Tuesday, 1 May 2018

World, meet "Bizkit"

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WORLD, MEET "BIZKIT"!

Bizkit is a javan mynah living in Ang Mo Kio who has been flying into our flat every other day to eat biscuit crumbs, noodles, and other scraps from our kitchen floor and kitchen sink. Although all the javan mynahs look exactly the same, we think that there is one unique Bizkit who is especially bold and unafraid of us. Some of the "Bizkits" come in pairs, but they also give us a very "guilty" look and scoot off the moment we walk into the kitchen. But there is one original "Bizkit" who does not seem afraid of humans at all and will even walk all the way to the threshold of our living room, even if we are in the kitchen itself. This post is about that Bizkit.

Bizkit likes biscuits, noodles, cooked human food scraps, and oil. The Bizkits also have an unhealthy interest in plastic bags, probably because they know that humans often put their food inside plastic bags. The food itself needs to be small enough for Bizkits to eat, and if its not small enough the Bizkit may pick up the food with its beak and then hit it onto the counter top or drop it onto the ktichen floor until it breaks into smaller components that it can swallow in one go. The Bizkits are surprisingly quite good at using tools which they pick up with their beaks. We noticed that Bizkit doesn't seem to be interested in the healthy options we have offered in our household - chopped carrots or chopped fruits are only begrudgingly eaten and in fact most of the Bizkits will sit in our house and make loud, almost shouty sounds at us if there are no unhealthy oily food scraps left around. Its like they're complaining at times.

After eating our crumbs, Bizkit will usually noisily wipe its beak on the window sill, fluff up into a ball, and chirrup a little. We're not sure what the beak cleaning means, but some papers suggest that when a mynah bird is unable to complete the task it wanted to complete, it cleans its beak as a passive aggressive act. Or maybe a simpler answer is that the Bizkit's beak is just dirty after it pokes around our kitchen to find bits and pieces.

Recently Bizkit developed a pink growth near its beak and I became worried it was the sign of an illness or tumour, but hopefully it is just a skin tag and something harmless that Bizkit will live through. These birds are wild, impulsive, and very bold, and it is apparently said their lifespan is about 4 years in the wild. They're the kind of birds which are so curious that they will be the first to investigate roadkill, but in the process may become roadkill themselves. And if these javan mynah birds fight, its often a fight to the death! Apparently if they were kept away from the inherent dangers of urban life, their expected lifespan would be closer to the range of 12-15 years.

I don't know how much longer we'll be living in this flat, but for as long as we're here, I hope to hear the familiar chirrup of Bizkits in our kitchen for many more moons!



Pictures of Bizkit are by George

Monday, 2 April 2018

Lessons in 3D Printing: Blobs, Warping, Gaps, Ugly Overhangs, and other disasters with gravity

What do you do after you've let the printer go on printing for several hours but all you have left to show for your efforts is a big fat deformed blob of PLA? Well, after incorporating a 3D printing component to the 3D module I was teaching, I found myself dealing with many different cases of 3D printing disasters which I'll document here as a cautionary tale of the futility of logic and planning in the face of the freak accidents and an uncaring machine...

1. Blob around Extruder


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What is it? Item comes off the print bed midway, sticks to the nozzle, and envelopes the entire extruder as a blob of goo which once hardens may make it impossible to remove from your printer.

How to fix? Watch your prints from start to finish (often this is impossible and impractical to do) or try to set up an IP webcam to catch instances where this is happening.

2. Warping


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What is it? Warping is when you have a large part to print and the first layer which originally adhered so well begins to warp at one corner because of uneven cooling.

How to fix? The obvious fixes for this is to use a heated bed (check), use a heated enclosure (check) and print with a good brim or raft (check). Unfortunately even my rafts still continued to warp, so the main solution I used to fix this is to avoid the edges and to avoid overcrowding the print bed. I say solution but really it was just a temporary coping mechanism to try to get on with printing despite occasional warping.

3. Gap between parts


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What is it? This is where someone has designed a part with an error and failed to check if the slicing is alright, resulting in this mess.

How to fix? Check and double check the design of all parts before printing! Look through every single layer if you have to to ensure that the thread continues and doesn't just stop for a few layers.

4. Insufficient supports


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What is it? Many a time I would see a file that did not seem to have sufficient support to keep the object from falling over. But since I wanted to make a teaching point of this, I let the item go to print so we could all experience the failure together. Now that I have observed several hundreds hours of prints, I find that I am pretty accurate at eyeballing a print and determining where a print lacks the supports for it to complete without falling over.

How to fix? ADD MAXIMUM SUPPORT. Don't just do what you think is the minimum, because that is almost certain to end in tears. Add the maximum amount of support needed if possible and accept the fact that the only way to get some objects printed is to allow it to take the longest possible time to print (with all the additional support)

5. Ugly Overhang


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What is it? This is where you knew the printer would make a squiggly mess of the overhang yet you let it go on printing.

How to fix? Like the previous support issue, you just have to add more supports than you think you need. Or slice the item into half and lay flat the two halves to print.

6. Flipped Normals


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What is it? If your 3D model has errors or flipped normals in any portion of itself, it may be translated into a weird shell of itself if you forcibly slice it into gcode.

