Monday, 7 January 2013

Building a Fokker DR1

The New Year

Ho for a new year.

It starts with me having to blitz my computer because nothing was working anymore so I feel a little disorientated as this is no longer the personally adjusted machine that it has been for the past year or so. I daresay it will get back that way in time, but for now it feels a little odd.

I've gone all into making models again. Towards the end of last year I was building a  scale model on Mont Saint Michel (really!) but I was stupid and took it out during a party to show it off and the spire of the church got knocked off and is now lost. So I have put that down until I feel up to finding a new spire somehow and finishing it off. More on that if/when I restart it. However, this is about the Red Baron's fighter plane...

The Model

 About 8 or 9 years ago, I was tempted into subscribing to a partwork magazine that would end with a 1/8 scale model of the Red Baron's Fighter plane. I thought this would be a good introduction to modelling at a easy pace of a few pieces each week. (I should say re-introduction, because I have been making models on and off all my life, just not very well). 100 issues later (that's £399 later) I had a lot of magazines and had hardly stared on the model itself. Only then did it occur to me just how much I had spent on the model and I started to wonder if cutting my teeth on a £400 model was a good idea.

Curiously enough, when I look around on the internet, no-one seems to think the model is over priced and the feeling is that generally it is worth the effort. So I decided to try to get the thing out again and see what I could do. To my amazement, I still have all the issues and all the bits. These posts are definitely not going to be about how brilliant I am, but more like how mediocre I am at this sort of thing, but I love making things (when I get up the courage to do so) so her I am trying once more. Do not expect the finished article to look anything like you find here or here.
This is the picture from the cover of issue 1. In fact the full finished model is covered in red plastic. I'm not sure how good that effect will be so I might do what others have done and just leave it uncovered as above.

Progress Report

When I unpacked the parts again I found that I have got to the end of issue 8 which meant I had the little winglet between the wheels largely constructed and the two lower wings. I may go back and comment on the earlier issues and I may not.

Issue 9

Issue 9 is all about capping the ribs of the wings and joining them together. This involves bending 36 strips of wood into the right shape and sticking them on the the wings over and under each rib. You then have to put the whole thing somewhere safe until it is required later in the construction.
The last four upper caps to stick on duly bent into shape plus my handy homemade file.

I just completed that today and am moving on to issue 10 which starts the construction of the engine.but these are metals parts and I need a very small drill bit to make them fit together properly so there will be a delay while they arrive in the post.
The completed lower wing. The biggest problem is finding somewhere safe to keep it as it doesn't fit into any of the boxes I can find... It's also slightly warped - whether that is from the 8 year wait from starting to make it and completing it today or from the fact that the parts were warped when I originally put it together (entirely possible) I don't know. I wonder if there is a way to straighten it now.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Who's Boring Now?

To Hell with it...

The bald truth is that I am afraid of being boring. I have been afraid of being boring all my life. With the major effrect that I become taciturn in the presence of anyone who shows the least degree of self confidence. Here on the internet there are a LOT of people who have the confidence to say things on many and varied subjects. So it has been hard for me to join in. But I want to join in.

I have a blinding memory of me when I was 15. As usual, I was thinking that I was boring because I never had anything interesting to say so I never said much: so I thought I was boring because I never said much. In one of those freakish (and blessed) moments of random thinking, it suddenly came to me that, it didn't matter that I was boring, beause I had friends anyway, and they had no problems spending time with me. So clearly, I was doing something right. It was a wonderful revalation. And it seems that from that moment on, I was far more confident and happy because I accepted my friends and could say what I felt like when I felt like it.

That euphoric self-confidence lasted right the way through the rest of my school days. Unfortunately, it didn't last to university where I was suddenly confronted with a whole lot of strange people with degrees of self-confidence I had never imagined before. I retreated back into my shell then and I don't think I have ever come out again except on a few rather rare occasions.

So here I am 36 years later worrying about what I say on a personal blog. I am about to have that revelation again... It Doesn't Matter What I Say. This blog is for me and if others want to read it then good for them. But I am the one that is writing it so I can say what is important to me. And It Doesn't Have To Be Interesting To Anybody Else.


You have been warned.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Too Darn Hot...

