She’s home

Brrrrrr, my fingies are stiff with cold, even though the sun is shining and the clouds have moved away temporarily. It rained last night and this morning.

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M’selle Evie est dans la maison! Eight weeks she was away. Did I miss her? Shall we say that her memory improved in her absence, but the reality on her return soon kicked me in the backside.

Yes, eight weeks to fix a cooling system leak, and a bill of $2,388 although that includes an oil and filter change. Urrrggh. Can’t be helped, but it’s annoying that it makes absolutely no difference to how the car feels. The workshop mentioned that they felt the engine is misfiring and when they cleared the codes, it went away. I had high hopes for a big difference in smoothness. Nope, it’s still as lumpy as ever.

So do I throw more money at the problem? It’s only at idle that it’s lumpy. It drives OK once the revs are up and there’s plenty of power. Injectors are not difficult to replace and having watched so many mechanic YouTube clips lately, I should be capable of doing the job. But they cost $125 each, and I should replace all six to be sure, so that’s $750, plus a bit more for new washers.

I think I need to sell her. There’s a sucker born every minute and I was a sucker, I think. I knew it felt like this when I bought it, but paid out the money anyway. I just need to find someone else who wants such a beautiful car.

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I had to get an Uber drive to the RAC workshops in Joondalup to collect Evie. You’ll remember that Tuesday was a howling, raining, helluva day. I tried to judge a gap in the rain, but when my ride arrived, the rain was horizontal. He pulled up onto the verge and I turned to lock the front door. The rain chose that moment to increase in intensity, so I put my hand up to ask him to wait a bit while I sheltered from the storm.

I spent no more than two minutes over all this, then got in the car and off we went.

Imagine my surprise when I got the in-line invoice showing the charge – the bastard had added $3.50 for “Wait time”. Grrrrr! With “booking fee”, what started out as a $27 ride turned out to cost $32.50. Grrr. I’ve made a complaint.

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So, sell the Honda or the Verada too? I really enjoy driving the Honda, but it’s big, heavy and drinks fuel – 16L/100Km or worse. Tyres cost a lot. But it’s very reliable.

The Verada is also a pleasure to drive and maintenance is not too expensive, although I had to shell out $350 for a mass airflow sensor a few months ago. It’s also a bit heavy on fuel – 12.5L/100Km, but I drive so little that I can go months between fills.

Which leads to the thought – what if I dispensed with owning a car altogether? I hardly go anywhere these days. What if I just used taxis? No more licence costs, no more insurance, no more repairs. No more fuel bills, no more repair costs. It makes overwhelming sense.

But I enjoy driving! How often do I do any long drive? About once a year now, so rent a nice car if I know I have a long drive coming up. That would make sense. Hmmmm. If I found I’d made a mistake in giving up cars, then I could buy something again.

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Which reminds me, from everything I’ve learned and everything I’ve heard, don’t buy a BMW! They are nice cars and when they are going well, they are beautiful to drive. But they go wrong in so many ways, and when you try to fix them, the parts cost a fortune and many parts can’t be replaced by the home mechanic because they are “chipped”, that it they have to be identified to the car’s VIN and engine computer, which can only be done by a dealer.

Same with Mercedes – beautiful cars, and I yearn to own one, but be prepared to pay out thousands each year for servicing and parts. They seem to be more reliable than BMWs, but they still break far too often and when they do, it’s the Check Wallet light that comes on in the dash.

In fact, I will generalise and say, Don’t Buy a European Car! I’ll never buy a Mercedes or BMW, which is a bit like saying I’ll never become an astronaut, but you know what I mean. Too unreliable and too expensive to fix.

No, there are only two cars to buy, Toyota or Honda. Japanese cars are so reliable in comparison. If the Japanese can do it, how come the Germans can’t? The Koreans have come a long, long way and KIA’s seven year warranty shows the confidence they have in their products, so they could be contenders, but such boring cars.

