Friday, November 20, 2020

Trimming out the new roof windows

 We had some new roof windows fitted and I decided I wanted to trim them out rather than have the window fitters do it. There were moments when I began to regret the idea, but in the end we got it done and it doesn't look to bad. 

The problem was that whoever did the original windows didn't seem to like the idea of perpendicular and square. In fact one is so far out of square that in the end it wasn't worth the effort to try to put that right. 

The defat now is whether to leave them as they are, maybe applying a clear wax or varnish, or whether to paint them. I think print, Anne things leave. Time will tell.

How much of sport is played in the head?

 I played tennis a few months ago. Just a practice hit with another player followed by some points. We played a game we call "21". Each player serves 5 points and then the serve changes. The winner is whoever gets to 21 first or if it's 21-21 then you play a tie-break to 2 points clear.

Unlike traditional scoring you're never really out of the game until it's over, which keeps it competitive to the end unless one player gets way ahead and the other can't claw it back. It makes for an interesting mental challenge. Every 5 points of serving or receiving feels like a mini-game within the game. Can you make inroads on your opponents serve? Can you be secure on your own serve? If you can win the 5 point battles you will win the game.

So here's the breakdown of the game in 5 point groups. The first numbers reflect the cumulative score, the numbers in brackets are each 5 point exchange. As the game progresses it's not just about wining and losing points but about strategies, patterns and a mind set that gets you through the game.

2-3 (2-3); 4-6 (2-3); 6-9 (2-3); 9-11 (3-2); 12-13 (3-2); 16-14 (4-1); 19-16 (3-2); 21-18 (2-2)

I served first but didn't make the best of starts and after three rounds was 3 points down. But it was close and I won the next two exchanges to get to within a point. Then I won 4-1 in what looks like a decisive moment in the game to go 16-14 up. 

But the crucial point actually came next when my opponent made a great return and a mishit to take the next two points and now we're 16-16. For me this was a significant moment. Having got myself back into the game and then in front the next point could undo all that work. I won the point and the next one to make it 18-16. Now I had one more serve left in this set of 5 points and I knew that if I lost it that would mean a single point difference but if I win it I'd be 3 points up and possibly more importantly my opponent would need to win all 5 of his service points to win the game. Keeping your mind clear and focussed in these situations is hard and even at the level at which I play it's important to keep your head in the game and have a plan. 

At 19-16 I know all I need is a single point to take it to a tie-break, but I also only need 2 points to win and anything less than 4-1 for my opponent isn't going to keep him in the game. So all the pressure is on him to win points and my strategy is to make sure he has to win the point rather than me giving it away. 

At this point both of us have to trust our technique. If I become defensive and cautious I could easily give up points and the same is true for my opponent. We exchanged points and I managed to win the match.

What's interesting in all this is how much of the game is played in your head. When you're as evenly matched as we were it might come down to a lucky mishit or a great serve, but even at our level being able to execute a plan under pressure is vital. Hit and hope will only get you so far, you have to have a strategy. 

Let me give you a simple example. From the Ad-court my typical serve is to swing it out wide (I'm left-handed) with as much work on the ball as I can get. Everyone who plays me regularly knows it's coming. I know that if I execute it well then 95% of the time I'll win the point. I know they know it's coming, so the only thing I'm thinking about when I step up to serve is get the process right, execute the plan. If they get a good return, fair enough. I can't afford to worry about what they do with ball and start second guessing where to serve, I just need to focus all my attention on what I'm doing. If I get it right the outcome takes care of itself. 

But here's the thing, and I don't think I'm alone in this. For a moment, as you walk towards the baseline, ball in hand or bouncing it nervously as you walk, every scenario runs through your head.  That's the point at which you make a choice. You either rehearse everything that could go wrong and focus upon that, or you choose to rehearse everything that you've practised. 

As we chatted after the game I asked my opponent what he was thinking at the crucial stages. His reply was interesting. His thought was that he was going to lose. Having been in front and having lost the lead, his overriding thought was about losing. Having caught up and gone in front, my thought was that I could go on and win this now. 

I suspect that had the roles been reversed I might also have thought more about losing than winning, but I've tried to learn to put those thoughts away because they interfere with my process. In fact thinking of either winning or losing, although it happens all the time, can disrupt your ability to play. You must focus on the next task.

