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Monday, 22 May 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 22 May 2017
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More laksa attempts
Topic: food and drink, opinion Link here

Another attempt with another alleged Thai laksa paste today:


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Like the last, it was boring, and to get any semblance of flavour, I needed to add a lot of sambal. But I'm coming to the conclusion that the portions mentioned on the packages are—exceptionally—about half to three-quarters what I need. This jar was supposed to be enough for 4 portions, but I've nearly finished it with two. I'll be in Geelong next month, and I can buy some real Malaysian stuff there to compare.


More outside cover
Topic: Stones Road house Link here

We use the area between house and shed for a number of purposes. It has the external unit for the air conditioner, the dog bath and clothes lines. And it would be a good place to leave the dogs to dry out when it's raining—if it were covered.

We can do that, so I submitted an online request, promising 3 quotes within a week, a while back. Result: one reply with the name of a company, and a call from a Mark, who may be the same or a different company. We arranged for him come by between 10 and 11 this morning.

On the dot of 10:30, a truck showed up with two people. Mark? No, Callum and his mate Dave. Started taking them round to show them the area, but they wanted to know whether they should erect it or just deliver it.

After a bit of confusion, it turned out that they had nothing to do with Mark, and nothing to do with me: they had just had difficulty distinguishing the text 39 from 29, and they were really delivering a shed for Graham next door.

And Mark? I called him up later, and it seems that he was off sick. He should be here on Wednesday.


Another endoscopy
Topic: health Link here

I've had trouble with congestion in my nose and throat for decades, and a little over 25 years ago I consulted the professor at the University clinic in Frankfurt am Main. When he had no better idea of finding out what was going on inside my head than to cut me open—at an excessive cost only disclosed when I was about to go in for the operation—I gave up on him and consulted a professor at the University clinic in Gießen. She was a little more up to date, but she wasn't able to find much wrong with me. In the end, I gave up.

Lately things have been a little worse, and I thought that maybe the state of the art had advanced since then. On Dr. Paul Smith's advice, into town today to see Mr. Mark Guiguis, an ear, nose and throat specialist at St John of God hospital in Ballarat. As a specialist, he no longer uses the title Dr.

Based on my experience last month, I left myself plenty of time. A good thing too. Once again there were no signs, nobody at the information desk, just a disinterested receptionist with a long queue in front of her. When I got to the front, I asked her if she would take a suggestion that they put some signs up so that people could find their way without standing in a queue asking. “But that's what I'm here for”. She really didn't understand, but promised to forward my request.

And Mr. Guirguis? Not here. He's at 701 Sturt St.   Sturt St is the main road in Ballarat, about 20 km long in all. Where's 701? Off back to the car, asked the GPS navigator and found my way—it turned out to be only barely further away than the car had been—and fought my way into the building: it's on a street corner and has four doors, three of which are locked; you have to go in via the rear entrance, the furthest from Sturt St. Somehow I arrived only about 5 minutes late.

First I showed him the Bisolvon tablets that I had been taking. He said they wouldn't work, because they dry things up rather than loosen the phlegm. But they do, leaving me somewhat puzzled. And to quote their web site,

Bisolvon® Chesty Forte thins and loosens the mucus that causes a chesty cough, making it easier to cough up and clear chest congestion.

But sure enough, the state of the art has advanced. The first thing he did was stick a flexible endoscope up my nose and down my throat, where he found little of remark, but decided that it was all a bit dry, and prescribed me Flo sinus care, a bottle of about 100 ml to be filled with decongestant and inhaled twice a day.

I bought the kit, but on consideration, I'm beginning to wonder whether the cure isn't worse than the complaint. Maybe I should just bring it back and forget the whole matter. In addition, on comparing their web site, it's not clear that I have the right stuff; it's labeled “post operative”, which doesn't quite match my situation.


