Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Pain in the Camera

Sigh, I been having the disposable electronics blues. A few months ago my digital camera (a Canon Powershot A710IS, with which I was very happy) stopped working. On pushing the power button, it would attempt to turn on, beep sadly and report "Lens Error". Something was wrong with the lens, but what? A web search revealed that this was a common problem with Canon cameras (it used to be called Error E18), and that there were a few things I could try. The easier ones (like giving it a solid whack) didn't help, so the other day I finally took the plunge and opened it up. It was quite a journey dismantling it so I could get to the lens assembly. I must have taken out 20 screws, which I carefully put on a piece of paper with a note for where they came from (yes, good planning!). I finally got the lens out and had a fiddle - it seemed to move fine, and there didn't seem to be any sand jamming up the works, although it's possible the gears had slipped out of alignment. I was about to put it all back together to see if I had magically fixed it, but decided to take it one more step. Rrrrrip! There goes a ribbon cable. Well, so much for that.

So now I had a camera that was definitely broken. As my housemate pointed out, I was no worse off than before. But I didn't feel that way - if only I'd put it back together, I moaned, it would work and I would be happy! A search on the web revealed that it's nigh on impossible to get a replacement lens assembly (and would cost a pretty penny if it weren't), let alone a new ribbon cable. But, someone is selling the same model camera for only about $150 on ebay. $150 to end up where I was before? Maybe I should upgrade.

Then I realised I had another broken camera, my Fujifilm FinePix E550, which also took pretty decent photos but which I broke while getting myself out of a hairy situation on a mountain in New Zealand. I had jettisoned my pack and the LCD display had smashed as it tumbled away. A small price to pay, I figured, given that I still had my life.

Turns out I can get a replacement LCD for only $60. Great! So I just sat down to open it up and check that the job would be doable. But I couldn't even get the case open - the screws are some special tri-star shape. Obstructionist buggers! Well, an extra hurdle, but I'll manage.

So much to avoid buying yet another camera! My first one lasted from September 2005 - January 2007. Only 16 months! My second managed a bit longer: January 2007 - May 2010, so 3.5 years. But it hasn't had a lot of use for the past 2.5 years, what with my CFS and all.

So anyway, disappointed at disposable electronics. I will just have to reframe my expectations of how long such things should last - i.e. not very long! Maybe I should just accept consumerism and commit to working lots in order to support the habit. Hah!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few movies too

The movies I've watched over the last year or so. When I do watch TV, it is usually DVDs. I've worked my way through to the seventh series of "The West Wing" - on the home straight! Have also been enjoying "Monarch of the Glen" and "Changi".

4.5 stars
"Brand Nu Dae"

4 stars
"The Princess Bride"
"City of God"

3.5 stars
"Tim Burton's Corspe Bride"

3 stars
"The Usual Suspects"
"Harvey Krumpet"
"Robin Hood" The Russell Crowe one

More reading

So long since my last post! I won't make any promises about posting more often, but you never know.

I've continued to keep a log of what I've been reading, and a rating. I found LibraryThing and have started using that, but it seems faster just to write it down. But see here for my LibraryThing page.

Also, I came across Cheap books, NO shipping. It's awesome! Ironically, I found out about it from a newspaper article bemoaning the death of local publishing houses ...

Here is what I read between January and November 2010:

5 stars
"The Omnivore's Dilemma" Michael Pollan
"Wild Swans" Jung Chang

4.5 stars
"2001: A Space Odyssey" Arthur C. Clarke
"Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire" J. K. Rowling
"Del Del" Victor Kelleher
"Hybrid: The History and Science of Plant Breeding" Noel Kingsbury

4 stars
"In Praise Of Slow" Carl Honore
"Contrary Farmer" Gene Lodgson
"The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work" Alain de Botton
"End of the Line" Charles Clover
"Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" J. K. Rowling
"The World Without Us" Alan Weisner
"Gardening In Hard Times" Steve Solomon
"Wild Fermentation" Sandor Katz
"Year of the Flood" Margaret Atwood
"Salmon Fishing in the Yemen" Paul Torday
"The Permaculture Home Garden" Linda Woodrow

3.5 stars
"2010: Odyssey Two" Arthur C. Clarke
"A History of Tractors in Ukrainian" Marina Lewycka
"Harry Potter and the Philospoher's Stone" J. K. Rowling
"Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" J. K. Rowling
"Atlantic Fury" Hammond Innes
"Out of the Scientist's Garden" Richard Stirzaker
"Shop Class as Soul Craft" Matthew Crawford
"Outlier" Malcolm Gladwell

