Wednesday, 27 October 2010

perception isn't reality (again)

Its interesting to find that while the demographic which reads the Herald Sun feels that its family growth driving population:
One in three Australians believe families should be limited to having no more than two children, according to a poll on population growth.

The poll from the Australian National University showed a third of the population favoured a two child limit, while half said families should not have more than three children.

Most Australians believe the country should remain at its current or lower population levels, though 83 percent believe more skilled migrants should be allowed in, the Herald Sun reported.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (reported by the ABC) suggest that the reality is that its migration.

Looking at data from this page we can find a table showing migration and other forms of population growth. I'll edit this down to show the difference between 1990 and 2009

Looking at this table you can see that Net Overseas Migration has gone from 49% of our population growth to 65% of our population growth.

Now ... my question is "why do we have such an enormous amount of migration growth even back in 1989?"

"skill shortage" would only cut mustard for me if we had zero unemployment.

and calls for smaller familys .. p-llease!

Monday, 25 October 2010

what about bob

Its a funny comedy with Bill Murray ... but just now I was reading this comedy and a different Bob, who has been making some great comments (that I wish were a joke).

For starters, Bob seems to know something the rest of us don't with his remarks about Australia needing to follow the USA into any invasion of Pakistan.

... there has never been any doubt in my mind that, if the Americans go in and they request us to go in, we absolutely must go in,” he told parliament.

... say what?

It gets better:
Pakistan, Mr Katter said, was highly volatile, with the government there trying to maintain democratic institutions in the face of “a very strong but not very tolerant fundamentalist surge”.

well gee anyone remember Pervez Musharraf? But don't worry, no need to think too deeply about that ... Bob doesn't wait for long before he hits you with the next punch line ...
In a speech [to parliment] in which he boasted of once owning an AK-47 - “a very good rifle” -
good for what? Roo shooting? come on Bob ... its an Assault rifle and an old one at that. Not particularly sophisticated its just cheap and does the job it was intended to do.

Mr Katter sought to pre-empt any arguments that Pakistan posed no threat to Australian security.

He said there did not appear to be an imminent threat to Australian security in 1939, but by 1941 Japan was close to invading the Australian mainland

maybe that was the propaganda the Britts were trying to get us to swallow, but not what any informed or reasonable person of the time would have thought, Japan had been in an Arms race for some time

“In 1939 there was not considered to be any great threat to Australia,” he said.

see above comment ... Bob, why don't you pick up a history book for your next wait at the airport. I recommend Morning Glory by Steven Howarth as a good starter.

“Yes, there was a great threat in Europe from Adolf Hitler but there was no great threat to Australia. Japan was up to its eyeballs in trouble in China but they were no threat to us. But by 1941 they were two weeks away from invading Australia.”

"up to their eyeballs" yes, but not in trouble ... they were really hammering the Chinese. Again, I recommend that book by Howarth.

Friday, 22 October 2010

bring back the CES

Once upone a time in Australia there was a central Federal Government organisation called the CES

This organisation was at least a single central place that brought together both employers and citizens for finding staff or jobs (as the case may be).

While it may have been criticized in the past for a lack of thought and effort in matching suitable job seekers to positions it is my experience that the "Tower of Babel" which has been created by the "privatization" of this public services is far far worse.

When we came back to Australia we registered with one of these organisations via Centerlink to be able to gain access to the job seekers network. This has nothing to do with accessing any welfare or financial support, just looking for jobs.

After several annoying, frustrating, repetitive meetings where the well meaning person tries to put you into some slot for "finding work" we hear nothing from them (except emails of jobs which bear no relationship to our situation).

When finally my wife identifys a job in one of these email lists we find that she can't be given the information about the job because she has been listed as "inactive" because she has not been to any interview with the "job network provider" to renew her status ... not that anyone told us she needed to. In fact the opposite advice was given. Considering we were not applying for financial support, she only had come in to their office if she wished to access the internet via their computers.

So bring back the CES I say ... these guys are a complete waste of everyone's time.

privatization (for fun and profit)

I was reading this morning on The Australian that power company profits are on the rise. While at the same time charges are going up.

