Good news, bad news

Phuket temple

Phuket, 1984  © PJ Croft 2019

I thought I’d had a stroke of luck yesterday. I found a backup of my D:\Images drive from 2009! By installing a 30 day evaluation copy of Acronis True Image, the software I owned and used back then, I was able to open and restore the backed up folder. Hallelujah. That was the good news.

The thing is, when I moved here in 2013 I had all my images on a striped pair of disks (RAID-0). It meant that the disks had to be kept together and run as a pair. But in all the confusion of reassembling my computer after the move, somehow I got them separated and mixed up, so it meant I lost everything. Baaaawww.

Luckily I had backed almost everything up to CD-ROMs, so I was able to laboriously restore things. Almost. I hadn’t kept everything up to date, but that’s what I had to go on with.

But here’s a second chance, I thought. Everything backed up in 2009. Wow! What nuggets of gold am I going to find?

Well, after many, many hours yesterday comparing folders, at least 120, more if you count sub-folders, I only found a few extra images and nothing startling. That was the bad news.

I actually have 52,229 images of various kinds, making up 600GB on my current images drive. Not all of them are my photos; I keep several folders of interesting images I find on the web and especially on photography web sites, but most of them are mine or Dad’s photos. I have a huge archive of Croft family photos. It’s a great pity no-one shows any interest in seeing them or keeping them safe. When I die….

Dad never threw letters away and at one stage, when I had access to them, I scanned more than 55 to digital form, and I still have them. But a family member took it on herself to donate the physical letters to the Battye Library before I could finish, so they are lost to us now. Didn’t ask my permission, didn’t tell me, just gave them away. Total arrogance! And then she forgot she’d given them away, and asked me to return them, but I didn’t have them and didn’t know they where they’d gone to! Craziness. It put me under huge stress at a very bad time. I bitterly, bitterly resent it.

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Bangkok 1988  © PJ Croft 2019. This is film, Kodachrome 64 I think, scanned at 4000dpi. It is sharp!

Thank goodness for the web! I’m finding that all my questions about my cars are answered either in forums or on YouTube.

I’m swapping radios between cars at the moment prior to selling the Magna, and there are demos on YouTube about how to remove and reinstall. Not that it’s all that hard, but the Honda looks a little tricky at first. It should be easy enough, according to the demos.

I want, actually, need a reversing camera for the MDX and was not sure how to install one. I don’t relish trying to thread a cable from the tailgate through the internal wiring channels of the car, but it looks as if a wi-fi wireless camera should do the trick. I bought a well priced Pioneer LCD head unit a couple of weeks ago, which has a camera input. Another job to do.

The cruise control has stopped working too, and that’s talked about quite a lot in the forums. It seems there is a fuse, but there’s also a cable which runs near the battery negative line. Apparently it gets dislodged. I was removing the negative cable a couple of weeks ago, so maybe that’s it. Another reason can be the brake light switch under the brake pedal, and I’ve got a new one on order. I hope it might explain the VSA light being on all the time too. It’ll be a bugger to fit, working in the footwell, but it has to be done.

I’ve also found a small classified ad for a brake repair place in Joondalup who will do new pads for front or back for $109. “Give the little guy a go”, they say. I think I will with the Verada. That’s the most urgent job, and once that’s done I’ll be able to drive it regularly. Maggie has to go, but I have the dilemma of the oil leaks and the cost of fixing them. Almost more than the car is worth. What to do? I would give the car away to someone who needs it.

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7 former PMs

Seven living former PMs. Four of them are Labor, and they are the best ones, the ones who got things done. The three Liberals did nothing while in office except show their racism.

I was flamed on Facebook for my sour comments about the dirty cheating Liberal win on May 18. Some former work colleagues said they took offence at my comments about them not caring about so many things. I didn’t reply. A guy I worked with at TVW7 and used to respect has popped up now and suggested I’m a hypocrite (he didn’t use that word, I’m not sure he knows it) for driving and flying.

Well Jim, I do have solar power, and if I could sail to Bali I’d do it, but there is no choice. If I could walk or ride a pushbike everywhere, I would, but distances are too great in Perth and there is no alternative.

But at least I’m trying to do something, however little it is, not just sitting on the sidelines making snide comments and voting for a corrupt, incompetent government which embraces climate science deniers. If you voted for them, didn’t vote Labor, you’ve branded yourself as being in the Liberal image of incompetent, corrupt fools with little ability or knowledge. I thought better of you Jim. I was mistaken. And I’m embarrassed and ashamed that Australia, my country, is so far down the world table in action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact we’re not reducing them at all, we’re increasing emissions! Shameful. Do you care, Jim? It seems not.

