The Great Minnesota Get Together

The Great Minnesota Get Together

The great Minnesota get together otherwise know as the Minnesota state fair should be on everybody’s bucket list!  While it is technically the second largest state fair in the country, it far and away is the most fun and easily the friendliest!! Nothing like mid-western hospitality.  Even when the fair gets the most crowded and after much libations are consumed everyone remains polite, orderly and well behaved.

This year I was fortunate to be able to attend the state fair for my fourth time and it never gets old!

The main attractions at the fair are livestock, crafts, music, the midway and maybe the most important.. FOOD!  Especially food on a stick!  The Minnesotans take great pride in serving food on a stick at the state fair and annually battle one another for the next crazy food idea or the challenge of serving traditional dishes that have no business being on a stick, on a stick!

For those from mass, think the Topsfield fair times 20 with much wider streets, more music and beer! I have a great story from the Topsfield fair with my father that I will get to after I cover some of the food on a stick options at the Minn fair.

No Minn fair is complete without the iconic pronto pup.  They are flat out the best corn dogs there are and they make a great little warm up breakfast to start the day.

Pronto Pups

Yes, breakfast!  Get over it, all rules are thrown out the window at the state fair.  And as the wise Diana Pearson reminded me  during the fair, you can’t drink all day, if you don’t start right away.  Hey, don’t judge me!

Ironically, the absolutelty best food at the fair doesn’t come on a stick.  The corn on the cob!  Well, a cob could be interpreted as a stick can’t it?   I don’t know what it is but this corn is outstanding! Amazing!  And I am not alone, they line up to get this stuff and these folks no how to handle a crowd.   I have no idea why it is so good but trust me it is!  I think they go through several hundred thousand ears in 10 days.

The absolutely best corn in the world!

The other must have food that doesn’t come on a stick are the cheese curds.  Yup, deep fried pieces of dairy yumminess!  Oh, while the corn is probably the healthiest food choice a the state fair, not so these cheese curds.  I can hear my arteries screaming for mercy as I eat them.   But here is the secret to cheese curds and really all the food at the state fair.  You need to have a strategy.  Fortunately, I have learned from some pros, my Minnesotan family.  There is no way you can go through the whole fair and taste everything you want, you’ll explode.  The plan is simple, you go to the fair in groups and you share everything!  This way you can try everything you want without overly gorging yourself, wait, that happens over time anyway.  I did find out there is one thing that is not to be shared, and that is Emma’s ice cream. Nope. Not gonna happen.  She isn’t a sharer!  Speaking of Emma, I think she had ice cream or ice cream like dishes four times on the last day we were there.  Which brings me to master state fair strategy number 2, one day just isn’t enough.  It’s too big and you will be too rushed. Multiple days are needed and you also need to stagger your time there as the fair is different during the day than in the evening.  So you will need to get there early one day (it opens at 6AM) and then get there later another so you can be there till the end to see the fireworks.

Some of the more interesting food items we tried this year were the fried olives and the 20170824_194324fried Avocado.  The Avocado was delish!  Now there was one dish I refused to try, and that was Spam curds.  Yes, deep fried Spam curds and if that wasn’t up your alley, you could have the Spamburger.  Spam, Spam, Spam…

Now back to food on a stick.  To show how truly obsessed they are with this concept I tried to capture some snaps of the variety you will find.

Yup, there’s buffalo on a stick, pork chop on a stick (which is really really good!), shrimp on a stick, hot dish on a stick, cheese on a stick, fruit on a stick, spaghetti and meatballs on a stick.

Egg rolls on a stick, scotch eggs on a stick, and yes, Bacon on a stick!!  Now, the Minnesotans don’t take themselves too seriously and even like to have a little fun with this “on a stick” obsession.  Here is a picture of “Math” on a stick!  Very clever! 20170825_152908.jpg

Sadly, I was hoping to spot Al Franken there but he wasn’t there on the days I went!  However, if you want to laugh out loud, read his latest book, Giant of the Senate.

