This is the astronomy story of the day. New measurements show that our home galaxy is not a smooth disc but is warped and twisted.
Speaking of galaxies, I have solar power now. Yes, I’ve made the move at last, after thinking about it for a few years. Prices have come down and will continue to fall, but I reckon my system should pay for itself in four or five years.
I’ve bought 6.6KW of panels and a 5KW inverter from a company in South Perth called Infinite Energy. I got three quotes and was impressed by the professional web site and business-like approach of this WA firm. The other two quotes came from heavily accented guys trying to apply pressure to buy over the phone even on our first call. They put me off straight away.
My panels are by Canadian Solar (strange? – made in China, I’m sure) and the inverter is by Fronius, an Austrian company which my partner assures me has been around since the 1950s.
What this means is that I can run the 10KW ducted air-con in the daytime heat without worrying about the cost. Likewise in winter I’ll be able to put it in reverse cycle to warm the house, assuming there’s enough sun of course.
The inverter sits on the wall in the garage humming away with its fans going full bore on warm days, and showing about 5,050W generated around midday. It was down to 2,000W at 5pm today, when only half the panels are in the afternoon sun on the west, shaded on the east side. Good stuff. I wish I could afford a battery, but that will have to wait for quite a few years, I think.
Speaking of air-con, I’ve only turned it on maybe twice this summer. It’s been quite mild, I reckon.
My partner is really getting me out of the house! We’ve done another trip, this time to Kalgoorlie on the Prospector train. I get two free trips a year on my pension card, but fool that I am, I’ve never used them up to now. Unfortunately they’re not transferrable, so the cost for the second seat was $187 return.
The train left the East Perth station at 07.10am and although we left home at 6am, I underestimated the traffic jams on the freeway and we made it with about three minutes to spare. V was practically jumping out of her seat, fearing we were going to miss it. I adopted my usual habit: don’t look at the time! When you’re stuck in traffic, there’s nothing you can do and looking at the time only raises your stress level. You’ll get there when you get there.
As it was, I had no time to read parking area signs so I just locked the car and ran for it (well, not really). Always on our mind was the possibility of a hefty parking fine, but there was no ticket when we got back at 10pm on Friday night, so all was well. What, me worry?
The trip was great, it was a beautiful morning and the ride through the older railway suburbs and Guildford revealed some of our older homes and buildings. The ride through the Avon Valley to Toodyay and Northam through the Darling Scarp was terrific. It’s the first time I’ve seen it. The river was very low but there was still a fair bit of water in it.
It flattened out after Northam and there wasn’t much colour in the stubble paddocks, but it was still interesting. Meckering, Cunderdin, Tammin, Kellerberrin, Doodlakine, all these old town names from my childhood. Most were just whistle stops but we stopped in Kellerberring for 10 mins or so, enough to get off and stretch the legs if needed (we didn’t). Very little warning that the train was leaving, though. Better not go far.
The best thing was that the afternoon was turning into wide area rain clouds with intermittent lightning. We got little rain on the train, but there were pools of water everywhere along the tracks as evidence of big showers the previous day. We hoped for a full lightning show once we got to Kal, so that we could take photos, but it wasn’t to be, turning into a dull overcast.
Then the country changed to redder soil and low scrub, before reaching the gimlet gum and sandalwood country around Southern Cross, Koolyanobbing and Bonnie Vale. Ah, Koolyanobbing, that brought back memories, the ore coming down by steam train to Wundowie and being loaded into the blast furnaces that reduced it to the molten iron, which was poured into moulds, called pigs, then picked up by giant electromagnets on a crane and thrown into piles to cool. We used to walk to school along the rail tracks, then take a shortcut through the iron works to school. It would be absolutely prohibited these days, health and safety and all that, but we came to no harm.
After Bonnie Vale it was Kalgoorlie right on time, 3pm. V had spotted a car hire ad on her phone, so we booked it. Believe it or not, it was called Racey Car Hire. The guy who met us was Kevin Racey, no fire suit or helmet, just a nice guy, $66 for 24hrs, plenty of Kms included, so off we went in a very nice Kia Cerato. Wow, very perky, very nice to drive.
