Sunday, 29 August 2010

the nature of the beast

Just as a leopard does not change its spots it seems that the thug style approach to politics in the Liberal party (if not established during of the Howard era certainly consolidtated) in Australia remains. I was reading tonight that Tony Abbot has had to reign in his fellow representatives after reports that

Liberal MP Alby Schultz threatened independent Tony Windsor

great. I know that many voted for the Coalition to demonstrate dissatisfaction with the Labor party (and there is much to be dissatisfied in) but this is a stark reminder (if the other post election bullying have not been) that the nature of the Liberal party has not yet turned away from the lies and twists of the Howard era.

If you've forgotten babies overboard then perhaps you may ask who it was that got us into Afghanistan and Iraq, that would be Howard and the Liberals.

Just as a reminder, lets look again at the break down of the so called unified coalition:

That table is sourced on the results so far from the AEC. So making up the "liberal nation party coalition" we have:
  • Liberals
  • The Nationals
but as you can see in that above table they aren't even that unified as they have further splits into:
  • Liberal National Party of Queensland
  • Country Liberals
seriously ... its worse then the Monty Python skit about the fragmentation of resistance to the Romans.

so where is this "two party preferred" heading to when we have 4 parties (if they are not distinct entities then why are they listed as being distinct?) making up the two party system which underpins our democracy. From this source

it is possible to derive a two-party-preferred figure, where the votes are divided between the two main candidates in the election. In Australia, this is usually between the candidates from the two major parties

Ohh ... I guess that Tony is thinking that they were the popular front ... splitters

Reading comments by The Australian writer Paul Kelly:

But where, exactly, is Labor heading? Its tactical skill at clinging to office is impressive. The risk, however, is that Gillard is affirming Labor's weakness and accentuating its decline into a situation where, with a falling primary vote, its future is to share power with Greens and independents as the once mighty Labor Party fades into history.

I feel that he may be bang on the money. Which isn't what I think of as a bad thing. I think that here in Australia we may be ready for politics where its about what we want rather than about what a party wants.

Perhaps this is something we can actually do with modern technology. Perhaps debate in Parliament could be aimed at people (instead of the other bored pollies) and we could direct our members with our intentions based on polling by some electronic method. I think its possible to have politicians turned back into servants of the people rather than some sort of "seat of power".

Friday, 27 August 2010

children vs childish

I was reading the paper this morning and spotted this one:

Come on folks if some one had dressed as Edi Amin (aside from noone knowing how he was) or Ivan the Terrible there would be no need to apologise?

... and Grim Reaper, what you've never seen a Halloween party? Gosh this is sounding like the parents should all go and become Amish or something.

I can imagine children acting like children, but the parents should not be so childish.

History is history, we all know what the Fascist government of Germany did at that time and we all know that Hitler was the leader and responsible for all of it. However mindless iconisation of him personifying evil are pointless and perhaps even false. Hitler was just as much made into what he was by the allied appeasement. His own journal writings suggest that if the Europeans had followed Churchils call for him to get out of Austria then he would have done so.

As adults the parents should be a little less childish and teach their children history and not just a highly stylized version of it.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Google goes voip?

Started up my gmail this morning to notice a new icon in the left navigation. "Call phone"

Hmm ... looks like they're not content to let Skype take the market share (as indeed skype took much of the market from other VOIP players such as PennyTel WorldDialPoint ... yadda yadda).


Prices seem exactly equal to Skype (which is dearer than VOIP via a Linksys type SIP). So it seems that as the technology is "new" (or rather as there are many new people on the market I've been using voip for about 5 years) they can provide something which is cheaper than regular telephony and still pull in some bucks.

Monday, 23 August 2010

2010 election results

The election outcome was quite tight, with the news hitting the world that Australia was unable to make a clear decision on who to govern us.

The Wall Street Journal in the USA reportedly saying:

Australia, normally one of the most stable democracies in the region, faces its most uncertain period in recent political history after a national poll on Saturday failed to deliver a clear result.

The country's two major parties, the centre-left Labor administration of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Liberal-National conservative bloc of Tony Abbott, said a new government likely won't be formed for a number of days, as negotiations begin with non-party lawmakers who hold the keys to power in the first hung parliament in 70 years.

Perhaps there is another way of viewing this.

