Friday 31 December 2021

A year in review: Equipment and devices – October to December

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about electronics! – and the post you’re reading is the seventh in the series. 

--------- Oct ------------

On 12 October I posted the following on Facebook:

Lively! Lockdown over I hit the road, picking up in Redfern a desk found on Fb Mktplace, then going to Broadway Shopping Centre to get my mail and buy groceries. After that I popped into my doctor's office to make an appointment with Dr Nanda, bought medication at Pyrmont Pharmacy, and drove out to Lilyfield to collect two artworks that'd been left with Rose Peel for restoration. Finally I went to Campsie to meet a man met on Fb Mktplace who wanted to buy some of my unwanted books. Six errands completed in one trip in the drizzling rain. Earlier in the day I took the car down to Sandringham on another errand also sparked by Fb Mktplace -- some lovely miniature watercolours a woman wanted to sell and which cost me almost nothing.

The green-and-white desk cost me $35 and the nine – yes, 9 is the right figure (I’m not making this up) – delightful watercolours of flowers were $65. For round trip I waited until I’d eaten my main meal for the day and left home at 12.30pm, getting back just before the Channel Nine News at 4pm. The guy from Punchbowl who’d asked me to meet him at a train station close to his home had wanted history books and the sale was $20. He didn’t have the right change and asked me if I did. When I said “No, you should’ve organised it yourself” he was forced to go to the fruit and vege store and buy a cucumber while I waited, glumly thinking that it wasn’t something that I would’ve been responsible for, if it were me buying books in the street, as I sat on a bench near the war memorial on Anglo Mall and pedestrians filed past me in a variety of facemasks. 

The desk rattled noisily in the back of the car as I drove on suburban roads heading north then west then east. When I got home from my wet, extended trip I took more photos of book covers but Mahmud didn’t express any interest in them. On the other hand, a woman named Linda from Forster wanted two novels I’d listed and the next day I went to the post office to find out how much the charge would be to mail them to her. I put a comment in each of my listings recommending that people ask to see a PDF I’d made, allowing them to know more about my offerings. I said in the text that I had thousands of books and that Linda should contact me if she was looking for a particular type of book. She asked me if I had the Will Jordan ‘Ryan Drake’ series.

Around this time I kept getting notifications from Nextdoor about people who’d accepted my invitations to join, though I didn’t remember when I’d sent them out. When you get an acceptance you receive 100 new invitation blanks, so I sent some to connections of mine – people who live in the same row of terraces as me – using WhatsApp. The people living in the house right alongside mine responded saying thanks but I don’t know if they signed up.

On 17 October I put onto my Kindle another Mobi file, this one received from a literary agent. Maria’d emailed me asking if I wanted to review a client’s novel and I had said “Ok” but added that there was no guarantee the review would be positive, or even if I’d finish reading the book. She agreed to my terms and sent the file as an email attachment. I read the book with enjoyment and put up my review on the morning of the 22nd. I emailed Maria and asked her if the author’d like to subscribe to my Patreon but initially I got no reply at all, not even an acknowledgement following dissemination of the link to the review. In the end she asked if I wanted to do another book but I declined.

I had a notification on the phone’s operating system on the morning of 21 October when I was busy hanging pictures, and tried to install the new O/S version but just got a rotating circle. When I’d finished my work I went upstairs to my bedroom to use the computer and checked my phone and saw a message saying that the installation process had been unsuccessful. I already knew this and mused about the likelihood of the Apple Store being open so I could go and get the thing updated, but then tried to initiate the install again. This time the circle was followed by a satisfyingly black screen, indicating that the device was getting new software, so I put it down on the desk and went back to work. By 9.28am it’d finished doing what it had to do.

I used my phone a lot on the 22 and the 23 October when I went out. On both days I had meetings with friends in town. On the Friday I met Grant for a movie at Central Park and on Saturday I met Ming and Omer and we visited the aquarium. The device is necessary to prove Covid immunity for the benefit of staff. I also took advantage of the device installed at Chalmers Street light rail stop to learn that a tram was about to arrive. I tapped on and got on-board, alighting at Chinatown and meeting my friends in Dixon Street.

On the last day of the month I decided to up the ante in the bookselling stakes and at 7.19am took a photo (see below) of a selection of history books in my collection. I’d had photos of individual books on Facebook Marketplace and had sold a few but the result was largely unsatisfactory. The selection worked better and by the first of the month the photo’d had over 170 views. I had nine people contact me during the day and two of them came over to buy books. One guy drove up in his early-model sedan and his wife or partner got out the passenger side with a five-dollar note which she exchanged for ‘The King in the North’. 

Then Ali, an Islamic hermeneutics student, went through all of the bookcases in the house (apart from the ones in the garage) selecting 22 books which I sold for a round hundred dollars. He forgot to take some though and I picked out more titles I thought he might be interested in, and he promised to come back. I reminded myself to show him downstairs to the basement where there are two more bookcases near the car. On his second visit he took another 28 books, including a Marx and Engels reader and a copy of Virgil’s ‘Georgics’.

------------- Nov -----------

On the first of the month I managed to sell some chairs to a happy buyer who arrived on-time. As we were walking out of the garage – me carrying one chair and him carrying three of them – I said as part of our conversation, “If the buyer turns up you’re winning.” In fact I’d chatted on Messenger about the chairs with another buyer who didn’t make an appointment. Ash was more amenable and even agreed to change the time because I’d had to drive Ming home after she ate dinner I cooked.

Ash and I walked into the garage with a dog following and growling. I asked if it was his dog and he said it wasn’t, so I guesses it was a neighbour’s. I told it to skedaddle and it reluctantly turned around and walked back out to the street. Ash and I went inside my basement where the chairs were kept and I showed them off. To test them for comfort he sat down in one I took off the pile. I pointed out others next to the chairs he’d come to see, adding that they were also on sale (for $20) so he took one off the stack and tested it as well. He said he’d think about it, but pulled out his wallet and paid me $30 for the indoor chairs he’d come for. As we were walking out to the street he said that he might’ve offered $5 – as part of the process of talking about his unwillingness to bargain – and I casually remarked, “I wouldn’t have taken $5.” 

We stood next to his grey sedan and he said that he doesn’t bargain when buying things with Facebook Marketplace. He also said he wishes that it’d existed when he was a student; we’d been saying how you can find really cheap things there. I put two of the chairs into the back of his car because he was having trouble with them, and he followed with the final two. I turned around and walked back inside. The chairs’d come with a table for which I’d paid $50.

I found some pot stands in Abbotsford and since I was having trouble with panic attacks driving the car I decided to go there by ferry. I organised with the vendor to meet her on 4 November at her place and as she said she wouldn’t give me her address until I set out I pressed her for this information and she eventually relented. I wasn’t aggressive about it but said that since I was making a big commitment coming out she should be more considerate. I was going out that way, and on 3 November also contacted a guy who lives in Parramatta and who’d expressed interest in some of my history books, telling him that I could meet him there. He readily took to the suggestion and so I organised books, putting history books together on a shelf next to each other so I could snap photos of them to send. When I passed these to him he picked out a dozen, sending me images with yellow marks to indicate which ones he wanted. 

Though he’d already said he’d take ten at $5 each to ensure his willingness I asked him if he accepted the total’d be $60. He agreed and asked me to throw in extras, so I promised to give him a book gratis and went upstairs to my studio and took a book off the pile I’d assigned to my promotional PDF, a book on ancient Rome. Since Sree’d already selected Robert Hughes’ ‘Rome’ I thought he might appreciate having one on the Gracchi as well. When I met Sree on the street next to his black Audi I didn’t take time to point out the one book thrown in for good measure, but he handed me three $20 notes and I put ‘em in my wallet. Change was useful later in the day when, having come home and gone to the post office with a box of books I’d packed in order to get a quote for postage to another buyer, I saw a message from a man who wanted to come out to my place to examine my library for possible purchases. He said he wanted to come in the late afternoon so I said “Ok” and while I was in the post office got the ok from another buyer – a man named Josip living in western Sydney near Liverpool – to go ahead and send, for $19.40, the parcel I’d boxed (in old computer packaging) with seven history books. He added that he was in a meeting but by the time I got home at my usual pace his PayPal transaction’d gone through. When Gamal came in the early evening he only took hardback nonfiction titles, so paid me for three books using a $50 note.

Three days later I got a question about a literary fiction listing I’d put on Facebook. They asked me – because the listing was priced at $0 – if the books were indeed free. It was evident that the people at the other end of the interface were upset when I said that, no, the price was $5 per book. With the history books I’d had no questions of this nature. Perhaps people who read novels have a deeper attachment to the act of reading and books that links in with their identity in a way that doesn’t apply to history buffs. Maybe they’re just cash poor or maybe they profoundly dislike marketing but Facebook is at fault in this regard as it’s necessary (to attract attention) to put up photos showing more than one book. Listings with a single book just don’t cut it but if you put up a listing with a total price (say, $75 – for 15 books) then people also won’t send a message. What I’d like is for Facebook to give the option of putting “1 for $5” or “3 for $10” instead of a simple flat price absent nuance. They need more flexibility in their interface. 

In fact many listings from many different people have a price of $0 for the same reason that I used it for mine.

