Let the Sun…


Taking the “edge” off…

Sparks and Welding Fireworks…

I spent the better part of last week going through safety procedures for each machine I will be using to build the tripod-anemometer stand.  I can now officially use the following machines:

  • cold saw
  • horizontal band saw
  • belt grinder
  • hand held grinder
  • drill press
  • MMA-TIG welding (really like this, but need to keep practicing!!)

Curt’s words to the wise:  If you are going to do a job you must keep the following in mind…is your job intended to be a…

  • Rolls Royce
  • Holdan
  • Hyaundai
  • Victor (an Aussie lawn mower brand)

Basically, is your job going to be the cleanest, meanest piece of technology with artistry in every part, or is it going to be dangling together by two hex nuts that any squirrel on a good day could rip out.  So I decided the tripod at best sho

uld be Holdanesque…whatever that means to us “greenbacks.”  I started with all of our uncut parts and decided which machines would suffice and in

measure, score, centerline…POP…and repeat

what order it would be best to tackle.  I imagined it would take 3 days to cut, weld, and assemble…like most things I was wrong.  I am on day four of the cut-weld-assemble the Holdan process and still see two more days in my future.  Curt is considered a

welding, grinding down, and re-welding…updating a Holdan to a Rolls Royce

mechanical engineering tradesman where he has a very good understanding of all of the tools and machines that will be needed for any job and tends to invent what he needs when the machines around him will not suffice.  He is meticulous, pragmatic, and fine tunes each cut or grind from my Holdan to a Rolls Royce.  I also find that while I am keenly concentrating on each job making sure

finding the not so right angles

everything is done with precision, Curt looks over and with one glance observes glaring issues or aspects I was not attentive to.  This tripod as much as its functional use by the Cyclone Testing Facility has also become a sculpture… it represents what I am learning and Curt’s patience with me in each step.  I am definitely not attempting to characterize this as a work of

tools of the trade

art, this tripod has a low chance of survival in the its final ability and is in every definition of the word a prototype that will most likely find it’s last days next to the wooden spoked Whippets or in the back of JCU’s rugby fields with the multiple wallaby families that sneak onto the grounds at dusk.  My Holdan is definitely nothing to write home about, but it represents a learning curve that I have been very proud to be apart of.

LOVE welding!

Joel, new apprenticeship tradesman (where are the tradeswoman?) from the Army just came to work with Curt for the next month and learn and perform new tasks that need to be signed off when he accomplishes them.  One of the tasks he has taken on is welding all the bits and bobs that I have been cutting and drilling into.  Joel had a welding session with me and it was incredibly fun.  I am horrible at welding and look forward to practicing more.  It is definitely a work of art.  I found myself staring at my bike and assessing the mystery welder that assembled each part together.  I was actually grading her job and well I would like to shake her hand because 96% of her job looks wonderful.

The final tripod is almost finished and it is cumbersome, heavy, and mostly impractical.  There are many aspects that were changed last minute due to cost and time.  I would have telescoped the central post as well as the internal and external struts.  I would not have used cleats to join the legs, but rather a collar that could be move vertically on the post.  We are now using a fabric and a ratchet to join the earth screw and have been unable to obtain any of the screws while I have been here so that will be left untested.  The next phase that I have been working on is taking measurements of the prototype to determine its efficiency using Space GASS and Solid Works.  I am learning mostly about these ideas with Solid Works, but have been shown examples with the Space GASS program as well.

On Thursday David and Amy (civil engineering PhD student) were asked to host a school trip for Queensland high school students on Thursday.  Initially they were to take the student on a quick tour of the Cyclone Testing Center

feel’n breezy…David talks to HS group about wind tunnel

and then Amy was going to talk about what she is currently studying.  I asked if I could help out and work with Amy to design a small hands-on activity that the kids could do as part of the tour and they said, yes! Amy and I talked about this idea a week ago and met again to discuss it during the week.  We ended up settling on a building design that students became so immersed in it needed to be concluded the following day.  One of my personal highlights of this shared time was when David placed all of the students behind the wind tunnel (with safety glasses!) and talked about the research in the cyclone testing center as all of their hair and was whipping around and their faces looked incredibly happy.


Around Townsville….

