Monday, 13 October 2014


One of these days I will return to painting landscapes, and this reproduction of a scene by a local artist may well be my inspiration.
I am not too sure about the cows because animal life is well beyond my capabilities, but if I could paint trees as well as this example, then I would consider myself to be a master, at least within the confines of my studio.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Our New Airport

Today was a great day for Toowoomba.  We enjoyed the open day at the new airport at Wellcamp.
There were lots of things to see and some entertainment.  The model aircraft display was amazing, with some craft performing amazing aerobatics in the sky.
We walked on the main 3km runway - the last time this will be possible before the official opening the flights in November.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Lakeside Magic

I discovered an excellent site for New Zealand weather conditions which accesses numerous official and private weather stations throughout the country. While I was trawling through a few of the locations that I know so well in the southern lakes area, I came across the site for the "Whare Kea Lodge" which is apparently a new development on the western side of Lake Wanaka. At prices ranging from $500 to $935 per night, it would at least provide a rewarding view over the lake - Have a look at -
While I am not immediately rushing out to book a room, it did remind me of the day that Craig and Nick and I walked the track in that same area alongside the lake to the Ironside Trig. On that day we enjoyed the same views and it cost us nothing.

Friday, 8 August 2014

A Day in the Bush

Today we had a picnic in the bush just outside the little town of Crowsnest.  This was a delightful setting on a clear windless day.  There was a small camping ground nearby with just the most basic amenities, and one can only imagine the peaceful solitude in that setting in the twilight hours.

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Overs and Unders

At my maths class today, we looked at probabilities, and I recalled a simple boyhood gambling game called Overs and Unders.
It involved tossing 2 dice simultaneously, and we could bet on:-
- "OVERS" where the sum was over seven. (which paid even money 2:1)
- "UNDERS" where the sum was under seven. (which paid even money 2:1)
- "SEVENS" where the sum was exactly seven. (which paid 3:1)
According to my primitive calculations there are 36 possible outcomes from tossing 2 dice - 15 of these will be "overs" and 15 will be "unders" and 6 will be exactly "seven".
This would mean that it is better to bet on sevens because the expected return is better than on either overs or unders.
Am I on the right track?  Does it mean that you have a 50% chance of winning on "sevens" as opposed to only a 42% chance of winning on either overs or unders?

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

The Building Extension

Another drawing project more or less complete - now it is over to Joanne and Craig to see if they can get a favourable quote.
On completion of this extension, they intend to demolish the wall between the dining area and Nick's room, and move him into the new bedroom, so that they can use his current room as a lounge in the future.  Now it only remains for the work to be done.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Spring is here (almost)

I have just finished watching another episode of Northern Exposure.  It is a truely unique series, and it is such a change from the over-played dramas of the current era.  Here we have a set of lovable characters who all share different measures of eccentricity, set in the for north Alaskan fictional town of Cicely, bordering on the wilderness.
The episode I just watched was centred on the changes that Springtime brings to us all after the harsh winter. This changing season is one of renewal and optimism and the various characters played out the differing ways that if affected them, while Chris (the radio diskjockey) narrated the stories that run in time with the activities of the cast.  Here he is in the studio with his boss Maurice Minnyfield the ex astronaut

This episode was typically wholesome and inspirational, so different to the fighting and deceit and corruption that we mostly see on modern serial dramas.
Have a look at this snip from the popular "Throwing the Cow" episode..

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Memory Secrets

I have finally found the secret to retaining a good memory.  All I need is a major transplant to insert a few pieces of wire into my brain. It should be quite easy to do.
Have a look at the attached videos which show the amazing properties of the metal alloy NITINOL, which is an alloy of Nickel and Titanium.  Just copy this link and paste it into the command line of your browser.
And also an example of a small Nitinol engine that runs on hot water. (just the thing I need for my bike)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Pilot Sam

A Red letter day today - Sam had his first official flight from Clifton to Stanthorpe.
For the computer Gurus out there - this image contains a secret message. Maybe you can figure out how to unpack it???

