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April 2015
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Wednesday, 1 April 2015 Dereel Images for 1 April 2015
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Where's my septic permit?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

One of the things that we need for the Occupancy Permit for the house is a Certificate to Use for the septic tank system. I had thought that Mari had supplied that, but after searching and not finding it, called up the Shire Council and got voice mail. A few hours later there was still no call back, so I called again. And Barb told me that they had sent me an email 3 weeks ago. After a bit of searching, found it, classified as spam. They want the electrical connections finished, an alarm is needed to the pump well, and the ORG needs to be completed also. What's an ORG? She didn't know either.

Call to Mari failed because he was out of range and didn't have voice mail. Tried again a couple of hours later and discovered that the alarm should be installed by the electrician—Mari is not authorized to install it. The ORG is an Overflow Release Gully, and that should be completed by the house plumbers, normally at final fit. It requires a finishing collar and grate, which is presumably what is already there. Here a photo from 27 February and today:


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And then they noted that somebody had driven over the soakage lines, and left deep imprints. They suggest that I check that the drain hasn't been damaged, and provide some sort of barrier to prevent it happening in future. And they want photos. Damn! This is beginning to look like lots of unnecessary work.


More house issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the house in the afternoon, mainly to check on the septic tank. While there, noted more door damage:


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The first (left side) is the replacement for the damaged rear garage door. They had placed it next to the damaged door, which is still flapping in the wind, so it hit this door and damaged it. They're really doing well.

The second is the top frame for the front door. Looks like another replacement, since the wood needs to be left untreated.

Apart from that, there was little to see. As planned, Jim Lannen wasn't there, but it seems that he hadn't been there yesterday afternoon either. We now have power points and holes in the walls and ceilings for the network connectors and lamps respectively. No connections in the shed, without which half the circuits won't work, and nothing for the power distribution box. I don't know how he intends to be finished tomorrow.


Planned power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this afternoon at 12:40, lasting 75 minutes. This one was different: it was planned, and we had been given over a week's notice, so I connected up our emergency generator and carried on running at least eureka normally. When Yvonne came back with pies, I dragged a microwave oven to the generator and warmed them up there. Hopefully this is the last time; in the new house we'll still need the generator for longer outages, but it won't be such a pain.


Thursday, 2 April 2015 Dereel Images for 2 April 2015
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Where are my electricians?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the site this morning with Terry Breen to consider how he could help us. We hadn't really planned to do any real work yet, but in the end he concreted in the post for the letter box:


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But where was Jim Lannen? He was supposed to finish the electrical installation today. And at 11:00 there was no sign of him. It's also clear that even if he had arrived, he wouldn't have been able to finish: two power distribution boards, TV antenna, all network termination and lights still to be done. In fact, all they had done was most of the power points.


We want our /24 back
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Decades ago I was allocated a Class C network by unido, the University of Dortmund (this was before the opening up of the Internet and the advent of ISPs):

inetnum:        192.109.197.0 - 192.109.197.255
descr:          LEMIS Lehey Microcomputer Systems
descr:          D-W-6324 Feldatal
descr:          Germany
changed:        ar@deins.Informatik.Uni-Dortmund.DE 19920521
changed:        heinen@maz.net 19950723
changed:        lillge@maz.net 19951010
changed:        ripe-dbm@ripe.net 19990706
changed:        ripe-dbm@ripe.net 20000225
changed:        ripe@denic.de 20030625
changed:        hostmaster@ripe.net 20120524
changed:        hostmaster@nexinto.com 20140616

Today I got a message from Tranquil Hosting, who run the RootBSD server that is www.lemis.com. RIPE had sent me a message a month ago—to the last known address, grog@lemis.de, saying that they're recycling the address range, and do I still want it? Of course I didn't get the message.

But it's a good question. There are several considerations: is it even a good idea nowadays to have all IP addresses visible on the net? It just makes firewall tuning more complicated, and unless you really need to contact it from outside, NAT is a better option. And then there's IPv6. But yes, I want to keep the address block, mainly because it's so old that it's of historical interest. So now I have to go through a re-registration, which so far doesn't look that difficult.

They're certainly not giving up, though. In the evening got a phone call from Laurens Hoogendoorn of RIPE , asking the same question. It's funny that it has suddenly become that urgent. Tranquil are a RIPE LIR, a TLA which RIPE keeps very close to their chest, but which Peter Jeremy tells me means “Local Internet Registry”, so they can do the necessary “paper”work.


Sourdough starter dynamics
Topic: food and drink Link here

Years ago I established that sourdough starters keep for a long time. I've been puzzled by the weights of the starters: I reserve 144 g of the previous mix for the next time, but when I use it, I get round 133 g. Some of that is due to the fact that I can't get every last bit of the paste into the new starter. But somehow I have wondered whether the starter doesn't lose weight (as CO₂) while in storage.

Today I started a loaf with a starter made on 28 February 2015. I had written the gross weight of the container on the label: 159.8 g. And now it weighed 157.6 g. A loss of 2.1 g. Is that possible? Looking at the presumed reaction converting a hexose to CO₂ and ethanol, we have:

C₆H₁₂O₆  → 2CO₂ + 2C₂H₅OH

The molecular weight of a hexose is roughly 12×6 + 12 + 16×6, or 180, as every diabetic should know. The molecular weight of CO₂ is 44. So for every 44 g of CO₂ I need 90 g of hexose, in this case 4.3 g. And this from a total weight of flour before fermentation of 64 g. Does that much really ferment in the fridge?


Friday, 3 April 2015 Dereel Images for 3 April 2015
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First ride on Bahlo property
Topic: Stones Road house, animals, general Link here

Chris Bahlo's shed is (almost) finished. Much of it doubles as an indoor arena, and today Yvonne and Chris went over to try it out. The horses took some time to get used to the idea:


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Bahlo house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While there, took a look at Chris' house. They've finished the remodeling of the lounge room, they've removed the fence, and they've tidied up the ground:


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That might represent the point where Chris' house overtakes ours.


Fermentation: water loss?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Peter Jeremy commented on yesterday's consideration of weight loss in sourdough starters. First, he observed that the sugars in the dough are starch (polymers of maltose), and they first need to be converted into a hexose (in this case glucose). Yes, correct, and that changes the calculations a little bit. Maltose has the molecular weight 342, and each molecule generates two molecules of glucose (MW 180) when hydrolysed. So my 4.3 g glucose correspond to 4.1 g of maltose or starch.

The other, more significant question is: was there evaporation in this time? I don't know, but it's easy enough to find out. I've put a similar container in the fridge with just water. Let's see how that fares.


Leg of lamb sous vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

It's Easter or Pesach, or at any rate an excuse to eat more than normal, and of course it has to be lamb. Yvonne bought the biggest leg I have ever seen. I said that last time, but this one is even bigger: boned, it still weighs nearly 2 kg. How long do you roast that for? Do you roast it? How about sous vide?

More investigations. Last time I commented on a roast leg, I specified a temperature of 63°, which seems too high now, and indeed I found that it was overcooked. Ended up deciding on 56°, I think; once you have started this brain-dead sous-vide cooker, there's no way to find what you set, and the actual displayed temperature is a couple of degrees lower.

And how long? Codlo suggests 24 to 48 hours for meat 3 cm thick. This is at least 10 cm thick, but I don't believe them, and I'm sure that 24 hours will be more than long enough.

And what preparations? I couldn't find any mention of anything similar. In the end put some garlic, rosemary and a little thyme into the bag:


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Exceptionally, I also put some salt in. Salt tends to dry out the meat, but that's not the case when the moisture has nowhere to go. We'll find out tomorrow what it tastes like.


Trusting exposure meters
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took the photo of the leg of lamb with my (manual) ring flash, so I needed a light meter reading. And the result was unacceptably overexposed, by over 3 EV. Why? I've had something like this before, but in that case it was underexposed. A bit of playing showed the problem this time: the “Lumisphere” (diffuser for incident light) was slightly off-centre. Yet another thing to keep an eye on.


Nickel Zinc batteries: summary
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been using Nickel-Zinc batteries for years, and I've been keeping records of charge voltages for over two years. Time to sum things up?

Firstly, keeping these records is a pain. Clearly I didn't know what I was looking for when I started, but at any rate I now have a better understanding. What I have found is that a set of batteries seldom discharges evenly. Today, for example, the ring flash ran out of power. 3 batteries almost completely charged, the fourth had only round 1 V.

On the face of it, that's a reason enough to throw away that battery. And maybe I should have. But I recently got a higher-quality charger, so I'll recharge all the batteries. Then if one should fail like this, I'll throw it out. I see no need any more to keep such stringent records.

The other corollary: NiZn is not as reliable as NiMH. I had expected that, but it does mean that for most applications, NiMH is still the way to go.


Saturday, 4 April 2015 Dereel Images for 4 April 2015
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Mobile phones for geriatrics
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A quarter of a century ago I made two choices unusual at the time: I installed a computer with a 20" high-resolution display (1024×768), running Unix and X of course, while my colleagues used text-based Microsoft machines with 14" 640×480 displays. And I bought a mobile phone. I was one of the first people I know to use a mobile phone, and others considered me a little strange for it.

How times have changed! Microsoft users have discovered (and destroyed) graphics, and everybody and his dog has a (smart) mobile phone. And I hardly use mobile phones any more. Still, I can't get by completely without one. So when Yvonne found a (very) cheap traditional mobile phone on special at ALDI (only $17.99!), it sounded the right thing to get, and we got two of them.

That would have been the end of the matter, except for problems with the phones themselves: they're not quite as dumb as they should be. Yes, they have keyboards rather than smeared glass, but the keys are so small that it's really difficult to use them. And the display is in full colour, and not overly high resolution. In sunlight it's illegible. That's really a problem on the Stones Road building site: inside we have no coverage, outside no visibility. And if that wasn't enough, on Monday we got a phone call from Graham Rees which we couldn't understand at all: it seems that the audio quality is marginal at best.

This week ALDI have a new phone on special. Not nearly as cheap, in fact over 4 times the price. But it has full-sized buttons, and the display is much better:


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That's particularly noticeable with the date, which is much less legible on the small phone. That's not a tradeoff: it's deliberate, to make it look like a 7 segment LED.

