Eureka!

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Can it be? I think I’ve found the reason for my insomnia – Tramadol, a drug I’ve been taking for the diabetic pain in my feet. I’ve said the insomnia has been slowly increasing over the past five years or more, and so has my use of that painkiller.

I’ve dropped it entirely now and I’ve been sleeping properly for the past week or more. Thank goodness! It was a major problem for me, really serious. Insomnia is not considered a major side effect of the drug, but it is there in the list.

I’m just using Panadol now and it seems to be enough.

snoopy

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I’m seven episodes into series two of The Crown on Netflix now. What a magnificent production! The casting is near perfect, all the actors seeming to resemble their characters and Clare Foy, playing Queen Elizabeth, conveying all the majesty and authority of the position. Matt Smith, the former Dr Who, plays Jookembra to a T. The Duke of Windsor character looks very much like the real duke.

Last night’s episode was about the former king’s dalliance with the Nazis before and at the start of WW2. I didn’t really know this, or the details of why he lived in Paris for the rest of his life. That’s the thing about this series: I’ve lived through it all, but I’ve never been clear about a lot of the history. The Suez crisis for example: I’ve always known about it, but only sketchily. Now I know.

Anyway, when this comes out on BluRay, I think I’ll buy it because I’ll watch it again. There are ten episodes per series and there are two series made so far, with series three being released in March. Thirty hours of top class TV, and it hasn’t even finished. There will be a series four, for sure.

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Christo gun

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a member of the Australian Parliament. A member of the Nationals party. He thinks it’s a joke, that we shouldn’t take it seriously. It’s disgusting.

I wouldn’t call myself a greenie, but I support environmentalism and admire the Greens party members. He’s aiming at me, in other words.

A female member of the Greens party has shown a Twitter message she’s received after this which is too vile to be shown here (warning). It’s not worth repeating, but there’s no doubt that the man who sent it wasn’t joking.

Coupled with the poor behaviour of the leader of the Nationals, what a disgrace they are. The coalition are crumbling, disintegrating. As a political commentator said last week, all Bill Shorten and Labor have to do is sit back and watch, and turn up on voting day.

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Ironing’s done

 

Java10 Borob CU

Borobodur, Java

I had an iron infusion this afternoon. It’s part of my treatment for CLL, my iron levels being marginal low. Tired all the time. All my other tests were fine, so there’s nothing major wrong, but we’re hoping this will boost my energy levels.

Crumbs, it was a big 300ml bag of dark brown fluid and it looked like an infusion of Guinness. Wish it was. I felt nothing except a strong need to face North when it was finished. I guess I’d better keep clear of MRI machines and magnetic strips for a while 🙂

The haematologist said he’ll want to work out where the iron has gone if it’s low again at the next test in three months. That might mean a gastroscopy or (another) colonoscopy, or even swallowing a camera. Yeah, a colour TV camera small enough to be swallowed, that transmits to a recorder outside the body as it goes through the gut. Amazing.

This was at Joondalup Hospital on a 37deg day and when I was leaving, I had to walk a fair way to the parking pay machine, then a fair way back to my car, only to be unable to find my keys. Gah! I figured they must have fallen out of my pocket in the chair while having the infusion, so I tramped all the way back in the heat. Nope, no keys by the chair. Then I felt in my pocket again and there they were, deep down under my hankey! Grrr.

But it’s an ill wind … as I was leaving, the receptionist said it’s lucky you came back, because she forgot to get me to sign the HBF costs form. Yep.

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King’s College Cathedral, Cambridge   (C) PJ Croft 2008, 2017

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’ve signed up for Netflix pay-TV, (something I never thought I’d do, pay-TV that is). I dragged my feet setting up the network connection because I could get it on the laptop, enough to check it out. The first month was free anyway.

A few mornings ago, I set up the network connection on my DVD-HD recorder, which is specifically sold as Netflix compatible, as is my TV. After a hassle with my N/F password, I was in like Flynn.

