cover photo

Mike Macgirvin

The end (?)

  last edited: Wed, 19 Mar 2008 07:25:09 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Those two or three people who actually visit this website may have noticed that I haven't done much with it lately. I think it's time to declare it over and done with - though I'll leave the archives here indefinitely should anybody wish to see the timeline of happenings.

Blogging is so 2002. Social nets are so 2004. I'm tired of it all. Seems the world has tired of my writings as well (or more accurately it's just another channel of stuff amongst the 200+ million channels of stuff to choose from on the web). Thanks to the RSS fiasco and a host of other factors (e.g. search behaviour, PageRank changes, my use of a 'non-standard' community platform, etc.), traffic has plummeted way beyond rock bottom. We're now down to 3 visitors a day on average, down from 100,000 back in October and even the 20-30,000 around Christmas.

There's no point anymore writing into space - as I mentioned a few weeks back. The photo albums for friends and family are largely unseen. Except for two of you, friends and family are too intimidated by online spaces to touch the place.

The community site has been a dismal failure - a lot of hard work wasted.  

It's coming up on one year since I arrived in Australia, and so much has changed. Work and family consumes my time, as it should (at least family). Work is what it is. Blogging and social nets are a thing of the past, and tremendous time-wasters at that.

It was fun. Now onto the next chapter - of a book which probably won't be written online.

I'm pretty much ranted out.
I figured when I got back from holidays and found that I had only missed one post that the end was near. Cheers Mike.See you over the fence one time.
And I, also, am spending my time in other areas of life, as it should be.Thanks for the opportunity to sample the blogging life, Mike. You made it easier than anywhere else I came across, and your help was invaluable. But I've learned and moved on, as have you. We have other ways to keep in touch, you and I, and for that I am grateful. Till then, stay safe!
10 - 9 - 8 - 7

  last edited: Mon, 31 Dec 2007 17:33:56 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Well not quite. The countdown is later tonight.

What to do for New Year's Eve? It's 100 degrees outside. Not a cloud in the sky. No work today. I'm still on holidays. But it's a bit cooler down at the lake. So the eskie (ice chest) is packed.  Time to go fishin'.

Merry Xmas

  from Diary and Other Rantings
It's Christmas morning over here. I've posted the obligatory photos (for family and friends only), so they can see them before their own celebration tomorrow.  I got an electronic cabinet rack, a maple tree, 1.4 kilos of lollies (candy), and more. Isabella of course made out like a bandit as she always does. Too much stuff to list, but she did get a trampoline to replace the one we had to leave behind in America.
School Awards Ceremony

  last edited: Wed, 19 Dec 2007 23:13:28 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
School lets out for the summer in 2 days. So tonight was the end of year awards ceremony, and also consists of a musical/dramatic production that the kids have been working on for months. The theme was a humorous look at the landing in Australia first by Captain Cook, and later by the first band of convict settlers. A great time was had by all - that is except for a little boy in the first row who had terrible stage fright and was close to tears the entire show. He's the one in the red shirt standing towards the middle of the photo. Isabella did well for remembering the words, considering she's only been at this school for a couple of months now.

Tragedy at the stables

  last edited: Thu, 29 Nov 2007 08:47:42 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Amanda arrived at the stables yesterday to come face-to-face with a parent's worst nightmare. A four-year old boy had gotten wedged under the wheels of a moving horse float.

Amanda drove the boy and his mum to the nearest hospital (Bowral, 15km away) as fast as humanly possible, but  the damage had already been done.

He didn't make it.

Things can change in the blink of an eye.
Having lost my own son in a tragedy as well, my heart goes out to the parents. It also had to be very hard on all involved. It can't be easy to be that close to that much grief. It's the feeling that drove my from the Fire Dept. Mike, tell Amanda I'm thinking of her and Bella.
Miscellaneous Stuff

  last edited: Sun, 02 Sep 2007 20:27:19 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
The neighbor backed into my car yesterday. Smashed up both doors on the driver side a bit. (That would be the right side). It's still drivable. Took out her tail light.

It was just outside the front window, which I was sitting in front of, but I didn't hear a thing. My ears were occupied. Finally got the bulk of the studio wiring in place and I was busy adjusting the digital delay units for the virtual drummer - and otherwise going through system tests to make sure all the gear was cooperating after being relocated on the other side of the earth.

