France 2019 Trip: Aeroscopia

After flipping through my camera roll the other day, I decided to share the pics from a stop in France for those curious and also use the post as a writing exercise. I may also do a couple of other galleries of my trip there since we did so much sightseeing as it was my first time in the country. But that’ll be later down the line and for now I’ll do one of my favourite stops on the trip. The pictures are not really great, I’m not a photographer and only had my phone with me, but I hope you enjoy them because for me the memories are priceless.

I don’t work in the aerospace or air travel industries nor do I have my pilot’s license. I don’t even fly model planes, though I did have a little drone that I lost in the neighborhood on a windy day. Nevertheless, I’ve always had a fascination with aviation. I can’t pinpoint a single reason why this is the case, but rather there are several. The idea of seemingly defying gravity, the sheer size of the machines, the complexity of them, the scale of the industries, and that most airplanes are beautiful machines. Let’s also not forget about the amazing view at nearly 40,000’ above the ground. Truly one of the greatest accomplishments by mankind that brings the world closer by making traveling around the globe easy compared to only one hundred years ago. Naturally it became a requirement that we stop at the Airbus factory and Aeroscopia museum in Blagnac/Toulouse during our time in France.

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When you arrive and park at the museum the first thing you’ll see outside is a marvel of technology, the magnificent Concorde. Surprisingly this is one of two Concordes at the museum, there is a second one inside as well. On a side note, I won’t be going into much detail regarding each airplane on display or this post may become way too long. If you’re curious about the details I recommend you head over to Wikipedia (I’ll link each plane under the photo) to read up on them.

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Prior to arriving in Toulouse, my friend and I went online and booked a tour of the Airbus A380’s final assembly hangars and had planned to tour the museum as well. The A380 tour consisted of a video presentation and history of the A380’s development and statistical information. Next we learned about the massive supply chain required for multiple nations to work in unison to manufacture the millions of components of the behemoth and the logistical challenges to get everything put together and shipped to Toulouse for final assembly. Lastly, we went upstairs of an assembly hangar where they were working on three different A380s at once. From there we continued the tour on a bus as they drove us around an area where A380s and A330s were getting their livery slapped on. It was great to see the planes up close rather than just from a distance through a terminal window. Unfortunately, during nearly the entire tour, photographs were not allowed, which is fairly standard in many manufacturing plants.

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Built from Legos, this was sitting in the reception area and is definitely the kind of A380 even I could build. Eventually.

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Lastly our tour ended by visiting the A400M military transport vehicle that sits just outside the museum with an open cargo bay you can explore as pictured above. Why I didn’t take a picture of it from the outside is beyond me.

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After the tour we headed into the museum to wander about. The older airplane seen here is the Bleriot XI (unsure of the variant) which was developed back in 1909. It’s famous for a few things, such as being the first airplane (balloons excluded) to cross the English Channel. It also was the first airplane to be used in a war (1910 in Africa by Italy), winning races such as the Circuit de l’Est and trophies such as the Gordon Bennett Trophy. When it won the Gordon Bennett Trophy in 1910, it also ended up setting a new air speed record too.

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Another notably older French airplane pictured above is the Morane-Saulnier Type-G which was designed back in 1912. This plane also holds the title of being the first to cross the Mediterranean Sea.

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In the above picture you can see a Mignet Pou-du-Ciel Flying Flea (HM.293 variant I believe from around 1946). These little planes were designed and sold in kits to amateurs to assemble and fly on their own. Originally developed in the mid-30s, it was no surprise that they did not have a great safety reputation.

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Designed in the 30s primarily for use of the German Luftwaffe in WWII, the Messerschmitt BF 109 gave Germany dominance over the skies in the early part of the war. It remains one of the most mass produced fighter planes with nearly 34,000 assembled, though unfortunately some of the parts were produced at concentration camps using slave labour.

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The Nord 1101 Noralpha was essentially a BF 109 that was modified by the French during WWII. Though it’s based on the BF 109, its resemblance is not overly noticeable as not just the engine was modified but so was the cockpit, landing gear, and rudders.

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Shortly after WWII, the jet powered age of aviation was put in high gear. Countries began to modernize their air forces and the Soviet Union was not to be left behind. However, the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 pictured above was not the Soviet’s first jet engine, but it did become one of the most success fighter jets ever produced. While they may be somewhat dated now, North Korea still has some in their active fleet even today.

