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January 2018
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Monday, 1 January 2018 Dereel Images for 1 January 2018
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Goodbye Nemo
Topic: animals Link here

Over 5 years ago we gave away Nemo, our black German Shepherd Dog, mainly because we were concerned about him getting hurt in the wild. We didn't forget him, though, and Yvonne in particular has been following his progress.

No more. Last week he got bitten by a snake, and died on Friday. Goodbye, Nemo. At least he had a good life, and he was nearly 8 years old.


How to sleep, Leonid style
Topic: animals Link here

When dogs sleep, it's usually on their side, with feet, head and tail on the ground. But Leonid has a special issue, his tongue:


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How to friend strangers
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

A few days ago I received a fairly typical message:

Date: Tue, 26 Dec 2017 07:48:05 -0800
From: Facebook <notification+ysrrnwrr@facebookmail.com>
To: Greg Lehey <groggyhimself@lemis.com>

Gloria Maria Rivera Rivera wants to be friends with you on Facebook.

Guia at Travel By México, Guía Turística de México

1 mutual friend · 2,276 friends - 19 groups

A tourist guide in México? I don't know her. But we have a mutual friend. Who is it? A very well-known member of the Internet community. How did he get to know her? So I sent him an email (yes, it occurred to me later that I could have sent a Facebook PM, but I don't go in for that sort of thing). The reply:

i've never heard of her and i don't know why i accepted a friend request from
her. sorry for the slop. i've unfriended her.

Sometimes I think this happens far too often. Spam 100 people with friend requests, and one might accept, for whatever reason. Then she's a friend of a friend, and the others are much easier to “friend”.


Annex Palestine!
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

One of the more disturbing news items of the day barely made it to the Western press: the Likud Central Committee voted to annex parts, probably all, of the occupied West Bank of the Jordan river, stated as Judea and Samaria. It's easy to guess why they're doing this now, and it shows the far-reaching effects of Donald Trump's stupid declaration last month. It also goes in line with what David Friedman said a couple of days ago.

But why hasn't this been reported more widely? The US news sources I read (Washington Post and New York Times) haven't mentioned it, and neither has any Australian news source. Al Jazeera did, of course.

I don't believe in the concept of “fake news”. But it's somehow concerning how one-sided press coverage is. It makes you wonder what's really going on with the protests in Iran, where Western journalism is paying a lot of attention, though I doubt that they understand the situation.


ISO invariance
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Today I discovered a new term: ISO invariance. What's that? I spent a couple of hours reading mainly vague pages about the subject, and I still don't know. Some of the better pages are: Sony Alpha 7R II: Real-world ISO invariance study and Noise, Dynamic Range and Bit Depth in Digital SLRs, the latter quite old and only marginally related to the subject. What I have understood so far is:

Much of this makes sense, and the pages I have read go into obsessive detail about the sources of noise and what can be done about it. But none of the pages that I have seen address the most obvious issue with underexposure: you lose shadow detail. Assuming that you underexpose by 6 EV, something that they advocate, your signal levels will drop from a range of 0 to 4,095 to a range of 0 to 63.

There's also a comparison page that I haven't been able to fathom. I downloaded some surprisingly big raw files, over 110 MB for 12 MP images, only to find that DxO PhotoLab doesn't understand the format.

So apart from the issue of gradation, there are two main things I still don't understand:

In passing, I also came across “Unlocking Olympus”, which might be interesting in other contexts. It didn't add to this investigation.


Happy New Year!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It's been seven years since we stayed up until midnight for the New Year. Instead we went on to New Zealand time and drank our champagne at 22:00 local time.

Problem: we needed Chris Bahlo to help drink the champagne, and she was here only the day before. So we didn't even drink champagne last night.

But the New Year is long, so we decided that this time we would celebrate the arrival of the New Year with the Californians, and 19:00 local time today. That's dinner time, so Chris came over again, and we finally got rid of the champagne.


Tuesday, 2 January 2018 Dereel
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Some garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

I've been meaning to mow the lawn for I don't know how long, and today I finally got round to doing it. It wasn't easy: firstly, our ride-on mower is really too big for the small (400 m²) garden area to the north of the house, and secondly there are so many wildflowers growing there through the grass that I didn't want to mow them all down. So in the end I did about two-thirds of it. The result looks messy, but maybe I'll think of a way of improving it.

And then the weeds! We're still waiting for Warrick Pitcher, but I hadn't expected them to take over so quickly in just a few weeks. I should spend some time every day fighting them.


More ISO invariance insights
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I still don't understand “ISO invariance”, and today's research helped little. This page claims:

The short answer is that ISO invariance means that a camera will produce the exact same image quality by staying at ISO (or whatever the base ISO is on the camera) and dramatically underexposing the photo and then brightening it up again in Lightroom, as if you had shot the camera at the proper ISO in the first place.

That completely ignores the bit depth of the resulting image, as does just about everything that I've seen so far. And the reference to Lightroom, by no means the only one, shows a certain lack of perspective: the technique should be independent of the processing software.

