The Time Has Come (the Walrus said) Archives

That #$%# cat is mad!

Spike the cat came from the Animal Welfare league.

NOW we think (based on a magazine article found by accident), and bit more digging, that he might be either a Bengal, or a bitza-bengal.

From Wikipedia:

Bengal cats can take a great deal of interest in running water and often don’t mind getting wet. Most Bengal owners have stories about their cat’s affection for running water or even jumping in a sink or tub. Bengal cats commonly play games with their owners, such as “fetch” and “hide-and-seek.” Bengals also vocalize to communicate with their humans.

Additionally, Bengal cats are very high-energy, intelligent, and curious, and so are particularly interactive with their human housemates, wanting to be in the middle of whatever the human is engaged in, and often following the human around the house as household chores are performed. However, while friendly and with very distinctive personalities, Bengals aren’t really “lap cats.” (There are exceptions, but most prefer being petted or played with to being held.)

This all describes Our Spike perfectly. He has the markings as well (a lighter tummy, with spots on), and the typical cat Meeeoooww makes only a rare appearance. When he wants attention its more of a “Ppppppprrrrrrrrrrrrowww”, and there are different versions of this depending on what he wants.

The clincher though is the thing about water. Not just playing with a bit of water from the hose or something – we did not really catch on until the rains started, then the cat would come inside, saturated. We’ve had a separate towel sitting around to dry the @$%#$ cat off. Wandering about in the rain… yeah! No problem! More please!

For weeks he’s been mooching around the bathroom and coming into the shower after its been turned off. Twice now in the last week he’s done the job properly, going in while it’s still running.



Now we’ll have to lock the damn cat out of the bathroom!

Electro-magnetic compatibility

I’m on my first proper course since joining this employer (that means the first in about 6 years).

We had an opportunity come up with only a few days notice to get people on a customised course on Electro-Magnetic Compatibility (or EMC, as it’s known in the business, seeing as we love eating our acronym soup). We’ve managed a huge turn-out – 18 people from the company. Seeing as it’s all about better design of electronic gizmos, and the biggest cost is the presenter, each extra person attending is really only costing their salary for the period. When the incremental cost is small, the more people attending the better – getting this kind of thing first hand is much preferable to having one or two who go and have to try and pass it on to the rest.

Already we’re muttering amongst ourselves about mistakes we’ve make – things that work OK but could be a little better. And for those who read this and say “ah hah – so your products are substandard! WRONG – what it means is that the products pass the standards and compliance tests (they have to, for us to be able to sell them), but better design techniques would have got them out sooner, or with less prototypes being built, or with more design margin on some of those tests. In other words, better design techniques make for getting things done faster.
So after 2 days we’ve already learned a lot and had some things drummed in that are bound to change our ways.

But really, the reason for posting is not the course, but the venue.

We couldn’t hold this on-site because there was not get a big enough meeting room available at the short notice we had. So Nick found an Italian cafe in North Adelaide – 10 minutes from work – which has an upstairs function room. They could fit us in for the 3 days and would do lunches, morning tea and afternoon tea for $22 / head, and throw the room in for free.

So far so good, but this must be the most bizarre venue the presenter has ever been in.

Unlike real conference facilities that are quiet and well set up for a day or two of talking, this place has dodgy heating, I think it worked once for about 15 minutes. It has no soundproofing, so the customers downstairs, and the staff shouting (Italians, remember, if it’s worth talking about, it’s worth talking LOUD) – it all drifts up the stairs.

Then we get the smells when they light up the wood pizza oven, and staff come drifting in to fetch stuff from behind the bar, and then drift out again. The main entrance door is directly down the stairs, and it sounds like something out of a horror movie. All day long, the door opens: (make sinister squeaking door noise here) “Eeeeeeaaaaaaarrrrrr….. rrrrrrrrrrrrrr”.

On Monday we had a spot of repainting going on – so somebody was there with masking tape: “Rererererererererererere – rip – ssssppppppltttthhhhhh”, then they were out with the bucket of paint and a roller: “ssssshhhhhhh, shhhhhhhhh, sssssshhhhhhh, shhhhhhhhhh”. All this while a lecture on grounding, bonding, screens and cable termination is going on.

Today we had the door repairman – at least he came at lunch time.

The compensation is that the lunches have been good: yesterday was a bit light on, but soon put right, today they delivered the same amount as yesterday as well as 10 pizzas from the wood oven. We could only get through about half of it.

Last day tomorrow.

