Faaassst!

Digital image sensor. Magnificent!

Aaaah, summer. A beautiful day, cloudless blue sky, calm and 32degC max. Luvverly.

My friend is in Austria and she sent me the view from her window:

Austria.

It looks nice to us, but I’m sure it’s less pleasant if you have to trudge through it. Or shelter from it.

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My title today refers to a PayPal transaction. In August I placed a web order for an electronic device from China (I blogged about it at the time, a “digital telecine”). The price was US$67 or approx. A$97 and I paid by PayPal.

Well, it was one of those “too good to be true” items and nothing arrived, no goods. I sent an email a week ago asking what’s the deal? As expected, I got no reply.

OK, I thought, let’s see how PayPal will help. So about 5pm today I filled out the “Problem” form on PP, and to my amazement, in seconds, within 10 seconds anyway, I got a notice to say my issue has been resolved and I have a refund of the full amount. Brilliant!

This was not a trivial amount – A$97 was a bit too much to just shrug my shoulders. I am impressed! Thank you, PayPal. I use them for almost all my transactions and this is the first time I’ve needed to complain – this is great.

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I’ve just placed yet another order for a new Li-Ion battery for my Sony Clie PEG-NZ90 hand held PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).

I’ve been trying to get this battery for the past couple of years, but they seem to be as rare as rocking horse shit. In the past few years I’ve ordered from four or five suppliers in NZ, New York, Canada, the UK and somewhere else but each time, my order was cancelled and thankfully, my money was refunded. Strangely, the NZ guy said he didn’t post to Australia. Huh?

Anyway, once again I’ve found a supplier in the USA (what did we do before Google?) and ordered two at US$7.95 each, plus $15 p&p. Let’s see how we go this time.

The original battery (I only ever had one) started swelling up and wouldn’t hold a charge, back in the late ’00s. I don’t really want to use the device, but it’s a very neat machine and I reckon there are people around the world who’d like to own one for nostalgia reasons. I’ve seen one advertised on eBay for US$285! I’ve still got all the bits – manuals, CD with software, charger, earpieces, cords and so on, the complete set. I can’t remember exactly what I paid. It was from the Sony Shop in Murray St in 2003 and I think it might have been around $800. Wow.

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Look at this!

No, it’s not scratched film. It’s a shot of the night sky using a telescope, and this is what astronomers have to put up with now. These are the very bright light trails from a new group of satellites put into orbit by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company.

Amazingly, these are just the latest thousand approx. of around 12,000 satellites that he is planning to put into orbit, to provide world-wide internet coverage. At his profit, of course.

The thing is, there are no rules or laws to regulate who can put satellites into orbit or how many! As you can imagine, astronomers are livid. This is going to spoil earth-based astro-photography and telescope observations forever more. Unless someone can take these satellites out of orbit, which is very unlikely. One man, one company can spoil astronomy, and no-one can stop him!

The only answer is for astro-cameras to be placed into orbit outside the orbit of these small bright satellites. That will be hugely expensive, and who will do it?

There’s one bright prospect: the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope, is to be finally launched from the Guyana launch site in the next few weeks. This promises to be a fantastic addition to our view of the universe and it’s been decades in the making. I fear for it, though. It is a huge job and incredibly risky and expensive. The lift-off will be in a few weeks, but once it reaches Earth-orbit, it then has to be tested, then boosted to a Lagrange point, where the gravitational pull is equal between Earth and the Sun. This is around 1/3 of the distance between Earth and the Sun and means the telescope will be much too far away for repairs if anything goes wrong.

Once it gets there, a few months from now, the satellite’s sails (solar panels) have to be deployed, then the huge mirror optic has to unfold and lock into place before it starts to work. The potential for something to go wrong is huge, and if it does, it’s hard to see how it could be fixed. There are going to be some very nervous NASA people for the next few months.

But assuming it all works, WOW! We will be able to see the universe with something like 100x the resolution of Hubble, and that was pretty amazing. I can’t wait.

Next day: completely by coincidence, this superb article explains it all much better than I can – https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-nasas-james-webb-space-telescope-matters-so-much-20211203/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits The drawings and diagrams are excellent. I highly recommend the article, it’s long but worth reading.

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I’m very happy to see the end of the political career of the member for Pearce (my federal electorate). This is a guy who showed from his early university law course that he is arrogant, misogynist and boastful. He grew up in a Liberal Party family and thought he was destined for a great career. Unfortunately he put his boasts in writing.

He was elected to the WA state parliament, then moved to federal politics and soon made attorney-general. But his boastful, sexist past came back to bite him, unfortunately involving the suicide of a talented woman. He is not accused of her death, but there’s no doubt that mud stuck.

He’s been forced to give up his high ambitions and is quitting federal parliament. Good result, as far as I’m concerned. It just reinforces the lesson I learnt in life, if you do wrong things, it will come back to bite you. Nothing more sure.

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Canon Pro 1 digital camera.

This is the inside view of one of the first all-in-one digital cameras, the Canon Pro-1. It was one of the first, in the early 2000s, with a high quality zoom lens fixed to a body with a 12MPx digital sensor.

Mmmmm

Yacht and Rottnest Island, 1983. © PJ Croft 2021.

We’ve skipped Spring this year and Summer’s arrived. It was 36deg on Saturday, hot enough to be very careful when you open the car to get in. Hot door handle, hot steering wheel. Car air-con on, but you find it’s ineffective.

However, it’s lovely. I like Summer. May there be more of it. With global heating, I think there will be.

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Bullshit Department:

Laboratory peak 20000W? That’s 20 Kilo Watts! “China Power: 2000W”. That’s 2KW. This is the Chinese Wish website. They are outright liars. This is just one example. Many, many items are shown at a cheap price, but as soon as you click on it, the price jumps anywhere from 10% to 50% extra. Or the cheapest colour in a range happens to be “SOLD OUT”, but all the other colours are more expensive. Oh too bad, there are still good buys, and I just ignore the bullshit ones. You just have to accept that they exaggerate like hell.

Very Good Idea Department:

A Lithium Battery Bike Tyre Pump. I don’t ride a bike, but if I did, I would jump at this. Great idea. There’s a range of them, anywhere from $21 to $81. Those are Aussie dollars, GST included, postage extra. Despite the bulldust, there are some good products on Wish.com.

