Notes from the cave, day 139

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Tokyo 1992   ©  PJ croft 2020

I’m initiating a new unit of weather called the Byoot. Monday was about 2 on the Byoot Scale, being so cold and wet, whereas I’d rate today at about 6 – nice and sunny, but still a bit too chilly. Will ten divisions be enough? There are days in December that would rate 9.5, I reckon, but some days feel better. I’ll decide as I go. Anyway, today was fairly Byoot.

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The MX-6

Sob, it’s gone. But what a departure. I advertised it on Facebook Marketplace at about 5pm on Sunday. Within the first half hour I’d had three or four enquiries and they just kept coming. I’d had 15 by bedtime that night.

Next morning, same, a stream of enquirers. By the end of the day I’d had about 24. But only a few took it any further, asking for a time to see it. I thought I had three guys coming on Monday, but only one actually came. He was only an L driver and came with a mate, but he didn’t have his finance organised so had to go away saying he’d be back. Yeah, right.

Then yesterday the enquiries kept coming, reaching 35 by 5pm. But one guy said at about midday that he wanted to come and seemed serious, even though he was in Mandurah. I told him I’m in Butler, not Canning Vale where F/B placed me, but even so, he wanted to come, so he did. He was a young guy, 22, and came with an older bloke, nice guys. They went over the car very closely, asked a lot of questions, phoned a mechanic mate, asked more questions, took it for a long drive and came back to do the deal.

Even while I was doing the paperwork, two more enquiries came in. This was a hot item! We did the paperwork and when I said, OK, payment time, the young guy paid in cash. Wow. (It’s in the bank now, tea leaves, so don’t bother). So we shook hands (actually, no we didn’t – virus) and they drove away. Deal done.

There was so much interest that I reckon I could have sold it four times over. I told a few guys it had been sold but although they’d said they were keen, they didn’t come. I said to them early that if someone came with the money, I’d have to do the deal and that’s what happened.

I actually sold it for $500 more than it cost me. I just added that to give myself some haggle room, but I reckon I could have added another $1,000 or more if I’d thought of it.

But the ludicrous tricksters – one guy said “I’m just asking if you might be willing to except 2000 please I’m looking for a car for my mum and that’s all I have atm cheers“. Ha ha har, what a stupid way to say it. Several guys tried to make stupid low offers like this, or ask me what’s my lowest price. I said, “Mate, there is so much interest that I have no need to lower the price.”

So, it’s gone and although I had trouble getting in and out and didn’t drive it much, I’m going to miss it. It was in remarkably good condition for a 25 year old car but lacked things compared to more modern cars. Like a rear window wiper.

I should mention, two of the really keen enquirers were women and they were both very disappointed when I told them they’d missed it. But one wanted to swap me for a Honda Prelude and the other hadn’t got her finances together. Sorry ladies, it would have been nice to meet you.

NB: the MX-6 in Melbourne that I nearly bought sight unseen for $6,000 earlier this year is still for sale. It’s on Car Sales. It’s lucky I didn’t proceed as it was going to cost another $1300-1500 to have it brought across and it looks as if other buyers are not going for it.

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The Throttle Position Sensor for the Honda MDX arrived on Monday too, so as soon as I can get that in, the better. That car hasn’t moved in about four months and has cost me two new tyres and a new battery this year, plus $70 for this TPS, so it’s not in my good books. No fuel, though.

I wish I knew what the future holds because I had thought about driving north in the Honda, but I’m a bit nervous about a second wave of the virus.

I’ve had an odd “rash” on my fingers in the past few weeks which the GP diagnosed as chillblains, but I’ve had chillblains when I was much younger and they weren’t like this – red raised lumps and areas of skin on the fingers, spreading to both hands.

The doc prescribed a blood pressure drug to open up the veins, but the rash was going away of its own accord so I only took one tablet.

However, I read news reports of Purple Toe Syndrome which sounds like what I had, except that it affects the fingers too. It’s being talked about as a side effect of COVID-19, so I got a little worried and thought I’d better get tested.

I phoned the medical centre this afternoon and the doc said (a) there is no community virus activity in WA (reassuring); and (b) in the absence of any other symptoms (true) there’s no reason to have a test.

But if I want one, phone for an appointment at a Clarkson clinic. Then he made a joking reference to not wanting a probe of the underside of my brain. Yeah! So that’s that.

 

Notes from the cave, day 137

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Venice, 2008.  © PJ Croft 2020

BRRRRR!! I’ve always said August is the hardest, coldest month of our winters and today is proving it. The max is forecast to be only 15degC and I think it will struggle to make that. The temp in my house was 14.7C when I looked at about 11am. Of course, if I closed the patio door it would help (done now). And I’ve got the air-con on reverse cycle, so it’s nice inside now, even though the rain is steadily coming down.

PS: 5pm, no wonder I was feeling cold. the max today was 12.1degC, the coldest August day for 15 years. Wow.

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The MX-6 is up on Facebook Marketplace now and wow, there has been an amazing number of enquiries.

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At last count, 27. They came thick and fast – I only listed it at about 5pm yesterday and I had 12-15 enquiries within three hours. That’s the good news. The bad news is that not one of the enquirers has followed through (one has now, see below). Most have asked if they can come for a look and I’ve provided the address for half a dozen or so, but no-one seems to be doing anything about it. I ask them to text me for the address and I spell out my phone number to avoid skimmers, but many can’t seem to read and want me to put the actual numbers up. No. I put my email address up in these messages a couple of years ago and I’ve been plagued by scammers and porn ads ever since.

One guy seems especially keen, but wants to wait until Wednesday to come here and wanted me to hold it for him. I said I can’t do that, if anyone offers me the money, then I’ll have to take it.

It’s amazing how people don’t read the ad. Even though it said, “I’m in Butler”, people keep asking me where I am. It doesn’t help that Facebook places me in Canning Vale, I suppose.

I was expecting two guys to come this morning – I thought we had appointments, but neither has turned up or messaged or texted. What’s wrong with these people?

At one stage last night, I got a F/B link to my ad that had been shared by someone and all they wanted to do was pour scorn on the car and how bad they think it is. What??!! I let them have the thick edge of my tongue, I can tell you. There are crazies out there.

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Venice, 2008.  © PJ Croft 2020

Aaaah, the federal government, that is the PM and the Attorney General (my local member, by the way) have withdrawn the government’s sup[port for Clive Palmer’s High Court case to force WA to open our borders. Hah! They must have realised the depth of feeling in WA against fat Clive and his selfishness. Plus the damage this was doing to the Liberal Party.

I think the damage will linger, regardless of their withdrawal. People have long memories for something like this. Our premier and the Labor Party are so popular and highly regarded for their handling of this virus crisis that I think we are going to fare well in both the forthcoming state election, due in March, and the next federal election, not due until May 2022 unfortunately.

The prime minister (Scott Morrison, from Marketing) is riding high in polling at the moment, but let’s not forget

  • When he was minister for immigration he was every bit as cruel and heartless as the present minister, that monster Dutton. So much for Christian charity, he’s a cruel, child abusing, torturing bastard;
  • He’s a member of that loony church that believes in the Rapture and how true believers like him will be chosen by god to rise to heaven, and that all non-believers (like me) will be consumed in the fires of Hell. He believes that prayer won him the 2019 election (whereas we know it was largely lies against Labor, and Labor’s overly complex promises that lost it for them);
  • That Morrison repeatedly refused to meet with a large group of retired and former fire chiefs who tried to warn him of the fire season risk as far back as April 2019. When the huge blazes broke out, Scotty was nowhere to be seen. He was holidaying in Hawaii. He only returned because he was told how bad it looked.
  • He backstabbed Malcolm Turnbull to become PM. I don’t think much of Turnbull, the man who crippled Australia’s fibre-optic network, but at least he was a believer in needing to do something to reduce our CO2 emissions and mitigate climate change.
  • He was forced to leave his position as head of the Australian Tourist Commission due to “financial irregularities”. Hmmm, we don’t hear much about that, but it doesn’t read well.

Oh, boring.

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Venice 2008. © PJ Croft 2020

Speaking of god, I’ve finally finished the Einstein biography. What a book, so well researched and written, all 551 pages. Einstein was Jewish and although he rejected all the claptrap of religion for most of his life, he did say one thing that resonates with me.

The churches always talk about god’s great plan and how the universe was designed and created by god. Well, Einstein rejected any idea of a god who answered personal prayers and concerns himself with every little happening on this Earth.

