All the double-digits

It’s official – everyone in the Gilbert household has officially crossed over into double-digits.  With Lucy turning 10, we needed to do something ultra-geeky to celebrate.  The “geekness” came in two major pieces this year, the first being the cake:


How many of these do you recognize?  Clockwise from the top:

  • The Golden Snitch from Harry Potter
  • A Poké Ball from Pokémon
  • The logo for DanTDM, a YouTuber that Lucy likes to watch
  • A shield from C. S. Lewis’ “Narnia
  • A block of grass from Minecraft
  • The name of the camp featured in the Percy Jackson universe (a book series by Rick Riordan)
  • The TARDIS from Doctor Who
  • Morningleaf from Jennifer Lynn Alvarez’s “The Guardian Herd
  • A rose from the anime series “RWBY
  • The One Ring from J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings

CJ pieced these together from Lucy’s favorite fandoms, and submitted it to the bakery as a single image to the bakery, which they printed onto rice paper.  The baker, though, decided to add a couple of flourishes in icing – the symbol for the Deathly Hallows at the very top, and the trident at the very bottom, coinciding with Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, respectively.  We have an awesome baker.

The second piece of geekness came in the form of an RWBY-themed “roving” puzzle, where we left clues around the house for Lucy to follow.  This was reminiscent of a mystery we set up for Katherine years ago (“Katherine and the Mystery of the Pet-Napped Pillow”

We left Lucy the first clue on the dinner table:


We borrowed her RWBY “chibi” figures to help out (Ruby Rose is pictured here), and along the way, Lucy got several new ones to add to her collection:


And there was much geeky-rejoicing.


Peep Jousting

The girls and I tried our hand at peep jousting yesterday.


The peeps got some good hits in, but unfortunately I don’t have any video to share (the cameraman wasn’t at the top of his game).  Lucy, however decided that there wasn’t enough peep-demise going on, and decided to take a more direct approach.


Cargo Frame – First Attempt

In "Quad Cargo", we determined that the Alias had 2.5oz – or just under 71 grams* – of cargo capacity.  Now it was time to build a frame that we will use to attach what the Alias would need to lift.

Our first attempt was to lay some hollow cardboard tubes across the arms of the copter.


Next, we planned to attached those two tubes together with wooden dowel.  I marked the tubes where the dowel would go…


…and then measured out the doweling.


I drilled holes in the tubing for the dowel to pass through.


I glued the pieces together, and and then verified there would be enough clearance for them between the arms and the rotor blades.


There was, but only barely.  I was a little concerned about the effect the frame would have on the Alias’ flight characteristics.  The frame’s components weighed a little more than 21 grams, but I didn’t know how much the rotor’s thrust would be compromised having the doweling and tubing positioned so close. 

So, instead of putting the frame on top of the arms, I moved it to below the arms.



I zip-tied the four corners down…


…and we were ready for our first test flight.


The Alias appeared to respond well.  It still felt like we had good control over it.


That is, until I got a little too wild on the stick, and crashed it.  The Alias was fine.  The new frame, however, was not.


The crash illuminated a fatal flaw in our design.  The holes drilled through the cardboard for the dowel weakened them too far to be useful.  We would undoubtedly crash several more times even before we go to the "tough" parts, so we needed something more resilient. 

Back to the drawing board.


* Dealing with the weights in grams is easier than dealing with fractions of ounces, so from here on out, all of our measurements will be in metric.

Quad Cargo

Before we can start our relatively-still-secret quadcopter-project in earnest, we needed to find out how much extra weight could the Alias really handle.  I drilled holes in a small plastic storage container, and rigged it up as a basket that could be carried by the copter.


The basket and the harness for the Alias weighed in at a combined 1oz (our scale was accurate to about an eighth of an ounce).

We rigged up the Alias in the basement again, and then started loading it up with washers.


We found that the Alias could lift about 1.5oz of washers in the basket, or 2.5oz total being hauled by the copter.  Of course, we had to run the motors at full power to get off the ground.


