While on the phone with Neil, I finished up the fuselage repairs on the Avistar and replumbed the fuel lines to the engine. I applied covering, and aside from looking a little ghetto, it's looking pretty good. Before heading over to Penny and Travis's place to watch the new Joe Millionaire, I had to give it a quick test, so I fueled it, pulled out my starting equipment, and fired it up. The engine is running pretty well with new fuel line; a little adjusting and it will be running well in the cold weather. I hope to have it done and ready to fly by the time Neil comes up for Thanksgiving.
I've been struggling on what sort of projects to do for my animation class and my Flash class. Originally, I was just going to do one thing for both classes, but then I found out what animation class wants for a final isn't neccessarily an animation, but storyboards, screen tests, character models, etc. Basically, all of the stuff you'd need to make an animation, but not the animation itself. This is all nasty, hand drawn stuff, so I'm not too confident that it's going to look particularly good.
The upside of this development is that this leaves me free to do essentially whatever I want in Flash class. Originally I was going to do some sort of fixed animation sequence, but when I come up with ideas, I keep thinking about doing something interactive. Initially, I was going to do some sort of interactive map of the local area with known speedtraps highlighted and maybe with pictures when you clicked on each location. Later, I thought it might be cool to do a map of the US, and when you clicked on each state, you'd get information on each state's flower, bird, song, etc. Cheesy, but instructors eat that stuff up. But the more I think about it, what I'd really like to do is write a game.
In order to write a game, what I need to do is bone up on my Actionscript. What I've found so far is that Actionscript is very much like C++ or Java. The syntax is almost entirely the same. The one difference is that since flash is often used by more artsy-type people who don't write code, Macromedia and most third party publishers have targeted non-coders as their audience for documentation. For those of you that do code, you'll understand what I mean when you're trying to use a "tutorial" or "for dummies" type book for reference. It just doesn't work too well. Unfortunately, my text is exactly one of these type of books. Typically, they teach how to do something by rote memorization of a sequence of steps. This approach works great if you want to "cookbook" various things, but it fails miserably in teaching students the underlying concepts of what's really going on so that they can think for themselves. Flash MX 2004 builds on this even further by having a little code-wizard-like "Behaviors" window where you basically pick out what you want to do, and the objects you want to affect, and it does the rest. It's great for the occasional Flash developer who wants to implement limited Actionscript without too much fuss, but if you implement things over and over again, you find it's easier to just write out the code than to go through the steps. It's kind of like how using a command-line environment is a little bit more difficult at first, but eventually you can work it faster than a GUI.
O'Reilly to the Rescue: they have a book on Actionscript that my instructor just picked up. I flipped through it a little bit last Friday, and I was pretty impressed. While not all O'Reilly published books are written the same, many have an approach that I really began to enjoy as I read Running Linux when I was coming back from Hawaii on yet another patrol on the USS Florida. Basically, it starts off with a comprehensive history of the subject, which (for me) allows you to understand what various appendix-like terms mean throughout the reading. Then, it starts with a few practice exercises to get you comfortable with using whatever it is your using. But from that point on, it goes to explain what is really going on before it lays down code or examples. For me, this is the key; being a conceptual learner, it really helps me understand the examples. I simply cannot memorize information without having some sort of concept to attach it to; the information won't last long in my often preoccupied brain.
On a completely different subject, the weather doomsayers of the local news outlets were of course completely wrong again. They were all forecasting snow at levels below 300 feet last night, and I go out, and nothing....not even the puddles were really frozen. What a disappointment. While I have no desire to deal with bone-chilling midwestern winds again, I do enjoy occasional snowfall.
The last note is that my wife Lisa is now blogging on Les's machine. Les got virtual hosting going in Apache, so Lisa is now Movable Type equipped. I don't know if she's going to import the old blog entries from her old blog or not, but you can view the new blog here.