Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Another baking update

Here's my efforts for the Christmas bake-off at work the other day.

I wasn't too upset with the results, considering (a) I've never made cinnamon & fruit scrolls before, and (b) I didn't actually use a recipe...

Tip for younger players: while freshly-ground cinnamon has an absolutely amazing aroma, and tastes bloody fantastic too, it takes a metric crapload of time to grind cinnamon by hand in a mortar&pestle... get yourself a spice grinder (or a really clean coffee grinder set to "espresso" mode")

I confess, though - I did get some advice from an older brother. He spent a year or two working in a bakery before starting his apprenticeship, has been a chef now for about, oh, twenty years or so...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Global Warming explained

I found the Skeptical Science site a while back when looking for backup in an email argument about global warming.

This latest post, I think, sets out the picture quite clearly.

The thing I like best about the way the articles on that site are written is the way citations are given, so you can look up the scientific papers yourself, and see what the experts in the field are writing.

I found it particularly interesting to read the article about how much heat the oceans are storing - it really shows the extent of the problem, and explains a lot why you'd see stories like this one, stating that the Arctic could be almost ice-free in summer within a few years.

The way most comments use a similar style (including citations to back up points) is quite refreshing! Certainly a much higher standard of commentary than you see on many sites (although the occasional "I don't believe you, just because!" comment sneaks in...)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Swine Flu redux - we're screwed...

From this article:

Intensive care units recorded a 500 per cent increase this year in the number of critically ill flu patients with pneumonia in both lungs -- and experts are concerned what will happen when the disease returns.

The first comprehensive review of the havoc swine flu caused has found the number of ICU admissions this year for any type of influenza A, of which swine flu is one variant, were increased 15-fold on previous years.

And that was with only 36,000 cases of swine flu. What happens if we get a million?

More articles:

Swine Flu victims young, healthier

Swine flu: Toll on Australia is bad omen for U.S. intensive-care units

Scrubbing In: It's swine flu we should fear, not the vaccine that saves us

You can just do a Google News search for "swine flu" and you'll find plenty more...

Monday, October 5, 2009

More scary Swine Flu numbers

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are somewhere between 80,000 and 85,000 hospital beds in Australia - that's public & private hospitals combined, and all types of beds (acute care, emergency, etc etc, but excluding stretchers & trolleys & other 'temporary' beds that could be pressed into service in an emergency).

Why is that relevant?

Well, I was thinking about the numbers in the previous post.

If 36,670 people got swine flu, and 4,806 needed to be admitted to hospital, that right there is 5% of all the hospital beds in Australia taken up by sufferers of this one disease. On top of what it frequently stated to be a strained & overloaded health system.

So we do a thought experiment. Lets say that, next flu season, the swine flu comes around again after incubating & mutating up north in the northern hemisphere winter. So, by the middle of next year (the beginning of Australia's traditional flu season), we might see as many cases again. What if it then really breaks out, and infects a mere 10% of the Australian population?

That's 2.2 million cases. If the ratios stay the same, that means at least 10,979 people would die (which, all by itself will increase the death rate in Australia by about 10% for 2010).

I say "at least", because it also means that 288,000 people would need hospital treatment. That's three and a half times as many sick patients as we have hospital beds in this country. I suspect that, in this scenario, many of them would die, because the health system wont cope, and seriously ill people wouldn't be able to get the treatment they need to pull through.

In such a scenario, we might easily see more than 100,000 deaths attributable to swine flu - that's one person out of every twenty in the country.

Think of your circle of friends, colleagues, neighbours. Which ones do you think would die? Yes, there are 'more vulnerable' people, due to pre-existing health conditions, but there's also a surprising number of otherwise young-and-healthy victims with this flu.

Now imagine that 20%, 30%, or even 50% of the population catches this flu.

I'm really starting to appreciate why the government is buying enough vaccine to treat every person in the country!

Tell you what, it'd make the whole GFC thing look like a frikkin' walk in the park...

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Some Swine Flu factoids

As at 2 October 2009, in Australia:

  • 36,670 people have been confirmed to have swine flu
  • 183 of them have died - that's about 1 in 200
  • 4,806 have been admitted to hospital
  • in the past week, 36 people have been admitted to hospital, 10 of them into intensive care
I found this data in the latest bulletin on the Australian Government's Health Emergency website, which has lots of info about the swine flu pandemic.

I dug this up while I was responding to a post on a forum, where a guy posted a link to an anti-vaccine video, which was referring to the 1976 swine flu vaccine in the US. In that case, 25 people died as complications from the vaccine, and about 500 more got Guillain-Barré syndrome.

