Sunday, 29 June 2014

An unpleasant day for a run

I posted a couple of days ago about the poor quality weather we have been having.  After a reasonable day on Friday yesterday returned to ordinary with 11.8mm of rain and strong winds.  Today has delivered less rain (2.6mm so far) still strong winds and the temperature has thus far (13:30) only staggered up to 4.9C.  (That was nearly the maximum: it got to 5.2 at 14:20!)

This made my decision to go to Mt Ainslie for the ACT Veterans Athletics Handicap somewhat difficult, but participating would maintain my stagger towards 100 handicaps completed and maintain my eligibility for awards.

When I arrived I was struck by the number of people wearing down parkas and vests.  Some of them maintained this attire for their run/walk.
The second striking thing was the low number of cars in the parking area.  My estimate was about 50% less than usual for this event.
The starters were dressed for the occasion.  I have never before noticed their clocks being in waterproof covers, but can see it would be sensible on days like this.
To put it mildly the track was not in great condition, although it did remind of school cross country in the UK.  At least there wasn't a ploughed field (nor a paddock full of incontinent bovines) to negotiate!
The pre-event notes mentioned the word "undulation".  Here is the first one.  Possibly due to the amount of clothing I was wearing (full thermals, shorts, tee-shirt and spray jacket) plus the high traction mud I was finding it difficult to get going and didn't mind pausing to take some photos.
Another undulation along the back of Campbell Park offices.  The field was a little spread out and sparser than usual.  Note also the individualist (in black on far RHS of the track) running towards me.  They didn't even have the excuse of running in a series, so could only rely on a defence of weakness of intellect for not being somewhere warmer and drier.
This is not Sir John Franklin, nor Captain Oates, but a former President of the Vets showing his style as he marshalled people up towards the Ainslie-Majura saddle.  Well done for schlepping a full length Driza-Bone that far!
 I used the word 'up' in the previous paragraph.  This image does not do justice to the slope of the 8th kilometre.
 Finally the welcome sight of the finish.  The officials are still wearing their wet and cold weather gear!
I didn't take 85 minutes for the 9.3km: I suspect more like 57 which is still pretty blooming slow.  I will take a leaf from Prone, the physician on the expedition covered by the Ascent of Rumdoodle, and claim to have been suffering from photo-lassitude.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Updating the erdbeerberg

When I was studying agriculture at Uni (in the UK) one of the big issues was the way the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the European Union led to massive surpluses of some products.  The most problematic was huge stocks of butter attributed to subsidies permitting a French peasant with 2 cows and a goat to make a living from those stock.  This stockpile was referred to in the British Press as the "Butterberg" with 'berg',  the German word for mountain, being used to display the erudition of such rags as the Daily Mirror and the Daily Express.

A couple of years back I decided to adopt the term for our strawberry patches which were - even without the guiding hands of Rupert Murdoch and Lord Beaverbook - producing massive crops.  However I went a step further and used the Deutsche for strawberry as a prefix.  Seeking to be a bit more erudite than Pommie tabloids is a pretty modest ambition!

Last year it seemed that one of the patches was getting invaded by underground stems from a patch of mint  on one side and raspberries on the other.  It was also old enough that the strawberries were getting a tad senile.  So I decided to create a fresh patch elsewhere in the vegie garden.  The mint and runaway raspberries will get dealt with later: the mild Winter means they haven't yet gone dormant.

The new patch is currently a bit damp, after recent rain.
I am hopeful that it will dry out in the next few days so that I can transplant some runners .  To get things prepared, as well as digging the new bed I went to get some pine needles as mulch .
I was accompanied on this trek by the small dog who found something interesting under the pines.
 Yes, it was indeed evidence of wombats living by the creek.
When you've got it, roll in it.  This is much joked about in Footrot Flats
but I have never had a dog before that so enjoys writhing in faecal matter.  At least wombat doesn't stink as does fox.
Back at the patch it was time to add a bit of compost to the patch.  While sieving it I found a few beetle larvae (more evidence of the warmth of the season) and flicked them to where the magpies can see them..
 Here is the finished patch, waiting for dryness.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Weather average, going on ordinary

In colloquial Australian the word "average" implies that something is far from the mean of expected (or at least hoped_for) values.  It means something that is inherently undesirable.  When 'your' football team is beaten by a team wearing black and white (surprisingly this phenomenon crosses code boundaries as well as State borders) it would be described as a "pretty average result".

