The bells

Upper – Mars. Lower – Earth (Pink Lake, Jurien). Similar.

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Someone turns the heat off, then back on again. Up down, up down. Doona off, doona on.

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Ever since I bought the Honda MDX, the driver’s side inner door mechanism has been broken and the plastic housing cracked. It worked at first, and a previous owner has tried to glue it, but it’s broken again now and I have to wind the window down and open from the outside.

I’ve been scouring eBay looking for a replacement, and there are hundreds available, but the trouble is they’re for the USA Acura, with the driver’s opener and switches for the power seat memory on the left. They’re mirror image. Damn, they’re cheap too, US$15 or so.

So far, not a single one for RH drive. Frustrating. I’ll have to try a Honda dealer.

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It’s our Northam High School Reunion next Saturday, for years 1960-64 that is. This will be our 55th, which is pretty amazing, especially as we have one of our teachers coming along. We have 213 on our list, although the number in red ink DECEASED is growing. We’ll get about 35 coming this year, and by popular demand we hold it annually now.

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I’ve got a mild summer cold – dry but runny nose, a bit of stomach upset, fatigue (so what’s new), dry eyes. I hear a lot of people are getting it.

Ding dong

Give up? (Mars)

I’ve been working all afternoon on two of my three cars. Just minor things so far: pumping up the tyres, all five, on Vera and cleaning out the spare tyre well while I was at it. It looks as if I’ll only need a couple of new tyres initially. Two are illegal but three are still just within the limit of tread depth. I don’t know about other cars but I’m pleased to find that even the spare wheel is an alloy one. I was expecting just a plain steel rim.

I’m very happy with an Aldi purchase yesterday – a lithium battery jump starter combined with an air compressor and large torch. I’ve had an electric drill type tyre inflator for some years but they’re pretty weak, struggling to provide the air for more than one or two tyres.

But this one is like a large battery torch and it easily pumped all five tyres up, from about 20psi to 32psi with plenty of capacity to spare. This is the kind of device I’d trust for a long trip on country roads. I haven’t had to do a jump start, but I’m sure it would handle it. It was $100 but worth it. I think it will last me a good while.

I’ve been finding good stuff at Aldi in the tools and auto lines. I also bought two sets of axle stands for $30 each pair (rated at 2 tonnes), and a trolley jack also rated at 2 tonnes, same price $30. That’s half what the “discounters” charge, and these appear to be just as good quality. They come with 2-3 year warranties anyway.

I only need to buy a pair of rotor discs for the front brakes of Vera (about $55 a pair) and I can get started on the job. I have the pads. Maybe a torque wrench …

I’ll change the oil and filter while I’m at it. I have the oil, thanks to a very appropriate Christmas present from KG. I have a new filter and air cleaner element ready to go, and a new right front driving light to go into the bumper to replace the broken one. It looks as if this car has had a prang on the right front side. It’s been repaired and looks fine, with a sparkly new headlight, and the engine bay looks very. very clean and neat, no damage.

I’ve also been replacing the interior lights in all three cars with LED push-in replacements. Here they cost about $14.50 for a two pack in the discount car parts places, but I’ve found them on eBay for $21 or better for 10. They look identical to the ones in the car shops – why the huge difference?

Gee I’m glad I bought this Verada. It’s in better condition than Maggie and I just like the look and feel of it. $1200 – what a good buy.

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I have to make a decision tomorrow: Qantas are offering 30% off air fares using Frequent Flyer points, and I’ve found I could do a Perth – London and return with a stopover each way for about 80,000 points, and I’ve got 117,000. They’ve been burning holes in my pockets for years.

I want to do the Croft Castle visit before I drop off the perch and I feel this is it, do it now or … But the booking has to be made before 8:59pm WA time tomorrow. I’ve read the fine print and it seems the ticket can be changed after booking, so I may as well go ahead. I’m thinking of the beginning of September this year, as I found that to be a great time to go in 2008.

Gotta lose weight and gain fitness, gotta lose weight and gain fitness, gotta lose weight and gain fitness …

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My partner tells me there was quite a large earthquake in Bali last night. Is it just a coincidence, or does it have something to do with Cyclone Veronica?

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Yow, who turned the heat off? I had to pull the sheet over me last night.

Late, late, I’m always late…

Fremantle, Panasonic FZ1000, hand held, 400mm full stretch, ISO400. It’s sharp!

Another long gap in the blog, sorry. I seem to be so busy while I have company. That’s a good thing, a very good thing.

The short story is that my partner is still here, and leaves for Bali on Sunday. The long story is that she was supposed to depart on 26 February (the end of a three month visa) but things went awry. She likes to keep things private so all I’ll say is that she had some illness, forcing her to have a couple of nights in hospital. It required surgery, nothing too serious, fortunately, but the doctor said no travelling for three weeks, so some hurried rescheduling was required. Why hurried? Because her original visa expired on 28 Feb so she had to find out what to do and after a lot of difficulty with the immigration web site, apply for a bridging visa. You can only do this on-line and it is so difficult to work out how that the air was blue and the tiles were shaking from stamped feet. There is a 131 number for the department, but she was told bluntly that “This line is not for help”. Twice, on different days. Terrific. I was having to apologise for our wonderful government

We finally managed to get the application done with hours to spare. It had to be accompanied by an application fee, of course.

