Sunday, March 27, 2011

Nixie Cuckoo Clocks.

Today I had a series of exciting breakthroughs. And I have to share them with you. My cuckoo clocks took another step towards completion. It was a day of disappointments, a few electric shocks and finally a couple of giant leaps forward.

As you know with my clocks I've been embracing outdated technologies. It's one thing to build a cuckoo clock - there are kits out there - but I really want my clocks to be something whimsical, out of the ordinary. Cuckoo clocks are inherently playful - they're silly old things - so it's only right that I let my imagination get the better of me.

Today I worked hard to bring the nixie cuckoo clocks to life. As you know I'm a real fan of the nixie clocks. They're a fantastic throwback to a by-gone era. A time before LCD screens and digital readouts. There are of course lots of people out there building nixie clocks and putting their projects on line.

However no one - as far as I can tell - has built a nixie cuckoo clock. I'm pretty good at putting stuff together but when it came to the nixies I was a bit out of my depth so I turned to an expert.

Dr Peter Jensen - over at builds and sells nixie clocks and kits online. I've always admired his clocks for their simple elegance and their clever construction. So I got in contact with him and asked if he could help me. Instead of laughing in face he went to great lengths to assist me and even agreed to modify some of his kits to work with my designs. Each for them now pumps out a short pulse every hour on the hour.

Using a transistor as a trigger I wired the nixie output to my cuckoo clock. Then I set it going. With the flip clock I wired it up and fully expected it not to work. Amazingly the flip clock worked first time. I couldn't believe it.

This time no such luck. I was getting a charge out of the nixie clock. The cuckoo mechanism was working but something was wrong with my transistor trigger. It wasn't working. And it was my fault. In trying to find out what was going wrong I gave myself an electric shock off the first clock. For the record nixie clocks work on pretty big voltages. The nixie clocks don't work on batteries - wall socket all the way with these puppies. Dr Jensen did warn me about the voltages and thankfully it was only a small shock.

This is the first time I've used a "breadboard" to design a circuit and guess what? I wasn't doing it right (as the actress said to the bishop). It was like reading a map upside down once I'd turned it right side up - voila - it worked!

So here, for your viewing pleasure, are nixie clock one and two.

First up is  the version I call the "flatface" version which is based on Jensen's IN12 4 Tube kit. One of the buttons on this kit got broken so I used these little steel beauties I had lying around.

They're just mounted in a shoebox temporarily eventually they'll be on the side of the clock.

That's setting it. Now let's see it in action...

And this one is based on Jensen's IN14 6 Tube kit. I have some very interesting plans for what I'm going to do this one. Stay tuned.

I'm learning a lot as I work my walk through this project and rediscovering the joy of electronics and mechanics. It's a challenge and - yes - completely cuckoo but I'm loving it. Now I can't wait to see these through to the next stage.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Come take a walk with me...

Last night I hand a skinful of booze with my friend Bob. While we were in the bar he told me that the bat above the toilet was the only one in the room that wasn't smiling. You know he was right. See how happy the lower bat is and how very unhappy the upper bat is?

The toilets at the IVY bar in Kingsland are covered in pictures of animals taken out of an old botanical book. It's a cool look. Here especially for my interweb heroes - Kal - is a picture of his mortal enemy.

Now for reasons best known to my drunken brain I decided to walk home. Along the way I decided to take a few photographs. On the way home I decided to snap off a few shots of my journey. So armed only with my phone camera and the pretty cool hipstamatic I proceeded to take some shots of my journey home. Now I have very little memory of doing this but in the morning I found them on my phone. Come with me now and experience Nick's drunken walk across the cycle track...

Feeling drunk yet?

I reckon these are pretty cool. Drunken photography is something I should explore more.

Old coin eyes is watching you.

In the day time is where I buy pies. Sometimes.

And here waiting in the driveway, at the end of my journey, is my trusty steed, my Kingswood. Home safe. In the Wood of Kings. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sweet Thursday. Black Friday.

Now I've been following with much amusement the latest internet "sensation" Rebecca Black and her "song" Friday. Yes we're all enjoying it in an ironic way but I'd just like to add my twenty cents to this youtube "event." The song wasn't actually written by Rebecca it was written by two grown adults at the ARK music factory. That's right, two adult human beings wrote this tune. Rebecca's mother paid $2000 dollars for her daughter to record the song and have the video made. Not a bad investment considering that guessimates are saying the ditty has already made in excess of a million dollars.

