We’re all gettin’ old

Boarding the P&O Arcadia, Sydney 1977. I was 30.

Nice day, a little cool at 18deg but no wind so, “cool”. Sun’s come out after a cloudy morning.

Boy, I’m sleeping so well these days after my years of insomnia. It was all caused by medications. It took me years to realise this. I used to go entire nights lying there unable to “drop off the cliff” into real sleep. It reached the stage of anxiety about going to bed.

But Tramadol, the pain relief drug (for my foot pain) and duloxetine, and recently citalopram, all caused me insomnia. Now that I’ve stopped them all, I drop off in seconds after lights out.

Unfortunately I always wake at about 1.30 to 2.30am, after an hour or two of sleep for some reason. Bladder, probably. But now I can drop off again very easily.

Lots of dreams, not nightmares, but usually stressful situations, very complex and not easily remembered. However, I’d describe my sleep as “Good”.

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Unfortunately, my mattress seems to have developed a ridge down the middle lately, such that I feel as if I’m on a slight downward slope on my side. I must admit, I’ve had this mattress and base for around 20 years now. I probably should replace it.

Which reminds me: I have a weight problem and I desperately need to lose weight. I like the idea of Lite’n’Easy meal delivery. I don’t have time to cook, can’t be bothered.

I like the idea of having prepared meals provided to me, and it would probably be as cheap or cheaper than my profligate supermarket weekly (plus plus) buys. I’ll make a confession – I like airline meals. Anything where someone else has cooked tasty and tempting food.

Anyway, back to the point – I’ve been thinking about Lite’n’Easy for a few years but always thought, “How would I fit all that stuff in my fridge and freezer?” It’s always chokka now. Which leads me to another point – I think there are things in the bottom of my bottom-mount freezer compartment that have been there since the last Ice Age. If there’s stuff on top, I don’t see the stuff at the bottom. I’ve changed my mind about bottom-mount freezers. Bad idea.

So, this is a roundabout way of saying, I’ve had an idea. I’ve had this fridge since I moved here, April 2013, and I’ve been thinking of changing it for some time. I want a French door fridge, this one probably:

I want the ability to open the smaller RH doors, given the fridge is on the left in my kitchen, and not having to bend down so much to reach the freezer, and having chilled water and ice always available. However, the cost of that water/ice gizmo in the door is very high, more than $500 for the privilege. It would be a much more sensible decision to simply keep bottles of water in the fridge. Not supermarket “spring/mineral” water!! We do NOT need that.

Get back to the point Pete! If I changed my fridge, I would completely clear my existing fridge so as to move it out onto the patio, and buy the new one. Then I could have the Lite’n’Easy delivered and fit it all in.

What would I do with my existing fridge? I’d try to sell it – it’s in perfect condition, clean, no scratches, no faults, no kids to damage it, quiet and cooool. I’d advertise it on F/B Marketplace. Funny, a woman put a notice up on NextDoor a couple of days ago asking if anyone had a fridge to sell, as she wanted one to put in the shed. But before I could react, someone in the neighbourhood offered her one, free. Good for her, but mine’s too good to give away.

Anyway, that’s the pipe dream, change my fridge and start the diet food deliveries at the same time. Hmmmm.

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One thing about it is that I’m severely constrained by the width. I only have 840mm available and this one’s 835mm. Tight! Similarly, the height of this fridge is 1793mm and I only have 1800mm at the most due to a built-in shelf above. I might even have to take a saw to the shelf.

I’m not like one of my neighbours – when she bought a new stove (I think it was) a few years ago, she got the builder in and had remodelling done of her kitchen.

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Which reminds me, she’s also having her shoulder “remodelled” on Monday. She had a fall yesterday, broke a couple of ribs and damaged her shoulder. Ouch.

I worry about myself as well in that regard. I’m not as steady on my feet as I was, and I sway a bit. Have I told you this before? The state government works with the health department at keeping we Seniors in our homes and out of hospitals. Obviously I’m in their records because earlier in the year I got a phone call from a young woman (heh heh, they’re all young to me now, aren’t they?) asking if I’d like a hand rail in my shower and toilet, and could she come out and assess me. That was nice, so she did and about two months later a guy came out and fitted a bar/hand rail in my shower, and another smaller one in my main en-suite toilet. Free! No charge.

