Saturday, March 28, 2009


Bev came home with these.

They didn't last long. It was a warm day, and we had them outside with a cup of tea. They'd have melted if we hadn't eaten them, so it was a mercy really.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The engine on the 'plane goes around...

In the early days of aviation, one form of aero engine was the rotary. This was one where the engine was bolted to the propeller and the whole engine rotated around the crankshaft. Here's an example with the prop and mounting removed so you can see into it:

I filmed this at the RAF Museum's Great War Grahame White Factory building at Hendon, North London.

An excellent technical description and animation of how they work is shown here on Matt Keveney's fascinating engine site. Because it runs on a total loss oil system (can't get it back to the tank in a revolving engine) and the oil has to go through the same pipes as the petrol, and not mix, an organic rather than mineral oil is used - castor oil. The burnt remnants of the oil was thrown out of the engine a good deal of which covered the pilot, with the otherwise well known effect of castor oil. Thanks to Sahlah for a reference from The Rise and Fall of Castor Oil which touches on the origin of the oil, and use in World War One:
Since castor oil was needed for lubricating airplane engines, 100,000 acres of land in the southern United States had to be planted in castor beans. Castor Oil used by the radial engine was supplanted by Voltol, an oil derived from coal. The Germans tried to use Voltol since the Allies had am embargo to stop shipments of castor oil.
What does a Rotary engine look, sound and smell like in action? There are a few in action if you know where to look. at la Ferte Alais in France, and The Shuttleworth Collection in England. This bit of film (see 'Shuttleworth 2008 trailer') can be downloaded and gives a great feel for pioneer aviation. The first aeroplane featured is the Bristol Boxkite, and has a modern engine.

RAAF Museum Archive.

(To digress a moment; here's a picture of Richard Williams, the 'father' of the Royal Australian Air Force, with a rotary engine on a Boxkite when he was learning to fly in 1914. The Boxkite is a 'pusher' so the engine is behind the wing, pilot and fuel tank, and even behind the propeller! I'm lending a hand to a team, Project2014, building a replica of this aircraft, for the centenary.)

The second aircraft in the film (the monoplane) is the oldest airworthy British aircraft in the world, the 1912 Blackburn, and is flown here by chief pilot of the Collection (and qualified test pilot) Andy Sephton, who makes it look easy. Yes, they do call "Contact!"

Andy Sephton aloft in the Blackburn 1912, last year. James

You'll note Andy 'blipping' the engine - the bits where it goes quiet. The pilot carefully juggles the fuel/air mixture by hand, so the engine doesn't stop accidentally - but power variation is done by deliberately stopping the engine and re-starting it before it gets fouled or cold - rather like having a stuck-on accellerator, no gears and driving the car by using the ignition key...

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the Vintage Aviator team have built a brand new replica German rotary, the Oberursel and have video of it on the test stand here. (Well worth a look.) The wooden propeller is a sculptural work of art, I feel. Note the castor oil dripping from the engine at the end of the film.

The details and how they did it are here. Amazing. (The Vintage Aviator team are funded by Peter Jackson, the film-maker, so hobbits are useful after all.)

From when 'planes were wood, wire and linen, and engines took skill; when men were men - and regular!

Sorry we can't bring you the smell of a rotary powered aircraft, but the internet has it's limitations. It's one of my favourite smells anyway.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Two little monkeys....

From here.

They can get pretty formal in Calgary, y'know.

Yes, this is called 'Wasting time on the inter-webby-thingy'.


Friday, March 6, 2009

A day at the Queen Vic market

We get to the market about once a week, and usually it's me (James) with Meghan and sometimes it's Bev. If it's a red letter day, it's all three of us!

So, because it was all three, I was able to take photos without being too laden down. Above is the fruit & veg shed.

Some of the names are mildly amusing.

We usually start at the Polish Shop. Cold meats, and many other things to make a Pole homesick.