In my previous post about informal voting I (half jokingly) suggested that the ballot ticket also contain another choice:

None of these buggers

Because I genuinely don't feel that any of them do represent what I want. I also have little faith in or personal knowledge of them.

Further I think more and more people around the world in developed stable democratic nations feel the same way.

Around me before the election I commonly heard expressed it wasn't about who I wanted "in" it was about who I didn't want "in". This is not what the election process is designed to do.

Today I think that the issues of National Governance are many more and far more complex than in the past when Sir Henry Parks gave the Tenterfield Oration. We as a community can no longer be satisfied with stale and or out of touch individuals within our elected representation making deals on what "party solidarity" wants while neglecting their electorates needs.

With the cost of the election being billed at about AU$170 million perhaps we need to start considering a more active participatory approach incorporating some modern technology. I think that internet technology and public private key security holds a potential answer to this problem. It would allow the representatives to get a good feel of the electorate and enable them to not only make better decisions but to demonstrate to us that this is what people wanted.

This sort of sophistication adds to the neural network of the Government and expands it to what it should be. As it stand we have an organism the size of 20million people with a nerve network of less than that of a jelly fish.

No wonder we blob around in the political sea

Sunday, 22 August 2010

build a better mouse trap

There is a saying "build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door"

Somehow I'm not so certain that this is true anymore. Probably its more likely that your poorly performing but better selling - higher profit margin competition will buy you up shelve the idea for the future and close you down.

Australia was once home to the "Supreme" rat and mouse traps.

After being away from home for some years (and the house occupied by people with a different view to me) I came home to find that I had a little bit of a rat and mouse problem.

Knowing how good these traps were I headed off to the shops to get one, to find that they aren't sold or made anymore.

DRAT - man these traps were the best by a long shot! They come in two sizes (mouse and rat) but each had a snap which would kill a mouse (or rat) sharply and quickly ... not like the modern poison technique which leaves them to die a horrible and slow death.

Well anyway some research has revealed that these great mouse traps were not the manufacture of some large company (as would probably be the case in some countries) but were made by one fellow in a small factory.

Arnold Wesley Standfield who has sadly has not only passed on but his business has closed and has picked up his product and run with it. His stuff of manufacture is now in "The Powerhouse Museum" in Sydney. It was designed and manufactured by
Standfield in 1942-43 and used continually at the Mascot factory until August 2000, producing about 96 million traps.

Arnold was born in Kyogle (see map below)

View Larger Map

and if you've ever been there, is in the midst of wonderfully beautiful country side lovely rain forest and is also prime cattle country. I'm sure he had a few mice and rats in his barns!

According to the document in the museum:
While there were other rodent trap manufacturers in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s, they did not last and by 1943 Standfield was the only manufacturer in the southern hemisphere. As well as marketing in Australia the firm exported to New Zealand, the US Army (especially during World War II), South America, several Pacific Islands and New Guinea.

Back to my rat problems ... we were finding droppings around the table and stove:

and some piss too ... which was annoying enough. Then one night he found my case of apples in the dining room....and had some

so after the chewings on the apples (as well as pooing and peeing in my kitchen benches) I thought "right"

Lucky for me a quick ferret around under my house turned up one. Old and a bit rusty, but one of them none the less.

So my wife put some talcum powder onto the floor to confirmif he was coming in via the garage ...

yep ... sure was

not that it mattered now as we knew where he was going (even if we weren't sure where he was coming from)

So we placed one of the traps on the kitchen bench with a little bit of Spanish Chirozo and went to bed

About 5:30am I was woken up by a "snap" from downstairs, and I know we had got our intruder. I was surprised just how large he was.

So while many will be horrified at what seems like a cruel thing I am certain that its far far less cruel than the slow death from the rat baits which we so commonly use now. Which more or less have seen there be no demand for a device like this in our modern western world. If he goes off and dies slowly somewhere its far less confronting than a quick kill.

If you've never seen a rat up close before, well here's why you don't want to get your hands near one.

That's a pretty strong set of fangs in there.

Saturday, 21 August 2010

comparing scans (a redux of others work)

A recent discussion on a forum about scanners made me think about what I held as being correct (based on my experience). Essentially a person was asking about spending some thousands of dollars (like four thousand dollars) on a better scanner when they already had an Epson V700 scanner.