Not too much imagery on the clip, but the singing is good.

Well, I could have picked several songs for today's post, but I settled for this because it is relevant to the last one in some small way.


It is way too hot. We had a brief week of wonderful weather in March followed by a week of snow and ice and and then six or so weeks of almost continuous rain, And now we have summer with a vengeance. Frankly, I would have preferred to work  my way into summer with the weather warming up gradually, but that is not the way these days. I suppose I should be grateful that we have sun at all.

All this means, though, that I have not really managed to spend any time in the garden during a very important time of the gardening year. I sound like a regular gardener, don't I? - well actually, that is some distance from the truth. But we did pay somebody a fair bit of money to get the garden under control last summer and I was looking forward to reaping the fruits (literally) of that endeavour this year.

I did manage to plant potatoes, garlic and asparagus, but that is about all. We do still, however, have a wonderful crop of dandelions. We are struggling to get the lawn under control as well now that we are able to brandish a lawn mower but it is hot and tiring work and I can't do much at a time. Still we make progress. Slow, but progress.

So, why the particular song above? Well, this is by way of being able to say that the Carillon performance went very well indeed - although my voice went completely during the first set.. This was one of the songs we performed to the waiting crowd in the bar before the main concert.

And we were needed, because the orchestra didn't even arrive at the venue until half an hour after the show was supposed to have started (they missed the ferry in the morning) , so we had to keep the audience entertained in the bar for a while until things were ready to start. Of course, they couldn't just get off the coach and walk on to the stage, so the solo pianist (for the Mozart piano concerto) also did his bit by preforming a couple of Mozart piano sonatas while they sorted themselves out.

When the concert proper finally started, the conductor aplogised for the delay and assured us that everyone was now present, however the music for the first piece they were to play had not arrived. So they played something else instead. Altogether, an entertaining evening.

Back to the lawnmower...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Final Fling

The Song:

Adelaide's  Lament from Guys and Dolls. Actually I think she got the words slightly wrong in the second verse, but I am sure that, if I don't mention it, no-one will notice. She recovered well.

This isn't exactly the most representative version of the song, since it is taken entriely out of context from the musical, but it is difficult to find decent renditions of songs on YouTube and she does perfrom it very well.

 Nearly There...

After months of not having any evenings to myself, I have finally come to the last show for a while which is tonight at Middlesbrough Town Hall. We are going to be the support band for the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. Alright, we are providing the background entertainment in the bar before the show and during the interval.

The relevance of the clip above it that I have developed a cold. If I had to have a cold, I would rather it had waited a week when all this stuff was past, but there you are: these things never seem to ask permission first.

But this is the first time I have really sung with such singiness to the accompaniament of a cold and it makes me a trifle nervous. I have done solo parts in musicals before but that was just me vs the orchestra and I have a certain amount of acting latitude to make up for any vocal shortcomings. This, however, is a small a capella singing group called Carillon - 6 singers, of which I am the lone tenor - and I feel far more exposed. I have been taking advice on how to make sure my voice behaves itself when the time comes, so it should all go well in the end.

Actually I am really loking forward to tonight. I love singing with this group. We listen to each other and now, after a year of working together,we are starting to respond and feed off each other. It is such a long time since I was in a regular musical group that played together rather than alongside each other and that is worth all the colds in the world.

I actually trained as a flautist, not a singist, so I feel very flattered that I can be part of this group. And, now that I think about it, the last group I felt such an affinity with were the wind quintet I was in while at school. There also, we were playing together for several years and, in the end it was just a marvellous experience - it was one of the biggest wrenches of leaving school.

Off to make some more hot honey and lemon....

Sunday, 6 November 2011

OK, let's Talk

Reading on the BBC website today about the occupation of St Paul’s by the, apparently peaceful, protesters at the way our country is being run for the benefit of a few rather than that of the many, it seems time to make my own statement.

I note with relief that the effect it is having is to get people talking about the problem rather than starting more fires in the London streets. And this is a good thing. It is about time this was discussed in a constructive fashion. The time for finger pointing and party politics is past, and we need to find ways of dealing with the situation locally, nationally and globally.

