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April 2016
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Friday, 1 April 2016 Dereel → Corindhap → Dereel Images for 1 April 2016
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Still more garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick along today with a load of rocks for flower bed borders, but he didn't get round to do much with them. Instead he spent most of the day planting shrubs, not much helped by the bone-dry soil. We helped by heading off to Corindhap and coming back with another 20 Hebe “blue gem” to plant around the perimeter of the garden. We also got a free mumble, some kind of variegated New Zealand plant:


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I wonder what we can do with that. It would be nice to know how big it will get.

While I was in the mood, planted some daffodils. We seem to have more than we have space for.


Still more Microsoft pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On with my attempts to mount remote CIFS file systems on damnation, my Microsoft “Windows” 10 VM, today. I hardly made any headway. What I did learn:

Following Microsoft's help pages is a waste of time. They really tell me to ask my friends! But though my friends know more about “Windows” than most, they weren't able to help. How about Google? One of the things I found on the way was this page, which suggests that it's related to VirtualBox, and offers suggestions that don't apply. But knowing that it's related to VirtuaBox is an advance in itself. Maybe there's something in the copious VirtualBox documentation. For today, that was enough pain.


Saturday, 2 April 2016 Dereel Images for 2 April 2016
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Another Jim Lannen event
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Woke up at blank this morning. No power. Another bloody power failure? No, another bloody Jim Lannen event: RCD tripped, UPS drained. And that in the middle of my monthly complete backup, which takes 10 hours! I also lost the last half of a TV recording. What a pain it is to keep power up in this household!

That gave me a chance to repeat the backup, of course. Just backing up my own home directory showed me how much CPU goes into compression:

 
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That wasn't the end of the backup. This one took about 40 hours of CPU time. Using my favourite comparison of the CDC 7600, with the rationale I discussed a couple of months ago, this appears to be equivalent to over a year of CPU time. And reconsidering, is eureka really only 60 times as fast as a 7600?


Quiet day
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne off with Chris Bahlo to Ballarat today for a Rural Lifestyle Expo, and somehow I didn't get much done at home. Had intended to go to Ballarat myself to get some stuff for the garden, but there was bread to bake, so postponed.

One of the results of the Expo, and also tomorrow's “Extreme Cowboy” activities in Rokewood, Victoria (which always suggests “redneck” to me), was that Margaret Swan was here again. Another fun dinner.


Sunday, 3 April 2016 Dereel Images for 3 April 2016
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Understanding house wiring
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Jamie Fraser asked today about what it would take to fix the RCD issues. He seemed to think that we'd have to open up the walls. Clearly a couple of photos will help explain the situation. The switchboard is in the garage (thank God for that, too, given the number of times I've had to get to it in the middle of the night!):


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Like all domestic Australian switchboards, it has a cover which, once removed, gives access to the wiring:


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From left to right we have the main switch (with the red toggle), an RCD with a blue toggle that I hadn't noticed before, then the four power switches for the UPS outputs, then the main RCD. This is the one that continually trips.

Without taking all the wiring apart, it's not clear exactly how the thing is wired, but clearly the left-hand RCD is connected to the UPS output, and feeds the circuit breakers to the right. The input comes in from above somewhere, at any rate not from the main switch. So my current guess is that the main RCD serves everything except the oven and the air conditioner, but including the UPS. And clearly it's overloaded; the slightest power fluctuation seems to be able to trip it. The whole system isn't as supple as the sign claims.


Air conditioner problems?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today was one of those days where I had to heat in the morning. We had an overnight low of 6.5°, which, in this wonderfully well insulated house, meant an inside temperature of 17.5° inside when I got up. We aim for temperatures between 21° and 24.5° or so, and during the day it went beyond that. Time for cooling, in different zones from where we had been heating.

But the air conditioner didn't start. When I turned off the kitchen zone, I got a display E5. Error message? While I was looking at it, the whole control system powered down. Tried again, a couple of times. At one point I then got a display E29 on the main display (to the right of the kitchen control panel, as shown below). Again powered down.


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My first guess was that the control system had got itself confused. There have been enough bugs, including the one above, which shows conflicting information between the two panels. The kitchen panel on the left claims to be powered on, while the main panel claims that all are powered off.

So: Microsoft solution? Reboot, replace, reinstall? I could only do the first, so powered down the system at the switchboard, hearing the telltale psssssh from the compressor in the process. Powering on again gave a click from the outside unit, presumably a relay.

Inside again, turned on. Nothing, but at least it didn't power down any more. Then I remembered that, for some reason, the system always waits about a minute before doing anything. And sure enough, after a minute it started and worked, though it restored the zone status of before I had started changing the settings.

So? Glitch or bug? One for Karl Waldron to investigate.


Electrical dangers
Topic: Stones Road house, animals Link here

Apart from the switchboard, we also have a meter box outside the house, big enough to hold a switchboard. But the most dangerous thing in there isn't the power:


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That's a Redback (Latrodectus hasselti), known in most of the world by its less colourful species Black widow.


Monday, 4 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 4 April 2016
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Flat tyre!
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne's car has a flat tyre. Once that was nothing unusual, but looking back, it's the first time in this millennium that we have had a flat tyre without some kind of obvious external influence. The last flat tyre in a car was 11 years ago as the result of particularly bad roads, not the issue here.

How do you change a tyre on a Holden Commodore? Slowly and uncomfortably. Just finding the jack position was complicated, and the first time I got it wrong. And the jack was particularly hard to use. Most of my flat tyres were on Citroëns, not because of the make, but because that's what we drove when flat tyres were common. And they had the wonderful feature of a built-in jack. How I wished I had had that today.

The tyre isn't worth repairing; there's almost no tread left. Time to replace both rear tyres.


Power fail!
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Another power failure at 10:22 this morning. Another power failure at 11:56 this morning. Another power failure at 12:06 this afternoon. Another power failure at 12:27 this afternoon. Fortunately they were all short, but it looked like things could get worse. After the third one, called up Powercor, spoke with Michelle and was told that power would be restored at 13:30. Why do I get the impression that people aren't listening? In any case, it seemed that there was a widespread outage due to some issue in Buninyong, and 2,834 premises were affected, so under the circumstances I suppose we were lucky.

But what about the compensation for power outages? She told me that I would get paid $120 for 20 hours or more unscheduled outages in a calendar year, and that they'd do it automatically. Two problems: why only unscheduled outages? If scheduled outages were included, I suspect we'd have far fewer of the long outages we have been seeing lately, like the nearly 6 hours last month.

But the other thing is that we did have over 20 hours of unscheduled outages last year, and there was no automatic compensation. Omitting momentary and scheduled outages and outages where I'm not sure of the time, we have:

Date Time Duration Recovery time Comments
3 January 2015 16:58 2:15 2 hours Difficulties bringing computers back up
6 February 2015 10:20 11 minutes 1½ hours
2 May 2015 17:50 1:10 3 hours Extensive fsck
4 May 2015 2:20 1 hour 1 hour eureka UPS failed. Start time an estimate.
3 September 2015 23:40 10:17 2 hours
18 September 2015 9:58 5:5 30 minutes
18 November 2015 5:28 3:35 1 hour Emergency generator needed, network problems on power restoration
Total 23:33 11 hours

So where's my compensation? We were paying meter rent for both premises for the entire time, and I haven't heard anything. How many other people are in the same boat?


JG King kitchens, again
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Last week I compared the kitchen appliances at Chris Bahlo's house and here. The results were surprising: her el-cheapo installation was much better than ours, for which we paid nearly $1000 extra over and above the standard installation. What does JG King's standard installation look like? Into town for shopping, and on the way dropped in on their display home in Lucas to compare. How about that, pretty similar to Chris', and very different from what they installed here. From left to right ours, JG King's and Chris':


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In particular, all the issues that we have with our current stove don't apply to the standard issue: the depth of the cooking area is 50.5 cm, compared to Chris' 53 cm and our 40 cm, the wok burner is in the middle, the hot burner is in the front, and there's ample distance (20 cm) from the back burners to the back of the stove.

I had intended to test the hood as well, but I couldn't get my anemometer to work. I had had trouble with it when I got it, but this time nothing I tried worked. All I could do was to confirm that I could feel air flow from the side panels of the hood, something I can't do with our own. And in general the hood looks better:


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So JG King do supply reasonable kitchen appliances, even as standard. Why do I get such inferior quality after paying a premium of nearly $1,000? My guess is that the people who do the specials aren't as careful as the people who do the standard fare.


Air conditioner issues
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Called up Karl Waldron today, who told me that errors E5 and E29 are related to power issues. As if to prove his point, after one of the power failures I got an error 5 display. Told him about the other issues with the controller, though I'm not sure I got my point across. But he suggested I perform a “self learn mode” activation, and sent me instructions:


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Particularly item 3 fills me with confidence in the instructions. Followed them anyway and noted a number of things that weren't mentioned:


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After pressing “FAN CONTROL”, the zone controller displays the characters “Fan” in 7 segment representation, and the main controller shows “LOW MED HIGH”, with HIGH blinking. When it finishes, it displays E5 as advertised, but now LOW blinks. After a while the fan goes off and it displays E3, then powers off completely. On (manual) power-on, most settings are preserved, but in my case all zones were turned on except for zone 5. I can't see an explanation for that.

Will this fix my problems? I don't think so. But, as Karl said, it can't do any harm.


New tuner cable
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

The tuner cable I ordered for my new USB tuner has arrived. Not quite what I expected:


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The antenna connector is the wrong size. Damn! How did I make that mistake? It would be good to remember the names of the connectors.


New tyre gauge
Topic: general, opinion Link here

One of the things that irritated me changing the tyre today was that the hose tyre inflator is so old and worn out. It no longer sealed properly, and holding it in place was a pain. Time for a new one:


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Bunnings didn't have the hose alone, just entire inflators. Still, they're not very expensive, and the inflator also has a tendency to jam. So: digital ($40) or analogue ($18)? In the end I decided on the digital thing because the analogue one had scales in all sorts of obsolete units, making it unnecessarily difficult to read.

Back home, took a look. They thoughtfully supplied batteries, and the instructions were obvious:


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Which way round? Normally you put them with the negative side (smaller contact) down. Tried that, and it didn't work. But how about that, they fitted just as well the other way round:


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And it worked just as well. While investigating, found the answer:


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One each way round! And how many people (especially people likely to purchase this device) know which side of the battery is positive and which is negative?

Of course putting them both in the same way round isn't going to damage the electronics, and it worked. But then there was step 2: “Purchase a 1/4" bsp male air fitting”. Why? These things all have the same fittings:


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Why did they put the wrong fitting on it? Used the hose on the old inflator, and it worked well. Maybe I should just take the whole thing back.


New battery technology
Topic: general, opinion Link here

I'm still waiting for the price of Lithium batteries for solar energy to come down, and today I heard of a new technology: Zinc–bromine batteries, which this article calls Zinc bromide batteries. It talks of an Australian company called Redflow which is marketing them for domestic solar energy storage. But the thing that caught my eye was the name of the CEO: Simon Hackett, along with a photo showing that we're not the only people getting older. I can't have seen him for over 10 years. And of course things aren't as rosy as they seem, as the article above says:

Even so, at an estimated installed price, including an inverter, of $17,500 to $19,500 including GST, the return on investment for ZCell, as for other batteries, was "pretty marginal", said Mr Hackett

Still, something to investigate.


