It’s that word again

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Jakarta Harbour 1995  (C) PJ Croft 2016

Ad for a laptop at Harvey Norman in yesterday’s paper:

“… and Lenovo’s iconic watch band hinge.”

An iconic hinge! Wow! Madness. The word has lost its meaning.

I’ve just heard a guy on the radio say, “Increasingly more and more.” Er, yeah.

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Mind you, I find myself using too many exclamation marks. There’s a school of thought in good writing practice that exclamation marks should never be used. The words should convey the power without requiring added emphasis. I’m not sure I go that far. An exclamation mark can be useful to convey that very meaning: an exclamation.

I’m a regular reader of Silicon Chip, an Aussie electronics magazine of venerable standing, even an icon of Aussie magazine publishing.

But all their writers are addicted to using exclamation marks. They can hardly get through a paragraph without using at least one.

I’ve been thinking of sending an email: “Hi Mr Editor, I’ve noticed you used so many exclamation marks in the last issue that I thought you might be running low on supplies. Here, have some on me. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If you need any more for the April issue, just drop me a line. I’ve got plenty over here!!”
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This magazine is the sole survivor of the golden age of electronics hobbyist magazines from the 60s, 70s and 80s. The original was Radio, TV and Hobbies which started in the 1940s, I think (as Radio and Hobbies – there was no TV then). It was one of the earliest magazines of its type in the world.

I started reading it when I was 12 or 13 in 1960. I’m very grateful that Dad bought it for me, as it set me on my course for life.

It changed its name to Electronics Australia at about that time, to reflect the widening field of electronics. Just how wide the field was to become we never imagined back then.

In about 1970, when I’d been working at Channel 7 for a couple of years, I wrote a letter (yes, a real paper handwritten letter in an envelope; there was no email or word processors then) to the editor, saying that Electronics Australia was the only magazine I could think of that didn’t have a Letters to the Editor section. Lo and behold, in the next month’s issue, there was a new section – Letters to the Editor. Did they print mine? No. But I claim the credit for starting it.

The electronics field started to grow in the 1970s as first transistors and later integrated circuits became freely available at really cheap prices. New magazines started up in competition with Electronics Australia as its editor, Neville Williams, was a very, very conservative man who resisted change. Eventually a split among the staff occurred and the new magazine, Silicon Chip was started by a former EA writer. It’s the sole surviving magazine today. Ironically, the man who left to start SC, Leo Simpson, eventually bought out the Electronics Australia title and assets when EA went under.

Another magazine, Electronics Today International, started up in Sydney in the mid to late 1970s and was much more dynamic and adventurous in its designs. ETI, as it became known, grew to be one of the best electronics magazines in the world and had a few offshoots for other countries.

Another magazine, Australian Electronics monthly, AEM, started in the early 1980s and lasted a good few years. It was aimed at a younger audience.

So at one stage, Australia supported four electronics hobbyist magazines. As well, we had the venerable UK magazine Wireless World which had been going since the 1920s, I think. It had a typical British stiffness about it, although the articles and designs were of very high quality. It clung on until the 2000s as Electronics and Wireless World but we don’t see it here now.

Out of all these magazines, the only survivor is Silicon Chip. We techs find this hard to understand as it’s never been easier or cheaper to build electronic equipment from a plethora of fantastic designs. Getting the components was a real struggle in the 70s and 80s, but now it couldn’t be easier. Altronics started in Perth in the 1970s and has grown to operate Australia-wide. Dick Smith started as a hobbyist shop selling electonics components and kits, before it was bought by Woolworths and turned into a toy shop.

Jaycar grew out of the work of a disillusioned former Dick Smith executive and is a fantastic shop Australia wide.

My point is, it’s fantastically easy now to design and build high quality, high performance electronics projects at really low cost. But all the magazines have died save one, and you don’t see many young guys in these parts shops. (You don’t see any women, not looking for electronics components or kits, anyway. Pink toys, maybe.)

What a pity. Yes, some young people do build stuff, but it seems tablets, games, drones and TV rule the scene these days. Computer studies means being able to use Word and Excel, not understanding the actual electronics that make up computers. Singapore, Taiwan, Korea, India and China are streaking ahead of us. They know they have to study the hard stuff.

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Dieng hot springs, Java 1989  (C) PJ Croft 2016

Flying high

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Mindarie Beach on a cooler day.

“Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flies about the nation.”

Well I’ll be fly-blown. The Saturday Paper listened to me and corrected a long standing error.

Ever since the Saturday Paper has been published, about a year, they’ve had a column called Gadfly written by Richard Ackland, a prominent Sydney lawyer and journalist. But the sub head always said “Diarist-at-large Richard Ackland flys about the nation.”

Flys?

Last week I emailed them:

“Like Sheldon Cooper, I’m overcome by twitching at this glaring misspelling. I’ve waited a long time to make my protest, thinking that it might be corrected eventually, but evidently I’ll be waiting for many more fly life cycles.

“I must assume it’s a deliberate play on fly. Nonetheless, I twitch uncontrollably. Bazinga? I think not.”

