Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Reviews / October 2014

The Beach House is set in the small mythical beach side Queensland town of Sunset Point where nothing much happens.
And the locals just like it that way (which is pretty much the same where we live).
So when an outsider with grand plans to build a large resort which threatens to demolish an iconic local landmark, the beach house, battle lines are drawn (again, something similar is happening in our area).
Jessica is a young newspaper journalist who wants to make her mark by covering the resultant court case. However her editor boss wants a human interest story.
She finds five people and some associated lessor characters who have stayed at the house on vacation and writes about them.
Her research establishes that staying at the beach house has changed the lives of every one of those five although they are not connected in any way apart from interaction with the town's resident life guard. He is the link which binds all the stories together.
While the book is almost a collection of five short stories it turns out to be a well written novel with easy flowing prose which brings together a group of characters we probably all 'know' and can relate to.
And the result of the court case? You will have to read the book!
Highly recommended.
Dave Berg was Jay Leno's co producer for 18 years and has written "an insider's view of the Tonight Show".
Behind the Curtain reveals the most memorable hi jinks and celebrity diva moments from the show's history.
It also recounts things said on the show or behind the scenes causing some celebrities to boycott the show.
But more interesting is Jay himself and the way he is, the way he works and the way he interacts with others. Berg describes Leno as a hardworking boss who rarely took time off, who battled to overcome dyslexia, and only lived off income he earned as a stand-up comedian. There is even a chapter on his car collection

There is a little background on the Leno v Letterman 'war', the Helen Kushnick era plus a sober account of the ill-conceived decision to move Jay Leno to prime time, and to install Conan O’Brien as the host of The Tonight Show, only to have Leno return several months later.
A good read, well written, that I feel might just engender even more respect for the show's host.
When you fly a fair bit, it is always interesting to find out what goes on behind the scenes in the airline industry.
Confessions of a QANTAS Flight Attendant is a supposed exposé of the lives of the public face of Australia's national airline.
There are plenty of these types of 'flight attendant' books around.
While it was an interesting enough read, there were no real surprises about their day to day jobs in the air.
However an insight into the lives of staff during their rest periods in various overseas destinations was a bit of an eye opener. Five-star hotels, huge food allowances, daytime lazing around the pool and night-time tabletop dancing with Bollywood stars, anyone?

The author obviously had his problems with Qantas and his version of their treatment of him after an injury caused by a workplace training incident does not paint a pretty picture. But most Australians would not be surprised at this. The demise of the reputation of a once revered national icon continues to this day.
As Ian Woods, a former Qantas pilot and aviation analyst says in a recent article "it's only too clear that everyone has a different view of what's wrong with Qantas and how to fix it. "Qantas is at war with its workforce", "the unions are driven by bloody-minded self interest", "shareholders haven't had a dividend for five years", "the product is tired and old", "management gets paid far too much for the continuing failures on their watch" are some of the kinder things I've heard said in recent times."
Disclaimer: I haven't flown Qantas for at least 25 years.
Anyway, a light weight and fun read for those who have an interest in this subject
According to the pundits Outlander (or Cross Stitch) is a book of mixed genre ie. historical fiction, romance, mystery, adventure and science fiction/fantasy.
It is extremely popular and has been made into a TV series.
Claire, on her second honeymoon (the first was disrupted by World War II) in the Scottish Highlands with her husband in 1946 is 'transported' to the pre second Jacobite Rebellion era (the Forty-five) in the mid 1700s.
Despite the opportunity to return to the present, she decides to stay in the past having been captivated by the dashing Highlander, James.

Sorry, but I didn't like this book at all. Attaching a fairy tale to an important event in Scottish history which would change that country, and maybe the world, for ever, just didn't sit well with me.
But if you are into murder, domestic violence, rape, torture, sodomy and other assorted acts of violence, not to mention a face to face meeting with the Loch Ness monster (yes, really!), then this the book for you.
There are another seven books in this series.
I won't be reading them.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spring Comes and Goes

We always know it's spring when the Bottlebrush (Callistemon sp.) come into flower.
This year the season started off warm but I was reluctant to put the firewood away knowing we might get one last blast of winter. But with temperatures reaching the mid to high 20s (°C) for a week or so, we thought we were safe.
But, no!
A low pressure system  formed off the coast a few days later and we had around 300mm of rain in two days accompanied by southerly wind gusts of over 100km/hr.
At one stage we got 60mm/hour over 2 hours.