Switching the Alias from Basic to Expert mode gained us another quarter of an ounce, but as the name suggests, it becomes a lot more challenging to fly.  For one, it doesn’t auto-level itself when we let off of the stick – it will just keep going in the direction we last had it pointed.


We decided that 2.5oz was our effective limit.  That required a full battery and we’d only have 1-2 minutes of flight time, but for what we want to do that should be enough.

The next step will be to build the frame to attach to the Alias to hold the real load.

The Dark Side of the Disney/Star Wars Acquisition

Long, long ago…

(Last week)

In a galaxy far, far away…

(Our living room)

A dark shape appeared, silhouetted in the twilight…


One fearless parent peered through the gloom,

Wondering… could it really be? It looked like…


Han Solo frozen in carbonite?

So the parent flipped on the light switch, only to see…


Nope, definitely not Han Solo…


Just some Disney princesses encased in Pink Carbonite.

Hmmm… I guess the Mouse Empire is a little more, FORCEful these days, yes?

A salesperson’s Salesperson

I have yet to read a favorable review of the recently released movie, “Battleship”.  In fact, the details that are coming out about the movie, and the trailers that I’ve seen, make it look so bad, it’s hard to imagine who would have possibly thought this was a good idea.  It’s difficult-at-best to imagine any movie where you shoehorn the phrases “B-5” and “You sank my battleship!” as turning out well (not that I know whether those phrases are in the movie or not, but how else are you going to tie the movie back to the game?).  To make my point, opening weekend saw it bring in roughly $25 million domestically.  By comparison, “Avengers” brought in more than three times that weekend alone, after having opened two weeks prior.

So, I return to my original question: Who in the world green lit this?

And then a better question occurred to me: Who sold this?

That person must be the most amazing salesperson in the world.  He or she could sell anything – ANYTHING.

Pack your bags, Katherine – we’re going to Mars!

This past Monday was a holiday for me, so CJ bought tickets for Katherine and I to fly to Mars.  Well, at least fly a simulated mission to Mars, courtesy of the Challenger Center at the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

After a briefing about Mars and the supplies that we would need to take, we donned radiation suits (really just light blue vests) and radiation badges (to let us know if we were getting a dangerous dosage of the stuff), and walked into the control room of our spacecraft.  Two of the oldest boys in our group immediately found the computers for the navigation center, sat down and starting pushing buttons.  Our commander, Kathy, asked them very nicely to wait until they were briefed on what they were supposed to.  Commander Kathy then went around the room, and pointed out all of the various stations – navigation, probe assembly, medical, isolation, etc..

Kathy then gave all of the kids (about 8 in all) a choice of which role they’d like to play.  I whispered to Katherine, “What would you like to do?”  She whispered back, “Navigation”.  Unfortunately, the two boys hadn’t vacated the chairs, and they were the first to be polled by Kathy.  They immediately pointed to the computers they were sitting at.  Possession is 9/10 of the law and all.

As Kathy was polling the rest of the kids, I noticed none of them were picking the probe assembly stations (in fact, they pretty much picked whatever station they had walked up to when they first entered the room).  I asked Katherine in a whisper if she’d like to work on the probe, and she said yes.  So, we became the Probe Team.

Each station had a card deck that explained the procedures for that station.  Since we were going to be dealing with sensitive electronics, the probe assembly was to be done in a “clean” room.  We donned white lab coats over our radiation suits, and got to work.  One of the first steps was to seal the room with a sliding glass door.  Our instructions were that we were only allowed to open the door if our probe’s motherboard was covered up.  (I noted with some amusement that Commander Kathy broke that rule a few times to give us information, ask us questions, and so forth).

The probe assembly consisted of connecting various electronic modules to the motherboard and then attaching a test cable to each to verify each was working correctly.  As we were nearing completion, Commander Kathy informed us that we would have the option of sending the probe to either of Mars’ moons – Phobos or Deimos.  Kathy barely got the options out before Katherine blurted out “Deimos! – But either would be fine.”  Deimos it was.

