Orgone Research

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Run Over By John Force

I like drag racing. In fact, drag racing and mixed martial arts are really about the only sports I like. I like how obsessive and singular drag racing is. It's also a mind blowing thing to be near the starting line when top fuel or funny cars launch. Thankfully the sound not in the same frequency range as say, a guitar or it would totally deafen you. The sound is way into the bass range, and so is more tolerable to the ear. Nevertheless, it's so loud near the starting line that you can't see the launch clearly! I'm assuming that this is because the sound vibrates the eyeballs, but I have to wonder if the air itself is vibrating!

Professional drag racing is unique in how accessible the drivers and crews are to the fans. Most of the drivers are willing to sign autographs and shake hands with the fans. One of the most well known funny car drivers is John Force. In fact he's got his own TV show now, though I can't bring myself to watch it. Can you get a cooler name than John Force? If I ever become a porn star I'm going to change my name to John Force.

Some of the drag strip officials get around the grounds on little mini-bikes. Some years ago at a race at SIR (Seattle International Raceway) I was walking back to my seat in the grandstand. I had to weave through a heavy crowd. Suddenly I come upon a man on a mini bike talking to a group of people, behind the bleachers. He's facing away from me. As I'm moving forward, he starts to back up on his bike. He's not watching where he's going. I'm thinking "learn how to drive, buddy". He's not watching where he's going because he is busy talking to these people. I nearly run into him.

As I walked around him, I realized it was John Force. Yes, I almost got "run over" by John Force. True story.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ray Wallace Track Morphology

I noticed this just two days ago. I've got this long article on my website about Dermal Ridges and Casting Artifacts.

I included a photo of the Blue Creek Mountain - Onion Mountain track photos taken by Doreen Hooker. It is a good, clear photo, and I had included it simply to demonstrate how compliant the soil was. But I was so busy comparing the human footprint to the putative Sasquatch footprint that I didn't notice this subtle detail: the Crack in the Track. Note the crack or furrow in the heel area of the right-footed wooden prosthetic. Now compare that with the putative Sasquatch track. The track represents a right foot, and indeed, you can see what appears to be a light colored straight line in the corresponding area of the heel in the track itself.

As far as I know, this comparison has never been made, and is one more piece of evidence that Ray Wallace and/or other family members faked tracks, specifically the Blue Creek Mountain - Onion Mountain tracks of 1967.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Earliest Microwave Oven Plasma

Who first made "ball lightning" in the microwave oven? Bill Beaty links to an old Usenet posting here: that takes us back to 1997. This of course was the dark ages, using birthday candles and chared toothpicks. Some time back, I discovered a reference to a microwave oven plasma from at least the 1960's!

I remember reading Philip Klass's UFOs Identified in high school. I think it appealed to my growing skepticism. UFOs Identified was Philip J. Klass' first book, in which he explored the possibility that at least some UFO sightings could be due to natural or man made atmospheric plasmas. I don't follow the UFO field carefully, but I understand Klass himself moved away from this hypothesis as time went on. Unfortunately, Klass is somewhat vague on details in his treatment of this event, but it suggests that microwave ovens were accidently creating plasmas long before 1997!

The following is from Philip J. Klass UFOs Identified Random House 1968 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 67-22622 page 151-152:

"Next I called Dr. Finkelstein, who told me that a "synthitic kugelblitz" was being produced by Dr. James R. Powell at the Atomic Energy Commissions Brookhahaven National Laboratory in Upton, Long Island. The laboratory was using equipment originally built to enable bakeries to quickly defrost frozen bread, as well as for other industrial applications. How amusing, I thought, the AEC using bakery equipment to produce kugelblitz!

The equipment is a special type of oven whose heat is produced by radio-frequency energy supplied by a transmitter similar to those usen in television stations. The "Macrowave Oven," as it is called, is made by Radio Frequency Company, Incorporated, of Medfield Massachusetts. It is an aluminum box, nearly seven feeti in each dimension, fed by the radio transmitter. The dimensions are chosen to be equal to one-half the wavelength of the radio waves, which serves to intensify the heating. In technical terms, the metal box is a "tuned cavity."

