Best laid plans

 

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In the path to getting to the hotel/hospital on Tuesday, I was pretty pissed off with Black and White Taxis.  I phoned for a taxi at 11.50am to go to Clarkson Station as it was raining so heavily and persistently.  By 1.30pm nothing had arrived and I phoned again.  “Oh, sorry sir, we’ll get one for you asap.”  But by 2pm still nothing had turned up, after more than two hours. I phoned again and told them and they said do I want to cancel, and I did.  Grrr.  Obviously there are no taxis this far up the coast, or they don’t want the fare.  Lucky I didn’t need to get there at a set time.

So I got my brolly and walked to the bus stop (about 230m) in the heavy rain.  Not far but with two bags and a brolly and rain …  I had actually thought about driving my car around and parking next to the bus stop and leaving it there for the two days, but I didn’t.  Once I got there, I realised that would have been easily possible. There’s a parking spot off the street.  Maybe next time, if I have to.

So bus to Clarkson, train to Esplanade, walk about 550m to the 950 bus stop in the Esplanade bus port and get dropped off opposite the Mount Hospital. Not that hard, except for the rain.

Boring stay in the hotel.  No alcohol, no solid food, only the V8 juice I’d brought with me.  Old, cheap fittings in the room.  Nice bed, and immaculately clean and neat.  $175.

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There’s another point about the operations I was going to have.  This one was $1,500 (already paid and I suspect it will be non-refundable – I’ll have to ask for a rebate at least), but the subsequent one was going to cost $5,000.  Not covered by HBF or Medicare.

So that’s $5,000 I won’t have to pay and available for something else.  Maybe I can buy that new $1,000 camera now!

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My landscapers are back and working right now.  They were on another job.  No real apology, just …  Oh well.

PS:  They’ve just left and the job is considered done.  I’ll pay them the last 25% now.  It’ll be interesting to see if they want any more.  They didn’t say anything about payment when they left.

Just like the lawn, I’ve ended up with a paved path which is very nice, but not what I wanted.  Admittedly what I wanted was going to cost $61 per square metre, and they talked me into the ones they usually lay at $32/m2.  They’re very nice, but …  They also didn’t put sand over them to fill the joints.  I can easily do that, but it’s a little annoying.  Would I use them again?  Probably not.  It’s a bloody lottery when you employ tradesmen.

PPS:  I’ve just realised that I can easily use these “not what I wanted” pavers in another location on the side and front of the house.  Ideal for it. Just what I need.  That way I can have the tiles I want instead.  Money not wasted.

Pulling your weight

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Warped reality

http://www.smh.com.au/comment/budget-pain-not-for-millionaires-who-pay-no-tax-20140512-zr9o3.html

The latest tax statistics show 75 ultra-high-earning Australians paid no tax at all in 2011-12. Zero. Zip.

Each earned more than $1 million from investments or wages. Between them they made $195 million, an average of $2.6 million each.

The fortunate 75 paid no income tax, no Medicare levy and no Medicare surcharge, even though 60 of them had private health insurance.

The reason? They managed to cut their combined taxable incomes to $82. That’s right, $1.10 each. [Peter Martin, Sydney Morning Herald 13 May 2014]

Aren’t they clever? 

In January 2011 a person very well known to me boasted, I repeat boasted, that he pays no tax because he puts everything through his family trust.  This is someone who has a disabled daughter and makes heavy use of Medicare, who sends the daughter to government school, who makes frequent use of Perth Airport and drives on the roads.  All the things our taxes pay for.  He has also complained about the low level or lack of government assistance for him and his wife in caring for their daughter.

He also takes advantage of tax sheltered superannuation to invest in a property in a very salubrious location, which he uses for holidays for himself and family. This is absolutely against the tax rules.

He also asked me to steal a quite expensive item for him in 2008.  I refused, of course, and I was amazed that he even suggested it, especially as the invoice for the item was in my name.

Some people have a different sense of morality.

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Off to hospital today, actually a nearby hotel because I need to present at the hospital at 6.30am tomorrow morning. Usually when you have an operation it’s to make an improvement, but this one is simply to remove my gastric band.  I suppose that’s an improvement, but it doesn’t feel like it.  $1500 please, not covered by HBF.