His view was that although he didn’t believe in an all powerful god, the universe and everything in it seems to fit to a plan, to be designed to be just so. Who or what or how it came to be just so, we will probably never know, but gradually we are uncovering the laws of the way it was designed. The great quest of physicists from Einstein, Bohr, Planck through to modern physicists such as Feynman, Hawking, Greene and Carroll is to find the one great set of equations that fits everything in the universe, the so-called GUT, the Grand Unified Theory.

Unfortunately, we’re still a long way from that and it’s mainly due to gravity. Newton’s Laws apply to everyday big things (including trips to Mars) and quantum theory applies as you get very small, the size of electrons and weird particles small. It’s fairly well understood how these mesh.

But gravity stands apart. No-one can see how to tie gravity to quantum mechanics. There are four fundamental forces in nature – the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, the electromotive force and gravity. Gravity is the weak relation to the other three and no-one knows why.

The other interesting thing about Einstein is that he went to his grave (actually he was cremated and his ashes scattered, so there is no grave) in denial over quantum theory. The thing is, when you get so small, as small as electrons and protons and neutrons and quarks, you can not say with precision where a particle is at any given instant, because the act of observing a particle changes it. Therefore you cannot predict the path of an electron, for example, in the same way that Newton’s laws allow you to precisely predict the path of a thrown ball or a dropped weight.

All his life and in spite of his formidable intellectual powers, Einstein resisted this idea that statistics plays such a strong role in physical particles and life. He never relented, never accepted, fought all his life to find an alternative theory. He was so stubborn that he fell out with a few of the other famous physicists of his time. Strange.

We know now that quantum theory is true and Einstein was wrong to deny it. We still don’t know all there is to know about quantum mechanics but experiments have been done to verify parts of it, enough to convince almost all scientists. Yes, it’s very, very strange, queer almost, but there it is.

Good book, recommended. Einstein, by Walter Isaacson, Simon and Schuster.

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At last, a potential buyer turned up. Lucas, with his mate Luke – easy to remember. Lucas is on L plates so I took him for a drive but as I’m only on 3rd party insurance, I couldn’t let him drive. He was OK with that. But no commitment. He wants to leave it until Wednesday. I said, well, if someone offers me the money I can’t hold it for you. Besides, there’s another very keen guy coming on Wednesday.

That makes 27 enquiries. I wish I had half a dozen of these to sell.

PS: enquiry no. 28 came in at about 4.30pm and he just said, “Whats the lowest you would do”. No punctuation. I said, No chance mate, I have no need to bargain.

Bunker bunkum day 134

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2 June 2008  Trigg Bushland   Fuji s100fs @ 400mm.

Ooooh, lovely day. I don’t know what the temp is but I’m feeling a little sweaty and I’ve got the front door open for a little breath of fresh sea breeze. Nice.

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Trigg Bushland Reserve 2 June 2008, Fuji s100fs  @ 400mm

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I’ve been out for a BSB – a ‘Bull-Shit Brekky’ with a couple of photo-dog mates this morning at our favourite cafe overlooking the ocean in North Beach. Because I keep my expenses notebook I was able to say that’s the first time we’ve been able to resume after our last one on 13 March. I miss being able to prattle on about photography and electronics and our solutions to the world’s problems and it was good to be able to meet again. I took the opportunity to take some photos afterwards:

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At 24mm. You can just see a ship, centre frame on the horizon.

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This is the ship at about 350mm

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This is full stretch, 2000mm. It’s the Princess ‘something’. That’s Rottnest Is in the background.

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Also 2000mm, but closer so not so much atmospheric distortion.

 

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Trigg Island (that rocky bit with the white post). Fremantle in the distance.

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I get daily emails from The Chaser, which for those who haven’t had the pleasure is one of Australia’s funnier and more intelligent teams of comedians. They’re the ones who dressed up as Osama bin Laden when a big Australia+Pacific meeting was held in the opera House in Sydney about 15 years ago. They got through security too, up to a point.

Anyway, I thought today’s email was pretty good:

As the second wave of the pandemic in Australia widens, it’s become clear that our business model is going to need some tweaking if we’re going to survive. Our normal business of serving in-house freshly baked quips, witticisms and japery is simply not logistically possible. People in Melbourne are no longer allowed to travel across the city to pick up our very specific joke about butter chicken. Increasingly, people in Sydney are hesitant to physically come in to pick up a loaf of satire, or a pint of parody.

That’s why I’m proud to announce today that we’re partnering with Uber to allow you to enjoy our two-and-a-half-star comedy without leaving your house.

From now on, all our jokes will come in vacuum-sealed frozen containers that you can easily re-heat in the comfort of your own home. Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. We’ve been re-heating and re-serving our own jokes for years. Even a joke that’s 20 years old can be served as fresh if you know how to reheat it correctly.

Of course, Uber will be taking a 30% cut on all orders, so you may notice a drop off in the size and quality of many of our jokes. But it’s important to support local jokes, so please buy them anyway.

Here’s a sample of our menu.

TO START
Observational humour about living in lockdown – $4.99
Jokes about face masks – 10 for $15
Gags about Melbournians liking coffee – $3.99 (packs of 100)

MAIN MENU
One-liner about Donald Trump delaying the election – $12.99 (fresh)
‘Scott Morrison is an idiot’ trope – $19.99
‘Albo is useless’ trope – $29.99 (popular!)
‘Bill Shorten is useless’ trope – $1.99 (stale)
‘Mark Zuckerberg is a robot’ thigh-slapper – [SOLD OUT]
Prince Andrew double entendre – $23.99

DESSERT
‘NBN is slow’ bon mot – $12.99
Wisecrack about George Pell being a paedo – $14.99 (reheated)
Croque en bouche of ‘Murdoch is evil’ deadpans – $89.99 (unavailable in Australia)

I’m not so sure about the ‘Albo and Bill Shorten are useless’ tropes but I had a good laugh anyway.

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Perth Murray St Mall, 2 March 2005  Minolta A2, my first digital camera.

This pandemic is becoming a bigger problem than we imagined back in March, isn’t it? It’s not just ‘going away’ as the Dump would wish it to, on the contrary, it looks like being a problem for at least another year. The only hope is that an effective vaccine will be developed, but even if it was, it would take months or a year before supplies can be manufactured and distributed.

The USA will try to out-muscle everyone else to get supplies, of course. Trump has dragged their reputation as a world leading citizen down into the gutters. Yet so many people over there are utterly blind to his bullshit and lies, utterly unable to see any other point of view. With the USA armed to the teeth, more weapons than people, it will only take a small spark to set off a catastrophe. Cleansing fire?

PS: I’ve just found this in The Guardian –
Sheriffs around the country are refusing to enforce or are even actively resisting Covid-19 mask laws and lockdowns, while others have permitted or encouraged armed vigilantism in response to Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests.

America has been a looney country for many years, but now I will say they are truly insane. Sheriffs, officers of the law, “permitting or encouraging armed vigilantism”!! I can confidently say, I will never, ever set foot in the USA again. Madmen.

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Meanwhile, our home grown reptile, Clive Palmer and his court case to FORCE us in WA to open our borders is setting everyone’s teeth on edge. This selfish man who cares more about his own money than the health of the rest of us is challenging WA in the High Court over section 92 of the Constitution regarding “free and open intercourse between the states”. The framers of the constitution had the right idea, that there should not be any impediments to free trade and entry between the states of Australia. There should not be any fee charged to enter a state, nor any tariffs on goods between states.

But they never envisaged a situation like this. This is clearly a case where the constitution breaks down, where it doesn’t cover this state of affairs. We can only hope that the High Court sees common sense.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Party have decided to shoot themselves in the foot by supporting Palmer in his case and taking Palmer’s side. The anger this is producing here looks as if it will lose them a huge vote in the next election. WA has always been vitally important in federal elections and it’s very possible that they could be wiped out federally in WA.

They’re already very much on the nose at a state level with their blocking of the reinstatement of the commissioner of the CCC, showing that they have a lot they want kept hidden, and their support, then reversal of support for the hard border. What a stupid situation – the WA leader of the Liberal Party, Liza Harvey, first argued strongly that the border should be opened, then when the Victorian virus resurgence happened, reversed herself and said it must remain closed, and now her federal colleagues are contradicting her and saying it must be opened! What a crazy party.

I’m rubbing my hands with glee of course. I don’t hide it – I’m a long term Labor supporter and the more the Liberals show how incompetent they are, the better, as far as I’m concerned.

Bunker bulldust day 131

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Tea, anyone?   © PJ Croft 2020

Winter? The temperature reached 24.4degC yesterday! No wonder I was feeling too warm in my Sloppy Joe. I was feeling a bit of perspiration.

