Archive for the 'General' Category


February 15th, 2011

There is a place fairly near us that does "Reverse Garbage" which is a place where you get rid of old bits of things without paying a dumping fee and where you can go and cheaply buy things that people have dumped.

Robert has been having fun building marble rolls and Rube Goldberg machines recently so we took him along to buy some cheap bits of tubing and anything else that might be of use. While we were there, we spotted a rather dusty-looking pedal organ.

Click on the image for a high res version

A brief examination showed that it was still more or less working. The keyboard was intact and the various stops went in and out smoothly and it made a melodious noise when you pumped the pedals and pressed some keys. In fact, apart from a few dents it looked pretty good.

The price tag said $180. This seemed to us to be a ludicrously low amount of money so we bought it before anyone else found it. For another $20 we had it delivered and, two days later, it has arrived.

It was made by the Estey Organ Company in Vermont and imported by Naylor and Co. Estey (est. 1846) are apparently a well-respected brand and their better pieces can end up in museums.

This is not one of their major works of art but it looks pretty nice and, as far as we can guess, dates to somewhere around 1920 +/- 10 years. Our piano tuner also mends organs and will be coming around to check it out in a few weeks. He may be able to tell us more.

At the moment we are basking in the warm glow of what we believe to be a great bargain. And, even if it isn’t, we’re only down $200 and have a nice looking bit of furniture. Hard to go wrong really.

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Paul is Dead

October 30th, 2010

Alas, Paul the Psychic Octopus is dead. The tentacled oracle, who successfully predicted the results of all Germany’s results in the World Cup finals, is no more. The Society of Psychic Cephalopods is mourning the demise of one of its finest members.

In a not uncommon confusion of cause and effect, many Germans blamed Paul for their loss in the final. In Spain, contrariwise, he became a national hero.

Paul even has his own Wikipedia page.

The conspiracy theorists have, of course, come out of the woodwork. A common theory is that another octopus was substituted for Paul who is still alive and living in luxurious retirement on the Costa del Sol.

Others suggest that a disgruntled German soccer fan poured poison into his tank from a hollowed out umbrella. Still others support the “lone spear-fisher” theory, in spite of the fact that the corpse had no visible injuries. Possibly the CIA was involved.

Unfortunately, it is probably true that the ashes of the cremated Octopus vulgaris are, in fact, Paul’s mortal remains.

R.I.P. Paul, 26th October 2010. No flowers by request.

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Brolga’s Knees

September 10th, 2010

Pamela had to have day-surgery on a knee at the Westmead Private Hospital. It is a fairly simple keyhole procedure known as an arthroscopy which always sounds to me like they put little spiders into your knee but I suspect it isn’t quite like that. Mind you, they do it under a general anesthetic so it’s hard to be sure.

It took longer than we expected so I sat and drank coffee in their enormous cafe/atrium area. It has a nice statue of brolgas to look at to pass the time.

Click on the image for a high res version

At least being a private hospital it had decent coffee.

After two days, Pamela is walking again. Wonderful stuff, modern medicine.

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Sceptic System

July 18th, 2010

I really am a sucker for unintentionally humorous signs. Here’s another one I found in a restaurant near Gosford:

Talk about having your mind in the sewer…

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May 22nd, 2010

Just a couple of signs I couldn’t resist sharing.

Kinder to Year 12

Being kinder to Year 12 is good. But this sort of implies they are meaner to Year 11 which is bad. Very confusing.

door closed

This one from work (company logo removed). I don’t see the point of it. If the door is closed then the sign is redundant. If the door is open then the sign is wrong. Under what circumstances could this possibly be useful?

These little things amuse my small mind.

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Misty Mountains Cold

March 16th, 2010

As per last year, Pamela and I went up to Katoomba for the Blue Mountains Music Festival, an annual shindig devoted to folk/jazz/blues. Robert went off to stay with a friend so we had the weekend to ourselves. It was, of course, wet and freezing but that’s Katoomba for you.

The standout act for us this year was Truckstop Honeymoon, a husband and wife act playing banjo, guitar (him) and acoustic bass (her) and both of them singing. The name apparently came from the fact that they ended up spending their wedding night at the Tiger Truck Stop, somewhere between Lafayette and the Atchafalya Swamp.

They have four kids, who they usually take on tour with them (!) and many of their songs resonate with anyone who has children. Songs about marriage, families and life on the road. Classic stuff.

We also caught:

ℵ a group call Mojo Juju and the Snake Oil Merchants who do a sort of 1920’s speakeasy grunge jazz which was a lot of fun.

Dougie Maclean, a Scottish singer who is married to one of Pamela’s vast collection of cousins. Good Scottish folk music.

ℵ Vince Jones, a well-known Australian jazz musician, who was disappointing. Twenty to thirty years ago he was at the vanguard of jazz in Australia; now he comes across as an old man stuck in the past. He sang a number of self-composed protest songs which, although dealing with modern problems, were stuck in the now slightly embarrassing attitudes of the sixties and seventies.

Genticorum – a trio from Quebec who played and sang in the Québécois musical folk traditions. Flute, guitar, fiddle and a rhythm provided by the fiddle player by stamping with his feet while sitting down. This is apparently traditional and was surprisingly effective. They sang everything in French and although they explained it all beforehand, I prefer my lyrics in English. They were good though.

The James Valentine Quartet. James Valentine is an ABC radio host as well as a jazz musician and Pamela knew him quite well during her stint at the ABC so we had to go along. He plays the sax and plays it well and, once he got into the jazz standards and away from the more experimental stuff, was excellent.