We stayed in the Palace Hotel in Hannan Street:
It was only three star and struggled to make it, but we had a clean, modern bathroom. With the very high ceiling and no window except for a small fixed pane high up, it felt like being in a prison cell, but it was only one night. A bouncer warned us not to leave anything visible in our car at the back, as theft is a regular nightly event. Indeed next morning I saw some Asian tourists talking to a policeman taking notes. It seems they were done over.
We had breakfast at a shopping centre, sitting outside to try to escape the noise of the restaurant. Soon we were treated to the indigenous locals shouting their anger at anyone in range. A young woman had been sleeping on the Perth road the previous night and was run over and killed, then hit again by a following car. Sleeping on the road…that’s bad luck.
Then it was off to Mt Charlotte, the final reservoir at the end of the Mundaring to Kalgoorlie pipeline. This was all new to me. I knew the history of the line, but not the detail. It is a truly remarkable engineering feat, still in full use 112 years after completion.
Then it was off to the Super Pit, the giant excavation to get every last ounce of gold from them thar’ hills:
By this time it was lunchtime and we drove past the cemetery (history!) to a nice park for lunch. Observed by some birds:
Then it was off to refill the car, park it at the station, lock the keys in the boot and we were just in time to board the train again at 3.10pm. I must admit I was glad – Kalgoorlie is not my kind of town. I would have liked to explore Hannan St more I suppose, and walked the cemetery, but I’d seen enough. Been there, done that.
The train was good, although the constant slowing, braking, then speeding up got on my nerves a bit. It also sways and rocks so much it’s hard to stay on your feet for toilet and buffet visits. The toilets are modern and roomy, and don’t dump on the tracks! The air-con was good, although warm at one end of the carriage and too cool at the other. Seats were allocated and you weren’t supposed to move around, but it could have been done. One Asian lady was moved as she was too cold.
The seat backs are equipped with hi-def screens and there was a reasonable selection of movies and TV shows to watch. But the radio stations didn’t work and the “driver cam” was very poor quality.
I listened to the classical music channel on the way back, all 2hrs and 55mins of it. I’d brought my KEF headphones and they were great. The programme was eclectic and unusual, very wide ranging, from a Bach cello sonata to a Beethoven string quartet via a Mozart symphony and a cello concerto by composer unknown, possibly Prokofiev or Shostakovich. With a bit of Andre Rieu thrown in, for syrupy sweetness.
Unfortunately there was no listing of any of the titles and I feel like witing to TransWA to ask if there’s a list. I liked the music.
Back in Perth at 10pm, pretty tired. I forgot to mention, the buffet is wet and you can have a sparkling chardonnay or an SSB. They list a Yalumba Chardonnay, but no, only got SSB, love. When I asked for Semillon Sauvignon Blanc in the correct pronunciation, I got flutters and attempts to repeat it back to me, mostly failing. No, SSB is good enough for the ladies. That’ll be $7.60 please.
It was good to get home. Aaaah, my nice bed. [Video coming.]
Sorry for the long break between posts. I assure you I’m still here, still on my feet and moving, just busy, that’s all. We did a week’s drive to Kalbarri and points between last week; more about that anon.
We had a very nice Xmas Day here, with V doing a massive amount of prep and cooking. We had Keith and Barry here for the evening to provide the jokes and entertainment and ended up well fed and watered, with a large amount of food left over, still being consumed even now, nearly a month later. V is really enjoying having a good kitchen and appliances to work with. A few new machines have appeared – a small slow cooker; a Breville blender; a barista style coffee machine (cheap K-Mart); and several nice new frying pans and pots. They are so cheap and good from Aldi.
Then we went to a most unusual New Year’s Eve function up in the hills. I can’t say much more except that we didn’t need to decide what clothes to wear and photos were not permitted. It was a great night, with a big turnout, probably 60-70 people of all ages, shapes and sizes. Plenty of food and drink with loud music and dancing made for an enjoyable night. Lucky it wasn’t cold.
Unfortunately our unusually mild summer has not made for good swimming in the ocean, but it won’t be long now. I don’t dare swim at my local beach, Jindalee, as there are obvious rips everywhere. We have to drive to Quinns Rocks where there’s a groyne and much less surf. Won’t be long now.
