Ho ho ho

Merry Christmas Card by Red_Box | VideoHive

I forgot to wish you all, my readers, a very Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for the New Year 2022.

It’s been a difficult year for many people, although we’ve mostly been shielded from the virus here in WA. But just when we didn’t want to hear bad news, it’s slipped past our borders and there have been five cases so far discovered here in the past couple of days. Let’s hope our luck holds and, as happened earlier this year, it doesn’t break out any further.


And I’m lamenting; even though we’ve hardly begun our summer, the summer solstice has passed and the days will be getting shorter from now on. It’s hard to believe, we’ve hardly had any hot weather so far. Can’t be helped.


Holy smoke, I’ve just seen the forecast: tomorrow, Xmas Day, has been revised upwards another degree to 43degC, and Sunday Boxing Day is now set to be 44degC. Yowch!


The heat is on

Cool. Snow sliding, somewhere in Austria, 1974. © PJ Croft

Whoooo, it’s warming up. The forecast for Xmas Day a week ago was for 29deg, but they’ve been revising it upwards ever since. It was 35deg today, it’ll be 39deg tomorrow Xmas Eve, and it’ll be 42deg on Xmas Day. This is the way it was ten years ago, before a decade of moderate (high 20s, low 30s) temps.

Doesn’t worry me, solar power plus aircon means a very pleasant house.


I’ve just come back from doing a small amount of food shopping for Xmas Day. The benefit of living in a small neighbourhood is that the shops are not very crowded. The local Coles carpark was pretty full, but I had no trouble parking To be honest, because there are no bays for seniors there, I use a Parents with Prams bay. I feel I’m just as entitled as they are, given as I struggle to get in and out of the car and have trouble walking these days.

I can’t get over all the people with trolleys full of bottled “mineral water”. There’s nothing wrong with tap water! If they were just wasting their money, I wouldn’t mind, but it’s the plastic waste that’s the problem. Hundreds and thousands of empty plastic bottles thrown out afterwards. I wonder how many people could really taste the difference between “spring” water and tap water. Ridiculous.


My usual Silver Chain cleaning lady is off on holidays at the moment and today they sent a man in her place. I’m a bit disconcerted, not about the guy, about my attitude. To be frank, I don’t like having a man do my cleaning and I’m asking myself why. There’s only one obvious answer, that I find it demeaning for a guy to be doing a menial job for me. Whereas it’s not for a woman. That’s pretty sexist, I admit.

Yet I don’t find it demeaning for a guy to be cleaning toilets at the shopping centre or serving me at a supermarket checkout. I guess it’s because I’m used to those, whereas it’s new to be having a guy clean my house. Oh well, I’ll get used to this too.


I had my COVID booster vaccination last Thursday, as I said, and had a slight bruised feeling afterwards but nothing more. But on Monday, four days later, I developed strong ‘flu feelings – mild fever, bad aches and pains and bad fatigue. I went back to bed at midday (on the bed, not in it, it’s too warm here to get under the doona) and slept for several hours. Up for some food, then bed at 9.30pm. Still felt fatigued on Tuesday but the other symptoms were gone. Much better yesterday and today.

The question is, was this a reaction to the vaccination (Pfizer)? Four days later? It seems unlikely. But who am I to know. I had to cancel a doctor appt on Wednesday for fear it was COVID or I could have asked him.


I finally got the Verada going last week. It wasn’t the bad connection problem in the Martybugs article. The RAC guy did a great contortionist act and got his head right under the dash, but he couldn’t see a problem.

But he was familiar with this model and said it can be a small stepper motor in the fuel metering intake. He fiddled around and actually got it going. but it was running roughly, so it was onto a tow truck and off to their workshops.

It turned out to need a new mass airflow meter assembly. Actually, a new one would have cost around $650 but they sourced a used one for about $290. So all up with labour, $371.