Well I’m flyblown. Today, Saturday 27 February, they’ve corrected the subhead to say “flies about the nation” and in the side bar as well.

I’ve emailed them to say thanks and congratulations, but to say I’m amazed that in nearly a year, no-one on the staff, or seemingly among your readers, has noticed this before. Well, thank goodness it’s fixed and I can stop twitching now. Bazinga.

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Trigg Beach today at 38C. Olympus E-PL2  (can’t fix tilt, sorry)

Phew, hot one today! 38ºC. I spent the morning, up to 2pm at a cafe next to the ocean so it wasn’t too bad, but when I got back to the car, I could hardly hold onto the wheel. Yowch. This is the sting in the tail to the end of summer. The ocean was calm as calm, ideal for the Rottnest Island swim (for my o/s readers, it’s an 11Km [sorry, 20Km] swimming race from a Perth mainland beach to Rottnest Island off the coast. It can be very rough if the wind is blowing, but it would have been a pleasure today.)

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Oh, bloody Windows! Damned Microsoft! Bugs, bugs galore. Constant stumbling blocks. Never ending hurdles.

I’ve sold my Sony laptop to a friend, therefore I’ve had to remove all my paid for software and my user name/identity before I hand it over. It’s a Win10 machine already.

But at every turn things have gone bad. I can’t add my friend as a new user without him having a Microsoft account. But I can’t make that choice! I can’t make a username and password for him. Anyway, talking to him today, it seems he already has an account, so he’ll have to send me the username and password before I can proceed.

So I thought, the simplest way would be to do a complete reformat and new install. But with Win10, we don’t have the install files. OK, I thought, I’ll download the .iso files on another of my PCs which is still on Win7 and make an install disc.

Hah! I run MediaCreationTool.exe but apart from a dark blue Windows 10 rectangle/logo, nothing happens! I’ve tried everything, registry cleaning, disabling my antivirus and firewall, but nothing helps. This tallies with my other desktop. Same deal, except that when I try to run this MediaCreationTool.exe on that, absolutely nothing happens, not even this logo.

I’ve got onto the MS forums and asked the question why. The answer I got was, “Are all updates installed?” Dammit, I’ve already told them AutoUpdate is enabled, so YES, all updates are installed. They suggested another step (a clean boot) but that didn’t help, so I tried to reply to their message, but my reply is constantly rejected by their server. I am so fed up!

At this stage I’m thinking of wiping and reformatting this laptop and installing Windows 7  from one of my fully legal copies. I HATE Windows 10.

Chronic iconic

 

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An iconic image. (C) PJ Croft 2016

Oh please, stop saying ICONIC. Someone saw a fox in Kings Park a few days ago and was quoted as saying “you don’t expect to see foxes in such an iconic location.” The word has lost its meaning. It’s now used for anything that’s good, great, outstanding, superior, historic, nice, special, unique, and a dozen other useable words. I wouldn’t care except that this word has become the word you use when you don’t know what other word to use. It’s lazy journalism and copycat popular usage.

Along the same lines:

“They’ve been in a position where they’ve been at the hospital this morning and had an opportunity to say goodbye and to start to try and grieve.”

That’s called Police Speak. “A male person was seen to be proceeding in a northerly direction, whereupon he commenced to cross the carriageway. Consequently, he was struck by a motor vehicle travelling in a southerly direction, sustaining non-life threatening injuries.”

Translation: a man was walking up the footpath, crossed the road and was hit by a car. He was OK.

Y’know? I mean, it’s, y’know, not cool man, y’know. Yeah no. I mean, like, y’know, I wish they’d learn, y’know, to speak. Yeah.

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I had my latest blood test results yesterday and my HbA1c is 7.1. A reading of 7.0 is considered satisfactory blood sugar control, so the doctor was quite pleased. So am I. She didn’t mention any other problems and I forgot to ask, so I assume everything’s fine.

As well, my weight is continuing its downward trend – I’ve lost 10Kg in the past 12 months, and 15Kg since 2013. I can feel it, and people are commenting. Nice. One way I can tell is that my watch bands are loose, and my fingers feel sorta boney when I wash them. Haven’t felt that in a long time.

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I went on from the medical centre to the train station and went into the city. Free travel when yer a Senior, ya see. I wanted to look at a particular shop in Picadilly Arcade to see if they had a small Swiss Army style knife.

But the shop is gone. Disappointing, but I went on to Carillon Arcade to have lunch at my favourite cafe, Croissant Express. You guessed it – gone, closed down.

I started to notice how many other shops are closed down. Wow, it’s a desert in there. There’s nothing left for me, it’s all jewellers and women’s clothing shops, hairdressers and “nail technicians”. So I don’t go into the city much any more, and that makes more shops close. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’ve looked for a small multi-function knife in Target and Bunnings, as well as that fruitless foray yesterday in the city, but I found the ideal item at Masters, just up the road from here. A shop assistant was so keen to show me that she headed off faster than I could keep up, but she came back with the ideal thing. It’s an Arlec fold up pliers, screw drivers, small saw blade, knife blade, and the only thing I actually wanted, a bottle opener. I had to open bottles by banging the caps on the metal door handles in my last Bali hotel (it worked perfectly and didn’t harm the door handles).