Apart from the odd venue, (but cheap, very cheap) I think we have well and truly got our moneys worth. Well done to Nick for organising this at about 10 minutes notice, and underspending the budget to do so. It will certainly help us design better products. And it’s been an experience!

A beautiful mind

After one one those weeks-from-hell, working back late most nights – including Friday, the traditional POETS day – I wanted to have a veg-out.

So, channel surfing saw me find, by accident, “A beautiful mind”. A little research today has shown that it’s a very romanticised / fictional account of the life of John Nash. Nevertheless, a few points leapt out:

  • Why do Channel 9 insist on showing a movie like this in 10 minute grabs, with a 3-5 minute ad break in between? Stretched it out by about 45 minutes. Sods!
  • Russel Crowe might be an egocentric and rather obnoxious character, but by crikey he’s a good actor.
  • I don’t know if the depiction of schizophrenia is accurate or not, if it’s even close to reality then this an eye-opening film about a truly terrible and debilitating disease.
  • The use of insulin shock therapy! How utterly barbaric, thankfully this is a practice now abandoned.

A little digging today shows that Nash’s life was not quite as rosy as the film shows – whilst his wife did stick with him for a long time, they were divorced eventually, but later re-met and eventually re-married! He was also unemployed for a long period – mental illness being a contributor, and it was not until he received the Nobel prize in 1994 that he was really accepted again as employable.

The real Nash was interviewed in 2004 – you can find it here, and his autobiography for the Nobel prize is here, and there is a good Wikipedia entry here.

** Update: In the interview he makes the point that the film shows someone who sees characters, it does not adequately show the delusional thinking associated with schizophrenia.


In our garden a couple of days ago:

*** EDIT: Anybody who wants a high-res JPG image, please email me – free to distribute as you wish.

Found a few new links

Lately I’ve found a few other Adelaide bloggers worthy of a read…

Angry Penguin (Samela Harris, naturally)

Adelaide Green Porridge Cafe

Ask Gadget Guy

Blurb from the Burbs

All linked on the sidebar for your edification.

Wine of the week

Tatachilla Shiraz Viognier.

Excellent, really, really good. Get one of these and wrap yerself around it!

Of new pans and product quality

After enduring years of buying various non-stick fry pans, SWMBO and I finally reached agreement: We Have Had Enough Of This Crap And We Are Not Taking It Any More.

So we went and bought a real one.

This post is really about product quality, a theme I’ve been banging on about at work, and which prompted me to do this picture in best Kathy Sierra style:

The diagram is for MANUFACTURERS of products:

Making crap means you don’t get happy customers, unhappy customers tell others, and in the long run, low quality means your business won’t survive. These days most of the Crap is Cheap, and is imported from China and sold through discount stores. A heck of a lot is sold through Bunnings, too.

Making something Pretty Good gives you a chance of success. There are lots of manufacturers of stuff that’s Pretty Good. You pay a bit more, and generally customers are happy. Manufacturers of the Pretty Good can (and sure do) struggle – they compete with each other and with all the cheap crap. It’s a hard life, making something that’s Pretty Good.

Making something Perfect is a bad, bad move: mainly because you can spend so long in product development, burning up money, tweaking and finishing, polishing and adjusting, and getting just that little bit better. Perfect products don’t ship, so makers of perfect products are just like makers of crap – in the long run they don’t survive. They can have a lot of fun going broke, though.

Making something Excellent is where only a few manufacturers want to be, with deliberate strategies to get there and stay there. Excellent products stand out from the Pretty Good by something… figuring out the something is the hard part. Usually some kind of feature, or innovation, something people are prepared to have which makes the product stand out.

Excellent products naturally cost more than just the Pretty Good – after all, why sell for less when you stand out? Makers of Excellent products can (all going well) make very high margins on their products, and customers are happy for them to do so, because those customers get something that is (truly) Excellent. Complacency, and slipping back to being merely Good is a big danger.


So, to pans:

Cheap Cheap!

Once upon a time, when money was tight, we bought whatever was cheap.

By and large, cheap was (and still is) crap. In the case of a fry pan, cheap is made of thin pressed metal. Over time the heating and cooling cycles make the base of the pan dish outwards.

you know all those pans you have that won’t sit flat on a stove? Cheap CRAP.

Pans that don’t sit flat on a stove annoy me.

There is a cheap and cheerful temporary solution: turn the pan upside down and place it on the kitchen benchtop (handle sticking out off the bench). Now get something heavy – a wooden breadboard will do, and bring it crashing down HARD on the centre of the pan base. A couple of blows usually knocks them back into shape. I’ve done this at home for years, and I’ve been known to do it in holiday accommodation – B&Bs and so on – as well. Not my pan? Don’t care. It’s busted and I’m gonna fix it. Very noisy! Scares the hell out of everybody if you haven’t told then you are doing this!

