How good is your tongue

We have contrasting reading styles with our kids, and there was some concern about the progress of one of the younger ones, but there some odd issues.

Sesilia doesn’t seem to be reaching the same reading levels as her siblings. It’s a fight to get her to read, and when we read she wanders through her page slowly. She’s comfortable with her phonics and we’ve been drilling phonics for years in this household.

Oddly, she also spends a lot of time looking at each page as she’s reading, which is the same behaviour her two brothers showed. The boys reading levels, comprehension are very high. What’s going on in that head?

Phonics has it’s place in education, but it’s always good to remember that it’s just another tool. When the student fails to progress, maybe it’s time to review the appropriateness of the tool for the student, instead of “judging” the student. Remember that the student/child is the important thing, not the system or methodology.

Study finds potential flaw in reading instruction to Spanish-speaking students in US

What works for teaching students to read in English may be unnecessary for beginning readers in Spanish, Stanford professor says.

… by the end of second grade, a striking shift had occurred. Although the Mexican students continued to score lower than U.S. students — again, even those instructed in English — on phonemic awareness, the Mexican students had caught up to or surpassed the U.S. students in what truly mattered: reading achievement.

Inserted from <https://ed.stanford.edu/node/2377?utm_source=intelligencer&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=february-2014>

Language and culture continue to be an important discussion point for expatriots, FOBs etc.

This is another interesting data-point for raising culture and language with our kids.

Moist Meals

We had cooked banana, sweet potato with Corn Beef for dinner tonight (the kids had sweet potato chicken breast ‘wedges’)

I’m happily enjoying my dinner (as opposed to …?) when ‘Ofa stops. Picks up one of the bananas in her fingers and puts it in front of my face.

“See that?”

Uhhhh, yes dear (thinking that something weird’s happening with bananas this seasons that I don’t know about?”

“That’s why it’s moist”

Help me out here, I’m not getting any of this.

“Niu (coconut oil), that’s why the haka tastes moist and tender”

Help me, I’m still missing something here.

“But, we’ve always wanted our haka with coconut oil, lolo’i”

Unfortunately, due to matters concerning your health this message will self-destruct in 5 minutes and we will deny having ever heard or said any of the above. Your mission is, to use coconut oil in your haka. Generations of Pacific Islanders attest to the healing properties of …

I look forward to Sunday’s lunch., Mmmmm

Kids, spaghetti, symptoms and better practises

Here’s one for all the parents out there?

We had (have) this scenario at work where the simplest analogy for my non-technical friends was an analogy to solving your kids thirst and love for spaghetti. And that’s a messy story.

One of our software development team has a product that has been on a client’s system for the past 2 years and in one of the recent updates (about 3 months after a ‘feature’ update) the product starts getting this error:

WMI Service not responding.

The development team swear blind that they’ve done enough investigations, and the problem is fixed by rewriting their piece of code that touched the “WMI Service.” Of course, they can’t replicate the bug in their development environment, or the Quality Assurance environment. But, they can guarantee the error will go away by not using the above mentioned service.

We’re told to be in partnership with our people, and a summary of our investigations highlights a few interesting facts:

We have no clue why this error occurs, but we can get rid of the error.

The parallel to our child analogy above is, …

My kids all grew up loving spaghetti when they were introduced to solid food. As any parent, aunt/uncle will know: Kids and spaghetti are a recipe for ‘MESS’. Notice the capital letters there.

There are plenty of solutions on the market that budding new parents are urged to try. They have baby bibs made of hard plastic with a ‘catch’ tray that is easier to wipe/clean and can catch some of the ‘refuse’ before it reaches the floor. I’ve even seen promotions for floor plastic sheets, that new parents can spread on the floor to ‘catch’ the debry.

