Ain’t it nice?

The Milky Way from The Pinnacles. © ABC

I mean ain’t it nice to be free of COVID fear, free to do anything, go anywhere (within the state, that is) and I’m looking forward to the vaccinations in a few weeks. What a contrast with what we thought were the pillars of democracy, the USA and the UK. Exemplars of competence and common sense. NOT!

Both Trump and Boris have hundreds of thousands of deaths on their consciences through their incompetence and denialism. Trump I expected, but not the UK government. I’ve always admired Britain for its leadership and competence but not any more. They’ve crumbled into an amazing pile of stupidity under this Tory government. Boris was always known to be a liar and a fool, yet people voted for him. Well, your vote may well cost you your life in Britain. It’s clear that my dream of visiting Croft Castle is on the back burner indefinitely. It probably won’t happen in my lifetime now.

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No sea breezes lately either. It’s very noticeable. I went down to the Jindalee Beach walkway yesterday around 4.30pm and what breeze there was was mostly warm easterly. The ocean was almost calm and the sand was broad and flat, beautiful. This was looking down from the walkway high above. I’m frustrated by this beach because to get to it requires descending an 80 step wooden staircase. Going down is not too difficult but getting back up again is a lung burster.

I’m very hopeful (yes, full of hope) that a new aquatic centre will be built at Alkimos this year. That’s five minutes drive north of me. I really, really need this as I can’t swim in the ocean any more, unless it’s a very sheltered beach. Boy, I miss being able to ocean swim but I can’t risk it now unless it’s very calm.

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Which reminds me, I’ve been having a small amount of angina recently and so an angiogram is scheduled for Mon 25th. I’ve had these many times before and I’m not worried, especially as the cardiologist says he’ll go in through the arm rather than the groin (apparently I’m too fat down there, harrumph!) It’s at the Mount, so I’ll have to take the train in and taxi from the station. It’ll be an overnight stay. That’s fine with me, I like the food and I seem to sleep well in hospital.

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The guy organising the Facebook Channel 7 History project has renewed his call for submissions. He says 147 people registered their interest but only 10 have submitted, which includes me, of course. He’s pleading for more.

Even though I wrote 8,500 words I could have written a lot more and I’ve been tempted to do a second submission, a fill-in-the-gaps Chapter 2. But I really should direct my efforts to my own history.

I made a good start a few years ago but I’ve been bogged down by a lack of knowledge about who’s who in our early Sydney relatives. However, the My Heritage web site has allowed me to build a very comprehensive family tree, complete with many photos to go with the names, so I’m much better equipped now. It’s not just Sydney either – I now know much more about the Arnold side.

As well, I’m very pleased to have received a USB stick from my cousin in Rhode Island, USA, with scans of all the documents and newspaper clippings his mother, Yvonne, amassed. There are 141 pages! Most of them have more than one document, too.

Unfortunately he’s not very computer literate and many of the scans are of very poor quality. But it still gives me links between people with many birth, marriage and death dates to add to the MyHeritage tree. Wow, it takes up time.

I paid for one year of access to that site to gain access to their photo enhancement facility but I’ve done just about all the photo enhancements I need so I don’t want to pay another $230. I wonder what will happen when I say goodbye to them. Presumably I’ll lose access to the tree, so I’d better get a good printout before roughly September or whenever is the expiry date.

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Speaking of books, a former workmate at Ch.7 has done a picture book:

He said he found a book publishing broker who handled the printing and ordering side of it. I’ve bought two copies $25 + pp each) and I plan to visit him in Mundaring to collect them. Asap. When the weather cools down. I’ll ask about this broker. Interesting. http://www.thepossumwhisperer.net/ if you’re interested.

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Phew! Turn it down

Shell Beach, Shark Bay, WA. I’ve been there and seen the tiny shells making up that white expanse. Picture © ABC.

Wow, it’s hot. Yesterday 41deg, the day before 39deg, today 37deg. Thanks to air con in house, car and shops it’s not a problem but it’s not good for the lawn and garden. I pity the birds and wildlife. I’m not hearing any birds lately. I hope they’re just away on holiday and sending tweets 🙂

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is sony-model-s.jpg
Sony makes an EV. I want one!

Holy smoke – trust Sony to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Who thought Sony was a car builder? They make hi-fi and PlayStations, yes? Well, look at the video above. What a thing of beauty. I want one!

Unfortunately, it seems it’s just a concept model, a demonstration of what they can do, not meant for production. Well, I haven’t been much interested in electric cars up to now. Teslas are not bad but I wouldn’t pay their price to get one. Most of the other makers’ electric vehicles are just weird looking re-hashes of their existing models.

But this Sony car excites me. If it was available and I had the money, I wouldn’t hesitate.

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This is a reminder of how pathetically weak Australia is at encouraging our take-up of electric vehicles. It’s absolutely vital to combat climate change, yet there are no government incentives to change over. Three state governments have even discussed imposing a tax on EVs! Why? Because the governments don’t get any excise tax from petrol sales as they do with normal cars.

I despair at this country. We have so much talent in science, engineering and manufacturing, yet we stuff up every big project we undertake due to political interference and ineptitude. The NBN is the prime example. As originally proposed by the Rudd Labor government, we would have had fibre to every house and building in the country, allowing speeds up to 1,000Mb/s. But when the Turnbull Liberal government came to power, they put politics first and had to have a point of difference, even though it made no sense. As a result we’ve got a dog’s breakfast hodge-podge of a scheme which, now that it’s complete, has to be rebuilt at massive cost to somewhere near the original idea. Malcolm Turnbull, the man who single handedly crippled the NBN. What an achievement.

