Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2011

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi

The 5 a.m. update of TC Yasi from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology Current Tropical Cyclones tracking maps shows a slight veering to the north. At a close to 48 hours forecast (it is well over 1000 km away), BOM now predict TC Yasi will cross the coast between Cairns and long suffering Innisfail as a Category 4.

As part of our preparation, we started loading irreplaceable items (like old photographic slides) off the closet floor onto shelves in the linen cupboard. The shelf promptly broke loose. It seems the builders thought two small nails per shelf were sufficient for linen cupboard shelves. I hope the builders followed specifications for the roof fittings.

Rio Tinto have shut their Halls Creek mine. Xstrata has closed Collinsville. QR have closed their freight railways supplying Hays Point and Dalrymple Bay. Coal prices will go even higher. Over 200 hospital patients in Cairns have been evacuated to Brisbane. Nearly 30,000 Cairns residents may face evacuation.


We started some early laundry, to get it done before the rain starts. I went for a somewhat late early morning walk, and did not get back until well after 6 a.m. After breakfast we took the car and refuelled it, although we had only driven 125 kilometres. If I need to drive to Airlie Beach, I may not have easy access to fuel on the way, nor even there, so I wanted a chance at a 600 km range. Got extra money out of the money machine, just in case cash is king over the next week or so post cyclone.

My long lost check book arrived in the mail. The reason for the delay became apparent. The large envelope had a big sticker on it saying Opened by Australia Post for inspection by Quarantine. Not sure what a check book has to do with quarantine, but I guess X-rays or sniffer dogs did not really indicate what was in it. AQIS basically stop plant and animal products and byproducts and also soil from entering Australia. Now I can finally pay my FAPA membership.

I dropped a CD of photos of the bowling club awards into Jo-ann. Only Dot and Ray were at lunch when I went to the restaurant. I needed to stay back afterwards to help a resident get their new Huawei mobile connect E160E USB data stick to work with a Windows 7 computer. Luckily I managed to do this.

Apple Mac mini Stuffed Again

My Apple Mac mini is once again totally stuffed. Safari is stalled. Spotlight is stalled. I will probably have to reboot to get any performance back. It looks like Spotlight may be indexing my backup drive, which I have repeatedly told it not to do. Yes indeed, if System Preferences had not also beach balled, I would probably have been able to see that Spotlight had indeed decided to attempt to index my backup drive. I have told Spotlight not to do that, yet again.

Better Writing

Cheryl Morgan noted an additional Guest of Honour at Bristol-Con. This was Keith Blount, who wrote founded Literature & Latte to create software for writing. He created Scrivener as a content generation tool for authors by being a writing studio. It is designed to be better than a word processor for creative writing and getting that first draft working. Outline and structure your ideas, take notes, view research alongside your writing and compose the constituent pieces of your text in isolation or in context. There are a bunch of video tutorials for Scrivner available.

Apple Stops Books (again)

I see Cory Doctorow beating his tired old drum about the evils of Apple. Apple implements iStore changes, prohibits Sony from selling competing ebook app. Vendors of apps for Apple iOS devices want to find ways to avoid Apple's 30% distribution fees. So, instead of selling content via the Apple Store, they attempt to bypass the In App purchasing system. And get knocked back from the Apple Store. The Kindle and Nook eBook readers get around this in-app purchase issue by opening a web browser window, and letting you purchase via the web. Which brings us to Sony's Reader eBook application for Apple devices being rejected. The rules Apple use are published.

11.2. Apps utilising a system other than the In App Purchase API (IAP) to purchase content, functionality, or services in an app will be rejected.

11.3. Apps using IAP to purchase physical goods or goods and services used outside of the application will be rejected.

11.12 Apps offering subscriptions must do so using IAP, Apple will share the same 70/30 revenue split with developers for these purchases, as set forth in the Developer Program License Agreement.

11.13 Apps can read or play approved content (magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, video) that is sold outside of the app, for which Apple will not receive any portion of the revenues, provided that the same content is also offered in the app using IAP at the same price or less than it is offered outside the app. This applies to both purchased content and subscriptions.

11.14 Apps that link to external mechanisms for purchasing content to be used in the app, such as a buy button that goes to a web site to purchase a digital book, will be rejected

Apple Stops Sony

Sony understand this. Sony is the evil empire that put a Windows rootkit in their music CDs in 2005 (resulting in my never buying another Sony product). Sony Reader uses Adobe's Adept content protection system, which renders ePub unreadable on other devices. Why would Sony deliberately produce an app they know Apple will reject? For the publicity. Sony are spinning this issue. Sony get a chance to be seen as the white hat good guy, and cast Apple as the bad guy. This publicity works for them because of lot of blog writers can not read. Or, having read, can not understand.

The majority of library ePub eBooks have Adobe's Adept Digital Rights Management on them. Apple, like Amazon's Kindle, have their own copy protection system for ePub eBooks. The same copy protection Apple used for music for a fair while. However you have no easy intuitive way to move an Apple ePub eBook to any other device, where it would fail to work. There is very little confusion as to what works with which eBook reader. As a book buyer, I simply do not borrow or buy any book with Digital Rights Management. By the way, Cory Doctorow is one of the Good Guys, and rejects DRM.

The next issue is what will Apple now do about the Kindle and Nook apps which bypass the in-app purchase system? I doubt Apple will do anything, under their guidelines, except start to enforce them. That is, the Amazon Kindle App will need to offer in-app purchasing as an option. The easy way out for Amazon is simply to make in-app purchases cost more than buying via the web. Same applies to Nook and Zinio. However they can not do this under the agreement. The real screams will come from media companies with in-app subscriptions.

By some strange co-incidence, Apple make absolutely no restrictions on ePub eBooks that do not have Digital Rights Management. So the books you purchase from Baen Books are presented without issue with Apple's iBooks (or Sony Reader). If Sony did not put DRM on their eBooks, they could sell them over the web, for use with the Sony Reader or Apple iBook.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

Birthday Party

Allan was still planning to hold my birthday party, as at yesterday. He had about 20 people booked. Planned to shut the restaurant at 1:30 p.m. because of Cyclone Yasi and keep it closed on Thursday. Meryl and Keith phoned to wish me a happy birthday in the morning, as they were not expecting to get there.

I had a great birthday party. Allen put up birthday signs in the bar. I was not expecting presents, but did get a nice bottle holder from Ray, and a bottle or two to go with it. A bunch of reception and restaurant staff got together to give me a nice bottle of Russian standard vodka. Neighbours Allan and Mary gave me a card, and Pat gave me an unbelievable card.

I later used that card from Pat to ask everyone to sign, to give me more reminders of the party. Not that I did not take a heap of photos. There were around 20 people at the restaurant, despite the start of the rain from Cyclone Yasi. Allen and Dave served, despite their own low lying home being threatened by the storm surge. Dave had brought the sports car over, to be put in one of the empty garages here for safety. Even our resort manager Leigh was there (on her way to switching off things at the empty office before Cyclone Yasi). Our caretakers Gary and Anne were also there, despite being likely to be busy soon. We did pack up the party fairly quickly. I was expecting the winds to start around four, and that is what happened.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi

I went out to collect The Australian Literary Supplement. Willows and Sunland were both closed due to cyclone Yasi. Lots of disgruntled people roaring up and leaving seeking some other store open. Note for future. Really make sure you have all your cyclone supplies early. The airport closed at 10 a.m. with a runway open for emergencies.

TC Yasi went to Category 5 overnight, expected to hit just south of Inissfail. The BOM now say this impact is likely to be more life threatening than any experienced during recent generations. It is moving faster, which is good for lowering rainfall. However it means tides will be higher when the storm surge hits. Low lying areas of Cairns, Townsville and between are being evacuated. ABC reports one third of Townsville residents have been told to evacuate, but I find this hard to believe.

The wind measuring instruments at Willis Island have not reported since 8:37 a.m. At 8:10 a.m. they reported 185 kph gusts. I tried to Tweet it, but Twitter seems to still be broken for sending, for me. The weather radar at Willis Island also went out around 10 a.m., although it could be that communications with the island has been lost. There have been no updates since 10 a.m. for any instruments.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi

I see the authorities decided to evacuate large areas. I do not see they had much of a choice. Cardwell is way too close to the coast for a storm surge. Innisfail was again the central target of Cyclone Yasi, with Tully also coping heaps. We were very lucky further south in Townsville. I did not feel what we faced was worse than a Category 2.

We had our first power glitch at 3:40 p.m. but only for a second or so. We had another power hit at 8:50 p.m. or so, while drumming winds hit the house. Power went out around 9:15 p.m. with a bang from a pole mounted transformer across the way. Power stayed down as the wind rose in pitch. I sent a last email, and then shut down the two UPS running the Apple Mac mini and the big monitor. Once we had sent the last messages, I also shut down the UPS holding the ADSL modem and the optical fibre TV connection. I wanted to save ADSL battery life for the morning.

We have about four or five battery lights on hand, plus a fair number of batteries for torches. Our computers are good for 7 to 10 hours each. The fridge is the worry, as there are limits on how long a fridge holds food safe in the tropics. Jean had gone to bed. I listened to the battery radio for a while, then also went to bed. After long enough even the wind whistling is not enough to stop you sleeping. The wood framed brick home was not drumming, and was rarely shaken by a gust. I did not rate winds in our location as above a Category 2. So I also went to bed and got some fitful sleep.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi

I did not sleep well. Not surprising, with the wind whistling past. I went for a wander through the house just after four, without seeing any problems. Alas, when Jean went for a wander in a dark dawn at 5:30, she encountered water on the floor. We broke out the portable lights, since there was no electric power. Spent an interesting half hour mopping up water, and wetting lots of old towels. The floor length windows must not have been locked, and the wind had raised them a few centimetres. The water pooling on the ground outside was then whipped through the gap over the floor. I guess we got a few buckets full inside. Luckily nothing critical got soaked, and as we cleaned up we noticed we really had needed to wash the floor.

The power was still out. However with the landline phone working, I checked with the Ergon Energy electricity hotline. No action until Cyclone Yasi has moved along. Given the size, that will take a while. You would not want to work on power poles with the winds we had this morning.

I took a lengthy walk through Stage A of Carlyle Gardens, where I saw Ray and Holger checking homes. We were so lucky. I saw a portion of one gutter down. One awning partially failed where it ripped from the gutter area. One electricity meter box door badly bent. I did not see one solar hot water system damaged, nor did I see any solar panels dislodged. This applied also through all of the original ten stages of Carlyle Gardens.

Pooling water due to drainage problem had several effects. The soil was totally saturated, since the water had nowhere to drain. Many trees and shrubs had fallen over, with their root balls exposed to the air. In several of the drains, we could hardly see any water actually running into the drain. This despite about 200 mm of rain. The large land site sign by the mail boxes was lopsided, as the footings had not held in the waterlogged soil.

Severe Tropical Cyclone Yasi

I went for a walk with Duncan when I saw him. In the original established area of Carlyle Gardens, the caravan and campervan parking area looked in good shape, but everyone had used tie downs. A shipping container with a tin roof had a long length of galvanised sheeting flapping in the still strong breeze. The disaster committee were hard at work in the Carlton Theatre, getting problem reports. It seemed they were right on top of all the problems we had seen. Carlton Square had suffered damage, with broken glass, and large broken pot plants. The Crickets Bar sign was down and broken. A roof tile had fallen in the garden.

