The mysterious thing about the stucco suburban subdivisions that dot the landscape of the American West is that you never really know what might be going on within those homogenous exterior walls. From hydroponic marijuana farms to the rehearsal room of our next Mozart, the outsides of these ticky-tacky structures betray precious little about the wonders that might lie indoors.
In one such home in Las Vegas, for example, a gentleman built a full-scale Boeing 737 flight simulator in his living room. It's insanely detailed and 100 percent functional -- including full-motion graphics via a 24' curved projection screen, authentic audio effects, a working passenger-address system, live weather and airport feeds, and so much more...
The 737 sim is exacty like the real thing, but the residential setup offers some unique advantages; During long flights, for example, there's a heated pool you can use while the plane jets to your destination via autopilot:
The builder explains how he did it all in the video below. Watch, enjoy, and think about this next time you pass through Suburbanville USA:
Want to see how it looks when you put all the pieces together for a wintry flight from Buffalo, New York to Reagan National in Washington DC? Just stow your tray table, and leave the flying to your very capable sim-pilot:
It's been a few months since we last checked in on the construction of the New San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, so this seems like a good time for an update on how things are going with the largest infrastructure development program in California's history.
As the photo above shows, we're at an interesting stage in the project. With the cantelevered section of the bridge now complete, work has focused on the single-anchored suspention (SAS) portion of the bridge, which will eventually yield a sporty structure that looks like this:
At the moment, most of the SAS deck sections are in place, supported by a temporary scaffolding. The focus now is on building the 525'(!!) tower that will serve as the anchor for the suspension cables. Here's a reprise of the photo at top, showing what's what:
As you can see, the suspension tower goes where the tall, box-like framework sits on the right side of the image. The erection of the tower structure is happening this week, and the process promises to be so compelling and so wunderbar that bridge authorities are reminding motorists driving on the old Bay Bridge to avoid gawking and keep their eyes on the road.
From the latest media advisory from the Bay Bridge Public Information Office:
The erection of the Self-Anchored Suspension Span’s single 525- foot tall tower will reach new heights starting the week of October 24 as crews lift the second set of sections into place, bringing tower construction into full view for Bay Bridge drivers. These latest sections will rise more than 10 stories over the Bay Bridge, giving motorists an up-close glimpse of the herculean endeavor to replace the existing East Span. The public is encouraged to focus on driving safely and to not be distracted by the construction.
Here's how it will all come together. Process-wise, we're now at about 00:18 in this little video... and the rest is just a preview of coming infrastructural attractions.
Photos: Top, Telstar Logistics. All others, Caltrans.
Dazzle camouflage was a technique used during World War I to protect warships from enemy submarines. The goal was not to hide the ships per se, but to break up the vessels' lines and contours to make them harder to see clearly -- and target.
As the Wikipedia summarizeth:
At first glance Dazzle seems unlikely camouflage, drawing attention to the ship rather than hiding it, but this technique was developed after the Allied Navies were unable to develop effective means to disguise ships in all weather.
Dazzle did not conceal the ship but made it difficult for the enemy to estimate its type, size, speed and heading. The idea was to disrupt the visual ragefinders used for naval artillery. Its purpose was confusion rather than concealment. An observer would find it difficult to know exactly whether the stern or the bow is in view; and it would be equally difficult to estimate whether the observed vessel is moving towards or away from the observer's position.
Replace "visual ragefinders" and "naval artillery" with "cameras" and "automotive photojournalism" in the paragraph above, and it's not hard to understand why some automakers today use dazzle camouflage to cover up new vehicle designs during real-world road tests.
These photos, however, were taken by an regular citizen who happened to be touristing in Las Vegas last summer. It certainly shows how effective dazzle can be at masking shapes and contours.
Anyone know what kind of car that is under there?
Photos: Angie Linder
Here's an innovation that may strike terror into the hearts of San Francisco's Fisherman's Wharf Merchants Association. Indeed, the video you are about see could be the harbinger of a wholesale reconficuration of San Francisco's urban landscape and northern waterfront, eventually turning a now-popular tourist area into a robotic Serv-O-Mat... or worse!
As if the dangers of overharvesting, fishery contamination, and economic downturn weren't scary enough for a typical Wharf crab-monger, In Nanjing, China, a new vending machine serves live crabs direct to seafood-craving consumers.
Think about it: If Chinese entrepreneurs take this idea one step further -- by figuring out how to offer live crabs WITH melted butter AND cocktail sauce... perhaps served in a bread bowl... all from a vending machine -- Fisherman's Wharf as we know it may cease to exist. Be afraid, Wharf merchants. Very afraid!
Watch for yourself, and enjoy the Japanese narration:
It's too bad United didn't have one of these on hand to perform the low-and-slow 747 flyby over the Golden Gate Bridge during San Francisco's Fleet Week. Nevertheless, the entity that represents the newly merged United and Continental has now released a photo that shows what the combined airline's new livery looks like on a Boeing 747-400.