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I’m torn. I find the winter cold a bit hard to take these days. It’s not that bad, not by a long shot (I still wear my shorts and sandals), but my fingers are a bit stiffer and I find it hard to get moving and doing things.

I could be in Bali. I could be warm every day, swimming, walking to the beach.

But I have a daunting list of interesting, highly satisfying jobs to do here and when I’m in Bali, when I’m not in the pool I’m just reading, eating and drinking, doing Facebook and wishing I were back here. I’m torn. I don’t know what I want more.

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A few months ago I bought this HP wireless flat keyboard, like a Mac one, and it comes with a tiny USB wi-fi ‘dongle’ to communicate. That sits in the row of five USB sockets at the top of my PC. For a long time it worked fine.

But last week I plugged a new 256GB thumb drive into a socket near the dongle and since then I’ve had all kinds of trouble with this keyboard. Slow operation, delays, extra characters added, lots of weirdness. It took me a while to realise it’s the thumb drive causing it. I have to remove it when I want to do serious typing, like now. I’ve also found just having a USB cable plugged in near the wi-fi dongle but just dangling with nothing connected also upsets the keyboard. Hmmm. I’ll try moving the dongle around to the rear of the PC.

I had more to write but my brain is a bit cold.

 

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Back to “winter”

I’m home since Sunday to glorious winter weather, warm sun and almost no wind for the past few days, but no rain either. Now, Thursday, it looks hopeful that we will get rain tonight. To my readers outside WA, it might seem strange to be wishing for rain, but May was the driest on record in SW WA since records began in 1900. We’re in drought, and the farmers are dry seeding in the hope of rain still to come. Highly variable climate these days.

Bali of course was beautiful weather for the whole month. Almost no rain, sunny 30deg days every day. Low humidity at this time of year. Boring. 🙂

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Satay mass production, Sanur night market  © PJ Croft 2019

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Semawang Beach  © PJ Croft 2019

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In Chili’s, aka The Beach House  © PJ Croft 2019

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The flight home was uneventful but I admit my body shape makes for an uncomfortable journey on these cattle class planes designed for small Asian frames. Three and a half hours is about all I can stand these days. I’d go Garuda if only they didn’t leave so early in the morning. I can’t ask my friends to pick me up here at 4.30am for a 7.30am departure. Luckily I have a great friend who drives me there and collects me, but I choose my flight times to suit him, after work or on the weekends.

The size of Aussies! Watching them file onto the plane you realise just how big and fat we’ve all become. It’s rare now to see someone normally shaped and of normal weight. Women especially.

I was highly embarrassed by two Aussie blokes in Ace Hardware in Galeria, Kuta. They were dressed like Hell’s Angels-meet-Beachcombers-meet-Dracula, torn, dirty, daggy shorts hanging down showing bum cracks, straggly beards and one guy was drinking a can of beer at the checkouts! This would be illegal here, and I’m sure it is in Bali too, as well as being offensive. I wish I could have said something but they looked mean and I’m a coward.

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I’m also finding Bali has become expensive. It depends where you eat, of course, but it was my habit to have lunch of a club sandwich and lime juice at a bar a few doors away from our hotel.  The bill came to Rp100,000 or the equivalent of A$10. Add a coffee and it was nearly $15. This is nearly Perth price, and this was no fancy place, just a sports bar showing footy and playing loud music at night.

In the shopping centres it’s the same or more expensive, at the chain cafes. An average meal of one dish and a juice comes to around $9-10. An ice cream is $5-7. Coffee is $3.50 on average.

To eat out at our favourite beach restaurant, the one we call Chili’s, cost on average $100 for the two of us, admittedly for two courses and a shared dessert crepe, and including happy hour cocktails (3 for $15) and a bottle of wine. We choose to spend this, we could eat more cheaply, but not by much. If we did without the wine…

Anyway, expect prices up near Perth levels these days if you stay and eat in Sanur or any of the other “nice” areas. It’s getting to be a bit much for me.

Another example: I bought a floor standing fan, the cheapest type, that I’ve bought here for $12 at times, maybe $16 at most in BigW. In Ace Hardware Kuta, the lowest priced fan of this type was $31. They were at pains to test it for us first, and to explain the two year warranty.

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Sanur  © PJ Croft 2019

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Feel like some triple sex? Order a margarita. And under Irish Cocktails (plural) just one, Irish Coffee. Oh, and a Deli Quiri anyone? I think they mean Daiquiri.

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I’ve got a luvverly bunch o’ coconuts, all standing in a row.  Ten for $10 delivered.