Similarly, there are many companies busting to build solar and wind energy projects, yet the federal government puts obstacles in their way. The funding for the alternative energy council is always being reduced and gas is promoted as the way of the future, even though LNG (gas) is a major polluter. Why is gas promoted? Because the Liberal government is mates with the big gas companies and executives.

Oh, I could go on and on but it’s too depressing. If there’s a right way to do things, expect Liberal politicians to take the opposite path.

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It was the same when I was working – I was appalled and frustrated at the way management behaved, and because I was interested, I used to read books and articles about the best managed companies in the world, mainly US companies of course. And I used to think, it was as if the management of the company I worked for had read these books and said, “Right, you managers, this is what we will not do.” It was so glaringly obvious that our management were determined to manage badly (and hadn’t read or understood these books).

In particular, their rule seemed to be, “Keep it secret, don’t communicate, don’t tell your staff what’s going on.” Oh, I’ll write a book about this one day. I kept a diary at one stage over about a two year period because things got so bad that I felt I would need to have a record. I’ll publish it one day.

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I think I said I’ve been using a free substitute for Microsoft Office due to problems I was having with it. I found WPS Office and I’m finding it’s marvellous! It’s so good that I’ve paid the $40 annual fee for the Premium version.

Well knock me down with a feather but in the list of Chinese companies that the US (Trump) has banned from the New York Stock Exchange was a company called WPS Office. It even showed their logo, which is the same as the one for this software.

This is annoying – it’s a Chinese company. I’m very disinclined to buy or use anything Chinese now, in view of their authoritarian government’s jackboot-on-the-neck approach to international relations.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve looked in the Help-About for any indication of their base but didn’t find anything. I’ll have to do some web searching.

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I’m listening to Amazon Prime Music, as I said and although it’s good, there is one very annoying thing and I wonder if it’s deliberate. At the end of each track it suddenly cuts off, either early or just drops out for about two seconds, before resuming and going on the the next track. I wonder whether it might be deliberate to stop us recording tracks, ie to make it annoying to build up our own collections. I don’t know.

A good start to the New Year

Bali, c1983. NE of Kuta, probably covered by houses and carparks now. © PJ Croft

Phew, day after day in the mid 30s, definitely a heat wave. It’s not too bad at night, thank goodness, down to 18C last night. I still have the fan on all night but I must admit it gets a teensy bit chilly in the early hours.

I’m sleeping quite well since I dropped that medication (yes, it was an antidepressant) and I fall asleep within 10 minutes or so. That’s a complete contrast to when I was taking it. I was seeing four or five am every night before I finally succumbed to exhaustion and dropped off. I was fearing going to bed, whereas now I look forward to it.

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I’m doing a fair bit of reading before lights out and I’ve just finished The Surgeon of Crowthorne, by Simon Winchester. I’d heard of it for a long time and now I’ve finally found out what it’s about.

In fact it’s the story of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the surgeon is an American, Dr William Minor who found himself in Britain in the mid 1800s. Unfortunately, due to a predisposition to mental illness, exacerbated by service as a doctor in the American Civil War, he developed a fear of Irish immigrants fighting in the war. He had to carry out some horrific acts as a surgeon, including branding a man as a deserter, and became unemployable by the US Army. As he was a man of means with an army pension, he moved to England.

Unfortunately in his deranged state one night, he shot and killed a stranger, an innocent man who he thought was an Irishman. He was found not guilty by way of insanity and sentenced to imprisonment in Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane, which is is just outside the village of Crowthorne, hence the title. It’s an hour by train from Oxford.

Dr Minor finds out about a new attempt at a comprehensive English dictionary being compiled starting around 1880. He happens to be an intelligent and learned man, despite his delusions, with a large library in his adjoining cells in the asylum. He writes to the man in charge of the OED project, Dr James Murray, and his help is eagerly sought and accepted. Yet Dr Murray doesn’t find out for more than 20 years who this man is or what his address at Crowthorne means. In that time, Dr Minor contributes tens of thousands of entries to the new dictionary, all on small sheets of paper laid out in a specific way for the checkers and classifiers in London, and later in Oxford.

Finally, curiosity by Dr Murray leads to their meeting, in the asylum, of course, and a firm friendship develops, despite the circumstances of Dr Minor. This continues for another 20 years or so, when Minor, by now very frail in his eighties and having lost most of his mental faculties, is given permission to return to America, where he dies a few years later.

I enjoyed this book very much. It’s a Penguin, so not expensive, and expanded my knowledge quite a bit, not just about the dictionary but also about the American Civil War and mid century London. Highly recommended.

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Speaking of words, I’m peeved!

Pre-prepared. This is ridiculous. If something is prepared, there’s no need to say it again as pre-prepared. This is a tautology in a word.

Lay is the past tense of lie. I do not lay down to sleep, I lie down. Chooks lay eggs.

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Woolies has Easter buns (hot cross buns) on sale already. Good Friday is 2 April this year, three full months away! But I realise I’m being ridiculous – if people want to buy and eat these fruit buns, why not? I’m very partial to them myself.

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I shouldn’t support Amazon, that huge anti-union, anti-competition company, but I admit to buying a few things during the COVID restricted times last year and, in order to save on shipping and postage as well as expedite deliveries, I joined their Prime scheme. It costs about $8 per month, i.e. $96 per year, but I reckon I’ve easily saved that in shipping and postage costs already. As well, delivery times really are fast. That new big tripod wasn’t scheduled for delivery until this week but it surprised me by arriving last Wednesday.

In the Prime deal you also get Amazon Music, access to ‘free’ music streaming over the internet. Boy, I’m hooked. The big deal for me is that it allows me to try a much wider range of music than I’ve had access to before. I think I’ve said, I’m a stick-in-the-mud when it comes to music. I made my choices in the past but when it comes to forking out $20 or so for a new CD that I can’t pre-listen to, I hold back. Consequently, although I’ve got more than 1,000 CDs on my hard drives, I wasn’t listening to them much.

