Dammit!

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I submitted am application on-line for a passport renewal on the 2nd of this month. I received an email confirmation with a number.

Last Monday, the 14th, I received an email saying my passport was being finalised and to go to my nominated collection point in 2-3 days. So yesterday, 16th. I went to Quinns PO Agency as I remember talking to the woman at the post office at Clarkson about where I would like to collect it. That’s my nearest point. She said if I nominate to have it sent by registered post, if I’m not home at time of attempted delivery, I would have to go in to the city to collect it. Huh.

Quinns PO knew nothing about it and didn’t think it would come to them. So today I went back to Clarkson PO (a full service post office) where I ordered it to try there. Nope, nothing there. Did I have my receipt from when I applied? Uh, no, but I know it’s at home. Duh. Well, you can track it on-line.

OK, I’ve just tried that. Please enter PIN. I don’t have a PIN but I have the tracking number from the receipt. OK, enter all your details, full name; address; d.o.b,; old passport number; mother’s maiden name … OK so far. Then place of birth – Sydney NSW. Bong! Not acceptable.  Sydney? That’s OK.

Finally, the Next button worked. Date of interview?  I didn’t have an interview, I did the on-line application: 02/08/2017. Nope. Well what else do I say? I tried 01/08/2017 but it kicked me out, saying I’d made too many login attempts. Damn!

I guess I’ll have to phone their 1 300 number and try to work out what to do.

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A few weeks ago I posted this photo of little Putuh, daughter of the housekeeper lady in Lovina. She was playing and gave me this drawing she’d done:

Putuhs diagram

I kept the scrap of paper as a bookmark. Imagine my surprise when I found this figure in a book I bought last week:

Maths figure

Sure, it’s not that similar, but my mind immediately made the connection when I saw it.

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Speaking of coincidences, Moana cropped up again today. Apparently there’s a footballer in one of the Melbourne teams called Moana somebody. That’s about the seventh time this year, when I’d never heard that name in all my born days before.

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A few days ago I wrote about the TV program The Farthest, about the Voyager space probes heading from Earth out past the aligned planets and out of the Solar System. I thought that program was a single episode and wondered at the time why they mainly talked about Voyager 1, when Voyager 2 was following behind.

Well, there was episode 2 on Tuesday night, and that was the missing episode. I’ve got them both safely on my recorder and I’ll keep them now, on DVD.

It was just as good. Voyager 2 was re-routed to pass by Uranus and Neptune and produced stunning new pictures and science. Fabulous stuff.

50-years-of-exploration

I’ve had this beautiful graphic in my collection for a few years. It will be hard to see at this size, but the Voyager craft are the lines going past the two blue planets (Uranus and Neptune) at top right in 1986 and 1989 respectively. It has now passed out of the Solar System too.

The graphic, by the way, shows all the space probe missions to all the planets and moons since space travel began, up to 2015. What a great way to draw this! Just Google 50-years-of-exploration.jpg for a rich result.

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Speaking of space, I’ve just finished reading a book called Titan, by Stephen Baxter. Actually, he’s Stephen Baxter, PhD. in astrophysics, so he knows his science. (I was told my book was “garbage” by someone who knows absolutely no science but can’t control her tongue.)

What a book! It was written in 1997 and is about a manned (actually three out of the five people were women) mission to land on Saturn’s moon Titan, to establish a small colony there. Far fetched, as Titan’s surface temperatures are about -150C, but anyway.

It takes 11 years to reach the moon, during which one of the women dies of radiation sickness and the main astronaut pilot goes blind and a bit insane (then tries to rape the remaining woman and has to be killed). Another woman dies in an attempted landing on the surface, That leaves just one man and one woman. They go through tremendous hardships but are doomed to fail after a couple of years on the surface, and die, being buried in the frozen “regolith” and the constant rain of frozen methane.

While they’re alive, all communications with Earth cease, because those naughty Chinese (they were still the bad guys then) diverted an asteroid to crash into the Atlantic, hoping to swamp the USA. It goes wrong, of course, and destroys the Earth.

Suspend disbelief, and the book reaches a bit too far, I feel, but about 10 billion years pass and our two heroes wake up again on the surface of Titan, way in the future. The Sun has become a red giant and Titan is now warmed up to near Earth temperature, with a breathable oxygen rich atmosphere. They’ve been brought out of deep freeze and back to life by a species of intelligent life. But although they can make some plans, they are still gunna die again, of old age. End of story.

Wow, what a breathtaking range. It’s nearly 600 pages and not for the faint hearted, or the anti-science person, but I’ll long remember it. I learnt a lot of science from reading it.

