Monday, October 31, 2011

Making Vegetables Edible Again

For years the "health" community has been trying to eliminate men by getting them to stop eating their vegetables.

Oh, they will certainly deny it, because it is a top-secret, tightly-controlled conspiracy to which only 20 million or so dietitians and doctors worldwide are a party.  This gets a little complicated, so bear with me.

First, it was ulcers.  Men who had ulcers were put on very strict diets.  They were told "You have to stop eating Mexican Food or anything remotely delicious.  It's causing ulcers."  And their wives fell for it.  Consequently, the typical Western dinner table became increasingly bland over the years, and now new generations of homemakers no longer even know the original reason. Spicy was equated to bad.

Then there was fat.  Cholesterol became the new suburban boogeyman lurking inside anything even remotely enjoyable:  eggs, cheese, sour cream, bacon, whipped cream on top of bacon-flavoured ice cream, and steak.  Meat was an innocent bystander in the war on fat.  Food became lower in protein, higher in empty calories, and what meat we did consume became more tasteless, tougher, and laden with guilt.

Finally, to complete their triumvirate of tastelessness, dietitians declared war on salt.  People were incited to extreme and ludicrous measures to eliminate virtually every source of sodium in food and drink.  This is still continuing today, and people unquestioningly obey and defend this corrupt practice.

What does this add up to?  If all of the things that make vegetables even remotely palatable are banned, hot spices, cheese, butter, sour cream, bacon, and foremost of all, salt, then no man in his right mind will want to eat them, much less grow them for himself in an act of self-sufficiency and defiance of The System.

And for all their do-gooding and banning, what is the result of dietitians' campaign of tyrany over the male diet?  An epidemic of obesity.  Round, soft males who can no longer fend for themselves.  Lacking testosterone and any will to live, they loll around consuming whatever food-replacement product and bland entertainment the big corporations deem most profitable to provide.

But Now, The Truth.

First, Ulcers.  In 1982, Australian scientists Robin Warren and Barry Marshall made the discovery that 80% of stomach ulcers and 90% of intestinal ulcers were caused not by spicy foods at all, but by a specific bacterium.  A short course of the right antibiotic takes care of it.  For most men, there's no longer any medical reason to be bland. Warren and Marshal were awarded the 2005 Nobel Prize in medicine, presumably by people who like spicy food.

The other 10 - 20% of ulcers are managed not by diet but by stress reduction.  Mainly, this means becoming more physically active and thinking differently, both of which we are at perfect liberty to do at all times.

Second, cholesterol.  There are countless references to both sides of the question, but a few things are crystal clear.  First, cholesterol is not strictly bad, but a vital component of healthy cells in your body.  A critical lack of it has even been linked to emotional instability and violent behavior.  Second, any link between consumption of cholesterol-bearing foods and heart disease is extremely complex and actually rather weak.  The media over-simplifies things by reporting, "Cholesterol causes heart disease."  But the data actually support a conclusion more along the lines of, "If you're not physically active enough, heart disease will get you, using your friend cholesterol as a mechanism."

Eliminating fat and cholesterol from your diet is like refraining from putting gasoline in your car because it might explode if you attempt to drive it. The more sensible course of action is simply that - Action!  Eat what your body craves, and always be doing things.  Life's too short to lay about, anyhow, so get out and enjoy it.

Third, sodium.  In 2003 a review by medical researchers revealed that although a low-sodium diet has a tenuous, barely discernable link to lowering high blood pressure, the effect was so slight as to have no measurable impact on overall health.  In other words, the enormous effort and cost of our low-sodium diets are not justified by any positive benefit.  Far more dramatic reductions in high blood pressure and immediate health benefits are readily observed when people simply exercise physically, and exercise good mental health by not indulging in excessive worry, which is as destructive a habit as compulsive smoking or cutting one's self with knives.

Have you spotted the common theme?  Everything's OK to eat if you are physically active.  Fortunately for me, there's always plenty to do at the Shed, and most of it is pretty strenuous.

What does this have to do with eating vegetables?

