In unitate robur est

Galahs in Trigg Bushland. Fuji S100fs, 2008 © PJ Croft

In unity there is strength. My motto from now on. Unions rule, OK!

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Wow, I have never been happier that I don’t live in America (and that I don’t risk falling pregnant, of course 🙂 ). What do you do when the highest court in the land, the last, highest step in government, turns its back on you and reveals itself to be biased, partisan, unworthy of trust and respect? How do you have hope, when there is no-one left to turn to? How can you respect an institution when its members reveal themselves to have lied in their confirmation hearings, yet are appointed for life, with no requirement to retire and almost no prospect of removal? I’m talking of the US Supreme Court, of course.

I’ve been saying for years that the United States has gone insane, and the events of the past week have proved it.

This would normally a matter for a shrug of the shoulders, but this is the most militaristic country on Earth, armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons. We must absolutely fear that the madman-in-chief, Trump, could be re-elected President, and he would be very, very vengeful. We must fervently hope that the congressional committee examining the January 6 insurrection finds that he has committed crimes and successfully prosecutes him, thereby preventing any chance of his re-election.

I can only grieve for the USA. It is absolutely filled with fine, talented and upright people, but it is also filled with religious nut cases who have managed to subvert the processes of government. I’m telling my cousins over there, “Get out of there! Save yourselves.” They are US citizens, but they also have Australian citizenship, so they could emigrate here, as far as I know. Run, my cousins, because there is going to be a civil war in the USA. I know I can never visit there again, much as I would like to.

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It’s not just the USA. I’m sorry to say that I really believe we are on the edge of a global catastrophe, the end of civilisation, in fact. Global heating, plastic pollution, species extinction, ocean degradation, deforestation, war, madmen such as Putin, Xi Jinping, Bolsonaro, Bojo Johnson. Forest fires, floods, storms and cyclones. Methane pollution.

Especially wars. I seriously think that we are on the verge of a nuclear war in Ukraine and Russia. This is the worst risk that I have ever known in my 75 years, worse than the USSR Cold War. Putin is mad enough to think he’d be able to get away with a tactical nuclear warhead or two.

Perhaps that would be for the best. Wipe the Earth clean with a global nuclear war, so that the Earth can start again. I won’t be around to see it, but I grieve for the younger generation.

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I’ve just had a cup of coffee made in my new Aldi Expressi capsule coffee machine. I’ve had it a week and I can’t say I like it very much.

It doesn’t heat the water enough for my liking. I feel I need to put the resulting coffee into the microwave to add heat, which is annoying. Otherwise it gets cold too fast.

But mainly, it’s odd. There are only three buttons on the front, two cups sizes and a third button which looks like an ice cream cone. This is a pre-heat/rinse button, and you must press it before the other two buttons are available. It pushes a small amount of water through first, maybe 50ml, taking about 20 secs. At first I threw this water away, but now I’m leaving it in the cup and using the other button to add the largest cup amount on top. I still have to press that button twice to get a cupfull. Odd. I must admit, I haven’t read the rather full instruction book … I’d better reserve judgement.

I am so annoyed that my multi-capsule machine has died. I have a cabinet full of different sized capsules (e.g. Nespresso, Caffitaly) which I can’t use now.

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I’m very annoyed also, at receiving a WhatsApp phone message just now.

I haven’t said so, but my six year liaison with my Austrian partner Veronika died completely a couple of months ago and ‘we don’t talk no more’. One of the ways we used to talk on many occasions, almost nightly in fact, was by WhatsApp. So when I saw the message a few minutes ago headed, “Hi dear”, I got quite excited. Was I forgiven?

But no, it was a damned solar power company trying to sell me solar panels! Bloody hell, how did they get my WhatsApp number? I went to send a nasty reply, but got a screen asking me what I wanted to do, and so I blocked their number.

