The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

Secateurs

For years we have been buying, using, wearing out, and throwing away secateurs. You known – them thingies what ya use for cuttin lumps orf stuff in da garden.

My sister-in-law gave me a new set for my birthday. These are THE BEST we have ever had.

They are well made, simple, sharp as can be, comfortable. Best of all they make a very satisfying “snick” when you cut through something – you know – that noise they always use in movies when the mad gardener is snipping delicate little bits off roses and things :)

Obligatory picture:

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The observant amongst you will note that Eric Olthwaite would be proud.

See my minions oh Brisbane, and tremble

The entire software group from work is in Brisbane for the annual Australian Delphi Users Group symposium.

Somehow we managed to get approval for all of them, so seven travellers are out wreaking havoc. Brisbane will never be the same again.

I notice that MikeFitz must have had advance notice and was so scared he left town :)

I managed to condense the entire 5 page company travel policy into one important bullet point for them before they left: Don’t consume anything from a mini-bar, unless you want to pay for it yourself.

For some bizarre reason the company will pay travel expenses, such as meals and accommodation – but the mini-bar is not included. A room service meal with a beer in the order is fine. Taking the beer from the fridge is not. Go figure that one out.

Singin’ in the rain…

Popped outside just a moment ago to find that it has been raining – again!

The second time it’s rained in the last week.

What a nice change, I’m really looking forward to the change of the season, the end of the need to water plants. Hopefully the end of silly water restrictions.

Maybe, even, the drought has finally broken.

Comments please!

I am getting around 300 comment spams per day here.

I have tried all sorts of things to keep these evil cretins at bay, they all work for a few days at most.

Now I’m trying something different.

MANY comments will get automatically eaten – they won’t even make the moderation queue – if they contain popular porn words, or the names of pharmaceuticals commonly sold over the net.

So, a word of warning for posters: don’t use those words and you should generally be ok.

BUT if your comment does not appear immediately, or say it is held for moderation, please use the back button in you browser and email me your comment so I can find what word has trigger the comment-eating-monster, and I’ll post it and try and tweak things up as well.

Sorry… thanks for your understanding.

—-

EDIT: I installed Spam Karma 2, and it found the legit comments that had previously been auto-eaten! And it seems to do a good job of identifying and quarantining spam, and has a nice interface to review it and bulk delete it. Now I just have to figure out how to tune it a bit better.

Recorded music… come a long way…

These days its all hours and hours with an MP3 player the size of a matchbox.

But recorded music was not always this way.

Before the MP3 was the CD… bigger, and about an hour per disc.

Before the CD was the compact cassette… up to an hour at a stretch (pun intended).

Before the compact cassette was reel-to-reel tape… lots of time but lots of space.

Somewhere about the same time as reel-to-reel was the vinyl LP… bigger than a CD – 12 inch diameter, and 15 minutes per side.

Before the LP was the 78 rpm record – typically 9 or 10 inches diameter and about 5-7 minutes per side.

Before that was the cylinder, and a bunch of other esoterica.

AND BEFORE THAT, recorded music required a paper roll, storing a massive 10 minutes of music.

But you needed a player that weighs about 1/2 ton, and fills a corner of the room. Yes, the player piano! (aka pianola, though that was actually a trade name of the Aeolian company… see below).

We acquired the player piano about 5 years ago, inherited from t’other half’s grand-mother. We are not sure how long it has been in the family – we think about 50 or 60 years. The story goes that there was one year with a REALLY good crop of beans, the earnings allowed the purchase!

Ours is a proper reproducing piano, capable of rubato, dynamics and pedalling. Specially, it can take standard reproducing rolls, and Duo-Art rolls.

The piano part has been fine – though a touch musty – and the chaps have been learning piano and using it for practice. Until late last year, it had not been tuned since the 1950’s. The player side, though, has not worked for at least 40 years.

So, at mother-in-laws insistence… we sent it off to be refurbished.

It came back the other day, after a 3 month re-bore and re-fit.