Its good that public utilities which provide an "essential service" are able to make a profit, but if that is not being turned back into maintaining and developing the infrastructure for the community benefit then are they the right organisation to be entrusted with the operation of something which is regarded as an essential service?

Privatization is often cited as bringing a more competitive edge to the market, while the reality of the UK and USA experience has been that the companies involved just run the systems down to the ground (while making a profit) and the tab has to then be picked up by the public purse (in buy backs).

I wonder how far it will go before enough Australians are enraged by this?

Thursday, 21 October 2010

G1 vs *ist: noise and focus issues

Good images can mean many things, sometimes noise makes an image better and sometimes some blur makes images better. However depending on the situation one may detract more than another. In this blog post I thought I'd compare a Pentax *ist with a Panasonic G1.

Regular readers of my blog may know that I use a Panasonic G1 digital camera.

So why would I do this comparison?

We happen to have a Pentax *ist camera in the office, which I've used a few times and generally thought it was a "vanilla" sort of DSLR. I had always thought it was more or less the equal of my older Canon 10D. However after recently taking a picture of the plover chick with it ...

I stunned how badly it took photographs.

The only day that I didn't have my G1 at work (all the other plover shots are taken with it) and I get to see the chick just after it has hatched and I had this miserable image. My initial view of the image left me shocked how bad it was (I took a few and they all sucked), after all this camera should be more or less similar spec to my 10D (which was quite acceptable).

I looked around the image and realized that it had back focused.

I was reminded of the problems I regularly faced with my Canon 10D and 20D and having used the G1 for so long had more or less forgotten about this issue. The AF on the G1 (particularly with the kit zoom but any other AF lens) is fantastic and has been spot on each and every time.

Then after a recent conversation with a workmate about him not wanting a G1 but "proper SLR" camera (and he mentioned the Pentax) I thought that it might be interesting to see what was what with these two cameras.

I'm not mad about megapixels, and other image qualites (such as noise) can make a better image, so I thought that it might be valuable to see if the Pentax could do a better job of a shot than the G1.

With that in mind I thought I'd do a few quick test shots in the office with the aim in mind of just examining the images for noise. I intended to test at:
  • 200 ISO
  • 400 ISO
  • 800 ISO
  • 1600 ISO
  • 3200 ISO

The office Pentax has a Sigma 18-55mm zoom on it while my Panasonic had the 14-45 standard kit zoom on it. I took my shots and when I got home and loaded them on the computer I was quite stunned.

I thought (using generalizations like x1.6 and x2) that the lenses would be quite close to each other at the long end (88mm vs 90mm), but that was the first surprise

The overviews:

Pentax ist


Panasonic G1


As you can see above the horizontal capture is really quite wider on the Pentax (with its APS-C 23.5 x 15.7mm sized sensor) than the G1 (slightly smaller 18 x 13.5mm sensor), making this format a much better choice for Landscape style shooting ... this is a slightly unexpected outcome from my perspective. While I had the 10D right up until I bought the G1 I didn't make exactly this sort of comparison.

The next thing which stood out to me was the fact that the Pentax images seemed quite soft and blurry t me. Closer examination shows some interesting things ...

My focal point was the toys on the desk, and they were so much sharper on the G1 image than on the Pentax image. To make this comparison easier, I resized the image from the G1 back to being 2000 pixels high: the same as the Pentax.


The G1 focus is perfect on the toys (look at the face of the crab man on the right). The answer is I believe that the Pentax was back focusing. Looking at the Dell monitor in the mid background and the mouse and keyboard shows that indeed the focus of the Pentax is back focused.

Just to iterate this point, here is one that the G1 image not scaled down:


I repeated these shots a number of times, not only for each of the above ISO steps but I also tried again deliberately after seeing these results and every time I got exactly this result.

In fact I went outside the next day (after finding these results) and took these shots of this flower to see if the focus was still back focused.



Look carefully at the Pentax image, the focus seems to be at the back of the flower at the stem. The G1 focused just where the focus point was.

I left both cameras on Av at f5.6 and found not only that the G1 focused better on this clear easy central target, but that the G1 picked exposure better too!

wow ...

