16 April 2015

Decent exposure in Montana

Rep. David Moore on Tuesday introduced House Bill 365 in the House Judiciary Committee in response to a group of naked bicyclists who rolled through Missoula in August.

The proposal would expand indecent exposure law to include any nipple exposure, including men’s, and any garment that “gives the appearance or simulates” a person’s buttocks, genitals, pelvic area or female nipple.

The Republican from Missoula said tight-fitting beige clothing could be considered indecent exposure under his proposal.

“Yoga pants should be illegal in public anyway,” Moore said after the hearing [...]

Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings, said she is concerned that the provision prohibiting garments showing the outline or appearance of a woman’s nipple unfairly targets women. “I think you are kind of being a little prejudiced against women,” Court said.

- Billings Gazette (Montana), 10 February 2015, spotted by Brendan O’Byrne & quoted in Private Eye no. 1388, 20 March-2 April 2015

[Moore later claimed it was all a joke, but the AP reporter disputes that. Here's the original bill, which goes into quite a lot of anatomical detail about the bits Mr Moore isn't keen on seeing in public. The bill was quickly voted down by legislators.]

06 April 2015

Air New Zealand: 75 years of international travel

On Friday I went with some family visitors from out of town to see the Air New Zealand exhibit at Te Papa, which runs until 7 June, and is free to enter. I particularly enjoyed the advertising posters from previous decades, and a not-entirely-related slice of New Zealand aviation history that I didn't even know existed. We didn't bother with the long queue for the interactive video or the design-your-own-plane installation, but they both looked interesting.

Below is the prop and part of the engine from Richard Pearse's world-famous-in-New-Zealand prototype flyer that scudded over cow paddocks inland from Temuka near Timaru. Pearse himself said that the attempt on c.31 March 1903 could not be described as the first controlled heavier than air flight in the world, which is what the Wright Brothers achieved at Kill Devil Hills just under nine months later. But his endeavours show that around the world a generation of inventors had been infected by the great flying bug, and that a New Zealand farmer very nearly beat the Wrights. A great exhibit, although what it has to do with Air New Zealand, founded 37 years later, is another matter.

The art design of the wide range of Air New Zealand posters was particularly enjoyable. These three immediately below advertise South Pacific destinations, always popular for sun-seekers, while the set below depict New Zealand destinations for domestic and international travellers. The international airline was first known as Tasman Empire Airways Ltd - TEAL - from 1940 to 1965, and the National Airways Corporation - NAC - served domestic routes from 1947 to 1978. When the Government became sole owner of TEAL in 1965 its name was changed to Air New Zealand, and the NAC joined in 1978 to create an airline serving both international and national destinations. Despite 20 years of the 'Pacific Wave' design, I still think this is the best Air New Zealand livery, from just before NAC joined the fold.

See also:
Aviation: Seattle Museum of Flight, 25 April 2013
AviationMOTAT 2, 3 April 2013
Aviation: Le Bourget Air & Space Museum, 18 March 2011

02 April 2015

The occasional jaw-dropping beauty of Elite: Dangerous

I was flying the Hauler when I had my first realisation that Elite: Dangerous might be something special. I was pulling in to land at a space station, and I couldn’t find my designated landing pad. When you ask for docking permission, you get assigned a pad to land on in the cavernous interior of the station and it could be anywhere around you, zero gravity being what it is. As I looked around I suddenly understood - this is a spectacularly beautiful game.

This sounds like a superficial appraisal and something of a statement of the obvious, but visuals matter - not merely in the sense of who can boast the most polygons, or the highest-resolution textures, but rather it is the ability to create the world of the game and give it a sense of reality. Elite: Dangerous delivers this sense of a coherent visual world more than almost any other game I have played, and certainly on a far greater scale.

