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October 2018
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Monday, 1 October 2018 Dereel Images for 1 October 2018
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Jehovah's witnesses again
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Unexpected visitor drove into the driveway today: two women, one very black. That's unusual round here: most non-European people are from East Asia, and even the darkest skinned people are relatively light-skinned compared to the darkest Africans. Since Australia has (far too grudgingly) admitted some refugees, we see them now from time to time in Ballarat. But this woman puzzled me: she didn't look African either. And her accent didn't help: she sounded like any normal Australian, possibly of British origin. Of course, I didn't want to ask.

It proved that they were Jehovah's witnesses. Yvonne was in the process of shooing them away when I came out and had a chat. The Jehovah's witnesses interest me, and I've had various chats with them over the years, most recently 6½ years ago, where I discovered that they didn't know the Ten Commandments, or at least not the second 10. Mentioned that this time too, and she (the black one, who did all the talking) hadn't either. But she held her ground, even though her education was very bible-centric, and when she left she said that she was going to check on the second Ten Commandments (for which I couldn't give a chapter number, just that it was probably less than 7; in fact it's Deuteronomy 5, their link, whose wording differs from other translations I have seen, notably the repeated mention of the name “Jehovah”).

She didn't know other religious books. She claimed that the Bible was the oldest surviving religious text. and hadn't heard of the Epic of Gilgamesh or Bhagavad Gita. Are they older? Gilgamesh yes, nearly twice as old, and it clearly had significant influence on the Bible, but the Bhagavad Gita is probably newer.

Finally they left, undefeated, for the first time in 50 years. I was quite impressed.


Cooktops: defeated by technology
Topic: food and drink, technology, opinion Link here

I really need to find a replacement gas cooktop to fit next to the new induction cooktop. It's not easy: most cooktops are 60 or 90 cm wide (and, strangely in Australia, not 600 or 900 mm). I want one that is only 30 cm wide, and there's not much choice.

In principle I'm not asking for much: two burners, one a “wok burner”, the wok burner at the front so that it doesn't burn the wall like our current cooktop does:


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But in the past I've discovered a number of issues:

Off to Appliances Online to find out. They knew exactly what I wanted: Domino 30 cm cooktops, politely arranged so that I didn't have to think or get information overload: one truncated line of “Highest Rated”, one truncated line of “Biggest % Discount off RRP”. And the truncation was in the middle of the page:


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To see more, I had to press on this silly grey arrow in the middle of the first image, removing what I already had on the screen. I've seen this on mobile phones, where it's a result of the appalling user interface. But why do they force it onto users of better interfaces? I can only attribute it to mobile phone brain damage.

OK, fight my way past the inappropriate grouping and look for the specs. There are 17 of them, only one (according to their page) suitable for LPG. Do I believe them? Not in the slightest. As I discovered, all the cooktops I looked at could be adapted for LPG, and many came with an adapter kit. One even delivered more power with LPG than with “natural gas”.

Next, what power output do the burners have? Who cares? I do, of course, and clearly so do the people who distinguish between “burner” and “wok burner”. But when I try to compare these two cooktops, both from the same maker, there's nothing to explain the 3:1 price difference:


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There's a little more below, but basically the “comparison” shows no difference whatsoever beyond minor differences in dimensions. except that the cheaper one includes trivets and wok stand, not specified for the others. That's a “comparison”?

Finally ended up downloading the manuals and spec sheets for those cooktops that met the primary specification: two burners. Even the spec sheets and manuals don't include all the information. What I got was:

Item       Price ($)       Front burner       Rear burner       Comments
Artusi AGH30XFFD       359       1.08       3.11
Smeg SARV532X3       409       1.33       4.2
Delonghi DE302GBX1       699       1.75       3       More power with LPG
Fisher & Paykel CG302DLPGB1       919       1.2       2.3       LPG only, $100 more expensive than natural gas
ILVE H30VSS       929       ?       ?       looks weak
Smeg PGA23G       1240       1.08       3.33
Asko HG1355GD       1899       ?       ?
V-Zug GAS421GSBZ       2499       ?       17.1
EPZ2GFFDSS       ?       1.14       3.33

For completeness sake, that last entry isn't from Appliances Online.

I have converted those ratings to kW, something that Australians don't believe in: they prefer MJ/hour (or, on one spec sheet, mj/hour), apparently because the resulting number is close to BTUs. From https://www.stovesonline.co.uk/btu-kw.asp:

To convert kWh to BTU simply multiply by 3414.

To convert kW to MJ/h, you multiply by 3600, of course, making a BTU 1.054 MH/h.

Only the most expensive one quotes the power in kW, unfortunately incorrectly: it's off by a factor of 3 or 4. Maybe they meant 17.1 MJ/h, corresponding to 4.75 kW. That would be the most powerful one—if it's correct. But at $2,500 it's ridiculously expensive.

Apart from that, which is the best choice? The cheap Smeg, for only $402! Who says that expensive is better?


Gun violence: worse than war
Topic: history, opinion Link here

Statista published some statistics today: between 1968 and 2015, 1.53 million “Americans” (residents? citizens?) died from firearm-related injuries. That's over 25% more than all US wars since 1775. And still they haven't done anything about the problem.


Facebook security?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

A few days ago Facebook announced a new security breach. Was I affected? Probably not. Would it make any difference? Certainly not. There's nothing on my Facebook account that can be abused elsewhere. Even my place of birth, my domicile and my alma mater are wrong (though in each case a subtle hint that nobody has understood so far).

Still, it would be interesting to see what Facebook says. First, where am I logged in?

 
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“Windows” computer? I don't have no steenking “Windows” computer. Oh, well, maybe I do, but it's sleeping. What Facebook means, of course, is that my firefox is claiming to be Microsoft to get around web sites that don't want to talk to FreeBSD. My Chromium instance doesn't, so it's just a “computer”.

But what about the other “computer” in West Hollywood? I haven't been in that area for decades. Proxy, maybe? No, don't recognize the IP address. OK, log into Facebook on the firefox instance on eureka:0.3, which is connected to a proxy somewhere in the Eastern USA. Yes!

 
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People, with that kind of accuracy, nobody can work out what's going on. A good thing I don't need this kind of “assistance”.


Tuesday, 2 October 2018 Dereel Images for 2 October 2018
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Anatomy of a DoS
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

On Saturday I read a message in the local Facebook group: Kim Baxter had “lost Internet”. OK, let's do what I can to help. “Try this”. No reply, just the interesting information that she was with Aussie Broadband, my ISP. So is Paul Shire, who also had no problems.

But it turned out that it was an Aussie problem after all. A few hours later Kim stated “a problem with their firewall”, and pointed me to their Facebook page, which indeed stated something about problems. Which problems? No idea. It's gone again. How I love Facebook! And why only on Facebook?

But then today I got mail describing a meltdown at their central server facility in Melbourne. Not too much detail—after all, most customers are non-technical—but a link to a technical analysis on Whirlpool. That makes excellent reading.

It seems that something, probably an infected customer machine, targeted their central VoIP infrastructure, and inadequate protection allowed the load to spill over into other systems, notably DHCP and DNS. They described what happened, what they did about it (with times), and how they intend to stop it happening again. That's a refreshing change from the CYA attitude of most ISPs.


How the world sees the USA
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

An interesting article in the New York Times today, pointing to a Pew Research Center survey of “foreigners” (in other words, non US Americans) about their opinion of the USA. The results were no surprise, but interesting for purposes of quotation. There's still majority support for the USA, but it's diminishing, as this comparison with China shows:

Chart showing how people see the balance of power between the U.S. and China.

And these graphs show clearly who is to blame:

Line chart showing that negative ratings for Trump and U.S. in Germany continue. Line chart showing that in Canada, only a quarter ofthe public has confidence in Trump. Line chart showing that in Mexico, fewer than one-in-ten rate Trump positively.

The five major leaders, (Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump come in that order: Trump inspires even less confidence than Putin.

Chart showing that Merkel and Macron are viewed with more confidence internationally than Xi, Putin or Trump.

Does this one show an indication that the USA is suffering as a result?

Chart showing America’s international image in 2018

Possibly, but it would need a comparison with the Before Trump era.


West Lake fish?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

One of the better Chinese dishes I recall from my childhood is West Lake Fish. What's that? I only ever ate it, and never cooked it. But it's freshwater fish cooked with ginger and spring onions. Yvonne has bought some frozen Barramundi a while back, so it sounded like a good idea to try it.

Which recipe? Pei Mei had one that didn't look very typical, and she wanted it boiled. Rosemary Hutton's Singapore cookbook looked better, though she didn't call it “West Lake Fish”. It was to be steamed.

OK, we have a big enough steamer. But it wasn't to be steamed directly in the steamer It needed to be in a bowl to collect the juices:


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15 minutes of steaming later, it didn't look much different:


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But part of that might have been that it wasn't really cooked through:


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In general, undercooked fish isn't an issue, but here the meat wouldn't come off the bones. Another 10 minutes (probably the equivalent of 5 if we had done it before serving) was enough, and it didn't taste bad.

But it's still just a beginning, leaving us with a number of issues:

So for the time being, I don't even have a recipe page. But I'll return to this.


Wednesday, 3 October 2018 Dereel Images for 3 October 2018
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More cooktops
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

I'm still looking for gas cooktops, and gradually I've come to the conclusion that the Smeg SARV532X3 is the best choice. But Appliances Online no longer list it. Chatting to one of their web people, I was told that it was discontinued, and that I should buy the 3 times more expensive and weaker Smeg PGA23G. Grr!

But there are other alternatives. On eBay I found an Elfa BLGSW30CF, interesting because it's the only one I have found with the wok burner in front. But that has its issues, as this review shows:

... the large gas ring is next to the handles. If you put a fry pan or saucepan on the ring, the handles become so hot you cannot touch them without a towel. When using the large ring for a lengthy time the handles will smoke and then erupt into flames. I believe the manufacturer has a fault in their design. The small ring should be near the handles or the handles made to be further away. Be careful when purchasing this item, it could burn your kitchen down!

Maybe that's why the burners are at the back. Burn the wall, not the knobs. Of course, there are alternative solutions, but clearly this cooktop is out of the question.

But then there are single burner cooktops with the burner oriented like on our current cooktop. Are they a better idea? I'm reluctant to choose one.


The Merdeka Interviews
Topic: history, general, opinion Link here

Unexpected item in the post today. I had already puzzled over the notification slip, showing only my name (and thus not an eBay item, which get sent to both Yvonne and me) and with a tracking number ending in MY, meaning Malaysia.