But considering they vaccinated slightly north of 48 million people (48,161,019 according to Wikipedia), that's a death rate of 1 in 1,926,440, and a serious-side-effect rate of 1 in 90,528.

I'll take those odds over swine flu's 1-in-200 lethality rate any day!

To make it perfectly clear: For every person who died from the 1976 swine flu vaccine, it's possible that nearly ten thousand would have died from the swine flu itself, if not for the vaccine.

That's just deaths. Ignoring non-fatal complications, like having to have both of your feet amputated.

Now, I understand that modern influenza vaccines don't have anywhere near the rate of serious side effects as that 1976 swine flu vaccine. You'd think we'd hear about it if they did, considering there are literally hundreds of millions of doses given each and every year. But even if they did, they would still be saving tens of thousands of lives.

I know I'm getting the swine flu vaccine as soon as I can.

How about you?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Want to roller-blade across Antarctica?

Well, you're not the first to come up with the idea... while trying to find some info for work, I happened across this page on the JACARA (Joint Australian Centre for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica) website. After reading a bit, I found this priceless paragraph:

Tonight there are a couple of talks by a team of French and a team of Dutch folk who are skiing their way across Antarctica. I've decided to give the talk a miss partly because I want to get on with doing stuff, and also I find it hard to fathom why anyone would want to ski across Antarctica when it's already been done. Particularly bizarre are those folk who choose to walk, when skiing is a lot easier and being towed behind a parafoil easier still. If you're going to be cold and miserable for 6 weeks why not just lock yourself in a meat freezer and listen to Spice Girls tapes. I look forward to meeting the first group to roller-blade across the continent dressed only in board shorts, T-shirts and back-to-front baseball caps.

Heh. The guy's got a sense of humour... but then, spending time down there, you'd better be able to see the lighter side of things!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Funny thought for the day...

"The reason Santa is so jolly is that he knows where the bad girls live..."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Riverfire 2009

Well, we didn't go, again. Not up to dealing with humungous crowds (prolly a quarter of a million people downtown tonight) so we watched it from home. The F-111s cruise past just to the east of our place on their way downtown, so we get to hear them go by.

Took the obligatory photo of what might be the very last public dump & burn from Australia's F-111s, thanks to some clueless bureaucrat deciding to retire them 5-10 years early, because "something we don't know about might go wrong". So they're replacing them with some Superbugs, and plan to buy "up to 100" F35s, to be introduced from 2012. Yeah, nothing will go wrong with that plan...
Hint: Australia will not get JSFs before 2015, possibly 2017, and they'll probably cost about $120m a piece, not the $65m the bureaucrats still sometimes claim. That's assuming the yanks don't cancel the whole program...

Goin' out with style!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

You know you're having a crappy year when...

...you've been to three funerals of immediate family members, and all the coffins are this size.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Are Sony really this nasty?

Spotted this comment in the off-topic thread on Groklaw:

And speaking of hardware shenanigans, a friend of mine just recently bought a Sony CD recorder, only to get it home and find out that it wouldn't record on any of his blank CDs. After experimenting, I discovered that it only records on Sony "digital audio" CDs. Talk about product lock-in!

Now he bought it because the burner in his computer was no longer working (would read, but not write), and since he's a musician, he thought rather than replace the one in his computer, he'd buy the standalone because it also let him record directly from analog sources. So I asked him about the one in his computer. He said it stopped working after his wife had upgraded something on the computer.
That made me think "hmmmmm", so I offered to look at it. Surprise!
The 'upgrade' his wife had done was to replace the CD burner... with a Sony! So I popped a blank Sony CD into that, and lo and behold, it suddenly worked.

Not sure how that's legal, but they are clearly doing it. But they lost a customer... he took the recorder back to Best Buy for a refund, and he's replacing the burner in the computer.

That's kind of weird, and you think would fall afoul of various laws relating to consumer protection & anti-competitive behaviour. I'm pretty sure it would be illegal here in Oz unless the fact the burner only worked with Sony branded CDs was prominently marked on the box.

I presume the guy is trying to burn standard Redbook audio CDs, so I can't see any reason why any other media wouldn't be acceptable, other than Sony trying to force people to buy their (often overpriced) product. Just like the printer manufacturers & their proprietary ink cartridges, I suppose.

Does anyone know anything more about this issue?

Sunday, August 2, 2009

One more annoying thing about Windows

Ok, today's annoyance: I moved the computer around (actually, I moved all the furniture in the study around, but that's another story).

When I plugged everything back into the computer, I didn't bother to make sure I plugged all the USB cables back into exactly the same port they came out of.

