Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

 
Thursday, October 03, 2002

Life and Art merge yet again

Life and Art merge yet again

I just changed the quote at the top of the page, using a passage from The Lord of the Rings which is currently making the rounds throuh the blogosphere. It's interesting that a story written during the last world war should become such a large part of pop culture as we head into the next world war.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, October 02, 2002

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

I'm back! Did you miss me?

The seminar was a good one, and the trip wasn't too bad, although I do have a story or two for y'all. Unfortunately, they may have to wait for a bit. I mashed the crap out of my index finger today working in my shop, and since I am a two finger typist, that ccuts my speed in half. So I hope you'll bear with me.

Also, the look of Shots may be changing over the next few days. I store all my images on a homepage from my ISP. They are relocating all their customer pages, and I haven't been able to get ftp access to my files to migrate to the new server, so I may lose some of my images for awhile. Again, bear with me and I'll get it all resolved in a few days..

Posted by Rich
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Monday, September 23, 2002

Blogger question

Blogger question Blogger is announcing several new services for a premium price. Do we have any reason to expect better performance and support for the premium? I'm still getting the template errors, bad permalinks, etc. If you can't fix what you have, why I should I pay for more stuff that won't work?

If Blogspot Pro and Blogger Pro work more reliably then the free versions, then the upgrade will be worthwhile. Anybody out there using the premium services? Are they any more reliable? Let me know.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, September 19, 2002

A Musical Note

A Musical Note
Since Lionel Hampton died a few days ago, tonight I pulled out an old movie from my collection, A Song is Born, which featured Hampton, along with many jazz legends, including Benny Goodman, Mel Powell, Tommy Dorsey, and Louis Armstrong. The movie itself is a little lame, but the music, mostly in the first half, makes all of Danny Kaye's stumbling and stammering worthwhile.

I also listened to Hampton's set on Benny Goodman's Carnegie Hall concert. A lot of musicians achieve competence through sheer hard work, perserverence, and dedication. Others achieve fame through luck, good marketing, or having the right sound for the times. But only a rare few are born to play. Lionel Hampton was one, as was Charlie Parker, Goodman, Miles Davis, among others. They take their music to a new level, not so much playing their instruments as speaking through them. It's the difference between playing music and being a musician.

Posted by Rich
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Monday, September 16, 2002

New additions

New additions I've just added a few new links to the list on your left. First up is the Home page for the 172 Detachment 1 group, currently operating in Afghanistan in Enduring Freedom. Yep, they have a page, and a blog on the page. Check 'em out and give them your support.

Next up are two Tennessee bloggers, Say Uncle, and William Burton Welcome to the fray, folks!

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, September 11, 2002

A new addition

A new addition Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the latest addition to my links, The Talking Dog, who growls from his den in Brooklyn NYC.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, September 08, 2002

An Explanation

An Explanation I haven't been blogging much lately, but I have a really good excuse. One of my regular readers suggested that I write a book.

So I am.

I don't know if it will go anywhere or not, but I didn't know whether this blog would go anywhere or not either. I'm not going to quit blogging entirely, but I am going to blog less, maybe three times a week or so, just to keep you up to date on everything. Between work, keeping house, chasing kids, wood turning and building furniture, I'm running out of time to eat and sleep, much less blog. Of course, if anything major happens in the world or in my life, you can be sure I'll write about it here. There is an immediacy to blogging that you don't get while writing a longer project.

Anyway, wish me luck, and I'll let you know how it goes.

Posted by Rich
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Tuesday, September 03, 2002

With apologies to Lennon and McCartney

With apologies to Lennon and McCartney

Tennessee Tourons* (to the tune of Eleanor Rigby)

Ah, look at all the silly people
Ah, look at all the silly people

Gatlinburg tourist looks up the road to see how long this nightmare goes on
All hope is gone
Trapped on the highway, hearing the cries of the kids in the back, "Are we there?"
"No, we're not there."

All the silly tourons
Where do they all come from ?
All the silly tourons
Where do they all belong ?

Gatlinburg locals feeding their dreams from the cash that the tourons will spend
Let it never end
Creeping down back roads, avoiding the traffic that always slows down to a stall
Laughs at them all!