This setup had been delayed by a lack of suitable speakers. Speakers here cost a fortune, as does everything else. Professional recording gear has always been one of those maximum gouge industries and it's no different here. The difference is that it's a captive market. To buy this stuff overseas you'll end up with the wrong power supply - or in the case of speakers, a hefty bill for shipping. A pair of Yamaha monitors that I can get on eBay for $100 costs about $800 on this side of the pond.

So I did a lot of comparison shopping and found a pair of Chinese 12" wedge monitors for about $125 each. That's quite affordable so I ordered a pair. The speakers themselves are crap, but it's the boxes I was after. Someday I'll find a used pair of JBL or Eminence drivers I can drop in and bring them up to my standards, but they'll work for now. I can smooth out any shortcomings with the equalizer. It will be a lot cheaper in freight costs to import a couple of better transducers than it is to import a couple of quite hefty wooden boxes. I've been down this road many times before. I know what it takes to get just the equipment I require within a reasonable budget. You can't hang out waiting for the best, or you'll spend your life waiting and not doing. During the dot-com boom I could buy the best (and did). Now my planning is once again like my starving student days, except that I've still got a bit of good gear to work with.  

Anyway, the speakers finally arrived this week and I picked them up yesterday morning (the weekend). The other thing I've been waiting on for the studio setup is furniture. We sold all of it - remember? So off to Bunnings (that's the local equivalent of Orchard Supply Hardware) and I came home with three folding utility tables.  The ones that cost about $30 at Home Depot. I paid about $55 each.

But it was the last piece of the puzzle that I needed to get everything setup and working. So now I can finally get that jumble of cables off the floor of the living room and make Amanda happy (and myself, since I'll be using them for their intended purpose). Glad I didn't leave any of those behind. Each cable runs between $20 and $50 here. And I need a few hundred before all is said and done. 64 RCA cables for patch buses, 16 MIDI cables, 24 XLR's, and 24 1/4 inch cables, 7 or 8 mini (PC sound card) to twin RCA for starters; you do the math. It starts adding up real fast. $40 for a MIDI cable. And that's for a single one meter cable. Ouch. Luckily I've got enough of all this stuff that I don't need to do the math.

I find it amazing that Australian musicians can ever get to the world stage. They would need a lot of capital.  

Oh yeah, Happy Father's Day! (They observe it in September here). Also yesterday was the first day of spring. I don't completely understand, since it has nothing to do with the equinox, but then I never understood how it worked in the states either (for instance they call the equinox the 'first' day of summer, winter, whatever). But the equinox isn't the beginning or end of a weather trend. It's smack dab in the middle. Oh well. I've argued the point 'til I'm blue in the face already. The declaration of seasonal endpoints as occurring during the equinox is logically incorrect but it isn't going to change anything. Just like it doesn't change the fact that Australia celebrates the coming of spring on September 1, which has nothing to do with anything. Happy spring anyway and a toast to the end of an extremely long winter.
Yankee Power

  last edited: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 07:27:51 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
I'm starting to get the electricity under control. Have managed to pick up most of the wall-wart transformers I need. Incidentally, for the benefit of anybody that may have to follow these footsteps, forget about Tandy and Dick Smith as electronics suppliers. You'll go broke. There's a little place in Bowral called 'Leading Edge Electronics' that has much better transformers for about half the price. They've also got a better selection.

I also have pretty much given up the process of converting most of the wall-cord equipment. Some of it can be rewired, but it's a very painful and time consuming process. So instead, we've set aside one room of the house with 'Yankee Power'. I've got the familiar U.S. power strips and line cords everywhere; all feeding off of a 2kw transformer that I picked up at Fry's for $150 USD. If you attempt this, get that transformer (or three). The biggest they've got on this side of the pond is 1kw for about $300 AUD. Big difference. You'll still have to change the power cord because the Fry's transformer is set up with a UK plug, and you don't want to pump a couple kilowatts through a little plastic Aussie travel plug adapter (which you also want to pick up a few dozen of at Fry's for $1.50 USD each - you can't find 'em here at all because nobody here needs Aussie travel converters). The power strips I'm using are the super heavy duty metal Home Depot power strips with about ten plugs and a fifteen foot cord. They're about $50 USD each. I've got six or seven of 'em from my music shoppe days. The only problem is the built-in surge suppressor. If you turn on the 2kw transformer, it will send a surge and throw the house circuit breaker every time. I took some clippers and clipped out the surge suppression circuitry on a couple of these boxes as I got tired of walking outdoors in the cold to reset the breaker. I've converted over enough stuff that I probably won't need the other power strips, so I'll probably sell them for $100 AUD each (or whatever the market will bear) on Yankee power strips sell at a premium here, usually along with a transformer and some kind of home theater device that somebody tried to save money on by buying overseas - and then spent a fortune trying to get working on 220v50hz. And mine are the premium power strips, not the $4.95 USD economy strips that sell here for $50 AUD.