I was able to go to a brilliantly written play at the Civic Theatre in Townsville

Let the Sunshine stage

that was penned by a local Townsvillian.  I had no idea what the play was or the context of the show, but I was pleasantly surprised at how funny and dynamic it ended up being.  There were six characters and the scenery never changed, but it did not need to.  The entire show was captivating.  It was about a young couple and two married couples that continuously moved between a small Aussie town and Sydney.  It was comical, had enormous wit, and centered around the love each individual felt for the other.  During intermission there was a made rush to the tea stand where ample amounts of tea had already been poured and biscuts where readily at hand.

intermission break: cuppa and bickies

People gulped their Bushel’s tea, gobbled their cinnamon bickies and then were ready for round two.

I have been taking my weekends slow.  Slow as in I am not dashing off to find Crocodile Dundee or push my limits on the kangaroo ridden roads with very small medians and really fast drivers.  I decided that part of the magic in being offered opportunities in far away places is the benefit of

sitting on favorite climbing tree

getting to know the magic of one place really well.  Well enough where you can give someone a heads up on how great this little pocket of Australia really is.  I would love to visit Tazmania, Papa New Guinea, and all of the wonderful islands so incredibly close to me, but two or three days in these places would more or less put a stamp in my passport, but not really awaken me to the culture and beauty of each breathing land.  A few notable weekend trips were to the monthly Townsville Home Brew Club meeting, Castle Hill (again..I know…it is so great!), and Reef HQ (world’s largest coral museum).  Reef HQ was unbelievable.  Each window allowed a glimpse into the incredibly mysterious world of the ocean.  The views were like visiting the depths of someone’s imagination and

Chris ready to bike down and dive!

creativity.  I sat with Chris just staring at this world and every moment I saw something new, something wild that fluttered its fins or stayed in a vertical entranced state, or something that flashed its brilliant colors notifying us that all fashion statements underwater are acceptable an very appreciated (the fish I am thinking of in particular was hyper yellow and purple…a definite 80’s flashback)

I have been climbing any willing tree and had great luck to observing many

egret or egreat…

species of birds.  There are so many colorful, strange, and beautiful types of birds here.  I would like nothing more than to sit Mr. Audobon down and watch him draw all of the plates these wonderful creatures would most likely

the only way to silence a cockatoo in Australia

inspire.  In the morning the cockatoos sound ravenous as if they are tearing apart prey.  There is a catbird that sounds like it is hissing and in heat, and then there are the bee-eaters that when they move there wings back and forth in flight make this little high-pitched vibrational sound like a babies toy being squeezed.  Ibises are considered the pigeons of Aussie and are everywhere stalking around and


plunging their huge beaks into the bush and lastly the bush turkeys…well not much to say about them other than pure terror.


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Better than a slap in the face with a wet fish…


(PLEASE NOTE:  the above link will only work in Chrome or updated version of Firefox and Safari….you can tell if your browser is not current if you see the link instead of the audio player…e-mail me and I can send you the file)

(ALSO:  there are multiple songs in this media file feel free to skip through them as you like….lots of mixed Aussie sounds.)

The beginnings of construction…

Thursday morning (06.22.12) had a slow start.  Curt and I were supposed to go into the city to order supplies for the tripod stand, but we had to wait for materials to be delivered before we could go…and then of course we had to wait until “smoko” was over.  Smoko is short for “smokeout” and is the term used for morning and afternoon break.  Luckily with the modern age pretty much nobody smokes and instead meets in a room and has a “cuppa” (cup of tea), and vegemite crackers and biscuits

vegemite…”love it or hate it”

.  I have been taking smoko with the mechanical engineering workshop tradesmen off and on for the last two weeks and enjoy listening to their round circle discussions on politics, university small-talk, and family life.  Some of the men bring in their ceramic teapots and fill them up at the “boiling billy” settling into the smoko room as their tea steeps.  Traditions like this are great, I am not sure to what extent Americans have breaks like this because I have never really worked in an environment with built in breaks.  I know they exist, but I am pretty sure nobody brings their own tea set to accompany the time.  This is a great way to build commraderie, friendship, and take a little pressure off of the demands of the work schedule.

After smoko Curt and I jumped in a JCU truck and made our first stop at his brothers auto yard.  The auto yard consisted of hundreds of car entrails filed and organized in specific sections, cars that were slowly sinking into the earth and being covered by leacherous vines, and cars that were so old their spokes were made from wood.  The cars that had the wooden spokes

Wooden spokes, rims, and original wheel from 1920’s.

were mostly from the 1920’s and had sadly not been covered and were piled on top of each other.  The pile of wooden rims and chassies had lost their characteristics, traits, and stories.  Imagine these cars the day they were released and the excitement of finally trading in your horse for this bizarre metallic machine with four round legs.  Turning the car on instead of kicking your stirrups and using your harness and hearing the roar of its heart come to life and then throttling down the road and dipping into the puddles and swinging around the towns people while the eucalyptus trees zoomed by at 24 mph…what a rush…watch out for the wallabies.