So did I win because I had better technique, better mental focus, more matchplay experience, more self-belief (I hadn't lost to him before) or a combination of al these factors? Who knows. But the more I play the more I understand that when you'r evenly matched what goes on in your head can make a difference to the way you play and ultimately to the outcome.

Why do I keep practising?

The simple answer is that I want to get better. I want to be more competitive. Yes, I want to win, but there is more. I like learning. I like trying to improve. I don’t like settling. I could just play social tennis at an achievable level, but that’s not enough. I need to push a bit harder. 

Take the other Tuesday for example. At Club Night I could have settled for playing doubles all evening. I’d worked quite hard in the morning squad session and playing singles is tough, especially when you’re the oldest there by maybe two decades! But the doubles was frustrating because the challenge wasn’t there. It’s fun, but the way I want to try and play doubles is, well, more aggressive, get to the net, attack the ball doubles and having my partner standing in the back half of the court and backing off volleys doesn’t work for me. 

So I ended up opting for a singles match against someone who is probably 20 years younger than me, a lot fitter than me and very fast around the court. I would not be able to out run him so I would need a strategy if I was going to use my superior technical ability against his ability to keep the ball in play. In the end it doesn't matter how technically correct or pretty your strokes are if you don't win the points. Sometimes you have to win ugly as they say!

 The plan was simple. Start well. Apply early pressure and build a lead so that if I ran out of energy after long rallies I had room to recover and a margin of error. Keep the points short and if we got into an extended rally control it if I could by keeping him in one corner. If he started to run then I would probably have to run too because the ball would not be under control. His ability to keep the ball alive would have put me under pressure, but if I controlled the rally, he would have to rally the ball and not make errors.

This is why I practise. I practise so that I can trust my ability to play the shot when I most need to. If you look at the statistics for top level tennis you discover one simple fact: most points are not won by hitting glorious winners, they're won by errors made from the other side of the net. In fact even on the professional tour about 66% of points come from errors. At my level I think it's possibly higher, although our lack of movement and ability to read the game may mean we make space for winners from the other side. I don't know. I do know that if you average more than 1.5 errors a game you are probably going to lose the match.

So practice is important if it enables you to reduce your error count in match play. 

Back to the match. My plan worked well to start with and made a good start, keeping the error count low and building a lead. I did begin to run out of steam but I stayed focussed and won in the end. It could have gone the other way and plenty have, but this one went to plan and that makes all the effort on the practice court worthwhile

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Refining and modifying the fence stop

Having designed and printed the fence stop for my simple fence system, I decided that I could refine it and also build a flag stop. There were a few things that I needed to think about and it took several iterations before I got what I thought was a workable design. I use Tinkercad because it's easy and simple. But it is limited, and if you need to disassemble something and make a change, it can sometimes throw everything out. I'd like to get to grips with a better CAD programme, but I've struggled with Fusion 360 to grasp the concepts and methods.

So, here's a screenshot of my Tinkercad design.

I took the basic stop and added tongues to help guide the stop in the aluminium track. Since this version I've made the gp smaller to see if that helps keep the T-nut from turning when you try to locate it in the track. 

The flag stop has a simpler block with a hole and recess for a hex nut in one end. The idea being that you can glue or friction fit an M5 nut or bolt head in it. 

By chance the hole behind the hex recess in the end is tight enough to screw an M5 bolt straight in, so no nut needed. But it might work loose over time so a refinement is probably needed.

At the moment I'm printing a new version with a recess about 6mm in for the end to take a nut dropped in form the underneath.

If it works, then you could add a little epoxy to secure the nut in place but given you're not likely to keep undoing the the flag, it's probably not going to be necessary.

In use the stops and flags seem quite sturdy. There's very little deflection in the flags

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Making a simple fence system

I needed to make a simple fence system for a new bench top I made. Some time ago I incorporated an MFT-style top into a bench in my workshop. This is a bench top with 20mm holes set in a 96mm pattern over the surface. It allows precise 90, 45, 30 & 60 deg cuts to be made and the square up assemblies and a whole host of other things. It's quite the versatile bench system.