3 stars
"Crude World" Peter Mans
"The Fifth Elephant" Terry Pratchett
"Emergence" Steven Johnson
"Ill-Made Mute" (Book 1) Cecilia Dart-Thornton
"Lady of the Sorrows" (Book 3) Cecilia Dart-Thornton
"Little Women" Louisa May Alcott
"Adventure Capitalist"
"Temple" Matthew Reilly
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Stieg Larsson

2 stars
"Battle of Evernight" (Book 2) Cecilia Dart-Thornton
"Area 7" Matthew Reilly

Thursday, January 28, 2010

A few months' worth of reading

I had planned to write a review of each book as I read it. Alas, I've been reading too much, and internet access has been too little. I have, however, been rating what I've been reading, so here is a list covering September 2009 - January 2010:

5 stars
"In Defense of Food" Michael Pollan
"This Accursed Land" by Lennard Bickel
"The Black Swan" Nassim Nicholas Taleb

4.5 stars
"Cooper's Creek" Alan Moorehead
"The Explorers" Tim Flannery
"Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" Barbara Kingsolver
"Fooled by Randomness" Nassim Nicholas Taleb

4 stars
"South" Ernest Shackleton
"True Grit" Charles Portis
"Papillon" Henri Charriere
"Real Dirt: How I Beat My Grid-Life Crisis" James Woodford
"Oryx and Crake" Margaret Atwood
"Going Solo" Roald Dahl
"The Mud House" Richard Glover
"Two Weeks with the Queen" Morris Gleitzmen
"Van Diemen's Land" James Boyce
"A Terrible Beauty" Richard Flanagan

3.5 stars
"Life is so Good" George Dawson
"Frog Call" Greg French
"The Last Grain Race" Eric Newby
"The Wee Free Men" Terry Pratchett
"The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents" Terry Pratchett
"Hat Full of Sky" Terry Pratchett
"The Secret Life of Wombats" James Woodford
"Eiger Dreams" Jon Krakeuer
"Handmaid's Tale" Margaret Atwood

3 stars
"Desert Solitaire" Edward Abbey
"Banco" Henri Charriere
"The Element" Ken Robinson
"Masquerade" Terry Pratchett
"Jaguars Ripped My Flesh" Tim Cahill
"Death of a River Guide" Richard Flanagan

2.5 stars
"Deep Survival" Laurence Gonzales
"My Uncle Oswald" Roald Dahl
"A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush" Eric Newby

2 stars
"Walden" Henry Thoreau

Interesting how the distribution is very Gaussian ...

The best shelf builder in the universe!

These have been three months in the making, and at last, they are done!

Since moving to Hobart, our bedroom has been full of piles of assorted stuff. Finally we have a place to organise it all.

The shelves are made from all-recycled timber - the uprights and joists bought from the local tip shop, the shelving I scavenged on hard waste day. The thing about cheap recycled wood is that it's rarely straight, which makes it hard to get things neat. But it's good enough, and pretty solid. It's not very easy to dismantle, though, so hopefully we don't need to move anywhere in a hurry ...

In all I reckon I spent $30 ($15 for timber, $15 for screws), and it took me 15 hours. By comparison I could have bought equivalent shelving from IKEA for say $150. But the over-blown sense satisfaction just wouldn't be there!

Next big project is perhaps a bed - I want a high-rise double bed with lots of space under it for a desk and hanging space.

Summer garden

Here is a photo of our garden down here in Tasmania. It's going great! (Click for a bigger version.)

The chickens are up in the back left. We have seven of them. Three are young chicks that hatched a couple of months ago. We still don't know if they are hens or roosters yet. If they are boys, then we'll be having a roast dinner! Our original chickens were all bantams, but the chicks came from non-bantam stock (I think) so they are rapidly out-growing the old guard. So many chickens makes for a fun feeding time.

The corn is in old chicken soil, so it is growing like crazy - pushing seven feet tall! Hopefully we'll get a good crop in another few weeks. We've a few pumpkins, one of which has its roots in under the chicken coop, and so is gradually taking over the yard. I've trained a couple of others up on the fence, and have some nice young pumpkins hanging there, rapidly expanding in size. Will be great to get a bunch of pumpkins and store them away for the winter.

We've about 30 tomato plants, most of them along the right hand fence. They haven't ripened yet, and some of them haven't even set fruit. So not sure what sort of a harvest we'll get. We're banking on a big one so we can do lots of preserving.

Down the front left are some Scarlet Runner beans, climbing up the fence. These are lush, but I suspect a possum has been getting at the beans, because there haven't been too many for us! Our bush butter beans have been more successful, and are wonderfully juicy. Also down the front is our small strawberry patch, which produces the occasional gem of a strawberry. Nothing like home-grown berries!

A bunch of things have gone to seed, so it's about time we pulled them out and thought about getting our autumn/winter crop in.