16 December 2008

Laptop vs sandal

I don't lose my temper very often and even when I do it usually blows over very quickly.

Even when I'm out driving and I get cut up by some idiot I'll mutter something under my breath, maybe even give them a dirty look if I manage to get eye contact, but I'm certainly not a road rager or anything like that.

I guess it comes with age, you just shrug your shoulders and get on with it. Water off a duck's back so to speak.

Sometimes though, you've just got to let of a bit of steam. The best way to do that is to take out your frustration on an inanimate object.

Back in September, while I was down in Armidale for a uni residential, I noticed my laptop was starting to get a bit slow. It gradually got more and more temperamental until, one day while running a Windows update it stopped.

Somehow the hard drive had become corrupted and Windows wouldn't run. I could access it by running a command window (remember DOS?) and I could see that all my documents and photos were still there, but it was going to be a slow process getting them all off. There were about 40GB of pictures on the drive and copying them to a thumb-drive one by one would have been really painful. I could of course take it to a repair shop, but that would have cost money.

Well I finally got the laptop running again on the weekend, but that involved reformatting the C: drive where all my documents were. There was nothing really important on there. I have hard copies of all my uni assignments, the only thing I didn't have a copy of was my amateur radio log.

Then yesterday the drive crashed again, this time it was the D: partition, the one with all my pictures on, including about 1400 European holiday pictures that I hadn't yet burned to DVD.

Still, I remained philosophical, there wasn't much I could do about it so I might as well make the most of it. I hate Windows, but a Mac is too expensive for what you get, so I decided that since I've lost everything on the hard drive, I might as well reformat the lot and install Ubuntu.

Half way through reformatting the laptop stopped on me again. The only thing I could do was unplug it, remove the battery and start again, which I did. I was starting to get a little annoyed by now, but only a little.

I started again and while it was going I went out to clean some of the animal's cages. When I checked ten minutes later, I sat down on Donna's brand new computer chair and looked at the laptop on another chair and it had stopped again.



The picture above was taken shortly after I said something along the lines of, "You f****** useless piece of s***!" and tried to put a size 8 sandal through the screen.

I now have an Asus Eee PC on order. The hard drive is solid state, so no moving parts there, it runs Linux, so no Windows, yet it'll still do all I want it to. Best of all, it's a lot cheaper than a regular laptop. It only has a small hard drive and no DVD drive, but external drives are coming down in price all the time.

I won't ever buy an Acer again, the computer I'm typing this on is an Acer as well and the DVD drive hasn't worked for ages. My previous laptop was an Acer and the battery was never any good on that.

I'll keep you posted on the little Eee PC.

10 December 2008

Cutting the cheese

We've all done it before, you're cutting the cheese, you push a little too hard and oops, you have an accident.

It happened to me the other day and all I can say is I'm lucky my pork-pie didn't end up on the kitchen floor.

Oh I'm sorry, if you read my previous post on flatulence you're probably thinking along the wrong lines. Let me start again.

I was getting my lunch and had a pork-pie on my plate, you know those lovely pastry things with the cold meat and a bit of jelly in them that Australians can never understand, cold meat pie, yuck.

Rather than dirty a cutting board to cut some cheese I used the plate the pie was on. You know how they always say you should use the right tool for the job? Well that goes the same for the kitchen. I was using an old steak knife that was coming due for retirement. In fact it retired while I was using it.

The handle and the blade parted company and, because I was pushing so hard, my hand thumped down onto the edge of the plate on the opposite side to that holding the pie.

The pie was catapulted upwards with sufficient force for it to hit me in the forehead. The only reason it didn't end up on the floor was because I was quick enough to squash it against the kitchen cupboard with my hips.

I'm a bit more careful now when I cut the cheese, but I still push too hard sometimes and scare myself.

Bad marketing ideas

What's the first thing you notice when you look at this bottle of charcoal tablets?

Is it the nice big pale-blue name a third of the way down, or the equally big and noticeable word a third of the way up?



Now be honest, if you were looking for charcoal tablets, for whatever reason, and this was one of the choices, would you pick it? Donna didn't, she let me do it. Not that I had a choice, they were the only ones in the store.

Now you're probably wondering which of us has the problem. Well that really depends, there's lots of variables involved. Needless to say, we all cut the cheese occasionally, there'd be something wrong if we didn't. But the charcoal tablets aren't for us, they're for the animals, honest.

We sometimes get birds in, especially tawny frogmouths, that have been poisoned. Charcoal is sometimes helpful as it absorbs the poison and allows it to pass. I should add that the birds aren't usually poisoned deliberately, it's just that they eat insects and mice that may have been poisoned.

Getting back to the topic of farts though, I thought I'd leave you with this.

08 December 2008

Tree-fern snot

We have a nice tree-fern growing in our back yard up against the verandah. It's been there ever since Donna moved in about twenty years ago.

Every now and then it will grow another frond that will either totally obscure our view, or it'll grow over the verandah and get in the way as we walk past. When that happens we usually get out the secateurs and trim it a bit, as Donna did with one recently.

Well, with all the rain we've been having the plants are happily sucking water out of the ground and transpiring it into the air through their leaves. The trouble is, when you cut what is essentially a plant's artery it tends to bleed and you get sap running out as in the picture below.



It was quite windy that day, so that glob of rubbery sap was swaying in the breeze, making it look even more disgusting.

Donna came up the back stairs while I was looking at it and I said, "Hey look at this, tree-fern snot".

Donna took one look at it, told me off for pointing it out to her and started to gag.

04 December 2008

Into the wild

We released Banjo the brushtail possum back into the wild on the weekend. Into the wilds of John and Kara's backyard to be exact.

John and Kara have about as much lawn in their backyard as your average English backyard, except they live on about half an acre, the rest is trees and bushes. You can imagine how it would be possum heaven. When John offered his place as a release site for a possum we jumped at the chance, as release sites are so hard to come by.

Normally when we release a possum it's done as a soft-release, that means putting them in an aviary on the property for about a week or so to get them used to the smells and the local vegetation. After about a week a door is left open in the evenings and the animal is allowed to come and go as it pleases. Eventually, after a couple more weeks they don't bother returning to the aviary as they've usually found somewhere else to live.

We weren't able to get another aviary for Banjo, so we did the next best thing, we got him a possum box. We put that in his cage one afternoon and gave him about a week to get him used to it. We thought it would take him that long to wean him off the drey he'd been sleeping in. We were wrong, he moved in that night.



So the time came when we could say, in best Big Brother fashion, "It's time to go... Banjo".

As I said, John and Kara have a lot of trees on their property, so it took a while to find one we were so spoilt for choice. Actually, it also took a while because I kept walking up the wrong garden paths and getting lost and I had to keep stopping to kill mosquitoes. John commented that they breed mossies there. You're doing an excellent job of it John.



Once Banjo was installed in his new home it was time to do what all good Englishmen do (John and I are both Poms) and have a cup of tea. Then it was home to work on the new aviary I'm building for the tawny frogmouths, while Donna went out to rescue a young figbird that'd been attacked by a cat.

Last night was the first rain since Banjo moved, so he's probably a bit annoyed with us right now. The last possum we released, Clive, used to be unlucky with the weather. Every time he got moved to a bigger cage it would rain that night.

24 November 2008

You'll be freezing

That's what a few people said to me when they heard I was starting on dawn fill, including Donna.

Okay, it is a bit chilly when you're standing there with an open freezer door putting ice-cream away, and I'm usually cold in the freezer section when I'm shopping there, but it wasn't that bad. In fact I ended up having to remove the small sleeveless jacket I'd been wearing.

The people I'm working with are nice and friendly, and very helpful. I think the hardest part of the job is remembering where everything is, even though I shop there and have done for a few years now.

One thing that really annoyed me, and this is something that's annoyed me for a long time as a customer, is that some people can be so bloody lazy. A customer picks up an item off the shelf, walks a few feet further on, then sees something they prefer. Rather than walk the couple of feet back to where they got the first item to put it back, they just leave it where they're standing at the time.