 

Change

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Gare du Nord, Paris  © PJ Croft 2008, 2017

Belay what I said ten days ago. I tried to start making bookings for a UK trip next month but was getting too anxious. I have too many things going on so I’ve decided against going this year. Maybe next year. Instant relief.

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Also, it seems we touristas are no longer welcome in Europe. Of course, if you go in June, July or August, as all the Europeans and Brits do, you may have trouble. But I would only have been there in mid September and October if I went. Much less crowded then.

I was surprised to see on SBS News just now that even the Isle of Skye is being targeted for overcrowding. Again, I was there in early October in 2008 and I was the only person in most carparks.

Similarly, I was in Venice for four days in mid-October 2008. There were no crowds! it was fantastic, with clear blue skies and mild temperatures. I was walking around in my shorts and T-shirt, whereas all the Europeans and locals were wearing pullovers, parkas and puffer jackets. I couldn’t understand why, as I was perspiring.

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Small 250ml bottles of wine from le supermarché in Paris, $2.83 on the left, $2.24 on the right. You would pay double or triple those prices here and you don’t find them in the supermarket.

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London Tower Bridge_orb

© PJ Croft 2008, 2017

One thing I found very depressing was looking at hotel rooms in London. They are shocking. The room I get in Sanur for $75 a night is 35 sq.m. with a huge and comfortable queen sized bed and a big arm chair. I can’t fault it.

But in London you’d have to pay at least $250 a night to get anything near that. For $150 to $250 a night you get perhaps 20 sq.m. with a double bed taking up most of the room and a couple of small chairs and desk. You might get a window looking out onto an alleyway or a wall. The bathroom will be very, very small, often with the shower over the bath. You’ll be lucky to get a lift, usually stairs, with probably no help with luggage. I was getting very depressed looking at this rubbish. I would want to spend a week in London, but I think it would be an ordeal in these dumpy rooms.

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Strange – the weather bureau forecasts for the last few days have been for strong winter storms, destructive winds and heavy rain. Yet today, although intermittently wet, has been mostly fine and calm. Same yesterday. I haven’t needed the heating on at night for the last two nights (I only use it while watching TV, I never need it in the bedroom).

However, I’ve had it on virtually every night since I got back from Bali on 2 July. I shudder to think what my electricity bill is going to be this quarter.

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I had to replace a lamp outside my front door last week. I got the old one out OK with just my fingers in the metal housing. but I couldn’t get a grip on the replacement inside the housing to feel the sockets and twist it home. I tried a few times over several days, then a mate offered to have a go (OK, I put the hard word on him, he’s much younger than me and has a degree in engineering!)

After some fiddling and swearing, he suddenly had a brainwave. Unscrew the housing. Bingo. Job done. It’s the degree, y’see? Then we realised that the top unscrews as well, and there’s another lamp in there facing upwards. I haven’t got a replacement for that yet, but I’ll do it soon.

The old lamps were 35W halogen type in GU10 fittings. The replacements are 6W LEDs.

LED lamp box_1

Another friend (Barry) was very interested in this figure of $3.41 per year! I promised to work it out for him.

Our unit price is 26.4 cents per unit (KWh). That means it costs 6/1000 x 26.4 per hour to run = 0.1584 cents per hour.

Therefore 24 x 7 x 52 hours in one year = 8736 hours in one year, times 0.1584c = $13.84 per year to run such a lamp continuously. There are two in the housing, so double it, but you don’t really need the upward facing one. That’s cheap lighting! And with a life of 50,000 hours, they should last about five years when run continuously, much longer if switched off in daylight. They cost $10.

In Bali, all the lights are compact fluorescents (CF). These are generally rated at 12-14W, so the power consumption is only twice the LED cost, i.e. 0.32 cents per hour. Therefore one CF lamp costs bugger all to run! Leaving one on all day costs only 2.5 cents for eight hours.

However, CF lamps have a shorter life than LEDS, about half (25,000 hours) and they slowly lose light output and change colour as they age. But the killer problem is that every lamp contains a small drop of mercury, so when they are thrown out and go to landfill, mercury is being deposited in the soil if the tube gets broken. That’s why LEDs are being pushed as the way to go.

I remember the very first time I ever saw a LED. It was 1969 and they were simple red LEDs mounted on the circuit cards of a vision mixer from Richmond Hill Electronics of Canada. I knew what they were but asked the Chief Engineer to confirm it. Yes, they were the first LEDs I ever saw. By the way, one of these LEDs costs about 25c now, way less than they cost 46 years ago. Electronic components are very cheap.