The real issue, though, is the keypad. I can use with my fingers, not my fingernails. So we bought a couple, at least to try out. And then I discovered:


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Great for seniors? Sure, I qualify, but do you have to be senile to want a keyboard you can use or a display that (hopefully) is readable in bright sunlight?


Gigot sous vide, part 2
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I cooked the leg of lamb for about 22 hours. At the end, despite 3 attempts to seal it before cooking, the bag had torn. It seems very difficult to seal wet things properly. And it contained gas—from where? It should have been submerged. Did it come from the meat? At the end it looked like this:


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I had intended to let it cool and then grill it to get a bit of a crust on the surface, but I forgot the latter. The result was a lukewarm piece of very tender meat, possibly the best leg of lamb I have ever had:


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But it's still too cooked. Next time I'll do as for beef at 53°.


Still more exposure issues!
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The photos of the gigot in the cooker presented more exposure difficulties. According to the exposure meter, this one should have been correct:


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Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner.

What went wrong there? It was a good 2 EV underexposed. It wasn't the meter—I checked that, and in any case last time the image was overexposed, not underexposed. It can't be the flash unit, since it's completely manual. And the photos of the gigot on the chopping board were correctly exposed according to the exposure meter. Is this maybe a situation where incident light measurement doesn't work correctly?


Sunday, 5 April 2015 Dereel Images for 5 April 2015
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Nikolai refuses walk
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

We walk the dogs twice a day, and now have four possibilities: the “big oak”, the “maneaters”, Kleins' paddock, and the new house. The last is completely fenced in, so once we have chased away any kangaroos, we can let them run. Of the first three, all south of Kleins Road, the dogs prefer Kleins' Paddock, especially since I usually let Nikolai run free.

Today I let him free a little earlier than usual, while still in the forest. By the time he got to Kleins' paddock, he wanted to return!


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He had found the biggest bone I've ever seen, and it's clear that to him, too, size is important. I had to take him straight home so that he could first play with it and then (presumably) eat it.


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Today was Easter day, of course, so he really should have caught a rabbit—something very possible in that area. But the bone looked like a human shin bone. I'm reminded of the old joke “Easter cancelled this year: they found the body”.


Monday, 6 April 2015 Dereel
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Laziness
Topic: general Link here

There's so much to do before we move house, and that could be in as little as 3 weeks. Time to do it. But I didn't. A little bit of filing away documents, and that was about it. I really need to get some work done.


More network problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been keeping records of DHCP traffic for weeks now. They all show the same thing: there's about a 10% chance that a DHCPREQUEST will get a reply. But with the exception of a 25 minute outage a couple of weeks ago, things still worked. All I'm doing is collecting lots of similar data. So today I pulled the plug.

And in the evening, we were suddenly off the net. Why? Who knows? I was browsing the web at the time, so it became immediately apparent. Restarting dhclient got us back on the net. I should investigate the exact protocol, and whether I shouldn't modify dhclient to simply issue a DHCPDISCOVER after, say, 2 failed DHCPREQUESTs.


Tuesday, 7 April 2015 Dereel Images for 7 April 2015
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House construction continues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the building site this morning to see what was going on. Sure enough, they were clearing around the house:


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And the floor tilers (what do you really call them?) were there, preparing the floor. I didn't go in to avoid messing things up, but later I got a call from Duncan Jackson asking me to discuss the laying of the tiles, so over and spoke to Ben. The question was soon resolved, but in the process he pointed out some of the unevennesses in the slab. Here an area about 30 cm square of the surface of the main bedroom:


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He can correct for that, but it seems that there might be waves in the floor which will remain visible.


Car problems again?
Topic: general Link here

On my way to the house site, the car started misfiring. Why? It was quite wet, so it could have been that, but then the (LED) clock started flickering at about 3 Hz. What could cause that? It went away again, but when I tried to start it again after leaving the site, it stalled, and it took me some time to get it started. At first I thought it could be battery terminals, but they were fine. Another mystery problem?


Bank security, still missing
Topic: general, opinion Link here

We're coming close to a soft credit limit on our bridging finance. There's another $40,000 behind the limit, more than enough for our needs, but to get it we need to have the current state of the house evaluated, and that costs money. So: how much money do we have sitting around in other accounts?

I have two accounts with JB Were, so went to look. No go: they have changed the online portal without telling me, in the process changing user IDs and passwords, and told me to contact support to get a new user ID and password.

How I HATE these insecurities! They weren't even prepared to send me the new user ID and password by mail; instead they wanted me to authenticate myself over the phone! In this case they wanted the balance from my last statement, which I suppose is better than the normal brain-dead date of birth and address. But what kind of people think that anything over the phone is in any way secure? And why couldn't they have an online reassignment based on knowledge of the old password?


Preparing a tack room
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Doug Braddy over this afternoon to look at various things that we'll donate to the Men's shed. Took advantage of his presence and took him over to the building site to consider how we could get one of the shipping crates that we had seen last month into the shed. Not easy, it seems. He's considering the alternative of building a room from scratch.

While there, took another look at the flooring. We now have some tiles on the floor:


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I don't know whether that's final, or just a mock-up.


Batteries for cordless drills
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One of the things that I could give to the Men's shed is any number of old cordless drills. They probably all work, but the batteries have died. Doug tells me that he can't find a replacement battery pack for under $90. That seemed excessive, so took apart one of the packs:


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The batteries are Nickel-Cadmium, 1.2 V, in this case 12 of them. The form factor is something I haven't seen before, Sub-C, and they're rated at only 1 Ah. On eBay I can find a set of 12 batteries with that rating, but they're “½ AA”. They cost round $12 from ihongkongstore. And they also have cells with the the correct physical dimensions, but with 1.8 Ah, for $20 for a set of 10.

So: it could be worthwhile, but it seems that the men's shed people aren't game to recharge battery packs themselves, so I've offered to come and show them how to do it. Probably the more interesting ones will be the 18 V packs, which will require 15 cells, so 3 sets of 10 could do two packs.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015 Dereel Images for 8 April 2015
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RIP Christopher Yeoh
Topic: general, history, opinion Link here

One of the unfortunate side effects of growing older is that friends and relatives die. We've been relatively lucky in that respect—since my father died six years ago, we haven't heard of anybody else. But over the last couple of days we heard of another, and this morning Chris Yeoh, my colleague from OzLabs, died of cancer.

That's sad for a number of reasons. I'm almost sadder about his passing than that of my father, who was old (86) and feeble. Chris wasn't even half that age when he died, only 41. I've known him for a third of his life. Words fail me.


Mirabilis
Topic: gardening Link here

Some years ago I bought a couple of Mirabilis jalapa, one red, one yellow. They grow from tubers and die back in the winter, and a couple of times I lost them. This year I only found the yellow one. But today I found, on the compost heap:


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It's all the more surprising because the yellow one has already finished blooming and is losing its leaves.


What's that bassoon?
Topic: music Link here

Call from Richard Craig in Adelaide today. He's restoring a couple of bassoons: one by Buffet-Crampon and one by Morton of London.

I didn't recall the name Morton, but Richard told me that he built the Contrabassophone. That's true, up to a point, but he didn't invent it. It seems, in passing, that there's an example of a contrabassophone in Adelaide; I wish I had known that earlier. But a bit of searching shows him restoring it:

Richard wanted some way of dating the instruments. One indication on the Buffet could be the serial number. Tried comparing with the one on my instrument, but I couldn't read it. Tried a 1:1 macro shot (thus also using my extension tubes for one of the very few times), and it's clear why I couldn't read it:


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My best guess is that that's 3153. That's a surprisingly low number; my Heckel dates from about 1892, and has the serial number 3620. I don't think the Buffet is that old. The Buffet serial number is interesting for two reasons: firstly, it was stamped so badly, and secondly it was in a completely different place from where Richard found his, bareley visible in this photo:

 
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I make that 5408, but it, too, is badly stamped. In any case, after seeing the photos of the instrument, it's fairly clear that it's much more recent. Richard had heard something about the 1950s, and that's very possible.


Thursday, 9 April 2015 Dereel Images for 9 April 2015
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Bahlo house progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Chris Bahlo's site this morning to deliver a generator. They're laying the stormwater, something that JG King required done right at the start of construction:


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Things did all go smoothly:


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Electricians?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Yvonne over to the property today to take a look at the septic tank soakage and prevent any further idiots from driving over it:


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What didn't she find? The electricians! They were supposed to be finished on 27 March 2015. Jim had forgotten the first appointment, and promised to have it finished by the end of next week. But that didn't happen either, and so now it's supposed to be the end of this week. How can that happen if he doesn't show?

Over a bit later in the day and found his apprentice, who told me that Jim had been there at 8:30, but had been off to get some stuff. That's possible; when we went back with the dogs later in the afternoon, he was there, and he's still promising to have things finished by tomorrow. I'll believe it when I see it. At least he has started installing the stuff for the septic tank:


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I was interested to see what kind of patch panel he'd install for the network switch in the pantry. I wasn't quite expecting him to terminate the 9 cables like this:


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I wonder which one he missed.


Map software with photos
Topic: technology, opinion, photography Link here

One of the Coursera courses I'm doing is Maps and the Geospatial Revolution. I'm just getting in to it now; it's not quite the format of the normal Coursera course, and I'm still not convinced I like it. But it has shown some interesting stuff, including ArcGIS, which offers free interactive mapping services. Yes, Google Maps does that too, but this one looks like it could be much more flexible. In particular, it offers easy ways of adding images to maps. One of the exercises for the week including creating a sample map, starting with somewhere in the USA. I suspect I have created the only map connecting Bastrop, TX with Jerusalem (look for the green pin). That's what you get when your photo collection is incomplete.


Friday, 10 April 2015 Dereel Images for 10 April 2015
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Completing the electrics
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

As promised, Jim Lannen was on site all day today, up until quite late, and lots of things happened. We now have a TV antenna:


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He has also installed the alarm on the septic system:


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What an ugly device! And that right next to the house. Why do authorities come up with this nonsense?