Upon booting into Windows, I'm greeted with the "found new hardware wizard", and my (USB) keyboard & mouse don't work. A hard reset later, and at least the k/b & mouse work, but I still get Windows asking me to install drivers for my TrackIR5. Which was already installed & working prior to the move...

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. It seems that Windows decides that because this piece of hardware wasn't plugged into that particular USB port, it must be a new piece of hardware that needs new drivers installed, and not at all the same as the one that was plugged into that other USB port at the last boot, and which isn't on that other port any more...


If only my games were playable on Linux.

I don't suppose anyone knows how to get ArmA II (Steam version) & SupCom working via Wine?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Space is valuable...

It's an oft-repeated question: why should we spend so much money on the space program when we could spend it on more pressing needs here on Earth?

Here's a nice article spelling out the top 15 innovations that have come directly out of research supporting the space program.

Sending humans & spacecraft into an extreme environment is not easy, and lots of new ideas get floated to try and make it a little easier or safer - many of which have application in everyday life.

It's just a shame NASA doesn't get credit for this stuff. As I understand it, any licensing revenue from NASA-invented patents goes to the US Government, probably to spend on pork-barrelling for the next election.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Video of the week

This would have to be (a) the best cover I've heard of Toto's Africa, and (b) one of the best a capella works I've heard in a while.

Highly recommended viewing.

via videosift.com

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Windows vs Linux, part 9,457

Something occurred to me the other day.

I had booted up the Windows 7 Release candidate, and was running various update programs & the like, installing the latest version of Firefox, etc etc.

Then I thought, "Hey, I might log on to Warcrack & have a quick game".

Only one slight problem - I haven't installed World of Warcraft on Windows 7 RC yet.

And when you're looking for a "quick game", you don't want to have to install WoW before hand. We're talking 6 CDs for the original game package, then another 4 CDs for the Burning Crusade addon, then a DVD for the Wrath of the Lich King addon, then about 2.5 gigabytes of assorted patches. Yes, it takes frikkin' hours...

Then it occurred to me - if I was using my Kubuntu Linux install, and I wanted to upgrade from Kubuntu 8.10 to 9.04, for example, I'd just hit the "dist upgrade" button, go make a cup of tea, and when the upgrade had finished, I would just fire up WoW & play. I wouldn't have to reinstall all of my apps just because I upgraded the operating system files.

Yet another example of the robust Unix-inspired design of Linux, and the not-so-robust nature of Windows. A lot of that has to do with how the apps are installed, though, from what I understand. With Linux, apps install all of their files into one directory, with maybe a single text-based configuration file somewhere else (/etc/config for many, I think). User-related data files are stored in the user's home directory (/home/). When you upgrade the base operating system files, you don't have to touch the program or home directories, so that stuff is still there & works fine (unless, maybe, you have an app that doesn't want to work with a newer version of some core OS files, which as I understand it is pretty rare in Linux).

Windows, on the other hand, has a system where applications are stored under C:\Program Files, but all of their configuration information is stored in a single, massive, configuration database that's common to both the operating system and every app installed. It's called the registry. You might also have "shared" library files that are installed to C:\Windows\System32 or similar places. You will also have some other configuration information & files saved to C:\Documents and Settings\ and/or C:\Documents and Settings\ as well.

Of course, when you install a new version of Windows, the first thing that goes is the registry. And everything in C:\Windows & subdirectories. If you were to do a Windows upgrade, a lot of that info would be kept, but nearly every computer-savvy person out there will tell you that upgrading Windows is a bad idea, and you should always do a clean install, either by wiping the hard disk or by installing onto another clean partition. This is to avoid problems with corruption of the registry file, mostly, as I understand it. Which highlights another problem Windows has - the registry generally fills up with all sorts of crap over time, and is quite likely to become corrupted in some fashion over a period of three years or more. If you've got a Windows install that's still working after five years, it's a rare beast (the best I've managed is three and a half, and that machine got a corrupted registry on the very day I was trying to show it to a potential buyer, requiring a complete reinstall).

So the recommended method of upgrading Linux is to just upgrade your OS files, and everything else will (most probably) still work fine.

The recommended method of upgrading Windows is to wipe your hard disk and start from scratch, reinstalling every single application, utility, and addon you use.


Methinks the folks at Microsoft need to work on that.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Kissing who's ass?

Here's an interesting little video...


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Quote of the Day

Came across this on a website talking about the number of internet searches for the word "sex":

It took a black man becoming leader of the free world to wrangle the collective consciousness away from sex for roughly 23 minutes.

