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September 2021
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Wednesday, 1 September 2021 Dereel Images for 1 September 2021
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Getting Kirsch in Australia
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

One of our favourite dishes is fondue au fromage, cheese fondue. Basically it's bread and cheese, but it also uses Kirsch, a spirit distilled from cherries.

And in cosmopolitan Australia it has always been hard to find. Now, though, it's becoming impossible. The only thing available is made by Baitz, a company that appears to have no web site, but it tastes like paint thinner. Until recently I was able to get Weis, which was good enough to cook the fondue with, and marginally acceptable for the coup de mileu. But good Kirsch? Years ago Daniel Demuth used to bring us Etter, which is excellent but unobtainable in Australia.

OK, get some sent. It's available on eBay in Germany for 51.66 € for a 0.7 l, or $118.89 per litre. That's not cheap, but it compares well with the $106 per litre for the Weis Kirsch.

Of course, that's not all I pay. I have to ship it to Australia and pay duty, excise and GST. How much? After over an hour of searching, I don't know. A web search took me to the relativey non-intuitive Australian Border Force web site, with a page entitled importing by post or mail, relatively clear compared to the mess that the mess that the SARS-CoV-2 response team create.

But they don't tell me how much! All they say is, tastefully in pale grey on a white background:

If you import alcoholic beverages by mail with a value of AUD1000 or less, we will send you an invoice advising the duty and taxes payable. You need to pay this invoice before your goods will be delivered to you.

Called the only phone number they gave, 02 8339 6708, but it timed out on me. On closer inspection it proved to be a fax number. Who uses faxes any more? But there's another page, contact us, which gave me the numbers 131 881 (costs money) and +61 2 6196 0196 (free for me) for the Department of Home Affairs. That suggests that it won't work anyway. OK, call 02 6196 0196, and got a voice menu telling me that I could only be processed if I was calling regarding Æfgænistæn, and that I should otherwise call the Department of Agriculture on 1800 mumble 900, so fast that I couldn't write it down or recall the middle 3 digits, and without any option to repeat. There was also some mention of Coles, though my guess is that this is a homophonous code word designed to confuse.

“Tell us what you think of this page”. Gladly, but I was presented with a CAPTCHA that decided that I wasn't human.

Things didn't use to be that bad. What has gone wrong? As it is, it seems sufficient to take the risk and rely on this PDF document from the UK, which suggests 5% duty, $60.92 per litre of alcohol and 10% GST. But it's not authoritative, and what's a “litre of alcohol”? Hopefully that's pure ethanol, in other words round $17.48 for a 0.7 litre bottle of 41% Kirsch.


Thursday, 2 September 2021 Dereel Images for 2 September 2021
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More thoughts on “Phat Thai”
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Phat Thai” for breakfast today, not for the first time. Today, after my disaster with the Shan Xi noodles, I used Fettuccine, and also some of this jar of “Pad Thai” sauce:


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The combination was not good. Last time I used 80 g of sauce for a serving, and it worked well with the unspecified noodles I used on that occasion, but the fettuccine are not very absorbent, and this time I ended up with a lot of liquid left over. Is it worth taking more notice? I don't see myself buying another jar.


International money transfers
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Yvonne has bought Yet Another saddle in Germany, and we're trying to find a cheap way to pay for it. Bank exchange rates can be extremely expensive, so years ago I signed up with a company called “Transferwise”. Clever name, right, prone to false positives? But they've changed the name. Now it's just “Wise”, an immediately obvious (dare I say “intuitive”?) name.

We had to get 1,672 € to Germany. What would it cost? “Wise” had a comparison that's probably not that far from the truth, though not in a useful format. For me, they charged 2,694.90 AUD, which would have ended up with the following sums at the other end if I send 2,694.90 AUD:

Company       Recipient gets       Comparison       Transfer fee       Exchange rate(1 AUD → €)
Wise       1,672.00 €             12.59 AUD       0.623343       Mid-market rate
Western Union       1,655.67 €       - 16.33 €       0.00 AUD       0.614371
Moneygram       1,641.53 €       - 30.47 €       2.99 AUD       0.609800
Remitly       1,640.66 €       - 31.34 €       7.99 AUD       0.610613
ANZ       1,618.29 €       - 53.71 €       9.00 AUD       0.602512
National Australia Bank       1,606.28 €       - 65.72 €       10.00 AUD       0.598265
Westpac       1,606.03 €       - 65.97 €       10.00 AUD       0.598170
Commonwealth Bank of Australia       1,585.57 €       - 86.43 €       12.00 AUD       0.590990

That's not easy to read, especially since it doesn't look at it from the customer's perspective. I don't want to know how far my $2,694.90 will go, I want to know how much it will cost me to get 1,672 € in the recipient's bank account. And they don't tell that easily. After several iterations I established that the Commonwealth Bank of Australia would charge $2,841.50 for the same transfer, fully $146.60 more than “Wise”. Under those circumstances, it's amusing to note that “Wise” actually has the highest fees.

But I knew this was the cheapest way. Now to get the money into the account. Nowadays that's pretty straightforward, once I find my account numbers. And they have changed since I last looked! Somehow the “Wise” web site is completely confusing.

OK, money transferred into my AUD balance. Now make an EUR payment. “Please transfer money from a bank account”. Huh? I just did that. After much searching, found a number of options, most of them not applicable, but including, below the bottom of the screen, (“Not available”) “Your Balance”. The best was “Low cost transfer”, only 0.41 €, certainly cheaper than what they had advertised.

Why was “Your Balance” not available? No money in it. It only looked at the EUR balance. So I had to go and manually change the money from AUD to EUR. And then it worked—only 0.28 € fees, and, as they proudly stated in an email, it arrived in 7 seconds.

So: it works (and the recipient confirmed arrival), and it was even cheaper than advertised, but how I would like the thing to be easier to use. I have a similar situation in the other direction: Yvonne and I have pension transfers from Europe, and a quick check shows that we are losing $40 every month by going via the banks. But I'm concerned that “Wise” has changed my account number in Germany: getting the pension fund to change things is a real pain.


Historical cameras in films
Topic: photography, history, multimedia, opinion Link here

The explicit use of cameras in films interests me. One thing that's obvious is that in so many cases the camera and position make no sense: long teles, photographers far too close to their subjects, standing in ridiculous positions. That's not lack of understanding: any of these sets is teeming with photographers. Yes, they're mainly video photographers, but you need to be a rank amateur to make that kind of mistake.

The other thing is the choice of camera in films set in the past. This evening we watched “Miller's Tale” from the British series Heartbeat. It was first broadcast in October 2005, but it takes place in eternal 1969. Here's the camera used by a reporter:


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Clearly it's a Nikon, and the first lens is clearly identifiable. I didn't recognize the “Nikkor-H”, but “Auto” suggests that it's far newer than 1969. But I was wrong: this page shows that the lens model was made between January 1964 and February 1967, and the serial number (600010 < 685618 < 704258) suggests some time in late 1966.

The other lens isn't identifiable, but what about the camera? Clearly it has a Photomic head and a motor winder, but what's the grip on the right? I don't know of any Nikons of the day with a grip like that. And the Photomic head, the position of the flash sync connector and the lack of a pin for the rabbits' ears make it clear that it's not a Nikon F.


Friday, 3 September 2021 Dereel
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The pain of dog registration
Topic: technology, general, animals, opinion Link here

It's bad enough that both Leonid and Nikolai died this year, but now we have issues with dog registration. Leo died before the registration was due, but we paid for Niko for what proved to be only 3 months. And Lena, his replacement, arrived after his death. In the past we have been able to transfer the registration, but now they have a new person, Alana, in charge of registration, and she's very precise. She confirmed that we could have had a refund for Niko's registration if we had applied before the end of June.

OK, where does it say that on the registration forms? It doesn't. Time for both a complaint and a request for refund anyway, since we weren't informed of the date. Alana had also wanted copies of our pension cards, since one of her predecessors seems to have dropped the ball when it came to pensioner discount.

Send off the mail, and get confirmation of receipt:

Date: Fri,  3 Sep 2021 04:51:14 +0000 (UTC)
From: Mail Delivery System <MAILER-DAEMON@lax.lemis.com>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Successful Mail Delivery Report
Message-Id: <20210903045114.8252E280EB@lax.lemis.com>

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

Your message was successfully delivered to the destination(s)
listed below.

<CS@gplains.vic.gov.au>: delivery via
    filter1.gplain-1.mailguard.com.au[13.210.137.250]:25: 250 2.0.0 Ok: queued
    as E0917ECBDB5 UID 6131a9bf3b910686

OK, nothing unusual about that. But then, over a minute later, I got:

Date: Fri,  3 Sep 2021 14:51:22 +1000 (AEST)
From: Mail Delivery System <MAILER-DAEMON@mailguard.com.au>
To: groggyhimself@lemis.com
Subject: Undelivered Mail Returned to Sender
Message-Id: <20210903045122.2CDABF00C9F@smtp-relay-susj-omicron.mailguard.com.au>

This is the mail system at host smtp-relay-susj-omicron.mailguard.com.au.

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

<cs@gplains.vic.gov.au>: host
    gplains-vic-gov-au.mail.protection.outlook.com[104.47.71.138] said: 550
    5.4.1 Recipient address rejected: Access denied. AS(201806281)
    [SY4AUS01FT011.eop-AUS01.prod.protection.outlook.com] (in reply to RCPT TO
    command)

What's all that about? I sent it to the address I was given, of course, and it was accepted into the system. It seems that something internal didn't like it, but was too polite (or, given that it's clearly Microsoft, stupid) to say what.

So what's code 550 subcode 5.4.1? It's not in the List of SMTP server return codes. Google shows a number of hits, all from Microsoft systems, and almost all without an explanation. This one came up with the statement:

You received this error message because of the Directory-Based Edge Blocking (DBEB).

By default, the DBEB is enabled for your domains in Microsoft 365 and will reject external emails with addresses that are not present within the Azure Active Directory.

Public folder mailboxes are not synchronised with the Azure Active Directory and as your emails are routed out to Exclaimer Cloud, then back to Microsoft 365, they are considered external from the DBEB purpose.

From my perspective outside the system, I think this translates to “configuration error”. It's interesting to note that the sample message bears significant relationship to mine:

Reported error:        550 5.4.1 Recipient address rejected: Access denied. AS(201806281) [LO2GBR01FT010.eop-gbr01.prod.protection.outlook.com] [Response from m365x609028-mail-onmicrosoft-com.mail.protection.outlook.com] (303416b4-2dd0-48a8-842e-4e5a577af035,8f335eb8-008d-4b5b-af96-7e651a9b3771)

Will they fix it? Maybe. But until they do, I don't pay any dog licenses, so they can take their time.


Saturday, 4 September 2021 Dereel Images for 4 September 2021
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X pain without end
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been using X for over 30 years, and on the whole I'm comfortable with it. But a couple of bugs make my life painful, and in all that time I haven't seriously tried to hunt them down, since they happen so seldom and finding the bug looks like so much work.

Today the “modifier key” bug bit again: one of the modifier keys got stuck in the “on” state. Which one? The code is 0x10. With xev I was able to establish that it wasn't any of the usual suspects. Shift toggles modifier bit 1, Ctrl toggles 4, Alt toggles 8—and that's all. CapsLock, the phantom key that I have disabled? A quick look at the output of xmodmap showed:

shift       Shift_L (0x32),  Shift_R (0x3e)
lock
control     Control_L (0x25),  Control_R (0x6d)
mod1        Alt_L (0x40),  Meta_L (0x9c)
mod2
mod3
mod4        Super_L (0x73),  Super_L (0x7f),  Hyper_L (0x80)
mod5        Mode_switch (0x8),  ISO_Level3_Shift (0x7c)

I haven't found a mapping between the names and the bits, but it seems that they shift left for each line, so lock would be bit 2. And I don't have that. Instead, it must be mod2. But no key can generate that. How could I end up with it set? And, more importantly, how can I reset it?

I still don't know. I had to stop X (conveniently on the wrong system, eureka, first) and restart it. I thought of using xmodmap to assign a key to a modifier so that I could toggle it, but that's all that would happen: after toggling it, the state would be the same as before.

That's only one of the issues. The other is almost certainly something to do with the mouse driver: it generates spurious events, and has been doing so for decades. 20 years ago it bit me badly by pasting a password into an IRC session, but it wasn't until last year that I tried to do something about it. If only the mouse driver code were easier to understand!


Sunday, 5 September 2021 Dereel Images for 5 September 2021
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Limes—or lemons?
Topic: gardening, food and drink Link here

Finally the fruit on our Tahitian lime tree are ready for harvesting. It has taken a while, 13 years, so I wasn't overly upset that they weren't the best fruit in the world:


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It's not immediately apparent that the flesh, more lemon than lime, has an orange tint. But they taste alright, if a little too mild for a real lemon.


Where was I when?
Topic: history, technology, general, opinion Link here

For some reason my monitor number 0 (far left) started misbehaving today. Colours dropped out, and it got dimmer. All the signs of a flaky cable connection. I wobbled the connections, and things got better, for a while, but it didn't stay that way.

Maybe something wrong with the monitor? I had another on the floor doing nothing. Put that in, and hey, it was so much better. Nothing to do with the cable, just the monitor itself. First, it's larger, and secondly brighter. As a result, it made sense to put it in a better position, number 1 (second from left), and move the very old BenQ in number 0 position.

And that's where the fun really started. What a mess under the monitor! I've had my computer in position for over 6 years, since we moved in. OK, tidy up, in the process finding my old passport, in use from 1990 to 1998 (at which point it was full and had to be replaced). Just what I need to establish where I have been, at least in part. And how about that, some of the dates don't match my recollection. In particular, I was sure that we had a meeting with Jimmy Treybig in Sunnyvale—the one where he asked “What's the Internet?”—on 22 August 1991, but it seems that it was a week earlier, on 15 August 1991. Along with my Filofax notebook, this can help me reconstruct the Lost Thirty Years when I didn't keep a diary.


More steak and kidney pie fun
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Steak and kidney pie for dinner today. It brings home how little we eat nowadays, presumably a sign of our age. Yvonne no longer eats even a small pie, just a filo-like pastry:


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And she didn't finish it! But I couldn't finish mine either:


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Part of that was because we had had an entrée, but I can't help thinking that we're gradually eating less all the time.