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For example, they have a great range of pre-built electronic modules, such as this “radar body sensing” board.

arduino, humanbodyinduction, motion, Radar
You get the two for $2.45 plus p&p. Good value!

Don’t knock it, it means a device to detect when a human body is close, such as in a lift to make the doors close, or near anything that needs to operate when you come near. But, get the instructions:

Application Design Note:
1, the sensing fac
e in front of the gold without any shelter.

That’s Chinglish. Yeah, right. If I were to make a product to be sold in China 🙂 I would get a native Mandarin speaker to translate my instructions.

And look at this!

Mini, classd, Amplifier, Module

That’s a 2 channel, 15W per channel audio amplifier on that tiny board, priced at $2.97 +p&p. That’s a very useful device and terrific value. I’m sure the watts are Chinese watts, but watt the hell.

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I’m not feeling too good these days. Weak, tired, and my lower back is killing me. I can’t get through a supermarket visit without needing to sit down, which is near impossible in the supermarket. I had to sit on a pile of cans in Woolies on Saturday. It seems to have coincided with a big change in medication a couple of months ago. Not just one but three meds were changed. It will be a tough one to work out if it is the cause because I need those meds. They’ve worked wonders for my blood sugars, almost halving the readings so I need them. The readings are still above the norms, but much safer than before.

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I’ve just got home from a “Bullshit Brekky” with a couple of photo-dawg mates at North Beach. That was the first time in three months for various reasons and it was good. I need that, I need someone to talk to. I’d do it every week but I can’t persuade the other two. One is recovering from Ross River Virus, among other ailments and is quite frail. The other is 83 and seems to always be busy. Pffffftt.

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I called in to Clarkson shops for lunch on the way home and while I was there, thought I’d have a haircut. It would be the first since January, my hair is down over my shoulders and quite frazzly.

The only men’s barber has closed up shop there (among many others which have closed lately!) so I went to a women’s salon where I’ve had a cut before, especially on “pensioner Tuesdays”. I sat down in the chair and told her I wanted a no. 3, quite short. Luckily for me, she said, “That will be $32.50 today.” before she started. I said “What? $32.50?! I’m used to paying $20-$22.” She said, “It’s a no. 3 cut and will involve styling.” What? How much styling can there be when I just want it cut short? It did me no good, she didn’t offer me any lower price, so I said, “No thanks, I’ll leave it” and left.

What a silly attitude. She could have made $22 for a simple short men’s cut, but she’d rather make nothing. There were no queues, no-one waiting in line.

So now that there are no men’s barbers there, the other salons think they can hike their prices like this?

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Likewise, we’ve heard about price rises for groceries. Well, believe it, because the rises are not just 5% or 10%, they are 33% to 50%. Not everything, of course, and I don’t have to buy the more expensive items, but this is the return of inflation.

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While I was there I tried to use the SafeWA check-in app on my phone and just got a grey screen. Huh? I tried rebooting my phone but no go. Now that I’m home, it seems there was a software failure on the government computer that runs it. Aha.

The man who crippled the NBN

Palace Hotel Perth, 1980 before “redevelopment”. © PJ croft 2021

Aaaah, Spring has finally sprung and it’s hot! I’m going shirtless (lucky I live alone!) and I’ve got the fans on. It reached 32C today, not enough for aircon but it’s forecast to be 35C on Saturday. Nice.

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Secret figures reveal Coalition’s cut-down NBN tech three times more expensive than forecast

Exclusive: National broadband network ended up costing almost as much as estimated cost of full-fibre plan (The Guardian 25 Nov 2021)

Malcolm Turnbull at a national broadband network photo opportunity in 2016

Malcolm Turnbull ordered a review into the NBN in 2013 which led to changes to the Labor plan to roll out fibre-to-the-premises for 93% of homes. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP Josh Taylor@joshgnosis

The technology in the Coalition’s cut-down version of the NBN cost up to three times more than originally forecast and was closer to the initial estimated cost of a revised version of Labor’s full-fibre plan, according to figures the government has sought to keep secret for almost a decade. (My emphasis)

Yes, Malcolm Turnbull was desperate to find a point of difference from Labor’s NBN plan. He labelled it too expensive and too slow to be installed. So he mandated that we were to have the “fibre to the node” (FTTN) instead. The high speed, high capacity fibre would be run to metal boxes in the streets which were already used for copper phone wires and the high speed data would be sent to our houses on our existing copper phone wires. He said this would cost far less than the original fibre to the home (FTTH) plan and be installed more quickly.

There’s only one problem: neither came true. As the article above says, the FTTN, Turnbull’s plan, ended up costing just as much as FTTH, and it’s an inferior service! Australia ranks around 59th in the world broadband speed rankings. I’ve only got 25Mb/s (mega bits per second) which is OK but nowhere near that of Singapore or South Korea or New Zealand. All these countries went for the best fibre connections and get around 100Mb/s average. Fibre is capable of 1,000Mb/s (1Gb/s) under good conditions.

Instead in Australia we are lumped with corroding copper twisted pairs in ducts that fill with water at times.

Example of Telstra duct near my place. Does this look like a place fro hi-tech fibre?

What is it about this country? We come up with good ideas, good plans, but someone always steps in and wrecks it. I heard Andrew Forrest say the other day, that “Australia has great ideas, but we try them after we’ve tried every other bad idea first.” I agree. I despair.

The result is that we are having to re-do large parts of the network, and large areas still don’t have reliable internet connections, nearly ten years after Turnbull changed Labor’s plans.

In the meantime: Malcolm Turnbull, the man who single handedly wrecked Australia’s fibre optic cable network!!

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I’m pretty unhappy to report that I’ve been gaining weight, about 3Kg in the past three months. I know why.

The beer companies have come up with a new marketing tactic. They’ve increased the alcohol content from an average of 4.5-5.0% to 6.0-7.0% in selected labels, new labels. But because this attracts a higher excise duty, they package the cans in four packs, at a price of between $20 – $24. So instead of getting six cans of normal (5%) beer at $20, or $3.33 per can, we suckers who develop a taste for the higher alcohol content are paying $5 to $6 per can.

And because I weigh every day, and put the results into a graph, I can see how my weight started trending upwards a few months ago after I discovered this higher alcohol beer. My fault! I don’t have to buy it, but it gets me hooked.