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I’ve found another YouTube mechanic channel, Diagnose Dan. Wow, this guy is good at diagnosis, which is why other workshops and dealers send him their hard-to-fix cars.

Dan is a bit of a pain to watch because he waves his hands around all the time and speaks so slowly and deliberately. He repeats himself. What did I say? He repeats himself, get it?

But if you have any difficult problem, you’d learn a lot by watching these clips. He’s in Europe, Holland I think, but it’s all in English. Recommended.

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I’m watching a fascinating series on Netflix at the moment, which I’ll name in a minute. The series The Good Doctor on Seven is derived from a Korean original, where an autistic guy becomes a surgeon. Hard to believe, but it’s only TV. The point is, he’s a high functioning savant who can recall masses of detail from his text books and reading. In the series, he has a mentor who is the surgical director or a major hospital in San Jose (I think), California. I was very sceptical at first and it’s very choreographed, but it got me in and I’ve watched all the episodes so far.

OK, now I’m engrossed in another Korean series, and it’s the original show with subtitles, called Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Yes, she’s also a high functioning autistic savant who trained as a lawyer, topping her uni classes, and is taken on by a Seoul law firm called Hanbada.

Part of her autism is that she tends to repeat favourite phrases, particularly her name which in full is Woo Young Woo. Whenever she’s introduced, she says her name, then lists five or six palindromic words which, strangely, are English words such as …….. bloody ‘ell, my mind’s gone blank. Point being, her name in Korean is a palindrome. It’s odd that the show uses English words, but maybe they’re just substituting Korean words which are palindromic.

Anyway, she can recall and recite practically any law, ordinance or statute at will. That would be handy to have.

But she’s also obsessed by whales and dolphins, any sea creatures like that, and whenever she has a brainwave, she sees a whale swimming by in her mind, or outside the window of her office block, whichever you want to believe.

At first I was sceptical, but I admit this series has grabbed me. She’s utterly charming and beautiful, for one thing, and it’s fascinating to see Korean life and what Seoul looks like. Quite like Japan, to be honest, very clean and neat and everyone bows to each other. Not a bad habit to have, I reckon.

Anyway, Extraordinary Attorney Woo. Recommended. Netflix.

On the road again

The Pug is fixed and ready. See below.

Brrrrrrr, only 16C maximum today, so they predict. I suppose it would help if I put my warm jacket on.

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At last, I got a call from the RAC workshop to say the Peugeot is ready. They’ve replaced all the hoses and fittings in the cooling system and it’s not leaking, so it’s done. I’m picking it up on Monday. The final bill? $2,288.05. Ugh. What’s annoying is that the car won’t feel any different. It’s not as if this was a performance tune up or a fix for some knock or rattle. It’s just a fix for coolant leaks. Plus an oil and filter change. I suppose that will make me feel better.

Can’t be helped. What am I supposed to do, refuse the repairs and scrap the car? No, it’s in great condition. I suppose it’s shown me that to have two cars sitting in the garage, and another one sitting out in the laneway is um, a little crazy. I’ve missed the Pug, and I’m really looking forward to driving it again, but the Honda feels great too. What to do? I’ll have to seriously consider selling two of them, but which two? I like them all.

My friend who borrowed the Verada has finally been paid out by the RAC Insurance for his crashed car, so he’ll want to return mine. I want him to buy that Verada from me, but although he hasn’t explicitly said no, he keeps going on about the fuel economy, or lack of it. It runs about 12.5L/100Km, or can be up to 14L/100Km. For me, with all my short trips, that’s not a problem, but he does a lot of driving to jobs around the city. I’ve actually had it down to 8L/100Km on freeway driving and in cruise control, but you can’t do that all the time.

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The pain in my side feels somewhat better yesterday and today. I can still feel it at the moment (11.23am) but it’s bearable. I’ve been taking the recommended laxative and it’s kinda working; could that be the cause? Surely not? I hope it is, I hope it’s that simple.

