Ya gotta larf

Bd05810_From a website selling Chinese made gadgets –

Specifications:

From the Manufacturer:
1.High resolution
1.Higustable contrast, wide viewing angle, the picture clear, bright colour
1.Higrared remote control
1.Higo Browse screening function, playback
1.Higge playback speed can be adjusted, the speed of image switching transitions can also be self-regulation
1.Higory card can be inserted, with background music

And the description of a camera bag:

The Lord of the bag is a pocket, the upper used the cotton rope of convergent way, plus a lid, the structure is simple. External vice bags and the ornament of fastener broke the appearance of drudgery, optional but not casually, fashion and brief. It makes the whole bag beautiful and easy, and never lose plain. This kind of bag is very suitable for photography lovers do for short trips, also can be used in the daily travel. The setting sun under the afterglow, carrying such a simple and plain bag, walked slowly, keep the memory of the way with a camera, taste life gently, it will make your journey warm and romantic.

Heh heh.

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This and that …

Volkswagen-Passat-CC-Exclusive-3A contender for my replacement car if I can’t have that Mercedes. Love the back view, not so keen on the front.

volkswagen-passatVolkswagen-Passat-CC-2013_6I like this view. I want a car with styling that won’t date, and I think this fits.

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I read the book, The Imitation Game, about Alan Turing recently. Turing was a genius mathematician at Cambridge in the 1930s and 1940s. He developed the first ideas about a universal machine to solve problems, a machine that could take instructions and operate internally to produce output. This was different to all machines up to that point because machines were always designed to operate in one way only, often brilliantly, but could not be used for another operation without significant changes to their hardware. A universal machine did not need hardware alterations to perform a new task. This seems second nature to us now, of course, as we all have personal computers.

The “imitation” in the title refers to the way a universal machine, what came to be known as a digital computer, had the potential to imitate human thought and speech. There came to be an idea known as the Turing Test, where a person interacts with a computer and has to judge whether he is speaking to a computer, or a concealed person trying to imitate the computer. This idea is still valid today, when computers have developed capabilities in speech far beyond Alan Turing’s designs. Take Siri as the example.

The book is brilliant. The author is a Cambridge mathematician himself, so all the mathematical concepts are explained to quite a high level. It is not light reading. It’s over 500 pages of detailed biography of a genius. A genius who was homosexual at a time when homosexuality was a serious crime. Unfortunately Turing was betrayed by a young man he befriended and was tried and convicted. He was offered the choice of four years’ jail, or to take oestrogen to chemically castrate him. He chose this. He took the treatment for several years but suddenly, without any warning or explanation, killed himself in 1954. He was supposed to have eaten an apple soaked in cyanide. He has since been given an official pardon. Bit late.

Why am I writing this? I bought the DVD of the movie, The Imitation Game and watched it last night.

What a travesty! What a bastardisation of the true story. What a stupid American treatment, making him look like a bumbling weak man who was persecuted by the people at Bletchley Park, the code breaking establishment in WW2. He wasn’t persecuted or bullied. He had to press hard for funds and resources, going direct to Winston Churchill at one stage, but he was always treated with respect by the top people, not ridiculed and bullied.

In the movie, Turing’s co-workers, male mathematicians, are shown dancing around and hugging each other when they get their machine to work. British men didn’t hug each other! Some might now, but it would never have happened then.

A woman, Joan Clark, is shown as becoming part of the main code breaking group, as she is also a maths genius. She was certainly in the book and for a while became engaged to Turing, but she wasn’t a mathematician. She was a very competent and bright code breaker, but not like the movie portrays. They obviously needed a female “star”.

So if you haven’t read the book and don’t intend to, by all means see the movie. But if you’ve read the book, prepare to be disappointed This is a Hollywood treatment of a British episode and it’s rubbish.

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LabelLook at all the ingredients in this list! What is it? Nail varnish. Why have I got it? I’m plagued by brittle nails and I thought I might try this hardening varnish. Too early to tell whether it will be useful yet, but I’m amazed at this long list of ingredients. Green Tea. Wow. Pro Vitamin B5. Is there such a thing? I doubt it.

