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 ...

Monday, 5 May 2014

Chilly billies ....

Winter has suddenly arrived with a freezing Antarctic blast.

On Saturday it drizzled and hardly got to double figures - it was so damp and chilly we lit the wood stove for the first time this winter - possibly the earliest we have ever done so . Fortunately we had take delivery of a tonne of firewood on Friday and I'd managed to move and stack around half of it before it got dark on Friday.

I covered the rest with plastic and moved it on Sunday - which turned out to be a glorious sunny and very windy day. Overnight the wind dropped and we had ice on the cars for the first time this winter. Rather than using an old plastic Bunning's paint scraper I'd invested five dollars on ebay on a pair of plastic icescrapers - they looked as if they wouldn't do the job, being bade of perspex, but to my amazement they worked well lifting the ice right off ...

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Sliding doors ...

A long time ago, 2008 to be exact, a few months after we had moved into our current house we realised we needed more wardrobe space in the bedroom.

Of course, having just moved in we had zero money - strange how moving to a new house turns out to result in all sorts of extra expense - so we did what everyone else does - we went to Ikea and bought some flat pack wardrobes.

And, over the easter weekend in 2008 I assembled them - something that was a little more complex than it might be as it involved cutting out the cornice as they only just fit the height of the room. We'd bought sliding doors for the wardrobes, and by half past three that easter Monday it was clear to all that they were not going to happen. The wardrobes were built and in place, so I said to J that there wasn't time to do the doors, so I'd fit the rest of the shelves and hanging rails, and do the doors on the Anzac day long weekend - Anzac day being 25 April.

Of course I didn't and the door kits stayed in the garage for six years. Mice have gnawed holes in the packaging and there was the summer storm where the garage floor flooded, but they remained in their packages.

This easter I unpacked the door kit, fitted the running gear and built and hung the first door. I could have done the second door, but the Sunday was such a nice day we went out to Brayshaw's hut for a walk in Namadgi national park, following the settler's track loop along the old track taken by goldminers walking from the railhead at Quenbeyan up through to Kiandra, and looping past Westerman's hut back to the car park next to Brayshaw's hut.

I can't remember why, but I didn't get the second door done on the Monday, so last Friday, Anzac day, I built the second door and hung it - finally we had doors, the only problem I guess is that they were six years later than promised.

Amazingly, despite mice gnawing and floods the brushed aluminium and tempered glass came up like new once they were wiped down - no water staining or other marks, which given the reputation of some Ikea products for longevity, or rather its lack, is quietly impressive ...

Monday, 7 April 2014


Sometimes life seems to be little more than a sequence of oddities - here's two:

In our local supermarket you can buy Lipton's tea - including a rather strange brew called 'Russian Earl Grey'. It's not Earl Grey, but it is packed in Russia, and has strange little purply blue flowers in it ...

I have an app on my smartphone to tell me when the next bus is due and check the balance on my travel card. Because I usually drive to work, the balance is usually pretty low, but this morning I got the bus to work. When I checked when the next bus was due the app asked me if I wanted to top up my balance with bitcoins ...