Focus stacking advances
Topic: photography Link here

Yesterday my attempts at focus stacking with flash were frustrated because flash wouldn't work. As planned, today was RTFM time. And how about that, on only the second reading I found what I was looking for, on page 94:

· If compositing fails, the image will not be saved.

Not so. It saves a broken image.

But other stuff was more interesting:

· To use the flash, select [Allow] for [Silent [♥] Mode Settings] > [Flash Mode].
→ [Silent [♥] Mode Settings] (P. 98)

Aha! And on page 98, almost as an afterthought, I found:

Silent [♥] Mode Settings       Choose [Allow] or [Not Allow] for each of [◾)))], [AF Illuminator], and [Flash Mode].

What's ◾)))? No idea, and they're not telling. It's likely to be as intuitive as this ♥ symbol for the electronic shutter. But after finding the menu position, remembering to press OK in the right places, and discovering that it all goes away again when you change the position of the mode wheel, I was finally able to take my photos with flash. Well, almost:

 
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The flash delay was set for 1 second, and it wasn't quite enough, so the 6th time round the flash didn't fire. Increasing the delay to 2 s (there's no setting in between) fixed that.

The flower itself was also past its prime:

 
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Still, the results are an improvement, though it's clear that the choice of JPEG as output format for the in-camera images is suboptimal. Here one of the partial images where the flash worked correctly, but the exposure was a little on the low side, and the in-camera result (second image) shows it clearly:

 
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Electronic shutter flash sync
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

So now that I have flash working with electronic shutter on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, how fast can I go? I had guessed 1/60 s (coincidentally the flash sync speed of the Pentax Spotmatic, because that's the maximum image repeat rate. Put the mecablitz 58 AF-2 on the camera and tried. 1/50 s (coincidentally the flash sync speed of the Asahi Pentax SV). Not documented anywhere, and with studio flash it's trial and error.


Tuesday, 23 May 2017 Dereel → Ballarat → Dereel Images for 23 May 2017
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Another endoscopy
Topic: health, opinion Link here

After yesterday's visit to St John of God for an endoscopy, what better way to start the day than get up early in the morning and travel to St John of God for an endoscopy? This one was planned, however: a colonoscopy for Yvonne, effectively the same procedure as I went through last year. I was happy with that procedure, which went through Medicare, but it took 4 months to get an appointment, so this time we took the private health care approach.

What else do you get for $600 out-of-pocket (not including what the medical insurance covers)? Different laxatives, though it's not clear that there's an advantage either way. Got Yvonne to the hospital at 7:40. It's a good thing that we had been told where to go:


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That's the main entrance hall, completely deserted (the figure in the background at left of centre is Yvonne), and clearly depicted with a mobile phone. We had been told that the procedure would take about an hour, and that I would get a phone call about 30 minutes before she was ready for discharge. I left Yvonne and went off to take some photos.

I had expected her to be ready 2 hours later, round 10:00, but still no phone call by then. On the chance that they had (more) difficulties with my phone number, went back anyway, and was waiting for her by 10:20:

 
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I was told that she had been operated (for actinic keratosis) in the main operating theatre, and it would be between 45 and 60 minutes before I could see her (“they're not as fast over there”). A good 15 minutes later, I was taken in to see her:

 
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A far cry from my treatment: after the procedure, I was pretty much ready to go. The difference seems to have been the removal of the actinic keratosis, though that had been performed under local anaesthetic, and the stitches look remarkably primitive:

 
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By comparison, my actinic keratosis had been removed with cryotherapy, but presumably hers was too large for that. To quote Wikipedia:

Excision should be reserved for cases when the AK is a thick, horny papule, or when deeper invasion is suspected and histopathologic diagnosis is necessary. It is a rarely utilized technique for AK treatment.

The colonoscopy had discovered a single polyp, 7 mm in diameter, the same size as mine.

