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Sunday, 1 July 2018 Dereel
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ALDI kitchen trolley
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Spent a large part of the afternoon trying to assemble the kitchen trolley that Yvonne brought back from ALDI on Wednesday. Do-it-yourself assemblies are always a pain, but I think this one drives it to extremes. It starts off with some warnings (I think):


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This is typically European: since there are so many languages, people find it easier to show diagrams than descriptions. IKEA does exactly the same thing. But in this case, I'm left wondering what the second diagram means. After some consideration, it seems that it's saying "leave the cams in the open position”. But that doesn't explain the duplication.

Carried on anyway, noting that some of the components were marked with letters, and others weren't. And then I had to mount the sliders on the drawer (good news: there are sliders):


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All well and good, but how do I get the second screw in? It's hidden behind the mechanism:


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OK, put that into the “too hard” basket and move on. I didn't get very far: then I needed to mount the other half of the door slide:


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Where's that? Looking at the parts list, I saw:


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Two sets of sliders! But I could only find one. And then it dawned on me: the sliders are assembled. And to put the thing together, they need to be taken apart. How? Oh, that's so obvious that we don't need to insult you by giving details.

In fact, it wasn't that difficult: pull down the catch in the middle and it will come apart. It's the little tongue in the middle of the top view:

But the result was that I didn't get any further today. By evening the place looked like a bomb had gone off:


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Yvonne wastes $50
Topic: health, general, animals Link here

Yvonne back from riding today with the statement “I've just wasted $50”. She meant the cost of a unused carbon dioxide cylinder for her inflatable riding vest. It seems that Carlotta had got as far as Progress Road, looked up the road towards Wendy McClelland's house, and paniced. She spun around 180°, causing Yvonne to lose her balance and fall off.

The vest inflated as advertised, but she still managed to knock her back, fortunately in an area that was particularly dangerous. We considered taking her to the hospital emergency department anyway, but it wasn't clear that they could find anything. If she had a cracked rib—a possibility—the only treatment is to wait. And by chance I had had cause yesterday to refer to my falling through the ceiling 13 years ago. On that occasion we went to the hospital, waited for hours while they attended to more urgent cases, and then left again. Probably not what we would want to do today. If it's still painful tomorrow, she can go and see the doctor.


Monday, 2 July 2018 Dereel → Rokewood → Dereel Images for 2 July 2018
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Another cool night
Topic: general Link here

Another frost overnight, though unlike last time the weather station didn't report temperatures below 0°: the overnight low was 0.3°. Still, we ended up with more ice in the bird bath than last time, this time about 8 mm:


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Utterly mucky
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I've run out of masa harina, something that is hard to find in Australia. The last time I got some old stock from a shop in Belmont, but I'm not due down that way for a couple of weeks.

Lorraine Carranza mentioned that the Indian restaurant in Dana St, Ballarat, had a shop in the back, so last Wednesday Yvonne went there and picked up some Makki Atta:


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That's maize meal, of course, but is it the same as masa harina? It looked similar enough, but my main concern was whether I could make a tortilla dough out of it. Today was the attempt.

Normally I make two tortillas with 60 g of masa and 100 ml of water (3:5, or 60% as much flour as water). This corresponds to more like 3:2 for wheat flour. Tried that combination and ended up with a runny mess. I had to add another 25 g of meal to get a reasonable consistency (roughly 5:6). But at least it made a dough that I could handle.

Cooking the tortillas was faster, of course, because there was less water. But the taste! It tasted nothing like maize, and was far too tough. The dogs got it.

I don't suppose this is a real criticism of the atta. After all, it wasn't intended for tortillas. But it does seem that it's intended for roti, so I wonder why the taste is so boring.


More hay
Topic: general, animals Link here

Somehow we're out of hay, and we'll need another 100 bales to tide us over the winter. Off to a place east of Rokewood to see somebody who had some for sale.

Nobody home? We tried to arouse people in the house, but were unsuccessful. That's at least because Australians are too polite to use doorbells, and the fly screens were locked. But it proved that there was really nobody at home: there had been some emergency, and he didn't make it back on time. Still, the hay looked OK:


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So we'll get our 100 bales this weekend.


Yvonne to the doctor's
Topic: health Link here

Yvonne was still not feeling very good this morning, though she was able to drive to Ballarat to see a doctor (Paul Smith is once again not here this week). She told her that nothing was broken, just bruising. Good to hear.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018 Dereel Images for 3 July 2018
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How many cups are 100 g rice?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Question on Quora today: How many cups is 100 grams of uncooked rice?

Why, oh why, do people still measure things in cups? Real-world cups range in size (in my world experience) between 65 ml and 220 ml. “Standard” cups (I can hear Andy Tanenbaum echoing in the background) range mainly between 220 g and 285 g, with the USA offering three distinct sizes.

To prove my point, I took some photos. This mug is the size of a British measuring cup:


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I don't have anything the size of other “standard” cups, but this is the 200 ml cup that we used to use:


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And here it is in 85 ml cups:


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My best guess is that 100 g of rice (here Arborio) take up about 140 ml. But none of the other responses mentioned one crucial fact: as I have discovered, at least some rice cookers use a “standard” rice cup of 180 ml. So 100 g would be about 0.78 cup. Other answers to the question, presumably US-based, said ”half a cup”.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018 Dereel Images for 4 July 2018
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The winds come
Topic: general Link here

Noisy night: it was very windy, with wind gusts up to 40 km/h, though I suspect the weather station is too polite to tell the truth. In the morning, the evidence was clear:


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That's a plastic drum over the water pump. It's relatively protected, and it's quite surprising that it got blown over. But it wasn't the only thing:


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But on closer examination it's not clear that that was the wind. The rubbish was in the recycling bin (the one with the yellow lid on the left), and there had been much more inside. So it looks like the rubbish people were sloppy, didn't empty it properly, and then knocked it over.


New toys
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Two news sets of toys arrived in the post today: a set of “baby pins” for mounting studio flash units, from B & H in New York City, ordered on 29 June, and the Saramonic UWMIC9 microphones that I ordered in Sydney two days earlier.

Both arrived at the same time, though I had chosen the slowest postage from the USA. Why? One reason, of course, is that Digital Camera Warehouse took two days to send the order. And though the postage from the USA was fast, it was also very expensive, the main reason I so seldom buy anything from B & H. The items cost (USD) $53.75, but the shipping amounted to a whopping $36.91.

The baby pins were as described, though bigger than I expected. I had bought 6" ones in case the 3" ones weren't long enough, but there doesn't seem to be any danger there:


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They're also solid enough (look at the thickness of the base) that I don't necessarily need to screw them to anything: in that position, they'll hold the flash by themselves. Of course, the pins are made in China. Why couldn't I find them elsewhere?

The microphones are interesting. Dozens of bits and pieces, requiring me to read the manual to understand. The batteries are inserted into the devices (two transmitters and one receiver) in a little frame, which would make sense if you could get additional frames to have in reserve. But on unpacking I discovered that the first one I looked at had a damaged spring:


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How serious is that? Put some batteries in and tried turning the transmitter on. Nothing. OK, RTFM time. Mentions of batteries are mainly related to level, but on page 6 I have (no image):

 
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Something very similar is repeated on page 15 (for a component that I didn't buy) and on page 17, this time slightly different:

 
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OK, on page 22 I have:

 
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What's wrong with this picture?

  1. The very first thing you want to do when you get the device is put in the batteries. And you have to work three-quarters of the way through the manual (page 24 of 32; there are two unnumbered pages at the start) to find out how.
  2. This is the only mention of battery polarity. I had assumed that the batteries were in parallel, since there's a spring at the end of each section. But a more careful look shows that there's no connection from the plate with the springs on it, so clearly one should be in each direction.
  3. The contacts for the batteries are misleading. The “broken” spring was intended to be that way, and it's a contact for the positive terminal of the battery. That's a complete violation of POLA.

OK, where's the indicator? I checked the housings of the individual devices. Nothing. On the back maybe?


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Nope. On the side?


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Nope.

Finally I found it:


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This was after a lot of messing around with a macro lens, which normally makes it much easier to see this sort of thing. In fact, it was on the very first image above, but you really have to know where to look and how to interpret the poorly moulded, 1 cm long, disproportionate, inverted image.

Congratulations, Saramonic. This really takes the cake for the worst documented detail I have seen in a long time. There are no images at all of the battery holder, and not a single photo in the instructions. But that seems to be typical for modern instructions. What would have happened if I had inserted the batteries the wrong way round? In the good old days, it would have fried the electronics. Do people put protection in modern devices? I don't want to try to find out.

That wasn't the only difficulty. How do I mount the receiver on a tripod? There's an adapter for flash shoe or tripod, but no obvious way to connect it to the receiver. OK, RTFM again:

 
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But it just slides on top of the clip. It took me quite some time to realize that the adapter fits between the clip and the body. How much easier it would have been if they had written:

4. Slide the shoe mount adapter upwards between the clip and the receiver until the belt clip fits into the groove on the adapter.

