Frequently-Asked Questions



 
Or, questions that would probably be frequently
asked if people frequently asked questions...

Okay, so I don't get asked a lot of questions.  But I figure that doesn't necessarily mean visitors to this site don't still wonder about things - it's just up to me to try and anticipate what those things might be, and answer the questions, even if they're unasked.  As in all things here, of course, I could be wrong about what visitors here do and don't want to know.  If I've failed to address something you've wondered about, you'd do me, and the other visitors here, a favor by sending me your question(s)!



          
Click on the questions below to jump to the answers, or, if you have
near-infinite time on your hands, scroll down and read 'em all:

You say you're not an expert, so why did you put up this website?

Why the focus on the balloons themselves, instead of the balloonists?

So how did this site get started?

I've got priceless photos that should be on the site.  What should I do?

I've got pictures to send, but they're slides. Can you work with those?

I've got great pics on the computer, but they're big - can I still e-mail them?

I have something to contribute, but can I keep my name off your site?

Suppose you don't return something - how are you accountable?

I offered you Stuff and you seemed wishy-washy. Do you want it or not?

Why are the linked photos on your site so large?

What's with all the windows? Everything opens in a new window!

Why is your site so "U.S.-centric?"

I see a lot of copyrighted images. Are you paying royalties on it all?

Why is your Barnes page so skimpy? You can get Barnes pictures anywhere!

Why the focus on pictures, instead of stories, or recitations of facts?

You keep saying you "can't afford" this or that - why not just sell ads?

I sent you a picture / anecdote / etc. and it's not on the site. What gives?

I sent you an e-mail and never received a response. What a jerk you are!

I have a question / comment / etc., but don't want to waste your time.

Aren't you going to get into hot-air airships? Gas balloons? Balloon pins?

You sure are long-winded.  Do you talk like that?



