Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Top #6 Observations about Germany

1. They sometimes have very, very small cars!

2. The German word for mobile phone is "handy". Cute...

3. They have a breakfast cereal called "shove it"!

4. Bremen is unbelievably beautiful, and I am a beautiful photographer:

City at night:

Countryside outside Bremen this morning:

Bremen train station:

Bremen traffic is amazingly quiet (press play and see what happens!):

A quaint little village we visited yesterday:

Does something strike you as a little odd about all these photos and the video?


GUESS WHAT!?? I've been pulling your leg, they're actually from this place: the biggest minature world in the, well, world! It's in Hamburg! (Leave a comment or tweet me if I tricked you with the photos!)

5. The incredible German industrial capacity (largest exporters in the world) is pretty obvious in Hamburg:

I must say, Hamburg is the most awful, ugly city I have ever visited. There's an excuse - the original city was wiped from the face of the earth in WW2 by Britain.

6. Did I mention glühwein (yummy hot drink) and the Christmas markets?I am somewhat of a connoisseur, having seen the markets in Hamburg, Bremen and Celle. They're all the same; they must be franchises or something. I love them - I've been to one every single day, and love just watching the crowds!

Tonight we catch a midnight bus and arrive at 8am in Paris. Ciao for now!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Germany, Part 1

No tome, just random bits. (We're in Germany for a few days!)

A dodgy shot of the Christmas markets that I can't shut up about on Twitter:

The markets weave in and out of alleys and wide spaces. They're packed out, & everyone is in thick coats that are constantly brushing others, like bubbles. Every 5th shop is actually selling fatty surprises... strange deep fried potato concoctions, steaks roasting on shields hung from the ceiling and rotating over an open fire, German donuts, SAUSAGES of every type and size, and so on.

Everyone is German - almost no tourists. Hilarious to see this HUGE sausage sandwiched in a tiny little bun that is nothing more than a handle.

Then I saw someone eating this:

Three little sausages, no bread at all. YES PLEASE!

Washed down with hot German wine.

Here are my Twitter updates so far:

at Sydney airport, off to Germany with @rachel_collis...24 hrs to go!from mobile web - Me at the airport!from TwitPic

man near us left his luggage unattended & got told off!from mobile web

After a blissfully easy flight (notwithstanding its length - but I slept 8 out of the 21 hours) we are in Bremen!from web

Just went to the Christmas markets in Bremen! I WANT TO MOVE HERE AND LIVE HERE FOREVER!!! Deep fried camembert... you do the math!from TweetDeck

slept for 12 hours! Second day in Bremen! Agenda: sights, gluehwein, afternoon tea with old friends, then dinner with old friends!from TweetDeck
About to engage in social German for the next 6 hours or so!from TweetDeck
exhausted but can't get enough of this German language. Time out this afternoon by myself, plus maybe Christmas carol film in Bremen cinema.from TweetDeck

collapsed in bed for an hour in fetal position. Partially recharged. OK! Off to the Weihnnachtsmarkt & then a Chrissie film in German.from TweetDeck
So, doesn't look like there are any teachers in Bremen on Twitter...from TweetDeck

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Last Christmas my brother game me "101 Cool Science Experiments" in a kind gesture invoking my childhood when I was obsessed with all things science. It's a great little book, but I think it's fair to say the authors had trouble coming up with 101 experiments.

A case in point, experiment number 66:

"Take a slice of cheese and pull on the edges. Does it tear apart? Good, now eat it."

I'm being a bit harsh, I suppose. At least the materials aren't dangerous: "You will need: pre-sliced manufactured cheese (the smooth type that comes individually wrapped in plastic."

In other news, a posh tea parlor at Hornsby shopping centre advertises itself as "Hi Tea"!! I want to reply, "o, hai!"

O, hai, tea!

Finally, we purchased a little bed for our poor cat Timo, who has been locked in the laundry for a few weeks now every night without a proper bed (he outgrew his little cat box).

This 4 minute video, for the unemployed among you who have more time than sense, shows little Timo attacking his new bed, me sneezing, and finally getting into it in a very cute scene worthy of an oscar (at the 2.30 mark if you're employed and short of time).

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Amusing Incidents at Woollies

Went to the shops for dinner ingredients (& duck paté).
A mum, dad and 4 year old were walking behind me in the supermarket.
I kid you not:
Kid : paahhhhh! paaaahs!
Mum : Stop whinging and whining.
Kid : 'pah' 'I want paaaahs'
Mum screams back: STOP IT NOW!
Kid stops a moment.
Kid : pahhhhhns!
I'm confused as to what this is all about, until...
Mum: You're NOT having prawns for dinner!

