31 December 2007

New shirts for Eric

Eric likes bright tropical shirts, but only in cotton. Suitable shirts are hard to find around here (the bright ones are usually synthetic fabrics), so on the rare occasions that we're in a town where we can find a store with a good range of fabrics, we look for suitable ones. On the last trip to Mackay, we stopped in at Spotlight, where Eric found five fabrics that caught his eye (and that I approved of). I haven't done any serious sewing for years, but I did get a new sewing machine a year or so ago, so I got to work and have now produced three shirts. Here is Eric modelling them. The first one looks very Christmas-like in red and green, but the green bits are coconut palms. My favourite is the last one, with the dark blue.

30 December 2007

My editors' website was hacked!

Today I discovered that my technical editors' website had been hacked sometimes in the past few days. All my pages got turned into blog posts, and a bunch of spam sites were listed on the blogroll. <sigh> Damage control time! At least everything appeared to be there, even if it was goofed up. I fixed the blogroll easily, and then figured out how to edit the database and change the designation of the pages from "post" back to "page". Fortunately, Dreamhost provides easy access to tools for editing the database. The hardest part was remembering my login name and password combination for the database (different from the FTP login).

29 December 2007

Marina construction update

We've had a lot of rain this week as well as king tides, so the holes dug in the bay are full of water, despite the best efforts of some heavy-duty pumps to keep up. The section they've been building up in preparation for construction has some large, but not deep, puddles. Good thing all the digging equipment had been brought in to high ground, or a lot of it would be well underwater by now.

28 December 2007

Christmas events

Eric and I had a pleasant but uneventful Christmas as home, indoors with the air-conditioning on because it was over 30C and very humid on both the 25th and 26th. I had cooked half a turkey (all that will fit in my tiny oven) on the 24th, so we had a nice meal instead of our usual snacks. I even put a tablecloth on the table for the occasion. ;-) On Thursday rain started before dawn, and continued for two days with few breaks. We recorded more than 150mm here, but we know it was more because overnight the rain gauge overflowed. The big hole that's been dug in the bay below us filled up with muddy runoff water and is now a lake, despite the best efforts of several large industrial pumps. Good thing the workers brought all of their diggers and trucks in to high ground before they left for the Christmas break; otherwise, several would be well submerged by now. I'm hoping to put some photos on this blog soon. Also on Thursday, my oven stopped working. Good timing, waiting until after the turkey was cooked! The top burners still work fine, but the oven doesn't heat. Fortunately there is a similar oven in Eric's kitchen, so we can use it if we need to. We think the problem is a broken switch, but as the oven is 10 years old and was cheap to begin with, I won't even investigate whether it can be fixed; I'm glad to have an excuse to buy a new one.

23 December 2007

Recent reading

I've been catching up a bit on my reading of science fiction. Lately I've been working my way through several volumes of collected "best of the year" books. Yesterday and today's reading was the "Year's Best SF 8" collection, edited by David Hartwell. The stories were published in 2002. I was mildly surprised that I enjoyed (or at least found interesting) most of them; often I don't. One of the stories really made me laugh: Robert Onopa's "Geropods", first published in F&SF. I loved the premise; a geropod is a legal entity that constitutes a full human being: "any group of infirm old people whose combined physical and mental capacities constitute the powers of a single, competent individual is collectively entitled to act as an individual". So a group of men "escape" from a nursing home (to which some, if not all, of them have been involuntarily committed) by forming a geropod and hiring a younger man with a large vehicle to drive them around. Their original purpose was to get even with the son-in-law of one of the members of the group, who had got the older man been declared incompetent and taken over control of his assets; but during their adventures, they meet another geropod ("babes!") and form some friendships... for a 14-page story, there was a lot in it.

21 December 2007

Marina construction update

After working feverishly the past few days to tidy up the flat area visible in this photo, it looks like the construction crew will be taking the usual two-week Christmas break, because they've lined all of their equipment up near the road, presumably so the security people can keep an eye on it more easily.

20 December 2007

Marina construction update

This photo shows most of the earthmoving equipment digging out what will eventually be the yacht harbour of the marina. Six of the seven dump trucks are visible, along with diggers, graders, and other equipment. Much of the dirt is being moved to this spot, which will eventually have a hotel and other buildings constructed on it.

14 December 2007

All's well with the new hip joints

Yesterday I saw the orthopedic surgeon for a 5-week checkup on my right hip. He said I am doing very well and now have no restrictions on what I am allowed to do (except "no jumping, running, or other impact stress on the hips" for the rest of my life). Mainly my task now is to do as much walking and other exercise as possible, to strengthen the leg muscles on the right side, and then to get both legs back to my former level of fitness. He gave me another exercise to do, to help me stop limping when I walk.

09 December 2007

I love the iPod Touch

Eric recently bought an iPod Touch. I didn't think I would like it at all, but I love it! I thought it would be really difficult to read things on the screen, but it does such cool things with the display of web pages that they are actually readable, and Google has a "Google mobile" mode that makes using Gmail easy and even Google Docs are not bad. It connects by wifi to the internet. Typing is tedious (though not nearly as bad as typing on a the keypad of a typical mobile phone), but the rest of it is fantastic. I haven't tried to watch a movie on it, but then I almost never watch movies at all. And I rarely listen to music, so the ubiquitous "music everywhere" aspects of an iPod have never interested me. But the possibility of doing my email and websurfing on this thing on my travels, instead of lugging along a laptop computer (unless I expect to want or need to do a lot of typing), are most tempting. (The iPhone isn't available in Australia yet.)

08 December 2007

Brats: Our Journey Home

I recently bought a documentary film titled Brats: Our Journey Home. It's about growing up as an American "military brat". It was totally fascinating (to me). Some of the topics reminded me of things I had long forgotten about life on a military base and in a military family; others I remembered all too well. The main point of the film was the effects of our childhood on us "brats" as adults and our outlook on life and our ways of coping and relating to people and work and life in general, in comparison to the general population. I had worked out long ago for myself most of what they said, but it was interesting to learn that some of my experiences and reactions were more general than I had previously thought.

03 December 2007

Marina construction update

On the 30th and the 1st we had some real gully-washer thunderstorms: about 50mm (2 inches) of rain in less than half an hour each time. The next day, the diggers, trucks, graders, and other construction equipment in the marina area were busily moving more tons of dirt into the extensive puddles left by the weekend's rains. I've been mildly disappointed that so far no equipment seems to have got bogged in the mud, as it's quite entertaining to watch them extricating bogged items. Here are some photos of the latest stage of work.

29 November 2007

Medical progress

Today I walked down and up 15 steps without using either crutch or cane (though holding on to the railing with one hand), and putting only one foot on each step in the normal manner (instead of putting one foot on the step and then putting the other foot on the same step. Thus I leaped several stages of recovery in one bound! Incredible. I'm still limping/lurching a bit as I walk (apparently due to tight muscles on the right leg) but that seems to be improving daily too. I feel about 10 years younger than I did a few months ago.

