Confusion Is Optional – Apply For Our Brochure

We are contemplating digging a missile silo into our front lawn and installing an old Minuteman I we got off eBay. I initially wanted an Atlas D but the wife said she isn’t going to get up at night to pump in the liquid oxygen because it would disturb the cat. I am going to have to have a solid rocket and be satisfied with that. I agreed if I can have a concrete door that slides aside on rollers.

The problem with this is when you go to the BGC or Midland Bricks display at the Homecrafts exhibition they have any number of concrete options to choose from. And they also put them on their website. Unfortunately the numbers on the website don’t match the samples at the exhibition. You can’t really be sure if the colour you choose is the one that will be delivered.

It didn’t use to be this tough. In Australia there was a lot of concrete used for building  – sometimes delivered by trucks or sometimes mixed on-site by Italian grano workers. You pretty well got one standard product – grey – and you could paint over it later if you wanted to be flash. Now there’s integrated colours plus choices in the sort of rocks in the cement. You can have it all exposed and polished it you wish, but that costs more. I’d be satisfied with a simple 3 metre-thick blast door in plain grey but the wife is fussy. She’s looking at colour cards and trying to match the paint on the missile fuselage. I’m smart enough to shut up but it is all going to take forever…

I feel like just parking a mobile SS-4 trailer in the drive and making do with that.

 

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The Little World – Christmas Train/Tree/House/Missile Silo

Well, it is that time of year again – when we get out the old plastic tree, dodgy string of lights, tinsel wreath, and all the unwanted gifts that have lain in storage since last year. A quick re-wrap and some new address cards and they are going to be ready to be launched again.

The shortbread may be a little doubtful by now – the use-by date starts with 19…- but the mechanic’s knitted sparkplug cosies should be no problems. And the soaps never go out of date – you just splash them with California Poppy to freshen up the aroma and no-one knows the difference.

It’s also time to get out the Christmas centrepiece – something to go around that tree or to sit on the table during The Big Lunch. Trains are traditional around a tree, gingerbread houses for the table. But this year I am going to introduce a new tradition – the Christmas missile silo. A gaily decorated hatch in the centre of the dining table that fires a fully cooked turkey when you press the launch button.

Can you imagine the look of wonder and anticipation on the faces of the kiddies as the warning Klaxons ( 190dB ) go off and the red lights flash. The armoured doors slam shut and the steel bolts shoot home. The liquid oxygen fumes rise up from the table and the  hatch swings open… The countdown  10..9..8..etc. and at ” Zero! Launch The Bird! Ignition! ” the 15 kilo butterball rises on a column of flame and gravy until it hits the ceiling.

With a deafening roar it strikes the overhead light fitting and explodes ( careful segmenting of the bird as it is roasting plus thin strings around it to take the initial launching forces ), raining drumsticks and dark meat down over the screaming diners. As they dodge potatoes and stuffing a cloud of green peas drifts toward the lounge room and drops onto the latecomers. Never mind a tablecloth – they never had a tablecloth at Bikini Atoll.

You’re always looking for a way to make Christmas more memorable for your children? They’ll never forget this one. And the good news is that they will always have a reminder – the half-life of fruitcake is longer than most people care to admit.

 

The Little World – When You Try To Decide

The business of decision in the Little World is a great deal more difficult than it used to be. I do not envy a beginner in the various hobbies; diecast collecting, plastic model building, miniature houses, or r/c hobbies.

What a crock… I envy them prodigiously and wish I was starting out again in half a dozen different fields. With half a dozen separate sources of hobby money, I hasten to add…

The peep at the plastic modellers show was reminiscent of what I have seen in lots of other places; literally hundreds of kits available in any division of endeavour. The days of half a dozen Airfix plastic baggies and one model of the Bismark at the local toy store plus two tins of gloss Humbrol are well surpassed. I was staggered at the number of kits of things I would be delighted to build, and equally at the number that left me cold. The limiting factor would be money and time…no other technical restriction seems to exist.

The scale problem always exists, of course, and is nowhere more painfully evident than on the display tables for general modelling societies. There are wonderful models of all scales jumbled cheek to jowl and they all suffer from it – you can’t really appreciate any one thing unless you see it it concert with others that match it in scale and period. This is not what the exhibitors want, or can achieve, so it is no good me grousing about it. I noted that a society dedicated to a particular scale like the 1/72 ship modellers or to one era like the WWI airplane people do have a much better chance of a coherent show.

