Bunker bulldust day 18

Sony MDS-JB940 Mini Disc recorder/player

Another weekend, another bargain. I’m rebuilding my hi-fi system, piece by piece, without really planning to, it’s just happening. I bought this today, a high end Sony Mini Disc recorder from around 2000.

I saw it advertised first on eBay at $843 and thought it was too expensive, but when I scoured the web for similar units I found the price was somewhat reasonable. And it was in Thornlie, Perth so that was good. I was tempted.

Then I noticed it was also advertised on Gumtree, the same item, same guy, at $655. Hmmm. So I phoned him and offered him $600. At first he balked, but then accepted, so I collected it this afternoon. Dog! that is a long drive to Thornlie. It was 52Km and took nearly an hour to get there but I used the MX-6 so it was quite enjoyable, apart from the arrogant right-lane sitting drivers. The freeway was as packed as ever, so much for staying at home.

So here’s my “stack” now:

Mini Disc deck on top, Denon SACD player in the middle and Sony DA3000ES at the bottom. Nice! The amp and SACD player are champagne gold colour and the Mini Disc deck looks as if it is too, but unfortunately it’s just the colour of the light – it’s actually “silver” as they call it. Can’t be helped, they only made silver or black.

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What’s Mini Disc? They are magneto-optical discs about 8cm in diameter enclosed in a thin plastic case about 3mm thick. Shirt pocket size. It takes the application of both heat from a laser and a magnetic field to write to the disc coating. That, and the enclosure, makes the discs virtually indestructible. They are not affected by magnetic fields alone, so can’t be accidentally erased, and they are never exposed to fingers or any outside muck so aren’t susceptible to scratches. I’ve got more than 100 discs from my other machines (since the early 1990s) and they’re as good as new. They’re still freely available on eBay for about $5-10 but I don’t see myself ever needing to buy any more. They just don’t wear out.

The recordings are digital so are very high-fi, although to fit 74 mins (one CD worth of audio) on a disc that small, they use data compression called ATRAC. Unfortunately the golden ear brigade in the 1990s reckoned they could hear the compression and didn’t like the sound, so that killed the format. I don’t care, I can’t hear any problems so that’s why I want to continue using it. The ease of recording and the lightning fast random access to tracks makes it far better than cassettes ever were. No adjustments or alignment needed either. The sound doesn’t deteriorate. I’ve got three other decks so I’m committed. I love it.

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I had to go out today for legitimate reasons: to collect my April list of meds from the pharmacy and to have my flu vaccination. No, not that one, just the usual winter fluvax. Although I’d made an appointment at the pharmacy for 10.15am by phone yesterday, they didn’t know anything about it this morning. I had to wait until 11.30am, so I went to Jaycar at Clarkson to buy an optical cable. The shop was buzzing with customers and not one person, staff included, was wearing a mask or gloves like me. Grrrr. Same at the pharmacy – even the pharmacists weren’t wearing any protection. Not a single customer wore a mask or gloves!

They have Perspex screens up at the counters but the woman in front of me didn’t seem to like that and just moved to one side and talked around the screen! The assistant didn’t try to make her move back. Crazy.

When I phoned yesterday I asked if they have any masks. Yes, sure. Do you have N95s? Yes sir. OK, put some aside for me, will you?

But this morning, all I got was a packet of two masks and they weren’t N95s, they were P2s. “Oh, that’s OK, they’re the same thing.” No, they’re bloody not! I didn’t argue, even though the cost was $24.95 just for the two masks.

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What are we to believe? The US health authorities are telling all US citizens to wear masks now, but in this country they are telling us not to wear masks. This is very confusing. If I’ve got a mask I’m going to wear it, no matter what I’m told.

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Now that’s a loudspeaker!

These are advertised on F/B Marketplace at the moment, in Perth. They are 18 inch diameter! (That’s two, stacked.) The price is $275 for one, or $990 for four. Wow, that is the biggest speaker I’ve ever seen. I don’t know what they’re from, maybe cinema speakers? Giant public address? I plan to post these pics in a Facebook group I subscribe to, Loudspeakers, and see what the reaction is.

Maybe I’ll buy two and make myself a pair of headphones. 🙂 🙂

Bunker bulldust day 17

Wow. This is truly innovative photography. It warrants the description of unique.

I’ve had a folder of his images stored away for a while, intending to make a print of a few:

© Xavi Bou
© Xavi Bou
© Xavi Bou

Beautiful stuff.

