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November 2011
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Tuesday, 1 November 2011 Dereel Images for 1 November 2011
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Goodbye Cathedral
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Graham along this morning as promised and removed the last of the Cathedral trees:


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There wasn't much left before they started, but it's amazing how much difference the removal made. Time to plan the replacement better, probably taking on board some of the ideas that we got at Coravaal on Saturday. That'll keep us busy for a while.


More corms
Topic: gardening Link here

Spent a considerable amount of the morning cutting off the corms from the plants I dug out yesterday. There are definitely two different kinds, but there's so much overlap in appearance that I don't know which are Watsonias and which are Chasmanthe floribunda. When I'm done I'll investigate more carefully. Got about 10 kg of Chasmanthe corms, and I'm not even half done. Planting seeds may have been a failure, but the corms and bulbs reproduce like fury.


Into town for doctor and friends
Topic: general, gardening Link here

In the afternoon into town, primarily to see the doctor about a persistent cough. The doctor was sick, so I was given an appointment with his colleague Vani Peddi, who prescribed antibiotics.

Also went to the Botanical Gardens to bring a birch to the Friends, and once again picked up some freebies. It seems that the town council, unlike me, had been particularly successful with the seedlings that they had planted for this year, and they had many left over. They dropped about 10 trays at the Friends. Picked up a total of 8 different kinds of seedling: Zinnia “profusion double golden”, Marigold (whatever that may mean—Tagetes maybe?) “Boy o Boy”, with an indication that they had been intended for Sturt Street, Salvia “Bonfire” and “Blue bedder” (I assume red and blue). Portulaca “Tequila primrose” and three that I didn't recognize and whose names I forgot to write down. Based on reconstruction, I think they must be Celosia in yellow, orange and red.

While I was there, took a look at the current exhibition at the Robert Clark Centre: Schizanthus, a flower I don't really know, but which features on the logo of the Friends of the Ballarat Botanical Gardens. It's called “Poor Man's Orchid”, but I don't know whether I want them or not.


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On leaving, saw another Solanum bush:


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I wonder how important it is that some of them are poisonous. Probably the Solanum laxum that Yvonne brought back from Albury is as well.

Back home, investigated my new seedlings. A search on Google proved surprisingly fruitful. Most hits are from plant nurseries, but the images aren't too bad once you get past Google Images' many false positives, which in particular nearly hid the (single?) result in the case of the Portulaca Tequila primrose:

Portulaca Tequila primrose

The Zinnia Profusion Double Golden seems to come in two colours, yellow and orange, the latter in this mixture:

Zinnia yellow Zinnia
      yellow and orange

The Marigold "Boy o Boy" is indeed a Tagetes:

Marigold Boy o Boy

As expected, the Salvia “Bonfire” is red and the “Blue bedder” is blue. The “Bonfire” looks like the Salvia that we bought in Melbourne two years ago, but unfortunately the link has died. Here's the “blue bedder”:

Salvia
      Blue bedder

So the only real mysteries are the Celosias, if indeed that's what they are. There seem to be many different species, and there was no indication on the labels. We'll have to wait and see.


Wednesday, 2 November 2011 Dereel
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The last palindrome
Topic: general, opinion Link here

My geek side enjoyed today because of the date: 20111102, a palindrome, and the last for over 8 years (until 20200202).


Progress on the pond
Topic: gardening Link here

I called four different landscapers about the pond on Monday. No reply. And then, by chance, Yvonne saw somebody with a landscaper's shirt while she was out shopping. Yes, he (Jordan Dickinson) does ponds. He came out, took a look, came up with a hybrid solution: first bricks and concrete, but just to hold the pond liner in position (nobody else had considered the effect of tree roots on the liner). $600 the lot. He starts tomorrow, and should be finished early next week. What a difference from our dithering about over the last 14 months!


More corms
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather was pretty moist today, and I didn't do much. Spent some time between showers cutting off more corms. I'm running out of space to put them.


Communication with non-geeks
Topic: technology, opinion, gardening Link here

The latest edition of Wellingtonia has been published, without resolving the formatting issues. I didn't get any answer to the questions I sent by mail. I'm left with the feeling that people don't care, and I said so to the committee.

The response I got was illuminating. It's clear that gardeners and computer people don't overlap much, and I've never expected the people to know much about computers. But it seems that even answering questions by email is too difficult. One of the first things I asked for when we created the committee was that people copy mail to everybody on the committee, so that we know what's going on. All agreed, and almost universally ignored it.

Why? I don't know, but it's certainly part of the problem, just like answering mail in one block in front of the original text almost invariably leads to people forgetting something. All the more reason for me to be astonished to read in the only reply to my message (written, of course, one line per paragraph):

I am not comfortable with group emails and would prefer not to communicate this way.

I think that you are not getting as much feedback as would like because this group stuff is a wee bit scary for us. We don't really know who we are talking to, or if they would be interested in the specifics.

please don't chop up my email and reply in bits and pieces. Leave it intact as I intend it to be.

What can I say? I had never thought that the concept of an open discussion or addressing individual points is “scary”, and I had always thought this habit of answering messages upside-down was laziness rather than choice. Clearly it explains why communication isn't working, but what do you do about it? I point blank refuse to answer messages the way this person asks, but I respect her wishes, so I can't reply. In my case, I'll leave them to it. The times are long gone when I wanted to change the world.


Thursday, 3 November 2011 Dereel Images for 3 November 2011
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Moving on with the pond
Topic: gardening Link here

Jordan showed up this morning as planned and in 1½ hours laid the footings for the rough brick wall that he plans to put up tomorrow:


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Finally things are moving.


Pet heron
Topic: animals Link here

For some days now a white-necked heron has been hanging around the garden. This was taken from my office window:


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I wonder what it finds so interesting.


Corms: more mysteries
Topic: gardening Link here

I've finally finished cutting up the corms, and then I found this plant:


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On reflection, this is the Chasmanthe floribunda. In particular, it has flower spikes that grow high above the leaves, unlike either of the corms that I've been sorting. So what are the others? The one kind are what I think are the Watsonias. They have bulbous corms which usually are single, and relatively thin leaves:


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The others have flattened corms that grow in clumps, and wider leaves. The stems are not nearly as firmly attached as those of the Watsonias. They tend to tear off at the top of the corm if you pull on the leaves:


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But what are they? I have a number of them growing elsewhere, so I'll keep an eye on them.


Finally, the petunias
Topic: gardening Link here

Now that the corms are in the ground, I was able to plant the remaining petunias round the base of the Ginkgo:


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Friday, 4 November 2011 Dereel Images for 4 November 2011
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Pond progress
Topic: gardening Link here

Jordan back again today to build the brick wall for the pond, which limited the size more than I had expected. Still, it should be big enough. He'll return tomorrow for some touch-up work, and then we have to wait a week for the wall to be strong enough to take the pressure of the water.


More planting
Topic: gardening Link here

Now that we have both seedlings and mulch, it's time to get into planting in a big way. Didn't quite do that, but did manage to plant three Salvia “Bonfire” and three red Celosias (I think) in the terracotta trough that we bought some time ago and which has been sitting empty on the verandah ever since. Also planted all the Zinnia “Profusion double golden” in the narrow bed outside the laundry, to the north of the verandah.

It proves that I was a little uneven in the number of seedlings I got on Tuesday. There were a total of 8 Zinnia seedlings, but the Celosias were very dense, and I decided to plant them out in their own tray. There are three different colours, but after planting the red ones, the tray was almost full. I must have 60 of them, and similar quantities of the other colours. I wonder how many will survive.


Saturday, 5 November 2011 Dereel Images for 5 November 2011
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To see a man about a horse
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne off to Olivaylle with Chris Yeardley today to pick up three horses. Last time I was there I commented that it was something like the end of an era; today is more like salvaging the remains. Apart from Yvonne and Chris, Nele Koemle and Pam Hay also went, though it's not clear what Pam would do with an untrained horse. In all probability, they'll take about 8 horses in total, requiring another trip in the near future. What a pity it had to come to this.


Suddenly summer
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Today was another of those days where the weather changed completely. Since I've been keeping detailed weather statistics, I'm amazed at how suddenly the temperature can change. Two days ago the maximum temperature was 17.1°; today it was 33.9°:

5 days temperatures

As a result, didn't do very much apart from water some rather unhappy looking seedlings and process my photos.


Changing garden
Topic: general, gardening Link here

A number of things are changing, notably the Cathedral and the level of the dam. In late August last year it got so full that the two halves joined, but since about January it has gradually been dropping, and now we definitely have two halves again. Here this time last year and today:


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The house was once invisible from the paddock to the north-east on the other side of the Cathedral. Since the removal of the last tree, it's in clear view:


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Sunday, 6 November 2011 Dereel Images for 6 November 2011
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Mixed weather and strange bugs
Topic: gardening Link here

Had intended to continue with garden work today, but somehow got held up by other stuff, and in the end just did some weed spraying. And of course it had to start to rain an hour later, hopefully not enough to make any difference to the spray.

Some of our plants, and only some of them, are covered by tiny flies, about 2 mm long. Here the roses “Gruß an Aachen” and “Monsieur Tillier”:


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What are they? They don't seem to be doing any harm, but why are there so many? There were also some aphids on the roses, so sprayed them with Pyrethrum and killed two bugs with one spray.


NiZn battery discharge behaviour
Topic: photography, general Link here

After yesterday's garden photos, my flash unit was gradually taking longer to recycle. Instead of a little over 2 seconds, it was up to 5 seconds—the time it takes with normal batteries. Measured the voltages and discovered:

Battery 1       Battery 2       Battery 3       Battery 4
1.628       1.620       1.630       1.589

The table is misleading; I can only really identify battery 4, because I marked it. It clearly has a significantly lower voltage than the others, and may be a candidate for a less demanding use. After recharging and waiting some hours, I had:

Battery 1       Battery 2       Battery 3       Battery 4
1.836       1.837       1.836       1.832

That's interesting because it's considerably lower than the recharge voltages the first time round, which were round 1.896 V. No cause for alarm, of course, in batteries that are supposed to have a considerably lower voltage, but it's interesting to note.


