Wings of Freedom

B-24J Wheel

Earlier today, I was fortunate enough to visit the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom aircraft display at nearby Dutchess County Airport. The exhibit consisted of a B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress, and P-51 Mustang. Unfortunately I was unable to see the Mustang since it was having some maintenance work done this morning, but this did not detract from my experience at all.

B-24J Machine Gun

The B-24 (named “Witchcraft”) was the first aircraft that I saw. The nose art instantly caught my attention, as it was very original. It featured a witch riding a machine gun while throwing a bomb. The plane was well restored, and the paint looked exceptionally good considering that it flies over 100 times a year. I was very excited to see this aircraft in particular, as the B-24 was the type discussed in one of my favorite books, Unbroken. (Click HERE to read my book review) Being able to go inside was a dream come true. As I climbed the ladder to go inside, I was astonished at the size of the .50 caliber machine guns located at the beam positions of the airplane. I was able to actually move the gun around in its turret, and get a good feel for the way that it had to be airmed. After walking forward a few feet, we had to walk around the ventral ball turret, which was pulled up into the aircraft’s fuselage. After walking down into the bomb bay, I was shocked to see rows of bombs lined up, seemingly ready to be dropped out of the cavernous area. As I walked across the walkway, I could scarcely imagine bailing out of the plane in a death spiral. Overall, the B-24 was a very interesting experience, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

After finishing the B-24, we boarded the B-17 (named “Nine o Nine”). This aircraft was truly amazing and lives up to its reputation. after boarding, the cockpit was clearly visible and the pilot and copilot stations were only inches away. From the outside, I could see the bombardiers bombsight, both cheek guns, and the terrifying chin gun with two .50 caliber guns aimed remotely. After inspecting the cockpit, I noticed the dorsal ball turret, and quickly stepped into it. It was very claustrophobic, I could hardly imagine firing the two giant machine guns positioned only an inch or two from my head. The radio operator’s room was also very interesting to see, as it looked like a very small office. Finally, I saw the beam gun positions, complete with ammunition belts surrounding them. Some of the giant bullets were red tipped tracer rounds which illuminate when fired, like a beam of fire. Upon leaving the plane I got a great view at my favorite position, the tail gunner. This spot had a small window and two huge guns beneath it. I especially liked the sight used by this gunner. The B-17 was even better than the B-24, and was definitely the highlight of my trip. I would recommend anyone go see these planes when they land on a runway near you.

B-17G Dorsal Ball Turrett

B-17G Dorsal Ball Turret

Click HERE to visit the Collings Foundation tour schedule and website!

 

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My 4-H Story 2014

Horseshoe Crab Tagging

Horseshoe Crab Tagging for part of  my Independent Project

4-H has been a very interesting experience for me. I believe that 4-H is a great experience, and that every child should try it out for at least one year.

My involvement in 4-H this year, has taught me many valuable lessons through community service. I never even thought that I would volunteer to do any type of community service, much less have fun doing it! Most of my volunteer hours were spent having a good time, and even though it was sometimes hard work, I always felt better at the end than I did going in. In my opinion, community service is one of the most valuable learning experiences a person can have.

As a 4-H member, I have helped many people as a camp counselor’s assistant. Both the counselors and students have said that I am a great help, and this has led me to try to help out at more summer camps next year.

Overall, I believe that 4-H is a great program, as it has been responsible for me discovering more of the things that I am interested in and to help others in my community.

Fairfield County 4-H Award Night

Fairfield County 4-H Award Night

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National Warplanes Museum Trip

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In the C-47 Skytrain

On September 13, 2014, I went to the National Warplanes Museum in Geneseo, New York with my grandfather. The museum consists of several large buildings and one hangar. Many planes are also displayed on the grass outside of the buildings. While there were many different exhibits in the buildings, I will only list my favorites. One unexpectedly interesting portion of the collection was a group of women’s Red Cross uniforms. These were interesting because they added variety to the collection, and prevented them from becoming monotonous. Overall, the entire uniform collection was fantastic, and included many different types of uniforms not often seen. Another fantastic exhibit was a Willy’s Jeep that I was able to sit inside of. Also included in the uniforms section was a pilot’s life preserver that was displayed along with the full uniform. I frequently paint this life preserver onto my scale figures, and it was interesting to see one in real life.

After viewing these displays, we went into the hangars. My favorite planes were the C-47, B-26, and L-21. By far the most impressive of the bunch was the C-47 Skytrain, known as Whiskey 7. This aircraft flew as the lead plane of it’s group during the D-Day paratrooper drops. Whiskey 7 recently flew back to Normandy to commemorate the 70th year since the D-Day invasion. The aircraft is beautifully restored and looks amazing. I was fortunate enough to be allowed into the plane and see the cockpit. I was shocked at the small ladder leading into the aircraft. It had only two rungs, and creaked loudly. The interior was stunning and I was amazed at the strange feeling inside of the large plane. Even though it was huge, it felt fragile, and the light seeping through the windows was very eerie. This was definitely the highlight  of my trip.

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The C-47 Skytrain Outside

The B-26 was also great. It had an unpainted finish and was sitting in the sun. The aircraft was situated on the grass, so you could walk completely around the plane. It was very interesting to see the landing gear mechanism.

By far the most unexpected plane was the L-21, which is essentially a Piper Super Cub painted in military colors. It was very odd to see the strange (and awesome) paint scheme on the small civilian plane.

Overall, my trip to the museum was fantastic, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in history or aviation.

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Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Review

edge-of-the-empire-core-rulebook-rightStar Wars: Edge of the Empire is a role playing game released in 2013. It consists of a beginner set with a short rulebook, special game dice, premade character sheets, and one adventure. While the beginner set is fun, the real game consists of one giant core rulebook. (see image) The core rulebook explains the concepts introduced in the beginner set in greater detail than was previously available. It also includes one free adventure, but I prefer making my own to the pre made episodes.