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My sprinkler system has been playing up, watering on days when it shouldn’t. This afternoon I decided to take a look at it (beeeyootiful day, by the way). I knew that some wasps had built a nest inside the cover but last time I looked there were only a few and they weren’t bothered by me. Some even landed on my hand when I touched the knob.

But today, holy hovercrafts, Batman, the cover was full of wasps! All the babies must have hatched. I decided not to be brave and slowly backed away. I left the cover open, maybe they’ll leave. I’ll try again later.

Later 5.30pm: that did the trick. The door was still open and there’s a cold wind blowing. Most of the wasps were gone and the few remaining were very quiet. They ignored me. My watering days are Tuesday and Saturday but I found that Thursday and Sunday had added themselves. I didn’t do it. Damned electronics!

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They’re talking haircuts on the radio. My last haircut was mid May last year in Bali (and it was a fantastic cut, one of the best I’ve ever had). I have long curly steel grey locks down to my shoulders now and I think I’ll let it grow more, since we’re not supposed to go to a barber at the moment. I’ve let my beard and moustache grow again too, and although it’s nice to not have to shave every day, I’m rediscovering how itchy it is.

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I was talking to the S/C cleaner yesterday about hand sanitising and we were both discussing sources of alcohol. Well, methylated spirits! It’s mostly ethyl alcohol with methyl alcohol added but it’s 100% alcohol. Sure, it smells pretty strong but it evaporates quickly and do you care? The main thing is for it to be effective, and it would be.

I read yesterday that any hand cleaner needs to be at least 70% alcohol to be effective, preferably 90%. My suggestion to use Listerine or other mouth wash barely qualifies. Listerine says it’s 70% but Colgate Plax is 0%! Just coloured and flavoured water with antibacterial chemicals added.

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In case you hadn’t heard, Microsoft Flight Simulator is due for a major new release soon, after seeing no new releases since 2006. From what I read, this new version will be a blockbuster. It was always pretty good, looking fairly realistic, but the thing is, with this new one it’s been integrated with aerial images from all over the world, a la Google Earth, that make it just a beautiful experience, as if you were actually flying over the Earth and the actual airports. You don’t need to be a pilot or learn to fly it, just run the demos and enjoy.

Well, the good news is that it will be released this month: LATE APRIL/EARLY MAY – EPISODE 8 (IFR) will be released. (MS web site)

I suspect millions of pimply young men and even older men, being compulsorily cooped up at home, will develop vitamin D deficiency. I’ll definitely be buying it. I have the 2006 version but never learnt to fly it. I just like looking down from the air.

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I’ve just phoned the pharmacy and ordered my monthly refill to be picked up tomorrow. I’ll also have my fluvax while I’m there. I said I’ll be gloved and masked but asked if they have any of the good stuff 🙂 Yes, they have proper surgical masks and even N95 masks. Amazing. I asked them to put some aside for me and it’s no problem.

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Crumbs, I never seem to run out of things to write about. It’s great when you can talk and talk and there’s no-one to answer back. 🙂

Bunker bulldust day 16

Hinchinbrook Island, Queensland, 1987 © P J Croft 2020

This virus pandemic has certainly taken hold, hasn’t it? I never thought it would be this bad, this anxiety producing, this transformative. I’m hardly affected, as I’ve said, so I’m not complaining. I’m still fine, no symptoms, no problems.

Except that my Silver Chain cleaning lady has just been and gone and I really enjoyed having her company, however brief it was (90 mins). She’s smart, intelligent, great to talk to, empathetic and has training as a counsellor. I’m not sure what counselling she does, but it doesn’t matter, she knows how to listen and let the client talk. In turn, I ask her about her family and how she’s getting on and let her talk. She has two kids, a girl and a boy, and the boy is autistic, but not enough to be a huge problem. He doesn’t like change, of course, and home schooling has thrown him a bit, but he seems to have understood now and has responded well. She said he’s interested in science and technology and, being obsessive, he’s grasped quite a lot for a 12 year old, so much that he challenges them with quizzes on science topics.

Her husband worked at the casino but now that’s closed he’s lost his job, so they depend on her income from the cleaning job. That would be a bit precarious.

My situation is an absolute breeze by comparison, so I am definitely not complaining.

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She told me a joke while she was here. It’s a visual joke but anyway: a seagull is sitting on a bench. There’s a roll of toilet paper there and a sign propped on it, “Will exchange for chips.”

