Uh oh, here it comes again.

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Sometimes it feels like lightning has struck. Not in a bad way, instead a good way, I think. You may recall I’ve had the hots for at least two years to replace my Magna with a second hand Mercedes. But at the end of last year I gave the idea up as being too ambitious and bought the bargain Verada, then the Honda. I believe Mercs are great cars, but can break just like any car, and if they do, they’re very, very expensive.

But for more than two years I looked at the ads, finding that most of them are on the east coast (mainly Melbourne more than Sydney, must be a lot of lawyers and money men in Melbourne), so I relished the idea of buying one over there, flying over on FF points and driving it back slowly so as to see the bits I haven’t visited. And to visit a dear aunt in Brizzy if possible. It depended on the time of year, of course. With thunder-snow and destructive icy blasts and gales all over the east today, I wouldn’t want to be touring right now. By the way, it’s clear once again that Australia is two countries in one, east and west. The weather in WA? World’s best climate, I reckon. It’s pretty cool and raining now, but no wind and only 17degC, that’s nothin’ to worry about – I’m still wearin’ me shorts 🙂

Screenshot_2019-08-02 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL500 Auto MY05(4)

Anyway, getting back to the point, a Mercedes has come up in a private sale that seems to tick all the boxes.

  • it’s the right model: a 2005 CL500. I’d prefer a 2006, but this is close enough;
  • it’s very low Kms, only 118,000, practically still in warranty for a Merc;
  • it’s the right colour, black – I hate silver, which is the only other colour in Australia;
  • it’s the right price – right according to what I know and by the Red Book;
  • it’s in immaculate condition, from the photos;
  • it’s in the right location – Port Douglas, Qld. I’d love to collect it from there;
  • it’s the right time of the year to do the drive, i.e. Oct/Nov roughly.

It’s also an all black leather interior, unfortunately, as I would have much preferred tan (below right), but it can’t be helped.

But everything else falls into place. I know I said I was scared off by the reputation for cost and unreliability but at the low kms it’s done, I think I’d take the chances. Unless you’re unlucky, they will go for years, given the right care and feeding. It’s a 5L supercharged V8, 0-100 in 5.6secs by the way, but I’d drive with a pussy foot, heh heh.

Screenshot_2019-08-02 2005 Mercedes-Benz CL500 Auto MY05(1)

This throws everything into the blender. I’d have to get rid of both Mitsubishis in a hurry. I’d keep Honda-san though, I like it too much to sell it unless I have to. It all  depends on finances, of course, and I’d be taking a risk, but I’d be betting the Merc will hold its value and might even start to rise, as they become more scarce. Just call me crazy but I feel it’s my last chance to do this big trip. It’s kind of my Route 66. I hope my friend will come with me.

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I don’t know why it’s happening now but if you look at the comments at the end of my July 9 Tenth Anniversary post, people out there somewhere seem to like my blog. I wish I knew where they are, just from curiosity, but I’m very gratified and somewhat encouraged to write more often. It takes a fair while to write these posts, at least an hour, usually two, so I don’t do it every day, but I’ll try to do more. Thank you to all who have replied and please keep the comments coming.

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I’ve become addicted to Facebook’s Marketplace. It’s like looking through an infinite pawn shop and my right finger just seems unable to stop scrolling through the goodies. There’s an awful lot of dross, of course, but a few desirables. I’m amazed at how battered and dirty some goods are, though, and how people don’t seem bothered enough to dust and clean them before taking the photos for sale.

I’ve been tempted to buy a few times but I’m usually put off by the long drive to see the goods. However, I’ve sold a couple of items in the past few weeks and it’s not a bad way to sell, although strangely, people seem to think they don’t want to drive all the way out here /-)

I’ve accumulated an awful lot of goodies over the years and it’s time to realise some cash if possible. I have an awful lot to sell, and it’s all as clean as the day it was unwrapped. I look after my things.