Exploding these deceitful and misandrous dietary myths means you can grow your own vegetables and load them up with as much salt, real butter, melted cheese, spicy seasonings, sour cream and bacon as required to make them edible.  A baked potato, for example, is chock full of energy, fiber, vitamin B, vitamin C, potassium, and Wodan knows what else, while at the same time being a highly effective sour cream delivery medium, which is why I eat them.  Certainly not for the flavor of potato!

But a person can have too much of a good thing.  To stay healthy there is one absolute dietary rule that I hold to without exception most of the time:  Only eat when you're actually hungry.

But that's not hard when there's so much to be done and so little time.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

How I Injured Myself

The Temporohumorous Field, a recently-discovered 5th force of nature, causes funny things to become less so later on, and not-funny things to become downright hilarious as time passes.

This happened a few years ago, naturally making it a lot less funny now than it was then.  Or is it funnier now, because it was painful at the time that it occurred.  Or is it . . . no, I'd better stop now before I injure my brain.

How I Injured Myself at the Shed

I went up to the Shed last weekend with the intention of getting on top of the firewood situation, but I came back  with a piece missing.

I've been using a lot of firewood lately due to the chilly Bindoon nights.  Fortunately I got my chainsaw working again, so I could finally do something about replenishing the supply.  As I was revving away through various logs, tree trunks, branches and the occasional large spider, I wasn't paying the fullest attention to what I was doing.  I looked down, and I'm sure you've seen this one coming, I found myself standing in the middle of, yes, you guessed it:

a large pile of firewood.

Some of it was too big for the wood stove and needed to be split.  So I put the chainsaw away, got out my trusty Splitting Maul (actually not so trusty as it broke the next day - I suggest getting a steel-handled one as described in the link)  and started bashing away.  Then, as often happens in these type of situations, the blade missed its mark, glanced off the log and hit the ground, narrowly missing my foot and hitting a large rock instead.  With the edge dented, the job would be even harder.   So I went inside the Shed and set up the grinding wheel.

As I was leaning in to the grinding wheel to get that perfect edge on my axe, I could feel sparks from the wheel hitting my fingers.  I could feel the axe head getting hot, too.  I also started to feel very hungry, so I put the axe down, turned off the grinder and went to make a sandwich.

The bread was unsliced, so I got out the cheap thrift-store breadknife that I keep at the Shed and started sawing away, sawing and sawing and sawing back and forth through the bread, when I momentarily became distracted by an interesting thought.  "Why am I wasting my time with sandwiches when there's a nice steak in the freezer?"

So I put the useless breadknife away and got out the frozen steak.  I decided that while the cast-iron skillet was warming up on the portable gas stove, I would try to trim off some of the fat using my Swiss Army knife.  You know how holding a frozen steak with one hand while trying to cut with the other makes your fingers frozen, numb, and more than a little clumsy?  Well, that didn't happen to me, because as I was getting the knife out, I had yet another thought.

What else goes really good with steak?  Grilled onions!  Mmmm.

It was delicious.  But I nicked the tip of my left thumb while slicing the onion.  You can never be too careful when doing reckless, dangerous things like eating vegetables.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When Lizards Attack

I was just minding my own business when a gigantic ferocious Australian lizard leaped out of nowhere, grabbed my arm, bit my finger clean off, then began dragging me by the neck off to its lair!!!  Fortunately Yvonne came out with a shotgun and blew its head off just in time!!!

That's the kind of blog post that my readers have come to expect.  What really happened varies slightly from the fictionalized account.

I was cleaning up the back patio and disturbed the tiny, shy lizard's hiding spot.  I cornered him in a plastic tub from which he was unable to escape, and picked him up to get a look at him.

AND THEN HE BIT ME!  Yes, that part is technically true, I got a microscopic nip on the finger that I could almost feel.

The tiny docile gecko then slinked up my arm and onto my shoulder just as Yvonne came out of the house and shot it several times.

With the camera, of course!

Then we let it go. Australia isn't always as exciting as it is made out to be in the media and on certain internet sites.  And thank goodness for that.


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Fathers and Sons at War

Star Wars is a modern re-telling of a very ancient saga, although with many of the details changed.  History, legend and movies are filled with stories of fathers and sons who must unavoidably confront one another, and often fight to the death.

Original hand-written copy
of the Hildebrandslied from
about 820 AD.
This is the very struggle (though usually metaphorical rather than literal) that almost every man will face in life, and often twice.  Once with his father and once more with his son.

One of the oldest and most riveting versions of the father-son legend is the story of Hildebrand and Hadubrand.  It takes place in the time of Theoderic, King of the Ostrogoths and his struggle against Odoaker, the first "barbarian" king of Italy following the fall of Rome.  Etzel, aka Attila the Hun, looms large in the background of the saga as well.

Hildebrand and Hadubrand are casualties of this protracted war when Hildebrand is forced by Odoaker to leave his homeland (presumably in Schwäbien) and take refuge with Theoderic in the east.  He and Theoderic engage in a 30-year running battle with the forces of Odoaker for control over Lombardy.

Meanwhile on the home front, Hildebrand has left behind a wife and young son named Hadubrand, who grows up mainly in the company of women.  As everyone knows, it takes a man to raise a man.  Only feminists, blind to their own confirmation bias (as is the case with every doctrine-identified group), insist that gender doesn't matter.

Theoderic the Great in battle
And so we find Hadubrand, an angry young man who hates his father for what he assumes was abandonment for personal glory and yet tells everyone who will listen how renown his father was as a warrior.

As fate would have it, Hildebrand and Hadubrand are destined to meet on the field of battle, possibly as Hildebrand attempts to return home.    But Hadubrand does not recognize his father and insists that Hildebrand has died in battle in some foreign land.  He is blinded by anger and determined to fight this "intruder."

Hildebrand, on the other hand, knows his son perfectly well. Though old, he is a formidable warrior, undefeated in countless battles, and carries vast experience, skill and wisdom. Can he protect his son and pass anything on that will help preserve Hadubrand?

Following is my original English translation from the new high German and referring closely to the original text.  (Not many people know I missed getting a BA in German by 5 general course credits . . . I was going to take an economics class or something, but never quite got around to it.)

I heard it told of the Challengers' lonely struggle;
Hildebrand and Hadubrand, standing betwixt two armies.
Father and son prepared their armor, straightened their battle garments,
And girt on their swords over their armor as they rode out to fight.

Hildebrand son of Heribrand, the older and more experienced man,
Spoke with few words inquiring of the other,
Who among the people was his father, or of which tribe he belonged.

"Name any one to me, then I will know the rest of your kin,
For known unto me are all great men of the realm."

Hadubrand son of Hildebrand spoke, "The people tell me,
The old and the wise, they that were alive at the time,
That Hildebrand my father was, and I am Hadubrand.
He rode away into the east, fleeing the wrath of Odoaker
And took up with Theoderic and his warriors,
Leaving in poverty his bride and infant son;
Without inheritence rode he into the east.

And Theoderic having no friend suffered my father's presence.
He angered Odoaker mightily and was Theoderic's most beloved warrior,
Always at the vanguard in battle, always yearning to fight.
Renown was he, the bravest of all,
Yet I know he lives no more."

Then spake Hildebrand, "Would to God that you never
Are brought to battle with your own kin!"
Then took he from his own arm the plaited mail,
Fashioned of royal gold, a gift to him of the King,
The Ruler of the Huns.

He said, "This give I you as a token of friendship."

Hadubrand son of Hildebrand spake,
"Our gifts will be exchanged by the speer,
Point against point!
You think yourself exceedingly clever, old Hun,
To tempt me with your words whilst launching your speer at me?

You are an old man and full of deceit.
Sailors told me that he fell in battle far in the west, over the ocean.
Hildebrand son of Heribrand is dead."

Then spake Hildebrand son of Heribrand, who was not dead,
"I see well from your armor that you have a good master,
And have never been banished of your realm.

