Friday, August 29, 2014

Problem solving

There's something deeply satisfying about knowing how to solve a problem.

By rights, I shouldn't be writing this post at the moment.  Our laptop was involved in a study on Newtonian Physics, Repeatability and the Scientific Method.  Translated: it was dropped.  And in the process, the power cord was somewhat damaged:

Note the radial divergence of previously homogenous long chain polymers.  i.e., the plastic is cracked.
Without going into a long and boring post, suffice to say that at one point in the evening, our laptop looked like this:

That's quite an angle between the keyboard and body

A small after-market bit of rework so I could push the contact up far enough to work properly again
But with a bit of help from my trusty multimeter and drill, a single 1.5 mm hole and some re-installed screws later and it's back working again.  In fact, since we replaced the battery as well as the power cord, it's even better than before!  And much cheaper than replacing the whole thing.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Baby Update

Sorry the basic baby info has been so long in coming. Things seem to be a bit busy around here!

As Dave said earlier, we had a lovely little girl on 14 June. 4030g, or 8lb 14oz, born less than 4 hours after I was woken by SP (I'll always wonder how much longer I would have slept if he hadn't called out), and about 45 minutes after our arrival at the hospital. She'll known on this blog as HR (think of 2 standard OT names and you'll probably be right.)

She's settled into the family quite well so far. The kids are besotted and she's been quite happy to hang around in the carrying wrap while we've done the holiday playdates the last couple of weeks. Actually, she'd love to be carried in the wrap all day every day. Hmm...

So far, and I know it's early days yet, adding number 3 has been fairly straightforward, largely due to a lack of emotional upheaval. I think having your first baby is always going to be a hugely emotional time, then F's birth and the months surrounding it were emotional for all her health reasons. But this one has come along smoothly and simply, and while I'm spending time and energy managing the emotions of the other two children, I feel like my own emotions are on a pretty even keel.

I'm not pretending to find it easy. Having Dave wake up on my first morning home too sick to get out of bed, and continuing to be sick for the next 10 days wasn't easy. I hadn't pictured myself doing kindy pick-up with a 60 hour old baby! (I did call mum to do drop off that morning - I couldn't leave the house until the midwife had been, as they don't tell you what time they'll be coming). Juggling the hours of feeding and baby care around the other two isn't easy at all. But they're quite enjoying the increase in 'lets sit on the couch and read' time, we have lots of family and church support, and I know this is only a season.

Mostly I'm feeling incredibly blessed to have a third beautiful, healthy child, lent by God to love, care for and bring up to honour and glorify Him. What an amazing privilege it is.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A little progress

So, being sick for the first week and a half of leave wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but the last week and a half was a lot better.  With some enthusiastic assistance from Junior Modeller, I managed to make a little progress it doesn't look spectacular - yet - but we've painted the fascia and laid the track.

Black fascia, two tracks 8 mm apart as per the T-Trak N specification

Wiring on the underside.  Eventually that will go to the back panel
The next challenge is still the same as the previous post - working out what to put since my silo idea is too big for a single module.  I've got some ideas; watch this space to see which one comes out on top!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Waiting - not any more!

That's right folks, the wait is over.  Right on due date, at 2:16 this morning Petrina gave birth to a beautiful healthy little girl.  S and F are very excited about their new little sister.  Mum and bub are doing well.

Photos and more details to follow eventually...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


This post from Femina is very timely for me. Even though we haven't hit Baby's due date yet, I'm feeling my impatience grow each day. God is so kind for putting this collection of verses from His Word in front of my eyes tonight.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Realism vs reality Part deux

Yep.  Check before you build.  Always make sure there's enough space to fit what you need/want.

After downloading Google Earth and SketchUp, I was able to get a reasonably accurate estimate of height for the silos, thanks to this clever approach.  And sure enough, the actual silos are shorter than the kit, but take up much more space.

And while explaining all this to SP this afternoon, I hit upon a sort-of-solution.  T-Trak modules come in three different lengths: single, double, and triple.  And the triple length module is almost perfect length for the scene.  It still doesn't really have enough depth, but I think I can do a few things there to get some more effective depth.

So now I'm just left with a blank slate for this initial single module build.  There are plenty of railroading vignettes I could choose from:
  • A tumble-down cattle race, leading from a (optionally) deserted paddock up to the line.
  • A mail or milk shed (a tiny little shed by the side of the line for easy transfer of goods on/off the train.  The definitive "whistle stop" scenario).
  • A level crossing
  • A steam era (English or North American) water tower and coal tower
  • Something out of the Appalachian mountains, or the Rio Grande, or the Rockies (it must be genetic - I think almost all model train enthusiasts love mountains)
  • And just about anything else you could think of
 Any suggestions?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Realism vs reality, or why you measure before you build

Measure twice, cut once.  Check whether you've got the funds before starting a building project.  All good advice.  And when it comes to model railroading, there's another good one to remember: decide how you're going to trade off realism and reality.  I've seen pictures of amazingly detailed models, capturing in near perfect detail a particular section of a particular line in a particular year.  Right down to the numbers on the carriages and wagons.  At the other extreme, some folk just want to run trains, and don't care if it's on bare track, no scenery whatsoever.

