door. For some reason completely unrelated to anything we had done, the right side of the garage door was 6″ higher than the other side. Perhaps a little shove would solve this? Nope, that made a wheel fall off. Maybe we could disengage the garage door and then realign get the garage door? Nope, that didn’t help. And now two more wheels have fallen out and it looks like the door is about to fall completely off the tracks and kill us. Also the left “guide wire” “?” was completely unwound at this point and wrapped around one of the door panels. And now the door won’t go up or down.
Well this took a turn, didn’t it. Did you know more garage door repairmen won’t come out on a Sunday night, even if there’s rain in the forecast?
One last trip to Home Depot netted us a 12’x20′ tarp and a box of staples for the staple gun. With the garage door temporarily sealed and the cars pulled up tight to prevent any would-be thieves from breaking in and stealing a bunch of old Atari games and broken computer parts, we went to sleep.
The garage door repairman showed up at 7:30am Monday morning and by 8am had everything back on track. The man assured Susan that “you didn’t do this,” although one would have to think that the timing is at best suspicious. Four aluminum strips, one roll of rubber strip, one giant tarp and one $85 house call and the door is as good as new. (Actually it’s not, but at least it doesn’t leak anymore.)
Posted at 10:31 am by Rob in Main, Movies, Reviews
(This review contains minor spoilers, most of which are revealed in the trailer.)
Can we all agree by now that a theme park that puts people near unrestrained carnivorous dinosaurs is a bad idea?
2015’s Jurassic World skips over the past two installments in the series (1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park and 2001’s Jurassic Park III, neither of which took place on the original island) and picks up where the 1993 original film left off.
Twenty-two years later (both in real time and movie time), John Hammond’s dream of bringing Jurassic Park, a theme park filled with real live dinosaurs (grown from extracted dinosaur DNA), has been fully realized in the form of Jurassic World. Just like in the first film, dinosaurs have been restricted to various zones on the island be large barriers made of concrete. Also, like in the first film, visitors to the park are allowed to be precariously close to these giant beasts in various vehicles and viewing areas. Finally, like in the first film, everyone is assured that nothing could possible go wrong… until it eventually does.
By now Jurassic World’s gates have been open for ten years and the visiting public has grown tired of the same old dinosaurs (really?), so the park’s DNA wizards have decided to create their own dinosaur. The all new Indominus Rex was created much in the way Willy Wonka designed the Everlasting Gobstopper — a pinch of T-Rex here, a dash of Giganotosaurus there, and so on. The end result is a dinosaur that is bigger, meaner, smarter, and more aggressive than any dinosaur the park has seen to date. My nine-year-old whispered to me, “That sounds like a bad idea.” How this fact eluded the park’s board of directors is a head-scratcher.
While only DNA master Dr. Henry Wu returns from the original film, Jurassic World’s new cast of characters are cut from similar molds. Clair is the driven business woman, so dedicated to running Jurassic World she doesn’t even know how old her two adolescent nephews are (Zach and Gray) when they come to visit. Then we’ve got Simon Masrani, the rich backer behind the new park, and Hoskins, the greedy leader of the park’s security team who has other plans for some of the park’s assets. Finally there’s Owen (Chris Pratt), who brings the whole thing together. Navy retiree Owen has established himself as the park’s animal behavioral expert by becoming the “alpha” of a small team of velociraptors and getting them to stop eating people long enough to do a few tricks.
If you’re counting “bad ideas,” add these to your list: sending your teenage kids to a dinosaur theme park in hopes that their career-driven aunt they haven’t seen in seven years will watch over them; attempting to train velociraptors; anything the park’s board of directors has approved in the past 22 years.
Within twenty minutes of its introduction the Indominus Rex has outsmarted every member of the park’s security team, which launches the film’s events into motion. Will our kids be the heros or the victims? Who will save the day and who will be dinosnacks? Ultimately it doesn’t even matter — there’s enough dinosaur-on-man attacks and dinosaur-on-dinosaur battles to keep you cheering and jumping for the film’s run time. Long gone are those slow, tense moments from the first film; we know what these monsters are capable of, and the movie wastes little time in showing us. While Jurassic Park had elements of horror mixed in, Jurassic World is more action-comedy. I laughed outloud at least half a dozen times, mostly to Owen-delivered one-liners. For the record, I also jumped at least twice.
If your brain is bigger than a Stegosaurus’ you’ll laugh at some of the film’s goofy plot decisions and characters’ actions, but the action is so loud and fast that you won’t have time to think about them until you’re back at home, checking your bedroom closet for velociraptors before bed.