27 November 2007

Five years with OpenOffice.org!

I just realised that I joined the OpenOffice.org (OOo) project five years ago. I got my first copy of OOo (1.0.1) in late August 2002 and joined the Documentation list on 4 December of that year, while working on what was to become my first self-published book on the topic (Taming OpenOffice.org). In mid-2003 I met Daniel Carrera online and joined the OOoAuthors project (producing user documentation for OOo), and in September 2003 Daniel recruited me as lead editor for OOoAuthors, where I've been volunteering ever since. Wow! How times flies. It is time for me to move on from OOo to something else. I've become somewhat bored with the routine, even though I'm also very happy with the way things have been going at OOo. Over the past 6 months, the new team at OOo Documentation seem to be embracing the resources at OOoAuthors (people, website and user guides) with enthusiasm, and several grass-roots initiatives (for example the wiki and a new user forum) have really taken off. So I feel I can now leave and things will keep chugging along well without me... though I am disappointed that I never managed to get a Calc Guide finished (I just don't know enough to write all the missing bits myself, like I did with Writer). So I'm telling both OOoAuthors and the OOo Documentation Project that I'll be winding down my activities by the end of 2007. I plan to continue producing the printed copies of OOoAuthors books through Lulu.com in my role as publisher at Friends of OpenDocument Inc. Perhaps I'll have time to expand those publishing activities to include books on other software or even translations of the existing books—of course that depends on someone writing the books or providing the translations.

24 November 2007

A bird comes to visit

A lot of birds visit our balcony. Mostly they are the common local birds like cockatoos and lorikeets, but occasionally something unusual stops by. I must get out the bird book and try to identify this one. Two of them turned up early one evening and stayed long enough for us to take photos, most of which turned out badly.

20 November 2007

New Avalook website goes live

Although many pages of my Australian travel website (Avalook) have yet to be moved into WordPress, I've made the site live. Pages that have been updated are in the new (WordPress) style, and the others are still visible but in the previous (home-grown) style. I decided that if I waited until I had moved all the pages into Wordpress, the new site would never go live... or at least not for another year or more... not least because I'm more interested in getting some photo albums done and online too.

18 November 2007

Medical costs

I saw the full bill from the hospital (charged to my medical fund) for the right hip operation: just under $12,500. That includes the 4-night hospital stay, operating theatre fees, and the implant itself, but doesn't include the surgeon's and anaesthetists' fees (approx another $5,000, most of which is also covered by my medical fund). Presumably the other hip cost about the same except for one extra day in hospital. I suspect this is somewhat less than a comparable operation would cost in the USA.

17 November 2007

Medical progress

The staples were removed yesterday from the incision in my leg, using a staple puller much like those I'm familiar with from business offices. The surgeon says I can pretty much do whatever I want instead of sticking to the list of restrictions on activities (designed for the "average patient"). The fact that I walked into his office without using any crutch or cane, 10 days after the operation, probably didn't hurt my case any. Mind you, my "walk" at the moment has a fair amount of stagger and lurch in it, but that should improve rapidly. The only rule is: if it hurts, stop doing it. Sitting at the keyboard for any length of time makes my hip ache (not bad, but noticeable), so I'm using that as an excuse to spend more time in my recliner chair reading novels. I continue to have very little pain (in contrast to the first operation), other than a brief bout on Wednesday night which succumbed to high-strength prescription painkillers and has not returned.

13 November 2007

Marina construction update

More earth movement. I wonder how many tonnes are being shifted? Much of the construction site looks to me like an open-cut mine, including the small mining trucks being used to shift the dirt.

12 November 2007

More hip hooray!

On 6 November I had my right hip replaced. The surgeon, hospital, and device used were the same as for the left hip, but the two experiences were otherwise very different. The second seems to have taken place in an alternate universe to the first... one that for the most part I found much more to my liking. The anaesthetist was a different person and he took a different approach, using different drugs. Probably this was his standard approach, but the choice may have been influenced by the complaints I had made about inadequate pain relief following the first operation. I remained in the recovery room for an hour or more and was returned to my room (where Eric was waiting) around 6 pm., having gone in to pre-op around 1:30. I felt okay but very spacey. Over the next 12 hours I experienced some quite entertaining hallucinations, mainly of the parts of the room moving around in several dimensions whenever I tried to focus on some­thing. The effect was most pronounced when I looked at my travel clock to see what time it was; the clock face would strobe forward and back so it was impossible to focus on. Other than that, I felt fine. One thing that had con­cerned me was the possibility of a repeat of the severe pain I’d had on getting my own blood transfused back into me. The surgeon avoided this possibility by doing the transfusion during the operation itself. For the first time in my life (except perhaps as a very small child), I reacted to the anaesthetic drugs by being unable to keep any food down. Most disconcerting! Normally I can eat soon after waking up, with no ill effects. I found it quite odd that I felt perfectly fine otherwise. The next day, after receiving an infusion (through the drip) of some anti-vomiting drug, I was able to eat. I felt little pain during the day or that night (unlike after the previous operation). The physiotherapist had me up and walking in place that afternoon. On Thursday morning, after the surgeon had inspected me, a nurse removed the drains and I went into the shower (using the crutches, not the walker) and demonstrated that I could get around on the crutches just fine. The physiotherapist rewarded my progress by having me practice going up and down a step 10 times. In the evening I went for a walk around the hospital corridors and met another of my surgeon's patients: a man who’d had a knee replacement operation on Monday. He said he was having both hips and both knees replaced, at about three-month intervals: right hip 3 months ago, left knee this week, right knee in January, left hip 3 months after that. He was making a good pace and said that by the next day he thought he wouldn’t need the crutches at all. Saturday the dressing was removed from the incision and we drove home. I had no problem getting into the car, despite the passenger seat being on the wrong side for putting my good leg in first. I was still experiencing a remarkable lack of pain. I almost immedi­ately stopped needing two crutches and was getting around fine on one... and in some cases (in the kitchen or the bathroom) not using a crutch at all.

04 November 2007

Grumpy old woman shirt

I've been trying to find a "Grumpy Old Woman" t-shirt, but have been able to find only "Grumpy Old Man". The GOW website has a selection of shirts, but none of them say "Grumpy Old Woman". So, when Eric spotted GOM shirts going for a low price, he bought two of them for me. I then got a bottle of white fabric paint and edited the writing on the shirt. Here is the result. (I'm taking it with me to the hospital to amuse the nurses.)

