This is uncanny!

I was talking to someone just a few days ago about telemarketing (or scam) calls from India, and I said I haven’t been bothered by them for at least six months. Also, that I’m on the Do Not Call register.

The phone rang just now and immediately I could tell by the satellite delay and the noise of the call centre that this was one of those calls.  How did they know? Did they read my mind?  Are they listening in on my phone conversations?

However, this one was a bit different. I had asked for Caller Line ID to be activated on my phone a few days ago.  “It’ll take a few business days, sir” and I forgot all about it.

This time, when the phone rang, it announced “Call from overseas. ….  Call from overseas”, repeating.  When I picked up and answered, I could hear my voice and this message being echoed back, then the line went dead.  I think the Indian call centre must have heard this and decided against talking to me.  Good.

Why did I answer?  Because we’re organising this reunion and one of our old school chums lives in the US (we think).  I’ve sent emails to him and kinda hoped we might hear back.  He’s the type of bloke to pick up the phone and call (especially since his company pays for the calls.)  Anyway, it’s good to know that CLID will identify and tell me when a call is from overseas.

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Cairns 1997 © PJ Croft 2014

I really do think a black cloud is hovering over me, hurling lightning bolts of bad luck.

First (recently) there was the travel agency failing to pass on my deposit for the P&O cruise.  Then the fridge not working in my cabin (my complaint, passed on to P&O by the travel agency, still hasn’t been answered.)

Then the Pioneer Blu-Ray player went dead a few weeks ago (still under warranty).  Won’t even power up.

Now my Logitech Harmony Touch remote control has died as well. There’s nothing but “Harmony.com” on the screen and my attempts to reboot it have failed.  If I could open it and remove/replace the battery, I would, but it’s sealed up tight.  That’ll have to go back too.

Then today I took a cheque, which I’d never cashed, that I’d found in my filing system, to the bank. (It’s a refund of a fee from a Radiology firm.)  It’s dated 22/9/2012.  I didn’t think it would matter, but it does – there’s a 15 month time limit on cheques.  It’s “only” $52.  I’m tempted to let it slide, but $52 is $52 – maybe I’d better contact them.

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I read Silicon Chip magazine intermittently. It’s the only Australian electronics magazine left out of four or five 30 years ago and I often feel I should support it.

But it’s the world’s most conservative magazine!  You would hardly be able to tell the difference between this month’s issue and one from 30 years ago.  Almost every sentence ends with an exclamation mark! Gosh, gee, wow!  The typeface is the same, the black borders to every illustration are the same, and even the content is much the same.  This month I reckon they published the 534th Drill Speed Controller project.  I reckon there’s been at least one drill speed controller every year since 1978.  Or a Musicolour, or an electronic ignition for cars, or an electric fence or a 20W amplifier in a matchbox.

Too bad, most of the time.  But the editor is a Climate Change Denier in Capital Letters.  He believes it’s all a hoax and that the CSIRO is “hysterical” in its warnings. He won’t accept all the IPCC reports or the Royal Society/American Association of Science report. He supports Ian Plimer, the loopy South Australian professor who’s written a book denying Global Warming, even though he’s a paleontologist, not a climate scientist.

In this month’s (April) issue he devotes the editorial to pushing his views.  That’s his right – he owns most of the magazine – but he has no qualifications in science, only in business.

I feel sorely tempted to send him a rocket, but it would be a waste of my time.  Any sane person must take the evidence seriously.  Personally, I believe it’s too late.  The tipping point has been reached and passed. Global warming, sea level rise, ocean acidification are unstoppable now.  I’m glad I don’t have kids, because they’d better get used to living in a hot, hotter, drier and drier climate.

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I was in the shopping centre today (Yay! JB HiFi have opened a shop at Ocean Keys, Clarkson, about 5Km down the road from me), when I passed a woman doing photography of kids in one of those big booths in the mall.  She was lifting a kid up in the air and making cooing noises and the flashes went off and another frame was captured.

Then it hit me.  She can do this without an assistant now, with a very high probability of success.

First, autofocus is now so quick and so accurate that as long as the kid is in a zone, the camera will latch on to focus.  But more than that, face recognition!  She would know where the frame is that the camera sees, and as she lifts the kid into frame, the autofocus latches on and the face recognition works its magic and fires the shutter.  No need to be behind the camera, hoping to get it right, just let the electronics do the work.  The magic of electronics.

Lord Muck

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I propose there should a Knight of the Order of the Cane Toad. That’s the Aussie way. (My photo)

What a joke.  Sir Les Paterson and Dame Edna Everage will be recognised at last. How about Sir Alan Bond?  Dame Gina?  These parodies will become official. Abbott didn’t even consult his own members before announcing his Ocker knighthoods and dameships.  I raise these points:

1.  He has just devalued all the existing Australian honours, the ACs and AOs and AMs, by putting a new level above them. No wonder he didn’t consult.  I think there would be some very annoyed people at the moment, although they are far too polite to say it out loud.