How to fix? FIX YOUR MODELS COMPLETELY BEFORE SLICING THEM.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and Singapore Quarry

It has occured to me that I really should resume my documentation of various walks since some of my drafts are almost a year old now... SO I CAN KEEP IT CURRENT AGAIN IN THIS BLOG!!! Let me kick things off with a documentation of some of our weekend walks in Singapore...

Bukit Timah Hill Summit and Singapore Quarry


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A few weekends ago we decided to go on a walk through the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve and began our journey on Upper Bukit Timah Road, near to Beauty World and Bukit Timah Shopping Centre, singularly populated by maid agencies and tuition centres. On the road itself at the end of the mall, there was this little "gratitude" altar made out of this extruded clay material. We were going to go through Hindhede Road and walk to the summit of Bukit Timah Hill...

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....and then maybe because its just Singapore being small, but it seemed as if we got to the summit almost immediately after a little walking uphill and then everything from there was downhill (literally). At 163.63m high above sea level, this is Singapore's highest hill (and largest primary forest, from which many botanical collections have been derived from). Deforested by the encroaching gambier and pepper plantations at its foothills, the forest was identified by the colonial government as an area to be conserved (although this only took effect after a significant portion of the forest was lost) and there were some reforestation works (largely involving economically useful trees though).

But is it so tiny? To be fair since we are talking of hills in cities, I looked it up for comparison: Hampstead Heath's highest point is 134m, Crystal Palace's Sydenham Hill is 112m, Muswell Hill is 105m, Highgate Hill is 100m. I suppose that most do not experience the hills in a direct fashion as our houses are not built on hills like these, whereas it is common to have houses on a steep hill in the UK. (I have a distinct memory of watching a television advert for a car on Singapore telly when I was young and snorting at the advert which was selling the fact that the vehicle could cruise up a 40 deg hill with a full load and no problem but in my limited experience when I was a child I never saw any hills matching that description in Singapore so it was a moot selling point to me!)

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Lovely seat in the jungle - that is if you dont mind sitting still so that the mosquitos can eat you better.

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There were many forest paths but we did not see any unusual animals or monkeys. (Apparently I had oversold the prospect of sighting monkeys a wee bit too much to George)

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Weird black goo on a tree.

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The cliff's edge

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A little stream along the way

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A prickly Rambutan, or an Allamanda's fruit?

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Long stairs down...

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Leafy Ferns - Bukit Timah is known for its many ferns and there's supposed to be some "Fern Valley" in it but I don't know if this was THE fern valley.

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By this point we were back in Civilisation and along the roads, but since we were pretty close to the three granite quarries, we walked to the nearest one to us, which was the (somewhat unimaginatively named) Singapore Quarry, one of the granite quarry which have since been turned into a beauty spot where school children have picnics and people come to take scenic yoga instagram pics...

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Singapore Quarry

This walk took less time that I thought it would, but the heat and moisture does get in the way of things, giving the impression of a monumental exertion over what is really just a modest hill.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Piccadilly in Seletar: Down the dead end road



If we had to give our walks a ranking of enjoyability, this would not be one of them. I say this because whilst we were on this walk, George actually told me that outright. "Debbie, if we were to give our walks a ranking of enjoyability, this would be one of the worst ones so far, where is the nearest MRT, I'd like to go home now please".

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We began this walk at the Oval at Seletar Aerospace park, which had an airplane themed playground not so far away from the actual seletar airport itself, where you can watch small private/chartered planes taking off and landing. It started off quite promisingly...

Seletar Airport was the home of a Royal Air Force station in Singapore (1928-1971). During WWII it was one of the sites targeted with carpet bombing. For some time it was the first international airport in Singapore (before Kallang Airport) and after the British pulled out of Singapore it was handed over to RSAF. There had been proposals to lengthen the runway so as to be able to receive the 737 used by a lot of budget airlines but those plans were canned and instead the new passenger terminal being built in Seletar will be mainly for those using smaller and slower planes.

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We got to Soek Seng Bicycle Cafe which I suppose has a lovely view and could be something to look forward to at the end of a long bicycle ride, but for pedestrians on the long stroll I have to say there are not so many redeeming factors. This area seems designed for cars and planes, and not so much for people to walk on foot to explore.

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At the end of a very long meander down lots of old Seletar camp buildings (with nearly no other humans besides workers in a nearby construction site and some cyclists speeding past), we ended up at a dead end that overlooked the waters with absolutely no way for us to cross it.

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Since it was home to the RAF base there are remnants of black and white houses which were used to house the British RAF servicemen/women and their families - and many road named after places in the UK:

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Behold as we walk down the bustling busy surroundings of Edgware Road

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Let's do the lambeth walk down Lambeth Walk

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What about a hugely exciting walk down the lively Oxford Street



As Oscar Wilde did write in Dorian Gray: "As I lounged in the Park, or strolled down Piccadilly, I used to look at everyone who passed me, and wonder, with mad curiosity, what sort of lives they led. some of them fascinated me. Others filled me with terror." The terror of a walk down the nether regions of Seletar to a dead end construction site - where the adjacent waterways smelled strongly like human sewage and the roads were given names like Piccadilly, Maida Vale, Regent St, Baker St, Park Lane, St Martin Lane, Battersea....

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Welcome to Piccadilly in Seletar, Singapore