03 November 2007

Mobile phone as modem

One goal I had for my new mobile phone was to be able to use it as a modem to connect the computer to the internet using Bluetooth under Ubuntu. It was easy to get the phone and the computer to recognise each other's existence, but I was stumped on the next step. So I asked for help on the Australian Ubuntu users' list and several people answered, each giving me a different piece of the puzzle: one helped me get the Bluetooth connection working, one gave me a set of scripts to do the dialing, and one had some other hints and tips to make my life easier. I don't know what age group(s) these guys are in, but I asked them to explain how to do things "like you would explain it to your grandmother" and they did a fine job, even the one who started out talking in incomprehensible (to me) geek-speak. I followed their instructions carefully and on my first test -- IT WORKED! I won't actually use the mobile phone as a modem except as a last resort, because of the costs involved and its slower speed compared to our home broadband connection, though the phone company does have a monthly data plan I can sign up for at times when I expect to be using it a lot (like next year's planned outback expedition).

31 October 2007

Email on mobile phone

I now have email working to and from my mobile phone, but only through an Australian email address that I almost never use. Of course I can forward other addresses to that one if I want to check all my mail using my phone while I'm in hospital or travelling without the computer. In theory I can also read web pages on the phone itself, but I'd have to be fairly desperate to try that on such a small screen. Next step is to get the phone working as a modem for the computer, for use in remote parts of the country when I can't find some other connection.

25 October 2007

Ubuntu upgrade to Gutsy (7.10)

I upgraded to Ubuntu 7.10 ("Gutsy Gibbon") last night. OpenOffice.org and Thunderbird both stopped working. Probably not coincidentally, those are the two programs where I had been using versions that I self-installed (because I wanted a more recent one than was in the repository). Spent some time solving those problems. I installed Thunderbird from the repository and it works, so that's good. OpenOffice.org was more of a problem. Previously both my self-installed OOo and the one that came with Ubuntu worked; after the Ubuntu upgrade both versions of OOo crashed continuously and in the same way. A bit of research revealed that many people are having the same problem, but the cures vary a bit. I finally uninstalled both versions of OOo and reinstalled the one from the repository, after which that one worked fine. It's not ideal for my work writing documentation, because the icon set is different from the standard OOo set, but that's of minor importance because someone else is now redoing all the screen captures in a consistent style for the OOoAuthors books. Other than those problems (now solved), everything seems to work okay. I checked things like the DVD player to make sure it hadn't also broken, but it was fine.

24 October 2007

New mobile phone

I got a new mobile phone. I didn't want one, but the CDMA phone system here is being replaced early in 2008 by something called NextG (for Next Generation: how Star Trek-ish!) so I had to get a different handset. I've been putting off getting one until the phone company offered me both an acceptable phone (the early models didn't have various features I wanted) and an inducement that appealed to me. A month or two ago they started offering a Nokia 6120classic phone with the Symbian operating system and all the features I wanted (as well as lots of other features of no interest to me). This week I received their latest inducement offer: $100 credit on my phone bill, so I decided to go ahead and make the switch. The phone has more features than many of my former computers and my cameras. I'm sure I'll never use most of them! I spent some time with the instruction book, learning a few of the most-needed features.

15 October 2007

Expatriates voting in US elections

I just learned that I can vote in the US Federal elections next year! I had always thought that I couldn't, but apparently the law was changed a few years ago. Now Americans living temporarily or permanently abroad can claim as their "voting residence" the state in which they last voted in the US, whether or not they ever intend to return to that state, or have any other connection to it (property, business, etc), and registering to vote does NOT carry any obligation to file a tax return in that state. This information was sent to me in a note from the "Voting Assistance Officer" at the US Consulate in Sydney, which referred me to the Federal Voting Assistance Program's website. It's really interesting how things have changed: for many years I got the distinct impression that the US government actively made it difficult for people to vote if they lived abroad; now they are actively encouraging and helping people. I haven't decided yet whether to register or not. Meanwhile, a date for the Australian federal election has finally been announced: 24 November. The campaign has been going on unofficially for several months now, so it's good to finally have a date set. The "news" during election campaigns is even more boring and tedious than usual.

12 October 2007

Marina construction update

Vast amounts of digging and moving of dirt is going on.

04 October 2007

Hip + related medical stuff

Trip to Mackay today: the surgeon says I'm doing very well. I walked in without using a cane or crutch, so I suppose that helped. We filled out the paperwork for the next operation, so that's all organised for 6 November. This time we'll stockpile only 2 units of blood instead of 3, and the surgeon has agreed that unless I really, really need the blood, I won't get it back (because of the bad reaction I had last time). He thinks I might have had a reaction to one of the additives; the risk of another bad reaction isn't worth it for a routine transfusion. I had gone in prepared to argue that point rather strongly, but I'm very glad that I didn't need to. I also mentioned the muscle cramps I've been having intermittently in the operated leg, and he said (a) that's normal and (b) his recommended treatment is to drink tonic water, the kind with quinine in it (he said many brands remove the quinine, so I need to check the label). I said "I suppose I shouldn't be too generous with the gin" and he laughed. Lastly, I asked about the edema in my left knee and he said (a) that's normal, (b) be patient as it will eventually go away and (c) pressure stockings might help. We had quite a long chat about this and that, because his next appointment had cancelled so he had plenty of time. For example, we talked about how much people differ in their reactions to chemicals. He said he had always disbelieved the idea that food dyes caused behavioural problems in children -- until one of his own children showed unmistakable symptoms that could be correlated precisely with comsuming certain processed foods and soft drinks. His other child shows no symptoms whatsoever from eating or drinking the same items. Afterwards Eric and I stopped at the blood bank to drop off paperwork, and I chatted with the head nurse there about my reaction to the transfusion last time. She showed us the list of additives used in their blood storage packets; Eric will be looking them up on the Internet later. After that, we went to the store in Mackay that sells Apple computers, so Eric could look at the new 24-inch iMac. It has a shiny, very reflective screen, which he doesn't think he'll like.

03 October 2007

Marina construction update

Most of the water has now been pumped out of the enclosed area and the mud is drying. As these photos show, digging equipment is removing the mud from some areas and dumping it in other parts of the site. Under the gray mud (which varies in depth) is a layer of clay or other (brown) dirt, which is being used to construct access roads (probably temporary). Lots of dust and noise is coming from this work. It's slightly better than the pounding noises when the metal barriers were being hammered into the dirt, but the beep-beep-beep of the backup warning signals on the trucks and other equipment is seriously tedious.

02 October 2007

Technical editors' website redesigned

After months of off-and-on work on my editors' website (setting it up in WordPress), I've finally got it to the point that I'm ready to reveal it to the world. And so I have! http://www.jeanweber.com/newsite/ The design (template) breaks in Internet Explorer. I don't have the time or energy to figure out how to fix that. I'm no longer doing this professionally, or with a view to attracting clients, so I've decided to be bloody-minded about it. I put a note on the first page that says "get a browser that supports standards". Some pages are out of date, so I still have a lot of maintenance work to do, but at least the major conversion work is done... except for the old newsletters, which will gradually be converted or absorbed into the main site.