Tuesday, 5 April 2016 Dereel Images for 5 April 2016
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Still more garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick along again today for another 6 hours of garden work. No wonder I can't be bothered to do it myself: it's a lot more work than I ever imagined. Now we have all the plants planted, and the irrigation lines are in place, but we still don't have the drippers. I suppose I'm going to have to do that myself.


Powercor refunds?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Call at 15:28 from Dana of Powercor, phone number 03 9683 4215, to tell me yes, I am eligible for a refund, and it happened two months ago to my electricity retailer, mumble Energy. $100.

Huh? I'm not with mumble Energy, the sum is $120, and there were two premises involved. Dana claimed that mumble Energy is the old name of my energy retailer, Red Energy—the computer hadn't been updated yet. She wanted to know what made me think I would get $120. Simple: that's what Michelle told me. Clearly she didn't know what was going on, and wanted to check. I suggested that she check the rest more carefully to be sure that I didn't find any further holes in her actions. Ah, I should forgive human error.

Time to do some checking. Sadly, she's right with the $100, as this page shows. But mumble Energy? Red Energy has been in existence only since 2004, and they've been called Red Energy at least since 2007, when I signed up with them. I can't find anything on line that suggests they ever had a different name. And even if they did, isn't 8 years enough time to update a database of your energy suppliers?

What a company!


Correct connector?
Topic: multimedia Link here

More investigation of antenna connector types. It seems that the connector to the tuner is a male MCX connector, and the other end is a male F connector. Another order on eBay, another 3 weeks to wait. And though these adapters are cheap (this one cost US $3.50 including postage), they cost nearly half the price of the tuner.


Wednesday, 6 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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New tyres and nitrogen
Topic: general Link here

Into town today to have the tyres changed on Yvonne's Commodore. $89 per tyre, including balancing. But if I want nitrogen in the tyres, it'll cost another $5. Why? And why nitrogen? They tell me it leaks less—not a particular issue with modern tyres, as I have observed—and that the ride is smoother. Clearly I'm going to have to investigate, but where do you get nitrogen to top up the tyres?


Not much gardening stuff
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

While in town, Yvonne wanted to buy some new plants. Not the time of year, I said. But she still wanted them, so we looked around at Formosa. We brought some Alstroemerias from Kleins Road, but they all died. They grow like fury, but the one she found was quite a small pot for $16. Why so expensive? We left that.

Then there was lavender, against which we also decided for some reason. And tree guards were surprisingly expensive. So bought only a Mandevilla laxa and off to Masters to see what they had there. Almost nothing, just slightly cheaper bamboo stakes. Back to Formosa and finally bought the plastic for the tree guards. All in all, pretty much a waste of time.


Thursday, 7 April 2016 Dereel
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Still more subversion problems
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Rainer Hurling has trouble with Vigra since I tried to update it to the latest version (1.11.0). Time to try for myself. But now I have VMs, it's time to migrate stable to a VM. That's simple enough: follow the HOWTO. And then build a new world, now that FreeBSD 10.3 has been released.

The buildworld failed with missing definitions. I've seen that before: corrupted working copy of the Subversion repository. Another checkout? Simple. And yes, exactly the same kind of corruption that I had seen before, including files that had been updated before the branch point for stable/10:

-__FBSDID("$FreeBSD: stable/10/sys/fs/cd9660/cd9660_iconv.c 120492 2003-09-26 20:26:25Z fjoe $");
+__FBSDID("$FreeBSD: stable/10/sys/fs/cd9660/cd9660_iconv.c 166639 2007-02-11 13:54:25Z rodrigc $");

How can that happen? Last time I sent a message to the FreeBSD internal mailing list, but got no useful replies. Somehow this stuff is far too flaky.

I've also been having problems building ports. I build from a working copy there too, and only a week ago I established that I had had corruption there, and checked out a new working copy. And it's already broken! At least this time the dates aren't as implausible:

--- ports-2/archivers/libmspack/work/libmspack-0.5alpha/Makefile        2016-03-31 14:35:53.271310000 +1100
+++ ports/archivers/libmspack/work/libmspack-0.5alpha/Makefile  2016-04-07 17:39:49.311551000 +1000

But how can people work with this broken software? And why does nobody seem to care?


More ports pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A couple of days ago I received mail from Carlos “Cartola” Carvalho telling me that the Hugin package was missing dependencies. Of course I had checked that long ago (partially after tripping over my own missing dependencies). But I had built from source, and Cartola had installed the binary package. So I tried it, and how about that, he's right: it didn't install the dependencies. I had discussed the matter with Edwin Groothuis, who told me of a make target I hadn't heard of:

=== root@stable (/dev/pts/1) /usr/ports/graphics/hugin 6 -> make run-depends-list
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/accessibility/atk
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/databases/sqlite3
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/devel/boost-libs
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/devel/desktop-file-utils
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/devel/gettext-runtime
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/devel/glib20
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/devel/gmake
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/OpenEXR
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/autopano-sift-c
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/enblend
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/exiv2
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/freeglut
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/gdk-pixbuf2
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/glew
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/gtk-update-icon-cache
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/ilmbase
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/jpeg-turbo
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/lcms2
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/libpano13
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/p5-Image-ExifTool
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/panomatic
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/png
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/tiff
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/graphics/vigra
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/lang/python27
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/math/fftw3
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/misc/shared-mime-info
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/x11-toolkits/pango
/eureka/home/src/FreeBSD/svn/ports/x11-toolkits/wxgtk28

And those include the ones that are missing.

So is this the wrong package? Went looking and found it at http://pkg.freebsd.org/freebsd:10:x86:64/latest/All/hugin-2016.0.0_1.txz. Dated only a few hours ago. Downloaded it and took a look. There's a file +MANIFEST in there in a format that is clearly not intended for humans, and which I don't understand, but after changing commas to \n I found things like:

"OpenEXR":{"origin":"graphics/OpenEXR"
"version":"2.2.0_5"}
"glew":{"origin":"graphics/glew"
"version":"1.13.0"}
"libpano13":{"origin":"graphics/libpano13"
"version":"2.9.19_1"}

These are clearly the dependencies, and all three of them didn't get installed. Why? This is beginning to look like a bug in pkg. Sent off another message to the ports list, and again didn't get any more insight, though Don Lewis pointed me to another make target that I didn't know, check-plist, which found “issues”:

====> Checking for pkg-plist issues (check-plist)
===> Parsing plist
===> Checking for items in STAGEDIR missing from pkg-plist
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/blended_stacks.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/fused_layers.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/hdr_pano.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/normal_enblend.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/normal_smartblend.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/data/zeronoise.executor
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/xrc/data/ptbatcher_pause.ico
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/xrc/data/ptbatcher_pause.png
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/xrc/data/ptbatcher_running.ico
Error: Orphaned: %%DATADIR%%/xrc/data/ptbatcher_running.png
===> Checking for items in pkg-plist which are not in STAGEDIR
===> Error: Plist issues found.
*** Error code 1

Since the installation normally works, that begs the question what good pkg-plist is. But clearly something easy enough to fix.


Dead pear
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Last year I was amused by this image:


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“Pear” is the translation of German „Birne“, which means either pear (obviously) or light globe. But this has come back to bite us. Today one of them died. At a guess it ran for less than 2 hours a day for about 300 days. That's considerably less than the reliability of obsolete tungsten globes. When I changed it, it was very hot, almost too hot to touch. Is this what I get for buying cheap globes?


Nitrogen? No thanks
Topic: general, opinion Link here

My mention of filling car tyres with nitrogen caused some interest on IRC. In the process, found this page, which pretty much sums up my concerns. Basically, a marketing gimmick, nothing more.


Friday, 8 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 April 2016
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Fixing Hugin package
Topic: technology Link here

My mail to the ports mailing list about the Hugin port bore some fruit. Don Lewis discovered, with the help of Yet Another Makefile target (check-plist) that the pkg-plist file contained errors. How could that be? I used some other recommended method to build it. But he had also verified that, at least for him, that after rectifying this problem and building a new package, it installed all the dependencies. So at least pkg was not behaving correctly. First let's see if the package does now work.


Money from Powercor
Topic: general Link here

Call from Dana at Powercor today, confirming what she said on Tuesday: the refund of $100 had been sent to my energy retailer for Stones Road, and she would send me a cheque for Kleins Road. And it could take 2 weeks. But then, everything seems to be slow at Powercor.


Castrating Nikolai?
Topic: animals Link here

Nikolai was born an almost perfect example of the Borzoi breed. Ron Frolley was really unhappy about his one (but serious) defect: he was a cryptorchid. But recently I heard somebody claim that undescended testicles could cause cancer (can't everything?). It was my understanding that Ron had spent a lot of money on Niko, and that he had probably had the testicles removed.

Still, worth checking. Yvonne asked Sally Stasitis if he had been castrated, but she didn't know. She suggested that we call the vet, Maroondah Veterinary Clinic in Croydon, Victoria, phone +61-3-9870-0303. Called them up. No, they had only seen him once and referred him to the Monash Veterinary Clinic, phone +61-3-9544-7455. Called them up and discovered that they have nothing to do with Monash University except the location. But they were able to confirm yes, he had had the testicles removed. All went surprisingly smoothly.


More new pussies
Topic: animals, food and drink, general Link here

Two weeks ago Melinda Radus offered us a cat that Yvonne wanted to have, and Kelly Daly offered to bring it with her from Adelaide. But in the meantime Melinda found another cat which Yvonne also liked. The original one, Kito, is 3½ years old, while the new one is 16 weeks old. Chris Bahlo was also in the market, so in the end we arranged to buy both and fight over who gets which.

We received copious paperwork in the meantime, including Melinda's guess at which cat we would take: she called the new one Adelhills Rhani MS Lehey.

We had planned to meet Kelly for dinner at Gary and Chris Daly's in Delacombe this evening, but things didn't quite work out like that: Kelly had an eye problem and had to have it looked at at an opthalmologist. The problem proved to be a false alarm, but it meant that they didn't leave until about 17:30, and (as we later discovered) they arrived in Ballarat round 23:30, by which time we had gone home again. We arranged to pick up the cats tomorrow morning.

In the meantime, we had dinner with Chris and Gary. It seemed it didn't come for free. Yvonne had to make some Aïoli for Chris:


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Saturday, 9 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 9 April 2016
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New pussy
Topic: animals Link here

Off early to Ballarat this morning to pick up the cats. That all went smoothly, and we brought them back home and put them in the bathroom:


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Which one to take? Kelly had suggested that the little one (“Rhani”) had a better head shape, and I can agree with that, so in the end we decided on her.


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It took Piccola over half an hour to discover her presence:


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For the rest of the day we let her walk around. As always, she hid in all sorts of unexpected places, and by evening she still hadn't really come round. But Melinda told us that she was shy; we're used to that


Dereel Camera Crew, month 2
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Off to the Dereel hall in the afternoon for the Dereel Camera Crew meeting. This time Lisa (the coordinator) wasn't there, but Paul Shire (the professional photographer) was:


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That photo illustrates at least two things that he was talking about: backlighting and using a sheet of paper to lighten the shadows.

And the third? Always use a lens hood. And indeed, everybody except myself had a lens hood on their camera, in some cases reversed. I beg to differ, especially with zoom lenses, where the hood has to be designed to not cut off the edges when the lens is set to its minimal focal length. At the maximum length, it's not much help, as these three photos against the sun show. At least one was taken with no protection, and one with my hand shading just outside the field of view:


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Unfortunately, I forgot to note which was which, and I really can't tell the difference. There are more extreme cases, of course, like these two from my House photos:


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Run the cursor over either image to switch to the other image. The trees in the background and part of the soil in front of the plant boxes looks better without the sun.

