I Can Finally Have My Rocket Belt!

Juan Manuel is my new hero, plain and simple! Since the Bell RocketBelt of the early 1960’s, the world has been disappointingly devoid of this amazing invention, but no longer. Juan Manuel, a self-taught engineer from Mexico has been working diligently for nearly 30 years to develop a working rocket belt and now he has.

Supposedly the biggest trick to making these rigs work is getting the throttle to operate smoothly enough, but there are a number of other challenges as well. They run on 90% pure hydrogen peroxide which is extremely caustic, so material compatibility is a huge factor. You can’t just march into your nearest drug store and pick up this highly concentrated chemical either, so there are also many issues surrounding the distillation process of the fuel.

Lozano’s commitment to his projects is truly impressive. He has financed everything himself, and come up with a product that seems to work every bit as well as the old Bel Rocket Belt, but looks even cooler! What’s more, I can have one of these Jet Packs on sale now for $125,000! That may seem like a lot of money, but it is really very reasonable when you consider what you get:

1. A fully-tested, custom-made flying rocket belt,
2. This belt has been proved to be the most stable design and easier to fly
3. A special machine to make our own unlimited supply of rocket fuel
4. Hands-on training in the process and the equipment
5. Flight training of 10 flights in your own rocket belt
6. Maintenance and setup training
7. 24/7 expert support
8. Housing and food are included during training

When you think that the original rocket belt cost Bell Aerosystems $250,000 dollars in 1960, and that the guys from “The Rocket Belt Caper” spent a great deal more, you can only conclude that $125,000 is very reasonable indeed. This is not to say I can run out and buy one, but I admit that I am tempted by thoughts of being a full-time professional jet pack pilot.

Well done Lozano! My hat goes off to you!

High End KittyCaster Guitar

About a month ago, Courtney scored one of the new bubble gum pink Hello Kitty Stratocaster guitars from Squier (AKA Fender on the cheap). It’s a very cool looking axe, and once I adjusted the truss rod and action, it actually plays pretty well.

I was amazed to see, however, that Fender is offering an extremely limited edition version of this guitar for a whopping $21,625! Only three of these high-end KittyCasters were made, and only one will be available to the public. If you want it you’re going to have to go to Japan to get it though because it will only be available at the Mitsukoshi Nihonbashi main office for one day on July 14th.

Burton Snowboards Rallys Boarders to Poach Fascist Resorts

Alta and Deer Valley in Utah, and Mad River Glen in Vermont are the only remaining ski resorts to maintain a ban on snowboards and riders have had enough of it. Poaching, a form of protest which involves sneaking in and snowboarding down the mountain despite the restriction has become commonplace at these resorts, but now Burton has stepped up and offered a $5,000 reward to the best video of a poached run on these slopes. Submitted videos can be seen here.

Some skiers are pretty up in arms about it, but I think it’s pretty cool. I am more of a casual snowboarder, but I have to confess that I am seriously considering poaching Mad River Glen because it has a wonderful “stick it to the man” quality about it. I especially like that Burton instructs poachers on how to avoid breaking laws while protesting with the “Poacher’s Ten Commandments”. It just smacks of the old school “SKATEBOARDING IS NOT A CRIME” stickers that I used to plaster everywhere.

It should be known that Taos Ski Mountain has lifted its ban on snowboarders, so we are down from four to only three.

Until snowboarders everywhere are free to ride where they want to ride, until the snow and the slopes of this great nation have been purged of the scourge of segregation, until the four elitist, fascist resorts lift their draconian bans, there shall be no rest, no justice, and no peace.

In the face of this blatant and aggressive disregard for the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America, poaching isn’t simply a peaceful form of protest, it is truly your patriotic duty.

-Jake Burton

Why Did my Arm Fall Asleep?

It’s been a while since I last woke up from a deep sleep and realized that my arm felt like a big lump of wood attached to my body that I could neither move nor feel. I have, however, been suffering increasing problems with numbness and tingling in my hands, most likely because my work has my fingers perpetually connected to a keyboard and I am starting to get carpel tunnel.

It got me thinking about what exactly causes my extremities to fall asleep. I had heard the common explanation that it is caused by lack of blood flow, but this always seemed unlikely to me because my limbs have never turned blue, and such a lack of proper oxygenation to cells would most certainly cause permanent damage.

I did some research, and discovered that an extremity will begin to “fall asleep” when pressure is applied to nerve pathways, causing them to loose their electrochemical connection with the brain. This interruption in signal causes the impulses coming into the brain from the extremity to become garbled and random, resulting in the tingling sensation we are used to feeling when our body part begins to go numb. Interestingly, this can also be caused when pressure is applied to an artery, restricting blood flow to the extremity and depriving nerve cells of nutrients. The initial tingling serves as an early warning system to tell us that we should adjust our position so that we can avoid the serious nerve damage that could result should the blood flow be restricted for an extended period of time.

The random signals interpreted by our brains as tingling are usually all it takes to get us to adjust position and solve the problem, but occasionally, we are so sound asleep that we don’t notice it and the extended pressure causes a total loss in nerve connectivity. When this happens the extremity goes completely numb and our brain is unable to move or feel it at all. Since we have passed the early warning system at this point, I am unsure what exactly stirs in our brain to alert us to the situation, but I can attest that the sensation of having a totally dead feeling arm attached to my body is disturbing to say the least. As is the extended period of tingling when the limb comes back to life.

At least I now know why it happens.