15 September 2007

Marina construction update

Here are some recent photos of the marina construction going on below us. For some weeks the construction site has resembled an open-cut mine, which in a way it is. The area to be deepened has been enclosed and the water is being pumped out. Digging equipment and trucks (exactly like those used at open-cut coal mines and other mines) are trans­ferring mud, dirt, and rocks from one area to another that is being built up for eventual use as housing, a resort, a boat terminal, and so on. The dust and noise are quite impressive. This sequence goes from left to right across the bay.

07 September 2007

Hip: staples out, all well

Eric drove me to Mackay yesterday to have the surgeon remove the 17 impressive-large staples from my leg. His camera failed at the critical moment, so I don't have any photos of the instruments used, but they were a set of needle-nosed wire snips (almost identical to the ones Eric uses for electronic work) and tweezers. The surgeon said all is going very well and I can have the other hip done whenever I want. We agreed on November 6th, assuming all is still well at my next checkup on October 4th. I'm using only one crutch now, and getting around the apartment quite well, albeit very slowly. Now I can carry my own cup of tea, or plate of dinner, from the kitchen to the table. I'm trying to walk around as much as possible, as well as doing the set of exercises the physio gave me, to strengthen the leg as much as possible. Unfortunately, the pain in the other leg is hampering these efforts a bit. We discovered that the before-and-after x-rays were on CD as well as film, so here are some images. Before: After:

01 September 2007

Hip hooray!

Had the operation on 27 August as scheduled. Arrived at the hospital at 10:30, filled out paperwork, showered, donned one of those fetching hospital gowns (and a reasonable bathrobe), and sat around waiting for quite awhile after unpacking a bit in my assigned room. At around 1:30 pm I was wheeled away, bed and all, to pre-op, where I remained for only a few minutes before being taken in to the operating theatre. I was returned to my room around 5:30 p.m., more than an hour later than expected. The surgeon explained later that the x-rays had shown I needed a size 1 hip socket replacement. However I actually needed a size 0, the smallest one. I assume they had to get one from stocks and sterilise it before finishing the operation. I was fully awake, and Eric says I was showing good spirit on my return, despite a drip, two drains, a catheter, a pressure cuff on each lower leg (squeezing at half-minute intervals), an oxygen tube in my nose, and a heap of monitor gear connected to me. I wasn't exactly comfortable, but neither was there much pain. However, when the nurses started transfusing my own blood back into me around 9 p.m., I suddenly had considerable pain in my hand. Indeed, I let out an involuntary shriek that probably could be heard through the entire hospital. Opinions varied on what the problem was, so everyone spent some time adjusting the drip rate, adjusting the position of my hand, and so on. The only thing that helped was a slow drip rate (55 ml/hour max). Unfortunately, that wasn’t one of the choices: a rate of 150ml/hr was required to get all the blood into me before it warmed up to the point where it had to be discarded. Eventually a shot of morphine reduced the pain to a tolerable level and they managed to get two units of my own blood into me. In the morning I felt fairly good, all things considered. The physiotherapist arrived in the afternoon to get me standing and then walking in place. Apart from an incident on the second night when I had to argue rather vehemently with the nursing staff for adequate pain relief, the staff were friendly, helpful, and at times quite amusing. The food ranged from good to excellent. I had a private room. It’s mainly a day surgery; few patients remain overnight and the place is remarkably quiet. The surgeon visited several times a day (his office was at one end of the corridor, and the operating theatres were at the other end). Almost as soon as I was detached from an amazing amount of postoperative torture devices, and less than 48 hours after the operation, I was doing laps around the hospital hallways on crutches and practicing stair-climbing. I got home today. I'm getting around on the crutches well, and didn't have any trouble getting up the 35 steps from the carpark to the apartment (veeery slowly). I'm allowed to stop using two crutches or even one crutch as soon as I feel confident that I don't need them. BTW, the crutches are a type called "Canadian" and they are very comfortable to use, with a moulded hand grip.

08 August 2007

More hip problems

Ten days ago my left leg took a turn for the worse (nerve pinch in hip, apparently) and Hurts Like Hell much of the time, despite various medical treatments and codeine tablets (fortunately available without a prescription here in Australia). I've been spending most of my time lying in bed, although that isn't always an improvement over sitting up. Eric has reorganized my desk so I can lie in a recliner chair, type, and use the big monitor. The distraction of working is good for me, though the codeine makes my brain fuzzy at times. Monday we went to Mackay for the first round of blood collection (in prep for the op). To my surprise and relief, riding in the car was less uncomfortable than sitting in any of my chairs (or lying in bed) at home! So I made it there and back, and the bloodletting went okay (no dizziness or whatever, not that I expected any). I've phoned the surgeon's office and suggested that, given the change in my left leg, I'd like to have that hip done first. I have an appointment with him next Monday (when I go to Mackay for the second blood collection) to discuss this and fill in some more paperwork.

23 July 2007

Hip surgery plans

I saw the surgeon today and liked both him and the private hospital. He confirmed that both hips need replacement, and opined that the pain in the left knee is probably caused by problems in the left hip, so most likely replacing that hip would fix the knee as well. I liked the surgeon: he was very straightforward, no nonsense, but pleasant. Not a hint of "talking down" to me, and answered questions with what I considered an appropriate level of technicality (not too much nor too little). And there was no delay getting in to see him at the time of my appointment -- somewhat unusual in my experience with specialists. The hospital is small and does mostly day surgery. Most of the 25 or 30 rooms are private. It does not have any cafeteria or food service other than what the hospital provides, so Eric will have to pack a lunch when he comes to visit. I am having the first operation (on the right hip) on Monday, 27 August (5 weeks from today), and the date for the other one will be decided later. I may be able to have that 2-3 months after the first, depending on how quickly I recover. I am going to be very impatient for the next 5 weeks to pass! One reason that I can't have the first operation sooner is that they want to stockpile 3 units of my own blood to use in transfusions during the operation, and I can only give 1 unit each week. This means Eric will have to drive me to Mackay (2 hours each way) one day a week for the 3 weeks before the operation, to have blood taken. Unfortunately there are no facilities closer to home to handle this type of blood donation. I received a packet of information from the company that produces the replacement hip. This info included a DVD of post-surgery exercises, which I am still going through, and a credit-card-sized card with the patient's and surgeon's names, date of operation, etc, for me to keep in my wallet to show to security people at airports and other checkpoints. Eric and I stayed Sunday night with friends in Mackay. Turns out that K had built the surgeon's swimming pool last year. Small town!

11 July 2007

More laptop progress

Today I got the DVD player working, using VLC. This involved a bit of mucking around, since some of the necessary software isn't hosted (for legal reasons) on the Ubuntu website. Once I found the (very good) instructions, which included where to find the s/w (on a site called Medibuntu.sos-sts.com, for "Media, Entertainment, and Distractions in Ubuntu"), the rest was easy. Not that I watch DVDs very often, but it's nice to know I can. I had not managed to get the DVD player working under the earlier version of Ubuntu, but that might just be that I didn't put enough effort into finding what I needed (I never found Medibunt before today).

