ramblings of an electronic engineer.

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Japan Trip 2016: Kyoto

If I could only take away one experience from visitng Kyoto it’d be photographing the beautiful Macaque (Snow Monkeys). Nestled away on top of a mountain west of central Kyoto is the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama.While it’s a little bit of a hike up to the reserve it’s ultimately well worthwhile as you catch your first few glimpses of the macque.


The reserve is kinda interesting, unlike a zoo where animals are put behind cages so humans can view and feed them the roles are reversed. A little hut on the top mountain serves as an area that guests can enter to feed the monkey pieces of apple and peanuts through a wire mesh. To be honest I could have spent a whole day up with the macques but there was more of Kyoto to explore.

Next up was Tenryu-ji Temple which had a beautiful traditional garden ajoining a bamboo forrest.

Finally to end the day we headed to Mt Inari which is known for it’s red coloured gates that pave a path from the bottom to the top of the mountain.

A reoccuring reflection of the trip was there were so many places we visited along the way I wish we had spend longer at. Kyoto was no exception and hopefully I’ll have the chance for an extended stay in the future.

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Japan Trip 2016: Osaka

We had three main attractions scheduled to visit in Osaka been Universal Studios, Osaka Aquarium and Osaka Castle. Arriving in the afternoon we quickly settled into our hotel and were treated to a wonder view of the city and harbour. We could see Osaka bay, the aquarium, ferris wheel and Universal Studios all of which we would be further acquainted with later.

The next day It was surprising walking into Universal Studios for the first time and realising what film and television franchises are part of their portfolio, I knew that films such as Harry Potter, Jurasic Park and Jaws were part of their portfolio but not that Despicable Me (minions everywhere!) or anime such as Attack on Titan or One Piece were for example.

Arguably my favourite section of the theme park was the so called Harry Potter Land which was layed out similar to what you might imagine diagon alley would be in the books with various stores from the franchise on each side such as Honneydukes or The Owl Post. Of couse at the end of the alley was of course Hogwarts castle.

Besides Harry Potter land universal studies also boasts many roller coasters and attractions. Of note we went on the Jurassic park roller coaster which was unlike any other I have tried, where once secured in the harness rotated 90 degrees backwards to you face the ground, well at least for the beginning of the ride 😉

Come our second day in Osaka we look the train down to the Aquarium which is located near the shipping container docks of the harbour. Having arrived before its opening time we ended up filling the time by riding the giant ferris wheel and playing in some arcades nearby.

If you can imagine a helix spiralling down this is pretty much the layout of Osaka Aquarium. You start on the top floor and work your way down level by level with multiple tanks positioned around the outside of the spiral and one giant tank in the middle of the helix. When I say giant, we are talking about the size to house a whale shark, that giant. The glass used for the main tank is 30cm thick acrylic which they had a sample of on display.


The tanks around the outside of the aquarium contained anything from dolphins, to sea otters to crabs to jellyfish. Each group of animals also have a allocated feeding time which you could go see. here are some examples of the tank inhabitants.

Right next to the aquarium was one more attraction I wanted to go see, a Legoland Discovery Center. unfortunately for me however I wasn’t able to go in since all adults needed to be accompanied with children. Thinking about it it’s a fair enough policy but regardless I was allowed to go into the gift store which housed a Lego pick a brick wall. Needless to say I took advantage of this fact and added some Lego to my collection 🙂


The remaining of the day was spent briefly meeting up for coffee with one of the missionaries my church supports in Japan and visiting Osaka castle.


And finally our third full day in Osaka actually wasn’t spent in Osaka but rather in Kyoto which is a short train ride away. Visiting Kyoto contained one of my faviourite things of the whole trip but I’m going to leave the details of that to a future post.

P.S. Technically after Osaka we travelled to Tokyo for a day then to Kawaguchico, Mt fuji and back to tokyo. However for the structure one post per city I’m going to skip forward to Kawaguchiko and comment on the happenings of the day in tokyo with the rest of the time spent there.

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Japan Trip 2016: Onomichi

Onomichi popped up on our list of places to visit when my sister was talking to a work colleague of hers whom suggested it, the reason been is from it starts a cycling trail that goes through several islands connected via bridges. Sounds cool right? after looking up some photos online of the town and cycling track I was also convinced to go. Furthermore it was a great opportunity to go a bit of the beaten path and experience a more rural area of Japan.