But hell, I was disappointed. Six years! We had our rough times, Veronika and I, but I thought we were set for the long haul. No, she took offence at something I said, as usual, (it’s almost impossible not to upset her) and signed off, saying she just wants “peace of mind”. I am very, very sad, heartbroken in fact. Although she is, as I said, almost impossible to live with, I still wanted to live with her at least part of the time. We had some great times together. It worked well – neither of us wanted a full time live-in housemate, so a long distance relationship was ideal for both of us.

But the last time I saw her was August 2019. Then she went back to Vienna on a routine visit, got caught up with a knee replacement, then the COVID came along and she couldn’t leave. She ended up spending three winters there. She’s back in Bali now, but won’t come here no matter what inducements I offer. Kaput. It’s a great pity Veronika. You are the most difficult person to get along with I’ve ever met, yet I still wanted you. You push me away.

It’s a great pity. She had a terrible upbringing, abused by her parents, especially her father (now deceased) from her earliest age, and other men in her life. She grew up full of hurt, pain and anger, anger especially at men. From what she told me, I’m not surprised and I fully understood. I wanted to help, but it was almost impossible to establish and maintain trust. She has a metaphorical suit of armour that clangs shut at the slightest sign that she might be hurt. I managed to keep it open for some long periods, but sixty years of pain and hurt was too strong. Clang!

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Two weeks today. That’s how long the Peugeot has been at the RAC workshops. I’ll be up for parking charges before much longer.

Every day I await a phone call to tell me it’s fixed and ready, but nothing so far. They told me last week that it needed another cooling system hose which had to come from “the East”, but I’ve heard nothing since. The only good thing is that I don’t yet have to pay the final bill. The total cost, including a full service, is going to be around $1200. Ouch!

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I’m suffering from a pain in my left side, bad enough that I need to take pain relief until I can get in to see the doc next Monday (it takes a week to get an appointment these days! That’s too long!!)

I have ordinary paracetemol and that helps a bit, but it’s not enough. I also have paracetemol + codeine and that works pretty well. Trouble is, it’s another drug that interferes with my sleep. I never used to have this trouble, but now I’m having real trouble with several drugs I should be taking, but can’t for this reason.

It’s very clear cut – when I don’t take these medications I drop off very easily, within 5 – 10 minutes. But having taken the Pro-deine today, I reckon I’ll be able to count on an almost sleepless night tonight.

Lucky

Beautiful electronic design. Denon.

Lucky I’ve got more than one car. Lucky I haven’t caught COVID. Lucky I’m not renting. Lucky I get the pension. Lucky I don’t have arthritis, or psoriasis, or food allergies, or addictions … I do count myself very, very fortunate.

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I got a call from the RAC today to tell me that, in regard to the Peugeot 407, they’d received the radiator hose from “the east” and fitted it, then pressure tested the cooling system and found another leaking hose. Again, it has to be ordered as a genuine Peugeot part, and has to come from “over east”. More delay, probably through to next week. Not too expensive, about $60 and no extra labour charge. Lucky.

I’m lucky I don’t depend on this car and I admit, I’m looking forward to getting it back. If the misfiring has been fixed, it should be even more exciting to drive.

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I’ve been surveying the Peugeot 407 Coupes on sale on-line and considering the low price I paid for mine, with its relatively low “mileage” (137,000Km), I reckon I should easily be able to recoup my “investment”. The cheapest on Carsales is about $6500 and they range up to $14,500. That seems pretty optimistic, but most of the others (there are only about six on offer) are the same spec as mine.

I suspect the seller of mine was worried about the engine knock, thinking it to be a major fault, but I’m not too worried. I’ve been driving it for more than a year now and although it’s pretty lumpy when cold, once it’s warmed up, it feels brilliant. As I said, I did a 55km drive each way last week and it was lovely. On the freeway, if I see a gap and need to pass, a quick prod on the accellerator is like a zoom button. Wow!

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I count myself lucky I don’t live in Afghanistan. What a benighted country – constant civil war over decades, and now a major earthquake to add to their misery.

