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Melbourne Open House disappointment [19 Jul 2009|07:30pm]
Today was Melbourne Open House day, and I was excited at the prospect of seeing inside the Russell Place power station. I even fought my hangover and went out of the house by midday with lots of camera gear with that objective in mind.

I arrived at the location, where there was a huuuuge queue, all the way down the alley and then down Burke street. Not a good sign. After a while an official came by to say that people at my point in the queue could be expecting a two hour wait, maybe a bit more.
OK.. so I'll wait. At least I have a couple of friends, also hungover, to talk crap with to fill in the time, and hold places in the queue while we take turns buying snacks, coffee, juice, etc.

Nearly three hours later, we're told that the people who started queueing at 11am are only now at the front of the queue, and there's only an hour and a half left before they close. A gentleman in the queue near me asks the official guy how many people are going through.. it's 20 every 20 minutes, or 60 per hour. He then enquires how many people are in front of us in the queue, and whether there are more than the 90 that they still have time for..
The official has a "oh, that's a good idea" look, and goes off to count. He comes back a while later and announces there are well over a hundred people in front.. so everyone behind number 90 may as well go home now.

Damnit! Couldn't they have worked this out, like, two hours earlier? I stood around in a windy, cold alleyway for half the daylight hours for nothing?? Gnnnrgh. Rather disappointed, all in all!

Retail therapised with a new pair of jeans and a shirt, looked at potential carry-on luggage without success*, and then came home tired and grumpy. Am now making bolognese with veggie mince; last attempt ended up rather dry and meh, but am hoping second attempt works out better. (With addition of a glass of wine into the sauce).

[* My previous carry-on bag has fallen to bits, annoyingly. Black/grey canvas satchel. I suppose I could just repair it.. But it wasn't that hot anyway.]
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Sore fingers [13 Jul 2009|01:10am]
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112

That is my new guitar!

I swear I looked at a few hundred new and second hand guitars, but in the end settled upon this one.. I liked the way it looks, and the way it is balanced/fits on me, and I'm told it's a good quality body too. One massive chunk of solid "Alder" wood. (I like the raw un-lacquered look, rather than the shiny finish most electric guitars seem to have.)

After some experimentation, I think it sounds nicest with the bridge pickup and centre pickup linked.. I am using quite "clean" sounding settings while I'm learning, so no doubt I'll figure out what works well for other sounds in due course.

I've been playing with it and reading online tutorials for a couple of days now, and people weren't kidding when they said my fingers would be sore! However I'm happy that I can now just about pluck out the intros to "Hurt" and "Wish you were here" - slow, but recognisable.

Thanks to Tom, Bekki and Sean for their advice so far. Much appreciated!
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Portraits - Laura [13 Jul 2009|12:37am]
Portrait of Laura
loz_vovin kindly agreed to sit for me while I tried various portrait techniques.
This is my favourite photo from the shoot - and was the first I took. Strange how that works out.

I also liked:
Portrait of Laura
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He who hesitates is lost [08 Jul 2009|03:05pm]
I toured around guitar stores (new and secondhand) in Fitzroy yesterday..
Did some research online, listened to what a few friends had to say last night..
Went back at lunchtime today with one particular guitar in mind..
And it had been sold :(

Damnit. Eh, there'll be others. Plenty of others in fact.
I just hate it when you spend ages debating the merits of one thing over another, eventually pick one.. and then find you have to start again. Hmph.
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Winter blues. Or some other genre of guitar-based music. [08 Jul 2009|01:07am]
Ah, wintertime..
It's cold (10 to 12 degrees), and my usual pastimes of outdoor photography and motorbike rides don't fit with that quite so well.. and Melburnians just don't seem to go out to pubs or clubs or anything so much this time of year. Hmph.

I always seem to fall back to some other time-wasting activity for the colder months.
In past years it's been things like CB/amateur radio, EVE Online, Lord of the Rings Online, roleplaying games, FPS games. Last year I dug up my (very) old MIDI keyboard and bought a "teach yourself piano" book.

I didn't get too far with the piano last year, but this year I'm going to give music another try, and so I intend to purchase a cheap guitar, and attempt to learn it. I'd really *like* to be able to play music.

I have decided to go for an electric guitar, since that'll allow me to mess around with the sound more, and I'm a sucker for electronics. Also, I think I can use headphones, and thus not annoy housemates with dreadful practice notes :)
(It's still ages before I get to move into my house.)

