Friday, July 31, 2009


An unusual day for me as I took a little trip into the metropolops to visit a one night only show put on by colleagues of a friend in the UK entitled conjoin-me at a venue called superdeluxe.
The show itself and the company was very pleasant, interesting to be amongst the masses for a change. But my daughter had got it right when she warned me that there was a risk of warring parties waiting in the wings when travelling in Roppongi. The nightlife of the area is very popular among foreign visitors and thus certain tensions exist in greater measure there than elsewhere in the city.
These emerged on my return journey travelling on one of the deaper subway lines toward shinjuku. The train was crowded and a rather tipsy Japanese chap happened to bump into a foreign bloke who was standing by the door as he got on the train. Said bloke proceeded to take exessive umbridge to this and started pushing the chap over onto the floor. He looked like he might set too and start slapping the bemused Japanese chap about, so, fool that I am I shouted "Stop, Stop, Stop" until he did. All of the agression was coming from the foreign bloke who I believe (based on his accent as heard later on) was british like myself and in hindsight must also have been either obtuse or deliberately standing by the door awaiting the oportunity to get upset by a boarding bumbler. The cogniscenti move a few paces into the throng to avoid the melle, just far enough to avoid having to cause a panic in the sea of humanity when it is ones turn to swim for the door in order to alight at the destination. My subconscious did not get as far as considering the possibility that things have changed so much in Japan that the crowd might then be on the side of the agressor and turn on me for putting an end to their entertainment, thankfully this was not the case. However, subconsciously I think I realised I could have put up a fair fight against the agressor should the power of speach fail me. It was immediately obvious from the way the crowd broke that they were on the side of righteousness, thank goodness. The Japanese bloke actually seemed to see me as his saviour and swam over as if to a life raft in a stormy see. My one aim was to promote dialog not arouse agression. The young gentleman followed the plan and shouted all those things that one imagines such people will shout in a fairly inane way while looking at a spot somewhere over my head. I hadn't realised that some people might watch such scenes in movies and be inspired to emulate the burke. My correspondent seemed keen to know why I had intervened and I was very quick to admit that I had no good reason other than that the matter did not seem worth fighting over. He continually attempted to provoke me into becoming a surrogate combatant.
Anyway, the energy of the moment was spent in him shouting and then as the train stopped at the next station he asked me if I would like to step off and talk about it. I declined, stating that I was convinced I was already getting very close to missing my last train home. I cannot say that we parted friends, but perhaps he had cooled a little. Once the doors had closed behind him my fellow sardines and I heaved a sigh of relief and the tipsy chap (who I had actually patted on the head during the verbal abuse to demonstrate his harmlesness) and his companions all thanked me for my efforts. At one point the foreign bloke accused me of being some kind of dogooder who made a habit of interfering in Tokyo and everywhere else I went in the world. I assured him this was my first trip to Tokyo this year and he shouted "I hope you've learnt your lesson". I had to agree that I had, but in truth I learnt that lesson a long time ago and I fail to see how he could say that and somehow portray himself as a worthy purveyor of learning. I suppose it is a little like the wife beaters who say "Look what you made me do".
All in all an interesting evening, and thanks to the train gods of the underworld I did just make the last train home.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Turbine Hall