Less immediately visible was the fact that we were short by one light fitting. But I had noticed something that wasn't on the plan: his apprentice had installed a lamp where a smoke detector should have gone. That was easy enough to remove, but it looks like some cosmetics need to be done:


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Apart from that, the switchboard in the garage got installed, and all the light fittings are in place—but not the globes which, it seems, I should supply. I did find 17 globes, but we need closer to 50, so Jim will supply the rest.

They also did some of the wiring for the UPS in the shed. Unfortunately I hadn't noticed that the input power cable had a 15A plug on it (they look almost identical to the Australian 10A plug), so it looks as if we'll have to change that.

What remains to be done? Apart from the globes, there are still no dimmers in the lounge and dining rooms, one Ethernet connection is missing in the pantry, and the air conditioning still needs to be done. Jim tells me he'll continue tomorrow and get things finished.


Preparing for bore pump
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I've been dragging my feet on the bore. We don't really need the water yet, but we do need a fire-fighting water tank (non-flammable, exactly 10,000 litres), and that will be filled from the pump. Called up UPI and spoke to Linda, who told me that she would have to get Nick to call me back. She then proceeded to ask a surprising number of questions, including the flow rate of the bore and the depth at which the pump should be located. I recall this from last time: the pump was to be located 5 metres above the bottom of the bore, and the flow rate (which I didn't mention at the time, but I recall to be 1,800 l/hour). But no, Linda said Murrays should have supplied the information. They didn't, so I called Gary up and asked him. Yes, bore pump 5 m above the bottom of the bore (43 and 48 m respectively), and the thing was rated at 1,000 gallons an hour, which I interpret as 4,500 l/hour. That's much more than the old pump. Does that say anything good about the new bore?


Saturday, 11 April 2015 Dereel Images for 11 April 2015
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Last autumn in Kleins Road
Topic: gardening, photography, opinion Link here

Autumn is on its way again:


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I don't suppose I'll ever take a photo like that again. All the more irritating that I can't find a way to straighten the beams.


Electrics: done!
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Over to the site in the morning to take my house photos, and of course Jim wasn't there. But he called later from the site to say that he couldn't get globes at competitive rates, and still later I went over and took a look. On the face of it, everything is done, though I still need to check that it's done correctly. At least he was able to demonstrate TV signal strength, with a device that showed all channels side by side. With the exception of (of course) SBS they show full strength (whatever that means on this device). SBS was 60%, which he says will also yield perfect reception. Hopefully he's right. And the National Broadband Network NTD connected with no difficulties, though I still need to connect a computer to it.

Connected up the UPS, which supplies four circuits. Once I worked out how to turn it on (it displays status even when turned off, and just pressing the “On” button doesn't do it), things worked fine. About the only issue is the extreme noise the thing makes. I hope that's only during battery charge.


Sunday, 12 April 2015 Dereel Images for 12 April 2015
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More Android pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been offered some cheap books in EPUB format, not something I've used before. How do I read them? Presumably the modern way is with a tablet or (shudder) a mobile phone. Is that even going to work for me? At the very least I should try things out before investing in even a small amount of money.

Spent some time investigating what readers were available. Google have their own reader, so tried installing that. Choice of installation medium: “Browser” (inbuilt) or Chrome. I've had difficulties with Chrome—missing functionality, which surprised me. So I chose “Browser” and was greeted with the message:

 
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What? This is part of the base system. Why isn't it updated? It seems that it's really been removed from the inventory. It works fine with my home page, but the toyshop refuses to talk to it. And I made the mistake of telling it to always use this browser, so now I can't do anything.

Still, it did offer me the choice of going back to the toyshop. But it took me to the home page! So I had to do the search All Over Again. Finally I was offered the usual randomly sorted list of apps. The first one was called Rabbit, I think—I can't go back and check, because each attempt changes the random sequence. Installed. No documentation, of course, but the icons are intuitive, at least for most of the people who developed it. Messed around, was offered lots of free books to try. But all attempts to access any of them completed with “Error 404”. Did I say how much I love Android?

Went looking for a different app, and recognized a name I had seen before, Aldiko. Tried that, and though it seems strange, it also seems to work, at least with plain text books like Grimm's Children's and Household Tales. I still have my doubts whether it can correctly render documents with large images.

Why am I having such difficulty with Android? My tablet, it seems, is ancient, over 18 months old, running an antediluvian Android 4.1.2. What do non-technical people do when they run into problems like this? Possibly what the manufacturers want: they go out and buy a new device.


The legendary beard
Topic: general, technology Link here

Eleven years ago I sold my beard on eBay:


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The buyer was Christopher Yeoh, now sadly deceased. On the OzLabs mailing list, people were collecting memontos of Chris' life, and came up with a series of photos of him cutting Tridge's hair for him (which I can't currently show until I have permission). Also a recent photo of what happened to my beard:


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It seems that a legend has developed about the sanitary condition of the beard, probably from the disclaimer in the eBay auction:

While the item is in clean condition and free of obvious parasites, it has not been sterilized.

But wait! There's more! I showed the photo to Yvonne, who didn't recognize anything. All the stickers are of later date, but she didn't even recognize her own handwriting. But she did say “Wait, I have another one”. Into her office, and came out with this:


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It is in fact older than the one I sold, and it appears bigger. Why did I shave it off? In honour of the people who died in the September 11 attacks? No mention in my diary.

Should I sell it too? I think the days for that kind of fun are over.


More sourdough starter weight loss
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Baking bread again today, and once again compared the weight of the starter. When I put it in the fridge a month ago, it weighed 160.3 g. Today it weighed 158.2 g, a loss of 2.1 g—exactly what I measured last week. I'm putting in a container of water with each of these starters, so in a few more weeks I'll have a better comparison.


¼ terabyte traffic!
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

We've been downloading a lot of videos lately, to the point where I pretty much maxed out my 250 GB allowance:

Total Used      29449.08 MB     217771.53 MB
Used Combined   247220.61 MB

That's an average data rate 0f 770 kb/s.

When I started using the Internet in March 1992, I had a 9600 bps connection costing DM 0,45 per kilobyte. To transfer 250 GB would have taken about 8¼ years and would have cost DM 1,125,00,000, assuming the prices didn't change in that time. In fact, 8¼ years later my price was down to AUD 0.19 per megabyte, and my speed was up to 56 kB/s, so the values would have changed to 1⅛ years and $47,500. How times change!


Monday, 13 April 2015 Dereel Images for 13 April 2015
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Completing earthworks
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

One timing problem with the house was the earthworks outside: Warrick Pitcher was booked out until at least the beginning of next week. Rather to our surprise, he called yesterday and said that he had had a cancellation, and that he would be on site at 8:30 this morning. I was just getting out of the shower when Yvonne came and told me that he had called, and that he would be there at 7:30, just giving me time to get dressed and go over there:


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Spent some time discussing drainage, and then he set to to distributing the soil:


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Also a talk with Felicity Sodomaco of the Golden Plains Shire, who told me she just wanted to see some photos of the septic tank as it is now, and she would issue the permit. That was easier than I expected:


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Gradually we're getting there.


Android space WYSIWYG
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday's rant about Android included screen shots. I use AirDroid to download the files, since there seems to be no way to use NFS in Android. It presents a web server with lots of icons, tree-climbing, and truncated file names: in short, a real Android app:


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The only thing it does right is to sort the files in chronological order (probably because the date is encoded in the file name), but of course the distinction of the individual file names goes beyond the attention span of the display. Once on a real computer, the files look like this:

-rw-r-----  1 grog  wheel    297,339 21 Mar 14:05 /var/tmp/Screenshot_2015-03-20-14-07-16.png
-rw-r-----  1 grog  wheel  1,155,410 21 Mar 14:05 /var/tmp/Screenshot_2015-03-20-14-07-31.png
-rw-r-----  1 grog  wheel    385,489 21 Mar 14:04 /var/tmp/Screenshot_2015-03-20-14-09-52.png

But the modern way is not to tax the user's attention span, so what you get is:

 
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I could run the cursor over the icons to get the correct names, but what a pain! They're all old files, and the only reason they're there at all is because it's so difficult to delete files on Android. But clearly it was time, so I marked all the ones I could see (all old) and tried to delete them:

 
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Are you sure you want to delete these 12 (of 8) files? Can't it count? It seems that the display manager got things confused and didn't even display everything that would fit on the screen. What a pain!


Tuesday, 14 April 2015 Dereel Images for 14 April 2015
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Completing the earthworks
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Warrick Pitcher continued his earthworks today, and by the evening the place was transformed:


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We put the remaining earth in the south-east corner, where it will form the base of a somewhat elevated riding arena:


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Later CJ came over, and he and Yvonne did some planning for fences, which should go in next week.


Networking in Stones Road
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

We've had a network connection in Stones Road for months. Now that we also have electricity, I can actually use it, at least to monitor the DHCP traffic. So I put that in place yesterday, and took a look today.