In the Yankee room is my recording equipment, but also such things as region 1 DVD's,  NTSC television stuff,  and any other foreign formatted thingies.  It's starting to feel like home, so I draped a couple of US flags in the windows. Well we still need blinds and they're the only pieces of cloth I could find that are near the correct size. We used the extra sheets for the other windows. I've also got about 600w of 60hz power available, but luckily most of my stuff runs off of the transformer and I haven't yet had to build a container for a few 12v batteries and charging equipment to supply the sine wave generator. We'll probably need it for Amanda's and Isabella's sewing machines - so there might be yet another Yankee room dedicated to sewing.

UPDATE: Looks like the sewing machines will also work just fine on 50hz. Yay! Thanks to Chinese manufacturing and global markets. Ten years ago this wouldn't have been the case. This means that so far we haven't found a single thing that absolutely needs 60hz to run.  Of course the big reason for that is because we sold all the stuff that we knew positively would be a problem...
International electricity - oh the joys

  last edited: Tue, 24 Jul 2007 07:29:49 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Even though we sold off all of the power tools and kitchen appliances, we still brought a huge number of electric devices overseas. It's been real <sarcasm>fun</sarcasm> trying to make all this stuff work on 220/240V 50hz. Some things were easy. These are the manufacturers I now swear my allegiance to. Just plug in an Australian power cable and it works. My next favorites are the ones like the PC's - just flip the red switch on the back and plug in the Aussie cable.

I've got a whole bunch of 'wall-wart' transformers that need to be replaced. These are all still pretty easy - just plug in a new wall-wart and everything is fine. The only problem is the price. These guys are about $30 each here. I need (let's see...) about 30 of them. You do the math. Luckily I found a bunch of standard 9V supplies on clearance for $5 each and bought all they had (7 or 8). They were on clearance because they use a different style connector. So I have to get out the soldering iron (oops, looks like I need a new soldering iron because my old one is 110V) and change the connectors.

Now we're getting to the real <sarcasm>fun</sarcasm> stuff. The Marshall amplifier. In fact Marshall claims that you should be able to use this anywhere in the world. Well yes, but you have to open the case and rewire the power transformer. This isn't something most people are comfortable with. Luckily I am. Did this one last night.

Next are the weird wall-warts. Dual 18V AC, 9VAC@2.1A, etc. These are getting hard. This takes a trip to Dick Smith (the only local place to buy electronic parts), and try and match a transformer to the job. It's hit or miss at this stage. Some of the transformers need to come from overseas, which costs more than the items I'm trying to convert. So it ends up being cheaper to throw them away and buy new - like the soldering iron. And I've got a kid and a house full of pets. Can't just hang a naked transformer off the edge of the desk like I could have twenty years ago. It needs to go in a box with all the bare wires taped up. That's another 5 bucks or so and another couple of hours each. I've gotten clever in a couple of spots - my wireless router for instance requires 5V at a couple of amps. So I plugged it into an extra drive cable on my PC.

But now I'm getting down to the nitty gritty. I've got about 20 more items to rewire and another twenty more wall-warts to purchase. 4 or 5 items that can only be run on an isolation (240V <-> 120V step down) transformer, and 2 or 3 that can only be run via a pure sine wave inverter off a car battery because they really, really need a clean 60 hz sine wave and this is the only way to get it.

Still a couple of months before everything is up and running. But every day I get another one or two working.  And I know what I'm doing. Most people attempting this would just have to suck up and buy everything fresh.
The things you can't live without

  last edited: Fri, 30 Mar 2007 03:59:28 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Currently camping out at home, with just a computer in one corner and an air mattress in another. All I need to get by for a few weeks. (I'll be arriving a few weeks before all our belongings land). I don't miss the TV. Spending a month without it doesn't even register as uncomfortable. But there's one thing that has me climbing walls. I've got no guitar. Don't think I've ever spent a month without one - at least not since about age 10.

