Thursday, August 20, 2009

Not That I Need a New Hobby...

...but I'm suddenly wishing I had some free time to experiment with some stop-motion animation:

*sigh*

I suppose I'll get around to it.

Also on the list of random things I've decided to get excited about: James Cameron, legendary director of Titanic, True Lies, Terminator 2, The Abyss, Aliens, Terminator, and Pirranha II: the Spawning is releasing his first feature film in almost twelve years. Supposedly he's been working on developing the technology to make this film possible for the last decade or so.

A while back there was a preview for this movie that I never saw:

You can get more information from the website http://www.avatarmovie.com, but the more interesting development is the new teaser trailer (released today) playing at http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/avatar/. It's been a long time coming, but the more I hear about this particular film, the better it sounds. Sadly, I'll probably be out at sea when it hits theaters in IMAX-3D.

Friday, August 14, 2009

My Series of Possible Demises

A few years ago I got bored. When this happens, I usually end up picking up a new hobby. At the time I was sitting aboard ship in some port in Japan and had an old photo editing program on my laptop and started goofing around.



Within a few minutes I'd invented a handful of creative ways for me to shuffle off my mortal coil. After that, I'd come up with one or two new ones every week or two. Sitting here late at night (which is actually early in the morning in this time zone) I've realized that I never got around to transferring any of these in from my old blog.



For those of you haven't seen them before, here are all of the possible demises that I've devised since that midsummer day in 2006:

























































































































































While I was in Afghanistan, I decided not to do any more work on this series of pics for fear of having any of them become prophetic. Now that I'm back, I figure I'm not tempting fate if I post a new one:


I hope you've enjoyed seeing me die. Now leave a comment or the kitten gets it too.

Forgot to Post This

This is the view from the apartment that Ana found us in Long Beach:
Apartment View

Nifty, huh?

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Impractical Military Vehicle of the Week: the Baumgartl Heliofly

When it comes to wild ideas for military vehicles in World War II, the Germans always seemed to take the lead. While most of these concepts never managed to get off the ground, the Heliofly actually did. Literally.

Paul Baumgartl started tinkering with the idea in the mid-1930s. What he originally saw as a toy for wealthy sportsmen evolved into a revolutionary transportation gimmick for the German Army. The concept was to strap a miniature helicopter onto an infantryman's back, making the German supersoldier able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. The first version (Heliofly I) was built and ready for testing in 1941:


With no tail rotor or counterweight to offset the torque of the spinning rotor blades, the device amounted to little more than an autogyro glider that would slow the pilot's (aka the impending casualty's) descent to a very hard landing. Any sudden increase in throttle would've sent the pilot spinning around the shaft in the opposite direction of the rotors. In effect, Baumgartl had developed a flying, twirling, vomit sprinkler.

The improved version conceived for military use consisted of a pair of rotor blades that would rotate in opposite directions around a common vertical shaft. Each rotor was independantly powered by a small engine that would also rotate around the shaft and act as a counterweight against the rotor blade. The notion was that this would make for a smoother, less dizzying ride.

Here's a couple of diagrams:




The problem though was that even with the improved counter-rotating design, flying it required an exceptionally strong pilot to wrestle the aircraft into submission. Supposing you could find the right kind of manpower, the learning curve for training them was pretty steep too.

When you add in the excessive per-unit cost of these devices, the Reich decided it made more sense to invest its dwindling resources into proven effective weapons and vehicles. Even if the Wehrmacht had decided to assemble a heliborne division, the slow airspeed would've made them exceptionally easy target for the bewildered Allied troops that met them on the battlefield.

While a strap-on helicopter may not have been good enough for Hitler, I still want one. The good news for me is that they're actually on the "things I can have" horizon. Weighing in at 165 pounds, the world's smallest helicopter is the GEN-H4, invented by Japanese rotorhead Gennai Yanagisawa. The prototype has been making the rounds giving demonstration flights:


By my way of thinking, the landing gear is a bit of a cop-out when it comes to strap-on helicopters though. I guess I'll just have to wait a few more years before some other Japanese guy figures out how to make the whole thing smaller.