It proved to be a copy of “The Merdeka Interviews”, by Lai Chee Kien and Ang Chee Cheong, along with a thank-you from Chee Kien: it included a couple of photos of my father taken on 27 July 1965:


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The background: the book is a summary of a number of interviews (as the title suggests) about architecture in Malaysia in the 1960s (which has nothing to do with the title). The interviews were started a couple of years after my father's death, and the only people whose names I recognize were Ivor Shipley and Dudley Pritchard (who, it occurs to me, could be related to this idiot Llewellyn Pritchard who wrote an incompetent report on the problems in our house earlier this year).

There's thus not much mention of my father—I haven't even found a reference to his work at FLDA, though the photos were taken from a page which also included perspective drawings of a number of FLDA houses. And Dudley Pritchard, who talked about Dad, was inaccurate enough in his dating that it should have occurred to Lai and Ang: he claimed that he was still at the Technical College when the photos above were taken; in fact he had been working on the FLDA project for a couple of years.

Still, it's a nice-looking book, and I haven't read much of its 688 pages, and the reviews look positive. But it brings back to me again how long ago it all was—the book arrived almost exactly on time for my 70th birthday, and when I took those photos I was 17 years old.


Thursday, 4 October 2018 Dereel Images for 4 October 2018
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Iran 1, USA 0
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

With some satisfaction I heard of yesterday's ICJ judgement on the US sanctions on Iran: parts of them were declared unlawful.

Yes, it's more a symbolic ruling: the USA will ignore it, and it has given them cause to tear up the Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights that they made in 1955 and had clearly forgotten about. But from a moral standpoint, once again the USA is not living up to its own standards as an upright defender of international law.

When will this change? How will this change?


Bosch induction cooker again
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

My failure with the Bosch PIJ611BB1E induction cooktop last week rather discouraged me, and it wasn't until today that I connected it up correctly, in the process marvelling at the complicated cable clamp, which requires tools to disengage.

Connect it to the power. No problems. How do you turn it on? Clearly you press on the catch me if you can button. Did that. Dammit, no reaction. OK, RTFM:

To switch on: touch the catch me if you can symbol. An audible signal sounds.

Dammit, what's wrong? A bit of investigation shows: the documentation. You need to press the area for at least 1 second before it will deign to do anything.

That's not the only fault in the documentation. It has two different + symbols with different meanings:

 
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The first is on a schematic layout in the upper part of this image, the second below:

 
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The 7 segment “8”s aren't actually there on the unit itself; it's just symbolic.

Have problems with the unit? There's a page devoted to that with convenient explanations and references:


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That missing reference is also missing in the thoughtfully included instructions in French.

The real issue, though, is that there's no easy way to turn off a field (“hotplate”). You need to hold down the - symbol to count down to 0, and 1 second per half unit. So to turn off a plate set at 9 (the maximum) takes 18 seconds!. It seems that it makes more sense simply to remove the pan and wait until the unit decides for itself to turn off.

Somehow this is incredibly short-sighted. It should be enough to press on the + symbol (the bigger one). That's what you use to turn the field on, but you can't use it to turn it off again. And a selection of all the numbers along the front of the unit would be so easy to implement—even the el cheapo ALDI unit has that. What are the designers thinking? Or is it product management?

In passing, it's interesting to note the regular expression used to describe the models to which these instructions claim to refer:

 
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What are the German instructions like? Hard to say. After fighting my way through no less than 10 pages on http://www.bosch-home.de/, I couldn't find this model. I did find other interesting information, though: their price range is from 937 € to 4060 €, far above what I paid for mine (the equivalent of 647 €), and they seem to be moving towards a uniform heating surface rather than individual “hot plates”.

The closest model I could find to mine was the NUE645CB2E, also the cheapest at 937 €. The instructions are similar, including the missing reference, but there's a reference to an otherwise undocumented knob:

 
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Where is that knob? There's nothing shown on any of the other illustrations, only the + and - fields, which are not documented here. It looks like the left hand, right hand syndrome. The documentation also says that you can turn off a field by pressing on the big + symbol, as I had suggested. But can I believe it?


Friday, 5 October 2018 Dereel Images for 5 October 2018
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Bosch induction cooker: first use
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

So finally I can use the Bosch PIJ611BB1E induction cooktop, for cooking breakfast. The first surprise (which I discovered yesterday): it's quiet. Maybe it was that or something else, but I got the impression that it didn't heat as much as the old ALDI cooktop. The field I used is rated at 2200 W, compared to 1800 W for the ALDI. But it's 22.5 cm in diameter, compared to 18 cm for the ALDI, so the power is only 5.5 W/cm², compared to 7.1 W/cm² for the ALDI. Does that make a difference when you're heating the same utensil?

Another reason might be that the ALDI cooktop has too many settings at the top end of the scale and not enough at the bottom end: 300, 600, 900, 1200, 1400, 1600, 1800 and (“boost”) 2100 W, and I find that 1200 and 1600 are of no use at all: start cooking at 1800 W, then turn down to 900 W. By comparison, on the Bosch I started at level 9 (they're too polite to mention nasty things like Watts) and continued at 7 or 8. Still, the good news is that it works.


More US haters
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Statista has more negative information about the status of the USA in the world:

None of this surprises me. What does surprise me is how many people in the USA are so blind to what is happening to their country.


An Echium!
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

In Kleins Road we had many Echiums, including an Echium candicans and an annual Echium pininana (last two images):


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They're hardy in the extreme, and the Echium pininana sows so many seeds that you could consider it a weed, and we decided to remove it from the garden. But since arriving in Stones Road, now nearly 3½ years ago, our cuttings of the Echium candicans have done nothing useful.

Until today:


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Saturday, 6 October 2018 Dereel Images for 6 October 2018
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More induction cooking issues
Topic: food and drink Link here

Decided to make a laksa for breakfast today. That's straightforward: mix the pre-packaged paste with water, bring to the boil, add fish.

But the cooktop (the new Bosch PIJ611BB1E) didn't want to talk to the enameled steel pot! Dammit, what's wrong there? Tried another pot, and that didn't work either. Both work on the old ALDI induction cooker, so completed breakfast on that.

What's wrong? Is this Bosch cooktop so fussy that it won't take normal enameled iron? That's not what they claim, and it makes no sense. After breakfast grabbed an assortment of pots to try out. They all worked, including the ones I had had trouble with before. What's the issue? The best I can guess is that I misplaced the pots on the cooktop. To be observed.


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

ALDI have an interesting item in their weekly “specials”: a Nokia 3 “smart” phone (a term I've decided not to use where I can avoid it) for only $129. That's by far the cheapest phone I've seen from a brand name supplier, and since it's ALDI, I asked Yvonne to pick one up when she was there this morning. In the course of discussion we decided to make it two, in case Yvonne wanted one too.

In the meantime, did some investigation and discovered that it was on offer at Woolworths in Sebastopol—just across the road—for $90 (or, as they put it, $89.99). That's amazing, since ALDI is usually almost invariably the cheapest. But clearly it's a clearance item (after all, it is last year's model, released 15 months ago), and elsewhere it's going for only a little under $200.

Which should I take? $40 is $39.01, but if I don't like it, I can't take it back. Did some thinking until Yvonne called and told me that I had read the wrong “specials” newsletter: it's not until next week. She wasn't going to Woolworths, so that was that, at least for today.

The question is, of course, do I need a new phone? The biggest issue I have with my current Samsung I9100 is that the battery consumption is so high. And as Peter Jeremy commented on IRC:

<peter> grO0gle: Why do you want a new mobile phone?  You only ever whinge about them.

But even a new battery for the old phone would cost me about $12, and potentially the new one wouldn't be as irritating. We have a week to think about it.


Focus stacked wildflowers
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

About a year ago I did a lot of playing around with focus stacking, which I intended to use for wildflowers. Today while walking the dogs, saw lots of new wildflowers. And there was almost no wind—ideal conditions for focus stacking photos.

But it's so difficult! Well, not so much difficult as fiddly. I had to force myself to go out and do some photos, and even then I didn't bother about the viewfinder. Took something like 300 images, including down Misery Creek Road, leaving me wondering whether I should keep all the originals or not.

This stuff is really fiddly. How many images do you take? How do you set initial and final focus? I'm no further ahead now than I was this time last year. The camera could really offer better help for this sort of thing.

And the results? Mañana. It's a lot of work.


More flash pain
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

We're having a number of guests on Monday, and we're planning to serve Gazpacho andaluz and Paella valenciana. Today Yvonne started with the gazpacho, and I tried to take photos:


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What went wrong there? It had to be at a time where Yvonne really wanted to continue her work, of course. I tried a total of 15 images, and none of them were what I normally get without trying.

I have two studio flash units in lounge room and kitchen (Australian houses are too polite to have a separate kitchen). The unit in the lounge has a wireless trigger, and the one in the kitchen is triggered optically by the one in the lounge room, because I can't get at the wall switch, and any trigger would be under power all the time. Was it not firing? No, I distinctly saw the flash when I pressed the test button.

Much messing around and cursing. Finally I gave up and got my mecablitz 58 AF-2 on-camera flash:


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Why is it still underexposed? Somehow I never have good results with on-camera flash. What am I doing wrong?

More investigation showed that my slave studio flash wasn't firing after all: the flash that I saw was the reflection of the other flash unit. It seems that the bright conditions in the lounge room prevented the flash from triggering. I'll need to look at how to put a wireless trigger in there after all. But I still have no idea why the TTL exposure on the mecablitz produced such terrible results.


La cuisine de mère Paulette
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Yvonne made a “tagine aux petits pois” for dinner tonight:


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That's a dish she learnt from her first mother-in-law, Paulette Binos de Pombarat. The recipe is here. It tasted OK, but more Southern French than North African. I think our tastes have moved on in the last 40 years.


Sunday, 7 October 2018 Dereel Images for 7 October 2018
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Summer time!
Topic: general Link here

Daylight saving time began today, and with it the usual resetting of countless timepieces. Well, not countless: there were 14 of them, including 4 cameras, the oven and one of the microwave ovens. All of the above are a pain. The Olympus E-PM1 and E-PM2 don't have a way to set seconds, and the most accurate way to set the OM-D E-M1 OM-D E-M1 Mark II is with Olympus' appalling OI.Share app. I managed it in about 2 minutes with the E-M1, but for some reason it didn't want to communicate with the E-M1 Mark II, and just pretended it wasn't there. In the end I had to set it manually.

The kitchen devices are also strange. I have two microwave ovens, but I can't find any way at all to set one, and the other needs to be set digit for digit. I also can't find any sensible way to set the oven: either there is none, or it's so well hidden that I couldn't find it. Instead I had to power cycle the device.

And ten minutes after I was done, we had a power failure! Kitchen devices all over again.


Become a Frenchman?
Topic: general, opinion Link here

When I got married to Yvonne, who is French, I was entitled to French citizenship as a result. I considered it and discovered that it would mean renouncing my Australian citizenship, so I decided not to. The key thing was that I had to apply for citizenship; at some previous time it had been conferred automatically, which would have allowed me to keep my Australian citizenship.