Smart marketing.

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On 8 August I ordered a digital telecine, a Super 8 film scanner:

NB – this is a US company’s ad. I didn’t pay $446.

The one I paid for looks identical but I only paid US$69.18 (A$98.11) to an advertiser in China. That now looks to be an entity called DAWEI, which is a very common Chinese name. I’ve managed to find an email address ppyx7@outlook.com which looks pretty anonymous to me.

I never got a receipt or any other email confirmation at the time, and nothing has arrived. I’ve whacked off a “please explain” email to that address and given them 24hrs before I report them to PayPal, which is how I paid. Wish me luck. This will be my first time testing PayPal’s complaint handling service.

The device above is US$299 in the USA. I still want one, but that’s too expensive. I only have three large reels of film which I haven’t seen since I shot it in the 1970s. But once that’s done, I will have no more use for the device. Can’t justify spending big money when I can get the film digitised by a place in Perth for probably about the same amount – $400 – $500.

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The Prime Minister (Scott Morrison, aka Scummo) is showing his disgusting colours again. This week a Liberal member of federal parliament “crossed the floor” and voted with Labor to bring on debate about a federal anti-corruption commission. Unfortunately it failed due to a technicality.

So now Scummo has called this member, a woman! into his office for a discussion. He had two other senior cabinet members with him. You can imagine what that conversation was like.

And yet, another Liberal, a bloke called George Christensen, made an incendiary speech where he directly compared the Labor state premiers of Queensland, Victoria and WA to Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin. And he called for “civil disobedience”, meaning for people to defy the laws of these states for mandatory vaccinations.

Did he get a talking to? Of course not. He’s just regarded as a naughty boy, and boys will be boys in Scummo’s world. Morrison is very similar to Donnie Trump in that he thinks people who defy the law and call for state Labor premiers to be hung or decapitated are fine people who are entitled to protest.

PM Scott Morrison once again shows it’s one rule for the boys, and another rule for the “girls”. He’s a misogynist through and through, no matter how much he protests. Disgusting.

Closer and closer

Mandurah storm front, March 2002. Fujifilm 6x9cm transparency. © PJ Croft 2021

A fine Spring day, 30deg, and yet the forecast is for rain and possibly small hail – but only in the eastern and southern suburbs. Hail? In Spring?

Which reminds me, there was a map of the whole country (Australia) showing a high probability of well above average rain in the next few months. It shows that almost the whole of Australia will get it – except – you guessed it, the South West of the continent, yes, the south west of Western Australia. We miss out again.

It’s a mixed blessing, living here. We’re spared the droughts and fires and floods on the east side, but our rainfall is about half what it was 40 years ago. The change occurred quite suddenly, in 1977. I can remember it because I made a trip to the UK that year and I told a few Pommies in bars that we went for three months with not a drop of rain that summer.

At the moment we get most of our drinking and washing water from two sources: underground aquifers, and desalination plants. But there has been a news story in the last few days saying we have to get used to using even less water, because the underground sources are being used up faster than they’re being replenished, even though we’ve just had the wettest October on record. But it’s not enough.

I’m doing my bit – I’ve stopped showering 🙂 No, not really, but as I’m not perspiring and don’t need to satisfy anyone’s olfactory sense except my own, I’ve cut showering to every third day or so, about twice a week. It’s fine, I don’t pong. I’ll step it up as the weather gets hotter and I perspire more, though.

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I have around 1100 – 1200 CDs which I have “ripped” to folders on a hard drive, so that rather than physically get a disc, put it in a drive and press a button to play it, I use software on the computer.

I use a freeware program called MusicBee ( https://getmusicbee.com/ ). (This picture below is from MusicBee’s web site – it’s not my music collection.)

musicbee music management software interface

I was using another program called Helium, ( www.imploded.com ) which I liked, but they’ve just dropped support for Windows 7, so it’s goodbye from me. They do give a free version which is sort of OK, but when you try to click on a feature, it tells you you have to buy the full version. Yeah. I did actually pay for the full version a couple of years ago, but with the next upgrade I found I would have had to pay again, so they lost me.

I know I’m slow to upgrade Windows on this desktop machine but Win7Pro 64bit does everything I want at the moment and upgrading is too difficult. I know there’s a way to get the Win10 upgrade for free, but you have to update the motherboard BIOS first and it never seems to be the right time.

Anyway, back to the topic, MusicBee. This is the main interface screen:

The column on the left is the alphabetical list of every music folder (at the location I’ve specified). I tell it to scan E:\Music\MusicCDs and away it goes. Notice that “Beatles, The” shows that it contains 12 albums, meaning it groups artists with the same name in one group. My biggest collection is Mozart with 33 albums (i.e. CDs) matched by J.S. Bach with 33 and Beethoven with 26. (The grey Bee image is where it can’t find a real image.)

Notice how each CD has an image of the CD cover with it. I love this – so colourful. I don’t have to generate those images, the program either takes the small image dropped into the folder when the CD is ripped, or if it doesn’t find one, it goes out to the web and finds one itself. Brilliant. You can edit any listing and substitute any image you want, of course.

The centre panel shows all the covers in a particular folder, in this case Beethoven. Click on any cover image and you get a list of the tracks.

Double click on a cover image and it will play the whole album. Double click on any single track and it will play just that track.

But on the right is a column showing it’s in DJ mode, which plays a random selection from all your folders. It’s endless and never repeats, which means I’m enjoying everything from Mozart’s Piano Concerto no. 27, first movement at the moment to Bill Haley’s Rip It Up (appropriate) to Bridge Over Troubled Waters and so on.

My reason for writing is that one of the tracks played about an hour ago was xxxxxxx, in other words I can’t remember the title. It’s what’s called semi-classical, very choral, but not by any well known composer.

The thing is, the title is a well known one and it’s just at the edge of my consciousness. Each time I try to recall it, it comes just a little bit closer, but it won’t reveal itself. There, I nearly had it just then. If I recall it before posting this, I’ll write it in. Damn, it’s just hanging there …

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My reason for writing the above, about a fading memory, is that at age 74¾, I’m finding it harder to recall things. I’ll get them eventually, but it’s not quite as instantaneous as it used to be.