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Another airplane developed after WWII, primarily for training of French air forces with jet powered planes rather than propeller aircraft is the Fouga CM.170 Magister pictured above. Personally love the butterfly tail as opposed to a traditional rudder. They just look so badass.

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The Morane-Saulnier MS.760 Paris was a French designed and built jet powered errand boy for the French Air Force. Designed in 1954 it was put into production after Morane-Saulnier received a large order from the French government. Unfortunately sales never gained much traction in North America despite being one of the first small passenger planes with jets rather than propellers, the company eventually filed for bankruptcy in the 60s. Personally I love the look the triangular intakes mounted directly into the wings.

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Developed by Vought, the F-8 Crusader was primarily used by the USA and French militaries. Despite having impressive capabilities, the F-8 seemed to be a relatively problem prone aircraft as out of the 1,261 craft that were built, 1,106 had some sort of mishaps, though many are related to the planes high degree of operational difficulty and being an unforgiving machine. As it was designed to land and take off from aircraft carriers, the jet came with folding wings for storage on ships. The plane itself was impressive though, as there is an incident where a pilot took off from a carrier with the folding wings still folded up and even made a successful landing back on the carrier with the wings still up. Impressive indeed, but I am still not a fan of that intake mouth.

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Always love jets in camouflage livery regardless of desert or other colours. The Dassault Mirage III was in the developed in the late 50s and in production by the early 60s for use by the French air force. Besides the French, the jet was used by many countries such as Israel. It has a fairly successful history when it comes to dog fighting in wars such as the Six-Day and the Yom Kippur wars. The jet is now fairly dated but Pakistan still has a few today that are in their fleet.

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Unofficially dubbed “the missile with a man in it” The Lockheed F-104 Starfighter was a powerhouse at the time of its development in the late 50s. At one time it held both the world speed and altitude records and was the first fighter to sustain Mach 2 flight.

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SEPECAT was a joint program between the French and the British which worked together to develop the SEPECAT Jaguar pictured above. Originally this was meant to be a trainer for their air forces, the program expanded and eventually the Jaguar was upgraded to a relatively modern high-tech fighter optimized for ground attacks, supersonic speeds, and even capable of nuclear strikes. That’s a hell of a promotion. The original designs for the jet were from the 60s and it entered service in 1973 and the Indian air force still flies them today.

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No aviation museum would be complete without a helicopter, right? Well here’s one. The Aérospatiale Gazelle is a nimble little chopper primarily used transportation and reconnaissance but also capable of light attack duties. It was developed in the late 60s and in order to retain its reputation for being agile, it was the first helicopter to use a Fenestron, which is a covered tail rotor that performs better at higher speeds.

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All good museums give us a glance at the future, as they should. This aviation museum is no different and displays a Voltair/Airbus E-Fan. I’m not sure exactly which variant this is (2.0?) but it’s a modern looking little two seater that runs solely on lithium ion batteries. Sadly production of this plane was cut off, but there are plans for larger electric and hybrid models in the future.

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And now we get to the big boys inside the museum. Here you can take a peek into the cavernous insides of an old Super Guppy. With Airbus being a cooperative between multiple European countries, moving parts around the continent had always been a challenge. The Super Guppy was developed in the 60s to cost effectively move larger components such as fuselages. Surprisingly the first Super Guppy was actually based on a Boeing airframe that underwent significant modifications. Today though these have been replaced by Airbus’s Beluga XLs which are built on their own A330 frames.

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The A300B pictured here is a fairly common plane and you may have even seen a couple when traveling through a major airport. There are still over 200 being operated, though most are freight aircraft so you may not have flown on one any time recently. But the A300 model line was a major part of Airbus’s history and deserves a spot in the museum. How major? Well, in the late 60s a joint venture formed between France and West Germany to develop a large commercial aircraft that would carry 250 people and in doing so Airbus was born. So it’s fairly significant to Airbus’s history to say the least.