But now I can wander anywhere in the recorded music landscape. Usually I just listen, but if I particularly like something, OK I’ll search out the CD and probably buy it.

One CD I’ve ordered this way is by a group called Liquid Mind. I know nothing about them but this is ethereal meditative music with a subtle beat and I’m hooked. They have several CDs so I’ve chosen a cheapish entree. Recommended (if you don’t want your music to interrupt your thoughts too much).

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Note the dates, 1750, 1762 and so on.

I’m pleasantly free of urgent things and able to choose what to do next. My first priority has to be the Croft History volume 3, 1955 to ?? Unfortunately I was boarding away from home at Northam in the early 60s, then moved to Perth in 1965 and I didn’t have a camera, so there are very few photos from then. Dad took a lot of their Beverley life so that’s OK, but I have very few of me growing up then. It’s not all about me, though, and I have the words to write clear memories of that time.

In fact I have two quite long illustrated articles I wrote for our school 50th reunion in 2014, so I can just incorporate those. Must press on with it.

I nearly forgot, my cousin Stephen in the USA sent me his file, 60MB of it, of all his scanned family history documents. Holy hand grenades, it is huge. There are 141 A4 pages. I’ve hardly had time to start on it yet, although I’ve looked at every page.

So much of it is scans of official documents going back to the mid 19thC, all the marriages, births and deaths, old photos and newspaper clippings. His mother, my aunt, apparently collected all this stuff – I had no idea.

The immediate benefit is that I can finally put definite dates to so many people, and work out who they were, what relation to me. There’s months of work here. Months? Hah! Years!

Last one out turn off the lights

The daughter of a pembantu in Bali last year. Very, very cute.

Well, Happy New Year and good riddance to the old one. NYE was a pleasant day, only 31C yesterday but I thought it was a bit humid – it reached 59%, I see. The cold cabinets at the bottle shop were too dewy to see into.

Here we are past the end of a momentous year, and as much as we hope, it ain’t over yet. Here in WA we’re sitting pretty, no worries mate, go anywhere, do anything within reason. Just don’t leave the country, OK?

The vaccines, plural, should fix us up eventually but it’ll be another year before we could consider international travel. This reaction by some precious few against mandatory vaccination before flying is just crazy. They obviously don’t remember vaccination certificates which were required before boarding as recently as the 1970s. Smallpox, yellow fever, malaria, hepatitis, tuberculosis; they were all infectious and dangerous and you had to get vaccinated before travelling. No problem, we just did it.

So what’s all this about not wanting to be compelled to vaccinate before you fly. I’ll tell you now, if I knew I was placed next to someone, literally rubbing elbows and being coughed and sneezed on in an economy class seat on an aircraft, I would ask to be moved. How dare you expose me to your germs just for some vapid notion of your “rights”. What about my rights? Keep away from me, fool.

No, I will very happily submit to vaccination and present my card before travelling. That’s if I ever make a big trip again. My legs are getting weaker and weaker and I can’t walk far without stopping to sit for a while.

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I’ve been perusing the Perth Fringe Festival web site to see what’s on this year, February 2021. It’s a full program, no concessions to the virus.

I can’t help noticing how many of the Fringe shows involve gender-bending and cross dressing. It’s full on drag in so many shows, mainstream. This is what I’ve been noticing over the years, that many, many guys want to dress female but male culture just doesn’t allow it. That’s mostly so, but if you can gain respect, you can be accepted in male groups.

Looking a bit matronly. In Northbridge, February 2019.

I’m totally comfortable going out dressed female these days, no fear, no nervousness and I don’t feel any stares or second looks, no problems at all. I was all dressed up at the bottle shop yesterday and a guy called me Sir. I said, “Don’t call me Sir! Miss or ma’am please.” Smiles all round.

It’s only 20-30 years ago when cross dressing was something to be hidden, with secret societies necessary. I used to wonder how I could ever do it, how I could get from my car to any venue. Now, pah! No-one cares, no-one looks at me and I have no fears. It’s a complete change in societal attitudes, the LGBTQI message having got through loud and clear. What am I? I’m T but not Transgender, only Transvestite. It’s a wonderful thing and I’m so glad it’s happened in my lifetime, while I still have time.

I’ve earmarked (put on a list but not bought a ticket yet) quite a few shows, mainly involving burlesque by women, including a repeat of one I went to last year, Burlezque (photo above). I went to this show dressed very daringly last year and was very surprised at how no-one looked twice at me, not on the train going in, not even as I walked past the doors of the big pubs full of drunken blokes in Northbridge. I came home on the train dressed this way and no-one stared at me, even the young guys who I thought might be troublesome. I was amazed and pleased that, really, anything goes now. This is great. I might do it again this year. Finally, finally!

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Me on left in 1980, at age 33.

Uuurrrgh, I’m not happy about the Lost Bali book being organised by the American woman. I finished my contribution a couple of days before Xmas and sent it off, formatted as she requested as a Word document and laid out as I want it with a couple of dozen images. I went to a lot of rouble with image placement and paragraph spacing, wrapping the text around the images, using dropped shadows and soft edges.

But I got a couple of emails back saying how she hasn’t had time to read it (thanks a lot!), but then saying she wanted me to re-send it as plain text, with the images removed and these sent separately.

What?? To me, this is like telling an artist his pictures are wanted for an exhibition, but he must send just detailed pencil sketches, with the paints and brushes sent separately and the editor will reconstruct the paintings. Gaaaah!

