Monday, January 28, 2008

Human Spaceflight Remembrance Day

Today is the 22nd Anniversary of the Space Shuttle "Challenger" disaster. Yesterday was the 41st Anniversary of the "Apollo 1" tragedy. February 1st marks the 5th Anniversary of the Space Shuttle "Columbia" disaster. It is a sad time of year for everyone who, like me, advocates human spaceflight and exploration for the ongoing betterment of the human race.

On January 27th, 1967, a fire broke out in the "Apollo 1" Command Module capsule as it was undergoing a supposedly routine ground test, killing all three astronauts inside: Virgil "Gus" Grisson, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

On January 28th, 1986, following an initially successful launch the Space Shuttle "Challenger" exploded 73 seconds into its flight, killing all 7 crew onboard: astronauts Francis "Dick" Scobee, Ron McNair, Mike Smith, Ellison Onizuka, Judy Resnik and Greg Jarvis, and civilian teacher Christa McAuliffe.

On February 1st, 2003, following a successful 16-day spaceflight the Space Shuttle "Columbia" broke up on re-entry, killing the crew of 7: U.S. astronauts Rick Husband, Willie McCool, Michael Anderson, Kalpana Chawla, David Brown, Laurel Clark and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon.

Here are a few memorable quotes from some those who died:

Gus Grissom (who was the second ever American, and the third ever human, into space following the successful July 1961 "Mercury-Redstone 4" mission):
"If we die, we want people to accept it. We are in a risky business and we hope that if anything happens to us it will not delay the program. The conquest of space is worth the risk of life."
-- after his and John Young's successful "Gemini 3" mission, March 1965

Ed White:
"I think you have to understand the feeling that a pilot has, that a test pilot has, that I look forward a great deal to making the first flight. There's a great deal of pride involved in making a first flight."

Christa McAuliffe (who would have been the first ever civilian, and teacher, into space):
"I cannot join the space program and restart my life as an astronaut, but this opportunity to connect my abilities as an educator with my interests in history and space is a unique opportunity to fulfill my early fantasies."

Dr. Ron McNair:
"Whether or not you reach your goals in life depends entirely on how well you prepare for them and how badly you want them. You're eagles! Stretch your wings and fly to the sky."

Willie McCool:
"From our orbital vantage point, we observe an earth without borders, full of peace, beauty and magnificence, and we pray that humanity as a whole can imagine a borderless world as we see it and strive to live as one in peace."

These tragic losses all occurred in NASA spacecraft as part of the U.S. space program. The following people also sadly died during spaceflights as part of the former U.S.S.R.'s (now Russia's) space program:

Vladimir Komarov, who died when his "Soyuz 1" capsule crashed after re-entry, April 24th, 1967.

Vladislav Volkov, Georgi Dobrovolski and Viktor Patsayev, who died when their "Soyuz 11" capsule depressurized prior to re-entry, June 30th, 1971.

I vividly remember watching the April 1972 "Apollo 16" and December 1972 "Apollo 17" manned moon-landings on TV with my father when I was quite young (my 5th Birthday was in October of that year), and I was awe-inspired by the experiences. I have been fascinated by, and a supporter of, human spaceflight ever since. I hope we never stop trying to conquer space. In part to continually honour the memory of those who have died trying, but chiefly to continue to advance ourselves as a species - a prime motive, surely, of all those who have ever attempted to travel into space - I think we must never stop, no matter how difficult and dangerous it is.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 6

I have just posted Part 6 in my ongoing series of Mario and Sonic online game recommendations over in my new Blog. It's a bit different to my previous posts in the series, with a distinctly 1980s "old skool gaming" theme to it, so if you fancy a change to your normal online gaming routine, please take a look.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Places to visit and things to do in Thailand - Part 2

Er, this is extremely overdue, given that I posted Part 1 way back in May 2006 when I first started this blog - oops! I'll do my best now to make this into a proper series of (hopefully) interesting and useful posts based on my various travels around Thailand during the intervening period since that first post.

So... another of my favourite places that I've visited in Thailand, and that I also thoroughly recommend you to visit if you are ever over here, is the beautiful Phimai Historical Park, situated 60 km north of the city of Nakhon Ratchasima, or approximately 320 km north-east of Bangkok. This is the site of some spectacular partially-restored 900 year-old Khmer Empire temple ruins that are very closely related to (and also slightly predate) the world-famous Angkor Wat, which is located about 250 km south of Phimai in Cambodia. As with Angkor Wat, which was the capital of the long-lost empire and which in its heyday was linked directly to Phimai by road, the temple at Phimai is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

See the page and the Art and mini-site for some more detailed information plus some photos. There is also an excellent Computer Reconstruction of the whole Phimai temple site that can be viewed online.