Then a couple of months later she phoned again and asked how it was going. I said I wished I’d chosen another location for the shower one. No worries, we’ll come out and have a look again. So she visited again and a few weeks later the guy turned up and fitted another one for me. Again, no charge. Nice.

I still wonder if it’s in the right position, but I don’t think I can ask for a third one.

The point is, if I fall in the shower, these are naturally placed for my flailing hand to grab onto. I hope.

And yet, I was thinking the other day, if I fell in the shower and broke a hip or leg such that I couldn’t move, I’d be in trouble. My only hope would be that my bathroom window is open to call out to next door, Barbara. I would have to do that, and hope she was home, although at 8am when I’m in the shower, she probably would be. We’re a similar age.

The answer is, it’s time I got a distress alarm, the type you wear on a lanyard around your neck. I’ve looked at them before but they’re quite expensive. But if I have to, I’d better do it.

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I’m still enjoying the Peugeot 407 Coupe, but I must admit there are several things that are annoying me. I feel that Peugeot must have taken a “she’ll be right” attitude when they made the RH drive version of this car.

  • For example, the driver’s door key lock works the opposite way – you turn the key clockwise to unlock, anticlockwise to lock. That’s the mirror image of a LH drive car, as if they just transferred it across and didn’t notice the inconsistency.
  • And there’s no key lock at all on the passenger side. I suppose if I had a key with a working remote lock/unlock, it wouldn’t matter, but my one and only key is broken in that regard.
  • Then the steering column key slot: there’s no ACC (accessory) position. It’s either OFF or ignition ON/START. When you stop and turn the engine off, you can’t have the radio on without turning the key to ignition-on. This is weird.
  • Then there’s the small and very poorly laid out LCD display for vehicle info and radio station display. I can never work out how to get the radio station I want. It’s there, but I have to take my eyes off the road and look at the display, and the buttons about 150mm below it. You can’t do it by feel. Not good.
  • In the Verada and the Honda, I have a good display of the fuel economy at all times and in the Verada I can easily switch between instantaneous and average. But in the Pug it seems to be instantaneous display only, meaning it changes very rapidly depending on the throttle. It’s very hard to know what your average is. Maybe there’s a way, but this is my point, I don’t know how to make it display the average. The interface design is very poor, in other words.
  • The characteristic of the Japanese cars I’ve owned (the Verada is Mitsubishi Japanese, even though made in Adelaide) is how smooth everything is, including inching along on minimum throttle. But the Pug is lumpy. It’s not smooth at low rpm. It vibrates and sometimes needs a kick to the accelerator (not really) to get it to move. Once the revs kick up, it’s good, but it just doesn’t have the velvety smoothness of Japanese cars.
  • The doors seem to have only two positions, open and SLAM. The door springs are very strong, in other words, much stronger than I’m used to in my Japanese cars.
  • The switches for the power windows are too far back. They don’t fall under your fingers when you reach for them. You have to reach further back and feel for the switch. Yes, it’s a coupe and the doors are longer than for a sedan, but they could have designed this better.
  • I’ve previously mentioned the wind buffeting. I still can’t find a combination of amount of opening or combination with passenger opening to stop the vibration and drumming at speed. It will need the aircon working when the weather warms up. Did I mention? The aircon doesn’t work. I knew that when I bought it and intend to get it fixed. Must do it.

And more, but my fingers are tired.

Changing season

MODIS satellite image of SW Western Australia on a fine day.

Aaaah, beautiful day, 22deg, cloudless blue sky, hint of Spring in the air. Nearly through the worst of Winter.

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I was in the city last week, dressed as a woman as I usually am these days, walking on the footpath outside RPH. My hair is long enough now that I’ve stopped wearing a wig, opting instead for a small cap to cover my baldness. It’s like a skipper’s cap. Looks quite sassy.

A woman’s voice suddenly said, “Excuse me!” I looked around and saw a young woman sitting in the back seat of a parked car. She said it again, “Excuse me.” I said “Yes?” She said, “I love your cap. It’s so pretty.”

Wow! Wow! A guy never, ever gets a compliment like this. It’s happened to me several times, once at a hotel on New Year’s Eve, when I was wearing a shiny, sparkly top. A woman walked past and looked around, saying, “I like your top.” She must have known I was a guy. I pass easily, but women usually know.

