Tuesday, 28 December 2010

flooded creeks

The authorities are putting out the message about not crossing flooded creeks a lot on the radio. Perhaps its getting through, I'm not sure. The statistics don't seem to be supporting this.

However yesterday driving back from visiting a mate in the mountain areas west of here we came across a flooded creek which I assume noone would be daft enough to try to cross (although the road closed signs at the top of the road seems to suggest that somone may try.

In an interview on the radio with local advisers the question was asked "what about people driving 4WD vehicles, are they safer"

The answer was a clear no with the added information that most of the vehicles swept away being 4WD vehicles.

People (I suspect) are lulled into some false sence of security by the butch and macho images of their 4WD's bashing about splashing in puddles of mud or even crawling out of creeks.

Often enough these are really shallow or still waters and not moving very fast at all. When creeks flood its not like it seems on the TV Ads, in fact its more like this image of the waters streaming across the road. Note the depth maker ...

that's right, its about 1 meter deep. Here is a video of that water, I pan along with what seems to be the flow of the waters.

Would you attempt to walk that? If you did it would like be about the last thing you do.

Remember, if you can't walk it you can't drive it. Even still you need to be aware of the possibility of the road collapsing under the weight of the vehicle, especially when there is strong flows like this.

I just heard on the radio that a fellow who was rescued from a creek such as this was charged by the Police with "driving without due care and attention" ... he should consider himself lucky to be alive.

Like the radio is saying "don't cross flooded roads"

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

sunset pano

its been a nice day with all the rain of the last week ... the sunset made a nice image


I think I'll use this as my new blog title

populate or perish

The majority of Australians seem to be unaware of this concept: Populate or Perish. It is something from our past and as an underlying precept has driven our planning for immigration for some time.

One wannabe wize wanka regularly writes a column in the Australian and encourages divisive discussions. Typically however he just derides anyone who disagrees with him but pats those on the back who agree with him.

One reader called him out on this and essentially his thought full reply was "talk to the hand"

What a wanka. Jack claims to want to encourage mature dialog but then essentially panders to those who agree with him, derides those who do not; so much for mature discussion.

Essentially many people are defending our migrant and refugee intakes (yes, they are different) by saying we have room, why not bring in more.

Well the population has grown from just under 4 million at around federation, to a little over 20 million now. So in the time since federation our population has grown by something like 5 times.

Now lets look at that for a moment in the light of ABS data.

I took that data from this ABS datacube and graphed it.

I only took the data from about federation (1901) because at that time we stopped being a bunch of colonies and we became Australia

Things were going along at a rate which would see our population hitting about 14 million now (following the rate of growth by the yellow line).

But something happened in about 1946 ... our population really took a high step in growth.

As you can see from the orange line since then we are now growing at a a much faster rate, nearly double. If we had continued as we were in the pre-war growth then we would be in a situation now where we would have the population we did back in the 60's.

The simple truth of this is that in the post war period the government made a determination that we needed to alter our growth to populate or perish. The determination of increasing our population growth by 1% looked innocous to people who don't understand maths, but essentially amounted to doubling our growth rates.

Its a bit like the movie Ember, where a city was built to under ground where people could shelter from a catastrophe for 200 years. Well the plot is that along the line of time the reasons for why they were living there were lost, and the need to get out along with it.

The same is true for us here in Australia right now with the "populate or perish" idea.

We have long ago developed enough population to fulfill the requirements of that report, we have at our disposal technology which helps reduce the needs for manual labour of all things from agriculture mining and defense.

But still the idea seems to remain today even if people have lost any idea of why. For instance you can still find people in the media making observations such as:

Ideally, Australia should absorb even more than 30,000 refugees annually. Our abundant resources and infrastructure could accommodate a vast increase in humanitarian arrivals.

well ... I don't know about you, but in the parts of Australia I live in I do not see abundant resources and infrastructure. Right now we're having floods but it was just the previous year we were under severe water restrictions. Normally I see:
  • congested roads
  • under supplying public transport
  • water restrictions and drought
  • insufficient electrical infrastructure
  • insufficient telecommunications infrastructure
  • housing prices in bezerk growth (essentially fueled by demand which outstrips supply)
  • unemployment as people can not keep pace with the changing nature of jobs and there is no plans to help them skill up (its cheaper to get in skilled migrants)
The current strategy of the media (and their owners) seems to be to whip up sentiments which amount to racism to polarize the population and at the same time feed them messages about how their racism is wrong.