I'd like to think I sit somewhere in the middle - I want my layout to look realistic, but I'm not trying to replicate the scene perfectly.  I'm willing to compromise realism to fit within the limits of reality - space, budget, time, all that.  What I didn't understand was how quickly I'd be tested on it.

The scene I'd like to model is simple: a set of eight silos beside the train line on the western Darling Downs.  I knew from the outset there'd be some compromise: the line is a single track, but the T-Trak model standard that I'm working to specifies two tracks.

Then, as reported in this post, I discovered a kit that was a candidate for the job.  But, it differs from the real silos in a few too many ways, so I'm not sure whether I'll go with it or not.  For example:
  • The kit has all eight silos in a single block.  The prototype (model railroad slang for "the real thing") has two groups of four, linked only by some overhead fixtures.  Modifying ("kitbashing") it to achieve this would probably require two kits.  Alternately I can get PVC pipe from a hardware store and use that to the same effect.
  • Some very rough photo matching with Google Earth suggests the kit is taller than the prototype, and that each silo is a smaller diameter.

But, after buying track yesterday (yay!) I'm continuing the paper design today and once you allow for the pair of tracks across the front of the module, there's not much space left.  The scale equivalent of 50 m wide by 32.6 m deep (away from the tracks).  And some more very rough analysis suggests that the prototype silos will take up all of that space.  Whereas the kit will fit in quite nicely.


Looks like my next step is downloading Google Earth and SketchUp to do some more accurate size estimation.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Empire building, phase two

No visible progress on the module yet, but I made a small amount of progress at the Brisbane Model Train Show today.

I'd been hoping to buy the track I needed, but neither of the stores that I knew carry the right type were exhibiting, and I couldn't find the right type at any of the stores who did have stands.

But I did see several other displays with silos there, and in the process learned about the Walthers grain elevator kit:

It'll need some kitbashing, that is, it doesn't look exactly like the scene that I'm modelling, so I'll need to change it.  But it's close enough to what I need that I can at least consider kitbashing.  Until today, I thought I'd have to build it from scratch.  I might still do it that way, we'll see.

I don't know yet if I have the patience or skill, but it was very cool to see some examples of N scale work done well.  For comparison, these modules are about 50% longer and wider than my module:

The photos don't do it justice, but even so you can see the attention to detail and the quality of the workmanship that goes into these models.

First part of first module done

The first part of my first module, the actual module assembly part, is done.  If the rest is this easy, I'll have my 1:160th empire reaching all over the house in no time...

The kit didn't come with written instructions, just some verbal directions from the manufacturer as he handed it to me.  Thanks to Mr Bell, my year 9-10 woodwork teacher, I think I still managed to do an OK job.

Step one, put the frame together.  Make sure it's square.  The top piece came with some handy guidelines, and each piece was numbered to show which side it belonged on.

It's good material - marine ply - nice and light, but also considerably more environmentally rugged than MDF and some of the cheap stuff you find lying around.  Each corner is glued and nailed, and the glue is what holds it in place long term.  The nails are just there to provide clamping while the glue dries.

Step two, pin the top on the frame.  Again, a bead of glue around the mating surface of the frame, and clamp in place while pinning.  It's child's play.

My apprentice hard at work

Step three, put in the riser blocks.  These wouldn't be necessary for a standalone module, but one of the specifications for T-Trak modules is that they have adjustable height.  Most people use slotted bolts, but the kits from Modular Train Tables use a 6 mm grub screw.  The Allen key drive won't slip like a slotted coach bolt can, and it's more discrete.  The finished module looks like this:

All this was done over a couple of days, mostly to give enough drying time for each stage of assembly before adding new parts.  Actual hands-on time was about an hour.  Now on to stage two...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

F sings to her baby

6 1/2 weeks to go. Or thereabouts. 

The kids love to chat and sing to 'their baby'. I managed to record F the other day. Cuteness :)

"Love somebody, yes I do
Love somebody
I love my baby!"

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Empire building...

For a long time I've harboured visions of grand model railway empires, stretching for (scale) miles and miles.  I have very fond memories of the now defunct Flaxton Barn model railway at Mapleton, and another "big tin shed" display near Beenleigh/Beaudesert.

And last night, I took delivery of the first step in building my own empire:

It doesn't look like much yet, because it's the unassembled kit for a T-Trak N scale single module.  But hopefully, when it's finished it'll look something a little like this:

That's one of many sets of grain silos on the Western Downs - each little town had them, all right beside the rail line for ease of transport to the big smoke.

So watch this space for further updates.  And who knows, maybe in 30 years I can take early retirement and let people walk through my shed looking at my own little empire.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The curious account of Jeroboam II

If, like me, you'd normally need to look up your bible to know who Jeroboam II is, he's got one of the bit parts in 2 Kings; chapter 15:23-29 specifically.  One of the many godless kings of Israel in the lead up to its exile.