On the positive side, the devices themselves look good and seem to work. Now I need to find an opportunity to use them. Ten days ago that was clear: Chris and Yvonne riding, and the visit of Arto Fama this weekend. But now Yvonne is out of action after her fall from Carlotta, and it's not clear that there will be anything interesting to record this weekend, so it could be a while.


STF-8: Not a silver bullet
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took a number of the macro photos of the Saramonic battery compartment with the Olympus STF-8 macro flash. In the past it has worked well, but not so today: exposure was underexposed by up to 2 EV, and I got the feeling that the unit wasn't strong enough to give me properly exposed images at f/11. Oh for a good flash unit!


Thursday, 5 July 2018 Dereel Images for 5 July 2018
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ALDI kitchen trolley finished
Topic: general, opinion Link here

The instructions for the ALDI kitchen trolley have really turned me off assembling it. I did a couple of steps a day during the week and gave up out of annoyance. But gradually it came together, and today I finally finished it. The instructions continued to be as bad as ever. Here the section for mounting the top (marble plate):


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Apart from the weight, it's just plain easier to access if you do it upside down, where you can see the mounting holes. But which way round does the top go? Not a word in the instructions. Fortunately the frame under the plate is perfectly symmetrical, and it went on with no trouble. The reinforcement for the cupboard (screws!) were less fun: somehow it didn't fit as well as I had expected. But it runs well on the wheels—much better than the old one—and mounting the drawer on its slides was easier than I thought, though it didn't slide as well as I would have hoped.

Wheeled it into the place of the old one It doesn't look bad. The marble top certainly makes a difference:


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And the drawer? Offset to one side. The slides really don't fit accurately, and after a bit of adjustment it was offset to the other side:


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Dammit, it's good enough. But what's that cutout above the drawer? It's for the back! Despite my attempts to outsmart the instructions, I managed to put the top plate on the wrong way round! Bloody ALDI!

What can I do about it? It's not that difficult to remove, only 6 mounting screws and 3 where the back was mounted. But those last 3 holes would then show above the drawer. Is it worth it?

As I thought several times when assembling it, I would much rather pay more money for a better quality trolley that had already been assembled. But they're not available.


Friday, 6 July 2018 Dereel Images for 6 July 2018
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Goodbye terrestrial TV
Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

Seen in the mail today (https://www.statista.com/chart/14559/americans-favorite-tv-platforms/):

Even now, terrestrial broadcast TV only accounts for about 18% of TV viewing in the USA. The rest is delivered mainly by some kind of network connection, either Internet or cable.

That's one of the things I predicted in my paper The Internet in 2034:

Radio and TV broadcasts will gradually cease. They are costly: they use a lot of power, and that transmission and reception equipment are also expensive. Even now it is possible to receive TV via the Internet: a recent report found that in Western countries, 90% of Internet users watched online video. Significant investment in net backbones will be required to deliver the content, but it will still be cheaper than maintaining current transmission equipment. This change in the distribution method will also allow video on demand to take the place of fixed broadcasts.

I didn't know about Netflix then, and I'm surprised how quickly it has taken the lead. But how long will it be before cable and terrestrial broadcast cease altogether? The difference in the usage of the 18-34 age group (then to be 34-50) suggests that it won't take long. I think I'm in good shape for my prediction to come true.


Saturday, 7 July 2018 Dereel Images for 7 July 2018
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More Hugin processing
Topic: photography, technology Link here

Filthy weather today, but somehow I managed to take my house photos. The new way of processing is getting better, but I still run into problems. The big one at the moment is that pto_gen (part of Hugin) does more than advertised and changes the colour balance of the images. Here an example:

i w5180 h3884 f0 v75.6560113424287 Ra0 Rb0 Rc0 Rd0 Re0 Eev11.6147098272241 Er1 Eb1 r0 p0 y0 TrX0 TrY0 TrZ0 Tpy0 Tpp0 j0
i w5180 h3884 f0 v=0 Ra=0 Rb=0 Rc=0 Rd=0 Re=0 Eev11.6147098272241 Er1 Eb1.00921658986175 r0 p0 y0 TrX0 TrY0 TrZ0 Tpy0 Tp
i w5180 h3884 f0 v=0 Ra=0 Rb=0 Rc=0 Rd=0 Re=0 Eev11.6147098272241 Er0.992248062015504 Eb1.00460829493088 r0 p0 y0 TrX0 T

Those are descriptions for three images. Er is the red balance, and Eb is the blue balance. Both should be 1 for all images unless I ask it to change. Eev is the EV value, which is unchanged here, though the number itself is strange: according to the Exif data for the images, the exposure was EV 12.6.

How do I get rid of this? pto_gen has very few options, and there's no indication in the man page that it performs this kind of manipulation at all. I could write a sed script, of course, but there should be a better way.


New mounting hardware
Topic: photography Link here

One item of equipment that I could use is a good ball head for taking video. Somehow I haven't had much luck with ball heads. I never used to like them, but I found a use for them for panoramas. The first one I had literally buckled under the weight of my equipment, and I replaced it with the current Manfrotto 3416 leveling base 7 years ago, but from the beginning I wasn't happy with it, and I still am not.

As a result, on 22 March 2014 I bought a new ball head to replace the Manfrotto, but it proved to be difficult to adjust. Still, I kept it for other purposes, but despite being one of the largest diameter balls there are, it has become so stiff that I can't really use it for video.

OK, how expensive can they be? Went looking and found them starting at a little below $40. But one thing (apart from the stiffness) that annoys me about the present base is that it has two knobs to tighten it. That's fiddly. How about a lever?

 
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OK, that's worth a try, and the price is right, so I bought it. And while I was looking I also came across this:


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It's a leveling base, a genuine replacement for the Manfrotto. Those things used to be prohibitively expensive, but this one was only $55, so I bought that too. It has a 15° adjustment range, three times the adjustment of the Manfrotto, and hopefully it'll be easier to use.


eBay: what's the price?
Topic: photography, general, opinion Link here

Buying the ball head and leveling base was interesting. Of course I had cause to grumble once again about the fact that the price indicated did not include GST, which was put on at the very last second, long after I had committed to buy. So I ended up paying 10% more than eBay claimed. Hopefully they'll get their act together before people have to complain about it.

Then on to the ball head. No GST! This item is in Australia, so the GST was included in the price.

I can see where they're coming from, but this is ridiculous, yet another instance of how incapable eBay is. Now I need to look very carefully at the item location before I can find out its price.


Sunday, 8 July 2018 Dereel Images for 8 July 2018
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Revisiting old panoramas
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Writing yesterday's article on mounting hardware required looking back at old entries. And inevitably I found things that needed changing. Link rot, photos that didn't look as good as they could... It kept me going all day.

One thing that I didn't understand was that something crashed when stitching this image (here the old version):


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Hugin has the irritating “feature” of displaying progress in a popup window and then deleting it and the log when it's finished. In this case it seems that enblend died, but I didn't get a chance to see what went wrong. OK, I can run nona and enblend manually and see what's going on.

But that's another idea: do that anyway. That way I can run Hugin just to do the adjustments, save the project file and leave the rest to be done without my intervention (or waiting). So that's my next project.


Hijacking SMS messages
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I'm rather irritated that Aussie Broadband wants to use SMS to verify my credit card change. Dammit, it's a toy! And I don't use it. But then I found this article about hijacking SMS. Not directly applicable, but maybe enough to present as an argument.


Half full or half empty?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne found this on Facebook today:


Battle wounds
Topic: general, food and drink, opinion Link here

Chris Bahlo was playing mediaeval combat all weekend. I was supposed to go and take videos, but for various reasons decided that my technique was not up to it. So I found a valid excuse: I had to bake bread, which takes all day.

One consequence was that we put off our Saturday dinner (fake Tournedos Rossini, since we have so much truffle) until today. We were wondering whether Chris would make it out unscathed, and when she finally showed up (15 minutes late), she had a scrape across her forehead:


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She tells us that she walked into a tree afterwards, but how plausible is that?


Monday, 9 July 2018 Dereel
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Hugin stitching
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

As planned, spent some time today trying to automate Hugin stitching. There are two steps after masking and cropping: run nona on each image individually to create reprojected and cropped images, then run enblend to blend them together to a panorama.

But how do I find the parameters with which to invoke the programs? The Preferences tab in Hugin gives some parameters for enblend, but there's no mention of nona, probably because there's a choice of blender, but none for the reprojector. OK, create a fake script called nona closer to the beginning of PATH. No go. We don't need no steenking environment variables: the program is /usr/local/bin/nona, and that's the way it stays.

