Monday, 24 December 2007

5 stars?

I've just started using the rating facility in iTunes.

Having only 5 stars to dish out makes it hard to differentiate levels of like or dislike when it comes to music, but I am going to have a go. And before you say it, yes I know you can give half stars or even percent ratings, but they are no good for smart playlists etc, so I won't bother.

So here is my scheme (for my later reference as much as for yours):

  • 0 stars - I haven't got around to rating this one.
  • 1 stars - I would have deleted this song from my library, but I want to keep it for completeness' sake (eg as part of a soundtrack)
  • 2 stars - I can handle listening to this song every now and then
  • 3 stars - I like this song.
  • 4 stars - I really like this song. It is perhaps one of my favourites from one of my favourite bands or just a standout song on its own.
  • 5 stars - You should like this song, and I am willing to fight you to convince you of it. I could listen to this song over and over again all day.

PS I'm only using iTunes until Amarok releases its Mac OS X port, so perhaps I am wasting my time anyway!

Friday, 21 December 2007

Pot, meet kettle

The only issue I've got with cricket at the moment is that Australian people and administrators and ex-players and ex-coaches, a la John Buchanan, have got to stop the arrogant mindset that Australia is so much better than anybody else
Well said Shane Warne. Who's the goose?

Thursday, 13 December 2007

What a galah...!

Meet the galah that was hanging around our house last week.

The silly thing would not leave. For a few days it hung around on our car, our fences, our roof, the clothesline and even spent an hour or two pecking the life out of the flywire on the front door!!

After speaking the the shire ranger, then CALM and then finally the pet shop, Linda managed to catch it and take it to the pet shop. Given how tame it was, I would imagine it was an escaped pet rather than wild.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

New (no) theme

If you just came back and wondered what is wrong with this site...

I have decided to work on my own wordpress theme (technically a css-skin for the Sandbox theme) and I am just starting from scratch. So for a while it might look a little plain, but everything will still be readable. I know a real web designer would have done all of this off-line, tested thoroughly and then uploaded, but not me.

I think I will start with column layouts and then work from there.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Userfriendly SETI

Check out the latest Userfriendly comic strip. This makes me laugh when atheists (and others) have a go at us God-botherers for believing in the miraculous. We can't see any intelligence in human DNA, but we can see it in radio waves from outer space?

Reminds me of the Red Dwarf episode, Waiting for God.

LISTER: What do you believe in, then? Do you believe in God?
RIMMER: God? Certainly not! What a preposterous thought! I believe in aliens, Lister.
LISTER: Oh, right, fine. Something sensible at last.

Edit: Just had a second look at the comic, and I think I might be assigning unfair motives to Iliad. Perhaps the strip is really just a Murphy's Law kind of thing. We stop looking for intelligent life in the sky the day before they decide to show up. Perhaps not.

Saturday, 24 November 2007

New Government

Yes, the election is all over and we now have a new government.

Congrats to Mr Rudd and Co, condolences to Mr Howard, especially given the likelihood of him losing his own seat. Congrats too to my own local member, Mr Barry Haase who was returned to his seat in the parliament.

I must say I love the political process. While I can think of many things that I would see changed if I could (no compulsory voting, optional preferential voting) I think we do have a working democracy that is a privilege to be a part of.

Trying to explain what was going to my children today, I kept having to answer the question (when discussing the two potential PMs) "who did you vote for?". The answer (which is much more complicated to actually explain) is of course, neither. I voted for the candidates in the seat of Kalgoorlie, the winner of which will put forward his or her opinion for PM...

This was complicated by the fact that I put three minor party candidates before either of the two major parties. Our preferential system being what it is however, meant that I was ultimately voting for one before the other.

In case anyone is interested, the minor party candidate I voted for (not without some misgivings) was Charles Dalton for the Liberty and Democracy Party. If the senate results so far are anything to go by, I was one of perhaps 1000 in the whole state to do so. Seems they might need to do a bit of work in improving their profile. While the Libertarians in the US are no danger to the presidency, at least some Americans know what a Libertarian is.

