Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Going down to The Snowy Mountains over xmas.

See you in Jan.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

For fucks sake people, water is dangerous

What is this, would you stop drowning already. Tourists, kids, more kids.
I used to be a life guard at Tamarama, Fresh Water and Bondi Beach. I've pulled dozens of people out of the surf, mostly tourists and kids. Thankfully nobody has drowned on my watch. We have had the kids in swimming lessons BEFORE THEY CAN WALK. 1 cubic metre of water weighs 1000kg, even a small shore break can be 1.5m high and 1 to 1.5m thick, moves as fast as you can run and will slap you down. It will knock you off you feat deposit you in a rip and sweep you out to sea long before you can say - that's a neat looking octopus, funny that it is swimming so close to that little square jelly fish. If you can't swim 200m whilst being pounded by 2 tone waves then keep the fuck out of the fucking surf. Most people are afraid of sharks, that kind of stupid crap is for Englishmen fe fi fo fum. You would do much better to ensure that you and the kids learnt to swim.

kids + water - adult supervision = dead kids. and it aint their fault.

The stats

Welcome to Australia and please, enjoy your time in our surf.

end rant

Critters in the garden

Annalise and I went looking for critters in the garden and found this praying mantis stalking our fingers.

How faries keep dry

fairy umbrella 3
With an umbrella of course.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

A wee bit of housekeeping

A wee bit of housekeeping.
Just applied and updated to a new template.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Australia has ratified the Kyoto Protocol

Dear John, stick that up your jumper

The Tempest

photos from SMH

So last night we had the wildest storm. A great green wall descending from turbulent dark gray clouds that seemed to build and boil at least 3km into the sky, their peaks lit from behind with late afternoon sun. The wall was a solid fixture of rain, hail, leaves, branches, cockatoos and sheet iron that hit the car with such a blast our two tone 4x4 veered into the next lane. Within minutes the water on the road was up the the axles.

Amid the flash and crash of thunder three year old Daniel started singing "Rain drops are falling on my head"

Monday, December 03, 2007

listening to

A big week

Randomness follows -

- got my job back.

- Alex is in the US for a week N.J., enjoy the cwaffie sweety.

- I've moved into the parents in Law's place for a week and my parents have moved into our flat whilst dad is getting radio for the cancer in his spine.

- I'm about to go to the gym and do a spin class whilst perving out the window at the Korean National Swimming team who are training in the university pool

Sunday, November 25, 2007

What a lovley day we had today

What a lovley day, we visited friends and went down to the beach.

The day was all the sweeter knowing that our votes, cast in the outgoing Prime Minster's seat, were part of the massive swing against the incumbent right wing government. Sweeping it aside and after 11 years bringing back the centre left 'Labor' party.

The ripples are still bouncing around the blogsphere:
The right are falling over themselves;
the left are jubilant;
and those with common sense out there who were not afraid, who want to live in a society rather than an economy are basking in the new light as I am - you know who you are.

And to everyone else, sorry

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Dragon destroys flowerbed

Physignathus lesueurii or the Eastern Water Dragon digging in our garden.

The Innovation Awards

I wrote some software that got nominated for an award, we spunked up and went to the awards night. Didn't win but did get an 'onrible mention.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Have an Enola Gay Day

Well, it's Multiple Myeloma, The disease was detected last week, this week treatment is starting - irradiation followed by chemo. Or in other words is's have an Enola Gay day plasma cells closely followed by a regime of poisoning tailored to not quite kill you but to do enough collateral damage to be of some benefit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A hole in his spine

So, dad thought he had arthritis in his back, why not, it was sore - his son has it (i.e. me) and the pain responded to arthritis medication. They x-rayed his spine to check out how bad the arthritis was and instead found a huge hole in one of his vertebrae, most probably a myeloma. Late night phone calls from doctors urging they come in immediately and see him. Earnest conversations with specialists ultimately leading to the "how long have I got" question. Trips to Canberra to be scanned, probed and measured.