I suppose there is some unfortunate person out there with cruel parents who bears that title. The orange tip of one of the lateral turbines is just visible down in the pit. This does give some idea of scale as it has the little lego men and women down the end. I am not sure how it compares in size to the Tate modern hall, but it is pretty big.
On today's visit to do a little more discussion of my proposed mission, I was treated to a sighting of an Osprey as we climbed the crooked stairway back up to level ground. Unfortunately I was unable to remember the Japanese name until I got back in the car, but I let one of my companions take a peek through the binoculars, just saying that it was an unusual sighting for me and describing the bird's habit of grabbing fish.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Here is a view from the side. I still have quite a few sheets of the 25mm plywood and I use six of those to protect the stage pallets. The hall managers allow nails, but they won't let us use screws in these. Having the plywood sheets has made things a hell of a lot more flexible for me as nailing all this bamboo was not a fun prospect. The display is up over night, then through rehearsals tomorrow and comes down after the ceremony at around 4pm. Getting it torn down is certainly a lot easier than putting it up. The flats behind the bamboo are offcuts from my wood storage turntable, they are then covered with some grey black kind of whispy material I found thrown out up the mountain one time, so they don't stand out much against the black back drop.
The stage pallets under my part are about 4x6 foot and there are six of them. The promontary is 3x6 I think.
During the ceremony three school kids come up and light the three little memorial candles, which represent the three nationalities of blokes killed in making the dam. Chinese, Japanese and Korean. The majority of the deaths occured when a typhoon struck in 1944 while the footings were still pretty weak, although they do tell of blokes falling in the concrete and not being hauled out. Gruesome, but plausible given the nature of the human animal.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Not quite appropriate for the date, this scene is from Saturday 25th, my compadre at work on the stage decoration. He does the part on the little pomentary at the front and I fiddle with bamboo at the back. What I was actually doing today was bending the remainder of those spindly strips of bamboo on the right. I had a go at it yesterday to calm my sense of being unprepared. That is actually all one bamboo pole all split up. I used a sheet of one inch plywood stood up against a wall with a load of coarse thread screws stuck in it at appropriate positions, then heated up various parts of the bamboo with a propane burner to get it into some graceful shapes. A bit spanish inquisition down in the dungeon, but the result wasn't too bad.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Rain stopped play on the eclipse. It did grow rather dark, but there was no sign of the sun at all.
I saw a fairly big bite taken out of the sun back in the eighties, checking on the NASA page that was probably July 20th 1982, but I can't be sure. I do seem to remember it being in the evening and that correlates with the NASA eclipse data. It looks like Japan is due for another big partial eclipse on May 20th 2012.

Dam tools

I had a little excursion down into the bowels of the local hydroelectric dam today to consult about a possible job repairing a leaking ground water pipe . An interesting space a little like the tate modern, but with a more underground feel as all the giant shutter doors were shut. The turbine hall was a massive space. On several of the walls at strategic spots there were collections of maintenance tools like this one that I was rather drawn to. I think this panel is three foot by six, so some of those spanners are massive. In a different universe perhaps I am this organised.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


A small update on our dog medication just in case anyone is searching for a cure for skin problems in retrievers. Our retriever has been suffering from a skin complaint and ear problems for a hell of a time now. Treatment by the vet was a little half hearted, but he did tell us that it was not the nasty business carried by some species of burrowing mite. Anyway, I went on a research tour for possible sources of antibiotic that might help and found a reference to fish-flex, an antibiotic for aquarium fish. This was apparently in wide usage among dog owners to treat alsorts among the canine fraternity. I ordered some and mentioned to a friend that I had done so. He then said that he had a bunch of antibiotics left over from his medication and volunteered them for our dog. So our initial treatment was with a 10 day course of somethingymycin and a pretty strong steroid. The dog immediately perked up and one of those fat cyst about the size of the end of my thimb that he had been carrying on his back for a while decided it didn't like living inside him any more and started making a bid for freedom. That initial dosage was very encouraging, so I have continued with the Fish flex. Two 500mg capsules twice a day for about two weeks now. This may seem excessive, but according to my calculations the dose is correct and we are seeing a definite reversal in the skin infection that had almost completely covered the underportions of the animal in blackened scabby skin. We now have the return of proper pinky skin areas and a return of hair growth where appropriate. I think we should have taken some before after shots to prove our case, but perhaps it would have been too much like doggy porn. Anyway, initially I hid the drugs in pieces of banana that pupster was happy to catch and eat when thrown them. Unfortunately he became suspicious of banana and eventually started to spit out the stuff even when it had no capsules in. I should have been more careful to doctor the banana where he couldn't see me doing it. Of course I just stuff the capsules in his bowl for the morning dose, but I needed a new method for the evening as he only gets the one meal. In the end I just tried throwing him some little treats of a similar size to the capsules, then threw in a capsule between treats and he snaffled it down just as if it were a treats too. He leaves them on the floor if he misses and drops one, but when I pick it up and throw it again he will swallow it the next time around. Hiding in plain sight is a very effective method of concealment.

