Caught in the act

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This is an odd one.  My computer room has a window looking out on the street from the side, and it’s covered in reflective film so people can’t see in.

I was sitting here at about 1.30pm, when I saw a guy move past my window and bend down to the tap on the outside. He was working away there and I said, “‘Ullo, what’s up?” “Oh, nothing”, he says.

So I went outside and said again, “What are you doing?” Just getting a drink of water, he says. “Oh yeah?” and as he came around I could see he had a piece of hose with a plastic fitting on it in his pocket.

“What are you doing?” I said. “What’s that in your pocket?”

“Oh, I was just getting a piece of hose”, and he pulls it out and shows me he’s cut the end off my hose, with its tap connector.

“Well, put it back. That’s stealing”, I said. He says he just wants a piece of hose. “Well put it back. You can have the bit you’ve cut off. But that’s stealing. Whaddya think you’re doing?” So he puts the connector back on the hose and reconnects it to the tap and leaves.

Crazy. But when I think back on it, he obviously had a knife in his pocket that he used to cut the hose. Maybe I’m lucky he didn’t cut me.

What is going on? Did he just want a hose fitting on a rainy Sunday afternoon and decide to take mine? So stupid that he didn’t think he’d be seen, especially when I was playing music quite loudly? Weird. And a lucky escape, possibly.

 

Again and again

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Isle of Skye, Scotland.   © PJ Croft 2008, 2017

It’s that word again! Moana, moama, momoa, each one is occurring over and over. I can’t remember what article it was, but three days ago a rugby player, I think, was mentioned in a news item as coming from Moana in NSW. That makes the sixth, or is the seventh time in five months. Yet I’d never heard these words before this year.

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Portree, Isle of Skye, Scotland.  © PJ Croft 2008, 2017

Here’s another amazing coincidence: on Thursday I was browsing Google Earth and some of my old video and photos of Portree, on the Isle of Skye in 2008.

Last night, Friday night, a Volvo ad came on TV and shown on the GPS screen of the car was … wait for it … Portree. That astounds me. It’s an obscure little town, yet it crops up in my vision twice in two days. I’m haunted.

It was so windy on that day that although I had my video camcorder (remember those?) on a tripod, the wind blew it over. It broke a piece of plastic off the top, but was otherwise undamaged. My good friend Keith now has that camcorder (Canon HF800 Full HD) and uses it regularly for serious video shooting. He loves it.

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For people like me, the separate video camcorder is a dead duck. I used to have to carry a stills camera and a camcorder, but since stills cameras started being able to record video, I only carry the one now. The video is so good that I don’t feel I’ve lost anything except the weight.

The one thing, I suppose, is that the zoom rate is a bit touchy and hard to control. Yet I can switch the lens to zoom by the focus ring (a big wide band) so it’s OK.

My camera is the Panasonic FZ1000. It’s marvellous:

  • a 1″ diagonal sensor (not as big as APS-C but much bigger than the Canon camcorder had);
  • a Leica 25-400mm zoom, either power controlled or manual as I’ve said;
  • 20Mpx stills, easily good enough for A3 sized prints;
  • 4K video in 16:9 aspect;
  • recording to SD-HC XS cards (I keep a 64GB card in there and never go anywhere near filling it);
  • a built-in stero mic of excellent quality, and a socket for an external mic;
  • built-in flash

Price? $950 approx last year. The Canon HF800 camcorder cost $1300 in 2008. There’s a new Pana FZ2500 model out now, improved in several ways, but it’s $1300.

Full camcorders still have their place. They are optimised for eye level or shoulder level shooting, and have wider range zooms, with finer control. They have variable frame rates and shutter angles, and can usually take two cards, automatically switching between the two when one is full. They also have much better mics and control of audio.

Keith says the one thing he wants is a LANC socket on the camcorder for remote control of zoom and focus from pan handles on the tripod. It’s a must-have for him.

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I had another rotten night of insomnia last night – no sleep at all, despite taking my sedative anti-histamine tablets. I felt reasonably OK when I got up this morning but crashed at 11am and got about 2hrs sleep. How come I can get to sleep in the daytime, but not at night??

It occurs to me that this could severely affect any trip to the UK. At home I can crash any time, especially after breakfast, with no problems, but if I’m travelling and have to check out of hotels, and drive a hire car, that could be a real problem. I suppose one answer could be that I’d be so tired after each day’s walking and sightseeing that I wouldn’t have trouble sleeping. But this could be a deal breaker.

During the 2008 trip, there were several occasions when I was so tired after a full day of walking that I sat down on the bed in the early evening and the next thing I knew it was morning, with me still fully clothed on top of the covers. Instantly asleep. Not even aware of it.