Back to the Kalbarri trip: V was itching to get out on the road and so was I. I haven’t done any serious driving for many years, except for trips to Busselton and Margaret River to see a mate once or twice a year. My last big drive was, I think, in 1987. I said it was many years. That was up north too, Exmouth and North West Cape, with Kalbarri as a stopover on the way. Has it changed? Just a bit. It was only a short visit to camp in the camping area then and I got these shots, but nothing else has survived:
So we set off on Sunday 13th for Geraldton as our first stop. I wanted to see this new Indian Ocean Drive that seems to cause so much grief. I know some work has been done lately, but I thought it was a good road with plenty of chances to pass, yet for once no-one seemed to be pressing me while I stuck to 100Km/h. I was driving the “new” Honda MDX and it’s a gulper of fuel. I get 15.5L/100Km around here, and it was taking a long time to improve on the open road. I think the best I saw for the whole trip was 12.2L/100Km.
Anyway, it drives reasonably well, after the very expensive service I treated it to before leaving. Yowch, I think I’m going to go back to doing things myself. More on that later.
First stop was Cervantes for lunch, to get one of these famous “lobster” rolls. Well, by 2pm they’d run out! Just as well, because they’re $30. All that was available was a cray/squid/fish burger for $25.50. What a load of rubbish. It was a rubbery breadcrumb coated seafood burger, with nothing to distinguish any of the ingredients. With lettuce and tomato, and chips on the side, it filled the gap, but it was terrible. Huh!
OK, off again to Gero (north Butler?), via the Pinnacles. I’ve been there before, but only to the north edge as the southern entry road wasn’t built then.
I was impressed. The whole area is far bigger than I had realised and is well worth visiting. Some photos below:
Then it was back on the road, this time stopping at the Pink Lakes.
And look what I found…
Not bad wildlife, eh?
The day was a bit dull and windy, so we didn’t stay long. We got to our pre-booked bed and breakfast, the Weelaway, in Geraldton about 4.30pm. No staff, get key from lockbox, but free upgrade to en-suite room and a fantastically comfy mattress gets it a pass mark.
Dinner in a pub in the almost deserted, windy main street. V ordered wedges. She’s now a Wedgetarian.
Monday morning V had to get something at a chemist and we spent the next hour there, scouring for bargains. They had a big box of photographic filters and so on, including circular polarisers for $5. I also bought a new photo backpack to try, and a new hat, very stylish grey and white.
Then it was off to Kalbarri, only a two hour drive. Kalbarri was windy! It hardly let up the whole five days we were there, 50-60Km/h winds, enough to blow your hat off every time. On Thursday I attempted a swim at the Blue Holes and the wind was so strong I was fighting a current carrying me back inshore. The sand was blasting us, so we beat a retreat. We never had a decent swim. Except in the motel’s pools (two), if we could fend the kids off (kidding). And all the restaurants and food places close by 8pm, so you’d better plan for a night in your room.
However, we liked it so much that we stayed another two nights beyond the three we’d booked. On Friday we decided we had to see the gorges, so headed out to Nature’s Window first up. We picked a 40deg. day, of course. It wasn’t too bad going down the track, but I had to stay in the shade at the bottom while V ventured the last 100m. It was nothing much, she said. However:
But getting the 500m back up the track, in the 40C heat, was hard slogging for me. No chest pains whatever, but I had to stop for a breather a couple of times. Then about 18 stairs to climb at the end…just keep going, only a few more…phew. I’m still here to write about it.
It was midday by now so we drove to another landmark, saw it from the car and headed back to the pool. These are winter sights.
We also had a river cruise booked for Thursday evening but the boat broke down so it didn’t go, and a cruise out through the heads to see the cliffs on Friday evening, but there were only six takers and they needed eight, so that fell through as well. Bad luck.
So that was Kalbarri. Yes, it’s certainly grown since I was last there in 1987, but unless you’re a camper/caravanner/fisherman/boatie, it’s not for me.
Saturday it was pack-the-car and back to Geraldton for an overnight stop. It was hot and windy! Dinner was Thai takeaway, and it was awful. The motel had an air conditioner, but not in the bedroom, relying on air drifting through the door from the lounge. I sweated, but I must admit I was a bit cold by morning.
So, out by 10am and away back to home. You can subtract about 35km from the distances shown, as that’s how far I am north of the city.