It's even worse when they get something from a freezer (those big things with the glass doors), then decide they don't want it when they're standing near the dairy cabinet (fridges without doors), or somewhere that's not even refrigerated. Buy the time we find it it's too late to put it back in the freezer, so it has to be thrown away.

Luckily, the customers aren't in the store when we're working, that's a big plus. Going home when everyone else is just starting feels good too.

22 November 2008

When I grow up...

... I want to be in a Shrek film.



I don't think he's quite got the eyes right yet though.



And he needs a hat.

21 November 2008

No more sleeping in

With the uni semester being finished and my exams out of the way the time has come. Time to get another job.

When I finished the old job in July, it was right at the beginning of the semester and I'd been concentrating on my studies and looking after any animals that came into care and needed regular feeds during the day.

I had applied for a couple of casual jobs during that time, but nothing came of them. As I have a truck licence, I was considering going for a job on the buses. After twelve years of customer service type work, I didn't really want to have to deal with customers again for a while

Then Donna said she could probably get me a job filling shelves at the supermarket where she works. In fact, her manager had already said he'd give me a job if I wanted one.

Now most of the shelf filling is done at night. Doing the night shift when you're married to someone that works days isn't much fun. But the dairy stuff is done in the morning from five till eight and that suits me fine.

So yesterday I had my induction (three hours of paperwork and watching DVDs) and now I'm a supermarket employee.

A couple of people have said to me, "Is that really what you want to do?"

Yes it is for now. I've spent the last twelve years sitting on my bum in front of a computer, the only exercise I got during the last eight of those years was walking to and from the bus. In this job I get plenty of exercise, I don't have to think much, rarely have to deal with customers and best of all, I'm home by ten past eight.

I've wasted a lot of time in the past few months just by sleeping in, but I still managed to average about 94% in my chemistry assignments, because I had the time to concentrate on being a student. Next year I'm doing three subjects per semester, hopefully I can do as well as I have this semester.

I'm not sure I'm looking forward to the 5am starts, or wearing thermals in summer, but I'm looking forward to doing something different.

18 November 2008

Tawny Frogmouths

I mentioned the tawny frogmouths in my last post, so I thought I'd share this little video with you so you can see why we love them so much.



Birds need sunlight to help them absorb the calcium in their diet, even nocturnal birds like these, so we try to put their cage out in the sun each day.

You can see from the video how curious they are.

The head cocking that the one on the left is doing is one way that they judge distance and is called parallax. By looking at a distant object from a slightly different angle they can tell how far it is.

If I can get an aviary built in the next couple of weeks they'll be moved into that until they're old enough for release. If not they'll go to another carer that has room for them.

03 November 2008

The joys of being a wildlife carer

Often when we tell people we're wildlife carers they say, "Oh wow, I'd love to do that."

People have an image of it being all about bottle feeding baby kangaroos or hand feeding baby birds, of having little possums sitting on your shoulder, or your head, maybe even hand raising a huge Wedgetailed Eagle, then seeing it being released back into the wild.

Okay, that is a big part of it. we've bottle fed kangaroos, we often have a little possum climbing all over us and he even sits on the top of Donna's head like a Daniel Boone hat. Right now we have three of the cutest little Tawny Frogmouth chicks that, when they beg for food, sound like the Three Stooges in the scene where they're all snoring. And how many people can say they've held a pelican?

What people don't usually see is the less enjoyable parts of being a carer, the cage cleaning, the deaths, the bites and scratches, being peed and pooed on.

On the way home from picking up the Tawnies yesterday we got a call to pick up a baby crow. The crow had probably been out of the nest a couple of days and was very undernourished. It had a bit of gapeworm and it did a very runny poo just after we put it into a basket.

Being a couple of old soaks and because the pub was on our way home, we decided we'd drop in quickly and get some wine. Two minutes later we got back in the car and were hit by the foulest smell imaginable and both blamed the poor crow. We drove home with all the windows open.

When we got home and went to transfer the Tawnies from their basket to a cage we found the crow wasn't the guilty party. All I can say is, I wish I had telescopic arms, because once we'd transferred them to the cage we both had it on our fingers and under our finger nails. I couldn't get it far enough away from my nose. This isn't your standard bird poo that just washes off under running water either. This was sticky, meaning I had to rub it off with my other hand... gag, gag. It also meant the little birds bum needed to be washed. I put on rubber gloves for that.

For all that though, we still love being carers. Even when something like this happens.



Donna wondered why her back suddenly got nice and warm.

26 October 2008

Misinformation

If you've ever researched on the internet for an assignment or something similar, you'll know not to trust everything you read. It seems some forums though are worse than others for spouting ill informed rubbish.

As Donna and I are getting more and more into caring for birds, I often read various forums looking for information on whatever species we currently have.

Below is Gloria who you may have read about on Donna's blog.



Now Gloria has a habit of hissing at me and clicking her beak when I get too close to her and I was curious about the clicking, so I did a bit of research. I was pretty sure she was threatening me.

Most of the forums that had information about bird behaviour were populated by people that keep birds as pets. Donna and I don't like keeping birds as pets, especially if they're the type that we see flying free in our back yard. You might find that hard to believe if you visited our place at the moment, we currently have six different species of wild birds in either cages or baskets, but they're all destined for freedom eventually.

If I believed some of the people in the bird forums I'd have no fingers left, because they seem to think that the beak clicking is because the bird is glad to see you. They also seem to think it's cute when their pet lorikeet rolls onto its back so they can tickle it.

Wrong! That beak clicking is a threat gesture from what I could find out from more informed sources. Combined with the hissing and the spreading of her wings, Gloria's basically telling me she's about to attack if I don't move away from her. The rolling on the back that lorikeets do is not cute, it's a sign of submission. The poor little bugger's on its back because it's frightened, I've seen enough wild ones do it, both in care and free.

Anyway, that's my little rant over. Now to go and feed the baby figbird.

16 October 2008

Eggheads

Back in January when Donna and I were on our European holiday, we stayed with an aunt an uncle in Haultwick, Hertfordshire.

They had this great egg holder where, when you put eggs in it, the eggs formed the tops of monks' heads. I straight away decided I'd have to see if I could find one when we got back home.

Well I recently managed to find one on eBay and here it is.



Then while looking on eBay a couple of weeks after it arrived I saw a similar one, this time the characters looked like academics, so I put a bid on it and was the only one to do so.



So now we've got plenty of places to put our eggs. I haven't looked recently to see if there are any more like these. We'd end up with a kitchen full of egg holders if I did.

13 October 2008

Here's mud in your eye

It's spring here at the moment, that means spring cleaning.

Last weekend we decided to clean the pond in the backyard. With all the goldfish poo in there it was starting to get a bit yuck and the algae and plants were starting to choke it. We thought we'd clean it out, get rid of the goldfish and put back the tadpoles Donna had rescued from it a couple of weeks earlier.

The easiest way to clean it was to empty it out and then use a broom, so I put on my diving boots and gloves, grabbed a couple of buckets and jumped (stepped very carefully) in.

As the vege garden doesn't have much in it at the moment we put most of the water and fish poo on that, I'd fill the bucket and Donna would empty it.

Once we got as much water out as we could and the fish had all been transferred to another bucket we started to pull out some of the plants. With all the sediment and decayed matter that had built up over the past couple of years in there the plants had quite a bit of mud for their roots to hang onto. As you can imagine, the wet mud made it quite heavy and meant we had to pull it apart into smaller clumps to get it out of the pond.

Donna was beside the pond pulling while I was in there lifting.

At one stage when we had about half of it out I slipped. I did a quick reverse impression of Michael Jackson's moonwalk, put one hand on a huge rock at the side of the pond, and managed to stop myself falling into what little water was left in the bottom and squashing the five marsh frogs that were in there.

Then I heard Donna say, "Thankyou Steven!"

Donna only ever calls me Steven, rather than Steve, for two reasons; when she wants to annoy me, or when I've done something wrong.

When I slipped I'd been holding a small amount of mud and roots in one hand. I think the fact it had broken off might have been what made me slip in the first place.

