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Monday, 1 February 2021 Dereel Images for 1 February 2021
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More planning permit issues
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Call from Diane, our next door neighbour today. They had received a letter from the council about the planning permit that we had applied for in November, and they had some questions.

So I invited them over, and they explained. They had received exactly the same document that the Swifts had received:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210201/big/Planning-permit-2.png
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It wasn't intended for us at all, but for the neighbours in case they wanted to lodge an objection:

Any person who may be affected by the granting of the permit may object or make other submissions to the responsible authority. An objection must be made to the responsible authority in writing, include the reasons for the objection and state how the objector would be affected. The responsible authority must make a copy of every objection available at its office for any person to inspect during office hours free of charge until the end of the period during which an application may be made for review of a decision on the application.

OK, we had discussed the matter with the Marriotts before we started, since the shed is quite close to their property. But what a stupid way to identify the document. The Swifts hadn't understood the purpose, and neither had we when they got their copy last week. It took me some time to realize that that was the only purpose of the document. And the “will not decide before 14 days” was just to ensure that enough time would elapse to receive any objections.

So far, so good. But they also noted a little detail:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210201/big/Planning-permit-1.png
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10 metres defendable space? For what? These stupid “one size fits all” bushfire protection measures, in this case including (carefully marked as “do not copy” on the PDF):

  1. Within 10 metres of a building, flammable objects must not be located close to the vulnerable parts of the building.
  2. Plants greater than 10 centimetres in height must not be placed within 3 metres of a window or glass feature of the building.
  3. Individual and clumps of shrubs must not exceed 5 square metres in area and must be separated by at least 5 metres.
  4. Shrubs must not be located under the canopy of trees.
  5. Trees must not overhang or touch any elements of the building.
  6. The canopy of trees must be separated by at least 2 metres.
  7. There must be a clearance of at least 2 metres between the lowest tree branches and ground level.

This is nonsense, of course, but the Marriotts were planning to plant trees on their side of the fence to block the view of the shed. And the “defendable space” goes over the boundary (full line marked 7.83 m from the shed):


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210201/big/Planning-permit-1-detail.png
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That leaves 2.13 m on their side. And since the fence (squiggly line) is 5.87 m from the boundary line, that would really mean 8 m.

What do we do? Apart from the fact that the requirements are stupid, they have the longer lever. But will they ever check it? If they do, are they also going to cut down the trees in the nature strip (the area to the top left of this section)? The distances of only 8.26 m has already been marked in:

 
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In the end, we decided that the best thing to do would be to say nothing. After all, the council didn't draw attention to this detail, and if they want to approve it in that form, they would need the Marriott's approval. And it seems very unlikely that they would ever attempt to enforce it.

It wasn't until I wrote up this diary entry that it occurred to me that the requirements are ambiguous enough that it might not be enforceable in the first place: here the list again, marked up:

  1. Within 10 metres of a building, flammable objects must not be located close to the vulnerable parts of the building.

    What are “vulnerable” parts and “flammable” objects? The next requirement relativizes it:

  2. Plants greater than 10 centimetres in height must not be placed within 3 metres of a window or glass feature of the building.

    So clearly “flammable objects” are (presumably considerably) more flammable than trees, and “vulnerable” parts are more vulnerable than glass features.

  3. Individual and clumps of shrubs must not exceed 5 square metres in area and must be separated by at least 5 metres.

  4. Shrubs must not be located under the canopy of trees.

    So clearly shrubs are not trees, so the clumping requirements are not important.

  5. Trees must not overhang or touch any elements of the building.

    So clearly they may come within the 10 m zone.

  6. The canopy of trees must be separated by at least 2 metres.

    It's not clear what they mean here. Potentially this could be an (the only) issue.

  7. There must be a clearance of at least 2 metres between the lowest tree branches and ground level.

    Clearly this can only apply to existing trees.

And if that wasn't enough, after writing all the above, I found the “get out of jail free” clause. The section starts with (my highlighting, their punctuation and grammar):

Defendable space for a distance of 10 metres around the proposed building or to the property boundary, whichever is the lesser is provided and is managed in accordance to the following requirements:

So the whole thing doesn't apply in the first place. On looking at the plan again, it shows the 10 m distance, but the arrow “10 metres defendable space” points exactly at the property boundary.

What a lot of effort for nothing!


Lorraine again
Topic: general Link here

It seems that we only ever see Lorraine Carranza when she's driving somewhere. So it was today, while we were walking the dogs:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210201/big/Lorraine-Nikolai-Leonid.jpeg
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We haven't got together for a long time, so decided to invite her for breakfast tomorrow.


More Apple fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Played around a little with the new Apple (which I have called fwaggle.lemis.com) today. First I moved it to the other side of my row of monitors. Now it doesn't reflect any more, but it's difficult to read when the sun shines outside.

OK, more searching: what kind of machine is this? “About this mac” tells me that it's a macOS High Sierra Version 10.13.6.

Ah, no, that's not what it means. That's clearly the operating system. The system itself is an iMac (21.5-inch, mid-2011). Yes, that's what it says, along with the information that it's a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5, but it's too polite to say which Core i5.

Still, that was enough to go searching, and found this page, which lists the various iMacs. It seems that mid-year is their favourite way of talking about them. It also claims that I should be able to find a Model Label iMac12.1, and tells me that the newest compatible operating system is macOS High Sierra 10.13.6, which saves some work. Also links to PDFs of the Tech Specs, which also doesn't want to divulge the processor model, and User Guide, which appears to be designed for idiots.

OK, see what software updates are available. Not much, just Security Update 2020-006. Install that and marvel that it took half an hour after reboot before it was ready to talk to me. And then it told me that I had installed the previously installed two updates on “Feb 1, 2021” as well.

So far, so good. What do I do next? Look back in my diary and recall what I did last time. Why do I need an Apple, anyway?


Tuesday, 2 February 2021 Dereel Images for 2 February 2021
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Brunch with Lorraine
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Lorraine Carranza along for brunch today:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210202/big/Brunch-with-Lorraine-1.jpeg
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Collagen Bratwurst: success?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Bratwurst for dinner this evening. I'm still trying to find out how to prepare the Bratwurst with collagen casings without them bursting. I've been working on the principle that most sausages have pre-cooked fillings, but ours are raw, and that's what's causing them to burst.

So: first thaw the frozen sausages for 10 minutes in the “air fryer”, then cook them for another 10 minutes at 140°. That looked OK, so finally I fried them for 5 minutes mainly for the colour. Success!


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Well, mainly. Looking more closely I saw:


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But we can live with that. Next step is to thaw them naturally and cook just in the “air fryer”. But it would be quite a relief to be able to use the collagen casings: they're much cheaper (especially the considerable quantity that we already have) and they're a lot easier to use.


Wednesday, 3 February 2021 Dereel Images for 3 February 2021
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More scanning old photos
Topic: history, photography, opinion Link here

Somehow my efforts in scanning in my photos of early 1978 ground to a halt nearly 2 months ago. High time to finish what I started.

But of course there's an interruption: another request from Kuala Lumpur for my even older photos, including of course the photos I took on 28 August 1964. The project is the Kuala Lumpur Heritage Trail, for which I haven't found a web site yet, though there are lots of newspaper articles like this one.

In the past I've grumbled about the fact that my parents and I spent tens of thousands of dollars on my photographic equipment, but the most popular photos are the ones I took before I got any of that equipment, using a Voß Diaxette, really not a very good camera. But this time there's some light: a number of the photos were taken with my first SLR, a Asahi Pentax SV, only shortly after I got it. And they weren't the best quality, partially because of the scanner, but also because many were badly exposed, like these two:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19650729/big/Gaston-1.jpeg
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https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19650729/big/Lalita-Rajasooria.jpeg
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They were taken using electronic flash (and thus one of the earliest examples of my pain with flash), but looking at the exposures (1/50 s, the sync speed of the SV, and f/11 and f/12.4 respectively), I wonder if I didn't miscalculate the guide numbers. The second one must be 3 m away, which would suggest that my Kakonet flash would have a guide number of 36 or so, which seems unlikely: even modern units seldom have that high a guide number.

Others also look pretty terrible, so after scanning them all I'm still left wondering how to make them look good, in particular this one, which seems to be special to the people who want the photos, for reasons that I don't understand:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19650729/big/Ampang-road.jpeg
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The date is wrong; it was really taken on 31 July 1965. But my rescans don't seem to have improved it. And to add to my problems, DxO PhotoLab didn't want to adjust levels correctly. More playing around needed, and they want this photo by Friday.


Apple memory?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The iMac (fwaggle) came with 4 GB of memory. But Juha Kupiainen had contributed 16 GB of memory to replace it with, and Jamie Fraser had installed it.

But it didn't work reliably. Why not? Looking through the Technical Specifiactions, I discovered:

4GB (two 2GB) of 1333MHz DDR3 memory
Configurable to 16GB, only at the Apple Online Store.

