Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2010

Monday 1 February 2010

Flash Problems

A massive complaint about the forthcoming Apple iPad is that, like the iPhone, it does not display proprietary Adobe Flash on web sites. The Adobe Flash web browser plug-in is an utter pain on a Macintosh, as it provokes horrible performance on an older PPC Macintosh. In my view, Adobe Flash is not just slightly annoying, but so annoying that I once went to the trouble of uninstalling Adobe Flash entirely. Now I can use ClickToFlash I do not need to uninstall the plugin to ignore most Adobe Flash on the web. I have seen a handful of worthwhile Flash sites. However mostly I see advertising junk in Flash.

Will Adobe make their proprietary Flash player available on an Apple iPad? No, Adobe can not do so. The Apple APIs Adobe needs are not publicly available to developers (unlike the Windows APIs). This is part of the reason Adobe Flash runs so badly on a Macintosh. The only way Apple will accept Flash is if it becomes an international standard, with open specifications. This is what happened with Adobe Portable Document Format. Apple provide a full PDF implementation, and it is a native file format on Apple. Any program on an Apple can print direct to PDF.

Apple have to approve iPhone plugins, and Apple will not do so for Flash, except as an open source program. Their terms for apps on iPhones explicitly exclude apps with the programming capabilities of Adobe Flash, except as provided by Apple. For example, Apple provide Javascript. However Apple explicitly blame Adobe for most Safari web browser crashes. Apple also consider Adobe lazy programmers, and blame them for poor performance. Apple are very unlikely to ever include Flash. This is basically a fight to the death.

Flash Disappears

Adobe are clearly on the defensive. On one side, Microsoft are promoting their proprietary Silverlight as an alternative browser plugin. Netflix uses it, for example. Meanwhile popular video web sites like Google's YouTube and Vimeo now make video available using the proposed HTML5 video element as the patent encumbered but international standard H.264 (MPEG4 - Part 10) as well as for an Adobe Flash player. Unfortunately Mozilla's Firefox web browser does not use H.264. They have ideological problems with the patented nature of the standard, and with the fees. Firefox uses the competing open source Ogg Theora encoding. Internet Explorer is still the village idiot, and understands neither.

A Flash enthusiast blogged what the web would look like without Flash. However if you check what the same web sites look like on an iPhone it is not nearly so scary. Most provide alternative content, as they should. Or take a look at other examples, of the same web sites. The places where Flash is showing broken blue boxes are the advertising. Personally I could not care less if advertising does not appear. In fact, killing Flash advertising vastly improves my web browsing experience.

The other side of all the criticism of Flash is that it provided video on the web. Had it not been for Flash, there would not have been video on the web. There was (and is) no standard way of providing video on the web. There were various formats, but none were universal. That situation remains. There is no way you can guarantee a video on the web can be viewed.

Amazon Removes Macmillan Books

In a dispute about the pricing of eBooks, Amazon removed Macmillan books from its online electronic bookstore. Amazon wanted to sell the books at US$10. Macmillan wanted to set their own prices, around US$15. Macmillan books include Farrar, Straus & Giroux, St. Martins Press and Henry Holt. Amazon are selling eBooks of these books at a loss. Speculation is that Amazon are prepared to take a US$4 loss per eBook for up to five years, possibly in an attempt to obtain a monopsony book distribution position, and a monopoly bookshop position. Technically, with Internet sales, you only need one bookshop for the entire world.

Author Charles Stross gives an outsider's view of the Amazon Macmillan pricing dispute. The traditional book supply chain ran: author -> publisher -> wholesaler -> bookstore -> consumer. Consumers see Amazon as a bookshop. Publishers see Amazon as a wholesaler. The Internet usually acts to disintermediate indirect relationships, by removing middlemen. Amazon will be both wholesaler and bookstore, and take both their profits. So they took 70% of the price of eBooks. Amazon want to turn publishers into a minor editing and and marketing operation for authors.

Apple offer book publishers a fixed price agency distribution model, taking 30%, and passing on 70% to the publisher. The Apple supply chain runs author -> publisher -> fixed price distributor -> consumer. This means publishers get to set their own book prices (unlike Apple's previous 99 cent music sale model.

Charles Stross points out books sell in a reverse auction, most expensive (hardcover) sales first, trade paperback, paperback, and finally (we assume) eBooks. Books can well be priced at what the market will offer. There is no way eBooks can be priced as hardcovers, as libraries and collectors are unlikely to be interested. However eBooks could reasonably be sold at trade paperback prices, then around paperback prices. Then as time goes by, and they compete with library copies and second hand paperbacks, decreasing ebook prices. This is the movie distribution model, passing through cinema, video store, cable TV, DVD, free to air TV, remaindered DVD. However publishers must cover costs.

Self Publish and Self Distribute

I imagine the ultimate reduction in middlemen is when an author self publishes and self distributes. John T Reed says self distribution increased his income over 200%. However in many industries, a high earner is better off employing someone who works cheaper (even if less efficiently) to do specialist tasks (like bookkeeping) while they concentrate on earning at a higher price point.


We started a load of laundry late last night, and I draped it over the basket last night. I put it out on the line to dry before taking my walk around 6 a.m. Started the second load of what would be four loads of washing. Thank goodness the rain has stopped for a while. I also switched the power off for the hot water service, since the solar should be fine now.

Adobe on Flash

At last, a relatively sensible post from an informed person at Adobe, and one with a long history with Flash from his days developing it at Macromedia. See Kevin Lynch, CTO of Adobe, writing for Adobe on open access to content. It is nice to see that not everyone posting in Adobe blogs just does not get it.

However, Flash (and Java) are not primarily banned in the Apple iPhone OS because they compete (although they do). They are banned because they can be used as a programming language outside a sandbox. Apple are building an appliance, an internet appliance. We already know that computers do not work for the average consumer. They were designed for geeks. The mass audience for computers are unable to protect themselves from malware. Only a locked down appliance can (mostly) protect people from themselves. Adobe want hardware or low level API access to the operating system. Apple only offer access via their own Quicktime routines. Either Adobe rewrite Flash to work that way, or it does not run. There is not going to be any compromise from either side.

Personally, I think a web without Flash is just fine. This is not because Adobe did anything wrong. It is because of the pathetic use of Flash, mostly by advertisers, but often by web designers. Most so called web sites are actually a bunch of files that contain HTML tags, but are totally invalid. The people who wrote them (including those making a living as web designers) have very little clue about what they are getting wrong. As a result, 95% of all web sites are just broken. Including the Adobe page I linked to above, which has 64 errors, and is unable to cope with changing the font size in a browser.

Tuesday 2 February 2010


I went for my usual morning walk, and managed to be on the return part before the sun came over the hill. The plumed whistling ducks were all searching the grass along the fence. Even at 6 a.m. the combination of temperature and humidity was starting to become oppressive. We went to the shops at 9 a.m., mostly to get the newspaper and mail stuff.

Stanza eBook Reader

I think the best ebook reader for ePub available for the iPhone is probably the free Stanza from Lexcycle. Unfortunately, Amazon bought Lexcycle, which puts Lexcycle in the firing line of fights between Amazon and Apple, and Amazon and book publishers. Apple recently prevented use of USB to transfer books into Stanza on an iPhone. Stanza users are complaining about lack of USB transfers, but it is apparent most do not understand the reasoning.

Luckily there are multiple other ways to get books into Stanza (email them, direct from a web site, via your local WiFi network from Stanza desktop, via Calibre desktop).

Basically Stanza was hijacking the camera roll folder to move files via USB, which was never allowed under the SDK rules. I suspect Apple have only gradually been coming down hand on apps that use this method of bypassing the system. It is fairly apparent that the iPhone OS will have an Apple approved set of method of transferring files via USB in version 3.2. These will not involve direct access to the underlying file system.

Google Images

Google Images were not showing any images. The no images in Google Images may be a three part problem. Looks like Apple's Snow Leopard is opening multiple (16?) connections to grab images, whether I use Safari or Chrome as a browser. I hardly ever browse pages with multiple images, and only recently started using Snow Leopard extensively, so I had not noticed a problem previously. I think earlier versions of OS X only opened 8, and I seem to recall Windows/IE grabs 4 at a time. So my old Macintosh never displayed this problem. Also, my iPhone can view Google Images.

My Belkin ADSL router seems to decide that this set of multiple connections is a DoS attack from inside my network. The logs are showing Syn problems. However, I do not seem to have any Firewall controls to let me change this behaviour (apart from turning off the firewall). I did find a web page with undocumented configuration pages for some Belkin routers but so far I can still not find a way to tell the router to allow more connections. I may have to try a different router, but all the routers I have on hand seem to have one issue or another. Comments from people who actually understand networking would be most welcome.

Wednesday 3 February 2010


I went for my early morning walk, and saw wallabies spread all through the grounds. They must have decided the grass was greener someplace else. Finally got around to making two DVDs of the old Shelters R Us web site I did ages ago for Pete. That is about the first time I have burnt a DVD on that computer. So I can take copies to him when I next visit Airlie Beach. Pete wants me to write the new web site, but I totally lack the time. I don't have time to fix my own sites.

Overindulged at lunch, by having the ice cream afterwards, for the first time this year. At the office, I asked about more missing keys for back doors. Jo-Ann gave me one to try. Alas, that was not the missing key I was looking for. I guess my Jedi mind tricks are on the blink.


Decided that the folding bicycle needed more air in the tires. Alas, after pumping a few times, the rear tire blew. I do not know whether it was a pinched tube, or some other problem. However it sure stuffs up my plans to bicycle to the restaurant for lunch. I do not like walking in 300C weather. Lack of bicycle tools means repairs are a long way off.

Computer Wrangling

After the 16 hour power outage last week, I felt I had no realistic option but to protect all my computers with UPS. So I had a fair bit of scrambling around behind desks laying cords. One of the new models drew 25 Watts with nothing connected, the other drew about 15 Watts (according to the Australian equivalent of a WattMater). I used the smaller drain one as a UPS on my Mac mini. The Mac mini would typically draw less than 1 Watt when sleeping, and a mere 14 Watts when idle. This is lower than any other desktop computer. However because the Ergon power feed here is so unreliable, I need to always draw at least 15 Watts just to protect against a sudden crash. We will not talk about the power draw of a 30 inch Dell monitor.

eBooks - Michael McCollum

It is interesting to see midlist hard science fiction book authors like Michael McCollum being among the first to provide their paperback books as ebooks, from their own own online bookstore. Midlist authors have a hard time making a living. They do not get the giant advances some fortunate authors have managed. However publisher's publicity goes primarily on authors in whom they have invested a heap. Paper books do not stay on the shelf for long enough for word of mouth to advance the career of midlist authors. Nor can they often write fast enough to live on what we might call throwaway books.

I am delighted to find one of my former favourite hard science fiction authors, Michael McCollum, still has his works available online. I had most of the early paperbacks. Antares Dawn (1986), Antares Passage (1987), Clouds of Saturn (1991), A Greater Infinity (1979), Life Probe (1983), Procyon's Promise (1985), Sails of Tau Ceti (1992), Thunder Strike! (1989) But there are some new books from him, that never came out in Australia from the regular science fiction publishers.

eBooks - Jeffrey A Carver

Another hard science fiction author, Jeffrey A Carver also has his own science fiction bookshop with his own ebooks. I was rather surprised an established author could also run his own ebookstore when he was being published in paperback by recognised regular publishers. I first read a standalone science fiction paperback novel of Jeffrey Carver, and kept an eye out for his work from then on. I also enjoyed some of his StarRigger novels, but missed some of the later novels. At least some of these are available on either the Baen Books webscriptions or Tor ebook range.

Thursday 4 February 2010


I got my computer operating systems up to date today, as there were security patches. The MacBook Air maxed its fan while doing the install, which is unfortunate but typical behaviour. Too humid to want to walk, and we will be visiting a shopping mall today where we can walk in the air conditioning.

To my great delight, Woolworths had a small computer desk reduced to A$28. I was not very interested in the desk, but I was interested to note it rolled on casters. I have some better computer desks, but want to fit them with casters. The type the Chinese manufacturers use are not thread compatible with ones I can buy at hardware stores here. Luckily this one was compatible. Unluckily, I dropped a wooden panel from the desk on my toe, and look like I will be hobbling around for a few days.

Stanza eBooks

By late afternoon I had accumulated over a hundred ebooks in ePub format. Mostly from Baen Books, but some purchased. So I fired up Lexcycle's Stanza Desktop on my Mac mini. There is an option to share ebooks. The copy of Stanza on my iPhone picked that up over the WiFi network (USB would be faster, but is not permitted at the moment). I did not bother to copy all the ebooks over. How many would you want to try to read on a tiny phone display?

The good news is the ebooks I tried in the ePub format all displayed. Stanza uses internal information in the ePub files to determine author (not too accurate in some cases) and title. A few ebooks display cover art. The new ones I got do not, neither internally nor as icons. Looks like there will be a number of things to learn about handling ebooks.

Media Library

I connected various hard drives containing a substantial part of my collection of DVDs. The good news is they all worked, and I was not (yet) out of disk space. The bad news is that some of the movie collections need to be reorganised. Some movies were in the wrong folders, especially Australian movies. Some extra folders were needed, to better organise newer collections.

I had aliased folders in the Movies folder of my main drive to the contents of the external hard drives. This means the Front Row program that displays movies full screen simply sees all the copies of DVDs as if they were present.

There is still a lot of work to go. Over 200 Science Fiction films are on one drive. Various movie collections on another. However I have not even started moving TV series onto hard drives as yet, and there must be a motza of them. I have three bookcases occupied by DVDs. In addition, since the video folders are exact copies of the DVDs, they also include all the crap advertising and antitheft trailers. I need to remove all the extraneous material.