This thing is a mechanical marvel. Everything works by pushing pedals, which blows air through a myriad of pipes and WOOD valves. All the pipes have been replaced, all the air bellows reconditioned, the mechanicals have been checked and adjusted. It’s all had a polishing and cleanup.

The pianola was originally built in America, we think in the late 1920’s, then imported and sold by William Kuhnel of Rundle St, Adelaide, who put his own name on it.

We now have a working example of one of the earlier methods of playing recorded music, back in its original 1920’s working order.

Below are some pics of the seriously cool machine, with its innards exposed, and an audio grab.

I really like the bold patent warning, which reads (Aeolian being the manufacturer):

“This Aeolian action is fully protected by Letters Patent and Trade Marks, and our rights therein will be strictly enforced against infringement. The sale of this action conveys no implied license under any patent covering any instrument of music roll or attachment with which it may be used. We guarantee this action to be of our standard workmanship and material.”

AND…

It is still possible, though very difficult, to buy rolls. Even more interesting, the factory that made the pianos (less player portion since the 1930’s), only closed in 1985!

(I’ve taken pity on those who still use dial-up. Click to embiggerate.)

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Little brother is an exhibitionist

Lil Bro has an exhibition of paintings on in Melbourne.

Due to work and other commitments I can’t make it there, even with the possibility of a cheap weekend air fare.

But if anybody is in Melbourne and has a free hour or two, drop in to the the “Lost Souls” exhibition, at the Delshan Gallery, 1185 High Street, Armadale, Victoria. Go armed with yer wallet and spend up big.

Some of the paintings can be viewed on-line.

Blurb:

W H Y “ L O S T S O U L S ” ? “I am rich Potosí, The treasure of the world, And the envy of kings.” So goes the saying. Potosí. A freezing, wind-tussled city of grey rock and mud perched high in the Bolivian Andés. Potosí. Once the wealthiest silver mines in the world. After 530 years of constant mining, it is now almost barren. The Spanish, who enslaved the Incas and forced them down the mines, have long since left, as have the corporations. They stripped Potosí mountain of silver, tin, dignity and the lives of 8 million Inca slaves. A silent genocide. Potosí. Worked over today only by the poor and the desperate, there are still some 18,000 miners trying to gouge a living from a reluctant earth. To go underground, visitors are encouraged to buy gifts for the miners – dynamite, ammonium nitrate (for a bigger blast), detonators and cocoa leaves. You strap these items around your stomach, live detonators clinking together, and then descend into a hell where the worker’s life span is just 32 years – shortened by explosives accidents, rock falls and, most commonly, silicosis pneumonia, brought on breathing in a cocktail of arsenic and dust that leaches from the rock into the air.

It was here I decided to give voice to the Lost Souls of this world. Lost not in themselves, but by others. These people have not experienced the accoutrements of the modern working world; sanitation, safe work practice, wage negotiations, trade agreements… and certainly they have been ignored by the world of art.

They toil, they build the empires of others, they die. And when they have gone, no-one even knows they existed. Potosí and an epiphany.

Bearded Dragon

Spike the cat found a new friend in the garden:

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This chap is a Bearded Dragon Lizard. Cool looking dude, heh?

Moment the cat turned away, the lizard had a go at him!

The Wine and Pizza Tour down South

Being twenny years and all that since getting hitched, t’other ‘alf and I decided to do something special – as in go away for a couple of days without the little gentlemens.

Living close to the Barossa means it was out of the question. When you are only 40 minutes from a really good wine region, there is only so much before it’s time to go somewhere else.

So we booked a B&B at McLaren Vale, took Friday off on leave, made arrangements with Grandma for the care and feeding of the chaps, and took off for a weekend of food and wine.

First stop, seeing as we had to go pretty much via Adelaide anyhow, was the central market to load up on cheese, bread, a bit of fruit and so on. Somebody had beautiful Roma tomatoes for about $1.50 / kg. A screaming bargain. Shame we were going away or I would have bought a whole lot to do the Italian tomato sauce thing.

We got a very nice mild goats cheese, a strong sticky squashy cheese, salami, sun-dried olives (mmmmmm), and a few other goodies.