Monday, 6 September 2021 Dereel → Napoleons → Dereel Images for 6 September 2021
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KL Hokkien Mee again
Topic: food and drink Link here

KL Hokkien mee for breakfast again today. I made the recipe pretty much as the last time, when I had thought that the 45 g of broth per serving was rather a lot. Now I think it could be more, maybe 60 g. But somehow there's something missing, and I can't put my finger on it. More garlic, maybe?

The other interesting thing is that the bucatini that I use for other dishes seems to make an almost perfect substitute for Hokkien noodles.


Tracking with Australia Post
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm waiting for no fewer than four eBay items ordered over the last two weeks. According to Australia Post, two of them arrived in Wendouree (Ballarat) over the weekend, so they should have been in Napoleons this morning. But what did I see at 12:45? Two items with this tracking information:

 
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Of course, they politely hide the tracking details until you insist on seeing them. But when I did, I got:

 
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The thing had been in Napoleons for nearly 6 hours! And why the excessive delivery time estimate? You could walk from Wendouree to Napoleons in 4 hours. How can they expect it to take a week?


To Napoleons with Google Maps
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So off to Napoleons to pick up my eBay items. The route looks like this:

 
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I know the way, of course, but I use Google Maps for the fun of it. This time I forgot to turn it on until I was half way down Grassy Gully Road, about 200 m from the main road. And somehow it got confused about the direction in which the car was pointing, so it decided to take my by the scenic route:


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Drove 50 m straight ahead and it got its bearings, changing to a sane route:


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But what is it about Google Maps that refuses to turn around, even when it's the only sane thing to do?


Yet Another new camera
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

The camera I picked up is a Contax D, almost the first SLR with a pentaprism. It's a nice example, almost completely functional. I'll investigate it in more detail Some Other Time, but what strikes me is how modern it looks compared to my Asahiflex and Exakta. Both of those cameras are older, but not as old as the first Contax S. I'm still trying to find the difference between the Contax S and the Contax D; so far the only difference I have found is in the shape of the shutter speed dial and the position of the (single) flash contact. And then we have:

Camera       Introduced       My example
(Kine) Exakta       1936
Exakta II       1947       March 1949
Contax S       1949
Asahiflex I       1951       1953
Contax D       1952       ?

When was my Contax D made? That depends on the serial number, but I have found two: 67469 on the side of the body, only visible after opening the back, and 246688 on the back itself. I'll have to investigate more. More than with other old cameras, there's a lot of disinformation out there about the old Contax models. In particular, there's a persistent rumour, currently still on Wikipedia, that the D stands for Dresden, ignoring both the fact that all Contaxes were built in Dresden, and that between the Contax S and Contax D there were also models A, B and C, at least in planning.

But one thing is plausible: before the war, Zeiss built rangefinder cameras called Contax, like this Contax III in the 1941 „Deutscher Kamera-Almanach“:


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Diary entry for Thursday, 16 June 2016

   
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I wrote more on that camera a few years back. But they didn't make SLRs. After the war, they only built SLRs. Why? The Soviets dismantled the factory after the war, so they had to start again from scratch. And that suggests that the real successor of the pre-war Contaxes was the Kiev.


Tuesday, 7 September 2021 Dereel Images for 7 September 2021
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Powercor inspection
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Steve Howard from Powercor came along this morning, not at his carefully stated time of “between 9 and 9:30”, but at 8:35. Fortunately I was out of bed and saw him coming.

His assessment was pretty much what I had expected: nothing can be built under the power line, nor 6 m either side of it. Yes, they can relocate the line, but at our cost, and “you don't want to know what it will cost”.

And why didn't the council notice the easement? Ah, maybe it's not in the title: it's an “implied easement”. After checking, yes, it seems that there's no mention of it in my title copy.

So: who is to blame? David Rowe, without a doubt. He was on site and should have seen the power cable. Sarah Smith of the Golden Plains Council? She, too, was there, and interested enough to require us to spend nearly $3,000 on zincalume-coloured Colorbond. She, too, should have seen the power cable. And Powercor for not including the easement in the title? About the only people who weren't to blame (for once) were Yvonne and I. But as a result of this fiasco, we're round $20,000 out of pocket. Clearly I'm going to need legal help.


Investigating the Contax D
Topic: photography, history, opinion Link here

Spent a lot of time today reading up about the Contax S. It's confusing stuff, and I didn't finish. My current impression is that the evolution from Contax S to Contax D was slow and gradual, and it was influenced at least as much by postwar German politics as it was by technology. About the only thing I'm sure of is that the flash synchronization contact moved from the bottom of the camera to the top, and the shape of some of the knobs on the top changed, though it's not yet clear to me whether the changes were only in one direction.

Also took some photos. The camera is almost perfect:


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Only the self-timer is cocked, and I couldn't find a way to fire it. I don't seem to be the only one. While searching the web I found these photos, from this (sales) page and this page:

 
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Clearly my issue isn't isolated. Interestingly, neither of these cameras is a Contax D. The first is the original Contax S, and the second is a “Contax S model C”. That shows just how little has changed. The model C also has a flash sync terminal in the same place as on the D, near the rewind knob, but it doesn't look the same. And apart from that, the Contax S looks identical. The only difference is the marking on the pentaprism: „Zeiss Ikon“ with no additional text, and „Contax“ with no additional letter. And potentially the film sensitivity scale round the rewind lever (marked 6 to 400 ASA on my camera) is marked in DIN on the other two, but the photos aren't sharp enough to tell.

OK, what's wrong with the self-timer? Do I care? I'm never going to use it. Yes, I do, sort of. Apart from that, the camera seems to be in perfect condition, which I can't say about any of my other pre-1960 cameras. Can I at least reposition the lever so that it's upright? There's a screw holding it in place:


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Can I turn it with a pair of pliers? Yes, easily: it's quite loose. Take it off, however, and there's a lock nut underneath that requires special tools to remove:


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OK, put into the “too hard” basket for now. Put the ring back on and screw it tight. The self-timer fired! That seems to be the trick. Nothing wrong with it at all: turning the ring fires the self timer, the just a little different from what I was expecting. On checking my other cameras with lever self-timers, the Nikon F and Pentax cameras have a little button hidden by the lever. Only the Nikon FM2 fires the self-timer via the shutter button.

So finally I have some representative photos of the camera:


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In passing, the lens is the 50 mm f/2.8 Cassar that I got with the Edixa Reflex. Now to write a web page about it.


Spring is coming
Topic: gardening, general Link here

Walking the dogs today, spring is manifesting itself:


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Animal registration payments
Topic: general, animals, technology, opinion Link here

A couple of weeks ago Yvonne processed the paperwork for our new dogs and paid by cheque for some reason. Not a good idea. We write about 2 cheques a year, and the cheque book that she chose was for an account that we closed decades ago. We have already handled one bounce, but there was a second that hasn't bounced yet.

OK, call up, apologize and try to pay. Account number, please? No, it will have to be a credit card. I'll get Elyse to call you back.

Elyse duly called and wanted a credit card number. NO! I don't know you from Eve. How can I tell that you're kosher? Send me email and I'll give you the details. Elyse confused, of course: “Our customers prefer the convenience”. But not the accident that's waiting to happen.

Paid that, and a little later got a phone call from Emma at the Golden Plains Council relating to paying dog registration. They were expecting an email from me, but they didn't get it.