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I was in the city for my second interview with a psychiatrist, to sign me off for some minor surgery that I want, to make me feel more female. The psychiatrist’s a woman and she’s fine with me, no problems at all. We got along very well. She can see I’m not a looney. That’s two visits with her, plus a sign-off from a psychologist, and an endocrinologist, and I’m good to go. She’s referred me to a surgeon on 6 October. Minor operation, nothing drastic.

I never intended to change gender, I must say, it’s just to be able to dress freely and feel less like a bloke, without bulging bits that I don’t want. But I must admit a certain momentum is building, to change gender, I mean. I’m weighing up the pros and cons, and at the moment the cons are winning. I don’t want to have to go through all the legalities and notifications when I really don’t have to do anything at all. Just continue living and dressing as a woman, as I please, but reverting to guy mode if I don’t want to. So what if I have surgery, it doesn’t change my gender. It’s only to help with the way I dress and feel.

She did say that I really should dress female every day, in order to get used to it and experience any down-sides, so I’ll do that, live as a woman, live the experience. I’m finding that the more I do it, the more it becomes a habit, of course. Whenever I go out now, it’s as my female self, nearly always. I’ve never had any problems at all. I pass so well that no-one pays me any attention, even women. I had a guy in the supermarket say to the checkout guy, “Just let this lady go first.” Meaning me.

However, my GP told me only yesterday, eight months after I started this process, that Medicare won’t pay for sex change operations after age 55. That’s a bugger, as I was hoping to save money.

Therefore, I’ll need to find out what this surgeon will charge, and whether HBF will pay for my hospital stay, since this is definitely elective surgery, optional treatment.

PS: I’ve spoken to HBF and they say if the surgeon provides a Medicare item number for the operation, then HBF will probably cover me. So I’ll know more after the appt with the surgeon in October.

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You must be thinking, this guy is mad! Go ahead, that’s OK. But I’ve always felt I’m half way there, half way across the seat. I’ve always known I’m male, but, approaching age 75, what the hell, I’ll just do what I want to do. Whatever makes you happy, as everyone says, and that’s the point, it does make me happy. I love getting dressed up and made up, so it’s my life and I’ll change if I want to. (Isn’t there a song about that?)

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Whenever I have thoughts about this blog, things come to mind that I think, “Oh yeah, I must write about that.” But now that I’m writing, I’m damned if I can think of what they were. They seemed important at the time …

Oh, I know: I terminated my subscription to the MyHeritage website a few weeks ago, as they want about $360 for another year’s subscription. No, all I wanted was the photo enhancement service and I’ve done that so I’m not paying this huge fee. I got sucked into building my family tree while I was there, but that’s done too, so I downloaded everything I could think of before my sub expired.

I learnt quite a lot, especially about Mum’s mother’s side, the Lawries. I’ve learnt that I have quite an extensive Scottish ancestry, which I like very much. The Lawries go back to the 1700s. I was vaguely aware of these Lawrie people and all the chatter about them among my relatives when I was growing up in Bruce Rock in the 1950s, but I didn’t really know who they were. Now I do.

Similarly, I can see Grandpa Arnold’s ancestors too, from the middle of England. He died before I was born so I never knew him, yet I’ve got a photo of him on my sideboard now.

George Arnold and Janet Stevenson Arnold (nee Lawrie), my maternal grandparents.

I’m sure he’d be pleased. I very much doubt anyone will have a photo of me on their shelf when I’m gone, unfortunately.

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Recently, my competitive nature is asserting itself a bit (meaning that I see others’ pictures and think, I can do better than that), and I’ve been posting a lot of my images on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/peter.croft.754 My uploads started a few weeks ago, not just today’s lot, and even I’ve been surprised at how much material I’ve got. I’ve nowhere near finished yet. I’ve got much, much more to show.

In particular, I’ve uploaded samples of most of the books I’ve written and composed in the past 13 years, and in every case, I’ve included the words, “A4 40pp, available for purchase” (or similar). How many enquiries have I received? ZERO! Not one person has asked about cost, or anything else.

People have always said to me, “Gee, you ought to sell these books.” But I’ve tried, and no-one wants to buy. No-one! Maybe one day after I’m dead, someone might look at them, but no-one wants to now.