Prognosis: not great but so far it looks treatable but not curable.
Mood: shitty.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Sick kidlets

After learning of my almost certain retrenchment from what I think is a pretty good job, most of last week passed in an unmotivated blur. I'm probably a bit depressed but I'll get over myself.
Then on Sunday I noticed Annalise - the three year old, had a temperature and was complaining of a sore belly which was quickly followed by -- well, lets leave out the details shall we. I had to take Monday off to look after her; you can't send them to school when they need to be put on the toilet every half hour. Turns out it's tonsillitis. She didn't have a temperature on Tuesday but she was still sick. We normally have a carer - one of the great aunts, but she couldn't really look after Adrian and Annalise with Annalise needing that much attention. All seamed good Tuesday evening until I picked up Adrian from the floor and he was burning. Temp of 38.6° on the skin on his back (you try sticking a thermometer under a wriggling toddlers arm pit). So it's Wednesday now. I'm still not back at work and I have another sick kid to look after.
The same think is happening to the cousins.

Monday, October 29, 2007


I have had a wonderful weekend, thanks for asking. House dad on Saturday building a cubby hose from couch cushions whilst Alex did the weekly shopping and chose some shoes and then a short bush walk in the National Part out the back of the house in the afternoon. Sunday we trekked to the zoo, late due to a conspiracy between Adrian not sleeping most of the early early morning and refusing to let daylight savings thieve an hour of snoozes.

And now I am at work.

Waiting for the all staff meeting at 1:30 to discuss the merger of the division of the university I work for with another and find out whether I will still have a job and thus whether I will be looking for work over Christmas or enjoying the time off.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Wow, I've been memed,

Thanks Mark for taking me with my first meme. I'm thankful it's a small one. I do wonder how these things start, do they reproduce, recombine, mutate, and evolve? What are the selection pressures acting on a blog meme? Is extinction forever or are they periodically revivified? Will the far right Christian lobby try to prevent meme evolution being taught in favor of meme design? I'm sure somebody studying meme fitness will investigate it one day? This meme has a name - "Animeme". Is it common to name a meme or are they more like the Gary Larson Commic book I have that had an index that was empty for every letter except for the letter 'T' which has all the cartoones indexed under their respective titles "The one about ......."

The meme:

An interesting animal I had
As a boy living on the edge of a National Park in Sydney's north I enjoyed almost daily interaction with the snakes, spiders, goanas, owls and all the other critters that invaded my space much as I was invading theirs. I kept a tank of red crowned toadlets for a few years. When I learned that they were endangered I carried their spawn, which they always created in vast quantities in my fish tank, back out into the bush whenever it rained. I hope I have helped this little species on the brink to hold on for a while longer.

An interesting animal I ate
As a geologist doing exploration work in the remote outback I had the opportunity to do a bush survival course where we mostly learned how to fix a broken 4x4, do remote first aid, fix a broken radio, burn spinafex to get attention, build a shelter and collect some water we did get to try some of the spiders, ants, and delicious Witchetty grubs.
The most memorable bush tucker was a meal around the camp fire prepared by an aboriginal camp hand. Over a few beers and what I thought was an unusually flaky but somewhat tough smoked fish One of the drillers asked him, "Hay cookie - you didn't eat that goanna you were feading at lunch did ya?" "Nah mate", replied the cook, "you eat him now".
On a less exotic note, depending on your perspective, you can roll up to the Australian Hotel, right next to the approach to the Harbor Bridge in Sydney and have kangaroo, emu & crocadile on a pizza - now that's Aussie.

An interesting animal in the museum
That would have to be Ekaltadeta the flesh eating kangaroo but it's a close competition. Check out some of the competitors

An interesting thing I did with or to an animal
I would not could not with a goat, I would not could not in a boat...
If using conodonts to date rocks around Parks doesn't cut it then I think that, when I was working as an environmental scientist and I used nematodes to characterize soil environments in and around one of Australia's most toxic polluted sites that that was pretty interesting. No?

