June 22, 2010

Wolverine Followup

About a month ago, I wrote about the world's only freshwater paddlewheel carriers, the USS Wolverine and her sister ship the USS Sable.  A couple of days ago the Official First Friend of The Pond, Vaucaunson's Duck, sent me an e-mail, wondering if I'd seen the video?

Video?  Of the Wolverine?  Baby!  Turns out it was from a Pathé newsreel, which you can see here.  "Yankee ingenuity" indeed.  But that got me wondering... is there any more video of the Wolverine or the Sable out there that I didn't find the first time?

Turns out, the answer would be "yes!"

Avengers and Hellcats in that clip, a wave-off and a barrier crash, too.  The wave-off gives you a sense of just how small the two IX carriers really were; the Avenger looks like it won't fit on the deck, let alone land safely.

From that clip, I wandered around a bit, and found a link on another video to a blog devoted entirely to the paddlewheel carriers, aptly titled The Paddle Wheel Aircraft Carriers.  It hasn't been updated in about a year, but boy, do I wish I had found it when I was doing my earlier post.  Particularly because of this post which has a link to another video.

The internet... is there anything it can't do?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:27 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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June 19, 2010

A Bad Day In Duckford, One Year Later

One year ago today, a series of severe thunderstorms rolled through the Duckford area, knocking down trees and electrical power all over the city.  The third storm of the day dumped four inches of rain the space of about an hour, a deluge that caused flooding in low-lying areas (and some high-lying areas, too, come to think of it).

It also caused this:

In case you can't tell what's going on in that video, that's taken from a police cruiser's dashboard camera, and it's filming water flowing unimpeded underneath a set of railroad tracks that had had its roadbed washed away.  Twenty minutes after that video was shot, a Canadian National train pulling 110 cars, including 70 tanker cars full of ethanol, rolled over that crossing.  Eyewitnesses reported that the train was actually bouncing up and down as the track deflected under its weight.  12 cars derailed and exploded.

This accident, which occurred about a half-mile from Pond Central claimed the life of one motorist, injured a few others, and forced the evacuation of around 600 homes.  If Pond Central had been much closer to the accident site, I would have been evac'd, too.

One year later, the site of the accident is much improved.  The roadbed for the crossing has been strengthened, the pavement for the street replaced and relaid, and much of the terrain was replanted with grass.  The local fire department now trains with a few of the derailed cars, practicing for the next big fire and hoping it never comes.

But many of the trees near the derailment site still show signs of having being burned by the blaze.  And just off the tracks is a small cross, in memory of the woman who was killed in the incident, Zolia Tellez.  I drive by the site once or twice a day, and imagine what it must have been like... and count myself lucky that I wasn't there when it happened.  I could have been, and on a normal Friday I would have missed the incident by only an hour or so.

The NTSB is still investigating the accident, and their report isn't expected for another six months or so.  A rash of train crashes, including one bad one in Washington DC a few days after the one here in Duckford, has 10 NTSB train specialists working 16 cases.  The EPA has found traces of ethanol byproducts in the local drinking water, but far below any amounts that they declare to be dangerous.  The massive fish die-off that occurred a month or so after the accident in a nearby river is still completely unexplained.  And every now and again, a train comes through on the new rails.

One year later.

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June 18, 2010

That One Game

Civ 5 is scheduled to come out in the Fall, and any self-respecting strategy gamer has already written off any productivity they may have had.  The release of new screenshots for the game has done nothing to alleviate that.

Oh, baby...
Any of us who have spent too much time playing for "just one more turn", no matter if it was Civ, MOO, SimCity, whatever, have That One Game.  That One Game is the one where everything that happened led to an amazing climax... maybe it was a tense struggle against overwhelming odds, or an incredible occurrence.  Maybe it was just a well-played blowout, who knows?  But oh, it was memorable... it became That One Game.

Mine was in Civ 3, a huge map and continents.  I was playing the English, started on what I wound up calling Australia: big island, green at the coasts but arid desert in the center... and practically no resources to speak of.  After a while I learned sailing and found, just off to the west, a very big continent filled with all the luxuries and resources a civ could need.  I also found the remains of another civ... three razed cities in the worst starting locations I've ever seen (after the game ended, I discovered it was the French.  Ces't la Guerre.).  Other than the home of the French, though, what I saw looked ripe for the picking... until I found what killed Napoleon.  The Zulus... and they weren't happy I was there, declaring war on me and quickly overwhelming the exploring archer I had sent over.  I put them out of my mind, as I had a tech lead on them, and vowed to revisit Africa soon.

Some long while later, I packed up two musketmen, a settler and a worker and sent them off to found a home base on Africa.  Once I got there, though, I found that the Zulus had expanded, taking most of the good territory.  So instead of colonization, I decided to make life hell for Shaka.  I dumped the musketmen and worker off on what appeared to be the only road between northern and southern Africa, fortified one of them, and had the worker build a fortress.  The other musketman began tearing up the any roads I could find around the fortress.  Within a few turns, Shaka had had enough... and the Impi began to move.  I brought the raider back to the fortress and waited.  And waited.  Eventually, I got a cannon over to the fortress as well.

