In view of the Royal Commission’s scathing report mentioning Catholic clergy’s predations on children …

Any truth to the rumour that celibacy is to be banned completely and all priests and nuns will be required to show evidence that they are having regular sex?

And any truth to the rumour that Catholic monasteries and convents are going co-ed?

Crumbs, we always used to joke about priests and their sexual habits, but it’s been shown that our jokes were spot on. It was all true. Disgusting.


I’ve been given the date of  my next cataract op, on my right eye: Monday 15 January. Crumbs, I didn’t know how much my sight had deteriorated until the left eye was done three weeks ago, but now I can see how dim and yellow my right eye is. I was going to leave it until it was necessary, but I can’t hack having the eyes so different. It will be good to have them equal again. I’ll be able to dispense with glasses for normal distance vision, only needing reading glasses for close-up work. This will save me a lot of money, and save HBF costs as well. Boy, paying the annual HBF fee seems a bit of a slug each year (I pay annually), but I’m getting benefits way more than I’m paying in. Private health insurance, yeah!


In my endless quest to find a replacement car, I would be foolish to disregard an offer from a Hyundai dealer – they are selling 2016 model Hyundai Sonata sedans, that is, last year’s model, for $15,999 after allowing $3,000 for any trade in.

To me, this is a dead boring car, but I’ve never had a good look or even read any reviews. I should go and look, and ask for a test drive. Maybe I’ll be surprised. The deal includes full 5 year new car warranty, and I think capped price servicing and so on. These are worth a lot.

There’s a Skoda Superb sedan/hatchback for private sale in Carramar, and I was very tempted, but when I thought hard about it, there are too many things against it:

  • it’s done 30,000km in about 16 months
  • that means the tyres would be half way through their life, or more
  • it’s black
  • the price he’s asking is way OTT. He wants $37,500 when the new price is $40,690. The Red Book price guide says cars of this age should sell for around $29,000. It’s not selling, I wonder why.

I’m starting to notice that my exhaust on the Magna is sounding a bit “sporty”, and the ride seems much harder than I remember, as if the shockies are on the way out. It would be good to just hand it over as a trade-in. The search goes on.


Another sleep free night last night. I’ll have to try for some now, after breakfast. I’m beginning to think I might need a sleep study, or at least a talk with the sleep doctor.


Another coincidence

I slept pretty well last night after taking a Phenergan thickshake, but I happened to wake just before 3am for a pee. On going back to bed I turned the radio on to hear the news and the bulletin was followed by Richard Fidler’s interview program Conversations.

Who should his interviewee be this morning? Henry Marsh, the neurosurgeon I wrote about yesterday, the author of the book Do No Harm. That was good and of course I had to listen to the whole one hour interview until 4am.

It was good to put a voice to the face, since his picture was on the inside cover at the back of the book. I finished it last night. Good read. You might be interested to know that when a brain surgeon makes a mistake, accidentally cuts an artery or a nerve for example, they call it ‘wrecking’ the patient. It can mean irreversible damage leading to complete paralysis, a major stroke and a vegetative state for the rest of the patient’s life. I don’t know how the surgeon would cope with that.


I meant to mention that I’ve fallen out of bed twice in recent weeks. In my tossing and turning, I seem to work my way too close to the edge of the bed and one final movement sends me over.

I also woke up punching the bedside cabinet again last week. Some dream, where I was fighting with someone. Yow, it hurt.

New life


The bulging trackpad

I said the replacement battery arrived, but I couldn’t undo the screws to change it. Well, worry no more, it’s done.

I visited the new Jaycar shop at Clarkson today and we decided the bit I needed was a Torx T4. It came in a handy kit of 31 other bits, but that’s OK, $18.95 for the set. It fits perfectly, so I had the base cover off in no time.


Isn’t that a work of art? The battery is removed in this shot. It goes across the lower part with the two large rectangles. Those two narrow horizontal rectangles at the bottom are the speakers! Not bad sound either. The two curvy things across the middle linking the two fans are copper heat pipes in contact with the CPU chip under there somewhere.

I was interested to see that my hard drive is one of the new NVmE modules – I’ve marked it in the shot above, it’s the green rectangle with the white label on the middle left. That’s a 512GB solid state drive, half a terabyte! In the centre is the RAM, 16GB of it. This is one powerful machine. It’s a Core i7 with a 15″ 4K resolution touch screen. It’s as powerful as most desktop PCs.


There’s the new battery before I screwed it into place. It’s 84Wh and gives me about 4hrs run time. It all went back together perfectly and it was all done in under an hour. I’m using it now. I have to pack the old battery in the same box the new one came in for return to Dell. I was worried about the cost of posting it to Singapore, but it turns out I just phone a 1 800 number in Perth and the courier company comes out here and collects it from me. Now that’s civilised. They’ve even provided a pre-printed label for the box.


