Archive for April, 2007

Apr 29 2007

Making a sighting tube for a digital camera

Published by under DIY,photography

Many otherwise good point and shoot digital cameras do not have viewfinders. This is okay when you’re inside or under shaded lighting conditions, but in the full glare of the sun it can be extremely annoying. Most of the pictures I take are at the beach under the aforesaid bright conditions and so I’ve long thought how handy it would be to have a simple optical viewfinder that one could somehow attach to a point and shoot camera.

In the absence of a proper one, here is my bodged up sighting tube idea…camera with pen cap sighting tube

As you can see, I’ve taken the cap from a pen and taped it on to the top of the camera.

Here’s what it looks like from head on…

head on shot of pen cap sighting tube

Several things to note. First, you obviously need a cap with holes at both ends. This cap had a nicely centered small hole on one end, so I put it facing forward and then started playing around with the alignment to get it right for my telephoto at full magnification.

Second, you need to align your tube/cap with the central axis of the lens. The picture shows that I haven’t quite got the position right. It really should be nudged across to the right a bit more.

Third, be aware of parallax error. What looks centered through the finder close up, will not be centered at full zoom. You may need to deflect the tube slightly up or down to get it to match the centre of the image at the zoom setting you want to use. As a practical matter, this isn’t that important because you’re generally in the ballpark to begin with. This is not about framing stuff precisely, it’s about ensuring that your subject is definitely in the picture when you’re using the telephoto under bright conditions.

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Apr 28 2007

Sat 28 April 2007 surf situation

Published by under Surf reports

Hello Friends,

Gloomy, drippy old start to proceedings in Sydney, but the Bureau assures us it will lift by this afternoon. Surf looks pretty similar to yesterday, ie small but not flat at beaches with some exposure to the SE. North corners are a bit bigger and protected south corners (eg Collaroy) are close to flat.

There’s not a lot of juice to the swell because the average period is about 8-9 sec and heights at sea are about 2 metres, with the odd bigger one. The consequences are waves that range from knee to chest high on the bigger ones. Rain means runoff of course, so the water won’t be getting less woofy. It seemed to be okay at Mona Vale yesterday arvo when PB and I went for a dip (see the vid link right) , but Dee Why still looked pretty ordinary thanks to the combo of the lagoon opening and the heavy runoff from earlier in the week.

Outlook is for these conditions to bumble along at much the same levels through today but overnight to become distinctly smaller and therefore much more marginal. I’m guessing knee to waist high tomorrow morning.

The weather maps are looking interesting for the week ahead as it appears that we could get an east coast low in the southern Tasman. But right now the models reckon it won’t be too intense and so we may only get a weak south pulse around about Wednesday in Sydney.

Have fun with your day and get up to some good on the way through, eh?

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Apr 27 2007

Saturday 28 April for ABC 702

Published by under Surf reports

Don thinks we’re going to start Saturday with light winds and a little SE swell. First light should see a few waist to chest high sets – but only if you’re in the right spot. Similar conditions yesterday meant some beaches were fun and others were close to flat. If you’re going now, check the water before you jump in, runoff from the rain has been pretty bad at many beaches this week. More surf news from Don at 0725.

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Apr 27 2007

27 April 2007 at Mona Vale (Video)

Published by under surf videos,Uncategorized

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It was a cloudy afternoon, but it had been glassy all day and there was a little bit of SE swell around. So, PB and I saddled up and headed to Mona Vale on the basis of a hot tip from my mate Max.

There were some little waves, including a few into the shoulder high range, so out we went. I shot a few for your amusement and also got a sequence of huge school of mullet that came in while we were out there. Never have I seen so many at once. The water was black with them… we were all wondering if they’d been herded there by something bigger… but didn’t see anything…

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Apr 27 2007

27.4.07, little ones

Published by under Surf reports

 little ones at the point

Hello Friends,

The coffee went on pretty late around here (crook kiddie and all that entails)so here’s the latest. We still have some little glassy things wandering in from the SE at about 9 seconds apart. It’s averaging just under 2 metres out at sea but by the time its running along the rocks at Dee Why or standing up over the banks at No Man’s, the faces are struggling to make chest high. Not a tremendous amount of power, but there’s enough to get the equipment up and running for a few seconds at least.

The sky has pulled on her best grey livery in anticipation of a bit of rain later this afternoon and overnight. That means the woofy water situation will be reinforced into the new week.

Looks like the NSW coast is going into another week of marginal conditions – unlike WA. SW WA is facing up to some pretty seriously huge conditions, as is Bali and Indo later this weekend and into the new week. While we’re grovelling in knee high conditions out east, they are going to be looking at very long period, very large swell out of an intense Indian Ocean low. The wind will be a serious factor however.