Yes, I was half expecting that: last Friday I had the email equivalent of Schrödinger's cat, an email that was both accepted and rejected. Ah, says Emma, I sent it to the wrong address, cs@gplains.vic.gov.au. It should have been customerservice@gplains.vic.gov.au. Never mind that cs@ was the address I had been given. Bounce the message, and how about that, only a “delivered” message, no bounce message, and Emma called up and confirmed that she had received the message. So, at least for the Golden Plains Council, and probably for anybody misguided enough to use outlook.com, this message means “the user does not exist”:

<cs@gplains.vic.gov.au>: host
    gplains-vic-gov-au.mail.protection.outlook.com[104.47.71.138] said: 550
    5.4.1 Recipient address rejected: Access denied. AS(201806281)
    [SY4AUS01FT011.eop-AUS01.prod.protection.outlook.com] (in reply to RCPT TO
    command)

And could I pay by bank transfer? Again, no, credit card number please. But she did allow me to pay by BPAY, the service that only works during the working week and takes at least 24 hours, as compared to normal transfers that are instantaneous. And she supplied two separate numbers, just to annoy me.


Wednesday, 8 September 2021 Dereel Images for 8 September 2021
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Relocating power lines?
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

One solution to our riding arena problem would be to relocate the power line that runs over the site of the arena. That would be our preferred method—if somebody else pays.

But how practical would it be? While walking the dogs spent some time looking at how the lines are laid out, and in fact there's almost a line of sight from another (upstream) power line to the south-east and the other end of the link going over the arena. How do I display it? Once Google Maps allowed you to make custom maps, but I can't find that any more. The best I can find is this view, which clearly shows pole at the other end of the power link to the south-west, and a wide paddock to the north-east. What isn't visible is the power pole round the tree line:


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So it seems that it would be perfectly feasible to take a line across the paddock—if:

Is it a viable option? I fear not, but we should at least investigate it.


Thursday, 9 September 2021 Dereel Images for 9 September 2021
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More garden issues
Topic: gardening, general, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Knock on the door this morning: Bryan Ross, the gardener. That was a surprise: we hadn't expected them until tomorrow. Off to discuss what they had done two months ago. To my surprise, it wasn't an inexperienced helper who had done it, but Bryan himself, the expert horticulturalist. And at least at the beginning he defended what he had done. In fact, he took such offense at my criticism that they all decided not to come again, and Bryan only did grass trimming. The garden (the reason for Bryan's coming) was untouched, and I paid for 9 hours of grass trimming:


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Was I too unfriendly in my criticism? I don't think so. The more I look at it, the more I get the impression that Bryan isn't nearly as experienced as he claims to be. And if somebody criticizes me in my area of expertise, I will at least listen to him.

And was Bryan right? I still don't think so. Bulbs need trimming to improve their vitality, he says. That's the first I have heard of it, and the best I can say for it is that it happened very early in the growth cycle, here in early June:


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On the way round the house, he saw the Camellia japonica and commented favourably on it:


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But why are the leaves so yellow? I had to point that out him, and he finally came out with “you need camellia fertilizer”. I've put that in, of course. What does this pattern mean? I have books that I have consulted, but they haven't helped much.

And the Alyogyne huegelii? It'll come. The branches are not dead, he says:


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I was thinking of having a bet on it, but by the time we got to the Persicaria odorata (daun kesum), he tripped over himself: he didn't realize that there were any remains, just the weeds:


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At the beginning of the year it was looking a little straggly, but it was still there. Here at the beginning of last year:


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Other indications were how to prune the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis: “Up” or “down”. And this sage bush “needed trimming”:


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So basically he has little idea of the material, and as a result has caused considerable damage.

So: it's a pity that he took offense, but if he thinks that is good gardening practice, then we really need a new gardener. I'm beginning to appreciate Mick Solly more and more.


Changed COVID-19 lockdown
Topic: health, technology, opinion Link here

From 23:59 this evening, according to the news outlets, we will have our COVID-19 “lockdown” restrictions eased again. Can the cleaner come? Take a look at the official site: “COVIDSafe settings” and, not to be outdone, the stupidly named “How we live”.

NOTHING! The pages still relate to upcoming changes on 2 September. I couldn't find anything about the upcoming changes this evening. Yvonne tried calling an information line, but it timed out after 30 minutes and hung up on her, claiming overload. The cleaner did the same, with the same result.

People, we can't follow the regulations if we don't know what they are! Followed a “contact us” link, which gave me a form with a number of reasons to contact “us”, none of them related to interpreting the regulations. In the end I was given the option to Provide feedback or make a complaint, which mutated into “Submit Your Complaint”. And there I had to give all sorts of irrelevant details, like my date of birth and local council name. Finally fought my way through it and tried to submit:

PLEASE supply information about lockdowns and COVID-19 related restrictions. You seem to have two pages which contradict each other, and as of now (9 September 2021, 11:20) there is no mention of the upcoming restrictions for regional Victoria at https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/coronavirus-covidsafe-settings or https://www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au/how-we-live, and those pages refer to restrictions from last week. If you have moved them elsewhere, you could at least have the decency to link to them. As it is, I really don't know what we're allowed to do and what not.

But I couldn't submit the complaint. “Error: Mandatory information is required”. What mandatory information? They don't say. I had to step back to a previous page to discover that the local council information wasn't set. OK, set that. No can do: there was no input field. With a bit of experimentation, I discovered that I could set it indirectly by reentering my address. Forward a couple of screen, add to the complaint:

This form is also broken. It removed the local council information (irrelevant, but required) and I had to re-enter the form to get it entered, since it wouldn't just let me type in the council name.

Then answer this emetic CAPTCHA again (is that even in keeping with the government's obligation to be accessible? What if I can only submit this thing indirectly?). “Error: Mandatory information is required”. Go back. It had erased the local council information!

Doubtless the department doesn't get many complaints. I did try again, though, starting from the beginning. It redirected to https://login.microsoftonline.com/dhhs.vic.gov.au/oauth2/authorize?response_type=id_token&client_id=79c27c88-48ca-47c5-b6bf-a6ac810a4a05&redirect_uri=https%3A%2F%2Ffeedback.dhhs.vic.gov.au%2Flayout.html&state=54cffb02-be4a-495b-935c-305d946ee8ee&client-request-id=b6311b93-eaa7-4e15-acaf-a3c38f93d00a&x-client-SKU=Js&x-client-Ver=1.0.17&nonce=c9a8b4ba-4f9b-4554-9134-453a5d8fa003. Savour that URL. That's not the first time this week that I have had difficulty with government departments using Microsoft services.

While writing up this article, I discovered that the complaints page has been updated. Now it contains:

Step 1. Discuss your complaint with a staff member from the COVID-19 service provider to see if it can be resolved.

Now isn't that helpful? What is the COVID-19 service provider? How do I reach it?

Ultimately, Yvonne proved successful. After a lot more waiting for an answer from the hotline, she finally got a human being. Yes, the cleaner can come.

WHEN are they going to get their act together?


Paying for the dogs
Topic: technology, general, animals, opinion Link here

Buying Larissa and Lena proved to involve more than just paying for them. There were three different registrations: transfer pedigree, register microchip numbers, and pay the annual registration. I grumbled about the pain on Tuesday, but it's not over. Elyse sent email telling me that my credit card number was wrong, one digit too little. I explained that I had included the 3 digit code on the back of the card. No, still didn't work. Sorry, I can't help, that's the correct number. Send me a bank account number.

