30 November 2008

Schoolies week in Airlie Beach

This week is "Schoolies"—the week when graduating high school students, having finished their final exams, go to several popular places and party. Airlie Beach is one of the popular places. Many of the kids are not yet of legal drinking age (18) but most of them have no trouble getting supplies. Many extra police are in town to keep order. The last couple of years, Schoolies week locally has been noisy but not marred by many fights (or lots of illegal drinking), unlike in some other areas, such as the Gold Coast in southern Queensland. I'm using the hot, humid weather as an excuse to stay indoors with the doors and windows closed and the airconditioning on. This keeps the noise from their so-called "music" to a tolerable level. Unfortunately the local weather on several days has featured strong wind gusts and some storms—not so good for trips to the reef and other on-water activities that might take the schoolies out of town (and tire them out). Still, we got through the week with minimal problems, a testimony I think to the town's attitude of welcome and providing lots of things for the kids to do, plus an escort service for girls returning to their accommodation and safe places for people to go and chill out if peer pressure is getting to be a bit too much for them.

26 November 2008

Adventures with my Eee - Part 2

In March I bought an Asus Eee, one of the models with a 7-inch screen. In October I replaced its operating system with a special Eee version of Ubuntu. Here is what its interface looks like. This week I got around to trying to use the 24-inch Dell monitor as a display for the Eee. This turned out to be somewhat more complicated that I had expected. It had worked easily with the Xandros that came with the machine, so I had not been expecting problems. However, if I plugged in the monitor before starting Ubuntu, the display (on the Eee as well as the monitor) went completely berserk. The Eee's display was apparently attempting to fit the monitor's resolution (so most of the display didn't fit into the available area), and the external monitor was completely unreadable, with horizontal lines of colour jumping around. After much mucking around, I found a sequence that works for me:
  1. With the video cable (to the external monitor) disconnected, turn on Eee, boot Ubuntu.
  2. Connect the video cable to the external monitor.
  3. On the Eee, go to Preferences -> Screen Resolution.
  4. Click Detect Displays. Set Resolution to 800x600.
  5. Click Apply. Answer "yes" to "Keep settings?" External monitor will come on.
  6. Close Settings window.
So far I haven't found a way around having to do this each time I try to use the Eee with the external monitor. However, I don't often want to do this, so it's not a big drama and I'm not going to spend a lot of time on finding a better way. The next upgrade of the operating system may change it all anyway... or perhaps I'll try out one of the other flavours of Ubuntu for the Eee. Here's a photo of the Eee running the big monitor.

25 November 2008

Good medical news

Yesterday we drove to Mackay for my one-year post-op checkup with the orthopedic surgeon. He said the x-rays looked excellent (pointing out various technical details) and told me that that he didn't need to see me again for checkups, though of course if I developed problems (especially pain) I should get in touch with him or someone else. He also said I had no restrictions on what I can do, though he advises against high-impact activities. He reckons the implants are good for at least 20 years, and probably 30, though nothing's guaranteed... depends on a lot of variables.

20 November 2008

Carlyle Gardens update

We had arranged to inspect progress on the house and pay our deposit on Tuesday. On the way into town on Monday, we stopped at our credit union (MECU) at James Cook University to pick up a cheque. MECU has recently purchased UniCredit, a smaller credit union with a branch office at JCU. We are delighted, because for 10 years our nearest branch has been in Brisbane! Not that we can't do all of our normal banking over the internet or at the post office, but for rare occasions it would be a bit more convenient to go into a branch office. But I digress... regarding the house: the brick siding and metal roof are on, the interior walls are in, the windows are all in place, and the major bits of floor tiling are done. But the bathrooms and kitchen still have to be installed, and all the plumbing and wiring connected, as well as the interior painting done. One of the salespeople said they'd be astonished if the builder managed to complete it all before 19 December, the projected completion date (and the last day before the builders leave for their 3-week end-of-year break). The project manager said he was leaning on the builder to preferentially work on the houses that have been sold, instead of doing them sequentially down the street. We told everyone that we were not in any hurry, so if it all slipped into next year, no problem... and we'd be overseas for all of February, so handover in March would be okay. We don't want to move in high summer anyway. While we were there, we met some of our future neighbours, who told us a few things. They had moved into the new section (two streets away from our place) in early September, and say they really like it, but there are some "issues" -- not with the community's management, but with other services. For example, the phone company still hasn't managed to get their landline connections working. They aren't too concerned because they have mobile phones, and they are not being charged for their non-existent landline service. They also cheerfully noted that the electricity company hasn't got their meters working yet, so although the power is on, they aren't being charged for what they're using. Here's a photo of the house as seen on Tuesday. See also this post and this photo album.

Rat damage fixed

We drove to Townsville on Monday and put the car in for service first thing Tuesday morning. Fortunately we were planning to stay over until Wednesday anyway, because we didn't get it back until mid-afternoon on Wednesday, although we were promised the car back by 5 PM Tuesday. The service people didn't even start diagnosing the problem until mid-afternoon on Tuesday, so they had no hope of finishing the job that day once they discovered it wasn't easy. Apparently the technicians eventually had to pull out the dashboard and then the back seat before they finally tracked the problem to its cause: insulation chewed off the wires near the fuel pump. Then after fixing the wiring they had to put the car back together again! On the plus side, we were pleasantly surprised at how relatively low the repair bill was, considering how much work had been involved. Meanwhile we drove around in a cute little Mazda supplied by the dealership at no charge to us, doing some shopping and visiting Carlyle Gardens again (see separate post).

15 November 2008

Houseguest and birds

Mike, a friend from Canada, was here for 10 days. He's the perfect houseguest: good company but doesn't need entertaining, tidies up after himself, and doesn't get in my way. Many days he was off on snorkeling trips to the islands or the outer reef, so we only saw him in the early morning and the evening anyway. Three species of birds came by our balcony to be introduced to Mike (and fed by him): cockatoos, lorikeets, and a young kookaburra (with its nervous mother hovering around nearby). Here are some photos.
Cockatoo has close encounter with Mike—several others are on the rail, just out of the picture. Rainbow lorikeet—one of a pair that visited. Kookaburra—his blue underwing feathers are visible but not obvious in this photo.