I’ve noticed for many years that stress kills my memory recall, for me. By that I mean any kind of pressure, overt or not. For example I was sitting in the doctor’s surgery last week to get some reissued prescriptions. Usually I can summon up the names, both the generic name and the chemical name, straight away, e.g. Pradaxa – exenatide; Pravachol – pravastatin; Lyrica – pregabalin; Ryzodeg – ryzodeg. Ha ha. Easy one that one.

I really want to write my memoirs, or autobiography, whichever you want to call it, while I still have the memories, but they’re slowly fading, just a little bit, and I can’t get started!

I had an idea a couple of months ago – I need to imagine I’m telling my life story to someone else. I reckon I can do that. It’s all there and it spills out when I start. It’s just starting that’s the hard part. I wouldn’t be the first writer to say that.

Another way to do it is to dictate it. A lady friend showed me a few months ago. There’s voice recognition software in an app called Live Transcribe for Android phones which uses the phone’s microphone to listen as you speak and it converts it into a text file. I just tried dictating to it and the transcription is perfect – there were NO spelling errors. This is brilliant. The only thing is, I can’t remember how to get it from the phone to my computer. I was shown, but I can’t remember. It can’t be too difficult.

Anyway, whenever I’m lying in bed my mind is dictating the story. But it’s only my mind – the phone is not on. How come I can tell this great story in my mind, but I can’t speak it out loud? Probably just a matter of getting started and practising at it, like anything.

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Phew, another close one. When I went to drive the Honda MDX yesterday, I found the driver’s side door open (in the garage, that is). That’s what I’m worried about, that the courtesy lights being on will flatten the battery again. Trouble is, I’m damned if I can remember leaving the door open. I never do that. Speaking of memory, as I was …

However, the battery was OK. I think there’s a timer on the courtesy lights. Thank goodness.

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Being diabetic, I choose sugar free soft drinks, when I’m not drinking nice cold water, that is. Often that’s Coke No Sugar, but I only have a can once a week, or maybe twice.

I just discovered a new drink yesterday in Woolies. It’s called Nexba Immunity. It’s a mixture of ginger with echinacea. It comes in 330ml bottles, strongly labelled “sugar free”, and I like it. It’s still too sweet for me, but most things are. I can taste the ginger though, which I like. $6.40 for a four bottle pack.

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What disgusting antics are being performed by the anti-vax protestors! Disgusting, revolting scumbags. What they are doing is holding the rest of us to ransom. The longer they refuse to be vaccinated, the longer we have to wait for the state borders to be opened up. That hurts all of us who took our vaccines early.

But worse than that, if they have refused vaccination, they can be virus spreaders to the rest of us. And if they get sick themselves and go to a hospital expecting treatment, they are endangering all the nurses and doctors. Holy smoke, the selfishness of these scum, the anti-vaxxers.

On top of that, the death threats against politicians! Who do these protestors think they are?

As far as I’m concerned, no measures are too harsh. They should be segregated into prison camps and left to infect each other. They should get no hospital treatment if they get the virus. Full crack down!

Uh oh, I stuffed up.

This composite image contains X-ray data from Chandra (green and blue) that shows heated material in the centre of a shell generated by a supernova explosion. Optical data from Hubble show the glowing pink rim, which is ambient gas being shocked by the blast wave from the supernova, as well as the surrounding star field. The Type Ia supernova that resulted in the creation of this remnant would have been visible from Earth some 400 years ago.

Oh, OK, we’re back to the sans-serif Tahoma style composition/editing font that we had a few weeks ago, before Word Press changed to Times New Roman in tiny 8pt for editing. Make up your mind, guys.

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Another cool-ish day, not like Spring. When will it be Spring? Maybe on the weekend, and a few days next week according to the forecast.

Good sleeping weather anyway. Not too cold, not too hot. I keep hoping I’ll roll over and find Goldilocks next to me. 🙂

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The headline is a confession: I wrote that I’ve bought a Sony mirrorless APS-C camera with lens so that I can use the Shoten adapter to fit my Zeiss/Contax G lenses. Well, I failed to read the fine print:

The fine print: Note: Only the Sony E camera has the function of Phase Detection Auto Focus (PDAF) can work with this lens adapter like α9 II, α9, α7R IV, α7R III, α7s III, α7 III, α7R II、α7 II、α7c 、α6600、α6500、α6400、α6300、α6100

The camera I bought, an α3500, is not in that list. Dang! My fault for not reading the small print. I’ll have to sell it on, although it’s perfectly usable as it is. The woman I bought it from had had no luck for a couple of months before I “made her day” and bought it, so I might have to work at it.

This means I have to buy another camera, although I’m not sure if I will. I’m hardly doing any photography and I have half a dozen excellent cameras, so I should just lock down and save my money. Even sell a few!

Oh oh, there’s a Sony α6400 on Facebook Marketplace at the moment for $1,000. Looks to be in good condition too.

And there’s a Sony 16mm f2.8 for $150. Dang, dang, dang ……….

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A cupla days ago I mentioned Russian dolls, the wooden kind. The turned wood dolls of decreasing sizes that fit inside each other. Or vice versa – they start small and get bigger. Ya know what I mean.

I mention it because I’ve just finished watching the first lot of the Netflix series, Russian Doll, only seven episodes but they promise a second series.

It’s got nothing to do with Russians or dolls. It’s set in New York and tells of a woman, and later a guy, who can’t die. That is, they die, but their time-line instantly resets a la Groundhog Day and they find themselves in one (each) location each time.

Big deal, you say, there have been Groundhog Day copies before. But this is good. It’s good because this is New Yawk and the actress, with a glorious head of red hair, is a brilliant Noo Yawker. The dialogue is brilliant, full of jokes and quips. NB: you’d better have a tolerance for language. Every second word is f..ck. Too bad, it’s Noo Yawk. There are even several c..nts, but half the women are lesbians so it passes as argot. They’re allowed to say it.

Anyway, each episode is only half an hour and I was watching two at a time. so it goes quickly. Too quickly. I recommend it and look forward to the next series, although since this series kind of resolved (their timelines converged), it’s hard to see how they’ll continue. But the script is brilliant, so I’m not worried.

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I said “cupla” above – just slang, not a word. But I saw the word chupa last night, as used in Chupa Chups. I always used to say Choopa Chups, but anyway.