Heating and cooking times
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne spent the night at Olivaylle, and when she's away I eat some alternative breakfast, usually Nasi lemak. I make the corresponding Ayam lemak and freeze it. How long does it take to thaw out again? I don't know exactly, but at the traditional 330 W “thaw” level (3) for the microwave oven, the (plastic) container gets hot enough to melt. I'll give it 5 minutes at 220 W (level 2) next time.

In addition, I was out of roasted peanuts. I buy them raw and then roast (really bake) them. But I've never written down how long, and today I did some experimentation. At 140° they took 30 minutes, but they were somewhat too brown. I'll give them 40 minutes at 130° next time.


Finding Nemo
Topic: animals Link here

As planned, Yvonne called on the way back as they passed Horsham in mid-afternoon—with the news that she had lost Nemo. She had taken him outside in the morning, and suddenly a kangaroo jumped up about 5 metres from him. That was too much for him: he headed off in pursuit and couldn't be stopped. They saw him for some distance until he disappeared, and then set off in pursuit. No Nemo.

That's bad for a number of reasons; it was a reasonably hot day, he hadn't had anything to eat or drink, the kangaroos could have disemboweled him, he could just get lost and walk on until he died of thirst. Came to the conclusion that we had about one third chance each of him being found, dying of thirst or dying of kangaroo. Kurt spent some time looking for him and promised to find him (he didn't say “dead or alive”), so Yvonne left without him some hours later.


Cassoulet and a vistor
Topic: general, animals, food and drink Link here

Yvonne returned first, followed by Chris Yeardley with the news that the people in Olivaylle had found a very thirsty Nemo later in the afternoon. That's one consolation, but how do we pick him up again? He's 368 km away, and just picking him up is a day's journey and nearly $100 in petrol. But they're planning to go back again to pick up some more horses in the not-too-distant future, so they might combine it with that. One way or another it looks as if he'll have a few days up there.

In the evening, cassoulet—with Yvonne. She even suggested it. It seems that her big objection to cassoulet were the couennes (pork skin), so we agreed to leave them out, and she was happy. Pam Hay, who had decided to visit Chris, but who had left a little later (“I'll catch up with you”), arrived some time after we had finished. She'll be staying here for a couple of nights.


Monday, 7 November 2011 Dereel
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Pond: next increment
Topic: gardening Link here

Jordan along today to complete the walls of the pond. There wasn't much to do, and he was soon finished:


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The rest happens on Friday.


“The Economist”: machine whisperers
Topic: technology, history, opinion Link here

Since the deaths of Dennis Ritchie and John McCarthy a subtle change has occurred amongst those people on Facebook who are my “friends”: they're beginning to understand the relative importance of Jobs, McCarthy and Ritchie. This particular image has popped up in so many places that I don't know where it originally came from:

Dennis Ritchie and Steve Jobs

Today Greg Woods published a link to an article about McCarthy and Ritchie in “The Economist”. I consider The Economist to be one of the best non-technical publications, but this was not one of its best articles. It does bring home one thing: they both created extremely influential languages, C and LISP. But it starts off by referring to both as “machine whisperers”. Ugh!

This is a clear reference to Monty Roberts, the self-professed “Horse whisperer”. I've always hated the term, and much better horsemen than I, such as Deb Bennett, share the dislike (not made any more digestible by Monty's poor reputation in alternative horse riding circles). But the concept of “horse whisperer” conveys an idea, of a man whispering into a horse's ear “Go over there and bite that classical dressage man” or some such. What on earth does a “machine whisperer” do?

But that's just silly terminology. What about the content of the article?

C fundamentally changed the way computer programs were written. For the first time it enabled the same programs to work, without too much tweaking, on different machines; before, they had to be tailored to particular models.

Nonsense! Credit where credit's due, and I've given a lot myself. But C was not written to be portable; that came much later. And the idea that it was the first portable language is ridiculous. There were already FORTRAN compilers for almost every machine in existence. In 1971, at the time dmr was writing C, I was writing programs in Algol 60. On an ICL System 4-50. On a Control Data 3200 (the one now in the museum in Melbourne). On a Control Data 3800 (despite the similarity, a quite different machine). Production compilers were available for just about every machine. To quote Dennis' The Development of the C Language:

At the time we did not put much weight on portability; interest in this arose later.

And C wasn't a new invention. Both FORTRAN and Algol influenced C. From the same document:

BCPL, B, and C all fit firmly in the traditional procedural family typified by Fortran and Algol 60.

The first time C was used outside a laboratory environment on any machine except the PDP-11 would have been round 1979, with the availability of 4BSD and early rewrites such as Leor Zolman's BDS C compiler for the Intel 8080. To my knowledge no C compiler reached the level of sophistication of the Algol compilers of the mid-to-late 1960s until the release of Sun's commercial offerings in the early 1980s. And that had very little to do with Dennis and Ken.

Mr Ritchie and his life-long collaborator, Ken Thompson, then used C to write UNIX,...

... which has been written two years before. A clear case of poor research. Yes, the Third Edition was rewritten in C, but it wasn't a prerequisite.

Whereas Mr Ritchie was happy giving machines orders, Mr McCarthy wanted them—perhaps because he had never suffered human fools gladly—to talk back.

That's an interesting way of putting it. I don't know what to say, but it seems so far from the way each of them would have seen their activities. Yes, LISP and Artificial intelligence once went hand in hand, but LISP had so many other important usages. I'm using it to write this diary entry. And my Emacs is not talking back to me.

So I posted a far-too-long reply on Facebook (not as long at this, though). To my surprise, most people disagreed. C was so much better than a macro assembler (yes, but what's the point?); “Algol was one week in the Waterloo curriculum then never used again...” (this is clearly a personal perspective). I get the impression that too little is known about the computing environment in the 1960s.

What would have happened if C hadn't been written? Some people claim that we'd still be in the dark ages. That's ridiculous, of course; one of the other languages (probably Algol, Pascal) or a derivative would have taken the place. The interesting thing about C is that it was one of the first languages used for writing a complete operating system kernel (though Burroughs and IBM had already written significant parts of their operating systems in Algol and PL/S respectively, and Hewlett-Packard's HP 3000, programmed in SPL, wasn't significantly later than C).

None of this should lessen the importance of what Ken and Dennis did. But we should stick to the facts.


Dinner with Pam
Topic: general Link here

Pam Hay around for dinner tonight, without Chris. The weather was warm, and we spent some time on the verandah, where Pam proved to have a good knowledge of gardening.

Interesting discussion during dinner. Australia's a small country, and people from other countries often don't believe how easy it is to bump into people again and again. I reported this six years ago when I ran into a Neanderthal bloke at Grumpys after having met him in William Creek and seen him again in Coober Pedy. But it seems that when they were in Olivaylle, Kurt (pronounced “Köt”), the manager, who comes from South Africa, asked Nele Koemle where she came from (Graz). It seems that Kurt's father came from a village about 5 km from Graz.

And today Pam wasn't to be outdone. She told a story of how she spent a night in a backpackers' hostel in Alice Springs decades ago, and subsequently bumped into most of the other people who had been there and then gone their separate ways: in Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia.


Tuesday, 8 November 2011 Dereel Images for 8 November 2011
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Tidying up the trees
Topic: gardening Link here

CJ along this morning to remove some of the low-hanging branches from the cypress trees to the west of the house. Somehow I had expected more difference:


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Still, things are a lot tidier now.

It's high time to plant some more trees. A couple have already died: the Acacia merinthophora that got eaten last month and the Choisya ternata that I planted at the same time a month ago. I fear I made the mistake of putting down the weed mat without any mulch (which I didn't have at the time), and the recent hot weather has cooked it. Still, we have plenty more. Mowed the lawn in preparation, and we should get down to it as soon as possible—with mulch.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011 Dereel Images for 9 November 2011
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Random garden stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Despite my fears, the Chile poblano that developed root rot last month is still looking relatively happy, and it's now developing buds, though it still has problems with aphids. It's about the only thing in the greenhouse that is really looking happy:


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We also seem to be having more problems with rodents. The Celosia seedlings that I transplanted last week aren't doing nearly as well as I had expected. It's not just that some are dying: others are gone altogether, and there are holes left behind. And the paper labels on some of my flowerpots are disappearing. Rats!


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The Clematis recta that we bought last year is now growing happily, but claims that it is a bush seem exaggerated: it was sprawled all over the bed. Decided to put a use to the wire cages we used to use for keeping out kangaroos, and tied it up:


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If it continues to grow at this pace, it should completely cover it in a few weeks.

The weather's still been warm enough to happily stay inside and do nothing, but spent some time laying out weed mat for the birch trees in the Cathedral. It's either the weather or my age, but after doing that, and before getting round to cover it in mulch, I gave up.


Storm arrives
Topic: general, gardening Link here

The weather changed spectacularly in mid—afternoon. Temperature drop of 12° between 15:45 and 17:25, brief spells of heavy rain and wind that blew over the dustbins and tore off the shade cloth at the west end of the north verandah:


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And of course the water tank overflowed, and the turbulence clogged up the water filter:


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But compared to what happened to others, it seems it was nothing.


Committing again
Topic: technology Link here

It's been literally years since I committed to the FreeBSD source tree. A number of reasons have held me back, including just plain laziness, but the biggest was probably my uncertainty after we changed from CVS to Subversion. In the past, I had kept a local copy of the CVS repository and committed to the central repository, but there are issues with subversion. It can be done, as described in here, but you end up with discrepancies in the revision numbers. So for a long time I put this into the “too hard” basket.