On 7 November I did a big run in the car, going from home to Campsie to pick up Omer and Ming and then using satnav to get to a place I’d never been before: Longueville, a riverside suburb in the north of the city. The satnav worked perfectly to get there and also to get home, and though on the way there I drove on familiar roads on the way home I went on a road I’d never in my life travelled on to be delivered, from the west and up a hill, to Crows Nest. I crossed the Pacific Highway at the lights and used the Warringah Freeway to get to the Harbour Tunnel, and so home.

Early the next morning I posted on Twitter using one of my accounts:
Guy who came over twice to my place (and bought 50 books) y'day asked me via Messenger if I had a particular book he's looking for. I shd set up a regular bookshop. Maybe I can scout titles fr op shops and resell 'em ..!
I was having a good response to my Facebook ads and did about ten exchanges of books for cash over three weeks from the beginning of November. But my devices sometimes made my life difficult, as on 11 November when, at 6.01pm, I tweeted:
Two phone updates today necessitated deleting photos n disabling apps. Then one update took 45 minutes to complete ..
The phone was used again to contact a buyer when I sold more books on 13 November and, in the afternoon, after getting home from art school – on Oxford Street I reactivated my 13 Cabs app to use it (though cancelled my booking when I saw a carb in the carriageway) – when Ming wanted to watch something on SBS On Demand and I signed up while sitting in the living room. The process involves entering your email address on the TV, then tapping on a link in the email that arrives, filling in a name and your year of birth, then creating a password. Once you’ve done these steps on your phone, the TV automatically signs in and you can start viewing programs. 

The next morning I was disappointed to discover I’d been charged $1 for the cancelled cab booking, but I consoled myself on account of free furniture I’d found on the street some of which Omer’d helped me to carry to the car. I had some enquiries about one item, an office chair I listed on Facebook for $10, with one guy wanting a close-up shot of the levers. A woman made an appointment to pick it up but then on the morning she was due to arrive cancelled when I sent my address via Messenger. A woman who’d messaged me on Nextdoor wanted me to bring about 15 books to her workplace near Redfern and early in the morning I drafted an SMS then cancelled it thinking it was too early (I’d been up since 3am, so by six o’clock was well and truly ready for the day) and when I messaged her at about 6am she got back to me within fifteen minutes with directions. A guy had offered $10 for a set of concrete dumbbells I’d listed on Facebook for $20 – when I got up I accepted his offer and we then exchanged messages in order to make an appointment – but he didn’t complete the purchase.

At about 4.30am on the morning of 19 November I tried plugging in my Kindle but it wouldn’t charge. It was sitting on about 1% battery at this time so I took it in my hand and tried tapping some buttons to see if I could find out when I’d bought it. I went to my blog and did a search but couldn’t find the information. The device then restarted, me plugging it in again to see if I could charge it this time, but the battery icon didn’t show. It then started to restart but by this time I was chatting with someone at Amazon via their website as I imagined the device to be broken. As I was typing the Kindle’s screen changed and an empty bar appeared with an indicator showing how long the restart process would take. There was also an image of a boy sitting under a tree. “Abe” asked me if I could see this image on the screen and I said, “Yes.” He told me to leave my Kindle plugged into my PC overnight, but I told him I turn off my computer when I go to bed. The correct screen eventually appeared and so I ended the chat.

On the last day of the month the cleaner tried to buzz me on the intercom but nothing happened so evidently she turned the lock by putting her hand through the gate. I heard a knock on the door as I was cooking and went to open it only to find her standing on top of the steps. I’d been expecting them to come but the intercom hadn’t buzzed, so when I saw her there I was surprised and let her in. I SMS’d Joe asking him if he knew what the problem with the device was. He unhelpfully told me to Google it, so I did and sent a message to the wholesaler. As I was about to use their online form I saw a phone number on the web page so called it and spoke with a man who was in sales. He took my details and said someone from the tech support team would call me back. When he did it was evident he thought I was an installer so I had to explain my situation. In the end I got a link by email for a company in Matraville, so called their number. The woman who answered the phone took my details but later, when I was upstairs at my computer, I saw another email (from Rhinoco in response to the contact form I’d sent) that contained more phone numbers. I called one of them and got onto a guy called Jason who told me to send him by SMS a photo of the interior panel, which I promptly did. I also called a name-brand security company and the staffer who answered the phone and informed me about their rates ($200 for the first 30 minutes and $65 for every subsequent 30 minutes), saying that someone would get back to me to make a time to visit. 

In the meantime I’d contacted Joe again to get the number of the electrician who’d installed the intercom and he sent his details through with WhatsApp. I called Dan Phan and he told me that the earliest he could come would be Tuesday the following week and I told him I’d get in touch with him. The security company never got back in touch with me so I called Dan and now he said he could come on Wednesday. After I’d explained the situation and hung up he called me again and asked if Thursday would be ok. I said “Fine”. The following Wednesday I SMS’d Dan to ask if he was coming the next morning and he replied, confirming 10am as the time. I added that he could park in the garage if he contacted me on approach but he said he’d prefer to park in the street. 

The intercom needed a new power unit as the old one’d stopped working. Dan quickly did the work by stepping up on the kitchen bench using a ladder and after he’d left invoiced me for the job on the 14th. I paid him for his work by bank transfer the same day.

-------- Dec -------------

I’m almost 60 years old but before the 20th I’d never cleaned a stove before. I had a $3.50 can of oven cleaner bought that morning and put on size-M gloves that are too small for me, doing two coatings, the first time uselessly using a Chux to wipe the residue off. The second time – having clocked another 75 minutes using the timer on my mobile phone – I used the kitchen scourer to better effect. I felt like a small miracle had visited my place, that, only a few days before, had been full of the smell of chicken wings baking. A year’s-worth of grease was removed and I felt entirely virtuous. I’d filled in the minutes waiting for the liquid to take effect by reading a book of short stories published in 2009.
Hemingway, eat your heart out! The same day I sold some Australian history books using Facebook Marketplace. The day before a guy’d asked about the books – which had been put up as a lot with a price of $5 each or all eleven for $40 – and he’d asked for me to come down to $30 but I’d said “No”. After this he did get back to me and we agreed that I’d take the books to him in Randwick. The next day I left home early due to worries about heart palpitations and got there 45 minutes early. I messaged Nash and he said he’d come down – he worked in the area – but despite sitting close to the light rail stop and having two bags of books next to me nobody popped up to greet me. He said he was the guy with the mask (many people were wearing masks) and I eventually sent him my mobile phone number so he could call me. As he did I saw him on the tram stand looking around and talking into his phone. I cut the call and he walked up, gave me $50 (he’d asked me earlier if I had $10 in change) and soon I was off back up to Rae Street, near where my car’d been parked.

My friend Grant had given me some review copies of books he’d read, on the Friday saying, when we had lunch at the German club, that since I’d given him bottles of wine I could keep the money from any sales. 

On 23 December I got an SMS from the electricity supplier about maintenance that would have to be carried out in January, and I promised myself to take some frozen meat to Grant’s place on the 29th (when he’d organised a BBQ), which was the day of my booster jab. The fact was that power’d have to be shut off at my house when the work was being done. What I would do without electronic devices – computer and TV – was a mystery, and I vaguely thought about travelling by bus to Green Square Library to do some research or to simply read.

Thursday 30 December 2021

A year in review: Equipment and devices – August to September

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about electronics! – and the post you’re reading is the sixth in the series. 

------------------- Aug -----------------

On 5 August I went to get my car serviced and mentioned the fact that I might’ve instead of the RAV4 preferred to buy a Kluger. The Kluger wasn’t being sold in Australia when it came time to replacing my Aurion, but for a number of years had been on sale with a hybrid model available in the US. The service staffer who welcomed me said that the Kluger is larger than the RAV4 and so the latter is easier to park in the city. 

In fact I’d wanted to buy a Prado when I lived in Japan – so the Kluger in a hybrid model would’ve helped me realise a dream. It was too late now (until the time for the next car came around).

Another staffer who was there gave me information about E10 petrol (the one with ethanol mixed in) saying that it was better for the car than the 91 octane petrol I’d been buying. 91 petrol is the cheapest but I’d also been buying it because I’d heard there were worries about using E10 in cars (as my taxi driver who’d later take me back to the service centre averred), but the staffer didn’t think this was true anymore. He said that E10 has 94 octane fuel in it and so it burns better, more cleanly, though it wasn’t as good as 98 octane fuel when it came to protecting car engines.

When I turned into Bourke Street from the car dealership I thought that the steering and handling felt better than before. The checkout staffer’d said that they’d switched the tyres round to make sure the wear was uniform and in order to get the best mix. I’d had a short verbal run-down of what’d been done but by the time I was driving on the street the details of the work escaped me, so I’m including below a snapshot taken with the checklist they gave me at the time I paid.

It indicates that it’s possible Toyota mechanics adjusted my steering wheel mechanism, but it doesn’t explicitly say that they did so, but the wheels were rotated – which is something that might’ve noticeably improved handling.

The handling of my RAV4 post-service wasn’t as noticeable as the improvement in the performance of my new Lenovo which, when I start it up and open the browser, rapidly displays all tabs (one reassuringly open) in contrast to how the old model’d dealt with the same command. In the past, clicking on the browser icon in the task bar would result in a long delay before anything usable showed on the screen. Another thing that is different is how my mobile phone is dealt with when I plug it in – as I do in order to charge it while seated at my desk. In the past, when I plugged my phone into my PC a session of Navigator would open up by default, but this feature has been eliminated with the new device. In fact the change marks an improvement in usability, as it removes an annoying step where you have to dismiss a Navigator session each time you plug in the phone. A session isn’t necessary because in the normal course of events I’ll upload photos to the cloud via OneDrive so I can access them from my PC. Years ago – when I was still living in Pyrmont – I’d download photos from my phone via cable but by the time the new computer was set up I hadn’t, for some time, used this functionality.