This is quite significant, forgetting all other factors (lens, sensor noise, number of pixels ...) if the camera can't focus for you properly then no matter what : it will be a poor image.

Ok ... lets get back to the noise:

I picked the chair back and the red channel (as it and blue are the noisiest ones) to examine.


However when I started to examine the other higher ISO images I found that it starts to get a bit less clear. I'll show you what I mean.


The Pentax image (the top one) seems to be blurrier than the G1 image, with the details in the back focused crab man clearly favoring the G1, but notice how the writing of DELL in the black monitor really drops in detail compared to the Pentax?

I don't know exactly where critical focus was on the Pentax (if it was anywhere) but even at 400ISO it seems that the Pentax is holding together better than the G1 is.

Any difference in noise is hardly visible but to me the side effect of noise control - the destruction of detail is becoming evident. This for instance is the comparison between the Pentax JPG and the G1 RAW file (converted in PhotoShop)


The Dell in the black is little less washy but the noise is ramping up, yet we are only at 400 ISO. Lets step this up by moving to 1600ISO.


Here I see that the loss of detail in the G1 image is marked, the Pentax is showing some chrominance noise in the black areas but holding details better. Something I started to notice however was the saturation of channels in the Pentax is higher than in the G1. This would be an interesting thing to test for: does the Pentax control signal to noise with sacrificing of dynamic range? When we look at the G1 Raw vs Pentax we can see though that the Panasonic is doing some amazing processing to dress down noise:


This makes me wish I'd taken shots with the Pentax in RAW to make comparisons between them too. Perhaps another time.

So moving along to 3200 we see this:


Noise is quite horrid on the G1 however other image aspects (like exposure and dynamics) seem to hold up better. If I scale the G1 image down to be 2000 pixels high, what effect will that have on this noise?


Well it starts to look less "in your face" than it did before (which is good) ; which suggests to me that if you were doing 8x10 prints from each that the G1 image would look better than the Pentax image in areas like:
  • Focus
  • Exoposure
  • Noise
while it may loose out a little in subtle contrasts (as you can't see anything in the black of that monitor back).


While I'm not as clear as I hoped I would be about the older larger sensor having any noise advantage (by having "bigger pixels") I have confirmed a few things about the G1 which do help me make sure I get better images.

In particular focus, and the ability to be sure of what I focus on. In the hit and miss world of "grab it" shots maybe either would be equal, but when I have a moment to take a photograph (say some scenery, or a family gathering portrait) I know that the G1 will give me a better image.

I have not discussed it yet, but when I started taking the pictures with the Pentax I used manual focus on my first set of pictures (not used here), these were clear in the view finder (piddly little thing that it is) yet the images were as we see here ... poor.

I then re-shot the images and used AF paying attention to the focus points and double and triple half pressing to allow the camera to settle AF and be as certain as possible of AF. There was no discernible difference between the AF and the Manually focused images, yet in all cases the image looked "clear" in the viewfinder.

Perhaps the explanation of this focus issue is poor alignment of the focusing screen (which leads to errors in focus). What ever the cause is the fact that the G1 shows you the image that focuses on the sensor and not something reflected by mirrors onto a focusing screen gives you the advantage of what you see is what you get.

So I'm still happy with my G1

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

two faced

I was reading today that people who interfere with wildlife can face a fine of up to $55,000 and 5 years in prison.

so if you toss rocks at a native animal beware.

If however you're a developer or forest clearing company you can of course destroy their habitat and directly or indirectly interfere with or kill untold thousands of them ... even if they're endangered.

That of course is bringing a benefit to the community.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

new arrivals

It seems so long ago that I blogged about the Plover nesting in front of our building. Despite many daily irritations of people passing by and indeed sitting right beside the nest, today her and her partners hard work paid off.

This little fella emerged from under her.


Since it was right in front of the security office I had left a note with the security staff to call me if they spotted it hatching. Just as I was about to go home today I got the call that one had hatched and was running around ...


She started off with 4 eggs, and a few weeks ago it had dropped to 2 eggs, and as I was leaving work today only one chick had emerged. I couldn't wait around to see if the other one hatched, but the mother was still returning to the nest and sitting on the egg occasionally, so I won't know till tomorrow morning.