Today I’m allowed fluids only, no solid food.  Breakfast is V8 vege juice and an Optifast drink, with black coffee.  I’m hungry.

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I mentioned that my capsule coffee maker has failed again. It’s still dead, try as I might to get it to work.

However, I’ve realised that I can still make coffee with the capsules. I just take the plastic film cover off, put it in the cup and pour hot water on.  There’s a plastic grid there to keep the grounds in place, so although the coffee is not fully filtered, it’s OK if you let it settle.  It’s like Kopi Hitam, Indonesian black coffee, rather nice.

 

Constant lies

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Fortress Australia  ©  PJ Croft 2014

I got an email from a friend this morning that, at first, I thought was a good joke. It shows a boatload of grey haired Seniors rowing on the ocean (supposedly).  I thought the joke was that Seniors are leaving Australia for a better life in Indonesia after Abbott and Hockey’s horror budget.

Then I read further down and realised it’s yet another attack on so called “illegal immigrants”, saying the Seniors were going to row back to Australia, be taken ashore and given via Social Security “far more benefits than they were entitled to as Australian pensioners.”  I’ve replied to all the recipients of this email in the following terms:

It is NOT illegal to seek asylum from persecution in another country.  The constant lie by Abbott and Co. that they are illegals is utterly reprehensible. When assessed by immigration, 97% are found to be genuine refugees. 97% !  And they do NOT get far more social security benefits than Australians.

As you can tell, I am very angry at the racist attitudes in this country.  It is based simply on fear of foreigners.  There is NO orderly queue at embassies for visas for these people.  They would be killed and their families targeted if they stood outside Australian embassies wanting visas to escape their countries.  Read up on the Hazaras.

As you can tell, I’m rather passionate about this. Call me a do-gooder (as one of my former racist friends did – stand up, Pete), but I am sickened by the cold, racist, xenophobic cruelty coming from this country.  Jailing people who have committed no crime, with no hope of release.  Jailing pregnant women and their children, with no schools and no hope.  I am sickened.  Not in my name!  I didn’t vote for this.

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I was going to post a picture above from the March P&O cruise, but I’ve just realised all my pictures from the cruise are gone! Bloody hell.  I immediately thought, backups, but there are none.  There may be copies on the laptop that I used on the trip. I hope so.

UPDATE 1pm:  Yes, thank goodness, all my pictures are still on the laptop. Phew! Now to burn a DVD for further backup. (A DVD? How about 5 DVDs so far and I haven’t finished the transfer,)

This move to a new computer has cost me dearly. I lost my entire Images drive.  I had a backup, but it was from December last, so all my recent stuff may have been lost.

And despite all my efforts to fix it, I’ve lost my Video drive too. About 1GB (Ooops! 1TB) of video.  I have all my Europe 2008 material on DVDs somewhere, if only I could find them.  They must still be in an unopened box in the garage.  I hope.  Trouble is, I can’t remember what I had, except vaguely.  The lesson is, BACKUP!  I’ve bought two new 2TB drives for that purpose and will make copies of all my stuff for storage on the shelf as soon as I’ve got organised.  At a price of $105 for 2TB, it’s not too expensive these days.

UPDATE 2:  All my Europe 2008 video was on a spare hard drive, so I’ve copied it all over to the new Video drive (3 Terabytes in size!) and it’s not lost.  Even many of the image stabilised copies of the clips, which involved many hours to do, were there too.  Thank goodness.

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It’s also made me dig out all my CD-RWs that I built up since 2000, and the great news is that they are all fine.  There were only two files that couldn’t be read.  So provided they are kept in good conditions, I see no problems with using optical media for storage. Most of these discs dated from 2000 to 2005, and many of them were BigW cheapies, yet they’re still OK.

One interesting thing is that one CD-RW seemed to be empty, even though I’d labelled it with its contents. I think it hadn’t been finalised.  But I put it through software called Recuva and bingo! It retrieved all the files, about 40 of them, all fine.  Recuva is free (shareware) software – I think I’ll have to make a donation.

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Well, my landscapers haven’t come back. That’s about two weeks so far since they left with the job unfinished.  They started to accuse me of not paying their bill, but I paid the first two 25% installments on the day I got the bills.  I’ve now paid another 25%, but that hasn’t brought them back.  I’m not paying any more, that’s for sure.