The best thing is, this beautifully made stainless steel knife thing cost a whole $4. Cheap!

At the same time, I found small 12V lamps to suit my garden lights (that were already here when I bought this place). I couldn’t find those at Bunnings either.

Unfortunately, there were probably more staff than customers at Masters yesterday. It’s a great pity – I find Masters quite good. I’ve mentioned before that Woolworths set this chain up out of sheer arrogance, thinking they’d crush Bunnings. Well, they were the ones that got crushed, but that’s tough on the employees who’ll lose their jobs. Not to mention Dick Smith, another Woolworths disaster that’s costing thousands of employees their jobs. As I’ve said before, I won’t shop at Woolworths any more. Too many times, they’ve dudded me.

I notice that a new building is going up near Masters just up the road; it’s an Aldi. More competition.

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I could only keep going in the city for about an hour before I was just too fatigued to continue and had to come home. I was knackered! I was desperate to sit down on the train station but there are very few seats and they were all occupied. One was taken by a young guy with legs crossed working on his phone. I considered asking him to give up his seat, but chickened out.

I slept well last night and hoped it would fix me, but I’m still tired today. Gee, I can’t walk as much and I don’t recover like I used to.

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Having bought this new laptop, I wondered what to do with the Sony VAIO, but I’ve sold it to a good friend, so that’s a good outcome. I asked $400 as it’s a high spec computer (it cost $3,500 in 2009), and $500 is about the starting point for anything decent in laptops these days. He’s happy.

I’ll be sorry to see it go. I’ve done several o/s trips with it and it’s done well. It’s a good weight. That it lasted so well shows the value of paying a bit more to start with.

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I hope to see a cloud free mountain in the next few months. (C) PJ Croft 2016

It’s annoying! I can’t get the copyright symbol on this laptop – using Alt 0169 just doesn’t work without a separate numerical keypad. But if I try to insert a symbol using WordPress’s symbol facility, you can’t insert it into an image caption. The symbol only inserts into the next line down. It’s just one of the infuriating bugs in WordPress. I know this is free software, but do the bugs have to go on uncorrected?

Western Australia, police state

 

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Kingsbridge Park, Butler 23 Feb 2016 Pentax K-5

I’ve been trying to decide which of my 15 cameras (heh heh) to take to Bali. The choice is not that hard; five of those are film cameras and I won’t be bothering with those.

No, I’ve been keen to get back to my Pentax K-5, a 16Mp digital SLR that I bought in 2010. I have four lenses for it, K mounts, (two dating from film days in the 1970s), and it was applauded, raved about, in reviews for its beautiful images. That’s why I bought it. I shot the one above yesterday and as soon as I saw it in the browser, I though, Oooo yeah.

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Kingsbridge Park. Pentax K-5

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Pentax K-5 Pentax 24-70mm lens at 24mm.

Lovely colour. But I quickly discovered why I won’t be taking it with me.

  • It weighs 1.2Kg with its 24-70mm lens fitted, and the 70-300mm lens adds another 270g, total 1.5Kg roughly.
  • Although it has an optical pentaprism viewfinder, in bright sunlight I can barely read the display below it. It includes a level indicator, but I can’t see it.
  • OK, it has Live View on the rear LCD (ie press a button and hold it at arm’s length to see it), but after you press the LV button it takes about 1 second to switch because it has to flip the mirror up. Then when you take the shot, the mirror has to flip down, then up again while the shutter operates. It’s not feasible. On a tripod, yes, but not handheld.
  • It shoots Full HD 1080p video but, same deal, the mirror has to flip up and you lose the viewfinder. You have the rear LCD, but in bright sunlight, I can’t see a thing. Not to mention my poor close vision these days.

So I’m afraid it won’t do. What am I going to take? The Panasonic FZ1000. It’s a 1″ diagonal sensor 20Mpixel camera with a fixed 25-400mm Leica zoom. No lens changing possible or needed. The viewfinder is electronic, so it maintains visibility at all times, very bright and clear. It includes bright spirit level lines.

Plus, it shoots high quality video not only at Full HD 1080p 50fps, but up to 4K UHD 25 fps as well (provided I remember to use the correct settings!). Power zoom, of course (the Pentax is manual zoom only).

Finally, it only weighs 850g, half the weight of the Pentax combination, and does a lot more.

What a pity. I kinda love that Pentax, but it’s been overtaken in the past five years. The Panasonic produces beautiful images too. My mind is made up. I’m glad I tested. I must do a comparison shot, side by side at the same time.

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Grrr. I’ve just had a phone call from the medical centre to remind me of my appointment at 9.30am tomorrow. But just as an afterthought, the receptionist said, “With Doctor xxxx” i.e. another doctor, not my usual GP. I protested and said I want to see my usual doctor as I have things I need to discuss.