Posted at 12:08 am by Rob in Main
Whenever I visit White Water Bay, I think about the water.
I recently read that there are half a million gallons of water in the park’s Wave Pool alone. Between the Activity Pool and the Lazy River, I’d guess that’s over a million gallons. Add in all the other rides and there’s probably one and a half million gallons of water throughout in the park.
Upon entering I’m blinded as the sun reflects off everything blue. What to do first? Ride the rides? Slide the slides? For me, it’s the Lazy River. The Lazy River is a long and winding and relatively shallow concrete river that leads you all around the park. Upon entering, the flowing current instantly propels you forward — whoosh! — on your own scenic tour of the park. You’ll see the children’s spray ground, lots of slides, even those half a million gallons of water in the wave pool. A fiberglass shark sprays you with cold water as you passively round a corner. And the underwater jets, when you pass them, shoot you forward once again, constantly cycling and recycling (and hopefully filtering) the artificial river’s water.
So much water.
And the day is fun and the kids are splashing and the adults are smiling and the sun is shining and you never ever think the water will run out.
It’s not until the evening comes, when the sun begins to set and the air begins to cool that you realize, soon, the water will be gone. First the water turns cold and then so do you; it’s cold in the water and colder when you get out. The waves in the wave pool slow and the teenage lifeguards sit in their tall towers motioning everyone toward the inevitable. The kids ignore their shivers and continue to run from ride to ride in hopes of climbing one more ladder. But not me. My bones are cold. I sit in a chair that calls my name as the sun goes down and the remaining beads of water trickle down my face. I follow one drop with my eyes as it rolls down my finger and drops to the ground below.
And soon, so are we. Final announcements are made and the lights go dark and there’s nothing left for you at the park. We turn our back on those million and a half gallons of water and start the cold walk out of the park.
And the children beg for one more drop of water and you don’t have the heart to tell them there’s nobody to beg.
Posted at 6:00 pm by Rob in Main
Last night I found an old copy of robohara.com on CD. Back before I ran WordPress (which I installed in 2005), I had my own blogging system I cobbled together with a bunch of poorly written ASP and PHP scripts. The one (only?) good thing about that old system was that all the entries were stored in a separate HTML file. Based on that I was able to open up the files in Chrome, manually copy the text of each individual entry, and paste them into WordPress.
I started on this early this morning before work. Before starting I disabled the plug-in that e-mails out updates, unchecked the boxes that send blog updates out to Facebook, Twitter and Google+, and even added another plug-in to keep these posts from showing up in my RSS feed. Imagine my surprise when just before it was time for me to report to work I was contacted by two different readers informing me that their e-mail inboxes were being flooded by these old updates.
After sending out an emergency SOS via Twitter, my friend Charles G. Hill (the man behind dustbury.com) suggested I try disabling Jetpack as well. I did, which stopped the outgoing flood. This evening, after work, I was able to import the rest of those old posts.
The ironic thing about all of this is that the vast majority of the posts I imported were terribly uninteresting. Some of them would barely pass for tweets or Facebook updates today. I was also really awful at coming up with post titles back then. I saw lots of posts with titles like “Wow” and “Boring Weekend” and “Zzz” and so on. My blog didn’t have a search engine back then so making things searchable wasn’t all that important.
Thanks to Paul and Greg for letting me know about the feed blast and Charles with coming up with the solution. This was a big mess with little payoff, but there was a big gap of updates missing from 2005 that have been filled.
Posted at 9:00 am by Rob in Adventures, Main
Last week we pulled in to Fargo, North Dakota without an agenda. From the interstate we spied the Space Aliens Grill and Bar, which made a fine dinner destination.
The Space Aliens Grill and Bar is located next door to the Fargo, North Dakota visitor center, home of the infamous wood chipper from the movie Fargo.
There are only so many pictures one can take with a wood chipper, a fake leg and a couple of silly hats. Once we had exhausted the possible combinations, we set out to see the Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site.
The Ronald Reagan Minuteman Missile Site is located approximately 90 minutes northwest of Fargo. The drive is long and boring. North Dakota is the 3rd least populous and 4th least densely populated state. During the drive you’ll wonder how they ranked that high.
The first of two sites you’ll come to is the November-33 launch facility.
November-33 was an underground missile silo home to a Minuteman II missile, a nuclear ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile). These were the missiles we had pointed at Russia throughout the cold war. Had the order to launch these missiles been given, the large concrete slab you see above would have been blasted away and the missile, suspended by wires, would have launched directly from the silo. If that had happened chances are there were nuclear missiles headed our way as well, so taking pictures would have been a moot point. There wouldn’t have been anyone to share them with shortly.