OK, rename nona and put the script there. Something went wrong, and it crashed:

Remapping LDR images...
execvp(/usr/local/bin/nona, -v, -z, LZW, -r, ldr, -m, TIFF_m, -o, verandah-panorama, /tmp/huginpto_QolCZS) failed with error 2!

“Error 2!” is the polite way of saying ENOENT (No such file or directory), as /usr/include/sys/errno.h clarifies. What went wrong there? Who cares? We have the parameters:

nona -v -z LZW -r ldr -m TIFF_m -o verandah-panorama /tmp/huginpto_QolCZSverandah-panorama.pto

/tmp/huginpto_QolCZS is the name of the project file, which Hugin thoughtfully deleted before I could check. But that's OK: I had saved it, and it's in the current directory as verandah-panorama.pto. Run that, and all was well.

And enblend? The invocation there was

enblend -f4357x2640+503+671 --compression=LZW -o verandah-panorama.tif -- verandah-panorama0000.tif verandah-panorama0001.tif verandah-panorama0002.tif verandah-panorama0003.tif verandah-panorama0004.tif verandah-panorama0005.tif verandah-panorama0006.tif verandah-panorama0007.tif verandah-panorama0008.tif

Oh. Most of that stuff is clear. But where's the project file? It seems that enblend doesn't use it. Instead I have the parameter -f4357x2640+503+671, clearly the geometry of the finished image. This must be an idea in the mind of Hugin.

On the positive side, I found out what the problem was:

enblend -f4357x2640+503+671 --compression=LZW ...
enblend: info: loading next image: verandah-panorama0000.tif 1/1
enblend: info: loading next image: verandah-panorama0001.tif 1/1

enblend: excessive overlap detected; remove one of the images
enblend: info: remove invalid output image "verandah-panorama.tif"

I've seen this message numerous times before, but normally it doesn't cause the window to close prematurely. At the time (September 2010) I was taking bracketed images, one with flash, and I forget how I merged them. But there are ways round that once I know the details.


Tuesday, 10 July 2018 Dereel
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Rice noodle quantities
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Last week Yvonne bought some fresh rice noodles that I wanted to use for Penang laksa. There were two 220 g portions, somewhat more than the 180 g I normally eat for breakfast, but they were OK.

But I had three portions of laksa and only two portions of noodles, so for the third I cooked some dried noodles—90 g of them, assuming that they would increase in weight by about 100%. But no, the result was a whopping 350 g, effectively a 300% increase. Who would have thought that?


Daily Hugin learning experience
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

Reading more panorama scripting in a nutshell today. It's horribly out of date. I'd like to fix it, but I don't know all the details yet. I'm left wondering how to write draft updates to a wiki. One of the really serious issues with an “easy” toy markup language like MediaWiki. Almost the easiest way would be to convert it to a real web page (simple enough with the “view source” function of any browser), and then tidy it up and edit it. But how do I then convert the result back again?

In any case, apart from mentioning various obsolete tools, it also pointed me at hugin_executor, a wrapper that runs both nona and enblend, effectively replicating the Stitch! function in the GUI—exactly what I wanted to do. And a first attempt shows that yes, it does just that. So now I really just need to tidy up my scripts to only do work that still needs to be done, in other words not to build project files if they're already there, and not to stitch panoramas if they're already present. I can't be bothered now; I'll try again on Saturday when I have real panoramas to work on.


11 years of Dereel
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Seen in my anniversaries mail this morning:

Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2018 00:01:00 +1000 (AEST)
Subject: Today's anniversaries

Jul 10  Leheys move into Kleins Road, Dereel, 2007

Eleven years! I haven't lived anywhere for that long!


Wednesday, 11 July 2018 Dereel
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Slow day
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Somehow I haven't been doing very much lately, and things slowed down almost to a standstill today. Spent some time watching TV, a little bit of time looking at my Hugin scripts, and somehow the day was gone. Is this what getting old is all about?


Thursday, 12 July 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel
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Into town again
Topic: health, gardening Link here

Into Ballarat this morning for a six-monthly blood test. I had intended to do a number of other things, but the list I made didn't have much on it, and so I was back by midday.


The power of language
Topic: gardening, language, opinion Link here

In Kleins Road we had a tree that bore small pink fruit that looked and tasted like pepper. It had drooping leaves, somewhat like a Salix babylonica (weeping willow). It's fairly clear now that our Salix didn't survive a brief spell of dryness in the summer, and Yvonne wanted to replace it with a pepper tree. But what's the correct term? I recalled “Californian pepper tree”, and I went to Formosa Gardens today and asked for that. Blank look. “Do they grow here?”. I described it, and gradually he understood: “Do you mean a peppercorn tree?”. Took me into the nursery, found one, pointed through the shade cloth to the outlines of a fully grown one in a neighbouring property about 50 m away. It's a Schinus molle, but it's known by both names (and many more). In fact, it doesn't seem to have much to do with California: it's not the first plant in the garden that comes from Peru: we also have the Mirabilis jalapa, despite the name, and we had a Zephyranthes candida in the past, though I'm not sure if we still have one now.

But why did it take so long for the name to sink in? It wasn't that different from the name he knows.


Daily Trump lie
Topic: politics, language, opinion Link here

As expected, Donald Trump made himself unpopular again at breakfast at the NATO summit, lashing out on Germany for buying gas from Russia:

It's interesting to watch this clip, because it shows various inaccuracies in the reports I have seen. Starting at 3:20 into the clip, he says “Germany imports 60-70% of its energy from Russia”, at 4:10 "Ultimately Germany will have almost 70% of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas ... Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they <mumble> getting 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia”, and at 6:15 “Germany is a captive of Russia”.

How much truth is there in these claims? Clearly they're nonsense, but what's the truth? This report shows that in fact about 20% of Germany's energy comes from Russia. But he was referring specifically to Nord Stream 2, about which there has been much criticism elsewhere as well, as Jens Stoltenberg replied.

What remains in people's minds? Many just see him as the liar he is, and even my reference above misquotes him to make it sound worse than what he really said: “The claim: Germany imports 60% to 70% of its energy from Russia”. No, he claimed that they <mumble> getting 60 to 70% of their energy from Russia”. My best guess is that <mumble> was meant to be “will be”, presumably referring to the time after Nord Stream 2 is completed. And nobody seems to have commented on what the situation will be then. And his comments about Germany not pulling its weight in NATO are probably correct: it's a rich country, but their contributions to the NATO budget are relatively low compared to other countries.

On the other hand, this exchange shows at least three things:

  1. Trump seems to go out of his way to be insulting.
  2. He doesn't care about alliances, or he doesn't think that it will damage the alliance. I'm quite sure that he's wrong there.
  3. His continual lying is convincing a lot of people who don't worry about checking the veracity of the statements. To quote Lewis Carroll: “What I tell you three times is true”. Isn't it time for people to require Trump to tell the truth, or at least admit it when shown to be incorrect?

Trump the linguist
Topic: politics, language, opinion Link here

After his horrible behaviour at breakfast yesterday morning, Trump later claimed “We have a tremendous relationship with Germany".

Contradiction? That depends. As usual, the OED is good for multiple definitions. The oldest definition is also the only one in Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755:

TREME'NDOUS. adj. [tremulus, Latin] Dreadful ; horrible ; aſtonſhingly terrible

So, like awesome and smart, it's a two-sided sword. And for once I can't claim that he's lying. Not such a dotard after all.


Friday, 13 July 2018 Dereel Images for 13 July 2018
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More garden stuff
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along this morning to mainly plant and transplant. He got the Schinus molle in surprisingly soon after we bought it, though it's still dwarfed by the Carpobrotus:


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Much of the Carpobrotus went, some of it to Petra Gietz, who was here today. It seems that she gave it to us in summer 2016/2017. It has certainly grown since then, and it's possible that she took more back with her than she gave us then. Some of the Carpobrotus ended up round the water tanks, where hopefully they'll keep the weeds down:


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It's not clear what the purpose of the pieces on the concrete is.

Also planted a Euphorbia that had grown far too large for its pot:


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That required a chain reaction of transplantations. First, some of the Cannas 'Yellow King Humbert' had to come out. Here they are in January and then today:


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That's what was left over after Petra and Mick had taken their pick. Then Chris Bahlo and Margaret Swan will get some, and I'm sure we'll still have some left over.

Then he was able to transplant the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis that had been in the place where the Euphorbia had to go:


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Oh. Where is it? That's what I asked Mick, and he told me to look more carefully:


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It's in the gap on the right of the first photo, and that's all we have of it after two years, admittedly hindered by Mick's whipper-snipper.

