Sinus op

Packed myself down to South Perth hospital today to have some nasal polyps removed. This was the third operation, but there’s now a plan involving allergy desensitisation which may mean it’s the last.

The nursing staff at the hospital were amazingly kind and lovely, really awesome. Got myself checked in, saw the anaesthetist, and then sat there waiting and wondering when I’d be wheeled off.

I’m slightly curious which anaesthetic I ended up getting. Apparently the swish anaesthetic of choice has egg products in it, so last time the anaesthetist went with an older drug. Unfortunately last time I also ended up with a blood clot in a vein in my arm, so he suggested he’d go with the very slighty eggy drug. I certainly feel pretty good after this anaesthetic – the last one knocked me for six.

Woke up in the recovery room in the middle of having the intubation tube taken out, which was disconcerting – not painful, just very surprising. I woke up from a dream, which is odd – all other general anaesthetics I’ve had it’s been like an on/off switch.

Amusing incident came when it was time for the gauze in my nose to be removed. This is quite a painful procedure and I’ve been through it a couple of times before, but it’s also quite brief. This nurse was swift and brutal, which was great – she just yoinked the whole thing out. All seemed calm afterwards (moderate amounts of immediate gore, very little afterwards) so she wandered off.

Then click, blood was suddenly really gushing out of my left nostril. Pressed the “nurse” button on the bed and built myself a little pyramid of blood soaked tissues. Apparently I should have made some audible request for help rather than pressing the button – they came a minute or too later. Ice packs on my head and neck and chewing some ice fixed it up, and they discharged me about an hour later.

My lovely friends Keith and Helen picked up me up and now I’m at home, tucked in bed, listening to the rain. Life is pretty good :-)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


I’ve been doing a bunch of work in the backyard, mostly digging out the grass that’s grown over winter, mulching and then planting native plants. Getting out the grass was hard work, so in the end I got a big tarp and covered it for a fortnight. Made it much, much easier to get out.

I’ve planted a bunch of awesome, hopefully bird attracting plants. They are:

I’ve also built an awesome new bean trellis, planted some artichoke seeds, and put in a couple of passionfruit vines. It’s getting quite nice out there!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2011 Census Datapacks Release 1.1 DVD

I’ve put up the Census release 1.1; CC-BY the Commonwealth of Australia. Get the torrent file or use this magnet link:

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

2011 Census DVD release 1 on Bittorrent

The ABS data pack release 1 DVD arrived yesterday. Awesomely, it’s licensed CC-BY by the ABS, so I’ve made a bittorrent file for it. The DVD contained one Zip file, which is the contents of the torrent.

It’s 2.7GB and I’m on ADSL – and my housemate wants to stream the TDF – so it might take a while to get out. If you have problems poke me on twitter – @angrygoat.

.torrent file. Magnet link:

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Bulk downloading the Census 2011

I need the Census data to perform some analysis; the ABS release schedule indicated the data comes out first by DVD, then on the web. I duly (and reluctantly – what is this, the 90s?) rang up the ABS and paid $250 for the DVDs. The first release hasn’t showed up yet, and they’ve put the data on the web – so that turns out to have been a waste of money. Apparently the post is slow from Canberra?

The ABS census datapack site requires registration, and once you get in there’s a matrix of download buttons. The buttons are connected to Javascript, deliberately in order to hide the URLs and make it difficult to download the data packs en masse. Unfortunately this is also awful from a usability point of view – if you want several files, it’s annoying having to guess which file corresponds to which mouse click.

Being sufficiently annoyed by all this nonsense, I peeked under the covers. The Javascript file which drives the whole mess has been minified; but simply changing the first function call from `eval()’ to `console.log()’ and then running the file through node.js prints out the original source code.

Helpfully this source code is heavily commented. I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader how to get the datapack URLs from there, but the comments in the file are worth a read just for amusement value. I ended up modifying the ZipName function to print to the javascript console, then pasting my modified function along with appropriate jQuery selectors into the Chrome debugging console. Hey presto, I could actually download the data without using their wretched interface.

