Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hardcore Photography

Found this the other day, some awesome in cockpit video from the back seat of a Blue Angels FA-18:

Video Linky

It's in two halves; the first focuses mainly on the external shots, while the second focuses mainly on the very hard working photographer in the back. The bits where he looks like he is grunting and straining are where he is fighting the G-forces to stay conscious (he is actually performing a specific physical exercise to try and reduce the blood flow away from his brain). At about the 6:30 mark he manages to both stay conscious and still keep shooting, which isn't bad considering everything in his world including the camera will be weighing several times more than normal.

Aside from the "How close?!" sequences at around 0:30 and 1:50, my favourite part is the inverted run from about 5:20. Photog calmly goes about his business hanging upside down in the seat straps, with three other aircraft within a dozen metres or less of his, before being slammed from negative to positive G in about the space of a second at the end of the pass. I haven't done anything like as extreme G in the video, but the rare occasions when I have done similar +/- transitions I know they can be uncomfortable to say the least (my personal experience is about -ve 1 to +ve 3G on an aerobatic joyride).

I'd love to have an opportunity to take photos like that, but I would need to be doped to the eyeballs on anti motion sickness pills beforehand to keep my breakfast where it should be :).

Monday, June 27, 2011


Realised I haven't posted anything about the offspring for a while, so here is a beautiful pic my wife took of Sophie and Charlotte a couple of weeks ago:
She really should pick up a camera more often. Sophie is now seven weeks old and thriving, a brush with bronchiolitis last week (not as bad as her sister a couple of years ago luckily) notwithstanding. She seems to have shaken that off though, and just given the rest of us a cold :).

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

5 year (plus a month or so) Blogiversay

Passing almost unnoticed last month was the 5th anniversary of me starting this blog. Not entirely unnoticed to be fair: I noticed, but didn't get around to blogging about it for it's own sake until now.

I never had any longevity expectations starting this thing and still don't. It will be active as long as I'm interested. And while my little part of the blogosphere isn't quite the same as it was five years ago, it is still interesting enough and fun enough to participate in. I've seen a few bloggers come and go, and discovered for myself more than a few bloggers that keep me interested, from here, there, and everywhere.

So yeah, I still enjoy the process. Thanks for reading, and giving me stuff to post about.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Build your own stealth helicopter!

Listening to: The Crossing - Big Country (1983).

Found the other day. Less than 8 weeks after it's unplanned revelation, Hong Kong based model company Dragon is releasing a kit of the Stealth Black Hawk (probably) variant used on the Bin Laden raid (link).

Although since all they reliably have to base it on is the one piece of intact wreckage (posted about here), and a few educated but speculative drawings (the people who really do know what it looks like aren't telling) it's accuracy is hopeful at best and possibly why it is only being released in the teeny 1/144 scale so far rather than anything bigger which would require more investment.

If it is anything like what happened when the first model kits of the F-117 were produced in the late 80's, it will make for amusing comparisons if/when the real thing is revealed some time in the future. And the guys that designed those kits had an actual image of the entire aircraft to work from:

That was the first officially released image of the original 'Stealth Fighter' back in 1988 (I posted about it a few years ago here). And probably deliberately, the image both obscures in plain sight some details, and exaggerates a couple of others. This caused a bunch of errors in interpretation, usually tending toward making the aircraft look shorter and fatter than it really was, resulting in a brief generation of weirdness as publishers and kit makers rushed to get definitive versions of something that had been rumoured for years into the marketplace without realising their mistakes. It took a few years for accurately shaped drawings and models to emerge.

Only time will tell what Dragon has got right :).

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just can't catch a break

About two weeks ago GNS announced some preliminary results (link) from their investigations into faulting in Canterbury responsible for the September and February earthquake events. A key finding was that there was roughly a 23% chance of another temblor in the Richter 6-7 range occuring in the next 12 months.

The media predictably blew up the 1 in 4 chance of it happening, while ignoring the 3 in 4 chance it wouldn't. There is some good extended discussion of what that means and the media reaction at Sciblogs here (including the interesting observation that the risk is no more than Wellington's, although we have always been told Wellington is high risk so I'm not sure how reassuring that is to Christchurch residents).

Unfortunately though, as events yesterday proved, 1 in 4 is still not zero. One blogger's account of yesterdays event is quite telling, not only for what it describes, but also what it implies, and for how routine some things are getting for the residents.

It is strange at the moment to hear people openly discussing on-line whether a major NZ city should be abandoned, or whether it is appropriate to suggest people leave. While hard to take seriously in a wider sense of totally abandoning the city, the fact such a thing is being discussed at all is slightly weird and surreal, and would have been unimaginable still less than a year ago. It will be interesting to see what Christchurch looks like twenty years from now.

Edit: This morning (wed 15th) GNS has revised their estimation to 30%.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Chile Powder*

The sunset tonight enhanced by the ash from Puyehue-Cordon-Caulle, having arrived in NZ airspace after taking the long way round by heading east from Chile, and disrupting local air travel to a seldom seen degree. During the day the suspended ash is surprisingly noticeable as a very lightly tan coloured haze. Shot from the Kennedy Good Bridge at about 1730, definitely winter at the moment.