Now she wants me to give her a title for my piece, even though it’s got one at the top of the article. At least that gives me more time to come up with something imaginative. I’m not happy about this, though. I had this happen back in the early 90s at TVW7, where I submitted an article, as plain text, as requested for the company newsletter. But the newsletter people didn’t talk to me and just printed it as it came, a jumble of text with no carriage returns and line feeds, no paragraphs. I doubt people would have read it because of that. Now I foresee something similar happening. Grrrr.

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“Perfidious Albion”. Perfidious: “faithless, basely treacherous”. Not for nothing has Britain (Albion) gained this description. Throughout history, Britain has practised treachery and gross crimes against humanity – slavery, torture, genocide, extermination, concentration camps, wars against local tribes, territorial land grabs.

Today, 1 January 2021, the UK has left the EU. They have demonstrated once again that Britain is not a country to be trusted, that puts its own interests first and foremost, that is not a team player. Some people see this as an opportunity for Australia to do a free trade deal with Britain. What a joke. I do not trust Great Britain one inch. They have done the dirty on us before when they joined the EEC in the 1970s, cutting us out of their market for agricultural products. They’ll do it again. Britain cannot be trusted!

What fools they are. Vladimir Putin will be rubbing his hands with glee – he’s seen one of the major European powers break away. He’ll keep chipping away at the Eastern bloc countries like Hungary and Belarus too.

Polls in Britain show that even though the first referendum showed a wish to break away by a slim margin, polls nor show a massive reversal: 47% want to stay in the EU versus only 38% wanting to leave. Too late now, it’s done.

As well, British people are showing themselves in this pandemic to be irresponsible rule defiers. They refuse to quarantine themselves, refuse to wear masks properly or at all and will not socially distance themselves.

The result is that the COVID virus is devastating the country. Britain has the highest death rate in Europe by far, and is third in the world for deaths and infections. The hospitals are being hit by a tsunami of sick people, putting all the medical staff at huge risk. The vaccinations have not had time to be distributed or to take effect yet. But the British public don’t seem to care.

As a friend said the other day, this is Darwinian natural selection at work. The intelligent rule abiders will survive, the stupid low-IQ will die. That would be a good thing, except that the rule breakers take the elderly and innocents with them.

What a sick joke Britain has become. When the Scots held a referendum some years ago about whether to devolve from the UK, I wanted them to stay in and was glad when it was defeated. My views have changed now. Scotland is the most intelligent part of the country and most definitely wants to remain as part of the EU. Now is the time for them to assert their independence and break away. Go Scotland, leave the UK. The south east of the country, London and the Tories, are ruining the rest of Britain. Walk away. And we must tread very warily, as Britain is not to be trusted. What a pity. A once great power, now in ruins.

Ho hum, fine and hot again

Simple Whole Roast Chicken Recipe - The Dinner Bite
Not my chicken, an actor.

Merry Xmas everyone. It’s 37C in Perth (update: it did reach 40degC yesterday, Xmas Day!), beautiful, thin wispy clouds, soft breezes. Perfect. This really is the world’s best climate, in my opinion. We had a wet November, wettest on record, but that just meant heavy showers on a few days. I love this weather.

I’ve got a couple of friends coming tonight so I’ve been getting ready, roasting a bacon wrapped chicken breast and a tub of Mediterranean veges. I’ve pre-cooked meatballs and half a dozen kebabs on skewers (naturally). I’ve got sourdough pizzas ready to roast. And a plate of antipasto – prosciutto rolled with cheese, bresaola (aged dried thinly sliced beef) same, olives, stuffed and plain, cherries, strawberries, cheeses, crackers. Crisp warm sourdough rolls with butter. Yum!!!

Low fat low sugar ice cream too. I don’t have to resist as much as in the old days. Excellent Prosecco, my favourite wine these days. I have it in the bottle, but I also found 250ml cans which are both convenient as well as being just as nice as from the bottle. I had one at lunchtime, in fact, that was my lunch 🙂 Brown Bros King Valley.

One of the friends is teetotal (1834, a word possibly formed from total (adj.) with a reduplication of the initial T- for emphasis – T-totally) so he’s going to bring his own non alcoholic juice, which is handy. The other’s a beer man and will bring his own, so it all works well.

I thought of buying a crayfish since China has decided they don’t want ours, but decided against it. I’m not a big fan of cray, unless it’s chef cooked or just between buttered white bread. Too much trouble for me. Which reminded me, I meant to buy a tray of oysters but I forgot. Too bad – the luck, not the oysters!

Whatever, this will be a delicious and very pleasant dinner.

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I bought myself a present, by the way:

It’s a big one. I’ve got two other tripods, both light weight for travelling, but on windy conditions it’s a loser’s game. The wind would have instantly blown my tripod and camera over if I’d let go the other night while trying to catch the Grand Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. This one weighs 3.6Kg which means it’s quite hefty. I want it to live in my car so that I’m always ready for shots. It’s got a video head too, meaning the movement and rotation are very fluid, lightly greased for smooth pans and tilts. That’s mostly for video, but it works for stills as well when you lock the position. Price? $104. It’s coming next week.

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I watched George Clooney’s movie The Midnight Watcher last night on Netflix. Naaah!

The premise is that a space ship is returning to Earth in 2049 after a many years’ long voyage to find a habitable moon or planet we could move to. They’ve found one, a moon of Jupiter (funny, it has just the right mix of atmospheric gases to be breathable by humans, and it’s even the right pressure so that they don’t explode – rubbish!).

But in the meantime, while they’ve been away, there’s been an all out nuclear war on Earth, making it uninhabitable. There’s nothing for the space crew to return to.

Except that George, a scientist with kidney disease requiring a dialysis machine, is up in the Arctic, a survivor. What a surprise. And even bigger surprise, he finds another survivor, a very young girl, about 10 years old, but she’s mute.

