29 June 2010

QC Air Show-Part 2 of whatever-Met Kate and Val...

...and Zeke, otherwise known as the Tora! Tora! Tora! wing of the Commemorative Air Force.

These craft are actually modifications of the venerable and sweet-flying T-6 Texan (Harvard for you Commonwealth readers) done up to look like the Zero (Zeke) fighter, Val dive bomber, and Kate torpedo bomber. There are only a handful of flyable Zekes left, one Val being restored, and no Kates, so a little artistic license is necessary. The airframes of the Texan and the Vultee Valiant trainers make good stand-ins, though.

Why the names for Japanese planes? Simple-'Zeke', 'Val', and 'Kate' are easier to call out in a fight than 'Mitsubishi A6M5', 'Aichi D3A', and 'Nakajima B5N'. In general, fighters got male names, trainers got tree names, and everything else got a female name. But most of you knew all about this anyway.

These planes were actually used in the 1970 movie Tora Tora Tora (an order of magnitude better movie than 2000's Pearl Harbor) and they're still playing their roles 40 years later!

It was a bright sunny afternoon. We were lounging around the field waiting for Saturday night to come around, when all of a sudden a giant flight of Japanese planes snuck past our AA and CAP. Dive bombers, torpedo bombers, escorted by Zeros. Those so-and-sos buzzed us like they were flying down the Ginza!

They're killing us here! Bombs were going off all up and down the strip! Where's our defense?

Those Kates were flying around like they owned the place, bombing and strafing at will...

Finally. Our quad fifty emplacement gets in the game. Scratch one Kate!

Here comes the cavalry! One of our Mustangs got off the ground! That'll even things up some!

How 'bout that, Tojo?! One of your Zeros isn't coming home.

And of course the Mustang saves the day and chases the Japanese back to their base on Kumoniwannalaya Island....

...or maybe beer and burgers at Thunder Bay Grille, as Tora! Tora! Tora! Flight makes another pass over the crowd before landing. Tomorrow is, after all, another performance in this year's airshow circuit.

Now, we know that there'd be no torpedo bombers on an attack on an airfield, and one defending plane rising is likely as not going to get hacked up. It's a representation of what the attack at Pearl would have looked like and you have to multiply it in your mind and use your imagination. You do get the idea of what low-level air combat might have looked like, though. A lot of jinking, weaving, and general confusion, with the added hazard of being really close to the ground. Not for the squeamish or the easily confused!

It's a shame this scenario couldn't be played out over water, where the team could simulate actual dive bombings and torpedo runs. I bet I know eight houseboat owners that would happily sacrifice their boats (especially if they have a persistent leak, bad electrics, or a non-working drive) if we tied them up in a row just like Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor and let the 'Japanese' do their thing.

Later this week, we'll cover the rest of the show.

yankeedog out.

27 June 2010

QC Air Show-Part 1 of whatever-Sentimental Journey

If it's summer here, it must be airshow season. This weekend brought the 24th Annual Quad City Air Show, which has grown a lot from its inception. This year was unusual in that the show didn't feature either the Blue Angels or the Thunderbirds-but we did score individual demo units and parachute teams (the US Navy Leapfrogs and the Canadian Forces Skyhawks). We also had the usual static displays of warbirds and civilian craft, all the military recruiters, and of course the overpriced souvenirs and food stands. The show drew a decent crowd-it was hot but the sky was fairly clear-but the T-Birds and Angels definitely help bring people in.

Next month will see shows in Peoria and Rockford. AirFest Rockford is going to have a great lineup this year and I think I'll head up there to see it.

A few tips-seriously-if you've never been to an airshow:

-Stay hydrated. There usually isn't much shade around airfields and you will sweat. Might want to stick with water as opposed to alcohol. Yeah, water's $3/bottle. Whatcha gonna do, though?

-Find the shade. I recommend if they have a bomber or transport, set up camp under a wing to watch the events. It's always much cooler there-better even than under a tent.

-If you have little ones, leave them at home. Airplanes are noisy, and if your child is sensitive to booms and roars, they'll not like the surroundings. Also the heat can get to them early.

This has been a Public Service Announcement courtesy of Yankeedog.

