Notes from the bunker day 14

The Sydney Croft family – L-R Darcey, Marion, Jonathan (Jack) my father, Bill. All now deceased.

Apart from speaking to my Silver Chain cleaner last Thursday, I haven’t spoken a word to anyone else in more than a week. I haven’t left the house except for a short shopping trip and to collect my car from the RAC last Wednesday. I must admit, used as I am to living alone, it’s a bit hard to take. Normally whenever I notice the isolation I know to get out of the house by going out shopping or whatever. I’m not supposed to do that now. Don’t worry, I’ve lived this way all my life so I know how to cope, but I do wonder how long this will go on.

I was going to go out on Monday, but didn’t, and again today, but didn’t. Just a bit nervous about it. I’ll try again tomorrow.

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I will say that I’m a bit annoyed at the people being forcibly quarantined in five star hotels, though. Most of them seem to be whingeing and whining about it. Holy smokes, they are in a luxury hotel, with beautiful bedding and furnishings, comfy chairs, full TV and internet, wi-fi and with three square meals provided free of charge each day. Luxury bathrooms.

Sure, they can’t go out, but it’s only for two weeks. There’s an end in sight. Stop whining! Think of the homeless who have to sleep on the streets. Think of the people who’ve lost their jobs suddenly, usually with young families to support. Stop whingeing!

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My friend in Vienna is also under the same conditions as we are, semi-confinement in her apartment, not prohibited from going out to shop for food or exercise but no gatherings of more than two people. At least it’s spring there, although still very cold, below freezing at night. I take comfort that she knows a nurse and is in a good place if she got sick.

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I’ve found the water leak that’s been costing me so much. Both my plastic Caroma toilet cisterns have been failing to seal at the outlet to the pan (in a high quality house that was a display house, these are surprisingly low quality cisterns). I thought it was just the inlet valve and a minor thing, but when I used a screwdriver (what would we do without screwdrivers!) to hold the float up and stop the hissing, I found the cistern emptied itself within an hour or less.

Usually I’d fix this myself, but that requires going to the hardware shop to buy parts. Not supposed to do that now. I can call a plumber of course, but I blanch at the cost. It will have to be “screwdriver in/screwdriver out” for a while until I decide what to do.

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It pays to read Silicon Chip magazine. In planning to reorganise my hi-fi equipment, I’ve had in mind that the distance between the new equipment and the TV is more than quadrupled, to probably 10m. That’s a bit long for HDMI cables.

Today I happened to see in an Altronics ad in Silicon Chip, AOC, Active Optical Cables. These have active optical transducers in the fittings which send via optical fibre in the cable, thus allowing long runs. That’s the good bit. The bad bit is the cost – $209 for 10m, $229 for 12m. Ouch. But I don’t think there will be any alternative. Even a 10m amplified wire cable is $80.

I love browsing catalogues.

Notes from the bunker day 13

All is calm.

Back again. Day 13 – in theory I should be able to end my self-isolation after tomorrow, day 14, but I don’t think that will apply now. People over 70, don’t go out at all! For how long? They are talking six months! That’s hard to comprehend. As I’ve said, this is no great change for me. The only thing different is that I used to enjoy going to the big shopping centre a couple of times a week to do my grocery shopping, have lunch, read the paper while eating, browse the DVDs and CDs at JB and browse the bookshops. There’s QBD and a second-hand book shop at Clarkson, and Target and K-Mart sell books, so there’s plenty of choice. I’ll miss that.

I also have two good mates with whom I have semi regular breakfasts at North Beach, halfway between our homes. But even if our favourite cafe meeting place was still open, which it’s not, we can’t afford to be in close proximity because we’re all over 70 and with various illnesses and vulnerabilities. No more meetups for the foreseeable future. That’s going to be a bit hard to take.

As well, the Dome cafe across the road from me is closed for dine-ins. I wasn’t a frequent customer (too expensive) but I did enjoy my occasional lunch.

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Aaaaah! From a bright sunny morning, it clouded over and now it’s raining. Whacko! I love the changes. Huh, rain’s stopped again, a five minute shower.