Other lenses are more susceptible, as I noted years ago. But then I also noted that the lens hood didn't really help.


Computer for the Men's shed
Topic: technology Link here

While I was at the photo meeting, Doug Braddy from the Dereel Men's Shed came over and asked me to come and visit him afterwards. It's the first time I've been in the new shed, but for some reason I didn't take any photos.

What he wanted was: the shed had received a donation of a ThinkCentre with a 2.13 GHz Core 2 6400 (Passmark 1299), 2 GB memory and Microsoft “Windows” XP. No keyboard, no mouse. And he wanted a more modern “Windows” on it. OK, modulo license key I can do that, though when I took it with me, it wasn't clear what the configuration was, nor whether it could handle “Windows” 7 in a timely manner. We'll find that out tomorrow.


Dinner with Melanie Bahlo
Topic: general Link here

Chris Bahlo's sister Melanie is here for the weekend, alone today, with family for tomorrow and Monday. She came over for dinner, but for some reason (again) I didn't take any relevant photos.


Sunday, 10 April 2016 Dereel Images for 10 April 2016
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Another RCD trip
Topic: general Link here

Lying awake at 3:34 this morning, I head a faint beep. I've heard too many of them. Out into the garage. Yes, the RCD had tripped again. I had intended to put together a catalogue of everything Jim Lannen did wrong and present it to him, but I think I'm going to have to get him to come here to fix this particular problem really soon.


More fun with Microsoft
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Spent some time looking at Doug Braddy's computer today. To my surprise, found an original Microsoft disk for “Windows” 7 “Home Premium” (is that a prize or a price?), so installed that.

Why is Microsoft so slow, and why is there so much disk activity at startup? In this case, it seems that 2 GB memory is pretty minimal for “Windows” 7, and it was swapping its little heart out. But the most interesting thing was “Internet Explorer”'s reaction to my attempt to download firefox:


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That's amazing.

Spent the rest of the day trying to update the system. It takes forever! And it doesn't stop the system from hibernating, so in the end I had to turn it off and wait until tomorrow.


Monday, 11 April 2016 Dereel Images for 11 April 2016
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Microsoft pain: over
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Came into the office this morning to find that the Men's Shed computer hadn't finished installing updates:


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How did that happen? All that was running was the Task Manager and the “Windows” Update. Stopped that and wasn't able to install the updates: an update was in progress. How do I get past that? Not only did rebooting not help, it wasn't possible: shutdown hung trying to install those updates that had been downloaded. And I couldn't power down either, because the power button was set to “Sleep”. In the end I had to pull the power plug.

Come back up again—same message! It offers help, of course, but I know how much help that is (“Ask one of your friends” is really one suggestion I have seen). But I followed it and eventually came to this page, which really was helpful. In a nutshell:

After that and the inevitable iterative approach to installing updates, everything went well. Enough community spirit for one month.


Olympus “Air” usage
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

43rumors posted an article on all the normal and strange things you can do with the Olympus AIR today. I've always thought the Olympus AIR to be a silly idea, and maybe Olympus does too: neither I nor Google could find it on asia.olympus-imaging.com, the site I usually quote. The photos rather prove my point. Here my favourites:

Clearly what's missing is a housing. But then you can buy a camera with a well-thought-out housing and interface already.


Electricity bill
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The quarterly electricity bill arrived today. No mention of the refund that Dana mentioned last week. These people are really annoying.


Hugin dependencies: still not working
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

So now the FreeBSD ports system has had time to build a new Hugin package, so tried reinstalling it. Sure enough, the package at http://pkg.freebsd.org/freebsd:10:x86:64/latest/All/ is now portrevision 2. And it still doesn't install the dependencies. It looks like this still could be my problem, but clear error checking from pkg would help immensely.


Amazing Moiré
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking photos of computer displays isn't easy. Both the display and the camera sensor consist of discrete elements, and the potential for Moiré is enormous. But today I had a case that beat anything I have ever seen:


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It's so bad that DxO Optics “Pro” wasn't able to start fixing it.


More Hibiscus photos
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

More nice Hibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers are blooming. I should be working on calculating the focus steps, but working my way through Perl code makes my head hurt, so today I tried guesswork. The following photos were taken with different apertures and different focus steps:

Number       Aperture (f/)       Focus step
1       2.8       1
3       5.6       1
4       11       1
6       2.8       3
7       2.8       5
8       8       5


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As usual, there are a number of things to note:


Acclimatizing Rani
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Gradually Rani is coming out of her shell, but it's a slow process. As Melinda advertised, she's somewhat timid, and it took her a while to get used to us at all. She spent much of the day in Yvonne's office, closely watched by the dogs:


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In the evening we let her out in the lounge room, where she promptly investigated all the hiding places, including under Yvonne's armchair:


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But come time to go to bed, there was no sign of her. We pretty much dismantled the armchair:


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But no sign. Left her there in the hope that she would come out some time.


Tuesday, 12 April 2016 Dereel Images for 12 April 2016
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More Rani acclimatization
Topic: animals Link here

Got up a couple of times in the night looking for Rani, somewhat concerned that she might have suffocated in her hiding place, but it wasn't until morning that Yvonne found her. Clearly a particularly timid little kitten. Spent some time discussing whether we should borrow Kito from Chris Bahlo, but in the end decided that it would be better not to.

In the course of the day she came around. One of the issues was that the dogs are so fascinated by her:


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Piccola is gradually coming round, though of course it'll take a while:


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Looking back to the last time (Lilac, Piccola) and the time before that (Lilac, Fluffy) it seems that the initial acceptance takes about a week, but it takes over a month before they're real friends.


Poaching eggs
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne suggested this morning that we eat poached eggs for breakfast. For some reason people have trouble with this dish, so today I tried to take a video of the process:


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More video processing
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Somehow I can't handle video well. The poached egg video was pretty bare-bones, but I had really wanted to join two together. A couple of years ago I thought I had found a way to do that, but for some reason it didn't work today. Oh, to find some good free video editing software, not to mention the motivation to improve my recordings. Somehow it's a completely different field from still photography.


Preventing “Windows” hibernation
Topic: technology Link here

Mail from Daniel Nebdal today:

As a short workaround to windows 7 hibernating when you least want it to:
If you press Win/Meta + X , the "mobility center" should pop up. From
memory, the rightmost item on the lower row is "presentation mode". Turn
that on, and it won't even suspend the monitor until you disable it again.
I think it's meant for really long presentations, but as long as it works
etc.

In fact I had simply turned off hibernation in the Control Panel, but it's good to remember tricks like this one.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016 Dereel Images for 13 April 2016
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More HTML5 pain
Topic: technology Link here

I've complained in the past about problems using HTML5 to display videos, and I've found ways to revert to flash. But I forgot to document them! My latest install on eureka uses HTML5 because it has the power to do so.

But there are still downsides in using HTML5, notably the lack of nagivability. How do I get back to flash again? Once, it seems, it was enough to go to about:config and set media.webm.enabled to false, as this (unnecessary) video shows. The instructions are in the comments.

Unfortunately, that no longer works. The real solution appears to be this firefox addon. With that, it's several times faster (and only about 10 times slower than mplayer) and I get my navagibility back.

Why is this stuff so inefficient?


The use of lens hoods
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

On Saturday, Paul Shire told everybody: “Remember, always use a lens hood”. I disagreed, and to prove the point made these three photos against the light (the sun just outside the field of view):


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In sequence, the photos were taken without a lens hood, with a lens hood, and with my hand shading the lens. It's clear that the lens hood makes a minor difference, but in general it's not worth the trouble, especially when you consider the size:


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Rani acclimatization
Topic: animals Link here

Rani is gradually becoming less timid, but the dogs are looking after her anyway:


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I'm a little concerned that Leo sometimes bares his teeth when playing with her:


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I suspect (and hope!) this is just in play.


Cartola panorama instructions
Topic: photography Link here

Carlos “Cartola” Carvalho has just produced a couple of YouTube videos, mainly text (Portuguese and English):

There's some interesting stuff in there. Again I'm left wondering if YouTube is the correct medium, but he does show some animated screen shots, so it's probably not the worst choice.


Thursday, 14 April 2016 Dereel Images for 14 April 2016
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Can openers and POLA
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Cooking ayam lemak this afternoon. That involves a can of Woolworths Coconut Cream, one of the few cans that no longer has a pull opener. For that, we have a can opener:


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But it doesn't work well on these cans, possibly because the lid is indented too far. Of course when I took the photos, it worked, but only just:


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Yvonne uses a strange French device that works, but which I can't operate:


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A few weeks back she brought me back a newer can opener, which I first tried to use today. And I couldn't! My first thought was that it was left-handed, but whichever way you look at it, it won't fit. There's a big lip in the way:


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How is that supposed to work? If all else fails, RTFM:


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And that's all. It doesn't make any sense at all! Time to call up support. There's a number on the package: DKSH Australia, 02 8884 6000. Called that and discovered the number has changed: it's now 02 9425 5000. But they're just a distributor, and they don't have a support department. Their recommendation: take it back to the retailer. They weren't interested in feedback - they get that from their retailers.

OK, if all else fails, including the manual and customer service, what's the other possibility? YouTube, of course:

And there it is! The thing doesn't cut into the lid, it cuts the whole top of the can off!


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Thus the strange position in the illustrations. And in fact it works quite well, though it'll be interesting to see what happens when the can is full to the brim with liquid. Maybe I would have understood it better if the images had been a little more detailed, or if there had been any text explaining how it differed from an ordinary can opener.

I wonder how many returns occur as the result of this appalling “documentation”.


Camouflaged cat
Topic: animals Link here

We've had a cheap fake leopard-skin blanket for years, but suddenly it is of interest:


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Powercor refund
Topic: general Link here

Called up Dana at Powercor today to ask what had happened to my $100 refund. To my surprise, she knew exactly who I was, and said that she would follow up with Red Energy. That she did, confirmed that they had received the payment in early March, that it would be in my next bill, and that they would call me to confirm. Doubtless they'll also be able to explain why it wasn't refunded in this bill.


Friday, 15 April 2016 Dereel Images for 15 April 2016
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Still more Hugin port pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More investigation of the Hugin port again today. Checked everything, and all seemed well, but pkg still doesn't want to install all the dependencies. About the only thing that showed up was the message:

pkg: hugin has a missing dependency: autopano-sift-C

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        hugin: 2016.0.0_2
        p5-Image-ExifTool: 10.10
        vigra: 1.11.0
        hdf5: 1.8.15_1
        fftw3-float: 3.3.3_2

Why is that? The Makefile already contains the definition:

AUTOPANOSIFTC_RUN_DEPENDS= autopano:graphics/autopano-sift-c

Ah, but that's with a small C. And there is no executable called autopano. The name is, well, /usr/local/bin/autopano-sift-c. OK, we can fix that:

-AUTOPANOSIFTC_RUN_DEPENDS= autopano:graphics/autopano-sift-c
+AUTOPANOSIFTC_RUN_DEPENDS= autopano-sift-c:graphics/autopano-sift-c

Tried that, and got:

...
pkg: hugin has a missing dependency: autopano-sift-c

New packages to be INSTALLED:
        hugin: 2016.0.0_2
        p5-Image-ExifTool: 10.10
        vigra: 1.11.0
        hdf5: 1.8.15_1
        fftw3-float: 3.3.3_2
        enblend: 4.1.4_1
        gsl: 1.16_2
        glew: 1.13.0
        libGLU: 9.0.0_2
        freeglut: 3.0.0
        boost-libs: 1.55.0_10
        panomatic: 0.9.4
        exiv2: 0.24_2,1
        libpano13: 2.9.19_1

Curiouser and curiouser. The dependency is now there, but where does the message come from? But now it wants to install all the missing dependencies, with the exception of autopano-sift-c. And looking at that, where did it get the dependency name in the first place? It's in the +MANIFEST file, but where did it come from? Spent some time playing around with the package file in Emacs, in the process discovering (I think) that you can only use pkg install to install files with a full path name that ends in .txz. And this difference between autopano-sift-c and autopano-sift-C came back to bite me. In /usr/ports/graphics/autopano-sift-c/Makefile I find:

PORTNAME= autopano-sift-C

But why? And why is this causing problems? My head hurts.


