To sail the (wide*) accountant-sea

March 11, 2010

A real post to accumulate some links on the bicycle I want to ride. Having moved to Melbourne from Sydney it is constantly amazing how many more cyclists there are. Another great reason to live here!

So I’m picturing a pirate bike. Ultimately in more ways than the obvious (towing Britain outside the 5-mile limit anyone?)

To get started, here’s what I’ve discovered:

Taking inspiration from these chopper style bikes at BicycleDesigner and this Micargi Prado Chopper I’d love to ride something along these lines. The concept of laying back, almost recumbent style is most appealing.

So the dream continues when I peruse the awesomeness that is Instructables. Take for instance the amazing work by ‘Atomic-Zombie’ in the Orange Chopper or Carnage Chopper bikes. Really amazing stuff. Reading these, I realise I’m only a few skills away from building my dream bike. Skills like tool use, welding, angle grinding, painting and so on.

Easy 🙂

Of course these bikes are nice enough, but there’s no serious geek cred in them – despite the awesome street cred inherent in building your own chopper, natch. Electric bikes are all the rage, wouldn’t that be nice? In fact, how about, seeing as we’re going to the trouble of designing a dream bike, leaving scope for an electric upgrade down the track?

A thought so amazing, it has been had before. At MIT. Bastards.

Thanks for doing the brain work guys! The so called ‘Copenhagen Wheel’ is a wheel with a regenerative-braking electric motor connected to your iPhone by bluetooth. Just pop the wheel on any bike and Bob truly is your Aunty’s live-in lover.

If that is too hardcore for you, and you are a peak cyclist, perhaps Active Spokes are more your style. Given the subtraction of 5 seconds per mile from your times, it really won’t matter a hoot to me. If you compete though, maybe it is for you.

That’s enough to get me started. How about you?

Witchiepoo on her broomWhat I’m looking for next is fibreglass (or any suitable material) to fashion a weather shield that could grow into a (decorative, or not…) ‘hull’ to create the pirate ship look. A little like this would be noice. (Minus the crooked nose, thanks!)

Any clues gratefully appreciated.

(* title updated with the missing ‘wide’ as pointed out by Paul – many thanks good sir!)

Addendum [17 Mar 2010]: Plans galore are available to buy from Atomic Zombie, while this Flickr gallery of inspirational bikes will provide plenty of ideas.

P.S. If you were looking for merchandise, try – a Witchiepoo 2009 San Diego Comic Con Exclusive Doll? or H.R. Pufnstuf – The Complete Series on DVD

P.P.S. Yes those are affiliate Amazon links, so technically I could get paid something if you buy. Please do 🙂

Grow your own … our first egg arrives

August 13, 2008

Today is a big day in our backyard – we have collected our first egg from the chooks. [Breaking news! Make that two eggs!]

Our first two eggs from honey, our batte

A couple of weeks ago we bought a pair of young hens from Dave at Rent-a-Chook. Their names are Lemon and Butter. Rent-a-chook provides everything : feed, hay and a brilliant fox-proof (so far!) coop. The chooks have been enjoying their days roaming our backyard and we find them snuggled in the coop before sunset ready for lockdown.

La coup du jouir

Since it is the dead of winter, and the hens are young, they’ve not started laying yet. Impatient for our first free-range backyard eggs we trekked out Llandilo in Western Sydney, purchasing an older hen (named Butter) who is at the end of her commercial egg-laying life. Now three days later she’s obviously settled in, because she’s now laying.

Our next job will be to learn more about raising chooks – a great place to start will be A big part of the learning for us will be how to integrate the chooks into our fledgling start at growing our own veggies. We’ve been using Bokashi composting for a few months, which has reduced our garbage output and increased our usable soil. Now the chooks will be competing for the scraps, but all to the same end I suppose.

Of course since we are always a few steps ahead of the pack, today there’s an article in the herald 🙂

The Sydney Morning Herald: The joys of coming a cropper.

What has changed is the opportunity for low-cost gardening. “Unless you keep goats or chickens, which fewer people do, you had to buy your fertilisers and manure from a nursery, making it less affordable,” Gaynor wrote.

