Category Archives: Personal

Brat Runs Amok on National TV

Today’s cutesy viral video is from the UK where a mother was being interviewed on TV with her two children. The younger toddler runs around the studio, climbing up on the desk and everyone ignores it. In fact everyone laughs and thinks it was cute!

As the father of two children under 3 I find this behaviour absolutely disgusting. Not the toddler’s behaviour, I know toddlers sometimes do run amok even with the best discipline and training. 

The problem I have with this is everyone’s reaction, especially the mother’s. It’s not okay to ignore such terrible behaviour in public. It’s not funny, it’s not cute, it’s unacceptable. 

You see this in public places every day. Parents are standing in the queue for a bank teller for instance, meanwhile their kids are terrorising the whole bank, climbing on chairs and counters, drawing all over forms and making too much noise. Usually the parents are completely oblivious to their little brats anti-social behaviour. 

Children must be taught that there are times where they must stand still and quiet with their parents. On several occasions I stood at the swimming pool holding my daughter’s hand while she pulled and screamed as we waited for her mother to get changed. She just wanted to run around and play.

However after consistently making her stand still and asking her to be quiet, now when I do this she does stand still with me and remain mostly quiet while waiting. She’ll also sit with me in a chair quietly and wait for long periods of time. Sure I often have to remind her to sit still and quiet, but she will do it most of the time. Yes she tries to test the boundaries, but with constant reinforcement it’s possible to keep her behaving. 

Courteous behaviour in public, respect for other people and their property and waiting are all major life skills that children need to learn. We do nothing to help them learn those skills by laughing at or calling it cute when they misbehave.

Training partner

Fitness and Swimming Goals

I’ve been pretty lazy and busy lately, so my fitness has dropped off. I got to 85kg, the heaviest I’ve ever been. So I’ve set a goal to get back to peak fitness again. 

Since I’ve been so busy with our baby, I’ve not been swimming as much. I used to swim at least twice a week and was state masters champion in some events. I’ve fallen a lot since then. In the last 12 months I have barely swum. For the last few months I’ve been swimming once a week when I can. Time to get back into it!

So as of today I’m 80kg, thanks to cutting back on sugar, particularly Coke, and walking a lot. I usually walk 8000 steps a day or 4-6km a day, according to my iPhone 6. 

Swimming Target

It’ll take a long time to get my distance swimming endurance back. However if I work hard on my strength and anaerobic fitness, I should be able to get back into sprinting quickly. I’ll need to improve my technique as well, as it’s not as good as it used to be. 

Here’s my goal:

To swim 50m in under 30 seconds by the end of 2017

I’ve never done it before. My personal best is 30.51 in the 50m Long Course at Somerville House on 17/03/2013 at the Masters Swimming Queensland State Championships. 

Bodyweight Fitness

I discussed Bodyweight Fitness in Reddit’s /r/bodyweightfitness. I quite like its philosophy. I’m planning to use it to improve my muscle strength. I’ve already started, using an iOS app by one of the people involved in the subreddit. You can find it here: The ultimate mobile app for Bodyweight Fitness.

Training partner

I did my first set using the app today, but didn’t make it all the way through. The exercises feel good though, and even my toddler daughter seemed to want to get in on it. Might have a training partner soon!

Bike and trailer

Skiiddii Bicycle Child Trailer Review

We purchased a trailer for our bikes to enable us to carry our toddler with us when we go for bike rides. We purchased the Skiidii Bicycle Trailer for $149 on eBay from seller Faji Plaza. The trailer has provision for two small children to ride on it side by side.

The trailer arrived in a flat square box weighing 17kg. We had ours delivered to our Australia Post postbox without any problems. Delivery occurred within a week of order.

On opening the box you find a large folded trailer body, some tubular sections, some wheels and other components. The tools required to assemble the trailer are provided with the kit, a couple of small spanners and an Allen key. I chose to use a socket set and ratchet spanner as this was easier. You’ll need an 11mm hex socket.

At first I thought no instructions were supplied and this made it difficult to figure out how to get the trailer properly assembled. However it turned out the instruction booklet had been wrapped up in the fabric cover for the trailer. Unfortunately, the instructions are pretty badly translated.

I started by unfolding the trailer body and installing the cross bar that supports the roof of the trailer and holds the uprights in the vertical position. It fits together using plastic brackets on each end and some locking pins.

Locking pin
Locking pin

After this I installed the axle(which required adjusting the holes it goes through). The wheels are locked into place with plastic clips that fit into retention grooves at the end of the axle. The diagrams in the assembly guide aren’t too helpful. Wheel protection bars are then connected which go around the outside of the wheels, retained by spring loaded locking pins.

