Spring, sprang, sprung

Lake Batur, Bali, 1983 © PJ Croft 2022

Aaah, 23degC today and rising to 27deg, even 28deg later in the week. Spring has sprung at last. I hate August, I hate winter. Give me summer all year round, and especially give me October and November, the nicest months of the year.

___________________________________________

Today, Monday 26 September, is a public holiday for, would you believe, the Queen’s Birthday? I’m sure it’s been renamed the King’s Birthday, but it’s not his birthday. Anyway, it’s been tradition here for many years to maintain a fiction that it’s the Queen’s Birthday and it’s the first official day of the “Royal Show”. I used to go quite often as walking around the various exhibits was quite interesting, but I’m not up to it now.

Sympathy to the woman in Adelaide who stepped across a barrier and walked onto the track of a roller coaster trying to retrieve her dropped phone. Of course, she was hit by a roller car. She’s got severe injuries. What possessed her to do such a stupidly dangerous thing? Crazy!

____________________________________________

Jan Sobon, front centre, me back left. Sept 1963, magazine committee Northam Senior High School.

I got a shock last week, the night of the Queen’s funeral actually, when I received news that a long time high school friend, Jan Sobon, had died.

I only gradually got to know him as the years went by, as he kept a lot of his story to himself. But now I know that he was born in Germany in the same year as me, 1947. He was sent as a child migrant to WA by sea in the early 1950s and was sent to Northam. We met at Northam Senior High School, where he excelled as a swimmer in Northam’s Olympic length pool. He had the broad shoulders and big chest of a swimmer. I used to think he was Dutch, actually, only finding out he was from Germany much later.

In recent years I knew he was having trouble with a kind of arthritic condition in his hands, causing him trouble with gripping things and picking them up. But he was very active and made many trips to the Goldfields with a metal detector and his Subaru.

He graduated as an architect around 1970 and married one of the prettiest and nicest girls in the school, Vivienne. They had three children, Alexander, Gabriel and Zoe. Viv is an audiologist and that meant I met her son Gabriel a few years ago when I had a bit of hearing trouble. He is the only child I’ve met. Unfortunately the eldest, Alexander, succumbed to depression while at uni and took his life. That must have been very hard on Jan and Viv.

I went on a cruise with Jan in November 2014, a six week voyage sharing a cabin on the Arcadia. We flew to Singapore, boarded there and cruised via Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki Japan, Busan South Korea to Tian Jin, the port for Beijing. Four days in Beijing, then flying Vietnam Airlines to Hanoi for four days, then on to Bali for five days and home. This was a long trip and I during it I got to know Jan well.

So it’s a bit sad, not knowing he was so ill and not having a chance to say goodbye. Not realising he was ill. Sad. The first of our close group to go.

__________________________________________________

Among my Bali DVDs I have a movie called London Bridge Has Fallen. The Queen’s funeral reminded me of it, as the funeral was code-named London Bridge in all the British planning for many years.

However, the movie plot is that terrorists take the opportunity to stage a huge raid on the funeral, seeing that so many world leaders would be present. It’s an American movie of course, and the US president is the main target, but the terrorists don’t care who they kill or how many. It’s an Incredibly violent movie and you wonder how so many guns can be fired in public places with so few casualties among the innocent bystanders. Even the London Met Police are shown as undercover bad guys and get shot by the wonderful American good guys. Amazing. I might watch it again, just for laughs.

History part 3

Good day again. Beautiful blue sky day here, still a little cool at 20C but I can’t complain.

The two images above are from the web, and notice how they are different in flag patterns, cushion colours and crown types. Also:

The one on the left is the one currently on show, whereas the one on the right is very similar. I don’t know the answers. But wouldn’t it be cool to have two or more crowns to choose from?

I don’t know which location this NTV channel was broadcasting from, but I’m not sure Charles would appreciate being referred to as the new Queen.

Nor would Mr Musyoka have been happy to have previously withdrawn from the race [to be the new Queen?]

___________________________________________________

For my younger readers (almost everyone?) these are thermionic valves, or tubes as the Yanks like to call them. These were a common thing when I first started in electronics in the 1960s, these particular types (12AU7s) being used in audio frequency amplifiers. When I was working then, these were so cheap and common that when we tested them and found them weak, we just tossed them out and replaced them without a moment’s thought.