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Notice the escalator? It finishes about 1.2m above the ground floor. You go down a ramp from there. It looks like either someone stuffed up the order, or they got a used one. The up escalator is fine all the way from the ground floor to the upper floor. That’s Bali.

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Unfortunately the Bali taxi drivers continue to bemoan the lack of business, not enough tourists they say. Maybe the prices have something to do with it, but I fear the rest of the world is tightening its belt. People are thinking the overseas holiday is no longer affordable, and it’s true. The boom is bust and Bali needs to realise it.

Actually taxis are about the one thing which is still cheap.  Flagfall is Rp7000 or about 70c and most trips come to $5-7. There’s a minimum charge of $3 in Sanur as most places are pretty close.

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The volcano continues to rumble and smoke, and they say it erupts on average every 5.6 days. That’s  a good thing, I think, because it relieves the pressure. The airport closed briefly on one day, but it didn’t cause much trouble.

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A beautiful full moon at the beginning of May.

It’s getting darker outside and a few drops of rain are falling, so let’s hope the heavens open soon. Time for my nap.

Update Friday: yes, it rained steadily from about 5pm yesterday, and it was heavy at times. There’s a lot more to come, we’re told. Yay.

Sakit!

Bali night fisherman. (C) PJ Croft 2019

I’ve been feeling sick (sakit) all week, and not from anything I ate, not Bali Belly. It’s from something I’ve been force fed until it’s made me nauseated, anxious, depressed and hollow. Another three years of this awful, loathsome government. I wrote a Facebook post about it and I’ve been flamed for it by guys I used to work with, calling it offensive. Well guys, I can’t see what you’ve got to be offended about. You voted for this nasty, cruel, corrupt, callous government, not me. I’m the one who is entitled to be offended.

I was tempted to respond and I may still do, but better to let them backslap themselves while they count their money, because that’s all it is. True conservatives, afraid of change. I’m comfortable, don’t change the system, I don’t care about anyone else, I like it the way it is, benefitting me.

In case you don’t get my problem, this is a government that:

  • uses deliberate cruelty on refugees to the extent of suicides and sending them insane (and for the 100th time, it is not illegal to be a refugee);
  • includes climate science deniers;
  • has no policy for climate gas reductions and transition to renewable energy;
  • is demonstrably corrupt;
  • practices vindictive prosecutions e.g. Bernard Collaery;
  • which is even criticised by retired judges for bias and vindictiveness;
  • is in breach of international law re refugees, and is being censured by the UN;
  • has an attorney general who cares nothing for these breaches, i.e. no integrity;
  • who are deliberately suppressing wages for ordinary workers, while at the same time awarding massive tax reductions for the wealthy;
  • who are deliberately reducing the wages of the lowest paid;
  • who have ministers who are utterly arrogant, lazy and incompetent;
  • who have alienated the indigenous people of Australia;
  • who are demonstrably racist;
  • who are out to cripple the ABC, that great Australian institution, because they don’t like being criticised;
  • who are passing laws which target freedom of speech and freedom of association, fundamental to a free society;
  • which includes members who don’t understand the distinction between ‘propriety’ and ‘proprietary’;
  • which included and defended the most biased Speaker in the history of the Parliament until she was forced out by her own arrogance;
  • which is beholden to Rupert Murdoch and will do his bidding;
  • which is backed up by Murdoch’s totally biased newspapers and journalists, the “Catholic Boys’ Daily”. Yet they accuse the ABC of bias!;
  • which deliberately crippled the National Broadband (fibre) Network to suit Foxtel and Telstra, two private companies, one owned by Murdoch;
  • which tried to do a dirty underhanded deal on East Timor, our impoverished neighbours, robbing them of $billions in oil royalties;
  • which interfered with the mail and prevented a letter I wrote to a refugee from reaching him. It is a crime to interfere with the mail, but this govt doesn’t care.

I’ve compiled this list purely from memory. I don’t need to quote anyone else here. I could go on and on; the list is endless, but I rest my case. This is hopeless. I keep thinking of new examples. People have very short memories. You would vote for a government like that?

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OK, what now? I’m already putting my money where my mouth is. I donate at small scale to several activist groups; I subscribe to newspapers and magazines, I don’t just read them on-line for nothing; I belong – to Getup and the ALP; I sign on-line petitions; I inform myself so that I get my facts together and right.

But I think the time has come to do more, to become more active, because it can’t go on like this, unchallenged.

I was accused of being a “militant” last week. No I’m not! Wrong word, Wal. If I were a militant, I’d be out manning barricades, picketing, carrying placards, hurling eggs. I’ve never done that in my life, never even attended a demonstration, but this will have to change.