So now their Taliban rulers, those nasty, cruel, warlike, misogynist bastards are asking us to please send help.

My first reaction is to say no, go fuck yourselves, but of course, it’s the ordinary poor people who are suffering. Applying sanctions on the rulers won’t help the desperately poor people trying to dig themselves out from the rubble of their houses, trying to find clean water to drink and basic food to eat.

Surely it must be within the skills of diplomats and government officials to find ways of tying the provision of aid to improvements in human rights by the madmen in Kabul.

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I received my latest purchase today:

Yes, it’s an N-gauge locomotive, bought from eBay. Funny, it was half the price of other similar items, about $55. I wonder why. Could it be that, although it feels quite heavy, when I spin the wheels, there’s no resistance. No feeling that the wheels are connected to any gears.

Could it be that I’ve inadvertently bought a non-powered “back half” of a pair? That there’s actually no motor inside? That that’s the reason for the low price? Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of my ability to fall for stupid scams.

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Advertised on Facebook Marketplace.

“Weird calculator”? The guy who advertised this clearly failed maths at school. What’s weird about it?

Dinnertime.

Hooray!

© PJ Croft 2022

Aaaah, it’s the winter solstice today, (not the equinoxe as I wrongly wrote last week), 21 June. Shortest day of the year, days will start getting longer from now on. Yes please.

It’s been a quite mild winter so far. The days are usually around 20C and the nights have not yet needed an extra blanket.

Pics

Foveon image sensor.

Foveon is a special type of digital camera image sensor. Google it for a detailed description. I own one Foveon sensor camera, the Sigma DP1 Merrill. Here’s a pic:

© PJ Croft 2022 Taken with Sigma SD1 Foveon sensor.

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Hi again. It’s a cool, lightly rainy day, yet the max temp is forecast to be 23degC. It’s warm enough that I’m just in a T-shirt, feeling a bit too hot for my puffer vest. Rain, rain, more please! We’re told the water table is dropping, such that we’re getting another desalination plant, the third one near Perth. It will be built at Alkimos, I believe, which is just a few km up the road from here. Part of the fresh water produced will be pumped underground to try to replenish the Gnangara Mound, a large underground water aquifer near here.

Funny, back in the 1980s, The West Australian newspaper ran a series of articles on how south west WA has a vast series of underground water aquifers, covering a large part of the south west of WA. The articles more or less said that we will never run out of water because these aquifers were being replenished faster than we were draining them.

Well, what happened to that? We don’t hear anything about that any more. Instead, all we hear is how the state is drying out and the water table is dropping. I don’t doubt it’s true, but how come we had all this abundance of water 40 years ago? What happened?

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Similarly, about 30 years ago there was a lot of talk about geothermal power generation. This refers to the fact that deep in the earth beneath us, there are a lot of areas of very hot rocks, part of the mantle of the Earth’s core. Sometimes this breaks through as volcanoes, but in many areas it stays below ground. All we need to do is drill down, like drilling for oil, a well known engineering practice. Then water is sent down a pipe, is heated by the hot rocks and comes to the surface again as steam, which can be used to drive turbine generators to produce electricity. Simple!

But many of these geothermal areas are a bit remote, such as in outback South Australia, and the argument against tapping this resource was that there were no power transmission lines to connect the generators to the grid. The idea dropped out of sight.

But now we’re talking of huge new transmission line towers and wires to use solar and win power stations. So why not use these to carry geothermal power? This is endless, constant power, which keeps generating whether the sun shines or not, or whether the wind blows or not. Why aren’t we re-thinking this?

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I had a breakfast with two friends at North Beach this morning, and had a Wild Mushroom Bruschetta – ciabatta toast, mushies, spinach, pecorino cheese, poached egg and bacon on the side. Yum! Long macchiato coffee. Bloody nice.

Speaking of coffee, I made an attempt at repairing my capsule coffee machine the other day. It stopped working – any attempt to make coffee resulted in a build up of pressure internally, enough to force the clamping lever up, producing dangerous steam and almost no coffee flow into the cup.