Last step is transcoding the TS_Video from the DVDs into some more useful (and compact) digital format, such as the international H.264 format. For best results, this needs to be in a couple of sizes, one for my iPhone, one for a larger computer display. I do have a USB hardware booster to assist this transcoding, but each movie still takes a significant amount of time and processing power. That was one reason to wait until I had an modern Intel based computer. My old PPC computers needed to work overnight to do a transcode.

Friday 5 February 2010

Tablet Computer Competition

Amazon have bought multi-touch startup Touchco. They were working on interpolating force-sensitive resistance touch screens, relatively similar to what my 1997 Psion Netbook touch screen used. One common problem on the Psion was the need to recalibrate the touch screen from time to time. Touchco staff are reported to have moved to California, where Amazon's Kindle Hardware group called Lab126 is situated. The Kindle uses an eInk display, and a hardware keyboard.

Google have also recently provided concept ideas for a touch tablet using their Android version of Linux. The suggested hardware seemed likely to be highly similar to an Arm tablet.

Old Design

I was reading some fascinating notes regarding pleasant computer design for the person in the street (PITS). It came from Jef Raskin, who was sometimes considered the father of the Macintosh (especially when he was writing about his history). The article dates back to 1979, when what became the Macintosh project was still called Annie. See Design Considerations for an Anthropophilic Computer.

The thing that particularly impresses me is that Raskin is essentially describing the fundamentals of the forthcoming Apple iPad. Well, sure, Raskin was describing a 20 pound computer, but if the technology had been plausible, he would probably have tried describing the iPad. It is sort of unfortunate that Raskin would probably have put some spin on it (the leap key) that would have made it unsuitable. Well before that, 40 years ago, before Xerox Parc, Alan Kay had described a Dynabook. Steve Jobs is doubtless well aware of these. However the technology to make them well has only really been available recently.

Resident's Committee Meeting

An information meeting on proposed by-laws to be established by the resident's committee. Well, that is an hour of my time I will never recover. I get the impression this is mostly driven by one person. There are probably some worthwhile kernels of ideas in there, but I suspect most people were talked out of it. I had other appointments, so I left when the talk reached item 9 out of 10. Especially as I noticed the list in the agenda extended to item 16 out of 10.

The slides were a revelation. I acknowledge few superiors in horrible colour choices, as I am sure my red and blue headings on yellow background blog (and my tropical shirts) would indicate. I had never considered putting 20 lines in small yellow text on a grey background. The small red headings with underline and drop shadow were also noteworthy. I could not read a thing on screen.

Airlie Beach

I started driving as soon as I got away from the meeting. I did not like daytime driving one bit. Way more tired than when I drive at dawn. I stopped at Ayr to check whether the fabric shop had any new tropical cotton materials. No luck, at least on a very brief look. I stopped at Inkerman to check progress on the pub. Still a few things to do there, but almost ready. I got to Centro around 2:30 p.m. Collected mail at Cannonvale Post Office. Reached the apartment at 3 p.m.

The new metal stairway was nearly done. I carried a few things up, and then went to the newsagent for my magazine subscriptions and local newspapers. And the chemist, as usual. I was thinking of a haircut but decided it could wait a few more weeks. That kept me out of the way while the builders completed their cleanup of the stairways. I moved a bunch of the pot plants out of the doorway when I returned. Sure was hot and humid.

Hogs Breath

Organised to meet Pete and Dawn at Hogs Breath for dinner at 6 p.m. Saw some of the body corporate committee members and family, so I invited them along as well. So my birthday visit went from 3 people to 9 people over the course of several phone calls to Hogs Breath. We did not manage to all get assembled there until about 7 p.m. but the place was not very busy that evening. That seemed to work pretty well.

Saturday 6 February 2010


I walked down to the newsagent to collect the weekend papers. The markets were sparse, when I went through them. The wine folks were setting up their stall in front of the toilet block. That would not have been my first choice for a location (savour the aroma smells like shit to me), but it is true tropical storms were threatening to drench the stall holders. I had a long chat with Rex before catching up with Glenn. Got the bananas from Bruce. Then it was time to head back to the Terraces for the 9 a.m. AGM of the body corporate.


Five hours for the Whitsunday Terraces body corporate annual general meeting! Although I must admit that the following committee meeting (I nominated for the committee for this year, after being absent last year) was a fair chunk of that time. I could hardly believe how long it took. At least we had a quorum for the AGM. I hope everyone present was satisfied that the committee are doing the best they can manage under the existing economic conditions.

I spent some time admiring the new railings on all the stairways above the parking levels at the Whitsunday Terraces. I took a few photographs of them to show Jean. That stepwise addition was what I wanted several years ago. They are also offset from the steps, just like Jim said would need to be done. Seems it ended up the only way to manage the job. However that is probably only a third of the balustrades. The others, especially around the car parks, will eventually reach the same poor state, so they still have to be done as soon as possible.

Val had organised a meeting at the bar with John, our former gardener. I had a nice chat with them. Chrissie from the bar was there. There was also another owner along. I also had a bit of a look at their air conditioner that was not providing sufficient cooling. I think it is a little undersized, but unless I can read the specifications (I took a photo of the compliance plate) it will be hard to figure which model it is. I wish I had taken my reading glasses with me. Obviously I did not manage to read many of the newspapers while all this partying was going on.


I had my own party here. Michael did the semi dried tomatoes trick again (nice starter). Pete and Dawn were the first couple to arrive. Then we had the usual little tropical downpour. Glenn and Alison arrived soon after the rain stopped. We went through a heap of sparkling wine before ordering pizza, and a heap more sparkling wine afterwards. That also seemed to continue on until after 10 p.m. I basically had the place tidied up before I went to bed, so it must not have been too much of a riot.

Sunday 7 February 2010


Very relaxed, except when I was cleaning up the place. I did manage to replace the pads on the bottom of the small glass computer table with casters. However I can not find where I put a suitable wrench for tightening the casters to the full extent. For that matter, I can not find my supply of yellow ruled pads for taking notes. I finally got around to reading the newspapers. Plus all the current affairs programs had returned for the year. I watched Meet The Press, Insiders, Inside Business, and a program on Google and the argument with China.

Monday 8 February 2010

Return to Townsville

I was awake slightly after four, so I closed up the room and put my remaining bag in Jean's car. I was on the road well before 5 a.m. Bowen before the sun was more than lightening the sky. I stopped at Inkerman, but only got some chocolate milk. They were still not able to open their newly constructed pub. Their new freezers had been knocked out by a power outage, and the repair people had to bring new parts. I reached the outer edge of Ayr by 7 a.m. I got back to Carlyle Gardens in time to startle Jean by arriving well before 9 a.m.

Solar Panels

We keep hearing about letters scheduled to arrive from the solar energy installers. We have our government approval to go ahead with a solar power plant for the roof. However the price and the facilities on offer also keep changing. Once there was a 2 kW option. Now the only upgrade is a 1.5 kW option, at a price far higher than the original 2 kW.

An extra 500 watts of panels for $1800 is somewhat marginal in my view. Not because it is not a good price for the panels. It is still an excellent panel price, being around $3.60 per watt. The problem is that the life span of these Chinese panels is unknown (you can not believe a 20 year warrantee). Plus the lifespan of the current excessive feed-in tariff is also unknown. It relies on the general electricity user paying extra to cover people lucky enough to have panels. Sooner or later State governments will start blaming solar subsidies for electricity price rises. Even though it was their idea.

Tuesday 9 February 2010

Updates to Computers

I tried to update my iPhone firmware to the latest version of the operating system. Something went wrong, and I had to also do a restore. Luckily the Apple software works well enough that nothing was lost. It did take some time however.

I also updated my Apple MacBook Air computer. This consisted of downloading programs I had on my desktop, but had not placed on the Air. There were more than I thought, thanks to cheap bulk bundle purchases. Acorn image editor, the older version 1, not version 2. Picturesque photo improver for web sites. Sous Chef (recipes, which I doubt I will use, but want for the restaurant). Little Snapper for screen capture. At first I though this was not needed as a combination of Grab and Preview could do it all. We shall see. Wiretap Studio audio capture. Espresso web editing, from the Rabbit folks that did CSSEdit. Times RSS reader, looking very like a magazine. The Hit List, a Getting Things Done style manager, to see how it compares with Things.

Naturally there were eBook readers. In this case, Stanza Desktop, and Calibre. I had been thinking of taking an O'Reilly Book on iWorks with me. Decided to try their Safari online version. That was a mistake. The use of Adobe Flash for web sites is not something I find acceptable. Flash is a disaster on an Apple. Luckily O'Reilly have a regular standards based HTML version, but this was very restrictive. I was not impressed.

Synchronising Two Computers

I do not know any effective way to synchronise two or more computers. You can manage to ensure each has the same set of files. However if one computer has a limited storage space compared to another, then you need to be selective as to what is synchronised. For example, you are unlikely to be able to have all your video or all your music on the smaller capacity computer. In addition, any storage of a database can not be synched easily, if there is any chance at all of updates occurring in both systems between syncs. In essence, you really need to designate one system as master, and only copy back to that if the other system is being used exclusively for special purposes, such as travel.

There are tools that will synchronise files between computers. These are mostly Unix based, such as Chronosync. It sometimes seems to me the tools are nearly as much work as doing it manually or writing your own scripts.

Copying Application Data

Apple's Address Book and iCal each let you save an archive or backup of their contents. You can then import these into the version on another computer. That seems to include all data, including photos. Alas, this method is not available for Apple iPhoto, iTunes or Mail. You can easily do a one time transfer, using Apple's Migration Assistant, but this is one time, not whenever you need to synchronise.

Bento is a database that keeps the whole database in ~/Library, Application Support, Bento, bento.bentodb. So you can copy the working database between computers. Cyberduck is an FTP client that keeps its state in ~/Library, Application Support. Cultured Code keeps the Things (to do list) data in ~/Library, Application Support, Cultured Code, Things. If you install registered copies on each computer, it is easy to copy the data files back and forth.

Some internet programs do not need to carry data along. They simply need to keep track of where you got up to last time you used them. NetNewsWire is an RSS reader. It gets its feed data from Google. If you give it access to your Google feeds, each copy will simply keep up to date on what you have read.

MT-NewsWatcher is a Usenet reader. While I dislike relying on internet stored data (connections are not reliable where we travel), you can not use this news feed unless you have an internet connection. I save the state of my Usenet reading on one of my own web sites. On a different computer, I read back the state of my Usenet reading. You normally store this locally, so you only need this trick when changing between computers, not for every use of the program.

Sharing Media

iTunes lets you share music playlists between up to five authorised computers over your wireless network. You can select and copy shared music. It looks like the metadata rides along. This seems a decent way to take along a selection of your iTunes media library.

iPhoto has long had a share facility which works reasonably well at home over a network. However, for taking along a selection of photos, it sucks. It is capable of letting you import selected photos by dragging and dropping (although it crashes if you try thousands). However it seems incapable of taking along the metadata that makes iPhoto valuable. So you lose Events, Names and probably Places. It basically makes sharing photos useless except while at home on the same network.

I should add that Apple do far better syncing and copying a Macintosh to an iPhone or iPod. Address Book and iCal synchronise fine, although shared external calendars (say from Google) are not handled. Both iTunes and iPhoto will copy a wide range of selections, by many criteria. Bento and Things each synchronise via WiFi with their corresponding version on iPhone or iPod Touch.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Townsville to Hobart

After what seemed a semi-sleepless evening, we were up well before 4 a.m. awaiting the taxi. I put on all the lights at the front. Naturally once it got an opportunity, the porch light died (for the second time). The taxi eventually arrived, late, with the driver (one we had used before) complaining about not being told where to collect us. Jean had put all the pick up details in over the internet. Once again the taxi despatch system had failed us. Still, we were at Townsville airport by 5 a.m. Jean bought some scones and strawberry jam, with (fake) cream, which we shared, washed down with orange juice, all at fabulous expense.

Virgin Blue flight DJ362 left on or before time at 6 a.m. Our row (10) of seats was full, with many seats surrounding us being commuting workers who all seemed to know each other. They also all seemed to manage to fall asleep before the plane was much more than off the ground. I read the Tuesday Australian during the flight (so I was running behind). We arrived in Brisbane well before the scheduled 7:45 a.m. While I could find nothing I liked to eat, Jean found a nice fruit salad, which she again shared with me.

Virgin Blue flight DJ702 left Brisbane at 8:30 a.m. This was one of their comfortable Embraer aircraft, with the 2x2 seating that is wider than the usual cramped economy seat. I read the October Analog Science Fiction during that flight. We reached Hobart a little early, around 12:15 Eastern Standard Daylight Savings time. Luckily our phones adjusted time zone without being asked. The passengers went through the international section, where one of the cute beagles checked out whether we were smuggling bananas. The beagle got more exercise sniffing the rest of the baggage when it eventually arrived at the baggage collection area.


We caught a taxi from the airport to Hobart. A bit more expensive than the bus, but straight to the Mercure Hobart. This was just around the corner from Europcar where we collect our hire car tomorrow. The room on the second floor was enormous. Well, actually it was two separate rooms in a corner of the hotel. It figures we would get a wonderful room in a hotel we will only stay in overnight. I phoned Robin to let him know we had arrived. As you would expect with my luck with phones, I got an answering machine.

We set off for a walk around the closer parts of Hobart. Jean soon noticed that any direction left her with a walk uphill prior to again reaching the hotel. The temperature seemed very comfortable. I was still wearing my tropical gear, shorts, tropical shirt, and sandals. We stopped at the Centro Cat and Fiddle arcade, which had a food court. I was still being fussy about food. Jean found sushi almost at once. I settled for a solid vegetarian curry in a pastry shell (the name will come back to me soon).

