Dill’s Atlantic Giant – Week #3

Earlier in the year my best mate and I decided to go head to head, mano a mano, in the manliest of all the pastimes – growing giant pumpkins.

A suitable supplier was found (http://www.diggers.com.au/) and the seeds were purchased – a pack of 8 for $3.95.

After several arguments with my partner I decided that I would be growing the thing in the middle of the back lawn. Clearly very inconvenient but I needed full sun for maximum growth and everywhere else in the garden is shaded by trees which screen us from the neighbours.

Since it is a temporary site I just decided I would make a mound of dirt in the middle of the lawn and grow the vine from that. I can’t remember exactly what went into this lethal mix of soil, but it was basically some potting mix (both cheap and expensive), some seed raising mix (don’t ask why!), some super phosphate type fertilizer and some dynamic lifter.

I put all that into a wheelbarrow and gave it a good mix and then dumped it on the lawn. I watered it in for good measure (necessary? Who knows!?) and ended up letting it sit for a few weeks. I saw on Gardening Australia that it’s typical to let a mound like that sit for six weeks or so before planting, but I’ve timed this based on the sun – and the sun waits for no man, so I could only spare two weeks before planting.

So in the seeds went.

After a couple of weeks of waiting for sprouts I was starting to get a bit dejected and doubt came to the fore. Had I put too many chemicals in? Maybe too much phosphate? The seed packet said 90% chance of germination but I had nothing to show for it.

Lo and behold, not two days later after a heavy overnight rain – bam! Seedlings!

Now I’m excited…

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Beers of 日本 (Japan)

Just returned from Japan and I took a photo of every type of beer I drank just for interests sake.

There was nothing which particularly stood out as either awesome or disgusting. Interestingly there was quite a price difference though. For the small cans (300mL?) a ‘premium’ beer was around 290円 whereas a ‘cheap’ beer was 180円.

Interestingly, for an Australian anyway, they are allowed to sell beers via vending machine over there. The vending machines in hotels in particular turned out to be really handy. Late night, surfing the web, feel like a beer – no problem!

Australia has very strict laws about the consumption and sale of alcohol – with particular emphasis on not serving alcohol to an intoxicated person (although it seems to be a common occurence) which can result in a ~$20,000AUD fine and other ramifications to the liquor license holder! Beer vending machines will never exist in Australia – of that I am almost certain.

Also, note how top row third from the left (Belgian White Style Beer) is printed upside down! It’s also stacked upsided down in the fridge (as in, label is the right way up to read). That was different.

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(NSFW) 2010 triplej Hottest 100 votes

I’ve always thought that it is arrogant to push your music onto other people, somewhat akin to evangelical religions (ok, maybe not quite that bad) so you should know I’m writing this just to say what it is I like about the songs I voted for.

Here’s my triplej Hottest 100 vote list in no particular order (complete with links to the YouTube clips). My full shortlist is at the very end of the article if you want to see what I narrowed down from.

  1. Aston Shuffle, The – Your Love
  2. Crystal Castles – Baptism
  3. Crystal Castles – Not In Love {Ft. Robert Smith} (This was my ‘number one’ song)
  4. (—NSFW—) Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja
  5. Example – Kickstarts
  6. Kanye West – Power {Ft. Dwele}
  7. Klaxons – Echoes
  8. Little Red – Rock It
  9. Pendulum – ABC News Theme {Remix}
  10. Sia – Clap Your Hands

I’ve described what I like about each song below.

Aston Shuffle, The – Your Love

Just a great pop song. I was really introduced to The Ashton Shuffle from watching takeSomeCrime dancing on YouTube! Here’s him dancing to a song I voted for last year, N.A.S.A – Gifted (but I didn’t vote for The Ashton Shuffle remix).

Crystal Castles – Baptism

I love this song because the first time you listen to it the vocals are very confronting. The main melody is meandering and never really goes anywhere and all of a sudden you are hit with Alice’s voice heavily synthesised – it’s great! Plus I’m a huge fan of Crystal Castles. I don’t usually like electronica but they have really found a niche style.