Down the sustainable rabbit hole

November 14, 2007

Following on from the idea of re-purposing a treadmill into an electricity generator, I’ve been digging around in the low-impact and sustainable living web. Here is a link chain I followed tonight, leading me to see straw bale housing that has been built here in Australia!

A Low Impact Woodland Home – in Wales (a bit like a comfy hobbit hole)
Natural Homes on a world map
Newton House in Queensland is an example house and has much information
Huff’n’Puff Strawbale Constructions run regular workshops based in central NSW
Ecopolis – ‘Architecture for a changing climate’
Your Home – an extremely useful Australian government website (gasp!) – Loads of information

Re-using an electric treadmill motor

November 8, 2007

I seem to remember, back in the warm glow of all those resolutions in January, something about building an electric car this year. Well that may have been slightly, err, ambitious. Although the project that inspired the resolution, which I’ve been following throughout the year – Project Forkenswift (an electric conversion on a beer budget) has been successful.

The year isn’t done yet, and I have an electric treadmill that was given to me (unworking) and my usual techno-mage incantations have failed to bring it back to life. So what to do? Well I have dug up a few relevant links in one of my procrastination sessions, so here they are to remind me when I get my Roundtuit for this job.

Vela Creations – Chispito Wind Generator

Wind power is abundant, clean, inexpensive and easy to do. It is our belief that anyone can be in control of where his or her electricity comes from. There is nothing more rewarding and empowering than making a wind powered generator from scrap materials. Most of the tools and materials in this manual can be found in your local hardware shop or junk pile.

Also see‘s Homebrew electricity section. has a page full of wind generator projects as well.

Now all I have to do is get started. What other projects could a non-working treadmill be used for?

Homemade Solar PV Cells

November 3, 2007

Ian digs up another great story:

Here’s Why: Make a solar cell from scratch Archives

Over at they have detailed instructions on how to make your own solar cell at home from ingredients you can buy from a hardware shop.

Now this is a great project to play with at home. Better yet, if we get a thousand people to have a go, how many improvements might be stumbled upon?

LPG (autogas) conversions revisited

June 26, 2007

In the almost six months since I first wrote on this topic, petrol prices have continued to rise here in Australia, while LPG pricing has remained steady.

The spreadsheet has been updated for these new conditions, now showing a per litre saving of 54.1 cents. That means at a paltry 20 litres per week you could now recover your costs in only 55 weeks, a savings now of 33 weeks on the earlier numbers. (Assuming $600 out of pocket expenses after the government’s $2000 rebate.)

Further investigation shows the rebate is a flat rate, no matter what your actual expenses were – even if you outlay less than $2000 you still get the full rebate. Interesting 🙂

Now I’ve been researching new and interesting technologies that are coming up in LPG for vehicles and these are three that I think are most intriguing…

As for efficiency, it has been mentioned to me that a dual-fuel vehicle (where you can switch between petrol and LPG) is necessarily less efficient than single fuel because an engine is tuned for the octane rating of your fuel. Since there is usually a gap between the octane ratings of LPG (100 to 105) and petrol (91/2 to 95/6), consider making your conversion LPG only to increase performance to the best available.

However if long range driving is more important to you, then retaining the petrol system will of course extend your driving range considerably.

Ultracapacitors – here’s hoping!

January 24, 2007

I thought I had blogged about ultracaps before, but a search didn’t show anything … so here we are.

Ultracapacitors (or ultracaps) are an energy storage device that operate differently to batteries. The main point of difference seems to be in their charge / discharge times – radically faster than batteries. They also handle many more cycles with degrading (the so called memory effect of batteries, for example.) However, all shipping ultracaps have lower energy density than batteries – which means you get to store less electricity per kilogram of device. In fact as low as one tenth of the density at present. Fancy carrying an ultracap that weighs ten times as much as your batteries? Me either.

Along comes a story about a startup called EEStor and how they are claiming to have broken the density problem. That would of course be fantastic, but I’d be wary that this is another press release to hype investors … seeing one of the biggest VC funds in there doesn’t, strangely, reassure me at all.

Ultracaps do have applications in electric vehicles, quite successfully in regenerative braking systems where the high charging rates are suitable – as is the high power available to get your vehicle off the mark again. Whether EEStor (or others) can break through the density problem and replace chemical batteries remains to be seen at this stage, I for one would love to see it happen.