Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A&A Pilot Skill, Cosmic Rays, Chicken Wings

Greetings! Welcome back for another edition of Atomic Dragon Battleship. Here’s your happy thought for the day: Only six more months of presidential campaigning and we’ll be all done for 2012! Anyway, on to this week’s look at gaming, current events, and whatever tickles my fancy.

Gaming: Here’s a rule for Axis & Allies Air Force Miniatures we explored but dropped in development: If your pilot quality is worse than the target you’re shooting at, you take a –1 penalty on each attack die. For example, let’s say that an average P-40 pilot is shooting at a Zeke veteran’s 4 o’clock. Normally the hit number is 5, but because the Zeke has a better pilot, that would bump up to 6. If the P-40 was diving on the Zeke and shooting, that would go back to a 5. If the Zeke was evading, back up to a 6. And so on.

I sort of liked the original draft of the rule, because I figured one of the Japanese “traits” in the game would be very high pilot skill in many of the aircraft available in 1941 or 1942, especially naval aircraft; the Japanese Navy began the war with extremely well-trained pilots. Aircraft with later availabilities might be better airframes than the early war Zeroes, but the pilot quality would downgrade steadily, so you just might not find any veteran or ace pilots in 1944 or 1945—or at least, a lot fewer than the Japanese had early in the war. Allied planes and pilots in 1941 and 1942 would usually be outclassed in pilot skill, so the impact of this rule is that the Zeroes would be that much harder to hit.

However, one of the tough things about global rules is that they work for everybody, and I was a lot less sure that the pilot quality ratings would have the same salutary effects when the European powers went up against each other. Clearly, the Russians had a serious pilot quality disadvantage against the Luftwaffe for most of the war, but the British and American pilots were generally about as good as the Germans. I was also becoming very worried about the trickiness of computing your to-hit number, and developer Mons Johnson wasn’t very enthusiastic about how often this rule would push you into “rolling for sixes” on your attacks. So we ditched the defensive benefit of pilot quality, deciding that we could create special abilities to do that work if we saw a plane we really wanted to give it to.

Now, some AAAFM players have also been wondering if the Zeroes are too fragile. I think the Zeroes have the durability ratings history warrants, but I agree that it’s a little unfortunate that a single ‘6’ cripples the plane—Zeroes are just a little more vulnerable to low-odds deflection shots than they probably should be. However, the “dropped rule” might help this situation a bit. So, if you don’t mind a little more complexity in your game, try this:

-        First, add the defensive advantage for a superior pilot: –1 penalty on your attack dice if you’re shooting at a pilot of higher quality.

-        Second, a new suggestion: If you need a 7 or higher to score a hit, a 6 counts as 1 hit, not 2. We considered this rule too early on, but backed away from it to avoid complexity. Anyway, it works well in conjunction with the rule described above.

Combined with the great evasion abilities for the Zeke and Zero, and you’ll find that your average and poor Allied pilots in early war planes will have a much harder time getting that first hit that cripples Zero or Zeke. Be warned: I haven’t playtested this much, so test with care!

Politics/Current Events: There’s a major new insight in the climate change debate that’s caught my interest. A Danish astrophysicist named Henrik Svensmark published a paper through the Royal Astronomical Society examining the effect of cosmic rays on Earth’s long-term climate. Basically, cosmic rays influence cloud formation, which influences climate.

And here’s an (opinion) piece discussing the ramifications: http://calderup.wordpress.com/

The work is controversial because it’s evidence that solar activity cycles, which influence the rate of cosmic rays reaching the Earth, may play a much more significant role in Earth’s climate than the various climate models and the proponents of AGW (anthropogenic global warming) theory currently allow. That’s pretty significant already, but the really interesting new angle in Svensmark’s work is that he shows that there is a strong link between the overall level of cosmic rays and climate across hundreds of millions of years, and those varying levels seem to be based on whether there is a high or low incidence of nearby supernovae. In other words, when the Solar System passes through a part of the galaxy where supernovas are somewhat more frequent, cosmic ray levels are high, cloud formation is high, and Earth’s climate is cool. When the Solar System passes through a region where supernovas are few and far between, cosmic rays are weaker, cloud formation is low, and Earth’s climate is warmer.

I spent an inordinate amount of time in the last couple of weeks engaged in a Facebook debate about conservatives and science. The argument came down to the question of whether it was reasonable to entertain skepticism about the climate change consensus, or not? When we finally drilled down to it, I realized that my opponents viewed their authorities as unimpeachable: The only people qualified to comment on climate science were climate scientists. I maintained that it was possible that important insights about the climate change debate might come from other disciplines, too. I don’t know if Svensmark’s research “wins” the debate—in fact, I’m sure there is a lot of debate still to happen—but I think it does show that the science isn’t necessarily settled.