Ray was wandering around outside his house with a length of detached down pipe in his hand. The street light outside his home had also suffered damage. The shade was rattling on the pole, and one of the street signs was bent.

The entrance to Carlyle Gardens seemed worst damaged. The wind could whistle straight up Gouldian Avenue from the Ross River. It looked like that had happened. The emergency call antennas were down on reception and one on the caretakers cottage. I think that system is out of order until repairs are done. There were a lot of trees that had fallen over. There were even some trees that had lost limbs. There is a lot of cleaning up needed for the place. We were still really lucky.

Our village manager Leigh had arrived at Reception. She had also lost trees, but her home had not been damaged. Our head gardener Mark was with her. I think Mark will have lots of work.

Infrastructure After TC Yasi

It seems 30,000 homes in Townsville storm surge areas have been evacuated. Electricity is still out. Radio reports say 180,000 homes have lost power. 80% of homes in Cairns and Townsville are said to be out of action. 50% of Airlie Beach electricity is out. I phoned Ergon and reported some broken transformer feeders lines dangling down the power pole. The poor lass taking the call was on her first day. What an introduction to this sort of stuff!

I notice a heap of portable generators working here. Between the side entrance and us, all except four homes are running generators, as is our neighbour. Holger kindly gave us a feed from his generator at 3 p.m. so we were able to cool down the fridge freezer once again for six or so hours. I also inspected Ian's 3000 Watt Yamaha Tracpower EF3000iSE inverter generator, which looks formidable. Ian showed me his generator changeover switch in his meter box, as did Ray. I suspect a generator changeover switch and a medium small generator will feature in our future plans.

No-one knows how the communities hardest hit have fared. Mission Beach has lost roofs. Houses had collapsed after the loss of the roof. A third of the homes in Tully seem to have been destroyed. Cardwell is not really able to be accessed as yet. Townsville flights are still cancelled, but flights to most areas will resume on Friday.

Although the Telstra landline phone system was working through the morning, by 1 p.m. there was no power or dial tone coming via landline phones here. So ADSL internet access is also lost. I imagine the Telstra exchanges have finally run out of battery power. I have no idea how much generating capacity phones exchanges retain.

A new threat is the loss of the water supply. The emergency SMS system is reporting that Townsville water supply will be cut. With no electricity, the water treatment plant can not operate. We are told to boil water, but with most of Townsville electric only, that has issues also. I imagine most garages will not be able to supply fuel, as pumps are electric these days.

After TC Yasi

I did have a mobile phone call from Airlie Beach. Some of my friends at least still have electric power, internet access, and water supply. We have water supply. It falls from the air. Somewhat later I had another call. Our apartment at Airlie Beach still has water and power. Jean recalled we still have a phone connected there. Although none of our computers include a dial up modem, we do have an ancient dial up modem based wireless access point. I can see us heading for Airlie Beach, if the Bruce Highway is actually open.

There has been a story that we will be able to get a garbage collection on Friday, given the Thursday collection collided with a cyclone. So we will put out the bins, and hope that food scraps do not stink under the tropical sun. We normally keep the food scraps in a sealed box in the fridge until we throw it out.

Every now and then another storm cell goes over Townsville, and dumps more rain. It would not surprise me if, in total, these little rains dump more water than the cyclone did, which was about 200mm.

Friday 4 February 2011

Recovering from Cyclone Yasi

I put out the rubbish bin today.The Townsville council say they will be making the Thursday garbage collection today or Saturday. They have also opened some of the garbage dumps so people can get rid of food that has gone off. Our bin was collected at 7:30 a.m. Good effort by the service workers doing the garbage collections. Alas, the collection was in such a rush that the truck only went along one side of the street, so at least half the bins were not collected.

The Douglas water treatment plant staff fixed the broken water main that was giving problems. Meanwhile Ergon Energy managed to get electricity power supply back to the water plant around 3:15 a.m. So treated water is again being pumped into the nearly depleted gravity feed reservoirs. It sounded as if the whole town came very close to running out of water. Sound like water supply is again assured for a while, as long as people conserve its use.

Burdekin electricity power has been partially restored, with 70% of Ayr and Home Hill having power available. Power for the Townsville CBD is back. Castletown shopping centre has power this morning. Airlines are starting running services from Townsville today from around midday, but schedules might be more flexible than usual. Schools are scheduled to return on Monday.

The local Townsville FM radio station 4TO (102.5) has been great for information, with people phoning in. I hate their music and their crass announcers, but their local information after the cyclone has been great. In contrast, the internet has been useless. Part is the failure of the landline phone system, and thus all the ADSL connections. But part is a lack of localisation. Twitter had lots of noise, but the nuggets of good information tended to be lost in messages of goodwill that did not have much content.

Cyclone Yasi Wins

Floods in Ingham (close to a record) and Giru (which is not unusual) from rain following the cyclone. Ingham still does not have power either. The Bruce Highway is closed north of Townsville, and hampering rescue efforts to Cardwell and places further north. The Bruce Highway is also cut south, between Townsville and Ayr. No word of exactly where, but I imagine it is the Houghton Bridge near Giru. That bridge is likely to open sometime in the morning. They still have a severe weather warning for heavy rainfall north of Ayr.

No word yet on how long power will take to return to most of Townsville. I suspect some areas will take weeks.

The landline telephone system is still out of action. We are connected to the Kirwan phone exchange, which probably covers a massive population. However we have no idea how much of that is out of order.

Carlyle Gardens Problems

There is an emergency call buzzer system for residents of Carlyle Gardens. However Cyclone Yasi broke the antennas off the administration building. Yasi also broke antennas on the Caretaker's cottage. Plus Reception does not have electricity nor as far as I know a backup generator. So the emergency call buzzer system will not bring help.

Usually the primary system for obtaining help is the landline phone. However the phone system stopped around midday Thursday, perhaps twelve to fifteen hours after electric power was lost. This also means that the only internet access most people have (ADSL or Dial Up Modem) is also lost. I thought the Kirwin exchange had run out of emergency battery power, and that no-one had started a generator. So retired residents confined to their home probably have no access to help. Some of them are probably using oxygen cylinders.

Carlyle Gardens Today

I walked over to the restaurant, not really expecting to find it open. Holger drove by and told me the restaurant was doing a cold meat salad for lunch. The owners told me that the storm surge had stopped four houses away from their low set ground floor. That was a relief. I also found out that they had not lost power in their suburb. They could have stayed at home in air conditioned comfort.

None of my usual lunch companions turned up for lunch. I tried to persuade Jean to come over, as the restaurant was offering a seafood basket (their gas cookers were operating). I had the cold meat salad, and sat with the only other people attending. I bought an extra salad and took it home to Jean for her supper.

In wandering around, it quickly became apparent that the gardeners had managed to remove an incredible quantity of broken vegetation in a short period. However there is still a massive quantity of broken trees remaining.

The Social Club ran a barbecue in the afternoon. No fund raiser, this was to assist the residents. Heaps of people donated meat from their freezers before it became spoiled. A little crew from the Social Club were also running around raiding the freezers of the people who were away from the village for a long period. At least these people will not come back to freezers full of rotting meat. I was a bit late to the BBQ, and had a sausage on a slice of bread, and way too much wine from the bar. Most people were making light of the cyclone.

Saturday 5 February 2011

Viewing Townsville

We had been asked to check for damage to an empty rental property owned by a relative of an interstate friend. We drove through a nearby suburb, and were amazed at the number of largish trees that had broken and destroyed fences and sheds. We did not see any damaged homes, including the one we had set out to check in the gathering rain. A heap of traffic lights were out of action on Harveys Range Road. I think only one set of traffic lights were lit.

We continued to Willows Shoppingtown, which appeared to have only just reopened. An ATM at the entrance was obviously in trouble. Although not directly cyclone Yasi damage, the sprinkler system in the Coffee Club had gone bad, and the shop was a construction site. Near the badly damaged Coffee Club was another ATM, which Jean pointed out was running off Windows XT. A third ATM seemed to be working normally. We were basically at the shopping centre for milk and the newspapers. The milk in our fridge was not coping well with the fridge only having power a few hours a day. Coles seemed to have lost their entire freezer and refrigerator contents. Woolworths had done much better, with many frozen items in stock. I was later to find out from an apprentice electrician that Woolworths had installed an emergency generator the day prior to the cyclone.

Sunland shopping centre had suffered a smashed skylight, with glass everywhere at the entrance. You could only access the newsagent at the front, and the Brumby's bread shop. they were cleaning up. Some idiot girlfriend of a trucker wandered around in bare feet. We pointed to broken shards of glass where she was about to stand at the Brumby's counter. However she seemed to think she was invulnerable. Not much you can do to help in these sort of situations. I just hope she didn't end up presenting at some emergency department and wasting time for the surgical staff. I do not care that she might be hurt. I just do not want her wasting the time of people doing valuable work.

Drainage Ditch

I was pretty annoyed about the water alongside our house after another tropical downpour. It was something I had complained about to the administration last year. Our neighbour Holger was also annoyed at the lake between his house and the next one, which was even worse than between his place and ours. He started digging a ditch. Knowing there are sprinkler system water pipes in between the two houses, I did not want to dig there until I located the photos of where the pipes were laid. These photos are on a computer I can not run until we get power back.

I started digging a drainage ditch on the far side, since I have a fair image of where the pipes are there. Along the front of our garden, where the front corner of our house is the lowest spot in the surrounding land. I was soon pretty tired, especially after levering up several metres of mud sodden turf onto the concrete garden surround. Luckily Jean helped me lever the muddy turf out. However better to do that digging while the soil was saturated with water, even if I did end up covered in mud.

Later in the afternoon I started extending the first cuts of my drainage ditch all the way along to the dining room windows. I was still sinking in mud at every step, where I should have had lawn. I have been getting pretty annoyed of late about this continual water drainage problem from the poorly devised levels. I now intend to fix this drainage issue, one way or another. I hope this does not involve a confrontation with the administration of the village, but either the drainage gets fixed, or I will not be living here.

Carlyle Gardens Today

Our wonderful restaurant were again putting on a cold meat and salad lunch, although the actual supplies they had on hand were even less usual than the previous lunch. Jean accompanied me, and we used the car, but we seemed the only people having lunch. I do not really understand why more people were not taking advantage of this, when none of us have working fridges or stoves. Allen pointed out a table with cooling breezes from the waterlogged bowling green. Alas, the bowling green fences and surrounds had suffered badly from Cyclone Yasi.

An Ergon Energy engineer came along the street, checking power poles. I pointed out the failed transformer. Since I had been out the day previously and photographed the pole numbers (so I could read them), I could also provide all the location details. I had phoned these in to the Ergon Energy faults line yesterday, but their database and what the crews use did not seem all that directly connected. I pointed out how Ergon Energy could most easily get their bucket lift truck into reach of the transformer through our unmapped back streets. The bollards on the water easement have already been loosened. Somewhat later the Ergon car was back. With some luck, we may have power today or tomorrow.

I contacted the electrician who usually does our village work. Organised to get a generator change over switch and a caravan plug in our meter box. That will be a 15 amp plug, so we could go to 3600 Watts from a generator. Realistically you can only connect that to the Tariff 11 supply, so it will not run the air conditioners. However there are ways of getting around that.