We looked in a few computer places around town, including a Next Byte. We never did find a real supermarket any place we looked. Most major cities in Australia are also now full of 24 hour convenience stores. We did not see these either. We did find a Spotlight fabric store, and checked it out. No suitable tropical cotton material there. We got back to the hotel and collapsed for a rest. I feel like I have not slept in days.

Dinner with Friends

We set out to walk from the Mercure Hotel to Battery Point to the Shipwright Arms for dinner just before 6 p.m. Robin had made a booking for 6:30 p.m. He also told us that Keith had arrived at his place. We reached a potential candidate pub for the meeting, but by then had forgotten the name of the restaurant. So we walked the short distance to Robin and Alicia's house, and confirmed that we had the wrong pub. We were able to sit around in the correct pub's pleasant outside garden and catch up over a couple of bottles of a 42 Degrees South Pinot Grigio. I had the pork schnitzel with current and brandy sauce. That was very nice. Most others concentrated on seafood which came on enormous plates, piled high. Jean had the crumbed seafood basket, with a greater variety of seafood than common elsewhere. They included scollops, oysters, calamari, fish.

I had not seen Keith in ages, although we had known each other for close to forty years. He claims it was ten years, at a Thylacon, and he could well be correct. Keith was looking older, but as slim as ever (something I can not claim). He does not often get to the northern states, nor we to Tasmania. Still collecting books, and has a four floor house full now. We exchanged addresses, yet again.

Robin also has a pleasantly book filled home. We admired some books, mostly selected by Keith, who has always had an amazing facility for finding rare and hard to get works. Robin seems unchanged, as ever. I have also known Robin for close to forty years, and do not recall him ever looking different. Must check his attic for gnarled portrait. He told stories of losing innumerable phones in unlikely corners of the world.

We caught a taxi back to our hotel at what seemed a late hour, but was actually rather early in terms of partying. We did not manage to stay awake for much longer, last I recall is a clock showing 10:30 p.m. I do not think I will recover soon from the early arising.

Thursday 11 February 2010

Leaving Hobart

I was awake early, so I started typing up some notes at 5 a.m. However I need more sleep. It did not seem to really get light until 6:30 a.m. I tried to get some more rest before we walked to the Europcar depot nearby to collect a Nissan XTrail, labelled A 62 KO. The paperwork was quick, although the counter attendant was constantly on the phone switching between multiple people. We congratulated her on multitasking. She explained she was a mother. Anyone who thinks mothers lack work skills has never watched one attending to children.

Back to the Mercure hotel for a continental breakfast. Then we packed for a late start, to avoid traffic. Also, we are not going all that far, and the weather is overcast. We got to see the bridge three times as we attempted to leave town. However we finally found the correct road for Sorell, and were on our way.

To Freycinet

We travelled along a major tourist road designated by A3 signs. Some dirty fleeced sheep, a few horses, but I did not notice cattle. The weather remained overcast, with some rain sprinkles. We were struck by how dry the countryside looked. This we expect in outback areas of the mainland, but Tasmania has a reputation for rainfall. More than a reputation. I seem to recall Tasmania getting about 13% of the rainfall, with less than 5% of the area of Australia.

We paused at the small town of Buckland at a small cafe. I could not find the ice cream I wanted. At Orford, Jean found a nice pie, and I had Tasmanian Valhalla ice cream, both chocolate and ferero roche flavoured. It was pretty nice stuff, and tasted really authentic.

We stopped at Cressy Beach, where the sky did not co-operate with photos. Jean filled her sand shoes with sand. What do you expect with sand shoes?

After Swansea we diverted to Nine Mile Beach, dodging bicycles all over the place. However the road is inland from the beach, and we tired of not even getting glimpses of Nine Mile Beach. Most paths to it seemed to be private. The one that seemed public had a closed road sign.

So we returned to the tourist route, and took the turnoff to Freycinet National Park. On the way we got a view of Moulting Lagoon, which we photographed. We soon passed through the small town of Coles Bay, named after former convict Silas Cole. Then on into the Freycinet National Park.


The first thing we did in the Freycinet National Park was visit the Freycinet Visitors Centre for a National Parks Pass. We will doubtless be in other national parks, and the two month pass is less than the cost of three passes for a day each. Next was Freycinet Lodge reception. Bit of confusion at the desk, but we were eventually given cabin 25, which would have a nice view of the water were it not for the cloud and mist. Freycinet Lodge had signs that water was in short supply. Given the way it rained, that may not remain the case.

The large lodge room seemed very comfortable, although I am not sure why the air conditioner was running at 180C. We switched it off. The view over Great Oyster Bay indeed had promise. The bathroom not only had a shower, but also a spa bath. The main room had a work desk, a lounge, and an extra alcove below one window. There was also a porch with a view of the beach. The rooms do not have TV (we would hardly ever turn one on) nor phone. It did however have soothing classical guitar playing from a mini CD player.

We returned to the reception area Freycinet Lodge through the light rain a little before 6 p.m. Bought a bottle of Freycinet Wines Riesling, at the recommendation of the Hazards bar attendant, and after receiving a small sample glass. It was back to traditional dry riesling, not the sweet stuff of recent decade that rivals moselle for being insipid. We dined at The Bay restaurant. I had a nice chunk of beef, since I tend to avoid seafood. Jean had fish, the Tasmanian ocean trout, and Niçoise side salad. No room for dessert for either of us. We walked back to our room through the rain before 8 p.m. The spa bath seemed to work just fine, easing aches from the drive.

Friday 12 February 2010

Freycinet Lodge

I finally got a good night of sleep. In the morning the room was a little chilly. We found a second window that had been left open. We went for a late buffet breakfast, and ate as much as we could, since we had a scheduled tour around lunch time. Bacon, eggs, sausage, baked beans, muffins, cereal, fruit, the work. It was a pretty good feed, and part of the room cost anyhow.

Photography did not go so well. Inside photos were restricted by the low light levels, despite floor to ceiling windows. There was just too much overcast to really light the large rooms. Luckily I could take photos outside, but without sun they will not be sparkling.

Bluestone Bay 4WD Tour

We booked on a 4WD tour of Freycinet Peninsula, and Bluestone Bay. There were six of us on the tour, and our informative tour guide Stephen Woolfe. We set out a little later than scheduled, but Stephen had dropped a note to our room saying it would be later. There were more booking than vehicles, so four people opted for an earlier and shorter trip. There was a bit of a search of the vehicle as they decamped, seeking a missing camera one of the tourists had lost.

We drove across the peninsula on the Cape Tourville Road past Sleepy Bay to the lighthouse overlooking Cape Tourville. We took an easy 20 minutes walk on a well formed track in that area. Some wonderful rock formations in the sea. Then we drove a rough bush track to White Water Wall, to wander unmarked paths and clamber on cliffs overlooking the sea. We could then look back at the lighthouse and area we had previously visited, far down the coast. Stephen kept us well informed on the various scrubs we passed.

We bashed along another 4WD only track to the delightful Bluestone Bay, with the amazing two tone waters. The tide was very low. Steve made afternoon tea, while at his suggestion most of us wandered up a bracken covered track to another lookout over Bluestone Bay. That also provided amazing views of the cliffs and water. I saw what looked like a pelican, but was actually some other seabird. Not the sort of sea gull I expected, with a bulbous beak.

Steve provided giant macadamia biscuits. He made some billy tea from tea tree leaves from local bushes. Very different to traditional tea, but reasonably flavoursome. Steve even found the lost camera on the beach, just above the high tide mark, so it could be reunited with its tourist.

Fraycinet Lodge

My left shoe heel separated from the upper of the shoe while I was returning to our room. This is similar to what took place at Mount Augustus, and at Adelaide, a year or so apart, on other pairs of these shoes. Those Kinney Easy Walker shoes just could not withstand a decade stored in the tropics. The glue gets weak, and allows the sole to separate. I did the same temporary repairs, with a grove cut in the sole, and a spare shoelace holding the thing together. It was enough to get me to dinner.

The Bay Restaurant supplied us each with a small bread loaf before dinner. The table had butter, a nice olive oil, and a tasty reddish power to dip with your oil. This was Bush Dust, a local Tasmanian mixture of local and traditional spices, such as paprika, with additions like macadamia powder. Jean had the lightly spiced lamb cutlets on a bed of zucchini, tomatoes, and garnished with pine nuts. I was not hungry enough to eat a full meal, so I had the potato and leak soup, and planned a dessert. Jean had Pinot Noir to accompany her meal, I had Pinot Gris. Neither of us could fit in a dessert. We were back to our room by 8 p.m.

Saturday 13 February 2010

Leaving Freycinet Lodge

We were up late, as it was cold and overcast. We had the usual all you can eat hot buffet at the Freycinet Lodge, to set us up for the rest of the trip. We seemed very disorganised in putting the luggage in the car. Ironically, the car that had been blocking our parking spot all during our stay was being packed to leave.

Drive to St Helens

We only had to drive the short distance from Freycinet to St Helens. Our first stop was a little way along the A3 at the attractive small town of Bicheno. We had been told of a general purpose store there, the Log Cabin. It was exactly as described. More like a trading post. Souvenirs, of course. It also had shoes (joggers only alas, not real shoes). I turned to the hardware section, and selected the cheaper of the two tubes of glue for shoes. Since they need to dry for 24 hours, I can not attempt shoe repairs as yet.

Jean reminded me that I wanted to buy the Saturday newspapers. We took a little walk around. There seemed to be numerous internet kiosks around town. These were not the commercial internet cafes we are used to in tourist areas. One was at a library, presumably a council activity. Another was funded by the Tasmanian Government, and staffed by volunteers. They seemed aimed at the aged, as a way of providing access to government services.

We took photographs at 4 Mile Creek, and drove to Falmouth for more photos.

Around St Helens, we drove to Binalong Bay, and tried to walk to Skeleton Point. We also drove further along north, to The Gardens. This entire Bay of Fires area is characterised by bright orange patches on the rocks along the foreshore. From the sea, it must have looked as if the land was on fire.

St Helens

At St Helens, we checked in to the Tidal Waters Resort, 1 Quail St, and unloaded the luggage. To our delight, the hotel room fridge did not contain a mini-bar. There was a note saying the mini-bar contents had been removed at the suggestion of guests. Had snacks for lunch (I scored a beer), before continuing along to Binalong Bay and a bit more tourist activity. The hotel had the cycle touring group overnight, and they were scheduled for an after seven dinner, as was a bus tour group. We booked a 5:30 p.m. dinner, to avoid the scrum of other tour groups.

Jean had the soft shell crab, which came battered, and with a salad. The price was most reasonably, especially for a main. Jean seemed to really enjoy the crab. I had plain old fish and chips, with salad. The fish was locally caught, and came golden battered and very tasty. Ninth Islands Pinot Grigio was our wine this evening. We took the remains of the wine back to the room, and will take it to our next destination.

Photographs and GPS

I am trying to retain location metadata for all the photographs taken during this Tasmanian trip. Camera manufacturers seem loath to actually include GPS tracking in their cameras, so a hybrid method is used. I use my Apple iPhone. The Apple version of Google Maps gets my location. I typically type the town in the search field, and cancel, leaving my typing visible on the map. Then I take a screen capture of the iPhone Maps display.

Next I use the iPhone camera to take one or more identifying photos of typical parts of the scene. After that I change to my ultra zoom digital camera for my photography at that location. It sounds long winded, but you can usually get the location and screen capture while walking from the car to where you want to take the photos.

Once my digital photos are included in Apple's iPhoto on my Macintosh, I should be able to use the iPhone information to locate all the other photographs. There are some automatic GPS location system, but so far the ones I have tried fail because of lousy GPS gear (poor battery life, displays that can not be read).

Sunday 14 February 2010

Leaving St Helens

We had the buffet breakfast at the Tidal Waters Resort. It did not match the magnificence of the Freycinet Lodge, but was more than sufficient for our appetites. The toasters seemed a bit slow, but in compensation, the raisin toast came out better. After we left, we visited the bakery in St Helens, and got a turkey and salad roll to have on the road for lunch. We were not certain the small towns through which we would be travelling would have anything open around lunch time.

St Helens to George Town.

Despite being a relatively short drive, the mountains in the interior of Tasmania included a fair number of twisty bits of road. Not New Zealand standard, but enough to be tiring. We were driving part of the trip through rain forest, with a lot of interesting ferns. There were plantations of small, silver leafed trees. We would love to know what they are.

We spent some time wandering around the former tin mining town of Derby. Before we entered the town I had pointed out what I thought was a mine slag heap, and so it proved to be. The town was very neat for a former mining area. There was also an interesting tin museum. It seemed that we could have bought lunch here, had we known they would be open. There were a variety of interesting small shops offering food.

A few sunbeams accompanied us around midday, making the continued overcast skies less oppressive. Despite the cloud, we only encountered a few sprinkles of rain on the windscreen, and virtually none while we wandered around at any of our stops.

At Scottsdale we stopped and ate our turkey roll for lunch. I noticed a neat looking wooden statue here, one of several we passed in different towns. This one was Simpson and his donkey, carrying the wounded at Gallipoli.

We continued on to Bridport, near the Brid River, on Anderson Bay. This seemed to have reasonable scale coastal shipping repair facilities. The town was rather pleasant and looked fairly modern. It also had a wooden statue, in front of a modern pub. We noticed a skate board ramp area for the children, although those using it were on miniature scooters rather than skate boards. There was not a lot to see by the sea, so we continued our drive to George Town.