As for the misgivings, maybe that can be a post for another day.

Once again, congratulations to all involved, especially to our great nation on another great display of democracy.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Me on facebook?

Against my better judgement, I have joined Facebook and you can find me here. To be honest, I finally joined when I found out two friends were already on there and I wouldn't be stuck there with no friends. I have had an Orkut account for years with nothing to show for it and my eyes bleed whenever I look at Myspace. Consider this a compromise.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Perth Glory are Glorious

In his first season as a Perth Glory member, #1 son has been a little disappointed that they seem unable to win games. Until last night!! Go Glory!! Click on the image to see what they have inspired!

Sunday, 4 November 2007


Four days in, 1867 words. Should have done that on Thursday. Still, I've done more today than any other day so far (by a long shot actually) so all is not yet lost.

Thursday, 1 November 2007

Generation Gap?

Look at the comments I have to put up with from some of the young women that I work with at the pharmacy.

"Led Zeppelin, Who are they?"

"Who's Captain Kirk?"

"What's a TARDIS?"

Blank Look, when I said "Hope I die before I get old"

As unfortunate as all of the above are, a sign of what I call Cultural Illiteracy, they are nothing compared to this:

"Julius Caesar, isn't he an actor?"

AARGH! Western Culture is (by definition) that which traces its routes to Rome. Given that Julius is (as I heard him described recently) "the most famous Roman", what hope do we have when these (near to) 20 year olds, recently finished school, haven't even heard of him!!

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Straight Edge

I have been friended once on I had no idea why, and I accepted the request at first because I thought it was my brother, Jason (turned out to be a completely different Jason).

I was playing with my profile last night and I thought I would have a look at Jason's. In his profile, he says "I am straight edge.". I said "???".

Google and Wikipedia to the rescue. It turns out 'straight edge' is a sub-sub-culture of the punk movement. From wikipedia:
Straight edge refers to a lifestyle and scene within the hardcore punk subculture whose adherents abstain from alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs, as well as promiscuous sex.
I thought, hey that's me... Hold on, take out the agro, the tendency towards veganism, the haircuts, the piercings, the X tattoos (and perhaps I might be on the outer with my spirituality too... Profanity warning if you follow that link)

So maybe not.

But surely Straight Edge sounds cooler than teetotaller.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

iMonk on unity

I always take time each day to read Michael Spencer, the internet monk . And note, when I say each day, I mean each day. The guy is like a machine when it comes to putting content up. I don't think he sleeps.

His post today was on rethinking the historical view of the Reformation (coming up to Reformation Day). To be honest, I find Michael is always rethinking some view of history, the church or scripture. This is a Good Thing™, but ironic given the first quote I have shared below.

Anyway, the primary thing I got out of today's post was a couple of views on the unity of the church, which I have quoted here:
  • I now believe that tradition is a very good word.
  • I believe we ought to grieve the division of Christianity and the continuing division of Protestantism.
  • I don't believe in ecumenism at any cost, but I can no longer imagine being a Christian without a commitment to ecumenism on some level.
Note, we should grieve the division of Christianity. My early Christian walk was in a specifically anti-ecumenical fellowship, but I have come to a point where I can relate to the third quote above.

Thanks again Michael, for stirring the pot and making me think, even if you do make me uncomfortable.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Ginger Beer

OK, as suggested earlier here is my world famous ginger beer recipe.

First of all, let's be clear. This isn't really my recipe. Most of it I copied out from an old magazine, which I then lost. Did a few searches on the internet, found similar recipes and fiddled them to make it similar to what I had used before.

I will take credit for the grated ginger though. All the other recipes used dried powdered ginger. I buy a large amount of ginger and grate it all in one hit. Actually I now just chop it up in my thermomix, but that's another post. I then lay it out in layers (on baking trays covered in baking paper) and the freeze. You can then break it up and put it in a ziplock bag in the freezer for later use.