Google's statistics here.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Lucky bugger of the month

I just spotted this headline on the ABC News website:

Man falls into ocean after trying to swat shark

The story: A guy is fishing in a small tinny, a great white starts chewing on his outboard (happens all the time, don't ya know), so he goes to swat it away with an oar, which he promptly drops in the ocean. So he circles around to pick up the oar, but when he leans over the side of the boat to grab it, he falls out. The boat has got the motor running, so it putters off, leaving him adrift in the ocean.

With a great white shark that he'd just been prodding with an oar...

Apparently the shark came back, swam around him a few times, then cruised off. (It probably didn't like the smell after he crapped himself!) A little while later, another boat passing by picked him up.

I don't know about you, but I'd be buying myself a lottery ticket after that. Then again, maybe not - I think he's just about used up all his luck for the millennium...

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Time lapse FTW!

Here's a nice video. And some nice music to go with it! :D

Timescapes Timelapse: Learning to Fly from Tom @ Timescapes on Vimeo.

Leaves my half-hearted attempts at timelapse for dead...

Five billion people almost DIE, and it is FUNNY

What an interesting thing to say!

I found it on Book-A-Minute, being the synopsis for Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett.

The really funny part is that it's a fairly good representation of the overall story. If you haven't read Good Omens, I strongly urge you to - it's a good read, like pretty much all of Pratchett's work.

Some of the other 'condensations' on Book-A-Minute aren't so good, though. This one, for Dune, for example:

Frank Herbert
I'm lots smarter than you are. I challenge you to understand even one of my paragraphs!
Gee, Frank Herbert is smart. I can't even find the plot.

I'd have to say that I found the plot very easy to find in Dune, so either the person who wrote the condensation is not very bright, or they were making a point about Frank Herbert's sometimes rather heavy style... I suspect the latter.

Unless, of course, their condensation was based on the 1984 movie. I'd totally agree with them, then - I saw that movie back in the mid-80s, and didn't understand it at all until I read the novel about five years later. I'd definitely recommend the 2000 mini-series over that movie, if you want to actually comprehend what you're watching. Unless you've read the book, in which case you'll be able to figure out the movie enough to sit back and enjoy the soundtrack by Toto. :-D

Monday, May 4, 2009

Quote of the Day

Well, here's an interesting one I found in a comment on Slashdot (yeah, I know, but you occasionally get intelligent people posting there...)

There is no right to be wrong, especially when you try to spread falsehood as unassailable truth (there is no such thing as an unassailable truth, truth should be attacked at every chance we have, just to make sure truth is REALLY truth, and not some pleasing falsehood that makes us happy).
The quote was specifically in reference to an argument about whether or not it's appropriate to attack religious people because they choose to believe that the earth was created just 3,000 years ago, thus the first part about spreading falsehood (specifically referring to the Intelligent Design crowd there, I think).

But the second part is, I think, an important statement. The only genuine truth is the truth that survives attack - and we're referring to 'scientific' or 'reason-based' attack, here, where we look at what makes up the truth, and what that means about the world, and how we can see whether that does in fact occur - rather than "attack" meaning "drown it out by screaming that it's wrong, wrong, WRONG, and that this other 'truth' is the only real truth".

So, if you were to ask me whether I object to people believing that $deity made the world, whole, a mere 3,000-5,000 years ago, I'd say no, I have no objection to them believing that. That's what freedom of religion is about - they have the right to believe whatever they choose to believe. Personally, I'd think they're very wrong, but if they choose to ignore the evidence out there, then there's not much I can do about it.

What I object to is them telling me that I cannot believe anything else.

It works both ways, folks. If you have freedom of religion, then so do I. So be happy in your faith. If you think someone is believing the wrong thing, then feel free to discuss it with them, and try to persuade them to your point of view. But remember - 'persuade' doesn't include telling someone that they are wrong and will burn in hell for eternity if they don't do things your way. It also doesn't extend to getting laws passed that will force them to do things your way, or to teach their kids your way. That's not conversion. That's corruption and enslavement.

Oh, and remember - science & religion don't mix. Really. They're about completely different things. It's perfectly sane to both believe in God and accept that science is helping us to figure out all sorts of fascinating things about how this wondrous universe works. They're not mutually exclusive at all, despite what some people seem to think.

Friday, May 1, 2009

I am a human pincushion...

Er, ok, maybe I exaggerate. I only got *one* needle today - the good ol' flu vaccination.

Supposedly, from what I hear, it's a type-A influenza vaccine this year, which shares some characteristics with the dreaded swine flu. So in a week or two, I might have some (minor) immunity, or at least resistance, to that one.

