Home again

bangkok-palace-b8

Bangkok   © PJ Croft 2017

I’m home again, officially sans gall bladder. It’s a bit galling (sorry) that I’ve spent $750 (after all rebates) to pay for an operation when I didn’t feel I had a problem, and when I feel no different afterwards. It would have been nice to feel some improvement.

I get a few jabs of pain in my gut from the five incisions, but it’s not enough to make me take pain relief. I might take some paracetemol tonight before bed.

I have to go to a school reunion (it’s our 70th birthday year) tomorrow, involving a long 1-hour drive each way. I’d better be careful, and I might have to leave the function early.

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I was fed with a pain killer called tepantadol in the hospital. It seems to be a new one. I was having weird visual hallucinatory effects. Patterns on the curtains were constantly moving downwards. A pair of slippers on the floor were moving toward the wheel of the bed, even though it was impossible. The pattern in the floor was moving away from me. The hinges between the door and its frame were slowly moving downwards. Crazy. I wasn’t bothered, but … At one stage I was sitting in a chair and falling asleep and dreaming, and speaking to a person next to me, then suddenly waking up, aware of what had happened.

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Women complain of sexist language used by males. In the hospital, I was repeatedly called “darling” and “love” and “luvvie” by the nurses. One very bossy nurse even ordered me around, calling me “buddy”, “mate” and “matey”.

For 30 years or more, my mother used to invariably call me “sweetie” and “snooks”. I hated it. I’m always being called these types of names in shops. I don’t mind it. What’s the problem? But if I called women “cutie” or “darls” or “babe”, I’d be condemned. I don’t say these things, and I don’t appreciate being criticised for sexist talk. Fair’s fair – it happens both ways! Women don’t realise they’re doing it and neither do most men.

Still here …

2002 0426 Cliffs c

Fifteen years ago, July 2002, fixing a mate’s computer.  © PJ Croft 2017

Sorry, I’m a bit quiet because there’s not much happening at the moment. But next week will be busier – I go into hospital for the “gall-bladder-ectomy” on Tuesday, staying for two nights. Out on Thursday and I’m staying with my good friends in Scarborough for one night just to be sure, to be sure.

Then, next Saturday it’s our Northam Senior High School Reunion, number six (I think) for our 70th Birthday Year. We should have about 35 visitors, we hope. It’s just at a Fremantle hotel, on the terrace, just drinks, nothing formal, so let’s hope we have nice weather.

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I’ve just been organising some pictures of my sister’s kids from many years ago, the 1970s mainly. I have many, many historic photos. I have around 10,000 of my own shots over 50 years, and around another 30,000 on the drive of various images that i keep for interest.

I’m doing my best to get these images of mine into books and backed up for use after I’ve gone. Many of my shots of Perth are already historic and will be even more so in 50 years time. I don’t know who’s going to take them.

29Dec90-15

Perth 29 December 1990, already 27 years ago! That’s Central Park unfinished. Some of those foreground buildings are probably gone.  © PJ Croft 2017

Another thing is video – I’m shooting quite a lot, but is any of it going to be used? We have to get used to editing it down. Easier said than done. I’ve got more skills than most but I have a lot of trouble doing it. Sigh.

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I bought two more vouchers for 11″ x 14″ Photobooks, 40 pages in layflat binding for $33 each last week. I’ve just made a start on my 14th book, a second attempt at Japan, I think, but maybe something closer to home?

I’m always in the habit of ordering two copies at a time so that I can lend one and not die of fright if it doesn’t come back. But maybe this time it might be two separate books.

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My sister has had cataract surgery and is ecstatic at the result. She’s been able to dispense with her contact lenses. Wow.

I, too, have cataracts and hope to have mine done at the end of May. I’m hoping for improvement because I’m starting to notice things: I have trouble finding the keys on this keyboard, I have trouble with bright daylight and glare, and dark shade, and I have the feeling there’s an eyelash always at the left edge of my vision. Here’s hoping.

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The roadworks have made a mess of the formerly beautiful “Line of Pines” (as I called it) in Marmion Avenue near here. As well, the incessant beeping of the reversing warnings on the machinery drives me nuts. Add in the endless barking from the dog next door, and the incredible number of sirens day and night around here – what’s going on?? I feel like closing all the doors and windows.

