This stylized photo depicts, as if sitting on some distant planet, the latest in the Sci-Fi Moonliner series. The original rocket appeared in 1962 at Disneyland, as part of the park’s Tomorrowland exhibit. The joint brainchild of Howard Hughes and Walt Disney, it represented the future of space travel then. It was also an early example of product placement, touting Hughes’ TWA Airlines. Several iterations of it followed, leading to the pictured fourth one in this series, which now sits atop of the former TWA headquarters building in KC.
The rocket’s paint scheme was styled after TWA’s Lockheed Constellations, which were the flagship aircraft for the carrier at the time. It was supposed to be nuclear powered and was envisioned as offering passenger service to the moon. It must have inspired entrepreneur Elon Musk in his pursuits with SpaceX and even Tesla, where his real-life rockets both takeoff and land vertically. The real Moonliner was projected to begin regular lunar service by 1985. Well, that never happened, but heck we got TikTok instead. In ’62 who would have thought of that? The following TikTok video was texted to us by our son Dan. I wonder now if we should be changing all the locks on the house or is it already too late?
As we bid good bye to 2020—don’t let the door hit you on the way out! We look forward to it leaving. After its departure, we also look forward to happier times ahead in the year to come. As you can see, I’ve been having a bit of fun. Although Photoshop was involved, the main engine of creation was a new phone app called Motion Leap by Light Tricks. In true marketing fashion these two two-word names are really each one word, smashed together, but my spell checker likes it better when they are written out the long way. I downloaded the app for free, which comes with a limited set of features, but you can purchase more, if you so choose. To use it, you start with a photo. The app calls this type of visual effect dispersion. These effects conjure thoughts of losing one’s mind. As in, I have half a mind to give you a piece of my mind, but then I wouldn’t have anything left. But I prefer to skip the whole dementia themed track and take the higher road and think happy thoughts. Why worry? Be happy! I have no idea why Anne’s photo is all bouncy. I imagine that I had inadvertently triggered some in-app feature, but it could just be her naturally buoyant personality. I’ll leave it for you to decide on your own.
Yesterday, we did a variation on our neighborhood walk. As per usual, we crossed Clayton Road, but instead of heading east towards Forest Park, we headed northwest to downtown Clayton here in Saint Louis. Home of the county seat, it looks and functions like a second downtown. It is home to banks, banks and more banks and as such is always a ghost town on a Sunday afternoon, even in non-pandemic times. In the middle of a pandemic, it made for the perfect venue to get out and about and remain socially distant. It was warmer than the day before, but the sky was mostly gray and there was a bit of a breeze, making it feel cooler, as it whistled among the downtown skyscrapers.
As we wandered among the silver towers that adorn Clayton’s downtown, Anne clued me into a controversy going on about us. The CEO of Centene, a health insurance company, after having just completed another one of its sterling colored office towers, has recently announced that his company would hold-off on building a third one, due to the crime problem in Saint Louis. Say, what? We were walking past their newest completed building, Centene Tower C, at the time. In general, crime in Saint Louis is a problem, but not so much in Clayton. I think that this CEO was casting aspersions to cover up his own colossal business decisions. I’m sure that a global pandemic, and its resulting repercussions pale in effect to crime in Saint Louis. The fact that this same pandemic has spawned a work from home revolution, could that be of more import? No, it’s crime, definitely crime in Clayton that is the problem.
It was bound to happen sooner or later. I crashed my drone. We were in Tower Grove Park. I had flown it once before earlier on our walk and when we neared the Compton Heights Bandstand, I decided to fly it once more. Everything was going fine, until I backed into a tree, a drone eating tree at that. The drone had lodged itself in a tree’s branch, some twenty feet up. It was already late and getting dark, when I ventured over to the park’s maintenance yard looking for help. Not finding anyone there, I “borrowed” a long board that I thought might be long enough to reach the drone. It wasn’t even close. Returning the board, I found a handful of rocks, with which I tried unsuccessfully to strike the drone, in the hope of dislodging it. I want a pitcher, not a glass of water. I was actually lucky that I couldn’t hit it, because after repeated attempts, the stones that I had found started to shatter on the concrete below. The drone would have been smashed to bits. We left it, forlornly blinking its red caution light in the night.