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I’m being annoyed by a stupid thing with my landline phone. I’ve got a Panasonic cordless system with three handsets, one on the base station (which incorporates a digital answering machine) next to the computer, and two other handsets, one in the meals area and one next to my bed.

The problem is it’s decided that I’ve got a voicemail, and it’s flashing the LED on top of all the handsets to let me know. But there is no voice mail! There’s a menu item and the phone just says “The number you have dialled is not available.” But I didn’t dial any number! I can’t delete it, and I can’t stop the LEDs flashing.

Why does this matter? Because in my darkened bedroom at night, the flashing LED is enough to be annoying. It lights up the room (to a small degree). I want it to stop!

I’ve been through all the menus and I’ve removed all the batteries and the power to the base station for half an hour, to try to clear everything. Result? No difference.

Aaaarrrrgh! I don’t know what to do. This is a ten year old device – I’ve thought of getting onto a support forum, but would there be such a thing? Would Panasonic know anything? I guess I’ll have to try.

Of course, the simplest answer would be to cut small pieces of black tape and place them over the LEDs. How ridiculous.

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I slept well last night and I think I’m finally getting a handle on what affects whether I have a good night or not.

I’m pretty clear on what medication I can take and when, or not take as the case may be.

But, very annoying, I’ve finally realised that what they say about alcohol being detrimental to sleep seems to be true, for me. I’ve realised that I can’t drink after about 7pm. Unless I decide to have an enjoyable night and polish off a bottle or so. Very rare these days.

But there’s another thing – I like listening to the radio in the early hours. The routine is that I go lights out at around 11.30pm after reading for a while, then drop off fairly quickly until about 1am – 1.30am. Always. Can’t seem to stay asleep.

Up for a pee, then the radio goes on. Can’t seem to stop myself. ABC News Radio, which is the BBC at that time. Lots of interesting stuff. But I can still drop off to sleep with the radio going. Up again around 4.30am (old man’s problem) and World Business Report from the BBC on Radio National at 5am, followed by the Health Report at 5.30am on Mondays, Law Report Tuesdays and so on. I know all the schedules.

I’ve read that insomnia is one of the problems of old age. It’s true. I do sleep, but never right through. Sigh.

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I’m just reading about some new glasses developed by a company called XRAI Glass that are designed for deaf people. They have a microphone and electronics built into the frame. The mic picks up what people are speaking and the electronics translates it in real time, then projects it in front of the glasses for the deaf person to read. Instantly.

What a good idea. The glasses are a little bulky but not too bad: https://petapixel.com/2022/07/29/smart-glasses-allow-deaf-people-to-see-real-time-conversation-captions/

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Which reminds me – 3M are marketing a mask with N95 specifications called Aura. It’s supposed to have extra sealing around the bridge of your nose which stops the exhaled air escaping upwards and fogging your glasses.

I asked at my local pharmacy and they knew about them; one of the assistants was actually wearing one, but they said they can’t stock them and they are only available to health professionals. Huh? The 3M ad shows a Bunnings logo and Bunnings stock them at $43.50 for a pack of ten. Trouble is, they are out of stock near me and I have to drive to Wangara. OK, the sun’s out, so that’s where I’m going this afternoon.

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Many years ago, around 1966 to 1970 or so, I used to work with a guy at TVW7 called Mike Humphry. I learnt during the week that he’s published a book about his times as an Outside Broadcast supervisor, first at TVW7 in Perth, then at SAS10 (later (SAS7) in Adelaide.

He’s entitled it Mike’s Memories – crumbs, I think he could have come up with a more imaginative title, but it doesn’t matter. I immediately ordered a copy and it should be here this week, I hope.

Interestingly, the book web site (Booktopia) said it’s printed to order, so when you pay, a copy is produced. Good idea.