Why that? Why can't they stick to industry standards?


Undertanding git
Topic: technology Link here

People, in particular Peter Jeremy, are grumbling about the transition from subversion to Git. I can't blame them, and it has taken what wind there has been out of my sails in my upgrade of the system. Callum Gibson has come up with two links that I should follow: https://www.sbf5.com/~cduan/technical/git/ and http://sethrobertson.github.io/GitBestPractices/


Steak and kidney experiments
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne is eating less and less. When making steak and kidney pies, I had already reduced her quantity per serve from 200 g to 120 g, but that's still too much for her. Today I took (roughly) half a portion, 70 g, and she made a “steak and kidney pasty” out of it:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210203/big/Steak-and-kidney-4.jpeg
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The other thing that puzzles me is how uneven the browning is:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210203/big/Steak-and-kidney-3.jpeg
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At first I thought that the heating element might not cover the entire width of the oven, but that's not the case.


Thursday, 4 February 2021 Dereel Images for 4 February 2021
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Scanning old photos again
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

As planned, and with a deadline (tomorrow) pushing me, spent some time scanning photos I took in July 1965 today. Some of the results were excellent. Here a photo of Mahmuddin bin Ngah and his son Ahmad as I had it yesterday, and after considerable frobbing:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19650729/big/Ahmad-and-Mahmuddin.jpeg
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https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/19650731/big/Ahmad-and-Mahmuddin.jpeg
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But the important image, taken in Ampang Road, wasn't as successful:


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Somehow the gradation of the old one looks better. But why? Arguably the new one is more correct, but on IRC people agree with me that the first one is better. Clearly there's more work to do, but for now I'll send both images to Dennis, along with the original scan output.


More Apple stuff
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I hadn't really intended to do anything with fwaggle, my new iMac, but we ended up with a discussion on IRC about memory compatibility. It seems that I was a little hasty in blaming Apple for the issue. The new memory was faster, but it had a different timing:


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While I was at it, noted again that the position of the monitor (and thus the computer) was still inappropriate: I could barely read the screen against the light background. Time for VNC. Now how did I do that last time?

What do I need on silberapfel (the Apple)? Nothing, it turns out. Newer versions of Mac OS include a VNC server. Just click, click, click, click, click and you're done!

Here I am, both writing volumes in my diary and also denouncing inadequate documentation, and I still have neither a description nor a link. OK, search... Here!. It's called screen sharing, and unlike remote desktop it really does allow multiple clients to access the same display. That means, of course, that the Apple doesn't even need to be in the same room. I could put it elsewhere, possibly to some advantage. And to my surprise, unlike last time, the version of vncviewer that I have on eureka works without problems. I just need to sort out the invocation so that it can be done automatically.


Last tomato plant
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

This year's tomatoes are a catastrophe. Today I ate my first tomato of the season! And almost nothing is growing. I have one “Tommy Toe” that I hadn't even got round to planting in the garden, because the tomatoes that I had planted were doing so badly. Today I got round and planted it, but it looks as if the root system is inadequate. I'll wait a couple of days.


Groggy's guacamole
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

For some reason I find the Guacamole that Yvonne makes to be somewhat insipid. OK, then, do it yourself.

Where's there a good recipe? I know what the ingredients are, but what about quantities? Most of them want things like cups of this and big onions and small tomatoes and average size aguacates and things. How can you get the right proportions like that?

Finally found this recipe, which seemed reasonable except for one important omission:

quantity       ingredient       step
2       jitomates medianos (120 g) saladette partidos a la mitad
1       taza (20 g) de hojas frescas de cilantro      
1       cebolla pequeña (80 g) pelada y partida a la mitad      
1       lima pelada      
2       cucharaditas de sal (opcional)      
4       aguacates (540 g) pelados y sin hueso      

Where are the chiles? Others have suggested two Chile serrano for this quantity, and others also wanted more onions. In the end decided on:

quantity       ingredient       step
180 g       tomatoes       1
13 g       cilantro       1
160 g       onion       1
80 g       lime juice       1
20 g       salt       1
5       avocados (967 g, 722 g after peeling and stoning)       1

The difference in weight of the avocados is interesting. I didn't think that they were particularly big, but they weighed 193 g on average before peeling and 144 g after, compared to the 135 g in unspecified state in the original recipe.

And then I looked at the recipe that I've had up on the web for nearly 12 years, the one that I thought insipid. I should have looked before making the new one: it uses more tomatoes and otherwise pretty much the same quantities. We'll see when I try it out.


Friday, 5 February 2021 Dereel Images for 5 February 2021
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Power failure with a difference
Topic: technology, Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

My mobile phone buzzed again at 9:40 this morning and produced one of these ephemeral displays that usually go away before I can start reading them. But this one didn't. It even had a DISMISS button or similar. It did finally go away, and I couldn't find it in “Notifications”, but later I found a corresponding message:

 
https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210205/big/Screenshot_20210206-114643-detail.png
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Power outage! Now isn't that nice of them to inform me? For the first time ever, my mobile phone worked the way it always should have. Why now?

In to the garage to confirm. Yes, the power had been out for 8 minutes, so the restoration time of 11:30 was their typical 2 hour time, the one I thought they had given up on.

So: turn off the air conditioner. The battery was 48% charged, so we didn't have any serious concerns, and in fact it continued to charge during the outage. Petra Gietz was there, so I pointed out the warning light on the inverter to her, but while we were looking at it, it went out. The outage only lasted 37 minutes.


PV inverter strangenesses
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

When the mains power came back, there was really no need for it: the battery was charged well beyond the charge level. But when I looked at things later on, I saw:

 
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OK, that power consumption is normal when the air conditioner is running. But why is the power coming from the grid? It should be coming from the PV array, as far as that works, and be topped up from the battery. What's wrong with this picture?


Air conditioner woes
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Turned the air conditioner back on. It didn't start: display said E25.

I've seen that kind of thing before after powering the unit up. Power cycling usually helps, and it did this time too. For a while. Then it was back.

What does it mean? Took a look at the photos I took last time it failed:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20191222/big/Actron-1-detail.jpeg
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Ambient Temperature not updated? What does that mean? A defective sensor? Tried another power cycle and watched what the displays in the lounge room did. The room controller showed a series of dots and then the digit 1. And the main controller seemed happy. Press the temperature display on the room controller. 50.9. What does that mean? I've seen other fantasy numbers under those circumstances, notably 30.6 in the bedroom. And while I was looking, it reverted to 22.6, which seemed perfectly correct. And it started running.

But later I had E25 again. Another power cycle. This time it came up with E5, Communication Error between Outdoor and Indoor Units. Yet another power cycle and all seemed well, and I decided not to do more than necessary until it stopped working when I wanted it to.

Later we had the E25 again, but it carried on running. Further investigation showed that the display went away again by itself. Is that maybe the differentiation between Status and other categories in the error list?

So: it works, but something's wrong. And it seems certain that—once again—a power outage was behind it. On the one hand it points to a weakness in the Actron design, since nothing else fails like that, but on the other hand it looks like I should get it looked at as soon as possible while I can still get Powercor to foot the bill.


Indian dinner again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Margaret Swan is in town again, so we invited her and Chris Bahlo to dinner. Margaret is near-vegetarian (she eats fish), so Indian food was the obvious choice.

Somehow, though we cook a lot, I'm not as in practice as I used to be with cooking multiple dishes. Today we had alu masala, rogan josh, ghee rice and ikan goreng, and it kept me going all afternoon.

The rogan josh was intended for the rest of us, being neither vegetarian nor fish—I thought. But you can always learn:


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Weather: a book with 7 seals
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The weather was supposed to be really wet today, with warnings in the radio of falls of up to 70 mm. And indeed, Margaret Swan reported going through heavy rainfall. But despite all promises (8 to 16 mm rain), we didn't get a drop all day.

Clearly this summer has been unusual even in an area where you can't rely on the weather.

mysql> select year (date), sum(rain), min(outside_temp),  avg(outside_temp), max(outside_temp)
       from observations
       where month(date) = 1
       group by year(date);

+-------------+--------------------+-------------------+--------------------+-------------------+
| year (date) | sum(rain)          | min(outside_temp) | avg(outside_temp)  | max(outside_temp) |
+-------------+--------------------+-------------------+--------------------+-------------------+
|        2018 |  33.90000116825104 |               6.4 | 21.048154826751524 |              43.5 |
|        2019 | 0.6000000238418579 |               4.1 | 21.799445233932307 |                43 |
|        2020 |  61.20000231266022 |               6.5 | 19.525835682546077 |              43.2 |
|        2021 |  83.70000332593918 |               6.2 | 18.792118665753357 |              40.9 |
+-------------+--------------------+-------------------+--------------------+-------------------+

The average temperature this year was 2° below the average of previous years, and the rainfall was nearly 3 times the average. These are the rain results from my weather station, which on average reads about 30% low, so we probably had closer to 120 mm of rain last month. The result is visible in our front garden or looking across the road to where Fiona Drayton had mown hay in December:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210206/big/Front-garden.jpeg
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I've never seen anything like that in Australia in February.