The restaurant had rescheduled their Chinese Buffet from Dave's birthday on Thursday to tonight, despite not having any power. Plus the Social club were having a BBQ outside with the last of the meat from the freezers. I had a Chinese Buffet booking. Allen kindly put me with painter Geoff, and with David and Sue, who I already knew. I had not realised David had taken up painting, nor that his birthday was also 3 February, like Dave at the restaurant. It turned out Sue enjoyed Star Trek, and had friends who were right into it. I mentioned that I had all the DVDs, and heaps of other science fiction besides. We seemed to get through a remarkable amount of sparkling and red wine at the table. Plus Sue won one of the prizes Allen had donated.

It was a good evening. However the highlight came at 6:58 p.m. Without warning, the bar lights came on! There was a hooping and a hollering and a heap of carrying on when that happened. Ergon Energy had done right by us with their repairs. Of course, having three or four separate power feeds into the village, it soon became apparent that only part of the original side of the village actually had power. However it was a good start, especially for older residents.

Sunday 6 January 2011

Carlyle Gardens Today

Jean and I decided to drive out and find a take away lunch. We tried Sunland shopping centre. The Dominos Pizza had not opened. We tried the nearby Subway. They had also not opened. Finally we gave up and bought a few bread rolls from the Brumby's shop that appeared almost ready to close. We made ourselves salmon sandwiches from our cyclone supplies when we returned.

When a decent breeze sprang up during the afternoon, I did a bit more shovel work for my drainage ditch. Under an hour is about all I can manage when shovelling mud. I guess I will try a bit more active removal a little later in the week. I would be no use as a labourer.

I got worried about the effects of continuous sunlight on the evacuated tube solar collector of the hot water service, since the water feed pump was not powered. The Apricus manual says the header tank basically acts as a pressurised container when the main tank is too hot. The pressurised water can not boil unless pressure is released, and this is fine. I hauled a UPS outside, and attempted to run the water pump from that. The little light came on. However the UPS was beeping annoyingly because it had no power, and is very inefficient when not having much to drive. Plus I figured it would rain, and short out the entire jury rig. I gave up on that.

With the return of electric power in the evening, after 93 hours without power, we had blessed air conditioning for the night. That was the best night sleep I had since Cyclone Yasi hit.

Ergon Energy Triumphs

The big Ergon Energy truck backed down the water floodway across the water easement towards lunch time. I wandered over with my camera to take photos of progress in fixing the leads into the pole mounted transformer. They could not tell us when power would be restored, but probably not today. Lots of repairs still needed elsewhere.

As well as the folks next to the power pole (who had been running a honking big generator for many days), Ray from the Residents Committee, and our caretaker Gary turned up to inspect progress. A lot of sidewalk supervisors today.

Six o'clock, still hot and humid. Suddenly I noticed the porch lights spring on (they are autodetect types). Yes, we had electric power again. I went along the street letting people with generators know the power was back. When I returned I switched the air conditioner feeds back on. Alas, air conditioning did not have power yet. Luckily a few minutes later the air conditioning on Tariff 33 also restarted.

Not much of a coincidence, but the Telstra phone also sprang into life when the electricity started flowing. I can only guess the Telstra CMUX lawn locker has a battery supply, which ran out after about twelve hours. This suggests Telstra power each CMUX from a normal Ergon Energy electricity connection, rather than via DC from the local phone exchange. I had noticed an external light on the exchange the previous day, without us having a phone connection at that time, which had made me discard my batteries at the exchange theory.

I switched on the ADSL modem and wireless router. Although we have a phone connection, we do not have ADSL internet access as yet.

The electric power was out for around 93 hours for us. I gather from comments around the village that the Australian government considers this a real issue, and worth paying people money. If so, why not extend power to so many remote settlements and roadhouses all across the top end that have never had electric power?

Monday 7 February 2011


I was late awakening. Since the weather looked reasonable, we put a heap of clothes in the washing machine, and started it. The heat had not been all that bad while the air conditioning was off, but the high humidity had been debilitating. We never seemed to get any work done.

I went outside before too much sun was exposed. Dug out a heap more of my trench, until I had reached from the front for the house past the dining room window. I can not go much further until I locate some of the irrigation pipes, so I can avoid them. That digging took me until seven, and having lost so much heart muscle to a infarction over a decade ago, I was exhausted by then. I could not manage to even eat anything for breakfast.

I did check again for an Internet connection. Still no ADSL modem connection to iiNet. Something must still be wrong at the Telstra exchange. This is not improving my opinion of the potential reliability of the proposed National Broadband Network. I was already afraid of the lack of a redundant set of links. Now I get to worry about software issues in their gateway routers and so on.

We have several other examples of Government cost cutting recently. Former Premier Beattie was going to do cyclone shelters in northern towns after Cyclone Larry in 2006. As far as I can tell, only three have been built. One of these cyclone shelters was not rated for a maximum cyclone like Yasi, and was thus not used. Ouch.

We drove to Willows to get some fresh vegetables, milk and orange juice, now we had a fully working fridge. We did not try much walking around, which was just as well. I could not resist more morning newspapers. However my multiple attempts to obtain a 2325 Lithium battery were not a success. It also seemed a lot of folks from Carlyle Gardens were shopping. I encountered Nellie, who seems to know the name and history of every plant. I also saw David and Sue, who reported one of their fridges or freezers had died when the power went out.

I had worn my leather look Teva sandals that I was attempting to wear in. The sole started to come off the right Teva sandal. They obviously can not take the heat and humidity of the tropics. I will take them to the Mr Minute for a repair in the next few days, and also see if he has 2325 batteries.

I suspect I wasted most of the day reading newspapers, and the somewhat delayed new issue of Silicon Chip magazine. If that arrived, it probably means the mail is starting to flow again. which in turn means I can now finally mail a USA check for my FAPA renewal.

Eating Out

To hell with preparing a lunch. We decided we could dine at Sizzlers. We had not been there during the entire time since we had been at Carlyle Gardens. This despite it formerly being one of our regular stops when we visited Townsville. So we drove across town.

Jean recalled I wanted more heart tablets, so we visited the discount chemist that is so much cheaper than the Government Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme prices for two of my prescription items. I can not see any merit in paying more for some government sanctioned discount scheme when a private buy is cheaper.

We dropped in at Jaycar. When we tried printing, what must have been a week or so ago, we had discovered our structured wiring for Ethernet had a fault in the living room outlet. Connection of wire three was not there. In general the wires all go through correctly. I find it difficult to believe in a broken wire within the cable. So I wanted a punch down tool, so I could reseat the connector at each end.

At Sizzlers, I had a 300 gram rump steak, Jean had the salad bar. Naturally there is no way I can eat even a 200 gram steak, so as planned, Jean grabbed half the steak, as well as the salad bar. I got the potato chips. I was stunned to realise Sizzlers now favoured Pepsi. I was sure I used to be able to buy Coke there. Still, we both enjoyed the meal.

We had to divert a little in our driving. There seem to be a lot of suburban areas around Townsville with a heap of trees down. The army was out in force on many streets we traversed. The defence forces have been very prominent in putting Townsville back together.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Townsville Driving

I started laundry relatively early. Then I drove Jean off across Townsville to the medical day centre, for her to be admitted at seven in the morning. I am certain she got me to drive so I could find the place later to collect her again. That seemed to work. At least, I was able to find my way home.

On the way home I stopped at Willows. An amazing variety of folks had returned to Carlyle Gardens from their New Zealand cruise. I seemed to find most of them as I walked around Willows. I collected The Australian newspaper. Then I ordered raisin toast at the Muffin Break. As their only fault normally was the butter was too cold to spread, I asked them to get the pat of butter out when I ordered. They even put it on their pie warmer. That helped, as it did not take too long to reach spreadable consistency. Not that you could leave the butter out in our climate. I was stalling until the Mr Minute opened, so I could put my hardly used Teva sandals in for repair. Like many other shoes, the glue holding the shoe together was now soleless.

Next stop was the Mitre 10 hardware store, for a chalk line and a line level. That is part of checking the operation of the groundhogs that seem to be digging a drainage ditch alongside the house.

The laundry had almost finished when I returned to the house, so I hung that out to dry and started another load of towels. That will pretty much bring our laundry up to date after Cyclone Yasi. Not bad all things considered. We have been so lucky compared to Tully and Innisfail and other locations north of us, where perhaps one home in three has been badly damaged or totally destroyed.

Had a salad lunch at the restaurant with the usual gang of seven. Drank Coke, since I would have to collect Jean at some stage. The medical centre phoned at one, just before lunch was over, to say I could collect her. Took about 20 minutes to drive across town. Jean was hungry (no breakfast allowed) so I phoned the restaurant to order a salad lunch to be put aside for me to collect later. On the way back, we stopped at a pharmacy for Jean to get her prescriptions filled. To my utter surprise, despite this diversion, I did not get lost.

Structured Wiring

I made another attempt to find why the structured wiring Ethernet cable to the living room is not working. We want it for a remote network enabled printer. I think it is working for phones (at least for a dial tone), but since we hardly ever use phones for anything, we may never have tested it.

My new Multi-Network Cable Tester with Pin out Indicator Ethernet cable tester shows a open circuit in connector three. Since I now have a punchdown tool available, I tried punching all the insulation displacement connections again. No joy at all from that patchy procedure, so I fear I will need to disassemble and redo the wiring from scratch.

Naturally current regulations in Queensland probably do not permit homeowners to do telecommunication wiring. However the confounded fault is here because someone with an appropriate certificate did not bother to check his cabling. Probably under too much time pressure in the job to take the extra time a test would involve.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Faults Galore

I was late awakening to a grey dawn. After fifty situps as a concession to exercise, I started checking the structured wiring through the house, while the garage was cooler. We already knew the lounge had an open circuit in line three of the Ethernet wiring. So I no longer trusted that the installers of the Hills Home Hub had actually wired the house correctly (you should see length of wire into the connectors). The kitchen showed a full set of connections. Alas, when I tried the first of the master bedroom connections, my new tester burnt out!

I could feel the circuits overheating through the plastic case, as several LEDs came on simultaneous. Not good. Looked to me as if something at the other end was very unfriendly. Now the circuit tester brings every LED up simultaneously, which is a pretty good indication it is totally borked. However I already knew that I had every telecommunications circuit in the house switched off. I still do not understand how that could happen. Damn!

As I expected from a gadget running from a nine volt battery, the circuit consisted of somewhat ancient CMOS integrated circuits. A 555 timer providing sequencing pulses. That feed a 4017 decade sequencer that feed the LED displays via the RJ45 Ethernet sockets. It is a perfectly respectable design. As well as an on-off battery switch, there was an on-off switch to enable a manual sequence pulse, and a pulse switch (not even de-bounced, as far as I could tell). The display board was just a set of nine LED panel meters, as used in so many HiFi units, on a daughter board with header pins. It was all neatly designed and built, and at $39 cheaper than the time involved in designing and building your own version.

If I had been designing it myself, I might have added buffers or maybe limiting resistors on the outputs, but the 4017 CMOS should handle around 700 mW dissipation, which should be sufficient to drive every LED simultaneously. So I do not know why it died abruptly. I am seriously pissed off at the waste of time this will involve. I just wanted to (drain the swamp / fix the house wiring).


I noticed Mark, our head gardener, was around early. He was pruning fallen trees, and then straightening them. I helped prop up a few trees across from me, while Mark applied sacking strip to the wooden stakes to keep the trees upright. Mark and his crew have straightened a remarkable number of our blown over trees. He seems confident that the majority will survive. Considering I would have trouble growing weeds, I will concede he knows more about this than I do.