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I said I bought a new GPS unit a few weeks ago and I must say I’m very impressed with it. It’s the Navman MiVue Drive, and its virtue is that it has a forward facing camera to record your trip. When you get home and play it back, the moving GPS map appears alongside the video on your computer screen, complete with your speed and exact coordinates so that you have a very accurate record in case you need it. The camera is reasonably high definition, 1280 x 720, and it’s quite a good picture. The one problem is that my windscreen is very sandblasted and smeary, so reflections are a problem. I tried making a little lens hood out of cardboard, stuck on with chewing gum, and it helped quite a bit, so I might make a more permanent one. The chewing gum goes all sticky and hard from the heat in the sun, so I’ll probably use Blu Tack.

My car insurance specifically says I am entitled to claim a windscreen once a year. I’ve never done so and never make any claims, so I might have to have a windscreen “accident”.

Anyway, my TomTom GPS has been semi retired. I have always liked TomTom but this Navman has me hooked. I like it better!

Back to the drawing board

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Mercedes SL350 – another contender.

Well, so much for that. Another buyer jumped in on “my” Mercedes and, subject to their finance, it’s been sold. Oh well, I wasn’t sure whether it was such a good idea. Anyway, now I’ve got the fun of looking for something else similar. I’ve developed my idea of what I want, so I’ll keep looking. NB, it may not be an expensive car like this at all.

Anyway I have another couple of ideas, not involving cars, more travel related, so I’ll concentrate on those.

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Damn, I had several ideas for this blog post this morning and now I can’t remember any of them.

Now I remember: I need to do a bit of hack sawing and looked to buy a new blade while I was in K-Mart yesterday. Blow me down, a complete new hacksaw with one blade is only $4.50! Chinese made and pretty light weight, but I only need it for a few cuts. The whole tool situation has changed – once, we bought tools and they lasted us a lifetime (I inherited Dad’s tools, all dating from decades ago). Now, it’s cheaper to buy a tool for the job and when it wears out in a year or so, buy another one, probably at a cheaper price. This even applies to power tools. This is amazing, and alarming. When you can buy a beautiful analogue/digital watch, perfectly made, with battery, for A$18, what chance has any Australian manufacturer got?

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What hacksawing? I want to change the tap handles and change the washers while I’m at it. But the design of the tap handles is that you need a special tool to remove them. Brilliant. I’ve bought the tool, only a few dollars, but the taps are corroded and the tool just bends. Terrific.

So I think the simplest way is to cut the handles off at the shafts. I want to do this because the handles are nasty, spiky star shaped things with sharp edges. I hate the feel of them and I bumped my hand on one a few weeks ago, resulting in a wound which has taken weeks to heal. The consequences of slipping and falling against one of them would be scary.

What rotten design. What a rotten thing, to need a scarce, special tool to simply change a tap washer. Bad design.

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On the same lines, thank goodness I finished my working life when I did in 1999. I’m reading The Serviceman in Silicon Chip magazine and he’s saying that it’s getting harder and harder to make a living as an electronics serviceman. There’s no fixing TVs any more. They are either 100% reliable, as mine is, or if they go faulty, people elect to just junk them and buy a new one, as I probably will.

So he branched out into computer servicing, but that’s dying out too. People now rely on tablets and laptops and again, just buy the latest model. People aren’t using desktop models any more, and Android is good enough, so no Windows fixing. End of that service line.

Then mobile phones – full of expensive parts, even if available, counterfeit phones and software, software bugs. Too hard.

Same for washing machines and dryers – just buy a new model. No-one wants to pay for three hours labour plus parts when they could get a new machine for about the same price.

Now the news today that the entire staff, 150 people, of Newspoll, the company that does poolitical polling for News Limited, have been terminated, fired. no longer needed. This is what’s happening these days. You can’t be sure of your job any more. The only secure jobs would seem to be in the medical/hospital line, or similar essential services. Yet even electrical transmission engineers are not safe. Oh, I know! Politicians. Absolutely secure. Yeah.