He thinks he can reach another scientific outpost some unspecified distance away, so he packs his dialysis machine and almost nothing else onto his snowmobile and they both set off into a blizzard. They go through some awful travails, including losing the snowmobile and his dialysis gear through thin ice, and he gets soaked through but somehow doesn’t freeze, and they start walking. He has some kind of direction finder, but hey, how come the snowmobile didn’t run out of fuel?

Anyway, to cut a boring story short, they reach the radio outpost and somehow he makes radio contact with the spaceship (hey, why no transmission delays? Are they so close to Earth that there’s no delay? Even as close as the moon is about 2.6sec delay. Bulldust!)

The space travellers have had huge trouble themselves and when they learn about Earth, two guys decide to use their little escape ship to come down anyway while the remaining two men and one (pregnant – she gets pregnant in space? Do they want a mutant baby?) woman decide to just loop around Earth and slingshot back to their new planet.

What a load of codswallop. As well, most of the dialogue is so quiet you can hardly understand what they’re saying. Long silences between people (yeah, just like real life, yes?) and almost unintelligible whispers when they do speak.

I was bored. I watched it to the end, but I would not recommend it. Listen to the scientists next time, George.

So, no snow again this year

I’ve just come back from shopping in 39C heat. I’ve thought about putting up decorations but really, fake pine needles, fake snow, fake holly? And I can’t be bothered with a tree. So northern European. No, just the sound of sprinklers on the lawn and garden will set my mood.

I haven’t even set the sprinkler system to Summer Auto yet as it’s only a couple of weeks ago that we had a few showers each night for three nights in a row. Anyway, that wasps’ nest is still inside the door of the retic panel. As long as you move slowly they don’t get agitated and I could set the switch. Better do it soon.

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How about these as presents for your worst best friend?

Fattening briefs, and they’re “traceless” too!

These are from the Wish website. That is an amazing treasure trove of small gadgets and things. I have kept all my orders and I think I’ll do a tally – I would guess I’ve spent around $1500 in the past 12 months or more. I tell myself to stop but I must admit I’m hooked. At least I’ve slowed my orders down.

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Being a member of the ALP, I went to their sundowner just up the road in Alkimos a couple of weeks ago. On arrival, we were greeted by this picture of John Quigley, the local member and WA Attorney General.

But I’ve had these two images stored away for years:

Clive Palmer
My jocks from about 10 years ago.

And today, what should I find …

What is this, ALP – Check! uniform?

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I have two cousins living in the USA, and a second cousin, daughter of Stephen.

Stephen is about 70 and has had some bad health recently. So I was a bit shocked to see this graph on ABC News yesterday:

Where does Stephen live? Warwick, Rhode Island. The virus is rampant up there.

The other cousin, Lisa, and the daughter of Stephen, Sami, live in California, still a dangerous place to be. It would be a scary thing, even to go out shopping, when you’re in areas like that. Stay safe, cousins.

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I did actually go down to Jindalee Beach on Saturday evening, the 19th at about 9pm to try to see and photograph the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. But the wind! It was so strong I had to hang on hard to my tripod and trying to take a long exposure was impossible. I did see what I thought might be “it”, an orange red star low down on the horizon, but it disappeared and I realise now it couldn’t have been the planets. The moon was quite bright and I realise now that if I’d known where to look:

See below for explanation
See the moons around Jupiter, lower planet.

What a great image! And it’s by an Aussie, Jason De Freitas in NSW, who worked out that he might be able to capture the International Space Station passing by. Wow! That is so clever. That line is the ISS and it’s travelling right to left. He’s put it up on YouTube as video as well.

Even more amazing: he shot the main image on 6x7cm film with a Pentax 67 medium format film camera and a Pentax 600mm lens, and he used an equatorial mount on his tripod to rotate the camera during the long exposure.

And to top it all off, he processed the film himself at home and scanned it to digital. I take my hat off, that is an outstanding image.

PS: if you haven’t got the shot, you haven’t missed it. The 22nd was just the closest approach:

I’ve missed the ‘closest approach’ but the planets are still there, just moving apart again. This is a northern hemisphere image so we should look NW, near the moon.

Phew, I think I need a nap after that.

And so we approach Xmas

BMW 840Ci, around 2005. I want one but I’ve missed the low price point. They cost about $40,000 upwards now.

This is the week of food shopping and buying last minute gifts. I only have two people to buy for and it’s very easy to choose for them. Books for one and phone type gadgets for the other.

Wow, how lucky are we in WA? Absolutely perfect weather, it’s even going to peak at 37 on Christmas Eve and then go down to a warm 32deg on Xmas Day itself. Perfect. And down to 29deg on Boxing Day to top it off.

I read this morning that we’ve gone 280 days, approx., without a case of local virus infection. Plenty of incoming travellers are infected and have to quarantine but we can do all our normal things without a worry.

I’ve been listening on ABC Radio to a Sydney 2GB radio announcer, Ben Fordham, foaming at the mouth about WA reinstituting the hard border, virulently insulting the premier Mark McGowan, and us, calling him stupid and so on. Listen mate, when you can say Sydney has gone 30 days or 100 days or even 280 days without a case, you can talk. But you can’t say that. Sydney is the leakage point for this country. That’s where all the international visitors are arriving, ignoring the rules and bringing the virus with them. Sydney’s health and airport authorities are being proven repeatedly to be incompetent. Arrogant prick. Our premier has the full support of us all. Shut your gob!

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To prove the point, I had brekky with a mate at Burns Beach this morning. I signed in to the cafe, but that was all I had to do. No masks, no special spacing, no worry.

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I’ve been doing a lot of writing recently, firstly for the Channel 7 History book, which I got in by the 30 November deadline, and now for a book being organised by an American woman called Lost Bali. That’s the book title, not her name, heh heh.