I think, from what I saw last night, that it’s Spanish for “suck”, which makes sense. Yes, I’ve just used Google Translate to check (very handy, that) and yes, chupa means suck in Spanish. Well I’ll be, ya learn something new every day.

Talk About Silent Wind…

Jindalee Beach. Pity about those steps – there are 75 and I can’t use them. Sony RX10 © PJ Croft

Wow, that was quick! I wrote yesterday about the Shoten lens adapter that I ordered from China only five days ago (I think), and it arrived today, just now. Amazing. This is fast delivery.

And the packaging! It was like a Russian Doll, about which more in a minute. I used to have one of these, which I thought was called a Matrioshka doll, you know, those egg-like dolls that consist of five or six dolls in wooden shells of decreasing size.

This lens adapter arrived in an Australia Post yellow and white soft plastic bag – layer 1.

Inside that was a black padded bag with a sticky flap. Layer 2

Inside that was a box wrapped in bubble wrap and bound with sticky tape. Layer 3

Inside that was the cardboard box marked with the Shoten logo. Layer 4

Inside that was a hard square plastic box with a small latch. Layer 5

Inside that was a thick brown cotton draw string bag containing the converter. Layer 6

Inside that was another plastic bag covering the converter. Layer 7

Finally! But trouble so far: the camera shutter won’t fire and the autofocus only works once in a while. Plus the Micro 4/3 adapter I mentioned is on the 90mm Sonnar and I can’t get it off. Grrrr.

There’s a fairly detailed instruction sheet (both sides of an A4 sheet) so I’d better re-read that thoroughly before I jump up and down. I seem to remember they specified a range of Sony cameras tha the adapter will fit and work with. I wonder if I’m expecting it to work with an unsupported model. I’d better sort this out quickly while I still have the chance.

The body that I planned to buy eventually, if this works out, is the A6600, but that costs A$2,250 body only. I won’t buy it on spec.

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I got a strange delivery in the letterbox yesterday – a flyer asking me to condemn the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP. When you open it, there’s a well printed double sided A4 sheet about Falun Gong and how great it is. The main sheet is an A3 folded into a booklet and is well designed and printed on semi-gloss paper. A pro job.

Why me? Has someone noticed that I’m getting a lot of parcels from China?

To be honest, I am in great agreement – the Chinese Communist Party is a pile of shit, a military dictatorship which is going to lead us into war one day. They are committing acts of genocide and torture in XinJiang on the Uighurs. They trample over human rights.

They broke their agreement on Hong Kong. They are jailing demonstrators without justification. They suppress free speech. They copy and steal Western designs. They cannot be trusted. They lie, cheat, steal. They are annexing territory and when challenged and ruled wrong by the International Court, they tell the world to go to hell. China is going to be the death of us. I condemn them in the strongest terms.

All this means I haven’t disposed of these flyers. I’ll read them closely.

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I’ve just been shopping and for once I used the self-serve checkout. I hate these things but i wanted to get through quickly.

I soon found reason for my dislike – three or four items were markdowns, short dated items, but the yellow bar code stickers were poorly printed and wouldn’t scan. They were all the same, obviously from a bad printer. I put them aside, waiting for an assistant, but when I’d scanned everything else, there was no sign of any help, so I paid and took the bad label items with me. If they don’t do their job, I’m not going to chase them. Not the right attitude, I know, but …

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I’m not feeling very well. I’m so weak that I can hardly hold myself up. My back muscles hurt like hell. I’m groaning with every movement. I’ve booked a doctor appointment but the earliest I can get in is Friday afternoon. I’m going to lie down now.

I Really, Really Am Psychic. I think.

Busselton 1993. © PJ Croft

Aaaah, Spring at last. Temps in the mid to high twenties, even into the thirties. Doona off at night. Doors left open. That’s more like it.

I’ll also be getting more sun on my body. Two doctors have told me recently that my vitamin D is too low and I’ve been told to take three supplementary Vitamin D pills each morning. What goes around – I developed Ricketts when I was very young. That’s a disease of developing countries, from malnutrition and lack of sunlight. It causes bone deformities if it’s bad enough and it caused my legs to be out of proportion to my body, that is, they’re too short. They didn’t grow properly. I could never fit a bike, being too short for the pedals, and I always had to get trousers shortened. Heh heh, that’s no longer a problem. Why, have my legs grown? No, I never wear long ‘uns any more.

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Which reminds me of the shortness of our lives. A good mate I used to work with at Channel 7 died a few days ago from an aggressive brain tumour. He was a few years younger than me. Very intelligent guy and widely liked. R.I.P. Andy. It’s hard to believe you’re gone.

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This is incredible. I’m reading a book, The Silent Wind (ooopsie) The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn (about whom more in a minute). She writes very movingly of her dying mother who had a stroke in the hospital after a bout of pneumonia. As a result she couldn’t swallow and became distressed. The doctor decided she should be given hyoscine, a drug which relieves gastric problems.

I’d never heard of hyoscine before. So what should crop up the very next day but an article on the ABC News web site about hyoscine! I nearly choked and could hardly swallow. This is crazy – so soon and so relevant.

Then the name Olof Palme popped into my head a couple of weeks ago. He was the Swedish prime minister who was assassinated by a mentally ill guy about 25 years ago. You guessed it, SBS is running a documentary about the Olof Palme assassination. I suppose I probably heard an SBS promo without being aware I’d heard it. It made me shiver, though.

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I said I’d say more about Raynor Winn. Last year I wrote about a book she’d written called The Salt Path. It’s the true story of how this elderly couple lost everything in a failed business, which was nothing to do with them. They had been persuaded to invest their small savings and became directors without their knowledge. Unfortunately, when the business failed, they became liable for its debts. Their lifelong friend, who had persuaded them to invest, disappeared overseas.

As a result, they lost everything, and I mean everything. They owned a small farm in the foothills in Wales and let a small outbuilding for B&B and a small income. It all went to the bank. They fought it in the courts, but the bank won. All they had left was what they could carry in rucksacks, bought with the proceeds of the sale of their old van.

As well, Moth, the husband, was diagnosed at the same time with a degenerative brain disease with no cure. Can you imagine it?