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SBS ran a program last week called The Farthest. It’s a doco about the two Voyager spacecraft that were launched in 1977 on a Grand Voyage from Earth, via Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Neptune. This was a very rare planetary alignment – the next one will be more than a hundred years in the future.

What a great program! I’ve got it recorded and it will be a keeper. It was mainly an Irish TV production, with collaboration from NASA, Canada and some other countries.

Mainly, I liked it because the director had a photographer’s eye for composition and colour. The pictures were a pleasure to watch, especially as it was in High Definition. My recording is only Standard Def, so if I see a Blu-Ray I’ll grab it.

The images from the space probe were pretty good, but the program finished with the passage of Saturn last year. We know now that it has gone past Neptune and Pluto, with stunning and surprising results. The two probes, although built in the mid 1970s, are still going strong! Voyager 1 has now left the Solar System and is heading out into deep space forever. Best estimates have the Voyager 1 Space Probe in working condition until around 2025. At this time, the Voyager 1 Space Probe’s thermoelectric generators will no longer work.

Voyager 1 is travelling at 38,000 mile/hr. At this speed, it will reach the Oort Cloud in 300 years, and won’t exit it for 30,000 years. From there, to reach Alpha Centauri, our nearest star, will take around 300,000 years!what-is-the-oort-cloud-alpha-centauri

(Note that the horizontal scale is logarithmic – 10, 100, 1 000, 10 000, 100 000 etc.)

This is an historic TV program, as we’re seeing the actual people who designed and built these space probes and sent them on their way. History! Highly recommended.

In my opinion, the idea that we could ever build a spacecraft to take humans to the stars with our present level of technology is fanciful. It will take a breakthrough in physics such as wormholes or teleportation to make it happen.

 

 

 

Time will come

Me 1998

1998

Me 2008

2008

Me 2017

2017

Passport photos over the last twenty years. The bottom one was taken this morning and I wish I’d seen my turned down mouth before it was all over, but I didn’t get the chance. I look like a criminal in today’s photo, I reckon. I still wear glasses but I had to remove them for the photo.

There’s not a huge difference over the years, I feel, although the hair is whiter and the face a little fatter. Considering I was nearly 20Kg lighter in 2008 and nearly 30Kg in 1998, it doesn’t show too badly.

I said to the woman, “I’m renewing my passport today at 70, and my aim is to renew again at the end of this one when I’ll be 80.” But neither Dad nor Mum made it. Hmmm.

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I had to renew anyway, but I’ve just about made the decision to do the UK trip next month. Yow, four weeks to get my act together. It’s quite simple really, but I’m very nervous. I haven’t actually made any bookings yet and although I have a plan up to getting to London, I don’t have anything after that, just ideas. I think I’ll have to have reservations to get home again because immigration guys don’t like you arriving in a country with no outward ticket.

My basic plan is Perth Singapore on Qantas FF, a couple of days in Singapore, then a ticket which goes via Bangkok to Dubai, with a short stop, then on to Paris, arriving around 7am.

Louvre 3

A few nights in Paris, then a second attempt to take the Chunnel train to London (my first attempt in 2008 was foiled when there was a fire in the tunnel).

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A week in London, (or more if I can afford it), then to Norwich to see my former next door neighbours (yes, next door here, up to March this year when they went back).

A few days there, then across England in a rented car to Bristol to stay with my former work mate from the early 1970s. He went back to the UK in about 1971 after a family tragedy and we’ve met up again through Facebook. Amazing, 46 years. I never thought I’d see him again although I never forgot him. He’s just moved to a new apartment and has a spare bedroom. Yay.

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After that, Croft Castle in Herefordshire. I’ll have to take as much family history as I can find. Our direct ancestor, Dr Jonathan Croft, came out to the Sydney colony in 1826, I think, and the rest is history as they say.

After that, no plans. Back to London for probably my last ever visit. Maybe come home via Florence? Then back to Kuala Lumpur and some warmth! I really do like Asian cities more, I think. Then back here mid to late October.

Do I have the stamina? I tire much more easily these days. Time will tell. And time to get moving.

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Resmed travel

Given I’ve had my Resmed Autoset S8 CPAP machine for nine years now, I think I’ll make the jump to the new model above, designed for travelling. It weighs only 370g compared to nearly 3Kg and doesn’t need a separate humidifier. Pretty clever, and also pretty expensive at $2,300! Yes, Resmed know how to charge what they reckon they can get away with. Considering their major customers are elderly people like me, usually on a pension … the word extortionate comes to mind.