Garden flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening Link here

Autumn is half gone. Time for more photos of the few flowers in the garden.

The new surprise is the Azaleas. A solitary flower:


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Normally nothing to write home about, but clearly it's not feeling happy where it is (too sunny, I think).

The roses, petunias and cannas are still going strong:


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And the violets, despite the sun, are also timidly flowering:


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The Solanum laxum are coming on, though it seems to prefer to grow by itself rather than where I plant it:


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With the Salvias it's a different matter. Nearly all of them died, I now think because of the heat and the wind. In particular, we no longer have any Salvia microphylla. But one has not completely given up, even trying to flower:


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Hopefully the increased attention we're giving to the garden will help improve matters come spring.


Red Energy: Abandon security
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Call from Mel at Red Energy today to talk about my Powercor refund. But first she needed to ask security questions: what's my date of birth.

This is getting to be just plain silly, for two reasons. Firstly, it's available on the web (though, surprisingly, not as easily as I thought), so it's not a security question at all; certainly it's normal that people share that information with their friends (“next week I'll be 0x40 years old”). And secondly, assuming that it is secure, why should I give it to somebody who can't authenticate herself?

She didn't understand, of course, even after I explained a scenario where a man in the middle could get the information and abuse it. “I'd never do anything like that”. This is to “protect my security”. No, it isn't; it does exactly the opposite. In the end, she agreed to send me a letter, but it was clear that she thought I was some kind of crank.

This isn't an isolated incident. Most commercial companies, including banks, are similarly lax with their “security”. Doesn't some industry association have recommendations for this sort of thing?


Saturday, 16 April 2016 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 16 April 2016
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Δ dogs
Topic: animals Link here

Off to Geelong this morning with Nikolai and Leonid for Delta society certification test. We've been there before with Nemo, but this time Yvonne convinced me to come too with Niko.


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The weather wasn't the best, but gradually picked up. To our surprise both dogs got full marks and their Delta neckbands:


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I got a matching polo shirt too, but only long enough for Vanda Iwanowski to take a few photos of us together. We'll get the real goods later. Lots of dogs there, of course, and Vanda put on a barbecue, so we had time for socializing:


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It's amazing how just about everybody was impressed by our dogs. But then, that seems to be typical. We let the dogs off the leash, and a number of them had fun running round:


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Unfortunately, one Berner Sennenhund didn't seem to hit it off with Niko:


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Just after the second photo he caught up with Niko, who was surprised or scared enough to turn round and snap at him. So from then on he stayed on his leash, and so did the others.

Things aren't over yet. The dogs have passed their test, and Yvonne did hers years ago, but I still have to go through my training, which will probably be in Geelong again next week.


Sunday, 17 April 2016 Dereel Images for 17 April 2016
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Justice, law and the press
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president of Turkey, is not a very nice man. He's authoritarian, and his country's involvement in the Syrian Civil War appears to be mainly a cover for killing Kurds. And his attitude towards personal and collective freedoms is repressive at best. He doesn't tolerate the press at the best of times; he has been systematically cracking down on dissension of normal proportions in his own country. All this has made him very unpopular in Europe and elsewhere.

On the other hand, the European Union has been courting him to help solve the refugee crisis that is flooding south-eastern Europe, despite objections from many quarters.

A week or two ago Jan Böhmermann, a German “artist” with dubious taste, staged a satire about Erdoğan on his ZDF programme. It wasn't in the best of taste. In fact, it was in very poor taste, and in general it reminds me of the lack of feeling demonstrated by Charlie Hebdo shooting:

But given the situation, it seems almost appropriate to show him that he can't suppress everything. Erdoğan saw it differently: he filed not one, but two proceedings against Böhmermann in Germany: one for personal insult, the other for insult of a foreign head of state, which is regulated by § 103 of the StGB (Strafgesetzbuch, German penal code).

Is that valid? § 5 of the Grundgesetz (“Ground law” or constitution) guarantees freedom of expression in art and science.

This was art, wasn't it? Good question. It was clearly designed to be insulting. And the last thing Germany wants is an argument with him.

But what to do? The law is the law, even if people are now wondering whether the paragraph hasn't passed its use-by date. It seems it was in the original version of the code back in 1871, and at least one German news programme showed that version. But does it cover the alleged crime? The relevant part of the current text reads:

Wer ein ausländisches Staatsoberhaupt oder wer mit Beziehung auf ihre Stellung ein Mitglied einer ausländischen Regierung, das sich in amtlicher Eigenschaft im Inland aufhält, ... beleidigt, wird mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu drei Jahren ... bestraft.

To save me translating it myself, there's this translation on the web. For some reason it refers to the paragraphs as sections.

Whosoever insults a foreign head of state, or, with respect to his position, a member of a foreign government who is in Germany in his official capacity, or a head of a foreign diplomatic mission who is accredited in the Federal territory shall be liable to imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine, in case of a slanderous insult to imprisonment from three months to five years.

But that's not the way I read it. Preserving some of the original word order, which is important,

Whoever a foreign head of state or whoever with reference to their position a member of a foreign government, that is present in the inland (i.e. Germany) in official capacity ... insults

There's a dangling condition there! Does the “present in the inland” refer to both categories of dignitary,or only the government member? Certainly Erdoğan was not present in the “inland”. The translation attempts to resolve the problem, but it's not the only way that it can be read, and it's the original that will be applied.

This ambiguity wasn't present in the version of 1871 (which came into effect on 1 January 1872):

 
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Wer sich gegen den Landesherrn oder den Regenten eines nicht zum Deutschen Reiche gehörenden Staats einer Beleidigung schuldig macht, wird mit Gefängniß von Einem Monat bis zu zwei Jahren oder mit Festungshaft von gleicher Dauer bestraft, sofern in diesem Staate nach veröffentlichten Staatsverträgen oder nach Gesetzen dem Deutschen Reiche die Gegenseitigkeit verbürgt ist.

Whoever is guilty of insult towards the king or regent of a country not belonging to the German Reich will be punished by a prison term of one month to two years, as long as this country has established by contract or law reciprocity towards the German Reich.

This is actually a lot clearer. Interestingly, the sentences were lighter then, not more than two years.

So does the current content of § 103 cover the matter? The press seems to think so. But at least one expert quoted § 104a. This paragraph didn't exist in the 1871 version, but it contains some of the text that was in the original § 103:

Straftaten nach diesem Abschnitt werden nur verfolgt, wenn die Bundesrepublik Deutschland zu dem anderen Staat diplomatische Beziehungen unterhält, die Gegenseitigkeit verbürgt ist und auch zur Zeit der Tat verbürgt war, ein Strafverlangen der ausländischen Regierung vorliegt und die Bundesregierung die Ermächtigung zur Strafverfolgung erteilt.

In English:

Offences under this chapter [original: section] shall only be prosecuted if the Federal Republic of Germany maintains diplomatic relations with the other state, reciprocity is guaranteed and was also guaranteed at the time of the offence, a request to prosecute by the foreign government exists, and the Federal Government authorises the prosecution.

That's relatively clear, and it's very important. But so far, nobody has mentioned it in the news. It's also interesting that the Government has a say in the matter; it erodes the separation between the executive and the judiciary. It was also not in the original paragraph § 103. And this puts the government in a particularly difficult position.

The government spent a week deliberating, and finally Angela Merkel announced that the government would authorize the prosecution. And people are up in arms! Out with Merkel!

In fact, I can't see what else she could do. If it wasn't for § 104a (and it appears that most people, including the press, don't know about it; I only found it while following up a single reference), it would be clear that the government could have no influence on the matter. But why should they? They can only have a negative influence: refuse to allow prosecution. And under what circumstances should they do that? It would have to be a very important one, and I don't see it here.

Given the nature of the matter, it seems completely clear to me that there's enough basis for a prosecution. And that's a matter for the judiciary, not the executive. Nothing to do with the person who was insulted. The real question is whether § 103 StGB overrides § 5 GG. In particular, was this art or an unveiled attempt to insult a foreign head of state? Even Böhmermann stated that it was the latter. I hope the legal system will be lenient.


Justice, law and the press, part 2
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

There's a petition on change.org for freedom for Jan Böhmermann, and I decided to sign it. For that, of course, I had to sign up, which also means I get lots of other petition requests. One of them seems quite compelling: I'm told that Gary Brabham, son of Sir Jack Brabham, was jailed for raping a 6-year-old girl. And he gets parole after 6 months! How can that be?

How, indeed? Looking at the details, it's not clear what happened at all. How old was the girl? What did he do to her? Clearly he's been found guilty of something, but it's not easy to find out what:

So what's the truth? One thing's clear: the press makes what they want out of it. In fact, it seems he was accused of repeatedly abusing her between the ages of 6 and 10. But why the discrepancy in the reported sentences? And what does “rape” mean? It seems it happened in a moving car.

I'm not trying to make the offence seem less than it is. But with so little understanding of what really happened, how can I assume that the judge was too lenient in his sentencing? I certainly couldn't sign the petition. And in general, is imprisonment the appropriate treatment for somebody with these problems?


Rani, a week later
Topic: animals, photography Link here

Rani has been with us for 8 days now. The dogs are no longer as excited, though Piccola still doesn't want to know. But Rani has become much less timid, and this evening we took some photos of her playing with Chris Bahlo, with interested participation by the dogs:


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It's amazing what a difference it makes to have a studio flash in the lounge room. I took a total of 239 photos, though a large number were useless because I didn't wait for the flash to recycle, despite the fact that it only takes about 2 seconds.


Monday, 18 April 2016 Dereel Images for 18 April 2016
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Cats: More acclimatization
Topic: animals Link here

Gradually Piccola is coming to terms with the presence of Rani, even if she doesn't really want to have anything to do with her yet. But the social distances are diminishing:


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Yet another RCD trip
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

I've been dragging my feet on calling Jim Lannen about the electrical problems, partially because it'll take a while to compile a complete list, and partially because I don't want the confrontation. But it'll have to happen soon. This evening the RCD tripped yet again, fortunately at 20:45 while we were watching TV. I suspect it has something to do with power line fluctuations.


Tuesday, 19 April 2016 Dereel Images for 19 April 2016
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BigPond breakage: enough is enough!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

More rejected mail from BigPond today:

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

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

<sufferinguser99@bigpond.com>: host extmail.bigpond.com[61.9.168.122] said: 552
    5.2.0 jeSz1s00h1sUVRc01eT0gw Suspected spam message rejected. IB704 (in
    reply to end of DATA command)

I've seen this before, and I've tried repeatedly to find a human on their so-called “technical support” line, all in vain.