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Sadly I’m too young to have ever had a chance to fly on a Concorde, though even if I was old enough I doubt I could afford to do so anyways. As mentioned earlier, this machine is a true wonder of technology. Also a British and French venture before Airbus existed, the Concorde was developed primarily in the late 60s and flew commercially from the mid-70s to 2003. It flew at twice the speed of sound (around 2,180km/h) and could cruise at 60,000’, it towered over all other commercial passenger plane performance. To achieve this, the plane had to conquer all sorts of issues that were unique to it. Conventional structural and thermal solutions to traditional airplanes would simply not suffice at such high speed, nor would practical airplane performance guidelines apply to such a unique design. The most costly though was the engine configuration which was developed from military power plants and also the intake designs needed a very unique design. All of the obstacles were eventually overcome with some outside the box thinking, but that came at a significant cost to the development program. Initially the development cost was pegged at £70 million but it ended up ballooning to £1.3 billion. Talk about a bad estimate.

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These model planes were huge. I really wanted one but I’d need a separate suitcase on the trip back. Not only that, but the price tag on even small ones in the gift shop was quite steep so imagine these would cost and arm and a leg. Though to remember my trip to Aeroscopia I did end up buying a little A380 to put in my office which is pictured below.

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If you even have a bit of an aviation nerd in you I highly recommend doing a tour and a walkthrough of the museum if you ever find yourself in France. There was plenty more to see of course, but these are just the pictures that ended up on my phone and I thought I’d share them. I hope you enjoyed the brief walk through and pictures.

Data is Beautiful: My Simpsons shitposting over it’s second year

I can’t believe that February 2nd has passed and it has now been 2 full years of making Simpsons shitposts. Because I’ve got so many ideas bouncing around in my head, and MS paint is a god send, I found that most of this blog has now been overtaken by them. For that I am truly sorry. Last year I made a graph of what my Reddit net upvotes looked like out of curiosity, and did a bit of a write up on the subject of making them for one year. I’m not going to regurgitate that post but rather continue from there so I recommend reading that first post here if you’re interested on any sort of backstory.

Much over the course of the second year of making Simpsons Shitposts has remained the same though, I still have not found any sort of formula for what works or what does not, which I again consider a good thing. I suppose the key change is I’ve spread to a new platform for posting them. I tried to see how I could post them on Instagram, but I was unable to find a satisfactory method and gave up. I revisited the idea by going with the slideshow method which seems to work. I’ve gained a bit of a following after a fair bit of likes. I’ve even seen some of the biggest Instagram Simpsons Shitposting accounts take some of my originals (probably ones from Reddit that got quite high upvotes though) and repost them of their accounts. Ultimately I don’t really care if they do, but I wish they would give me credit. Oh well.

Looking at the graph below, we have to take into account that since the first graph, the number of subscribers has nearly doubled, from about 34,000 to 59,000 which is a major factor for the higher average for year two (+55% from year 1).

In addition to the graph, here are some fun statistics. Ok they may not be fun but here they are anyways. I wanted to practice in Adobe Illustrator and make some fancy info graphic about them but I got lazy. It’s now already 9 days after February 2nd and I don’t want to delay it anymore so here’s the simple table.

So does this trend mean this entire blog will slowly become nothing but Simpsons Shitposts? Not really, I plan to expand into Futurama shitposts too. Ok maybe not. But this blog will not become just Simpsons shit, in fact quite the opposite. I’ve found that making such frequent shitposts has hindered progress of my other creative projects I’d like to put together. I plan to put the brakes on the shitposts, well not entirely, but I will pump them a bit. I’ll continue to work on them from time to time, but I plan to focus more on other stuff so you may see less of them in the coming year. If you’re a fan of them I’m sorry, if you hate them you probably don’t read this blog. Either way sorry.

On quitting smoking

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With New Year’s resolutions right around the corner, I thought I’d do a little write up about one of the more common (yet often broken) resolutions made every December 31st. The one I’m talking about is quitting smoking. I’ve been a regular smoker since I was about 19 or 20 and I’ve tried a few methods to quit. Some stuck, some did not, and some worked better than expected. This past year I gave it up again and hopefully it will be the last time and would like to share what worked the best for me.

As a little background, I began smoking later in life than most. This was mostly due to reaching drinking age and heading to the bar with friends when I turned 19. It was the mid 2000s and more people smoked back then. So after some drinks and joining friends outside for a smoke at the bar (smoking indoors was banned entirely) I occasionally was given one by a friend. Eventually I craved a smoke even when I wasn’t at the bar and in time it became a regular habit. While there are certainly more negative effects than positive ones, a smoke never failed to temporarily relieve stress and it helped me through some tough times, so I never really considered quitting.