In the process of cutting some MDF for a project I had a rather large piece of 18mm left over, so I trimmed it to what I thought was a manageable size of 1800x900mm (turned out still to be rather heavy to carry around so not as 'portable' as I thought) and set about drilling it out in the 96mm pattern. I used the Parf Guide system and after a couple of hours I had a nice series of holes across the surface.

I toyed with a few ideas for making a fence and in the end decided to use some aluminium extrusion. I'd used the same type of thing on the bench in the workshop. The question was did I buy some more of the fence-dogs for this fence or did I use the ones I already had-simply moving them from one been to the other-or did I make something new?

Something new won the argument in my head so I made a prototype anchor that held the aluminium against a bench dog. I also made a simple sliding stop using MDF and some M5 track nuts and screw knobs.

These worked quite well. They held the extrusion in place, pulling it firmly against the bench dog and it was nice and square to the rest of the bench. The only problem was that using MDF in this way to make the clams was not the best option. They just felt flimsy and I thought there must be a better solution. 

Then I remembered the 3D printer and got to work designing the parts for 3D printing.

The end result is an effective clamping system and a smooth operating stop. I've drilled a couple of 20mm holes in my bench that houses my mitre saw so the fence can used there too.

All in all I'm very pleased with the end result. 

I swapped the hex head bolts for some with hex sockets.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Extract from The Guardian-April 13th 2020

I extracted this from The Guardian so that I had a record of these things. It is copied as it appeared on the web version of the paper. I am grateful for the independent journalistic voice of the paper.

Epidemiologists and public health experts are divided over how effective the government’s response has been but criticism has been increasing in recent weeks as the UK death toll rises.
Sue Hill, vice-president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said she believed UK deaths could rise to 30,000. She acknowledged that the government has a difficult job but said it gave the appearance of placing “political spin” over action.
Describing the daily Downing Street briefing as “a bit of a joke”, she said: “He [Boris Johnson or another cabinet minister] is sitting there speaking about subjects he doesn’t really understand and can’t answer questions about it. It’s political spin, isn’t it? They’re not doing themselves any favours.
“The thing that irritates me is cabinet ministers are standing up every day, addressing us as if we’re on a war footing and giving Churchillian quotes when they could be doing a few simple things like getting more bits of plastic and paper [which personal protective equipment is made out of] on to wards.”
Prof John Ashton, a former regional director of public health for north-west England, who has previously criticised the government over the crisis, said its performance had worsened.
He said: “It was the failure to convene [the emergency committee] Cobra at the beginning of February that meant everything else flowed from it, the failure to order equipment etc. Now we are into the cover-up. Any journalist worth their salt should boycott this propaganda [the daily briefing]. They don’t answer any questions.
“The chief nurse deflected the question about the number of nurses and doctors who died because of confidentiality. She wasn’t being asked about individuals, she was being asked about numbers.”
He also said that people were dying in care homes and at home without being tested while some were being sent home to die before they had been tested.
“There are probably large numbers of people who are not being counted,” said Ashton.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said “the time for excuses has passed” when it came to PPE failures and the deaths of medical and care staff.
“Ministers have been saying for weeks that the PPE situation is in hand. That there’s enough to go around and it’s just a matter of logistics. But it isn’t good enough,” he said.
“NHS, care and other key workers are falling ill in huge numbers. Some have already died – including nurses, doctors, care workers, healthcare assistants and porters.”
Unison said its PPE alert hotline has been told of care workers being told to wash their face masks for reuse, threatened with the sack for using them, having to buy their own stock and having to use watered down handwash.
Labour has tried to strike a constructive tone when criticising the government, but Sir Keir Starmer warned of a “mismatch” between the complaints of medical and care staff that they lack protective equipment and ministers insisting there is enough to go round. The new Labour leader is also expected to press the government this week on gaps in the UK’s financial support schemes for workers and businesses.
Andy Burnham, Labour’s last health secretary, said: “The issue is not whether mistakes will be made, the question is how quickly do you acknowledge them and correct them. I think on certain issues they have done that but on what’s most material – PPE - they haven’t.”
Meanwhile, Labour backbenchers were breaking rank with the leadership, with Barry Sheerman, the Huddersfield MP, saying the government had “failed abysmally” to protect NHS staff.
He had, he said, tried his “hardest to be fair to the government … but mounting evidence of the sheer incompetence of ministers and the grim fact of 10,000 deaths means now the gloves are off”.
Peter Hain, the Labour peer and former cabinet minister, told the Guardian: “It’s becoming crystal clear the government has shamefully abandoned frontline health and care workers to their Covid-19 fate as they battle to save the desperately ill.”
The opposition has called for immediate talks on the return of a virtual parliament. But with the Commons not due to be recalled until 21 April, Sir Bernard Jenkin, the senior Tory MP and chair of the liaison committee scrutinising the government, called for ministers to agree to a hearing this week.
Writing for the Guardian, he said: “Proper, considered, penetrating, constructive scrutiny does really matter. This is not about hauling ministers before MPs to blame them for the problems they cannot instantly resolve.
“Former cabinet secretary Gus O’Donnell should be commended for his searing honesty when he recently admitted, without prompting, that he should have advised previous governments to commit far more resources to flu pandemic planning.
“This crisis calls for the same candour and transparency – that is what speeds up the learning process, leading to better decisions and more effective action.”
Speaking at No 10’s briefing on Sunday, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, insisted that both more testing and PPE were on their way to the care sector but he could not give a timescale for when either problem would be sorted out, saying it was “impossible” to say when the right kit would be in the right place across 58,000 sites.
Admitting the death figures meant it was a “sombre day” for the UK, he also could not give an update on the number of NHS staff who have died, saying the last previous figure was 19. Statements from hospitals and the families of workers show the figure is more than 30.
The usefulness of figures provided by the government in tracking the spread of the virus have also been called into question, with concerns about the lack of tracking of cases – and deaths – outside hospitals.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, the British Medical Association’s council chair, said with testing only going on in hospitals, it was difficult to draw any conclusions from the government statistics.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