As soon as I heard about this book, the jealousy monster dug into me and I got the urge to restart work on my memoirs. I have started on the early Sydney years and I wrote about 40 pages on my time at TVW for a book project which another guy tried to get going via FaceBook. Unfortunately it failed, because only about five people (me included) contributed anything.

At least I made a good start, but I ended my chapter way early. I have much, much more to add and expand on. This is giving me the strong urge to get going again.

A friend told me once that when you find yourself drifting, unable to get going on a book or video production or slide show or whatever, the answer is to set a deadline. Set yourself a date, such as Christmas, that it must be finished by. I followed his advice on a slide show once and it worked. OK, I have to finish my memoirs by Xmas. Promise. But which Xmas?

The grain in Ukraine

Lightning in the clouds of Jupiter. Webb Space Telescope image.

Aaaah, nice day today and my washing was dry. I hung it out last Thursday and as usual, couldn’t be bothered bringing it in too soon. Well, rain! It rained on Friday, then Saturday and Sunday it bucketed down, didn’t it? My washing got a beautiful extra rainwater rinse. That’s great, by my reckoning. Saves me ironing. As if I would, he he. I haven’t ironed anything in five years. 🙂

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Phew! PHEW!! Good news. I had a C/T scan last Friday for the pain in my side, and as you can imagine I’ve been shitting bricks ever since. I’ve been pretty worried, that’s for sure.

But the doctor phoned a little while ago and said it’s all clear, nothing to worry about. Liver’s a bit enlarged, but I knew that. Mainly, he said I’m too constipated and I need to use a laxative. OK, that’s easy. The trouble is, the opioid pain relief tablets I’ve been taking cause constipation. Damn, I can’t seem to find anything in the analgesic department that (a) works; (b) doesn’t cause me insomnia; and (c) doesn’t have side effects like that.

So what’s causing this pain? It’s like a reverse pin cushion with a bunch of needles and it’s being pushed into my left abdomen, just below the rib cage. It varies, bad at times, hardly anything at others. Still as long as it’s nothing ominous, that’s OK.

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The doctor I saw who ordered the C/T scan is the haematologist, for my CLL. More good news: the blood results from last Tuesday show an improvement. Another “Phew!”

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Re the Peugeot, we’re now into the sixth week that it’s been at the RAC workshops and still no news. They usually phone me each week to give progress reports and ask permission to proceed, but they didn’t call at all last week and they haven’t today so far.

The last time they called, the bill was around $2,400 plus another amount for labour. Ouch!! Frankly, I’m glad they’re not calling. I’m happy to delay paying that bill, especially as this is council rates (~$1,200) time of year and I had to pay the licence fee for the Honda ($950) last week. Life is expensive!

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I saw some vision of the new Hyundai and KIA electric cars last week. Holy smoke! These are so advanced, so technologically and stylistically superior that I’m left thinking how far behind we have fallen in that area, automotive design and manufacturing.

Hyundai IONIQ 6
Hyundai IONIQ 6
KIA EV6

Damn, we once had a strong Australian car industry! Not that long ago, less than 20 years, GM Holden, Ford and Mitsubishi made great cars, designed and manufactured in this country, as good as anything from overseas. Toyota and Nissan assembled imported parts and customised the cars to our conditions.

But it’s all gone! All thrown on the scrap heap, wasted due to government rulings. I know it’s not as simple as that, but South Korea has leapt ahead of us. Light years ahead. Their electronics industry is far superior and forging ahead. We not only can’t compete, we don’t even try.

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I’m old enough to remember when Australia not only designed and made electronic goods (radios, TVs, stereos, car radios etc), we also made ALL the parts needed to build them. We made valves (vacuum tubes), CRTs, transistors, integrated circuits (ICs, “chips”), resistors, capacitors and every other part needed to design and build electronic items. Now? There’s a small scale integrated circuit manufacturing capacity left, but just about everything else has been abandoned to imported components. Made in China!

