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All roads lead via … Sunshine West

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 at 9:43 pm

Over the past couple of years I have been ordering more things online that are being delivered with tracking. This means that instead of just waiting for the item to arrive, I can now spend too much time checking its status.

Something I have noticed is that parcels will go via Sunshine West, even if they are coming from near the destination.

A recent order from Myer is an interesting example with it being shipped from the store in Doncaster and this is in the tracking they display:

Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it? But the tracking from Australia Post shows a few intermediate destinations:

At face value it seems like a waste to sent the parcel on such an indirect path, but I assume it is actually more efficient (probably people time) to handle all parcels via a central location.

Another aspect I have noticed is that when ordering from a solely online store that the items will be shipped from a warehouse, but for places like Myer where online ordering is a recent addition to their physical stores it appears like the item is shipped from a “nearby” store that has stock. But should they ship from a store near the destination, or from a store near where parcels are handled?

Though no matter what I find intersting about parcel delivery, I am glad I don’t have the issues that Dave Hall has in country Victoria:

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Bringing back the ham

Friday, December 22nd, 2017 at 7:11 am

For the first time in a few years I will be making an Alton Brown baked ham for Christmas lunch. To prepare I went to double check the recipe from my own blog post, to find that Food Network had changed their URLs without putting redirects in place.

I have updated the broken links, but am also putting the important details here, including values in metric:


  • 1 brined ham, hock end
  • 1/4 cup brown mustard
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • bourbon in a spray bottle
  • 2 cups crushed ginger snap cookies


  • Heat oven to 120°C (250°F)
  • Prepare ham by scoring the skin and tenting with foil
  • Cook for 3 to 4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 55°C (130°F)
  • Remove skin and fat from ham
  • Heat oven to 180°C (350°F)
  • Apply mustard, brown sugar, bourbon and crushed cookies
  • Cook until internal temperature reaches 60°C (140°F), approx 1 hour
  • Rest for half an hour and then carve

To have it all done and then at my sister’s place for lunch, the prep work needs to be done the night before and started in the oven at 6AM on the day.

There is now a (not the best quality) copy of the entire episode on YouTube which could be used as a reference in addition to the recipe and the episode transcript:

Good Eats S04E06 Ham I Am

Relevant to all this is that I am excited about Good Eats coming back as Return of the Eats early next year, and if the Eat Your Science Tour ever comes to Australia I will be there…

(similar to how it was automatic to get a ticket to Brain Candy as soon as I heard there would be Australian shows, I will miss the Melbourne show as I will be in Sydney that week, so I am going to the Sydney show instead…)

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Weathering a Buzzconf

Monday, December 4th, 2017 at 1:32 pm

This past weekend was the third Buzzconf, and despite the Severe Weather Warning we were not washed away. Although my concession was to borrow a more substantial tent (that I could also stand up in!) and ensuring I had plenty of changes of clothes.

I heard about and talked to people about all sorts of interesting things, VR and AI being repeated topics, a very exiting part of the weekend was watching the results of the rocket workshop:

BuzzConf 2017 Water Rocket Launch

I briefly thought about going into detail about my favourite talks, but instead just watch this:

Much Ado About BuzzConf

Really impressive videos put together by Hai Truong, more so once you realise that he shot, edited and published them during the weekend…

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Skepticon in Sydney

Monday, November 20th, 2017 at 3:39 pm

I have just arrived home from a weekend up in Sydney for the 33rd Australian Skeptics National Convention, branded as Skepticon Australia.

It was a great weekend, so what were my highlights?

We heard from Britt Hermes of Naturopathic Diaries about how she became a nauropathic doctor, how she came to understand why that was a mistake and finally what she is now doing about it. It was a shame she wasn’t able to be there in person due to illness, but the video conference was the next best thing.

A panel on journalism featuring Kathy Marks, Marcus Strom & Fauziah Ibrahim gave some interesting insights into how journalists are dealing with the news these days. Of particular interest to me was the information from Marcus about – in his time at the Sydney Morning Herald – the level of tracking that occurs on a news website. They monitor every click and how much you read, plus things like constantly running A/B testing on variations of headlines to determine which is more clickable.