This page at least comes up with a definition:

An iso-invariant camera is one where read noise remains constant over the range of ISO values...

It also refers to this page (from photographylife), which defines it differently:

ISO invariance is a property of your camera’s sensor. If your camera sensor is perfectly ISO invariant, there is no penalty in noise if you brighten a photo in post-production rather than increasing your ISO in-camera. They are functionally the same.

Well, firstly they all manage to ignore the issue of bit depth, closely related to dynamic range. And it's difficult to find what the alternative is. And then this page states:

With an ISO-variant camera (one whose read noise decreases with increased ISO), the benefit is in favor of brightening with added in-camera ISO, which will typically result in less read noise than "shooting dark" and pushing in raw processing.

This suggests that the ISO-variant camera is better. In general, the literature appears full of contradictions. One insight that is plausible and useful is (again the photographylife page):

Digital amplification in-camera is no different from digital amplification by brightening the photo in Lightroom, except that [sic] decreases your dynamic range and makes it harder to retain detail in the highlights.

This is partially true, assuming that the missing word is something like “the former”. Retaining detail in the highlights has nothing to do with amplification, of course: it can happen without, and it's a question of exposure. The best statement I have seen is (still the same page):

Most photographers have heard that there is a difference between the “native” and “extended” ISO values in certain cameras. For example, according to Nikon, my D800E has a native range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400, and an extended ISO range that stretches down to ISO 50 and up to ISO 25,600.

And that is ISO invariance, at least at the simplest level – the concept that, in some sense, your ISO setting “doesn’t actually matter.” Whether you set ISO 6400 in your camera and brighten it in Lightroom, or you set ISO 25,600 in camera, you’ll end up with two files that have exactly the same amount of noise (though, again, the ISO 6400 photo may have more latitude in highlight recovery than the simulated ISO 25,600).

OK, that makes sense, though it assumes, of course, that the output of the ADC is no wider than the raw image bit depth. So if somebody says to me “don't go beyond 6,400 ISO, it won't help”, I can live with that. But that's not what (many) people are saying: they're saying “don't go beyond base ISO”, as in the first quote above.

An example is this page, which includes a series of photos of a standardized test sheet, which can be downloaded. But they've done it wrong! They've compared images exposed correctly at standard ISO setting, and then 6 images progressively underexposed by 1 EV, always at the same ISO setting. That's not what this is about: it should have images taken at the same shutter speed and aperture, with the ISO varied by 1 EV from (say) 100 ISO to 6,400 ISO.

But in general, I need to read this stuff still more carefully. Maybe there's some value in the concept that I still haven't discovered. But so far I have:

There's a lot of material on the web on photography, and the quality varies from appalling (see Jen Miller's atrocity) to very good. But somehow I haven't found a very good page on this subject yet.

While looking at the topic, I arrived at this page. It doesn't add much to the discussion, but the web site may be of interest.


Wednesday, 3 January 2018 Dereel Images for 3 January 2018
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DBDRV results
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Today I got the report of the DBDRV assessment of last month. I wasn't expecting much, but this was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish. The DBDRV and the assessor should be ashamed of themselves.

In detail: there were four items.

1: Cooktop

The issues I raised here were the dangerous mounting of the cooktop and the inability to get a small flame.

The standard requires that if a burner is positioned within 200 mm from the wall, the wall must be non-combustible surface. As the wall behind the cook top is a non-combustible tiled surface, the item is not defective.

I had shown him that the wall behind the cooktop got charred by the heat. At the very least, he should have mentioned this. If that's all that the standard requires, it is severely deficient. Tiles can be destroyed by heat and potentially set fire to whatever is behind them. But he only quotes the permissive part of the standard (Clause 6.10.1.2 of the Australian Standard AS/NZS 5601.1:2013), which also states “Where the distance is less than the specified clearance then protection of the combustible surface is required as per AS/NZS 5601.1:2013”. He doesn't state what protection is required.

Flame control for the gas burners appeared normal at the time of assessment. Therefore this item is not defective.

What does he mean by “appeared normal”? It didn't match the installation instructions. He didn't mention this in his report.

2: Range hood

My objection was that the range hood only extracted about 20% of the rated flow. It was clear when he was here that he did not understand the issue, and he stated explicitly that he did not know how to measure it. I told him. But there was none of this in his report. He showed two photos, of the range hood and a straight section of the flue.

Section 18.02 of the Guide to Standards and Tolerances 2007 (Guide) states:
"During the documented maintenance period after completion, fittings are defective if they do not operate as intended by the manufacturer. If the maintenance period is not documented it is to be taken as three months. After the end of the maintenance period failure is not a defect unless it is caused by the builder's workmanship."

And then he goes on to the third item. What kind of nonsense is that? Finger trouble, it seems. He mixed up the sections, and the rest of this one is in the middle of the following section:

The assessment revealed that the rangehood was operating as intended by the manufacturer.