In fact the time passed sometime around the turn of this century when the economic bubbles kept forming and popping. When the governments first realised that, to keep people voting for them they had to promise things they couldn’t deliver. When the final pieces of the family silver were sold off by our government to pay for these promises, and they had to fall back fully on the private sector to bail them out, which they did by encouraging businesses to show bigger and bigger profits that were lapped up by the hedge funds and pension funds on promises of yet further wealth for the masses.

I remember thinking at the time; “how can this work, where is all the money coming from?” But I had no economic qualifications and was bad at writing my thoughts down and who would listen anyway? Besides, this was such an obvious question that surely those in the know were asking it too. Well, maybe they were, but it seems as if vested interest was skewing the answers. It turns out that my question was a pertinent one. I wish I had asked it out loud at the time.

Anyway, here we are, in a pretty awkward situation which appears to have no solution. This is, of course a false impression. There is clearly at least one solution – that of economic meltdown and the slow rebuilding of confidence and wealth. I don’t like that solution, partly because I don’t think we will learn anything new that way, but mostly because it will be extremely unpleasant for very many people (including me) and there is no guarantee that the final result will be a place where any of us would want to live.

So, let’s not blame, let’s not get angry, let’s not despair. Let’s just see what we can do.

Legislation is important. But it needs to be the kind that will work and build confidence and not a rushed stop-gap measure. This really does need to be talked through in detail and this will take time. But we don’t have to wait for legislation. We can start now by engaging the businesses, in particular the finance sector and the large funds, to start to make a difference voluntarily. Without the backing legislation in place, this means that it needs to be somewhat in their interest to make such a difference. For this, I am sure that a proper public awareness campaign of the sort of things that will work in everyone’s favour will help nudge businesses in the right direction.

So, discussion is important too. But this discussion must not be restricted to the economists, businessmen and politicians. We need articulate people, of good temper, from the rest of society to join in as well. And not just to be consulted, but intimately involved in all the committees and other meetings at all times. We need the results of those discussions to be as public as possible so everyone can see that they are directed towards a solution for everyone. This is not about politics or vested interests, but about what can and must do to restore the faith of the masses.

For the record, here are a few ideas that we might start with from a non-economist. I am by no means certain that they will make the required difference, but they seem to be pointing in the right direction and could at least form the basis of some discussion.

The customer is the first priority of a business.

Shareholders need to learn to take second place. In theory they are low down the pecking order in a case of bankruptcy, so I would guess that the original intention was that they should not be able to turn the direction of a business from its core competency to that of making money for the shareholders. But in reality, since they ultimately own the businesses, they can and often do force a business to concentrate more on paying good dividends and keeping their share prices going up than on what their customers actually want. This can only be bad in the long run.

We need to be creating things that are tangible, not ephemeral

The allure of selling serivces and other intangible things is that the raw materials are cheap. But, in the end, what creates wealth is things. If there is nothing tangible to show for our work there is very little to fall back on when things go badly. The trend of cutting back on manufacturing over recent decades needs to be questioned and reversed by some means. I know materials are expensive and manufacturing traditionally works because the manpower requirement is relatively cheap, but some radical thinking in this regard needs to be done. If the world goes sour, we need some real things that we can call our own.

A business without any customers is not a business

There is a trend to invent various businesses whose only purpose is to satisfy some specific or regulatory need for the people who created the business. These are the so-called ‘special purpose vehicles’ (SPVs).  Any attempt to create an SPV should be looked into rather thoroughly by regulating authorities and by the businesses themselves to find out what they are really doing to the company and if they are distorting its books in any way. Companies should strive to simplify their structure in this regard and operate with the minimum number of these vehicles. If a company structure doesn’t fit on to one side of an A5 sheet of paper, people should ask why.

Perhaps mergers should be discouraged for now

Not stopped altogether, but the motives should be understood thoroughly and approved before allowing them.  What we need more of is competition. This is the one of the few incentives that companies have to keep the customer at the forefront of their daily business. Mergers can be used to inhibit competition. As far as the customer is concerned, lots of smaller businesses should be a better deal than a few mega-businesses. Also, as long as the shareholders allow a business to put their customers first, a customer centred approach need not necessarily cut into the company’s finances. There are surely more ways to attract customers than simply having the lowest prices. Let’s get inventive here.