Wow, the days are mounting up since I started writing this blog as if it were a diary during this pandemic. We were taken by surprise, weren’t we? My group were planning a reunion on the 6th of April and I recall we debated whether to cancel. Well, events moved so fast that the decision was taken out of our hands: the self-isolation period began soon after in March and we were locked in for a few weeks.

But thanks to good management by the state government, I read a description of Western Australia as having “eliminated” the virus, like New Zealand has. Having the hard border closures has worked and although it’s caused a loss of tourists from the east, I think that’s better than having a high death rate.

Billionaire Clive Palmer is shouting his mouth off and taking WA to the high court because he’s not been allowed entry to WA. But entry is allowed to “essential” people. He might have business interests here, but I don’t see that his interests, no matter how important he thinks he is, override the safety of people here. Rack off, Clive!

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I did go out yesterday, for a long drive in the MX6 along the freeway to Altronics in Balcatta (everywhere’s a long drive from here )-: ). That is an enjoyable car to drive. The four wheel steering makes the steering so sharp and precise, and the low shape makes it grip the road so that you look forward to twisty bits. But the cruise control is much more fiddly than the Mitsi Verada and the brakes need a hard push.

But I’ve got to sell it. I don’t need three cars and I’ve had my fun with this.

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Anyway, I went to Altronics to buy an ESR meter. What’s that, you say? ESR stands for Equivalent Series Resistance. Huh? It’s a characteristic of capacitors, electrolytics mainly. Huh?

A capacitor (sometimes incorrectly called a condensor) is a very simple device: it’s just two conducting (metal) plates spaced apart, with a dielectric between them.Cap1When a voltage is placed across the plates, electrons are attracted to one side and positive protons to the other side. This results in a charge of energy being stored in the dielectric substance between the plates. The dielectric can be just air, or in the case of electrolytic capacitors, it’s a chemical compound.

Because there’s no physical connection between the plates, direct current is blocked. But when alternating current (AC) is applied, energy is stored and released in the dielectric on each cycle and so the voltage on one side will appear on the other plate. So a capacitor blocks DC but passes AC. The better the dielctric and the bigger the plates, the better it works to pass AC.

Cap+R

But as a capacitor ages, or just because it’s being a bastard, it can develop an effective DC path between the plates, shown as a resistor above. This is known as the equivalent series resistance, ESR. This is a bad thing. If we can measure it, it shows the quality of the capacitor. The higher the ESR reading, the worse the component.esr601-1000x1000

This is what I bought, shown measuring an electrolytic capacitor with its value and ESR.

I got it home and started checking the electrolytics on the analogue power supply board out of the SACD player. Bingo, within five minutes I had found a 220μF 50V cap that measured about 20μF with an ESR of >40Ω. Clearly faulty. You do the checks in circuit, without needing to unsolder the component. That’s the way we like it.

Unfortunately I don’t keep electros in my spares kit so it will have to be tomorrow before I can buy a new one. This is only one board – there are hundreds of caps that could be checked. It’s nearly always the small values that go faulty.

In fact, back in the ’90s at Channel 7 we used to have masses of Sony equipment. A lot of it became notorious for developing faults due to these small value electrolytics going bad, so much that one of the trainees was employed for months and months doing nothing but replacing all these capacitors on all the boards out of Sony gear. I think Sony had used one manufacturer’s components and it turned out to be a bad lot. There were literally hundreds of them. We didn’t bother testing them, it was quicker to just replace them en masse.

In fact, that’s a thing in electronics servicing: many times it’s not worth spending time unsoldering and test each component in turn based on your analysis. It’s sometimes better to just say, “F..k it, just replace the lot.” It’s the time that costs money, the components are dirt cheap.

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Next job will be to replace the laser in the SACD player. Luckily the service manual was up on the web so I’ve got the full instructions. I’ve had to crop the page because the same instructions are in Japanese on the right of the diagrams. It’s beautifully done.

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By coincidence, SBS showed two episodes consecutively of a documentary called “Einstein and Hawking” last night. I watched all two hours of it but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it. It wandered around a lot and was a bit superficial and showed many of the same graphics and animations repeatedly.

But it was historic in the sense that it showed Hawking as he was, along with contributions from several great physicists of today such as Kip Thorne (who’s old enough to have worked with Einstein), Brian Greene and Sean Carroll. There was some footage of Einstein but not his actual voice.

I’m in the closing stages of the biography and in the years after 1945 and the bomb, Einstein and others were in effect trying to put the genie back in the bottle as they saw the frightening potential of nuclear weapons. Einstein strongly advocated a supra-national world government with command of its own armed forces, so that no one nation could dominate others. We all know how that turned out.

Russia was the problem then, as it still is now. After WW2, they were starting their takeover of Poland and Hungary and the other eastern European countries, forming the USSR. There was never any hope of Russian ceding any power to any so called world government. Nor, as long as the USA had the bomb, would they ever have taken a subordinate role. Einstein’s views were hopelessly naïve. As history has shown.

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Speaking of being hopelessly naïve, our esteemed Liberal Party treasurer Josh Frydenburg has shown us his stupidity this week. On Sunday he said he is an admirer of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and their policies.

It’s hard to believe someone in his position can be so out of date. Reagan was a big spender, mainly on the US armed forces and there’s no doubt that he forced the collapse of the Soviet Union. But in doing so he massively increased the US government debt, lowered taxes for the rich and effectively stopped wage growth for ordinary wage earners. He led at a time when monetarism and crackpot economic theory dominated. He’s not regarded as a good economic manager. no matter how much the weapons hawks love his memory.

Thatcher’s ideas have also been discredited by now. She was a believer in austerity, in cutting the size of government, reducing government services, persuading people that they needed to stand on their own two feet and help themselves. She is infamous for saying, “There is no such thing as society. There are only men and women and families.” Which was a roundabout way of saying, it’s up to you to look after yourself, don’t expect government to look after you.

The problem was her policies meant that London and the SE of England got all the help they needed and became very well off, while the north and west of the UK went downhill, with factories closing, jobs disappearing, council services being cut and poverty rising.

The effects of this are still being felt and probably contributed to the north of the UK voting for Brexit.

So Reagan and Thatcher are regarded with contempt by most economists (and me) now. For our treasurer to come out and say he admires them is like saying we need another Adolf Hitler to sort out the race problems of the world.

So, terrific: we have a prime minister who believes in a real God who does miracles just for him (a religious nut, in other words), who refused to listen to 20 fire experts who warned him of the bushfires long before they happened, who went on holiday while the east coast was burning, and was just as cruel to refugees as Dutton is now. And a treasurer who believes in ghosts, who listens to dead people and admires crackpot economics.

Oh, I feel better now. Relaxed and calm. Not.

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Unfortunately the MyHeritage website blocks me from doing any more photo enhancements with their magical software unless I sign up and pay for the top level. That’s about $240 for a year’s access. It’s too expensive.

I’ve tried Topaz Sharpen AI but it’s nowhere near as good and it’s mostly manual. It doesn’t do as good a job and it’s too slow. That costs US$60.

That leaves PhotoGlory. I’ve given it a brief try and it seems to also be mostly manual, so it’s time consuming. That’s only $20 so I might have to go with that.

I wish I knew what MyHeritage are using because I am mightily impressed. Also, if I did pay the money for a year’s use, would it allow me to fix my full sized images, or would it only produce reduced sizes suitable only for web pages? I could ask, I suppose.

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I’ve just had a phone call from DHL Startrack, the couriers, about collecting the Lenovo laptop. They were supposed to email me to arrange a time yesterday week ago, the 20th, but they didn’t. I asked Lenovo to give them a poke and next day I got the email with the labels and an arrangement that they would come on Thursday 23rd. They didn’t, and then I got a phone call from Lenovo that afternoon to arrange a time for the next day, Friday 24th. Again, they didn’t turn up!

Yesterday, Monday, I thought they might come, but no. Today? No. Now I’ve had a call from them wanting to arrange it for tomorrow, but I’ve got an appointment at 10am so no. Now it looks like Thursday.

I’m sick of this! I’ve had trouble with DHL before. One time I was waiting on a parcel delivery at the Trigg house. I waited all morning but nothing came. Then in the afternoon I found a card inside my front screen door saying that they’d knocked and no-one was home. Bulldust! I was home there was no knock. My car was in the carport.

They took my parcel back to the depot near the airport in Welshpool. Grrrrr. On a wet, stormy Friday afternoon, I had to drive to the international airport, find their premises and collect my own package. I was not happy. I wouldn’t use DHL. They are not reliable.