From what I've been hearing & reading, though, this swine flu thingy seems to be over-hyped.

Disclaimer: I'm not an expert on diseases, I'm an engineer fer cryin' out loud!

Okay, why do I think that?
  1. There have been 13 officially confirmed deaths due to this particular flu. Lots of "suspected" deaths in Mexico, but their numbers keep getting revised downwards, as they do more analysis & testing;
  2. The victims have been in poor health, or were elderly or very young (e.g. the sole non-Mexican victim was a toddler in the southern US);
  3. Mexico City, where the outbreak was first noted, has 20 million plus inhabitants living in very close proximity, and there are only 300-odd confirmed cases and 12 deaths. To put that in perspective, there are estimates that "ordinary" influenza viruses kill a few hundred thousand people each year...
On the flip side, of course, we need to consider the potential threat:
  • Normal influenza has a mortality rate of something less than 0.1% (i.e. less than one person in a thousand who get it will die from it, or from a secondary infection). The confirmed numbers so far for the swine flu suggest a mortality rate of at least 2.5%, which is comparable to the 1918 Spanish Flu, which killed millions worldwide.
  • According to this article, "WHO has warned that it would be a mistake to be lulled into a false sense of security. The 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started mildly – and went on to kill 20 to 40 million people round the world."
  • The level of health services in Mexico might be such that they're missing a large proportion of the infections, and the "possible suspected" deaths might easily be 10-20 times higher than the confirmed numbers (and similarly for the number of infections).
Ok. So. The media is doing it's usual big beat-up, but the threat is still there, I guess. A bit of reading reveals that the Spanish flu first emerged 12-18 months before the real killer strain swept the world.

Might be time to stock up on the tinned food!

Mmmm. I could do with a bit of Dynamite Chilli... :-D

That and some more flour - going to try to find somewhere that sells better quality flour than the usual supermarket stuff. Maybe some other ingredients, too.

Actually, that reminds me - I had Chicken, Szechuan style, for lunch today. Got it from the chinese takeaway down the road ("Yummy Yummy" - gotta love those names!). Pretty bloody good, if you ask me. A little too much zing, initially, but once I figured out it was a bad idea to breath in the chilli sauce, all was good. :-P

Monday, April 27, 2009

Just to make things perfectly clear...

It's strictly amateur night when it comes to me & cooking. I've had some moderate success with the breads, and I've cooked up some nice meals in the past.

But tonight, for example, is a good indicator of why I'm not planning on giving up the day job. Dinner was corned beef fritters. Good stuff! Just throw some flour, egg, & milk together with some diced corn beef, and bobs your uncle!

Except if helps if (a) you get the proportions right, and (b) you use self-raising flour instead of plain flour. :-D

Lets just say they weren't my best work. Still edible and tasty, just not as delicious as corned beef fritters normally are!

Ah, well. Maybe next time...

I wont inflict a photo on you. Yes, they looked that bad...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Lest we forget

They grow not old, as we who are left grow old,
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.

Today, of course, is Anzac Day.

We got up early, and attended the dawn service at Sunnybank RSL - march started at 4:15am, and the service proper started at 4:28am, the customary time.

Afterwards, we trundled over to the Salisbury RSL, where we have attended the dawn service in years gone by. It was listed in the paper & on the RSL web site as having a "stand to", and Anthea was curious as to what that was.

It turns out they, also, had a dawn service, starting at 5am (I think the RSL members there are a bit older on average than the folks at Sunnybank). We arrived just a few minutes after they started, so we attended that one as well, and followed up by partaking of the "gunbarrel breakfast" they put on. Slice of bread, with a sausage, onion, bacon, and fried egg if you want, along with tea or coffee and "something to warm the cockles of your heart", as the MC called it - i.e. a tot of rum in your coffee.

No, I didn't have any of that. Not a big fan of rum, myself, and particularly not before 6am... :-D

There was a good turnout at both services - I'd guess about 200-odd at Sunnybank for the 4:28 service, and probably another hundred at Salisbury. It's nice to attend these smaller suburban services, they tend to be fairly atmospheric.

It's tempting to go in to town one year to attend the service at Anzac Square, but I gather that that one is very crowded - thousands of people usually attend.

Then again, maybe we'll go to a service at Villers Bretonneux or one of the other battlefields. Not sure if my granddad fought in that particular battle - I'll have to look up the history of the units he was posted to, to see where he served.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Further adventures in breadmaking

Well, I got the dough out of the bowl, folded it (though I forgot to add the extra sprinkle of flour, oh well) and put it in the casserole dish to prove for an hour or so.