When I looked up at Donna she was splattered from head to toe with mud, all over her white shorts and white shirt. She'd been standing right in the firing line and caught all of it.

Needless to say, I almost fell over again from laughing.

26 September 2008

Back from Armidale

People often get confused when I tell them I'm going to Armidale for residential school. They assume I'm going there for exams.

What we actually do is the practical stuff that, as external students, we don't get to do at home, like mixing chemicals in chemistry class and stinking the lab out with rotten egg gas as a result.

As well as chemistry I'm doing vertebrate zoology this semester, that's the study of animals with backbones, like us. The res school involves drawing lots of pictures of different types of animals and their internal anatomy.

Below is a picture of a cane toad, part way through being dissected by yours truly.



This isn't the first time I've dissected a cane toad at uni, but I never cease to be amazed at what's inside them. If you're interested, the pink spongy looking things in the picture are lungs, between them is the heart and the liver (the liver is the dark bit). Underneath the lung that I'm holding up with a probe is the stomach and those spotty looking things are eggs (it's a female toad).

The animals we dissect are well and truly dead by the time we're let loose on them, but it's not unusual to cut open a cane toad and find its heart still beating. The one in the picture wasn't, but a couple of my classmates were surprised when they realised there's was still pumping away. The reason it does this is that the heart is actually its own power supply. To put it another way, it supplies its own electricity to make it pump. It'll often carry on doing this for quite a while after death in some animals until it runs out of energy.

As well as the toads, we dissected trout (some of which ended up as dinner for some people, they were fresh from the hatchery at Ebor) and mice, so we could compare the differences in the way they lived.

It wasn't all cutting up dead animals though. We also did some spotlighting for nocturnal animals and some trapping and on the Tuesday we spent a couple of hours birdwatching around Dumaresq (pronounced dooMAreck) Dam followed by a pizza lunch. In all we counted fifty four different species of bird, including a Tawny Frogmouth sitting on its nest. Oh, and we analysed bat calls on the last day. Four Anabat devices were placed in the area we'd been spotlighting in and we went through the files to figure out what species of bat they were. There were about half a dozen different species in all, flying around while we were there. We didn't see a single one.

Apart from all the drawing, it was another enjoyable res school, but I was glad to get back home again, especially since it was our fourth wedding anniversary the day I got back. It's also warmer up here. It was six degrees Celsius when I left Armidale yesterday morning and twenty four degrees here when I got home.

16 September 2008

I'm still here

It's been quite a while since my last blog entry, sorry if you've been dropping round and I wasn't in so to speak.

If you live in Australia you may have heard about a plane crash a couple of weeks ago where an aerobatic Yak-52 crashed into the water off Stradbroke Island. The pilot of that aircraft was Barry Hempel. I learnt to fly at Hempel's Aviation and made a lot of friends there, one of which introduced me to my wife, Donna. Donna and I have even done a couple of trips away with Barry and his family. So you can see how Barry's death was a bit of a shock to us. I was going to write a tribute to him, but everytime I started writing it in my head, it either didn't seem right, or I got emotional. In the end it didn't get written.

Suffice to say, Barry had a huge impact in a lot of people's lives and Donna and I are no different. He'll be missed.

On top of that I've had university assignments to write and animals to feed. Did I say I was bored a few weeks ago?

So here I am, finally getting around to writing again while I sit in a little cabin in Armidale all on my lonesome. Donna couldn't come with me as she's too busy with work and the animals this time.

I'm down here for about twelve days. I've got two residentials, two days of chemistry which I finished yesterday and four days of vertebrate zoology, with a five day break in between.

What do you do when you're far from home in a country town all by yourself? Well normally Donna and I would have probably done a bit of a road trip for a few days, to see some places we haven't yet seen in this area, or even some we have seen. Coffs Harbour is a three hour drive from here and a nice place to visit. Actually, it's probably a nice place to live. where's the fun in exploring without your partner though.

So I'm hanging around Armidale for those five days and just doing little day trips with my camera.









Today was a thirty-five kilometre drive to Wollomombi falls. I've got to do some grocery shopping tomorrow, but I don't know what I'll do the next day. Tamworth is only an hour and a half south of here, so I might visit there again.

In between all this I'm catching up on a bit of reading for zoology and trying not to forget which day is Sunday. so I don't miss Doctor Who.

24 August 2008

Macro photography from a distance

Okay, it's not the best quality, but it's not bad considering the way it was taken.

Usually when I do macro-photography I set my dSLR up on a tripod, I use extension tubes between the lens and the camera so I can focus much closer than normal and I use a decent flash to provide the extra light needed.

The picture below was taken with my Olympus C-5050z from our back verandah, about ten metres away from the subject using available light.



This is how I did it. The picture below is a spotting scope. They're usually used for birdwatching (of the feathered variety), they're also used by shooters to see if they managed to hit their target. This one is a relatively cheap one compared to what is on the market, but it certainly works well. Those flowers usually have ants in them collecting the nectar. If there'd been one in that particular flower you would have been able to see it. It zooms in to 60x magnification. The equivalent amount of power in telephoto lens for an SLR camera would cost many, many thousands of dollars.

That's why digiscoping is so popular with birdwatchers. Basically, you put your digital camera (even a point and shoot) on the end of a spotting scope and snap away.

I don't yet have an adaptor to mount the camera on the scope, I just hold the camera up to the eyepiece, but it's still pretty good I think.

I took the scope to the Boondall Wetlands with my nephew Joe yesterday as he's doing a school assignment about the wetlands. I think all the birds must have got prior warning we were on the way as there were hardly any to be seen.



The flower is on that bush up against the shed.



If you're interested in trying digiscoping, here is the scope I have. That's not the price I paid though, we know someone that works for a wholesaler.

17 August 2008

A friendly visitor

Fellow blogger Dave asked me recently if I had any pictures of wildlife in civilisation, other than the ones we're looking after. Well we've been getting a very friendly visitor to our backyard the last few days, so I thought I'd post a few photos of him.









We suspect he may have been in care at some stage as he's very tame. Wild kookaburras will eat from your hand once they get used to you, but this one let Sarah pat him yesterday. That's something you won't see very often.

It's an eerie feeling walking to within touching distance of a bird like that, a bird that hunts, and having him stare you right in the eye with that huge beak pointing straight at you.

It's got to the point now where he'll pretty much come when he's called. I only have to tap the railing on the back verandah and over he flies. I'm not sure where he spends the night, but he's in our yard nearly all day, just sitting on the clothes hoist.

The other day he sat on top of the lorikeets' cage and they all climbed up like ninjas and started pulling feathers off his backside.

Bath time

If you've ever tried to have a bath in a handbasin you'll know how hard it is. There's always parts of you that you just can't get into the water properly.

We're looking after four lorikeets at the moment, all of them came to us after suffering concussion and will soon be released. It's a nice sunny day, so they decided it would be a good day for a bath. Unfotunately, the bowl containing their drinking water is a little too small for bathing, but they tried anyway.






I've put a bigger container in the bottom of their cage now, so hopefully they'll realise what it's for and start bathing in that. More likely they'll just poo in it.

01 August 2008

My family are a buch of wildlife magnets

I'm sitting on the back verandah as I write this, watching a young male brushtail possum in one of our feeders and it got me thinking. As you probably know, we're right into wildlife here.

Many years ago, my brother Laurie and I were on holidays in the UK, visiting family, and a few people mentioned the fact that the main thing that bothers them with visiting Oz was the poisonous wildlife. Naturally, I reassured them that it's really unusual to see poisonous snakes and spiders, they're just not as common as the media make it out.

Anyway, a year after that particular trip back home, my cousin Mandy was over here for a visit and the day she arrived we found a redback spider on the doorstep. It wasn't even hidden, it was right where it could have bitten anyone. Call me a liar.

Fast forward to 25th September 2004. We had a few family members over from the UK, My aunty Cis, my cousin's wife Sue (Cis's daughter-in-law) , and my godmother Betty and her husband Blondie. The big occasion was Donna's and my wedding (anniversary coming up, remind me in case I forget). We had everyone visiting a couple of days before the wedding for a BBQ and someone noticed a koala sitting in a tree a couple of doors up from our place. We've never seen that before or since. We often hear them during the mating season, they have a deeper call than the possums, but we rarely see them.