I can't determine what the manufacturer intended, and nor can the assessor. But it most certainly doesn't comply with the specifications! He was completely incapable of assessing it! No mention of my measurements, nor indeed what he did to come to this conclusion. And then he writes:

The assessment was carried out in December 2017 and the hand over date was April 2015, therefore the range hood is also outside the maintenance period.

Nonsense! He's confusing certificate of occupancy and handover date (28 April 2015 and 5 May 2015), and he must surely be wrong that my claims have lapsed because of the time. I first reported the issue at an on-site meeting on 28 May 2015, following up with an email message, and we've been fighting ever since.

3: Floor levels

This was a complete failure. As I mentioned, he didn't even measure the area I was talking about. He quoted:

Clause 14.08 of the Guide to Standards and Tolerances 2007 (Guide) states:

"Floor levels within a room or area are defective if they differ by more than 10 mm in any room or area or more than 4 mm in any 2 m length."
The assessment revealed that when an automatic levelling laser level was applied to the Dining & Living floor and the levels were within 4 mm of each other in any 2000 mm direction. Within the whole area there was a difference of up to 5 mm. Under doors a difference was noted of up to 4 mm side to side. In accordance with the Guide, floors must not differ by more than 10 mm in any room or area. Therefore the item is not defective.

So basically, he didn't do this measurement at all.

4: Double glazing

This is a contractual issue, of course. But I still find it offensive when he writes:

The contract document drawings show windows with double glazing (DG) and sliding units with Low E (Low E) in accordance with the energy report as part of the building permit. The assessment revealed that the glazing to the sliding doors was single glazed Low E glass as required on the contract document drawings and energy report.

That's stupid. It took him himself 10 minutes to understand the abbreviations on the drawings, and there was nothing there to say that the doors should be single glazed. I'm sure there's a requirement somewhere that contracts be specified in English.

In summary:

So I'm done for. I'm now worse off than if I had never contacted DBDRV.


Trump: Mine is bigger than yours
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago Kim Jong Un claimed to have a launch button for ICBMs on his desk. Just the bait for Donald Trump, who now almost literally replied “Mine is bigger than yours”. I'm left wondering whether that was an attempt at humour.

What an idiot!


ISO invariance exposed
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Finally I've found a reference to what I've been saying all along about ISO invariance: the concept of underexposing and then pulling the image back up again is Just Plain Wrong. Yes, as I've discovered myself, it works remarkably well when things go wrong. But now I have it stated by somebody else:

Underexposing by 3 stops at base ISO (100?) takes advantage of only 1/8th of the sensor's physical capacity and in effect turns a 14-bit sensor into an 11-bit sensor. It uses the same exposure and generates the same S/N ratio as if you had exposed normally at ISO 800 in place of 100 and used all 14 bits.

But that's a forum post. Why don't other people write sensible articles? It's still not even clear that all people mean the same thing.


New kitchen roll holder
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Our old kitchen roll holder has broken. Not surprising: it's out of plastic, and we've had it for over 20 years. And it wasn't difficult to find a replacement on eBay. It arrived today, and I installed it immediately.

What a disaster! The aluminium foil cutter just doesn't work at all, and the thing is designed to deliberately restrict the width of the rolls, so standard Australian rolls (33 cm) don't fit, although the device is 37 cm wide:

Mbl2GApEXQU

Why do people make things like that?

But why did the aluminium foil cut so badly? Looking at the cutters shows that each device has different cutters for aluminium foil and plastic foil. Here the old unit on the left, first the plastic foil, then the aluminium foil. On the right I have my best guess at the way it's intended to work for the new holder:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180104/big/Foil-cutter-5.jpeg
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It's not really surprising that neither of the cutters work for aluminium foil.


Kangaroo trap
Topic: animals Link here

Over 3 years ago we found a kangaroo trapped in fencing wire:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20140618/big/Trapped-kangaroo-1.jpeg
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We called the wildlife rescue, which came along and cut it out of the wire, but the injuries were too severe, and they had to kill it.

At least that was a humane death. Today we saw what happens when nobody sees in time:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180103/big/Dead-kangaroo-1.jpeg
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The future of retailing
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Four years ago I participated in a Coursera course about the history of the Internet. One of the assignments was an essay on what the Internet might be like in 20 years' time. I've been following it ever since—it's amazing to think that 20% of the time has already elapsed.

Today I read an article in the Washington Post about the shutdown of the last department store in Hermitage, PA. Hermitage has a population of about 15,000, and the nearest larger town is at least 50 km away. This will probably kill off the Shenango Valley Mall as well.

In passing, it's notable that the mall web site is at least 9 months out of date: it lists all three department stores that were there until March 2017, when Sears and Macy's closed down. Wouldn't you be happy if you went to a mall looking for one of three department stores, and found none at all?

Is this important? From a larger viewpoint, no. More and more people are buying “online”, and that will continue. Further outlets will shut down, and some big companies will go broke. What we really need now is cheaper postage (the USA is particularly bad in this respect) and better presentation of the goods online.