God knows, though, that trouble comes.
I wandered abroad threescore seasons, summers and winters,
Where I was ever in battle.

If I could not be killed at the gates of some foreign fortress,
Will my own child smite me with the sword,
Cut me down with the blade, or make me to be his killer?
You could easily win from so old a man his armor
And rob his spoils - if your strength holds out."

Said Hildebrand more, "Even the faintest of the Ostrogoth
Would not refuse you battle, seeing as you lust so for it.
So let us commence and discover
Who will wear this armor and who must lay it down."

Then sent they both their speers of ash flying
Which impaled upon their shields,
And they rode hard against one another
And smote furiously until both shields were destroyed in pieces,
and ...

You may have noticed that the ending of the legend is missing.  The story was written on two pieces of scrap paper at the Benedictine monastery at Fulda, and if a third sheet ever existed, it is now lost these 1200 years.  If you were Hildebrand, what would you do?  Kill your son, or allow him to kill you in his anger?

Or is there a third option?

Yes, there is.  It is this option that comprises 98% of fatherhood.  Stay engaged as long as you physically can, thereby passing some of your skill and wisdom on to your son in spite of his resistance.  I like to imagine that Hildebrand resisted being struck down until he was sure Hadubrand's skill was up to the task of preserving him against a determined enemy.  That he gave no killing blow unless he was sure of Hadubrand's ability to defend against it.  This is indeed a narrow line to walk, even when the stakes aren't life and death itself.

Someday perhaps Hadubrand will realize that the man he fought was his hero, the legendary Hildebrand that he loved and hated, and that Hildebrand's life and final act was one of devotion to his son.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Feelin' Blue

I've been feeling mighty blue lately.  The only cure for that is to get together with some mates and play the Blues, loud and fast.

Fortuitously, a local Blues club had "organized" (and I use the term loosely) a jam night at the Medina pub for Saturday night, Oct 15.  Medina is a suburb about half an hours' drive south of the city, and like many such places half an hour from a major city, it is the sort of place best seen after sundown.

My mate Tim and I got together the day prior for a practice session, a sneak peak of which is provided below. We hadn't played together for perhaps a year, or six months at least.  Blues musicians don't keep very good records of those sort of things.   In any case, it had been a long time and we spent two or three hours (see - it was only last week and already the basic facts are becoming blurred) to find each other's tempo and groove.

The following evening we converged on Medina only to find that the pub was dark and locked up.  Closed.  No cars in the parking lot.  The place was empty and deserted.


What the hell kind of pub is closed on a Saturday night?  The Medina pub, for one. It seems that the Disorganizers of the blues jam had decided to quit and not to tell everybody.  It wasn't hard to spot Tim driving around looking for the place.  His was nearly the only other car on the road.  We made a couple of extremely indignant phone calls and left a polite but sternly worded message on the "organizers" voicemail.

Then we called it a night.  Perhaps one day we'll organize our own Blues jamming club, one that will be renown for its dependability.  It could be the first ever of its kind.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Keeping it Clean

I'm not exactly sure how, but supposedly I'm related to this guy, a very funny blogger who writes about his adventures as a Slacker Dad.  In his post of 15 October, he confesses his true degree of domicile domestication by revealing some actual housekeeping activities he has committed even though no one would be the wiser were they to be "postponed."  To my way of thinking, cleaning something that is twice as dirty never takes twice as long.

National productivity could therefore be increased (and the economy saved once and for all) by simply extending the intervals at which many routine cleaning and housekeeping chores are undertaken.

For example, I have never, ever washed my truck.  Not even a little.  I figure, it always rains eventually, after which the truck looks as good as . . . well, as good as it needs to look.  And it will just get dirty again shortly after that.  So who am I to interfere with the natural order of life?

Keeping the Shed neat and tidy is also an exercise in cost-benefit analysis.  If the dirt, debris, dead spiders and gravel one finds in the Shed interferes with something important enough, then it gets cleaned.  Not until.