My mate Mick also sent me a joke this morning: his cleaning lady has phoned to say that she’s forced to work from home, so she’ll email him a list of things each week for him to do.

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The Great Australian Bight, 1978 © P J Croft 2020
Makes you realise how flat Australia is, eh?
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I have a myriad of small jobs I should do around the house and on the Nextdoor website there’s this post:

“I am a kid looking to make some money. Does anyone have any jobs that I can do?”

I’m in two minds – I would like these small jobs done but I don’t want to pay a low rate to a kid when there’s an older guy who needs the money more. Anyway, what do I pay a “kid”? I do know that the older guy (he’s 73, same as me!) charges $25/hr. I guess I’ll just do what I usually do, sit and think about it and do nothing.

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Wow, I’m starting to think the word “draconian” regarding the measures put in place here. Sure, we’re told not to go out unless necessary but I didn’t think it was prohibited. Yet today the police said they are using number plate recognition software and cameras to detect cars that are out of their home areas. I assume this means a long way from home, but coupled with being asked to “show your papers” if stopped by the police and army at roadblocks, this reminds me of East Germany and spy movies. Papers? What papers? I don’t have anything to show.

Now, the WA borders have been closed, stopping anyone entering the state, even West Aussies if you’re out of the state on Sunday night. Unless you’ve got a compassionate reason, you can’t come back. Shit!

Our esteemed PM tells us this will go on for at least six months. I foresee unrest. I foresee that people will start to buck against some of this. I hope I’m wrong.

I also heard something I never thought I’d hear today. Christian Porter, the Minister for Industrial Relations and an avowed foe of unions, stood there and said he was very pleased with the cooperation he’d had from Sally McManus and Greg Combet on behalf of the unions, and the members of the Fair Work Commission, in making temporary changes to awards during this crisis. He said he found them reasonable and easy to deal with. Porter, you arsehole, don’t you understand, we have always been reasonable and easy to deal with!! All it takes is for you to be reasonable too.

Don’t forget that this is the guy who is trying to push through new laws that would make very simple errors by the unions, like not attending an appointment or meeting, punishable by deregistration of the union! This is what I mean by hard right wing! Hard!

When I was a union delegate in 1995/96 and trying to negotiate a change to the TV Award classification system, all we got across the negotiating table was negativity and hard line stonewalling from the employers. This is the very thing employers accuse unions of, obstruction and dirty dealing. Yet when we attempted to be reasonable and easy to get along with, and put up a solid, well thought out and worked out proposal, all we got from the employers was hard line obstruction. It turned me into a hard line unionist, I can tell you. I wasn’t before. I learnt that the only thing employers understand is muscle, strike action. I coined the phrase “Meekness is seen as weakness.” Luckily I never had to do anything.

What a bloody change. Yet I know for sure that Porter won’t change. As soon as this is over, he’ll go back to being the bastard hard line right wing prick that he is. I spit on him.

Bunker bulldust day 15

It would have been Mum’s 97th birthday today.

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Grrrrr. Grrrrrrr! I am irritated!

I went out today (to buy the April Silicon Chip magazine, the last I buy from a newsagent before my subscription starts), and to do my grocery shopping, the first in a week.

I wore a face mask and dishwashing gloves and used my alcohol spray as sanitiser before touching a trolley. But I only saw one other person, out of maybe 50 people or more, wearing a mask. Only three other people wore gloves! What is this? Don’t these people know what’s going on? Don’t they care? I think this is the case – it’s all too much trouble for them. It’s the great Aussie attitude – “She’ll be right mate. What are ya worried about?”

I’m worried because I am at high risk. I don’t care how much trouble it is to you, don’t put me at risk with your lackadaisical attitude.

There was a disinfectant spray bottle at the entrance to Woolies but it sure wasn’t easily seen. I used it but I only saw one other person use it. Grrrrr.

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I filled my trolley and then got stuck behind a blue line waiting for a guy and his wife to clear the aisle. There seemed to be a price problem. That took several minutes. Then the Woolies price assistant and the wife moved away and the guy just stood there chatting to the checkout lady. I was leaning on my trolley getting fed up for a full five minutes or more. Eventually I said, “What’s the problem?” The guy said “Huh?” I said, “How long are you going to be?” He just said, “I don’t know” and continued chatting to the lady.

I was so fed up by now that even though the aisle was empty apart from him, I had to move to another one and wait for two other people to go through. Small loads, luckily.