Well, not bad! I mainly wanted Netflix for The Crown, that magnificent production, and there it is, including series 2, which I’m watching most nights. It’s in High Definition and the quality is fine. When I first connected I was asked if I want a 4K connection for another $4 a month, on top of the $13.95 I’m paying now. Although I have 25Mb/s NBN, that’s not enough for 4K. Anyway, the quality I’m seeing in HD is fine.

I can hardly believe this: High Definition colour TV seemingly appearing from nowhere (i.e. not from an antenna), just by a radio transmission from the front room of my house to the recorder, which has no visible wi-fi antenna. Free of dropouts, completely reliable. Bazinga.

But wait, there’s more. On flicking through the available network channels, I found the Berlin Philharmonic channel. Amazing – hundreds of classical music performances by the BPO and other performers, thousands of hours, in HD and 5.1 stereo if you can use that. The only drawback is the cost – a bit over $22 per month, or $222.40 per year. I suppose that’s not too bad. You can also buy a week or a month at a time. Special live performances cost extra as well, as much as $40 for one evening’s concert.

I’m not sure if you can record this, or Netflix either. Many of the BPO live concerts start at 02:00 our time, so …

Yup, another year

Me train veranda

Who’da thought that Laughing Boy here would be 71 now?  (About 1951, age 4)

It’s that day again, 12 February. My 71st birthday. There’s nothing to distinguish this milestone except that I’m here to write this and it’s a prime number. Primes somehow seem ugly to me: 6 is neat, curvaceous, but 7 is boring, just two strokes. Oh well.

I’m writing this at 4.30am after another fruitless attempt at sleep (why do we say fruitless? I wasn’t seeking fruit). My sleep has been very erratic recently, many nights of fairly normal sleep, such as Saturday night, but then it’s back to insomnia again. Some days I sleep to excess.

Oh, damn!! I just remembered, there was a lecture about sleep disorders on Saturday and I forgot all about it. Damn. There doesn’t seem to be any cure for insomnia anyway, just the usual strictures about “sleep hygiene”, darkening the room and so on. How come I can drop off easily during the day when the room is quite bright, but not at night when it’s dark?

Anyway, I heard recently that kiwi fruit are a good sedative food, so I’ve just had one. Not tired yet.

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I’ve been watching repeats of the US TV series on SBS, The Good Fight. It’s about a firm of lawyers in Chicago (who are almost all “people of colour”) who take up good causes, like union fights with employers. It’s good enough to watch twice, at least. I was hoping it was a second season, but no. Maybe that will come after the re-runs.

Anyway, the title’s been making me think: every series seems to play on The Good… for its title these days. As well as the above, we have The Good Doctor (on 7), The Good Wife, The Good Place, and I’m sure I saw The Good Men the other day. Not much imagination.

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I watched a BluRay movie the other night called Life. Although it’s action packed and with fantastic sets, it’s just another take on Alien: a spacecraft returns from Mars and docks with the International Space Station. It brings a sample from Mars which seems to be a life form. Of course, they rush the examinations and it turns out to be growing exponentially, enough to grab and crush the tech’s hand and get out of the containment by breaking through his glove. It escapes from the isolation lab and starts killing the astronauts. It looks like an octopus.

All kinds of mayhem occurs until there are only two people left, a man and a woman, naturally. They realise they have to stop it from reaching Earth, so the guy sacrifices himself by luring it into his escape capsule with him, which he launches on a trajectory out into deep space, while the woman re-enters Earth’s atmosphere. Or does she? The capsule splashes down in the ocean somewhere near Thailand, by the look of it, but when the fishermen start to open the capsule door, we see that it’s the guy in there (there’s been a mixup) and he’s in the grip of the evil octopus and is pleading with them not to open the hatch. In vain, because they do open it. The end.

Very good space station shots, but the story line? Rubbish. Another Alien. Pah!