My advice was that they should save their money and put that towards getting scans done by professional services using high quality scanners (like drum scanners or top CCD scanners such as Flextight or Creo Eversmart).

My argument was that the Epsons are good for scans up to at least 1200dpi which printed using 300dpi will be a x4 enlargement and for the satisfaction of all but submission into photographic competitions printing at 200dpi will be barely discernible. A 6x9 medium format negative will be 36cm wide printed at 300dpi and 54cm wide at 200dpi.

Naturally this was howled down by at least one perfectionist who claims that even at x2 enlargement. Saying something like:
Before purchasing my Howtek 4500, I made several 16x20 inch prints ( a very modest 2X enlargement) from 8x10 B&W negatives scanned on my Epson 4990 (and before you jump to a rash conclusion, I do know "how to drive it" and have done thousands of scans on it at optimal focus height etc). Some months after owning the Howtek, I rescanned the same negatives and re-printed them - the differences are astounding.

The above emphasis is my own.

Ok, firstly a 2x enlargement is only making a 16x20 print from a 8x10 source, that's like making a 8x10 from a 4x5 negative or a postcard print from a 6x9 (which is cm not inches) negative.

Somehow the differences in results were astounding ... without any offered evidence I'll have to take his word for it.

But perhaps I can get something to work with from a reasonably well established and informative site such as
Large Format Photography . Info who happen to publish a scanner comparison where the same slide (a 4x5 inch slide) has been scanned by the owners of many various scanners. In the interests of "fairness" these scans are offered in "raw" (straight out of the scanner) and "sharpened" where someone has gone to the effort of making the image more presentable with some sharpening.

Some people regard sharpening of the images to be "cheating" and others consider it to be a normal workflow associated with scanning. I'm in the "normal workflow" camp. My experience with using my Nikon LS-4000 scanner and my Epsons (3200, 4870 and 4990) is that the Nikon does not need significant fine sharpening while the Epson usually does.

Naturally colour matching between machines is problematic.

As the owner / user of a few of the Epson scanners I can say that many scans I've seen on the net demonstrate how badly owners normally post process their images. I looked at the sample images on the site for the Tango (as scanned by Daniel Portnoy) and the V750 Pro image (not credited) and thought that I might take one of the ones with less complex colour and attempt to colour match them and then do a little post processing. My workflow was:
  1. match the V750 image to the Tango image in Photoshop (using match colour)
  2. apply 1.8 pixel radius sharpening to the V750 image
  3. downscale both segments to 1200dpi

Here is the result.

I'm not seeing a "astounding difference" here, to me they are quite close.

Keep in mind that this is rather a small segment of the full image.

We are looking at the small part of the folded jacket there under the seat. Viewed in this way its even harder to justify the claim that one can see the difference between a $4000 drum scanner and a $700 Epson clearly at web sizes.

Again this should not be surprising as the consensus of the owners of the Epsons is that they're good for about 2000dpi scans in the real world. Thus if you're only doing smaller prints (less than x4 enlargement or just putting them onto the web) from your Medium Format or Large Format camera then there is nothing substantial to be gained by spending thousands on the scanner you have in your home. Leave the services or professional scanning labs to spend the big bucks on scanners and take your film to them.

I encourage anyone who wishes to do this to grab the images from the site and try it themselves. As I always say, science not religion for this sort of thing.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Oldtony of the Gold Coast

I was reading an article this evening on political debate and found at the end of it a rather insightful question which I'd like to answer (should oldtony ever find this)

Oldtony of Gold Coast Posted at 6:32 AM Today

Is competition policy the big idea that niether party want to talk about? The two elephants in the room that have not been mentioned by either side are the two Ws, Woolies and Wesfarmers. Does any other country in the world have a market so dominated by two retail giants. Fresh food, groceries, petrol, liquor, gaming, books, clothing, hardware, household goods and increasingly pharmacy and optical. Not only do they have the power to kill off or purchase retail sales competition, they also have the power to manipulate supply and production with their purchasing power. Ask any farmer or small manufacturer.

Comment 4 of 49

The answer is yes, at least Finland where the S and K chains have almost entirely dominated the market. What remains is only a couple of small grocers who like IGA are combining to make some sort of last stand.