The first thing that hit me was the traffic:

Date            Upload    Download
14-04-2015      47.98 MB  30.91 MB

Nearly 80 MB of traffic before 11 am! What's that? Another tcpdump showed:

10:41:58.819145 IP 216.253.237.222.46828 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [P.], seq 454:554, ack 1800, win 257, options [nop,nop,TS val 133973475 ecr 1803152512], length 100
10:41:58.824552 IP 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh > 216.253.237.222.46828: Flags [P.], seq 1800:1900, ack 554, win 1026, options [nop,nop,TS val 1803152711 ecr 133973475], length 100
10:41:59.019151 IP 216.253.237.222.46828 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [P.], seq 554:606, ack 1900, win 257, options [nop,nop,TS val 133973525 ecr 1803152711], length 52
10:41:59.022483 IP 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh > 216.253.237.222.46828: Flags [P.], seq 1900:1968, ack 606, win 1026, options [nop,nop,TS val 1803152909 ecr 133973525], length 68
10:41:59.219227 IP 216.253.237.222.46828 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [P.], seq 606:658, ack 1968, win 257, options [nop,nop,TS val 133973575 ecr 1803152909], length 52
10:41:59.219285 IP 216.253.237.222.46828 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [R.], seq 658, ack 1968, win 257, options [nop,nop,TS val 133973575 ecr 1803152909], length 0
10:41:59.219295 IP 216.253.237.222.48231 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [S], seq 2043810350, win 29200, options [mss 1380,sackOK,TS val 133973575 ecr 0,nop,wscale 7], length 0
10:41:59.219336 IP 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh > 216.253.237.222.48231: Flags [S.], seq 2208584005, ack 2043810351, win 65535, options [mss 1380,nop,wscale 6,sackOK,TS val 3927223463 ecr 133973575], length 0
10:41:59.409204 IP 216.253.237.222.48231 > 180-150-4-222.NBN.ballarat.aussiebb.net.ssh: Flags [.], ack 1, win 229, options [nop,nop,TS val 133973623 ecr 3927223463], length 0

What's that? How could this system (located, apparently, in Taiwan) access me via ssh? The system is old and misconfigured, and I can't even connect with ssh myself. But the last packet gives the lie: that's a new connection attempt. It's not connecting at all, but it's also not taking no for an answer. And these connection attempts are causing the traffic. /var/log/auth.log showed continuous series of:

Apr 14 10:41:58 eucla sshd[76175]: in openpam_dispatch(): pam_nologin.so: no pam_sm_authenticate()
Apr 14 10:41:58 eucla sshd[76175]: in openpam_check_error_code(): pam_sm_authenticate(): unexpected return value 4
Apr 14 10:41:59 eucla sshd[76173]: error: PAM: system error for root from 216.253.237.222
Apr 14 10:41:59 eucla sshd[76173]: Received disconnect from 216.253.237.222: 11: Bye Bye [preauth]

Stopped sshd and things returned to normal. But this begs the question: although I have a registered Class C network, I'm currently running it behind NAT. What happens if I come out of the closet? How do I fight off this kind of attack? Sure, I can create some fancy firewall rules (fancy because I want to let some traffic in), but that won't stop the traffic caused by brute force attacks.

And the DHCP traffic? Surprise, surprise, everything works well, with the exception of receiving two ACK packets from the same server to every DHCPREQUEST packet. We've seen that before too. Whatever my problems were in Kleins Road, they're not general. It'll be interesting to see whether this link will be more reliable.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015 Dereel Images for 15 April 2015
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Stones Road off the net
Topic: technology, Stones Road house Link here

It's rather fun to be able to access the Stones Road house via the Internet. But when I tried today, there was no connection. Over to take a look, and discovered that the RCD for normal mains power had tripped. The UPS was still—barely—holding out, but I had connected the laptop to an unprotected power point.

Re-enabling the RCD worked, and for the rest of the day it continued that way. But why did we trip? The only load on the mains circuit is the UPS. Does it lose that much current?


Garden flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

It's the middle of the month, also middle of autumn, time for my monthly flower photos, probably the last one. And there's not very much of interest to note. On the other hand, I note that I didn't find much last year either. About the only thing of interest are out-of-season plants, not the first time we've seen them in autumn, such as this Camellia and Cyclamen, both of which should flower in spring:


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Bloody Nikolai!
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

In preparation for going walking this morning, Yvonne put a harness on Nikolai and came back with blood on her hands. Further investigation showed:


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How did that happen? We suspect Leonid.


Verandah in autumn, rectilinear
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

A few days ago I tried in vain to create a rectilinear panorama of the east side of the verandah:


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By rights, a “rectilinear” projection is the obvious choice, but that just produced nonsense:


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Did it have something to do with the fact that the photos were taken with a fisheye lens? Today the weather was similar, so I took the same view with my Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 and tried again. Sure enough, rectilinear projection produced the desired results:


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That's really stretching the limits of rectilinear projection, though. Go any further and you get extreme distortion at the edges:


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So why didn't it work with the fisheye lens? My guess is a bug or limitation in Hugin.

In passing, it's interesting to note the amount of flare with the 9-18 mm lens. The fisheye looked much cleaner.


Grog from the past
Topic: photography, opinion, technology Link here

Mail from Sanjeev Gupta today, wanting to “link” on LinkedIn. I get an amazing number of link requests from people I don't know, but my memory isn't always accurate, so I ask people who want to link with me to remind me who they are. Almost nobody does. So far the only one has been Ahmad bin Mahmuddin in Kuala Lumpur, and now Sanjeev in Singapore, though I have no difficulty recalling him. He even sent a photo I haven't seen before, which I think must have been taken about 14 years ago:


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How times change. It's not just the memories that are fading.


Planning the garden
Topic: Stones Road house, gardening, opinion Link here

Yesterday Yvonne went over to the building site with CJ and planned fences and things—unfortunately incompletely. In the end we had to go again today and re-measure things. But we're getting closer. It looks as if there's still a lot of work to do immediately after moving in.

In the process, looking in the house—somebody forgot to lock it up completely—and found this:


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Those are the water connections under the sink. The connection on the right is cold water for the dishwasher. Where's the hot water connection? Another issue for Duncan.


Another dead telephone
Topic: general, technology Link here

Call from somebody in the afternoon. Yvonne answered it, and the line went dead. Whoever it was (probably CJ) tried again. Same thing.

A bit more trying showed that the (cordless) phone was doing it. Changed the phone with an old-fashioned POTS phone, and it works. OK, the phone was slated for replacement anyway, but I still had research to do about Bluetooth compatibility. This has forced my hand.


Thursday, 16 April 2015 Dereel
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Fake Ethernets
Topic: technology Link here

Not surprisingly, my network connection at the new property is on the same /24 as the one in the old property. Here the configuration on each system (look carefully at the system names, which are a little too close):

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 4 -> ifconfig xl0
xl0: flags=8943<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,PROMISC,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:50:da:cf:07:35
        inet 180.150.4.128 netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast 180.150.4.255
        media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)
        status: active
=== root@eucla (/dev/pts/1) ~ 10 -> ifconfig bfe0
bfe0: flags=8943<UP,BROADCAST,RUNNING,PROMISC,SIMPLEX,MULTICAST> metric 0 mtu 1500
        ether 00:0b:db:98:eb:28
        inet 192.109.197.145 netmask 0xffffff00 broadcast 192.109.197.255
        media: Ethernet autoselect (100baseTX <full-duplex>)
        status: active

The connection to the National Broadband Network is via Ethernet. So I should be able to talk to it directly, right? That's what arp says (here on eureka, the old site). The first is the old site, then the NBN, then the new site:

aussie-gw.lemis.com (180.150.4.128) at 00:50:da:cf:07:35 on xl0 permanent [ethernet]
radiation-tower.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.1) at 10:f3:11:e9:9f:01 on xl0 expires in 190 seconds [ethernet]
stonesroad.lemis.com (180.150.4.222) at 10:f3:11:e9:9f:01 on xl0 expires in 1118 seconds [ethernet]

But when I try to access it, all traffic goes via radiation-tower:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/38) ~ 5 -> traceroute stonesroad
traceroute to stonesroad.lemis.com (180.150.4.222), 64 hops max, 52 byte packets
 1  radiation-tower.aussiebb.net (180.150.4.1)  27.991 ms  29.775 ms  30.047 ms
 2  stonesroad (180.150.4.222)  62.137 ms  59.727 ms  71.023 ms

Of course, radiation-tower is not really part of the fixed wireless tower; that's just me snubbing my nose at Wendy McClelland. The real PTR record says ballarat-gw.nbn.portmel.aussiebb.net, suggesting that it's in Port Melbourne, about 130 km away. Why? Fired up wireshark to see if there was any redirection, but no, all seemed normal. But then I looked at the arp output more carefully: the MAC address that eureka has for stonesroad is 10:f3:11:e9:9f:01, the same as for radiation-tower. It looks like an Ethernet, but it doesn't quack.


More horse infrastructure
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Yvonne over to Doug Braddy's today with Warren Pitcher's indirect help to pick up a crate to convert into a tack room. Things didn't go smoothly. She called me up a little later, and I went over there to find that there was absolutely no way they could get it in until the rubbish container is moved from in front of the shed:


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Over in the evening with CJ to measure fences. While there, discovered that the crate was the wrong size: the ones we wanted were 3.4 m wide, just less than half the width of the shed. This one is 3.9 m wide, so it would block the entrance. I still don't know what to do there.


Blocking unwanted ssh connections
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The network traffic I observed a couple of days ago doesn't represent any security threat, but it's a lot of traffic. As I mentioned at the time, it's non-trivial to block it.

Today I got a message from Harald Arnesen pointing me at sshguard. It does the work for you, firewalling repeat offenders. That sounds like an excellent idea when I look at the mail log on my external server:

Apr 14 04:39:43 www postfix/smtpd[97364]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[46.29.73.42]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [46.29.73.42]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<exchange.invstab.ru>
Apr 14 04:39:43 www postfix/smtpd[97364]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[46.29.73.42]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [46.29.73.42]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<exchange.invstab.ru>
Apr 14 04:39:44 www postfix/smtpd[97434]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[213.171.53.91]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [213.171.53.91]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<email.ingeocom.ooo>
Apr 14 04:39:44 www postfix/smtpd[97434]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[213.171.53.91]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [213.171.53.91]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<email.ingeocom.ooo>
Apr 14 04:39:47 www postfix/smtpd[97465]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[217.116.57.146]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [217.116.57.146]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<mail.atmr.ru>
Apr 14 04:39:48 www postfix/smtpd[97466]: NOQUEUE: reject: RCPT from unknown[92.241.111.30]: 450 4.7.1 Client host rejected: cannot find your hostname, [92.241.111.30]; from=<> to=<info@lemis.com> proto=ESMTP helo=<ser-vm2.ksp67.ru>

And yes, sshguard doesn't just monitor ssh connections. Something to try out. Of course, firewalling the traffic doesn't necessarily mean that it will stop.


Working around the dead phone problem
Topic: technology, general Link here

Yesterday one of our cordless phones failed. It was clearly the base station, since the problem occurred with multiple handsets. But then it occurred to me: we needed four handsets, but the only way to do that was to buy two sets with two handsets each. So we had a spare base station which we hadn't been using. And sure enough, once I found the instructions, that worked. A little more time to investigate what to replace them with.