2.  This will be payoff, payment for big Liberal Party donors, mates of Abbott and his cronies, big businessmen and so on.  Money will be involved even though it will be deeply hidden.  Peerages in Britain were able to be bought and sold.  There will always be suspicion, especially from me.  Abbott has opened himself up to ridicule forever more.  Hah!  What a sick joke.

3.  Personally, I will refuse to acknowledge these titles, although the chance of me ever having to address these people is extremely remote.  I think Peter Cosgrove will show a lack of principle if he accepts this “pseudo knighthood”.  He should refuse it.  He’s a prototypical Aussie – surely he’d be embarrassed to have to be called Sir Peter.

4.  So Australia joins PNG and the tiny Pacific and Carribean countries who cling to these honours for their ribbons, top hats, morning suits, titles and knee bending “prestige”.  It’s utterly embarrassing.  The word tinpot comes to mind.

I’ve long noticed that The Australian never uses “Sir” Fred Nerk in its opening sentences of an article, even if the guy or lady does have the title.  Its been their protest for years.  Mine too.

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This one had grown enormous – at least five times this size, and was threatening the wall. It had to go.

All my Yuccas are gone, thank goodness, except one, which is a burglar deterrent under a window that I like to leave a bit open to let some air in.  The guys removed the roller shutter for which I had no key, so now I have access from the garage to the “drying court”, the western side of the house.

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Yucky Yuccas, begone!

Now I can start planning to build my model railway, with the main part in the garage, but a long run outside in the open.There will need to be a lift-out section of track to allow a door in the opening, for security, although I don’t think anything will deter a determined housebreaker.

I’m reluctant to start drilling holes in the rendered dividing wall, so I may use trestles, but water proofing and weather resistance matter.  Wall brackets would be much easier.

I want to use this outside area because loooong runs are vital for model trains, in my opinion.  I’m not interested in just watching trains racing around an oval track on a 6′ x 4′ baseboard.  Anyway, all this is a long way off.  I’ve got to get my stomach removed first 😉

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Hmm.  The HBF nurse has just been and says my legs are bad enough (redness and swelling, stinging pain, weeping skin breaks, incipient cellulitis) that I should go to Joondalup Hospital Emergency Dept tomorrow and get intravenous antibiotic administered.  Don’t wait for a doctor’s appointment, just go.  It may need an overnight stay with an i/v drip. Wow.

All at sea

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My cabin on the Arcadia. It was quite spacious, with that lounge being very comfortable and a writing desk with armchair to the right. There was a 19″ TV with satellite reception of BBC and Sky News.

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My cluttered desk.

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The bed was very comfortable and with the ship’s stabilisers, there was almost no motion. I had to place my CPAP on the chair and stretch the cord to the desk. No power next to the bed.

It’s become clear now why my ticket on the Arcadia was cancelled. The woman at the Holiday Planet travel agency in Stirling St, Perth, failed to pass on my BPay payment to P&O.  She’s told me so.  She’s apologised profusely and said it’s the first time in nine years it’s happened.  So why did it have to happen to me!?

As I said, she gave me $200 on board credit and has offered another $200 as compensation off any other cruise I do.  I doubt I would want to deal with them again, though.  As I’ve said, this was a slack, complacent attitude.  Even though I told her twice that I couldn’t log in to P&O’s web page using the booking number she gave me, it didn’t alert her to a problem.  She just brushed me off, saying she often has trouble with that web page.

That goes along with an email I sent alerting someone that I was coming, but getting no answer and being told it wasn’t received. Now I’ve been told that four of the letters I sent out to reunion people a few weeks ago weren’t received, even though the addresses were correct.  “Please send another letter.”  Yeah, at my cost in time and stamps.  Gee, Australia Post must be so unreliable.

Out of ten letters I sent to reunion people a few weeks ago, not one person has replied.  I feel as if I’m wasting my time and effort sometimes.

There seems to a black hole above me, sucking things into it, my luck included.

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Along the same lines, for some years I’ve had the idea that Panasonic products are better, so I’ve chosen a DVD/HD recorder and fridge of that brand and often thought of buying a bigger Panasonic plasma TV (I haven’t).  But lately I’ve come to realise that I’m not happy with Panasonic.  The fridge rattles.  Something in the door is rattling and it’s not what I put in there.  I’ve rearranged the contents many times, and banged the door and plastic pockets to no avail. It stops rattling for a few minutes, then starts again (while the compressor is running, I mean).  It’s very annoying.

The DVD/HD recorder is too slow.  Every operation involves a wait of several seconds before it happens.  Bit sick of it.  I’ll try another brand next time.