Then off through the horrors of the drive South. I’m pretty disgusted at the road system to the South of Adelaide. It’s an unplanned, slow-moving shambles – and this was at midday!

Made it finally to McLaren Vale and just had to try a few wee drinkies here or there. Some very nice wines come from this region and there were no disappointments.

After checking in to the place we were staying at, and mooching around a bit, come sunset we decided to head to Willunga and try out Russell Jeavons pizza’s. This place is a legend. They used to only open Friday nights – but now they do Saturday as well if things are busy. The only sign is a battered bit of metal with something that looks written on in texta. It took 4 drives past to find the place, not helped by the large sign outside saying “Minko Wines”! The vast number of parked cars was a bit of a giveaway, though. Trouble was, without a booking, we had no chance.

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Sun setting over the vines…

Back instead to McLaren Vale, where Oscars diner came to the rescue. They do pizza too! Oscars sorted us out with a small pizza each. Now how is this for a pizza:

  • Mediterranean: roast pumpkin, roast capsicum, eggplant, caramelised onion, rocket and fetta. Gee was this good!
  • Moroccan: braised lamb, roasted eggplant, Spanish onion, tzatziki and citrus zest. Again, very nice.

All this accompanied by a couple of glasses of sparkling Shiraz from the Settlement Wine Company, which went down very well indeed.

She Who Must Be Obeyed was sucked in by sticky date pudding for desert and had to be restrained from licking the plate clean.

And so to Saturday. We’ve been told many times to go to the Willunga farmers market, held every Saturday morning.

I was skeptical but came away surprised and with the wallet a lot lighter. Good olive oil, delicious lemon tarts, and many, many more things for sale. If we had been going straight home we could have filled the car several times over. Perhaps it’s a good thing we had another night to stay. How about beautiful peaches for $1.10 / kg? Freshly made cheeses, freshly baked bread, vegetables… And more.

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(Click to make ‘em bigger)

And then, more wine tasting. After all, it is wine region! Stand-outs:

  • Fox Creek. We tried the entire list from top to bottom. Sascha and her offsider were very patient with us, and also wouldn’t let us skip anything. We got the story of the dog who spends all day running up and down the rows of grapes when one of the wires is plucked, chasing the sound – and then has to be carried home because his paws hurt! And they did great imitations of American customers :) And they have all this cool stuff made from old barrels and bits of wood and things. Wine not cheap, but very, very good.

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(And click these to embiggerate as well)

  • Foggo Road Wines. Small, chosen on whim. Again, very good. Sandi the winemaker was behind the counter. She and Bruce the Kiwi Grape Picker spent an hour chatting, suggesting things to try, talking about what the season was like, how terrible the yields are this year because of drought (now) and frost (spring last year), and how the whole region is suffering. I don’t know if Bruce was his real name, but it made an entertaining afternoon.
  • The Settlement Wine Company. Had to go after the wine with pizza the night before. These folks have a smaller range, all good, and I was blown away by the prices. The standout bargain highlight of the trip. EVERYTHING was about 1/2 the price of everywhere else. These people are crazy – they were underselling themselves.
  • And finally, Beresford, who just happen to run the B&B we were staying in. The local chocolatier is also the barista, so after trying and buying some wine, it was time for coffee and hot chocolate. REAL hot chocolate made with lumps of chocolate, and milk, and steam. SWMBO was in heaven.

So… that brings us to try #2 at Russells Pizza. Our booking was in the courtyard – inside being very very very small, and chock-full. The courtyard was a little breezy, and verging on cold. But so what!

Russells is real wood oven pizza, in a “restaurant” with charm and a LOT of character. Tables have been scavenged from all over, so have the chairs.

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You want a candle outside? No worries, it’s in an old jam tin. The menu is salad, pizza, and a cake of some kind for desert. The cake changes each day, thats about all that does. No cutlery – if you really want that, take it yourself. We were told some people take their own chairs! The place is justly famous though, the pizza was fabulous. We managed a 1/2 and 1/2:

  • Chili Chicken: chicken, garlic, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato and coriander.
  • Lamb: Slow cooked lamb, yogurt, pickled lime, tomato, dukkah and mint.

