Greg
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January 2004
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Thursday, 1 January 2004 Echunga
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We didn't get to bed very late last night, and a bottle of champagne shared four ways doesn't exactly sound like excessive drinking, but somehow we all woke up this morning feeling the worse for wear. Maybe the “Sir James” champagne was a special New Year's brew with a high capability of creating hangovers.

As a result, didn't do much today. Spent most of the day tidying up mail, also playing around a little with formatting my paper. I'm using gnuplot for the plots, and the documentation must be some of the worst I've ever seen. Currently I'm fighting to stop it from turning the plots on their side.


Friday, 2 January 2004 Echunga
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More work on my paper for the conference today. I discovered that there were a number of topics that I had forgotten about, and it's 35 pages already. I'll have to drop some of the other stuff—maybe.

gnuplot drives me crazy. Spent a surprising amount of time trying to convert the graphs into a reasonable format, made all the more frustrating since I solved the problem years ago and then lost the gnuplot scripts. It's not clear how much they would have helped: since then, gnuplot has been upgraded, and presumably for political reasons gif support has been removed. Still, got as far as some reasonable graphs. I don't see myself running out of time.

It's now been a month since I changed the IP address of this web site (www.lemis.com). All DNS servers have been updated for that time, and the refresh time is set to one day. And my web logs show that one third of accesses to this particular page (my diary) are still at the old address (206.239.198.97) instead of the new one (203.10.76.45). I wonder which name servers still have the old address, and why. The expire time is set to 100 days, but that shouldn't make any difference. Still, it'll be interested to see if the traffic on the old site dries up after 100 days.


Saturday, 3 January 2004 Echunga
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Up early for once this morning, which was just as well, as we were planning the fourth annual hackers barbecue, and for once people arrived on the dot of midday. Since Christmas 2000, I've held an annual barbecue for the local open source hackers.

We've always had great fun, though it's surprising how much the atmosphere differs from one year to the next, particularly when so many of the same people came. Originally it was timed to correspond with the presence of exiled SA hackers such as Kris Kennaway and Benno Rice, but this year neither of them were here. Daniel O'Connor has been here every year, and Chris Yeoh and Bernd Wulf were both here for the third year running. A new guest was David Newall.

Another guest who was missing was Coopers Beer. Some months back I started brewing my own beer, so we drank that instead, copiously: between us we managed a total 12.875 litres.

It was warm again, and though we spent some time outside (no photos), we went inside for lunch, after which the laptops appeared. That's changed a lot, too: three years ago we multiplexed four IRC sessions on a single laptop. This time we had more laptops than people, and we did interesting things with them, though not (as last year) networked games, and also no IRC.

Instead, we rebuilt computers, talked about the upcoming Linux and Open Source in Government conference, and did lots of other things. Normally people start leaving at about 4:30 pm, but today everybody had so much fun that the first people didn't leave until nearly 10 pm. Tiring, but fun.


Sunday, 4 January 2004 Echunga Images for 4 January 2004
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Somehow mail has been piling up again. Did what I could to catch up, but there's still a lot of stuff left which I should get rid of.

More work on the Vinum paper, which I'm due to present next week. The more I work on it, the more details occur to me. This could almost be a book rather than a paper.


Monday, 5 January 2004 Echunga
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The New Year has come back with a vengeance. Not alone the fact that we have our Linux and Open Source in Government conference next week, but all the other things that have been left lying over the Christmas break have woken up. Our last edition of AUUGN included a couple of CD-Rs, one of which was corrupt, and we spent a lot of time trying to fix that one. Had so much work that I didn't even get a chance to work on the Vinum paper.


Tuesday, 6 January 2004 Echunga
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I had set myself a target today to get my paper finished, but again I didn't quite make it. A couple of people had reported a really strange panic out of Vinum, and spent some time trying to build the latest version of FreeBSD-CURRENT, which seems to take longer every time. Now that my machines seem to be running reliably, it's about time to take the WITNESS out of my kernel configurations.

Part of the Vinum paper involves the relationship with GEOM, and spent a fair amount of time looking at that. It seems that it can only replace part of the Vinum functionality, and it's quite possible that the rest of the functionality should be merged in a different way. Much to think about.


Wednesday, 7 January 2004 Echunga
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Another of these days when everything seems to gang up on me to stop me doing anything. Spent most of the day in interrupt response mode. It's clear that the linux.conf.au is nearly here. I'm wondering how I'll make it through the next week.

