April 30, 2004
The Ace of Aces game system was a stroke of brilliance when it was first released by Gameshop Inc. in 1980. Designer Alfred Leonardi, a history teacher, crafted a totally new game mechanism which used illustrated "programmed" books to recreate aerial combat. For the first time, gamers could fight a dogfight using simultaneous movement without cumbersome log sheets, enormous rulebooks, and many hours of playing time. In fact, a game of Ace of Aces played by experienced players can move so quickly that it is virtually a "real time" simulation.
The original Ace of Aces "Handy Rotary Series" came with a pair of brown game books each slightly smaller than a paperback novel. Each book contained 223 illustrations depicting various views from the cockpit of the player's aircraft. The view on each page was oriented to show the location of the opponent's aircraft. For example, the "Allies" book showed a view of the opposing Fokker as seen from a Sopwith Camel cockpit. Conversely, the "Germans" book showed a view of the Camel as seen from the cockpit of a Fokker Dr. I triplane.
Click here to see a sample page from the German book.
One neat feature of the system is that you can fly multi-plane dogfights, as long as you have enough books (or bookmarks) for each player.
I've got the original "Powerhouse" edition (#5 on the link above) which pits a Fokker D-VII against a Spad XIII. It's an amazing game, easy enough for kids to play, yet still rich enough for aircraft buffs to get serious about.
Other editions featured different planes and even a balloon-busting version where you could shoot down the tethered balloons used by both sides to hold observers and artillery spotters.
Later, WWII editions titled Wingleader were released. These used a similar, but not identical, gaming system and let you fly either a P-51 Mustang or Focke-Wulf FW-190 in combat.
Jet Eagles takes the concept into the modern era, pitting an F15 Eagle against a Mig29 Fulcrum. Since modern jet combat is often fought with long range missiles and you may never see your opponent, the system goes through some more tweaking to make it work.
I also remember a variation of the system done by another company where the opposing sides were individuals instead of aircraft. One player might be an armored warrior with a spear, while the other might be a skeleton with sword and shield. I never actually played any of these, but they looked cool at the time.
If y'all are doing it on purpose, then knock it off. It ain't funny no more.
The Student Launch Initiative is an education program designed to allow high school and college students to experience practical aerospace and engineering activities. Working in teams, students demonstrate proof-of-concept for their designs, develop Web sites dedicated to their work, learn how to budget Â— including how to present financial proposals to NASA engineers and community leaders Â— and gain problem-solving skills.
"It's important for NASA to fuel students' interest in careers in science and engineering," said Jim Pruitt, manager of the Education Programs Department at the Marshall Center . "This initiative gives students hands-on experience building and launching rockets Â— to inspire the next generation of space explorers, and help our nation prepare our young people for the challenges ahead."
At the launch, student teams will attempt to reach an altitude of one mile with their rockets, and college teams will attempt to send their rockets two-miles high. All rockets will carry a scientific payload. The teams will be evaluated on their rocket design, including propulsion, materials, payload and safety features. NASA volunteers also will look at the target altitude, formal reviews and Web site designs.
Here's a link to the Marshall Space Flight Center Education Programs page for the Student Launch Initiative. It contains several good links for related information.
It looks gooooood.
We had 9 brand new windows installed, and the frames and sills were completely covered with vinyl - no more painting. Ever. A new sliding-glass door to the backyard, all the soffits were redone with the same vinyl wrap, as were the fascia, roof rakes and some trimwork. We had a minor disagreement about exactly what we contracted for, but after talking to the salesman who originally took the order, they not only did everything that I thought we should be getting, but also did a couple of extra things at no charge. Now that's customer service.
Besides looking great, it'll be much more energy efficient and maybe best of all, I can probably now paint the entire outside of my house in about 3 hours.
April 29, 2004
Army scientists are working on a liquid body armor for clothing that stays flexible during normal use but can harden to stop a projectile when hit suddenly.