Crystal Castles – Not In Love {Ft. Robert Smith}

Crystal Castles already had a great song when they recorded the original Not in Love – but when they added Robert Smith to it – wow! His voice is mesmerising. I can listen to this song (and have done!) over and over again.

(—NSFW—) Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja

In the words of my girlfriend, “I can’t believe you voted for that.” In all honesty it would be an injustice not to vote for it! I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks and it was a constant source of amusement to me. It doesn’t just test the boundaries of decency, like for example Bloodhound Gang does (a favourite band of mine), it grossly crosses them in a bizarre parody group from South Africa. The accent is great, the lyrics are hilarious, and the freaky girl just caps it off. I feel somewhat broken that I actually like this song – but I know I’m not the only one, so that’s comforting.

Example – Kickstarts

Actually voting for this was a bit of an accident. I do really like this song but I wouldn’t put it in my top ten if I could vote again. It’s a cliched pop-song about getting cold feet in your relationship but then realising that it’s really perfect for you. It’s easy listening, and I like having songs that are just cruisy in my collection.

Kanye West – Power {Ft. Dwele}

I like Kanye for similar reasons as I like Eminem or even Die Antwoord above. He’s pretty gritty, ruthless and over-the-top, but always to a considered melody beat. I like this song in particular for the ridiculous religious style film clip – but that has been partially destroyed by freddiew’s parody clip – Power Hour. (I subscribe to freddiew’s channel – check it out).

Klaxons – Echoes

The first song I loved from the Klaxons was It’s Not Over Yet. The film clip was amazing with ninjas cutting glass into shards. It intrigues me from a technical viewpoint – I still don’t know how they do that clip. I assume CGI effects? Echoes is a great song to fall asleep to.

Little Red – Rock It

I love it when a little band breaks into mainstream. The Temper Trap was exciting recently and now Little Red are dominating with their simple but awesome pop songs.

Pendulum – ABC News Theme {Remix}

I had to vote for this because it’s my mobile phone ringtone. If you like a song enough to do that, then it has to be in the votes. This remix is incredible. They brought such a well-known theme for our generation back to life, and I smile whenever my phone rings and smirk at the irony that someone is bringing me news.

Sia – Clap Your Hands

I really loved Buttons when that come out last year, and was rapt to hear her new stuff this year. She tooks some risks with the pop sound of the new album, but I 100% think they paid off. It was really hard for me to choose between this track and Bring Night – particularly due to this hilarious home-made clip for Bring Night.

My shortlist from which the above ten were chosen was:

Arcade Fire – Modern Man
Aston Shuffle, The – Your Love
Bliss N Eso – Addicted
Cee Lo Green – Fuck You!
Crystal Castles – Baptism
Crystal Castles – Celestica
Crystal Castles – Not In Love {Ft. Robert Smith}
Crystal Castles – Vietnam
Delphic – Halcyon
Die Antwoord – Enter The Ninja
Dizzee Rascal – Dirtee Disco
Drapht – Rapunzel
Example – Kickstarts
Florence & The Machine/Dizzee Rascal – You’ve Got The Dirtee Love {Live}
Foals – Miami
Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill
Gyroscope – Baby, I’m Getting Better
Hot Chip – I Feel Better
Howl – Cabin Fever
Hungry Kids Of Hungary – Coming Around
Kanye West – Power {Ft. Dwele}
Kid Cudi – Enter Galactic (Love Connection Pt. 1)
Klaxons – Echoes
Little Red – Rock It
Lykke Li – Get Some
Marina & The Diamonds – Hollywood
Mark Ronson & The Business Intl – Bang Bang Bang {Ft. Q-Tip & MNDR}
Miami Horror – I Look To You {Ft. Kimbra}
Naked And Famous, The – Punching In A Dream
OK Go – This Too Shall Pass
Ou Est Le Swimming Pool – Dance The Way I Feel
Pendulum – ABC News Theme {Remix}
Sia – Bring Night
Sia – Clap Your Hands
Sparkadia – Talking Like I’m Falling Down Stairs
Surfer Blood – Twin Peaks
Washington – The Hardest Part
Yeasayer – Madder Red

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128km Melbourne radar rainfall animation

For a while I’ve been thinking it would be cool to scrape the Bureau of Meteorology rainfall images and make a movie out of them. The result was not quite as good as I imagined but interesting anyway. I’ll make a better one in the future with more data.

