Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Day to day stuff

IAt this time of year we upgrade the older computers and I get to deliver new boxes to my happy users.  I also get to do things like turn up at someone's desk and say things like, "You aren't getting a new computer this year but you are getting a new keyboard and mouse", and watch as their faces fall in disappointment.  I am having them on of course but it's fun to let them hang for a minute or so.

Well, it's fun for me at least.

It's probably fitting then that when I got home from work Camille took delight in pointing out I had been wearing my t-shirt inside out all day.  Not a single co-worker mentioned this to me.  I wonder why?

Monday, 27 September 2010

A Potato Dish

This is not a dish for those who have a cholesterol problem or those who are afraid of fat.  It is a dish for those who enjoy potatoes and onions along with butter, cream and milk.  It's a variation of the old layered baked potato dish.  This one is a little different in the preparation and gives a result that is, I think, a little more subtle.

You need enough medium sized potatoes to feed how ever many people you are catering for.  Around one medium onion per four potatoes.  A bunch of a single fresh herb - rosemary or thyme or basil are good.  You can use sage but you need to use less than the others as it has a very strong final flavour.

Preheat your oven to around 180 - 200 degrees celcius.  This isn't a fixed temperature as you can cook this dish fast or slow.

Peel the potatoes and onions and then slice them as thinly as you can.  Put them in a pot and salt it to your liking.  Add water to just cover them and then put them on the stove to bring them to the boil.  Stir it from time to time with a spatula to mix the onion and potato together.

Chop your herb of choice.  If you are using basil you want a couple of handfuls of leaves.  Rosemary: a couple of decent sized stalks.  Thyme: a couple of table spoons of leaves.  Sage: your choice - be careful.

Lightly oil a low sided baking dish.  Sprinkle a few bits of your herbs across the bottom.  Add a bit of freshly ground pepper if you wish.

When your potato pot is getting near boiling, melt at least two tablespoons of butter in a pan on a low heat.  Add your herb and saute it lightly.   Keep the heat low.  You definitely don't want things to get too enthusiastic.  Pour in about quarter of a cup of cream and mix in well.   Keep it low on the heat.

When the potatos boil, let them sit on the heat for a minute or so and then drain them well.  I usually tip them out into a strainer and let them steam themselves dry.   Give them about a minute and tip them into your oiled baking dish and spread them out roughly.

While the potatoes are drying, add quarter to half a cup of milk to your butter, cream, herb mix and stir it in.  When the potatoes are in the dish, pour the herb/liquid mix evenly over the top.  Grind some black pepper over and crush a bit of Malden sea salt over the dish and then drizzle some olive oil over it to bind everything together.

Throw it in the oven for at least one hour, longer if you have the heat lower.  I have cooked this dish at heats from 150 degrees right up to 210 or so.  Lower heat means longer cooking of course and you may need to finish it with 10 minutes or so on 220 degrees.   (Sorry all you Americans who still use Imperial measurements.  It's easy to convert though).

Serve with .... whatever takes your fancy really.  Fish is good though as are lamb racks.

Originally this dish was done with vast amounts of sorrel which gives it a very nice slight lemony tang.  If you use sorrel:  a) use lots of it.  b) be very careful with the cooking in butter.  Add it to the butter and watch it very carefully.  It will start to go grey quite quickly.  This isn't a bad thing but you don't want to let it go too far.  Add the cream and milk, stir them in and get it on top of the potato dish quite quickly.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Not sure how this will work.

According the NZ Herald, farmers have lost $50 million through the deaths of some 500,000 lambs thanks to the recent storms.  This is likely to cause the price of lamb to rise. Personally I can't see how this is going to work.

Lamb is already outrageously priced.  A full leg costs at least $35.00 locally, usually more.  Shank ends are around $15-20.00.   Even a couple of shanks cost $10.00 or so.

Camille and I can be considered well off compared to the majority of New Zealanders and we very rarely buy lamb because of how much it is these days.  We only buy lamb when it is reduced in price: Lamb racks when they are reduced to $10 - $12 each; legs when Silverfern farms has a special on them; rumps when I can find them frozen on special; and so on.

I can't see how raising the price further to offset $50 million in lamb deaths is going to do anything other than cause fewer people to buy it.   Does this mean they are going to have to raise the price further to cover those lost sales?

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Some sympathy but not a lot

There is a story in Stuff today about a musician who has lost 8 years of lyrics.  I have a little sympathy for him but not a huge amount of it.   Why didn't he have all this material backed up?  The cost of large USB drives is very low these days.  In fact, when weighed up against 8 years of work, the cost of a USB hard drive is negligible.

I am still surprised by the number of people who seem to  think that backing up their data is unimportant.  I tell people, "Your hard drive WILL fail.  Back it up!", and give them suggestions on what to do - the most common being to buy two USB hard drives and backup to both of them.  I talk to these people a couple of months down the track and they still don't backup  their data.

Just what is it worth to them?  How much are those digital photos worth?

How to get rid of Thrash

Lately I seem to be getting a few hits from people searching on "How to get rid of Thrash" or similar phrases. Am I deeply unpopular? I suspect not.