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This WordPress software has bugs and they are never fixed! I always have the feeling that we’re being penalised by WordPress for using the free version. You don’t pay, we don’t fix the bugs.

At the moment, if I type such that the text goes to the next line below the edge of the screen, it doesn’t automatically scroll up so that you can’t see your typing. This seems like a new bug in the past week or two.

That reminds me. I’ve been enthusiastically using Drop Box cloud storage for a few years, but with two desktop PCs, two laptops and a tablet, Drop Box has sent me a tut-tut email. It seems we’re only allowed two clients now, and if we want more, we have to upgrade to “Pro” at some expensive amount, like $45 a quarter or something. (Now my typing has dropped below the bottom of thee screen and doesn’t scroll up. Even using the arrow keys doesn’t make the screen scroll up. You have to use the mouse scroll wheel. This is wrong. Grrr!)

Anyway, too greedy Drop Box, so I’m dropping you. I’ve deleted or moved virtually all my storage. They even had the nerve to send me an email, “We’ve noticed you’ve deleted a large number of files recently. Is there a reason? Would you like to upgrade?” etc etc. No, go away. Greedy.

More concidii

Cairns west of 132

West of Cairns Qld.   © PJ Croft 2017

Oh, this is insane. Coincidences! A few days ago I remarked on the coincidence of the town of Moama in NSW cropping up in two unrelated connections in one week. It was followed soon after by a reference elsewhere to a video game character called Joseph Momoa.

Now, today, I read this:  “Considering the gush-fest that was [Disney movie] Moana’s critical reception …  ”

So, Moama twice, unrelated, a few days apart, followed my Momoa, and now a few days later by Moana. Amazing. It must be quantum effects …   (from http://www.gizmodo.com.au)

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The NBN fiasco continues. A brief recap: ten years ago the Rudd Labor government in Canberra announced a nation-building program to lay fibre-optic cable to almost every house and building in Australia, to provide internet speeds of up to 100Mbits/sec. The only exceptions were for remote areas and places where it’s impossible.

Malcolm Turnbull, then in opposition as communications spokesman, immediately started rubbishing it, simply to provide a point of opposition. In the next year or two, he said it was all too expensive and slow to implement, and said he had a plan to lay fibre only as far as cabinets in the street, and to use the existing copper phone lines from there to your house or building. This was supposed to save $10bn of the initial $40bn estimated cost and save years in construction time.

The Libs got into power (mostly due to Rudd’s stupidity and bitterness, but that’s another story) and Turnbull got his hands on the levers.

Guess what? The costs blew out to as much as the original pure fibre plan cost, the delays started, the NBN Co had to buy Telstra’s copper cable network (what a massive bonus for Telstra!!) and it was discovered that the copper cables are in poor condition. Instead of a uniform 100Mb/s, with the prospect of technology allowing 1Gb/s not far off, the best that was promised was 25Mb/s. (Because copper wires are being used, there’s absolutely no chance of speeds above 100Mb/s). That’s all you need, says Turnbull. That ranks alongside IBM’s CEO Mr Watson saying in the 1960s that the world will only need 5 or 10 computers.

Here we are 10 years later, installation is still years away for many if not most households, speeds are intermittently slow, complaints are rising, and the cost has blown out so much that NBN Co has had to borrow another $20bn! Turnbull’s weak-minded plan is going to cost just as much and take just as long. Pathetic.

Here are excerpts from an article from the past few days written by Ann Hurley, executive chair of Internet Australia:

For more than twenty years Internet Australia, the NFP peak body representing Internet users has worked to ensure everyone receives fast, affordable broadband. More recently, complaints about the slow speeds being delivered to NBN customers and the extremely dysfunctional sign-up process that seems to be plagued with delays, missed appointments and general confusion has seen us take a more aggressive stance.