There were a few other acts we would have liked to catch but we were pretty exhausted – there has been a lot of unrelated stuff in our lives lately – and ended up napping on the Saturday afternoon. Good fun, albeit rather wet and cold. But what’s a music festival without a little rain?

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Night of the Living Dead

February 13th, 2010

My apologies to anyone looking for information about the movie. I just had to share this sign from our local church.

Occasionally they show movies in the graveyard. This one shows that at least someone there has a sense of humour.

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A man, a plan

September 25th, 2009

This is not original but I had to share it with you. Most of you will probably know the Panama palindrome:

A man, a plan, a canal – Panama!

If you somehow don’t know what a palindrome is, the letters read the same forwards or backwords (O No!).

In 1984, a programmer named Dan Hoey wrote a neat algorithm which took a word list and generated a very long version. It includes not only a man, a plan and a canal but also a cat, a leek, a baronet and much, much more.

For your delectation:

A man, a plan, a caret, a ban, a myriad, a sum, a lac, a liar, a hoop, a pint, a catalpa, a gas, an oil, a bird, a yell, a vat, a caw, a pax, a wag, a tax, a nay, a ram, a cap, a yam, a gay, a tsar, a wall, a car, a luger, a ward, a bin, a woman, a vassal, a wolf, a tuna, a nit, a pall, a fret, a watt, a bay, a daub, a tan, a cab, a datum, a gall, a hat, a fag, a zap, a say, a jaw, a lay, a wet, a gallop, a tug, a trot, a trap, a tram, a torr, a caper, a top, a tonk, a toll, a ball, a fair, a sax, a minim, a tenor, a bass, a passer, a capital, a rut, an amen, a ted, a cabal, a tang, a sun, an ass, a maw, a sag, a jam, a dam, a sub, a salt, an axon, a sail, an ad, a wadi, a radian, a room, a rood, a rip, a tad, a pariah, a revel, a reel, a reed, a pool, a plug, a pin, a peek, a parabola, a dog, a pat, a cud, a nu, a fan, a pal, a rum, a nod, an eta, a lag, an eel, a batik, a mug, a mot, a nap, a maxim, a mood, a leek, a grub, a gob, a gel, a drab, a citadel, a total, a cedar, a tap, a gag, a rat, a manor, a bar, a gal, a cola, a pap, a yaw, a tab, a raj, a gab, a nag, a pagan, a bag, a jar, a bat, a way, a papa, a local, a gar, a baron, a mat, a rag, a gap, a tar, a decal, a tot, a led, a tic, a bard, a leg, a bog, a burg, a keel, a doom, a mix, a map, an atom, a gum, a kit, a baleen, a gala, a ten, a don, a mural, a pan, a faun, a ducat, a pagoda, a lob, a rap, a keep, a nip, a gulp, a loop, a deer, a leer, a lever, a hair, a pad, a tapir, a door, a moor, an aid, a raid, a wad, an alias, an ox, an atlas, a bus, a madam, a jag, a saw, a mass, an anus, a gnat, a lab, a cadet, an em, a natural, a tip, a caress, a pass, a baronet, a minimax, a sari, a fall, a ballot, a knot, a pot, a rep, a carrot, a mart, a part, a tort, a gut, a poll, a gateway, a law, a jay, a sap, a zag, a fat, a hall, a gamut, a dab, a can, a tabu, a day, a batt, a waterfall, a patina, a nut, a flow, a lass, a van, a mow, a nib, a draw, a regular, a call, a war, a stay, a gam, a yap, a cam, a ray, an ax, a tag, a wax, a paw, a cat, a valley, a drib, a lion, a saga, a plat, a catnip, a pooh, a rail, a calamus, a dairyman, a bater, a canal – Panama!

(In case you are wondering, I checked it with the following bit of perl code and it is correct)

my $str = 'the string to verify';

$str =~ s/\W//g;    # remove any non-word characters
$str = lc $str;     # lower case everything

print (($str eq (reverse $str)) 
    ? "Is a palindrome\n"
    : "Is not a palindrome\n");

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Blue Sun, Red Dawn

September 24th, 2009

The emerald city turned red yesterday. We woke to an orange-red light in the sky and wondered if the world had ended. I checked on the net and google was still up so I relaxed a bit.

It was always possible that we had been transported to Mars in our sleep but no such luck. Pity. I’d always wanted to see the canals.

No, what we had was a gigantic dust storm which was sweeping the east coast of Oz. No doubt the good people in the outback would have noted laconically “bit dusty today” but in Sydney it was a major event. Tens of thousands took the day off work; ventolin sales went through the roof; and the car wash people rubbed their hands with buckets of glee as a pall of red dust settled over everything.

I heroically trekked off to work but Pamela very sensibly stayed indoors. Everything was kind of fuzzy like a heavy red mist.

The really cool bit was the sun. Every so often it managed to shine through a thinner part of the dust cloud and it was a perfect, electric blue circle. You could even see discolourations of sunspots. It was like being on a planet circling a Class A star. Or at least, so I assume. Perhaps not quite as bright.

I took a few photos but I have no idea if they came out ok. I’ll post a couple if they were any good.

Update: and here are the photos.

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Where’s Wally?

May 6th, 2009

We had one of those emergency evacuation things at work yesterday. We are all pretty much convinced it was only a drill – there was no fire, no earth-shattering ka-boom, and no email to tell us about the danger we had all miraculously escaped.

It could have been very tedious but, fortunately, we managed to amuse ourselves at the assembly point with a quick game of Where’s Wally

Where's Wally?

Photograph © Emmanual Juanengo

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