We finished the probe just after entering Martian orbit, and informed our commander.  She came in, inspected our work briefly, and gave us the green light to button it up for launch.  We did so, and the entire crew counted down.  The probe launch was a complete success, sending back some beautiful video of Deimos.

Our ship was then hit by a large solar flare, so we had to make a quick landing, which was also successful.  We gave ourselves another round of applause, and then headed out for the mission debriefing.

Part of that debriefing included an explanation why it was called the “Challenger Learning Center”.  Kathy explained that in 1986 the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded, taking the lives of all seven of her crew, including the first teacher in space, Christa McAuliffe.   The Challenger went down after only 73 seconds, so the astronauts really never had the chance to start their mission, let alone complete it.  The families of the Challenger astronauts got together and formed the Challenger Learning Centers as a way for future kids to complete a mission in the astronauts’ honor, and in a way do what they were not able to.

All in all, Katherine and I agreed it was a LOT of fun.  So much so, that Katherine couldn’t stop talking about it for the rest of the day, and in fact has converted her room into her own spaceship, requiring people to wear radiation suits (old T-Shirts she colored) and radiation badges.


The text reads,


You are entering the airlock.  Please put on a radiation vest and a radiation badge.  Any visitor who has physical diseases must not enter.  Any visitor who is sensitive to sudden or ultraviolet light must not come in.  Thank you for your cooperation!

Oxygen Levels

This is Katherine in her radiation suit and badge.  She’s standing in front of the Oxygen Levels display.  Here are the various levels:

Death Rate!!!!!!!
Code orange!
Code Shartruse
Code Green
Code Neon

Oxygen was reading “Code Neon” that day.  I don’t know about you, but I think I’d have some difficulty distinguishing between codes “Shartruse”, “Green”, and “Neon”.



I love the paper tubing around the door.  We had a few of these lying around after wrapping presents the week before.

Control Panel

Is it just me, or is it a little disturbing having the “Eject” button be the biggest one on the control panel?

A day or so later, she checked out a bunch of books from the library (as is common for her), and several of them were on astronomy.  She’s definitely been bitten by the space exploration bug (one that bit me decades ago), and I just hope I can keep up with her.

Iron Girl

One of my favorite movies is Iron Man.  The casting was impeccable for all of the major roles, but honestly I think my favorite was Paul Bettany as the voice of Jarvis.  “What was I thinking – you’re usually so discrete.”

I also love watching Tony go through the process of developing the Mark II suit.  The screenwriters did a great job of telling the story of how Tony pieces the suit together, literally from the ground up (ok, from the boots up), and how he worked through some of the major technological issues.  These scenes are also very funny to watch for the interplay between Tony and his semi-intelligent robotic arms.  “If you douse me again and I’m not on fire, I’m donating you to a city college.”

Katherine also really loves watching these construction scenes, and finds a lot of the same things funny.  Lucy watched these scenes for the first time the other day, and was soon laughing right along with us.  A couple of days later, I got another example of how fast Lucy picks things up.  CJ, Lucy, and I were sitting in Katherine’s bedroom when Lucy found Katherine’s watch.  She played with it for a minute before putting it around her hand, watch-face in her palm.  She pointed it at me and started saying “pew pew pew”.

Tony   Lucy as Iron Girl

Simply.  Awesome.

If she starts flying around the house, though, I think we’re gonna have to have a little talk.



* Tony Stark photo from IMDB Logo

I love my wife

CJ and I got into a discussion the other night about tattoos, and some of the funny and/or bad ones that I’ve seen online.  I mentioned someone getting one of the Death Star.  To be fair, the Death Star is cool and all, but I’m not sure I’d be willing to give up dermal–real estate for it.

CJ disagreed.  She thought it would be perfect to get a Death Star on your butt.  Why you may ask?  Because then you could say with honesty AND feeling…


Wait for it…


That’s no moon – that’s a space station.


Yeah.  I love my wife.