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Today I’ve received a DVD I ordered from Amazon, Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe? It stars Jaqueline Bisset, George Segal (whatever happened to him?) and Robert Morley. I saw it many years ago (it says ©1978) and I’ve seen it once more somewhere, but it’s the only movie I know of that never shows up in the old movie bins and is never repeated on TV. Why? I reckon it’s a great movie (in the comedy sense) and deserves to be better known.

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Why is everything breaking down?

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I’m working on fixing a battery charger at the moment, and last night it got me thinking about all the electronic devices that have broken in the past year or so and are waiting for me to fix. I’m surprised how many there are:

  • Charger for Ryobi battery drill – stopped dead, no LEDs;
  • Ryobi drill – NiCad batteries won’t take full charge (two of them);
  • Technics portable CD player – no output from headphone socket. Mind, it’s about 30 years old now;
  • Pioneer DVD player – gives audio but no video, second one to fail, different fault;
  • DVD player in roof of Honda – DVD stuck in, won’t eject;
  • Radio reception in Honda – fault in antenna feed;
  • Verada, faulty power antenna – being replaced;
  • Sony combined DVD+VHS machine – both transports won’t play or eject media;
  • Sharp MD+CD+radio amp – MD disk stuck in, won’t eject;
  • HP computer – won’t boot past POST screen;
  • Sony Betacam portable – playback colour won’t lock;
  • Sony Betacam full size player – power supply dead.

I think that’s all. Yow, these all need fixing! I thought I’d retired from being a tech. Luckily there is so much information available on the web, so many spares are available on eBay and a Jaycar electronics shop is only 10 mins away that repair is possible now. Plus I have some good test equipment. For the Sony Betacam gear (broadcast machines ex Ch7) I was able to buy the service manuals and download them from the web for $10 each. Good copies, too.

So why am I wasting time writing this blog? Better get stuck into it.

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I’ve just had a text message that a book I ordered from QBD at Joondalup has arrived, so being such a nice day, I think I’ll take Vera for a drive and get it. Now that the brakes have been completely renewed, I can drive it with confidence and I’m enjoying it. It feels sportier than the Magna for some reason, I suppose because you can manually shift and hold it in the gears. I’m still bloody glad I bought it.

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That’s Vera on the left, Maggie on the right.

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I sold my smaller Aldi table saw on Facebook marketplace last week for my asking price and I’ve got another item up for sale now, a Fractal Design Disk Array computer case. I bought it about eight years ago but never got around to using it because it wasn’t what I expected and the bloody shop wouldn’t let me return it. I’ve advertised it as brand new in box, which it is, but it being a bit exotic, I’ve had little interest. I started at $100 but have had to come down to $70 to get any bites. I’ve got two enquiries now and as the Trump Dump Chump says, “We’ll see what happens.”

Later: it took several days and I had to drop the price to $50, but eventually a guy bought it. He came here to collect it and seemed to be a computer support tech. Some of the offers I got were an insult. People seem to think you’re desperate.

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PS: after mentioning the book I had waiting for me at Joondalup, I looked out the door for any mail and there was a package waiting for me. But when I opened it, behold, it was the same book I had ordered at QBD. I’d forgotten I’d ordered it through Amazon last week, and here was my delivery.

Luckily I was able to phone QBD and tell them the blunder and they were quite happy to put my order on the shelf for a general sale. It’s the latest novel by Robert Goddard called One False Move so it should sell easily. I recommend this author; he’s written 27 novels so far, this is the 28th, and once I’ve read this one, I’ve read ’em all.

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I was at Aldi at about 2pm and afterwards, since it was just nearby, I weakened and had lunch at Macca’s. Crumbs, I had a Fillet o’ Fish and a chicken wrap, with a small chips and a sugar free Coke. My bill came to $21 ! Wow, no longer is a burger a cheap lunch. But while I was eating school finished and all the kids flooded in for their afternoon fix. At these prices, how do they afford it? Generous pocket money, obviously.