Now I'm not here to attack young Rebecca - all power to her. However I'd just like to send a few small thoughts out into the ether. While we're all laughing about the lyrics of this song let's not forget this was put out not as a joke but the creators saw it as a serious song. A song that had something to say.

Now as chance who have it I am currently reading a book by master wordsmith John Steinbeck. The genius behind such classics as Cannery Row, Of Mice and Men and, of course, The Grapes of Wrath. The book is called Sweet Thursday and it's a cracking read full of characters, humor and a fair amount of Hooptedoodle. This book was written in 1954 but you'd swear in many cases he was talking about what's happening to us right now. The details are so truthful and universal.

Chapter 24 - "Waiting Friday" opens with a simple paragraph in which he sums up the day that ends our working week:

Not Everyone believes that Friday is unlucky, but nearly everyone agrees it is a waiting day. In business, the week is really over. In school, Friday is the half-open gate to freedom. Friday is neither holiday nor workday, but a time of wondering what Saturday will bring. Trade and amusement fall off. Women look through their closets to see what they have to wear. Supper is leftovers from the week. 

Beautiful isn 't? What 's more it's as true today as is was in 1954. Now here's how Rebecca Black sums up the same day.

Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday
Today i-is Friday, Friday (Partyin’)
We-we-we so excited
We so excited
We gonna have a ball today

So what am I saying? Are we watching - and listening to - the slow death of culture? Well maybe. No I'm just saying that maybe we could benefit from watching a little less youtube and reading a few more books. If anything it will make your conversations more interesting.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

These boots were made for walking...

In the continuing series of things I've found on the ground. For some reason I've spotted a lot of abandoned shoes recently. 

An arty colour picture to get us started. I don't think the urine stain on the ground had anything to do with the shoes at least I hope it hasn't.  

I like the way this cuban heel has ended up lying across the road marking. Almost as if it's standing on top of the line.

These shoes were standing on a back road off K'road in a little area frequented by "ladies of the night"  

I wonder if she was abducted by aliens and beamed up into the mothership? Just leaving the shoes behind. 

And finally this pair of shoes stranded on a traffic island. 

I don't know about you but there's something sad about these shoes standing a lonely vigil on a busy road. 

Then back to the shoes we started with - but this time in arty B&W. 

They put me in mind of an old saying...

"Walk a mile in your enemy's moccasins. Then you'll be a mile a way and you'll also have their moccasins."

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Navigator

"Film is collaborative. Being able to manage that collaboration is as important and as difficult as being a good writer." - Graeme Tetley 1942 - 2011.  

I was proud to call Graeme Tetley my friend. True we were very different writers, we approached the art of screenwriting from opposite ends of the spectrum but, somewhere in the middle, we found a place where we would sit share a glass of wine and plate of kedgeree.

He was a font of wisdom and a man who showed a love and passion for his craft that was evident every time he spoke. His writing and his films were truly lyrical and always walked an easy line between truth and poetry. True he was often a bit too fruity for my liking and I know he was always amused by the constant crowd-pleasing in my work. But we could always talk freely and I walked away from every one of our catch ups with a gem I could use.

With Graeme's passing we've lost not only a fine writer but one of the true trail-blazers of the New Zealand film industry. I've lost a fellow traveller, a mentor and a bloody good friend.

Last time I saw Graeme I said, "Let's catch up for a drink next time I'm in Wellington." He chuckled and said "I'd like that." I didn't get to have that last glass with him but I'll raise a glass today Graeme. Godspeed mate. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Beds are the new Couches

My regular visitors will be well aware of my fondness for photographing abandoned couches and chairs however recently I have spotted a new trend. Mattresses.

On one of my wanders I discovered these. In my mind there is something both beautiful and disturbing about them. 

So there I was thinking these were unrelated events. But I was soon put right when I discovered the motherlode. You can tell very well from this picture but this woman's front yard and down the side of her house is littered with chairs, couches and mattresses. I only got the chance to take one picture before the woman opened her window and started yelling abuse at me

Many of you have wondered what on earth I'm doing wandering the streets taking these random pictures well I'm figuring it's a genetic thing - my cousin completely independently of me does the same thing but with even more success. Check out his website Weird in Wellington for his much more comprehensive take on the streets of our capital city.