The last time was 9 months ago. Time to try again? Called 13 76 63 and was presented with this emetic voice menu which doesn't offer me the choices I want, and in the end connected me to the billing department. I could have called “technical support” on 13 39 33, and maybe I should have, but based on my previous experience with them, they can't help.

Ultimately I was connected to “technical support” anyway, which proved my prior experience. I told Daisy (is that really his name?) that I wanted them to stop refusing my email, and he asked if I wanted to delete my account. He asked me if I was using a corporate email. What's that? He asked all sorts of questions that suggested that the person who wrote the scripts didn't understand the issues either, including which mail client (I suppose he means MUA) I was using, and which ISP I was using. The only thing he didn't ask was what the error message was.

Asked to speak to his supervisor. No point: he would just say the same thing. On my insistence he connected me to mumble, who called himself Edward on the second attempt. He didn't claim to be a supervisor; he was a technical specialist, who told me that the ISP protocol was incorrect. He, too, wasn't interested in the error code: I should speak to my ISP. It seems that all such problems are automatically blamed on the other end.

I asked to speak to his supervisor. They're all on training, he said. This seems to be the standard answer from BigPond; I can't recall ever being connected to a genuine supervisor. I asked him to file a complaint. He told me I would get a call back in 15 to 30 minutes, and only on pressure gave me a dubious complaint reference: 0bff026b b817f0ae. Of course, there was no call back. Time to give up? Probably. 25 minutes, and the only result was a significant increase in my blood pressure.

Discussed the matter on IRC. People came up with a number of suggestions. This page (crowd support, which seems to an attempt to compensate for BigPond's non-existent technical support). It came up with the the interesting statement:

The error message IB703 means that the domain is listed in the Spamhaus DBL which is why it is being rejected. This needs to be taken up with Spamhaus.

Another blame game! So I asked Spamhaus. No block, of course. They also pointed to other possible explanations, none of which applied.

And then there was a Facebook article to which a Telstra representative replied:

The next step would be to contact your supplier to check if they have an issue with email to us, if not then chat to tech using the following link: http://tel.st/gq6m

Nonsense! The next step would be to look at the error code and find out what it's trying to say. I hate chat pages, but maybe it wouldn't be as bad as speaking to idiots on the phone.

The first attempt started:

It went on like that for a while, at a snail's pace. Yvonne called me for breakfast, and when I got back the connection timed out. And the promised transcript (by email!) never arrived. Tried again and was connected with Christian Jev, who at least tried.

Amazing! They're an Internet service provider with support people who don't have access to the web. Probably they don't want them surfing when they should be working. And the first person hadn't even mentioned the fact. Christian claimed that it was for the security of the customer's accounts. More bloody nonsense! So I pasted the article.

He asked a few questions, including some that made sense. Once again he asked who my ISP was. What does he mean by ISP? The people who supply my connection to the Internet? What difference does that make? In any case, www.lemis.com is a hosted system (RootBSD, whom I can recommend), not related to an ISP.

And again questions about my MUA, where it should be abundantly clear that my MUA has nothing to do with it. I sent him the headers of the rejected mail, which showed nothing of interest, but it was apparently enough to blow his mind.

I finally decided to say that I am my ISP, which might be correct for their interpretation of the term. So he asked for a traceroute to mail.telstra.com, which was interesting. Firstly, a traceroute means nothing in this context. We know there was connectivity. Secondly, mail.telstra.com has nothing to do with BigPond mail. Thirdly, it has nothing to do with mail at all! nmap shows:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/etc/postfix 49 -> nmap mail.telstra.com

Starting Nmap 6.49BETA6 ( https://nmap.org ) at 2016-04-19 23:30 UTC
Nmap scan report for mail.telstra.com (203.36.172.104)
Host is up (0.32s latency).
Other addresses for mail.telstra.com (not scanned): 203.36.137.232
rDNS record for 203.36.172.104: email.bigpond.com
Not shown: 998 filtered ports
PORT    STATE SERVICE
80/tcp  open  http
443/tcp open  https

Nmap done: 1 IP address (1 host up) scanned in 23.95 seconds

So why is the server called mail? Then he asked me to try mail.bigpond.com. But that's their outgoing mail server:

=== root@www (/dev/pts/0) /usr/local/etc/postfix 51 -> telnet mail.bigpond.com smtp
Connected to mail.bigpond.com.
220 nskntcmgw08p BigPond Outbound ESMTP server ready
mail from: groggyhimself@lemis.com
550 5.1.0 Authentication Required

They only have one MX, and it's extmail.bigpond.com. All three servers are too polite to respond to traceroute.

After that, he acknowledged that he couldn't help. He couldn't escalate either: for that I would need a BigPond account. So I asked him whether I should just take it to the TIO, and after 19 pages of discussion he didn't find any alternative.

I feel a bit sorry for Christian. He really did try, but he was limited by his experience and the lack of support within his company. I suspect he is new with the company, and it's very likely he won't last long—does anybody? So now to the TIO, assuming they're even in a position to handle the complaint. But it really beggars belief that nobody in “technical support” understands what the error messages are trying to say. If it's “you're in a spam list”, it's broken. I suspect that that's only one of the reasons, but that the spam filter is so baroque that nobody wants to look at it.


BigPond: what I have learnt
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The encounter with BigPond technical support has something Daliesque about it. But during the over four hours I tried to resolve the problem, I have come up with some hypotheses about what their terminology really means:

That's only one definition of ISP, of course. The issue is that they don't seem to be able to grasp that the services may not all be provided by the same entity.


Wednesday, 20 April 2016 Dereel Images for 20 April 2016
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Hunger!
Topic: health, opinion, food and drink, general Link here

Tomorrow is my Colonoscopy. For that kind of examination, you need a really clean gut, as I discovered nearly 50 years ago. On that occasion it was an enema, but nowadays they use chemicals. From 8:30 this morning I was on a solids-free diet (almost). The only things that I can take are water, coffee (strangely), clear soups and Sports drinks, whatever they are. How am I going to survive?

While pondering this, got a call from Roslyn (I think) of the Ballarat Base Hospital this morning, confirming that my colonoscopy will occur as scheduled tomorrow, and going over—again—all the details I had supplied. I was supposed to ask her about questions I had, but she wasn't much help. I am to go to the Day Procedure Centre, which I knew, but she couldn't tell me how to get there. She couldn't tell me about how long it would take before laxatives worked. She couldn't tell me how to deal with the hunger.

The first product is called PicoPrep, which contains Citric Acid, Sodium picosulphate and Magnesium Oxide. It is to be taken at 15:00. The instructions tell me to dissolve it in water,

How? Magnesium oxide is completely insoluble in water. And it was particularly difficult to keep in suspension, so in the end I really couldn't swallow all it. But what pharmaceutical company can't distinguish between solution and suspension? You'd fail a Year 8 chemistry test with that kind of inaccuracy. The effect set in after about an hour.

The next, at 17:00, was Glycoprep, of which I needed to drink a whole litre. The instructions state to drink 4 glasses of 250 ml each at 15 minute intervals, in other words an hour in total. Clearly somebody should hit the documentation writer over the head with the spare fence post.

The documentation didn't meantion any reaction to PicoPrep, but stated that the effects of GlycoPrep would set in in 1 to 3 hours, presumably from the beginning of ingestion. I managed about 25 minutes. By the end of the evening I must have had the cleanest gut in Dereel. It could have been used for sausage casings with no further cleaning.

The funny thing was that I didn't feel hungry. But somehow the day was wasted.


Red Energy: heightened security
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Letter from Melanie from Red Energy this morning, explaining the reasons (Privacy Act 1988, which I suppose I should read), and offering the alternative of a password. Well, yes, a password is more secure, but only if the person asking can authenticate himself. How do get the issues across to people? They're so obvious to me, but it seems that nobody in the Real World thinks about the issues.

The good result of the matter, apart from the fact that the $100 in question was applied to this quarter's bill, is that they have offered me a 10% pay-on-time discount on my bill. Previously it was only 5%. Since I always pay on time, this is a real advantage. But I have to agree to it! Think of all the trouble they would get into if they applied the discount without my permission!


Thursday, 21 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 21 April 2016
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Colonoscopy: done!
Topic: health Link here

Today was the day of my Colonoscopy. Spent a restless night, not helped by leg pain (which I suspect was due to lack of electrolytes) and the high outside temperature. By the time I got up at 5:00, the outside temperature was still 20°. And the weather forecast predicted a maximum temperature of 19°!

What idiot decided that I should take a laxative before heading off on a 30 minute car journey? That's why I had to get up at 5:00, so that by the time I left at 6:30 I should have had a bowel motion. I didn't.

Got to the hospital at 7:00 with no mishaps. While looking for the Day Procedure Unit, an old woman with a backpack and walking stick came up behind me and said “Another poor sod for the Day Procedure Unit”. I suppose my backpack gave me away. At least she pointed me in the right direction.

Checkin was as you'd expect: wait in line for about 5 minutes, then confirm all the information that I had confirmed on the phone yesterday. Then a relatively short wait, after which a nurse, Jena, called me in for investigation of blood sugar and pressure (6.4 mmol/l, 137/90). She thought 6.4 normal for the time, due to hormonal activity after waking up. I think she's right, but she's the first medical practitioner to tell me so. She asked me all the questions again, and took me to a nearly-curtained-off too-short bed to change into one of these strange gowns they so love in hospitals, and to wait for the next step.

That happened about 20 minutes later when Cheree came in and asked all the questions again, then attached a blood pressure cuff and a cable with a couple of contacts to my chest. She also told me I had the gown on the wrong way round, so I had to remove the cuff to change it.

A little later Adele, an anaesthetist, came in and asked me a subset of my details, including when I last ate and drank and the all-important date of birth, then told me what was going to happen. As I suspected, sedation meant not a complete anaesthetic, and it's normal for people to be conscious but groggy (sounds like me) during the operation.

While I was waiting, Cheree and Adele went to the beds on either side of me. An 84-year-old woman who didn't seem to understand the questions about when she had last eaten. On the other side was a 73-year-old man who could barely speak (“You know why you're here?” “They're going to put a camera down my throat”). After hearing those two, I felt relatively unimportant.

Finally, the doctor (AL-ANSARI, DR MOHAMM, according to the labels they put all over me), presumably Mohammed, came in. I'm used to Muslim doctors—my own GP, Majid, is one, and so is Ahmad, who referred me here. But this one was big, burly and red-headed, clearly a convert. He had relatively little to say—after all, all questions had been asked—but required a signature.

Then I got wheeled out into a waiting room, where the chief anaesthetist told me how to lie, pretty much like the Wikipedia image:

But they wanted my knees up under my chin (“Knees up Mother Brown”).

Next I was still awake, but being moved again to the waiting room. The time was 9:45, 20 minutes later. All over. Somehow the anaesthetics had had an on/off effect. I've never experienced anything like it. I wasn't in the slightest tired, though I had had to promise not to drive, cook or operate electrical equipment for 24 hours. They had located a 7 mm polyp of undescribed type which will be investigated, and I'll hear more from Majid in two weeks. They want me back in 5 years, which suggests that they don't have any great concerns about my condition. Reading the Wikipedia page suggests the same: polyps under 1 cm in diameter are almost never cancerous.

Ate a couple of bearable sandwiches, and Yvonne came to pick me up. All over. The preparations were the biggest problem.