In the same way 'ordinary' implies something out of the usual in a negative direction.  When some thug (I don't have to describe their guernsey, do I) king-hits your best player that would be a "fairly ordinary bit of play".

The use of the terms in this way is not restricted to sport.  Tuesday 24 June was an excellent specimen of the circumstances in which they might be applied to the weather.

The minimum temperature for the day was 1.5C early in the morning.  About 3pm I emailed a friend to say the temperature hadn't got about 4C.  (It had staggered up to about 6.5C by 9pm.)

It rained more or less all day, and I got fed up with using electricity to pump water up the hill, just to have it overflow the main tank and run back down again.  This led the catch-tank to overflow very soon after.
A small drain was then dug to lead the water towards a lawn, rather than simply filling up the pit in which the tank stands.   We totaled 14.4mm for the day.(following 8.8mm the previous day).

To add to the misery of the day cloud-base was around 900m as it was well down the face of the Taliesin Hills behind our house.

Getting the quadrella of unpleasantness into line it was also very windy.  Here is a Doppler radar image from 1439.
The most interesting element of this is the patch of red of the edge of the dark blue.  The software which generates these images cycles colours so if the windspeed is >100kmh (the top of the dark blue range it goes to the far end of the scale and uses dark red for speeds between 100 and 110.  (Memo to self: check the next cyclone to see if that captures a Doppler image with over 200kph.)

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Arachnophobes beware!

As a change of pace from the long rants of recent times, this is a brief post to show off a photo of a spider.
It arrived indoors in a bucket we use to hold string for gardening purposes.


I have attempted to identify it using Find-a Spider. I think the eye pattern is correct for Isopedella sp.  However, looking at that site and Brisbane insects spider pages suggests to me that the taxonomy of spiders is developing in the same way as a web in a high wind, and thus it could well be a different Genus, but I would be surprised if it wasn't in the family Sparassidae (which contains 80 species according to Wikipedia)!

Monday, 23 June 2014

The sick use Medicare!

One of the bright stars in the sky of Australian public service is the Parliamentary Library.  The helpful staff
.... of the Library do not spend their time pursuing Mad Monks ....
.. even if they have a preference for red garments.

Rather, amongst their other duties they put out interesting research papers addressing topics of public policy.  While these are properly aimed at the elected denizens of the House on the Hill
.. the rest of us do get to see them through Flagpost.

A recent posting to that site addressed the extent to which Concession Card holders use the bulk billing facilities of Medicare.  This is against a background of the Government introducing a co-payment of $7 for visits to a GP.  The post concludes:
"There is evidence that concessional patients are high users of health services, but that appears to reflect their poorer health status."
A first comment I will make is that nothing I stumbled across in compiling  my babble which follows leads me to disagree with that conclusion!

The Flagposts are intended to be concise so cannot cover everything of interest in a debate and I found a few points of interest that I have explored for my own benefit, and share that with you here.

[I will note that some years ago I attended a StatCan course on analysis in which it was stressed that beginning with a research objective and focusing on that is far more productive that doing an 'everything x everything' cross tabulation and hoping that something of interest drops out.  In this case I began with an idea of showing some detail about seniors and the disadvantaged and how this might relate to use of medical services.  However as I investigated various items the interesting issue arose of how the various groups overlapped each other, and that is where I have ended up.]

A key point is who are the concessional patients?  The post comments about those above 65 years of age, and also refers to "the disadvantaged" without explicitly defining the latter group.  I risked a swat from a large sword (see image above), and enquired about this.  The answer was that it is anyone with a concesssion card, thus including unemployed people and people on a disability pension as well as those who:
"... receive either the Age Pension or the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card ...."
According to the Library, citing the last FaHCSIA annual report85% of people aged 65+ get the cited benefits.  Our household don't!  Not that I am at all bitter and twisted about this.  