Well, a couple phone calls later, I’m finally getting this online… sorry so late kids.

Go well with your day!

Dee Why beach today

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Apr 26 2007

26 April Surf Report

Published by under Surf reports

DY point lookin’ nice

Hello Friends,

Looks like there are some fun little waves in the Sydney region, but they aren’t to be found everywhere because the south east swell is about 9 sec apart and therefore not refracting all that much into corners. Dee Why beach has reasonable size (see pic) but it’s almost all shutdowns. The point is less consistent, but showing some interesting moments.

Outlook according to the models is for the trend to be maintained across today and into tomorrow morning for our region.

Wind is due to stay 10-15 kts SW all day.

Apparently we should enjoy the sunshine this morning, because there could be a little more rain to come late today and overnight into tomorrow morning. Which brings me to the obvious topic, namely water quality. I live up the catchment for Dee Why and my little rain gauge shows that we got 110mm from the storm. That means we’ve had a fair old run-off and yesterday the water at Dee Why looked foul. The sun will help, but it would be stupid to go surfing with an open wound or a dodgy immune system under the circumstances.

Couple of other notes, as you may have noticed we’ve got some more vid content up in our news section. If you want to watch a little of what was happening yesterday at DY surfwise, have a squiz at my latest effort. And then there’s RealSurf roving reviewer Adam’s rather professionally turned out chat with Luke Egan.

Finally, the old hands may recall many moons and iterations of RealSurf ago, we had a little thing called the Crystal Ball on the site. The idea was to plumb the RealSurf groupmind for the consensus on surf prospects for tomorrow. Well, I’ve long wanted to revive it and yesterday I came across an interesting little script that kinda works for the task. I’ll try it out today to see what you collectively think…

Go well with your day!oops!

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Apr 25 2007

Anzac Day, Dee Why beach

Published by under surf videos

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Was an ‘orrible afternoon. Raining steadily, water looking disgusting, heaps of people out challenging their immune systems. And occasionally diverting waves. Saw a few friends of RealSurf out there too (can you pick yourselves?)

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Apr 25 2007

Massacre at Virginia Tech: Gun control thoughts (v. 0.1)

Following the massacre in Virginia, the usual voices are advocating increased gun ownership in the US will ensure such incidents are prevented.

The obvious question, is what evidence is such an assertion based upon?

Questions: (note- must check NRA site for its versions)

How many households in USA own guns?
One 1994 survey of the literature says studies show the percentage is around 35-43% (citation: National Institute of Justice Research in Brief ).

How many guns are in private hands in the USA?

From source above:
192 million: 65 million
handguns, 70 million rifles, 49 million shotguns,
and 8 million other long guns (exhibit 4). Of the
handguns, 48 percent were revolvers, 40 percent
semiautomatics, and 12 percent were reported as
“some other type of handgun” by respondents.

How many gun deaths and injuries occur in the USA each year?
Of 1,356 accidental deaths by gunshot
in 1994, 185 involved children 14 years old and
younger.[11] For each such fatality, there are
several accidental shootings that cause serious
injury. Guns were also the means of destruction in
19,590 suicides, 210 involving children 14 or
younger. For these reasons, safe handling and
storage of firearms have attracted the attention of
the public health community.
In 1994 about 17,000 people were shot dead in
criminal assaults and justifiable homicides. Given
what we know about the case fatality rate, fewer
than 100,000 nonfatal gunshot woundings were known
to the police. (See Cook, P.J., “The Case of the
Missing Victims,” Journal of Quantitative
Criminology, 1985). Presumably, the true number of
justifiable shootings was just a fraction of this

In 1997 more than 32,000 Americans were killed with firearms—

  • 17,566 in firearm suicides,
  • 13,522 in firearm homicides,
  • 981 in unintentional firearm deaths,
  • 367 in firearm deaths of undetermined intent.
    National Vital Statistics Reports, Vol. 47, No. 19, June 30, 1999. cited at at Violence Policy Center website

How does this compare internationally?

If 100% of US households had guns, how many extra deaths could be expected?