In passing it's interesting to note that the Syringa vulgaris (lilac) that he planted a couple of months ago seem to be coming on OK, that our tomato plant still isn't completely dead, and that our Grevillea bronwenae is flowering better than it did any time last year:


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In addition, I asked Mick to dig out one of the Mirabilis jalapa plants that had self-seeded next to the house entrance. Here it is in flower:

I had expected a bulb, but what I got was a very long root, which Mick didn't get round to replanting:


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Goodbye PC?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I've had a computer at home since 1977. At the time people were amazed. Nowadays, of course, just about everybody does. But the times are changing, as this statistic from Statista shows:

I'm assuming that this statistic includes other desktop and laptop-style computers, such as Apple Mac. Why are the shipments dropping? The real question is maybe: why do non-technical people use PCs? Because there's nothing else, I suspect. Now they have something even worse, smart phones, and they don't need computers any more. It's difficult to understand how people can put up with mobile phones, but it probably makes a great difference if you can't type.

Should I care? Yes, I think so. Up to a couple of years ago, people were putting great efforts into improving PCs. Now the money is elsewhere. I see this, for example, when I want to buy a mouse. No more el-cheapo mice, and the Logitech offerings don't seem to have changed in years (and still cause my X display to vomit when I move from one display to another). It can only go downhill from here.


Saturday, 14 July 2018 Dereel Images for 14 July 2018
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Refining Hugin workflow
Topic: technology, photography Link here

House photos again today, and another chance to work on my panorama stitching workflow. It went pretty well. I forgot to save the intermediate images as TIFF, giving myself the opportunity to refine (and simplify) my mkpto script to handle this case. All went relatively well with the exception of one panorama, where mkpto managed to get it inverted by 180°. Why? I was able to work around that, of course, and the fact that I could leave the stitching until later really speeds things up.


The decline of the web site
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Not everybody has a web site, of course, but I'm getting the feel that the threshold is getting higher. More people are creating Facebook pages instead, like Formosa Gardens nursery. Is this a good way to go? If it means that they can keep things up to date better, then probably yes.


Witherfound lore
Topic: history, language Link here

Only a little over 52 years ago I read an article in Punch about what could have happened if William the Conqueror had been William the Conquered at the Battle of Hastings. Today I got a message from a Paul, presumably not the author Paul Jennings (he died decades ago) pointing me to this page with the online locations of the three articles: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3. I haven't read it all yet, but in light of my experience of the past 52 years it's bound to be even more interesting. I notice that he also used my preferred title William the Bastard, which I'm sure I didn't understand in those days.


A new camera?
Topic: photography Link here

Nicely packaged parcel from Andy Farkas today, containing a Asahi Pentax KM with 55 mm f/1.8 SMC Pentax lens. It came from Bundaberg, and included a reminder of what the weather is like in that part of the world:


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That was once a black leather case, but it seems that the Queensland moisture took its toll. The camera was in good condition, however.

From a historical point of view, it was introduced in 1975, 11 years after the Pentax Spotmatic, but it looks amazingly like the Spotmatic and very different from the Z-1 that was introduced 16 years later. And the lens is a warmed-over version of the 55 mm f/1.8 Super Takumar that I got with my Asahi Pentax SV in July 1965. The SV was introduced in 1963, so presumably the lens design is at least that old.

I now have 5 old SLRs, 4 Pentax and an Edixa Reflex. I'll take some photos of them Real Soon Now.


Poires gourmandes
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Cooked a slightly faked scaloppine alla Modenese today, derived from a recipe for costolette de maile alla Modenese. Very nice, and something we should eat more often. Yvonne tried a new experiment today: “poires gourmandes”, pears baked on puff pastry with chocolate:


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Also very nice. She can do that again.


Image resolutions through the years
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

After dinner, looking through some old photos with Chris, like this one:


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The fun there is that there are only four people in the image. But while looking at the details, like these ones, it occurred to me that the images aren't very sharp.

 
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Forgetting the stitching artefacts, how about this?

 
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That's a crop from one of the component images, so it hasn't been affected by any stitching issues. It's really not as sharp as it should be. Why? It was taken with my Zuiko Digital ED 9-18 mm f/4.0-5.6, which I used again today, with much better results. So it can't be the lens. Camera? Software? More head-scratching needed.


Sunday, 15 July 2018 Dereel → Haddon → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 15 July 2018
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Garden supplies and lunch out
Topic: gardening, food and drink, opinion Link here

Finding and planting the Schinus molle (peppercorn tree) over the past couple of days went remarkably smoothly, modulo communication issues. So something had to go wrong: Yvonne found it too small. Just one reason to go shopping for plants: it's also the middle of winter, time to plan for spring. We decided to go to town and take a look at what was to be had, including some things that I had looked at on Thursday, and while we were there to visit the Golden Crown Chinese restaurant, who offer yum cha on Sundays.

As it happened, we went to Avalon Nursery in Haddon first. Yvonne found another Schinus more to her liking:


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Just getting it into the car was enough fun:


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Also a couple of jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum and Trachelospermum jasminoides) for the garden arch for which we still haven't decided on a location. Also some herbs: chives and sage, and another Salvia, which I thought was Salvia microphylla, but which is too polite to mention a species, and simply calls itself Huntington's red. Also a Lamium maculatum “Stormy frost” that caught Yvonne's eye, and which she things will fit somewhere. But I doubt that she notes that it's not suited for full sun.

Then Yvonne wanted to go to the Sunday market, so off there, where she bought various odds and ends from the Dutch stall there. I went looking for the people from whom I bought the bulbs last year, but once again they weren't there. On the way out we found somebody selling flowers for $1 each, so bought a whole lot of pansies:

They include a Viola tricolor with interesting colours:


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Then finally to the Golden Crown:


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A bit of a let down. Yum cha is one of those things that thrives on lots of people, with trolleys going around and offering things that look interesting. Here it seems we were the only people eating, and we were given a sheet of paper with a list of what they had: only dumplings, at surprisingly high prices. And instead of tea, we were given a wine list, and the table setting included spoon and fork but no chopsticks. No Chinese people there, but then there were only 3 or 4 other people there at all. In addition, it was very cold. I can't say that the food was bad, but everything pointed to a let-down, so before anybody came along to serve us, we had time to reconsider, and we decided to leave. On the way out I saw a waitress bringing some deep-fried spring rolls. Were they intended as part of the Yum cha?

On to Formosa Gardens nursery, where we bought the Quercus rubra (“red” oak, an American species that promises particularly red leaves in autumn) that I had been looking at, and five bare-rooted roses:


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The varieties are shown left to right, back (top) to front (bottom). They went in quickly, of course. The rest will have to wait until at least tomorrow, and I think the Salvia microphylla should stay in its pot (or a new, larger one) until the weather is a little milder.


More knightly vists
Topic: general, animals Link here

While planting the roses, I heard noise from the front of the house. More mediaeval visits, this time with Amber Fitzpatrick, who had bought herself a fur coat to match her horse:


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HDR: worth the trouble?
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

The photo of the Schinus molle in the car was a challenge: dark inside the car, full sun at the back. So apart from the normal photo, I also took a 3 shot bracket and processed with Photomatix. I needn't have bothered: DxO PhotoLab did it for me with the single shot. Here the first photo as shot, then the result after processing and the HDR bracket:


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Arguably the image could have been a little lighter inside, but it doesn't seem to be worth the effort.


Monday, 16 July 2018 Dereel Images for 16 July 2018
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Garden flowers in mid-winter
Topic: gardening Link here

Middle of the month, and also middle of winter, time for the monthly flower photos. It's been a surprisingly mild (but dry) winter, and the garden shows it.

We only have one Anigozanthos (kangaroo paw) left, the one that Sasha tried to eat years ago. It has recovered with a venegeance:


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For some reason, probably inappropriate soil, the ones that Petra Gietz gave us have apparently died. We'll see for sure in spring.

The Grevilleas are doing well, both the grafted Grevillea bronwenae that we bought last year and the remaining ground cover Grevillea that we bought two years ago—the other one was drowned.


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The Hebes are starting to flower again:


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I can only assume that they suffered from lack of water, fertilizer or good soil in the past.

As ever in winter, the roses are a mixed bunch, but a couple are still trying to flower:


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The Tropaeolum are confirming my opinion of the quality of the soil south of the house (first photo). Those have been there for three years, and they have hardly grown. The ones in the second image were planted last year, and despite the exposure to frost recently are looking much better:


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And our little tree fern, the one that was recovering after being attacked by a whipper-snipper last November, has lost all its fronds:


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Hopefully it will recover in the spring.

The Buddlejas that I admired so much when we moved in to Kleins Road ten years ago are still (barely) flowering:


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And our Banksia integrifolia has a (single) real flower now, nicely hidden by the leaves:


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And one red Canna has defied the weather and formed new buds:


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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Did a little more work in the garden. Planted the Quercus rubra (red oak):


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Also replaced the Schinus molle (peppercorn tree). There's no doubt that the new one is bigger:


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Also started planting the pansies in the boxes in the north garden, but it was almost completely full of bulbs that hadn't started to sprout, and I had to give up half way. I'll have to find somewhere else to plant the rest, probably in front of the house.


