Eurovision 2014: How to pick a winning song

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In People & Media

Eurovision 2014
Eurovision 2014

The 59th  Eurovision final in on tonight in Copenhagen, Denmark. Unfortunately Ireland’s entry, ‘Can-linn‘ (now called can’t win), wont be in the final as they were knocked out at the semi-final stage. Ireland are the most successful country in Eurovision history having won the contest 7 times. However our last win was in 1997. Our best place finish since 2000 has been 8th. We need to improve.

What can we do to increase our changes of getting to the final and winning?

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10 signs that you are mad about AutoCAD

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In People & Media

AutoCAD logoAutoCAD, an engineering drafting software programme, will be with us for a while yet. But its dominance is diminishing. It is slowly going the way of the drawing boards it replaced. This is especially the case for larger projects. Newer 3-d drafting and design packages like Revit are proving their usefulness to engineers, architects and clients alike.

But what are 10 signs that you are mad about AutoCAD?

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Fresh or dry. When is firewood easiest to split?

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion

Comparing firewood for choppingI always considered that immediately after it was harvested was the time to split wood. This is for the simple reason that splitting the timber opens up the pores and allows the timber to start drying quickly. Waiting for the timber to dry first before cutting will take the seasoning process longer. But when is it easiest to split firewood?

When is it easiest to chop wood? The honest answer is I am not sure, because I have usually always chopped my firewood as soon as I obtained it (or bought it pre-chopped). But I have tried chopping large wet, green timber and found it hard going at times. If I allowed it to dry out it might have been easier. When timber is seasoned properly and dried, shrinkage cracks open up. These presumably would make the timber in question easier to chop?

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By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Technical & Discussion, Uncategorized

kindling for timber fire
Kindling for timber fire

Lighting a fire is a skill. Some people have it and some don’t. A relation of mine for instance can light a coal fire with rolled up newspapers. On the other hand, other people I know, find it difficult to light kindling. But its an easy skill to acquire, especially with the right materials at hand and a bit of trial and error. However, if you have no kindling it can be impossible for anyone.

Types of kindling. Softwood is usually best for kindling as it lights easily, burns quickly and is relatively straightforward to split into small pieces. But interestingly matches are made of hardwood as this burns more slowly.

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Interesting reading: Pyritic expansion

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Existing Building Issues

PyriteI have just read an interesting research paper, available on-line, about heave under houses caused by the pyritic expansion of unsuitable fill material. This is a huge ongoing problem, with tens of thousands of houses in Ireland alone affected.

The research details the results of experiments carried out to try to quantify the rate of pyritic expansion and study the influencing factors. This is important research.

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Firewood: Hardwood verses Softwood

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Energy Conservation

Hardwood v softwood
Hardwood v softwood

I try and burn hardwood in my stove where possible. But recently I received a load of mixed softwood instead. It was interesting to note how quickly it burned in the stove compared with hardwood. This meant much more tending of the fire.

The end result is that I will always try and obtain hardwood where possible from now on.

Comparing wood. Generally all timber contains the same amount of heat energy per kg of weight. Therefore the density of seasoned timber indicates its potential heat output. Below is a list of various common seasoned timber densities. The difference between hardwood and softwood is immediately apparent:

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Satellite flares: Flashes in the night sky

By The Helpful Engineer / On / In Various

Satellite Flare
Satellite Flare

There is one definite advantage of the long dark nights at this time of year. It is that you can see morning satellite flares without getting up early compared to the Summer months. But what are Satellite flares? These are spectacular flashes in the night sky that last a few seconds. They are caused by sunlight being reflected off the surfaces of satellites on to small sections of the earth’s surface. They can be predicted accurately for any given spot on the planet. They usually occur just before dawn and after dusk when the surface below is in darkness, but when the satellites above can still reflect the suns rays. The occurrences vary in brightness, but some can reach a startling brightness of -8 which is brighter than the planet Venus.

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