One person seemed to like my book on Bali very much, and asked if she could borrow it. She said she might be able to sell it to her friends. She kept it for nearly two years, with no sales, and I had to ask three times for its return, even suggesting I would call around to her place. She eventually posted it back to me from about 5Km away at a cost to her of $15 postage. Something very odd there, but as I said, I just can’t get any buyers.

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It’s my own fault, too much sitting, but over the past 12 months or more I’ve developed pain in my left buttock, going down my leg and into my left foot, from applying too much pressure on my bum. It’s not a sharp pain, just a dull ache, but it has me squirming around trying to find a position to minimise it. Not much luck, I’m afraid.

I bought one of these Facebook ad specials, a neoprene rubber cushion that promised to relieve exactly this kind of pain. Did it work. Naah! Hardly makes any difference. $54 down the drain.

Only two more weeks to Spring

New York apartments. No matter how good the views, I wouldn’t want to live like that.

Aaaah, turned out nice again. Rained a bit last night and this morning, but blue sky now at 2pm.

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I mentioned the suspected kidney stone. Gee, I’m much more relaxed about these things now. Forty years ago, I was so nervous about these sorts of things. Maybe I’ve forgotten the pain. I had a major kidney stone in 1982, the 11/10 pain where you don’t think you can stand it any more, where you’re bending the bed frame with the agony. It made me scared to be isolated in the bush or away from help for some years afterwards. Of course, there were no mobile phones then. It’s a bit different now.

I was too naiive to call an ambulance in those days. Ambulances are only for really sick people, right? Like a fool I got in my car and drove myself to the nearest hospital (Osborne Park), which wasn’t an emergency hospital. I staggered in to reception, crying with the pain, and asked to see a doctor. Luckily they took me in and gave me a bed. After a lot of questioning, with me writhing around, gasping and groaning, they gave me a shot of pain relief. It was Pethidine, the predecessor to Fentanyl, quite addictive. It hardly made any difference, but after a couple of hours, the pain very slowly went away.

They got me to drink a lot of water and pee into a bottle, and then they filtered it, looking for a stone. They never found one, which led to the treating doctor (actually, I can’t recall ever seeing her face) telling my GP afterwards that she thought I was a drug addict looking for a fix. Hah! You’d need to be a pretty good actor to put that on. But I was left in terrible fear of kidney stones and that awful pain for years afterwards.

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Speaking of ambulances, when I slipped out of bed onto the floor on a Saturday morning in 2017, and was too weak from an unsuspected infection to get myself up, I had to call an ambulance then. I tried to get up for more than an hour, crawling around on the carpeted floor until I had carpet burns. I managed to reach my phone at last and call a friend who called the ambulance, and the police to break into the house.

The ambos, a young man and woman, used a device to get me up into a sitting position, from where I was able to stand up.

I remember saying, like a typical bloke, “I’m fine, I’m fine”, when I really wasn’t. I’d been having “rigors”, extreme shaking and shivering, for a few weeks and I didn’t know how sick I was. When I wasn’t shivering, I felt OK but the rigors are a sign of something seriously wrong.

My point is, the ambos just took my word that I was fine and OK, so after getting me up, they left. They didn’t check any further. This was a Saturday morning and I had a couple of people with me for a while, but boy, I felt tired and weak. However, I continued to say I was OK and they left.

Long story, but on the Monday morning, after nearly collapsing with weakness and battling to stay awake, I drove myself to see the GP. He called an ambulance to the surgery and wrote ?sepsis on the form.

At Joondalup Hospital, they found the infected kidney stone lodged in my right ureter and scheduled an operation for the next day. But there was no pain! How lucky. But weakness! – so weak I couldn’t stand up.

My point is, those ambos should have questioned me further on the Saturday. I should have been taken to hospital then, not two days later.

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Harvesting pink lotus flowers in Bangladesh. Ain’t that beautiful?
Photograph: Mustasinur Rahman Alvi/Medialys/Rex/Shutterstock

This all comes to mind because I’ve become a bit addicted to ambulance and hospital ED programs on the commercial TV channels lately. I admit, I like watching expert people in emergency situations, and I like hearing all the medical talk and seeing the procedures. Call me a junkie, but there you are. It will wear off.

