out the back a ways…

Just back from a relaxing weekend in Orange. I even made it into Orange itself this time. Once or twice a year, we head out to my partner’s dad’s family who live on a few acres about half an hour out the back of Orange. Connectivity is interesting…it is possible to get a signal in some spots and it usually involves balancing the phone on a window sill pointing in the right direction. Using this method I was able to download the weekend SMH…though it took about 20 minutes as it kept dropping out.

view of trees and rows of grapes for wine out the back of Orange.

It’s a peaceful place with little else to see, just dry Australian landscape. The photo above shows the view that I looked out on every day. My partner’s dad has a few rows of grapes and produces a nice, drinkable red each year. I gather it may not have been quite so drinkable but every vintage I’ve been lucky enough to try has been tasty. I even helped pick the grapes last year. I failed to help pick the year before as I slept in and they were all done by the time I woke up. Oops.

Normally we don’t get out much and it’s time to chill and read and chat with family. This time we popped up the road yesterday to Mortimer’s Wines for a tasting, having driven past many times. We were the only ones there and it seems the busy period finished the week before. A comfy, generous tasting with a good chat with the chap there talking about the wine. Somewhat unexpectedly, I later realised there was something of a connection with my childhood, growing up in Bankstown…and a sportzing reference at that! The winery was started by and belongs to, one of the Mortimer brothers, who were well known rugby league players with the Canterbury Bulldogs in the 80s. 3 of the brothers played in 4 grand finals together. Peter Mortimer went from footy to wine and I gotta say the wines were rather tasty and we bought several: a decent pinot noir, some tasty shiraz and wonder of wonders, a delicious Chardonnay.

All in all a happy, relaxing weekend.

blogjune…really?

Aaaaaarrrrggggghhhhhh!

Here we are again. It is June and time to blog every day. There was a suggestion back in April of preparedness but will it happen…hmm? It’s all been quiet of late. I am away for a few days in a place with no connectivity so my first few posts are canned. Composed in May, posted in June.

Dunno how it’s going to go.

As always, I have plenty of things I could talk about, of snails, of travel, of whisky, and of film. Perhaps some stats. Perhaps some computer stuff too.

…a different pace

Trying new things. A different pace. Otherness. But not in the usual sort of way. Nor the usual sort of conversation. Stepping out of my comfort zone. A new thing.

Cruise. Ship.

Eep! That’s a whole other direction for travel. I may be turning 50 this year but I thought cruising and coach tours were still 20 years away. Does a backpack work on a cruise ship? Do I take more stuff…or less stuff…actually I don’t think I can take less stuff as I travel fairly lightly when backpacking. Still. I have realised that I should not stay in hostel dormitories. I personally, am comfy in a dorm: 4 beds, 6 beds, 10, or 12 or so. However I am a world class snorer and have slowly realised that others are less happy about my presence in dorms. Now I book rooms. When tramping, I’m the poor schmuck that needs to sleep in the kitchen at trail huts lest I disturb the bunkhouses.

Anyway, back to cruising. On a boat. I’ve been on a cruise. Once. Many years ago. 2003 or thereabouts. In China. Down the Yangtze River. 2 days. Only 2 days. I think that was pre-flickr or pre-my-digital-photo-stuff…I really must digitise those photos one day. Perhaps when I’m old and bored and decrepit. By the way, I strongly recommend going to China.The food. Oh gawd, the food! Fantastic! Variety and flavour and texture and taste. Oh my. I went with friends on an Intrepid trip and it was fab.  A guided tour yes but lots of public transport, not coaches, and hanging locally. For organised stuff, Intrepid has worked well. I later went to Borneo with Intrepid and those photos are online.