But the choices seem to be far more than I as a child would have been able to cope with. I had Airfix, Revell, Monogram, Hawk, and AMT to choose from – now there have to be a couple of dozen major makers to add to that and who knows how many specialist, garage, or wildcat makers. Of course some of them have priced themselves past what a child or sensible adult could ever afford to purchase…but then there are any number of foolish adults ( bless them ) wandering the aisles of the hobby show and some of them are seriously cashed-up. They are the golden hope that buoys the retailers and wholesalers and makes it possible for the lesser fish to have food as well.

How DO you decide what to do? I’ll explore the mindset of this in a future post…in the meantime grab whichever kit is nearest to you on the counter, pay for it, go home, and start cutting into the tips of your fingers.

Iron Down In The Soul

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How often do we pass construction sites, industrial machinery, or transportation equipment and really give a thought to what we see? I know I am as blind in many cases as if I were to wander through a jungle and miss the elephants.

Here are some images captured on a holiday trip that have caused some reflection.

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A boiler casing? A water tank? The Incredible Hulk’s lunch box? I must take more notice of the placards at museums… This was the Powerhouse, Sydney in the permanent Age of Steam exhibit. I am guessing the broken edge was not a good thing at the time.

Note the detail in the heading shot of the iron plates. From the layering effect seen at the edge of the centre plate I think this is wrought-iron. You can still see the marks of the riveting hammer around the rivets.

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Electrical power for Sydney. No hydro-electricity at the time this was in use – just coal dragged in from the mines and burnt to heat the powerhouse boilers. I would also be willing to beat that the fireboxes of those boilers were not fed by a mechanical stoker – every Btu that went in and came out passed over the shovel of sweating stoker. On one end of the supply chain a light bulb and on the other an Irishman.

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What man would not give a week’s pay to have a chance to drive or fire a real locomotive on a real journey? These two are comfortable enough here in the museum, but speculate about the level of comfort they had in their daily working life behind the spectacle plates of this British-style locomotive. Dirt, soot, rain, sun, insects, cold…all in the day’s recipe for the locomotive crew. No babying them…

Yet, I’ll bet the designer of this engine footplate – we cannot call it a cab as it has no roof – drew up the plans for it in a warm, dry office somewhere in England, with a sound dinner at 1:00 and cups of tea at 11:00 and 5:00. The directors of the railway company who built it would have done the same, but in more sumptuous offices and dining rooms. But then, they were of a better class than the driver or fireman…

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Pinchgut Island housing Fort Denison in Sydney Harbour. Said to be for inner harbour defence, it begs the question why someone thought that firing on foreign vessels all the way inside Sydney harbour was a good idea when the heads was where they had to enter and leave and was far better suited to catch raiders in a cross-fire. Apparently a singularly unuseful defensive fortress.

It hosts entertainment parties these days. Unfortunately the daily gun is a blank shot to enable timepieces to be set accurately. A little more imaginative use of the muzzle-loading ordnance on the fort against the office towers of Sydney or the cruise ships and ferries would be welcome. Many of us are willing to subscribe to the cost of powder and shells for this. For heaven’s sake don’t be shy – ask us…

Big Bertha

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How many times have you heard that phrase ” Big Bertha “? I’ll bet you remember it from cartoons. I was always hearing it in connection with WW1 but on a lot of the occasions what I was hearing was quite wrong. People had fastened upon the name and used in confusion with the Paris Cannon. Two entirely different pieces of German artillery used for two entirely different bombardments.

This model IS Big Bertha –  a 420mm Krupp howitzer designed to deliver very large projectiles at a steep angle into fortresses. A mobile piece, but only in relative terms. At least it seems to have been designed to be easier to haul and emplace than similar large siege weapons made by Skoda for the Austrians. Students of the times will recognise the pedrail wheels, axle shackles and solid trail that is geared left and right to train the gun.

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It was used with devastating effect on Belgian and French fortresses: Liege, Namur, Antwerp, Maubeuge, and Vaux. They were towed about with Podeus motor ploughs and had to be broken into 5 loads when on the road.

This example is at the scale model show – and I’m grateful that the display designer put it close to the edge of the table so that I could get the camera down to a low angle beside it. Even in this small scale the bulk is impressive, and the company making the model has included enough of the details of elevation and training to make it a worthwhile study.

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I have drawn a circle on the map of Perth based upon my front yard to see where I could lob the 820 Kg shell if I had one set to the optimum elevation. It appears that I would just about be able to reach the main part of the city from Bull Creek and all of Fremantle. It is a surprisingly short ranged weapon – 12.5 Km. I suppose, though, that anyone upon whom the shell drops will be unhappy. Indeed they would probably be dissatisfied if it rolled over their foot. But then some people always complain.