OK, I thought, there must be a blockage. I’ll just clear it and it’ll be fixed, right? Nah. When I got it partially disassembled, I found it’s rusted inside where the water flows, and enough that some of the screws holding it together are rusted too. I had to drill a few out.

Damn, this must be the fifth or sixth capsule coffee machine that’s failed on me. It’s just one after the other, kaput. I must admit I buy cheap ones, less than $100 each, but they last max two years, usually a lot shorter time.

I’m particularly sad to see this one scrapped, because it’s the only machine I’ve ever seen that uses “pluggable” holders so as to take four different size coffee capsules: Nespresso, Aldi Expressi, Lavazza Modo Mio and Caffitaly. I found that a brilliant idea. I didn’t overuse the machine, only one or two cups a day, but I only got about 2 1/2 years from it. It only cost $75, but seems to have been a one-shot-wonder. I can’t find it any more. I’d buy another one in a shot. Sigh.

If I buy another machine, I’ll probably go for the Aldi Expressi as I like their coffee and the capsules are reasonably priced. I’ve just noticed that they come with a two year warranty as well. That just about seals the deal.

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I’ve been thinking I should post more pictures, so watch this space. I’ll lead off by posting the number 1 image of my own whenever I see any suggestion of “Your best shot”.

© Peter J. Croft 2022

It was taken on my 1992 trip to Japan and is in a back lane of preserved shops in Kanazawa (I think). It was purely a fluke shot, I wasn’t aware of the scene when I pressed the shutter.

What I like is the super self confident look on the girl’s face, striding out, “I am woman, hear me roar”. And the coincident conversation going on between the two boys left of centre. Dare I say, decisive moment? Anyway, I love it.

Here’s my second choice from that trip:

© Peter J. Croft 2022

Again, I really don’t remember taking that shot. It was a lucky grab. But I like the simplicity and the colours and the composition.

I was on fire on that trip. When you’re able to completely focus on photography, it all comes together. These were all shot on film, by the way – this was 1992, before digital was invented. Fuji Reala colour negative (print) film. I shot 40 rolls on that trip, mostly 36 exposure but a lot of 24 exposure rolls as well. It cost me about $400 in film cost alone, and another $400 to get them processed and printed when I got home. Expensive!

Then in 2001 and onwards, when I had “retired” and bought a Nikon LS4000ED film scanner, I spent about six months (or more) scanning all these rolls of film to digital. That was one of the most rewarding times of my life.

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Why do I bother?

Takes my breath away. This is a CCD imaging IC for a digital camera. Billions of transistors! This is the beauty and genius of electronics.

Winter is upon us. It’s cool (19degC) and has been quite rainy overnight, so it’s quite humid now. But nice. I’m not complaining.

Funny, I heard Sabrina Hahn, the gardening guru, on the radio this morning saying that frangipanis don’t like too much water. They love sun and warmth, but they don’t like being waterlogged. She actually puts umbrellas over her small cuttings in winter, to protect them. I was surprised. That woman has the most amazing memory. She is a walking, talking encyclopedia on gardening, and is funny/entertaining as well. I’m no gardener but I like listening to her on Saturday mornings anyway, just for the jokes.

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The headline refers to a lunch I had with former high school friends (all guys) during the week. The conversation got onto politics and the new government, and I was stunned into silence by the ignorant criticisms pouring forth from the mouths of what I thought were reasonably intelligent guys. All they wanted to do was pour scorn and criticism on a government only three weeks into the job. The new treasurer, Jim Chalmers, copped a bucket load. When I pointed out that he’s actually Doctor Chalmers, with a PhD in economics, meaning he might know what he’s doing, that was just batted away. “What would he know. He’s just like the rest of the pollies, they’re all nongs.” For goodness sakes, they’re only three weeks in the job! “Aaaah, it doesn’t matter, they’re all bad.”