Notes from the bunker, day 129

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Kimia Pharmacy in Jogjakarta 1989. They’ve been around a long time. No wonder the name seems so familiar when I need stuff in Bali. © PJ Croft

Rain and humidity at the moment, but I’m hoping for clear weather around sunset for a chance, maybe, to see comet Neowise. Please?

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All my life, I seem to have missed out on the spectacular events.

In 1986, I did get to see Halley’s Comet. I was living in Como (a southern suburb of Perth, not Italy) at the time and I drove up over the Darling Scarp, along Brookton Highway I think, so as to get away from the city lights. I remember (I was 39) seeing just a faint smudge to the south east over the trees. It was so dim that you had to have faith, but at least I can say I saw something.

Comet Shoemaker-Levy in 1994, when it smashed into Jupiter? I was stuck in a hotel room in Sydney with atrocious TV reception and for some reason, I missed it. Maybe it was because I was there on a work job and was too pre-occupied. I saw the ‘action replays’ but it wasn’t the same as seeing it live.

Comet Hale Bopp in 1997? It was mainly northern hemisphere and although I looked at the sky, I don’t think I actually saw it. I can’t remember why. On the other hand, I do remember seeing a spectacular shot from the beach in Perth, so it must have been visible. I had a big disk crash in 2013 and lost a lot of images – maybe that’s why I don’t have shots of it.

The Super Moon in 2017? I misjudged the time it would take to drive to the best location to see it and by the time I arrived and set my tripod up, it was well above the horizon. Duh! My fault. Anyway, I did manage to produce this:

Moon1_1

The careful observer may notice something funny about this picture.   10 December 2017

The big moon just a couple of weeks ago? Cloud cover stopped me getting it rising above the horizon. But I did get this:

Moon5Jul20b

2000mm hand held.

Must try harder.

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I’ve been doing some more photo enhancements on that MyHeritage web site:

Early Croft photo

This is the original.

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Early Croft photo

This is the sharpened and de-noised result.

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Early Croft photo(1)

This is the colourised version. I reckon that’s bloody remarkable! This would have been c1928.      So you wish you had lovely floor coverings and a big french door fridge in your 4bed 2bath house with two cars? Look at how they lived a hundred years ago. They weren’t poor, this was suburban normal in Sydney. That’s Dad’s mother, btw, and I think that’s Dad behind the baby.

Dad Ian Pete Max c1958

Original, 1960

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Dad Ian Pete Max c1958(1)

Enhanced and colourised.

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Family group Bev 1965

Enhanced B&W.  Beverley December 1965.

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Family group Bev 1965

Enhanced and colourised. Remarkable!

Screenshot_2020-07-26 Mum port A

Mum, c1985?  Enhanced, original in colour.

Photo1500010-Enhanced

Enhanced, original in colour.

Unfortunately, once I’d done about six photos, the web site wouldn’t let me go on unless I pay. The minimum is $108 per year for limited functionality, and the top rate is $240 pa for unlimited enhancements. It’s too expensive and I don’t want their family tree functions.

I’ve installed Photoglory (mentioned yesterday) and although it seems to work well, there’s nothing automatic about it. You have to spend a lot of time adjusting sliders and playing around with each photo. I may buy it (A$27.50 to A$56).

There’s also Topaz Sharpen AI which promises AI technology as well. I’ve downloaded it to  try it. A$86. Hmmmm. Everyone wants my money.

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Grrrr, grrrr, grrrrr. You might have heard of Bauer Media, a privately owned German company that’s been in the news in the last couple of years because they bought the whole range of Kerry Packer ACP Magazines in Australia. They paid over $500 million for them.

But since then, circulations have fallen, key people left and they laid off many staff. The news is that they are terrible bosses and the whole business went downhill because of it. Their half billion dollar investment was last valued at about $50 million! Now they’ve just closed down another 12 magazines in Australia, big names like Vogue, Marie Claire, Men’s Health and many others. I was sad, but it didn’t affect me – these are not magazines I read.

In the last few years I’ve discovered a motoring magazine I really like, called Modern Classics. It’s produced in Britain and devoted to reviews and articles about cars of the 1980s, ’90s and ’00s which I agree, are modern classics. These are the cars I like. Look at mine, MX6 1995, Mitsi Verada 2004 and Honda MDX 2006. And I want a 2008 Peugeot 407 wagon and a 2005 Honda Odyssey. None of your modern stuff for me, Gertrude.

Trouble was, the magazines cost about $13.50 from the newsagent, a bit expensive. So in August last year I subscribed to the digital edition, to download and read on my tablet. It works well.

Their latest edition is all about congratulating themselves on 50 issues produced in four years.

You saw this coming, didn’t you? I’ve just had an email from Bauer Media in the UK. They’ve closed the magazine down. Next month’s issue will be the last. Damn and blast! They say they’ll continue my subscription with issues of Car magazine, but I don’t want this to be automatic where they just charge my credit card without my say so. I might be interested, but I want to evaluate it first. I’ll miss Modern Classics. It hit the mark.

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Is this a joke? I bought a new soldering iron from the Wish website and I’ve just given it its first try.

IMG_20200726_163957

The entire tip melted! The tip is made of solder! What a joke. That’s what you get for $1.60. They did provide a packet of six other tips of various shapes. I wonder what they’re made of, marshmallow? Toffee?

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There’s a good ad on Facebook at the moment promoting tourism to Christmas Island, which is an Australian territory, has a WA postcode and is serviced by Australian airlines. They say they have zero cases of the virus and they badly need tourists.

The WA government has allowed us to fly there and you don’t have to 14-day quarantine when you get there.

But when you fly back to Perth, you have to spend 14 days in hotel quarantine back here  at your own $3000 expense! Even though the government recognises that there’s no virus on Christmas Island, otherwise why would they be allowing us to go there?

There’s some twisted, crazy bureaucratic logic going on here. Left hand-right hand stuff. Come on, guys!

If only it wasn’t so expensive to go there. It’s in the same zone as Bali with all the attractions of a beautiful tropical island, without the drawbacks of Bali (haggling, nagging, traffic jams, dengue fever and so on) but it’s unaffordable.

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I’m nearing completion of the Einstein biography by Walter Isaacson. What a remarkable book. The author has done incredible research to produce this.

The image that comes across is what a nice guy Einstein was: no egotism, no wiles or vices. No guile, no jealousy. He always gave credit when anyone helped him and was happy to share his own work. He had a failed marriage with some bitterness on his divorce, but they reconciled later. He produced two sons, the younger of whom had schizophrenia, unfortunately, but the elder of whom became a hydraulics engineer and was as nice as his father.

At this stage of the book Einstein’s in America and has become an American citizen in 1939 and they are in the process of warning Roosevelt of progress in nuclear fission, warning that Germany may develop a nuclear weapon first. Einstein was a lifelong pacifist and argued strongly against militarism all his life, but in a situation like this, he was forced to go against his former ideas. Just imagine what might have happened had the Nazis succeeded in developing a nuclear bomb before the war in Europe ended! How history would have changed. It doesn’t bear thinking about.

The other thing to come from the book is how much letter writing Einstein and everyone else did then. Thousands of letters each year. All handwritten in Einstein’s case, because he didn’t type, although he had a devoted secretary who travelled with him and became part of his family. I suppose it’s not much different now with emails and written diaries like this. Einstein’s life is so well documented due to all the letters he left. I’m trying to leave my mark, to some degree, by writing all this. For what it’s worth. Who will care?

Bunker bunkum day 128

Trengganu boatROC

Kuala Trengganu, Malaysia 1986  © PJ Croft 2020

Another sparkling blue sky day, 20deg. Winter? What winter? Western Australia – world’s best climate. Later Saturday: uh oh, rain and clouds and cold.

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This is interesting. I’ve just read about a new(ish) piece of software that works remarkably well at enhancing old photos. I mean sharpening, contrast enhancement, noise removal and even colourisation.

I’ve tried it and the results are remarkable. I am impressed.

Colin Dad Ian Pete c63

Original, quite soft. c1962

Colin Dad Ian Pete c63enh

That’s me on the right. The bub on the left turned 60 yesterday! Look at my thick, dark eyebrows!

 

Dad Ian Max Colin Bev 1964

The original, c1963/64

Dad Ian Max Colin Bev 1964enh

The colourisation is automatic, one click. It’s amazing.

Croft family picnic 1920s

The original, the Sydney Croft family and friends c1932

Croft family picnic 1920senh

This is remarkable! It’s the power of AI.

Umbrella girls 89

This is one of my favourite shots, Malaysia 1986, but it’s spoilt by camera shake.  © PJ Croft 2020

Umbrella girls 89orig crop

Bad original crop.