The monitor on her right was beeping away complaining about low pulse rate:

 
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Nobody seemed to be concerned about the warning beeps. I checked and found that the arm cuff was loose, so whatever it was, it was historical. Shortly later an obese nurse came in and I asked her about the cuff. She said “that's her blood pressure”. I suggested that it might once have been her blood pressure, but she didn't understand. It seems they do a few spot checks. All well and good—I didn't have any blood pressure measured at all—but the sound of a warning beep from a monitor signals an emergency, and if they don't do something about it, one day they'll miss some real emergency.

Finally we were off round 11:00, Yvonne feeling maybe a little less normal than I did last year. I'm left wondering to what extent, if any, the procedure was done better than mine last year.


Learning to take photos
Topic: photography, opinion Link here

I've been taking photos for well over half a century. My very first photos, which I hope I'll find one day, were taken in mid-1956. I recall one of my bicycle and one of myself in a mirror: even then I was trying tricks. Ask me about the technical side of photography and I'll usually have a good answer. But I've never really learnt the artistic aspect of photography.

Today, while Yvonne was in hospital, I walked and drove around Lake Wendouree. It's a pretty area, and it seemed a logical place to find some good motives.

Somehow, I failed. Yes, lots of pretty snaps, but not a single one I'd be proud of. On the other hand, I learnt a few things I didn't know about the place.

Here the south-east side of the lake:

 
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Further round, at the south-west end, I found a memorial to the 1956 Olympic games. It seems that the water sports were done exactly there. The memorial is hard to photograph, but my attempts seem to be a complete failure:

 
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And then there's the war memorial. War memorial? No, that's elsewhere. This is an Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial, a name so unique that it's the only hit on Google. It's quite pretty, and some of the photos show promise:

 
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In passing, it's interesting to compare my photos with those on the web site. Maybe I can learn something from them.

After that, on to the Botanical Gardens, where I haven't been for a while. The fernery is further dilapidated:

 
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But there are signs that things are to improve:

 
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In passing, http://www.fbbg.com.au/? It used to be the much more appropriate http://www.fbbg.org.au/. Looking at the registry, it seems they now have both domains, though the org domain only redirects—coincidentally—to the sign above. What on earth made them do that?

Apart from that, a couple of photos that I almost like:

 
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The second was hand-held HDR, which seems to have been successful.

From there round the north of the lake, trying framing with foreground trees:

 
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Somehow none of it looks right. About the only thing of interest was in the distance, from the last photo:


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That's Mount Buninyong (719 m high!) in the distance, and the Ballarat Base hospital to the right. I didn't recognize the building to the left, but it appears to be Nazareth House, a place I had never heard of. It's easy to forget how many religious institutions there are in Ballarat, though the press continually reminds us.

By this time it was coming on 10:00, but still no word from the hospital, so I took a look into the old cemetery, which looks like this from the outside:

 
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That's the pretty side. Cemeteries are never overly joyful, but this one is particularly depressing:

 
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On a different topic, one of the things I experimented with today was exposure. The sky was bright, so I overexposed some images by up to 1.3 EV. The result: after processing, barely distinguishable:

 
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The overexposed one is on the left. For both this image pair and the pair below, run the cursor over either image to compare with the partner, and click to see a larger version. For the Statuary Pavilion, I tried hand-held HDR, which seemed worthwhile. Here the +0EV image on the left and the merged one on the right:

 
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Ports pain
Topic: technology, opinion Link here

Recently I've been getting error messages from the automated builds of Hugin, so I set up a new virtual machine to build it in. What a pain! My port may be broken, but it's not alone. Spent much of the day building literally hundreds of ports (my guess is about 160 by the end of the day) and running into various problems. Finally texinfo broke hard, and I gave up and installed the package, which still failed because of help2man, whatever that may be. Another (tiny) package to install.

There should be a way to tell port builds to install dependencies as packages. Unfortunately, in this case it seems to be a dependency that's broken, so I need to build all the ports, or at least as many as I can.


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