But the conversation soon veered to “abos”, aboriginal policies and welfare. It was racism, pure and simple. All the talk was about how all the money poured into aboriginal remote housing is wasted. No solutions offered, just racist criticism.

I thought better of these guys. I nearly walked out. I’m not sure I want to go to these lunches any more. If you can’t talk about footy and you don’t like racist talk and you like a progressive government, there’s not a lot to talk about. I mostly have to stay silent, biting my tongue. Grrrrr.

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I’m down to one out of three cars at the moment. All I’ve got left is the Honda MDX, (sob).

The Verada is out on long term loan to a mate who had a crash back in February, wrote off his car, (not his fault, still waiting on the insurance payout.)

But last Monday I did a long drive, 55km each way, in the Peugeot 407. It drove beautifully as usual, except for the engine knock when it’s cold. I’ve been worried about that, and the slow warm up, for a fair while and had been planning (I’ll get around to it …. 🙂 ) to put it in for service.

Anyway, when I got home after that long drive and parked the car in my garage, I noticed a fairly large pool of red/pink liquid spreading out from under the engine. Uh oh. Coolant leak. I’m lucky, the engine wasn’t overheating and I’m very lucky it didn’t spill its guts on the freeway.

So on Tuesday I got the RAC to send a tow truck and they took it to their Morley workshops, as Joondalup was booked out. It’s been there ever since, although I’d told them there’s no rush as I have the Honda.

They phoned on Thursday and confirmed a leaking coolant hose (I think) and they’re awaiting a genuine Peugeot spare part.

They also took note of my complaint about the engine knock, and strangely, said that after reading the fault codes and clearing them, the knock went away. Huh? I await further information, but I don’t understand that. I hope it’s true.

Anyway, I’m awaiting the quote for the work, and they’ll bring it out to the Joondalup workshop for me to pick it up when it’s ready. It would be nice if they could bring it here – I could run the guy back to Joondalup, or even to Morley if they want me to. I want to go there anyway, to buy a spare key for the car. It only came with one key and the buttons for lock/unlock are busted. The place that sells new keys is in Morley.

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Strange, a few months ago I bought a couple of blank keys from the Chinese Wish.com web site. I bought the shells and internal electronic PCBs separately and assembled them myself. They just need the key cut.

A couple of months ago I took them to a key cutting service at Joondalup. They passed the keys through a strange ????? looking device with a big hole in the middle. This seems to provide a readout of the characteristics of the electronics within the key fob. As a result, they told me “gobbledegook, waffle waffle, piffle” that my keys use a ???? “chip” and wouldn’t work with my car. I need to buy a key from them at a cost of $260 or thereabouts. Huh? Yeah, right.

So I said, well, can you just cut the key for me, to match the working one? No, for some reason they didn’t want to. I said OK, I’ll go elsewhere and walked away. I didn’t understand it. I’ll try the Morley place. He charges $40 to duplicate the metal part of the key, or $89.95 for a complete new key. Maybe I’ll do one of each.

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The 55km trip last Monday was to buy a Facebook Marketplace item from a guy in Forrestfield. It’s a DCC model train controller:

NCE Power Cab

Brand new in box, a few years old but obviously never used, $150, about half price. I’ve collected a swag of around five locos and eight carriages, plus a big box of track in the past eight years. But all along, I’ve been missing a controller, to supply power to the track and control the trains, obviously. I’ve been put off by the high price of DCC systems and confused about which system (manufacturer) to choose. I’ve known for a long time that NCE has one of the best reputations, so this made my mind up for me.

This is a small, low power system, to get you going. The power comes from that small wall plug supply, which is quite limited in how much it can drive. Probably four locos at one time at most. If you want more power, so as to drive switches (points) and signals, for example, you need a booster or two, and I just happen to have two 10A boosters that I’ve been building up in the past few years (I don’t like to work too quickly, you may have noticed 🙂 ) from a Silicon Chip magazine design. They’re not finished yet, but this is the impetus I need to finish the job.