Again according to the Library, people in this age group (including the few like us who don't get the concession {Bitter? Twisted? Not me!}) use 30.5% of GP visits but according to the 2011 Census only include 14.0% of the resident population.  However, I am actually surprised that seniors (a much more politically correct term than 'old farts') only use twice as many GP services as the average population.

The Library post doesn't explicitly discuss the situation of those who qualify for concessional rates through receiving the Disability Pension.  However. taking the Census statistic "number of people needing assistance" as an indicator of those with a disability it seems probable that this group is to a fair extent included in the seniors.  While obviously logical this is illustrated by a graph of 2011 Census results.
A very low proportion of people who need help are employed.  Most of them are not in the labour force (which is hardly surprising given the distribution of their ages).
Looking at the percentage of people in each Labour Force Status (LFS) group who need help possibly emphasises this point.  13.9% of those not in the labour force need assistance.
The Flagpost doesn't comment directly on the uptake of bulk-billed services by 'the unemployed'.  Possibly reflecting the availability of Medicare and comparitive data, it comments instead on 'the disadvantaged' without formally defining that term.  I suspect it to be shorthand for the SEIFA Index of Relative Social Disadvantage published by ABS, to which the number of unemployed people in an area is a contributor:
 Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage: is derived from Census variables related to disadvantage, such as low income, low educational attainment, unemployment, and dwellings without motor vehicles.
Not surprisingly, in view of the cost of its creation and specialised applications, SEIFA is a priced product from ABS and I am sufficiently economically rational (aka stingy) to not have access to this.  Thus I will use unemployment as an initial proxy. It is not surprising that there is relatively little duplication between the numbers of unemployed people and seniors.
A second component of 'disadvantage' is having a low income.  Obviously "low income" is a rubbery topic depending upon context.  I looked at two values of income in Census data as shown in this graph.
For the purposes of this post I will ignore the high proportion of 15-24 year olds as including a lot of folk with temporary and/or part time jobs to get them through studies.  Points of interest are that 
  • the kick-up for both <$400 and <$600 starts at the 50-55 year age group and by 65-69 years is above 70% for the higher value. 
  • the dip after 75-79 years: a very interesting topic but beyond my scope (and probably my analytical ability).
However the key point is that there is a fair level of correlation between low income and age.  Looking at it another way the next chart shows the proportion of seniors and others with various income ranges.
I have included the trend lines to emphasise how the seniors cluster/peak in the ranges $200 pw to $600 pw, while the younger folk have a very flat distribution (especially if the 'negative income' group was removed).

So again we have a fairly high level of overlapping between older folks and those with low income.  

I noted above that few of the unemployed are seniors.  However it will come as no surprise that there is a fair level of overlap between unemployment and low income!

Summarising

I have ended up in a position in which it appears that due to overlapping circumstances many people with concession cards are going to end up ticking more than one box of qualification.  This is summarised in the following schematic Venn diagram:  
I have described this as schematic since I have set the size of the circles and the overlaps between them to be roughly correct this is not guaranteed to be at all precise.

Getting back to the Flagpost which started me on looking at this, it seems quite clear that the conclusion by the author of the post is right on the money.   Further, noting the overlap with the other three characteristics I looked at, the incidence of low incomes is such that these folks will have difficulty in stumping up the $7.00 per medical service  required by Messrs Abbott, Hockey and Corman.

Lake Burley Griffin on a sunny Winter day

We have been contemplating another lap of the West Basin of Lake Burley Griffin  (the area between Commonwealth Avenue and Scrivener Dam) for a couple of weeks.  The weather forecast seemed good so we (2 humans and a small dog) set off from Black Mountain Peninsula on 22 June.

