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Saturday, 22 February 2020 Dereel Images for 22 February 2020
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Another laksa
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've been eating a lot of laksa, both Penang laksa and Singapore laksa. Or have I? What I called Singapore laksa doesn't remind me much of the Singapore laksa of my childhood. And it's made in Malaysia (specifically, Klang or Penang).

But last time I was in Geelong I bought another kind, from Prima Taste:

https://www.primataste.com/shop-online/pub/media/catalog/product/cache/10f519365b01716ddb90abc57de5a837/p/r/prima_taste_box_laksa.jpg

It's about time to try it out: I'm going to be in Geelong again on Monday, and I should know whether I want any more.

From recollection, one of the reasons I didn't try it earlier was because of the relatively high price and the small quantity: only two portions instead of the usual 4. But it's there, so today I cooked it.

“In a pot, stir laksa premix into 600 ml water”:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Singapore-laksa-2.jpeg
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“Add laksa paste and mix well”. How do I get the paste out of the sachet? It's so firm that I had to cut the sachet open and scrape it out:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Singapore-laksa-1.jpeg
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And how do I mix the mess? Heat the water. Fortunately the lumps dissolved well in the water when it got hotter. It seems that the white stuff is dried coconut cream. Why did they bother? They could have put the cream in a sachet too.

It also came with another sachet of sambal that was equally lumpy:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Singapore-laksa-4.jpeg
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The result, as following the recipe, was nothing like the photo on the packet:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Singapore-laksa-5.jpeg
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It tasted alright, a little on the pedas side (I didn't find a use for the sambal). Probably the most interesting detail was that it tasted nothing like the curry laksa I have been eating. It's probably the real Singapore laksa. Now to find a better source.


Jousting training day
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

One of the reasons that Chris and Margaret came for dinner yesterday rather than today is that Chris did some jousting training today, and I was asked to come over and take some photos—as it turned, 859 of them, made easier by the high speed shutter mode of the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. How do you filter that many photos? I've left it to Yvonne, and even she will take a couple of days. So far her favourite is:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Jousting-training-day-391-detail.jpeg
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And I went through the list and got about 10% through, gleaning these photos:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/Jousting-training-day-22.jpeg
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Many DxOs
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Processing the photos was a challenge. With the house photos, the photos of the laksa preparation and my analemma project, I took a total of 957 photos. DxO PhotoLab is not the fastest image processor on the market—in fact, it's quite possibly the slowest—and in general I can reckon with 5 images per minute. That's a good 3 hours for that many photos. OK, spread them across two computers and it'll be a little better.

But how? DxO is not only slow, it tends to get slower with lots of images. After startup it can take up to 5 minutes to react to user input while it goes and looks at images with which it has nothing to do. In the end, gave up with euroa (the laptop) and continued only with dischord. But every time I tried to “export” some images, I was presented with a dialogue window asking what to do with the pre-existing output files.

Where did they come from? Not from dischord, which was just trying to “export”. And I had stopped DxO on euroa. Or at least, I had tried. After several iterations, found a way to fire up the task manager (euroa runs the same version of Microsoft as dischord, but irritatingly differently), found:

 
https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200222/big/manydxos.png
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Two or three DxOs running in parallel! How did that happen? How does that match the Microsoft “there can only be one” philosophy?


Hung teevee
Topic: technology Link here

While watching the news on teevee, the mouse cursor froze.

Bloody mice! Off to change the batteries, though they seemed OK. No change. No problems accessing teevee from the net, which showed nothing in the logs.

Broken web browser? That seems the next most likely reason. And sure enough, both firefox and Chrome were immortal. ps showed:

=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/15) ~ 52 -> ps alx | grep chrome
1004  2370     1   0  20  0  654304  80332 ctl.api_ DE   v0       7:50.87 chrome: --type=gpu-process --field-trial-handle=14865618314097472987,5793152138677131776,131072 --gpu-preferences=
=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/15) ~ 53 -> ps alx | grep firefox
1004  2361  1227   0  20  0 3549544 652680 -        T    v0       6:32.33 firefox
1004  2367  2361   0  20  0 2769620 299660 ctl.api_ DE   v0       1:14.21 [firefox]
1004  2736  2361   0  20  0 2765036 308296 ctl.api_ DE   v0       1:50.25 [firefox]
1004  3257  2361   0  20  0 3025732 249848 ctl.api_ DE   v0       4:11.22 [firefox]
=== root@teevee (/dev/pts/15) ~ 54 -> ps alx | grep X
   0  1109  1108   0  20  0 6389308  16336 os.lock_ D    v0      19:03.30 /usr/local/bin/X :0 -listen tcp -auth /home/grog/.serverauth.1085 (Xorg)