More trying to build systems today; somehow my attempts to speed up the build process have resulted in the opposite, and it wasn't until the end of the day, two days after I started, that I finally had updated zaphod to the latest -CURRENT. That needs to improve.

On a positive note, I did nearly finish the work on my Vinum paper that I was supposed to get done yesterday.


Thursday, 8 January 2004 Echunga
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Into town today to visit Ross Williams, who is currently involved in some interesting software projects. Spent a lot of time talking about that, interrupted more often than usual by people from the linux.conf.au. Back home, barely had time to get through my mail. Did no work on my paper.


Friday, 9 January 2004 Echunga
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Today was the last working day before the conference, and I spent most of it fighting fires. The good news is that I got my paper finished (but not the slides). The bad news is that it looks as if any Vinum work will have to wait until after the conference.


Saturday, 10 January 2004 Echunga
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Discovered this morning, when it was too late, that a number of things relating to the Linux and Open Source in Government conference, which should have happened yesterday, didn't. In none too good a mood spent time chasing press releases, restaurants and show bags, all while I really should have been writing the slides to go with my Vinum paper.

In the afternoon to to Grumpy's Bierfest. I don't know what I had expected, probably a get together of home brew freaks, but this event showed more of the microbrewery side of Grumpy's, and it was more reminiscent of, well, a German bier festival. Who would have thought that? But it wasn't our scene, and so didn't stay long.


Sunday, 11 January 2004 Echunga
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Things were still very much influenced by the things we still needed to do for the Linux and Open Source in Government conference. Managed to get hold of Geoffrey Bennett, and ended up sending Yana down to the university to pack bags.

As a result, didn't manage to finish my Vinum slides, which is a worry. I don't know when I'll be able to do it now.


Monday, 12 January 2004 Echunga Images for 12 January 2004
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Today was the first day of the Linux and Open Source in Government conference, so up early to get there by 8 am, which worked surprisingly well. There we discovered that very little had been arranged. It was a good thing we had our card table, since there was nothing else there. Had a moment of panic with the AV system, which turned out to have been incorrectly wired at a VGA cable level, but managed to get under way without too much trouble. Started with Ian Gilfillan, the first time we've had an MP at one of our conferences.

The quality of the presentations was pleasingly good, and about the only issues we had were with the room (Union Hall at the University of Adelaide): the lighting was dubious, the projection equipment turned off in the middle of a presentation, and for a panel session with 5 people we only had one microphone.

In the evening out to a speakers dinner at The Historian Hotel, where we took a number of photos. Late to bed.


Tuesday, 13 January 2004 Echunga Images for 13 January 2004
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Into town 45 minutes later today, and it made a big difference: what had been a breeze yesterday, from Fullarton Road to the University, took nearly 15 minutes, and we were running a risk of being late as a result, a particular problem since The Hon. Andrew Southcott MP had requested to be met. Yana got out on the corner of Victoria Drive and went to meet him, but somehow we failed anyway.

Off to a slightly late start, but obviously not too badly–Kate Mackenzie of The Australian complimented us on being better organized than most commercial conferences–and heard the politicians speak. First was Kate Lundy, shadow IT minister, who spent a lot of time saying that the Australian government should take a more active role in the computer industry, followed by Andrew Southcott, who gave a short but pithy description of how the Government was taking a more active role in the industry, and then Tony Judge of NOIE, who went into more detail.

After that, a panel session with Kate Lundy, Brenda Aynsley of the ACS, Ian Gilfillan and Dan Shearer. A very successful panel; I think the idea of submitting questions for preparation in advance is very good. Then a number of legal papers. It's interesting how many lawyers are getting involved in open source software. I don't know if this is a positive or negative development, but I suppose it's an inevitable result of free software becoming big business.

Finally the event was over, and I was able to take off tie and shoes. It looks like it's been a really great success.

In the evening had the speaker's reception, this time a dinner. Took a lot of photos, and in general had a good time.


Wednesday, 14 January 2004 Echunga Images for 14 January 2004
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Still hadn't finished my Vinum slides, so decided not to go to today's tutorial sessions and attended to that instead. There's a lot of material there: the paper itself is about 40 pages long, and if I had converted the entire paper to slides, I would have had about 90 of them, far too many for what proves to be a 45 minute slot after all (strangely, the slots are 45 minutes with a 15 minute break after every paper), so ended up dropping some of the details of the low-level implementation from the slides. Still ended up with 70 slides, which will provide for a brisk pace.

In the evening to the professional delegates session with Yvonne, and spoke with many old and new faces. It was in the rotunda of the Adelaide Zoo, quite a pleasant location. Worth keeping for further reference.