An interesting animal in its natural habitat
Having one of these on you shoe right outside the front door is pretty interesting but I think that the female form of homo sapiens australes in it's native habitat at the beach is more so.

I'm tagging Rowena, andLeesha.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Never let it be said

Never let it be said that I don't share my inner most self with you.
I've a form of Arthritis that's a right pain in the arse (SI joint to be exact). These were part of a set of about 400 scans taken a few weeks ago as part of an effort to try and better manage it's progression. Just all part of the fun of being human I guess.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How to plot how busy you server is from the user perspective

Do you run a mission critical application on an Apache web server?
if not stop reading - I'll post cute picks of kids or my MRI scan later.

click here if your a gheek and want to read more

How to plot how busy you server is from the user perspective.
The assumption I am making here is that the slower the server is the more user connections I will see because they spend more time connecting because the server is slower etc. etc.

In effect I'm going to plot the "requests being processed" against time.

So you've got mod_status installed and you have a cron job gziping and taring wgets of the server_status page

on a typical day head -n30 looks like this:

Apache Server Status for XXXXX.XXXXX.edu.au

Server Version: Apache/2.0.55 (Unix) DAV/2 mod_ssl/2.0.55 OpenSSL/0.9.6m mod_jk/1.2.6
Server Built: Jan 4 2006 17:25:42

Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 15:23:08 EST
Restart Time: Tuesday, 09-Oct-2007 17:24:28 EST
Parent Server Generation: 1
Server uptime: 21 hours 58 minutes 40 seconds
Total accesses: 1756415 - Total Traffic: 28.1 GB
CPU Usage: u1452.51 s1680.81 cu6053.03 cs0 - 11.6% CPU load
22.2 requests/sec - 372.4 kB/second - 16.8 kB/request
129 requests currently being processed, 41 idle workers


And when you are being subjected to a DOS attack it looks more like this

Current Time: Monday, 08-Oct-2007 15:59:21 EST
Restart Time: Sunday, 09-Sep-2007 14:19:25 EST
Parent Server Generation: 29
Server uptime: 29 days 1 hour 39 minutes 56 seconds
Total accesses: 38331840 - Total Traffic: 326.1 GB
CPU Usage: u749.13 s842.35 cu2791.89 cs0 - .175% CPU load
15.3 requests/sec - 136.1 kB/second - 8.9 kB/request
1024 requests currently being processed, 0 idle workers


where all those R's are ..Reading..


Write a script that loops through all your tar files untars and ungzips them then greps the head to get the date and the requests line. We gzip and tar the original pages into a directory - opt/servstat and then tar together whole days so mine looks like this but your mileage may vary:


# Clear the screen in preparation for script output
echo "--------------------------------------------------"


if [ -d "tmp" ] ; then
rm -r tmp

if [ -d "~/Desktop/out" ] ; then
rm -r ~/Desktop/out
mkdir tmp
mkdir ~/Desktop/out

for file in $*; do
cd tmp

tar zxvf ../$file
cd opt/servstat
gunzip *.gz
sudo chown stephen\: *
mv *.txt ~/Desktop/out
head -n17 /home/stephen/Desktop/out/*.txt | grep -i Current >> ~/Desktop/outputFile
rm ~/Desktop/out/*.txt


cd $startdir

exit 0

end result being I get a file some 100K lines ling that looks like this;

