This and that

Binter bike 1983

My Bali bike in 1985. Yes, on three trips in the 1980s, I rented motorbikes in Bali and survived without a scratch. No helmets required then. I obeyed the rules. (That’s my camera bag on the seat, and I’ve still got that bag 30 years later. I like it.) © PJ Croft 2015

Another amazing motorbike atrocity yesterday. I was coming home driving along the single lane section of Marmion Avenue. There’s a 2m bicycle lane on the left but nothing on the right except about 1m to the curb on the median strip.

I was doing about 60Km/h, accelerating. We were just speeding up to the 70Km/h limit after exiting the roundabout. But this wasn’t enough for the guy on a dirt bike a few cars behind. He gunned his engine and passed us on the right in that 1m gap between the cars and the curb. He was going at least 80Km/h (he was past me in about 1 second), his exhaust deafening.

I am tired of motorbike riders! They deserve any injuries they get, in my opinion. Just occasionally you see a rider obeying the rules, but it’s so rare as to be remarkable. Obey the law!

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Damn, the bloody tax scam artists have got my number. Yes, I’ve had my first call from the “taxation office”. I let it go to voicemail, so I have it recorded: “This is Peter Jones of the taxation office. We have tried to contact you by mail but our letters have gone unanswered.” Bullshit. Plummy Pommy accent. (This guy must know he’s preying on vulnerable people – has he no conscience?)

And so on. There is a matter about my tax which must be answered. Well, since I don’t pay any tax (I have no income), there can’t be any matter to be cleared up.

It continues with a NSW number to call and a threat that if I don’t call it will be bad for me.

So we have the phone number. Why can’t the police or whoever follow up this number and take action against these scam merchants? How are they allowed to get away with it for so long?

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Aaaah, Bali.

Agung pano 1

Lake Batur from Kintamani. © PJ Croft 2015

I love planning trips, especially what camera gear to take. I’ve been telling myself to restrict it to just one camera this trip, but already I can feel that resolve slipping.

Puri Dalem Sanur 85 Puri Dalem pool B101I stayed in this hotel, the Puri Dalem, in 1985 and it’s still there. I think I’ll stay there again for a few days this trip.

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I saw the diabetic nurse educator yesterday. I was hoping to try a new drug that my GP had told me about (Jardiance), but the nurse wants me to modify my diet (cut the carbs) and see what happens.

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My weight – 2015

However, I ain’t doin’ too badly. Yes, I weigh every day and note the figure in my expenses notebook. I admit it’s a bit OCD but it comes in very handy.

This isn’t so good, though:

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Blood glucose before breakfast – 2015

The night reading, after food, is worse – I don’t want to show it.

At her request I’ve been recording everything I eat in a food diary for the past month. Boy, that’s tedious, much harder than weighing. But it shows so far that I’m well withing the recommended kilojoule allowance, and mostly below it. Hence the weight loss. Things seemed to change after the massive doses of antibiotic I had to take a year ago. I think this killed off a lot of my gut flora and food tastes different now. Many things taste bitter now. That doesn’t make sense, I know, but I just don’t want to eat some things I used to like. That’s good.

I use the Calorie Counter booklet put out by Alan Borushek. It was first published in 1977, apparently. I bought it then and I’ve bought a new copy every few years. Good book.

But boy, looking up the figures is TEDIOUS. Sure, some foods are repeated daily, but I still waste far too much time thumbing through trying to find how many kilojoules for my estimated weight of that item.

I was hoping there might be a downloadable spreadsheet of all the foods, but there doesn’t seem to be.

Therefore, idea: I think I might try to build a spreadsheet that allows me to just click on list boxes of the foods and the amounts and so automatically calculate the totals. It would be a lot of work, but I like doing that kind of thing. Watch this space.

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Thinking about travel, insurance comes to mind. It’s noticeable that age 70 seems important, i.e. are you 70 or under? Not long to go before that pops up for me.

Disclosure of existing conditions too. If I reveal, will I be refused insurance, or attract a loading? If I don’t reveal, they could refuse to pay out. I think going to the USA will be out of the question for me. The travel insurance cost would be enormous. My earlier idea of round-the-world airfares seems ruled out: you can’t go around the world without going through the USA.

Well, actually, that’s not true. Go via Canada, for example. Hmmm. Must check that out.