As I grew older, somewhere around the mid 2010s, I decided I wanted to quit. There were a few factors that led to this. One was the stench or it. Two was the negative physical consequences, such as throat irritation and lung capacity. Three was the threat of permanent serious physical consequences such as lung cancer. And fourth was the cost. While the adverse health effects SHOULD be the ultimate reason to quit, the driving factor for me was the money as I’m a fairly frugal person. After I began doing my personal full cycle accounting, I saw just how much it was costing me. My pack a day habit was setting me back $300 per month which is a nice $3,600 per year. So with that figure at the front of my mind I decided to attempt to quit. Since that first attempt to quit, I’ve been on and off smoking for a few years now. At one point I even quit smoking for two full years but still found myself going back to it. So below is a list of what worked and what did not.

What did not work for me:

– Cold turkey. As delicious as this method sounds, it did not work beyond a day or two. All the power to those strong willed folks that go this route, but I found that I became quit irritated and could not last long without a cigarette given the high levels of nicotine in my system. If you smoke a pack a day I do not recommend this route, but given that the price is completely free it may be worth a shot and see how you do.

– The patch and gum. I found that even the strongest patch could help me for only a week or so. I first tried the patch alone, but I ended up caving after a few days. I combined it with the gum, so that the patch kept a constant flow of nicotine and I would rely on the gum for whenever I had a major craving. I would recommend this method if you’re a light smoker but ultimately this did not help me quit for a long period of time, it did help though my reducing my smoking significantly when I was using both.

What did work for me:

– Champix/Chantix medication. I used this to quit for the two years as mentioned above. It’s a three month treatment of two pills a day and you can continue smoking until day 30. There are some side effects though that some people experience such as crazy nightmares and stomach cramps. Over time it makes you detest even the smell of a cigarette. I was lucky and did not have any side effects and was able to stop smoking completely, even though up to day 30 I smoked a pack a day. Day 31 I was at zero and stayed there for a couple of years. Highly recommend for heavy smokers provided the side effects are not severe for you, also many insurance companies (or work benefits) cover this medication so it can be free for some people.

– Vaping. My most recent method to quitting and surprisingly my favourite. The route I went with was starting with 35mg nicotine and going down a step each time I finished the bottle. Went to 24mg, then 12mg, 6mg, 3mg, and eventually nicotine free. By the time I was in my third month of vaping I was nicotine free. A big factor as to why I liked this method the best was because it gave me something the other methods couldn’t; the habit of smoking. Cold turkey, patch, gum, or medication all gave me my nicotine fix, but man did I miss taking a smoke break and going outside while at work. Also as mentioned above, the amount of nicotine you receive can be controlled closely which is a nice benefit. Vaping is also significantly cheaper than buying packs of smokes. I would highly recommend this method for light or heavy smokers.

There are other methods to quitting smoking, but I feel I can only comment on the ones that I’ve actually tried. The most important piece of advice that I can give to all smokers hoping to quit is simply keep trying. Try different methods and find what works for you. If you quit for a little while and then fall back into it, don’t take that as a negative. Focus on the fact that maybe you quit for six months and saved a lot of money during that time frame and then try quitting again when you’re ready.

I hope that this may help some smokers stick to their resolution, or perhaps it helps someone decide that now is the time to quit. Or maybe gave someone an idea on a method they haven’t tried yet. If this article helps one person quit it was worth writing. All the power to you with this resolution in 2020.

Au revoir!

I’ll see you later folks! I’m taking a much due vacation with a friend and we’re hopping across the pond to explore the French countryside. As always, I’ll have my notebook with me to jot down any ideas that may one day find their way on here. I really don’t plan to work on anything while there and actually just enjoy the sights and sounds. The most I’ll do is maybe post a bit on my Twitter but that’s all for a bit.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been on of my favourite holidays. But surprisingly enough I’ve never carved a pumpkin in my life! For some reason as a kid I never had a desire to, so my folks never got one and carved it with me. And if I didn’t care carve one, my parents never got one to decorate for the holiday either as Halloween was never celebrated back in the old country. At least not back then, maybe nowadays it is though.

So I decided to give it a whirl this year, I mean as a man in my 30s it should be super easy. So I grabbed a stencil of an appropriate design; the Pokemon known as Haunter has always been one of the favourites and I figured he’d be a great fit. The stencil doesn’t seem too difficult so I got myself a decent sized pumpkin and a sharp knife from the kitchen.

