A lick of paint…

Careful readers will note that I’ve re-jigged the look and feel of the place!

I am not entirely sure I like the results as yet, but it’s certainly a bit slicker and (I think) more functional.

If you spot any visual ‘anomalies’ arising, let me know in the comments… and if you can’t stand the new look (or feel it’s the best thing since sliced bread), let me know there, too. These things can always be reversed or tweaked 🙂

We interrupt our broadcast…

…to announce that we’ve just sold our house. So it’s bye-bye wallabies and kangas. 🙁

The plan is now to rent a small-ish apartment somewhere nearer the city for a while. In the longer term, we’re planning to buy a house back in the UK: our days in Oz are numbered (simply because we want to travel more -and whereas 8 hours in the air from Heathrow gets you to most of Europe and lots of North America, 8 hours in the air from Sydney gets you to about the edge of Australian airspace).

Moving house is never fun. So expect the blog upkeep to suffer in the meantime. But I’ll do my best to keep things ticking over.

You can’t kick this around anymore…

nixonscan-finalRichard Nixon is the US president I admire the most, I think. He had a grasp of strategic thinking that few have matched. My admiration is often a source of amusement (and embarrassment) to my American friends, though, because that grasp of strategy failed him spectacularly during the Watergate affair, resulting in his resignation and disgrace.

But from my father, I sought, and was granted, special permission to watch his resignation speech, live, at 2AM London time in August 1974. I was a pretty committed 10 year-old! I also strongly suspect that without Nixon, none of us might be here today: the Cold War could have got very hot and very nasty on numerous occasions, until Nixon’s policy of détente made us all a lot safer.

Anyway, my fascination with the man lead me, several years ago now, to look to obtain his autograph (as one does with heroes). But they were (and are) not cheap, and ToH would not permit money-siphoning to take place on such a grand scale, despite my entreaties that a great man warrants grand money-wastage! Cheaper ones can be found if you look long enough, though-but I wasn’t that diligent back then, so everything seemed awfully pricey.

And then I happened to stumble across an auction on Ebay, for a letter allegedly signed by Nixon whilst he was serving as Vice President -so back in 1960. The asking price was about US$89, and no international shipping.

Well, at that price, it couldn’t be genuine, could it?! But the lady selling it said it had been sent to her father for some reason, he had died recently, she had no use for it and therefore wasn’t asking the world for it either. However, she couldn’t substantiate it more than that and knew nothing about its authenticity. But she would ship it to me in Australia if I paid some token sum or other (maybe an extra US$25).

And that is how I came to acquire my Nixon autograph for the piffling price of about US$115. It eventually arrived safely in the post -and this was my first chance to actually look and touch what I’d paid for. Well: I wasn’t disappointed. It certainly looked genuine (the signature is strong and definitely from a fountain pen). It also felt genuine: the paper is definitely old, the typewriting is definitely from a real typewriter.

Looks can be deceptive, of course! Nevertheless, the thing was framed and put in a place of honour on my study wall, where it has remained to this day.

But was it genuine??! It would bug me occasionally.

So early this week, I finally decided to do something about it: I sent the scanned copy of it you can see at the top of this piece to the Nixon Presidential Library, in Yorba Linda, California. I asked them if they had any records proving that, as the letter claimed, Nixon had been in Akron, Ohio on October 1st 1960 -and whether they could tell me anything about the addressee, Mr. Giampetro.

Their website is not the best! They don’t appear to know how to get https certificates to work, either! So I wasn’t hugely hopeful… but efficiency lurks in other corners of the library, it would seem, because this evening, not two days after I emailed, I received a very nice email from their archivist, one Dorissa Martinez, saying (and I quote):

According to our Pre-Presidential Materials (Laguna Niguel) Appearances (Series 207) finding aid, Vice President Nixon attended a rally at Memorial Hall in Akron, Ohio on October 1, 1960.

After searching through the Pre-Presidential Materials (Laguna Niguel) General Correspondence (Series 320) collection and Campaign 1960: PPS 57: Election. 1960. Post Election Correspondence, Acknowledgments, and Thank You’s, box 5, folder Thank you Letters Completed – Nationwide, I was unable to locate materials relating to Frank Giampetro.

I’m not sure I made entire sense of either sentence! But the general gist of it is that if you poke around the Pre-Presidential Materials long enough, you can indeed find evidence that Nixon was in Akron, Ohio on the date the letter claims he was. It doesn’t prove my letter is genuine… but it goes a long way to reassuring me on the point anyway.

It’s a shame there weren’t records that Frank Giampetro was, for example, a Republican Party hired driver, routinely used to transport any bigwigs that came by Ohio… so that part of the mystery remains. I’d certainly like to find out more about him (but the letter stays with me, come what may!)