You say you're not an expert, so why did you put up this website?
To answer this one, I must distinguish an expert from an enthusiast.  I am the latter; I love balloons, and I'm fascinated by the formative years of the sport.  Because I've paid attention to a number of sources, particularly in the 1970s, when I had the time to do so, I've picked up a broad, if shallow, swath of ballooning knowledge.  That said, though, I'm not trying to present information as an authority, so much as I'm trying to learn more, and present what I do know for fact-checking by those with a better understanding of the subject.  The underlying philosophy of this site might be summed up as, "send me facts and photos, and I'll compile it all into an educational site for my use as well as everyone else's."  If that works, perhaps one day I will be an expert!
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Why the focus on the balloons themselves, instead of the balloonists?
This is a question that has, at least implicitly, been asked of me by a few visitors.  It's a tough question, because it starts with the implication that I don't like, or don't care about, the people who made the balloons possible.  In response, though, I think it's safe to say that I'm absolutely nuts about balloonists - it's just that I've never really known many, and don't feel qualified to talk about them.  Balloons are pretty objective things - they are what they are, and a given model will have strong similarities from one example to the next (type-certified ones, anyway).  People aren't like that.  What one person considers praise, another might call an insult.  I'm very conscious of how easy it is to hurt feelings when communicating in writing, without tone of voice, etc., and I just don't want to start talking about people I don't know.  Another reason is that I got the idea for this site by trying to find information on classic balloons per se, and coming up empty-handed.  Since it was details of the machines themselves I was seeking, that was what I chose to focus on when I started the site.  The same reasons apply to my decision, in most cases, not to use the names people give their balloons, even though I know many of the names of the balloons on the site.  It's just nothing I want to comment on without knowing the full story, and the people involved.
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So how did this site get started?
I first got the idea for this site in about the winter of 2001-2002.  I'd been trying to find information on early balloons, and coming up with next to nothing.  It occurred to me that there had to be hundreds - maybe thousands - of people "out there" with pictures of Semco burners; firsthand knowledge of Stokes venting mechanisms, and the like.  I thought that maybe "if I built it, they would come" - I could set up the framework of a fact-based old-balloon site, and folks would contribute by e-mailing me pictures and information, or snail-mailing me their own photos, brochures, etc. that I could scan and return.  I approached a local ballooning club with the idea, asking if the membership might be interested in helping out.  The response amounted to, "pay your dues and we'll talk."  When I replied that I was in school, couldn't afford dues, and didn't have time for meetings, I was met with deafening silence, as if being told, "no dues, no help."  Thus rebuffed, it was a while before I found the motivation just to start the darned thing anyway, and see what happened.  Therefore, it wasn't until the spring of 2004 that I finally had something online.  The rest, as they say, will be history when it gets old enough.
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I've got priceless photos that should be on the site.  What should I do?
I'm so glad you asked!  The best thing for everyone would be if you had a scanner - you could scan them in, in the comfort of your own home (ideally at or around 300 dpi), and e-mail them to me (write me
here for an email address [thanks to the world's spammers for this additional step]).  Next best would be for you to stick them in an envelope and mail them to me, for me to scan and send promptly back to you.  I won't put my home address here, because I want to make sure I know when to look for something in the mail. drop me a line, and I'll send you my address.  I'm incredibly conscious of the responsibility I'm offering to undertake, and you'll notice that this is just one of the measures I take to assure that anything that's loaned to me is returned, promptly and in perfect condition.  Unfortunately, I can't (generally) reimburse for initial shipping, but I do return-ship loaned materials with insurance, just in case.  Heck - if you live in Albuquerque, or close, I could even come pick up stuff to take home and scan.  I'm willing to work at this - all I ask is access to the material!
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I've got pictures to send, but they're slides. Can you work with those?
Yes. I have a camera that will focus on objects so close they're touching the lens. I hold a slide up against the lens, aim it a brightly lit white surface, and - done! It's not perfect, but it beats the stuffing out of the execrable results I got using a scanner.
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I've got great pics on the computer, but they're big - can I still e-mail them?
Yes. I am extremely patient with big files, and can accept e-mails of any remotely reasonable size (say, up to 15MB, and bigger by pre-arrangement).  I'd far rather wait for a big file to download than settle for a quick download and low resolution (or - horrors! - nothing at all).  Unlike mailings of printed materials, I don't ask any advance notice for e-mailed files - just send away, and I'll be sure and drop you a line letting you know I got what you sent (and probably babbling on at length about it, as I suspect I will never grow out of being a kid in a candy store about this stuff).
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I have something to contribute, but can I keep my name off your site?
Not a problem.  I'd be happy just to say "anonymous contribution" or something, or nothing at all.  Some people who have contributed materials to the site have commercial ventures that I want to promote if I can, but I fully understand if you'd be uncomfortable having your name slathered all over a website.  This hasn't come up, mind you, but I could understand if it did. Of course, if you have a ride business or some similar ballooning-related site you would like linked to your name, just let me know!
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Suppose you don't return something - how are you accountable?
Aha - an incisive question, and one I'm prepared to answer.  Obviously, if I'm to be trusted with people's treasured, irreplaceable items, my reputation is pretty important.  Therefore, I explicitly ask that anyone who feels I haven't been above-board with them post a detailed e-mail to the International Aeronauts League mailing list.  For those who don't know, the IAL runs an e-mail list with hundreds of subscribers from around the world.  To subscribe, visit
http://interaeroleague.com/phpBB2/index.php, click "Register," and follow the instructions.  I highly recommend the IAL anyway, because where else do you find banter, flight reports, safety information and just plain silliness from dozens of active posters from around the world - from occasional sport pilots to pros to famous ballooning luminaries (balloominaries?), all in a manageable quantity of e-mail?  A bad word about me there would be a strong deterrent, and I would not invite that sort of criticism if I didn't intend to make it unnecessary through honesty and reliability.
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I offered you Stuff and you seemed wishy-washy. Do you want it or not?
Yes, please!  I really do!!   I suspect this has happened.  I've been offered materials that never arrived, and I fear that's because my responses have seemed (inaccurately) like I was uninterested.  This is because I've felt it necessary to try and convey that no one owes me anything, and if hardship intervenes, there'll be no hard feelings if someone who has offered a contribution ends up being unable to deliver.  Due to my poor communication skills, though, I think what's come across has been, "yeah, if you feel like sending it, whatever, but no big deal."  Please rest assured that I am always very excited to receive contributions to the site - I just want to be very clear that I acknowledge contributions, whether loans, e-mails or stuff-to-keep, as favors, not anything to which I'm entitled.  From now on, I'm omitting that proviso in my responses to offers, but please know that I'm grateful, and if you're unable to send something you've offered, I won't hold it against you.
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Why are the linked photos on your site so large?
Or, perhaps, "why are they so small?"  Either way, the answer is that a webmaster has to make a choice, with each image on a site, between a good-sized, clear picture, and a manageable file size. Having been, for the longest time, one of those unfortunates who accessed the Internet with a dial-up modem, I have a pretty good idea how frustrating it can be to load a huge image (or, worse, a huge page full of overlarge thumbnail images).  At the same time, I'm also a balloon nut, and I find it just as frustrating, or more so, when I run across a great, detailed shot of a classic balloon on the web, that's so small you can't actually discern any of the detail.  So I shoot for linked images not much more than 100-150KB, and set a fairly arbitrary image size limit of 1024 pixels horizontally, and 768 pixels vertically.  If you know a better way, or have any suggestions,
let me know!  Also, I have bigger versions of many of the images on the site.  If you'd like a larger version of a particular image (say, for printing), let me know, and I'll be happy to get one to you, where available.
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What's with all the windows? Everything opens in a new window!
This is due to a personal preference of mine, and if people actually start asking this question, I may just change it.  I prefer to open links in new windows (or tabs, which most browsers these days use), so they can load in the background while I continue reading the window that has the links (this originated when I was on a dialup connection, and had to have something to do while pages loaded!).  Otherwise, I would keep getting sidetracked, and never finish viewing a page.  In a few places on the site, links open in the same window, based on assumptions on my part regarding when that is and is not desirable.  As always, I actively solicit your feedback - if the consensus is that all these windows are irritating, I'll make everything re-use the same windows, and those of us who want things in new windows can just right-click and bear it.
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Why is your site so "U.S.-centric?"
I've actually seen this criticism of the site on the Internet.  Let me say up front that I have NO desire to under-represent the involvement of the rest of the world in the sport of ballooning.   In addition, I'm a dyed-in-the-wool Anglophile, having visited England twice in my youth, and having been a fan of Thunder and Thunder & Colt balloons above all others for as long as I can remember.  Having said all that, the reason my Raven page is more detailed than my Thunder page is simply that there just seems to be more information out there on American balloons.  The way to cure this, of course, is simply for those who have information or images I lack to help out the site by e-mailing or loaning it to me, to repair any holes in the site's content!
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I see a lot of copyrighted images. Are you paying royalties on it all?