Cheap pans have cheap non-stick coatings. These are usually soft, scratch easily, or they peel or blister. They are thin and in the event you get something carbonised on which won’t come off easily you are pretty much screwed. There are various home remedies for cleaning up these pans – they work after a fashion, once or twice – but in the end, screwed is screwed.

Moving Up

A few years ago we found better kitchenware – made by an Adelaide company, part of the business my former employer had. Nice – a thick base, though still pressed. A decent thick coating, though still fairly soft. This one was about $40.

We had moved up from the Cheap Crap, to the Pretty Good.

After about 5 years, this one too is beginning to show its age and its quality.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a bad product, it is merely a good one. It has no dishing of the base, it has a few minor scratches on the coating, and it is generally doing well.

It’s also clear that within another year or so it will be getting to be past its use-by date and up for replacement.

Along the way we bought a humungous Le Creuset cast iron pan – seemed a good idea at the time and for some jobs it’s just fine. (Hint: never ever ever wash a cast-iron pan with soap or detergent. Warm water only. Ever.) The test is cooking fried eggs in a cast-iron pan. Very very difficult. It also weighs about 3/4 tonne and to carry it any distance is a two-handed task. For day-to-day use it is not quite appropriate.

The Experiment

So far our journeys in fry-pans have moved from the Crap to the Good - so what about the Excellent?

Today we went out and bought a new pan. Gasp – shock, horror!

This is a Swiss Diamond. The things which should make it an Excellent product, that stands above the others are:

- whilst aluminium, it is thick, and it’s cast rather than pressed;

- the base is seriously flat – it looks like it has been machined;

- the coating is some new space-age combination of diamonds (really!) and some fandangled non-stick thing. The coating survives the Choice Magazine test of 10,000 cycles being scraped with a scotch-brite pad, and you can use metal utensils with it; and

- the manufacturers must believe their own hype, it has a lifetime guarantee.

And yes, it cost about 3 times a much as the Good pan it will replace.

The true test will be what we think of it in 5 years time, but who could pass up the chance to try it out? Tonight we browned 1 kg of beef pieces in it, and the cleanup was dead easy. The best ever. So it’s off to a good start.

Truly – paying 3 times the price for an EXCELLENT product will be well worth it, if it lives up to its promise.

Thus forming a concrete example of the picture up the top.

The Stig

Thanks to a comment left on Archies Archive we have the origin of the term “STIG”:


A Stig is a small 13 year old, 1st Year boy, at Repton School in Derbyshire’s Repton School (the envy of many less Happier Schools).

Long ago, some forgotten but linguistically unsympathetic Headmaster (hereinafter called “that unfeeling Tyrant”) decreed undemocratically that the older, bigger Boys should not use the term “GITS” when referring to the small 1st Years (aged 13), as being cruel, insensitive AND Vulgar.

The older, bigger boys obeyed this decree, being duly respectful of authority.

However, retaliation was swift and without effective Counter – thenceforward, they were called STIGS (ie G I T backwards).

The term is now used on (we learn from you) in the Life of Brian.

…. and on (ex-Repton boy) Jeremy Clarkson’s irreverent British TV Show [Top Gear - Wally], to refer to a mystery Fast-Car driver, with an identity concealed not in a Hijab, but within a Racing Driver’s helmet.

Alles Gute

Vivat Roma


G Eagle

HTBAWW in 6 easy steps

How to be a Wine Wanker in 6 easy steps



Soursob or Oxalis pes-caprae

Highly invasive, a noxious weed.

We have this stuff everywhere. Spraying helps for a year or two, pulling it up does nothing much. It chokes out other plants and grasses, and is generally impossible to get rid of.

But it does look kind of good in the early morning sun with a few droplets left from last night’s rain.

What a surprise!

Been on leave today, to join some colleagues for a trip around the Barossa trying a bit of wine, followed by a long Italian lunch in the deep north.

Bit of a long story about how this came about, and I was not really sure what to expect. Pleasantly surprised was the result though – especially lunch at the final stop.

The day went something like this: Visit a few wineries (Rockford, Bethany, St Hallett) before heading back to Angle Vale for more wine and lunch.

Angle Vale? Who on earth buys wine at Angle Vale?

Well… It turns out that Dominic Versace makes wine at Angle Vale, under the name (surprise) Dominic Versace Wines. Again, a name I had never heard of. Some googling tonight shows that in the right circles they are quite well known for making a top-notch product. Every review I found tonight is flattering.