Even then, cleaning is done in as expeditious a manner as possible.  I use the most available horsepower, the largest broom I can physically push, and the harshest chemicals legally obtainable to get the job done fast.  Often, it doesn't come to that, and I encounter few situations that a damp microfiber rag can't handle.

"Honey, I'm going to clean the bathroom.
Do we have any more gasoline?"

Most bathrooms and lavatories in Australia are tiled, floor and walls, and by law they must be equipped with a drain in the floor.  That is an excellent feature which sadly goes unused by many of your non-male segments of the population.  A floor drain means that when a lavatory gets to the point where not even the spiders will go in there, you can get a garden hose, or better still, a Pressure Washer, and sort it right out in a few seconds flat.

I clean the outdoor dunny at the Shed by tossing a bucket of water in through the open door as I am passing by. If I happen to think of it at the time.

Another time and energy-saving tip I learned here in the Outback is how to do laundry without really trying.  The sad fact is that after eleven or twelve days, those jeans ARE going to need a wash.  But don't stress about finding a coin-op laundry out in the Australian bush! Just pry them off and put them in a bucket with a tight-sealing lid.  Put a few inches of water and some laundry powder in there, too, and seal it up. Then throw it in the back of your ute and go about your business.

If you have a second pair of jeans, now would be a good time to get them.  Not that there's anyone out there to see your pimply white legs, but jeans are essential protection from the plants and creatures of the outback, and the unforgiving sun.  Only tourists wear shorts.

While driving along any of rural Australia's many fine motorways (snort!), your bucket o' laundry will be jostled, jolted, shaken and agitated better than if it were in that machine at the paint store.  By the time you get where your going, which due to the sheer scale of the place could be days, your clothes will be clean as new.  Just give them a quick rinse, throw them over a branch, and within minutes they will be dry and ready to wear again.

Environmental cost:  zero (0) additional energy and about a half a gallon of water used.

Financial cost: $0.0002 in laundry powder. Why doesn't everyone do this?

Oh, yeah.  Most people have a washing machine at their house.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

New, Corrected Map of Australia

The Department of Tourism released a new, corrected map of Australia especially for tourists.

So that when you plan your visit to Australia you'll know what you're getting yourselves in for.

They have also begun offering new, simplified instructions for how to get here and free visa applications, but so far no one has taken them up on it.  Can't understand why!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

More Questions Than Answers

If you thought Science was just a big bag of facts, or that if Science doesn't know everything then it knows nothing at all, then I hope to enlighten you somewhat.  Science is the process of finding out which ideas are true and which are crap.

That is very hard to accept for soft-skulled people who think that all ideas are somehow equal.  Nature doesn't apologize for the fact that there exists an absolute truth, an objective reality of which Nature alone is the moderator, referee and adjudicator.   Our very subjective, fallible minds can only glimpse that reality through the rigorous discipline of scientific training in careful logical thought, painstaking observations, and tireless trial and error in which pre-judgement is necessarily suspended.

That is the nature of Science.  We may not always like the results, and often the process results in more questions than answers.  But in the long run, Science always increases our grasp of Nature's one Reality.

More questions than answers.  Such is the case with the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, shared by Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt and Adam Riess.

(In Australia, the media will make a big deal out of the fact that Brian Schmidt, though US-born, works at the Australian National University in Canberra.  Australia claims 10 Nobel Prizes, 9 in Science, one in Literature, and a further 7 Nobel Prizes (including this one) either by Australians working abroad or non-Australians  living and working in Australia.  For a country of just 21 million people, this is considered an unbelievable performance in per-capita Nobel Prizes.  It is part of the complexity of the Australian psyche that Australians meticulously keep track of these kinds of things and see them as a matter of first importance.)

The 2011 Physics prize is for observations that prove the existence of something called "Dark Energy," an evocative name for the fact that galaxies in the universe appear to be accelerating uniformly away from one another.  It is as though the universe were perched on top of a hill, and as galaxies spread out in all directions, they leave the crown of the hill and begin to roll down the slopes, picking up speed.  The fact that we haven't yet discovered the reason for Space having this particular shape doesn't prevent galaxies from behaving in this way.