People: You are looking for the wrong thing. The condition you want a cure for is actually called "Thrush" or Candidiasis and it's a yeast infection.  Here is a search string that will return more useful results:

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Diaspora Code Trial

I downloaded the Diaspora code the day it was released and installed it onto an OpenSUSE Linux computer.  The install was relatively straight forward.  The instructions provided are well written and clear.  While they are written for Ubuntu, Fedora and Mac OS, they are easily applied to other distributions - at least those with good package management and repositories with a wide range of applications.

I had to install MongoDB and update a few Ruby bits and pieces.  I also had to install libxslt before RubyGems would compile.  OpenSSL, ImageMajick and Git were already installed.

This is pre-alpha code released for developers.  Some people on various blogs don't seem to realise this and have been complaining about the lack of expected features.  Pre-alpha isn't expected to be complete or almost complete code.  It's been released to get developers interested in the project so that development of those missing features can get underway.

That said, the basic system does work.  I can sign on to it, add friends (being other accounts I have created as I haven't set my system up to allow it to access the Internet), upload photos, leave status updates and so on.

The really good feature is that you can separate your friends into "Aspects".  This allows you to keep friends, family, work colleagues away from each other.  People in one aspect will not see updates posted in another aspect.  This gives you the separation and privacy that social networks like Facebook do not.

The next release will be in October and will include Facebook Integration, Internationalisation, and the export of your data.

So far Diaspora looks quite promising.  I don't see it as being the "Facebook Killer" that some have touted it as but it will provide people like me who have a greater sense of privacy something to use.  In addition, it's existence may push Facebook and others to provide the separation they currently lack.

Diaspora's blog post on the release.

Friday, 10 September 2010


Camille and I just enjoyed a lovely breakfast of very fresh eggs poached and served on toasted vogel bread topped with freshly chopped chives and a few drops of truffle oil.  The eggs come from my sister in law's chickens and their flavour is so intense compared to supermarket eggs. Our freezer is half full with home kill beef and lamb so we'll be doing a few swaps for more of them. 

Looking forward to doing scrambled eggs with salmon in the near future.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Diaspora Update

You may recall my writing about the decentralised social networking platform, Diaspora a few months ago after I contributed to it financially. The project is now close to a release.  They plan to open source their current code on September 15 (or 16 for those of us on this side the of dateline).  They will then be releasing an alpha version of Diaspora in October.

Will I grab the code and install it?  Probably.  I'm interested in the progress but I'm not overly fussed with alpha releases.  They can be hard work.  However, I feel almost obliged to install it as someone has to help track bugs and provide feedback and I have ranted enough to people about the disintegration of the concept of privacy on the web that to not help out would be a bit hypocritical.

If I do install it, I will post a few updates here.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Those yellow flowers

The yellow flowers I mentioned were almost out in the Random Phone Photos post are now mostly out:


Saturday, 4 September 2010

Big Earthquake just out of Christchurch

Camille is in Timaru at the moment.  She woke me up with a phone call about an hour ago to tell me she had just felt the biggest earthquake she has ever been in.  She has been feeling lots of aftershocks.  It turns out there has been a massive 7.4 earthquake 30k west of Christchurch.  Bound to be damage after that.  Let's hope there aren't any injuries or deaths.

This report puts it at 7.2 but NZ stations report 7.4

Edit:   Good collection of images here. 

Images available here:

More images here

NZ Herald photos 

Civil Defence website.

Friday, 3 September 2010

The Bayonets - Monsters In My Head

Boulcot Suite II

I forgot to say the place has two bathrooms which is nice.  However, one of them smelt like someone had recently taken a dump in it.   Not so nice.

Food, Warmth and Shelter

These three things are basic to mans' survival.  If any one is missing for any extended period of time, then that's it.  You're dead.  Pretty serious stuff really - and now I'm going to completely trivialise it.  Last night Camille and I were reduced to turning all the lights on in the place we are staying in order to bring it up to a reasonable temperature as the 9 bar oil heater in the downstairs area is too inadequate to do the job.

We are staying in what is supposed to be 5 star accommodation.  It is a nice example of the "tick box" rating system. 
  • Large LCD / Plasma screen?    tick
  • Heated towel rails?  tick
  • Controlled lighting?  tick
  • etc.
Get enough of the right ticks and you earn the 5 stars.   Unfortunately I don't believe they rate some of the things that are fairly important to Camille and I
  • Adequate soundproofing so we can't hear people traipsing up and down outside
  • Good climate control
  • Beds that don't 'dip' in the middle so I'm not lying downhill when ever I lie on my left hand side.
  • and so on.
We are in the Boulcott Suites, an apartment hotel which is apparently great for corporate travellers looking for quality and space.  We are in a two bedroom "Townhouse" and yes, there is plenty of space.  It's clean and reasonably comfortable except for that heating thing.  It's not a particularly cold day and yet the heater can't really cope.  Most of the overhead lights are halogens and as they produce a fair amount of heat Camille had the bright idea of turning them all on to warm the place up.  This was very effective and possibly a better option than turning all the elements on the hob and oven on as we could feel the warmth radiating down on us.

We are in Wellington on a flying trip.  Camille has a meeting here this morning and then I'm dropping her at the airport so she can fly to Christchurch where she has another in the afternoon.  I get to drive home.  Joy!