Thursday, 15 January 2004 Echunga
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In to town relatively late this morning, even later than intended, and missed the beginning of Jeremy Malcolm's talk about SCO. After that listened to Chris Yeoh talking about the Linux Standards Base. It sounds very well thought out. It's a pity that the BSDs don't want to know about it.

We had far too little time for lunch, only an hour, including the time it took us to get to Rundle St after people had finally got their act together, so we were quite late getting back, and I missed about half of Peter Chubb's talk about user-mode drivers. Pity, but I suppose I'll get it all on the conference CD. Then Sean Burford on reverse engineering from binaries. A good introduction, but no techniques that I didn't already know. He did point to some useful tools I hadn't heard of, though, and that should be useful.

After that I had invited a number of people out to my place, but timing was tight, and in the end only Peter and Lucy Chubb came out, so we spent most of the time talking about bassoon fingering systems. Pleasant evening.


Friday, 16 January 2004 Echunga Images for 16 January 2004
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First up this morning was my Vinum presentation, which went off without much trouble. Was rather flattered that Ian Gilfillan came in to listen to the start, certainly not because of interest in Vinum.

After that to Paul McKinney's talk about Read-Copy-Update. I had heard the term before, and I thought I had basically understood the concept, but it turns out that I was completely mistaken. The idea sounds a lot better now, and the figures that Paul showed spoke for themselves.

To lunch at Cafe Michael 2, which turned out to be yet another Thai restaurant, not as good as the place across the road yesterday, and with terrible service. As a result missed the first session after lunch, and then to hear Jonathan Corbet talk about the Linux kernel 2.6, which provided a good overview.

Then back home before returning for the conference dinner, at which we took a number of photos.


Saturday, 17 January 2004 Echunga Images for 17 January 2004
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Into town late today with an intention to listen to Jeremy Allison's “security soup” talk, but Arjen Lentz waylaid me and got me to attend James Cameron's talk about PIC microcontrollers, which I didn't regret. Amusingly, it ties in with a device I had been thinking of for controlling my temperature-controlled fridge: Paul Sorenson had pointed me to a computer controlled device, and it eventuated that James had designed it. He also spent some time talking about it and demonstrated it, showing that it's probably exactly what I'm looking for.

At lunchtime they had arranged a dunking session, and I was able to keep myself from being involved. To the Red Rock noodle bar, where I had “kimchi noodles” apparently without any kimchi. Back to hear Tridge talking about his junk code directory. It seems that he's finally tidied up his remote mail scripts, which I must investigate.

After that, conference close, and then tried to organize the people who wanted to come to my place. The challenges were many: Martin Pool needed to hire a car, Bdale had to go to the hospital to visit Pia Smith, who had come down with what proved to be flu and not SARS yesterday (she had just got back from China on Tuesday), and others wanted to get back to the hotel. Finally found the last person (Jeremy Allison) talking to Linus, and it proved that Linus didn't have anything else to do, so he came along as well. They went ahead with Rasmus while I took Martin to the airport to pick up his car.

Back home, Tridge was going on about some anomalies between the behaviour of multiple threads and multiple processes on multiple processors on a loop through readdir(), while Linus observed that nobody else cared. Well, not quite. I wondered how this would work on FreeBSD, but it turned out that the processes blocked on Giant, so that was a non-starter. Score one for Linux.

Apart from that, spent a lot of time talking about all sorts of things. Took still more photos, and read out the fairings saga, which the Linux people didn't know, but they found it good enough for a spontaneous round of applause. Pleasant evening.


Sunday, 18 January 2004 Echunga Images for 18 January 2004
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And still the conference isn't over! Into town today to pick up Janis Johnson, Paul McKenney and Tridge and to Geoffrey Bennett's speakers' barbecue. We had barely got there, however, when we got a phone call with the news that El Mago had torn down a fence round one of the eucalyptus trees in the paddock, not for the first time, but this time he was lame, so off without even having anything to eat and back home, by which time he was no longer lame, and there wasn't a scratch on him.

Sat down for an improvised lunch, and was barely through that when I got a call from Michael Davies telling me that Martin Pool had had a car accident and was at the Strathalbyn hospital. Fortunately he wasn't badly hurt, though the car was a writeoff. As I had half expected, it happened on the Paris Creek Road, the one that Yana drove to school on for years. Brought him home, and Yana took him to the airport.

Didn't do much else. After a week, the party^Wconference is over. It has really been one of the most interesting ones I've been to.


