When a country goes bad

An American shows his minimal gun collection. What an idiot.

Urrrgh, I’m writing this at 4.30am. I cannot get to sleep. Night after night it’s the same. I lie there until 4am, 5am, when I finally drop off, then I sleep until midday. It’s accompanied by intense restless leg syndrome, the need to move my legs every 20-30seconds. I’m writhing around, in other words, endlessly. I had to give up this morning and get up as it was useless to continue.

I think it’s a side effect of a medication I’m taking. I’m stopping it, but it has to be tapered off so it’s slowly eliminated from the body. I stopped two days ago but obviously it hasn’t lost it’s malign power yet. I never used to have trouble sleeping but several things have this insomnia effect now: Tramadol, duloxetine, anything with codeine in it, and now sertraline as well. I never used to have this trouble. Gettin’ old.

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What a GREAT result last Saturday. A return to a progressive Labor government after nine years of sleaze, corruption, misogyny, lies, and sheer incompetence. A return to honesty, integrity, progressive policies and actions, positive meaningful action on climate change mitigation and a return to presenting Australia to the world as a country I can be proud of. In my own electorate of Pearce, the Labor candidate decisively beat the former Liberal, the former federal attorney general and self promoting future PM no less, who was forced to drop out of the race after allegations of rape (which he denies), leading to the death of a woman. Good riddance.

Repeat, I will be proud to call myself Australian once more.

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The headline means the United States of America. This is a sick country, full of sick people. Not all, obviously, just the Republicans and gun lovers.

This latest massacre is the 27th school shooting spree this year!! How can this be allowed to happen? They say it’s not the guns that kill, it’s the crazies, the mentally ill. That’s true, but if the crazies couldn’t get possession of guns, they wouldn’t be able to carry out these obscene killing sprees.

Another American gun nut case.

But in addition, Americans’ addiction to guns is unlike anywhere else in the world. As Joe Biden says, there are crazies in other countries too, but we don’t see anything like the number of gun violence incidents in ‘normal’ countries. The straightforward answer is it’s the incredible ease of getting an assault rifle or other killing weapon, which has no other purpose but to kill people.

It’s encouraged by the evil attitudes of the Republican party politicians and the gun lobby, backed up by the arms manufacturers.

I don’t see any end to this. The massacres will continue, on and on, horror after horror. Nothing will stop it as long as the Republican party is in Congress. They are evil.

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I have to say, what a shit country America is. This self proclaimed “Greatest Country in the World”. This This “Blessed by God” country. But consider:

  • They can’t stop these massacres of school children and totally innocent people.
  • They can’t work out how to control the mass proliferation of guns in private hands.
  • They can’t get their Congress to work, to pass sensible laws.
  • They can’t have an unbiased Supreme Court. Their highest judges are politically biased.
  • Even after two centuries, they are still racially bigoted and killing black people.
  • They can’t organise a decent, fair health care system which doesn’t bankrupt the sick.
  • They can’t run elections fairly. Gore was the winner.
  • Half of the citizens can’t be bothered to vote. The Republican Party deliberately tries to stop people voting, almost always the poorest, most disadvantaged, ie coloured people.
  • They are one of the richest, yet have the most wealth inequality on Earth.
  • They still practice barbaric capital punishment, alongside other fine countries such as Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Iran, China, Russia and others. They practice “cruel and unusual punishment” by jailing felons for 20 years or more on Death Row, then executing them. This violates their own constitution.
  • They practice torture, alongside the countries mentioned above.
  • They invade any other country they don’t like.
  • They glorify war and the military.
  • They bomb and assassinate anyone they choose, usually in secret and with civilian casualties.
  • Their companies steal products and ideas and try to drive competitors out of business – eg CSIRO and Wi-fi, Ugg Boots.
  • Need I go on? I could.

There are many good things about America, but on balance they are an evil country wearing a pseudo-religious cloak.

