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February 2015
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Sunday, 1 February 2015 Dereel
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Second-guessing car diagnostics
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

It's now been a week since my car problems, and since the following day we've had no indication whatsoever of problems with the car. We'll find out when my diagnostic interface arrives—hopefully. In the meantime, I've been trying to guess what I might find.

Looking back at the facts, we have:

So: what could it be? Others have reported that, in their case, it meant defective O₂ sensors or mass airflow sensor, and in one case it was specifically related to cable problems to the sensor. Is that consistent with my observations? Quite possibly. The problems restarting the engine are consistent with flooding, which could happen if the injection system gets incorrect information. Until proof of the contrary, that seems the most likely sort of cause.


Tony Abbott: the next nail
Topic: general, opinion Link here

People have been jeering and mocking Tony Abbott for a week now. But yesterday there was a state election in Queensland, in which the Liberal National Party, associated with Tony Abbott's “Liberal” Party, achieved a stunning defeat. Three years ago the LNP had 78 of the 89 seats in the Legislative Assembly, while ALP had only 7. Now it looks as if Labor might get an absolute majority, though counting postal votes means that it could be over a week before we find out for sure.

How could that happen? State politics possibly, but the results surprised even people in the know. All eyes are now on Tony Abbott:

It's not a very good drawing, but I'm assuming that's Tony at the wheel.

So where do we go from here? One way or another, it looks as if he is going to go down in history as the worst Prime Minister Australia has ever had, though I must confess I don't know who the previous worst Prime Minister was, nor how bad he was.


Monday, 2 February 2015 Dereel
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Dead backup disk
Topic: technology Link here

My nightly backup failed last night:

mount: /dev/da0s1d: R/W mount of /backups denied. Filesystem is not clean - run fsck.: Operation not permitted

How did that happen? Ran fsck and found out:

THE FOLLOWING DISK SECTORS COULD NOT BE READ: 1953267040, 1953267041, 1953267042, 1953267043,

What caused that? Trawling through the logs found no bad sector messages, only:

Jan 31 21:04:08 eureka kernel: Device da0s1d went missing before all of the data could be written to it; expect data loss.

So is the disk defective? Maybe. Why did it “go missing”? In any case, it's too important to take the risk, so I migrated to a new backup disk, double the size of the old one. That was necessary anyway:

Filesystem   1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/da0p1        1,847,816   883,067   816,924    52%    /backups
/dev/da1s1d         923,856   883,212   -33,264   104%    /mnt

Interestingly, there were no error messages.


Filling the tanks
Topic: Stones Road house, general Link here

Time to fill the water tanks. Yvonne and Chris filled a tank with gravity feed, but why? We have this brand new ALDI water pump just waiting to pump the water in. Finally got round to connecting it and discovered three buttons on the pump: CLEAR, SET and MODE. What about ON/OFF? Ah, the modern word is MODE.

I never cease to be amazed.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015 Dereel Images for 3 February 2015
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Happy birthday Leonid
Topic: animals Link here

Leonid is a year old today. What does that mean to a dog? Nothing, of course. But it meant something to Yvonne, and so she bought him a birthday present, apparently a stylized sheep:


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Things didn't go quite as planned, of course. While I was getting my flash equipment together, Yvonne left the sheep alone for a second or two. And that was enough for Nikolai:


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Still more flash pain
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So now I have studio flash and a flash light meter, and it works fine, right? Except for today. It told me fairly consistently to set an aperture of f/7.1 or f/8 for the dog photos above. But the results were considerably underexposed:


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There seem to be a number of issues here. In this image, I only had one flash unit running, which might be one cause of the uneven lighting, but not the underexposure. Another cause might be the shutter speed. The photos were taken with Yvonne's E-PM2, which has a maximum shutter speed of 1/250s. That's what I used, but the synchronization went via a radio trigger, which may introduce a delay. The photo below was taken at 1/200 s.

I put in a second flash unit and opened up by a stop, which seems to have given the desired results. Here the results, first without postprocessing correction, and then with it. Run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner:


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The postprocessing improves the image, and also corrects distortion, but the base exposure of the original looks right. And that's roughly ⅔ stop more than the exposure meter told me. Why?


Eastwood vets: slow but steady
Topic: general, animals, opinion Link here

Last September, after Pene Kirk had examined him, we took Nikolai to Eastwood Vets for an X-ray. What did we get? Another examination. No X-ray for at least 6 days.

I wasn't happy at the time, and said so. But they sent an invoice anyway, to which I sent them a reply asking them to cancel it. No reply, no reminder. Had they just silently canceled it?

No, just waited a long time. Today I got a reminder. No mention of the mail message I sent them. Do they read their mail? A mail address of reception@eastwoodvet.com.au doesn't sound like they're power users. So I sent them another reply, and this time confirmed that it was delivered:

Feb  3 00:02:42 www postfix/qmgr[43946]: E21C81B72847: from=<groggyhimself@lemis.com>, size=4531, nrcpt=1 (queue active)
Feb  3 00:02:48 www postfix/smtp[57915]: E21C81B72847: to=<reception@eastwoodvet.com.au>, relay=eastwoodvet-com-au.mail.protection.outlook.com[213.199.154.87]:25, delay=6.4, delays=0.68/0/0.89/4.8, dsn=2.6.0, status=sent (250 2.6.0 <20150203000240.GA77255@eureka.lemis.com> [InternalId=15006615732568, Hostname=HK2PR03MB0899.apcprd03.prod.outlook.com] Queued mail for delivery)

I wonder if they read this stuff.


Site inspection
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

It's been three weeks since JG King did any work on the house. It seems that the plasters have gone on holiday, and though they have apparently returned last Thursday, they still haven't done any work for Kings. Duncan tells me that they're tearing their hair out.

Met him on site for a first formal site inspection , and saw the lounge room for the first time in weeks:


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Currently the soil around the house is covered in gravel, which makes sense right now. But are they going to remove it? Duncan wasn't sure, and he also wasn't sure to what level the soil would be back-filled. Currently there's quite a step to the entrances to the house. At the very least the entrance to the garage should be level, implying that soil level and slab level should be the same, but Duncan thinks that's too high. To be considered.

The plasterers didn't cover all the electricals before they left on holiday. There are still some uncovered:


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Time for Jim to come and try to find the rest.


New switches
Topic: technology Link here

A present in the mail today:


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Those are three 8 port gigabyte Ethernet switches, donated by David, surname unknown, but with surnom “Carneous”. That's very generous of him.


Where are my shed components?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Still no communication from Widespan about the missing parts of the shed. Called up again and spoke to Jen, who promised to call back by close of business and tell me what was going on. She didn't. I'm getting thoroughly fed up with these people.


Wednesday, 4 February 2015 Dereel Images for 4 February 2015
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Tony Abbott: reviving interest in politics
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Say what you will about Tony Abbott—and I, for one, do so—but he has drawn more attention to politics than anybody I can recall in recent history. Even Yvonne, that most apolitical animal, is paying attention.

Of course, most of what they're saying is just the recognition of what I was saying about the person 18 months ago. Still, I feel a certain Schadenfreude. It seems I'm not the only one.


Shed: this year for sure
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Somehow just about everything that could go wrong with the shed has done so. Interminable delays, and then Norm Baker poured a slab that proved to be only part of what I had been quoted for, for 30% more than the quote, and cash on hand. Then David Tudor put me off for two months, and didn't appear on the day when he was due to start. Then we discovered that Widespan (or is that Steelx?) had messed up the Bill of Materials and not delivered all the components, and that the delivery driver had damaged a door on unloading, something that Widespan is trying to blame on me.

That was 12 days ago, and we still have no confirmation when the parts will arrive—indeed, if the parts will arrive. Yesterday I had called them and spoken to Jen, who promised to call me back. She didn't.

Tried again today, and after a while on the hold queue got a message in penetrant American telling me that the person on extension 24031 was not available, and that I should leave a message. Waited for the beep, but it hung up on me.

Tried again, and this time it worked. Spoke to Heather, who tells me that the components are 9 trimclad (whatever that means) sheets and 4 top hats (again, what's that? Presumably the builders know). Again she promised to call back, but in contrast to Jen she did, and quite quickly. That's more than I can say for the scheduled delivery time: next Wednesday! That's a delay of nearly 3 weeks! Still, not much I can do about it. But that's the last time I buy anything from Widespan.


DxO and TIFF
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

From time to time I've chosen TIFF images instead of JPEG for the intermediate stages of my photo processing. That makes perfect sense, but it's not easy. Some of the issues seem to be related to DxO Optics “Pro”. Some years ago I discovered that TIFF images produced by DxO don't align as well as JPEG copies of the same image. Why?