Monday, 19 January 2004 Echunga
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Finally the pressure's off! Well, almost. I had 6,500 mail messages waiting for me in my office. Compared to the daily 1,500 that doesn't sound too bad, but I had already deleted a lot of the more trivial stuff, and I had, for example, 1,000 commit messages for FreeBSD and NetBSD to wade through. Along with some other tidy-up activities, that took all day.


Tuesday, 20 January 2004 Echunga
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Today I had hoped to get on top of my mail, but somehow it kept me busy. It seems that every time I get behind on my mail, lots of messages show up that require my attention, and by the end of the day I hadn't done too much else, but I still had 3000 messages to attend to, many of them monster threads from hell.

Today the air conditioning engineer, Phil, showed up to look at the air conditioner fault which I reported well over a month ago. Why is it that air conditioner repairs are so slow? This time I had made the mistake of reporting an error code (Unit 0, code E3) which had shown up since the initial error, and which I suspected was a secondary issue. I was right: it meant “refrigerant overpressure”, and it can show up transiently on hot days, which seems to have been the case here. The real issue (which I also reported) was to do with the fan, and though I reported it too, Phil hadn't paid much attention to it. Now he'll have to order some parts and be back next week.


Wednesday, 21 January 2004 Echunga
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Still not done with my mail! It looks like it's going to take the whole week to get back to a semblance of normality. And since I'm off on holiday the week after next, I can expect the pain to continue.

In the background, spent most of the day upgrading sydney, my backup laptop, to the latest version of FreeBSD-CURRENT. I seem to have installed it at a particularly bad juncture in the history of the development, and it kept freezing.


Thursday, 22 January 2004 Echunga Images for 22 January 2004
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It's becoming clearer and clearer that I'm not going to get much work done before I leave for the Nullarbor trip. Mail is pouring in at over 2,000 messages a day, and it's keeping me pretty busy.

More work getting sydney up to scratch on FreeBSD 5-CURRENT, and it's not cooperating. I suspect that it's an ACPI thing, so that's the next possibility to choose.

In the meantime, spent some time thinking about a new file system. Details to become available later.


Friday, 23 January 2004 Echunga
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Yet another day where I didn't get much done. Spent a bit of time working on my Emacs macros, which had somewhat diverged between the systems echunga and wantadilla. Ended up with something more usable, though there's still a lot of crap in there to tidy up.

Later into Echunga to pick up my father from the hairdressers and talk to Jim Couch about our planned trip to Perth. Echunga wasn't its usual sleepy self today: I arrived in the middle of a special section of the Tour Down Under, and it was barely possible to move.

Apart from that, did a bit of much-needed house maintenance and watched my mail grow again. I'm getting over 2,000 a day now, but at least the spam filters are working better.


Saturday, 24 January 2004 Echunga
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Yet another day where I didn't get much done. Spent some time chasing mail, which seems to be settling down to over 2,000 a day, and did a bit of tidying up. Also installed Red Hat Linux 9.0 on a disk; it still takes forever, and the resultant machine wouldn't boot. With all the resources expended on the Red Hat installer, you'd expect it to be better than that by now.

Chris Yeardley came along in the evening, bringing back Talquah Seren, who left here over five years ago. Seren's now over 20, and she'll spend the rest of her days here.

 
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Also brought Guantanamera, a Paso Fino mare whom we bred to Cali three months ago now; it has taken that long to confirm that she was pregnant.


Sunday, 25 January 2004 Echunga Images for 25 January 2004
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Another day gone by, almost another month, without doing much of the things I had planned. At least I was able to blame it on Chris' presence. In the morning, had some problems with Pebbles, whose wound had become infected again, and then off to Kuitpo Forest to ride. Yvonne was on Guantanamera, of course, and Chris on Lady. Got there to discover we were missing a saddle girth (by a long way: it was still at Chris' place in Victoria), so Chris and Yvonne back to pick up another saddle. Then off, Lady wearing the Old Macs shoe replacements which started cutting into her legs after only a few hundred metres, so had to take them off and go barefoot. Didn't go very far as a result, but did manage to take some photos.

After lunch, Chris wanted to find out more about Bengal cats, so off to visit a breeder. They proved to be not the wild animals I saw in a cat show decades ago, but rather domestic cats (looked like Oriental Shorthairs to me) with the coat factor from the wild animals. Rather to everybody's surprise, she had a fully-grown animal to give away, so Chris took it. The previous owner claimed that he was neurotic, but he seemed normal enough to us. We'll see how he gets acclimatized.


