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Saitek Three Lever Pro Throttle Quadrant (PZ45)
Upgrade your flight simulation experience with the Saitek Pro Flight Throttle Quadrant. This makes an ideal addition to the Saitek Pro Flight Yoke System to expand the number of controls for your flight simulation setup. Features: 3 axis levers add even more options for control in your favorite flight simulation; 3 two-way rocker switches add further controls to your simulation setup; Quadrant can be mounted either on top or in front of your desk, pilot or co-pilot side so that the controls are always where you want them; Additional quadrant lever heads let you create your preferred configuration of throttle, flaps, mixture and prop pitch so that the controls are exactly where you want them; Saitek’s powerful Saitek Smart Technology (SST) programming software allows gamers to configure their controls to suit their preferred gaming style, and to save the configurations as personal profiles. Specifications: 3 axis levers; 6 buttons. System Requirements: Connectivity: USB 2.0. Works with: Windows XP, XP64 and Vista (all versions) and Windows 7
One Week in Tibet
The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet - main residence of the Dalai Lama until the current one fled in 1959.
Tibet was a trip that I looked forward to with great anticipation, and now on reflection looking back I am somewhat disappointed.
The current Chinese government requires all travellers to have a personal guide throughout their journey in Tibet – so I had to sign up for a tour. I’m not a “tour” person and have always preferred to travel independently.
I joined a group of three kiwis – fortunately all were great company – on a “budget” tour run by Sichuan China International Travel Service (CITS) in Chengdu.
Logistics were a nightmare and the tour driver and (replacement) guide were consistently late or off running to get “permits” and such (usually as a result of them being too lazy to do it the night before). Really felt like wasted time and one reason why I prefer to do my own schedule!
The tour itself ran through Lhasa, Shigatse, Tingri, down to Everest Base Camp, and then on to Zhangmu (border city with Nepal). A fairly brisk pace was needed to see everything, but unfortunately with the above delays it always felt like we were missing things.
Lhasa itself was great to visit and we were fortunate to be there during one of the festivals and the city was awash in pilgrims. Visits to the Potala Palace, Johkang Temple, Sera and Drepung Monastaries were enjoyable (lots of pictures to follow).
Moving on to Shigatse we passed Yamdro-tso lake and karo-la glacier (both beautiful) and the Kubum monastery (lots of statues). I built a nice little stone statue overlooking Mt Everast at one of the high passes – my monument to eternity (or at least the next set of rains!). Unfortunately we arrived too late in Shigatse to see the monastery there.
We then took the Friendship Highway to Everest Base Camp… it’s bumpy, slow, and with multiple “checkpoints”. We were stopped by the police twice for our Toyota Land Cruiser being overloaded (too many people / bags). Lots of gorgeous scenery, however.
We stayed at the Rongphu Monastery and froze. It was December and the average temperature was at least -10 C. We were provided blankets but these were terribly insufficient. Having not been warned about the poor conditions, both myself and one of the Kiwis did not have sleeping bags with us (although we both had wonderful mummy sub-zero ones at home…). Likely the coldest night of my life (combined with a little bit of altitude sickness made it perfect!). The upside…. Some nice pictures of Mount Everast at night and in the early morning.
We wandered over to Base Camp 1, took a bunch of pictures (my camera froze up after 15 minutes, so I switched to blackberry!) and then eventually made our way to Zhangmu.
The drive to Zhangmu was surprisingly pleasant…. as you descended into lush green valleys and much warmer temperatures. The drive has even become safer (although still dangerous with falling boulders and waterfalls on the narrow roads).
Zhangmu itself is a port town full of seedy mystery and apparently lots of clubs / bars. Our first hotel was sold out (guides didn’t book ahead) and we settled for a second (and after some arguments a reasonable room). Wandering the city I took several nice pictures of the city on the hills with the sun setting. Zhangmu is the link between Nepal and Tibet and sees a hundred or more trucks a day at its crossing (it's even cheaper to make things in Nepal than China!).
From Zhangmu, I was supposed to return to Lhasa with the guide and driver… but having gotten sick of putting up with their antics I went with the rest of the group into Nepal (a great decision, even though I threw away my return leg from Lhasa to Hong Kong). Nepal itself… was great to visit and very interesting – more on that later!
Overall…. The food was decent, but a bit basic… lots of yak! Although pretty much everywhere you could get the western version of something if you weren’t feeling adventurous.
The accommodation was a continuous challenge… as opposed to my prior experiences, where I could pick and choose hotels / hostels and negotiate my own prices…. I was at the mercy of our guide and the pre-selected rooms – no hot water (unless you argued), no heating (unless you argued), etc… was frustrating and something I hadn’t experienced in my prior trips across China and other developing countries.