George Town

We arrived at the Comfort Inn The Pier, 5 Elizabeth St, George Town around 3 p.m., a little earlier than we expected. Jean sent me off on a walk around George Town. They seemed to have a rather nice Memorial Hall, and Library. A prominent police station, near an old but well restored watch house. I raided an ATM for money for the rest of our trip, since it was convenient. Too a bunch of photos of the buildings around George Town with my iPhone, since it was handy. A Chicken Feed (cheap goods store) had a small tarpaulin, which we can use to hide our luggage. For some inexplicable reason, the Nissan XTrail we hired does not include a boot cover of any sort. I added somewhat to our stock of snacks.

Phone rage was the next thing for me. Jean soon decided to go for her walk. I needed to urgently reply to an email about solar panels, since we would not be able to sign the papers (due on Monday) to get these. However Mail on the iPhone told me I did not have a valid sender email address. Mail was trying to use my home iiNet SMTP server, probably obtained from my home computer when Mail was first synched. I am not sure why this problem cropped up now, as I have surely sent mail multiple times since then. I used my GMail account to send the mail that concerned me.

I wasted a lot of time trying to find a Telstra Mobile SMTP address for future mail, since I was connecting via Telstra. The Telstra web site was useless. Their search did not even recognise SMTP. Some forums said Others gave a address. Neither worked. At dinner, Jean suggested trying the GMail SMTP address. That worked (at least on a test email), but I can not understand why.

Atlantic salmon with lemon butter, and wilted spinach, plus big block chips. We bought a bottle of Tamar Ridge Devil's Corner Pinot Noir 2008, which proved a very light red indeed, and went well with the salmon. Most of the bottle of wine remained with us for our next bit of travel. Trying to get our bottle of wine added to the bar computer was a comedy. The owner went though four staff, all punching the touch screen, and finally produced a printed receipt for me to sign. I pointed out that it listed a cost of $0. They decided to fix it in the morning when we checked out.

Monday 15 February 2010

Leaving George Town

I was expecting our bottle of wine to be a problem, since the computer system gave that zero value last night. Instead, we were back to the room booking not showing up as pre-paid. We had, we thought, fixed that up when we arrived. However it must only be certain staff who can work the hotel computer system.

We had wonderful blue skies, so instead of continuing on our way, we headed back a short distance to Low Head. This estuary entrance has several lead lights alongside the road. The major attraction is a fine lighthouse on the headland. It took a little scrambling along a path to get decent photograph of the lighthouse. The blue skies and enhanced temperatures meant we felt safe in dressing in shorts, and I was wearing my sandals rather than my hated shoes.

Nearby was a restored semaphore tower, one of several covering a good distance in that area. Semaphores basically died when the superior telegraph was invented, and went from big business to a dead loss in remarkably short period.

As we passed through the outskirts of George Town, we took the opportunity to refuel the hire car for the first time. Well, once we figured the hatch had no lock on it, and just flipped up. We had covered 590 kilometres on $66 of unleaded petrol.

George Town to Smithton

We drove George Town to Smithton, which meant backtracking a little to cross the Tamar River. We passed the massive transmission lines from the Bell Bay Power station. The Batman Bridge across the Tamar River is a one tower concrete structure that looks very elegant. Not so elegant was being delayed soon afterwards by roadworks.

We turned off the B71 road just prior to Exeter. At various parts of the drive, we passed one of Tasmania's export crops, opium poppies, for medical use. We continued heading for Devonport, through twisting hilly roads, with lengthy straight stretches in valley basins.

The Bass Highway from Devonport to Burnie was a A1 quality dual carriageway, with 110 kph speed limits. We made good time there. When we reached more minor coastal roads, we pulled into Wynyard to find facilities, and get a snack as a lunch substitute. Luckily we had a variety of biscuits in our tucker bag.

The coast scenery looked great. We diverted to the volcanic plug that makes up the cape overlooking Wynyard. Our purpose was to photograph the fine lighthouse that was there, as well as the view back towards Wynyard. The minor road to this had extensive opium farms alongside it, along with the more usual cattle, sheep and unidentified vegetables being grown.

We also diverged at Stanley, to get a better look at the more prominent volcanic plug that dominates the low coastal area. That was an impressive chunk of rock.


We arrived in the general area of Smithton just before 4 p.m. Jean went along the main road, instead of into town. This was the right decision, as the Tall Timbers Hotel Motel, 5-15 Scotchtown Road, Smithton, was actually on the road out of town. There were a couple of signs on the main road, pointing to the hotel.

The Tall Timbers hotel is beautiful, with wonderful timber ceilings. It obviously does convention business. There are clusters of rooms, perhaps a half dozen per building. These also have very attractive woodwork panelling and built in furniture. We checked the laundry (three washers, four dryers), as we need to do the laundry during our stay. There is a tennis court, a gymnasium, and a therapeutic heated swimming pool. I was impressed that there seem to be four separate bars. A games room bar, a sports bar, a comfortable looking lounge bar, and the bistro bar, where we dined. In addition, there is a bottle shop, with a very nice range of Tasmanian wines, including multiple Pinot Noir we had not yet sampled. We may take a few bottles with us.

Jean decided to try the venison on broccolini and potato mash, with Béarnaise sauce, and a garden salad on the side. Attracted by the idea of slow cooked roast scotch fillet, I had the roast special. Perhaps scotch fillet is the wrong choice, as it tasted neither like scotch fillet nor roast. There was nothing wrong with it, just with my idea of how it should taste.

Reading an ePub eBook

Over the past few days I have read a Baen eBook (David Weber's Mutineers Moon) using my Apple MacBook Air. I selected that book because it was not overly long, I had a HTML copy, and I have the print edition for comparison. The ebook reader was Lexcycle's Stanza Desktop for Macintosh, a product now owned by Amazon. The Stanza reader was able to change typeface size and background colour scheme (badly, in the case of background), and change the number of columns (somewhat slowly).

The conversion of the book (probably from their HTML version) was done on behalf of Baen using the free and open source Calibre ebook conversion software. I gather from comments that Calibre comes highly recommended for this type of conversion.

The resulting ebook was disappointing, especially compared to the quality of a web page. Page to page navigation worked fine. Chapter navigation did not work at all. Although each chapter was a separate HTML file inside the epub package, they did not start on a new page. The chapter title was not distinguished from the regular text, except by being on a new line, and nor did chapter by chapter navigation work at all. Scenes were not separated by any typographical convention, such as an extra line spacing. Some (few) words were simply wrong, probably a result of a foreign font. This sort of treatment of an ebook is simply not good enough if it is to be offered for sale by a professional publisher. However I believe almost all the problems come from Stanza for the Macintosh desktop, and not from the book contents.

Adding insult to injury, when I changed the .epub file name extension to .zip (the .epub container is simply a zip), Apple's Snow Leopard (10.6) would not unzip the package. I had to use the command line unzip to extract the contents of the epub file. That also seems unreasonable, since Apple's OS X used to unzip zipped files (and the Help system says it still does so).

Tuesday 16 February 2010

Tall Timbers Hotel

I was up fairly early, and sat reading another ebook on my computer. We are still on the outskirts of Smithton, staying at the Tall Timbers Hotel Motel. We scheduled a 7:30 a.m. room service breakfast, which was easier than coping with the dining room at an early hour. The very adequate bacon and eggs arrived at 7:23 a.m.

We went to reception early for our deluxe four wheel drive all day Tarkine experience tour. Met Rob, the guide. I took several photographs of the 12 passenger Oka in which the tour was to take place. An Oka is a vehicle that was formerly built by a West Australian company. I gather they sold the rights to Caterpillar, the tractor people. You can think of an Oka as the big brother of a Hummer.

North West Coast

Our driver says Smithton is the capital and largest North West town. On the other hand, the whole population of this corner is around 6,000 people. They certainly have a lot of nice farms. We saw potatoes crops, a deer farm (queue Jean to say Yum!

The beef cattle were not what I expected. Fresians (find correct spelling?), often crossed with Jersey bulls for smaller more tractable calves. In the tropical north where we live, we expect Brahman and Droughtmaster, and Brahman cross.

Wet sclerophyll (spelling) eucalyptus are common as forest trees in the basalt areas of the north. We passed Dismal Swamp, where there is a giant sinkhole. We are told it is the size of Devonport. Trips into Dismal Swamp are available from Tarkine Forest Adventures, who show blackwood trees and a burrowing crayfish as part of the ecosystem. We drove into Redpa, a small town just off the Bass Highway.

We were able to look out to Cape Grim, and take photos. From our viewpoint could see the massive WoolNorth wind farm in the distance, mostly with turbines turning. At Preminghana aboriginal lookout we could see more of the WoolNorth wind farm, although it was still very distant.

Marrawah was the most north westerly real town we would reach. A short distance on we stopped at Green Point beach for morning tea. There was a nice hut with barbecue space, plus toilet facilities. The beach was spacious, and had hardly anyone on it, although there were a dozen or so campervans nearby. We had a morning tea of three Ashgrove Tasmanian cheeses and a dried fruit (apricots, dates) platter, plus tea or coffee.

Nettle Bay, and we are now reaching old Pre Cambrian rocks, not the recent (ten million years) basalt of further east such as The Nut at Stanley. There was far less farmland now we were off the new basalt and on ground that consisted of ancient rocks. No wonder so many of these areas were also National Park.

We drove south along the west coast, until we reached the the West Point of Tasmania. Rob engaged the 4WD hubs, and we continued through the sand dunes. There is apparently some dispute among locals as to which point is furthest west, perhaps due to the distortion on most map projections. This extra drive ensured we saw the biggest western bay. So were photographed both points.

We crossed the Arthur River. The foreshore along both sides of the river, and for a considerable distance along the coast, was covered with tree trunks. These were trees that had washed down during floods, and been cast up on the shore. Back from the shore are massive Aboriginal midden heaps. In some you can find sharp stone tools, scrapers and the like, for dealing with shells.

We stopped at the facilities at Gardiner Point for lunch, where we could see logs from the Arthur River all over the foreshore. There was another of the well equipped barbecue gazebos available. Rob had brought a very nice cold cuts salad, with atlantic salmon as well as turkey and ham, and Tasmanian Ninth island wine, for our lunch.

Couta Rocks is a very small hamlet, mostly used for cray fishing. It is also said to be the only safe harbour on the west coast, except for Macquarie harbour. It did not look very safe to me. There is a half hour walk along the coast to Sarah Anne Rocks. Luckily, we had a 4WD.

Tarkine Wilderness Tour

The trip through the interior of the Tarkine Wilderness was a lot shorter than we expected, with most of the tour being interesting coastal areas. Our guide stopped at Wuthering Heights Road, and regaled us with a story of Merle Oberon claiming to be Tasmanian. This was a fake, and she only once came to Tasmania. It was suspected she was a little ashamed of something in her background, but covered it by explaining she came from unknown Tasmania. Who ever met anyone from Tasmania. Except Errol Flynn.

We covered some of the Western Explorer roads, C214. We drove over a bridge across the Frankland River (not Franklin), but there was barely a trickle of water flowing. The trees were in areas that had probably been partly logged, but still looked impressive.

We did part of the South Arthur Forest Drive, and Julius River Forest Reserve walk. The Tarkine Wilderness was the last refuge of the extinct marsupial Tasmanian Tiger. The Tarkine will probably be the last refuge of the carnivorous marsupial Tasmanian Devil. The strange Devil Facial Tumor Disease that afflicts them, and which is passed on like an infection during breeding fights, has not yet reached the Tarkine population of Tasmanian Devils. Once it does, I expect the Tasmanian Devil to become extinct.

While returning to Smithton on C218, we passed the MG Milk factory, source of some of the milk sold in that NorthWest corner of Tasmania.

I could not manage to eat a full dinner after the cold cuts lunch. As I recall, the garlic bread I did order was way too large. Now what did Jean eat? Probably the linguini pasta with chicken and garlic cream sauce.

Wednesday 17 February 2010

Tall Timbers Morning

Once again we organised a room service breakfast, since we had a half day Wool North wind farm tour scheduled. Since we completed our preparations early, we wandered around the Tall Timbers motel, taking photographs in the early morning light.

We drove into nearby Smithton, and totally failed to find our route. I did not spot the Post Office, where we needed to turn. However our maps soon showed where the road must be, and soon enough we were on our way along C215 headed for WoolNorth, some 40 minutes away. Along the way, I was delighted to note a crane installing yet another Telstra mobile phone tower. Connections via mobile phone were excellent along much of the north west coast we visited.

I kept trying to find photogenic cattle for my trip notes. They clustered about fences, but only where road conditions precluded us pulling up for a photo. Anyplace we could stop, the cattle were two fields away and looking bored. Sufficient to say there are a lot of dairy cattle in the area, and a lot of beef cattle. Mostly Fresians, but with Angus now becoming popular. It seems sheep, especially marino for wool, are not suitable to winter conditions here.

WoolNorth Wind Turbine Tour

A one hour WoolNorth tour of the wind farm was scheduled first. We had some delay awaiting a car that was late arriving for the tour. The wind farm is owed by Hydro Tasmania, who bought 3000 hectares of land from WoolNorth, and lease agricultural use back to them. Cattle roam unconcerned near the wind turbines. Eagles do less well. Around 10 eagles have died since the farm was built. An observer program, and halting wind turbines when eagles approach, has left the past several years fatality free. It seems eagles do not notice the moving blades. Nor do they notice power lines, which now have anti-eagles fittings to make them more noticeable. With wind turbines needing to be close to the coast, I assume these are white bellied sea eagles, of which Tasmania has fewer than 200 pairs.

We got to drive up close and personal to one of the smaller wind turbines along the coast, one of thirty each rated at 1.75MW. These Tasmanian built towers are 60 metres high, and have 66 metre fibreglass blades from Denmark driving the Denmark Vesta generators. They work with wind speeds from 15 KPH to 90 KPH, at which point they need to stop to protect the blades against travelling at more than 33 RPM. They are impressive up close.