The trailer can be used as a running pram, so either a front wheel or the tow bar can be attached. The tow bar attaches with two locking pins. You can then remove the bike attachment from the tow bar using its locking pin and install it on the bike’s rear axle. You simply remove one of the screws and put it on the axle before screwing it back on. I installed it on the side that didn’t have the gears.

The plastic brackets for the jogging handle are then installed, but I didn’t install the handle as I won’t be jogging with it. An orange safety flag is also provided. The fabric cover is attached with velcro at the front and back and provides a weathershield as well. There is pretty good visibility for your child to be able to see out.

Assembly took me about 45 minutes in total. Once done I attached it to the bike and gave it a try. At first I accidentally knocked the bike over but the trailer stayed upright. I was happy about that. Riding around with the trailer empty it bounces around quite a lot. With our toddler aboard it still bounces a lot but not too badly. The wheel protection bars do rattle a lot however. They don’t fit snuggly into their slots. So while they won’t fall off, they do make a bit of noise. I may look at putting some thin rubber in the slots so they don’t rattle.

Bike and trailer
Bike and trailer

The child harness isn’t particularly fancy, just being a strap system. This may be a bit of an issue for younger children. Our baby has no problems walking or sitting up but did tend to end up slumping down on the seat. For larger babies I don’t think this will be a problem.

Baby in trailer harness
Baby in trailer harness

Overall I’m happy with the Skiidii Bicycle Trailer so far. We haven’t taken it on long rides yet, but will in coming weeks. Build quality is pretty good for the price. The only real issue is the rattling of the wheel protection bars. I’m sure more expensive models would be much more solid. As noted the assembly manual isn’t too good either.

One other issue we did have was finding a suitable helmet. It seems they start at 48cm at the smallest. A smaller one would have been better for us.

Arlec MAL300 20W LED Sensor Light Installed

Arlec 20W LED Security Sensor Flood Light Review

We needed a sensor security light for our front yard at our new place. My first thought was the typical standard dual PAR38 sensor flood light setup. These use 2x 150 Watt PAR38 halogen globes. However at Bunnings we saw a new version with 2x 10 Watt PAR38 LED globes. This is a significant power saving over the traditional type.

The version we purchased required electrician installation, but was an easy install for our electrician because the cabling was already in place. The unit is IP44 rated, so is weather proof for outdoor installation. It does need to be out of direct rain though. Ours is installed under the eaves. They can be wall mounted too.

Arlec MAL300 20W LED Sensor Light Installed
Arlec MAL300 20W LED Sensor Light Installed

I was concerned that it might not be as bright as the traditional 150W globes. It is somewhat slightly dimmer than the traditional flood lights, but is still more than adequate for our needs. The dual unit sufficiently lights up our entire front yard, which is about 6m across.

The default twilight setting was fine for making sure the unit didn’t activate during daylight. The default duration time was 2 minutes 45 seconds, which I’ve left alone. I also didn’t have to touch the sensitivity setting. It does activate sometimes when ceiling fans are turned on or off in the house. There are also some other inadvertent activations for no real reason. I’ve been quite happy with it’s operation though. I’ve been able to set it to activate only when someone enters the front yard, or leaves the front door.

Adjustment controls on the sensor light
Adjustment controls on the sensor light

It’s also useful that the unit is rated for 150W globes, so if you do decide that the 10W LED ones aren’t enough, you can swap them out. I bought ours on special for $29.95 at Bunnings.

Front of Arlec MAL300 Box
Front of Arlec MAL300 Box
Side of Arlec MAL300 Box
Side of Arlec MAL300 Box
The completed Bunnings Rack It Shelf unit

Handy Storage Rack It Shelving Review

I had the need to store a lot of tools and other junk in my garage and didn’t want to build my own shelves from scratch. So after seeing a relative’s installation, I bought two sets of Handy Storage Rack It shelves from Bunnings. I’ve now had these shelves for two years and can thoroughly recommend them as a great product. I’ve reviewed the Handy Storage Rack It Work Bench Kit previously.

Connecting the side beam to the end frame
Connecting the shelving beam to the end upright

These don’t come in a kit, so you purchase each component separately based on your needs. At a minimum you’ll need two Double Sided End Uprights and four Shelving Beams. The end uprights come in two different widths, 450mm or 600mm. There are different heights ranging from 900mm, 1800mm and 2100mm. I chose the 600mm wide 2100mm high variety which fit under typical garage ceilings.