09 July 2007

New laptop

I wasn't going to buy a new laptop, really I wasn't. But -- as has happened before -- Dell had a sale of just what I wanted, so I gave in and purchased both a laptop (much smaller than my others) and a new monitor (much larger than my other one). The laptop is an XPS M1210, relatively lightweight but with all sorts of goodies on it, some of which may be more challenging to get working under Linux than others. The monitor is a 24" one with lots of USB and other ports. Later I'll look up the specs or post a link for those of you who want to know all the technical details. I repartitioned the hard drive for dual-boot and a shared partition with Windows, installed Ubuntu 7.04, installed the Nvidia driver for Ubuntu, installed the printer, and got the big monitor working with it (as the main monitor, not a second monitor; it came right up when I installed the Nvidia driver). Most of my data files have been copied over, though there are a few things still to set up (shared Thunderbird files, for example). I'm delighted to report that Ubuntu's installation from the desktop CD has improved with each release, and several things that I previously had to do manually are now handled by the installer -- like enabling the wireless networking (it was detected like the ethernet and just worked, no drama), switching between wireless and ethernet (automatic), mounting the shared drive (no more manual editing of fstab!), and some other things that I forget. It was a good distro for newbies before, but now it's even better -- I feel much more confident now that I can hand a CD to someone (except the totally clueless) and they would be able to install it successfully without assistance.

22 June 2007

Cold weather

We just had the coldest June day on record, or something like that. Cold, here in the tropics, is of course relative (a Minnesotan would laugh), but the high was somewhere around 15C and it rained off and on too. Every store in the area sold out of space heaters several days ago (except for some large, expensive ones) -- this was a "hot" topic on the local evening news. It's not too bad indoors, but I am wearing my outdoor jacket and my hiking boots as well as long pants and several layers of shirts and sweatshirts. I've dug out every blanket and quilt I can find and put them on the bed; good thing we have cold-night camping gear! I even managed to find in my hoard of stuff a long-sleeved, warm nightgown, though if this keeps up I may opt for sweatshirt-and-sweatpants in lieu of winter pajamas.

13 June 2007

Australian National Science Fiction Convention

Eric and I flew to Melbourne on 6 June, a few days before the Australian National Science Fiction Convention being held there over the Queens Birthday weekend of 8-10 June. We had a great time catching up with old friends, attending book launches by old and new friends, and wandering around part of Melbourne. One night I gave a demonstration of OpenOffice.org to the Victorian group of the ASTC (Australian Society for Technical Communication). In the process of answering some questions, I discovered some changes in the user interface that I hadn't noticed before. (I've only been using v2.2 for 10 days or so.) Fortunately they were not changes that I should have written about in the books I had just published. Some days I could walk reasonably comfortably, but other days I couldn't (arthritis). I have an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon next month to discuss surgery, but in the meantime walking is not fun. However, we did wander around the city a bit and discovered a small museum in an old (historic) building that had been preserved when a new modern shopping centre was built around it. In the museum was a display that I had never seen before, but Eric says he saw something similar in the movie Minority Report. Instead of a touch screen, it had an area in front of the display where you waved your hand to point at choices (hold for a few seconds to activate the choice) or move sliders around on the display. It didn't seem to work very well (or maybe I was too quick in my movements or something), but in general it was very cool and fun to play with. I also got to the Birkenstock store and bought a pair of sandals with a heel strap, to supplement the ones I have that don't have a strap. The latter are great for indoors, but I can't drive or walk any distance in them because they often slip off. I learned that I could send my old sandals to Melbourne for repair or to have the sole replaced when the tread is too worn. These shoes cost a lot, but they seem to last forever, and their arch support is very good (a requirement for me). We stayed at the Hotel Grand Chancellor on Lonsdale Street, not far from the convention hotel, the Rydges. The hotel room had broadband (at a price), so I used it a bit. As is typical of too many hotels, the room had very few electrical outlets, and those few were poorly located. Even though there was a desk with a decent lamp and an ethernet cable, it had no spare electrical outlets anywhere nearby; the only ones were behind the bed, which is along a different wall, some distance away. Considering that everyone these days wants to charge a mobile phone (if not a laptop computer), this is definitely user-unfriendly! I could have unplugged the lamp to plug in the laptop, but I didn't want to be hassled with climbing under the desk all the time. So Eric bought a cheap 4-outlet powerboard from an office-supply place at the corner. We usually bring a powerboard with us, but this time we forgot.

23 May 2007

OpenOffice.org Impress Guide published

Today I published a new OpenOffice.org book in the OOoAuthors series: the Impress Guide. Michele Zarri (from Italy) and I researched and wrote most of it. I learned a lot of useful things about presentations while writing it. I use Impress occasionally but had never taken the time to learn more than the absolute basics. Free PDFs are at http://documentation.openoffice.org/manuals/oooauthors2/ Printed copies can be purchased here: http://www.lulu.com/opendocument

18 May 2007

Another live WordPress website

Friends of OpenDocument's new website just went live. http://friendsofopendocument.com/ I learned lots more things about WordPress while doing this site, because I wanted to turn the old news items into blog entries and I had to tweak the template to show the blog info on the static pages. I was really happy to find a theme that had almost the same colours that I had used in the original site, so the existing logo fit right in. I just had to tweak the colour for the header background a tiny bit to match the logo. I'm also quite pleased that I was able to figure out so many things without asking anyone, just searching the web for info.

17 May 2007

Taming OfficeOrg.com website redesigned

My first WordPress-based website is now live: http://taming-openoffice-org.com/ It still needs some tweaking (both the content and the navigation), but I'm generally happy with it. I learned a lot working on it, tweaking the CSS and some of the PHP files (especially the header and sidebar). I never want to use a template or theme the way it was originally designed! ;-) I read a lot of how-to's and other online info to get as far as I did. I found some WordPress extensions that have helped a lot, but it's obvious that I need to learn a lot more about PHP to be able to do much more personal customizing. As I expected, this WordPress-based site is much easier to keep up-to-date than the old site was. I'm thinking about adding a blog for OOo-related topics, but considering how rarely I blog on any topic, I'm not sure it's worth doing. Meanwhile, I've started working on the updated site for Friends of OpenDocument. I chose Taming and Friends as the first sites to convert, because they have smaller amounts of existing content compared to my other websites. I'm really keen on revising Avalook and Technical Editors' Eyrie, despite the huge number of pages, but I want to learn what I'm doing with something less daunting. I've found really nice-looking templates for those two sites, so that's encouraging me to get to them soon.

15 May 2007

I love my cleaning robots!