I drove to the Mitre10 hardware store, seeking a replacement for the little screwdriver I had left out in the rain for the past few weeks. Not to be, as they were some sort of catalogue special. I did however get some plastic Caution tape, which I hope will prevent the lawn mowing contractor falling into the ditches the groundhogs have dug.

My sandals were ready to be collected at the Mr Minute at Willows. They did not have a 2325 Lithium coin cell, however they had a 2320. If the spring is flexible enough the 0.5mm lower thickness will not matter.

Ethel, a few houses up, phoned to ask if I would help connect her new Austar satellite TV box. I am not impressed with the Austar instructions. The cable connections are easy enough, as long as you already understand what they want you to do. The install directions are mildly baroque. I finally got it to the point where it was obvious that the next step involved Austar actually enabling the thing they should have enabled when they shipped the new box. It did not help that the new remote control did not work at all. I checked with her after lunch, and most of it was working (some channels still missing).

It seemed Shelley wanted some photos, but typically enough, they were ones I did not seem to have. Gave Jo-ann the same photos of both parties and cyclonic destruction around the village (parties and destruction need not be synonymous). John from the Social Club asked me about their computer. Alas, I did not manage to help. The more I see Microsoft Vista, the less I like attempting to do anything with it. Finally got to lunch, where I saw Geoff and Margaret. It seems the old musical Oklahoma will be playing in the theatre, prior to the meeting about bulk buying generators.

Jean had checked with iiNet about our lack of an internet connection. They are having issues with several Telstra exchanges, including Kirwin. On the other hand, it seems our phone number is not even on the Telstra data base delivered to iiNet. I wonder how they manage to keep charging us the monthly bill?

Carlyle Evening

I staked out the Caution tape late in the afternoon, since the lawn mowing people are in early in the morning. Then I cut even more drainage ditch turf (to assist the ground hogs), as the whole east edge of the house is still way too wet. There was still 5 cm of water on the ground towards the rear of the house. I sure do not seem to be getting much done that is of use.

By ten in the evening, there was a heap of driving rain coming in. In the morning, I might try pulling more turf out of the drainage ditch alongside of the house.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Groundhog Heaven

The groundhogs were out early working on the drainage ditch, with turf removed from the dining room window up the where the concrete changes width past the air conditioner. Then there was removal of a metre or so near the front of the house, after finding where the water sprinkler was in that area, plus some metre or so of trench past that and continuing alongside the front garden.

Jean was able to spot where the nearly buried water sprinkler head was at the front of the garden. It looks like about another five metres of trench to get past that and reach the driveway. The gardeners came past a few time and noted the trench. I had a nice expanse of Caution tape out to help the mowing contractor avoid the ditch. I also warned them before they got to the area.


I went for an early but rather slow walk around Carlyle Gardens, both sections. That was around 2.74 km, but took me the best part of a half hour. I also managed 50 situps before and after. Then it was groundhog work. In better news for the resumption of services, the garbage truck came around at the regular time today.

We drove to Willows shoppingtown. Jean was not inclined to a long walk as yet. She bought fruit and vegetables at Coles, which now seemed to have reasonable stock levels. I snuck off and bought an apple turnover with cream at Brumby's for breakfast. On a more useful level, I also found the long envelopes she wanted at BigW, and some plastic cups for our supplies for the next minor disaster.

I had lunch at the restaurant. Since I had missed breakfast, I had the bacon and eggs. Allen tells me he is organising a Sunday afternoon event, so the bar will be open then, and Allen was publicising this.

I tried persuading Shelley at the office that she needed to test the hot water service on the unsold houses, before people move in. I think I got through on this topic this time. Alas, in doing this, I forgot that I was going to move tables and chairs in the Carlton Theatre. Only remembered that after being home for several hours.

Ergon Power Outage

The electric power went out yet again, at around 1:30 p.m. I was attacking some weeds when Ethel came down the street to check whether we had also lost power. That check had been my intention when I went outside, but I got diverted by weeds. Ethel also told me that her phone stopped working when the power went out, which seems strange. When I checked twenty minutes after the power was lost, the Ergon electricity hotline specifically listed the Condon area as having needed repairs. Electricity was expected back in about two hours. It came back around three.

The main problem with these outages is there is no warning. While my computer and monitor are on separate UPS, that is not the case with some of the hard drives. Sooner or later I will suffer a catastrophic loss of the hard drive contents. This is really arguing for moving totally away from a desktop style computer. Or at least, making sure everything (and I mean everything) is on some sort of UPS. As a trivial example, I am sick and tired of resetting clocks in appliances like the microwave and stove.

Friday 11 February 2011

Infrastructure Returns

Power to the village went out at 9:15 p.m. on my birthday Wednesday 2 February.

The landline phone system went out of action sometime around 1 p.m. on Thursday 3 February, after surviving the cyclone. I thought the Kirwan exchange must have ran out of battery power, but I now think there was some other issue.

Ergon Energy visited the village on Friday and Saturday (I had already phoned in pole numbers of transformers with visible damage to lines). They fixed at least one of the pole mounted transformers (I took photos).

We had been getting a power feed a few hours a day from our neighbour's generator, so we did not lose any frozen food (as far as we can tell).

Power came back for half the village on Saturday 5 February around 6:58 p.m. A bunch of people from the Social Club were having a BBQ of food rescued from freezers at the time. The bar had just run out of ice for keeping the drinks cold, so there were a lot of cheers.

Electricity came back for our section of the village on Sunday 6 February around 6 p.m. By then our neighbour was swinging the power feed from his Honda 2000 generator between five different neighbours (his fridge and ours would run fine simultaneously, but some of the big chest freezers others had took the whole generator output).

The landline phone started operating at the same time the power came back. I think those CMUX units Telstra have been scattering around must run off the normal power supply, not via a feed from the exchange. But how come it continued to run for over 12 hours after the power was lost?

ADSL internet stayed out, despite the phone working. None of our computers have modems or serial ports any more. I was thinking of connecting an old Apple WiFi access point with a built in modem as a backup to the mobile phones.

ADSL internet access came back around 7:30 a.m. on Friday 11 February.


I helped the groundhog team again this morning, after a short walk around the new side of the village. Mark the head gardener was looking tired. The gardening team have done marvels in rescuing shrubs that were blown partway over during Cyclone Yasi. They have saved dozens if not hundreds of plants. They will still have weeks of work to remove fallen and broken limbs of trees all around. However I am very pleased they had the sense to save plants wherever possible, before doing every bit of the cleanup.

Willows for a walk. Jean's walking ability had been set back, but she managed one and a half times around. Then it was time to collect another two dozen eggs.

I begged a lift to the restaurant from Jean, since the sun was blazing hot. Dot was there already, as was Ray. We were joined by another new resident, before Geoff and Margaret came over after presenting the Rogers & Hammerstein musical Oklahoma at the Carlton Theatre.

Happy hour at the bar this evening, with the Social Club doing their usual fund raising raffles. I caught up with several people. I was also pleased to introduce my nearby neighbours Ethel and Heather to each other. I had met each of them when they asked for some help in getting a TV to work.

Generator Meeting

A different Geoff proposed a generator meeting at the Carlton Theatre at one, to discuss a possible bulk buy of quiet generators. Specifically generators that produce less than 60 dB when operating. I do not recall any mention that the claimed noise output of these generators is when operating in lower speed eco-mode. The noise does increase when they go to a higher speed to adapt to increased power drain.

A little less than a hundred village residents attended. Many had not really looked at generators previously, either because they no longer went camping, or because they thought maintenance of a generator may be an issue. As you might expect, there was one resident who said they would be getting a Scorpion generator, which is a far cheaper brand. They are also much noisier, rated at 67 dB.

Geoff suggested only considering Honda and Yamaha. Owners demonstrated various models, from 1kVA, through 2kVA to 3kVA. They also explained what household appliances they had managed to operate with each of these sizes.

The major reason not to produce our own power is that Ergon Energy are basically still cheap, even for small scale residential consumers. General Tariff 11 is between 17 and 18 cents per kWh (at the moment you can count $US and $A is being equivalent). The restricted hours Tariff 33 is 11 cents per kWh (used for water heating and air conditioning - generally off for a half hour during morning and evening peaks). If we assume half the price is distribution, and 10% goes to profits, it would take several more years of annual increases before I can see most alternatives being likely to compete.

Apple Macintosh Performance

I found a site that enumerates and compares the Speedmark performance a number of contemporary Apple Macintosh computers up to 2010. The Speedmark test is used by MacWorld in its reviews. However each Speedmark version differs from the previous one, so results can not be compared over a number of years.

The general results are as you should expect. The massive Mac Pro desktop is substantially faster than any other model in almost everything, but does not have the top of range graphics some gamers may demand. The iMac all in one, if it has desktop drives, is generally the next performing Macintosh model. If it were not for the glossy mirror display, I would nearly always choose an iMac for my desktop system. However I can not abide the mirror display. The Mac mini is a tiny compromise desktop system, generally similar to a MacBook. I have one, and the performance compromises are acceptable. But I mainly used it so I could connect my 27 inch Dell monitor to avoid the glossy iMac display.

The MacBook Pro performs well for a notebook computer at its weight (you can always find a faster notebook computer if you ignore weight and battery life), and has a competent but not outstanding graphics performance. You can special order the MacBook Pro with a matte display instead of the glossy display. The MacBook is an popular compromise notebook, neither top of class nor most expensive, at the sacrifice of graphics performance. The lightweight MacBook Air is a delight for travellers for general non-professional purposes, but sacrifices general and graphics performance. Using a solid state drive means the disk performance may beat any other model on the market, however storage space is limited by the expense of solid state memory.

Buyers may also like to use the Lagom LCD Display test web site, to calibrate their monitor and to ensure their computer display is set up correctly.

Saturday 12 February 2011


I found that I was not connected to the internet, yet again. The ADSL modem was showing an external IP address of Luckily the problem seemed to only be that WiFi had disconnected when the computer slept. Given I provide an unlimited term for the lease of internal IP addresses, I am not sure why this happens.

We went shopping at Willows. Jean seemed to find all the interesting foods, while I got a bunch of newspapers to get angry about. Well, it is not the newspapers that make me angry. It is the accounts of what the politicians are doing that usually make me angry.

Alas, I did not manage to help the groundhogs work on the drainage ditch today.

Make An Eagle From Two Turkeys

Nokia, the best selling mobile phone makers in the world, have announced a partnership between Nokia and Microsoft. Nokia have been making reliable, robust mobile phone hardware for a long time. It is a pity their low end operating systems on commodity phones were close to unusable. Despite this, their Symbian smart phones are leading world smartphone sales by a large margin, even if hardly anyone uses the nice features. However the likely decline was obvious. However Nokia were anti-Microsoft for years.

Nokia intend to adopt Microsoft Windows Phone as the operating system for future generations of smartphones. Nokia will probably not release their Linux based open source MeeGo operating system. Nokia will reduce their dependance on Symbian as an operating system, until it disappears into complete irrelevance. The new phones will use Microsoft's Bing as a search service.

Let me make sure I have this straight. Nokia are going to abandon Symbian (which cost them a mint), and which has the largest pool of phone users in the world. Symbian has more than 250 million users. Windows Mobile has way less than 50 million. But Nokia think it is a good idea to dump the largest base of users, in favour of one of the smallest. I must be dreaming. Sell your Nokia shares.

