28 July 2010

Walking around a funfair (Farnborough: Part Two)

 Part One

Once the Airbus A380 had done its thing, it was followed by the Blades, a display of ex-RAF pilots flying four small Extra 300 LP piston aircraft.

Acrobatics in tiny aircraft is something I find a little boring after a while (IMHO), but this one was particularly notable for aircraft changing roll positions at blinking speed. Apparently, 10g was being pulled at times.

That one, a kind of mini-Red Arrows (I'll get to them later), was pretty impressive. During the display; which I kept an eye on, I started to look around the rest of the very large site.

This air show was simply huge. It would take a good fifteen minutes to walk from one end to the other. There were multiple food stalls, several dedicated huts for some of the larger companies and a small funfair for the children.

The US military had its own collection of static aircraft, including an UH-1Y, a MH-60R Seahawk, a F-15E Strike Eagle, a F/A-18E Super Hornet and an F-16C Fighting Falcon Viper.

The biggest thing in the airshow business at the moment is XH558 Spirit of Great Britain. A restored Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber (although it ended its RAF service as a maritime reconnaissance aircraft), it has been wowing air show crowds for the last couple of years, mainly because it looks like a stealth fighter, flies like a stealth fighter and does both of these things despite being built in 1960. It is flown by Martin Winters DFC, who flew XM607 in the first "Black Buck" mission against Port Stanley in May 1982 (read Vulcan 607 for a brilliant account of that)

I've seen a Vulcan before at the RAF Museum in Hendon, but it was pretty impressive to see a flying one, even out on static display. It was due to fly on both public days and had flown earlier in the week, but the plane was found to have a faulty brake on landing that evening and couldn't fly on Sunday.

I looked around the shop, but didn't find anything to buy. Found it a bit odd that it had a 3M logo in the bomb bay.

Seriously though, it's extremely agile for its size.

Part Three

27 July 2010

Marie Revolver - Part One: Calls at nine

This is going to be a new irregular series of fiction set in the present day about a woman named "Marie". Warehouse worker by day, assassin by night.

This will either be very good or very poor. We shall see.

Tuesday 27 July

She opened the door to her flat in a tower block somewhere in the heaving, cloud-covered metropolis that called itself London.

Removing her denim jacket and hanging it on the coat rail, she looked at her answerphone. Two messages.

It had been a horrible shift. Mike was making utterly crude remarks and insisted on reading the Daily Sport in her presence. Flat on the table, so she could see everything in there. What a... Philistine.

Marie - not her real name - was amazed that she remembered that word. Mike was a large brute of a man who would appreciate a stone in his head.

She played the messages. One was a call reminding her about her pedicure tomorrow afternoon.

The other was more urgent.

"Marie, it's Simon", the male voice said, sounding very desperate, "I'm in some serious trouble. Come quickly".

Not again, Marie thought as she headed for the bathroom to get her revolver.

26 July 2010

Season 31 of Doctor Who: Box of Delight

A rather late review of this; see earlier posts for an explanation for the delay.

OK, some elements to discuss.

The Eleventh Doctor

I was sold on Matt Smith right from the last scene of "The End of Time", as he burst into life (and the TARDIS burst into flames). It's a brilliant opening scene that takes you completely away from the sad end of the Tenth Doctor.

The fact that he's the youngest actor to play the Doctor ever didn't throw me; he has proved more than up to the task.

This Doctor's persona of an old man in a young man's body, more alien than some other Doctors, is just different enough from David Tennant to keep the character fresh, while true to its roots.

I like Eleven. He's witty, but brave too. He doesn't bluster, but has a quiet confidence about him. It occasionally turns into arrogance, but that's a fault of the Doctor in general.

Amy Pond

Alright, I'll just say it here; Amelia "Amy" Pond is the first out-and-out sexy female companion we've had since Peri. Her legs will be particularly well remembered. It isn't all her character, that's for sure.

Amy's got a clear sassy (there's that word again) vibe to her and really is very forthright. She's best in the Moffat stories; the Moff has a far firmer handle on her as she's his creation- other writers will be able to write her better next season.

Not my favourite of the post-2005 companions, but not a bad companion.

Rory Williams

Somebody's got to be the Shaggy to Amy's Daphne (wow, that's the first time I've made that connection and it's a good one) and Arthur Darvill handles it with aplomb.

Rory is definitely the junior partner in the TARDIS, but has some awesome moments, especially as an Auton.

I like three in a TARDIS; it allows for a character to be captured and still have witty repartee with the other two. Glad he's sticking around.

The new TARDIS

I like the new set; it's got some great features, including multiple levels and a typewriter (typewriters are cool).

Episodes in general

Nearly everything written by The Moff is brilliant; "The Eleventh Hour" started the series with style and the Weeping Angels two-parter was truly superb.

I didn't like Gatiss' Dalek episode; the Daleks are overused in the current show.

Richard Curtis did a wonderfully emotional job with "Vincent and the Doctor" and "Amy's Choice" wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

Overall thoughts

I think the best word to sum up this season is "confident". The show knows what works and delivers it. It's not afraid to experiment, but not for the sake of it.

