Brrrrr

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Isle of Skye  © PJ Croft 2019

It looked like spring was here yesterday, but it was very cold last night and now it looks like deep winter again. I’m sitting here waiting for a phone call to tell me that Maggie, the Magna, is ready for me to collect, but I think it’s too late for them to call today.

I put it in to Bridgestone Select Tyre & Auto, 56-60 Canning Highway, Victoria Park yesterday to have the rocker cover gaskets renewed (to fix the oil leaks), the rear three spark plugs replaced (since the manifold was off), two external drive belts replaced and an engine clean. Why so far away? My partner bought me a voucher for a service with them back in March and they did such a good job that I was impressed enough to go back. I recommend them.

Anyway, I delivered my car at 12.30pm and sat out the waiting period at the MacDonalds down the road until they phoned me at 4.45pm, not to say “Come ‘n get it” but to say the spark plug leads are corroded at the ends and I need a new set. But they don’t have them and so the car won’t be ready until tomorrow (that’s today, Friday). So I’m sitting here in the warmth of my heating while the wind blows and the rain falls, waiting for them to phone to say it’s ready. But since I have to get bus and train and bus to get back there, nearly two hours of travel, I don’t want to go out today.

Yes, it’s lucky it was a nice sunny day yesterday because I had to catch a bus along Canning Highway to Elizabeth Quay bus terminus, then the train to Clarkson, then a bus to my stop on Marmion Ave. It took nearly two hours. We all should be using public transport more, but it takes too long. I was the only passenger on the first and second buses at times. What a waste.

By the way, I got home and realised my house key was on the car key set at the service place. No worries, I have the lock box key safe on the side of the house now and so I could let myself in. Phew. I hadn’t given it a thought until I was at the door.

PS: I just phoned them and they’ve got the leads but are too busy to fit them at the moment. I’ve said I’ll leave it until tomorrow, but if the weather’s still crappy, I’ll probably leave it until Monday. It’s not as if I don’t have transport. I had the exhaust replaced on Vera the Verada on Wednesday and it’s sounding and driving great, plus I’ve got Hashimoto-san.

PPS: they just phoned and it’s done, so I’ll go in tomorrow. I asked for the damage (the bill!). It’s more than the car is worth!!! Gawd, I hope I can sell the car and recoup at least some of it. Grrrr. (The bill is about $900. Ugh!)

I’ve verified that the antenna lead is open circuit in Honda-san, by the way, and I don’t know what to do about it. It would go above the roof lining and down a pillar, along a floor channel and up into the dash, all hard to get to. I’ve noticed that the antenna socket on the roof has screwdriver slots. I wonder if I might find something if I unscrewed it. Probably the roof and wheels would fall off 🙂

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By the way, remember I listed all the electronic devices I have that have failed and await my fix? Well, add another one: the radio/CD in Vera the Verada is a 6-disc CD changer type, but you can’t load a CD. I hadn’t tried to use it up to now. It says Please Wait while it grinds and buzzes, but no Load command appears and no light in the slot. So that’s another one! Holy smoke. And I’m not sure if I listed it, but the power antenna in Vera is dud as well. I’m in the process of replacing that, but wire colours and mismatched plugs and mounting holes… grrrr.

I filled it with fuel on Monday too, and went to write the details into the notebook I keep for each car. Hmmm, no entries since the first fill when I bought it in November last year. Hmmm, search for the previous notebook entries in my Expenses notebook – nothing. I realised that this really was its first fill after those nine months. Because of its dud brakes and tyres, I hadn’t been driving it much except for short tests and hadn’t used the fuel. Wow.

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I know I wrote about that beautiful Mercedes last week, the one in Port Douglas, but I’ve just about decided it would be a leap too far. They are well known to have problems and the fixes are enough to bankrupt mere wage earners. I reckon this car is young enough (in kilometres) for the problems to be in the future, but…  I’ve almost given up the idea, but if it’s still up for sale in a month or so, maybe, maybe…

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I was going through my filing boxes last week and found my old WA Building Society passbook from 1976/77. It shows graphically how far we’ve come in just 45 years.

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Notice how everything was typed or manually written, and your passbook was your only record of your account. I assume the bank had duplicate records, but there were no desktop computers then. You stood at the counter while the teller took your book to a desk and typewriter and manually entered the figures. I think W. P. B. meant without passbook, i.e. a deposit from Ch.7 from my pay. We used to get paid in cash in those days too, a thick wad of notes in a long, tan coloured envelope. I didn’t have a big balance then, but I wasn’t earning much either. Each payday it was a battle of long tan (sorry!)

Remember the Friday panic? You needed cash for the weekend, so you had to find a way to get to the bank before they closed, which was 5pm on Fridays but 3.30pm on other weekdays. They were closed all weekend and there were no ATMs, so if you missed out, you sometimes had to write a cheque and try to find someone or some shop who would cash it, embarrassing. This was while you were madly trying to fill up with petrol for the weekend, or find a rostered station. It was terrible.

Contrast it with now: almost everything is done with a plastic card, and we maintain our own records, do our transfers and pay all our bills on-line on our own computer. There are ATMs everywhere but we get cash as we need it from the supermarkets or wherever. Travelling? No need to buy travellers’ cheques, the ATMs in our destination countries recognise our plastic card, even our ordinary local bank EFTPOS card, and dispense local currency, even showing our remaining balance. Need more? Just use a credit card. In all my years of travelling, I’ve never had a problem with card fraud, by the way. Just lucky I guess.

Oh, and we can do our banking on our phone, too, just by touching the display. Mine uses both a fingerprint and a password to get in, so I’m pretty relaxed about security. And my passwords are genuinely random letters and symbols too, not simple guessable combos. I use a password manager called Dashlane and although I was pretty wary when I started using it, I’m impressed enough to continue. There’s only one thing: it stores all your passwords “in the cloud”, that is, in America somewhere, so you need internet access. If you haven’t got any connection, it doesn’t work. That’s why I keep another password manager on the side as backup. It’s not too difficult to keep them synchronised.

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Speaking of security, I’ve just about finished reading a 1,000 page book on the history of GCHQ, the British General Communications Head Quarters. Great book! The author really knows how to write, his prose just flowing along as a good story. It started around WW2 and Enigma and Bletchley Park and all that, but as it goes on it gets into the Sixties and onwards and explains a lot of the events, scandals and disasters that I remember but didn’t know the full story. I’m nearly at the end in the post 2010 period, so it’s quite up to date.

One of the interesting things it mentions is public key cryptography. This is where you use a string of numbers, known only to you, to scramble all the letters and numbers and symbols in your email or document.

So you encrypt your email (using software) as if there was a padlock on it before sending it to your mate Bill, for example, and even if some spy intercepted it and tried to decode it, no-one can read it because they haven’t got the key. Of course Bill can’t read it either yet, because he hasn’t got the key at this stage. You have it, but you can’t risk sending it to Bill.

The answer is for Bill to also encrypt it with his own padlock and key (set of numbers) and send it back to you. It arrives to you with two padlocks now, yours and Bill’s.

Now you can unlock your padlock because you’ve got the key. Then you can send it back to Bill, and it’s still safe, because it’s still encrypted with Bill’s padlock. Of course, he has his own key, so he can unlock the file and there it is, as you originally sent it.

Isn’t that clever? So simple, and it was one of GCHQ’s employees who thought of it.

The problem is that now that it’s so simple to encrypt messages with virtually unbreakable codes, all the crims and drug dealers and terrorists can do it, and security agencies like GCHQ and ASIO and the NSA can’t decode them (in any reasonable time). Heard of 256bit-AES encryption? That’s it. Now you know.

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