This amount is too high for me – I usually spend no more than $16 on lunch. This was my first time this year, by the way. I don’t eat junk food very often. Beer and wine, yes…

Stranger things

Tehran airport

The other day I was browsing Google Earth and thought I’d have a look at Tehran (as you do). When I looked at the airport, I saw the picture above. Look at the way the aircraft are parked jammed together. It’s chaos. Obviously most of them are not going to fly in the near future – how would you get them out?

Parking attendant: “Salaam effendi, but I have parked that 747 that came in. Here are the keys.”
Boss: “OK Abdul, just toss ’em in the box over there. I’ll process it later when I’ve finished my camelburger.”

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The other day on radio I heard a talk about what jobs would be like in the future, 100jobsofthefuture.com with a view to education and training. We’re invited to go to a website and do a quiz to assess ourselves. I did, and here are my assessed future jobs:

Screenshot_2019-07-23 What could your future job be

What?? Cricket farmer? Entomicrobiotec cleaner? Agroecological farmer?

The second row was a bit more realistic since I’d said I liked to work with my hands on technical stuff, think logically about problems and organise parts and materials into categories, etc.

Screenshot_2019-07-23 What could your future job be (1)

I don’t think this quiz was very well designed. Maybe my future work could be as a quiz or survey designer.

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And another strange thing:
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It’s shown as an Engineer’s Ruler on my electronics parts supplier’s website. It’s only 250mm long but has many electronics parts measurements engraved on it.

But look at the legend at the top: “TRUE MASTERY OF ANY SKILL TAKES A LIFETIME”.
No argument with that, but look at the next words: “LAYER STACKCING L1…” etc. It looks like learning to spell takes more than a lifetime.

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I took Vera, the Verada, in for brake pad renewal yesterday, lured by a newspaper ad: $109 for front or rear brakes including pads. “Give the little guy a go.”

It turned out to be Tyrepower Tyres and Brakes in Joondalup, hardly little guys. Anyway, the total bill came to $727 ! Damn. It turned out the discs all round were pitted and worn so had to be replaced, and I asked for the brake fluid to be renewed, $69, since there were no records with the car when I bought it. I knew everything under there was rusty as hell, so it’s a load off my mind that it’s been done and is all new now, but it was a much bigger bill than I expected. However, if I sell it, I’ll be able to say it’s been done and show the receipt and I might even be able to recoup the cost.

The exhaust is next, sounding a bit purry and fruity, but that’s another quoted $595. and the two rear tyres are nearing their limit (but still legal), another $200. Yowch. But at least I can drive it with peace of mind now. Except that the cigarette lighter socket has lost power. It was working. Must be the fuse. Bugger. And the roof lining is falling down, another $285 to have it fixed. Expensive toys, cars.

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I went to a drinks function for a tech I used to work with for many years who has taken a redundancy. Kerrumbs, I knew him from when he was taken on as a trainee until he became one of the best, most competent and hardest working when I retired. I never quite knew his age at that stage. He’s completed 40 years of service!

Well, he is 60 now. I’m amazed. He still looks pretty young and is sick of working for a boss, so he’s taking this opportunity to do freelance work as his own business. Good for him. Computer support too, so I’ll try to steer people his way. I’ve thought of doing that, but I can’t see how I could charge for the hours it takes to fix computer problems. I’ve done a bit of it but I only ever charged a flat fee of about $100, even though it took 4 – 5 hrs sometimes. How could I charge $400 – $500, which would be the fair rate?

And many times, it involved a screwed up Windows installation (ie corrupted files or a bad hard disk). To do a complete wipe or replacement, and a reinstall of Windows takes several hours at least. And all the user’s data is lost. The big repair shops just have a replica system on a hard drive and just mirror it across, still wiping people’s dats, of course. It takes too long to do anything else, but I don’t want to be telling customers that. Good luck to him.

I also had a long chat with another tech who started young and was always a willing worker with a pleasant, happy attitude. A pleasure to work with, in other words. Well, he’s 60 now too. Hell, he looks as boyish as if it were last century. He’s also done 40 years but is continuing as long as he’s got a job.

