Travel – Sydney

Posted by jerry on September 19th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Travel

In Sydney to do some music recording, we took the opportunity to take in Berkelouw Books and Ariel Books on Oxford St and came back to the hotel with quite a haul!

On the way to Oxford Street, we passed St Vincent’s Hospital, and right opposite found a memorial drinking fountain dedicated to the memory of one of Australia’s greatest heart surgeons, Dr Victor Chang.

Chang memorial

Berkelouw’s has a cafe upstairs serving delightful apple and rhubarb slice and berry cheesecake – we washed these down with two large flat white coffees. Internet connection was a bit flaky so I waited until we got back to the hotel

Berkelouw Books

I found an early Thomas Sebeok book on semiotics, called ‘A sign is just a sign’ – it looks great – I’ve been reading a bit about semiotics lately – the study of how we make meaning with signs.

Ariel’s yielded Alain de Botton’s ‘Essays in Love’ – which we had been hunting for some time – we have all his others.

As we crossed the road from Ariel’s I spotted a pile of steam rising in front of an illuminated sign on a building on Oxford Street and couldn’t resist a moody photo

Oxford Street, Sydney

And on to an art store – Canberra’s main art stores have been taken over by Eckersly’s and the range has narrowed markedly – and they cater more for scrapbooking than fine arts it seems. But the art store on Oxford Street has a huge range of items for artists – I found some orange shellac for varnish, and Sharon some sketch books and a few other things.

Then it was on to a Nepalese restaurant for dinner – it looked quite genuine cuisine, with goat (with or without bones and skin!) on the menu – we settled for a lamb and a chicken curry, with rice and naan bread – delicious!

Weighed down with books we stopped at a 7/11 for some milk and then caught a cab back to the hotel – The Mariner’s Court on McElhone St in Woolloomooloo – great value, comfortable clean rooms recently refurbished.

Mariner's Court Hotel

And so to blog with a backdrop of fireworks.

Recipe – Chocolate Crunch Slice (Hedgehog)

Posted by jerry on September 13th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Recipes

Got a chocolate party to go to? This is a quick and easy – and delicious – chocaholic’s delight!

Chocolate crunch slice

2 bars of dark cooking chocolate (400g)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine (50g)
1 teaspoon of instant coffee
1 egg (optional)
half a packet of milk arrowroot or other plain biscuits
2 tablespoons mixed peel

Half fill a large pan with water, bring to boil. In a second (and smaller) pot put in the chocolate and margarine and put that pot in the larger one so it works as a ‘double boiler’. Chop the chocolate into small chunks and place in the smaller saucepan, and add the butter. As it melts, keep stirring gently until smooth and creamy.
Boil a kettle and use just enough hot water to dissolve the instant coffee (about a teaspoon) and pour the coffee into the melted chocolate and stir in well.
Take a bowl and break the biscuits into pea-sized chunks.
Take the chocolate mix off the heat and allow to cool for about ten minutes. Stir in the egg (optional).
Now add the biscuit pieces and the mixed peel and stir until well covered in chocolate.
Pour the mix into a bar-tin lined with baking (greaseproof) paper or aluminium foil
Refrigerate until set – about 2 hours.

Turn out the bar onto a board upside down, making sure the paper is completely removed, dust with icing sugar and slice thinly to serve.

This has been adapted from the recipe of a family friend called Makiko 🙂

Variations can include half a cup of mixed dried fruit, or nuts substituted for an equivalent amount of the biscuits.



Large hadron collider – tomorrow when the world began…

Posted by jerry on September 9th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Technology

Wednesday will not be like any other normal Wednesday. At least at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) it won’t. Wednesday is when the large hadron collider gets switched on. The large what?? A great big machine for winding up very small particles very very fast and smashing them into each other. If that sounds like a rather strange thing to do, it may be. But it also may be the start of a project that could just unveil the secret of matter itself and the start of the universe from the Big Bang.