Fire-fighting water tank?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I still haven't found a CFA regulation water tank that is required for our BAL 19 conformity. Where do I find it? Called up the CFA in Ballarat and was connected with Brendan Brown. I've had contact with him before, and it wasn't positive.

Not overly surprisingly, he couldn't give me details, but said he'd enquire and call me back. He did, and in fact had found a surprising number of hits on the web. Now why didn't I think of that? More to the point, though, for the first time he seemed really helpful.


Friday, 17 April 2015 Dereel Images for 17 April 2015
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Finding a firefighting water tank
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Spent some time today looking for CFA compliant water tanks. As Brendan Brown had said, there's a lot to be found on the web, mainly on broken web sites. Go to Tankworks, where an interactive page allows you to “Size your Tank”. By what criteria? Outside dimensions, in 10 cm steps in diameter and unequal height steps. I want a 10,000 l tank. But this application can't do that; the closest I can get is 10,300 litres (“good for 1716 toilet flushes”). But apart from the volume, the next most important thing is the price. “Get a quote” gets me to fill out a form and somebody will call me back. So what good is the web page in the first place?

Others looked more promising. Harmony Water Tanks in Bacchus Marsh claim to be 'CFA' Compliance Specialists. That looked very promising, especially as they're just down the road, so I called them up. Sorry, they don't do round tanks any more, and the largest tank they do at all is 5,200 litres—not CFA-compliant. And yes, they know the web site needs work.

Then I got on to Kerrimuir, who seemed more on the ball, and offered colorbond tanks for $1,645. Called them up and discovered that the price miraculously grew to $2,190, plus $180 delivery. Still, that looked competitive, until I discovered that they want 3 to 4 weeks for delivery! And until it's installed, we won't get our Certificate of Occupancy! He gave me the email address of his boss, to whom I sent a message. And of course I still have no reply.

Further investigation showed that the delivery issue is general, and that the price was pretty much the best. Found another site, ASC Water Tanks, that duplicated the price and all the details—even the phone number! So it seems that this company has two different names. And their pricing is extremely strange:

 
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Base price “$1,645.00-$1,740.00”, no extras, total $2,190. How do they work that out?

In any case, it looks like I'll get the tank from them. But when? We were hoping to move in before the end of the month, though the complete lack of activity this week makes that less likely. But another month? Not to mention that it's ultimately my fault.


Microsoft software update
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

One thing I have to admit about Microsoft is that the software updates go more smoothly than FreeBSD updates do. Another round today, and one of the optional updates was Skype. It's unlikely, but not impossible, that I'll use it, but it's also not much of an issue to install it—I thought. The install hung:


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It took me some time to discover the tiny icon at the bottom of the screen:

 
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That was Skype, too shy to ask a question until I prodded it:


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It wasn't shy in other things, though. It wanted to take over my life:

 
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And then came the inevitable reboot, sort of:

 
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How I love Microsoft!


More tack crates
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It looks as if it will be another couple of weeks before we can get rid of the rubbish container and move the crate into the shed—in the opposite corner from where we planned—but Doug Braddy has been busy. Here this morning and this evening:


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Saturday, 18 April 2015 Dereel Images for 18 April 2015
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EPUB on Android
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

A few days ago i was offered some cheap photograpic books in EPUB format. My research suggested that it was worthwhile, so yesterday I bought them online and downloaded them, 500 MB at a snail's pace.

Today they were finally there, and I unpacked the ZIP archive to find:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/31) ~/Documentation/Photography/Franzis 183 -> unzip -l ~/Downloads/20077-6-das-grosse_fotocommunity-e-book-paket.zip
Archive:  /home/grog/Downloads/20077-6-das-grosse_fotocommunity-e-book-paket.zip
  Length      Date    Time    Name
---------  ---------- -----   ----
 12492350  05-13-2013 16:07   4460-2_Digitale_Fotoschule_Panoramafotografie.pdf
 68098180  12-21-2012 11:46   20022-6-Fotoschule_Reisefotografie.pdf
 70629967  05-08-2013 13:01   20038-2_Beautyretusche_mit_Photoshop.pdf
...

It's all in PDF! Why do they claim it's EPUB? And how do you read a book-format PDF on an Android tablet? The books include some with images that go over two pages. How can you display them with a PDF reader?

First, though: how do I get the files onto the tablet? They're on my Real Computer, so the obvious way is to mount the file system on the tablet. That's even possible if you circumvent all the Android obstructions, but for that you need to root the tablet, and so far I haven't been able to do that. And why should you need to do that? I have come to the conclusion that the Android environment so disrupts my way of working with computers that I don't know how to do even the simplest things.

In the end I chose AirDroid again, which required lots of tree-climbing through opaque trees. Finally I found it, and started copying the files. But two of them failed:


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Uncharacteristically, it gave a reason. But why? It only happened on two of 11 files. Even stranger, the files were transferred:

 
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So what's the error message? Random Android flakiness?

Next, run Acrobat reader. But I couldn't find it in this maze of twisty little icons, all different. I've always had difficulty finding programs represented as icons, but this time was particularly bad. And that although the icon is quite recognizable:

 
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But after three scans of the screen, I still couldn't see it. Time to read the captions, conveniently in random order. And there it was!


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Without telling me, Adobe has changed the name of the program (now “Adobe Acrobat DC”), the icon (something relatively recognizable to a copy of the generic Android icon) and the user interface. The last meant that I had to spend yet more time tree-climbing. Finally I found the books and was able to display them:

 
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That's only barely legible. Sure, you can enlarge it (again for every page) and turn the tablet around:


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And now we fall foul of the two column layout. That's fine, maybe even the best solution, for a book in the published format, but it's completely inappropriate for a tablet. “EPUB” indeed!

To take the wind out of my rant, they've changed their offer page. Now it claims to be PDF. But elsewhere it's still EPUB.


Sunday, 19 April 2015 Dereel
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Word order video
Topic: language, technology Link here

One of the Coursera courses I'm currently doing is Miracles of Human Language: An Introduction to Linguistics. Rather to my surprise, I discovered there was an assignment due on Monday, and it involves creating a video for YouTube. Find a native speaker of a language other than English, Basque, Mandarin Chinese, Abruzzese, Turkish, Tarifit Berber or Gungbe and get them to speak 16 sample sentences from which others will deduce the word order of the language.

OK, where's my native speaker? English is my native language, so I can't do it myself. But there's Yvonne, who is French, so of course her native language is German, and I got her to record them for me:

But getting there wasn't easy. How do you do subtitles? There are, of course, many video clips explaining the basics, such as these two:

But of course they only show the basics, and I had a specific question: how do I do two-line subtitles? I couldn't find it, but in the end I discovered that the standard .srt-style subtitles did the trick:

4
00:00:14 --> 00:00:16
Der Mann kocht Reis.
The man cooks rice.

5
00:00:18 --> 00:00:19
Die schöne Blume.
The beautiful flower.

Another forum poster tells me that you can upload plain text. I had tried that, and it was refused with a non-specific error message. But that, it seems, was because I didn't use the correct (implicit) file name convention: the file name needs to end in .txt. Sigh.


Goat tagine
Topic: food and drink Link here

Mohamed Ifadir's father remarried a couple of days ago, and today was the big celebration. An occasion to eat a tagine? No, it seems that the dish should be something like poulet farci aux citrons confits. But we had already planned a tagine before we knew Abdellatif was getting married. We can try the chicken some other time.

The dish was basically the same as we had two months ago. The main difference was the goat, which, unfortunately, didn't really taste very different from lamb. We also had less meat and more vegetables, but that didn't make too much difference. Maybe we need different dishes to bring out the difference between sheep and goat, and not the obvious one from the Dies irae:

Inter oves locum praesta,
Et ab haedis me sequestra,
Statuens in parte dextra.


Monday, 20 April 2015 Dereel Images for 20 April 2015
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Completing the house
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Karl Waldron's people over today to finish installing the air conditioning. They almost succeeded:


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It seems that there's been a misunderstanding; according to Karl, Jim Lannen should have done it, but he didn't talk to him in advance. Now I've got to find an electrician to do the simple task of connecting the wires, because in our regulated society air conditioning people aren't allowed to do that.

And JG King? There's not much to do; I'd estimate about 2 or 3 days' work. But they haven't shown for 2 weeks, and I can't contact Duncan. High time to apply a little more pressure.

Finally got round to ordering the CFA tank today. With any luck we'll have it in 2 weeks, so quite possibly it's no longer the critical point.


Tuesday, 21 April 2015 Dereel Images for 21 April 2015
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Zhivago: another runner
Topic: animals Link here

I don't know why we still let the dogs run free when we go walking. We're continually having Leonid or Zhivago run away. Today it was Zhivago, and he didn't come back for 2 hours, brought by Karen (John's wife). He was panting heavily, to the point where Yvonne was concerned about his wellbeing. But he recovered, sort of:


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Proudly littered in Australia
Topic: general, brewing, opinion Link here

Over the past 12 months, while walking the dogs, I've found many beer cans discarded by litterers. They all had one thing in common: they came from Carlton and United Breweries, known outside Australia mainly for Fosters Lager, but they were mainly Victoria Bitter, which is more popular here. But there are other beers, some with funny names. Today I found one claiming to be Ice (or is that Methamphetamine?). Another CUB beer? It's difficult to say: there's no obvious name on the can:


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A closer inspection shows that it's an Australian beer, anyway, and they're proud of it, whoever they may be:


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You really need to read the small print to find out who gave the instructions to brew this beer, though they still don't say clearly who brewed it, just who paid to have it brewed:


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Proudly brewed, indeed! The way they hide the names, you'd think they were ashamed of it. But Tooheys are a NSW beer, so this is the first non-CUB beer can I have found.


Chasing flare
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

While trying to get a panorama of the verandah a few days ago I noted significant flare with my Zuiko Digital ED 9-18mm F4.0-5.6 lens. Is that a problem with that lens? Today I took far too many photos with no less than 8 different lenses. The results: a lot of work to analyse. The preliminary results suggest that the Zuiko Digital ED 50 mm F/2.0 macro lens performs best, even if it required 30 individual exposures to cover the same area as the Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye. But I'll need more analysis.