Dogwashing For the New Age

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The Backstabbers Guild Of Australia has always encouraged new industries. We feel that an active interest in capital growth is the best way to bring young people ahead – that and a good shooting war in someone else’s country that they can participate in on a contract basis.

Here in Australia, scientists have brought to our attention the need to conserve water and energy, and have pointed out the millions of gallons of fresh water that are wasted every year in cleaning cars, boats, dogs, and vagrants. The Guild has a plan to cut this waste. We have invested in water cannon trucks left over from the East German Political Police Service and are bringing them to Australia.

These trucks –  1989 Feldröhr 3000 SKV vehicles – are fitted with Skoda hydraulic cannon and pumps capable of pushing out 3000 psi streams of icy water that can travel up to 80 metres. They are fitted with a separate water trailer in some cases. Up until now they have been in demand in the Canadian goldfields as mobile hydraulic monitors to wash hillsides down into gold sluices. Unfortunately the British Columbia Department Of Ecology has ruled that they are too destructive to be used on rock faces or pine forests and so they have been offered to the Guild.

The new service – to be branded Guildy As Charged – will be available through the suburbs on a call-up basis. You merely phone in, give credit card details, and tell us what you want washed and where. The Feldröhr turns the corner in your street, the operator puts the muddy dog, child, or Hyundai in the laser sight and opens the valve. Most cleaning takes place in under 5 seconds and in many cases no windows are broken. Soap is unnecessary, and isn’t that good news for the environment.

For those objects that may be badly affected by water, the Guild will reserve one vehicle for use with a tank of xylene monoacetyte biphenolic acid which has been shown to dissolve even the toughest stain. In some cases through armour plate.

Remember – if it’s not clean it’s not safe…call the Guild today and rest in peace.

Loud Gunshot Heard Stage Left

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I am indebted to La Banditta for the topic of today’s post – she has raised it on Facebook and it deserves to be more widely spread. The topic is gunshots.

She’s heard a loud one very night for the last little while near her home. As her home is not Damascus or Detroit this is somewhat surprising. Perth has got some dodgy suburbs but they are rarely that dodgy. What would excite little commentary in Philadelphia or Palermo certainly does so in Parkerville or Parmelia. Despite what Crocodile Dundee would have you think we are not given much to gun battles.

It is not because we would not do so if we could – but a long series of restrictive gun laws has prevented most of us from having the hardware to hand when the need is felt. This is because the British designers of the colony realised that if lower classes are allowed access to firearms they can be tempted to remove the upper classes with them. The American Revolution explained that thoroughly, and they took the lesson to heart. So if you want to be shooter here you are required to go over a series of administrative hurdles that stop all but the most law-abiding and dedicated from succeeding. The criminal element have to resort to getting their firearms criminally…which is a crime.

Loud noises need not be gunshots. They can be cars backfiring…which is a classic bit of nonsense that has been conveniently adopted from the movies. When did you last hear a car backfire? I mean really… Apart from the racket at a drag strip or speedway, the only time cars backfire is on the TV screen.

Or they could be the sound of Thai restaurants exploding. One did a few years ago in our northern suburbs, and it wasn’t the result of Siamese gang warfare – it was the result of the owner faced with health department orders to clean up the cockroach problem. He put down about 30 of the aerosol bomb bug sprays and turned them on. When the concentrating of explosive poison vapour reached critical mass and hit a spark from the freezer motor it was heard five suburbs away. Apparently the roof beams shifted a foot.

The odd bang could be a meth lab going up. Enough of them are in operation every day, apparently, to make the southern suburbs look like the Ruhr under the RAF if they start exploding. One can only assume that the occasional detonation is accidental rather than an adjustment of commercial territorial boundaries…

Or it could be a home-made fireworks factory. I have seen one of these in operation in a back shed. The operator is a good pyrotechnician and has not exploded the suburb… yet. When he does it will be an interesting test of the insurance system here in Australia. Of course his house and contents will be null and void, and if he is standing in front of the stuff when it goes up he will be too, but I am thinking of the surrounding houses and properties. Will the average greedy insurance company pay up?

In any case, I have put in a FB message that loud bangs are better than quiet ones* as they are likely to be private criminal affairs rather than the soft plop of governmental political assassination. Perhaps I have been watching too much television, but then I never actually watch television…

  • This is a generalisation. Someone shooting off a FLAK 88 in the next yard is never good news, particularly if you are in the flight path for Jandakot Airport.