That means we have almost no electronics manufacturing capacity in this country any more. That has huge implications for defence. Modern military equipment is packed to the rafters with the highest tech electronics you can imagine, and a helluva lot you can’t imagine. If military conflict breaks out, which is looking more and more likely, we will need overseas suppliers and supply lines, and that’s not guaranteed. Not by a long shot.

We do make military equipment in Australia (Bushmaster APCs for example), but how much reserve capacity is there. Maybe we don’t hear about it. I hope so, but I doubt it.

Old timers

Jindalee Beach looking north, 2016, Sony RX10 © PJ Croft 2022

It’s a beautiful day at the moment – sunny, blue sky, no wind. It’s remarkable how the weather has changed in this part of the world. We used to be at the top of the Roaring Forties, being at latitude 32deg South. That meant Perth was Windy City, always blown around by westerly winds. I used to notice on my travels how calm it was in the places I visited (e.g. Singapore, Bali) and wished we could have the same.

But it’s all changed. Now, I’ve got my wish. The Roaring Forties have moved further south. Perth and the lower part of WA are no longer blasted by the westerlies. That’s not always true – we still get the winter storms, but we get many more calm, still days, like now. I like it!

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I had lunch at the Kings Park Restaurant on Thursday with five of the old gang who were at St Christopher’s House Boys’ Hostel, Northam, from 1960 – 1964. Well, not quite true, one of the group was from Toodyay, but he’s good company so we make him an honorary Hut Lad.

It’s 60 years since we shared dormitories. Sixty years! Yet we’re still mates and it hardly seems any time at all. We moved apart in the decades after school, but have come back together in the past couple of decades. In fact we have reunions every year and we have more than 150 on our list of alumni of the school. We get about 40 along to the reunions each year (COVID permitting) and people are still keen to meet up each year.

Alan (‘Harry’) and Jim (‘Wedge’) actually drove up from Dunsborough and Bunbury respectively, just for our lunch, then drove back again afterwards. I’m impressed. That shows respect, I think. Roy (‘Yorkie’) and Geoff (he didn’t have a nickname) live in Perth, so that’s OK, and Mick (Toodyay Boy) lives in Leeming – the Near South. I’m ‘Bull’, have been since about October 1961.

I live in the Deep North, Butler, 55 mins drive on the freeway, so I reckon I deserve a medal for the long drive as well. Actually, I look forward to these long drives. I enjoy driving and the Honda makes it a pleasure with its comfy leather seats and cruise control. I am bloody tired of the road works on the freeway, though!! It never ends. They have been digging up the south bound lanes for the past two or three years. When are they going to finish??!! Same with the northern extension of the freeway, up past Clarkson to Yanchep. They’ve been going at least two years now and completion is not expected until end of next year! So slow …….

I had a beefburger for lunch, with added cheese and egg at extra cost. The total cost for a burger was $30.49! It wasn’t worth it. The burger patty was thin and boring. I reckon a Hungry Jacks burger is better. Hmm, I should be in advertising.

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I’ve just been watching a YouTube clip about all the inventions we no longer use, and I was amazed at the length of the list:

  • the dial or pushbutton phone
  • the mechanical analogue wrist watch
  • the pocket compass (superseded by GPS and the smart phone)
  • the VHS home recorder
  • the Betamax home recorder
  • the VHS or Beta camcorder
  • the Video-8 camcorder
  • the laser video disc player (never a thing in Australia)
  • the 8-track tape player, although it never caught on in Australia
  • the reel to reel tape recorder
  • the audio cassette recorder
  • the DVD recorder (still in use, but dying out)
  • the CD recorder (never really a thing)
  • the dial-up modem
  • the 8mm or Super8mm film movie camera and projector
  • the 35mm slide projector and screen
  • the desktop calculator, mainly used in labs and offices
  • the cassette Walkman with headphones
  • the ‘Boombox’ or ‘Ghetto Blaster’, the giant portable stereo radio/cassette
  • the portable TV receiver (CRT type)
  • the full sized CRT TV. Huge, heavy, expensive.
  • the pager, the belt carried LCD screen to show a small message
  • the Discman portable CD player (much to my regret – I used mine a lot)
  • the floppy disc – 7½”, 5¼”, 3.5″ – I used to have hundreds of the latter
  • the record player – OK, not quite dead but not main stream
  • the Minidisc recorder – again, not mainstream and not quite dead, but you can’t buy a new one
  • the portable Minidisc player – same, I have one and it’s great, but not available new
  • the portable transistor radio – still available new, but a niche product
  • the VHS and Beta video recorder/players
  • the mechanical typewriter
  • the Micro-cassette voice recorder/memo taker
  • the data backup tape drive (still used in some big data centres)
  • the PDA – Personal Data Assistant. Who remembers the Palm Pilot or the Sony Clié? (I have one.)
  • the calculator wrist watch
  • the film camera – again, not quite dead but little used
  • Morse Code – not quite dead, but little used. It was a very early form of digital communication.

What a long list! And that’s not everything. Nearly all of these date from the 1960s and onwards, not such a long time ago for someone like me who’s been involved since the 1960s and can remember nearly all of this. The other surprising thing is how many of these were invented or strongly supported by Sony. That’s an amazing company. So inventive, so far-thinking, such good quality products.

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Nearly forgot to mention: I’ve had another progress call from the RAC Morley about the Peugeot. They’ve had it for more than a month now (it will be five weeks on Tuesday).

They’ve found it needs yet another coolant hose! This is the third one. The first one cost about $200, then they found another one at about $60. Then they found the thermostat housing needs replacement (that’s what I originally thought) at $320, and now they’ve found yet another leaking hose. But this one costs $416! Bloody hell! The parts costs alone are up to $2,200 so far, with 3 hours labour at $145 per hour. Plus the cost of an oil change and filter. We’re looking at a total nearing $3,000 at the moment.

What can I do? I have to say keep going because it’s not a junk car. It’s in superb condition. I can’t just say “Stop, it’s not worth it”. The only consolation is that I only paid $4,400 for it, and the current values for this model and year (2006) are $6,500 upwards, reaching $12,000 or more depending on engine and options. I may have to sell it. I need either a station wagon or the Honda with its SUV body. The Peugeot is an indulgence. Besides anything else, the cost of a licence is around $950 per car now. This is a damned tax, not a licence. I’m reaching the limit.

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Crikey, I’m suffering from some quite strong pain at the moment, intermittent but enough to have me squirming and groaning at times. It’s bad enough to want to take strong pain relief, stronger than Panadeine Forte.

I saw the GP last week and he diagnosed internal scar tissue from previous operations being pulled around. Take analgesia, but nothing more to be done. OK, all very well, but I can’t live like this. It’s strong pain and it mostly doesn’t let up. And as usual, the analgesics stop me sleeping!

The thing is, I tried to make another appointment yesterday as I can’t bear this 8/10 pain. But I can’t get in to see my GP until the beginning of August, 11 days away at best. I looked at another GP at the same centre, who I’ve seen before, and he’s booked out until Wednesday next week.

This is almost bad enough to need to go to the ED at Joondalup Hospital. I suppose I could try for an appointment at the two other medical centres near me. I’d better try that, I guess. This is quite a problem.

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I’m feeling a warm glow these days from the new Labor federal government and their actions. At last, they are making me proud of Australia again, after the past near-decade of international embarrassment and shame at the Liberal-National actions. The climate change denial, the refusal to cooperate with international groups. The nose-thumbing at the Pacific nations. The continued subsidisation of coal, oil and gas producers, despite pleas from other countries. They brought shame on my country!

Now, at last I can say “Well done”. We’re not fully clean yet, but we’re on the way.

