Kerbal Space Center

kerbal_spaceKerbal Space Program is an interesting space simulation game for PC and Mac. The game allows the player to create a semi-realistic spacecraft from hundreds of different parts.

First, the player can visit the Vehicle Assembly Building, where construction occurs. The ship is created by using a simple drag and drop system which allows the player to create huge spacecraft very easily. The real difficulty comes in the form of various stages. After the initial rocket boosters go off, removing them will reduce drag and weight and increase your speed. It took many tries before I was able to figure out the staging sequence, and my first flights were disastrous. Because I couldn’t deploy my parachute at the end of the flight, it ejected immediately, ruining my flight. After some experimenting, I am now able to send my astronauts into the upper atmosphere and return them safely. Some of my flights now have over 4 stages involved, and several sets of rockets firing in sequence. One of my favorite parts of the game is the ability to control your ship as it ascends. I also like that the game includes a ship’s log that you can review after each mission.KerblestialStation1

The game is for sale online for $30, but there is also a free demo to try it out. Overall, I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in space flight.kerbal_space_program

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Chuck Yeager

Chuck-Yeager-Rolex-GMT-MasterChuck Yeager is one of the most astounding aviators of all time. His tremendous flying skill has earned him fame on many different occasions during his 34 year career with the Air Force.

Yeager joined the USAAF (United States Army Air Force) less than three months before the US joined the fighting in WWII. He was cleared to fly combat missions in late 1943. After just 8 missions, he achieved one victory, but was then shot down over France. With the help of the French Resistance, he escaped to Spain and journeyed to England. After convincing General Eisenhower to let him continue flying, Yeager became an “ace in a day”, after shooting down 5 Germans in one day. He achieved two of these kills by forcing a nervous German pilot to fly into his wingman. After World War II ended, Yeager was awarded with 11.5 kills overall.

Chuck Yeager’s fame escalated exponentially when he flew the Bell X-1 prototype on October 14, 1947, breaking the sound barrier for the first time. The small plane was dropped from a B-29 Superfortress, and then landed on a dry lakebed. Two days before the record breaking flight, Yeager broke two of his ribs in a horse-riding accident. He told only his wife and another fellow pilot and went to a veterinarian for treatment to avoid being grounded.

After the record breaking flight, Yeager flew at over twice the speed of sound in the following consecutive flights.

As he finished his Air Force career, Chuck Yeager became a Brigadier General, and was the first American pilot to fly a Soviet MiG-15. On the 65th anniversary of his Mach 1 flight, Chuck Yeager repeated his supersonic flight, this time in an F-15 Eagle, at age 89. He is now aged 91 and has won well over twenty awards for his achievements.


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Voices of the Pacific Book Review

coverLast week I mentioned to my neighbor who was a former Marine about my interest in World War II. He lent me this book, Voices of the Pacific written by Adam Makos. The book presents an interesting way of telling the story of the Marines who fought in the Pacific during World War II. Instead of being written as a traditional story, it is told by fifteen Marines who actually fought in many famous (and some not so famous) battles in the Pacific. It is edited so that each former soldier gives his own point of view about similar events. It was very interesting to hear many different people describe the same event, as they seem to have the same general idea, and yet all of the stories are different.

The story is told in a very straight to the point style, and I never felt like they were embellishing it to create a more movie-like atmosphere (i.e. adding cliffhangers, suspense, or unnecessary drama unless they were really required). The whole story is hard to read at times and is told in a very realistic, non-glorified way. I liked that they did not act like the whole campaign was a great time. One of my favorite moments was in the end when they discussed coming home and starting new lives, while still being haunted by the war. My biggest complaint was that there were far too many former Marines that were too similar. I immediately forgot their backstory, and I felt like sometimes I couldn’t keep track of what made the Marines individuals. There are definitely some exceptions, and I was very attached to some of the veterans.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading the stories of these men who will forever be heroes of World War II.