Cruising. It has been suggested that a cruise in Europe might be nice. It might be. For some things I like to think I’m young and sort of hip but even saying “young and hip” suggests a certain age. Others use different phrases. Others. Yet, I’m coming around…Viking has been suggested and I have read bits about Viking and they sound sort of what I’d like. No night clubs but a late bar just in case. Decent food. They handle my usual breakfast. A more intellectual approach…maybe not, it was sounding good until that point :) It is unclear what whiskies they have on board, or craft beers for that matter…I figure I can probably pick up a nice whisky or three duty free. I dunno yet whether Intrepid do cruising but that’s a google away.

Hmmm…a different direction indeed.

 

mutterings

Been a while since I last said much…it’s April and it feels like I haven’t really stopped in ages. But I sputter on. Work remains exhausting but fun though I’m spending a day/week in systems which is nice but means I’m cramming the rest of my job into 4 days/week which is at times hectic, at times ok. I haven’t been getting to the fun stuff as much as I’d like.

I think that’s about to change as I’ve had the terms of reference approved to create a working  group focusing on the collection of social media…this is in addition to my responsibilities for web harvesting. We have access to some nice tools, which other amazing people got up and running and I hope to build on their work. I am anticipating good things and looking forward to sharing the development with others.

I feel a little behind in my media consumption – perhaps always behind though that’s not I think, unhealthy. I  haven’t finished season 2 of Jessica Jones though only a couple of episodes remain. I was getting close then Far Cry 5 was released so that sucked up a little time. And God of War was released last week so I’ve put Far Cry aside for a while to focus on the new adventures with Kratos. To be fair, God of War is the one I’ve been waiting a long while for, while the Far Cry releases are fun, there is something about the mix of storytelling, puzzles, and violence that makes God of War rather compelling.

I am at least, with my partner, halfway through Altered Carbon, which is proving to have some good ideas and emerging as decent science fiction…there’s a few times I’ve wondered whether this would have been a better direction to pursue with the second Bladerunner flick, though I did like it to a point. This year is the 40th anniversary of Blakes 7 and we are watching from the start as I bought the 4 seasons on DVD some years ago. It remains a pet peeve that there is no apostrophe in the screened title, nor of course on the DVDs, though everyone tends to put one in. One day, perhaps we’ll get to the boxed set of The Avengers (the older English version of course).

pressing on

I have a sneaking suspicion that I have turned into a serious, albeit amateur, book collector; certainly I abide by the key rule of collecting: buy what you like. Some of the things I like have ended up being worth quite a bit and occasionally I pause and wish I’d bought doubles. That way lies danger and madness. I continue to buy pretty versions of things I want to read or re-read so that I can read them in a nice edition. I am on the mailing list of several independent presses within my area of interest: SF and Fantasy.

This week I have added another press to my list, Grim Oak, as I’ve decided afterall that I do indeed want nice editions of the The Sword of Shannara series by Terry Brooks, of which they’re publishing the initial trilogy. I had considered it last year but decided against as the first had already sold out. Last year was also the 40th anniversary of publication of the first book. I’ve recently watched season 1 of the TV series (based on Book 2) and while not blown away, was keen to re-read the originals. So I’ve found the first one on Abebooks though it was a wee bit eccy (US$325) and have purchased books 2 & 3 (preorder) direct from the publisher at regular pricing (US$100 each). I contacted the publisher directly to see if I could get 2 & 3 with matching numbers to the first. They were happy to oblige and I’ve had a nice chat via email with their Associate Publisher.

That’s one of the things I like with small presses, that sense of personal engagement. Another I deal with is Subterranean Press and I’d recently missed an announcement for their next installment of Corey’s Expanse series. I emailed the main guy directly and he was able to put aside a copy for me with the matching number of the titles I had already. I’ve lost count of how many books I’ve bought from Subterranean over the years but a rough estimate puts it over 30, possibly 40, titles. I’m also collecting the Malazan series (10 books) from Subterranean, and they’ve just announced preorders for the 8th book. Even though the limited set is not yet finished, their resale value is already a few times the purchase cost and the first alone has jumped to around US$2,000 (original purchase price of US$160).