Another sleepless night last night, the third in a row. I was recommended to try some tablets from the supermarket called Sleep. I had noticed them a couple of weeks ago but put them back on the shelf as soon as I saw the word “homeopathic” on the label. But a friend said they work for her, so I paid my $14.95 for a month’s supply.

The first two nights they have not worked at all. I thought there might have been a placebo effect at least, but nah.

I went back for a sleep after breakfast today but only got less than an hour of shallow dozing before I woke again. I felt reasonably OK then, but I’m knackered again now. I’ve had another shallow nap but still feel woozy. This is terrible. I’m effectively only getting two hours of poor quality sleep a night. I can get a full sleep by using sedatives but I find it hard to wake and get going in the morning. This is bad.


The Jaycar visit produced a good idea today. I’ve been thinking of making a bedhead in my main bedroom. I have in mind a rectangle of nice veneered chipboard or craftwood screwed to a pair of 100x50mm battens, screwed to the wall. I want indirect lighting behind it, shining up the wall, and was thinking about using strip LED lighting, and thinking about switches and so on. Not difficult, but a bit fiddly.

In Jaycar I found that you can buy extruded aluminium channels with LED strip lights pre-installed behind a translucent plastic diffuser. They come pre-wired with switches and a 240V mains plug in lengths from 300mm to 1.5m. I’d need two of the 1.5m at $54.95 each. Easy. This is a very doable project.


I’ve nearly finished the book Do No Harm by the UK neurosurgeon Henry Marsh. Excellent reading, a very easy style and a good balance between technical and dumbing down.

The interesting thing is how anxious and nervous he becomes when dealing with his patients and especially their relatives. He freely admits he makes mistakes in his surgery, with sometimes catastrophic consequences, leaving some patients in a vegetative state from which they will never recover. He admits it, sometimes there is a slip of the knife, severing a vein, artery or major nerve. Sometimes he has trouble summoning the courage to face the parents or spouse.

He’s very critical of the NHS in Britain, with all its cost cutting and maladministration. He rails against hospital managers (where have we heard that before?). He describes his own failings and illnesses, including a detailed description of his two detached retinas a few months apart. He admits he was able to jump the queues and get the best care because he knew the ophthalmology specialist to go to on a Sunday.

It’s a good read. I’ve knocked it off in less than a week, fast for me. He’s written another one which I’ll order soon.



Speaking of labels, which I was earlier, reminds me of barcodes. A few weeks ago on ABC radio’s afternoon program on Thursdays with Dr Karl Kruzelnicki, he was asked how barcodes work.

Well, he gave a description that said the system was invented by a young boy in America who saw the pattern made on the sand at the beach by the sun shining through the canvas of a deck chair. He said the bars are different widths corresponding to the different numbers.

The ABC then proceeded to make a radio promo using him saying this, so it was repeated quite a few times over the following days.

BULLDUST! It’s not so. Dr Karl, you’ve got it wrong. ABC, stop using this promo! It’s wrong.

Barcodes are digital. If you look closely, you’ll see that there are only two widths of lines, and absence of lines, meaning white space. If two black lines follow each other, they merge to form a thick line.

The important points are that the code has to be readable from either direction and at any angle. The beginning and end of a sequence of lines is a code that tells the reader whether it’s a start or finish, and the lines are long so that the whole sequence can be held at any angle to the laser scanner and still get a reading. It has to be that way – just watch how fast the checkout chicks pass the supermarket items past the scanners.

As for being invented by a young boy on a beach, balderdash. Just look it up on Wikipedia. It was invented by an adult guy in the USA in 1957, and nowhere near any beach or deck chair.

I get het up about things like this because this is electronics and I don’t want it trivialised. And if Karl gets this wrong, what else does he get wrong?



Just an addition to say I don’t have to buy a new hot water system. The plumber came at 7.30am (!) on Thursday and noticed the manufacture date on the label inside the inspection cover is 2007. I’m pretty sure the house was built in 2004, so he suggested this might have been a warranty replacement.

Anyway, he diagnosed a faulty inlet valve, so replacing that and another smaller outlet valve got it going. Total cost $275. Phew!

He also showed me how to turn the gas off if I don’t need hot water, and confirmed that my dishwasher heats its own water, so doesn’t need pre-heated water. That means I can turn the gas off until April or so. Since I almost never use my gas cooktop either, it’ll be interesting to see if my gas usage drops to zero on my next bill.