Well shit I had no idea how thick a pumpkin could get, which meant I had to put considerable amount of muscle into cutting out shapes. This meant that my lines were not straight and all over the place. Ugh. Also the stencil required some fairly small and narrow cuts that might no way could make. Ugh again. So I messed up my Haunter stencil badly and to plan B I went, a traditional Jack O’Lantern face with lots of easy straight lines!

Ultimately I’m happy with it as my first pumpkin carving attempt, perhaps next year I may try something a little more complex and perhaps actually get more precise tools rather than just use the first knife I find. Also why no pictures of it with the lights on? Well, this pumpkin only had one good side, and it was messed up with the terrible Haunter attempt. The side with the face you see unfortunately had bruising on the skin. But I figured when the sun goes down it won’t be noticeable so I still decided to use it. Happy Halloween!

iPhone 7 and a Q400 propeller

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted anything (though I am working on things) so I thought I’d post this. I was going through my old files on the phone and forgot that I had taken this short video of the propeller of the Q400 I was riding on. With the shutter speed of my phone I thought it produced a mildly interesting visual effect. Sorry for the vertical video, I wasn’t really thinking at the time.

That’s like, your opinion, man

I finally got around to watching the Venom movie last night, and despite all the negativity I heard about it prior to its release I found that I enjoyed it. Perhaps I have a bit of bias towards it though, as growing up Venom was always my favourite superhero comicbook character. If you’ve read any of my other comicbook related posts, you’d notice that I don’t generally read superhero comics, it’s mostly scifi, crime, fantasy, or horror. But I did read a bit back when I was younger and Venom was, and still is, my favourite. And given the entertainment value these days of the Marvel and DC movies, I do find myself catching the odd superhero movie from time to time. Some I enjoy like Spiderman Homecoming or The Dark Knight Returns, and some are clear misses. So when Venom got his own movie of course I had to watch it as I felt the Venom in Spiderman 2 simply didn’t do him justice.

I’m not wanting to write a thorough review or recommendation on the movie, but I’d say it was overall good. I really like that Venom was actually portrayed as a larger than human beast for starters. I felt it also captured his character well too, a bit sarcastic and somewhat comedic. I was originally worried after the trailer that there would be very little scenes with Venom actually in it and that most of it would rely on his voice due to a potentially low CGI budget. But I felt it sufficed with his screen time too, which I was happy to see (though it could have used a bit more Riot). The actions scenes were decent as well so not much in terms of complaints there either. The movie is not without its flaws, story wasn’t amazing though it wasn’t terrible. Some acting was a bit cheesy too but nothing that ruined the whole movie. And maybe it could’ve been rated R instead too. All in all it wasn’t mind blowing or amazing, but it was good enough to enjoy even if you’re not a Venom fan.

But that’s not the point of this post.

After professional critics gave it poor reviews and online discussions were already shitting on the movie, I was going into the movie with low expectations and preloaded disappointment. After enjoying it I found myself asking just how terrible my choice in movies must be. So out of curiosity I checked out the Metacritic page for the movie and found that I’m not alone.

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That is quite the difference between the two numbers. Most viewers like it, and the critics said it was garbage. I’m not sure if the critics jumped on the negative bandwagon prior to release, or if they were solely being pretentious because of the type of movie it is. Either way I felt the critics were out of touch on this one.

This can also happen in reverse. When the next SimCity game after SimCity 4 came out in 2013, I was excited for it. After seeing a video demo of the game, both I and the SimCity Reddit community were really looking forward to its release. Reviewers were giving it 90+ on Metacritic too so the hype was very real. Then it hit the shelves and boy did it suck. It also didn’t help that EA presented the game as something else than what was released and their damaged control of the situation was awful. As of today the player reviews are totaling a whopping 2.2 out of 10. Again the critics were way out to lunch, or possibly bribed for a high review who knows.

Almost all art and media are subjective, it’s really up to the viewer to enjoy or detest. Take professional reviews with a grain of salt and be skeptical at times. If you are curious about watching, listening, playing, or making something, only take reviews into account but don’t let them hold back and your exploration of it, then make your own call. If you liked it great and don’t worry about what others think of your tastes. If you don’t like it, you may have learned something from trying it out anyways.