In the meantime, though, I've switched to checking out from the central repository, so it seems that this is no longer an issue: svn commit does the right thing.

The real issue, though, is Chris Yeardley's assignment, to update the source code format and documentation of calendar(1). We've been through a number of iterations, and in the end the only thing left was trailing white space on some lines. I couldn't be bothered sending it back again, so fixed it and committed.

And, of course, it was wrong. Mail from Benjamin Kaduk: Chris (or I) should have bumped the date on the .Dd macro. Should I? I've seen conflicting recommendations in the past, and the documentation I looked at (mdoc(7)) doesn't mention anything. About all I found was private mail from Ruslan “Documentation police” Ermilov, stating:

On Thursday, 23 November 2006 at  7:48:27 +0300, Ruslan Ermilov wrote:
>
> A document date (the .Dd macro) should be updated whenever a manpage's
> content gets updated.

But the last time this document date was updated was nearly 10 years ago:

r101864 | ru | 2002-08-14 21:32:32 +1000 (Wed, 14 Aug 2002) | 2 lines
mdoc(7) police: Forgot to bump .Dd.

Since then there were multiple updates, including from Ruslan. But if this is a firm requirement, why don't we put it in the source code? Something like:

.Dd $Date: 2015/06/28 03:56:32 $

Then we could modify the Dd macro to recognize $Date: as the first parameter and to convert the date to the real update date. No more human involvement required. About the only issue I have is whether this will always work with Subversion.


Waiting for nobody, found nothing
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

So Yvonne and Chris are heading off to Olivaylle on Friday to pick up some horses, but more importantly (from the time point of view) to pick up Nemo, who has been there since Sunday.

This afternoon we had a visitor:


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We had never seen her before, but she had a tag with a license number and a phone number, written in blurry characters that proved almost impossible to read even after removing from the neck of a not particularly still dog:


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What's the phone number? 5220 7111 or 5228 7111? On enlarging the image, it's clear that it the former. But how do you read that when the tag is attached to the dog, and the dog doesn't want to keep still? Even taking a photo of it took three attempts, and the first time round I read the wrong number.

Called up the number. “We close at 5 pm”. But I was able to forward to the ranger in charge, who wasn't available. Left a message, speaking my phone number and the tag number very clearly, and some time later got a call back from Neville, the ranger: “I couldn't understand the phone number, so I was just guessing at this one”. He didn't get the tag number either (dropped the second digit), so went back to investigate the records. No, there's no record of a dog with that tag number. Maybe they hadn't paid their fees.

What kind of nonsense is that? You'd think that they'd keep the records if for no reason than to fine the owner if the dog is found with it, like now. This bureaucratic short-sightedness baffles me. But for the moment there was nothing that could be done, so if wasn't claimed by tomorrow, he would come and pick it up.

But I noticed that across the road the gate was open. The house has been empty for a few weeks, since apparently Ray Nottle refused to tidy the place up prior to the Goodwins moving in. They moved elsewhere, to Buangor, and Ray presumably lost more rent than the tidying up would have cost. Went in: nobody there, but there were various packing cases there, so presumably somebody was in the process of moving in. Left a note on the door.

About an hour later, the new tenant arrived. She's called Emily, the sixth occupant since we have moved here, and yes, the dog belongs to her. Her name (the bitch, clearly, not Emily) is Nada—Spanish for “nothing”. That sounds like a good match for Nemo—Latin for “nobody”.


More heating times
Topic: food and drink Link here

Hamburgers for dinner today, from our own deep-frozen patties. How long do you thaw them for? My basic calculations are to heat from -20° to +20°, and to consider frozen food to be water. That requires 40 calories per gram for the temperature increase and 80 calories per gram for the transition solid to liquid, a total of 120 calories. Multiply by 4.2 to convert to Joules, and by the weight (120 g per patty, 2 patties), and we have 120.96 kJ. At the lowest heat power setting of the microwave oven (110 W), that's pretty much exactly 1100 seconds or 18.3 minutes.

That's a long time. Does it have to be at the lowest power? With full power (1100 W), it would be only 2 minutes, at least in theory. In practice that would give cooked edges and still-frozen centre. Decided to try 5 minutes at 220 W, which had the edges marginally warm and the centre still frozen. After leaving it for a while gave it another 5 at 110 W That's only 99 kJ, but it seemed to be roughly enough.

The buns were more straightforward: 175 g for the two of them, one minute at full power. Maybe that was a little much, and my assumption that everything is water is not quite valid. I'll try 40 seconds next time, since I need to toast them anyway after thawing.

And the hamburgers themselves? These are thicker than the ones you buy in the supermarket. In the past I've put them on the grill of the barbecue and given them 3 minutes each side, but that seemed to little for these patties. Today I made the cardinal error of changing two variables: on the hot plate for 8 minutes, which was probably (just) too much. Next time I'll try 7 minutes, but I'll stay on the hot plate, since things don't stick as much like that.


Thursday, 10 November 2011 Dereel Images for 10 November 2011
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Spring's next step
Topic: gardening Link here

The last few warm days have made their mark: nearly all our roses are flowering, some of them vigorously:


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It's interesting to note how easy it is for transplanted roses to shoot up again in the old position: unless you remove every last bit of the root, it'll re-shoot, and a year later it seems almost as if they hadn't been removed. The “Lilli Marleen” is in the process of doing that, and though the too-late transplant that I made last month has lost all its leaves, it now has strong new growth, and it's very possible that it will flower this year after all. And the last rose above shouldn't be there any more, but it has fought its way through the undergrowth to flower with the best of them.

The Clematis “vagabond” is also flowering strongly, as are the dwarf Alstroemeria and the Cissus that we bought less than two weeks ago:

The Cissus was in fact a Cistus


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And the first Canna is flowering:


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Spent more time piling mulch on the weed mat in the Cathedral. There's still quite a bit of live grass underneath, which makes it quite springy. I suppose I should leave just enough on there to stop it flapping around in the wind, and then wait for it to die down before doing any more. Isn't procrastination wonderful?


Photographing paintings
Topic: photography, animals Link here

Yvonne has painted a photo of Kurt's German Mastiff in way of thanks for finding Nemo, and as usual I had to take a photo. This one was particularly difficult. The structure of the board seems to be asymmetric; I didn't have any difficulty positioning the left-hand flash unit, but try as I might I couldn't position the right-hand one without reflections:


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In the end, gave up and used ambient light, which wasn't too bad, though it needed significant touch-up of contrast and saturation, and particularly white balance, due to the nature of the subject. The result doesn't look too bad:


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Yvonne liked some of the results that I got while playing with white balance, which the Ashampoo photo optimizer further “optimized”:


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Recovery from the storm
Topic: general, opinion Link here

As I mentioned, the effects of yesterday's storm were nothing compared to what other people experienced. Edwin Groothuis came up with a parallel to earthquake recovery:

Earthquake recovery


Friday, 11 November 2011 Dereel Images for 11 November 2011
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The pond—finally!
Topic: gardening Link here

Jordan along today and finished the pond. Everything happened so quickly and so easily that I'm left wondering why I took so long.


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Now to fill it up. Started pumping water into the pond, but the pump isn't really designed for continuous operation, and after about an hour it overheated and blew the circuit breaker. Still, gravity flow works, though it took the rest of the day and still wasn't completely full.

Time to look at all the plants we've kept back for planting in the margins of the pond. After some searching, discovered that there were only three that were even candidates. The first was the Orthrosanthus polystachus, the last remaining plant of the ones that we bought in Pomonal last September. At the time I had written:

There's nothing in the description to say so, but it seems that this last is a bog plant.

But there's nothing in that entry to say why. Checking again, there seems to be no reason whatsoever to assume that, so we'll plant it elsewhere. Then there are two other types of grassy plant, both without names, but somehow it doesn't seem like they'd want to have wet feet. So currently the only candidate for the bog are the Zephyranthes candida (“Peruvian swamp-lily”) that I repotted a couple of weeks ago. Time to find more stuff for the pond.


The Chapel
Topic: gardening Link here

It'll be a long time before we have real shade in the new Cathedral. But in the meantime, the area between the two old birches has become nice and shady, if a little small. Here's the area four years ago and last week:


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Unfortunately I didn't have anything further right four years ago, but it's interesting to see how the birches have grown in that time. It's now quite shady, and with a bit of selective pruning we can make a small shade area: not a cathedral, just a chapel:


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All I need now is to clean out the insides, notably the Libertia grandiflora, and we'll have quite a nice cosy space for hot days.


Nemo returns
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne and Chris Yeardley off to Olivaylle at the crack of dawn this morning to pick up three more horses, a cat, and more importantly Nemo, returning the same day. Things went very well, and they were back by 16:30—without the cat, which had gone into hiding.

After dinner, Yvonne noticed that Nemo was limping—horse people have an eye for that. Chris used to live there, so she guessed immediately what the problem was: grass seeds, which dig in to the paws between the claws, and if untreated can enter the body and work their way up the legs. Yvonne and I held a very unwilling Nemo down while Chris expertly removed the barbs:


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The one in the middle is about 2.5 cm long, and the discoloration of the one on the left is due to Nemo's blood: it was almost entirely buried in his skin. There were a total of about 20 such seeds, and we're by no means sure that they're all out.


Saturday, 12 November 2011 Dereel Images for 12 November 2011
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Migrating to the pond
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

So now the pond is full, and it doesn't leak. When to move the contents of the mini-pond? We decided to do it immediately. First step was to move the plants, which proved to be severely overgrown. Removing the water iris brought half the contents of the “pond” with it, including a brick caught up in the root system that had escaped from the pot:


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The roots had grown in two different directions, both thin ones inside the pot and thick ones on both sides:


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It'll be fun to repot those; I must now have about 8 viable iris plants. There's also a waterlily that looks similar, but I can't face it yet.