Big Pond bug: Worked around
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

While lying awake in bed last night, I thought over some of the links to the BigPond mail issue. This one contains the information:

A client suddenly can no longer send emails to any Bigpond addresses (anyone else is fine - have checked that they are not blacklisted anywhere). After investigation, we found that if we removed their web site url from their signature, it will send to Bigpond just fine.

So BigPond is deliberately blocking texts if “suspect” (for them) URLs are present in the mail. But it gets worse: this page states:

Emails sent to or from BigPond accounts, may be blocked if they contain links to blacklisted domains, or are using certain URL shorteners. The affected emails will be rejected and receive a bounceback message advising of this.

The first time I read this, I assumed that they followed the links, but that's not what they said. My .sig file reads:

Sent from my desktop computer.
Finger groggyhimself@FreeBSD.org for PGP public key.
See complete headers for address and phone numbers.
This message is digitally signed.  If your Microsoft mail program
reports problems, please read http://tinyurl.com/broken-mua

Could it be that BigPond was rejecting tinyurl.com? That's easy enough to check. And yes, that's it! I can now send mail to BigPond users again.

Problem solved? Far from it. I have a workaround, but the problem remains. BigPond, and BigPond alone, is blocking a reputable domain. They're not reporting the fact. They're not telling their customers. They're not even telling their “technical support”!

I'm disgusted. And even after nearly 20 years of negative experience with BigPond, I'm still surprised.

And what can I use instead of tinyurl.com? lemis.com, of course. The URL is even shorter.


Still more RCD problems
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Somehow Powercor is doing funny things with the line voltage lately. I've noticed from time to time that my office UPS starts running its fans, and today it happened several times. Checking the display showed strange results: normally it's in pass-through mode, so input and output voltages are the same, nominally 230 V. But today I had input voltages of up to 254 V, and the UPS reduced that—to round 211 V! Why?

And at 16:44, another muffled “beep” from somewhere. I was watching TV at the time, so I backspaced to be sure it wasn't coming from the TV. No. In the kitchen, the oven clock was on, the microwave oven clock was out. RCD trip. And this time, for the first time, I checked: there's a little window in the device, just to the right of the switch, which shows whether it tripped because of overcurrent (normal circuit breaker function, in which case it's grey, as shown here), or residual current (red):

 
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It was red.

This is getting to the state where I really need to do something. Spent some time putting together a list of all the problems I've had with the house wiring. It's quite a list. And fixing this problem will involve a lot of work: there should be two separate circuits in the shed, one for the UPS and one for everything else. But Jim has only put one cable in there, and there's not enough space in the conduit for another. So it'll involve digging. The whole thing could be expensive.


Cat acclimatization progress
Topic: animals Link here

Gradually Piccola is coming to terms with Rani:


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We're not there yet, but it's close:


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Friday, 22 April 2016 Dereel Images for 22 April 2016
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Towards a complete garden
Topic: gardening Link here

Gardner Mick along today to do some more work, mainly mulching, putting in tree guards and changing the soil in some garden beds. Now we need to decide what to do with the non-bed parts of the garden. What passes for grass is really pretty terrible, and it hardly seems worth the trouble.


Goodbye off-peak rates
Topic: general Link here

Called up Red Energy today to give them permission to charge me less. Spoke to Amanda (I think), and while I was there discussed the interesting fact that I don't seem to have an off-peak rate, only two different Peak rates (steps 1 and 2, $0.236 and $0.231 per kWh respectively). These prove to be dependent on consumption, not time. Why no off-peak? Amanada checked and came up with an on-peak rate of $0.33 odd and $0.12, the latter only from 22:00 to 7:00. Exact details to be sent per email. They didn't arrive.

Is that worth it? Probably not. I don't think we use much power in the night, so it would probably end up costing more. I'll wait until we can use solar energy for our electricity.


Vertical grill
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

ALDI had a “vertical grill” on offer on Wednesday, and it looked interesting enough to try out. It's effectively a mini Döner grill, though it comes with attachments to secure up to 7 (why 7?) skewers at once:


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The door has an interesting label:


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I wonder where that usage of the word “default” comes from.

Running the grill was not as simple as I thought. The points of the skewers are inserted in a plate at the bottom of the rotisserie, and the other ends (with a bow) are inserted at the top. But that isn't as simple as it looks. The first attempt failed after a couple of rotations:


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Possibly the bow is intended to fit in double. But lifting the upper plate does it too.

I had expected the one-sided heating to be a problem, but it doesn't seem to be. The instructions specify 20 to 30 minutes for this kind of skewer. The first couple of minutes don't count: you have to insert the skewers into the grill while it's cold, and it takes that long to warm up. And after a little over 20 minutes, the skewers were well done, and mine were tender. For some reason, Yvonne got all the tough pieces. But all in all it seems a reasonable acquisition.


Saturday, 23 April 2016 Dereel Images for 23 April 2016
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Feiner Rinderbraten
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last week, in preparation for my colonoscopy, we bought some beef to make beef broth: chuck steak (I think) and a marrow bone. The broth was good, but what do we do with the rest? What the Germans used to call „Rinderbraten“, literally roast beef, but in fact far inferior. I suspect that modern German usage is more in line with a real roast beef. The Wikipedia page seems to be total nonsense.

I had first experienced this kind of dish round 1973. I don't know why they called it roast; what we had was boiled, and it was just the same as in those days. And you can't cut it into thin slices, because it's close to disintegrating. So the slices are between 6 and 10 mm in thickness.

Yvonne asked me to cut it, and she would arrange delicately it on the plate:


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That's delicate? What does Yvonne care?


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Sunday, 24 April 2016 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel
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Delta training
Topic: animals, general Link here

Off to Geelong with Kath Philips for the Delta society training. It took most of the day! I don't suppose I learnt that much, but it was certainly worth going through. Probably one of the most interesting discoveries was that Vanda Iwanowski seems to run one of the largest groups single-handedly.

Kath is the area coordinator (I think that's the term they agreed on) for Ballarat, which seems to include places as far afield as Seymour. She has planned for us to visit a couple of aged care facilities in East Ballarat, though I didn't get the names. That way we could drive together, which makes sense. We'll probably do a preliminary visit on Thursday.


Goodbye MSY?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Vanda did her presentations using a laptop, with corresponding sound quality. She expressed an intention to buy external speakers. As it happened, we were just round the corner from MSY, a cheap computer components supplier I used to use until they completely blocked a valid return, though availability of advertised components was also an issue.

Round to take a look during the tea break. Shut. OK, that's not that unusual on a Sunday. But they're shut all day Saturday too! They're only open from 10:30 to 17:30 on weekdays. I suppose other people have also decided that they're not worth the trouble.


Everybody loves Facebook
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Vanda talked about communication during one of her presentations, noting particularly the Facebook page. But then she said that she didn't respond to PMs (whatever that may be), and that to communicate with her we should send email. No arguments from me, modulo the fact that she uses Microsoft “Outlook”, which confuses the hell out of users when it sees a digital signature. But Vanda has found out about that, and will no longer be confused.

What surprised me, though, was that the other participants all said they didn't like Facebook either! More an unpleasant utility than something they enjoyed.

Once again I'm left wondering how social media will evolve.


Monday, 25 April 2016 Dereel → Footscray → Dereel Images for 25 April 2016
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Yana moves to Adelaide
Topic: general Link here

Our daughter Yana has been living in Melbourne for the last few years, but now she has decided to move back to Adelaide. She doesn't have much in the way of belongings, but more than will fit in her car, and since she's going back without anywhere to live, she's asked us to look after some of them for her. Personally I think it's just a conspiracy with Yvonne to make me finally tidy up the shed so that we have somewhere to put the stuff.

Borrowed one of CJ's many trailers—he had left another one in front of the shed:


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Got to Melbourne (really Footscray) round lunch time, and off to “Brother Nancy”, Yana's restaurant. The weather was good, the restaurant packed, so we sat outside:


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Food was interesting. It seems that most dishes are intended as a late breakfast, but they had a kangaroo and chestnut dish on special (first image):


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I had the kangaroo, and it was surprisingly tender. I'll have to find out what part of the animal it was.

Back to Yana's place (just round the corner) and discovered that there was much more than she had mentioned. Fortunately we managed to pack everything into the back of the car or on the trailer. Here photos taken when we stopped to check everything was still fastened properly:


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Back home with no issues, and by chance CJ came by as we were about to unload, so I let him help too. We put the shelves on top of others that we're keeping for Yana. Now to find space in the shed for the smaller items.


Lest we forget
Topic: general, opinion Link here

In 1915 the British attacked the Ottoman Empire with British Empire troops, mainly from Australia and New Zealand: the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The attack was a disaster, with heavy losses on both sides.

In general the Great War was a shock for the country. It would seem that it had more of an effect than the Second World War. War memorials were erected all over the country, and in Melbourne they built a Shrine of Remembrance, where we used to go on Armistice Day every year (more precisely, in my case, the two years that I was in school in Australia in November). One feature of the Shrine is a complicated structure that allows a ray of sunlight to go over the Stone of Remembrance at 11:00 on 11 November.

And then there was Anzac Day. Yes, we observed that too. But fittingly Armistice Day was the real day for remembrance (in fact, it's called Remembrance Day in many countries, including Australia).

But somehow things have changed. Yes, the ray of sunlight still goes through the shrine at 12:00 on 11 November (due to Daylight Savings Time), and it seems there's a mirror to redirect the ray so that it goes over the stone at 11:00. But the day is no longer even a public holiday. Like the Texans with their Alamo, it seems that the Australians (and New Zealanders) prefer to recall a defeat rather than a victory. Instead of observing 11:00 (a relatively civilized time), people go to church services at dawn, round about 23:00 on 24 April in Gelibolu. And there are numerous other events. I wonder where these dressed-up people (seen at a freeway rest area on the way from Melbourne to Ballarat) are going:


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Why? The motto “lest we forget” seems to have been in vain. People have forgotten Remembrance Day! Still, it's a completely unfounded rumour that they'll change the ray in the Shrine of Remembrance to have a ray of sunshine go over the stone at dawn on 25 April.


Twelve months and still surprises
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

When we got back home, the front door was wide open! I had gone to some trouble (and it's really trouble) to ensure it was locked before we left. It has one of the strangest locks I have ever seen (thanks, JG King). As far as I can tell, it's not possible to lock it from outside, only to unlock it. There's a lever on the inside which seems to be the only way to lock it. Here first the unlocked position, then the locked:


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I suppose it's in keeping that there's a little window under the lever which changes colour when it's locked. You need to be a midget to see it.

On the other hand, there are multiple ways to unlock it: the key (it would be nice to say “of course”, but then I can't use the key to lock it), tilting the lever back again, or simply using the handle from the inside. Could it be that a cat jumped up and pulled it down? I haven't seen our current cats do that, but I've seen plenty of others that did.

What a piece of junk!

And then, while putting Yana's furniture in the shed, I had to move the UPS. And in the process, despite all caution, I managed to disconnect the output cable!

I didn't discover that until I got into the house, of course. For once it wasn't the RCD that tripped things. Reconnect the cable and... the RCD tripped!

What a pain!


Tuesday, 26 April 2016 Dereel Images for 26 April 2016
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Parting with loved ones
Topic: general, opinion Link here

So now we have the larger pieces of Yana's furniture stacked in the shed:


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But there's more outside waiting for space:


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Before I can put that inside, I need to go through a number of cartons with old magazines. This is what has been hindering me for the past year: the thought of throwing them out is painful:


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In addition, I discovered it wasn't just old magazines. There's a lot of stuff in there that needs going through, including old files and documents from the past:


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I got part of the way, but there were many more cartons than I had expected (20 instead of 6), and the rubbish bins are full. They're emptied tomorrow, so I'll continue after that.