I'm starting to think we need to get more Porters and Goodsons over here to encourage the wildlife.

Oh, and the old Aussie cliche about kangaroos hopping down the main road in Oz, Laurie has pictures of roos in his new backyard.

Come on over and bring your camera.

Solar cooking

A few months ago I saw an article in a magazine that showed a couple of pictures of people with solar cookers. I was amazed because the cookers were basically cardboard boxes with alfoil stuck to them.

I decided I was going to try it for myself.

The pictures below are the result. I got the plans from the solar cooking archive. Mine it the Fun-panel, chosen mainly because it seemed the easiest to make.

I found the hardest part was sticking the alfoil to the cardboard, probably because I assembled the cooker before sticking it on. Next time I'll try it the other way. You'll notice the cookers on the solar cooking archive's site all look a lot neater than mine.

Does it work?

Well as I write this I have a pot of gunpowder tea brewing out in the backyard, that's it in the pictures. Gunpowder tea doesn't need boiling water, 70 degrees Celsius is enough. I checked the temperature with a digital aquarium thermometer before putting the pot on. It got up to 53 degrees Celsius before I got sick of standing there holding it and I think that's as high as the thermometer would go anyway. The pot is inside an oven bag that acts like a greenhouse and keeps the heat in. They suggest you use a dark pot as it'll absorb the heat better, but I couldn't be bothered to look for one, I was too keen to try it out.

It certainly won't cook as quick as your electric kettle or stove top, but it's a fun and environmentally friendly way of doing it.

I'll let you know how the tea tasted later.


The finished cooker


A nice pot of chai... hopefully.


The other side. The box once contained a compost bin, how's that for recycling.

Edit at 12:39 - The tea was excellent. It was definitely hot enough, now to find some recipes.

17 July 2008

Trying something new

I tried something new today.

No, it wasn't a new food or drink and I didn't visit somewhere I hadn't been before.

I cut my own hair.

Now you're probably thinking my god, I wonder what that looks like. Well it's actually not too bad if I do say so myself, maybe not quite as good as when Donna does it for me, but definitely passable. In fact, I think I did a better job than I do when I trim my beard. Of course I always get a buzz cut which makes it quite easy to do. Trying to get the scissors round the right way while looking at myself in the mirror would have been just about impossible.

Donna hasn't seen it yet as she's still at work. I just know she's going to ask how I tidied up around my ears, since she always uses the scissors for that bit. I'm pretty sure she'll want to fix up the back of my neck because I can feel the bits I've missed when I run my hands over it.

I wonder if I should add it to my resume as another skill.

12 July 2008

A busy few days

It's been a busy few days. If you've read Donna's blog, you'll know she's just spent a couple of nights in hospital.

Thursday afternoon, after a lunch of MacDonalds, we got a call from a local vet asking if we could come and pick up a Tawny Frogmouth. It had been found sitting by the side of the road somewhere in our area. Tawnys have a habit during the day of sitting in a tree pretending to be piece of the tree. The vet seemed to think that this particular bird had been doing just that.

We took the bird home but had a feeling it had been indirectly poisoned by eating a poisoned mouse, something that's quite common unfortunately.

As we don't have a suitable cage for it, we asked Jess a Brett if they could take it. They said they'd come and pick it up that evening and stay for dinner.

Not long after dinner (steak and sausages, there's a trend forming here) Donna started complaining about pains in the stomach. She has ulcers and assumed it was that and took a Somac. Unfortunately, the pain was getting worse and it didn't matter what position she got in, there was no relief. I mouthed the word ambulance to Jess and Brett and they ambos were there within about five minutes.

Anyway, if you want to read the rest it's in Donna's blog, but needless to say, not much got done around the house yesterday and a rescue I got called out for in the afternoon had to be done by someone else. It was most likely all the fatty food that we'd had that day that triggered Donna's problem.

By coincidence, I'm doing a first aid course this weekend, it's at the nearest ambulance station to the hospital where Donna was staying. It seems funny sitting not far from an ambulance when I was riding in one only a couple of days ago.

Oh, and the poor Tawny didn't make it, it died before Donna started getting the stomach pains.

05 July 2008

A little light reading

I've got a bit of time on my hands at the moment. As my uni stuff for second semester hasn't all arrived yet I can't do much studying, so I'm taking the opportunity to read a book Donna bought me a couple of years ago.



It's about two inches thick and nearly 1700 pages. No it's not War and Peace, I tried reading a Tolstoy novel once, "Anna Karenina", it was so boring I never finished it. This one is actually a compendium of four of Darwin's books, "The Voyage of the Beagle", "On the Origin of the Species", "The Decent of Man" and "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals".

I'm not actually as far into it as the photo above suggests, I'm only a short way into "The Voyage of the Beagle", but so far I'm finding it a really interesting read. It's a bit like reading an 1830s blog about someones holiday, as it was taken from Darwin's journal on his five year journey around the world in HMS Beagle.

If you've got a bit of time on your hands see if you can find a copy. You won't regret it.

03 July 2008

Unemployed

Or as I like to call it, temporarily semi-retired. Hey, I have enough grey hair in my beard now to get away with it.

Yesterday was the big day. Actually, it was a bit of an anticlimax. I spent the morning doing pretty much what I've been doing for the past month, reading, looking at job ads and courses, and playing solitaire and pinball on the computer. Then at noon a group of us went up the pub for two hours, the same as we did on Tuesday when one of our colleagues, Larry, had his last day.

After a final pee back at the office in preparation for a ninety minute bus ride, I just shook hands with everyone (and hugged one), said my goodbyes and was gone.

Because I've had a few big holidays and residentials in the last couple of years, it doesn't seem like I've left the job, I just feel like I'm on holidays again. Every now and then I think of something at work and I realise I won't be in that office ever again. I don't think it will really sink in properly until I start getting a wage from another employer, or until Donna starts nagging me to get a job.

Because I need time off for uni residentials and exams, I'm mainly looking for a casual job. Having said that, some employers openly advertise the fact that they will give you study leave, so if I can get a job like that it'll be great. One such job is as a ranger with the EPA, as soon as one gets advertised in this area I'll be applying for it.

Until then, I'm going to do a few courses. I've already got a first aid course booked in a couple of weeks. Donna wants to do a chainsaw course, so we'll be doing that one together. Part of my redundancy package was a lump sum payment for training purposes, so I'll be putting that to good use, even if most of it goes toward my uni fees.

I guess now I'll have to change the picture at the top of my blog, I don't think I'll change the name of the blog though.

17 June 2008

Caught in the Act

Xena isn't allowed on our bed.

She thought she could get away with it by hiding.



She was wrong.

11 June 2008

The navigator

When my bus turned up this afternoon it had two route numbers on it. 251 was on a sign in the window, but the destination board said 265. I wandered up to the bus asked what number it was and found it was indeed the 251 and that the destination board was stuck on 265.

This was the first indication that it was going to be a fun ride home.

As I usually sit up the front of the bus, I'm used to giving drivers directions when they're not familiar with the route. Where this particular driver was different was when he told me this was his first run into the city. I was telling him where to turn and which stops to stop at before we even got out of town. With that wrong number on the destination board, I was also keeping an eye out for familar passengers that didn't realise this was their bus. They're not going to put their hand out for the bus if they don't know it's theirs.

When we got to Buranda, our first stop after leaving the city we stopped because I knew a couple of passengers usually get on there. I could see a lady down the platform that I knew caught the 251, but she hadn't realised it was there. Up I jumped, stuck my head out the door and yelled out, "two five one!" This resulted in two people getting on that wouldn't have and one getting off that thought it was the 265.

Once we left Buranda it was a straight run to Capalaba as the 251 is a limited pickup bus. Getting into Capalaba we discovered that the buzzer didn't work on the bus either. Some people seem to have a problem with yelling out "next stop please!" and assumed that just walking down the aisle was enough to tell the driver they wanted to get off.