Nokia had noted problems with their existing operating systems, according to former Microsoft executive. D'oh! Microsoft will solve this? It will certainly make Microsoft loom large in the mobile phone arena.

However, look at this interesting item. Nokia granted exclusive rights to customise WP7. Maybe all those Nokia software engineers will not be brushing up their resumes. Maybe they will be learning new Windows tricks. This may get very interesting.

It may be a disaster. Mobile phone manufacturers have teamed up with Microsoft previously. I have a little list. Ericsson, Sendo, Motorola, Palm, LG, Verizon. They did not end well.

Traditional Ceiling Fans Are Shit

I found one of the most trying aspects of not having any household electricity after Cyclone Yasi was the lack of air conditioning. For much of the time (except in the wet season), a ceiling fan is sufficient. However we had no battery operated ceiling fans. Indeed, I doubt they exist. They should.

Unlike an air conditioner, a fan does not cool the air. It simply moves air around. Fans work in computers because they remove warm air from the case, so already cooler outside air can replace the warm air faster than convection alone would manage. Fans work with humans because we sweat, and rely upon evaporative cooling. Any air flow makes sweating more efficient.

Ceiling fans for homes are available with blades up to 137 cm diameter. Multiple (five) blade fans use AC motors of up to 100 Watts, and rotate at 160 rpm. A high price fan I saw moved 160 cubic metres of air per Watt, or 16,000 cubic metres per hour. Others operated at 75, 165 and 240 rpm, using 13, 45 and 103 Watts or another at 80, 113, 160 rpm, using 15, 29 and 63 Watts. There are a small number of fans using more efficient DC motors.

The blades of cheap ceiling fans are basically a piece of bent metal. It displaces air, much the same way a piece of cardboard displaces air when moved. There is no attempt at an airfoil design. In addition, fans have a reverse switch for winter, which is not needed in the tropics. Having blades that can sort of work in reverse is just stupid in the tropics.

You can design a better fan. Measured Ceiling Fan Performance and Usage Patterns: Implications for Efficiency and Comfort Improvement. Most typical fans are inefficient.

Thermal Comfort

The Australian Bureau of Meteorology have a good discussion of thermal stress, web bulb globe temperature and apparent temperature. However they use a formula to predict the values at their observation points. So you can not simply look them up.

If the web bulb temperature is typically above about 220C, then an evaporative cooler is not likely to be particularly effective. The Queensland tropical coast is not suitable for evaporative cooling in summer, due to the high humidity.

The average specific heat of human body is about 3.5 kJ/kg per degree C. So if a 70kg person has a core body temperature of 400C due to hot conditions, sweating (evaporation of water basically) from the skin to get back to the average human core body temperature has to get rid of energy. Heat to be removed is 70x3.5x(40-37) or 735 kJ. The latent heat of vaporisation of water is around 2300 kJ/kg, so 735/2300 is around 320 grams of sweat required.

The specific heat capacity of air is around 1010 kJ/kg per degree C, and air has a density around 1.2 kg per cubic metre.

This stuff is all background for how it might be possible to make more effective fans.

Sunday 13 February 2011


I noticed in the newspaper that the public affairs programs I like were back on TV. Not that I have a TV set. So I watched Meet The Press on the computer display before putting out the laundry. Then I changed to the ABC for Insiders and Inside Business. The commentators all seemed very jolly. Must have been the effect of a break and being away from the show.

I managed to finish reading the weekend newspapers and get the already dry laundry in before Jean did bacon and eggs for lunch. That was pretty good. It was however too hot to work outside with the groundhogs on the drainage ditch.

There was singing at the restaurant this afternoon. Allen had organised an amateur group, and scheduled an afternoon tea. I felt obliged to go and see how it was going. Sue was passing by, and kindly gave me a lift. Not going well. Only a half dozen people attended. The singers outnumbered the audience. I got a plate of sandwiches and a glass of wine. After it was all over I talked with some of the audience and singers. I am afraid the singers needed some more work. Despite not having a strong voice, Ray did better than I expected. I think it was a matter of him attempting to present, as well as sing. That often seemed a little lacking in some other performances. However the main issue is that we tend to hear professionals singing, and these days, a professional simply outperforms anything an amateur can manage.

Our neighbours across the street were having their usual afternoon drink with their neighbours. They called out to me when I was heading back, so I joined them. Allan poured me a way too generous dollop of rum, so I am not sure I made any sense. It was interesting to note that pretty much all the neighbours around us now have Honda E20i generators.

Dyson Air Multiplier Fan

I really like the appearance of the Dyson Air Multiplier Fan, that appears to use the Coanda effect. That is the gadget that has no visible fan, and was reviewed on tech sites. It is easier to clean than a fan blade. Like an enclosed fan, it protects your fingers from fan cuts. It does not send a corkscrewing column of air at you. However that seems about the limit to its advantages.

The Dyson Air Multiplier is noisier than many regular fans. At a stated 63.5 dBA for the 25 cm model, and 64.5 dBA for the 30 cm model, it is noisier than the giant outside unit of a multi head Daikin air conditioner for a whole apartment. A standard fan with similar capacity is often said to be below 50 dBA. At the lowest possible setting, the Dyson was still 51 dBA when tested.

A conventional Bodmer fan of the same diameter produced much the same air flow as the Dyson, despite the air multiplier effect used by Dyson. The general principle with fans is that larger blades work better. Maybe Dyson could use a larger base impeller?

The original Dyson used 9 Watts at its lowest setting, 28 Watts at the highest. The highest Dyson setting used less power than low on a conventional fan. The conventional fan used the same power at its lowest setting as the Dyson on its highest setting. The conventional fan increased to 38 Watts on its highest setting. My guess is you could see a 20 cent a week saving on electricity with the Dyson.

The Dyson is about ten times the cost of the conventional fan, but does not really work much better. My guess is that a conventional fan with a similar high efficiency motor, and an airfoil blade design, would blow the Dyson away. It is a pity such a fan does not exist, if only for comparison purposes. Traditional fan design is mostly aimed at cheap, rather than good.

I do however like the Dyson AirBlade hand dryers they have at some airports. They work quick.

What would I like to see from Dyson? A ceiling fan. Ceiling fans really suck. So I sent them a note to that effect. They replied.

Monday 14 February 2011


I could not sleep, so I got up before four. Did not get much done on the computer except clear out crap in my email. Went for a very short walk in the village in my not yet broken in sandals (the Teva sandals on which I have already had to have the soles glued back) while the sun was rising. Wonderful sunrise, like a painting. Reality has great graphics.

We went to Willows, rather late for us. Jean managed to walk around twice this time. Getting better each try. For once we really had nothing to buy in the shops, so it was an uneventful walk.

Before lunch I made one more attempt to get Allan and Mary's illuminated number sign working. I put the batteries I have been using for the past two weeks into her sign. They were working great for me. If they fail in Mary's sign, it means there is some problem entirely separate from the batteries. While I was over there, I also paired their energy meter receiver to the transmitter again. For some reason I could still not persuade it to change the cost per kWh. Must read the manual again, as the short instructions just do not seem to work, so I must still be missing some step.

As an aside, and driven by squelching through the water to and from the meter box when the electricians arrived. The water trap between our house and the next is killing our lawn. Jean won't open the bedroom window because of the smell of dead grass. Despite having been fine for the past several days, there is still a pool of water, enough to cover your shoes. This is ridiculous. The lack of proper drainage is totally unacceptable.


Australian inventor Tom Chalko has converted a deep freezer into an incredibly efficient refrigerator. Top loading, to avoid having the cold air drop out when you open the door, uses power for 90 seconds an hour when maintaining a 150C difference. Uses an external latching relay and thermostat to change the already efficient and better insulated freezer into a fridge. Vestfrost SE255 chest freezer with 600a refrigerant and a $40 battery-powered thermostat equipped with digital temperature display and an internal 5A/240V latching relay.

Vaccine refrigerator uses Sure Chill phase change material to stay cold for ten days. Can be powered by solar power. Uses mains power less than five hours a day. Now that would be handy after a cyclone.

Generator Changeover Switch

I had phoned up Doanh when we returned from Willows, to make sure our meter box was equipped with a generator changeover switch. He had originally hoped to look at the changeover last week. Now the 15 amp caravan sockets were in short supply in Townsville. Fancy that!

Two of his crew arrived around 4:30 p.m. to do the deed, once they walked through the swamp. They seemed very competent, and got straight to work. They paused long enough for us to switch off various items connected to power. Computers always take longer than you hope to shut down. I even remembered the fans and air conditioners.

The generator changeover switch basically allows us to select to run our general lights and power circuits from either the Ergon Energy electricity mains supply, or from a generator plugged into the 15 amp caravan plug in the meter box. There is no connection to the air conditioning or the hot water service. There is also no connection to the oven or stovetop.

Now we just have to organise to buy a generator, and an appropriate 15 amp lead. I think I will also look for a carbon monoxide detector. Plus I want some cable holders along the wall so that the power cable does not have to be along the ground where it may be underwater.

Consider a Fan Blade

We can think of a fan blade displacing air. If the fan blade were a flat board of dimensions L and W moving in a straight line at velocity V while inclined at an angle to Q the vertical, the effective area would be Ae = L x W x cos(Q). The air displaced per second is Ae x V.

However the fan blade is rotating, so the angular velocity increases from centre to the tip. You would think an integral with respect to the radius would give the result. Unfortunately for this approach, even CFD simulations do not actually give precise figures, due to other variables like eddies and the effects of floor and ceiling.

So the next step is to cheat, and actually measure the air flow results from a fan with an anemometer. The Jaycar anemometer is $10 cheaper, but not as suitable for measuring low speed fans.

Tuesday 15 February 2011


I was up late, and like many of the inmates, went for a walk around the inside perimeter of Carlyle Gardens. After chugging some cordial and water, I started cutting through the turf between our house and next door. The ground is still soft from water, so it is probably still mud underneath. I kept that up until about seven, by which time the heat was getting to me. I am really tired of how waterlogged the ground is. It can not be good for the foundations of the house.

We drove to Willows after getting our first load of washing on the line. Jean managed two and a half times around Willows, showing steady improvement in her walking. I bought The Australian. As usual I am enraged by the politicians.

Saw Dot, Ray and Sue there at our table for lunch, plus Clive and Helen at another table. It seems Helen is rather impressed by the Kindle eBook device. I had not expected such a book lover to take to the Kindle (although I had shown her books on an iPad to encourage her). It was good to see. Later on Geoff and Margaret joined us. After lunch I helped them set the tables up for the Centrelink visit tomorrow.

Power Loss

I notice that Anna Chisholm in the Courier Mail reports 12,000 still without power after Cyclone Yasi, some 12 days after the event. Ergon Energy made massive attempts to get electricity connected over a very large area.

Townsville came within hours of running out of water, when electricity was lost. It appears that water treatment plants either do not have emergency power, or it is insufficient to cope.

Rubbish collection remains an issue, hardly surprising considering how much vegetation was lost during the winds.

The main highway north and south was cut after the cyclone. It remained cut to the north for long periods, while relief efforts were made to get through to the worst hit communities.

I have nothing but admiration for the dedication and hard work of the various services that were hit so hard by Cyclone Yasi.

However the sad fact is that you can not rely upon things going right after cyclones or floods. You can not staff services for the sort of damage done.