More plant growth in February
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Maybe as a result of the unseasonable weather, more plants seem to have decided it is spring, like this Acacia:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210205/big/Acacia.jpeg
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Is that normal for this time of year?


Silly photos over the ages
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

After dinner, took some photos of Margaret and Chris for old time's sake. But somehow there's not that much fun in it any more. Here 12 years ago and now:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20081225/big/chris-lilac-17.jpeg
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Saturday, 6 February 2021 Dereel Images for 6 February 2021
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Garden: the pain
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's not time for the monthly garden photos, but a couple of things stand out.

Firstly, the tomatoes. There are almost none of them, and the 500 g “Beefsteak” tomatoes look barely bigger than cherry tomatoes:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210206/big/Tomato-1-detail.jpeg
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Yes, there's a sad-looking tomato bush in front of the cannas in the second photo. I don't know if we'll get any edible fruit from it.

Some other plants aren't doing as badly, though. The curry tree has been outside for less than 2 months, but it has recovered greatly. Here in mid-December and now:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20201217/big/Tomato-curry-tree-detail.jpeg
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The other positive thing is the Clematis “Edo Murasaki”, which is still flowering and has been doing so for three months:


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It looks like it'll continue to flower through to the autumn.

And the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis “Uncle Max” is flowering, if not profusely:


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It's surrounded by other plants now, which could be a blessing or a curse: at least it's not as exposed to the elements any more. Either way, time to make some more cuttings.


More air conditioner observations
Topic: Stones Road house, technology, general, opinion Link here

Despite the E25 status display, the air conditioner seems to be working normally. What should I do? I checked further sources and found that the ambient temperature sensor is somewhere in the external unit, and it's connected to the “CPU board”, at bottom left:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20191222/big/Actron-2-detail.jpeg
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The cable goes somewhere inside the housing. Presumably it's for detecting the outside temperature when heating, so that it can initiate the de-icing cycle, though possibly it's to detect malfunctions within the external unit.

So what has gone wrong? The message is “Ambient Temperature not updated”, but it's not the only error relating to the sensor. There's also E22, “Ambient Sensor Failure (open/short circuit)”, with the additional comment “Safe Mode”.

It's the weekend now. I can't do anything until Monday. Well, yes, I can: I can monitor things. And maybe in the course of time I will be Enlightened.


A use for fwaggle
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So what do I do with fwaggle, my “new” iMac? There's not really any space in my office for it, and since I propose to use it via VNC, there's no need for it to be there. On the other hand, it appears to have good audio connections, so how about putting it in the dining room?


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That worked, modulo a couple of unexpected problems: firstly, the VNC settings had somehow become reset, requiring reconfiguration, and secondly I didn't have the right 3.5 mm cable to the amplifier to the right. But the loudspeakers in the machine are alright, so for the first time we can listen to Radio Swiss Classic directly in the lounge room.

A little more configuration to make connection easier, and also added a user for me. Now how do I get the user ID correct so that NFS will work correctly?


Sunday, 7 February 2021 Dereel Images for 7 February 2021
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Strange reflections
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

We've been living in Stones Road for nearly 6 years, but there are still surprises. Today at breakfast, Yvonne saw:


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What's unusual about that? It's in the detail:


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What are those diagonal lines? I had left the door to the laundry open, not the most pleasant sight:


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And of course outside are the water tanks, and the reflection was of the pipes leading in to them:

 
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They were not visible from my position, right next to her.


Microwave corn
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

A few days ago Yvonne bought some maize cobs, or “Super Sweet Corn Cobbettes” in modern advertising jargon:


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OK, nothing surprising about that. But then I looked at the small print:


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Cook in a microwave oven? What an idea. But it seems that many people use microwave ovens to cook rather than just to heat. It might be worth a try, but 5 minutes on full blast? That's a lot of energy. Half power might be better. How about 800 W instead of the 1200 W that the oven can generate? What can go wrong?

So I did that, and in fact nothing went wrong. Arguably it's a better way to cook them than in water. It wasn't until writing up this article and seeing the detail photos that I saw the last line in even finer print:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210207/big/Microwave-maize-2-detail-2.jpeg
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So my instincts were right. And it's good of ALDI to mention the power level.


Who reads this stuff, anyway?
Topic: history, general, opinion Link here

I'm currently trying to gain historical perspective by reading my diaries of byegone times: 55 years ago (because I didn't keep a diary either 60 or 60 years ago), 51 years ago, shortly before I stopped the written diary, 20 years ago, 10 years ago and 6 years ago, this last because it was in the time leading up to moving in to Stones Road.

That's of interest to me, of course, but even so it's hard going to read it all. And I keep slipping behind! How little interest can it be to other people? About the only use is for me to be able to point to my actions on some historical date.


Monday, 8 February 2021 Dereel Images for 8 February 2021
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Where's Paul?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Paul Gallagher was due to come and do the garden today, but once again he didn't show. And once again I couldn't get him on the phone.

That's not acceptable. Time to look for a new gardener—again. What a pain, especially since he does a good job when he chooses to show.


Attending to the sprinklers
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

One of the things that I had been hoping that Paul Gallagher would be able to do the necessary repairs to the sprinkler system, which is still severely in need of it. Today took a look at circuit 1, which was missing a couple of drippers (where do they go?), but also the main connection to the relay had come loose:


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Somehow the soil level had risen by about 8 cm, covering the junction box and pulling the joint apart. Nothing I could do today, since the whole thing was full of water. The photos were taken the following morning.


Air conditioner: damaged or not?
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

Today was the first time I could call to have the air conditioner looked at. Should I do so? I had had a couple of E25 statuses over the weekend, but none today. Getting somebody to take a look at it would cost in the order of $100, even if there was nothing wrong with it, and it seems that the status doesn't seem to be doing any harm. On the other hand, if I want Powercor to pay for the work, I should do it soon.

Did the usual thing under these circumstances: nothing


Tuesday, 9 February 2021 Dereel Images for 9 February 2021
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More sprinkler stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Another attempt to fix the sprinkler this afternoon. Did it work? I won't know until the next sprinkler cycle tomorrow morning. Yes, I could have tried it out immediately, but I dread the potential failure. Somehow this sprinkler stuff gets on my nerves because I can't rely on the fixes. After all, the particular problem I had yesterday had only cropped up after 4 years. The stuff should be more reliable.


More Apple stuff
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Discussing access to Apple machines with VNC on IRC today. I've had strange results, hangs, and today glacially slow screen refresh. Yes, VNC is no ball of fire, but today I saw a case where it was refreshing the screen at the rate of one character-size block every 10 seconds. I iconified the window, and when I restored it, only a few seconds later, everything was there.

Somehow there are issues that I don't understand. Callum Gibson, an Apple fan, tried out VNC and ran into the same issues, so for once it's not just me. Potentially it's because I tried opening more than one session at a time, or it could be related to Apple's strange approach to DNS. But I didn't really want to do anything today, so I didn't hold out long.

After that I tried to install ssh. Instead of checking my diary, I asked on IRC. Yes, MacPorts is your friend. That rings a bell. Download with Safari. Where did it save it? Ah, there, behind the non-intuitive icon. OK, run install. Yes, installed. How do I run it? Nothing obvious, but the documentation talks about a program called port, which also rings a bell. Something like FreeBSD's pkg. But no port to be found.

Much reading past the documentation. Ah, it's in /opt/local/bin/port. Not a bad idea, but it's not a standard location for Apple. How are people supposed to find it there? At the very least there should be a stern warning to update your .bashrc.

So: try to install ssh. Not there! After some searching, I found out why: it's part of the base system. So how do I set it up? Somewhere in the preferences I was asked to set a system name, suggestion something like iMac.local. I could change iMac to fwaggle, but the bloody thing didn't want to let go of local. Why do they do this? But it's a reminder that I've been through all this pain before, and I should really read up on what I did last time rather than go through it all over again.


The hidden dangers of COVID-19
Topic: health, politics, opinion Link here

Seen somewhere today:

http://www.lemis.com/grog/Day/20210209/main-qimg-047ef51f692ea6d5659877c833e3f77a


Wednesday, 10 February 2021 Dereel Images for 10 February 2021
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Network problems!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the first things that I do when I come into the office in the morning is to load the latest TV programme data. I have a cron job which downloads the information from http://verteiler1.mediathekview.de/Filmliste-akt.xz at 8:28, but I still need to tell MediathekView about it.

No new data! What happened? Can't find host address for verteiler1.mediathekview.de. It took a while to realize why: we were off the net, and had been since 3:15.