The Finer Things: Buffalo wings. A couple of weeks back I had the opportunity to compare Hooters and Buffalo Wild Wings within just a few days of each other. I’ve regarded Hooters as the gold standard in chicken wings for many years now, but I have to say, Buffalo Wild Wings just thumped ‘em. Now, it’s true that Hooters wings are still pretty good, and there are other reasons to take in a meal at Hooters. But as far as pure buffalo wings go, well, Buffalo Wild Wings is a little bit better.


  1. Just to yank your chain a bit, it doesn't seem that Svensmark's finding that Supernovas can drastically affect climate and life on Earth, is necessarily irreconcilable with the idea that rapid manmade changes in the Earth's CO2 levels can ALSO dramatically affect climate and life on Earth, quite possibly in ways detrimental to the health and wellbeing of the human species ;-) I agree that the debate should continue, though not as a (sometimes cynical?) stalling tactic to avoid ever acting. The sad truth is that we are ALL predisposed to pick and choose scientific evidence that supports our predetermined belief systems. The miracle of science is that despite that, we do tend to slowly develop a better understanding of the universe around us.

  2. I agree: The findings are not necessarily irreconciable. However... as I understand the general workings of computer models of the climate, those models assign value X to the contribution of CO2 (and CO2 forcing, which is how a little CO2 produces a big change), and value Y to the effects of cloud formation, which is influenced by solar activity cycles (and the galactic environment, according to Svensmark). The models assume that X is relatively large, and Y is zero. If Svensmark's research shows that Y is significant, than X has to be adjusted downward to make the climate models reflect the temperatures we've really seen. (You can argue that the climate models ought to adjust X downward anyway, because the last ten years have been cooler than the models predicted they would be.) And, obviously, the lower the value of X, the less urgent this whole thing becomes. I'm just happy to see that there may finally be some headway in establishing what the real values of X and Y should be.

  3. I haven't had a chance to check out the Axis and Allies Air Game yet. Been in a financial crunch for some time now. Still hoping to hear news for future sets of WAS, wont be the same without ya making the cards anymore, but at least I'd get some more sculpts.

    The presidential race... it will never be over... (that was a joke... I think...)

    Chicken wings. The healthier alternative has become my favorite, I buy chicken thighes or drumsticks. Rub them in a little oil (preferably olive oil), salt, pepper and maybe some paprika. Throw them in an oven set to 400 degrees and bake them until the skin is real crispy. Remember to let them sit in the juices for at least five minutes after removing them from the oven so they soak them up while cooling. Sweet Baby Ray's Barbeque Sauce (if you can find it) is, IMO the best BBQ sauce out there, and I try alot of them! Most other wing sauces you can make, and they're really easy.

    As for Global Climate Change, you see, a bunch of hippies... just kidding. As I see it, Global Climate Change is caused by many many different variables. It's been happening since the beginning of the Earth as a planet, and it has baked and frozen the planet many times causing several mass extinctions.

    I find it quite probable that at least some of those variables come from outer-space. Just as an example of how heavenly forces effect our planet, think about the Moon. Our ocean tides are created by the Moon's orbit around our planet. Perhaps the Moon's orbit hasn't changed, but it should be noted that the Earth's rotation and axis have within the last 8 years. These weren't big changes, but over time I'm of the belief it all adds up. (The 2004 earthquakes were caused by dramatic tectonic plate movements that left the Earth 'rounder' which causes it to spin like .004 seconds faster per day, the Japan Earthquakes have had a similar effect including the shifting of the Earth's axis, albeit by only a few centimeters.)

    Another example is the Solar Maximus. One of our Sun's past Solar Maximus' happened during the War of 1812, it created a freak hurricane which slammed into the East Coast of the United States, with good timing. Good timing for the USA because the British troops who just set Washinton DC ablaze were marching out when a gust of wind knocked them all to the ground followed by a torrential downpour. To make the night more colorful lightning smote the ground around them and a tornado touched down near enought to see. The rain and wind put out the fires in DC and the whole event is now believed to have shattered the morale of the invading British troops, as they now felt 'God is against us', whihc is close to what they actually wrote in their journals from the period.

    It's all a deep, multifaceted issue that, IMO, has been way over simplified for use in the political realm. Good to see some scientists are taking the initiative to take a deeper look. I could write and write and write about this, but it's getting late and I'm going to stop here.

  4. That chicken recipe sounds good! I'll have to give it a try.

    A family favorite of mine is garlic-lime chicken: You let the chicken marinate in lime juice for a little bit, then you season it generously with garlic salt and coarse ground pepper and grill it. Super easy, and super good!