We have always maintained a policy of providing well-founded technical advice and encouragement for the Government to change its strategy, rather than attacking the people who work at NBN. However, when I recently became Internet Australia’s executive chair I was subjected to an unprovoked Twitter assault by one of NBN Co’s corporate affairs executives. This was followed by a bizarre attack by NBN Co boss, Bill Morrow, who made false and defamatory comments about me and others at Internet Australia under Parliamentary Privilege.

Old, slow and fundamentally flawed

Like so many, I’ve watched the second iteration of our broadband policy based on fibre to the node (FTTN) and reliant on old copper wires with increasing dismay. Highly regarded technical experts are speaking out and saying that this major infrastructure project is fundamentally flawed — for many reasons, but mainly because of the Government’s dogged commitment to persisting with already-obsolete copper-based technology.

Consumers are being lumbered with a network delivering internet speeds that doom them to lag behind the rest of the world and are subjected to installation procedures that seemingly have little or no ‘customer service’ component in them. Both of these issues have the NBN at the top of the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman’s complaints table.

Two key external indicators confirm that Australia is not advancing up the global rankings scales as we need to. A recent OECD report has Australia fourth last on the table of 32 nations for broadband speed and penetration. The OECD observed that our future innovation and productivity gains are stifled by an “ineffective broadband policy based on high prices for mediocre speeds”.

The industry-standard Akamai State of the Internet quarterly report on average Internet connection speeds has Australia falling in its global rankings from 50 to 51, at a time when we need to be heading up the chart. Interestingly, the report noted that for broadband adoption, quarterly changes were positive in the Asia Pacific region “except for Australia, which posted a 1.9 per cent decline in adoption”.

Malcolm Turnbull should go down in history, among his many other flaws, as the Man Who Crippled Australia’s Fibre-Optic Network, single-handedly. He’s done this purely to give himself a point of difference from the ALP opposition and to cement himself in position as PM. Shocking! He puts his own position as PM ahead of doing the right thing, the technologically correct thing. Amazing.

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Solar power has been on my mind recently and I read an article about it today, showing how to do the calculations about payback period. It inspired me to find my invoices and work out my costs.

My electricity is costing me very close to $1100 per year (varying from $133 to $347 each two months, highest last winter when I was using reverse cycle heating so much). I haven’t done the full calculation yet, but I don’t think it would pay me to spend around $4,000 on a set of panels yet, let alone the big extra cost of battery storage. I think I’ll be better to wait a few years yet. Prices are falling all the time and technology is rapidly improving. I’ll wait.

For interest, my gas is costing me $23 per month or $375 per year, almost constant. Water costs me $82-$98 per two months or $529 per year.

If I ever do look at battery storage, I’ll definitely be looking at Redflow, the Queensland company http://redflow.com/  and their product for home battery storage Z-Cell https://www.zcell.com/  They’ve developed a zinc-bromine battery that’s completely recyclable, uses a liquid electrolyte and can be drained and refilled. And it’s made in Australia. Tell Tesla, no thanks, we can do it here.

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More aerial photos from my collection:

Wickham Pt Samson WA

Wickham and Pt Samson  © PJ Croft 2017

Salt lake Wheat Belt WA

Somewhere in the Wheat Belt, WA   © PJ Croft 2017

North West WA 1

Somewhere in the rugged North West   © PJ Croft 2017

Perth City WA

Perth City January 2011. Bumping along at low altitude coming in to land, hand held, yet it’s very sharp. Pentax K-5. Good camera!  © PJ Croft 2011, 2017

Progressive!

Cockburn Sound WA

Our new Premier’s electorate, Rockingham WA and Garden Island.  © PJ Croft 2017

Aaaah, what a good morning. Not just a Labor win in the state election last night, but a crushing, record breaking win for Progressive politics in the state again.

The names of the main political parties in Australia are very misleading. The Liberal Party name is the opposite of their politics. They are not liberal, they are conservatives. Conservative politics sells itself as sticking to the tried and true path, and looking after business. What it actually means is the antithesis of liberal politics. They should be honest enough to rename themselves the Conservative Party.