Assembled Rack It Shelf Frame
Assembled Rack It Shelf Frame

The shelving beams come in a range of lengths to suit your needs. I chose the longest ones, 2400mm. You also get a choice of shelf materials. There is MDF sheets or metal mesh shelves. You can get a range of attachments and accessories such as hooks, small shelves and drawers. I chose the MDF shelves as I had a lot of small items I wanted to store, which would just fall through the metal mesh shelves.

Retaining pin holds the side beam to the end shelf
Retaining pin holds the shelving beam to the end upright

The construction is simple and tool free. You could do it yourself, but it’s much easier if you have a second person to help you out holding frames and the like. The end uprights have slots and the shelving beams have tabs, so you just slot it together and ram it home. A hammer and block of wood is helpful here to get a firm fit, but you could just do it by hand or foot. Metal retaining hooks slot into holes to keep it all safe.

Tensioning straps between sidebeams are hard to attach without weight
Support braces between shelving beams are hard to attach without weight

The most frustrating part of construction is inserting the shelf tensioning straps. These go between the shelving beams on the longer shelves to keep the shelving beams from bending apart under load. The problem is that when there is no weight on the shelves they keep falling out. They do tend to vary in length a bit as well. The easiest way to get them in is to wait until you’ve put the entire shelf unit together and put a bit of weight on it. Then they’ll hold in position.

After a couple of years of use MDF sheets are somewhat warped
After a couple of years of use MDF sheets are somewhat warped

The coating of the metal frames of my shelves has held up pretty well, but there are some scuffs and scratches from moves. Nothing has bent or broken yet though. The MDF sheets shelves I’ve got have sagged a bit where I’ve had heavy items on them. In my latest move I just turned them over so they’ll bend back the other way. Fortunately it’s cheap enough to replace them when they eventually get too saggy. The other problem with the MDF is that it will swell when it gets wet. So just keep them in a dry spot and don’t put leaky things on it.

You could easily make your own ply shelves if you wanted to, but for the cost it may not be worth it. My relatives who have the metal mesh shelves have not had any problems with them.

The completed Bunnings Rack It Shelf unit
The completed Bunnings Rack It Shelf unit

The Bunnings Handy Storage Rack It shelves are very easily configurable and reconfigurable to any needs, much more so than home built shelves. I’d strongly recommend them to anyone who needs shelving in their garage or shed. You’d be hard pressed to do better with a custom constructed shelf.

Below I’ve listed the items required to build the shelf I show in this review.

Rack It Shelf Unit Bill of Materials

Qty
Item
Price(as of 19/02/2016)
Subtotal
Total Cost:
$439.00
2
Rack It 2100mm x 600mm Black Double End Upright
$50.00
$100.00
6
Rack It 2400mm Black Shelving Box Beam
$36.00
$216.00
6
Rack It 1200 x 600mm MDF Timber Shelf
$17.00
$102.00
1
Rack It Safety Pin - 20 Pack
$9.00
$9.00
6
Rack It 600mm Black Beam Support Brace
$2.00
$12.00
Items required to build shelf unit the same as mine in the review.

Our Experience in Applying for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155)

My wife Jacqui is a New Zealand citizen who arrived in Australia on a Special Category Visa. Because she was not living in Australia prior to 26th of February 2001, she did not fall into the “Protected” category, which allows for Social Security Act payment eligibility. Also being a temporary resident she had no path to citizenship.

She had however visited Australia for a period of 3 months in 1984 as a baby along with her family. Under the legislation that applied at the time, this made her a permanent resident of Australia for the time that she was here.

On advice from the OzKiwi group campaign group on Facebook, we found out that this might give her eligibility to apply for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). This is a permanent resident Visa. After becoming a permanent resident, she would become eligible for some payments under the Social Security Act and have the ability to apply for citizenship after a year.

We used a guide provided through OzKiwi on how to apply.

Firstly we needed to have proof of her residence back in 1984. She and her family didn’t have any travel records back that far so had no idea of the exact dates. Just that it was the early half of 1984.

Because the travel was more than 30 years ago, the Department of Immigration no longer had the records. They had been transferred to the National Archive of Australia. We made an application for the records via the NAA, based on what little information we had. The application form was online and easy to fill out. It did indicate that we were applying for a quote for a copy, but in the end we didn’t have to pay. We asked for a certified copy and it was provided to us within a couple of weeks.

Once we had those dates we started the application process for the Resident Return Visa(RRV). As Jacqui was a Special Category Visa holder, she didn’t have a Visa Issue number so couldn’t do an online application via the Department of Immigration website. Instead we had to download the Form 1085, print it and fill it out on paper.

