Mad men!

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Airbus A380

We are being governed by a bunch of mad men! On the Religion and Ethics Report on Radio National this morning, that idiot Attorney General Brandis is criticising the ABC and Fairfax papers as being “anti religion”. Being biased against religious matters, and especially the Catholic Church.

Anyone see the irony? It’s being reported on the ABC, on the only religion program on Australian radio. Other news outlets may not criticise religion, but they don’t even talk about it. Their silence means they just don’t care, not interested, couldn’t give a stuff.

I don’t see the Fairfax papers often enough to know, so I’ll have to stay quiet on that, but why would a news organisation wage a campaign against a particular religion? The Catholic church is not exactly squeaky clean. It’s riddled with pedophiles and the hierarchy has covered it all up. This is a crime! It must be reported on. Hundreds of children and adults have been terribly damaged for life by the Catholic church. This is news. And reporting critical news can hardly be called a campaign.

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As for the Rabbott’s Paid Parental Leave monster, uncosted, unfunded, no-one who knows government schemes has a good word to say about it.

And once again, the Conservative politicians are committing us to military action without being asked by the major players and without parliamentary debate. Sure, they say they’ll debate, but they’ve already announced what were going to do.

By the way, they’re saying we’ll send all our F/A18 Super Hornets and operate them off US aircraft carriers. But our F/A18s were never fitted out for carrier operation. That requires beefed up landing gear and a tail hook at minimum. Huh?

This is yet another in the line of Liberal governments committing us to war without consultation of the people. Viet Nam and the giant lies told by Menzies and Holt. Iraq in 2003 – Howard never consulted, he just went ahead and announced “All the way with my friend George”. And he gets called Man of Steel ! You could see him preening.

Grrrr!

PS: They’re saying they’ll send ALL our F/A18s off to the Arabian Gulf. But the rationale for buying and operating these hugely expensive planes was always to defend the continent of Australia.

So if we send them all away, how are we going to ward off all the Yellow Peril hordes who will immediately see we’re defenceless and attack us?  What a joke.

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_DSC0144Speaking of steel, another book arrived yesterday. It’s the Japan book, and what makes it special is the metallic steel grey binding. with matching slip case. It looks great. I think there’s another copy to come, I usually order two.

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The madness of Perth drivers. Everyone has to pass me, even though I’m doing spot on 80Km/h by my speedo. So a car races past me and comes up against the car in front of it, whereon it has to brake. So it sits no more than 5m behind it, surging forward, braking, surging, braking, about every 20 secs.

I have a GPS and I know my indicated 80Km/h is actually about 77Km/h. That’s not unusual and should be the same for every car. So everyone exceeds the speed limit, even on 80Km/h roads. Losers.

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I’ve done a spreadsheet on the cruise/holiday and all up, including airfares and hotels for five weeks, it’ll be about $4,000 each. This includes the 12 night, 7 port cruise, 4 nights Beijing, 4 nights Hanoi, 5 nights Bangkok and 6 nights Bali on the way home. This is good. Five weeks all up. And I don’t actually have to return from Bali if I don’t want to. My friend has to come back for work (he’s 67 but won’t retire), but with no dog to worry about and an automatic watering system, I can stay away as long as I like. Hmmm.

But boy, I had to do a fair bit of walking today and I’m not in good shape. I battle as I go. I have to push on through the pain of back and leg muscles. (I’m not breathless though.) I just get so weary after 5 mins or so. This is hard.

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Speaking of which, there’s a new book out called Sell Up, Pack Up and Go. I’ve ordered it. It’s written by Colleen Ryan, the eminent Fairfax journalist and her husband, about just selling your assets here, discarding everything unneeded and going overseas to rent to live. Just stay as long as you want to in one place and when you get the urge, move on to another place, another country. Rent, don’t buy (I’m talking about after retirement, of course.)

It’s attractive to me, but in the next thought, I’m thinking about needing a new chest of drawers and my dream of a model railway. Medical matters are also a very big factor too.