There are two stops at Capalaba and the second one is the main one, the interchange. As we pulled in I noticed a guy that usually caught our bus and he was totally oblivious to the fact his bus had arrived. So, once the passengers getting off had all got off I asked the driver to hang on a tic, jumped off the bus, and went and tapped the unaware guy on the shoulder. He had his Ipod plugged in and wouldn't have heard me if I'd yelled out "two five one!" again.

Not far out of Capalaba the bus turns off the main road and goes around the back streets. This is where the drivers that don't know the route too well have the most problems and this is where I usually give the most directions. Not only was I telling him where to turn and where the next stop was, but also the fact that people usually got off at this one, or that one. Hardly anyone was telling the driver they wanted the next stop, because I was doing it for them.

Needless to say, I wasn't only being thanked by the driver today.

When I got off at my stop, I wished the driver good luck and I wondered if anyone else would take over my role for the rest of the journey.

You may be wondering why this driver was doing a route that he didn't know. Well apparently they were down twenty drivers today. I wonder if it had anything to do with the fact that there's a big rugby league game on tonight.

Oh, I got a free ride home today too. The new fangled ticket machine on the bus wasn't working either. Not that that's unusual.

07 June 2008

Those were the days

Back when I was an apprentice I actually had quite an interesting job.

Some of the stuff that I got to work on was, how can I put this, very novel. We had a robot that was used for PR stuff to publicise the Gold Phones that were new at the time. I got to go out with this little radio controlled robot and terrorise lady shoppers at a shopping centre in Ipswich, near Brisbane. I even got to redesign some of the circuit boards inside, something most of the guys in my intake missed out on while the were busy installing phones or being exchange Mungos.

My favourite though, was the Beatle Phone. It wasn't really a Beatle, but a Volswagen Kombi, or at least the chassis and running gear. The body was all fibreglass and was in the shape of a telephone. It used to be used in parades, but once it was parked it could actually be used to make phone calls via the cordless phone inside it. This was in the days before mobile phones.

Rather than try to describe it, here's a picture of it.



That keypad on the front actually worked. Next to the number three is a speaker that doubled as a microphone. People could actually make a phone call on the Beatle Phone, although if they weren't used to using radio they had a bit of trouble as they had to press a button to talk, then remember to let go so they could hear the person on the other end.

It was used all over Queensland, but was based at the workshops in Brisbane where I worked. Whenever it came home, it was an apprentice's job to give it a bit of a polish and make sure the phone was working. Sometimes this meant tipping the water out of the speaker.

Anyway, all this cleaning and testing usually meant that it had to be taken for a quick drive as well. Great fun, even though the steering wheel had heaps of slack and the gear stick was between your legs.

Those were the days. Thanks to Dave for reminding me of them.

Lotto win

Finishing work on Thursday night, I found a fifty cent piece on the floor of the lift. One of our trainees was with me and he commented that I'm now rich. I told him I wasn't yet, but I would be that night as I was going to win the lotto.

Now, if you live in Australia, you'll know that the big prize on Thursday's lotto was fifty million (actually, it turned out to be fifty eight million and only one winner).

Well, I checked the numbers yesterday and we had a win. With the fifty cents I found in the lift and the division seven win, I just about paid for the entry price.

Can't complain about that.

04 June 2008

A date at last

I got my form A today.

What that means is, I now know how long I've got till I become unemployed. I finish up on the 2nd of July. We had the option of signing the paperwork today and chosing when we want to go, or waiting and making a decision over the next nine weeks. I signed the form and go in four weeks. At least one of my coleagues, AJ, signed to go next week.

Now AJ has an internship lined up at a hospital in Beijing, he's been studying remedial massage for the past couple of years, and that's what he'll be doing. I told him he's going to have to do a blog about it and he seems pretty keen. Once he starts it, I'll let you all know about it.

Now that I have a definite date I can actively start looking for another job and it's such a relief that the starting gate has finally been opened, so to speak. I've actually already been offered a job, but I'm not sure I want to do night fill at Coles supemarkets. At least I know I've got that to fall back on though.

If anyone has a job going for a zoology student with a truck licence and lots of other experience, let me know. If you're from Amway though, don't bother. That's so unoriginal.

29 May 2008

Practical jokes

I've mentioned in a previous post about some of the practical jokes I've played in my younger days, charged up capacitors and that sort of thing.

Chatting to some of the the new operators today (the ones that are taking my job), we got talking about practical jokes and the sort of things you can do with phones in a call centre, or office situation. I mentioned some of the practical jokes I've played in the past, including one that really impressed the new guys.

You know those party popper things that look like plastic champagne bottles, where you pull the string and it goes bang and shoots streamers all over the place? Well, you sticky tape one of them under someones desk and tie the string to their seat. It's so simple and so effective. I may have to warn some of the other trainees, because the ones I was talking to seemed really keen to try it out.

Anyway, I got thinking later about practical jokes. I've read stuff where so-called experts reckon that people playing practical jokes in the workplace are either attempting to get attention, or it's just workplace harassment. I seriously think that the people that come up with that sort of rubbish got picked on (bullied) at school and never learnt to deal with it.

I was skinny, spotty and painfully shy when I was at school. I now have a pot belly, decent complection and joke confidently with complete strangers. I dealt with it.

I will never play a practical joke on someone that I think would feel victimised as a result. To put that another way, part of the fun of playing practical jokes on someone is the chance that they'll try and get you back. I haven't played a practical joke on someone for ages, but I tend to target people that I know will try and get me back. It's a game and it certainly makes the work day a bit more bearable.

I suspect that most practical jokers are the same. We don't do it to pick on someone, we do it for entertainment, with the hope it'll be on-going. If you've ever done any kind of apprenticeship, you will have had a practical joke played on you. As you've got older you've probably played a practical joke on an apprentice too. I bet you've got some stories to tell Dave in fact, I bet you could do a few blog entries yourself on the subject.

Anyway, to my way of thinking, practical jokes in the workplace are a good way of building a team. They're definitely a way of relieving the tedium of a boring job, and they don't need to be un-productive either.

What do other people think? Caramaena you work in a call centre in the same industry as me, what are some of the practical jokes that you seen played, especailly phone related? Don't tell me it hasn't happend. Treat it as one of those Meme things that you pass on to other bloggers. I'm curious to know what other people do to ammuse themselves and their coleagues at work.

23 May 2008

Waiting, waiting

I wrote the other day about my upcoming redundancy.

Today was the day we were hoping we'd get our form A, the official notification that we're no longer required. Because of problems getting access to certain computer systems for our replacements, we knew by about Wednesday that we probably weren't going to get our forms today.

I'm on RDO today, so I wouldn't have got mine anyway, but I just got a call from a colleague to tell me we'll probably get them next Friday now... maybe. We're pretty used to this kind of thing by now, in fact we've come to expect it. We're not complaining too loudly though, as I wrote in my previous post, if we go in the new financial year we end up paying less income tax on the leave that's paid out. To put it another way, the longer we stay, the more money we get.

In the mean time, some of us are training our replacements. I've been sitting with them for the past week and a bit, helping them get the hang of our databases. I've been doing the job for eight years now and I can complete most simple orders in under a minute. Watching a new operator, especially one who's keyboard skills aren't very good, can be really tiring. I sit there willing the cursor to move to the right place on the screen and willing the operator to ask the tech the right question. The sound of relief in the tech's voices when I drop into a call to help out is really noticeable. The relief when I get to take a couple of calls myself and do it at full speed is also noticeable.

The new operators will mostly handle the job okay I think. Some are already doing pretty well and are ready to fly solo so to speak. They'll be calling for help a lot, but they won't be tying up an experienced operator all the time. I know from experience that they'll all be calling for help occasionally, for months to come. I've trained people that have come to me for help a couple of years after they started. Unfortunately, the help won't be there for the IBM people, because we'll all be gone.

I could always give them my mobile number and charge a consultancy fee every time they ring I suppose. When it comes right down to it though, I learnt the job from scratch without any training. We made it up as we went along in the early days of our department. There's no reason the new people can't do the same. They'll make mistakes, we did, as long as they learn from them.

