And so it goes on and on

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Sitting duck.

More evidence of systematic exploitation of workers: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/

Businesses have been forced to pay back almost half a million dollars to 616 workers following Fair Work ombudsman audits of the hospitality industry in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane that found 72% of businesses had breached workplace laws.

Fair Work inspectors visited 243 businesses on Victoria Street in Melbourne’s Richmond, Glebe Point Road in Sydney’s Glebe and at Fortitude Valley in Brisbane. They interviewed staff and checked employment records, issuing 71 on-the-spot fines and 63 formal cautions, and finding workers were owed $471,904.

Of the businesses found in breach of workplace laws, 38% underpaid their staff, while 28% failed to keep adequate employment records and pay slips. Failure to pay overtime or to give staff adequate meal breaks were other common issues.

And https://www.watoday.com.au/  (Sunday 15 July)

“Research, including our own, shows that it is widespread and entrenched, particularly involving vulnerable temporary migrant workers in small businesses.”  Widespread and entrenched!

The authors: Dr Stephen Clibborn and Dr Chris F Wright are from the University of Sydney Business School. This article is based on their article in the current issue of Economic and Labour Relations Review: Employer theft of temporary migrant workers’ wages in Australia: Why has the state failed to act?

They offer solutions, the first of which is to increase the resources of the Fair Work Ombudsman. The government says they have increased the office’s funding by $20m, but the authors say they can find little evidence of this $20m.

Second, instead of demonising unions, make them part of the solution. Australia used to have an effective minimum wage enforcement regime, relying on joint regulation by unions and the state, in the context of permanent migration. High membership coverage and relatively free right to enter workplaces gave unions knowledge of employer non-compliance and opportunity to address it. Employers were deterred from underpaying wages given the high risk of detection.

Unions now have little role as enforcers. They have virtually zero presence in workplaces in low-wage industries given their diminished membership. Having lost their formal role as joint regulators they also have limited rights to enter workplaces. Restoring some of these rights and empowering workers to speak up could significantly address the widespread problem of underpayment.

What have I been saying?  This right wing government, ever the friend of business, found plenty of money to run a Royal Commission into Trade Union Corruption (nicely prejudging the issue), which found very little evidence against unions.

Yet here is pile after pile of evidence of business corruption (and we haven’t even begun to see the mountain of corruption that is Australian business), and the government takes virtually no action. I wonder why?  Could it be the well paid directorships and board places awaiting retired Liberal and National Party politicians?

 

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Eureka

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I finally found it!

About four years ago I bought a cheap smart phone, an HTC Desire model, and used it for a while, but became increasingly frustrated and bamboozled by my first encounter with Android.

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Then I lost it. I searched for a couple of weeks but had to give up and bought what I thought was a better one, a low priced Sony Experia. (That was a dog too, slow as a wet week. I replaced it last year with a OnePlus 3T, a revelation.)

Then in about 2016(?) I found my HTC, down in the front seat gap in my car. Bewdy, I thought. But then I put it somewhere and lost it again. Duh! I searched everywhere but couldn’t find it.

Then yesterday I was looking through various travel bags in my wardrobe and looked in a side pocket of one. Bingo, there was my HTC phone.

It works too. An hour of charging brought it up to 60% and all my phone book numbers and addresses are still there, and records of the last calls I made in 2015. There’s a SIM card in it, but it doesn’t work. Maybe I can get it reactivated.

It seems fast enough and now that I’m used to Android, it’s usable. It’s also very light and smaller, so maybe I should use it for travel. But maybe I should just lose it again.

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More evidence of employee exploitation, this time from today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

“The restaurant empire fronted by celebrity chef Neil Perry is saving millions of dollars a year from unpaid wages, with senior managers and chefs saying its profits are based on the systemic exploitation of workers.
“Overwhelming new evidence from current and former employees of Rockpool Dining Group includes hundreds of pages of leaked company documents, rosters and records of pay and hours.
“All point to the group’s dependence on extensive unpaid work by permanent skilled chefs and managers who are often migrants.”