From not knowing what to expect – EVERYTHING WAS EXCEPTIONALLY GOOD!

They make small amounts of wine the simplest possible way – no big factory here, just a shed with some barrels in and everything hand made.

We started with an unwooded Chardonnay , served lightly chilled – too cold and there is no flavour. I’m not a huge fan of Chardy any more but this was exceptionally good.

Then, a Sangiovese – a common grape for making wine in Italy. Sometimes it is used here, often making a fairly ordinary wine. This, like the Chardonnay, was damn good.

But there was more – a Sparkling Red, a Sangiovese / Shiraz / Grenache blend, a Rose, a straight Shiraz. The Sparkling Red in particular was big, rich, smoky – one of the best examples of the type ever. At least as good as Rockfords Black Shiraz (and that’s a big statement).

The winemaker (that’s Dominic) was stoking the pizza oven and we spent the next couple of hours eating real pizza, pickles, cheeses, and a fantastic pear and rocket salad. Pizzas were simple – prawn, or tomato and salami, or roast capsicum. All with a little cheese of course, and I suspect some herbs. But not covered in huge amounts of stuff, just a few simple ingredients done really, really well.

All this was laid on because one of the group knows Dominic, and used to go there pruning the vines at one time.

I feel very privileged, we got Rolls Royce treatment from a small family winemaker, drank some of the best wines I have ever come across, ate extremely well, and even got to try some of a special reserve straight from the barrel.

I’ll be back – probably this weekend, they are less than 20 minutes drive away!!! My wallet will suffer but who cares when there is wine of this quality to be bought!


**** EDIT Saturday pm: Just come back with a few bottles. That sparkling Shiraz is a mere $20 a bottle – a steal. You’d pay twice this for some others of comparable quality. I cannot recommend this place enough. With a clean palate, everything was simply stunning. As good as it seemed yesterday, if not better.

After the last buy-up I swore I would not buy any more wine for 2 years. That resolution lasted a month. Pathetic isn’t it.

Floppy what?

Yesterday I had to load some 12 year old software off floppy disks.

Floppy what?

How quickly we forget just how terrible these things are: slow, unreliable, low capacity.

I’ve have my new work PC for a year, this is the first time I have used the floppy drive in it. Until now I did not even know if it worked!

But sitting there for 20 minutes listening to mechanical thingies going “grrrr grrr grrr” – not my idea of a fun time.

And to think, once upon a time floppy disks were bigger (physically), stored less, and were noisier.


We have some technological progresses that we can be thankful for.

Sports News

What the heck is it with Sports News?

For a start, about 1/2 of every radio or TV news bulletin is devoted to this drivel. But it’s only about a game, its not NEWS, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s just some bunch of folks bouncing balls around, or similar. Usually balls.

I’m completely nonplussed by all this. When the sports news come on the TV or radio, I have no interest at all. I get extremely bored.

An announcer – breathless with excitement – might say “Today Collingwood beat Carlton in a super-showdown at the WA swimming centre, winning by 93 laps to 2″, but all I hear is “wah wah wah wah wah wah wah”. I completely tune out.

One big trouble with tuning out is that in the mornings the weather report is always AFTER the sports, so I wake up, hear the news, then they move to wah wah wah wah wah – brain switches straight off again, I go back to sleep, and miss the weather report.

So when the chaps want to know what they should wear to school I have no idea. And SWMBO is not much help, she just sleeps through the whole lot!

On the few occasions when we ever watch the swimming or something (god forbid football. Ergh. Spare me.), some poor sod has just knackered themselves and comes off the field to have a microphone jammed in front of their gob to be asked inane questions. Strangely, we get inane answers:

“well like I figured I needed to give it like all I got and I did, but I though I should put on a real burst in the second quarter but like see my tactics (wheeze, puff) were not quite as good as they should be because like the other side were better on the day, y’know?”. Doh! In other words, you lost.

The poor buggers must want to say “Look you toss-pot, I lost, OK? Now take that microphone and shove it where the sun don’t shine, I’m tired, grumpy and pissed off”. But it they do that they cop a fine, so we instead we get a completely meaningless stream of platitudinous moronic drivel, delivered through a forced smile. Still, they are sportspersons, I suppose they deserve it.

Cooking with kids

SWMBO brought home a book the other day with the unfortunate title “Cooking with kids”.

The mind boggles!

Kid roast?

Kid sausages?

Kids on toast?

Need I go on?

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