A Happy New Year from (left to right) Valeta, Yvonne, Greg and Carlotta. This is our
replacement for the Christmas messages that we have been sending for the last 7 years.
Sending them just before Christmas meant leaving out part of the story, so now we're going
to send the messages out just before the New Year. Sorry if you've been waiting...
There are a number of photos in this message. Click on them, maybe several times, to
enlarge them. That's why the message is a web page, not a PDF document.
After last year's fracas with getting the builder to fix
problems with the house, we just gave up. Life's too short to fight with brainless
On the other hand, we finally had a photovoltaic (“solar”) electricity system installed.
The preparations were the biggest problems: where do you find a vendor of PV systems that
understands what he's selling? We haven't found any salesman yet who understands the
difference between a kilowatt
and kilowatt-hour, and the best
company I could find came back after I had accepted the quote and wanted more money.
We finally sorted that out, and they did a partial install in April, with the rest (a second battery) due in October (believe that?).
On the other hand, April to October are winter, so we didn't really need a second battery
then. So we paid a progress payment and waited. In the meantime it became clear that the
calculations in the proposals were demonstrably incorrect, and the second battery could
never pay itself off. So when October came and went, but no battery came, we had no
problems: after all, we hadn't even paid the full sum.
Photovoltaic power is interesting, and they've made a lot of progress since we first
considered it five years ago. The inverter has a web server in it, and Greg is happily sniffing
traffic and storing it in a database, in the process discovering things about its behaviour
that the techies didn't know: an endless source of fun. And, of course, it looks like it's
making itself paid.
On the other hand, we're still waiting for other electrical work, including the work in the
kitchen that we mentioned last year. Where do you find a
good electrician who's also prepared to come and do the work?
And as a special Christmas present, our air conditioning system failed completely on
22 December, at least an electronic problem. And the air conditioning people were on
holiday until 6 January, so we suffered the rest of the year in temperatures up to 42°. We
bought a portable air conditioner, which proved to be completely
useless, so we're hoping that the beginning of January won't be quite so hot.
After last year's problems, our personal health is looking better. The various problems
that the specialists feared last year, notably pancreatic cancer, weren't confirmed. But
it's clear that we're getting old. Greg is 71, and Yvonne is 70, and we'll be more and more
dependent on good medical care as time goes on.
On the other hand, Greg's mother, Audrey Eileen Lehey née Herbert, died in February shortly
before her 95th birthday. We were at the funeral, of course, and were forcibly reminded of
how many relatives we hadn't seen for a long time—in some cases, over 60 years.
As a result, Greg's sister Bev, who lives in the UK, also visited us for the first time in
nearly 20 years, but only briefly, and atypically Greg forgot to take any photos. Somehow
we're not a very sociable family.
Since her accident two years ago, Yvonne has not stopped riding, but she has changed her
habits. She still enjoys her daily ride on Carlotta, and Valeta, our young Paso
Fino-Icelandic cross mare, is coming along nicely. It looks like she will be an outstanding
future riding horse for Yvonne. Only two more years to wait for her to be old enough to be
started under saddle.
Yvonne and Carlotta are making good progress in their journey of classical dressage, with
the help of their favourite teachers, Arne
Koets and Anke Hawke, who comes to Victoria for clinics two or three times a year:
In the process, Yvonne is taking more and more photos and videos of horse training and
events to the point where she is a semi-official photographer
at Kryal Castle, the home of the
current world jousting
champion Phillip Leitch.
In late August Yvonne went to
the Gold Coast for what
proved to be a less-than-useful seminar on problem horses, but she met up again with Julie
Lannen, who suggested more equipment to improve her videos, in particular a PIXIO “Robot Cameraman”, an automatic rotator for the camera that follows the
movements of the rider and horse.
It's somewhat complicated, but the results to date have been encouraging, for example this
video, where Anke is teaching Yvonne:
We've also had some interesting experiences with the dogs. Since our problems with our
then-neighbours five years
ago, we've kept the dogs on leads when walking them. But they're not really a danger
to anybody; we just need to ensure that they don't run off after a kangaroo.
So we started off by letting Nikolai loose,
in the expectation that one dog wouldn't run off by himself. It worked well for about 50 m,
and then he exercised his new-found freedom and headed off into a paddock with horses in it,
in the process getting bitten by an electric fence. OW! Suddenly the horses
were no longer interesting, and Greg had to crawl under the fence and rescue him, while
Yvonne used a tree branch that happened to be lying around to hold the wires up so that they
could get out.
Since then, Niko hasn't run off anywhere. In fact, he's terrified of going for a walk
without being on a lead. So we've let Leonid free instead, which he definitely enjoyed, especially after finding a dried-out kangaroo
We've also had a dog visitor towards the end of the year. Our neighbour Kim Stanley had to
go into hospital for an operation, so we looked after her dog Davey for the best part of a
week, much to the enjoyment of all three dogs:
It's now been over 12 years since Greg retired. It took a while for him to adapt, but it's probably over
and done with now. He's still working with
computers—Kirk McKusick has pointed
out that he's now the only active member (“committer”) of the FreeBSD project older than he, and that he should stay
that way, so from time to time he still tweaks something. But apart from that, he sees
computers are a way of life, not an occupation, which allows him to grumble about the way
the computer industry is going.
Instead, he has been playing more and more with photography, trying to make up for his lack
of artistic talent with technology, occasionally with some success. He's no longer riding
since having some issues with his eyes that could be related to sudden motion of the head,
and he also hasn't played any musical instrument in over a year.
We keep pretty quiet nowadays, and we haven't had many visitors apart from horse-related
before Christmas Greg's cousins Brendan and Robert Herbert came by briefly to bring an
incredible number of photos that Greg's mother had left behind.
As a quirk of Greg's travel history, he hadn't seen either of them for over 40 years until
his mother's death in March. Processing the photos will keep him busy for quite some time.
And a few days later our daughter Yana came over
from Adelaide to visit us. As usual, we
As always, if this letter isn't long enough, you can read about our 2019 in excruciating
detail in Greg's diary. A very Happy
Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all from Greg, Yvonne, Carlotta, Nikolai, Leonid,
Piccola and Valeta!