Sunday, January 25, 2015

Feildman Flix and the Outer Worlds

Back in the day, think 70's and 80's, I used to play a lot of role-playing games.  One of the games I played was called Star Frontiers.  In Star Frontiers you created a character who lived in the future.  IT was sort of like sci-fi meets Dungeons and Dragons.  The Player Characters (PC) used hover-cars and laser pistols and often times faced off against the Sathar, an evil worm like race.  It was a lot of fun but what always stuck with me was the world itself.

In Star Frontiers you could travel long distances between star systems but they didn't have a warp drive they would use a, make believe, property of physics.  The laser pistols used tons of power and often times the PC's had to carry power back packs to power them.  Space ships zipped about but they did not have artificial gravity and fancy shields.  Instead they relied on acceleration and armor.  It was an exciting place and full of potential.

However as most Role Playing games did it went by he wayside and was lost to mine and other players imaginations.  When I came up with the character of Feildman Flix I decided I did not want to place him in a Star Wars like or even Star Trek like setting.  Instead I wanted him to live in a new yet grubby universe.  At first he was not even going to leave the solar system but I decided that I wanted other places and planets in his universe.  However I still wanted to limitations that we see today with space travel.  Thus I created a universe for him that is based on a lot of what I remembered from Star Frontiers.

The Flix stories are new for me and in many cases I am writing the chapters you see here just prior to their release.  I hope you enjoy the adventures of Mr. Flix.

Feildman Flix and the Outer Worlds


Chapter – 1

The switch of lighting from normal brightness to amber was the first warning but it was instantly followed up by a warbling alert followed by the voice overlay of the system.  “Warning - Approaching rift entry velocity.  Please standby for zero-gravity maneuvering.”  The voice would repeat again every few seconds until the engines ceased thrust.  At that point the ship would become a weightless environment.  Which would last for only a half an hour at most, during that time the vessel would make its final thrust alignments and fire the spark.

In the time between zero-g and the spark firing the engine gang and the flight operations staff would be busy making all the last minute preparations.  Insuring that everything was safe for the maneuver and that their alignment was spot on, if they were off target they might encounter a spatial anomaly that would destroy the ship.  Once the computer had double checked everything the flight crew would check it and then have the computer verify their work.  Once everyone gave the green the spark would fire.

The spark was the common name for the void drive initiator.  It had picked up the name from the visual feedback that was created when a void rift was opened.  It was not unlike a ball of lightening that widens into a ring.  Once the ring had reached the appropriate size the ship would punch through and continue its travel through void space.  Some folks called it ghost space.  The transit through would be handled completely by the onboard system, flight crew would have ran back-up to the system that all changed when the ghosts started to appear.

Technically speaking they were not ghosts but echoes of the past and the future.  Shades of what was and what will come.  To seasoned spacers they were more a distraction than a concern but to passengers and first time travelers they can be quite scary.   Every ship seemed to acquire its own set of spectral travelers to accompany them through the void.  Many of the crews took to naming them.
Feildman moved to the acceleration couch and secured himself in place.  The restraints would hold him during the zero-g maneuvers and ensure that he was in the proper position when thrust resumed.   Feildman had lost track of how man jumps like this he had made in the last year.  Each and every jump took him further from his home, further from the things he knew and loved.  This last jump was to one of the outer colonies.  With luck he could stop here and rest for a bit, make a few credits.   The rate of the alarm klaxon picked up, “ALERT – ALERT – Zero gravity maneuvering commencing.”
The background vibration pitch of the engines ceased for a moment to be replaced by a series of micro vibrations as the ship began its alignment phase.  It sounded like some disco-funk drummer who had lost all sense of rhythm was pounding on the hull with his sticks.  Feildman activated the entertainment system and allowed the music to drown out the sounds.  It would be over soon and then the ship would start forward thrust again.  As he listened he mused on the nearly depleted stack of credits he had in his possession.   When he had fled he had grabbed everything the professor had on hand, it had been a small fortune, or so it seemed at the time.  Now though there was barely enough left to get him a decent room for a few days when they made planetfall.

