Thanks to everyone for helping today. Concrete moved, lots of weatherboards oiled, then A&I spent some time just looking at progress. The seven posts show the volume of the house, the two-storey space that will be the living room. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be gorgeous.

New Year’s Eve do at ours

If you’re in Wellington for NYE, you’re invited to ours.

That’s our new place, which has (some) walls and no roof. We’ll provide blankets and beanbags, for relaxing upon. You may wish to wear a hat, but there’ll be cups of tea and toast. We will plug in heaters until out electricity supply trips, and then plug in slightly fewer heaters.

There is indoor plumbing, though you may want a torch. Also, the site is littered with three metre drops, so no children please.

If it’s raining, then we’ll rig a tarp. If it’s raining lots, we’ll come up with a Plan B. (Any ideas?)

Weatherboard oiling day!

You’ll love it. (And by love it I mean enjoy the opportunity to contribute to an awesome project and get lots of fresh air smelling of cypress.)

We’ve a huge pile of weatherboards to oil. Come oil our wood. This is the pretty part of the job, it makes the wood look good. It’s lawson cypress, so smells gorgeous, and it’s thin stuff, so no heavy lifting, just light work with non-toxic natural oils.

This saturday, 10 am onwards (sunday if saturday’s raining). There’ll be tea and lunch.

This is what the house looks like from the road above:

No, the house with red window frames is the neighbours, you can tell from the way it’s got a roof, unlike ours. Ours is hidden down below the trees, nice and unobtrusive.

This weekend was mostly working on the posts and fighting with tarps in gales:

These are the bottom end of the posts:

As they go up two storeys, it’s all pretty chunky. And they fit on these brackets:

The top of the posts have these tenons. Big tenons:

And at the end of the day, it looks better than before:

Moving to an entirely different scale, I mocked up the circuit boards for the Fannies, to check everything fits. I’m glad I did, in two square inches of boards I found five errors. Well, three “won’t work” errors and two “could be better” tweaks. And it turns out that to make it fit, I have to overlap the boards in three dimensions, not just two. Yup, some of the high components on one board fit between high components on others.

My head hurts now

Here’s one of NZ’s climate change skeptics, talking about my employer:

“The main assertions in this story are inane, blatantly alarmist, undisguised advocacy and wrong. That the story is promulgated by our once-proud, independent, trustworthy and in particular scientific Royal Society is now a source of shame to all New Zealanders. There is no doubt that our Royal Society has abandoned, in respect of the global warming controversy, any pretence to objective investigation. It has instead adopted such a strong intention to champion the hypothesis of man-made control of the climate that it blinds itself to the necessity of finding evidence.”

So, all New Zealanders, are you ashamed?

This weekend was a weekend of cracking on

There was mad science:

Yes, that’s some PVC tubing, on bamboo skewers, in a frying pan on a radiator. What, you don’t have this kind of thing around your house? You’re weird. Anyway, I can only blame women for this.

And then there was copious nailing, with occasional extra pile holes to dig. Serious progress is being made on the deck around the front of the house, to give the builders safe access to start the front wall, which begins three metres off the ground.

Joist hangers are the metal bits at the ends of each of these cross-pieces. Twenty nails in each, fifty joists, two thousand nails, by hand. But we were done by lunchtime, thanks to the friendly horde of Emily, Matthew, alphamatrix, tatjna, and ferrouswheel:

There’s chunky concrete piles at the base of the posts supporting the deck. Apparently, they’re not to hold up the weight of the deck, but to hold down the deck when the wind tries to blow it away. That the deck has slots in it that let the wind through didn’t seem to factor into the requirements here. Holes for these posts were dug by hand too.

Each of those block walls is filled with concrete. In the concrete is a ridiculous amount of reinforcing steel. Most of it has been bent with this:

And there might have been some relaxing as well:

Climate change deniers in electoral suicide


There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle brewing over in Oz and today it exploded. Kevin Rudd’s Labour party was elected promising to do something about climate change, the something being their Emissions Trading Scheme. Rudd didn’t have enough votes so was relying on a bipartisan agreement with the opposition, the right-wing Liberal party.

There’s been grumbling in the Liberal party for a while now, with one of their senior people suggesting that climate change isn’t a scientific theory, at all, it’s a global communist conspiracy. So the Liberal party’s dumped its leader, they’re heading right into lunatic-land, thus forcing a new election. Given that 75% of Australians believe in the science of climate change and recognise that Australia has it’s back to a wall, then the outcome of that election shouldn’t be in doubt.

SMH – “Liberals embrace spirit of kamikaze fundamentalism”
Kiwiblog – “Abbot new Liberal Leader”
BBC – “New head for Australia opposition”

Energy research geekery – insulation

“Warm homes: Drivers of the demand for heating in the residential sector in New Zealand”, Philippa Howden-Chapman, et al, Energy Policy, 37 (2009), pp 3387-3399

New Zealand houses are cold and damp. This kills about 1,500 people per year.

We’ve a $300 million government scheme to insulate houses, open to all but with additional funding for low-income households. The push for this scheme was originally about saving power, but NZ homes are so cold that people seem to take the benefits as higher indoor temperatures. They
continue to buy about the same amount of energy for heating but live in healthier, warmer, drier homes.

There’s still a saving of 10-15% on energy use, but the main benefits of insulation are less people dying or getting sick. Whether that social benefit will pay back the $300 million investment, we don’t yet know, but it’s looking pretty good so far…

Pruning and board layouts

tieke always knew her circus skills would come in handy around the garden:

When not running around collecting dead tree, large chunks of the weekend were spent scratching my head, trying to fit all of this into the space normally occupied by one AA battery:

That’s a microcontroller, 4 Watt step-up power supply, accelerometer, LED driver, and switched output stage. Oh, and bonus connectors. Ended up with a design that looks like:

Three boards, to go on top of each other. There’s links between the boards that are hard to move around. There’s components on each board that can’t be moved. Getting everything to fit together was complicated. Didn’t I say I was going to do something easy this time?

It should all fit, and it should all work, but frankly, I’m just going to have to try it. Now, squeezing that much power into that small a space might mean that it all melts, but we’ll have to see…