On the other hand, one thing is clear: I made a mistake buying these uncoated UV filters. Here a photo taken with the 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lens, with and without the filter:


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Time to order some coated filters.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 22 April 2015
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Blood test, finally!
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat yet again to have a blood test. After the last two disasters, went this time to Dorevitch in Victoria Street, where I had had very quick turnaround last time: I hadn't even got as far as picking a number before I was called. This time wasn't quite as good: I picked a number and was about to sit down when my number was called. They must sit and wait for people.

The rest wasn't quite as quick: they couldn't decipher the tests on the request slip, and in the end had to make a phone call. It seems that some of the spelling was dubious, but clearly I'm well outside the run-of-the-mill tests now. One (serum gasterin, apparently a misspelling of Gastrin), needed to be transported in ice. This time it took nearly 20 minutes before it was over. Still far better than the last two times.


Polarization: generations meet
Topic: technology Link here

While in town, picked up my new prescription Polaroid sunglasses. Decades ago I wore (non-prescription) Polaroid sunglasses, but since then they seem to have become difficult to find. They work as well as ever, but I was in for a surprise: the LCD display on my GPS navigator is polarized at a 45° angle, making the display artificially dim. Time to investigate how other displays are polarized.


House accessories
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While in town, met up with Yvonne, not helped by the fact that I had left my mobile phone behind. First to Good Guys to look at dishwashers and refrigerators.

Why do we need Yet Another refrigerator? Why, do we need yet another refrigerator? We bought our last one less than 2 years ago, and it works fine. But Yvonne thinks that it is too small. It's really quite large, but it's a combination fridge/freezer, and the fridge compartment is “only” 357 litres. Looked again, but as last time, I found almost nothing. The biggest only-fridge was 450 l, hardly enough to make it worth changing.

Dishwashers were another matter. Once again they had multiple units with almost identical specifications and prices ranging between about $800 and $1,800. Asked a question, and the salesperson showed us significant difference, which, however, didn't explain the difference in price: for $500 you get a cutlery drawer at the top instead of a cutlery basket that goes at the bottom.

Then he showed us another brand, ASKO. The model he showed us, D5434, had some interesting features, notably much more space for larger plates and glasses. But they want $1,399 for it. Back home did some investigation on the web and discovered that ASKO has a particularly bad reputation for reliability and function. What good is it if you can get your big glasses in, but they don't get clean?

On then to Bunnings looking for light globes. LED globes are still ridiculously expensive, starting at round $18 per globe. That's double what we paid at ALDI recently, so we'll leave that. We did, however, find some floor tiles at Bunnings, even if they neglected to state whether they were suited for outdoor use, or, in one case, had packaging that contradicted itself.

On again to Masters, who managed to hide their light globes a long way from the other electrics. But they had relatively cheap fluorescent globes, which in addition were sold 3 for 2, so ended up buying 24 globes at an average price of $2.66 each. With the exception of dining and living rooms, which require dimmable LEDs, that should be enough.

Both Bunnings and Masters have shelving units that we could put in a typical Australian wardrobe—for reasons I have never understand, wardrobes contain only a single shelf above a rail for clothes hangers. They have various kits of shelves that would work, if I could only understand what the individual components are. Being modern companies, they don't have any documentation.

Then on to look at sideboards (or is that buffet?). I'd call them buffets, except that the pronunciation here is likely to be /ˈbʌfɪt/, which is too painful. Once again fashion had taken over from function, and a large number of sideboards with fake primitive fittings, including bare iron bands and deep scratches. And of course everything is dark. Nevertheless, Yvonne found two that she liked:


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Although they look similar, the first costs $1,399, and the second costs $699. Admittedly the second is smaller, but the corresponding size of the other one still costs $1,199. Yvonne tells me that the first has much better workmanship, though I don't see that.

Also looked at some beds—it's still not clear that our current beds will fit where we want them. Nothing world-shaking, and the prices are higher than I expected, but we kept a record of the ones that might interest us:


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And that was really enough. How could anybody enjoy shopping? Set off back home before I had a fit of screaming.


Light globe equivalence
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

We've been using “modern” compact fluorescent lamps for about 10 years now, and gradually they're getting better. When we bought them today, we went with the conventional that an 11W flouro corresponds to 60 W conventional incandescent, and so on, though I recall seeing a chart which showed a non-linear relationship. And sure enough, there was a chart on the wall showing those relationships.

But when I look at the packaging, what did I see? 11 W fluoro corresponds to 40 W incandescent—fully ⅓ less output. And 18 W corresponds to 75 W. Why? I had already established that 11 W corresponds to 55 W, not 60, but now we're down to 40—efficiency gain down from 80% to 72.5% or 76% respectively. Is this real or just a readjustment to reality, are the fluoros now less efficient, or are the incandescents now more efficient? What we need to know is the light output, not power input. And how about that, if you look carefully enough you get that information too: 700 lumens for the 11 W globes (64 lumens per watt), 1100 lumens for the 18 W globes (61 lumens per watt). How does that really compare with incandescent? According to the Wikipedia page, they generate about 16 lumens per watt, so it really does seem to be only a 75% improvement. That still doesn't explain the difference from previous claimed relationships.


More Microsoft space experiences
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis has a new monitor, one made in this century: an HP L1706 that he picked up for free on Freecycle. He brought it and his computer along this afternoon for me to perform any adjustments. There were few: change the text size, and that was about it.

But his brother had installed lots of software on his machine for him, virus scanners, software updaters and who knows what—I don't. But it spent half an hour running some kind of scan (I think), and during that time the machine was almost completely non-responsive. I couldn't find any way to tell the thing to only run on request, so spent over an hour removing all this software. That's not the optimal choice, but it really did make the machine unusable.


Poor technology kills!
Topic: technology, health, opinion Link here

Interesting news item on the radio this morning:

Privacy laws mean emails about patients [sic] medical history have to be encrypted, but only a few hospitals have the technology to do that

Dr Levick said in one instance a patient died because their GP was not told about their blood thinning medication, which required daily monitoring.

It's bad enough that the industry had dumbed down to Microsoft level, but surely they could find a way to encrypt their messages. I automatically cryptographically sign my emails. It costs nothing except the occasional message from people in the Microsoft space claiming that I'm trying to break into their computer, or messages being rejected by braindead providers like BigPond. Encryption is just as simple, as is displaying the message at the other end, assuming you have the requisite keys. Why should the hospitals “lack the technology”?


Thursday, 23 April 2015 Dereel Images for 23 April 2015
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Preparing the garden
Topic: Stones Road house, gardening Link here

The soil in Stones Road is very sandy. It needs a lot of organic material to build it up. And that's just what our horses produce. Yvonne arranged with Richard Kaminski to take several (small) trailer loads over and work it into the ground:


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She ended up doing a lot of the work herself instead of getting somebody else to help. And I still fear it won't be enough.


Site inspection
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over again to meet Duncan Jackson, the site supervisor, and inspect the (lack of) progress. We now have a washbasin in the bathroom:


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What an ugly thing! But I suppose we signed for it. And that's all that has happened in the last 2 weeks. The new doors have been waiting for a week to be installed, and Duncan promises they'll be done tomorrow. And the house should be finished at the end of next week. Given Duncan's reluctance to give dates, I think he might be right this time.


More problems with the electrics
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Installing the electrics hasn't been easy, and it's becoming clear that it's not over yet. They left a number of plugged holes in the ceiling which need painting over. I thought it was a matter of just painting the hole, but Duncan tells me that the patch will be visible, so we need to do the entire ceiling in the main living area and the hallway in the bedroom area. That could be expensive.

It seems that it's the electrician's job to install the range hood. All he has installed is a power point:


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But the range hood is flush with the wall. Here's the view from behind, through the wall so to speak:


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So the power point is going to have to come out. Should I get Jim to do the installation? There's still a fair amount to be done, and it's been difficult to get Jim on site at the best of times. Time to investigate alternatives.

As if that wasn't enough, we've discovered damage to the roof:


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There are four different places, but this is the most obvious. Who did it? Duncan says he hadn't seen it before, and the only people who have been on the roof lately were the electricians, to install the antenna.


Friday, 24 April 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 24 April 2015
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Preparing to move
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

So we could be moving into the new house in as little as a week. What do we really need now? We haven't sold the old house, so anything we buy will have to be financed.

In the end it came down to only two things: dishwasher and sideboard (which seems to be called /ˈbʌfeɪ/, not /ˈbʌfɪt/, but also most certainly not /byˈfɛ/). I've done enough investigation to decide that once again, despite the execrable web site, it will be Bosch. Spent some time comparing the models, and came to the conclusion that I had expected; the expensive models with the cutlery tray at the top pay for it by having 8 cm less height on the top tray. Even without the cutlery tray, space on the top tray is limited, so that we ended up with the SMS63L08AU. It's marked “exclusively available at THE GOOD GUYS, RRP $1,189.00”, which makes a lot of sense since The Good Guys offer it for $799. What earthly meaning does the RRP have?

The sideboard was another matter. There must be more furniture shops in Ballarat than the ones we visited on Wednesday. Googled. Yes, there are several more, mainly in the same locality. Loaded addresses into the GPS navigator, and off to take a look. The first we looked at, Voyager Interiors, told us what it was even before we went in: only about 4 cars (presumably the number of employees) parked outside, and a single painted wicker chair outside, special offer for $500. That's about what ALDI asks for a set of 4 and a table.

Inside we found a supercilious salesperson who wanted to know exactly what we wanted, as if they were likely to have it. Took a brief look around and discovered that their cheapest sideboards cost more than the most expensive at other shops, without offering any advantage—instead, they seemed to have disadvantages. No wonder there were no customers.

Voyager is right next to Hardly Normal, another company I've always found too expensive. Yes, they were more expensive than the others we had seen, but not unrealistically so.

Off to the next, Freedom Ballarat (whose web site is currently broken) in Gillies Street just a few hundred metres from the places we saw on Wednesday. Same thing again! No cars outside, completely uncompetitive prices. I was left with the impression that Hardly Normal was almost normal after all.

