Bupa Balloon’s Maiden Voyage

posted on February 28, 2008 in Nerd

The Sun shone down on a bright crisp Sunday. The sky was lightly padded with high altostratus and the trees were perfectly still. There was no wind. Today she was going to fly.

After several abortive attempts we were finally going to let her loose. We decided against a cotton tether as in the practice it tended to unbalance it and send the fuel spilling everywhere. We would just send her up and see what happened.

We found somewhere fairly secluded, got everything set up, lit the burner, I pointed the camera and told Mark to let her go. With no wind it rose up gently, quickly gaining height as it floated gracefully up over the trees. It was a beautiful moment.

Sadly though I am a smacktard, and even though the camera was pointing at the balloon the entire time, I forgot to press Record. Luckily due to some clever editing in the studio I don’t think it’s even noticeable.


A load of hot air

posted on January 13, 2008 in Nerd

(Or a rough guide to making a hot air balloon.)

I wake with a start. Where am I? Why does it smell like pizza? I don’t remember pizza. My jeans are on the chair. It looks like I had spent the night feeding pizza to them.

I grope around for my phone. If something might help me remember what happened last night it’ll be that. The black box flight recorder that tracks the actions leading up to my crash and burn.

I bring the screen to my face. PIN disabled. Please Enter PUK code. What the heck is a PUK code?

Eventually I get the phone going and have a look at the car crash that is my Sent Items folder. Last text 2:29 to someone called Kerry. “Jerry,” it reads, “think yo’re wei”. What does that even mean?

I sigh. It’s a bad day to be me…

But it’s a jolly great day to be a balloon.

Determined to keep up part 3 of my New Years Resolution, ‘Do more shit’, Mark and I spent an afternoon taping together large sheets of that foil you see people wrapped in at the end of marathons. The aim being to make a billowing huge hot air balloon.

We hadn’t forgotten the lessons of year 10 systems and design technology, and put together a newspaper sized mock up. We partly based the design on some online guides we Googled, but mostly on Mark’s say so.

Hot air balloon newspaper design

Basically we had 3 big rectangles of silver foil, cut them to a taper at the top and bottom and used oodles of sellotape to stick them together.

Mark slicing and dicing

We used a metal coat hanger bent into a circle to keep the hole at the bottom rigid, sellotaping it into place.

Pretty soon we were ready to test it. I grabbed Mum’s hairdryer, inserted the nozzle firmly in the ring and started blowing. She inflated with the gentle promise of a slowly erecting bouncy castle, gradually expanding to fill my entire ceiling.

Hot air balloon in my room

We had been worried about weight, but it easily supported itself.

Of course, we wanted this thing to be self sufficient. You can’t chase it round with a hair dryer. We needed an engine.

We cut a beer can in half and secured it to the bottom ring with three pieces of wire. I couldn’t find any petrol but thought methylated spirits ought to do the trick. Time for the test flight.

Hot air balloon


Coming soon, the maiden voyage…


Team Fortress 2 Review

posted on October 26, 2007 in Nerd

Or how I learned to stop worrying and love the Ãœbercharge.

When the people you know start getting engaged, getting married, studying for a Masters, saving Pink Pigeons in Guatamala, moving to London, buying a house with lamps, holidaying in Kojakistan and settling in far away lands you start to wonder what it is you bring to the table (and curse Facebook). There’s a niggling doubt that one should be doing more with the precious little time there is. I mean sure, there are things I aspire to do; setting off a speed camera on the bike and undertaking my loudest burp to date, but what meaning do they really carry?

Then I forgot all about that as Steam had finished downloading Team Fortress 2.

I dabbled a little in Team Fortress Classic, but for me there was too much for the brain to comprehend. Take the original Spy for example. Your standard loadout was a tranquilizer pistol, double-barrel shotgun, single barrel shotgun, nail gun, knife, 2 flavours of grenade and several special abilities. Choice is overrated. TF2 simplifies things to a primary, secondary and melee weapons model, bravely pulling the pin on grenades all together.

TF2 inspires teamwork. In CS I see my team mates as incompetent meatsocks whose occasional redeeming feature is in distracting the enemy long enough for me to take them down. In TF2 you need your team mates. Playing as a soldier I managed to sneak in behind a choke point and found myself facing the back of four members of the enemy team. I then realised I was done for. In CS an enemy facing away from you is on the highway to spectator mode. In TF2 the best I could hope for was that my impacting rockets would bounce them around enough for me to hot foot it back to my side of the map. It didn’t. I was dead. Perhaps if I’d had a Pyro or Heavy with me…

The Heavy

If World War I taught us anything it’s that wars of attrition mean rats and tinned food stuffs. Don’t get me wrong, I like the idea of a front line, but the grinding stalemate that can plague maps can be tiresome. I for one were an advocate of that APC in cs_siege. Yes it could disappear through the floor leaving you hopelessly exposed and yes it could run you over whilst you were still in the vehicle, but it could inject some CTs straight into the Ts base. The Medic’s Ãœbercharge is the answer to that isometric APC.

The APC from cs_siege

Having fully charged his gun of medical goodness the Medic can unleash the Ãœbercharge, rendering you and himself temporarily invulnerable, enabling you to march straight into enemy territory, bullets ricocheting harmlessly off and say “yes, here I am, would you care for some cake?” If anything it’s the warm up that’s as good as the climax. Your HUD tells you the Medic is 100% ready, the warm carress of his healing ray playing gently over your back. Then, having positioned yourself appropriately, you’re ready for him to unleash his charge. You hammer at the keyboard for the right key combination. “Sentry here!” nope, “Cloaked spy!” nuts. “Activate Ãœbercharge!”, that’s the one. The Medic hears your passionate cry. A second later you’re covered with the Medic’s translucent life juice, radiating the glow of your partnership as you penetrate deeply into enemy territory.

The Medic and his Ãœbercharge

Seconds later it’s over; you’re left weak as your health ebbs away. The fleeting copulation is over and you’re left pondering the futility of any moments shared with another individual. Then flick to shotgun, beat a hasty retreat and find another Medic so you can do it again.

In conclusion, here is a video. I only really play as a Soldier so it doesn’t demonstrate any of TF2’s diverse classes. Only the Soldier.

Team Fortress 2 scores pretty well out of 10.