First step is to make the plant. Take:
  1. 8 sultanas

  2. 1 tsp citric acid (or juice of 2 lemons if you have them)

  3. 2 tbsp grated ginger

  4. 1 tbsp sugar

  5. 2 cups water
And mix them all in a jar with a lid (just sit the lid on top, don't screw it on) and leave for 2 or 3 days or until fermentation starts (you can see bubbles rising when the plant is stirred).

Feed the plant for 7 days by adding 1 tbsp of sugar and another 2 tbsp grated ginger each day and stirring well.

At the end of the week:
  1. In a clean 10L plastic bucket dissolve 4 cups sugar in a kettle full of boiling water (We often just add 2 cups of sugar for a lower-calorie version. Tastes much nicer with 4, but still drinkable with only 2).

  2. Add 2 tsp citric acid (or juice of 4 lemons)

  3. Strain the plant through a fine cloth into the syrup. (If you are using lemons, you could also juice through this cloth to avoid lemon seeds). Squeeze the plant dry. Reserve half the plant (see below) and throw the rest away.

  4. Top bucket up with cold water.

  5. Pour into PET bottles and seal. If you are game enough you could use proper glass beer bottles but beware, this ginger beer is fizzy.
Could be drunk immediately, but starts to gain worthwhile fizz after at least a week. Leave at least three or four weeks if you can wait that long.

I have read that it is important to release the pressure from the bottles every couple of days by quickly opening and closing the lids. I did that for quite some time until I couldn't be bothered, and nothing bad has ever happened (at least not while I have just been using plastic bottles).

To keep plant alive, put the reserved half of the plant back into the jar with additional water. Feed as before for another week before using again.

NB: Apparently the more times the plant is used, the more alcohol will be in the final product. Early batches shouldn't have more than a token amount of alcohol. I have usually replaced my plant every eight weeks.

Saturday, 27 October 2007

Pie Floater

Oh, what an aussie am I! I finally made a pie floater though you will notice that I have used yellow pea soup instead of the more correct green pea soup. Still tasted good though.

Friday, 26 October 2007

I am a grammar nazi

Yes I am. I admit it.

Now, I may have sent you a link to this post due to some unfortunate lapse firstly in your grammar and secondly in my manners. I'll apologise for the latter now while I am thinking more calmly and clearly. As for the former, hopefully despite my rudeness you might learn something.

My particular pet hate is the Terror of the Unwanted Apostophe. My good friend Bob The Angry Flower has something to say about that.

If you are still unsure about how to use your apostrophes, wikihow has a slightly more polite guide.

Another issue I am coming to grips with currently is the whole "writing then when I really mean than". When I first started seeing it, I just put it down to typos but it is happening more and more and all the time. I still don't understand it. I can even understand how some people get apostrophes wrong, but this makes no sense. Wikihow also has an article about this issue and I suppose it clears things up a bit, but really!?

Then = time, than = comparison. How do you get them mixed up?

Regular Customer?

At work at the pharmacy today, we had one of those incidents where you wonder if you are on the same planet as everyone else. Details have been removed for obvious reasons.

A lady presenting a prescription was asked "Have we done prescriptions for you before?" to which said lady replies "Yes, I come here all the time." Clearly one of our regular customers!

I dispense prescription, noticing at the time that we have done one (yes, one. Less than two, more than zero) prescription for her in the past. One.

As one of the pharmacy assistants said later, it is good that all of our regular customers are not like that, we would have all lost our jobs years ago!

Clearly, "all the time" == "at least once".

Reminds me of the language problems I have with my children, where "we never do .... (substitute favourite activity or food)" is equivalent to "we haven't done (activity) for at least a day".

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Our day at the show (sort of...)

We have never much gone in for the local show. Costs too much to get in, costs too much to do anything once you do get in. Granted, some of the displays are interesting, and it doesn't hurt to show some interest in things agricultural when you live in an agricultural town like Esperance.