Wireless Phone Households

I see Telstra are updating mobile phone network to Long Term Evolution (LTE), in capital CBD areas by the end of 2011. This upgrade for the 1800 MHz band in co-operation with Ericsson, Sierra Wireless and Qualcomm is somewhat in advance of the real availability of suitable handsets. Telstra have managed to demonstrate speeds of 143 Mbps, although no-one expects real life speeds anywhere near this. Contrary to many newspaper reports LTE is not a 4G phone technology.

Telstra now claim that they added a half million mobile subscribers in the past six months. They claim wireless only households are now 12% of all customers. The NBN business case is for 16% wireless only by 2025. Meanwhile, the European Union Eurobarometer survey shows 20% mobile only households in Britain, 25% across the EU.

Wednesday 16 February 2011


I had trouble sleeping, partly due to the rain that continued through much of the early morning. That means no early walk, nor any laundry today. It also makes drainage ditches less likely.

We did our usual walk at Willows, managing to get around two and a half times. Stocked up on food at Coles, despite the number of partly empty shelves. For instance, they had hardly any Coke, and what they did have was expensive (so I did not buy).

There were a fair number of people at the Centrelink event in the morning at the Carlton Theatre. We had a few more tables out. It certainly seemed that a lot of the people in the village had heard about the Commonwealth government disaster payment. Usual story. Labor can not help themselves about spending up big. It makes them popular. It may not be the most sensible approach, given they have already overspent.

I put out more poles with Caution tape along them, in advance of the lawn mowing contractors tomorrow. The groundhog ditch has extended even further.

OnLine Selling Clash

I see in the Google Blog that Google OnePass has been announced. This provides user authentication and payment processing via Google Checkout for digital publishers. Google are charging 10% of the price of the item (Apple charge 30%). Publishers will still be hosting their own content. The new Google OnePass product in only available in the USA, and a very limited range of European countries.

This seems a handy tactic for Google to provide alternatives to Amazon. However Google are good at finding ways around tax problems so you expect them to be good at alternatives for most things.

Google's pricing is even more so an attack on Apple's highly restrictive subscription facility. Apple say the publisher can sell on their own site and pay nothing to Apple. However Apple say that if you allow people to sign up for a subscription from your app, then you must also have an option to sell through iTunes and that it has to be at the same price or lower in iTunes.

Internet Connection Problems

My computer would not connect to the internet in the morning. Well, first WiFi was somehow disconnected. When that deigned to appear, the Belkin router said it was connected as, but nothing got through. A traceroute to an IP number stalled with an error message findsaddr: write: No such process. Then a few minutes later, the internet was back, although the traceroute was very slow.

In the late afternoon, the WiFi connection was lost, and the computer could not connect using the WPA password. After several futile tries, I powered down the Belkin router. It powered up, but did not give me an ADSL connection. So I told the router to reconnect. This time I was given external IP address Looks like the connection is back. The reliability of ADSL internet access here is poor, and I believe is getting worse.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Internet Access Slows

The ADSL internet connection was once again extremely slow when I returned from lunch after a few hours away, and with the computer asleep. I was then on IP number It was as if the internet did not know I was trying to connect. Traceroute was very slow, although time per skip seemed reasonable. This is not a problem with the (not very great) speed of the copper wire and fibre network between us and the exchange. This problem is further down into the system. As a symptom, my IP address has again changed, this time to


I managed to walk around the entire inside perimeter of the place today, over 2.5 km, at a good pace. No work on the groundhog ditch issue, since the lawn mowing contractors will be here later in the day.

We ran into trouble after doing our walk at Willows. Jean checked the promotional flyers from Coles. They had the ice cream we like at half price. We resisted for another half walk around the shopping centre. Then we went in and bought two of the one litre ice cream packs. Since Coke was now on special, I also bought two cases of 15, although the entire store only seemed to have five cases in total. Supplies have been very short since Cyclone Yasi.

Saw Geoff and Margaret at lunch. It seems we will be away at much the same times. No idea who will handle theatre bookings while we are all away.

When I saw Meryl, she introduced me to the new sales manager. It seems there are still nine homes to sell.

Carlyle Gardens Flood Alleviation

This evening I started helping the groundhogs with their drainage ditch at our house in Stage A of Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort. Digging large chunks out of the lawn to the west of the house, leading to the front. I took away some of the dirt to help build up the earth alongside the house, in the hope this directs some water away from the house wall, rather than towards it. I am not interested in having water flooded up against the bricks of the house all during the wet season.

It was however way too hot to stay out there for long. I will check in the morning to see if any water accumulated in the trench. However I fear there is still a clay cap between where the trench can be, and the lake of water beside the house.

Power Problem

We seem to have some sort of issue with the Ergon Energy Tariff 33 power supply this evening. This is a concessional rate power supply that can be switched off by the electricity authorities for up to six hours a day, to assist them in meeting peak demand. We use this for air conditioning and for hot water (not that we normally even have electricity switched on to the solar hot water).

Tariff 33 normally works full time on the weekend. However it is (we are told) generally off for a half hour sometime in the morning (we do not use air conditioning at that hour, so we would not know). In addition, on weekdays, it is off for us from 6:54 p.m. until 7:24 p.m. (the time varies depending on which house you are in). This evening it went off as usual, but the power did not come on again, and it is already 8:20 p.m. This seems strange, as it is getting past the peak power use now.

I phoned the Ergon Energy faults hotline at 8:45 p.m. They had a recorded message up from 8:10 p.m. saying they were aware that the Tariff 33 restart signal for Townsville had not been sent. They said do not call an electrician, as they were working on it. Mind you, anyone who can get an electrician on short notice these days is very lucky.

At 9:10 p.m. I noticed that the air conditioner had powered itself back up again, and was operating. I guess Ergon Energy solved the problem after all.

Friday 18 February 2011

Death by Paper Cuts

Bookseller Borders in USA have gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy for protection from its creditors. It will close 200 book superstores, about a third of its stores, and drop 6,000 staff. Borders was bought by KMart in 1992, and spun off in a separate company in 1995. Sales declined by double digit percentages in each of the past three years, and Borders has not made a profit since 2006. At its peak in 2003, Borders had 1249 stores (including specialist WaldenBooks). Creditors do not appear to believe even a slimmed down Borders is a viable operation. Reading is changing, partly through competition from other interests, partly via audio books and ebooks.

In November 2009 Borders UK went into administration. By the end of December 2009, all 45 stores were closed, and Borders UK was gone.

Borders Australia is owned by REDgroup who have now gone into voluntary liquidation. The REDgroup also own Angus and Robertson bookshops, and Whitcoulls in New Zealand. They have around 260 stores in all. Competition from overseas booksellers is particularly strong, now parity prices overseas makes more obvious the abusive pricing of Australian books.

Facebook Broken

I see Facebook is utterly broken yet again, at least in the Safari web browser. I tried making life easy by sending a photo to Facebook from iPhoto. Three or four tries later the iPhoto Facebook exporter still had not managed to log in. Eventually it connected, wanted far more rights than I wanted to give it. So I tried sending up a sample photo. That went into an album, which is not what I wanted. Then I could not add a comment to the photo in Facebook, which combined makes the whole thing useless.

Next Facebook would not let me comment at all. Then it would not let me see older posts. Next it would not let me log out. I have had it with this useless piece of Facebook shit. I can not see how Google can expect to move people to web based products when there are so many stuffups on every fancy web site I try.

Carlyle Gardens Flood Alleviation

I am utterly pissed off with this water drainage problem in Stage A of Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort. This is the second year that we have had drainage problems, and water flooding both sides of the house. To the point where I told Jean today that I wanted to leave Carlyle Gardens. She disagrees about leaving, pointing out (correctly) that the Resort Management here at Carlyle Gardens are a lot better than back at the Whitsunday Terraces at Airlie Beach.

I went out early in the morning to put the turf back into the drainage ditch on the western side of the house at Carlyle Gardens, before someone fell in it. The soil goes down about 15 cm at most, and then hits almost impervious clay and some rocks. Both sides of the house are lower than their surrounding lawn. I can not see how it is possible to get good drainage from that sort of landscaping mess.

I just have to hope having a lower portion of turf will help slightly with drainage when the western side of the house floods again. Which it will every time we get rain, especially with the downpipes from the house flowing directly to the foundations. I am trying to raise the earth next to the concrete surround of the house, to keep the water further away, in the hope this encourages a slightly faster drain off, rather than simply a bigger swamp.

What is really needed at a minimum is a properly measured shallow V drain sloping correctly the whole way along between the houses so that water can get to the gutter. Plus the gutter needs some drains cut through it, or the water will just pile up at the gutter itself.


We went to Willows after breakfast for Jean's walk. She walked around three times, although she was slowing down at the two and a half mark. I thought that was pretty good. When we went into Woolworths for milk, we spotted some of our favourite breakfast cereal on sale, so we got that as well.

Geoff phoned just as we were getting back, to tell us of the great spread of goodies that Queensland Rail travel were putting out for their talk to residents about train travel in Queensland. The two QR folks did a very good presentation. While we had read of their trains on their website, the presentation seemed much better for gaining an idea of what was available. We have not used QR (or any rail) in Queensland ever. I think it is time we did so. Indeed, the main reason I have not used them for travel between Airlie Beach and Townsville is that the train stations are a considerable distance from where I want to end up. The three and a half hour car trip is time in which I can not do anything else.

Jean found the scones at the presentation very nice. I thought I was being greedy having two whole scones with jam and cream. I gather she somehow managed to go through a half dozen scones.

Jean gave me a lift to lunch at the restaurant, where Dot and Ray were present. The great slabs of roast beef I was given fed both of us for another meal when I took them back. Dot gave me a lift back, which given the heat was a real help.

Too pissed off with the drainage problem to be good company, so I did not go to the Social Club Happy Hour (bah, humbug) at the bar in the early evening.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Power Outage

There was another unexpected electricity power outage in Stage A of Carlyle Gardens at 11:54 a.m. The power was restored at 2:42 p.m. So we were without power again for 2 hours 48 minutes. Electricity workers told me it was caused by a report of fallen power lines in the area behind Carlyle Gardens, which required the power cut to work safely.

Ergon Energy workers were wandering through Carlyle Gardens at times during the power cut. They did confirm that Stage A was connected via the Rasmussen transformer station. In an earlier visit to the Rasmussen transmission facility, I was able to talk with a contractor who confirmed two older and known faulty pieces of equipment had been replaced with new equipment since Cyclone Yasi. Good photographs of the new gear is hard, because of the safety fence.


We went to Willows for our walk after breakfast. Jean managed three and a half times around the place, which is pretty good. I got all four morning newspapers, which keeps me out of trouble for much of the day.

Not being able to heat up left over food for lunch during the power outage left me wandering around the village looking for things that could cause trouble.

Carlyle Gardens Flood Alleviation

I took a CD of sprinkler pipe layout photos to Holger, who had also been digging drainage ditches in the lawn. Talked with Holger, and then to Ian, Ken and Penny about drainage problems. It seemed that lots of people I talked to had some issue with drainage in Carlyle Gardens. Some did fear flooding of their porches and floors. Some said they had valuables up off the floor, which was a bit of a revelation. I kept being pointed to additional people who had drainage problems, or who feared flooding.