Thursday, 4 January 2018 Dereel Images for 4 January 2018
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Penang laksa again
Topic: food and drink, history Link here

Penang laksa is a happy recollection that I have of my youth, though now that I have my entire paper diary online, I discover that I have only one mention of what could have been Penang laksa, but I didn't specify; the rest were Sarawak laksa. The first explicit mention of Penang laksa in my diary is less than a year old, and was only partially successful.

Today I tried again with a different paste, which had instructions including the use of har ko. What's that? It says “prawn paste”, but the normal Malay word for that is belacan. Maybe that's the paste that is always in Penang laksa, and that I had thought was Tamarind. If that's the Went looking in the pantry, and how about that, I found some:


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Hea ko? Har ko? Who cares? It must be the right stuff. It even comes from Penang. Further investigation takes me back to the belacan page on Wikipedia, which tells me that it's the Min Nan term, and that “hae ko” is the correct spelling, though the Cantonese haa¹ gou¹ (蝦膏) might be transliterated as har go. My recollection is that it much less solid than belacan.

Clearly my specimen is not the freshest. How old? No expiry date on it, of course, but a price label:


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That's in Dutch! It's not overly surprising: I used to buy Malaysian and Indonesian food in Venlo when I was living in Voerde, from 1979 to 1982, though on one occasion I bought some in Brussel. And when? Confirmed with Yvonne that I had never gone shopping with her in Holland. I was in Bruxelles in June 1987, and did some shopping before I returned, though I didn't think I would have bought this kind of food.

So which was it? This page suggests that it was Venlo. At an educated guess, I would have bought this stuff in 1979 or (more likely) 1980. I know we have some old stuff in the kitchen, but I think this takes the cake. The last time I ate laksa in Malaysia was over 48 years ago, and only about 10 years before I bought this paste, which is thus older than many people I know. I didn't use it.

The laksa itself was pretty much the same as last time. Once again I made it in two steps. First, the sauce.

quantity       ingredient       step
250 g       Richmond asam laksa paste       1
      fish broth and water to 1500 ml       1

The fish broth came from boiling the fish below.

quantity       ingredient       step
300 ml       sauce       1
80 g       noodles       1
90 g       hoki fillet, boiled and shredded       2
40 g       cooked prawns       2
1       fish ball       2
50 g       pineapple chunks       3
      raw onions       3
      tamarind paste       3
      mint       3
      Thai basil       3

The tamarind paste was necessary; it's not sour enough otherwise. Here's the result:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180104/big/Penang-laksa-2.jpeg
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And it tasted quite good, much better than last time. Different brand of paste? That's what I thought, but it seems that it's the same:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180105/big/Penang-laksa-3.jpeg
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In previous entries I referred to it as “Richmond” or “Oriental Merchant”, both of which are written on the back.


ISO Invariance: the proof
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the big claims of the proponents of “ISO invariance” is that you can take photos at the same exposure and lower ISO sensitivity settings than “required”. But all the sample images I have seen are taken from a different point of view: same ISO setting, different exposure. OK, if I can't find anything online, I can always do it myself. According to this page the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II should be “somewhat” ISO invariant. Let's try with a scene that has noticeable shadows. According to my previous claims, shadow detail should be the first to go. So I took the same image at 1/40 s and f/5.6, starting at 6400 ISO and dropping in steps of 1 EV to 200 ISO and “low”, whatever that might mean. Here are the results for 6400 ISO, 3200 ISO, 800 ISO, 200 ISO and “low”. Run the cursor over an image to compare it with the first (6400 ISO):


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180104/big/ISO-invariance-6400-orig.jpeg
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I took others at 1600 and 400 ISO, with expected results. See the raw photo page for all images. I used DxO PhotoLab with the “Artistic HDR” profile preset. I didn't try any noise recovery. As expected, the quality drops significantly as the ISO setting drops. Only the “low” setting seems out of keeping.

Here's a comparison of the details at 6400 ISO, 800 ISO and 200 ISO. Again, run the cursor over an image to compare it with the first:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180104/big/ISO-invariance-6400-orig-detail.jpeg
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As I've noted in the past, it's really quite impressive how well the camera deals with extreme underexposure. But as a deliberate technique? Useless.


Piccola regains territory
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne drew my attention to this this morning:


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What's so strange about that? That was Rani's armchair, and Piccola wasn't allowed on it. It has taken 8 months for her to regain this territory.


Friday, 5 January 2018 Dereel Images for 5 January 2018
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How long will my shutter last?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the most likely causes of failure on a modern system camera is the shutter. Some manufacturers rate them, others don't. I've heard various numbers about my cameras, generally round the 100,000 mark, but no firm statement from the manufacturer. But Yvonne's Olympus E-PM2 had a shutter failure after only 12,000 releases. I've taken more than that with almost all my cameras, but I don't know if one of them might fail too.

So it was interesting to find the shutter life database, unfortunately too small and too out of date to be of any use. Can it be revived?