All the silly tourons
Where do they all come from?
All the silly tourons
Where do they all belong?

Gatlinburg tourist swears that he never will come back to this place again
It drives him insane
Gatlinburg local grins as pockets the cash that the touron left here
Y'all come back, ya hear?

All the angry tourons
Headed for home on Sunday
All the angry tourons
Stuck in the traffic again.

**Touron is a portmanteau word combining tourist with moron.

This song was inspired by watching a line of traffic that stretched for about 5 miles on Hwy 66 headed into Sevierville on Friday, and a similar line of traffic that stretched for 2 miles headed out of Seveirville on Monday.

Posted by Rich
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Saturday, August 31, 2002

From the mail bag

From the mail bag
HELP

Since September 11, 2001, Americans have come together as never before in our generation. We have banded together to overcome tremendous adversity. We have weathered direct attacks on our own soil, wars
overseas, corporate scandal, layoffs, unemployment, stock price plunges, droughts, fires, and a myriad of economic and physical disasters both great and small. But now, we must come together once again to overcome
our greatest challenge yet.

Hundreds of Major League Baseball players in our very own nation are living at, just below, or in most cases far above the seven-figure salary level. And as if that weren't bad enough they could be deprived of their life giving pay for several months, possibly longer, as a result of the upcoming strike situation.

But you can help! For only $20,835 a month, about $694.50 a day (that's less than the cost of a large screen projection TV) you can help a MLB player remain economically viable during his time of need. This
contribution by no means solves the problem as it barely covers the annual minimum salary, but it's a start, and every little bit will help! Although $700 may not seem like a lot of money to you, to a baseball player it could mean the difference between spending the strike golfing in Florida or on a Mediterranean cruise. For you, $700 is nothing more than a month's rent, half a mortgage payment, or a month of medical insurance, but to a baseball player, $700 will partially replace his daily salary. Your commitment of less than $700 a day will enable a player to buy that home entertainment center, trade in the year-old Lexus for a new Ferrari, or enjoy a weekend in Rio.

HOW WILL I KNOW I'M HELPING?
Each month, you will receive a complete financial report on the player you sponsor. Detailed information about his stocks, bonds, 401(k), real estate, and other investment holdings will be mailed to your home. Plus, upon signing up for this program, you will receive an unsigned photo of
the player lounging during the strike on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean (for a signed photo, please include an additional $150). Put the photo on your refrigerator to remind you of other peoples' suffering.

HOW WILL HE KNOW I'M HELPING?
Your MLB player will be told that he has a SPECIAL FRIEND who just wants to help in a time of need. Although the player won't know your name, he will be able to make collect calls to your home via a special operator in case additional funds are needed for unforeseen expenses.

YES, I WANT TO HELP!
I would like to sponsor a striking MLB player. My preference is checked below:
[ ] Infielder
[ ] Outfielder
[ ] Starting Pitcher
[ ] Ace Pitcher
[ ] Middle Reliever
[ ] Entire team (Please call our 900 number to ask for the cost of a specific team - $10 per minute)
[ ] Alex Rodriguez (Higher cost: $60,000 per day)

[ ]Please charge the account listed below $694.50 per day for the player for the duration of the strike.
[ ] Please send me a picture of the player I have sponsored, along with an Alex Rodriguez 2001 Income Statement and my very own Donald Fehr MLB
Bobblehead.

Your Name: _______________________
Telephone Number:___________________
Account Number: ___________________
Exp.Date:_______
[ ] MasterCard
[ ] Visa
[ ] American Express
Alternate card (when the primary card exceeds its credit limit):
Account Number: ___________________ Exp.Date:_______
[ ] MasterCard
[ ] Visa
[ ] American Express
[ ] Discover

Signature: _________________________________________________________
Notary Public: _____________________________________________________

Mail completed form to MLB Players Union or call 1-900-F%*&-THE-FANS now to enroll by phone ($10 per minute).

Disclaimer: Sponsors are not permitted to contact the player they have sponsored, either in person or by other means including, but not limited to, telephone calls, letters, e-mail, or third parties. (Contributions are not tax-deductible)

Posted by Rich
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Friday, August 30, 2002

Another new blog to watch!