I saw this meme on 9 August.

What struck me was how welcome laundry is. For me, especially on those days when, due to fine weather, I am able to hang wet clothes – once they have emerged, clean, from the bowels of the washing machine – outside on my Hills clothesline (the same model which, at the time of writing, Bunnings was advertising for $209 – I didn’t recall, when I saw this advert on the TV, how much, earlier in the year, I’d paid for mine and, regrettably, didn’t make a note of it at the time, so that information is missing here). 

Even when it rains, however, I felt pleasure in being able to use the heat-pump dryer I keep in the laundry to be ready when it rains and I need to wash clothes. This device is so silent and it treats my poor, ragged clothes with such delicate care (it must be more delicate due to their extreme age and excessive frailty) that using it reminds you, as you press the “On” button and tap the pressure switch, of the advancement of human knowledge.

Because embodied by the technology used to make the thing is the idea of progress. But the fun doesn’t stop there! I’d actually come to feel happy to take clothes upstairs to my studio, where a table sets the scene for separating and folding items that have been dried by the sun or by the power of inversion (not used here in the Proustian sense!). And more – I can say that I even enjoyed ironing, and especially treasured moments spent thinking about my solitary days in Queensland as, when I lived there among the bush turkeys, the possums, and the bananabirds, mum’s old housekeeper would iron my shirts. Sometimes Georgette would bring her pet budgie – named Harley – over to mum’s if she was going to stay the night there, and the bird would utter squeaks and chirps like frogs on a warm night.

So, if laundry is always going to be there for me, I welcome ironing too. I celebrate dirty clothes and all the devices that work for me while I pass stray hours involved, downstairs, beguiled by the plot of a novel (which might be read on a Kindle or which might be read in a hard-copy book) or, upstairs, using an MS-Word document to draw imaginary figures and writing verses.

On this same day Joe asked me via WhatsApp if I wanted to get a lift installed in the light well (what he calls the “atrium”), but I respectfully declined his invitation. He’d made it, presumably, so that both of us could benefit by leveraging our purchasing power to convince a supplier to install the devices at a reduced individual cost. I belatedly got around to justifying my decision, the next morning when it was still too early for sunlight, by estimating that, in the case of a power outage, I’d be in a very bad situation as once the internet goes off there’s no mobile phone access inside the building, so that, in case such an eventuality came about, nobody would be able to get me out of the lift if, once power came back on, for some reason it still refused to operate. I’d had a bad experience with a lift in 2017 and didn’t want to find myself in a similar situation.

I set up a couple of “exclude” rules in two of my Twitter accounts so that spam wouldn’t enter my feed. You do this in the TweetDeck application. In addition to a hashtag (for example “#poetry”) you can add a rule saying that a particular term (for example “words that rhyme”) is excluded from a search. In this way, on two days including 12 August, I rid myself of the pain of seeing tweets that had been begging for attention but delivering nothing useful. People for some reason think that by increasing the frequency of their posts they can increase their relevance, but along with animated GIFs, as it’s totally disrespectful this type of post makes me feel ill. When using this application what you want are posts that are good for you (for otherwise you wouldn’t use a hashtag) and that come from a wide range of accounts. You don’t want some idiot trying to appropriate your time by uselessly putting repetitious information into your field of view.

Near the end of August I almost sold one of the paintings I’d bought back in March from a guy in social housing in Waterloo. This man was only notable in my mind because his apartment had a bad smell even though the building was relatively new. His unit was in a building just off Henderson Road, across the road from a police station in a street where there was no parking so I was forced to park around the corner in Wyndham Street (near Redfern Station). 

I’d sold one of his pictures for $10 (a cafĂ© scene) and one for $15 (a stylised horse) and the group of six cost me $50 in total, so I still had some way to go to recouping my investment. A reproduction of ‘The Scream’ by Edward Munch drew the interest of a woman living near Wollongong named Julie and she even got me to find out the postage cost, necessitating a visit to Botany Post Office. I even went so far, on her instigation, as to try using a website called Sendle that allows you to post things door to door, but the inconvenience (you have to be at home all day when they pick up because they won’t call in advance) and the cost (not significantly less than the post office, and sometimes more) made it less attractive than Australia Post. Then a woman named Jasmine who’d been messaging me about the item in June got back in touch, asking if I could bring it to Wolli Creek train station – which is just across the other side of the airport from me – but, as before, she couldn’t settle on a time to carry out her plan. I’d just agreed to a price of $10 for the picture, but then told her that if she didn’t tell me by the end of the day (the 25th) what time she wanted to meet, the price would go back to $15. In the meantime I’d put up the price on Facebook Marketplace to $25 because buyers, I find, frequently haggle so it’s best to apply a price that will probably be bargained down and, in addition, you’re going to have to jump through some hoops in order to finalise the sale because they’ll make a time to meet then, at the last moment, will make it necessary to reschedule due to some important event happening in their lives that outweighs your convenience.

On the morning of 26 August I picked up some witch’s hats while out walking with Ming, who’d stayed the night. Omer had also stayed over. The equipment was sitting on a nature strip on the other side of Booralee Park, on a quiet thoroughfare. Council cleanup was happening and the pavements and nature strips were crowded with people’s unwanted household and garden goods. 

The next day using the Myer website I purchased a new rice cooker as the old one’d gotten broken. What had happened to the old one is that the cooking bowl had been bent out of shape at the rim, making it unable to find the element in the base, and this had cause it to fail. I think that someone had dropped it on the floor, damaging it. I got a new Breville rice cooker to replace the old Breville rice cooker. In the interim I’d been using an even older rice cooker – a Kambrook model I’d bought 15 years beforehand – but this item had the unfortunate characteristic that grains of rice stick to the bottom of the bowl as the protective non-stick coating has been eroded due to cleaning with a scourer so that, now, in order to clean it, it’s necessary to soak the remnant rice with water, and then drain away the excess water before scooping the residue into the bin. I perform this ritual so rice doesn’t go into the drain.

On the same day I changed the settings on my state government petrol price tracking app (FuelCheck) to refer me to retailers selling E10 fuel, in consideration of advice gotten from Toyota at my annual service at the beginning of the month. The servo up the road in Mascot sells E10, so I promised myself to go there in future in preference to the servo on Gardeners Road that I’d regularly been using to buy 91 octane fuel.

On 29 August I had a problem with Instagram on the iPhone. It coincided with a period – only brief, a few minutes at most – where my internet connection faded to two bars. What happened was that I wanted to edit a post, but when I opened up the Instagram editing screen a message appeared telling me that there was no internet connection. On my PC TweetDeck was still delivering posts, however, and I could access the profile page on Instagram on the PC. So I restarted the iPhone and saw that this didn’t fix the problem. I’d already terminated a number of iPhone Instagram sessions by double-pressing the home button and swiping away the app, but nothing seemed to work to fix it. Eventually the problem resolved itself.

Jasmine got back to me on the last day of the month saying she’d be able to meet me at Wolli Creek station to pick up the framed Munch print the next day – the first day of spring – and I organised it for midday. I didn’t renegotiate the price, deciding to take whatever ($10 or $15) she gave me. In the evening, while I was reviewing the conversation I’d had, I looked at other requests about artworks I’d listed, noting a couple from one individual who’d evidently backed off due to the lockdown. One of his messages came on 25 July and another (about a different artwork) on 17 July. 

I’d bought the works in separate deals and hadn’t wanted to keep either but neither of these conversations resulted in a sale though both required, on my part, time and effort. Inconvenience a fact when using Facebook Marketplace but, conversely, on the last day of the month I sold a tape dispenser to a guy who arrived in his late-model SUV on-time and without delay, in fact he messaged me 12 minutes before he rocked up: as soon as a price was confirmed he set out in his car.

----------------------- Sept ----------------------

On 30 August I did washing the wrong way – putting two thick flannel sheets in the machine at the same time and making it unable to run properly – so the device, as part of it rotated, started to make a sound like something was scraping on a hard object, and I responded to this tiny crisis – a desperate moment ensued when I walked into the laundry to face the music – by taking one heavy wet sheet out and draping it in the sink, then doing them each separately. Subsequently I wasn’t sure if the cotton wash cycle worked, and whether I’d buggered the thing up, so on 1 September when I put on a load of clothes I checked the time (4.55am) as I hit the “Start” button and went upstairs to my computer to monitor the social graph and do a blogpost. At 6.15am I went down to the laundry to see the wash cycle complete, which happened at 6.28am, so when the door silently unlocked at 6.30am, feeling relief I removed the washing then hung it up on the line out the back.

I met up with Jasmine at Wolli Creek but it was a struggle to make an appointment. Originally I’d suggested 10am but she said this was too early, so I changed to midday. At just after 11am she asked me what time we’d decided on and I replied but she then said she wouldn’t be able to make it by then. She suggested 12.30pm and then 1pm, and I asked for the earlier time as I was already in the area having come on time and having, when she’d mentioned her being late, gone to a friend’s house to wait. A bit later she said she’d be at the spot agreed upon at 12.35pm but then changed the time to 12.40pm and in fact she didn’t turn up until 12.45pm, coming up the stairs and looking right through me while using her phone to message me to tell me she had arrived. I’d earlier told her I was wearing a blue heavy jacket and had a beard so I don’t know what she was looking for but I had to call out her name three times to draw her attention and make her turn around to face me. She’d wanted to pay $10 but had asked me if I had change and I only had a $5 bill, so in the end she took the picture for $15, which was the price I’d had on the item at the start. 

