Cradle of Aviation

I recently visited the fabulous Cradle of Aviation Air & Space Museum in Garden City, New York.  Apart from being a top notch aircraft museum, the Cradle places a strong emphasis on showcasing Long Island’s rich aviation history.   Here are photographs of a few of my favorite exhibits:


Here is a glorious Grumman F11 Tiger in Blue Angels livery.


This is a Grumman F9F Cougar with swept wings.  The incorporation of wartime German aerospace research allowed post-war American engineers to place redesigned wings on the originally straight-winged Cougar.


The 70 mm Hasselblad camera was used by Apollo astronauts to take pictures on the moon.


A Republic F84 Thunderjet.  It was no match for the MiG-15 in combat over Korea, but it performed well as a fighter-bomber.  Note the straight wings.  Swept wings were just becoming standard on new jet fighters at this time.

Marc De Santis

Asia’s Mediterranean

The South and East China Seas are looking more and more like Asia’s version of the Mediterranean, with all of the same problems that have plagued the Middle Sea for centuries.  Multiple hostile states vying for control.  Just as the Mediterranean has been a theater of conflict going back to time of the Mycenaeans, the South and East China Seas are now arenas of tension for numerous Asian nations struggling for resource rights amid competing historical territorial claims.   Take a look at this article about the ongoing problems in Asian waters.

China is establishing a new garrison on Yongxing Island.  This is meant to help solidify Chinese claims to the Spratly, Paracel, and Macclesfield Bank Islands.

Further north, there is a potential feud brewing between China and Japan over Okinawa.

To help us understand China’s motivation, here is another great piece by Jim Holmes of the U.S. Naval War College.

Tensions exist even between China and India in the theater.

Marc De Santis

Solar System Blues

Space exploration can sometimes be taken too lightly.  Traveling through space is one of the most difficult endeavors that humanity has ever attempted.  The sheer size of the universe, and the extraordinary distances involved, even to the nearest stars, make it unlikely that human-crewed spacecraft will be orbiting alien suns any time soon.

Until then, we will have to make do with exploring our own small pocket of the galaxy – our own solar system.   This piece is a sober look at the prospect of space travel for the foreseeable future.


Marc De Santis

Tolkien and Technology

J.R.R. Tolkien was no fan of the modern world.  Technology was more often employed by the bad guys than by the good guys in Middle earth.  Here is an interesting take on Tolkien’s feelings toward technology.  I especially find intriguing the notion that technology and magic were once twins, and that one, magic, died out.

This article is a must for Tolkien fans.

Marc De Santis


Warbirds Forever!

Here are some photographs of Second Word War-era warbirds at the American Airpower Museum in Famingdale, New York.

This is a Grumman TBF Avenger, a torpedo bomber used to great effect in the Pacific Theater.  Its wings could fold to save space on an aircraft carrier.


This is a North American B-25 Mitchell medium bomber.  It was made famous for its role in the 1942 Doolittle Raid on Japan – Thirty Seconds over Tokyo.  This particular machine was General Hap Arnold’s personal airplane.


This is a Douglas C-47 Dakota.  It is the military transport version of the legendary DC-3 airliner.  It is painted with D-Day invasion stripes, and looks as it would have when it carried American paratroopers to jump into Normandy in June 1944.

All three photographs were taken with a Nikon D3100.

Marc De Santis


Panasonic Lumix ZS19 Digital Camera Review

The Panasonic Lumix ZS19 is a fine digital camera of the point-and-shoot compact class. It is small, lightweight, and packed with features. It works well for me, but will it satisfy you? That depends on what you are looking for in a camera. A simple point-and-shoot will perform very well in most situations. My 6.0 megapixel Canon Powershot SD600, ancient now, takes fantastic photos and is solidly built. I wanted to step up to something better, while still retaining the size profile of a compact camera. It had to fit into a coat pocket, and so could not be much larger than a bar of soap. I also wanted a better zoom capability than my Canon’s 3x so that I could take acceptable pictures of subjects beyond ten feet in distance. Sometimes, when I snapped on a distant subject with the Powershot, it made everything in the photo look as if it was on the other side of the Atlantic. A DSLR would have given me great shots from a long distance, but it would have been much too large to fit into a jacket. So instead I would go with a so-called travel zoom, which is a compact camera with a telescoping lens that extends far out from the body.

My initial impressions of the ZS19 have been very favorable. Image quality on the 14.1 megapixel, 20x optical zoom ZS19 is generally fantastic, the 3.0 inch LCD is bright and sharp, and the controls are simple to use. The small Leica lens is superb. In portrait mode, bokeh is excellent. Onboard effects are plentiful, and most can be accessed via a small dial on the top of the device. I found that the zoom function was occasionally problematic. It was easy to overzoom on a subject because the control was a trifle jerky. The far older Canon’s zoom, by contrast, is silky smooth. Also, at extended ranges, a computerized “digital zoom” effect takes over on the Lumix, and the results can be either hit or miss. Panasonic promises 40x with the Intelligent Zoom function engaged, an impressive number, but don’t expect it to work out in every instance. 20x maximum is more realistic. Low light photos, as you could expect, are also spotty, sometimes okay, sometimes not. I also wish that the build quality was better. It isn’t that I expect the Lumix to break, it is not flimsy, but I just can’t help compare it to my rugged, all-metal Powershot. The ZS19 feels a bit plasticky.

At short distances, the image quality is very close what you would obtain from an entry-level DSLR, so if high quality close-up pictures, with an occasional distance photo, is what you are about, the ZS19 will be a great carry camera. If you need something more, such as if you are taking photos of the Grand Canyon, Paris in the springtime, the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, or simply want the highest quality images, a DSLR will provide everything you need, but it will be a much larger machine. There is also an intermediate class of digicams known as compact system cameras, or CSCs, which do away with mirrors and produce images comparable to lower-end DSLRs, in a smaller-than-DSLR package. However, many of these devices, with all but the shortest lenses attached, are still significantly larger than a compact point-and-shoot, and cost about as much, or more, as an entry-level DSLR.

The ZS19 sells for $249.00 at Costco, so do not pay any more for it than that, period. You will also have to get a proper carry case for it. The kit case is barely adequate. Battery life is sufficient, and no more. No charging unit is supplied, so the battery will have to charged while in the camera itself. Below are a few photos that I took with the ZS19.

Check out some of the photos I took with it here in an earlier post.

Marc De Santis is the author of the fantasy novel BloodLikeWine. He blogs at ConsolidatedPopCulture about whatever he pleases.