When I worked there, we had around 22 – 25 techs and engineers. Now there are 4 left. I am so glad I did my work and got out when I did. It is a completely different work environment now, and not a good one.

Where was I?

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Eclipsed moon 16 July 2019

OK, everyone’s doing it, so it’s time for my “Where were you?” story about the moon landing, 50 years ago today or tomorrow or whenever it is.

I remember it well. In 1969 I was living in a flat at 17 The Esplanade, South Perth, right on the water looking at the city across the river. People pay a $million or more for that position these days, but our rent was $40 a week, I think. I was sharing the front flat in the block, on the second floor, the prime position. Sharing with Colin Smith, who I still see occasionally.

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Grandma Croft, Mum, Me outside my flat in South Perth 1967

I was also into my third year of my job at Channel 7 in Tuart Hill (actually Dianella). On the day, I’m pretty sure it was a Monday, I was rostered on to what we called a B shift, 10.30am to 7pm. I used to like being able to sleep in a bit but didn’t like finishing at 7pm as I had a 20 min trip home.

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Our view of Perth skyline 1967

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The $million view from our flat, 1967

Anyway, the tension had been building for a few days as the astronauts left Earth orbit and headed for the moon. We didn’t know at that stage exactly when they were going to land. Channel 7 was going to “beam it out”, what we’d call live-stream it these days. I was just a lowly videotape operator in those days, not in Master Control, so I didn’t expect to have much to do, which is how it turned out.

The trouble was, the live telecast started early, maybe 8.30am and I was watching it on our old black and white TV (no colour in those days) in the flat. Smithy had gone to work so I was on my own. I knew it would take me 20 minutes (wow) to drive my 1961 VW Beetle to Channel 7 but I was watching the TV. Surely they wouldn’t make the landing while I was driving?

It was hard to say when the actual step onto the moon would happen and I admit I considered being late for work so as not to miss it. But the transmission dragged on, so at about 10.15am I decided to make a dash for it, hoping it wouldn’t happen too soon. I drove as fast as I dared (the speed limit was 35 miles per hour then), and got to work around 10.35am. I dashed in to find it was still dragging on, no sign of the step off the LEM yet. I’d made it.

So the rest is history. I was standing in the videotape area at Channel 7 watching the black and white monitors. The step off finally occurred around midday our time, I think, maybe a bit later. I was interested to hear an American interviewed the other day who said it was around midnight or later in New York and everyone had to wait up to see it. Perfect timing for WA, of course – we’re 12hrs ahead of the east coast of the USA.

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RCA TR70 2″ VTR. Those are my hands in the shot.

I was probably recording it on videotape, the big 2″ wide tape but I can’t remeber that. I know that it was pretty exciting. I was 22 and we were all standing around marvelling at the pictures. How did we get them? I don’t think the E-W microwave link system was built then. I suspect we got them from Carnarvon? Not sure. I’m seeing some of the old blokes for a drink tonight, so maybe I’ll find out, although I’m probably the oldest bloke by quite a bit now. Ugh.

PS: yes, it was a great night, but I was definitely the oldest guy at 72. The nearest was 60. It’s hard to believe these ages, as I’ve known them since they were mere “boys”, just starting out as trainees. Now they’re 60, a couple with 40 years service. “Techs never resign” I heard an executive say once, and it was largely true. The reason was we had such a big investment in our knowledge of how the station worked and was connected. I remember thinking that I had a three dimensional view of the station, with a mental picture of where everything was over the two floors and how it was all connected, where the cables were, what system drawing was involved and so on. You don’t build that up in a few weeks or months, it took many years. So starting again at another station was a daunting prospect.

One sad note: one of the guys I worked with for about 40 years was not there, because he was diagnosed with advanced lymphoma a few months ago and is having heavy chemo and radiation. Ugh again. The prognosis is not too bad at the moment, but who knows with these things.

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Snap!!

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I’ve written before about coincidences and how I seem to be prescient, thinking of things or events before they happen. Well, I had a beauty yesterday.

