Monday, July 30, 2012

Calcium batteries

Daughter Helen's car, a Ford Fiesta, is just two years old and the battery has failed. It is a sealed 'Calcium' battery. The dealer tells me that there is a 1, (that's ONE) year warranty on the battery. Gone are the days when a backyard mechanic like me could test the battery cells with a hydrometer and if necessary top up the acid levels with distilled water. A load test is required to determine if the battery is still good and that is what the RAC call out man determined....the battery is dead. This was late on Saturday and he suggested that I call the RAC battery replacement guy to fit a new battery. I didn't have much choice by then so I agreed and about 90 minutes later the van arrived and the battery was replaced. 'Just swipe your card here sir and $171 bucks will be sucked out'.

Older cars must have been less demanding on their batteries because I have had many batteries last 4 or more years.It is claimed that 'Calcium' batteries are expected to last longer than Lead Acid batteries.  BS!

The young fella who fitted the battery was a recent (4 years ago) immigrant from Afghanistan. He was pleasant, skilled and spoke good English. Not bad seeing he could not speak English when he arrived in Australia. He was not a 'boat person' and had come here through official channels. I asked him if he was Hazara, which didn't get the answer I thought and it became clear that there is a lot of religious conflict within Afghanistan and other Middle East countries and Hazaras are at the bottom of the heap. He wasn't one of 'em. I didn't ask him what shade of the Muslim faith he was.

                                                Goodbye old friends.

Friday, July 27, 2012


This morning I drove my brother to Subiaco, a suburb west of Perth city to St John of God hospital. I could have done it with my eyes closed as we drove that route some 50 times when Joan was undergoing chemotherapy there. Brother Graham was going for a colonoscopy and had fasted and drunk the 4,000 litres of PicoPrep to make sure his bowel was cleaned out for the 20 meter flexible camera which was to travel up his rear end. I'm not sure about those figures, but he probably feared they might be accurate. He usually has a large breakfast, so I decided to tell him about my sausage and potato mash fry up....not impressed!

When I was summonsed by the hospital in the afternoon to collect him, I parked in a spot near Joan's oncologist's office and through his window saw him smiling into a computer screen. I had an immediate small meltdown. Here was this pleasant man who tried his best to save my Joan. I wasn't up to going in to his office to thank him and his staff for their efforts. Maybe another time.
A fellow traveller on the cancer road, Gillian who lives in England, lost her husband to cancer. She has urged me to not look for what might or might not have been. Good advice!

Early the same morning I had an urgent phone call from my daughter Helen. Her car had a flat battery, so I raced around to their place and with Helen pushed her car up a steep driveway so that I could manoeuvre my car into close proximity to use my jumper cables. It started and I gave her my cables in case the half hour journey to work was not enough to start the car after work. It was as I thought and she had a colleague help her jump start the car to drive home. It is in my garage at the moment and I have charged the battery and will try and see what the problem is tomorrow. The battery is a sealed type and is just two years old. It may be that a light is on draining the battery and I will go into the garage when it gets dark and see if anything is actually on.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Leyland P76

Years ago I owned a Leyland P76 sedan. It was a much ridiculed car but I liked it. The Sydney Powerhouse Museum has one suspended from the ceiling in the main hallway. Whenever I drove out I would see them everywhere.   P76 story here.

Events and disabilities seem to present to me in the same way. I had two friends and a couple of acquaintances with Parkinson's Disease and since then it would seem that I hear of and see many people so afflicted. Mention liver cancer and people have a story about a friend or relative suffering the same.

I have a friend in Queensland who is running down to the end with Parkinson's. He has led an interesting life, but it is a sad way to go. Hope I go with a sudden flick of the switch. Getting old is a bastard.

 I have been placing a notice on a nearby shopping centre notice board offering free Macs to needy folks.  Had a few takers, but some dipstick is ripping the notice down.   A PC nutter?? Number 4 notice going up today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Settling In

Yesterday I visited my cousin Edward (Ted). After a nice lunch he showed me his 3D capable TV. It isn't new; they have had it for a couple of years, but one of the TV channels has just started broadcasting in 3D. It was very impressive. The 3D broadcast is not in the jumbled colour system which most people would have experienced, but looks like the the 19th century stereoscopes where there were two pictures of the same scene taken with a camera viewed through the left hand and right hand eye. The current 3D films appear to be in that format. Special glasses, battery powered, certainly make the picture 'stand out'.

