Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Rocket Club

Back at the keyboard. I enjoyed the inputs left on-site during my brief absence. I'm pleased that free thinking and humor are alive and well amongst the richest Filipinos (speaking of inner being of course; the oligarchs are not known to reside within my readership).

1DC drew me back to my childhood with his reflections a while back on some of the more creative and less animal-kind ways he wielded fireworks. Ah, boy hood. The good old days. I remember the day my brother got a BB gun and went out and summarily shot 12 sparrows off the fence. I remember when he and I pumped about 200 BB's into a raccoon we had treed. 

Men are from a warlike Mars I guess. We love our weapons and our power to destroy.

Conquest is a fine driver. The best. It gives explorers the strength to go where none has gone before. It gives military commanders and the soldiers in the trench the steely, disciplined minds to face death in pursuit of victory. It gives scientists the motivation to find new secrets, to claim the power of a new discovery. To claim ownership of a new piece of life.

A kid with a firecracker is simply learning about power and control and going where he has not gone before. Into the realm of risk and destruction  and, yes . . . death. A kid with a BB gun is learning to aim.

I was once a member of a short-lived rocket club when I was 13 years old. It was a wholly manly undertaking.

The President of the club - Robert S - was one of those brainy kids, the dweebs that girls ignore because they can't pass a football. He wore baggy pants that were cinched too tight around his skinny waist, leaving about a foot of belt flapping off one side of his pants. His slide rule flopped off the other side. He work thick-rimmed glasses, of course.

The other members of the club were the two Rogers -Roger B and Roger M - my best friends. And me. Roger B was a cut-up who a few years later married young to a gorgeous girl and went off to work at a tire factory. Roger M was even more of a cut-up who went off to war in Viet Nam and earned his Purple Hearts by repeatedly getting blown out of his armored personnel carrier.

But way back then, we were just explorers. Explosives were the cutting edge of our explorations.

A rocket motor is nothing more than a controlled explosion.

The trick is how to control it.

We used solid fuel because we could make it in an electric fry pan in Robert's room in the back of his house. The ingredients were simple: (1) Potassium nitrate, which we could get with no trouble at the pet store because it was commonly used to tame a male horse's sexual urge (popularly called "salt peter"). (2) Sugar, which we could get at the supermarket. And (3) water, which we could get out of the faucet.

If we wanted the fuel to really stink, we'd add sulfur from a wayward chemistry set. Of course, then it was not rocket fuel, it was a stink bomb. But we couldn't tell our parents we were in a stink bomb club.

If we wanted a flashier burn, we'd add iron filings.

I think the mix was 60 parts potassium nitrate and 40 parts sugar, but it could have been the other way around. You dissolve the mix in water and then slowly, slowly over low heat cook the water off. That is the dangerous part, for if you cook it too hot, you burn the house down when it blows up on the stove.

When the mix gets good and gooey, you stuff it in your rocket motor, which is generally any strong, seamless pipe or tube with a tapered outlet. Look around. You can find them. Then you let it dry.

At least theoretically, that's what you do.

We never got to the engine stuffing point. One day we cooked up a big batch of fuel and let it dry overnight. We convened the club at Robert's place to test the potency of our new batch of fuel. Robert put a big ball of it on a fence post out back, stuck a fuse in it, and lit it. We ran and hid behind the rocks in back of his place, along the river bank.

The horror! The horror! The fuel blew up and shot about 20 burning wads of rocket fuel high into the sky, into the neighbors' yards and onto the roof of Robert's house, and onto us. I ran and fell into the river, bruising my knee and shoulder. Robert screamed, and ran to his house, grabbed a hose and started spraying down all the little fires, especially the one sizzling intensely on his house roof.

The cut-up Rogers died laughing.

The fuel was obviously more potent than we had anticipated.

Robert's parents forthwith dissolved our club and I had to sneak back into my own house with wet clothes and bruises, but exhilarated from the adventure of it all.

That, good reader, is how guys discover their natural born killer instincts.

I wonder when President Aquino will discover his killer instinct, get tough, and propose some dramatic, legislation that changes the foundation of the nation, the way it acts, the values it holds.

Like an equal employment opportunity bill that removes favoritism as the foundation of commerce and government, and as the behavior that underpins corruption, and supplants it with ambition and productivity.

. . .  and you were probably wondering as to the relevance of this post.


  1. Joe,

    We can all agree that Noynoy is a good and honest man who will do the right thing. But I think you fail to appreciate the magnitude of the problem he faces. That is why we must give him our support and prayers that he succeeds.

    God bless.

  2. Deleting BOC Alvarez was no rocket science to people like us but difficult to bureaucrats and the powerful whose family are intertwined and interconnected out of friendship and familial ties so as not to hurt Alvarez's feelings and Filipinos potential not to forget slights.

    Zapping other cabinet members that are causing headaches and migraines were a courageous move, too.

    An issue that is on my list is benign0 & his cabinets must stop pagarparings of their what they think that Gloria did last summer. They should act like American bureaucrats should. Keep their mouth shut until they have tangible evidence instead of easily bought, intimidated witnesses that can sing what the benign0 administrations want to hear.

  3. By pagarparings to the irresponsible Philippine Media will form the minds of the Filipinos that witnesses without tangible evidence and forensics, which is pure tsismis and not judicially acceptable in America, makes them guilty by publicity. benign0 will be forced to manufacture evidences to satisfy the Filipino's craving for blood.

    Bureau of Fisheries & Aquatic Resources are now fishing for evidences on Gloria's allege corruption and couldn't find any. In the absence of evidence, benign0 has turned to Department of Agriculture to plant evidence for him surreptiously to pacify the Filiipnos who'd been fooled thru the irresponsible media that Gloria is guilty despite no evidence.

    The church is also tasked to get confessions and admissions.

    In the Philippines fishing for evidence, planting evidence, confessions and admissions are very common. NBI has lost its relevance.

  4. In other words, benign0 should make true his promise "Daan Matuwid" ... From the looks of the irresponsible Philippine Media, "Daan Matuwid" is a good exercise but they need to outsource the government to implement the "Daan Matuwid".

    It's a given everyone in the Philippines are corrupt. The reason why "Daan Matuwid" is hard to implement because the only honest person in the Philippines is in Malacanang and cannot be everywehre, anywhere, anytime, everytime.

  5. Good Pastor, I appreciate the extent of the problems he faces and I support him. He is doing remarkably well, and I've written to that effect.

    Urging fundamental change is constructive. You would have me stand silent?

  6. Mariano,

    "The reason why "Daan Matuwid" is hard to implement because the only honest person in the Philippines is in Malacanang and cannot be everywehre, anywhere, anytime, everytime."

    Another masterful perspective of overstatement with a proper twist of sarcasm. You should write your own blog, you know. You have a mind properly bent for that.

  7. "1DC drew me back to my childhood with his reflections a while back on some of the more creative and less animal-kind ways he wielded fireworks."

    Shucks, I hate to take all the credit...

    Ok. You owe me big time now, Joe...


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