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  • 6 months already?

    Tuesday, October 16, 2012


    Wow, it's just gone 6 months since I moved here. I know I said this at the 3 month mark, but it kind of feels like it's been longer. The cold, wet weather when I arrived was just a distant memory, after summer's record-long 82-day dry spell. But fall has finally arrived, and it's not wasted any time getting caught up on lost rainfall. Some of the mountains in the surrounding areas look to be getting their first snow next week, and the shops are filling up with cold weather gear to go with all the Halloween decorations. I haven't bought any snowshoes or snow chains yet, but I don't think I will be waiting too much longer, because they're the kind of things you don't want to be caught without.

    Here's the highlights of what happened over summer:

    • I went to Portland for a weekend to see SMODCast live
    • I went to my second Mariners baseball game
    • I saw my first NFL game, the Seahawks play the Green Bay Packers, and the Seahawks won!
    • I went to PAX!
    • I tried clam chowder, and mahi mahi. This was a big thing for me
    • I flew to LA for a weekend catch up with uni friends
    • I saw the Blue Angels at the Seafair airshow
    • Work had a company golf tournament, and my team came dead last
    • I went on a chocolate factory tour
    • I got a good close-up look at Mt Rainier from the top of Crystal Mountain
    • I drove over the mountains to Leavenworth, a Bavarian-themed town

    I ticked several things off my to-do list, but I've found a few new things to replace them with. In the next 3 months I plan to go on the Boeing factory tour in Everett, the Pike Place Market food tour, the Seattle underground tour, and maybe the Safeco Field or CenturyLink Field tours. Then there's tubing when the snow arrives, and I'm considering getting some beginner's snowboard lessons. I still want to go to the east coast, but haven't got that planned yet. Then there's random things, like this weekend I'm going to see Bill Cosby live. Bill Cosby!!

  • 3 months in the US

    Saturday, July 14, 2012



    Today is 3 months since I moved to the US. It has gone quickly while feeling like I've been here for ages. Here's a quick recap:


    • I had a Camaro for the first weekend
    • Downtown Kirkland is awesome. As soon as I saw it I knew this was home. 
    • Everyone is super friendly. It feels like a really safe place. 
    • Most people I meet, on finding I just moved here for work, ask if I came to work for Microsoft. Another common question is if I am British.
    • I drove my new car home while still owing $8k on it after my money transfer hadn't actually completed when I thought. 
    • I aced the driving test, and the only issues I've had while driving here have been occasionally going to the wrong door to get in, or hitting the wipers instead of the indicator.
    • On a random drive to nowhere one day I found myself at a ski field, complete with snow - in late Spring!
    • I have done not one, but two drives to Vancouver in the last month alone. 
    • I still haven't got used to the sight of snow-capped mountains on the horizon. Even half way into summer, there's still a few with snow. 
    • The 4th of July was crazy, with thousands turning out to Kirkland's parade, and many, many fireworks visible from my balcony that night.


    There's still more to look forward to, including the Seattle air show in early August, and PAX - a big gaming expo - in late August. I have a list of day-trips around Seattle I still want to do, as well as weekend road trips to Portland, etc. Then there's plans to venture out of the northwest, and do a weekend in somewhere like New York, Boston, etc.

    :)


  • Delonix Regia

    Thursday, November 24, 2011




    Otherwise known as a Royal Poinciana tree. 


  • Improved Arduino Thermometer

    Sunday, November 6, 2011

    I went to Jaycar a few days ago and picked up some more components to play with. This meant I could upgrade my Arduino Thermometer so it's easier to read, plus added a Min/Max mode.


    It now uses 2 shift registers to drive the 8 LEDs of each of the 7-segment displays, and has a button to switch between live, minimum, and maximum temperature observations. Here's a video of it in action.



    Anyway, I think I'm about done with the thermometer concept now, so I won't bore you with it any longer. :)

  • Arduino Thermometer

    Monday, October 31, 2011

    For the last few months I've been considering getting an arduino board to play with, and last week I took the plunge and bought a SparkFun Inventor's Kit.

    Over the weekend I had a bit of a play with some of the example circuits, making some small changes to them here and there when I saw further possibilities. But most of the examples are basically just that - examples of how the components work. Most of those that I built really amounted to no purpose.

    So tonight I put together what I'd learned so far and built something with a purpose: a digital thermometer.


    Ok, so it's not the easiest thermometer to read! Here's a close-up of the LEDs.