They hit on the idea that they would just walk the coastal path along the Cornish peninsula and kind of see what turned up. The story builds around the idea that Moth’s brain disease goes into remission. They don’t know why or how, but the strong message is that exercise was the cure. Moth had been staggering and falling, but regained his strength and when they had completed the 670 mile walk, and found a room at a friend’s place, he was well enough to go back to university (in his late 50s).

It was a brilliant book. You wouldn’t think a description of a 670 mile walk could fill a book and hold your interest, but she’s a gifted writer. I enjoyed that book more than any I’ve read in recent years and I’ll probably read it again.

Now she’s back with a new book, The Silent Wind (ooops), The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn. I wondered what she’d find to write about and the first part of the book tells of how she and Moth met and got married. They were always walkers, campers and climbers, so walking the Salt Path was somewhat natural. They had two kids, by the way, but they were away at uni when the catastrophe happened and were in no position to provide any financial help for their parents.

Then she spends several long chapters describing her mother and their relationship, and her mother’s illness and eventual death in the hospital. It’s very moving, but beautifully written. This woman is a born writer.

They’re living in a room at the back of a church in Fowey, Cornwall, subsisting on Moth’s student allowance at the university. Dinner consists of pea risotto, frozen peas and rice.

Raynor notices that Moth is becoming weaker again, although he tries to gloss over it. She also knows that he got better when they were walking. Why? Raynor has been studying all she can find on-line (they can afford internet and a mobile phone). At the point I’m at, she finds a reference in a medical article that speaks of the vapours and oils that plants produce wafting invisibly into the air. Could it be that the plant vapours, which we never normally notice, are producing beneficial effects as we absorb them in the outdoors? Stay tuned for the continuation. Or buy the book.

I would nominate these books for a prize and as I said, they are worth re-reading. Highly recommended. Amazon.

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I’ve bought another camera. Hah! As if I didn’t have about a dozen good digital cameras already. No, always room for one more.

It’s a 20Mp Sony mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses in the Sony E-mount. It came with the kit lens, an 18 – 50mm AF zoom. It does all the usual things, hi-def video included. It’s near new. I bought it from an advertiser on Facebook Marketplace. She said she wanted to go back to Canon and she seemed to know her cameras, because she has bought a Canon R. Wow.

This is a 30Mp high end full frame mirrorless with Canon’s new R mount. This is serious money, about A$2,250 for the body alone. She had to buy an adapter to make her existing EOS lenses fit, another couple of hundred dollars. She must be an enthusiast.

Why did I buy her Sony? For many years I’ve had two Contax G cameras, the G1 and G2, and three Zeiss lenses for them.

Contax G2 with Zeiss 28mm lens. Image © Ken Rockwell.

I have the lens shown above, the 28mm Biogon, plus the 35mm Planar and 90mm Sonnar. These lenses are legendary for their sharpness, contrast and rendering. All the metal of the bodies and lenses is titanium. Beautiful cameras.

Trouble is, they’re film cameras and film is too expensive to buy, process and scan. For me, it’s not practical any more, so these two bodies and three lenses have been sitting in a camera bag, not gathering dust but unused.

As well, they are autofocus lenses but the focus area is only a small patch in the centre of the frame. There are no focus rings, so you can’t adjust focus, and they’re rangefinder lenses and viewfinders, so you can’t see whether you’re in focus or not. You do get a distance scale in the finder, but it’s guesswork about whether the distance indicated is what you want. The viewfinder is always in focus. The result was that I don’t think I ever got a decently focused picture in all the time I used them.

I have bought an adapter to Micro 4/3 so I can use them on my Olympus OM-D E-M1, but focusing involves operating a little metal wheel in the base of the lens. It’s very clunky, so I haven’t used it much.

Anyway, this is a long winded way of introducing a new adapter, the Shoten GTE AF adapter for Contax/Zeiss G lenses to Sony E-mount. Voila!

This gives full electronic coupling (via the usual gold pins) for aperture control and most importantly, auto-focus. Hooray!

So I needed a Sony E-mount camera to use the lenses with, hence buying a relatively inexpensive Sony Alpha camera ($350, including the 18 – 50mm) lens. The adapter is bloody expensive A$650 on eBay, but I’ll sell some other stuff to pay for it. If this works out, I’ll possibly buy a better body such as the one shown below, except I’ll buy an A6600, not the A7C.

Phwoooaaar. Instructions are below image.

Anyway, I didn’t buy that Ford Probe that I showed in the last post, so I’ve saved a few thousand there. 😉 The adapter’s on order from China and having received a confirmation e-mail, I hope to get it in the next couple of weeks.

I’d like to post a sample image from the Zeiss/Contax G cameras to show the lens quality, but in all the years I’ve had them, I can’t think of a single image worth posting. Very disappointing cameras. Let’s hope I can get something out of the lenses at last.

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I had to drive down to Baldivis to collect the Sony camera and what a boring, uncomfortable drive on a warm to hot 33deg day. It reminded me that the aircon on the Peugeot 407 isn’t working (I was told about it when I bought it) and I should get it fixed. And bloody road works on the freeway. From around Joondalup almost all the way to Osborne Park, they’re widening it, so there are only two lanes open, there are barriers all the way and the speed limit is 80Kmh. Frustrating, slow-down, speed-up travel. It will be this way for the next year, I reckon. They work very slowly.

That’s the first really long drive that I’ve made in that car, 82.7Km. It was comfortable enough except for the drumming if I have the driver’s side window down part way. I have to lower the passenger side a bit too, to minimise the resonance. Thank goodness for power windows.

Then I came back via the Rockingham Road coastal route, past Fremantle and through Cottesloe. I prefer that drive to the freeway, but the traffic lights drive me mad. There’s no synchronisation at all, so you can set off from being stopped at a red, and 150 – 300m later there’s another red light. Traffic lights after traffic lights! Infuriating.

I’m psychic!

Ohhh, invade me, please. Take me hostage. Have your way with me. 😉

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Are we going to have a Spring this year, or what? On Monday morning, we had 40mm of rain, taking us to a new record November rainfall since the 1800s. And more than 100,000 lightning strikes over the southern half of the state. Great photo in the West Australian today, unfortunately I can’t find it.

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Damn, my ability to summon coincidences shows itself again (see Venn diagram below :-))

A few days ago, in my last posting in fact, I was talking about genetic diseases and mentioned Huntington’s Chorea.