One day, during the final tests of an oven, and engineer was amazed to see a ball of plasma suddenly form inside the oven. The synthetic kugelblitz, nearly a foot in diameter, hovered and floated mysteriously until power was shut off; then it collapsed and disappeared. The glowing plasma ball reminded the company's president, Joshua G.D. Manwaring, of some of the UFO reports he had read and he later tried to interest several newspapers in the idea that similar natural plasmas might explain some UFOs. But no one was interested in the idea, Manwaring told me.

Seeking an explanation for the phenomenon, Manwaring finally got in touch with Dr. Powell at Brookhaven. The laboratory agreed to send up a cameraman to make high-speed mivies of the plasma. When Powell saw the movies, he promptly ordered one of the Macrowave Ovens."

We are not told what kind of material was in the oven when this event occured. Could it have been bread that had become toasted then charred? We know that the early Usenet folks used charred toothpicks to initiate plasmas, could the same thing have happened with bread?

I'm going to guess the plasma was not contained. If you don't contain the plasma, it will float up to the ceiling of your microwave oven and start burning it. Obviously no mention of that is given!

Friday, October 13, 2006

But Who Are You With?

As anyone who reads my blog knows by now, I like geodesic domes. When I met my girlfriend Dana in 2002 I began to rant all about them to her. I think she took it in stride, as she likes weird architecture in general. One day in the winter of 2002, we are driving westbound across the West Seattle bridge. Dana casually mentions that there are several geodesic domes on Harbor Island, which was north of us, to the right. I was chagrined, as I had lived in Seattle since 1987 and I was not familiar with them. Granted, Harbor Island is an almost purely industrial center, but I had been there before, and simply not noticed. For those of you not living in Seattle, there are no gates, checkpoints, barriers, "No Trespassing" signs, or "Private Propery" signs on the way into Harbor Island.

Dana and I detoured toward Harbor Island for an adventure. This would have been on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon, while there was still day light out. We didn't have a camera with us at the time. The photograph you see above is one I took on the deck of the Westerdam, a big cruise ship on the way to Alaska, taken in May of 2006.

As we came close to the big structure, we passed a dark skinned man wearing dark clothing and riding a bike. We parked her Toyota Tacoma and got out When we got out we could tell that only the roof of the structure was a geodesic dome, as the sides were straight and vertical. I assumed they were fuel tanks of some kind, as I've read that the oil industry uses them this way. I've seen other oil refineries in the south with big geodesic domes. As Dana and I are standing there, the man on the bike pulls up. He asks what we are doing. Frankly I can't remember if he told us he was a security guard or not, but it was fairly obvious from the way he was dressed that he was. This was not too long after 9-11, and everyone was still paranoid.

I tell him that I'm a fan of geodesic domes, and that we saw this one from the bridge and decided to check it out. He asks, in an English-as-second-language sort of broken way, "Who are you with", which seemed kind of bizarre and irrational. I realized I might be dealing with someone who has a room-temperature IQ, and "geodesic dome" may not compute. I try again, trying to avoid exotic, polysyllabic terms like "architecture". I think I said something like "we like to look at strange buildings", or some such. It's hard for me to turn off my vocabulary sometimes. AGAIN he asks "But who are you with" as though we need to "be with" someone to look at a building. Then he tells us that we can't photograph the building, and then he wants to see some ID! Well, fuck this, he's not a cop and I'm not going to show him jack shit. I say, "Look, if we are on private property, then we will just leave, but I understand this is a public street, and we are not trespassing". Now he backs away from us, opens his jacket and pulls out a walkie talkie. Dana and I stand there in stunned amazement at the absurdity of it all. He talks into the little box, then finishes his call and tells us "the police have been called". Dana and I get back into her Toyota Tacoma and drive away. We never see the police or the shit-for-brains security guard again.

Some time later, I heard about a brown skinned guy that was stopped and questioned at the Ballard locks by the Seattle police because he was taking pictures of the locks. Or perhaps because he was brown and taking pictures! He put up a website here:

For some authoritarian meatheads, photographing or even looking at things today means you might be a terrorist.