I had no dispute with them.  We got along fine, I thought. But I’ve ended up with a part finished job and the wrong type of lawn laid.  I never even once mentioned Sir Walter, asking for Buffalo Palmetto twice and even pointing to a picture in a Stratco flyer.  But I got Sir Walter.  It’s supposed to be good lawn, but it’s not what I asked for.  Quite coarse.

Oh well, I’ll get the paving slabs myself (they’re only 20mm thick so not too heavy) and get someone in to lay them.  I’m buying compressed coir soil blocks from Bunnings to lay on the ground, then I’ll get someone in to bring trailer loads of potting mix for the top.  The retic pipe is there, it just needs the risers fitted.  Not much to do.  And I’ve got a healthy West Indian Lime tree ready to plant. Yum.

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I just tried to make a coffee but my BigW Caff Italy machine has failed again, in the same way the first one did back in January.  It just stops dead and beeps.  Nothing I do will get ti to work.  Oh well, take it back.  That’s what you get for buying cheap ($50).

But my BluRay player wasn’t cheap.  My full sized, full price ($129) Pioneer BluRay player has failed again – dead, won’t turn on. This is the second time it’s failed.  I took it back about a month ago but it worked in the shop.  Couldn’t make it go wrong.  But it’s failed again now in the same way.  I’m going to ask for a brand new one, and even try for another brand if I can get it.

Jaws drop

The Rank Cintel Mk 5 film scanner of the 1980s. We had one.

Back when I was a big dog at Channel 7 🙂 , flying spot telecine machines were huge, seriously expensive, needed constant adjustment and broke down all the time. A flying spot telecine (above) is a film transport (16mm and 35mm) where a very bright spot of light is produced by a very expensive CRT, passes through the film and is picked up by camera tubes, three for R, G and B.  The spot of light is swept back and forth across the tube face, hence scanning the film frame as if it were a TV in reverse.

If working well and well adjusted, the results could be superb, well, for an SD analogue output anyway.

Then digital came along and the film frame was projected onto three CCD sensor chips by a conventional light source (lamp). Each chip (R, G and B again) output stayed digital as it was processed in the machine, then was output to an analogue TV signal in the normal way. This should have been a huge improvement. If only the damn machine worked!

They were made by a long standing, very well known and prestigious British company called Rank Cintel, who were the premier makers and had most of the market. The machines cost around $250,000 in the 1990s. As I say, when they worked, the result was superb but we quickly learned that you couldn’t put it direct to air because it would stop working on air.  We always had to record the output to videotape so that we could stop and fix the failures as we went. It was hugely time consuming because someone had to attend the machines to make sure it went through OK.

My jaw dropped this morning when I read that a fairly small Melbourne (Australian) company called Black Magic Design has bought Cintel and has produced a film scanner that outputs 4K Ultra HD (3840 x 2160 pixels) and are selling it for US$29,995!  We Aussies have taken over this British company and are topping them at their own game. You’ll forgive a bit of chest beating after all the hassles we went through in the 1980s and 90s.

Knowing this little Aussie company, I have no doubt it will work and be reliable.  This Black Magic company is amazing. They are turning the video and camera world upside down.  They have produced three small HD digital video camcorders that take interchangeable lenses (I have some that will fit) for a price that starts at $995 and up to $2,995 for more features.

This is a High Def video camcorder that takes my lenses, for $995!

Then in April they introduced a full sized studio camera (actually a shoulder mount camera) for $5,995.  This is 1/10th what this type of camera used to cost, and no tape to worry about. Not even special cards, just ones you can buy in any good photo retailer.  The broadcast world is buzzing.  These things are actually available to anyone at these prices. This is 1/10th what things used to cost, with fabulous output quality.

This is every news cameraman’s or independent video cameraman’s dream.

A portable, almost pocket sized HD video recorder!

This is another of their products. Just slide a SATA SSD drive in (available over the counter at any computer shop for not many $$s) and you have a battery powered portable, pocket sized Hi Def video recorder, connected to your camera by HDMI.  $345!  There was nothing like this when I was working, only 14 years ago.  All video recorders used tape and cost upwards of $50,000.

