Tuesday, January 31, 2017

New Backlog Burndown Series Commencing - Bio-Hazard Battle

Over on the youtubes, I'm starting my next Backlog Burndown series with Bio-Hazard Battle, another SEGA Genesis classic originally from 1992.




Don't let Level One fool you, this game is going to get wickedly difficult right around the midpoint.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gamer History - Battlefield 1's Salmson 2-A2

Gamer History – Battlefield 1’s Salmson 2-A2 With the Albatros D.III wrapping up our exploration of Battlefield 1’s fighters, we return to the two-seat attack category aircraft.

Lineup of Salmson 2-A2s. Photo via Wingnutwings.com

 While the Bristol F.2B Fighter is the clear star of the Allied side, there is still a second fighter. The Salmson 2-A2 was not an aircraft I’d heard of before. Sometimes referred to in BF1’s game materials as the “A.E.F. 2-A2”, with “A.E.F.” standing for “American Expeditionary Forces” the Salmsom 2 was the primary reconnaissance aircraft operated by American and French forces in the final two years of World War 1.

Salmson 2-A2 crew? The rear gunner's twin mounted machine guns are clearly visible. Photo via Wingnutwings.com
Powered by a 230hp Salmson 9Za radial engine, the Salmson 2 had a top speed of around 116 mph. Typical for the time, it carried a single fixed forward .303 machine gun, with the rear gunner having a pair of .303 guns for defensive purposes.

Similarly to the Bristol F.2B, the Salmson 2 also had a good post war career. Built under license by Kawasaki, it equipped several squadrons of the Japanese Air Force during the 1920s. Converted to carry one or two passengers, they served in Europe as some of the early commercial passenger carriers.

One original example remains, housed at Kakamigahara Aerospace Museum in Japan. As lesser-known, two-seat WWI replicas aren’t especially popular to build, there aren’t any easily available plans or kits for flying replicas. Plans for the Sopwith 1 ½ Stutter could perhaps be adapted, cosmetically at least, to fit the bill, but that’s a project for someone far more skilled than I am.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Finally Over - Super Thunder Blade Level Four Now on Youtube

The Backlog Burndown series for Super Thunder Blade finally ends with Level Four.




That's two hours of save-scumming and aggravation, somewhat carefully distilled down to a fifteen minute run. Good luck out there!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

PAX Bound and Down


By the time this posts, I should be starting the first leg of an all-day trip to PAX South!

Photo copyright Nicolas C. Kaemmerer and found on planespotters.net. Used with permission.
 I don't fly much, in fact this will be the first time since my 2015 job hunting marathon, so as a bit of an AvGeek, I chose to take the long way to San Antonio, via Minneapolis and Atlanta. Hopefully this ATL layover goes better than the previous one. As a bonus, I get to two legs on an MD-90, one of my favorite aircraft families.

Sure, they're getting old, and noisy when you're stuck in the back row by the big fans, but airliners with tail mounted engines just look better than ones with wing mounted engines.

Third leg will be on a 757. Beats another 737 at least!
Photo copyright Nicolas C. Kaemmerer and found on planespotters.net. Used with permission.

Meanwhile, check out Marooner's Rock for PAX South coverage!

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Marooner's Rock Game Review - The Little Acre

Over at Marooner's Rock, there's a new review up for The Little Acre.

I absolutely adored this game, and hope it sees a good, successful tail.

The Little Acre review on Marooner's Rock

Monday, January 23, 2017

Gamer History: Battlefield 1's Albatros D.III



Let’s finish up our tour of Battlefield’s four Fighter class aircraft with Germany’s Albatros D.III.
First flown in August 1916, the D.III quickly became the fighter of choice for the German air arm, equipping the majority of air units during 1917. Most famous German aces of the period, including Manfred von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, and Kurt Wolff flew them, and the aircraft’s speed and maneuverability contributed greatly to “Bloody April” in 1917.

Illustration from Great Fighting Planes, my personal copy.

 The aircraft was armed with two 7.62mm machineguns synchronized to fire through the propeller arc; power came from a 170hp Mercedes D.IIIa inline engine. The D.III suffered from a pair of flaws: poor radiator placement and a structurally weak lower wing.

Early models (and previous marks, the D.I and D.II) mounted the radiator in an exposed position on the upper wing, above and ahead of the pilot. When hit, this had the unfortunate tendency to scald the pilot of boiling water used to cool the engine. This was not considered to be a particularly good design, and was eventually changed on later models.

A further problem emerged with the lower wing spars suffering cracking, similar to the French Nieuport 17s. A design flaw in the wing configuration caused the lower wing to twist and bend under load, resulting in cracks to the main spars. Later aircraft were built with strengthened lower spars to correct that flaw.