Digging through the page source I discovered they show six images in a cycle at a time. Images are removed from the loop location so I couldn’t just edit filenames and download the previous 1000 or so images – so I had to scrape them as they are used. A typical image looks like this:


Clearly that didn’t have all the data so I dug a bit further and found three other images that this is overlayed on top of to make the image you see when you visit the site. These images contain the basic map of the area, the topography, the city locations and the key legend for the rainfall density.

I used ImageMagick ‘composite’ tool to overlay them. You can only do two images at a time so I prepared the four underlayed images into one and then wrote a script with a column-editor to batch the scraped images onto that background.

To get all the images I wrote the scraper in PHP and set a cron task. Images are uploaded every six minutes (10 an hour), so I just had a cron task running every 30min to make sure I didn’t miss any.

*/30 * * * *   root  /usr/bin/php /home/pinky/bom-data/index.php

The actual script to scrape the images is:

#!/usr/bin/php -q


//header("Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8"); //no funny biznez, kthx

$siteroute = '<a class="linkification-ext" title="Linkification: http://www.bom.gov.au" href="http://www.bom.gov.au">http://www.bom.gov.au</a>'; //no trailing slash
//$imagesavepath = 'F:\MirroredFiles\Webdev\htdocs\bom-data\images';
$imagesavepath = '/home/pinky/bom-data/images'; //no traling slash

$data=Web::getPage('<a class="linkification-ext" title="Linkification: http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR023.loop.shtml" href="http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR023.loop.shtml">http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR023.loop.shtml</a>'); //Melbourne 128km radar cover

//go through page HTML source line by line and find the rainfall images in the JavaScript
$count = 0;
$imageurls = Array();
foreach(preg_split("/(\r?\n)/", $data) as $line){
if ( substr( $line, 0, strlen("theImageNames")) == "theImageNames" ) {
//e.g.: theImageNames[0] = "/radar/IDR023.T.201012021212.png";
$imageurls[$count] = substr($line, 20, 32);

//if the image file does not exist locally already from a previous attempt then download it
$downloadcount = 0;
for ($ii=1; $ii&lt;sizeof($imageurls); $ii++) {
$imgname = substr($imageurls[$ii], 8, 25);
if ( !file_exists($imagesavepath . "/" . $imgname) ) {
$imgdata = file_get_contents($siteroute . $imageurls[$ii]);
file_put_contents($imagesavepath . "/" . $imgname , $imgdata);

$logfile = "/tmp/bom-data.log";
$fh = fopen($logfile, 'a') or die("Can't open file");
fwrite($fh, date ("Y-m-d H:i:s", time()) . " Downloaded images: " . $downloadcount . "\n");

And my script to merge each image onto the background layer looks like:

/usr/bin/composite DR023.T.201012030224.png background.png  DR023.T.201012030224.png
/usr/bin/composite DR023.T.201012030230.png background.png  DR023.T.201012030230.png
/usr/bin/composite DR023.T.201012030236.png background.png  DR023.T.201012030236.png

The nice time-stamped image names made everything easy. Overlaying 720 images took about a minute. I was surprised how long it took, even though each image is only 10kB or so.

To join all the images into a movie I used mencoder.

mencoder "mf://*.png" -mf fps=25 -ovc lavc -o output.avi

That just puts all the png’s in the directory into an encoded (compressed) AVI at 25fps. The resulting file was only 2.7MB and runs for 28 seconds. There wasn’t much rain in the last couple of days so it gets a bit boring to keep going further than that.

Here’s the resulting movie which shows the period 3rd Dec to 6th Dec.

Sorry for the very ordinary quality – I’d have to read up what encoding YouTube likes to make it nice because the source PNGs are very clear. Using mencoder with -lavc and then Windows Media Maker pretty much kills it.

To give credit to the soundtrack, the music is http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aeYTBvanFmE

I’ll make a longer movie once I’ve collected a couple of months worth of data.

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