This picture is from an advert, maybe eBay(?) and the asking price is $125 each! Holy moley. Hi-fi nuts will pay a fortune these days for anything that seems in any way “special”. These are Mullard brand, common as dirt in the 60s, yet touted now as having some kind of magic properties. Crazy.

_____________________________________________

By the way, since the electrons within the glass envelope came from a heated wire cathode coated with a chemical that gave off a good supply of electrons, they “wore out”. That is, after a year or more, probably a lot longer, they gradually used up the chemical coating and became “low emission”, faulty. All valves had to be periodically tested and replaced as needed.

When transistors were invented, they didn’t need a heated cathode to supply the electrons any more. They are current-controlled variable current flow devices. The current (electrons) flowing from the emitter to the collector is regulated by the current flowing into or out of the base (depending on the type of transistor).

BJT = Bipolar Junction Transistor

A very small change in the amount of current in the base makes a big difference in the current in the collector, hence amplification.

Therefore, in theory, transistors, like diamonds, are forever. They don’t wear out, unlike valves. They don’t need “testing” unless there is an obvious fault. And they are CHEAP! They are made in such huge quantities and are so simple to manufacture that you can buy a bag of 200 of many types for a couple of dollars. For example:

A box of 200 common types that cost me about $3.
Cheap as chips – silicon chips.

Speaking of cheap and quantities, Large Scale Integrated circuits (microprocessors) use transistor circuits to simulate all kinds of electronic elements, as well as acting as switches and memory cells. The present day state of the art is to fit around three billion transistors on a die approximately 6-10mm square, with interconnection tracks as small as four nano-metres!

Present day CPUs on a large silicon die. These are multiple copies on a large wafer. They will be snapped apart along the lines above before being individually tested and packaged.

_____________________________________________________

An advertising image from the web site of my mattress manufacturer. Notice the feet on the base? I didn’t need a base as I used my existing one, but I couldn’t use this one. I have carpet, so these flat feet would have been useless to me. I don’t like these false wooden floors, I like carpet.

__________________________________________________

Netflix chooses programs to recommend to me from time to time, and not surprisingly, they’ve put The Crown up for me to watch again. I’ve actually watched it twice already and I have series 1 and 2 on DVD, but it’s a good while since I watched it so I’ve started it again from series 1, episode 1. Like a good piece of classical music, you see new things with each performance and I’m seeing things I’d missed or forgotten since first watching it in 2016. Crumbs, there are many things I don’t like about “Great” Britain, but I do admire their television, on top of their pageantry, royalty and uniforms.

However, we should not ignore the capacity of the British for brutality and savagery down through history. Their pitiless, ruthless pursuit of their imperial goals led to endless massacres, torture, racism and complete disregard for human rights for many hundreds of years. They simply stomped on the heads of anyone who stood in their way to their empire goals.

They were even merciless in killing their own people! Don’t forget the English civil wars in the 16th to 18th centuries, the dissolution of the monasteries and the banishment of Catholicism, the wars against the Scots, “the Clearances”, the takeover of the Scottish farms and the cruel dispossession of the crofters, and the barbarity of the repression of the Irish during the potato famines. The list goes on and on. Barbaric cruelty against their own people, on top of the atrocities committed against people of “lesser” races and countries.

And never forget, the term “hung, drawn and quartered” was invented by the English – hanging a man but not to death, then taking a sword or knife, drawing it down the chest and abdomen and quartering the abdomen so that the guts spills out, then just leaving him for the crows to feed on while he dies. How could any human commit such atrocities, but the English did.

Until a few years ago I didn’t realise the depths of Scottish people’s hatred of the English, but I do now.

________________________________________

History part 2

Real or replica? Replica, I’ll bet.

I’ve said before that I’m an Aussie through and through, a committed supporter of a plan for a republic for Australia, but I have to admit to admiring the UK in this time of changeover of monarchs. I’m boggled by the pageantry and colour, the military precision, the tradition, the history, the uniforms. I admit, I love it.

I’d be interested to know why and how the uniforms are chosen for these ceremonies. Chas and William were dressed as RAF Air Marshalls for the march, whereas Princess Anne was dressed as a Navy Admiral. Why? Why was Anne dressed in a naval uniform? Strange.

_________________________________________

There’s a radio quiz going at the moment, asking what we think of the ABC’s coverage. I admit I was a bit irritated by the 24hr blanket coverage in the first few days, to the exclusion of all else including news and weather. But now it’s eased off, I’m glad I watched some of it.