Later I went to my local shopping centre to buy some blank CDs. The local Yugoslav bench sitters had already taken up their positions on every bench seat in the entire centre. They are all elderly blokes (like me) and they converse loudly... it looks like argument; and gesticulate whilst little old ladies needing a sit-down shuffle by. I haven't noticed if it is a daily thing or whether it is only a few days a week. In Fremantle city the main mall used to be the meeting place for old Italian fellas. There was a recent article in the daily newspaper about how immigrants tend to settle in certain areas of the metro area. This is not peculiar to Australia, every city in the world would have ethnic areas for one reason or another. Here in Western Australia there are large areas where British migrants live. South Africans, Vietnamese and now Somalian immigrants congregate in their own areas. The British and South Africans usually assimilate with an Australian accent after the first generation, but often the non English speakers take much longer.

Not a biggy. If one believes the movie The Adventures of Barry MacKenzie, all Australians in Britain live in Earls Court in London

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Win some...lose some

Brother Graham and I had a boys' day out in Perth city. I haven't been into the city for a couple of years and we found Friday afternoon to be very busy and pleasant.

We bussed it to the train station after buying a 'Day Rider' ticket each. Graham's ticket cost $11.50 and mine, being an oldie, cost $4.40. Great value, as one can ride busses, trains and ferries all day.

In the city we dined at an underground (meaning below ground level) eatery and then sampled a few beers at a variety of pubs. That's where things got expensive....beers in Perth are dearer than most Australian cities @ $10.00 a pint. 

 It was rush hour when we headed back home and the train was full. Looking around our carriage I found that Graham and I and another young couple were the only passengers not listening to, or fiddling with, an iPhone.

From Graham's house I called a taxi for the $20.00 ride home. The driver wasn't interested in looking at my 'Day Rider' ticket.

Parking in Perth City is expensive, so the plan for future visits is public transport @ $4.40 per day.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Statutory Declaration

Yesterday I returned to the Aboriginal lady's house and asked her if anyone else had used her computer to rack up the excessively large bill from her ISP. She assured me that she was the only person to use it and the computer was disconnected and moved to another room a month before the last two billing periods. She showed me a diary she keeps which told of disconnecting and moving the computer into storage.
I suggested she ring the service provider and explain that to them and if they would not come to the party she would offer to make a Statutory Declaration stating the facts. She later rang the provider and was transferred to India and talked with Optus Billing. They immediately offered to cut the bill in half. It would seem that the Statdec had worked. I would have demanded the entire bill less the contracted service fee of $14.80 be wiped, but she accepted their offer. She is relieved and I have helped as much as I could.

I felt somewhat obliged to help more than I usually do with most people I give a machine to, as Joan and I knew her late husband when we taught in Papua New Guinea.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Clinical Trial

It is around 18 months since my wife Joan died. She was in a 'trial' to test the efficacy of combining chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The trial had two groups; one where radiotherapy was given at the beginning and chemo later and the other group where chemo was first. Unfortunately Joan drew the short straw and was placed in the latter cohort where chemotherapy was the main attack on the disease and radiotherapy as a last resort. Would the other group have saved my Joan?

I recently phoned the Oncologist's office to see if there were any published results that I could look at. They have been tardy getting back to me and I think I will have to actually go to his office ask ask them face to face. It may well be that the trial is still ongoing? I think it is worth pursuing.

Yesterday I collected a computer from an Aboriginal lady which I had given her some three years ago. She rang me suggesting that I take it back because she was not getting any use out of it and thought that I could pass it on to some other needy person. When I drove out to collect the machine she asked me to look at the ISP bill, which had suddenly gone from $14.00 to $86.00 in one month. I took her pile of bills to the Optus shop at a nearby shopping centre and a nice man rang up head office and found that loads of data over her allowance had caused the big bill. I know that she never did anything but email and play a couple of games loaded on the computer. I will talk with her this morning and most probably find that her niece who is staying with her has been looking at YouTube or similar.

On Monday my brother Graham had eye surgery in a day clinic. We went back to the hospital yesterday for a checkup and it seems to have been OK. He has three different eye drops to be administered four times a day for four weeks. He was warned that if he had a cold he would not be able to have the operation. As it happened he had a 'sniffle' when I drove him to the hospital, but he was confident that he could cover up the watery eyes and runny nose with 'death in the family' if the symptoms were noticed. It worked, but he modified the death in the family to 'just lost my girlfriend'......or that's his story.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Yesterday evening I was invited around to Helen and James' house for a BBQ, ostensibly to meet their house guests, Scotty and Krissie and Scotty's father Dennis. Scotty and Krissie have moved to Western Australia from Queensland and are staying with Helen and James until they find the right house to buy. Krissie already has a job to start on Monday and Scotty is a go-getter and should get employment very soon. The evening was cold, so the barbecue was moved into James' workshop and as well as cooking some huge steaks, warmed the workshop with a nice roast beef smell.