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What a beautiful day. I don’t believe we had an autumn this year. It’s only a month or so that we were still in summer, with every day around 25deg, even up to 30C. Then within a week it switched to cool and cloudy, average 20deg days and a winter storm with a few days of rain. It’s the first day of winter on Wednesday, but I reckon we jumped straight from a long summer into winter a couple of weeks ago.

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I’ve become addicted to watching the YouTube videos by a guy called RainmanRay. He’s an automobile mechanic in Sarasota, Florida and he’s a real character. He has dozens of clips up on YouTube, where he shows almost every step of diagnosing an fixing customers’ cars and “trucks”, as the Yanks call large utes.

This is not time wasted, as I’m learning a hell of a lot about how to do things. Crumbs, cars have become incredibly complex, with electronics controlling almost everything. There are many sensors and switches involved in anti-pollution, preventing waste gases and oil fumes being vented to the atmosphere. This is good, of course, but it makes cars very complex these days.

Ray doesn’t just show his repairs, though, he goes into a lot of detail about his diagnosis and why he narrows his choices down to one or more parts. One thing stands out, how important having an ODB2 diagnostic code reader is. He uses it extensively, plugging it in as the first step on almost every vehicle. It will even diagnose tyre faults as most tyres have pressure sensors in them these days, as does my Peugeot.

He’s very experienced and it’s obvious that he knows many common faults. He’s nearly always able to say, “Hmmm, that symptom is caused by this … in my experience.” He always explains it, though, often in great detail. I’m learning a hell of a lot, and there are many, many video clips to learn from.

One thing that amazes me is that he dives right in, dismantling this and that with seemingly no regard for remembering how it came apart, or which bolt and nut came from where. He doesn’t make diagrams or notes. He just seems to remember where everything came from and the right nuts and bolts just come to hand. I am hugely impressed and I highly recommend his channel. Just look up RainmanRay. Just develop a tolerance for “click”, “reverse click”, “gravity”, “doodle loodle loo”, and other very frequent words. It can get on your nerves, a bit.

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I’m watching the drama series COBRA on SBS every Wednesday night at the moment. It’s a UK-made show, predicated on a coronal mass ejection from the Sun, which causes almost total power failure across the entire UK and Europe. (This is a real possibility – it’s not made up. It’s happened in the past.)

When it started, I thought it was going to be real science fiction, but it’s become just a political thriller with too many human-interest side stories for my liking. I would far rather see all the ramifications of this almost total loss of power and failure of many electronic devices. Yet every character’s mobile phone seems to continue working as if nothing had happened.

However, I’m still enjoying it, wouldn’t miss it in fact. I record every episode and I may even store it for a second viewing.

COBRA is a very clever and meaningful acronym which stands for Cabinet Office Briefing Room A. It’s a code word for the top levels of government and the civil forces to meet in times of emergency. Lots of potential for great stories there, I think.

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Now is the winter …

Phwooaaar, what a sudden change. After the hottest summer on record in Perth and a seemingly endless run of warm 25C days and beautiful weather, it started raining last night and it’s only 12deg now. It’s hardly stopped raining all day. I’ve had to put on my warm jacket for the first time since last winter. Brrrr.

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The drive radio announcer has asked us, “Apart from your house and car, what’s the most expensive thing you’ve bought or own?” Good question. I had to think hard about it.

At first I thought, I have nothing over about $1,000, but then I remembered: my pre-paid funeral – $3,350 and my ASUS 4K OLED touch-screen laptop – $2,400. Oh, and my LG OLED TV was $3,400.

I have three cars so I guess I should nominate one as my main car and the other two as indulgences. The Mitsubishi Verada only cost $1,250, the Honda MDX cost $3,000 and the Peugeot 407 coupe cost $4,400. I suppose you could count those as a bit expensive but not as expensive as a modern car, a second (holiday) house, or a yacht or power boat, none of which I own. I also have a few watches, but the most I’ve ever paid was about $275. All the others were no more than $150 or so.