Smart TV usage
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Finally got hold of Danny at The Good Guys in Ballarat, and told him of my pain with the TCL 60"(152cm) UHD LED LCD Smart TV . No, he didn't know that the thing didn't have a microphone. He also didn't know that Android TV relied on it. That's good for me: it means that nobody warned me that it was incomplete. Danny was happy for me to return it for a refund or exchange, so that's fine.

But why didn't he know? My guess is that nobody uses Android TV. Certainly I find it pretty useless, and the fact that the manufacturer offers a castrated version seems to suggest that it's basically a box to tick on the spec sheet, not something that somebody uses.

Now I have another problem: the ALDI 65" TV works fine, but next weekend they have another on offer with a 75" diagonal. Should I buy it? There's no problem returning the 65" model, but the 75" model costs more than twice as much ($1,699 against $799). Is it worth it for just another third as much screen area again?


Mobile phone fun
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Petra Gietz along this morning with her phone. She tells me that despite the new radiation tower, her coverage was no better. Charged the phone for her and confirmed that it worked fine. It seems that she had thought that the Dereel tower would cover Enfield as well. That raises the question: where is the tower that services Enfield (13 km away)? They used to have better coverage than here.

While we were at it, got her to call my phone to confirm that we had coverage, and also to capture her mobile phone number. I didn't hear the phone ring. Then somebody answered. Wrong number. Looked at the number I dialed. It was correct. Huh? After she was gone, I checked: I had remembered my phone number incorrectly since I started using it. That doesn't exactly confirm my claim that I could remember it easily. A good thing I didn't have new business cards printed.


Saturday, 6 January 2018 Dereel Images for 6 January 2018
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Hot weather
Topic: general Link here

So far the summer has been relatively mild, especially compared to the last month of spring, but today was an exception. The temperature rose to 40.8° by 16:34. And then we had one of these sudden drops in temperature that happen so often in this part of the world:

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Looking at the database entries, the temperature dropped by up to 2.2° per minute! In 12 minutes it dropped by over 8°:

mysql> SELECT time, outside_temp FROM observations WHERE date = "2018-1-6" AND time > "16:48" AND time < "17:1";
+----------+--------------+
| time     | outside_temp |
+----------+--------------+
| 16:48:24 |         40.2 |
| 16:49:25 |         39.3 |
| 16:50:27 |         39.3 |
| 16:51:28 |         37.1 |
| 16:52:30 |         36.2 |
| 16:53:31 |         34.8 |
| 16:54:33 |         34.2 |
| 16:55:34 |         33.5 |
| 16:56:36 |         32.9 |
| 16:57:37 |         32.6 |
| 16:58:39 |         32.5 |
| 16:59:40 |         32.3 |
| 17:00:41 |           32 |
+----------+--------------+

Is that a record? It could be. I've had many such occasions before, but I can't be sure I whether any has been as extreme as today. On Black Saturday we had a similar situation, but the highest rate of change I calculated then was 1.3°/minute. I should keep better records.


Erase that link!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A while back I became interested in house prices round Newton Abbot in Devon, where I spent a lot of time in the early 1960s. And somehow I'm now on a real estate mailing list that gives minimal information about properties.

Today another one arrived. Things have changed a lot since I was in Devon. In May 1969 I considered a house—admittedly not in the best condition—for sale for £300. Now it seems that something (they didn't divulge what) in the Newton Abbot area sold for round £200,000, roughly what we paid for our current house. OK, enter the address into Google Maps and take a look.

Problem: how do you get rid of the pin that locates the address? It gets in the way, but I can't find a way to get rid of it. Not so today:

 
https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180106/big/linkerase-detail-1.png
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OK, where do I click? Nothing seemed to help. And then I discovered:


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It's “Erase That ink”, not “Erase That link”, and it's a business name. Aren't expectations funny things?


Sunday, 7 January 2018 Dereel Images for 7 January 2018
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DBDRV: no thanks
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Spent much of the day writing a letter to the DBDRV expressing my disgust at the assessment that I have received, now partially corrected. I asked for information on how to lodge a formal complaint, and suggested that they should investigate the matter from their end. I wonder how they'll respond.


Dosai? Dhosai? Thosai?
Topic: food and drink Link here

The prawn paste that I found on Thursday must rank as the oldest foodstuff we had in the pantry, but there's plenty there that has well exceeded its use-by date. I also have some idli mix (date unknown) and some dosai mix (from Sri Lanka, and labeled Thosai) which expired not quite 10 years ago in April 2008. Presumably it's at least 12 years old.

Time to continue tidying up. Which do I make? I decided on the dosai, something that I have never made before. Watching the people make them in Woodlands in Singapore rather unnerved me. So this time I decided to bite the bullet and make them.

The instructions were rather rudimentary. Put yeast in water until it foams a bit. Sorry, not this 12 year old, long dead yeast. I had to use some of my bread yeast, which presumably doesn't make any difference. Mix until a thin batter is made. How much? I still don't know. I made it thinner and thinner, but it still proved to be too thick. And the recipes I found on YouTube were completely different from mine, like this one for masala dosa:

lwY4bydhFNI

But I didn't have the ingredients for that, so I made it without filling. Far too thick. But it didn't taste bad, and it's something to experiment with.


