Canberra Riders novice run to Tidbinbilla

Posted by jerry on September 23rd, 2007 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

With perfect motorbike weather it seemed like a good idea to get a bunch of folks together to do a short easy run round the twistys behind Canberra – and there had been some talk on the Canberra Riders forum of doing a novice run – with about even numbers between newer riders and more experienced riders. The idea is that the newer riders can get experience riding with a group without the pressure that can come from trying to keep up with the hard core racers. The Canberra Riders are good that way – a loose group of riders across a wide range of skills from new learners to old stagers and some pretty quick racers in between. But they’re very supportive of other riders and willing to share knowledge and expertise 🙂

So after yesterday’s cruise to Bungendore, the antique Honda Bol d’Or was ready for another gentle run. And Gosling1 had made a suggestion on the forum that a run to Tidbinbilla might be a good one for a novice run. Some of the wrong bits of Seph’s bike had recently come in contact with the ground so he was looking for a gentle proving run to make sure the repair on the alternator cover was oil-tight, and the bike was straight. Ausjc is a learner looking to gain experience, and Gosling1 had done much to ensure that Seph’s bike was back on the road after a couple of weeks.

So with the finishing touches done they all headed over to my place for a quick pre-ride brief and we headed off up the Cotter Road with a stop at the car park at the old Cotter Bridge (now causeway) – this is the site of the old Cotter Road Pub that was destroyed in the Canberra Bushfires in 2003.

Canberra Riders

We met up with a mob of other riders and admired some fine machines (that black Honda Bol d’Or is particularly nice 😉

Then on for the ride to Tidbinbilla Deap Space Tracking Station – there’s a great coffee shop there called the ‘Moon Rock Cafe’ – very friendly to bikers and excellent service

The dishes made a great backdrop to the bikes

Canberra Riders

Funny how that black Honda kept getting into the photo!

And there was some good discussion about some of the local roads and some good places to explore for later rides. And what better backdrop to a coffee is a dish big enough to play cricket on 🙂

Canberra Riders

Seph’s bike needed push starting at every stop – he found later that great results can be achieved by plugging two wires together just near the clutch lever…

And I’d also like to say thanks to the anonymous rider who found my phone on the road, made the right assumptions as to likely destination, and returned it to me at Tidbinbilla – that sort of thing restores faith in human nature 🙂 And I’ll be keeping the phone in a zip-up pocket from now on 🙂 And yeah the phone still worked – they made the old bricks tough!

Thanks guys for a great ride and hopefully we’ll do it all again soon


Artificial intelligence heading for Second Life

Posted by jerry on September 20th, 2007 — Posted in Journal

Gibson’s ‘Wintermute’ may be coming to Second life, according to an article on the BBC news website it appears researchers are preparing to develop smart bots that can respond to stimuli and learn – great for SL pets. The downside is that I can see this becoming the new ‘tamagochi’ in which pets will become so demanding of their owners to seek rewards and virtual food that people will literally become addicted to these creatures 🙂

It might also develop into a turing machine so ultimately – to paraphrase that famous quote – in Second Life no one knows you’re a bot! But I think such days are quite a way off. I can certainly envisage smart dog-like pets.

Of course there could also be a darker side to such technologies – smart ID sniffers that masquerade as pets giving you virtual gifts that find ways to entice you out of your password or credit card details – but then such bots are already around according to this report.

More likely will be the commercial applications that respond to the profile information in the avatar to target advertising – I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before a context sensitive ‘Google Adsense’-type system comes to Second Life so that as you approach a vendor it responds, not just with freebies, but ones that offer items geared towards the individual interests of the user.

Another element to this might well be tailored rides – hop onto your personal dragonfly and it will take you to various locations in SL that match your profile settings or your taste in art, music, clothes, shoes or hair – responding differently for each rider 🙂

It could be the start of a whole new shopping experience!

Turning pens – how to make your own pen

Posted by jerry on September 11th, 2007 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Woodwork

This is an easy project for the beginner, and shows you how to make your own pens using a lathe. The technique is the same whether for wood or acrylic pens.

pen making

Here’s what you need:
A lathe – can be a small cheap one, but should have a Morse #1 or #2 taper on the headstock (the part that spins your work).
I use just one chisel – a half-inch spindle gouge
pen making

A dust mask and safety visor or glasses
pen making

A saw – a hacksaw will do
A pen mandrel – to hold the pen parts while you turn them
pen making

A pen kit and A pen blank – this one is pre-drilled and has the brass tubes already fitted inside
pen making

A pencil – for marking where to cut and for lining up the grain if you are turning wood
Sandpaper – various grades (360,600,1500 grit)
Automotive cutting polish – for acrylic, or a wood finish of your choice

First take the pen blank and cut it roughly in half – I do this on a hobby bandsaw by holding it against the square set at 90 degrees and just advance it into the blade about one quarter, then rotate the pen blank in place until it separates – the two cut ends should be square to each other. You may need to sand it square if you cut it at a slight angle.

pen making

Insert the pen mandrel into the headstock – the taper should just slide in and hold. Now take the two parts and mount them on the mandrel – there should be three spacers and a brass screw.

