Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just like the ones I make. But bigger.

One sign that we were getting close to an election in NZ was the announcement a couple of weeks ago that the RNZAF's retired Skyhawks have been sold (link). Again.

Since they were retired without replacement in 2001, announcing a deal has been struck to off-load them has become something of a pre-election tradition, with this being the fourth time it has been made, and the third in the run up to polling day. Here is the 2003 version, the 2005 version, and the 2008 version :)

I'm optimistically thinking this time it looks like the deal might actually fly. That they haven't sold yet isn't because they are rubbish or no-one wanted them. There have been other erm, issues at play.

In the meantime back in April the government decided enough was enough and started dispersing some Skyhawks to museums (link). In addition some of the also redundant Aermacchi jet trainers will be going to museums, as well as the now twice retired Strikemasters the Macchis replaced (after retirement from flying some Strikemasters were retained to train ground personnel).

The Museum Of Transport And Technology in Auckland got their Skyhawk about a month ago, and reassembling it for display looked something like this:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

At least it isn't "Wellywood"

(image sourced from Stuff.co.nz)
So the people have spoken (sort of, since "No Sign" wasn't an option in the public vote), and "Blown away" will soon be adorning the hill at the northern end of the airport. The crowd isn't exactly going wild.

It isn't the option I voted for, and I don't really like it. It plays to and reinforces an outsider's and negative stereotype of the city (tellingly it was designed by people based in Auckland), and just seems a bit meh. It does tie in to the nearby collection of kinetic sculptures, and isn't the godawful cringe that "Wellywood" would have been, but that is about all the good things I can say about it. Uninspiring.

The second alternative option "Eye of the Taniwha", I thought was much better, not only being more creative and actually designed by a Wellingtonian, but also specific to its exact location.
(image sourced from Stuff.co.nz)
In explaining it you could have told a great story, how Ngake the Taniwha escaped to the sea, while poor Whataitai got stuck (link). I would have loved relating that to visitors.

With "Blown Away" pretty much all you get to say is "Yeah, it gets a bit windy sometimes".

Who knows, it might grow on me and be affectionately regarded one day.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, the Ian Curtis graffiti I've blogged about here and there is doing a good cheshire cat impersonation (link).

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Things annoying me about the election

The first general election I voted in was in 1996. I've voted in every one since then, seldom for the same people twice, and mindful that democracy is a privilege, will be voting again next week.

But while the ability to vote is a precious one, gee the weeks leading up to an election can make it hard to appreciate.

Things annoying me about this election in particular:

-"Vote for me/us" billboards everywhere.

-Vandalising of said billboards by people who think they are being funny or making a point. Really they are doing neither; they are just being a dick. When such vandalism is by a well organised activist element of a political party it is even more dickish (and disappointing too), endorsed by the party itself or not. Covering up someone else's free speech with your own is not free speech.

-Media manufactured scandals that distract from the real issues, and give anyone not involved the chance to display hypocritically righteous faux outrage, all the while being grateful it wasn't them being recorded.

-People on social media and other public forums saying "I'm voting for X because I love NZ/democracy/kittens etc" or "If you vote for X you hate NZ/democracy/kittens etc". I don't care who you vote for, just as who I vote for is none of your business.

-The idea that a giant walking ego in a suit might for the third time have the power as an individual to determine the make-up of the next government. Winston Peters is a one-man indictment of the flaws of MMP voting.

-The fact that while I like some policy elements of most parties, they all have policies I don't like enough to make me not want to vote for them, meaning I don't feel particularly represented, and thus cynical about the whole thing. Also while I might not be a particular fan of the incumbents, the opposition don't exactly fill me with confidence either (NZ politics has been lacking in genuinely inspiring individuals and policy for a couple of decades now).

Hopefully I will have made my mind up by next week.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Rememberance Day Airshow

Some shots from The Vintage Aviator Ltd's rememberance day show at Masterton on Saturday. Despite it being spring the weather put a dampener on both flying and photography, with low cloud, cool winds and passing showers.

Airfield Rabbit Control Manager
The low cloudbase meant the resident Corsair stayed on the ground, which was a pity since the damp air could have made for some great vapour effects like these.
I see things like this and think, "this really is the future". I like the technology contrast between the 1910's and the 2010's:


Triplane vs Triplane (Sopwith and Fokker):

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

Look what I made!