Am now looking for online sites with lessons. So far:
* http://guitar.about.com/library/blguitarlessonarchive.htm
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Bill Hicks IS dangerous [03 Jul 2009|06:02pm]
I think I've just been rick-rolled by Bill Hicks.
From beyond the grave! Is there no limit to his power?
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Uncontagious [28 Jun 2009|09:24pm]
Monday was horrible, I didn't so much feel sick as just really out of it for the day, and then plain ill in the evening.
Tuesday was an improvement, I felt extremely sore, achey and hot/cold, but a lot better than Monday, oddly.
Wednesday I went back downhill and ended up with horrible fever and feeling like my body had gone into shock (very cold, losing feeling in fingertips).
Thursday was feeling a bit better again, body was still doing weird things with temperature though.
Friday felt reasonable, but a cough had been building up during the week and continued.
Saturday/Sunday - Still took it easy, but generally feeling well again, apart from this stupid cough.
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Contagious? [22 Jun 2009|11:58pm]
Ow ow ow.
I woke up feeling fine this morning, and rode the motorbike to work in the bright sun, feeling optimistic about the week.
By lunchtime I felt like I'd been run over by a train a few times and then tossed into a freezing river. I don't know if I've caught "that" flu, but whatever it is, it came on extremely rapidly and now I feel like death warmed up.

On the other hand, it has provided me with an excuse to rug up as for a polar expedition, then curl up in a blanket on the couch as well with the central heating on full, and start watching serial experiments lain episodes back-to-back, possibly napping slightly here and then, which worked reasonably well with the surreal nature of the anime.

Have woken self up again now, and got back into bed after pre-calling in sick to work.

I hope this stupid illness disappears as quickly as it came on! I have stuff to do later this week!
I'm disappointed in my immune system.. it was generally really good since mid 2007, but lately I've come down with cold, headache, and now this! Hmph :/
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Braid [04 Jun 2009|12:23am]
This week I played through Braid, a little indie game.
It was a bit on the short side for USD$15, but it was genuinely interesting and thought-provoking.

At first glance the game is a platformer - run, jump, collect puzzle pieces.. Except that key to the game is the manipulation of time, and playing the game requires you to really get your head around that idea. Levels experiment with different concepts, like localised time rates, loops, phases, and more.

The other key element is the story, which is admitedly only rather loosely interspersed with the gameplay, but is still quite interesting, and manages to convey it's tale, or tales, well. It's not a clear story, but rather something David Lynch would be proud of. It appears clear-cut at first, but as you progress you realise things are not what they seem, and yet make sense, at the same time.
And like a Lynch film, I've spent the past hour searching the internet to read alternate theories on what the story means.

If you like gaming and feel like an interesting new twist on old styles, then give it a go, I think you'll like it. If you hate computer games, or hate obtuse plots, then you should give it a miss.

I'm quite glad that computer gaming seems to have finally evolved to include interesting things like this, rather than yet more things with nothing but bigger technicolour explosions.
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Tech blog [27 May 2009|12:54pm]
I'm going to (try) and start a tech blog, at http://blog.dryft.net/
Idea is that it's more about software development, Perl, and other technical/professional topics.
Hosted on my domain name, it'll also be the one I hope people discover when googling for me, rather than my Livejournal.
Not that there's much /wrong/ with my LJ, but it tends to be my rants about everyday life rather than maintaining any kind of professional attitude, and I intend to keep it that way ;)
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Real names, and musing upon LJ features [26 May 2009|12:35pm]
I am spectacularly bad with names.
I remember facts about people, but the arbitrary proper nouns attached to them doesn't stick in my brain well.
This isn't helped by people having many names they go by, in the form of usernames, email addresses, as well as their actual names.

These days I find that I tend to have a better chance of remembering real names than usernames, since the real name is what I call that person by. I frequently find myself struggling to remember what a certain friend's LJ username is here, and thus here is my wishlist for LJ and DW:

I'd like LJ to list my friends in a column, NOT a huge comma-separated list. I want the second column of this list to contain their actual name. By default it should be the name they entered in their profile, but I should be able to override this privately to put my alias for that person there. (Usually I'd just put their actual name there, but I might put more info for some people who share the same name, or perhaps their organisation or community I know them through.)

Then I want to be able to sort that list by either the first OR second columns. I also want to be able to filter this list by the Custom Friend Filters I have already setup elsewhere.

This seems like a sensible feature to me, and I've been half-expecting it to turn up for the past couple of years. Come on LJ, what's going on? The current system is archaic and a pain in the arse :(

I have signed up to Dreamwidth, because I kind of intended to go about fixing the things that make me resent using LJ there, as I gather they're a lot more receptive to patches and change.. Although I suspect that plan is going to go the way of most of my private projects, ie. I'll get back halfway and then start something else :)

*waves hello at eventbot, votebot, wineblogger, rmidet, the facebook port of eventbot, dryftsite, ljfilter, reamirror*

Although to be fair, reamirror, eventbot and votebot do work and are used by people regularly, I just haven't finished the feature set I planned.. rmidet was abandoned because I didn't really have enough knowledge of the requirements..
I did open-source rea-toys and rea-www so at least other people can hack on them.