During the afternoon I was browsing my music collection on the PC (using the Helium cataloguing program) and happened to choose to listen to Beethoven’s Symphony no. 1. No reason, I just thought I hadn’t heard it for quite a while so I listened to it all the way through.

Then last night I was editing the recorded TV programs on my hard disk recorder. One of them was a movie from SBS the night before called Bad Words (an American movie about a spelling bee – it doesn’t matter). I started to play it and what should the music under the opening titles be? Beethoven’s Symphony no. 1. I shook my head in disbelief. This really is weird. There is no link, no way I could have accidentally known or heard this movie’s start. I shake my head in amazement.

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Beethoven’s symphonies are such a treasure and the sequence is so interesting. I’ve been listening to them for more than forty years and never grow tired of hearing them. At one stage in my twenties I used to be able to recall the opening bars in my mind of each of the nine symphonies. I can’t do them all now, but certainly I can still remember the best known ones.

Numbers 1 and 2 were written when Beethoven would have been hearing Mozart’s works. Beethoven was 21 when Mozart, who was 15 years his senior died and Beethoven must have been heavily influenced by him, so his symphonies 1 & 2 owed something to Mozart, although they show distinctive touches of Beethoven’s gift for melody and are delightful to listen to.

Then he broke the mould, defying the conventions with the great Symphony no. 3, Eroica, the Heroic. This was new music, owing nothing the the style of Mozart or any of the other past composers. It introduced discordant notes and powerful emotion, something new to his audiences. He still had his hearing and knew exactly what he wanted to say. The audiences were shocked at the time, but the music has more than stood the test of time. This is my favourite of the symphonies and I must have listened to it a hundred times or more in the last 40 years, always finding something new or familiar. I never tire of it.

Number 4 was something of a return to the Viennese style, more dance-like, as if to atone for his blasphemy and once more appeal to his audiences. After all, he depended on his concerts and music sales for his livelihood.

Then came the famous Symphony no. 5, the best known opening in the world’s memory: Da Da Da Daaaaah, Da Da Da Daaahhh. This once again broke new ground and was unlike anything ever written before. Its enduring popularity after 300 years testifies to its greatness.

Again in symphony no. 6 he returned to a quieter style, naming it the Pastoral, evoking scenes in the country, blue skies, birds, a lovely dance, a passing storm then a peaceful ending.

Symphony no. 7 is something of an odd man out in the sequence, somewhat bombastic but full of melody, yet not as memorable.

Symphony no. 8 is one of my favourites, especially the second movement, marked allegretto scherzando, dancelike, almost metronomic in its rythm.

Then comes the other contender for most famous, the great Symphony no. 9, universally known as Beethoven’s Ninth. It consists of five movements, whereas all his previous symphonies had only four, and introduced the human voice with the orchestra for the first time in a symphony in the famous and well known final movement, subtitled Ode to Joy. By this time Beethoven was almost totally deaf, yet he could write this, hearing it only in his mind and transferring the sounds to musical notation on paper. To me the third movement, adagio molto e cantabile is one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written.

No-one writes music like this, as great as this any more. Why? What was it about the period from about 1685 to 1950 that produced so many geniuses and prodigies, writing so much great music? Why has it stopped? Will we ever see or hear anything like it again?

Arguments invited. On a postcard please, with a money order for $10. 🙂

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I finally got around to installing four IKEA CD towers a few days ago. I’m ashamed to say that they sat there for more than two years, waiting to be screwed to the wall and the shelving to be inserted. I have trouble getting up the step ladder these days, but I got a burst of energy a few days ago and now it’s done, helped by having a small impact drill. That makes all the difference when drilling into brick. Zoom, like drilling into butter, and the drill point doesn’t have time to wander.

But I’m a bit frustrated – IKEA’s famous quality control seems to have slipped a bit. I bought these four towers at the same time, but I’ve found that two of them are different to the other two:

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Notice how the hole size is different? The one on the left’s holes are smaller than the ones on the right, and you can see by the size of the pins. The left one is half thin, half fat, the right one is all fat. All the small holes had to be enlarged to take the pins! They were too tight to just push in. Luckily I have a tapered reamer that I could twirl with my fingers because there’s no way to get a drill in there. It was very tedious. Luckily I had just the right number of pins of each size with a couple of spares.