So, thank goodness! I can’t help thanking my lucky stars. I’ve had a charmed life. A good working life in the Golden Years of TV, including the Golden Years of Engineering, followed by a good retirement. Noice!

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No service needed on this laptop. It’s five years since I bought it and it’s still great. Sony VGN-Z47GD – Core 2 Duo processor, 6GB RAM, Win 7 Pro 64bit. Carbon fibre casing, 1.6Kg, 13″ 1920×1080 Full HD display, built-in Blu Ray recorder optical drive. HDMI out, so I can watch Blu Ray movies on an external LCD monitor while travelling. The one thing  I’ve done is swap the original 320GB hard drive with a 250GB SSD, for a remarkable increase in speed and decrease in boot time.

The one thing is that it took a hard, hard drop in a mud patch in Bali in 2011, leaving some scratches on the case, and the SD card slot no longer works. I could probably fix that, but I’ve had it apart so often that I’m worried about having to separate the delicate flexible PCB connectors again.

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I paid a visit to the local IGA for the first time in several weeks today. this is the place that has scanning errors every time I visit.

Sure enough, the first three items I bought were markdowns and all three scanned incorrectly. I had to point it out. It took them six tries to do one item. Hopeless! I only went there because Coles seems to have stopped stocking the shower gel I like (Radox Men). I’ll stay away from this IGA as long as I can. They never seem to learn.

It’s Started

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Mercedes CL500

Well, I’ve made the first move. Yesterday I made an enquiry on the car above, with a view to buying it. $34,888. Seems like a good dealership – all the reviews are five out of five stars except one which is 4/5. It’s in South Melbourne. I’ve checked QANTAS frequent flyer bookings and there are plenty available in the next few weeks. I’m just waiting on a call back from the RAC of WA about arranging a check by RACV.

Nervous. This model had some faults but it was supposed to have been sorted out by model years 2005/2006. This is a November 2005 model. It’s a very mechanically complex car and the costs if anything major breaks would be scary. The dealer tells me it’s a one owner car. I’ve done web research on reliability for that model so I’m well prepared.

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????So, fly over, collect car and just set off eastward from Melbourne, along the coast, with no time schedule, no set route, just taking my time and sightseeing as I go in this fabulous car. Phew. I’d like to get up to Cairns but I suspect I might run out of puff. It wouldn’t matter, the thing is to have a good time. One of my old school mates lives in Ballina so I’d get that far.

And the great thing is GPS. What a fantastic thing this is, taking all the worry out of finding your way, especially in towns and cities. The car has its own built in Mercedes GPS (you can see it above), but I’m so impressed by the Navman Drive unit I bought a couple of weeks ago that I’d install that as well (i.e. stick it to the windscreen). The camera recording is fascinating to watch later (although badly affected by windscreen reflections and smearing), and the quality is good enough to incorporate into a video/slideshow. How interesting it will be in future years to have selected video in High Def of major trips. Relive the memories. Never possible before, and what a gold mine for future historians.

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Coincidences! They just keep on coming. I was checking the TV channels a few days ago and Channel 9 were running On The Beach. I had a look, and just at the time that I started watching, Ava Gardner and Gregory Peck were walking slowly arm in arm along a shopping street in Melbourne. Here’s the coincidence: in the background was an illuminated shop sign saying Crofts – Licenced …?  I couldn’t make out the third word and as they walked it became more blurred. Probably Liquor?

So how about that? My name up in lights in a Gregory Peck film.

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I followed a thread about Dutch colonial architecture in Jakarta, and wow! I’m glad I looked:

http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1227949&page=4

It’s a long page with scores of old photos, and quite a few modern ones. The old photos are striking in their quality, with all the verticals actually vertical! No-one bothers to get vertical lines straight any more. I do.

Time passes …

_CoverHmmm, 24th of May 2015. Today is the 70th anniversary of Mum and Dad’s wedding. Seventy years!

Above is the cover of the second volume of my photo collection (it’s a wraparound cover). Copies can be ordered at approx. A$25 each plus postage, which within Australia is $11.

I’m well into the next volume.