And the (last remaining) fish? The pond doesn't have much cover, of course, and it could be an easy prey for the birds that I expect to come and take an interest in the pond. Ended up putting a length of corrugated perspex over one corner of the pond and covering it in shade cloth. After a bit of acclimatization in a plastic bag (changing from a temperature of 21° to 27°), the fish seemed happy enough, and explored the entire pond. It's not clear where it will spend its time, but it seems reactive enough to movement outside the pond, so it should survive.


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Yet Another Broken Panorama Bracket
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Message in the German Olympus Forum today: somebody had found a new panorama bracket and wanted information about it. In principle it doesn't look bad:

Owl panoramic head

But clearly it's missing something: the most obvious thing is that, like so many others, it only allows vertical mounting. There's also a video about it, from which I discover that the word “Owl” is pronounced “Ool”. Clearly the bird comes from Hamburg.

And then it dawned on me: there's no way to move the camera along the lens axis. You can only move it along a line (roughly) parallel to the base of the camera. There are two rotators: one is to turn the camera on a vertical axis through the nodal point. Not only does it not have click stops for spacing the rotation evenly: it doesn't even have a scale! Even the very cheapest equipment I've seen always has a scale.

The second rotator is under the camera, where you don't really need one—usually. In this case, though, it is needed. There's only one horizontal rail, the one that separates the two rotators. But the camera is positioned on the vertical rail, and it needs to be positioned so the nodal point is over the other rotator. So you need to turn the second rotator to position it in that direction.

That looks fiddly enough like that. But wait! It gets worse! The nodal point distances are measured along the lens axis. The rail is offset from that axis by an angle which you can conveniently measure with the scale on the rotator. Then you can calculate the distance along the lens axis: length along the rail multiplied by the sine of angle. I always wanted a use for a calculator with trigonometric functions.

So why have they done this? To save money? Hardly. The rotator is more expensive to build than a rail. And the unit isn't cheap: the only place I have found it for sale is here, where they want € 350 for it, currently US $ 480. That's more expensive than most, even the big names. About the only explanation I have is that they don't know what they're doing. They're not the first.

But then this company has another bracket, the MK Panohead, which makes much more sense. It doesn't have a rotator with click stops either, and it does have a second rotator for the more obvious purpose of rotating the camera about the horizontal axis through the sensor. Nobody seems to sell it; the only reference I have found to a price was at Nodal Ninja, where they give the price as $780. Clearly they're trying to show why their own offering is better, so the price is probably an upper limit, but their most expensive offering costs $350 and includes a rotator with click stops. No wonder nobody sells the MK.

The Owl has shown a deficiency in my list of criteria, however: I had never thought it could be that difficult to measure the distance along the focal plane. Time to write a new page.


Salvaging the Kodak M1093
Topic: photography Link here

Stupidly, I had used the Kodak M1093 IS to take some of today's photos, and this one is horribly out of focus—and there's no way to repeat it:


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I've found a new nozzle for my air compressor, so tried blowing the dust out of the lens assembly with it. We'll see how things work out.


Sunday, 13 November 2011 Dereel Images for 13 November 2011
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Panorama stitching problems
Topic: photography Link here

Somehow my garden photos this weekend have been a particular problem. There are more than usual in the weekend closest to the middle of the month, but somehow I managed to get my files mixed up, and I ended up making “HDR” images from two different views:


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That can happen, of course. What surprised me is that align_image_stack didn't complain and just stitched them together.


How to kill a fish
Topic: gardening Link here

More work on the pond today, mainly the plants. Replanted some of the water irises and the waterlilies, and also put in the pump, which proved to have a wider throw than the pond. We had to adjust the flow to ensure that it all landed back in the pond. Gradually it's looking populated:


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The tiny flies that I have previously noticed on the roses seem to love the water plants. This photo was taken after about 90% of them had flown away:


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I was going to spray with Pyrethrum. But that's lethal to fish, as I recalled just in time. I suppose we'll just have to see if they go away. Maybe they're good fish food.

Also planted the Orthrosanthus polystachus in the south bed, where the Acacia merinthophora had been.


Monday, 14 November 2011 Dereel Images for 14 November 2011
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Odds and ends
Topic: gardening Link here

There's plenty of work to do in the garden, not just with the pond. But somehow I didn't get much done; about all I managed was to attend to some of the plants on the verandah. The vine is growing happily and requires continual cutting back. There are a few caterpillars, which I addressed with pyrethrum—it's interesting to see how they climb down on threads, like spiders. Also looked at the petunias, which are not looking very happy. Some seem to be affected by fungus, and possibly there are some insects as well. Time to water with a dripper rather than a spray, I suppose.


Describing panorama hardware
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the reasons I didn't do much in the garden was a new article I'm writing, on panorama hardware. It's such a can of worms. You'd think that people who make these things, especially at the prices they ask, would understand what they're doing, but there are so many adapters on the market that don't fulfil the basic requirements. So the clear first step is to define those requirements. I've done that before, but the Owl made it clear that there are more requirements than the absolute basics. So I've spent a lot of time working on defining them in a way that isn't too boring to read. Plenty more work to do.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011 Dereel Images for 15 November 2011
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More work on the verandah
Topic: gardening Link here

The weather is warm again, much warmer than the Bureau of Meteorology expected, so didn't do much in the garden beyond thinking about the Chapel, which is somewhat open to the west. We need another bush there, maybe the Buddleja davidii that we accidentally bought at the Dereel market a couple of months ago.

On the verandah finished tidying up the hanging plants. Had the petunias been attacked by insects? They were covered in lots of little spots which I thought were flower petals from the vine growing above. It's disposing of them in great numbers at the moment, and the petunias looked like this:


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They're about 1 mm across, and they seemed to jump when I moved them. But closer examination shows that yes, indeed, they're spent flower petals. Just by chance, though, I found another shape on the left edge of the photo above (second image).


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Is that an insect? Hard to say. It's tiny and out of focus. But if it is, there can't be many of them.

Things are gradually coming into flower. In particular, my red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is coming back into flower for the first time in 18 months:


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It suffered wind burn last year, and it has taken it until now to recover. But it's promising a number of flowers now, so hopefully the problem is over.


New USB hubs
Topic: technology Link here

Received a couple of new USB hubs from an eBay seller in Hong Kong in the mail today. 7 ports, powered. For a total of $1 each, if you neglect the $4.40 postage. And? They seem to work, at least as well as other USB devices. About the worst thing about it is that they have clearly moved part of the purchase price to the postage.


New horses
Topic: animals Link here

Over with Yvonne to Chris Yeardley's place today to look at the horses they brought back over the last couple of weeks. They're pretty green:


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That's Bailarina, which we took to mean “ballerina” (which it does). But it seems that it also means “a fiery, high-mettled horse”.

Yvonne's only horse (Chris got five) is called Candileja, the “inner part of a kitchen lamp”. I wonder where they got these names from. She's as good as untrained, but at least she's a little calmer:


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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 Dereel
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Stealing electricity supply
Topic: general, technology Link here

Out to the letter box today: two letters, one for next door with the wrong street number. It's not the first time that's happened, and I was considering going and telling them so, but decided just to put the letter in their letter box.

The other letter was from Red Energy, our electricity retailer: “Are you doing the right thing for you? [sic] Talk to us first”. It goes on to say “We've recently received a request to transfer your energy account to another retailer...”.

That's the first I had heard of it. Rang them up and spoke to Shane, who first wanted my address (in the phone book, as I told him) and my date of birth (Google) to know who he was talking to. He told me that they had received a transfer request from Origin Energy, a name that rang a bell for some reason, though I have never had anything to do with them. He wasn't able to give me a copy of the request: “Call Origin”. Why should I call Origin? I have nothing to do with them, and this request was obviously unauthorized. A better address would be Consumer Affairs Victoria, but for that I need some kind of proof. Asked to speak to his supervisor, which he avoided twice, the second time connecting me to the correct department instead.

Correct department's consultant name was Chris (male), and he told me pretty much the same thing, and that I would have to contact Origin because he couldn't stop the transfer. He wouldn't give me any proof of this transfer request, he wouldn't even give me his surname.

Decided in the end to call Origin. Got a menu: 1: report faults; 2: for existing customers; 3: join Origin. None applied, so I waited. Repeat. Wait. “A valid response was not received. Goodbye”. So it seems that Origin doesn't have any method of contact for other purposes. In the end called again, selected 2, and was asked for an account number, which of course I don't have. Fortunately it didn't hang up on me, and I was connected to Megan, who didn't ask for any identification, but who confirmed that they had a transfer request, just not in my name. She did, however, give me the NMI (National Meter Identifier) number which, as events will show, I shouldn't publish, so out to check. Nothing like that anywhere. It seems that the NMI is relatively new, and our meters have different numbering systems, which she was able to give to me. Yes, they were our meters.

So where did this transfer request come from? She confirmed that it wasn't in my name, and inferred that it was a woman. Then it occurred to me: the letter to the neighbour was from Origin, thus the bell that rang. Yes, it was her name. Somewhere the house numbers got mixed up. Matter clarified.

Of course it wasn't clarified. There are so many loose ends here:

Megan tried to blame Powercor, the electricy supplier, who (reasonably enough) maintains the addresses of the meters. The NMI number is shown as being at this address. Powercor's not my favourite company, but that's not wrong: the NMI number is at this address. The question is why anybody accepted a transfer request with only an address and not an NMI number. What about blocks of flats? They have a many-to-one relationship between NMI and address. Megan also confirmed that this isn't an isolated incident: it happens often enough.

