The Deck

Wow – it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything! Keeping the blog up to date is obviously not one of my priorities at the moment. Still, I think posting every once in a while is a good activity in and of itself. Without further adieu, here is the deck.

Just a bit of background for context. I was made redundant around August 2017 – perfect opportunity I thought, to spend some time with Dad. After flying him over from New Zealand in October we went straight to work on the deck, a project I had been putting off because of lack of free time. Four months on and after one very stressful visit from the council, the deck is done.

A word of warning – If you live in Victoria and are planning to build a deck, you need a permit. No exceptions. If you have called your local council and they have said it’s fine – you most likely spoke to someone in the wrong department.


Day Oneish:

You’d be surprised at how much work digging can be.

Day Twoish:

Digging was going to take a while. As the ground was on an angle, I had to clear a lot of dirt away from the side of the house:

Once enough dirt had been cleared, I started to dig some of the post holes by hand. Each hole was taking around 3 hours – the ground had some very dry/hard layers making progress very slow. Time to get the machines in.

There were something like 24 holes to dig. We started with concreting the wall poles first, then the stumps for the deck.

With the stumps done it was time for the bearers:

After letting it set, we put the joists on:

After another 3 days and 3000 screws, we had the decking laid:

It was around this time when we got a visit from the local council. The gentleman politely asked if we had a building permit – which we did not. We were informed that an order to destroy the deck would be issued, and we would have up to a month to show evidence (In the form of a building certificate) that the construction was in-line with all the building regulations and local laws. All work on the deck stopped at this point while we worked out how best to deal with the situation. Long story short, two months and $2000, along with lots of back and forth with a local building company, the council and the estate management resulted in a certificate of compliance being issued, which the council thankfully accepted. The unexpected cost meant we had to leave the feature wall unfinished.

There were a few more bits left to complete:

After letting the deck leak out the tannin, it was time for the oil:

Now we just need to get that feature wall done….


Deck Details:

  • Decking – 90mm Merbau
  • Screws – Star Drive, Coloured
  • Joists / Bearers – Treated Pine
  • Posts – Cyprus Pine
  • Deck Size – 9.7m x 3.7m


I am still alive.

Knob of the month.

Brendyn Layne is the knob of the month.

Howto: Water Drop Photography

I had been trying to replicate a photo I saw online recently of a bowl of jellybeans though water drops. Not having a bowl of jellybeans lying around – I cheated. I loaded a picture of jellybeans onto my iPad and used that as a backdrop. Here are a couple of shots:



The main issue I had was getting the water to form beads. This time round I applied Glaco (Similar to RainX) to a different sheet of glass. The water beaded up instantly. This time I used some candles as the backdrop instead of the jellybeans.

 To take photos like this you don’t need much. I made a basic frame using knex, and then placed a clean piece of glass over the top. It did take a while to get the glass clean enough, trust me – its worth spending alot of time getting it perfectly clean. Dust specs and watermarks show up very clearly. I recommend using newspaper to clean and polish the glass.

I used a spray bottle to make the water drops. If you want more control over the layout, try using an eyedropper.

At the bottom of my frame I set up a grid of red and yellow/white candles. I tried a few different patterns, but this looked the most appealing.

I was using macro tubes for the first few photos. After removing them I noticed that I could still focus close enough to get a good shot. So, use them if you need to but check to see if you can achieve the effect without them first.

You will also need a good tripod. I have a Manfrotto that allows you to slide the center column out sideways, making it very easy to aim the camera straight down. Getting the camera position just right is very important if you are using macro tubes. Just a centimeter or so too high/low will put your image out of focus. I used a coin to help getting the camera in focus.

Focusing with a coin.

Single drop with unlit candles.

Single drop with lit candles.

Multiple drops.

Multiple drops with additional light source.

You may also want to adjust the aperture to control the bokeh.

Shower Thoughts II

Have you ever thought about the meaning behind being “Self Taught”? I was thinking about it in the shower the other day and came up with some interesting points.

Most people would assume if you are learning by yourself without the aid of a teacher that you are essentially teaching yourself – so, self-taught. But what are you using to teach yourself? Books? Audio files? These are resources that have been created by other people. So you are, in fact, being taught by someone else indirectly.

Then I thought about the methodology. Technically, in a class – you watch and listen to the teacher. Many classes have little interactivity, limiting your exposure to that which, essentially is the same as a book. So, would attending a class be counted as an effort on your behalf to further your knowledge? Would that be counted as being self-taught? Where do you draw the line?