I should finish up ljfilter sometime, I still think the concept is great :)
It sucks down your LJ friends page, and then runs a spam-assassin-style filter (bayesian plus plugins) over every post, and asks you to rate the post. The idea is that after it has learnt enough, it can then start excluding posts from your view based on the filter results.
Thus, you could read your friends page at 5-star rating to only see critically interesting posts, or 1+-star if you want to to see every bloody meme and quiz result. (Not that those seem to be such a problem these days, at least on the friends filters I use now.)
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Woolworths everydayrewards.com.au [23 May 2009|06:14pm]
I am quite bemused by the loyalty card scheme from Safeway/Woolworths, called EveryDayRewards(.com.au).

This is because they only offer one reward - a discount of $0.04/litre of petrol at participating petrol stations, if you recently accrued enough points.
This "reward" is actually already available to non-card-holders - if you spend enough in one go, you get a piece of paper with a barcode on it which the petrol stations accept.
So the only benefit to signing up for their loyalty card is that you don't need to carry around a paper docket. Instead you need to carry around their loyalty card, which is heavier and thicker than a piece of paper.

Yet, despite this apparently near-useless-ness of the card, the sign-up procedure is more intense than most banking sites! You need to provide a whole bunch of personal information, followed by a password which must be long and random, and you also have 5 "secret questions" which you have to provide answers to, as you'll apparently get asked those sometimes.
WTF? If someone steals my login, all they can do is view how many e-dockets I have accumulated. Wow. From this, some evil person could probably deduce how often I go shopping at Safeway, and how often I refuel my car. (not very often).

Of course, nothing says I have to play along with them. Thus, I have registered myself as Major Makoto Kusanagi, and am a female cyborg assassin from the future, according to my "secret questions".
I look forward to bemused checkout personnel at the supermarket quizzing me upon these every time I use the card to receive my tiny fuel discount! No prizes for guessing the PIN number either.. :)
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[21 May 2009|01:02pm]
MP3s encoded in the bad old days usually sound rather bad. Not only were they often encoded at 96, 112 or 128 kbps, but the encoder software wasn't very smart either and didn't use those few kbps as efficiently as later software would.

After being annoyed by listening to one too many mushy, warbling tracks, I decided to write a script to go through my collection and identify all the albums where the average bitrate over the whole album was too low. (initially the script reported every album where at least one track had a low bitrate, however that resulted in false positives, due to the tendency of artists to have long, mostly empty tracks inbetween "hidden tracks", where modern encoders will justifiably encode all that empty space at the minimum bitrate.)

Using the revised script, I still had well over 400 albums with bitrates of 128 or less! There's another 180 or so which are at 160. :(

I've spent an entire night ripping and encoding my CDs, and only managed about 20 albums. It just takes ages to rip them, at least on my DVDROM drive with high levels of cdparanoia enabled to avoid scratches or glitches. I've also taken to looking for albums on thepiratebay and mininova, since it's a lot easier to just queue them for download rather than hang around ripping them!

However I just checked the latest results from the script, and there's still 385 128k-or-worse albums to go, and I haven't even started on the 160k ones.

I guess if I just try to whittle down a dozen or so every week, in slow moments, I'll gradually work through the lot in a year! I guess I'll target the albums I like and want to listen to a lot first.

I also worry that I should be using FLAC rather than MP3s from lame with preset=extreme, except that to be honest, I can't really hear the difference between the two, and MP3s are far more portable.. If I used FLAC, not only would I need to buy a couple of new harddrives to fit them and the backup copy, but I'd then need to maintain an entire other tree of them in MP3 anyway, so I can play them in the car stereo or on my ipod.

Has anyone else solved this problem (of needing to re-rip everything) before? How did you solve it?
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Grumpy old men [13 May 2009|02:26pm]
Reading thru the minutes of the last body-corporate meeting for a property I'm contemplating, I noticed:
(names changed)
"Mr Orange, acting on behalf of Mr Lemon from Unit 1, submitted six pages of issues."
The group unanimously decided to ignore all of them since the owner couldn't be bothered to turn up in person and hadn't submitted anything in advance.
(The meeting was held four doors down from Mr Lemon.)

Teehee. Although one wonders, what WAS in those six pages of issues?