Then a little over a year later I tried again and got many error messages. They're still there. If I take an output TIFF from DxO and try to convert it, I get a large number of relatively harmless warnings:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~/Photos/20150204/orig 209 -> convert P2021583.tiff foo.jpeg
orig: Unknown field with tag 50341 (0xc4a5) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Unknown field with tag 53248 (0xd000) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Wrong data type 3 for "PixelXDimension"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Wrong data type 3 for "PixelYDimension"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Unknown field with tag 40965 (0xa005) encountered. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Incompatible type for "FileSource"; tag ignored. `TIFFFetchNormalTag' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Wrong data type 3 for "GainControl"; tag ignored. `TIFFReadCustomDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Unknown field with tag 50341 (0xc4a5) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.
orig: Unknown field with tag 53248 (0xd000) encountered. `TIFFReadDirectory' @ warning/tiff.c/TIFFWarnings/768.

And xv still can't display them, possibly because they include two images: the original and a thumbnail (why?). GIMP can process them (after first asking questions), but doesn't like them either:

 
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Well, some of the time, anyway. While trying to fight my way through the GIMP user interface, I found this, which I can't repeat:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~/Photos/20150204 229 -> gimp orig/*.tiff
/usr/local/libexec/gimp/2.2/plug-ins/file-tiff-load: fatal error: GIMP crashed

(file-tiff-load:90284): LibGimp-WARNING **: file-tiff-load: gimp_flush(): error: Broken pipe

(script-fu:90277): LibGimpBase-WARNING **: script-fu: gimp_wire_read(): error

Today, though, I tried the opposite: create a TIFF image with ImageMagick and process it with DxO. That doesn't work either:

 
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What's error 2? If this were Unix, it would be ENOENT: No such file. Is it maybe looking for a thumbnail image?

Time for an error report, but based on previous experience with DxO support I'm going to have to construct some rock-solid evidence.


Thursday, 5 February 2015 Dereel Images for 5 February 2015
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Free range eggs: the difference?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

We always used to buy the cheapest eggs we could find, but for some months now, Yvonne has been buying free-range eggs, apparently because of her concern for the well-being of cage chickens. My understanding is that industrial free-range chickens are also kept in cages, but that they get some time outside every day. If you're concerned about chicken welfare, you should be a vegetarian.

But lately we've been having quality problems with the eggs, both with the consistency of the white and with the hardness of the shell. Cage eggs seem to do better there. So Yvonne bought some cage eggs, just for me, and made her opinion clear:


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And yes, the problems weren't there.


Hand progress
Topic: general Link here

It's been three weeks since I injured my hand while walking the dogs. It's recovering well:


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Chicken legs sous-vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Grilled chicken legs for dinner today. The legs are always a problem because they tend to dry out on the outside before they're cooked through to the bone. Clearly a case for sous-vide. But what temperature? I had thought 78°, but this chart suggests 65°. Can that be right? Yes, the meat would be cooked, but the bone? To be cautious, I cooked for 2 hours at 66°. As I feared, the bones were still bloody, and the cartilage was very firm. Next time I'll try them at 70°, 75° and 78°.


Friday, 6 February 2015 Dereel Images for 6 February 2015
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Summer comes after all
Topic: general Link here

January this year was surprisingly cool:

mysql> SELECT year(date), avg(outside_temp)
FROM observations
WHERE month(date) = 1
GROUP BY year(date);

+------------+-------------------+
| year(date) | avg(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+
|       2010 |  19.5872929118262 |
|       2011 |  20.0643898539645 |
|       2012 |  20.7369096680089 |
|       2013 |   19.888332649854 |
|       2014 |  21.2327124684624 |
|       2015 |  18.4016071226689 |
+------------+-------------------+

That's 1.2° less than the previous minimum, and nearly 1.6° less than the monthly average. And until today, February looked as if it would follow suit:

mysql> SELECT year(date), avg(outside_temp)
FROM observations
WHERE month(date) = 2
GROUP BY year(date);

+------------+-------------------+
| year(date) | avg(outside_temp) |
+------------+-------------------+
|       2010 |  20.9579762245495 |
|       2011 |  18.4425944890904 |
|       2012 |  19.5612066220675 |
|       2013 |  20.8243452446201 |
|       2014 |  20.4291839424274 |
|       2015 |  17.8503443391902 |
+------------+-------------------+

But today made up for that, and it looks like there's more to come:

Click to see larger image


Tree photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

One of the most impressive things in the forest are the tall Eucalypts. But how do you take photos that reproduce this impression? One of the issues is perspective: the trees are 20 or 30 m high, but I'm looking from the bottom. Took some photos today, but I haven't worked out how to process them:


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New Olympus feature
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Yesterday Olympus announced a new member of the OM-D family, the OM-D E-M5 Mark II (these names seem to get longer and longer). The E-M5 is the smaller brother of my E-M1, but it's 15 months newer, and it seems that its image stabilization (a particularly expensive thing to do right) is better than that of the E-M1. It also came with rumours of a completely new idea, higher resolution images taken by overlaying multiple images taken with the sensor shifted a fraction of a pixel.

That's not that interesting to me, but it seems that the same techniques could apply to HDR images: use an electronic shutter to take a number of images with different exposure times, and then merge them into one single image. By contrast with the current method of taking separate images, it has two significant advantages, at least in theory:

But we're a long way from that. Looking at the specs, it looks very much as if this was a feature (“feature 4”) that was implemented before it was ready. There are all sorts of puzzling details:

In passing, it's worth noting the unfairness of some of the image comparisons. There's a map and counter taken both with the E-M5 Mark II and a “competitor”. But the Olympus uses the top-of-the-line M.Zuiko 12-40 mm f/2.8 “Pro” lens, while the competitor uses the kit lens. That makes it impossible to gauge whether the difference in image quality is due to the lens or feature 4.

It's not as if I had had any intention of buying this camera; I'm mainly interested because it's the second of three cameras in the range, and mine is top of the range. If this kind of feature is incorporated in the mid-range camera, what will the next iteration of the E-M1 be like? Hopefully more mature.


Tenggiri sous vide
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Fish for dinner today, Scomberomorus. Huh? What's that? In Australia it's sold as Spanish mackerel, which proves to be one of about 21 species. I know it as the Malay word Tenggiri. Typically it's served as slices, and today we decided to try it sous vide. Based on the experience with trout, I cooked them at 50° for about an hour.

The results were interesting. The fish was cooked and very tender—again, almost too tender—but it just about disintegrated, something that grilled tenggiri doesn't do. It also stuck to the bag. Yvonne decided to bone it before serving, but the results didn't look spectacularly good:


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It's clear that sous-vide isn't a “one size fits all”.


Saturday, 7 February 2015 Dereel Images for 7 February 2015
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Leonid's coat
Topic: animals Link here

Leonid's seems to continue to lose his coat on his back. We showed him to Pene Kirk a couple of days ago, and she found nothing wrong. It looks as if the loss is continuing. Here the difference of 10 days:


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We saw him rubbing his back against the wire mesh in the kennel today, but I think this is more a result of the hair loss than the cause.


Zhivago: another runner
Topic: animals Link here

We've been letting Zhivago run free on walks lately. Not a very good idea. Today he disappeared and didn't come back for over half an hour—about the time to eat a rabbit. And of course, when he returned we found him where we always do:


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Time to keep him on the line again.


House construction: who will win?
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

It's been over 3 weeks since any real work has been done on our house. Hopefully the plasterers will come good on their promise to resume work on Monday. In the meantime, they haven't been quiet on Chris Bahlo's house:


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They still have a fighting chance of being finished first, although they started 2½ months later.


Sunday, 8 February 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 8 February 2015
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Picking up Rolly
Topic: animals Link here

Selina and Simon Smith in early this morning from Horsham to take a look at Rolly (really Narrawin Romantic Courage), leaving me to take the dogs for a walk. They didn't take long to decide. As I returned, I saw:


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Ballarat Dog Show
Topic: animals Link here

Ballarat Dog Show today, and Ron Frolley and Stephen Zuideveld were there showing only two dogs, Ginger and Seabiscuit. In with our dogs to see them and bring them lunch. Ron has been quite sick for a while, but he's looking a whole lot better now:

He was very pleased to see our dogs, and both Zhivago and Nikolai were pleased to see him. For the first time I saw Zhivago excited enough to jump up to somebody's face, unfortunately too quickly for me to get a photo. But they joined him later:


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That's in stark contrast to two years ago, where he hardly recognized him.