The first thing I’ll do is start writing letters, real paper letters, to Liberal politicians demanding answers. Tie them up, take up their time. Hold them to account.

By the way, in 2012 I had been doing just this, emailing the Liberal Minister for Health Dr Mal Washer, asking him how he could live with his conscience after swearing to the Hippocratic Oath, yet do and say nothing about the deliberately cruel treatment of asylum seekers, something as a doctor he should have been very concerned about. “First, do no harm.” Remember that, Doctor Washer? I used strong speech and the occasional swear word, I admit, but I was NOT abusive: I don’t need to be, I have enough words.

He never bothered to reply personally, but one day I got a door-knock to find two black suited police officers who said they were from the “Dignitary Protection Squad” to check up on me. His staff had sicc’ed ’em onto me!!

 So much for free speech. So much for Liberal Party politicians’ ethics. (I could say a lot more about what happened, but no time. My rights were infringed, put it that way, but I was tired, a bit sick and too intimidated.)

Anyway, we True Believers now have to become more activated. Like charcoal, we have to burn! I will start attending ALP meetings, doing what I can. I’m not saying I’ll become militant, but activist at least.

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This is the last week here in Sanur and it’s been very quiet but fine. Perfect weather every day, even a couple of times when it got a bit cloudy. Almost no rain, once or twice at night.

Gunung Agung erupted on Sunday night about midnight. V said she felt it a bit here, but I didn’t. There was an airport closure due to ash, but it seems to have passed. I fly out next Sunday afternoon.

We’re off to our favourite restaurant in all Bali, the Beach House but what we call Chili’s, because it used to be called the Stiff Chili. It’s right on Semawang Beach at the end of Jl. Kusuma Sari, about 10 mins walk from here. I’m a bit hot when we get there, but it’s instant relief because you get the beautiful breeze straight off the sea to cool down. Not only that, the food is fantastic, the menu extensive, the drinks cold, the cocktails strong and the prices OK. Can hardly ask for more. It’s owned by an Aussie from Melbourne and we’re regulars there now. They also have a head waiter called Wayan who’s amazing. He always remembers me even a year apart and speaks English, Balinese, Bahasa, Italian and a bit of Spanish and French. All self taught, from TV and the customers. My partner speaks passable Italian so they converse like old amicis.

It’s a Mexican night tonight and Happy Hour starts at 5.30pm, so we’ll be off soon. We tried another restaurant two nights ago called Jack Fish, down the lane, but shall I say, so long Jack. Not good enough.

Saya sedih, murung!

My mood right now. (C) 2019 PJ Croft

Shit! Shit, shit, shit!! I am depressed (sedih). How could we have lost the election on Saturday? So badly, too. We Labor people were pretty confident that things would go our way, but to face the prospect of another three years of these corrupt, lying, incompetent, hard right wing Liberals is just too much to bear.

Unfortunately my neighbour is a Lib supporter too, so I have to avoid any conversations. I’m supposed to be going with V to a restaurant here tonight with a couple we met there last Thursday. They made it plain they are Liberal voters and I don’t think I’ll be able to keep my anger in check, so I don’t think I’ll go. In fact I know I won’t go. We don’t know them, we just chatted last week, so too bad. They will be too smug.

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This means there will be further cuts to the ABC and SBS, in line with the IPA agenda, who want these important institutions sold off to private industry. We all know what that would mean.

This constant cutting of ABC funding and attacks on their integrity amounts to suppression of free speech.

There’s a very good article in the Guardian today https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/may/19/its-not-you-bill-its-the-country-is-this-election-australias-trump-or-brexit-moment that opines that this election marks a turning point in Australia, where the country has become divided in the way Trump in the USA and Brexit in the UK have divided those countries. I feel it. The hard policies of the Liberal party are too extreme for me, and truth and integrity are no longer givens. Nor is the “fair go” a given, where it once was. The Liberal party policy has been shown to be wage suppression. “Wage theft” by employers is now a common term. Wage theft! Can you believe it?! Not a day goes by without the exposure of some new fraud by an employer against the employees.

The decline of unions has produced this. For goodness sake, join your union! Do you want to invite your employer to cut your wages? Are you happy to see the ACTU spending its funds from the few remaining members to argue wage cases before the Fair Work Commission and take the results without paying your share? It seems so. Australia has become a nation of takers. Gutless takers, so afraid of industrial action that they sit passively while their rights are abused.