Arriving in the afternoon having just travelled from Hiroshima we ended up spending what was left of the day visiting the local shopping centre (which was an experience in itself in so much that the whole shopping centre is an open floor plan with separate store not partitioned off by walls) followed by a walk around around the town along side the sea/bay. My first impression was it was a lovely seaside town, not the smallest and probably not the most rural but nice nether-less.


View from our hotel at night.

Come the next day we walked to a bike hire shop and after a ferry to the first island started our 30km bike ride. The route itself followed the outside perimeter of each island which offers wonderful views of the seaside towns, harbours and commercial infrastructure. For a while during the trip I was trying to work out what the main industry was on the islands since there was a distinct lack of shipping containers. I’m still not 100% sure but my best guess is boat manufacturing since there was clearly at least a few locations that were welding sections of vessels together and several warehouses large enough to house a ship in construction.

After several hours of riding we made it to the third island where we would catch the ferry back to the start. Having some time to kill before the ferry’s departure however we decided to find a place for lunch ending up at a small pizzeria. It was there that we got to have a nice conversation with an elderly Japanese couple whom were visiting family in the area. It was great to share stories and impressions of what we had seen of japan thus far and to be given recommendation of what to do in the surrounding area. We would have liked to continue our conversation however after realising that the ferry we had to catch left in 10 mins had to cut out conversation short and ride the remaining distance to the pier. A short 30 minutes later and we were back where we started and I was somewhat amused that what has taken up three hours to ride was achievable in 1/6th of the time with the right mode of transport.

At this point of the trip we were starting to get a bit tired of unpacking, spending a day at a location then packing up and moving to the next so we were very happy that the next city we were travelling to (Osaka) we had several days scheduled to be at.

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Brick Event Brisbane 2016

I’ve been very slack covering things I’ve been working on and events I’ve attended and so on. While this particular event was a while ago it spawned some significant projects that have kept me occupied the past few months so ultimately it is worth covering for the very least to provide context for some things I’m currently working on. Anyway onwards!

So how I came to know about Brisbane Brick Event kinda came from a little bit of misfortune. After finishing work one day I started walking to my bus stop and before reaching the stop witnessed my bus pass by me walking, arrive at the stop and leave just before I could reach it. Looking at the bus leave slightly frustrated by the timing of it all I noticed the advertisement for the Brisbane Brick Event the coming weekend.

So been a fan of LEGO and having a weekend free I went along and was pleasantly surprised by the  range and intricacy of the models and dioramas on display. I think some photos are in order 🙂

Among the dioramas was one booth that particularly stood out to me, that of my (now) friend Bailey whom had a display showing various historical pieces from LEGO. From the wooden toys LEGO made before plastic bricks, to vintage bricks, to modern plastic granulate used in the manufacture of modern bricks.

At work or the past 6 months or more I’ve been stepping back from an electronic engineering type role and moving more to mechanical design (I do still so schematic reviews, and design some electronics occasionally though). Specifically I’m been learning a lot about plastic injection moulding which is a manufacturing process used throughout almost every consumer product now days. So coming across Baileys display I realised that there is a lot of interesting history behind how the Lego brick is now produced today that I had never stopped to consider.

The process seems like it should be straightforward right, LEGO gets plastic, puts it into a mould and makes their iconic brick. But in actual fact the manufacturing process is far more complex and riddled with many problems that need to be addressed. A brief example of this is the research involved with selecting the brick shape with the appropriate amount of mating force such that a child could take two bricks apart but also that the bricks held together sufficiently. 4 prototypes were actually made which are known as ABCD bricks (each have a letter stamped on a stud) which have a different mating forces. In the end LEGO decided to go with the C brick making it the basis for all modern brick designs. Researching and collecting some items that illustrate said issues has now become an interesting side project of mine now as you’ll see in some future posts 🙂

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Japan Trip 2016: Hiroshima

The first day of my trip to Japan was spent traveling from Narita (just outside Tokyo) to Hiroshima via a Shinkansen. This ended up been great mode of transport since there there was a lot of countryside we got to see as well as some cities we would visit later in the trip.

Arriving at Hiroshima we found our hotel, the Grand Intelligent Design which was decorated in a completely ‘over the top’ manner I’m sure only Japan could pull off with suits of armour in the foyer, chandlers in the reception and generally been decorated everywhere to the extent you had to question if it was really necessary.


After settling in it was time to use what was left of the day day to explore the city a bit. So we took a bus to centre of the city to the peace memorial park and walked back to our Hotel visiting some of the shopping arcades along the way. We didn’t spend too long looking around the park through since we planned on travelling there the next day and all in all it was a really fun day and a great start to our trip.