You guessed it. In Sunday night’s episode of Call the Midwife on ABC-TV, a woman was shown suffering an illness and it was diagnosed as — Huntington’s Chorea. It’s uncanny.

No it’s not. There are many diseases and some of them achieve prominence by repetition in the media. It’s not surprising that it appeared in a TV show, not that I thought of it either. The name is memorable. It’s just a coincidence, nothing more.

Oh well, back to my night classes, How To Be A Psychic.

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Which reminds me, I found this on the web some years ago and it remains a brilliant favourite:

I HIGHLY recommend following the link http://www.crispian-jago.blogspot.com … he’s brilliant.

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Uh oh, here I go again. I’ve found another car that I want, badly.

It’s a 1997 Ford Probe SV model, the final and best that was produced. It’s an automatic, so not so great; when I had the Mazda MX6 automatic, many times I wished it was manual. The auto is good for slow traffic, but it’s an old style 4-speed with no semi manual. I used to put it into third around town so as to stop it getting to 4th. (I’ve just noticed, the picture above is not the same car, or the wheels aren’t anyway. Different spokes. Generic picture from somewhere, I assume.)

By the way, this and the Mazda MX6 are basically the same car. Ford and Mazda were tied up back in the 90s and they each made a body on top of the same mechanicals.

I love this colour. It’s green, by the way. The lady seller says it’s been recently repainted in the original colour, which is good. The list of recent mechanical improvements is really impressive and includes a new timing belt, vitally important. Only 160,000Km, by the way.

Price? Asking $11,000. The lady owner in Morwell Vic obviously wants $10,000. It’s not licenced and as I wouldn’t even try to go to Victoria, I would have to pay the $1300 to get it trucked across here and it would have to go over the pits and be licenced here. No problem.

That price: two or three years ago they were an average of $4,000. I remember writing at the time that this was credit card territory, not too expensive in other words. Now, $10,000. I’d say this is partly because they’re becoming more scarce and desirable, and also because of the general rise in second hand car prices due to COVID and shortage of new cars. It’s possible that the car could continue to appreciate in line with scarcity.

Jeeez, this is tempting, but there’s one small problem, where would I put it??! I do plan to sell the Verada, real soon now, so if I can get that done, I can park it in the laneway. I don’t want to sell the other two cars, the MDX and the Peugeot. Hmmmm.

Also, since I started parking in the laneway, another couple of residents have started doing it too. I hope the council doesn’t get heavy with us.

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The language is changing. Words which normally begin sentences are being left off.

For example, “(I’m) Sick of people saying the young don’t want to work.”; “(I) Went to the shops today.”; “(It’s a) Pretty big difference.”; “(I) Found a wonderful portfolio …”;

I’ll carry this on asap.

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While I’m in rant mode …

It seems the entire world has lost the ability to distinguish between singular and plural in writing. Here are two examples in successive paragraphs in the same article:

“… the MacBook Pro has almost everything a photographer could find themselves looking for.” A photographer, singular, themselves plural.

” … few if any current camera supports …” camera, singular, supports, plural.

######### Sorry, I’ll continue this another time.

I’m back! “Every couple has their issues.” ABC News 11/11/21 Every is singular, their is plural. I find reading this junk uncomfortable. (It should read “All couples have their issues.”)

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I saw the GP this morning about feeling generally unwell – tired, weak, low energy. It seems to have coincided with the change in my diabetes medication a few weeks ago. But the change is working. Morning readings have halved and evening readings are down 25%. So we don’t want to try stopping any medication. So I’ll just have to hope that time will help.

While I was there, he measured my blood pressure – 101/60. Brilliant! This is bordering on hypotension, low BP. He’s asked me to take readings at home and report back. He might halve the BP drug I take. At least something about my health is working.

Good news

What a beautiful engine.

Good news in two ways, and one bad note.

The Honda’s battery is OK! I measured it yesterday and it was 3.0V open circuit. That’s too low for a lead acid battery and I thought it was a lost cause.

But I put it on the charger (or rather, I put the charger on it) and it was slightly encouraging in that it showed a steady BULK charging LED, instead of the flashing it usually does if the plates are totally sulfated. So I left it on charge for the past 24hrs and lo and behold, it’s fully charged and working OK. Hallelujah! This is weird because there was no warning that it was going to die. I guess the answer is that I have to be more disciplined in using the charger more often. I only drive this car once or twice a week.

The second bit of good news is that there’s a three years RAC battery warranty. Wow. That’s a big chunk of peace of mind. If I’d realised that with the last battery failure early this year I might have been able to get it replace under warranty. Must keep that in mind.

The bit of bad news is that I went to charge the tyre pump battery in my Aldi jump starter/pump/torch and it showed … nothing. No charging taking place. Gaaaah!

It’s a little plug pack (wall wart) rated at 15V DC 0,5A. I put the meter on it – zero. No output. Kaput. What a pain. OK, I’ve got a box of these things but 15V is unusual. Not sure I’ve got one of those. Anyway, that’s easy fixed.

Now to drive the Honda and start paying more attention to what I think is a power steering low fluid noise. A whine which varies with steering wheel angle effort. My usual method is to ignore it until it bites me, i.e. it fails in some way. Must get off my backside and attend to it.

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Speaking of electronic thingies, a design appeared in Silicon Chip magazine January 2020 issue for a model railway DCC control station. Aha, just what I wanted as commercial units cost $800 – $1,100. As the article says, you can build this unit for far less than that, in the region of $200 (assuming you interface it to your laptop PC).

But I was massively disappointed in the article. It assumes a higher level of knowledge of Arduino microcomputers than I have. Part of the article says, “It is assumed that you are familiar with the Arduino IDE [Integrated Design Environment] to proceed.” Huh? No, I use computers a lot, but I never learnt embedded micros or the C++ language and so on.

As well, the design is just bare printed circuit boards. No box, so control panel, no knobs or switches. Very disappointing! OK for someone of a much younger age, I suppose, but no use to me. So for nearly two years I’ve let it lie and considered spending the $800 or so to buy a commercial one (but I haven’t).