As the wind was light, the wind turbines were not making a real lot of noise, although it was noticeable directly under them. I was very pleased at the opportunity for photographs. Various wind turbines surrounded us, so I had the chance of photos from front, back and sides. I also took some from the ground, edge on to the blades rushing overhead. The sun was nicely situated, so I also took a photo of the nearest tower with the sun directly behind the turbine head, in the hope something artistic resulted.

The second stage of the wind farm was going to be identical, however advances in wind turbines produced 3.5 MW turbines, on 80 metre towers, with 90 metre blades. So fewer needed to be built. These are so tall that instead of steps inside for the field staff, they have an elevator device. Alas, these were not part of the visit. With recent monumental Labor government stupidity over the value of renewable energy certificates, it seems unlikely any more wind farms will be built for a considerable time. So the planned third stage may never occur.

There was a shed nearby with an exhibit about both the wind turbines and the general Cape Grim area. It even included one of the sample bottles used by the Cape Grim air quality monitoring station, the only such station in Australia.

The bus dropped most of the passengers back at the wind farm gate. Only five of us were continuing with the rest of the farm tour. It was also interesting that the bus driver took considerable time talking to the fold trying to repair the automatic gate at the entrance. It appears a power outage the previous day led to the gate being opened manually. It also appears the bus driver was a ringleader in this gate working. The gate did not take kindly to her manipulations.

WoolNorth Farm Tour

WoolNorth once had 40,000 sheep, but marino are not suitable here. The cross breeds that coped well with winter were for meat, not wool. Now the farm is moving to grass fed cattle. They originally had Fresian cattle, but are now changing to Angus. Male calfs are not slaughtered as is typical, but kept until they are 18 months old. Separated into groups of 20 with single strand electric fencing before they get aggressive. Always in the same groups, always with same neighbouring groups. Reduces aggression and pecking order fights. The meat is sold on US fast food market, as it is too lean for regular eating. The fast food places add the amount of fat they need from other sources.

While driving, we saw flocks of migratory Cape Barren geese on the extensive WoolNorth fields. In 1825, King George IV granted the Van Dieman's Land Company 350,000 acres of land. The Company, Royal Charter intact, still farms on the 50,000 acres (22,000 hectare) WoolNorth property. This farm occupies the entire north west tip of Tasmania.

We had great mobile phone reception. Cape Grim Telstra tower was alongside the Cape Grim air quality monitoring station. This air sampling station is situated so air reaching it has travelled up to 20,000 km across empty ocean from South America. It is even lower in the roaring forties trade winds than Africa, some 12,000 km away. The landscape here is old, pre Cambrian, with no recent incursions. As a result, carbon dioxide and other readings from the air station are very reliable, unlike that of stations situated on the top of recently active volcanos. Although we were able to see the air station at a considerable distance, we could not drive anywhere near it. The exhaust of one vehicle throws off the readings. Indeed, readings are only taken when the wind is from the west (as it mostly is).

Morning tea at the Director's Lodge, a splendid sprawling, low slung wooden residence overlooking the property. It can sleep six in ensuite equipped bedrooms, and bookings are available by special arrangement. Dinner, bed and continental breakfast is provided for overnight guests. We at least got to enjoy morning tea in the splendid wooden building. Coming from termite country, I do not often get to appreciate the warmth of wooden interiors.

Cape Grim was in the distance, when we drove up to the seaside. On the edge of the cliffs, we overlooked several nearby islands, and some larger ones at a distance. The two Dough Boys. The pyramidal South Black Rock visible in the distance from between them. Tree Fowl Island. Hunter island. Three Hummock Island.

Back to Tall Timbers

We stopped at Woolworths on our return to Smithton, so we could get food. I slipped away to get a photograph of the Smithton Telephone Exchange, for the web. Back at Tall Timbers, I started the laundry. No problem with the washing. However the 25 minute dryers gave you at least 40 minutes for a dollar. I only had to use four dollars for the entire laundry for seven days. While awaiting machinery to complete cycles, I visited the hotel bottle shop and bought three bottles of Tasmanian Pinot Noir. I made sure each was a brand new to us.

Jean had the three rib rack of lamb with broccolini, and a side salad. I had the pork bellies on broccolini and rice. No way either of us could fit more food in, despite the dessert list. I did enquire as to the Valhalla ice cream, but the flavours did not tempt me.

After dinner we inspected the swimming pool, hydrotherapy pool, and the gymnasium. These were housed in a splendid building, all low and sleek curves, with heaps of glass wall. Most impressive hotel.

Thursday 18 February 2010

Smithton to Cradle Mountain

At Tall Timbers Hotel we once again had the room service breakfast, this being easier (and cheaper) than braving the restaurant. Despite that minor economising, it was a costly stay, as we were there three days, and ate our meals there. Plus our all day 4WD tour was included in our bill.

The drive from Smithton took us back past Wynyard on the major A2 road. The road inland was slower, as it had more turns, and more hills. There were some delays because the roads were being repaired.

We stopped after we crossed the Hellyer River for a short circular walk in the Hellyer Gorge State Preserve. The Hellyer eventually joins the Arthur River. There were far too many mosquitos around the car park area. There was a very easy path, most of it alongside the river. We never did spot any of the reputed giant freshwater crayfish, but they are rare. As we walked by the Hellyer River, we came across two people who I see fairly regularly at the Airlie Beach Saturday markets. Like us, they were escaping the wet season in the tropical north. When we reached the car park again, they were still present, so I took a photo to show Glenn and Alison, who are also south escaping the tropical wet season.

We eventually reached the turnoff to Cradle Mountain. We parked at the Cradle Mountain Transit Terminal, but already had a National Parks entry ticket for our car. We were given some free transit ride tickets for the bus, as Jean had a magic card entitling us to that.

We reached the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village reception a little before 1 p.m. and were soon settled in our comfortable and spacious two room cabin. Actually collapsed is probably more accurate.

I returned to reception to order a Wilderness Village Gourmet breakfast basket for two for tomorrow, and also visited the kiosk in the camping ground, to check their food stocks for Jean. As usual with food, I could not think what to say about the food. I got some extra Tasmanian Ashgrove cheese, and some fancy Byron Bay Cookie Company chocolate biscuits as snacks or hiking food.

Jean drove me along the narrow, often single lane road that went from the Transit Terminal past the Visitor's Centre and Ranger Station. The road continues the 7.5 kilometres to Dove Lake, and is a very slow drive due to cut outs designed to slow vehicle traffic. This is designed to help protect the native animals, which have no road sense. Jean dropped me at the Dove Lake car park around 2:30 p.m. Apart from the large car park, there is a shelter shed, toilets, and good signage for the walks.

Magnificent views over Dove Lake towards Cradle Mountain, and I spent a fair bit of time taking photographs. The Dove Lake circuit is 6 kilometres. At first the walking was easy, and I made good time, despite stopping frequently for photographs. There is a climb up steps to the top of a rock overlooking Lake Dove. Splendid photographic opportunities there, as the multitude of Japanese tourists demonstrated.

There are fewer photographic opportunities later in the walk. The mostly boardwalk path is close to the lake side, but dense vegetation means photo opportunities come infrequently, unles you are seeking particular plants. Towards the end of the lake, the land opens up again. There are many chances at great sunlit photos of Cradle Mountain, and back across the lake. You do need some luck with clouds, as you do not always have sunshine. However the cloud patterns changed quickly. Also towards the end of the lake, phone reception cleared up, so I phoned Jean to report progress.

By this time I was feeling the pace of walking, and noted now I am over 60, I no longer have the energy I had when younger. The return part of the loop includes numerous steps, and you seem to have far more chances to reach heights, only to drop back down to lake level soon after. There were some impressive bits of boardwalk constructed under and across cliff faces. The afternoon also lets you get good sunlit views of the cliffs across the lake where the walk starts. You also get good views from the fishing shack, also near the end of the walk.

I took a short side trip to Lake Lilla lookout, so I could get photos of this much smaller lake. The last few kilometres had been on loose rock trail, and was hard on my sandals. Despite this, I managed the walk in 1 hour 40 minutes, so I was fairly pleased with my time, despite my knees really knowing they had been worked. The steps up and down far exceeded what I normally covered at Airlie Beach, when I was doing 12 floors four times a day.

Wilderness Village

I was feeling wrecked by the time I caught the Cradle Shuttle bus back to the Transit Centre. Received an SMS just as I was getting off the bus. In the bright sunlight, and without my reading glasses, I could not read it. However it was bound to be Jean, so I phoned her. Telstra phone reception at this end of the park is excellent. If you are on some other phone system you are probably out of luck.

Jean suggested I meet her at the camping ground kiosk shop. A frozen McCain spaghetti bolognese for Jean for dinner, once she had microwaved it. I cooked one of the breakfast sausage from the gourmet breakfast basket, and had a sausage sandwich, and a cup of hot chocolate. It was not enough to eat. Not only that, a red light stayed on the cooktop. We worried about perhaps the switch being broken on the cooktop, but it turned out to only be a warning light that a cooktop was still hot. Our wine was a tasty Tasmania Meadowbank 2005 Pinot Noir, from the Tall Timbers bottle shop.

Friday 19 February 2010

Wilderness Village

We are at Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village, shivering after what to us felt like a very cool night. Locals probably thought it balmy. Breakfast for Jean was both packets of cereal from the gourmet breakfast, plus a tub of two fruits. After 8 a.m. I went to the kiosk and got some extra cereal, including some WeetBix for my breakfast. We already had a squeeze container of honey on hand. As I returned to the cabin I saw a large, hairy pademelon (Tasmanian wallaby analogue) standing in the path. A little shy, and it slipped away before I could get my iPhone camera into action.


We took the shuttle bus to the Ranger station and visitors centre. There are several short walks from nearby. The shortest is to Pencil Pine Falls, just near the Ranger Station. This boardwalk is designed so it can be covered in a wheelchair. Again we saw a pademelon along the side of one of the lookouts. The falls were attractive, albeit small.

Next we went past the Lodge and headed along the slightly longer Knyvet Falls. This had more steps in the walk. Jean nearly stepped on a padymelon, which was sitting alongside the narrow boardwalk. The padymelon moved into the nearby brush, and was soon difficult to see. The vegetation gave way to moss covered fallen logs. It was like some medieval fairy story. The light was so diffuse that I was often down to a tenth of a second to get photos. At one spot the subdued green was brightened by a prominent fist sized orange fungi.

We eventually reached the Knyvet Falls. You really could only see them side on. Although I continued for some distance, I could not really get any face on photos of the falls. Then we had to walk back. Jean was not impressed by the number of steps. Despite this, she also took the side path to get a different view of the Pencil Pine Falls.

Next was the reasonably flat Enchanted Walk, all along a creek that crosses the road near the Lodge. This was an easy walk, with several hides for watching for animals to feed. There seemed a few more people along this walk. By then Jean was tired of walking.

We went to the Lodge tavern bar for lunch. Jean had the scotch fillet with vegetables, with a pot of James Boag Draught beer. She astonished me by asking for another pot of a Tasmanian light beer, and selected the Cascade Green (ecologically sound, carbon neutral, not a colour), a light lager. I had the Lodge Sandwich, with bacon, turkey, brie, cranberry sauce and salad, which came with a pile of chips I could not finish. I had a pint of the James Boag Wizard Smith English ale.

Back to Wilderness Village

We caught the shuttle back to the Transit Terminal. From there it is a short (uphill) walk to Wilderness Village. We spent much of our time taking notes, reading, and doing horrible things like the washing up.

For dinner Jean had a tin of baked beans, while I had a tin of spaghetti, both from the gourmet breakfast. I also had another sausage sandwich, with ingredients from the gourmet breakfast. Jean had a container of fruit salad. We still have enough left overs to have bacon and eggs tomorrow, so that breakfast basket is lasting pretty well.

Saturday 20 February 2010

Leave Cradle Mountain

Since we were not in any particular hurry, we arose late, after the heaters had a chance to get rid of some of the overnight cold. We cooked bacon and eggs from the gourmet breakfast basket, plus a tomato, and had toast and jam. Not bad.

Despite procrastinating, we had checked out of the Wilderness Village at Cradle Mountain by 9:30 a.m. The weather was good for driving, with thin high cloud, but basically a sunny day.

We drove from Cradle Mountain back out to the main road. On the way, I spotted a sign indicating there was a Telstra optical cable buried close to the Cradle Mountain area. Hardly likely to be the National Broadband Network, since it had Telstra labels. But why was Telstra running optical cable to a relatively isolated mobile phone tower in a National Park? Obviously they are covering it for heavy mobile phone traffic in the future.

Cradle Mountain to Strahan

We stopped a distance down the road in Rosebery, at the foot of Mount Black, to seek out a petrol station. We did not need a full tank, but we did need another 40 litres to ensure we could reach Hobart. Unleaded petrol was $1.39 a litre in the interior, substantially less than in the National Park, where it ran around $1.70 a litre. I was amused that the petrol bowsers did not have numbers. The station attendant basically said they didn't need no numbers on their bowsers. There was a well hidden newsagent on the main street, so I was able to buy the weekend newspapers.

At Rosebery Bakehouse, we were attracted by what appeared to be a lone unlabelled apple tart. As we bought it, a chance remark revealed it was apple and almond, a deadly mixture for Jean. We changed to an apple charlotte, which we assured contained no almond. That was a lucky escape.

Rosebery is still an active zinc mining town. There is a large mine just past the petrol station, and historical exhibits from the mines in parks by the main street. In the past its copper, gold,lead and zinc have produced over $8 billion of ore.

We paused at Stitt Park, where the local Lions had built facilities. They had a nice little park there. We did not realise there was a short walk to Stitt Falls, relatively nearby. Shortly after we passed the pathway to Montezuma Falls, the tallest in Tasmania. That however was listed as a three hour walk, so we gave it a miss.