My only serious complaint is not to the ABC but to the BBC: in last night’s coverage of the coffin walk from the palace to Westminster Hall, why oh why do we have to put up with a BBC lower screen banner with supposed news headlines, but the same headlines, repeated over and over for six hours! This is the same as they did on the Thames Pageant in 2012. For goodness sakes, we know it’s the BBC, why do you have to slap us in the face with it?

Anyway, I admit to a deep envy of Britain’ history. With the surname Croft and ancestry going back to the 13C, I feel I should be able to claim a small part. But I’m also aware that the UK regards me as an alien. I get no special treatment, no right of residence, no acknowledgement of my history. Not happy.

___________________________________________

My new mattress arrived right on time this morning, about 9.30am, and it all went smoothly. Boy, it’s soft. I think if I’d been able to test it in a shop beforehand, I would have immediately walked on. I’ve chosen a medium hardness, but I’m wondering if it’s too soft for me. I admit, I am a big boy so I sag a fair way into it. OTOH, I had a nap this afternoon and I dropped off without even being aware of it.

I’d say it’s like sleeping on marshmallows.

I’m looking at the website of the manufacturer (A.H.Beard) to see if there’s a return policy in a case like this. Haven’t found it yet.

____________________________________________

My good mate Keith came out here today to give me a hand, but I didn’t actually need him after all. However, ever helpful, he got up on my stepladder and changed a couple of ceiling lamps for me. I needed six changed, but I wasn’t ready with new replacements so we only got two done.

However, one of them was the one that has been turning itself off after about five minutes ever since it was renewed last year. We fitted a brand new illuminant and I was mentally rubbing my hands, thinking “At last”. But dammit, the new illuminant is doing the same thing! What the … ? Does it mean there’s a faulty transformer in the ceiling? Do I have to pay an electrician to fix it? Dang!

__________________________________________

Good interview on ABC Radio just now (Friday afternoon) with Greg Mullins, leader of the group of 34 retired fire chiefs who tried to get Morrison and the Liberal-National government to listen before the catastrophic fires of 2019-20. He tried to warn Morrison, but Morrison refused to take his calls! He tried to get $10m for fire fighting aircraft, but was stonewalled. The cost of this inaction was $billions in damage, billions of native animals lost, thousands of homes destroyed and thousands of lives ruined.

He said the difference between the previous government and now is “chalk and cheese”. One of the first acts of the new Labor minister Murray Watt was to pick up the phone, call Mr Mullins and ask what needs to be done.

So why did the previous government refuse to listen or take action? To me, the answer is clear – the problems were too big for the brains of these incompetent L-NP people to cope with. They can’t grasp the complexity, or the science, so they close their minds and shove the problem to their out tray. (Or there is a more sinister reason, involving money, of course.)

I accuse these criminally stupid L-NP people of incompetence and negligence. I say they should be held to account for the costs of their inaction in a legal class action. They should be made to pay for their inaction.

As Mr Mullins said, the fire experts foresaw the changes in the weather patterns and fire conditions as far back as the ’90s and tried to sound the warnings, but the L-NP government refused to listen. We lost nearly a decade before action is finally being taken now. These former L-NP politicians must be made to pay!!

History

Fremantle 1988 © PJ Croft 2022

Well, what a day. The Queen died on Thursday [edit: yes, I originally wrote Friday]. I was awake at 1.30am (insomnia) listening to ABC radio when the upbeat tune being played faded down and after some silence, was replaced by quiet classical music. (That sounds like The Lark Ascending, I thought, and sure enough it was, music by Ralph Vaughan-Williams).

After a few minutes of that, the announcer said “We’re taking you to the newsroom”. The news announcer said the Queen had died. I think that’s the closest feeling I’ve had to an historic event.

It’s hard to believe, but I’m a bit sad. Even though I’m a strong republican (nothing to do with the GOP!), I’ve grown up and lived all my life with the Queen and Charlie. He and I were born at roughly the same time and I’ve always felt a kinda kinship, I don’t know why.

I can actually remember the time before Liz became the Queen. I was born in the time of King George VI, and I was six when the Queen was crowned. I can remember the King’s head on coins and notes, and I think Dad must have bought the newspapers because I have vague memories (just mental pictures, not the text) of articles about the King.