While there have been rather fanciful stories circulating about how when the machine gets switched on, the world will be swallowed by a black hole – that, according to Dr Brian Cox, is plain nonsense.

The LHC will be dealing with such small particles that the energy produced by the collisions would barely power a small light globe, but it may just reveal where all the universe’s energy actually comes from.

Here’s hoping anyhow – it’s great to see that there are still enough scientific visionaries to do big science. Good luck guys!


Hudspith steam bike

Posted by jerry on September 8th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Steam, Technology

Geoff Hudspith has been developing this bike since the 1970s, and has been riding it at shows for years. But it is also a practical workhorse as well as a beautiful piece of home engineering

Hudspith steam bike

Seen here on Google video, the bike is seen being fired up and run – even taken on a ferry. This is no museum piece, but everyday transport. And it runs on steam.

The bike runs on 125 psi and burns kerosene. Performance is about 8mph sustained speed, 6 – 8mpg of water and about 60 – 70mpg of paraffin. The engine has run for 11 years – five years on the bike, and shows no sign of wearing out!


Canberra Timber and Working with Wood Show 2008

Posted by jerry on September 5th, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Technology, Woodwork

The Canberra Timber and Working with Wood Show is on again this weekend, and here is a preview 🙂

This exhibition of the latest woodworking equipment, demonstrations and stacks of timber is one of the must-see events if you are a woodworker – whether hobbyist or semi professional.

As you arrive, there are demonstrations of the Lucas saw mill, and the Swedex Logosol mini saw mill. This latter made short work of a large log using a chainsaw mounted in a frame that holds the saw horizontal for cutting slabs. The whole thing is adjustable for slab thickness and slope of the log. Very impressive for such a small mill.

Logosol wood mill

Once inside I went in search of lumber – I have in mind to make a couple of musical instruments – another pochette fiddle and a travel mandolin. Trend Timbers was my first and primary stop as they had some lovely birdseye maple and rosewood. I also found blackwood, silkwood and purpleheart. But alas no spruce. It seems I have to go to Sydney for that, or order it on the internet. I also got the last piece of American sycamore in captivity in Canberra.

Trend Timbers

The guys there were very friendly and helpful – they even helped me carry my acquisitions to the parcel pick-up place. And I learned that Brazil is the only country to be named after a timber! Brazil wood was known before the country had a (Western) name.

There were great demonstrations and seminars – don’t miss the chair making one by Richard Vaughan titled ‘Seat yourself’. Richard Raffan and Bruce Bell did wood turning demos and Roger Givkin showed off his dovetail jig and demonstrated the art of small box making.

While there are many great new toys out there, one really stood out for me this year – the SawStop. This is amazing and will save countless fingers from being injured by table saws. A small electrical current passes through the saw blade, and trips a sensor as soon as the blade touches flesh rather than wood. Within 5milliseconds – ten times faster than a car airbag deploys in an accident, and seven times faster than we blink, a gas charge propels an aluminium brake into the saw blade and the whole blade drops below the table. I just had to film this demonstration:

I hope every educational institution teaching woodworking buys this as it will save countless hands from serious injury.

There was a great selection of books at the Australian Woodworker stand – and you could pick up any back issues you missed on the news stands.

Australian Woodworker

If you are into bush crafts there was Stan Ceglinski with his crosscut saw race – but he is also very skilled with a riving knife too!

Stan Ceglinski

There were also demonstrations of pole-lathe woodturning

pole lathe

and demos of chair making by a master bodger using green wood and a draw-knife


But in case you thought it was all about rough timber – there were excellent displays of fine woodworking from the ANU School of Art and Sturt universities and ACT Woodcraft. For example there was this beautiful cabinet…


If you are into boats – then the Cape Boatworks is a must visit – they are building a canoe from wood strips through the course of the weekend. It’s the first day and the canoe is already well advanced!

cape boatworks

And I came away with new knowledge – and a small stash of rather special timber

timber stash

And a couple of useful chisels…