I’ve realised my 2008 passport will have to be renewed. Better get cracking, whether I go or not.

I can see clearly now …

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La Seine, Paris  (C) PJ Croft 2008, 2017

Back again. It’s good to live in a place where you can get prompt medical advice and treatment when you need it. I’ve mentioned my eyes and possible cataracts, and last Saturday a large floater appeared in my right eye. Last Monday I made an appointment with my GP, and saw him next day for a referral to the Lions Eye Institute, the top clinic in WA if not Australia.

I phoned them for an appointment on Thursday (yesterday) and they said “We do consultations on Wednesdays and Fridays. When would you like an appointment?” Oh, uh, well how about tomorrow (Friday). Done! So I had my appointment at 2.30pm today. That’s fast service.

The result? I said that the bleariness in my left eye has slowly improved in the past few weeks but it still seems bleary, and they said, yes, there is a cataract there, and if I want the operation, I can have it, but it’s not needed yet. OK, fine, I’ll live with it for now.

As for the big floater in my right eye, apparently the fluid in the eye is watery when you’re young but becomes more jelly-like as you age. He said a globule of “jelly” has come away and is sort of floating (I didn’t understand this – I may be wrong). Anyway, no need to worry, and it does seem to have reduced a bit in the past few days.

So, after about 1hr 15mins I was on my way. Eyes were dilated, but I don’t have a problem with sunlight and the doctor confirmed that some people do and some don’t. Seems to vary with eye colour, brown being the worst affected. Strange.

But now I’m havin’ trouble reading this screen, so this will be brief.

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College of Arms

The College of Arms, London.   (C) PJ Croft 2008, 2017

At the beginning of the week I had changed my mind about the Europe/Croft Castle trip, one reason being that I was thinking this eye problem would rule it out. But today’s green light has set me thinking again. There’s nothing stopping me doing it now. Hmmm.

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My Dog, I am sick to death of Tour de France cycling, Wimbledon tennis and AFL football!

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It still goes on. I made another visit to my local IGA supermarket yesterday, for the first time in months. I used to have repeated problems with faulty scanning of items at the checkout, so it put me off going back. It was happening virtually every visit, and as usual, the mistakes were always in their favour. It’s so bad that i always check my docket before I leave the store.

Well, I tried ’em again, and guess what. Yes, another giant error. I had two items that had been marked down to $0.99 and they scanned at the original price, $4.75. That’s an error of $9.50. Most people don’t check their docket or even ask for it!

They rescanned them, but still charged me the $1.98 (ie $2). They should have given them to me free, but that’s wishful thinking.

So they’ve lost plenty of business from me, and now they’ll lose even more. The only shop I can trust to get their scanning right is Coles. They’re so reliable I rarely bother to check the docket. Not quite true, I run my eyes over it when I get home.

At last, at last!

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I’m finally on the National Broadband Network (NBN) with a connection to the fibre optic cable network. Notice I don’t say connected to fibre direct. That’s because the cable guy who came yesterday to connect me said, “Sorry mate, you connect by twisted copper to the nearest node.”

What??!! My ISP says I have Fibre to the Home. Nope, they’re wrong. But he said not to worry because they are finding they are getting better speeds over the copper than the fibre. I find that hard to believe.

Anyway, the connection took more than an hour, requiring the installation of a new coax cable from the external box through the wall to a new connector plate on the inside wall. Crumbs! The guy was only 30 and was fit, and had done this before because he just set to it, no need to stop and think. He actually unscrewed and lifted some of my roof corrugated sheeting to get access for his “snake”, standing on the top platform of a 2m stepladder while he was doing it. It was wobbling and I would have been petrified, but he just rode it.

So then he connected his Opticomm modem and then connected that to the iiNet wi-fi modem that had arrived last Monday and said, “Right, I’m off.”

What? What about the rest of it, getting me on-line. “No mate, I don’t work for iiNet, that’s their job. See ya”, pocketing the extra fee I had to pay him (in cash) to do the wall cable and socket job.

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Today I tried to log in to the new wi-fi router with no success. To cut a long story short (phone call 1 = 49 minutes, phone call 2 = about 15 mins) and two or three new user names, SSIDs and two new passwords. I’m finally on. The iiNet support woman was in Capetown, South Africa, by the way. Cherelle.

The first thing I did was run Speedtest. Result – 1.l27Mb/s.  Huh? Same as I had before. Oh, you have to wait 24-48 hours for the speed to come up. Since I’m paying for 25Mb/s, it’s a bit disappointing.

I’ve just checked again – 5.6Mb/s, about the speed I get in my Bali hotel rooms. Patience, patience.