The car went well. I drove Honda-san (I’m naming my three cars now, Honda-san for the MDX, Maggie for the Magna and Vera for the Verada). It had the VSA (Vehicle Stability Assist) warning light on most of the time, meaning VSA is OFF, but sometimes the warning went off and came back later. It also kept dropping out of cruise mode. I have a web theory about why – the brake light switch under the dash. Apparently it goes intermittent, so the cruise thinks you’ve touched the brake pedal and the VSA thinks the same. It’s a $15 item that I can change myself, so I’ll do that very soon. Apart from that, it surges when cruise is on, trying to change gears too often, and the steering feels loose and imprecise and likes to wander a little, nowhere near as good as Maggie. And pulling two tonnes vehicle mass is hard on fuel. Apart from that, it’s a nice comfortable ride. Good trip.
Monday, the Austraya Day public holiday, I was press ganged for a ride on the STS Leeuwin II from Fremantle Harbour out to Gage Roads for a 3hr sail. Very nice it was, too, being a sparkling clear day, warm sun and soft breezes. I think we got up to 3 knots at one stage. 🙂
The Leeuwin is a three masted barquentine, named after the Leeuwin galleon that blundered along the West Australian coast starting in 1622. Australia was discovered by the Dutch, although they didn’t recognise its size or that it’s a vast continent, and didn’t “claim” it for Holland, otherwise we could have been speaking Dutch, or French for that matter.
There were about 60 of us, nearly all geriatrics, but a few were young enough to attempt the mast climb. It was a beautiful day, light breeze so most of our progress was made under diesel engine power. The crew of volunteers moved around, some doing crew tasks but others serving very nice party pies and pizza slices etc, as the 18th century crew ate, and chatting to us, answering our questions. The captain of the ship is a woman! That would have been very bad luck in the old days, I’m sure, but it was fine. She was obviously in command.
So we stooged around getting sunburnt at three knots, then headed back fully under power so as to do the sharp turns required in the harbour. All in all, a very good experience. There’s a week long cruise in June from Exmouth to Geraldton and someone (not me) is very tempted. It would be good, but it’s expensive!
When we got back we visited the Maritime Museum to see the Ningaloo Experience, an immersive 360deg audio-visual show. Unfortunately we missed the 3.45pm show and had to wait until 4.45pm. We saw the show, came out with aching necks and went to the car to find a parking ticket. We’d forgotten to feed the meter. On a public holiday while there were plenty of empty bays. Grrrrr! I’ve paid the fine, but an email will follow, pointing out all their faults.
The Ningaloo show was good, but sitting so close to the huge screens we could see all the noise and grain in the video. In the front row, I found I had to tilt my head so far back it hurt. The program was quite good, but not the mind-blowing experience we’d been told to expect. Oh well, what do you expect for $35?
Here we are, at Xmas again and soon to see the clock turn over to another year. It’s been a good year for me, mainly due to my wonderful partner. We’ve been through some turbulent times, learning to live with each other at this late stage in our lives, but I’m glad to say that we’re stronger than ever.
She’s with me now for the summer and we’re planning our Xmas festivities, frankly, the first time I’ve had a partner for this. We’re expecting a couple of good friends for the evening too, so V is happy planning what she’ll cook, enjoying being in a good, well functioning kitchen as well. Some of my appliances, pots, pans and utensils are getting their first serious workout and new ones seem to be appearing, sometimes over my protests. And we’re thanking Buddha for the dishwasher! It’s so good, never having to wash up, and getting sparkling clean dishes and glassware. Miele.
I had been promising V that our summers are hot, but she noticed the coolness of the first couple of weeks of December and had to really rug up at night. But after a few days of 36C, 38C and 41C it’s becoming much more to her liking. She’s loving it now, although wishing the ocean could be warmer. We haven’t had an ocean swim yet, but we will soon. It’s frustrating here: I’m only 1.3km from the beach, but it’s so hard to get to, down 75 steps or more. When you reach the beach, it’s a fairly strong surf with lots of undertows so I dare not go in.
We did find a water exercise pool nearby and availed ourselves of the free introductory session. Phew, it was led by a large fit lady and we both felt we’d had a workout by the end. We’re determined to find a good pool for aqua-robics – it may be at Joondalup. One thing is certain, it’s good to have a companion to push me along. I provide the transport but she gives the shove.