<dt>Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 08:35:00 EST</dt>
<dt>69 requests currently being processed, 36 idle workers</dt>
<dt>Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 08:40:00 EST</dt>
<dt>103 requests currently being processed, 21 idle workers</dt>
<dt>Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 08:45:00 EST</dt>
<dt>78 requests currently being processed, 46 idle workers</dt>
<dt>Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 08:50:00 EST</dt>
<dt>80 requests currently being processed, 44 idle workers</dt>
<dt>Current Time: Wednesday, 10-Oct-2007 08:55:01 EST</dt>
<dt>111 requests currently being processed, 52 idle workers</dt>

you can get rid of the HTML if you want sed -e 's/<[^>]*>//g' outputFile > outputFileNoHTML

but chances are you want to keep it so that you can use it with sed to get the time, requests currently being processed, and idle workers all on the same line

if you want a csv to put into excel use this almighty "one liner"

cat outputFile | sed -e 's/<dt>Current Time: /\n/g' | sed -e :a -e '$!N;s/\n</ /;ta' -e 'P;D'| sed '/^$/d' | sed -e 's/ EST<\/dt> dt>/,/g' | sed -e 's/ requests currently being processed, /,/g' | sed -e 's/idle workers<\/dt>//g' > outputFile.csv

To Generate a tab seperated file use this:
cut -d ',' -f 2,3,4 aug.csv | sed 's/2007 /2007-/g' | sed 's/,/\t/g' > aug.tab
cut -d ',' -f 2,3,4 sep.csv | sed 's/2007 /2007-/g' | sed 's/,/\t/g' > sep.tab

or do the whole thing
cut -d ',' -f 2,3,4 outputFile.csv | sed 's/2007 /2007-/g' | sed 's/,/\t/g' > out.tab

now grep out the months if you want or deal with the whole file, i.e for September
grep Sep outputFile.csv > sep.csv
grep Sep outputFile.tab > out.csv

I'm using gnuplot to generate the plots. Here is the load file you want, in this case for all of August

# Gnuplot script file for plotting data from server_status
# This file is called aug.plot
unset log # remove any previous log-scaling
unset key # remove any previous key
unset label # remove any previous labels
unset title # remove any previous title
set xtic auto # set xtics automatically
set ytic auto # set ytics automatically
set yrange [0:1028] # Change the y-axis range
set xtics rotate # rotate the x-axis lables so they are verticle
set terminal jpeg size 1280, 780 # make a pretty picture for the output
set output 'aug.jpg' # name of the output file
set xdata time # set x axis to be time scale
set timefmt "%d-%b-%Y-%H:%M:%S" # set the input format of the time
set format x "%d/%m" # set the output format of the time label
set grid # show a grid in the picture
set title "Number of user connections" # the title of the output plot
set xlabel "Date/Time" # label the x axis
plot "aug.tab" using 1:2 # generate the plot using column 1 for x and 2 for y

if you want to plot a single day you want different x-axis labeling, use:
set format x "%d/%m %H:%M"

from within gnuplot to generate the plot from this plot file enter: load 'aug.plot'

You should now get a pretty picture.

Mine look like this:
For the year since the end of July

For Oct to date

For the 8th of Oct

And the 9th - can you spot the DOS attack ?

And this morning

I'll be truly surprised if anybody reads this.

Monday, October 08, 2007

the Wallabies are out

The only consolation being that at least the all blacks suffered a worse humiliation by being beaten by the French.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Actual conversation with a blogger


... yeah but I can't blog about whats going at my house,


because it's illegal...


Friday, September 28, 2007

I'm sitting here at work in the morning having just sat down ...

I'm sitting here at work in the morning having just sat down and turned my machine on. Looking at nothing in particular I'm blowing across the top of my coffee to cool it.
The machine fires up.


I'm a nerd so it's a linux laptop, ubuntu if you must know, and Iv'e a few Gdesklets bringing my RSS feeds through onto the desktop. The desktop on the machine is a photo I took out the back of Mount Blue Cow.

Up pops Laura's post about her dream.

I laugh so much I snort, blow coffee across the screen and down my shirt.

There is now coffee froth running down the ridge line between Mt Kosciusko and Blue Lake.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Do you ever get the feeling...

that suddenly everyone is having kids?
The weddings are over, now we're catching up with friends for christenings

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Timber !