Adding this most recent sale I’d recouped $40 of the $50 I’d expended for the batch of artworks bought in Redfern.

At the end of the month or at the beginning of September I started using a new social media site called Nextdoor which, established about four years prior, isn’t yet very well patronised but which focuses on the geographical location where you live. You can see posts from people who live in suburbs near you, so for example I saw a post from a guy in Mascot whose daughter had left her scooter outside their house so that it was stolen, or a woman in Pagewood who posted a photo of her dog Teddi. There are groups, and I joined the art appreciation group (to which I posted a photo of one of my hangs) and the books group (to which I posted a link to an article about writers writing). People can put up things to sell, as well, and I asked about a chest of drawers in Annandale that was listed for free, telling the owner that I’d pick it up if it fit in my car. She got back to me to say it’d already been promised to someone else, but that she’d let me know if they didn’t turn up. 

The range of subjects is just as varied as with other social media sites but the bias is strongly local. People ask about how to buy cocktails nearby and what the fire that they saw in the sky was due to, they might complain about someone stealing a pot plant off their porch and request the name of a good cleaner. Because they put their real names (though sometimes the last name is acronymised) they do things with consideration for the feelings of the person they’re talking to and in an atmosphere of politeness and repose. There’s less of the aggressive posturing and flame wars you routinely find on Twitter though, predictably, noise or dogs sometimes get people upset.

On 2 September I picked up the new rice cooker from my post office box in Broadway Shopping Centre, and the next day used it to make some rice. I didn’t measure anything – the instruction book says to add a cup of water for every cup of rice – and just added water to a level I thought would do for the number of grains I’d poured into the metal cooking bowl. On the “Cook” setting the machine was very slow working but the result was satisfactory though a bit dry for my taste (I don’t eat rice but serve it when friends want it). A week later I worked out that for small amounts of rice you should use the “Fast cook” setting, so resolved to do so next time I used the device.

I did something new on my Kindle on 10 September when David O’Nan, who runs the Fevers of the Mind poetry blog, sent me a new book to review. I’d done reviews for him in July and this month he sent me a PDF but then also sent me a MOBI file (an ebook format). I’d never received a file in this way – via email – to use on my Kindle, as usually when I read an ebook I’d buy it from the Amazon store online, but in this case it was just as easy to get access to the poetry because, after plugging the Kindle in, I just copied the relevant folder from my PC to the connected device using Navigator. 
The next day on Nextdoor I saw a conversation between Lucy Lyon of Kingsford and Zey Magz of Randwick about dogs, the discussion closed by this time so there was no way for me to become involved in it. The dogs in question had invaded Lucy’s front yard and were evidently off-leash. She’d been asking what kind of measure she could take to remedy the situation and Zey had said she should talk to the dog’s owners. She said she’d done just that but they had laughed it off. Now she was desperate but Zey thought the situation shouldn’t be escalated to a higher authority, such as the local council.

I finally removed the packing tape from my fridge on 16 September, taking out each shelf with my hands and stripping off the sticky blue-and-white stuff, then putting everything back in place. I tucked the waste into the bin under the sink. The tape had been in place since January – indeed, since the fridge had been installed by Joe. He generous as well in supplying a new microwave oven and a convection oven to match the Bosch stove. I thanked Joe for these devices on 6 September and he replied, “God sent you here amen,” and “You’re a good person.”

On 20 September I set up a new group in Nextdoor called ‘Streaming TV and movies’ and added a photo from my camera roll showing Liam and Thomas talking on the phone in the prison where Liam had been incarcerated following Vinnie’s death. I resolved to change the image at some point in time, but for the moment thought it suitable considering the lockdowns around the city – though some restrictions where I live had been lifted the night before.

The next day I got a request from a person named Marie to buy Orhan Pamuk’s ‘Silent House’, which I’d put up for sale on Facebook Marketplace. I’d never sold a book this way and was delighted. We made a time to do the transaction the next day, on the morning of which I listed other books in my collection for sale and washed the car. Some of these books I’d read and didn’t like and others I’d not read and had no inclination to read, including two crime stories. Also listed ‘The Da Vinci Code’, a book I’d tried to read but which had defeated me with its clumsy lack of form. 

While I was washing the car a council worker came over in his ride-on mower and asked if I wanted the nature strip tidied up. I put the car on the other side of the road so he could access the area with his machine.

Wednesday 29 December 2021

A year in review: Equipment and devices – May to July

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about electronics! – and the post you’re reading is the fifth in the series. 

-------------------------- May -----------------------

I put the pool pump on backwash three times on 5 May when Sydney had another wet period. It’d been dry for a couple of weeks but now the rain was heavy and squally conditions held for a day. The last session of drainage was in the evening before I went to bed, and was done to give me peace of mind so that I’d sleep soundly.

By this time I’d listed for sale on Facebook Marketplace one of Aunty Madge’s photographs, pricing it at $120 and describing it as a “mid century photograph”, adding a description that would allow someone to find it with by googling the word “Auckland”. Madge’s husband Elmer worked on a tugboat on Auckland Harbour and the photo shows men painting a ship’s hull, the precariousness of their activity sitting in contrast to the steely bulk of the vessel’s impressive flank.

On a trip to Newcastle I had to use the car radio in a different way from usual as all the radio presets the dealership’s mechanics’d programmed point to Sydney stations. If you use a different command you can manually scan for stations, hitting a button that says “Scan” to shift the radio’s focus to a different frequency, then hitting it again to stop the scan. I found a station that uses the same format as one of my favourite Sydney stations – 2Day FM – which even has the same signature tune, but that is called something different and has different announcers. Evidently 2Day FM is syndicated on the Central Coast where I heard it, the car on this trip surprising me also due to its responsiveness. If I’m doing 100km/hr and want to overtake someone it’s easily done – even on a hill though the 4-cylinder engine makes a bit of noise it responds by delivering additional horsepower – my only problem coming from the vagaries of motorists sometimes dealing with difficult conditions in capricious fashion. 

The satnav in my mobile phone efficiently provided guidance, allowing me to find the house I wanted to visit, pick up the package that had been left out on the verandah for me to collect, and quickly get back to the Sydney road. It gave strange directions when I was negotiating the Northconnex tunnel as it thought I was on the surface, and this happened in both directions, but overall it works effectively when you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. On the way out it got me off the Pacific Motorway at Toronto, took me via local roads for a distance of about 15 kilometres, and brought me to the town of Cardiff from the south, instead of from the west. Homeward to get back to the motorway the system instead took me directly west before I headed south.

Satnav and Marketplace gave dividends on 16 May when, on sale for $20, I found two Chinese-themed bedside lamps. Asking about the location for pickup and being told it was in St Ives, I received a question from the woman selling the lamps who wanted to know when I could be at her mother’s house, from where they were to be collected. I said, quickly checking the mobile’s map app – it provides an estimate of elapsed time for each trip you enquire about – that I could be there in an hour. She got back to me sharply, telling me her mother’d be home until 12.30pm so as I was putting my shoes on I punched in the command to navigate, then plugged the phone into the car once I was seated inside. It was just on 11.30am by the time I was on the street with the devices working to convey directions to me by way of the car’s speakers. 

I took the Eastern Distributor and the Harbour Tunnel then (disobeying the device) exited the Gore Hill Freeway just before the Lane Cove Tunnel in order to save a few dollars in tolls. I negotiated Epping Road through heavy traffic to Mona Vale Road. The house up a driveway – as the seller’d said it would be – and the lady who was her mother (outside gardening) took me to the garage where I gave her a banknote. I put her little lamps, in my car’s shipping box, snuggled up with a rug I keep there for emergencies, in the back of the RAV4, and got home via the Pacific Highway, again disobeying the satnav. Disobeying satnav must occasionally present itself as an option if you want to get somewhere cheaply and on time. When, a week or so later, I was asked to take a friend to Ian Thorpe Aquatic Centre I ignored the device until, arriving in Pyrmont, I wisely decided to take it and found a park on the street a couple of minutes away from our destination.

Early in the morning on 28 May I had a problem loading images to Blogger, an occurrence that for hours profoundly disconcerted me – I was so worried I skipped breakfast – as I’d been firmly committed to the site since 2006 and this was the only time I’d ever had a problem with it. Eventually I found a thread on the community site Google operates where I read about others facing computers with the same error message displayed. When it happened to me, at first I thought that there was something objectionable in the images I was trying to load, so I’d gone back to my PC’s navigator and cropped them, removing from each a naked woman’s back – which features in a picture hung on the wall of the pub I’d been inside the evening before – and trying again to load them. It didn’t work, and this is when I discovered others were experiencing the same issue. At 8.20am Google’s technical team still hadn’t resolved the problem. At 11.49am, when I tried again, it worked, so evidently they’d fixed whatever problem’d been stopping thousands of people from posting images to the web. 

I got a subscriber on Patreon for book reviews at the end of the month after posting a recount of an evening at a poetry reading. The post got double my usual number of pageviews, so evidently many people are interested in poetry. 