Recently there was some discussion about dual citizenship on Quora, and I responded accordingly. And then I discovered that the law has changed, and I would now be allowed to take on French citizenship without losing my Australian citizenship.

Of course, who knows if it's still open to me? But on reflection, I can't see any good reason to take it on now. 33 years ago I was travelling a lot, and it could have been useful, but I don't see much use any more.


New Android phone
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Yvonne had to go into town today to pick up some food that she had forgotten. Time to pick up a couple of the Nokia 3 phones that I had been thinking about yesterday? Nope, the special offer was over. But she asked anyway, and how about that, there were exactly two left, and she got them for $90 each.

Back home, the usual fun trying to set the thing up. Battery was discharged, of course, and when I connected it to the charger, nothing happened. But that was one of the amazingly few things they documented. The entire instructions are on a single sheet of paper (the safety instructions are much longer). Even the link to the real instructions is generic: www.nokia.com/phones. But it does say

If the battery is completely discharged, it may take several minutes before the charging indicator is displayed.

In fact, it didn't display at all. I had to press the “On” button briefly to see a display indicator. After a couple of hours it was round 36%, so I tried things out.

One positive thing is that the phone is that it is designed for 2 SIMs. But how? Yes, there's space for two, but only a cutout for the first one:


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No worry; first I need to get the first one working. Put it in according to the instructions, and fired up:


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What does that mean? And where do I get it? After some consideration, it was clear that the phone is locked to Vodafone. Is that even an option here?


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What a puzzling map. A number of the details seem just plain wrong. But the clear answer (on the left) is “Currently no voice coverage”. So Vodafone isn't an option.

But phones aren't locked any more, right? I've unlocked phones before, and there wasn't much of an issue. Went looking and finally came up with this page, which tells me:

If you purchased your device after 1 August 2013, it won't be network locked.

Ah, but there were strings attached to that. That's for “on a plan”. Select the “On prepaid” and I get:

If you purchased your device outright to use with a prepaid service, there'll be a fee to unlock it from the Vodafone network.

If you’ve had your device for less than 6 months there’s a $50 unlocking fee.

If you’ve had your device for over 6 months there’s a $25 unlocking fee.

Damn! Is that still allowed? And where does it say on the box that it's locked?


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Ah, the fine print at the bottom on the back:


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Sorry, Vodafone, this is unacceptable. They go to the trouble to make it clear that there's no micro SD card, but they don't say that it's locked, at least not directly, and the indirect reference is hidden in small print and unrelated text (“with ... a 4G device”; don't they know whether this device can do 4G or not?). Theoretically I could have bought this thing for $5 less than an unlocked one and then lost the option to buy the unlocked one. And the unlocked ones are really only $40 more expensive.

OK, pull the card and try to use the other features. Pain! I suppose people in the Microsoft space are used to the user interface changing with every release, but I really wasn't able to work out how to use this one. It has voice input, so I asked it “OK, Google, how do I navigate this abortion?”. The result was about as good as I would have expected, useless: “Abortion services in Victoria - Better Health Channel”.

How do people in the Real World learn to use these devices? My bet is that they find a friend who knows what to do. And probably a not insubstantial proportion of new users never find out how to use the things.

So do I keep it or not? One way or another my old phone is old, and I'll have to put up with these continually changing interfaces. As Peter Jeremy implied, at least I have something to whinge about.


Monday, 8 October 2018 Dereel Images for 8 October 2018
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Focus stacked flowers
Topic: photography, gardening, opinion Link here

We have a number of pretty spring flowers this year, including these tulips with the serrated flowers:


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OK, more fun with focus stacking. This time I wanted to use flash, which has its own issues. The saved configuration for my Olympus E-M1 Mark II was for aperture priority, and for studio flash I want manual control. How do I set that?

After some reading, I don't think that you can. Normally you set the exposure measuring mode to P (“program”), A (aperture priority), S (shutter priority) or M (fully manual) with the mode dial:


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For studio flash I need M, since there's no feedback between flash and camera. But as set (C3, custom settings), I can no longer set that, and it seems that the people who designed the menus hadn't thought of that. Instead you need to restore the custom settings to one of P, A, S or M, which rather defeats the purpose of the dial position. And at the end you need to wipe it again. That could do with improvement.

And the exposure? The first attempt looked overexposed in the viewfinder, and I turned the exposure down a bit. But that was misleading; the first one looked best after processing. Here first and last (run the cursor over an image to compare it with its neighbour):


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News of my demise?
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

Last month Tony Northrup Tony Northrup claimed that the Micro Four Thirds system won't survive what he calls the “Mirrorless WARS”. Is he right? Time will tell. My personal feeling is that smaller cameras, and in particular smaller lenses, are the way to go. But certainly the recent spate of new releases of full-frame mirrorless cameras goes against that feeling. One of the new releases is the Panasonic Lumix S1R. What does that say about Panasonic's commitment to υFT?

Not enough, it seems. Panasonic did announce a very interesting new μFT lens, the 10-25 mm f/1.7, at Photokina, and now they have issued a statement:

Round 3:00 into the clip, they say

We'll never give up on micro Four Thirds. ... 30% of the market is full frame, and 70% is smaller sensors, for example micro Four Thirds.

So they're covering their bases. That makes sense, I suppose. Certainly it will be a long time before anybody comes out with a 20-50 mm f/1.7 zoom for full frame.


More herbs
Topic: gardening Link here

The Basil that Yvonne bought a while back has not been a success:


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But what's that at the extreme left, between garlic chives and dill?


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Another basil plant, the sole survivor of some seeds that I planted in mid-winter. It has grown while the other one died. OK, now that it's warm (today we hit 27.5°) I planted some more, along with some chives.


Skill at arms team for dinner
Topic: food and drink, general, photography Link here

This week there's a skill at arms workshop for mediaeval reenactors at Kryal Castle, and Chris Bahlo has a visitor from New Zealand who is participating, so we had put off our normal Saturday dinner until tonight. He's called Ed, surname so far unknown, and he has a PhD, apparently, as he says, so that people can call him Dr. Ed rather than Mr. Ed. Also Margaret Swan (I could almost say "as usual") and Amber Fitzpatrick, who lives a little far away (other side of Ballarat) to be a usual.

Had a Gazpacho andaluz and Paella valenciana, the started on the new Bosch PIJ611BB1E induction cooktop rather than the wok burner. The results? Excellent! About the only issue is that there's no heat setting between 2.2 kW and 3.7 kW; the latter was too hot, a far cry from gas.

Dinner was the usual fun, even if Amber had reservations:


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And Yvonne took care not to overload my plate:


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And while after dinner Margaret, Ed and Chris had a comfortable sofa, complete with footstool, Amber had to share her place with Nikolai:


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And once again I had issues with flash lighting:


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I think that the single flash in the dining room is good as long as there are just a few of us, but for 6 of us I need a second flash for more even lighting.

Things are similar in the lounge room. Am I just getting more fussy? Here we are without and with the second flash on the fridge to the right of the photo, pointing into the kitchen space:


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Tuesday, 9 October 2018 Dereel Images for 9 October 2018
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Have I been pwned?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

I have my own approach to Internet security: keep important things exclusively behind a firewall, use separate email addresses and passwords for every site with which I am involved, don't use mobile phones for anything security-related, A recent discussion on IRC suggested that I go to http://www.haveibeenpwned.net/ to see if I had been compromised.

Yes! 10 of my 466 email addresses were “pwned”. Or were they?

Email       Pwned sites
greg@lemis.com       River City Media Spam List
groggyhimself@lemis.com       Onliner Spambot
lddwwey@lemis.com       Gaadi
may-paula@lemis.com       Adobe
rog@lemis.com       River City Media Spam List

These addresses have one thing in common: they don't exist. In particular, groggyhimself@lemis.com is a honeypot email address that I use in this diary to represent myself. If I could be bothered, I'd collect a list of sites that try to contact it. greg@ is an obvious but incorrect email address, and rog@ is clearly a cut-and-paste-o. I have no idea where the other two came from.

So: how much danger emanates from this? Clearly this doesn't mean that they have my passwords, and in fact none of the other addresses have a password associated with them. Interestingly, my Facebook user has not been pwned.


Skill at arms: first casualty
Topic: general, opinion Link here

Sad news today: Margaret Swan, who was here for dinner last night, suffered a fall from her horse during the skill at arms training today, and is now in hospital with a dislocated shoulder and a broken arm. Apparently she has had an operation, which makes her condition even worse than Yvonne's in January. Details are scanty—Chris Bahlo, who reported it, is too busy for details, and nowadays people “text” and don't make phone calls—and I don't know whether it's appropriate to call Margaret directly.


Begone foul TIFF
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

For the past 6 months or so I have been using TIFF as the intermediate format for my composite photos (panoramas, HDR, focus stacking). They're big, typically round 120 MB per image, and for a single HDR panorama I typically need 12 of them. On Saturday alone my photos added up to 23 GB.

Do I really need all this stuff? No, I can recreate it relatively quickly from the base photos. So today I deleted all the TIFF intermediate files from March to September. That was worthwhile. Here before and after:

Filesystem  1048576-blocks      Used     Avail Capacity  Mounted on
/dev/ada2p1      7,629,565 5,077,266 2,476,003    67%    /Photos
/dev/ada2p1      7,629,565 4,762,431 2,790,837    63%    /Photos

A good 300 GB! That's more than double all the photos I had 10 years or so ago. It's not that long ago that that was a serious amount of storage.


Wednesday, 10 October 2018 Dereel Images for 10 October 2018
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Indian food and ceramic knives?
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

ALDI had a number of specials today, including various Indian food, sadly much of it from Pataks (a name that I always interpret as the Malay word meaning “snapped, broken” in English), the British Indian food company. I have decided to avoid any “Indian” food that contains cream: it seems that the vast majority of Indians is lactose intolerant, so cream is Just Plain Wrong.

But I asked her to bring a lot of stuff back anyway, including, accidentally, such horrible ideas as this:


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Why do people buy this stuff? ALDI isn't expensive, but even so it costs about 10 times the price of raw rice, and I shudder to think what it tastes like. But the good thing is that we can take it back, no questions asked.

And then she brought back some ceramic knives. We've tried them in the past and found them wanting, but hope springs eternal. And how about that, this time they seem to be good. It remains to be seen whether they stay that way (as they claim), but we'll see. About the only thing that will take some getting used to is the colour (top knife).


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Somehow it looks dirty, but we'll presumably get used to it.


Induction boost
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Cooked noodles for dinner today. Nothing unusual, but first you need to get the water to a boil. So far that has clearly been the electric kettle (2 kW). But the Bosch PIJ611BB1E induction cooktop has a “Boost” rating of 3.7 kW. Tried that today (briefly but significantly overloading the 10 A plug, whose temperature rose to 25°), and it's really impressive, almost frightening. It's really a pity they don't have anything between 2.2 kW and 3.7 kW.