Of course at first he had not made jumps on passenger ships like this one.  His first two rift jumps had been on a cargo hauler then he had hitched a ride with a scientific expedition.  That had been a fun trip.  After that he had continued to move but more publicly using an assumed identity, one of the students on that trip had showed him how to create it.  Two stops later he had manipulated his identity again and again at the next stop.  Most of the credits had gone into making the multiple identities.

The drummer was now attempting to find a way to a rhythm in ever shortening bursts.  The alignment thrusts were so small that only the vibration of the engines gave away the work that the system was doing.  The alert tone changed “WARNING – WARNING Rift entry initiated.”   Through the small external porthole that his luxury cabin afforded him Feildman saw the purple static spark of the rift entry point as the ship slid past it building velocity and adding weight to his body.  The light show was short and soon only the vague flickering light of rift space could be seen.

The alert alarm ceased and the system voice announced “Now traveling in void space you are free to move about the vessel.”  Feildman disconnected the straps and rose to his feet, ships gravity was approaching shipboard standard.  According to the ships itinerary they would be in the rift for approximately fourteen days.  They would travel approximately fourteen light years before exiting to normal space.

Grabbing his coat Feildman exited his cabin and headed toward the main salon for passengers.  Perhaps he would play a game with one of the others or have a meal.  He was partial to the duck.  As he entered the room one of the staff approached him.  “Dr. Rynolds, Lady Chamberlain has requested your presence at her table for dinner this evening.”

Friday, January 23, 2015

Green Bank Observatory

The Green Bank telescope operates at the National Radio Observatory in Green Bank West Virginia.  I made this image while on a scout trip visiting the observatory.  This particularly telescope was completed in 2002 and is 100m in diameter.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

10 Items for the back woods

One of the many take always a scout should get is their are 10 items you should always have on you when you are in the back country.  They are simple common sense kinds of things but you would be surprised how often one or more of them are left behind.  In our unit we require that our scouts always have these items on them.  So what are they?

  1. A pocketknife or multitool 
  2. A first-aid kit 
  3.  extra clothing to match the weather
  4. Rain gear
  5. A flashlight
  6. Trail food
  7. Water
  8. Matches and/or a fire starter
  9. Sun protection
  10. A map and compass
See its a simple list of items and they all make sense don't they,  Lets take a look at each of them.

A pocketknife or multitool has tons of uses and is quite honestly something that I never leave home without.  Even when I travel across he country I pack my knife in my checked baggage.  I prefer a leatherman multi-tool over a pocket knife.  Granted I don't carry a huge one I carry a small one but it fits my needs well.  The image is the type I carry only mine is bright orange and well worn from use and time.  It fits nicely in my work suits and in my jeans pocket.

A first-aid kit..well duh but I also don't mean one of those cheap little pre-made kits you can buy.  Mine has bandages and disinfectant plus a few other things like sun block, aspirin, and more.  It all fits in a nice military style pouch that I can fix to my belt or on my pack.

My extra clothing is usually in my pack and it will be sealed up in a waterproof container of some kind.   Make sure the clothing matches the weather conditions.  It does no good to take extra clothing that will not help you.  In the winter I carry warm things and in the summer it will be lighter things.  Like I said I tend to use my extra clothes from my back-pack but they are in a separate container that can be pulled out quickly.

I carry a disposable poncho in my ten item kits for rain but in my larger pack I always have a waterproof jacket of some kind.  My current one is a BSA scout that Shannon picked up for me a the last National Scout Jamboree here in West Virginia.  If I am day packing I would likely have shoved that down in there with my other stuff.  You never know what may happen when you are out in the woods.

A flashlight is an essential and for a quick outing something small needs to used.  Small and light.  There are a number of good lights on the market but I prefer to use a mini-mag light.  They take a beating and keep working.  I'm partial to the ones that use led bulbs as they tend to last longer.  Matthew has a really small light he carries that is made up of six or seven ultrabright LED's.  IT's really small and uses only AAA batteries.