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Someone I know well, a maths teacher at a prominent school in Perth, has told me he is very stressed and very tired. Although the school has to remain open, many parents are keeping their children away at home. The teachers have suddenly had remote teaching thrust on them. He’s having to learn how to use a software program from scratch and record his lessons, mostly at home in his own time, for delivery from an empty classroom at the school. This is all new stuff, they only found out about it last week and have to start doing it today. I’d be stressed too. It’s yet another example of where people are expected to rapidly update their skills and take on new workloads. It’s a new world, and not a very nice one.

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SBS showed a BBC program called Contagion last night. I thought it was going to be a fictional drama, but it was about an experiment performed in 2014 in the UK showing how a pandemic grows and spreads. The presenters were real experts and although it was a simulation, the parallels to now were all too real. It could have been written as a training program.

The lessons were just as we are experiencing; the only way to fight a virus attack like this is total lockdown. People will still die, mainly the elderly (yikes!) but the spread will be much less and much slower. It was prescient.

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I’ve also watched two more episodes of The Crown in the past few nights. I’m up to episode six in series two, I think. Although it’s still good, it’s not a patch on the first series. I’m not sure why, it’s still the same story, the sets are all the same, but the actors are different. Claire Foy in the first series as the young queen was just outstanding! It was one of the best characterisations I’ve ever seen, I think. The new queen, Olivia Coleman is good, but she’s not the same. The new Jook Embro is also good, but it’s not the same.

There’s still series three to come so I’ll reserve judgement.

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Both my toilets never quite shut off, there’s always a quiet hiss from the inlet valve and a steady internal drip in one case, 24/7 of course. I hope this is the cause of my enormous water bills recently. Normally I would have just gone to Bunnings and bought a new toilet cistern valve, but I’m not supposed to now. I might try browsing their catalogue on-line and ordering.

The postie was early this morning. I had delivery of two CDs from Amazon when I opened my door at about 9.30am. With so little foot traffic (almost none) I find it nice to leave my front door open.

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Now to do something I should have done years ago, subscribe to Silicon Chip, my electronics magazine. I’ve been buying it for 30 years or more and it always seems easier to pay $9.95 each month at the newsagent than to fork out 12x that for a year’s subscription. Since a year’s supply is much less than the cost of individual issues, that’s wrong, but there ya go. I’m stupid that way. Now it’s time to get it subscribed, posted and delivered.

Notes from the bunker day 11

Japanese beer barrels. Makes ours look very crude. © PJ Croft 2020

Well, I must admit I’m starting to feel a little restricted, confined. Not that I would have done much on a Saturday anyway, it’s just the feeling that no matter what occurs to me, if it involves going somewhere, I can’t, or I shouldn’t. I’m sure I don’t have to explain it to you, we’re all in the same boat.

Being a Facebook Marketplace addict, there are several items in my Saved list that are sorely tempting and a few more have cropped up today, but really, is it worth the risk? It’s just as well, because being a bower bird, I’ve got to stop bringing things into this house! I’m crazy. I have far more than I need and storage is a problem. I was going to write “becoming a problem” but too late, it’s already happened.

There’s a marvellous pair of big UK brand loudspeakers for sale in Wembley that I would love to buy, asking $2,500, but I already have three pairs of good hi-fi quality speakers. How many do I need????

My third bedroom is effectively useless due to a very large ex-TVW7 VTR which is awaiting repair. Five years so far.

And my old 32″ Sony LCD TV – still good, too good to throw out, but just sitting there (covered up). I have in mind to install my old wall mounting swing arm so that I can mount it and use it in this room, but it requires drilling eight holes in this Fastwall wall and although I can do it, I’m not sure I have the right bolts and if I haven’t, going to the hardware shop to get more has to be weighed up. Probably not a problem but I don’t know.

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There’s a good joke on Facebook today. What should we be drinking? Quarantinis. 🙂 🙂

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That’s the thing, are we under the same strict lockdown conditions as NSW or Victoria? I know we’re not supposed to go out, but are we prohibited? I don’t know.

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For some reason, shopping trolleys are accumulating (flocking?) on the street around here. There are eight across the street from me now and at least one more in the alley behind my house. Are deliveries not happening? Do people feel they have to use trolleys to get their bulk purchases home?

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It’s occurred to me that one thing I could do is buy some seeds and plant some veggie plants. I would have gone out and possibly bought seedling punnets, but I don’t know if I can at the moment.

I got on-line yesterday and boy! everyone must have the same idea. There are a few Perth seed companies who say they can supply whereas ES companies can’t due to WA quarantine laws.