Kiss goodbye to market variation and embrace uniformity. Perhaps its cheaper, but I can't say that food (or even freshness) is better there than here. As Tony points out, the market barely benefits, the farmers and producers surely don't. Anyone recall the deregulation of milk?

This also brings me to notice that more and more poignant comments are coming from people who hail from the Gold Coast. Perhaps this means that one of the effects of all the retirement here on the Gold Coast has been we get some thoughtful and experienced elders among the community (not just the kokheads who do burnouts and drag racing in the streets in their hotted up V8's and other stuff).

Food for thought there ... wonder how we can capitalize on this?

stupid headlines

A West Australian surfer was killed the other day by a shark. The evidence and the experts suggest that the shark took a bite but then let him go. Tragically the bite also caused caused enough trauma to kill the fellow.

The press are now writing utter dribble about this such as:

with even more stupidity in the article:
A POD of seals is thought to have lured a massive shark towards Nicholas Edwards, a fly-in, fly-out mine worker enjoying an early-morning wave.

The shark was lured just minutes before he was attacked yesterday at one of Western Australia's best-known surf breaks

utter nonscence....

A shark is just a simple predator, it was hunting the seals by tracking their scent in the water. The seals (also predators) were either wandering around hunting fish or happen to be interested in the surfer and went out of interest to inspect him.
Its not like a merry melodys cartoon where the seals say "hey, look, there's a shark ... hey wanna play a game?" and then lure the shark to the surfer. If the seals knew there was a shark there they'd be out of the place fast.

Most probably some scent from the surfer (humans are mammals as are seals so there is likely to be some common smells) lured the shark to inspect the surfer.

Having done a bit of diving myself and growing up around the ocean I'd be curious to know if the scent they followed was from urine. Its a strong scent and even diluted significantly would be easy for a shark to follow. Its something only mammals produce too, as fish do not excrete the same stuff as mammals.

If you've ever put on a rental wet suite that someone pissed in you'll know how long the smell stays around for.

So, perhaps a good bit of advice to surfers in these areas may be to not piss in the water .... even if the fish do.


I noticed a little while ago that the Headline has changed although the URL has remained the same

I also noticed that there are plenty of comments the same as mine too, so it looks like this have hit home to the news paper.

ohh, and for the interested:
fish excrete ammonia
birds and reptiles excrete uric acid
mammals excrete urine which is a solution of Urea and other compounds such as Creatinine


Friday, 13 August 2010

every K over is a buck for consolidated revenue

I read this morning on the ABC that the Queensland government is considering taking operation of speed cameras off police and putting it into private operators hands.

I notice they include a picture in the article of a police officer on duty with a gun, not a van parked on the side of the road (with the sign stashed out of sight of the traffic it is supposed to notify). Implying that the officer does more than sit around reading a book.

The Police minister says "about 100,000 hours of police time will be freed up if civilians operate the state's speed cameras."

Sounds very laudable, but I smell that its not about helping the police do their job, I suspect this is about balancing costs of operating the speed cameras and the revenue they return.

This view is interesting, as even the police union Ian Leavers says that "Once you give it to a private business, it's nothing more than about making a profit - it is unacceptable"

So, while the Police union thinks its ok for police to sit in the van and get paid for reading a book, they think that somehow a contrator will do a lesser job? I mean its not as if the officer gets out and flags anyone down for speeding, discovers they are driving without a licence | driving over the alcohol limit | some other offence ...

Many have criticized the speed cameras as doing little to enhance police involvement in road safety, even raised cases where people have gone through a speed camera to later be involved in an accident ... which could have been prevented had they been pulled over by an officer rather than just had their photo taken for an additional "road tax"

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


I thought I'd share a little of our trip to Bunjalung National park in Northern New South Wales

The park is situated between Evans Heads and Iluka

View Larger Map

Its a typical bit of (or typical of what was) coastline in this area. It shares similarity with the Fraser Island coastline with differences.

There are fresh water creeks meandering along towards the ocean through sandy wetland areas behind the dunes ...


a variety of birds like the Wren who was bothered by his reflection and this white cheeked honey eater


Just down the beach at the Iluka end is a small remnant of the sort of rain forest which was common in the region.


