Friday, October 31, 2008

Samhain Night at Lotus'...

Man, I wish every night was Halloween. Even though I'm not up to anything exciting this year, just manning the door for sugared up munchkins in their flimsy camouflage of witch and superhero costumes, and working on the plane between interruptions of 'trick or treat' (what ever happened to the 'for a' in that phrase anyway?), I still love it.

Just think... What if every night you were expected to be someone else, anyone you wanted to be, to wear completely outlandish and exciting clothing, and were given nothing but smiles and free candy for your efforts?

Now that's a world I definitely want to live in.

Always been my favourite night of the year and always will be. :)


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Quiet progress...

Well another Albatros update here, and this one will be the last visual preview on the blog most likely, which I'll explain in a minute. I've been jamming fifteen hour days consistently into the plane over the past several weeks and I'm happy to say that all of the gauges are now finished and working perfectly. She's fully IFR capable and great fun to fly in the soup. It actually turned out to be slightly easier than I expected to get a full suite of 3D gauges built, mostly thanks to the rather clever and logical FSX SDK. I still have a fair bit of systems programming work ahead of me but getting the gauges complete and functional (all twenty three of them... per seat) was a major milestone. As with all things on this plane, there's the standard American way to do something, the Russian way, and then there's the Aero Vodochody way, which is almost always clever, elegant, and utterly bizarre at the same time. Just about every instrument on this plane is bespoke to it actually.

Just a note, I hope you're all comfortable with the metric system. The only English/Imperial system gauge is the altimeter. ;)

So why is this the last preview? Well it's because I've gotten just about all of the funky features into the cockpit that I hoped FSX was capable of and I don't feel like tipping my hand to the competition from this point on. I also rather enjoy dropping surprises on people. :)

At the moment I'm working on building the full VC model, which is about 20% complete. Then I just have to texture it (gonna need a few thousand lattes for that part), finish off the systems, get the sound hooked up once it arrives, kill all the inevitable bugs, and write one massive manual for it haha. And yeah it's going to need a massive manual. On the surface there's a great deal left to do but total effort wise I'm well past the halfway mark on this grand adventure, and that's a good feeling.

Anyway here's a shot from the rear seat (minus the gauges) of the very early and nowhere close to finished VC model haha, and one of the seat itself. It'll give you a little hint as to the kind of detail that will be present throughout the cockpit anyway. As I stated at the beginning, performance is my number one goal with this project and happily the VC is where I really get to use everything in my bag of tricks in keeping the framerate up. It's really good fun to build.

I'm still shooting for a wrap up at the end of December, but I don't have high hopes of making that self imposed deadline. It'll more likely be the end of January or early February, but regardless I'll only release it when I'm 100% happy with it. If that takes until June then so be it. Such is a labour of love. :)


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Israeli Rollercoaster...

Well I'm back again. It was a whirlwind trip in more ways than one and I'm mentally exhausted from it. Normally I have an easy time articulating my experiences in travel, but this one's tough. My last trip to Israel was just a cursory looksee really, I enjoyed it but didn't get a lot out of it. That definitely changed this time around. We had an excellent local private guide for the trip which really made a world of difference. It's one thing to see a place but quite another to get the backstory of every single thing you're looking at. The history of the place is just amazing. So much hope, and life, and death and destruction all packed into such a tiny space. In fact I can't even describe how tiny it really is. From the edge of the West Bank, at Israel's narrowest point, you can actually see the beach in Tel Aviv, it's just 25 km. You realize when you're there that history is a very real and present thing, being made moment to moment, which is a feeling you just can't get in good old safe and boring Canada.

The bottom line is that I came away with a great deal of respect for the Israeli people, much more than I ever had before. How they manage to live in a state of constant conflict and yet still build an advanced and extremely liberal nation and maintain some sense of normalcy to every day life just amazes me beyond belief. I really hope one day that true and lasting peace can be achieved there. If the beautiful city of Haifa, a place where Jews and Arabs co-exist peacefully, is any indication then it's certainly possible. It definitely gave me some hope. Fingers crossed.

The side effect of the constant threat they face though is that at a very subliminal level they really strive to make the most of each day. Few work harder than the Israelis but nobody parties harder. We always say to ourselves to live each day like it's our last, but the reality here in North America is that it doesn't work, we will likely live to see tomorrow just fine. In Israel though it's different, there's a real and constant danger involved in living there, one that only fluctuates in intensity but never goes away, and it breeds a zest for life in the people that is just utterly infectious. I wish I could explain it better. It's one emotional and inspiring ride that's for sure haha.

Some of the highlights of the trip were seeing Jerusalem of course (it still has that special magical air about it), seeing Masada, where the Jews made their last stand against the Romans and committed mass suicide instead of accepting their inevitable defeat and slavery, and visiting the Israeli Air Force museum, an enormous well of contemporary history. It's one thing to see a Mirage III in a French museum, and quite another to see an Israeli one with thirteen Syrian and Egyptian Mig kills painted on its nose from the Six Day war. Impressive as hell. I also saw one of the IAI Lavi prototypes from the mid 80's and suddenly realized that the Eurofighter is just a shameless copy haha. Put pictures of the two side by side, you'll see what I mean.

On the flipside of the trip, we went through New York city on the way to and from Israel, and in both cases I was given an unjustified and protracted grilling by the gestapo that the US Customs system has become, including bag searches and being detained for upwards of an hour with no explanation. And that's me, an upstanding Canadian citizen who has never committed a crime of any sort. I feel truly sad for anyone else trying to visit the country. The unfortunate result though is that this trip must represent my final flight into a US city. I'm not putting up with that anymore. In the future I will drive to the US when I need to go there, though I'm not really sure how long that will last either. It's sad really. I lived in the US for many years and used to really look forward to going south. No more. Thankfully one can fly to just about anywhere in the world from Toronto, though Pearson International airport may be that city's only really useful feature haha.

Anyway, here's a few piccies from the journey. Enjoy.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Poof.... again.

Well I'm off to Tel Aviv in a few hours. Been a long time since I visited Israel and there's a lot I missed the first time around.

Jerusalem in particular is a place I am definitely psyched to see again. Of all the exotic cities I've ever been to around the world, and there are a lot, Jerusalem is truly the most surreal. I swear that if you took all the people out of that city that you would hear the walls whispering to each other. That's the sense I had last time I was there, that the city, the very architecture itself, was 'alive'. Even cooler is that I'm not alone in that feeling. Ask anyone who's ever been there and they'll likely tell you the same thing. I'm curious to see if that feeling remains. :)

Back in ten days, a quick trip this time.