Bloody hell, I waited nine days for my last appointment on Monday 15th, only to find I’d been switched to this other doctor when I got there. Then, after he was running 40 mins late, he  sorta shooed me out after 15mins. I wasn’t finished.

So I immediately made a new appointment to see my usual doctor, but it had to be 10 days hence, i.e. tomorrow 25th. So I’ve been waiting 19 days! Now they nearly switched me again.

This is not working. It typically takes a week to get in to see my doctor. Much as I hate to do it, I’m going to have to find another GP who’s not so busy. That may be impossible. This is a dense area with thousands of young mums and babies and schoolkids. There’s a medical centre just across Marmion Avenue, about 300m away, but I doubt I’ll do any better.

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I wrote a long piece here about the danger of getting caught up in the WA legal system, but I’ve removed it for that very reason: you can be ‘fitted up’ in this state. Can’t risk saying more.

Gettin’ ready

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Bromo dawn 1989  (C) PJ Croft 2016

I bought MS Office Home & Student 2013 last week and it installed and activated fine on my desktop PC. Then I just  moved the installation file, all 480MB of it, to the laptop and installed it there. When I tried to use it, it wanted me to activate it again. But when I tried, it said sorry, you’ve already used your activations. Funny, I’m sure it says you can install it on up to five devices.

OK, so I started again just now and let it download from the web and install again, about an hour’s worth. Again, it wanted me to activate. I used the ID I’d been given but got the ‘Sorry’ message again. OK, try the phone activation.

You phone a 1 800 number, but then you have to enter eight (8!) groups of seven digit (7!) numbers on the phone key pad. Bloody hell. OK, then you’re asked to enter another set of numbers in boxes, six digits in six boxes (I think). But which digits? By now I gave up and asked to speak to a human.

When I did that (Indian accent, of course. Her, not me), I had to read out that set of 56 digits again to her! Then she says she’s going to give me a new set of numbers to enter into those empty boxes. Hang on, I said, I’ll write them down. “Oh no sir, this is a one time set. You must enter them now.” Oh bloody hell.

So I did it, and now it’s activated OK. What  rigmarole.

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I’ve just had a coffee visit from my great friend Barry, who has a client at Two Rocks, up the road from here. I told him I’ve booked a rental car for next week to get to the airport. No, he’s going to drive me. Baz, it’s OK, I don’t want to put you to all this trouble each time. But he  was adamant – cancel the rental car, he’ll be here at 7.45am on the day to take me to the big bird place. What a guy. This saves me $84. He’ll probably be able to do the same when I get back at about 5pm on the day, too. Not sure yet.

I’m being cagey about days and dates because I don’t want to broadcast to the world when I’ll be away.

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Dieng Plateau, Java 1989  (C) PJ Croft 2016

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Ramping up the preparations. Mosquito spray: check; luggage scales, new batteries: check; walking stick: check (do I really need it? Naaaaah.); weigh my two suitcases – which is lighter? Turns out one is 4.98Kg and the other is 5.06Kg, no difference in other words. One looks as if it’s bigger, but it’s hard to judge and it’s a bit hard to measure volume – no, I’m not going to fill them with water and measure it 🙂  I’ll use the one that looks bigger.

Still annoyed at that hotel that’s charged my credit card for the full amount, $440 approx., when I’m not staying there until 17 May. And it’s not refundable. Grrrr. Thinking about what to do.

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A visitor

Gif courtesy of http://gifmaker.me/

Shapely

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View from Mt Chudalup, WA © PJ Croft 2016

Damn, shaped again. For the second time this month I’ve used up all my broadband quota so I’m throttled to 256Kb/s. That’s treacle territory. I paid $10 for another 10GB a few days ago but it’s used up already. The reset date is Tuesday 22nd umm, Monday 22nd, idiot, so I don’t want to spend more if I can avoid it. I’ll try to live at this speed for now. (Monday – back to normal, thank goodness.)

I never used to have this trouble. I think it’s because my DropBox was syncing a folder that I didn’t want until I discovered it and stopped it, and because Win10 keeps trying to download behind my back. I must admit I’ve been downloading some big software files lately too.

I don’t think I’m getting a very good deal with iiNet. Much as I hate Telstra, their ads seem to show much better value. I’ve been told I might be able to get a faster connection too. I’ll check it out. Also, I do not like dealing with TPG, which now owns iiNet.

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Canal Rocks, WA 1990  © PJ Croft 2016

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From pictures I’ve seen of the S’Cate Condotel room in Bali, it’s clear that there are no handrails on the stairs between floors in the apartments. This is bad news for me. My legs are weak and I need railings to help pull myself up. As well, the stairs are glossy tiles and I need something to hang onto to ensure I don’t slip.

If it were only a few days I could live with it, but for a month at a time, no. I’ve been wondering what to do and I think I’ll put a proposition to the management: I’ll pay to have hand rails fitted in my unit. It might sound a bit crazy but it’s not expensive to have this kind of work done up there. I’ll get names of workmen and advice from my friend John who lives just up the road in Sanur. This is his area of expertise. He’ll know.

It seems to me that the management should be happy with it. I hope so.

