Archive for the 'rants' Category

Who invented the modern hang glider?

Was any one person the “Inventor of the modern Hang Glider”?   Well, that’s debatable, but nevertheless, claims that the honour belongs to John Dickenson, an Australian engineer whose design in 1963 was certainly the catalyst that sparked the explosion of a formerly fringe activity into the mainstream.

Originally intending to build a “bat wing” design ski kite, John was instead inspired by a photo of an experimental gliding recovery parachute for Gemini space capsules designed by Francis Rogallo to design a more practical, safer and controllable machine using the combination of a wing with conical sails – like the parachute – but braced by spars, a cable braced “A” frame control frame construction and a pendulum harness system.

These days, of course, the wing that John used is long obsolete thanks to the development of higher performing designs with far superior safety characteristics. If you define “Modern” as “Contemporary”, the modern hang glider has come a long way since 1963 thanks to the contributions of many people – with performance in some cases, up to 6 times greater than the primitive wings of the early 1970’s.

Soaring flight, by Orville Wright, Kitty Hawk, NC

Hang gliding in various forms, of course, had been around for many years, (see this Wiki entry) with the first arguably successful machines appearing in the 1800’s, but the aircraft were usually not simple, safe, cheap or adequately controllable, so it had never become a sport for the masses. Even the Wright Brothers flew their prototype machines as hang gliders, even soaring them on the Kitty Hawk dunes, before attempting to add power.

Continue reading ‘Who invented the modern hang glider?’


A lazy dishonest scoundel

I’m being ripped off by a lazy dishonest bastard called flightsimshop on EBay (and some other places).

My web site,, has been a useful resource for folks flying or building weight shift microlights for a decade. All the articles I’ve written include a copyright notice, and the copyright section of the site is quite clear that while I’m happy with non-commercial reproduction of the material with attribution, commercial reproduction is not allowed without permission.

Now, on E-Bay, a seller called flightsimshop is selling a CD entitled “LEARN HOW TO BUILD YOUR OWN ULTRALIGHT NANOLIGHT TRIKE”. The contents of the CD are basically stuff the guy has copied from the net – including the contents of my web site (yes, including the copyright notices!)

I tried contacting him. He denies copying anything – despite clear evidence to the contrary. His advertisement on EBay, for example contains an image from my web site that I personally drew! (the image below is a reduced screen shot from his EBay ad… here’s the original)
EBay don’t care. They have a procedure for complaining about copyright violation, but it’s pretty toothless.

So the best I can do for the time being is to out him in my Hall Of Shame. And here of course.

I hate the grackle bird.

I live in my personal quarter acre of forest in the middle of manicured suburbia – in a wooden shack. (OK, it’s not a shack, it’s a fairly run down old house.)

Much as I like having my trees, they are high maintenance. Roots love to strangle plumbing, and those leaves that don’t clog my rainpipes have to be raked and cleared All The Time.

But trees bring other creatures with them. Possums who bound and thump in the heights of passion on the roof at night, multitudinous fat spiders, and the birds that eat them. Oh, I have an enthusiastic morning chorus.

That wouldn’t be so bad except for one bird in particular. I call it the Grackle Bird* and I have no idea what it is – some kind of Starling, Jay or Mynah is my guess. It’s a dirty brown bird with a dirty brown voice. In short, it Grackles. Every morning. At 6 am. And I hate it.

I have one other bird that’s annoying me right now. My neighbour’s pear tree is fruiting. It’s too high to pick the fruit, and every year the rosellas arrive in February to reap the spoils for about 2-3 weeks. They spend the day fighting over the bounty. It’s a colourful noisy riot. This year though, there is a rosella in the flock that seems to be ill. It’s moulting, scruffy and it has a foul temper. It doesn’t have a melodic tweet. It hisses and squarks at the other birds – sort of like that alpha seagull you always encounter at the beach that keeps the others away from you to get the best cold chips. I’d throw a rock and try to drive it away but I don’t have the heart.

The pears will be gone soon. I hope.

* yes, I know there is another bird called the Grackle, but I only found this out later and I’m sticking with my name for this one.

Directionless Compass

It is with deep regret that I must cast a brickbat in the direction of  “The Golden Compass”, which Ms Canada and I viewed last night, fortunately using cheap tickets.

The word “mishmash” might well have been invented just  to describe it.   While children will either be excited or scared by the action, particularly the armoured polar bear fights, the story – for this adult – just didn’t mesh. I spent half my time listening hard to the expositions in case I missed something vital to the plot.  All wasted time as it turns out, as the story is left hanging ready for a sequel that may or may not be filmed.

OK, it looks good. But a Victorian era feel and lots of nice CGI can’t make up for a story that seems to be mostly one Deus Ex Machina after another.

Rudd didn’t win. Howard lost.

It’s the day after the Australian federal election, and the dust hasn’t settled yet. In particular we still don’t know if John Howard has actually failed to even be elected into parliament in his own once safe seat.

What we do know is that we will have a Labor government for a while. We also know today that Peter Costello has said that he won’t seek leadership of the Liberals. Obviously he and John don’t talk much, because last night Howard was talking up Costello as the future of the party. It looks like Malcolm Turnbull is the logical choice. That, or a leadership bloodbath and meltdown.
I’m not going to shed any tears over Howards’ ignominious departure – he made his own bed, letting his ego get in the way of bowing out when all the signs were that he’d become a liability. Instead of leaving as a Liberal hero, he’s presided over an embarassing defeat – and losing his own seat, if it happens, just caps the embarassment off with an exclamation mark.

Howard lost me irretreivably the moment he coined the phrase “non-core promise” to explain his going back on election promises instead of apologising that they had subsequently become unsustainable. His willingness to believe Bush over Iraq unquestioningly, his “Pacific Solution”, the Tampa fiasco and wedge politics – his Workplace industrial relations strategy rammed through the Senate without useful discussion and in practice found to require special “fairness tests” to stop employers exploiting it shamelessly, the Northern Territory intervention without consulation, his dirty negative election campaigning – all these and so much more turned the electorate against him.

Yet he was fighting Kevin Rudd – Mr Beige. Rudd performed well – not spectacularly- in this election. he didn’t impress. I get the feeling that the Labour party could have won with a teddy bear on the leadership podium.

As long as it was warm and fuzzy, as long as it meant not voting for Past-Use-By-Date Howard, it would have won.

The Jury as mushrooms

Some years ago, I was empanelled as a juror in a case of culpable driving causing death. An educational experience – but excuse my cynicism. Continue reading ‘The Jury as mushrooms’

Sleeve hearts

If you’re only giving us two choices….

oh, and this is hilarious.