And now the film scanner above.

The old film scanners used to be the size of one or two fridges and weigh about the same. This seems to be small and light enough to mount on a wall.  I’ll bet it’s reliable too.  This is not all –  http://www.blackmagicdesign.com/products  Great stuff from this Australian company.

Oh yes, why do we need it? The new TV/video standard is called 4K or Ultra Hi Def, but there’s almost no material to broadcast or stream. There is a huge amount of 35mm film though, of superb quality.  This machine will be used to convert old 35mm movies and docos to 4K UHD for distribution. It would repay its cost very quickly, I would think.

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I saw something I’ve never seen before on Monday. At Whitfords shops there were two armoured truck guys loading money into the back of the truck. The money was in clear plastic bags and there were masses of them, all obviously heavy with coins.  I saw at least one full of $20 (red) notes too, great bundles of them.  I stood and watched out of sheer fascination, but I didn’t go too close though.  I just grinned and said, “I’ve never seen anything like this before”, and moved on.

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Listening to the radio this morning about rules for kids’ play at schools these days, one woman said she’d been counselled by the school about what her son could and couldn’t do. She said, “I felt quite emasculated.”  Ha ha.  You were emasculated before you were born, lady. You obviously don’t know what the word means.

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I got my latest blood test results yesterday and even though I’m on insulin now, with very fluctuating blood sugar levels, my HbA1c was only 7.1, and well down from the level 3 months ago. Whacko. All other tests were good, except for one, and it explains why I’ve been feeling so low for months. Luckily it’s easily treatable and not damaging, so I start treatment tomorrow (topical cream).  I’m hopeful of a big boost.  I hope.

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Addition:  What a beautiful graphic — http://www.5wgraphics.com/img/newsletter/50-years-of-exploration.jpg

Tough

Tough but fair?

“Many [medical research scientists] have said they are torn by a budget that provides the new pot of money, in part by charging people to visit the doctor, but also cuts $80m from co-operative research centres, $111m from the CSIRO and $75m from the Australian Research Council.” [ABC News]

“Low-income couples with children and single parents will bear the brunt of the Abbott Government’s first budget, losing up to 15 per cent of their disposable income when the measures hit in full, according to independent modelling.

The findings from the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at Canberra University stand in contrast to the Government’s insistence that the budget is “fair” and “shares the burden”.” [ABC News]

“We’d estimate around 1.2 million families that would be on average around $3,000 a year worse off by 2017-18, whereas the top income groups – so the top 20 per cent of households – would have either no impact or a very small positive impact,” [NATSEM via ABC News]

 

Liberals lie to you, without compunction.  Liberals look after their rich mates.  Don’t blame me.  I voted Labor.

All’s fair

RedLake1102 fr08B

Budget bloodletting

 

“This is a tough but fair budget.”

Yeah? It’s fair if you don’t care –

  • A regressive Doctor Tax is imposed, affecting the poorest and sickest most;
  • Doctors and hospital emergency departments will become de facto tax collectors. More paperwork. Just what they need.
  • $80bn is removed from Commonwealth funding for schools. The states will have to make up the shortfall, which will mean higher state taxes and charges;
  • $30bn is removed from Commonwealth funding from hospitals. Ditto.
  • Massive cuts to funding for aboriginal health and welfare schemes. For the racist abo haters, this is wonderful, of course.
  • Big cuts to public dental health schemes. It’s funny – wealthy people usually have good teeth; poor people usually don’t. It must be their own fault.
  • etc etc
“And the budget pain was not shared. It clearly hit the disadvantaged hardest, and much of the money was not directed at improving the bottom line, but rather at different priorities such as building roads and setting up a new medical research fund to try to find a cure for cancer and other diseases.” [Lenore Taylor, Guardian Australia]
 

Most of the damage is being borne by the young, unemployed, the middle class who are going to have to accept yet more increases in State charges, pensioners in the near future and the sick who use doctors more often.

Who is least affected? High income earners who use doctors less and can easily afford the Doctor Tax, and companies, which will benefit from a 1.5% reduction in company tax. This will make it much more attractive to shift income so as to avoid personal income tax.  What a surprise.  Liberal Party mates and donors.