Nice-smelling jacket
Topic: animals Link here

Yvonne has bought a new jacket. It seems to smell good:


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More vitreous detachment?
Topic: health Link here

Flashes in my eyes again this evening, like I had last summer. Posterior vitreous detachment? I'll be seeing Paul Smith on Thursday, so we can discuss it then, but based on the last time (where the symptoms were worse), it's not overly dangerous, and there's not much to do about it except wait.

But why did it happen? Last time I thought it was because of exertion, and today I did my first digging for a long time. But it was hardly exertion. To be discussed.


Cat door woes
Topic: general, animals Link here

We've finally attached the sealing strip to our cat door. Not a spectacular success:


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The protrusions in the panel mean that it can't seal properly. More head-scratching, but one obvious “solution” is simply to accept it. It's the laundry, after all, and not heated.


Tuesday, 17 July 2018 Dereel → Geelong → Dereel Images for 17 July 2018
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Periodontics again
Topic: health, general Link here

Today was my 6-monthly periodontics checkup in Geelong, at 14:00. Early in the morning I heard that there was a bus strike there, from 9:00 to 13:00. Should be over by the time I got there? Yes, but what about the people who normally go to work by bus, but had taken their cars today? Car parking chaos?

Called up the surgery and tried to postpone my appointment, but the next one would have been in October. But they had a solution for me: they have a patient parking place behind the building, and I could use that. Accordingly off and found only a single parking place, conveniently blocked by a car which had parked fully 2 m from the end of its parking place:


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That's my car at the back of the first photo, so somehow I managed it, but I was proud enough of myself that I took these photos. In to ask the reception to find the owner of the Audi that had blocked my way. That was easy: that was the receptionist, and she would move it. A good thing that I didn't express my opinion of such parking more forcibly.

In the waiting room, received confirmation of my concerns about parking: another patient was complaining about the difficulty of finding a parking place.

Later I was called in for my examination, but it proved to be a different nurse, the owner of the white car in the middle. She suspected me of having scraped it and pointed to a small scrape on the bumper bar. Could I have been it? No, for a number of reasons. Firstly there was no mark on my car, secondly the scratch was at a height corresponding to an indentation in my car, and finally I could hardly have hit it the way the Audi was parked (by the time we examined it it had been moved forward).

The appointment itself was routine: teeth OK, come back in 6 months, $250 please.

After my appointment I spoke to the receptionist again, and she explained that where I had parked wasn't intended for parking. Why? Looks OK to me. But it seems that the trees on the left leave spots on the cars, which is why they park so far back, and I should have parked in front of the cars on the right of where I parked, since the owners weren't going anywhere. At least the nurse (with whom she checked) had accepted the fact that it probably wasn't my car that did the damage.


Trump's latest disasters
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump has been in power for 18 months now, and he continues to go from one disaster to the next. His visit to NATO was bad enough, but then he continued in the United Kingdom, a country where he was so welcome that he did not appear in public at all, bad-mouthing Theresa May, then denying it the following day. All that we're left with is a collection of photos:

`

But then he was off to Helsinki to meet with Vladimir Putin. Given his treatment of his friends, how would he treat his foes? Two hours behind closed doors, and the only thing worth mentioning was that Trump reported that Putin had reported that Russia had not meddled in the 2006 US Elections, and that he believed him! And this despite CIA intelligence that showed clear meddling, and after arrest warrants had been issued for 12 Russian spies, and just before another was issued. As The Shovel put it, Winner Of US Election Meets With Donald Trump In Helsinki. This spectacle has caused even his own party to label his behaviour “treasonous”.

In that connection, it's interesting to note this statistic from Statista, showing that most of the world distrusts both Trump and Putin, but Trump more than Putin. Only countries that have something to gain from Trump, here Israel and South Korea, find him more trustworthy than Putin.

Where do we go from here? Treason is a ground for impeachment. Will the opinion find a majority?


Reading old diaries
Topic: general, history Link here

Mail from Paul Robbins today, the bloke who sent me the information about 1066 And All Saxon. It seems that he's reading my entire diary of the 1960s! I had typed it in mainly for my own use, and, indeed, I use it frequently. But for other people? He even wrote

This would make a great television series, It would run for years.


More food adventures
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in Geelong, and arrived at the Indo-Asian Grocery Store in heavy rain—there must have been over 10 mm in 20 minutes—to find them mopping the floors. Finding Masa harina is becoming more difficult all the time. They had Minsa harina, but only blue, which I don't really like, and something called P.A.N. “Maíz precocida”.


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What's that? The owner assured me that it was just like the masa I knew, but that's “Harina de maíz nixtamalizada”, and there's no mention of making tortillas on the package. Still, there's small choice, and so I bought a package. If I had seen the price in advance, I may not have. The flour that Yvonne bought in Ballarat two weeks ago cost $3 for 1 kg. This cost $7. And to add to my annoyance, I discovered that it was “white maize”. That's my fault: they had both white and yellow maize, and I grabbed the wrong one. What do I do with lots of (potentially) useless maize flour?

Then on to the Gourmet Asian Grocery, where I bought my normal supplies and also a lot of Yum cha style dumplings. Back home and steamed some of them:


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They didn't taste bad, but there wasn't enough differentiation. I think we've been through this before: one or two each are OK, but more gets boring.


Wednesday, 18 July 2018 Dereel Images for 18 July 2018
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New leveling base
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The Andoer DY-60A leveling base that I ordered the weekend before last arrived today from Guangdong (and not Singapore as claimed), but still before the ball head that I had ordered from Sydney last week, and which had been sent last Monday. Bloody Australia Post!

It's not clear that this was Auspost's fault. See the following day.

The head looks pretty much like what it promises to be. Here it is (on the right) compared with the Manfrotto 3416 that I have at the moment:


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What's the advantage? It's a lot easier to adjust than the Manfrotto, which has stiff screws oriented at 120° from each other. It also has a considerably larger range:


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I'll see on Saturday how well that handles the more extreme cases.


Historical exchange rates
Topic: history, general Link here

On 22 May 1967 I ate my first caviar, in Babolsar. Here with my parents:


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I noted that it cost 770 IRR, and that it was very expensive. When I typed in the diary entry in February 2011, I also noted that 770 Rials are now worth USD 0.40, which for three serves of caviar would really be the world's cheapest.

Today I heard from Paul Robbins, who has apparently fought his way through my diary to this point. There's a site fxtop.com that specializes in historical exchange rates. The interface is rather hard to use, but I was able to establish that 770 Rials were worth £3/6/0 on this date. I would convert that to $150 AUD nowadays, which does indeed sound very expensive.


Pam Hay to visit
Topic: general Link here

Pam Hay arrived to spend a couple of nights. I had thought that it had been some time since we last saw her, but in fact it was less than three years ago. I must be more careful in noting things in my diary.


Thursday, 19 July 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 19 July 2018
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Blood test results
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat early this morning (the only appointment I could get) to discuss the results of last week's blood test. Nothing unexpected, but there are still a couple of anomalies that puzzle Paul: MCV remains above the 80-96 fl at 101 fl, like it has been for years. And both neutrophils and general white blood cell counts are low.

None of this is new, and I went to see a haematologist about this three years ago, without any conclusive results. But Paul wants still more blood tests, thyroid hormones and reticulocytes.


More flash pain
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Taking the photos of my leveling bases for yesterday started with the Olympus STF-8. Not good. First I accidentally had the camera set to f/22, just too small an aperture for the poor, anaemic flash at 1 m distance:


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But even at apertures that it can satisfy, the results are useless:


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By contrast, with the mecablitz and bounce flash, the lighting worked well:


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Sometimes I wonder what use the thing is. If only there were a sane ring flash for the system. But the mecablitz ring flash looks like it has a number of disadvantages as well.


Where's my ball head?
Topic: general, photography, opinion Link here

A bit more investigation about what happened to the ball head that I bought nearly two weeks ago. Now I have a tracking number, indicating that Auspost has received the shipping details earlier this week. And no more! Let's see what happens tomorrow.


Dinner with Pam and Chris
Topic: food and drink, general Link here

We drew our weekly dinner forward from Saturday for Pam Hay's sake:


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Pam brought a cake with her, either Napoléon or Neapolitan—she wasn't sure which:


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After dinner, we looked at some of the myriad photos that Yvonne took today. A number of them were shaky or out of focus, so I tried myself. Not good:


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Clearly the image stabilization on the E-PM2 can't match the E-M1 Mark II.


Friday, 20 July 2018 Dereel Images for 20 July 2018
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Topic: general, animals, gardening, opinion Link here

Pam Hay left this morning and headed north. But first she wanted to see Lucy, the 28-year-old Paso peruano mare that Lorraine Carranza now has. Pam has known Lucy since she was a foal, and she has a colt who is a grandson of hers. So over to say hello:


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I never cease to admire Lorraine's garden. It's always so tidy, and there are some interesting flowers there, like these proteas:


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Taucheo fish
Topic: food and drink Link here

Yvonne and I have our differences about eating fish. She loves eating fish of any kind, while I find so much of it really boring: fish and chips, for example.