One of the best innovations of the game is the dice system. While other RPG’s like Dungeons and Dragons rely on standard dice, Edge of the Empire has specially made dice. While it is too complex to explain in detail, I can sum it up quickly. The game revolves around something called a skill check. The difficulty of the check is decided by the Game Master, who has all of the features of the environment mapped out. When the player encounters an obstacle, the Game master tells them the difficulty level. Then, the player’s skill set is compared to that of the required skills to overcome the obstacle. In the game, there are good dice and bad dice. When the player encounters an easy obstacle, the Game Master may give them more good dice that bad dice. The opposite is true of a hard obstacle, where the player may have the odds stacked against them. After the dice are rolled, they are added together, and if the good outweighs the bad, the check succeeds. The twist is that there are also advantages and disadvantages. When the player gets an advantage, good things happen, even on a failed check. When he gets a disadvantage, bad things happen even on a successful check. While this sounds complicated, all of the information is in the core rulebook and these checks take only seconds to complete.

The other interesting facet of the game is that it takes place in the Star Wars universe. Detailed information is provided about the different aliens, droids, spacecraft, planets, and even illegal contraband of the Star Wars universe. All of these things are taken into consideration, such as; how easy is it to knock out a Rodian, how much is Yarrock spice worth, and what is the population of Tatooine, as well as what languages are spoken on the planet.

Overall, the game is great and easily achieves a 9.7/10. This is a great game for Star Wars and RPG fans alike!

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The History of the Baltimore Snowball

anatomy-of-a-snowball_534186b31017e_w1500    The snowball is one of my favorite summertime snacks of all time. A snowball is a very syrupy,  cup (preferably styrofoam!) of finely shaved ice. One of the distinct features is the marshmallow topping, which is very important to enhance the experience. Snowballs are the quintessential summertime dessert for me and many others. Why then does nobody know what they are?

The story begins in the late 1800’s when ice became widely available to the average citizen. As huge carts of ice travelled through Maryland, the drivers would shave off some of the ice to give to children. The children then took the shavings home and quickly made flavorings for their new treats. During the 1920’s shaved and flavored ice was sold during plays when customers needed to cool off during a long and hot show.

The modern snowball has its roots in the Great Depression, when standardized syrups could be purchased instead of homemade ones. Because of the low cost of ice, snowballs could be purchased for just 2 cents. This was one of the only treats that people could afford, and thus snowballs became very popular. Another facet to the story is that setting up a snowball stand is easy, as is making the treats, and many people turned to snowball making to sustain themselves. After the Depression, snowballs stayed popular throughout the war, when ice cream was nowhere to be found. While US troops ate ice cream, everyday citizens ate snowballs as their main icy treat.

After the war, the snowball remained popular, and is relatively unchanged to this day. Because the snowball is such an amazing little ice clump, it does make you wonder why you can’t have one right now (unless you live in Baltimore)?

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Star Wars: Scoundrels

downloadStar Wars: Scoundrels is the perfect combination of Mission Impossible, Oceans 11, and Star Wars. It is an unlikely combination, but Scoundrels does it so well that it seems obvious that it should have been made years ago. Author Timothy Zahn makes the story come alive by including subtle hints that allude to such things as the small details in the face of someone who is lying, or signs of stress as a massive plan becomes a failure. The whole book has a great plot and many twists, one of which left my jaw on the floor!

The story revolves around Han Solo who has planned a heist to re-steal 163 million credits (dollars). In order to steal them, Han hires a crew of thieves, con men, and even a living recorder who remembers everything she sees. The plot is very straightforward at first, but soon becomes very involved, as the reader meets more interesting characters along the way. I found the book so enjoyable that I could hardly put it down.

Overall, it gets a score of 9.7/10.

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The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD Review

2538562-wwhdcleanbox As a huge fan of the Zelda series for several years, I was massively excited when I saw one of the series’s most iconic games coming to an HD system. When I saw the first screenshot, my jaw almost hit the ground. When I opened it for Christmas last year, it was the first thing  I played. I almost immediately came to this conclusion: while it is a decent romp through The Great Sea, it is not amongst my favorite games in the series.

My largest complaint is also the most obvious. In one of the most controversial moves in all of gaming history, Nintendo changed the art style from a realistic, darker look to a cell-shaded cartoon-ish look. This change, in my opinion, was the most detrimental that the series has ever experienced. I find complete immersion into the world of Zelda almost impossible when it looks like an anime movie. With giant eyes and a huge head to body ratio, Link looks more like a character in a toddler’s storybook than a hero about save the world. I know that this opinion is dreaded by most Zelda fans, I can’t help but think that this game was made for very young children. In an attempt to seem less judgemental, I will say that Wind Waker is loads of pure fun. However, I have come to the conclusion that a Zelda game can be fun without being  almost goofy. Wind Waker is still great, but this art style takes the epic feeling away while I am adventuring. The only redeeming part is the ocean exploration, where weather and waves collide to make a great experience.

While I do think that Wind Waker is a great game, I would have greatly enjoyed any kind of co-op or otherwise multiplayer gameplay. I think that this game would make a great co-op experience like Four Swords Adventures. Using the Wii U gamepad like a game such as Pikmin 3 would have made a great co-op adventure. Combining Four Swords Adventures with Nintendo Land’s Battle Quest Minigame would be the perfect experience for me.

To summarize my thoughts, Wind Waker is a great game that is exactly opposite of my favorite game in the series, Twilight Princess. I give Wind Waker a rating of 7.4/10.

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