And yesterday in Perth, the Ku De Ta prestige restaurant’s staff have walked out en-masse due to non-payment of wages. ( watoday.com.au )

So continues the pattern of businesses trying to exploit their employees, ignoring industrial awards and taking advantage of migrants and the vulnerable. The 7-Eleven scandal showed the way, exploiting mainly Indian and Asian part time workers on student visas who were too afraid to complain.

So much for John Howard’s warm and comfortable view of management-staff relations. So much for employees thinking they have no need for unions.

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I forgot to mention that I had my driver’s side window regulator (electric winder) replaced by a dealer, Wanneroo Mitsubishi, a couple of weeks ago after I obtained a non-genuine part, and it went off without a problem. They said it would be two hours, but it was all done in a bit over an hour. (They still charged me the full amount for labour, though.)

It sounds smoother than before and so far doesn’t leak, so that’s fixed. All up it cost $319, not cheap, but it should last another 17 years. 🙂

Next failure has been my Panasonic 4K BluRay HDD video recorder. Last night I found it won’t read any disc I put in. It’s only 8 months old, so that’s disappointing, but at least it’s still under warranty. It will have to be sent away, though, and there are many hours of programs on the hard drive that I don’t want to lose.

However, I’ve noticed that I can see the recorder as a network disc drive on my laptop, so maybe I’ll be able to record the programs over the wi-fi connection to DVDs. It would be hours of work, though. Ugh.

And speaking of wi-fi, for the past two nights I’ve been unable to use Netflix. It was working on Thursday night but now just won’t play any programs, saying “Problem, try again later.” Maybe the networks are overloaded by the World Cup games? I’ll try it again now. Nope, still faulty today, Sunday. I’ve run the diagnostics they give and my end passes, 15Mb/s network speed, so I’ll have to contact them. Dammit.

And as I suspected, ordinary DVDs play OK on the recorder, but not BluRays and 4Ks. That figures, there are separate lasers and the short wavelength one is not working. Dammit again.

I’ve already got my Pioneer BluRay player on the bench with what looks like a faulty laser, so that makes two waiting now. Plus with my Sharp Minidisc unit on the bench with a disc stuck in the drive, my work is scheduled. Thank goodness for the internet and eBay. Getting parts like replacement lasers (and instructions to fit them) would have been near impossible 20 years ago, but it should be easy now. I hope.

PS: I also have Netflix access on my TV, so I tried it and it’s working fine. That means my wi-fi network and internet connection are OK, so the fault must be in the Panasonic recorder. Two faults at the same time. Huh. Do I have time to return it for warranty service before I go away? Looks like I’ll have to.

PPS: It’s all working again. I thought I’d try a reinitialisation of the recorder. When you do it in the “Advanced” menu, nothing seems to happen and the problem was still there.

But next time I powered it on, it seemed to take a little longer and the BluRay and Netflix problems have gone away. And all my settings (channel tuning, favourites etc) remained. Great. Let’s hope it stays fixed. But why did it go wrong?

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Aaaarrrgh, now Word Press won’t save or publish what I’ve written, or show me any more than a handful of my saved images. What’s going on?!

OK, I previewed it and now it works. Huh.

PS: I forgot to mention, for the past month or so, I can’t stay logged in. I have to log in with user name and password every time i want to write or edit. Very annoying! Have they changed something? It occurs on both my desktop (Win7) and laptop (Win10), so it doesn’t seem to be anything at my end. Grrr.

Byoot day

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Happy ladies on a fine day in Japan   (C) PJ Croft 2018

Wow, haven’t we had some rain? It’s excellent when it’s not too windy. It was a bit nasty yesterday, but today, expecting it to be cool, I wore a T-shirt under my pullover and it felt too warm by mid afternoon. Very nice day.

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I had a doctor appointment to see the results of my 6-monthly blood tests and everything was fine (liver, kidneys, cholesterol etc), but very pleasingly, my HbA1c has come down from 8.4 in March to 7.6 now. That’s a big improvement.

We wondered why and talked a lot about diet, but the real reason only occurred to me later: sleep. Last year and earlier this year I was plagued by insomnia, as I said here ad nauseum.