How odd that this should go wrong just at the time I was planning to sell it. Unfortunately, it’s not finished yet – the tow truck guy pointed out that the two back tyres need replacing, and the mechanic pointed out fairly bad oil leaks from the camshaft cover gaskets. The front one on the V6 is not too expensive to replace, but the back one needs the exhaust manifold removed to get at it, which is labour intensive. To do both would be around $650. Damn,

I only paid $1,200 for that car and all the things I’ve done since are starting to add up. I doubt I’ll get my money back. I don’t know what to do now.


Queen Victoria Building (QVB) in Sydney. © PJ Croft 2021

Wow, rain, and more rain. Even in summer, the rain continues from the wettest October on record. We had a heavy shower yesterday afternoon and a lot more last night. It looked threatening this morning but seems to have fined up to a beaut day now, 23deg.


I had my COVID vaccine booster yesterday, so I’m triple vaccinated now. The first case of the new virus variant has appeared in Perth, so it looks like we might be hit soon. Our borders open on 5 February, so the other strain(s) will arrive soon afterwards. I really, really don’t want to catch it.

Actually, my Pfizer vaccination yesterday was so painless and so quick that I wonder if I’ve really had it. I hardly felt anything, and the nurse seemed to hide the needle after it was done. I wonder if it actually happened. I had to go to the pharmacy afterwards and asked if they do the Moderna vaccine. Yes, she said. I wonder, if I waited a month or so, whether I might have that too. I know I’m being ultra cautious but not unnecessarily so, I think. I’ll ask the GP.


I also had a haircut yesterday, the first since January. At that time, the lady hairdresser advised me to ask for no. 3 next time, so that’s what I asked for at a new barber near me. Wow, I got shorn! It was all over in less than five minutes and I look like a newly buzzcut army recruit. There was no styling, no shaving around the nape of the neck. It’s lucky hair grows back.

The good part was that they only charged me $15. I think I’ll be a bit more careful what I ask for next time, though.


I was put on a new regime of diabetes drugs in October and wow, they are working. My morning blood glucose readings are now down into the normal range (4 – 8 mmol/ml) now. I even had a 4.6 reading a couple of days ago. That’s nearly into hypo territory, although I didn’t feel anything.

The evening readings are still too high, but way down on what they were. I get 11 – 19 mmol/ml, way outside the 4-8 range, but much better than up to now.

The downside is weight gain. Ugh! I’ve gained around 5Kg in the past three months. My diet hasn’t changed, it’s all down to the other two new drugs, Jardiance and gliclazide. I try to eat as little as possible, skipping lunch on many days, but that doesn’t seem to help. Ugh.


I’ve finally got around to tackling the Mitsubishi Verada’s starting problem. Or rather, I got the RAC onto it. Their mobile mechanic got under the dash (wow, what a magnificent contortion he did to get under there), in a look at the connector mentioned in the Martybugs article, but to no avail. Then he looked at the throttle air assembly and reckoned there’s a small stepper motor in there which sets the fuel/air mix. It goes wrong. He adjusted it manually (with a screwdriver, that is) and got the car running, but it wasn’t idling properly.

So it was time for the tow and a truck arrived to take it to the Joondalup workshops where it is still. They phoned me this morning and said they can get a used throttle assembly locally by this afternoon, for an all up price including labour of around $350. Go ahead, I said.

I’ve also asked them to look at the power steering fluid leak. No news on that yet.

As well, the tow driver pointed out that both my rear tyres are no longer legal. So there’s another $250 or so to get new tyres.

I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t sell the Honda MDX and hold onto the Verada. It’s such a nice car to drive. I should be able to pick it up this afternoon, they said. Hmmmm. I don’t need a 4WD, whereas I do need a station wagon.


I mentioned the book The Wild Silence by Raynor Winn. It’s the successor to The Salt Path, her story of walking the coastal path from near Bristol to Land’s End, then to Portsmouth. That was a brilliant read and I had high hopes for her next one.

I give The Wild Silence 9/10. Not quite as good as the first book, but still a good read. She’s a born writer. She wrings poetry out of every scene.

The first section is rather dark, describing the slow death of her mother in hospital and interweaving descriptions of her childhood and her father. It’s rather gloomy but tells you why she is the woman she is now, introverted and agoraphobic.