Aside from that giggle, it was worth reading the meeting notes.. They also discussed what to do about some major repair works required, and voted to put it off until it got worse.. but still, not a good sign.
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Carlton Gardens [06 May 2009|12:31am]

Infrared Carlton
Originally uploaded by Wintrmute.
Carlton Gardens in false-colour infrared..
(Just messing about in my lunch-break)
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Kellybrook cider festival [04 May 2009|10:34pm]

Kellybrook cider festival
Originally uploaded by Wintrmute.
A photo from the cider festival. In, umm, infrared.
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Busy weekend [04 May 2009|12:00pm]
I slept from approx 8pm until 9am this morning. And I still seem tired!

I did have a rather busy week and weekend though; I think the Cider Festival was my favourite part.
The cider seemed to have noticeably improved since last year, and they also had more varieties available, I think?

During last week I went to see Kate sing in Carlton on Tuesday, sorted out getting Ubuntu onto friends' laptops on Wednesday, and hung out drinking with a friend from Adelaide on Thursday. So far, so not enough sleep.

On Friday night I caught up with a friend of Craig, a guy I knew from Adelaide who moved to Germany to write computer games years ago.. Michael is a friend of his from Frankfurt who moved back to Melbourne recently.
After a couple of jugs of beer, I headed home, then had to get up promptly to view way too many properties.

Nelson Alexander R.E. proved to me that they consistently way under-value their properties; I turned up to one that had about a hundred people at the inspection, and the agent said he'd already received verbal offers $90k over their price estimate. Other properties of theirs have consistently sold for similarly way-over-suggested-price-range amounts too, so I think they're just bastards, and I'm going to make an official complaint.

I saw a totally trashed place in West Brunswick, which has me wondering.. It seemed fairly solid in construction, and has a back yard and front yard, and looks like it'll sell cheaply due to the horribleness inside. (It's ex-council-house and has been empty for 12 months). However for $10,000 one could do quite a lot of renovation, and it could be quite nice afterwards.. Something to think about anyway. Unfortunately I bet other people think the same and thus push the price up :/

Aside from that, there was a two bedroom unit in a nice bit of Preston that I'm considering. But ALL the other units there are occupied by little old retirees, which was pushed as a plus point by the agent, but I dare say they might not approve of me! :)
Still, it's near a good tram line, and a nice park, and seems reasonably nice.

I'm also wondering about maybe screwing the whole plan, and looking at a fairly cheap (eg. 30-40% less than I was planning to spend) 1 bedrom apartment somewhere very close to the city.. Although after more thoughts, I suspect I'll discount that again. Location is great, but I just have too much damn stuff, and at least want a private garage.

Then, there was the Flickr pub meet, which was fun, but I missed most of due to the house hunting taking all day. (10:30am to 3pm).. Then home to change, and head out to Z-1 Fusion, an EBM/Industech club, for Jarod's birthday drinks and dancing and stuff..
Got to sleep by 3am I think, but had to get up at 10am or so to get a lift to Wonga Park and the Cider Festival! Yay. :)

Stopped off at Heide Museum of Modern Art on the way home to see some sculptures by Django's dad which are there, and then finally got home around 6:30 or 7pm.. and I collapsed into bed and slept for 13 hours!

I think I'm going to try and have a quiet week! I need it.
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Cider festival [30 Apr 2009|11:28am]
Just a reminder that the cider festival is this weekend - I'll be going down on Sunday, probably by train unless someone offers me a lift.. :)

cider festival facebook event
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D700+R72=successful infrared [22 Apr 2009|05:14pm]
It seems the Nikon D700 is much better for infrared photographer than the D200 was; at least on par with the D70. How curious.. I suppose Nikon changed the strength of the IR-blocking filter or something?

A terrible photo demonstrating it is true IR, here:
Those blindingly-white trousers are actually black in normal light. Curious that they changed, but the black t-shirt remained black.. Guess it's the synthetic material or something.

In other news, I felt a bit crappy today (and the last couple of days), but today I called in sick, and had a haircut. I still feel headachey, but now my hair will dry faster in the morning. :P

I've had a very busy weekend; In the last few days I've been to see four comedy shows at the festival, and friend's band last night. There's been the usual property run-around going on too. I'm going to bail out of PubStandards tonight and just get a quiet night in I think! I need it.. Next weekend looks mammoth as well. Two more comedy shows, and an epic motorcycle ride.

PS. If you're watching the ANZAC day televised ceremony from France, look out for my dad in the brass band! :D
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The other white heat [20 Apr 2009|12:00pm]
The pressure-containment capacity of a standard cucumber is remarkable, and the smooth skin makes it easy to create an airtight seal with the pipe delivering oxygen to the device. A cucumber packed with beef sticks will burn for almost two minutes, and a completely vegetarian version stuffed with breadsticks, though not quite as long-lasting, still produces a very impressive flame.

Should we write in to tell them Mathias was there years ago?

(Thanks to jasonbstanding for the tip-off.)
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