Umbrella girls 89enh

Enhanced.   © PJ Croft 2020

Umbrella girls 89enh crop

Enhanced. It’s not perfect but it’s better than the original.

It only works on faces, not landscapes, apparently.

That’s the good news. Yes, there’s bad news – this is software on a family tree web site called MyHeritage and although you can fix photos at no cost, as shown above, they are watermarked and you can’t download a full size of the fixed photos. I’ve used screen capture to get these. It costs a minimum of about A$10 per month to use the site, and a lot more if you want all the features. It’s quite expensive. They want to ensnare you to make family trees.

However, someone else on the web has pointed to software called Photoglory which they say (I haven’t tried it yet) does the same thing and more. It also costs, but it’s less expensive – US$19.25 for the base version up to US$39.20 for the top version. That’s a once off fee. I hate these subscription things, it’s easy to overcommit yourself with monthly fees if you’re not careful.

Anyway, I’ve downloaded Photoglory and I’ll try it and report back. I’m very, very impressed at the enhancements above, though.

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Ouch, my “chillblains” on my fingers, which started out as just two small lumps on the side of my right ring finger have now spread to all my fingers on both hands, and even to the tips of two fingers just below the nail. Funny lookin’ chillblains. Raised red lumps.

The doc has prescribed a blood pressure medication to open up the veins to improve blood flow. I’ll give it a try. But I’m wondering if this could be psychosomatic. I have a very weighty thing on my mind which is worrying me greatly. I am taking steps to mitigate it, but it will take time.

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The rubber strap of one of my favourite watches (Pulsar Japan) broke a couple of months ago and so where did I go but to Wish.com to buy a new one. Cost? $2.60 + postage of $2 or so. It arrived a few days ago:

57c1271f8e926a4395580638-large

While fitting it, I had to cut it to reduce the size and sure enough, I made a slip. It wasn’t  serious, it still works but I thought I’d buy another one so as to get it nice and neat. Price now? Free, just pay postage. This is crazy. At the same time, one of the spring pins from the original is a bit bent, so I’ve ordered a set of 108 new ones of assorted sizes for $1.62 plus postage! It’s amazingly cheap.

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A few days ago I started to write about Moore’s Law, the idea (and that’s all it is, an idea, it’s not a law of physics) that the number of semiconductor junctions that can be etched onto silicon wafers doubles every two years. It’s held roughly true since the late 1980s, but now that the number of junctions (i.e. transistors, but they’re not all transistors) has reached about 50 billion, we’re running up against the laws of physics where the width and spacing of the tracks in the silicon has become so small (14 nanometres) that electrons can “leak” between tracks where they shouldn’t. That is, the insulation between tracks breaks down.

I couldn’t remember where I read about this, but I saw an article talking about a new insulating material called boron nitride which shows promise at stopping this leakage, and so allows even closer spacing of the tracks, allowing Moore’s Law to continue its upward trend. Now I’ve found another article, in The Economist and written in their beautifully lucid style which explains all this.

amd-wafer

The ICs (integrated circuits, chips) start out as photo-etched images on the surface of large silicon dies like this. (They aren’t multicoloured, this is just light diffraction like oil on a puddle. They’re just a dull grey.)

There are hundreds of identical chips on the wafer and they are broken off to be tested, then have their wires attached (gold wires, electron beam welded) and packaged to form each new IC.

The thing is, as I said, the insulation has to be near perfect between each etched track on the microscopic chip. The spacing is currently limited to a minimum of 14nm, 14 billionths of a metre, about 1/100th of human hair. Smaller than the wavelength of light! So the insulating space between the tracks has to be bloody good.

A relatively new material called boron nitride is a bloody good insulator and they’re currently starting to use it in IC production to allow even closer spacing between the conducting tracks. The Economist article describes it far better than I can but suffice to say that if it allows a halving of the spacing, that would quadruple the number of chips on a wafer (2x vertical and 2x horizontal). That’s the next four years that Moore’s Law can hold true in one stroke. Bloody clever stuff! I love electronics.

06-0175-25D_crop

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Tomorrow (Sunday) night there will be a chance for us in the southern hemisphere to see the comet that everyone in the northern hemisphere has been seeing for months, Neowise.

Neowise 2

They say it should be visible just after sunset.

AAP-20200714-115451-3264.JPG

The comet Neowise or C/2020 F3 is seen over the Turets, Belarus, 110 kilometers (69 miles) west of capital Minsk, early Tuesday, July 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)

Unfortunately, the forecast is for rain tomorrow night. I think I’ll go down the beach on the chance that the clouds will clear. I have my new Nikon with its 2,000mm lens now and on a tripod, it would give me a shot at least as good as the above. Cross fingers.

Bunker doings day 127

denon_dvd-a11_dvd_sacd_player

The Denon SACD player. See below. It’s in bits now.

Lovely morning so far. Lots of rain last night and it looks like we’ll get more today. Yesterday reached 23.5deg, the warmest July day for three years. Great, more please.

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Busy morning: I’ve had electricians, one master and one apprentice (who had to get up in the ceiling) to change the wiring on my dining area pendant light and install two LED downlights. I bought these new lights last summer but it had to wait until winter to install them as with a tin roof, it would be too hot up there.

So, lovely, the switching works now as it was intended to do on the original plans. The plan hadn’t been followed when the house was built – they’d wired the dining pendant lamp to the wrong switch. Now I can have just the pendant light on, or the new LED down lights only, or both. It’s such a bright sunny morning that I can’t see the effect yet, so I’ll have to wait for tonight.

The electrician said their rate is $140 an hour. Wow. The plumbers cost me $150 an hour a few months ago to install my new kitchen sink mixer. And he took the old one away – I didn’t notice at the time and I think that was a bit naughty. Anyway, this job cost $259 including a bit of cable and one lamp which had blown.

The main man had a strong British accent which he said was from Northamptonshire in the UK. Then he asked me where I was from (implying that I was from the UK too). Ha, no mate, I’m seventh generation Aussie and proud of it. But we do go back to the 13th century in England, Devon and Cornwall. I have the book to prove it.

Croft_Castle_Croft Castle 6 by David Merrett - Flickr Croft Castle. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons - httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwikiFileCroft_Castle_6

Croft Castle  by David Merrett Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org

I’ve wanted to go to England for the last few years to see Croft Castle in Herefordshire and lay my claim to at least one brick, but this virus has put a spike in those plans for the foreseeable future. Even if travel was possible now, I wouldn’t dare to go to England. The virus is rampant there – world’s highest death rate per capita, more than 46,000 deaths. Ugh. So I don’t know if I’ll ever get to see our heritage now. Crumbs, I’ve been to the UK four times, yet I never took the trouble to see the castle. It shows the truth of  “do it now, or you may not get the chance.”

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The poor bloke was moaning and groaning – when I asked, he said he had a couple of broken ribs (probably cracked?) from falling off a ladder a few days ago. He was a mature guy, in his fifties I’d guess. Falling off ladders is one of the major risks for guys, I read recently, even resulting in deaths. Hmmm, I still need to get up on a ladder myself to replace another downlight. Yeah.

Then when the Silver Chain cleaner arrived an hour later, she soon started moaning too. She seemed to have rolled her ankle as she came to my front door. She finished my cleaning but said she’d have to drop the rest of her appointments and go home for the day. It’s a battleground here, I tell you.

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I’ve come across a bête noir word of mine, pre-prepared, as in pre-prepared sandwiches. I hate this. If it’s prepared, why do they need to add the pre in front?

Also, I’ve written before about starting answers to questions by starting with “So”. Almost everyone interviewed on TV or radio does it now, even doctors, scientists, highly qualified and intelligent people: “So, we have done experiments…”; “So, the budget deficit for next  year will be…”; “So, I attended the meeting last week…”; and so on and on. It’s another pandemic which has infected speakers from all over the world, even BBC people. So stop! It’s redundant.

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Now that I’ve got the Sony DA3000ES amplifier, bought some months ago and not yet in service, I’ve been wondering what to do with the existing amp, a Pioneer VSX323 AV amp. Lo and behold, an ad popped up on Facebook Marketplace two nights ago wanting to buy a good amp. I jumped in and answered him with my model and price.

He replied very quickly and said he’d take it, no haggling, could he come and collect it “tomorrow”, which would have been yesterday. Yes!, I replied and told him I’m in Butler.

Unfortunately he lives in Mandurah and he wasn’t prepared to come all this way. “What if I meet you in Freo?”, I said. Nah, won’t be up that way either. Lost the sale, unfortunately. I did consider doing the drive down there so as to grab the sale while I can. I don’t mind a drive like that, especially in the MX6. Maybe I should send a message again and say I could come on the weekend?