Not everyone has problems. Some of the older homes in Stage A of Carlyle Gardens seem to have the problems solved, or at the very least reduced. Some said it was because they complained. I noticed some homes just inside the entry now have downpipes that go through the concrete surround, and join drainage pipes to the street via outlets in the curbs. They also have grills to the pipes to help drain yard water away. The most recent six homes built also have the same drainage treatment, of downpipes linked to drainage pipes, and a street outlet for the overflow of water.

This retrofit of drainage seems to indicate that at some stage someone in Prime Trust realised that they had to solve the drainage issues before something in Carlyle Gardens flooded. Time to start a campaign for the drainage to be corrected everywhere in Stage A.

Sunday 20 February 2011


The internet was characteristically slow to give access at 5 a.m. It looks like there is no access to the Domain Name Servers. I think iiNet are taking away your assigned IP number, and then are slow to give you another. Since WiFi was working, and the ADSL modem was running and thought it was connected, I kicked off a traceroute to a numeric address to bypass the Domain Name System. I now seem to have IP number

I watched TV current affairs shows, Meet the Press, Insiders, and Inside Business. Unlike several people in the village, I did not have any reception issues. Afterwards i saw Heather about her analogue TV reception. Seems rather typical of something coming from analogue. She has until the end of the year before a set top box would be needed to keep her TV operating. There are bound to be sales before then. I also checked a radio tuner, but could not figure out the pre-set mode. Luckily the automatic station scan works well, and provides access to at least some strong stations. The FM antenna seems to be missing.

Social Club Quarterly General Meeting and BBQ this afternoon. A certain amount of justified bragging about the efforts of the Social Club and the Disaster committee volunteers during and after Cyclone Yasi. Alas, there was trouble at the gas BBQ cookers, with a regulator, so the sausages were a little late.

I was lucky enough to have one new resident pointed out to me by Allen, so I introduced her to a few people, and tried to persuade her to go to the Computer Club meeting. She turned out to have an Apple Macintosh she was unsure how to use. I must have been doing well on tickets, as I won three prizes. I gave to handbag to one of the ladies at the table who had expressed admiration for it. The wine, cheese and crackers, and chocolate snacks I took home, where Jean fell upon the chocolates and inspected them for suitability. I also got a picnic set in an insulated carry bag. I could see that in the car when we take long trips in the country.

Queensland Broke

I note that ever reliable source of unbiased political commentary, The Australia, reports Queensland worst economic performer (with South Australia) for financial management and that it is no longer a low tax state (the others decreased some taxes). See Tax, Borrow, Spend: How the States Compare by Robert Carling at the Centre for Independent Studies (another unbiased source of comment).

The thing I basically noticed was the increased dividends and special payment made to the state government by government owned corporations. This then showed up a few years later in decreased maintenance, so everything runs down. Money still flowed from mining and tourism, and hid some of the effects by keeping people employed. Now mining is spending on repairs, and returns will be down. Tourism is totally stuffed.

Expenditure is out of control, and inefficient. The Health SAP based computer wages scandal indicates a lack of oversight (and a minister who was badly advised about this overcomplicated mess). The same thing is about to happen to the OneSchool Smart Classrooms ICT project.

Monday 21 February 2011


I dug some more mud and soil out of the drainage trench on the eastern side of the house. Put two plastic containers of soil on the back porch before giving up as the sun rose and it got too hot for me to dig.

A shopping trip today, partly as an escape from Carlyle Gardens. We started laundry around 6:30 a.m. when I came inside from digging ditches. At 8:30 a.m. the washing machine is still bumbling along not completing the wash. I loath these ecologically sound washing machines. By the time we hung the laundry out it was peak hour for traffic.

The shopping went well. Jaycar gave me a replacement for my failed cable tester. I got a replacement nibbling tool, since my ancient one was really on its last legs. A nice set of miniature screwdriver tips, since so many electronic devices now have minute screws and bolts. Plus they had a transistor radio they swore had good AM reception, and decent tone, plus great battery life. I wanted a replacement for my cyclone radio, which had been a bit of a pain to listen to during the recent cyclone. Jean got a 12 volt electric kettle for using from a car socket. She also got a folding computer cooling pad, which was on special, for when she travels.

The item that will make the most difference to us is the battery clock. We had a battery clock in the kitchen, but in the quiet of the morning or evening, the sound of the second hand ticking along drove us nuts. I had found on the internet that OfficeWorks had a silent second hand battery clock. So we bought one. The noisy old clock got taken down and the battery removed.

The gardeners were around the back garden straightening more trees. They say they can not do the big ones along the fence line without a bobcat and block and tackle. I had not been aware that one gardener was off work, so there are only the three gardeners doing a really large job of making the place look good after a lot of damage. They also removed the fallen and badly broken shrub in the side garden. As an aside, the gardeners told me Mark has a dumpy level. I think however I may find it easier just to make use of a manometer type water level.

Internet Fails Again

Yet another failure to connect to the internet, sometime between 7:30 a.m. and 8:15 a.m. No access to Domain Name Servers. After several minutes of a stalled numeric traceroute, internet access starts again. The IP number I have assigned now is

Electricity Costs

I notice electricity costs go up each time the notified costs are released. The state government (which owns the power plants) and the unions (which push up transmission costs) manage to duck any blame. 11.37% for 2007-2008. After lots of fighting 9.06% for 2008-2009. They keep hiding the figures deeper and deeper in the files. 11.82% for 2009-2010. Then this year 13.29% for 2010-2011. If you look at these you may notice that transmission costs (currently 47%) increase faster than production costs (currently 44%). Plus what the hell are they doing allowing increased retailing costs (currently 9%)? If customer acquisition and retention is costing more, get out of the industry, and let Ergon Energy sell it. So far in four years electricity costs are up about 54%. However fronting an election year, the suggested draft rise is 5.83% in 2011-2012. Why so much lower this time? The cost of obligatory gas for electric power dropped as gas costs dropped. The idiotic solar incentives did not cost as much as expected.

How much would it cost to run your own generator? Diesel generators are used in the Torres Strait islands. This Ergon Energy vs Taxation court case gives generation costs between 1996 and 1999. Cost varied from 28 cents per kilowatt hour at Waiben to 62 cents per kilowatt hour at Mabuiag. Ergon Energy are obliged to sell this electricity at 12 cents per kWh under community service obligations. Do not fool yourself into thinking diesel power generation is cheap.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Internet Reliability Sucks

Internet access was again very slow when I first went to the computer a little after four. After forcing a traceroute to a numeric IP address (which went international, although the location was in Sydney), the Belkin router finally woke up. My assigned IP address this time was

Got home from our Willows mall walk before ten, and the internet was gone again. So again I forced a traceroute to a numeric IP address. The first two steps past the router were incredibly slow, despite showing response times of 36 ms. Took about three or four minutes before the internet access was back.

Then having worked for a few minutes, it reverted to not having an internet connection with any speed, despite the fact that I can get outside my router connection. WAN IP address is now In other words, I keep losing my external IP address, despite my router being connected and not rebooted.


I removed another container of mud and soil from the groundhog drainage ditch, instead of doing something healthy like taking an early morning walk. However Jean and I did drive to Willows for mall walking after breakfast.

The second generator meeting was today. About 25 people put up their hands to buy a Honda generator. The Rising Sun Honda dealer wanted 30 buyers, but as expected accepted this slightly lower number. Most people seemed to select the 2 kVA model. I gather generators are in short supply at the moment, so it is a sellers market.

We had seven for lunch, with Jeff and Pat back, Sue attending, regulars of the past few weeks Dot and Ray there, and John arriving somewhat unexpectedly. I had to tell them Jean and I would not be there for the dinner on Saturday, since we will be battling problems at the Whitsunday Terraces.


I attended the Carlyle Gardens Computer Club InfoNite, assisted by a lift from Laurie which avoided a still hot walk just prior to seven. Peter put on his usual splendid presentation, this time encouraging thinking about security and about backups. Peter seems to now be specialising in assisting residents of Carlyle Gardens. Peter is a much better choice than taking a computer to a random computer shop for service, however he is somewhat overwhelmed by numbers.

Wednesday 23 February 2011


I was unable to sleep, and wasted time at the computer after I got up at four. I did remove yet another container of soil from the groundhog ditch before seven.

Our Willows walk was late, however Jean managed four laps before stopping to get a seafood platter for lunch. Meanwhile, I was grumbling about the number of people who seem to be walking around shopping centres in a daze. Having driven to the place on the left hand side of the road, why do they think walking on the right is standard?

When I tried to access the internet, it was once again inaccessible. Our IP number was now A numeric traceroute again woke up the connection. After a long lunch, the same thing happened again. The IP numbered assigned this time is

It turned out that Leigh was already talking with Geoff and Margaret when I reached the Administration. So we had the meeting that Geoff desired after all.

Carlyle Gardens Not Threatened By Sea Water

I happened upon a very nice site that games Google Maps and height information to show the effects of a sea level rise, such as a strong storm surge, or natural rise in sea level due to climate change. Naturally I could not resist checking out Townsville, with an eight metre sea level rise. Despite the dire effects on waterfront properties, Carlyle Gardens is nowhere near the actual flood events.

Eight metre sea level rise effects on Townsville

Thursday 24 February 2011

Travel to Airlie Beach

We packed the few remaining boxes in the car, and departed just prior to six. There was somewhat more glare from the rising sun, but it was also higher when we encountered it, so keeping the sunshade between the driver and the sun mostly worked. Traffic was also somewhat heavier than I expected, at least on the stretch from Townsville to Ayr. There were also more absolute idiots overtaking over double yellow lines and on blind curves. While we may have actually been slightly under the speed limit, the cruise control was set to a few kilometres over the speed limit. We were hardly slowing traffic down.

We stopped at Inkerman at around 7:30 share one of their big bacon and three egg breakfasts. These are truck repasts, which I could never manage to eat on my own. Shared the two of us can manage it, and we were on the road again in a half hour. Another comfort stop at Bowen at nine, and we were approaching Cannonvale before ten.


We stopped at Michelle's camping and caravan store outside Cannonvale. It was great to see her again and have a chat. The store continues to expand. There were a bunch of generators there, both the small 2 kVA Yamaha, and also their bigger companions, of 5 kVA and so on. The prices of the larger generators was very competitive with the small ones, but they lack the fancy inverter abilities of the smaller models. We picked up a small fuel syphon pump, and a 20 metre 15 amp caravan connector cord, for our new generator.

At Blue Bay industrial estate we soon found IceCool. Someone I knew was behind the desk, but they did not know about our replacement remote control, or our invoice. When Ken arrived (carrying an iPad) he gave us the remote, and took our email address. Said they would send the bill via email. The bill is already a month old, since the original air conditioning service was done on Thursday 20 January.

We also found next door to IceCool a place called Wardrobes and More that installs and repairs wardrobe doors and screen doors. We organised for them to come and fix a bunch of doors at our apartment.

We bought a Subway Club for lunch, since the lunch hour rush had uncharacteristically not actually started at eleven. I stuffed it in my backpack while we walked around. Although I noticed that Jean grabbed the lunch when we separated while climbing the steps to our apartment.

We walked the main street of Airlie Beach, so Jean could attend the Scissor Sisters hair dresser whose owner we have used for hairdressing over most of the past decade. Not nearly as much gossip in the hairdressers as I hoped.