Monday, July 20, 2009

When we were six

The 20th is a national holiday in Japan in honor of the sea. Also of course the anniversary of the first moon landing. I have looked at several of the news items related to this day and find the most interesting part to be the abscence of Mr Armstrong. It seems like the decision not to partake of the lime light was taken a long time ago and thanks to that, on this 40 year anniversary it has shone on some of the 400,000 others involved with the mission, which would probably be pleasing for Mr A. Watching one of the software designers speak on the BBC was one of the most interesting interviews. There were a few points I had not known about, like the hand woven nature of the matix that formed the computer and the various little problems that arose during the mission. Including Mr Armstrong having to bodge up a repair for the broken take off button so that they could leave. I already knew about the low fuel at landing thanks to the movie The Dish, which I heartily recommend.
Today I saw the end of Apollo 13 during my lunch and thanks to the recent plethera of lunar programming I noticed that the naval captain welcoming Jim lovell (Tom Hanks)back to earth bore a striking resemblance to Jim Lovell himself. A quick trip to Wikiland resolved the mystery, it was him playing a cameo role, nice that he had a tiny part on the set as well as behind the scenes.
Anyway I wanted to hear something from Neil and a brief search found this interview, which went some way toward filling the gaps, but I would still like to know how he repaired the switch.
It is sad that the race against Russia seems to be percieved as the most important factor behind the public support for the project. I had forgotten all about that side of it.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

So far

Three views of the pole mount at the end of the work day. This is the maximum easterly tilt. The elevation unit gave me pause for thought as it clunked its way to stagnation when I first tried it, but luckily I had enough leeway to get it in the lathe and true up my cog effort a little. There is still significant jiggle, but it doesn't seize up.
I guess this represents something like midday in the winter, the sun perhaps a little higher in the sky even in winter.
This is the maximum westerly tilt. I think it will suffice due to our valley location. If not I will have to assemble a bigger rack for the azimuth unit by chopping off part of the window winder unit I didn't use. It should be possible to gain some conception of the gubbins from these three views. The wheelchair battery coming in handy to try out the motors and such. So far my only expenditure has been on time, a trickle of tap water to cool the TIG torch and the argon gas used up in welding, soapy spray and oil for lubricant, the few milimeters of tungsten electrode, the fuel to go and fetch the window winders, the food consumed, etc, etc. In fact if we get down to the minutii, a fortune lost. Let's hope it earns its keep once it finds the sun.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Housing for social cogs

This is where I had got with the elevation control as evening fell yesterday. The housing for the window motor and the cog end of the scissor jack screw. The evolution of the little plate on the left with the seven petal gear wheel in started with a piece of flat bar 5cm wide by 9mm thick. I drilled two big holes in it about 35mm in diameter an inch apart using a hole saw. After having the saw stick every second or two I abandoned dripping oil and took to using a little bath cleaner sprayer as lubricant for the drill press. It made a huge difference to the level of enthusiasm expressed by the teeth as they bit through the metal. Having made the weird little window I then realized it would be better to split the end and spread the two resulting prongs apart than to cut the jack cog hole bigger. I heated the sides and spread them apart, then welded two nuts on to put 5mm bolts through in the right spots to mate with the nuts embedded in the window winder body. Another job today was moving the bearing of the jack screw to the opposite side of its swivel joint. In the jack it was bearing on the correct side, but here it would have been doing nothing, so I thought it worth doing. The little bearing is the part just to the right of the cog here. If you work with metal a lot you might like to take a trip to the stationers and get a propelling pencil like the yellow one here. They now make 0.7 mm yellow (and other colored) leads for these, which make nice visible marks on steel. I used to use the chunky sticks of hard white chalk, but this new innovation is more precise and there is no snapping or need for sharpening.
Here is where I ended today, the housing is all welded and tested with the motor and this is the little plate side of it ready to have the motor screwed on. I did have to make a couple of little stick drawing in the end. It was hard for me to figure out what would happen to the motor end when the thing was in motion. Tomorrow I am going to make some long nuts or bolts with spacers to be welded on to the two arms of the pole top unit, then the entire thing will be in a functional state and I can complete the pole part for mounting on the roof.
It is not hard to see why so much in the world that is functional is also ugly. After all the work of constructing the prototype there is little energy left for easthetic concerns. Perhaps a lick of paint and a rain cover will suffice.