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Another contender for a cruise has popped up. The Queen Mary 2 goes from Singapore to London in April next year, via Malaysia, Sri Lanka, India, Dubai, the Suez canal, the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Cadiz and Southampton.

The total fare includes airfare Perth to Singapore, one night hotel in Singapore, one night hotel in London and airfare back to Perth. They show both the cruise only price, and the total, and these flights and hotels add up to $1217. That seems not too bad. The cost of the 33 night cruise works out to $258 per night.

But it’s the Queen Mary! That means stuffy British rules. If I thought the Arcadia was bad when excluding me from every restaurant except the buffet, the Queen Mary wouldn’t even let me be seen in my sandals and shorts. I’d need a bloody dinner suit.

No, I’d love to do it but I think it would be much cheaper to fly, and stay in nice hotels along the way.

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Super moon

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Blood moon. © PJ Croft 2014, 2015. Taken from my house on 8 October 2014 at 7.34pm.

In less than an hour, at 6.35pm Tuesday 27 October, we are supposed to see a super moon. That’s a conjunction of the moon being at its closest to Earth, at just the right time to be setting as the Sun is setting on the western horizon. This makes the moon look extra bright and extra big. The conditions happen to be just right in this location, Western Australia.

Unfortunately, as seems to happen all the time, it’s clouded over! Every time there’s some astronomical event, it’s either only visible from the northern hemisphere, or something happens to stop me seeing it. Tonight is living up to the jinx. Maybe it’ll clear by 6.25pm, the time it’s supposed to start.

Postscript: Yeah, at 6.30pm it was totally clouded over here in the bustling city of Butler. Bombed out again. But boy, did we get some rain last night! About midnight there was a 2min deluge, then five minutes later another 60 secs worth. Great!

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At 0640 this morning our time, a US Navy destroyer, the USS Lassen, sailed into the 12 mile “limit” around the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. China, which has effectively annexed these islands and is building military bases on dredged sand, objects very much.

I want to know what Senator Dio Wang has to say about this. Senator Wang has become an Australian citizen and is a member of the Australian Senate. In both cases, he has sworn allegiance to Australia and renounced allegiance to his former country, China.

Earlier this year he was quoted as saying that he feels China has the right to warn ships away, including any Australian warships, and if any Australian RAAF plane were to fly over, he feels China would have the right to take military action.

No, Senator Wang! If you have taken the oath of allegiance, you can no longer show allegiance to China. To express allegiance to China is to be a traitor to Australia, in my opinion. If you can’t make that decision, then go back to China.

Just imagine, in your wildest dreams, that I became a member of the Chinese parliament/assembly/congress, whatever you call it. Just imagine if I stood up and said, in China, that I disagreed with China’s militarism and that the US and Australia have the perfect right to exercise the freedom of the seas and airways.

I’d be whipped off to prison faster than you can say Wong Wei Chum.

No Senator Wang, if you want to live here, your allegiance must be to Australia!

Idea!

2015_Corolla_1Gee I’m good. I think I know how to solve my airport transport problem on Sunday 13 December.

I have to be at the international terminal at 0600 for the 0800 Garuda flight. That means leaving here at about 0500, too early to ask any friends to drive me. And this is way too far out of town anyway.

Last year Jan and I booked a limo (Holden Caprice, big deal) which was good and reliable, but at $110, too much for me. A taxi? You can’t depend on them from up here, and it would be very expensive at 0500 on a Sunday even if I could persuade one to come.

Next, I thought of FIFO transport. There’s a shuttle from just near here (ranging from Two Rocks, about 10Km north of here). I’m awaiting an answer to my query. Possibly $45 I think.

But the answer is – a rental car. The cost to rent a Corolla, pickup in Murray St in the city on Saturday morning, drop off at the international terminal on Sunday morning at 0600 is about $55 for the day. Plus fuel, of course, but that’s OK.

So I take the train in on Saturday morning, pick up the car, tootle around a bit, drive it home, then drive it to the airport on Sunday morning and drop it off. I control everything, I enjoy a drive in a modern car, I don’t have to worry about any taxi or shuttle arriving on time or not at all, for much less than the cost of a taxi or limo. Good deal. Not booked yet, but I will.

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I did a tootle up Marmion Avenue this morning, just exploring. Kerrrumbs, house building everywhere! Hundreds of new houses in big groupings. Nearly all with white or grey Colourbond roofs, very few tiled roofs. Heat reflection, of course.