And all of the good times I had at the state fair always make me wish we that the Minn fair was a little closer to home, it is so much fun day or night!

And then it makes me think of the Topsfield fair.  When I was a kid, my father used to take me every year!  I thought it was huge when I was little and I would always try and talk him into letting me compete to win a baby pig..  he never did, I wonder why.  One year, I was playing football with friends before we left for the fair.  Once there I started complaining that my foot hurt and asked him if could carry me, he thought I was just being whiny and lazy so I walked through the fair the whole day.  Turns out I wasn’t, the next day I was still complaining about my foot so we went to have it looked at.  Turns out I walked through the whole Topsfield fair on a broken foot. For once, looking back at it, I am thankful it wasn’t the Minnesota state fair.

Of course he could have pulled me around in one of these all day like I did with Emma a few years back.  Pretty good deal for her eh?


This Car Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro Part 2

This Car Climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro Part 2

It’s Not the Destination, It’s the Journey!!

If you didn’t read my previous post about how we ended up climbing Kili you can read it here.  It was truly a magnificent trip, one filled with a lifetime of memories. Well, at least enough to fill two blog posts. After our brief stay on top of the highest free standing mountain in the world, we proceeded to head down.  As we started descending, we found out why you climb at night, during the day the scree is now unfrozen

Kili 1996_0002
The Tourist Route to 19,341 ft.

and loose.  If we had tried to climb it during the day we would have gone 2 steps up and slid 1 step back. Now it was fun… it was taking a huge step and then sliding a few more feet.  The day of the ascent is a long one, you leave Kibo hut in the middle of the night and shuffle and climb till you get to the top, then after the obligatory photos you head back to Kibo hut, pick up your gear and continue on to Horombo camp which is at over 12k feet. Once we got there it was time for the celebrating to begin!!  Some industrious sherpas had beer for sale, so we all grabbed some and partied like rock stars……. for about 30 minutes and then we crashed. The next day we finished the climb down and it was back to Arusha for some hot showers and some more Chinese food.  As far as showers go, this was by far one of the top 5 of showers of my life.  HEAVEN!


But wait, we didn’t stop there.  What’s a trip to Africa without some Safari time??

The view from the top of the Ngorngoro crater

So the next day, after being awoken by morning prayers at the mosque next door again, we head off for the Ngorongoro crater for a short safari.  We decided that we would camp out and had a camp site on the ridge of the Nogorongoro crater.  We did some damage that night and it culminated in a ceremonial t-shirt burning.  I had brought over shirts from my company

FTP T-shirt

(ftp software) and had given one to all the guys. Well most had worn them on the climb and now they were smelly and disgusting, everyone decided to burn them!  Fortunately, I had a few extra for Bill’s staff back in Kitengela.


The next day, we headed down into the crater….   as we were heading down in, Bill heard a strange noise coming from his car, so I hoped onto the hood hanging from the spare tire and held on to hear if I could detect where it was coming from… never did figure it out but I had the most memorable ride into the crater.  Did I mention that we were still giddy from climbing Kili?  Well, we loaded up the cars with several cases of Castle tins, long warm by now, but that wasn’t going to stop us, nor was the hour of the day.  WE STARTED EARLY!!  We had 2 cars,  Bill’s land rover, and “The Blender” a pickup truck with plywood sides.

Riding in “The Blender”

The Nogorongoro crater is magnificent.  It is a natural bowl created by a volcanic crater. It is gorgeous and filled with game.  We set off game viewing.  After seeing lots of game, we happened on a pride of lions.  So we drive off the road to get a closer look a the pride. Now it should be noted, in Kenya, while the game parks have dirt roads you often drive off of them to get closer to the animals. WELL…. as we find out later, the rules are different in Tanzania and you are supposed to stay on the roads.