After a while, another email:

I???ve re set my computer and tried again and it seems to have gone through now. Sorry for the muck around.

In other words, the Microsoft “solution”, which in this case had no relationship to her problem whatsoever.

And then pay the dog registrations. Two separate BPAY transactions, each requiring a phone call from the bank to confirm that yes, I really wanted to pay $16.00 to a BPAY number that was too long for it to read out. And for all that effort, there's a good chance that the council will get the money by Monday, instead of immediately in the case of a bank transfer.


Friday, 10 September 2021 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 10 September 2021
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More “Coronavirus” web problems
Topic: health, technology, opinion Link here

One of our neighbours appears to be flagrantly violating the “lockdown” rules, walking unmasked and uninvited into other neighbours' houses. Not our business directly, but I looked up how to report the matter. The URL is to be savoured: https://onlinereporting.police.vic.gov.au/s/covid19?language=en_US.

Why lang=en_US? Where are we? But probably the best would be to call the police on 131 444. Filling out the form will probably require irrelevant information like the date of birth of my paternal grandfather.


Another physiotherapy session
Topic: health Link here

Into town today for another physiotherapy session for my epicondylitis. All is well, and I probably won't need any further attention.


More Google Maps strangeness
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

For once I didn't get my phone to guide me to the physiotherapist, but when I got there, I did think to turn on maps. How about “where am I?”? Not quite what I expected:


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Still in Dereel? How can that be? When I asked it to take me to the physiotherapist, it obliged and told me that I was there. Clearly something hasn't been updated. And when I subsequently wanted to go to Big W, it did pretty much the opposite of what it normally does and offered me no less than 3 in an area of 5,000 km²:


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Shopping in Ballarat
Topic: general, health, opinion Link here

One of my tasks was to buy dog food at Big W in Ballarat. Not a place I like. And despite the partial “lockdown”, they allow people there without masks:


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Bloody UPS!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Call from somebody calling herself Jane Guevara from United Parcel Service today. A saddle had arrived for Yvonne, and we should pay the customs duty and GST.

Why to them? Normally I pay to the Customs. OK, send me the invoice. That arrived quickly and showed four items: duty and GST as expected, but also a SECURITY FEE and a CUSTOMS ENTRY FEE (their capitalization). Those two totaled $98.95. Who gets them?

This looks very much like hidden and non-authorized charges. What do I do? Yvonne is, of course, waiting for her saddle, and if we fight it, we could delay arrival significantly. Came to no decision beyond not having anything to do with UPS again.


Saturday, 11 September 2021 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 September 2021
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Puppy training
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Into Ballarat this morning to take Larissa and Lena to puppy training classes. The people who did the training for Nemo over 10 years ago are no longer active, and the current COVID-19 pandemic makes things even more difficult, but finally we found a course at Petstock in La Trobe Street. It looks very different from last time. Here Nemo in 2010, and our training area today:


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Apart from being cramped, it was also quite noisy. Yvonne had difficulty both hearing and making herself understood. I had intended to take a lot of photos, but in fact there wasn't much to see, and only 5 puppies. The trainer, Annette, went to some trouble to explain clicker training, not exactly unknown in our household, and got us to do some basic obedience stuff with them, which, of course, they already knew. Still, I was able to get Lena to sit on command, something that she had previously not been able to do. About the only issue was walking them round the shop, which involved the dogs encountering the first steps that they had seen in their lives.

Probably a good start, from a rather basic level, but my main concern was socialization, and there was precious little of that. There are another 5 weeks to go.

While there, checked the prices for dog food. Petstock are not the cheapest game in town, but I was still surprised by the price of Supercoat Puppy. Yesterday I paid $35 for a big bag; here it's $54.99.

Oh, wait. My bags were 12 kg. Here they sell them in 18 kg bags. That's equivalent to $36.66 for 12 kg, only a little more expensive.

But wait, there's more! As a Petstock “member” (whatever that means), we get 15% discount. So only $31.16 per 12 kg. I really hadn't expected that either.


Æfgænistæn and 20 years of 9/11
Topic: history, politics, opinion Link here

Almost 20 years ago today I woke to hear of the terrorist attacks in the USA that came to be known as 9/11, leading to US involvement in many wars that they couldn't just not win, but which made life worse for the man in the street in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now the US has pulled out of Afghanistan, a country they understood so little that they can't even pronounce its name correctly, and whose US-brokered government collapsed so suddenly that even the Taliban were taken by surprise.

The Taliban are evil, right? They're certainly no friends of mine. But they promise to do better this time round. Lots of people are keeping a critical eye on them, sometimes, it seems, too critical.

For example: the country is in ruins. Hospitals have to close down because of lack of supplies. Government employees have been waiting for months for their salaries. What chaos!

Months? Yes, months. That greatly predates the Taliban takeover. It's gradually becoming clear how completely incompetent the previous government was. And even so, they were living on credit, ridiculous sums of foreign aid. That has now been cut off, making a bad situation even worse. There's little that the Taliban had to do with that, though it's clear that re-enabling aid payments is a tricky affair. The best I can think of is that it be administered by a capable and relatively incorrupt country in the region, like Qatar, which has already got the airport running again after—apparently—the US military put it out of action when they left.

And then the Taliban have promised a government including other ethnic groups and even women. But they have now formed a government almost entirely composed of the people who were in power 20 years ago. How can that be?

It doesn't take much thought to see that the country is in crisis. Not time for an inclusive democratic government to find its feet. The people they have chosen have government experience. And they specifically call it an interim government. So that, too, makes sense.

So all is well? I'll see it when I believe it. But the Western media, including in this case Al Jazeera, run by the government of Qatar, are highlighting these issues as if they were the fault of the Taliban and evidence of their bad faith. And I really can't see that.

And the USA? Clearly they have proven once again that they don't understand the rest of the world. Ten years ago I wrote:

In principle, the terrorists have won. “9/11” was just the start.

I don't know how accurate that is, but it's clear that US society is in turmoil. How much of a role did “9/11” play in that?


More greetings from Bryan
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I had mixed feelings when Bryan Ross decided not to come again, but he did things this time that made me feel better about the situation. This is all he left of my Clematis “Edo Murasaki”:


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Now's the dormant season, of course, but in April it looked like this:


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And those stems shouldn't be removed. Now it will have to start all over again.

And of course there are more shaved Narcissus, and also (arguably accidentally) a damaged sweet pea


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So: we still need a gardener, but we would have done so anyway. This way I don't have to tell Bryan not to come again.


Feeding dogs
Topic: animals, food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne has been feeding our dogs on a mixture of beef cubes, “chicken frames” (what's left over after removing all the meat) and dry dog food pellets. Since Larissa's growth problems, and as recommended both by Pene Kirk and Kelly Bond, we've dropped the rather one-sided beef cubes, and now they're just getting chicken frames and pellets. And that after I had bought 4 kg of expensive calcium carbonate to supplement the beef.

Borzois are fussy eaters, more like cats than dogs. If they have had enough to eat, they'll leave the rest behind. Lara and Lena are no exception, but lately they've been eating everything.