As we approached the coast from Zeehan, we stopped at a lookout. This gave coastal views of dunes and sand along the shore extending for kilometres. The vegetation here was low brush, unlike the giant plantation pines we had often travelled through on the way. The tree plantations were interspersed with areas that appeared to be clear felled. We saw little sign of burnt trees, testament to the high rainfall on the west coast of Tasmania.

Since the road was very good, and the distances relatively slight, we reached Strahan only a little after midday. We puzzled over a large sign showing the local accommodation houses. Although the name of the one we sought did not appear, a similar one did, so we drove the short distance to the Strahan Village booking centre.

Strahan Village

Strahan Village was the correct place. The Waterfront Terrace named Huon was one of several converted 19th Century two story buildings a few tens of metres away across the Esplanade. We dragged our main bags in to the large single room in the converted terrace. There was even a hot tub in the excessively large bathroom.

Jean parked the car, in what turned out to be a $5 a day pay car park. Seems we misheard the directions slightly, so we will need to move the car tomorrow. We belatedly realised we should have moved the car once we found a real parking spot. Parking seems an issue in this tourist area. However the prices seem low, with spots outside our room going for 40 cents an hour.

The ticket place for the West Coast Wilderness Railway was just along the Esplanade, overlooking Macquarie Harbour. No problems collecting the tickets we had ordered. We overindulged in Valhalla ice cream from the Fish Shop on the wharf. This double serve basically made an alternative to a proper lunch.

After a rest, we went for a walk around Strahan village. The various restaurants all seemed reasonably fancy, with a lot of seafood, as might be expected in a fishing area. One tourist store had an internet terminal, as well as one of these photo printing booths. Way up the street was an old Post and Telegraph building, also Customs. This still appeared to have PO Boxes, an internet access area, and the Library. Naturally it was closed.

Huon pine seemed the theme partway up the street. There was a rough looking sawmill shed, with a variety of Huon and other Tasmanian woods. The largest store, Strahan Woodworks, had very fancy Huon sculptured tables and other furniture, and art works in wood and glass. Very upmarket. I really liked Tasmanian Special Timbers, specialising in recycled and recovered wood. They had some magnificent pieces of wood. They also had little chuncks of Huon pine, so I selected a few as a gift for Ray, the wood turner, at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort. Dianne at the store gave the wood too me, which was very kind.

The wine we opened today was the Sinapius 2006 Pinot Noir from Piper's Brook, Tasmania. This was a nicely mature red, full bodied compared to the lighter Ninth Island Pinot Noir we had been drinking with many dinners.

Fish Cafe on the wharf for dinner. Jean had ocean trout from Macquarie Harbour, with pumpkin and fresh asparagus. I had fish and chips, the battered fish being Pink Ling. I asked the waiter for advice. He said he didn't like fish. Jean had a Boag Draught, and I had a Boag Wizard Smith English ale. The bottles do not seem as tasty as from tap.

Sunday 21 February 2010

Strahan Village

Just about next door to the Strahan Village Waterfront Terrace at which we were staying was Banjo's Bakery. Since that opened at 6 a.m., we had considered it for breakfast. However we were convinced out tour today would be replete with food. Despite this, we needed something to eat early. Jean had the eggs Benedict, while I compromised on fruit toast. The fruit toast, as befits a bakery, was full of fruit.

When we ordered we were given a little radio alarm, which buzzed and lit up when out order was ready. We think this is the first time we have seen these gadgets in Australia. First it lit to indicate Jean's tea water was ready. The person giving us the boiling water took the radio alarm, and gave us another for the actual meal. I think the service we got at this bakery was about the faster I have ever encountered at a sit down cafe. Most impressive.

A little after 8 a.m. I was able to wander out and move the hire car from the paid car park to the correct area for our accommodation. The space opening up was because the bicycling tour group got underway relatively early compared to us.

We wandered over to the reservations area considerably before ten o'clock. Then I fretted because the complimentary shuttle service had not arrived on time. I need not have worried, as when it did arrive, it got us to the railway station at Regatta Point across Macquarie Harbour in plenty of time.

West Coast Wilderness Railway

West Coast Wilderness Railway takes tourists the 35 kilometres between Strahan and Queenstown up and down the steepest railway in the southern hemisphere. The West Coast Wilderness Railway even have three (1,3,5) of the five original steam engines restored and hauling the train. The restoration cost over A$30 million. The train travels partway alongside the King and Queen Rivers, where regicide on the rivers was conducted by the mining company.

It is a restoration of the Mt Lyall Mining and Railway Company railroad built for A$460,000 in 1896 to haul copper concentrates to the coast for shipping. Prior to the railway, with no roads, packhorses were the only means to hauling. The original railway was used until 10 August 1963, although the first road to Queenstown was made in 1932. The terrain is rugged, steep, and was long believed impossible to cover with a railroad. The construction motto was Labor Omnia Vincit.

Teepookana to Queenstown was the main stretch, completed in 19 months by up to 500 labourers. Teepookana to Strahan took 11 months. Restoring the railroad took longer, three years in all. These days the steam engines burn diesel oil, from a 2,000 litre tender. The water tank surrounding the boiler holds 3,000 litres. We had to pause to refill the water tank half way along the journey.

Dr Roman Abt, a former Swiss watchmaker, was the engineer who designed the middle rail dual rack and dual pinion wheel system that made the steep ascent and descent possible. Two rack engines drive the pinions when the rack system is engaged. Two regular steam traction engines drive the regular wheels. The slope from Dubbil Barril to the peak at Rinadeena is 1/20 (5%), while the descent to Halls Creek is 1/16 (6.25%). A normal steel wheel on steel track railway is limited to 1/40 slopes, or 2.5% grade.

We proceeded from Regatta Point wharves along the edge of Macquarie Harbour to Lowana Yard. Then we followed the edges of the King River, past the space that once contained Teepookana, crossing the river on high wooded bridges many times. There are 58 bridges on the line, most of them originally wood. We stopped for a walk by the river at Lower Landing, where there is a fine restored station. The longest bridge, Quarter Mile Bridge, is a little way beyond the landing. Camp Spur is the sharpest bend, and trains do not like sharp bends.

At the restored Dubbil Barril station we changed trains. Restored steam engine Number 5 pulled the train up to Rinadeena Saddle using the rack and pinion. Then it was downhill using the rack and pinion on an even steeper slope to Halls Creek siding. Lynchford to Queenstown was relatively flat.

Zen(ith) told stories of the early days of the railway. This included Gordon Able and his sidekick attempting to hold up the train, armed with cap guns. They were only ten years old. However the train driver and fireman saw them, stopped the train, and jumped out with their hands up. Appalled, Gordon stuck his cap gun in his pocket to hide it. Alas, that was where his roll of caps were. They caught fire, and Gordon rushed to the river to dowse his pants. The fireman chased after him, to ensure he was unhurt. that made Gordon more anxious, and he is reputed to have beaten the train home to Strahan.

Food and Wine

The West Coast Wilderness Railway did a fine job with their food, as we expected. We started soon after we pulled out of the station with a couple of tiny tasty chicken and camembert pies, with poppy seeds on the fine pastry crust. This was soon followed by a medley of mostly tropical fruits, with grapes, honeydew melon, pineapple, rockmelon, strawberry and watermelon.

The box lunch was provided shortly before we changed trains. This included a hot Cornish pasty made to what seemed an original fettler's recipe. Also with that was a container of a fine hot sauce. There was a small ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce roll. There was a King Island Diary camembert, with water crackers. To complete the lunch there was a chocolate truffle from Anvers Confectionary of Tasmania.

After lunch and changing trains, our helpful carriage attendant Paul leapt from his pantry. We were offered an apple. Then we were offered a sweet. A very rich Rocky Road, a chocolate fudge with walnuts, and Jean had a white chocolate fudge with raspberry intrusions.

The final course was a cheese plate, with grapes, crackers and a selection of fine Ashgrove cheeses. These included the Outback Red, the Bush Pepper, Mr Bennett's Blue, and a double Brie. There was also a dish of Webster's walnuts. This delighted Jean, as she is able to eat walnuts, unlike almost every other variety of nuts.

The wine list was extensive, for a train, all supplied by Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard, up north west of Launceston. Our carriage attendant Paul started us off with the TRV Sparkling as soon as we stepped aboard the Premium carriage. He kept refilling the glasses whenever the level dropped a bit. With lunch we had the Pinot Gris. We followed it with the Pinot Noir with the cheese course.

The wines we did not try included the chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, and the Bend merlot cabernet blend. All sounded good in the tasting notes supplied. We also did not sample the Boag beers on offer, the Premium, Premium Light, and Blonde. As a result, no Blonde jokes were directed at us.

In addition, there was cascade beer, Cascade fruit juices, and Cascade soft drinks available. Coffee and hot chocolate were also available. Jean had a very nice cup of tea, which was accompanied by a chocolate coated after dinner mint.


We travelled back to Strahan in the coach. By road, the trip took about 50 minutes, and was considerably less interesting than the train. We had so much food left over from lunch that we snacked on that instead of going out for a meal.

My newly glued shoes had once again disintegrated (at least, the sole came unglued again) during the first of the walks from the train. I had only worn long pants and shoes because of the weather forecast being so poor. We actually had reasonable weather during the train ride. Before the light all went, I squeezed most of the shoe glue I had on the sole of the shoe. Let it outside, weighed down by a flower pot. The shoes only have to survive a few days in Melbourne. I can wear shorts and sandals most of the time in summer.

Monday 22 February 2010

Leaving Strahan

We were a little later than we hoped in leaving Strahan. This despite just having left over scraps and cereal for breakfast. We had been checking the weather, hoping for good enough conditions to get more photographs around Strahan, but it remained poor. We had made considerable distance along the road to Queenstown, when Jean realised her walking stick was not in the car.

We had to turn around and return to Strahan. While I begged a key from reception, Jean found a cleaning lady to let her in to the room. She was quicker by a few seconds than I was. The walking stick was just where she expected it to be. However as a result we were running well behind schedule by the time we reached Queenstown. We grabbed a few quick photos of the railway station we had previously visited, and then speed off again. We did stop overlooking Queenstown to get photographs of the desolation of that ruined mining site. From the vantage of 20 years, it seemed to me that more greenery was finally appearing. But the landscape was a mess.

Strahan to Hobart

The road basically runs through numerous twists and turns. We did not make good speed at all. After a fair while, we reached the Franklin Gordon Wilderness area. Lots of mountains, lot of trees. We crossed the Franklin River around 11:30 a.m. and continued without stopping.

We diverted to Lake StClair, as had read about a Great Wall. While shivering outside the Ranger Station, in the car park, we ate various snacks we had on hand. Took a look at trails we could walk, and settled for strolling to where we could overlook the Lake. Yes, it was a perfectly good Lake. No, walking around it in a freezing gale was not my idea of fun, especially as I had no closed shoes (the latest application of glue was still setting) and was wearing shorts.

The real Wall was a commercial outfit a few kilometres up the road, With the size of the woodcarving described as 350 feet, we could not see how we could give it sufficient time. So we continued along the road to Hobart.

The most enjoyable part of the trip for me was seeing a number of decent size hydroelectric power stations, such as the one on the River Nipe.


Luckily we arrived in Hobart just before any peak hour traffic. We had really wanted to miss peak hour, since it may have made us late returning the hire car. Jean made perfect moves in finding her way to the correct street, and we went straight to the Mercure Hobart on Bathurst Street, where we had stayed on our arrival in Tasmania. This let us unpack our bags onto one of their large trolleys. We checked in, and I took the trolley up to the room. Alas, the new room was not the giant two room things we had previously, but it seemed comfortable enough. Jean arrived a few moments later to collect the paperwork for the Europcar hire car. The car place was just around the block, so I walked to check which entrance to use, while Jean drove around the block once. Returning the car was very swift, as everything was prepaid, including fuel. It rained on us as we walked to the hotel.

Jean used the phone to start organising meeting people, with Robin and Alicia acting as central point. Leigh and Valma were in town, on the trail of history. Cary and Marjory would probably be free Tuesday. Michael had suggested having a meal on Monday or Tuesday at the New Sydney Hotel on Bathurst Street. Michael was working on the assumption that it was actually opposite our hotel (it is opposite the MidTown Holiday Inn, several blocks away).

I walked past the New Sydney Hotel, seeking someplace for dinner. The menu looked fine (overly trendy in my view), but the noise level inside seemed excessive. At the corner of Elizabeth Street and Bathurst Street I found Esus, which seemed to have just as good a menu, and was less noisy. I phoned Jean to suggest she eat there. I walked back to the Mercure Hobart, arriving just as she emerged from the hotel.

Esus provided nice meals. A open face steak sandwich with heaps of extras for Jean. I had a bacon, (weird) lettuce, and tomato, with chips. We each had a Boags Draught beer. It appeared the premises may be part of the Holiday Inn, as it extends via an extra dining space and a gaming room, to an arcade. fter the nice meal, we got rained on walking back to the hotel.

iPhone Applications

I really needed to clean out my iPhone applications, which had grown in number to the point of clutter. So I started weeding out ones I did not need.

A Free Level (MarketWall) was nice in its day, for a single dimension spirit level. However AppBox also has a level in it, and I do not need two levels. They simply are not needed day to day.

The All About Apps AppBox Lite has currency conversion (10 counties), days between date, adding days to date, day of date and lunar phases calculator, days until count, holidays (for nine countries), clinometer, loan calculator, price grab compares rices for two items, pCalendar, tip calc, units covers area, length, pressure, temperature, volume, weight for a small range of common units. It also has annoying advertising right at the bottom of the display. The only reason I got rid of AppBox Lite is that I bought the AppBox Pro version.