But almost every normal type of veggie seed is sold out. There are a few with odd names, odd varieties of well known veggies, so I managed to make a shopping cart of six types at $3.95 a packet, and they are ordered and on their way, I hope. They say new stocks are always arriving. I hope so. I’ve ordered tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, peas, … that sort of stuff. I already have lots of chillis, much more than I can use.

My lime tree is producing lots of new limes at the moment, small so far but they’ll grow nicely. Could it have something to do with the way my reticulation is working properly now and it’s being watered regularly?

Which reminds me, I have to go out to check the retic controller (I think the clock/day/date has got out of sync) so I’ll have to negotiate with the wasps that have built their nest inside the swing out door. I did it several weeks ago and as long as I went slowly, it went OK, with wasps even landing on my hand and wrist sometimes without getting upset. Nice wasps, nice, nice wasps…

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One effect of this isolation is that I’ve got the TV on in the day time, something I normally don’t do. I finally got off my backside for two short sessions on the treadmill this morning and watching TV makes the minutes pass.

I’m looking forward to hooking up this SACD/DVD player and high power Sony amplifier. That will make it easier to watch DVDs and listen to hi-fi CDs, something I don’t do much of.

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I mentioned yesterday that I need a source of power for my CPAP when the mains fails for long periods. Until the last few days, that was a very rare event, but with two outages of 5 hours or so, and the possibility of more, it’s no longer academic.

Therefore it was serendipitous that I picked up the January issue of Silicon Chip to find a full article on this very subject. The author needed a reliable backup battery source so that he could open the shutter over the entrance to his house in Sydney. No mains power, no entry to his house.

I haven’t absorbed the article yet but his research told him that a petrol generator was no solution (storage of fuel for long periods and it “goes off”, even in the tank of the generator). His conclusion is that AGM (car) batteries and an inverter are the way to go – I think. I haven’t finished reading yet.

But whatever the solution, it won’t be cheap. At least $1,000 I think. More on this to come.

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I’ve always been favourably inclined to QANTAS, being the great Aussie icon airline, but I’m becoming very angry and upset with them.

First they “stood down” most of their workforce with virtually no notice and without pay.

Then today it’s been announced that they’ve told all their staff who were on paid sick leave or carer’s leave that their pay also stops, now. No notice.

Can you imagine the stress this would be causing? Some have cancer, or their partner has cancer, quite possibly caused by working as flight crew on aircraft (cosmic radiation is high energy particles from space which can penetrate the metal skin of aircraft and can cause cancer, and is especially prevalent at high altitudes where the shielding of the atmosphere is not as effective. This is a well known hazard of being flight crew.)

Rightly, their unions are saying “Hold up there! This against the law.” QANTAS says, well if there’s no work, then these employees are not employed by us, so we don’t have to pay them. The unions are taking them to the Fair Work Commission. Go unions!

Great Aussie attitude. Great Aussie Bastards.

Notes from the bunker day 10

After a hail storm 31/10/19 05.35am.

Another quiet day in these crazy times. Who would have believed, Myer have closed all their stores for a month. Employees laid off without pay. All gun shops in WA closed down immediately, no warning. I can understand the lack of warning – the gun nuts would have rushed the stores to buy up before the ban applied.

But it’ll all be OK. The prohibition on getting hair jobs taking more than 30 mins has been lifted. Phew! So you can have that shampoo, blow dry, colouration, tips, style job, whatever, after all.

I’m only a bloke but why do you need to go to a hair salon to have your hair shampooed? Why not just do it yourself in the shower? And you’re not going to be going out on the town all dolled up, or meeting friends who you need to impress. Why do you need a salon job? You blokes, so you can’t have a haircut for a month or whatever. So what?

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I’ve just fired up the Denon Super Audio CD (SACD) player I bought second hand last week and discovered that it will read CDs and DVDs OK, but not SACDs. That’s annoying. I guess the seller probably didn’t know it was faulty; he probably didn’t play any SACDs. They’re not common. I did look through Amazon’s catalogue today, though, and there are plenty available. I picked some out but haven’t ordered, as they are not cheap.

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If you have to be self-isolated, it helps to have this beautiful weather. Let’s hope we get some rain tomorrow, but I’m not complaining.

I put up a comment on F/B with a beautiful picture of Rottnest, saying if you have to be quarantined, you could hardly wish for a better place to do it. People would pay thousands of dollars to spend two weeks over there.