I like trees.
So it's sad to see this one go. Where will the Cockatoos sit in the morning and look in our window now?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Just a little bit Hitchcock

There is something mildly creepy about the way the natives pose themselves whilst we have breakfast.
Breakfast company

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Happy Birthday to me

That's OK, you weren't to know. But you can make it up - just send money.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Geek post

This is a geek post so don't bother reading any further if your not a code monkey.

We are currently investigating why some software is running slow and are looking at disk IO as a possible problem. Unix can log all sorts of things but you are lucky if they are human readable. This lill' Perl script will grep through all the the io.out logs from iostat into a csv file that you can open in Excel to graph.
Edit the regular expression to get the time - in out case its stamped Eastern Standard Time - EST
Edit the regular expression to find the device you are interested in - in this case d80


# Perl code to output io files as csv
# usage: $ perl io2csv.pl io.out.* > d80.csv
# This little script will turn unix i.o. logs into a csv script
# from whence you can graph them

print "r/s,w/s,kr/s,kw/s,wait,actv,wsvc_t,asvc_t,%w,%b,device,dateTime\n";
# go through input one line at a time
# put input into a variable
my($line) = $_;

# remove trailing and leading spaces

# regexp to get the time
if ($line =~ /EST/)

# get the time part of the date time into a variable (split on white
# space and get 4th element)
@dateTime = split;
$dateTime = $dateTime[3];

# look for data lines that are related to the mount
if ($line =~ /d80/)

# make white space separated data into a comma separated string
$fields = join(",",split);

# write output plus date
print "$fields,$dateTime\n";

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A self indulgent post

Well, it's been a full on few days. Saturday Alex and I moved about a ton of dirt to rebuild the garden that was destroyed by the plumbing works in our unit complex. Sunday morning I spent doing odd jobs including pulling a substantial number of parts out of the innards of a Scandinavian build washing machine to clean the pump. The instructions were in the same pictograph style as an Ikea brochure, possibly written by Fifteen Bobsworth Longfellow *. Needless to say I swore quite a bit but it eventually Yielded to my threats and I managed to emancipate the loose change that had blocked the pump.
Sunday evening we went to see a movie - Så som i himmelen, about a successful international conductor who suddenly interrupts his career and returns alone to his childhood village in Norrland. I'm a total girl in movies and cried just all the way through. Interestingly it took more money in the cinema I went to see it at than Titanic. Proves that I live amongst a bunch of chardonnay drinking intellectual snobs.
On Monday a colleague and I solved a cracker of an IT problem which directly affected the VC of the uni. I celebrated, even tho' it was a school night by getting plastered with Steve (the visiting physicist) and Row (pregnant uni friend) at the Belgian Beer Cafe. Well she didn't have more than a sip but Steve and I got a little silly. Thanks for your company Steve, It is always good to see you.
Tuesday was testing Mondays work and then in the late afternoon ducking home and bringing Annalise and Adrian into uni for show and tell and then up to the library to show Annalise the Tyrannosaurus bones on display. She said "Daddy, the dinosaur has popped and died and only his bones are left". I guess when you are 2 and a half and a bit a popped balloon is the closest you have to a concept of death.
Today, Wednesday; meetings, meetings, gym, meetings and them off indoor climbing with Sean and Andrew.

Then I think that I am going to have a lie down.

* Fifteen Bobsworth Longfellow was an Adelaide academic who wrote instructions for kit-set model products, mainly balsa wood aircraft and submarines which ran on baking powder. The manual included here was for the assembling of a twenty-five-foot aircraft carrier marketed by Myer stores between 1954 and 1960.