Monday, 8 January 2018 Dereel
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Spam writer's network?
Topic: general, technology Link here

Found while cleaning out my spam folder today:

From: Janet Rogers <janet@your-rv-lifestyle.email>

Dear Editor,

My name is Janet and I’m a writer at Your RV Lifestyle. I was doing research on things to do in England and just finished reading your wonderful blog post: http://lemis.com/grog/diary-oct1968.php

In that article, I noticed that you cited a solid post that I’ve read in the past: http://www.imagesofengland.org.uk/Details/Default.aspx?id=92788

I just finished writing a guide that is even more detailed, updated and comprehensive on the 100 best things to do in England. It is over 10,000 words and packed with practical tips and advice. You can find it here: https://www.your-rv-lifestyle.com/things-to-do-in-england.html

If you like the guide we’d be humbled if you cited us in your article. Of course, we will also share your article with our 50k newsletter subscribers and followers across our social platforms.

Either way, keep up the great work!

I've seen that before, but the address was different. Same technique, including referring to a diary entry that is 50 years old, same wording. Even the name starts with J (I've seen at least three variants). And this was filtered as spam by Gmail, not me. There seems to be a whole network of them out there, and they must have annoyed enough other people to be filtered as spam.


Buying a new kitchen roll holder
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

The seller of the kitchen roll holder that I got last week is stringing me out, but the real issue is to get a new one. They're either expensive or ridiculously expensive in postage—the most expensive postage I have seen was € 99. And then I found one from a company called ibuys. Also not cheap, but in total round $55. So I tried to buy it, fighting as usual the stupid web forms that all these companies have.

This one had an additional trick: it refused my email address. Why? I don't know. I couldn't complete the purchase. So I tried their “contact” page. It, too, wanted an email address, and rejected mine. While pondering that, for the fun of it, entered president@whitehouse.gov. Yes, it accepted that willingly—so willingly that it sent the message with no further input from me.

Sometimes you'd think that people don't want to sell things.


Fighting the weeds
Topic: gardening Link here

Nice, almost windless day today, just what I needed to spray the weeds. That worked, but some of them were so high that it seemed more appropriate to pull them out. This must be some of the first real work I've done in the garden in a long time, and it didn't last long.


Tuesday, 9 January 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Geelong → Dereel Images for 9 January 2018
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Returning the TV
Topic: general, multimedia Link here

To the Good Guys in Ballarat this morning to return the TCL TV. Despite my concerns, things went pretty smoothly. Danny confirmed to me that many customers asked about Android TV, but he suspected that few actually used it. And no, they didn't have an Internet connection to demonstrate the things, and they don't intend to: it would take far too much time.

In passing, it's interesting to note this statistic, from Statista:

https://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_12463_usage_and_awareness_of_ai_applications_on_smartphones_n.jpg

Yes, it's about phones, but it applies in many cases to smart TVs. What interests me is the discrepancy between awareness and use of voice-operated functions. It seems that I'm not the only person to be disenchanted by them.


Food shopping and periodontics
Topic: health, general, food and drink Link here

Off earlier than expected to Geelong, along a very slow Midland Highway: January is the main holiday season, so they have chosen it to do roadworks on the main roads. It seemed that, for no good reason, they had restricted the speed limit to 40 km/h all the way from Lethbridge to Bannockburn, a distance of about 10 km. In the process, I had time to note that I had crossed the Midland Highway more often than I have driven along it, in about 8 different places from Buninyong to Bannockburn.

Arrived in Geelong 20 minutes before I had planned, and spent it looking for a parking place in front of the Vietnamese grocery in the middle of town. Normally I have been able to park directly in front of them, something that surprised me, but this time I had to park a block away.

Down through a shopping street, showing the signs of the times: many unoccupied shops, including an entire arcade. Those shops that were occupied seemed to be hairdressers or restaurants, though there was one shop for bridal equipment. This is very much in keeping with the expectations in the Future of the Internet paper I wrote 4 years ago.

Didn't find much at the Vietnamese place, and I was finished early enough to drive round town a bit and take some photos:


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Nothing much of interest at the periodontist's. Gum gaps seem to be getting yet smaller, to the point that they're pretty much normal for a much younger person.

Then to Belmont to buy Indian and Malaysian food, notably the latter. Spoke to Jason Yap at the Gourmet Asian Grocery, predominantly Malaysian. Jason comes from KL, and he paints a particularly dismal picture of what life is like there now—that's why he's in Australia. I wonder what the future holds.


Wednesday, 10 January 2018 Dereel Images for 10 January 2018
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eBay: 1 point up, 1 point down
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Returning my terminally broken roll holder proved more difficult than expected: the seller strung me along and kept trying to compromise (“we'll refund $12 and you can keep it”). So this morning I asked eBay to “step in“. And that they did. I don't know how long it took them, since they don't give me copies of this kind of request, but it must have been less than 10 minutes. One point to eBay.