Today I used the vacuuming robot again. I am getting better at using the remote control to get it to go into places it had missed. We moved most of the chairs and other furniture out of its way. It is much more efficient when it doesn't keep running into things. (What a surprise!) Then we ran the floor-washing robot for the first time. It did a really good job, and the water in its tank (when it was done washing the floor) was impressively dirty. It only missed a couple of spots, and one of those was something sticky that it couldn't dissolve. So we are really happy with these gadgets, but moving everything out of the way is almost as much work as doing the cleaning myself. I should take a lot of the stuff off the floor (things that aren't furniture) and put it somewhere else, so perhaps this will encourage me to be more tidy. Perhaps.

10 May 2007

Grace Hopper Scholarships for Celebration of Women in Computing

This came in from the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology. The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing (GHC) conference is a program of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI) and is co-presented with the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), happening October 17-20, in Orlando, Florida. The online scholarship application for Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing is now available. Scholarships will cover conference registration (which includes most meals), lodging, and an upper limit for airfare based on the geographic region of the applicant. GHC Student Scholarships are made possible by the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology through generous grants from the National Science Foundation and Google. Apply Now! Deadline for applications submissions is June 11, 2007. Background info: The Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing 2007 is the seventh in a series of conferences designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Presenters are leaders in their respective fields, representing industrial, academic and government communities. Leading researchers present their current work, while special sessions focus on the role of women in today's technology fields, including computer science, information technology, research and engineering.

Past Grace Hopper Celebrations have resulted in collaborative proposals, networking, mentoring, and increased visibility for the contributions of women in computing. This year's theme is "I Invent the Future". The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology's website states: "We are women technologists. We use technology to connect our communities. We create technology because it is who we are — intelligent, creative and driven. We lead with compassion and a belief in inclusion. We develop competitive products and find solutions to problems that impact our lives, our nation, our world. Together, through the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology (ABI), we are inventing a better future. Working with men that believe in our mission, we are changing the world for women and technology."

07 May 2007

New webhosting service

This past month I've been moving all my websites from Gisol to Dreamhost. So far I've had no problems with Dreamhost and have been able to find answers to my questions in their support wiki (in significant contrast to my previous hosting service, about which I will say more later). Dreamhost offer what I consider huge amounts of storage space and bandwidth (and unlimited domains) — far more than I need — for a reasonable price. I chose the two-year pre-payment option on their lowest-level hosting plan. I like the fact that they are employee-owned and do not even offer Windows-based hosting. :-) I signed up with them mainly because they offer one-click installation of a lot of software like WordPress that I (as a non-technical user) find a bit daunting, and their help wiki is actually helpful for someone at my level. But they also offer shell access and other stuff for those who want and know how to use them. Reviews suggest that they had some downtime problems last year, but as I am not running a business site, I am less concerned about that then I might otherwise be. As part of the move, I am progressively migrating my websites into WordPress. I'll be writing more about that in a later post.

05 May 2007

Cleaning robots rock!

We haven't tried the Scooba yet, but the Roomba worked quite well for cleaning on tiles. It's a bit noisy but did a good job. Its dust bin filled up rather rapidly when it went under the bed into the "mega dust bunny" zone (we hadn't cleaned under the bed in over 6 months), so we found out how easy it is to empty the bin. Ours has a remote. In theory we can use the remote to control the robot like a toy car, but today when we tried it that didn't work very well. We'll have to experiment a bit more to see if that was user error or a problem with either the remote or the robot. [Later: it was user error. I'm getting a lot better at controlling it after a bit of practice.] It was fun to watch. Its search pattern never reached some of the corners of the bedroom, but we stopped it to empty its bin before it had really finished. It also just fits under the Ikea bookshelf units, another place that accumulates vast quantities of dust. Overall, we think it will be a great addition to the household.

04 May 2007

The robots have arrived!

Eric and I had ordered two domestic robots, a Roomba (for vacuuming) and a Scooba (for washing the floor). They arrived today and are charging right now. You've probably seen them on TV, but here are some links if you want to look them up (not all models are available in Australia). http://www.irobot.com/sp.cfm?pageid=122 http://www.irobot.com/sp.cfm?pageid=128 The FAQs include "Can Roomba [or Scooba] clean as well as I do?" We laughed, because we hardly ever clean the floor, so no matter how good or bad the robots are, they will probably clean better than we do!

01 May 2007

Happy Birthday to the OpenDocument Format

A hearty "happy second birthday" to the OpenDocument Format. The OpenDocument v1.0 specification was approved as an OASIS Standard on 1 May 2005. (The OpenDocument v1.1 specification was approved as OASIS Standard on 2 February 2007.) More dates and links are available on the OASIS website and on GullFOSS.

13 April 2007

OpenDocument News

I've posted a longer article of recent OpenDocument news on my O'Reilly weblog. The list of applications supporting the OpenDocument Format is growing so rapidly that the team at the OpenDocument Fellowship is having trouble keeping their Applications List up to date, and it's a daunting task to review all the additions. I hope to do some work updating the list this weekend. Daniel Carrera briefly reviews one of the new additions, Peepel, a web-based office suite that competes with Google Docs and similar services. Politics continue in the ODF-vs-Microsoft/Ecma OOXML arena, with Microsoft apparently urging California voters to lobby against a pro-ODF bill and Microsoft UK setting up a web-based petition to lobby the British Standards Institute to vote in favour of Ecma Open XML as an ISO international Standard. This petition follows an older one (begun by John Imrie) to the Prime Minister in support of ODF in the UK.

07 April 2007

Shade sails at shopping centre carparks

In private correspondence I mentioned in passing the shade sails at our local shopping centres. I was asked what a "shade sail" is, so here are some photos. I believe the material is similar to that used in the sails of boats (hence the name). You can see that the designs differ quite a bit. They have some use as shelter from rain as well as sun, though the rain often blows under them. The photo below was taken at the new Centro shopping centre, which opened last year. The second photo was taken at the older Whitsunday shopping centre, which is being upgraded; the shade was added in the last few months.

04 April 2007

Meet the Easter Bilby

As part of a campaign to eradicate wild rabbits from Australia, in 1991 the Anti-Rabbit Research Foundation of Australia (now the Foundation for Rabbit-Free Australia) developed a campaign for the Easter Bilby, to highlight the damage done to Australian wildlife by rabbits, and to raise money for research and wildlife conservation.

The Foundation licensed the production of many 'Easter Bilby' products, including books, CDs, T-shirts and the first chocolate 'Easter Bilbies' in 1993 as alternatives to 'Easter Bunnies.' They were a success, and it's now quite common to find chocolate bilbies in the supermarkets in the weeks before Easter.

The Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) is a member of the bandicoot family. Bilbies are also known as Rabbit-Eared Bandicoots. The Greater Bilby is on the endangered list; the Lesser Bilby is believed to be extinct.

The Greater Bilby, usually referred to as 'the' Bilby, is the largest of the bandicoots, measuring up to 55cm in length (body only) with a tail up to 29cm long. Adult males weigh up to 2.5 kg.