For a couple of years I entered my ginger beer in the cooking competitions (which reminds me, I have been meaning to post my recipe) and some of the boys have done craft or cooking and entered that in the kids' competition.

Award for the best ginger beer and the stupidest face

We were meaning to do it again this year (last year when we didn't go I told them that we would do it every other year) but it really just seemed like too much effort. Dragging six children around the show (not to mention paying for them all to get in) just to see if anyone got a ribbon just didn't strike me as a reasonable use of time or effort.

At breakfast in the week before the show when I was trying to work out how I could get out of going, I made what I thought was a throw-away remark: "Why don't we just have our own show". To my surprise (and dismay) the boys thought this was a great idea. They thought it was such a great idea that when some friends were over that day (while I was at work thankyou very much) they shared my great idea and invited them over for it!

So Saturday comes and we have our show. Bought a whole pile of meat for the barbie, a bunch of lollies, Pat made some cakes and filled the fridge with the infamous ginger beer. Above mentioned friends came over, I cooked food, kids played (only one trampoline injury), we ate and drank and then out came the colourings-in, the origami, the lego creations and everyone got a certificate.

A great time was had by all (somewhat to my surprise!) and I am sure this will turn out to be an annual event. It has been said to me in the past that children will always have fond memories of family traditions and I am sure this is going to be one.

BTW, click on the photo of the fool to the right to see some photos of the action.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

What a score!

Just a bit more proof of how much of a geek I am (if you needed any convincing):

Since I have had my first Palm, I have played a Yahtzee clone called Yahdice. Yesterday I scored 732, and almost dropped my Palm in surprise! The author of Yahdice runs a high-score table which I have submitted my great new score to. When it is put on, I will be about 25th out of 4400.

Not too shabby.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Nano '07

Liam and I will be having another go at nanowrimo this year, and Patrick will be joining us. Not sure if Uncle Jas is though.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Warning, Geek reference ahead...

Today's Userfriendly had me laughing out loud. If you like obscure (or not so obscure) geek references, please go have a look.

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Were they ever that young...?

Last time my parents were down in Esperance, we were looking at some old school photos of mine and I came across these old photos from their courting days.

I must have borrowed them with the intention of getting copies made, so while I thought of it I scanned them and gave the originals back.

Enjoy this view of what teenagers looked like back in the sixties!

04 02 03 01

Friday, 28 September 2007

A Grassy Path?

These photos were taken a couple of months ago.


The path involved is one that I ride down a few days a week to work at the pharmacy, that runs along past the showgrounds and the hockey fields.

Back in January, we had some very heavy rains with localised flooding and everything. My path has a little sandy hill right next to it (to the left in the photos), so at a couple of points a nice covering of dirt was washed over the path.

I remember having to brace myself as I went to ride over the sand as my wheels would always float to the side. After a few days the path started to show through at one point (the right on the photos) and I was able to aim my wheels over that.

But as the weeks and then months went by I found myself wondering "doesn't anyone from the council actually maintain this path?". I mean, would a little sweep have hurt...?

Now, have a closer look at the photos. Remember it rained in January. The photos were taken in July. See that stuff in the middle of the sand? Thats grass!

Yes, the path was left with dirt on it for so long that grass grew!

Many times I was tempted to chuck a shovel on the back of my bike and just dig it all up myself, but that was a little impractical.

An interesting thought... the council elections are coming up next month. I wonder if anyone is going to run on a platform of Cleaning Up The Paths!

Monday, 17 September 2007

New Nephew...

Congratulations to Jason, Jeneane, Matthew and Caleb on the birth of new baby Tomas Riley this afternoon. As Jason said "we're catching up" (ha!)


I once wrote a greasemonkey script with kingergarten javascript called SearchNewTab. It was meant to make life easier when googling and deliciousing by opening links in new tabs. It never worked very well, though I did generate a few emails regarding it (even a comment on this site), and I have now (if anyone cares) officially canned it, basically because TabMixPlus does that and more!

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Have you seen this book?

