Friendly neighbourhood cat

I don’t recognise many of my human neighbours in Kingsville, Victoria, but I do recognise most of the dogs and cats that live around here :)

This is cat I’ve met a few times, but scritched only once (when it was sitting on the fence). This appears to be its new favourite spot, though, because I’ve now seen it chilling out exactly there two weekends in a row (which is usually when I walk Maggie down this street).

It’s a really friendly cat that Maggie doesn’t react to (yay!). I hope I get to scritch it again in the future.

18 months of Behaviour Assessment Training later...

Maggie, who is a rescue dog, is leash reactive. We presume that’s because she wasn’t socialised properly while growing up. This means she doesn’t get along with other dogs…like, at all. So, when you’re walking her on a leash, she’ll lunge at other dogs when they even start to get close.

But, all that is changing thanks to the Behaviour Adjustment Training (BAT) that Nadia and I have been doing to help Maggie “gain confidence and learn better social skills”.

I was walking Maggie a couple of days ago, for example, when we came across two large-ish, black off-leash dogs who had run out of a house to greet their owner as she brought her weekly shopping in from the car.

These dogs were three houses away but the Maggie-of-old would probably have freaked out, strained on her leash, and potentially lunged at them. (Maggie is scared of big dogs but knows that her best defence is a great offence. The consensus is that she ‘lived rough’ for some time and had to fend for herself in the bush or on the streets before she was rescued.)

The Maggie-of-new, however, did this quick threat assessment:

Maggie in threat-assessment mode.

After which she promptly turned to me and asked for a treat :)

That, in case you’re wondering, is exactly what we’ve been training her to do. We’re happy for her to look, assess the situation, realise that the presence of other dogs doesn’t signal danger, and then disengage to ask for a treat. The presence of a nearby dog should, in fact, make her think ‘treat!’, not ‘danger!’.

It’s taken us about eighteen months of consistent BAT to get her to this place.

The trainer who set us down this path, by the way, is the brilliant Mia Shaw, Head Dog Trainer at the Lort Smith Animal Hospital. Mia also does private consultations so Nadia asked her to assess Maggie and recommend a training approach. We’ve been following Mia’s recommendations and we’re super happy with the results.

Maggie is still not a fan of other dogs, but she’s now MUCH more relaxed in their presence. So much so that she’ll even ignore them at times. That is certainly something worth celebrating.

I bought a bike!

I bought a bike!

My last push bike got stolen a couple of years ago and I've felt quite lost without one. Walking is all well and good, but as someone who has owned a bike for most of his live, it is so very nice to be back in the saddle. (Even if that saddle is going to make me sore for the next week or so!) 

Read More

Love Letters To Feminisms

Nadia and I had an excellent time this afternoon at ‘Love Letters to Feminisms: a live performance of feminist texts’. Organised by the Loving Feminist Literature collective, the event featured several writers, poets, academics, and performers who shared their works and the works of other feminists.

The performances were powerful and emotional, and each one resonated strongly with everyone in the room.

Nadia was one of the performers and she read a piece that honoured the Pakistan women’s movement and all they’ve achieved over the last few decades.

Nadia performing at ‘Love Letters of Feminisms’, alongside an Auslan interpreter

Bonus: the event was held at the Bluestone Church Arts Space in Footscray, which a lovely venue that looks great in selfies :)

Selfie in front of the Bluestone Church Arts Space on Hyde Street in Footscray.

Seriously, though, it was a joy to be among so many diverse and enthusiastic feminists in Melbourne. I look forward to attending more of Loving Feminist Literature’s events in the future.

Mango pudding

Nadia adores mangoes. Unfortunately, she’s been allergic to them since her late teens.

I, too, adore mangoes. But, given we been married for over fifteen years, I only rarely have them. So, when I do, I make the most of it :)

This is from Nadia’s Instagram account:

@ameelkhan is unrepentant in his consumption of mango pudding. #nom #dessert #mangopudding (Source)

To which my response was: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Keyboard shortcut muscle memory

There’s a lot to be said about muscle memory.

I subscribed to Google Play Music in July 2013 and have been using it almost exclusively to listen to all my music since then. The only time I use a local media player on my laptop is when I want to listen to a bunch of high resolution albums I have in FLAC, which isn’t all that often these days.

