Better late than never?

You know how it is: you start a new blog, intend to keep something of it going and then circumstances change and it all goes a bit awry. Well, that happened.  Here’s a brief summary of life over the past 8 months.

Firstly, I didn’t do anywhere near enough work in Semester 1, and the blog was not the only thing to suffer.  I’m catching up but this week, having been Freshers’ Week, I’m nowhere near target either, so procrastinating here probably isn’t helping greatly.

Secondly, it all kicked off at work: we had a sudden closedown of the trial I work on. That meant having to fit 2yrs worth of work into practically 3 months. My study work didn’t suffer much but everything else did.

Finally, there has been a lot of things to do with organising and administering RPGSoc and related outfits to be done.

Of course, that wasn’t the half of it: what else has been going on?

RPGSoc won the National Student Roleplaying and Wargaming Championships in Manchester: I’m the current Champion of D&D 5th Edition and Large Model Painting.  I have been playing 5th Edition on Thursday nights still: our gaming group has changed with the change of storyline, and it’s not as good anymore (the group slightly, the storyline mostly), but it’s still brilliant 😀

I’ve been to no airshows since the loss from the air of Vulcan XH558, but I did go to both Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets open days with my friend from Essex who’s recently moved to the area and I also went to Newark Air Museum’s Fleet & Foreign Open Cockpits thing (although only for the Foreign-y bit), as well as City of Norwich Aviation Museum while I was visiting Emilie and the East Midlands Airport Aeropark with my Mum.  I also visited the Avro Heritage Museum last December with Matt.  So that’s four new Vulcans on the ‘visited’ list 🙂

We went abroad to Austria for the first time in ages and I remembered how much I miss Graz.  Some friends moved back to Nottingham and it’s like the family came home.

My Masters has really kicked off: I’ve been to loads of conferences as a participant so I’ve travelled well!  I’ve also met lots of very interesting and lovely people.  My supervisor thinks my work is very good (it has been described as ‘excellent’!) so it can’t all be that bad.

Let’s not leave it another eight months, eh?  Well, I’ll try my best.

It’s Not All Work…

I came to Moscow to do some research for my Masters, but let’s face it, going to Aria’s 30th Anniversary concert was never purely research.  Also, the chance to do bits of Moscow I always wanted to see, and in winter too.  Coming on my own meant I was free to do what I wanted so I visited the Cosmonauts Museum (at least partly to contrast it with the Cosmonauts exhibition at the Science Museum London) and the Central Museum of the VVS (the Russian equivalent of IWM Duxford).  I didn’t take any pictures in the Cosmonauts Museum: it would have cost me 230rub to do so, and when I knew I was going to buy the 400rub guidebook it didn’t seem worth it!  I probably couldn’t do most of it justice.  I’ll do a post about it later though, along with the other bits of Moscow I did and didn’t see.

This post is about the Air Museum, located about an hour-and-a-half’s train ride outside the city at a little place called Monino.  Monino used to be a base until the late 50s when the museum opened: I think it was replaced by the base now at Chkalovskiy, which is a base for some very large and loud aircraft (I can see/hear why they’re banned from most European airports, like the VC10 was!).  It’s not easy to get to, it’s a long walk up what yesterday were icy roads, but it is signposted in strategic places, and as long as you can read Russian (even if you don’t know what the words mean) it’s pretty straightforward.

I’m still not entirely sure what the opening times are: the two websites (one for the equivalent of the IWM ‘general’ site, one for the VVS part) had different times, so did the signs up around the museum.  It’s safe to say if you aim to arrive about 10am, you should be OK.  The lady on the desk was curt (normal for Russia) but the other ladies (it’s usually always ladies) were very accommodating: the lady in the first room responded to my question in English and the lady in the shop was very chatty (in Russian, but she was patient and friendly, like you’d expect in England, an not common but certainly not unheard of in Russia).  She was lamenting the lack of public transport to the museum and the lack of street lighting on the roads.  She also told me that on festival days there are cockpits open, so something to bear in mind when I come back.  The museum itself is laid out in a room, two hangers and the field.  There was a lot of walking outside in the snow!

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As this MiG-29 shows, there’d been quite some snow…!

Inside the first room was the history of flying in Russia, which was very interesting and I think fairly understandable even for those without Russian.  It was the only room with very little English.  It contained engines, models and uniforms, as well as a Polikarpov and something called a Letalin: the first (working) human-powered flying machine in Russia.