Not everyday you hear a 4 year old screaming for prawns. Then, to my disbelief...

Mum: OH ALRIGHT! If we get you prawns will you stop your whinging?
Kid: ...yes.
Mum: Really? You will stop all your whinging and whining?
Kid: Yes.
Mum: Ok go with your Dad and get some prawns.
Kid walks happily the other way with Dad.

The last thing I heard as they walked off, was the kid, insistent to dad:

"...I get to choose which ones."

As if on a theme, two minutes later in another aisle, another kid, older, said to his friend "Let's play handball," and off they went, there and then, with a tennis ball.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Which Pussy Rescues Himself Without Requiring the Fire Brigade

I got home and found our cat Timo stuck on the roof again! I tweeted the picture:

I love the idea of kindly fire brigade officers running around rescuing helpless & hapless kittens.

But pussy rescued himself in the end:

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Technic Lego Programmable Vehicle Prototype Stage #2 (WITHOUT Mindstorms)

"Mindstorms" lego contains electronics and computer chips to control functions.

But you can program a lego vehicle without any electronics except for a basic motor.

Here is Stage #2 of the prototype I'm working on - I say prototype because I think even when I've finished it I'll rebuild a better version.

My vehicle can be programmed (using a mechanical card that you feed into it) to steer left and right and move forward and backward. Stage #3 will have other functions too.

I have to laugh at how loud it sounds - I heard that noise is a sign of poor engineering! But I'm a French teacher, not an engineer! I have an ARTS degree!

In the video you'll see the vehicle in action for a minute and then an explanation and some close ups of the mechanisms.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Technic Lego Programmable Vehicle Prototype #1

Proof of concept prototype for a programmable vehicle, controlled via a card which you'll be able to change/customize to change the timing of the vehicle functions.

For this prototype I just wanted to make sure I could get the card going backwards and forwards indefinitely in a loop, and still remove/place the card easily. The card hits the motor switch which puts the motor into reverse.

The two switches are connected so hitting the one resets the other. One of the switches is under tension with a hair elastic, so the motor just has to push it past its tipping point (this is a real issue because to reverse the switch you have to go via the 'off' position - my fear was the card would nudge the switch to the 'off' position and no further, thus stalling it. The hair elastic pushes the switch further, meaning there is no off position possible.

Next phase is to make it look nicer (not my strong point) add steering, forward/backwards movement, and some kind of crane device on the top. These will all be driven via the card, by other ratchet thingies (as you can see in this video along one edge of the card. The hope is I'll be able to change the movement sequences really easy by taking out the card and rearranging the ratchet thingies.

Stay tuned if this is your kind of thing! Subscribe to my youtube channel! (I also post education videos to this channel, BTW). Also come say hello to me on Twitter - @steve_collis -

Monday, July 13, 2009

A cat, a rat, and a technic lego buggy.

Self-explanatory. For your viewing pleasure below:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Steve (& his Cat) Sing Some Covers...

Once again I've put my singing up on YouTube. YouTube is God's gift to guitar bozos like me. I take great pleasure thinking that a few people will find my videos and listen, just like I love stumbling on other Joe Bloggses (blogs? lol) who have posted their backyard performances.

The first song is 'Not Perfect', by the comedian Tim Minchin, although this song is not comedy. My cat wandered in just before I hit 'record' so I let it go, and frankly he steals the show for most of the song until he runs off (knowing our kitten, he's imagined there is a bit of fluff in the living room that needs chasing).

Our kitten came back in a while later and went to sleep on my other computer chair. So... I deliberately set the camera on him while attempting 'Edible Flowers' by The Finn Brothers. Another sweet, melancholy song, like Not Perfect. It seems to be about growing older and dying, and just the whole perspective you get when you're old enough to realise this is where life leads.

I'm much happier with the sound on these songs than my attempts over the last couple of years. I've realised I have to video from my laptop, while running the mic through my desktop, and then blending the two together in MovieMaker. It only takes a minute to synch the audio to the video.

The other thing I realised is that I can sing really softly, and get Audacity to amplify the sound, and still get a nice sound. This is a great discovery because I always strain when I sing. I am a try hard at everything in life, but when you sing, if you try hard, you inject tension, and that's when you murder a note. You have to chill to sing well, and I am not, by nature, chilled. I come to music with loud threats and a whip, and the music had better obey, or else. This is not the way to do it.

It's the Easter holidays now, and school is a couple of weeks off, so it's the perfect time to try singing without trying too hard.