---------------------- Jul ---------------------

On the second day of the month I got an email from a guy named Chris Foster about a service I’d earlier expressed interest in called StreemPay. This was back in January. The service allows you to pay per view for subscription-blocked news websites. Now, I signed up for the beta test so that I could be a guinea-pig, enabling the makers of the software to see how it performed and whether it needed to be fine-tuned for general release. The beta would only work on a PC using Chrome – it needs you to download an extension to use with your Chrome browser – but in future it would also work on a mobile phone. The next day I downloaded the extension using a link in an email. Instructions told me to log into a news provider’s website in the normal way – only a small subset of the total number of news organisations use StreemPay – after registering with my email address. I resolved not to deliberately at this time navigate to such a company’s site, but to simply wait until an attractive news story entered my socials, one which previously I’d be forced to ignore because no subscription, but when, on 10 July, I found a story on the New York Times website I wanted to read I was using my laptop so that the StreemPay extension wasn’t at that moment live in my browser. The first story I’d come across that I wanted to read, which happened on 8 July on the paywalled website of the Globe and Mail, a Canadian company, wasn’t accessible with StreemPay because the news provider isn’t in the beta. I got around to downloading the browser extension to my new PC (see later in this memorial) on the morning of the 18th.

After making dinner for Omer on 6 July I went upstairs and the next morning tried to work out how to make the air-conditioning system function as designed. It took me minutes of walking up- and downstairs – the central controller is on the first floor – but I finally had warm air out of ceiling vents in the living room. I went to this trouble because Ming’s boyfriend had told me the night before that sitting in my living room he feels cold so it seemed important to figure out how to use the expensive machine.

A crisis manifested itself early on the morning of 9 July when my desktop PC stopped working at the same time as it appeared my ISP changed the hosting login details for my email accounts. I tried to access new emails on the phone but just got a twirling circle. Then I shut down the PC and it told me to wait, with another twirling circle presented for about ten minutes as the computer worked out what to do, but it did nothing so I switched the device off at the power point. Then the button on the front of the PC wouldn’t work to turn it on: when I tried to press the start button it vanished into its slot, useless as an exhausted dormouse.

Venturing out to the studio, I picked up my laptop and booted it then laboriously logged into all my social media accounts. Logging into to OneDrive I was able to edit saved documents (like the draft of the post you’re reading) and also worked out how to upload new JPGs to where they needed to go in the cloud – where, at some point, my new desktop’d be able to see them. The old desktop’d been purchased in 2017 so I wasn’t completely surprised when it failed. Using a device I’d owned since 2012, and which I’d used from time to time, I soon returned to a relative state of normality so that I could combat daylight’s slack dwarves. This, materially aided when I did eventually get to download new emails, though I only arrived at awareness of this after calling the ISP on my mobile phone. A number of administrative messages from the various online services I use – including Google and Twitter – came into my phone’s client software to warn me of the new logins, and it wasn’t until I saw them that I knew the problem with the hosting service had magically resolved itself. 

By this time I’d messaged Tim to ask if he could set up a new desktop if I bought one. He replied a few hours later and sent a link to a JB HiFi web page featuring a suitable desktop PC and I told him to go ahead and buy it for me. In the evening of the same day he was about to bring the thing over to install it but when he messaged me I was out of the house (at a psychiatrist’s appointment) so we discussed a different time for his visit. 

This eventually happened on 13 July. Tim said in a late morning message that he’d arrive after 3.30pm and when he did he unpacked the PC and started to set it up. I logged into the various websites and it became necessary at one stage to call the ISP to get correct configuration details for one of my email accounts. By 4.25pm Tim was walking down the street to his car and by 4.45pm I had started to update this memorial using the word processing software he’d just installed. He’d made a special trip to the retailer to buy the computer, he said, but had done his shopping at the same time (I assumed he meant grocery shopping). My passwords were all valid; each time one was refused I felt fate’s blind destiny’s grip.

The next day I tried to do a Facebook Messenger video call with a friend but the microphone didn’t work so I used my phone. On the Thursday (the 15th) I unplugged the microphone and found by accessing the PC’s Settings screen that the webcam contains a microphone. On Friday my kitchen scale batteries ran out of charge so to replace them I walked to the newsagent on Botany Road and bought a new pack of AAA size batteries then used jewellers’ screwdrivers in the tool chest in the laundry to put the thing back together. I also had freezing camera uploads affecting OneDrive on this day. OneDrive is the Microsoft cloud platform that automatically saves photos and documents that are made on the phone or on the PC. Normally, photos I take on my phone get automatically uploaded to the cloud so that, if I want, I can subsequently access them on my PC, but on the 16th this function didn’t work. I went online to search for a fix and found a site telling me to delete the OneDrive app. I did this but then the App Store wouldn’t appear, so I went to Settings on my phone and reset network settings then downloaded OneDrive again and the problem was solved.

On 18 July it seemed that the PC Tim’d installed was corrupting my files. The problem initially became evident when I tried to open in a graphics program images made with my mobile phone. Then I tried opening an MS-Word file that had a little cross on its icon, and it failed to open, so I logged into OneDrive and downloaded critical files, things that I’d really miss if they weren’t on my computer, things I’d spent days or weeks – or even longer – making (mainly MS-Word docs). I messaged Tim early in the morning and he soon got back to me, telling me to change a setting in OneDrive so that the program WASN’T set to save space. (I’d not been aware it had been setup this way …) Once I made the recommended change a number of files that I’d thought had been synched started to synch but more problems appeared when it turned out the OneDrive folder was on a disc that wouldn’t accommodate everything due to space limitations. I did some things I thought would fix the problem but after deleting some folders got hopelessly tangled so messaged Tim, who called me when he got home and emailed me with a link to click that would allow him to gain control of my computer. After completing a few important tasks and accompanied by a touch of a panic – when it looked like the OneDrive executable wasn’t on it – Tim got the Microsoft backup working again but it would take hours, so I had a snack (an apple and some Jarlsberg cheese) and prepared to wait to see if the process would complete before I was forced by fatigue to go to bed.

This is the OneDrive display window at 7.31pm:

This is the same window at 8.41pm:

And at 9.23pm:

I couldn’t wait up any longer so, biting the bullet, hit the sack, resolving to restart the process in the morning as I assumed it would stop when the computer went to sleep. In fact the restore process kept on running overnight, so that this is what I saw the next day upon checking after doing some occasional writing:

My PC’s internal drives now looked like this:

With this the process of replacing my PC finally came to a satisfactory end at 11 days since my former machine died.

The last day of the month saw me facing problems with OneDrive upload again, and again it was because of photos I took on my phone. I left the phone alone for half and hour then checked again and the facility had decided to resume, so merely felt aggrieved at the evil caprices of the mercurial gods of tech.

Tuesday 28 December 2021

A year in review: Equipment and devices – February to April

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about electronics! – and the post you’re reading is the fourth in the series. 

------------------ Feb ---------------

I stepped over a barrier early – very early (in the still-dark) – on the morning of 3 February when I awoke before the dawn amid the sound of rain. I don’t know why I woke up but the pool will overflow into the storage area if it’s too full. Rain fills the pool and there’s a vent at the back of it that leads inside to the basement. Somehow my unconscious mind made a connection between the rain and potential damage to items kept there – and waked me. 

Still in my underwear but out of bed I walked downstairs and switched the pump handle to “backwash”. Nothing happened – before, when I’d taken this step, I’d heard a sound of running water as the pool’s contents went out through the drainpipe – so, in the confined space, I turned my body about to face the control panel mounted on the concrete wall. I was bent over at the waist but by just pressing a few buttons on it I activated a command that said, “Backwash for 3 minutes,” then I straightened up and went upstairs where I picked up a book to read. Using the house spotlight and after opening the back door I checked the water level once time’d passed but it still looked too full – the threat of rain still present – so I went back to the little enclosure under the concrete slab and once more punched in the commands. I went upstairs, watched ABC TV for five minutes, then bundled myself down the garage stairs, turned the handle back to “filter” and went to bed, but couldn’t sleep and got up again to make coffee. 

Joe sold me an old TV for $200, and I had the device installed on the wall above my work desk. Tim the IT guy did this. He came over to the house on 8 February carrying a kit he’d bought containing mounting brackets and screws as well as spacers (which’d be a critical component). It took a bit of trouble to find the studs in the wall upon which to hang the TV. Using an echo-sounder he had in the car to locate them, after drilling one hole Tim had to call Joe to get details about how the studs’d been installed. With that information he then drilled four holes at the spots we chose, though to find them took five or ten minutes and, once the holes had been made, Tim attached the bracket with some bolts included in the product box that was sitting, waiting a little more silently than me, on the floor. He drove out to Bunnings to get an antenna cable while I pottered around and made dinner, then he stood on the desk to carry the TV – which weighs a fair bit – up to the bracket. Hanging the TV on the metal bracket was the next step, and to finish up he stuffed the power cord up into the space behind the device. I got it turned on in time to watch ‘7.30’ while seated at my desk. 

On 20 February I announced on Facebook that I’d stop using the site due to the company’s news ban. The next day I opened my PC’s browser and didn’t see the usual Fb tab as I’d removed it from the configuration you control with ‘Settings’ in Chrome. I missed seeing what friends posted – some I knew IRL, others I’d only met online over the previous decade (I started using Facebook in 2007) – but felt justified by the IT giant’s heavy-handed response to a reasonable government request that they should pay to carry news that draws readers to advertisers’ productions. I’d written some stories about the change and felt, therefore, that I was doing my bit for the media industry – a class of people to which I belonged – and mused silently on how wise I’d been to reject the Page feature I’d initially set one up in 2010. 