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My eyes have settled down with their new lenses, but I’m afraid my distance vision is not as good as it was with glasses before my cataract operations. I can do without glasses for most things, including driving, but ironically, I can’t see all the detail that my fantastic 4K TV displays. I watch without glasses as my +2.0 reading glasses are not effective at the distance from the screen, but that distance is either too far or too close, I’m not sure. I’m sure I’m not getting the benefit of my luxurious ultra hi-definition screen, though, dammit.

I’m also noticing slight double vision. Typing this, wearing my reading glasses, I’m seeing a faint repeat of the text a millimetre above and slightly right of the main text. The surgeon said I have strong astigmatism, and suggested that needs further correction. In any case, I think I’ll have to go back to wearing bifocals full time. Not yet, I’ll give it more time, but…

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With all the talk about having strong passwords these days, I started using a new password keeping program a few months ago, Dashlane. I’ve been using a program called Portable Safe for many years and it’s good, but Dashlane got such good reviews that I thought I’d try out the free version. Its strong point is that it recognises any place where you’re required to type in your name and/or email and any other data and supplies it, and offers to insert the password as well in the required field. It works very well. But when you don’t have to remember or look up passwords, you forget them!

It’s like the evil octopus in that movie, it gets a grip on you and you realise after a while that you have to keep using it. It offers to generate passwords for you, very strong ones, and once you’ve done a few of these, it has its grip.

In fact one of its features is that it will change every password for you to a new strong one with one click. I have over 200 passwords. If I use that feature, I think I’m locked in.

It stores all your passwords encrypted in “the cloud”, which is good, so when they offered a three computer licence for about $15, I took it. I’m hooked now.

It’s pretty easy to use, and works as advertised. It does save typing, and remembers numbers and such, so I recommend it.

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I mentioned getting a new exhaust. Of course, the complete exhaust needed replacing, not just the muffler. $550! Yow! It was last replaced in January 2013 (in the midst of all my stressful moving house) and I’m pretty sure I remember it costing about $400 then, maybe $450. That’s a lot of price rise for five years. Can’t be helped.

Then I asked them to check my tyres (silly boy!). Two needed replacement, so that added to the bill – about $850 total. Urrrgh. Owning a car is expensive, but not having one is unthinkable. I might be banned from driving for medical reasons one day, so I’d better think about it.

Super Moon Eclipse etc

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Did you get a good view of the Triple Whammy, the Super Blood Blue Moon Eclipse? I went to what I thought would be a good viewing point, Neil Hawkins Park, overlooking Lake Joondalup. It would have been a great shot, except that I misjudged the time it would take to get there. When I arrived, the moon had already risen quite a way above the horizon. I have to confess that the shot above is a composite of two shots, a wide angle of the reflection on the lake, and a close up of the moon placed into the frame.

There’s a small wooden jetty out over the shore of the lake, and for some reason I thought I would be the only one there. Hah! The rail of the jetty was full when I arrived, but luckily a few people moved away and I was able to get a front row spot. But I was a bit late, so after a while I moved back to the shore and found a seat, where I stayed until the totality of the eclipse at 8.51pm.

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Eclipse totality.   Panasonic FZ70 1200mm  ISO800  f5.6 ¼sec

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Who says a Blue Moon isn’t blue?

I packed up at that time and went home. The moon was still emerging from the eclipse when I got home, as seen from my backyard. I’m glad I went, it was a good night.

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How about this? I saw one of these parked about 1km up the back streets from my place.

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Lotus Evora

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The one I saw was red (of course).  It’s not my style, too extreme, but someone in this area had enough cash to buy one. Unless he’d just asked for a test drive.

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I’m sitting here waiting for the window installers to come. They said they’d be here from 8am to 10am to do the job, i.e. fitting a replacement window for the one that was damaged when the cops broke into my bathroom last October, when I had the collapse. But at 9.30am they haven’t arrived, or called. Humph!