[Tuesday 18 July: speed is now 24.5Mb/s down and 4.9Mb/s up. Bagus!]

I also assumed I’d be getting a VOIP phone in the package – that was definitely my impression. Nope, I have to buy it myself. I can just plug my existing phone into the back of this new modem. That means I have to relocate everything. Tomorrow ….

One good thing – she said I’m due a rebate on my month’s fee for this billing period of $60. Yes, I agree with that.

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Now I hope I can finish fixing one of my other laptops, the one I’m selling.

It was totally screwed up, reaching the desktop, but not allowing anything beyond that. (When I last looked at it before I left for Bali on 3 June, it wouldn’t even power on. Reset button? Nope. Samsung. Not impressed. That’s why I’m selling.)

I had a brainwave – make a Windows Recovery Disk on another of my PCs. I used a USB drive and it took ages, more than an hour.

But eventually I had a bootable recovery USB drive. After finally being able to get into the BIOS to make it boot from the USB source, I plugged it in to the faulty laptop and bingo. It booted and everything was back to normal. I went back to the BIOS to ensure it booted from the hard drive again and restarted. All good.

So I decided to do a complete re-install of Windows as per the Settings menu. It started OK, but I soon found it was downloading a complete new copy of Win10 with all the latest fixes, a 4GB download! Over my slow ADSL connection. Last time I looked, after more than 12 hours it was at only 16%.

I’m hoping now that when I next power this on, it will resume at my new fibre speed.

I’m pretty pleased that I’ve been able to do all this myself, instead of needing to put the laptop in to Samsung for “repair”. It takes me a while to think it through, but I get there. Not bad for an old bloke. 🙂

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Chimp

What a remarkable time we’re going through in this country at the moment:

  • The head of a very high profile government department has been sent “on leave” while something is investigated.
  • Next, one of his deputies is also sent on leave, and subsequently resigns. Both these have to do with inappropriate affairs with junior females.
  • Two executives of the AFL resign, and it comes out that it’s for the same reasons. Unrelated to the first items.
  • One of the highest level Greens Party senators resigns, because someone points out that, being born in NZ, he holds dual citizenship. The Constitution forbids it, so he has to go. He’s been in the Senate for years and is one of the really, really good guys IMHO. Tragic. I think if he renounces his NZ citizenship he should be re-electable.

There’s more but my brain is fried at the moment. Later.

It’s that word again!

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Bangkok 1988   © PJ Croft 2017

What word? Moana. What is going on? A few months ago I wrote of the strange coincidence of three very similar words appearing withing a couple of weeks: Moama, Moana and Momoa. The first is the name of the NSW town where a woman tragically drowned her son; the second is the surname of the Australian representative in this year’s Eurovision song contest; and the third is the title of a Disney movie. I might have them a bit mixed up, sorry.

Then last week, a guy’s name appeared in the West Australian newspaper, someone named Moana. Then in yesterday’s West, there’s a story about a building in Perth called Moana Chambers. It doesn’t seem to be related to the previous story.

Five times! Five times in five months. I’ve never heard this name in my 70 years of life before, but now it keeps appearing. Sure, it’s not exactly the same, but …. this is weird.

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I’ve just had to top up my internet data quota again. I’ve used my whole 20GB monthly allowance in six days! That’s the six days since I got back on Sunday 2 July, to yesterday, the 8th. What is going on? Five years ago I didn’t even go close to using 20GB in a month.

It doesn’t matter much, since I should have the fibre connection and 250GB per month within a week or two. But I’m finding that data is downloading at night even when I’m not using my computers. Why? How?

I must admit – computers, plural. I have a desktop and two laptops which are always on, even though they’re “Asleep”. Clearly, they are not fully asleep. This is spooky.

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Sony VAIO Blu-Ray laptop

Actually, now I have another (third) laptop. About a year ago I sold my Sony VAIO laptop, which I bought in 2010, to a friend. It was top-of-the-line then, carbon-fibre case, 8GB RAM, Centrino processor and most importantly to me, a Blu-Ray drive that not only plays, but records Blu-Ray discs. Did I ever use it to record? Well, er, not actually, but I might want to 😉

It’s beautifully small and light (1.5Kg, hmmm, feels less) and it means I can watch movies in my hotel rooms without carrying a separate DVD drive, and record backups to CDs and DVDs on the move.

Anyway, I knew my friend wasn’t using it much as he’s not a computer nut and has another larger laptop (he said, to be honest, he hadn’t even used the VAIO), so yesterday I bought it back from him for what he paid me for it ($400). I missed it, and it’s valuable to me.