When filling out the application you need to advise why you left your permanent residence here. For Jacqui this was because as a baby she had to leave with her family.

You’re also asked to provide evidence of your ongoing ties to Australia. For Jacqui this was that she was married to an Australian Citizen, had a child who was an Australian Citizen, had been employed in Australia and was a partner in a small business in Australia. We provided certified copies of our marriage certificate, child’s birth certificate, proof of employment and business registration. Basically, what you’re being asked to do is to prove that you really want to live in Australia for the long term.

We posted the application to our local Department of Immigration office on a Monday morning. The application payment of $363.89 was taken from our account on Tuesday. On Friday Jacqui received an email advising her that the Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155) had been issued to her. I was surprised how quick the processing was. The website had indicated possibly a processing time of 1 business day, and I’d say that’s accurate. As long as you provide the information required and meet the requirements you’ll get it quick.

Now that she has this Visa, she is eligible for basically any payment under the Social Security Act. Normally there is a Newly Arrived Resident Waiting Period that starts from the date you’re issued a permanent residence visa and lasts 104 weeks. However as she has an immediate family member who is a citizen, this is waived. We’re not intending for her to claim Australian welfare payments, but it is good to have a safety net.

In a year’s time from the date she was issued the visa, we’ll apply for her to get Australian citizenship. She’ll become a dual national, keeping both New Zealand citizenship and Australian citizenship. That will give her the additional benefits of being an Australian, such as access to student loans through the HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP system.

If you are a New Zealand Special Category Visa holder living in Australia who had visited Australia at some point prior to 1 September 1994,  you may want to your eligibility for a Resident Return Visa(Subclass 155). See this resource on the OzKiwi website for more information.

Resources:

Virtual Reality Apps for iPhones

This my list of virtual reality apps that run iOS on iPhones. These apps are suitable for smartphone virtual reality headsets like Google Cardboard or the KMart Virtual Reality Headset I reviewed a few weeks back.

This list is by no means complete but contains the ones that I’ve used and found to be useful. As I don’t have a gamepad controller for my iPhone, I haven’t included any that require a controller to operate. Some do make use of the the magnet, but I’ve never found it to be that reliable.

Note: some of these links are affiliate links and provide me a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to apps that I use and like.

Mobile VR Station

Mobile VR Station on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

This app allows you to play videos using your virtual reality headset. It’ll play ordinary 2D videos in split screen side by side, but the real beauty of the app comes when you watch videos that have been recorded for 3D virtual reality. It will project these specially recorded videos in half or full 360 degree domes, so you can immersively look around.

It’ll play videos via uPNP from media servers on your network. There are a few issues though. For instance, it will only support the video formats supported by iOS. This meant for iOS8 up to 1920×1080 resolution. This means that for some videos published on the web you’ll need to convert them before they’ll be playable. Still definitely worth the price. Get it here.

Download on the App Store

Roller Coaster VR

Roller Coaster VR on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

This is a 3D graphical demo of a roller coaster ride around a tropical jungle island. Look at the lever to your right hand side to get it started. It really is quite an impressive experience! Get it here.

Download on the App Store

 

DiveCityCoaster

DiveCityCoaster on the App Store
Scan with your phone to open in the App Store!

Here’s another 3D roller coaster demo, this one made by the company behind Durovis Dive, intended to demonstrate their headset. It’ll work with any type of VR smartphone headset though, so it’s still worth a look. Interestingly I did find there was a bit of gyroscope drift with this one. Still very impressive. Get it here.

Download on the App Store

Constructing a Prusa i3 Rework – Purchase List

I’ve been constructing a RepRap Prusa i3 Rework. Instead of buying a full kit, I’ve bought components from different suppliers choosing the best economical options I could find for each part.

Here is the purchase list of what I’ve bought and where(prices listed are in Australia Dollars):

6mm CNC Cut Plywood Frame – $34.10 – eBay seller 3dprinter_frame

MK2B 12V 24V PCB Heat Bed for Prusa Mendel – $11.07 – eBay Seller elec-mall

5x NTC 3950 Thermistor 100K with 1 metre wire – $5.05 – eBay Seller satisfyelectronics

6x 8mm x 495mm 304 Stainless Steel Smooth Rods – $25 + $9 shipping – eBay Seller billsrepairs

12x LM8UU Linear Bearing for 8mm Shaft – $11.80 – eBay Seller morellitech

10x 624ZZ 4mm x 13mm x 5mm Radial Ball Bearings – $3.30 – eBay Seller shanghaimagicbox4

10x 608ZZ Deep Grove Ball Bearing – $4.99 – eBay Seller shanghaimagicbox4

Borosilicate Glass Plate 200mm x 214 mm – $18 + $7 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