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I mentioned last week that a hotel I booked in Bali has a ‘no refund’ policy, which I didn’t notice until I’d clicked the Book button.

I discovered just now that my credit card has already been charged for the full amount, even though the booking isn’t until 17 May!

This is unacceptable. I’m going to make a protest, and I have the weapon that I will make a scathing review on Booking.com and Expedia and everywhere else that I can if they don’t play ball.

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One week to go. I’ve booked a rental car again to get me to the airport and I’ve insisted on my booked choice, a Corolla. Let’s see how they deal with that. The best price I could get was $84 compared with $52 last trip. That’s not nice. But they offer 15% discount for RAC members, so that should soften the price. I went to book for the return trip too, but crikey, the prices are up around $100 then. Why? I’ll leave it and see what happens to the prices in coming weeks before I book. At that rate, a taxi might be cheaper. I have bargaining power now – gimme a price of $100 (max) or I’ll use a rental car.

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Poltergeist again. I’ve just been cleaning the second toilet when I noticed the small shelf unit in there has been moved out of its position against the wall. Huh? It’s very lightweight and maybe I bumped it, but I don’t remember doing it. De de de de de.

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Near Collie, WA 1990. © PJ Croft 2016

Cardinal rules

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Paris. © PJ Croft 2016

Former NSW premier Kristina Keneally has written a piece in the Guardian and as usual, says it very eloquently. She’s speaking about the very critical song about Cardinal George Pell written by Tim Minchin.

“For starters, it provoked sorrow at my loss of faith in the church, an organisation that has done much good but nonetheless values its rules, assets, and male privilege above all else.

“I cried because there was little else I could do with my deep fury that neither Pell nor his mates at the Vatican appear to take seriously the need to respond fully and openly, and to reform the church, in the face of the child sexual abuse crisis.”

That first sentence is especially apt, in my opinion. The Catholic church is awash with wealth and puts it to use in gross displays of gold vestments and implements, enormous elaborate cathedrals, temples and marble statues. Jesus said we should not worship idols or build false gods. The Catholic church sets an ordinary human up as a supreme being, a saint, a false god with the power to forgive any sin, and he laps up the idolisation he receives while being kept in the lap of luxury. They have built enormous temples of gold, marble and silken tapestries, as if this is the answer to poor people’s suffering. They drive around in expensive cars. It is wrong!

Cardinal Pell is a coward. He revels in his exalted rank and all the privileges he has, but he won’t face his critics, who appear to have much to criticise. In view of how many victims of predatory priests have taken their own lives while he left the sicko priests in place, he has blood on his hands.

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Labor MHR Gary Gray decides not to stand at the federal election later this year. He says he doesn’t think Labor can win, so he doesn’t want to go through another term in opposition.

What a rotten thing to say! He has undermined the party that once held him in high regard.

Mr Kennedy said for Labor to lose all three incumbents heading into the election was remarkable.

“It’s almost unprecedented that all a party’s sitting members in WA should all decide to bow out at the same time,” he said. [ABC News. Peter Kennedy, political academic and commentator.]

The losses of the best candidates from the ALP are most disappointing. So many able Labor politicians and candidates have pulled out in the past four years that you wonder whether we can recover in any reasonable time frame. Julia Gillard, Greg Combet, Melissa Parke, Nicola Roxon, Alannah MacTiernan, and many others.

I blame two people: Kevin Rudd for his utterly vile behaviour before the 2013 election, and Bill Shorten for being so lacking in leadership and charisma. If we lose the election this year, he will be to blame. I’m very disillusioned.

I will let Labor know that for the first time since I woke up to myself in my early 20s, I doubt I will be voting Labor this time. I will have to vote Greens. As long as Labor advocates the deliberate torture, child abuse and cruelty, in government sanctioned concentration camps on Christmas, Manus and Nauru Islands, they can’t have my vote. I walk away.

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Shield bugs mating. © PJ Croft 2016

The Water Authority are airing a commercial called Just Take Two, urging us to take two minutes off our watering times, including showers. They’ve produced a cartoon commercial showing a guy entering his clear glass shower cubicle and proceeding to wash himself in hot water with clouds of steam.

Trouble is, he’s wearing shorts. Who has a shower wearing shorts? Crazy idea. Then the timer goes off after four minutes and he turns the water off, but he turns the tap anti-clockwise. I’ve never known a tap that closes off with an anti-clockwise action. All mine increase the flow of water in that direction. Crazy again.

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Stop saying you know!!! It’s become a virus, a disease, a pandemic, a problem of the English speaking world.

People seem incapable of speaking without using ‘y’know’ several times in each sentence. These sentences can be very long, so we hear ‘y’know’ a dozen or more times. Sometimes it’s become so overused that it’s abbreviated even further to ‘y’now’ with all the letters run together. There’s no way to write the sound.

Just occasionally I hear someone who doesn’t speak this way and what a pleasure it is to listen to him or her. Listen to yourself. Do you say ‘y’know’ all the time? Work on stopping it, please.