While November-33 is historically interesting, there’s not a lot to see here. Years ago the missiles were removed, explosives were detonated inside the silos, and they were filled with concrete.
Another fifteen minutes down the road from November-33 is the much more interesting Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility.
Oscar-Zero is “the last launch control center intact for the public to visit,” according to Wikipedia.
Above ground, the building is approximately 2,000 square foot. It looks like what you would expect. There’s a rec room, a cafeteria, and sleeping quarters.
Things didn’t really start get interesting until we reached the above ground security room.
At one point not long ago, this room was staffed by guards with the authority to shoot on sight. Not only did these guys protect the local facilities, but they also responded to disturbances at the remote missile launch sites. Sometimes something as small and innocent as a leaf would set off the motion detectors at the launch sites, forcing one of the guards here to go check it out.
These guys also guarded the elevator to the underground bunker, which is where we went next.
The first of two rooms we visited was filled with equipment to keep the base running — generators, air filters, and other pieces of equipment.
Both rooms were guarded by incredibly thick blast doors. Everything in the room was mounted to a floating floor designed to keep things level no matter what was going on above ground, and the entire bunker was sealed in feet of concrete. This thing was designed to take a direct nuclear strike and survive.
The second room we visited gave me chills.
If you’ve seen Wargames or any number of other movies, you know what this is. This is the desk where the officers sat for days at a time, waiting for the command to start World War III. On the upper left part of the picture you can see the red lock box that contained the secure launch codes. On the bottom right is the key. Just around the corner from this station was a second station. Turning both keys at the same time would have started a non-reversible launch sequence.
In 1991, the START agreement (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) limited the number of nuclear weapons both the United States and the Soviet Union could retain. Because of this agreement, the 321st Wing at Grand Forks Air Force Base was closed. The missiles were removed and the silos were destroyed and filled with concrete. The Oscar-Zero Missile Alert Facility was spared demolition and preserved as a historic site. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 and opened for tours in 2009.
Posted at 7:00 am by Rob in Main
When I was a kid I had this toy called the Mighty Men and Monster Maker. It allowed you to mix and match head, torso, and leg plates of various monsters (and a few super heroes) and create crayon rubbings of them. Because this thing had so many different little pieces it is very expensive on eBay (often going for between $50 and $100) and very rarely has all the pieces, much less the box.
I found an essentially complete one at a garage sale Saturday for $2. Shall we?
Here’s the box of the Mighty Men and Monster Maker. I never had a crayon rubbing some out quite as clean as any of the ones shown on the box, but that doesn’t make the toy any less fun.
The area on the right contains all the plates. There are 6 head, 6 torso, and 6 leg plates in all. Most of them are double sided while a few contain “textures” that can be used when coloring in your creations.
The area on the left is where you assemble your creations. The purple plastic holder acts to (mostly) hold your paper in place. With everything set up, it’s time to start rubbin’!
Not bad, not bad! Once the outline is completely transferred, all that’s left is the coloring!
I had hoped this review would take ten minutes to write up but instead I spent half an hour on this stupid thing.
Not to be outdone, Morgan named her creation and added two sidekicks.
There was a girly version of this toy (“Fashion Plates”) but when I told Morgan about it, she said this one sounded like much more fun. I agree.
The back of the box says that the plates can be combined into “millions” of different monsters, but even I (a C-level algebra student) come up with 12*12*12 = 1,728, unless they were also including how you colored each one in with the included colored pencils?
My copy of Mighty Men and Monster Maker is missing a few of the head tiles (help?) and the small plastic utensil included to hold the crayon in place, but there’s still enough here to give us a few days of enjoyment and a lifetime of nostalgic happiness. Not bad for $2.
Posted at 9:00 pm by Rob in Main
I visit a lot of garage sales from the comfort of my car. When I pull up if all I see are clothes and baby toys, chances are I’m going to visually scan what I can from the street while slowly rolling by and taking my chances.
On the other hand, if I pull up and see toys, computer stuff, books, or movies, chances are I’ll probably pull over and stop.
And if I see your front yard full of giant metal letters, I’ll definitely stop, if for no other reason than to hear the story.
The proud owner of these letters was in the right place at the right time when the local Office Depot upgraded the signage hanging on the front of their building. All these letters made their way to the dumpster out back, and eventually, this man’s garage.
“Took me three trips in my truck,” he proudly said.
I told him I would have done the same thing, and once even rescued a giant letter “R” from a sign graveyard in Arkansas.
I told the guy if I had rescued all those letters I would have brought them back to my garage until my wife eventually forced me to have a garage sale and get rid of them. He looked at his wife and they both smiled.