I have a lot of cameras but all of them were around the $1,000 mark new. In about 2002 I bought a set of two Contax G film camera bodies and three lenses in Singapore, but they were all second hand. Individually each item was about $600 or so, quite high end at the time, a total of about $2,000. Digital was hardly viable then and na├»vely I thought I would always be able to sell them here and recoup my investment. But digital went ahead at a rapid pace and no-one wants film cameras any more. Even so, it’s a very nice set.

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In that regard I nearly weakened a couple of weekends ago. A guy advertised three Nikon F801 bodies, one F801 and two F801Ss – three for a total of $150! That was one of my most fondly remembered film cameras and I was very tempted. But then I looked at the price of film these days, and almost died. A roll of Fuji Provia 36 exposure is $35. That’s just for the film – processing is extra. I don’t know what that costs but it would probably be at least $20. And it would involve driving 35 minutes into the city to drop it off for processing, then the same to collect it afterwards. Then the time involved to set up the scanner and scan all the film to digital. It would be crazy.

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I’m now quad COVID vaxxed and Fluvaxxed as well. I have been feeling fairly smug and blase, not bothering to wear the mask (we don’t have to wear them in WA now). But with the upspike in infections in the past couple of days, 17,000 on Tuesday and 16,000 yesterday, I think I’ll go back to wearing the mask while shopping. It’s a bit risky and as Dr Norman Swan said on the radio, is wearing a mask really too much to ask? Better to be safe, I think.

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Waiting in the medical centre yesterday, I saw a young boy (about 5 years old?) walking toward the exit, hand in hand with his mother. As they walked past, he looked up at her and said, “I was bwave, wasn’t I?” I was charmed.

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In the pharmacy later I met up with a guy I used to work with for many years at Channel 7. He was always slim, of normal build, never overweight.

Yet he developed type 2 diabetes just like overweight me, and now he tells me he’s going into hospital to have a heart bypass operation. Oh, I said, stents are easy. No, he said, not a stent, a chest open artery bypass. Crumbs.

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I’ve become addicted to watching YouTube video clips of car mechanical repairs and restorations. Many of them are repairs, which are interesting enough, but many of them involve the guys buying crashed cars from auction yards. It’s amazing – acres and acres of delectable high spec cars, most of them badly smashed. It makes me wonder what driving is like in the US. So many crashes!

But a smashed car doesn’t worry these guys, especially when it’s a Ferrari or Lamborghini or Mercedes or Porsche, because that’s what they go for. One guy in particular has a stable of about ten high end cars that he has bought as wrecks – a Ferrari, a Lambo, an Aston Martin, a Porsche 911, a BMX X6 and an i8. Incredible. He’s paid up to US$50,000 for some of them, even as wrecks, and he spends many thousands repairing them, but he more than recoups his outlay.

Anyway, I find it fascinating and I’ve learnt a hell of a lot. In particular, stay away from BMWs and Range Rovers. Great cars when they’re going, but they don’t keep going and they’re bloody expensive when they break, which they do. Mercedes are pretty reliable, but the parts are exorbitantly expensive. Ho hum. I keep buying LOTTO tickets.

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Which reminds me, I’ve read several times in the past few years what I thought was sarcasm, about wiring looms in older Mercedes cars which break down and disintegrate. I thought it was a joke.

But no, it’s real. In the 1990s, Mercedes had the idea that they would make the plastic insulation of its wiring break down naturally, so as to help with recycling. They assumed that their cars would have a life of, say, 15 – 20 years and that’s what the plastic was designed to last.

But as we know, people like to keep older cars going, so if you want to own a 1990s Mercedes you’d better know, your car is designed to break down. You’re probably going to be up for a complete new wiring loom, around US$5,000, plus the cost of dismantling your car and fitting the new wiring, costing at least as much again. Amazing. It’s not just a rumour. Beware.