I'll post another of my favourite Thai places to visit soon...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blasts from the past - playable, then sabotaged

In case you didn't know, I absolutely love video games, be they console games, computer games or arcade games. Being a member of "Generation X" (i.e. I was born in the 1960s and grew up during the 1970s and early 80s) I got to play some of the very first arcade video games ever made, including: Breakout (released by Atari in 1976), Space Invaders (Taito/Midway, 1978), Asteroids (Atari, 1979), Galaxian (Namco/Midway, 1979), Lunar Lander (Atari, 1979), Battlezone (Atari, 1980), Missile Command (Atari, 1980), Defender (Williams Electronics, 1980), Centipede (Atari, 1980), Pac-Man (Namco/Midway, 1980), Donkey Kong (Nintendo, 1981) and Frogger (Konami & Sega/Gremlin, 1981). All-time classics, all of them.

Here are some online versions of some of those games for you to play:

Breakout (JavaScript)
Breakout (Flash)

Space Invaders (Flash)

Asteroids (Java)

Lunar Lander (Java)

Missile Command (Java)
Missile Command (Flash)

Centipede (Flash)

Pac-Man (Flash)

Donkey Kong (Flash)

Frogger (Flash)

I actually mention all of the above because (aside from the fact that the games are still great fun to play even today) it has recently been brought to my attention that there is a new website that - if, like me, you are a fan of classic video games - I recommend you to visit:

I think it's great fun, and it might well become a bit of a classic in its own right as it continues to grow. Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 5

In keeping with what I wrote in my previous post in this blog, I have just posted Part 5 of my ongoing series of Mario and Sonic online game recommendations over in my new Blog, along with a summary of Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

So, please hop on over there if you would like to try out the latest games I've recommended and also catch up on my latest posts relating to Mario and Sonic gaming.

My new blog

I have decided that too much of this blog is now being taken up with Mario and Sonic related posts. Since I have recently created a new Mario and Sonic games site,, I thought it would be much better if I created a blog specifically for that site into which I can put all future Mario and Sonic posts. So, here it is... the brand new Blog

From now on if I post anything in this blog relating to Mario and Sonic, it will only be a headline entry with a link to the related full article over in the other blog, to keep the content of each one more focussed. As a result, hopefully this blog can return to a more varied view of "England, Thailand and Other Things", as was my original intention.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Zelda & Megaman Online Game Recommendations

As an addition to my ongoing series of Mario and Sonic online game recommendations (see Part 4 for the most recent of those), here are a few excellent Flash games for you to try that are based on some other iconic video games series:

The Legend of Zelda: The Seeds of Darkness
Take control of Link and lead him on a quest through this beautifully made fan-game that combines lovely graphics and music with classic "Legend of Zelda" RPG-style exploration, strategy and combat gameplay.

Megaman vs. Metroid
In this superb homage to the eponymous Capcom and Nintendo games, you get to guide Megaman through a variety of levels featuring Samus Aran and other classic "Metroid" game characters.

Megaman vs. Ghosts 'n Goblins
A semi-sequel to the game above, this time you must help Megaman take on and defeat zombies, demons and other horrors from the classic "Ghosts 'n Goblins" game.

You can find these games together with hundreds more quality Flash and Java online games in my website. Enjoy!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 4

Here are the next four Mario and Sonic online game recommendations in my ongoing series based on the 100+ free Flash and Java games in my new site at (see also Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3):

Super Mario Brothers: Mario Remix
This clever fan-produced game is actually three different games in one great package - grab hold of Mario and go and play some "Super Mario World" with him, and when you're done with that, go and play some "Megaman" and then some "Gradius" with him too!

Super Mario Brothers: Bullet Bill (and its sequel
Super Mario Brothers: Bullet Bill 2)
Play a version of the classic original "Super Mario Bros." game, but with a quite literally smashing twist - you get to play as a Bullet Bill! Smash blocks, bash Mario, avoid scenery!

Sonic the Hedgehog: Ultimate Robotnik Duels
Take over the controls of one of Dr. Robotnik's (a.k.a. Eggman's) amazingly destructive flying machines for a head-to-head "death match" battle. You can play as any of the main characters from the Sonic the Hedgehog games, or even as Super Mario - so you can have your very own "Mario vs. Sonic" fight if you wish! Features brilliantly entertaining single-player and 2-player modes, and also a neat spectator mode where you can watch your computer play against itself.