Finally I was motioned forward and put my shopping bags at the start of my goods, to find that they won’t put your goods in your bags now. What??!! They touch all your goods to scan them, but they won’t put them in your shopping bag. Why?

This is like Aldi. You put all your goods through the checkout but put them back into your trolley, then pack your own bags on a counter outside the checkouts. But at least there is a counter. There’s nothing at Woolies. All your goods are just piled onto their rotating bag holder.

OK, if I’m not going to get service at Woolies, I’ll do my shopping at Aldi. After all, they are definitely cheaper. Why should I pay more at Woolies if I’m not going to get a better level of service?

There was another stupid thing: I had picked up three small tins of chick peas in various savoury dressings, small 70g cans like tuna or salmon or shredded chicken. But when she put my three little 70g cans through the checkout, I was told I’d exceeded the limit of two cans per customer. Whaaat?? Lucky I had a mask on because I was fuming by now.

I’ve calmed down now but that was not a pleasant experience. As I said, I’ll go back to Aldi next time.

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I’ve just heard on the ABC News: gun shops in the USA were closed, but they’ve been told they can reopen as the Supreme Court has rulled that gun shops are an essential service.

Only in America! World’s most stupid country.

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The supermarkets are asking for penalty rates to be removed for staff working night shifts while this pandemic is on.

The problem is, once we (the unions and labour movement) give in and allow this, it’s London to a brick that the companies won’t want to give them back again. This is them sticking their screwdriver into the crack and testing the strength of the edifice. No! Stay firm. These rates have been hard won over many decades and we shouldn’t give way.

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I’m disturbed at the premier’s insistence that the German cruise ship the Artania must leave Fremantle port now, even though they have sick people (crew) on board. He’s even threatening to use the Navy to force the ship to leave! How would they do that, put a shot across their bows?

I can see one side of his logic, which is that he doesn’t want to set a precedent such that other cruise ships see WA as a safe haven where they can enter and berth. But how many other cruise ships are lining up to enter Fremantle? There were three last week, but two are gone now without having to use strong arm tactics. I don’t see any more cruise ships lining up or lurking just over the horizon.

This is a humanitarian issue, surely. If they have sick people, even if they’re crew members, surely we should help them. I want the ship to be allowed to stay until they say they are clean and don’t need any hospitalisation.

Notes from the bunker day 14

The Sydney Croft family – L-R Darcey, Marion, Jonathan (Jack) my father, Bill. All now deceased.

Apart from speaking to my Silver Chain cleaner last Thursday, I haven’t spoken a word to anyone else in more than a week. I haven’t left the house except for a short shopping trip and to collect my car from the RAC last Wednesday. I must admit, used as I am to living alone, it’s a bit hard to take. Normally whenever I notice the isolation I know to get out of the house by going out shopping or whatever. I’m not supposed to do that now. Don’t worry, I’ve lived this way all my life so I know how to cope, but I do wonder how long this will go on.

I was going to go out on Monday, but didn’t, and again today, but didn’t. Just a bit nervous about it. I’ll try again tomorrow.

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I will say that I’m a bit annoyed at the people being forcibly quarantined in five star hotels, though. Most of them seem to be whingeing and whining about it. Holy smokes, they are in a luxury hotel, with beautiful bedding and furnishings, comfy chairs, full TV and internet, wi-fi and with three square meals provided free of charge each day. Luxury bathrooms.

Sure, they can’t go out, but it’s only for two weeks. There’s an end in sight. Stop whining! Think of the homeless who have to sleep on the streets. Think of the people who’ve lost their jobs suddenly, usually with young families to support. Stop whingeing!

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My friend in Vienna is also under the same conditions as we are, semi-confinement in her apartment, not prohibited from going out to shop for food or exercise but no gatherings of more than two people. At least it’s spring there, although still very cold, below freezing at night. I take comfort that she knows a nurse and is in a good place if she got sick.

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I’ve found the water leak that’s been costing me so much. Both my plastic Caroma toilet cisterns have been failing to seal at the outlet to the pan (in a high quality house that was a display house, these are surprisingly low quality cisterns). I thought it was just the inlet valve and a minor thing, but when I used a screwdriver (what would we do without screwdrivers!) to hold the float up and stop the hissing, I found the cistern emptied itself within an hour or less.