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I’ve moved upstairs to write this, where I can have the aircon on low and overlook the pool. Negotiating the stairs is proving not too bad. I can go up in full steps (holding on tight to the hand rail, of course) and the basket on the rope is proving to be a wild success. V plans to leave it here when she moves out, whenever that is. She pines for the north coast again, and I can see why. It’s cheaper living up there and she has friends there.

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I developed some ulceration on the back of my left leg soon after I arrived, but diligent cleaning, application of Betadine and waterproof dressing has fixed it right up. It’s still covered, but I’ll leave it that way to keep any nasties out. Betadine = good stuff.

Kembali

I’m back after a break, and also back in Bali. This is the start of week two of four. Would you believe I stuffed up again, booking 31 days when I thought I was booking 30. It means I have to change my return flight, so it’s lucky I booked a Premium Flex ticket as I usually do these days. It means fast check in, extra luggage allowance, seat choice and a meal on the plane. The meal isn’t much, but it’s better than nothing.

They’ve increased the penalty for overstaying a 30 day visa from Rp300,000 (~$30) to Rp1,000,000 (~$100) per day! I got caught for this a couple of years ago, not realising that the first and last days are counted, even though you arrive at 10.30pm on the first day. Yes, I copped the fine of $30. I think this is crazy, counter-productive, because it means I and others are extra cautious and book fewer days than we might have ordinarily, thus depriving the hotels of business. Why does the fine have to be so severe for a mistake of a day or two? Why can’t it be a sliding scale? Anyway, I’ll go home a couple of days early, at least.

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I’m staying in our two storey “apartment” rooms, and the stairs are not proving as difficult as I feared. I can usually go up a full step at a time, slowly and with assistance from the solid banister. There are 12 steps to the landing and another 9 to the top. Each step is about 25cm, higher than I’m used to. However, it’s good exercise, and good exercise for the brain too, thinking ahead, making sure I haven’t forgotten to bring anything downstairs or vice versa.

In fact I used some thin rope and a small basket to make a lifting and lowering system. I feel I need both hands negotiating the stairs, so rather than carry anything, I put it in the basket and raise or lower the rope. It works perfectly. There’s a fridge upstairs, so it’s stocked with beer and drinking water. There’s a TV, so I can be entertained and cool and contained.

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Speaking of cool, the pool is four steps outside the door, so I’ve just done my laps for today. It’s about 12m, I think, so each lap is 24m, so 10 laps is a good workout. I started at four or five when I arrived and find the ten is quite easy now, so it’s working.

I’ve realised that all the water inlet jets are at the shallow end, so swimming in that direction is swimming against a current. Going back shallow to deep is faster. OK.

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I’m needing this exercise because my lower back and right hip are hurting quite badly. Add to that the pain from my pronated left foot and I’m hobbling like an old man. Lucky I brought my walking stick because I really need it.

I think it may be because I’m sitting slumped in a chair a lot of the time with no back support. Time to add some cushions. There are plenty.

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I’m able to do this blog because I’m back on the laptop. Stupidly, I forgot the power supply and cable when I came. I’ve been able to use the laptop a bit each day, but only on the battery charge from home, about 4hrs worth with the screen down low.

Today, after a bit of web searching, I went by taxi to the RTC Centre in Jl. Diponegoro and bought a generic charger/power supply for $60. It took a bit of experimenting but the one I bought was charging the battery in the shop while the laptop was on, so that was it, or so I thought.

But when I got it back here to the hotel, fully switched off, when I plugged it in and turned it on, Dell’s Support software kindly came up straight away and told me the charger I’m using is rated at 90W and the laptop needs 130W, so… take your choice, either proceed or get a better supply.

Since I had no choice, I proceeded and the machine booted OK and was both operating and charging, but the power supply was getting mighty hot. These things are rated to 70degC minimum, so getting hot is not too serious, but I decided to turn the machine off and let the battery charge while I had lunch. That did the trick, as everything was cool when I got back. That’s how I’ll have to operate, charge up at night and run on battery during the day. No problem, and I’ll leave this charger here when I go home.

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The hotel owners have built a new restaurant facing the street (of course) and have named it the See U Gen. See you again, geddit? Not sure about that name, but it’s their choice.

They invited us to a small blessing ceremony on Friday morning.

Ladies tend to the shrine at the front.
A priest chants prayers over the offerings.
Centre is Kasih, the vivacious hotel manager, and right is Gopal, a really helpful employee.
These guys asked me to take this pic. They love to show off.

 

It’s been a while

Yes, two weeks without a post. Tsk tsk. Well, the rate should increase in the next few weeks as I head off to my second home, soon. This will be the first time I’ll be staying in this two storey hotel/apartment that we see as an almost ideal place to stay for long periods. The only drawback, for me anyway, is the stairs. These are high ceiling rooms, meaning the stairs are steep. It’s going to be difficult for me when I’m tired. I’ll just have to work on it.