Ron was also particularly impressed by how Leonid had developed. When we got him, Ron was concerned about overbite, but that problem seems to have gone away:

 
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We also attracted the attention of Jeremy Bannister of The (Ballarat) Courier, who was very taken by our collection and took a number of photos of them:


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Animal photo perspective
Topic: photography, opinion, animals Link here

Jeremy Bannister of The Courier came laden with a pair of large Nikon SLRs. He took his photos with a very short lens that resembled my Olympus Zuiko Digital ED 8 mm f/3.5 fisheye lens. He tells me it's 14 mm, but it's not clear whether the camera was APS or “full frame” 35 mm equivalent. In the former case, it would correspond to roughly 11 mm on a Four-thirds sensor, in the latter to 7 mm. In either case, the results seem far too distorted:


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Is this what people like? For the fun of it I straightened it out. The result has the top corners cut off, but I think the result looks better anyway:


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Uncoated filters
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've recently bought a number of “UV” filters for my cameras, really expendable protective front elements. They're certainly cheap—they cost between $1.46 and $3.58 each, including postage. But I forgot one thing: anti-reflective coating. And though I don't have any direct comparisons, some of today's photos look surprisingly washed-out, even after postprocessing:


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I fear I have made a blunder. I should get at least one coated filter to compare.


Monday, 9 February 2015 Dereel Images for 9 February 2015
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Plastering?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today the plasterers were supposed to start working, so over with the water pump. But they weren't there. No show? No, they showed and left again. According to Sam, the cabinetry bloke who had surprisingly shown up there, they were missing some material. According to Duncan on the phone later, they left because Sam was there.

In any case, it's refreshing to see the built-in furniture going in:


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Not everything was perfect, though. One cabinet was damaged:


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On my return, Yvonne reminded me of her Moroccan washbasin. Should it be installed now? Called Duncan, who suggested that we take it over and see what Sam thought. Yes, it could go in:


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Gradually it's beginning to look like a house.


Microbats
Topic: animals, opinion Link here

In the evening Yvonne found a strange animal near the laundry:


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It's tiny: the second image shows it on an egg slice (also known as a spatula), about 10 cm across.

Clearly a bat, but what kind? Yvonne had wanted to leave it somewhere where it could escape, but it didn't look in very good condition. In particular, it had a couple of holes in its wings, like this one:

 
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It also had what appears to be an injury to its left ear, but it appeared to be older and already healed:


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So I put it in the microwave oven while I pondered what to do, and gave it some water to drink:


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It drank apparently continuously for an hour or two without consuming very much of the estimated 5 ml of water I put in there.

In the end called up the wildlife rescue people, who told me it was a Microbat—not surprising given the size. A couple of hours later a bloke called Vince came and picked it up. It wasn't until we were talking about other such incidents that we realized that we had seen each other last time we had an animal to rescue, in this case a kangaroo. It seems that that animal didn't make it. Now I know more details about them, though: he's from the Wala Animal Sanctury (a web site still under construction) in Smythes Creek.


Tuesday, 10 February 2015 Dereel Images for 10 February 2015
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Plastering
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The plasterers have finally arrived:


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So now things are moving again. Metroll has confirmed that the missing parts for the shed will arrive tomorrow, the electrics are on track, and with any luck we'll get the bore done soon.


Diagnosing the car
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

My ELM327 clone arrived today. It's a modern device, so of course there's no documentation whatsoever—not even information on the PIN I need to connect it (which, after some searching, proves to be 1234; why do they bother with PINs if they're all the same?).

So: what do I do with it? It's a Bluetooth connect, so went looking in the toyshop for appropriate apps. That's a lost cause, of course; I've never found a good Android app, and today was no exception. A Commodore forum suggested Torque, which comes, of course, with no documentation whatsoever.

Found the OBD connector on the car (directly above the driver's legs, just forward of where the underside of dashboard ends) and plugged it in. It seems there's power there even when the car is turned off. Tried connecting, and sure enough, the tablet found the device. But the app cycled endlessly through various displays: “Connecting”, “Cannot find device”, “Cannot access device”.

Tried another app, OBD Car Doctor PRO, which came up with lots of warnings about bad MAC addresses (my device has one, it seems), bad ELM revisions (2.1), and bad countries (China, of course). I get at least 2 out of 3; since there's no indication of the ELM revision, I don't know how to tell. It also stated that the engine must be running, so did that. No connection:


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What about trying “Torque” again? Yes, this time it worked, so the Car Doctor warnings are reminiscent of the introduction to “The Picture of Dorian Gray”:

The highest as the lowest form of criticism is a mode of autobiography.

I'm still trying to understand how to display anything useful; it can display all sorts of things, either on different “pages”—just what you need when driving—or on top of each other, without the possibility of relocation:

 
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About the only thing that I got out of it was the claim that there were no error codes whatsoever stored in the ECU.

Can I believe it? It's possible, I suppose. But how can I trust it? Tried it in my car, after more searching (again, it's in roughly the same place, below the steering column, but better hidden). And this time I couldn't get much sense out of “Torque” either.

So: what have I learnt so far?

So where am I now? I find my prejudices against all things Android reinforced. I don't know if “Torque”'s claim is correct that no error codes have been stored. I don't know how to communicate with my Hyundai. And if there's a usable app out there, I haven't found it.


Understanding blood glucose
Topic: health, opinion Link here

I have relatively well-controlled diabetes. I don't need to do anything beyond avoiding large quantities of sugar, and my regular blood tests show that my HbA1c levels are in the normal (non-diabetic) range. But the blood tests (fasting) also test blood glucose, and that's frequently too high. Not a problem in itself, since the HbA1c measurements are a better indication of the average, and blood measurements at other times are normal, but a thing that the doctors catch on from time to time.

I had always thought that that was something specific to me. But today, while watching a lecture from the Coursera course on circadian clocks, I found this information:


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This graph shows a distinct increase in blood glucose just after dark (grey areas). In fact, it's the highest of the day. Rats are nocturnal, and this level corresponds to the time before the rat has had its first meal of the day—fasting glucose.

Are humans like that? If so, it would explain my high blood glucose levels. But if that's the case, why should my levels be special? One answer would be that I have to drive 30 km to have my blood sampled, and that can be up to 2 hours after waking. All the more reason to give priority to fasting patients for blood tests.


Wednesday, 11 February 2015 Dereel Images for 11 February 2015
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More OBD fun
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Yesterday I didn't get very far with my OBD apps: Torque only worked in the Commodore, and OBD Car Doctor PRO didn't work at all, but was too polite to say so.

But there are other apps to try. How do you start? The toyshop doesn't give you the opportunity to list them by popularity or price. On a real web browser, you can eliminate payware and apps with less than 4 stars, but they're still not sorted. The browser on the tablet doesn't even offer that, and appears to display fewer stars than the computer browser does. So I had to use two browsers and try to find correlations between the display of both of them. Still, I found a few potential candidates:

And Torque still won't work on the Hyundai, coming up with no useful error messages beyond a probe loop.

So: tried 5 apps, got one to sort of work on the Commodore, and that's all! I don't think there's anything seriously wrong with the adapter. What a pain these apps are. And when I drove off in the Hyundai, still with the adapter in place, the speedometer didn't work. I had to remove the adapter first.


House progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The plasterers are continuing with their work, and they're also rendering the column by the front door:


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And finally the missing components for the shed (with the exception of the personal access door) have arrived:


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Jim Lannen came over in the afternoon and located all the power connections (I hope—still to be checked). So things are continuing. About the only issue I have is getting hold of Gary Murray to sink the bore.


Politics, hilarity and eloquence
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Decades ago in Germany they had a tradition of mocking top politicians: jokes about Heinrich Lübke and Helmut Kohl abound. But so far we haven't had anybody in Australia—until Tony Abbott. In some sense it's good that he survived the spill motion on Monday. That means continued hilarity for a while. And I'm still hoping that he'll be deposed in a few months' time.

Today we received some new toilet paper:


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Later I came into the bathroom and saw:


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At first I had thought that Yvonne had actually dared to apply it to her body, but it seems she just rolled it up.

Apart from that, this video of a speech by Scott Ludlam popped up again:

It's not new, but it's as relevant as ever. Say what you will about his political views, you have to admire the man's eloquence, especially when compared with this:

Clearly eloquence is not an essential requirement for the Prime Minister.


Thursday, 12 February 2015 Dereel Images for 12 February 2015
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Hand injury: four weeks on
Topic: history, animals, health Link here

It's been four weeks since I injured my hand. It's healing, probably as fast as anybody might expect:


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Tony Abbott's daily blunder
Topic: history, opinion Link here

So they've caught some terrorist suspects in Sydney. What the press has heard sounds relatively plausible. But of course people who Need To Know, such as the Prime Minister, get more information than we do.

Tony's not known as an overly open person; people accuse him of keeping things to himself. But he's made up for that in this case: he quoted confidential details of the investigation in parliament. Finally a bit of clarity! Complaints that the matter is still sub judice are clearly calculated attempts to denigrate him.

He can't win, can he?


Friday, 13 February 2015 Dereel Images for 13 February 2015
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Finishing the shed before the rain
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Today was the day that Jason Bruty was to finish the shed, so over relatively early to discuss things with him. But he wasn't there, only his mate Liam, who had already closed up the back of the shed and was working on the guttering. And a good thing too, since heavy rain was expected this afternoon.

And that also meant reconnecting the downpipe that the renderers had disconnected the other day. Asked Liam for help, but it seems that the render had made it difficult to replace the downpipe.