As you can see, the new look drops United's old stylized "U" in favor of Continental's globe on the tail -- a logo that has been part of Contiental's identity since 1991. The United name appears near the forward doors, in a custom sans-serif font.
Our guess is that this is just a transitional scheme. On the plus side, the new livery is quick to apply, while minimizing repainting costs. No less importantly, it may help reassure former Continental passengers that the DNA of the old, stand-alone airline -- which, unlike United, enjoyed a reputation for providing not-miserable passenger service -- remains intact. (This appearance is more than skin deep: The new United will be run by an executive leadership team that draws heavily from Continental's ranks.)
After a few years, when the harder parts of the merger integration are complete, United will probably take a fresh look at its visual identity, starting from a blank sheet of paper. Until then, look for planes like this, coming soon an airport near you.
via Airline Reporter
At a time when most filmmakers rely on computer-generated animation to create their special effects, it's good to know that some contemporary Japanese monster movie directors still prefer to do it the old skool way -- with men in goofy rubber suits smashing flimsy models of Tokyo on a giant soundstage. National Geographic shows us how its done:
Our familiar friend and local neighbor, the former USS Tripoli, is getting a spa treatment.
A retired US Navy amphibious assault ship, the weary-looking ex-Tripoli now serves as a test platform for America's missile-defense program, and this week the ship was moved to San Francisco's BAE Shipyard. Daver6, the photographer who took the photos above, tells us, "It's got a few soft spots on her bottom that will be cut out and replaced, then a bottom paint job."
CAMEO BONUS: Notice that the tugboat hard at work on the port side of the ex-Tripoli is the high-tech tractor tug Marshall Foss. Telstar Logistics explored the Marshall Foss in 2008, so you can explore it too.
One of the benefits of having a brand extension who is three years-old is that it affords us the opportunity to experience various San Francisco attractions that we might otherwise dismiss as being too touristy for any self-respecting local.
So that explains why we went for a Duck Tour.
Properly speaking, of course, it was a DUKW tour. And as any self-respecting geek can tell you, a DUKW was a World War II amphibious vehicle that played an important role during the D-Day invasion of Normandy in 1944. Half General Motors truck, half boat, the DUKW proved to be a very useful vehicle either on land or in the water. Here's one coming ashore during the invasion:
Capable of carrying 2.5 tons of cargo at up to 45 mph on land, and then driving into the wet to carry same at 6 mph over water -- or vice-versa -- the DUKW was a classic wartime case study in clever ingenuity and rugged simplicity, and more than 21,000 of them were built during the war. As the Wikipedia summarizeth:
The DUKW (popularly pronounced "duck") is a six-wheel-drive amphibious truck that was designed by a partnership under military auspicies of Stephens & Stephens and General Motors Corporation during World War II for transporting goods and troops over land and water and for use approaching and crossing beaches in amphibious attacks. Designed to last only long enough to meet the demands of combat, productionized Ducks, a modification of the 2-ton capacity "duece" trucks used by the US military in WWII, were later used as tourist craft in marine environments.
From a design standpoint, amphibious vehicles are innately fascinating. (See also: The Amphicar.) This is because amphibians are, by definition, all about the awkward compromises created when one vehicle is asked to perform two fundamentally opposing tasks: driving and swimming.
As Roderick Stephens, a naval architect who helped design the DUKW, once quipped, “She’s better in water than any truck, and she’ll beat any boat on a highway.” The three year-old grasped the improbablitiy of this instantly: "It's a TRUCK???" she squealed. "And a BOAT???" Then she practically dragged us to the ticket booth.
If only as a mechanical curiosity, the opportunity to go for a drive and a swim in a surviving DUKW was a no-brainer. Throw in the excitement of hearing a lot of bad jokes about San Francisco told for the benefit of a Duckload of out-of-towners, and who could possibly resist?
That's pretty much how we ended up going for a ride in the "Peking Duck," a 1944 DUKW operated by Bay Quackers. Our DUKW was remarkably intact considering both its age and the US Coast Guard's passenger safety requirements. Apart from an overhead canopy, a proper windshield, and the addition of bus-like seating, the vehicle was, from a historical perspective, pretty straight.
We motored from San Francisisco's Fisherman's Wharf to the boat ramp at China Basin -- a distance of about 4 miles -- via North Beach, Chinatown, and Union Square. When we reached the water, we simply drove into the Bay without the slightest bit of dramatic fanfare or mechanical clunkiness. The DUKW may be a mutant hybrid of a truck and a boat, but making the transition from land to sea (or sea to land) is one of the things it was designed to do best, and it shows. Smooooove...
Once in the water, we sailed (drove?) over to McCovey Cove, where the San Francisco Giants were in the process of trouncing the San Diego Padres in the last game of the 2010 National League West playoffs. (Go Giants!)
Circling back, the DUKW waddled effortlessly out of the water, and then we drove back to Fisherman's Wharf via the Embarcadero. The three year-old was smiling from ear-to-ear, and frankly, so was everyone else. A TRUCK that turns into a BOAT??? On a sunny day in San Francisco? What's not to like about that?