That decision had been taken because the company’d stopped putting posts made on Pages into the native Facebook feed. It was the sense of entitlement that bothered me, the idea that it was Facebook who owned the content and not the users but the media ban didn’t really impact me because I still heavily used Twitter and because one permanent browser tab belongs to the Sydney Morning Herald (I’m a subscriber). In addition I’d been following news outlets with different Twitter accounts, including the Age, the Guardian, and the New York Times. Having so long ago refused to be bound to one platform I now suffered less than many others did as a result of management’s selfish actions. 

The switch reaped other rewards on 23 February. The day before I’d put out a call on Twitter – using several accounts – to find podcasts. I got a number of different replies, each of which contained recommendations to one or more shows. In the end I had to start a “Get” sheet in MS-Excel to accommodate them, putting in space for such details as who made the recommendation, when the download was performed, and when the review was published. The response was phenomenal – far more generous than the result from a similar call-out made the previous year on Facebook – netting a bevvy of content I could listen to while driving Ensign. In the end, though, I deleted all of these shows as their quality was uniformly low.

----------- Mar ------------

I started using Facebook again at the end of February and went back to using Google Chrome on 3 March due to Edge’s failure to load some key information, pages I rely on for daily business. It didn’t take long to make the switch, which involved setting up the startup pages and logging back into some accounts on Twitter. All the other regular pages were still logged in from when I temporarily stopped using the application on 22 January though I had to relog-into two Twitter accounts that had been automatically logged out by the website.

I also started, in the last week of February, listing things for sale on Facebook Marketplace, an activity increasing in the first week of March. I started with packing boxes left over from my move to Botany sold as a job-lot for $100 on 28 Feb to a Portuguese-Australian woman who arrived in a bright blue Renault Megane station wagon with a boy who might’ve been her little brother. They stuffed the car full and, in the end, left some boxes uncollected. Having pocketed the cash, I closed the garage door but a bug had bit, so I listed some picture frames I’d recently bought from Joe (the man who sold me the house), both on Fb Marketplace and on eBay. I found the latter harder to use and the company also charges you whereas Fb Marketplace lists for free. On 5 March I went out on a limb and listed a receipt spike that’d been in the family for a long time – I’ve got no recollection as to how I came to own it, but it was probably something of dad’s – as well as a coffee table I’d been given as a wedding gift in 1991 and that was still in good condition. I listed a WiFi aerial, I listed some bulldog clips, I listed some picture hooks, I listed a tape dispenser, painting supplies (roller, roller brush, sandpaper, paint tray), furniture risers, plastic wallets, a photo frame. 

On 13 March I posted this on Facebook:

Fb Marketplace needs fixing! Put up an ad for planter boxes y'day and accepted a request but then there were a hundred requests coming later, some at higher prices. I asked the first respondent if he's go higher and he said, "No." Then went to bed. The messages still came however, and woke up to another 25 requests in my inbox. You can't mark items as "Sold" until the guy comes to pick up the thing however because if you do the chats disappear, so had to deal w all these requests. It was taking all of my time – couldn't do anything else. So I turned down the first guy and changed the price on the ad – though my mobile's interface went down, so had to run upstairs to the PC to do it. The first guy wasn't happy but I'd asked him for a better offer and he'd point blank refused – even his eventual offer was much lower than the offer I'd had on Marketplace later. So here I am with the requests still coming in and the guy who wants to pick the things up this morning still doesn't know what time he'll come. 
Fb needs a better interface, so you can say, "Sorry, offer accepted, guy's coming soon." Or something like that. ATM it's just "Available" or "Not available." Secondly, you need to silence requests until an exchange happens, so that you don't lose the chats but keep them paused in case the exchange falls through, so you can revisit them later if need be. In addition there are no guidelines as to conduct. I went looking for something written inside the interface but couldn't find anything.
The interface is just terrible, even though it's effective. The fact that Marketplace went down on my phone is doubly nerve-wracking.
I found out a day or so later that there was a “Pending” flag you could set to show an item’d been asked for but for which the actual exchange hadn’t yet taken place. 

Such concerns promised to return as I possessed so many things – the quantity of packing cartons (cheap at $100 for a purchaser) required to shift all of my belongings a testament to squirrel-like propensities – and, thinking it might be worth allocating time and try to monetise a resource, I daily listed new items on the website. Moving house had stretched my budget to the limit but I still bought food, paid for petrol, and used electricity to run various devices, so welcomed the liquidity.

A freebie from Toyota when the year before I bought my car – a wireless phone charger – went for a song to a guy who turned up 45 minutes late. He said he’d by mistake gone to Bondi, then asked if he could transfer the cash using his phone. I said I had no Commonwealth Bank account (a lie) and then advised him to use the ATM on Botany Road. He asked me if I wanted to go with him, in his clapped out sedan, but he went alone and brought the cash – $5 more than the price he’d initially agreed to, on account of tardiness – then took the charger and went away. In the end I forgot to include the printed instructions (so I hope he worked out how to use the thing). Joe heard me raising my voice to talk with the fellow and came out to see if I required help. I told Joe, with laughter in my voice, that the buyer’d been late arriving. 

I didn’t tell him on 22 March when I sold two picture frames to a woman in Wagga Wagga. Joe’d sold me three frames for $50 and I got $150 just for two small ones. For this transaction I started using PayPal – the woman’d preferred this payment method – and I had to overcome a sense of aversion upon learning that the company takes a cut of transactions. I promised myself not to use this method of transaction again – if I could help it – but the woman in Wagga wouldn’t do the deal any other way, so I tried to accommodate her preferences. In the end I drove to the post office once and to TNT in Botany twice – the first time to get a quote, and the second time to consign the parcel, which was wrapped in old packing boxes held together by sticky tape – and she paid for the postage but it took me half a day to get everything done. Good thing I wasn’t charging by the hour. 

I contemplated listing my old couch once the new one arrived on-shore. From the couch I was watching TV and I was also using it for reading books. From there, on 5 March, I tried to view my Sedition digital artwork on the TV. The website for the company said to use the TV’s web browser, but when I used it to log in – a process made excessively fiddly using the remote controller – my purchased artwork wasn’t visible in the space the company calls my “vault” and which is located on their server. I emailed the company and they asked me how I was attempting to view the work, and also which artwork I was not seeing. I replied in the morning after I got up – they’re based in London – and then saw in their regular mailout that an LG app was available. I wondered if they had a Samsung one so that I could use to view the artwork and, once prompted in this way, the service guy in London told me that, yes: a Samsung app was coming so that it’d be easier for me to view artworks.

By this time I’d worked out how to use the oven and the microwave. For the former, a gamble on buttons would result in being able to cook, say, a piece of salmon at 180 deg C for 24 minutes (for dinner) but details still lay beyond my ken. I could do it myself easily enough but wouldn’t be able to explain the procedure to someone else. For the microwave I also got used to doodling the buttons for a second or two while I located the setting that would allow me to defrost something – it might be lamb chops. Another setting – which buttons? I’ll try this! – would let me warm up a cup of milk. I’d not yet been able to communicate any of this information to my housemate so it was my job to run the devices when required, as, in the normal course of busy days, it sometimes was.

Emergency measures took control of my timetable on 20 March due to heavy rain associated with a weather system over the ocean. I visited the pump room at least a dozen times during the day and, before going to bed, made sure to leave the pool at a level that would safely allow a quantity of water to fill it overnight. Each backwash cycle takes three minutes, and I must’ve pumped out half the total volume of the pool over the course of the day. The following day – the Sunday – the weather had moderated greatly and even at 9am I’d not once put the pump on backwash, even though I’d woken at 6am. On Monday morning I again put the pump on backwash for three minutes, a measure that wasn’t really necessary.

On 29 March I sold the TV stand for $10 on Facebook Marketplace to a guy with a BMW.

----------- Apr ----------

Sold a paint tray and roller on 4 April for $30 as the deal was for $25 and the woman’d wanted to do an electronic transfer but I insisted on cash and her husband gave me $5 too much in the notes he pulled out of his trouser pocket. It was Easter Sunday but I didn’t feel any regret as I’d decided to harden myself against recalcitrant buyers. I’ve never liked religious holidays and this one seemed to curdle even the milk – I’d had to get more as my housemate’s boyfriend was staying over – bought, this time, fresh from the Botany Road convenience store. 

I sensed other-worldly powers while Ming and Omer watched LOTR on Netflix, and when the Russian woman messaged me about the painting supplies I responded immediately, wanting a sale to offset money spent on water the day before (Joe’d asked me to pony up though we hadn’t settled.) I put the sharply folded banknotes in my worn wallet and slunk upstairs. 

TweetDeck changed its default background colour to black in early April and I had to switch it to white every time I chose to use a different identity. Then on 10 April they put in a control that allows you to set a default background colour, measurably facilitating my interactions.

On 14 April there was water accumulated on the bottom shelf of the cabinet in the laundry, possibly (I thought) due to the outlet from the washing machine not draining properly. That night I emailed the plumber but they said the next morning it hadn’t come to their inbox. This was the same day the electrician came to fix the intercom. This man had been in the house two days earlier but hadn’t brought with him the right equipment to enable him to repair the device, so came back one more time. The next day the plumber called about the photo I’d sent through, asking me to send it again. The receptionist advised that the earliest they could make an appointment would be for 27 April, and so we decided I’d put on another load to test if it was a real problem or if it had just been that my housemate’d emptied a bucket of water into the sink at the same time the washing machine was operating. I wasn’t certain – and would have to use a laundromat unless I could do laundry at home – so did as instructed and the water drained properly and without a mess so I called the plumber to let the receptionist know that everything was fine. 