Today, being Friday, Yvonne wanted to eat fish again. What kind? After some discussion we agreed on what I call Tenggiri, but which has other names in English-speaking areas, including Wahoo and Spanish mackerel. It's a nice fish, but how do you cook it? I had this recollection from my youth of fish in a vaguely soya-like sauce with strips of onions. Took a look in “Singapore Food”, by Wendy Hutton, and to my surprise found exactly what I was looking for, titled “Fish in taucheo sauce”.

What's taucheo? A kind of soya bean preparation. What's in the fridge? Taucu, clearly the same thing. Or is it? Wikipedia has a separate page about it. I suspect that this is a regional misunderstanding, probably helped by the langauges, though the Taucheo page refers to it as 黄豆酱 and the Tauchu page refers to it as 豆醬. OK, tried it out, and how about that, exactly what I was looking for. I've seldom been so lucky. Here's my recipe.


Saturday, 21 July 2018 Dereel Images for 21 July 2018
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New leveling base
Topic: photography Link here

House photo day today, and the first time to try out the new leveling base:

 
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How does it compare to the Manfrotto 3416? My main concern was that it would have sufficient adjustment to remove the need to change the tripod legs. Things were a little different from what I thought. In particular, the ball is stiffer than I expected, and it grates a little when moving. On the other hand, it means that I don't need to tighten the ball when I have positioned it, so the issue is really cosmetic. It's much easier to use than the Manfrotto, and yes, it adapted to my uneven ground with adjustment to spare. Definitely an advantage over the Manfrotto.


Hugin: no control points
Topic: technology, photography, opinion Link here

To try out my new leveling head to its best, I took photos from more locations than usual, though the one in the verandah is particularly boring:


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But for reasons I don't completely understand, Hugin's cpfind found no control points at all between these two images:


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Why? There are plenty of similarities, and I was able to add control points manually. But cpfind decided that they were 200 pixels apart, and there was nothing I could do about it. The result was correspondingly useless:

 
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OK, add the control points before running cpfind. No, sorry don't like those control points: I'll remove them. I tried a number of things, including the panomatic control point detector, but it just didn't want to know. In the end I took the photos again, this time ensuring that each wall was completely in one image. That worked, but only just: cpfind found only two control points between the wall and the next image to the right, compared to 21 between the two walls:


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What's causing this? My best guess is that the control point detectors are looking for different kinds of features than I am, and there are none shared between these images.

I was going to report this to the Hugin development list, so I converted the (TIFF) images to lower quality JPEG images. But then the problem didn't show up! It did find some control points. Still more head-scratching to do.

One new thing I've done is to compensate for pto_gen's insistence on changing the colour balance for individual images: a simple script discolour that resets the colour factors to 1 again. Yes, it's a kludge, but it showed its worth: it proved that pto_gen wasn't the only program to reset the colour balance.


The very model of a modern stable genius
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

You have to say one thing for Donald Trump: he has even Yvonne interested in politics, in particular anything that can denigrate him. Today she came up with this one:


Birds of a feather
Topic: animals Link here

While walking the dogs, came across this strange sight:


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The lens is wrong, of course, but there was a flock of cockatoos intermingled with a flock (is that the word?) of ducks:


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Spring on its way
Topic: gardening Link here

First signs of spring, some kind of Acacia:


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Sunday, 22 July 2018 Dereel Images for 22 July 2018
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Topic: multimedia, technology, opinion Link here

A while back I received mail from Ashampoo:

Ingenious converter for all formats

Find, record, download and convert music, movies, series, videos, TV and radio broadcasts

OK, that sounds interesting, even if the price didn't. Where's the demo version? None. Ah, I missed “(Ashampoo Partner Shop)”. OK, go looking on the web and find (surprise) http://www.audials.com/. Downloaded the demo version and started installing. It hung!

After some investigation discovered that it was downloading another package, Audials_Radiotracker-Setup.exe, over 100 MB in size. It failed, but it didn't seem to notice. Finally it was done and came up with this:


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Where are the TV channels? It seems to be very much oriented towards radio (as indeed the name suggests). Select “Save Video” under “Streaming” and find get offered "Record streaming video from video on demand services, TV websites and viedo portals”. A few more clicks and I had:

 
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Nothing very interesting there, and places like Netflix aren't free. Where are the TV web sites? The only one I can see is NBC. OK, select that and get:

 
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If I can view this in my browser, what do I need a $$ application for? I can use YouTube Download instead, which both free and a lot easier to use. I had hoped that the package would at least include a list of TV web sites, but it doesn't seem to include that.

And while I was investigating, I got another popup:

 
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That suggests that it is trying to intercept a stream being delivered to a web browser. Ugh. I wonder (idly, and not enough to want to check) what happens if the stream times out. Thank God for demo versions!


A couch for Leonid
Topic: animals Link here

It's been months since we got an “Ottoman” for Nikolai:


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But for whatever reason, Leonid didn't want to use it, though he's higher in rank. Yvonne has been trying for some time to get him to lie on the couch, and finally today she was successful:


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Monday, 23 July 2018 Dereel Images for 23 July 2018
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Ultra wide angle revisited
Topic: photography, animals, opinion Link here

Yesterday's photos of the dogs brought reminded me once again of the problems of representing wide angles on flat images. Which of these is more extreme?


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That's one of the reasons why I'm not tempted to buy a really wide angle lens like the M.ZUIKO Digital ED 7-14 mm f/2.8 PRO. To do it right, I should try a cylindrical projection, but I suspect that that won't work well with the perspective I chose.


Selling the dog bath
Topic: animals, general Link here

Last year we bought a dog bath, somewhat against my will: do we need one? What can it do that a garden hose can't do? But Yvonne was convinced that we would save a lot of money compared to having them washed in town.

We have used it twice, to my recollection. And the pump needs to be run from time to time (the pump shop recommended every three months) or it could seize up. Today I remembered, and yes, indeed, it was somewhat reluctant to start, but once it started it ran happily.


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Discussed the matter with Yvonne. Yes, maybe it wasn't such a good idea after all. So she offered it for sale on the local buy, swap and sell Facebook group. Bang! Several people wanted it, one of whom (not the first, however) wanted to come and pick it up immediately. I have the feeling that we had asked too little for it. As it is, it looks like it will be picked up on Friday.


Tuesday, 24 July 2018 Dereel
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Into town again
Topic: health, general Link here

Into Ballarat for various things. First to Dorevitch for a blood test. I didn't even have time to take a number before I was called, and once again I was out within 5 minutes. Then to the Police to find a Justice of the Peace to confirm that I, whom I had never seen before, was alive (my doctor isn't allowed to confirm this; German rule books). He was sitting there looking bored, offered to pinch me to confirm whether I was alive, and had the document witnessed and ready in about 2 minutes.

Then on to Napoleons to the post office to pick up the ball head that I had ordered 2½ weeks ago. And there I hit the first snag: the bar code reader didn't like the bar code, and she had to type it in.

Three things to be done, all with no waiting. How I love living in sparsely populated areas!


New ball head
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

The new ball head looks just like it claimed to be:

 
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It's smaller than expected, and the ball clamp isn't as firm as I had hoped, but it should do the trick.


Garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

My recent eye problems have had me concerned, particularly since it seemed to happen while gardening. But it some exertion must have been involved, so simply planting will (hopefully) not trigger it. Today I planted the remainder of the pansies, the sage and the chives.


Wednesday, 25 July 2018 Dereel
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More tomatoes
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

The tomato bush that has been bearing so profusely is finally showing signs of dying. Here it is after I harvested another 30 or 40 fruit today:


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It will be interesting to see how the remaining fruit survive on what appears to be a dead vine. But my estimate of still having fresh tomatoes in August looks like coming true.


Trump: saving US agriculture
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

So Donald Trump's trade war has already come home to bite him, as this report indicates: he's putting up a fund of $12,000 million to compensate US farmers for losses incurred by the trade war.

Isn't that about half the value of the tariffs that he has put on imports? Only for one affected sector? What about the metal importers, who now have to pay more for their raw materials, and their overseas customers, who have to pay two sets of tariffs? And even amongst the agriculturists, it doesn't make sense. To quote the article:

“The trade war is cutting the legs out from under farmers and White House’s ‘plan’ is to spend $12 billion on gold crutches"

This is all clearly intended to help with the mid-term elections in November. What happens then?


Thursday, 26 July 2018 Dereel Images for 26 July 2018
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What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Yet another Donald Trump horror today:

“What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening”. Or, as George Orwell put it in Nineteen Eighty-Four, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

I was going to say "those who don't understand history are condemned to repeat it”, and there, I did it. But I also checked: the original quote, by Jorge Santayana, was “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it”.