Making an oil storage tank for the model railway

I'm building a small layout that I hope I'll be able to put in the car and take on holiday for my grandsons to have some fun shunting wagons. The layout is an industrial type of scene and I've done some posts about building arches etc for it.

I decided I'd have a go a making a diesel storage tank and maybe set up some sort of fuelling rig. I could buy a kit but I have a 3D printer and this seemed like a reasonable project to tackle with it.

The first step is design and I used Tinkercad for that. I'd love to get to grips with its big brother Fusion 360, but I'm struggling to get my head around it. So here's the basic design idea I developed.

I then decided to change the domes for something that looked like a flange with bolts. ! also decided to add domed ends to the tank because I thought that would look better than just flat ends.

Now I could print it in one go as it is, and I might still give that a go. But there would be a lot of waste material building a support structure under the tank. So I decided to break it down into individual parts and print the components instead. It took a bit of sorting out and I try wisely did the work on a copy of the design and not the original in case I messed it all up! Here's the component parts design.

You can see the new flanges. There are also a couple of tubes that were meant to go in holes in the top of the cylinder to raise the flanges up but they turned out to be too long or the holes weren't deep enough!

This design file then needs to be passed through a piece of software to prepare it for the printer and away we go. It took 3 or 4 hours to print and then it was a matter of assembling the parts after trimming off the waste PLA from the printing process.

This is what out looked like after assembly and then when it has been primed and painted. I still need to decided where on the layout it will go and then whether to build some sort of platform for it or maybe a wall around. And it need some pipes or other equipment to give it a bit more life.

The paints used were a standard primer (bought from Halfords)  and some matt black Humbrol paint, probably some sort of enamel, but I'm not quite sure.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Leading Funerals in Difficult Times

I've just lead my second funeral during these pandemic days of social distancing and self-isolation. I can only imagine it's going to get harder. Let me fill you in on what normal used to look like.

The 'phone would ring and it would be the Funeral Directors asking me if I'm available with a date and time. An email with fuller details follows and I set a reminder on my computer to call the family. If there's a mobile number I'll send a text to let them know I'll be calling.

We arrange a visit (unless they are too far away to make it practical) and Put the data into my diary which these days automatically finds the address and shows me a map. I print out a file I have of possible readings, make sure I've got some business cards and power up the MacBook.