I've got a few posts' worth of pictures, but I'm going to concentrate today on one of the few flyable examples of one of WWII's most iconic and famous planes-the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. The 'Forts, along with the B-24 Liberators and the Lancasters of the Royal Air Force, bombed the bejezus out of Europe and carried the war to Germany.

The example at QCAS was the Commemorative Air Force's B-17G, Sentimental Journey. The plane was named of course for the song popular in the summer of 1944, which you can hear by going here if you so desire.

The Fort is a favorite plane of mine. It was tough, dangerous if handled and fought correctly, yet it had an aerodynamic elegance not seen in the slab-sided Liberator or Lancaster. Boeing built the prototype in 1935 and the plane was in service until 1959 in the USAF (as drone targets) and until 1968 in the Forca Aerea Brasiliana-well into the jet age. Not a bad career record! The B-17 was used by all of the US Forces, the RAF, France, Canada-even the Luftwaffe used a few captured examples.

A view from behind. At this angle, the B-17 can bring 5 .50 caliber machine guns to bear on an enemy plane-roughly equivalent to a fighter plane of the era. The later models like this G carried 14 machine guns-a fair amount of defensive firepower. Still, the daylight raids performed by the USAAF were only really successful when fighters could escort the big birds all the way to their targets.

Personally, I like the look of the 'Fort with no olive drab-just the natural metal finish. Much more stylish. By about 1944, bombers were delivered and flown without camouflage. The Allies had air superiority and the planes could eke out an extra 20 mph or so without the paint!

A shot of the 'office', showing the chin turret installed in the -G and subsequent models. The Sentimental Journey crew looks to have put on ticks for 55 missions-evidently based in the same unit as Yossarian in Catch-22. The nose art is-who else-Betty Grable in her famous pose. That pin-up was probably in nearly every ship, squadron, and tank battalion in the US Armed Forces in World War II. Nose art is starting to come back in vogue in the US Armed Forces after a long absence. The powers-that-be thought that pictures of semi-clad women plastered on our aircraft would be politically incorrect and offensive to our woman warriors. My thought-if a female pilot wants to paint some stud guy on her plane, more power to her! If she can hit and kill what I need hit and killed or drop the beans and bullets where I can get to them when I need them, then I don't give a rat's ass what's on the side of the airplane.


The beauty shot. The CAF crew has done a beautiful job with this plane-not a mark or scratch on the exterior! The people that built this plane would be proud-she's in good hands!

And looking in port side. Here you get a good view of the waist gunner position and the ventral ball turret position. I had a great uncle who had the bad luck to be a ball turret gunner-possibly the most dangerous position on the plane. Being in the ball involved climbing down into the turret and sitting on a bicycle-style seat with your legs pulled up, something of a cross between a baseball catcher's crouch and preparing for a somersault. Quite uncomfortable on a long trip and dangerous because the turret is exposed. It was not retractable, only trainable. If a plane had to belly-land or ditch and the ball-turret gunner couldn't scramble out in time, it was probably a death sentence for that crewman. Later bombers would use remote control for gun turrets, keeping the gunners in the relative safety of the fuselage.

So ends our walk around of the Sentimental Journey. I had the opportunity to actually fly in a B-17 several years ago, in the Collings Foundation's Nine-O-Nine. It wasn't cheap, right around $300 if I recall, but there aren't a lot of these birds still going. The plane ride-priceless! Once airborne, we were able to walk around the craft-up the waist, across the bomb bay, see the cockpit, and crawl into the nose to get a bombardier's eye view of the flight. I actually stuck my head out of the upper hatch and into the slipstream-just like flying an open cockpit plane. The overall feeling is like flying a big, solid, chunk of rock of a plane. This was a plane that would get you home no matter what! And it did for more than a few crews. However, to be fair, we didn't have every flak gun in town trying to knock us down and the Greater Rockford Airport didn't have a flight of Me-109s wanting to shoot us up, either. Great fun and recommended if you have the time and the cash.

What's it like to get this beast moving? It's loud! This video of the Exprimental Aircraft Association's B-17, Aluminum Overcast, shows the start-up process. One can imagine what an airfield with 40 or 50 of these planes must have sounded like around dawn before a mission.