I’ve finally decided solar power is worth going for, so I’ve committed. I’ve paid the deposit for a 6.6kW system from a firm called Infinite Energy. I was impressed by their professional presentation, both on their web site and by their representative. I had another couple of firms making approaches but I was put off by their high pressure sales tactics from the very beginning.
By paying and signing now, I qualify for this year’s federal government rebate. I expect installation will be mid next month. I wish I could afford a battery, but they are far too expensive. Even so, my daytime aircon, dishwasher and washing machine will be sun-powered in a few weeks. I don’t need aircon very often, but it sure bumps up the power bills from Synergy and I’m a bit reluctant to use it. Now I won’t need to worry, in summer anyway. I’ll still have to pay for winter nights on reverse cycle.
One surprise was that this house has 3-phase power connected. I didn’t realise. In theory, I could run very high power machinery in the workshop, but I don’t think it will be needed. I wonder why it was installed when the house was built.
I’m loving the feel of driving the Honda MDX. It weighs a full 2,000kg, two tonnes, so it’s a heavy car and the economy gauge shows 14.4l/100km, but that’s not much above the Magna’s 12.5l/100km. Both are much better on long country drives. But the Honda’s weight makes it feel smooth and stable and the leather seats are nice on the bum. Unfortunately I’ve got another warning light on, the Vehicle Stability Assist (VSA). I don’t know what’s wrong, but as long as I drive conservatively, I don’t think it matters at the moment.
The Verada’s roof lining velour covering has almost completely come adrift except at the edges, sagging down. I’ve been wondering how to get it out. it seems to be a Mitsubishi characteristic fault, going by the web forum. Amazingly, I found a Facebook ad last night from a guy who fixes this very thing, roof linings. Shazzam! I’ve sent a message and I’m awaiting a call back. PS: he’s replied and wants a photo. OK.
Holy smoke, I only discovered Facebook’s Marketplace a few weeks ago, but it’s like a crack addiction. I can hardly tear myself away at times. So many desirable cars! At affordable prices. I can’t help thinking that if you bought a few and had a good workshop to fix ’em up, you could have some great drives and make a bit of money when re-selling them. I wish.
I’ve recently started watching the Outlander series on Netflix. I’ve known about this for quite a few years but never got into it.
Wow, I should have started years ago. What a great series! It’s crazy: by touching some stones on a hilltop, an English woman is magically transported back 200 years, from 1945 to 1745 Scotland.
Despite the silly idea, the story, the acting and the production are just superb. I’ve learnt some things about the Scots that I didn’t know. There are around 60 one hour episodes, so being only up to episode 11, no doubt I’ll learn some more. Recommended.
So then, it’s a very Merry Christmas to all my readers, and Best Wishes for the New Year 2019.
and Best Wishes for the New Year 2019.
What a change in my life in the past three years! All my wishes have come true for me, adding to my long held belief that I’ve lived a charmed life. I’ve always felt that I’m lucky, that the dice always fall my way in the long run, although they take their time sometimes.
But now, in the final years, I’ve been happily retired for nearly 20 years, I’m living in the best house I’ve ever known, finances are not a worry and at long long last I have a companion in life. We are so alike it’s uncanny. I’m finding I no longer think some of the old unpleasant thoughts. We’re busy planning trips to satisfy visa requirements, and also to see the country. It’s fun.
You can now call me Peter “Four Jacks” Croft. Or Pete “Two Tow-bars” Croft. Yes, I’ve bought another car, making three cars now.
I wanted a reliable car for some longer distance trips in the next few months, and I’ve been thinking about one of these for some time, so when a 2006 model came up on Facebook Market a few weeks ago, I enquired. It was advertised at $4,500, but the owner, a mechanic, said a warning light had come up and he’d need to test it. A week or two later, he said it’s a catalytic converter (in the exhaust) that’s the cause, and that won’t stop it being driveable, and he dropped the price to $3,000. OK, I said, I’ll take it. And I did, last Sunday.
It’s mid blue metallic, alloy wheels (my second set now), with black leather upholstery. The wood grain is plastic, but it looks nice, and it drives beautifully. It’s a 3.5l V6, fuel injected OHC automatic. with on-demand 4WD. It mainly drives the front wheels, but the rear wheels kick in if it senses the front wheels slipping. You can lock the 4WD on.