So it still surprises me, then, when I find myself using — without a second thought — all the important keyboard shortcuts in Winamp!

WinAmp interface showing the album being played is Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rumours’.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Top tip: Take the train to airshow

If you’re not carrying too much with you, I highly recommend taking the V/Line train + bus combo service to the Avalon Airshow. That’s what I did this year and it worked brilliantly.

Last time I went there, we drove. That resulted in over three hours of total driving time — most of that in slow, heavy traffic on narrow lanes behind the airport that went to/from the airshow parking area. And then we had to park a good fifteen minute walk away from the airshow entrance. Not fun. Wouldn’t recommend.

This time someone else did all the driving and I got to nap in a cool, quiet carriage all the way back to the city :)

All this didn’t cost very much either: $13.60 for a return ticket from Footscray railway station to Lara railway station and then a special shuttle from Lara to a convenient drop-off/pick-up point near the airshow entrance. (I bought the ticket in advance, though not online, which is why it cost me more than the online full-fare price but less than the $15 day-of price.)

Screenshot of V/Line ticket prices for the 2019 Airshow. ( Source )

Screenshot of V/Line ticket prices for the 2019 Airshow. (Source)

I could also have used my Myki to get to/from Lara station and then buy a separate paper ticket for just the shuttle bit of the journey. The V/Line folks even had a special ticketing booth set up specifically at Lara for the people who were doing this. But was easier just to get a paper ticket for the whole journey.

Bonus tip: go as early as you possibly can

The other thing I’d highly recommend is that you get to the airshow as early as possible. Gates open at 8am so I caught first train out of Footscray station at 7:08am.

Catching the first train out of Footscray railway station.

After a quick 45 minute trip we hopped off at Lara railway station where shuttle buses were ready and waiting for. There were enough of on this first train in to fill up two buses, and we set off almost immediately.

I got into the airshow proper (ie past security and ticketing) by 8:26am — so a total front-door to airshow-entrance travel time of about ninety minutes.

The return trip took just a little longer because there was a short wait till the shuttle bus filled up at Avalon. Fortunately, the buses were nicely air conditioned — a huge relief when it was 36 degrees outside!

Waiting in the well air conditioned V/Line shuttle bus at the airshow — hot and tired, but happy.

There was also a fifteen minute wait at Lara station till the next train was due, but that was fine too. The station is quite nice, with a indoor waiting room, lots of out outdoor sheltered waiting/seating space, and even a small cafe.

Walking into Lara railway station.

The train back to the city was my favourite part of the journey because I got a seat in a Quiet Carriage and pretty much napped all the way back to Footscray :)

Oh, and since Nadia both dropped me off to Footscray station in the morning and also picked me up from there in the afternoon, I didn’t have to do any driving that day at all. Yay!

Awesome day at the Avalon Airshow 2019

I love aviation, so it’s awesome that we live in Melbourne, which is close to Avalon Airport where the Australian International Airshow (usually just called Avalon Airshow) is held every couple of years.

Last time I got to take an inside tour of one my favourite military transport aircraft, the Boeing C-17 Globemaster III, so this year I just enjoyed it from the outside. Of course you have to walk quite a way away before you can take a selfie that shows more than just one section of the Globemaster!

Other cool military transport aircraft I got to check out included the Lockheed Martin C-130J Super Hercules (from Republic of Singapore Air Force), Kawasaki C-2 (from Japan Air Self-Defense Force), and Boeing CH-47 Chinook (from Royal Australian Air Force).

Speaking of air forces, there was also an air force dog there!

Coming back to aircraft, some of the other highlights for me were this Beechcraft Super King Air (from Ambulance Victoria), Eurocopter AS365 Dauphin (from Victoria Police), and Douglas DC-3 (from Melbourne’s Gooney Bird).