Friday, July 17, 2009


I attempted a little socket to fit over the cog on the window motor, but it was not a success. I remembered I had seen a site with a gear wheel calculator on and got a suitable unit printed out and stuck onto a thick piece of steel about 4cm square. You can just make out part of the smaller cog that represents the seven pronged item on the window winder. This is the first time I have ever made a cog. I should have drilled the center hole out first and then cut it round and trued it up on the lathe. Drilling holes for the troughs worked a treat and that kept things even when I started to lose paper. I could have scribed through to mark the metal I suppose, but there you go.
I got the cog made and found that the head on the jack was held on with a bit of thread as well as a tack weld. I made a similar thread in the cog and that is him with all that remains of the paper pattern. The window motor at right and the head removed from the scissor jack on the left.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Wind up

I got straight over to the local garage and begged for a couple of window winder motors. I expected to be digging around in vehicles to pull them out, but one was on the top of a junk pile and the other was taken from a door right next to the junk pile. I am always amazed by how much stuff there is to be had in the world when it opens up and makes things easy for a change.
So after examining the thing for a bit I decided to abandon my jack head on the top and go with the ratchet mechanism from the winder as seen below. It required a few additions to the bracket and some other mental adjustments. I tried it out with a lead weight strapped on and it shifted the thing no problem, so I hope it will prove strong enough to move the panel OK.
I think Monday was my lowest point so far on this project. I remember leaving the wood stove for several months before finally getting it connected up. All these things seem stupid at the time, but the stove is now an established part of the home, so hopefully this weird object will be too one day. Anyway, I am grateful to the chap at the mechanics who let me walk away with these bits gratis.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Soon to be extinct

Got the two parts welded up and moving about properly, but again hit a wall with power. I have several motors about, but none seems perfect for the job of powering the jack head. I went on a more wide ranging search for geared motors in the evening. In the end an auction site showed me some window winder motors advertised at 1450 yen each. They looked like just what I wanted, but I figured on begging for some first. I had already thought of car bits as ideal due to their 12 volt diet.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pole top

The post top item took more shape, but didn't actually get the two bits together as shown here. One of the bikes had a split frame with the back forks mounted on a hinge with a shock absorber. I used the hinge to go on top of the post as the thing that will determine the angle of the panel depending on the time of year.
I had seen panels mounted on roofs, so though about things based on that, but on looking into the available mounts I found that the best solution was to have some kind of axis that would could be oriented to match that of the planet we sit on. This angle only has to be changed a little each day as the year progresses. The angle shown here might happen at the equator, but not where we are. The blue shaft housing remains stationary while the shaft that runs through it rotates. Brackets will connect the top and bottom of the shaft to the panel mount. The beginnings of one bracket can be seen at the right (top end) of the shaft.


Monday, July 13, 2009


Stumbled about for a bit trying to figure out the rotating part of my device. In the end opted for the screw and two elbows from a scissor jack. That worked OK, but still no definite signs of what to power the thing with. While I massaged the brain on that I hauled things about to clear up som eof the metal detritis under one of my shelf areas and in the process pull out any bits and bobs that might come in useful.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

I frame

My normal routine for Saturday was slightly disturbed by guests in attendance, but I persevered with the mount for the solar panels making a light sub frame to accommodate the panel on its pole.
There was just enough of some aluminium square pipe to do it. Also some little stainless steel end mounts that made it easy to join things together. I made some stainless end caps for the pipe that also act as grips to hold the panel on.


Saturday, July 04, 2009


One of the ant's eye views Sammy took showing some of the grain in the piece.

Friday, July 03, 2009


I think this was the shot Sammy was taking in the picture on the 28th of June.

Thursday, July 02, 2009


This blurry shot gives some idea of scale, also the horiffic faces pulled while performing even relatively easy tasks. The blocks the piece is stood on are not visible, but they allow acces to the bolts. It is easy to get the things started cross threaded, so my mind is on fealing for a nice smooth start to the operation, there is a spring washer on the bolt and the underside of the foot has a deep recess to stop the bolt coming in contact with the floor. The spring washer should take up any slack when the foot contracts in the new home. The table legs I made employing a similar structure all needed tightening after a month or so as the wood contracted considerably in the drier homes they went to. I have a little ratchet wrench that accepts various heads and the little allen key head is doing the work here.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Seat on

The leg section was turned up the right way and stood on two blocks at either end. There are socket headed 10mm bolts passed up through the legs and similar 8mm bolts that pass up through the apron at the back. You can see the hole in the stub tenon in the foreground here and the coresponding hole in the seat section to the right. There are brass threaded inserts in the top section to accept the bolts. All of the holes and recesses are oversized to allow for movement in the wood.