18 May 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

I wrote a few months ago that my department at work was being taken over by IBM.

For the past month or so, we've been waiting to find out exactly when we would no longer be needed and would be redeployed or made redundant.

Well, this week we finally found out. As IBM will officially be doing our job starting the 2nd June, most of us will be surplus to requirements, so to speak. There is still a knowledge transfer going on at the moment. Some of us have been helping to train our replacements and that will probably continue until the end of the month. There are a couple of people that will be required to stay on until the end of June, but most of us have only two weeks left in the job.

Under the terms of our redundancy agreement, we have several different options as to when we actually finish. If we opt to go early we could be out within seven days of being given our form A (which will probably happen this coming Friday), and there are generous enticements to get us to do that. There is also the option of a cooling off period while we decide and a jobs program to help us write our resumes and apply for jobs before we go. Basically, we could be out seven days after the form A, right up to eight weeks after, depending on which option we chose.

The question for me is how much better off will I be if I opt to stay until the new financial year, as I will pay less tax then. The longer I stay, the less of those financial enticements I get, but it's swings and roundabouts.

I've worked for this company for twenty four years now, and for the last few all I've wanted to do was get out and do something different, that's why I'm studying for a degree. I could have just resigned and got a job elsewhere, but wouldn't have been able to afford it. A redundancy makes it affordable and our company has one of the most generous redundancy packages of any company in Australia. Now that the time has come though, reality hits and you start to think, shit, I need to find another job.

Because I need to be able to get time off for exams and residentials, I don't want to get a full time job just yet. My first choice is going to be to get on the casual register with CSIRO. If nothing comes up there I'll be heading down to the local bus depot and offering my services.

One thing I won't be doing is wasting my time going for entry level jobs on the same kind of money that I get at the moment. I know of one guy that I used to work with and is finishing at the end of the month. He's apparently applied for about eighty jobs already and hasn't been offered a single interview. He's just aiming way too high. Most of us have vegetated in our jobs over the past few years, so it'll be an uphill battle for some.

I'm glad I've been preparing for my departure for a while and already had a bit of a direction long before the news came.

It's a whole new era for me and I'm looking forward to it, no matter what happens.

Wish me luck.

06 May 2008

Don't let go

I wasn't sure where to put this blog entry, here or in our carer's blog, but I thought I'd put it here so more people would see it.

It's a story about a possum, hence the temptation to put it on the carer's blog.

Donna and I like to sit out on the back verandah in the evenings and have a glass or two of fermented grape juice. Quite often while we're out here (I'm typing this from the verandah right now), we'll hear the patter of tiny feet running across the awning.

That happened tonight. We heard the patter and had already seen a ringtail possum and her little one walking along the fence, so we assumed this was one of the resident brushtails. The footsteps moved across the awning ready to jump into the nearby tree where we have a couple of feeders.

I stood up, leaned over the railing, and when I saw a little nose appear over the edge I said, "helloooo".

The owner of the little nose, a young brushtail possum, looked down at me. I waved. I think the possum must have tried to wave back, because the next thing that happened was, it fell off the roof.

Luckily it didn't fall far. Those young, highly tuned reflexes stopped it going too far and it managed to hang on and get back on the roof. Five seconds later it jumped into the tree and it's now feeding on a mix of birdseed and apple.

That young possum learned several lessons tonight. 1) It's not rude if you don't wave back. 2) the old sailor's rule of one hand for yourself and one for the ship, i.e. hang on. 3) The most important rule, never trust a human.

04 May 2008

No, no, no, no, yes

Donna and I were watching Big Brother tonight.

During the ads, a cry came from Sarah's room. "Nooooooo", or something like that. Nothing bad had happened on BB, but I had an idea what she was crying about. I grabbed the remote (being a guy, it was close by), and changed the channels. The Logies were on.

Now, if you don't live in Australia, you won't know what the Logies are. John Logie Baird basically invented TV. In Australia we have a yearly TV awards thingy that is named after him. Why it wasn't called the Bairds or even the Johns I don't know, but we have the Logies, a bit like the BAFTAs or the Oscars, but not in the same league.

Anyway, a "nooooo" came from Sarah's room during the ads while we were watching BB. I straight away knew she wasn't upset about Terri going back into the house. I looked at Donna and she said something about Sarah watching the Logies. Then I knew what she was upset about.

One of the nominees for this year's best new male talent was Lincoln Lewis, of Home and Away fame. I've blogged about him before. I grabbed the remote, changed the channel, there was Lincoln making his acceptance speech.

Now, I hate H&A (home and as far away as possible), but from what I've seen of Lincoln when I've been in the room while Sarah's watching it, he's not a bad actor. I think he deserved the award and I suspect Sarah did really. The only reason she was pissed off was because she went to school with him and didn't like him because he wasn't in her group of friends.

I don't know if Sarah heard the "Yaaaay" from the living room when I changed the channel and heard he'd won, but I'd like to congratulate him. I'm not saying that to piss Sarah off, he was better than the competition, most of whom I'd never heard of. It's always good to see someone from the Redlands doing well, like Marty from Biggest Loser last year. You always get the feeling you might bump into them in Coles and get the opportunity to ignore them. I've seen Ian McFadyen a few times, despite the disguise and I didn't yell out and ask him to do his David Attenborough impersonation.

Anyway, congratulations Lincoln, and next time someone does a search on Google to find out if you're gay and they come across my blog, I'm here to tell them you're not. You're not are you?

26 April 2008

Some gross stuff

Today was the last day of my entomology residential and what a fun day it was.

The main topic today was forensic entomology and if you're a fan of CSI you'll have an idea what that is. If you don't, well basically when an animal dies it is immediately occupied by various organisms that help break it down. The amount of those organisms, the type and their stage of development gives you an idea of how long the animal (or person) has been dead.

For our prac we had four plates of chicken drumsticks on a bed of soil. These plates had been left outside for varying amounts of time, from fourteen days down to one day. We had to cut open the drumsticks and count up what we found in them.

We started off with the one day old plate. There were four of us in my group, but only two of us put on the rubber gloves and cut up the chicken. Day one wasn't too bad, we found one small Rove beetle and the chicken smelled a bit, but it wasn't too bad.

Onto plate two, which was three days old and as soon as I cut it open the maggots started to come out. I think it was about this stage that one of our group had to go outside for some fresh air, and she wasn't alone.

Plate three was a week old, smelled a bit more and had some really fat maggots in it. Out of the two drumsticks on this plate we counted about sixty maggots. This one was also the grossest to look at, really squishy.

By plate four, which was two weeks old, the two of us doing the work were getting quite used to it. This one had started to dry out a bit. There weren't as many maggots, but there were a couple of the beetles. The beetles are actually predatory. They don't eat the chicken, they feed on the maggots in the chicken.

I actually woke up this morning with a bit of a stuffy nose and was tempted to take an antihistamine. I decided against it in case it made me drowsy. I'm glad I made that decision now as it made it harder for me to smell the rotten meat.

Could I do that sort of thing for a living? To be perfectly honest, if you'd asked me that before today I would have said no. Now I'm not so sure. Although it looked pretty gross, I didn't have a problem with it. Our lecturer said that it's usually the smell that causes people problem rather than the sight of it.

Oh, by the way, yesterday I was dissecting a cockroach, fascinating stuff.

21 April 2008

Bokashi

We got a couple of Bokashi buckets today.



What's a Bokashi bucket?
I hear you say. It's a 20 litre sealable bucket for composting kitchen scraps. Where it differs from normal compost bins is that it ferments the waste, making it easier to break down when it goes into your garden, worm farm, or normal compost bin.

Most importantly, you can put meat scraps into it as well. Try that in a normal compost bin and it'll start to smell very quickly, as well as wriggle with maggots, etc.

It's very simple to use, you just tip your scraps in, sprinkle a layer of EM (effective micro-organisms) Bokashi over the top and put the lid on.