Also, these cabinets are described as “Black/brown” but I’m damned if I can see any brown in there. They used to make a “Red/brown” which was about the colour of jarrah, very nice, but they stopped it many years ago. I don’t like this black colour – I chose it because these are against a dark blue wall, but I wish I had bought white now. Bit late.

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The saga of the Honda MDX radio reception continues. I measured the continuity of the connection between the antenna on the roof and the plug in the dash the other day and it appears to be open circuit, dammit. I tried to see where the wire from the roof would come down the body side channel by removing a rubber coupling but no luck, you can’t distinguish any wire from any other.

I suppose the simplest and most likely explanation would be a break at the plug itself, behind the radio. That’s where the most stress and movement would be. I have yet to check it. Watch this space.

Tenth Anniversary

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Around 2001.

I just realised it was ten years in May that I started this blog, 24 May 2009. I’m up to 1,057 posts so far and I don’t see myself stopping. Happy 10th birthday, me.

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I’ve just done a 1hr drive each way to drop off the trike (the adult three wheeled tricycle) to its new owner in Alfred Cove. It turned out to be an Indian lady, mid to late 50s I’d guess, and what a warm reception I got. She was very pleased with it and once I’d tightened everything and pumped up the tyres to her satisfaction, she got on it and rode it around her front yard straight away.

She was very grateful for my trouble in delivering it and gave me a big, warm, cheek to cheek hug. Very gratifying. I was worried she wouldn’t be able to ride it as she has some minor disability, but she was fine.

Funny, I thought I was talking to a guy on Facebook, by the name of Aman. But it wasn’t a-man, it was A-woman. 🙂

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There’s talk of making long service leave “portable” at the moment, meaning that if you’ve accumulated, say six weeks with employer A, on your way to 13 weeks after 10 years, then change jobs to employer B, you should be able to carry over your six weeks accumulated to your new employer. And so on.

Now, everyone knows I’m a union guy and all for long service leave, but this is ridiculous. Long service means what it says. It means a reward for loyalty over the ten years, or 15 years as it was under the TV Industry Award.

But if you change jobs part way through, then you haven’t given long service. How can you expect new employer B to pay for the time you accumulated with employer A?

And if I were employer B and I found out you had all this leave owing that I was going to have to pay for, I would think twice and three times about taking you on.

Besides, where’s the incentive to stay on and give loyal service to your first employer? This is a ridiculous idea and should be stomped on. More annual leave, sick leave, study leave, bereavement leave, parenting leave, fine, but not this.

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AC racing + ship Jan87G

Americas Cup 1987  © PJ Croft 2019

Still no radio reception on the new A/V radio in the Honda, dammit. I thought I might have failed to push the antenna plug in far enough, but a check when I got home showed it was in. I’ll have to check the continuity between the antenna on the roof and the antenna plug at the radio end in the dash. Not hard to do. I hope it’s not a fault in the roof lining somewhere, or the door pillar channels. Watch this space.

I’ll have to get a wheel alignment check too. The whole car vibrates, although not the steering wheel, and I can hear a swish swish in the tyre sound.

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I’m back to having a bit of insomnia, not as bad as the epidemic up to last year but enough to be annoying. I get to sleep fine withing 10 mins or so, but wake again around midnight for some reason and have trouble dropping off again.

However, my reason for writing this is that I’ve discovered a nice source of relaxation sound. On DAB+ digital radio, the ABC has a lot of channels and the one next to ABC Perth 720 is ABC Kids.

During the day they play PlaySkool type music, but I’ve realised that after midnight (I’m not sure when it changes) they play non-stop ambient sounds with added musical instruments. I mean it’s trickling streams, the sound of small waves on the beach, the sighing of wind in the trees, a waterfall and so on. Mixed in are long single notes, sometimes changing pitch, sometimes dualled with some other instrument, flutes, oboes, clarinets and so on, sometimes electronic. Very slow and repetitive, ideal for meditating and relaxing. I find it works. I leave it on, quietly playing and I soon drop off. Recommended.