OK, what does the NTD say? All displays look normal enough. dhclient? No, it's running. Interface?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 71 -> ifconfig xl0
xl0: flags=8843<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        options=82009<RXCSUM,VLAN_MTU,WOL_MAGIC,LINKSTATE>
        ether 00:50:da:cf:07:35
        inet 121.200.11.253 netmask 0xfffffc00 broadcast 121.200.11.255
        nd6 options=29<PERFORMNUD,IFDISABLED,AUTO_LINKLOCAL>
        media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)
        status: active

What's that IP address? Mine is 167.179.139.35. They've changed it!

To be fair to Aussie Broadband, they're entitled to do that any time they like: it's a dynamic address. The fact that it has stayed the same since November 2018 was more coincidence than anything I could expect.

But that was over 2 years ago, and though I recalled the pain, I forgot what I had to do to fix it. Clearly the firewall rules needed to change. The big parameter was the address of the external interface, the one I called aussie-gw.lemis.com. Did that, and all was well.

It wasn't until after breakfast that the other shoe dropped. No mail! Of course, mx0.lemis.com needed to change, along with aussie-gw and, for the fun of it, reverse lookup for the “Radiation Tower”, so that I could get traceroute output like:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 74 -> traceroute www
traceroute to www.lemis.com (45.32.70.18), 64 hops max, 40 byte packets
 1  radiation-tower.aussiebb.net (121.200.8.1)  35.498 ms  37.690 ms  29.983 ms
 2  HundredGigE0-0-0-19.core2.ia-dcb.portmel.aussiebb.net (119.18.32.212)  180.146 ms  189.859 ms  190.010 ms
...
12  www (45.32.70.18)  183.106 ms  188.586 ms  180.088 ms

So: update the DNS and try again. Still no mail:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) /var/named/etc/namedb 426 -> mailq
-Queue ID-  --Size-- ----Arrival Time---- -Sender/Recipient-------
412D42635BF      308 Wed Feb 10 00:06:51  groggyhimself@lemis.com
(host lax.lemis.com[45.32.70.18] said: 450 4.7.25 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [121.200.11.253] (in reply to RCPT TO command))
                                         groggyhimself@freebsd.org

That proved to be an error in my DNS configuration, after which mail came through in a flood.

OK, now download today's videos. Proxy error! Ah, of course, squid is configured to talk to only specific addresses. Change it to:

-acl radiation_tower2 src 167.179.139.35 # Aussie BB gateway
+acl radiation_tower3 src 121.200.11.253 # Aussie BB gateway

But we still weren't done! eureka was happy, but the rest of the local network wasn't. tcpdump showed that something was still sending out packets with the old source address 167.179.139.35. natd? It seems likely. Restart natd. Nothing.

Somehow I still don't understand the interaction between the ipfw firewall and natd. It seems best to stop natd, clear all firewall rules, start natd and load the rules. And that worked.

But why do I have this rule?

 ipfw add 00021 allow ip from $WWW to any dst-port smtp

That doesn't make much sense. The only system that runs SMTP is eureka, specifically the external interface. And why limit access to SMTP? $WWW (www.lemis.com) is a trusted site, so I could allow anything:

ipfw add 00021 allow ip from $WWW to $GW

But that didn't work. It broke NAT, presumably because it was bypassing NAT for return packets. So for the time I'll stick with the SMTP rule.

What a pain! For the next time, I'll create a page telling me what to do.

But what use would that be? I already have a page, written last time, and it contains everything I mentioned above, though the idea of restarting natd from the etc/rc.ipfw script is new. But it did make clear that my network stats script needed updating too.


Thursday, 11 February 2021 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 February 2021
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Sprinkler results
Topic: gardening Link here

I didn't need to wait until this morning to find whether yesterday's fix to the sprinkler system had worked: it hadn't, and I could hear jets of water spurting out everywhere. OK, try again:


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Hopefully this one will hold.


More new glasses
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Call from Adam at SpecSavers today: my computer glasses (“reading glasses”) are ready. That gave me an incentive to go into town to do various things that I had been postponing.

The glasses were really different from the old ones. Adam gave me a text to read. Perfect! With the old ones, I could barely read it. And he went on to tell me that the glasses had not only a 2 year warranty, but also a 3 month guarantee.

Huh? For me warranty and guarantee are the same thing, but not for SpecSavers. The 2 year warranty is the legally required warranty, but the guarantee is a 3 month “return if you don't like it” thing, which is certainly worth having.

The problem was when I got back home: the glasses were useless! They were optimized for reading at 45 cm or so, while I normally read at about 70 cm. That's a difference of 0.75 dioptres!

Why did they do this? My guess is that the person who had taken the order last month, and who had already struck me as being not the brightest, had ignored what I had said to him about the glasses being for computer use, had definitely not asked at what distance I read, and had ignored my request to adjust the old prescription according to the changes in the intermediate time.

So: I can return them, of course, under the guarantee. But in fact they're probably exactly what I need for reading books. Yet Another pair of glasses?


New GPS navigator
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Another reason to go into town was to try out my new GPS navigator, this time a 9" one. The last one was relatively large, but this one is considerably bigger, here under the old one and my normal-sized Nokia 3 phone:


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Fitting it to the car was more than the usual irritation. It has a standard clip that attaches directly to the back of the navigator, sideways, which makes it impossible to see what you're doing:


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And it's so big that it barely fits anyway. I had to hang it in front of the dashboard:


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Apart from that, it has the same interface as the old navigator, one of the reasons I bought it—but also the same bugs. For some reason it can't “sleep” (suspend) at all any more, though it did when I bought it. Instead it shuts down, or possibly crashes, meaning it takes about 2 minutes to come up after being powered on. Maybe there's a way to work round that bug, but I haven't found it yet.


Domestic appliance repair and replacement
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Last week the flexible hose of our ducted vacuum cleaner broke off. I was expecting that: somewhere we had lost the guide that prevented it bending too much. Off to see Colin Newitt of Ducted Vacuums, who told me that there was no such attachment, and who fixed the hose in a matter of minutes and for free. I'm only partially happy: there should be something that prevents it happening again.

Then on to The Good Guys to look for a replacement for the steam cleaner that also broke last week. The salespeople weren't very helpful. The first showed me only one item, from Bissell, for $299, along with a range of other Bissell models with features that he couldn't properly explain, including carpet cleaning, for prices of up to $699, the last with battery power but requiring Bissell's own detergent, rather than the water that others used.

Pondered that for a while and discovered another brand, Euroflex, with a number of similarly priced units. M1 was purple and cost $299, M3 was red and cost $399. What's the difference? Quick stroke of mobile phone. The M3 is rated at 1200 W, the M1 not rated, probably lower.

Ever heard of specification labels? Apparently not. Found it fairly quickly: also 1200 W.

Ah, but the M3 uses disinfectant. Why? That's what the steam is for? In the end I decided for the M1, and was surprised at checkout by a price of $223.40, over 25% cheaper than the advertised price. Why do they do that? As I write this, they have it advertised on their web site for $248. And I suspect you can get them cheaper elsewhere.


What lens for the E-PM2?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I carry Yvonne's old Olympus E-PM2 with me, and today at The Good Guys it occurred to me that I had wanted to take photos of gas stoves. OK, here we go:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210211/big/Gas-cooktop-1.jpeg
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The alignment isn't important: I can fix that in post-processing. The framing is: although I held the camera as high as I could, I was unable to get the whole stove in the frame. That was with the Panasonic Lumix G 20 mm f/1.7, which is what I use on it, mainly because of the wide aperture and the small size. But clearly it's the wrong lens for this job.

What's the right lens? The now-dead M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42 mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ is equally compact and has a much wider short end, but it is 2 to 3 stops slower. Should I have kept the M.Zuiko Digital 17 mm f/2.8 Pancake? Or should I just carry a really short lens, like a 12 mm prime? The Leica DG Summilux 15 mm f/1.7 ASPH. would be a possibility, but it's relatively large.

There's another issue that applies here: the perspective. Even at this distance, the images no longer look flat. Shorter focal lengths will just make it worse. Still, something to think about.


Friday, 12 February 2021 Dereel Images for 12 February 2021
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Apple audio: next step
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

I still haven't set up fwaggle.lemis.com, my Apple iMac, the way I want, and I'm in no particular hurry, but today the audio cables arrived that I needed to connect the machine to an amplifier and hopefully get better audio quality.

It's hard to say whether the quality was better: the quantity was so lacking that I could hardly hear anything. Yes, it's an earphone output, but I hadn't expected the difference to be so great. So it seems that once again I'm hindered by an inflexible machine.


Fixing iPhones
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Petra Gietz has been complaining for a few weeks now that her ALDImobile phone account isn't working. Finally she came with the requested password, and we checked the status. Credit of a little over $22. Clearly ALDImobile isn't the issue, except that she had used something like $3 credit for incoming data—it seems.