So now we have a new King. I find it cringworthy that he is now King of Australia. I quite like him, but he’s not my King! I bow to no-one, especially a Pom.

____________________________________

Nice, eh? Would you believe, this is not a real scene. It’s an artificially generated image using AI. No photographer involved.

_______________________________________________

Phew, Aldi is seductive. I discovered their hardware and bargain aisles a few years ago and recently I’ve told myself to lay off! I was spending too much money in Aldi.

Well, yesterday I saw their on-line catalogue and so I went to Clarkson shops to buy just a couple of items. Wow, I came away with a trolley full. I spent $262, the most I’ve ever spent in one trip.

I went in to get a battery powered hand vacuum, a battery powered window washer vacuum, some dishwasher cleaning tablets and washing machine cleaning liquid. I got all those, PLUS a new mattress protector and a trolleyfull of food items. I can hardly walk past the shelves without picking things up.

___________________________________________

I think I’ve mentioned how my mattress has sagged on one side and developed a hard ridge down the middle. In the olden days, I used to be able to lift the mattress up, turn it around and flop it down, bottom side up every year or so. But there’s no way I can lift it any more. I’ve lost my strength.

I had arranged for a friend to give me a hand to do this next Thursday, but I’ve found that Appliances Online not only stock a few of the mattresses mentioned in CHOICE as good buys, they will also deliver and take the old mattress away for disposal. That’s what I want.

So I think it’s time for a new mattress. I bought my present one in about 2000, so I think it’s had a good life. My abiding memory when I bought this present mattress was being at my Trigg house and awaiting delivery. I saw the truck pull up on the road, and next thing, a guy was walking down my driveway carrying the mattress. One guy! One hand under the bottom edge, the other hand steadying the top against his shoulder. Wow, it was heavy and he seemed to make it effortless. I was impressed.

In sleep, what dreams may come …

What a great shot! It has a painting-like quality, I feel. US Navy photo.

Aaaah, great sleep the last couple of nights. How? Why? I’ve stopped the Duloxetine, that’s why.

When I say stopped, I gave it a short taper 🙂 You’re not supposed to stop it suddenly and I didn’t, but I tapered it off much quicker than they advise. First, I skipped every second day, then after a few of those, went to every third day for a week, then after Friday, I just stopped. That’s a bit abrupt but I was sick of sleepless nights. The result, with one exception, has been good sleep.

The one exception was Sunday night when I went the entire night without sleep. In hindsight I realised that the evening before, I had a strong gin and tonic with dinner, on top of my two cans of beer beforehand. I’ve read about alcohol being bad for sleep and although it never used to bother me, it seems to now. Booger! I’ll have to experiment a bit. Is it just the amount that matters, or is it mixing different types of drink? It’ll be fun finding out.

However, the neuropathic (nerve) pains are back. Not as bad as before (two months ago), but enough to have me arching my back and yelling. It’s like a red hot poker suddenly hitting some part of your foot for a few seconds. Yowch!

OK, take other kinds of pain relief? But they all seem to cause insomnia for me. Paracetamol doesn’t, but it’s not effective enough. Prodeine Forte? It nearly works, but I can’t use it near bed time as I can feel it ‘wiring’ me up. Tramadol? I had to stop that a few years ago when I realised it was the cause of insomnia. It’s also an opioid. Aspirin’s too weak, and causes stomach problems in high doses.

So, I dunno. I have an appointment with a pain specialist but it’s not until 21 October. Dang.

_________________________________________

A new British PM? She seems to me to be a woman who changes her mind to suit her clothing fashions. She started out as a liberal (Labour-like), then moved to the Liberal-Democrats, strongly supported the Remain (in the EU) campaign, but then joined the Conservatives and changed her views to be a rabid Brexiteer when it seemed in her interests, so as to advance in the party.

So now she’s PM, what views and convictions will she change next? I have no confidence in her.

________________________________________________

Good call from a listener to ABC Drive radio just now; What message should we send to outer space when we send the interstellar probe? “We don’t taste like chicken.” 🙂 Good one!

_________________________________________

Speaking of interstellar probes, a few weeks ago my favourite radio show asked, “What have you seen that’s amazing recently?”

Well, I nominate the James Webb Space Telescope. This has to be one of the greatest engineering feats of all time! A NASA engineer said recently that there were 34 single points of failure in the process of building it and getting it into operation, 34!