Then we move on to the story of how they come to be managers and restorers of a farm in Cornwall, near Polruan. The owner is a London financial type who wanted someone to “re-wild” his hobby farm, to bring it back to the state it was in before it was farmed to death. Voila, they make a deal. No money changes hands, they get rent free living in a house on the farm in return for doing the work. This is right up Ray and Moth’s alley, just what they wanted.

But just before this falls into their laps, she describes her writing process, how she came to write the first book, The Salt Path, and how it came to sell much better than she expected, such that they make a steady income from it.

After they get the farm back up and mostly rewilded, that generates enough income that they want to go walking again, mostly for Moth’s health. So they choose a strenuous walk in Iceland. Bloody ‘ell, of all places, when Britain offers so much.

The rest of the book, then, about the last quarter, is description of their Iceland walk. To be honest, it wasn’t that gripping. I found myself skipping ahead a bit. I still rate it a great read, though. Thoroughly recommended.


Semeru © PJ Croft 2021

The news is telling of the eruption of Mt Semeru on Java. The small smoking cone at left in the distance above is Gunung (Mount) Semeru. It’s pronounced Sem-AIR-oo, emphasis on the middle syllable, not SEM-a-roo as all the TV newsreaders are saying. How do I know? I’ve heard the Indonesians saying it.


OK, Summer’s really here. It’s hot! It’s 40deg today after 33C yesterday. I was going to do some work on the Verada which is parked out in the lane, in the sun, but it’s too hot. Burn fingers hot. I’ll leave it until Friday when it’s forecast for 25deg.


You have to chuckle. Watching a news report last night about scammers and the millions they’re hauling in from the gullible, the lead detective’s name is Detective Phair. And another detective is named Ken Gamble. Unfortunately, the people who thought they were having a phair gamble with their life savings soon found out the crooks don’t play by the rules.


Weather stations -the one on the left is from Jaycar at $399. The one on the right is also from Jaycar, a more modest $139.

This one’s from the Wish web site at $39. I know which one I would buy. if it’s inferior and dies prematurely, it’s no great loss. Sorry Jaycar.


Another great graphic from http://www.crispian-jago.blogspot.com The guy is a genius.

© crispian jago. I highly recommend a look at his web site. There’s more humour of this kind.


Another whopper from the wish.com web site:

999,000,000 lumens! Wow.

A lumen is the unit of light output, so they’re using it correctly. But 1 Billion lumens is very hard to believe.

A 6 Watt LED globe is 450 lumens approx. A 300 Watt PAR incandescent lamp (those big conical things, the type used for outdoor lighting) is 4000 lumens and that’s pretty bright.

So this torch is supposed to be equivalent to around 250,000 PAR lamps? I don’t believe it!

I will believe it’s incredibly bright, with the emphasis on incredibly, meaning not believable. Anyway, it’s quite cheap, around $14, so I’ve ordered one. Its main use for me will be protection. I carry it in my bag and if threatened, I shine it in the face of the attacker. It would distract him enough for me to get away. And I wouldn’t face any charges of carrying a deadly weapon. That’s the theory, anyway.


Digital image sensor. Magnificent!

Aaaah, summer. A beautiful day, cloudless blue sky, calm and 32degC max. Luvverly.

My friend is in Austria and she sent me the view from her window:


It looks nice to us, but I’m sure it’s less pleasant if you have to trudge through it. Or shelter from it.


My title today refers to a PayPal transaction. In August I placed a web order for an electronic device from China (I blogged about it at the time, a “digital telecine”). The price was US$67 or approx. A$97 and I paid by PayPal.

Well, it was one of those “too good to be true” items and nothing arrived, no goods. I sent an email a week ago asking what’s the deal? As expected, I got no reply.

OK, I thought, let’s see how PayPal will help. So about 5pm today I filled out the “Problem” form on PP, and to my amazement, in seconds, within 10 seconds anyway, I got a notice to say my issue has been resolved and I have a refund of the full amount. Brilliant!

This was not a trivial amount – A$97 was a bit too much to just shrug my shoulders. I am impressed! Thank you, PayPal. I use them for almost all my transactions and this is the first time I’ve needed to complain – this is great.