Her phone is an iPhone 5. Took a look at the display. “SOS only”, presumably meaning that something is wrong with the account. Does it display signal strength? Maybe, but how and where?

Still, it looks like something with the SIM card. Put it in my old Samsung GT-I9100T. It worked.

OK, back in the iPhone. It worked.

So it seems that there were contact issues in the phone. I've never seen that before, but others on IRC have. Jamie Fraser had had a particularly misleading case: it happened to him when he arrived in Europe, so the first thought was that there was something wrong with international roaming.

And to answer my initial question: the signal strength display is at top left on this model, where the “SOS only” display had been.


More tomatoes!
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

The summer has been particularly cool, and we have almost no tomatoes. A great difference from last year, I had wanted to say. But no, last year we had nothing until 20 February. On the other hand, two years ago the first was ripe on 6 January. So maybe this collection wasn't quite as bad as I thought:


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But the crumpled ones were Grosse Lisse, which should have been 4 times the linear size. I still wonder whether it's worth the trouble. But they do taste better.


Saturday, 13 February 2021 Dereel Images for 13 February 2021
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Connecting mobile phone to Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

distress, my Microsoft “Windows” 10 box, seems to be very slow. But then, it had been running for 30 days. Time for the Microsoft solution: reboot.

It seemed to take for ever. What seemed like 10 minutes later there was still significant disk activity, so I turned on a monitor. No obvious display, just a blank screen. But it was booting. Why does it take so long? Did something go wrong with the shutdown?

It could be, since it came up with this silly “configure your system” screen that I have grumbled about in the past.


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But in this case I had considered trying one of the options, connecting my phone to Microsoft. OK, now's the time. I had to log in to my Microsoft account (yes, I do have one; at least it doesn't want a credit card number like Apple). It asked me for a phone number and sent me a message:

 
https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210213/big/Microsoft-phone-connection-10-detail.png
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Huh? “8 Jul” of an unspecified year? Oh, it seems that I have done this before, but didn't notice the arrival of an unannounced message on my phone. I also had one dated “12:13”, presumably today, that looked identical down to the severely truncated URL. OK, poke on that and download an app that, as usual, took forever to load.

Back later. Start the app and am told to look for a QR code on the computer screen. No QR code.

OK, do some searching, during which I got the informative message

 
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Following through on that things went from bad to worse, with meaningless messages that I couldn't second-guess, finally ending up with:

 
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Do I want to send feedback? For some reason, against my better judgement, yes. Finally got through entering a whole lot of feedback that showed that the feedback application had even less idea than I did about the context in which the problem occurred,

Finally I tried to send the message, using my Microsoft login. No go:

 
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Huh? What did I do? It gave a ridiculously long URL, https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/account-billing/account-has-been-locked-805e8b0d-4141-29b2-7b65-df6ff6c9ce27, which told me

We've noticed some unusual activity on your account. To help protect you from potential fraud or abuse, we've temporarily locked your account. We know this is frustrating, but we can help you get back into your account with just a few steps.

Microsoft accounts are usually locked if the account holder has violated our Microsoft Services Agreement. Here are some common reasons why accounts are locked, though not all account locks occur for these reasons... Malware... Spam... Use of multiple accounts...

OK, idiots. What do you think I have done? But I can't ask that sort of thing. Still, there was a way out: Choose Next and we'll send a verification code to your phone. That makes sense. But it had forgotten all the details. The first time round it knew that I was in Australia, but now I got:

 
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So what earthly security purpose could that serve? If somebody had stolen the computer, he could put his own phone number in there and steal the account. It's possible, I suppose, that this complete lack of information was a kind of authentication, and only the correct number (the one I had supplied earlier) would do the unlock, but based on my experience with Microsoft, I have my grave doubts.

OK, climb the trees and send a message, which arrived in exactly the same format, a little over 1½ hours after I sent the first message. But I still needed to sign in on the phone, a thing without a keyboard OK, painfully type in my account email address and descriptive password, and get:

 
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Sounds reasonable, but of course I'm already signed in. Go to the menu tree like an obedient little boy and find nowhere there to sign in.

And that's where it ended. I couldn't find a way to get the phone to move on. I'm stuck on this screen, which doesn't offer any way to proceed:

 
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Does the “sign in” send a message to the phone? That sounds unlikely.


A day without cooking
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Lately I seem to have been doing a lot more cooking than normal. Yes, some of the results are well worth the effort, but it's still an effort. So when Yvonne decided to cook two of her specialties this weekend, poule au riz and husfrusill, I looked forward to a relatively calm weekend.

Oh. There was bread to bake. Never mind, not much work by itself.

But then Yvonne decided that poule au riz was too much work. How about baking the chicken? OK, not much work, but it was mine! And in addition we had “Éperlans” to prepare. I don't know what they really are: real Éperlans are 15 to 18 cm long, but these are more like 4 cm, rather like ikan bilis. But they still needed to be fried, and to add to it all I had decided to clean out the deep fryer.

So one way or another it ended up being quite a bit of work. Never mind, there's always the husfrusill tomorrow...


Induction cooker issues
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the things I needed for the chicken was gravy. Not much of it, so I only needed a small (12 cm) saucepan. But the only ones we have are aluminium, so they don't work on the induction cooker.

Never mind, that's what I have my heating pads for:


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Started it off and heated for a while. When I next looked, the pad was red hot! Clearly the heat transfer to the pot wasn't as good as I had hoped. And of course the pad is useless:


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The fact that it's bent isn't so important from the heating point of view, but if it's unable to transfer heat to the pot sufficiently when it's flat, it certainly can't now.

I wonder if somebody can flatten it for me.


Sunday, 14 February 2021 Dereel Images for 14 February 2021
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Historical photography release
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

The (British, of course) Royal Photographic Society has digitized its archive and released all editions of the RPS Journal from the beginning (1853) through to 2018. I don't have time for the things I've been planning to do already, but that sounds like something too good to pass up. Sadly they haven't released them freely, just put them behind a browser with an emetic interface—I still haven't found how to change pages in “full screen” (really ¾ screen) mode—and the resolution is barely legible:


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It offers the option to rotate the display through successive 90° increments, but not to enlarge it. You'd think that photographers could do better.


More photo processing pain
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne in today to say that she couldn't view her video clips:

=== yvonne@lagoon (/dev/pts/1) ~/Photos/20210213 423 -> mpv youtube-Yvonne-and-Carlotta-mini-comp.mkv
 (+) Video --vid=1 (*) (h264 1920x1080 59.941fps)
 (+) Audio --aid=1 (*) (pcm_s16le 2ch 48000Hz)
error: XDG_RUNTIME_DIR not set in the environment.
[vo/gpu/opengl] Could not make context current!
Segmentation fault (core dumped)

What's that? A bit of playing around showed that it only happened on lagoon and only with mpv, and that the message about XDG_RUNTIME_DIR was bogus: it wasn't set on any other system either. I suspect flaky libraries.


Monday, 15 February 2021 Dereel Images for 15 February 2021
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Video display problems
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

I still have issues with some online videos. Since the most recent season of “A country practice”, the broadcaster has protected the episodes with DRM, starting with this one.

That shouldn't be an issue: I can still watch the episodes with a web browser of my choice. But programs like mpv can't.

That's not the only issue with mpv. What about vlc? Some people swear by it. I've installed it in the past, but it would be good to have the latest version.

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /Lphotos/yvonne/20210213 10 -> pkg install vlc
Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue...
pkg: Repository FreeBSD load error: cannot open sqlite3 db: Not a directory

Dammit, I've seen that before. And it has nothing to do with vlc. But the solution is worth a separate article.

After fixing that, tried again:

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /usr/ports/multimedia/vlc 25 -> pkg install vlc
...
The following 21 package(s) will be affected (of 0 checked):

Installed packages to be REMOVED:
        libical: 3.0.8
        postfix: 3.5.7,1
        spidermonkey52: 52.9.0_8

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        vlc: 3.0.11_10,4

Proceed with this action? [Y/n]: n

Sigh. Doesn't this thing ever work? Yes, I could go ahead and then reinstall postfix, but teevee is a “production” machine, the one I use to watch TV. So move on to dereel. One thing was better there: vlc was already installed. But:

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/3) ~ 1 -> vlc https://7plus.com.au/a-country-practice?episode-id=CNP-882
VLC media player 3.0.11 Vetinari (revision 3.0.11-0-gdc0c5ced72)
[0000000800929360] dbus interface error: Failed to connect to the D-Bus session daemon: D-Bus library appears to be incorrectly set up: see the manual page for dbus-uuidgen to correct this issue. (Failed to open "/var/lib/dbus/machine-id": No such file or directory; Failed to open "/etc/machine-id": No such file or directory)
[0000000800929360] main interface error: no suitable interface module
[0000000800929360] main libvlc error: interface "dbus,none" initialization failed
[0000000800929360] main libvlc: Running vlc with the default interface. Use 'cvlc' to use vlc without interface.
libGL error: No matching fbConfigs or visuals found
libGL error: failed to load driver: swrast

What is all that vomit? It proved to at least in part vlc's inimitable way of saying “sorry, I don't understand X, and I can't work across a network”: I was trying to display on eureka:0.1.