Returning home, we slowly hatched a rescue plan. One that would not risk incurring medical bills far in excess of the drone’s $300 replacement cost. Yeah, I looked that up and also found that there were no more available for Christmas. After several iterations we came up with a plan that revolved around Ole Yeller, what we called our go to camping tent for way too many years. It came with super long poles that had to be long enough. We would use one pole to poke the drone and then use the other poles to set the tent up as best we could to act as a safety net for the falling drone. The pole wasn’t quite long enough to reach the drone, but we had also brought along a step ladder and in conjunction with that, with Anne at the ready to catch it, I poked the drone just once and it fell like a rock into the soft embrace of an upside-down Ole Yeller. One prop blade had been damaged, but other than that everything was good. After replacing the damaged blade, I successfully test flew it and we’re good to go again.
The below picture is from last night. Jupiter and Saturn were close enough to fit into one frame. You can see three of the four Galileo moons of Jupiter. Missing is Io, which might have ducked around behind the planet or is just lost in its glare. Saturn too is overexposed, but you can see that it has an oval outline that is due to its rings. Through the spotter scope, with the eye, I could clearly see Saturn’s rings and the spaces in-between them and the planet. I was unable to see the bands of clouds on Jupiter. Tonight, it is cloudy, but the forecast for the next few nights afterwards looks pretty good.
This last weekend, Dan and Britt headed north out of the city. Driving along the Hudson River, not quite to Poughkeepsie, their destination was Hudson Highlands State Park. The going in plan was to fly their drone there, but wind conspired against them. Instead, they ended up hiking Breakneck Ridge. Aptly named, as it appeared in the photos that were sent. This “trail” involved scrambling up near vertical rock cliffs, but look at the vista that they saw. I bet it took the river a few million years to work its way through these hills, but maybe a glacier or two helped it along the way?
It could have been their weekend story, or their photos, or that Internet ad, but I took the plunge. Following in the footsteps of my brother and Dan, I bought a drone yesterday. Don’t you already have a drone? Well yes, but at fifty bucks, it’s not good for much more than crashing. I ordered a Mavic Mini, which is a smaller version of the drone that Chris has used to take his breathtaking movies along the rugged California coast. It should arrive today. Woo-Hoo!
Yesterday, started off quite balmy, still shorts weather, at least for those hardy few. We walked in Forest Park, which was doing its usual Sunday afternoon booming business. Boats were out and about, rented from the boathouse. However, today’s news reports that police are now searching those waters that we strolled along on Picnic Island yesterday. Boat rentals have been halted and state police divers called in. Authorities won’t disclose what they are looking for or why. Nearby, we encountered a couple looking for a lost wedding ring, but I think that the cops are looking for something else.
Over the course of the afternoon, the temperature began to drop. By the time we made it back to the car that was parked in De Mun, it was beginning to get brisk. It being midafternoon by then and we being still sans lunch, we decided to order takeout from Barrio, a café that had been recommended to Anne, when she got her hair cut. Recommended were their burgers, which are to die for. Poor choice of phrase? The one thing that I have really missed while in lockdown has been a good burger and these were really great.
Shortly after finishing our repast, the skies opened up and the rain fell down, buckets of it. We haven’t had almost any rain for months, but we got a couple of inches. Gone are the wildfire warnings and quite a few leaves from the trees. It is also quite a bit cooler today than it was before the front passed, but later this week the temperature is supposed to rise again, into the eighties and the shorts will be worn again, but maybe for the last time.