A very close up look.  And what a view, a lioness with cubs and a big old male. Well, we decided to get an even closer view when all of a sudden the male roars and starts to spring at us… remember, we are in a pickup truck, with plywood sides and a completely open top.kili-1996_0021Needless to say, he scared the crap out of us. After driving away, it was noted that the lion could have easily leapt right in and all of us in the back would have been in a lion blender. Now you know how it got it’s nickname “THE BLENDER”.

But now for a bit of Lickly family folklore, all of which is true. After having Castle Lager for breakfast, brunch and lunch, and having a glorious morning on Safari, we decided to stop in the middle of the crater and get a little rest and soak up some sun.  Now, one of the cardinal rules of safari is never get out of the vehicle.

The gang and the blender, notice the Castle tins starting to pile up. The spare tire was filled with crushed up tins by the end

Ah… we think of it as more a guideline than an actual rule.  So, there we were lying around soaking up the sun when we notice way off in the distance a car heading our way…  not any car, but a park ranger.  Oops, we better start moving, so we get back in the blender and head on our way.  Now the blender at this point is quite the scene, the spare tire in the front is filled with crushed up tins of Castle, the dashboard the same and all the poles holding the plywood on have a can of Castle like a hood ornament.  We head off only to find out that he continues to follow us….  and eventually flags us down.  The Tanzania Wildlife Rangers.  OOPS!  So as he pulls up, we all sit down in the back of the pickup and try to behave which only makes us start to giggle.  He pulls along side and asks why we were stopped for such a long time and out of the vehicles??  Bill makes up some car problem story which makes no sense like a flooded distributor cap spark plug. The park ranger then mentions that there have been reports of a vehicle matching our description that has been bothering the animals…  and he has to give us a ticket and a fine.  Now Africa is not unfamiliar with corruption so we all brace for the worst. (Side story, Bill Cherry found a good way to get rid of counterfeit $100 bills ….  use them as bribes when needed)


“Fined US $10 for scaring the lions”

He spends several minutes writing out the fine….. and hands it to us.  We all read it quickly, it says, and I am not lying….  “Fine of US $10 for scaring the lions”.  What?  Oh my god, that’s awesome!!  You have never seen so many $10 dollar bills come whipping out as everyone wanted to be the one to pay this fine!!  One of my greatest regrets is we let John Chapman have the ticket as he promised to copy it and send to everyone… I am still waiting JOHN!

Never get out of the vehicle….

The rest of the trip went without incident and we headed back to Kenya for our goodbyes. It was a tremendous trip, 9 started, 9 reached the top and 9 will never forget scaring the lions. All because Bill’s father had climbed Kili and we were looking for some reason to get together again.

Remember – Never Get out of Your Vehicle!

The Growler and The Dome

The Growler and The Dome

I recently had lunch with two of my favorite people, Steve Dolloff AKA”the Growler” and my father Dan Lickly AKA “the Dome”.

I am not sure where and when Steve earned the nickname the growler but he has had it for years and he insists there are people out there that know him as the growler and probably don’t know his real name.  Part of this is due to the fact that Steve was a hockey player, a pretty good one too, and well, hockey players do love their nicknames.  My father got the nickname in college, and well basically he has a huge head!  I mean ginormous!  Whenever I would buy a hat for him I would look for the largest size, and then see if I can find one larger.

This was a much overdue get together, Steve has been pestering me for years for the chance.  You see, he has a very strong and fond memory of my father that dates back years and to me is a good life lesson.

In the 1969/1970 hockey season, Steve was playing for the BU freshman hockey team, back then, freshman were not allowed to play varsity.  In a game at Dartmouth, Steve caught a stick in the eye… and it was bad.  So bad, that they bandaged up both eyes and told him not to move too much.  His mother, packed him in a car and drove from Dartmouth straight to Mass eye and ear with him still in full hockey equipment except for skates.