Also, nice as it is, it’s only one bedroom. I wish there was another room downstairs.

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Some random thoughts:

I need to cut some medium density fibreboard (Craftwood) to replace a section of the floor in the Magna wagon which has got very wet at some stage and swelled out of shape. It”s shaped a bit like the lid of a grand piano, but less curved. It’s the bit that’s screwed down at the side around the wheel well.

Simple, buy some MDF and trace the outline, then cut it. But I don’t have a jigsaw any more. I used to have two good ones, but somehow they disappeared when I moved. I could have given one away, but not both.

Anyway, do I go to a pawn shop and buy second hand? Probably not cheap and no warranties either. Look on Facebook marketplace or Gumtree? Too much hassle and need to travel to see the item, and I may not like it when I get there, and I don’t like haggling.

What I’m getting at is that I already have an Ozito Bunnings brand battery drill, and they sell a jigsaw “skin” (i.e. no battery extra) brand new for $59.90. As much as it seems extravagant, I decided to cut the hassle and bought one today. I just swap the battery between it and the drill when needed, which is very rarely.

How insidious is it now, that once you’ve bought a battery driven tool, you are almost locked in to their system. You can buy another brand, of course, but that means another type of battery and charger. I’ve already fallen for Aldi’s temptation and I have their battery powered buffer/polisher with extra battery and charger, so that’s two systems. And I’ve had a Ryobi battery drill with two battery packs for some years, so that’s three systems! (The Ryobi batteries don’t want to take and hold their charge any more, so … do I ditch the lot? Throw it away? Replace the NiCd batteries in the battery packs at quite a large cost? or buy a new drill? (I sorta did with the Ozito drill, but it’s a small one compared to the Ryobi.)

This is very clever marketing. Quite similar is the Coles/Woolies practice of prominently pricing “Two for” $xx.00. You probably don’t want or need two, but you can’t resist the temptation to save so you spend more.

It’s applying to software now. A couple of programs I use have started the practice of offering 365 subscriptions, that is, you buy an annual subscription and get extras in the price. You can still buy it for a one-off fee, but you don’t get the extras and upgrades cost more. Insidious.

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I’m working on the cars, trying to decide what to do. I took Maggie, the Magna, in for a service last week and they very efficiently did a report on the car included in the bill. I was most impressed (Bridgestone Select, 56 Canning Highway, Victoria Park). Why all that way? My partner bought a Groupon voucher for me, bless her heart.

Anyway, the report showed that the tyres are good, the brakes, amazingly after about 15 years since I last had them renewed, are still good (I drive and brake very gently) and most things are OK.

But there are (“typical Magna”) quite bad oil leaks around the rocker covers, it idles a bit roughly and probably needs new spark plugs, a couple of belts are showing signs of wear and it “pulls to the right”. I haven’t noticed that, but they recommend a wheel alignment so that’s OK.

Anyway, he quotes me about $800 to do the lot, which I see as a good price, because I know that replacing the rocker cover gaskets and the rear bank spark plugs is a big job, too big for me to tackle.

So the quandary is, considering the car isn’t worth much as a second hand sale, do I spend the $800? Or sell it as-is, with the report shown to the buyer. If I were a buyer, that would put me off considerably.

The mechanic (very nice guy to talk to, no nonsense) suggested it would be far better to spend $800 on the Verada and I think he’s right. It has the same rocker cover oil leaks and I don’t know the state of the belts but I’m sure they need replacement. It runs fine, no sign of misfiring, but new plugs would be a good idea. It’s done 235,000km.

But I don’t think it’s roadworthy enough to drive to Victoria Park until I do the brakes, which are rusty and look in poor condition. I have the new pads for the front, and the jacks and stands, just not the energy or the ability to work down low.

Maybe I could get a mobile mechanic to come here and do the front brakes, as that would give me the confidence to drive the 50km or so to the Bridgestone place, where they could do the rears. That’s probably the best idea.

But that still leaves me with Maggie. She drives beautifully! I love driving it each time. It’s the same as when it was new – smooth, quiet and powerful. Very clean, but rust spots and those other items. Only done 156,000km. Anyone want a free car? As is. With report.

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I drove the Honda today and that also is a pleasure to drive. Its mass makes it feel solid and smooth and the sound system is top class. The feel of leather is great. I’m still struggling with the right rear door power lock, but that doesn’t matter, the door closes OK. The steering is very vague compared to the Magna, like steering a big stiff jelly, but it’s not a problem.