I’ve never had anything like this, really good flavours on a pizza without cheese (!), and with a crust that was thin, very crisp, and perfectly cooked. And so much we could barely make it through a single large one.

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And that brings us to home day, today. Wine tasting was out of the question. I was beginning to feel like it was oozing out of my pores. Instead, a jolly good healthy walk was in order.

Followed by an ice-cream, of course.

Finally, we decided not to keep going with the ham / cheese / olives lunches of the last two days, but instead stopped in at the Woodstock Coterie, where who should be waiting tables but our host of the previous day from Fox Creek. Her suggestion was the soup – Sweet Potato and Pear (with a bit of ginger and chilli) which was outstanding. The Roo, the Smoked Salman Tart, and the Jazz Trio all made for a very good lunch and a nice way to finish the day before heading off to rescue grandma and head back to normality.

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That be a Smoked Salmon Tart!

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And that be 3 blokes playin’ Jazz

Only one thing about Woodstock was unusual. We must have been close on the youngest people there. Excluding the staff, the average age of the customers must have been about 60. Made us feel young and sprightly!

Tomorrow, unfortunately, is back to normal.

Evil bastards

I flicked over to Mike Fitz to see what’s a-doin’, and started following some of his links about John Howard’s porkies. That led me to Archie and his porky collection.

And that in turn led me to Margo Kingston and the story of the first Australian killed in “The War On Terrorism”, or more particularly, the guys widow. Read it here and weep. It’s a long article – give yerself 10 minutes, but read it.

After that, I’m bloody angry. What a terrible, scheming, hideous little weasel we have for Prime Minister.

To see all the details on the big ticket items, go and read Archie – link above.

I’ll paraphrase him here and then add a few more instances of lies or evil that were not covered:

  • No Goods and Services Tax, never ever. No sireee! 1999.
  • Children Overboard. Whatever your feelings about refugees arriving in boats, the claims were known to be false but were exploited in the leadup to an election. 2001.
  • Looking after the families of defence personnel. Read more above. What a joke. 2002.
  • Weapons of Mass Deception in Iraq. Total fabrication and lies. Read Archie and more Margot Kingston, above. Preparations were started in secret a year before! Remember the impassioned pleas of the Libs in parliament? Where are those people now that Iraq has turned into a quagmire? 2003.

And my list of a few more:

  • The republican referendum, carefully stitched up to ensure a NO vote. 1999.
  • First home owners bribe of $14000. Stimulated demand, leading to massive rises in costs of real estate, and fueled the “crisis” we now have. Who would not vote for John when offered a fist full of dollars? 2001.
  • Baby bribe of at least $500 / year. No maternity leave but John will give you a hand out. Thanks John! 2001.
  • Personal decisions to bypass the normal selection process and buy the Joint Strike Fighter for the Australian Air Force. Out with due process! In with something that does not even exist yet! This will yet prove to be the single biggest defence procurement disaster this country has ever seen. 2002.
  • Keeping interest rates low, forever. Don’t trust anybody else! Shortly followed by 5 interest rate rises in a row. Pfft. 2004.
  • New and improved Baby Bribe of $3000, then $4000, and then $5000. Still no maternity leave, just more tax-payer handouts. Of course, maternity leave makes people thank their employer. A Bribe paid by the government, on the other hand….? 2004, 2005, 2006.
  • Penalising people who think by increasing the dreadful HECS. What an appalling way to treat your country – try and make it dumber instead of smarter. 1996, and again in 2005.
  • New sedition legislation allowing people to be locked up and held for 14 days with no contact to anybody. Anywhere else it would be called kidnapping. Here its called “protecting the country”. 2005.
  • Industrial Relations law changes. No HUGE impacts yet, but just wait until the next economic downturn. These people are going out of their way to turn this country into a second-class backwater. In fact, after my recent visit to China, I found to my great surprise: the Labour laws in China are tougher than in Australia. 2006.
  • Centralism. An endless stream of bashing state governments and taking more and more unto Canberra. Remember when Labor was in power (a long, long time ago…) – any move to do more by the Federal government was met by howls of outrage “Its a power grab by Canberra”. Not any more. Hypocrites. Started 1996, accelerating and still going strong in 2007.
  • David Hicks. Irrespective of what you think of him, 5 years being held without trial is unacceptable. 2002-2007 and still hung out to dry.