The same day Tim the IT guy finally fixed the email on my phone. On the Friday of the week before I posted on Facebook: “After email probs and NBN power cut, Vodafone service has gone off today. Trifecta this week!” At that time Tim was over to see about the PC’s Outlook client, but then had had to do business out of town which kept him away for a few days. Net Registry, which provides my website server space and software, had as usual changed its server address details making it necessary for me to jump through a few hoops in order to be able to send emails. In the end the change cost me $264 in charges placed by Tim and that on 22 April I settled with an electronic funds transfer. He’d been out to my place three times but only charged me for two hours’ work.

On 22 April I received an email from Toyota notifying me of the pending release of the Kluger hybrid. I called the dealership who’d sold me the RAV4 to find out about the new car, which will be a 4-cylinder. The salesman the previous year had told me Toyota wouldn’t be making 6-cylinder hybrids but traditionally the Kluger has 6 cylinders. I was surprised that a 7-seater with 4 cylinders could perform to an adequate standard, but this question seems to have been well and truly settled, proving that it’s the electric motors in hybrids that provide most of the traction power. The petrol engine is mainly for charging the battery.

The next day I tried to set the status control on a sale item in Facebook Marketplace to “pending” but wasn’t able to locate the option. It was for a picture of Queen Victoria on the occasion of her death. I’d bought the item for $10 from a guy at Ramsgate Beach and had a buyer willing to part with $35 in exchange for possession of the piece which was evidently part of a deceased estate. I’d seen the seller’s stuff on the website and had asked to view before buying so he’d told me where he lived and I drove down and, after parking, saw the photo on the garage floor among a group of unpromising artworks in which I’d no interest. I might’ve offered $5 but decided on the higher amount out of consideration for the man’s feelings, as it was the only thing he had that I coveted. 

I finally got around to delivering the photogravure on the last day of the month after, the day before, the woman’d said it wasn’t possible for her to come to my place to pick it up. I asked her at her workplace – on Botany Road in Alexandria – if she collected Victoriana but she said she just liked old things. She was delighted with the almost-mint but original condition of her purchase and gave me the right change when I handed over the photo, listening patiently to a potted history I made to chronicle for her my purchase and resale. I’d parked on Epson Road – just down the street from the auto shop she works in – so walked back to the car quickly. It took me ten minutes to drive home and the stopover was on the way for me as earlier in the morning I’d been at my GPs’ in Pyrmont.

On 26 April a woman named Cristina Bunea contacted me on Twitter via direct message with the intent of getting me to use her app. It’s called “Odin” and is designed – so she told me – to allow people to share interests. I tried to post a link to an article on my blog however and got an error message. I told Cristina about this problem via DM and she said, “there might be a space in the field where you're pasting the link so that's why it gives an error. alternatively, it's easier to just save from the mobile extension.” Then she put up a video which didn’t work. I’d asked what a “mobile extension” was. All things considered, my experience using her service gave me little reason to feel confident about the software and I regretted having sent invites to three friends.

Monday 27 December 2021

A year in review: Equipment and devices – January

This memorial contains almost a month’s worth of parts – though not all of ‘em are about electronics! – and the post you’re reading is the third in the series. 

In the final days of December I organised to have the internet connected at my new home, and in early January went searching for the modem that’d been sent. An email from Australia Post told me it’d arrived at my address but in November I’d put in a postal redirect so now thought it possible that the device might instead go to my PO box. But, no! I drove to Mascot post office where a woman told me the device’d been delivered to Pyrmont, so I headed over there and the man in the post office on Harris Street firmly advised me about a customer service number.

My misgivings due to the fact that I’d tried it before but found it hard to use: you’ve got to pronounce aloud a long tracking number and, if that doesn’t work, you’ve got to punch the number into your phone for the benefit of the machine on their side. But you can’t remember the whole number! And by the time you’ve returned to your browser from your email client the machine’s accepted a partial number as the whole of it so it rejects your enquiry. So I tried using the contact number once more, finally getting through to an operator, who told me the package’d be retrieved and sent to my post office box, but that this’d take five days. 

In the meantime I’d contacted the estate agent who sold my place and asked him. Tom told me that the purchaser was away and would be back on 13 January – so this’d be the earliest I could get my modem. The NBN guy was due to come on the 21st (I’d tried to get an earlier date, but it’d been impossible) and as a result, from the 5th until at least the 21st I’d have to use a mobile hotspot on my phone to connect to the internet. On one occasion I got this device set up using WiFi  but after that the iP4one wouldn’t appear in the menu on my PC’s network finder so instead I resorted to using a cable. I tried troubleshooting the problem but nothing I did fixed it and in the end gave up trying to use wireless for the link-up.

On 6 January I had someone working for Joe (the owner/builder) come to install the washing machine but the inlet hoses were too short so I drove to Bunnings and bought suitable ones, then left them in the house while I went out to look at furniture with friends. When I came home the washing machine was – I thought (erroneously, as it turned out) – connected and installed. The next day I went to Harvey Norman in Kensington and bought a clothes dryer as the old one’d been left in my apartment when I’d sold. This time I bought a heat-pump model instead of the regular type that forces hot air through your clothes. The heat pump type apparently has advantages in terms of care for clothes, and it is also quieter and less gusty! On the 8th after it was delivered by two large Anglo boys I tried turning on the washing machine but it refused to start. I called my appliance repair guy but he didn’t answer the phone so I went to bed without a fix. The next morning I called him again and he answered but said that LG wasn’t supplying motherboards anymore so he wouldn’t be able to fix the device. He suggested he might be able to get someone else to help, so I agreed for him to ask and rang off. Then I got onto the LG website and started a live chat, talking with “Gwen” who asked, at the beginning of the conversation, if I’d checked the electrical supply by plugging the machine into another outlet. I said, “No, the house is new and the socket is fine” – which would in the event turn out to be completely wrong.

We began discussing the problem and a cause so I got the model and serial numbers from the sticker near the front of the machine and “Gwen” asked me if I could source a receipt from Harvey Norman. This request stumped me as I’d have to wait until 10.30am when the store opened to call them to ask for one. Eventually “Gwen” said she’d go ahead with the information I’d given (the machine was made in May 2017, so it was covered by the 10-year warranty) and she said later that a technician would call me on the 15th. I asked if I’d need to wait a week for the service and she said that was when the company would get in touch with me; it was the earliest slot available.

Later the same day, the service firm did call me but, perplexed by the delay – I was stuck with a week’s worth of dirty clothes – I went to the laundry and packed things in an old Ikea bag preparatory to going to a coin laundromat, then on a whim moved the washing machine out of its bay and plugged it into the dryer’s socket. 

It turned on. I went upstairs and told Joe about the fault and he said the electrician would be coming on Tuesday (12 Jan) and to remind him (Joe) on that day that the socket was faulty. “It could be a wiring issue can be easily resolved,” he wrote in WhatsApp. I thought dejectedly about how I’d broken my Topolscanyi vase then drove to Stanmore. It cost $9 for the wash and $4 for the drying – plus $2 because one dryer was faulty, which made me lose two coins – with parking free on the street. 

It was a useful trip as I winged it without navigational aids and arrived, following the previous day’s outing to Enmore, along roads servicing the new motorway. It’s a 10-minute drive outside peak hours and I felt like a local for the first time since visiting the Botany house the previous July. I also felt like a local when, on 6 January, I walked over to Service NSW to get my driver’s license renewed. I’d fortunately already updated my residential and mailing addresses on a NSW government website. The gentleman who served me was efficient (the poor man had a bloody nose from wearing a mask all the time). A 50 percent fee applied in my case due to my sound record.

On 10  January I decided to do some ironing – for three months I’d gone without this chore so there was novelty in a return to it – for about a dozen clean shirts. It took two reservoirs’-full of water to do all of them. The next day I unpacked the boxes for the bathroom, which included my Wahl beard trimmer, now reunited with its charger.

The doorbell sounded at 7.30am on the morning of 13 January and when I let the plumber in we walked upstairs. He assessed the laundry and connected the outlet pipe to what he thought was the correct spot on the dryer and fed it into the tundish (an open pipe my air-conditioner outlet feeds into) under the sink. Then he took the trap off the drain and emptied the water out of it using one of the bathrooms on the first floor. Outside, in the street, he drilled a hole in a spigot on the trap (there are two spigots, both of which sat on blind sections of pipe) then came back inside the house and reattached it to the drain and connected the washing machine outlet to it using a metal clamp. 

In the late afternoon I was talking with Joe and Cameron – my next-door neighbour – in the carpark and he mentioned that he wanted to get the electrician – slated to be on-site on Saturday – to put an extra power point in the living room. I mentioned that I’d like more power points in my bedroom to accommodate appliances associated with my computer, which is stationed there. I thought about the conversation afterward and later messaged Joe asking if he could put a power point in the back bedroom on the first floor to service a desk I’d placed beside the door.

On 15 January he phoned to tell me, while I was busy with friends (see photo below) escaping from a room, about the job’s completion. (An escape room requires the resolution of a series of puzzles – often involving equipment or devices – and has a time limit. We did one on this day but didn’t manage to get out in the allowed period; you get an hour to complete.)