Then came the agony of waiting for notification of success, as the day for departure slipped by. She was technically illegal by now.

After several days, she got an email from Immigration asking for more information, such as what her course of study was and how long she needed to complete it. As she said, she just wanted to leave Australia, not stay on! They also asked for another doctor’s declaration of her medical status. All she had was the hospital discharge summary and a doctor’s letter from the day of discharge about what had been done. She’d scanned and sent that already.

Finally someone from Canberra phoned (at a reasonable, mid morning time) and she was able to explain what had happened, that she just wanted to get out of the country. It seems that the woman in Canberra was amiable and easy to talk to, so she accepted the application and it was approved soon after. That was a relief.

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She’s well recovered now, but there was a fair bit of soreness for a week or more. It’s very, very fortunate that this happened at the time it did, because you wouldn’t want this kind of illness, needing some skilled surgery, to happen in Bali. It would have been very distressing, and downright risky.

As it is, she’s left with very good feelings about our hospital system. The triage in emergency only took 15 mins of waiting, then after about 45mins the ED assessed her and did a C/T scan within a few hours, then she was in a bed in a big private room for that night. The surgery was done on Sunday morning, two organs removed at once (unusual, but the surgeon could see why she needed it done that way), and she was back in the ward for lunch, and home the next day.

Since then, the bills have come thick and fast. She has comprehensive international health insurance, but the bills must be paid first and the invoices submitted later. It makes me appreciate Medicare and HBF even more. Each night in hospital is $1,200, plus surgeon’s and anaesthetist’s fees plus tests and medications. It mounts up, but her insurance seems to be playing ball OK. So far.

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So she leaves on Sunday to spend the cooler months back in our hotel suite in Bali, although she thinks she’ll come back here in a couple of months for another visit. That’s good, as I think it will still be quite warm enough for her then. However, she’s developed a real appreciation of Perth and WA and wants to do a lot more, including a motorhome/camper expedition around Australia for us. Not sure about the finances for that, but it’s a way off yet.

She’s come to realise that what I told her is true, that this is an open friendly place, where a smile and a little chat gets you everywhere, that so many people will go out of their way to help, that 99% of people are honest, that you don’t need to be paranoid about thieves and bag snatchers, that driving is easy and relatively safe, and the beaches are wide and beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s been a relatively cool summer and we haven’t been able to swim nearly as much as she would have liked. I would go in, but my legs are too weak and I dare not, although the sturdy walking pole I bought in Kalbarri helps.

It may be that a grey nomad solution is the answer, with us migrating to the northern latitudes of Oz in the winter months. I must admit even I’m feeling the cold in July & August these days. I never seem to be worried by cold much, never have been, and we’re opposites in that regard. Pity.

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This is sharp too. Loch Duich, Scotland. Seven vertical shots, stitched. Fuji S100fs.
A wider version. If you right click on any of these images and choose View Iamage… you’ll get a full sized view. These are squashed horizontally.

Speaking of trips, the Honda MDX is proving a pleasant car to own and drive. It’s a 2t heavyweight but it seems to glide along and now that I’ve learnt to tread on the go pedal a bit harder, it zoots along. I was very wary initially, with reports of 15L/100km, so that I was very light footed, but I’ve got it down around 13-13.5L/100km, only a little more than the Maggie (the Magna).

I’m a bit fed up with a foot operated parking brake, though. This car was designed for the US market where it’s called the Acura.

The parking brake is not very effective, so I’ll have to get started on fixing things very soon. I’ve got three cars all needing brake overhauls and it ain’t cheap. I think I can do them myself, it’s not complicated, but I need to buy a pair of vehicle stands (Aldi special on Saturday!) and a torque wrench. And a one man bleeder.

Maggie, the Magna, is parked out in the laneway full time now. Would you believe some guys pissed all over the side a couple of weeks ago! It was pretty obvious, yellow stains. At least it got me to wash it.

The Verada is called Vero of course, and the MDX is just Honda-san.

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Speaking of Aldi, a few months ago I bought one of their table saws, an 8 incher, when its price was reduced from $99 to $79. I couldn’t resist that, but it’s been sitting in its unopened box in the garage since. Why? It needs a bench or trolley to be used, and the cost of a suitable trolley is about as much as the saw cost, or more. A lightweight office trolley won’t do.

Then last week I saw, um, another saw, also in Aldi. This time it’s a 10 incher, supplied with two TCT blades, and it has its own legs and trolley to run on the floor. It has wide opening side tables, a geared tilt mechanism and a vacuum hose for the saw guard to suck the dust away.

Price? Reduced from $149 to $99. Last one. Uh oh. I couldn’t resist. I’ll sell the other one, since I can honestly say brand new, never used, still sealed in box. I hope to get what I paid for it.

I could write more but it’s getting dark. More when I have more free time.