Take the pieces from the package,
Lay them out as per the graph,
Gathering the bits you'll need,
Removing what your shouldn't have.
With the implement provided
Ease the bearings to the left,
Push the little angled mullion
Up into the socket 'F'.
This will free the moulded bracket
Holding back the nylon strand,
Draw the slippery hoop and coupling
Through the right-hand rubber-band.
Put the topside brown side outside,
Push the inside upside down,
Underneath the left-hand wingnut,
Press the folding backward crown.
Overlapping lifting side-flaps
Lower in to fit the screws,
Pack up tools, retire to distance,
Don protective hat, light fuse.

Apologies to John Clarke

Didja see it

Tuesday, August 21, 2007



Deep breath, get the cloth.

I heard that the Federal Government wants to hand out parenting dvd's to all new parents from October onwards. What I really think they should offer is taser guns. That'll help them remember to do what they are told.

..... During an act that went horribly awry

you know you are going to click through and read this don't you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

They want me to take some leave

Get this - I've been at work 1 week after being away for 24 weeks and they want me to take some leave, aparently I have accumulated 280hrs

Go figure.

Friday, August 10, 2007

An attractive blond

Well, the wife has gone to bed early tonight, so it's just me, the internet and an attractive blond.

Paper under an electron microscope

check out the paper project.

Whats so unique about me

Alternate title, so why am I called Unique_Stephen and not Mr Wambenger

It's all kind of a non event really. I used to work as a code monkey for a software dev firm that opened an office down in rainy, cultured Melbourne. Because Alex was moving down there from Sydney for work for a few months I took up the opportunity to work in a slightly more senior role and drink Melbourne coffee. Being an IT firm we, of course, couldn't sort out our own IT and our internal mail kept falling over. The firm had the name "unique" in it's title so we all got hotmail accounts in the form unique_[Your Name Here] etc. to use for work.
And that's it really. After they retrenched my arse and closed the office I used the account for anything online that might attract spam in preference to my 'real' account.
No flash of creative inspiration, no searching through Latin dictionaries for fascinating unusual words (that was for the blog title) or geeky 'phiber optik' handle. Now it's like an old hat that fits to well and I can no longer tell if I've changed to fit the name or the name has changed to fit me.
if the hat fits ...
p.s. anybody called Wambenger deserves to die after a year of mating

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I know a secret

Ner ne ner ne ner ner

Monday, August 06, 2007

Back at work

I'm back at work after 5 months being a stay at home dad.

Free at last, Free at last free at last

Saturday, August 04, 2007

A wee spot of fishing

Thanks Patrick for taking me out fishing and thanks especially for catching my dinner.
Patrick is a young guy who lives across the horse paddock just around the lake from mum and dad's place in Tuross. He has a tinny, a 3.3hp 2 stroke and an infectious love of fishing that he sates by heading out in the boat after he's done his homework and with a spot of weekend work in a local fishing shop. If Mark Twain had have had the pleasure Tom Sawyer would have been a biography and not a fictional tail. I very much enjoy his company.
The evening before we left we managed to squeeze in a fishing outing after he came home from school. Tackle, nets, oar, fuel, Motor and accoutrements in the back of car and off we went for the short trip across the hill to Tuross lake. Unlock boat chained to tree, attach and fuel motor chuck in tackle box etc. and wade out pushing boat through shallows to edge of sea grass whilst trying not to do a Steve Irwin.
On previous trips we had fished on soft plastic lours but today Patrick insisted on using live nippers sucked from their homes in the shallow tidal flats so we stopped off on a bar in the middle of a branch of the Tuross river where it enters the deepest part of the lake. Picking our way around the largest of the piles of pelican poo we raced the light to get enough bait together to do battle with leviathans that awaited.
Looking for nippers
looking for nippers
After collecting 60 or so of the little beasts we pushed of and immediately hit a snag - or rather we didn't, we just floated around in the channel like, well, uncannily like a boat with an engine that wont start. Drawing on my manly "man over motor powers" and resorting to the tried and true technique of pulling the lid off and poking a few things the motor spluttered to a start and I retired to my position in the bow and the captain piloted us to his secret fishing spot.
I can say the bait worked like magic. Every time we cast within a minute we were reeling in another brim or small snapper. Problem is they were all about the size of the magnificent trophy I'm holding up in the picture below.