Same for iconic. It’s got so bad that I’m not far off making an award to the first use of iconic for the day, but it won’t be a nice award. This word has become the most over-used cliche in history, I reckon. It’s laziness. There are many other words that could be used, but people, journalists mainly, are too lazy to think of another word. Stop iconic!

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Let no-one accuse me of being vain. I’m going to publish a photo of myself that should never be seen in public.

My anti-virus software has an Anti Theft feature where if you enroll (no cost extra), it records the serial number of your PC, records a desktop snapshot and uses a laptop’s camera to take a photo. It stores all these remotely at the company’s headquarters. If your PC is stolen, you use another computer to press the “My Computer Has Been Stolen” button to start a trace. If it’s a thief using the computer, then his mug can be used for police action and so on.

I’ve done it for my new laptop and here’s the photo it took yesterday:

Camera screenshot

Camera screenshot

Aaaagh! Not my best side. I’m immodest to a fault, as they say. No-one could make a mistaken identification – they’d die of embarrassment to say that was them. 😉

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You’ve probably noticed I’ve been using more images in my posts recently. It’s because I’ve realised that my browser, ACDSee Ultimate v9 has an Export menu item which allows me to batch process any image to make it suitable for the web in a one-click action.

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Americas Cup 1986. © PJ Croft 2016

The automated steps available are:

  1. Where to place the resulting image (e.g. desktop);
  2. New file name (if desired) using a naming template;
  3. File format (jpg or 10 other choices);
  4. Pixel format (b/w or colour);
  5. Colour space conversion (sRGB or Adobe RGB or two others);
  6. Output resizing, down or up;
  7. Preserve metadata or not (the camera’s data about when the shot was made, etc.);
  8. Processing (running preset actions for colour correction etc.)

All these steps are set up once, then saved as a named set. You can have multiple named sets for different applications.

Then, each time I want to use a photo for this blog, now I just make basic adjustments of colour, exposure, cropping and rotation, then click on Export and click Go. The resulting image is instantly on my desktop, ready to be imported into WordPress for this blog. It’s so much faster than before, and the colour space conversion means the images look the same on the blog as I saw in the browser. At last. It’s taken me too long to wake up to this functionality.

 

Moonlighting

River at dawn 1a

Paris 2008. (C) PJ Croft 2016

Writing this at 3am, another night where sleep just won’t come. Dammit, insomnia is a real problem for me now. I never used to have trouble, but something’s changed. It’s part of getting older I think.

I was so sleepy earlier that I went to bed at 9.45pm, having trouble keeping my eyes open. But I lay there for two hours and sleep just wouldn’t come. Bah!

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I had a doctor’s appointment yesterday morning (Monday) and was all set with a list of things I needed to talk about, but when I arrived at 8.55am for a 9am appointment, I found I’d been switched to another doctor. I then had to wait until 9.40am before I got in. We discussed various things and then he said this is only a 15 minute appointment so we’d have to finish. Grrrr. I wasn’t finished. So I made another appointment to see my usual GP, the lovely Tandi, but the earliest I can get in is Thursday next week! This is bad. I have things I need to sort out before I go to Bali (two weeks today) but I have to wait another 10 days, when I had already waited 9 days for this appointment. I’ve been thinking that this medical centre is too often booked out, but you build a relationship with a doctor and I don’t want to have to start again with someone I don’t know and who doesn’t know me. Problem.

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I read an interesting fact recently: with portable GPS units, they show the car’s exact speed with much greater accuracy than the car’s speedo. This usually shows that the car’s reading is about 3-5Km/h higher than the real speed. It’s done deliberately so that the speedo won’t mislead you into exceeding the speed limits.

But with  car makers’ built-in GPS units, they don’t show the accurate satellite reading that portable ones do. Apparently this is so that the driver is not conflicted as to which one to believe.

If I ever buy a car, I do not want to pay for a built-in GPS. The above is one reason. Another reason is that they charge like wounded bulls for software and map updates, which are unique to the car maker, so can’t be got elsewhere. Another is that the GPS is built into the centre of the dash, forcing you to look left and down. I have my GPS in the bottom right corner of the windscreen, just off my line of vision, meaning I hardly have to move my eyes to see it. I can also use my right hand to make settings, so I don’t have to look and reach left to change a centre dash mounted unit.

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Another interesting fact: (uh oh, senior’s moment! I can’t remember what I was going to write.)

Oh yeah, now I remember: A few days ago I mentioned a very nice watch that’s an LCD display, so that it can be reconfigured and changed to display all sorts of useful information, like your pulse rate, for example. It’s a TAG Heuer and costs about $1500 in Australia.

All these images are the same watch, just different LCD displays. The hands and the date window and so on are not real, just images on the LCD display.

I said it’ll be superseded in short order, so whaddaya do, buy the next model at another $1500?

Well, apparently the company say that if you buy it, and a new model comes out, you’ll be able to exchange your old model for one of their mechanical models at no cost if you buy the new electronic LCD model. Obviously they recognise the problem I was talking about.