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It’s coincidence time again (or maybe not).

I watched a TV show on the ABC on Sunday night where the program, set in a university in Glasgow, mentioned a MOOC. This is a term, Massive Open Online Course, for doing uni subjects online, as it suggests. Stupid acronym, but … I haven’t heard that term used in years.

So what should crop up in an interview with the VC of Edith Cowan Uni on Monday night’s news than a mention of MOOCs. Maybe he watched the same show on Sunday evening?

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I’m going to have to call an electrician. Four out of six recessed downlight lamps in my kitchen have failed. I used to be able to get up the stepladder reasonably OK, but this time three of the lamps are offset, over the sink and bench, meaning I’d have to lean over while reaching up. Too hard, too dangerous.

Similarly, two of the five mini downlights over the bathroom bench have been blown for some time and again, I’d have to stand half on the ladder, half on the bench to replace those. They are mini bi-pin globes, incandescents, and I’ve got a set of LED replacements. I’ll get him to replace them all at the same time. Same in the kitchen – I’ll ask him to replace all five lamps, even though two are still working, because they’ll blow soon anyway.

I say “him”, the electrician, but it will probably be “her”. I’ve been given the name of an electrician who does work for my friends Keith and Barry, and it’s a lady. Which is good.

To justify getting her out here, I’ll get her to try to mount a dual touch-pad light switch into the wall in my main bedroom. The bed has a row of mini-downlights over the head end of the bed, but the switch is on the opposite wall. Great design. If you want these lights on to read in bed, you have to get out of bed to switch on, then when you’re finished reading, tired and sleepy, you have to get out of bed again to switch off.

So a few years ago I bought an IR remote controlled switch plate, from China of course, with touch pads and a key-fob remote. Trouble is, it’s hard to fit into the wall. I’ll get her to try to fit it properly.

Dodged another one?

The pins of a CPU. All the data and control functions of a computer chip are brought out from the microscopic chip by tiny gold wires to each gold plated pin. When you read that a computer is “64-bit”, it means that the data and address buses use 64 wires, to 64 pins. There are many more wires and pins as well, up to 500. Getting all this to work is a marvel of engineering technology.
Those brown things in the middle are surface mount resistors and capacitors which are too big to integrate into the silicon die, which is not visible here but is a slice of silicon about 4mm square underneath all that stuff on top.

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Aaah, another glorious, clear blue sky day, 21deg, and 24deg forecast tomorrow.

As I get older I’m noticing the way the seasons change much more, and time seems to be speeding up. At the moment, sunrise is now before 7am and sunset was 10 to 6 last night.

It’s absolutely true, your sense of time shortens as you age. I remember primary school holidays at Christmas – seven weeks holidays! Wow, it seemed endless.

Now, my cleaning lady and I both remark that it seems impossible that a week has passed since her last visit. Is it a biological process, that our brain registers time differently as we age?

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Zeeeoowww. Hear that? That was the bullet I think I dodged yesterday. Yes, a kidney stone. Luckily, almost no pain except twinges in my side on Friday and a bit of lower abdo pain last night, but lots of blood in the water last evening. I drank two full glasses of water before bed and things looked clear during the night and in the morning.

I don’t know why this would have happened. I’m drinking lots of water and other fluids and I can’t see how I would have become dehydrated. Maybe it was a different kind of stone? Anyway, let’s hope it continues this way – I seem to develop stones but they pass without pain.

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I found this in my handbag last week. It’s not mine, it’s a young woman’s handwriting, but I have no idea how it got there. I don’t recall picking it up, and why would anyone place it in my bag?

I can read all the words except the last one – Shakedeos? Never heard of them.

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Word of the week: have you noticed in all the talk about fishing this week, the references to demersal fish? I’d long heard of pelagic fish, but this was a new one on me.

Simple, demersal means bottom dwelling, below about 200m ocean depth.

Pelagic means ocean fish, as distinct from riverine or estuarine fishes, and epipelagic means upper level fish, from about 200m depth up to the surface.

So now you know.

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I’ve just finished reading another epic World War 3 set of novels, by a different author, Jeff Watson. He’s a retired US Navy helicopter pilot and boy, it shows. His descriptions of flying off ships, sub hunting, ocean search and rescues and life on board ships was fantastic.

