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.)

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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.

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