Aced it!

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Sometimes you have a win. Behold my new Pioneer AV CD Radio in the Honda. It’s taken about a week, getting the old unit out, getting new mounting plates and fascia (the surround to match the Honda’s shape and colour), getting a wiring harness to mate with the Honda, then cutting and joining all the wires (about 16), hoping I’ve got them matched up. Then checking carefully.

I need to drive it on Tuesday, so I put it in this afternoon. Bingo. It worked first time. What a relief. Still, it should, because I was careful. It’s not completely fixed in yet because I still need to connect the USB cable to the back. Annoyingly, there’s no USB front socket, so I’m going to have to carefully cut a rectangular hole in the car’s fascia somewhere to mount the USB socket I have on order. And the green wire is supposed to go to the handbrake (or in this case the footbrake) which stops you playing DVDs when the brake is off, ie while driving. I’ll do that tomorrow, but I might just ground it and to hell with the restriction. Shhhh.

No improvement in my radio reception in the garage, but I’ll check that out on the street later.

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I bought one of these yesterday from Aldi. It’s an airbrush paint sprayer with 1/6HP compressor. It’s for very fine spray painting of hobby things, in my case the model railways, if I ever get around to building a layout. Crumbs, it’s more than four years since I bought enough to start the build, but I’ve been quite distracted since with all the trips to Bali and the guest here.

Besides, I used to think I had enough room to build it in the house, but somehow… the space has been used up. I may build it in the drying court outside the house. It’s a space 18m long by about 3m and the garage opens onto it by a seldom used roller door. Ideal. It’s just exposed to the weather, that’s all. A minor detail.

By the way, model railways must be the only hobby where the models are too good when new. Real railways are filthy dirty, grimy, with diesel spills along the track and rusted rails. All the model bits have to be weathered, and that’s where the airbrush comes in. I’ll be mixing the paints from their pure base colours to make dirt colours, then spraying in a messy way so as to look old and real, not glossy and neat. There are people who sell their services weathering models. It’s expensive because it takes a lot of time and trouble. I’ll do my own.

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By crikey, I’m a fan of Aldi’s tools offerings. I’ve bough quite a lot of stuff in the past year or so: two small table saws (one to be sold as the second one is better); a small 8″ mitre saw; a miniature bench grinder; a power knife and blade sharpener; two adjustable stands for cutting wood etc; a Li-ion jump starter/tyre inflator/torch; a small engraver; two pairs of axle stands; a trolley jack; and half a dozen or more sets of drills, hand saws, etc etc.

I’ve found all these to be great quality and about half the price you would pay at any normal shop. Yes, half price, because I check before I buy. The trolley jack was $30. Good luck finding one at the auto shops for that.

I bought a set of eight screw drivers yesterday for $7.99! I hardly need them, but at that price I can carry them in the car. Excellent quality.

They’ve got a mitre saw rail stand at the moment for $49.99, but that’s too much for me. There are still 14 left in the pile and they are a slow seller, obviously. They’ve been there for three weeks now and I’m watching to see the price drop when they need to clear bench space. I thought it would have happened by now, but I’ll check next week.

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My West Indian lime tree is finally bearing fruit. I planted it about five years ago and although it grew well, it remained fruit free. I was wondering if it needed a lady friend in the neighbourhood for pollination, but I needn’t have worried as it started fruiting early this year, in the summer. They were very small to start and seem to grow slowly (a tropical tree in cold weather, of course) but there are a dozen or more showing now. But thorns! It’s hard to pick them because the branches have nasty spiky thorns. Luckily I only need one occasionally. Leather gloves.

Oranges! I was pleased to buy a 3Kg bag of navels for $6 a few weeks ago at Coles, but now they’re down to $4 for the same 3Kg. Bargain. They must really be fruiting.