Friday, 25 July 2014

The Grain Silo

I came across an interesting problem this week, which will definitely confound my maths class at U3A.
The problem involved a massive stockpile of grain (wheat) in a 60 meter diameter cone shaped stockpile. It is easy to calculate the volume and hence the tonnage, but the real tricky bit is to calculate the maximum amount that can be extracted from a single outlet located 3.3 meters inside the perimeter wall.  This means that I have to calculate the difference in volume between 2 intersecting non-concentric cones.
The following diagram shows the situation, and I invite anyone to give me the formula because I am completely stumped.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The French Alps

Last Sunday the Tour de France stage 14 traversed 2 major passes in the French Alps, and this revived my memory of a certain day on 14th October 1998, when I drove over part of that route. We stopped at the summit of the Col du Lautaret at 2020m altitude. Last week it was crowded with thousands of spectators and parked cars lining the road as the 171 riders made their way over the pass to continue down to the next major peak.  But on that day many years ago, we enjoyed a peaceful few minutes in that spectacular location with the feeling that we were on top of the world.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Westland Weather

I am reading Eleanor Catton's prize winning novel "The Luminaries", and enjoying the graphic descriptions that she uses to describe the life in the gold rush days of South Westland, an area which is well known to me. This passage, (which I include without her approval) provides an imaginative description of the dismal weather that so often greets the tourists as frequently these days as it did for the pioneers 150 years ago:-
"As Balfour turned into Revell Street, he was met with such a lash of wind and rain that he was obliged to clamp his hat to his head with his hand. According to Saxby’s Weather Warnings, that dubious oracle published daily in the West Coast Times, the deluge would let up within a day or three – for Saxby was expansive in his predictions, and allowed himself a generous margin of error on either side of his guess. In general, the specifics of his column changed but rarely: downpour was as much a part of the Hokitika constitution, as frost and sunburn had been in Otago……."

Sunday, 8 June 2014

All Boys Throw Stones

Yes - Throwing stones is always a favorite pastime for young boys, but this is a bit ridiculous.
This was a typical scene on our rather challenging climb up to Castle Rock in the Girraween National Park, but the effort that it demanded was well rewarded by the 360 degree views that we enjoyed in rare perfectly calm conditions on the top.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Last Man on the Moon

I came across this while browsing the web. The history books are full of records about who did what for the first time, but there are not many activities where a person can claim to be the last to have done something.  One of them is certainly the astronaut Gene Cernan who is known for being “The Last Man on the Moon” as he was the last man to walk on the moon during the Apollo 17 mission, and there is no indication that his record will be broken in the forseeable future and maybe never, given the uselessness of that piece of rock that floats around 380,000 km above us.   He may also be credited with being the ultimate graffiti artist, because he traced his daughter’s initials in the dust on the surface of the moon before he left. He has documented his story in the book “The Last Man on the Moon“, which is now turned into a film by the same name.
"As I take man’s last step from the surface, back home for some time to come – but we believe not too long into the future – I’d like to just say what I believe history will record. That America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus–Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind. Godspeed the crew of Apollo 17."

Sunday, 25 May 2014


I was having a browse through some of my favourite web sites last week, and I noticed on the Arthurs Pass site that there is a note saying that the Deception Swingbridge has been removed.
That brought back a few memories.  I have only been through the Deception twice - the first time going upstream with the tramping club, and the second time going downstream with Leonie about 15 years ago.
On both occasions the river was rather peaceful and we did not need to use the bridge, but I remember it being a rather flimsy looking structure, so I am not surprised that its existance could not be justified as the years of deterioration take their toll.
It is a pity that things change, but when it comes to the wilderness you assume that all will remain as your memory recalls but it is not always so.  On the positive side (if I can believe the photos on the website) I see that the very remote and rather primitive hut at the confluence of the East and West Otehake rivers is apparently still maintained and it looks just like we saw it when it was a welcome home to us for a night on the ambitious 4 day trip that we did a few years ago.
Time can erode our fitness and mobility, but it cannot take away the memories.


Yesterday I posted a story which amounted to some personal boasting about my superb competence in solving complex navigation problems using spherical trigonometry.
Today I was brought down to earth when I encountered a trivial mathematical problem that I can not explain. Here it is:-

A farmer who was a horse breeder, died leaving 3 sons to inherit his estate.