Quick explanation: a single point of failure in any system is where the failure of just one item would disable the entire system. When I was working, we did the news every night out of a control room with a 16 channel audio mixer. If any channel failed, there were 15 others, so no real problem and so on. But there was only one power supply (many pro mixers have two or several distributed ones for this reason). If that single power supply failed, we would have lost the entire news program until we could move to another studio, very, very difficult to do.

Being the senior tech, I pointed this out to the chief engineer as a single point of failure. I got permission to investigate getting a second power supply, but due to the general turmoil at the time, it never happened. Luckily, it didn’t fail.

The reason I mentioned this is the JWST mission and its 34 single points of failure, the failure of any one of which could have killed the entire mission.

Just for example (these are a few of my guesses): the folding of the mirror into its narrow shape to fit into the nose cone of the rocket without damage; the transport of the nose cone containing the telescope to Kourou in Guyana for fitment by giant crane to the rocket; the launch itself; the insertion into initial Earth orbit; the second burn to send it to the Lagrange Point; reaching the precise Lagrange point required; the cast-off of the nose cone to release the mirror sides; the unfolding of the mirror, and so on and so on.

There were 34 ways the mission could have failed and been a write off! Yet everything worked. me think it ‘mazing!!

Now we’re seeing the amazing results:

Tarantula Nebula, JWST credit NASA

This nebula has been photographed many times before, but never in such detail. See https://webbtelescope.org/contents/media/images/2022/041/01GA76MYFN0FMKNRHGCAGGYCVQ?news=true You can download giant (124MB) images.

______________________________________

In the past months I’ve been watching hundreds of YouTube clips about cars. The best (most relevant to me) are those uploaded by Rainman Ray in Sarasota, Florida. He’s a mechanic/technician at an independent workshop and is a very personable guy. He explains everything in great, but not boring, detail, accompanied by jokes and repeated catchwords and phrases, such as Oops, gravity whenever he drops something, Oodle-loodle-loo when the workshop phone rings, “Nice and shiny”, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner” and so on.

The reason I mention this is because I’ve learnt so much! He just launches in to the diagnosis and dismantling process, explaining what he’s doing and why. Brilliant. Just search for his name on YouTube.

Another is Dave the Car Wizard in Wichita Kansas. He’s a little slow and can be boring, but again he explains everything and shows good video of what he’s doing. His wife, Mrs Wizard :-), does the camera work. Just search on CarWizard.

I can’t remember why I started writing this thread. Anyway, recommended.

Later: now I remember. I’ve been thinking that it’s amazing (there’s that word again) how complex cars are these days. They have many thousands, even tens of thousands of parts. Almost every car is different, even from the same makers, and every part is designed and manufactured to precisely fit its own unique application.

The next amazing (!) thing is how deeply electronics has penetrated cars. BMW in particular has dozens of computer modules scattered throughout their cars, hidden away not just in the engine compartment but under the seats, under the dash, in the boot, in the sides, everywhere. BMW even uses fibre-optic cables to link them all, sending data all over the car at light speeds. I’m sure Mercedes, Audi and all the others are the same.

This is all schmick and clever, but it makes the cars incredibly complex and requires the dealers to have special computers and software to diagnose and fix them. That means that independent repairers are shut out unless they spend thousands of $ with BMW to buy the test gear. That’s if BMW will sell it to them.

The other thing BMW does is encodes the car’s VIN into spare parts, so that each major part is encoded to the particular car. Again, this means that you can’t buy an after-market part and fit it yourself. It won’t work. You have to go to a dealer or an independent with the right test computer to have it encoded.

BMW would tell you it’s a safety issue and I can see their point, but it means that I WILL NOT BUY A BMW! They are notoriously unreliable and expensive to fix when they fail. So there.

_____________________________________

One of my USA cousins put up a Facebook post yesterday, saying that there should be a ban on anyone over 70 running for office.

She is obviously referring to President Biden. I think she doesn’t like him.

I replied, “I’m 75, L–a”, and left it at that. But I should have added, “If you are going to set that age limit, I presume you’ll include everyone, such as company CEOs, bankers, all people holding high offices of responsibility, judges, all political appointees such as Secretaries of State, Defence, Treasury and so on. Doesn’t matter about competency or worth to the country, once they turn 70, OUT!”

Not impressed, L–a.