In summary: another casualty of inadequate (computer-based) communications. Silly or no authentication of the caller, non-existent authentication of the transfer request, requests that can't be refused by the current supplier. It's interesting to think that if Red Energy hadn't tried to win me back, the neighbours would have ended up paying our electricity bill. I should have thought of that earlier.


Communicating in the Microsoft space
Topic: technology, opinion, gardening Link here

A few days ago I sent out a request to Freecycle for fish and plants for our new pond. No replies, so Yvonne planned to buy some goldfish in town today. And after she had left, I got a message:

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 22:59:42 -0000

Hi, just wondering if you are still interested, if you are let me know asap, so that we can send you pictures for you to see if you will take what we have to offer

That sounded good, so I replied (Wed, 16 Nov 2011 10:46:46 +1100) and got a reply back within 5 minutes:

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 18:50:43 -0500

check your email to see if you got the link i sent  with pictures via
petlink, waiting

No email, no photos. Checked the mail logs for bounces, but there was nothing. Replied accordingly and got:

Date: Tue, 15 Nov 2011 19:36:48 -0500

so you interested?

On 11/15/11, Greg 'groggy' Lehey <groggyhimself@lemis.com> wrote:

Replied “yes, probably, but I don't know what you have to offer”, along with phone numbers to call. Nothing.

This isn't an isolated case, though it seems typical. Clearly somebody interested to give things away, relatively responsive, but somehow completely unable to communicate. It's also puzzling that people in Australia should use a service in the USA which puts two different time zones in email messages. It's difficult to compare times like that, but then, it seems that it doesn't even try: the last message gave only the date, which was wrong, because in the wrong time zone, and writes dates the US way (I think, given that the year has been truncated and in this case it's not clear which way round the date is intended to be written). This doesn't help anybody.

I wondered if it was because of my habit of digitally signing my mail messages, so I turned the signature off. Still no reply.


Goldfish and chapel-building
Topic: gardening Link here

Yvonne back from shopping with 5 tiny goldfish for the pond. I hope they'll survive better than the last lot: of the four we bought, only one has survived. Maybe now we have critical mass and space for offspring.

Spent some time organizing the Chapel, including moving the Libertia grandiflora to another place and planting the Buddleja davidii at the entrance. Also finished connecting a water tap to the verandah: the current one is almost hidden in Tropaeolums.


Thursday, 17 November 2011 Dereel Images for 17 November 2011
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More tree trimming
Topic: gardening Link here

CJ and Sue along this morning with some left-over irrigation equipment and the intention to cut down some more branches from the Cypresses over the driveway:


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Things are even more open now.


Irrigation work and east garden
Topic: gardening Link here

The irrigation stuff that CJ and Sue brought was timely. I've been meaning to fix up the watering around the Ginkgo for months, and the most recent problem was the lack of 19 mm low-density poly water tube. I had thought I had some, but I couldn't find it. Yesterday Yvonne brought some back, along with the components for other tasks.

It wasn't just a matter of laying the line—that part's easy. First I needed to dig a trench, and for that I needed to do significant weeding among the hellebores to the north of the pond. Finally got round to digging the trench and cut a piece of poly to length—and then I found my old poly pipe. I had laid it next to the Ginkgo to remind me to do the work, and indeed it had been in the way. As my garden photos show, since late February and to the north (right) of the verandah:


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We now have a water tap at the verandah, and I've addressed the leakage round the Paulownia kawakamii, which proved just to be a torn hose. But it was too warm to do much other work. I had planned to plant some other plants, including the seedlings that I got weeks ago, but it's currently too warm: they're expecting up to 33° tomorrow. Hopefully things will cool down after that.


Friday, 18 November 2011 Dereel
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Summer arrives early
Topic: general, gardening Link here

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology is no more accurate than other weather forecasting services worldwide—if any, less so, due to the unpredictable Australian weather. For example, last weekend they predicted rain every day for the next week. We had none. And yesterday they predicted a high temperature of 30° in Ballarat and 33° in Melbourne. What we got was 37.2°, the highest we've had in November since I started recording weather readings two years ago. The results for the last 3 years look like a “proof” of Global Warming:

mysql> select year(date), max(outside_temp) from observations where month(date) = 11 group by year(date);
+------------+-------------------+
| year(date) | max(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+
|       2009 |              31.5 |
|       2010 |                36 |
|       2011 |              37.2 |
+------------+-------------------+

As a result, didn't do much outside. Didn't do much inside either. Sometimes there's TV to watch.


Power failures: the 20 minute rule
Topic: general, multimedia, technology Link here

In the afternoon we finally got a little rain, and the temperature dropped a bit. So, of course, did the electricity supply, at 16:27, while I was watching TV. My new 1000 “VA” UPS couldn't handle the 187 W load of the Sanyo PLV-Z700 projector and gave up, screaming. It required to be turned off and on again before it would continue. That's not protection: it's worse than no UPS at all. OK, we know that UPS manufacturers lie through their teeth (1000 VA, or 600 W. Don't connect devices with a Power factor below 0.95).

It took me 20 minutes to get the system back up again (running fsck on 2 TB of data). Fortunately the projector didn't show any signs of damage, and I continued watching.

For one minute. At 16:45 it dropped again. Scream!, not just the terminally broken UPS. This time I left it as a bad job. Later I discovered that it dropped again at 17:01.

I've taken to not resetting the alarm clock in the bedroom until I need to, for exactly the reasons that were demonstrated today. Finally set it at 22:20. Woke up in the middle of the night and discovered we had had yet another dropout at 22:40. What a pain Powercor is!


Saturday, 19 November 2011 Dereel Images for 19 November 2011
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Weather change
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Yesterday was really hot for November. At 15:00 the outside temperature was 37.1°. 24 hours later, today, the outside temperature was fully 23.6° lower: 13.5°. Isn't Australian weather nice?

Yesterday I didn't do much work in the garden because it was too hot. Today it was a little cool, but also moist, so once again I didn't get the work done that I had wanted to; just repositioned the bird bath near the pond.


New garden photo views
Topic: photography Link here

When I started taking photos of the outside of the house a little over 4 years ago, the house was the thing, so I have been calling them “house photos” ever since. But they're really of the garden, so I suppose “garden photos” is a little more appropriate.

Today I tried a couple of new views, based on the changes that are happening in the main part of the garden round the verandah, to the east of the house. One is intended to show a better view of the Chapel, and I'm not sure I like it that much. I've moved a few metres north from the previous “Garden path SE” view (second image, from last week), and not very far from the old “verandah” view (first image, from 10 April 2011):


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I don't know if that's a good idea or not. Also tried a view from further east, on the path that goes past the Paulownia kawakamii, making a mess of it by forgetting the last image. Stitched it together as a 360° panorama anyway, including some gaps, while I think about whether it's a good idea or not:


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Also thought about the verandah panorama. Currently I have almost a complete sphere, but not quite. The base of the sphere is missing, as the panosphere shows:

 
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The issue, of course, is that there's a tripod in the way. Today I tried just removing the tripod and attempting a hand-held shot downwards from roughly the same place:


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The results weren't useless, but the stitching was noticeably worse than previously. It was even noticeable in the panosphere:

 
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The decking doesn't help, of course. I should find a way of getting better registration (and, of course, a better way to view the panoramas).


Bug or feature?
Topic: general, animals, gardening Link here

For some time I've seen a kind of beetle that has been walking around in pairs joined at the behind:


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At first I thought it was some kind of mating accident, but I have seen so many of them; I can't recall seeing any that weren't joined together. So: bug or feature? In this case, it seems to be both: a feature and two bugs.


We want your opinion, maybe
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Being the opinionated kind of person I am, I participate in many online surveys, some of which even offer “payment”. Today I got one on a topic I forget—cat food maybe—but it seems that they don't want to know from people of my age group:

 
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I wonder who thinks up these surveys, and if there's any kind of debug process. The surveys themselves seem to be based on foregone conclusions (“Why do you give your cat foopussy? To give it a reward? Because you love it? Because it's made in Australia? Because it's convenient and won't harm the cat when fed in moderation?”)


Sunday, 20 November 2011 Dereel Images for 20 November 2011
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Wasting time with bad cameras
Topic: general, photography, opinion, technology Link here

Into down today to pick up various giveaways, including a PCIe video card, a box of assorted cables and a 10 metre antenna mast that I might be able to use for better TV or network reception. On the way found a nice garden arrangement in the middle of a roundabout, and made the mistake of taking photos with the Kodak M1093 IS. Yes, it has a higher resolution than the Nikon “Coolpix” L1, but what help is that if you can't tell until later that the image was taken out of focus? As a result, the best overview I have is the one on the left:


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Slow progress in east garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Two days ago it was too hot to work in the garden. Yesterday it was too cool and wet. So it stood to reason that today it should be too windy, and it very nearly was: while shovelling mulch into the wheelbarrow, a gust of wind blew most of it away. But it calmed down a bit later on, and I was able to do some work in the garden area between pond and the chapel. Yvonne had brought back a battery-driven hedge trimmer from ALDI, and it proved to be quite useful. I already have an electric one, but dragging power cables through the garden is a real pain, and this seems to do as good a job. But there's plenty more to be done.


Monday, 21 November 2011 Dereel
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Command line utilities
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Almost without me recognizing the fact, a new term has crept up slowly over the last couple of decades: “Command line”. Everybody knows what it means, but why? It has taken until today for me to realize that it's a neologism that we never used to use. Instead we talked of job control, command interpreters or shells.

Why the change? Clearly it has come from the GUI Generation and emphasizes one of the differences between a point-and-grunt interface and real language. Is it a valid usage? I'm not really opposed to it; after all, it snuck up on me, and I found myself using it almost without thinking (there's GUIs for you), maybe by way of “command prompt”. But as usual it misses the point: it's not a “command line”, it's a textual communication with a program designed to handle it. A shell script or a pack of JCL cards is not a “line”, it's one of a potentially large number of text records. Still, for now it won't find a place in my list of bad language.