OK, fire up X on dereel. For that I need a mouse and a keyboard. And the keyboard is now attached to fwaggle in the dining room. Not an issue: I had a mouse and plenty of wireless keyboards, which proved also to be dongleless. Found one that worked, but it was flaky. Then fire up X. Failure. Some previous ports upgrade attempt had removed the nvidia drivers. OK, for my purposes I could use the default configuration.

So: start vlc. No go: still can't contact dbus.

I've seen that before, but yes, dbus wasn't running. Comparing system config files, I had this in teevee's /etc/rc.conf:

# Work around terminal breakage in the X installation.  X requires
# hald and dbus, but it doesn't configure it to start.
hald_enable=YES
dbus_enable=YES

It seems that X no longer requires it, but clearly vlc did. OK, start dbus and try again. Still no go: it wanted a machine-id file:

=== root@dereel (/dev/pts/1) /etc/rc.d 13 -> dbus-uuidgen >  /var/lib/dbus/machine-id

Finally got vlc started, wondering whether the keyboard was really worth the trouble.

=== grog@dereel (/dev/pts/3) ~ 21 -> DISPLAY=:0 vlc https://7plus.com.au/a-country-practice?episode-id=CNP-882
VLC media player 3.0.11 Vetinari (revision 3.0.11-0-gdc0c5ced72)
[0000000800922060] main libvlc: Running vlc with the default interface. Use 'cvlc' to use vlc without interface.
https://7plus.com.auqt.xkb.compose: failed to create compose table
qt.qpa.xcb: QXcbConnection: XCB error: 3 (BadWindow), sequence: 3745, resource id: 4194760, major code: 40 (TranslateCoords), minor code: 0
[000000081362b1a0] access stream error: HTTP 404 error
[000000081362b1a0] http stream error: local stream 1 error: Cancellation (0x8)

And what did I see? What seems to be vlc's favourite motive:

 
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What went wrong there? It's too polite to complain. Maybe it doesn't understand command line arguments, though its grumbling on startup suggests that it at least looks at them. OK, enter the URL in its window:

 
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It didn't like that:

 
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What's an MRL? And why do I have to go to “the log” (where?) for details? More politeness, presumably. On the controlling tty, where libraries like to grumble, I saw:

 
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So this is its inimitable way of saying “invalid URL”, with little enough information that you can't be sure that the messages are even related. But sure enough, I had confused the names of two TV channels: out of 7plus and 9now I had synthesized “7now”.

OK, finally get a new keyboard and try again with the correct URL. Now it doesn't complain. Nor does it do anything else.

Problem with the FreeBSD port? Tried it both on Microsoft and Apple with exactly the same results.

A very frustrating waste of an afternoon. Why do I bother? mpv handles it with no trouble, and there's no reason to believe that vlc can do any better with DRM—in fact less reason than I had when I started.


FreeBSD packages breakage
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So what causes this?

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /Lphotos/yvonne/20210213 10 -> pkg install vlc
Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue...
pkg: Repository FreeBSD load error: cannot open sqlite3 db: Not a directory

And how do I fix it? It stops me from using the packages collection altogether. I've already grumbled about the inaccurate message (what file is it looking for?), but last time it went into hiding. Today I needed to do something about it. A web search brought up this forum discussion.

As usual for forum postings, it seems, the suggestions didn't work.

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /Lphotos/yvonne/20210213 12 -> pkg update -f
Updating FreeBSD repository catalogue...
pkg: Repository FreeBSD load error: cannot open sqlite3 db: Not a directory
Fetching meta.conf: 100%    163 B   0.2kB/s    00:01
Fetching packagesite.txz: 100%    6 MiB 375.6kB/s    00:17
Unable to create repository FreeBSD
Unable to update repository FreeBSD
Error updating repositories!

OK, look more carefully:

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /Lphotos/yvonne/20210213 13 -> l /var/db/pkg/
total 141
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel         158 15 Feb 13:12 FreeBSD.meta
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  90,005,504 15 Feb 03:15 local.sqlite
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  50,835,456 14 Jan 10:27 repo-FreeBSD.sqlite
-r--r--r--  1 root  wheel   6,529,818 14 Feb 03:07 vuln.xml

Those files all look very much the same as the corresponding files on other systems. And of course none of them is a directory. But then the current working directory name in the prompt occurred to me:

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/11) /Lphotos/yvonne/20210213 14 -> l
ls: .: Not a directory

/Lphotos is the mount point for Yvonne's photo directory, the one I was working with yesterday. I had force umounted it because I couldn't be bothered going into the office to change directory. So, indeed, the current directory no longer existed.

So: finally useful input for bug 241007, reported by many people. The error message is even more broken than I thought. It wasn't referring to the databases at all, but to the current directory! All I needed to do was to change directory and things ran fine.

That doesn't fix bug 241007, of course. It's unlikely to be the only cause for the error message. But it's at least something that people can fix.


More tomatoes
Topic: gardening, food and drink, opinion Link here

We have more tomatoes. From a total of originally 15 plants, we must have had nearly 10 fruit. Here's today's harvest, including our first “Beefsteak” tomato (supposed to weigh 500 g):


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Tuesday, 16 February 2021 Dereel Images for 16 February 2021
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El Maizal again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's been nearly a month since I bought what is probably far too much « El Maizal » masa, but I still wasn't quite sure what proportions to mix it in. Today I think I've come to a decision: 1 part masa to 1.45 parts water (compared to up to 1.8 parts for other brands of masa). Strangely, that's also more than I had noted on the tortillas page, where I had written 1:1.38 and “1:1.44 is too much”. But today things went relatively well.


Finding a new gardener
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I'm really pissed off with Paul Gallagher, the gardener from Jim's Mowing: he has been a no-show twice now, and he doesn't call back when I leave a message on his phone. But before I can tell him where to go, I need a replacement. And that's fun.

OK, off searching for Ballarat Garden Care. A whole lot of hits, of course. The highlighted ones were Johnny's Gardening & Mowing (1-800 260 825), Luke's Gardening & Mowing Service (0481 215 281, and a URL ending in /geelong), STORK GARDEN CARE (0417 375 529, no web site) and Ballarat Garden Services (0408 443 240).

Called them all. Johnny answered immediately I had the distinct impression that he was some service person for the real Johnny and that he didn't know his way around Ballarat. He hadn't heard of Dereel, and after I told him where it was, he decided that it was too far. I wonder if the real Johnny would have done that. I later discovered that the real phone number was 0490 194 909; possibly I should call again.

Calling the other three was the same in each case: voice mail. Will I get a call back? If not, it could be Paul syndrome or their polite way of saying “No, thanks, I'm not interested”. Ballarat Garden Services was interesting in that my phone displayed a banner for them when I called them. I wonder what logic provided that.

But then of course there are the web services, like “$25 - $65/Hr Gardeners in BALLARAT, VIC 3350. Cheap Gardeners Nearby Available Now” (really!). I don't think much of these “services”, but it's worth trying. Lots of names with no information whatsoever except a name and the button “Request quote”. OK, do that. What kind of service do you need? Idiot! I said gardening, but the link forgot all that. OK, garden maintenance, lawn mowing. Sorry, only one, please. OK, lawn mowing. Your address. Your date of birth. All sorts of irrelevant information that took me over a minute to fill out. When do you want the work done? It clearly thought only once is enough.

Finally I send it off and got the suggestion that maybe I wanted garden maintenance too. Yes, of course, idiot. OK, ... start all over again, please enter address...

I'll be interested to see if anything comes of this nonsense.


Klearview again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

When looking for gardeners, I had to call lots of mobile phone numbers. That's cheaper with my mobile phone, so I had it on the desk when it rang. Chris, wanting to know about clearview.

Huh? Clearview? No, Klearview. It's on my web site. With a whole lot of questioning, finally found out that he was talking about a case of eBay fraud that I experienced 3½ years ago. The seller was a certain Craig Weber, eBay ID klearview_au, who accepted my money, didn't deliver, and then opened a non-payment case against me! And now Chris was thinking of buying a NAS system from him and apparently wanted my opinion.

Relatively long discussion, during which I suggested that he should be very careful, and during which he started voicing opinions about conspiracy theories unrelated to the matter in hand. I was left wondering who this Chris was, and whether he had some connection with Craig. At least I have the number from which he called.


More Android bugs
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It was a good thing that my phone was on my desk next to my keyboard when Chris rang: it displayed the call, but it didn't ring. Dammit, I've had this before: the phone just stops ringing, and I have to turn ringing on again.