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Models and motors

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Il-16

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Letalin ornithopter

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Some weird Edwardian-ish thing…

The first hanger contained the WW2 (Great Patriotic War) aircraft of Russia: they range from sleek inline and radial ‘tactical fighters’ through armoured inline ‘strike’ (ground attack) aircraft (Il-2 Sturmovik) to radial beasts designed for reconnaissance and light night-time bombing.  The night-bombers represented in the museum were from a female squadron, which was very interesting.  Two of the aircraft in the room were classified monuments: others had been produced in their factories years after original production stopped (the joys of the Soviet system), others restored from parts of a crashed aircraft.

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Il-2 Sturmovik

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Po-2 night-bomber with female pilots exhibition

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“Death to the German Occupiers!” MiG-3

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National monument La-7

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Yak-9u

The final hanger, an ancient construction of steel with wooden slatted walls (through which birds entered) contained some of the ‘unique’ exhibits: Il’ya Muromets, a massive four-engined bomber from WW1; the ANT-25 long-range record-breaker; a number of small, experimental aircraft and ‘firsts’.

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Bi-1

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One of many Buran test models

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Russian ‘flying bedstead’

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No idea beyond the obvious

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ANT-25

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Il’ia Muromets

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Volga capsule for a balloon (note bird poo!)

And, finally, there was the massive expanse of outside.  And, man, was some of it massive!

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Apparently the largest helicopter in the world, Mi-12

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“Concordski”, aka Tu-144

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Tu-22M (not merely a development of the Tu-22, below)

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Il-76, maybe, having just taken off from Chkalovskiy

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Tu-22M backside

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MiG-25 backside: the size is almost Viggen-like!

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Miasishchev M-17 high-altitude experiment

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Il-76

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An-22

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A Bear’s backside (Tu-95)

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Back of the T-4/Su-100

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Front of the T-4/Su-100

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The very shiny T-4/Su-100

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Miasishchev 3M, the first intercontinental Soviet nuclear bomber, according to the info-board. Like the V-force, saw some modification and long service

And not just massive: some of it was purely mental:

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Beriev Be-12 boatplane (next to a MiG-31?): crazy-looking

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Remains of an Airacobra; for restoration!

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Be-12 again

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M-141 UAV

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EPOS spaceplane

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MiG testbed “Ye-166” (actually Ye-152M)

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Yak-36 technology demonstrator (Russian P.1107)

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Yes, that is a helicopter-crane…! Mi-10

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After some research, I believe this is a PZL M-15 Belphegor. It’s hidden round the side of one of the hangars but is pretty mental: biplane, twin-boom tail, jet engine…!

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Unknown and semi-hidden, but someone does have a sense of humour!

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M-50: what makes someone think that putting the engines at the end of the wings is a good idea?!

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And also pretty massive…

But that leaves so much else: all the ‘apparently normal’ stuff.  But nothing’s REALLY normal when it comes to Russian aircraft…

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Tu-16 (with my Vulcan to the Sky bug)

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Su-10 (Su-27 prototype)

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Su-27 probably

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Su-24

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Su-17?

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Su-22?

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A DC-3! Actually a licence-built version, the Lisunov Li-2.  There was also a B-25 but I appear to have forgotten to include that photo here…

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Bear!  An older Tu-95 (see the tail shot above)

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Su-25: that’s a lot of rocket pods…

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MiG-25?

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Mig-29

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Il-62

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Tu-114: note the ludicrously high nose

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MiG-31 under Be-12’s wing

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A newer Tu-95

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Mi-26

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A cute little helicopter with water-booms (unlabelled, possible Mi-2)

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One of two Mi-6s: this one is the battlefield HQ one (the other is a troop transport etc.)

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Cute little Mi-2

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Mi-4(?) firefighter

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Ka-25

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L-29 Dolphin or similar (unlabelled)

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MiG-15

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MiG-15 side view

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MiG-21

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MiG-25

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MiG-27

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Yak-38 V/STOL (Russian Jump Jet, but less capable than the Harrier)

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Yak-38 again

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Yak-25: I found this aircraft very striking

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Yak-27: somewhat arty shot of the sun through the nose

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Section of an Il-76

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Yak-17: supercute little jet fighter

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Mi-24

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Fantastic icicles on this Mi-8’s rotors

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A dinky little Yak (-130?) next to the massive T-4

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Tu-128 prototype

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Tu-16

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Tu-22M, looks much smaller here

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Tu-22M

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Tu-22

Watch this space for further Moscow-related news.  But next time, not actually from Moscow…

My First Research Trip

Tomorrow I go to Moscow on a research trip.  It will probably be the only research trip of my Masters, but should be a great start to my research career in travelling!