We're legally allowed to annoy you
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another telemarketeer call today, from Julia Head (if I can read my scrawl correctly) of the National Appeal Centre for Bowel Cancer, phone 1300 722 540. Yet another group who call me though I'm on the no-call list. Yes, the law allows them to do so, so they law won't punish them for it. But what makes a charity think that they will get money from people whose wishes they don't respect?


Filling out the east bed
Topic: gardening Link here

Finally got round to doing a bit more work in the garden: removed all the spent Arum lilies, spread some more mulch, planted some Zephyranthes in the swamp area of the pond, and for the fun of it planted some of the variegated Japanese Iris both in the swamp area and in a pot in the shallowest part of the pond. I don't know if they'll survive there, but we have plenty of them, and we'll find out.

One of the first plants we planted in the east beds was a Westringia, now in the prime bed area in front of the verandah and south of the pond. It wasn't an overly interesting bush, and last autumn we considered removing it. It's a pity: it does flower (or did), but not enough, and it's not the kind of thing you can transplant, so out it came.


Tuesday, 22 November 2011 Dereel Images for 22 November 2011
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NBN comes to Dereel
Topic: technology Link here

Phone call from Peter of Daly International today. He was one of the team that visited me on 13 January 2009 to investigate the then proposed Optus mobile phone tower. Wendy McClelland put paid to that, but he's now working on the National Broadband Network project about which I heard—briefly—from Bryan Scott in August. It seems that there will be a community information session on 6 December 2011, and with any luck we might end up with connectivity mid next year—if the lunatic fringe doesn't find that fixed wireless, too, is dangerous, and put in some kind of protest.

And what will it look like? Peter wasn't sure either, but it appears that it will be some kind of LTE, and they're talking about guaranteeing 12 Mb/s (downstream, presumably). And if it's at the same price as ADSL (currently not clear), that would be a great improvement.


Trip to Ballarat
Topic: general, gardening Link here

Into town to see another Peter, O'Connell, to talk about the dire state of the world economy and the fortunately not quite so dire state of my pension fund. It looks as if things will improve with my increasing age, as various other pensions kick in.

While there, took a look in at Formosa Gardens. Didn't buy anything, but discovered that the plant that I have been calling a Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” is in fact a Iberis sempervirens “Winter Glow”. Here our plant and the one I saw today:


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So I suppose I should go back and fix things in my diary, and maybe in the photos. Damn.


Optus Rokewood tower
Topic: technology Link here

On the way home went down to see how the Optus Rokewood tower is getting on, in the process picking up the first hitch-hiker I've seen in years: his car had broken down.

Optus built the tower almost exactly where I thought it would be 8 months ago, next to the Telstra phone line (though it's not clear what use that is):


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It's not in service yet, though. I tried to call Yvonne from there, and despite lies from the (Optus) phone, got no signal. But clearly it'll be connected any time now.


Command line: older than I thought?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

My article on “command line” yesterday provoked some investigation, and Callum Gibson came up with the sh(1) man page for the First Edition of Unix, dated (presumably) 3 November 1971, conveniently almost exactly 40 years ago. It contains text like:

DESCRIPTION      sh is the standard command interpreter. It is the program
                 which reads and arranges the execution of the command lines
                 typed by most users. It may itself be called as a command
                 to interpret files of command lines. Before discussing the
                 arguments to the shell used as a command, the structure of
                 command lines themselves will be given.

That certainly disagrees with my opinion yesterday. But maybe not as much as it might appear: it's the emphasis that puzzles me. That page doesn't use the word “interface”, and elsewhere in Unix it's made clear that the shell is the interface between human and computer. But the term “command line” still sounds funny, and it got replaced by the Seventh Edition, probably with the introduction of the Bourne shell.


New panorama bracket
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While in town, also picked up a new panorama bracket, apparently called O4Q, or maybe BF3. I've referred to it as O4Q before, so I'll stick to that name; the packaging (double the necessary size, and stuffed with polystyrene offcuts and bubble foil) didn't have a name written on it. I had bought it on 1 November 2011, but as I had suspected, it wasn't sent for nearly a week after I purchased it on 1 November:

 
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It's pretty much what I expected: no markings on the rotors, and the one at the bottom is fixed to the rail, which makes it difficult to replace. But the rails appear to be Arca Swiss standard, and I was able to attach my macro rails directly, though it's not yet clear what good that will do. I'll have to do some more investigation.


Disk crash
Topic: technology Link here

I've been trying to read these badly scratched DVDs I borrowed from the Geelong Regional Libraries, but teevee couldn't read them. They're borderline, so it's not clear that another reader couldn't read them. Tried in dereel and had disastrous consequences, which don't seem to be related to the attempt:

Nov 22 15:04:27 dereel kernel: acd0: FAILURE - REPORT_KEY ILLEGAL REQUEST asc=0x6f ascq=0x04
Nov 22 15:04:27 dereel kernel: acd0: FAILURE - REPORT_KEY ILLEGAL REQUEST asc=0x2c ascq=0x00
Nov 22 15:06:51 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 17
Nov 22 15:06:51 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00020000 ss 00000000 rs 00020000 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 15:07:44 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 10
Nov 22 15:07:44 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000400 ss 00000000 rs 00000400 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 15:08:27 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 31
Nov 22 15:08:27 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 80000000 ss 00000000 rs 80000000 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 15:09:18 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 0
Nov 22 15:09:18 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000001 ss 00000000 rs 00000001 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000

The first two messages are normal for an encrypted DVD, but the rest come from the disk controller ahcich2, which controls /dev/ada2, the disk to which I was writing. And this proved fatal. The machine gradually ground to a halt, and I had to reboot, after which things worked normally again. For some time, anyway. In the evening, during the backup, I got this vomit:

Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: REDZONE: Buffer overflow detected. 4 bytes corrupted after 0xca6f6f00 (128 bytes allocated).
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: Allocation backtrace:
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #0 0xc0b4ad8a at redzone_setup+0x3a
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #1 0xc08cdd40 at malloc+0x100
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #2 0xc049e6d4 at camq_resize+0x34
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #3 0xc049e766 at cam_ccbq_resize+0x36
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #4 0xc04a0427 at xpt_dev_ccbq_resize+0x37
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #5 0xc04a059d at xpt_start_tags+0x6d
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #6 0xc04a7442 at probedone+0x822
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #7 0xc04a3f31 at camisr_runqueue+0x2e1
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #8 0xc04a408f at camisr+0x13f
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #9 0xc08b737b at intr_event_execute_handlers+0x13b
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #10 0xc08b8a3b at ithread_loop+0x6b
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #11 0xc08b3eba at fork_exit+0xca
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #12 0xc0c15f64 at fork_trampoline+0x8
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: Free backtrace:
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #0 0xc0b4ad19 at redzone_check+0x179
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #1 0xc08cda88 at free+0x38
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #2 0xc049e712 at camq_resize+0x72
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #3 0xc049e766 at cam_ccbq_resize+0x36
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #4 0xc04a0427 at xpt_dev_ccbq_resize+0x37
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #5 0xc04a059d at xpt_start_tags+0x6d
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #6 0xc04a7442 at probedone+0x822
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #7 0xc04a3f31 at camisr_runqueue+0x2e1
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #8 0xc04a408f at camisr+0x13f
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #9 0xc08b737b at intr_event_execute_handlers+0x13b
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #10 0xc08b8a3b at ithread_loop+0x6b
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #11 0xc08b3eba at fork_exit+0xca
Nov 22 21:15:31 dereel kernel: #12 0xc0c15f64 at fork_trampoline+0x8
Nov 22 21:16:34 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 0
Nov 22 21:16:34 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000001 ss 00000000 rs 00000001 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 21:17:24 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 6
Nov 22 21:17:24 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000040 ss 00000000 rs 00000040 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 21:17:24 dereel kernel: REDZONE: Buffer overflow detected. 4 bytes corrupted after 0xcc09c300 (128 bytes allocated).
Nov 22 21:17:24 dereel kernel: Allocation backtrace:
...

The second backtrace was the same as the first, and in the course of the night I had a further two incidents:

Nov 22 22:01:26 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 23
Nov 22 22:01:26 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00800000 ss 00000000 rs 00800000 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 22:03:38 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 30
Nov 22 22:03:38 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 40000000 ss 00000000 rs 40000000 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 22 22:04:31 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 9
Nov 22 22:04:31 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000200 ss 00000000 rs 00000200 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
...
Nov 23 02:41:02 dereel kernel: ahcich2: Timeout on slot 6
Nov 23 02:41:02 dereel kernel: ahcich2: is 00000000 cs 00000040 ss 00000000 rs 00000040 tfd 1d0 serr 00000000
Nov 23 02:42:14 dereel kernel: REDZONE: Buffer overflow detected. 4 bytes corrupted after 0xcc061500 (128 bytes allocated).
...

So what's the problem? It can't be the DVD. Is the controller dying, or is the disk dying? Time to put in a new disk, anyway, to be on the safe side.


Little work in the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Somehow didn't find much time to work in the garden today. For once, Yvonne did more than I, mowing the lawn. I got as far as removing the clump of Arum lilies in the middle of the garden, along with some flat corms. Are these all Watsonias and Chasmanthe floribunda? I seem to have three different kinds of corms: the rounded ones, which I think are Watsonia, and two different kinds of flattened ones. The Chasmanthe floribunda seem to have relatively short and spread-out leaves, but then there are others that have longer, thicker leaves. Unfortunately none of them are flowering, and despite the photos I've taken, I can't find any showing them in flower. But what I did find were some Clivias that had got lost in the more vigorous bulbs. Another thing to find a place for.