To quote from the park brochure:
Iluka Nature Reserve contains the largest remaining stand
of littoral "by the sea" rainforest in New South Wales and is a
World Heritage listed Gondwana rainforest.

I got my best ever sighting of a Noisy Pitta (I think its a Noisy Pitta) there (and certainly the best picture so far).

rainbow pitta

We had a quiet time, with plenty of local visitors to pop in to your campsite during the day (while you read a book or generally lounge about if you have not gone for a walk)


While out on the trail (amid the thick growth of various types of hardy salt tolerant plants) are a variety of lovely (and unusual) flowers.


not to mention great beaches to go fishing on ... gotta have something for dinner!


which of course brings me to an important point. If you're going to go fishing with the kids, teach them good habits, not bad ones. Way way too many fishermen these days just toss their lines around, leave garbage everywhere, don't know how to tie a line on properly and many many more bad habits. This leads to the deaths of sea birds which just don't need to happen. This Albatross was just such a casualty


with a hook wound in its lower jaw and a line pulled through ...


the bird would have died a slow death of starvation with this caught in its bill. So please, you fishermen, be a little careful.

Another small annoyance was the fact that NSW National Parks didn't seem to know the place well, in fact not seem to know much about the park at all (even when you ring the number specific to that park).

For instance we picked a campsite in the middle of the park (Black Rock) with the express intention of being able to drive down the beach (in the 4WD) to the southern end of the park (where the rain forest is). This is important as to get to the other end of the park by road requires about a 70Km road trip (an hours drive), rather than a 10Km beach drive.

They confirmed that the track was open to the beach and there was no problem. Except of course it wasn't open.


... nor was it a recent event looking at the concrete block and the sign posted from the beach side.


or the amount of overgrowth on the track...


Which is interesting, as it demonstrates just how fast the dunes can regenerate from simple incursions such as a road through them. I think this is a significant issue for the environmental freaks (I consider myself an environmentally conscious person) who jump up and down about dune damage. This indicates that specifically planned and localised removal of the dune ecology for a road access will recover fast ... unlike say rampant dune crawling and hooting by hoons in big tyred beach buggy dune things.

Locals told me that they had heard that the National Parks People were suggesting that it will cost half a million bucks to rebuild it ... say what?

For gods sake, give any local fella with a D6 the job of carving a track down and it could not come to anywhere near that.

For Goodness sake, it doesn't need surveys, impact studies, community consultation ... just cut a track through. It is in fact such a tiny fraction of the coastline there in reality and clearly will grow back quickly when closed or moved.

brokenBeachAccessLooking at how they've done it in the first place, it seems they tried to build something up out of rock and stone. Seems a stupid method to me, as after living most of my life around this area it would just wash away with the first major storm or cyclone (which it seems to have done).

Well anyway ... Bunjalung is a lovely place, well worth the visit and the drive. I recommend staying at the Iluka end of the park as you'll have better access to the entire park and be able to nip into town easily.

Lastly its important to take water with you as there is no freshwater available at Black Rock campsite and the facilities are only composting type toilets (not flushing) and there are no showers.

Important information can be found on the website (as long as that link doesn't get changed or that site reorganised ;-)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

the milky way

On our weekend camping trip I was again in awe at the beauty of the milky way in the souther hemisphere sky

Not knowing how well it might work out I thought I'd try a 1 minute exposure with the G1 at 800ISO

not nearly as beautiful as it looked from my chair in the darkness, but not bad all the same. There was a wee bit of glow from the few small towns 20km to the south (down on the horizon) but all in all it worked well enough (with no equitorial mount).

Monday, 9 August 2010

the smart one gives up first

We were camping on the weekend (had a great time too) and on the first morning we found that we had given some new competition to the the local splendid wren.

My wife heard something going "thump" from the early hours of the morning (from inside the tent) and it seems that it was this little fella taking exception to the new wren trying to muscle in on his territory.

All morning he'd been whapping himself at the mirror, flying in to attack the other bird.

The problem is the other bird didn't pull back or 'chicken out' ... thump

After breakfast and no sign of him stopping (his "wife" even joined in attacking that other hot chick) we thought we'd better cover the mirrors.

you know ... so he wouldn't brain himself on the mirror.

This wasn't entirely successful as he already knew there was another bird around. Can you see his reflection there beside him?

You guessed it ... pretty soon he did too!