The next day we headed back into the city to the Peace Memorial Park and visited the Peace Museum which was does a very good job of conveying the horror and scale of the atomic blast over Hiroshima in 1945. Walking though the museum the piece that really struck me as to the scale of the attack was a large diorama of the city set up in the middle of a room. This diorama (below) showed the only buildings that were left standing after the blast and in the centre of the city a red sphere representing the initial fireball. Looking and studying the diorama I started to realise certain landmarks such as the train station we came in, the location of some ruins, the peace park and finally the path we followed through the city the prior day all of which all were completely destroyed.


The rest of the exhibits were equally effective at portraying the magnitude of the blast ranging from bent steel I-beams, to the glass bottles that had been fused together from the intense heat and more macabre examples of the effects on the victims of the attack. What happened on that day in 1945 can be described as nothing short of horrific and I feel that it is a place you need to visit in order to fully appreciate the magnitude and loss of the city.

After our visit to the museum we got ice-cream (which helped to cheer me up a little) and walked through the memorial park where many were paying their respects to the victims of the attack at the various monuments scattered throughout the park. I must say to spite the destruction that took place in Hiroshima it was encouraging to see a beautiful city had been managed to be rebuild many years afterwards. The park was full of trees and foliage and a lovely river which juxtapose the remaining ruin, the A-bomb dome and memorials.

Before departing for our next destination we had one more stop to make in the city, Hiroshima Castle. Like most castles in Japan this one was (obviously) destroyed and rebuilt to match it’s predecessor. The castle grounds are quite expansive and gardens unsurprisingly very well maintained. The castle itself consisted of around 5 or so levels with a viewing platform at the top. As a whole the castles is setup as a museum with different exhibits on each level, some were dedicated to the history of the castle grounds while other focused on samurai suits/weapons and castle defences. Of the two castles I visited in Japan (the other been Osaka castle) I’d have to say that Hiroshima Castle I found the most interesting. In particular my favourite of the exhibits were on the construction of samurai swords and armour each of which the attention to detail is phenomenal.


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Japan Trip 2016

Around 3 weeks ago I arrived back home after traveling around Japan for 17 days. Overall the experience was incredible and included many firsts for me, for example first time traveling to a country that speaks a different language.

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I traveled with my sister whom had made two trips over to Japan before (one to present a paper at a thermodynamics conference, the other for a holiday) so I was in good hands and managed to get away with only knowing a little Japanese. In fact I recall my japanese vocabulary consisted of the following words: good morning, good day, good evening, thank you, excuse me, yes, no, please, numbers (one, two, three etc…), seriously, idiot, how are you?, goodbye and me too. It’s interesting exactly how far you could get with just knowing some simple dialect and pointing to things though. At any rate most Japanese people know at least a little english and the most trouble I got into was accidentally ordering two different chicken burgers at Mc Donalds instead of one.

Over the course of the trip we traveled over a great deal of Japan, very broadly we arrived in Tokyo and traveled to Hiroshima, Onimichi, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo, Kawaguchico/Mt Fuji, and Tokyo once more. Each city I found was unique in it’s own way and I’d happily visit every one of them again if given the opportunity. Anyway for this post I thought I’d share a few overall impressions and observations I had during the trip that I found to be particularly noteworthy.

After first arriving in Japan the infrastructure of the cities and suburbs really surprised me. My initial expectation was that everything would be quite modern and incorporate lots of electronic smarts but in actual fact save for a few exceptions their building and transit infrastructure looked like it was all build in the 80’s and 90’s and had not been upgraded much since. It’s not that Japan doesn’t have any modern technology, Osaka for example has some very new modern consumer buildings and the Shinkansen are obviously quite modern but it was definitely my observation that these were in the minority.

From my understanding there was one a time that Japan had a reputation for having the cutting edge technology and was the place to visit for the latest gadgets and electronic goods. However visiting and looking around at the goods sold at places like Yodobashi camera in Akihabara this just isn’t the case anymore. The goods available are pretty much the same that are available back home in Australia.   I think this isn’t indicative of that there is less innovation happening in Japan and Asia than before but rather that the global market has opened up a lot more through distribution and new products are offered everywhere at the same time. After all why not release a new product in 10 countries rather than just one if you can? I will say to Japan’s credit their department stores such as Yodobashi do have a lot more range all in one place compared to anything I’ve experienced back home (I suppose it’s possible when you have a 10 level store though).