Another new blog to watch! Welcome to The Sabertooth Journal, a free marketeer and libertarian (with a small l) from LA (must be as lonely as the Maytag repairman).

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Hard times with the hard drive

Hard times with the hard drive
I went to the computer store today to pick up the two computers I just got for my two college boys. The owner of the place helped me out of a tremendous jam, so I gicve him all of my business.

It started 3 years ago. I had ordered a rent to own computer from another shop to give to the kids as a Christmas present. I had paid for several upgrades to the standard model, and the owner told me that he would have it ready on Dec 22. That day rolled around and I went to pick up the computer and bring it home. When I got to the store, the fellow asked me if I had brought all the upgrades back. I was more than a little confused, and asked him what he was talking about. He said he had gotten the system back, but not the upgrades, and he wanted those back as well.

Even more confused, I told him that I wasn't bringing anything back, that I was picking up a system I had ordered three weeks before. We talked back and forth for several minutes, while he wrapped his mind around the fact that I hadn't returned a computer, that he had never delivered the computer, and that I was there to pick up a computer. Unfortunately, the computer I was there to pick up did not exist. He had somehow lost track of the order, and never built the system. He apologized, and told me it would take several days, because he was closing for the holidays, but he could have the system ready shortly before New Years. I told him what he could do with his system and walked out the door.

So there I was, the day before Christmas eve, and my big present did not exist. I was not in a good mood as I drove up the street. I knew of another computer dealer nearby, and I went there, just on the off chance he could help me out. I wlaked into the shop and a man came up to me and asked what I needed. I explained my situation to him, and he took charge instantly. He told me he usually only rented out used systems, and he didn't have any available, but if I wanted, he would put a new system on a rental contract for me. He told me he would have it ready first thing in the morning, but to get there before noon, since he was closing early for the holidays.

He was as good as his word, and I picked up a system that was better than the one I had ordered the first time, and for a bit less money. Renting to own is a little more expensive than financing, but that extra expense is offset by the fact that the computer is under warranty as long as it is under contract.

Anyway, I was very pleased with the product and the service, and over the last couple of years, I've bought two more computers from him. Each time, he's made me a very good deal, and provided great equipment and good service. So, when I decided to buy computers for the boys, naturally I went back to him. I ordered two basic units, 950 MHz, 40G hard drives, 256M RAM, and 15 inch monitors. He gave me an excellent price, so I upgraded to DVD-ROM and a CD RW on each. I also had him install a graphics card in one, since one of my sons had bought his own and installed it in the family machine.

I went to pick up the computers this afternoon, and faced a few, minor difficulties.

First, the graphics card that had arrived was faulty, and he had to order a new one. This wasn't a big deal, since I wasn't going to ship that particular computer out until this weekend. But then, as I looked over the machines, I found that one only had 128M of RAM instead of 256M. I pointed it out to the bright young man helping me out, and he apologized and installed the correct amount of RAM. He re-booted, and I started checking out different screens, and I noticed something very peculiar. When I opened any screen that had a significant amount of white on it, the monitor looked like it had a gaping hole running vertically through the middle of the screen. It was almost as if the creen itself were being ripped in two. I had visions of Steven Jobs pulling himself through the tear and out of the monitor screen, a la Videodrome and wreaking havok on all Windows machines and those who use them.

I pointed out this rather minor flaw to the bright young man, and he wiggled a few cables, made a few magic passes over the monitor with his hands, but the problem remained. The tech guy came over and told him to swap out the monitor, which cleared up the problem. I checked out the system for a couple minutes, when I noticed a new minor technical problem.

White smoke was pouring out of the back of the monitor.

Assuming that this was a bad thing, I alerted the bright young man, who by now was feeling less than bright, and probably not quite so young. He shut off the monitor, disconnected it, and swapped it out for a third one, which at this time appears to be working fine. The second system performed flawlessly, and is now in son number one's dorm room. I will pick up the other system tomorrow, and ship it off to son number two.

Even with all the troubles with this particular purchase, I'm still comfortable using this dealer. First, I saved about $600 off of full retail. Second, they cheerfully made everything right before I walked out of the store, and third, I know that if I have any future problems, they back up their equipment with a full warranty for one year. Anybody can have a run of bad luck; what distinguishes a good business from the rest is how they handle it when things do not go well.