Started watching Afterworld today and it reminded me (obliquely at least) of a book I read in my teens.

I can't remember the name of this book or its author. I do remember that I read a reasonable number of books by this author around the same time, so he (I think it was a he) must have been reasonably prolific.

This particular book (set in modern times) was about a guy who found himself becoming increasingly ignored. Eventually he seemed to disappear out of everyone's view. At the same time, he found everything else "greying out".

In the story he ended up finding other people "slipping" into his domain, as well as food etc. He could tell the 'real' things because they had colour.

I'm really not even certain of the main plot, but the loss of colour is what I really remember. I would have read this around 1986 or a bit later, so it is at least that old.

Linda and I had a good google around the place trying to figure it out, but it is really quite hard to choose your search terms when you have little to no idea what you are looking for.

I have put out requests with my friends in the Christian Gamers Guild and also the Name That Book forum at Library Thing in the hope that someone can help me out. I think perhaps this space is a little less likely to uncover a solution, but it is worth a shot...

Friday, 22 June 2007

eBook recommendation

Speaking of ebooks, I've been reading the Honor Harrington series by David Weber. It has been described as Hornblower in space and I can't agree more.
It is great fun.
The books are published by Baen Books, who have a history of releasing ebooks for free around the place. As a result, you are able to get most if not all of the series off promotional CD-ROMS that have been released over the place have been placed on the bittorrent network.
"On Basilisk Station", the first in the series, is on the "War of Honor" CD if you don't want to download them all first!
I can also recommend Eric Flint's "1632" and John Ringo's "A Hymn Before Battle", also on that same CD.

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Dune Houses

I have just finished reading Brian Herbert and Kevin Anderson's Dune prequel trilogy, House Artreides, House Harkonnen and House Corrino.
I have no intention of writing a book(s) review but I just wanted to share how much I enjoyed these books.
I suppose I was a bit hesitant in reading them at first, if for no other reason than being concerned about someone else (even Brian) taking over Frank Herbert's vision. Dune is one of those magnificent epic settings that makes you wonder how one man ever thought up the whole thing and kept it consistent through all his writings... Much like Lord of the Rings...
Well, I wasn't disappointed. The whole epic scope was their in all its glory. The characters were well portrayed, and it was especially good to get a bit more of a look at Leto, seeing how he was killed off fairly early in Dune.
Next on the list is the even more pre-quel series set during the Butlerian Jihad...
PS You will note that I have given links to for the books rather than Amazon or some Australian bookseller. This is because wherever possible I will read ebooks. I always have my Palm with me, you can read it in the dark, I don't find it any more difficult to read than the dead-tree editions. If my short gush makes you want to go out and buy them in hardcopy, I'm sure a short search will get you want to want. [Edit 2015: Fictionwise is long gone. Changed the links to Brian's home page.]
PPS I have just handed over my dead tree version of Dune to my 10 year old son, who is currently participating in the MS Readathon. He is a very gifted reader, very much into epic fiction (especially LOTR) and I think it will suit him down to the ground. I might get him to post his thoughts when he is done...

Monday, 21 May 2007

Happy Birthday Dad

Short post today, with an intended audience of one: my sixty, oops, fifty-nine year old father, whose birthday it is today.
Happy Birthday Dad.
And for an interesting birthday journey, follow this link.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