What are those wait channels? ctl.api_? os_lock_? But clearly something is misbehaving: there was no disk activity, but the processes were in a D state (with an E showing that they were trying to exit). Was this a deadlock? I should have taken a kernel dump, of course, but today really wasn't the day. I was so busy with photos that I didn't even manage to finish yesterday's diary. Reboot and the problem was gone (into hiding).


Sunday, 23 February 2020 Dereel Images for 23 February 2020
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More PV problems
Topic: Stones Road house, general, opinion Link here

I usually have a window on my :0.0 display that shows the current state of my photovoltaic system. Looking at it this morning was surprising:


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I'm generating more power (2014 W) than I'm consuming (1880 W), so the rest goes into the battery (currently 60%). But it's also charging from the grid (1140 W)! Why? It should only charge below SOCgrid, which should be set to 40%. Are my settings wrong? Yes:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200223/big/PV-2.png
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Yes, SOCgrid is 40%, but maximum charging power is 0 W. In other words, charging from the grid is disabled. Could it be that 0 W has a special significance, one which INGEteam has been too polite to mention? Let's check the other things first. What happens if I disconnect the grid (turn the “main switch” off)?


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That's as was to be expected. But when I turned the power back on again, it continued charging from the grid. OK, power cycle the inverter, involving multiple switches. And when it came back, it continued to charge from the grid.

It took a while for it to dawn on me: the inverter was doing a battery recalibration, another thing that it's too polite to mention. It had started round 8:50 for no apparent reason (the state of charge was already increasing, and the PV array was gradually ramping up):


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200223/big/PV-7.png
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The result? Loss of perfectly good solar power. Today was one of those days when the sun shone all day long, like yesterday. But yesterday we generated 45 kWh, and today it was only 33 kWh. Why did the inverter start the calibration at that time? Why not at sunset? At least it only went through one cycle this time, and things were over by early afternoon.


Death in the age of Internet
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

A while back I received notification of the death of Bruce D. Evans, one of the more noteworthy members of the FreeBSD project. Sad, of course, but particularly so in Bruce's case. Like most members of the project, I didn't see much of him, though he lived in Australia. Here he is with us (in the light blue shirt) at a meeting in Sydney


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It's difficult to understand Bruce's importance to the project. He was something like a conscience, not criticizing but reminding and discussing in excruciating detail. Submit a patch to Bruce for review and you were liable to get back a dozen nits that you hadn't thought of. And he was always right! It didn't take people long to come up with the word “brucifiction”. There's more detail on the FreeBSD In Memoriam page.

And then I received a very different obituary: J.A.I.M Schuurs, an eBay seller from whom I bought a large number of CDs between 2001 and 2008, and with whom I had some correspondence. Somebody (presumably looking through her old email) must have discovered that, and they informed me that she had died on 20 December 2019. Again, sad to see her go, but somehow it's also a sign of the times that I get an obituary for an eBay seller whom I have never met.


Monday, 24 February 2020 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 24 February 2020
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Garden flowers in late summer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Summer's nearly over, though you wouldn't know it. Time for the monthly garden photos. The strangest thing is how unusual this summer has been. While further north and east there have been record droughts and bushfires, here it has been comparatively cool and wet. For the first time I can remember the grass is green at the end of summer. Here a comparison from a couple of days ago and the same time last year:


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I've been spending a lot of time attending to irrigation and fertilization, and it may have paid off. Some of the plants that seemed to be dying have now stabilized, such as this rosemary bush and the Coleonema pulchellum:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200224/big/Rosemary.jpeg
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Clearly most of the rosemary is dead, but the part that's alive is now flowering. Hopefully it will recover.