Then there’s my Pioneer BluRay player which has failed completely, as I said a few weeks ago, and my older Pioneer DVD player, which I use as a CD player because the sound is so nice, but it refuses to read any CD which is not bog standard CD spec,  eg HDCD or similar.  I bought a nice CD in Singapore, but it won’t play it.  Grrr.  And the Pioneer amplifier which has only two knobs on the front, and tiny buttons with tiny grey-on-black lettering that I can’t read.  Phut!  Why did I buy it??  I didn’t look hard enough at the product, only at the price, that’s why.

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Watching TV last night, I saw something moving below my eye line.  It was a tiny frog, about 25mm in size, hopping across the floor.  We had a very heavy rain yesterday morning for over an hour, so the water probably brought it out, and it must have hopped inside through an open door.  It went under the TV bench and stopped hopping, but I can’t find it now.

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Yuccas!  Those nasty spiky plants, you can’t call them trees.  I’ve got at least a dozen around the house, including one with a trunk about 40cm in diameter right next to a wall.  It’s going to damage the wall eventually.

There were two guys digging some out next door the other day, so I spoke to them and they are going to remove most of mine too.  They’ve quoted me $800, plus $280 tipping fees.  Ouch.  Spiky in more ways than one.  These are useless plants.  They give no shade and drop their sharp fronds when dry, but you can’t kill them except by digging them out and poisoning the roots.  The big one near the wall will be too hard to dig out completely, so they’ll have to cut it off at ground level and poison the stump.  Terrible work – they have to wear protective gear to avoid being cut or spiked.

They’re all through this suburb.  The developers plant them because they grow very quickly and won’t die.  Useless things.

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Australian Personal Computer magazine have their 400th issue out now and it prompted me to send them a scan of a hand written list I made in 1993 of the cost of computer components then.

I paid $980 for a 486 motherboard!  I didn’t record the cost of the CPU but it would have been $300 or so.  $125 for a keyboard.  $120 for a mouse!  I remember that one – it was a two button Logitech even back then.  $99 for a 5¼” floppy drive and $89 for a 3½” floppy.  You needed both back then.  $400 for a 40MB (megabyte, not gigabyte) hard drive.  $250 for a VGA graphics card.  Plus sound card.  No on-board graphics and sound in those days.  $1170 for an NEC 15″ colour monitor.  And so on.

By contrast, I’ve just bought all the bits to make up a new computer, a Core i7 4770 3.5GHz CPU with 8GB of RAM, very fancy motherboard to suit with 10 USB sockets, six of them USB 3, HDMI graphics, on-board sound, a 256GB SSD and so on.  Including a very fancy Fractal Design R8 case, about $1,100 all up.  The cost of computing has fallen to about 1/10th what it was, allowing for inflation, for far better gear.  We’ve got it good these days.

An imposter?

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Huh?  Those pictures I posted yesterday of the Mercedes convertible in the car park of the Soda Cafe were definitely of a 280SL – there it was in chrome letters on the back of the car.  I thought at the time that I hadn’t realised there was a 280SL.

(Ooops, it’s an SL280, not a 280SL.  My mistake.  It matters in Mercedes-speak, as does the number of slots near the front wheel arch – two slots or three? It changed with models.)

Naturally I’ve been looking on the web today for cars like that for sale.  Google brings up plenty of references to that model, but they are all much older cars, dating from around 1982 and looking older, with chrome wheel arch mouldings and out of date things like that.

When I clicked on two references to 280SL models for sale in Australia, both of them showed pictures of cars with 500SL prominent on the boot lid.  What’s going on? Why would 500SLs be advertised as 280SLs?  Twice.

When I look at the Wikipedia article, all the pictures they show are of the old model from the late 70s and early 80s.

So where did this car in the Soda carpark come from?  It seems to be a model that doesn’t exist.  I’m wondering if it’s a Japanese special, imported.  I’m mystified.  Not that it matters much – I’m not a buyer —- yet.

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I’ve been talking via email today with the Perth travel agent about the P&O cruise foul up.  It’s very clear that she stuffed up big time. She admits it.  She failed to ensure my BPay payment went through to P&O, so that’s why they weren’t paid and why my booking was cancelled.  I was issued with an e-ticket and a booking number, but when I tried to use it to log in to P&O, it wouldn’t let me in.

I told her about this.  But she brushed me off, saying she often has trouble logging in to P&O and to try again later.  I had the booking number, so although I was stymied about logging in, I wasn’t worried.

If she had been more focused on the problem, she might have realised something was wrong.  But good old Aussie attitude, “She’ll be right, near enough, can’t be bothered, what’s the problem mate” made her ignore my complaint that my booking number wouldn’t work.

