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July 2018
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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:

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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!

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.


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