Conversely, the Labor Party name implies a close connection to the working class, the labour force. That’s far from true. It is true that most people working in “trades” feel a kinship to Labor, but so do academics and intellectuals. People who work with their minds are much more likely to be left wing (another misnomer), that is “liberal”, than conservative. Most of the great thinkers and “brains” in Australia are Labor voters than vote conservative: think Gough Whitlam, Barry Jones, Gareth Evans, Bob Hawke, H. V. Evatt and so on. You’re hard pressed to name many great thinkers on the conservative (Liberal Party) side.

So now that we’ve got a progressive party back in power in WA, we can look forward to some change and progress. Unfortunately, eight years of financial wreckage left behind by the supposed financial experts has left the state saddled with $41bn of debt, requiring borrowings of $1.2bn every year just to pay the interest on that massive debt. Labor will get the budget back into balance, but reducing that debt burden will take a decade at least!

Never forget, the outgoing WA Labor government left with a budget in surplus and a debt balance of around $1bn. These financial wreckers ran up $40bn of debt. They wrecked the state’s finances! And as the last Labor Treasurer, Eric Ripper said recently, doing anything now will be extremely difficult because the money’s gone! We’re broke, busted.

Selling Western Power? OK, it might have brought in some money but nowhere near enough, and new private owners would not have hesitated to increase power charges. But more to the point, when you start selling the family silver, pretty soon the cupboard is bare. Where does it end? Sooner or later, there will be nothing of value left to sell.

The idea of increasing the royalties the mining companies pay on minerals exports is basically a good idea. The rate of 25c per tonne was set back in the 1960s when the stupid Liberal Party government in Canberra thought we only had limited supplies.

But to try to make the jump from $0.25 to $5.00 per tonne in one jump was too sharp and produced the predictable massive campaign to stop it. But why not increase it slowly? Why not (a) increase it to $0.50c per tonne for a year and (b) call it a new name such that it wouldn’t be subject to a grab from Canberra and would remain in WA? Then ease it up year by year. But what do I know?

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Aaaah, rain. Strange summer. Not complaining, not at all.

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We had a committee meeting for our 70th Birthday Year Northam Senior High School Reunion yesterday, at the new hotel which has been built on the site of the old Ascot Inn where we used to go until 2007. It’s a big, glossy, swish hotel now, very obviously built with Chinese money and influence from somewhere.

Interesting that we were seated at table number 70. Then later, I got a till receipt for the amount of $19.64. That’s the year we finished school.

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I’m reading a book called Sky Faring at the moment, written by a Boeing 747 airline pilot. It’s all about his love of flying and how he got into it, what he does, very good so far, although I hope he gets more technical soon.

He talks a lot about the beauty of the Earth from above and actually invites us to send in any pictures we’ve taken from the air. Say no more, squire.

Contact Sheet

I’ve been shooting from aircraft windows for years. They’re usually very hazy and low contrast, needing a lot of processing, but the results can be worth it. For example:

North West WA 7

North West WA – don’t know where. Salt ponds in the distance?

I have about 30 pictures to send him. I don’t think you could ever become bored by aerial photography.

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I’ve decided to tackle my insomnia by giving the sedatives a complete miss. They make me too tired the next day, the hangover effect. I’m just going to bed with the attitude that I’m going to sleep, and if I don’t, I’ll lie there until I do. The last three nights have worked so far, very broken sleep, many awakenings, but not too bad. It’s cooling down at night now, so I’ll be able to dispense with the fan soon. The cold showers will stop soon too.

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Just now I came across Pandora, the searchable index of the National Library of Australia. In it I found this, a copy of the obituary from the Sydney Morning Herald of Thursday February 20th, 1862 of our great, great, great grandfather Jonathan Croft, the first Croft to emigrate to the new Sydney colony in the early 1840s.