    The top row of LEDs (which are actually yellow) show the 10's, so 2 out of 3 lit means the temperature is in the 20's. 

    The bottom row is made up of 1 yellow (on the left, currently off) and 4 reds (3 on and 1 off). I'll explain the yellow in a second and skip to the reds, which show the degrees in increments of 2. That is, 2, 4, 6, and 8 respectively, from left to right. The photo shows up to the third is lit, so they represent 6 degrees. 

    The yellow LED on the left is the last unrepresented digit: whether the temperature is odd or even. It's off in the photos, meaning the temperature is even.

    So the temperature is 20+6+0, or 26C.

    It all starts with a TMP36 temperature sensor, which is just visible on the very right of the breadboard in the first photo - it looks identical to a transistor. The voltage drop across this sensor changes with temperature, so I measure that with one of the analog pins on the arduino and do the appropriate conversion into a temperature.

    Then I convert this temperature into the bits that represent the different sets of lights: the tens, the even degrees, and the odd bit. 

    This is then passed to a 74HC595 shift register, which controls all 8 LEDs via only 3 digital out pins on the arduino. 

    Given the shift register's outputs and the number of spare digital out pins on the arduino, I could have probably controlled 12 LEDs in total to make it much easier to read - that is, 3 LEDs for the 10's, then one each for the digits 1-9, in which case the temperature from the photos would have been 2x10 + 6. But that seemed like less of a challenge than having to work out how to convert the temperature to the final 8-LED solution. :)

    Now back to the bigger challenge: what to build next? :)

    On that note, the arduino is quite amazing. Given I have a limited number of components and a rather small breadboard to work with, I have to disassemble everything I build in order to build the next thing. But given most of the work is in planning the design and writing the code (called a sketch), it's fairly easy to rebuild a circuit a second time around. So even though I'll probable disassemble this tomorrow night, all it'd take is a few minutes rewiring, then upload the sketch and it'd be back in action. 

  • iPhone macro photos

    Monday, October 17, 2011

    I was messing around with the camera on my new iPhone this afternoon and found it's fairly decent at taking super close-up/macro photos.

    Here's some of the results. These aren't touched up or cropped in any way.


  • Rain delay

    Thursday, October 13, 2011


    Ken Mackay Oval at Nundah, home of Toombul District Cricket Club during a heavy downpour this afternoon. They only just put that picket fence in during the last two weeks and I've been so tempted to get a photo of it. I had planned on taking a photo when the sun is low in the sky and the shadows are long, not during a torrential downpour!

  • 4 years

    Sunday, October 9, 2011

    During a weekend spent watching the V8s at Bathurst, I was reminded that it was this time 4 years ago that I ruptured my achilles


    This was a big year in that respect, because I finally got back into running, which I had only just got into before the injury. 

    It started off by walking to work for a few months, which not only meant I managed to finally slim down a bit again, but gave me some confidence in the leg again. Every time in the past that I'd asked a bit more of it, it would give me grief - whether it be the achilles, the calf, or the knee.  

    Then I moved house and walking to work was no longer an option, so I fired up the treadmill with the intention of walking a couple of times a week. Instead, I found myself winding up the speed and doing more jogging than walking. After the leg failed to make any complaints, I decided to keep it up. To make sure I kept up with it, I set myself a goal: the 2011 Bridge to Brisbane fun run.

    So last month, not only did I enter the 5km B2B, but I finished slightly faster than I expected, finishing in 37 mins 22 sec. I'm not going to say it was easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it wasn't near as hard as I was expecting it to be. I was a little sore over the next few days - particularly the calf - but all up the leg handled it really well.

    I haven't decided whether I'll enter another fun run in the near future, but it was such a good feeling to be back where I was prior to the injury. It feels like it's really behind me now.

  • The air up there

    Tuesday, October 4, 2011

    I thought this was an interesting angle of the wheel at South Bank. It almost makes it look like they're not coming back down. Plus it's so very nearly monochromatic.

  • South Bank Time-Lapse

    Saturday, October 1, 2011

    Here's the result of today's trip to South Bank.

    It was so windy it was wobbling the camera on the tripod! Not a good day to be up in the wheel - it's nauseating enough just watching the gondolas rocking back and forth, let alone being in one.



    These were shot at 1 second intervals, played back at 25fps. I accidentally left the camera in aperture-priority mode for a couple of the sequences, which caused the flickering in some of them as the camera adjusted to the clouds passing over. Disappointed with myself for that.

    The music is the "Piano Ballad" loop from Garage Band.