What are we solving above? Nothing really, because none of those products really work for inventive/scheming new spaghetti eaters. Your treating the side effects of the illness. It’s a messy business or you wouldn’t be dealing with kids in the first place, accept it and move on. The above ‘solutions’ are just helping you avoid dealing with the real issue:

Your kid is a messy eater.

Fortunately, most kids grow out of their messy spaghetti problem and elevate to messy bedrooms, messy schoolwork, etc. But that’s a different release.

Back to our team’s problem.

Solving the “WMI Service Not responding,” by ignoring it is cleaning up the after-effects and not the cause of the problem. The development team already know the problem only occurs when the server’s CPU utilisation is maxed out at 100%. They don’t test for this in the development machines or in the test team’s machines.

No, suggesting to install more debugging tools on the server (Visual Studio) isn’t helpful, nothing more will run on the machine and the few people/services already running are struggling.

No, scheduling a server restart every night is not a solution. It resolves your symptoms, temporarily, but it doesn’t solve your problem.

Unfortunately, programs don’t independently grow up and shed bugs like old skin. Programs tend to hold on to atrophied body parts until they get the proverbial code-stink. Code stink gets worse with age, a minor bug can readily become the foundation for a lot of problems.

Find out why you have these symptoms, why is the application using up 100% CPU utilisation. Fix the problem, not the symptoms that’s a better way forward.

Aquatic Center alight, spare a thought for the loss

Yesterday (Sunday) was scorcher in Sydney and we were at the mall (shopping) when our youngest daughter started whining, and complaining she was hot and we needed to go to the swimming pool so she can cool off (their favourite being the Sydney Aquatic Center at Homebush Olympic Park.) We had enough things to do that day so we stayed at the mall and then came back home.

It wasn’t until late in the night, after finally putting the kids to bed that we discovered there was a massive fire at the said Aquatic Center’s parking lot destroying 30+(?) cars and putting up to 5,000 in the center out into the heat as well as the disorientation of real and present danger. Disorientation accentuated with the uncertainty of whether they can get back to their vehicles, and more difficulty for those trying to figure out how to get home with their kids in tow, and the extreme heat of the day.

Fortunately, there were no notices of deaths but there is significant property loss and we feel for those who were directed effected.

It was an awesome display of powers of nature beyond our human control (of course I fear that the fire was human sourced, whether intended or thrown away trash (smoko or glass.) The day was very hot, and the cars themselves and their glass magnifying sunlight on the dry leaves/grass etc. may have initiated the furnace. We’re glad we missed the pool this time.

Strangely, the events are a juxtaposition with our Sunday Service on Philippians 3 and Paul highlighting that God’s salvation doesn’t come from our own power, greatness, good guy. It’s totally depended on someone else’s grace.

New Time Table Promises the Skies

Things look really promising, and colourful with our new Public Transport. The Government has gone all out for a new facelift, those commando dressed dudes are now dressed in smart casuals, and they seem to have more women instead of the gymn rejects?

The Promise?:

Transport for NSW New train timetables start Sunday 20 October

The biggest timetable change in a generation.

On Sunday 20 October a new train timetable will come into effect, changing both service times and frequency of both the Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink services. More than 1,000 extra services will be added to the timetable every week.

On Sunday 20 October a new train timetable will come into effect, changing both service times and frequency of both the Sydney Trains and NSW TrainLink services.

  • More than 1,000 extra train services every week
  • Over 600 additional express services every week

Hopefully someone out there benefits from those additional (isn’t 1,000 such a nice clean number?) train services. Looking at the getting to work train, my time slot is later than now. Looking at coming home (more important to me) I’ve lost the train I used to catch.

Bummer, may the next generation will get a better deal.

Looking forward to a HOT day

Various forecasts between 36 and 39 degrees foreshadows a HOT day in Sydney today.

Strangely, walking out this morning isn’t the 20 degrees forecast, but something much cooler. Put a jacket/jumper on for the morning commute. The house is still hot from soaking up yesterday/last-night’s heat so the body’s a little confused.