So, now I have two desktop Core i7 PCs (I built one in 2009); plus a Dell XPS15 15″ Core i7 laptop with 4K display touch-screen; plus an ASUS tablet PC running Windows 10 with detachable keyboard and touch-screen with stylus; plus another Samsung tablet PC, also Win10 touch-screen that I’m selling; plus the Sony VAIO 11″; and a Samsung 10″ tablet running Android. That’s seven PCs. Am I a nut case? Or a computer case.

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Actually, the Samsung tablet PC that I’m selling is a basket case at the moment. I was trying to remove myself as a User prior to passing it over to my other friend (I do have more than one … ) when the computer seemed to do a convulsion and hung, and now it won’t boot properly. It gets to the desktop, but with limited functions (no This PC shown, for example) and won’t do anything.

OK, go back to the emergency partition and reload the O/S. Nope, no way to get there. No reset button that I can find. No way to reach the BIOS. Samsung Help is no bloody help at all because it assumes you can reach the desktop with functionality. I’m going to have to put it back to Samsung and ask them to do it, which will cost me, because it’s just out of warranty. Not happy with Samsung.

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Tower of London with Roman Wall  © PJ Croft 2017

I’m wrestling with myself – do I do this last-gasp trip to England to see Croft Castle in September, or do I let it go another year in the hope that I’ll feel fitter and more energetic next year? Hah! I think the answer’s self evident.

But there’s something wrong with my left eye – it’s constantly smeary, as if my glasses are smeared, but they’re not. And my left leg is a mess with swelling due to the “veinous insufficiency” and intermittent ulceration. And my right hip is becoming sore, burning pain at times. We know what that means, don’t we?

I have a referral to the Lions Eye Institute where I’m hoping they will diagnose a cataract or two and fix it, but I know that will involve waiting weeks or months for an appointment, and I need to go on this trip in September. Why? Because it’ll get too cold later. September and October were absolutely ideal in ’08, with warm sun and long evenings. Shorts and T shirt weather.

I  wasn’t injecting insulin or Byetta in 2008 either. It’s not a big deal, but I would have to buy more while I was away and it costs quite a bit without Medicare.

I think the answer is clear: do it! Do it now! Next year will be too late. I’m nervous about it, because I know it will be strenuous and I’m much less fit for it than I was in 2008, but that was such a great trip that I want to reproduce it. I guess if it proves too hard, I could turn around at some stage, but that’s being defeatist.

Time to start adding up costs. I still have my spreadsheet from 2008 where I logged every cent I spent, so I know what to expect. The total then was about $15,000, but I wouldn’t do as much this time so I’ll aim for much less.

By the way, I was in London, in the vicinity of The City, on the day when Lehmann Bros collapsed in September 2008 and the GFC began. I wonder what I could precipitate this time. With The Dump in power and Kimmy Boy playing with his nukes, anything could happen.

Troubles

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I’ve got phone troubles. Apologies if you’ve been trying to ring my home land-line phone. You would have heard the first two long tones of a dial-up modem, then fading away and disconnection. On my handset I see “Check tel line”.

I must admit it’s very convenient for the two robot charity calls I get every day. It automatically hangs up on them, the pests. They never give up, even though I never answer them.

Anyway, I’ve called iiNet Support and I’m just waiting for them to call me back on my yuppie phone. Useful things, those, at times. I made a big mistake by installing Facebook on mine, though, and I’m plagued by notifications. I’ve uninstalled it. Same for YouTube. These are incredible time wasters.

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OK, iiNet have called back and I’ve enrolled my voice in their computer for future voice verification of my identity. Amazing.  They heard the fault when they rang me, so they’ve scheduled a technician to call around some time in the next week. Seems to me it’s an exchange fault, but it’s their money.

I also said I’ve found I can’t receive international calls (i.e. from Bali) on my “handy”. However, while I was on the line, I looked at the settings in iiNet Toolbox and found that it was set to bar outgoing international calls. My problem is incoming, but still …  I’ve changed it to allow calls and she said it can take up to two days to take effect. Really? Anyway, I’ll try a call later.

I also found the switch to allow my number to be listed with my address in the printed White Pages directory, so I’ve set that to Allow as well. That also takes two weeks.

Finally, I actually made the application to move to the NBN yesterday. I have FTTH, Fibre To The Home, available, so I get full speed up to 100Mb/s if I want it. But I’ve chosen 25Mb/s with a 250GB monthly data allowance for cost reasons, but I can change it if I want to. One reason would be to get 4K programs from Netflix, but I don’t need that.

This change means my home phone becomes a VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) phone, and I’ll lose my service for 2-5 days while they swing it over. That’ll be next week some time.

So all in all, it’s all happening. Phew!

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