She’s spent time in Melbourne and lived in Bali for some years but now lives in California (doesn’t everyone?) She believes Bali went downhill around 1990 when hotel development went out of control and the special feeling went out of Bali. I’m not sure I’d put that year as a cutoff, but I can agree a bit.

Anyway, she is organising a book and wants contributions. Initially I didn’t think I had much to offer but she pleaded so I said I’d whip something up. As a result, I’ve written 13 pages and 3,200 words, including about 20 pictures. I do have a lot of memories and hundreds of pictures, pretty nice ones if I say so myself, so I hope she’ll be pleased. The deadline is Xmas. It’s virtually done, I’m just finalising it. I have another couple of memories I can add before I send it off.

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For years I’ve used MS Office Home and Student, and struggled with its faults and eccentricities. As a computer magazine journalist wrote earlier this year, if you use Word and include pictures, you’ll be tearing holes in the universe if you try to move or resize them. Yes! That’s my experience. I hate it.

Plus the registration of the serial number, and the limitation to only one or two PCs. I hate it! Recently, Word started refusing to save my documents. This resulted in some serious loss of work before I realised what was happening. Excel was fine, it was only Word. I searched high and low for a solution without luck.

So dammit, I uninstalled it and looked for a substitute. I’ve been using Lotus Word Pro for 25 years and love it but it has foibles too.

Then I found WPS Office, a free alternative. It’s brilliant! I love it. It looks like a very clean version of MS Office but one of the things I really like is that it will open a PDF document and convert it and save it as a Word document. Hooray! When I wrote the Channel 7 History article I saved it as a PDF for submission, but didn’t realise immediately that MS Word wasn’t saving my article. Hence I ended up with a PDF but no Word original. Aaarrrgh! So now I can open the PDF and “retrieve” it as Word.

I’ve had a bit of trouble – yes, resizing images on the page can make them or other images disappear (sorta like tearing holes in the universe, still) but I got everything correct eventually. Lotus Word Pro is far better, though. Even though it stopped development 20 years ago, it still works and it’s free now as part of Lotus Smartsuite. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Bloody Microsoft! They’ve driven all the others out of business. Remember Word Perfect, or Lotus, or Wordstar and Ventura? They were all good, but people stopped buying them and paid their money to Microsoft for an inferior product! It’s like a desert out there.

Well, WPS Office is free for the basics, or if you pay $40 a year you get the premium version with extras. I haven’t fully explored that yet, but I’m virtually certain I’ll pay it. Good value.

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I’m up to episode 10 in series 8 of the Big Bang Theory. At about 20 eps per series, that means I’ve watched around 170 episodes in the past few months and I still like it. It was absolutely unique, about science but with great humour and characters. The jokes and dialogue are absolutely remarkable. I never get tired of it. I usually watch two episodes a night, occasionally three. Without commercial breaks each ep is only 20 minutes long. Recommended. Netflix, of course.

Busy, busy

1994 I think. We called ourselves the Wrecking Crew as we dismantled the Ampex ACR25s, those magnificent machines, taking them out of service after 25 years. The black armbands are 2″ wide videotape.

Not busy by many people’s standards, I suppose, but I’m mentally running through my list for this week and I’ve got something on every day.

This morning, it was 8.30am at Joondalup Health Campus to return my Holter Monitor. That’s a bit early for me, but it was just in and out to the cardiologist’s office and I was able to park in the 15min medical deliveries bay at no cost, thank goodness.

Then to fill Vera up with fuel on the way home. That’s the first fill since 2nd October. Fuel doesn’t cost me much as I don’t drive a lot and I always choose Sunday or Monday at the bottom of the cycle. It was 103c/l with RAC discount this morning.

Tonight (Monday) I hope to go down to Jindalee Beach around 10pm, hoping to see two astronomical events at once – the Geminids meteor shower and at the same time, the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn.

The Geminids are an annual event but the Jupiter Saturn alignment is a once in 20 years thing apparently. It will be just my luck that it clouds over and rains, as it did last night and the night before. It’s not likely tonight, though.

I haven’t done much astrophotography and I’ve been running it through my head, which camera(s) and lens(es) to use. It shouldn’t be too difficult – I have a 20mm lens on one Panasonic camera and another 14mm lens on the Olympus OM-D E-M1, plus two tripods with good heads. Here’s hoping.

Then on Tuesday (tomorrow) I’ve said I’ll go to the local state ALP branch Sundowner for this Xmas. John Quigley, the Attorney General, is my state local member. It’s at 5pm just five minutes up the road at Alkimos and is only scheduled to run for two hours. Good, ‘cos I don’t want to be there too long.

Then on Wednesday I’m scheduled for a visit from someone from MyAgedCare, the government organisation. I’m not sure what it’s about, so I hope I haven’t broken the rules or something.

On Thursday it’s cleaning lady day, followed by the weekly grocery shop.

On Friday it’s my regular podiatrist appointment at 10am, followed by a GP appointment at 11am in the same building. The cyst on my temple has not cleared up, it’s got worse and it’s bugging me. My pillow cases are looking the worse for wear, stained I mean.

Plus, since the middle of last night, I’m being tortured by stabbing nerve pains in the third and fourth toes of my right foot. I’ve been getting diabetic neuropathic pains for years, but never at this intensity and so localised and repetitive. It’s about five seconds of severe, acute pain, then it suddenly stops again, repeated every few minutes. It’s bad enough that my head jerks back and I cry out in agony. I found it hard to sleep last night because of it. It’s happened at least 15 times while writing this.

Panadol doesn’t help, not even Panadol Osteo. I can’t take Tramadol because it causes insomnia, and the same for duloxetine even though it’s very effective. What else can I take? I’m not supposed to take aspirin but maybe I’ll give it a try. I’ll be asking the GP about Cannabidiol oil becoming over-the-counter from 1 February. Maybe that will help.