I’ve realised that I’m now in a position to offer a house swap too. It wasn’t feasible in the Trigg house, but it’s very feasible here. I could put all my stuff in one of the spare bedrooms and lock it up. It would force me to de-clutter and properly furnish and organise the rest of house, too. I’ve never really overcome my mess since I’ve been here. Some boxes and items remain where they fell in April last year! I need more cabinets and book shelves, but I’m very reluctant to buy more furniture.

Just a thought.

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High fibre diet

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Malaysia can do it. Why can’t we? © PJ Croft 2000, 2014

I forgot to mention – the NBN fibre runs right past my house! I can have fibre internet any time I like! It’s been there all the time, I just didn’t know because no-one said so.

That’s the outcome of that iiNet flyer I got last week inviting me to sign up. I went to their web site and it seems all I have to do is sign up. Free installation!

I can have 12Mb/s with a 20GB per month for $49.95, or 25Mb/s with 100GB per month for $64.95, right up to 100Mb/s and 500GB/month for $99.95.

I’ve got ADSL on my copper wire connection now, which in theory is 12Mb/s max, but all I can get is 1.3Mb/s. It’s adequate for most things, but I can’t watch Hi Def video clips on-line, and I see a lot available on the photographic and video sites I use. If I want them, I have to download them. A 100MB file takes around 5 mins to download.

I’ll start on the lowest plan, 25Mbits/s ( = 3MBytes/s) at first. That means that 100MB HD video file would download in 30 seconds, theoretically. I should easily be able to watch it live streaming too. All I have to do is pick up the phone.

Take that, Malcolm Turnbull! This is fibre-to-the-home, FTTH, which you are going to deny to most of the country. No-one would be able to get higher than 25Mb/s, which is the starting point for iiNet FTTH.

He is ordering the NBN Co to use Fibre To The Node, FTTN, which relies on your copper wires for the final link from some “node”, which could be up to 5Km away, for the final connection to your house. That was my problem at the old house in Trigg. I was 4.5Km from the nearest node, Hamersley exchange, and I could not get ADSL after 15 years of trying. Too much loss on the wires. If I couldn’t get even 1Mb/s on my copper wires, how are they going to offer 100Mb/s. Only by adding closer nodes.

If you saw the West Australian last week, they carried photos of several Telstra street pits which contain the phone wires and they are an utter shambles. Filled with water, mainly, but one had burnt wires from a lightning strike and never repaired. Others are corroded by water, or badly damaged by an untested plastic sealant that ended up corroding the wires.

The union has around 350 pictures like this of Telstra pits. Relying on these for 100Mb/s data is madness. They’ve got to be fixed first, and they’re not being fixed. Why? All the staff cuts in the past decade or more. Telstra has lost most of the experienced techs. When redundancies are offered, it’s the best ones who take them and leave. Like me!

Malcolm Turnbull, you’ll go down in history as the man who crippled Australia’s fibre optic network future.

It doesn’t add up

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The good old days. © PJ Croft 2014

My campaign about supermarket checkout scanning continues. Two incidents in the past few days.

At an IGA I use regularly and where I’ve found errors several times before, I bought three tins of herring fillets. Two were marked as $3.59 on the shelf but scanned at the original price, $3.99. The other one was marked at $2.49 but scanned at $2.99.

At the checkout, I noticed this and tried to correct it before I paid, but after I got through I found it hadn’t been fixed! All three were shown as $3.99! I stood there waiting while half a dozen other people went through, trying to resist my urge to shout, “Check your docket! This shop rips you off.”

Finally I got the attention of the chick who called someone to come over. I waited some more, and a more mature woman came, looked at the prices and then to her credit, refunded the whole cost of the three items, about $9.40 refund. This was a win for me, but just about every time I go there, I find errors like this. Their marked specials on the shelves do not reach the checkout scans. It’s always in their favour. A good way to boost profits.