Hey, so that's where he went ... So soon he was all over the car

hassling that bird in there ...

We went for a walk for a few hours (what else would you do), up to the end of the creek where it came out into the surf. There were some pied oyster catchers and a bunch of terns.

It was lovely out there ... but when we came back in the after noon we found he was still at it ...

There is a saying in Finland that fits this, they say
"fiksumpi antaa periksi"
which means "the smarter one gives up first"

So I moved the car

Friday, 6 August 2010

polarising the views

One of the oldest things in military thinking is the adage of Divide and Conquer. This is something which political propaganda, marketing and other like minded folk bring to bear on the community: You're either with us or against us.

I found yesterday that a web forum which I enjoy called Hybridphoto is being dismantled and assimilated into a "new site" called DPUG, which is Digital Photography Users Group. For now you can go to this link and see this banner:

Its interesting to read that the intentions of the creation of this new site are something like:
Hybrid would be folded into it's own unique container within DPUG (somewhat of an HPUG). You would have the option to turn off the wider digital aspect of the site completely if you choose so and remain in the hybrid area with no interference outside of that.

which makes me wonder just what the owner is thinking, when you look into the existing forums of Hybrid you find:

So currently we discuss topics as eclectic as:
  • Darkroom
  • Workstation (for light room)
  • Film
  • Calibration
  • Scanners and Scanning
  • Image Editing
  • Cameras and Capture
  • Studio
  • Chemistry
  • Printers
  • Papers
Essentially anything you may like to consider in photography which embraces all current image making techniques both digital and traditional.

In contrast the "sister site" APUG has always had a anti-digital sentiment. I understand this is because some of the people who post there are quite recalcitrant about their discussions of film and want to keep the place "clean" of digital pollution. An often cited reason is:
there are thousands of sites where you can discuss digital, so if you want to discuss that go there.
Fair enough. There were enough people who use both however that a need was seen and Hybridphoto emerged.

Now it seems that this emergence is to be squashed in yet another site tagged "digital photography".

The reasons are plain to see if you read between the lines. As one other user of that site has said:
"I fear by turning Hybrid Photo into DPUG, and looking at it as just another "Revenue Stream" will result in this site becoming just another digital photography site "

yep, thats what its all about ... another digital site to attract more of the google hits, more of the basis for advertising.

Don't get me wrong, I don't dislike APUG in fact I'm a member there, before Hybrid existed. Its just the the primary focus (and fervent dislike of many of the members there) of incorporating digital techniques to analog capture and printing systems led to the creation of Hybrid (and my joining it).

I would love to be able to discuss scanning technique there with people who really understand colour negative film and densitometry. It is ironic that while many there will espouse "we all need to use more film" while shouting down all who say the "D" word ... even if they are using film.

It was in fact the polarizing hatred of digital among (perhaps only a few) of the members which drove the need for a site where people who use films and scanners could discuss photography from the perspective of using the tools which did the job.

Accordingly I wonder just what sort of site DPUG will be.

Monday, 2 August 2010

informal voting

with the election looming and the candidates seeming (to me at least) less than appealing I'm tempted to vote informally, especially considering that Australia has compulsory voting.

Of course there are issues with this, not the least of which is that I essentially make my vote meaningless. Which is not what I feel, what I want, or what message I would like to send.

Since we have the compulsory vote I would like to propose a system where by all ballot papers give me an option like this possible extra ballot tick box. This would allow me to state clearly I don't like any of the above (or below).

Making it clear that I'm not making a mistake, I don't like any of them and feel none of them are representing me.

Perhaps we could develop this idea further, and suggest that if enough people voted this way (say more than any other party before preference allocation) then it would be sending a clear message (to at least the Electoral Commission) that voters were dissatisfied with the choices and probably the performance of the previous government and the Opposition.

I'd say that if "none of these buggers" were to receive a majority vote, then they're clearly not performing and perhaps their salary would / should be docked.

I guess we could apply this at least to the PM (with whom the buck should stop) and perhaps the entire front bench.
I really like this idea.

More than this guy really likes that stick ... but I'm not sure where to take this idea too ... as I'm certain that my local MP will not like it anywhere near as much as I do.

This raises an interesting quandary ... to whom do we complain to when the leaders suck as badly as they do?