Thanks Patrick

Monday, July 30, 2007

Also reading

The God Delusion and God Is Not Great: The Case Against Religion. Both of which, as an athiest, I find thought provoking and thoroughly articulate my belief, or lack there of.


Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe
In the middle of the sixth century, the world's smallest organism collided with the world's mightiest empire. Twenty-five million corpses later, the Roman Empire, under her last great emperor, Justinian, was decimated. Before Yersinia pestis, the bacterium that carries bubonic plague, was through, both the Rome and Persian empires were easy pickings for the armies of Muhammad on their conquering march out of Arabia. In its wake, the plague - history's first pandemic - marked the transition from the age of Mediterranean empires to the age of European nation-states - from antiquity to the medieval world. "Justinian's Flea" is the story of that collision, a narrative history that weaves together evolutionary microbiology, architecture, military history, geography, rat and flea ecology, jurisprudence, theology, epidemiology, and the economics of the silk trade.

The climax of "Justinian's Flea" - the summer of 542, when Constantinople witnessed the death of 5,000 of its citizens every day - is revealed through the experiences of the remarkable individuals whose lives are a window onto a remarkable age: Justinian himself, of course, but also his doppelganger, the Persian Shah Khusro Anushirvan, whose empire would be so weakened by plague that it essentially vanished; his general Belisarius, the greatest soldier between Caesar and Saladin, whose conquests marked the end of imperial rule in Italy and Africa; his architect, Anthemius, the mathematician-engineer who built Constantinople's Hagia Sophia (and whose brother, Alexander, was the great physician of the plague years); Tribonian, the jurist who created the Justinianic Code, the source of Europe's tradition of Civil Law; and, finally, his empress Theodora, the one-time prostitute who became co-ruler of the empire, the most politically powerful woman in European history until Elizabeth I. Melding contemporary accounts with modern disciplines, "Justinian's Flea" is a unique account of one of history's great hinge moments.

I'm looking forward to reading this one.


I have one question however. If Griphook the goblin took Godric Gryffindor's sword in Gringott's, then how did Neville Longbottom get it from the sorting hat at the end??

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fizzy Cysts and other lancible carbuncles

I have recently learnt that my favourite physicists Dr Steven Boyd is coming home to Australia for a quick visit. You may know him from such papers as "Measurement of neutrino oscillation by the K2K experiment". Now you may think your smart because you can count your change in your head and know if the shopkeeper is ripping you off but no matter how smart you think you are this guy is smarter. For his day job, when not lecturing, Steve is firing beams of particles through mountains in an attempt to determine whether neutrinos oscillate in the same way as antineutrinos which may illuminate one of the most perplexing questions in physics : why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe? He has worked at the University of Washington in Seattle, on the K2K neutrino oscillation experiment in Japan, at the KEK laboratory and with the Super Kamiokande detector (also in Japan) and at Fermilab and is now trying to topple the Standard Model at the University of Warwick.
He also loves a good strong ale and I look forward to chatting with him over one soon.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Surveyors of destruction

The white destroyers have been making regular visits in the morning. They used to graze out the back of the house on the grass that, due to the plumbing work, no longer exists. They seem so smug - something about the tilt of their head or the jaunt of a wing that seems to say - look at this wreck, arrrrhhhhhhhhh - sucker -

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My hands are a bit sore

It probably has something to do with going indoor climbing last night. about 20 years ago I used to climb a few times a week and trained seriously in the gym. I'd head up to the blue mountains with friends most weekends and spent most of my holidays looking for exciting vertical challenges. My life revolved around climbing, uni and dance clubs, but mostly climbing.
Over the years my strength to weight ratio has lost ground to my girth to weight ratio. My flexibility has been eroded by arthritis and probably most damaging - I no longer care how I look in my climbing tights.
Needless to say my lifestyle has changed over the years, I no longer keep in contact with my climbing buddies and no longer self identify as 'a climber'.
Last night for the first time in too many years I went climbing. I sucked. Sean and Andrew were very nice about it, but I sucked.
We are hoping to make this a regular occurrence, so the only way is up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