Thursday, 11 October 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 11 October 2018
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Dentist again
Topic: health Link here

Off to Ballarat this afternoon for my six-monthly checkup. This time he found something: a “hole”, he says. Will need a filling. Nothing serious, but irritating, because he couldn't do it today, and I'll have to come back next week.


More fertilizer
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

I bought 10 kg of fertilizer the last time I was in Ballarat, and at the time I noted that they had “Rose & Citrus Fertiliser” with two different compositions (under the heading):


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The 10 kg didn't last nearly enough, so today I bought another 15 kg. This time they didn't have those two, just normal fertilizer and “Rose & Citrus Fertiliser”—with the same composition, 9-1-7-12 (N-P-K-S)!


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Is there any difference? I couldn't see any. They're the same price, so I bought one of each; possibly the granules look different.


New Nokia 3 phone camera
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I took the photos of the fertilizer with my new Nokia 3 phone, as well as with the old Samsung GT-I9100T for comparison, completely forgetting the Olympus E-PM1 in my handbag. At first sight there's not much difference:


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That's the Nokia first, then the Samsung. Both have the same resolution (something that I hadn't noticed previously). About the only obvious difference was that the Nokia didn't (in general) focus as closely. It's not yet clear whether that was my fault or the phone's. And the new one is like my old Nikon Coolpix 880 in that it chooses “shutter” speeds and ISO apparently out of a continuous scale. For example the image above was taken at 1/33 s and ISO 24.7°/237. It's also interesting because it claims EV 7.0, while the Samsung, with exactly the same lighting, claims EV 8.6. It does look marginally darker, but not 1.6 EV darker.

And the image quality? Based on those two photos, the Samsung is better. But that's not exactly a rigorous test. And after all, they're only phones.


Returning the Nokia 3
Topic: general, technology, opinion Link here

Stopped in at Woolworths in Sebastopol on the way home to return one of the Nokia 3s that Yvonne bought on Sunday. Too hard for the (surprisingly busy) person at the info desk, so she called a manager, Alex, who told me that they couldn't take it back for reasons unspecified. I pointed out that it was clearly still shrink-wrapped, and that it had been sold under false pretences. Oh, they only sell locked phones, and the salesperson should have told Yvonne that it's locked.

Wrong answer. It should have been made clear on the packaging. I pointed out that the packaging warned that the microSD card was not included; why not the fact that it was locked? Puzzled look. Finally he called Scott, the second-level manager, who agreed to take it back with no further issues. But he wasn't prepared to unlock the other phone, though he would have taken it back. He did read the fine print, and found the “unlocking charge may apply” (my italics) stuck between “Offer not exchangeable or redeemable for cash” and “All offers subject to change”:


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That's clearly not the right place for such an important detail about the phone, and it should have made clear “This phone is locked to the Vodafone network. Unlocking fees will apply to allow other networks”. I think he secretly agreed, though clearly he wasn't allowed to say so. He wasn't prepared to get the phone unlocked—not that I expected him to, but I had to ask. So do I now go to Consumer Affairs Victoria, or do I just wait 6 months and have it unlocked for $25?


Wildflowers?
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

On the way home, saw some flowers growing on the side of the Ballarat-Colac road:


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What are they?

To make up for that, went down Misery Creek Road and found absolutely nothing. That's a far cry from last spring.


Friday, 12 October 2018 Dereel Images for 12 October 2018
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More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along this morning to look at the garden. It took him 6 hours, only cutting grass and spraying weeds. And he's only half done. That's not his fault: it really takes that long.


Margaret out of hospital
Topic: general Link here

Yvonne into town today to pick Margaret Swan up from hospital. Given the breakages she's been through, she doesn't look too bad, but it looks like it will be quite some time before she is back to normal again.


Knife colours
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

While in town yesterday, I picked up a couple more ceramic knives at ALDI. The last ones had red handles, so I chose green for the new ones. It wasn't until I got home that I discovered something else. A couple of days ago I had commented on the dirty colour of the blades on the ceramic knives. But that's not a bug, it's a feature. The green ones have white blades:


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Where's my named config?
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

The new Android phone has a presence on my local net, of course, so it needs a name. Yes, I know most Android users are too polite for such things, but I'm not most Android users. What shall I call it? My first Android device was a tablet, so I called it flachmann. Then the Samsung GT-I9100T got the name talipon. What should I call this one? It's Finnish, so it should be a Finnish name, which really eliminates teflon. How about translating flachmann? taskumatti it is.

Time to update the DNS configuration. Where is it? It used to be in /etc/named/db.lemis.com, but since then it has moved a couple of times, to /var/named/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com and then to /usr/local/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com. But this is on eureka, which has a horribly out of date system. Where is it?

Guessed at /etc/namedb/ and updated. Damn. The changes didn't stick. Where else could it be?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 105 -> locate db.lemis.com | grep lemis.com$
/home/var/named/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com
/usr/local/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com
/var/named/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com

Yes, as expected. What's my current SOA?

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 107 -> nslookup -q=soa lemis.com
Server:         192.109.197.137
Address:        192.109.197.137#53

lemis.com
        origin = ns1.lemis.com
        mail addr = grog.lemis.com
        serial = 2017121201
        refresh = 1800
        retry = 3600
        expire = 864000
        minimum = 7200
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 108 -> locate db.lemis.com | grep lemis.com$ | xargs ls -lrt
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel  11063 25 Sep  2015 /home/var/named/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com
-r--r--r--  1 root  wheel  10081 25 Nov  2015 /usr/local/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com
-rw-r--r--  1 root  wheel   6940 12 Oct 11:31 /var/named/etc/namedb/db.lemis.com

Huh? The SOA has the implied format YYYYMMDDnn (years, month, day, serial number per day), so this SOA refers to changes that I made on 12 December 2017. But none of the files have a modification date anywhere close to that. OK, grep for it:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 109 -> locate db.lemis.com | grep lemis.com$ | xargs grep 201712
=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/7) ~ 110 ->

None of them! Where is it? What did named say on restart?

Oct 12 11:31:26 eureka named[1848]: all zones loaded
Oct 12 11:31:26 eureka named[1848]: running

Now isn't that helpful? At the very least it could say where it looked for its named.conf.

I know that if your config file contains a lower serial number than the current one, named ignores it. Without saying so? No, I'm pretty sure that it does.

It took a while to find it: a typo, making the serial number one character longer:

=== root@eureka (/dev/pts/3) ~ 127 -> rcsdiff -wu /etc/namedb/db.lemis.com
--- /etc/namedb/db.lemis.com    2017/12/12 01:40:31     1.155
+++ /etc/namedb/db.lemis.com    2018/10/12 00:31:06
@@ -6,7 +6,7 @@
 $TTL 15m

 @                      IN SOA  ns1 grog  (
-                               2017121201
+                               20181011201

That wasn't what I wanted, but should have worked, in principle. After fixing the typo, it worked. Was this arithmetic overflow?


Unexpected communication
Topic: general Link here

Interesting looking envelope in the mail today:


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Br.? What's that? But the letter itself was even more interesting:


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Yvonne thought that that might have had something to do with the visit of the Jehovah's witnesses at the beginning of the month. But no, the Latter Day Saints are a different group, better known as the Mormons.

I've had contact with them in the past. Wes Peters, of the FreeBSD, is a Mormon, and I spent a weekend with him in South Jordan, Utah (a suburb of Salt Lake City) about 19 years ago, including attending a 3 hour celebration on the Sunday morning. But since then there has been nothing. I didn't know they had any (clearly inaccurate) records about me, let alone ask them to remove them. I'm puzzled. Where did this come from? Yes, I could ask them, but I'm not that interested.


Unlocking the Nokia 3
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Suggestion from Jamie Fraser today: buy an unlock code for my Nokia 3 on eBay. Interesting idea, and sure enough, there are two different offers under $20. That still makes it cheaper than ALDI's $129 offer that comes up tomorrow. Clearly worth a try.


Saturday, 13 October 2018 Dereel → Sebastopol → Dereel Images for 13 October 2018
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New kitchen toys
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

In to Sebastopol before breakfast this morning to get some of ALDI's special offers: a microwave oven (“microwave” in the newspeak of non-technical people) with convection and grill function, and a “digital air fryer”, not a device for frying digital air, but a deep fryer that tries to ignore the laws of thermodynamics and heat food without supplying adequate thermal mass to do the job.

Clearly I'm not convinced of either. But that's exactly the reason I bought them from ALDI: I can bring them back, even if I decide that the idea is good but the implementation is dubious.

That definitely seems to be the case with the “microwave”. I can't work out how to control it. I've never seen a microwave oven control panel quite like it. Here the two we have at the moment (the second one also from ALDI), and then the new one:


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On the positive side, it's the first microwave oven I've had in a long time that has a 24 hour clock, and the idea of the rotating knob for setting the time is not bad either, unfortunately marred by a lack of exact choice in the time. But i can't recognize anything on the panel! In general the photos I take show things much more clearly than you can see with the naked eye, but in this case the camera had difficulty too.

Coming closer I get a tasteful reflection of myself and some barely recognizable icons. Clearly the device is designed for illiterates:


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Browsing through the “instructions” suggests that I don't have much choice in the combinations of heat, but that could just be that they're not very well laid out. We'll be reheating pizza in a day or two, and that sounds like a good task for trying out the combined heating.

Other thoughts about the microwave oven: the dot matrix display looks long overdue on modern equipment, but it's on all the time, and it's quite bright. It's also considerably smaller than the old oven that it could potentially replace. And we'll have to see whether modern low-end microwave ovens now also have continually variable heat output (“inverter”, to use Panasonic's terminology).

I haven't unpacked the “air fryer” yet. I'll wait until we have some application for it.


A use for smart watches
Topic: politics, technology, opinion Link here

The affair about Jamal Khashoggi (another of these unpronounceable names, like Mnangagwa. It seems that Khasohggi should really be called Khashoqji, based in the name جمال خاشقجي‎) is fascinating for many reasons. None of them is the fact that today was his 60th birthday.

Firstly, it tends to confirm my negative opinion of Saudi Arabia, who have been making life hell for their neighbours—the war against Yemen, with hundreds of thousands of casualties (over 50,000 children have died of starvation due to Saudi blockades), and trying to bully Qatar into doing what the Saudis want, including shutting down the Al Jazeera network, and their continued attacks on Iran. All this, like the atrocities committed by Israel, can only happen because of tacit support by the USA.

Then there's the world reaction. Despite the horrendous death toll in Yemen, the world became most horrified by the death of a “mere” 40 children in a school bus on 9 August 2018—so much so that I didn't discover until I checked that 11 adults died too. Yes, that's sad, but compared to the others it's a drop in the ocean.