Monday, 26 January 2004 Echunga
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Somehow all my energy has left me. It's not as if I didn't do anything today, but I was left with the impression. Spent most of the day doing some thinking about the new file system and writing up my Daemon's Advocate column, which wasn't as much pain as usual.


Tuesday, 27 January 2004 Echunga
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Finally got everything urgent sorted out, I think. I've probably forgotten about something that will come back to bite me.

We're back into conference mode now: this afternoon we had planned a conference call for AUUG 2004, but we couldn't get through: no such conference ID. Turned out that it had been scheduled for 4:30 am, not 4:30 pm. Another good reason to use a 24 hour clock. Got started a little late and got some things worked out, including no-frills admission for students and similar for only $80. We still need to find a way to define the term to ensure that other groups don't abuse it.

In the evening, the dam water filter got clogged up again. That's normal enough, though it's been doing it very frequently lately. Turned the gate valve off, cleaned the filter and tried to turn it on again. The handle came off in my hand:


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This is the gate valve that I installed last January, just over a year ago. The thread on the gate valve has worn out already. What impossibly bad quality! It suggests that the unit has a one year guarantee.


Wednesday, 28 January 2004 Echunga Images for 28 January 2004
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Spent most of the morning replacing the gate valve that failed yesterday. They tried to sell me another one of the same kind at the Meadows Barn, and when I told them what had happened, said that they were terrible quality because they were “imported”. I should reconsider whether I buy anything there again.

Replacing the gate valve was easy enough, but getting the air out of the system took all day, not made any easier by the fact that the solenoids I'm using leak water if there's air in them. Frustrating work.

At midday Jim Couch brought back the Commodore from service, having fitted a couple of kangaroo whistles:


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The idea is that they make a noise which keeps kangaroos away, lessening the danger of one jumping out on the road in front of you. I'm a little sceptical, especially since they seem to be attached with a self-adhesive pad. We'll see if they're still on the car when we get back.


Thursday, 29 January 2004 Echunga Images for 29 January 2004
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One of the ever-increasing spams today was a message purportedly from Rasmus Lerdorf asking me to sign up on a web forum called Orkut. Discussed this on IRC, where I found that it was genuine. It seems that Orkut is a newer Advogato. I never did much with Advogato: it seems like just too much trouble to enter data into web forms when you can use real tools. Advogato has pointed to this diary for some time; possibly that's the way it will end up with Orkut.

More preparations for the Nullarbor trip, including reinstating the Caiguna time zone (UTC+0845). It's not in the standard time zone distribution because it's not an officially recognized time zone, like the time in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang province. The time zone files there indicate that the time is now UTC+0800, though the old UTC+0600 is also maintained. I don't think that the time zone files should be restricted to “official” time zones; if they're in use, even unofficially, they exist.

Apart from that, lots of tidying up. An incredible amount of stuff has piled up here.


Friday, 30 January 2004 Echunga
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Another slow day. I've been so overloaded for such a long time that it's a strange feeling, but I need to get back to normal before leaving for Perth on Sunday. Spent most of my time tidying up loose ends, but found a bit of time to add some stuff to my brewing software, which is still pretty incomplete.


Saturday, 31 January 2004 Echunga Images for 31 January 2004
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For the last couple of days I've noticed that the most popular page on my web site has been the cats page:

On 30 January 2004 you had a total of 2875 HTML hits.
Top 30 hits:
    228 /grog/cats.php
    136 /grog/diary.php
     68 /grog/

Today I got an explanation: the University of Georgia used one of the photos in a Student's Clerkship Paper, and they linked to that page. That also explains the uneven distribution of the image hits:

Top 30 images:
    250 /grog/Images/Cats/Cats-3.big.jpeg
    200 /grog/Images/Cats/choc-on-sofa.jpeg
    181 /grog/Images/Cats/Lilac-on-monitor.jpeg
    180 /grog/Images/Cats/maddi.jpeg

Today they got around to asking if they could use the photo. I wonder if these hits are all from people involved in the paper.

More preparations for the trip today. The time adjustment button on my watch failed over a month ago, and since then I've been looking all over the web for a good digital watch. It seems that fashion has triumphed over technology, and the digital watches on eBay are all toys. Even the ones ostensibly for adults look like something out of a second-rate science fiction film. Finally things came to a head: tomorrow I need to put my watch back 1¾ hours, and I can't do that with the watch I had. Into Mount Barker to look for a watch, and finally found something that at least had a chronograph and could display 24 hour time, so ended up buying that, even though it's pretty ugly. Hopefully watch makers will come to their senses soon.


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