*I wish I had come up with that description/title, but credit belongs to a regular on one of the aviation forums I inhabit :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Exquisite noise

Uploading a couple of clips from local post rock noise practitioners Jakob, because I went to their gig in Wellington last night. And it was excellent. I quite like music like this; not having a lead singer, or usually any vocals at all means more focus on the music speaking for itself rather than conforming to an image or expectation. Apart from thanking the crowd and support acts, about the only thing anyone said on stage was "Hi, we're Jakob from Napier."

And what music. A lot of their tracks build from quiet melodies up to layered walls of sound full of intensity and atmosphere, often slowly and steadily to the point where you suddenly notice it has gotten very loud. Some might just call it noise but I like it. A more musically learned friend of mine pointed out once when discussing radio edits of songs that some people just don't handle instrumentals; a song must have lyrics before they can relate to it. Their loss.

Nice day for an earthquake. An older track, but a great video. Honestly, who hasn't wanted to do this to a TV at least once? Sorry about the quality, but it is the only one I found that was embeddable.

I got to violently destroy a TV once; it involved boots (the old screens are surprisingly hard to kick in), metal chair legs, bricks and a half round fence post and was very cathartic.

Safety in Numbers. Should be obvious why I like this one :) It is a really nice match of sound and visual though.

My favourite track of theirs is the low-key (by their standards) I Was Hidden. I'm not even sure why I like this track so much: I just do.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Still Lake

Whakamoenga Point, Lake Taupo on a very warm, still and muggy day back in January

Black and white

Wednesday, June 08, 2011


Listening to: The Crossing - Big Country (1983).

So last week it was announced that we are 100 days out from the biggest event this country has ever seen since the last really big event we held (probably something to do with yachts). The hype is present and building, along with various exhortations to 'support our boys' like they are going off to war or something. Never mind that those boys are already being paid handsome sums to do their jobs, are representing the unofficial state religion and have lets see, 20 years of failing to win this tournament to motivate them (oh and while you are 'supporting the boys', make sure you buy the merch they are endorsing). The erstwhile judge has already expounded on this here, and he is a better writer than me so I'll leave him to it.

Call me cynical, and perhaps even not a real New Zealander (mate), but a lot of the time I am just over Rugby. I never played it (apart from Touch), never wanted to, and don't really follow any teams below the International and National level. I just don't really care. I like getting together with friends and watching big games, but my engagement ends there. I'm not the guy to talk to about rugby as small talk in the pub. Aside from it's omnipresence, it also produces more than a few ugly attitudes and behaviours I don't want to be associated with ("Rugbyhead" isn't a term of praise for a lot of people).

My apathy toward the game is rooted in over exposure (as well as going to a rugby dominated school and playing soccer, but that is another story). There is far too much of it. Professional rugby is everywhere, in advertising, endorsements, talking heads news spots and player interviews that say the same thing every week, a season that lasts from February to November for a supposed winter sport. It used to be something other than a simple commodity (and for me as a non-player, and non huge fan, that is what it is). I particularly miss afternoon internationals. They had real atmosphere in the late afternoon sun (or not on one memorable occasion), and were a good set up for a Saturday afternoon and night. There is more money to be made in playing them at night though, so that is how they are now.

I am in truth looking forward to the actual World Cup games a bit, and hoping we win the damn thing again so we can stop hearing about it, but I can only admit to liking rugby on a sometime basis rather than loving it. And as a liker rather than a lover, I found it a bit irritating to be exhorted at by the head-man-what's-in-charge to get in behind the World Cup by basically spending money on it as something resembling patriotic duty. Liking it is one thing, unconditionally loving it with my wallet is something else entirely. And the whole 'Stadium of Four Million' concept is bogus. Lots of people aren't interested, especially as the tickets to the big matches are being priced for the tourists rather than the locals. For many they are just unaffordable. The comments thread attached to the story is more than a little revealing about how this event is being seen by some.

Particularly fun though was utterly-antithetical-to-traditional-rugbyhead-ideals comment #69, reproduced here in glorious full:

" too expensive...concerns about anti-social behaviour from boof-heads...I've got it! Lets turn the 2011 RWC into a gay event! It's makes perfect sense: muscle-bound, fit young men grappling their sweaty selves in their tight outfits, and "Get in behind!" would be a perfect logo, too! The GLBT community are well-heeled (and what heels, too - fabulous!), so the high prices won't be a problem. The beer could be replaced with cocktails. And just imagine what a party Party Central would be! The RWC is the perfect gay event - I'm surprised no-one has thought of this before! I'm sure Martin Snedden would be more than happy to 'Get in Behind!' making RWC 2011 the GLBT event of the decade!"

That would be hi-freaking-larious. They could even combine it with usual rugby provider Sky TV's current "Make Sky your happy place!" ad campaign. Instead of beer or cocktails, they could just hand out Ecstacy and bottles of water**- "Welcome to the game; make Rugby your happy place!"

*For non NZ readers, refer this play.
**Not seriously advocating drug use, although it would be a hell of an interesting experiment to watch if applied to the traditional fan-base...