Here are more photos from our surf-and-turf adventure. Set it on full-screen and have a fun trip:
Images: Telstar Logistics
The narrator of this Boeing-produced video describes the process of joining fuselage sections of the all-new 747-8 Intercontinental airliner as "a carefully-choreographed industrial dance with giant airplane sections gliding through the factory." Really, it's hard to disagree.
If Boeing ever partners with Phillip Glass to create a musical soundtrack for footage like this, they might have a viral hit on the hands. Until then, however, this will have to do. Sit back and enjoy:
Telstar Logistics recently received electronic mail from Mr. Justin Watt informing us that he was traveling with his girlfriend Stephanie as a passenger aboard the Cap Cleveland, a container ship making the passage between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Zealand.
Phillly and NZ are not in any way close together, so Justin and Stephanie's journey took a month. Along the way, the two updated their Internet weblogs with tales of nautical experience — which had the effect of making us feel very, very jealous.
Justin explains why and how he booked the trip. (Executive Summary: "Why not?!") We learn about basic architecture of the ship, how to steer it, the itinerary of a typical day, what's up in the engine room, delicious onboard barbeque parties with the crew, Abandon Ship drills, and much much more.
Here's Justin, enjoying his morning coffee in a rather civilized fashion:
And here's a photo Justin took while passing through the Panama Canal:
Stephanie wrote a must-read Container Ship Passenger FAQ that explains both the basic mechanics and spiritual logic of their voyage:
6. What are amenities like?
Our cabin has a double bed, a couch, a coffee table, TV, DVD player, our own bathroom with toilet, shower and sink, a small fridge, a desk and a closet. It’s actually quite spacious.
7. What will you eat? Do you have to bring your own food?
We have a cook! Well, the crew’s cook, but we’re eating in the officers mess. The food is actually not bad at all. It’s not gourmet but it’s well balanced (each meal has some type of meat, some type of vegetable, some type of starch and fruit). They even have Nutella on the table! If anything, the portions are too big, so most of the time, Justin and I split a meal… we figured that out after stuffing ourselves a couple of times.
We did however bring few comfort foods and drinks, like nuts, pretzels, cheese, dried fruit, some beer and wine. On that topic, we can buy beer and wine on the ship at a reasonable price in case we run out.
8. What will you do with all that time?
Well, a whole lot of nothing. When do you ever have time to just hang out, let your mind wander for any length of time, nap as many times as you want, meditate. But that would get old, so we brought plenty of books, our computers, painting supplies and yarn for some crochet projects.
Justin and Stephanie are back on dry land, but wannabe container ship travelers (like -- ahem! -- us) will enjoy going back to reread their blog archives from September and October 2010 to learn everything you ever wanted to know about traveling to New Zealand on a container ship.
Images: Justin Watt
The 1906 film of "A Trip Down Market Street" went viral on the YouTube recently after it was paired with a soundtrack by Air. But the story behind the original footage -- which was filmed less than a week before the catastrophic Great Earthquake that destroyed all of downtown San Francisco -- is even more interesting.
CBS 60 Minutes sent correspondent Morley Safer to San Francisco to investigate the film, and tell the tale of the local rail historians and archivists who pieced together clues to bring the original film to life. Here's the segment (Tip: click the square icon in the footer to embggen):
Want your very own digitally restored copy of the complete Trip Down Market Street video? It's for sale, CHEEP!, from the good folks at Market Street Railway, the nonprofit organization that keeps San Francisco's vintage streetcar fleet running.
Back in 2007, when Telstar Logistics got an up-close look at a World War II-era Boeing B-29 Superfortress, we wrote:
As a work of industrial design, the most remarkable thing about the B-29 was probably its fabulous glazed nose, which still manages to look futuristic in a Buck Rodgers sort of way.
Today the Wall Street Journal goes a giant step further, in a front-page profile of FiFi, a fully restored and flyable B-29 operated by the Texas-based Commemorative Air Force. The article is great if only for the spectacular images (including the ones shown above) taken from the B-29's gorgeous nose as the pane flew over Midland, Texas.
Yet as the Journal reports, restoring a Superfort is one thng, but keeping it in the air turns out to be a very expensive proposition:
Fifi can bring along nine paying passengers for a 30 minute ride ($995 to ride up front, $595 for a back seat) in addition to the six CAF crew members—including two whose sole job is to scan the wings and engines for smoke or fire.
Mr. Agather said the CAF took in $45,000 to $50,000 for rides aboard Fifi at last weekend's annual Airsho here in Midland. Dave Miller, Fifi's crew chief, says it costs roughly $9,000 an hour to operate the plane. In November, Fifi will relocate to her new home at an airport in suburban Dallas.
From there, the plane will go to selected air shows during the summer and fall, and be stored inside a hangar to prevent weather damage at other times. The bomber will also continue to give rides to paying customers.