For sale, Pioneer VSX323 5.1ch, 100W per channel, four HDMI inputs, AM/FM tuner, all the inputs and decoders you can eat, $175. Excellent, 2014 buy, unmarked condition, no faults.

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My two second-hand buys earlier this year have not been trouble free, I’m afraid. The Sony amplifier seems to be OK except for one thing – the volume control on the front fascia. It’s an encoder type where it turns an optical disc with a sensor that counts pulses (just like your car radio and most other things these days). Turn it slowly and the volume goes up slowly. Spin it fast and the volume jumps up fast.

But mine only raises the volume slowly, if at all, no matter how fast you turn it. Funny, it seemed OK when it first arrived, this problem has only developed recently.

It works fine from the remote control, so that narrows the problem down to the area of the rotary encoder itself, not the circuit it feeds. I’m not afraid to tackle it but with the SACD player in bits at the moment, I don’t really want to be taking another front panel off, with all its screws. I might just put it in place and rely on the remote, which is what I’ll be doing anyway. The front panel knob works, it’s just slow and erratic. Of course, if I put it into service, I’ll never get around to taking it out to fix this fault. Hah.

The Denon SACD player is a bit more serious. The first problem is that it won’t play anything except normal CDs. It won’t read either Super Audio CDs (SACD) or DVDs, which it’s supposed to. The guy who sold it never mentioned that and I didn’t think to take an SACD to check. He did demonstrate that the Eject button wouldn’t work, though. No worries, I said, I’ll fix that.

But now I’ve found it’s not just that button, most of the buttons on the front panel are very reluctant to work. Again, I’m not fazed. In a case like this, power supply! It’s almost certain to be a power feed to the front panel is low, if not the main power supply.

I’ve got the front panel off (with a million screws!) and had a look and can’t see any burnt or swollen components, so I’ll have to find a ‘mini-tast’ switch (tast means switch in German) and replace the Eject one.

Meanwhile I’ve got the main power supply board out – it’s a lovely old style analogue supply with two big electrolytics and many smaller ones to check and replace. It’s a bit like changing the piston rings and valves in a car after a certain mileage.

In addition, I found the complete laser assembly for this model is available on eBay, so I bought one for ~$35 from the UK and it arrived last week. If the power supply “rebuild” doesn’t fix the fault, I’ll change the laser. The service manual was available from the web so I’ve got the full instructions, plus a test voltage to measure to test the existing laser. TBD – To be done. What did we ever do before the internet???!!

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I made a donation on the internet to the ALP campaign in the Eden Monaro by-election a few weeks ago, just  $20. Today I’ve had two paper letters, one from the ALP campaign manager there thanking me for the donation, and in a separate letter, a paper receipt.

This is crazy, I don’t want paper letters and all the rigmarole that entails. Someone had to fold those letters, stuff the envelopes, stamp and post them, then Australia Post has to sort them, transport them interstate and deliver them. It’s such a waste. I read them, then put them straight into the bin. I’ll have to email them and say, “Don’t waste trees, don’t waste time, don’t waste energy!” Just do things by email.

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Which reminds me, my land-line phone is still not working since the internet outage about a month ago. I’ve checked everything I can, and I’m paying for this service, so iiNet, fix it! Or maybe I should just drop the land-line. My mobile seems to be reliable enough these days. I went mobile-only back in the Trigg house in the late ’00s but it kept dropping calls so I went back to land-line as well. I’ve been reluctant to terminate it because I’ve distributed this 9562 xxxx number everywhere and I do want to be contactable. Who knows who will try to contact me, fail and not have my mobile number?

Funny how we always had paper phone directories with our name, number and full street address before, but they’ve gone bye-byes and there’s no directory for mobile numbers. Why? I think there should be.

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Which reminds me, I got a text message from the Commonwealth Bank yesterday telling me that $96 had been deposited into my savings account. Huh? It turned out to be from WA Seniors. It’s an annual goodie from the State government. Good stuff.

But I’m not using that CBA account any more. It’s still active, but I’ve disengaged myself from that bank due to their unethical and bad behaviour.

So I got onto the web (yeah, as I said… ) and found their web site so I could change my bank details. But to look deeper, I had to log in, and found I don’t have a login. I had to try to create one.

I said “try”. It wants a lot of detail, including a passport type photo and all the other stuff. But when I got to login name and password (i.e. create one and enter it), I struck trouble. Their web form will not accept ctrl-V, paste, into the password box, nor will it let you see what you’re typing (only dots). Huh?  I use a password manager program (Dashlane) which has a password generator. This lets you copy the randomly generated password to the clipboard and paste it as required. But I couldn’t paste it into this WA Gov form.

Eventually I wrote the password down and manually typed it in, but without being able to see my typing to check that it was right. Then I found it wants another copy of the password and again, you can’t paste!  Aaaarrrgh.

Finally, I got it right and hit the complete button. Error. Please try again later. So I waited a while and started again. Same result, Error.

Fed up by now, I phoned the land line number. An elderly lady’s voice answered and after explaining the problem, she said she can’t take my new details over the phone, it has to be done on a paper form which she’ll post out to me. But she needs my new address to send it to (they still had my Trigg address and phone and old email address) so she took that down over the phone, with my mobile number. If she could do that, why do I have to fill out a paper form as well?

I asked about the error messages. Yes, she said, our web site has been crashing a lot lately. Probably because everyone’s doing what I was doing. Makes ya wonder.

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Similarly, I’m still waiting on DHL to collect the faulty Lenovo laptop for return to Sydney. It’s the end of the second week of emailing and waiting for instructions. I did get an email from DHL on Tuesday, after asking Lenovo to give them a prod, and I was told the pickup would be today. But no, Lenovo phoned this morning and asked what’s happening. I told her, and gave all the required numbers and she has rescheduled DHL to come tomorrow now. Two full weeks it’s taken. Meanwhile, they’ve still got my money and I have to sit here and wait for someone to come. Grrrr.

At least my friend is happy now. He was upset by the faulty Lenovo (it obviously couldn’t have been QC checked properly) and didn’t want to deal with them again.

IMG_20200704_134651

The Lenovo laptop camera fault.

He saw a Dell of the same specs in JB Hifi last weekend and after talking to me about it (thanks, KG) he bought that instead. It was $100 cheaper than the Lenovo, too. Bonus. He had trouble setting Windows 10 up on it but took it back to where he bought it and they sorted him out, so he’s up and running on a brand new modern PC at last. His old laptop was running Windows XP, so was way out of date (20 years?). This new one will be a revelation.

The main thing he wants, and I have to agree, is that if you run Microsoft Word in Win10, you can dictate speech straight into it. It has speech-to-text built in. He wants that and I don’t blame him. I bought Dragon Naturally Speaking a few years ago to do the same, and although it works and is easy to use, I found my brain just didn’t seem to take to talking my thoughts. I find I can type at just the right rate to follow my thought-speech. Strange. My brain seems to run just ahead of my fingers, which follow my thought-speech. I guess I should give Dragon another try.

On the other hand, if I upgraded this PC from Win7 to Win10, which I should do anyway, I would have the speech recognition because I’ve got MS Word. Must do it.

Bunker bulldust day 124

Cairns west of 132

Once you leave the coast around Cairns, the country rapidly becomes this dry, rugged landscape. Totally different.  This was 1987 – it’s probably all lush green now. 🙂   © PJ Croft 2020

Brrrr. It’s an absolutely beautiful day (ooops, I’d better remember to do my washing), but it’s chilly. 18deg and a clear blue sky.

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R9-014

Aaaaw.  © PJ Croft 2020

I’ve finally got the Japan CD-ROM up to date and a couple of CD copies burnt, with a nice label and case insert, ready to go.

I originally made this in about 2004 and 2005 and some bits were missing, or the fonts had to be updated, and so on. Plus I’ve had to replace the original sound track because I don’t have the rights to use it. It was called Music for Zen Meditation by Tony Scott, an American jazz musician. I used to think about writing to him and asking permission, but never got around to it. It’s a great CD.

Instead I’ve replaced the sound track with “music” which was generated by a small program I used to have called Wind Chimes. It generated random computer music in any of about 50 different styles, such as tubular bells, wind chimes, astronomical sounds (Jupiter’s Rings) and so on. Because it’s random and computer generated, there are no copyright issues. I like it and you can always turn the volume down if you don’t.

I’ll post that CD out in the next few days.

PS: I’ve just done a search and Wind Chimes by Syntrillium Software is still available. Whether it will run on modern versions of Windows is doubtful. I’ve downloaded it and I’ll try it.