THE LATE DOCTOR : JONATHAN CROFT.
One by one our old colonists are dropping off from
amongst us and now we have to deplore the loss of
another who was a man of no common note, for the late
Doctor Croft attained the highest honours in his day,
and in a patricharchal age he went down to the grave,
bearing with him a noble heritage and a generous heart
within an intrepid breast. Those who knew this brave
old man, will long remember with what enthusiasm
would come back upon him the battles, sieges, and for-
tunes that he had passed. ALL England’s victories in
which he had been engaged, would rush and crowd
back upon his memory, “Egypt”, “Maida”,” Busaco”,
“Albuero”, “Citadel Rodrigo”, “Badajoz”, ” Salamanca,”
“Vittoria”, “Pyrences”, “St Sebastian”, “Orthes”,
“Toulouse” and last of all the “greatest- “Waterloo” –
where the destinies of mankind were trembling in the
balance. In fact the late Dr Croft was for many years a
participator in those mighty conflicts which led to that
glory with which England’s unparalelled success have
been crowned. The goal of man’s life long gained, the
deceased warrior after experiencing tho effects of climate
on a shattered frame sunk under the infirmities of
advanced years, and it must indeed have been a comfort
to him to have died in the bosom of his family. The
honourable position which his sons have maintained in
Sydney being the best test of the manner in which their
aged parent had brought them up, as also his best reward;
his fondest hopes in this respect having been fully realised.
We regret that the regulations of the service prevented the
remains of our departed friend from being buried with
military honours; he having long since left, retired into
private life. For when death closes the career of a veteran
soldier, there is a solemn satisfaction in bearing part in
that last solemnity. The sound of the last march towards the
“narrow house”, the noiseless trend of strong men,
the reversed arms, the military waggon for a hearse,
the triple volley at the grave, these final offerings of martial
honour, full of solemnity and of respect, are strikingly impressive,
and they suggest thoughts which would have been entirely
in harmony with the career of tho late DOCTOR CROFT.
One of his grandsons was Ernest Carrington Croft, my father’s father, who was for many years the sheriff of the courts of New South Wales.
I’m in there too, as my article on the engineering development of TVW Channel 7 on the WA TV History web site is indexed: http://pandora.nla.gov.au/pan/94741/20101217-2302/watvhistory.com/2009/03/peter-croft-evolution-of-transmission-facilities/index.html
There’s more Croft stuff there. I’m looking. Standby.

2+2=3

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North Western Australia   © PJ Croft 2017

I’m a bit quiet these days, I agree. Insomnia is a big problem. It’s reached the stage of sometimes not sleeping at all at night, making me feel awful by mid morning. Then I might sleep a couple of hours and feel better, but that’s not good enough. Yesterday was like that, and I resisted sleeping during the day, but by 7:00pm I was swaying, hardly able to stand. I watched TV until 9.30pm, not wanting to break routine, then took a sedative and crashed.

The sedatives work, but there’s a marked hangover the next morning, such as now. At 12:40pm I’m bleary eyed,struggling to type this and considering going back for more sleep, even though I supposedly slept right through last night. I was woken at 8.30am by a phone call from a friend wanting a phone number, and I could hardly read the computer screen.

Problem!

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Coincidences again. You’ve probably heard the news in the past few days with the tragic case of the woman in the NSW town of Moama who drowned her son. Then yesterday, Moama cropped up again, this time as the home town of our Eurovision entrant.

Then today, this headline:   Jason Momoa Goes From Superhero To Video Game Hero. I know it’s not the same, but to have Moama and Momoa occur purely by coincidence in the same week …

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You’ve probably noticed the news reports showing that the wages of ordinary workers are barely rising over a long period, and are mostly decreasing by being below the rate of inflation, small though it is.

Yet the salaries of managers are doing the opposite, increasing by leaps and bounds, far higher than inflation. How is this so? Because they set their own salaries, adding very large bonuses, simply for doing their jobs.

Ordinary workers have no such control. Their wages have long been set by an independent tribunal, with the cases being argued by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). As well, trade unions covering categories of workers bargain collectively for their members with individual companies.

But trade union memberships have been falling for decades, such that only about 20% of employees are prepared to support unions.

See any connection here? When union membership was strong, in the 1970s and ’80s, wages were good and rises were frequent. But when union membership fell out of favour, such as now, wage growth slowed and has gone backwards.

There was a good article in The Guardian a few days ago:

There’s an odd form of double-think in political and business circles when it comes to productivity. Each and every year, our corporate leaders explain the wonderful benefits of the bonus system. If they perform well, they often earn several times their salaries via the magic of incentive schemes.

Higher pay equals better performance in the executive suite.