And of course the seller got negative feedback. Finally he reacted:

could you please revise the negative feedback for us,as it is very bad to my job and our account, i am just a customer service here and i may loss job because of the negative feedback.

OK, but sorry, too late, and not very convincing.

But that wasn't the end of it. In the evening I got another message:

 
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Huh? What the hell is that? And what was the “original outcome”? This makes no sense at all. OK, look at the case details:


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This is a particularly insidious case of reverse chronological reporting: it's impossible to recognize, since they don't give times. But it's telling me that I complained to eBay, the seller gave me a complete refund, and then I appealed. The appeal was closed.

What's wrong with this? Everything! I didn't appeal, and the conflicting information on the two pages left me wondering whether I got a refund or not. But clearly this is yet another case of complete and utter incompetence at eBay. One negative point to eBay.


Landscaping, finally
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Woken at about 7:50 this morning by Warrick Pitcher. He was due to do some earthworks in the garden at the beginning of last month, but something got in the way. Now he could do it, giving us barely time to get out of bed.

In the course of the day he transformed the garden: two new beds and a gravel pathway, also hiding the fact that one part was a drain:


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By evening he had used up all the gravel on less than half the area, but he had soil left over:


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Nothing for it: order more gravel, which is horribly expensive. We had thought that we would get by with 4 m³, but we had to order another 6 m³ for $620. By comparison, Warrick's work time was cheap.

In passing, it's interesting that my yellow flowers are doing quite well, and even seem to be suppressing the grass:


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Warrick tells me that they're periwinkles, but the links I've found there seem to refer to Vinca minor, which they most certainly are not.


Masala dosa, try 1
Topic: food and drink Link here

So it looks like the canonical spelling is dosa, not dosai nor thosai, and the best way to eat them seems to be masala dosa. It doesn't look difficult, but where are the recipes? I have a number of Indian cookbooks, but I couldn't find a recipe in any of them.

OK, to the web. Plenty of recipes. The good news is that the ingredients are all pretty similar: potato, onion, curry leaves, mustard seed, turmeric and a surprisingly small quantity of channa dal. In the end I started with this recipe, which surprised me by printing a full 47 pages. Here's the recipe as I tried it:

quantity       ingredient       step
500 g       potatoes       1
200 g       onions       2
5 g       green chili       2
      oil for frying       3
1 g       yellow mustard seed       3
2 g       black mustard seed       3
2 stems       curry leaves       4
20 g       channa dal, cooked and crushed       4
2.5 g       turmeric       5
1.5 g       asafoetida powder       5
      water       5
10 g       salt       6

Preparation

  1. Boil the unpeeled potatoes until cooked. Cool, peel, and cut into cubes about 1 cm on a side.
  2. Peel the onions and cut into coarse slices. Cut chili into slices.
  3. Fry mustard seeds in oil until they pop.
  4. Add onions, chilis, curry leaves and channa dal and cook until onions are translucent.
  5. Add potatoes, turmeric, asafoetida and a little water to mix things up more easily.
  6. Season with salt.

And how did it work? The spice quantities looked a little on the low side, and that's the way they tasted. I'll try more next time. And I still need to understand how to mix dosa batter correctly. It should clearly be much thinner than I had expected.


Thursday, 11 January 2018 Dereel Images for 11 January 2018
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Completing the landscaping
Topic: gardening Link here

Warrick Pitcher along this morning at 7:50 to receive the gravel and spread it:


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He had a couple of other jobs to do, but he was gone by 11:00.


Sprinkler work
Topic: gardening Link here

One of the surprises we had this morning was that the ground that Warrick had gone over was quite wet. It hadn't rained yet this year (the first rain came in the evening). Clearly an issue with the sprinklers. I've been leaving that to Mick, but I have had more and more reason to think that they needed attention. Fired up the sprinklers and confirmed yes:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180111/big/Sprinklers-2.jpeg
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Spent several iterations fixing a large number of issues, partially leaks, partially blocked sprinkler heads. And I'm still not done.


Leaking sprinkler photos
Topic: photography Link here

My photos of the sprinkler leaks wasn't as dramatic as I would have liked. In particular, what went wrong here? Yes. there was a jet of water going across the middle of the photo:


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Too fast a shutter speed, I think. Looking at individual parts of the photo, the jet has turned into individual water droplets:

 
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These were taken at automatically selected 1/250 s. Next time (hopefully there won't be a next time) I'll try a much slower shutter speed.


Internet future: on track?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've seen a number of things lately related to my essay the future of the Internet. One thing I didn't get quite right (yet) is the demise of the fixed line telephone network. I claimed that it would be replaced by VoIP, but this statistic from Statista tells a different story:

https://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_2072_landline_phones_in_the_united_states_n.jpg

That's definitely a perspective problem on my part. I don't see (have) a need for mobile phones, and my $15 recharge keeps me going for a year. On the other hand, calls to mobile phones make up the bulk of my call costs, so I try to avoid them. Yes, I've seen numerous people give up their fixed line phones, forcing me to spend Real Money to call them on their mobile phone. The real issue is the line rental for “fixed line” phones, which in this case even includes VoIP, even though it's much cheaper.