But like most innovation, the military application is only the beginning.
Wetzel and Wagner are optimistic the liquid body armor will be useful to local police and prison guards and perhaps it could one day protect people in automobile and airplane crashes.
USS Clueless did a typically thorough analysis of the future of war in space. Taking the idea and running with it, Buckethead of The Ministry of Minor Perfidy posted a fascinating multi-part series on the concept as well (this link is for part three, which has links to the rest, including the Clueless posts - they're all worth reading). The comments are good reading too.
Just because it's bloodthirsty warmongering stuff doesn't mean it can't be neato-keen. De Doc has a great post about UAV's equipped with precision-guided weapons and pattern recognition systems.
Got Wawa? They're just becoming common in our area, and they're pretty good. If you aren't familiar with them, they're a variation on the 7-11 convenience store model, and they're making a dent in 7-11's business. Kinda like WalMart whupping on KMart, who whupped on Sears, who whupped on Woolworths, and so on and so on. Anyways, Roberto of DynamoBuzz talks about Wawa and shares some interesting tidbits.
Shaggy and Scoobie Doo were stoners. Fred and Daphne were getting it on. Big surprises, eh? Although I have to admit I like the idea that Velma was a lesbian, and she wears glasses too. All that, plus more in-the-closet cartoon characters, courtesy of Dustbury.
While you're over there, check out Dustbury's thoughts on the demise of Oldsmobile. Growing up, the best family car we ever had was a '72 Olds Cutlass that would blow the doors off most 'hot rods' the teens of the day were driving. I for one am going to miss Oldsmobile.
Over at BlackFive there is an article posted called Taking Chance Home.
The following is Marine Lieutenant Colonel Strobl's account of escorting the remains of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps. It's a long and beautifully written and it deserves to be read in it's entirety. It's about Valor, Honor and Respect.
I read this and had tears running down my cheeks. Words fail.
Paul looks back at simpler times. Laugh-out-loud funny.
Another wonderfully funny post: how Moxie spent Earth Day. I especially loved the comments:
sample: You have made my day. I think I'll start up the Hummer and let it idle for earth day.
Thanks to Professor Hall over at Spacecraft for the pointer.
Rob of Left & Right shows off his ribbons and medals, and explains what each one means. I'll have to see about digging mine out, although I don't have the impressive combat ribbons he has.
You do read QandO, right? Jon and McQ are partisan as hell - against stupidity and dishonesty. Dems and Repubs alike get fact-checked and called out when needed.
Over at Travelling Shoes, we hear about something that makes me lower my voice to impersonate Boris Karloff doing the narrative of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (paraphrased: and he had an idea, a terrible wonderful awful idea). He's still blogspotted, so if the link doesn't work, scroll down to "Oily George". Classic.
And here's a random link I found while looking for Grinch references. Besides that, I also discovered that the singing (You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch) in the animated version was performed by Thurl Ravenscroft, who received no on-screen credit for it. You might know Mr. Ravenscroft better for his other work, as the voice of Tony the Tiger.
The National World War II Memorial will assume its central place among Washington's defining landmarks today, opening to the public after nearly two decades of debate and anticipation.
The chain-link fences surrounding the $172 million project are to come down early this morning, and visitors will be allowed to enter the 7.4-acre site at 9:30 a.m. -- a month before the memorial is to be officially dedicated Memorial Day weekend.
(in the extended entry - more or less safe for work) more...
Here's a suggestion: put one of those plywood characters - "you must be this tall..." - at the entrance to that seating section. Hell, make it a life-size cutout of Ottawa's Zdeno Charra (6'9") and don't let anyone taller than his stick sit in front of the cameras.
April 28, 2004
Eight legs, what a happy coincidence.
Imagine heaving one of these onto the ice at a hockey playoff game instead of an octopus. They wouldn't know what it was, and probably wouldn't want to touch it.
But we can do better...