It sounds like his experience was much worse than mine, and I'm obviously not brown. But Dana and I didn't even have cameras, yet the security guard called the police. I didn't even refuse to give him ID, I just said I'd leave if I was on private property. When in this country did security guards become empowered to ask for ID when you are on a public street? Fuck these fucking fuckers.

I have not let this little episode sour my quest for ever cooler geodesic domes, and at some point I'll have to go back and get a better close up photograph. Maybe I can include a photo of the dimwit security guard....

One positive aspect of this nasty little episode is that it gave Dana and me a fun catch phase which was our private code for a really dumbfuck comment: "But who are you with".

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Mountain Marbles

When I was a kid, I had a rock tumbler. It must have been a Christmas or birthday gift from my parents, as I didn't have a lot of spending money as a child. I hardly remember it as a toy, only that rock tumblers enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the early 1970's. Kind of like a geological version of the "ant farm".

I only remember two elements of the story, The machine was small, and was essentially a box with two rollers on top. A yellow plastic container fit between the rollers, and when the machine was turned on, the yellow plastic container slowly rolled. In fact, to polish rocks, it had to roll for something like a week. I think we put it in a corner in our basement laundry room, and it ground away the minutes, the hours, and the days. I assume I watched Hogan's Heroes and I Dream of Jeannie while it tirelessly worked.

Eventually I had a polished rock. It was too big to put on a ring, and I didn't wear rings anyway. I don't know what ever happened to my polished rock. I don't know what ever happened to my rock polisher...

I love old Popular Science and Popular Mechanics magazines. These magazines had a heavy influence on me as a child, augmenting an already huge fascination with science. As I grew older, I became somewhat more savvy about the commercial nature of these enterprises, and I saw that many of the things claimed to be soon to revolutionize our lives never panned out.

Some years back my friend Jan Gregor gave me a huge stack of these magazines from my favorite time period, the late 1960's and early 1970's. I even remember some of the particular issues. I nearly creamed my jeans when I found the soy-protein-turned-into-meat story from a particular issue of Popular Science in the mid 1970's. Somehow that seemed cool as fuck for me growing up in Missoula Montana. I had to have some soy-beef, and eventually I did. But that's another story...

While looking through the June 1965 issue of Mechanix Illustrated, Volume 62, number 445 I found a remarkable "sidebar". On page 30 is an illustrated account that lacks an author's name, but instead refers to the contents of a letter submitted by a Frank Wynne of South Pittsburg Tennessee.

For some reason, I find this concept as cool as hell, and would love to try it myself if I ever lived near a small stream. It sounds like way more fun than a "rock polisher", but I assume you need soft stone to start with. It kind of reminds me of the quasi-mysterious "ice circles" that get reported from tome to time.

This is the text of the MI article:

"In January, 1964, MI ran a little piece called Marble Players of Blue Eye, about the grownup game of marbles played in that Ozark community. The players didn't play for keeps because their marbles are ancient ones made of stone and no one knew how to make them any more, we said. Wrong again.

Later on a letter came from Frank Wynne of South Pittsburg, Tenn., telling how he used to make his own stone marbles as a boy. The trick was to find a block of "sand rock" and chisel out a three-inch-deep hole in it, then divert stream water through a pipe so that it fell about three feet into one side of the hole in the rock.

Into the hole Frank would drop a bit of the same stone-as round as he could find- and leave it a few weeks to turn over and over and "grind true."

Somewhere a boy living near a stream is going to try this. We know it."

The Genius of Gillette

When I was a kid, I loved almanacs. They were commonly available in the book aisle of the grocery store, and my mother was usually willing to buy them for me. I remember stuffing my desk in the third grade with books I had brought from home, and I think several of them were thick almanacs. Almanacs are full of lists, usually by category, like population, or geographical area, or chronological order.

By the fourth grade, I was working on the idea of a lending library from my desk; I think I wanted ten cents to rent out one of my books. I didn't have many takers. Besides the almanacs, I think I brought John Keel's Strange Creatures From Time and Space to school, much to my mother's chagrin, as she thought such a thing too valuable to leave home.