Greater Bilbies used to live in more than 70% of mainland Australia. They are now found only in the Tanami Desert (NT), the Great Sandy Desert and Gibson Desert (WA) and in south-western Queensland. The Greater Bilby's habitat has been destroyed by cattle and rabbits, and they are prey for cats, dingoes and foxes. (You'll note that the problems have come mainly from animals introduced by white settlers.)

For more about Bilbies (and some photos), see:

Australian Bilby Appreciation Society Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland Burra Nimu - The Easter Bilby, Jenny Bright's children's story and also some excellent Bilby information Queensland Museum page on the Greater Bilby

Below: Chocolate "Easter Bilby"

02 April 2007

Tsunami alert but no wave

Earlier today, Eric came in from collecting the mail and said, "Have you heard about the tsunami threat to the Queensland coast?" Me: "What? Is this an April Fool's joke?" (At that time it was still April 1 in Hawaii, where the warning came from.) Eric: "No, it was a genuine warning from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, because of an earthquake near the Solomon Islands, but no reports of significant sea level rises have been received, so no tsunami is now expected." We then looked it up on the web, which said "some rises of about 20-30 cm have been observed". So we kept an eye out for any sea level rises here, but we didn't notice anything (not that we expected to). A very small rise was recorded on the instruments at Sydney Harbour. According to the evening news, schools were closed on much of the east coast and lots of people headed for high ground, as a precaution, remembering the Indian Ocean tsunami. By the time we heard about it, the wave (had it existed) would have been on us. Fortunately our apartment is well up on a hill, so we'd probably not be washed away, but a true tsunami would wreck havoc on the town and the road out, and the power supply etc. At least our cyclone preparations (food, water, camping/cooking gear) would serve us well in such a situation! [Edit] In the Solomon Islands themselves, big waves (up to 10 metres?) did occur.

31 March 2007

Tiger Daze published

Today I published the lastest in Lyn McConchie's series of farming and animal tales, a volume titled Tiger Daze. It's published through Lulu and is available in paperback or PDF. Here's a direct link. The author lives in New Zealand. In 1989 she purchased a small farm and settled down to farm and write books. In both activities her cats have joyfully assisted her—not always when wanted. This is the story of Tiger and his feline friends—a tale of roistering cats and their frequently bemused human. Lyn has sold short work and novels to publishers in America, Canada, the UK, Russia, Poland, Australia and New Zealand. She is three times winner of New Zealand's Sir Julius Vogel Award for Best SF/Fantasy Book of the Year. I published two earlier books in the series through Lightning Source; they are available on Amazon.com: Farming Daze and Daze on the Land. Lyn's website is here. I need to update it.

25 March 2007

Science fiction and fantasy reading

I just finished Kim Stanley Robinson's Fifty Degress Below, which I thoroughly enjoyed. It's a sequel to Forty Signs of Rain, at the end of which he almost destroys Washington D.C. in a major flood. Both books spend a lot of time discussing the politics of science in general and the National Science Foundation in particular, as well as the author's concerns about climate change, global warming etc. Very timely! Before that it was C.J. Cherryh's Destroyer and Pretender (the latest 2 volumes of a continuing series that I very much enjoy) and John Varley's Mammoth, which is partly a time travel story. I loved the scene where a herd of mammoths suddenly appears (from the past) near the La Brea tar pits in the LA of today and starts stampeding through Hollywood. Others have included Margaret Ball's Disappearing Act (I always enjoy her stuff too), Juliet McKenna's The Warrior's Bond and The Assassin's Edge (4th & 5th books in a fantasy series I started reading several years ago), and probably some other books I've forgotten.

21 March 2007

Another geek point for Jean

Usually when I run into something I don't understand about Linux or computers or other gadgets, I yelp for help, but today I had the time and energy to try to solve a problem on my own—and succeeded! It was, of course, easy to solve, once I figured out a few of the non-obvious (to me) steps along the way. Warning to Windows users: unfamiliar terminology ahead. Eric gave me an old 30GB USB hard drive to use for storing my digital photos. The problem: the drive was formatted for some Mac drive format. Ubuntu could see the drive, and the directory names, but it couldn't do anything with it (even read the contents). Eric said "you'll have to reformat it". "Ummm", said I, "how? I can't see any commands for formatting disks." "Use fdisk", said Eric, who then ducked and ran for cover. Well, I am totally enthusiastic about command-line stuff, so I did some searching on the Ubuntu forums to see if there was another way. Found it: Gparted (Gnome partition editor). Cool! So I installed Gparted, which let me see the partitions on the USB drive but not do anything with it ("Format" was greyed out). Then I looked up Gparted's website and found a note that I had to unmount the partition first. Okay, that makes sense (it never occurred to me, because I haven't done enough mount-unmount type stuff to remember it). I found the menu command for that, after which reformatting was straightforward and easy. Unplugged the drive, plugged it in again; it remounted automatically, and away we go. I copied my whole shared partition onto it, and checked on the other laptop that it could be read (yes).

19 March 2007

Medical news: good and bad

The good news is that all my blood tests (glucose, cholesterol, etc), blood pressure, and the other usual indicators are in the healthy range. The only things wrong with me are 25 lb too much weight and my hip joints are wearing out. I've been having increasing problems with my hips and knees while walking, and my usual combination of chiropractic and glucosamine hasn't been working well enough, so I saw my GP, got x-rays & other tests, and now have an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for an opinion on whether or when to have a hip replacement (or both, or one or both knees as well). I think it's more "when" than "whether" on at least the right hip, which even I can tell from x-rays isn't doing too well. Unfortunately, the first available appointment (for a non-urgent case) is in late July. The closest specialist is in Mackay (1.5-2 hours' drive from here). I could have tried to see someone further away, but I suspect that waiting times are similar or worse all over. I just hope I like this surgeon; otherwise I'll have to try to see someone else (again after a long delay). In other news, I need some dental work done. Again, nothing urgent (lots of broken teeth, none of them giving me any pain), but I've been putting it off because my local dentist (while thoroughly competent) seems to favor treatment that I don't want or won't consider. My former chiropractor (who has since left town) was telling me about his dentist's philosophy which sounds much closer to mine. I finally got around to contacting the dentist's office (he's near Brisbane, a plane flight—or two days' drive—away from here) and got the first available appointment—in October! (With treatment later in Oct and in November.) I suspect Murphy's Law will ensure the hip replacement will end up being scheduled at the same time as my dental appointments, so I'll have to postpone one or the other. Good thing I don't have any overseas travel (or other expensive trips that would be a problem to cancel) planned or required for this year!

17 February 2007

The Graphing Calculator story

This isn't new (copyright 2004 Ron Avitzur), but I just discovered it. http://www.pacifict.com/Story/ I found the story quite inspiring, as well as amusing in some places. Warning: it's long. Here's how it starts:
I used to be a contractor for Apple, working on a secret project. Unfortunately, the computer we were building never saw the light of day... In August 1993, the project was canceled. A year of my work evaporated, my contract ended, and I was unemployed.