The bus should haven’t been running for the past couple of hours, but you get on and there’s no hope with the air conditioner because it is sauna class hot.

Coping with the commute is easier today listening to FLOSS Weekly and ZoneMinder.

Scenic World

My primary school trip to scenic world recalls some arcade games and the train ride to the bottom, a rock strewn landscape area where we walked around and I was snapped running up the side of the mountain. As a pre-teen, I was not concerned with issues such as paying tickets or where the toilets and eating were located. I distinctly remember trying to sneak away from the group to play the new machine gun game before getting back in line to catch that train ride. It was so disappointing they only had 3 machines.

Today’s scenic world is a really awesome day out for my family. Zero arcade games just shows how much more interesting they’ve made the rest of the place. The ticket price was well worth the day’s surroundings/activities.

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Picture: Seen from Echo Point, the main facilities for Scenic World sits a top of cliff edge.

We got there early, because we refused the kids request to do the Echo Point to 3 Sisters Walk (another story for another day.) During these school holidays they offered a discount for the early birds which made a good value activity a little cheaper.

Cable Way

Of course, the first thing you do when you get in is try to get on the the rail ride. Unfortunately, everyone had the same thought so we quick detoured to the Cable Way. Down on the Cable Way we dropped into the valley. Of course the priority at this point was to get to the front of the cab to ride it down.

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Our tour guide was explaining about the different rock structures, 3 sisters while we were awestruck by the height we were up and dropping from. Breathe in, don’t look down, stay away from the window. The temperature dropped noticeably as we went and down the bottom the air was ‘different.’

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It wasn’t until we were half-way down, when the captain of the boat directed us to views to the back (up side.) It was a pleasant surprise to realise that from any seat (not that anyone was sitting) on the ride there were great views (something immediately obvious to anyone obervant enough to notice there was glass all around? duhhh duhhh.

Walk Way

What can you find at the bottom of a steep ride, but .. a lot of walk. Wow, lush vegitation all over the place, I definitely don’t recall any of this from those hazey days as a primary schooler. Even better, they have elevated timber walkways all around so for all the extra traffic around, we’re not contributing any further to damaging the place.

Love the little signs explaining different aspects of the forest. Unfortunately, walking around with a 4 and 6 year isn’t conducive to long moments of contemplation. What’s this, let’s go over here, what’s that, tip your in…

There’s a fair bit of conservation work of what the property was previously used for, which includes retention of some of the things that we used to do down here that destroyed the place. Old mine shafts have been preserved and exposed highlighting the difficulties of early workers (no chocolate cakes for supper) and their hazards (ventilation into those mines looked real dodgy.)

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We ended up with 3 trips down here.

Toilet Runs

One constant about going places with kids, it’s not water that is a priority. You need to be perenially aware of the closest toilets. Unfortunately, everyone lacked the foresight to trash the forest any further by putting toilets down here.

Three times we went down, twice the time was cut short for the toilet run.

Be not surprised. The ticket staff clearly tell us before we’re given our tickets (wrist bands) that there are no toilets down in the valley. Repeat that, there are no toilets down in the valley.

Rail Way

The key benefit of so may trips into the valley? We get dizzy with all the rides, which includes 3 trips on the rail. And each of those runs had to be the front row seats.

Seating designed for 3, the kids squeeze it so they can all fit in the front row. Because there’s nothing like hanging out for an 800m free fall drop (should the rail fail.) We rush back up for the toilet run, and the first we they want to do afterwards is to queue back down. Guess what? Everyone wants to ride too, so instead of taking seats back at the back, we wait for the next run so we can go down on the front row.

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In my primary school days they had chicken wire type caging to keep the chooks in the nook as the train went down. Before then, one of our church members went down those original seatings, they did it with less safety. There was only one setting for the seats and it’s a weird ride. The ride is still weird, but this time the ride just seems way too safe.

