New developments

Hi again, on a grey and cool, calm day. I have washing that needs hanging out and although it rained this morning, I think I might get away with it now (2pm). Boring job! I always had in my mind to invent an automatic washing hanger-upper, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it.

I’ve long had an idea for another invention: a fast cooler. Just as we have a fast food heater in the microwave oven, I want the inverse, a box that cools food in seconds. I reckon it would sell like er, hotcakes, or maybe iceblocks.

There’s a bit of physics required. A microwave oven works by using electromagnetic waves to excite the water molecules in food.

We cool food by a freezer which chills air passing over a tube filled with refrigerant gas which has been rapidly expanded by applying mechanical energy. This works well, but it takes time to chill or freeze food. I’d like a way to do it faster. It might need to use another principle, but I haven’t worked it out.


I mentioned that the tyre pressure warning came on in the Pug recently, yet it didn’t feel any different, no flat tyre feeling or handling difference.

I got around to checking and pumping a few days ago and found that only one of the tyres measured as down in pressure, the left front. I’ve got my tyre pump set to Bars, where 2.2Bar is 32psi (yes, even after all these years of metric system, I haven’t been able to get my head around Bar vs psi). Anyway, it was only this one tyre and it only measured 2.1Bar vs 2.2. The pump raised the pressure and automatically stopped itself, and the warning has gone away.

This is good. It shows that the pressure sensors are quite sensitive, and yet a warning is not something to be frightened by. Unless you can feel the pressure drop, as we usually do, then you can probably keep driving for a short while.

While I had the pump out, I was going to check the spare as well. But it’s in the boot, “upside down”, with a big foam block in the middle holding the jack and tool kit. That means you can’t reach the tyre valve without taking it all out. Too hard. Maybe on a warm day when I’ve got more energy.

I’m enjoying this car so much that I “take the long way home”, that is, when I leave the Butler shops I go down to Marmion Ave, then go at the 80Km/h limit to the Kingsbridge Bvd shops, then instead of turning left to go to my house, I continue on to Connolly Drive, back up to the Butler shops again, back via Marmion Ave and finally home. A double loop. I’m using the clutchless manual more now, and realising that even if I have it in manual mode in 3rd or 4th, it automatically drops down to 2nd when I slow for a corner or traffic lights, allowing me to choose when to shift up again. It’s a 6 speed, and I’m finding that 3rd is a very flexible gear for around town. This is a big 6 cylinder, torquey diesel with twin turbos, remember, so when I accelerate away in 3rd, it responds beautifully. Sheer pleasure. I drive it for the fun of it.


I’ve just read that the James Webb Telescope is finally, finally, set for launch, on 21 October.

This is the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope after around 25 years’ service. The Webb telescope has been in the design and build phase for nearly as long, experiencing delay after delay, budget cut after budget cut. It’s been like fusion power, always 20 years in the future. See more here.

Hubble had a major failure last month and has been brought back to life, but at the expense of a redundant power source, meaning if it fails in this way again, that’s it.

The Webb telescope replacement is a huge improvement incorporating all the latest technology and should surpass the Hubble in all respects, which means we should see spectacular views. If Hubble images were awe inspiring, the Webb images should knock our socks off. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, even after the launch, it will take about four days to reach its orbital point and another four weeks to unfold itself. Then there’ll be weeks of testing and calibration, no doubt. It’ll be worth it. The sheer terror mentioned in the article is the nervousness about a launch failure, or a failure in space, or a mechanical failure to unfold, or a myriad of other problems. It will be at the Langrange 1 point, meaning there’s no chance of an astronaut mission to fix it.


I think I’m about to buy a digital telecine chain. As someone who used to operate telecine chains at Channel 7 many years ago, I never thought I would say that.

Facebook occasionally justifies itself for me. This device is advertised. It’s a jerk motion (non-real time) film scanner for 8mm or Super 8mm. It’s cheap Chinese, A$79, but at that price I’m prepared to take a risk.

It’s not a projector. It transports the film one frame at a time and positions the frame over a digital sensor, like a tiny digital camera. The frame is snapped and stored digitally and the film is moved on to the next frame. The stored frames are on an SD card and software plays all the frames in sequence as an mp4 video file.

I have three 7″ reels (better check that diameter as it’s the maximum) that I shot in the 1970s, and I haven’t seen them since then (nearly 50 years!) Lucky it’s Kodachrome, meaning it will not have deteriorated. I’ve been meaning to get them transferred to DVD or BluRay but it’s expensive, in the hundreds of $$$ per reel last time I checked. It says it will do 1080p, which is BluRay quality, but how good it is optically remains to be seen.

I haven’t ordered it yet, but I think I will.

P.S.: I have now. I’m awaiting delivery.


Part of my family tree.
Janet Stevenson Lawrie, above. Count the generations L-R, six shown here.

My one year subscription to expires on Wednesday and I’m about to cancel the automatic renewal. A year ago I paid $235 for a year so that I could use their enhancement and colourisation software to rejuvenate all my old black and white images. When I say “my”, I mean some of mine but mainly Dad’s and Uncle Darcey’s.

I finished all the images within a few months (one at a time, very tedious), then kinda got sucked in to the family tree side of it. After a year, the tree has grown remarkably and I have seven or eight generations going back to the 1700s.

One thing it’s shown me is the Lawrie side, my maternal grandmother’s ancestry. Her maiden name was Lawrie and her parents were from Scotland, arriving in South Australia in the late 1800s. I was dimly aware of a Lawrie branch of relatives in Bruce Rock in the 1950s, but I never got to know them or understand the relationship. Now I do.

The tree is enormous and I’ve downloaded as many versions of it as I can. One version is a wall chart about 2m wide by 1m high. Another is a pdf book which comes to 148 pages. Of course, every time the tree is updated, you have to output fresh versions of these charts and books. That’s what I need to do now, before I finish the subscription.

Why am I finishing? Cost, what else? Renewal is US$368! That’s too much for me. I’m sure I’ll get a phone call pleading with me to stay and offering a better price, but I think I’ve done all I need to do.


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