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I’m thinking about Xmas food, not that there’s a lot to think about, but it makes me think that bottom mounted freezer compartments are a DUMB idea. Why? Because it just fills up, bag upon bag upon packet, and you can’t see what you’ve got. There are things at the bottom of my freezer that came back from Scott’s trip to Antarctica. I’ve forgotten what’s there. It’s lucky it doesn’t need defrosting. At least I can surprise myself with “What’s for dinner?”

I think it’s time I had a big throw out if I’m to take advantage of the $20 per kilo crayfish, since the Chinese market dried up. I’m not a big crayfish fan but I think I’ll buy one tail, frozen. The rest will be sourdough based pizza, shop bought partly made and frozen, then with added prawns, smoked oysters, cherry tomatoes, anchovies and so on. My Breville Air Fryer Oven does a great job. Plus a stuffed chicken breast, prosciutto and cheese rolls, bresaola/cheese rolls, lotsa salad and some good prosecco and champagne.

I’ve also got a good 4K UHD movie to watch, “1917”, about the trench warfare. It’s not exactly a Xmas movie but we’re not kids.

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Just re-reading the above and thinking about Arctic and Antarctica. We say we will go to Antarctica, not “The Antarctica”. But we don’t say we will go “to Arctic”. We go to The Arctic. These two words are closely related yet with one, we say The Arctic, but the other we don’t say “The”. Strange.

Sneaks up on ya, doesn’t it?

Hong Kong, October 2014, The Peak. I’ve seen it but we won’t be going there again. © PJ Croft 2014, 2020.

Only 12 days to Xmas. Crumbs, it was November only last month. There’s a bit of hot weather to remind us, 30s and I’ve had the aircon on all day. I’m sleeping on top of the sheets all night too, with the fan blowing on me.

Now that I’m sleeping properly, the dreams! Aye, to sleep, perchance to dream. For in this sleep of death, what dreams may come. I’m exaggerating, it’s obviously not death, but the amazing dreams I have. Nothing bad, no nightmares, just long sinuous adventures. I need to get up for a tinkle every 2 – 3 hours and each time, I’m conscious of a story but it slips away so quickly. I really wish I could remember them better.

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I’ve been having lots of heart flutters and palpitations for a long time and thought I’d better get it checked, so yesterday I had an echo-cardiogram and wore a Holter monitor for the day and night. No problem, I’ve done it before. But I wish the ECG pads weren’t so sticky and itchy.

My appointment was at 9.30am and thank goodness the parking at Joondalup was easy. I hate that parking area. And the long walk to the one and only pay-station. I have to drop the monitor off at 8.30am on Monday and the guy said no need to pay for parking, just drop by, in and out. Oh yeah? How do I do that? I guess I’ll find out.

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This is interesting – I’ve been a buyer of CDs for 40 years and I bought two yesterday at JB’s. I’ve ripped them to my hard drives and started to listen just now.

But I also pay the monthly fee for Amazon Prime (because it really does save its cost on postage and speeds deliveries), and that gives me access to Amazon Music. When I did a quick search, there was the CD I bought yesterday. I needn’t have bought it, in other words.

This is a moral dilemma – I want the performers to get their money from the physical purchase – they deserve recompense for their work. But I can listen, not free but very cheaply, on Amazon. I can’t download and record from Amazon, though. I don’t think so.

On the other hand, it’s broadening my listening no end. I’m a stick-in-the-mud. When I browse the CDs at JB’s, I can’t listen to see if I like it so I stick to the old favourites – from 20 – 30 years ago. Now I can sample all I like and sometimes, I do like. So maybe I pay the money for a CD after all.

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I’ve just read an article by a Guardian journalist bemoaning all the tabs she has open in her browser while writing and researching articles. She has 20 – 30 open at a time she says, all saved to her desktop in a huge clutter and feels relief when she can close them down.

I don’t understand the problem, if it is one. I’ve got six tabs open now and that’s pretty typical. Maybe eight or nine, but no more than that.

On the left, though, I’ve got my links (bookmarks) folders and I’ve got probably 100 or more folders, many with 20, 30, 50 links in each folder. For example, _Quicklinks, _MDX&Verada, _Travel (the underscore keeps it at the top), then Affinity, Age Calculators, Airlines ….. Broadcast, CAD, Cars and so on.

If I were a journalist, I would name a folder “Brexit”, for example, and collect all the tabs (bookmarks) into that folder. Then every time I wrote a new article on Brexit, there’s all my research tabs right there. And so on. No need to do the research again, you haven’t lost it from last time. Make sub folders within the main folder, and on down.

I knew someone whose desktop was completely covered like that so that she could never find what she was looking for. I tried gently to help her clear them into some order, but it was clear we weren’t understanding each other so I quickly backed away.

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Speaking of writing, my article for submission to the TVW Channel 7 History book, My Life and Times at Channel 7 1966-99 went down a treat. It was 26 pages long with quite a few photos, way more than the organiser wanted but I couldn’t squeeze down to his format and rules. I submitted it on 30 November, right on the death knock, but I don’t think this book is going to come to fruition – I get the feeling he’s had very few submissions. I’ve only seen two others so far.

I got many very nice compliments on Facebook (that’s where it’s being organised). One stood out, though. It was from Greg Milner, who you might remember was a journalist and on-camera reporter in the 80s and 90s. He said, “Crofty, you missed your calling.” That made me glow with pride, as I do take great care and pride in my writing.