I went as far as Yanchep. It’s pretty barren, especially on a windy, blustery day like today. It’ll take a few years for these pioneering “estates” to become suburbs like this one, but I would have turned my nose up at this area ten years ago. It doesn’t take long for an estate to become established.

Coming back, I noticed a big sign promoting the new Brighton shopping area, with Woolworths, BigW and a few others, for 2014. But the area is just a sand lot. I’d heard rumours they were coming, but …

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Duck! © PJ Croft 2015

Speaking of which, a new two story building went up across the intersection this year and it seems to be finished now. So far there’s a new Indian restaurant, a Thai restaurant and a 24hr gym (why would you want to go to a gym at 3am??). This Indian adds to the other Indian restaurant which seems to have opened in the past few months across the road in the other big building. Crumbs, what with Pommy fish and chips, Thai food, Indian food, Subway, Nando’s, HJ and all the other crap food, plus the Dome and the Cornerstone pub about 100m away, there’s no shortage around here. Most of it’s within easy walking distance from my house. Lucky I’m not tempted very often.

Hot spuds

inside cover3Under SPUD IRONY, “An IC reader saw our story …” That’s me, folks. WA is the only state in Australia, and probably the world, that has a Potato Marketing Corporation that regulates who is allowed to grow potatoes and how many. That bloke Tony Galati is fighting them and good luck to him.

I reckon there should have been a cartoon showing the astronaut Mark Watney growing his spuds in the habitat on Mars, and a bloke with a clip board from the WA Potato Marketing Corporation tapping him on the shoulder saying, “Mate, you can’t grow those potatoes, you haven’t got a licence.”

Time and time again it’s shown that artificial rules, regulations and restrictions end up having the opposite effect to that intended. But will the WA Liberal government, a party which believes governments should stay out of people’s lives, do anything? No. Not even when a greater share of the GST is at stake.

There can only be one reason for this – the existing growers have their hands in the government’s pockets. Power and influence and money sloshing back and forth between growers and politicians.

The result is that potatoes are more expensive in WA than elsewhere in Australia and the makers of Smith Crisps potato chips have just closed down a factory in Perth with the loss of scores of jobs. They say potatoes are much cheaper in Victoria so they’ll do the processing there. No doubt the members of the Potato Marketing Board will continue to receive their fat salaries while we pay more for spuds. Nice work.

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Credit where it’s due. I’ve said many times that I almost never have any trouble with Coles over scanning errors. But a couple of times in the past few weeks there have been anomalies.

A few weeks ago I bought a copy of The Economist magazine from Coles Clarkson. I didn’t look at the cover much. This is a weekly news magazine, so I just buy it without looking.

When I started to read it at home, some of the stories seemed awfully familiar, like, out of date, old news. I looked at the cover and the issue date was June 13-20. No wonder they seemed like old news.

I went back last week and checked the shelf. Yes, there were still two copies of the same four month old magazine there.

I went to the service counter and showed the lady one of the copies. I told her I didn’t have my copy with me, or even the till docket.

She gasped when she saw the dates and said “Hold on.” She went to the computer and her till and came back and refunded me the entire $11 cost of the magazine, even though I didn’t have my docket or my magazine to return. I was quite impressed.

mqLCVSFej55UBzLmGfCpZbgThen on Tuesday I saw my coffee capsules on special at my local Butler Coles, reduced from $10.99 to $9.25 on one of their big yellow shelf tags. At that price, I bought two boxes. I didn’t bother to check the docket until I got home, when I discovered I’d been charged the full $10.99.

Yesterday I went back and checked the shelf again. Yes, the yellow tag was still there below the boxes I’d bought. But a closer reading showed the tag was for a different variety of capsules – same brand, different strength. But the capsules referred to on the tag were nowhere on the shelf.

I went to the service counter and explained this. The lady didn’t believe me at first and said “The sale didn’t start until today”, meaning I couldn’t have bought them on Tuesday. Well, I bloody well did, as evidenced by my till docket.

She saw the problem removed the yellow tag and we went back to the counter, where she refunded me the full $10.99 for one of the boxes, and another $1.75 for the price difference for the other box.

I was surprised. This was better than I expected. So twice Coles has done the right thing by me, more than I expected. Full marks.

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Then today I went to Clarkson Post Office to renew my five year driver’s licence. I took my passport as ID and she asked me if I was eligible for any concessions. Well, yeah, and I showed her my pension card, as proof of address as well. She went away for a bit, came back with a concession form to fill out and said that meant the cost for the five years would be zero, nothing. Wow. I was expecting to pay $72. That’s a good concession.