For once, the weather forecast was accurate. Between 17:00 and 18:00 we had about 16 mm rain:


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And Yvonne and Chris, in their infinite wisdom, had closed the valves to the tanks. As a result, the water that flowed into the one tank didn't make it into the other one. Over in pouring rain to open them. On the positive side, when I arrived the downpipe was connected. I was only just in time. The right-hand tank was already floating:


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Opened the valves and watched the water levels both inside and outside rise quickly:


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By that time, only 2 minutes later, the tank had sunk again. Back home, soaking wet, just as the rain stopped. It started again: the day's total was 42.1 mm, which should have the tanks about ⅓ full.


Car: lights left on?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Later in the afternoon I saw this on my car:


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Lights left on? No, it seems to have been freak lighting. It was very dark, but apparently some sunlight reflected off the number plate and the flat area round it.


Saturday, 14 February 2015 Dereel Images for 14 February 2015
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Disposing of old computer stuff
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

In preparation for moving house, I've already disposed of a lot of my old computer stuff, but some remains. Yesterday I found a Chris (surname unknown) on Freecycle looking for components, so I suggested he come along and help himself.

To my surprise, he was really keen on having a lot of my old junk. Also gave him the laser printer that I bought 5 years ago. It still works, but it will soon need new toner.

And then he looked longingly at my old HP field service oscilloscope. No, sorry, that's staying. After all, I only have 3 oscilloscopes. And when did I power the last one on? Not in the 7½ years that I've been living in Dereel. Dammit, I might as well give it away. It was a hard decision, but probably the correct one.

There were lots of little bits. Had an accident pouring them from one container, with some unfortunate results:


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Water tanks again
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to the Stones Road property to take the house photos today. It seems that the left-hand tank (further away in this photo) lifted off again:


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It was held by the pipes, so it couldn't get far. And now, of course, it now has about 7 tons of water in it, so it's not going anywhere. We'll have to put up with it.


Leo
Topic: animals Link here


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Shed complete!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Finally our shed is complete:

I'm still not happy with the details. The “Personal Access” door is damaged, of course, and I still need to get the photos from Jason, but it does have a lock and key on it. A far cry from the sliding door at the other end, which doesn't even have a latch or even a handle, and which has a large gap from the walls:


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Still, it'll serve.


Let's fake a tagine
Topic: food and drink Link here

I've been meaning to cook a relatively authentic Moroccan Tajine for some time, and Mohamed Ifadir (from Marrakesh) sent me a list of recipes which look interesting. Problem: they're in Arabic. Never mind, Google Translate is your friend. Or is it?

Tagine Baljelbana chicken and potatoes

Beef or chicken (optional)
Thomh and onion Mhzh
Alqsbo and Almadnos - salt + seeders + Askenjber + saffron or Alkhrkom
- Olive oil
- The shrine of acid

Olive without bone

Method: *
Nderlhm Vtagen + onion Mhldh + Althomh Mgokh + oil + full aromatic + Spring
Nhmr and Nahr everything Meziane

I particularly like the “olive without bone”.

The almost unintelligible translation suggests a problem in itself: where do I get the ingredients? But one thing on that page stood out: about the only thing the recipes had in common was the tagine (utensil) itself. Wouldn't it be possible to [fm]ake my own? So I tried that, with surprisingly good results.


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Sunday, 15 February 2015 Dereel Images for 15 February 2015
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Garden flowers in late summer
Topic: gardening Link here

The mystery succulent that flowered last year has done it again, despite being completely ignored all summer:


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And we have a large number of pink lilies:


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They were there last year too, in smaller number. Yvonne doesn't like pink, and I can't remember planting them. I must assume that they're volunteers.

Of our Mirabilis jalapa, only the yellow one has survived. Here's an early morning photo, when the flowers are open:


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The Clematis are also starting to flower rather timidly:


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And despite neglect, the roses are doing well:


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And a feature of last month's photos is here again:


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And the Hellebores are still flowering:


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The Kniphofia are also late, probably as the result of not being watered before:


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Spurious “out of inodes“
Topic: technology Link here

Ran photo backup this afternoon. The results weren't what I expected. I got so many “out of inodes” messages that the email message exceeded the maximum message size, so I couldn't find out how it started.

How did I run out of inodes? Yes, I had specified far fewer inodes than standard for the disk. The standard assumes an average file size of 4 frags, or 8 kB. The average photo file (including thumbnails and other smaller images) is still closer to 1 MB. What did I see?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/21) ~ 46 -> df -i /photobackup/
Filesystem 1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/da1p1      3,814,621 2,449,845 1,326,629    65% 812,391 1,354,391   37%   /photobackup

37% used? 1.4 million inodes free? What's it talking about? Repeated the backup and got the same results again:

grog/20150215/orig/P2156954.jpg
grog/20150215/orig/P2156955.ORF.dop
grog/20150215/orig/P2156955.jpg

/photobackup: create/symlink failed, no inodes free
grog/20150215/orig/P2156956.ORF.dop

What next? Umounted the disk and tried again. It worked.

What caused that? Some kernel memory corruption? Software? Hardware? Hard to say, but backups are particularly sensitive things.


Monday, 16 February 2015 Dereel Images for 16 February 2015
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Grading Kleins Road
Topic: general Link here

Kleins Road, where we live, is not sealed (“dirt road”). From time to time the Council sends a grader along, a machine for resurfacing the road. Today was such a time. When we left to walk the dogs, there was nothing to be seen. When we got back, there was a ridge of soil about 40 cm high waiting to be spread, and obstructing the entrance to the house:


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Recall that Zhivago (foreground) is about 85 cm tall. If we had wanted to leave the property in a car, we would have had to dig our way out.


Apple: Monitor plug and play
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Just before breakfast this morning, heard some growling from Chris Bahlo's direction. She had connected her Apple laptop to a Dell monitor, and the monitor didn't want to know. After breakfast we took another look, and by a process of elimination came to the conclusion that it was the operating system, which wasn't producing any output to the display. With some experimentation, she got it to drive the monitor (native resolution 1920×1080) at 800×600, but not higher. And the only resolutions it offered were 4:3 aspect ratio.

Why? I'm not an Apple man, so I asked some of the renegades on the (BSD) IRC channel. Daniel O'Connor suspected the EDID values, and while it seems there is no monitor with correct EDID, we tried with two different monitors, including one that runs fine both with X and Microsoft. Still, Daniel came up with a script that both recognizes that there's a problem and also claims to fix it. Chris tried it, but wasn't able to get beyond 1360×768 before she had to return to Real Work.

Aren't easy-to-use computers great?


Fish soup?
Topic: food and drink Link here

We eat a lot of prawns, and lately they seem to always be in the shell. That makes for a lot of shells left over. And that's what we need for fish soup.


Simonds: attention to detail
Topic: Stones Road house, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo has discovered something surprising with her new house:


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It's not immediately obvious—that's why it has progressed this far. But it's clear that it's in line with the Yeardley house in the background. Looking on the map, that house is lined up pretty much to the north-east:


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The map doesn't show Chris' house yet, of course. It's just to the south of the group of trees in the middle left, and it should be pointing at them. Instead, it's clearly also lined up the same way as the Yeardley house. But in all documents—planning permit, building permit, contract—the house is pointing north. They've built it fully 45° out of line!

That's terrible for a big building company, but how important is it? Chris went to a lot of trouble to ensure the solar efficiency of the house, and more trouble to explain that to a surprising number of Simonds employees. And they still managed to do it wrong.

Today she had a meeting with Dale, the new site supervisor, and his boss, who really seems to be called Ozzie Guy. I came along as a witness. They admitted their liability, and offered to put in a couple more solar panels for the hot water, thus only matching the number we have on our house. And that was all. You can't even call it an offer: they do this without charge for all houses where they can't orient the panels to the north. I suggested that Chris would need to plant new trees to make up for the loss of view, but no, they weren't even prepared to do that.

So: time for Chris to get some professional advice. My understanding is that she would be within her rights to demand fulfillment of the contract, which would require tearing down the present structure and starting again. I don't seem to be alone. They had put construction on hold until the matter is resolved, and both the bricklayer and Dave Barry, the shed builder, seemed to think that the house would need to be started again. You'd think that they would have come with a more reasonable offer of compensation.

In passing, it's interesting to note that Simonds do make cutouts for the electrics:


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Sourdough experiments
Topic: food and drink Link here

I've been making sourdough rye bread for years now, but there's always room for improvement. I established a long time ago that a mixture of 400 g wheat flour and 900 g rye flour is optimal; but how should it be mixed? My latest attempts have taken the 400 g wheat and 400 g of the rye to make a starter, then add the remaining 500 g rye and letting it rise. How would it taste if the sourdough was all rye? Tried that today. Normally I have to leave the starter overnight, but this one came up very quickly. Here it is 3 and 5 hours after mixing:


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I was concerned that it would overflow, but it didn't go any further. What caused that? Warmer than usual water? Or the difference in the flour?