And now one man has reportedly been killed, on Saudi territory. And the world is up in arms! Of course it's horrifying. But what is there about this one suspected death that is so much worse than the hundreds of thousands of other casualties? But if it makes people sit up and finally do something about it, all the better.

Then there's the piecemeal reporting by the Turks, themselves not known for great respect of human rights. Almost every day there's some new detail, starting the day after his disappearance on 2 October. Had they bugged the Saudi Embassy? Possibly. Certainly they have surveillance cameras outside (on Turkish territory, and thus legal), and they've shown footage showing Khashoqji entering the embassy. But clearly if they have bugged the embassy, they have clear audio evidence of what happened, and also no way of presenting it without incriminating themselves. Thus the piecemeal revelations?

But today we found out: Khashoqji was wearing a smart watch with audio logging to his mobile phone. He wasn't allowed to take the phone into the embassy with him, so he left it outside with his fiancée, logging what went on inside.

Finally a use for a smart watch! And also a game changer for people being interviewed. In the past it was the phone that did the recording, and thus at least one of the reasons that the phone was not allowed into the embassy. But now watches also count. And when they're prohibited, what will come next? Time to accept, as I have done, that in this networked age we no longer have any privacy.


Sunday, 14 October 2018 Dereel Images for 14 October 2018
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More Android fun
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Received the unlock code for my Nokia 3 phone today, much earlier than expected. 16 characters! And I have to type it in via this appalling touch screen interface. What happens if I get it wrong? Clearly something to check very carefully before submitting.

OK, typed it, and there it was: ****************. It's too polite to display it! Checked again, watching every digit as it popped up briefly before being obliterated. Must be right. Yes, it was. But what kind of nonsense is that to hide the input? I can't think of any situation in which people aren't reading the code from some other surface to type it in.

And is it really unlocked? I was able to make a call with it, and shortly later, by chance, I received my first ever spam call on a mobile phone: a survey about my (non-existent) gambling habits.

OK, that wasn't that bad, considering. A brand new, relatively modern Android phone for only $103.49, including unlocking. That's considerably better than the $129 that ALDI wanted this weekend for the same model.

Next put in the microSD card. Detected! Do you want to format it as device storage? Yes, maybe that will make it more useful than it was in the old phone. OK, off it goes. 20% formatted...

10 minutes later it was still 20% formatted. What went wrong there? Checked the storage configuration, and there it was, apparently mounted and using 1 GB for the system (how does it manage to use that much space?). It had been too polite to tell me that it was finished.

Next, sync phone numbers. In the Good Old Days this was a null operation: the numbers were stored in the SIM card. But now there's all this sync stuff. How do I do it? People tell me that it's automatic, but I had nothing.

OK, go search, and come up with this video, showing me Android phones with interfaces completely different from my old one. That's understandable, given its age. But they're also different from the new one. Clearly Android has been through at least 3 different appearances and menu layouts.

Found the “sync” settings, which of course were turned off—GMail insists on copying all my mail to my phone—and turned it on, ran sync. It hung. Aborted, checked and found that there were many kinds of data to sync. And it told me that my Contacts list had been synced.

OK, back to the video. Next, go to my GMail at top left and select Contacts. Not there. Much searching and second-guessing, and finally found it behind a miniature noughts-and-crosses box at top right. Contacts were empty.

Much more messing around, and discovered that I could enter contact details on my computer, and that they would be synced to my phones—maybe. After entering four, the first three (Yvonne, Home and a misspelt Petra Gietz) disappeared, leaving me with this:

 
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Where did the first two go? Still more messing around, including checking on a different browser. Now you see me, now you don't. Here's what I had, alternately on two different browsers on eureka, in order of increasing time:

 
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What the hell is going on? Still more searching and discovered that this is a sync issue. Add a contact and that's all that gets changed. Reload the page and all contacts are displayed. And this in 2018!

In passing, why “Petraz Gietz”? This horrible glass keyboard! That, too, I was able to fix easily after getting a sane interface.

And where are the phone numbers that I had in my old phone? Ah, they're not Contacts, they're Favorites [sic]. How do you sync them? This is a Samsung phone, and they're not telling. What a pain this Android stuff is!

The good news is that I can now enter my Contacts on a web browser and have them show up on my phone. About the only positive thing I've seen.


HDR photos revisited
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

The new Nokia 3 phone has a feature called HDR. How good is it? Time to do a comparison of the various methods available to me for better dynamic range. In fact, there are a surprising number. In rough order of increasing usability, I have:

  1. The old Samsung GT-I9100T, which I suspect to be the worst.
  2. The Nokia 3 in normal mode.
  3. The Nokia 3 in “HDR” mode.
  4. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  5. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  6. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR1” mode, the raw image and DxO PhotoLab. I'm pretty sure that this is only one of the images that go to make up the composite JPEG HDR image.
  7. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR1” mode, JPEG image.
  8. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR2” mode, the raw image and DxO PhotoLab.
  9. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in “HDR2” mode, JPEG image.
  10. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II in normal mode, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab.
  11. My Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with a 3 exposure bracket at 3 EV intervals, with raw images and DxO PhotoLab and Photomatix.

And the results? Difficult to compare. Taking the first four, I have:


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There are two main things to look at here: the outside view and the bottom right-hand corner. In the Samsung image, both are unrecognnizable. They're barely any better in the Nokia normal image, but the “HDR” does improve things a little. But even then it's nothing like a standard image out of the Olympus. The bottom left-hand corner is also of interest, though the narrower angle of view of the Samsung makes it difficult to compare.

For completeness' sake, here are the other Olympus attempts. First, “HDR1” (first) compared to DxO:


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Then the same with “HDR2”:


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And finally the 3 image bracket:


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Once again my opinions are confirmed: the in-camera “HDR” functionality is no better than enhancing a single shot. And only the last shot shows both the flowers on the Carpobrotus outside the window and also the striped cushion at bottom right. But the “HDR” mode on the Nokia does show an improvement, though from a pretty poor base.


Snow peas and tomatoes
Topic: gardening Link here

Petra Gietz brought me some snow pea seedlings yesterday, 8 of them in a punnet. It's too early to plant them outside, so once again I put them in pots:


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The tomatoes that I planted three weeks ago are growing furiously. Here three weeks ago, then today:


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The word is that we should plant them after Melbourne Cup Day, which seems to be the measure of many things, even outside Victoria: in South Australia, that's the day to mow hay, and in the USA, six years out of 14, they have national elections.


Monday, 15 October 2018 Dereel Images for 15 October 2018
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Garden flowers in mid-autumn
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

Middle of the month, and also middle of spring, time for some flower photos. We've been in Stones Road for nearly 3½ years now, and it's time to recognize that something is seriously wrong with the garden. Things are dying, and other things are just not growing the way they should. The Betula pendula that I looked at with concern last month is no longer worthy of concern: it's dead, Jim. Here the two remaining trees:


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But why? It can't be the cold. These trees are some of the most frost-resistant trees I know of, somehow typical of Siberian landscapes. And it can't be watering, and trees don't die like that from inadequate fertilizer: I doubt anybody in Siberia runs around spreading dung on them.

And then there's the Paulownia kawakamii:


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That's been in the ground for 3 years now, and it's about 40 cm high. When the parent tree was that old, it was fully grown at about 5 m:


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And the Camellia japonica is also not looking happy, despite considerable addition of fertilizer:


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The ornamental Japanese cherry doesn't look that unhappy, but it, too, has barely grown:


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Even the lilacs that we planted a couple of months ago are not looking happy. They started off growing, but now the biggest one looks decidedly unhappy:


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By contrast, across the fence at the Marriott's, the parent or siblings:


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And then there are the Hebes that we planted nearby. They, too, are several years old:


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And a little to the west, the Ginkgo biloba and the Acacia baileyana are also not exactly growing:


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The more I look at it, the more I think that there's something wrong with the soil. Potentially it could be the layer of clay at 80 cm depth, but my experience with the Hellebores over the last few months suggests that the issue might be closer to the surface. In April one of them kept trying to shoot, and then died off again:


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I asked Mick to replant it in lots of good soil, and that seems to have made the difference:


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Clearly that had nothing to do with clay 80 cm under the surface.

Even the Aloes that we planted in the same area years ago have hardly grown at all:


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But what is it? The geology is not local to this plot of land, but I've already seen that the lilacs are doing better on the Marriott's property, and on the other side the Swifts have some conifers that are doing well:


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They're not the only things to die, though I suspect there are different reasons for the others. Three of the five rose bushes that we bought three months ago have done well, but one looks on its last legs, and another is dead:


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Why? That's a question that I should ask the nursery that sold them.

And the white Mandevilla that flowered so happily in front of the house all last summer has clearly had it:


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That may be the temperature, however: I had hoped that there wouldn't be any frost where I put it, but it looks as if I was wrong.

On the other hand, it's not all gloom and despondency. Our tiny Alyogyne huegelii is already flowering:


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And the Gazanias are also doing well:


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The Narcissus have been flowering for nearly 5 months, but they're not done yet. Here we were five months ago:


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And these are today's:


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The sweet peas that we incautiously bought at a garage sale in April are growing and flowering, though the damned things don't seem to want to climb up the arch against which they're planted:


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And the Azaleas, which were looking quite unhappy, have suddenly burst into flower:


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Lies, damn lies and specifications
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

How big is the new microwave oven? 25L! It tells you that, but not the power output (until you look relatively closely). Then it's either 1600 W input or 900 W output. This is the first time that I have seen both figures, and it suggests an efficiency of only 56%. Is that typical? I would have expected much more.

So this morning I used it to thaw out some baked beans. I know how long it takes in my 1100 W Panasonic oven: 1 minute to thaw, 80 seconds to warm. So I tried 90 seconds on the new oven. And the results were still partially frozen! Not a very scientific test, of course; I should check how long it takes to boil water. But my guess is that that “900 W” is a lie.

But wait! There's more! “25L” clearly is intended to mean 25 l, and that's easy to measure. For other reasons, I measured the volume of the heating chamber. 32 cm deep, 31.5 wide, and 20 cm high. 20.16 l. How did they get 25 l? Probably by measuring from underneath the bottom heating element to above the top one.

In the evening, we had a good use for a combined microwave oven and grill: reheat pizza. After looking at the instructions, put the whole thing into the “too hard” basket. How do you balance the heat? I don't know, and it seems that the makers of the oven don't either. The best I can think of is first to heat with microwaves, then grill. That save the second device, but not much else.


Setting Android ring tones
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

Some time ago I tried creating a custom ring tone for my old Android phone, the first few bars of Carl Maria von Weber's Andante e rondo ongarese. Time to install it on the new phone: I never found out how on the old one.