She’s admitted her fault and apologised.  She allocated me $200 on board credit as compensation, so that paid my drinks bill for the cruise.

I contrast that with Hotel Club, the Singapore hotel booking agency.  I used their web site to book my hotel and thought that was it. No problem.

But they phoned me here from Singapore to enquire if I was happy with my booking shortly after I made it.  No problems, thanks for calling.

Then today, after I completed their on-line survey and made a couple of critical comments about the hotel (no breakfast, no restaurant, no fridge in the room, very small room, no armchair, no free wi-fi), they phoned me again today to discuss these things and ask if I would use them again.  Extremely polite, really trying to be helpful, allocating me about US$65 worth of points as compensation etc.  Couldn’t have been more friendly and helpful.  I should add that I said I was very pleased that the hotel had listened to my problem about no fridge in the room and fixed it.  Big Brownie points for that.

What a contrast with the Perth travel agency.  Slack service, big mistake, didn’t follow my query, stuffed up.  It’s a metaphor for this country, I’m afraid.  She’ll be right mate.  Near enough.  No it won’t.  No it’s not.

Home again

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Balinese luggage size check. © P J Croft 20111, 2014

Home late last night (11pm) after a very cramped flight on Tiger from Singapore on an Airbus A320.  I’m tired of flying these small, cramped aircraft.  I didn’t choose this flight – it was part of the cruise package, but I’ll try to get a better deal next time.  I must admit I’m a bit large, but I feel as if I’m imprisoned in a torture cell on these small aircraft.  I can’t get the table down and I need a seatbelt extension.  It’s not the airiine’s fault, it’s mine, I know.  I’m definitely taking major steps to fix my problem …

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I saw a very unusual sight on the flight, so unusual that I’d rate it as unique:  a woman reading New Scientist.  I have never seen a woman reading anything except Woman’s Day, Women’s Weekly, Dolly, Hello!, Cosmopolitan or any of the other stupid, vapid, untruthful women’s magazines.  Come to think of it, I’ve never even seen a woman reading a quality newspaper!  Reckon I’m wrong?  Prove it.

This was amazing – a very attractive, 30s something woman without a ring, traveling alone, reading a serious science magazine.  I must have been hallucinating.  She looked so familiar …  I’ve seen her before somewhere.

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On the same line, in the airbridge to the aircraft as we were boarding, the queue was moving very slowly.  I heard a youngish Singaporean woman behind me talking on her mobile and asking to speak to the doctor, and using a couple of cardiac-type medical terms.  I thought she must have been talking about a serious problem with one of her family.

But no, once she got through to the person she wanted, it turned into an endlessly trivial phone chat that lasted until we reached the aircraft door.  On an airbridge!  Bloody hell, do these people have their phones surgically attached?   Can they not go a minute of the day without a phone conversation?  Likewise, in the departure lounge, a fairly blowsy bird was prattling away on her mobile in Italian to someone, and it never stopped!  On, and on, and on, and on she talked, for 30 mins or more. No breaks, just endless natter in Italian.  I was thinking, “Mamia mia, I’m glad I’m not married to her!   No doubt she’s glad she’s not married to me, too.  I might say, “Shuduppah you face!”

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I saw another novel thing at Perth airport – a toilet area with spouts from the wall to wash your hands under, which start spilling water by infra-red sensors, so have no taps, but there were no wash basins either.  Huh?  Where are the basins?  I couldn’t work out what to do.

The spouts work by proximity, of course, and I realised eventually that the flat surface where the basins would normally be slopes back to a slot at the rear.  Who needs a basin?  You just hold your hands under the spout and all the water just runs to the back and down the slot.

Don’t bank on even menial jobs being available in the future for your kids.  No-one is needed to clean washbasins any more. Frightening.  The future of work is replacement of humans by machines.  You’d better be a designer or fixer of these machines.

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It was a day for very unusual sightings.  Sitting in Soda Cafe, a yellow Lamborghini Huracan went past.

I never even knew that model existed until I looked it up just now.

Then 45 mins later in Karrinyup Road, another one!  Silver, this time. Two Lamborghinis in one day??!!

In the restaurant, I’d been talking about my idea of buying a Mercedes 500SL.  Blow me down, when I walked out to the restaurant car park, this was there:

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Mercedes 280SL. See how it comes with an automatically blurred number plate?

Ain’t it beautiful?  This is a 280SL, a smaller 2.8L engine model, but who cares?, the rest of the car is the same.  I was tempted to wait for the owner to come from the restaurant and offer him cash for his car.  Ooooohhh.

Then later around 3pm, one of these was parked across the street:

The Lexus (Toyota) Soarer (SC400).  This is a contender, and buy one of these and you’re buying quality and utter reliability, but they’re so bland.  Timeless styling, but boring …