Funding has been cut for ASIC, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission.  They are calling it a move to self regulation. Leaving the white collar crooks more room to play with less fear of being caught more like it. Again, Liberal Party influence. Looking after mates.

As well, science has once again been hit with yet more cuts to the CSIRO.  The lawyers and accountants can’t see the value of science because they are incapable of understanding it.

Tough but fair?  If you don’t think it’s fair, tough.

A large majority of West Australians voted Liberal in the last couple of elections. Well, you can’t complain. You’ve received what you voted for.

What amazes me is how people believe what they are told and forget the recent lessons.  Did the example of Queensland, where Campbell Newman has culled jobs far and wide mean nothing? Have people forgotten all the WA Liberal government’s trashing of all their election commitments mean nothing?  It seems so.

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This is interesting:  http://www.universetoday.com/111820/moscow-delivers-double-whammy-to-us-space-efforts-bans-rockets-engines-for-military-use-wont-prolong-iss-work/

When the Shuttle program ended last year, and the US Congress cut NASA’s budget severely, they were forced to buy Russian rocket engines for their heavy lift rockets, i.e. the US’s space program depended on Russia supplying the rocket engines.

In addition, all US astronauts must go back and forth to the International Space Station on Soyuz rockets launched from Russia. How embarrassing.  NASA has been largely crippled by Congress.

Now it’s come back to bite them. Russia is saying, if you impose sanctions on us over Crimea/Ukraine, then forget about getting rocket engines from us.

There is huge progress being made by private firms in the US in developing rockets with their own engines, but they are not up to the size required for heavy lift yet and won’t be for some years.

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I’m a bit engrossed in the series Fargo on SBS, but I don’t know why, because it’s so incredibly violent.  The killings shown are so graphic.  Blood spurts, skulls are crushed, a bound man is dropped through a hole in the ice.  Why is it that shocking violence is allowed to be shown uncut on TV, but nudity and sex have to be so disguised?

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I’ve just received a letter from P&O Cruises about my complaints about the Arcadia cruise in March.  The gist of the letter is that I should have advised P&O before the cruise of my medical condition, and essentially blames me for not being more specific in telling them beforehand and filling out a questionnaire about my health.  They say, “We are sorry that you were highly disappointed with the service you received on board. Passengers are advised to inform us prior to sailing …”

All I wanted was a working fridge!  I asked three times that something be done, but no-one got back to me.  The nurse in the medical centre knew I was making a simple request for cool storage, and she knew my name and cabin number, but she never followed up.

Not good enough, Ms Caballero at P&O.  You’ll be hearing from me again.  But P&O will never get me as a passenger again.

What??!!

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Try some of this Tony.

“The National Commission of Audit chairman says people are visiting the doctor more than 11 times a year and he doesn’t believe Australians are “that crook”.

“Tony Shepherd’s audit report recommends the Government introduce a $15 co-payment for people to visit their GP, which he says “will give people cause for thought over whether they really need to go”.” [ABC News]

This disgusts me. The Commission of Audit chairman makes a wide generalisation about people’s health, an area where he has no qualifications or expertise. He decides people need to be discouraged from visiting their doctor!

The ABC’s Fact Check proves that his statement is wrong. The average number of doctor visits is around five per year, not 11.  It says that if you count small procedures such as skin cancer removals, the average is nearer seven visits per person, but he’s still wildly wrong.

People need to be discouraged??! Who is this guy?  I’m having trouble with blood glucose control at the moment and I’m making a lot of visits to try to fix it. Perhaps I shouldn’t bother going, then see all the complications that can develop and cost Medicare even more for major treatments?

This is the rubbish a businessman/accountant speaks.  If he’s wrong about this, what’s the rest of his report worth?

The Business Council of Australia today announced the election of Tony Shepherd as its new president for a term of two years effective Friday 11 November 2011.

Mr Shepherd B.Comm. is one of Australia’s most highly respected and passionate business leaders”  [The Business Council of Australia web site]. 

As I said … This $15 co-payment is a regressive tax. It will hit the poorest people the hardest, while for high income and wealthy people, who generally have better health, it will be no more than a loose change pin prick.

Speaking of pricks …