One of my overseas friends was so impressed by the picture that she said next time she’s in Bali (she’s European) she’d like to visit Perth and see Rotto. I said “Great, stay with me.” Great, she said, and accepted. So that will be nice. I’m looking forward to it, but when it might happen, who knows?

Notes from the bunker day 9

Sanur May 2019. (C) PJ Croft 2020

Grrrrrr! It’s now 10.30pm and the power has only come back on 20mins ago after another four hour failure! It went off at 6.10pm. It’s another pretty warm night and I needed the fan, and I wanted to go to bed, but with no power I can’t have either.

Western Power’s website showed a fault in Butler but no map and no information about it. I’ve just looked again and there’s still no information. Big help. They sent me a survey form earlier tonight about Tuesday night’s outage and I was able to say something, but I’d say a lot more now.

It looks like I’ll have to invest in a UPS, and it will have to be a big one. We shouldn’t have to do this.

Apart from that, it was an uneventful day, nothing much to write about. Now for some quality sleep.

Aaaarrrrgh, diabetic foot pains! Sudden, severe pains in my toes and insteps, bad enough to make me gasp and cry out with the pain. It only lasts 5-10 seconds, but that’s enough.

Notes from the bunker day 8

Scotland, 2008. My shot. © PJ Croft 2020

Bad start, but a good day. It was a bad start because the mains power went off at 8.08pm last night and stayed off. There was a brief attempt at restoring power at about 10pm but it still stayed off. It was hot last night and with no fan, I was very uncomfortable. I listened to my battery radio for a while, using my battery LED camping lantern (it worked very well, bought a couple of years ago for just this reason), then I got tired of the radio and fired up my fully charged Samsung 4G tablet. When the power goes off, the NBN stops and so there’s no modem, no internet, no landline phone. The tablet is independent of the mains power and gets the internet from the 4G mobile phone network.

That meant I could watch Netflix! By 10pm there was still no power so I watched two 1hr programs, an episode of Contagion (yeah, about a pandemic) and an episode of The Crown. That’s nearly two hours of high definition TV on this battery powered tablet. It was great. Using headphones the sound was hi-def too.

It was midnight by now and I desperately wanted to go to bed, but with no mains power, it meant no CPAP and I need that to sleep. I got onto the Western Power web site, Faults and Outages section. It showed the lower part of Butler and Merriwa as without power, but showed my area as not having a problem! Grrr.

So I phoned them (on my mobile, no landline, remember). The guy was very vague about it, didn’t know why my area wasn’t showing, had no notes about it and wasn’t sure whether the line crews would even be aware of the problem. Huh. He said he’d get onto them for me.

By 12.30am I gave up and went to bed, too hot, no fan, no outside breeze, no CPAP, not happy. I must have drifted off because I was awoken at 01.22am by the bedside light (which I’d deliberately left on) and short beeps from the house alarm. Aaah, at last. Fan on, CPAP on and I was off. I had a good sleep from then on, no credit to Western Power. I have a fridge full of food. I hope more than 5hrs of warming up hasn’t harmed it.

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I was woken at 0830 by a call from the RAC at Joondalup. You’ll recall my MX-6 was taken there yesterday.

The news was that they’d found the problem, a broken plastic actuator in the gearbox where the cable connection from the shifter goes. He said it had more or less failed from age. But being a 25 year old car, there are no parts available now.

However, he said they have managed to put it back together using some kind of clips and it’s all good again. He said they can’t guarantee how long it will last – it could last another 25 years or it could fail next week. He said they will guarantee it until it fails! 🙂

So this afternoon I took an Uber taxi there and picked it up. The good bit was still to come. Apparently it didn’t take long to fix, less than an hour, and that is covered by my membership fees! No charge to me, in other words. Wow. Just goes to show, it pays to belong! Sure, the membership costs me $226 per year, but for that, all three cars are covered, and a second driver is covered. I get free towing up to 100Km in the metro area (which was the case yesterday, no charge for the tow truck) and all the usual breakdown services, as happened yesterday when I got the guy out to give me his assessment and advice.

So far this year, I’ve had a new battery for the Verada – I pay for the battery but the cost of the guy coming and changing it is covered; a roadside wheel change in January on the Honda MDX; two vouchers for $20 off any servicing or mechanical repairs; and now this. Money well spent, I reckon! I’ve been a member since 1971 and it works for me.