But this time the display showed that the phone should have been ringing. OK, Microsoft solution: reboot. And then, without any further configuration change, it rang as the settings indicated.

I hadn't expected that kind of bug.


Bratwurst again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Once again Bratwurst for dinner tonight, again with the collagen casings. Last time I had had limited success cooking them in the “hair dryer” air fryer for 10 minutes at 140°, then frying. On that occasion I had started with frozen sausages, but today they were thawed. OK, cook at 130° for 10 minutes:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210216/big/Bratwurst-2.jpeg
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Then fry:


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Clearly the cooking in the air fryer wasn't enough to stop the things from producing bubbles and subsequently bursting. What's causing that? It doesn't match the original idea that the change in shape of the meat might be what was causing the bursting. The results were acceptable if not good:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210216/big/Bratwurst-11-detail.jpeg
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What next? Cook them completely in the air fryer?


Wednesday, 17 February 2021 Dereel Images for 17 February 2021
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A gardener!
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Mail today:

Date: Tue, 16 Feb 2021 12:23:32 +0000 (UTC)
From: Les | ServiceSeeking <notifications@serviceseeking.com.au>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Phone Quote | A reply to your job "Lawn Mowing | Dereel" on ServiceSeeking.com.au

Excellent! Especially the price:

<!-- TODO: Seems like text version content isn't identical to the html version -->
You have received a quote from Les from: Les

Quote Price: $0 incl. GST

Hi Jeremy,

Les sent you a message!

And yes, the TODO is in the message in that form. And I have no idea where they got the name Jeremy from.

OK, I had asked for a phone call. Maybe he would. Yes, a little later the phone rang:

Me       Greg Lehey.
Les       Can I speak to Greg, please?
Me       Speaking.
Les       I don't understand.

After a bit of discussion, we agreed that he would come along tomorrow to take a look. But I thought it was worth checking where in the “$25 - $65/Hr Gardeners in BALLARAT, VIC 3350. Cheap Gardeners Nearby Available Now” range he fitted. Simple: he didn't. He would charge between $70 and $80. That, along with his difficulty understanding, suggests that it wouldn't be worth his while even to come and take a look.


More DRM insights
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

More discussion on IRC about my video download issues. I didn't get any success, but one insight: youtube_dl uses rtmpdump (apparently part of mplayer) to perform the download. Where is the check for DRM made? Spent a little time looking at rtmpdump (which, of course, was installed) but didn't get my head round the syntax.


Thursday, 18 February 2021 Dereel Images for 18 February 2021
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Fettuccine?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've decided that I could improve on the very fake Phat Thai that I eat for breakfast by using thicker noodles. The Shanxi noodles that I used last year did very well, though they're also very expensive, round $8 per kilogram. But how about flat European-style noodles? Yesterday Yvonne brought back some fettuccine:


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These aren't real fettuccine: they don't contain egg (unless it's an accident):


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Still, another kind of noodles for my noodle cooking times page. They stated 10-12 minutes, and after 19 minutes I decided that they were marginally cooked enough. The width grew from 3 mm to 7 mm:


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And for the Phat Thai? Not the best choice. I wonder how easy it is to make the Shanxi noodles myself.


Bouncing mail
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Received today:

Date: Thu, 18 Feb 2021 12:10:25 +1100 (AEDT)
From: Mail Delivery System <MAILER-DAEMON@lemis.com>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender

This is the mail system at host eureka.lemis.com.

I'm sorry to have to inform you that your message could not
be delivered to one or more recipients. It's attached below.

<fred@example.org>: host lax.lemis.com[45.32.70.18] said: 450 4.7.25 Client host
    rejected: cannot find your hostname, [121.200.11.253] (in reply to RCPT TO
    command)

I've seen that before. That happened last week before I fixed my DNS. It looks as if the mail system didn't check DNS for those old messages.

Wait a minute. That was 9 days ago. Email delivery is set to the default 5 days. Why now?

Checking my mail queue found a large amount of mail backed up trying to be sent to the external mail server. The problem: my MTA announces itself as eureka.lemis.com, but 121.200.11.253 belongs to Aussie Broadband and resolves to 121-200-11-253.79c80b.mel.nbn.aussiebb.net.

But I had fixed that. On lax.lemis.com I had put in a bogus reverse zone, more for fun than anything:

=== grog@lax (/dev/pts/2) ~ 8 -> host 121.200.11.253
253.11.200.121.in-addr.arpa domain name pointer radiation-tower.aussiebb.net.

OK, that doesn't cut it either. But this used to work. What has changed?

Some searching later showed, in /usr/local/etc/postfix/main.cf:

# The mynetworks parameter specifies the list of "trusted" SMTP
# clients that have more privileges than "strangers".
#
# In particular, "trusted" SMTP clients are allowed to relay mail
# through Postfix.  See the smtpd_recipient_restrictions parameter
# in postconf(5).
#
# 167.179.139.35 is eureka's external interface,
# 208.86.226.86 is our own address, for tunnels.
mynetworks = 192.109.197.0/24, 127.0.0.0/8, 167.179.139.35, 208.86.226.86

Oh. That's out of date. Change to:

mynetworks = 192.109.197.0/24, 127.0.0.0/8, 45.32.70.18, 121.200.11.253

And after that, all was well. Except that some mail was very late.


No fake news from Facebook
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

I get news from a number of sources, but none of them is Facebook. In fact, I have very little to do with Facebook at all. But today I got news about Facebook from a number of very angry news sources. Facebook had blocked them!

Background: a bill in Australian parliament to require social media sites to pay news sources for broadcasting their news. In principle, an understandable demand. For example, in the course of proceedings, I discovered that the Ballarat Courier had a channel on Facebook. It might have been useful, since they want $3 a week for direct access. And Facebook bypasses such requirements.

But a lot of things are wrong with the situation:

I've found most of the restrictive actions Facebook has taken recently to be sensible and well thought out. This one was neither. Yes, they have at least partially reinstated the sites, but I think that's too late. They've harmed their reputation; now, I suspect, they will also find themselves a target of Government investigations. I think it'll be a while before the dust settles.


Friday, 19 February 2021 Dereel Images for 19 February 2021
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Spelling errors
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Quora is not a site for staying still. They're always trying out something new, frequently to their detriment, like paying people for asking questions without setting any standards. The result: a flood of inane questions.

And now they've decided that there are still not enough answers to questions. So they send off a bot to look for answers that might be related, and display them by default!

OK, time for a question: how do I change the default? But that's not so straightforward:

 
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OK, I'll bite. What's the difference? I spent 5 minutes looking, but either my eyes are old and worn-out, or there is no visible difference. So I accepted “their version”, and got lots of “answers”, all basically echoes of my complaint.


Garden flowers in late summer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's a month to the Autumnal equinox, time for my monthly garden photos.

It doesn't look like late summer. The lawn is as green as I have seen it:


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But the light wasn't right for the photos, so I put off a lot of them until tomorrow. That means that I won't be able to complete the page until then.


Saturday, 20 February 2021 Dereel Images for 20 February 2021
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New frying pan
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought a new frying pan on Wednesday. I don't understand why: it's 24 cm in diameter, and we already have one like that. I suspect that she liked the colour. But I use the 24 cm pan all the time, and it comes from ALDI, so it was worth trying out.

There's one obvious issue: the base is even less flat than most, and the oil in the pan collects at the edges:


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OK, that's it. We have something better, so it goes back (thanks, ALDI, for making that easy).

But then I saw something else:


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After finishing cooking, the pan was almost completely clean. Normally the tomatoes stick to the surface of the pan.


Garden flowers in late summer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I started my monthly monthly garden photos yesterday, but I really needed more photos, so I postponed the article until today.

As noted yesterday, it really doesn't look like late summer. The lawn is not only green, but also full of various flowering plants:

I can identify at least three different kinds. First, there are things that look like they could be dandelions,


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And then there are considerably smaller flowers that I've noted before, but not at this time of year:


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These are almost certainly the “ground cover” that I tried in vain to cultivate last year.

And finally, only a small number of a third kind of flower:


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It's interesting that they're all the same colour.

Apart from the unseasonable weather, things are not as bad as they could be. Clearly our garden is showing signs of neglect. Paul Gallagher, the new gardener, does good work when he's there. But he doesn't stay long enough, and he has just not shown up twice now. It shows:


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That's a bed that he weeded a couple of months ago. And the path round to the west of the house will soon be impassable:


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Not a good advertisement for Jim's Mowing.

The surviving trees in the east garden are doing well. I had been concerned about the Corymbia ficifolia, which had not recovered from the winter—until last month. It still looks straggly, but it is getting considerable new growth. Here last month (first image) and this month:


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And the Schinus molle also seems to be improving. But it has been a year (first photo)!