The metal caging looks so ‘superior’ and safe it’s hard to feel in any danger. They play some sort of Star War’ish theme music which is cool. Definitely way too safe, good for those with a faint heart for heights.

Now, those early riders can definitely say you had to be seriously daring to get into a box car that dropped over the edge of a slide/cliff. And they wore their Sunday best when they were doing it too.

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Sesilia and Sisitoutai on a replica of the 1st Rail. Think about going down on that one, only for the cruelly brave.

Where else can you go?

Echo Point and the 3 Sisters

To tide us over and allow a more relaxing, enjoyable trip to the Blue Mountains, we booked 2 x Double Rooms at the Echo Point Inn. The joint is classified as a 3 star and … it didn’t disappoint. Yes, the décor is working class, a little rough, just like us and more than adequate for a warm cozy night’s sleep.

Location is awesome.

The Inn/motel is a very short walk from the Echo Point lookout where we got to take some great photos of the 3 sisters. The kids have already booked us in to come back so we can do the walk to the 3 sisters.

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There’s outdoor space at the motel for relaxing if you just wanted to do something close.

Facilities are good

The motel has seen better days, but for us the major items were, connected rooms, clean linen, clean place, and working ‘stuff’

The carpeting is industrial, wears well and one of the rooms looked like it had been recently recarpetted. The furniture is weary but solid and sheened. Clean, that goes a long way in our books. Good enough to recommend coming back.

The TVs worked, no cable, but enough channels we had something for the kids to watch and wind down from the day’s hiking. Of course, it was also a great excuse for getting up early, get some breakfast out of the way to watch more TV..

Missing bits?

With 6 bodies in 2 rooms, we’re bound to be short a few things, so if you’ve got our numbers a few things we had to supply.

  • Additional wash cloths
  • Cereal bowls

Service ?

The two trips to the counter was a good experience with the two different attendants both very pleasant and willing to give us local knowledge to help us enjoy our stay.

We arrived a little later than expected, no worries, and let me show you where your rooms are. If you need anything the desk is open till 8:00pm, please call.

After check-out, we wanted to walk down to the look-out, no worries leave it parked out there, how ever long you need.

Wentworth Falls

Our first family trip to the Blue Mountains began at the Visitor Information Centre at Glenbrook. Strange how that co-incided with hunger and food flowed from the van onto the table (must be an Islander thing.) We wandered around at the Visitor Centre, playing catch at the park then taking a directed walk to see the ‘little country church’ Uniting Church Glenbrook.

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The day’s magic broke through at the unplanned stop of Wentworth Falls.

We’d never been there, and although we’ve done some decent walks with the kids at the Homebush Centenary Park, we had no expectations of what this journey would be like.

Meandering down the drive we found a tight squeeze for parking and then spent the next five minutes trying to find where we pay for parking (you know, like most everywhere else we go these days.) No, we didn’t find the parking meter vending machine and eventually left the combi hoping we don’t come back to a nice fine.

Lookout

Jenson’s Lookout gave a beautiful view of the mountains, but it didn’t seem like there was much else. We mess around for a little while then decide that OK we’ll walk to the next thing (lookout point)

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The waterfall sure looks tiny from here

We get to the next lookout point, and wonder of wonders, we get to see a view of … the Blue Mountains. Wow, not. We’re enjoying each other’s company when we decide to get off the main track and follow one of 20 minute track going down.

We pass a few people coming up and the track is pretty straight forward and we find another lookout. Wow!! Another view of Blue Mountains, but this one looks more daring/dangerous being ‘hidden’ away and having been forced to ‘trek’ over uneven paths, rocks to get here. The danger is more implicit with regular 2” pipes as handrails instead of the nice secure security fencing at the earlier look out points. In truth, this look out point requires a certain level of maturity, common sense. You can feel that you need to watch the kids because some stupid playing can send someone to their death.