I ended up adding at least half a cup of extra wholemeal flour, and the dough was still, in my opinion, too wet & sticky. Next time, I'll go with even more flour. I'll try weighing it out, too, as suggested in the second video on Breadtopia. The proportions aren't quite right.

Ah, well. If it's like the first no-knead bread I made, it'll still be delicious and tasty, just not quite right. :-D We'll see in an hour or so.


Well, here it is! Still not quite right - I think the dough was too wet, plus I probably should have let it cook a little longer, as I put the pot into a cold oven rather than a pre-heated one - I adjusted the cooking time a little, but not enough, I think.

Still very tasty, though! :-D

You'll notice in this shot you can see where I folded a bit too much flour into the dough just before putting it in the pot... :-D Plenty of large voids in the bread, though. The biggest problem is not eating too much of it at one sitting! It goes really well with jam. Especially when it's still warm out of the oven.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Ok, another bread is brewing...

I've got another no-knead bread fermenting. This time, I've done the basic no-knead bread as depicted in the videos on Breadtopia. Mix up some flour (about a cup and a half of wholemeal, two cups of white) with a quarter teaspoon of instant yeast, a teaspoon and a half of salt, and a cup and a half of water.

The instructions say to leave it ferment for 18 hours. I mixed it up at about 3pm this afternoon, so it should be well and truly ready for the next stage by the time I get up tomorrow morning. Then, a bit of folding (but not kneading), some proving, and it's in to the oven.

I will, of course, post some photos and taste reports tomorrow morning. :-D

We'll probably try it out when Anf gets home. She's going in a beginner's triathlon tomorrow morning. Yeah, I know, crazy exercise stuff... ;-)

Interesting thoughts about existence and identity

Have a look at this movie:

I found it on the Dan's Data website, in a very interesting article about possible extension of human consciousness into computers, or duplication thereof... Some very interesting reading, it's highly recommended, especially the couple of "footnotes" at the bottom (which, as Dan says, contain more text than the article proper).

I particularly liked this bit, in a quote near the end:

"...waking consciousness is dreaming - but dreaming constrained by external reality"

It engenders some intriguing thoughts... I think I might have to buy that book to have a read sometime!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Third time lucky?

Ok, here's today's bread attempt.

This is a conventional loaf (half white flour, half wholemeal).

I think it turned out ok, although the bottom is a tiny bit overdone.

The funny shape is thanks to the stoneware casserole dish I cooked it in - the bread expanded during cooking and completely filled the dish!

Anyway, going to slice it up & try it out shortly... :-D

The bread has been sliced & tested. Pretty good, even if I do say so myself!
I figured out why it's a little overdone on the bottom. I didn't read the cooking instructions properly, did I... "Bake at 240ºC for 10 minutes, then reduce to 180ºC. Bake for 30-40 minutes". I didn't notice anything beyond the "240ºC" bit... D'oh! Ah, well, still came out ok, lucky I used the casserole dish, or it would have been rather crispy...

And here's a pic of the stoneware casserole dish I baked it in. Thanks for the wedding present, Cathy! It's been sitting in the cupboard for eight years, but it's had a workout the past few weeks! :-D

Friday, April 10, 2009

Baking, part deux

After last weekend's efforts with the no-knead bread (delicious, but the proportions weren't quite right) I went looking for other bread recipes during the week (ok, so I was killing time at work... ).

I found myself a recipe for a wholemeal loaf from this site. It's not bad - very, very easy to make. You simply mix the ingredients together to make a dough, let it rise in a greased baking tin for 30 minutes (or silicon pan in my case), then put it in the oven & bake for about 40mins.

The resulting loaf, pictured below, was absolutely delicious. It needed just a little more baking time, though, being a touch too moist in the middle. I'm going to try baking one of those in a casserole dish next time, like the other no-knead bread, and see how the crust comes out.

As you can see by the last pic, though, the silicon pan wasn't such a huge hit... a little too soft on the sides! Cooks well, though. :-D

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

An experiment

So I found a recipe online for no-knead bread, and thought I'd try it.

Here's a pic of what it looked like after baking:

The verdict:
  • Absolutely delicious!
  • Very little effort involved
  • The recipe I got off the net ended up having waaaaaay too much water, and not enough flour. By a long shot. I added an extra half a cup of flour (which is a lot to add) and it was still too wet, really. Don't really know why, maybe american flour is really, really dry or something?
Gonna try a wholemeal loaf next. Supposedly the recipe I found only needs 30min of proving, and 30-40min of baking. It involves kneading, but that can be therapeutic. :D

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yet another video...

This one's of some funky dance moves.

