Monday, November 28, 2016

Vintage 2017 Update 1

So far, so good.
Weather has been relatively kind during the first three months of the growing season..
September: 77mm rain; 10 rain days
October: 32mm; 6 rain days
November: 33mm; 5 rain days
Temperatures have been fluctuating considerably which is typical of spring.
September: 9 lowest min - highest max 21 (°C)
October: 7 - 30 (°C)
November: 8- 37 (°C)

Growth has been unusually vigorous. Shoot length and leaf size is above average. Numerous unproductive  water shoots have appeared. We have had to start thinning out the canopy to improve air movement and let the sunshine in.
Fruit set has been average to low except in the Cabernet Sauvignon where it is excellent.
We have been able to keep up a good protective spray regime using alternate copper/sulphur and copper/triadimenol applications against downy and powdery mildews.
Due to a higher density of canopy than expected, we have used Agrifos 600 in the last spray, a systemic downy mildew curative as a precaution.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

A Prairie Home Companion 2.0

A PHC is a radio show which began in 1974 and is broadcast live on Saturday evenings by public radio in the USA.
It is a mid west based copy of the Grand Ole Opry and has been hosted all that time by the show's creator Garrison Keillor.
It is a mixture of music, comedy, social comment and regular features eg. faux adverts.
I first became aware of the show when I saw the movie of the same name back in 2006 while living in Tucson.
I was immediately hooked. It was quirky, the music nearly always my style and GK's observations on life in general and the mid west in particular had resonance.
We have been lucky enough to have been to the show twice, in 2011 and 2015, at its home at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota.
In Australia I have access to it live every Sunday morning our time on the net via either audio or video versions and lately have been able to Chromecast to our TV. I can also listen to it later via podcast.
In early 2015 GK announced he was stepping down and that Chris Thile would be taking over as host post the 2016 summer break.
Garrison Keillor                                          Chris Thile

I initially had my doubts whether the transfer of the reins to Chris would be a success.
He has a completely different personalty which didn't seem to fit in with the vibe of the show.
But when he was a guest on the show we last attended, I changed my mind.
Subsequent guest host appearances confirmed that he was going to be fine.
Now that he is fully in charge and the show has begun its current season, and is a few shows in, reviews are positive.
I will still be listening/watching although I am sure I will miss Guy Noir, Mom, The Lives of the Cowboys (Dusty and Lefty) and News from Lake Wobegon.
The show's format has basically remained the same with a few old faces remaining but the music is different  and the comedy updated and less host centric.
I think there is enough of 'the old' to keep the PHC 'lifers' around and 'the new' should attract a new generation of audience.

Friday, November 11, 2016

On Turning 70

Being 70 is, to many, some sort of milestone. To me, like 50 and 60, it's just another number.
We did have a small celebration with a lovely lunch at the Milkhaus in Milton and a good steak and a few bottles of special wine for dinner at home.
And I did take some time out to contemplate the past.
I grew up for the first 10 years of life in Melbourne before moving to Brisbane.
I used Google Street View to have a look at the old house. It was built for my parents by two of my uncles.
It still looks about the same although the garden doesn't look as well kept and the beautiful street trees have gone.

 My now fuzzy memories of early childhood got me thinking about all the life changes that have taken place over the last seven decades.
First off, my mother was a stay at home mum. Married women weren't a major component of the work force then. I think she had to resign her job when she got married. I know this frustrated her and she did considerable volunteer work as an alternative. The up side was I was not a latch key kid or farmed out to child minders. That has certainly changed now.
I remember the big deal it was to get our first car (Austin A40), a refrigerator (no more ice deliveries) and a washing machine (no more copper and wringer). We got bread delivered by horse and cart. Milk was brought the same way by the milko and dispensed from churns into our billy cans. Eventually bottled milk did arrive.
There were grocery shops (biscuits by the pound from big tins, butter cut from big blocks, flour and sugar scooped out of big sacks), butchers, green grocers, milk bars and fishmongers. Most of our fruit and vegetables were grown in the backyard.
Then, a precursor to what would become a supermarket opened down the road and the way we sourced food was changed for ever.
Electronic household gadgets were pretty much unknown but now we have plenty to play with. What would we do now without the microwave oven?
Bread Delivery

Apart from family gatherings, entertainment was the radio. We used to sit around it like a TV. The afternoon serials were a must: Tarzan, Hop Harrigan, Biggles, Superman and of course Yes What!
Friday night was the movies. We had a permanent booking at the local theater and I, like so many kids, would make it through the cartoon, newsreel and B film then sleep through the main feature after interval.
Black and white TV arrived in 1956. It was just too expensive for most of us. However a neighbour had one and some of the local kids were allocated a few hours afternoon viewing one day a week.
So there I got my Hopalong Cassidy, Mickey Mouse Club, Lone Ranger and Cisco Kid fix. Trying to make sense of what was happening in the "Spin and Marty" serial with only one day's viewing out of five wasn't easy.
TV eventually sent the traditional movie theaters into a severe decline but a new attraction sprang up. Drive In theaters! There was one just down the road.
Burwood Drive In 1954