3mm Cork Heated Bed Insulation – $12.95 – eBay Seller layr3dprinting

2x ACME Leadscrew Tr8x8 300m Brass Nut – $43.95 – eBay Seller learcnc

5x 38mm Nema17 Stepper Motors – $69.85 – eBay Seller learcnc

2m GT2 Timing Belt 2mm Pitch 6mm Width – $5.90 + $2.50 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

2x GT2 20T Pulley 8mm Bore – $12.90 – eBay Seller learcnc

RepRap Prusa i3 Rework 1.5 ABS 3D Printed Plastic Parts -$37.95 – eBay Seller vuuee

Short J-Head Extruder with Nozzle Heater and Thermistor – $32.00 – eBay Seller billsrepairs

3x Economy Mechanical Endstop – $13.35 + $3.00 shipping – eBay Seller learcnc

This list is a work in progress, I’ll be updating it as I go along. It’s possible some of these items aren’t the right ones. I’ll have to figure that out as I assemble it.

Thyme and Oregano

Creating a Balcony Herb Garden

Updated: See the bottom of the post for what it looks like after 3.5 months!

We’ve been growing some herbs on our balcony for a while, but mostly in their original pots from the nursery. Over the last couple of days I’ve replaced them with some new plants in new pots.

I purchased two rectangular Yates Artesian Classic planter boxes from Bunnings in a terracotta colour. We’ve got another similar Yates Artesian pot for our fern that seems to go great. They’re good because they’re self watering with a large base storage of water which is good for us as our balcony gets quite dry and we don’t always get to water them.

I chose them because I remember Don Burke from Burke’s Backyard mentioned many times that you’re better to get a plastic terracotta look pot than a real terracotta pot. They’re much lighter, last better and don’t dry the plants out as much. The tubs cost $15 each from Bunnings and hold 10 Litres of soil each.

The labels on the Yates pots are annoying though, being hard to properly remove!

We bought the herbs as seedlings from The Plant Shack at Deception Bay, who’s owners have always given us great service. We got:

They cost us $18 for the four.

Update: Here’s what it looks like in late December:

3.5 Months Later: Italian Parsley and Garlic Chives
3.5 Months Later: Italian Parsley and Garlic Chives
3.5 Months Later: Thyme and Oregano
3.5 Months Later: Thyme and Oregano
KMart Virtual Reality Goggles

KMart $15 Virtual Reality Goggles Review

If you’ve been following the state of virtual reality technology of late, you’ve likely heard of or even used Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard was a precut cardboard fold up VR headset that cost less than $30 and used your mobile phone. Since that came out different companies have produced fully manufactured plastic units similar.

In their most recent catalogue KMart Australia started selling $15 Virtual Reality Goggles using the same design and technology as Google Cardboard. This kit is made of injection molded plastic with comfort foam and adjustable fabric straps to hold it on your head.

KMart Virtual Reality Goggles
KMart Virtual Reality Goggles

The lenses are larger than those in many similar Google Cardboard based headset, which leads to a larger, better field of view. The headset is quite comfortable and lightweight, even with my phone, an Apple iPhone 6, inside.

KMart Virtual Reality Goggles and the box the come in
KMart Virtual Reality Goggles and the box the come in

The virtual reality effect is quite impressive. A rollercoaster app makes you feel like you’re really moving around. Full 180 degree 3D dome videos look impressive. It is quite low resolution and dotty however as the mobile phone’s screen is being spread across your full field of vision.

Looking into the goggles
Looking into the goggles

The unit has a bottom magnet slider which can be used to control some apps on some phones. I’ve not found it to work with my iPhone though.

The manual contains links to some apps that can be used, including a Roller Coaster VR app for iOS.

A Note for Android Users

Commenter Darren Ferguson(see comments below), noted that the magnet on the bottom is should be on the side. The magnet works with the Apple iPhone correct(although intermittently). However on many Android phones including the Nexus5 it magnet will turn the phone off. Thanks for the info Darren!

Conclusion

For $15 I’m really impressed with the quality and strongly recommend it. I’ve only tested with an Apple iPhone 6, but Google Cardboard was originally designed for Android phones so should work fine with those too. This unit is a great chance to play with VR at a low cost.

You can find the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles on their website here or visit your local KMart where they’re strangely stored behind a glass cabinet in the Audio Visual section.

I’ve also published a list of some suggested iPhone Virtual Reality apps to try here.

Comparison of my cardboard VR kit to the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles
Comparison of my cardboard VR kit to the KMart Virtual Reality Goggles