July 29, 2002
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Our newest sport is Parachute. Recently a bunch of us went out to a motocross that sits above a steep, grassy slope. It was difficult to get down the slope without running a little bit out of control. We trotted about halfway down and opened up our parachute. The wind pulled the six of us right back up the cliff. It got caught up a little on a couple trees and some old computer parts, but it survived fairly well intact. Later, we ripped it on a post and Andy and I had to buy a new one. It's a little smaller than the old one, but a little better for only two people.

Parachute Fun Work was good last week. Last Sunday one of the new screeners, a fashion designer, he said, came up to the two of us and said that we looked Mod. He said we had the body type for it. On Monday Andy found a pie sitting on the ATM teller machine. We ate it down at the quieter concourse while we waited for a flight. It was an apple pie. On Tuesday I found a big bag of trail mix sitting on a trash can. Andy and I ate it while waiting for a flight. Now that there's a regular schedule with five or six people working every night, it seems even slower than it is, and we end up with a lot more free time. Mostly we just sit on the benches along the main concourse and watch people. Kids are the best, especially when they're running wild.

I made a new wallet. I've wanted one for a while, but never saw any good ones at thrift stores. It finally transpired that I learned about duct tape wallets. I made one with red duct tape and it turned out poorly. I made a few more, and I eventually got it right. Or got it well enough anyway. It holds everything I need.


My latest scheme is complex. Andy showed me a web site detailing one man's experience with Balloon Jumping, the next big sport of the 1890s upper class. It never caught on, which is surprising because it looks so cool. The idea is to get a giant balloon and fill it with enough helium that it will just slightly fail to lift the jumper into the air. The balloons, attached only to the person jumping, are pulled down low and released. As they rise, just at the point when they reach the end of the rope, the jumper leaps in the air and the balloons carry them twenty of forty feet up. It looks like such great fun.

The problems that we would encounter if we wanted to undertake this project revolve mostly around money. It's expensive to buy tanks of helium, it's difficult to find large balloons, and it's prohibitively expensive to buy enough tanks of helium to provide enough lift to pull a person off the ground. I found a web site that will sell, at a relatively low cost, balloons that that can be inflated to a diameter of nearly two meters. After a little math, it works out that we only need nearly twenty of these balloons to provide the necessary lift. That will be pricey, but it's still a better deal that I could find anywhere else.

The next issue would be helium. Helium is expensive. There's an alternative to helium, at a much nicer price. Hydrogen. In addition to providing a slightly better lift factor, hydrogen can be created for free through the simple science experiment of electrolysis, breaking water up into its components, H and O, by running an electrical current through it. If we can get that going on a large scale and pipe the hydrogen into our balloons, we take care of our lift. It will likely take a lot of electricity to get enough hydrogen, so batteries will just not work out, and plugging water into an electrical socket sounds a little too dangerous. I think that the most applicable option is a bicycle powered electrical generator.

The Planning Stages This seems to me like the most difficult part. Generators seem a little complex to me, as do bicycles. Attaching one to the other seems difficult. I don't even know where to begin with a generator. I think that they're available for purchase, but the specifics vary from model to model, and I really don't know what does what. It will probably be a long haul for the bicycler anyway. I found web sites detailing such bicycle generators and the approximate voltage was four to five volts. In the electrolysis experiments I looked at, a nine-volt battery is recommended. The experiments were designed to get enough gas to fill a tiny bit of a small test tube. A balloon will need a little more gas than that. At any rate, the whole thing is still in the early stages.

We drove to Homer last night and met up with a few people. In the morning we walked along the beach and generally had a nice time. A number of fun plants and animals had washed up on shore. There were purple shells and a few little starfish, but also quite a lot of jellyfish of some sort. We all poked them a little. There was also a seaweed called Bull Kelp with a fist-sized air-filled flotation bulb on the leafy side. They only rekindled my childhood plan of building an all vegetation floating raft island. I'm keeping that on the sideboard for a while.

On the drive back we stopped and Andy and I hiked halfway up a mountain. The entire drive is very scenic, with small mountains all along both sides of the road. Andy picked one that looked convenient and we got out of the car and started up it. The angle wasn't too difficult, but the terrain was trouble. There were small copses of trees that were full of bugs and branches and there were fields of wildflowers that grew up to our heads and were damp down below, where the sun couldn't get them. It was a lot nicer when we got out of the trees and into the cool breeze. We turned back at the second or third group of trees. The view was incredible, though, and well worth it.