But after stopping Tramadol (foot pain relief) and changing another med from before bed to morning, I’m back to sleeping normally again. I still have a few very light sleep nights, but in general I drop off quickly and sleep well.

It’s my opinion that this would account for the improved blood sugar control. I’ve emailed the GP to tell him and said, “Forget darkened room, forget milk before bed, forget shutting off the TV two hours before bed, forget stopping blue light from screens – think medications.” It worked for me and I am very relieved to be free of that insomnia!

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Japanese signage   (C) PJ Croft 2018

I’ve had a letter in the post informing me that the Home and Community Care service, HACC, has had its name changed to Commonwealth Home Support Programme, CHSP.

Here’s yet another government change of name that will require all new stationery, signage and IT changes, at great expense. As my provider says, it means no change for me, just the new name. So why change? It’s hang the expense, obviously, in government.

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Notice the –mme on the end of programme above. Many years ago we at Channel 7 were informed that Australian TV policy was to drop the –mme and just make it program. Despite being a paid up member of the Society of Pedants, I agreed with that change.

Also, in the paragraph above, notice the word stationery, distinct from its homonym stationary. I’ve never had trouble deciding which to use: stationery has the -e-, as in letters, while stationary has the -a- as in car. Simple.

Yet, with my pedant’s cap on, I gently ventured to correct my favourite photography blogger Mike Johnson ( http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com ) when he confused the two.

To my surprise, he mentioned my chiding in the blog and said in all his years of writing articles and editing magazines, he had never heard of that rule before, and thanked me for telling him. I was very gratified as he is a very literate and erudite writer.

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Restaurant, Japan   (C) PJ Croft 2018

Day after day, week after week, month after month, news article after article is appearing exposing companies which are exploiting their lower paid staff. Usually it is vulnerable employees who don’t have any bargaining power, being on various visas or work permits.

In the 1970s, ’80s and 90s we were bombarded with anti-union rhetoric by employers and the Liberal governments. In particular, this was the time of enterprise bargaining and attempts to get employees away from collective bargaining (i.e. union driven awards) and into individual “bargaining” between employees and employers. We were constantly informed that this would result in better wages and conditions for employees. John Howard, in particular, assured wages employees that negotiating one-on-one with managers would be a happy experience for both.

Look at it now, 20 years on. Union membership has fallen to about 10% (for reasons I’ve discussed before), but wages have utterly stalled for the past decade, in fact going backwards. The employers have not had to bargain with unions, so they are quite content to do nothing. At the same time, many, many employers are very happy to exploit employees as much as they can get away with. The only thing that stops them is the odd union member who complains.

Sure, it’s a minority of employers who do this, but how come we keep hearing about it?

And how come wages have stalled and gone backwards? Where’s the happy, cooperative attitude we were promised. It was bullshit across the board. The aim was to divide and conquer, and that’s what’s happened. Employment hasn’t boomed. The constant mantra is that employers need experience and qualifications, but they haven’t done anything to provide the apprenticeships or traineeships to enable people to gain the qualifications and get the experience. An apprenticeship is about five years, and from my own experience and observations during my working years, that’s what it took to get a self confident guy who could be left largely unsupervised.

I spit!

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Off to school, Japan.  (C) PJ Croft 2018

So, have you noticed? So. It’s the latest cliche. Everyone begins speaking with “So”. It’s driving me, y’know, nuts! Y’know?

Bonus

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Duck!   © PJ Croft 2018

Wow, posts two days running. After I finished yesterday’s post all the mentally filed topics came to me, enough for a second go. Aren’t you lucky?

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Aaaah, June 21, the winter solstice, the shortest day. From now on the days lengthen again, on the way back to summer. Yes please! I don’t mind the cold and rain so much, but the short days and late sunrise, not so good.

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On the topic of living life to the fullest, I saw a great quote a few days ago: “Try everything, except folk dancing and incest.”  Attributed to Thomas Beecham. I don’t know if that’s Sir Thomas Beecham, the famous (NOT iconic) British conductor.