I almost wish you hadn't asked that, but it's a valid issue that's never far from my mind.  For starters, I'd like to point out that I've addressed this issue in some detail on my "Fair Use" page. The short answer is that no, I am not paying royalties for these images, nor can I afford to.  For a time, I attempted to track down publishers of books from which I'd scanned some pictures, but didn't have much luck making contact.  However, American copyright law allows anyone to use a copyrighted work, provided the use is limited, and meets certain other tests.  In addition, I repeatedly state on here that anyone wishing me to remove any content for copyright reasons need only notify me, and I'll gladly comply.  I also try to use discretion.  For example, I could scan several dozen images from Dick Wirth's Ballooning: The Complete Guide to Riding the Winds, all of which would make this a better site.  I choose not to do so, because it would just feel like I was taking too much.  As for how much is "too much," I rely on my own gut reaction, considering factors like how old a work is, and how likely it is to have continuing commercial value.  I hope that anyone concerned about copyright issues would look around the site, find it a good-faith educational effort, and an appropriate place for their images, but I'm prepared to remove material in case anyone feels otherwise.
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Why is your Barnes page so skimpy? You can get Barnes pictures anywhere!

This question is the result of another difficult editorial decision I've had to make.  It has nothing to do with my esteem for Tracy Barnes' dacron dreamboats, which is quite high.  It actually goes back to the purpose of the site.  I'm mainly trying to show how things have changed in the world of ballooning, and modern FireFly / TBW balloons just aren't that different (at least visually) from Barnes balloons of the '70s.  I would gladly load down my Barnes page with dozens of images, if only I could find shots of early (pre-triangular) Barnes burners, baskets not resembling what FireFly makes today, etc.  I just haven't had much luck, thus far, in tracking down those sorts of images. Similarly, my Piccard page is embarrassingly skimpy, considering the brand's importance to the history of the sport. But I just don't have many really instructive photos to show the balloon's construction (I am mollified to some extent by the fact that Don Piccard himself has an excellent page about his own balloons).
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Why the focus on pictures, instead of stories, or recitations of facts?