So: how much are they getting? Previously it was 100 g of pellets and 400 g of beef a meal. Now it was 200 g of pellets. Probably the pellets are more nutritious than the same weight of beef, but that sounds too little to me. So we decided to give them more than they can eat and weigh the remains to find out how much they really ate.

Things didn't quite turn out as I expected. Here our records so far:

Date       Time       Lara       Lena
10 September       18:00       +200       +200
11 September       9:00       25       21
11 September       18:00       +241       +245

In the evenings they ate all that was in the bowl (thus the + sign), and in the morning only a tiny amount. Is this an indication that they are ready to be fed only once a day? I'll keep my records here.


Expensive packaging
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in town, bought a couple of beef filet steaks:


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They were wrapped in plastic foil to form them into tubes; the larger one must have been 10 cm high before I compressed it. But the foil! There were ridiculous amounts of it round the larger steak:


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So the “182 g” steak really only weighed 170 g or so. And at $60 a kilogram the foil cost me $0.72. I wonder if the butcher realized that. Next time we'll have them unwrapped before weighing.


Sunday, 12 September 2021 Dereel Images for 12 September 2021
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Lena vomits
Topic: animals Link here

Noise from the lounge room this morning, Yvonne shouting at the dogs. That's unusual: what happened? Lena was about to vomit on the carpet. Yvonne managed to get her onto one of the dog cushions, which she was then able to wash:


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What is that? This was before breakfast, so it can't be food. Had she eaten something bad? One of the interesting things that we learnt at puppy training yesterday was that, though dogs have an amazing sense of smell, their sense of taste is far inferior to ours; thus the number of incidents of “dietary indiscretion” that we've experienced.

Whatever it was, Lena didn't seem to be any the worse for it.


Another greeting from Bryan
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I've discussed my issues with Bryan Ross over the past couple of days, and I thought it was over. But I had wondered why one Arum was still not flowering, though the others started flowering months ago. Now it's trying:


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That should be a flower, but it seems the bud was half-formed when Bryan trimmed it. Sorry, Bryan, you can't argue your way out of this one.


Power failure insights
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion, general Link here

Beep from the UPS in my office this morning. Power outage? For some reason the inverter doesn't cut in seamlessly, thus the beep. But no, just another 1 second grid power failure.

But after the inverter recovered (it takes 60 seconds to trust the grid again), looking at the inverter display on screen 0, I saw that it was using lots of power from the grid. Why?

mysql> select tstamp, Status, PacBat, PacPV, Pac, W1 from powerstats
where tstamp > "2021-09-12 11:15";

+---------------------+-------------------------------+--------+-------+------+------+
| tstamp              | Status                        | PacBat | PacPV | Pac  | W1   |
+---------------------+-------------------------------+--------+-------+------+------+
...
| 2021-09-12 11:15:35 | Waiting to connect to On-grid |  -4817 |  7593 | 2776 |    0 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:36 | Waiting to connect to On-grid |  -4798 |  7573 | 2775 |    0 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:37 | Waiting to connect to On-grid |  -1065 |  3839 | 2774 |    0 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:38 | Waiting to connect to On-grid |   -561 |  3325 | 2764 |    0 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:40 | On-grid                       |   -553 |   779 |  226 | 3316 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:41 | On-grid                       |   -553 |   590 |   37 | 2927 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:42 | On-grid                       |   -556 |   588 |   32 | 2947 |
| 2021-09-12 11:15:43 | On-grid                       |   -547 |   599 |   52 | 2905 |

The battery had 99% charge, and it was bright sunshine. The PV array was generating round 7.5 kW (PacPV). The house was using about 2.7 kW (Pac), and the rest was going into the battery (PacBat).

But then the power came back. Almost immediately, the inverter only took round 600 W from the PV array, but round 3 kW from the grid. My best interpretation is that the PV power went to charging the battery, while the grid supplied the house. Why? It went on for about 3 minutes, while the PV array gradually generated more and more power, and the grid used less and less.

And then it started discharging the battery, though still drawing from the grid:

+---------------------+-------------------------------+--------+-------+------+------+
| tstamp              | Status                        | PacBat | PacPV | Pac  | W1   |
+---------------------+-------------------------------+--------+-------+------+------+
| 2021-09-12 11:18:40 | On-grid                       |   -529 |  3422 | 2893 |  353 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:42 | On-grid                       |   -533 |  3481 | 2948 |  347 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:43 | On-grid                       |   -534 |  3490 | 2956 |  284 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:44 | On-grid                       |   -534 |  3499 | 2965 |  277 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:45 | On-grid                       |    -25 |  2994 | 2969 |  279 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:46 | On-grid                       |    -99 |  3087 | 2988 |   46 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:47 | On-grid                       |   -114 |  2992 | 2878 |   18 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:48 | On-grid                       |    -48 |  2926 | 2878 |  -28 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:49 | On-grid                       |    -25 |  2907 | 2882 |   16 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:51 | On-grid                       |     33 |  2831 | 2864 |  -13 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:52 | On-grid                       |      4 |  2837 | 2841 |   -7 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:53 | On-grid                       |    192 |  2702 | 2894 |  359 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:54 | On-grid                       |    555 |  2563 | 3118 |  112 |
| 2021-09-12 11:18:55 | On-grid                       |    695 |  2454 | 3149 |  104 |

The discharge is clear: the sun had gone in, and something (air conditioner?) started using more power than the PV array is using. But why still the grid? It stopped during this period, modulo the normal fluctuations. But it's still puzzling.


Web: all our operators are busy
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While checking yesterday's puppy training article, came across this:


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I've never seen that on a web site before. I was going to say “that shouts Microsoft”, but in fact Netcraft tells me that it's Linux with a Cloudflare server.

It's been a while since I looked at Netcraft. They seem to have given up on site uptimes, but there's still the “Date first seen” field, where I can confirm that lemis.com was first seen in April 1997 (strange in itself, since I was traveling almost the entire month), while Google didn't show up for another 1½ years.


Dubious product, wasteful packaging
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

On Thursday I bought some “Shrimp Hot Pot Seasoning” at the Fruit Shack, in the hope that it wouldn't be too hot for Yvonne:


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OK, before we actually eat it, check what it tastes like. Surprise! Mainly plastic:


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Why do people do things like that? It doesn't seem to serve any useful purpose.

The good news: it wasn't hot. The not-so-good news: it tasted like nothing I know. It was quite salty, the only indication of how much I should dilute it by.

Instead we made some “Mini Chicken Kiev BALLS” that we had bought yesterday:


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They were interesting because they didn't leak in the deep fryer, though they floated to a surprising degree:


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In passing, it's interesting to note that they also dragged down the temperature of the fat by a surprising degree. I put them in with the fat at 190°, set to 180°, but by the time it was done, we were down to 145°:


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On eating them, things became clear:


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When I see “Kiev” (a transliteration of the Russian name for Kyiv), I think of Chicken Kiev, which contains butter. Was there some in there? It's hard to discern. The food tasted acceptable, but I don't think we'll buy another package.


Monday, 13 September 2021 Dereel Images for 13 September 2021
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New rice noodles
Topic: food and drink Link here

Cooked some new rice noodles for breakfast today:


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They're a first in one sense: they have no cooking instructions whatsoever. Given that rice noodles can require from no cooking at all to up to 18 minutes, that's a serious omission. This time, after soaking (to see if they needed any cooking), I cooked them for 4 minutes, which is about as much as then can take.