Toyota Yaris Review

About a month ago, Courtney and I decided we needed a new car. She had previously driven a Toyota RAV4, which was not only old and falling apart, it did not get the kind of fuel economy we were looking for given the current price of gasoline. We settled on the Toyota Yaris, and headed over to the dealership to see what we could find.

The first thing they told us what that the Yaris was so popular they could not keep them in stock, and there was absolutely nothing they could to about the price. Furthermore, they indicated that they MIGHT be able to give us $500 for Courtney’s old RAV4, a car that blue booked for trade in at $3,000. I told them that I would sell the car private party and most not likely come back because they had insulted me. The deal-making was on and 5 hours later, we had agreed on a deal that not only got us the whole $3,000 trade in, but a nicely discounted Yaris as well.

We’ve been driving the car for about a month now, and overall, it is actually quite nice. Some people complain about the road noise, but it does not bother me much. The gauge console being directly in the center of the dash took about a day to get used to, but it’s really no big deal either. The seats are comfortable, and 3,000 miles later, we are starting to see the 40 miles-per-gallon fuel economy we had expected. There is even some indication that it will continue to improve until the engine is fully broken in at 10,000 miles. With gas prices continuing to soar, I sure hope so!

There are really only a few things that I don’t like about the Yaris. First, the front of the car is, in my opinion, far too low to the ground, and you have to be constantly be on the lookout for curbs when you are parking. It can also be a problem when you are going over larger dips in the road. It would have been nice for the car to be lifted another inch or so off the ground to keep from having to worry about it so much.

Secondly, the knobs controlling the heater / air conditioning / environmental system seem to be very cheaply made. It’s not big deal, but they feel flimsy, which sucks when you just dropped $12,000 on a new car.

Finally, Toyota’s warranty is absolutely miserable! 3 years or 30,000 miles is still a brand-new car and it sucks that they don’t offer the 100,000 mile warranty that is becoming more popular these days. They seem to be banking entirely on the fact that the company has developed a good reputation for reliability.

Aside from the couple of complaints, however, it’s a good car that seems to be worth having, but not made out of solid gold as Toyota seems to think it is. How it holds up over the long haul remains to be seem, as does the vehicle’s ability to handle in the snow. It would seem, however, that you could certainly do worse.

Ana

Quite a few years ago, Chucky and I found ourselves in Malaga, Spain. We were both in college, and his parents had graciously invited me along on their family trip. We spent our days in more or less typical tourist fashion, venturing around little Spanish villas, the near-by cities and even crossing the Strait of Gibraltar to visit Tangiers Morocco.

The evenings, we had pretty much to ourselves, and although our plans to hop a train to France were thwarted, we managed to enjoy ourselves by wandering aimlessly around Malaga in a relentless search of interesting pubs and British girls to flirt with. We found plenty of both, but as wildly successful as we were at getting these British girls to agree to meet us for dates on subsequent days, we were decidedly less successful at getting them to actually show up.

We also found this poster with a very attractive woman named Ana advertising the Spanish public telephone service. We must have walked past it a dozen times, each time commenting on how attractive Ana was, and how much the poster made us desperately want to use one of these amazing Spanish public telephones to call her up and ask her out on a date. Sadly for us, and fortunately for Ana, however, her number was not listed anywhere on the poster; a fact which we found most upsetting, but was probably a blessing in hindsight because neither of us knew much Spanish and would have most likely made quite a blunder of any advances we might have managed.

On to plan “B” we thought. If we couldn’t have Ana’s phone number, we were most certainly not leaving Spain without her poster.

Now, it is important to realize that this poster was not only in a very public location near the beach, it was also enclosed behind locked glass, making any attempt to acquire it a fairly risky proposition. If we were going to nick it, we were going to first have to find a time when nobody was around, and secondly, a way to unlock the glass cabinet enclosing it.

It so happened that on our last day in Spain, we were were strolling back late at night from a pseudo British pub after a failed attempt to locate flirtable British girls when we noticed that the normally bustling sidewalk where Ana was located had become deserted. Problem one solved! Now just to get that glass cabinet open. I’m a roof and tunnel hacker, so I consider myself above forced entry, preferring more elegant methods like lock picking and social engineering, but I did not have my lock picks so we were forced to use more imaginative methods… Like the butter knife we had conveniently taken from the pub. We moved in to inspect and realized to our joy that the lock was placed directly in the middle of a very long and flimsy piece of aluminum that made up the frame for the poster to sit it.

An insertion of the better knife and a little twist popped the door open with a “dh-dh-dh-dh” sound that I will never forget. Chucky and I looked at each other, both a little surprised, but in total agreement that the only next step could be to take Ana down, roll her up and put her up Chucky’s sleve. This we did, and in a few short seconds we were off with Ana, having escaped Spanish jail and acquired just about the sweetest bit of travel memorabilia I have ever seen!

Ana now hangs in Chuck’s office down in Greenland NH.

Super Burrito

Quite simply, Super Burrito in Reno, NV makes the best burritos in the entire world. OK, so I can’t say that definitively, but they are so good that I generally bring back six or so whenever I go out to visit my parents. It’s even gotten to the point where my friends look forward to my trips out because they know I’ll be bringing one back for them… It is, after all, extremely difficult to get descent Mexican food living in New England.

The burritos weigh in at just over one-pound, and the experience of actually going there and getting a freshly made one is wonderful. The windows are all fogged up if it’s cold outside, and there is a entire bar filled with different types of salsa. The building is inconspicuous, but it is nearly always packed with locals.

I remember always loving their first television advertisement. The little jungle has been lodged firmly in my brain many many years now. If you end up in Reno and like burritos, I highly recommend Super Burrito!