I’ve just placed yet another order for a new Li-Ion battery for my Sony Clie PEG-NZ90 hand held PDA (Personal Digital Assistant).

I’ve been trying to get this battery for the past couple of years, but they seem to be as rare as rocking horse shit. In the past few years I’ve ordered from four or five suppliers in NZ, New York, Canada, the UK and somewhere else but each time, my order was cancelled and thankfully, my money was refunded. Strangely, the NZ guy said he didn’t post to Australia. Huh?

Anyway, once again I’ve found a supplier in the USA (what did we do before Google?) and ordered two at US$7.95 each, plus $15 p&p. Let’s see how we go this time.

The original battery (I only ever had one) started swelling up and wouldn’t hold a charge, back in the late ’00s. I don’t really want to use the device, but it’s a very neat machine and I reckon there are people around the world who’d like to own one for nostalgia reasons. I’ve seen one advertised on eBay for US$285! I’ve still got all the bits – manuals, CD with software, charger, earpieces, cords and so on, the complete set. I can’t remember exactly what I paid. It was from the Sony Shop in Murray St in 2003 and I think it might have been around $800. Wow.


Look at this!

No, it’s not scratched film. It’s a shot of the night sky using a telescope, and this is what astronomers have to put up with now. These are the very bright light trails from a new group of satellites put into orbit by SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company.

Amazingly, these are just the latest thousand approx. of around 12,000 satellites that he is planning to put into orbit, to provide world-wide internet coverage. At his profit, of course.

The thing is, there are no rules or laws to regulate who can put satellites into orbit or how many! As you can imagine, astronomers are livid. This is going to spoil earth-based astro-photography and telescope observations forever more. Unless someone can take these satellites out of orbit, which is very unlikely. One man, one company can spoil astronomy, and no-one can stop him!

The only answer is for astro-cameras to be placed into orbit outside the orbit of these small bright satellites. That will be hugely expensive, and who will do it?

There’s one bright prospect: the James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope, is to be finally launched from the Guyana launch site in the next few weeks. This promises to be a fantastic addition to our view of the universe and it’s been decades in the making. I fear for it, though. It is a huge job and incredibly risky and expensive. The lift-off will be in a few weeks, but once it reaches Earth-orbit, it then has to be tested, then boosted to a Lagrange point, where the gravitational pull is equal between Earth and the Sun. This is around 1/3 of the distance between Earth and the Sun and means the telescope will be much too far away for repairs if anything goes wrong.

Once it gets there, a few months from now, the satellite’s sails (solar panels) have to be deployed, then the huge mirror optic has to unfold and lock into place before it starts to work. The potential for something to go wrong is huge, and if it does, it’s hard to see how it could be fixed. There are going to be some very nervous NASA people for the next few months.

But assuming it all works, WOW! We will be able to see the universe with something like 100x the resolution of Hubble, and that was pretty amazing. I can’t wait.

Next day: completely by coincidence, this superb article explains it all much better than I can – https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-nasas-james-webb-space-telescope-matters-so-much-20211203/?utm_source=pocket&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pockethits The drawings and diagrams are excellent. I highly recommend the article, it’s long but worth reading.


I’m very happy to see the end of the political career of the member for Pearce (my federal electorate). This is a guy who showed from his early university law course that he is arrogant, misogynist and boastful. He grew up in a Liberal Party family and thought he was destined for a great career. Unfortunately he put his boasts in writing.

He was elected to the WA state parliament, then moved to federal politics and soon made attorney-general. But his boastful, sexist past came back to bite him, unfortunately involving the suicide of a talented woman. He is not accused of her death, but there’s no doubt that mud stuck.

He’s been forced to give up his high ambitions and is quitting federal parliament. Good result, as far as I’m concerned. It just reinforces the lesson I learnt in life, if you do wrong things, it will come back to bite you. Nothing more sure.


Canon Pro 1 digital camera.

This is the inside view of one of the first all-in-one digital cameras, the Canon Pro-1. It was one of the first, in the early 2000s, with a high quality zoom lens fixed to a body with a 12MPx digital sensor.