Second, yesterday I found another customer’s item on my bill! I noticed that a couple of old ladies in head scarves were talking earnestly to the checkout girl at my Coles in Butler. They opened a plastic bag and I saw a big bag of potato crisps. I don’t know if the checkout girl challenged them, but after a few more words the girl scanned the bag of chips. I don’t know what happened then, but they moved off and it was my turn.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and checked my printout (I always check!) to find Smiths Thin Cut crisps listed at $3.19. Bloody hell! It’s bad enough being overcharged on things I buy, but to be charged for someone else’s item is a bit rich.

To give Coles its due, unlike Woolworths, I virtually never have scanning trouble in any Coles store. That’s why I only discovered this when I got home. I’ll be going back there today asking for my refund of $3.19.

The theme of all this is, scanning errors are rife, and they are virtually all in favour of the shop. And you almost never get the refund as the old Scanning Code of Practice promised. Beware.

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The cruise is firming up. When I enquired further, I found the cost of the cruise part is only $2,108. Add airfares and it’s still way down on the $4,990 airfares included I was told earlier.

The airfare from Beijing to Hanoi is US$312.50, and the fare from Hanoi to Bangkok is A$172. The fare from Bangkok to Perth is $240 on Air Asia (cattle class).

I’ve found I can get a frequent Flyer free (20,000 points) trip Perth to Singapore on Jetstar, so that’s easy. All up then, it’s $2,832 plus hotels. Much more affordable. I’ll be booking asap, but I’m worried about travel insurance. With all my existing medical conditions, they won’t like me.

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One odd thing is that the cruise ends at Tianjin, the port in China nearest Beijing. Even though they say -> Beijing in the schedule, they don’t actually take you there. Beijing is 150Km inland from Tianjin! The travel agent confirms that the cruise ends at the wharf and it’s up to you after that. I’m a bit miffed at that.

Apparently you can book a tour from the wharf which ends at Beijing airport, but that’s way out of town. Looks like a rickshaw ride for 150Km to our Beijing hotel.

Hotels in Beijing seem to be around $120 a night for 4 star, eg Novotel, Holiday Inn etc. But I’ve found one called Shichahai Art Hotel which is down a lane in a hutong (old street). It’s all done in Chinese art themes and looks very nice. The only problem is the reviews emphasis small rooms and little wardrobe space. Suitcases have to go on the floor. Don’t like that.

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I noticed Fargo collected an Emmy for Best Miniseries yesterday. I watched the repeat in the past few weeks out of morbid fascination. This program was an orgy of violence! The main character played by Billy Bob Thornton was a psychopath who killed without a second look. Shotguns, assault riles, pistols, knives.

So this bloody violence goes to air uncut and is awarded, but sexual content is slyly steered around and self censored. Not happy.

Petrol fumes

Grrrr!

Grrrr!

Grrr again. I’ve calmed down now but I was fuming earlier today. I pulled in to my local service (hah! What service?) station to fill up at lunch time and when I went to pay, the guy said, quite gruffly, “Next time, you’ve got to face this way” (i.e. the car must face to office). The idea is so you can’t easily drive off without paying.

I said, “I’m a regular.”

He said, “You’re all regulars, mate.”

I said, loudly in the office, “I don’t like being accused of something I haven’t done!” He just shrugged.

So I take my business elsewhere. Jeez, I hate this. As if I would do a drive-off if I want to come back and buy fuel again! And as the fuel filler is on the left side of my car, I will only want to go to the right of the pumps, which everyone else will be queueing to do. Yes, I know you can drag the hose across, but you have to have the car in just the right position to do it and often it won’t reach and you spill fuel.

This is the third “service” station I’ve found doing this policy around here. Luckily there’s a Gull just up the road 3Km where you just naturally face the office. I’ll go there from now on. But boy! I was mad. On top of the Italian cafe making me pay up front if I sit outside! We are all being penalised for the few who do the wrong. OK, I, a good customer, go elsewhere. But soon there won’t be an elsewhere, will there?

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 2014 Cruise itinerary mapWell, things change suddenly. I was in two minds about doing this cruise due to the cost for a single ticket. But one of the old school guys was around on Thursday and said count him in. He’s keen to come along and share the cabin and hotels. That’s brilliant. That makes it much more affordable. He wants to do the whole thing – staying on in Beijing, Hanoi, Bangkok. It halves the cost of hotels, already almost bargain prices in Asia these days compared to here or elsewhere.