Generally, I’m pretty negative about Moscow: I had a terrible experience in 2003 (it was hot, humid and full of people) and I find it just like London, which I lived next to for 18 years.  In 2012 it was better: the city was celebrating 850 years and we went to the Battle of Borodino 200th Anniversary Reenactment (which I gave a presentation on at the Remakes in Russia workshop in 2014: my first exposure to ‘real’ academia, maybe!).  Everyone in the public services was really friendly, which is weird for Russia generally!  It was similar in St. Petersburg last year: everyone was much more like British service people…!

I will be going entirely on my own this time too, like when I went to Germany in 2005: this is new and scary, because Russia is so… different.  Still, it’s only 5 days on my own and it’ll be a nice break.

Oh, and then there’s my research: as well as attending a 7-hour heavy metal concert, I’m arranging some interviews with key people.  Exciting, and also scary!

I am also hoping to get to the massive air museum at Monino as well, and in a follow up to mine and Matt’s London trip, the cosmonaut museum.  We also went to the tourist ‘tat’ market in 2003 so I hope to return (albeit on a weekday so half the stalls will be shut) and apparently there’s an Ekranoplan outside the Navy museum…

That’s, of course, if they let me into the country in the first place…

Realisations: Understanding Research

I had my second supervision today: it was incredibly useful, if somewhat garrulous (I think we’re both guilty of wandering off-topic occasionally!).  Afterwards, I went and had my lunch in the CLAS study area (because there’s a microwave there) and read the article on Sepultura I had found.

It occurred to me, as I paused to squeeze my teabag onto the side of my tin mug, that I never envisioned reading an academic article on Sepultura in any context…

Later I went to the PGR Study Area.  It always feels a bit weird going there, because I don’t very often and to me it’s still the Russian departmental office, back when we had one of those.  Since then, it’s been a number of different areas including a teaching area, but I always remember it as part of the office.  It’s amazing how first impressions linger.

Going back the the supervision, it was not only constructive and thought-provoking, but it also made me realise how much work I have actually done.  Once I got down to work in the Study Area, I logged into Google Drive to pick up my notes on various books that I had semi-dictated to my phone when I was writing my proposal, which was less soul-destroying than I expected as there was much more than I thought (only, not on the books I thought I’d done loads with).

It still doesn’t feel like I’ve done much: between work and compulsory seminars, there’s little time during term-time to do much at all, and the preparation for my research trip in less than two weeks has taken up a fair chunk, and the usual October free-time-drought was well in effect this year.  I was reminded today that the compulsory seminars don’t really count for anything (beyond turning up) but I have felt that those I’ve wanted to get something out of I’ve put the right amount of work into.  I imagine for those I see as less relevant (and I’m pretty good by now at the ‘thinking outside the box’ and finding a way for almost everything to be relevant) will get much less time devoted to them.

I am hoping to be able to compile a workable to-do list soon, as well: I think that’s important for the planning I still haven’t gotten around to…

Philosophy of Language

I am interested in philosophy of language, but I don’t really understand it: I read the suggested reading and understand it as I read, but as soon as I finish, it’s gone from my mind.  To really make sense of it, I have to make notes as I go, which is time-consuming, but is it worth it?

I went to this seminar having read all the recommended reading, understood it and, as just mentioned, entirely forgotten it all (making extensive, time-consuming notes was not worthwhile for this seminar given my other responsibilities).  But I learned some things in the seminar which were useful, and backed up my ideas: that’s crucial, because if my ideas had been wrong I would have been too demoralised to even think about looking at it for my research.

I consider myself a novice in this area: I’ve always had more to do in the linguistics side than the philosophy side.  It also doesn’t help that it’s all generally written in a high register which I now have difficulty understanding, but was probably fine when I was constantly immersed in high-end academic writings (so, 2002-6).  But I think it might be worth looking at.

As I am looking at interpretation of song lyrics, the philosophy becomes important: it is all about relevance, inference, meaning defined and meaning received.  So I will read the book the lecturer kindly lent me and make extensive notes on it, and then I will decide if it’s worth including.  At the very least, it is worth looking at because it is interesting, and at worst I will have more things to think about.