Curt’s nephew showed me where to locate the catalytic converter

Catalytic converter underneath car.

and stated that most people do not know that they are worth hundreds of dollars due to the rare metals that they contain.  Curt’s brother asked me if I wanted to see what “real engineers” do and quickly

Old Car Body with Teaset

Only in Australia would you find an abandoned old car with a tea set neatly tucked inside.

demonstrated a little PVC pipe machine he had built and launched a tennis ball hundreds of yards with an incredibly loud BOOM across the lifeless cars that lay below.  I left the lot with a smile on my face because sometimes a day has so many unexpected events and interesting people you meet. 

Curt and I slowly made our way to the steel tubing store where I brought out my specs and then debated for almost 20 minutes with Curt before we both agreed on tubing and r.h.s (rectangular hollow steel) sizes.  The prototype cost came to about $186 Australian dollars (equivalent to U.S. dollars) and will be ready for pick up next week Monday (June 25, 2012).  (The total cost of the finalized project will be more expensive because we plan to use aluminum…pronounced al-you-min-ium)

A secondary project I am working on is with David in the wind tunnel.  At the moment we are attempting to see how accurate the anemometer is and if the data it is collecting correlates to the data the instruments in the wind tunnel are collecting.  Here is a super short video that shows the inside of the wind tunnel and the anemometer on its first trial.  (David and I were really surprised to see how much the anemometer was yawing back and forth…this is the first time the station can actually observe the amount of turbulence in the internal boundary.

As cunning as a dunny rat….

I returned back to campus late and missed lunch so I mosied over for a quick bite at one of the cafes.  I saw a beautiful bird that looked like the North American Kingfisher (kookaburra bird) sitting on a sign and took a picture of it.  Later on while I was still eating I noticed three of the same birds posted in a very close proximity to me.  I kept on eating and then out of nowhere there was a crash on my plate and the Kookaburra was sitting on part of the pizza I broke off.  I screamed out of surprise and he turned his head and stared at me with his wee beady eye as if he was challenging me.  He did not flinch when I moved my arms and instead kept staring.  He then pierced my pizza with his beak and flew off with the entire thing back to his post.  He then whacked the pizza over and over on the post and my pizza flew in every direction and all of the toppings fell off in a complete mess around him.  At this point the entire family started feeding.  I sat there in complete shock and unfortunately did not take a picture of the crazy scene.  As if this wasn’t enough after the family fed they stayed very close to me as if I was going to procure their second helping at any moment.  I left the café hungry and kookaburra defeated…this songs really goes with their demeanor.

Kookaburra that stole my lunch….looking at me for more pizza…

Kookaburra song:

“Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Merry merry king of the bush is he.
Laugh, Kookaburra, laugh, Kookaburra,
Gay your life must be!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Eating all the gum drops he can see.
Stop Kookaburra, stop Kookaburra
Save some there for me!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree,
Counting all the monkeys he can see.
Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra
That’s not a monkey, that’s me!”

Gobsmacked (awestruck) in Paluma…

 Jenny (great runner and friend of Cam’s) picked me up Friday afternoon to start our journey towards Paluma.  We made a quick stop to pick up food supplies and

Paluma Winter Waters

were off to the cloud forest.  It was extremely hard for me to sit in the car knowing I could have biked to our final destination, but Cam and Jenny thought it would be better if drove because of the 11 mile narrow up hill mountain I would have had to climb.

We arrived early enough to see the sights and walk around before nightfall.

Paluma is a very small town located in a national rain forest with multiple waterfalls and great little hikes all around.  That evening we went to Gumbarra to listen to an informal

Clouds caught in a web in Paluma

music fest where the members from the Wattle n’ Gum group played anything they wanted to while Jim made delicious waffles and gluhwein (warm mulled wine).  The majority of the music was traditional Australian folk tunes that you hopefully listened to while reading this little blog.  There are hints of jazz, blues, bluegrass, and good ol’ country music.  One person after another played songs and people joined in, took breaks, and sang when they knew the words.  Leoni came over to me and started playing the very well known American folk tunes and sadly I knew none of them.  She was very sad about this and I attempted to memorize one of the ones she sang to me called “In the Pines.”  Coincidentally after researching this song I came across Nirvana’s rendition…go figure.  The night was amazing I love stringed instruments and songs with stories.