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I’ve just had delivery of another portable hard drive from Amazon. I reckon it’s a bit of a bargain, that’s why, after I bought one a couple of weeks ago, I’ve now bought another one.

It’s a Western Digital SSD 240GB for $48, and a Wavlink USB 3 enclosure, $14. Total $62 for 240GB – small, light as a feather, fast and USB powered. It’s so good that I may even order another one.

Crumbs, now that I’ve searched on Wavlink in Amazon, they make an amazing range of products. I suspect I may find other useful stuff. Hah! Pop goes the weasel.

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I read a lot of news about the Covid-19 virus every day, its effects on different countries, and it’s hard to feel optimistic about the state of the world right now.

Britain chose, by the narrowest of margins, to leave the EU. In the process, the British Labour Party fell in a heap and the public elected a bombastic, lying prime minister and government who don’t seem to be capable of dealing with the twin crises – the crash out of the EU without a trade deal and the virus at the same time.

As a result of Boris’s bungling, the UK now has by far the world’s highest death rate per capita and they are nowhere near out of it yet. It’s going to get a lot worse for them this winter and into next year.

It’s hard to believe that such a normally intelligent and capable country has fallen so far, so fast. The virus is crippling British industry at the very time when they need to be building themselves up to withstand the shock of leaving the EU. The British people don’t seem to have the courage or the morals to do the right thing in terms of testing and social distancing to bring the virus under control. As they head into the northern winter and flu season, it’s just going to get much worse. It will be a nightmare. Their death rate will go up and up and Britain will become even less of a world power than it has become. Very, very sad.

The United States – who could have known that the world’s most capable country could bungle the pandemic so badly? They are in crisis. Their infections are out of control and are getting worse by the day. Their curve is going up markedly (whereas ours flattened a couple of months ago and although it’s going up a bit now, we’re still in control). Florida alone, in the US, had over 12,000 new infections in a single day yesterday. That’s more than Australia has had in the entire pandemic period since January. Florida has 21 million people, Australia 25 million. We’re comparable in population, yet this US state has a Republican governor who seems to be as insane as Trump, who fights against masks and lockdowns and any control measures.

I have thought for years that America, as a country, has gone insane, and this pandemic has only proven me right.

In fact, it leads on to my next thought, that this pandemic has the potential to cripple America as a world power for many years to come, decades even. The Dump has already dragged them down to the point that most civilised countries don’t take them seriously any more. When their president tries to make himself look good by trying to reduce the rate of infection testing, this is so mentally unbalanced that other countries can only look the other way.

I can’t help thinking that China is going to be the big winner out of all this. I don’t suggest that they let this virus spread deliberately, but it’s sure working to their advantage by almost crippling their main adversary. They’ve controlled their infections in their own country, but I would bet that the party leaders are quietly congratulating themselves and planning their moves to exert greater world control.

While all this is going on, global heating and climate change is being forgotten, but it’s marching on regardless. I believe we’ve passed several tipping points, stages where irreversible changes have occurred which build on other changes to increase the effects of climate change. There’s no chance now of meeting the Paris Accords. Trump has seen to that by withdrawing from the agreement and doing everything he can to sabotage any climate mitigation measures he can within the US.

I truly believe it’s too late. The Earth is headed for temperature increases of 3, 4 or 5deg which will devastate the world. I won’t be here to see it but I’m truly sorry for the young of today. If I had any influence, I would tell young people to stop having children, because their world is going to be awful. By that, I mean more pandemics with new viruses, massive storms, floods, endless heatwaves and droughts, fires, cyclones, loss of fish and animals, and global refugee crises on a scale far worse than we’re seeing now.

And global political crises leading to wars. I foresee military conflict. When people are stressed and frightened, they think they want strong leaders and we’re already seeing the results – madmen taking power; Trump in America, Boris in the UK, Orban in Hungary and the new ultra right wing government in Poland. Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China. Bolsonaro in Brazil. It’s frightening. I’m outta here. Include me out.

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Bunker bulldust day 122

Feb08 VS3

A snap that worked. © PJ Croft 2020

Brrrrrr. By northern hemisphere standards it’s not cold, but by my standards it’s brass monkeys. It was only 17deg max yesterday and I’ve been forced to put on an extra layer of insulation on top. Still wearin’ me shorts and sandals though. Crumbs, a bloke’s got standards to maintain.

If the doctor was right about chillblains, I’ve got ’em on most fingers now. Red, itchy lumps. Just a few, you wouldn’t notice them. I was forced to use a steroid cream last night and it worked well, stopping the itching. I’m not sure about the chillblains explanation. They don’t look like chillblains to me.

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Like father, like son. The son of a former, very well known and remembered premier of Western Australia has outed himself as a liar after being exposed in a news article.

This guy, 30 years of age and a self described wealthy businessman, promoted an animal park he was developing in a NW town by saying he had bought and was importing two Sumatran tigers from the guy in Arkansas or Florida or somewhere who made a big splash in a Netflix show. Trouble was, when the reporter talked to the TV show guy, he denied the sale and said he’d never heard of this West Aussie.

So it turned out this local guy just lied to promote his business venture. Bare faced. At least he’s admitted it.

It should remind us that his father, when Premier of WA, was also partial to telling lies. He made promises to get elected that he never went close to keeping and in fact he came close to bankrupting the state treasury. He went from a balanced state budget with low debt from the previous Labor government to us being left with a state debt of $15bn which we’re still battling to reduce. He also said he was going to build a gas pipeline from the North West Shelf gas fields near Broome to Perth and provided figures at a press conference about it. But the reporters straight away saw errors in his figures and pointed them out to the premier’s face. He just stonewalled. It was amazing and so embarrassing. He denied the errors even though all the reporters could see them. So he was a liar too. As I said, like father, like son and like Liberal.

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ABC News 18 July 2020: “Seventy-three millionaires paid no tax in 2017-18, while Australia’s richest people live in Sydney’s Double Bay, on average earning more than 13 times the nation’s poorest, who live in central-west Queensland.” [Yeah, the rich are reporting artificially low taxable incomes because they’ve had all their dodgy deductions. The real ratio wouldn’t be 13x, it would be 50x or more.]

“There were 73 Australians who earned more than $1 million in the 2017-18 financial year that did not pay a cent of income tax, up from 69 the year before.”

Year after year, it’s the same – when you’re rich, paying tax is optional. Most choose the option of dodging tax completely. Their accountants grow rich themselves by devising complex schemes that skirt the law. In my opinion, this is criminality.

I know someone who thinks this is a game. He boasted to me about how he paid no tax because he “put everything through his family trust”. He boasted about “playing games with the tax people”. He denies it but I know what I heard. He wasn’t joking.

People who dodge tax still drive on the roads and freeways, use the airports, use the weather services and customs and border patrol, take their Medicare refunds, use the NDIS, want spouse and child allowances, want all the government payments they can get, but don’t want to pay for them.

Why is it that the government can’t devise laws which would force the rich to pay their fair share? It’s because they are great mates with the barons, with an eye on their own retirements or departure from parliament when they’ll benefit from the largesse of their rich mates. It’s a club. It’s large scale corruption and no-one is doing anything about it.

Except Michael West https://www.michaelwest.com.au/  I admire this guy tremendously. He is dedicated to exposing corruption and dodgy characters in politics and business, and he puts himself in the firing line of legal threats. As I say, this is the kind of person I admire. Tax dodgers? Low life.

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I’ve just been reading about transistors, billions of ’em. I’m sure you’ve heard of Moore’s Law, that the number of transistors that will fit on a silicon die doubles every two years. That prediction was made in the early ’70s and ever since then, it’s held roughly true, to the point where we reached 1 million in about 1990, 1 billion in about 2000 and we’re now up to about 50 billion. That’s 50 billion semiconductor junctions in an area of about 4x4cm max. Almost all the area of a CPU chip is taken up with the connecting wires and pins to the outside. All gold wires and gold plating.

This is territory where the interconnections between the junctions are around 7 nanometres in width. 14,000 would fit in the width of a human hair. Look at the line marked 10nm. That’s where the silicon chip interconnect lines are.

increasing-energy-wavelength-visible-light-graph

The wavelength of yellow light is about 600 nanometres! This is why the tracks can’t be seen by ordinary light microscopes. This is the size of bacteria and smaller than blood corpuscles.

Nanometre

That’s the second division here, between 1-10nm.

These lines in the silicon are so fine that they require the use of x-ray lasers to etch them. They are far smaller than the eye can see and smaller even than light microscopes can resolve. They require scanning electron microscopes to see. This is fantastic technology, and there’s far more to it than the average person knows. The book I read recently, Exactly, by Simon Winchester goes deeply into this.