By the way, I thought up the idea of an LCD display watch that can be changed to have different faces about 5 years ago. It was triggered by Apple’s boast that their Retina LCD displays have pixels so fine that they can’t be seen, giving incredibly sharp images. One of my mates will verify that, as he got so enthused by my idea that he started making enquiries as to whether someone would adopt my idea. I should have patented my idea!

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I feel a big load has been lifted from my shoulders. A long standing dispute seems to have been resolved. I wish the person had spoken earlier. It would have saved two years of awful stress and anger that has been badly affecting me. I hope we can get back to some normality soon, although it will be hard to forget what’s happened.

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St Eustache 1

St Eustache cathedral, Paris 2008. (C) PJ Croft 2016

Another interesting fact: photographic equipment prices are cheaper in Australia than both the USA and the UK!

There was a review of a Sigma 35mm lens the other day on my favourite US photo blog and they pointed us to the B&H New York web site where the price of this lens is US$799. B&H is one of the biggest photo retailers in the world.

Just for interest, I searched for local prices and stap me, Gerry Gibbs Camera House ‘just down the road’ here in Perth, has the lens for AUD$799 too.

The US$799 price translates to AUD$1141.42 at A$1 = US$0.70c ! Or to put it another way, an American could buy from this Perth retailer for US$559.30. Take off the 10% GST for export and it comes down further, to US$503.37. Plus post and packing, of course. Compared with US$799 plus p&p. This is remarkable.

Another thing I found today is that a Sigma SD1 camera body, which when first released about three years ago cost US$8,000 approx. (to widespread ridicule) is being sold from Sigma Australia’s web site now at A$1249, with free postage.

Yet all the other Aussie web sellers are still advertising it at around A$1800. Sigma seems to have dropped the price, and the local sellers haven’t caught up. It’s also on the B&H New York web site at US$1,799. So it looks like a bargain is to be had. I suspect Sigma is trying to sell off all their stock, either because they’ve dropped it from their range, or there’s a new model coming.

No, I don’t need another camera. I did a count recently and I’ve got 15 cameras, film and digital. Why not? It’s fun! I choose one according to my whim of the day.

But this Sigma SD1 Merrill is a bit special. It uses the Foveon sensor, where the red, green and blue layers of the sensor are transparent and stacked on top of each other. Each layer has 15 million receptor sites and Sigma says that makes it a 45Mega-pixel camera. They’re not wrong. Thing is, the pictures from this type of sensor, unique to this maker Sigma, are very special, having unique qualities. Many people rave about them and the samples Sigma provide certainly bear out their claims. Incredibly sharp, and with a special tonality and colour quality.

As you can tell, I’ve got the hots. Sigma also makes some of the sharpest lenses this side of Leica lenses, the standard setters. But Leica lenses cost in the $thousands, whereas the Sigma range are around $800-$900 usually for quality very close to Leica’s.

The Sigma camera uses its own mount, of course, so if you buy the body, you have to buy SIGMA lenses to go with it. No choice. But it’s a nice choice.

I don’t need another camera!

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1080011

Jindalee beach 2014. Olympus 75-300mm lens at 300mm. (C) PJ Croft 2016

Decimal 50th

Blue butterfly 84

Malaysia 1986 (C) PJ Croft 2016

Crumbs, 50 years today since decimal currency was introduced in Australia. I remember it pretty well, especially the date and the song. And the fact that that bloody obsequious monarchist Bob ‘Ming’ Menzies, Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports fer gawsakes, wanted our currency called Royals. Bloody hell! He was shouted down then and thank goodness for it.

I really regret that we lost our distinctive names for our currency. Many of them came from the UK, of course. Most people younger than 50 wouldn’t remember:

  • quids (pounds)
  • bobs (shillings, and no, nothing to do with Bob Menzies)
  • zacs (sixpences)
  • treys (threepences, pronounced thrippences)
  • deeners (pennies)

I don’t know why we dropped these without a backward glance. I reckon they were part of our heritage. But immediately, we started using bucks and grands. I must admit, although I tried to keep the old names, I soon forgot.

The original 50c piece was round and contained more than its face value worth of silver, so they say. I’ve got one of those in my souvenir tin. But the price of silver has fallen so far that I doubt it applies today. I’ve also got several other multi-edged 50c pieces, some tarnished as if they were silver.

I’ve got one of each of the old coins, a halfpenny (pronounced ha’penny), a penny, a thrippence, a sixpence, a shilling and a two shillings (a florin) mounted on a wooden board I made back in the sixties. No notes, I’m afraid, as they were too valuable then to keep aside as souvenirs, but I’ve got a key ring with plastic replicas.

I’ve also been keeping some decimal currency notes for historic purposes. I’ve got a couple of one dollar notes, a two dollar note and a couple of the early five dollar notes before the current plastic note. I’ve also got a couple of the first plastic $10 notes from the late 1980s. We were the first in the world, I think, to use plastic notes. We did away with the copper one and two cents years ago (I’ve got a plastic bag full of those somewhere) and now they’re talking of dropping the five cent piece as well.

