Scott and I were invited to a party by Greg and Lisa -- they were helping set up the big coil they worked on for Dr. Megavolt! [The legendary "second coil".] Another attraction was the "pumping hucker" -- a trebuchet set up to toss pumpkins. Admission was one pumpkin for the hucker.

So we showed up with two pumpkins -- one little one for distance, and one big one for...effect. :) We walk up and Yo-Yo is already there with Dave Cherry, shouting to us, "bring your pumpkin over!" So we handed over the big pumpkin, and they cranked down the trebuchet -- "all the way down. This is a big one." The lever part had a bunch of nails welded to it to hold the pumpkin, and the guy slammed it down on the nails to make it stick. Will [a friend of Greg's and the one with the electric Lay-Z-Boy] was dressed as a giant traffic cone. He was running in the street, chasing cars away, and generally protecting the "launching zone." Meanwhile, the guy setting it up gestured at Scott to pull the pin, but Scott wasn't up for it right then. So he shouted, "CLEAR!" and pulled. It lobbed about half-way across the street with an impressive splat! Will ran over -- "ran" being relative, since his feet didn't have much room to move, so he more "shuffled quickly" -- and covered the pumpkin debris with the cone as a car approached. But the car refused to budge. So Will relented and they added munch to the pumpkin. Spoil sports.

The hucking was then stopped for a break, and I was left holding the little pumpkin, and noted the nice-looking BMW that was parked right in front of the hucking machine -- not a good place to park, though it was unscathed so far...

So we went inside and were directed towards the "maze", which we then entered, me carrying the little pumpkin. The entrance quickly narrowed to crawling, so I crawled, all the while, protecting my little charge. We came out into an area with multiple doors. We started on the right and entered each door. Nicely done! Each one was pretty much a dead end, with a little display at the end. One, in particular, had a strobe, and a crawl-space made from a rotating cylinder which was difficult visually to crawl through! [Did you read Jeff Butterworth's post at UNC a long time ago about the 6 Million Dollar Man? :) ] On the way out, we got an unintentional show by a woman with a gauzy skirt on that was made even less useful when the black light brightly lit only her underwear. :) hee-hee!

The last door had a slide at the end. Scott had to take the pumpkin from me so I could slide down the slide...

The drinks were all but gone when we got to the drink table -- all except club soda and vodka, and some kegs of beer, but I don't much like beer... But by then, they were forcing people back to fire up the coil!

We backed up, but reluctantly, since we wanted to be close. But in the end it was quite close. Though they had some metal structures in front of the crowd, it was a bit spooky to me to see just how close the lightening bolts were coming! There was a large dragon sculpture they were wiggling around, but the bolts mostly went to the fluorescent lights and the ceiling of the warehouse. They stopped the coil for a moment, and Will stuck something to the side of the toroid. Scott and I both went "ooooOOOOOOOoooohh!" knowingly. The guy next to us said sarcastically, "oo, *that* will make a big difference!" But we said, "well, actually it will! Since the idea is to make the toroid uniform, the bolts will come from anywhere, but if you put a point sticking out of it, it will concentrate the field and cause the bolts to come out of the point." It didn't help much, though.

The next time they turned it off -- I forgot how it happened -- but I started shouting "burn the pumpkin!!!" and thrust up the little pumpkin. It seemed like the best use for it! We kept shouting it over and over, with people around us joining in, and when they figured out what we were saying, they reached out for it and I handed it over. They skewered it on a metal stick on a stand, and the bolts concentrated there long enough to cause smoke and flames to shoot out of a little hole in the pumpkin! Very cool! About this time, someone was handing out ear plugs, which were nice! Added to the "victims" were some CDs, which were burned clean. They threw them into the greedy audience, and Scott got one of them! They also set up a wooden board on a stand. The bolts struck where the board was mounted in the stand, not along the length of the board, but slowly, as the board caught on fire there, the bolts moved up the board, burning the wood then flowing into the burned places. I knew flames ionized the air [and made it more conductive, so the bolts were attracted to flames], but Greg explained later that plain wood was not very conductive, but carbon was more conductive. So the charred places attracted the bolts as well. It was impressive! When the coil was on, and the bolts shot into the burning crack, flames would shoot up out of the board! Very cool!

When they finally shut down, we went back outside just in time to see a guy in a rabbit suit actually *catch* a pumpkin launched at him! Pretty dramatic. Scott commented to him, "dude, are you wearing a cup??" The pumpkin was caught a bit low... :) We wandered around outside for more hucking and traffic cone antics, and the people with the motorized horses [we saw them at Burning Man] ran around at break-neck speed up and down the street. And folks ducked and looked innocent as cops drove by. Hucking would come to a stop at this point. Someone shouted "nice costumes!" as they drove by. :)

Yo-Yo and Dave returned from the rAnCh party, which was only a few blocks down the street. It sounded *packed* and Yo-Yo is not one for crowds at all, so they ended up leaving... :( Scott and I never seemed to make it up there -- we were having too much fun!

Someone brought up a rabbit-dressed two-pumpkin sculpture -- accompanied by a tortoise-dressed shell of a pumpkin. The rabbit, it was decided, should launch first -- since the rabbit typically got the head start, but the tortoise typically won the race... The rabbit made a good launch, making it to the plastic sheet protecting the sidewalk on the other side of the street. The tortoise was mounted on his back, which Scott though was inhumane for a tortoise... They pulled the pin. The tortoise sailed through the air. The hucker came up, hovered, then fell forward...onto the BMW, nail-side-down. Ouch. I forget where the tortoise landed, we were too busy cringing. There were no nails holes, no penetration, but the paint was scratched and it was dented. Ug. The owner was a good sport about it.

We went back inside, and saw a small flame tornado going inside! I was captivated, of course, since I'd seen a giant-sized one years ago and have been wanting to make one ever since! That one went up to about 15 feet max! This one went up about 6' max, and tended to stay around 3-4'. Just fantastic! And great to just hang near and warm yourself by. People would pass their hands through the flame, which would break up the tornado for a moment.

I talked some to the guy who built it -- he's one of the motor-horse guys too. It was a nice and simple design, just a metal fan with a second set of smaller blades mounted upright on the regular, more flat blades, like an L shape, or better, up-side-down T. The propane came up in the middle of the fan, which was attached by a belt to a motor. The whole thing had a wind-guard around it to protect the tornado. Simple. We want to make one. "Let's make one *tomorrow*!" Scott declared. [The next day, we scoured salvage yards for parts. We ended up with a very small fan -- about 4" across -- and we'll put it in a simple food can. Micro-tornado! I hope to finish it up this week and we might make a hat out of it. :) ]

We left around 3am [*after* setting our clocks!] and all in all had a most excellent time!!

Kiki -- viva la San Francisco!