Wattle N’ Gum Bush Band Crew

The Wattle n’ Gum crew are a little upset because they have no young members and are not sure as to what the future of this music will be.

Saturday I went on multiple rainforests walks and managed to find an amazing rock to sit on and read my book.  The views from where I sat were of the Palm Islands and Magnetic Islands in the distance.  Each time I walked through the small streets of Paluma there was music coming from the cottages

View from “reading rock”

and people singing.  I joined in at Cam’s cottage and sang and listened to all of the music.  I sat down with Jenny and learned how to play a bit on the ukulele and Sue (Cam’s wife) showed me how to use an accordion (I REALLY  REALLY like the accordion).  Saturday evening was the fancy bush dance where I danced for almost three hours straight.  I learned all of the Australian folk dances that went with the songs and danced in groups and with Peter (another Road

Camouflaged roots in Paluma…sneaky little things.

Runner I run with on Thursday’s mornings) the whole night.  As if all the music and dancing wasn’t enough after the festivities were over they continued back at Gumburra again while Jim brought out the waffle iron and warmed up the wine.  I am so happy that I recognize the faces of the group and have already had the privilege of meeting everyone.  I felt very welcomed and part of the Wattle n’ Gum family…what a great weekend.

Peter drove me back very early Sunday morning to meet Chris at the airport. (hurray!!  Chris will be joining me for my last 3 weeks while he does research in the marine biology department on algae and its potential use as a bio-fuel).  Chris missed his connection in Brisbane to Townsville so I went to the city centre and bought some weird fun fruit as a welcome.  It is great to have Chris here to share some of the great experiences and people I have already had and met.  Unfortunately he was unable to bring his bike, but the amazing Cam has pulled through and will giving him one to use shortly!

Sue, Cam, and Jim practicing for the Bush Dance and have’n a hoot.

Boil-Over (unexpected sporting result)….

JCU Saints Rugby (gold and blue jersey)

I have to quickly mention the rugby game Chris and I saw on Sunday afternoon at JCU.  The rowdy JCU Saints played all day and won their matches.  I have to say I did not really get into the JCU Saints Rugby team (in the gold and yellow jerseys)e match or attempt to learn the rules, but it was great to hear the intensity of the crowd and sit outside on the overcast afternoon with the eucalypts in the air…I also concluded that sports are much more fun to watch than play…although soccer has its momentsJ  The boil-over for me is the result of not liking the experience as much as I imagined.  The “state of origin” which is the biggest game in Australia (if you ask an Aussie they will say in the world)  kind of the superbowl of rugby is next week.  I will try very hard to like rugby by then.



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Happy Summer Solstice/Winter Solstice depending on your hemisphere


Thinking like an engineer…

This week has been very interesting with more demands and a greater learning

Slow beginnings to final draft design#1

curve.  I have been researching, reading, and asking questions about every fitting, fixture, and tool.  I have finished my final sketch for the tripod design and it was accepted by the Mechanical Engineer Workshop Director, Curt and my

supervisor, David.  Out of all of the sketches, ideas, and pieces they liked  and chose the most simplistic.  Curt has even further simplified the design you see in the picture and I am now re-drawing the idea as well as close-up views of some of the joint connections and strut angles.  When I was presented with this challenge I had so many ideas, some of them more aesthetic than functional and some too complex for the machines we will be using to build the design.  I was happy to not

Final Design#2….need to redraw yet again to incorporate a few new changes…

feel defeated by the process and feedback… if anything it gave me more ambition to get it right.  The only thing that would have been incredibly helpful is if I would have been able  to use Autocad.  This way I could have immediately made changes to the graphic design rather than re-draw the design from scratch.  One of the aspects I have really enjoyed about drawing out the design is that it makes me think about every single aspect, dimension, size, and consider its ability to perform under the cyclonic conditions.  I think this means I am thinking like an engineer…whatever that means….at least I know I am thinking, learning, and loving it.

Up, Up, and Castle Hill… 

Monday afternoon Pip, Jay’s good friend, picked me up from JCU and took me to Castle Hill for a little hike in the afternoon.  To give you perspective, Castle Hill is located in the city centre very close to the marine ports (I am about 6 miles away from here).  I have seen Castle Hill many times now while biking through the city, but had absolutely no idea how awesome it is.  Pip and Sammy (cute little dog in picture) picked me up and immediately I liked her (and Sammy too).  She is an incredibly outgoing person with a very dynamic personality.  She is ready for anything and seems to explore life and enjoy the richness of each experience.  I was also able to meet her friend Adrian who came along and together they struck me as sisters and very close friends.  As we walked up the goat trail to the top we talked about various topics, life, and historical aspects of Townsville.