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Barefoot Boys of WerribeeI’ve had a fairly detailed read of the book, The Barefoot Boys of Werribee, and I’m very disappointed to say that we, our family, Dad, Mum, me, are not mentioned at all. I’m quite surprised, because we were there for a long time – 1955 to late 1959, and Dad was a pretty outstanding bloke, someone I’d have thought was very memorable. We were very involved in the home and integrated with the boys, so I’m surprised that we’re not mentioned.

There’s a brief mention of another man, Ron Limb, as farm manager in the late fifties. Well, that can’t be right because Dad was farm manager then. I do remember Ron Limb but he was a church minister.

Likewise, I recognise several of the boys’ names from that time, but there are other names mentioned as being there when I was there that I don’t remember at all. There’s a list of some of the teachers’ names at Wundowie school but it doesn’t include two names that I remember strongly, in a good way.

I wish I had photos of the time. There must be some – Dad was always taking photos, but I don’t know what’s happened to them. Probably “donated” to the Battye Library behind my back by my close female relative. No need to ask or tell. She has form.

I may try to contact the author of the book to see about incorporating some of my memories in a possible second edition, but I doubt there would be one. This is a very specific book.

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I’m trying to make myself pick up the phone and make a move on that Mercedes in Melbourne. It’s a big purchase and I’m nervous about making a mistake. It would involve making an air trip to Melbourne, finding some accommodation there, picking up a car I’ve only seen on the web, trusting the car sales company that it’s mechanically good, then setting off on a long driving trip in winter on the east coast. Nothing wrong with that, it’s not difficult, but I’m always worried about health problems these days and I don’t have the stamina I used to have.

It also occurs to me that if I had to sleep in the car on the way back over the Nullarbor, I wouldn’t have power for my CPAP machine. I would need to sleep sitting up. Can be done, just not ideal.

I was remembering recently that in the ’90s, for some reason, I had to walk home late at night from work at Channel 7 in Dianella to Trigg. That’s a long walk, around 8Km! I think I was car-less for a few days for some reason and got a lift to work, but there was no lift home available at 11pm, so I just decided to walk it. I also remember once walking home from Stirling train station to Trigg on a Sunday because the buses didn’t run. That was more than 5Km. Oh, I sure wish I had that ability now.

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sku_359391_3My newest watch. Pretty snappy, eh?

sku_359391_1Must have cost a lot? Well, how about $18, including postage from Hong Kong. It’s big, bold, heavy, but I quite like it. It’s immaculately made. How can they do it for that price? The postage alone in Australia would probably be nearly that.

sku_359391_6Look what it says under the PM on the left. It’s comical. This is actually the mode button. It all works well. I’m very satisfied. There are lots more designs for a similar price – I might choose another one. I like watches and $18 is not a big risk.

Decided

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Mercedes 500SL c1995. See what I mean? Timeless styling – 20 years old and it still looks fantastic. But not for me.

My car, the Magna wagon, is 14 years old now and although it’s still a pleasure to drive, I’ve been trying to decide on a replacement for some time. I’ve mentioned before that I had the hots for a 1994 or similar Mercedes 500SL. It’s a convertible soft top that comes with a hard top, but you have to lift the hard top off and on. I assume it’s fibreglass. I couldn’t do it alone, and you can’t remove or replace it except at home in the garage, so I gradually went off that one.

I’ve been thinking for weeks about what else to buy (a very pleasurable pastime) and I think I’ve made up my mind. The requirements are, a bit of prestige and luxo; timeless styling; high build quality and reliability; driving pleasure; and affordable price, of course.

Ta daaa…

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Mercedes CL500, 2006 model.

It’s a fixed hardtop, not a convertible. I was sold on a convertible for a while, but decided against it, due to security concerns, mainly. This is a 2006 model – in 2007 they changed the head and tail lights and I don’t like them after that.

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This particular model is for sale in Melbourne at the moment for around $35,000. It’s done 112,000Kms, which is less than my Magna at 135,000.

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Phwaoooor.

But I have some doubts – the price is low for that year and model. Why? I’ll have to get my good mate Barry, the ex used car salesman onto it. If I go ahead with any car, I think I’ll ask him to be my negotiator.