Of course, China is the antagonist in this series of six books, each of about 400 pages, so there’s plenty of time to develop his story. And what a story. Russia gets involved, but reluctantly, partly because they don’t much like or trust the Chinese, and also out of fear that they could spark an all out nuclear conflict, which they know would devastate their country.

This author really knows how to write. It’s not literature, but it’s a great story, full of strategy and tactics, twists and turns, deceptions and surprises. I was hooked for about six weeks, looking forward to bed time to continue reading. He’s written other books, which I’m browsing through now to choose the next one.

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Earlier this year I was fairly sure that international travel would be able to resume next year, 2022, once the COVID virus was subdued and vaccinations had worked. But the Delta variant has knocked that for six. I don’t have any confidence of being able to leave this state next year any more.

This is sparked by an ad I saw yesterday for a cruise from Singapore to Perth next year on the QE2. It calls at Jakarta, then Bali, before carrying on to Perth. I might be a bit interested. But even though I’m vaccinated, there’s no way I’d go to Indonesia at the moment and I very much doubt they’ll have things safe by next year. Java and Bali are among the raging hot spots in the world at the moment.

I’ve also noticed another attractive cruise departing March next year from Singapore, going up the west coast of Malaysia to Penang and Phuket, then coming down via Bali to Perth. I would love to do that, but Malaysia is also a raging virus hot spot and again, I very much doubt it will all be clear next year. I see things being still bad outside WA into 2023 now.

For my overseas readers, the Delta variant is “raging” on the east coast of Australia, mainly in New South Wales now, with Victoria following. Western Australia is one of the few places on the planet where there is no virus, but we’re being kept that way by tightly closed borders. No-one comes in or goes out without strict protocols and quarantines, and that doesn’t allow for holiday travel. Looks like international trips are out for some time to come. Oh well, more money for cars.

New developments

Hi again, on a grey and cool, calm day. I have washing that needs hanging out and although it rained this morning, I think I might get away with it now (2pm). Boring job! I always had in my mind to invent an automatic washing hanger-upper, but I couldn’t think of a way to do it.

I’ve long had an idea for another invention: a fast cooler. Just as we have a fast food heater in the microwave oven, I want the inverse, a box that cools food in seconds. I reckon it would sell like er, hotcakes, or maybe iceblocks.

There’s a bit of physics required. A microwave oven works by using electromagnetic waves to excite the water molecules in food.

We cool food by a freezer which chills air passing over a tube filled with refrigerant gas which has been rapidly expanded by applying mechanical energy. This works well, but it takes time to chill or freeze food. I’d like a way to do it faster. It might need to use another principle, but I haven’t worked it out.

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I mentioned that the tyre pressure warning came on in the Pug recently, yet it didn’t feel any different, no flat tyre feeling or handling difference.

I got around to checking and pumping a few days ago and found that only one of the tyres measured as down in pressure, the left front. I’ve got my tyre pump set to Bars, where 2.2Bar is 32psi (yes, even after all these years of metric system, I haven’t been able to get my head around Bar vs psi). Anyway, it was only this one tyre and it only measured 2.1Bar vs 2.2. The pump raised the pressure and automatically stopped itself, and the warning has gone away.

This is good. It shows that the pressure sensors are quite sensitive, and yet a warning is not something to be frightened by. Unless you can feel the pressure drop, as we usually do, then you can probably keep driving for a short while.

While I had the pump out, I was going to check the spare as well. But it’s in the boot, “upside down”, with a big foam block in the middle holding the jack and tool kit. That means you can’t reach the tyre valve without taking it all out. Too hard. Maybe on a warm day when I’ve got more energy.

I’m enjoying this car so much that I “take the long way home”, that is, when I leave the Butler shops I go down to Marmion Ave, then go at the 80Km/h limit to the Kingsbridge Bvd shops, then instead of turning left to go to my house, I continue on to Connolly Drive, back up to the Butler shops again, back via Marmion Ave and finally home. A double loop. I’m using the clutchless manual more now, and realising that even if I have it in manual mode in 3rd or 4th, it automatically drops down to 2nd when I slow for a corner or traffic lights, allowing me to choose when to shift up again. It’s a 6 speed, and I’m finding that 3rd is a very flexible gear for around town. This is a big 6 cylinder, torquey diesel with twin turbos, remember, so when I accelerate away in 3rd, it responds beautifully. Sheer pleasure. I drive it for the fun of it.