Tuesday, 17 February 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 17 February 2015
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Choosing water pumps
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Mari Hendriks is in the area again, and it's high time to connect up the gutters for the shed. He's planning to come tomorrow morning. And while he's there, he can connect up the water pump to the house. No more carting water around on trailers.

What pump? We don't have one. Off into town to find one. Where? We have the new kid on the block, UPI, and also Midland Irrigation and the Ballarat Pump Shop. To UPI first, where I was shown prices that blew my head off—over $1000. But it seems those are list prices, and they offered me a Pentair Southern Cross CBI 2-40PC15 pump for $515, or a 2-50PC15 for $615. They're multi-stage and claim to offer constant pressure, though I can't see that: the data sheet for the 2-40PC15 shows pressures between 150 and 350 kPa, depending on flow rate. They look more modern than the pumps I'm used to, and they don't need a pressure cell, but they're still a lot more expensive than I was expecting to pay.

Off to the Pump Shop, where they showed me another pump, also “constant pressure“ and without pressure cell, but with more conventional design. Similar specs, but $650. And they told me that they could supply the 2-40PC15, but that it wasn't in stock, and that it would be more expensive.

So back to UPI and got there just before closing time. Bought the pump, and back home. Not really a lot of work, but somehow I felt tired at the end. I seem to be showing my age.


Debugging photo processing scripts
Topic: photography, technology Link here

My photo processing includes a number of kludgy scripts, mainly Bourne Shell. It makes things a lot easier than using Microsoft-space user-friendly GUIs, but of course there's room for bugs.

Lately I've found that when I run the mkcompare script, which creates a web page comparing “before” and “after” running through an automatic optimizer, it presented comparisons with photos I had taken a couple of days before: a blast from the past. How can that happen?

Simple, of course: I don't need the comparison page for more than a few minutes, so I create it in a fixed directory. But I had forgotten to clean out the directory before doing the image conversions, and since I use make, it didn't replace any images which were already there. A simple one-line rm solved the problem.

How long had that been there? Before removing the files, I checked:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/21) ~/public_html 58 -> ls -lrt localtmp/compare/
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis   79,948 12 Jul  2012 after-Grapefruit-3.jpeg
-rw-r--r--  1 grog  lemis   90,528 12 Jul  2012 before-Grapefruit-3.jpeg

2½ years! And how much junk had I collected in that time?

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/21) ~/public_html 59 -> l localtmp/compare/|wc -l
   15792
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/21) ~/public_html 60 -> du -s localtmp/compare/
1511    localtmp/compare/

That's 1511 MB of files!


Wednesday, 18 February 2015 Dereel Images for 18 February 2015
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House progress?
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Still nobody on site from JG King this week. They have concreted the entrance:


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That looks like a job for a tiler.

It seems that they have also delivered some doors and other components for the fit, but Duncan tells me they won't start working on it until next week. In the meantime, Simonds, who started building Chris Bahlo's house 33 days ago, have now caught up with JG King, who started building ours 4 months ago. I wonder who will be finished first.

Also took another look at the shed. Parts of it are pretty bare-bones:


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One way or another, that's the last thing I'll buy from Widespan sheds.

Mari Hendriks over to do the guttering for the shed and connect up the pump. The external plumbing is now as good as done, though it's clear we'll need some kind of protection for the valves for the tanks, which are about 20 cm under ground level:


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New bread experiment
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

The bread experiment I started a couple of days ago made a surprising difference. I've already noted the extreme degree to which the starter rose; fortunately it didn't get beyond this stage:


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But although I used the same ratio of water to flour (5 to 4), the starter came out much thicker. That's to be expected if you use rye instead of wheat, but in this case the difference was so extreme that I wondered if I had made a mistake with the measurement. I hadn't: after mixing in the remaining flour, the dough was of the same consistency it always has been. But that wasn't the end of the story. Although the bread rose normally before baking, putting it in the oven caused it to lift its lid:


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I've only had that once before, coincidentally almost exactly five years ago. At the time I established that it could be too hot an oven or “too much yeast”. At least the latter corresponds to the extreme activity I had with the starter. I need to consider what to do next.


Thursday, 19 February 2015 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 February 2015
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Digital pain
Topic: general, opinion Link here

People who know me slightly frequently recognize me by my footwear: I don't wear shoes. At Tandem Computers I got used to meeting somebody important, like a vice-president, who would look at me, look at my feet, look back up and say “Hi, Greg”.

This isn't just a lifestyle choice: I hate shoes, and sometimes I think they hate me. But there are times where I have to wear them to protect my feet, like when I take the dogs for a walk.

Some months back, Yvonne bought some boots for me. They didn't fit well: my arches are too high for conventional shoes, and initially it was almost impossible to put them on. After only a few months, the forces required to take them off again proved too much, and they tore apart:


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That's not because the shoes are too small—all the other dimensions are correct. Yvonne has now bought me a new pair of shoes, with zip fasteners, which makes it easier to put them on. Today, for some reason, she asked me to use a different pair of socks. What a pain! I didn't get more than 40 m before I had to go back and tend to my left big toe. It seems that it was a seam, and it made quite an impression:


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That's not the only digit causing pain, of course. It's now been five weeks since I tore my hand open. It's progressing:


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Borzois drinking
Topic: animals Link here

Borzois aren't exactly designed with fast drinking in mind. Their long, narrow mouths make it difficult to get water into the throat. And for some reasons, while walking them, they find a pool of standing water that tastes so much better than the fresh water we give them at home. And each of the dogs has his own way of drinking it. Here's Leonid putting nose and end of mouth about 8 cm into the water:


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eBay: Losing the edge?
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've been buying and selling things on eBay for over 15 years, and it's still one of my main sources of many kinds of item. But note that still: you'd think that they're going out of their way to annoy you.

Last June I had such problems trying to sell a camera that I gave up, especially as they have now restricted sales to Australia only—why?

I also receive daily messages with custom search results. Once upon a time they were legible. Now they're modern, so when looking for Olympus lenses I get a display like this:


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What is that lens? They're far too leet to print the whole description (or even all the items they have found), and in this case they have not given the most interesting part: what kind of lens is it?

Ah, but they include a plain text version. But it's clearly not intended for mere mortals:

View Item  : http://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/e11021.m43.l1120/7?euid=5ba44486c8f24cb6aac1f6a
9d452a5f4&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fcgi.ebay.com.au%2Fws%2FeBayISAPI.dll%3FViewItem%26item%3D321667
197501%26ssPageName%3DADME%3ASS%3ASS%3AUS%3A1120
Olympus Pen M. Zuiko Digital Micro Four Times 17mm f1.8 Photo Lens
Price: AU $491.00Buy it now
Shipping: No International Shipping

Even worse, if it's an auction, they don't show the price:

View Item  : http://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/e11021.m43.l1120/7?euid=5ba44486c8f24cb6aac1f6a
9d452a5f4&loc=http%3A%2F%2Fcgi.ebay.com.au%2Fws%2FeBayISAPI.dll%3FViewItem%26item%3D231478
562752%26ssPageName%3DADME%3ASS%3ASS%3AUS%3A1120
Olympus M.Zuiko 12mm F/2.0 PREMIUM wide Lens. Regrettable sale. Silver. As NEW!
Price: 00 bids
Shipping: No International Shipping

Note that 10 of the 12 items listed specify “No International Shipping”. That's their choice, not that of the seller. All of this suggests that they're trying to make life as difficult as possible for the user.

But wait! There's more! The sellers are getting on the bandwagon too. I've already commented on pricing strategies that appear intended to increase the average price of an item, in this case $6,500 for a lens worth about $350. And today I came across yet another trick. I'm looking for a studio backdrop: a couple of stands, a boom and some cloth to hang over it. Not expensive, but the prices I've seen blew me away:


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Just what I wanted! And look at that price! $4.11 including free postage. That's much less than the real cost of the postage alone. There's got to be a trick, right?

Yes, of course. See that “select”? You need to select item details before you can buy anything. And when you do, the price goes up nearly 20 fold:

 
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Basically, what you get for $4.11 is a couple of “Camera floating”. That's only mentioned at all in the fine print:

Floating Foam Strap is made to keep waterproof digital cameras afloat and easy to find in the water. It can be attached to the strap lug of your waterproof Coolpix camera preventing it from sinking while you are swimming, surfing or rafting. Even if you're walking along a stream and slip, the strap will keep the camera afloat and make it easier to retrieve.

What earthly connection does that have with studio equipment? None at all. And it isn't even mentioned in the item description. It's just designed to lure people to look at the “item”. I see it differently: sellers best-studio, gmmotherhonest, honestseller2you and friends (look at those names!) are now on my blacklist. But they're irritating. Why doesn't eBay do something about these things? Their automated “report this item” system doesn't even give you the choice of reporting them. This gives an opportunity for other sites with more sensible policies.