Usually I’d fix this myself, but that requires going to the hardware shop to buy parts. Not supposed to do that now. I can call a plumber of course, but I blanch at the cost. It will have to be “screwdriver in/screwdriver out” for a while until I decide what to do.

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It pays to read Silicon Chip magazine. In planning to reorganise my hi-fi equipment, I’ve had in mind that the distance between the new equipment and the TV is more than quadrupled, to probably 10m. That’s a bit long for HDMI cables.

Today I happened to see in an Altronics ad in Silicon Chip, AOC, Active Optical Cables. These have active optical transducers in the fittings which send via optical fibre in the cable, thus allowing long runs. That’s the good bit. The bad bit is the cost – $209 for 10m, $229 for 12m. Ouch. But I don’t think there will be any alternative. Even a 10m amplified wire cable is $80.

I love browsing catalogues.

Notes from the bunker day 13

All is calm.

Back again. Day 13 – in theory I should be able to end my self-isolation after tomorrow, day 14, but I don’t think that will apply now. People over 70, don’t go out at all! For how long? They are talking six months! That’s hard to comprehend. As I’ve said, this is no great change for me. The only thing different is that I used to enjoy going to the big shopping centre a couple of times a week to do my grocery shopping, have lunch, read the paper while eating, browse the DVDs and CDs at JB and browse the bookshops. There’s QBD and a second-hand book shop at Clarkson, and Target and K-Mart sell books, so there’s plenty of choice. I’ll miss that.

I also have two good mates with whom I have semi regular breakfasts at North Beach, halfway between our homes. But even if our favourite cafe meeting place was still open, which it’s not, we can’t afford to be in close proximity because we’re all over 70 and with various illnesses and vulnerabilities. No more meetups for the foreseeable future. That’s going to be a bit hard to take.

As well, the Dome cafe across the road from me is closed for dine-ins. I wasn’t a frequent customer (too expensive) but I did enjoy my occasional lunch.

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Aaaaah! From a bright sunny morning, it clouded over and now it’s raining. Whacko! I love the changes. Huh, rain’s stopped again, a five minute shower.

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Someone I know well, a maths teacher at a prominent school in Perth, has told me he is very stressed and very tired. Although the school has to remain open, many parents are keeping their children away at home. The teachers have suddenly had remote teaching thrust on them. He’s having to learn how to use a software program from scratch and record his lessons, mostly at home in his own time, for delivery from an empty classroom at the school. This is all new stuff, they only found out about it last week and have to start doing it today. I’d be stressed too. It’s yet another example of where people are expected to rapidly update their skills and take on new workloads. It’s a new world, and not a very nice one.

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SBS showed a BBC program called Contagion last night. I thought it was going to be a fictional drama, but it was about an experiment performed in 2014 in the UK showing how a pandemic grows and spreads. The presenters were real experts and although it was a simulation, the parallels to now were all too real. It could have been written as a training program.

The lessons were just as we are experiencing; the only way to fight a virus attack like this is total lockdown. People will still die, mainly the elderly (yikes!) but the spread will be much less and much slower. It was prescient.

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I’ve also watched two more episodes of The Crown in the past few nights. I’m up to episode six in series two, I think. Although it’s still good, it’s not a patch on the first series. I’m not sure why, it’s still the same story, the sets are all the same, but the actors are different. Claire Foy in the first series as the young queen was just outstanding! It was one of the best characterisations I’ve ever seen, I think. The new queen, Olivia Coleman is good, but she’s not the same. The new Jook Embro is also good, but it’s not the same.

There’s still series three to come so I’ll reserve judgement.

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Both my toilets never quite shut off, there’s always a quiet hiss from the inlet valve and a steady internal drip in one case, 24/7 of course. I hope this is the cause of my enormous water bills recently. Normally I would have just gone to Bunnings and bought a new toilet cistern valve, but I’m not supposed to now. I might try browsing their catalogue on-line and ordering.

The postie was early this morning. I had delivery of two CDs from Amazon when I opened my door at about 9.30am. With so little foot traffic (almost none) I find it nice to leave my front door open.

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Now to do something I should have done years ago, subscribe to Silicon Chip, my electronics magazine. I’ve been buying it for 30 years or more and it always seems easier to pay $9.95 each month at the newsagent than to fork out 12x that for a year’s subscription. Since a year’s supply is much less than the cost of individual issues, that’s wrong, but there ya go. I’m stupid that way. Now it’s time to get it subscribed, posted and delivered.