As an adult, I figured out the economic advantage of the almanac. Almanacs compile information that is already in the public domain, and thus is not previously copyrighted. How can they include so much for so little? They don't have to pay authors! Of course, as a child I always liked the weirdest and most esoteric stuff I could find. One of my almanacs had a list of either patents or inventions listed by date. I remember reading that the invention of the safety razor was by King C. Gillette in the year 1900. I think this stuck in my 8 year old mind because 1900 was a round number, and I had never seen the name "King" as a first name before. Some years later, my friend Dave Peterman had a very small chihuahua named "King".

Several years ago I developed a taste for books on inventions. I've read several books that mention Gillette's invention in almost reverential tones, as a supreme success story. But not because of the ingenuity of the invention or because it represented a better solution to a problem; no, it was because it was the first great use of an item which needed to be disposed of and replaced.

It should also be noted that I may have remembered my dates incorrectly, as I see that the year 1904 is given in the Wikipedia entry here: And as with many inventions, there is dispute as to who really "invented" the safety razor. But the bottom line is that most popular accounts of Gillette's invention hail the "safety" aspect of his razor as an improvement over the straight razor, and the brilliant business model entailed by the constant replacement of blades.

I would like to argue that Gillette's real genius was in his design geometry, not his business model. And this is never mentioned in the popular accounts.

First off, we need to get some descriptive terms out of the way. This may sound a bit clunky but I have yet to think up a better way of describing this. Consider the geometry of a knife. First we abstract the handle to a line. The blade of the knife we abstract to a plane, with the cutting edge we abstract to a line. In fact, all blades can be abstracted to planes with cutting edges that form lines within that plane. A knife will serve as the first of three cutting tool geometries. It has a handle whose abstracted line lies within the plane of the blade, and is parallel with the cutting edge.

Geometry number two is that of a spade. A spade has the abstracted line of the handle in the same plane as the blade, but the cutting edge of the blade is at right angles to the line of the handle.

Geometry number three is that of the hoe. A hoe has the cutting edge of the blade also at right angles to the line of the handle, but also has the blade itself at right angles to the line of the handle.

Now go back and consider the geometry of the straight edge razor. When the blade is folded all the way out of the handle, it has "knife" geometry. But this is not the usual way the safety razor is held when actually shaving, usually the blade is positioned at right angles to the handle, and so assumes our geometry number two, the "spade" configuration. The real reason that the straight razor is awkward and somewhat dangerous is that the "knife" and "spade" configurations are not optimum for shaving, as they do not optimize control. In addition, the blade is not fixed rigidly to the handle, and so moves from "knife" to "spade" configuration.

I will argue that Gillette's unheralded breakthrough came with changing the geometry of shaving into a fixed "hoe" configuration. This led to vastly more control of the blade, and thus a safer, much easier way to shave.

How do I come up with ideas like this? Well, this one actually goes back to Descartes himself, with the development of our x, y, and z spatial axis system. After I started paying attention to spatial geometry, I realized that all motion in three dimensions can be reduced to translations and rotations in space. Sailors dub the three rotations about the x,y, and z axis roll, pitch, and yaw. Yaw is the coolest of course, almost as cool as the Scrabble word "qat". Anyway, with three axis of space, you have to be careful when you say something is at a right angle to a line, as there are two ways of a line being at a right angle to another line in space. Thinking about King C. Gillette and his safety razor geometry is a direct result of my own Cartesian meditations on orthogonal lines and planes in space. I guess I just dig right angles...

So think about this the next time you shave; imagine having to do this task with a knife or a paint scraper, and then give silent thanks to King C. Gillette for his revolution in shaving; the geometry of the hoe.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another Geodesic Dome

On our way to Craig Woolheater's 2005 Bigfoot conference in Jefferson Texas, Dana and I stopped in Roswell NM. Obviously the big tourist draw there is the UFO museum. But just down the street is a museum dedicated to rocket pioneer Robert Goddard. Next to the museum is the Goddard planetarium. We didn't have time to wait around until the next planetarium presentation, but we were able to take in the museum. I highly recommend it.

Buckminster Fuller did not invent the geodesic dome, though clearly he deserves credit for bringing the design to fruition. That honor in fact goes to an astronomer, Walter Bauersfeld, who simultaneously built the first planetarium!