Just before we last departed this town and rocketed north for another luxurious turn at Anne’s cabin in the woods, our brave little toaster of many years died. The mechanism that held down the bread was getting flakey and had become increasingly more difficult to use, leading to frustration in trying to get it to lock and hold down my English muffins in the morning. It was too late to do anything about this situation then, we were too busy, hell bent to get out of town. At the cabin, I did some research (looked up toasters on Slate) and selected our new appliance. It was expensive. Anne correctly pointed out that we could afford six cheaper toasters for the price of the one that I selected, substituting quantity for quality, but it looked so cute. Styled in mid-20th-century modern, it comes in a selection of ’50s retro colors, suitable for both Avant Garde hipsters and aging boomers. We chose a stately cream color.
I allowed our order to sit in its virtual shopping cart for the three weeks that we were out-of-town, and only pulled the trigger after we had returned home. In the interval I had heard that there is now currently a run on all things appliance like, but our new toaster arrived unexpectedly early. Yesterday, when I retrieved the morning paper, it was sitting out on our front porch, likely all night, having been deposited by one of Jeff Bezos’ minions. The fuse kit package for the RAV4 was there too, but that’s another story. With excited anticipation, I rushed the package to the kitchen table and opened it. Inside was another cardboard box and inside that one was a third box. Anne made a joke about nested Russian dolls and a tiny toy toaster, but three boxes were all that there were. I extracted our Smeg, my precious, and began unwrapping all of the plastic that still contained it.
Anne began reading the owners manual, out loud, starting with the lawyer’s part about what not to do. Imagine, one should not take a bath with the toaster and imagine further that they would not have stated that unless someone already had. Moving on to the more useful part of the manual, she explained its features. In addition to the browning selector knob and the bread lift lever, both of which the old toaster also had, this new one has a bagel button, which allows one’s bagel to be toasted on only one side. Somewhat counterintuitively though, the sliced bagel must be inserted insides out. There is also a defrost button for toasting frozen bread. You wouldn’t want to have to move the browning selector, once you’ve discovered its optimal setting and because among two people there can sometimes be a difference of opinion about the correct amount of browning the best toast should have, there is a reheat setting, for that little bit more. Because I had not expected the toaster’s arrival, I had planned a no-bread breakfast. Instead, I first used our toaster to brown bread for lunch sandwiches. I was quite impressed with the toast that it produced and am pleased with my purchase.
It was a beach day until it got too windy. We then adjourned to the deck, but first we had to free some deck chairs from the shed. Even though I spent twenty years opening combination locks for a living, I always defer to Anne, when it comes to unlocking the little gym lock on the shed. I waited, while she went to fetch said chairs. After a while she came back chair-less. She had unlocked the lock, but it still wouldn’t open up enough to clear its housing. I tried several times myself and still no joy. Where’s the WD-40? In the shed. Where are Harry’s tools? In the shed. I left to get my BFH adjuster out of the car and beat that old lock into submission, but before I could find it Anne finally had success. I really squirted that old lock, for all the good that will do. Now that it is unlocked, we might still consider replacing it. It would be a lot easier to get off the shed now than later. Where is the hacksaw? In the shed.
Once comfortably ensconced on the back deck, we watched the developing floor show, while I waited for the call that never came for my Shipt pickup order. Anne had her two at a time toe up socks knitting to add to her entertainment. The floor show here being the local Internet fiber installation. Pictured is their digger and its operator. It took some coaxing to get him to pose for this shot. As we watched, they kept working closer as my Shipt pickup window kept sliding further away. I eventually moved the RAV4 up to the top of the hill, just in case I needed to get out to go to the store. Once, I thought that they had finished for the day and by that time I had punted on grocery pickup until tomorrow morning. They had left their little digger parked on Curmudgeon Court and I was all set to park it in for the night, but instead was able to squeeze past it. Then they returned from their dinner break. That big chainsaw on the digger’s front-end would have easily cut our SUV in half. Their unexpected returning became a repeated theme of the day. They got fiber laid to the end of the Green Tunnel Road, but none of it’s hooked up yet. That must be someone else’s job. It looks to become a saga continuing over many days yet to come.