Just in time, as it turned out.  Not one, but two Stacks of Doom converged on my little fortress, one from the north, one from the west... each of them composed of nothing but Impi.  Wincing, I immediately gave the fortress the name "Rorke's Drift" and crossed my fingers.  By the end of the first SOD's defeat, one of my musketmen had been promoted from "regular" to "veteran," and the other was about to.  Both were damaged, however, and the second stack was even larger than the first.

They held the line.  One of them died, and the other had one hit point left, but they held the line.  From there, the conquest of Africa was easy... almost everything Shaka had, he had thrown at Rorke's Drift, and most of them had died (some retreated). 

I left that one musketman and the cannon stationed at Rorke's Drift for the rest of the game, even after I could have promoted them to other, better things.  They remained untouched, even through the later nuclear war against the Germans.  At the end of the little fracas that they started, the three cities closest to Rorke's Drift had been turned to radioactive rubbish, along with a few others on my side, but any German city over the size of 5 took an missile. But there they stayed.

And when the spaceship to Alpha Centauri finally arrived at its destination, I knew I had just finished playing That One Game.  From then on, I have never neglected building fortifications, and I have always had a lone outpost somewhere far away from the main action... in honor of the musketmen of Rorke's Drift.

So, what's YOUR "That One Game"?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 04:46 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 16, 2010

Tech Assistance Needed, Save Squishy!

Okay, here's the story.  As you may remember, my boss went on maternity leave about a year-and-a-half ago after giving birth to a ridiculously cute baby girl, whom I call "Squishy."  Squishy's mom is an inveterate record-keeper, and has diligently chronicled Squishy's life via the art of digital photography, amassing a huge amount of pictures in the process.

Last night, their main computer coughed up a hairball and died.  The husband of my boss has some skill with computers, so he ran some BIOS checks on the system and everything reported that the hard drive and grabbed its chest and died.  Of course, this hard drive is the one that has the gazillions of Squishy photos on it, photos that they cannot replace (they have some saved in other places, but just a mere fraction of the total).  Here's the thing: the HD gave no indication there was a problem, no weird sounds, nothing.  It just stopped functioning.  A two-hour call to tech support caused nothing but frustration, of course... frustration and a deep, deep desire to cause an immense amount of physical harm to the techie on the other end of the telephone.

When my boss came in to the Duck U Bookstore today, she told me of the situation.  A quick phone call to her husband convinced me that the HD wasn't actually dead (merely pining for the fjords).  I suggested that they take it out of the computer, put it into an external enclosure, hook it up to one of their other computers and see what happens.  If it doesn't show up, then they know that the offending drive is dead enough that they'd need to take it somewhere to recover the pictures.  If it did show up, then they know that the problem may not be the drive, but the computer itself... and they'd be able to copy the drive to the laptop.

I just got a call from them.  They did put it into an enclosure, and sure enough, it appeared... well, actually, two drives appeared, at which point I slapped my forehead: of course two drives appeared, it was the boot drive from the dead system!  What they were seeing was the C drive and the drive partition where the recovery stuff was kept... which is where the unexpected problem has reared its ugly head.

Y'see, when they look at what was the C drive, there's only a few folders visible, and they don't have anything in them... at least, that's what the laptop is reporting.  What I think is happening, and please correct me if you think I'm wrong, is that the drive isn't showing anything because the copy of Windows that's on it obviously isn't booting, and thus the file system on the drive isn't functional (I may have the technical details wrong, but that's the net result).  Further, the laptop is XP and the version of Windows on the drive is Vista, which probably causes problems too.

They're copying the drive to the laptop, and I've suggested that they go to their other desktop system (which they retired), rip out that hard drive, and plug the problem drive into it.  If everything goes well, the stars align, and a choir of angelic ducks quack out paeans to the heavens, it'll boot up.  At worst, they'll be in the same boat they're in now.

The tech question I have for you, the myriad readers of The Pond, is there some way to access the data from the problem drive if dropping it into a different computer system doesn't work?  If the data was replaceable, I'd just suggest they find Windows on it, delete it, and see if that turns it into a normally-read drive, but I'm just WAGging there, and the chance that it'll turn the drive into a brick seems not insignificant.  Can they pull the data off without the "boot Windows" running?

Another related question: is there some way to boot a laptop from an external hard drive that has Windows on it, sort of a half-arsed version of dual-booting?  If they can do that, then they can save the pics to a different external drive, or burn them to DVD, or something.

Let's brainstorm, my friends.  Hopefully they'll be monitoring this thread, if not tonight then tomorrow, so they'll be able to provide specific details (what folders are showing up, for example) that I don't have, but in the meantime, let me hear your best suggestions.