My favourites from the commercial aviation side were this Boeing 747-400 (from Qantas) and the Cirrus Vision SF50 (Vision Jet). The Cirrus display was also where I got to meet Stefan Drury, who I’ve been following on YouTube for a couple of years and am a big fan of. Turns out real-life Stef is just like YouTube-star Stef :)

It was a super hot day so I didn’t have the time or energy to check out much else, like the indoor exhibition booths, seminars, military dog performances, and drone racing – all of which I wanted to go to. But I did get to check out this model aircraft display from Victorian Model Aeronautical Association.

I also didn’t get to watch many of the flying displays properly – though I did get to follow the aircraft around with my binoculars, so that was cool.

I had specifically wanted to watch the Globemaster in action, and even timed my day to be in the public viewing area when it was due to fly. Unfortunately, due to air traffic issues, its slot was rescheduled. So I had to make do with seeing it zip back down the runway to await a future slot. Oh well.

Here are some snippets from what I did get to see.

Finally, just before I left, I checked out the one bit of equipment you don’t ever want to use, but you’re very happy to see in the hugely capable hands of Airservices Australia.

All in all, I had a really fun time. And, given it was going to be a 40-degree day at Avalon, my plan of getting to the airshow just after gates opened and 8am and leaving around lunchtime worked out exceptionally well. So much so that I’m already looking forward to the 2021 show!

Staying safe and private online

I do lots of things to keep myself as secure and private as I can online – so many that I figured I’d make a list.

Securing my devices

  • make sure all my devices are fully encrypted – that includes all phones, tablets, laptops, and external hard drives (plus some USB sticks)

  • make sure all my data is backed up – and where it’s backed-up it is encrypted at rest (my cloud backup tool of choice is Arq and I use a local Synology NAS and Google Coldline as my backup locations)

  • make sure I have USB recovery drives for my all Windows installs

  • make sure my computer is kept proactively and reactively secure using anti-virus and anti-malware tools (my AV tool of choice is the pre-installed Windows Defender and my anti-malware tool of choice is Malwarebytes)

Securing my internet connection

  • configure my router to use a secure, private DNS server (CloudFlare’s 1.1.1.1 or Google’s Public DNS 8.8.8.8)

  • configure my Android phone to use a secure, private DNS server when on 4G (on the latest Android phones go to: Settings > Networks & Internet > Advanced > Private DNS)

  • use a VPN whenever I’m on an even slightly insecure network – on both my laptop and smartphone (my VPN provider of choice is Mullvad)

  • turn on my router’s guest network (with network isolation) and connect all my non-computer internet-connected gadgets (TV, Blu-ray player, cable set top box, etc) through that

  • use an advanced router that supports enterprise-level intrusion prevention (in my case I use a Synology router and their Intrusion Prevention app)

Securing my browser

Securing my online accounts

  • use a password manager to generate and store long, secure, unique passwords for all my accounts (my password manager of choice is LastPass)

  • use two-factor authentication to keep as many of my accounts as possible secure (check the excellent Two Factor Auth List to see which accounts and services you can set up two-factor authentication for)

  • keep a regular, close eye on the data that various online services and social networks have on me by going through their ‘security check-up’ processes (eg Google’s excellent Privacy Check-up)

  • check all my email addresses on Have I Been Pwned to see which online services that I have an account with have had their user data stolen – also sign up to their ‘Notify me’ service to get an alert every time any of my email addresses is found in a newly stolen user data set

Always be learning

  • keep up with the latest in security via things like the Security Now podcast, several blogs, and a bunch of security-related mailing lists

  • check the EFF’s Surveillance Self-Defense website for the latest guides

  • consider switching to “ethical, easy-to-use and privacy-conscious alternatives” to social media networks, online services, and software using the comprehensive (and growing) list on switching.social

Selfie with summer hat

Of late I’ve taken selfies mostly while wearing a hat. So here’s another one — this time with my summer flat cap.

Sunny Friday in Melbourne, and casual day at work.

I took this photo using portrait mode on my Google Pixel 3XL phone. The background blurring worked quite well, I think.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's Chinese New Year concert

One of the highlights of this week was watching the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s (MSO) annual Chinese New Year concert.

This year’s East Meets West show was all about “symphony meets rock ‘n roll” and it featured the MSO and Beijing-based Mongolian rock band Hanggai.

If you haven’t heard Hanggai before, here’s one of their songs they performed (accompanied by the MSO).