I'll do more on the rest of the planes over the course of the week. You all know me-I can go on forever when it comes to warbirds.

yankeedog out.

26 June 2010

Just send me my Academy Award...

...for Set Decoration. The church had its Vacation Bible School (where parents send their kids a couple of hours a night for a week so they don't have to deal with the little monsters darlings. If they learn anything along the way, well, accidents happen). The theme was Space. As I read the course manual, I didn't quite get a connect between the accounts of the creation of the universe in Genesis and what has proven in the scientific world, but I digress.

The Better Half drew the 4-5 year olds, so at that age it's more about having fun than doing any heavy-duty theological studies, which is as it should be. It was up to each teacher to decorate their room in a suitable sci-fi space decor. TBH can do a lot of things, but sci-fi oriented and crafty she isn't. Unfortunately or fortunately, I'm both. Once again, conscription rears its ugly head.

This is what the room looked like before we got started. A couple of blue walls-excellent.

We found an inflatable solar system and space shuttles, some peel-off star appliques, and space stuff for use on bulletin boards. I came up with the idea of each desk having a 'console' similar to what you might see in some bad old 1950s sci-fi flick. Some gray foamboard, construction paper, glass mosaic tiles for buttons, bottlecaps for dials, and bingo chips for indicator lights. Cheap, quick, and easy, just like the...well, never mind that.

And a row of consoles across the desks. It looks just like Mission Control, or the original Star Trek! Perhaps not, but I'm told that the kids loved them. Lots of stuff to 'push' and pretend to work. In that respect, these are like the job I have now. Lots of neat buttons and pretend to work.

We've even got a mainframe supercomputer, and yes, it's HAL 9000. Even got the red eye, which is hidden by the inflatable Jupiter. Like HAL, it also won't open the pod bay doors. Of course, 4 2 is the answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything. The kids probably sussed that one of the consoles has a button labeled 'IID'. I wouldn't be overly surprised if one of them knew about the Infinite Improbability Drive. Should have decorated that door to look like the entrance to the TARDIS.

The kids I think had a good time. I wasn't around to have to deal with the children-I'd rather put on an American flag and walk down the main street in Kandahar. I'd rather serve behind the scenes, thank you.

Many times people in the Bible are portrayed as being humble servants. Such is not true. It has nothing to do with humility and everything to do with flying under the radar. If no one knows you did something, you can't be asked to do it again. All those ancient Judeans were trying to sneak their tasks in, and would have gotten away with it if some dummy hadn't written it down for all to see. D'oh!

The stuff I get roped into...

yankeedog out.

17 June 2010

Age and duty

I was going to do a post of Awkward Family Photos (not mine-other people's), but I didn't feel like screwing around with extracting pics, pasting them in a post, and coming up with silly captions for them. I'm in the middle of an extracurricular project (about which more another time) and time is of the essence with completing that.

We've had an interesting last couple of days here. The Better Half's mom, who's 91, has a fellow she goes out with-dancing, dinner, and the like. He's a relative youngster of 88. Bob's a good sort, though a bit prone to long drawn-out tales. He's had a long and interesting career-he was in the Navy during WWII and helped create the first airborne early warning planes (Project Cadillac). Kind of cool stuff to hear about. Anyhow, here in Illinois, once a driver hits 87, a road test with an instructor is required annually to get a license. He's taken his road test three times-and obviously not passed it three times. It's small stuff, nothing that a day of work with someone couldn't probably fix. But as of now, he's not got a valid license.

My topic tonight is not necessarily whether he should be driving or not-I'd guess that 3/4 of the drivers in the QCs probably wouldn't pass a road test if they had to take one tomorrow (that possibly includes yours truly). But it is about what his family needs to get ready for.

Bob's daughter is the closest relative around (the 'point man', as I like to call it. Every family has one.). She lives across town-it takes 'round about 20-30 minutes in average traffic to get from one side of the Quad Cities metro area to the other.

I figured Bob hadn't said anything to anyone in the family about his driving test, so I called his daughter to spill the beans. I do think his family has to know about this so they can plan accordingly. Her attitude was 'He can call a cab to get him wherever he needs to go. I can't teach him to drive, and I can't drive clear across town to attend to him'.