I'm looking forward to a very interesting sounding Christmas special - and Season 32.

25 July 2010

I didn't know that A380s could dispense chaff... (Farnborough: Part One)

Yesterday, I went to the Farnborough Air Show, one of the big air shows, where big deals are done and new aircraft displayed. Five of the days are dedicated to trade stuff, but the Saturday and the Sunday are open to the public.

As a subscriber to AIR International, I took advantage of an offer they were running to get a ticket to the airshow, including access to the Diamond Paddock, with deckchairs, a position right next to the flightline and toilets that you didn't have to queue for.

Getting there

I made my way from my home in Havering to London Waterloo station; having to go via Bank and the once-BR-run Waterloo and City Line as TfL have shut the Jubilee Line this weekend for engineering works (part of it's like the Tube's version of Charles de Gaulle; barely a decade in service before needing a major refit).

London Waterloo used to be the boarding point for the Eurostar services to the Continent; until a new high-speed route was completed and the services diverted to London St. Pancras, a station that frankly needed some love (refit is seriously impressive). The Eurostar platforms are now being used for performances of the classic children's story The Railway Children.

Boarding a Class 450 EMU (that's Electric Multiple Unit to the non rail fans out there) just as it was about to leave, I travelled in a fairly empty train through the suburbs of South West London and past the headquarters of a certain intelligence agency, before reaching Guildford.

Guildford isn't a particularly well signposted station; I had to ask where the platform was for North Camp.

I started to get an idea of the size of the crowd I would be encountering when boarding the DMU at Guildford; it was standing room only on board.

The organisers were laying on shuttle buses and it took us half an hour to get there due to sheer volume of traffic; a one-way system was in place. Then there was the queue to get in; and this was for the people with pre-paid tickets!

I finally got in around 11.30 am. With an hour until the flying was due to begin, I headed into the exhibition halls to have a look round; the trade stuff was done, but the stalls were still there. I'm pretty sure that most of the attendees weren't exactly in a position to buy fighter-bombers or UAVs, but having the stalls there generates good PR for defence and aviation companies.

First cab off the rank turned out to the Russian section of the hall:


The Russian presence at Farnborough was very limited; there was only one flying aircraft there, a Sukhoi Superjet and it wasn't flying on the Saturday. They made up for this somewhat with their trade stuff; United Aircraft Corporation had models of most of their for-sale aircraft except the T-50.


Not that I'm intending to buy Russian anti-shipping missiles or any others for that matter.

I skipped over most of the rest of the halls; with the exhibition of the Flight Gear-using Tornado simulator provided by Panavia. I took off from Farnborough and headed for Central London before crashing past the end of 27R at Heathrow.

I headed outside at 12.15pm and got pretty close to the flight line on the eastern end - it runs west to east - for the A380 display. The A380 is a very large aircraft, but surprisingly quiet (which they're aiming for) especially to some of the other stuff.

The aircraft powers up and I think a fly has gone in my mouth...

Turns out the engines were blowing dried grass into part of the crowd. It did the same on landing. Didn't get in my food though...

The aircraft takes off and does a graceful impressive display. It'll certainly be popular; orders were announced there.

You wouldn't be moving it around like that in the sky on passenger service though...

Part Two

19 July 2010

AJJE: A fuller summary

But not complete. That will have to wait until the report, which will be about 20 pages long.

Basically, LOTW's Parliament Leader decided to ban a player from the club after he defamed another player in a bunch of emails; both were operational leaders and the former was trying to persuade the latter to resign.

The entire team bar the player agreed to the ban, after gaining legal advice from three separate solicitors.

AJJE's President announced a review of the ban. The Parliament Leader submitted a 28-page legal defence of it. Most of the review panel chose not to read it; the President (who took the decision solely by herself without a wider vote) overturned the ban and the review panel actually considered blacklisting the defamed player.

We decided to launch a peaceful protest as we felt the overturning of the ban was unfair; not RPing in LOTW from 30 days and the CO's replacing or adding strike messages to their pages. The President and the Board of Founders accepted our right to protest.

Four days into the protest, the President posted messages of her position on the sims without permission from the COs and in violation of written policy, as well as common practice. The defamee announced his resignation from AJJE. Other players started to resign as well.

Shortly after that, LOTW went down for "maintenance". I resigned Sunday lunchtime when it became clear that the head Webmaster had lied to me. He told players to either end the strike, return to AJJE and accept the decision, or leave. So we left, our accounts being scrambled as we left; the Parliament Leader had to get his wife (a fellow AJJE player) to post his resignation as his account was scrambled before he could do it himself.

Basically, I left AJJE because, in my opinion, the leadership violated its own rules and ignored the facts, then tried to suppress the issue.

12 July 2010

Absence from the blog

Apologies for the rather large gap in blogging; something truly nasty went down in AJJE Games that required a lot of my attention.

In simple terms, I and a lot of others walked from the site after the leadership took a totally unjustified decision regarding a ban, telling people to either accept it or leave.

A fuller explanation will follow in due course. It'll be fascinating reading, but in the meantime, I refer you to this blog, which goes up to my resignation yesterday.