I can think of a few more things to eschew in the first category: boot-scooting, tongue (meat), visiting Komodo Island, deep sea saturation diving and so on. Take your choice. Re the second, I think that’s a given.

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I’m updating my GPS navigators this afternoon. I say “this afternoon”, because both the TomTom and the Navman are so slow that I’m doing other things to while away the time. It’s taken nearly three hours so far and the Navman is still in the final stage of doing a backup after all the updates.

My TomTom is 10 years old now (I bought it in 2008 for my UK trip) and they’ve advised me it’s no longer supported. But persistence paid off and I found it would update. Especially, I keep it because it has a SE Asia map, including Indonesia and Bali, so I’m not letting it die.

I bought the Navman when it was reviewed in Silicon Chip a couple of years ago. It’s not only a GPS, it has an HD camera on the front for drive recording. I’ve been a big fan of TomTom’s ease of use and clarity, but the Navman has its own charms as a GPS map display, and it quickly became my permanent device in the car. I take the TomTom to Bali and leave the Navman at home.

The drive camera is good, but it’s not automatic. You have to remember to tap the camera icon on the screen to start it each time. Needless to say, I don’t do it very often and as sure as eggs, I’ll be hit by someone and it won’t be recording. Still, I’ve been driving for over 50 years and so far no-one has hit… Oh no, don’t say that you fool.

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Last year I copied (“ripped”) all my CDs to a hard drive, all 900 odd. Of course the problem then is finding the disc and tracks to play among all the folders.

I did a bit of searching and settled on two cataloguing software programs, Helium and MusicBee. This is Helium, showing just some of my CDs. This is just 44 of them.

Helium

I tried the free version for a while and liked it, so I paid my $30 for the full version. It’s very much database driven and the programmers don’t give much handholding, so I’m still trying to use it. (It automatically found all the CD cover images from the web, how about that?!)

That’s why I use the other one, MusicBee. It’s also free and classifies all the music genres down the LH side:

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MusicBee

It seems to be (Bee?) easier to find an album if you know what type of music it is. I’m not sure which will win out. Maybe both will bee needed.

But how great to have all this music at my fingertips. No getting up to put CDs in the player. Even more sloth…

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I need to get to the airport next month and to avoid imposing on my friends again, I investigated Uber and a hire car. Uber is $90 minimum one-way! Yowch.

I found that if I book through Air Asia’s site, I can get a small car for one day for $37, dropping at the airport. I don’t think I’ll need this, but it’s a viable way to do it. A lot cheaper than long term car parking.

I’m not dead yet.

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For your a-mews-ment.  (C) PJ Croft 2016

The rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. I’m still here, tapping away at these keys with my skeletal fingers. Trust your sense of smell. You’ll know.

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Wow, what a change to winter. April and May we were praying for rain, and boy, it’s here. This is like the winters of old, wet and cold all day and night. We don’t get this very often now. Let’s savour it.

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I’ve been beavering away for the past week or two trying to fix the driver side window on my car. It was being reluctant to raise a few times in the past few months, but about ten days ago it just went bzzzzzz and that was it. Stripped teeth on the winder gear, I assume. Unfortunately it’s in the down position and I can’t get it up. (Quiet there in the back stalls, stop snickering.)

I enquired about a new winder mechanism – no, not available from Mitsubishi any more, not for a 17 year old car. No problem, I found one on the web from a parts company in Brisbane, for $152 including express post. It still took 5 days!

I decided I’d try to change it over myself, but after several hours of beard stroking and muttering, and reading the Mitsi workshop manual pages from the web, I gave up. It’s too complex for me. You need nylon spacer gauges and another assembly has to come out of the door too. I gave up and booked it into Wanneroo Mitsubishi to have it done. They are OK to use my non-genuine part and quote 2hrs and $165. It’s booked in for Friday morning.

Meanwhile, since I had the door lining off, and the winder showed no sign of driving, I decided to pull the switch assembly apart to check the switch. I found soot everywhere from sparking in the past 17 years. The terminals are thick copper, so they just needed cleaning and a needle file, but I was surprised at the amount of soot.

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However, in the process, and without me really noticing, the window lock button sort of, er, fell out. When I say fell out, it fell to bits.