PS: they arrived at 12:00 noon. Although I deduct marks for lateness, after 1½ hours the job was finished, and it’s excellent. The finish is immaculate, except for some broken tiles on the floor where it meets the window. That will be a separate job for a tiler. (To make it easier, I’ll tell him I won’t mind if we use a different tile shade.)

So that’s nearly all done, then. I’ve got a key safe on the outside now, so they won’t have to break in again.

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I called in to the K-Mart auto repair shop the other day to see about getting a new muffler or exhaust fitted to my car. I was pleasantly surprised when the guy said I’d be better off going to Joondalup Exhausts in Joondalup (natch). He said they have a big range of hardware in stock, and K-Mart gets their parts from them anyway. And they would be cheaper. That’s a refreshing change, a bit of honesty and frankness. Much appreciated.

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My eyes have settled down and it works out that I need +2.0 diopter reading glasses for close up, and nothing for distance. It means that I have my reading glasses on a cord around my neck, and perched on the end of my nose when I need to look over them. It’s not that comfortable, but it works. Walking around the supermarket is a matter of glasses on/glasses off, I’m afraid. I’ll have to get used to it.

The alternative is paying for a new pair of glasses to wear full time, with top half clear and bottom half +2. I’m not sure yet. I’ll try the cheap, chemist specials for a while yet.

 

Now I lay me down to sleep

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The image above is from the movie Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, which I watched on SBS a few nights ago. I’ve got it on DVD too, and I must have watched it around six times so far. It’s always enjoyable and I get new things out of it.

I picked this image because it was one of the new things I noticed this time through. It’s the sketch where the autumn leaves commit suicide by falling. But, notice the lintel over the columns on the right? See what’s chiselled into it? It’s the word CURTIN, but mirror reversed left to right – Curtin

Why CURTIN? John Curtin was the great Labor prime minister in Australia during WW2, in office 1941 – 1945. He took the office of PM so seriously and it weighed on him so heavily that he grew ill and died shortly after D-Day, the allied forces landing in France.

But why would this name show up in a Monty Python graphic? And why are the letters mirror reversed? The man who drew this is presumably the American, Terry Gilliam. I wonder if I could ask him? Watch this space.

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Insomnia is still plaguing me. Sunday and Monday nights were completely sleep free, and yesterday I couldn’t even get to sleep during the day when I tried to catch up. After breakfast this morning I was swaying with fatigue, and I’m happy to say I’ve just been able to get about three hours 10.00am to about 1.00pm. I feel much better now, but that’s only three hours sleep in 48 hours. I’ve found a newspaper ad for a company called Sleep Matters: Insomnia Solutions. Sounds hopeful, I’ll try phoning them.  (I just did. It rang for about 30 seconds, then someone picked up but hung up. Hmmm, probably taking a nap. I’ll try again later.)

Later: the lady phoned me back and was quite pleasant. It turns out that they run lectures on various sleep matters, and the next one is on Saturday 10 February in the afternoon at Hollywood Private Hospital. It’s not specifically on insomnia, but she said it will be relevant and we can ask questions. In fact the sleep doctor giving the talk will stay as long as needed to cover our questions. The lecture is free but they serve coffee, tea and bikkies for a gold coin donation. Excellent. I’ll go.

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About three months ago I bought a small digital recorder, shown above, at Target for $39. Various uses, recording dogs barking, for one. It works OK, except for terrible handling noise, and being a bit complicated to use as an mp3 player. But look at those twin stereo microphones. Wow!

Anyway, I was surprised to see it mentioned in Silicon Chip magazine’s Serviceman pages in this month’s issue. A customer of the Serviceman (a guy in Christchurch, NZ who writes the column each month) brought it in with a few problems. (One of the problems is that at $39, any servicing will cost more than buying a new one!)

