Central Park Model Yachting

Recently we made a quick trip to New York City and among other activities walked through Central Park, yielding a clear highlight of the trip: RC sailboat racing!

International One-Meter (IOM) class boats racing (the hulls are one meter long).

I’ve read about this scene before, in particular I believe EB White’s Stuart Little features it. and stumbling upon some action was really cool. Central Park itself has long maintained Kerb’s Boathouse for model sailboating in the adjacent large pond. No powered remote control vehicles are allowed in the park, so it’s all wind power all the time. The public can rent space to store their models in the boathouse and several organizations use it as home base.

One corner inside the boathouse.

One such organization is Rocking the Boat, which runs youth programs building & sailing full size boats out of the Bronx. They recently branched out and took on the running of an RC sailboat rental concession at Kerb’s Boathouse and have started youth programs hosted there. Another is the Central Park Model Yacht Club, which coordinates events including the low key races every Saturday which we happened to see. As you’d expect, the racing amounts to a gaggle of middle age and elderly gentlemen hurriedly walking up and down the length of the pond while half-seriously cursing their boats, the wind, and each other in NYC accents. It was amazing.

Examining the sail controls on a misbehaving boat.

Automated countdown and buzzer for starting races.

Sadly, although club members had several boats for sale in the boathouse, we were going from there to a showing of The Lion King and I thought the people seated behind me might object if I sat there holding a ~5.5ft tall sailboat…

Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with me!

The Three Body Problem

The Three Body Problem. Liu. High concept science fiction about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and the consequences thereof.

Though massively hyped, this is a fairly bland novel. The first quarter or first third or so are interesting. From an American perspective it’s refreshing to have a story set in recent Chinese history, especially in the countryside, rather than modern-to-near-future urban cyberpunk, triads, and/or espionage. There is also a lot of nuance in that aspect, as the book is clearly critical of the Cultural Revolution and the Communist Party but also endorses basic tenets we would consider communist and even authoritarian. These sections of the book also have a number of potentially very interesting characters and relationships between them.

The later sections of the book though mostly shunt all that aside in favor of long expository monologues expounding on a combination of vaguely scientific ideas and the history of an alien race. Unfortunately we’re not given much reason to care about that race and the science-y mumbo jumbo is less than captivating. In some aspects the book reminds me of Andy Weir’s novels to date—The Martian, Project Hail Mary, Artemis—which range in that order from fine to meh to atrociously bad but all “feature” way too much made up technical greebling and science-y-ness. But even more so, The Three Body Problem feels like reading “golden age” science fiction from the ’40s & ’50s (roughly speaking), most of which is… not good. That literature similarly expends great time conducting lessons on various science concepts that are then stretched too far in application, almost always at the expense of character development. A lot of it also hinges on singular premises that ultimately just come across as silly. Specifically, The Three Body Problem feels very much like a Chinese version of Arthur C Clarke’s Childhood’s End, an ostensibly classic 1953 novel also about first contact that also has some interesting ideas but reads pretty flat and to my taste is overwhelmed by a mostly unnecessary but very goofy plot conceit.

All in all, I didn’t hate reading The Three Body Problem, but it’s definitely not on my recommended list and I’m not particularly motivated for the rest of the trilogy.

R10 Solar Warrior

After a tremendously long hiatus, I finished production and released my latest micro-rocket kit: The R10 MX Solar Warrior.

R10 Solar Warrior

This is a 38% downscale of an Estes kit from the early to mid ’90s that I loved the look of but never actually owned.

R10 kit contents.

A considerable part of the delay was simply settling on a paint scheme I really liked. Eventually it hit me that it should be a tribute to Ukraine and my Ukrainian friends & colleagues. There’s some literary connection there in that Ukraine is the world’s largest exporter of sunflowers and sunflower products. From there it took a while for inspiration to hit and the scheme you see here to develop. As a bonus, the R10 works well visually with the American-themed R5 MX Hawkeye.

BFFs Solar Warrior and Hawkeye.

Given the tiny size, the only realistic way to enable most people to replicate that fin pattern was to do a print sticker. That’s as opposed to a spray mask or layers of vinyl. That in turn meant though that I had to either significantly increase the precision of my kiss cutting or have people do so themselves. The latter would be reasonable for these shapes, sizes, and quantities, but I went for the first one. That in turn introduced more delay and demotivation as I had to swap out cutting equipment, develop new templates, establish new parameters, and so on toward overhauling the workflow. The end result was worth it though.

The original prototype from early 2022.