Boy, now that I know how to get it back together, I could demonstrate it, but it took me about three hours and several tries to get it back together and working. At one stage, I thought I’d just leave it out since I never use it, but no good, it has to be in place to bridge two contacts for the other switches to work.

Eventually I succeeded today. All the other windows work, but the driver side doesn’t show any sign of the motor working, so I can only assume it’s stuck between down and up. I’ll know on Friday. Of course it had to happen in winter, didn’t it?

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Off to the island up north again soon, and looking forward to it. It’s tricky to find the low fare times, days and weeks, but I ended up on Air Asia again. I decided I’d try Malindo as their seat pitch is 50mm extra and you get a meal and seat entertainment, but when I tried to book, I couldn’t find any way to add extra luggage or flexible travel dates. I always add these with Air Asia. Therefore Malindo misses out, I’m afraid, despite their attractive pricing.

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I’ve bought a 20Ah Lithium Polymer battery pack for my phone and laptop while travelling.

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Would you believe the brand is “Jackery”? It comes from a Brisbane company, so I hope for reliability and good service. I would usually go for a big name brand, but this was $104 versus $170 for a well known brand. That was too good to ignore.

The capacity is 20 Amp hours! That means it could supply, in theory, 20 Amps for 1 hour. That’s enough to melt the terminals. Or, more realistically, it can supply 1 Amp for 20 hours. That’s terrific. I was thinking it might run my CPAP, but that needs 12V. I’d need another device for that.

 

It’s tiring being retired

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Another beautiful autumn day. Will we ever get any rain?

Busy day today – brekky with my photo-dog mates at North Beach Deli at 9.30am. Much bullshit exchanged; that’s why we call ’em BSBs, Bullshit Breakfasts.

As we were slowly leaving, a woman stopped near us and said she’d overheard us in the cafe talking about the lack of rain. We exchanged a few remarks about that, and then she said, “Are you interested in spiritual things?” We said no, not really.  Privately I thought, “Uh oh.” Sure enough she said, “Have you thought about the power of prayer?” I assume she meant to pray for rain. We started to move away but she kept on, telling us that God could help us, or similar. Hmm, hmm, hmm. Bye madam.

Then over to Osborne Park to collect a pair of computer speakers I’d ordered on-line. I’m looking forward to hearing them, they are solid wood cabinets, built-in 20W amps and decent speakers. I shall report.

Then to IKEA, where I bought two cheap inexpensive trolleys, one to carry a printer on top and all its paper supplies below, gloss white timber – nice – $75. The other a white steel frame with wire baskets below, probably to take a scanner – $49.  Damn, I try not to bring things into this house, to avoid clutter, but I fail.

The white timber one was in a long carton weighing 18kg. I found it pretty heavy and an IKEA guy put it on the trolley for me to take through the checkout.

Out on the forecourt when I was ready to load it into the car, I wasn’t looking forward to lifting it off the bottom of the trolley. Blow me down, a woman, probably in her 50s, greying hair, small to medium build, came up and said, “Would you like some help with that?” I was quite surprised and said, “Yes, but there must be an IKEA guy to do it.”
“No problem”, she said, and proceeded to lift it from low down, holding the short width and lifting it easily into my car. I thanked her profusely and said, “Gee, I’m embarrassed now”, but she just took my trolley and wheeled it away.

I was embarrassed. Do I look so helpless these days? I’m quite prepared to get help from a younger, fitter guy, but a greying little old lady? Lawdy lawdy.

Then lunch at the shops and home. Phew, I’m tired now.

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While at the shops, I browsed JB HiFi and bought a two DVD set called The Back of Beyond. Why? This is the original movie from 1954 that I saw at the slide-ins at Cunderdin in 1955 when I was 8 years old, and it scared the shit out of me. I can still recall the feeling of awful desolation at seeing a few Aboriginal kids lost in the outback, trying to find their way, walking, to some town. It instilled a lifelong apprehension in me at wide open spaces, a fear of being lost. It’s not a serious fear, but the memory is still there.

The second DVD is Return to The Back of Beyond. I haven’t seen that one.