We need small businesses

Small businesses are good for the economy. They have to be – they create jobs and they have to serve their customers well or they don’t survive very long. We need to make it less scary to start up a business. There have to be more ways than venture capital, prohibitive loans and putting your house at risk. Maybe banks can start up business savings packages in the way that we used to save up for that deposit on our first home. Save now to be able to start your business at favourable rates in 5 years’ time.

We need a gesture of faith

Company directors and the wealthy need to indicate that they are with us in this situation. No amount of quoting numbers at us will dispel the feeling that they have let us all down badly. Even if a director’s pay is a fraction of a per cent of the company’s expenses it merely seems to most of us that they don’t care to help as long as they can cream off enough of the company funds to make their lives easier. In most cases, even if the company collapses, they will be alright. The same cannot be said for all the other employees. Maybe, if, instead of taking a bonus, that same money was paid into some employee support fund, it would show that they care. And who wouldn’t want to work for an employer who cares for its employees? I am sure that an inventive board could think of additional ways to show their solidarity with their workforce.

The public also needs to be responsible

Yes, we benefitted from the bubbles as well. There was high employment and cheap gadgets. There were also suspiciously cheap loans. We had the ability to put our hands on more money than many of us would have earned in a lifetime. We should have asked how this was happening. I suppose we didn’t because we liked it and because we were assured by the governments and financial institutions that it was due to brilliant and innovative strategies and that there were sufficient and rigorous controls on what was being done. Ha ha.

As the majority shareholders in our world, we owe it to ourselves to look more closely at any miracle that comes along from now and ask what the true cost might be. We should not buy everything simply because we are told we want it and should conduct our financial transactions with a view to being able to afford what we buy.

Close the poverty gap

This is hard on those with a low income. Somehow we need to make it easier to move both up and down the social ladder. This means more opportunity for the less well-off and less fear of moving down the ladder for those with money now. There is, after all, only a finite amount of wealth. Most of the apparent growth in the available wealth has been to make the numbers bigger, but that doesn’t always mean you can buy more. If someone gains wealth someone else is certainly losing it. The more we close the gap, the more manageable and bearable this fact will be. However, I don't think there is any magic wand. Because wealth is finite, we all need to be prepared to donate to this cause.

In conclusion (for now)

These are just ideas and points for discussion. I don’t know if any of them are new. What is important here is that those with the expert qualifications clearly need some new ideas and those will not necessarily come from within their ranks, nor should they. Let’s not be angry at them, they are doing their best and may well come up with the working solutions. But let’s join in the debate too without shame and without fear of being called stupid. Who knows what chance remark will be the seed to our renewed and prolonged stability?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

The Bloggy, Bloggy Me

So, let me see now...

So far we have an introductory paragraph, an admonition for everyone in the world to try harder to be nice, an excuse for not writing anything much and a few moans about being tired and cooking the right food. Clearly, the true Bloggy Me has yet to crystalise from my disorganised brain.

When I originally intended to start writing things (a long time ago) the plan was to write a new article each day that was inspired by a previous article or by some current event that took my fancy. That seems a good plan and better than randomly taking a snapshot of my mood each day. So, as a start let me lay down a bit about who I am, or at least what interests me.

In rough order of importance, what grabs my attention consists of:

1. Music (mostly classical)
2. Games (mostly board games, but others also get a look in)
3. Me
4. Maths
5. Physics
6. Other sciency things
7. Books (a large proportion of which are science fiction)

That should be enough to get started with. Let the associations begin.

But to begin with, let me see if I can stop the site giving my time of posting as if I lived on the West coast of Ameirca instead of the UK.

EDIT: Success! At least on getting the right time stamp.

Sleep, sleep, sleep

Sad to say, I did not cook the fish sauce as promised yesterday. Instead I spent most of the day asleep.


In the end I survived on some of the leftover curry I cooked a couple of days ago and some apple confection my wife made, which was delicious. The fish is in the fridge defrosting ready for its ordeal tomorrow.

I did manage to get out of the house for a bit though so that was one good thing.

I'm feeling OK right now, but it is 12:30am and not really that much left of the day. Ho hum.

Onwards to tomorrow.