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Later I had a Chocollo soft serve in a waffle cone – cost? $2. That’s half price.

I was surprised and pleased. Maybe it was a Senior’s price?

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At the pub yesterday I overheard two guys talking about good chips, as in fish and chips. I chipped in (boom boom) and asked where they were talking about.

It turns out there’s a fish and chip shop not far from here (about 3Km?) which is a “British style” fish and chips. I was told they are the tops, “Joost like ‘ome.” They do real cod and crispy chips. I mentioned that I used to enjoy scampi in the UK. Yes, they have that too, they said.

I went to have a look today and I might give it a try, but with blood sugar problems, eating fatty fish and chips is very bad for me. I’ll think it over.

Funny business

Bauhinia 072

© PJ Croft 2015

Hmmm. I needed a cleanup and a small amount of gardening. I got a guy around last Friday to have a look. I’d made a list of about 11 items (such as remove weeds from the front and the sides, take a frangipani out of a pot and plant it in the garden beds, plant about six palms out of their pots into the beds, etc.) Nothing difficult. I also asked, since he advertised general handyman jobs, if he could fix my reticulation, plug the leak in the water feature, wash some external windows and maybe fix a flyscreen.

What I got was reasons why he couldn’t do the non-gardening things. Doesn’t do retic. Plugging the leak would be too hard. No window washing or flyscreens. Even planting the palms was qualified by umming and ahing and there being not too many of them.

Sigh. He said he’d do the rest, but not until Wednesday, and three hours at $50 an hour. This is the second time I’ve tried to get things done and so I agreed to that amount as I need it done.

But I was sitting here just now thinking I’ll text him and cancel, when the doorbell rings. It’s him. He’s got time now (Monday), can he do the job?

So he’s working now. It’ll be interesting to see the result. I’m a bit tired of tradesmen who will only do what they choose to do, not what the customer wants. I can’t see that I’m asking unreasonably.

STOP PRESS: BLOODY HELL! I’m in shock. He quoted $150 last Friday and I was under the impression it was for three hours’ work at $50 an hour, based on something else he said.

It took much less time. He’s just left after an hour and a half, so I said $75, right? No, it’s the full $150. FOR 90 MINS WORK! THAT”S $100 AN HOUR! For light gardening! He says he quoted me $150 and that’s the charge, no matter if it only took an hour and a half.

Bloody hell! This is the second time this year I’ve been taken for a ride by trades people. The cleaners in May who charged me double what I was expecting, and now this, double again. Fuck!

I was fumbling with my wallet for cash and he said “You can pay on-line if you like”, so I said yes, I’ll do that. And I’ll make him wait, and I’ll send him an angry email with it. I’m sick of this.

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Booking for Bali. Four star hotels for $50 a night. Not bad. I’m regretting paying $119 a night for the Besakih last year. It’s nice, but not $119 worth. You can do better for less.

I’m spending four nights on the Sanur side, then moving to Kuta in two separate hotels for a couple of weeks, then moving back to Sanur for the final five nights.

I’m thinking of staying at Kintamani for a couple of nights to try to see the dawn across the crater, then a couple of nights in Ubud on the way back. Not sure yet.

Great to be making bookings two months out for a change. Plenty of time to get organised. It’s hard to decide between going for the traditional Balinese style hotel with all the carved wood and stone stuff, but usually old and worn, or the brand new hotels with all the modern buildings and furniture and bathrooms without cockroaches. I’ve got a mix of both, but more towards the modern.

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55EG9600

It pays to wait. I read a review of the new LG OLED 4K TV, reviewed as the best TV on the market. My present TV is five years old now and only 32″. “Only”.

But 4K (four times the resolution of Full HD) and OLED – that’s pretty tempting. But the price was $5,995 for the 55″ model.

I say was, because I noticed the ad in Saturday’s paper – it’s come down $1,000 in about a month! It’s now $4,995. Kerrrumbs. I’m not thinking of buying it right now, but I wonder what it will come down to by early next year.

Why do I want 4K? Well, I can shoot my own 4K video now, and 4K DVDs are just around the corner. Also, I’ve resisted buying a bigger set for years because I can’t sit back far enough in my lounge. The pixels would be visible. But a 4K set makes the pixels invisible, so you can sit reasonably close. This is a 55″.

As well, the reviews say that even ordinary Full HD BluRay discs look amazing on this set. Good enough for me. I’ve got some crackers of BluRay discs.

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For the past few weeks I’ve been hearing a frog croaking quite loudly at night. Talking to my neighbour just now, it’s in her garden pond. She finds it a bit intrusive but it’s OK by me. I like the sound.

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I’m nearly finished The Martian book that I mentioned. Wow. Very well written. Very techo, but that’s good by me, of course. It’s an epic saga, about an astronaut who is left for dead in a killer sandstorm on Mars, and how he survives for a year and a half until he can be rescued. There are dubious scientific things in it, but mostly it’s believable. After the book, I’m sure I’ll be disappointed in the movie. They’ll have to leave so much out. But I’ll buy the disc.

This can’t go on – we must organise

Image result for nauru detention centre

Photo: SBS

From GetUp:

It’s an absolute horror story.

On Friday evening the Turnbull government chartered a plane and sent Abyan* – a raped, pregnant 23 year old refugee – back to Nauru, without receiving medical care.1

Here’s what happened:

  • Abyan came to Australia seeking safety, but instead the government sent her to Nauru, where 14 weeks ago she was raped, an attack that resulted in pregnancy. Abortion is illegal on Nauru, so Abyan begged to come to Australia to receive care, including a terminaton of the pregnancy.2
  • Last week the government responded to enormous public outcry on behalf of Abyan, and brought her to Australia for medical treatment. But once here, this 23 year old woman was denied access to a counsellor to talk her through the procedure.3
  • Instead, she was flown in secret back to Nauru, avoiding legal action on her behalf; still pregnant, and without having been given the medical treatment she needs.4

Instead of providing Abyan with appropriate medical care, the Turnbull government forcibly returned her to Nauru. For Abyan, this is abuse heaped upon abuse – rather than giving her basic human respect, our country has turned her away.

This is an utter affront to human decency. This is not my government, not my country. I am ashamed of the way this government is behaving. I protest!

We must start organising. We must show our rejection of this thuggish and inhumane behaviour. Email Dutton and tell him he’s gone too far. I have, cc’d to bloody Turnbull.

Spooky!

Vpanel1It’s happened again, another amazing coincidence. On Monday I was browsing in JB HiFi for CDs and DVDs and a couple of discs by Loudon Wainwright came into my view. I was not interested, but I knew the name from the 1980s, I think.

This morning in the Guardian:  “In 1995, veteran folk singer Loudon Wainwright III released…”

This is uncanny! Spooky, even.

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I started reading The Martian last night, the book that inspired the movie. The fillum, as we used to say.

I’m only about 20 pages in but it’s good enough that I want to go back to it even now at 10am.

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Crumbs, technology – I love it. I’ve just read (most) of an article in the Guardian about the death of British pubs, specifically about the near death of The Golden Lion in London.

So I find the street and suburb in the article, Google Earth it, street view it and there it is, in living colour.

Clip_2Marvellous. This one was saved from demolition by the persistence of the pub leaseholder, but 30 pubs of the old British type per week are being closed down. The land is more valuable as flats and redevelopment than as a pub, so the predators circle and pounce.

That’s what happened to the shops near my house in Trigg. We had a service station with full mechanical services, a pharmacy, a fish and chip shop, a hardware store, a newsagent, a supermarket, a greengrocer, a hairdresser, a clothing shop, a really good deli, an Indian restaurant and a Vinnies shop. I used to walk there almost every day to at least buy the paper and I did most of my grocery shopping there. It was a small village. I was on name terms with nearly all the shop people. (Once, the greengrocer lady said, “How are you now?” I was surprised, and it turned out she’d heard I’d had an ambulance ride. It was amazing that the word had passed around and I was really touched that she cared to ask.)

But it was all bulldozed in about 1995. Completely gone. The land was more valuable as townhouses, so that’s what was built. An ugly set of three blank white shops with no awnings or verandahs was included: the chemist, a hairdresser and a fish and chip shop, but these were of little interest to me. This was not an area where you would “shop”, specifically because there was nowhere to park except on the street. Not many parking spaces. I had to transfer all my shopping to the North Beach Plaza.

I felt the loss, but there’s no solution. Just pass laws saying you can’t do this? The lawyers would make mincemeat out of these laws. The cost of the law is simply prohibitive, so they’d line their pockets besides. Property developers and lawyers. Huh.