Pip, Sammy, and Adrian on Castle Hill

Adrian will be running a workshop on happiness, meditation, and well being this weekend and unfortunately I will not be able to attend, but the concepts sounded great.  Pip is leaving with her two children to a very snowy and beautiful New Zealand to visit family and take advantage of the winter holiday.  When we made it to the top the sun was about 43° above the horizon and the views were breathtaking.  The light was golden and the air was

rich with a cool breeze and a slight smell of sea air and eucalypts.  We went to each corner of the hill to take in the views and I was so happy to be there and

Love the “winter” colors!!

have a different way of picturing were I located in my surroundings.  What is it with sunsets…they never get old…they are like a flame, you just stare and stare and your mind whizzes to all places, people, and thoughts.  I quite enjoy that they are momentary things you have to sometimes find and position yourself to “catch” at just the right moment.  When we were up on the hill I felt like one of those insects that is drawn to the light, I kept running to each corner of the hill to watch the sun dip below the horizon and watch the atmosphere slowly be blanketed by purple, blue, and pink flares.   

After Castle Hill and the walk down Pip invited me for a dinner with her family.  Paul, her husband, made a cornucopia of veggies that were super tasty for dinner and I was able to sit down in an incredibly colorful and beautiful home and enjoy a meal with very good company.  After dinner we all realized that Sammy was missing and found him still patiently waiting in the car!! (good things dogs are resilient)  This was a great start to the week and I felt very fortunate for the connection.  I look forward to dinner again when Pip gets back from New Zealand.

Around JCU

I am still keeping up with soccer

Engineers Soccer practice…

on Tuesday and Friday and really enjoying all of the engineers that play.  I seem to be a target for bush turkeys and am developing a mild fear when I see them.  They are chaotic, go for anything, and are constantly in my shoes when I sit in the grass and do work next to the library.  I have been getting up way too early to go on morning runs Tuesday and Thursday with Cam and Jenny from the Townsville Road Runners Club, however it is a love hate relationship (kind of like vegemite spread) where when you are finished and the sun is just surfacing you feel great and ready to start the day, the weight of the world is on your shoulders when you are lying in bed contemplating how comfortable you feel.

I  was able to bike into Townsville Centre the last two nights to meet and greet with

Great meal with James at Michel’s in Townsville.

James (friend of my brother that I randomly bumped into on Saturday) and the Air Force crew from Honolulu.  It was great hearing about the dive the Air Force crew took part in Sunday and I have now been on the search for where I can take a class and be certified the first weekend of July.

Paper Eucalyptus tree with amazing soft bark and branches. Great reading tree and Ross River view!

Today (Thursday) is the Air Force crews last day and I will be sad to see them go.  It was really nice seeing a familiar face and find great restaurants to eat out at in the city.

Excited about this weekends winter solstice Paluma Festival!  Wish I could share tree climbing and great views with all of you…






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Wadda Mooli…….Welcome and Goodbye (Birrigubba Language)


The Making of Machines…

I had such a wonderful week with the mechanical engineering workshop.  I spent most of the week with Kurt and his apprentice Daniel and took the slow, but keen steps to learning about all of the tools that I will most likely use to build a

hark…a milling machine.

prototype of my design.  My head is filled with lathes, milling machines, hydraulic presses, and the war over Whitworth, the U.S., and England system of

Daniel and Kurt tapping the convection chamber.

measurements.  The first thing Kurt gave me today was an A4 sheet that talked about the difference between CGS and MKS units and why engineers prefer the MKS system (meter, kilogram, and seconds).  We then went on for quite a while discussing the different thread angles and pitch the U.S. uses versus pretty much the entire world and the issues that brings.  I am proud of learning about the following machines:

  • lathe
  • milling machine
  • hydraulic press
  • how to use a tap and dye set (to make threads for a screw or make the threads on a screw)
  • the basic idea of how a CNC works
  • hollow punch set (used to make gaskets, washers, and sealing rings in multiple types of materials)   

Kurt was asked by a professor to make a specific device that he could test heat flow and convection currents in.  The professor gave the specifications to Kurt and Daniel and then we discussed what materials would make the most sense and

nice lathe…

how to go about each aspect of the project.  This really helped me figure out how to go about my drawings, ideas, and research what I would need for the anemometer tripod design.  I spent the majority of the week in and out of the Mechanical Engineering workshop, drawing and sketching designs, learning about how the wind tunnel works in the cyclone

Anemometer ready to be tested in wind tunnel.

testing centre, and asking Tony a million questions about welding and what he was working on (sorry I can’t share this information publicly).