Need I go on?

We can skip the gory details of ministers who had to resign for various scandals.

We can ignore the minister whose family racked up a fortune on the ministerial phone card.

We can ignore the MP’s who claimed spouse allowance, when they did not have a spouse!

We can skip the details of power crazed loonies swapping political allegiance, or notably swapping careers so they could get where the action is (you figure it out… there are two of them at least).

We can skip the buffoon in his stockings at meetings of foreign ministers.

We can skip the sectors of a health system primed with grants to mates, signed off just before a minister retired.

It is time for this lot to go. The muck raking onto the opposition leader has well and truly begun – a sign of desperation. Cross your fingers that not too much mud sticks.

My great sadness in all this is not that I think the Labor opposition would make a significantly better government, because I don’t.

Instead, I think the current government is simply rotten with corruption, morally bankrupt and drunk on its power. It’s time has come. A change is needed.

I sincerely hope they lose the election later this year.

Thought for the day

Looking for a gift?

Give CHILLIES – the gift that gives twice!

Reminds me of my fathers old, old joke:

You heard about the constipated accountant?

He couldn’t budget!

(think about it…)

So…

He worked it out with a pencil

(now you can groan, in more ways than one)

Tread Lightly

With the hoo-hah about banning lightbulbs, my boss has taken a very philsophical approach.

See, I work for a company that designs, makes and sells energy management systems. Part of what we offer is doo-dads and gadgets for the lifestyle-of-the-future, but a big part is to reduce energy consumption. The examples are very basic: dimming lights, putting on automatic timers (so they turn off after a period), setting schedules for commercial buildings – because people always forget to turn out the lights.

A move to ban conventional light bulbs will certainly mean that the Chinese curse applies: we will have to live in interesting times.

Then comes the boss fella, quoting Gandhi, and urging us to tread lightly on the earth.

He’s from a very well-off family, dedicated to his work and family and torn by the conflicts of time that senior positions demand. Never, ever, though, had I expected him to interested in Gandhi.

A surprise pops up every day!

Twenny years today

Today is a big milestone.

20 years married today.

It has not been ALL easy, there have been a few trials and tribulations, a few sicknesses and health, but all in all it’s been pretty damn good.

Pics from way back when, appropriately sanitised for web publication:

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I was certainly a scrawny bloke back then. These days I’m at least 10 kg heavier. I still have that suit, but there is no way on this earth that I fit into it. The trousers won’t close, and the jacket is way to small. Married life, and spending about 6 years doing building work around the house each weekend mean that I’m quite a different shape now.

She Who Must Be Obeyed, on the other hand, still fits into the wedding dress. That’s in spite of two children and spending those same 6 years being my weekend builders labourer :)

Don’t ask what the secret is to lasting this long in the modern world where marriages struggle to go for more than a few years. I don’t know the answer. I just know we get along pretty well.

Praps SWMBO will comment with her answer, some time.

Pullout from where?

This one came by email a few days ago:

*INTERESTING STATISTIC*

Regardless of where you stand on the issue of the U.S. involvement in Iraq, here’s a sobering statistic:

There has been a monthly average of 160,000 troops in the Iraq theatre of operations during the last 22 months, and a total of 2,112 deaths.

That gives a firearm death rate of 60 per 100,000 soldiers per month.

The firearm death rate in Washington D.C. is 80.6 per 100,000 persons for the same period.

That means that you are about 25% more likely to be shot and killed in the U.S. Capital than you are in Iraq.

*Conclusion: The U.S. should pull out of Washington*

More Cricketing

Youngest son is playing cricket on Saturday mornings for the primary school team.

Beyond, then, the obligatory proud-parent action photos:

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