The number of vacant shops in Airlie Beach is much increased even from a mere month ago. There are a frightening number of vacant shops in the main street of Airlie Beach. A headline in the local Whitsunday Times newspaper says 30 shops vacant. I collected back issues of the Whitsunday Times when we visited the news agency. As usual they had held back issues for me. There were also four different computer magazines, bringing me up to the January issues.

Dinner was to be a pizza, as I had a very late lunch due to visits to see people. I did not know Dominos number. In trying to look up Dominos on the web on my iPhone, they offered a Dominos iPhone app. So I downloaded and installed that app. Apart from trying too hard to sell me a meat lover pizza, it seemed to work. I rushed down the twelve flights of steps to Dominos soon after sending my order. The pizza was all ready for me. I rushed even more up the twelve flights with the pizza, so Jean could get stuck into dinner. Climbing the twelve flights in haste left me out of breath and gasping. I used to be able to do that far easier. I need to stay at Airlie Beach more and do the stair climbing more.

Social Life

Saw Jim as we unpacked. Seemed all his office was over his floor. There was a lot of dust around outside, indicating his studio unit was now in full renovation mode. Jean finally got a look later at his innovative changes to his suite. I saw Jim a couple of times during the day, when he asked about various computer and iPhone issues. Alas, most seemed to have some issue that got in the way of an easy and satisfying solution. Sometimes you have to do things the way the engineers designed them to be used.

Jim gave me the Building Code Australia (BCA Section C.3.11.d.ii) specification for solid core entry doors, said you needed to specify close fitted to prevent them rattling in the breeze. He has a little dentist's mirror, especially to check how the builder does stuff. Our outdoor weather exposed doors need to specify seal all around including top and bottom before painting. The builders will try to miss that, because it means fitting the door twice.

Jim had included a very nice looking ceiling fan in his suite. It was a Hunter Pacific Concept 2 in brushed stainless steel. He specifies these for a number of buildings. It really does look like a beautiful fan, if your room is plain and suited to stainless steel.

I caught up with Ron, who does most of the handyman repairs. He seemed happy enough, which I take as a very good sign. Also caught up with Phil, our former gardener, now working across Golden Orchid Drive. He had just been using the nifty extending chain saw the body corporate owns to get rid of a little high vegetation.

Friday 25 February 2011


We were up before six to welcome the dawn, and a wet morning. After eight it was cloudy, but not raining. I had heard that it rained a lot over the last few days. Our plans for the morning include visits to the Apple Shop at Whitsunday Shopping Centre, and a visit to Centro Shopping Centre. I want to see if they have fewer empty shops than central Airlie Beach.

To Whitsunday Shopping Centre to check out the Apple dealer there. However this shop opens at 10 a.m., not 9 a.m. I should have realised a computer shop would prefer to open late rather than early.

We continued along to William Murray Drive to find the place that did repairs to stainless steel. The advertisement in the local Rotary phone book says 24. There is no 24 in the street. We went up and down a bit and concluded there really was no 24. The second stainless steel place was in Carlos Drive. My brain overloaded and I directed Jean to Commerce Avenue instead. Got out of there and went to Carlos Drive (the road that leads to the garbage transfer area), near Centro. As we cruised down the street we saw Steve Becker's sign for stainless steel. We had not found him in the rather old Rotary phone book, but he had been recommended to us. We left the drying rack for welding. I am not confident they will have it complete before we leave town, but they have Jean's mobile number.

On to Centro Shopping Centre, where Jean encountered one of the Rotary Phone Book organisers, so we did get an updated phone book. We talked with her for a while, impressed by what a good job Rotary are doing with their Whitsunday business phone web site.

We found that Vaughn no longer works at Harvey Norman, but is now at Telstra. We did not find anything much at HN, and Vaughn did not seem to be there are Telstra.

I usually talk with the owner of Leading Edge Music. He had brought in another copy of the remastered version of the original three series of Star Trek. This time I could not resist. Jean didn't say much about my booty.

Back to Whitsunday Shopping Centre. At Coles Jean bought fruit and milk. I noted they had our favourite ice cream, but not at a bargain price. I visited the Apple retailer, who still had a closed sign out a half hour after his opening time. Obviously an enthusiast, who told me all about the new model MacBook Pro released today. He also had a pretty good range of video conversion leads from mini DisplayPort.

Fixing Things

Back home, the email invoice from IceCool arrived, made out to QResorts, who have nothing to do with it. We did not want any possible chance of confusion. We drove out again to William Murray Drive to get the name on the invoice changed and to pay the corrected invoice. The shop sign said open from seven to five, but the shop was closed. We phoned Ken, who wanted the invoice number. The invoice PDF was open in my iPad. Ken remarked he was putting our request into his iPad as we spoke. The corrected invoice arrived via email a few hours later, so now we can pay it electronically.

The wardrobe door place phoned before two to say they would arrive in 20 minutes. Hayden did arrive, and got stuck straight into replacing the rollers on the screen doors on the suite. The original door framing was stuffed (you can see the L shaped aluminium section that was riveted on top of the original track at the top of the door frame), so it will never be as good as the doors on my side. He replaced the screens on my screen doors. Then he had a go at the mirror doors in the bedroom. None of the replacement track mounts would fit at all. He rounded the corners of the door, and moved the roller settings higher. That seemed to ease the problem. What I can not understand is why there were two so different sets of equipment in a place that was originally renovated by the same builder at the same time.

New Tax

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it. Labor will change that. Labor will raise a great big new carbon tax to change the weather. What a concept! What a plan! Who can complain. Think of the world you will leave your grandchildren? Do you want to destroy the planet?

What a steaming heap of hypocritical garbage. Labor could not get their snouts into the trough without Watermelon support. Now they have to do whatever their secret agreement with the Greens calls for. Otherwise they get chucked out of the plush seats. What a way to run a country! Canberra political reporter Laurie Oakes was spot on when he called both sides political pygmies. There are none of them a patch on Hawke, or Keating (free trade), or even the early years of Howard (GST) or Costello (budgets in surplus).

So now they are destroying what remains of manufacturing in Australia, so they can pretend to be doing something about reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. There are only two genuine ways to reduce greenhouse gases enough to make a difference. One is for the whole planet to live at starvation level, without any modern devices. The other is to kill off six billion people right now. Are you that certain about climate change?

Was the flood levy just to soften us up? Think of the drowning children? Think of the destroyed homes. Tearful politicians crying out about the humanity. Abbott's speech writers are right about that one. Labor never met a tax it didn't like, never met a tax it didn't hike.

Hogs Breath

We went to Hog's Breath Cafe, the original founder store, for dinner to celebrate. Jean had her usual steak with avocado, and I had the original. Both in the lite version (only 200 grams). We managed to share a chocolate mud cake after, and the staff brought it with sparklers to celebrate Jean's birthday. We never did get the birthday specials cards that Hog's Breath used to send to frequent diners. Jean hoped in a taxi rather than walk up the hill. So did I.

Saturday 26 February 2011


I walked down the twelve flights of stairs to the Airlie Beach markets around seven. Took more photographs of problem areas and things I wanted to question within the Whitsunday Terraces as I descended the stairs. I have been trying to take a different path each time I do the walk, and I keep my camera with me.

At the main street, Shipwrecked restaurant had their sails completely removed. I imagine there must have been some damage from one of the two cyclones to go through in the past month. There was a crane attending. When I passed through later I was able to get a photo of the sails partly restored to their former position.

The markets looked like a disaster. Most of the people I expected to find there were missing, although I caught up with a few regulars. The breakfast vendor I usually buy from was not there, so I went to MacDonalds for a bacon and egg, and read some of the Courier Mail.

Back at the markets, there were still fewer stallholders that I expected, and none of the ones I had hoped to catch up with. I gave up and collected my newspapers at the newsagent. I climbed the twelve flights of stairs back home, which seems to get more and more difficult the older I get.

Body Corporate Meeting

The morning was occupied by the Whitsunday Terraces body corporate annual general meeting. Normally committee members enter the room hoping that this time we would have a quorum. This time there was really no doubt. Owners tend not to attend unless they have something on their mind, and this was no different.

After the annual general meeting, those of us elected to the committee had our committee meeting, with two new members of the committee. I am very pleased to see new blood on the committee, and believe we will see some valuable contributions from the new people. Our Body Corporate Manager had to leave at one for his return flight, so further notes were by our secretary.

We took a lunch break around 2 p.m. for an hour while we awaited further information about one matter. Unfortunately the information did not come to hand. We did have additional matters to consider, and the meeting ended an hour or so after we returned. It made for a long day.

Sunday 27 February 2011

Public Affairs

I made my weekly effort to watch TV, via a very old combined VCR (which has an analogue TV tuner) and DVD. This feeds my Dell computer monitor. As a result of this, I can watch a small subset (the free to air basically, since Austar satellite simply does not seem to work for me these days).

So I watched Meet the Press on channel 10 at 8 a.m. and then at 9 a.m. Insiders and Inside Business on channel 2. Politics is boring. Plus it mostly annoys me.

Airlie Beach Events

I guess cleaning small parts of my balcony with detergent is not very exciting. Especially since much of the dirt did not actually move all that far.

The travel pod for Jean's Subaru was in better shape than I expected. We found the keys in the bathroom, having tried locating them previously. Alas, the mounts for putting the pod on Jean's Subaru were missing one critical component. Jean claims she has seen the component somewhere at Carlyle Gardens. She will attempt to find it. We can perhaps get an equivalent at a hardware store, if we are very, very lucky. So we put an example in the car, for comparison purposes.

We tried to attend the showing of the house with attached heliport that was for sale at WAVE, at the local airport. I must say the local airport has really been spruced up since I was last there. I was rather impressed. We eventually found a large set of gates that were closed. I guess they know how to keep out tyre kickers like us. Especially tyre kickers who do not actually own an aircraft.

I am very glad we bought fuel at Centro, as the price was almost reasonable by present standards. We were also able to get Jean a large cooked chicken for dinner, plus some apple slices for afternoon tea.

Monday 28 February 2011

Leaving Airlie Beach

I was awake at 3:45 a.m. ready to pack the car and leave. Jean was asleep until after five. Guess whose schedule we left by? It took me a while to realise why Jean was wearing her She who must be obeyed T shirt, but eventually I figured it out.

We were so hungry by the time we reached Inkerman after eight that we each managed to eat a whole bacon and egg breakfast. Luckily this time they were only two egg, and a heap of bacon, not three eggs and even more bacon.

We were greeted by an incredible amount of rain when we reached Townsville. I could hardly see to drive. Jean reported the weather radar was showing yellow all over.

At Carlyle Gardens, I took advantage of the groundhog trench to check how the water was draining from the side of the house. Pulled another two containers of mud from the trench the groundhogs had made. There actually was water running to the gutter down the driveway now. This is progress.

Solar Panel Outputs

This month was rainy, with a cyclone. We had a power failure for 93 hours during the month due to Cyclone Yasi. The solar panel power output would not have been connected to the grid (or even been working) at that time. This is a safety measure enforced by the inverter circuits. If no mains electricity is present, the solar panels are not permitted to provide mains power.

The solar power inverter shows it has produced 1022 kW to date, and operated for 3103 hours. The solar power output figures last month (January) showed it generated 923 kWH in 2808 hours of operation. So the total hours operating in the 28 days of February 2011 were 295 hours, during which it generated a mere 99 kWh. About 3.5 kWh per day, or 335 Watts per hour. Remember, this is a nominal 1 kW panel.

Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2011