Tag Archives: flying machine


Let us suppose that you are in your workshop, working on a balloon-enhanced pedal-powered flying machine.

Let us suppose that your brother barrels out of your house in a whirlwind of coats, scarves, early-afternoon bourbons and goggles. And let us suppose that as he does this, your brother shouts “Are you aware that there are wastrels in your front yard?”.

What could he mean? There are a few choices.

Wastrel is a noun that means a vagabond, idler, waif and it also means refuse, waste as well as one who expends resources foolishly and self-indulgently; a spendthrift.  It originated in the late 1500s and stems from the word waste plus the pejorative rel.

So what did Mordecai mean? Was the front garden awash with garbage? A gaggle of orphaned tykes? Or a profligate relation?

Upon inspection, the front yard was full of Canadian geese yelling at the dragons. Who were yelling back. I’m surprised my neighbors didn’t complain, but let’s be honest – this is the least offensive thing that’s happened in my front garden in a good while.

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One winter I flew in a dirigible across the Tasmanian desert, searching for dragons and the oft-missed Land-Walking Star Fish (which is neither a star nor a fish but does walk on land).

This piece made me nostalgic.

And inspired me to get back to work on my flying machine. It’s unfair that Bubo gets to explore the skies alone.

Bubo’s Laugh

Have you ever heard a great horned owl laugh? Probably not, and you can chalk that up as a positive in your book. Native American legends state that if you hear the laugh of a great horned owl, then you are a pawn in a joke larger than you can recognize.

I recognized why Bubo was laughing last night.

For the past month I have been building a flying machine in the shed in the garden. In between the digging equipment and the jars of seeds, I’ve been hammering and bolt-tightening and following intricate blueprints that I drew up over the winter months. Last night’s gentle winds and clear skies seemed the perfect night for a test flight.

If you are about to attempt to fly, and nature has not intended you to fly, do not attempt it in front of a bird. They are brutally arrogant about their flying ability.

As they should be, they do it quite well. And it looks effortless, doesn’t it?

Perhaps I should have started on the roof of the house, but I didn’t want to be spotted by neighbors, should there be any midnight promenades going on. Instead I chose the roof of the shed, which – while not nearly high enough – is under cover of thick trees and I was certain I could quickly get enough lift.

I was wrong. It seems my fall knocked me unconscious and when I woke my goggles were askew and my ankle was smarting impressively. The flying machine sustained minor damage as well. I am not concerned so much about my ego – an inventor learns to be humble at an early stage – but Bubo is insufferable in this type of situation.

You see, I had ignored a change she’d made on the blueprint. A change that might have altered last night’s un-flight.

Most great horned owls are as good with a pencil as a man is with wings. Unfortunately, Bubo has beautiful penmanship. And she’s rather a whiz at math as well.

This whiskey will help ease the pain in my ankles and help me ignore her self-satisfied twitters.


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