That makes three cars I own now, all with 3.5l OHC FI engines, and the Verada has an anti-slip mode as well. The new car also has a tow bar and roof rack, so that’s two cars with those now. I’d better start towing something. The ball assembly is removable on the MDX, so that’s good as it only just fits in my garage. Garaging is a problem, of course, with three cars in a two car garage, so the oldest, the Magna, is out in the laneway.
So what am I gonna do? At least one has to go at some time, probably the Magna. It still drives beautifully but needs a new timing belt, an expensive job. The Verada needs new brakes, new exhaust, new tyres and an oil leak fixed so I can’t really drive it at present. The MDX feels great, but it’s heavy on fuel (14-15l/100km around town) and needs TLC all around. I suspect it will be a keeper, maybe.
Both the Verada and the MDX have the potential to be sold again for a profit if I put some work in, so I will eventually go back to being a one car man. Meanwhile I’m enjoying this.
I’ve finally done it. I’ve finally bought another car. Notice I don’t say “a new car”. I’ve really, really bought another car – another Mitsubishi station wagon in white.
Except this time, it’s a Verada station wagon, a 2004 Ei Series 2 model. So much for all my talk about buying a Mercedes? To be honest, I’ve been put off by all the horror stories about unreliability and parts costs. Lotto.
For years I’ve been thinking what a pleasure my 2001 Magna is to drive, but seeing it slowly deteriorate. It was all those years of being parked unprotected in the sun at the old house. It’s faded the paint and allowed some rust spots to form, including a big one on the roof. The windscreen was sandblasted when I bought it and has always been poor. But the engine was great and I didn’t want to give it up.
I always wanted a Verada, but afaik, they never made a station wagon Verada. I was wrong. I saw this one on Facebook’s Marketplace. It’s 3 years younger and looks good in these photos (the advertiser’s a dealer called Cheap Cars). It was advertised at $2490. I thought I should be able to haggle it down to $2000, which I was prepared to pay.
But when I enquired, he said he had to withdraw it because it needs new front tyres, new brakes and it has an oil leak. He couldn’t justify the costs and was going to send it back to an auction place.
I was very disappointed. I thought about it for the day, then called him back and asked if it was legal to drive. Yes, so further enquiry resulted in him saying he just wanted to get what he paid for it. That was? $1200! So that’s what it cost me. I am very pleased.
Now that I’ve got it, it’s got quite a few things needing fixing, but nothing I can’t handle. Lots of tar spots; a broken rear tail-light lens; a small dent and scratch on the right front guard; corrosion and paint loss on the roof rack mounts; a hazy left front plastic headlight cover; a muffler leak; and lots of paint blemishes. Also the interior roof lining has fallen down (just the cloth, not the whole thing). And the radio/6stackCD has no security code, so it stops working after 5 mins. But at last, I’ve got something I’ve always wanted – a co-tanger radio antenna. Yes, the antenna is snapped off so there’s a bent up coat hanger stuffed in there. Plus the tyres, brakes and oil leak to fix. There’s a few weeks work there.
But it’s got: wood grain! Yeah, it’s plastic wood grain, but I like it. Velour upholstery. It’s got a leather bound steering wheel and handbrake lever; buttons on the wheel for the radio/CD controls; a 5 speed auto gearbox; a semi-manual gear shifter; TCL traction control for the front wheels; alloy (mag) wheels, yay, my first ever set, including on the spare!; lights in the footwells; map reading lights; extra grab handles and coat hangers; a 10 speaker sound setup; a roof rack; a tow bar, again yay, I’ve never had one.
The engine bay looks a lot cleaner and neater than mine, even though it’s the same engine.
So I need to spend a few hundred dollars, maybe more, but it will give me a car worth keeping to enjoy for another 5-10 years, maybe see me out.
I’ve still got my old one, the 2001 TJ, and I’ll hang onto it while my partner is here for the summer so she can be independent. She likes that idea. Then I’ll give it to a friend who really needs a bigger car to hold all his tools and machinery for his work. A Mazda 2 is just too small.
I’m not finished yet. Once the “old” Magna is donated away, there are some very tempting bargains. I never knew this marketplace existed until a month ago, and now I’m addicted.