Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Scotland to join Canada ???

I was born in Scotland and though I've long since escaped to Australia, I still take an interest in what goes on there, including the off on will we won't we independence saga.

Now, from the department of odd ideas comes the suggestion that Scotland should leave the UK and join Canada, rather than the EU.

Well given that 62% of Scots voted to stay in the EU it's probably not the point, but there's a germ of an idea there.

Last time around one of the great sticking points was what to do about the currency. The poms would not agree to Scotland, post independence, staying in the Sterling zone, and the Euro, due to the Greek debacle was seen as mildly toxic.

Well, the Canadian dollar, stable, traded internationally, and so on might just be a good transition alternative ...

Gardening and the death of newspapers

Newspapers are dying, fading into oblivion.

Staff cuts and the loss of advertising revenue is gradually destroying both quality journalism and all the fluffy non journalism that used to fill the weekend papers and pad out the weekday papers.

As a consequence they're growing thinner, and even though they've transitioned to tabloid (mostly) the papers are almost as thin now as in the last days of the broadsheet editions.

And this has an unexpected impact on gardening.

For years we've used the quality press as biodegradable layer over the soil when mulching - much easier to deal with than the nasty black plastic woven stuff that couch grass roots get stuck in, and truly biodegradable so once the mulch layer (either bark or sugar cane mulch) has biodegraded the lot can simply be dug into the soil to improve its structure.

Well, yesterday being Easter Monday I was happily mulching away, working through a three week stockpile of The Age, which in the old days would have happily covered the garden bed I was working on, but this time only went half as far ...

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Riding my bike

Today, for the first time in nearly ten years, I rode my bike for a decent distance - something around 15km.

It was on my old Kuwahara clunker that cost me fifteen pounds second hand back at the end of the nineties, and used to live in my office in York to let me nip into the city at lunchtime.

Later on I used it to ride from Weetangera to first AIATSIS then ANU when we lived in Canberra -several days a week, clocking up something like 24km each trip.

But then we moved too far out to ride comfortably, and I started driving, in retrospect not one of our better moves for all sorts of reasons.

When I retired and we moved to Beechworth I had this plan to get my good Marin mountain bike back on the road and start riding.

Didn't happen.

It was the wettest winter for years, and then we went straight into having our extension built, so my Marin, and J's bike have languished on their stands for another year.

But yesterday we went for a decent walk in the morning, and it was such a nice early autumn morning I felt motivated to ride my bike. The Marin's gears jumped so it was back on the old heavy Kuwahara.

In preparation I'd found my cycling kit and pumped up the tires and checked the obvious, but obviously not well enough as I found the gears erratic - workable but erratic - when I set off.

The ride was harder than I expected - now being 61 and not having worked at keeping my fitness levels as high as they should be told on me a bit, and my bum hurt more than I expected, but it was a good experience, good enough to want to repeat it ...

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

A weekend detox ...

Last weekend was Canberra day, a public holiday to mark the formal naming of the city in 1913.

Like many Canberrans we chose to celebrate the long weekend by fleeing the city for a rented beach house on the coast.

We took our little portable network box with us, which tried to work, but didn’t. The lights flashed, flickered, went solid, and flickered again before dropping back to an intermittent 2G signal.

We’d rented a house in a 3G blackspot, so no internet.

Now a lot of people write about how you should have a digital detox, switch off, tune out and the rest but very few write about what happens when you do, especially in a world which is more digital by the day.

Over a weekend, it’s no big deal. No twitter, no email, no wikipedia, no online news or weather, no google to search for restaurants.

It means you have to be spontaneous, and flexible, if here’s full, try there, or go and have a barbecue. It also means that you have this space in your life to read and talk.

And that’s good. Longer term I doubt the practicality of it, simply because that’s how you do your banking, order anything that isn’t available locally, even organise to get your haircut. It’s like when you visit the bank these days.

There’s no tellers. There’s loan consultants, investment consultants, but no one to take your money, or indeed give you some. Turn up with an international bank draft (yes, they still exist, just) and they struggle to remember what to do.

And in a sense, that’s what we should expect. The twentieth century is over. We live differently now. But just as people used to take some paints and a sketchbook, or a camera to go and unwind for a day or so, so should we ...