So I’ve asked for a full quote and as soon as I get it, I’ll book. October 24. Quite excited about it.

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Definite touch of spring in the air, I reckon. And a change in the light, to the spring look. Very nice.

 

 

Exciting stuff

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Here’s the image wrap cover in the flesh. This is my first attempt at this format.

It was a good day yesterday. Two deliveries, three books – one extra copy of Veni Vidi Pici Vol. 1 and two copies of Cinta Bali. There it is in its image wrap cover form. I thought this meant soft cover, but it’s a hard cover, which I like. They really make a superb job of the printing and binding. There’s nary a thing to criticise.

_DSC0128Here’s the shelf now. I must make edge labels for them.  Note the slip case for the first white one. It’s a $21 option.

I’ve just had a call from DHL. Another delivery tomorrow. That’ll be the Japan books. Thick and fast.

Later: yet another delivery! Another copy of this book arrived at midday – that makes three copies. I only ordered and paid for two, so that’s a bonus. I had a lot of hassles with this order, inability to log in, being told my files haven’t uploaded two or three times, having to upload again and again. I deserve this free copy.

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I’m also looking forward to going to the post office to collect another new camera this morning. What, another one? Yes, ‘fraid so. It’s a bit special, this one. It’s a Sigma DP1 Merrill.

This is the version I’m getting, with the top mounted optical viewfinder, a $150 extra.

Strange name you say? Yes, an American guy called Bob Merrill invented a different type of image sensor called a Foveon sensor. The Japanese company Sigma bought the US company and now are the sole producers of this type of camera, and they named the models after the inventor.

The thing is, the design of the camera is a bit clunky compared to the big names – no image stabilisation, slow writing to the card, slow to clear the buffer, slow autofocus, poor battery life.

But! The fixed 35mm 28mm equiv. lens (it’s not a zoom) is supposed to be absolutely superb, the equal of Leica, flawless across the frame. And the images it makes have a richness of detail and colour like no other digital camera produces. I’ll post samples soon.

It just means you have to operate the camera like a film camera – assume you have limited shots, hold the camera dead steady, work slowly, carry a spare battery (which I ordered).  More to come.

Why did I buy? They used to be $999, too expensive for what you got, but there’s a new model out so they’re discounting the old model to $699. I took the bait.

Later: it arrived and it turned out that there were two batteries in the box to start with. My added battery ($15) makes three. That’s OK, they are very small and light, so I’ll carry them with me. It’s too dull and wet to take photos today. I’ll try another day.

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ABC News this morning:

The White House says Barack Obama authorised the mission earlier this year and is believed to have been carried out by several dozen special forces troops.

Wow, they must have been crowded around him. Did they use a stretcher? Was he sick?

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The latest addition takes shape. I assume it's going to be a cafe. It's diagonally opposite the coffee lounge that I criticised a few days ago and will make them shiver.

The latest addition takes shape. I assume it’s going to be a cafe/restaurant. It was a very dull afternoon. My house is behind it, to the left of the spindly pine tree. The pub is just to the left.

If it’s a coffee place, they’re going to shake up the existing Italian cafe that I criticised a few days ago. Ciao.

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Speaking of exciting, I got a flyer yesterday addressed to me at this address from iiNet – “Upgrade to iiNet Fibre.” If it’s addressed to me, then I must assume fibre is available here. Wow. They say plans start at $24.95 $49.95 per month, and I know the installation cost for the interface boxes is around $800, I think. I’ll check it out.

If the fibre comes right to my house, I’ll be able to thumb my nose at Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull who is trying to restrict fibre to nodes nearby, using the existing copper wires for the final connection.

Fibre all the way to the house (ftth) = potential 1Gb/s. Using the copper wires (fttn) = 100Mb/s or less. Good one Malcolm. You are crippling Australia to save money.