Anyhow: I don’t think it would have mattered to me either way, but it’s nice to have my own little bit of near-confirmed Nixon-alia in front of me as I type. Let’s just hope greatness rubs off and shady dealings don’t!

Happy Christmas and New Year!

It’s been a fairly quiet year for the blog, and I’ve felt less inclination than usual to keep adding to it. But my inbox is testimony to the fact that there’s a cadre of faithful readers nonetheless, and so to them especially, I send festive greetings and wishes for a peaceful and happy Christmas and New Year.

As my turkey slowly defrosts in time for the mega-roast tomorrow, I reflect genially on a year in which I finally got married; the two rescue cats finally became friendly; and I discovered the music of Vaughan Williams properly for the first time as a result of finally getting my music metadata into good order. Work plodded on as usual and I didn’t have to save a database from almost-total destruction due to System Admin mis-configuration for once. Windows went, and came back again… with a vengeance. RAC finally worked on Hyper-V (must write that one up sometime soon-ish). And I got to upgrade a lot of my hardware. We nearly moved house, and then decided not to, just in time.

It’s been a good year, if quieter than normal (or maybe I’m just getting older!). Looking forward to 2016, and hope all my readers feel similarly. See you in the New Year…

If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute…

Yeah. Turns out that we are as made up in our minds about moving as the British weather is constant (i.e., not very). The property has been withdrawn from the market: we’re staying put. A particularly lovely spring day with the glorious scent of wattles and the humming of bees in the canopies of gum trees made our minds up for us.

We may still buy a near-city apartment, but it won’t be for us to live in. Honestly: our house is considered small at a mere “27 squares” (which I think means 2700 square feet in the archaic language of Australian property assessment), but I recoiled in horror at the thought of having to live in “9.8 squares”, which was a “good-sized apartment” according to the blurb. I suppose if I really looked around, I could just about squeeze my life into a third of its present existence, but I just don’t fancy having to do so. Space is a pain, because it needs cleaning; but I need room to kick around in. I think my current computer desk is about “0.5 squares” all on its own… no thanks!


I’ve not written for a while. That’s down to a few things:

  • A surprise trip to the UK at Christmas (turning up on your sister’s front door on Christmas Day without any warning is quite a fun thing to do. Luckily they had a very large turkey, so we could be fitted in to the day’s festivities without too much drama)
  • Being ill throughout most of January -something picked up in the Wintry climes of the UK, no doubt. Quite nasty, lots of antibiotics, still not quite ‘right’.
  • Deciding to get married and having to organise it. The big day is at the end of February (once a decision is made, best not to faff around, I think), so not a lot of time to get things sorted.

Exhaustion from finally polishing off Churchill is probably in there somewhere, too.

Interesting article (and associated comments) here, by the way, considering my last post: I’m obviously not alone in thinking that Linux is somehow a lot less fun than it used to be.

That will explain why I spent my January illness wiping every last trace of Linux from any servers or PCs in the house: VMs only for me from now on. Windows 10 Technical Preview is on the main desktop, Windows 8.1 everywhere else, except on the servers which are running Windows 2012 R2. It’s equally as much not-fun as Linux, but it works without me having to fiddle and, what with one thing and another, I’ve finally got the message that fiddling is a waste of time and resources.

That said, I’ve been toying with the idea of documenting how to get Oracle running on FreeBSD, which is the very definition of fiddling, I guess :-)

Anyway: I’m still here, in case anyone was wondering.

Post Op, ergo propter hoc

It wasn’t fun, exactly, but it wasn’t open heart surgery either and my eye now only feels slightly as if it had a run-in with a large bouncer from a seedy nightclub. Three lots of drops four times a day are a nuisance, too (I keep missing and my face ends up rather wetter than it ought), but apparently infection is the big nightmare and I’ll do anything to keep it at bay if I can.

So, other than on-going maintenance issues, I am now the proud posssessor of a bionic left eye which seems to perform quite well. It will take a month or so until everything settles down enough to make getting a new pair of glasses worthwhile, so in the meantime I’m using a -4.0 glasses lens with an eye that has now been set to -2.0, courtesy of the implant… and everything looks slightly blurry in consequence. But close-up to computer monitors and the like, where I have been in the habit of removing glasses for years, it’s now actually my right eye that is doing it tough, for it was a -2.75 and so is slightly worse than my new one.

It turns out that it has a nascent cataract in it too, though, so next year I intend to do the same to it, and have it replaced with a lens to match my new left one. I’d do it sooner if I could, I think, except that it costs a fiendish amount of money that I don’t have. So I’ve a year of saving to do, and some finger-crossing to hope that the right eye doesn’t turn into a galloping cataract like the left one did in the meantime.