Posted by Rich
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First things first

First things first
I've got some fun and games planned for this evening's posts, but first I have to get something a little more serious out of the way.

Why is it that the same folks who castigated the CIA/FBI/government in general for failing to anticipate and prevent 9/11 are the same folks saying we shouldn't take pre-emptive action against Saddam Hussein?

I know they say diplomacy is subtle and complicated, but it seems to me that if a guy kicks me in the butt once, then tells me he fully intends to do it again as soon as he thinks he can get away with it, my approach to him is not going to be complicated, or at all subtle. But that's just me.

Hussein has said time and again that he wants to bring down America. He has worked openly and secretively against our interests, and the interests of our allies. It is eminently clear that as soon as he can acquire NBC weapons, he will use them. He has already used chemical weapons against his own people; do we really think he will feel any compunctions against using them on us or our allies?

Posted by Rich
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Monday, August 26, 2002

It’s quiet around here.  Too quiet.

It's quiet around here. Too quiet.
Well, the back-to-school festivities are over. Both boys are settling in, and ready for their first day of classes tomorrow. The rest of the kids have their first week behind them, and are beginning to settle in to the routine.

With any luck, this means that for the next couple of weekends, I won't have to go anywhere, and I can catch up on my household chores.

Yippee....

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, August 22, 2002

Bright college days

Bright college days

Again.

Today, I get to help my oldest son move into his dorm room. Fortunately, this trip is a lot shorter than the last one, since he is staying in state. You know, every time I take one of my kids to college, I get the urge to finish my own degree. I finished up my sophomore year in just 13 years, and I'm hoping to knock off my junior year in 7.

Wish me luck...

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Life is a beach

Life is a beach
At long last, I'm ready to resume, and with luck conclude, the tale of our vacation in Florida.

How We Contributed to the Cuban Relief Project, or Wilson Gets a Friend

Monday morning came early (disappointing Sunday, who had hoped they were past the whole "hair trigger charlie' thing) and I went to get my hair cut. Not to worry, friends and neighbors, I didn't do anything radical. The flowing mane you see still exists; it's just been pruned back a bit in the interests of personal hygiene and public safety.

Anyway, while I was gone, my mom went out beach shopping and came back with about a half dozen kites, and several beach balls of various sizes. The kids decided to inflate the largest one and take it out onto the beach to play. They took turns blowing into the little nozzle thing on the end, and after about 15 minutes the ball stopped looking like a limp multicolored baggie and began to assume a roughly spherical shape. They were getting a little tired of huffing and puffing, and if I had been there, I would have reminded them that I brought a portable air compressor along just for blowing up rafts, footballs, volleyballs, beach balls, inner tubes, artificial feminine companions, and whatnot, but since I wasn't there, they had to do it the old fashioned way, with lung power and copious quantities of drool.

Why is it that a child cannot blow into a nozzle without drooling all over it? Is it a genetic thing or a developmental one? All I know is every time I get handed one of these things to seal the valve, I have to wipe a half pint of spit off of it first.

Once the ball was inflated they took it to the beach to play. My brother went along to keep an eye on the kids and keep them out of trouble. Well, the kids started kicking the beach ball around, tossing it back and forth, and playing like kids will do, while my brother stretched out and took it easy for awhile. There was a medium strong breeze coming from inland blowing out to sea, andit wasn't too long before the inevitable occurred. One kick was a bit too high, and the wind caught the beach ball and sent it sailing out into the ocean. The kids started to chase it, but the ball was light and the wind was strong, and there wasn't anything they could do. They called my brother, who saw at once that the ball was beyond retreival, and he called them back in to the beach. They sat quietly and watched as the ball moved out to sea, bobbing gently over the waves. We were certain tha our ball was lost forever, never to be seen again.

We were wrong.

Later that week, watching the local news, we saw our beach ball again. It had been commandeered by Cuban exiles who had used it, along with 3 cardboard boxes, 2 long pieces of twine, and several rolls of duct tape into a raft capable of carrying 14 people, 7 iguanas, 2 dogs, and 12 boxes of cigars.

Just doing our bit for democracy, ladies and gentlemen.