Listening to: Chemical Brothers - Surrender (1999)

I don't know if it is just me, but every time I see diggers parked up for the night like this atop a pile of spoil they have just created, I think of a kid on a beach proudly displaying their work :)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Elevens

Forgot to post this the other day. Would have looked really good if posted at 11:11pm on the 11th :)

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Guy Fawkes

Shots from the crowd on the waterfront of the annual November 5th public fireworks display last Saturday night:





Monday, November 07, 2011

Letterbox malfunction

Awoke on Saturday morning to find we were having some trouble with our droid letterbox. The "Where the feck is it?" kind:
It was definitely there on Friday evening when we came home. Surmising that "some p***k has nicked it!" (pretty much a direct quote), we resigned ourselves to searching the neighbourhood for our beloved sentinel. We didn't have to go far. It was on the doorstep, somewhat worse for wear:
We can only surmise that some passing enthusiastic young ruffian/scallywag took a shine to it (and who wouldn't, it is a damn pragmatically sexy letterbox) in the middle of the night and decided to have their vandalous way with it. Presumably it then got tossed aside before some kind neighbour found and returned it. It wouldn't have been hard to figure out where it came from, being now the only house on the street sans postal device.

Naturally in the way of these things, it required complete disassembly before we could rebuild better and stronger six-million-dollar-letterbox style. Fixing the loose flap in particular was something we had been meaning to do for a while anyway.
The glass of sav isn't a compulsory piece of DIY carpentry repair equipment, but does make the job more enjoyable on a nice spring evening.

And a bit of hammering, screwing, levering, drilling and nailing later we had it back at it's post.
I tempted to line it with sheet steel to make it a bit more vandal proof (and maybe some electrification, but that might annoy the posties a bit, and posties aren't people you want to annoy), but Fi and I opted for the logistically easier option of bigger nails instead.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Big Bangs

One of the more arcane things I am mildly interested in is The Bomb, most likely due to being an impressionable pre-teen in an era when it's use was considered a strong possibility (how I never learned to stop worrying and love The Bomb is another post in itself). While not a lay expert by any means (probably a good thing), I do know a public-domain bit about how they work, how they might be used, and their history.

Which is why it was nice to see a story last week (link) about a quietly ongoing long-term process to get rid of a few of them, with the dismantling of the last B-53 gravity bomb in the US stockpile. While I am interested in them, I am not in love with them either. They are too scary, and stockpiles being ever reduced in the post-cold war era is a good thing for all of us. The active warhead numbers quoted in the article are still too high, but are now only moderately insane, in comparison to the full-tilt barking levels they attained at the height of the arms race a few decades ago.
While missiles are arguably flashier and higher tech, old fashioned free fall bombs still remain in service (and will be for the foreseeable future), not least because a bomber carrying one can be recalled; once a missile is on its way, you had better be sure you made the right decision to send it :).

The B-53 from what I can tell was intended to be used as a bunker buster, delivered in what is called a laydown attack by an aircraft flying directly over the target, with a descent slowed by parachute to give the aircraft time to escape. Detonating on the ground, the 9 megaton warhead would generate shockwaves or dig a big enough crater to destroy whatever was below it. An identical size warhead probably intended for the same purpose used to be mounted on some US ICBMs.

Contrary to some popular beliefs, while the strategic weapons deployed today are many times as powerful as those used against Japan in 1945, the trend for some time has been for warhead yields to decrease, as delivery systems got more and more accurate and reliable. The two atomic bombs used in anger are estimated to have yielded roughly between 12 and 20 Kilotons, while modern warheads seem to range between around 100 Kilotons to around 1 Megaton (Kiloton = 1000 tons of TNT, Megaton 1,000,000).

At 9 Mt, some sources have been referring to the B-53 as a 'Monster' size weapon, but in a historical context it isn't really. While it does represent a certain class (big) of weapon and for some time it was the most powerful weapon in the US arsenal, it isn't the biggest they ever fielded. That was another long retired gravity bomb, the B-41, rated at a theoretical 25 Mt (theoretical because it was never live tested at that size). In addition from what I can gather the Russians had a few 20 Mts warheads deployed on ICBMs until as recently as a couple of years ago, and fielded a few 25 Mts back in the bad old days. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bad enough, but the sheer power of larger weapons like these is hard to comprehend, especially when it is reasonably likely that had they ever been used there would likely have been more than one arriving at a target to ensure its destruction.

In all the reportage about the B-53 dismantling, the significance of the particular date seems to have been missed. Fifty years ago, in late October 1961, the largest bomb of them all was exploded. Too large in every respect to be a usable weapon, the Tsar Bomba was created as a propaganda stunt by the Soviet regime, pretty much because they could. The weapon was capable of a mind-bendingly Strangeloveian 100 Mt, but was scaled down to a merely surreal 50 Mt for safety reasons (allowing the aircrew on the delivery aircraft to survive, and not causing blast damage to or irradiating nearby countries mostly.

Here is what the fireball looked like to a heavily filtered camera just after detonation (you would be blinded using the naked eye, in addition to being exposed to potential 3rd degree burns on exposed skin up to 100km away from it according to some sources):
(image from Wikipedia, originally copyright to the government of the USSR I expect)
Doesn't look like much, until you remember the diameter of that fireball is measured in kilometers (about 8 according to most sources).