(Just in case you want some more "Mario vs. Sonic" action, and just in case you haven't played it yet and haven't found out, you can also have a Mario vs. Sonic fight in the Super Smash Flash game I recommended in Part 3 of this series... plus you might also want to check this out: Mario vs. Sonic Interactive Flash Movie)

Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic Boom
Shoot Sonic from a giant cannon and try to get him as far as you can. Hit the bonus items to increase Sonic's flight distance, but avoid the traps and bombs that will slow him down and stop him. Features unlockable extra characters and bunuses.

Enjoy! More recommendations in the near future...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 3

Here is the third part in my ongoing series of Mario and Sonic online game recommendations (see my blog post yesterday for Part 2). You can find these games plus over 100 more at my new site:

Here are my next game recommendations - there are five for you to try this time:

Super Mario Brothers: Luigi Gunman
Also known as "Mario World Overrun", this truly unique Mario game offers an exciting and challenging combination of first-person-shooter action and tower-defence strategy, all based in a Super Mario World setting.

Super Mario Brothers: Super Mafia Bros.
The classic original Super Mario Bros. game gets "The Godfather" treatment in this brilliant single-level homage.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Shadow the Hedgehog Flash
An excellent official Flash mini-version of Sega's 2005 "Shadow the Hedgehog" game for the Nintendo GameCube, Sony PlayStation 2 and Microsoft Xbox, complete with the gunplay that is now synonymous with Shadow.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Scene Creator
One of a series of three slightly differing Sonic Scene Creators (click here and here for the other two), this is great fun for Sonic fans who have an artistic side in addition to their gaming side.

Super Smash Flash
The name (almost) says it all - this is an awesome fan-produced version of Nintendo's 2001 GameCube game "Super Smash Bros. Melee", but with the added bonus of being able to play as (or against if you prefer) Sega characters such as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles and Shadow in addition to the standard Nintendo characters. The game features a host of unlockable extra levels and characters in single-player mode, plus there is a 2-player mode for some serious "VS." brawling action.

Enjoy! I'll post some more recommendations soon....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 2

Here is part 2 in my ongoing series of personal recommendations for the pick of the Mario and Sonic Flash and Java online games in my sites (see my blog post yesterday for Part 1). All these games can now be found together in one place as part of an ever-expanding collection of over 100 at my new site:

Here are my next four game recommendations for you to try:

Super Mario Brothers: Super Mario Sunshine 64
A superb fan-produced 2D version of the 2002 Nintendo GameCube game "Super Mario Sunshine", complete with a fully-functioning FLUDD.

Super Mario Brothers: Mario Bros. in Pipe Panic
Play as either Mario or Luigi in this lovely Super Mario Bros. themed homage to the all-time classic "Pac-Man" arcade game.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Ultimate Flash Sonic
One of the most popular Flash games on the web, and it's easy to see why - this incredible fan-produced effort is as close to a perfect game as you will find anywhere. With fast-paced, flawless Sonic platforming fun all the way, this game incorporates the best elements of all the classic 8-bit and 16-bit Sonic games, and includes unlockable extra characters, levels and other fun bonuses too.

And just in case you want it, here is a lovely little cheat password for the Ultimate Flash Sonic game that allows you to level-select the Ice Paradise zone when you play the main game as Tails, and also allows you to have Tails follow you if you want when you play the game as any other character (just like in the 16-bit Sega Mega Drive/Genesis "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" game if you have Tails follow Sonic): 115013101010101

(Additional note: If you use the above cheat password and have Tails follow Cream, he replaces Cheese the Chao who normally follows Cream.)

Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic Rivals Dash
An official Flash mini-version of Sega's excellent 2006 "Sonic Rivals" game for the Sony PlayStation Portable, this has a 2-player option in addition to the single-player game for some real "Rivals" fun.

Enjoy! More recommendations tomorrow....

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Mario & Sonic Online Game Recommendations - Part 1

I thought I'd start an ongoing series of personal recommendations for the pick of the Mario and Sonic games that can be found in all my sites, because there are now so many games to choose from (well over 100) that it can often be a bit daunting figuring out just which games to start playing initially. I hope that these recommendations will help resolve that. And whilst I'm on the subject, you can now find all of the Mario and Sonic free Flash and Java online games together in one easy-to-find place in a new easy-to-remember site:

So, here are my first four game recommendations for you to try:

Super Mario Brothers: New Super Mario Flash
Play as either Mario or Luigi in this brilliant fan-produced Flash remake of the classic 8-bit and 16-bit Super Mario Bros. platform games. As well as including its own excellent ready-made series of levels for you to play, the game also features a programmable level editor for you to create and play your very own levels (and some example level codes are included for you to try too). This is rapidly becoming one of the most popular Flash games on the web - play it for yourself to see why.