Meantime I thought you may enjoy seeing how this cute little fella starts its life.


its so cute isn't it ... one parent is trying to lead it away ...
but I think its still trying to sort out what and where for everything else


With all the obstacles (lawnmowers, storms, cold rain, people ...) I'm glad he made it this far

post scriptum

On the way into the office this morning I see that one of the parents is on the nest again probably trying to give the other egg more time. The "chick" is hanging around under the parent. So the may raise 2 chicks from the nest.

A day later and this little fellow emerged from the shell

very cute

Monday, 11 October 2010

how big is the current big wet?

Certainly this October we've had a lot of rain, but apart from relying on the courier mail to just tell us, just what is it like in the perspective of history?

While it is true that this has been a big rainfall for October its not yet a record rainfall. According to statistics obtained from the BoM the graph below shows the monthly records for Octobers in Southport since 1881 ...

To the time of writing, we've had 321mm of rain. The biggest rainfall that I know of in this area was in 1972 when the had 515mm in October. So with October already giving us 321mm here in Southport we are well above average and only 1/3 the way into the month well on the way to it being a record breaker month.

Did you notice the very big spike, thats 1972, but let me get back to that. So we've had a lot or rain and its been causing lots of flooding. Flooding doesn't come from yearly average or monthly rainfall (although monthly is a better indicator) it comes from serious rainfall events.

As it happens I don't have any historical daily data, but monthly indicators are telling stuff. Looking into that graph above we see most Octobers aren't above 100mm and we've already had more than 300mm 11 days into this month, so its no surprise that there has been some flooding.

This leads me to ask do we have that sort of rainfall in other months?

Well below is a chart representing summary data for the last hundred and twenty or so years (since 1881) :

Looking at the highest on record data row we see that January, February, March, April, May and June have all had levels higher than this the highest October.

In fact the "wettest October on record" does not really mean much in comparison to "wettest month on record". This means that its likely that in months other than October we may have bigger wets than this one.

The wettest October on record was in 1972 that wasn't the wettest year on record, that honor still belongs to 1974.

Perhaps no one living here now was here during the floods of 74. Hardly surprising when you look at the growth trends of the region. So with most of the region having no idea as to the climate they've moved into (probably form Sydney or Melbourne) lets have a quick look at what nature has in store for you :-)

Local Weather Trends

Firstly Rainfall is strongly seasonal here, we have a distinct wet season. But as people tend to think in years not seasons we often miss this data when we break it up into chunks starting in January and ending in December. That system may make sense to the Romans but they don't dictate our weather. So I re-arranged the data we record to construct the "wet season view" of things. Here is the view of rainfall from the wet seasons perspective from 1931 till about 2005 (I compiled this during my masters thesis)

It's a messy looking thing, but what it shows is the monthly rainfalls (as height) by season, but starting at August (when its typically dry) and going through to July (when its also typically dry). You can see that the mass of rainfall mainly clusters around December - May, with some individual peaks in strange spots. These are the statistical "outliers" almost like a very wet October is.

Anyway, I've marked two of the curves in that lot for discussion, they are 1972 and 1974. As you can see, in 1972 we indeed had a very wet October (the record one I mentioned above), but it was dry again until Feb when we had actually an ordinary monthly fall and a little less rainfall for the wet season overall.

Actually if you look at all the seasons where the month of October is high we can see far less confusing curve with less data (because October is not normally wet).

It would seem that if it peaks early then its almost as if given all its got too soon and looses out in sheer volume to the seasons which peak later. So while this may indicate good news for those who are getting flooded now (mind you I'm not a forecaster, I look at the past here) it does raise a more significant question:
what happens if we get the sort of rain we're having now in the strengths we've had in our peak wet seasons?

Well folks I think that the answer to that is "stock up on sand bags if you live in a low lying area" and "don't drive your car across flooded roads".

You see, to bring a little local knowledge to bear on all this data, back in 1974 we had a doozie of a flood. My father was rescuing people off their roof tops all over Sorrento and Isle of Capri in our boat.