We've not been buying much bread lately, because Bev's been making her own, but the two bread shops we patronise offer a remarkable range, with bread types from all over the world. However I'm a bit worried about his moustache.

One of the bread shops has a sideline (literally, it's around the side) in CHOCOLATE. This is just a small selection of the larger lumps.

Then onto the meat and fish hall.

"I'd rather be swimming..."

Jagos are our regular butchers. They know me all too well, but still make sure we get the good stuff. Mmmm pork fillet... steak... topside... rrr...

And then onto the fruit & veg across the service road. By this time we're usually feeling broke, but (hopefully) not too laden!

Gotta watch those little old ladies.

Bev stroking some 'Hattifatteners' (Kipfer potatoes).

And then it all got colourful...

Enough apples for teacher to buy a PhD!

And lastly a sign spotted by Bev warning of the fruit ahead. Man on a forklift - 'Man go'. Geddit? Oh, OK. Sorry.


Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cheesecake, Gromit!

Cooked by Bev (if you are lucky, she'll let you know the recipe...)

And enjoyed by the family Bondy and us. It was v. good.

And no Wensleydale.

It's over

After a day and a half of moderate rain (never so welcome before) the worst of Victoria's 2009 bushfire period is most likely over. Last Tuesday was like awaiting the reports of a bombing raid.

Fiddleheads of ferns, Marysville, October, 2006. Burnt, February 7th, 2009. James.

It was expected to be a high fire danger day, exceeding the factors of 1939's Black Tuesday, but through luck, some less than expected weather factors and high alert by the whole state (including a first of a text-message to all Victorians from the police) it was beaten off. There are, incredibly still fires burning - four major fires are no longer a threat, but are being closely watched. Yesterday and today had steady rain in Melbourne, and low winds.

The Age:

THE worst of Victoria's catastrophic bushfire season is over, authorities say. Rain across the state has brought an unofficial end to a ruthless summer.

Many residents forced to flee are now safe to return home. About 1000 interstate firefighters are also going home. So, too, are 121 from New Zealand, Canada and the US. One hundred and fifty NSW police went home yesterday, while 50 from South Australia arrived to reinforce local numbers.

Famously Margaret Thatcher said "there's no such thing as society". She was wrong. It was the social networks, local, state, national and international that has shown that we can cope with natural disaster, and that people do care and will selflessly help their community. To address her quote in full, people showed that they were prepared to put their neighbours before themselves, as fire fighting volunteers (some who lost houses and even family members while defending their fellow Victorians) as those who gave from caravans, houses, gifts, food and time, that they could well have used themselves. The Government played a part, but it was on the ground that the difference was made, as even the politicians recognise.

There's a lot of hard work still to be done; those lost won't be brought back, and the losses to all are, of course, irreplaceable, but it's clear that much morale has been built on incredible, unprecedented gifts, from the CFA and SES volunteers, support from around the world, and particularly across Victoria and interstate. There's a lot to be proud of, as well as being grateful it wasn't worse, as it so easily could have been.

Some statistics, for once, tell the story. over 4,500 km² (1,700 Sq Miles, 450,000 hectares, 1.1 million acres) burnt - an area greater than the whole of Surrey, England. 2,029 homes ( 3,500 structures in total) destroyed, and thousands more damaged. Many towns north-east of the state capital Melbourne have been badly damaged or almost completely destroyed, including Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewen and Flowerdale. The fires have left an estimated 7,500 people homeless, and killed 210 people, with 30 more still missing and over 500 injured.

The falls at Marysville, 2006. James.

The bush will grow again. We humans will find it hard, with damage to water catchments, tourism economy knocked sideways, and many people who faced a nightmare unable to return. We have to learn from the worst bushfire disaster in Australia's history, and learn that nature observes few limits. However for the bush, it's all part of the natural cycle.


Margaret Thatcher's quote in full: "They are casting their problems at society. And, you know, there's no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look after themselves first. It is our duty to look after ourselves and then, also, to look after our neighbours." We did, and will do, better than that.