So finally, I can make a start on my model railway. I can’t even try this controller yet because I don’t have any locos fitted with decoder boards. Explainer: locos are fed with a constant voltage AC square wave for power. This square wave voltage is rectified in the loco to provide the DC volts needed to run the motor, and it also contains coded instructions which the decoder board recognises to tell this particular loco to start moving, go forward or backward and turn its lights on or off etc.

I have a few decoders (they cost about $40 each!) and I have to fit them, which means dismantling the loco, fixing the decoder PCB in place and wiring the tiny wires to the motor and track. Then I have to program the loco with a unique number (01, 02, 03 etc) on a programming track. I don’t have that yet, either. More money to be spent.

In the last few years I’ve been slowly and steadily buying model railway stuff from the Wish website and now I’ve got a forest of plastic trees and foliage, several carparks full of LED lighting poles, a dozen LED trackside light signals and about six to eight rolling stock wagons of various types (in addition to the eight or so I already had). All this stuff is damned expensive – even Chinese made tanker wagons are $40 each. A real train could have 20 – 30 of these coupled together, or more. That’s a lot of money! Not to mention the cost of the loco at around $100, plus the $40 decoder. It is a very expensive hobby!

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I’m going to buy one of these! I’m excited. If only these had been available when I was a tech 30 years ago. Auto-ranging, true RMS, all the usual volts, current and resistance, relative volts, plus capacitance, transistor hFE, frequency, temperature and a built in 40MHz oscilloscope as well, all for $179. This is ideal! I want it. It will be especially useful for the DCC model trains, to measure and check the DCC coded square wave going to the track.

If only we had had these when I was a tech. I’m going to place an order (Amazon) now. (Later: done, ordered.)

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Wow, the inflation is really starting to become noticeable in my grocery checkout bills. Every week seems to be setting a new record. I used to be regularly under $100 until six months ago, but each week is going up, up. Last week’s was $162, and yesterday’s was $173.35, another record. I’m working on the graph I mentioned, not long now.

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Fergot to mention – I saw another Peugeot 407 Coupe yesterday, a black one.

I don’t like the wheels on this one.

Highly unusual. This is the first time I’ve seen another one, apart from my own. I love the black colour. Maybe I’ll get mine wrapped in black, instead of my boring silver colour.

Anyway, I was driving just near my house and saw this other 407. I wanted to stop and have a chat, but I couldn’t. I wonder if he’s had the boot trouble.

Traps for young players

Traps for young players.

Recently it occurred to me to see if there’s such a thing as a car MiniDisc player. It seems to me this is the ideal application for MiniDiscs – they are small, completely enclosed in a caddy, virtually indestructible, immune to magnetism, heat and probably sunlight, and most of all, easy to pick up and handle. Trying to get CDs out of their cases and insert them is quite dangerous while you’re driving. MiniDiscs stay in their cases. As well, CDs are very easily scratched and damaged. MiniDiscs are protected.

Anyway, it seems Pioneer did make one, with the strange Japanese/English/Italian name of Carrozzeria. See picture above of a used one for sale on eBay. Cupla hundred bucks – nice, I thought.

But look at the specifications on the label. FM 76.1 – 89Mhz. Uh oh, this is obviously a Japanese spec. Our FM band (and the rest of the world’s) is 88 – 108MHz. In other words, if you buy this item, you will not be able to receive FM in your car. At least they give you what looks like CB channels (VHF, UHF …)

Another thing to watch for: Japanese and US FM radio receivers will be marked as 75μS de-emphasis. In this country, we use 50μS. This refers to a deliberate slope in the audio high frequencies, applied befroe transmission, designed to increase HF signal to noise ratio (decrease HF noise).

The effect of ignoring this would be an increased “brightness” or peaky HF. It probably wouldn’t be too noticeable unless directly compared to a proper Australian spec device, but …

The other thing to be wary of when looking at Japanese items for sale on eBay is the voltage they run on. Many Japanese items are rated for 100 – 120Vac. If you want to run it here, you’ll need to buy a step-down transformer. They are readily available at Jaycar and Altronics and not too expensive, considering they won’t need to be high powered for small items.