I've visited museums all around the world, and I say this without reservation; the Goddard museum in Roswell NM was one of the very best. As a welder, I was particularly struck by all the brazed joints on the tubing necessary in a liquid fuel rocket. Not only did the museum display the various rocket components, but the tools used to produce them as well. Goddard's was a profound accomplishment, and the display moved me almost to tears.

So when in Roswell, visit the UFO museum first. I particularly liked the octahedral geometry of the Mogul reflector. Buy your green vinyl inflatable alien. Then get serious and go down the street to the Goddard museum.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Bigfoot Roadkill

I read Benjamin Radford’s article “Bigfoot at 50” at a unique time in my life. Not long before I had seen a news report on the Internet about the discovery of the Skookum cast. I realized that learning about Bigfoot was much different in this new decade then when I was last interested in this esoteric subject, back in the 1970’s. I was becoming aware of the claims regarding Bigfoot’s alleged dermal ridges, claimed to be found in several footprint casts. Very little changes in the world of Bigfootery, but these two findings seemed very “scientific” to me.

I was more or less familiar with the particulars of the arguments that Radford covered in his Skeptical Inquirer article. But something fundamental and simple really caught my eye, his statement near the end: “At some point a Bigfoot's luck must run out: one out of the thousands must wander onto a freeway and get killed by a passing car, or get shot by a hunter, or die of natural causes and be discovered by a hiker.”

Believe it or not, I really hadn’t paid much attention to the roadkill angle of Bigfoot. Most people are attentive to roadkill in one of two ways; either they laugh about it, and mention “roadkill cookbooks”, or they find it a tragic loss of wildlife. Roadkill is so esoteric a subject in its own right that people usually ignore it.

Recently Dana, Harlo, and I took a long road trip in her new Ford F-150. We went all the way to Louisiana and back. I paid special attention to the roadkill I witnessed. I saw the following; raccoons, birds, deer, armadillos dogs, squirrels rabbits, coyote, and two dead alligators. In Yellowstone Park we were given a newspaper at the entrance that had a flyer insert that claimed that “100 animals were killed each year in collisions”. I didn’t save the flyer, as it was not really a good source of documentation, but it was an official publication of the parks service. At a rest stop in Wyoming, a flyer was posted the claimed that 15 people were killed in vehicular wildlife collisions. I assume this meant in the state of Wyoming, but again, it was not a good source of documentation.

Where I’m going with this is that every species of animal that can walk, crawl, or fly onto a road eventually becomes road kill. Except Bigfoot. So out come the “Bigfoot Band-Aids” as I call them; glib answers for the deep and profound problems that Bigfootery has faced since day one like “why can’t Bigfoot be tracked by dogs”? The Bigfoot Band-Aid for that one is “because dogs fear Bigfoot”. Easy, isn’t it? The Bigfoot Band-Aid for “why is there no body” is a multipart answer.

But let’s be specific; why is there no roadkill? The best Bigfoot Band-Aid I’ve seen for that one is “because Bigfoot is too smart to step out in front of a car”. Really! Have you even driven south on I5 near the Mexican border? There are road signs that warn drivers to avoid human beings running across the Interstate highway. Why are these people, illegal aliens, at risk of becoming roadkill? Because many of them are from areas without high speed vehicular traffic. They simply don’t grow up having to do the wordless time-and-motion calculations that populations with a fast and dense automotive infrastructure do.

By this logic, Bigfoot must be smarter than human beings. The arguments by the advocates as to why Bigfoot avoids becoming roadkill are some of the weakest I’ve ever seen. It’s not like the animal is a whale, and never appears on roads, Bigfoot is sighted all the time walking beside or across man’s roads. Yet he is never hit by a car. This just does not add up, and in fact, the proliferation of roads and rifles on the North American continent is the crux of my Sasquatch skepticism.

For those of you still not convinced at what a toll roadkill takes on wildlife, I encourage you to take a look at this rather sarcastic blog. Note that even megafauna gets hit, sometimes in deadly encounters for the driver or passengers.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bigger Better Balls (Ball Lightning)

I’ve decided to demonstrate the easiest way yet to produce microwave oven plasma.