Another NBN outage
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Another National Broadband Network outage today, from 13:38 until 14:04:

1424313521 27.3112 5    # Thu 19 Feb 2015 13:38:41 EST 36.615 ms
1424313662 0 0 hub www www.freebsd.de ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org         # Thu 19 Feb 2015 13:41:02 EST
...
1424315071 0 0 hub www www.freebsd.de ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org         # Thu 19 Feb 2015 14:04:31 EST
1424315092 0 5  # Thu 19 Feb 2015 14:04:52 EST
1424315153 27.2985 5    # Thu 19 Feb 2015 14:05:53 EST 36.632 ms

Clearly a communication issue: the ODU (“Outdoor unit”, i.e. antenna) indicator on the NTD was on red. OK, we know the drill, power cycle the NTD, though I've never seen that it's necessary. And indeed the red LED stayed on, along with a very slow (10 s?) flashing red status LED next to it. Called up Aussie Broadband to report the failure, and spoke to John, who told me to power down the NTD and leave it disconnected for 30 minutes. I refused, and asked him why I should do so. Ah, the old bogeyman “excess capacitance”. I have only heard of that in connection with satellite communications. It was stupid then, and it's even more stupid now. The NTD has an Ethernet connection to the ODU (antenna). What “excess capacitance”?

In passing, it's clear that you can't drain capacitance. They way they spoke, they clearly meant charge. Capacitance doesn't change in a fixed system.

In any case, asked to be connected to the supervisor. Almost immediately I was connected to Will, who claimed that this was an NBN requirement, and that they had to do it before lodging a complaint. Clearly it means that any transient fault of less than 30 minutes will never get reported. So it was today: while I was speaking to Will, the connection came up again. Still, he's going to send me details of what the NBN wants.

While on the phone, discussed my ongoing DHCP issues. Restarted dhclient for him, and he confirmed that the first request packet got an almost immediate reply. But that's not quite what I saw:

14:04:27.587148 IP 180.150.4.128.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300
14:04:35.004322 IP 180.150.4.128.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300
14:04:35.043831 IP 180.150.4.1.67 > 180.150.4.128.68: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300

Did Will miss the first request, or did it not arrive? Potentially there is a network issue here.


Choosing lamps
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Progress with the house is much slower than we had hoped, but Duncan tells me they'll be ready for the painters by the end of next week. And it won't be much longer before we put in the light fittings. Like the pump a couple of days ago, we don't have any. So into town to take a look. In this particular case it's quite difficult to choose, since Yvonne and I have different opinions about what kind of fitting we wanted. I tend to the so-called “oyster” lamps:

 
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Yvonne—atypically—had been led astray by these silly lamps built in the ceiling, and thus only able to illuminate a spot on the floor directly below. But she's coming round, and she would be happy with something like this:

 
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The problem with the “oyster” lamps is that most of them don't go flush to the ceiling, and the gap looks ugly. But I'm not sure the cylinders are particularly pretty.


Next B12 injection
Topic: health Link here

While in town, had the last of my 3 Cobalamin injections. Time to finally have the last blood test and see where we go from here.


Friday, 20 February 2015 Dereel Images for 20 February 2015
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House progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Over to Stones Road this morning to meet with Duncan Jackson to look round the house. To our pleasant surprise the plasterers were working, and we already have a certain progress:


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But as I feared, not all the electricals had been done. A number of things to discuss with Jim; possibly there's a reason. I'll be interested to see what kind of patch panel he puts in the pantry. Currently all the cables are hanging out of the cutouts for power points:


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Leonid: injured?
Topic: animals Link here

While looking at the house, the dogs ran outside. Suddenly there was a scream from Leonid, somewhere round where the pond had been. Further investigation showed that he had caught himself up in some old fence wire, and it looked as if part of it went through his front leg. Duncan had some pliers, and we cut the wire; fortunately no harm had been done, and Leo ran off without even limping. But it's time to remove all that wire.


NBN DHCP issues: insights
Topic: technology Link here

Long phone call with Will of Aussie Broadband support today. We investigated a DHCP handshake from both ends. Here a summary, seen from my end:

  13:36:08.117371 IP 180.150.4.128.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300
     DHCPREQUEST on xl0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67
     Other end: receive two packets
            send two ACKs.

     Neither arrived here.

  13:36:15.118323 IP 180.150.4.128.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300

     DHCPREQUEST on xl0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67
     Other end: receive two packets
            send two ACKs.

     Neither arrived here.

  13:36:25.119323 IP 0.0.0.0.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300
    DHCPDISCOVER on xl0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67 interval 6

    Other end: receive 2 DHCPDISCOVER packets.
           send 2 DHCPOFFER packets.

  13:36:25.181250 IP 180.150.4.1.67 > 180.150.4.128.68: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
     first packet:
     DHCPOFFER from 180.150.4.1
     unknown dhcp option value 0x52

  13:36:25.186205 IP 180.150.4.1.67 > 180.150.4.128.68: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
     second packet
     DHCPOFFER from 180.150.4.1
     DHCPOFFER already seen.

  13:36:27.187460 IP 0.0.0.0.68 > 255.255.255.255.67: BOOTP/DHCP, Request from 00:50:da:cf:07:35, length 300
     DHCPREQUEST on xl0 to 255.255.255.255 port 67
     Feb 20 13:36:25 eureka dhclient[14977]: unknown dhcp option value 0x52

     Other end: This packet was seen twice.
                Each copy receives an ACK.

    13:36:27.236166 IP 180.150.4.1.67 > 180.150.4.128.68: BOOTP/DHCP, Reply, length 300
      First ACK:
      DHCPACK from 180.150.4.1
      unknown dhcp option value 0x52
      bound to 180.150.4.128 -- renewal in 1800 seconds.
      Feb 20 13:36:27 eureka dhclient[14977]: unknown dhcp option value 0x52
      Feb 20 13:36:27 eureka dhclient: New IP Address (xl0): 180.150.4.128
      Feb 20 13:36:27 eureka dhclient: New Subnet Mask (xl0): 255.255.255.0
      Feb 20 13:36:27 eureka dhclient: New Broadcast Address (xl0): 180.150.4.255
      Feb 20 13:36:27 eureka dhclient: New Routers (xl0): 180.150.4.1

It seems that the second DHCPACK didn't make it.

So clearly there's something very wrong with DHCP handling. Whose fault? It's hard to say, but I can't see why it should be Aussie's. The National Broadband Network does strange things with DHCP, and it's quite possible that this is part of it. But I may never know. They took the easy way out: instead of tracking down the problem, they worked around by offering me a static IP address. I'm ambivalent: a static address is far simpler, but it means that the problem may persist for a long time. They say that nobody else has reported the problem, but is that surprising?


Six months later: Telstra responds
Topic: general, opinion Link here

A letter in the mail today, with an envelope from some credit collection agency, but on Telstra “letterhead” (generated by the printer):


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So my suspicion last August wasn't that accurate. I expected that they really wanted my postal address, but I didn't think that even Telstra would take 6 months to realize their mistake.


Saturday, 21 February 2015 Dereel → Enfield → Dereel Images for 21 February 2015
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Off the net!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Into the office this morning to discover that we had been off the net since 4:34. As always, Damn!

No indication of any fault on the NTD. Had they decided to implement yesterday's change to a static IP address without telling me? Tried stopping dhcpd and setting the IP address manually. No go. Called up Aussie Broadband support and spoke to Aaron, who told me that he was only level 1 support, and that the level 2 people (including Will and Ricky, who had been looking at my DHCP issues) didn't work on weekends. Neither do the network people. It seems that I'll be off the net until Monday!

That would be my longest broadband outage ever. How could it happen? So far I've been very happy with Aussie Broadband, but unless I get a bloody good explanation, it looks like time for a change of ISP. How can you shut down your whole support department over the weekend? I don't really count the “Level 1” support, because that's mainly script-driven and oriented towards end user faults.

But wait! I have another NTD here, the one that will be installed in Stones Road once the house is finished enough. The configuration should give me a connection with my other service. Tried that and learnt a number of things about NTDs:

So: off the net for a weekend. I certainly hope they get their act together on Monday morning.


Expired Borzoi
Topic: animals Link here

Leonid:


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Barbecue at the O'Deas
Topic: general, animals, technology, opinion Link here

Over to the O'Deas in Enfield this afternoon for a barbecue and to let the dogs run together:


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It's interesting to note how Leonid and Nikolai (¾ brothers) look so different, and Zhivago and Bindy (father and daughter) also look so different. On the other hand, Nikolai and Bindy look so similar that we sometimes mistake them for each other, despite the significant difference in size, and Zhivago and Leonid also bear a significant resemblance to each other.

And for some reason, Nikolai is not overly sociably in these games, as the first two photos show.