Breakfast for the hungry
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

With our new focus on varied breakfasts, it occurred to me that Huevos a la flamenca would be a good addition. So out looking for a recipe.

Where do you find good recipes on the Web? It's not easy, but in general it makes a good idea to look for recipes in the language of the origin of the dish, in this case Spanish. I can read enough Spanish for that not to be too difficult, and I came up with this recipe. About the only word I didn't know was guisantes, which proves to mean peas. And the recipe doesn't look bad.

But the quantities! For two people, they want:

quantity       ingredient       step
500 g       tomatoes
250 g       onions      
80 g       peas      
500 g       potatoes      
60 g       serrano ham      
50 g       chorizo      

That's a total of 820 g per person! And the eggs? Oh yes, one egg per person too.

I think I'll try different quantities. There's also a question as to whether the potatoes are appropriate. Even the comments suggest that they're not.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016 Dereel → Enfield → Dereel Images for 27 April 2016
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New furniture?
Topic: general Link here

Our lounge room armchairs and sofa are now round 15 years old, and it's time to think about replacements. Today Yvonne found some used armchairs in Enfield, so somewhat against my better judgement went off with her to take a look.

We've been to the place before, at the end of Melaleuca Road. We've been there before at a garage sale (where we bought wicker furniture and, it seems, a mezzaluna), but now they're moving out.

They wanted $500 for the suite, which they say was brand new; it certainly wasn't far from it. But the leg parts of the recliners were too short, and the cushions somewhat firm, so we declined.


MythTV: Next experiment
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

I really need to get MythTV working on tiwi, but it's like pulling teeth. It's a good thing I keep notes.

First step was to connect the USB tuner to the antenna, which was about 2 m away from the computer. OK, I must have a USB extension cable somewhere. And I did, but the one I found was 5 m long, on the borderline of the acceptable. Found two more 4.5 m long, so tried one of them:

Apr 27 12:22:30 tiwi kernel: usb_alloc_device: set address 2 failed (USB_ERR_IOERROR, ignored)
Apr 27 12:22:31 tiwi kernel: usbd_setup_device_desc: getting device descriptor at addr 2 failed, USB_ERR_IOERROR

I suppose ignoring fatal errors is modern, but was this the result of the cable? Tried it without, and it was detected:

Apr 27 12:25:45 tiwi root: Unknown USB device: vendor 0x0bda product 0x2838 bus uhub0

Finally found a 2 m cable, and it worked with that.

Next run webcamd:

=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 8 -> webcamd -N RTL2838UHIDIR-Realtek -S 00000001 -M 0 -v 0 -B
Attached to ugen1.2[0]
=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/4) /home/grog 9 ->

But it wasn't running. I have seen this before too. It writes an error message and dies with completion status 0. But where does the error message go? More looking with ktrace. Trimming irrelevant calls, I found:

  2585 webcamd  NAMI  "/dev/null"
  2585 webcamd  RET   open 4
  2585 webcamd  CALL  dup2(0x4,0x2)
  2585 webcamd  RET   dup2 2
  2585 webcamd  GIO   fd 2 wrote 61 bytes
       "webcamd: Could not open /dev/cuse. Did you kldload cuse4bsd?
       "

I've been ranting about the poor quality of multimedia software for over 10 years now, and I had thought that nothing would surprise me. But writing error messages to the bit bucket? Went looking for the code, and found it in webcamd.c at line 825:

        if (cuse_init() != 0) {
                v4b_errx(EX_USAGE, "Could not open /dev/cuse. "
                    "Did you kldload cuse4bsd?");
        }

To Hans Petter's credit, it's not his fault. It's this appalling Video4Linux. At the very least, it exits with status 0 after an error, which is a no-no. But there's nothing in the webcamd code that opens /dev/null, so I'm guessing that it does that too. Just don't upset the user with error messages!

So I got webcamd running, and finally got round to configuring it at startup. Next was mythtv-setup. It stopped without an error message. The only hint was what was on the xterm:

2016-04-27 14:05:10.550518 I  ScreenSaverX11Private: DPMS is active.
2016-04-27 14:05:10.586435 E  Error preparing query: SELECT DISTINCT dirname FROM storagegroup WHERE groupname = :GROUP AND hostname = :HOSTNAME
2016-04-27 14:05:10.586480 E  Driver error was [2/1146]:
QMYSQL3: Unable to prepare statement
Database error was:
Table 'mythconverg.storagegroup' doesn't exist

2016-04-27 14:05:10.587143 E  DB Error (StorageGroup::StorageGroup()):
Query was:
SELECT DISTINCT dirname FROM storagegroup WHERE groupname = :GROUP AND hostname = :HOSTNAME
Bindings were:
:GROUP="Themes", :HOSTNAME="tiwi.lemis.com"
Driver error was [2/1064]:
QMYSQL: Unable to execute query
Database error was:
You have an error in your SQL syntax; check the manual that corresponds to your MySQL server version for the right syntax to use near ':GROUP AND hostname = :HOSTNAME' at line 1

2016-04-27 14:05:10.588169 N  Inserting MythTV initial database information.

That didn't stop it; it carried on for a while and stopped for no stated reason, though it's clear that something was wrong. But as I said 9 July 2006, it's a good thing the thing was started from a shell and not from a display manager, otherwise I wouldn't have had any information at all. Clearly something was wrong with the installation, so I took the coward's way out and reinstalled the port, in the process getting this message, which is worth saving:

MythTV has now been installed, but it still needs to be configured.

1.  To create the database, use the following command:

        mysql -uroot -p < /usr/local/share/mythtv/database/mc.sql

2.  Next, run mythtv-setup.

See http://www.mythtv.org/docs/ for more information.

OK, run mythtv-setup again:

2016-04-27 16:19:13.359883 E  MySQL time zone support is missing.  Please install it and try again.  See 'mysql_tzinfo_to_sql' for assistance.

I've seen that before too. Ran that, but this time got a new message:

=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/4) /var/tmp 43 -> mysql_tzinfo_to_sql /usr/share/zoneinfo | mysql -uroot mysql
ERROR 1406 (22001) at line 32473: Data too long for column 'Abbreviation' at row 1

Is that serious? For the moment I decided to igonre it.

Finally mythtv-setup ran. Ten years ago I complained how slow it was on the hardware of the day, but since then hardware has got better, and it was no longer such an issue. But now they've adapted, and it's glacially slow again! Got this far:

This all doesn't help, of course. How do I scan for channels? And then I saw the messages on the xterm:

2016-04-27 16:41:31.369016 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 1
2016-04-27 16:41:45.401864 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 1

Those two messages are 14 seconds apart. Further investigation showed that they occurred when probing the card. Presumably mythtv-setup was too polite to complain. But what does the message mean? More ktrace:

  2821 mythtv-setup CALL  openat(AT_FDCWD,0x860fdfc98,0x6<O_RDWR|O_NONBLOCK>,<unused>0)
  2821 mythtv-setup NAMI  "/dev/dvb/adapter0/frontend0"
  2821 mythtv-setup RET   openat 27/0x1b
  2821 mythtv-setup CALL  ioctl(0x1b,0x40a86f3d,0x7fffffffa3f0)
  2821 mythtv-setup RET   _umtx_op -1 errno 60 Operation timed out
...
  2821 mythtv-setup CALL  write(0x1,0x7fffdfbfb640,0x49)
  2821 mythtv-setup GIO   fd 1 wrote 73 bytes
       "2016-04-27 17:04:39.188786 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 1
       "

So we're getting a timeout, and mythtv-setup decides that this is a missing device tree. But that shouldn't be a surprise.

But why? More research. At https://wiki.freebsd.org/WebcamCompat I confirmed that the tuner card is supported, along with the comment:

Needs webcamd >= 3.10.0.7; seems to be only a bit less sensitive than my dib0700 tuners (worse reception in low-signal areas); remotes not supported yet by the Linux rtl28xxu driver and thus by webcamd; also supported by the comms/dabstick-radio and comms/rtl-sdr ports

Contact: nox

Where's nox when you need him? Sadly, beyond caring. But what's this mention of a rtl28xxu driver? Went looking, but couldn't find anything of use.

OK, time for a message to the FreeBSD multimedia list. Got a reply from Hans Petter, the author of webcamd, but he didn't address many of my questions. He did suggest using w_scan, though. Mañana.

Isn't free multimedia software fun?


Google Maps: from bad to worse
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

So I've agreed with Kath Philips to meet at the Geoffrey Cutter Centre tomorrow at 13:00. Where's that? The Web tells me Kenny Street, Windsor Gardens, East Ballarat. But when I put that into Google Maps, it takes me to the Eureka Village Hostel in Balmoral Drive. Why? By not quite complete coincidence, that was the last place I looked at before I searched for the Geoffrey Cutter Centre, and it looked for all the world like it hadn't accepted the new input.

With the aid of people on IRC, investigated the issue. It seems that Google Maps doesn't know about Windsor Gardens. If I look just for “Windsor Gardens, East Ballarat”, it takes me to Windsor Avenue in Alfredton, to the west of the city. Other strange results are a search for Victoria St, East Ballarat (the main street), which it can't find. It offers Victoria St, Ballarat East and Victoria St, Sebastopol and others even further afield:

<Mavvie> " victoria Street windsor gardens east Ballarat " gives a nice one too.
<Mavvie> "royal ct, Windsor Gardens, East Ballarat" shows the hotel on the other
         side of victoria street.
<Mavvie> wtf.

But Google isn't alone. Whereis gives 5 hits in all of Australia, none of them anywhere near Ballarat.

The real issue seems to be “Windsor Gardens”. Leave that out and they all find it: Kenny Street intersects Balmoral Drive, and in fact it's not far from where Google Maps wanted to take me. Whereis wants to take me via Buninyong, which it claims is faster despite being 5.1 km longer. How much faster? Hard to say: for both it claims 33 minutes. Google Maps does this one better, though that's more a coincidence.


Animal damage
Topic: animals Link here

In the early afternoon found this in the dining room:


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Who did that? Typically Sasha and Rani play around there—the barrier is to stop Sasha getting at the Hibiscus. And Rani is probably not capable of knocking the shelf over, so until proof of the contrary it's Sasha's fault.


Döner grill again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

More skewers (lamb kidney) this evening, on our new Döner grill. I confirmed that, despite the instructions, the top plate seems to be designed for clipping the bow of the skewer. Next time I'll take photos.

The other thing that's clear is that the bottom plate should be higher than suggested, so that it's at the bottom of the heating element. With soft things like kidneys, the content of the skewer slides to the bottom, and it's easy to put it a few centimetres lower, where the bottom of the skewer doesn't get as much heat.


Thursday, 28 April 2016 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 28 April 2016
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Visiting nursing homes
Topic: general, animals Link here

Off with Yvonne, Nikolai and Leonid to Ballarat this morning to visit a couple of nursing homes as Delta society representatives. This was our first time, and Kath Philips came along. Yvonne will be visiting the Geoffrey Cutter Centre, ostensibly in Kenny Street, every Friday. I'll be visiting the Eureka Village Hostel, ostensibly in Balmoral Drive, every other Friday at the same time. In fact, the two facilities are right next to each other.

We both went through both facilities so that we can step in for each other if necessary. This is not the first time I've been in a facility like this, but a number of the people look significantly worse than I recalled from the James Thomas Court Hostel. Many of them seemed particularly feeble, and one bedridden person reminded me of Munch's The Scream. I suppose I'll get used to it—possibly I'll end up like that myself—but it's saddening to see how people age.