The first interesting site was the rowing club which was as busy as a stepped-on meat-ants nest.
Some of the rowers (possibly from other clubs) were still out on the water,
 .. and taking advice from their coach (who was unusually quiet for thatspecies).
A fisherman was very quiet, and also unsuccessful as far as we could see.  I have obfuscated his face as I didn't get permission to depict him and he may have told the boss that he was going to Mass, rather than angling.
I don't know if this Darter was successful in its fish hunting or not but it was doing a good low profile explanation of why the species is known as 'snake bird'.
Getting to the small cork-oak plantation a few Fairy toadstools (Amanita muscaria) were found, with some other fungus and lots of acorns.
After crossing the Dam a colourful Pyrocanthus was seen.  This really would be improved by a good dose of Glyphosate.
There were a lot of cyclists around the Lake.  We discussed how many had passed, or crossed with, us and concluded at least 300.  I decided to do a 5 minute survey which coincided with none going past in that time.   As the modal group size was three, and we took 240 minutes for the walk, taking an estimate of 300 folk-on-wheels gives a group about every 2.5 minutes which seems about right.  The two obfuscated junirs were a bit smaller than average.
I also like the shadows doing homage to Spy vs Spy.!

Getting to the top of the ascent of Yarralumla there was a vista over to the Brindabellas.
 Descending back to Lake level there was another nice vista over to the National Arboretum.  The reflections in the Lake show that there was no wind (and no rowers/kayakers/yachts/tourist cruises).
 As we approached the Nursey we were intrigued that the plum blossom is already occurring, but the maple leaves have not yet fully turned.  A warm Autumn/early Winter indeed.
We then hauled in to the dog-run for lunch and to let off the lead for a run.  This facility is very well patronised: my guess is about 20 pooches in each area.  Tammy's priorities seemed to be

  1. getting access to our food;
  2. sniffing tree trunks;
  3. socialisation.

Point 3 went pretty well although an interloper getting involved in point 1 earnt a snap, as did a boisterous Jack Russell which shirt-fronted her.  I thought both were justified reactions, but Frances thought we should move on.

At the boat mooring station I saw the first Pelicans for a while (I couldn't find any for my Bird-a-Day project).  The owner of the boat in the background will soon be able to apply for a guano-mining license!
Getting back to Commonwealth Avenue Bridge the sky was still clear and the Lake pretty still even with a kayaker.
At our final drinks stop near Mr Spokes a Water Rat swam past, and my camera delivered a Monetesque impression.
Attempting to sharpen the image ended up with a snap of a Water SeuRAT!
That got us nearly back to the car.  We covered 16km in about 3.5hrs of walking and 30 minutes of stops. I have been told that small dogs can't walk far: Tammy was still out front and jogging along at the end.  While she did take a snooze when we got home, the appearance of a roo on the lawn instantly recalled Action Dog!  A very good day out.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

The triffid arrives - and other stuff

When a group of plant-persons visited us recently one of the members was interested in the sculpture garden we have created and offered us a windmill head as a further installation.

So we headed off to Old Cooma Rd to pick it up.  As the donor was a welder by trade he had built a crane for use in handling large rocks around the property.  This was also very useful for elevating art-in-the-making.

Getting it out of the trailer was quite simple, merely involving some quick footwork as it slid a little more quickly than I expected.  Obviously arranging it in a vertical position required some props.  Fortunately three old bulldozed blades were available and placed.
 The equilateral position of the supports was a little too simplistic so a few adjustments were made.
The old windmill blades have been put aside for other uses.  This will involve paint I suspects.

Here we have the new sculpture with the "TV sink" and "breaking wave" works.  As the addition has three supports and a whip-like thingummy poking out the top I have decided that it keys out to being a Triffid.  I don't think it will roll around hunting people (or kangaroos) and hopefully will be stable enough not to collapse when a joey blunders into it.
 Talk of plants with whip-like tops, can be led easily to Kniphofia (aka red Hot Pokers).  We have two forms of this:

  1. one which flowers in Summer and is very popular with Eastern Spinebills and other Honeyeaters; and
  2. a Winter flowering form which usually flowers the day before a serious frost (which has an effect similar to Brewers Droop).

This year the warmer weather has kept a good display going in the garden ...

 ... and in the lounge (here augmented with some mauve salvia).
Having finished my artistic works I decided to go for a drive around the Hoskinstown Plain to see what birds were around.  Before seeing any birds I found the pretty Claystone Herefords looking in excellent condition beside the road.
 They were joined a little further on by a pair of Australasian Shelduck.