It's a plushie, so it needs to be slicked up with some sort of slimy goo. I'm thinking a KY and Karo syrup mixture. Something that will drip disgustingly when it's picked up.
To keep it from looking waterlogged from the goo, spray it down real good beforehand with 3M's Scotchguard. The hell with the CFC's and the ozone man, we're doing a joke here!
I just thought of another little twist. Insert a small vibrator inside so it's throbbing a little bit. Just enough to feel wrong when it's picked up. Imagine the look on the guys face as he gingerly touches it, then realizes that it might still be alive.
See? That's not so hard. Now what else could we do with this little beastie?
April 27, 2004
For the 25th anniversary of the original, they made Slap Shot 2. I don't know whether this is a good thing or not, because to be honest I haven't seen it. To balance that out, the original was one of the first DVD's I ever purchased (right after Love Story).
And here's a quickie for you, the Hanson brothers official website. This is worth a stroll through all by itself!
*Welcome to "drive-by" postings, ala Rocket Jones. No time to really develop this one, so you get some links and a friendly swift kick in the butt to go follow them.
The first medal I ever received was for marksmanship. It was entirely expected since I was Security Police, and we practiced a lot. After qualifying Â‘expertÂ’ for the M16 rifle, I got the little doohickey for shooting Â‘expertÂ’ with the .38 pistol (standard SP sidearm of the day). The doohickey are called devices and you get them to indicate subsequent awards. For instance, when you get the Good Conduct medal you wear the plain ribbon, and after that each time you get it again you add a little bronze leaf to the ribbon. Back to the story, about 10 years later I got an Â‘awards reviewÂ’ printout listing all my known information, and looking it over I noticed that my marksman device wasnÂ’t listed. I dug out my ancient range card showing the expert box was checked for both and took it in. The personnel people were kind of amazed that I had kept that card for that long. I never threw anything away in the military, and it saved my butt more than once.
Ok, so that one lived up to the category 'boring stories'. In the Air Force at the time, you got the Good Conduct medal every three years, assuming you didnÂ’t totally screw up. Believe me, you had to really try not to get the GC, because it was pretty much automatic. My first tour was... eventful. So when it was announced that I was getting the Good Conduct medal I was surprised and pleased. The shift commander came down the line, handing out the little medal cases and shaking hands, and when I got mine I opened it up and burst out laughing. The medallion part of my medal was broken. The shift commander said heÂ’d replace it, but there was no way I was giving it up. It was mine and it was perfect, almost custom made.
When we were transferred to Germany, I had been a computer programmer for five years. The very last project IÂ’d been involved in before getting orders was a high-pressure, high-profile job that weÂ’d busted our collective asses to accomplish. One guy had been hospitalized for exhaustion, and it was touch-and-go as to whether any of our marriages were going to survive. No exaggeration there, the hours and schedule had been that crazy for almost an entire year.
So at my new assignment, my first CommanderÂ’s Call (a monthly briefing), all the new people get introduced to the unit. When they got around to the awards and recognition portion of the brief, the usual letters of appreciation and commendation were read and handed out. Unexpectedly, the Colonel called me up and started to read a Â‘thank youÂ’ note to me for all the hard work our team had done on the last project. That was from the Captain who was our project leader. Next was a letter from the Colonel who commanded my last unit. After that were three letters from Generals, one was the Commander of Communications Command and two were from Generals in the Pentagon. The final letter was from an Undersecretary of Defense. These were totally unexpected and just those simple letters meant so much to me. It was kind of funny too, because everyone was looking at me like I was some kind of freak. They didnÂ’t know me from Adam, and I received all these letters of appreciation from insanely high level people.
A couple of years later a friend of ours (Dave) was going to get a Good Conduct medal. The commander at this time would hold a little ceremony in his office, and theyÂ’d have a photographer and the recipient could invite a few friends and family. Being in Germany, we were the closest to family Dave had and my wife Liz and I were happy to be there for him.