Evolution in action

That night, as we were returning from a family dinner, I saw a strange critter crawling on the side of the road. The best way I can describe it is it looked like a possum wearing a suit of armor or a king sized roly-poly. For y'all that aren't familiar with the roly-poly, it's a little bug that lives under rocks and logs and stuff that rolls up into a tight little ball when you touch it. It stays that way for several minutes, then, when it thinks the coast is clear, it unrolls and proceeds about it's roly-poly business. Of course, that's when you touch it again, causing the cycle to start all over again. This torture of a helpless insect provides countless hours of amusement for redneck kids all throug the south.

Only this critter couldn't be a roly poly because it was way too big, and there weren't any nuclear plants within miles. We decided it must have been an armadillo, because we'd heard that they were becoming very common in Florida and other southern states, including west Tennessee. As near as I can tell, the armadillo is proof that evolution ain't all that bright.

Here we have a critter based on a possum. The way I figure it, the possum has to be the worst road-crossing animal that there is. Cats, dogs, squirrels, rabbits, skunks, groundhogs, and other animals manage to cross the road all the time. Sure, every now and then one of the weaker ones fails to make it all the way across, but you don't see nearly as many dead rabbits as you do possums. We even made a joke about it:
Why did the chicken cross the road?

To show the possum it could be done!


So, nature has a problem. The possum is just too slow to make it across a highway, and keeps getting suished beneath the tires of an SUV loaded with kids coming back from a soccer game. Now a smart person would decide that maybe the possum needs to be a little smarter, or a lot faster in order to avoid oncoming traffic. But no, evolution decides to go in a differetn direction altogether. Nature gave the possum a suit of armor, so that it could stand against the oncoming vehicle and do valient battle with it. Nature even equipped the improved possum with an agressive nature, causing it to leap up at the approach of a car, to better engage the enemy. Once she made these modifications, nature decided the new, improved possum needed a new name, one which befit it's new weaponry. She called it "armadillo", from the latin for " little warrior" and sent it out to do battle.

Sadly, nature didn't take physics into account, and the 10 pound armadillo continued to get creamed by the two ton cars it challenged. In time, the meaning of "armadillo" changed to "Critter most likely to be found squashed by the roadside."

Kite? Nope! Advanced Performance Aeronautic Aerobatic Device
By Wednesday, the wind was really picking up. There were two tropical depressions, one on either side of florida, and the result was a constant 20-25 mph wind
Playing volleyball was out of the question as the team with the wind at their backs would win every match, so we looked for other pursuits. Remember when I said my mom had bought several kites? Well, the kids pulled out those bad boys and had a blast. The kites were the standard Gayla delta kites we all flew when we were kids. With the wind we had launching them was a piece of cake. Let out a little string and away the kite went.

Now I don't know about you, but to me, kite flying is exciting for about 30 seconds. You launch it, pay out your string, and there you are. The kite floats in the air and you watch it. It's like watching paint dry without the suspense.

So, I went out and bought a stunt kite. The one I bought was a low rent model, not much sturdier than the delta kites. I should have known better. The control harness was woefully inadequate for the winds we had, and would suddenly and irreversably snap to one side or the other, sending my kite into a death spiral that continued until it plowed into the sand. This happened several times, and I was beginning to get frustrated, but I'm nothing if not stubborn and I continud to try and fly it until the harness finally gave way completely. My longest flight was 2 minutes. At least I was never bored.

A lesser man might have conceded defeat at this point, giving in to the elements, and retreating to battle on another day. Not me, brother. I went back to the store and explained my problem to the clerk, who was most helpful.

"What you need," he said in a conspiratorial whisper," is the XJ-27 model APAAD. That's the ticket for this weather."

"Tell me more," I said, intrigued.

"Well," he said, "I can't show this model to just anybody, you understand. The technology is too advanced, and if it fell into the wrong hands, well, you know."

"Come on,"I said. "It's just a kite."

"Just a kite?" he said. "Just a kite? Maybe I shouldn't have said anything. Go to a toy store if you're looking for 'just a kite!' The XJ-27 is an Advanced Performance Aeronautic Aerobatic Device. Here, let me show you."