In his will he had stated:-
“I want to leave all my horses to my 3 sons, and because they have contributed to the farm to different extents, I want them distributed as follows:-
My eldest son should get 1/2 (half) of total horses;
My middle son should be given 1/3rd (one-third) of the total horses;
My youngest son should be given 1/9th (one-ninth) of the total horses.”

After his death, the boys discovered that there were 17 horses on the farm, and they could see that it was  impossible to divide 17 into half, or 17 by 3, or 17 by 9.
So they decided to go to a farmer friend who they considered quite smart, to see if he could help them solve this problem.

The farmer friend read the will patiently, and after giving due thought, he went home and brought one of his own horses over and added it to the 17. That increased the total to 18 horses.
Now, he divided the horses according to their fathers Will.
Half of 18  = 9. So he gave the eldest son 9 horses.
1/3rd of 18 = 6. So he gave the middle son 6 horses.
1/9th of 18 = 2. So he gave the youngest son 2 horses.

This added up to a total of 17 horses,  so the farmer friend took his own horse back to his farm, and everyone was happy - problem Solved!

Friday, 23 May 2014


I have had some recent fun in developing a spreadsheet based program to generate flight plans for light aircraft.  It is now looking about right but there is still an amount of testing to be done to verify its accuracy.
It has raised numerous problems, the main one was the need to calculate bearings and distances from global grid co-ordinates using spherical geometry and trigonometry.  Then of course there is the problem of converting speeds from Knots to km per hour, and Nautical miles to kilometers, and degrees to radians.
All this has kept me busy in my spare time.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Magical Pi

Today I watched a bit of "The Life of Pi" - a great movie.
It prompted me to consider the magical number Pi, a non-repeating decimal value that is a major part of mathematics.
Many years ago I memorised it to 16 decimal places - 3.1415926535897932..... etc etc etc.
I got to thinking how strange it was that it is the essential component of the formula for calculating the circumference of a circle in relation to the radius (2 Pi r), and how it also features in the formula for calculating the area of a circle (Pi r^2).
The circumference is a liner dimension, and the area is obviously an area dimension, and these 2 values are completely separate entities. Why is it so? How come this ratio that we call Pi is an integral part of each of these separate computations?

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Gardening Time

Today was all work and no play. We dug out the 2 bushes on the patio. They had become root bound and it took a strenuous effort to dig them out and prepare the ground for some more suitable vegetation.
In the meantime the planting effort by Cath on her recent visit, is all looking positive.

Some Good Things in Life

Eating is one of them.
Here we have a successful apple pie by Helen.
And here we are about to have our fill of a great meal on Easter Sunday.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Spiral Stair

Its back to the wet conditions today, so what better than to develop the details for a spiral stair.
Cathy and Stuart have a house where this may be someday used. They currently have a horrible dogleg stair that has uneven treads and risers to give access from the kitchen to the upstairs lounge in their Rustico apartment attached to their house. If a spiral stair can be installed, it will save space and add some contemporary vision to the 200 year old stone house in Canelli, Italy.

The whirr of racing wheels

Today I had my own classic ride.  After several days of consistent rain, Toowoomba dawned clear and calm this morning. So at 6:30 am I set off for an overdue ride. From East Toowoomba I proceeded southward along the range and then westward to the back of the university to complete a few circuits of a nice 4km block.
There were plenty of social riders of various speeds for some company, but as expected I was caught by a large fast bunch of good riders who cover a more hilly and ambitious circuit each Saturday and end up on the same circuit.
After a high speed sprint, they all assembled for the ride back into town, and that is where I joined them in a bunch of 35 riders as we hurled own the New England Highway at speeds up to 46 kph, on our way back into the city centre.  It was an exhilerating ride to start a great day.

Saturday, 22 March 2014


A spare time hobby.
The "4-in-a-Vice" and the "6-piece-Burr"
Two interesting examples of wooden puzzles that can be easily made in the home workshop.
The "Burr" is a relatively simple task to assemble, but the "Vice" presents a far greater challenge with over 20 very specific moves required to put it together, and a similar precise sequence of moves to separate it.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A Misty Morning

Peering through the fog on a crisp autumn morning. This could be anywhere but on this occasion it was in Canelli in northern Italy.