AppBox Pro adds battery life calculations, Dashboard type information, simple colour change flashlight, random number generator, ruler, sale price savings, system memory information. There are four web oriented applications, basically drawing on web pages you could reach from Safari. These are translator (Google translate), Google books, Collapse, and Apple web apps. The Pro version also massively expands many of the original applications.

I got rid of Tanjas SOS Flashlight V1.4. I have never needed a specific flashlight item, since Safari will show a light screen. Other applications such as AppBox have torches that will do colour changes.

I did not get rid of myLite v1.6 from doapp. Nothing wrong with it, although colour change and intensity change are common. Having a red light for astronomy is handy. The cool colour effects were also neat, especially the cigarette lighter. However how many light effects do you need, if you never use them.

NewsTap will not even start. It simply crashes whenever you try to open it. Rated useless. However it may be that there is a problem with the initial configuration. I shall have to try again when I am home.

Tuesday 23 February 2010

Mercure Hobart

We are staying at the Mercure Hobart, in Bathurst Street. I awoke to rain around midnight, and again at 4:30 a.m. and at 5:30 a.m. By 7 a.m. there were some clear blue patches of sky showing, surrounded by threatening black clouds. We had a room service breakfast, as the lazy alternative to the hotel restaurant. I have no idea where else in Hobart you would get a breakfast.

As an aside, with these really small bar fridges in the room, the hotel mini-bar contents occupies almost all the available space. But we need room for our milk and other cold supplies. I recall one hotel during this trip had a note on the fridge saying that the mini-bar contents had been remove, at the suggestion of guests. I regret I failed to note this at the time. We also managed to drop a wine glass from the fridge, scattering glass which took an age to pick up.

I went to get our laundry done, but could not do that until 9 a.m. when the hotel laundry opens. Like I say, when the hotel laundry opens. So I was Number Two in the queue outside the laundry door. Number One, an American from Boston, was trying his room card every few seconds, and checking the swept second hand of his watch. I tried my room card. Finally we asked one of the maids. When her key would not open the door, she phoned the manager. Two manage types arrived impressively soon thereafter, and opened the laundry door. With the washing machine loaded, I set my iPhone timer for 40 minutes, and went for a walk. Returned and started the dryer, which took about 50 minutes, not the estimated 40 minutes.

There was no Ethernet on the top floor of the hotel. They had a Telstra wireless (WiFi) hotspot. This Telstra WiFi did not work with Jean's Ubuntu. When she finally persuaded Windows to start, the WiFi did not work with Windows. It did not work with my iPhone (which works fine with Telstra hotspots at MacDonalds). The Telstra hotspot did not work with my MacBook Air. We are not impressed. The hotel was even less impressed. They have been trying to get the Telstra hotspot repaired for the past 8 days.


Jean had been trying to organise an air tour to the SW wilderness, but we decided the weather was against that idea. During my first walk, while the laundry was being done, I had found a newsagent and some bookshops.

Jean went along on a walk after I completed the laundry. I thought the reason for the walk was to locate or replace her lost umbrella. No luck finding the missing umbrella at reception, the car hire place, or the restaurant we used last night. So we continued downtown, and checked a Target, a Reject Shop and a Chicken Feed, and a real shop selling Shelta brand umbrellas. Shelta were $30 umbrellas. Target had the best imitation, at $15. Jean rejected the Reject Shop. Chicken Feed had a sort of acceptable $4 umbrella.

Jean thought the reason for the walk was to get me some shoes, and her some lunch, so there was some cross purpose confusion. We checked a variety of shoe stores, with nothing suitable as a walking shoe for me. We checked a variety of arcades with eateries, with nothing Jean would accept. Also, the sushi place she had seen previously had vanished. Then, heading back towards the hotel, down an arcade, and inside a courtyard, was a cafe selling Valhalla ice cream. We each decided to hell with lunch, we would have a double scoop of Valhalla ice cream instead. That worked.

We stopped at a Next Byte computer store, which did not have the gadgets I want. A block from the hotel, we came across a Florsheim shoe store. They assisted me get a pair of Florsheim Comfortech walking shoes, which were wide (EEE) and high. These are very like the Kinney EasyWalker shoes I was replacing, so I was well pleased. Especially as they tell me there are only 24 Florsheim stores in Australia.

Dinner with Friends

We headed down Bathurst Street to the New Sydney pub to arrive by 7 p.m. Soon found Robin and Alicia seated at a table. Turned around and there were Leigh and Valma, visiting for a writing project they are working on from Victoria. I kept trying to persuade Leigh that extending the history to include Townsville was a good idea. Cary and Marjorie were also there. Then along came Mike. That made nine people, one more than the table and benches seated. The pub staff kindly brought me a stool. Obviously I could not get too drunk, or I would all off. Jean and Cary had the steak and Guinness pie. I had the cajun chicken BLT, in the mistaken hope it might be small. Valma was unfortunate with her fish and chips, and had to send it back. Luckily the replacement dish was acceptable. Everyone else throught their meals were wonderful, and several managed a dessert.

The noise level was such that participating in all conversations was impossible. Alicia in particular was probably simply not hearing much of the conversation. Leigh and Cary compared their unfortunate experiences with youths bashing them, Leigh from a ten year perspective, Cary a few years ago when working as a taxi driver. Cary was pleased to note driving food deliveries was equivalent to a daily exercise workout, since he moved tons of items by hand. Cary accepted some Analog magazined from Jean, and expressed an interest in more in the future. Cary was recommending David Weber, who has a variety of sample ebooks available from Baen Books. I copied some ebooks for Leigh to sample, and noted where he could download them as free .prc versions more suited to an older PDA (only a few of mine are in the older format).

Wednesday 24 February 2010

Hobart to Melbourne

We were up early. The room service breakfast arrived before 7 a.m. I found a problem with my shoe. Luckily I checked it, because a piece of glass from the broken wine glass had somehow lodged inside my shoe. Our airport shuttle is not scheduled until 8:30 a.m. When Jean noticed a bunch of people waiting for a shuttle from before 8 a.m., we decided that a taxi was a much better choice. So we asked reception to get us a taxi. The Mercure hotel chain seem to be charging a 1.5% premium for use of a credit card, so we paid cash for our stay. This is slightly inconvenient, but credit cards are not sufficiently convenient to be worth paying extra for them.

The taxi driver we got in Hobart said he knew Cary, from his taxi days. We made good time to the airport. No problems with getting our boarding passes from the machines, nor checking luggage. Even getting Jean through security went very quick. We boarded the 727 early, and despite the one hour fifteen minute time allowed on Virgin Blue, DJ1321, we landed in Melbourne less than an hour after we took off.

Melbourne used to have a strange airport bus system, with a change of bus at some transit terminal. We caught a taxi instead. It went across the river, far to the east, and then headed back up Exhibition Street. While traffic flowed well, except actually in Melbourne, I can not help but think we may have been taken for a ride.

We are staying at the Mercure Welcome, 265 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, although the main entrance seems to be on Swanston Street (perhaps for the Grand Mercure, in the same building). The room was ready, despite our midday arrival. Very floor spacious, but a little short of desk space, and pretty much totally lacking drawer space. The bathroom was also exceedingly compact, in every way. A half length bath, possibly because they could not have fitted a shower stall in. Usual annoying range of mini-bar crap cluttering up the room fridge.


The Mercure Welcome is very close to Melbourne Central Shopping Centre. We headed out the Swanston Street entrance, and were devastated to find a Haige Chocolates store at the entrance. We check it out briefly. We did not get very far up Swanston Street before Jean discovered a sushi place. She decided to walk no further for lunch. Sent me off to continue to Central Shopping.

After getting lost a few times trying to find how to reach the lower levels of Central Shopping, I finally got to the Coles store we suspected was present. I phoned Jean for updates on the shopping list (milk, orange juice, what sort of cereal as I read out what was available), and picked up most of it. Got lost again trying to find my way parallel to Swanston Street inside the Central Shopping place. However I eventually got my loot back to the hotel.

I had old hotel biscuits for lunch, as I was not sufficiently organised to locate anything I wanted in the hundred or so cafes and food shops I must have passed.

After Jean had a rest, we headed back to Central Shopping at the railway station, via level 2. Jean found some shoe stores she wanted in the electronic directory. A brief stop at Coles for tea and brie for her. We wandered back on Level 1, to maximise our store coverage. Not much luck finding the few other things on our list. Mostly we could locate the store (such as Borders, and Dick Smith), but not the item. More accurately, the items (such as a glowing night light) were no longer sold.

Jean connected her computer to the internet via Ethernet cable, at the usual vast hotel expense, and spent a bunch of time catching up with her commitments. We finally went out again about 8:30 p.m. to try to find dinner. Ended up brings a footlong Subway sandwich back to the room and sharing it. At least we had some Tasmanian Pinot Noir with which to wash it down.

Thursday 25 February 2010

Melbourne Early Morning

I used my iPhone to read email, catch up on news feeds and check a few well behaved web sites between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. That used 14% of the battery charge. Jean and I chatted for a while, and then I went out to check which shops were open early.

The Target Centre on Burke Street was open. To my surprise, it extended over three levels, and was much deeper than I first believed. To my disgust, I could not find a store directory. Nor could I find the electrical section for a night light. I left in disgust, via the Little Burke Street end. There I found a money machine of the correct brand. That was not where the online map indicated it was.

I continued along Swanston Street, across Lonsdale Street, where an online store listed indicated there was a BigW. The entrance was down an escalator at the corner. BigW, unlike Target, did have sparsely spaced store directories. I was able to find several varieties of night light. None of the night lights were even close to the very compact electroluminescent variety I particularly wanted. I finally selected a cheap neon night light, which at least was not gigantic, even if not what I would consider compact. The entrance I had used was not an exit. The payment area was at the far end of the BigW store. The scan it yourself machines were different to those I had seen, but seemed to work much the same. I found myself in an underground space with a large Woolworths food store.

Exiting the building was more of a challenge, with far too many flights of stairs. I emerged on Little Lonsdale Street, rather than on Swanston Street as I would have preferred. Still, after the stairs, it was all downhill back to the hotel.

We are staying at the Mercure Welcome, at 265 Little Bourke St, Melbourne, for our visit in Melbourne. I must say it seems very central. It is a bit of a pity we had not found the Woolworths food store earlier, as it was closer. There was also a MacDonalds a block away, with an active free wireless access point. I may take my computer there sometime.

Markets and Shopping

We walked to the Victoria Markets after breakfast. The way I read the hotel map did not seem to correspond with reality (Google maps also showed the markets where I thought they were). This map vs reality problem also applies to the location of toilets and ATM, which never seem where the map indicates. My memories of the Victoria Markets was of a vast range of craft and other sellers (we were not interested in the food section). We walked row after row of vendors with the same products, from the same sources, which got boring real quick.

I was not impressed by the Victoria Markets. For me, it was basically a waste of time. I decided to return to the hotel before even reaching rows A and B. I left Jean, who had a short list of vendors she wanted to check again. Finding my way back worked better than finding the markets. I was able to visit Jaycar Electronics in A'Beckett Street. They also did not have the electroluminescent night lights.

Today was to be our shop till you drop day, however dropping seemed more likely than shopping. I left the hotel again to check The Pen Shop. Then I realised that pens ere essentially an almost obsolete tool. I do my writing on computer or phone, not on paper. In Strand Arcade I checked a different Dick Smith store, but still no electroluminescent night lights.

Jean phoned while I was in the Strand Arcade, saying she was back at the hotel, and had again bought sushi for lunch. Would I try to find a white wine? Once more I emerged on the wrong block, but eventually located a nearby Vintage Cellars. Found a reasonably priced Pinot Gregio. Jean let me have the remains of the sushi for my lunch. I had been totally unable to locate any food that interested me, despite the vast range of cafes in Melbourne streets.

Book Shopping

I found a Science and Swords bookshop in the Strand Arcade, specialising in fantasy and science fiction. That had a potential SF book or two of interest. We would want to see if Justin brings the same books to the convention when he sets up his sales table, before buying SF.

I tried Angus and Robertson Bookshop. The SF section was mostly fantasy, and no interest to me. They did however have a very wide range of books about using the Apple iPhone software development kit and XCode to write iPhone programs in Objective C with Cocoa frameworks. I had recently signed up for the iPhone developer program, so I found these interesting.

On a later walk I checked the Dymocks. Once again the science fiction was mostly actually fantasy. Apart from a Stephen Baxter disaster novel, I did not spot any science fiction that looked interesting. Once again there were a certain number of iPhone programming books at Dymocks. Jean has a Dymocks card, so I will have to check prices and which books are available where.


For lack of a better idea, I suggested the Pancake Parlour for dinner. Jean had spent most of the day hunched over a hot computer, catching up with correspondence and doing Open Office stuff. She had bought a day of internet connection, and did not want to waste any of it. The Pancake Parlour worked. They even had a few meal deals for people arriving early. I think my Mexican chicken crepe was a bit of a mistake (not enough jalapenos). Jean somehow managed to get a giant scotch fillet on a pancake. I was impressed. By the time we went to dinner Jean had run out of internet connection time. She also managed to fall asleep soon after we retuned to the room. This may have been helped by drinking what little remained of the Delamere Vineyards 2007 Pinot Noir from Piper Brook in Tasmania. I stayed up reading John Varley's Rolling Thunder, which Jean had brought with her to read.

Friday 26 February 2010

Melbourne Mourning

Jean grabbed my iPhone at 6 a.m. and started checking her email. I continued writing up this blog on my MacBook Air. One reason we were awake, despite daylight coming late, was the hotel specialises in noise. Between the construction site next door, the noisy air conditioning, and a bar fridge that rattles and hums, the room is a cacophony. This is at Mercure Welcome in Melbourne. It is no good going out around the streets of Melbourne, as most stores (except breakfast joints) seem to open late. Jean also discovered this when she headed for Melbourne Central. The shoe shop did not open until 10 a.m. She phoned me to complain.