For being such a brave little soldier, I get to stay at home for three days (I think I’ll be back to work tomorrow) and am under strict instructions not to do any housework for at least a couple of months. There is a silver lining to be found in all things, then :-)

Mid-life crisis solved

It has taken a week of haggling over the price, but today we finally agreed to buy a new car: the Mercedes E200 convertible, as pictured.

It’s apparently an “entry-level” Mercedes… in which case, I’d hate to find out how much the other levels cost to move into, because this one is frankly more money than I was comfortable parting with! But the old Pajero was approaching its fifth anniversary, a timing belt replacement (or so I was reliably informed by ToH) and a major service; plus this sips 6L per 100km, instead of the Pajero’s 12.8, so this halves our fuel costs… with such lists, one attempts to persuade one’s self that this purchase was necessary, inevitable… even a cost-saving measure!

The fact is, though, that it’s pure indulgence on my part. I’ve fancied a convertible since I was about 30 but only now has it become possible to even consider it as a realistic possibility. I guess turning 50 at the start of the year may have had a hand in it, too!

We pick the thing up on Thursday… when it is due to be raining. So taking it for a wind-in-the-hair spin will have to wait awhile yet.

Seeing you…

I have had a “thing” in my left eye for a while now. It’s a sort of pair of lines, like a railway track, with a couple of knots in. Zoom in on a human hair in a microsocope and you’ll see the sort of thing:

Now imagine that running vertically through your left eye but much, much fainter and thinner. You’ll definitely know its there -though, perhaps like me, you’ll only get a really good look at if you stare at a bright but blandly-cloudy sky, where the absence of anything substantive to look at will really draw your attention to the ‘crack’ that seems to afflict you.

I put off seeing anyone about it because, well, it’s kind of trivial in a way. It really is very faint in usual circumstances. And work’s been busy. And I’d rather not know if I have an incurable disease that’s going to eat one of my eyes eventually. You know… all the usual excuses.

But I couldn’t help but notice it getting significantly worse of late -and a little bizarre. I wear glasses for long vision, but take them off when I sit down at a computer. So if they’re on, I expect distance to be sharp and near-objects blurred and the opposite when they’re off, of course. Except that a week or so ago, I noticed that my left eye was pin-sharp with glasses when viewing a monitor and blurred when the glasses were on, looking in the distance. Completely the wrong result, in other words, so I finally went to the optometerist this weekend.

Turns out I have a posterior subcapsular cataract.

This is excellent news, bizarrely enough, because the diagnosis doesn’t tax the skills of Man (or optometerist), so it’s probably correct. It isn’t going to kill me. And (the important bit): it can be fixed, more-or-less trivially. Doing it privately will cost me about $3000 apparently, which is bearable… although I note I could get a nice 64GB/1TB SSHD new desktop PC for that sort of money. Or even two of them :-(

The trivial bit of the fix is to pulverize my existing eye lens with ultrasound and vaccuum all the bits up (if they miss any, it can cause problems… so I hope Dyson is involved somewhere). Then they pop in a new lens which locks itself into position with springs… and in ten minutes it’s all over. Of course, I have to find a specialist willing to do this operation first, and that could take months. And there’s always the possibility of posterior capsule opacity to deal with afterwards -but that’s even easier to fix with a blast of Yttrium-Aluminium-Garnet laser light. I like this sort of medicine: anything that involves Yttrium has to be “proper science”, whereas “stay home, take plenty of rest and keep your fluids up” sounds not much more advanced than “you have an excess of the sanguinary humours. Where are my leeches?”

In short, I can see just about fine, though the annoyance from the left eye is at the threshold of being a real pain in the butt. So I’ll be getting it blasted, vaccuumed and replaced as soon as I can. I did ask whether replacement with X-Ray or Laser-Vision was possible, but apparently not for another couple of centuries. Shame.

Anyway, age is the main culprit here (though I had fondly thought that age was something that just happened to other people). So make a habit of staying young.

I like to do that technologically, too: so after five months of fairly happy daily usage of Linux Mint 16, which I would heartily recommend to anyone, I’ve switched all my laptops and desktops back to Windows 8.1 Pro. It’s a perfectly acceptable client OS and the .1 and subsequent updates have really begun to knock it into pretty usable shape. The move makes it a bit easier to align with work (who are all on Windows 7), and to practice my SQL Server. More of which anon, I expect.

So today is my 50th birthday… and I find myself in the office, about to do an all-nighter application software update. :-(

It’s one way to spend it, I guess. I had hoped for champagne and curry, but freebie cheese snacks and cups of tea will have to do instead.

The good news: ToH splashed out and bought me an 1848 first edition of Charles Dickens’ Dombey and Son. Photos when tonight’s over, I guess!