Now you could probably do the same in a normal bucket as long as you could seal it, something like a wine fermenter for example. If you did you'd have to put some kind of strainer at the bottom for the fluid to run out. You'll notice in the picture above that it has a tap at the bottom. The fluid that comes out can be used as a liquid fertiliser, or and get this, a drain cleaner. Honest, it says so on the website.

You need to buy a bag of the EM Bokashi regularly. The only source I've found it so far is the shops that sell the buckets online. Hopefully there'll be local sources for it eventually, or even an alternative that you can make up yourself.

I'll keep you posted on whether or not it works as advertised. I might even take some photos of the stuff inside if I get enough requests.

If you do decide to get one yourself, I suggest you order it from the website above. The other places selling it are resellers and seem to have a bit of a markup.

Oh, and one thing I didn't realise when I ordered the buckets last Thursday afternoon, The Queensland state government offers a rebate for them up to $50. Bargain!

19 April 2008

Fire

We had a minor bush fire in our area the other night.



It was nothing serious, we didn't even hear fire engines. It burnt just long enough for me to take some photos in the ad breaks during Gordon Ramsay. In fact, the only reason I'm blogging about it is because I like the photo.

The fire is in a bit of bushland about two or three streets from us. The last time there was a fire there it was a bit bigger. People in neighbouring houses were finding all kinds of wildlife in their yards, especially snakes.

We haven't had any calls to pick up injured animals as a result of the fire, so it can't have been as bad as the last one.

18 April 2008

A bit of a twitch

Last weekend, Donna and I decided to stop off at the black swamp on the way home from Laurie and Jessica's. The black swamp is quite well known in our area. It's a nesting and roosting ground for flying foxes (fruit bats) and ibises. It's right on the main road through Cleveland, so it's not hard to find.

Anyway, we parked around the back to start with and walked in among the trees to watch and photograph the bats, then drove round the front to see what was there. As soon as we got out of the car, Donna noticed something in the top of a dead tree.



It's a white bellied sea eagle, they eat snakes fish and small birds. Quite a magnificent looking creature don't you think? Looks like the master of all it purveys. You can imagine it soaring over the swamp, letting out a screech and frightening hell out of small creatures for miles around.

Well, actually when it took off it honked like a goose. I kid you not, that's what they sound like, check here if you don't believe me.

It's a bit like hearing a big, hulking body builder talk with a girly voice. It just doesn't fit right.

Good luck

Yesterday morning, while walking to the bus, I passed a couple of bottlebrush trees about two doors up from our place. As I walked past I scared a couple of rainbow lorikeets and they took off about a foot away from my head. I nearly had kittens.

This morning, while walking past the same trees, I was a bit more cautious. I could see them near the top of the second tree, so I knew they weren't going to fly too close to me this time. As I walked under the tree, thinking it was maybe not a good idea to walk right underneath, I heard a short squirting sound. Then something wet hit me on top of the head.

Luckily, lorikeets are nectar feeders, so when they poo on youit tends to be watery rather than brown and white and obvious.

Oh well, it's supposed to be good luck. I'm still waiting.

14 April 2008

Stating the obvious

One for the "kids say the darnedest things" file.

We had a bit of a family get together at my brother Laurie's place on Saturday. He and Jessica had some insulation to put in the external walls of their new house before the plasterboard went up. After we'd finished and I was having a look around the block (it's an acre and a half), I noticed a rock on the ground next to the septic tank.

Now, regular readers will know that I've done a couple of geology subjects at uni. I've struggled with rock identification, but wasn't really good at it. I was good enough to pass the exam though.

Anyway, I picked up this rock which, on first looking at it, I took to be a piece of jasper. My soon-to-be-four neice, Alicia, was standing there and I said to her, "what kind of rock is that Alicia".

She took on quick look at it and said, "a big one".

All that exam stress for nothing. I should have just asked Alicia.

05 April 2008

Plumbing

They say you only need to know three things to be a plumber; hot on the left, cold on the right, and you-know-what flows down hill.



I'm not sure if the pic above follows those rules. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be washing my hands in that water while it's running. I'm also pretty sure what the sparkies would have to say about it.

In a similar vein, check this out on Andrew's blog.

30 March 2008

CQ WPX SSB

For most of you, the title of this entry is meaningless. What it means is the ham radio contest was on this weekend.

Now you're probably wondering how you have a ham radio contest. Do hams all get together in one place with their radios and go "ooh" and "aah", and judge who's got the best one? No, what happens is we all try to contact as many people as possible over a certain period. We exchange a signal report and a serial number. The reason for the serial number is to cross check the logs when the entries are checked, otherwise you could just say you contacted someone when you didn't.

As you can see below, we got the rabbit's ears up and the reception is much better now.



That's Donna in the picture feeding the possums. I was actually on the roof of our shed when I took this one, cutting some flowers from some of the trees for them.

Anyway, over the course of the weekend we had 92 contacts. Some of them were with the same station, but on different bands. We had contacts from as far afield as Korea, Malaysia, Chile, USA, Barbados and Jamaica. Unfortunately we didn't get any European stations, the closest we got Europe was the Ukraine.

You can see in the picture my callsign is sitting on top of one of the radios. That's so Laurie didn't forget himself and use his own callsign for the contest. As we were working as a team we just used mine. With the number of contacts we made though, Laurie will probably forget next time he's on the radio and use mine. Not that we made many contacts, we were small fry compared to some of the people competing, but there's a lot more in my log than there were before the contest.



Even though there's a fridge in this next picture, don't be fooled. We didn't hijack the kitchen table for the weekend. We were downstairs next to where I usually have my radios. Those leftover crusts you can see just past my chin aren't mine by the way. I always eat my crusts that's why I've still got a lot of hair.



Now the contest is over and we know the new radios and antenna work I can stop procrastinating and get stuck into my uni assignments.

I didn't play radios all weekend either, we had a couple of rescues this weekend. This afternoon Donna and I took a young dove back to be released that she and my niece (Laurie's ten year old daughter) rescued yesterday. From there we went to someone elses house to pick up a young galah.

23 March 2008

Don't laugh at my erection

It'll look better when it's on the roof. It won't be an eyesore either, I hope.



The rabbit's ears you can see in this picture are a Comet H-422 antenna. Up until now I've been using a couple of bits of wire hanging from the eaves in the back yard as my ham antenna. The trouble is, since I made the antenna and installed it, the trees have grown. I used to get really strong signals from New Zealand, but that doesn't happen now. Since putting the new antenna in the vege garden, I've been able to hear, Bolivia, Korea, Japan, the US and plenty of other stations that are closer.

Considering it's sitting in the back yard, that's not bad. Eventually it'll be up over the roof. I may even be able to contact my cousin Nicki's husband, Andy the anorak, 2E0HPO. By the way Andy, register, on QRZ.COM.

Now, if you aren't into amateur radio, if you aren't a ham, all the above is probably meaningless. Basically, what it means is, I'll now be able to chat to people all over the world on the wireless a lot better than I could before. When I say chat, I mean really talk to them, not like on MSN or ICQ, (is ICQ still around?).

Next weekend, my brother Laurie, VK4VCC, and I will be competing in the CQ WPX contest. That means, over a period of 48 hours, we'll be trying to contact as many hams around the world as possible. Sounds boring? It's a lot less boring than sitting in front of the tele and watching sport. you can still do it with a beer in your hand.

Oh, and contesting on the radio, it's a contact sport.

15 March 2008

Capacitors

Dave made a comment in my last blog entry about handing someone a charged up capacitor and I thought it deserved an entry in itself.

For those of you that are non-technical, a capacitor is basically an electronic component that stores an electrical charge. They're a bit like a battery, but if you short them out they'll discharge completely, sometimes with a bang and lots of sparks.

Back when I was working as a tech, we had some small tins that originally contained small plastic strips used as insulators to stop relay contacts contacting, handy for fault finding. These tins had a metal bottom, a metal lid and a cardboard middle. What we used to do was solder a two microfarad capacitor to the base and the lid. We'd then close it up, put a little notice on it telling people not to open it, charge the cap up to about 250 volts with a megger and leave it on someones desk.