A sad day

Aunt Vivienne. R.I.P.

I had a call this morning that I knew must come, but I’m sad all the same. My aunt, Vivienne Croft, wife of Dad’s older brother Darcey, died this morning. Just old age, a quiet, peaceful passing in Brisbane. It’s especially poignant because she was the last of the line of aunts and uncles on both sides of our family, in Sydney, Brisbane and Bruce Rock, WA.

On the east coast, in Sydney, Grandpa and Grandma Croft, (Ern and Doris), had four kids: Darcey, Jonathan (my Dad), Bill and Marion. All married and had kids of their own, but their generation have all passed on now, all the aunts and uncles. Aunty Viv was the last.

On the Western side of the country, it’s the same. Mum came from a family of six brothers and sisters and they’ve all passed on. I feel a bit sad today. I feel I was blessed by all my aunts and uncles, who all treated me with great kindness. I saw a lot of my WA aunts and uncles when I was growing up and I was looked after, given a bed and a place to live for months at a time when things were a bit difficult for Mum in the mid 1950s. That meant I got to know my Bruce Rock cousins and I had a great time with them. I was a few years younger than nearly all of them which made me feel a bit inferior, but I still had good times.

Uncle Darcey married Aunt Vivienne fairly late but they had four sons who have all turned out to be terrific cousins although, tragically one of Darcey andViv’s boys, Ernest, the eldest, died of a brain tumour in 2010.

The other cousins are Thomas (Tom), Jonathan and Donald. It was Tom who phoned me this morning, soon after Vivienne had passed away.

Being separated by this vast continent in the early part of our lives, we in WA didn’t get to know our Sydney and Brisbane cousins much, that is until the ’90s when email and the internet came along, and digital phone communications and mobile phones. I remember very occasionally taking or making interstate phone calls before the ’90s, in the analogue days, when the lines were noisy and crackly and it was hard to understand what was being said. Now it’s as easy as talking to someone down the street, and as cheap.

Tom and I chose the same career, electronics, and it’s great to be able to chat about electronic topics. Tom’s work has brought him over to WA a few times, so we’ve bonded more than the others. In the opposite sense to my WA cousins, where I was always the young ‘un, on the Eastern States’ Croft side I’m the oldest of all the cousins. That’s because Dad was the first of the four to marry.

When Dad was first diagnosed in 2001 with bowel cancer, which ultimately killed him, I spent a lot of time driving him around and we had a lot of time to talk. He told me then that when he was growing up, all he wanted to do was get married and have kids. Well, he did that for sure.

Aunty Viv was 98 when she died today. It feels strange to think that I’m 75, entering that final stretch of my life too.

R.I.P.

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I last saw Uncle Darcey and Aunty Viv in Brisbane in 2008 and I’ve got quite a lot of video of everyone over there from that visit, including of Ernie. [That’s provided I can get it back from my hard drive which chose to fail last Friday. I think the motor has failed as it’s not making any noises. That means the heads haven’t crashed onto the discs, which is a good sign. I plan to take it to a computer firm, recommended to me.]

For the past few years I’ve been thinking that I really should have made a trip over there to see Aunty Viv, because I might not get another chance. I had thought I might fly over on Frequent Flyer points, buy a car in Brisbane, see the relatives, then do a driving trip down the east coast, stopping off in Sydney to see the cousins there and going on down the NSW and Victorian coasts. Then driving back across the Nullarbor. It would have been a great trip.

But then the bushfires came in 2018, and driving in those areas and conditions didn’t seem feasible. Then the pandemic started in early 2019 and we were locked in to WA. No exit and no re-entry. That lasted until just a month ago, April 2022. In any case, the floods on the north coast of NSW made travel pretty difficult, so even if we are free to go now, it’s still not practical.

Which is a long way around of saying that my plans to see Aunty Viv, the last of the last, didn’t happen. No matter, I have my memories and my video. That will have to do.