Other things that seem to be doing well are the Box Elder and the birch:


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The Box Elder is still tiny, but the autumn look is gone from its leaves, as it was from the birch. And we even have another volunteer birch on the other side of the house:


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The pepper tree that we transplanted a couple of months ago continues to improve:


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And the Paulownia kawakamii, though not enormous, is at least looking healthy:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200224/big/Paulownia-kawakamii.jpeg
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And the curry tree now looks almost normal:


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The Hibiscus rosa-sinensis “Uncle Max” that I planted outside is now looking much better than in the spring:


https://lemis.nyc3.digitaloceanspaces.com/grog/Photos/20200224/big/Hibiscus-rosa-sinensis-2.jpeg
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Hopefully it won't suffer as much in the coming winter.

One herb I certainly don't need to worry about is the Epazote. It has completely taken over the herb garden, and I probably now have enough of it for the rest of my life:


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Looking at the way it's seeding, though, I don't think I've seen the last of it. It has completely taken over the thyme next to it:


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On the other hand, there are still causes for concern. My last Buddleja suddenly looks sick again:


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I've been trying for nearly 5 years to build a hedge of the things, based on their behaviour in Kleins Road: plant a twig and watch it grow. But here it seems a real problem. Out and spread about 1 kg of fertilizer in the area, in the process noting:


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Why are there those brown patches under the bush? They're nowhere else. Is that an indication of some soil problem, or the Buddleja drying out the soil? The second photo might suggest that: the irrigation repairs that I made three weeks ago don't seem to have been very reliable. OK, fix that, water in, hope that the thing survives.

And then there are strangenesses like this Persicaria odorata (daun laksa, Vietnamese mint, ...):


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It's not dead, but why has it died out in the middle? Again, it's a thing that normally grows like a weed.

There's a rather different issue in play with this Pelargonium:


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Clearly it needs trimming back, but how? Would it be easier to replant some cuttings?

Then there are some volunteers, such as these:


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What are they? They look like they could be Mirabilis jalapa or Valerian, both of which self-seed furiously. I hope they're the former.

And I've noted this one before:


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It looks like some kind of Solanum, and I can't make up my mind whether I like it. The flowers point down, so there's not much to be seen. But for this year, there's nothing to replace it.

The Strelitzia nicolai hasn't quite finished flowering:


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But the tomatoes are still waiting. They're growing well, but nearly all the fruit are still green:


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This time last year we had been harvesting them for weeks.


To Geelong again
Topic: health, food and drink, opinion Link here

To Geelong today for my six-monthly periodontal checkup, which was uneventful.

Then to Belmont to the Gourmet Asian Grocery (which, as occurred to me, can be abbreviated “GAG”). In the past I have spent a lot of money there, but today there was little to be had. I no longer need the Chung Hing dofu puffs, since they're now available in Ballarat. The same may apply to pork and fish balls, but I had planned to buy some here anyway—only they were out of stock. So I ended up only with some curry laksa paste, not as much as I had planned, but as much as they had, and some prawn paste.

Then looking for cheese. It's not easy in Australia: you can buy dozens of varieties of Cheddar and “Tasty”, but try finding a Swiss cheese. Gruyère is available, but you have to be careful that it's really Gruyère and not some copy made in Tasmania. I suppose that the same applies to Emmental, but I wasn't looking for that.

A search on Google led me to Geelong Fresh Foods, a “Gormet food store based in Geelong”, so found my way there and took a look.


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This is their complete cheese section:


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Yes, they had a superbe Gruyère, which didn't look too bad, so I took some. But that was the lot. The blank stare that I got when I asked for Appenzeller was enough. It's a pity, because the place looked good—strange that I didn't take any photos—but it's not a place to look for unusual ingredients. I suppose the next thing is to investigate online sales. It seems that some send cheese in ice packs with overnight delivery, which might be worth the effort.


This page contains (roughly) yesterday's and today's entries. I have a horror of reverse chronological documents, so all my diary entries are chronological. This page normally contains the last two days, but if I fall behind it may contain more. You can find older entries in the archive. Note that I often update a diary entry a day or two after I write it.     Do you have a comment about something I have written? This is a diary, not a “blog”, and there is deliberately no provision for directly adding comments. It's also not a vehicle for third-party content. But I welcome feedback and try to reply to all messages I receive. See the diary overview for more details. If you do send me a message relating to something I have written, please indicate whether you'd prefer me not to mention your name. Otherwise I'll assume that it's OK to do so.


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