Poor Role Model Rocketry

Once upon a time my class at school got into model rocketry. The younger students made “tumblers” – small, light rockets that had no parachute and tumbled safely to the ground (in theory). Us sixth graders? We got to make REAL model rockets, with big ol’ engines and parachutes to bring the model back to earth safely.

Let me tell you how a model rocket engine works. They are cylinders that are lit from below using remote-controlled igniters. There’s a line of rocket fuel inside the engine leading up to the to top that propels the rocket upwards; at the top of the rocket is a surprisingly strong gunpowder charge. Its job is to pop the top of the rocket off so that the parachute can deploy and the rocket can waft safely to the ground.

So one day our instructor takes us out to the fair grounds so we can safely launch our rockets. Kid after kid lines up to try his rocket. All kinds of things are happening – igniters turn out to be duds, rockets turn out to be too heavy for the engines they are using and just sit on the launch pad blasting out sparks, tops don’t pop off when they’re supposed to so parachutes don’t deploy, etc.

Then, it’s my turn. My rocket launches, the parachute deploys and it drifts back to earth to be recovered. I am quite pleased. My instructor called it a perfect launch.

Finally, when all the students are done, the instructor brings out a rocket he’d been working on for a while. It’s painted. It’s got strange-looking fins that he designed himself. He says he’s finally going to test-launch it for us.

He puts a rather strong engine in it, puts it on the launch pad and presses the button.

The rocket flies straight up into the air for about thirty feet, makes a U-turn and comes straight back down, impaling itself in the soft earth of the fairgrounds and sticking straight up into the air.

We all start running towards it, disregarding our instructor’s calls that the rocket engine is still burning.

When we get about halfway to it, the gunpowder charge that would deploy the parachute goes off. But because the rocket is stuck up to its neck in the ground, there’s nowhere for the blast of that charge to go.

The rocket exploded into pieces, and we exploded into fits of laughter.

Name That Game! 88: Seat of Power

Know what will cheer me up? A Name That Game!

Sometimes in a game, there’s a place where all the moving and shaking happens. This place has the best nightclubs, the most plot leads and the richest trading opportunities. Exception: if the whole game is set in one city, it’s obviously the seat of power and thus isn’t on this list.

So here are ten “seats of power”. Can you name each game they are from?

1. The Citadel

2. Muirthemne

3. Starport

4. Skara Brae

5. Denerim

6. The City

7. Hephaestus (note: actually a district in a larger city, but this is where the leaders hung out)

8. Vivec

9. Detroit

10. The Hub

Good luck and have fun! If you win, I’ll invite you to live in this incredible undeground city I’m making out of an old salt mine and a bunch of school busses.

The Move is Done

Okay, we’re in Detroit, and although the move was not without incident, I don’t feel like dwelling on that. We’re all together and we’re all relatively safe.

I’m splitting my time between working on my games and going through a book called Cracking the Coding Interview. If either one of these things pans out then we should be able to move out of here soon.

And to everyone who donated and everyone who encouraged me…to everyone who cared…thank you. One of the reasons I wanted to get back to Austin was because I felt that my family and friends were there. Here in Michigan I felt disconnected – cut off from the people who cared about me. You guys proved that I’m not. That, for some reason, there are people who care about me and my family all over the world, and you made it possible for us to end up here instead of on the street.

Thank you all.

The Bottom

So…because I lost my job and couldn’t find another one or alternate source of income, I’m having to move my family into Detroit. On the street where we will live, the house next door to us has been condemned, and several down the street have been gutted by fire. This is, frankly, one of the worst days of my life.