The Grim Oak edition of The Sword of Shannara should arrive in a couple of weeks and I’m looking forward to re-reading it as soon as I have it. Book 2 (Elfstones of Shannara) is due in a few weeks and the third book (Wishsong of Shannara) mid-year.

Several books by Neal StephensonValue is a curious thing and it’s interesting to watch how much some titles sell out and increase in value while others languish. The Malazan titles for example by Subterranean Press, are a wee bit out of control, and I recall seeing a set (incomplete as only the first 7 of 10 have been published in these editions) of the lettered editions on ebay for a five figure amount whereas sets of the numbered editions seem to be in the mid four figures. Whereas I can easily buy the Subterranean editions of Greg Egan‘s shorter fiction and a new one is up for preorder. Egan is an Australian writer of hard SF.

The Centipede’s Press edition of Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card sold out quickly and has a scary range of secondhand pricing: US$800 to US$2,200 whereas I bought it direct from Centipede for US$275. I missed out on Centipede’s edition of Logan’s Run and it’s now available for a range of US$200 to US$300 which is not bad but I don’t have the personal keenness for that title. On the other hand, I had the opportunity to buy their edition of The Delicate Dependency (vampire novel) but decided to read it first. Now I want it but it’s sold out and hard to find with the occasional copy turning up for US$275 or so, again more than I want to pay for that one.

Small presses that I like:Book cover of Amberjack by Terry Dowling

  • Centipede Press – they do a lot of horror and some SF
  • Grim Oak – Terry Brooks + a few short story collections and other things
  • PS Publishing – UK publisher that has recently launched an Oz office. SF and horror. I started with them for Malazan stuff but have continued to find interesting things. They will eventually publish (I hope) nice editions of Oz author, Terry Dowling’s Rynosseros cycle
  • Subterranean Press – primarily SF and Fantasy

Other publishers that I may or may not dally with include:

  • Cemetery Dance – horror and dark – I think I’ve bought some Terry Dowling, or been tempted to buy some
  • Easton Press – they do old school leather bindings, gilt edge and book ribbons…and they do it really well. I have a few on the shelf though I don’t think I’ve paid more than US$100 or so per title.
  • Folio Society – I have a bunch and there’s a whole bunch more that I want – every time I look I get a little scared. Current temptations include The Foundation Trilogy and Dune – though I already have a nice Easton Press edition of Dune.

In terms of buying sold out titles, I tend to use abebooks and bypass ebay though I have used the latter once or twice. I sorta like using book specific resources and non auction sites at that. Ebay often has an option to buy immediately but it’s more of a general store than a bookstore. The main time I used ebay was to buy a particular numbered edition of the first of the Malazan series.

 

harvest testing

One of the difficulties with working with web harvests is that it is but one of several priorities and not even the key one. A lot of my job is focussed on managing the Library’s eresources collection, dealing with suppliers and looking after budgets. In addition I’ve been running the Library’s web harvesting programme for about three and a half years now. The main crawl of NSW government websites was set up originally by Archive-It and these days I have it scheduled to run twice a year. There are other smaller crawls that are run throughout the year.

However there’s never been a lot of time for exploring the harvested content in detail and ensuring we’re getting the material we think we are. We do run some testing by searching for specific content within the archive eg budget papers and check that it contains all relevant content including spreadsheets and documents. There’s only so much you can do to manually test when this particular archive is 3.5TB and contains around 74 million documents. The Archive-It software does provide some tools for checking crawl results and broadly indicating missed material.

However, as readers continue to explore the collection, they come across things where we haven’t fully captured the content we thought we had. A recent example is the Electoral Atlas of NSW 1856-2006 edited by Eamonn Clifford, Antony Green and David Clune. The State Library does hold it in print and until recently the digital content was hosted on the NSW Parliamentary website.