This keeps their eye off the ball of real arguments and keeps them mired in the most basic issues and feeling somehow bad with themselves at feeling this way.

The above author (Mirko Bagaric who apparently is the co-author of Migration and Refugee Law and a former member of the Refugee Review Tribunal)
Australia gives priority to boat arrivals for just one reason: misguided homage to an outdated international legal instrument.

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees requires countries to give asylum to people within its borders who have a genuine fear of persecution in their country of origin because of their race, nationality, religion, political opinion or membership of a distinct social group.

The convention was drafted with a view to protecting mainly Europeans fleeing after World War II. It is designed to give safe harbour to people who manage to hobble from their country to a bordering country.my underline

The convention was never intended to apply to migrants who roll out a world map and strategically plot which of the 140 countries that have signed the convention they think will best advance their economic prosperity.

So even the advocates of our assistance of refugees understand that there are stark differences between what was formulates in the past (again, just after WW2) and now. This has enormous implications on our intake of refugees.

the present

I would argue that we need to wind back our migration levels right now. We need to take stock of what will happen as the existing recent migrants start to apply for family re-union visas for their family members back in their home land and what the impacts are on our society of the changes.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

blown water main

well for most of the day I've been saying "rain rain go away"

however we've just had the water main blow in our street ... damn it

Its been turned off now, but you can see where it was squirting up under the pavement and out of the ground ... to the right there.


naturally its dug up some of the clay and rock.


and flowing out into the rest of the street ...


seems Perkele is not without a sence of humor...

post scriptum

The guys have started digging (in the rain) to repair the main


after they dug through a half a meter or so of clay they exposed the old main ..


gosh, looks just like the old part which used to cross the creek when I was a kid.

Like seeing an old friend really

Saturday, 18 December 2010

christmas driving

Its coming up to Christmas, and of course that means the usual extra driving (and perhaps drinking). Every year we all hear messages on the media of the road statistics. We become rather immune to it I fear.

I'd like to take this weeks late evening event as a reminder to all out there to take that extra care on the roads and please be here safe and sound well after the silly season is over.

The late evening started a little like a famous Christmas poem:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
When out on the road there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.

There was little to be seen at first, just a car on its roof with nothing around. However as we live in the communications age there was no shortage of people calling 000 (no, its not what you think this is Australia and the emergency number is zero zero zero ... remember it and not hollywood).

... and soon enough the street lit up like a Christmas Tree ... naturally the Towies arrived first (in fact we got 6 there before the ambulance or police).

The accident was low speed and seemed to be caused by the car clipping the side of this little car ... you can see its cocked out a little from the road (perhaps you can also spot that the back right hand wheel is at a funny angle ... more in a tic)


and flipping onto its roof!

Hard to grasp how it may have done that, as at first there seems no reason for this to happen.

My theory is (and I haven't interviewed the driver) that when she observed the small black suzuki she swerved and braked at the same time. Combined with the downhill here it was enough to off balance the car and flip it.


(this image was taken after the person had been freed by the ambos and firemen)


There were of course other residents around, so having made sure the person was OK and was being attended to I just stood back and waited while rescue workers did stuff to get the driver out ... I thought I'd wander around and document a few things ...


You may have noticed the odd angle of the back wheel of the Suzuki in the above shot. In this image you can see that the impact to the Suzuki was quite minor, not even breaking a light, but you can see the rear wheel is kicked out better in this shot.


It must have been exactly what was hit by the other car

So with the driver off to hospital (she seemed ok and has returned home with just a sore neck) the car was left in the street like a stuck turtle waiting for the towies to have their turn at it.

So drive carefully this Christmas season, have a good time, but aim to be here and well into the new year.


Monday, 13 December 2010

monster mash

Man I love this album

But it wasn't just the title track which was worth listening to, there were great tracks throughout the album, such as Monster Holiday:

I got it when I was about 10 or so. Brings back memories of growing up

So with Christmas coming up, its a good time to seek out alternatives to "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reinder" for Christmas music
"where is that reindeer with the red nose"

Friday, 10 December 2010

cane toads

These guys were imported to Australia by the government in a (failed) attempt to make a biological control system for the Sugar Cane industry (also built on an imported plant).