Half of the challenges sketching were that I kept changing my mind or wanting to research designs so I wasn’t reinventing the wheel…which in pretty much all cases and creative thought I was.  The best part about finding out that I was mimicking similar designs and ideas that have already been made was that I was thinking

so…I thought of a device the strut could be inserted into on the side that would allow the anemometer design to be placed in narrow areas if need be…..yeah that’s already been invented…you can see the invention dubbed the swivel joint coupler (used in scaffold)…maybe all of these things are subliminal?

like an engineer and creating ideas that were good enough to be manufactured.  This was kind of a surprising and exciting experience to go through and attempt for my first time though there was a lot of wall staring as I contemplated concepts in my head.

Around JCU


I joined the recreational engineers soccer club that meets Tuesday and Friday’s and really enjoyed playing at dusk with the team members.  Luckily it is not very competitive and instead

Soccer team member riding a bull after soccer hours were over and celebrating the end of the fall semester.

more about having good fun.  This is also a great opportunity to meet more people and have an excuse to be outside for as long as possible running around (always a plus!).  In Townsville’s winter (most people call it “Brownsville” in the winter because there is no rains for almost 3 months) the day goes from being very chilly in the morning to very warm by mid-afternoon and then back to chilly at dusk.  It is so nice having the temperature slowly drop while we are playing soccer and the sensation of night’s cold fingers take hold.

In between soccer evenings I found JCU’s creative arts centre and have been using the practice studio to play piano as much as possible.  I used to be able to sneak on Pratt’s campus in Brooklyn and play

JCU creative arts and music practice room.

, but they locked up the piano and I have not found a good spot since.  The practice room is quite big with a beautiful grand Yamaha piano and a drum set in the corner.  It is located on the side of the building and has windows in an west and south facing direction (perfect for watching the sunset at night).  The drum set in the back vibrates when I play the piano so it almost sounds like I have a little accompaniment as I play.  I have also been cycling more during the afternoon hours when I finish work and finding climbing trees to read my books, however it seems there is always some type of ant infestation in every tree (you have to watch out for the green ones…they bite you and then excrete acetic acid from the their behind on you and it really stings).

Eucalyptus with a nice little undergrowth and an abundant number of green ants.

The Aborigine’s were known to make a paste with these ants and as a result were able to obtain  a great source of vitamin c from the concoction.

Around the Ville weekend…


I had a wonderful weekend.  I was unable to attend the Townsville Road Runner’s club run on Saturday, but instead was able to find a bike path that went from JCU all the way to Townsville without going on any main roadway.  I just kept following the path and exploring the many parks, trees, and paths until low and behold I found myself in the city centre next to the Coral Sea.  I went to a café to have a quick coffee before jumping on the ferry to Magnetic Island and ended up in a conversation with a gentleman that went to the Air Force Academy with my brother that is now stationed in Hawaii and on a work visit to Australia.  I couldn’t believe that he not only knew my brother, but had flown on missions with him and gone to school with him.  Small-nano-scale world.  I ended up meeting the rest of the Air force crew from Hawaii and having dinner with them.  They talked about going to Yongala Shipwreck south of Townsville on Sunday where 122 people died while their ship attempted to “weather the storm” through a cyclone.  There were no survivors and the only evidence of the ship’s passing was a racehorse named Moonshine’s that washed ashore close to Ross River in Townsville.  The ship itself was not found until almost 40 years after it was lost to sea.  Though the dive sounded like an adventure, it also sounded like a very eerie excursion to visit an underwater cemetery.  I find it fascinating that everything has been exquisitely preserved and nothing has been removed from the site…alas, I have no diving license and will be unable to attend, but look forward to hearing about the stories this week.

Sunday I rode

On the banks of the Ross River.

back to Townsville and visited the Sunday market where I bought three of the most delicious grapefruit

can you spell t..a..s..t..y..!!

I have ever had and wandered through the art filled streets only to find myself inside of the

Well known retired librarian of Townsville. ALL librarians are true super heroes!