We drove over to the commanderÂ’s office, and my wife was uncomfortable because it was hot and muggy and she was very pregnant. The commander ushered us all in and we lined the walls of his office, with Dave front and center and Liz and then I next to him. The ceremony began and as the Colonel was speaking it dawned on me that he thought Liz was DaveÂ’s wife! This amused me no end, and when the Colonel said Â“and weÂ’re so glad to share this proud moment with Mrs. M---Â“, I almost laughed out loud.
Dave hadnÂ’t caught on before that, but when he realized what the Colonel had just said he blurted out Â“Sir, that isnÂ’t my wife.Â” The Colonel stammered in confusion for a moment, and then I helpfully announced Â“But we thought it was important for the baby to see his daddy get a medal.Â”
Things went to hell in a hurry. The commander managed to make it through the rest of his presentation. Afterwards he apologized repeatedly to Liz and Dave and I, and we all just laughed it off as an honest mistake. I did get called in to my supervisorÂ’s office later for an official ass-chewing for my smart-mouth comment.
About a month later, after Mookie was born, the ColonelÂ’s wife stopped by the house to welcome the new baby. She told Liz about her husbandÂ’s reaction when he got home after the ceremony. The Colonel was so embarrassed by that little mix-up, and they had a good laugh together. He was definitely one of the better commanders IÂ’d served under.
April 26, 2004
Human Descent, a photoshop gallery.
Thanks to Lynn for the pointer.
John Powell of JP Aerospace is giving an update on what JP Aerospace has been up to and is finally talking about their total vision for balloon based aerospace. It's basically three 'vehicles'. A 'launcher' that gets you to 100K feet, a 'station' that is huge that permanently sits at 100K feet, and an orbital (yes, orbital!) balloon that is almost 6000 feet long and can attain orbit using lift from the upper atmosphere. Its an amazing amount of work that is generating short term ROI now.
He's also got pictures from the JP Aerospace handout to see just what these guys are doing. The link leads to a page of photos from the conference, scroll down about halfway to see them (look for the blue book with "ATO - Airship to Orbit" on the cover).
I assume the return on investment (ROI) is the licensing fees for some cutting-edge balloon technology they've developed. This is so cool! Balloons to orbit!!!
Burt Rutan and Scaled Composites aren't the only ones getting close to making space a commercially viable business, they're just the best known to the average person.
The finals of the 1950-1951 season were memorable because all five games were decided in overtime. The Toronto Maple Leafs won it all when rising star Bill Barilko lifted a shot past Gerry McNeil of the Montreal Canadiens for the winning goal. During the ensuing off-season, Barilko disappeared while on a fishing trip to a remote area of Northern Ontario. It was 11 years before the wreckage of the airplane and his body were found and 11 years before the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup again.
The playoffs of the 1951-1952 season introduced a weird hockey tradition. Two Detroit brothers came up with the symbolism of the octopus. Eight arms for eight wins needed to take home the Stanley Cup. In the first period of the fourth game of the finals against Montreal, the brothers heaved their deceased mollusc onto the ice. The idea caught on, and even though the today's modern playoff format makes the number eight meaningless, fans all over the country continue to throw octopi onto the ice during playoff games.
Stan Mikita was the first Czech player to make it into the NHL, joining the Chicago Blackhawks at the end of the 1958-1959 season. During his early career he was a scrapper and routinely racked up 100+ penalty minutes a season. After his seventh season, his young daughter asked him why he spent so much time in the penalty box, and he resolved to play a cleaner game from then on. Cutting back on his penalty minutes didn't hurt his game at all, and he won the league MVP and Lady Byng trophy for sportsmanship two years in a row. In 22 seasons he led the league in scoring four times. Later in his career he suffered a concussion that caused him to miss a quarter of the season, after which he designed a helmet which proved to be very popular. Having a star of his caliber wear a helmet took a lot of pressure off of other players during a time when almost no one wore them and wearing one caused some to question your toughness.
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