Talking to Steve about networking. He's 3 km from the Enfield National Broadband Network tower—and he can't get a connection! The trees around the house are too high. When are they going to understand that end users can use towers too?


Sunday, 22 February 2015 Dereel → Buninyong → Dereel Images for 22 February 2015
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The morning after the night before
Topic: general, food and drink Link here

Woke up in the middle of the night with an acute case of diarrhoea. Where did I get that from? We found out a bit later when Zali O'Dea called up and asked how we were feeling. It seems whatever it was had got them too, but fortunately not Yvonne. I wonder what caused it.


Renewable Energy Fair
Topic: general Link here

Off with Chris Bahlo to Buninyong to visit some Renewable Energy Fair. Chris is in the market for off-grid solar electricity, and I had already told her about my dealings with David Grigg of BREAZE and given her the contact details, but it seemed like a good idea to go and see what other people had on offer, especially since we're stil off the Internet after 36 hours.

As expected, it wasn't a big operation. This is all of it:


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And there wasn't very much there to interest me. Only a couple of solar electricity people, including BREAZE, and very little on heating. One of the things that Chris could use would be a wind pump for her bore, but I couldn't see anything of that nature. On the other hand, things like hand-made soap, Indian food and local plants.


Kangaroo grass revisited
Topic: gardening Link here

One of the stands at the fair had local plants on sale. I recognized this one from the garden:


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Clearly it's a Myriophyllum, but what's the species? Illegible. The last 4 letters appear to be “atam”, but I can't find that in the Wikipedia species list.

And then there's Themeda australis, or Kangaroo grass:


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That's not the species that I had identified before. According to Australian National Botanic Gardens it's Themeda triandra, which that just seems to be a synonym. But these have a more obvious similarity with the grasses I looked at a couple of months ago:


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Out of inodes again!
Topic: technology Link here

My photo backup failed again today with an “out of inodes” message. I had that only a week ago, and it proved to be incorrect. How could it happen again? It has nothing to do with the disk: this is a different disk. And once again the message was incorrect:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~ 42 -> df -i /photobackup/
Filesystem 1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/da1p1      3,814,654 2,449,390 1,327,117    65% 814,196 1,352,586   38%   /photobackup

So I umounted it and remounted it, and this time got a console message:

Feb 22 15:25:46 eureka kernel: WARNING: /photobackup was not properly dismounted

How did that happen? Ran fsck—no errors—and remounted:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~ 43 -> df -i /photobackup/
Filesystem 1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/da1p1      3,814,621 2,449,845 1,326,629    65% 812,391 1,354,391   37%   /photobackup

That's 1,805 inodes difference! Maybe the difference between in-core and on-disk views of the world? After that the inode count was somewhat more than the initial value, so that's possible.

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/11) ~ 44 -> df -i /photobackup/
Filesystem 1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity iused     ifree %iused  Mounted on
/dev/da1p1      3,814,621 2,450,185 1,326,289    65% 814,390 1,352,392   38%   /photobackup

But what's causing it? While trawling the log files, found:

Feb 22 15:25:46 eureka kernel: WARNING: /photobackup was not properly dismounted

But that appears to be the result of the problem, not the cause. The backup was started at 12:23:06, and there were no prior log messages. Last week is more interesting:

Feb 15 18:36:55 eureka kernel: pid 16195 (rsync), uid 0 inumber 153121 on /photobackup: out of inodes
Feb 15 18:36:56 eureka kernel: pid 16200 (rsync), uid 0 inumber 178688 on /photobackup: out of inodes
Feb 15 18:37:01 eureka last message repeated 5 times
Feb 15 18:38:22 eureka kernel: WARNING: /photobackup was not properly dismounted

While the “not properly dismounted” message came after the inode messages again, it was so soon after that it seems related.

I'm still puzzled. About the only clue to follow is that in each case the backup that failed was the first backup after changing the backup disk. Did I leave the old disk mounted? If so, the system should have seen the problem and refused to access the disk. More importantly, has data been corrupted? You'd expect rsync to catch that.


Strange butter
Topic: food and drink Link here

We bought a butter dish (in fact two, in case one is dirty) from ALDI a while back. Nothing special, but they do the job. Or they did, until ALDI decided to change the shape of its butter, and now it's too high to fit in the butter dish.

OK, nothing for it: cut the butter in two. It's silly to have to do it, but it works. But lately we've found something strange about the butter. It seems to have a lump in the middle:


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I wonder what causes that.


Monday, 23 February 2015 Dereel Images for 23 February 2015
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Getting back on the net
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

At 9:00 this morning we were still off the net, so called up Aussie Broadband support and spoke to John. Asked to be connected to Will or Ricky, the people I had spoken to on Friday. Will would not be in until the afternoon, and Ricky was on another call. I asked him to inform Ricky of the urgency of the matter and then connect me to company management. He didn't understand, and I had to repeat. Sorry, the whole company management had been at a fair over the weekend, and they had the day off. Technical support manager was on leave. Jacky, his deputy, wasn't in yet.

No call in 20 minutes. At 9:22, called up and spoke to Eli, who went looking for Ricky. Ricky knew of the case and would call me back.

At 9:44 I called again and finally got put through to Ricky. If he was aware of the urgency, he didn't show it. He told me that they hadn't changed the configuration. Well, hardly. They had done something to ensure that my IP address didn't change—something that has never happened anyway. He went to talk with the network people, then returned and asked me to restart dhclient. Success!

Feb 23 09:59:11 eureka dhclient[93723]: unknown dhcp option value 0x52
Feb 23 09:59:11 eureka dhclient: New IP Address (xl0): 180.150.4.128
Feb 23 09:59:11 eureka dhclient: New Subnet Mask (xl0): 255.255.255.0
Feb 23 09:59:11 eureka dhclient: New Broadcast Address (xl0): 180.150.4.255
Feb 23 09:59:11 eureka dhclient: New Routers (xl0): 180.150.4.1

All done in 10 minutes. But due to this simple configuration error, I was off the net for over 53 hours:


1424453677 31.7068 5 # Sat 21 Feb 2015 04:34:37 EST 31.539 ms
1424453814 0 0 hub www www.freebsd.de ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Sat 21 Feb 2015 04:36:54 EST
...
1424645946 0 0 hub www www.freebsd.de ozlabs.org ftp.netbsd.org # Mon 23 Feb 2015 09:59:06 EST
1424645964 0 5 # Mon 23 Feb 2015 09:59:24 EST
1424646026 26.8521 5 # Mon 23 Feb 2015 10:00:26 EST 37.241 ms

And what was the problem? ACL issues or some such, it seems. The network people are apparently puzzled too, and they've suggested I stay with DHCP for the time being.

But that's just the immediate issue. They made the change some time on Friday afternoon, and it seems they were expecting it to take effect immediately, and not at 4:30 the following morning. But the real issue is that they don't have any support at weekends. If this had happened this morning and not on Saturday, it would have been fixed within the hour.

So: what do I do? One obvious course is to change my ISP. Went looking at that. The real question is who can do it better? I note that Internode has two different service levels (“Standard” and “Priority Business”), and the latter costs $30 more per month, for a total of $45 more per month than I'm paying now. For that price I could get a second connection with a different ISP. I suppose I should wait for a promised call back from the support manager, who won't be back until next week.


Bahlo house problems, again
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Following last week's lack of offer from Simonds, Chris had another meeting with more senior representatives, Rohan and his boss Craig. She was certainly gentle in her interaction, and despite having received legal advice about monetary compensation, she let herself be talked into accepting upgrades on the house.

Craig was in agreement that the original orientation was better, and they offered more windows, including a large corner window facing north, double glazing, sufficient solar panels (sufficient for what?), a timber screen to the north-east (the exact purpose of which I'm not sure), and a row of trees to block off the view of the Yeardleys. It's not clear whether that included irrigation—I asked, and they didn't say no. But they'll supply a written quote soon. I asked them to provide an estimate of cost so that Chris could compare with what her solicitor suggested. We'll see.

Mari Hendriks and Warren Pitcher were also there, having lunch after finishing the septic tank:


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The shed's under way too. In general, things are moving on:


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Dead tortoise
Topic: animals Link here

On the way to Chris' house, I saw an almost invisible lump on the road directly in front of me. Crunch!


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That's sad. It left me unhappy all afternoon.


Tuesday, 24 February 2015 Dereel Images for 24 February 2015
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The Corsicans updated
Topic: animals, general Link here

We have three different walks through the forest with the dogs: the maneaters, Kleins Paddock, and the Big Oak:


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We also have shorter versions of two of these walks: “Kurz und Klein” (a shorter version of Kleins Paddock) and the Corsicans, half way to the Big Oak:


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It gets that name because the trunk reminds us of a recurring theme in Astérix en Corse, the old men sitting on a tree trunk with dogs in front of them:

 
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But today we came closer:


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House progress
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

The plasterers are hard at work:


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Most of the doors are in place, though some clearly need replacing:


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On Chris Bahlo's site the shed is taking shape:


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Spoke to Dave Barry, who is doing Chris' shed, about a tack room for Yvonne in our shed. He promises a quote in the coming days.