At the visit we go through the elements of a funeral and talk about what they would like to do. And, this is a key part, I get to meet the family and try to get a read of where they are emotionally and spiritually. Grief is not an easy journey to navigate and my job is to help make this part as easy as possible.

We meet at the crematorium or wherever the service is to be held and we greet one another. The service proceeds and at the end I shake everyone's hand. Sometimes you hold the hand a little longer because it's obvious they need that bit of extra assurance.

This is not a job for me, it's an expression of ministry, it's about being a representative of the kingdom in the midst of their sorrow and grief.

But now so much of this has changed. No visits, no face to face contact. I suppose we could use Skype or FaceTime or Zoom or some other video conferencing tool, but who has the time to set them all up and switch between them. So it's a telephone call, a series of emails, a nagging feeling that there's something missing.

You arrive at the crem to see what looks like a very large marquee erected in the main car park. I't not a marquee of course, it's a temporary mortuary. More signs that life is even more fragile in these days of escalating infection and deaths.  No access to the office to check the music and chat to the chapel attendant.

The hearse pulls into the drive. No limousines, the family have had to make their own way there. You wonder who it is you've been talking to on the 'phone. you can't wander up to people and ask, you just have to hope that they will somehow make themselves known. Either that, or you'll have to ask form the front.

You start the service with an apology for not having been able to visit and for not be able to shake hands at the end of the service. It's not your fault of course, and everyone understands, but you still feel a pang of guilt that somehow you haven't served them well.

In the chapel all the service books have been put away. How do you say The Lord's Prayer without a book? From memory you say, but which version and whose memory? Uncle John wants to share a few memories. Okay, but what do you do if he touches the lectern? In a small chapel you might nt be able to get 2m away unless you open the back door and step outside!

Half a dozen mourners sit spread out in a 100 seat chapel. No handshakes at the end, just a nod from a safe distance. No time with the family around the flowers.

It feels so strange, and any spare thoughts you have ought rightly to go to the families who are having to say goodbye to someone they have loved in such a clinical and sterile way. But as I make my way home I can't help but feel that it's going to get harder. One fellow celebrant has stopped because his wife is in a high risk category and he feels it's the right thing to do. I agree with him.

So far I haven't be involved with a funeral for anyone who has died as a result of a Covid-19 infection, but I doubt it will be too long. As long as I feel safe and well I will continue to serve families to the best of my ability.

I'm not trying to suggest that as funeral celebrants we're being overlooked. We're not key workers. We don't need special recognition for what we do. I just wanted to share my thoughts.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Railway Arches: Part 2

Well I finished off the arches sooner than I anticipated. I guess sometimes you just get caught up in the making and forget how long you've spent being socially distant from everyone!

Here's the finished arches on the baseboard.

There are eight in total spanning almost 1220mm. I had to fashion some small end walls from brick paper and card to fill the gaps at other end. I had thought of fitting the  board the length of the arches or leaving a bigger gap at one end. But in the end I decided to put it centrally.

Once in position I began to think about the kind of fence I wanted to separate the arches form the railway. I thought about a few possibilities, the main consideration being not to obscure the arches too much. Chain link would do the job, but I thought some concrete panels might look quite good.

Here's how I made my test piece. I used 2mm thick card and cut it into 8mm strips for the panels and 3 mm strips for the posts.

Initially I thought I'd make the fence posts long enough to fit into predrilled holes in the base board. I might regret having changed my mind on that.

The four 8mm strips were set out and carefully aligned at one edge. On one strip I marked out 25mm intervals and using a small square carefully glued the posts to all the strips working my way along.

When I'd finished one side it looked like this.

The next job was to turn the section over and glue more 3mm strips in line with those on this side to give the look of a panel sitting in th groove fo a concrete post.

The next task will be to paint and weather it. I might even add some graffiti for realism!

In 00 gauge it's 8 ft tall. The 25mm spacing of the posts was for convenience of making out. I didn't think 1mm would impact the sense of scale too much! 

I put this test piece in position in front of the arches and it's a good height. It doesn't obscure too much of the arch detail but it still gives a realistic representation of a fence.

Although a bit tedious to do, cutting the 8mm strips makes it look like those fences where the concrete panels slide in. Time to make some more.