Have blue tubes, will build airplanes

blue tube toys transformed into military vehiclesWhat’s a boy to do with an hour or two on his hands and a box of old toys?

If it’s a box of “blue tubes” and imagination is involved, no problem. (That’s a P-38 Lightning on the right, by the way.)

These 3/8-inch (10 mm) diameter blue plastic tubes have a nominal length of by 1-1/16-inch (28 mm). Besides the straight pieces, there are elbows, red gears, red wheels with (or without) black tires in a couple of sizes, yellow collars and spacers, flat square fillers in two sizes and colors and, of course, the necessary yellow friction joiners. At least, those are my names for them. There’s no instruction booklet with handy designs to try out, no indication of where they were made toward the middle of the 20th century. We’ve searched the web for clues; now it’s your turn to let us know if they’re not unique gifts left by extraterrestrials.

Found in a neighbor’s garage in North Carolina, they survived my intensive use and are bearing up well under A.J.’s over thirty years later. They compete well against (or get creatively combined with) K-nex. They even offer periodic distraction from his first remote control model airplane purchased with some of his hard-earned cash – and now dangling safely from the ceiling.

Mere days until Urbana and that’s all we’ve got? No, but it was an excuse to see if the new Blogger was any better at uploading images than the previous one. Much better. On to less trivial items – j


object of saving brought much closer

A.J. is busy behind me, working on the mastery of remote controlled flight. Never mind that he’s never touched a powered R/C model aircraft, or a glider. It’s all on the PC.

His longings for a radio control model plane started this adventure when Tee suggested we search the web for what’s available. The Wing Dragon quickly became the focus of his savings. And of his entrepreneurial sales of anything not nailed down. His three prize pumpkins went on the auction block, to be snapped up by coworkers – from a department head to the kind lady who empties our trash and recycles.

Unable to double his net worth within the month of Oct. while it was on sale for under $90, A.J. was understandably bummed. Thankfully, the web – and a dedicated bunch of flyers and coders – came to the rescue.

To the free Flying-Model-Simulator we added a free Wing Dragon profile [corrected link with many other profiles] and then tweaked the settings (see #59) to match an experienced Wing Dragon flyer’s. Something similar is available for Macs, tho focused on helicopters.

The result is an enjoyable ride, even on the aging sub-GHz Win98 gift-from-grandparents PC (for which we’re very grateful). As long as you don’t expect too much or know what you’re missing from other game systems, which we don’t. Switch models and environments and viewing angles and you’ve got a new challenge. Occasionally one of us even lands on the runway; all but Dy have tried FMS.

And it led to the disposal of the joystick of suspect quality I picked up along the way – one less thing to gather dust. The keyboard is good enough, and sometimes a running commentary supplants even the need for audio. It’s about as much virtual reality as we can handle.

So, now the thing’s on sale for more than before, but I don’t think he cares as much as he did. I’m sure those savings and earnings will find a good target – and maybe some generous uses. Just as we may. – j

camping out – inside – while Jesús works

Dy and I are camping out in the living room while the ceiling in the master bedroom is replaced due to significant water damage. Like 30,000 others in the area, our roof was damaged by hail in April. Repairs were hampered by rain, and then we left for a vacation in late August. It’s a very strange feeling to drive away from your home on the way to the airport and Florida – with the roof half done and half tarped.

After we returned, my wife’s mold-sensitive nose got us looking at the ceiling. The roofer has been super about it. And we’re thankful for insurance!

A.J. recently purchased a “two-person” tent with his own money. Maybe two his size, or one of me. He and Tee have played with it and our old, damaged dome tent (long background story there involving a windstorm at a beautiful, large, artificial lake in NE) in the backyard. I consented to sleep out there with them a few weeks back, but they both got cold and came inside before I laid down a second time. So I got in on the fun, without the pain of the early wake-up on too little cushion.

Sometime we’ll chronicle more of A.J.’s exploits in fishing. For now, he’s content to have “the best teacher in the world.” Should we tell her? He, Tee and Arey seem to be learning well and enjoying most of the process, if missing the more open structures of summer.

We’re all learning plenty these days, with Dy tackling registration for a world-class convention and me guiding vendors and stakeholder representatives through my first-ever professional-grade RFP (for online registration).

Added the next morning: There I went and left out one of the main points. Jesus is taking care of us.

The name of the drywaller (who’s starting as I write, I trust) is Jesús – a sturdy fellow who does good work. The kids were excited to hear who was doing this job, a little like carpentry. There’s a vibrant Hispanic/Latino community in town – one of the largest of many ethne gathered for educational and economic opportunities. – j