So the Serviceman took it all apart and was surprised to find (a) those shiny mics are just plastic dummies – there’s only one mono microphone; (b) this lonely microphone is inside, on its side, getting its sound through small gaps in the side, not through the shiny capsules; (c) there’s no isolation of the mic from the case, hence the handling noise; (d) it bills itself as a stereo recorder, but it’s not stereo – there’s only one mic!; (e) it has a socket for an external mic, but even with a good quality stereo mic plugged in, there’s still no stereo; (f) when he plugged an external stereo line in to the mic socket, it had no stereo spread when recorded and played back; (g) even when an external mic was plugged in, the handling noise was still present on recordings.

So summing up, it’s deception all the way. It implies, even though it doesn’t explicitly say so, that it’s a stereo recorder, but it is not! It implies that it’s good for handling while recording, but it definitely is not. If you handle it, you’ll get loud bangs and scrapes.

Since this is its main function, you could say it’s not fit for purpose and return it for a refund, but it’s hardly worth the bother. I leave it untouched on my patio table to record the dog barking, so it’s a clear recording. But it’s clearly deceptive too.

You get what you pay for.

 

Hot fix

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When you’re hot, you’re hot! I can fix anything. My OnePlus 3T phone died last night. Switched it off at 1030pm, put it on charge, but no charge light. Checked the cord and the charger by substitution, they were OK. Still nothing. Wouldn’t turn on either. Dead. Uh oh, warranty job? Left it on charge overnight thinking it might have been too run down. Nope, no good.

Then today I thought I’d try different button combinations. Sure enough, pressing the power button with the volume-up button brought it up in a basic text only, cold-boot mode, offering rescue options. I just selected the simplest, and away she went. Fixed. I wonder how long it will last before it happens again, though.

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Hmmm, my hopes for my eyes are not working out so well, so far. I’m finding I have slight double vision, two images slightly displaced. It’s too soon to tell, maybe my eyes just have to adjust?  Or maybe it’s these cheap reading glasses.

As well, I find these cheap reading glasses are sometimes a bit too strong and other times a bit too weak. You get what you pay for. I’ll leave it for a few weeks before I go to an optician for tests.

One thing I forgot to mention is that the intra-ocular pressure, the indicators of glaucoma, have come right down. Before the operations, my pressures were 22 and 23, borderline glaucoma and possibly needing the start of daily eye drops.

But now the readings are down to 14 and 15, quite safe. I asked the surgeon and he said the operations allow a small release of the pressure. I won’t need to worry about glaucoma for some time. That’s good news.

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Crumbs, I don’t know how people can watch Pay-TV all the time, I can’t even keep up with free to air. I bought a new TV-HD-DVD recorder before Xmas, and started filling the hard drive in other words. In only a month, I’ve accumulated around a dozen programs waiting for me to watch. For example, the ABC series, The Code. I missed it the first time around, and so I’ve got eps 1-4 stored so far, waiting for me, but will I watch it this time through? I watched the first two episodes of Mars last Saturday, three hours worth, and thought that was all there was, but no, the next two episodes were on last night from 10.50pm to 12.20am, too late for me, so they’re recorded now. There are two more episodes to come, apparently. Phew.

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Did you watch The Ghan on SBS? I watched most of the first three hour version a couple of weekends ago, and enjoyed it. Amazing – three hours, uninterrupted, no commentary, no music, just nat sound. A lot of people loved it, although a lot slated it.

But I missed the arrival in Darwin, so when they ran the 17 hour version last Sunday, I watched the last part to see it. Gee, Darwin ain’t very spectacular. There’s almost no station building, just a kilometre long low platform – not even a platform, just a bitumen track with metal steps to wheel up to the train at various points.

The station is a l-o-n-g way from the city, too, away across Fanny Bay in the distance.

I really, really hope they will do the Indian Pacific. That would be much more interesting.

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One show I have watched, with enthusiasm, is The Good Fight. It’s about a Chicago law firm, owned by coloureds, and specialising in “fighting the good fight” for the down-trodden. Fantastic! Series one ended a couple of months ago, and series two is on now.