A funny side story, it seems Steve had the German Measles at the time.  When they got to the hospital they were kept waiting, I guess a guy in full hockey gear with bandages over his eyes doesn’t seem like an emergency.  His mother was getting anxious and mentioned to them he also had German measles and bam!  Just like that they rushed him in!

Steve was in the hospital for 6 days, and was blind.  They kept both his eyes covered except for once a day when they changed the bandages.  Steve is my mother’s sisters son, so my father was his uncle through marriage.  For those 6 days, each and every day, my father went to the hospital and read the newspaper to Steve.  He wasn’t asked to do it, he just showed up and sat by his bed and read the paper. To appreciate this small gesture,

Steve Dolloff #18

think back to 1970, there wasn’t cable TV in every room (not that he could watch anyway), most news was obtained through newspapers and in fact, at that time the Boston Globe published 2 editions every day.  Steve has never forgotten this seemingly small act of kindness!



Fortunately he recovered and played the next three seasons on the varsity squad, oh, did I mention they won back to back national championships in 1971 and 1972. I should also mention that he has never thrown a picture or game program away so if your interested to talk about those teams you can reach out to him here.

Naturally, we didn’t just talk about hockey, my father told the story about him presenting to astronauts, and how he realized the Apollo astronauts were a much different breed as they had engineering backgrounds.  They asked a lot of really good questions, in fact, he recalls one astronaut kept interrupting him asking questions, good detailed questions, making it difficult for him to keep going with his presentation.  Afterwards he asked somebody, “who was that guy asking all those questions” only to learn his name was Neil Armstrong.

Dan then recalled the last time he saw Neil Armstrong, it was at the 40th anniversary of the lunar landing, he talked to him a little bit. The thing he remembers most however, is seeing Mike Collins.  For those needing a refresher, he was the third astronaut on Apollo 11, the one that stayed in the command module and orbited the moon while the other two took the Lunar Module to the moon surface. At the anniversary Sue Patterson, (Dan’s date) cornered Mike Collins, and in Sue being Sue fashion, asked him, “while your pals were down on the moon making news, what were you doing?”  Mike Collins answered politely, “Just doing my job Ma’me”

Interesting note, apparently one of the biggest concerns of this mission is whetdownloadher the the Lunar Module would re-start after landing on the moon.  Mike Collins could only wait a day or two, if it didn’t start we might have ended up with a real world “Martian” experience.

In 1961, Draper Lab (formerly the Instrumentation Lab) received the first NASA contract and were the first prime contractor for the guidance and navigation systems.  Once Dan went to visit one of their sub-contractors North American Aerospace (A defense contractor). He walks in the room and there are 12 people in the meeting working on the project.  He asked afterwards “why so many people? and the guy there who he knew well responded “Dan, you don’t understand government contracts, they are welfare for the middle class.”   Ouch!

Now let me end on a slightly happier note and I guess sticking (no pun intended) with the small acts of kindness can go a long way theme. In 1972, BU won their second of back to back national championships at the Boston garden.  Myself like a lot of kids leaned over the glass as the team left the ice, cheering and asking for a sticks, a puck, any kind of souvenir.  I remember vividly, as the team walked past including my cousin Steve Dolloff #18, being slightly disappointing as I thought I wasn’t going to get anything when all of a sudden, a tap at the glass, and Growler came back and handed me his stick. It was a simple gesture, but one I have never forgotten. I kept it for years, always in the garage always

1972 Championship stick

in a barrel along with other hockey sticks, baseball bats, and a variety of other gear.  Only maybe, possibly, perhaps did it get used, but I swear just once or twice.  I had the pleasure of returning the stick to its owner just a few years ago.  And trust me, I can tell you a
couple of things about the Growler, first, the nickname doesn’t apply anymore as he may be the most positive person in the world.  Second, he is very proud of BU Hockey and their achievements and his contribution. The stick joined his championship ring and a gazillion old photos, game programs, newspaper clippings and jackets!