There are no flying original D.IIIs. Some very faithful reproductions do exist, and there are a couple of originals left in museums. With the streamlined, sleek lines, the Albatros line was one of the best looking, and most lethal series of World War 1.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Facebook Challenge: Personal Top 10 Albums of the '90s

A bunch of my friends over on the Book of Face decided to do this top 10 albums that influenced us in the '90s. Sounds like fun. But since I want to give a bit more explanation than Facebook allows, here's the full version.

10. Ricky Martin – Ricky Martin (“Livin’ La Vida Loca”)
This is on here for one reason, and on reason only: Continentals Tour K in summer 1999 (link is not to my tour, but that was our program). “Livin’ La Vida Loca” was one of the hottest songs of the summer, and when you put a bunch of teens on a tour bus for six weeks, well, we all could sing along (and sounded great) by the end of tour. Picture the tour bus scene in Pitch Perfect, only with a mixed group of guys and girls.

9. The W’s – Fourth from the Last (“Frank”)
Swing and Ska are going to show up several times on this list. Ska more than Swing, but of the various Swing albums that I listened to (and still do), The W’s seem to have had more staying power in my head than Flight 180, The Brian Setzer Orchestra, or Squirrel Nut Zippers.


8. Sonicflood – Sonicflood (“I Want to Know You”)
The contemporary worship scene has jumped so far over the shark as to become a joke, but in the late ‘90s, albums like Sonicflood bordered on revolutionary for showing a lot more people that Christian worship didn’t have to be a stodgy, bland, singalong to nothing but hymns written before anyone in the congregation was born, and played in a style that someone in the 1940s had arbitrarily decided was “appropriate.”
 

7. Switchfoot – New Way to Be Human (“Company Car”)
One of my favorite late ‘90s alternative bands. I still play this album, and “Company Car” still reminds me that there’s more to life than being 2 under par and having a company ride.


6. Weird Al – Running With Scissors (“All About the Pentiums”)
Before “White and Nerdy” there was “All About the Pentiums”. While I spent most of the ‘90s listening to bands that could generally be categorized as “Christian”, there was an exception given to parody. And despite being in a conservative Christian college, with a dress code and music standards locked in the 1950s, almost every Computer Science student could sing along to “All About the Pentiums”.


5. Broomtree – Transparent (“Reckless Life”)
Loud, hard, alternative rock with a female lead. This album holds up to continued listening. Transparent still gets thrown into my car’s CD player on a regular basis.

4. Audio Adrenaline – Bloom (“Memoir”)
Audio Adrenaline has released a lot of albums over the years, and gone through a lot of different sounds. Bloom is a perfect time capsule of mid ‘90s grunge rock, and just keeps getting better with age.


3. DC Talk – Jesus Freak (“Jesus Freak”)
Much like AudioA above, DC Talk went through quite a musical evolution from early 90s hip-hop to grunge, to more of an alt-rock style on their final album. Jesus Freak is their no apologies grunge rock anthem. My memories of them may be colored just a little bit by the fact that the Jesus Freak tour (with Audio Adrenaline opening with Bloom) was the first concert I took a date to.

Jesus Freak is a great album though. The titular song, "What if I Stumble", asking a question too many Christians in the public eye never do; and their cover of Charlie Peacock's "In The Light" were some of the best music those three ever made.


2. Five Iron Frenzy – Quantity is Job 1 EP (“The Untimely Death of Brad”)
Five Iron is one of the few Ska bands that while being basically a Christian music focused group, broke out to some mainstream recognition (at least among Ska kids) on the pure quality of their music. There isn’t a bad album in their discography, but the Quantity is Job 1 EP stands out for songs like “Riot Gear” (about a Denver riot) “The Untimely Death of Brad” (about believing rumors on the internet), and "My Evil Plan to Save the World" that stand out today as almost prescient in their messages. Plus there’s the Pants rock opera!

1. The O. C. Supertones – Chase The Sun (“Chase the Sun”)
Of course a Ska band was going to be #1 on this list. Fire up a ska album. Any ska band and album. When those horns come in, then the guitars start jamming, you can't help but smile and start wanting to dance. But where Five Iron has gained some mainstream recognition, I don't believe the 'Tones ever did. Which is too bad, because their style is fantastic.

Chase the Sun was my college anthem.

"One Voice" was my cry whenever the petty, divisive politics of Christian fundamentalism reared their ugly head at school.

"Dedication", has a bridge that goes:
"Will you be there for me, say seven years from now?
And where will we be then?
Well, I'm here for you now!"
That song has only gotten more true for me as time has gone by, and time, moves, and distance push once close friends in acquaintances separated by time and distance.