Mobile phones don't preclude using VoIP, of course: I have a VoIP app on my mobile phone, and if I could get it to work acceptably it might well be much cheaper than mobile call rates. But the real issue I have is that people are still moving round much more than the Internet requires.


Mystery flower exposed
Topic: gardening Link here

I've seen this particular wildflower in many places, starting in Kleins Road years ago. But this one is unusual in that it isn't in the middle of a lot of other vegetation. Also the flowers are some of the largest I've seen in this species, nearly 1 cm across:


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Time for some real close-ups.


Friday, 12 January 2018 Dereel Images for 12 January 2018
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I am the very model of a modern stable genius
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

The more I watch Donald Trump's behaviour, the more I wonder if he is not secretly trying to take the Mickey out of the whole western world. His latest “stable genius” claims reminded many people of the Major-General's Song in the Pirates of Penzance. Here a number of them.


Everybody hates Twitter
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

It's no secret that I don't like social media. But I thought I was relatively alone until I read this statistic from Statista:

https://infographic.statista.com/normal/chartoftheday_12485_which_online_platforms_should_be_killed_off_n.jpg

More people want to kill Twitter (that's the bluebird without text in first place) than keep it alive! I wonder if that has something to do with Donald Trump.


Clematis recovery
Topic: gardening Link here

It's been six weeks since I planted my expensive Clematis, and since then I've watched them try not to die. They're still not looking good, but things are improving. The “General Sikorski” has a couple of shoots, even if one lots its tip during a recent hot spell:


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And though the Edomurasaki still looks very patchy, it's coming up with a couple of buds:


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Saturday, 13 January 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 13 January 2018
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Yet another bigger TV
Topic: multimedia, general Link here

Off early this morning to ALDI to buy yet another TV. Yes, we just bought one, but has only a 65" (1.65 m) diagonal, and the new one measures 75" (1.90 m). This kind of special sells quickly, so we wanted to be there when they opened. We managed that with ease. I had left to be there in 32 minutes, but on the way, Yvonne told me that it took her 22 minutes to get there. It didn't even take that long: we were there in 19 minutes.

Finally we got in and found the TVs in the storage area: 6 of them in total. We got the first, and two others standing in line got another two.

Gradually we're coming to the limit of the size of a TV that we can transport in the car:


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Went past the Sebastopol used car lot on the way home. Very little available, and at prices that make it seem worthwhile to keep my current car. Then to the Delacombe Town Centre, where we were at the opening last September. It was still early, but there did seem to be some activity. And I had heard that they're planning to extend in four directions, so maybe something will come of it after all. Spent forever trying to get out: there's a completely superfluous traffic light that appears to be incorrectly programmed, and it didn't change for me.

Got the TV into the house and unpacked with little difficulty—we're getting used to this—and set it up quickly. They've improved the packaging: now it explains how to open the package:


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And then things just fell out the bottom, leaving just the packaging foam at the top of the box:


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Well, most things. Where was the remote control? Where were the feet? In the foam, of course, which wasn't easy to get out.

Not surprisingly, the TV is very similar to the other one except for the screen. The remote control is identical—we didn't even unpack it—the connections are all the same, and so is the software. Even the too-short power cable seems to be the same. The biggest issue was the size, the weight, and the location of the feet, which bent the plank that I had specially purchased for the last TV, to the point that I was concerned it could snap. We had to put some old gardening books underneath the middle:


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I had it running within 2 hours of setting off to town (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour):


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Is it worth it? It's a third more screen size than the previous one, and two-thirds more than the old TV that failed last month, and that does make a difference. But we didn't have time to watch TV today.

The hallway is getting narrow. Before we buy any more TVs, we'll have to get rid of some:


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Eliminating cars
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

What could I do while waiting for ALDI to open? A panorama, of course. There's quite a bit of stuff round the roundabout where ALDI is situated. The other side is the beginning of the Glenelg Highway, and there's Woolworths on the other side. And wouldn't it be nice to get the road without any cars on it?

The effort (14 shots) was only marginally successful. I got this far and gave up:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20180113/big/Sebastopol-roundabout.jpeg
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Yes, I was able to get rid of the cars, and with more work I could have done better. But it wouldn't have been good: this is really a situation for a tripod, and getting the components to align was just too difficult. I should keep a tripod in the car.


No water!
Topic: general Link here

Just before midday, Yvonne came to me with the news that we had no water. Well, nothing came out of the taps. A bit of investigation showed that the water pump was tripping the RCD.

Why do these things always happen at weekends? Googled for the phone number of UPI, and was given the convenient information Closed now. Dammit! 12:02, and they shut at 12:00. Tried the Ballarat Pump Shop, which was engaged, and then tried calling UPI anyway. Yes, Luke was still there, and with a bit of begging he got Nick to agree to stay there until 12:30, when he could lend me a pump. Photos, please, to help choose a pump with similar fittings:


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