A pretty impressive collection, this guy did a brilliant job of putting together this show.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Seeing is believing!

This latest promo video from Israeli defence contractor Rafael takes the cake.

Yeah, it was for the Aero-India 2009 defence exhibition. But still!

Via Worldwide War Pigs.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The credit crunch for dummies

Not a bad explanation - simplifies a few steps, but the gist of it is there, as far as I understand what happened.

Basically, a bunch of people decided to make money by selling mortgage-backed investments that were high risk, on the basis that when the mortgages defaulted, they could just repossess the house and sell it for a profit.

Except they did it so much, that they killed the market for property (especially as they had helped stoke the housing bubble by lending to just about anyone).

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Ho-ly shit...

This story on the Herald Sun website tells it all.

84 confirmed dead. So far.

This picture from the ABC News website gives you an idea of what happened.

More photos here.

And some video.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

In the "Yeah, right, pull the other one" category...


Iran have just announced that they have successfully launched their first satellite.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says he hopes the launch will help the spread of monotheism, peace and justice.
Oh, really, you don't say?

And the Yanks & Russkis only developed rockets to launch satellites & put men on the moon, too. The fact that you could put a nuclear warhead on the top and drop it onto virtually any point on the planet is entirely beside the point, isn't it?

A bit like the Iranian nuclear program is purely for electrical generation. Using a reactor design that is more dangerous & unstable than most civilian designs, and which is used in the rest of the world for producing weapons-grade plutonium.

from http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/world/iran/bushehr.htm

According to Paul Leventhal of the Nuclear Control Institute, if Iran were to withdraw from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and renounce the agreement with Russia, the Bushehr reactor could produce a quarter ton of plutonium per year, which Leventhal said was enough for at least 30 atomic bombs
Yup, I'll buy that.

Especially from a country whose leader's idea of 'justice' is 'wiping Israel off the map'...

The once and future e-book

The iRex iLiad - one of the contenders, but at AUD$1200, that's a whole lotta paperbacks!

I read a rather interesting article on Ars Technica this morning. I highly recommend it, if you're at all interested in electronic devices and the potential for them to be used for storing books (novels, encyclopedias, textbooks, reference books, pretty much anything).

I liked this particular quote:
Everything is set for another run at this e-book thing. Will Apple wake from its apparent slumber and pull the sword from the stone—the sword that's currently taped to its hand and sheathed in a teflon-lined crevice?

The iLiad shown above is probably closest to what I'd like in an e-book reader - something that's got a great screen, and the ability to make notes & drawings.

The wish list, however, is still large:
  • Colour screen, with video support;
  • WiFi (so you can use it for web browsing, natch!);
  • Handwriting recognition (even something a la Palm's Graffiti - those glyphs are easy to learn, and fast to write);
  • Something more than 256MB of internal memory (really, that's kinda small these days, although the ability to slap in large capacity CF cards is nice);
  • User-swappable batteries - I mean, a 3-hour charge time doesn't help much when your battery goes flat mid-flight;
  • A price a bit lower than that of a full-on notebook PC;
  • e-books that are priced realistically. Come on, $19.95 for an electronic edition that costs $0.00 (to the nearest cent) to reproduce? Haven't you book publishers learned *anything* from watching the digital music scene?
In the meantime, the author's suggestion of an iPhone would be neat, too (although I'd probably prefer a larger screen for reading books). If only the electronic versions of books weren't (a) damned expensive, and (b) frequently not available at all.

Dymocks here in Oz claim to have 94,000 e-books available for purchase. The problems with that:
  • they're spread across at least four different (incompatible, natch) digital formats;
  • many of them are as expensive, if not more so, than their dead-tree equivalents, and that's on top of having to pay $$bigbucks for a portable device capable of displaying them;
  • all of them have DRM, which is just plain bad news for paying customers, but not for 'non-paying customers' (or pirates, as the publishing industry likes to call them).

Actually, I've a recent example of that. I tried to install & play my copy of IL2:1946 on Windows 7 on my PC at home. IL2 is a fun game, and well worth paying for IMHO. It's just a shame that I couldn't get it to run on Windows 7, because of the @#$% copy protection. I had to download a crack for the game just to run it. I might as well have just downloaded the whole game, right? Would have saved me a lot of aggravation, because it would have worked first time, and I wouldn't have spent a day trying to figure out why it wouldn't run.


Go read the article, it's worth it.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Big Boys' Toys Part 947:

Ok, so everyone wants a jetpack or rocketpack, right?

Except they have a bad habit of ending up with either a fireball or a rather, um, hard landing...