Finally it was interesting to experience the difference between rural Japan and more populated city areas. This is partly why I was interested in visiting Onimichi. During the train ride to Onimichi it was immediately obvious that the station announcements were no longer repeated in english nor any of the graphics translated. It makes sense that english would be less prominent the more rural you travel and I’ve heard similar experiences by friends that have visited other countries but nether less it was interesting to experience firsthand.

Anyway I feel I’ve written enough for one post and as I start to review and edit photos (I’m about halfway through currently) I’m sure I’ll think of some other interesting things regarding Japan later. Look forward to sharing more in the future.



By the way hopeful content will start becoming a little more regular soon, for the past two/three months I’ve been having some issues with my main computer BSODing randomly which hopefully will be resolved soon. Besides this I’ve gone ahead and repaired by old macbook pro so I can start doing some writing on the train to and from during my lunch break at work. We see if it becomes habit or not.

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AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol


In case you weren’t aware over the past week there has been an Go tournament running between 18th world champion Go player Lee Sedol and Google’s AlphaGo program developed for their DeepMind neural network. Go for those not aware is an ancient chinese game of area control where players take turns placing stones on a grid and attempting to create a territory that occupies more than half the board to win. What’s interesting about Go compared to other abstract strategy games like chess is the number of possible different games is staggering  (10761 compared to that of chess which is estimated at 10120 possible games).

In 1997 IBM’s supercomputer Deep Blue successfully won a chess tournament against the reigning world champion Garry Kasparov winning 3½–2½ . Deep Blue used largely a brute force method to determine moves that went and searched down a possibility tree to a typical depth of 6-8 moves (sometime up to 20 or more depending on the situation) in order to pick an optimum move. Looking back to Go the number of possible games is far to big to attempt a brute force attack so instead AlphaGo has a large database of 30 million moves which it will search through and select a few promising moves, it then will work those moves down a Monte Carlo tree and evaluate each move with a “value network” and “policy network” thereafter selecting the move that has the highest success of improving it’s odds in the game. Interestingly enough AlphaGo doesn’t necessarily choose the moves that will increase its margin of winning, if it is negligibly lower risk to pick a move that wins by a small margin then one that would win with a higher margin it will pick the move with the less risk. (For a more information on AlphaGo watch this video)

So far 4 games have been played between AlphaGo and Lee Sedol with the first three been won by AlphaGo and the fourth by Lee. I’ve watches parts of the first game between them and also the third on the weekend during the live stream. While I haven’t played too much Go (I’m beginner level to amature at best) The livestream is quite easy to follow with a running commentary of the game by a Go professional that shows possible future plays and evaluating each player’s position throughout the game. I’d highly recommend you go watch some of the 15 minute summary videos if you’re at all interested.

A livestream of the 5th and final game starts today at 1pm here.

Links to Summary Videos: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4.



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Pi Day 2016

Honestly Pi day this year sneaked up on me and I was only reminded by a few promotions from electronic distributors in my inbox this morning. Unlike previous years I don’t really have anything special planned in order to celebrate, however I can say that over the past few years doing work in acoustics and electronic design my appreciation for the mathematical constant has increased greatly.

So happy Pi day everyone.



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Build: Fallout 3 Microfusion Cell

I absolutely love the Bethsaidas Fallout franchise having fond memories wandering around the wastelands of Fallout 3 many years ago and nowadays the epic  Fallout 4 landscapes. Since playing the game for the first time I always remember having an affinity towards the futuristic energy weapons that appeared in the game. These were typically powered by either energy cells or for higher powered weapons, microfusion cells.


I have a few projects in the pipeline that require weathering applied to them so in order to practice I found a microfusion cell model off Thingiverse then went to town printing it and applying the base coat paint layers. To weather the part I  got out some acrylic paints and mixed up some black and brown/dirt tones thereafter diluting them with a little water. With a rag on hand I applied the paint over various parts of the model then wiped off most of it leaving some of it in the cracks and crevices.

The detailing of the prop was applied by stenciling off the part with painters tape then spray painting with the appropriate colours. This step is where I failed in some regards by not checking any reference material for the decals on the game models but kinda making it up as I went along. So I wouldn’t say this prop is a 100% replica but nevertheless I’m particularly happy with how it turned out in the end. Should I remake this model I’d definitely look into creating a water slide decal to apply to the prop.