I’m prompted to say this because one of my old Hut Lad mates, who admits he’s been a strong conservative voter, last Thursday said “Your lot are doing a good job these days, I have to admit.” He’s been a conservative Liberal voter but he’s brave enough to say how good a job Labor are doing, both at state and federal level.

He mentioned how rigid the right wing conservatives – his words- are and we had a brief chat about how they are afraid of change, they resist change no matter what. I said I feel it’s because they don’t understand the science, don’t understand what the changes mean, therefore they just resist. He agreed. This is progress! I’m very surprised at his change in attitude. Let’s hope he carries it through to the next election.

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Hollow trees, Trigg Bushland, 2008 © PJ Croft 2022
Trigg Beach 1 October 2007 © PJ croft 2022
Minnie, Trigg Beach 13 Oct 2009 – I miss her so badly!

Rain, rain, come back please

In the wheat crop, Bruce Rock 1951

Another beeyootiful day, clear blue sky, bit cool 19C and no rain. The stats are saying we’ve only had half our usual winter rain to this date so far. We need more rain.

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I saved myself $179 last week.

I’ve never owned a vertical drill press and although I rarely need one, I want one. I’m sure you know the feeling – wanting something, but not needing it. For the last few years my eye has been taken by the Bosch PBD40:

But at A$439, I never needed it enough to buy it. Then Aldi came up with this one:

At A$179 it looked good but I procrastinated for months. Then last week there was one in Clarkson Aldi. I was sorely tempted, but decided to think on it. A few days later it was gone. No more stock.

Oh well, too bad, I don’t need it anyway, so I saved my $179.

But then I started thinking – Dremel.

I’m only thinking of model railway stuff, very small, very light duty. Dremel makes hand held drills, and what’s more, they make a vertical drill press accessory (below).

And they make a big range of useful tools:

To cut a long story short, I’d be far better off buying a Dremel and a stand. They come up frequently on Facebook Marketplace at about half price (why? Do guys buy them for just one job?) Once you’ve got a driver, you can add a router table, cut-off discs, rotary sanders, all sorts.

So I don’t need anything yet, but I think this will be the way to go – buy a driver from the range above, then a stand when I need it. It will add up to about the same price as the Aldi/Ferrex drill press and be much more versatile. Including battery powered. I’m thinking particularly about drilling lots of very small holes (0,5mm ?) in the rail tracks.

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I really, really have to make a start on my model railway! I’ve collected everything I need now. The NCE Power Cab hand held throttle I bought second hand a couple of weeks ago was the final item I needed to get myself powered up. That’s the item that takes the mains power (through a plug-pack/wall-wart) and generates the DCC signal which gets applied to the rails. In theory, I could take a length of rail from the box in my garage, connect this controller (“cab”, “throttle”) to it and drive a locomotive. It would be pretty boring, driving it from one end to the other and back again, but it’s theory, right?

I’ve found a supplier in NSW, Bowral, would you believe Bong Bong Street? They carry a pretty wide range of stuff but importantly, it’s all at $9.95 flat rate postage. I’ve been browsing EBay a lot, but the cost of postage often exceeds the cost of the item! Postage often amounts to $20 – $40. Better to buy locally.

I received 4x 10m lengths of 3mm thickness cork underlay yesterday. That’s what goes under the rails. I also have a 2m x 3m section of 3mm thick black rubber underlay out in the garage. It’s randomly perforated and is meant for flooring underlay or work area cushioning. I’ve had it for more than 7 years, waiting to use it as underlay for the rails. Being black, with a random pattern of holes, it will resemble black coal, like an industrial area. It will deaden the sound. Quite heavy, though. I’ll use a craft knife to cut most of it away in the areas which are not needed.

Waverley Station, Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve been there, drove my hire car down the ramp on the left hand bridge, onto the platform, 2008.

I’d like to model that. Not too difficult, I think.

