Steam gramophone

Posted by jerry on October 22nd, 2008 — Posted in DIY, Music, Steam, Technology

Geoff Hudspith, UK inventor and steam enthusiast has built a steam powered gramophone to play records at the various steam fairs he attends.

Powered by a small Stuart single cylinder double-acting steam engine, the gramophone took four years – between other projects – to complete. Water is fed into the boiler by a hand pump and an injector, and then heated by kerosene. The gramophone is fairly standard with the speed regulated by spring weights and the exhaust steam is cleverly vented through the sound horn.

You can see more and hear the gramophone on the BBC website.

Here is another view of it at a steam fair in Denmark

This is the ultimate in steampunk entertainment!

Here is a different gramophone powered by a stirling hot-air motor. This one is a Paillard “Maestrophone No. 205” gramophone manufactured in Switzerland between 1910 and 1914.


Canberra – Pink Ribbon Ride

Posted by jerry on October 19th, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Today I joined the more than 300 bikes for the annual Pink Ribbon Ride in support of breast cancer awareness and research. The weather was perfect, and everyone gathered outside Old Parliament House for coffee and snacks and a good look at some excellent machines. Registration was $10 per person with proceeds to breast cancer research.

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Many bikes were well decorated in pink, with some sporting bras with or without balloons. At 0955 the organisers briefed the crowd on the run, before everyone set off down Adelaide Avenue to the Woden roundabout, then back up towards Civic – it was great to come around the roundabout and look over to see motorbikes as far as the eye can see still coming down Adelaide Avenue. There were many sightseers and well-wishers too giving a friendly wave.

The police closed off the roundabouts and gave priority to the bikes at every intersection to make sure it all went smoothly. The ride was sedate and everyone was well disciplined in keeping to their half of the lane and riding two abreast or staggered formation.

On the approach to Civic, we all turned off to gather again at Weston Park where we parked and heard speeches from the newly-elected local MLA, and from the organisers – Girls On The Move.

Bikes ranged from scooters to Harleys, and antiques, including an Ariel, a Dneipper and and a Suzuki hustler, and even a VW-powered trike.

Everyone stood around and had a hot dog and coffee or just chatted about bikes – there were loads of kids too making it a real family day out.

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

Pink Ribbon Ride 2008

See you there next year


Travel – NZ – Leonardo Da Vinci comes to Chrstchurch

Posted by jerry on October 6th, 2008 — Posted in History, Journal, Technology, Travel

For a couple of years now I have been trying to catch an exhibition of machine models made by Florentine craftsmen to Leonardo daVinci’s designs. The exhibition has been put together by the Florence museum and has been traveling the world. I just missed it in Sydney and then it was due to head off to Perth, then to Christchurch, but was due to finish there on 28 Sept. And it has not been widely advertised. So imagine my surprise when I spotted a desultory poster advertising the exhibition, and noting that the season has been extended to 27 October at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch!

Leonardo da vinci exhibition

I quickly cleared a morning and decided to go – there are 60 models from the simple to the complex, covering a good range of Leonardo’s designs.

At the entrance is a speculative full-scale model of the controversial bicycle – possibly drawn (crudely) by one of Leonardo’s apprentices, or possibly a rather later fake.

Leonardo da vinci exhibition

Either way, the bike lacked any means to steer, so at best it would have been something like the 17th century boneshaker. That said, Leonardo certainly drew designs of chain drives, noting their efficiency as a means of transferring power from one cog to another.

Leonardo’s studies for flying machines are well represented, including the flyable hang glider – tested in modern times, as well as the famous helicopter

Leonardo da vinci exhibition

The helicopter is derived from a children’s toy that was known in Italy at the time – and probably not too unlike the one I was able to get to fly, using a string pull – see the instructions here.

And while his war machines are well documented – and represented at the exhibition, I was particularly taken with some of the lesser known aspects of Leonardo’s work, notably his theatre machines. Leonardo was known for his designs for spectacular special effects in theatrical productions for his patrons. Some of these appear remarkably prescient, such as the magic lantern projector

Leonardo da vinci exhibition

And what has been touted as his car – actually a programmable stage cart that was able to steer a pre-determined course apparently sensing and avoiding obstacles. The cart was driven by bow-like springs, but it also had a separate spring-driven cam system for the steering – not highlighted in the exhibition, but demonstrated in other reconstructions of his models.

Leonardo da vinci exhibition

The catalogue is well worth the money, although the literal translation into English from the Italian is flowery and resmbles a machine translation rather than a full rendering into English. But it is very well illustrated.