This is another question that's largely answered with "because that's what I have."  I've had some luck getting folks to send me pictures, and some have sent anecdotes and facts as well, but I haven't exactly been deluged with either.  I'm doing my best to work in plenty of materials other than photos, but, again, I just don't have a whole lot of substantive knowledge I can present as fact.  Any written materials, such as, for example, The History of Cameron Balloons Ltd., will always be welcome on these pages.
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You keep saying you "can't afford" this or that - why not just sell ads?
NO!!  Much as I like the idea of making a mountain of money writing a ballooning site, I will never make this into a commercial venture.  For one thing, people have contributed things to this site on the understanding that it is a personal, private, non-profit-related entity.  I would be betraying their trust to turn around and make money off their contributions that would, in retrospect, have been solicited under false pretenses.  I also have no desire to be beholden to some corporate entity, which could then insist that, if I want to keep my revenue stream, I have to sanitize my comments on its early "guillotine burners," or make somesuch other concessions.  Finally, I would seriously undermine my argument that my use of copyrighted images is a "fair use," if I were to make money off the site (and would end up, in all likelihood, paying out any profits for royalties).
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I sent you a picture / anecdote / etc. and it's not on the site. What gives?
There are several reasons why that could be.  Sometimes I'm not sure whether something has been sent for use on the site, or just for my edification.  I try to ask, in those situations when it's not clear, but sometimes either forget, or an e-mail error intervenes without my knowledge (see next question).  Also, sometimes people send me pictures of balloons made later than the time period on which this site focuses (generally the 1960s and '70s).  Finally, it could be simply that I'm intending to add your contribution to the site, and just haven't got to it yet.  I should probably say, in this context, that I can never guarantee I'll put a given contribution on the site.  I have to make editorial decisions, and sometimes they're not going to be the same decisions a given visitor would make.  I always welcome input, questions, reminders, etc., though, so if you're wondering what I've done with something you've contributed, please feel free to
let me know.
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I sent you an e-mail and never received a response. What a jerk you are!
Well, that's not really a question, but it's a valid concern.  I don't know for sure that this has happened, but I suspect that there have been occasions on which I have sent e-mail that never reached its recipient, or that it did reach its recipient, and I never received a response.  This site is hosted on a web server where I rent space, as is the e-mail account I use for the site.  The server is fast, and more than fairly priced, but it's not entirely free of errors. It's possible that there's an error in the server somewhere that gives me these difficulties.  If you think you might have been on the (non-)receiving end of one such error, I'd be most obliged if you'd
drop me a line.  I respond to every e-mail I receive about this site, so if you believe I've ignored an e-mail from you, I assure you it was an error outside my control. I have also finally removed my email address from the site, and replaced it with a "contact" page, which sends me an email without revealing the address to spammers, so I hope that now, legitimate emails will not be buried under a tide of unwanted solicitations.
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I have a question / comment / etc., but don't want to waste your time.
I suppose I've brought that question on myself by saying repeatedly how little time I have to do this or that.  Let me assure you, though, that I will always have time to respond to every
message about the site.  I like everything about this site, but by far the most rewarding aspect of this undertaking has been the chance to communicate with ballooning fans from around the world.  I do not exactly get inundated with e-mail, so please don't think what you have to say/ask will somehow distract me from more "important" things.  There is no more important business relating to this site than reading and replying to your questions and comments.
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Aren't you going to get into hot-air airships? Gas balloons? Balloon pins?
One way I try to keep this site from getting completely out of control, both in terms of workload to maintain it, and in terms of making sense, is to keep the focus narrow.  I just don't have the time to do a high-quality site on all things related to the fact that hot air rises, as do certain early entries in the Periodic Table of Elements.  That's why I've at least tried to limit the focus to the '60s and '70s, and it's also why, at least for now, there are no airships here.  I might change that someday, because hot-air airships are a legitimate outgrowth of ballooning in the '70s, but for now, I have no such plans.  Similarly, I'm loath to commit to the time necessary to go deep into other aspects of ballooning like pins, chase vehicles or balloon mail.  I can't say this site will never encompass such topics, but as of this writing, I barely have the time and energy to maintain the site with the narrow focus it has.
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You sure are long-winded.  Do you talk like that?
Well...yes.  I apologize if it's sometimes difficult to derive much meaning from the sea of words I tend to deluge upon this site.  My curse is that I love words, and so tend to employ them in possibly excessive numbers.  To the extent to which an apology is necessary, I hereby offer one.
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