A new phone?
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Who uses phones any more? They're all smartphones nowadays. But we have two “landlines” (really VoIP over NBN). I access them via cordless phones, but as I age and become generally less tolerant, and my eyes are not what they were. Even when they were new, it was difficult to read the phone displays. First, the fonts are very distorted (high and narrow), and even with illumination called numbers are difficult to read, especially at an angle and at a distance (pick up the handset and it disappears):


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In addition, the newer one (bought three years ago) doesn't really fulfill its promise. It has Bluetooth connectivity, the main reason I chose it (for a Bluetooth headset, since I couldn't find anything with connections for conventional headsets), but somehow there's no way to control the headset volume, and the sound quality is very poor. Surely there must be something better.

Went looking for best cordless phone and found, of course, a number of relevant hits. This one was typical. It came with a list of features to look for, like:

Some of the most popular cordless phone features include:

Most of those, I would have thought, are normal. Certainly all phones that I have had in this millennium had most of them. No idea what a "mailbox" is, possibly a modern name for an answering machine, which is otherwise not mentioned. The only two features that stand out, both of which I want, are a headset jack and two line support. And last time I went looking, I couldn't find any with either feature. No mention of display quality, probably because the testers are young enough to be my grandchildren. And no mention of Bluetooth in that list! OK, let's see their “Editor's Pick”, the Panasonic KX-TG9541B:

If you are looking for the best cordless phone then make sure to get the Panasonic Link2Cell Cordless Phone as this is their best phone to date.
From noise reduction to bluetooth support, this phone boats [sic] a number of features including digital answering system.

Now isn't that informative? Not even a link to the specs, just to Amazon to buy one. After some investigation, it seems that it only handles one line, and there's no indication that it has a headphone jack. In fact, only one of their recommendations (the Vtech CS6719-2, for “under $30”) has two line support, and only one model (the Gigaset-E630A) has a headset jack. Neither is available in Australia, and as usual the postage from the USA rivals the purchase price.

OK, on to the other links. Choice has reviews, of course, but no indication that they're any good, and they want money for them. I wish Google would put them further down the list, or otherwise indicate that I can't get any information from them without paying money.

OK, further searching. What's on the Australian eBay? Not very much, and surprisingly most of them are manufacturer refurbished. There's the Panasonic KX-TG8793AZS and the Uniden 9135, both at reasonable prices and with Bluetooth. Specs? This one is typical (for the Panasonic):

What's Link-to-cell? Advanced TAM? Key finder? All SMOB (Silly Marketeer Obfuscatory Bullshit), I assert. Link-to-cell proves to be a Bluetooth connection to (an unspecified number of) mobile phones, which sounds useful.

With a bit of trouble, found the instructions for the Panasonic and the Uniden. The Panasonic was sobering: for many functions, including important ones (like setting the date, for example), there are no menus, just numeric codes for what you want to do. What use is that?

The Uniden looked better, and indeed it has a headphone jack on each handset. OK, what about reviews? I've decided that Productreview are useful up to a point: if I see several reports of the same issue, it's probably valid. And the Uniden only got an average of 2.0 out of 5 points from 14 reviews (9 of which were ”terrible”), which is really not good. Poor sound quality. Echoing. Noise, interference. Exactly the things that I want to avoid.

So where are we? Nowhere, I fear. Only one thing has become more understandable (well, I have a better guess): what does “NBN compatible” mean? I had noted this (then called “NBN ready”) a year ago. I think it means that the radio frequency is not in the same range as traditional 802.11 (2.4 GHz). What does that have to do with the NBN? Nothing. Probably people using the NBN were the majority of the people that ran into problems with 802.11, so it stuck.


More preparations for spring
Topic: gardening Link here

It's gradually getting milder, though we have another 5 weeks of winter to do, and we did a bit of consideration what to do with the garden when Mick comes next week. One thing is the garden arch that we bought years ago and for which we couldn't decide a location. We're down to these two now:


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When it's done, it will be literally cast in concrete, so we need to get it right.

Also found a little succulent, almost completely swallowed by the Vinca minor that has taken off to the south of the house and invaded the pot:


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Friday, 27 July 2018 Dereel Images for 27 July 2018
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Piccola gives a rat's arse
Topic: animals Link here

For some time there has been a rodent hiding behind junk in the garage, and Piccola has been very interested, going in there for extended periods. Finally she caught one, but clearly it wasn't to her taste. She left this on the doormat:


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Yes, I know it's a mouse's arse, not a rat's arse, but why spoil a good story by sticking to the facts?


Trump: single-threaded?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Donald Trump has had some newsworthy meetings recently, notably with Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin. And in each case he met with them one-on-one, arousing further interest and, particularly in the case of Putin, criticism.

But why? He does this with other people too. Gradually I'm coming to the conclusion that he is incapable of following a multilateral meeting. To be observed.


Maximum social media?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Facebook presented disappointing earnings for the last quarter, as this Statista chart shows:

The commentary relates to the “stalling” growth. But in Europe, it has dropped, and in the USA it's essentially stagnant.

Why? One obvious reason is that everybody already has a Facebook account, even I. But potentially it relates to an open question in my Internet in 2034 paper:

How important will social networks be? Will they reach a plateau or even decline? Or will they continue to grow and form a significant part of social life?

There's nothing in this individual statistic that points either way, but it's worth watching. My own impression (“observation” is too strong a word) is that activity on the local Facebook groups has declined.

One group of people who are definitely watching are the stockholders. They were impressed: Facebook stock dropped by 19%, or $120,000 million, apparently the largest one-day drop of market value ever suffered (the New York Times, from which I got this information, states “among the largest one-day destruction [sic] of market value“).

That seems excessive, but I suppose it's indicative of the lack of understanding of the average shareholder.


Cheap switches from China
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne has a new bedside lamp, but she doesn't like the switch. OK, put an inline switch on the cable. Ordered one from China for the princely sum of $1. It arrived today. Opening it was a revelation:


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It's only a single pole switch, and the whole construction doesn't have a single screw! That's just plain dangerous, and how do you ensure a contact? Isn't this intended for mains? The rear of the case says yes:


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What does 2/250V~ mean? Clearly it's rated for 250 VAC, but the 2? I'd guess two pole. So basically this just doesn't match its own claims. I've seen some bad stuff on eBay before, but this one is just plain dangerous.


Cantonese braised beef
Topic: food and drink Link here

In Geelong last week I bought some Chu Hou sauce in a jar, claimed to be good for slow-cooked Chinese stews. On the web I found a number of dubious authenticity, but this one looked reasonable. Today I tried it and came up with my interpretation.

And how was it? I have a recollection of North Chinese stews with a powerful flavour of Star Anise. This was much weaker in flavour. Next time I'll put much more in.


Out of storage!
Topic: technology Link here

A slew of strange email messages this evening:

From double-bounce@www.lemis.com  Fri Jul 27 19:50:04 2018
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2018 09:48:30 +0000 (UTC)
From: MAILER-DAEMON@www.lemis.com (Mail Delivery System)
Subject: Postfix SMTP server: errors from unknown[198.12.118.56]

Transcript of session follows.

 Out: 220 www.lemis.com ESMTP Postfix
 In:  EHLO mail.resourcestecs.review
 Out: 250-www.lemis.com
 Out: 250-PIPELINING
 Out: 250-SIZE 51200000
 Out: 250-VRFY
 Out: 250-ETRN
 Out: 250-ENHANCEDSTATUSCODES
 Out: 250-8BITMIME
 Out: 250 DSN
 In:  MAIL FROM:<jointdiscomfort-greg=lemis.com@resourcestecs.review>
     BODY=8BITMIME
 Out: 452 4.3.1 Insufficient system storage
 In:  RCPT TO:<greg@lemis.com>
 Out: 503 5.5.1 Error: need MAIL command
 In:  DATA
 Out: 503 5.5.1 Error: need RCPT command
 In:  QUIT
 Out: 221 2.0.0 Bye

Clearly spam, and to a non-existent user, but why am I getting error messages about it? It took a while to note this particular line:

 Out: 452 4.3.1 Insufficient system storage

That's interesting for two reasons: first, the system has run out of disk space, and secondly the return error code was 452, indicating an unrecoverable error. Why? Typically people react to this situation by reclaiming space, so a retry would be worthwhile.

But the real issue is: yes, I'm out of space on the machine. I've been thinking about alternatives for some time, but the idea of block storage is distasteful to me. But I'm going to have to do something, even if it's only increasing the space.


Saturday, 28 July 2018 Dereel Images for 28 July 2018
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House photos again
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

House photo day again today, and gradually I'm getting my routine adjusted. But there are still some strangenesses. For reasons I don't understand, I got this image layout:


This should be house-s-fail.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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Running it with the Hugin aligner (what's the difference?) brought out what you'd expect:


This should be house-s.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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The more I look, the more I find strangenesses in Hugin.


