Trolley Modeling in N Scale

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Halloween ~ Wednesday, November 08, 2017

We built a maze in our yard again this year (for last time see: http://nkncat.blogspot.com/2015/11/halloween-2015.html).  Wini and her friends hid in it to scare older kids and guide younger ones through. 

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Megapumpkins ~ Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Most people in the Bay Area have heard of the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin festival, but to use an old saw, nobody goes there because it's way too crowded.

Another public pumpkin event happens a little earlier, the Championship Pumpkin Weigh-off. It's every year on Columbus Day, which isn't generally a holiday in California, but this year the Redwood City Schools took it off, so Nate and I went.

In today's news I see that the winner came from Washington State, and weighed 2,363 lbs, a new American Record. We are not the only country to hold this event, and this year's European championship went to a Belgian with a 1008 Kg pumpkin--pretty close, but 1008 Kg = 2222.26 lbs so we're still ahead. USA! USA! The European Pumpkin Festival does look pretty cool, though--check out the pumpkin boats.

Years ago I made an N Scale pumpkin patch, with a giant in the back of a truck:

Now it turns out I have a belated prototype.

I asked this guy if he was going to make a pie, and he said "lots of them!"

Down the coast, we passed the site of the ghost town of Purisima. Nothing remains of it except a cemetery, which before was always overgrown to the point of impassibility, but someone has cleared the underbrush.

A little farther is Arata Pumpkin Farm, where we navigated a hay-bale maze, twice. It's impressive. I wanted to put the theory to the test that a maze can be navigated by picking a direction to turn, left or right, and sticking to it consistently, but Nate found this strategy boring so we just wing'ed it (Note: if you want to try my theoretical approach, you need to make sure you are touching an outside wall when you start--if you decide to use it after wandering a maze randomly for a while, you might conceivably get stuck in a loop. Also don't try this in a maze with tunnels or bridges--it only applies to a strictly 2d maze).

I took this picture from the hill where we parked, and occasionally thought of using it as a map, but that would be cheating :)

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Blue Angels and Nosferatu ~ Monday, October 09, 2017

Saturday we took Wini to her job at the Chabot Museum, and the East Bay Hills gave us a great place to watch the Blue Angels perform their Fleet Week air show.

Later we went to an art show by an old friend at a gallery/wine-bar on Jack London Square, and they flew right over us!

Saturday Night Nate and I went to see Nosferatu at the Niles Silent Film Museum. It's 95 years old but still a good show. Keaton's The Haunted House was shown first, also an old favorite.

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Biking Niles Canyon Road ~

Last weekend it was closed to cars, and we took advantage of the opportunity to bike on this road (which is popular with hardcore riders,  despite a lack of bike lanes or even shoulders, and blind curves).

We also saw the Niles Canyon Railway in action. 

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Writing a Ghost Story on the Train ~ Friday, October 06, 2017

Not me, Nate is! 

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A Short? ~ Monday, September 18, 2017

Some of us CalTrain passengers noticed smoke from the VTA tracks. A tie seemed to be cracked open and smoke was coming out of it. This was right next to a big wire welded to the rail, by a switch. A fellow passenger took a cup of water to dump on it, which was foolish, (since this was at Mountain View, he was very likely an engineer!) and if I realized what he was doing earlier I would have yelled at him to stop,  but no harm came of it.

A VTA employee took a fire extinguisher out of an electrical box, and this made an impressive cloud of spray, but didn't seem to solbe the problem, which makes me suspect a smoldering short. Then the pros showed up from the MVFD so I presume everything is under control now, possibly with some service disruption if they turn off power, which seems likely. 

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Volcano in the East Bay Hills ~ Sunday, September 17, 2017

While Wini worked at Chabot last saturday, Nate and I explored the nearby Sibley Volcanic Preserve.

This is a nice short hike in the Oakland Hills that takes you to a long-dormant volcano, whose plug was once excavated as a quarry, allowing you to walk right into the heart of the mountain. And right in the middle, someone has made a maze out of rocks.

We also saw a lot of wildlife on the way: a mouse, dozens of lizards, and small and very fast snake I couldn't get a picture of, but which was probably an "alameda whipsnake".

This is very close to the Sacramento Northern tunnel, which I will have another entry about some day.

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It's Hot! ~ Friday, September 01, 2017

I was going to take the VTA back to CalTrain today,  but had to leave early, which meant biking in 110° heat! 

It's not *so* bad--just take it easy and stay hydrated.

At least I got to see a freight train.

I also took a picture of the train I was riding to show somethIng I've noticed: CalTrain seems to be modernizing some of it's headlights. Note that the flashing lower lights are white (LEDs?) while the upper light is old fashioned amber glow. 

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I Didn't Draw These! ~ Friday, August 25, 2017


My neighbor leaves out sidewalk chalk for neighborhood kids and somebody drew a very nice trolley and a TARDIS.

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It Works! ~ Monday, August 21, 2017

Just about at the peak of the eclipse now. 

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Eclipse Viewer ~ Sunday, August 20, 2017

Tomorrow is a solar eclipse (not complete here, but at least 75%) so we made a sun viewer.

First we tried the cereal-box/camera-obscura design that you've probably seen recommended in the internet. I thought the image was kinda meh so I built a version made out of mailing tubes, with a pinhole lens at one end and a "screen" (cap) for it to project onto at the other,  and cut out a window to view it.

It works but was a little hard to aim, so I added some cards as a guide--if the shadow of one card is on the other,  you're holding it right and shold see the sun.

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Emoji Building ~ Wednesday, August 16, 2017

At first glance this new building in the Netherlands looks like pretty conventional retro-styled architecture, but note the molded details.

Perhaps Emojis will be with us forever (that is to say, remain popular--thanks to the Unicode Consortium they're going to be available for a very long time, alongside the world's cultural heritage of alphabets, syllabaries, ideographs, numerals, etc), or perhaps in the future this building will be a funny cultural reminder of the "twenty teens" when it was built.

Either way, it would make an interesting structure on a contemporary urban transit layout.

You can read more about it and see more pictures here.

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Lepidopterology ~ Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Is not something I know much about, but I got this nice picture at Wunderlich Park.

I try to take pictures of lots of butterflies, but they are a tricky subject!

Comparing this with pictures on this SF Bay Wildlife site, I think it's either a Northern Checkerspot or a Mylitta Crescent, but I can't decide.

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Ran into Wini at Work ~ Saturday, July 29, 2017

At the Chabot Space Science Museum.

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"Needs Work" ~

Saw this on the road today (traffic was stopped). At least it has wheels!

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Slime! ~

OSH is showing kids how to make slime this morning (glue, water, borax and optionally green food coloring).

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Charlie Chaplin Lookalike Contest ~ Sunday, July 23, 2017

We're back in town and went to the Niles Silent Film Museum's Annual Chaplin Festival (commemorating the movies he made in Niles, CA), and Nathan entered the Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest.

All contestants received prizes--a Charlie Chaplin DVD, an assortment of souvenirs, and an ice cream cone from Niles Ice Cream down the street.

Across the street, the Niles Canyon Ry was running trains pulled by this WP F-Unit.

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