Finding one’s muse

Posted by jerry on June 18th, 2004 — Posted in Writing

Do you ever run out of inspiration for things to write? I do, but I’ve found there are a myriad ways to regain it when all seems lost. Often, all it requires is a quirky take on everyday things. For instance, my partner and I once drove the lass behind the counter at our local video hire place to distraction – because quite by chance we noticed that you could make stories from juxtaposing the titles of movies – we spent perhaps an hour one particularly quiet evening rearranging all the new releases into sentences! I don’t think they ever quite got over us 🙂

Lord of the rings’ matrix: Gone in 60 seconds – the Italian job… a river runs through it!

Then you could consider what happens if you take information signs literally… Have you ever gone into a public toilet and read the driers while drying your hands? Consider the breakdance possibilities of the instruction “cup hands and roll close to the outlet” Or the truly frightening possibilities of: “Dryer stops when hands are removed…” It sounds like a really painful way to stop a drier.

“Fire hose” – another scary thought, however you look at it. I mean, whatever did poor Hose do to get fired? or ‘So THAT’s how fires get started!’ Read latin? That Exit is really out of it!

Of course there are the wonderful visual stimuli – Have you ever tried to describe what it takes to open a door? Now think film – as you reach for the door, give it some significance and zoom in… what are the fingers doing as they linger gently on the handle… and what happens to the veins on the back of the hand. How does the handle sound as it turns… does it squeak a little? or does it whisper the promise of what is on the other side…

One of the best sites for creative stimuli I’ve seen recently is the Soulfood cafe (pointed out by my partner Sharon) – a feast for the senses! and some great snippets of writing too!


Gargoyles – old and new

Posted by jerry on June 17th, 2004 — Posted in History, Journal, Travel, Writing

Ever since I spent a bit of time poking around the UK I have been fascinated by the phenomenon of gargoyles – part rook plumbing devices, part caricature, and part irreverent iconography. The site above discusses the history of these strange carvings, and this one is of a modern maker of gargoyles I was intrigued also at the discovery that Star Wars’ Darth Vader appears as a gargoyle gracing the roof line of the cathedral in Washington DC in the USA!


Amelie – 40V Motobecane moped

Posted by jerry on June 14th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Motorcycling

Much progress this weekend on my moped restoration project – I have now got the headlight, tail light and brake lights all working. The indicators light up, but they don’t flash. I suspect that either the globes are draining too much power, being 12 volt – and the moped uses a six volt system, or the flasher unit is broken – which could be a big problem since I don’t know of any six volt systems being run today! The only other thing not working is the horn – it still makes no sound. Not that it made much more than a dull ‘quack’ sound when it did work, but I’ll need to fix it somehow if I’m ever to get it registered.

The bike runs well and I got it up to 45kph on level bitumen today. There is a little weepage around the exhaust and around the head and base gaskets – so I may need to replace those when the time comes for a complete strip down to do the cosmetic side of the restoration.

I’m in two minds about the restoration – whether to try to get it up to showroom/museum condition or to allow the bike to show its age, while keeping it fully functional. You will have seen from my earlier photos that the bike already looks fairly good considering its length of time in storage. The key thing is to arrest any further rust, and to get the thing as mechanically sound as possible.

Motobecane 40V
Motobecane 40V
If I aim for museum quality I will certainly need to replace the rear wheel – the rim was badly dented/torn by the previous owner – back in the early 1970s – and it had been hammered fairly straight (so there was never an issue of tyres being compromised) but the scars are there. At least any barriers will be over the little things – the bike is essentially complete 🙂


Viking Optics – sun stones and lenses

Posted by jerry on June 13th, 2004 — Posted in History, Technology

I recently read an old copy of New scientist from 7 November 1998 which carried a story about viking lenses. It says that the vikings made high quality quartz lenses – aspheric ones which have an elliptical, rather than spherical, shape. These were made on simple lathes and were apparently used for as fire starters or to cauterise wounds. There are examples of such lenses in museums in Munich and Sweden and no doubt elsewhere. There is a web page discussing viking lenses and research into them by Olaf Schmidt of the University of Applied Science in Aalen, Germany.

Rock Crystal Lenses from the Viking Harbor Town of Fröjel, Gotland in Sweden

I was talking to a Dane recently about this, and he told me that the vikings also used things called sun stones for navigation, and he suggested that they somehow lit up when held aloft, even on cloudy days, to enable them to locate the sun and thereby derive a position. I suggested that it might not have been far fetched if, say, some sort of crystalline stone which might act like a polarising lens. This might be able to filter diffuse light and reveal the direction of a non-polarised light source, which would have been the sun. And after a bit of a search online found that my hypothesis might be correct! Indeed Norway is one source of a naturally occurring felspar which had polarising properties – the other major source was Iceland where the vikings had continuous settlements.

Certainly the Vikings were excellent navigators and they had ships well capable of traversing open ocean, rather than just being brown water vessels, so it is quite likely that among their many navigational tools, they might have used a polarising filter.


Lego steam engine!

Posted by jerry on June 11th, 2004 — Posted in Journal, Steam, Technology

Now this is something I didn’t expect to see – I’ve seen various kinds of machines built with lego, but a working steam engine made from lego is a new one on me – I’m impressed at this guy’s creativity, and what’s more, it appears to work.

Daniel Hartman has various versions of the engine, including single and double cylinder versions, and single and double acting. They use square pistons and seem to run quite well on compressed air or with a vacuum cleaner. It seems a great way to demonstrate the basics of steam engines.

This is an animation of Daniel Hartman’s double-acting twin cylinder engine
The whole site is worth a close look 🙂