That sloping bridge at the top is un-nerving, for some reason. There’s no reason why a bridge can’t slope, it’s just that you don’t usually see a sloping bridge. I drove across it in the hire car in my desperate search for the hire car office.

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I saw my mate Barry, the real estate agent who sold my house in Charles Riley Rd, Trigg in 2013 for me. I mentioned that I’ve seen the listing for it recently (last year) as it was back on the market and the listing included a lot of photos of the renovation that the buyers did. Eg:

The interesting thing is that he was able to find the last sale price. I sold it for $687,000 in 2013. The sale price last year, after the renovations, was $1,185,000. Wow. But Barry reckons they would have spent around $150,000 on the renovations, so ($1,185,000 – $150,000 – $687,000) = $348,000 profit in eight years. Not bad, but a lot of work, and I can’t say I like the reno very much. It’s still only a 3 bed + 1 bath house.

Those Chinese jokers

Kyrgistan

Psssssshhhhhhhheeeeewwwwwwwsssshhh. That’s my exhalation of breath after talking to my doctor yesterday.

A few weeks ago I started to notice a pain in my left abdomen, just below the rib cage. It didn’t get very bad, but it didn’t go away. It’s still there and it’s bad enough to need Prodeine Forte (paracetemol + codeine) twice a day. Of course, I diagnosed myself, and to me, it had to be stomach cancer.

It took a week to get an appointment and by the time the appointment came yesterday, I was pretty damned nervous.

Anyway, we talked about it for a few minutes, then he got me on the examination table and started poking and prodding. There’s no lump, I could tell that. But what I didn’t know is that the pain is located right under a small scar where one of the laparascopic probes would have gone in when I had surgery five years ago, first to remove the gastric band, and later to remove my gall bladder. The GP put his finger on it and said he could feel the scar tissue internally. He says the pain is coming from an adhesion or rupture of the scar tissue. Not cancer. Phew!!

I forgot to tell him that I’ve also noticed that this pain started at the same time as I noticed an increase in my weight some weeks ago. It’s only 1Kg, but it’s noticeable. So that’s what I have to do – lose the weight and I think the pain will go away. Easy, right? Yeeeaaah.

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It’s arrived – my new multimeter combined with a digital oscilloscope. Brilliant! It’s hand held and I’m still “getting to grips with it”. That’s a joke, Joyce.

One of its functions is temperature and it came with a temperature probe.

It has instructions on the back of the packet:

Translated – “Suitabla for quickly Measuring air aud gas And not liquid”

If I were a manufacturer making things for foreign markets, I would have a native English speaker writing my instructions. Or a native Chinese speaker if I were selling to China.

Still, it’s good for a laugh, eh?

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Brrrrr, my finggies are stiff with the cold. This house is brilliant with insulation. I really don’t feel very cold. I haven’t added any extra blanket yet on top of my sheet and lightweight fibre doona. Nice.

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The Peugeot is still with the RAC workshop. Did I mention? They’ve found another coolant leak, and this time it looks as if it’s the thermostat housing. Again, it has to be ordered “from the east” and takes a week to get here. That was Friday, and it’s now Tuesday and there’s no news.

I’m pretty sure the cost will be $260 plus one hour labour, $145. The cost of this job is rising alarmingly – it looks as if it will be around $1600. Ouch. But it has to be done. I can’t abandon the car, it’s in almost perfect condition otherwise. I’m looking forward to getting it back.

1600: they phoned me again just now. They’re still working on it and they’re taking fright at the amount of disassembly needed to get at the thermostat housing. The housing fits on the end of the engine block, in the V between the banks, but that means half the damn engine has to be dismantled It’s going to take longer than an hour, so they’ll have to charge for another hour of labour, another $145. Kerrumbs! This will take the bill to well over $1600. I had to say “Go ahead”. What choice do I have? I can’t say stop and put it back together with the leak not fixed. They think it might be finished tomorrow. To be honest, I don’t mind how long it takes as it delays having to pay the bill.

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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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