Another frightening movie I saw when I was very young was When Two Worlds Collide, around 1953 when I was six. Uncle Max took me to the slide-ins at Bruce Rock and then brought me home, back to the farm house. I had nightmares for some time after that. I’ve seen it since (I might have it on a hard disk, I think), and it’s pretty tame, but to a six year old it wasn’t.

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Coincidence again?  This morning in the bathroom the name Thandie suddenly came into my mind. Odd, I thought, vaguely familiar?

While reading the paper at lunch, bingo: Thandie Newton is the star of some film. Precognition again.

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I’ve taken notice of the time of sunset in the past few days, as winter slowly approaches, so the time was in my mind as I was driving the other day. Bingo again, right on 5.34pm, the time of sunset for that day, my GPS display switched from day to night colours. So how does it know? There must be some trigger in the satellite data stream, I guess.

Which reminds me, I’m pretty sure I heard a radio report that recently the accuracy of the GPS signal in Australia has been increased to +/-4cm.  !!!!  That would be the military accuracy, I assume. When we first got access about 20 years ago, we only got the “degraded” +/-10m accuracy, I seem to remember.  That was the US not wanting to give their enemies access to the same accuracy that their own armed services got.

But Europe and Russia both have their own GPS systems up now, so it hardly matters any more.

Holy Smoke

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Driving home yesterday, I found the air full of smoke and beautifully pink and purple, so I headed straight for Jindalee beach where I got these shots.

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They were taken with my phone camera (OnePlus 3T) and I confess the purple coloured ones were taken with my Polaroid sunglasses held over the lens. It’s approximately the way I saw it. It looks good, anyway.

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This is the spot where the crow took off with our bocce marker ball, and there’s a sequel to that. We tried to find another wooden ball, 30mm in diameter without luck. But my friend found a package of four soap balls, all about 30mm in size. Aha. I haven’t tried them yet, but I think a crow might find the smell and taste unattractive.

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Netflix – I’m a fan. I’ve discovered a new show on Netflix – Occupation. It’s made in Norway, is set in the near future and proposes that the USA is self sufficient in oil and gas, so doesn’t care about anyone else (yeah), the middle east has run dry, and Norway has developed a thorium reactor capable of supplying electricity to the whole of Europe as well as itself. Therefore it shuts down its North Sea oil rigs completely, unilaterally, in the interests of climate change.

Unfortunately, Russia in particular objects, and subtly invades Norway to force them to restart the oil rigs and supply Russia. The EU refuses to back Norway as they are nowhere near free of dependence on oil. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode.

The thing is, the Russian takeover is not a visible military invasion, it’s low key, with hardly a soldier to be seen. Except that Spetznaz troops are on the oil rigs, ready to force the restart. And so on.  It’s in Norwegian, with subtitles, but that’s fine.

And on SBS, a new series called Bad Banks, made in Germany with subtitles too but with many breaks into English. I’ve only seen the first episode but it looks great.

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This is crazy. I have at least a thousand CDs; about 400 DVDs and BluRays with more being added almost weekly; probably 50 programs stored on my HD recorder, with more being added nightly; probably 250 books (?) with more always being added; about 50 magazines queued up to be read intensively, and good TV programs to watch nightly.

As well, I now have internet radio with literally hundreds, if not thousands, of radio feeds from all over the world.

Talk about information overload! I can’t read all my books in the 30 mins I allocate each night before lights out. I skim my magazines and put them aside to be studied later. I store TV programs and delete many of them if I haven’t watched them after a couple of weeks. An embarrassment of riches.  And I don’t use Facebook or Twitter!

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I was listening to the US TV journalist Katy Tur being interviewed in Sydney on the radio today. She’s the female journo that Trump fixated on as the one to hate, and she’s written a book about it (which I’ve bought).

She was saying that at Trump’s large political meetings, the journos were barricaded behind bike racks, and she said, “I don’t know, do you have bike racks in this country?”

What an insufferable, condescending insult. Typical American, anywhere that’s not the USA is a foreign country and probably backward.  I would have been unable to stop myself sneering.