Being able to learn something by yourself without any interaction with another human being, or work created by one would be the most strict definition of being self-taught, but would that be possible? Everything you know, you owe to some interaction with someone else.

To most people the idea of being self-taught most likely involves reading books and self-study. Obviously everyone will have their own opinion but in the end it all comes down to semantics.



iPad impressions.

I havent written about much for a long time so I though I would enlighten you with my brief review of the iPad.

When it was first announced I laughed at the idea that it would be useful for anything. I teased a few people who were considering buying one, arguing that it was just a giant smart phone. Almost a year later, I purchased one for myself.

The 3G model is basically a giant iPhone. There is no camera (iPad 2 is rumored to have one) or any phone function. The screen is obviously much bigger, but other than these few differences, the iPad is essentially the same as the iPhone.

That said, I would never buy an iPhone. There is just too much freedom that you get with Android, I couldn’t live with all the restrictions. Back on topic:

So, why did I buy the iPad? Well, there was the ‘Cool’ factor that came into play, but the reason I gave my wife was: To use it in class. In all honesty, I was expecting to have it replace my grades / attendance book. Pretty expensive replacement right? Anyhoo, other than playing around with downloading apps and messing with jailbreaking, the primary use for my iPad has been in the classroom.

I use an app called TeacherPal, which I highly recommend, to take attendance and grade students performance in class. The app itself is a little confusing at first, and exporting your data is only possible via email / iTunes (No dropbox support) but it does the job pretty well.

It’s also great for showing students pictures, videos and presentations in class. While dragging a laptop to each class is a pain, the iPad is light and small enough to make things easier.

The iPad is a unique device in that, it doesn’t make your day to day life easier unless you actively try to find uses for it. While I was always expecting to use it in class, I initially couldn’t think of any other uses for it. This is where the iPad’s size and battery life become an advantage. I deliberately brought it everywhere I went. Slowly, I found more and more uses for it. Taking notes, drawing pictures, computer administration. The apps available make the iPad such a versatile device and paired with the large screen basically make it a super portable laptop.

Which is the entire point of the iPad, portability. I find that with a laptop, I need a purpose to carry it with me – a presentation, work etc. With the iPad, its different. I have it with me all the time. This makes it so much more useful than a laptop.

Some might argue the functionality of a smart phone makes the iPad less useful. This is true to a certain extent, sending sms messages and checking friends status updates are all pretty easy to do on a smartphone however, having the larger screen makes it a less frustrating experience. The other great thing is it is perfect for sharing. Almost every time I have had to show someone something on my phone, they scrunch up their eyes and complain about being unable to see anything.

The iPad can be as useful as you want it to be.

The negative:

Coming from an Android environment, I was quite used to trying out apps before paying for them via ad supported demos. Some apps follow this trend in the Apple app store, but most don’t. The biggest annoyance for me is that the app store does not allow for refunds (in this sense). On Android you have a 15 minute window (Used to be 24 hours) to download an app, try it out – and see if it is what you wanted. If not, you can get a refund, simple as that.

On the app store however, no such luck. I was looking for a timetable app to manage my class schedule and I came across something that looked like what I wanted, and after paying for it – found that it was pretty useless. No refund for me – money down the drain.

But that’s not an iPad issue, it’s an Apple issue. My image of Apple is a pompous, greedy, self centered and stuck up company. They do whatever the hell they like and will keep doing it until the users start complaining en masse. This wont happen as the average iPhone user isn’t the same kind of person the average smart phone user used to be.
They don’t care if they can’t tether their phones via wifi/bluetooth, or that Skype doesn’t work over their 3g connections. They only care that they have the latest and ‘greatest’ phone that looks good. These people buy Apple for the image, not for the device. Apple is well aware that this demographic makes up most of their users, and as such they can do whatever they like.

For those of us who like to have control over our own devices, thankfully the iPad is also jailbreakable.

Love the iPad for what it is. Hate Apple for who they are. Don’t ask me why I hate Apple, I just feel it. I have nothing against their hardware. I think Apple hardware is some of the best out there. I also have nothing against OSX. I just don’t like Apple the company.

Ill leave you with an interesting note that may or may not be a good indicator of this attitude toward Apple:

Search google for:
“Hate Apple” – 9,690,000
“Hate Microsoft” – 6,750,000
“Apple Sucks” – 1,400,000
“Microsoft Sucks” – 273,000

Take the results as you will.

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