Our creek flooded again but there were no trees down and no fence damage. However we lost a considerable number of new shoots off the Pinot Noir. The rows' orientation (east-west) meant the vines copped the full force of the wind.
Sydney wasn't spared either with flash flooding, wind damage and a huge surf eroding beaches. They received 30cm of snow in the Blue Mountains and the main road west was cut for 12 hours until it melted. No one has snow clearing machinery in this part of the world. Exactly a year ago this area was fighting disastrous bush fires so you just never know.
We have started our fungicide spray program for the season. Due to the heavy rain the first two sprays were only a week apart. Hopefully we can revert to the basic 2 weekly application from now on.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Fungicides for Grapes

The three most common fungi affecting grape vines in our area are downy mildew (Plasmopara viticola), powdery mildew or oidium (Uncinula necatora) and botrytis or grey mould (Botrytis cinerea).
Downy Mildew oil spots on upper and white down on under side of leaf

Powdery mildew

Botrytis affected bunch

We spray commercial fungicides in an effort to prevent these diseases plus one that cures any outbreak of downy mildew.
In a protective spray program, fungicides are applied to the grapevines at regular intervals largely dictated by the weather eg. lengthy or intense rain incidents can reduce the time between sprays.
In curative programs sprays are applied only after conditions that are conducive to disease outbreak have occurred eg. 10:10:24 for downy mildew where >10mm of rain over 24 hours when the temperature is >10°C.
Sprays differ with regards to their mobility within the plant.
Some sit on the leaf surface where the spray droplets have fallen and do not move.
So any unsprayed area or new growth is not protected.
Some spread out over the leaf surface and move inside the leaf tissue. These are known as locally systemic or translaminar. New growth is not protected.
Others spread out over the leaf surface and move inside the leaf tissue and enter the plant through the stem and move upwards via the xylem to new growth. These are systemic. New growth (within reason) is protected.

How do the chemicals sprayed work or, more technically, what is their mode of action (MOA) ?
Fungicides kill by damaging the cell membranes of the fungus or inactivating critical enzyme or protein production or interfering with vital metabolic processes such as respiration.
So fungicides are grouped according to their MOA and may or may not have similar chemical structures.
What is the extent of the activity of the various chemicals?
Some are active only against a single enzyme or protein of the fungus or just at one point in its metabolic process. These are known as single site fungicides.
Others are active on numerous functions of the pathogen and are known as multi site fungicides.
It is important to be aware of the MOA of single site fungicides. Continually targeting pathogens at the same 'site' eg. overusing the same chemical, can eventually lead to resistance.
Multi site fungicides do not have this disadvantage.
For our preventative program we use the multi site activity copper oxychloride (M1) against downy mildew, wettable sulphur (M2) against powdery mildew, chlorothalonil (M5) against botrytis (and downy mildew). We also use a systemic phosphonate (33) as a downy curative when weather conditions have been particularly difficult, not an unusual situation in our warm maritime climate.
The basic plan is copper and sulphur every two weeks, chlorothalonil at 80% cap fall and just before bunch closure.
A full list of AWRI approved chemicals for 2014/15 as well as a spraying strategy to reduce the risk of resistance is available here.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

"Glory Glory to South Sydney"

After a 43 year drought, my Rugby League team the South Sydney 'Rabbitohs' has won the NRL (National Rugby League) Premiership.
In a tough game on Sunday night they beat the Canterbury Bulldogs 30 - 6 in front of 88,000 fans.
To say it was an emotional time for all those supporters who have stuck with them through thick and thin is an understatement.

Monday, October 06, 2014

A Welcome Reptile Visitor

With spring here and the weather warming up, the reptiles of the area are coming out of hibernation and are starting to move about.
The unwelcome are the red bellied black snakes and to a lessor extent the monitor lizards (goannas), some up to 2m long.
But it's nice to see the small geckos and copper tails scurrying around and helping keep the insect population under control.
We have seen few blue tongues sunning themselves after emerging from their burrows which have been quite prevalent in the vineyards this year.

Blue-tongued lizards are the largest members of the skink family. They grow to about 60cm (2 ft) in length.
They are very slow moving and feed on a variety of plants as well as snails and beetles.
When threatened, blue-tongues open their mouth wide and stick out their broad blue tongue. This display, together with the large size of the head is meant to frighten off predators. They also hiss and flatten out the body to making themselves look bigger. A frightened blue-tongue may bite if it is picked up. The bite can be painful, break the skin and leave a bruise but there is no venom, so not that dangerous. As kids we used to keep them as pets.
Their natural predators are large predatory birds eg. Kookaburras and large snakes. Unfortunately introduced species like feral and domestic cats and dogs are also a danger. They will eat snails and slugs poisoned by snail baits and can be poisoned themselves and are no match for domestic lawn mowers.
We will be keeping an eye out for their well being in future when working around the place.