Jeff Duntemann's Contrapositive Diary Rotating Header Image


Odd Lots

  • In one of my rambles around the Web looking for interestering perspectives on education, I ran across this very insightful (if possibly misnamed) blog post. My take: We are teaching an entire generation that their own blathery opinions are unassailable. Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.
  • From Frank Glover comes a link to recent research suggesting that too much artificial light at night correlates with higher risk of breast and prostate cancer. More research is needed, but if the answer is to go to bed early and sleep in a dark room, Carol and I have it covered.
  • Rocky Jones’s Silvercup Rocket is well along on its restoration, and this page has both period and recent photos, as well as the best history of the Rocky Jones TV show that I’ve seen anywhere. (Ok, I’m biased–two of the photos are mine!)
  • Many people who have read my Hi-Flier Kites article have asked me what sort of paper was used to make the dime-store paper kites of the 1960s. I’ve asked around and tried any number of papers, but now I think I’ve come fairly close with a type of paper made in Germany and called–sunuvugun–“kite paper.” For some reason it’s popular with the Waldorf school crowd, though not for making kites. You can get it in 19 1/2″ X 27 1/2″ sheets, albeit only in 100-sheet lots, from A Toy Garden. That’s a little smaller than the Hi-Flier 30″ kite, but it’ll work. As spring gets a little closer, I’ll make one and report back here.
  • What the Waldorf schools do with kite paper is in fact impressive; this Flickr album scrolls through a good many photos of Waldorf traditional origami stars made with kite paper.
  • From Bill Higgins comes a link to Low End Mac, a site devoted to older Mac machines, especially pre-OS/X.
  • Pete Albrecht sends hope that Maurice Lenell may not be out of business, though their suburban Chicago plant will be razed to make way for yet another damned shopping mall.
  • I have several reasons for opposing contact team sports in schools (as opposed to careful weight training and aerobics). This is another one.
  • The three things I was afraid of as a six-year-old were robots, mummies, and volcanoes. I’ve made my peace with robots and mummies, but volcanoes still give me the willies, and our Alaskan citizens are watching another one nervously.
  • In case I don’t remember to mention it tomorrow or Sunday, Puppy Bowl V on Animal Planet kicks off at 3 PM EST Sunday, 2 PM central, 1 PM Mountain. When you get good and tired of watching spoiled-brat millionaires get the crap beat out of them by other spoiled-brat millionaires, the puppies may be a blessed relief. We never miss it anymore.

The D-Stix Kite Flies Again!

As we concluded our first date back on July 31, 1969, I somewhat apprehensively asked Carol if she would go out flying a kite with me on the following Saturday. I was building a tetrahedral kite out of my D-Stix set, and although my intuition was that this was not the way to impress girls, I gave it a shot, and she accepted. And so it was that we piled into my mom's '65 Biscayne and took my D-Stix tetra out to the huge Forest Preserve field at Irving Park Road and Cumberland.

The kite didn't fly well, if I recall correctly (and in truth, most of what I remember about that Saturday afternoon was Carol) but we both had a great time. An hour or so in, the kite smashed into the ground and broke a couple of sticks, but I salvaged the yellow connector pieces—and when I recently pulled down the butter dish that the D-Stix connectors had been in since who knew when, begorrah, they were still in there, including one with some kite string still tied through the hole.

It was a natural. I took the same damned D-Stix pieces, bought some 1/8″ dowels, and I made us another tetrahedral kite. At some point I will create a Web page describing its construction in detail, but I'll just insert a few photos here. A typical joint is at right. The yellow connector originally had eight “ears,” but I snipped two off with a dykes to make the requisite six. (The four outer vertices were six-bangers from which I snipped three.) The paper was ordinary Hobby Lobby artsencrafts tissue, which I glued with Elmer's glue. Mucilage would be better—or at least more historically accurate—but they don't sell that at Hobby Lobby anymore.

Building the kite didn't take much doing. I assembled the D-Stix frame, cut out some conjoined equilateral triangles of tissue, and glued the tissue to the frame. There were a couple of tricky glue joints, but nothing that a protruding corner of a chunk of plywood didn't finesse. All in all, it took maybe an hour.

And it flew. Sorta. Carol and I got it into the air down at the park along Highway 115, but the wind was strong and erratic and I had to hang some tail on it to keep it aimed skyward. It had a tendency to lean left, and after a few minutes of tearing around the great blue sky like a puppy suddenly released from its kennel, it did The Dive, and mashed itself against the grass just like its previous incarnation had, almost 39 years earlier. Two sticks popped out of their sockets, and the tissue ripped in two places, but it's nothing a clever geek can't fix.

It was beautiful. (And weird.) Just like Carol (and me.) We laughed, and laid back in the grass, and reflected that life can be good on a brisk Saturday, with a kite and some string and a willingness to let all the rest of it just blow away for awhile.