3874-3153 accidental, 45,581-55,971 (suicides, though this would be set by average total suicide rate)

What percentage of violent crimes are stopped by civilians with guns?
Regardless of which estimates one
believes, only a small fraction of adults have used
guns defensively in 1994. The only question is
whether that fraction is 1 in 1,800 (as one would
conclude from the NCVS) or 1 in 100 (as indicated
by the NSPOF estimate based on Kleck and Gertz’s

In 1993, the FBI counted 24,526 murders (13,980 by handguns), yet only 251 of these were justifiable homicides by civilians using handguns.(20) This is only one percent of all murders! However, “justifiable homicide” is a narrowly-defined legal term, meaning the killing of an assailant in self-defense, and as a last resort. For example, shooting someone for stealing your car is not considered justifiable homicide (unless your life is in danger). Citation here (very good and comprehensive article)

  • For every case in which an individual used a firearm kept in the home in a self-defense homicide, there were 1.3 unintentional deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving firearms. cite from The New England Journal of Medicine at web page from Violence Policy Center

What is ratio of prevented violent crimes to all gun deaths? (ie how many suicides and accidental deaths for each prevented crime)
Bureau of Justice Statistics’
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data,
one would conclude that defensive uses are rare
indeed, about 108,000 per year. But other surveys
yield far higher estimates of the number of DGUs.
Most notable has been a much publicized estimate of
2.5 million DGUs, based on data from a 1994
telephone survey conducted by Florida State
University professors Gary Kleck and Mark
Gertz.[13] The 2.5 million figure has been picked
up by the press and now appears regularly in
newspaper articles, letters to the editor,
editorials, and even Congressional Research Service
briefs for public policymakers. [cite as above]
Comparative gun ownership statistics worldwide?

Comparable gun death rates in countries with comparable levels of gun ownership?

How many guns are obtained by theft? (ie, reducing total number of guns in circulation decreases this pool)
Based on the NSPOF, an estimated 0.9 percent of all
gun-owning households (269,000) experienced the
theft of one or more firearms during 1994. About
211,000 handguns and 382,000 long guns were stolen
in noncommercial thefts that year, for a total of
593,000 stolen firearms. Those estimates are
subject to considerable sampling error but are
consistent with earlier estimates of about half a
million guns stolen annually.[cite as above]

If everyone was trained properly, there wouldn’t be as many gun deaths

Probably not.
Although training programs usually include
suggestions on how to store guns safely, it does
not appear that trainees are paying attention. More
than half (56 percent) of owners had received some
form of “formal” training from the military, law
enforcement, National Rifle Association, National
Safety Council, or other source. As a group, owners
who received such training were no less likely than
others to keep guns loaded and unlocked. This
surprising result is consistent with other recent

and more…
o First, people who draw their guns to defend
themselves against perceived threats are not
necessarily innocent victims; they may have started
fights themselves or they may simply be mistaken
about whether the other persons really intended to
harm them. Survey interviewers must take the
respondent’s word for what happened and why; a
competent police investigation of the same incident
would interview all parties before reaching a

o Second and more generally, the number of DGUs
tells us little about the most important effects on
crime of widespread gun ownership. When a high
percentage of homes, vehicles, and even purses
contain guns, that presumably has an important
effect on the behavior of predatory criminals. Some
may be deterred or diverted to other types of
crime. Others may change tactics, acquiring a gun
themselves or in some other way seeking to preempt
gun use by the intended victim.[16] Such
consequences presumably have an important effect on
criminal victimization rates but are in no way
reflected in the DGU count.

Fascinating talk comparing US and German gun law outcomes

I want to comment very briefly on a couple of these differences. Tougher criminal justice system in Germany? No, nowhere in the Western world is the criminal justice system tougher and more punitive than in the United States. This cannot be an explanation for lower rates of violent crime or gun violence in Germany. If anything, the opposite is true. The United States is one of the few countries in the Western world that practices capital punishment, and we know from comparative and international research that the practice of capital punishment increases the rate of violent crime in a society. It legitimizes the use of violence in order to resolve grievances that people have. In particular, the award-winning study by Archer and Gartner on violence in cross-national comparison demonstrated this.

In addition, of course, there is the incarceration rate. After surpassing the former Soviet Union and South Africa, the United States now imprisons more people than any other country. If anything, the fact that it is no longer a stigma for most people in the ghettos to be sentenced to a prison or jail term certainly means that imprisonment does not work as a deterrent to committing crimes, including violent and gun crimes. So, if anything, it is the tougher and extremely punitive nature of the American criminal justice system that contributes to higher rates of violent crime in American society. That conclusion is very much against the common sense of current American public debates, as I’m well aware, and as I see confirmed by some shaking heads in this room.

go here to read more

and this…

Percent of households with a handgun, 1991 (21)

United States  29%
Switzerland    14
Finland         7
Germany         7
Belgium         6
France          6
Canada          5
Norway          4
Europe          4
Australia       2
Netherlands     2
United Kingdom  1

Handgun murders (1992) (22)