So it looks like I'm gonna' be hanging out in music stores. Nope, don't need one thank you. I've got more than enough, and they're all hand-picked over a lifetime; better than anything I'll find here.  But I just want to play something for a half hour so I don't go berzerk.
 guitar  home
Tee minus 9

  from Diary and Other Rantings
All of the logistic headaches are starting to come to a close. My to-do list now fits on the back of an envelope. You've no idea how many reams of paper it took at the start of this ordeal.

At this point it's actually pretty simple. Get everything turned off and then get out of here. Take out the trash one last time on Thursday. Clean out the car so it can be sold (I'm letting a friend actually sell it after I go). Pack the bags.  

It's almost too simple, and that's scary. Have I missed anything? I mean like something major?
Hi Jon

  last edited: Sun, 25 Mar 2007 00:39:22 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
Hi Jon, Remember me?

Jon is the problem solver. This is who you call when you get down to the end. Sold everything that could be sold, moved everything that's going to move; and you still have stuff left over.

Sure, I could fill up my car a few times and cart it off to Goodwill. Fill it up a few more times and cart it off to the dump. Borrow a truck from somebody to get the few remaining large items. But then I've still got a problem, because amongst that stuff are a few cans/bottles containing substances that cause grief. Paint, cleaning stuff. Some antifreeze that didn't fit in the radiator. In short, chemicals. They only accept these at the Sunnyvale recycle station a handful of weekends a year - and this weekend isn't on the list.

This is why you call Jon. One phone call.

I've got a problem. Please make it all just disappear.
As it turns out, Jon is booked for the next several days. I'm on a tight schedule. The nice thing about Jon is that he doesn't look very closely at the weed killer and anti-freeze - which are technically illegal to mix with regular landfill.

So I call up Carlos and pitch him the deal. Fifteen minutes and you're outa' there. Easy money.

So he comes by, and the first thing he does is pick up a bottle of weed-killer and examines it closely. Then right for the radiator fluid. Shoot. I'm in trouble now. Mentally I go through the list of all my backup strategies. Suppose I could just let him take everything but the chemicals - and leave those for the new owner to deal with, but that's hardly the right thing to do. I also ponder the thought of making a midnight run someplace where there aren't any people. That's not right either, but I'm getting desperate.

Then Carlos turns to me.... "Dos cientos". (Two hundred dollars). That's about $20 over Jon's bid. More than fair under the circumstances.

OK, do it.

Problem solved.  Then I turn away. The unspoken condition is that I see nothing.

  last edited: Fri, 23 Mar 2007 06:20:15 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
The movers were great, but it was easy to notice when their day was coming to an end. All the cautions taken earlier in the day started to make way for the unspoken 'Just get it in the truck. I want to go home.'.

So I had to abandon my hands off policy. They were looking for something flat to stick on top of the bicycles, which were on top of the boxes. About six inches of space at the top of the container. One guy grabbed a painting and wrapped some paper around it to fill the void. I immediately pictured opening the container at the other end and finding a handlebar stuck through the thing.

Perdoneme? Esta pintura es quince mil dolares! Una caja, por favor...

('Scuse me, but that's a fifteen thousand dollar painting - please put it in a box.). My Spanish isn't perfect, but I know enough to get by. All work came to a halt momentarily while they digested the implications.  A couple even took a critical artistic look at the painting in question, rather than just as an object to pack. You mean some of this stuff isn't just household junk? Si, es muy bonita. Yes, It is very beautiful. From then on, they began to treat everything with just a bit more respect.
 home  art
Moving Day

  from Diary and Other Rantings
These movers really kick. As it turns out, there isn't a whole lot for me to do except just get out of the way. The whole house is abuzz with activity. I learned a long time ago never to watch as your prized possessions are being packed. That would be akin to watching sausage being made. At some point you just have to trust them to do their job professionally and then hope for the best.
I'm buggered...

  from Diary and Other Rantings
There's a 40 foot cargo container sitting outside my house. Tomorrow everything that's inside the house is going into that big box. The task of sorting and packing has been non-stop for weeks, but now the pressure is really on. Anything that isn't in that box tomorrow has either got to fit in my luggage, or it's just not going.

I've got a few piles of stuff to go to Goodwill. Anything they don't want is going to landfill. Also, I'm going to be here another two weeks, which complicates things further. I'll be camping out at the house, but with only a few changes of clothes and no furniture. I'm keeping the computer running, but since I don't have a laptop currently, that means I've got to put a desktop system into my luggage. That's about a third of my alloted luggage. It's a logistic nightmare trying to plan this mess.