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Hey, the waterfall is a lot easier to see from this angle

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nice view guys, but that ride to the valley floor looks very close?

Sione Halasika dives under the hand rails digging into the rock ledge so he can peak through the water/vent hole.

The waterfall looks gorgeous from here. Actually looks like a post card picture at this point. Water cascades down the side of the mountain and various points it just looks like spray and somewhere below it pools together.

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Things are getting exciting.

We walk back up the track, and the kids are still hyped so at the next junction we take the track less travelled (there’s signs up so hopefully someone knows where these tracks go.)

Now, this track is more daring (and the kids don’t really care much) you wind through a path with no safety railings and ledges with a 10 meter drop down the side. Each of us grab one of the younger ones and do the odd dance down a track built for one trying not to fall over a ledge, whilst trying not to walk over the kids.

You’d think we can trust the older two to be a little more mature? Stop!!! don’t run too far ahead. Actually, don’t run at all.

We walk under a lot of hanging rock, dripping things. I think that was part of the attraction of this route. Some of the track is re-enforced with wood pailings. Wow, never knew that was a good idea (a lot more stable than that earth stuff.) The place is kinda neanderthal. Which we’re told later, is about right.

Another cross-track, hmmm back up and out or down to that Waterfall spot we saw from that danger zone, up somewhere. There’s a lot of nature here to enjoy, but the kids are just enjoying the whole experience (i.e. it’s great to walk outside) and we’re not spending much time looking at anything in particular, just brushing through the bush as easily as possible.

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Hold this boy. He’s going to fall over.

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In a cave, on a ledge, multipurpose

These kids are crazy, we walk down and ‘Ofa decides she’s joined the crazy kids and they climb down to the beginnings of the waterfall (now why do I think that slipping in the water isn’t a good idea?) They all sample the cold water, and want to trudge across it. Noooo!!!!!

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Don’t worry about that, you’all come down and in the water.

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Woohoo, we’re at the beginnings of the waterfall!!!

We make it to the “main” waterfall spot, and with a sigh I notice a nice big fence to catch idiots (oops the adventurous) who must wade in the water. Of course, all of our party have to ‘wade in the water.’ And the water is bloody freezing. How often do we get to walk on a waterfall? Exciting times.

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Postcard moments.

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All  I have to say … it’s cold in here.

We spend a little time and get to talk with some of the other adventurers young and old. It’s time to make the trek up and we realise that to every down hike, there’s a seriously horrible up hike.

Things are going fine until Miss Jnr decides she has to complain about being hungry, stomach problems, toe problems, ear infection problems. Mum expounds on the beauty and virtues of everything around us, the fresh air, beautiful flowering plants, the path, the we’re almost there.

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Sesi – I’m going this way. Stop, we have to get up to get out!

No good.

We survived and made it back to the top, and magically all the aches and pains disappeared and we were rushing around looking down again at where we’d been.

Wentworth Falls? It was a magical afternoon, and definitely booked for future school holidays. We were sold on the shopping up here, but we’ll have to look at that another day.

Move along now …

All wonderful things come to an end, like that sad dream that running a machine 24/7 under your desk (at home) is cost effective.

Have you had those moments of Denial of Service because your 4 year-old was under the desk looking for his marble? saw some nice lighted diodes (i.e. machine is on) and decided to fiddle with switches seeing the lights go off and on, together with the straining fans as they go on and off?

And your first thought isn’t even about the machine, but that this darn kid could get stuck in that rubble, tangle of chords, let alone electrocuted.

The “Server @Home” dream has a lot of benefits, you can set up your own Proxy to manage internet use (especially for the kids) you can set up your own mail server (definitely believe this is a rite of any wanna-be system administrator) dns proxy etc. etc. etc.

Finally bit the bullet and revisit the virtual hosting, hopefully things work out better for everyone.

Reality bites, deep, push it into the cloud and get some sleep. You have enough to do at work than to replicate it adnauseum at home.