I had been seeking some replacement travel bags, and had earlier looked in Myers. So far I am unimpressed by Myers. We tried a nearby StrandBag. I was at least able to find a reasonable looking small shoulder bag, at an acceptable price. This was described as a Highlife N/S Reporter, in black and grey. It looked like it could replace some better, but badly battered, bags I had at home. When we went to Woolworths to get food, and to Dan Murphy to get Pisco, the new bag set off alarms, entering and leaving. I returned to StrandBags to ask them to remove any further shop alarm marker from the bag. Like me, they failed to find another alarm marker. They offered to replace the bag, but since the problem seems something the manufacturer did, that seemed unlikely to help.

Another thing. Upside down honey squeeze containers. Since that variety included iron bark honey, for the first time in my life I bought an upside down squeeze container. Reflex left me store it upright (exit on top). Next day it was surrounded by a puddle of honey. I do not think I will repeat the experiment, including the experiment of buying another upside down container.

We bought a De Bortoli Windy Peak Victorian Pinot Noir at Dan Murphy for the rest of the convention. This was cheap and cheerful, but not nearly the quality of the Tasmanian Pinot Noir we had sampled. We had picked the De Bortoli to sample because there was at least some chance we could find that in Queensland. Also, we know De Bortoli use Linux and Open Office in their computer systems, so anything to support an Open Source supporter.

Book Shopping

I was having better luck with bookshops. The Academic Bookshop was open, but seemed devoted entirely to school books. I never did locate McGill's Technical Bookshop on Elizabeth Street. At Dymocks I was able to buy the Peachpit Press Apple Certified book AppleScript 1-2-3, by Sal Soghoian and Bill Cheeseman. I also bought Dan and Tracey Oilone's Head First iPhone Development book. Both got Jean future credits, as I had her Dymocks card with me.

A little later I went to Angus and Robertsons, which were considerably more expensive ($20 more) for the Head First iPhone book. However A&R had a better range. I bought Paul and Harvey Deitel's iPhone for Programmers, an App-Driven Approach. I also bought iPhone SDK Development by Bill Dudney and Chris Adamson. From the number of iPhone software development titles at these two book stores, I suspect RMIT is offering some sort of programming course for the iPhone. Whatever the cause, I was happy to get these books.

Continuum 6

Continuum 6 science fiction convention started having committee members arrive mid afternoon. Many seemed startlingly young to me, which is a very good thing. As we somewhat expected, the convention was occupying the Ether events space downstairs in the Mercure Welcome.

I collected our show bag for the convention, and our name tags (printed both sides so they always displayed correctly), and took them to Jean in the hotel room. I was delighted to note the single sided folded pocket program, using the old trick of a cut across the middle to produce a 8 page booklet that would easily fit into a pocket. The choice of black copy on blue paper for some of the pocket programs was less helpful, but Jean luckily got a yellow copy, so at least she could read it in bad light.

The convention bag contents. Aussiecon 4 postcard sized flyer, for the 68th World Science Fiction Convention, in Melbourne 2-6 September 2010. In addition, Au Contraire, a New Zealand science fiction, fantasy and geekery convention the previous weekend, 27-29 August, in Wellington, with Sean Williams and Paul Mannering as Guests. Nullus Anxietas III, the Third Australian Discworld Convention, 8-10 April 2011 at penrith Panthers Convention centre, Penrith NSW. Conflux 7 SF convention is at Marque Hotel, Canberra from Friday 30 September to Monday 3 October 2011. Conflux guests are Lewis Morley and Marilyn Pride (artists), Kim Westwood (author), Natalie Costa-Bir (editor).

Continuum had a nice cover by Samantha Presser on their program book. An old style car (with tail fins), and some photoshopped wings, crashed high into the side of a Melbourne landmark.

Books, bookshops and the like advertise. Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine offer six back issues (their choice) for $20, if you quote Continuum 6 with your order. City Basement Books, 28 Elizabeth Street, for quality second hand books. Author Robert Hood will offer Robot War Espresso in September 2010 from Twelfth Planet Press. A George Ivanoff Gamers' Quest sticker, and a Ford Street Publishing bookmark explaining it is a teenage fantasy novel. Peggy Bright Books offer Edwina Harvey's charming children's sf adventure A Whales Tale, and also Simon petrie's short story collection, Rare Unsigned Copy, tales of rocketry, ineptitude and giant mutant vegetables, on special at a cost saving $35 for both.

Then there are bunch of show bag contents I did not understand as well. Elementaurs exciting new fantasy game deck. Evil Empire Comics, 36 Sydney Street, Coburg. Melbourne Browncoats is a fan group for Joss Whedon's television series Firefly and movie Serenity. Social events and an annual charity event. Even more social events at the Melbourne Science Fiction Club which meets every Friday evening.

Continuum Attendees

Michael on the committee. Justin was setting up his books in the dealers room. Robin and Alicia, last seen in Tasmania, seeking elevator access. Craig and Karen, who had obviously quickly found elevator access. Julian and Lucy, who stayed much of the evening. Terry, with work in flux, nevertheless was on a late evening panel on being an evil overlord.

Merv and Helana, with Helana always quick to get the camera into action. They were only here for the one evening. I hear Ditmar attended, but had to leave early. What was once a dinner for four expanded, or so I believe. Bruce, who disappeared early in the evening. I fear many fans have returned to the days of being constricted in how much of a convention they could manage to attend.

Continuum Events

The opening ceremony at 7 p.m. was preceded by a video, with a rather loud sound track. However the images were all easily recognised SF media, done as a sort of montage. It was effective as a way of waking up attendees to the opening event. The opening ceremony was followed by the Chronos Awards, for Victorian fan and professional science fiction, fantasy and horror. The convention had also been offering panel events since 4 p.m.

Book launch by Ford Street Publishing in the foyer area at 8 p.m. This seemed mostly of young adult material. They had a table, with flyers and special offers for schools. Books by Paul Collins and many others. I believe they are up to 22 books in print at the moment. The cocktail party was also held in the foyer area. That seemed to have a goodly number of people wandering around. I saw Sean briefly.

There was a So You Think You Can Be an Evil Mastermind panel at 10 p.m. That was going to have George Ivanof, Heath Miller, Paul Poulton, Danny Oz, and Terry Frost. Contestants needed to pick the same evil item as judges. Must be based on some game show I have never encountered (not having a TV tends to permit widespread avoidance of popular culture).

Saturday 27 February 2010

Melbourne Dies

Melbourne is a morgue on Saturday morning. You really could shoot cannonballs down Swanston Street without hitting anyone. I waited until late to try to buy the morning newspapers. Despite deliberately going out late, I found the Target Centre was not even unlocked! Food shops on the main street were still closed, except for a 24 hour pie shop, and the MacDonalds. At the QV area, the precinct seemed empty. The newsagent was still closed, despite being after 8 a.m. I can not believe this. It is like a big country town, except in Queensland country towns I can usually buy a newspaper at 7 a.m. I finally went to a 7-11 equivalent mini market, which did have newspapers. They lacked the DVD that should have accompanied The Age. Seems the newsagent had not provided them.

We went on a journey was a preliminary 2009 U.K. GUFF trip report by Trevor Clark and Sue Ann Barber. They went to Ireland, which was an interesting side trip. They also revealed the insidious entanglement of Cylon Beer in fandom.

GoH Mark Pesce

Mark Pesce did his Guest of Honour speech at 11 a.m. The title was The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Implants. Mark Pesce was known to me only as a panelist for the past five years on the ABC television show The New Inventors. However the program book notes him as a pioneer of virtual reality, and a media and technology commentator for a quarter century. He is the author of five books, and numerous articles in ABC Unleashed, NETT, Salon, The Age, Wired. However since he revealed he attended Boskone in 1984 and 1985, he obviously also knows science fiction fandom well.

Teletype and StarWars

Eric Drexler as a student, expanding Richard Feynman's 1959 idea that there is plenty of room at the bottom. Drexler's original manuscript had even more radical ideas than the eventual book.

Ted Nelson's Xanadu project

Mark Pesce suggested checking Google Video for his lengthy film Becoming Transhuman.

Afternoon Continuum Panels

Utopias are Really Dystopias, with panelists m1k3y and writer GoH Kim Westwood from Canberra. Lots of audience participation, especially from Mark Pesce. I mentioned the utopian Australian colony Cosmos in Paruguay at the turn of the 19th Century. I also argued for a statistical utopia. If voluntary immigration is high, and emigration low, surely you have one of the more desirable societies?

Maturing New Media was to feature panelists Mark Pesce, Alex Gibson, and Paul Verhoeven. Is radical new media all that radical, or even all that new anymore? If it is not TV, a book or a comic, perhaps it is new. Or is the internet merely a newer form of distribution of a bunch of old art? Is the means of distribution fooling us into thinking the nature of the art itself has changed. Certainly it was not as easy previous to do recordings, podcasts, to make your own movies.

Future Proofing Melbourne had a well prepared Tiki Swain and Jane Routley. They were looking at life in Melbourne in 2099, with greenhouse gas emissions down 90%, rainfall 40% lower, and 100 year bushfires every decade. They assumed a continuing population growth, increased demand for energy, and the availability of green energy from diverse methods. They place peak oil 40 years hence, mostly probably to avoid arguments about when it occurs (I think peak oil has already passed). Given their assumptions, they depicted a nice city and a polite and well mannered populace (if you like bicycles). However I fear the transition will be harder and more bloody than anyone in the audience imagines.

I skipped the fan fund auction. I just know Justin would have grabbed my iPhone (while I am reading the traditional book during the auction) and tried to auction it. Not that we have luggage space for even more books.

Dudcon III is a fund raiser for the Standing Committee of the Business Meeting of the National Australian Science Fiction Convention, intended to ensure the Ditmar awards expenses are covered. Paul Ewins was ensuring they had the funds for the Ditmars.

Costume Parade and Loud Noises

Costume parade was scheduled at 8 p.m. and was followed by Maskobalo. I was late. As I was thinking of leaving the room, Lync arrived, so we sat talking until after 9 p.m., when she had to get Roger into a band concert that started at 7:30 p.m. I do not really understand this, but it sounded like an even that would continue until late.

At the Maskobalo, the well costumed lady DJ Omega had a Dell XPS with lights shining through both sides of the back panel. It looked most appropriate in a disco. My concession to costuming was to wear my flashing LED badge, which is about all I manage to take when travelling.

Jean had told me to look at one pair of extreme boots. I did spot a most impressive set of boots. They looked like they had fangs on the.

As expected, the noise level in the entire convention space was way too high for me, even after several drinks. I mostly tried to hide in rooms well away from the dance floor. However I soon tired on any conversation being an attempt to scream louder than the music. Lync arrived back from her delivery chore well before the noise level dropped, so we tried to converse for a while.

Sunday 28 February 2010

MacDonald Morning

I went to McDonalds around 10 a.m. to use their free WiFi connection. The bottom floor had few tables and was basically full, so I took my purchase upstairs. Opened a bazillion tabs in my web browser, on the basis I would read it all later. While the contents were slowly downloading, I noticed three shabby sparrows flying around the upstairs room. They would wait for a table to be vacated, and then check out the leaving. After some time, and with an almost empty room, the sparrows landed at the top of the steps, and started hopping down the steps towards the exit.

Continuum Panels

I skipped the Norma K Henning Award talk, since I had heard Bill on the topic at several other conventions. However he reports that it went well.

Is Piracy Destroying TV, with panelists Mark Pesce, Julia Svaganovic and Danny Oz. Many of the audience thought TV was destroying TV. Mention was made of annoyances. Programs scheduled for late hours. Series years behind their USA release. Programs never shown here at all. The audience mentioned availability of DVD, and downloads as a way of avoiding delays. There was annoyance that legitimate DVDs contained pious pirating messages, and that downloads at least avoided that.

Podcasting, with Terry Frost and others. I fail to recall the names of the two other panellists, who podcast with some association with the Channel 31 outfits. Terry does Paleo Cinema, researching and then commenting on films from prior to 1980. He went through the ease with which you can set up for podcasting. All the panelists mentioned iTunes as an easy source of their podcasts, although they are available direct from their own websites as well.

2012: End of the World, or so the Mayan calendar indicates, as the end of the fourth cycle. Ten reasons why the world should or should not end in 2012. Mark Pesce, Alan Baxter, Kim Westwood, and M1k3y were the panelists. I gather there is an end of the world movie either out or approaching. There have been a heap of end of the world predictions previously in the literature. Mostly by religious nuts. I do not think many of us were taking the prediction seriously.

Continuum Ends

Closing Ceremony opened with the same video that opened the convention. At least that was symmetrical. We talked with various people in the foyer until the crowd thinned out. As Monday was not a holiday, most were headed home straight away.

Jean and I walked to the nearby Pancake Parlour for a late (by our standards) dinner. Jean had tabriz, a crepe with a savoury mince filling, and a salad. I had a sensible dinner, chocolate pancakes with strawberries, chocolate fudge sauce, cream and ice cream, as a helpful item in my diet, thus avoiding the problem of what to have for dessert. On returning to our room, we attempted to demolish the remaining inferior De Bortoli Windy Peak Pinot Noir.

Open WiFi Ends in UK

It seems so obvious that governments just do not understand the internet, and they fear it. Open Wi-Fi 'outlawed' by Digital Economy Bill, as David Meyer reports in the U.K., including comments by Lilian Edwards, professor of internet law at Sheffield University. How long do people have to put up with these arseholes in government making bad decisions about matters that do not concern them on the behalf of fuckwitted companies that should be shut down?

Eric Lindsay's Blog February 2010