A new switch
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Yvonne was in town today and bought a new inline switch for her bedside light at Bunnings. Only $6, compared to $1 for two of the cheap ones, but it had no less than 8 screws: dual pole switch, and, rather unnecessarily, four screws to keep the housing together.

Opened it and... a contact fell out. There seems to be nothing keeping them in. Put it back in and connected the cables. And it didn't work. Oh yes, it did. No, it didn't. What's wrong with the bloody thing? I didn't take any photos, but if it continues to work intermittently, I'll have to take it back, and then there will most certainly be photos.


Sunday, 29 July 2018 Dereel
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Wet but promising
Topic: gardening Link here

Wet day today, but it's clear that it's gradually getting milder, and more and more flowers are coming out. Lately it's been the Camellia japonica:


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That's pretty, but the leaves aren't:


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What's wrong there? For some time I've had the impression that I haven't been applying enough fertilizer, so I made up for it today, at least for some beds. Others need replanting first.


Monday, 30 July 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 30 July 2018
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More blood test results
Topic: health Link here

Into Ballarat again today to hear the results of last week's blood test. Almost as expected, there was nothing unusual. MCV was still above the 80-96 fl, this time 102 fl. Contrary to expectations, Vitamin B12 was in the normal rangem 51 pmol/l, above the limit 37. That was still notably lower than the 77 of 2 and 3 years ago, probably because of the injections I had 3½ years ago. White blood cells were in the normal range, so his concern about neutropaenia seemed unfounded. So were the reticulocytes and the thyroid hormones. So why the elevated MCV? I wonder how accurate the limits are; maybe this is normal for me. It's interesting to note that the Wikipedia article mentions a range of 77 to 93 fl.

About the only interesting thing was that Paul had a student there, the second time; clearly he's popular with the medical schools. This one showed a great propensity for learning: he copied Paul's gestures and gesticulations (something that you normally wouldn't notice) perfectly. It would have been fun to have a video of the whole thing.

While I was there, discussed my weight. I have been very hungry lately, but eating hasn't increased my weight. I guessed that I would be not over 90 kg. Weighed myself there, clothed, and came in at 89.7 kg. That's less than I would expect. Back home tried again and came in at 89.9 kg, naked.

When we bought the current modern digital scales (precise to 100 g), it showed 2 kg more than my ancient LED device, precise to 500 g. We had assumed that the old one was wrong, but it's beginning to look like we should have kept the old one.


Parking in Ballarat
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Health First, my medical clinic, is almost exactly in the centre of Ballarat, about 100 m from the junction of Sturt St and Doveton St. Fortunately there's a free car park across the road in Central Square. Problem: it's a multi-storey car park, and from the time I enter it until I get across the road to the clinic it takes between 8 and 10 minutes, a significant chunk of the 30 minutes that I need to get there from home. Much of this it taken by traffic driving at a snail's pace round 3 or 4 sets of floors, and then taking the escalator downstairs again.

Once upon a time the lower storeys were reserved for paying customers, and we had to pull a ticket on the outside deck on about the 4th floor. But now they have replaced the human checking with computers: they read the number plate when you come in. You take a ticket, and if you stay for more than 2 hours, you have to pay. Otherwise the exit gate opens automatically. Clearly a sensible development, but the lack of human checking (currently) means that you can park just about anywhere. OK, why not park further down? Tried it today and discovered why:


This should be Park-house-2.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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No stairs! I hate lifts at the best of times, but the lifts in park houses are particularly unpleasant, and this one didn't even give me an indication of the direction I wanted to go in. On the other side of the building I found a fire escape, so I noted the floor and went out there, coming out on the street just across the road from Health First. After the appointment, back via Target and went looking for my car. The lift gave me no indication of whether floor D (or any other floor, for that matter) was up or down. Pressed "up" and "down", and when the lift arrived, looked at the buttons. No D! Guessed down one floor (L4), and turned out that I was right. Of course, after arriving there, you see what you no longer need:


This should be Park-house-3.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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I suppose if you come up the ramp instead of down it, you would see that earlier. But faced with going up or down to a lift, most people would go down.


Garden supplies
Topic: gardening Link here

After my doctor's appointment, along to Bunnings to buy things for the garden: a couple of trellises like the ones I bought last year, and stuff to mount it. And there was nothing there! Maybe I've chosen the wrong time of year. Also looked for fertilizer—none found—and herbs, but found few: a couple of particularly vigorous-looking thyme bushes (lemon thyme and “pizza” thyme) and some rather sad-looking Persicaria odorata, or Vietnamese mint, which Wikipedia calls “Vietnamese coriander” for reasons that baffle me:


This should be Thyme-Vietnamese-mint.jpeg.  Is it missing?
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Real coriander tastes very different, and it's very much in use in Việt Nam. What kind of confusion can lead to such a name?

On to Formosa Gardens nursery to look for what I didn't find at Bunnings. No further herbs; in fact, the whole place looked vaguely deserted and surprisingly run-down, and there were few herbs, some in very poor condition. Strangely, they did have hops, though only some rather strange varieties: British, American, and Saaz. Left without buying anything, and only later remembered that I should have looked for fertilizer.


Daily Trump music
Topic: politics, opinion Link here


Internet signs of the times: cordcutting
Topic: technology, multimedia, opinion Link here

An article today about cord-cutting. What's that? Replacing wired Ethernet with 802.11? No, it seems that it's replacing cable TV with Internet offerings. Not quite what I envisaged in my Internet of the Future paper, but close.

How-To Geek isn't always very perspicacious, but this observation makes sense:

Find a kid who has always had access to Netflix and try to explain to them that their favorite shows are only on at a particular time, once a day. They will think it’s just the dumbest thing, because it is. We have a better system now.

What doesn't make sense to me, and the reason why I haven't signed up for Netflix, is that they want to control how you access the content, effectively limiting high quality images to streaming services. That's (still) too unreliable for my liking.


Tuesday, 31 July 2018 Dereel Images for 31 July 2018
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Twitter: more signs of the times?
Topic: technology, politics, general, opinion Link here

Another statistic from Statista today:

One day after Facebook lost the greatest market capitalization in US history, Twitter also seems to be suffering. People might see a connection with Donald Trump's abuse of the platform, but I'm beginning to wonder if there isn't a trend here.

Away from social media? Maybe people are getting fed up with the novelty of smart phones? Yes, their sales have also reached a plateau, but I think that that's only because the market is saturated. Despite my personal lack of understanding for the medium, I don't see it going out of fashion.


More cordless phone investigations
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

I've established that the Panasonic cordless phones available in Australia have a particularly emetic menu structure. But they're the world's biggest maker of cordless phones. Surely something must be going for them. So I went looking on the Panasonic US site (at great difficulty: it tried to divert me to the German site, and wouldn't take no for an answer). A maze of twisty little images, all the same, 36 models in all. Where are the specs? We don't need no steenking specs. Manuals? A circular set of pages telling me to look for “support" in the source page. Finally I found two different kinds of page, but in each case searching for “PDF” brought me to the download link.

I wasn't done yet. It seemed that the detail pages had a different model number from the overview page, and the download links had a different number again. Here a summary for the phones that came into consideration:

Overview       Detail page       Manual
model number       model number       model number
KX-TG7875S             kx-tg7841_mul_om.pdf
KX-TGE24       KX-TGE245B       kx-tge210_mul_om.pdf
KX-TGE27       KX-TGE275S       kx-tge260_mul_om.pdf
KX-TGE445B             kx-tge432_en_om.pdf
KX-TGE47       KX-TGE475S       kx-tge463_mul_om.pdf
KX-TGF34       KX-TGF345B       kx-tgf340_en_om.pdf

And without exception, they all have numeric menus! Why? Is it an acknowledgement that menu structures are so complicated that just numbering them is easier? Why is this all so complicated?


Rose of Sharon
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Rose of Sharon is one of those plant names that I know from my childhood. What do they look like? No idea. I wasn't interested in flowers in those days.

Today Yvonne told me that a Rose of Sharon is a Hibiscus. Nonsense! I knew what a Hibiscus was, and so did my mother. She would have told me if the Rose of Sharon was anything like a Hibiscus. But Yvonne didn't let up, and she sent me this link. How about that, Hibiscus syriacus. Why didn't my mother ever tell me that? Following the Wikipedia link for Rose of Sharon showed that the name is also applied to Hypericum calycinum:

Hypericum caycinum

That page states that that is what is called Rose of Sharon in the UK and Australia, so presumably that's the plant my mother knew.

More to the point, though, I have two Hibiscus syriacus! Here the image from the link above, and then my own, taken in mid-May:


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  Hibiscus syriacus

I had assumed that it was one of the many cultivars of Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, but clearly it's Hibiscus syriacus.


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