The Cane toad is not only an effective breeder but has no natural enemies in Australia. As they are also a poisonous toad handling them can be dangerous.

Most Australians know to kill as many of these creatures as you can (which still won't be enough) as they spread and populate the continent. The image below shows a native python engaged in a typical way of killing its prey before eating it. Sadly it was a cane toad, which as I mentioned above are poisonous.

shortly after this the snake died ... before even trying to eat the toad.

This highlights why these creatures are deadly to Australian wildlife and are quite a massive threat to our ecosystem.

Australians employ all manner of methods for killing them. Clubbing, spearing, burning ... the list of horror goes on.

Rather than condone creating suffering I prefer to kill the toads I find by putting them in a plastic bag and putting them into the freezer. There they quietly go to sleep and well after they are unconscious the freezing process kills them.

You can then take them out of the freezer and put the bag in the bin.

Just be sure to label them clearly, as you don't want to be looking for some chicken for dinner and thaw out a cane toad by mistake ;-)

photo info
The above photo was taken with my EOS system and 35mm film. I used my TS-E 90mm (my favourite lens) to allow me to keep DoF along the snake and keep the aperture open more to maintain shallow depth of field. If you look carefully you can see that the plane of focus goes from the bottom left corner, up through the snake, and out to the mid right. Only a 4x5 field camera would enable better control over the focal plane than this. Gosh I liked that lens, but as I transited to digital I sold the TS-E lenses as they just didn't translate to smaller sensors well. Perhaps I'll get some again if I go for a 5D or other full frame camera.

Who knows...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

my pennytel experience (cont)

Just thought I'd further my experience with Pennytel which I blogged about earlier.

To set the scene, I've been using their PennySIM product as my mobile phone provider since April when we came back from Finland. I picked them because they were:
  • prepaid
  • cheap
  • carried by Optus
  • cheap

They have definitely met all my expectations and perhaps exceeded them. Just used normally, the gig is that you pay 16c per minute and 8c call connection fee. This is heaps cheaper than Virgin, Optus, Telstra ... blah blah who typically charge 90c per minute and about 35c call connection fee (it varies)

The other guys usually make it almost impossible to determine what your real costs are by smoke and mirrors tricks like giving you $300 worth of calls for $30; so called call caps at $49 and all manner of recharge bonuses. You have to read the fine print on the actual costs (if you can find them) but more or less you should just be comfortable they're giving you the best deal for the $$ you pay.

you trust them ... right?

So based on a gut feel I took the leap and joined PennyTel instead; that was well over 6 months ago.

So I thought it was time to add to that earlier post I thought I'd present my experience as at November.

In the figure below (for November) my wife and I made 105 calls (we have two phones on the account) which went for a total duration of 421 minutes. Essentially I was on the phone for 7 hours (and it is mainly me too as I used 310 minutes of that).

The cost for that appears to be $19.27, which at first glance is bloody cheap (4c / minute actually), but this is not the complete picture, as my call costs are offset masked by my use of their "Smart Dial" system. These calls do not appear on the charging for the Optus side of things. Just to remind, the Smart Dial allows me to allocate numbers which I'll call frequently to be charged at a lower rate ... so you need to access that in another screen.

So lets have a look at that:

definitely I've been using that system well, with 28 calls (about a third) and nearly 4 hours (about half the time) adding up to a further $16.37 of calls. These calls average out to a charge of 7c per minute, which isn't bad. It starts to look even better when you consider that in there are calls to Finland mobile numbers and calls to Australian mobile numbers.

There is an monthly basic fee for being part of the system, which is $8 ... because I have two phones (my wife and I) the amount of $16 needs to be added to the total. So all up the total cost for my calls was $19.27 (regular Optus) + $16.37 (smartDial) + $16 (access) = $51.64 for 421 minutes of blabbering.

That's an overall cost of 12c per minute calling and includes factoring in the call connection fees and service charge amid it all.

Since there are two phones on this service that means my wife and my phone bill is $25.82 per month each.

Just how much cheaper it can be (or not be depending) depends on how you call and the price of the call connection fee.

If you make lots of short calls then the expensive 35c call connection fee eats up a big slice of your call cost. So in a quick 30 second call (can you make one?) it will be half the cost.