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I’ve just read that the James Webb Telescope is finally, finally, set for launch, on 21 October.

This is the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope after around 25 years’ service. The Webb telescope has been in the design and build phase for nearly as long, experiencing delay after delay, budget cut after budget cut. It’s been like fusion power, always 20 years in the future. See more here.

Hubble had a major failure last month and has been brought back to life, but at the expense of a redundant power source, meaning if it fails in this way again, that’s it.

The Webb telescope replacement is a huge improvement incorporating all the latest technology and should surpass the Hubble in all respects, which means we should see spectacular views. If Hubble images were awe inspiring, the Webb images should knock our socks off. I can’t wait.

Unfortunately, even after the launch, it will take about four days to reach its orbital point and another four weeks to unfold itself. Then there’ll be weeks of testing and calibration, no doubt. It’ll be worth it. The sheer terror mentioned in the article is the nervousness about a launch failure, or a failure in space, or a mechanical failure to unfold, or a myriad of other problems. It will be at the Langrange 1 point, meaning there’s no chance of an astronaut mission to fix it.

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I think I’m about to buy a digital telecine chain. As someone who used to operate telecine chains at Channel 7 many years ago, I never thought I would say that.

Facebook occasionally justifies itself for me. This device is advertised. It’s a jerk motion (non-real time) film scanner for 8mm or Super 8mm. It’s cheap Chinese, A$79, but at that price I’m prepared to take a risk.

It’s not a projector. It transports the film one frame at a time and positions the frame over a digital sensor, like a tiny digital camera. The frame is snapped and stored digitally and the film is moved on to the next frame. The stored frames are on an SD card and software plays all the frames in sequence as an mp4 video file.

I have three 7″ reels (better check that diameter as it’s the maximum) that I shot in the 1970s, and I haven’t seen them since then (nearly 50 years!) Lucky it’s Kodachrome, meaning it will not have deteriorated. I’ve been meaning to get them transferred to DVD or BluRay but it’s expensive, in the hundreds of $$$ per reel last time I checked. It says it will do 1080p, which is BluRay quality, but how good it is optically remains to be seen.

I haven’t ordered it yet, but I think I will.

P.S.: I have now. I’m awaiting delivery.

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Part of my family tree.
Janet Stevenson Lawrie, above. Count the generations L-R, six shown here.

My one year subscription to MyHeritage.com expires on Wednesday and I’m about to cancel the automatic renewal. A year ago I paid $235 for a year so that I could use their enhancement and colourisation software to rejuvenate all my old black and white images. When I say “my”, I mean some of mine but mainly Dad’s and Uncle Darcey’s.

I finished all the images within a few months (one at a time, very tedious), then kinda got sucked in to the family tree side of it. After a year, the tree has grown remarkably and I have seven or eight generations going back to the 1700s.

One thing it’s shown me is the Lawrie side, my maternal grandmother’s ancestry. Her maiden name was Lawrie and her parents were from Scotland, arriving in South Australia in the late 1800s. I was dimly aware of a Lawrie branch of relatives in Bruce Rock in the 1950s, but I never got to know them or understand the relationship. Now I do.

The tree is enormous and I’ve downloaded as many versions of it as I can. One version is a wall chart about 2m wide by 1m high. Another is a pdf book which comes to 148 pages. Of course, every time the tree is updated, you have to output fresh versions of these charts and books. That’s what I need to do now, before I finish the subscription.

Why am I finishing? Cost, what else? Renewal is US$368! That’s too much for me. I’m sure I’ll get a phone call pleading with me to stay and offering a better price, but I think I’ve done all I need to do.

Hummin’ along

Denmark houses. No room for a pool.

A very nice day for a change, blue sky, sunshine, calm. Wow, horizontal rain and blasting winds on Sunday and Monday. Unpleasant. Better get my washing done while I can because there’s more rain on the way.

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I’ve just completed my census, six days early. On-line. I got a letter from the ABS on Monday with my number and instructions. It was easy, I had no problems. Security is tight – first, a temporary password, then you generate your own password, then a four digit PIN. My password is generated by my password keeper program and is 12 random characters, which I don’t even see, since it’s automatically stored in the pwd software.