Super Mario Brothers: Super Mario X
An entertaining Super Mario platform game with lovely original Flash graphics and a unique twist in gameplay.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic Xtreme
A fast-paced and challenging Sonic platformer with Super Mario "Wigglers" to defeat in addition to classic Sonic Badniks.

Sonic the Hedgehog: Amy's Whack-A-Nik
Go on, you know you want to - Use your mouse to control Amy Rose's "Piko Piko Hammer" and whack as many SWATBot Badniks as you can in the time limit!

Enjoy! More to come soon....

Monday, January 07, 2008

More online goodies from Virgin Comics

I took a much more in-depth look around the Virgin Comics website today, and I was amazed to discover the brilliant range of comics that they are producing - I'm an instant fan of the brand! And it feels like Christmas all over again, because it turns out that two more of their titles are available as online digital comics in addition to the lovely new Dan Dare comic I highlighted in my blog post yesterday.

They are both brilliant, and they are "Voodoo Child" by Nicolas Cage and his son Weston, and "Devi" by Shekhar Kapur.

Check them out now - I feel sure you will be as impressed with them both as I am. Seriously well done Virgin Comics! :-) Acquiring the real "hard copy" comics to read in their true format will be a leisure-time priority for me on my next trip back to the UK.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A special Dan Dare mention

While I'm in full-on "Dan Dare" mode at the moment, I feel that a special mention should be made of Colin Frewin, someone to whom us Dan Dare fans owe a great deal of thanks. Colin runs the Dan Dare Corporation, the company that owns the global media rights to all that is Dan Dare. Without Colin's massive personal investment in Dan Dare since 2001 we would never have had the highly entertaining 2002 Dan Dare CGI cartoon series, and without Colin's active involvement we wouldn't currently have the new Virgin Comics series and the Titan Books 1950's story reprint series to enjoy. Cheers Colin! How about a Dan Dare movie next? :-)

Virgin's Dan Dare comic on the web, and other Dan Dare publications

Well, it's a very welcome surprise for me to see that Virgin Comics are posting episodes from their new monthly Dan Dare comic on their website - see the Official Dan Dare Digital Comic. Given that currently I'm in central rural Thailand thousands of miles from anywhere that I'm likely to be able to actually buy the real comic, being able to catch up with it online is a real treat! My thanks to Sir Richard Branson - "you're a right proper gentleman and no mistake, Sir Richard!" :-)

I have to confess that I quite like this latest and newest version of Dan Dare, so far anyway... However, I still think that Frank Hampson's original 1950 creation is the only version that really "cuts the mustard" in terms of the quality of artwork and storytelling. And please bear in mind that I grew up with the late-1970's 2000AD comic's "punk" version of Dan Dare, I didn't become fully familiar with the original version until the late 1980's, so I'm not biased towards the original through a nostalgic longing for it! :-) See these extensive Dan Dare Picture Galleries and Artwork Showcases to get an idea of what I mean - you can view imagery from all the different versions of Dan Dare through the years. I reckon anyone with a real eye for artistic quality will favour the Frank Hampson original over any subsequent version.

Lamentably forgotten by the popular press (plus myself in this very blog - doh!) during the August/September 2007 fanfare over the Virgin Comics announcement that they were bringing Dan Dare back into print in new comic-strip stories, was the fact that Dan Dare was actually already appearing in new comic-strip stories at the time. We all overlooked the fact that "Spaceship Away", a superb officially endorsed fan magazine, had been running (and indeed still is running) new "classic style" Dan Dare stories since its first issue back in 2003. Some of these new stories are lovingly illustrated by original 1950's and 60's era Dan Dare artists, so they really are true to the original Frank Hampson vision. So, if like me you have a desire to read as much Dan Dare as possible, visit their website over at to find out how to subscribe to this unique thrice-yearly magazine.

There is also a Dan Dare (and Eagle - the comic that originally featured the Dan Dare stories) fan club if you are interested in finding out more about the classic original 1950's and 60's era. Take a look at their very informative weblog over at the Eagle Times Blog, which also includes details of how to subscribe to the fan club and receive their excellent quarterly magazine.