Finally to Focus on Furniture, where we saw the sideboards on Wednesday, and bought the more expensive one:


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Also looked for a dog kennel. Eureka Sheds really make things that are far too big, but they had a small metal shed (display model) that was going at half price for $400, fully assembled, and just small enough to fit on a trailer. We may well take that.


CJ's computer
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

CJ Ellis along in the afternoon to pick up his computer, which I had rather reluctantly rid of resource-hungry anti-virus software. Demonstrated to him how much faster it was now. The Demonstration effect hit home: it was almost as slow as before, with the disk maxed out. What's causing that? I wish I understood Microsoft. He left the computer with me while I scratched my head over the issue. The Task Manager shows nothing obvious. How I wish I had nothing to do with Microsoft!


Neighbours and dogs
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

Yvonne walked the dogs alone today: I was waiting for a phone call from Corey Spiteri. And as she returned, I heard screaming outside. Out to find all three dogs running around Helen Everett, our neighbour from across the road, and her dogs Petal and Sam. The screaming was coming from Helen, who apparently thought our dogs were vicious: “Your dogs are hunting dogs. My dogs are Retrievers”. That's the kind of argumentation that prompted the scene in Jurassic Park where a little girl feeds a giant Sauropod, or claims that elephants are harmless because they're vegetarians.

I pointed out to her that Sam had nearly bitten Nemo's eye out five years ago:


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Bad idea. Of course he didn't; the fact that we witnessed it and that she admitted it at the time is clearly no longer valid. She followed up with a series of obscenities and insults, all screaming at the top of her voice, that completely baffled me, since we have hardly ever had any contact. But it seems that she knows we're moving house (“I pity your new neighbours”), so maybe she's read my diary and taken exception to something I've written there.

So what really happened? I wasn't there, of course, but piecing things together it seems that Sam, who has always behaved aggressively towards our dogs, ran out as Yvonne was coming back. As agreed five years ago, the Everetts have put in a fence and a gate, but the gate (with a sign “please close gate: dogs”) is almost always open. Yvonne had Nikolai and Leonid on a leash, but Zhivago was running free, and he ran up to challenge Sam. The other two pulled so hard that they pulled the handles of the leashes out of Yvonne's hands, and they all ran on towards Petal and Sam, whom Helen had caught and was holding. As they do in play, they ran round and round. No growling, no biting. Probably if the dogs had been free, there would have been a bit of snapping and the matter would have been over. But clearly Helen was frightened, and that's an issue we have to deal with with such big dogs.

And the fact that our dogs went onto their property? Under the circumstances it's hardly avoidable. We don't have a gate on our property, but we don't let the dogs run free. And Sam comes onto our property and outside our dogs' cage and urinates in the corner, something that Helen doesn't seem to try to stop. In the interests of keeping the peace, we haven't complained, but it seems unfair of her to then complain about our dogs, just because an accident happens, where we do try to keep them away from the Everett property.


Saturday, 25 April 2015 Dereel Images for 25 April 2015
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Mysteries in the forest
Topic: animals, gardening, opinion Link here

Found some strange things in the forest today:


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What is it? It looks like the innards of a cow. But how did they get there, and why is there nothing else?

As if that weren't strange enough, there's also this about 30 m away:


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I have no idea what that is, but it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that it's some kind of fungus. There's no obvious connection except that they're close to each other.


Rainy day
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

We had 9 mm of rain today—only. It seemed like a lot more. Nikolai had been outside in the dog run, and it shows:


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Over at the building site, one rainwater tank was full and overflowing, and the other was half full. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring my camera. Opened both valves to level things out. The good news is that we won't have any issues with water when we move in—there's a good chance that the tanks will both be full—but the site was already very wet, and the overflow water wasn't running away as planned. Warrick will have to do some fine tuning there.


Inverness, Edinburgh and Gallipoli
Topic: history, opinion Link here

The family of my maternal grandfather came from Scotland, and as a child I learnt from my mother that my great-great-grandfather, John Hay, was transported because of his Chartist beliefs. There was also a less noble story about him: while trying to convert somebody to his beliefs, by dragging him through a creek, the man drowned. John fled to New Zealand and changed his name to Herbert. He subsequently returned to Australia, and if my mother told me more, I have forgotten it.

I'm currently in the process of typing in my paper diary of round 50 years ago. I've caught up by nearly a year, and have got to 49 years ago, when I was in Edinburgh and tried to find information about John Hay. I was successful—maybe. It seems that John Hay is a very common name, and the people I was staying with—coincidentally Hays on the maternal side—had two close relatives of that name. But in the archives I only found one, transported some time in 1844 for his role in the theft of a silver watch, a silver watch key and a piece of black lace.

But I have another reference of somewhat dubious veracity: my cousin Mark Doyle, who calls himself Louis Nowra, wrote a “memoir” (part fact, part fiction) about himself and his family, called The Twelfth of Never. He doesn't mention John by name, nor his alleged Chartist activity, but he gives a different story of the drowning.

But then there's another connection: today was the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Gallipoli Campaign, where the British sacrificed tens of thousands of soldiers for a poorly prepared offensive which never realized its goals. About 15% of the casualties were Australians from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, so of course we celebrate it, forgetting that more than half the casualties were in fact British.

My grandfather was (badly?) wounded at Gallipoli, and according to Mark that was the basis of everything that happened later. It's a rather interesting coincidence that I should have referred to the book, for the first time in over 10 years, specifically today.


Sunday, 26 April 2015 Dereel Images for 26 April 2015
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Finishing the electrics
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the property today to meet Corey Spiteri, Garry Marriott's grandson, All looks under control, and he'll do the work on Tuesday.


Upgrading ports, again
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've been putting off my FreeBSD port upgrades for over a year now, but gradually my web browsers are getting so out of date that clever software refuses to run on them. So Yet Another attempt to get stable up to date. The OS upgrade ran without any problem, but once again pkg didn't do what I expected. After downloading a gigabyte of tarballs, I got:

Fetching llvm35-3.5.2.txz... done
Checking integrity... done (5 conflicting)
pkg: Cannot solve problem using SAT solver:
dependency rule: package akonadi(r) depends on: qt4-mysql-plugin(r)qt4-mysql-plugin(l)
dependency rule: package akonadi(l) depends on: qt4-mysql-plugin(r)qt4-mysql-plugin(l)
upgrade rule: upgrade local qt4-mysql-plugin-4.8.6 to remote qt4-mysql-plugin-4.8.6
cannot install package qt4-mysql-plugin, remove it from request? [Y/n]: <b><i>Enter</i></b>
pkg: cannot find qt4-mysql-plugin in the request
pkg: cannot solve job using SAT solver
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Conflicts with the existing packages have been found.
One more solver iteration is needed to resolve them.

What does that mean? Upgrading a package to itself fails? Remove from request fails because it's not in the request? Try again. Same thing, except:

pkg: cannot find qt4-mysql-plugin in the request
pkg: cannot solve job using SAT solver
Checking integrity... done (0 conflicting)
Your packages are up to date.

But as far as I can see, no packages have been updated. Somehow we still have a long way to go.


Trial by Facebook
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

Interesting mail message today:

Date: Sat, 25 Apr 2015 16:36:33 -0700
From: "Helen Everett" <notification+ysrrnwrr@facebookmail.com>
To: DEREEL OUTPOST <444003985711595@groups.facebook.com>
Subject: [DEREEL OUTPOST] Hi just wanting to know if hunting dogs need...

Helen Everett posted in DEREEL OUTPOST

"Hi just wanting to know if hunting dogs need muzzles my old goldies where viciously attacked in my yard in front of me, one now has a large hematoma and visible tooth marks, if anyone know please contact me . Lucky it wasn't a small child. Needless to say the owners abused me and didn't even offer an apology !"

It also included a fuzzy image of a dog's stomach:


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Given that I had asked her at the time to check whether a dog had been hurt, it's surprising that she didn't mention it until now. And what is it? I thought it was a nipple, but both Yvonne and Chris thought it could be a real wound. But is it from our dogs? It seems unlikely, given the position.

The response was typical. Call the ranger. What horrible people. Wendy Gauci (next door) claimed that our dogs would continually run up and down outside her fence, with her dogs in pursuit, and that the last time she had told us to stop or she would call the ranger. Well, yes, we did, but we stopped over a year ago. We never heard her say anything to us, but based on what happened, it would suggest that we listened to her and stopped doing it. In reality we did it because we thought all the dogs would enjoy it, and we stopped when we realized that wasn't the case. We're not always right either.

But Helen wasn't done yet. We were old and not able to control our dogs, horrible people who didn't even apologize for what happened (she was clearly screaming too much to hear my apology). The way she wrote it suggested that the vicious dogs would have been acceptable if the owners weren't so horrible.

I've already commented about Helen's use of the term “Hunting dog” to refer to our dogs, but not to her Golden Retrievers. Looking at the description on Wikipedia, yes, they are hunting dogs. So are Golden Retrievers. But what dogs are still used for hunting? According to this page, quite a few, including Golden Retrievers, but not Borzois. That's possibly different in Russia, of course, but so are the dogs.


What's that mess?
Topic: animals Link here

Mail from Eddie Purcell about our mysteries in the forest the other day:


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He says that it's sheep guts and wool. So it looks as if something has killed and eaten a sheep. But what? I don't think a dog would leave the guts behind. Foxes maybe? Could they do that? And how did the sheep get there?


Monday, 27 April 2015 Dereel Images for 27 April 2015
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Another power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another power failure this morning at 4:17. It was long enough for the UPS for lagoon to fail, but that may only have taken a second or two.


Appeasing Helen
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

To my surprise, the Facebook thread about our dogs was gone this morning. I wonder who decided that. At least it shows that not everybody accepts Helen's version of things.

Yvonne in later to say that she had taken Zhivago out for a pee, and Helen had come along and taken photos of him (as she had claimed on Facebook, “my dogs don't run free”). I can't blame her for the photo; we had come to the same decision, though I wanted to get photos of Sam peeing on our cars, on our property. But it seems that Helen is now keeping the gate shut, as she agreed to five years ago, so some good has come of it.