The drive alternated between interesting and monotonous… a good chance to catch up on your reading.
Altitude sickness… all four of us got it in varying forms. I flew in; the other three took the train from Xi’an or Beijing (“very neat, but after the first day a bit boring”). Meant you got dizzy quickly if you tried too much exercise (e.g., climbing lots of stairs), you were constantly out of breath, and in the evenings / mornings you tended to get a headache. I got a for Diamox, but didn’t use it…. Instead lots of a Chinese Gatorade-copy and the occasional ibuprofen tablet wor
Axalp Fliegerschiessen 2010 - A Guide
I'd first heard of this airshow back in 2007. What I saw of the pictures that got sent around the little engineering office I worked in back then amazed me. Can you really go somewhere to watch F-5s and F-18s firing real 20mm rounds and not need a telescope to see them and camo to avoid being picked up by the police?
For one week a year in Switzerland, it turns out you can.
The Axalp Fliegerschiessen is a 4 day demonstration of the Swiss Air Force's firepower, that serves as a valuable training experience for the pilots and a pretty kickass show for the rest of us. Held in a valley in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland, the day starts at the Axalp village (ca 1500m), and then begins a small stroll up to the top of the valley (a relaxing 800m climb). To do this properly, you have to start well before dawn and hike in the dark. The reward is a sunrise over the swiss alps and enough time for coffee, a quick snack and a breaky beer before the airshow. Brilliant.
If you are going to do this, do yourself a favour and don’t wimp out. Get up early, pipe yourself full of whatever gets you going in the morning and get walking! Sunrise is about 7,30 at that time of year, meaning if you want to be setup for the golden hour, you want to be at the ATC tower by 7am. It takes ~3 hours to get up there if you don’t use the chairlift.. do the maths!! I promise though that if the weather plays ball, you will be rewarded with a stunning sunrise over the valleys. Its a treat that is worth hiking up for in the dark just for that view. Whilst its not why you are making the accent, pack a landscape wide angle lens with a lightweight tripod as well. As there is plenty of fenceline at the top, you could get away with a gorilla pod type setup if you wanted.
The only way up to the village is via the tiny little access road. The width for this road never seems to become two lanes wide but there are plenty of passing spots along the way. In the week we were there we shared the road with cars, push bikes, trucks, busses, a herd of cows and a couple of tractors. Just be sure to take it very carefully, especially around the frequent blind corners. If in doubt, just catch the bus.
As of 2010 they have changed the rules on access to the village - Private cars are no longer allowed access to the village between 0500 and 2100 on the Wednesday and the Thursday. I don’t know what happens if you turn up before 5am with respect to parking, but we saw a few campervans that had setup in one of the village carparks. We did the easy thing and rented a small chalet apartment for the week, which was surprisingly cheap when split amongst a few friends.
The path up is well signposted and even in the pitch darkness of 5am there are plenty of people about pointing you in the right direction. That being said a map will never hurt you. If you have an iPhone then the excellent official Swiss Map app is well worth buying and will give you moving maps at 1:25000 res. Generally I always hike with a paper map as well and think that it’s bad practice not to, and there are plenty, including some free ones, that will cover you here. Some places sest going up through the valley on the way up - we didn’t try that this time, but we did descend through it. Its very steep but far less crowded, which is the biggest problem on the main route. It is stunning in the afternoon sun as well, looks like its taken out of Lord of the Rings, especially with the little hut half way along. Just be carful on the decent and zig zag to loose height rather than just heading straight down.
A common theme you will hear about the event is the weather. Its mid autumn, 2km up - think about it!! It is going to be cold, even with the sun shining, and there’s a reasonable chance that the show will be shortened or cancelled if the weather even looks like it will turn. I think that now they are starting to charge for it they are less likely to cancel it due to bad weather in the valley (so it is less dependent on the VIPs being able to get up and back by helis) but this isn’t confirmed. Take decent shoes with good support. Take cold weather gear - think about thermals, beanies, gloves, etc. Sunscreen isn’t a bad idea either. A spare t-shirt is a good idea as well as you'll be sweating a bit at the top. Just think about it and don't be stupid - anyone that’s in reasonable fitness (say climb 3 flights of stairs reasonably quickly and not be falling over out of breath) and that wants to can make it. Just use your head and think to make sure that its not an uncomfortable trip.
Photo gear wise you really want to make some calls up front on this. Chasing the planes at entry and exit needs 500mm+, but panning the fast passes, especially the flare releases, wants something wider, maybe 50-80mm. A lot of people there were with the Canon 100-400 (me included) which is a reasonable compromise that will let you cover a lot of the action - and a damm good lens as well.
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The Fast and Easy Way to Charge Ultra-Micro Batteries
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