People have been predicting for years that we’re reaching the limits of Moore’s Law, that we simply can’t fit any more semiconductor junctions onto a chip. Well, guess what. Some researchers have developed new techniques that break the barrier again. Hah, since I started writing this I’ve lost the article that led me to it. More to come… 🙂

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Do you know about M-Disc? Do you want 1,000 year durability of your backups? I do.

I’ve known about M-Disc for a couple of years and I’ve just got into it. I’ve just bought an LG external DVD drive which plays CDs and DVDs and records normal DVD-Rs, both write-once and rewritables. But these work by the laser in the drive heating a dye layer on the DVD, changing its reflectivity. Because it’s an organic dye layer, it can change over time and these discs are not guaranteed beyond about 10 years.*

The laser in an M-Disc drive, on the other hand, is a bit more powerful and actually burns the pits into the surface of the disc so that it’s permanent. By permanent, how about 1,000 years? That’s long enough for me.

Expensive? How about $24 for the drive and $30 for a box of five 25GB discs? I call that good backup value.

I have about 50,000 images on my hard drive, not all mine but most are. I consider them priceless. If I lost them I’d be distraught. I’ve got them backed up in a few different ways including the “cloud” (ASUS servers in Taiwan) but that requires internet access to retrieve them. I’ve also got a couple of portable hard drives but spinning disks are going to fail at some point in their life (right at the very end, actually). Solid State Drives (SSDs) have no moving parts but have a finite number of read/write cycles to them.

No, I’ve got all these but I’ve ordered three boxes of five M-Discs and I intend to save everything important to them and store them off site somewhere. For posterity? Who’ll care?

The other thing to do is to put the images into books and I’m doing that, but it takes a lot of time. Each book costs about $40 for 14″x11″ hardcover, 20 pages. That’s not bad too as they’re very accessible, but they’d burn in a fire.

* Back in the early 2000s I was using rewritable DVDs extensively and I was buying an unknown brand from BigW at about $5-10 each (? probably a lot less – can’t remember). I was a little worried about their durability, but now 20 years later, they continue to work fine. I can’t recall ever having a problem unless they got physically damaged. You can have a win.

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Speaking of images:

Clip

The colours on my screen are glorious.

I’m remaking my Japan interactive slide show from around 2005. I must apologise to my reader to whom I had promised a copy – I found glitches in it and had to remake it, which has taken some time, but it’s almost finished. Next week I hope.

The software is called PTE-AVStudio (previously PicToExe). It’s a Russian team and from fairly primitive beginnings 15 years ago, it’s a polished product now and very easy to use. Wnsoft – there’s a free trial version – the full price is US$139 which is not cheap, I admit. I started years ago so all my purchases are upgrades.

Bunker bulldust day 120

Dutch sailing ships 1

Isn’t that a lovely shot? It could be a Flemish artist painting. It’s the fleet of Dutch sail ships which are still active, but in fear of loss to bankruptcy due to lack of business. Picture: The Guardian

A real winter’s day today, a bit of sun early but lots of good rain and clouds now at 2.30pm. Not cold, but quite humid. And now steady soaking rain at 3.10pm. Lovely.

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I’ve just been reading an advisory notice from CHOICE about this brand of hand sanitiser:

Screenshot_2020-07-16 Mosaic Brands hand sanitiser fails the lab test CHOICE

Although the label says 70% alcohol, tests show that it only contains 23%. Does the company apologise and withdraw it from sale? Nope. They dodge and twist, prevaricate and dissemble. Pressure from Choice seems to be working.

In their article, they warn against hand sanitisers that don’t evaporate, don’t smell like alcohol and leave your hands feeling greasy. Guess what I’ve got:

Sanitisers

Both these fit that description – they don’t smell like alcohol, they don’t evaporate and they leave my hands so greasy that I have to wash them off under the tap. I don’t really want to use them. The left one came from my pharmacy and the turquoise one came from Aldi. Will I complain? I don’t know. The labels say 70% alcohol but without a test, who’s to say.

I think I’ll see if they fit another test – do they burn, as alcohol should. Tune in for the next exciting episode.

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To me this dodgy sanitiser is just another example of dirty business from companies we were urged to trust by former PM John Howard in the 1990s when enterprise bargaining was the thing. He told us we could better negotiate 1-on-1 with our employers rather than collectively through our unions. Hah! Time and time again in this present time, employers are engaging in “wage theft”, underpaying employees any chance they get, defying awards, withholding pay unlawfully, dismissing employees without their entitlements, putting out faulty products as in this case, you name it, businesses are doing it.

Obviously not all companies and businesses are doing the wrong thing, but neither were the scores, hundreds of unions. You never heard about the good unions such as the APESMA, now known as Professionals Australia and it includes:

  • Association of Professional Engineers Australia (APEA);
  • Professional Scientists Australia (PSA)
  • Professional Pharmacists Australia (PPA)
  • Professionals Managers Australia (PMA)
  • Professional Architects Australia (PAA)
  • IT Professionals Australia (ITPA)
  • Collieries’ Staff and Officials Association (CSOA)
  • Translators and Interpreters Australia
  • Local Government Engineers Australia (LGEA)
  • Professionals Contractors and Consultants Australia

These are all “unions” by definition, yet according to Liberal Party ideology, they are all bad by association. It’s pathetic. Right wing blind ideology, pure and simple.

My union was the PREI when I joined it in the early ’70s, the Professional Radio and Electronics Institute. In the amalgamations of the ’80s, it became the CPSU, TCA (Technical, Communications and Aviation) Division. I hated that CPSU acronym. Communist Party of the Soviet Union! Surely they could have chosen a better name, but we were stuck with it. I was involved in union affairs then and I’ll never forget the warmth of my reception in the Perth and Sydney offices. The union people were great.

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BeetleCameraWEB012

I love electronics! This is a complete video camera with wi-fi transmitter and battery glued to the back of a beetle. It weighs 0,25g so the beetle wouldn’t even know it was there. The camera can even pan under control from a smart phone app. Fantastic.

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That reminds me, I said a couple of weeks ago that I had uninstalled the government’s CovidSafe app from my phone as it was said to be ineffective and insecure.

Well, I’ve since read that it’s been quite extensively revised and should now be safe enough, so I’ve reinstalled it again. Although for a program that we’re assured doesn’t track our movements, why does it ask permission for our phone’s location data when you install it?

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It’s remarkable how WA is so free of the fear and restrictions of Victoria and NSW, and the rest of the world due to this virus. We really are an island-within-an-island as long as our borders are closed. But although I don’t fear the virus (much), I do fear for the future. It looks as if this isolation will last a very long time, I mean years. It’s very hard on small businesses in this state.

On the other hand, maybe this could be the push this state needs to develop more industries and manufacturing. We have all the resources we need, especially cheap power both from solar and wind, and natural gas from the North West Shelf. Sure, gas is getting a bad press for its potential methane leakage, but these are problems that can be solved.

We have a large skilled workforce itching to get suitable work. Money is available at the lowest interest rates ever. All it needs is some courage and good ideas, and there’s no lack of the latter.

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10884

I’m about half way through the Einstein biography I mentioned a few postings ago. The author is Walter Isaacson, publisher Simon and Schuster. All I can say is wow! This is so well written, yet so detailed and well researched. Everything is footnoted. He must have spent years putting it together.

The amazing thing is, as well as being a good writer, he goes into quite a deep level of the physics and seems to have a good understanding of the subjects he’s writing about. You can’t gloss over Einstein’s work (and the other amazing physicists and mathematicians of the time). If you want to talk about relativity, space-time, unified field theory, tensor calculus and quantum mechanics, you’d better know your subject or you’ll be dismissed as trivial. This author knows the subjects. I am so impressed.

I’m up to the early 1930s with Einstein arguing strongly and with conviction against quantum theory. It’s strange that a man who had to fight against sceptics who questioned and campaigned against relativity (time is not constant, clocks run slower, measuring rods get shorter etc) himself became a sceptic of this new theory that was also so hard to accept if you believed in a constant universe. I’m only half way into a 550 page book but I believe he never accepted quantum theory to his grave, even though all the great minds know its truth, however bizarre it is. Great book, recommended, although you’d better like physics. It could be monumentally boring.

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SN-20348-1_Statue-of-Liberty-Nebula-©-Martin-Pugh-1536x1020

Isn’t that magnificent? The Statue of Liberty Nebula. © Martin Pugh

It’s a finalist in the Royal Observatory Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition Astronomy Photographer of the Year This is just one of many beautiful photos. Have a look.

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