Perc Tucker Regional Gallery (free admission…YES!!!) staring at beautiful works of art made by local Townsville artists.  From here I eventually left and found the ferry terminal and made my way to Magnetic Island.  The ferry ride over only took 20 minutes and I ate my second grapefruit while we motored along.  Upon arriving I quickly zoomed off to Alma Bay with my bike.  Alma Bay was the suggested Bay to swim in because the Coral Reefs where further out to sea and it was pretty protected from massive waves.  The water temperature was a pleasant 21°C (69.8°F).  I have to admit it took me a minute to want to fully jump in, but when I did I stayed in for quite a while, swimming, floating and looking at the granite outcrops to the right and left of me jutting into the bay.  I jumped onto my bike after I ran around all over the rocks and dried off and slowly made my way uphill to Horseshoe Bay.  On my travels I came across a skate park that was covered by a solar powered roof that boasts the second largest photovoltaic system in Northern Queensland (dubbed Solar Skate Park…check out the link it is fantastic: http://www.townsvillesolarcity.com.au/).  I finally made it to Horseshoe Bay where I was able to climb a tree and finish reading my book.  After an amazing day, bike-ride back to the ferry, and ferry ride back to Townsville I went to my supervisors house for a dinner he had invited me to in order to meet his family and allow Peter (a masters civil engineer student who is very close to graduation) practice his presentation for a big job interview he has on Wednesday in Sidney.  Coincidently I had already met Peter earlier this week when I was able to listen to his mock presentation he will be delivering in two weeks on the research he conducted in order to gain his masters degree.  Needless to say, both presentations were spot on and great to listen to and I think he will have a very positive experience in both cases mentioned above.I had yet another fantastic week.  I continue to be impressed with this opportunity

Sunset on my second week…glorious.

and am trying to take full advantage of every experience.  I feel very fortunate to be working with such a great group and absolutely love the smallness of Townsville…oh and the smell of trees.





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The Ville of Towns


I made it to Townsville!!!  Hands in the air and a big hurray.  All together I was in transit almost 36 hours before I

I arrived on the Queens Diamond Jubilee celebration and was greeted at the gate with two cupcakes, a British flag napkin,a tea sachet, and none other than the Queen herself and a lovely Virgin Australia flight attendent…how appropriate:)

arrived assembled my bicycle and made it to the Town centre=center (note to self…always bike on the side of the road where cars are not coming towards you…forgot I was in a commonwealth country).

I stayed in a nice little hostel the first night and was able to tour around the city and see where the museum, port to Magnetic Islands, and main thoroughfare is located.  I woke the next morning unfortunately at 4am and decided to continue my cycling journey and watch the sun rise.  When I came back to my abode I weighted myself and my bike down with my bags and slowly rode to James Cook University.

Townsville Port morning sunrise (second day).

My short morning travels took me along the Ross River on an amazing bike path that eventually displayed signs for JCU.  The banks of the river were incredibly lush with trees, flowers, and multiple conversations between all different types of birds. I quickly got checked in to my “temporary” housing trailor…aptly named by the locals a dongo.

Holey Dooley, lots of yakka (U.S. translation….”oh my gosh, so much work):

  The Cyclone Testing Centre at JCU is not an organization supported by JCU, but rather the group funds itself by continuously testing cladding, multiple types of building materials, promoting cyclone safety to Northern Queensland, and developing new information and research that will aid building structures in areas that are subjected to cyclonic conditions.  I am personally working with David (site director) on designing 10 tripod anemometer testing stations that can be deployed quickly during the cyclone season (starts the beginning of November).  The immediate constraints involved in designing the system are:

  • must be able to withstand 224 mph winds
  • must be able to be deployed in under 20 minutes
    • not very heavy or big
    • two person teams at most
  • must be able to have optimized stability where anemomter is located (rigid or vibrational dampening)
  • must be 3-3.5m tall
  • must be able to be secured in any type of sediment (Townsville consists of mostly clay and sand).

I have had a very fun time reading multiple articles and introductory texts on both wind and structural mechanics in order to begin understanding what type of design will best suit these constraints.  I have also been researching any type of systems that has already been made that takes some of these ideas into considerations.  I was really excited to learn more about guy anchors and guy wires, as well as earth screws.  It is so great finding names and uses to all the different mechanisms that are in front of me everyday that I can now put into context.  Guy wires are everywhere and cantilevered systems are anything from signs to bridges.