Wednesday, 23 November 2011 Dereel
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Disk recovery
Topic: technology Link here

Set to to replace the disk involved in yesterday's hardware problems. Fortunately, found a spare 1 TB disk, but of course it was USB. And it wouldn't probe; nothing. After a bit of messing around, discovered that the cable had lost its insides (left cable):


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Or so it seemed. In fact, the insulation is just black. But for some reason, it no longer makes contact. It's difficult to see whether all the contacts are there or not, but it's also not worth worrying about. After finding a new USB cable—conveniently in some of the freebies I had been given on Sunday—I once again ran into this old problem that the disk was only recognized as capable of 1 MB/s:

Nov 23 11:40:11 dereel kernel: da0 at umass-sim0 bus 0 scbus5 target 0 lun 0
Nov 23 11:40:11 dereel kernel: da0: <ST310003 33A\000\000\000ST31000333 AS> Fixed Direct Access SCSI-2 device
Nov 23 11:40:11 dereel kernel: da0: 1.000MB/s transfers
Nov 23 11:40:11 dereel kernel: da0: 953869MB (1953525168 512 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 121601C)

Power cycling “fixed” that:

Nov 23 11:40:33 dereel kernel: da0 at umass-sim0 bus 0 scbus5 target 0 lun 0
Nov 23 11:40:33 dereel kernel: da0: <ST310003 33AS > Fixed Direct Access SCSI-2 device
Nov 23 11:40:33 dereel kernel: da0: 40.000MB/s transfers
Nov 23 11:40:33 dereel kernel: da0: 953869MB (1953525168 512 byte sectors: 255H 63S/T 121601C)

After that I was able to partition the disk and copy /src to it. But what's the problem? It happens with various devices, so it's not likely to be a specific device. And in almost every case, the identifier (second line) appears to be corrupted. I suspect it's either the motherboard itself or FreeBSD's support for it. Maybe it's time for a higher-performance system anyway.


New panorama bracket
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Spent quite some time looking at the new panorama bracket (O4Q, or maybe BF3). It's pretty much what I expected it to be. By itself, it's almost useless: there's no way to position the entrance pupil over the vertical axis of rotation. For that, I need a two-way rail (sold on eBay as “four-way rail”) to move the camera backwards and sideways:


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The first photo also shows the by far most useless “feature” of this bracket, a vertically-mounted compass:

 
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It's also possible to mount the rail vertically, but there's no way to adjust the “height” (horizontal distance of the lens axis from the vertical part of the bracket:


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Clearly I could have improved things in these photos by taking the rails apart and using only one of them. But it still wouldn't have been enough, and there's a simpler solution: rails without a platform for the camera. They cost about $14 each, including postage, and I need two of them—still nothing to break the bank. Ordered two of them on eBay. I'll see what else I need when they arrive. The big issue now is the rotator. The one supplied works surprisingly well, but it has no markings. It also has a locking lever that extends below the base of the rotator, making it difficult to use with the Manfrotto 3416 leveling base:


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Still, it's interesting to compare my reaction to this new adapter with my first impressions of the Manfrotto adapter six months ago. Basically, that adapter is useless.

My criteria are unchanged, though the recent examination of the Owl panorama bracket show that there are other issues as well. But basically they are, in the latest formulation:

  1. Rotate the camera in three directions about the entrance pupil of the lens.

  2. Level the camera independently of the tripod, to make it possible to rotate the camera about a vertical axis.

  3. Rotate the camera in specific increments for equally-spaced images. At the very least, provide angular markings so that you can set them yourself.

Comparing the Manfrotto with the new head, we have:

  1. The Manfrotto rotates only on a vertical axis. The O4Q rotates round the vertical and one horizontal axis. The Manfrotto can only mount the camera vertically; the O4Q can mount it both horizontally and vertically (about the best rotation round the other horizontal axis that you can expect). The only problem with the O4Q is that it needs additional rails to position the entrance pupil over the vertical and horizontal axes, and even that isn't enough for vertical mounting.

  2. Neither adapter levels the camera. For that, I currently have the Manfrotto 3416. I think a solid pan-and-tilt head is a better solution. It's certainly cheaper and easier to use.

  3. The Manfrotto has a good rotator. I still need to find something for the O4Q.

So, what do I do in the short term? I suppose I could mount the O4Q on the 303 and use the rotator for the time being. It would certainly be better than the current way I'm doing things. But probably the Manfrotto will find a way to frustrate my efforts.


Token garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Again didn't do nearly as much in the garden as I should be doing. A few days ago I found an escapee birch tree that had grown up between a Callistemon and a Salvia microphylla bush, and it had made it to 1.5 m height before I saw it. That's just what I need for the north-east side of the Chapel, where currently a “Locust” is growing. I'm intending to leave the Locust there until the birch is big enough; then I can remove it and we'll have a slightly larger Chapel delimited by three birches.

Also did some pruning on the verandah—the vine requires constant attention—and looked at the irrigation; a number of things are still clogged, and some time I need to go around and look at every single one. For the time being, attended to the citrus trees, and also the new birch, which will probably need a fair amount of water until its roots grow back.


Thursday, 24 November 2011 Dereel Images for 24 November 2011
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Procrastination
Topic: gardening, food and drink Link here

The weather's right, there's plenty to do, and I have the time. So I did very little in the garden; lay a bit of mulch, and that was all. When will I get round to spending several hours at once working in the garden? Instead spent some time baking, making kimchi and some Chinese food, which took longer than I expected. More recipe updates necessary.


New UFS clinic
Topic: general, opinion Link here

It's time for my next blood test, and I still have this nagging but not very serious cough that I've had for a couple of months now. Time to see the doctor.

But it seems that Tristar have a problem: my doctor left in mid-September, and the second of three has also left. Only one left, Vani Peddi, and so far she hasn't convinced me. So I was very interested when I got the “MemberCare News” from UFS, our local pharmaceutical cooperative (a word that has somewhat gone out of style) and discovered that they have opened a new clinic.

Only: what are the prices? They didn't say “Bulk billing, the obfuscation for “Medicare pays everything”, so presumably they wanted a “gap”, the obfuscation for “additional payment”. Called up and spoke to Sandy, who told me, yes, indeed, they would normally charge a gap, and it was up to the doctor to decide how much. I asked her to find out how much, which she did with somewhat bad grace, only to tell me that they were all in a meeting. At 12:30, I assume that was obfuscation for “lunch”. Called back later and was told that they did, indeed, charge like a wounded bull—between $25 and $45, much more than the Eureka Medical Centre, and members only got about 5% off.

Their argument was that they make appointments (why should that be so expensive?), but that doesn't wash when Tristar doesn't. So, for the moment, it looks like I stay with Tristar.


Friday, 25 November 2011 Dereel Images for 25 November 2011
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To the doctor again
Topic: general Link here

Into town this morning for a routine blood test and to talk to the doctor about my persistent cough. This time she did a little more investigation and suggested that it might be asthma. That's not beyond the bounds of possibility, though I haven't had anything like that for nearly 50 years. We'll see. Had a laryngeal swab taken to be on the safe side.


Thanksgiving in Australia
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Today was Thanksgiving in the USA (they're on the wrong side of the International Date Line, so it was Thursday there). And by chance (really, I think), ALDI had turkey breast on special this week, and we bought one. Thanksgiving in Australia? Far from it, it's already Christmas:


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Still too little in the garden
Topic: gardening Link here

It's going to be a lot of work to get the middle part of the east bed (in front of the verandah) looking the way we want. We're gradually coming to a consensus about what it should look like, but doing the work is another thing. Cut down a couple of unhappy looking daisy bushes in the shadow of the Buddleja globosa; we'll plant an unhappy-looking (and probably dying) Ficus benjamina there instead, along with the red-flowering Camellia japonica. Also did a bit of weeding. And that was about that.

The Buddlejas later proved to be Buddleja × weyeriana, not globosa.


Saturday, 26 November 2011 Dereel Images for 26 November 2011
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Washed-out day
Topic: general, photography, gardening Link here

Today was the day for my garden photos, but just as I was about to head out to take them, it started raining. And it carried on raining—a total of 58.2 mm (nearly 10% of the annual rainfall, and the third-highest we've had since moving here) over the following 24 hours. Goodbye photos.

It was also goodbye garden work, of course. About the only thing I had to do was change the cooking gas cylinder, which had conveniently run out just before it started raining. How I hate these gas connectors! They work acceptably well for barbecues with flexible hoses in normal barbecue weather, but the connection to the house is copper pipe, and unless the bottle is positioned exactly in the right place, it's almost impossible to screw it in. And in the rain my glasses were no use, so it took even longer, and I was soaking wet by the time I finally got it done.


Strange orchids
Topic: gardening Link here

Things on the verandah didn't look that bad, though. Our Cymbidium orchid has flowered, and the flower spike is in a vase inside the house. But today I saw a new flower:


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It's a petunia flower that fell out of a hanging basket above and somehow got caught on the end of one of the leaves:


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Thanksgiving or Christmas turkey: no thanks
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

This evening we ate the turkey breast that I commented about yesterday. It was supposed to be something special, but it turned out to be very ordinary. We really shouldn't buy meat from ALDI: they seem to have made it not out of real turkey breast, but out of leftovers impregnated with some salty “marinade”. Definitely not even good enough to be second rate. We also have a ham that we bought at the same time: it might be better, but I don't want to take the risk. It'll go back.


Sunday, 27 November 2011 Dereel Images for 27 November 2011
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House photos: more changes
Topic: photography Link here

It rained all day yesterday, so I had to take the “house photos” (really of the garden) today. I've decided a number of things: firstly, once a month (coincidentally today) I take photos I take of the flowers in the garden, so the term “garden photos” is slightly ambiguous. And I've been calling them “house photos” for over 4 years now, so the term might as well stay.

