cameras, rockets and honey battle gravity, chemistry and tradition

September 19 2020 was, as regular readers know, marked a very special occasion — Melika and Tom renewed their vows at the very beautiful San Ysidro Ranch. Tom’s Dad, Judge Adams, officiated, Mitra, Nazy and I attended and the children (Tiger, Arrow and Azelle) joined Tom and Melika as active, but sometimes reluctant, participants.

Tiger, who began the day with the demand that he be in every picture, was clearly unaware of the number of pictures normally taken at weddings. Melika and Tom, moreover, used the opportunity to take family as well as wedding photos. Naturally, the children cooperated:

Three family adams for TWL now

The weather also cooperated with a beautiful new-isn moon at sunset. Everyone slept well — but the children didn’t subscribe to the belief that Sunday mornings were invented mainly to encourage sleeping late. So, Mitra and I took them to out to explore the gardens and surroundings. Mitra was particularly adept at finding interesting things to see…

“Look at that spider web!” She enthused. “It is huge. Do you know how the spider decides where to build the web?”

While Tiger and Arrow mulled that over, I, carrying Azelle, maneuvered to get a better view of the web.

“The spider,” Mitra continued, “just makes a long string of silk and waits until the wind blows it onto something. That’s the start.”

“What does the spider do if it’s not windy?” Tiger asked.

checking out the snail 9 20 20

Mitra followed the spider gambit by spotlighting a column of migrating ants.

I was wondering how she’d top ants and spiders when…

“Look! It’s a snail!”

Since Tiger and Arrow didn’t want to risk the snail running away, they dashed to ground zero. When Nazy joined us, she and Azelle joined the group’s snail inspection expedition.

The grounds of the San Ysidro Ranch, beautifully restored after a devastating mud slide a few years ago, feature gardens and pools. Tiger, Arrow and I played soccer until Tiger’s errant kick sent the ball deep into impenetrable foliage

“Isn’t that the third ball that you’ve lost in the woods?” I asked. “
And I was just about to win when he did that,” I thought.
Grandchildren Sept 20 2020 on Turtle

“No,” Tiger replied. “Arrow lost one.”

Unable to top snails, I found a giant turtle for the children to inspect.

The weather, the venue and the wedding were all wonderful; it was great that Melika and Tom were able to arrange it with Tom’s Dad on this very special numerically appropriate day:

6/13/14 (Tiger); 7/15/16 (Arrow), 8/17/18 (Azelle)
9/19/20 (Melika and Tom)

Back home several important items were on the docket:

Tom, Tiger and Honey

The Lakers were playing the Nuggets — and Tiger (and his Dad) wanted to watch. (Unfortunately, the results were more than a little disappointing.) Additionally, a professional centrifuge had been acquired to process honey from The Adams Family bee hives. After Tom assembled the device, everyone took turns on the handle.

Observation: It takes
a lot of time to spin honey out of a honeycomb. The honey slowly ‘flies’ to the sides of the centrifuge where it waits for gravity to take over. Gravity is, by far, the weakest of the fundamental forces of nature: Strong Nuclear, Week Nuclear, Electromagnetism and Gravity.

Eventually (and I am speaking optimistically here), the honey ‘flows’ to the bottom of the centrifuge from where it can be drained and transferred to official Adams Family containers.
Several days later, honey is still ‘flowing’ or sliding or dripping into the huge collection pool at the bottom of the centrifuge. The centrifuge is a prominent feature of The Adams Family Kitchen and everyone who walks by is advised to stop and turn the handle at least 10 times.
Arrow at Nirvana September 22 2020

This week, we also celebrated the arrival of the autumn equinox. Mitra, after explaining the astronomical geometry of the equinox, helped the boys design and paint autumn posters. Then Nazy and Melika joined her and the boys to prepare a traditional autumn feast. (I took Azelle swimming because directing Azelle’s ‘help’ along a helpful path is always challenging.)

Inspired by the project work at Nirvana, Nazy helped me and the boys assemble a model rocket from the
Estes Rocket Company.

I am, of course, an experienced Model Rocketeer. In my youth, I built one from an aluminum cigar tube and a CO
2 cartridge: it worked, in the sense of acceleration, but directional control left something to be desired. Then Darius and I built a rocket while we were living in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Construction involved balsa fins, glue, paint and sandpaper. Based on how the finished product looked, I’m certain that I did it without any help from Nazy: it looked like it had been constructed by a six year old. We glued a straw onto the side and slid the rocket down the launch wire. Amazingly, the electronics worked perfectly. The rocket soared — but the parachute didn’t deploy. The rocket returned to Earth nose cone down. The pointed nose cone buried itself about three inches into the turf. And…

“Look at this, Dad!” Darius exclaimed as he retrieved the device. “The rocket is all squished, but It cut a worm in two.”

“We’ll have to rebuild it,” I replied. “And this time I’ll paint the name on the side.”

“Name? What name?” Darius asked.

“Vlad,” I replied. “
After Vlad the Impaler,” I thought.

(Unfortunately, I recalled this anecdote
after we build and launched the 2020 edition of the rocket.)

Assembly went smoothly because Nazy helped — and because Estes had replaced the balsa, glue and paint with plastic, clips and stickers. The launch process was equally smooth; the safety key worked and when Tiger, following a countdown, pushed the launch button, our Astrocam rocket launched.

“Wow!” Nazy shouted as the rocket rapidly accelerated before disappearing into the clouds.

Estes rocket montage

The rocket had va
nished. Fortunately, however, a bystander had seen it return to earth — almost as rapidly as it had left the ground. The return had been dramatic, the parachute had not deployed and the nose cone was firmly stuck in the ground. The body tube was crumbled.

“We just build a V2 rocket,” I mumbled as we picked up the pieces. “
V2 for Vlad II”, I thought. Aside: no worms were injured in the testing of this rocket.

“Where’s the camera?” Nazy asked. [The rocket had tiny USB video camera that was …

“… not attached to the rocket.” I replied as we searched nearby turf.

“That’s because
you forgot to the secure it with the rubber band,” Nazy asserted. “You lost it.”

Naturally, Nazy was right — but I had the last laugh because the reason I hadn’t secured the camera with a rubber band was …

“I completely forgot the camera, my dear. It’s safely here in my pocket I did
not lose it.”

Later, I convinced Estes Rockets to send me another body tube. They also sent me a list of 37 reasons that the nose cone may fail to eject and thereby cause the parachute to fail to work.

hat’s so helpful,” I thought, “We’ll eliminate the problems one-by-one. I should ask for 38 more body tubes.

Undaunted by momentary setbacks, Nazy found a present that Tiger had received with a chemically powered engine that worked with..

“Mentos and Diet Coke?” I asked.

“No! Vinegar and Baking Soda, Dan. Do you know anything…”

“Nazy! I am an expert at vinegar and baking soda, Nazy, I’ve handled multiple science projects involving vinegar and baking soda.”

“Science projects?”

“Volcanos, my dear. And do you remember when we used vinegar and baking soda to attack the fire ants in Houston?”

“Didn’t we just make them mad?”

“Correct!” I replied. “
And we blasted them all over the yard and onto everyone’s legs,” I thought.

In spite of the instructions assuring parents that it will take 8 to 30 seconds to achieve adequate reaction to lift the rocket, experimental results show that, in fact, great care and dexterity is needed to prevent premature mixing of the propellent.

vinegar rocket montage

At least we didn’t have to spend a lot of time searching for where it landed,” I thought.

For last week's letter, please click here

Arrow and Azelle at the wedding

Arrow and Azelle by wedding 9 19 20

Wedding Art ..with participant handprints

hand print paintings 9 19 20

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