However, one of my former work colleagues came around last weekend and showed me what it all means, how to deal with it. He’s always been red hot on microcomputers, ever since they came into being in the 1980s. He’s a whiz kid. I say kid deliberately, because he looks perpetually young. He’s 10 years younger than me and I remember when he first started at Ch7 at age 18, he looked like a Boy Scout, which he was. He still does, forever young. But he had a massive heart attack a few years ago, and was lucky to survive. Looking young didn’t help him. But he’s OK now, touch wood.

Anyway, his tutelage has inspired me to look at this train controller with new eyes and give it a go. I’ve realised it’s not as difficult as I thought (as is the case with many things). I just need to build up two small printed circuit boards and buy the ready made Arduino micro PC

Duinotech UNO r3 Development Board
An Arduino micro computer.

This is a complete computer on a small board, about 50mm square. That’s the USB connection to your laptop at left, DC power socket at right, all the computer and memory in the long integrated circuit and all the inputs and outputs in those long pin sockets along the edges. Price? $29.95 from Jaycar. Why “Arduino”? It was developed by an Italian guy about 15 years ago and it’s become a very well known and supported system.

I’ve bought two kits of the PCBs and “hard to get bits” from Silicon Chip (total cost $82) so I’ll be building two of these.

Unfortunately, it all has to be controlled from a laptop and there’s a simple software program to do this (free download), but I don’t like that much. I want knobs and buttons and lamps and switches! So my friend is planning to put his mind to designing something. He’s got some model trains himself and so he’s interested. He’s very capable of doing this, he’s very bright. And as I said to him, I reckon there must be others who would want a design like this.

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I pumped the Peugeot tyres up yesterday as well, and although it’s hard to be sure, I think it was the left front again, just down a fraction. Gee, these are very sensitive. So I’ve pumped ’em all up to 2,4Bar this time to allow for a bit of leeway. A bit of over inflation won’t hurt with my small amount of driving.

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A few posts ago I started to talk about my current book, and because I’d forgotten the name I didn’t continue. Well, it’s A Crack in Creation by Dr Jennifer Doudna and Dr Samuel Sternberg. These are the researchers who discovered CRISPR, the gene editing DNA technique.

CRISPR stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. It’s all about a sequence of DNA that can be used to precisely cut and rejoin the twisted DNA chain that’s become so familiar as the basis of life. This means that any changes or insertions can be done precisely and easily, whether the DNA is in plant cells, animals and yes, humans.

The implications are tremendous but also frightening. It could be used to cure many human genetic diseases, the best known being Huntington’s Chorea as one example as the DNA location and sequence of the hereditary problem is well known.

But the section I’m reading at the moment is talking about the potential to wipe out entire species or populations of insects or animals by a technique called gene drive. For example, the entire mosquito population of the Earth could be made to die out by changing the genome (DNA) of just one mosquito and letting it loose in the wild. Since mosquitoes are the cause of enormous human suffering (malaria, Ross River virus, chikangunya, and so on, all the mosquito-born viruses) the temptation is there to wipe ’em all out. But we don’t know what the effects would be on the environment as a whole.

Anyway, I’m finding that I’m having to skip forward through the book because although it’s well written and interesting, it’s so technical and jargon-filled that you need to be a biochemist to follow it. I guess if I re-read it, it might make more sense, especially as it has good diagrams to help, but I can’t follow it at the moment. I’ll skip forward and hope it improves, and I’m sure someone with a more biochemistry background would find it fascinating, but I’m finding it heavy going.

Crikey!!!

Honda MDX Aussie model.

Three cars, two of them dead.

Aaaaaarrrrrrgh!! Another dead battery in the Honda! Completely flat. Bereft of life, it’s nailed to the perch. That’s the third time in a year. At around $200 a time, this is too expensive.

What have I done wrong? Left the lights on? No, I checked the switches. Did I leave a door ajar? No, not that I can see. The horrible thought is that there’s an intermittent battery drain fault, and tracking that down would be almost impossible.

I’ll put it on the charger, but I fear the worst.

The other dead car is the Verada. Yeah, still. It’s got the fault that it will start OK for about two seconds, but then stops. Try again, same. I found the “martybugs” article today and I’m pretty sure it describes my problem, so at least I know where to look. But it talks about a connector deep under the dash. I can’t get down there, not a hope. I’ll call the RAC and get them to take it to their workshops. Even if it costs me, it’ll be worth it.

So both problems are fixable, but I’m a bit tired of having these hassles.

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I’ve talked about the sensitive tyre pressure monitoring system in the Peugeot, where it seems to only take a drop of 0,1Bar to trigger the alarm. (32psi = 2,2Bar). It’s gone off twice so far, once on the left front, the second on the right rear.

Well, Wunderbar, it’s triggered again. What wheel will it be this time? I guess it’s a good thing that it warns me, but I’m getting a bit “tyred” of this. Pardon the pun-cture. Hissssss.

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I’ve had a car cigarette lighter socket to USB adapter for a year or two which is constantly losing its connection, so that my GPS navigator dies until I wiggle the adapter. OK, they’re cheap, I’ll just buy another one, which I did from the Chinese Wish web site. About $4.

Aaaarrrrrrgh, would you believe I can’t even get it to hold the connection for more than a second or two. What do I have to do???

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Sony CLIÉ PEG-NZ90. The most cyberpunk smartphone that ever existed turns  10 years old next year. | 10 year old, Smartphone, Electronic products

Batteries again. I have a Sony Clié Personal Digital Assistant from 15 years ago. I never use it, but it’s a very neat device and I think people would buy it on eBay, so I want to get it ready for sale. But it uses a unique battery. Mine died years ago (there’s a story there!)

So for the past few years I’ve been trying to buy a new battery. What I’ve found is that many advertise, but few are able. To supply, that is. They’ll all take your order, and sometimes your money, but in every case so far, they refund my money with either a curt “No stock” or no words at all.

But the latest one has taken my money (A$35.84 back in April) and despite confirming my order with an order number and telling me it’s been despatched (with no result), my emails just bounce. I have two email addresses but neither works. So it looks like I’ve done my dosh. I do have web addresses, so I guess I’ll just try again. Sigh. At least $35 is not too big a loss.

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On the other hand, a few months ago, I paid for a digital telecine (a Super 8 movie film to digital converter). This was A$79. Again, nothing has arrived so I’ll have to find my order and chase it up.

I’ve realised that both these were bought using PayPal, so I stand a chance of getting my money back, especially if I threaten them with a bad review. Hmmm.