I have seen recorded music go from 78s to 45s and LPs, to reel to reel, eight track, cassette tapes and CDs.
The big old radiogram was replaced by Walkmans, portable CD players, iPods, MP3 players and now the smart phone. Stereo is now old hat with cinema surround sound the go.
Visually there were video cassettes, DVDs and now digital downloads.
I worked for a company, who in partnership with Philips and Siemans, developed the clear plastic that was an integral part of the CD.
I remember first hearing music from that source at the company exhibit at the K Fair in Düsseldorf in the early 80s.
It blew me away.
Transport, particularly automotive and aviation has also changed.
It used to take days to fly from Sydney to London and was prohibitively expensive. Most people traveled by ship. When my parents went to Europe for 6 months in the early 50s, it took 5 weeks with P&O each way.
My first flight was on a propellered Lockheed Electra. Then the jet age arrived with 727s and later DC9s for domestic flights, 707s, Jumbos, briefly Concorde, and now A380s/787s for international which cut travel times significantly. Sydney to London is now under 24 hours and they are talking non stop flights with the newer generation of aircraft which will make the trip even shorter.
My First Overseas Flight / Pan Am 707 / Sydney-Bangkok 1969

Advances in heath care over the period have been substantial. We have seen all sort of vaccines and antibiotics reducing the incidence of terrible diseases. In my childhood polio was a curse. Dr Salk fixed that. TB and smallpox have virtually been eliminated. And of course there was "the pill"
There have been organ transplants as well as artificial hearts, not forgetting CT and MRI scanners and robotic surgery which I have experienced recently.
da Vinci Robot

Communication technology has exploded. Days of the landline phone and letters are numbered. I remember waiting for ages for interstate calls to be put through via an operator. International calls were a rarity. Telegrams were for urgent matters but then came the telex, fax and now email and instant messaging/facetime
My first mobile phone was like a house brick but now one can be held in the palm of your hand. And yes, it has become more than just a phone.
And who would have thought I would witness the demise of film. For us who thought the Polaroid camera was pretty amazing, the digital camera is a marvel.
A Box Brownie

I first came across computers when I started work in 1966. The company had an IBM System 360. It took up nearly a whole floor of the office building, had a huge number of people working with it, sucked most of the air conditioning from the rest of the offices on hot summer days and produced reams and reams of paper.
My first glimpse of a PC was in the early 80s. Our sales division had just one, connected to the mainframe, under the jealous stewardship of the office manager. It did miraculous things and seemed even at that time this might just be the way of the future.
My first computer purchase was a Commodore 64. Still have it with all its games. It may be worth day.

Then came the internet!
There is really not enough time and space to discuss what affect on the world that has had and will continue to have.
I guess I could also rabbit on about plastics, synthetic fibres, space travel, nuclear energy, solar and wind power and a whole lot more.
But that will do from me for now.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Bushfire Season Starts

It's been a wet winter and there is plenty of fuel on the ground. The mild spring weather has turned suddenly and we are faced with temperatures in excess of 30 deg C and strong dry north westerly winds.
It would seem much of coastal New South Wales is on fire.
We have three near us. The closest is about 5km to the south but moving away.
From our Rural Fire Service App "Fires Near Me"

The other two are 'under control' but this can change dramatically with the vagaries of the wind.Time to dust off our survival plan and make sure we have all our 'essentials' easily located and ready to load in the car for a quick evacuation if ever needed.It's going to be a long summer by the looks of it.
Update 9th November: Rain overnight has eased the situation.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Carpet and Chemistry

We have been in need of new carpet for a long time. This year we bit the bullet, decided to stay home, and spent our annual travel budget on getting the entire house done.
We used a local family company rather than one of the big franchises. They had a great range and a good service ethic. Dad came out to do the measuring and quote, mum coordinated the business side of things and the two sons had the carpet laid in a (longish) day.
We looked for a product that was stain resistant, long wearing and had a good 'feel' and ended up with Redbookgreen™ from Feltex.
The carpet fibre is made from triexta which is a PTT polyester.
It is a copolymer of PDO and TDA or DMT. All are normally petro chemical based.
But the PDO in our carpet fibre was made from, wait for it, corn sugar.
The clever people at Dupont came up with a way of fermenting corn sugar with a genetically modified E coli bacteria to produce Bio-PDO™ from the renewable source.
Their brand name is DuPont™ Sorona®,
This is not too surprising as DuPont has discovered and commercialized many revolutionary fibers including nylon, rayon, Kevlar® and Nomex®.
Coming from a career in polymers, mainly polyurethanes, thermoplastics and synthetic rubber, and regularly visiting one of the largest corn producing states in the USA ie. South Dakota, I thought this was pretty fascinating.
The carpet looks lovely, by the way.