It starts off in the usual manner:

23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

But then we get to this strange twist:

 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the Lord, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher.

That seems out of place, given that usually the evil kings wound up losing territory, not gaining it.

But fear not, gentle reader.  God was in control all along:

26 For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the Lord had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.
28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechariah his son reigned in his place.

This isn't the first time I've read 2 Kings, but it's the first time I noticed verse 27, and I love it.  It's easy to complain about our government, to fear that we're "getting the government we [as a society] deserve", or to think that we need a Christian theocracy to be well governed, and things like that.  But this verse reminds us that God is still sovereign, and that he will look after us in the way he chooses, even through ungodly leaders.

PS - this is not intended as a commentary on any current or present governments in Australia or anywhere else.  It's an observation of how good God is.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

This day in history

April 8th... lots of interesting things happened in history on this day.

For example:
AD 217 Emperor Caracella assassinated by the Praetorian guard, and succeeded by guard prefect.
1879 Milk sold in glass bottles for the first time
1947 Henry "pick any colour as long as it's black" Ford died
1964 Gemini I launched
1966 Robin Wright Penn ("Buttercup" in The Princess Bride) born
1986 Clint Eastwood elected mayor of Carmel, California
2013 Margaret Thatcher died

Most interesting to me though, and much less widely reported, was the event in 2004, when a young couple thinking about Bible college gave a friend a lift up to a youth camp on the Sunshine Coast.  Being the loving people they are, they made sure their friend was introduced to others at the camp, including a young man on the organising team.

Being a polite chap he said hello, but didn't think any more about it at the time, until 12 months later he needed to find a singer for the camp music team.  Then he noticed that not only did she have a voice like an angel, she was also very pleasant on the eye, and very easy to talk to.  And most of all, she clearly loved God.

The rest, as they say, is history :)

Thursday, April 3, 2014


We seem to have a pretty good collection of different lunchboxes, but rarely one to suit just the purpose I want. 

We got SP a nude food one to start Kindy, and it's broken already, so I'm searching again. 

We have different sizes of Tupperware, but even the big long one doesn't hold that much food. Our kids are good eaters. 

Pretty keen on Bento Laptop Lunch Boxes after this review from Be A Fun Mum, but they're a bit pricey. 

What do you use?

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Car Safety

Not my children - image from RACQ website

Kindy hosted an RACQ Car Safety Information Night this evening. I went along to support the event, rather than thinking I would learn very much. I was wrong. There's a lot about car safety I hadn't thought about. And lots of scary stories, which are designed to shock parents into submission and worked pretty effectively on me :)

My 3 big take homes: 

- We'll be getting a harness to go with SP's booster seat, where he's previously just had the booster & adult seatbelt. The recommendation is that kids keep wearing the H-harness until they've reached its weight limit (36kg), even after they've finished using a booster. (I've just had a look at the RACQ website, and their info on this is a bit different. I'll check with the presenter & update.)

- SP will no longer be allowed to get out of the driver's side passenger door, unless we're in the driveway. He'll have to climb across to the 'Safe Door' on the other side. I've previously been uneasy about him starting to do this independently, and it ends now. So we'll have to rethink the positioning of car seats while #3 is rear-facing, as we can't ask him to climb past a rear-facing seat to get to the other door. 

- We've always done our own version of 'Hands on car, don't go far' when the kids are out of the car and waiting to go, but I've been getting a bit lax with it. Laxness is over. 

Another interesting point: While the car's seat belt holding the car seat in place needs to be as tight as possible, the anchor strap just needs to be firm, with 2 fingers able to slip between it and the top of the car's seat. The top of the car seat is designed to move forward a bit in the event of a crash, to provide a more gentle stop. 

It was an excellent night, I highly recommend attending or holding one. I'll be pushing for one to happen at playgroup. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Looking for blog posts - choosing schools

Somebody a while back did a series of posts on choosing a school for your child, with suggested questions to ask at a school tour and things like that. We're choosing between our two locals for SP next year, and I'd love to re-read those posts, but I can't find them. 

If you wrote them, or you know you did, could you please let me know?

Sunday, January 12, 2014

What would you wish for?

We started reading the book-of-the-movie version of 'Five Children & It' to SP this afternoon. And got to talking about wishes. 

His wish: A cubby/tree house. Sounds a lot like the one in the Swiss Family Robinson, which we've recently read a very abridged version of. The YouTube clip of the tree house in the 1960 movie blew his mind a bit. 

Then we asked him what he thought Mummy & Daddy would wish for. His answers: 

Dave: Some wood to build be a cubby house. 

Me: A new washing machine to do more washing. 


For the record, there's nothing wrong with our current washing machine. Maybe he thinks I'm not keeping up. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Free Audio Bible Download

I'm a big fan of Christian Audio and their monthly free downloads. Especially for doing the evening washing up when Dave's out or away.