GPS navigator breakage
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday I complained about the inaccuracies of Google Maps when searching for the nursing homes. Today I used my GPS navigator. It found the address without difficulties, and it didn't do silly things like going via Buninyong. But the route details! It took us on a zig-zag path round East Ballarat, and a few hundred metres before arrival wanted us to turn left into private property. OK, we were only a few hundred metres from Victoria Street, so continued there. It decided to take us down the frontage road—the wrong direction down a one-way street. Ignored that too and turned right onto Victoria Street, so that Kenny St was on the right. The navigator told us where to turn right—across the central divide!

I wonder when navigational aids will come of age. Interestingly, the issues seem always to have been with the maps and not the devices themselves.


MythTV pain, next installment
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Yesterday Hans Petter suggested using w_scan to check the functionality of the tuner. I've tried it before, with no useful results. But it seems that it really is better now: the (now obligatory) -c option specifies the country. It went off and spent 10 minutes producing copious output:

=== root@tiwi (/dev/pts/4) ~ 8 -> w_scan -c au
w_scan version 20120415 (compiled for DVB API 5.10)
using settings for AUSTRALIA
DVB aerial
DVB-T AU
...
571500: (time: 02:28) (time: 02:30) signal ok:
        QAM_AUTO f = 571500 kHz I999B7C999D999T999G999Y999
        new transponder:
           (QAM_64   f = 184500 kHz I999B7C23D0T8G8Y0) 0x405A
571625: (time: 02:44) (time: 02:45) signal ok:
        QAM_AUTO f = 571625 kHz I999B7C999D999T999G999Y999
...
613500: skipped (already known transponder)
613625: skipped (already known transponder)

What are these “already known transponders”? Clearly the numbers at the beginning of the lines are frequencies in kHz, but comparing with cvr2 there is nothing at 613.5 MHz. And the first two entries are the same channel, offset by 125 kHz. It's a pity that it doesn't report signal strength at each frequency.

After that it went off and identified the streams:

tune to: QAM_AUTO f = 571500 kHz I999B7C999D999T999G999Y999
(time: 08:18) WARNING:          char_coding 210: iconv_open failed.
                The conversion from 'ISO_6937-2' to 'UTF-8' is not supported.
WARNING:                char_coding 210: iconv_open failed.
                The conversion from 'ISO_6937-2' to 'UTF-8' is not supported.
        service = SBS ONE (SBS)
WARNING:                char_coding 210: iconv_open failed.
                The conversion from 'ISO_6937-2' to 'UTF-8' is not supported.
WARNING:                char_coding 210: iconv_open failed.
                The conversion from 'ISO_6937-2' to 'UTF-8' is not supported.
        service = SBS HD (SBS)

What's this ISO 6937-2? It seems to be a strange alternative to ISO 8859, committed by the CCITT decades ago. Why can't iconv convert it? And how much mutilation does it produce if not converted?

Finally it produced output in the channels.conf format that I know:

SBS ONE;SBS:571500:I999B7C999D999M999T999G999Y999:T:27500:161=2:81=eng:41:0:881:0:0:0
SBS TWO;SBS:571500:I999B7C999D999M999T999G999Y999:T:27500:162=2:83=eng:42:0:882:0:0:0
NITV;SBS:571500:I999B7C999D999M999T999G999Y999:T:27500:164=2:87=eng:45:0:884:0:0:0
...

Well, almost. What's this I999B7C999D999M999T999G999Y999 stuff? I'll compare some other time.

So: webcamd and the tuner work. The problem is clearly with MythTV. But where? Hens Petter answered a question about the rtl28xxu driver rather surprisingly:

>>> I don't see any mention of rtl28xxu in current documentation, and
>>> no way to specify a driver in the man page.  Can I assume that this
>>> is an undocumented change?

Hi,

rtl28xxu works. I have one myself, tested with VDR.

Maybe you need to disable the DISEQ feature.

OK, what's DISEQ? Looking through the mythtv-setup pages, I see a tick box “wait for SEQ start header”, but unticking it made no difference. Presumably it's DiSEqC. But that's for positioning satellite dishes. On the other hand, the original message suggests that that's what it's looking for:

2016-04-27 16:41:31.369016 W  DiSEqCDevTree: No device tree for cardid 1

There's at least one error report on the topic, but it's years old, and it has been closed without resolution:

The DiSEqCDevTree is only needed for DVB-S setups. It looks like you made some mistake in setting up the card or there is a problem with permissions for your recording device files. Please ask for help on the users mailing list and include as much information as you can such as the type of card you are using, the Linux distribution you are using and which guide you used for setting things up.

No time to look any further. Maybe I should follow Hans Petter's lead and try VDR.

Still, before I used MythTV I used tzap to record programmes. It might be worth trying that too. But where has it gone? After some searching found that it has morphed into dvbv5-zap, now part of v4l-utils. Installed, but didn't get around to playing with it.


Turkey Chornobil
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Chicken à la Kiev is a popular dish, and we can get the cutlets pre-made at the butcher. So yesterday Yvonne picked up a couple.

But how do you prepare them? I've found numerous and conflicting recipes, such as this one, which wants to deep fry them for 8½ minutes. Others only want 5 minutes. But what is right for what Yvonne brought home? Chicken? Look at the weight:


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When I was a lad, an entire chicken weighed 1.2 or 1.3 kg (and was invariably frozen). In his book “La cuisine du marché”, Paul Bocuse states the weight of a turkey as 2 to 2.5 kg. So clearly the sizes relate to turkey, not chicken. And how long should I deep fry it? Until meltdown or explosion? Clearly a better name for this dish would be Turkey Chornobil.

Things didn't work out that badly. Here they are at 3, 5 and 7 minutes, after which I served them:


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That was just about enough: there's just a trace of rawness in the end here:


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And was it worth it? No, I don't think so. It would be just as easy to fry the breasts and add (maybe herbal) butter later.


Friday, 29 April 2016 Dereel Images for 29 April 2016
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Kippers for breakfast
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne bought some frozen kippers on Wednesday—two of them, conveniently frozen together back to back so they both had to be completely thawed before separation. How do you cook them? I haven't done that in 45 years, and in those days I would probably have fried them. But I recalled that they should be grilled.

What did the packaging say? Defrost for two minutes, then microwave at full power for 6 minutes. I suspect their microwave oven is less powerful than mine. But I also had the option of defrosting and grilling, both without time specification or any way to recognize when they're done.

Finally thawed at 300 W (“defrost”) for what proved to be 3 minutes, after which I could separate them, though they were still a little frozen. Grilled in the middle of the toy oven for 8 minutes. The result was OK:


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Later I found a suggestion in The Constance Spry Cookery Book to grill them until they're almost black. Is that a good idea? I might try more next time.


Disabling DiSEqC
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

More investigation of the DiSEqC on tiwi today. There's really nothing to explain why MythTV should want to apply a satellite protocol to a DVB-T tuner. Looking in the database brought some enlightenment: the capturecard table includes a field dvb_diseqc. And in my database, there were two entries for the single capture card. The difference? Only the dvb_diseqc field. In one record it was set to NULL, in the other to 0.

OK, I can play around with that. Remove one entry? Set dvb_diseqc to consistently NULL or 0? Nothing helped. Could it be that one of my antenna amplifiers is sending spurious information via the tuner? Plugged in the toy antenna that came with the tuner, removed the old definitions, added the tuner again. Once again I got two entries varying only in the dvb_diseqc field. And once again, of course, the missing device tree.

Hans Petter suggested UTSL. He could be right, but last time it turned my stomach. Can it have got better? The amazing code that I discovered nearly 12 years ago is still there (in mythtv/libs/libmythtv/recorders/RTjpegN.cpp), just slightly modified to pass the compiler:

 uint8_t *ustrm = (uint8_t *)strm;
...
 /* ci must be 0 */
 if (bitoff != 6) {

      ustrm[co]= bitten;
      co++;

 }
 goto BAUCHWEH;

HERZWEH:

But I fear I'll have to bite the bullet.

Also installed VDR, not seeing the warning:

Preliminary port of the vdr development branch, use at your own risk! :)

Trying to run it, nothing happened. RTFM time:

vdr uses the On Screen Display of the DVB card to display its menus.

DVB card display? Sometimes I think I'm living in a parallel universe. I've been fighting multimedia software for well over 10 years now, and while I'm coming to accept the strangenesses, I'm really puzzled about what kind of confusion goes on in the developers' heads.

Still, one of the reasons I want MythTV is because of the MythWeb interface, and nothing else seems to have anything comparable. So it looks like setting a debugger loose on mythtv-setup.


Saturday, 30 April 2016 Dereel Images for 30 April 2016
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Still more plants
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Finally got round to planting the Buddlejas to the south of the house today. Yvonne had planted five of them in one pot, and of course the roots were all intertwined, so I wanted to extricate them myself. I ended up with a lot of extraneous root material, but the five twigs look like they may survive.

Later Yvonne wanted to go to the plant nursery in Corindhap where we bought some plants at the beginning of the month. This time I took a notepad with me. The proprietor is called Russell, phone number is 5346 1033, and the reason he has so many plants from New Zealand is because he's a New Zealander (Yvonne: “That'll be seven Hebes”. Russell “No, sx”).

The mumble from the beginning of the month proves to be a Metrosideros excelsa “variegata”, also called pōhutukawa, and yes, it's a tree. How high do they get? Depending on whom you ask, between 1.5 m and 25 m. All are agreed that the flowers are pretty and red, and they remind me of some Australian natives, such as Hakea:

Metrosideros excelsa

In fact, by complete coincidence (Yvonne asked me what the German word for Melaleuca is; the common name proves to be Myrtenheide), I discovered that they're relatively closely related to Melaleuca, which in turn is genetically difficult to distinguish from Callistemon.

I couldn't stop Yvonne from buying a total of 41 plants, the ones in the front row here:


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On the left and in the middle are a total of 25 “Wooly bushes”, which prove to Adenanthos sericeus. They'll get planted around the riding arena. On the right are variegated Hebes, hardly different in appearance from the Metrosideros. Between the Adenanthos are a couple of ground cover Grevilleas. and 7 Westringias, which Russell called Smoky or similar. On the web I discover spellings “Smokey” and “Smokie” as well. Probably the best description is this one, which states that they're a cultivar of Westringia fruticosa, and they grow to 5' × 5' (1.5 × 1.5 m). Elsewhere I discover they'll barely make it to 50 cm.


Recoding errors: why?
Topic: Stones Road house, multimedia, opinion Link here

After moving to Stones Road, my TV recoding errors diminished dramatically, to almost 0. But it didn't last, and I've had periods where things have been very bad. In the past two months more than 50% of all recordings had significant problems. Why? Problems with the antenna system?

And suddenly they're gone. For over a week, I have had no recording errors at all. That can't be a transmitter problem, can it? Each channel has its own transmitters. Interference from close by? The line of sight from the transmitters goes at an angle of about 310° over Progress Road. But what could there be there to disturb RF signal propagation?


Rani: not shy of water
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

Rani is growing quickly, and is now able to jump up onto the work surfaces in the kitchen. How do we teach her to stop? The traditional method is a water pistol, but we didn't have one. So I poured a small glass of water over her.

It didn't seem to make any difference. Presumably she has that from her Prionailurus bengalensis ancestors, who are semi-aquatic.


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