But the opposite apparently applies at the other end of the scale. Our business leaders often argue, mistakenly, that lower pay will result in better labour productivity.

But if you cut someone’s wages, you can guarantee with absolute certainly that you won’t get a lift in productivity. In fact, there’s a good chance you’ll achieve the exact opposite.

Productivity, and the forces that drive it, are complex and not well understood. Partly, improvements are driven by better work structures or organisation. Mostly though, it is better technology.

I have experience of this. First, as union delegate at my workplace, I only had about 40% of my work colleagues as members. The rest weren’t prepared to join, the usual reason being they just didn’t want to pay the fees, which were about $120 a year I think (long time ago).

I couldn’t convince them that just one pay rise achieved by the union would repay their membership tenfold or more!

The other reasons were pure selfishness, seeing they got the pay increase whether they were a member or not; and some vague ideology, that they didn’t like unions. Yet they’d pay to belong to a health fund or the RAC.

It was also notable that around 2000 and 2001, when the Sydney management became aggressive about making people redundant (after I’d taken mine voluntarily, glad to get out), being a union member suddenly looked like being a form of protection. Most of the union members were left untouched – only non-members got forced out.

Boring, boring – my message is, why won’t people join the union when the union works for YOU?

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I had my appointment with Gastro-boy last week, and the result is that I’m set to have my gall bladder removed on Tuesday 28 March. Scans have shown “large stones” and although I’ve said I’m not having any problems, the message is I’ve been lucky, and leaving them in place is not a good idea. If a stone moves and blocks the bile duct you can be in emergency trouble, the pain is like stabbing knives and you wouldn’t want it to happen in Bali. So be it.

I was able to mention that I’ve noticed a good thing recently. I used to get a moderate pain, enough to have me squirming, in my lower left abdomen, just below my rib cage after eating. But since having my gastric band removed, I haven’t noticed it recently. As we agreed, it’s harder to notice an absence of pain than its presence. Good doogs.

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I made the trip into the city by train and bus as usual, and on the way back I thought to wonder how much credit I have left on my Smart Rider card. I remember putting $20 in a few years ago – how much is left? So I asked.

Train-bus

Sorry about the horizontal format, but turn your head and you’ll see the balance left is $27.46. As you can see, each trip costs me $zero. That’s because I travel after 10am and before 3pm.

But just as noticeable is that TransPerth has a complete record of all my recent trips, with destinations, dates and times. Big brother knows!

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Next job is to get a refund of my postage on a parcel back to Amazon in the USA. I bought one of these recently:

81DdFrpzlaL._UY445_

Not expensive, about A$87. But when it arrived it was very noticeable that the analogue and digital sections didn’t agree. The analogue hands were about 30mins out in three hours. They don’t have to be the same, of course, but they have to run at the same rate.

So I posted it back yesterday, at a cost to me of $15.85 in postage. Having used PayPal, I should be able to reclaim that. I’ve done it once before and it was OK.

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My phone call this morning was from a friend in the USA (Denver, Colorado), a former Northam High School and Hut Lad, still in touch after 55 years! He’s retired, of course, and he said the temp at 5.40pm his end was 52degF but clear, with a cold wind bringing it down to 19 degF wind chill factor. Ugh! He’s off on a cruise from Dubai, through the Med to Italy this month, to beat the cold. As well, he’s thinking of moving back to Australia to beat The Trump. He loathes the guy, just as we do.

My friend’s 27yo son works for Amazon in a suburb of Seattle. He works a 12 hour shift each day, 6am to 6pm, four days a week, and as he’s filling boxes, walks tens of miles each day. That’s a 48 hour week as routine! There are no penalty rates, it’s a flat hourly rate, and if things get busy such as Xmas, he can be required to work five days. No unions are allowed.

But he’s making around $100,000 a year for those 48 hr weeks, with three day weekends, and being allocated Amazon shares (“stock”), currently worth around $90 each. He’s a lower level manager, and has the prospect of rising to a $200,000 salary.  Hmmm.

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Phew, my mind is fuzzy. I think it’s the sleep. I’ll go back now for an hour and hope it helps.