That leads me to say that I’m going to do a second edition, because I barely grazed the surface. Although I mentioned many, many people I worked with, I left a lot out too, and many episodes and events. For example, being persuaded to vote Labor by Burkie, Brian Burke in the early ’70s before he left to get elected to parliament. And the famous pillow fight. And taking my dog to work! It seems crazy now but I was crazy about that dog (Boopsie, the Border Collie). Then a year later when I bought Minnie the Golden Labrador, I took her to work one day too. She looked just like the Lab on the toilet roll packages, 110% cute, and I took her around to all the offices where the girls went, “Ooooohhh”.

And so on. I have many more stories and I think a second edition would be welcomed, even if the book doesn’t happen.

That leads me on to the next writing task. Actually it has to come before the TVW one as she wants it by Xmas.

A woman who lives in California (where else?) runs the Lost Bali Facebook group and wants to publish a book on “Lost Bali”, the times in the years leading up to 1990 which she arbitrarily defines as when the rampant development overwhelmed the southern Balinese culture. I know what she means. She lived in Bali for a few years, as well as in Melbourne so she’s a bit Aussie oriented as well.

I wasn’t going to bother, but she’s asked me very nicely so I thought I’d have a crack at it. I first went in 1980 and again in 1983, 1986 and 1989, so I fit her period and I do have a helluva lot of good photos. I say “good” because the photos others are submitting are, um, not very good. In fact, atrocious. Most are just camera-phone shots of faded old 4R prints from the quickie shops. Crooked, faded, creased, poorly composed. C’mon people.

So I’m onto it. I’ve written five A4 pages so far and just got as far as the very early Sanur. I think I’ll finish by Xmas.

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I think about my cars a lot and it’s dawning on me that I enjoy driving the Honda MDX more than the Verada. I think of one has to go, it’ll be Vera. The leaking power steering pump is the big problem with it, too expensive to justify replacement (quote by the RAC for $800). I’ve replaced all the brakes, discs and pads, the exhaust, the roof lining, the rear right tail light assembly, the right driving light and had the left headlight polished. It looks good and drives beautifully. But the Honda feels so nice with its leather seats and roominess inside. We shall see.

Happy day!

A much better day today. I’ve had contact with my European friend who was lost for a while due to a stupid mistake on my part. She talked to me today, thank goodness. I’m very pleased.

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Phew, summer’s here. It made 40degC at the airport at 2pm and I’m running the aircon for the first time since last summer (I think). I’m sleeping better too. I’ve stopped a medication and it’s clear that it was the cause of my insomnia. I drop off to sleep within about 10-15mins now. And I’ve dropped a couple of kg since, as a bonus.

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There was quite a nice program on the ABC-TV last night, late, 9.40pm so you might have missed it. It was Gryff Rhys-Jones’s doco on his great rail trip across the continent, starting on this side (WA). He was dropped into the surf, literally, on the west coast of Rotto, and showcased Perth, (looking very pretty, I must add), then the Pilbara, the iron ore trains up there.

Then it was back to Perth and onto the Indian-Pacific to Kalgoorlie and a tour of the city and gold mines. It looked very attractive and was a great advertisement for WA tourism. It’s a pity people can’t come here from overseas at the moment.

Anyway, it gave me two ideas; first, I get a free rail ticket each year as a Senior in WA, and I haven’t used this year’s. I should do the Perth – Kalgoorlie Prospector trip again. My friend and I did it at the end of 2018 and I think I could stand doing it again. And I’ll be eligible for another ticket in January.

The other idea is that, now that the state borders are open again, maybe, just maybe, I could take the Indian Pacific across to Sydney. It’s very expensive so I’m not sure, but I’d rather do that than fly.

Why go to Sydney? So that I could buy a car there and drive it back across the Nullarbor. Or, do what I really, really should do and drive to Brisbane and see my 97 year old aunt before it’s too late. That’s important! Maybe it would be cheaper and better to train from Sydney to Brisbane, buy a car there and drive back from there?

All this is because I don’t see myself going overseas any more. Too risky. We may have a vaccine, but I don’t think the risk will go away entirely. Better to see Australia.

However, I don’t think summer is the time to do this, so there’s no rush. At least autumn, or even next spring.

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What car?

Peugeot 407. I reckon this is a lovely looking car.

It’s a diesel, which counts against it, but it’s a 6-cylinder twin turbo diesel. That should be quite pokey. This is a 2007 model, 212,000Km, $6,995. Of course, I’m only showing this as an example. It’ll probably be sold but they come up regularly. Good fuel economy, 9l/100Km approx. I just love the styling and it’s got everything I want in a car.

Just dreamin’.

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My friend Danny came out on Friday and gave me a hand with the Honda. I’m frustrated by the roof mounted antenna not working, and no matter what we tried (so much easier with two people!) it still measures open circuit somewhere between the roof and the back of the radio. Impossible to get at the cable in the ducting.

I’ve been thinking today, I’ve got nothing to lose if I cut the wire right at the plug where it plugs into the radio. That’s to diagnose it, I mean. It’s not coax at that point, it’s only a single wire and it’s very possible it’s been pulled too hard at some time. If I can’t find the fault, the only alternative is to get a car audio workshop to drill a hole in the left fender and install a new antenna at the front, running a new cable behind the dash. That will be expensive. Cutting this wire might save me some $$$$$.

The other problem was a disc stuck in the roof mounted DVD player – yes, it’s a fancy car this Honda MDX. They were $75,000 when they were new. This is a late 2005 model.

Danny got the disc out – the whole player is sticky with goo, probably kids with ice cream fingers – and the disc itself was sticky in the centre. That’s quite probably why it was stuck. We left the whole assembly hanging from the roof until I can clean all the goo off, but I hope I can remember how to put it all back together again. I’ve got a small bowl of screws to work out where they go. Errrgh.

He also swapped a couple of sensors over from my Verada to his Magna to try to diagnose a fault he has. No luck, I’m afraid. It didn’t solve his problem and he’s as mystified as ever. I don’t envy him.