After the usual pain moving data around to mobile phones, it worked almost without any problems at all. Problem: it's not loud enough. That's in the original, not the phone. Now I need to find a way to recode the original. I had expected that mencoder could do that, but all attempts failed because it wanted a video stream as well.


Tuesday, 16 October 2018 Dereel → Melbourne → Dereel Images for 16 October 2018
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To Melbourne again
Topic: health, food and drink, general Link here

Yvonne had another appointment for a follow-up EUS and (potentially) FNA, the same thing as six months ago.

This time I had the opportunity to measure time and distance. The total distance is 140 km, and interestingly the first stretch, via Mount Mercer to Shelford, was 32 km, over 20% of the total distance, during which we saw 4 cars. Then traffic got denser, and we reached the freeway after almost exactly half the distance after 55 minutes. Made good time until the Melbourne Ring Road, after 126 km and about 85 minutes. And then, once again, we ran into trouble:

From there to the Victoria Market we took another 35 minutes for the final 14 km. How I hate Melbourne traffic!

At the market, met up again with Kevin Teather, who I think is the owner of the cheese stall in the middle of the delicatessen section (and thus called “The Corner Larder”) after one of his assistants suggested Jarlsberg when I asked for Swiss cheese. In Australia you can get almost only Gruyère (which you have to pronounce “Swiss Gruyere”) and Appenzell, at least for fondue, though they did have a Tête de moine, which also comes from Switzerland. He asked me what other cheeses I would like, and of course I couldn't think of anything except for Vacherin. But he says he can get anything I like (I'll believe that when I see it!) if I give him a couple of weeks' notice. Got his card: phone number is 9329 8607. And I'll take him up on the offer.

Somehow the Victoria Market is changing. I didn't hear a single cryer, and more and more stalls are operated by (and apparently for) East Asian people:


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On the way out of the market, saw what I had feared:


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The cookbook shop has closed down. I wish I had had time to look through more carefully last time I was there.

Then off to Richmond and dropped Yvonne at the Epworth Hospital, then on to Alphington to a new location of the Casa iberica in the hope that I could get a parking space more easily. Yes, that worked, though not as easily as I had hoped. And the place is really in a pretty run-down part of town:


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It's a lot smaller than the shop in Fitzroy:


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But I got what I wanted, including numerous chorizos of their own manufacture, and then on to Box Hill, as last time, this time finding a parking space inside, not without difficulty. First, where's the entrance?


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Once I got inside, my problems weren't over:


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How do I get out of the place? There are no signs at all. In the end I followed people who went round to the right of this photo, and where I no longer needed it, found this sign:


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Why do people have such difficulty documenting things?

Had more time shopping at the same place I went to 6 months ago, this time finding most of what I was looking for:


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On the way out, paying for the parking, I had a strange experience: the small print was in German, something about a „Stellplatz“ (parking place). Why that? Checked when the next person paid, and it came up in English (though round here Chinese would have been more appropriate). I was so surprised that I didn't read what the text said.

By this time Yvonne had called and told me that she would be ready round 15:00, so back to the hospital via Kew and what I knew as Studley Park, though now it seems to be called Yarra Bend Park. I saw the parking space too late, so just carried on through Fitzroy and Abbotsford. Did I remember the way past the old Abbotsford Brewery? Yes, I did, but I had forgotten what I had been looking for last time I was there, so on to the hospital, where I found one of the most emetic parking meters I have seen for a long time:


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I had to give my rego (license plate number!). What if I don't know it? While I was thinking about this, another bloke came along with exactly the same problem. He had to go back and check his license plate. I ended up paying—$8 for two hours!—and discovered that I had absolutely nothing to confirm that I had paid. No printout, no transaction number. I paid by credit card, so in case of doubt I could use that, but the other bloke, when he came back, paid by coins. He had nothing to prove that he ever paid! If he had made a typo in his rego, he would have no recourse. I gave him a card in case he ran into trouble.

Could he run into trouble? Definitely! The three cars to the left of the machine all had tickets:


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Looking at the first, though, it seems that it was justified: it had been issued over three hours previously.

Walked around a bit, and by chance found a Fromagerie across the road in Bridge Street at what proved to be the Richmond Hill Cafe & larder. Took a look inside, and how about that, they have a number of interesting cheeses, all at prices that are easy to resist. It was interesting to note how many were related to places with which we have a connection: Sankt Gallen, Pyrénées, Somerset, Adelaide Hills. It might be interesting for next time we're here.

Then back into the hospital, where I waited until 16:35 for a call before finally asking at the reception whether they had my correct phone number. 6 months ago they had had the old number, and though I had asked them to correct it, it's quite possible that they had not done so. But no, Yvonne had only just been finished; it seems that there was some issue that delayed the start of her examination.

The results, though, were good: no change. So whatever it is, it's not malignant, and we won't have to come back here in the foreseeable future.

Off at 17:25 into this horrible Melbourne rush-hour traffic. After the pain we had last time, I decided to follow the advice of the GPS navigator after all. And how about that, it took me down some relatively empty roads and dumped me at the east end of Flinders Street, where signs told us that it would take us forever to get to St. Kilda Road, all of 600 m away.

Damn that! Clearly I need to take routes that aren't on the standard maps. North via Carlton? Turned up Exhibition St and got as far as Victoria St, where the navigator wanted to take me through the next set of immobile cars. Made it as far as Cardigan St and finally made it up to Grattan St, all relatively quickly. But they have blocked Grattan St west of Bouverie St, so I had to go down to Bouverie St, meaning that I ended up at Elizabeth St with the only option to go in the wrong way.

From there on things went to hell. Note to self: avoid Flemington Road like the plague in rush hours. Finally we made it through, and we were taken back to the bloody West Gate Bridge. By the time we got over the bridge, it was 18:35—70 minutes for 11 km, and 25 minutes longer than last time. A brisk walk would have been faster.

Things weren't over then either. Yvonne wanted to stop for a toilet break somewhere round Laverton, and I discovered that the “service area” was on an exit ramp without corresponding entrance. I had to leave the freeway area altogether and observe a roundabout at its absolute worst: cars from three different directions all wanted only one exit, onto the freeway. The ones coming from the rightmost road had no difficulties. The ones from the middle, which entered the third road, filled any gaps. And we, in the third road, had no chance.


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Set off in other directions, but everything seemed blocked. I later looked at the map and discovered that this appears to be deliberate: lots of streets that are blocked in the middle. Somehow this happens too often round Melbourne.

Finally went several kilometres and ended up at the same roundabout, but on the first road, where we got through with no difficulty. Why do people build roundabouts? Once upon a time earthworks were cheaper than traffic lights, but I can't believe that that's still the case.

Finally back home at 20:30 after a little over 3 hours. 11½ hours away from home, 5½ on the road, and 5 hours at the hospital for Yvonne. How I hate Melbourne traffic!

Another minor bit of good news: the car fridge worked without incident. I wonder why.


Wednesday, 17 October 2018 Dereel Images for 17 October 2018
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Catch-up day
Topic: general Link here

I try to make this diary as transparent as possible when reporting in it; I describe other things, but not the diary. That's not always possible, of course: it takes time, and today was particularly bad, since I had both Monday's flower photos and yesterday's trip to Melbourne to document.

It took me all day. It would probably even take an hour to read: if I can estimate correctly, it's worth about 15 pages of print. Is it worth it? Yes, I think so, not for now, but for later, and probably only for me.


Not my Prime Minister
Topic: politics, language, opinion Link here

Decades ago I learnt Malay—I thought. Recently I visited Malay grammar and discovered things that I had never really understood: apart from prefixes and suffixes to extend nouns, it also has infixes.

And today I'm reminded of that when I hear the name of the Australian Prime Minister de jour: Scott Morrison. He already has the distinction of being the only Australian Prime Minister whom I can't recognize at sight. I still can't:

But recently he has come out with statements that blow my mind. He suggested that Australia might be open to follow Donald Trump's stupid ideas and move the embassy to Jerusalem, and also reject the JCPOA. As a non-signatory, Australia can't do more in the case of the JCPOA.

But what absolute stupidity! Does the man have a brain? There I'm reminded of infixes: the infix is “is”, and the main word is “Moron”.

Discussing this on IRC, the opinion was that he wanted to sway the results of the Wentworth by-election this coming weekend. It seems that 13% of the 100,000 odd electors are of Jewish background, and this might help them win the election.

Win the election, lose the plot. How many Muslims will be infuriated by this statement? I'm hearing them already. There's a Federal election coming up soon. When? We follow the British system where the Prime Minister can decide on a date that seems propitious, but various analysts think it'll be some time round May. 2.6% of Australians are Muslims (compared to only 0.4% for Jews, for what difference that makes). If their leaders get up and condemn Morrison's party for being anti-Muslim, as they're almost certain to do, it will have a much stronger effect on the Federal election.

I would be fully in agreement; since the current Government came to power in 2013, I can't see any good things that they have done. I'm sure that they're there, but none of them have benefited me. On the other hand, the National Broadband Network has fared badly during their tenure, and their continued violation of human rights, such as the Nauru Prison Camp, leave a bad taste in my mouth. About the only thing that speaks in their favour is the opposition doesn't seem to be much better.

For once, my opinions aren't that different from the mainstream, as this article, this one and this one show. Sadly, Australia's image abroad is projected by the likes of Morrison.


Thursday, 18 October 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 18 October 2018
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Dentist again
Topic: health Link here

Off to Ballarat again today to have the filling replace that had been identified last week. It seems that it was related to the tooth I had extracted two years ago: the filling was adjacent and now subject to more pressure. Hopefully the new one will hold better.

Somehow I didn't find much else to do in town. Sometimes those 30 km seem amazingly far.


Analytical scales
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

At school and university I used various analytical balances, some of the most complicated machines I had encountered. If I recall correctly, the ones at school had an accuracy of 0.01 g, while the master's balance had an accuracy of 0.001 g. They looked something like this:

In each case, weighing was a slow business. You couldn't wait for the scale to stop swinging—that would have taken several minutes, and you needed to add or remove weights several times—so you had to measure the sweep of the indicator to estimate the mid point.

Then about 14 years ago I bought some digital scales for brewing. Up to 50 g, in increments of 0.01 g, and only US $46.42. That's the same resolution as the balances we had at school. I was so impressed that I didn't bother to mention it in my diary.

But that balance seems to be showing the effects of time. It no longer wants to run on rechargeable batteries, and it's only a matter of time before it no longer wants to work with non-rechargeable batteries.

So I ordered a new one, which arrived today. Up to 100 g in 0.001 g increments! That matches the master's balance at school. And that for AUD $23.09, currently less than half the cost of the old one:

It required calibrating, but after that confirmed the weight every time to within 1 mg. I wonder if the scale is as linear as it should be. About the only real issue is that the thing is so tiny that it's difficult to read the display when there's something on it.