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It was such a nice day today that I bypassed my turnoff and went for a drive north past Alkimos to Yanchep Lagoon. The roadworks get on your nerves a bit, but what glorious weather! Second month of autumn nearly gone and we still risk sunburn in 31deg. heat.

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Damn, I just checked and the reticulation didn’t start at the set time. I can’t understand this system – it seems simple and straightforward to program, but it’s not reliable. I’ve cleared the memory several times but …

My neighbour reaffirmed last week that all these houses in my street were built as display homes when the estate was developed in 2004. I thought so – that’s why the photos I saw when I was buying this house looked as if they were done by an interior decorator, because they were. She bought at that time and said there were no houses on the other side of the street then. There are now:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I shouldn’t say this out loud, but I reckon I got the best of my group. I’ve been into both my neighbours’ houses, and I wouldn’t swap. I am so happy in this house! It suits me “down to the ground” and it would take something really remarkable to make me give this up and move. Sorry dear.

No, no, no…

Artist’s impression of black hole event horizon.

It was marvellous to see real science dominate the headlines last week, if only briefly. I must admit the image of the black hole was a bit disappointing to me, being so fuzzy (the image, not me), but I’m sure we’ll see better images as techniques improve in the future.

However, there’s something about the images we use to visualise black holes or gravity wells that’s never mentioned and I don’t think people appreciate.

Virtually all explanations of the distortion of space-time around massive objects use the metaphor of a sheet of rubber stretched tight, with the massive object (planet, star or whatever) sitting on this rubber sheet and pushing it down to form a well, known as a gravity well.

Beautiful image, but it’s not accurate (IMHO).

But a rubber sheet is two dimensional (length and width) while space is three dimensional (having x, y and z axes) and crucially, there is no preferred direction. There is no north or south or west or east in space, no up or down. There are no two dimensional flat planes.

So although the rubber sheet is a very useful analogy in allowing us to visualise space, it doesn’t show the true picture. To do that, we have to think of the rubber sheet as being drawn in every possible plane within a 3-d world. So the gravity well is actually a ‘ball’ with a ‘dip’ in its centre.

This is a bit hard for our minds to visualise, just as we find it hard to visualise anything above three dimensions.

So getting back to the opening image of the event horizon of a black hole, this is a beautiful drawing but space is not flat until it reaches the edge like that. It should be drawn as a three dimensional sphere with a hole (well) at its centre. In my opinion. That’s hard to draw.

I could write all day about this but that’ll do.

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Over the years I’ve accumulated an alarming number of hard drives of the spinning platter type. I’ve probably got nearly two dozen of various sizes from 500MB to 2TB lying around, as well as about five in regular powered up use.

Of course, when solid state drives (SSDs) became available years ago, they were the holy grail – an order of magnitude faster, completely silent, with no moving parts and a fraction of the size and weight of the old ‘heavy metal’. They were a multiple of the cost, unfortunately, but I bought my first one to go into my Sony VAIO laptop around 2011 or so. It’s still in there, working marvellously.

Then I built this PC in 2013, using an OCZ (the brand) SSD of 128MB as the boot drive. That went well until the final week before our school reunion in October 2014 when, after months of work on the reunion magazine, it chose then to fail. I subsequently learnt that OCZ had, shall we say, a reputation.

Anyway, I bought a 256GB Samsung SSD to replace it and was on the go again. But over the past couple of years this has filled and filled and I’ve been getting warning messages that it’s running out of space.

OK, I bought a 500GB Samsung to replace it, but it sat there for about a year while I decided on the best time to do the swap, and the best way.

I decided the best way would be to have another drive of 256GB and copy the whole of the existing C drive across, do the physical swap and then copy it back again. Cloning or imaging? A clone is where you copy every sector from one drive to another in one operation. Imaging is where you make a sector-for-sector, byte for byte copy to another drive and copy it back later in a two stage operation. Both do the same thing.

I ended up buying a 256GB microSD card, putting it into an SD adapter, then the SD card into a USB 3.0 reader/writer. Then with that plugged into a USB 3.0 slot, I did the image copying. Why this way? Because the microSD card is a fast one very suitable for video recording in my cameras so it won’t just sit on the shelf afterwards.

To avoid spending money on software I’d only use once in a blue moon. I used the free software Macrium Reflect 7 (https://www.macrium.com/) to make an image of my C drive to the 256GB microSD card. It took about an hour and because it uses a bit of compression, it nowhere near filled the card. This means I have a backup of my C drive at the time in case I need it in the future, although a $110 SD card is an expensive backup medium.