Since that time we've had greater and greater development with populations growing by more than 6 times in the region (around 74 thousand in 1971 to around 492 thousand now) contributing greater amounts of rain runoff from a much larger impermeable surface (roofs and roads) contributing to greater peak flood events.

So despite the media beat-up on the wild weather, we may be in the clear this month. But, if the past isn't anything to go by and if we get rain for the rest of the month (and continue into other months) then there will be plenty of unhappy people living in what were previously flood prone areas (but have been rezoned as OK during the drought).

read the signs

I was reading the paper this morning online and found this wonderful picture of a car caught in the flooding in SE Qld

Notice the sign saying road subject to flooding? I'm willing to bet that the driver did but thought I'll give it a go ... how bad can it be?

But if you're out driving at the moment and come across a flooded road keep this in mind. You can walk where you can't drive and if it looks too dangerous to walk it then it won't be safe to drive either.

While most of the media is using words like wild weather, we've had worse and we'll get worse again.

While it is true that this has been a big rainfall for October its not yet a record (but its shaping up well).

Perhaps noone living here now was here during the floods of 74. Hardly surprising when you look at the growth trends of the region: netween the late 80's and now the population has grown from 250 thousand to nearly 500 thousand. This does not give you any indication of the number of longer term residents who have moved away.

With so many people being here for less than 10 years how can they have a clue what sort of climate we have. Particularly when the last 10 years has been quite dry, there is a lot to be said for local knowledge.

Planners could do with a bit of that too it seems.

So like the ad campaign on the Radio says ... read the signs and don't cross flooded waters in your car.

It might be nice if our Government read some other signs too ... such as those of the effects of such rapid and significant development of this area and the effects on the community as well as the environment.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

attitude and the forks

I've noticed that Australians are tending towards personifying the worst traits of everyone lately. Ten short years ago people in Australia seemed more patient, generous and reasonably deserving of the esteem in which we are (were?) held over seas. I have noticed that things have changed here in the years since 1999.

More people are more agro, not to mention somehow more precious in many ways. Public behavior has changed (especially in traffic) with everyone seeming to act as if the world revolves around them. If you're just an agro ute driving bogan with a "Fu*k off we're full" sticker on your car then flipping the finger is about what one expects to see at the slightest provocation.

However most western people (as distinct from bogans) have higher expectations of appropriate behavior. So when we see our top athletes representing our nation at the Commonwealth Games acting like agro dogs and having no respect for the authorities we can (and should) rightly say:

"Pull your head in"

So, Shane Perkins and Hassene Fkiri stop being bogans and pull your bloody head in. If this is who you are, then head back to where that belongs: "friday night" at the servo in Ugg boots comparing whats under the hood and who's got the biggest bass.

I could not agree more on this point than with the words of Libby Trickett, who says:
"You may be disappointed and yes, you can be disappointed if you expected to perform a little bit better," she said.

"But at the end of the day that is someone else's moment and you shouldn't try and take away from that.

so if you're performance was not up to it, don't act like a brat and take the shine off the winners event. I guess there's no point in suggesting "how would you like it if the same happened to you" because probably there is noone else in your world.

If there was a problem with the officiation then lodge a protest, but if its just a tantie because you didn't win ... well ... grow up and learn to take the good and the bad.

Either you're just feeding or prepresenting the same sort of arrogant and precious behavior that is the antithesis of the reputations that Australians abroad have worked hard to achieve. Which ever it is (feeding or representing) its not what I at least want to be representing our nation on the international stage. For any glory you may bring for your winning you take away more with poor losing.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Nanny gets angry

You know, its easy to just dismiss suggestions that Australia is a Nanny state, but if the description continues to fit so well then it gets harder to ignore it.

I read this morning that the Police are angry at the amount of accidents on the road:

Right ... lets get angry at the kiddies ... that'll help.

Perhaps the coppers should start tasering people who have accidents?


Sunday, 3 October 2010

rain rain go away

Noone likes a rainy weekend ...


not even our local magpies ... who took shelter on the Front Verandah for most of the day.

His friend seems about as happy with the situation as we were


so we sanded the staircase (part of the home renovations)

PS: Our fine Bureau of Meteorology published data to suggest we had 120mm lastnight in one strong downpour


so it looks like the wet season has come early