The replacement battery for my Dell laptop arrived on Thursday as well, and I prepared to dismantle the computer to replace it. Uh oh, no go.  The base cover uses tamper proof screws and I’ve got a set of special bits for this. But the heads on the Dell are tiny star shaped sockets and nothing I have is small enough. There are a dozen to get out, so I need a good tool. I’ll have to visit Jaycar, who have set up a new shop in Clarkson, very conveniently. I’ll also look on-line. I have to get it done, because Dell want the old battery returned to them within 10 days or they’ll invoice me for the cost of the battery. I have to get it out.

Next eye


I saw the eye doctor today for a two week followup of the left eye cataract operation. It’s only now settling down, having been quite gritty and watery a lot of the time. I’ve finished with the antibiotic drops, but have two more weeks of the anti-inflammatory drops to go. I’ve finally got the accuracy of the drops down to a fine art now. I manage to get nearly all of them on the eyeball, and not wasted on my cheek.

I’ve been thinking I need to get the right eye done as soon as possible, but he surprised me by saying, “How about in two weeks?” Wow, that took me by surprise. I assumed I’d be waiting until about February after the holiday season is over, so I said it’s a bit soon, I’m not fully used to my new left eye’s vision yet. I asked if the next op could be delayed a bit and so that’s fine, he said he’ll give me a date in the second half of January. That should be OK.

I’ll need to coordinate with my friends in Scarborough, as I need to stay with them after the operation and for Geoff to drive me. But they’re moving to a new apartment around that time, so we’ll just have to play it by ear.

This is quite a new experience, to not need glasses for distance any more. I’ve worn glasses since primary school, around age 8 or 9. They are part of me. I’ll only need reading glasses now, and they can be quite cheap, so my expenses will be reduced. On the other hand, I’ll be able to wear cool sunglasses now, and they can cost a packet. I won’t be tempted.

Meantime, I watch TV with my glasses off now, even though only my left eye is sharp so far. The right eye just goes to sleep. I can drive with no glasses too, but my depth perception is not right, so I don’t tempt fate. Besides, my driver’s licence specifies that I must wear my glasses.

By the way, I was expecting a big bill for the first cataract op. I’ve seen estimates of $1,000 or more. But so far, it’s cost me nothing. Even his consultations two weeks ago and today have been waved away when I went to pay. He seems to be bulk billing me. This is marvellous. I’m very grateful.


This chimes with a book I’ve just finished reading and my present book, both written by doctors about “doctoring”. They both say that it’s very rare to get feedback after major treatment. They aren’t bitter about it, they don’t expect huge gratitude, as they are being paid for the job and it is just a job. But occasionally they do get a follow-up card or small gift of thanks, and they deeply appreciate it when it happens.

One of the doctors (these are UK doctors, of course) was so badly affected when one of his operations went seriously wrong that it crystallised all the negatives of his hospital working life and made him give up medicine. The other one is a neurosurgeon (Henry Marsh: “Do No Harm”) and although he gets anxious and does have occasional failures when operating on brains, he doesn’t let it get him down.

Therefore I’ve resolved to send Xmas cards and thank you notes to all the doctors I’ve been treated by recently, as I really am impressed and grateful for their skill and the bulk billing.


Speaking of going to sleep, I got zero sleep last night. I went to bed at 11pm and turned the light off at about 11.45pm after reading for a while. I tried for 90 mins with no luck, so I read my book until about 3.30am, still not feeling tired. I tried again, but no luck. It’s very restful, but it’s not sleep, not dreamtime, and I saw the light of dawn around 4.30am onwards. I’m buggered now, but I mustn’t lie down or I won’t sleep tonight either.


I have a plumber coming tomorrow to diagnose my hot water heater. Symptom: no hot water! It’s a Rheem gas storage unit, dating from 2004 when the house was built, so I suspect he’ll say it has to be replaced.

Although I could do without the expense, I’ve been thinking a lot about the waste of heating this huge storage tank 24/7, even though I don’t use hot water for showers from December through to April each summer, and even though I may be away in Bali for a month at a time.

Therefore I think I’ll specify an instant gas HWS if I have to have a new one. Only use gas for the time the hot tap is on. A Bosch unit is advertised at $830, and I’d assume a plumber could do better. It will need a 240V power point, so that will be additional for the sparkie. I’ll know more tomorrow.


Have you noticed the latest language atrocity to arise? Apart from iconic, double down, got your back, out of left field and so on.

It’s starting every answer to questions with “So”.

Q: “Do I have to connect to the NBN?”

A: “So no, not yet.”

Q: “Does your son play football?”

A: “So yes he does, in the girls’ team.”

And so on. Some people start almost every sentence with “So” now. So this will bug you now. So you’ll be hypersensitive to it. So it will drive you mad, as it does me. So be it.