On initial inspection, it appeared that the content had been captured via the harvest both by SLNSW and the National Library (NLA). The NLA version doesn’t descend further while the NSW version does display the individual election results eg 1984:

Election details of the 1984 New South Wales state election

However, all the links in the 1984 Election Links section return a “Not in Archive” message, similarly for other years. In this example, there is some happy news in that the main wayback machine seems to have captured the site in full including those pages we’ve missed. The question that I need to explore and may need to ask Archive-It about, is why their crawl captured that information and our’s didn’t.

As a side note, I’ve found the Wayback browser plugin (Firefox, Chrome) rather useful for finding archived versions of pages that no longer exist on websites.

 

bits and whiskies

Sat down at the computer today for the first time in a while and installed docker. I have it installed on most of my machines and got round to it on the vivomini today. Was a simple matter to run:

sudo apt install docker.io

enter my password and off it went. Docker containers include everything you’re likely to need to run a particular batch of software. Installing software is rarely simple and may rely on the presence of other packages which leads into a vicious circle of finding all the dependencies and installing them. In this case, I wanted to try the new-ish docker container for the Archives Unleashed Toolkit which, in earlier days and been a little challenging in a on docker environment. Whereas this version was dead simple via docker on a linux command line:

Step 1 sudo docker pull archivesunleashed/docker-aut
Step 2 sudo docker run --rm -it archivesunleashed/docker-aut

Both steps took a while but I think it was around 15-20 minutes altogether on my ADSL2 house wifi (my NBN option is HFC and that’s been delayed several months). When the second step finished I was greeted with the opening screen for the spark shell and ready to work. Very nice and will have more of a play later.

For now, I’m currently downloading Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds and rather looking forward to revisiting my favourite game of 2017, and possibly even my favourite game since Skyrim. Actually, I’m not sure on the latter and I haven’t actually stopped playing Skyrim. I have been playing a lot of Assassin’s Creed: Origins over the last couple of months and it feels like there’s still so much to explore. Some of it is a bit repetitive yet it’s wonderful exploring such a well realised version of Egypt, in the time of Cleopatra, and its surrounds. With that said, I’m at the point where I’m going to ease back and pop into it occasionally rather than have it as my primary game.

Then there was whisky. All the bottles I had opened in early November are now finished. Back then I had 9 bottles altogether with 5 open, now  9 bottles and 4 open. Actually I have an additional 7 bottles but they’re each 50ml and combined are equivalent to a single bottle. My partner bought me a box of 4 peated malts for christmas, and I picked up a taster pack of 3 Loch Lomond whiskies. Whiskies opened include:

  • Hellyers Road 10 year old (46.2%) – a nice, soft dram from Tasmania. Usually retails around $90 and I think I’m on my second bottle.
  • Ben Nevis 18 year old (single cask, 54.7%) – strong but delish, loving this one and on to the second bottle. This was $240 and is part of a fund raiser for a new distillery in Corowa, NSW.
  • BenRiach Peated Cask Strength Single Malt (56%) – also strong and also delish. This was $150 and I have a suspicion that BenRiach is turning out to be one of my favourite distilleries after Highland Park and Overeem. I have also enjoyed their 17 year old PX cask.
  • Glenmorangie: The Duthac (43%) – more yum. This was a christmas present and was released for travel retail and is primarily available at duty free places at airports, Singapore in this instance. Part finished in Pedro Ximinez casks. Sherry casks are my preferred and the Pedro Ximinez (PX) seems to raise that a notch or two.

Speaking of Pedro, I rather like sherry straight too. I used to prefer ports and muscats, and even had a port barrel maturing at one stage. I suspect if I ever do another barrel it will be for sherry. Of sherries, the Pedro Ximinez or PX (though it seems irreverent to shorten it such) is turning out to be my favourite. I have been trying out various releases from cheap to expensive, the most expensive being around $55 for 350ml! My favourite, while a little pricey, seems to be the Cardenal Cisneros at $56/750ml, though cheap compared to whisky.