You know its a European car when ...

you see a light on the dash you've never seen before warning you that there may be frost on the road. In one of the coldest Sydney days in July in 20 years (its much colder where we are up on the ridges in the north west) our little Ford Focus attentively alerted Alex to the bleeding obvious. Bless those busy little German engineers

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Woman plummeted 1,200 metres into a lake of molten lava.

I'm not sure if this would be a good or a bad way to die, but it sure is unusual.

Favourite quotes

My Favourite quote today was

Daddy - this toast is not fantastic.

Seems that there is no pleasing some people.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Happy solstice

Woad is me.

p.s. Adrian began crawling today

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

In other news

Adrian pulled / hauled himself up to standing in the bath today. His first unaided stand.

Cosmology 101

Said in the car on the way to school - Daddy Daddy look, the sun is following me in the car. It's following me, it is.

Said at school when we dropped her of - Are you taking Baby Adrian home now for a sleep you are because its dark at home and you sleep too daddy because the sun is here at school it followed me and its dark at home and you will sleep at home because its dark it is.

So there you go Copernicus - the sun is not the centrer of the universe, Annalise is.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Who ate all the pies?

Dear Agony Aunt,

My 2.5 year old has started to chant this at every opportunity. I am not sure what to do.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Too many potatoes

I bought too many potatoes.
Anybody know any good recipes?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Flotsam and jetsam

The flooding is easing, albeit with some spectacular detritus. One of my workmates captured these extraordinary pictures.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Of droughts and flooding rains

Dorothea Mackeller was a true Aussie. She waxed lyrical with an astounding prescience about the drought/flood nature of this continent then up and left the place for greener pastures in an attempt to found a socialist utopia in Paraguay.

The drought breaking rains that inspired her pen and are currently giving my garden a drink have, so far, killed 9, including a family with kids swept into an instant gorge - just add water - and washed a bulk carrier up onto a beach. I pity the poor bastard that stepped out of his car into the gutter and got sweeped away into a storm water drain.

My Country
The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of rugged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze…

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Pad Thai

Pad Thai, [pʰat tʰai], noun.
A boring noodle dish used to pad out otherwise good Thai food.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I managed to visit a buddy

It seems rather hard to get away from the house these days but I did manage to get out and catch up with Rowena - an old uni buddy the other day. Her little man, Ryan, is a few months younger than Annalise. We had a lovley lunch, thanks Ro', even if I didn't bring the promised tea cake. She more than made up for my poor form by treating me to the previous nights leftovers (thanks Pat).

When is it too early to start kids on full strength beer?

Australians only to answer please.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The destruction is almost total

This is where we usually hang up our cloths:
And this is our front yard:

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

I just got drunk dialled

It's been so long since I posted that Jen rang me to see if I was still on the planet !!!!! Fantastic to hear your voice. Funny accent tho'.

Got a crying baby - got to go. I'll post on the trip down to the south coast soon, no really I will.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Living in a construction site

All the sewer pipes in our town house complex are being replaced as the old ones are so crap that some people are quite literally living in shit.
I'm on the body cooperate and have just come home from a - well lets say a 'robust' meeting trying to plan what happens next in trying to 'make good' the gardens, retaining walls, lights, paths and paving.
The work is being done with a small excavator and no effort has been spared to kill, crush and destroy any living thing in its path.
Services have faired no better with the phones having been cut, and the power and the water (twice). The photo above is of the main water pipe in the complex with a tractor sticking out of it as seen from my study window.
Annalise is kind of fond of the 'digger'.