Monday, June 22, 2015

If the idea works, it isn't dumb..

I didn't feel up to posting anything yesterday for Father's Day, and I still rather don't. That said, we did have one issue this weekend that brought to mind Noelle's father, Carl, and his approach to problem-solving.

We bought Alissa a Mylar balloon for her birthday last month. Against all odds, it still had plenty of helium in it Saturday night, and it proved this by floating out of Alissa's room, bopping across thirty feet of ceiling, and fetching up against the intake slats for the attic fan. Thankfully, the string had come off the balloon, so there was no danger of that being sucked into the fan and getting tangled up with the blades.

The intake is twenty feet above our front door, right next to a 6'x6' window. The intake slats are weighted to stay closed and only open when there's enough air moving to force them open. They're too narrow for the balloon to fit through, but it got pulled in far enough to get pinned when the fan shut off.

That's what we woke up to Sunday morning.

One option was moving Alissa's bed so we could climb up into the attic and scoot gracefully through the rafters to the fan. Carl was up there when we first moved in, and he talked about what a pain it was, even as skinny and agile as he was at the time. I was fairly sure if I tried, I'd either get stuck like Winnie-the-Pooh and have to be rescued with a crane and a Saws-All. or the rafters would give way and I'd fall through the ceiling, the first floor, the basement floor, and be buried in the crawlspace under a pile of rubble. Then naked mole rats would go through my pockets for loose change.

A ladder might have worked, if not for the window. We'd have to put it at an angle that would leave us with a good ten feet between the ladder and the balloon. We could maybe reach it with a rake, but there's the window again.

We ruled out putting a line on a broadhead-tipped arrow and shooting it through the balloon. Ditto for breaking out the desktop-scale Civil War cannon my dad made and pounding a volley of BBs through it. No good backstop. That aside, we didn't have any black powder, BBs, wadding, or cannon fuse.

Tying a cord to a small object and wrapping it in tape sounded promising. Except that, if we missed, said object was usually falling straight down on us. We missed a lot. The dog was not helpful; every time she looked at us, the "WTF people???" was writ plain on her furry little face.

Then we remembered Alissa's little western fort play tent.

The poles for the tent are plastic, about five feet long. We lashed three of them together with packing tape and wrapped one end in more tape, sticky side out.

Noelle was now standing on a stepladder, playing 'hit the pinata' with a fifteen-foot fishing pole that had all the rigidity of a warm Twizzlers stick. She finally managed to swing the tape-wrapped end enough to hit the balloon - and the slats were too tight for her to pull it loose. I hit the fan on 'low', and the balloon was free to float again.

Right up to the point where it fell down on the the scissors. Several times.

I can't say that was how Carl would have solved this issue; I suspect he would have gone to his tool chest and built a 20' robotic claw made of wire coat hangers and used shock absorbers. However, I can say I'm very tempted to look to my father when it comes to keeping future Mylar balloons safely grounded.

I just need to find someone who sells cannon fuse.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Review: 'Silver Shackles' by Fiona Skye
I came in to Silver Shackles not having read the first book, but it is a good stand-alone and I had no issues understanding the world or getting into the story. The story does tend to follow the general, common conventions of the paranormal genre, but it avoids 'cookie cutter' characters and themes, for which I was thankful. I just do not see why every city in the paranormal genre has a court ruled by vampires. Why can't we have a were-Tyrannosaus Rex with adamantite claws running things once in a while? Anyway....

Riley and her boyfriend David were both easy to relate to, and all the major characters were developed enough to move out of the "generic background extra" category. I'd kvetch about Riley and David not communicating (one of my big pet peeves), but in this case the major communication failures are due to professional and ethical constraints rather than literary convenience.

For me, one of the strongest points of enjoyment was the sheer malevolence of the dark Fae. It was nice to see villains who didn't remind me of Snidely Whiplash.

My biggest criticism is that the story moves very fast. Some folks have said the same thing about my own books, so I can't complain too much about that. :-)

Rating 4 of 5