Soil examination
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

So what's wrong with my soil? I've bought a soil pH meter to check the most obvious problem. And Bingo!


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pH 4.1! That's about as acid as it can get. No wonder the birch died.

Problem: that was the soil round the birch that has survived. Round the dead one I got a reading of 5.2, still not good, but much better than anywhere else I measured with the exception of the pile of topsoil that I have. And the Paulownia kawakamii also has a reading of pH 4.0. No wonder it isn't growing.

So is that the only issue? Clearly I need some lime, but will that be enough? Is the soil maybe even worse further down? That would explain why the biggest tree died first. And it doesn't explain why the Camellia japonica is also looking so sick. There the pH is round 5.0, not that bad for Camellias. It's not even clear that it's a good idea to lime it.


Friday, 19 October 2018 Dereel Images for 19 October 2018
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Scott Morrison shows the way
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Who says that the Liberals are behind the times? Our valiant Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has recently shown the dangers of letting your domain name expire. In cahoots with Jack Genesin he let his domain name expire, and then Jack set up a fake web site with links to an analysis of the dangers of letting your domain name expire:


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In the process, of course, he increased the number of hits on his web site by several orders of magnitude, prompting an overload on the server.

Here are the current details:

=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/13) ~ 81 -> whois scottmorrison.com.au
Domain Name: SCOTTMORRISON.COM.AU
Registry Domain ID: D407400000011040941-AU
Registrar WHOIS Server: whois.auda.org.au
Registrar URL:
Last Modified: 2018-10-18T05:16:04Z
Registrar Name: DROP.com.au Pty Ltd
Registrar Abuse Contact Email:
Registrar Abuse Contact Phone:
Reseller Name:
Status: serverRenewProhibited https://afilias.com.au/get-au/whois-status-codes#serverRenewProhibited
Status: transferPeriod https://afilias.com.au/get-au/whois-status-codes#transferPeriod
Registrant Contact ID: DS513272521773
Registrant Contact Name: Archer  Corbin
Tech Contact ID: DS51327252229
Tech Contact Name: Archer  Corbin
Name Server: NS2.SYRAHOST.COM
Name Server: NS1.SYRAHOST.COM
DNSSEC: unsigned
Registrant: GENESIN, JACK
Registrant ID: ABN 96701187815
Eligibility Type: Sole Trader
=== grog@eureka (/dev/pts/13) ~ 82 -> host scottmorrison.com.au
scottmorrison.com.au has address 203.170.84.9
scottmorrison.com.au has IPv6 address 2404:8280:a222:bbbb:bba1:90:ffff:ffff
scottmorrison.com.au mail is handled by 0 mail.scottmorrison.com.au.

Clearly this is in agreement with Morrison; apart from the music (“Scotty doesn't know”), it's not offensive, and it's still there two days later. What was I thinking when I rewrote his name as “Is Moron” a couple of days ago? Bravo Morrison!


Pancreas: all clear
Topic: health, opinion Link here

Yvonne off to see Mr. Kon Shimokawa in Ballarat this afternoon. As expected, he gave her a clean bill of health, and also (apparently) the information that such distension of the pancreas as she has is no longer considered as dangerous. That's a relief.


More bad language
Topic: gardening, language, opinion Link here

While in town, Yvonne stopped off at Formosa Gardens nursery to buy some lime. How hard can it be? But no, the sales assistant wanted to know all sorts of details, so she called me and I spoke to the assistant. Yes, I know what I'm doing, I have acid soil and need some lime to neutralize it. How acid? pH 4. OK, how about some dolomite? No, I don't need magnesium, only lime.

OK, garden lime? What's that? What are the ingredients? It's 95% NV. Huh? What kind of marketing gibberish is that? Ah, it's also 92.5% calcium. That corresponds to 129.5% CaO or 231% CaCO₃.

Dammit, can't anybody talk straight any more? I can't make any sense out of that. So we didn't buy anything; probably not a bad idea anyway. My recollection is that lime costs about $20 a ton, and we need several tons for the whole garden. This would have been a 25 kg sack at most, and it would definitely be much more expensive.

Discussed the matter on IRC, and Juha Kupiainen came up with the answer: NV stands for “neutralising value”, one of those fundamental units of physics, along with ENV (“effective neutralising value”; clearly NV isn't effective). Or is it? From the link above, and admire the missing full stops:

In other words, a complete lack of understanding on both sides. A Google search showed relatively conclusively that this is yet another example of bad language.

But the link is interesting after all. It relates to the Corangamite area (Electorate? Shire Geology? They're too polite to say), which is round here, and it discusses the various kinds of lime that are available. And maybe I should reconsider dolomite. Who says that the soil is not also deficient in magnesium?


You have been pwned!
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

We've had some discussion about ransomware and such on IRC, and I expressed the opinion that you don't need to break in to a system to get a ransom. As if to prove the point, I recently got a ransom demand myself, exposing my perverse secrets. It's worth looking at the entire message, including the headers (only modified to point to the normal groggyhimself):

From MAILER-DAEMON  Wed Oct 17 18:10:17 2018
Return-Path: <>

It's interesting that there's no domain name on this From line. I wonder why.

X-Original-To: groggyhimself@eureka.lemis.com
Delivered-To: groggyhimself@eureka.lemis.com
Received: from eureka.lemis.com (eureka.lemis.com [192.109.197.137])
        by eureka.lemis.com (Postfix) with ESMTP id 9D9B14494B0
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These last few lines clearly identify where the message came from. It's interesting because it's apparently a static address, which should enable abuse@axtel.net to identify the perpetrator. I wonder if they did anything with my complaint.

From: mailer-daemon@lemis.com
To: mailer-daemon@lemis.com
Subject: mailer-daemon@lemis.com is hacked
Date: 16 Oct 2018 19:18:52 -0600
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain;
        charset="windows-1252"
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2900.5931
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2900.5931
Status: RO
Content-Length: 1868
Lines: 36

Hello!

My nickname in darknet is timmie39.
I hacked this mailbox more than six months ago,
through it I infected your operating system with a virus (trojan) created by me and have been monitoring you for a long time.

If you don't belive me please check 'from address' in your header, you will see that I sent you an email from your mailbox.

Heh. Who believes the From: address?

Even if you changed the password after that - it does not matter, my virus intercepted all the
    caching data on your computer
and automatically saved access for me.

What does that mean? He has finally managed to create a virus that attacks FreeBSD machines? Give that man a medal!

I have access to all your accounts, social networks, email, browsing history.
Accordingly, I have the data of all your contacts, files from your computer, photos and videos.

All 5 TB of photos! He's been busy. Of course, he could more easily have got them from the web site.

I was most struck by the intimate content sites that you occasionally visit.
You have a very wild imagination, I tell you!

Probably not as wild as his one-size-fits-all imagination.

During your pastime and entertainment there, I took screenshot through the camera of your device, synchronizing with what you are watching.
Oh my god! You are so funny and excited!

Dammit! He got a camera to work and didn't tell me!

I think that you do not want all your contacts to get these files, right?

Wrong. Everything I do is open, and I go to great lengths to let people know what I do.

If you are of the same opinion, then I think that $514 is quite a fair price to destroy the dirt I created.

No. I hate destroying data. But if he insists, he can pay me for the inconvenience.

Send the above amount on my BTC wallet (bitcoin): 1DBMVxzSPZ95FDyZfopwHgxncFEsp89uuS
As soon as the above amount is received, I guarantee that the data will be deleted, I do not need it.

Sorry, I don't do bitcoin. Send the money to my PayPal account.

Otherwise, these files and history of visiting sites will get all your contacts from your device.
Also, I'll send to everyone your contact access to your email and access logs, I have carefully saved it!

It seems that everybody has my email address anyway. I wonder what logs he was thinking of.

Since reading this letter you have 50 hours!
After your reading this message, I'll receive an automatic notification that you have seen the letter.

This part could at least theoretically be correct, via DSN. But I don't see any evidence in the headers.

I hope I taught you a good lesson.
Do not be so nonchalant, please visit only to proven resources, and don't enter your passwords anywhere!
Good luck!

I don't know about a “lesson”, but it was interesting to analyse the message. Basically he confirms my claims: he doesn't need to break in to my system; a well-formulated message can scare enough technically inexperienced people into paying money to him. This sort of thing really should be pursued by the authorities, and in this particular case (yes, the source address is correct) it should be relatively easy to find the perpetrator.


Saturday, 20 October 2018 Dereel Images for 20 October 2018
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Power failure
Topic: general Link here

Another very short power failure this morning at 9:51. That's the fourth in a row that only really affected the printer.


Bratwurst again
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

Finally got round to processing the sausage meat that I bought in Melbourne on Tuesday. The first question was: are my casings still OK? I had last used them two years ago, and I had frozen both the end of the casing I had used then, as well as the unused casings. But yes, they looked unchanged, so we were able to use them.

Or so I thought. It's not easy to get the start of the casing onto the filling tube of the sausage filler, distinctly reminiscent of fitting a condom:


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But this time it was almost impossible. In the end I had to oil the filler tube, after which it still took nearly 20 minutes to pull the 16-odd metres of casing over the tube.

And things didn't stop there. Filling the sausages was much easier, but we had no less than four sausages that burst while filling. I've never had that before, not even with the much weaker collagen casings. I'm guessing that this happened as the result of freezing them. Given the cost of the casings, I think I'm going to have to match future sausage production to the capacity of the casings.

In any case, things worked well this time, though the sausages are rather thicker, probably because of the difficulty filling.


The cost of a sausage
Topic: food and drink, general, opinion Link here

How much does it cost to make sausages? My Bratwurst are made from 2 parts of pork shoulder (about $8 per kg) and one part of pork belly (paradoxically, about $12 per kg), making an average price about $11 per kg. On top of that come the casings, roughly 2 m per kg, or about $3, for a total of about $14 per kg, not including the work involved.

And this weekend ALDI have sausages on special: $3.30 per kg. How can they manage that price? It's barely more than the cost of my casings. But then, these will be collagen casings, which only cost about $0.60 for 2 m. But they're really not as good, and I can confirm that ALDI sausages like to burst. Still, that only leaves $2.70 for the filling. What is it? I shudder to think; I can't even buy dog food for that price.


Sunday, 21 October 2018 Dereel Images for 21 October 2018
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The revenge of Malcolm Turnbull?
Topic: politics, opinion Link here

Two months ago the Liberal Party of Australia chose a new leader, ousting Malcolm Turnbull, who had ousted the previous leader, Tony Abbott, three years ago. I've already expressed my opinion of his faceless successor.

Turnbull did what I can absolutely understand: at the age of nearly 64, he decided to retire, leaving his seat vacant and the government without a majority in parliament. Yesterday a by-election was held, in which the Liberal candidate lost to an independent candidate, and leaving the government still without a majority.