Imports: the pain
Topic: technology, language, general, opinion Link here

So why has UPS charged me all the extra money when they had promised on acceptance that there would be no further charges? Reading the fine print on their invoice, I see:

Effective from 1st January 2020, the formal Declaration Fee (formerly known as the formal entry fee) imposed by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection will be AUD $88.00 for shipments over AUD $1,000.

What's the Department of Immigration and Border Protection? Off to the other end to ask Customs about the matter.

Ah, “Customs” is an old, worn-out magic word. Now it's the Australian Border Force, something that sounds more like what an illegal immigrant might do. After much searching, I found a page on importing by post or mail, without any clarification what they think “post” and “mail” mean. Very little of clear help. After a lot of searching, including many Google false positives, found:

Call the Department of Home Affairs on +61 2 6196 0196.

Why the Department of Home Affairs when it's Customs Border Force? Who knows? There was also a warning not to call on Mondays, so I put it off until tomorrow.

But on my way one of the pages refers me to this PDF, where I read

From 1 January 2016, Import Processing Charges (IPCs) will be restructured and implemented under the Import Processing Charges Amendment Act 2015.

These changes were announced by the Government as part of the 2015-2016 Commonwealth Budget. The restructured IPCs are cost recovery based and are aimed at improving the integrity of the border while removing cross-subsidisation and delivering efficiencies to industry.

And there, if I interpret the table correctly, they talk of a charge of $50. But look at the date! That's over 5 years ago, and UPS speaks (probably correctly) of updated pricing from January 2020. So after all my searching, almost all I could find was an out-of-date document.

Almost? Well, yes, it confirms UPS' claims that the money goes to the government. An 8.8% additional price on items round the $1000, like Yvonne's saddle.

Why am I having so much trouble with web sites lately? Could it be because I'm trying to use them?


The Seventh Spring
Topic: gardening, Stones Road house, opinion Link here

This is the seventh spring we've spent in Kleins Road, and of course things are repeating. But somehow I keep seeing new things. This flowering Eucalypt has of course flowered every year before, but it still strikes me:


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And what's this bush?


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I haven't investigated it before. At first I thought it was an Acacia, but it clearly has leaves:


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Tuesday, 14 September 2021 Dereel Images for 14 September 2021
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The legacy of 9/11
Topic: politics, history, opinion Link here

I've already commented on the anniversary of “9/11”, but the world, particularly the USA, isn't letting up. Somehow that country isn't what it used to be. In particular, you need to wonder what is motivating the Republican Party. I've never been a fan of the Republicans—they're far too right-wing—but I was able to admire many of their representatives. No more. They seem to have completely forgotten that they're elected to better the lot of the USA. This cartoon shows one of the differences (the elephant marked GOP represents the Republicans):

http://www.lemis.com/grog/Day/20210914/241863673_4900781046653686_5110373349642428431_n.jpg

Apart from that, I've been watching a documentary about the connections between the “9/11” attacks and Hamburg, where I studied briefly in 1967/1968. It seems that a number of the suicide bombers were active there. And there's reference to a detail of which I had heard at 27:09 into the film:


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“In Rethwisch in Schleswig-Holstein there was a company with links to the terror cell. The owner was a Syrian called T.”


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He was accused, along with his wife and two sons, of assisting the terrorists. They tastefully removed all details, suggesting that they weren't able to pin anything on them, but you can find them elsewhere. The company is Tatex, and the owner is Abdul Matin Tatari. Google image search, with its usual accuracy, provides me with these images:

 
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Clearly the first image is the one used in the documentary film. And the last is from this report, where his involvement is discussed.

And the others? My friend Dave Rozalla and his sister Teen, taken in Kuching in July or August 1969, and Sue Fortescue, taken in Bow, Devon in (probably) September 1972. What do they have to do with Matin? He did meet Dave (in Hamburg on 23 December 1969), but he never met Teen or Sue. I can only guess that they came via my people in diary page.

And Syrian? I'm pretty sure he got German nationality years ago, and he married a German (Karen Weißbach, whom he met while Matin and I were living in the Winterhuder Weg 114, of whom I understood that she was the daughter of a Lübeck senator). Was he really involved in the matter? He was certainly rather hot-headed when it came to Arab affairs (“Let's all go to the Golan Heights and piss at the same time, and wash Israel into the sea”), a sentiment born of the outcome of the Six-Day War. But suicide bombing? I can only imagine that he mixed with the same people, and wasn't involved in any way but socially.


Breaking MPEGs
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

The documentary about the “9/11” connection with Hamburg had a strange issue: random artefacts (something like flashes) in the display. That happens, of course, with damaged video files. But this one remained when I paused the display, and went away when I power cycled the TV. And it caused similar random artefacts in other windows. Backspacing frames also didn't work correctly: I got so far, and then it stopped.

What causes that? The backspacing issues suggest that there's something basically wrong in the MPEG stream. But why the flashing? My guess is that it's a problem with the TV that it can't handle correctly.

Should I report this to Hisense? That way madness lies. I wouldn't get beyond the support people.


International transport pain, continued
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

The current state of affairs with UPS appears to be that just about all the charges they are asking for go to the Customs Australian Border Force. Only the “security fee” of $10.95 has not been explained. Carry on complaining? I don't see much chance of success, and of course Yvonne wants her saddle. So pay first, complain after delivery.

How? The invoice says that I should send a copy of the remittance details to UPSCODAOC@ups.com. OK, do that. But I had received email asking me to send it to cronalyn@ups.com. OK, bounce to that address.

And wait. Nothing happened. After a few hours, contact them again. “No email received from your bank”. That despite DSN confirmation that it had arrived. OK, bounce it again to gjane@ups.com. But why don't you just check if the money has arrived? That's more important. But after another exchange that only served to confirm my impression of incompetence at UPS, they found it, and the thing is now on its way. It's currently in Melbourne; based on my experience with UPS, it should be here in another week or so.


Can DHL do better than UPS?
Topic: general Link here

Apart from my fun with UPS, I'm planning a shipment of Kirschwasser from Germany. Ruth Viebrock will help and send it via DHL. Are they going to cause as much pain? Checked their customer service page, which gives me the encouraging number +61 37 0356818, clearly written by somebody who has no idea of Australian area codes (should be +61 3 70356818). Called that and was connected to Fahad, who told me I had the wrong number: he was only responsible for tracking, and he was located in Europe. I should call 131 406. But that's not what the web page says. It appears to be broken. Yes, agreed Fahad, but he wouldn't take an error report.

OK, call 131 406, get connected to Luke, who told me he was the wrong person to talk to, but passed me on the the booking team, where I was connected with Sonia. No, they don't have any additional charges, though she repeated three times the charges to be expected. And she wouldn't give me a confirmation number, but all calls are recorded. So it's a good thing I have the call time, 4:52 minutes starting at 14:42:14.


Understanding Kirschwasser
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Time to finally bite the bullet and decide on what kind of Kirsch to order. Or is that Kirschwasser? Both come from the German word „Kirsche“, meaning cherry. What's the difference? I can buy the Weis Kirsch that I know and tolerate for 16.95 € per litre, or another seller offers a bewildering number of Kirsch from Prinz, who offer:

 
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What is all that stuff? And how much does it cost?