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It’s like being in a union. You pay your annual fees, but you get so much in return! Hospitality workers are discovering this – many hundreds of them have been right royally screwed, done over, stolen from, by big name restaurants, bars and venues owned by “celebrity” entrepreneurs and chefs. Their union, Hospo Voice, have recovered tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of dollars stolen from low paid and otherwise powerless workers. The union is running a brilliant Facebook campaign. (I never thought I would see the day when “wage theft” became an everyday term, but it has.)

People don’t understand – national wage cases for industry pay increases (for occupations covered by awards) have to be argued in the Industrial Relations Commission in Melbourne. That means skilled negotiators have to stand in front of the commissioners and make the case for workers. These people are usually lawyers and have to be paid.

If a pay increase is won, it might be 2%, say. On an annual wage of $50,000, then 2% is $1,000 a year. If your union dues were $200, you’ve recouped that five times over! People can’t grasp this. You get back more than you put in.

Everybody has a union. Lawyers have the Law Society; doctors have the AMA; company directors have the Employers’ Federation; company directors have an association; actors and stage people have Actors’ Equity; journalists have the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA); politicians, even Liberal Party politicians, have a parliamentary members’ group. To stand aside and refuse to join in your group in the face of this is just lunacy.

Everyone benefits from working together. The only people I can think of who don’t, strangely, are creative people, writers, artists, sculptors – people who work alone But even they are eventually part of a team that works to put their work out to the public.

Refusing to support your industry union is sheer selfishness, parasitism.

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I’ve spoken of how great it is that I was able to use a mobile phone last night despite the loss of mains power, and the LED camping light, and the tablet giving me hi-def TV despite the blackout. Today I was told that I can have medical appointments remotely without needing to attend the surgery by using a video conferencing facility. If I have to have a talk, they email me a link that connects me.

Then I got the Uber taxi at 3pm. I looked up the address on Google Maps, then used my mobile phone to book it. It only took five minutes to do. The phone showed me a map of my area and where the Uber car was on the map. A little car icon moved up the map and it showed me where he was and how long until he got here. It’s only the second time I’ve used Uber.

Then when we arrived, I didn’t have to fish in my wallet for a card (lucky, because I was wearing dishwashing gloves and they make it hard). Uber uses Paypal so the charge is automatically debited to my credit card ($25.14, by the way). I just got out and that was that.

My point is that all this is courtesy of electronics and computers. Wow, just wow! As you know, that has been my life’s work and interest and I’m proud of the way electronics and computer guys (generic term, includes girls, but there are very few!) are so clever, so inventive, so skillful. Marvellous.

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Words. I was thinking of the word wakeful and wakefullness this morning. Wakeful – full of wake? How does that work?

The words hopeful and hopefully are often in my mind as I write. So many people say, “Hopefully we might get a pay increase” or whatever. But hopefully means full of hope. So, “Full of hope, we might…” rarely works. You need to think of the whole sentence before using it.

A correct example would be, “Hopefully, the sailors waved their arms looking for rescue.” They were full of hope. Or hopefully, the doctor might arrive soon. “I am full of hope that…”

Fat chance. Pissing in the wind.

Another relatively recent cliche word is shuttering or shuttered. It started last year, it’s meaning being closed. Nothing is closed any more, it’s shuttered. It’s even used as a verb! They shuttered the business. This is madness.

I also rail against the need to use utilise, in place of plain use. Why does everyone have to use (utilise?) a four syllable word when there’s a perfectly suitable single syllable word? It’s become endemic.

Being a confirmed, foundation member of the Society of Pedants, I’ve been keeping a text file since about August last year of grammatical, spelling and punctuation crimes I come across on the web. It’s mainly populated by the ABC News since that’s my main source of news (and The Guardian, but they don’t make many errors). I ensure I record the journalist’s byline for each one.

It’s a long list now, eight A4 pages long and growing every day. Being a text file, I’m hoping (hopeful? Full of hope?) that I could feed it into a spreadsheet as a database so as to sort it into columns by date, web site and journalist’s name if possible. I’d have to go through it and add commas so that it would be comma delimited. It wouldn’t be hard.

Gawd, what a waste of time! Get a grip on yourself, Pedantic Pete. There are many more important things to be done.