Why? Wentworth was one of the safest Liberal seats in the country, having never been won a candidate from another party. I'd like to think that it was Morrison's boundless stupidity in suggesting moving the Australian Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. But that's not the sort of thing that causes a 20% swing away from the Liberals. The ghost of (still very much alive) Turnbull overshadowing the elections?


Time to document spice pastes
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

A few days ago I made a “Rendang” with a paste from Teans Gourmet, a brand with which I have had good experience. But the quantities!


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1.3 kg of meat! That's far too much! So I put in 600 g.

Wrong! This really does need that much meat, and even then it's very pedas. Yvonne couldn't eat it.

More to the point, though, it's time to start a spice pastes page with comments on my experience and on quantities.


Monday, 22 October 2018 Dereel Images for 22 October 2018
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New masa
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

On Mondays we normally have huevos rancheros for breakfast, and finally I have new masa harina:


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I had thought that it was the same kind of masa that I bought at Casa iberica five years ago and a couple of times since. But no, it's different again, and requires even more water, probably a rate of 1.6:1. And, sadly, it doesn't taste as good. Time for a web page on the subject.


Garden flowers
Topic: gardening Link here

As the weather gets warmer, more and more flowers are coming out. In particular, the Carpobrotus are looking very happy this year:


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Sadly, not all plants look that good. The box elder that we planted a couple of years ago looked relatively happy until a couple of weeks ago, but now it looks as if it will die if I don't do something soon:


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Acid soil? Possibly, though at 5.0 it's not nearly as acid as the pH 4.0 nearby. High time to get some soil treatment if I want it to survive.


Frying digital air
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Wiener Schnitzel for dinner tonight, a good opportunity to try out the “digital air fryer” that Yvonne bought on special last week.

The idea seems to be that this thing can replace a friteuse. I never believed that for a minute: deep frying involves a sudden change of temperature that can only be caused by hot fat or oil. Hot air just doesn't have the thermal capacity. Still, modern potato chips are pre-cooked and somewhat oily, so maybe it would work with them. In addition, of course, the Schnitzel themselves are deep-fried, though again I had the same reservation.

The device is strange, and the controls even stranger.


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Where's the on-off button? Bottom centre, the one that looks like a lock. Hold it down for Three Whole Seconds to turn it on. Adjust temperature with the arrows at the left, and time with the symbols at the right (why different icons?), start with the button in the middle. The ram's head at the top centre loads different presets, or, as it says on page 10 of the relatively copious instructions, “function settings”, of which there are 6. Don't like that term? Look on the opposite page (12), where they're called “preset functions”, described all over again with non-overlapping details. Apart from displaying a hard-to-recognize symbol on the display, they don't seem to do anything that the time and temperature buttons don't.

OK, cook chips. Our standard weight is 170 g. Sorry, no can do. Weights must be between 200 g and 500 g. OK, ignore that. How long? In a friteuse it would take about 3 to 4 minutes at 180°. In this thing it takes (they say) 16 minutes! Elsewhere they say that the time depends on the quantity, a clear indication of the low thermal capacity of the system, so I decided to go for 12 minutes. At the end of that time, I had:


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That would never have been that uneven out of a friteuse. And though the chips were edible, they weren't as good as out of a friteuse.

But wait, there's more! I then put a piece of raw Wiener Schnitzel into the device for 8 minutes at 180°. When it came out it looked correspondingly pale (on the left):


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OK, brown it in the friteuse, which I had left running for that eventuality. And how about that, it actually tasted better than the one that had just come out of the friteuse! The device is clearly no substitute for a friteuse, as I had expected, but potentially it has some benefits. If I can make ikan bilis in the thing without it stinking for ever after, it might be worth keeping. Otherwise I can always return it, stinking or not.


Tuesday, 23 October 2018 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 23 October 2018
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Liming the plants
Topic: gardening Link here

Off to Ballarat this afternoon to get some lime for the garden. To Dela in Laidlaw Drive, and discovered that they don't do bulk lime; all they had was 20 kg bags of slaked (“hydrated”) lime at prices resembling those that I paid a ton in the (admittedly not very recent) past.

Bought a bag of that, then on to Formosa Gardens nursery, where I bought some flowers and a replacement for the Jasminum polyanthum that died a couple of months ago:


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Back home, spread some lime round the neediest plants, but it was windy, so I didn't get very far.


Wednesday, 24 October 2018 Dereel Images for 24 October 2018
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More pH investigations
Topic: gardening Link here

How did yesterday's liming work out? Off with my pH meter. Yes, indeed, looks much better, where I measured. But it takes a minute or two to stabilize, so I didn't measure everywhere.

Then off to measure elsewhere. Surprise, surprise. Many places that I suspected of having low pH were in fact relatively neutral, including the area round the water tanks, where the Tropaeolum and Senna are not looking happy. Here the Senna in June and last week:


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So what's the situation? Is it simply that the clay layer only 80 cm below the surface is an insurmountable obstacle? Or do I have some other soil issue?

In the evening, planted some of yesterday's flowers in some baskets:


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No space for the blue petunias. Maybe I should find somewhere else to hang some of the baskets.


Thursday, 25 October 2018 Dereel Images for 25 October 2018
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New laksa surprise
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Tried one of my new laksa pastes today, from BenMart:


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The instructions are very similar to the Teans Gourmet laksa (second image), almost to the point of plagiarism:


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One thing was very different, though. Nearly all these pastes come in a foil package that has to be squeezed out. But this time the content came out more quickly:


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That's the first time I've seen a second foil packet inside the first, and I can't see any good reason for it.

Apart from that, it tasted pretty much the same. Good to know that I have an alternative.


More frost damage
Topic: gardening, opinion Link here

It's been remarkably cold overnight the last couple of nights. My weather station recorded lows of 0.3° and 0.7°, and it seems that our Paulownia kawakamii recorded even lower temperatures:


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That's nothing to do with the soil. We saw exactly the same thing after frosts last year:


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Maintaining contacts, the modern way
Topic: technology, general, opinion Link here

We're planning for a visit from Ruth Viebrock next month. Time to write down her contact details. Where? A couple of weeks ago I discovered Google Contacts, which has the advantage of syncing to all my participating phones, one of the few occasions where I really want everything the same everywhere.

OK, off to find Google Contacts. Last time I was told to select “Contacts” at the top left of a GMail window, which proved to mean top right. But this time I thought that I could find them without the help of my diary, which proved to be incorrect. Finally I found them via a Google Search: http://contacts.google.com/.

OK, add a new contact. How? There's a menu on the left of the page, but it's too polite to tell you everything you need; you first need to click on the “More” in the middle. Then you get:

 
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Where's “add new contact”? I couldn't find it. On IRC, Andrew Perry explained to me the error of my ways. Ah, I'm looking in the wrong place. See that big red at bottom right, about 35 cm from the others? Click on that.

Obvious! At least to people with modern brain damage. Why do they do these things? Surely even today it must violate all principles of user interface design. Maybe it's a result of Android brain rot.

OK, start entering the details:

 
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The “Photo Editor” at bottom right is a “watermark” from a trial version of movavi photo editor. See below.

It's too polite to show the entire email address! While trying to correct it, I clicked outside the window. That got its attention: Cancel or Save? No, I want to continue. Cancel or Save? Dammit, maybe “Cancel” means something else. No, it meant cancel, and I had to start all over again. And “Save” means save. If I accidentally hit anywhere outside the entry window before I'm done, I have to save it (potentially syncing to all my “devices”) and then edit it. I still haven't found out how to display the entire email address.

Next, where's the address? Ah, again too polite to suggest that. Press MORE:

 
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All sorts of silly things like “Phonetic middle” and “Suffix”. What do they even mean? How do you write IPA on a horrible glass keyboard? And why?

Ah, just teasing. There's still MORE (MORE!). And finally I was able to enter the address, which left a lasting impression:

 
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It took me a long time to find out how to get rid of that suggestion window (all suggestions wrong): refresh window.

Last week I thought that I had finally found a use for Google services. Maybe I have, but they're certainly not making it easy for me.

Why does it seem that I always complain about “modern” software? More to the point, why does everybody else accept it? I can only imagine that it's lack of imagination on their part.


movavi photo editor
Topic: photography, technology, opinion Link here

I'm still looking for software to edit the kangaroo photos that I took two months ago. I tried one of the many emails from Zoner explaining how to do it, but the issue there is that they have moved to a subscription model, which is just too expensive.

Never mind, I have a license for the predecessor version 18. Try the suggestions there. But I couldn't make head or tail of their instructions; they seemed to be completely unrelated to the software. After half an hour without being able to locate the tools that they described, I gave up, not for the first time: I came to a similar conclusion 6 weeks ago.

That's really puzzling. Zoner produce quite a few documents about how to do things, so why can't they write manuals that make it clear how to use the basic product? Part of the problem, I think, is poor menu structure, an issue that is becoming more apparent to me in various products. In Zoner's case, it's about the only explanation that I can find for their continual change in user interface.

Recently I saw a video about another product, movavi Photo Editor (a name that seems to suggest an assembler language instruction), which seems to offer a number of functions. So today I downloaded it, and how about that, parts of it are excellent. It's not really that different from inpaint, but somehow things were a little easier. Here before, with Inpaint, and with movavi:


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Of course, being a Microsoft-space program, it has its quirks. It decides to downshift the “folder” name, and then it can't save the file, or even come up with an intelligible explanation for the problem. But I can work around that. It also offers an automatic photo enhancement similar to that of Ashampoo Photo Optimizer, which continues to irritate, so it might be worth the price that they are asking.


Friday, 26 October 2018 Dereel Images for 26 October 2018
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Horrifying films
Topic: multimedia, opinion Link here

I get various feeds describing popular “TV” films and series, including one from Internet Movie Database, a somewhat US-centric but very useful site. And I suppose the users' favourites are not their fault. But what horror!

 
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The Haunting of Hill House. American Horror Story. The Walking Dead. Even the old Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (“Comedy, Family, Fantasy”) has morphed into the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (“Drama, Fantasy, Horror”).

Why these horrifying films? Why are they popular? They don't reflect the content on European TV. Australian TV tends in that direction, but presumably only because of the strong US influence here. Somehow that doesn't make a very positive statement about modern life in the USA.


More garden work
Topic: gardening Link here

Mick the gardener along today and did quite a bit of tidying up. In the process, found some interesting leaves growing between the Euphorbia that he planted three months ago:


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Mick thought that they were remains of the Hibiscus syriacus that he had removed to plant it, but of course the leaves are completely different. It didn't occur to me until later that they're probably Vinca minor that stowed away during the transplant.

The irises in the trough round the “verandah” are starting to flower:


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They're surprisingly hard to see. Maybe we should consider placing them elsewhere. And the established roses, which I have neglected to prune, are back in flower already after finishing early last month:


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