                Handgun    1992          Handgun Murder
Country         Murders    Population    Rate (per 100,000)
United States   13,429    254,521,000    5.28
Switzerland         97      6,828,023    1.42
Canada             128     27,351,509    0.47
Sweden              36      8,602,157    0.42
Australia           13     17,576,354    0.07
United Kingdom      33     57,797,514    0.06
Japan               60    124,460,481    0.05
(citation is here)
pro-gun researcher Kleck is a goose
Kleck and others have criticized the NCVS for undercounting the
number of times victims use guns against their attackers. Kleck
himself surveyed 4,979 households, and his results project that
there were 2.4 million gun defenses in 1992, 1.9 million of them
with handguns. About 72% of these gun defenses occurred in or
near the home. (26) If his results are credible, then guns protect
far more than they are used in crime, and arguably have social

Should Kleck's figures be regarded as more accurate than the NCVS?
To those familiar with both, the answer is a resounding no. The
NCVS is the nation's second largest on-going survey. It questions
59,000 households twice a year, and has been in operation for
over 20 years. It employs state-of-the-art methodology, with some
of the nation's finest statisticians constantly refining and testing
the validity of its results. Most of the surveys are conducted
over the phone, and it has a 97 percent participation rate. A
respondent's anonymity is also guaranteed by law. Unfortunately,
its survey results often describe a world quite different from
some people's political beliefs, so the NCVS is regularly blasted
as "untrustworthy," "inept," "ideologically
driven," etc.

By comparison, Kleck's survey was 12 times smaller, and not conducted
by any nationally known survey organization. His sample appears
to have concentrated on urban men from the South and West, populations
which identify most closely with America's gun culture. His projection
of 2.4 million gun defenses was based on a mere 54 responses describing
incidents of self-defenses with a gun. The exact nature of these
defenses, and how often they occurred per respondent, is unknown.
Why? Kleck did not write a paper for more than a year after his
survey, and as of 1995 has still not written a technical article
for peer review. Instead, he has hit the publicity circuit, promoting
his findings in newspapers, magazines and talk shows. Ducking
peer review is a common method of pseudo-scientists and cranks,
one for which there is no valid reason or excuse.

Gun researcher David Hemenway writes of Kleck's survey:
  • “His results are not consistent with other private surveys, and differ from the results of the National Crime Victimization Survey by a factor of thirty. In a radio interview, Kleck seemed to imply that perhaps twenty-nine out of thirty respondents who use a gun in self-defense do not tell the NCVS of this because they either possess or are using the gun illegally.”Kleck’s numbers imply that in an attempted robbery, the victim is far more likely to use a gun than the perpetrator is to have a gun. His findings imply that women defend themselves with guns in more than 40 percent of sexual assaults. His results also indicate that whenever someone is at home during a burglary, even asleep, about 80 percent of the time they are able to get and use a gun for defense, even though only half of all households have a gun…”His results also indicate that some 192,000 offenders were wounded or killed in these self-defense uses of guns. By comparison, one published study reports the total annual number of nonfatal firearm injuries to be 140,000. Kleck speculates that the reason the casualties implied in his study do not show up in the medical data are that most must not have sought medical attention. Anyway, nothing is yet available that indicates we should place much faith in Kleck’s results.” (27)

Kleck has a history of producing analysis that is roundly rejected by academia. His earlier estimates of successful gun defenses have differed substantially not only from academic consensus, but from each other — 340,000 in 1986, 645,000 in 1988, and 2.4 million today. The earlier estimates were based on eight small private surveys that asked a single, vague question about using a gun for protection or self-defense. These studies failed to question a cross-section of the nation, or determine the nature of the self-defense, or the time period involved. They failed to distinguish from police and military uses, or uses against humans and animals, or the “self-protection” of a guard who merely wears a sidearm, or even two fighting gangsters who draw their weapons in self-defense. There is also a question of perception — in almost all arguments, both parties perceive their behavior as self-defensive. Even criminals frequently see themselves as the victims of aggression. A National Institute of Justice report states: “Among a sample of prisoners, 48 percent of those who fired their guns while committing crimes claimed they did so in self-defense.” (28) Really, now!