Your essentials kit should also contain a bit of trail food.  I like to keep a few granola type bars in there, not the kind covered with chocolate or some other covering.  I also keep oatmeal and a bit of jerky too.  Some of the guys keep fruit cups it's really up to you but a long day in the woods makes you hungry and if things go bad having a bit of grub is worth it.

Water is water and you need it.  You can't survive more than three days with-out it.  So make sure you have some on you and a means to carry it.  I have an older camelbak that I carry.  Often on scout outings I will keep a simple water bottle clipped to my belt.  If I'm traveling distance I'll use the camelbak.

OK face it your lost you need to sit your backside down and get your headed wrapped around the situation.  The weather took a turn and now its cold and your wet.  OR pick another reason that you need a fire, maybe its to fix dinner.  Regardless of your reason you need a way to make a fire.  Keep in mind you are talking about an emergency situations here.  I personally keep a tinder kit in my gear at all times.  My tinder kit includes but is not limited to flint and steel, char cloth, jute twine and some laundry lint.  I do keep a lighter tucked in there as well but the primary way I light my fires is with the flint and steel.

The sun is not your friend, in fact having adequate protection from the sun is a necessity.  I keep sunblock in my kit and recommend you do the same the other thing I do is wear a hat.  When I'm out with the scouts its my ball cap and when I'm on my own it is often the same thing.  I also wear a wide brim hat during the colder months.  The hat I picked up while at a horse show but its foldable and that means I can put it my my pack.  The reason I favor a ball cap with the scouts is my photography.  The wide brim gets in my way when I shoot.

The last of the items that you need is a map and compass.  As far as compasses are concerned I prefer a map compass like the one on the left.  It carries well and it works for my needs.  Knowing that you are walking in a strait line can mean the difference between life and death.  However a strait line only helps you if you know where you are going and that means you need a map.

Printed maps are getting harder to come by and the best place to get what you need is the USGS site.  They are cheap and worth the cash.  I have topographical maps of all the areas that I travel frequently and you need to do the same.  NEVER go with-out a map!

So there you have it a list of the supplies and items that you should have on you when you hit the back country.  Remember that this is my thoughts placed over the teaching of the scouts.  What are your thoughts on this?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Photography And The 50MM 1.8 Canon Lens

by Dave Keys

Adorama 120x90I've had this lens for around a month. It's a much less alternative to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.2 L USM lens, which costs around $1,300 or so. Many photographers can't justify this cost for just one prime lens, especially if they're still trying to fill in the gap for quality zoom lenses such as the 24-70 2.8 or the two thousand dollar 70-200 2.8 with image stabilization. Nevertheless, There are cheaper alternatives from Canon that can produce nearly the same results in the right circumstances, which the experienced photographer will soon discover and leverage to their advantage. This lens was available at my favorite photographic equipment shop in Fullerton, Fullerton Cameras for a mere $80. A second-hand steal from someone who apparently upgraded to better things. I had a wedding to shoot the next day and decided to buy this lens instead of renting its 1.2 cousin.

My results were extremely pleasing. This lens scoops up all the light at full aperture that you could need in nearly any circumstance. My wedding was in a Catholic church which adhered strictly to a no-flash rule. I shot relatively wider shots from my mandatory 30 feet off to the side location, and video with this lens on the Canon T2i. The lens performed better in the low light of the church than the 70-200, which was only able to perform because of its image stabilization, giving me the ability to slow the shutter speed dangerously close to what would normally be "expect a blurry shot" territory. I got a few good shots even at speeds as low as 1/40 second. As for the 50MM 1.8 , I could stay around 1/80 second to 1/100 second in the poorly lit sanctuary. All in all, I've had an amazing amount of fun and success with this lens, well worth the second-hand, or even new price. If money is the object and you need a decent prime lens, especially to get started in prime lenses, this one may be just the right candidate for you.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Impossible photography

Image by Erik Johansson
Erik Johansson creates realistic photos of impossible scenes -- capturing ideas, not moments. In this witty how-to, the Photoshop wizard describes the principles he uses to make these fantastical scenarios come to life, while keeping them visually plausible.

Sunday, January 18, 2015