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The Box Elder is also holding its own, though clearly it would like to be free of weeds:


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The Clematis “Edo Murasaki” that was so badly damaged in the winter continues to flower:


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And even in the far north bed, where even my Gallipoli rosemary died, the Salvia microphylla is making a comeback:


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It's nothing compared to the blue-flowering Salvias next to it, though:


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I've been neglecting some things, though. In the shade area, the Staghorn fern that I got for my 60th birthday has almost disappeared, but it's not done yet:


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I really need to put it somewhere where it won't be forgotten.

And the Epazote that I ignored last year has now recovered, and coming up for a new year's crop, though I haven't even made many headroads into last year's crop:


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The chiles serrano are a mixed bunch. The one I planted in October is not dead, but it's smaller than it was when I planted it (first photo):


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Yes, it's in there somewhere, overtaken by less prudish other plants. The second one (which could be a chile de arbol) is doing better:


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I wonder why they have such difficulties.

From a facilities point of view, there's still a lot to do. My repair on the sprinkler 1 distribution worked, but now the connection has burst elsewhere:


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Abutilon
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's been three weeks since I got some Abutilon cuttings during a garage sale. They have fared differently:


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I don't know if the two leafless ones on the left will survive, but there's always hope.

Rather more surprising was the cutting with a flower that I put in a beer mug to wait for the flower to fade. It did that a few days ago, but now there's a new one:


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And how about that, it had created a root in the water:


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So how do I plant it in soil without breaking off the root?


Planting ferns
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It has also been even longer a while since I picked up some Alstroemeria tubers and a couple of ferns, in the hope that Paul Gallagher would plant them for me. Not much hope, but the ferns need planting. And I have just the place. Here last month (first image) and today:


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Kidney kebabs
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Lamb kidney for dinner tonight. How should we prepare it? Our standard recipe is rognons en casserole, though strangely we don't have it on line. Yvonne has a rognons en brochette recipe, and I thought that it might be interesting to do it in a pan, since we had relatively good results with chicken kebabs like that.

But there's a difference: the kidneys are much larger, and they're also soft enough to not stick to the skewer, so it's difficult to turn them over. The result: uneven cooking, or at least so I thought. In the end I covered the pan:


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And yes, that did the trick. But somehow I'm left with a feeling of mild dissatisfaction, and I can't even say why.


Sunday, 21 February 2021 Dereel Images for 21 February 2021
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Teriyaki?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I cook a lot of dishes with spice pastes from ALDI:


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How authentic are they? Not at all. But I've found that I can make a useful breakfast with the “Pad Thai” sauce, and I recently bought a large number of them.

And the others? I don't know. “Mongolian Lamb” doesn't seem to be a breakfast. But what about Teriyaki? What is Teriyaki, anyway? I don't know much about Japanese food, so I just (roughly) followed the instructions on the package:

quantity       ingredient       step
35 g       beef       1
25 g       prawns       1
30 g       broccoli       1
18 g       capsicum       1
35 g       onion       1
22 g       mushrooms       1
180 g       cooked rice       2
      cucumber to garnish       2


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And the taste? Edible. Not enough for me to be sure that I don't want to return the other packages to ALDI. Looking (after the event) at what teriyaki is, this is so far from it that I don't know how to improve on things.


Dying firefox
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For over a month I've had this issue that my firefox instance on dereel (displaying on eureka:0.2) dies overnight, apparently after receiving an ECONNRESET from eureka. That still doesn't make any sense to me, but I'm going to have to do something about it: it's now happening several times a day.

What's causing it? I have many X clients running over the local net. But there seems to be something special about dereel: the xterms also die, though the ssh connections don't. On the face of it, it appears to be an issue with eureka, presumably the (first) X server: that's what presumably produces the ECONNRESETs.


Pickled vegetable hotpot
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I'm still trying to get rid of various foodstuffs that I have bought over the years and intended to cook some time. This “Pickled Vegetable Hotpot” paste is another example:


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It expired 2½ years ago, high time to get rid of it. So it was planned for this evening. But then I read the small print:


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That really was fine print. I hadn't been able to identify it previously. Hot Sichuan flavours. Not for Yvonne. By comparison, the claimed Korean orientation (this is a Chinese product) is hard to understand. It's not clear when, if ever, I can use it. So we made some relatively boring noodle leftovers instead.


Monday, 22 February 2021 Dereel Images for 22 February 2021
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No Paul
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I had half expected Paul Gallagher, the sometime gardener, to show up today, like he did 2 weeks after his last absence. But he didn't. That makes 3 of the last 5 appointments where he hasn't shown, hasn't replied to phone messages, and hasn't contacted me to say why. Clearly that's the end; there's no reason to believe that he ever intends to come again. But how can a company like Jim's Mowing put up with people like that?


Goodbye Quora?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been answering questions on Quora for some years now. I often wonder why. They have some strange policies, and they seem to be doing everything they can to lower the value of their product. Today I spent considerable time downvoting questions like “How many inches is 5 foot 3 inches?”, “How far is 5 kilometers in miles?” and “How long is 30 cm in inches?”, for answers to which the (same) questioner actually gets paid.

As if that isn't enough, they're inventing answers. Have a question with no answer? Never mind, our bots will bring up some irrelevant answer matching some of the keywords. For example, to “How should I connect a Cat 3 cable for RS485?” they offer a response to “How do you connect two cable ties together?”. For some reason, this particularly irritates me.

Time to spend my time doing something else. Finally upgrading eureka?


Tuesday, 23 February 2021 Dereel Images for 23 February 2021
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Potting the abutilon
Topic: gardening Link here

The flower has fallen off the last Abutilon cutting that we got last month. Time to pot it.

But how? It has quite long roots, and if I just put it into potting mix, I risk tearing them off:


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In the end I put a pot in a bucket of water, put the cutting in the pot, and gently added potting mix:


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Hopefully that didn't do any harm. But I don't know how I could find out for sure.


Wednesday, 24 February 2021 Dereel Images for 24 February 2021
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More sprinkler stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

I'm pottering round at a snail's pace trying to get the sprinkler system working properly. Today I plugged a small hole, marvelling about how little water was getting out of it.

Checking the water filter showed why. It was clogged more than I have ever seen. I didn't take any photos in time, but the sludge was about 4 mm thick and fell in lumps on the pressure cell and in the kitchen sink:


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I only cleaned it a couple of days ago, and in the past it has kept clean for weeks. Do we have underground water supply problems?


Andoer Arca-Swiss quick release plate
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yvonne uses an Andoer leveling head for her PIXIO “Robot Cameraman” recordings, but it has a problem: the top is so wide that I can't fit a normal Arca-Swiss shoe on it, as I noted months ago. The components team up to make it impossible: the top of the leveling base is too wide, and the adjusting screw of the shoe goes below its base line:


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So I had mounted a macro rail between the two components. At the time I had thought that it could even be convenient:


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But Yvonne didn't like it, and recently I found a shoe that had a smaller screw, coincidentally made by the same company, Andoer.


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It also had a quick release lever and a horrendous (well, high) price tag, round $25. By comparison the bigger and more complicated macro rails come in at about $14, and the leveling head cost round $54.

And how is it? It works, and the lever is convenient. But somehow I'm left wondering whether Andoer doesn't have a left hand, right hand issue:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20210224/big/Quick-release-Arca-shoe-2.jpeg
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It's somehow irritating that the lever fouls the bubble level. You'd think that somebody would have thought of that.


Foxed!
Topic: animals, photography, opinion Link here

Looking out the lounge room window this evening, I saw an unexpected sight: a young fox, quite a pretty thing, less than 10 m from the window.

Foxes! We don't need no steenking foxes in Australia! What have the dogs been thinking? Took Nikolai outside. Fox looks at him. Escapes to the neighbour's property, climbing over a 1.2 m fence in the process. Then Niko noticed him. I don't suppose we'll see him again in the near future.

And only then did it occur to me that I could at least have taken a photo.


Thursday, 25 February 2021 Dereel Images for 25 February 2021
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Galahs again
Topic: animals Link here

Galahs are everywhere in Australia, but not to the same extent. Round Stones Road we haven't seen many. But that seems to be changing:


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We've also seen large swarms of cockatoos, but they don't land on the ground much. Is this a sign of habitat change? Maybe a late result of the bushfires last year?


You have had a power failure
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

In the evening, between TV programmes, took a look at my mail:

  22 N   25-02-2021 To groggyhimself@ ( 357) ingeras.noreply@inge N   Ingecon Sun Monitor. Alarm in plant Stones-Road

Oh. Really? Out into the garage, where the inverter showed normal operation. But a look at the statistics showed that yes, indeed, we had had a power failure, well over an hour:


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The good news was that it had absolutely no effect on the system. At the end of the outage we were still running on battery, and it took another 45 minutes before it needed to charge.

In passing, this is the first time I have ever first been made aware of a power failure by email.


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