Previously, astrophysicists observed that the universe was much heavier than can be accounted for by all the stars and galaxies that can be seen plus all the gas and dust seen floating around between stars and galaxies, plus everything else they can think of to include in an inventory of all matter.  The rate at which galaxies are currently moving apart indicates that the overall gravitational attraction in the universe is larger than all known matter can account for.  They hypothesized that there must therefore be more matter in an unknown form, and called it "Dark Matter."

It is now understood that matter in all forms that we know, atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons, neutrinos, photons, quarks and so on, forms just 4% of the mass and energy in universe.  The rest is this Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

But before you go rejecting everything we've discovered in the last 300 years, consider this.  What was true yesterday is still true today.  Newton's equations of motion are still perfectly correct for everyday distances, speeds and times.  Einstein's Relativity, an extension  of Newtonian mechanics, is still perfectly correct for everything we've yet been able to observe. Quantum Mechanics is still the most accurate set of equations by far for predicting the behavior of atom-sized or smaller objects.  Thermodynamics is still absolutely inviolable when dealing with collections of 1000 or more atoms.  Energy is absolutely conserved in every interaction and "perpetual motion" is outlawed by the ruthless and absolute monarch of the physical universe, Nature.

Will Dark Matter matter to you?  Will Dark Energy be the lucky escape from our climate/energy dilemma?  Let me put it to you that any machine or device anyone could possibly make that will be larger than a single atom (what would you make it from otherwise?) or smaller than the Milky Way galaxy we live in, will still behave in complete accordance with the discovered principles of Nature we currently understand.

In fact, there is only one machine in existence which has a chance of working in a way that might surprise Science.  It was built in the hopes of surprising.  Although we understand exactly how it operates, the result it will have is not yet completely known.  That machine is the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Best Australian Stuff is . . . Chinese?

A famous political quote that I am unable to attribute properly, so I will instead have to plagiarize, is the following:  "Geography is Destiny."  While most of Australia thinks it is actually England (tiny houses, tiny cars driving to tiny shops on tiny, hobbit-sized roads), Australia is actually part of Asia.  Its biggest neighbor is the third-largest country (by population) in the world and the largest Muslim country anywhere, Indonesia.

This has certain advantages.  Electronics are relatively cheap, and there's some interesting Indonesian, Malaysian, Korean, Vietnamese, Chinese and Indian food to be sampled.  The rich, fatty, spicy goodness of Indian food in particular helps fill the void in my life created by the absence of proper Mexican food.

In the 60's, the niche of market gardens and veggie shops was filled mainly by Italian immigrants.  That industry today is dominated by Asian immigrants.  Our local veggie shop, like many others, is a family-run operation.  The  girls at the till are family members, and are therefore part-owners through Discretionary Family Trusts and other quite sophisticated financial structures.  These people do their homework, and they learn fast.  I respect that.

Because there are no employees, only part-owners in the business, the service is excellent.  In a veggie shop there are no bar code scanners, only nimble brains and quick fingers that know the price of every last item in the store off by heart. It takes even less time to check out at the veggie shop than it does in the normal supermarket with their scanners emitting a steady rhythm of BEEP!  BEEP!  BEEP!

At the veggie shop, when you go to check out, the girl looks up from texting on her cell phone and peeks into your basket of produce.  She adds up the more obvious figures in her head and taps it into the cash register without looking while placing items sold by weight onto the scales. They have never made a mistake that I am aware of.

One extra benefit of shopping at the chinese veggie place is their unusual selection of odd things.  There are vegetables I've never heard of, fruits I can't pronounce, strange herbs, and cans or bottles of substances that westerners don't even have a word for in English, much less know how to use.  And they have a very eclectic assortment of Asian soft drinks (mainly tea or animal flavoured) but also including a few American soft drinks that are traditionally popular in Asia.

I already knew that Singaporean A&W Root Beer was sometimes available, but today I made an exciting new discovery: Welch's Grape Soda.

My First Grape Soda in over 10 years on these shores.