Well, it's like this: TBH and I have our own elderly to take care of, and I sure as hell don't have a lot of extra time to run him around (though I'd be glad to take him somewhere close once in a while). It's something his kids need to get together and deal with. I have a 120 mile round trip when I have to deal with something for my mom. I don't particularly enjoy that trip but somebody has to do it. So suck it up, kids. Hard times are coming for y'all.

If Bob isn't able to drive, it takes a big chunk of independence away for him and indirectly for TBH's mom. No more dances (she can drive but not at night, and her mental acuity isn't great anymore) or going out for dinner. I do think that at their ages the ability to get out and do things and stay connected with people of their own age group is vital to their livelihood. There aren't all that many of their generation, the so-called 'Greatest Generation', tempered in the Great Depression and tested in the war, left. They have said that social functions like dances with music they like are getting harder to find. The new Plus 60s cut their teeth on Elvis and Buddy Holly and aren't into the stylings of Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey.

But I digress. We could drive them to some things they like-but with work and our own lives, it'd be tough to do on a regular basis. I guess the long and short of it is that I think they'll both go downhill fairly quickly if they lose the easy ability to socialize and lose yet another facet of their independence. At their ages, we're under no illusion that they'll be able to go out for many years to come. And from one standpoint, they've both had a hell of a run. That they can go out to a place and dance a bit and have dinner at 88 and 91 is pretty damn good. A lot of their friends are in worse shape than they are. More of them are long gone.

It does seem like Bob's family hasn't given a lot of thought to what might happen should he lose the freedom that comes with the ability to pick up the keys and get into the car. I think he might be the type that accepts help kicking and screaming. I can understand that. But it's kind of up to his kids to take the bull by the horns and have a serious talk with him or help him out. I've learned that I can't be responsible for the life of everyone I know.

I believe that if his son would go out on the road with him and help him out, he could pass his test and be able to drive. I have noticed that Bob has aged quite a bit over the last year or so, but this is Illinois, where we're pretty lenient with older drivers-hell, we pretty much give a license to everyone that can afford the fee.

On the other hand, if his boy goes out and we find out Bob just isn't getting it anymore, then that's that and all of us will have to do a bit of adjustment, including them. I'd hate to see it because it seems like it would be the beginning of the end for those two. Reckon that's part of the cycle of life, though.

We'll see. Interesting times.

yankeedog out.

07 June 2010

Ave, the class of 2010!

This weekend saw us in the suburbs of Cincinnati watching a cousin graduate from high school. The class of 2010. I've got clothes older than these kids, some items of which I still wear.
The trip over and back was for the most part uneventful. We got a rental car-a decent one, a Dodge Charger with Sirius satellite radio. I love Sirius and if I had a long commute would have it in a heartbeat. Something for everyone there-40s on 4 for the 91-year-old, 70s on 7 for The Better Half, and 1st Wave and Roadhouse Country for yours truly. Recommended for any long trip! I'm surprised commercial radio is still around.

Anyhow, the graduation and ceremony went well. Our girl graduated with high honors and is headed for THE Ohio State University this fall. Oh, well, no one's perfect.

She'll do well there-it's one of the biggest universities in the country and there's something for everyone there.

For the overseas crowd that read this, I think high school for you is something to be endured and those years not looked back on fondly. The American high school experience is a bit different-I suppose we're a bit less disciplined, or a bit more free-wheeling. And the ability to have cars (with the ability to drive to dates or be a taxi service for your friends) adds a whole new dynamic. I don't know for sure, but there seems to be a palpable difference in those last four years of education between what we do and what, say, the Australians or British do. You all may learn more-but I think we have more fun!

The graduation ceremony, though, is still kind of moving-I think more for the parents and friends of the graduates than for the graduates themselves. I remember at my own graduation thinking possibly like many veterans-Just skip the ceremony and give me my papers-I'm outta here!

But with a few years under my belt, I see it in a different light. These kids came into the scary halls of high school four years ago as nervous freshmen-still children in many ways. Seniors sat at the right hand of God and what they said pretty much went! Over those four years, they matured, laughed, cried, developed relationships, got together, broke up, shared the common experience of perhaps a tyrannical teacher or a bad meal in the cafeteria or a big football victory on Friday night or stealing the rival school's mascot. All too soon those scared freshmen became the old hands of the senior class, making their marks in the community-and scaring the hell of those baby newbies from junior high. Finally, senior year culminates in graduation-the speeches, the diplomas, pictures with family and friends, post-graduation parties lasting into the next day, promises to always keep in touch with people sometimes never to be seen again.