You wouldn't want to disappoint Squishy, would you?  How could you disappoint that face?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 08:17 PM | Comments (17) | Add Comment
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June 09, 2010

Commit To The Indian!

The Chicago Blackhawks have won Lord Stanley's Cup, for the first time in 49 years!

And they said Chicago teams can't win championships...

Posted by: Wonderduck at 10:04 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 05, 2010


For the past few weeks, I've been realizing that I don't have much need to write.  The F1 Update!s are becoming a chore.  Nothing in this season of anime has grabbed me and said "hey, mention me, will ya?"  I couldn't even have a topic for this year's Battle of Midway Day, despite trying for days to come up with something.

Part of it is, I'm sure, just "one of those phases" all bloggers seem to go through (or at least "thinkers" go through; I'm not sure "linkers" even need to use their brains for their blogs).  Part of it is a nascent fear that I'm on the wrong side of Sturgeon's Law.

And part of it is frustration, a particular type of frustration that again every blogger goes through at one time or another.  It's the frustration of seeing a post (or a series of posts) that you've put relatively large amounts of time and effort into... is being ignored completely.  I'm thinking of my episodic series review of Ga-Rei Zero here, but it could apply to just about anything on The Pond (with a couple of exceptions).  Nearly 26000 words and lord knows how many screencaps over 12 posts, at four hours minimum per post, and there's only 30 comments between them... and at least 10 of those are my own. 

At times like those, I just want to chuck the whole darn thing.  In Steven's "Linkers and Thinkers" post, he mentions that he was once frustrated because he was only getting "100 to 150 views" a day.  In 2002.  I look at that now and laugh... and wish I had that many hits in a week.  I see posts over at Twenty Sided that have fewer than 20 comments and the droll message "Isn't that nice," or something to that effect... and I get annoyed, because that many comments would be a huge success here, and he's so blasé about it that he makes jokes about how few there are.

Wonderduck's Pond isn't one of the big hitters like Steven or Shamus, never will be, and I'm fine with that.  I didn't start writing here because I cared if people read it, but because I wanted to write.  But everybody with a comments section wants a little recognition for their efforts; me, you, the blogger who writes about plastic daffodils, everybody.  Maybe the stuff here isn't worth commenting on... again, the fear of being on the wrong side of Sturgeon's Law... or maybe nobody sees it, or maybe nobody gives a rat's asterisk about commenting anymore.  And The Pond's five-year anniversary is coming up...

So what should I do?  What would you do?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 02:43 PM | Comments (20) | Add Comment
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June 03, 2010

June 3, 1942: The Battle Begins

Conventional wisdom says that the Battle of Midway began on June 4th, 1942.  Just as the conventional wisdom that says that the Japanese carriers were five minutes from launching a devastating attack on the US carriers is incorrect, this too is wrong.  The Battle of Midway actually began on June 3rd.  To be sure, all the dramatic parts of the fight occurred the following day, but the two opponents started throwing armament at each other on the third day of June.

Nine B-17s took off from the runways of Midway's Eastern Island around 1230pm on June 3rd.  After a flight of about three hours, they found the transports of the Imperial Japanese Navy's Midway Occupation Force, tasked to effect the actual invasion of the atoll, approximately 500 miles to the west.  The B-17s claimed multiple hits on the lumbering transports, though managed none whatsoever, despite a total absence of CAP and effective antiaircraft fire.

Meanwhile, a thousand miles or more to the northeast of Midway, two light carriers of the IJN (the Ryujo and the Junyo)  launched an attack on Dutch Harbor, Alaska.  12 Zero fighters, 10 Val dive bombers and 10 Kate torpedo bombers (operating in horizontal bombing mode) lifted off from the tiny flight decks in miserable weather.  This attack caused minor damage to oil storage tanks and the local radio station, while some bombs hit the barracks of Ft Mears, killing 25 soldiers.

The attack on the Aleutian Islands has often been called a diversionary assault, intended to draw out the American fleet from Pearl Harbor.  It turns out that that is not the case.  Both the attack on Midway and the attack on the Aleutians were supposed to begin on June 3rd, but the carrier fleet tasked for the Midway part of the attack were delayed by a day by refueling problems.

Late in the night of June 3rd, four PBY flying boats of Patrol Squadron 44 took off from the seaplane base at Midway, headed for the Occupation Force.  Early the next morning, one of them put a torpedo into the bows of the fleet oiler Akebono Maru.  Damage was relatively light, and the ship continued underway with little delay.  This was the only successful torpedo attack by the Americans for the entire battle.

The opening volleys of the most decisive naval victory in history had been fired; the next day would belong to the carriers.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:01 PM | Comments (5) | Add Comment
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June 01, 2010

Uh-Huh. Exactly.

So.  Hi.

How are you?

Posted by: Wonderduck at 06:21 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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