He reached behind the counter, and unlocked a small case, and brought out a plastic tube. He opened the tube, and went to work, assembling the XJ-27 APAAD. When he finished, he had a miniature hang glider about 4 feet across. The material was a colorful nylon, held in place by miniature bungee straps, and the control lines were braided cords similar to those used on parachutes.

"This," he said, "is the XJ-27. It'll fly in 5 to 30 mph winds; do loops, stalls, figure eights, dives, and will hover sideways. The control lines are 250 lb test; the struts are
a reinforced carbon composite material. They're held in place by soft rubber sleeves which are designed to breakaway on impact to protect the structural integrity of the unit in the event you crash it. This model can be launched solo, or with a partner. Just a kite? I don't think so."

My eyes had glazed over, looking at this wonderful APAAD. Even in the shop, it looked like it was flying, ready to soar on the winds, to take on whatever challenges the weather and I could throw at it. I had to have it.

We negotiated the financing, and when my credit check came back denied, he directed me to a nearby plasma bank, where I quickly and painlessly acquired the funds I needed. I had my kite.

I took it back to the beach and assembled it. Even on the ground, I could feel it quiver as the wind filled the nylon. It wanted to fly; it was a creature of the air. I laid the kite on it's face and paid out the line. Gripping both handles tightly, I gave them a sharp tug to initate a solo launch. BAsed on my experience with a delta kite, the nose should have lifted, caught the wind, and sailed into the air.

Nothing. The XJ-27 skidded a few inches through the sand and stopped. I tried again.

Nothing.

The sun was beating down on the back of my neck as I stopped to consider why the XJ-27 was land bound. My kids were staring, looking around the beach to make sure nobody else could se their dad, unable to launch a kite. I tried again.

Nothing.

My youngest son offered to hand launch the kite for me. I snarled something unintelligible, and he backed cautiously away. After fighting the other kite for several hours, I was not about to be defeated by this one. I would make it fly. I tried again.

Still nothing.

It's said that a good definition of insanity is to try the same thing but expect different results. By that definition, I spent the next twenty five minutes certifiable. Eventually it dawned on me that i simply was not going to work like I tought, and that I was going to have to change something. I decided for variaty to lay the kite on it's back instead of it's front. I tried again.

The XJ-27 leapt into the air like the Space Shuttle at liftoff, streaking into the sky until it was almost straight overhead. I knew then why the control lines were so stout; the tug of the kite pulled me two steps down the beach before I got my balance. I stabilized the kite, then decided to try a loop. I pulled back gently on one of the handles, and the kite began to lean in that direction. I puled a little more, and the XJ-27 performed a slow,graceful roll to the right. The wind made a roaring noise through the airfoils , a noise that got louder as the kite cut into the wind. I rolled in the opposite direction to unwind the strings. Then I tried a snap roll. I pulled back on the right handle sharply; the XJ-27 responded immediately, plunging into a series of right hand loops, reeling off three of them before I could respond. I quickly let out the right line and stabilized the kite, only to snap into a tight left roll, again to unwrap the lines.

One loop, two loops, three lo....oops.

I ran out of sky. The XJ-27 did a full speed nose dive into a sand dune. I just knew I had destroyed it, and as I walked over to the wreckage, I began wishing I had bought the insurance policy the salesman had offered. I got over to where the XJ-27 lay, and surveyed the damage.

I looked again.

Nothing.

Cool!

To make a long story short (way too late for that) this kite performed like a champ. I was diving, looping, hovering, spinning, and figure-eighting like a pro in no time. I let the kids take turns flying it, and we all had a blast. No matter how many times we face planted it, all we had to do was slip the composite struts back into the rubber sleeves, and back into the sky it went. The winds held for the rest of our vacation, so we got plenty of use out of the kite. It's stored safely in my closet now, dreaming of the open sky, and just waiting for a gentle breeze to fly again.

Kite? Nope! Bread bag!
My mom had a little bit different approach. She watched us all flying our kites, and decided she would make her own kite. She took the bag from a loaf of bread, tied a string to the open end, a tail to the other end, and launched it. Like the F-4, her kite proved that given enough thrust, anything will fly. The bread bag opened up, filled with air, and shot into the sky. Of course, she couldn't do fancy tricks like mine, but then again, she didn't have to sell her plasma to afford it either.

Posted by Rich
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