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Two weeks to go to Bali 2016 I and I’m trying to think of how to save weight in my suitcase. Laptop with power supply and ext DVD drive 3Kg. CPAP machine 2.5KG. Medications at least 1.5Kg. Bandages, dressings, Dermeze, at least 1KG.  Insulin pens in their cold pack, about 1Kg. Camera gear apart from the camera, about 1.5Kg minimum. Plus the weight of the case, about 3.5Kg I think. And so on.

I’ve been thinking, since I’m already booked to go back to the same hotel in May, I wonder if I could leave my big suitcase up there, in storage? But I’d need another smaller suitcase that I could check in, as the weight of my essentials as above would exceed cabin baggage weight. Hmmm…

That reminds me, I used the plastic film wrap for the first time when I came back in January. I had a small shoulder bag so I wrapped my carry-on bag and checked it in. It worked well. It cost Rp85,000 ($8.50).

But I was surprised when i got home to find a stamp on the luggage strip saying [NO VALUABLE ITEM INSIDE, Baggage Profiling Checked].   I don’t know how that was decided, as there certainly was some valuable stuff inside, including my $1,300 CPAP blower and $300 worth of mask and tube. Odd.

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Atlas + Raja 66

Atlas moth and Rajah Brooke butterfly. Malaysia 1986 (C) PJ Croft 2016

Going for it

20080309-40D_001

Parachutes all in a row. Whitfords beach 2007 © PJ Croft 2016

I had trouble sleeping again last night so at 2am I booked some more Bali accommodation. It was probably not a good time to be making decisions like that, because I’ve booked one hotel for eight nights (to cover a gap in the S’Cape condotel’s availability), where the booking is not refundable. The amount is $403 for the eight nights, and it’s not payable until I get there, but it wasn’t until I’d booked that I saw the fine print that says the entire amount is non-refundable on cancellation!

This seems unreasonable to me. I can understand forfeiting one night, but not the whole amount. I don’t expect to cancel, but you never know. I might have to make a protest to Booking.com about this.

I’ve actually booked for most of May, then for the whole of um, another month (I don’t want to tell the world when my house will be empty). That should either kill or cure me. I’ve heard from someone who’s stayed at S’Cape that it’s good, so … The location is one of its plus points.

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Clip

Heh heh. I don’t use the phone much, do I?

I’ve just found that I’ve exceeded my 20GB monthly quota from iiNet and I was shaped to 256Kb/s. I’ve had to buy another 10GB at $10 to see me through to the 22nd of the month.

I’ve never had this trouble before. I don’t download movies or other big stuff, except for one software download of 5GB. Damned Windows 1o tries to download itself at 2GB a time when I’m not watching.

But I think the culprit is Dropbox. It’s uploading my images at the moment and I don’t know why, or how to stop it. (I’ve tried yelling at it.) More investigation needed.

Update: fixed it. Always explore the menus and settings.

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20070913-40D-017

Minnie 2007 at Trigg beach. I called her the Surf Dog. She was fearless, crashing through the waves after the tennis ball, never giving up.

I watched the British TV program called Ultimate Hell Week, a series where an initial group of 24 civilian volunteers put themselves through a military style training and selection process. It was based on the special forces programs from the UK and Australian SAS, the US Special Forces, the Israeli Commandos and the Philippines equivalents. Each week was conducted by one of that list.

Wow, what an amazing test of their stamina and perseverance. They were amateurs and one guy was 51, competing with 20-30 year olds. He was eternally cheerful but ultimately he couldn’t keep up and was scrubbed, but he was still smiling after that. Good guy.

One example was that after 3 mile run with a 20Kg backpack and a 4.5Kg rifle, they were so exhausted that they fell to the ground when they got back. But the instructor said, “OK, give me 100 burpees, now!” A burpee is where you start as if you were going to do a push up, but have to jump up and clap your hands above your head, then drop to the push up position again. Repeat 100 times when you’re already exhausted to dropping point. But they did it. Amazing.

[I was thinking, 20Kg? That doesn’t seem like much. But then I thought, that’s the weight of my suitcase when I’m travelling, and I can hardly lift it. Gaaah! That reminds me, how about in TV shows and movies where the stars are shown lifting and carrying their suitcases as if they were empty. Funny, I bet they are. No-one is ever shown grunting when they lift and carry.]

As they say, your only limit is what your mind and heart tell you, not your body. If you have the mind and the guts to push on no matter what, your body will follow. This is what they teach SAS men, to keep going, no matter what.

The eventual winner was a real surprise. It was a 33 year old (I think) female doctor. She ran marathons as a hobby and she was skinny and wiry. She absolutely struggled to carry the heavy loads because of her small size and lack of muscles, but she just kept going, no matter what. In the end, she beat one other woman and the other 22 men. She deserved it. I enjoyed this show.

As for Bear Grylls and the American men on The Island, bloody hell, do they ever stop talking? And loving each other, man, and high-fiving, and saying how great it is, man? But they’re not very resourceful, considering the talent they have available. They’re pretty unsuccessful at finding food and fishing. I’m watching it, but I get sick of it.

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Boy fishing87

Shark Bay fishing 1987. © PJ Croft 1987, 2016