I² – The Original Cambridge Start Up

I² – The Original Cambridge Start Up

Before Lotus there was Intermetrics Inc.  Or for those close to it, I². Intermetrics was founded around the time Neil was taking one small step for mankind by John Miller, Jim Miller, Ed Copps, Jim Flanders and Dan Lickly.  They believed the projects for Draper from NASA would slow down so they decided to try and commercialize what they had developed at Draper and perhaps find the next Apollo.

I am not trying to attempt a perfect history lesson but to relive some great memories and share what I know about a unique place.  If you want a more detailed insider perspective read Tony’s history here.

Intermetrics first location for few months was on Main St.for 2 months

but soon relocated to offices on Green street in Cambridge right next to the police station.  I can even remember that if you looked out the right window you could look down into cells in the police station. Pretty cool stuff when you are a kid.

Intermetrics landed contracts with NASA for developing software particularly the compiler HAL for the space shuttle.

Eventually they moved to fresh pond, long before Whole Foods but certainly in the era of Ma McGoo’s (awesome meatball subs) and the Hideaway (cheap pool tables).

Over time they refurbished an old warehouse at 733 Concord Ave into what is considered now a classic startup environment, wood beams, sky lights, & cool interior.  Way ahead of their time.

One of the interesting aspects for them was recruiting.  Computer Science wasn’t really something that was taught back then so how do you recruit programmers?  Well, I wasn’t there but I’d like to think that my father developed a unique style of recruiting due to these circumstances (though I am not positive).  He was known to interview people and speak very little about the actual job and had been known to take people out to his car to diagnose engine issues (Howie Marshall). In fact, legend has it that if he talked about computers with you then you weren’t going to get hired.

I remember fondly spending time at 745 Concord Ave, drinking sprite out of the bottle and playing one of the first puzzle computer games Adventure.  “It was a dark and stormy night”…  to this day if I drink a Sprite out of a bottle I am taken right back there.

In fact, I believe it was in this building that John Miller made one of his infrequent visits and to his chagrin found hand prints high on the walls of the corridors and couldn’t understand how they got there….  they were learning how to ride unicycles!  Duh!10926383_10152650491117634_6212177840682158842_n

They hired really smart people as they had a pipeline to M.I.T and also one to Cal Tech. Besides being very very bright they also attracted people with, um, er character!


In a previous post I talked about Intermetrics softball which given the environment seemed a highly unlikely place to foster a championship softball team, a competitive “Go” team sure, softball??

Juggling, backgammon, GO were all common place.

For the entire Apollo team, I can only imagine trying to find the next Apollo, there really wasn’t going to be that opportunity.  The shuttle might have seemed like that next great thing but nothing was going to compare to the race to put a man on the moon.





I Slept with a Nuke… and Other Most Lickly Stories

I Slept with a Nuke… and Other Most Lickly Stories

Here are a few just random stories that I am not clever enough to weave into a coherent blog post.

  • As the Lunar Module was coming down to the moon Buzz Aldrin accidentally turned on the rendezvous radar (which wasn’t needed and is a computer cycle pig) when they got closer to the surface and more programs turned on the computer overloaded which sent off a stream of alarms but Jack Garman of NASA famously said “go, go, go” and the landing proceeded with a lot of nervous people watching
  • As kids we spent time playing at Draper lab.  Let’s just say we had access to some pretty cool stuff.  I can remember playing on flight simulators and such. My sister once got her fingers stuck in a mechanical calculator and they had to take the machine half apart to get it out. Given the cost of equipment in the day I shudder to think how much that thing was worth
  • One of the things my fathers remembers in awe is witnessing a Saturn rocket launch up close, with 7.5 million pounds of thrust.
    Saturn rocket with 5 engines providing 1.5 million pounds of thrust each

    “The sheer power was overwhelming and you could feel the compression, the ground shake, Walter Cronkite thought the windows were going to blow out”

  • In a previous post, I mentioned how my father spent 2 months sleeping within 15 feet of a nuclear war head while submerged on a submarine. Turns out it was armed, good news is they didn’t arm it till they left port.
  • When he went to get his drivers license the motor vehicle license tester asked him if he knew how to drive, he responded with “How do you think I got here?”