Which is why this one is such a great idea!

null - Watch more free videos

Friday, January 30, 2009

Back in the Dwarf!

Slashdot is referring to this Guardian article, stating that a new two-part series of Red Dwarf is currently under production, due around Easter time in the UK (and very shortly thereafter on Channel BT, no doubt!).

I might have to go watch the 8 previous series of the Boys from the Dwarf just to get back into the swing of things... :-D

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

This is worse than evil!

It did WHAT?!?

Ok, I highly recommend reading
this story on the ABC news website.

Short version: Snake eats snake. Snake crawls out of snake's mouth. Both snakes slither away...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Video footage of that plane ditching in New York

Here ya go. The action starts just after 2 minutes in.

Star Wars with a difference...

What you might think happened in the movies if you never actually watched them...

Star Wars: Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it) from Joe Nicolosi on Vimeo.

Initial thoughts on Windows 7

Well, I got around to installing the beta earlier in the week. It was a relatively painless process. I had a spare hard disk (it used to be my data store, but 160GB just isn't enough these days, so I bought a 750 for that), and just pointed the installer to that after booting from the install DVD. It took about an hour, all up, including downloading updated drivers for my Nvidia vid card & the onboard sound.

The only hitches were (1) that it picked the wrong monitor to assign as my primary (oh, yes, let's use the 17" screen as the primary, and the 22" as the secondary, that makes sense!), and (2) I couldn't see my WinXP drive anywhere in Windows Explorer.

Both were easily fixed - the Nvidia control panel let me swap the screens, while the disk management console (when I eventually figured out how to access it) let me assign a drive letter to the WinXP partition. I think that might have been an issue because it was a "C:" partition too. But there's no problem accessing it in Win7 now.

Generally, it works well. The GUI is different - the new task bar is much more usable - more like the Mac OS X dock. I still haven't quite wrapped my head around the new start menu, but that's because I've barely used it.

Armed Assault & World of Warcraft both work well, as does Firefox (including sharing the same profile - bookmarks, toolbars, etc - between the versions installed under Win7 & WinXP). I haven't run into any show stoppers yet. For beta software, Win7 is pretty good.

So, while I'm not entirely happy about the DRM / content protection side of things, that's not really an issue so far, as (a) I use VLC to play all of my media, (b) I don't actually have a Blu-Ray drive or discs, and (c) I can always boot into Linux... :-D

Actually, there's another issue - the Win7 installer overwrote the GRUB boot sector, so I'll have to boot off a disc to restore GRUB so I can boot into Linux.

Anyway, it's good to know that there will be a functional version of Windows for my gaming needs after WinXP goes the way of the dodo (which I believe is officially at the end of January - although you will still be able to get it in some OEM systems until May or June).

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Here's something worth watching!

Thanks to Dan for highlighting this vid on his blog.

Monday, January 12, 2009

XKCD FTW again!

I actually downloaded the Windows 7 beta on Saturday. Had to wait until Sunday to get a key to install it, though. And then didn't install it, because (a) we went to see a movie (The Day the Earth Stood Still - not bad), then (b) I spent the rest of the day working on my speakers.

Sanded back the filler I'd put on the sub (to fill the cracks at the panel joins), sanded back the main I'd given a preliminary coat of paint - and discovered that acrylic paint doesn't sand too well unless it's super dry - it'd only been on there about 20 hours, which apparently wasn't enough. Although some of the issues I saw may have been because of the very smooth & sealed primer on there - the acrylic had trouble bonding to the primer, I think.

Then I spent a few hours making up grill frames for the front mains. Cut some 12mm MDF to size, then marked & cut out the holes in the middle. Gonna take a while to sand / finish it, but the bulk of the work is done. I need a new 54mm holesaw, though - the el-cheapo one I've got is now very, very blunt, after being used to cut another 24 holes! :D

Anyway, back to work...

Saturday, January 3, 2009

That's a good feeling

I logged into the internet banking site of our bank this evening to pay a phone bill. While there, I noticed that our mortgage balance is $536.67.


(i.e. positive balance, money in the bank so to speak)
It's a good thing to know that the mortgage is paid off. We're not completely debt free (we have investment loans and some small amounts on credit cards), but at least the house is ours. Bought & paid for, in full! :D

Well, ok, the house is also security against the investment loans, but then, so are the investments we have. Which aren't worth anywhere near what they were a year ago, but the price/earnings ratios are just ridiculous at the moment (i.e. many shares seem to be very under-valued on the stock market). I expect the prices will eventually climb, a lot, and in the meantime any dividends we get will help to manage the investment loans. After all, in the past few years they've helped us pay off our house, a mere 20 years early... :D