 
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That's clearly a case of terminally broken markup and documentation. The bottle prices are in bold (29,50 € and 17,60 €). The prices at the beginning of the line are per litre. And there's a spurious 1, not in bold, in front of all the bottle prices.

More importantly, though, what does it mean? It's clear that „Kirschela“ (a fantasy name) is not the real thing: it's only 34% alcohol. The description translates as “The mild schnapps with typical cherry flavour”. The next one is clearly also schnapps, whatever that means. “Fruity schnapps with the distillate of best, fully ripe cherries from the region”. Then there's the “old cherry” with “the incomparable taste of juicy cherries paired with the fine wooden barrel note”. And finally another fantasy name, “cherry hafele spirit”, “a noble spirit with the marvelous aroma of best sweet and sour cherries”.

I still don't understand. It's reasonable to believe that each one is better than the previous one. My guess is that „Schnaps“ suggests alcohol that doesn't come from cherries, so the flavour would be less pronounced. I don't (yet) want barrel ripened Kirsch, and the Hafele (whatever that means) is too expensive.

And Weis? By comparison, a model of clarity. Of their „Schwarzwälder Kirschwasser“ (Black Forest cherry water) they say:

Kirschwasser is fruit spirits that is made exclusively from the fermented fruit of cherries...

So they get my money.


International payments, next pain
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

I bought my cherry water on German eBay, so I have to pay in Euro. No problem: that's why I have my Wise credit card. Type in the details, press pay now... wait.

After a while, the message “please enter your payment details”. eBay had removed the saved credit card details, and I had to start again. Why? And again it failed.

The simple answer, of course: pay with PayPal. I didn't want to do that because I end up paying exchange rates. In this case it's minimal, in the order of $1, but why do I have the Wise card, and why didn't eBay accept it? It has always worked before. Still more things to investigate.


Indemnification for the shed
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

So now we have a planning permit, a building permit and the components for the riding arena shed. But Powercor won't let us build.

I've two questions: who is responsible, and whom should we get to indemnify us? Peter O'Connell gave me the name of Graeme Hills, a lawyer, a while back, and as usual I've been dragging my heels. Today I finally called up the practice and was connected with Carmen, who told me that the best person to talk to would be Dean Bloetz, who pronounces his name “bloats”. And he charges $330 per hour, starting immediately, even before we have any indication of success.

We can do better than that. First I should try the free services to give us an idea of what we should do.

HOW I wish we had never got started with this mess!


COVID-19 in Ballarat
Topic: health, opinion Link here

The news is not good: cases of COVID-19 have been detected in Ballarat. It looks as if we're heading for another “lockdown”.

And where? The Ballarat Courier currently has details, though I don't trust them to keep the information online: COVID in Ballarat: Lake View Hotel, The Forge and Big W among new exposure sites .

In the article, it states:

The Department of Health and Human Services has currently listed the following exposure sites: ...

BIG W
Friday, September 10 from 4.45pm-5.30pm (Tier 1)

Tier 1 exposures must get tested immediately and quarantine for 14 days from exposure.

I was at Big W on that day! And I took a photo and complained:


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The only good thing is that I was there a couple of hours earlier than the stated window, as my camera confirms: the time of that photo was 13:37:33, and I was on my way out of the place. And if the tracking app is working (which requires proof), I would have been contacted if I had been in the target group for test and quatorzine. But it's not surprising that Big W is one of the sites: the management is neglecting its duty by allowing unmasked people in the shop.


Wednesday, 15 September 2021 Dereel Images for 15 September 2021
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Lockdown!
Topic: health, opinion Link here

It has only been 6 days since the SARS-CoV-2 “lockdown” was eased in the Ballarat area. But now we have at least 3 cases, doubtless due in part to companies like Big W that don't enforce the restrictions.

Is it going to help? Victoria has had “lockdowns” for months on end, and until the end of the last one they proved very effective in reducing the number of infections: 2 weeks from 27 May until 10 June, maximum of 12 infections per day, none at the end. 12 days from 15 July to 27 July, maximum of 26 infections. And now the 6th “lockdown”, started on 5 August. 41 days and counting, 423 infections reported today, tendency increasing.

Clearly something has changed, presumably the Delta variant, and somehow “lockdowns” are an old, worn-out reaction. Will even vaccinations help? We'll see, of course, and that's what the government is—belatedly—aiming for.

Dare I even hope to get clarity from the web sites? The best I can see is this stupid “how we live”, which now claims to be “COVIDSafe Settings for Victoria”, which is the title of another page, but in fact is now titled “How we live: metropolitan Melbourne and City of Ballarat”. No mention of the rest of Victoria. And it doesn't clearly define the area under “lockdown” in Ballarat. For Melbourne, it specifies the exact Local government area, but for Ballarat it just says “City of Ballarat”. Does that include Sebastopol? Delacombe? My guess is that it does: they're suburbs. But for example the term “City of Melbourne” explicitly excludes most suburbs:

The City of Melbourne is a local government area in Victoria, Australia, located in the central city area of Melbourne. In 2018 the city has an area of 37 square kilometres and had a population of 169,961.

After some searching I found the City of Ballarat Wikipedia page, where I read:

The City of Ballarat is a local government area in the west of the state of Victoria, Australia.

So why don't they say “Local Government Area”, or, better, provide a map:

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3f/Australia_Victoria_Ballarat_City_location_map.svg/465px-Australia_Victoria_Ballarat_City_location_map.svg.png

That's a very different definition, and people who have moved here from Melbourne could be forgiven for assuming that the restrictions only apply to the city centre. In any case, it's clear that it doesn't affect us here in Dereel. But probably our puppy training will be cancelled this week.

Even the Ballarat Courier doesn't know:

At this stage, it appears to only include the Ballarat local government area, but this is yet to be confirmed. The Courier is seeking clarity on this.

Does nobody care about clarity?


Obfuscation lives!
Topic: language, technology, opinion Link here

Spam in the mail today:

  21 N + 15-09-2021 To Greg Lehey   (1756) Vonex                N + Welcome to Vonex  ????

What's that about? I had a quick look:

Date: Wed, 15 Sep 2021 01:43:08 -0500
From: Vonex <residential@vonex.com.au>
Subject: Welcome to Vonex  ????
Message-ID: <20210915064327.27065.1346418792.swift@vonex.activehosted.com>

Changes for MyNetFone Residential Customers
 ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? ??? 

Since acquiring MyNetFone Residential, our team have been working to
ensure our systems can make your customer experience as seamless as
possible through this transitional period. Hopefully the only thing you
have noticed is all of our email notifications, which we intend to keep
to a minimum!

Ah, the people who bought MyNetFone, a URL that now redirects to the middle of some random page on the Vonex web site. I thought the name MyNetFone to be a little silly, but at least it was clear what it's about. What earthly meaning does “Vonex” have? They're really lucky that I didn't just delete it as spam.

This seems to be happening more and more. I wish I knew why.


What's this bush?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Another flowering bush seen while walking the dogs:


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What is it? My guess is that it has been planted, and I have a feeling that I should know what it is—after all, I've been walking past it for the last 6 years. Yvonne found a seedling and ripped it out by the roots, leaving it to me to plant it again.


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