If you talk for longer then the percentage that the call connection fee counts of your call cost drops. But your call cost overall gets big. A one minute call with a SIM from PennyTel works out to be 24c while a 1 min call with say Optus or Telstra works out to be $1.28

Bump that up to 10 minutes and the cost becomes $9.38 (of which 38c didn't hurt as much). Even so you can see the differences between PennyTel and Others really starts to rack out.

So then the $300 worth of calls for $30 starts to bring them down in price to match PennyTel. A 15 minute call will cost you $13 so if you talk about this amount of time then you'll get about 30 calls for your $300 worth of value.

If you try to make shorter calls (say 3 minutes) you'll get more calls, about 97 calls. but then the call connection fee is a bigger portion of that so you don't get as many minutes for your $300. To put a figure on that you'll get 291 minutes with lots of short calls vs 450 minutes when making longer calls.

Of course when making shorter calls you run a greater risk of going over the 30 second bracket and costing yourself more when you hang up leaving unused time. But then you have to cough up money as a basic amount (like the $49 cap plans) where if you don't use the $49 you'll still have to pay it meaning that the calls you made just cost you more.

So for me it works well. I can make lots of short calls (~2minute) and pay about 40c per call (to a mobile or just a few cents to a landline on my smart dial) or I can make longer calls and pay $2 for that compared to $11 using the "others".

Of course if I really milked the other system I could spend about the same, but in contrast if I don't use my phone much it doesn't cost me much (like $8 per month) and when I do use it heavily then its still a little cheaper than the others.


Unlike what you may read on Whirlpool I've had no issues, no problems and no hassles. When ever I've contacted support (such as how to work out other cunning bits) my email is answered within that business day and resolved within 24H.

So if you're just after a basic phone that works as a phone and you don't want to sign up to a high price plan to get a free funky phone ... all I can say is "Its been working well for me".

Have a look at your calling habits and see if you can't find yourself either ahead $100 a year or just getting better mileage out of your mobile for the same money.

Friday, 3 December 2010

that1guy - on the Gold Coast

last night we went off to a small club in Miami (Gold Coast) to watch "that 1 guy". I was first introduced to him by a friend in about 2004, with this clip:

and assumed (wrongly) that I'd never get to see him live. His more modern stuff shows the development of his instrument and his style ..

speaking of his style, think Frank Zappa combined with a little electronic stuff and a touch of Tom Waits ... but like all good performance artists he's much better in the flesh than on the small screen.

P1100506The gig was a cosy little place which was enabled a laid back attitude where we could just get in and sit right up close to the action of the musician on stage.

You can see this 'trademark' instrument at the end of the bar up on the stage there.

We sat right down there on the last couch on the right.

Great view, great feeling of engagement with the performance and man was it loud!!

P1100628As you can see from this stack there was not any lack of PA volume. This shot from just in behind the stage looking forward.

But That 1 Guy is the kind of act where you want to get personal and involved (not back 200M and using the binoculars like big name acts).

In an era of canned music its really refreshing to have live music which engages you even if its only one a one man band.

In the end however its not a problem that he's up there alone because he's a good performer, I don't think I felt like "what time is it" for the entire act.

This is how it looked from where we sat ...


and while it was quiet at first the floor filled up with people dancing and bopping around after they'd all had enough to drink ..


You may notice from the clips that he likes his shoes, and this night he had some really cool aluminum aligator skin shoes on


and you can see the pedals here he uses to activate drums, change sequencer tracks and control some of his digital recordings for "backing".

And he really gets into it ...


variously playing the strings on the pipe like a guitar


or bowing it ...


and naturally attracts one "drunken love chick" who he tried really hard not to encourage, but not ignore either


poor bastard...

I really liked the hand puppet bit for adding some character to the sounds of one of the acts ...


compared to his earlier stuff his "pipe" is really developing ... this one is looking very engineered and space age ...

so if you get the chance, go along and see "That 1 Guy"

the pipe


The show started with a fellow called "Mr Percival" he's a vocal only guy who (like Bobby McFerrin) uses digital pedal controlled recording loops and sequencers to give his stuff extra depth. This is him:


In case you may like to see a slideshow of the performance ... here it is courtesy of my flickr account