All up the exhibition is excellent – with models very faithful to the originals and many hands-on exhibits. It is on now at Canterbury Museum in Christchurch NZ on Rolleston Avenue. Canterbury Museum is open every day (except Christmas Day)
Summer hours: 9.00 am – 5.30 pm (October – March); Winter hours: 9.00 am – 5.00 pm (April – September).

The exhibition – Da Vinci Machines: The Inventions and Designs of a Genius is on until 27 October, and prices are: Adult $12, child $8 (under 5 free), family (2 adults and 2 children) $35.00, students and senior citizens $10.00.

It is well worth a visit. You can see more of the machines here


Travel – Christchurch NZ

Posted by jerry on October 2nd, 2008 — Posted in Journal, Travel

Heading out for a quick holiday visit to NZ to see our daughter perform in SWING – Circo-Arts latest circus production – so far we’ve made it to Sydney airport where we can skim some free wifi at the Bar Coluzzi coffee shop in the International lounge.

Airports are strange liminal spaces where people are held briefly in stasis – not ready to board yet, but filled with anticipation or exhaustion depending on whether you are starting out or returning to distant shores. the coffee shop empties periodically as another crowd gets ready for check-in prior to all the security checkpoints.

Alarmed but not alert

It is a space where people screen out the world, their lives on hold temporarily, to the extent that the fire alarm achieved zero response. From anyone. Correction – one person downed their coffee a little faster, lest it be taken from them. Other than that, there were no instruction, no information and no sense of alarm. The alarm might as well have been a garbled announcement for the late departure of a plane bound for Timbuctu rather than the steady insistent beep-beep-beep. Perhaps they were waiting for the non-existent announcement. Perhaps they were waiting for a follow-up woop-woop rising tone to indicate evacuation. But eventually the sound simply stopped. Perhaps an alarm test. We may never know.

The two coffees, croissant, soup and potato wedges came to just over $34 – it filled the gaps, and the coffee was good – as was the food, but maybe next time I’ll make some sandwiches and just go for coffee. We were both hungry up to that point, despite having had a decent breakfast. No-one warns you about how you feel hungry after three hours of sitting still in a bus with your knees around your ears because your carry-on won’t fit in the narrow tray above – good for hats but not much else. The fiddle fitted though.

Shopping mall as museum of contemporary culture
With only two and a half hours before boarding there’s not much to do except find a hot-spot and get online, or maybe do some last-minute shopping. But we are on the wrong side of international for most of the shops – besides, we’ve actually got everything we’ll need in our bags. We don’t smoke, the technology is reasonably up to date and we’re just not big drinkers, so it’s really just a museum of contemporary culture, rather than a shopping experience.

And to cap it all they are refurbishing the airport so even the museum bit is more wooden hoarding than retail eye-candy.

But the coffee is good – perhaps it’s time for another.


Travel – Sydney

Posted by jerry on September 20th, 2008 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel

Well, the evening passed – along with dinner, my body absorbing minimal nutritional value on its way through, but it was still a delicious meal for all that. And the hotel guy cheerily informed us that the air conditioning was still on heat … I decided not to go there.

Nature’s alarm clock in the form of a mob of screeching cockatoos woke us at 6.30am from our hour or so’s sleep – there is just no arguing with a parrot! so if I seem grumpy or churlish today I would just put it down to the lack of sleep and the fact that I am due in the recording studio in 2 hours to play bright and happy tunes like ‘Farewell to Chernobyl’….

The Sienna Marina coffee shop and restaurant is a good place to start one’s caffeine intake, along with free wireless internet access. It will be warm today – 31C is forecast – which would be the height of Summer for Canberra. Two days ago we had minus 2C overnight, so we are unaccustomed to the warmth and humidity. The clear sky and sharp shadows attest to a truly beautiful day ahead.

Woolloomooloo is one of Sydney’s forgotten gems – close to the multi-million dollar Wharf development, and built on reclaimed land beneath and adjacent to the Domain parkland, you can find inexpensive accommodation within easy walking distance of the City, and similar easy walking distance to Oxford Street for the bookshops, art shops and fashion designers.

And everywhere you find evidence of the Convict workings – like the various historic stairs cut directly into the rock face to get to the city and thence via The Rocks to Observatory Hill – which I wrote about previously.

Horderns Stairs
in Potts Point is a prime example – they were built in 1882 – and you can still see the tooling marks on the rocks. Noting the signs for falling rocks, I don’t think I’ll be investing in the apartments above that have been built right to the edge of the rock face.

Horderns stairs