 

A new way of seeing

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Hah, I’ve just had a phone call from a woman saying, so I thought, “This is Orvid Sickness.” Huh? I asked her to repeat. She asked my name again. Eventually I realised this Irish accented woman was saying “Orbit Fitness”, inquiring about the treadmill I bought some time ago.

She said it’s 18 months old and the reason for the call was to try to sell me a service call for $99. Um, no thanks. I only walk on it, I don’t run, so I don’t think the wear and tear is a problem.

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That reminds me that I’m fed up with getting robo-calls, i.e. computer dialled, from a Queensland number and a NSW number. Nearly every day, usually twice a day, sometimes three times. My phone speaks the calling numbers, so I just don’t bother to pick up. I suppose if I did answer these obvious charities I could get them to stop, but I hate doing that. So I continue to be annoyed. Duh.

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OK, I had the right eye cataract done last Monday 15th, so that’s all done, unless the eyes in the back of my head need doing sometime. I don’t need glasses for distance now, and it feels very strange. But my closeup vision is hopeless and I need +2 reading glasses. The surgeon said I should get new glasses made with a weak correction part in the top half if I want it, and the +2 in the lower half, meaning I would go back to wearing them full time. I’ll give the “chemist cheapies” a good try first while I work out what to do.

The really noticeable thing is whites. So white! I had no idea my natural lenses were so yellow. Now I’m seeing true colours for the first time in many years. Blues are especially noticeable. Wonderful.

The operation was easier and even quicker than the first one. The time on the table was a bit under 15 mins. The anaesthetist wanted an ECG done at midday. That was fine. The eye op was in the afternoon this time, 2pm, and I had no nervousness, no pain. Monday was the cyclone rainy day, so it was raining heavily when I got out about 4pm and it continued. I stayed with my friends at their new retirement village apartment in Jolimont and as tired as I was, going to bed at 9.30pm, I was still awake at 1am trying to sleep, hearing the rain. It stopped about then.

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My insomnia continues, in other words. This shows the mattress makes no difference. On Tuesday night at home, unable to read in bed before lights-out due to a glasses mix-up, I turned the light off and lay down. I got to sleep reasonably quickly, so thought that might be it. But last night, following the same procedure, was another battle, reaching about 4am before I dropped off. I can use sedatives but they leave me hung over next day. Still battling on.

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My medical issues are just about finished now. Only the leukemia remains, and I am to see the haematologist again on 13 Feb, when we’ll decide whether to have the iron infusion to “wake up” my bone marrow, giving me more energy, to be hoped.

Wow, It’s been a busy year. Gastric band removal in November 2016; gall bladder removal in March ’17; eye problems from around June; bladder infection from June onwards (ignoring symptoms!); collapse at home in October; hospital with sepsis and kidney stone bypass operation; colonoscopy in October; day surgery to get kidney stone out in November; first cataract op on 22 November; second cataract op on 15 January. With haematologist visits in between. Five general anaesthetics and four local anaesthetics in this period Nov 16 to Jan 18. Thank goodness it’s all over. And a rousing thank goodness for HBF! I’m so glad I can afford private health insurance.

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Now my car has a rusted out muffler, so that’ll be about $400. On the other hand, I should be very grateful. The cataract operations have cost me nothing, the surgeon accepting the HBF payment and bulk billing me for his office consultations (mind you, they are usually no more than about 10 minutes). That’s terrific.

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I’ve signed up for Netflix pay-TV. It seems like a good deal, the first month free and $14 per month for the HD quality feed, unlimited downloads. I want it for the second and subsequent seasons of The Crown, that superb series. I can cancel the membership at any time.

Both my Panasonic HD/BluRay recorder and my LG 4K TV can take Netflix from my NBN wi-fi network, so I’m set like a jelly. I’ve downloaded a few episodes of various series so far with no problems, very fast. I’m 4K right through now, camera, desktop computer, laptop, TV recorder and TV display. As a former TV tech, I’m a quality addict. The quality is amazing, perfection. There are none of the old faults we used to see and accept in analogue days. Perfection.

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More later.