A solution to a Quickbooks problem

At Wongutha CAPS, where I am the sysadmin-by-default, our accounts people use Quickbooks 2002.
At the end of last year, we upgraded our network to a whole bunch of lovely new desktops and a super-duper Windows 2003 server (replacing our old NT4 server). Thanks to Google search and Microsoft TechNet I have been able to come somewhat to grips with Active Directory and even managed to set up a few useful Group Policies.
I have also managed to set up appropriate levels of access for most of the users, so that we haven't simply had students with low level access and almost all the staff as administrators!
Unfortunately, Quickbooks managed to throw me a curly one in the form of this error:
User Access Rights Problem: Your user account for Windows was created with restricted access to system resources. This will prevent Quickbooks from operating properly. Please contact your system administrator and ask him or her to grant you standard user rights.
I searched high and low for a solution to this problem without joy. Eventually, when pushed by higher priority jobs, I just made all the users of Quickbooks administrators (against my better judgement...) and left it for later.
Later came, and I order a trial version of QB 2007, which I hoped might have solved this problem.
It didn't. Back to the google drawing board.
I did find a fairly convoluted hack that involved making a QuickBooksUser group, and changing permissions on certain directories and registry keys to allow this group full access. I couldn't get it to work with group policy, and it just seemed a bit unreliable.
So. I thought outside the box for a minute (which is very much against my normal nature :-P) and came up with this partial solution: I created the QuickBooksUser group as above, but rather than try to fiddle all the keys and directories, I simply made that group a member of the local (NB: Local, not domain or global) administrators group on the boxes that had quickbooks installed, like this:
In control panel, go to User Accounts, and then select the Advanced tab, and click the Advanced button. This brings up the "Local Users and Groups" dialogue. On the right, open Groups, and then double-click on Administrators. You can then click "Add" and type in QuickBooksUsers and OK all the way...
So to describe this another way: All the users who need to use Quick Books, when they log on to one of the computers that has it installed, are made into Administrators while on that computer ONLY. Yes, this is a security flaw in that I have given them permissions that they need not have. However, they are limited to doing bad things on that computer only.
So I feel I have limited the risks, while still allowing necessary use of an important program, without giving them full domain admin rights.
In other news: this has solved another problem that I have had. Many staff members have their own notebook computers. By me not giving them full administrator privileges, they are limited in their ability to install programs, run certain programs and generally managed their own PCs (all of which are used for personal as well as school business).
My existing solution has been to set them up a local account on their computer, give it admin rights, and teach them how to use the "run as" command. Worked sometimes, but not a seamless solution.
This new trick works perfectly well for this too... Just search for the individual user whose computer it is, and add them to the Administrators group. And there you go, they can trash their own computer to their heart's content, without me putting the whole domain at risk!

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Alternate stylesheets

I am currently running three sites.
Not being one to reinvent the wheel, I am running them all with Wordpress, Sandbox and Unsleepable for Sandbox, a combination I find manageable and appealing.
Unfortunately, when everything is much the same, the same problems will appear as well! Check out the following screen shots of CastletownChemist.Com under firefox and IE7 for windows:
As you can see, while similar, they do not look the same. The net seems awash with bloggers having problems with IE (firstly IE6 and even now IE7) messing with their look-and-feel. My problem (the nav menu being below the title rather than next to it) seems to be minor in comparison to some.
I found two posts from last year that have addressed the problem (both were focussed on IE6, but the problem remains): Sam Devol's "WordPress Troubleshooting: My blog looks horrible in IE!" and Nektros' "7 step guide to fixing your Wordpress sidebar in Internet (bloody) Explorer".
Neither of these related directly to my setup, calling for an addition to header.php in the theme file. Because Sandbox then calls another function within header.php, I needed to dig a bit further.
Now please understand, I do not know php and I only know basic programming principles, but I can look at what others have done and try to steal their ideas.
This is what I did:
  1. Create an iestyle.css file in the unsleepable directory (/wp-content/themes/sandbox/skins/unsleepable)

  2. Found functions.php in /wp-content/themes/sandbox

  3. Edited the function sandbox_stylesheets() by adding the following code under the existing stylesheet link:

    <!--[if IE]>
    <link rel="stylesheet" href="<?php echo get_template_directory_uri() . "/skins/$skin/iestyle.css" ?>" media="screen" />
In English, this checks if the browser is Internet Explorer, and if it is, calls another stylesheet (in the directory of the current skin) and uses it in addition to the regular stylesheet (and with priority over it).
I have done this and confirmed that it does in fact give styles to the page. Now I just need to go through Nektros' article to see what I can actually do to the CSS to improve my problem.

Wednesday, 24 January 2007