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Fairfield County 4-H Fair

With my exhibit "The Longest Day"

With my exhibit “The Longest Day”

For the past year I have been an independent member of the Fairfield County 4-H organization. Five months ago I joined the Fairfield County 4-H Fair Board. Every year, the nearby Beardsley Zoo hosts our county 4-H fair, where 4-H members can display any work that they have made in the previous year. My committee’s job was to design the T-shirts for staff and attendees, choose a slogan for the fair, decide on categories for a pumpkin decorating contest, and create a candy corn guessing game. These projects were very easy, because most of our supplies were left over from the previous fair. My job at the fair was to make sure that everyone guessed how much candy corn was in a jar. I also handed out ballots for 4-H members to vote on their favorite decorated pumpkin. Many attendees brought decorated

Mario Pumpkin Entry

Mario Pumpkin Entry

pumpkins that were carved painted, or otherwise decorated. The winners were a pig, a Christmas tree, Mario (from Super Mario Bros.), and a carved spider web. I also announced the winner of the candy corn contest.

Before the Fair started, I was able to set up several exhibits in the exhibit hall. At the end of the day, all of my exhibitions (which included a diorama and several photographs) won blue ribbons, with some even receiving a perfect score. I was very happy to have also received 4 ribbons for Best in Division, which included 2 or photography, 1 in communications, and 1 for my diorama exhibit. I also received a ribbon for being on the Fair Board.

My photograph, "Old Warbird" won Best in Division

My photograph, “Old Warbird” won Best in Division

Overall, I had a great time at the fair, and look forward to attending it again next year.

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The Prisoner of Zenda

zenda_cover_webThe Prisoner of Zenda is an adventure novel written by Anthony Hope. It follows the story of Rudolph Rassendyll, an Englishman who craves adventure. At the start of the book, he journeys to Ruritania, a nearby European country with the coronation of a new king right around the corner. When he arrives, he discovers that he looks unbelievably similar to the king of Ruritania. He also makes the acquaintance of two very different attendants of the king: Colonel Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim. On the night before his coronation, Rudolph dines with the king in the forest of Zenda. Upon waking up, Rudolph discovers that the king was poisoned in the night by his extremely evil brother, Black Michael. Colonel Sapt and Fritz then decide to use Rudolph in place of the king for the coronation, because if the king is not crowned on this day, Michael will be. After the coronation, Rudolph and his attendants are outrun back to their house in the forest of Zenda, and they discover that the king has been kidnapped, and their servant murdered. In the ensuing tale gunfights, swordfights, and pulse pounding chases abound, as Rudolph and his posse face off against Black Michael and his crew of evildoers known as The Six. The final showdown is a very epic battle full of so many plot twists that it had me reading this book for 5 hours straight!

Overall, the book proved to be great fun, but only after a beginning that was so dull that I stopped reading after the initial two-chapter drag. The book was published in 1894, so you can expect some confusing language, and overly descriptive dialogue. The book receives an 8/10.

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The Time Machine

CoverThe Time Machine is a science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells. This book is widely thought to be the first science fiction work ever written. The story revolves around an unnamed man called the Time Traveller. After supposedly going forward thousands of years into the future, the Time Traveller relates his tale to some of his skeptics. The story is told by the narrator, who writes down the Time Traveler’s story. After finally finishing his machine, the Time Traveller sits in his chair and adjusts some instruments. Soon, the machine is flying into the future along with its passenger. Following a horribly sickening journey, the Time Traveller finds himself in a new and seemingly perfect Utopia. He quickly meets up with future humans called Eloi. These are not very intelligent, but very graceful and happy. After several days with the Eloi, the Time Machine is stolen by the Morlocks, horrible ape creatures who devour the Eloi after they have grown. The Morlocks have lived underground for centuries and are utterly terrifying. The Time Traveller then descends into the grim blackness of the Morlock territory to find his machine again…

The Time Machine  is a good read, considering that it is the first book of it’s kind. It is very short, and I read it in about 3 hours. I was very surprised at the bleak and terrifying future that Wells portrays, as this was very unnerving. Overall, I would rate it an 8/10.

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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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