So it pays to look closely at gift horses. Especially when they have Japanese characters in the display.

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For the past couple of months I’ve been watching Line of Duty on Netflix. Wow! Wow!!

I was late coming to this program. It was made in 2017, I think. I was somewhat put off by the brutality in the first episodes. I watched a few but it was too tough for me then.

But recently I’ve come back to it and I’ve just finished series 4. This would have to be one of the best police series I’ve ever seen. The stories are so complex, yet so believable. The acting is just superb. Yes, it’s very tough and a bit hard to watch at times, but after each episode I’m left with my jaw drooping on the floor. Wow. Recommended.

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I did my weekly shopping today and the price rises are jaw dropping as well. I’ve become a Greek salad maker these days, and capsicum is the main ingredient for me. I could hardly believe it today, yellow capsicum has jumped from around $5 per kilo a few weeks ago to $15.50! Green is $8.90/kg and red is $11.90. I chose one red and one green today and got away with about $3 each.

My bill came to $162.75. That’s a new record for me, the highest checkout bill I’ve ever had. That’s for a week’s worth of groceries, it will probably last me more than a week.

For over 20 years (since 1 November 1999, in fact, when I ‘retired’) I’ve been keeping note books and documenting every cent I spend. That means I’ve got a complete record of all my grocery spends, so now I’ve decided it’s time to spreadsheet them. It’s not hard. I made a start just now, beginning at 1/1/2021, last year. I want to show the rise this year and the effect of the sudden rise in inflation, because I’m certainly noticing it. Stay tuned.

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I’ve just poured myself a glass of red wine, and as I expected, it’s almost black, such a dark red that you can’t see through it. The brand is McWilliams Durif. Strange name, but beautiful wine. NB: I had opened this bottle and had one glass more than a year ago. It’s been sitting upright on my shelf ever since, tightly screw capped, and it still tastes brilliant. I’m no expert, and it could be affected by air, but it tastes fine to me.

But in virtually every movie and TV program, especially those from the UK, red wine is pale, transparent, like rosé. Good luck to them, but if I ask for red wine, I want it as dark and opaque as possible. Unless it is rosé, of course.

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While at the shopping centre today I heard a young girl nearby speaking excitedly and turned just in time to see her do a couple of cartwheels, then without breaking stride, do a complete backflip – a full feet over head, fully airborne somersault. My jaw dropped here, too. This is a hard, terrazzo floor. If she’d mistimed it, her head would have hit the floor. Wow again. I smiled at her but she didn’t see me. Well done.

Which reminds me, in the same shopping centre a few weekends ago, I noticed a large number of teenagers and young guys milling around, about 30 in total, half inside and half outside the doors. It soon became apparent that they were two seemingly rival groups, daring each other, with a bit of pushing and shoving, swirling around, moving back and forth, inside and outside.

It didn’t get serious and two security guards did a good job of talking to them and breaking them apart, directing one half out another door. There was no pushing or shoving. It took about ten minutes of talking but it worked and they disappeared. That was lucky. I wasn’t too close but I was considering leaving.

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I read last week that the cause of the plane crash in China several weeks ago, at first thought to be mechanical failure, is now suspected to be due to a rogue pilot committing suicide. Another one! Taking around 150 people with him.

With the loss of Malaysian Airlines MH17 over the Indian Ocean five years ago also strongly believed to be the work of a crazy pilot, and Germanwings crash in France a decade or so ago with 150 passengers also, holy cow! This is becoming a fairly regular occurrence. Perhaps we should be demanding certificates of sanity on the airlines’ web sites before we book our flights. Who would have thought this could be happening?

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Going insane

The capital of the Maldives. So many tall buildings, built on a sand island.