I hadn’t really seen it at first because for everything Elite: Dangerous has in terms of graphical clout it plays things very low key in its design. There are plenty of pictures and videos of Elite: Dangerous looking pretty on the Internet, but when you play it those moments are rare. The universe of the game is displayed in a naturalistic style and there is little embellishment of the wonders of the cosmos, it doesn’t bombard you with lens flare or cinematic flourishes. The spacecraft are mostly brutish and functional and your point of view is by default limited to the first person view in a usually austere cockpit. As such you can play Elite: Dangerous for quite some time before you see something that really causes your jaw to drop. You can get used to the way everything looks and start taking it for granted but then suddenly everything lines up just right and pow.

For me, it was seeing this bustling cylindrical space dock - the little trucks whizzing around on the roads between pads, the different ships lifting off and settling down, the landing lights and holographic projections indicating who should park where - while I was peering through of the windows of the Hauler cockpit, surrounded by it all. It was everything I’d imagined such a place to look like when I was a child, and more. I would have been more moved but I still couldn’t find my damn parking spot. I swear they change them around.

- Phil Hartup, 'Elite: Dangerous shows there's a lot of fun to be had in being an interstellar delivery driver', New Statesman, 30 March 2015

29 March 2015

A long time between visits

It's worth remembering as we look forward to the grand Cricket World Cup final tonight just how out-of-touch Australian cricket is with their New Zealand neighbours:

  • In the time since New Zealand last played an ODI at the MCG, there have been 15 ODIs at the ground, 12 of which involved Australia. 
  • Since the last time New Zealand played an ODI in Australia (a no-result on 13 February 2009) Australia has played 63 ODIs at home
  • That total includes 16 matches against England (of which Australia won 14), another 16 against Sri Lanka, 10 against the West Indies, 7 against India, 6 against Pakistan, and 5 against South Africa; there were also one-off pool games against Scotland and Afghanistan as part of the current World Cup. 
  • Before the stirring one-wicket victory of New Zealand over Australia in Auckland during the pool matches, Australia's captain Michael Clarke had not played New Zealand in a one-dayer since the previous World Cup in India.

A total of 143 one-day internationals have been played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but the last time New Zealand was invited to play an ODI there was more than six years ago. That match, on Waitangi Day 2009, saw New Zealand defeat Australia by six wickets: Australia was put in first and only managed 225/5, and then New Zealand knocked off the total with ease, having six wickets and seven balls to spare. Naturally, the parochial panel gave the man of the match award to Australian captain Michael Clarke for his 98 not out, despite being on the losing side. That was the last time New Zealand played at the MCG; six of the current playing XI scheduled to face Australia in tonight's World Cup final played in that 2009 match.

If that's not motivation enough for New Zealand to remind Australia that it doesn't own the game, I don't know what is. Perhaps there's also the additional frisson of just imagining what the Australian fans' faces will look like if New Zealand snatches this most unlikely of victories.

27 March 2015

I'm so hidden they can't find me, but then again they might

Falling into the 'guilty pleasures' category, here's Kim Carnes with Crazy In The Night (Barking at Airplanes), the first single from her 1985 album. (The huge and more widely-remembered hit Bette Davis Eyes was from Mistaken Identity in 1981). The video is a low-rent affair replete with regrettable hair (hey, that rhymes!), and I enjoy the way Carnes sings along to the bridge even though it's supposed to be only the chaps singing as a counterpoint to her verses. This isn't a particularly memorable song, I admit, but I have a soft spot for the daggy ageing bandmembers and the oh-so-80s synths. The song reached as high as no.3 in the South African charts and no.11 here in New Zealand, but in the US it only managed no.15 and it failed to scrape into the top 40 in the UK. Also, it seems Keith Lemon used to moonlight as a pop drummer in the 80s.

26 March 2015

A thing of beauty

A new Logitech Extreme 3D Pro joystick, the first step in my mission to begin playing Frontier Developments' marvellous game Elite: Dangerous. Now all I need is the small detail of a new computer capable of actually playing the game!