    1947 Ford
  • My father’s first car he won in a raffle at the age of 14 a 1947 Ford
  • I used to tear through the halls of Draper lab dodging a guard we fondly referred to as “Fat Frank” and I was known to have 2 speeds, all out or asleep…. Um, not sure things have changed much
  • There really is a place called Lickly Corners. It’s in southern Michigan. I’ll spare you the numerous grave stone photos.

    Lickly Corners
  • My best friends from college and I climbed Kilimanjaro, afterwards we went on a safari, well, a self driven one in Bill Cherry’s land rover. We might have misbehaved a little bit and in the Ngorongoro crater in Tanzania we were fined $10 for scaring the lions. Why is this seemingly random item here, could be related to my trip to Lickly Corners…..
  • Dan was asked to leave the M.I.T campus during reunion weekend a few years ago because he was protesting the changes to the M.I.T curriculum… well, actually he was handing out fliers comparing the M.I.T. curriculum to that of Cal Tech and was asked to stop, he was pissed that you could graduate from MIT without taking a math class. He didn’t really get kicked out but he did get a letter from the president

  • If you read my earlier post on punch cards, you might recall that it was standard operating procedure to get a printout of the cards on continuous feed printer paper, usually green and white… Well, for those of you that know my father, you wimain-qimg-478c443fe81f317cc6780e56e7c58ab8ll understand that these stacks of printouts were a dream come true for him, he had stacks and stacks of these all over the place in his office, car, home.. everywhere! For me, I just know they made great coloring paper!




I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that.

We all know HAL 9000 from a 2001: A Space Odyssey. HAL stood for HAL – Heuristically programmed ALgorithmic computer.

That’s not the HAL I am talking about.  I am talking about HAL\S or Higher Ordedr_halcombe_laningr Algorithmic Language Shuttle. Supposedly this name was given by Ed Copps in honor of Hal Laning of the Instrumentation Lab, who developed the first language compiler anywhere, a system of guidance algorithms, was basically brilliant and was a geeks geek. Seriously, this guy is fascinating, check out  J. Halcombe Laning.

HAL was developed at Intermetrics and NASA adopted that language in 1975 for the shuttle. It was used for almost 30 years and it was used to program all the on-board stuff.

The language is designed to allow aerospace-related tasks (such as vector/matrix arithmetic) to be accomplished in a way that is easily understandable by people who have spaceflight knowledge, but may not necessarily have proficiency with computer programming. (Source Wikipedia)

Note:  Dan is losing his voice, I’d like to say it’s because of my relentless questioning but actually, it’s a cold.  Posts might be short for awhile


Inaugural Post – My Father is a Rocket Scientist

Inaugural Post – My Father is a Rocket Scientist

Every Journey Starts Somewhere.

Why am I doing this?  Well I have a once in a lifetime opportunity; I am drivingApollo_program_insignia cross-country with my father from California to Boston.  My father (Dan Lickly) was part of the Apollo program, he worked at Draper Labs and was responsible for the navigational software.  He has so many stories and details stored in his well above average brain that I hope to capture them in this blog as we go.

Getting my father to talk about Apollo isn’t always easy and while I have a bunch of tidbits I have heard over the years to start me on my journey I hope to solicit more from anyone who reads this.  I have the man captive for 5 days, what an opportunity!!

Please feel free to send me ideas to ask him about.

And as my friend Annie Copps and I used to joke about as her father Ed Copps worked with my father, we truly are 2 people that can say, “My Father is a Rocket Scientist”