Step 1. Impale a small (say 4cm by 3cm) rectangle of carbon fiber veil onto a bamboo skewer. You will need to cut the skewer to the length described in step two.

Step 2. Place the skewer into an upturned glass flower vase that you have purchased from Goodwill for two dollars so that the carbon fiber is suspended roughly in the middle of the vase.

Step 3. Remove the revolving glass plate and supporting lazy Susan. Place upturned glass vase in microwave oven, preferably one that has more than one thousand watts of power.

Step 4. Nuke. Don’t let the thing run for more than a few seconds. Even at that, the glass can get very hot. Let it cool, or wear oven mitts to touch it. It may break after repeated use. No biggie, go buy more at Goodwill.

Step 5. Acknowledge the God-Like wisdom of Big Daddy Tube in discovering carbon fiber veil for microwave oven plasma.

The Insect Collection

When I was in the 7th or 8th grade we had a class project; create an insect collection. It was springtime in Missoula, and it sounded like more fun than the usual dreary schoolwork. Besides, before video games, boys had to actually do things outside, like kill and maim insects. Thus the toned-down version of this, simply collecting them, sounded fairly easy.

Our teacher for this was Mr. Clements, who had earned the nickname "Mr. Sadist", as he was fond of becoming kind of rough with misbehaving boys. I believe this was called "corporal punishment" back in those days. My friends Mike and Joe called him "Luca" behind his back, a slur derived from Mario Puzo's novel The Godfather that they had both recently read. Luca Brasi was Vito Corleone's sadistic personal enforcer. Mike and Joe both grew up to be lawyers.

Mr. Clements had to provide us all with "euthanizing chambers" to kill the little bugs after we collected them and prior to display. These were simple affairs, a glass "Mason" jar with a tight fitting lid, some cotton at the bottom, and a tightly woven screen placed over the cotton to prevent the bugs from ending up in the cotton. Mr. Clements placed some sort of noxious organic chemical in the jars, intended to "euthanize" the bugs. I'm thinking it might have been dry cleaner fluid. Many jokes were made comparing Mr. Clements to a Nazi concentration camp guard, and the dry cleaner fluid to Zyklon B.

Unfortunately the toxic liquid soon evaporated away, even with the jar lids screwed down tight. We had to figure out a better way of killing the little bugs without mutilating them. About this time, a fellow student with the exotic name of Tom Jones introduced us to the wonders of the smoking pen. He modified a "clicker" style ball point pen by taking out the ink filled cartridge and manipulating the spring into a sort of "striker". The pen unscrewed in the middle, and a kitchen match was placed inside. The spring was pulled back and released, striking the head of the match. The smoke poured out the tip of the pen in a sort of James Bond or Wild Wild West production. Not surprisingly, we experimented with exterminating bugs with this smoke. It worked.

We had to buy special "insect pins" from the University of Montana student center. These were remarkable things, much finer than ordinary sewing pins, and metallurgically superior. The pins were plunged through the thorax of the bugs upon death and mounted for display. Chris Reynolds told me he found a lost pin in his shag carpet once, the hard way. As he slid his hand along the carpet, a pin pierced the webbing between his thumb and forefinger. A pre-modern-primitive piercing, perhaps.

It was inevitable that I would try this, and I did. I had to impale a still living Coleoptera to see what would happen. My experiment came to an ignominious end one day when my grandmother saw the still moving legs of little beast, flailing away in the air. An embarrassed euthanasia quickly followed.

The night before the grand unveiling of our collections at school I was over at Dave Peterman's house, trading and organizing our respective collections like baseball cards. We decided to prank the system by creating "UFI's", or Unidentified Flying Insects. We knew that all insects by definition had three segments, head, thorax, and abdomen. We used an X-Acto knife to separate segments of various insects then mixed and rejoined them with Superglue. Remember, before video games, kids really did shit like this…

Our collections were to be sorted by insect Order, and Dave and I both had several specimens of "UFI" for inspection the next day. Mr. Clements, passed by one of our sets without comment, but we were busted when he saw the second "UFI" set.
Believe it or not, I can still remember various orders of insects that I learned from that exercise. But what's really memorable about the whole experience is how smart, pent-up young minds twisted and modified the dull and ordinary circumstances that life provided. Yes, insect collecting was cool...