They brought their two dogs with them. The larger one, named Astro, is like a small horse. Picture of Astro with me in the workshop. He is sitting down!

During the week I received a letter from the W.A. Water Corporation advising me that I was selected to have a plumber visit to replace up to two shower heads for water saving ones, fix all the dripping taps and toilets in and around the house and supply aerators to taps, all for free. At first I was very impressed and pleased by my windfall, but since then I have wondered why/how I was selected. Talking to friends I find that none of them have received a letter with any offers. I am quite capable of maintenance on taps and toilets and I already have one waterwise shower head. Also I am not short of cash, so on Monday I will ring the Water Corp and suggest that they seek out a more needy person to help.

Another piece of mail was from the U.S. advising us that we had hired a car in California between January 1, 2007 and November 14, 2007 and a class action was in progress against some 7 car hire firms. If the card is to be believed it looks as though we would be in for a major award of $2 per day over the hire period of 15 days. Yaaaay!! I think I'll buy a Boeing 747. Can't be bothered.
                         Click to enlarge should you wish to read the details

Wednesday, July 11, 2012


There is a move to abandon the QWERTY keyboard on phones and computers. The QWERTY layout of the alphabet has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I confess that I have never bothered to find out why the letters were so arranged.

The QWERTY arrangement has been around since 1878 and was designed mainly to stop typewriter 'arms' sticking together when typists were typing too fast or using letters alongside each other on the keyboard. When you take a good look at the QWERTY keyboard, so called for the arrangement of the upper left hand row of letters, one can see that it would appear that some perverse designer has arranged the keys to frustrate two-finger pickers like me. Not so.

This attack on the QWERTY keyboard is aimed at simplifying two-thumbed texting on mobile devices. It won't help me speed up when I get around to texting.
                  The non-QWERTY keyboard designed by a Queenslander

Monday, July 9, 2012

Northam W.A.

Yesterday I drove with my cousin Val to Northam about 97 kilometres from Perth. We visited Val's daughter Anne and Neil her husband and their two kids. Anne is a police officer in the town and Neil is a long distance truck driver doing 5,000 kilometres a week delivering diesel fuel to an isolated mine site past Kalgoorlie.
Northam is a pleasant, colonial era town which has the Avon River running through it.  The Avon Descent is an annual white water race of all sorts of water craft over a grueling 133 kilometre race from Northam to Perth waters.  It attracts Australia wide and international competitors to this two day event.
We had a very nice lunch and later a coffee at a smart local venue. Before we left for home we visited a wonderful house on top of hill overlooking the town. Joan and I inspected this house maybe 25 years ago, when it was for sale for $85,000. It needed quite a bit of work to bring it up to standard and a number of other factors made us give it a miss. We did not know how we would go both gaining employment as teachers in the town; we had just bought a boat moored on the Swan River and our kids didn't want to move to a different school away from their friends...all good reasons not to shift from our own colonial house near Fremantle.

It was a nice drive and a most pleasant 'catch up' with family.

Here is that Northam house yesterday. Sitting pretty on about an acre of land I expect that it would be worth about $1M+ now.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Backyard pools

On the national news front there is a story about a child drowning in a neighbor's backyard pool in 2006.  The neighbor has just been charged with not maintaining a secure pool fence.

Every household in W.A. with a backyard swimming pool has to register it with the local council and regular inspections are made by council officials. Special childproof locks and fences ensure that kids cannot easy have access to the water and possibly drown. Our pool in Bicton was regularly inspected and we had to make some modifications to security over the years, but when we tired of swimming and converted it into a large pond, council informed us that we no longer had to stay on the register and security was not an issue. So kids can't drown in a pond?
I figured that every council has small lakes within their areas and to fence them off would be very expensive and certainly look crappy. And so that is how we had an unregistered pool/pond without inspections. Crazy??  The pond was at least a metre deep.

                                    Click to enlarge

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A second in time

The so-called leap second was added to electronic clocks at midnight universal time on Saturday, with Atomic clocks reading 23 hours, 59 minutes and 60 seconds before then moving on to Greenwich Mean Time.....whatever all that means?

It seems that the Earth is slowing down from the effect of the tidal pull of the moon and so, periodically, timekeepers have to adjust the official Atomic clocks. Follow that?? No questions please.

There were some unexpected glitches soon after the adjustments were made...websites went down....QANTAS systems shut down etc etc.

The Millennium Bug, was supposed to create havoc with computers worldwide, but in fact nothing significant happened. In the midst of the scare, quite a few businesses were established offering fixes for the impending doom of January 1, 2000.