Load a spacer, then a pen blank part, then a spacer, then the second pen blank part, then a spacer and the brass screw to tighten it – not too tight or you could distort the mandrel.

Now bring the tailstock up and lock it gently and accurately against the end of the mandrel.

Then set up the tool rest close to the centre of the work and rotate the headstock wheel by hand to ensure that nothing touches the tool rest.

For any turning it is a good idea to have a dust extractor of some kind, but whether you do or not it is important to wear a dust mask and something to protect your eyes from flying chips – a visor or safety glasses. You do not want to breathe acrylic dust or fine sawdust, and you don’t want anything to hit your eyes or to irritate them.

Making sure your chisel is sharp – use whatever you prefer – some people do the whole thing with a skew chisel, but I prefer a half-inch spindle gouge – on small square stock it can also double as a roughing gouge – so you can use one chisel for the whole operation.

Set the lathe on about 3000rpm for timber or about 1500rpm for acrylic.

And turn to shape – The spacers on the mandrel are the same as the diameters of the internal parts, so I first shave the four ends of the pen blank down to just shy of the spacers – you can creep up on the final diameter in a moment.

I wouldn’t get too fancy with the shape – aim for slender consistent cylinders with just a nice rounded shoulder down to the spacers, stopping regularly to check the profile and to clear out the strands of acrylic that wrap around the work and the mandrel.

pen making

It’s a good idea to hold a white piece of paper behind each time you stop so you can better see the profile. When you have a nice smooth cylinder and you’ve eliminated any bumps or uneven parts, it’s time for the finishing.

Leave the blank on the lathe, but remove the tool rest. Now switch on the lathe again and sand gently – moving quickly from one end to the other – to prevent overheating of any one section. Do not wrap the sandpaper around your finger! Start with the coarser grit an move to progressively finer grits until the blank feels quite smooth and silky.

If you are using acrylic, now is the time for polish – load a little automotive cutting polish onto a rag and again, without wrapping it round your finger, apply the polish to the piece while the lathe is spinning. And then buff it with a clean piece of rag until it shines with a high gloss.

pen making

Now you are ready for assembly. Unscrew the brass keeper from the mandrel and slide the two components off, remembering to keep them the same way round.

Take what will be the writing end and press the cone-shaped piece onto the end using a vice, drill press, clamp, or even the cheapest pen press of the lot – a grout press – about $1.50 from your hardware store!

pen making
It’s crude but effective! That said, a vice is more progressive and has more ‘feel’.

Next insert the riser mechanism into the writing end – this way round
pen making
But just ease the bronze bit in and go no further until you insert the refill and ensure that it extends beyond the point, but also retracts beneath the point when you rotate the silver part.

Now for the upper part. insert the small brass cap through the loop of the clip and press this into the upper blank. Now slide a spacer ring over the refill and slide the upper over the silver part of the riser and press it snugly home against the brass spacer.

And there you have the completed pen
pen making

Second Life: Sliterary writers group

Posted by jerry on September 10th, 2007 — Posted in Journal, New media, Technology

The writers group ‘Sliterary’ met again in Second Life at 0900AM Sunday morning Australian time (4pm Saturday SLT) with lively discussion of what such a writers group might want to do. One suggestion was to write stories based on ideas generated by the group – and the ideas came thick and fast. Good thing I had the chat history turned on!

Characters included: a scientist who turns his/her back on science to take up a career in the arts; characters from history including Ramelli, Bill Gates and others, and settings/concepts like nano technology, time travel, dystopian urban settings and so on.


The idea is to write a short piece – up to 500 words and circulate it to the other members. Ina the convener offered a prize for the best offering, of 500 lindens (about US$1.50).

This is a great group – very welcoming of newcomers and full of creative people. I look forward to seeing what they come up with (and might even put in a story myself)

Pen turning success

Posted by jerry on September 10th, 2007 — Posted in DIY, Journal, Woodwork

On the second go, and after watching a video on YouTube, I made quite a passable pen in which the retraction mechanism works perfectly 🙂 The acrylic is easy to work and I now understand how the kits go together – there were no instructions included with the kits.

hand turned pen

Here is the video that made the difference

I reckon some purpleheart timber would look pretty good!