Real Spaceship

July 29, 2011
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So that’s it. No more Space Shuttle. Gone for ever the strangest bird that ever did fly. For sure, she was a strange beast, a bastard child of requirements from all arts and parts, and not the offspring that NASA actually wanted to have. But by god she was mighty.

When I was a kid I wanted a spaceship (I still want a spaceship) but there was a time in my early memories that I didn’t realise they didn’t exist, not in the way I thought. I didn’t believe Blake’s 7 was real or that there were spaceships that advanced, but I thought there wasn’t something beyond disposable rockets and return capsules.

Lego Space's "Galaxy Explorer" - I didn't own it, but this model probably had a greater influence on my view of what a spaceship should be than anything else...

I don’t know how I got into a conversation on the topic with my dad, although I expect the prime medium in the discussion was Lego, or at least a picture of a lego model. As was often the case, my dad’s thankless job was to tell me that we had rockets, but not spaceships of the kind I was thinking about. Life must be so much easier for ignorant parents. My five year old mind was disappointed with the feeble progress of my given species; I did not rate these mere rockets as proper vessels for human space travel. They were not “real spaceships”. It was the disposable nature of most of the vessel that I disliked most.

But there was hope, my dad said, the space shuttle – it goes up, chucks away a few bits, and then comes back. It was to be a “real spaceship”. And not long after she flew for the first time. I don’t really remember the liftoff, but I remember the landing – I guess that was the important part, as far as I was concerned.

Over the years I followed the highs and lows of the space shuttle program, like most people the lows got far too much attention – I even drew a picture of Challenger’s sad end at school for some reason. When I heard the news of the loss of Columbia on the car radio I had to pull over and have a bloody good man cry. I should have been around more for the highs.

At no point did I ever conceive that it would ever all be over, my little bit of space history, my space time. I will always miss you mighty space shuttle.

But my loss is unimportant compared to the loss of jobs the end of the shuttle era represents: To all the people, the many, many people who put in long hours and commitment to the shuttle, I raise a glass to you, and wish you well with the future.




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Mars Still Rocks!

July 19, 2011
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My Mars Rocks! cartooning has been rather scant of late. But there’s a new one up and ready right now…

Come get some Rockian fodder...

Posted in Mars Rocks!

Colosseum (Board Game Review)

July 17, 2011
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Of all the games I own, of all the games I will ever own, I expect Colosseum is the only one I will ever win for being nice. It was given to me as a prize at Wellycon (two days of just playing board games) for being the ‘fairest’ player, or something like that. When my name was called out I was sure there must be another Jon Brown in the room, but there wasn’t. I gleefully took my swag and instantly proved I wasn’t worthy of it, by lauding it over my fellow players.

Stage your own spectacular in Colosseum...

One of the great things about winning a game at a board gaming convention is the fact that someone there will already know how to play it, which saves a huge amount of time trying to decipher the rules. Two kindly souls stepped into the breach and we got to play half a game before we ran out of time.

The game runs over 5 turns, and in each turn you get to put on a show in your arena. Shows come in three different sizes, everyone starts with a couple of puny shows that only need a few performers (like gladiators, horses, harpists, etc.) to put on, but bigger ones can be bought. Bigger shows need a bigger arena, so you can expand your arena over time and bigger shows need more performers to take part in them. Performers can be acquired in two phases of a turn, the first is a bidding phase where the players bid on batches of performers in the centre of the board. After that comes a second phase where the players can trade with each other.

The aim of all of this to be the player who puts on the single most spectacular show in the whole game, in terms of spectators. Apart from the size of the show there are all kinds of other bonuses you can get that add to the number of spectators, like selling season tickets, having dignitaries come to your arena and getting hold of star performers.

Last week I finally got to play a full game of my prize and I’m quite charmed by it. One thing I particularly like is the fact that you have to introduce your show to your fellow players and give a little bit of hype to it. This can be particularly entertaining if you’re putting on a show with one or two performers missing (done at a penalty to the number of spectators who turn up) and you have to make excuses for their absence.

Colosseum is fairly simple to play, partly because it is highly structured, so an eight year old should be able to enjoy it, maybe with a little help from an adult on the forward planning side of things.

If you like the idea of putting on shows in your very own Roman arena and like decisions, but not so many that your brain aches, then Colosseum is a winner.


Posted in Review

Frozen Chicken

July 16, 2011
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I’m not unaccustomed to cold water. I don’t like it, but I know it well enough. I’ve jumped in lakes and felt like my heart was going to stop, I’ve waded waist deep through rivers (well, one) in the middle of winter, I’ve gone from a natural thermal pool into a frigid plunge pool and I’ve been in the sea on England’s north east coast.

Yet, despite these nithering (adjective: damned cold) conditions of yore, I do declare that my nether regions have never been quite so cold as they were today.

What was the cause of this frozen cods condition? Once more I was wearing a chicken suit and trying to get folk to switch to free range eggs.

Next up in the chicken suit? Who knows, I’ve hobbled 10k in it, probably hamstrung my chances of procreation in it, I guess I should jump out of a plane in it next.


Posted in Diary

I Only Stay Up Late For 3 Million Pounds Feet of Thrust

July 9, 2011
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What do shuttle launches and Formula 1 Grand Prixs have in common? I’ll give you a clue, it only applies if you live in New Zealand. Give up? The answer is: They both always seem to happen in the middle of the night. Serious bra. Even when a grand prix takes place in a nearby time zone, like Singapore, they turn it into a night race, pushing it back to the small hours! Still, we do get to live in the future and open our Christmas presents first. Swings and roundabouts.

Special occasion, special cup... don't you dare add an extra 'special' comment in there...

And late hours weren’t enough of a reason to stop me from staying up past three to watch Atlantis start her mighty engines one last time, throw fire at the ground, cast steam across the swamp and lift our hearts to the heavens.

A part of me has no interest in accepting this as the last launch. How can it be? I thought I’d already watched Atlantis’ final touch down once before, last year, but she got another flight. Can’t that happen with Discovery and Endeavour? I know it can’t really but I wish it would, then I could keep on pretending I’ll find the money to go see a Shuttle launch one day.

Now I have to find a new dream. What shall it be… Jon Brown, first man on Mars?

What was that?

Yeah, well, that’s what they told Buzz Aldrin too!


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