Secondly, last week's changes to the photo locations seem not to be an improvement, so I've scrapped them. In particular, this means that the photo from the south-east part of the garden reverts from the first to the second image:


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Thirdly, it's becoming clear that I don't need such closely spaced images for the verandah photos. I had been taking the vertically-mounted photos at 36° increments (10 photos per row) at 9 mm focal length (18 mm full-frame equivalent), with the exception of the verandah, where I had chosen 30° (12 images) in order to gain more height. Now that I'm taking a zenith photo too, that's no longer necessary, as the comparison with last week (first photo) shows:


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As if to prove this point, I started off on the wrong foot, and took the first few views at a focal length of 14 mm, still with an increment of 36°. The images stitched together anyway, though the errors were higher (presumably due to incorrect positioning of the entrance pupil; according to the table I was off by 3 mm). The only issue was that the height of the images was, of course, much less:


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One way and another, I managed another record number of photos today, a total of 596.


Flowers at end of November
Topic: gardening Link here

Today was the last Sunday in the month, time for taking photos of the flowers in the garden. Fortunately it had stopped raining, but it still shows in some of the photos.

It seems that more flowers have finished flowering than those that have come into bloom, but there are a few notable exceptions. In particular, my red Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is now in full bloom:


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The south side of the verandah has changed considerably in appearance in the last year. Here 26 November 2010 and today:


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It's interesting to note that the Clematis “Pearl d'azure” still has not come into flower, while the “Vagabond” has been flowering for a month. And the second rose (on the left) is coming into its own. Only the Tropaeolums are not climbing as well; instead they're crawling across the ground, something I need to stop.

The Echium on the left appears to have finished flowering. It's now leaning against the verandah, held in place by the brace we put in last month. The flower spikes have now reached about 10 cm in length:


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Some other plants are flowering for the first time, notably the the Clematis recta and the Leucospermum cordifolium:


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A number of Melaleucas, Callistemons and Grevilleas are also in full flower:


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One last Eucalyptus flower is holding on, as are one Arum and one Camellia japonica:


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The shade area is proving particularly successful. It came into being too late for last year's Hosta, which even a year ago was on the way out, but the Fuchsias are looking very happy:


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The Dicksonia antarctica (tree fern) has also welcomed the change. It's only been there a couple of months, but it has developed a number of new fronds, which are unfortunately difficult to recognize in this comparison with the first photo (taken on 1 September 2011):


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The Gazanias have been flowering for a while now, but they look particularly happy right now:


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Finally the Pandorea jasminoides is flowering, if shyly, and the Stachys byzantina (“Lambs ears”) is looking much happier than ever before:


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Results of the bad weather
Topic: general, gardening Link here

It didn't just rain heavily yesterday, there was also considerable wind. While taking the garden photos, I came across this:


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That's one of the Cypresses that we didn't trim over the last couple of weeks. I'm beginning to wonder if it wouldn't be a better job to remove them all after all.

Nearly 6 cm of rain make a difference, of course, especially if water runs into a dam. Our dam is now joined again (last week, this week):


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I was also expecting the water level in the pond to be significantly higher. Instead, it was lower. I had set the level to just reach to the top of the fountain head, but when I came back it was at least 1 cm lower:


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Why that? Hopefully we haven't sprung a leak. But there are at least two alternative explanations: the pond might not take much more water than the top of the fountain head before overflowing, and the heavy winds might have blown the water over the top, further lowering the level. Alternatively, it might have been evaporation caused by the wind. But until further notice, I can't exclude the possibility that it has suddenly sprung a leak. Filled it up again; I'll have to observe it.


Other garden work
Topic: gardening, photography Link here

I didn't just take the flower photos today; since yesterday was washed out, I had to take yesterday's garden photos too, and somehow didn't get much done in the garden, though the weather was good. Yvonne planted some grasses to the north of the pond:


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All I did was a bit of half-hearted cleanup work where we want to plant the Ficus benjamina and the Camellia japonica.


Monday, 28 November 2011 Dereel Images for 28 November 2011
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Orchid pests
Topic: gardening Link here

Our Cymbidium flower spike has been doing well, but today it looked decidedly unhappy. Further investigation showed an amazing number of aphids:


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A liberal spraying with pyrethrum put paid to most of them, but I suspect I'll need another application. This pyrethrum is paying for itself.


Transplanting ficus and camellia
Topic: gardening Link here

Another warm day, and there are many more important things that we need to do in the garden, but for some reason we decided to go ahead with our plans to transplant the Ficus benjamina and the Camellia japonica, both in large pots. They were supposed to go in the north-east corner of the east garden, in the shade of the Buddleja globosa hedge. Put the pots there and left them for a while to consider.

That was a good idea. Looking from the verandah, they were barely visible behind the Salvia microphylla, and that was with them still in the pots:


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On my return, round 15:00 (typically the hottest time of day), the sun was shining directly onto the Camellia, exactly what I was trying to avoid. I still don't seem to have got used to the fact that we're closer to the equator here than in Europe, and that although I grew up in the tropics with the sun frequently directly overhead at noon. At the moment the sun is 21.4° S, and we're 37.8° S, so at noon the sun is only 16.4° from the vertical. So clearly this isn't the place for the Camellia. Instead, moved it closer to the other Camellia (sinensis), which has been here since before we moved in, and which seems to be doing quite well with only morning sun:


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There's a volunteer Acacia pycnantha to the left, and we'd have to prune it to give the Camellia japonica enough space. So it's still not ideal, but we'll think about it for a while.

Decided that the Ficus could handle a little sun—the reason I wanted to plant it there was to protect it from frost—so finally planted it. The roots didn't look as bad as I thought, but they had all concentrated themselves at the bottom of the pot, so presumably this is a tree that has deep roots. It's strange that they sell it as a house plant. It looked very one-sided to start with:


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After planting, discovered that roots for a number of the stems had rotted away. I don't know if that's bad care or something else, but after removing them, it looks a lot better, if a little lop-sided:


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We'll see how it goes. The worst that can happen is that it would die, and I think it was on its way there already.


Pond leak solved
Topic: gardening Link here

The pond lost water again today. A bit of investigation showed that it was leaking over the top of the liner. Presumably it filled up with the recent rain and pushed down the liner in one corner where the soil was soft, lowering it to a point about 1.5 cm lower than previously. Panic over.


Tuesday, 29 November 2011 Dereel Images for 29 November 2011
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A use for the dam
Topic: general, animals, food and drink, opinion Link here

The dam at the east of our property was once an important source of water, if not a very good one. It didn't take us more than a few months after moving into the property to install a “bore”, to access the groundwater. Since then, the only use of the dam has been for my weekly photos showing how much water there is in it.

And then Gordon, our farrier, suggested that there might be yabbies in the dam, so today he brought along a net and threw it in. And yes, we collected one yabby in the course of a couple of hours:


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This also gave me a chance to finally find a use for Stephanie Alexander's “The cook's companion”, a book that somebody gave me and for which I have never found a use. It's subtitled “The complete book of ingredients and recipes for the Australian kitchen”, but every time I've looked in it, though it didn't look bad, it wasn't as good as other books I have.

But you can't expect Bocuse or Madame Saint-Ange to have recipes for yabbies, so Stephanie Alexander finally finds her place. It seems that yabbies come in sizes called “buffet” (more bad language), weighing between 30-50 g, “medium” (50-70 g), “large” (70-90 g) and “extra large” over 90 g. Ours weighs 97 g, probably an indication that it was high time to catch it. But we need more: for an entrée you need 4-6 medium yabbies (between 200 and 420 g, it would seem), so we need at least 3 more. And of course there's no information on how to catch them; Gordon says that fish heads make the best bait.


Flower or weed?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's an old truism that a weed is a plant out of place. But there are other criteria too: how invasive they are (how quickly they spread), for example. Going by that criterion, Viola tricolor (heartsease), forget-me-not and strawberries are also weeds. Then there's the consideration of how good they look. Heartsease wins here. What about forget-me-nots? What about this new Anchusa capensis that, by the skin of my teeth, I grew from seed?


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It's called “Cape forget-me-not”, and it has similar small pale blue flowers. But it doesn't really look like much. On the other hand, we have a number of flowers that have popped up in the garden, and which we've been considering weeds:


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They're both prettier than the Anchusa and the forget-me-nots. Why should we consider them weeds?


More slow garden progress
Topic: gardening Link here

Somehow the weather is never “normal” enough. A couple of days it rained in torrents, and today it was really hot again, a maximum of 33.9°, and also humid and windy. Did a little work: planted most of the remains of the seedlings that I picked up at the beginning of the month. Also some morning glories, sweet peas and the other Solanum laxum in front of the north sheds. There's some concrete paving under part of that bed, something I didn't know; hopefully it won't inhibit the plants too much.


NBN information sessions
Topic: technology Link here

Heard from Peter about the planned National Broadband Network installation in Dereel. As he told me, there will be an information session (two, in fact) on 6 December 2011, a week today. That'll be interesting; I wonder how to tame the lunatics. Spoke with Scott Weston and we now have a survey on the dereel.com.au site, currently showing 100% in favour of the facility.


Wednesday, 30 November 2011 Dereel Images for 30 November 2011
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HDR sunset images
Topic: photography Link here

Taking photos of sunsets is particularly difficult because of the extreme contrast. In the past, the best I have been able to do is something like this:


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The trouble, of course, is that there's no foreground. Yesterday I played around with multiple exposures, two groups of 5 with a spread of 1 EV difference between them. There are a couple of problems here: firstly, I didn't offset the two series by 5 EV as I should have done; secondly, for some reason the second group wasn't correctly exposed, something I need to investigate. It seems that the sequence wasn't held correctly. The results of the individual series looked like this:


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All images taken on Tuesday, 29 November 2011, thumbnails          All images taken on Tuesday, 29 November 2011, small
Diary entry for Tuesday, 29 November 2011 Complete exposure details

 
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