I’ve been using this password keeping software, Dashlane, for about four years now and I like it. They got me in with the offer of a year’s free use about four years ago, which was clever because once you start using it, it’s hard to give it up. You’re hooked in.

I’ve been using another program, PortableSafe from a small UK writer, for more than ten years, but he stopped development and wasn’t interested in suggestions. I asked him if he’d be interested in selling the source code so that someone else could carry it on, but he declined, so it remains an orphan. I paid for my copy, of course, about A$17, I think, and it continues to work to this day.

The reason I continue to use it, even though I run a new one, is that it now contains dozens, scores, maybe even hundreds of the serial numbers of my paid software, going back years. That means it holds all the old numbers too, in case I need them. Plus a whole lot of membership numbers, PINs, account numbers, logins and so on. It lends itself to that more than the new one, Dashlane, as you can create whatever fields you want.

It’s also very small, about 100K bytes, with an attached, encrypted data file of about 20KB which is stored on my local drive. I do a backup (one button) about once a month, and also email myself a copy of the program plus the data file every so often, which means it’s stored on Gmail’s servers too.

Dashlane (strange name, I don’t know why it’s called that) is a US program, NY I think, and its data is strictly stored on its US servers. That means you have to have an internet connection for it to work, which is another reason I keep PortableSafe going.

When I first bought in, it was a stand-alone program but they’ve changed it recently. You can still use it stand-alone (meaning start it up on the desktop with a short cut and then enter your master password). But they’ve completely integrated it into the browser now, Mozilla Firefox in my case. When you start Firefox, Dashlane starts too and connects to the servers after you enter the master password. A small icon at top right of the browser shows green when logged in and red if it’s not logged in.

Thereafter, whenever the browser asks you to log in to a site or has any boxes asking you to enter information, when you click in any box Dashlane pops up and offers to supply the information. This is a boon for entering repetitive information, long numbers and passwords. I find it quite reliable and controllable.

The drawback is that I no longer see the passwords. In the old days, I used to be able to remember quite a few of them, but at 12 characters and digits, that’s not realistic any more. As I say, I find it reliable so I’m happy.

Also, when you’re on a new site and need to provide a new password, Dashlane offers to generate a random string of however many characters you choose.

Too much information!

Oh, forgot to mention: there’s a Dashlane plugin for Android, so you have it on your phone and tablet too. Very handy and it’s a second source, just in case you can’t connect from your PC or laptop.

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Head of Australia’s vaccine strategy not ruling out cash incentives to achieve 80% target

“Lt Gen John Frewen says demand still exceeds supply but incentives may be needed to counter vaccine hesitancy later in the year.”

They’re talking about offering financial rewards to people to get vaccinated, maybe later this year.

Hold on! I’ve had my two jabs – how about rewarding me for getting in early?

If there’s a possibility of a financial bonus later in the year, won’t some people hold off getting jabbed until the reward is firmed up?

How about reversing the logic? How about fining people, or applying some other disincentive, for people who haven’t had their jabs by a certain date. The government will know who they are (although there’s an element of privacy there).

Bad thinking, and I’m not happy that the ALP are pushing the idea.

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I’ve just had another go at my Verada, parked outside in the laneway while the wet weather washed away my desire to work on it. đŸ™‚ I charged the battery overnight and it started first go, running smoothly and idling like a sewing machine. Good car!

While I had the bonnet up, for the first time I noticed a sticker on the underside of the bonnet. It’s for the change of the timing belt at around 110,000Km (the car’s done 139,000 approx.). Hooray! It came without any log book and I was a bit worried about it. It’s an expensive job and I didn’t want to spend the money. Now I can advertise it with a clear conscience.

Initial purchase price $1250; new exhaust $700; new brake pads and rotors all around $750; new RH tail light lens $70; new power antenna $40; polish headlight lenses $50; new roof lining $230. Will I be able to recoup?

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I started using my new Aldi hot water machine this morning. Excellent. The old machine went ker-chunk, ker-chunk, ker-chunk and always dripped a fairly long stream after it shut off. This new one just goes mmmmmmmmmmm and shuts off with a couple of drops at the end. Choice of 75, 85 and 98 deg and 220ml, 250ml and 300ml quantity. I like it!