But above them all, "Chase the Sun" comes back again and again. I may never live in California again, but I'll be from the Mighty West Side until the day I die!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Super Thunder Blade Level 3 Playthrough on Youtube

New on Youtube, I'm getting back to my Backlog Burndown series with Level 3 of Super Thunder Blade.

The How Long To Beat on these old console shooters is turning out to be hopelessly optimistic, but it feels great when you finally knock one out. Finishing Level 3 puts me three quarters of the way there!



Monday, January 16, 2017

Gamer History: Battlefield 1's SPAD S.XIII



Continuing the occasional series o
n the aircraft of Battlefield 1, we come back to the other Allied fighter available in the game, the SPAD S.XIII. Introduced in 1917, the SPAD S.XIII was one of the most built aircraft of the war, and was equipped by French, American, and a variety of other forces.
Photo via www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/
In America, the S.XIII is best known as being the preferred aircraft of the 94th Aero Squadron, and the aircraft in which top American aces Eddie Rickenbacker and Frank Luke scored the majority of their kills.

SPAD is short for Société Pour l’Aviation et ses Dérivés, a French aircraft manufacturer from 1911 to 1921. The S.XIII was its most successful design. Armed with two .303 Vickers machine guns, and powered by a 220hp Hispano-Suiza V8 engine, the SPAD S.XIII was known for its speed and durability. Faster and more powerful than the Sopwith Camel, and Fokker DR.I, the S.XIII was well suited to boom and zoom style attacks, rather than getting mixed up in turning fights with more maneuverable enemies.
 
 
SPAD S.XIII replica at the Seattle Museum of Flight. Photo credit: Seattle Museum of Flight


 Several examples of the SPAD S.XIII remain and are displayed in various museums in Belgium, France, and the United States. A number of other museums have replica variants. There are no known original flying examples, although a number of flying replicas exist. 

Loehle Aircraft offers an 80% scale ultralight kit that can be built to resemble a SPAD S.XIII, Fokker D-VIII, or SE5A depending on preference. For a more historically accurate build, Replicraft offers 1/5 scale plans that have been successfully scaled up into full-size, flying replica aircraft.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Want Better Representation? Fix Congress



The election is over, the results have been ratified by Congress, and like it or not, Donald J. Trump is going to be the 45th President of the United States. But the popular vote! The Electoral College! The voice of the people wasn’t really heard!
http://socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/government/2016election/2016electoralcollegemap.jpg
Map via socialstudiesforkids.com
Okay, leaving aside the point that people love/hate/call to abolish the Electoral College in direct correlation to whether their candidate of choice won, the Electoral College isn’t broken. It was established to prevent very populous states from completely overriding smaller, less populated states in the country’s only national election, and that’s as true today as it was in 1787. What’s broken is how we apportion Electoral College votes.

See, the Constitution originally apportioned one representative for every 30,000 people in a state, with a minimum of one representative per state. Subsequent Congresses amended that apportionment number, and the number of seats in each congress expanded or shrank (mostly expanded) with each ten year reapportionment, but the number or representatives (and electoral votes, since those are apportioned for each congressional representative) was never a fixed number until the Apportionment Act of 1911 capped the number at 435.

Now at the time, this kind of made sense. There wasn’t room for a potentially unlimited number of seats in the congressional building, travel to Washington was difficult for the representatives in Western states, and it helped the sitting members defend their seats against being redistricted out of a job. But what was true a hundred years ago isn’t necessarily true now.

We have teleconferencing. Secure VPN systems. The ability to work remotely in collaboration with software teams around the globe. There’s no reason (other than the increased gathering of power that is Washington D.C.) for a majority of congress to not spend their times in their home district, casting their votes via a secured system. This neatly solves the problem that the Apportionment Act of 1911 (and the subsequent acts of 1929 and 1941) were ostensibly meant to fix.

Want to fix the Electoral College, and break up congressional power at the same time? Bring back congressional seats apportioned directly by population, and not by shuffling the same 435 seats around.

Let’s take a couple of examples. Using the original Constitutional method of one rep per 30k population, a new House or Representatives would have 10,630 members. Okay, that might actually be a little unwieldy (good luck trying to get 5,316 people to agree on ANYTHING, no matter what party they all happen to belong to), so let’s use a more reasonable 250,000 people per representative. That gives a slightly more manageable 1,275 member House.

Interestingly enough, this DOESN'T change the results of the 2016 election. It DOES reduce the percentage win from 56.8% of 56.6%, but that's barely statistically significant.

Granted, this is really just a thought experiment, and a bit of math to prove out what has been a wacko theory. The idea that enough members of congress would willingly give up most of their power in the name of better democracy is, sadly, laughable.

It just goes to show that the Founding Fathers had the right idea.