Naturally, when you see something on your desk that says, do not open, you open it. It's human nature. People expect something to jump out of it when they open it. They don't expect to get zapped.

The funny thing is, sometimes someone would pick it up, get zapped and drop it, and the next person would pick it up and do the same thing, not realising that victim numer one had been zapped. Two for the price of one.

Maybe one day I'll tell you about the spiders and cockroaches I used to make from bits of wire, antistatic foam and heatshrink, or the time I hid a walkie talkie on someones desk and started transmitting from the other side of the workshop.

Ah, those were the days.

08 March 2008

New radio

There's two shiny new radios downstairs at the moment. One hadn't even been out of its box until I opened it.

They aren't my radios, they belong to my brother Laurie. He and I are both radio hams, Laurie's callsign is VK4VCC and mine is VK4VSP. Because Laurie is in the process of having a new house built, he and his family are living in rented accomodation, so he can't put up an antenna. While the house is being built he's been buying some new gear and he brought them around this morning so I could have a bit of a play.

After they'd left I went downstairs, unplugged one of my radios and made some room on the desk for one of Laurie's radios.

At the moment there's a DXpedition on at Clipperton Island. A DXpedition is where a bunch of hams get together and take their radios to somewhere remote. Usually it's somewhere where there aren't any other hams, so everyone wants to contact them while they're there, so they can say it's another country they've contacted. With all the bells and whistles Laurie's new radios have, they're ideal for contacting a station such as the guys on Clipperton, while half the world's hams are trying to do the same thing.

Unfortunately, I managed to blow a fuse in my one and only power supply. Why not replace the fuse? I hear you say. I'm going to, but the trouble is, the fuse is internal. There's two huge capacitors inside that thing and they're still charged up. There's no way I'm putting my hands inside the case while they're still charged. I've zapped myself that way too many times when I used to do electronic repairs years ago. The slightest sudden noise turns your bowels to liquid when you're working on something like that. In fact, it wasn't unusual for someone to sneak up behind you and clap back in those days. We were cruel buggers back then.

01 March 2008

Oops

We have a 2600 litre rainwater tank in our backyard.

With all the rain we've had just lately, it's been pretty much full since about late November. We had an electronic timer on it so that at 5:30 pm every afternoon it would water the veges for half an hour. The trouble is, sometimes the batteries would go flat and we wouldn't notice until the strawberries started to look a bit sorry for themselves.

So I took the timer off last week and relied on remembering to turn off the tap whenever it was on. This morning I put a good old fashioned clockwork timer on there, because this morning was when I remembered I'd turned the tap on about 5:30 yesterday afternoon and it was still on.

I hope it rains this week, because we have about 1400 litres of water to replace in the tank.

That's not as bad as a colleague of mine who lives on seven and a half acres near Samford, north of Brisbane. He turned the tap on from one of his tanks sometime last year to fill the horse trough up, then forgot to turn it off when he and the family went to Warwick for the day.

He relies on tank water and had to buy some in to refill the tank. I think he paid about three hundred dollars. You can imagine how pissed off he was when it rained heavily a week after he bought it.

29 February 2008

Santana

I just found out that Carlos Santana is playing at Boondall this weekend.

Donna and I would love to go and see him play, but it's a bit late to try and get tickets now. Among other things, like uni and college assignments, we've got some possums to pick up this weekend. I wish we'd known earlier.

Maybe I should read those e-mails from Tickitek a bit better in future.

If you get to see the show and you're reading this, please don't tell me how good it was.

25 February 2008

Free bus travel

We have a new ticketing system on public transport in south east Queensland, it's called Go card. You can use your Go card on the buses, the trains and the ferries.

When they first started bringing them in, they announced the fact that they would be ending the ten-trippers. Now I liked the ten-tripper. It was a paper ticket, with the numbers 1 to 10 on it. You'd get on the bus, the driver would punch your ticket, you'd go and sit down. Sometimes, the driver wouldn't punch the ticket properly, so on your next trip the same number would get punched because that driver didn't notice. I've had up to fourteen trips on one ten tripper before.

Last week I bought a Go card and I used it for the first time today. I got on the bus, touched on, got a green light and went and sat down, after telling the driver where you can buy the cards. A lot of people have been asking where they can get the cards, but no-one thought to tell the drivers. When I got off, I whipped out my card again and touched off. More about that later.

When I came home this afternoon I went to touch on and there was no green light. You see the system works through a GPS. It knows what stop you're at using satellite navigation. It was raining this afternoon and the GPS wouldn't work. Apparently it won't work in the underground bus station on Queen Street either, so a lot of people have been getting free rides as a result. That's what happened to me, the driver said not to bother and I got a free ride. It's not my fault, nor the driver's if the system doesn't work properly.

The idea with touching on and touching off is that when you touch on, the system charges your card a fixed price of three dollars. That way they don't lose too much revenue if you forget to touch off. When you get to your destination, you touch off, then the sytem knows how far you've travelled and it corrects the amount it needs to charge you. The thing is though, it costs me $4.10 for a single to the city. If you aren't very good at maths forgetting to touch off saves me $1.10.

Of course it depends when during the week I do it. After six trips in a week, the fair drops 50% for the rest of the week, so if I forgot to touch off on a Thursday, I'd be paying 95c more.

I can definitely see plenty of ways the new system can be cheated. Not that I'd do that, not deliberately anyway.

24 February 2008

Just the way we like it

We have council elections coming up next month. Our current mayor, Don Seccombe, isn't running in this election, so it's down to two people.

Melva Hobson says she's for better public transport, healthier waterways, "We'll be clean and we'll be green she says."

Paul Clauson is an ex-minister from Joh Bjelke Peterson's government, well that's a strike against him straight away. Mr Clauson wants to turn the Redlands into a "vibrant new city" rather than a "dormitory and seaside sleepy area."

Hello!! That's why we live here, that's the way we like it. Don't turn it into another Gold Coast.

I guess you can tell where my vote will be going.

16 February 2008

Big bird

After I did the blog entry about Calais, Donna had a read of it and mentioned the fact that there was a glaring error. That was about two weeks ago, and I haven't got around to correcting it until now.

So here it is. It wasn't emu that I had for dinner, it was ostrich. Either way, it was very nice, as good, if not better than kangaroo meat.

I definitely have a craving for escargot since Calais.

15 February 2008

Career change

I mentioned a few months ago that our department at work was being outsourced to IBM.

Our department looks after the logistics side of things in the company, things like procurement, movement of spare parts, building services, that sort of thing. The section that I'm part of, and have been since it was created nearly eight years ago, looks after networks spares to the field. This is the stuff that's in exchanges and mobile phone towers.

When there's a fault, the techs go out, change the faulty part with a good one, then ring us to organise a replacement for the spare they used. We then track both the faulty bit and the new one to make sure they get to where they're supposed to, the faulty one to the repairer and the new one to the spares location or the tech that requested it. We also issue tickets of work to the field to let the techs know where to pick up the new bits and what to do with them. There's lots of other stuff we do, but that's the gist of it.

Well, IBM have completed their evaluation and decided who they think they need and who they don't among the 300 odd staff that are part of the intergrated logistics area that my little section is part of.

On Wednesday we all went into the managers office one at a time and were told whether or not IBM were making us an offer of employment. We were then told not to say anything to anyone else until we'd all been in there. There were a couple of stern faces as people left the office, I myself had trouble keeping a straight face, but most of us were happy at the outcome. Some of our back of house people were made offers, but none of us front of house people (operators) were.

What this means is we'll now go through the three Rs, retraining, relocation or retrenchment. As there aren't many opportunities for us in the company, it'll mean we'll hopefully get our preferred option (for most of us) of retrenchment. As I mentioned in the previous entry on this, most of us have been with the company for a long time and will get quite a sizeable redundancy package.

So now I'm looking at what kind of work is out there related to the field that I'm studying, zoology. CSIRO are always looking for casual field staff and that is one area I'll be seriously pursuing. If it comes to it though, I have no problems going to our local bus depot and asking for a driving job. What I don't want to do is get another office job.