The session about War On Waste with Craig Reucassel, Stephen Oliver & Jodi Boylan started off teasing what we could expect to see in the upcoming fourth episode, but then went deeper building on the previous day’s panel. When can you advocate for one side of an issue versus straight journalism and how to balance education with entertainment.

The most powerful talk of the weekend was from Ruth Ellison (who I knew from perious skeptic and tech conferences as a as a user experience person and maker of laser cut jewelery), speaking for the first time in public about what it was like to grow up in and then leave a religious cult. The entire room was stunned to hear about Ruth’s experience, so much support from people later in the day and via twitter.

The other big thing this year was a number of live podcasts recordings (mostly in “the other room” so I didn’t go to them as I went to talks in “the main room”), but there was only one that I was even slightly aware of, and had never listened to. This is not unusual as there a lot of podcasts out there, but the striking thing was that quite a few people I spoke to were at the convention they listened to one of the podcasts (mainly The Scathing Atheist). The two recording in the main room that I watched were Cognitive Dissonance and God Awful Movies (by the same hosts as The Scathing Atheist). They were enjoyable but not quite my taste so I don’t think I will subscribe. I have queued up a couple of their older episodes to listen to, I will see how they are…

I think my next skeptics event like this will be the Surf Coast Skepticamp in February, but much sooner than that I have a technology event, the third BuzzConf in two weeks time…

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A replacement for CrashPlan

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 at 10:16 pm

For a number of years I have been using CrashPlan for backups, so it was a bit annoying to find out last week that it will stop working in a year’s time.

My initial setup involved three computers and two external hard drives:

  • linux box acting as a destination
  • my parents desktop backing up photos/documents/etc over the internet to my linux box
  • my windows desktop backing up photos/records/documents to both the my linux box (which it was sitting next to) and the two external hard drives (one of them kept off-site)

This worked ok, but it had issues. The first (and biggest) being that the upload through my parent’s cable modem could make my adsl connection unusable, so the first change was to pay for a subscription to have my parent’s back up to the cloud. The initial sync of around 100 GB took a while but then worked nicely. (works even nicer now that they have NBN…)

The only issue I had with the linux install was when it failed to update itself. I don’t know how often there were updates, but I know that four times it would get into a loop of downloading the update, failing to install, downloading the update, etc. This would continue until the 10GB root partition would fill up. Each time I would delete the update files, open the app and manually trigger an update.

The pair of external hard drives started out at 500GB, were replaced by a pair of 1TB drives, and then at the end of last year replaced again by a pair of 2TB drives. I keep taking photos, at 25MB per raw file it adds up.

I am also slowly getting around to replacing the current linux box, so I am getting rid of some things to simplify matters. The two external drives have been sufficient, the only trick being remembering to plug one of them in (usually after coming back from taking photos somewhere), letting it sync and then swapping it with the other one which I have been keeping at work.

So now I am being forced to change…

My parent’s desktop is going to be easy as a quick look around shows that backing up a single computer to the cloud is the common use case. Their current subscription expires in February, so I have six months to find an appropriate plan.

Backing up my data isn’t as straightforward, largely due to the quality of internet here in Australia, the reason that I have stuck with a pair of external drives.

My ADSL connection is better than it used to be (almost double the speed and reliability once a tech redid the connections in the junction box out on the pole…), these days around 7000kb/s down and 800kb/s up.

I have 1TB of photos, so over four months for the initial upload to a cloud service. When I take photos I come back with a lot of them, they get culled but the backup is before that. I can easily take 400 photos in a single day, which is 10GB or more than a full day to backup. I can’t see how a cloud service works for me with ADSL.

(But what about NBN? It is available to all of the houses around me, but I’m in a unit which appears to be being left until later… even then I don’t know what tier I am prepared to pay for. I should be able to pay the same as now for 25/5 or $20 more each month for 100/40, these work out to be 5 hours and 30 minutes for that “day” of photos)

As I start to look for a replacement I have been thinking about what I want:

  • local non-cloud and free
  • specify folders to monitor
  • target is multiple external drives
  • service that detects when external drive is connected
  • revision history (not just a basic sync, can recover deleted files)
  • data deduplication (no duplicates when files moved around or renamed)

I have a year until CrashPlan stops working, I wonder what I will find…

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