Friday, 17 October 2014

Wardrobe malfunction ...

Last easter, after seven years, we finally got around to putting the sliding doors on our bedroom wardrobe.

This morning they jammed. They would not open. At all.

As I was stark naked at the time, having come out of the shower in the expectation of opening the cabinet to get some clean underwear, this was a problem.

A rapid assessment showed that it was stuck, and stuck in such a way as I could not get a screw  driver in to access the bottom guide to remove it to lift the door off.

So, on with pyjamas, into the garage for a screwdriver and a step ladder to see if I could free the mechanism from the top. Once I got up top the problem was obvious, there was a little plastic moulding on the back of the outer door held on with double sided tape to act as a dust guard.

The double sided tape had failed at one end causing the moulding to drop down and jam the door runners. Two second with a screwdriver to prise the dust guard off we were back in business.

Job done, but for a moment we'd been there, realising that all of our clean clothes were hidden behind a jammed door ....

Monday, 13 October 2014

Losing the ABC ...

We had been away for a week, down to Victoria, and arrived back late, just as the sun was setting at the end of a warm golden day.

We flicked on the tv in the kitchen. No signal. No channels, not even the commercial networks that we never watch.

Down to the lounge room. Same thing. And the DVR was in the same state.

Some googling revealed that there had been a channel shuffle while we were away. We’d totally missed any announcement - well we don’t watch that much tv and only the public networks, and don’t listen to the radio other than to classic fm and newsradio.

Crucially, while we still get a paper delivered it’s the Sydney Morning Herald, not the Canberra Times, basically because the writing in the Times is crap and it’s just not that well put together.

So a quick rescan of the channels for the loungeroom tv and dvr and all was well. Not so the TV in the kitchen. It’s only a couple of years old and gave rock solid reception before the channel shuffle. Not so now.

All the commercial networks are there, so is SBS, which is a plus, but no ABC - or more accurately a weak broken up attenuated signal - which is odd as all out TV’s use the same feed and antenna - it’s not what you’d expect - one can only guess that for some reason, despite the shorter cable run the kitchen antenna feed is slightly more attenuated.

So, while there’s a certain pleasure in watching heavily pixelated politicians, it’s not really that useful.

So how to solve the problem?

There’s probably two solutions - try a low loss antenna fly lead and see if that gives us the extra dB or so to cohere a signal, or have someone in to check the cable and the antenna. Given that a low loss flylead is under $20 and a signal booster if required is around $50 the iterative approach seems cheaper than a new antenna ...

[and amazingly a low loss antenna cable fixed the problem - we can still watch Virginia Haussegger being arch with the evening news ... ]

Friday, 19 September 2014

The Scottish referendum ...

I've studiously avoided writing anything about the independence referendum in Scotland, for, despite an emotional attachment to my homeland, I don't live there any more, and in fact havn't lived there for over thirty years.

Basically, as an Australian, I felt it had bugger all to do with me, other than sentiment. I won't have to live with the consequences of the vote and the inevitable post vote horse trading.

While part of me wants to shout 'Feart!', it's not my call.

I did use to be a British citizen, but I made a conscious decision to choose Australia, even to the extent that I'll probably not bother renewing my British passport next time it runs out as I don't realistically see myself ever wanting to live or work in Britain again. Yes, we have thought about it, and while there's a lot of good things about living there, on balance we prefer Australia.

That's the migrant's curse - while you're part of the new, there's always a little tug from the old, and it will always be on balance. Like our neighbours, who on Friday night put on bagpipe music and held a wake for what was not to be.

As to the vote, looking at the voting figures it's interesting to see the split - it's the old rural counties that were overwhelmingly pro-union, not the industrialised areas that have been traumatised by the loss of industry, and while the pro-union vote may have won, a substantial number of people did vote for independence, which means it's move from something espoused by whisky soaked romantics to something considerably more mainstream.

Equally, it's clear that the electorate was undecided - the margin is close enough to allow for ambiguity - in a very real sense neither the Yes or No campaigns won, and for the result to be conclusive there would need to be a more decisive vote either way ...