I'd love to pack up the desktop system and use my work laptop, but my employer still hasn't decided whether they're going to keep me on or not, so for planning purposes I have to assume that my work laptop is staying at work. I thought about picking up a cheap laptop, but there wasn't enough time in my schedule to configure the thing.

Anyway - I'm buggered. I could work non-stop for another 8 hours and still not get everything done. But it's time to get some sleep. Big day tomorrow. At this point it probably doesn't matter if I'm done. The movers will be here in the morning. By this time tomorrow, the container will be on its way. I've got until they close the doors and drive away to deal with any remaining issues. Tick, tock.

So anyway

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The house is pretty much sold. No time to celebrate - at this point, it's just another item to check off the list of things to do. Now it's time to pack the bags. I've got a little over 3 weeks left. Have to get the movers in, sell off the rest of the furniture that isn't going, and then find a home for anything that's left over - even if that home happens to be a landfill.

Yet another chapter coming to a close. It's still unclear whether I will be able to retain my employment from half a world away. Could go one way, could go the other at this point. Meanwhile, I'm still putting in regular work weeks while trying to accomplish all this other stuff.  

Then there are the little details - hundreds of them. Closing out utilities, transferring financial arrangements. Figuring out how to sell the car and perhaps of some importance, how to get to the airport.
 home  work
Don't Believe Everything You Hear...

  last edited: Fri, 09 Mar 2007 05:21:38 +1100  from Diary and Other Rantings
While going over offers on the house last night, it struck me that the Silicon Valley economy in general - and the housing market in particular; aren't quite as stagnant as everybody would have you believe.

One potential buyer went over plans to extend the family room to put in a home theater; and questioned the ability of the roof to support a large bank of solar arrays.  Ah yes - I know where he's coming from. I have all the data.

Would've done all these things myself had it not been for that unfortunate little foray into the music business.

  from Diary and Other Rantings
The girls have landed in Australia. Now it's my turn to get the house sold, get all the rest of the stuff packed up and then I'll soon be joining them.

Apologies for being brief, but there's a lot to do and not much time remaining.
Good Morning Mr. Macgirvin! Had to smile when I saw your new avatar. I am excited for you with regards to your upcoming move. Does this mean that when you have your next Crunchy-Expo we all get to come to Australia and hang at your place??? :)
Why certainly. I'll put a Barbie on the shrimp. Ehr, something like that...

The man at the post office was amusing. 'No, there's no street address. Just tell them to send it to Wombat Hollow - we know where you are.'
Brace yourself

  last edited: Wed, 17 May 2006 10:10:54 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
When I was young (sometime toward the end of the last ice age) braces were the kiss of death. The only thing worse than wearing them to school would've been to have your grandmother give you a big slobbery kiss in front of all your friends. Amazing what a few years of creative marketing can accomplish. My daughter begged to wear braces. She shrieked with delight when told she would be getting them. She was up at 7 this morning (unheard of on a school day) and picked out her colors (blue with red in front) before we even stepped into the orthodontist's office. When we got home, she couldn't wait to show and tell all of her friends.  

The Crossroads

  last edited: Mon, 08 May 2006 14:31:47 +1000  from Diary and Other Rantings
Standing at the crossroads. The website software has evolved a bit more. Photo albums are necessary so that I can pull in what remains of - which does little more these days than house my photo collection and collect my email archives.

Soon I'll be shutting down the aging Linux box in my garage and moving everything that's left onto hosted websites such as the one you are getting this post from.  

The photo archives use group permissions. This way if a new family member of friend registers I only have to add them to one list to let them see the entire private photo collection. It is also a departure from the simple permissions I originally baked into the site - registered or not, admin or not.

It provides full control of who can access what. The basic permissions structure was fine for getting something working quickly. Now it's time to move on. You want something only accessible to family? To males over 35 that are into scuba diving? You need a little better permission control.  

This in turn opens the possibility of group permissions for forums, weblogs, or just about anything else. That's what I mean about standing at the crossroads.

This is where everything changes.
Happy Easter

  from Diary and Other Rantings
Received a lovely (homemade) card from my daughter this morning...

"Easter is finally hear!

I can't beleive it's finally hear

The birds are cherping

The bunnys are hoping

The flowers or blooming

Easter is finally hear!"

Looks like we need a bit more work on her speling...