I remember when this product first came out.  It is an authentic, uncompromising product chock-full of sugar, artificial flavours and so much artificial purple coloring that even the foam has a blue tinge.  I really respected it for that.  It was my second-favorite drink.  And now I know where to get it in Australia.

At only $3 a can.

On close inspection, one finds it is imported from Korea.
Not being able to read the ingredients is, on the whole,
probably for the best.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Time Stands Still

Is this clock special?
This story begins, oddly enough, when a friend asked me to represent him at an auction out of concern that his attendance would alert his rivals to the presence of something really valuable on offer.  He was hoping the item, a convict-made piece of furniture, would go unnoticed and sell for perhaps a few hundred dollars.  It didn't, and we were out-bid by at least two other collectors who knew perfectly well what the item was.  It eventually sold for $3800.

While I was at the auction place, I noticed an old clock and made an offer for it. Not because it might be a valuable antique, but really just because I like fixing old clocks.  And something told me this clock was special.

It turns out the clock won't be valuable at all - it's old, but not that old.  1950's or 60's most likely.  And part of the fun will be trying to find out more about it.  There are no brand marks anywhere on the clock.  Stamped on the movement itself are only the words "Made in Württemberg" and the number "50."

Front of movement, showing chime
timing mechanism.
The wood isn't solid timber, but a laminate somewhat more solid than your average plywood.

So what's so special about this clock?  The chimes.  The quarter-hour Westminster chimes have the sweetest, most musical tone I've heard from a clock, and well worth having around in my opinion.  When I get it going again I'll make a video so you can hear it and see exactly how a clock like this works.

Ruptured pendulum suspension.
Back at the Shed, I carefully disassembled the clock for restoration and discovered what had to be done.  First, the easy bits.  I"ll have to do something with the case, perhaps a varnish or lacquer.  The metal trim can be polished easily enough, and it needs a new winding key. Also, the pendulum suspension is broken, but I happen to know that this is a standard part and easily replaced.

Now the hard bits.  The face is a lost cause, unless I go to the trouble of re-silvering it and hand-painting the numerals and divisions.  Fat chance.  Think I'll buy a replica face instead.  This isn't a valuable antique, after all. If something's not worth doing at all, it's not worth doing properly.

Finally, the real issue.  The hourly chimes were not working, and the reason is this.  In Australia, the condition of this cog is something we refer to as being "Stuffed."  This is going to be a bit of a worry.  I know it's a 72-tooth volute spur gear, or at least it USED to be.  But the pitch diameter will need to be precisely measured, and it may or may not turn out to be a standard size.  It is possible that a replacement gear, which would need to be pressed onto the shaft using a customized fixture, could cost ten times what this clock is worth.

But as they say: in for a penny, in for a pound.  

Saturday, October 1, 2011


The Laughing KookaburraDacelo novaeguineae of the Kingfisher family (one of two species in Australia), was introduced to Perth in 1898.  It is not native to Western Australia. 

Its name comes from an extinct aboriginal language and means "Hahahaha heeheeheehee hahaha hoo hoo hoo hoo heheheheheheheh," which is also an approximation of the bird's unmistakable call.

Photographed at Bindoon this week. 

Kookaburras are smart and fearless.  I knew of a particularly smart one at the University of Western Australia where he held the position of professor of experiential ornithology and notorious sandwich thief.

Sitting on the branch of a tree some thirty-five feet away from an open-air cafe on the verandah of the library, this bird could time his flight so perfectly and anticipate humans' actions so well that he could leave his branch just as you picked up your sandwich and as you lifted it to your mouth, snatch it right out of your hands, zooming inches past your face.  He would then alight at a nearby table and eat your sandwich in front of you, daring you to do something about it. 

Kookaburras also hunt lizards, snakes, small mammals, and many, many cute baby ducklings.  So they can't be all bad.

All-You-Can-Eat Breakfast Buffet for the Kookaburra

And in case the name Kookaburra becomes too boring for you to utter, you can choose from these nicknames:

Bushman's Clock
Ha-Ha Pigeon
Breakfast Bird
Photographed in 2005