Anyway, a few days ago I powered down, slipped the SATA connectors off the 256GB C drive, removed it and popped the 500GB drive into its place.

Note that at this stage, I did not have a bootable C drive. So before I did the swap, I used the Macrium Reflect Free to make a bootable USB drive, using a spare 32GB thumb drive. That took about 15 mins and would be a handy tool for any future failures, although again, it’s a little expensive when a CD or DVD version would work as well.

NB, I tested booting from this USB thumb drive before I did any disk swapping to make sure I knew how to copy the image back to the new drive.

OK, I powered on again, booting from the thumb drive (and getting fed up with the clunky way my Gigabyte motherboard uses to choose the boot device). Eventually it worked and I was now running off the thumb drive in one USB port with the image on the SD card in the next USB port. I started the image copy process from the SD card back to the new 500GB SSD drive and an hour later, it was done and verified.

I rebooted from the new SSD drive and bingo, it was all done. But with one problem. I’d started with a nearly full 256GB partition on the old drive, and now I still had a nearly full 256GB partition on the new 500GB drive. Where was all my new free space?

Of course, the image had included the old partition table, so my new drive didn’t know it had this new space.

No problem, free software to the rescue again, this time Paragon Hard Disk Manager free edition (https://www.paragon-software.com/free/pm-express/#resources). This showed the new drive having a partition half way along the line, and allowed me to click on this divider and simply drag it to the right as far as it would go. Bingo, after choosing Apply Changes, it thought for a bit, then said OK, and that was it.

So my point in writing this is to marvel at the generosity of these firms. Sure, they do it to try to get you to pay for the full unrestricted products, but as I said, I only need this software once in a blue moon. This did all I needed and I’m very happy to recommend them.

Now, as well as a pile of “hard” hard drives, I’m now building a pile of spare SSDs as well. I obtained a replacement for the OCZ drive (which although free under warranty, actually cost me 456 in postage to Taiwan) and now I have the old Samsung 256GB SSD ‘spare’.

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I finally found a new radio antenna specifically to fight Maggie, the Magna and I fitted it yesterday. It’s not identical to the original, which has a cast alloy and stainless steel fitting where it goes through the car body. this new one just has two thick rubber circular halves which compress together under the chrome nut and it doesn’t quite fill the original cutout in the body. Water could get in, in other words. $20 runout item from Repco.

I’m undecided. The car is 18 years old and will probably be scrapped in a few years. I don’t think rust will be a problem in that short time. Or I could just squeeze some gasket-goo around the hole. That’ll hold it.

Meanwhile, I’m getting good FM and AM radio reception for the first time in a few years (the old one was badly bent and nearly broken for some time). The radio in the car is actually capable of DAB+ as well but the antenna for it is a windscreen type requiring gluing it to the windscreen, removal of the A-pillar covering and routing of the thin coax behind the glovebox and dash. It’s always looked so complicated that I never got around to installing it. How about that, I spend the dollars to buy a DAB+ radio, then get scared off and never install it properly. Huh, what am I?

Anyway, I think it’s time I put a For Sale sign on the car. I’m taking it for a service tomorrow morning and will give it a good wash and vacuum, put the sign up when it’s parked in my laneway and see if there are any bites. If not, I’ll put it on Facebook Marketplace and see what happens there. “Suit student or backpacker”. True. I’ll substitute an old Sony CD radio that I already have first, of course.

It’s still in use nearly every day and runs like a dream. In my entire ownership since 2003, the only things I’ve had to spend money on are tyres, batteries and exhausts. And a brakes job early in its life. And services. It’s never let me down except for a battery failure. Great car and still with less than 156,000kms.

Having the three cars at the moment, I’ve been worried about the fuel costs but it’s occurred to me that I can only drive one at a time (my partner uses one but pays for fuel when she’s here). So the running costs are not huge. I’m not actually ‘running’ all three. The cost of the licences is horrendous, but that’s only once a year and if I can sell Maggie, that will reduce.

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It rained this morning! Not for long, but definitely enough to water the lawns and garden. Warm, damp weather with virtually no wind, great!

My neighbours (on the right in the photo above) had solar power installed during the week so we’re “in the club”. I’ve noticed there is a period in the morning when the sun reflects from their panels right into my living area. I’m not sure whether that will be a problem, or maybe it will be a blessing in the winter, I’ll just have to wait and see. My panels can’t reflect into their house because their living areas face away from me.

Although my solar power was installed in January, I can’t judge my bills as yet because I’ve only had one bill since. That was distorted by being for a fraction of a billing period and having the charge for the new bi-directional meter. I should get the next bill very soon, then I’ll be able to see how much I’m saving.