Wednesday, 25 February 2015 Dereel Images for 25 February 2015
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Cats and dogs
Topic: animals Link here

It has taken our dogs a while to get used to cats, but now it seems that the cats have taken the initiative. Here Shadow and Leonid, and then Lilac and Zhivago.


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Lilac has a reason to be there: Zhivago is eating a bone, and she licks up the rest. It's surprising that Zhivago doesn't have any issue with her presence.


More stomach upsets
Topic: health, general Link here

My stomach upset a couple of days ago wasn't the end of the story. Yvonne got something similar on the following day, and today both Chris and I had it again, quite suddenly and at the same time. What's that about?


Thursday, 26 February 2015 Dereel Images for 26 February 2015
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Sick again
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Somehow this stomach infection didn't go away as quickly as the first time round. Spent a really unpleasant night, and woke up feeling decidedly under the weather. In the end went to the doctor, who diagnosed nothing unusual—viral or just possibly bacterial infection, and gave me a test kit for the latter.

Back home and suffered. I suppose this happens to most people, but for me it's unusual. Hopefully it'll be over soon.


JG King: Jumping the gun again
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Email from JG King today, enclosing an invoice for the “fix-up” stage. That appears to be the term they use for what is correctly called the “fixing” stage. Certainly the contract offers no divergent definition.

What's that? Looked at the Domestic building contracts Act 1995, section 40 again:

“fixing stage” means the stage when all internal cladding, architraves, skirting, doors, built-in shelves, baths, basins, troughs, sinks, cabinets and cupboards of a home are fitted and fixed in position.

Is that the case? Definitely not. This is a photo of the lounge room, and it shows the wash basin intended for the laundry:


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In fact, as far as I can tell, no doors, baths, basins, troughs nor sinks have been installed.

I've been through this before, and I made my displeasure known. Why are they doing it again? Looking at the Act again, I see:

(3) ... a builder must not demand or receive any amount or instalment that is not directly related to the progress of the building work being carried out under the contract.

Penalty: 50 penalty units.

What's a penalty unit?

Admittedly, there's also this clause:

(4) Subsections (2) and (3) do not apply if the parties to a contract agree that it is not to apply and do so in the manner set out in the regulations.

I've already established that the contract agreed that subsection (2) was not to apply. Or so I thought. Looking at the contract again, I find that both King and we have agreed to both alternatives. What sloppy documentation! But there's no mention of them being allowed to demand payments not directly related to the progress of the building.

Now if they were only that fast in building the house, I wouldn't mind.


A bore!
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Yesterday Gary Murray told me that he would be on site between 10:00 and 10:30 this morning to drill the bore. None too early: I've been chasing him since October last year. So postponed my doctor's appointment until 11:45 and over to meet him.

No Gary. On the positive side, the painter turned up and asked us some questions about painting details, which was just as well, as he had been given conflicting information about the front door. Back home, and was just about to leave for the doctor when Gary called: he would be there in “10 minutes”. Grumbling, postponed my appointment until 13:15.

20 minutes later, went over to the site, and—they were there!


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Over to show the exact position I wanted the bore. “Not a hope in hell”. As one of his helpers said, they should have done it before the shed was erected. Now there was no way to get the bore machine in.

Spent a while looking for a place to place the bore, and finally settled on an area between the septic tank and the house, about 4 m from the south-west corner. When I got back from the doctor, they were hard at it:


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It's clear which parts of the house construction interest Yvonne. She seems oblivious of some things, but this evening she had to go and see the progress of the bore. Finished!


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Only one problem: it wasn't where we wanted it, which is roughly where Yvonne is standing in this photo. The bore is pretty much in line with the south-west corner of the house:


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What a pain this stuff is! I feel like asking Gary to pick it up and move it 4 metres.

And how deep is it? He'll tell me, I suppose. Judging by the relatively small amount of sand he has removed, it could be quite shallow, which would be good.


House construction waste
Topic: Stones Road house, technology Link here

While looking round the house, found this, not far from the front door:


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It's a Cat6 cable, of course, one that I had left in the room that will become the office. Why did they throw it out? It looks OK, though.


Friday, 27 February 2015 Dereel Images for 27 February 2015
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Gastrointestinal recovery
Topic: health Link here

Another unpleasant night, though not as bad as last night. But after that, things looked a lot better. Still, it took 36 hours, which is unusual.


JG King: the fine print
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

Replied to my email from JG King today, and promptly got a call from Duncan Jackson, who had been delegated to sort things out with me. Why Duncan? He's the site supervisor.

He told me that the doors had already been hung, the bath and basins installed, and then all removed so that the painters could paint behind them. Does that sound plausible? Over to the house to take a look. Not very convincing:


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That surface should have had a wash basin in it, except that it also needs replacing.


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There's clearly no bath there, nor elsewhere in the house. If it had been installed, where is it now?


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Those doors have never been hung.

So I wrote a mail message to Duncan, and got a surprising response: a response “in red”, but more importantly a PDF of a low-res scan of page 32 of the contract:


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So why didn't I see that before? For the same reason that Duncan didn't know about it either: it's nowhere near the section of the contract which describes the progress payments, and that section has no reference to it. Clearly it's legally binding, but this sloppy documentation has cost Duncan and me several hours on this occasion. It also shows that the claim for “lock-up” stage might almost have been valid. But they didn't find that detail on time. The formulation is typically vague and contradictory:

This will be at the Supervisors [sic] discretion and therefore places these items in the final and not the fix stage.

What does that really mean?


Other house stuff
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

They've cleaned the brickwork. Or most of it:


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And the painters are hard at work. Here's Lee:


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He tells me it cleans up easily enough.

And what are these pipes above the drain? I can't recall seeing them before.


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Another mystery plant
Topic: gardening Link here

Another plant has popped up right next to the house:


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An Acacia? What species?


Photo backup: complete!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

As a result of the problems I had with photo backups recently, decided to make a backup using rsync's checksum feature. Normally it goes through directory trees and updates files with a different modification timestamp or EOF; that can be done from the inode and doesn't require accessing the file itself. But that clearly doesn't help if the file in the backup file is corrupt (contains a zero block, for example). The checksum feature creates and compares checksums of all files, which is at least an order of magnitude more work. And it shows. Here the summary information for my last two backups:

Sun 22 Feb 2015 17:03:16 EST Disk 6
Sun 22 Feb 2015 17:13:26 EST Photo backup ended

Wed 25 Feb 2015 16:46:21 EST Photo backup started
Thu 26 Feb 2015 21:58:49 EST Photo backup ended

The first backup took 10 minutes; the second took over 31 hours. And what did it find? Very little, but not nothing. Apart from changes made since the last backup, I got:

grog/20100717/orig/P7178579.ORF

Why that? Looking at it, it seems that it could really have been some kind of corruption:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos 165 -> ls -l 20100717/orig/P7178579.ORF
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  lemis  13644516 17 Jul  2010 20100717/orig/P7178579.ORF
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/10) ~/Photos 166 -> ls -cl 20100717/orig/P7178579.ORF
-rw-rw-r--  1 grog  lemis  13644516 31 Jan  2014 20100717/orig/P7178579.ORF

Time to look at the other backup disk and see what the copy there looks like.

Another smoking gun was that the backup disk was still mounted when I looked at it in the late morning. Is this the reason for the spurious ”out of inodes” indication? I need to look at why it didn't get umounted by the backup script.

So I umounted it, and that took round 15 seconds. Clearly it was flushing lots of data to the disk. But why? The backup had completed over 12 hours earlier, and by that time buffer cache should have been synced to disk. Is this the result of resetting soft updates?


The real tagine
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Mohamed Ifadir took a look at my last fake tagine recipe today. He disagreed with a number of things I had done. Probably the most significant thing is that it seems that you put all the ingredients of a tagine in at the beginning, bring to the boil, and leave alone simmering for at least 2 hours. To prevent the vegetables (in my case, courgettes) from overcooking, they get put on top, out of the juice, and are simply steamed. And it seems to be normal that part of the tagine is charred, or at least very dry. I'll try that next time.

At least he didn't complain about my ingredients, though he did give some insight into this Google “translation”:

<mifadir> for example google will fail with word like معدنوس
<mifadir> and will give the right translation for work بقدونس "Almadnos =:=parsley "

Saturday, 28 February 2015 Dereel Images for 28 February 2015
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Stomach still not right
Topic: health Link here

I suppose I have really forgotten what it's like to be sick. I still have this stomach bug, though it's getting better. But it has taken (with gaps) nearly a week. Of course, the doctor cheerfully told me that it could take two. I suppose I should see it from the positive side, that this happens so seldom.


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