The University of Maryland conducted an academic review of Kleck’s earlier work and found that “Kleck’s conclusions rest on limited data. Small changes in the procedures would produce large differences in the findings. The estimates are questionable, and it appears unwise to place much weight on them.” (29)

NRA stats

• Privately owned firearms in the U.S.: Well over 200 million, including upwards of 65-70 million handguns. The number rises by approximately 4.5 million annually. (BATFE)• Gun owners in the U.S.: 65-80 million; 30-35 million own handguns• American households that have firearms: Approx. 45%

• Hunters nationwide: 18.5 million (National Shooting Sports Foundation)

• NRA State Associations and Local Clubs: 10,000

• NRA Target Shooting Tournaments annually: 10,000

• NRA Certified Instructors 51,000

Posted: 1/8/2007 12:00:00 AM

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Apr 25 2007

Seawater & pathogens

Human health risk from micro-organisms in the Australian marine environment
Nicholas J. Ashbolt
AWT Science & Environment
West Ryde, NSW 2114

In Australia, faecal pollution in seawater is inferred from the presence of certain indicator bacteria, primarily faecal coliforms and/or faecal streptococci (includes the enterococci). However, epidemiological studies of waterborne illness indicate that the common aetiological agents are more likely to be viruses and parasitic protozoa than bacteria (Moore et al. 1994; Seyfried et al. 1985; Cabelli et al. 1982). Furthermore, the recent literature illustrates the poor correlations between waterborne human viruses and faecal coliforms in marine waters (Deuter et al. 1991). This lack of a relationship relates in part to the sporadic presence of pathogens in sewage, which reflects the incidence of illness in the population. In addition, there are problems in sampling (Fleisher 1990), and many pathogens survive longer than the faecal indicator bacteria determined by culturing methods (Evison 1988), with viruses present when indicator bacteria are absent (Hughes et al. 1991). A further complication is the occurrence of nonculturable but viable indicator bacteria which are not enumerated by standard methods and result in further underestimation of pathogen presence (Byrd et al. 1991; Green et al. 1991).

See table 2 for list of pathogens/symptoms/survival time

WHO paper entitled Bathing Water Quality and Human Health (click here for the PDF)


What harmful microorganisms can be found in polluted water and what illnesses do they cause?

Polluted runoff and untreated sewage released into the water can expose swimmers to bacteria, viruses, and protozoans. These pathogens (disease-causing organisms) can be present at or near the site where polluted discharges enter the water. Children, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to develop illnesses or infections after swimming in polluted water.

Swimming-related illnesses are typically minor. This means that they require little or no treatment, respond readily to treatment, and have no long-term health effects. The most common illness associated with swimming in water polluted by sewage is gastroenteritis. It occurs in a variety of forms that can have one or more of the following symptoms: nausea, vomiting, stomachache, diarrhea, headache, and fever. Other minor illnesses associated with swimming include ear, eye, nose, and throat infections. In highly polluted water, swimmers may occasionally be exposed to more serious diseases like dysentery, hepatitis, cholera, and typhoid fever. .

Agencies monitoring for beach water pollution usually analyze the water samples they collect for indicator species to assess the water for harmful levels of pathogens. Collecting and measuring the pathogens directly can be difficult and potentially hazardous. Good indicator species are microorganisms that are easy to collect and analyze for, safe to handle, representative of the pathogen of concern for characteristics like growth, and always present when pathogens are present or vice versa.

& from the same page:

People who swim in water near storm drains can become ill. A recent Southern California epidemiological study, for example, revealed that individuals who swim in areas adjacent to flowing storm drains were 50 percent more likely to develop a variety of symptoms than those who swim further away from the same drain. Swimmers who did not avoid the drains experienced an increased risk for a broad range of adverse health effects. These include fever, nausea, and gastroenteritis; flu-like symptoms — such as nasal congestion, sore throat, fever, and/or coughing– are also possible. Storm drains can even be a source of problems during drier weather because broken pipes or connections to sanitary disposal systems may contribute pathogens to the storm drains.

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Apr 25 2007

Published by under Surf reports

Hello Friends,

Looks like there’s a little bit of swell for Anzac Day. It’s not astonishing, but there are some shoulder high sets lurching in to the stretches of beach open to the SE. Out at sea the swell is around 2-4 metres at about 8 sec. Conditions at Dee Why are relatively smooth but the swell isn’t very clean. Typical short period stuff.

Fair number of people are in the water testing out their immune systems. The water looks pretty foul too thanks not only to the rain but the fact that Council opened the lagoon at Dee Why. You run a pretty reasonable risk of picking up a reason to visit your gp toward the weekend I should think.

The water at Dee Why probably won’t be good to go for another couple days. A good sunny day or two can make a difference very quickly.

Swell is probably close to its peak but it shouldn’t disappear today. Then tomorrow it should be smaller and the charts look unpromising for the rest of the week and into the weekend. Basically it looks like being flat but offshore by about Saturday.

Wind is due to get up to 20-25 kts at times from the SE today and then swing SW and to be 10-15 kts tomorrow.

Heard an interesting story about the online archives at the war memorial on the radio as I was writing this. If you’re looking to learn more about a family member who served, it’s at

Go well one and all.

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