Aaah, 1 June, the first day of winter. Hooray! Only three weeks until the equinoxe, (Correction! solstice, not equinoxe) the shortest day of the year when the days start getting longer again. I don’t like this cold weather. Cold? It’s maximums of 19 or 20degC, balmy summer temps for you northern hemisphere denizens, but anything below 20C is too cold for me. There are several months to come, I’m afraid, before I’m perspiring again.

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Aaarrrgh! Lying in bed unable to sleep at 3.35am last Saturday morning, I heard a house alarm start up. I keep my bedroom door closed at night (to keep the boogymen out 🙂 ), and at first I thought it was next door’s alarm. But slowly I realised it was my alarm!

I got up and punched in the code and it stopped. Then it started again. Code in again, stopped. Started again. Over and over, random zones triggering it, display going crazy. Must have gone off more than a dozen times in 10 min period. What to do??!!

I got up on a stool to reach the controller box, which is in my walk-in wardrobe. Tried to pull the control box door open but it’s screwed shut – it has a tamper switch, of course, so the alarm was going off continuously. I’m up on the stool in the WIR, so can’t punch the code in on the keypad which is at the front door. I’m not too good at climbing up on a stool, either.

I was so desperate I pulled the box off the wall, screws and all. I still had to find a screwdriver to get it open. Turned the power off but it has battery backup. Had to find pliers to pull the battery terminal off. That finally killed it. Sorry, neighbours!

I was perspiring by the time all this was over. Not much chance of getting to sleep now. Chamomile tea time. I managed to get to sleep around 5am.

PS: I spoke to my next door neighbour over our common wall next day, apologising for the noise. “What noise?”, she said. She hadn’t heard it.

It just proves, once again, that these alarms are pretty useless. No-one takes any notice – I don’t rush out into the street when I hear one going off nearby. And the tea-leaves don’t care – they just ignore them as well. The only use is if it’s connected to a monitoring service if you’re away from the house a lot. It’s tedoius having to set it and disarm it every time I go out, but if I were burgled, the insurance company would kick up about, I assume.

Anyway, I strongly suspect it’ll be a dead backup battery. I replaced it about eight years ago, so it’s about time for a new one.

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Can you believe it? Boris Johnson will reportedly announce the return of imperial measurements to mark the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Britain currently uses a mix of imperial and metric measurements, with speed limits in miles per hour and milk and beer bought in pints. People are happy with this mix, as I read it. There’s no need to change, and I also read that the change is being treated with amusement and contempt. What a stupid government!

Only three other countries, the US, Myanmar and Liberia, use the imperial system on a daily basis. Yet another example of how the USA is a crazy, stupid country.

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From the Guardian: in Italy, the average cost of an espresso is €1, although more than 70% of bars increased prices earlier in the year due to supply chain issues and poor harvests. Consumer groups warned that the price of an espresso could rise to an average €1.50 this year.

Wow, €1.50, that’s A$2.27. That’s half the price of a flat white here. In fact there’s a new coffee place in the mall at Clarkson shops where their price for a coffee is $6.50! I saw that and I’ve walked past. That’s too much! Italy is a high wage country – why is their coffee so cheap while ours is so expensive?

This Clarkson cafe also sells food and every afternoon they set the unsold food out on top of the counter, trying to sell it off. But there are no prices on their items. I asked about it one day, and they said prices are around $8 for various rolls and salads. This is too much! If it’s $8 when it’s being flogged off, how much was it when it was full price? Sorry, I walk away.

I predict this place will not last long.

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Now that we have a Labor, progressive government, in a major historic first, Australia now has an Assistant Minister for the Republic. We congratulate the Government on making this important step towards the realisation of an Australian republic and look forward to working with them over the next parliamentary term.

The Queen is a lovely lady, but she’s not my queen! I want Australia to be a republic.

When a country goes bad

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another American gun nut case.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now is the winter …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A sad day

Aunt Vivienne. R.I.P.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

R.I.P.

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

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

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

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