Really it's only a matter of time.

Unseaworthy Vessel of the Week: the Cuban 1951 Chevrolet Amphitruck

A while back I promised I'd write up a story every week about a particularly comical example of foolhardy mariners aboard questionable vessels. I've failed the "weekly" part, so I figure I might as well fail the "unseaworthy" part too. That way I can regale you with the age-old tale of a dozen desperate souls, bound from Communist Cuba to the Freedom of Florida, who drove their 1951 Chevrolet pickup truck out to the beach and just kept going.

I like these guys. In case you don't remember the story, it was a sunny July day back in 2003 when 12 Cubans set out to sea in a pickup truck with some 55-gallon drums lashed and welded to its sides and a propeller mated to the back end of the drive shaft. On the way, a DEA aircraft spotted them and the US Coast Guard then intercepted them.

Here's what they looked like:



I can't rightly call the vessel unseaworthy. When they were intercepted in the open ocean, the truck was cruising at a liesurely 7 knots



Better still, the passengers on the "weather decks" were wearing proper and functional personal flotation devices:

In the end though, these brave camionautas (Spanish for truck navigators) were taken off of their vessel and repatriated back to Cuba. Given the failure of most other amphibious car projects in the United States, I think we should've brought them ashore and found them a job. I know I personally would love to have a pickup truck that could get up to 7 knots while waterborne.

I can't have this one though. Once the people were offloaded, the Coast Guard decided it was a hazard to navigation and that the best remedy for that danger was the liberal application of automatic weapons fire.

Alas.

FOLLOW UP: I forgot to mention it, but there have been at least two other attempts by Cuban camionauts to drive to the US. Here's some pictures:

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Late Post: Petaluma Party Pictures

It's been weeks since the party happened, so I apologize for not posting sooner. The biggest delay has been waiting for all the folks with cameras there to email photos to me because I wasn't taking pictures for myself. There are still more pictures out there and if you have them please send them to me. I still don't have very many pictures of the Seattle party, so if you were there, send those too.

Now, on to the event...

Preparations for the Petaluma party started about four days ahead of time with the discussion of foodstuffs with my uncle Glenn. Ana and I went with him to Costco and came back with a truckload of food and a shopping list. Over the next three days it was time to set up event rental equipment and help dad line up part of his car collection so he could show off:
Cars2
Cars1

I also cleaned up the workshop and pulled out some of my works in progress so I could show them off too:

In the Workshop

The morning of the party, uncle Glenn showed up with the pig in tow and got started with the cooking:


My cousin Jess helped him out:


My aunt Betty made a cake for the occasion too. I told her to have fun with it, and she definitely went all out:


Early in the afternoon, family started showing up in costume:




Boz and Me

Des and Dot

Then old friends started showing up:


Herman Clan

Wonderful Wizard of Pimp

Believe it or not, Chris made the Wolfman costume himself:
Indy and the Wolfman



Shawn & CJ



Dad & Len

Rose Nicole Dustin



I figured as long as we were asking everyone to show up dressed ridiculous, the least I could do was give them something in return. So over the previous two days I'd made a small collection of costume trophies for presentation as the afternoon waned into evening:


Some of the winners:


About this same time, the pig had been mostly eviscerated:


Along the way, my car was filled with random gifts:


When people had mostly left and the children were out of bounce house, we decided it was the adults' turn:
Shawn Rich Dave Jumper
Rich had a fundoshi slip:
Rich Fundoshi Jumper
The next day, all that was left to do was clean up:
Bainwasher


Then put all of the chairs and tables away, return the borrowed and rented gear, and re-park all of the cars.


It took two days to make it all go away.


Now all I have to do is finish designing, writing, and mailing the thank-you cards.