For some, there'll be a summer 'off' (except for working), then off to community college or a four-year college-places like Ohio State, University of Kentucky, or Stanford. Some will go right to work, starting their careers without secondary education. Still others will head off to Fort Benning or Parris Island or Lackland to learn the military art. Some will get married right away, others wait to start a family. Whereever their lifepaths take them, they'll only have this moment one time-the moment that in a lot of ways marks the passage into adulthood.

I told Julia when I saw her after she got her diploma-"Congratulations. Now life gets hard."

From now on, the world doesn't care whether these men and women succeed or fail. It's up to them to make it happen. I know a few that will do well and make us proud.

This class of 2010 was mostly born around 1991-1992. What changes they've seen in those years since most of us here went to school! For the class of 2010, the Cold War and the Soviet Union are as ancient as the Roman Empire, but they've spent half their lives in the shadow of terrorism and shooting war. We went to a library to look up things. The class of 2010 googles everything. We wrote on blackboards, watched films and filmstrips, and lugged books. The class of 2010 does PowerPoints and carry laptops to school. We were thrilled to have a pen pal four states away. The class of 2010 IMs people halfway around the world. Culture? Nirvana and Echo and the Bunnymen are as curious to the class of 2010 as Elvis and Bill Haley and the Comets were to us. Interesting to try to look at life through their eyes. So much promise. So much of life ahead of them.

Like in every gradauting class, though, we'll see how they turn out. In a decade or so, the class of 2010 will return to their hometowns for reunions. How they'll be living then may be quite different from what any of us thought-for better or worse. Most of you may not care for the Statler Brothers as a country music act, but they did have a song about the Class of '57-which for a change of the number could be any group of graduates anywhere in the world:

Tommy's selling used cars, Nancy's fixing hair,

Harvey runs a grocery store and Margaret doesn't care.
Jerry drives a truck for Sears and Charlotte's on the make,
And Paul sells life insurance and part time real estate.

Helen is a hostess, Frank works at the mill,
Janet teaches grade school and prob'ly always will.
Bob works for the city and Jack's in lab research,
And Peggy plays organ at the Presbyterian Church.

And the class of '57 had it's dreams,
Oh, we all thought we'd change the world with our great works and deeds.
Or maybe we just thought the world would change to fit our needs,
The class of '57 had it's dreams.

Betty runs a trailer park, Jan sells Tupperware,
Randy's in an insane ward, Mary's on welfare.
Charlie took a job with Ford, Joe took Freddie's wife,
Charlotte took a millionaire, and Freddie took his life.

John is big in cattle, Ray is deep in debt,
Where Mavis finally wound up is anybody's bet.
Linda married Sonny, Brenda married me,
And the class of all of us is just a part of history.

And the class of '57 had it's dreams,
But living life day to day is never like it seems.
Things get complicated when you get past eighteen,
But the class of '57 had it's dreams.
Oh, the class of '57 had it's dreams.

We hope, though, that our lady Julia, and all of her friends and comrades that graduated this year, has the stuff to change the world-or at least their corner of it!

yankeedog out.

04 June 2010

Ooh, look-a Magnetbox!!

I'm off on a secret assignment for the weekend-but I'll leave you with some pics of knockoff products-the kind you find in third-world bazaars, dollar stores, and flea markets all over the world. Some good stuff here!

Now, there's nothing with the PolyStation, but I'm more of an XBux 350 fan.

'Curse you, Spader-Man', said his nemesis, Green Goober.

SuperBat-patrolling the streets of Gothamopolis on his, umm...Bat-skateboard?!?

Well, you should see Politic Pat/He's so good looking like a big yellow rat/Him and his sister/In a polythene blister/You should see Politic Pat/Yeah yeah yeah

(thanks to John, Paul, George, and Ringo for help on that one)

It was a Laser Sword, like this one, in the hands of Lark Starstider that struck down Emperor Pulpytine and his apprentice, Garth Vandal.