She also had plenty to say. She now has a big stick next to the gate to fight off our dogs if they attack her. But she doesn't want to call the ranger. And again she claimed that we hadn't apologized, and that she still wanted an apology. Yvonne immediately apologized again, but (again) she didn't appear to hear it. She then complained about the entry in my “blog”, wanted it removed, and said she would seek legal advice about it. She also wanted a written apology. And to round things off, she said that we would never sell the house until the dogs were gone.

So what should I do? No problem apologizing, even in written form, so I did that. And my diary entry? There's nothing in there that would warrant legal proceedings; her own postings on Facebook were insulting enough that it might be possible there, but even so it's unlikely that a court would rule against her. But in the interests of neighbourly relations, I have made the diary entry invisible outside our network. Of course, once we're no longer neighbours, I can reinstate it.


Garden landscaping
Topic: gardening, Stones Road house Link here

Over to the house to think Yet Again about how to structure the garden. The original idea was to have a pergola up against the south side of the house, but the number of non-garden things there (septic tank, hot water service, bore) made it difficult at best, and then we realized that the posts would be in the way. So we're now thinking of erecting it further away.


Greg: not a plumber
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

While on site, connected up the pump to the house water. One of the unions leaks like a sieve. I was never cut out to be a plumber. Real plumbers should be there tomorrow; I'll get them to do it.


Paint touch-up
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The painters are here, doing the final touch-ups and externals:


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Story maps
Topic: history, technology, opinion Link here

The course “Maps and the Geospatial Revolution” includes an assignment: make a story map. What's that? The name suggests a number of possibilities, but in fact it's relatively constrained—ArcGIS has a framework for creating them.

It's an interesting idea, but digging deeper I find that I can't do quite what I want with them (sound familiar?). After some consideration, I decided to document a journey by car that I started 48 years ago, nominally from Singapore to London.

I had a number of problems: the annotations for the journey are multimedia (in other words, photos or videos). I have photos, but not very many good ones. And the real content is, of course, in my diary. How do I link to that? In the end, I just put a link in the photo descriptions.

The other issue is that I can't find a way to show the itinerary. The diary already contains links to Google Maps of the itinerary. I can't find a way of doing that with the ArcGIS maps. Still, it's an interesting idea.


Pronouncing “pergola”
Topic: language Link here

One of the issues in building the new pergola is that we don't pronounce it the way Australians do. We say /ˈpœ:ɡələ/, but Australians say /pə'ɡɔʊ̯̯:lə/. Which is more correct? To my surprise, the OED has nothing like either pronunciation:

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˈpəːɡələ/ , /ˈpəːɡl̩ə/ , U.S. /ˈpərɡələ/

I've never heard any of those pronunciations. There are hardly any vowels in them! But they all have the emphasis on the first syllable, while in Australia it seems to be on the second.


Tuesday, 28 April 2015 Dereel Images for 28 April 2015
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Wild cats in Dereel?
Topic: animals, general, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago we found what seem to be the remains of a sheep in the forest south of Kleins Road. All that was left were the guts and the wool. What could have eaten that? It would have taken even a big dog a week to eat the entire animal, and there were no signs of bones, hooves or other parts.

I had also noticed a couple of dead kangaroos in the forest which miraculously disappeared. Yes, it could have been humans, but somehow the circumstances seemed unlikely.

And then today Edwin Groothuis pointed me at this article: there are rumours of large cats roaming free in south-western Victoria. Could it be that we have some here? The reference image was taken in Lara, only about 70 km from here.

Following further links, though, it seems unlikely. This web site addresses the issue specifically, and it contains images of “eaten” animals, none anywhere as completely eaten as the sheep we found. In particular, there were still bones, but the guts were gone. So it looks like it's another false hypothesis.


House progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The house is gradually becoming complete. CJ spent all day putting up fences:


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Yvonne and I spent yet more time wondering where to put the shade area that we're planning for ferns and things, and decided on two new places. That makes something like five since we first started considering it. This is beginning to be final, though:


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The white posts to the left of centre show the extent. The south side will be open, and the rest, with the possible exception of the eastern side, will be covered with shade cloth.

The plumbers have installed the dishwasher, unfortunately without connecting to hot water:


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And in the evening Corey Spiteri came along to connect up the air conditioner, one of the things that Jim Lannen neglected to do. We were in for another surprise: Jim had also laid the wrong kind of cable between internal and external unit. It should have been simple twisted pair, but what he installed was shielded triple twisted pair:


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For reference, the outside unit looks like this:


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Corey also had fun with the range hood. There's no ducting from the top of the extractor to the ceiling:


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I've puzzled for some time about the fact that electricians have to install these things; after all, they have a normal mains plug. But surely they're not intended to supply the ducting. Another thing to discuss with Duncan.


Wednesday, 29 April 2015 Dereel Images for 29 April 2015
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Towards completion
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Spent a lot of time today on Harrisons Road, between Kleins Road and Stones Road. First was before breakfast, and a good thing too. Found the plumbers, who had installed a surprisingly ugly hot water system:


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They were just about to leave, but I was able to convince Harley to stay long enough to fix the leaking pump connection. Also pointed out the hot water for the dishwasher, about which he hadn't been told. They'll be back tomorrow or on Friday to connect up the gas.

The garage door has also been installed:


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CJ Ellis was also working on the fences. Just as well, too: the CFA tank arrived in a surprisingly short period of time. After being told that it would take 3 to 4 weeks, it arrived 8 days after receipt of payment. And of course there were a couple of pallets of bricks in the way:


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Fortunately CJ had forks on the front of his tractor, so we were able to move them more or less intact:


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In the afternoon, received the Certificate of Occupancy. So what remains to be done? Some plumbing work, the range hood (which won't be done until next weekend), and that's about it. Agreed with Duncan that we'll do a pre-handover inspection on Friday, and then we could hand over early next week. We're almost there!

Amusingly, it seems that Chris Bahlo is also having a meeting with her site supervisor on Friday. I don't know if it corresponds to the pre-handover inspection, but it could well be. We're still neck and neck (and Simonds is either 7 or 5 weeks over its 14 week promise, depending on whom you believe regarding start time).


Thursday, 30 April 2015 Dereel Images for 30 April 2015
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Zhivago to the vet
Topic: animals Link here

Off with Zhivago this morning to get Pene Kirk to investigate a lump on his back. She diagnosed a sebaceous cyst and gave him an anaesthetic, then waited about 10 minutes for it to take effect.

During this time he ran around outside with Pene's dogs. One, a border collie, was in season, and Zhivago is entire. “No worries”, said Pene, “she has never let a dog near her, and I've always had to have her artificially inseminated”. But it seems that she had simply never met a male that she liked—until now:


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We made sure that nothing happened, of course, but it was enough for Pene to call up and book an appointment with a dog she liked in Geelong.

Finally got Zhivago up onto the table. Borzois can do funny things with their tongues at the best of time, but this time it seemed appropriate:


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Finally it was out:


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While we were there, she also removed a wart on his muzzle:


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More house stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The air conditioner people were due today, but potentially nobody else, so on the way back from Pene's, we dropped in in Stones Road to check if the house was open. Despite promises to the contrary, it wasn't. Called up Karl Waldron (voice mail) and Duncan Jackson. The latter dropped everything and came out, and I went over to the site in case Karl got there first.

While there, started checking on things to discuss for tomorrow's pre-handover meeting. The plumbers had done another drive-by installation:


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Why is it crooked? I wonder if we need to buy the gas hoses.

Duncan arrived, and I checked around inside and found more minor details. They had solved the problem with the front door frame that I had noticed a while back:


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There's also some surprisingly shoddy workmanship, like this one in the garage:


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Karl didn't show. He had got my message, but by the time I called him again he had rearranged his work, and told me the bloke would be there tomorrow morning.


More electrical issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

While looking at the house, discovered a number of new issues with the electrical installation: Jim had forgotten a power point for the hot water service, and the light above the front door doesn't work. We keep finding new defects.


Dog kennels
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

CJ Ellis was in town this morning, and he brought back the dog kennel that we had bought:


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It's a metal shed, 1.7 m × 2.5 m in size, just right for 3 Borzois. Unloading it was fun: we balanced it on the back of his ute, and then drove it into place.


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Unfortunately I hadn't taken into account what would happen when he braked:


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It rolled over twice and ended up on its roof. Fortunately it wasn't seriously damaged.


Vicious dogs or vicious neighbours?
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

This afternoon, once again we forgot to lock the kitchen door, and Nikolai got out. Straight to the neighbours on the other side of the road. We don't have much to do with them, and I only know the woman, Wendy Gauci, who also participated in Sunday's hate campaign on Facebook. She had had a valid complaint: our dogs would run up and down in front of her property, something that we had stopped about a year ago.

So what was Niko doing? Running up and down, of course, with her dogs doing the same on the other side. Just what we needed. But what was worse was a man, presumably Wendy's partner, trying to spear him with a pitchfork. He said as much: “If I can get him, I'll run him through”. I apologized that he was there, but said that he was harmless. No, he wanted to get rid of him before he had a go at one of the children.

OK, admittedly, it was our fault that the dog got out. But he's not the only one. Looking back through the Facebook group over the last couple of months, there have been reports of at least 5 lost or found dogs. Niko doesn't even fit into that category: after a while he would have come home. But nobody suggested that the other dogs were in any way dangerous, and Niko isn't either. More to the point, running up and down their fence line doesn't mean they're aggressive; they probably just wanted to play. I'm sure that was the case for Niko, but it seems that the owners don't understand that.

So what's the background to this development? Clearly the hate campaign on Facebook is part of it. But maybe that's just the point where we noticed it. A while back Ray Nottle (neighbour on the other side) made a puzzling comment about our dogs. Have they maybe been upset about them for a long time? I've noticed that we've had very little contact with the Everetts for some years, and maybe the whole thing goes back 5 years to when the Everett's Sam attacked Nemo, and I protested—civilly. Helen was quite upset at the time, but I hadn't thought she was upset with me. After all, her dog had attacked another one without provocation and injured it.

Thank God we're moving soon! But I don't like leaving nastiness behind, and Yvonne doesn't want to let the dogs out more than necessary: she's worried that the neighbours might poison them. I don't see that happen, but then I didn't see this entire development coming.


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