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Burning Plastic

I've always been fascinated with fire. I remember making something called a "pocket rocket" when I was about 7 or 8. I got the "plans" from a strange place, The Great International Paper Airplane Book, which I received as a Christmas gift from my father. The pocket rocket was simply a safety match that had aluminium foil wrapped around the head and about half way down the shaft. A pin was pushed underneath the foil to form an "exhaust nozzle". This was placed on a paperclip that was bend up to form a "launch pad". A flame was held under the match head from the outside until it lit. The expanding gasses went out the nozzle, and off went the match. Not a great deal of fun, but it was worth a try.

What I really enjoyed was burning plastic. I think I rationalized this activity by wanting to "repair" the cheap plastic toys that I broke. I wanted to "weld" the plastic back together to repair it. But honestly, it's been so long that I really can't remember if this is how I truly felt, or if I was just rationalizing the fun of burning plastic. I remember noting that certain kinds of plastics would burn cleanly, while some would burn with a very dirty flame. When I became an adult my childhood curiosity was finally satisfied, as plastics began to have little symbols printed on them in order to sort them for recycling. Conveniently, they also had little letters printed beside them, like "PS", which stood for polystyrene. I didn't know it at the time, but the smokey flame was due to burning polystyrene, the stuff many toys are made of. Model airplanes are made of polystyrene, as old school "airplane glue" contained toluene, which actually dissolved the plastic to form the adhesive bond.

I had to take a back seat to burning model airplanes, as John Turman and Chris Reynolds had me outclassed in that regard. When John would get a new model kit, I would cynically ask him if he was going to burn it. He would always say no, that this new model was just too good to end up being burned. About 6 months later we would, of course, end up burning it. Chris and John would sometimes put firecrackers inside the models while they were building them to enhance the pyro display. Sadly this was often counterproductive, as the explosion would usually blow out the flame, Red Adair style.

I didn't know it at the time, but the Kings of Burning Plastic were HDPE and LDPE; High Density Polyethylene and Low Density Polyethylene. The flame burned very cleanly, unlike polystyrene. More importantly, it produced a wonderful burning "tail" of molten plastic. The ends of this tail would drop off while still burning. As they descended, they would produce a characteristic buzzing noise which we called "Screaming Me-Me's". Smoke would come off the little droplets as they descended, sort of like how white phosphorous munitions looked that you see in old Vietnam war footage. All in all, an impressive sound, light, and smell display for not much money. I wish I could take credit for this God-Given discovery, but I can't. I think John Turman or maybe Roald Sonju came up with it.

By this time I was 15 or 16, and old enough to drive. We were all too old to play with our Hot Wheels, but John discovered a remarkable property of the orange-yellow track; It made a really outstanding burning plastic torch! The length was perfect for holding and manipulating the molten end. The killer app for Hot Wheels track was dropping burning plastic on insects. One summer afternoon, John Turman and I drove up to Pattee Canyon outside Missoula MT armed with a huge bundle of Hot Wheels track and a can of lighter fluid. The lighter fuel was used to clear a path to our goal, a huge ant hill. You had to flat out kill the little bastards on the ground or they would crawl up your leg. This was insect genocide, pure and simple. All of this was dangerous as fuck, as Pattee Canyon was full of tall, bone dry grass... We spent that whole day dropping burning Hot Wheels track screaming me-me's onto the ant hill. John fantasized he was a WWI pilot, strafing the enemy trenches from a biplane. I imagined that I was an American B-52 pilot, dropping napalm on helpless, scurrying villagers.

Years later I heard a sort of urban legend about the screaming me-me's. I was told that "hippies" used to tie dry cleaner bags into knotted "ropes", with a knot every 12" or so. This was attached to the ceiling, and a pail of water was placed beneath. The bottom of the bag was lit, and the hippies got high. The lights were turned off, and the low-grade sound and light show was enjoyed with stoned reverence. Maybe these were the same hippies who thought they could fly after taking LSD, and jumped out of those windows.

I don't burn plastic these days like I did when I was a child, but I can't deny that when I see a nice piece of plastic I silently wonder what does it burn like...