What I’d like to do is fly across on frequent flyer points, pick up the car, have a driving holiday as far as Cairns and Port Douglas, then slowly make my way back here across the Nullarbor. No time limit, no dog to worry about (although if I could have Minnie back, I’d forgo the car. I’d give anything to have both my dogs back).

Just pipe dreaming.

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My shoulder and neck have settled down to a sharp/dull pain. I can tolerate it, it’s just annoying and always there.

The AMA are blaring their disapproval of a new medical school at Midland in Perth. They say there are no training places at hospitals for new graduates. They may be right, but they can’t deny that there is a huge shortage of doctors in WA. We have 36% of our doctors trained overseas, vs 26% for the rest of Australia. Country WA areas are chronically short of GPs. It’s much more likely that the AMA are just protecting their closed shop position, where a shortage of doctors keeps a steady stream of paying patients coming to their doors, non stop.

When my blood test results came back last year suggesting leukemia, I was given two months to wait before I could see a blood specialist. Two months!! I was very nervous, yet I just had to wait. My GP stamped her foot and pointed out that the referral had been marked URGENT and they relented and brought me forward by four weeks. Gee thanks, but I still had to bite my fingernails for a month. (The result was, yes, you have chronic lymphocytic leukemia, but it’s slow progressing and you’ll probably die of something else first. But watch the blood tests, it can change suddenly. There’s no cure, just chemo and radiation. What would be the point if you’re going to die anyway.)

And now, when I phoned the orthopedic surgeon for an appointment and told them I’m in severe pain, I was put on the waiting list for a month, again! This is bloody wrong! I’m angry. This is the doctors’ club – we’re in charge, you wait your turn, no we don’t need more specialists. Bastards.

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I’ve been doing the PhotoBook on My Life and I’ve come to the Werribee and Wundowie days. Unfortunately, I have almost no photos of that time. I’m not sure why, maybe I just didn’t get any from Dad among all the other negs.

So I started searching on-line and came across a book that’s been written about the home:

Barefoot Boys of WerribeeIt covers the 1930s right up to the time in 1962 when it was closed down. We left at the end of 1959, so that was well timed. I wonder if Dad had heard about the impending closure.

Unfortunately the book is out of print and unobtainable, but the City of Perth Library and the Alexander Library say they have shelf copies, so I’ll try to borrow one. It has photos – I wonder if I might be featured? 🙂  Of course, I’m reading an allegation of “abuse and torture in a prison like atmosphere” between 1956-59 when I was there. Huh? That doesn’t tally with my memories. I had a great time there. I remember some of the names – I must tell my close female relative, eh? – and I ended up working at TVW7 with one of the boys as well for many years.

Who’s to blame?

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Colin Barnett and the WA Liberals are baboons! (C) Copyright P. J. Croft 2014, 2015

“That Colin Barnett and his parade of treasurers over the past six years have wrecked the books is now beyond dispute.”

Not my words, these are the words of the West Australian’s economics editor, and I couldn’t agree more. Barnett and co were handed a state in good financial shape by Labor when the Libs won the state election in 2008. Eric Ripper was acknowledged as a good finance manager, even now by the current treasurer Dr Nahan, who has to try to sort out Barnett’s shambles.

How could you have ever believed Colin Barnett??!! He is a liar! He’s shown time and time again that he will not keep to his commitments. He says whatever he feels like to get elected, then does the opposite.

What commitments? He vowed that increases in electricity, water and gas charges would be held “at or near” the CPI. Well, were they? No way. The rises we face this year are 4.5% after rises of 3.5% last year. The CPI is 2.25%.

How could you possibly vote for such a lying, incompetent rabble as the WA Liberal Party? We are in deep shit now. At a time of such a massive boom in iron ore prices, it has been utterly lost and wasted.

If you voted for the Liberals in 2008 and 2013, you are to blame for this! Many of my friends vote Liberal. I hope you’re happy. I’m not! I hope you’ll apologise. Fat chance.

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My neck is settling down. I don’t know what happened last Friday to set it off but the sharp edge seems to have worn off. It’s still sore, but at about the level of a sharp headache.