A fun diversion but you have to wonder – exactly why is the ABS taking such pains to make sure nobody downloads the data they’re providing to us? It seems likely a primary function of the department, so it’s odd that they are so hostile to its occurrence.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

transit2012: after the event writeup

For those that haven’t heard about it, transit2012 got people together to observe the transit of Venus. Observations of the transit from different locations on the Earth can be used to calculate the distance between the Earth and the Sun. People around the globe tweeted their observations to twitter, and some software took those observations and combined them into a result.

I promoted transit2012 via twitter, Facebook and by emailing well known astronomy bloggers and podcasters. A few twitter users got excited and started promoting the project heavily themselves, and I was really lucky and got a mention in the popular Jodcast astronomy podcast.

I was concerned that people would go to the site, think “that’s cool”, then close it and forget about it. I implemented a registration system in the hopes that once people had registered – and had their very own point on a map of everyone observing – they’d feel more committed and be more likely to observe.

In the end 34 people registered. Registrations came from Germany, the United States, Canada, Australia, India, Turkey, Italy, Pakistan, Japan, Estonia, and the United Kingdom.

On the day we were cursed with bad weather. We used the Delisle’s method to calculate the parallax and thus the size of the solar system; this method requires only one observation from each observer, but observations of Venus entering or leaving the Sun’s disc can only be paired with other observations of the same event.

Europe and Western Australia were both covered with heavy cloud cover; I received some beautiful photographs of overcast Germany. The United States and Canada were both overcast but managed to get a look at it so we had several observations from there, and we got one observation from Queensland.

My software picked each compatible pair observations it could “parse” – decode the required latitude, longitude, observation type and time – and applied Delisle’s method. It then discarded any pairs which produced a negative or undefined result, and averaged those results together.

As most of the observations were from North America (either the northern US states or Canada), they paired together really badly. To observe the North/South parallax, you need pairs that are far apart on latitude. So pairs between close northern observers didn’t produce good results, but unfortunately were averaged into the result equally.

On the day some users varied from the prescribed tweet formats; my software was quite tolerant, but required particular words to appear (such as ‘entered’ or ‘left’), and required times to be converted to UTC. It was also necessary for the observer to geotag their tweet so the software knew their location. Several observations were lost because of these problems.

I’ve been through and remedied this as much as possible, discarding more aggressively close observation sites; after doing that, the result we got was 1AU = 142807811km. The accepted number for 1AU is 149597870.700 ± 0.003 km; so our answer is about 5% out from the real value. Not bad, especially considering we only had one southern hemisphere observer!

I have the observation tweets on disk, so if anyone is interested I can dump them out and share them; just get in touch.

There likely won’t be another Venus transit within my lifetime, but I’m keen to try this again with the 2016 transit of Mercury. Hopefully we’ll get a better number, and my software will improve having learnt from the problems described above.

A huge thank you to everyone that observed, discussed, promoted or got excited about this project. It was very, very rewarding to have so many people get caught up in it. In the end it was never about getting a good number, it was about re-enacting an important moment in scientific history, and getting excited about science in general. Given that we were hampered by the weather even now, it’s amazing that our 18th century counterparts achieved what they did.

Thanks everybody!

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

UK trip over!

Well, I’m home. It was a nice trip.

England is a beautiful country. I stayed in Bromley, which is a little commuter town about twenty minutes away from London on the train. Each day I caught the train to Swanley – where the office is – which took about twenty minutes, travelling through the beautiful woods and fields of the green belt.

I caught up with a couple of friends while away. Had a few beers with Anil, then the next day saw him again with Alexa. Alexa and I went and saw an utterly ridiculous play – for some reason, every play we see together is surreal and yet oddly we’re the only ones laughing – The Mystery of Edwin Drood. Dickens died before finishing the book, so the end of the play was quite fun. Pretty awesome night; ended up having dinner at Pizza Express and bumping into one of the actors with his family. Spent some time amusingly failing to flag down a cab, then back to Victoria where a steam train happened to have arrived, so we went and had a look at it.

A couple of memorable evenings. It’s so strange to be back home, when it feels like only hours ago I was walking along the beautiful streets of London. I love Perth, and I’m not sure I’d love living in London, but as a place to visit it is just amazing.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment