I’m flattered

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Fairy dragonfly, Malaysia © PJ Croft 1986, 2015

Well, this is very nice. I read a US blog called The Online Photographer, written by Mike Johnston, every day, and yesterday I added a comment in a discussion about blogging and diaries. I mentioned this, my blog, and how it’s my diary, really, stemming from a desire to write, and especially to leave some footprint of my life for posterity. We all need to feel we’ve had an influence on the world, however small.

I’m very flattered to discover that Mike has reproduced some of my rather long comment in his blog, along with one of my humorous images, and expanded on the theme of keeping diaries and lists, which I do. He linked to my blog in his entry.

The result is:

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My blog stats, Monday 30 November 2015

Wow, I’m famous. It’s my 15 minutes, Andy. I’m sure it’s temporary but I’m happy. Maybe I’d better lift my standards and try to improve my writings, but as I said, I’m just compelled to write about all the major or minor things I encounter from day to day. I must admit I’m something of a ranter, but that comes from living alone with no-one to rant to. Sorry.

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Kew’ell (Harry Kewell is a famous Aussie soccer player) Denpasar, Bali © PJ Croft 2010, 2015

Perhaps I’d better write a bit more on the theme of photography. I’m at that delicious stage of being two weeks out from a trip to Bali and considering what gear to take.

Years ago, when I was slimmer and lighter and had a strong shoulder, I had it all worked out. I took a Nikon F801, maybe the Nikon FE2 as well, 28mm, 35mm, 55mm Micro, 70-150mm E and 200mm Micro lenses, all Nikkors. Perhaps even the 300mm f4 IF-ED in its separate container. Plus an SB40 flash, various rings and filters, and at least a dozen rolls of 36 exp. Kodachrome 64. The reason for carrying the second body was to have an alternative film type loaded, perhaps Ektachrome for its different colour rendition, or Kodachrome 25 for its super fine grain. ISO 25! We learnt to brace elbows to body and slowly breath out when squeezing the shutter.

Then I added the Olympus OM2 SP, Zuiko 28mm, Tamron 75-150 Adaptall, and one of the Olympus flashes, either the T20 or T32. Add in the cords and the back to back adapters to make the Nikkor 200mm Micro fit on the OM2 with its superior flash system, and I was weighted down as if I were going to be shot and dumped in the harbour 😉 Boy, that was a load, and I didn’t necessarily carry all of it at once, but I did most of it. Crazy, but this is the way I worked in those days. There wasn’t much alternative.

How different things are now. How much lighter are cameras and lenses. How great are the alternatives we have now.

The simplest solution is to take just one camera, but it’s a camera that can do virtually all that the above combination could do, arguably with higher quality as well.

The camera I’m thinking of is my Panasonic FZ1000. It’s a 1″ diagonal 20M pixel sensor with a 24mm to 400mm f2.8-f4 lens permanently attached. It’s not the pinnacle of lens design but it carries Leica’s imprint and it’s pretty darn good, at least as good as those film era lenses.

The camera has a built in flash, admittedly of limited coverage, but by shooting at ISOs in the range of 800 – 3200, way beyond what film could ever do, flash isn’t so important any more. I’ve come to prefer natural lighting most of the time, although I loved Nikon’s ‘Matrix Balanced Fill Flash’ on the F801. It worked well at adding that little bit of extra sparkle to the eyes and highlights, without being overpowering. I can’t seem to achieve the same thing these days.

The Panasonic also shoots miraculous 4K Ultra Hi-Def video as well. How good is that?! It has a macro mode, of course, although you need to be careful of lens shadowing if you want to use the flash, as you often do for closeups.

So there it is, an entire bag of equipment in one camera. No need to take anything else. Wunderbar. Need a different colour rendition, like choosing a different film? Just dial a different mode.

But, but, … I can’t leave my other goodies at home, can I? I have the Sony RX10 with its legendary Zeiss 24-200mm f2.8 lens, giving noticeably sharper pictures. It also shoots lovely 1080 50p HD video. That’s still high definition, still great stuff.

Then I have my Olympus OM-D E-M1 with its marvellous image stabilisation, beautiful sensor, and HD video too. Add on the Panasonic 28-84mm (eq.) as my walk around camera, and take along my Olympus M.Zuiko 150-600 (eq.) lens that’s smaller and lighter than the Nikon 75-150mm and the Tamron 70-150mm were in the 1980s, yet reaches further at higher quality.

I’ve also just bought a Rokinon 9mm fisheye lens for the Olympus. Ideal for inside temples and very crowded places. Can’t leave that behind, can I?

Perhaps I should also take one of the tiny Olympus m4/3 PL-2 or PL-3 bodies for pocketability in a restaurant at night when I don’t want to take a big camera?

My mind also keeps coming back to my Pentax K-5 with its bigger APS-C sized sensor. Whenever I go back over my shots from late 2010 and 2011, I marvel at the quality. They really stand out for low noise and sharpness, even with my relatively low end Pentax zooms, the 24-80mm (eq.) and the 75-300mm (eq.). Perhaps I should revert to that? It’s one of my absolute favourite cameras. Maybe I should buy the latest K-3 II for even better quality? There’s just be time.

Aaaaarrrrgh. See what I mean? My head says, “Only take ONE camera!” My heart says, “Oh go on, you could take two and several of those lovely lenses in a small bag. You can do it. Go on.”

At this stage I think it’s going to be the Panasonic FZ1000 and the E-M1 with 9mm, Pana 14-42mm (28-84mm eq.) and the Olympus 75-300mm (150-600mm eq.) lenses. The FZ1000 will be the walk around camera, the camera you take when you simply can’t leave the room without one. The OM-D E-M1 with its three lenses will be the tripod camera in the shoulder bag for the sunrises and scenics. Oh yeah, I’ll be taking the tripod as well, the Slik Travel model with a Manfrotto small geared head for video work.

Ha. Who am I kidding. I’ll probably leave most of this gear in the room most of the time. I don’t have the strength or energy that I used to have to carry a heavy bag. That’s why the Pana FZ1000 will do almost everything I want to do.

Two weeks to go to decide. I love this 🙂

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Sanur sunrise Pentax K-5 © PJ Croft 2010,2015

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My friend Alan stayed here last night on his way back to Margaret River from Cadoux and the harvesting. He helps out on his brothers’ farms each season.

We had dinner at the Dôme cafe across the road, sitting outside overlooking the lakes with all the wild water birds, flapping their wings and settling down for the night under the trees. Marvellous. It’s great to be able to step outside my door, walk 100m down the street and there we are. This is a very pleasant area. A bit windy, but nice.

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Now to take out the travel insurance for my trip. I’ve heard a guy from the Insurance Council talking on radio about whether we’d be covered for delays caused by the Lombok volcanic ash. He was squirming around the subject, trying to avoid saying outright “No”, but that’s what he was meaning. I think we’d have to assume that we wouldn’t be covered if the flights were delayed.

I don’t think I’m bothered by this. Garuda seems to fly regardless, and even if I were delayed leaving Bali, I don’t think I’d mind another night or two there, as long as I had a hotel room. At $25 – $40 a night, it’s not too scary.

Going up is a different matter, as a no-show means you forfeit the room cost for the night. Too bad, I guess.

More important is that my medical history means the loading on my policy bumps it up from about $127 for a normal person to $405 for me. Too bad, can’t be helped. I just have to count it in the cost of the trip.

Which reminds me, that after a bit of a horror period in 2012 and 2013, I’ve gone two years in a row without a visit to any hospital! Chalk it up, Boris. Let’s hope it stays this way.

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I’ve mentioned before about the repetition of episodes of the Big Bang Theory, now being shown on both Seven and Nine. I’ve had strong suspicions that they are showing the same episodes on successive nights, or even on the same nights.

Well, above is the proof of Channel 9’s careless attitude to we viewers. The same episode was shown on three successive nights 24.11, 25.11, 26.11 ! Sure, on different digital channels (Nine Perth, GO! and 9Go!), but it’s still Nine Network.

This is the only example I’ve picked up so far, but I’m keeping a diary of the episode names and the dates and channels they are shown on. I have no doubts there will be further examples soon.

In addition, Nine showed the movie Major Payne on Friday night. Bugger me but West TV, the community station, showed it again last night. What’s going on here, do they read each others’ schedules and decide to play games with us? This is crazy.

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Speaking of crazy, I was bumped from behind on Friday afternoon. My car was, I mean.

Coming home along Marmion Ave, going very slowly near Clarkson, I noticed a car several cars back behind me suddenly veer to the left so as to avoid running into a near stationary motor bike.

Then a few minutes later, approaching Hester Ave roundabout, BANG. We were going at less than walking pace, luckily, but that same car had come up behind me, failed to stop, and hit me in the rear.

Luckily the cycling lane is particularly wide at that point so I was able to pull over and get out. The other guy did the same and he got out looking very sheepish. Lucky, because he looked like a real low life. Hi-viz gear, navy work trousers, messy beard and hair and about a week’s worth of dirt all over him.

I said, “Thank goodness for plastic bumpers”, because I couldn’t see any damage. He said “Sorry mate” in a quiet voice and with his head bowed. I said I thought he needed to pay more attention and stay further back. No harm seemed to be done and he stuck his hand out so I shook it (ugh!) and we called it quits. He was obviously worried I might make a fuss and I think he might have been on the grog or something. I got back in the car and re-entered the traffic, leaving him behind for someone else to avoid.

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I’ve finished my latest book.

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I bought two vouchers for 40 page versions, but I’ve only had one copy printed so far. It’s lucky, because having found all those photos in a box in the garage that I mentioned the other day, I want to completely revise it and add many more photos. I’ll have to add more pages I think. That’ll be tricky because all the discounted vouchers are for 40 page books. I might end up paying quite a bit higher price for the extra paged books.

The title refers to a joke I heard many years ago. A bloke’s working in an office in a skyscraper with the window open (I told you it’s a joke).

Suddenly he sees a bloke falling past the window on his way down. He yells out, “Hey, how’re you going mate?”

The falling man on his way to his death yells out, “OK so far.”

That’s the way my life seems: I’m falling towards my inevitable demise, but I’m OK so far.

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Two weeks today to Bali. I feel I need to take a test drive out to the airport some time this week because all the roads have changed. There was a map in the paper yesterday showing the new layout but it was hard to understand. I feel I need to see it for myself in real life. The GPS map won’t be up to date, I fear. It’ll make a nice drive, anyway.

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It seems we still have to pay US$35 for the Visa on Arrival in Bali, whereas most countries have had it waived. How embarrassing that Australia is still being treated as a naughty country by Indonesia.

OUCH!

Georgie Bruss 74

Our AutoTour group in Brussels 1974 © PJ Croft

I said yesterday that I was quite pleased with the repair work to my reticulation system. I was quoted a rate of $85 per hour, charged in increments of  ¼ hr. I thought 2½ hrs was being charged, or roughly $200 plus parts.

Well, I’ve received the invoice today. There’s a “call out fee” of $100 been added, and he charged for 2¾ hrs (OK). Plus parts.

The final bill was $497.60! Bloody hell. I’ve paid it, but wow, that’s expensive. $100 call out fee??? He probably told me in advance but I hadn’t realised it. Nearly $500 for less than 3hrs work. Ouch. Gettin’ tired of this.

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I received a text message on my phone on Monday:

“I am a widow dying from cancer and i want you to inherit my 2,700,000.00 Eur since i have no relatives. Email xxxxxx@gmail.com”

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. I suppose someone might fall for that but not me.

However, this is the first time I’ve received a phone text like this, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I sent my mobile number to a friend in an email on that day. That means someone in Nigeria or Russia or somewhere has read my email. Uh oh. Worrying. Lesson: don’t put info in emails that I don’t want known to thieves and scammers.

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Another odd thing: I set out on my walk about 5pm yesterday and saw there was a plastic wrapped letter of some kind in my mail box on top of the local paper. It was obviously advertising junk so I left it there to clear when I got back.

I returned about 45 mins later, went to get the mail and this letter was gone. What the … ?! Wind? It was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t lightweight, so I didn’t think the wind would have plucked it out and left the paper.

So, mystery. Was it a junk mail drop and they realised I have a No Junk Mail label on the box and came back to get it? Unlikely. I dunno.

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I forgot to mention on Monday: I was talking to a friend at the Rugby Klub and he’s split with his wife. That wasn’t news; I knew that was happening a year ago.

But what I didn’t know is that his wife, a practising accountant, has given ALL their joint superannuation money to a Nigerian scammer! Nearly half a $mill. Yes, that’s right, this supposedly smart woman fell for the scammer and sent him all their super money. Incredible, but true.

As you can imagine, coming on top of their divorce, he’s a little bit upset. The house had to be sold and he’s got half that, but he’s now renting and desperately trying to work harder to save for his retirement, about 10 years away.

Definition of marriage: find a woman you hate and give her a house. How very, very true.

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I’ve finally managed to get my contacts phone list transferred from my old Nokia phone to my new Sony phone. There are 125 numbers, so I was pretty determined to save them.

It’s taken hours and hours. Sony’s transfer software just doesn’t work. No way would it connect to the Nokia phone. I found another program on-line that looked hopeful, but the trial version only transfers five numbers. I only need to do this once, so when I saw the price for the full version was US$60, I bailed out quick smart.

Then I found a German program that only cost Eur4.99 or A$8.10, so that was OK. I bought it and after another hour or so fiddling with micro SD cards, I was finally successful. Thank goodness.

 

Fixing, firming

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Wish it still looked like this. Freshly laid last year. Very dry now. Spraying with soil wetter, Lawn Rescue and a general lawn fertiliser later, plus better reticulation will, I hope, restore it.

I finally got a reticulation repairer here yesterday and no wonder my system wasn’t working properly. As he said, it doesn’t appear to have had any work done since the house was built in 2004.

First, no wonder there was little pressure. There was a broken joint on the far side of the house which was almost creating a pond. Once that was fixed, whoa ho, almost too much pressure. Oodles of it now. Thank goodness.

Second, the reason the mini sprinklers on the new garden bed I had built last year weren’t working is because they were all blanked off, except one, by the line being connected to the stopper point on the mini sprinkler. One the lines were switched to the open valves, away they went. So why did the landscapers leave my system in a non-operational state last year? Grrr.

Third, two of the popups on the back lawn were blocked, so it was only getting the centre popup at reduced pressure.

Fourth, a popup on the front verge was broken and robbing what little pressure there was from the others. Replace that and clear the others and I have a good coverage again.

Finally, reprogram it for the correct days (I thought mine were Wed/Sat but he swears it’s Tue/Sat) so I’m legal.

He did three hours and only charged me for 2½ so I was pleased. For once I wasn’t left gnashing my teeth at a tradesman. He’ll get more work from me, for sure.

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What goes around … I’ve just booked at the Aquarius Hotel in Sanur for a few nights, and it’s resonant with the Aquarius Hotel in Earls’ Court, London, in 1974. A bit different in style, that’s for sure. There wasn’t a pool at the Earls’ Court place.

That’s the beach at the end of the street above, about 250m. I seriously hope to get up before dawn and set my tripod up on the beach to get the dawn over the ocean and Lembongan, with Agung on the horizon.

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That’s directly opposite the hotel entrance. I’ll let you guess where. I suspect I’ll be dropping in there from time to time.

Now, I still have two nights booked at Ubud. Will I try again for Kintamani before Ubud? Still thinking about it.

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I’ve just booked my rental car to get from home to the airport when I leave for Bali. I have no confidence whatever that a taxi would pick me up from here at 4.30am on a Sunday and take me to the airport, nor for less than $100.

I’ve booked a Corolla for Saturday 12th Dec, which I will collect in Adelaide Terrace, drive home (visiting friends on the way), then drop off at the airport on Sunday morning at 6.00am. Cost? $52. Neat solution, I think. Now, nothing could go wrong, could it … ?

I should add that my initial choice was Avis but when I went ahead with the booking at an advertised price of $55 for the day, I discovered that they add another $30 for a “relocation fee”, i.e. transfer from the airport back to the Perth depot. Bloody hell. As if they wouldn’t have any customers picking up at the airport.

Therefore they lost my business. I’m not putting up with a fee being hidden until you proceed with the booking. Get lost, Avis. I went with Thrifty. They add a fee, but it’s only $7 and it’s disclosed early.

Garuda seems to fly regardless of ash clouds. Erk.

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I was supposed to go to Tai Chi this morning but I had another of my nearly sleepless nights. Consequently I was far too groggy to drive at 9am. Pity. I’ll try next week.

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Next episode of Fargo tonight. I missed last week’s but I’ve got it recorded so I’d better watch it early. What a violent show this is!! This is America, glorifying guns and violence as if that’s what makes men into men.

So why am I watching it? Good question. It has a morbid fascination to it, is all I can say.

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I must admit I’m absorbed by Who Dares Wins on SBS as well. This is also tough guy stuff, but much, much gentler, surprising to say. I sure wish I had that toughness.

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But SBS are driving me mad!!!! with their promos. The same promos over and over and over and over again. This is repetitiveness overdone. It’s so bad that I record all the programs I want to watch and fast forward through the breaks later.

As for Channel 7 and Channel 9 competing with each other to see who can show the most episodes of Big Bang Theory, what the … ? Seven showed six episodes last night, I think, and Nine showed three. They even show the same episode on the different channels sometimes. I’ve started keeping a list of who’s showing what episodes. Even I’m reaching saturation point.

One eyed

 

Talking to a couple of mates on Friday night. One has lost the sight in his left eye due to a detached retina. He said it started out as seeing a lot of floaters, which most people have, but these were big enough to look like flies buzzing around. He was bothered but didn’t act.

By the time he saw an ophthalmologist about it, the retina was completely detached and he was told it was too late to save it. He says he has a small amount of peripheral vision but the centre is completely dark. Scary. Be warned. Make sure those flies are real flies, or get to your eye specialist asap.

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Marty and Ron ASF modified

I was at the rugby club. I used to be a member from 1999 to 2013, and it was fantastic. I knew a lot of the guys, apart from the TV station mates, I mean, and the girls … ! I got to know all the girls too, and it was a really friendly atmosphere. I really looked forward to Friday nights.

Then I moved up here, but at half an hour each way, it was too far to go. And you can’t drink and drive, so I stopped going.

Now they say someone’s made a complaint, there’s a new committee, so there are no girls any more. All the players are a younger crowd and a lot of the old timers are gone (like me). So that’s the end of that. I was thinking of rejoining last Friday, but no, even my TV mates are leaving too. So endeth the fun.

I tried to persuade my mates to come up here, just for a visit, but “Nah, too far.” Great mates.

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One of those guys has just come back from Bali. Very quiet up there, he says. Taxi driver saying he’s only had two fares all day. The volcano causing people to stay away, I’d say. Oh well, good for me.

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I was thinking of cancelling, myself, but no, it’ll be OK. I’ll stick to my plans. Garuda seems to fly regardless. I can’t say that makes me feel safe, but …

The story is that a new airport is finally ready to start building. I’ve heard that before.

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PJC history

Me in history © PJ Croft 1945, 1994, 2015

The Guardian ran a story today about the tight rope walker who made an historic walk between the twin Trade Centre towers in NY in 1974. They invite readers to send in a picture of themselves in an historic photo.

I’ve submitted the image above, tongue in cheek. I did this as a Photoshop exercise in a class in about 1994. My kimono was from my trip to Japan in 1992. I wonder if they’ll use it?

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I tried my first session at a Tai Chi class last Tuesday. It’s at Currumbine, 15 mins away, so not too far.

It’s the first time I’ve tried it and even though it’s slow and not too strenuous, I still felt a bit of muscle strain and soreness afterwards. Not badly, but I felt as if I’d had a mild workout.

There were about a dozen ladies and only one other guy besides me. All of the elderly age group, of course. The next one is this Tuesday and I think I’ll go again, even though I have to pay to join. It’ll keep me up to the mark. Once you learn some of the moves, you can do it at home, of course, or in a hotel room.

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PBD40 drill

Phwooaaar. I saw this yesterday in Masters and I want!

I’ve never owned a drill press, mainly on size grounds. They’re usually pretty big and heavy, and not well made. Cheap, admittedly, when made in Taiwan and improving in quality, but I’ve never bought one.

But this one looks good. Probably made in China but to Bosch quality standards. It has a laser pointer to show the drill point, and a very smooth motion thanks to that wheel, although I’m not sure it’s any better than a spoked wheel. But the whole thing oozes quality, with a nice machined alloy surface on the base, with a sliding fence. It’s not cheap at $399, but …

As well, they’re selling a solid metal framed kit work bench with two slide out steel drawers for $79. I’ve got room now, so I might buy these two. I’ve got an immediate job for them.

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It’s our verge junk pickup this week so I’ve finally had the chance to get rid of some stuff. A lot of it disappeared before the truck’s come along, but that’s OK. Even aluminium framed outdoor chairs with torn and discoloured webbing were taken. People must renew the webbing, I guess. Good for them.

The dinner

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The 7 Crew l-r: Geoff McCann, Me, Geoff Mortlock, Danny Piccin, Tim O’Dea, Ross Argyle, Con Michael, Geoff Stewart. Probably a collective 250 years’ experience there.

As promised, eight of us had dinner last night at North Beach. It was partly to remember our former colleague Len, who died recently at 64, unable to enjoy the retirement he’d worked so hard for.

It was also to talk about the good times we had at TVW7 and to chew the fat about electronics and TV generally. Wow, the technology’s moving fast. Something that seemed amazing a year ago has been surpassed and we’re on to the next new thing. It’s exciting.

A general theme is that there are no new young guys coming up. The stations don’t train anyone, the old diplomas and certificates are not attempted any more, the Control Board is defunct and the BOCP and TVOCP are not required any more.

If doctors, nurses and dentists weren’t required to have qualifications any more, would that be OK? How about accountants and financial planners being allowed to practice without needing qualifications?

It’s upper managements causing this. They just don’t care.

Why does this matter? Because we are being left in the dust by the Asian tiger economies in STEM areas. South Korea is a giant in electronics, cars, ships, medical equipment, cameras and lenses etc. Taiwan makes much of the world’s PCs, laptops, semiconductors, motherboards etc. China is coming to dominate all these areas of manufacturing and it won’t be long before their cars are acceptable. Singapore is another giant in electronics, computers, medical and so-on.

Even Hong Kong is now making high quality lenses, among all the other electronics they make.

All these except China are countries with no natural resources. The one thing they all have in common is that their people regard education, particularly the STEM subjects, as an absolutely vital part of their maturation. They will sacrifice everything to get uni degrees, not just piddly TAFE certificates and diplomas.

We really are becoming the White Trash of Asia. We’re not doing well enough because we’re not trying. The standard of education is not good enough.

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Pictures in these posts are usually clickable to see the full sized image, but Word Press have changed the software today and the image above won’t enlarge. The one on the previous post will. C’mon Word Press!

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Holy smoke. I’ve just opened a box in the garage that I’d missed before. In it I found a plastic bag containing two trays of old photos. They’re mostly Dad’s, mostly prints but many with negs (hurrah, I can do high quality scans from negs), but also many of Uncle Darcey’s too.

Thank goodness, Dad was diligent and annotated the backs of the photos with names and places. You must do this for posterity if you make prints.

And among them are many of me that I recognise as having seen before, but for some reason I don’t have scans of them.

Kerrumbs, this means I’ve got weeks of work scanning all this new stuff, and it means my Croft History books will need to be revised. I’ll need to do a new edition of volume 1, The Sydney Years, I think. There are dozens of new photos to add.

I don’t mind. I love doing this.

I finished My Life yesterday and sent it off for printing, but only one copy so far. I think I’ll have to revise it before sending the second copy off.

This is very odd. I’m sure I’ve seen all these photos before, but I don’t have scans of them. I thought I’d scanned everything I had. Clearly not.

A wake

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The Studio 1 control room in valve days.

After the shock of Len’s death last week (heart attack), a group of eight of us TVW7 survivors are having a dinner on Wednesday to chew over old times. I reckon we had the Golden Years of TV in this town and country. We did big things, we had variety in our work, we were totally involved in the equipment, although that often didn’t feel so good. We got training on the equipment, often in other cities and overseas. We had time to enjoy.

In contrast now, the station occupies about six rooms and one relatively small studio in Osborne Park, everything’s controlled from Sydney and Melbourne, there are only six techs left who are always on call, there’s no training, all faulty equipment has to be packed up and sent to Sydney for repair so there’s no local knowledge. The remaining techs are all over 45 or 50, with one, at least, aged 63 and happy to get out asap. There are no trainees. The company doesn’t do training. Or plan for the future. All they want to do is get rid of people. So that the big bosses can have bonuses and $million salaries and big company cars.

Apart from Telethon, mostly staffed from other organisations and volunteers, there’s no local production any more. The station doesn’t do anything any more. No local engagement.

Thank goodness I left when I did. Retirement at age 52. I didn’t have to work again, except part time if I wanted it. Fantastic.

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Nearly forgot: I was passed by a Mercedes S320 on the freeway last week and thought, “Gee, that looks great.” So I started looking for models for sale.

The S series is Mercedes’ top of the line. These are the cars that German Members of the Bundestag and diplomats are chauffered around in.

I didn’t find an S320 of the shape I saw because it’s an early 1990s model. But I did find an S350, and it’s for private sale in Perth. Too expensive for me, but wow!

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Interestingly, it’s a 2006 model but it’s only done about 35,00Km and it’s registered as a Small Charter Vehicle. Must have been small charters. Too pricey for me (over $50,000) and I’m not mad on this particular shape.

Then I found this:

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It’s an S55, which means a 5.5L V8 with supercharger, and it’s an AMG, Mercedes’ specialist hand-build section. Yeeeaaah. That’s what I want. And below $50,000, dealer in Victoria.

Then there’s this one in Perth. It’s a 2007 S500, meaning a 5.0L V8, no supercharging or turbo:

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Gee, it’s tempting. Also below $50,000, “all offers invited”. These have just about everything I want, except two doors too many. I’d prefer a coupe. And this 2007 styling has gone too “funny”, Toyota-like, in my opinion. I prefer the earlier, pre-2006 models.

But as soon as I start reading about reliability, the horror stories come out. $10,000 a year repair bills, and that’s in the USA where everything is half price compared to here. These cars have a bad reputation for electrical and electronic faults. Mercedes should be ashamed. As I said the other day, Japanese cars don’t have these problems. My 2001 Australian built Mitsubishi is faultless. Yet Mercedes, with all their German technology and reputation for quality, can’t claim this reliability.

I dunno. I’m still tempted. But I’ll have a Bex and a good lie down.

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I had a short visit to the new TVW premises in Osborne Park a couple of weeks ago. It was nice to see that several of the people I knew are still there and we had a good catchup. Crumbs, it’s 15, nearly 16 years since I left.

But it showed me how much the technology has changed. It’s totally digital and my analogue TV knowledge no longer applies. I couldn’t use the gear there now. (Well, I do have a few clues. I could pick it up.)

Imagine if you were a doctor, for example, and within a few years, all your medical training was useless as there was a new type of human body. Relearn, retrain or get out.

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minidisc-650x450I was talking about digital audio to some of the “veterans” last week and mentioned that I have Mini Disc. Actually, I have three Mini Disc recorder players:

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It’s only just bigger than the disc it holds, and runs forever off one AA battery. Brilliant. (This is a web picture – mine’s cleaner than that.)

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My Hi-Fi deck. (Another web image, but this is the model I’ve had since the mid 1990s.)

Shyarp md-mx30

I have this on my computer desk to amplify the computer audio. It has AM/FM radio, and with a disc permanently in the slot, I can instantly hit record if I hear something I like. It also plays CDs, as you can see. I love this unit! I bought it new around 2003 for about $350. It was marked down because no-one seemed to want Mini Disc. Fools.

For some reason, MD didn’t catch on. It was meant as a replacement for tape cassettes and it was a great system. The audio is digital, much like CDs. The discs are magneto-optical, meaning they are coated with a dye which is changed in reflectivity by the simultaneous application of heat from a laser and a strong magnetic field. They are like a recordable CD, but encased permanently in a plastic caddy, as shown at the top.

Because they require both the laser and the magnetic field, they are virtually indestructible. They can’t be accidentally erased by a magnet, for example. The caddy means they don’t risk dust or scratches, there are no finger prints and they’re easy to handle. They would have been IDEAL as car stereo systems.

I did a report when I was still at Channel 7 arguing that the broadcast MiniDisc machines would be perfect in the News editing suites for short voice recordings. We were still using 1/4″ tape cartridges at that time, which required frequent maintenance and were not all that reliable. My recommendation was approved against opposition from one particularly old school engineer, and we bought about four machines. They were a big hit with the journalists because were easy to use and they cued up almost instantly.

But they use an audio compression scheme of Sony’s own development called ATRAC. In the early days they were competing with CDs, which don’t use compression at all, and the ATRAC compression got a bit of a bad reputation from the hi-fi purists, the “golden ears”, for being audibly lossy. Although Sony improved it, MD never recovered as a hi-fi system and the ignoramuses constantly disparaged it, even today. Thoughtless slinging off.

Bulldust. People accept mp3 which is much more aggressive compression, yet they wouldn’t accept Mini Disc. Stupid. I’ve got music on some of my discs and it sounds beautiful to me. One disc holds one CD worth, 72 minutes, but there’s a higher compression mode which allows space for four CDs. I’ve never used this.

There was also a DataMD model, to hold computer data such as mp3s, but it never caught on and I’ve never seen one. I’d buy it in a shot if I could. Of course, when you can fit 8GB and more on a USB thumb drive for about $5, it renders MDs a bit redundant.

Oh well, I’ve got my three recorder/players and about 100 discs, which will never wear out. I smile smugly. You can’t buy any equipment new any more, I’m afraid.

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I had lunch with friends at a restaurant which had better remain nameless, because it was atrocious. I should ring Rob Broadfield and get him to review it.

I had the fish special, which was a piece of rubbery grilled fish, supposedly barramundi. It tasted fishy and not much else. The waitress asked if I wanted chips or salad. “Both”, I said, and pointed to my friend’s plate.

When mine arrived, the “salad” consisted of one small piece of wilted frilly lettuce and about six very fine strips of dry carrot. That was it. No tomato, which my friend had. I asked about tomato. The waitress said, no, this is only a garnish. You don’t get tomato in a garnish. Bloody hell.

“Anything else you need?”, she asked. Yes, some vinegar please. She went away and came back with a small bowl of a black viscous liquid. I smelt it and said this looks like soy sauce. No, it’s balsamic vinegar, she said. I smelt it and it didn’t smell of vinegar. I used a bit but it didn’t taste like vinegar either. So the rest of this bowl went to waste. Oh, I got two wedges of lemon. Thankful for small mercies, I guess.

This restaurant epitomises everything that’s wrong with Perth restaurants. Barely adequate cooking, and an attitude that they have their way of doing things and the customer has to conform. The waitress wasn’t going to give in to my requests. I would never go to this restaurant willingly. Ugh!

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Speaking of which, the $5 cup of coffee has arrived in Perth. I had a coffee at a Macdonald’s a few weeks ago. For a “Standard” sized cup, a small mug size, it’s $4.25 and for an extra shot of coffee it was another $1. So total $5.25 for a cup of coffee! Americans reckon $2 is normal. Not impressed.

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Phew, 36C, 38C, and it’s not even summer yet. The heat has arrived with a whack. I started my cold showers for the summer on Friday the 13th. I won’t use hot water now until about April next year. I wish I knew how to turn the gas off to the storage hot water heater. It’s heating that water all summer for nothing.