I was frustrated by all the wasted effort, so I decided to uncancel my small part of the project. I had been paid to do a job, and I wanted to finish it. My electronic badge still opened Apple's doors, so I just kept showing up.

12 February 2007

Farewell to the floppy disk

I recently spent several days doing a boring but necessary chore: copying files off all my old floppy disks before the last computer in the house with a floppy drive finally gives up the ghost (or is given away to charity). Getting the old files onto a CD got a wee bit complicated because the computer with the floppy drive does not have a CD burner, so I have to get the files onto the computer with a CD burner. Turns out the two computers have no means of communication in common, but I have a third computer that can read a CompactFlash (CF) card (which the old computer can write to) and then write to a USB drive, which the new computer (the one that burns CDs) can read. So... copy from floppy to hard drive 1, copy from hard drive 1 to CF card, copy from CF card to hard drive 2, copy from there to USB drive, copy from there to new computer, burn CD. Whew! I thought for awhile I would have to email all the files to myself, just to get them from one computer to another. Mind you, many of these old files probably can't be opened by any programs I now own, so this may be wasted effort in the long run, but OTOH a lot of people have this problem so there probably are programs on the web that will convert from old file formats to modern ones. The photo shows a few of the floppies; I must have thrown out twice that many before I thought of taking a picture of them.

05 February 2007

Roadkill Australia

Last July I caught up with someone I haven't seen in nearly 30 years. Len Zell was then a nature photo­grapher and biologist at the Australian Institute of Marine Science in Townsville, north of where I live now. He is now a photographer and author, with a string of credits for his field research and ecotourism work. Len was one of the lecturers on board the Kimberley cruise boat. Like me, Len had moved away from Townsville some years ago to pursue his career interests. Turns out he was moving back to Townsville in September. In December I was invited to attend the launch of Len’s latest book, Roadkill Australia. The launch was fun, and as I suspected, several people there remem­bered me from 30 years ago, so we had a pleasant catch-up session over the champagne. Len had chosen his "launchers" well. One is a local media personality who did a hilarious introduction, insulting the book and half the audience, to everyone's delight. The other is a professor of marine biology at the local university, who also did a good job of the local jokes and references to Len's life, starting from the days when we had all met each other in 1974 or so, there in Townsville. The book is an interesting mixture of biological information, somewhat tongue-in-cheek recipes for cooking freshly-killed critters ("carefully remove the gravel..."), along with health warnings ("may contain parasites and be unsanitary"), anecdotes about the author's experiences, photos of dead animals, and other stuff. Find it on http://roadkillaustralia.com/.

31 January 2007

Port of Airlie: more construction in a boom town

In the photos I posted yesterday, you will see a lot of trees in the foreground. These are mangrove trees lining the edge of Muddy Bay (also known as Boathaven, at least by the real estate agents). Most of the photos were taken from an open area near the Sailing Club. (Historical note: years ago this area was a caravan park, and the toilet/shower block is still there for the use of visitors to the picnic area and the beach at that end of town.) A portion of Muddy Bay is now under development for a new marina project known as Port of Airlie. An artist's impression of the development (superimposed on an aerial photograph) is here. [Links updated 18 April 2007.] When it is complete, this marina will no doubt be an attractive, though possibly noisy, addition to the view from our apartment, but for the next several years it is just another construction zone and an eyesore. Here are some photos taken from our balcony. Two years ago December 2006

30 January 2007

Airlie Beach: living in a boom town

We moved to Airlie Beach nearly 9 years ago, about 15 minutes before the boom started. We've been living in a construction zone ever since, with no sign of it stopping anytime soon. Here are some photos of the hillside where our apartment is located. (Note for Americans: our apartment is what you probably call a "condo".) July 1998 (arrow marks location of our place) Later in 1998 -- clearing space on hill above us 1999 -- construction of Martinique resort, clearing begun for Pinnacles Later in 1999 -- Martinique complete, The Pinnacles under construction 2003 -- Pinnacles have been complete for some time 2004 -- work has begun above Pinnacles (view from across Muddy Bay)

There goes the neighbourhood

For the nearly 9 years we’ve lived in Airlie Beach, Eric and I have enjoyed bragging about how far away the nearest traffic lights were (150 km south and 300 km north, in case you’re wondering). Alas, no longer. A few months ago, a set of lights was installed at an intersection by our new shopping centre, and just a few weeks ago a second set of lights went in near the old shopping centre (opposite the primary school). Both sets of lights are, in my not-at-all-humble opinion (and in the opinion of many others in the area) quite unnecessary. The traffic problems they are intended to solve could have been dealt with in other ways, more in keeping with the laid-back ambiance of this area. In July, while in Broome (a town at least twice the size of Airlie Beach, which copes with similar crowds of tourists during part of the year), I noted that there are no traffic lights. A few intersections would benefit from a roundabout, but otherwise they seem to be doing just fine over there—as indeed we were here too. I am thoroughly disgusted by the way our local government handled this. I had been looking forward to joining others in protests against the lights, but each set was put up while I was out of town, so I missed the opportunity to put my rusty protesting skills into action.

29 January 2007

Open standards and OpenDocument

I don't plan to fill this blog with chatter about these topics, because I'm writing about them in another place. If you're interested, I encourage you to read my entries on one of the O'Reillynet blogs (click on "Blog" in the menu under my name). I've added some links to other people's blogs on similar topics. Look over there in the right-hand column, just under my photo.

28 January 2007

So many interests, so little time

Yes, it's been a very long time since I posted anything here. I've been busy! I may do some fill-in entries later, but for now, a summary of the past 19 months or so:
  • In August 2005 Eric and I started an organisation called Friends of OpenDocument Inc, which is now incorporated as an association in Queensland, Australia. Amongst other things, it provides bookkeeping, banking and publishing services for other groups such as OOoAuthors (a group writing user guides for OpenOffice.org) and the OpenDocument Fellowship, an advocacy group for the OpenDocument format. My participation in these four groups has eaten up much of my life.
  • I've been travelling. A lot. Some of my travels (in Australia, and in Central Europe last September) are recorded on my travel website, Avalook. Some trips that aren't mentioned there include several visits to the USA to see my mother during the last years of her life (she passed away in March 2006). On those trips I also managed to visit friends, attend conferences (sometimes working at an OpenOffice.org or OpenDocument display booth) and science fiction conventions.
  • I've almost completed switching from Microsoft Windows to Ubuntu Linux, having found replacement programs for almost everything I want or need to do on the computer. The exceptions tend to be testing something in Windows rather than working in it, and running one of my scanners. The old scanner works fine with Linux; the new scanner doesn't work at all. So my old laptop acts as the Windows machine when I need it.
  • I've also been playing around with a lot of the recent web-based programs from Google and others, such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Calendar. I'm sure I'll have more to say about them in other posts.
I'm not promising to blog regularly. Even though I have lots to say, it's definitely a case of "so many interests, so little time!"