David and I went to Campbell Scientific, which amazingly has its headquarters in Townsville.  The anemometer and instrumentation that will be added to the tripod system was made and designed by Campbell and is also currently being used in Texas by Professor Schroeder’s group for the Sticknet project (very similar to what we are doing).  The difference between what Schroeder’s group is doing with Sticknet and our group is that the Cyclone Testing Site is specifically and only interested in structures and how wind is effecting different types of materials, whereas Schroeder is using the system for meteorological research.  The world of wind engineering is very small and the group seems to have first hand experience with most of the engineers world wide studying this field.

This week I have also enjoyed watching Warren and Tony test concrete and steel reinforcement as well as Bipin testing the fasteners on corrugated roofing using the air pressure chambers.   I have kept myself very busy with all of the reading materials and beginning designs.  Next week I will meet with Kirk (mechanical engineer) to go over designs and hopefully begin building a prototype.

Evenings and around JCU

 JCU has a beautiful campus with many little bike paths and a really fantastic library.  Final exams are occurring for the next two weeks and so the library has extended its hours and I have taken full advantage of it.  The weather has been incredible with cool mornings and evenings and very nice temps throughout the day.  I feel very privileged to be here during the winter season and have access (with a bike!!) to such a great university.  I can not believe my only objective is to learn as much as possible while I am here….this is so great!!  Every evening at dusk I have been taking my bike down to Ross River (bisects Townsville) and biking the paths.  I have seen many bats, almost hit a wallaby, and had a minor bike accident after avoiding a bush turkey (apparently their populations are up since they have been able to control the feral cat populations).

Queen’s  Birthday Weekend

Cam, a colleague of mine, invited me to join him Saturday morning (at 6:45am…arrghh) for the 40th annual Townsville Road Runners club celebration.  I was able to cycle there just in time for an 10k run (6 miles) along the Ross River.  It was a great way to see more of Townsville as well as meet some great Townie folk.  After the run Cam told me about a music folk festival that is held every Queen’s birthday holiday called the Palm Creek Festival.  Upon returning back to my dongo I researched the trip distance I used google maps to estimate the median throughout the trip and decided to bike down on Saturday, camp out, and return Sunday afternoon.  The bike trip was estimated around 36-38 miles along Bruce Highway.  I filled up my camelbak and started my first bike trip in Australia.  The median on Bruce highway proved to be okay throughout, but what I hadn’t judged was the amount of road kill that I would find.  There were dead kangaroos, wallabies, and many unidentified little furry things throughout my entire journey and unfortunately their little desiccating bodies gave some pretty ferocious smells from time to time.

I reached the folk festival mid afternoon after observing beautiful sites on my journey and a quick snickers bar break at a petrol station.  The festival was in full swing with three different tents filled with music and really great vejjo (vegetarian) food being offered by multiple vendors.  I listened to some music and ate a late lunch then ventured to find an Australian who was teaching how to make bread in the outback with coal and simple ingredients (called dampers…but he added oil where there normally would be no oil or butter).  While the bread was rising he made “outback tea” where he took a kettle that was hanging over the coals and a huge handful  of tea leaves and threw both in an old aluminum tin can and let the leaves steep for about 10-15 minutes.  The bread and tea were ready at about the same time and tasted amazing together.  When I returned back to the main tent Cam and his wife Sue were on stage with their band “Wattle and Gun”  playing old tunes and teaching folk dancing to a huge Australian crowd.  I joined in, was able to step a bit and felt like I was back home in Oregon well on my way to square dancing.

The rest of the night had pretty amazing acts and was able to find a nice grassy place to sleep only to be covered by heavy dew in the morning.  I had a quick walk-around and watched people do their morning yoga and headed back to Townsville hoping traffic would not be too heavy.  On my way I passed the Billabong Sanctuary and went in to find a great little conservation area promoting education and rehabilitation to multiple types of Australian native species.  All of the species were truly spectacular, however I was really interested in two main facts.  One that the Barramundi fish (native to Australia) is a male for the first five years of its life and then changes sex and is able to spawn after the fifth year…amazing.  Two, the long-beaked echidna (think of a spiny looking anteater) is a monotremes or egg-laying mammal that derived from Papa New Guinea, but can now be found all over Australia.  When I saw the echidna it was daytime and it had dug itself into the ground and only its little spiny back could be seen.

Sunday evening I was invited to my Professors house for an amazing Sri Lankan meal and the chance to meet his entire family plus multiple friends.  I felt very welcomed and happy to be there.  I ate using my hand instead of using cutlery (I much prefer this) as customary and had a great nights sleep upon returning “home”.  John and the cyclone group have made me feel very welcomed to JCU and Townsville…I feel very fortunate to be working with so many great people.