Few people know that Omni Consumer Products developed Robert Cop first. Unfortunately, he had aluminum armor and the CPU of a Sinclair ZX-81. He was flimsy, slow, stupid, and wouldn't load programs properly off his cassette drive. RoboCop was a much better model.

Hi-ho Silver, awaaay! To the Bat-Cave!

Oh, my God! ...We finally really did it! You maniacs!! You created a cheap knockoff of one of the most successful sci-fi-properties of the 20th Century and aren't paying any royalties! Ah, damn you!! God damn you all to hell!!!

Faster than a speeding sloth! More powerful than a SmartCar! Able to leap a cardboard box in a single bound! It's a pigeon! It's a Piper Cub! No-it's Specialman!!

My boss is a Jewish carpenter. My national symbol is a Kentucky Colonel and a fried chicken tycoon.

Cheers all!

yankeedog out.

02 June 2010

Cinema desolee

Many things have changed in the last 15-20 years, of course, but one of the things that has changed that I find interesting is the evolution of the movie theater.

The town I grew up in had a single-screen theatre, the Times. I remember as a 9-year-old getting in to see Jaws. Scared the snot out of me then. In 1980 the owners made it a TWO-screen venue-we hit the big time!

If we were flush and it wasn't a school night, we could pile in the car and go to Clinton, where they had the Cinema I and II, the Capri, and the Clinton Drive-In if you wanted to see or do something questionable and/or sleazy.

Now if it were a big night, we'd go the 100 km to the Quad Cities. There were a ton of theaters down here-Cinema I, the Parkway, and the Oasis, Corral, Semri, and Memri drive-ins. My friend JP's mom, in a bout of temporary insanity, took a bunch of us to see The Empire Strikes Back at the Parkway-in addition to a visit to Pizza Hut and a drop by the arcade in the mall (Omega Race, Tail Gunner, Galaxian...ah, we'll not see the likes of those games too much anymore). Great fun!

Today, of course, most movie theaters are big multiplexes, with 15 screens, reclining stadium seats, bags of popcorn big enough to feed a horse and pop enough to float a yacht. The projection technology has inproved vastly even since the 90s. I suppose the comfort level has gone up a lot.

One of the first 'multiplex' cinemas in the area was the Showcase Cinemas on the north side of Davenport. It opened with a lot of fanfare in 1989 (5, count 'em, 5! screens) and operated all through the 1990s. I saw many a film there, as did a lot of people in the area. Unfortunately, advancements in technology and the changing flow of people to a new area of shops and restaurants spelled the end, and after a brief 12 years the Showcase Cinemas moved to a new building and the old place was put up for sale (read: abandoned). A short career for what was a state-of-the-art facility!!

Recently, it was decided to demolish the building and replace it with a large, empty flat spot. Probably this is a good idea since people would break in and create the Midwest's biggest crackhouse, if they hadn't already.
The people demolishing the building were opening it to the public and selling the theater seats-$15 a piece and you pull them out (bring a 7/16" socket wrench!) and haul them away.

You can see a gallery of pictures from the old Showcase here. An interesting behind-the-scenes look at a movie theater mixed in with some urban exploration. And the popcorn kettles are still there, if you want them! Great for movie night for you, your family, and 150 or so of your friends!

Finally, a couple of other theater notes. The movie business isn't all big, sterile multiplexes. 2001. I was in the town of Moose Lake, Minnesota-smack dab in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. We saw Enemy At The Gates at the local show. $3 to get in, fancy painted interior in the theater, and popcorn that had been popped that night-with real butter on top! A nice old small-town place to see a flick.

My mom told me about the time they went to Three Forks, Montana to visit my stepdad's relatives. Three Forks was a railroad stop, a couple of bars, and not much else-but they did have a theater. The folks went to the show that night, and the manager announced that if six people didn't show up, they wouldn't run the movie! Can't blame them-it'd cost more to keep the lights on than to show a film to two people. Evidently they got the requisite six, no doubt coming to relax after a long day in the shopping, big business, and general cosmopolitan delights that a town-no, the town-in that part of Montana has to offer. But still, funny to hear.

Any theater stories out there?

yankeedog out.