This is the typical approach – oh, we can’t afford it now, we’ll do a sub standard job and maybe fix it later. Like the three lane (2+1) bridge over the freeway at Warwick, forever restricting Reid Highway to one lane each direction. One lane! For a major highway in Perth! Fools.

Busy, busy …

Cover  © PJ Croft 2014

Not many posts recently, only because I’m quite busy with a couple of projects. I mentioned that Photobook Australia surprised me a couple of weeks ago by saying my vouchers were about to expire. I protested and they gave me a three weeks’ extension.

So I had three weeks to produce two photo books where each one would normally take me three months. I took a few short cuts and worked fast and got it done.

p001So that’s eight books I’ve produced now, with two copies of each. It’s becoming a shelf full. And I’ve found I still have two vouchers left, so there’s another book to come. I might do more words this time, with pictures to support the text. These only expire in 2016 so I’ve got time.

But I’m pretty browned off with Photobook. Springing this surprise on me, intermittent inability to log in to my on-line account, poor, old fashioned software, slooow saving, no page numbering and other gripes. I may have to go elsewhere.

Why do I stay with them? Dropped shadows. I love dropped shadows and last time I checked three years ago, even though their software seems more sophisticated, none of the competition offers it. Strange. Time to check again.

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I’ve been saying it for years, “Do it now, or you may not get the chance again”, and I think a such an opportunity has popped up. I baulked at the price initially, but I think I might have to grab this.

2014 Cruise itinerary mapIt’s a fly/cruise/fly deal, Perth to Singapore to join a cruise ship, the Sapphire Princess, then Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki, Busan and Beijing. The price includes  flying straight back to Perth from Beijing but I’ll end my cruise there and make my own way back. After all, I have no time constraints, no dog to worry about (sob) and an automatic watering system.

It’s a bit expensive, $4,990 for a single, but that’s for a balcony cabin. No more claustrophic windowless cabin, this one has 24 hr ocean views.

Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh and Shanghai are only one day stays, and Nagasaki/Busan are both in the one day! Not much time to see anything. But at Beijing, I’ll probably stay on a few more days. Once in a lifetime! I never dreamed I would get there, and it’s autumn, so it will be very pretty. The avg. mins are 0C and max. 10C, so I’ll need a parka and gloves, to be binned after my stay as I’ll be flying back to the tropics again.

I’m hoping to fly direct to Hanoi for an extended stay, to get a good feel of the place, then to Bangkok for a longer stay than I managed in 1988, the only time I was there. Maybe a week? Maybe longer? Hotel prices are under pressure at the moment due to the martial rule. Bargains. I can afford 5 star at these prices.

From Bangkok, I don’t know. My options are unlimited. Phuket? KL? Bali? I’ll decide when I’m there. I’m probably biting off more than I can chew, but we’ll see.

I forgot to mention – it starts on 24 October, two weeks after our reunion. Ideal. Return date would be around 27 November. Not sure of end date.

And so it goes on …

© PJ Croft 2014.   Camera Sony RX10 with Zeiss 24-200mm lens

© PJ Croft 2014. Camera Sony RX10 with Zeiss 24-200mm lens

Grrr. Another restaurant rant. I had brekky at the local Italian restaurant this morning and asked to sit outside at a pavement table. Uh oh, no menus there. The waitress had to search for one for me. I sat inside to order, selected the bacon and eggs special, but the eggs are fried only, OK, and I particularly asked for buttered toast.

I sat outside, the coffee came but it was a short black, not the long black I asked for. And the toast was not buttered. There was a tub of butter but I had to do it myself on nearly cold toast.

Before the meal came, she said because I was sitting outside, I had to pay on the spot. Obviously they thought I might do a runner. I don’t care if they have trouble with other people not paying, I still object to being put in that category for no reason!

One guy sitting near me was a very amicable talker and he agreed, and also said he’d been asked to stop calling the waitress “darling”. He was a Pom and I could hear him calling the two other women with him darling all the time. It was just his way. I think if the waitress was so sensitive to such a trivial thing, maybe she should consider being in another job.

And if you think I’m an MCP, next time a woman calls me sweetie or dear, a very common thing,  perhaps I should complain to the management?