When I got back from Wollongong I put on my first load of laundry and then used the dryer – which leaked (see photo below) – so I phoned Joe and he came over. We attached the correct part – a small double adaptor with spigots on both ends and a right-angle – to link the outlet pipe with the extension going to the tundish. Luckily the leak didn’t escape the laundry – the floor is cambered to draw excess water to the drain at the centre so there was no damage to the floorboards in the hallway – but the episode sent my pulse up. 

In the end it took eight different people to correctly configure the laundry:
  1. Adam the builder told me to get longer (2m) washing machine inlet hoses that he then connected to the wall taps 
  2. Me driving to Bunnings to get the inlet hoses
  3. Me in the car to buy Electrolux heat pump dryer at Harvey Norman in Kensington
  4. Two guys with a truck to deliver same the next day
  5. A-Style Plumbing to drill the hole in the drain trap for the washing machine outlet hose
  6. Same person to lead the dryer’s outlet hose to the tundish
  7. “Gwen” at LG to set up a service call (which turned out not to be necessary)
  8. Electrician to fix the power point behind appliances
  9. Joe to apply double adaptor to connect the extension pipe to the dryer’s outlet hose 

Enough for a Norse saga! For me it was a relief to learn, on 16 January, that – at home – I could do laundry without causing a flood and that any water that might emerge onto the laundry floor wouldn’t damage my hallway. Just as it was by driving to Stanmore through St Peters that I felt like a local, I only felt like a resident of the house I’d moved into after I could safely and reliably do a load of laundry. 

Clothes maketh the man – feel at home.


Twitter accounts form a virtual version of garments and on 16 January I reconnected the Book Chat Oz account to my Twitter page. By the end of this bout of reorganisation I’d set up two new blogs and two more Twitter accounts, each dedicated to a different subject. The new regime was well established on 23 January, a day when, by turns, using the native Twitter page as my compass (an indicator shows if a linked account has new notifications), I started toggling between accounts. I can now connect with more people and engage in a variety of conversations through different personae. In fact, because I was using dedicated, themed accounts I could also now follow more people. And, because people could see the purpose associated with each account, I was gaining followers more rapidly. 

At the outset rather than liberating it was confusing. You have to remember, as you’re reading, “Who am I supposed to be right now?” and the urge to control became imperilled after I started the new blogs: by the time I reached the end of January I had four blogs as well as five accounts – the number five being the limit to what Twitter allows you to link up:
  • One for rural and agriculture stories,
  • One for literature and writing,
  • One for Aboriginal and First Nations issues,
  • One for politics, and
  • The main, @mattdasilva account.
When using TweetDeck (owned by the Twitter company) I’d see the browser tab freeze and refresh jerking, by turns, from a stuck screen with a message notifying me of the application’s need to log out (to prevent unauthorised access) to a blue screen with a cycling “wait” icon and, next, a new page. This would happen each time I changed the account in focus at the native Twitter screen, which became my navigational control point.

While this configuration’d confront me, as the interface operator, with a few challenges – I might put up a link to the wrong blogpost, and put up a link to a blog not associated with the current Twitter account (and in fact I did this, disconcertingly, on 16 February) – the new regime gave access to more hashtags and more conversations. It was easier to avoid frustration and boredom, so the quality of the conversations was better than when just limited to one account. 

Because, when you tune into it, each hashtag occupies, in TweetDeck, a separate column, you can only watch so many hashtags at any one time before your view necessarily slips beyond the edges of the browser window and, if you want to see more, you’ve got to use the mouse to scroll alternately right or left. Such a mode of usage, obviously, is not desirable because it’s clumsy. Using multiple accounts – each with, say, three tuned-in hashtags – you can monitor a larger number of feeds and stay current with a wider range of events and issues, all the while actively accumulating followers and emitting “likes”.
For the politics account I’d skew toward a sharp form of humour, not neglecting, on occasion, irony or, even, sarcasm. For the literary account, on the other hand, I’d “like” heartfelt poems people’d put into my feed – associated with, say, the #poetry hashtag – and commiserate with their feelings of sadness (if that’s what the poem dealt with). My main account was usually to communicate with people who followed me, and whom I followed. 

The variety of responses that was now open to me was more than liberating, at times I actually felt free to engage with people in new ways, while at other times I toggled busily, watching events unfold and monitoring when people would respond in some way – it might be a “like” or a (more rarely) a retweet – to something I’d posted, or I’d use one interface or another as though I were not one person, but many people assembled in a single body. This is not so far away from how each of us deals with life on a daily basis and must be how the Supreme Creator – up there, in the clouds, next to a mountain where social-medialess ancestors dwell – keeps track of souls, multiplying His will though a convenient celestial interface allowing Him to attend to the destinies of a multitude of individual lives. 

Like in that Jim Carrey film.

About the modem: Tom called me in mid-January and we agreed for him to come over on the Monday before the NBN guy’d come to deliver it but that day he said he hadn’t yet collected the device. He SMS’d me on 20 January, saying that he might be able to pick it up the following day but by that time I’d SMS’d him to say I’d be in Pyrmont that morning. He phoned me a little later telling me to go to the building and to buzz the new occupants of my old apartment, who left the package and some letters in the lobby so that I could pick them up. 

I spoke with Joe after – at my prompting – he offered to get Adam, a handyman – an adept with a van and a cache of tools, some specialised, some broadly applicable – to install a Hills clothesline out the back of my place, on the deck. Adam told me to go to Bunnings to buy the thing, which I did on the morning of 17 January, on which day, with his apprentice, he turned up so we set about assembling and installing the device. 

One bolt was missing so I dove into the car and again went to Bunnings where at the door a woman directed me to the information desk. The woman stationed there made some calls and identified a helper, then pointed me to where, in the store, he could be found. I walked past the registers and a man in an aisle took my receipt, leading me upstairs in the lift. On the first floor we went to the appropriate aisle and he opened a box – like the one, in the morning, I’d taken to my car – took a bolt out of an unopened plastic bag sitting inside, and handed it to me. After showing it to the woman from the information desk I went back to my car. 

When I got home I put the bolt into the assembled clothesline. The photo above shows the clothesline in use for the first time on 23 January after doing a full load of washing. Even with that much clothing the small rack is barely half-full.


On 19 January, because it wasn’t turning on properly, I took my beside lamp back to the Ashfield store I’d bought it from just over a year before. I should’ve taken a cue from my experience with the washing machine because at the shop the device functioned perfectly so, when I got back home, in a message to Joe, I noted that another power point wasn’t working. When he came over to inspect it, however, the lamp worked ok and likewise the next day when I took it back to the shop. Stumped, in Leichhardt I drank a flat white at Bar Italia and used my phone to search for nearby shops. I found and visited two lighting retailer, at the second one putting a down payment on a Taiwanese lamp without a touch function (instead, the LED model has a small toggle switch on the base). An email from the store arrived, once I got home, in the afternoon, and at about 2pm the next day an SMS came telling me the lamp was ready to pick up, which is what I eventually got around to doing a week later on the Monday before the certifier’s second-but-one inspection.

Telling me he’d be at my place in about 30 minutes, at 3pm on 21 January the NBN guy phoned me and when he turned up buzzed the doorbell. I had a word with him as he stood at the gate, then went inside to unpack the modem and plug it in. The provider called me at about 4.50pm and since the NBN technician was still on-site I asked the telephone consultant – a woman – to call me back. The technician came up from the basement, where he’d been installing the NBN for the whole row of terraces, and got the modem working, but when I went upstairs to my bedroom – where my PC and desk are – the signal wasn’t strong enough to reach. 

At 5pm the provider, supposed to call me back, lodged no call. They never made one so I got in touch with a staffer who told me to get a booster at JB HiFi but just as I hung up Joe called me and brought tech guru – whose name is Tim – to my front door. I gave Tim my card and he said he’d be in touch. He’d email me a quote a few days later, he said, and when he did I told him to go ahead with the job, which would include WiFi connectivity in the basement. On 1 February he called me at 5.36pm as I was about to do the dishes with the message that he’d come the following day to deliver and install the necessary equipment. 

Something came up in his diary the next day however and he SMS’d me before 10am (the time he’d been due to arrive to do the work) to say he’d come in the afternoon as another urgent job’d occupy him in the morning. He rocked up at about 3.45pm. By 4.24pm I’d connected my mobile phone to the network, and by 4.29pm the TV, at which time Tim was upstairs connecting access points. We got the printer and the PC set up by 5.05pm. The printer demanded – and got – new yellow, cyan and magenta cartridges, an item I had on-hand in the electronics cabinet downstairs in the lobby. To make sure the PC linked to the NBN Tim gave me an aerial out of his own, personal supply – he didn’t charge me for it – and it fit to the device. Downstairs, we both set up the blinds to work from my phone. An access point in the basement would work for pool controls that I’d planned to order and be installed (though I never got this done).

Google threatened to disable access to its search engine for Australian users on 22 January so on that day I changed the default SE in my mobile phone’s browser to Bing and on my PC started using Edge – linking from there to Bing. 

On the 30th I was doing washing again – this time bedsheets. I’d not changed them since moving in, but they needed to be done despite the fact that it was raining on that day. I dumped the cloth down the chute to the laundry and put on a load, then went back upstairs to use social media (with my five Twitter accounts) before returning to put wet things into the dryer. I repeated the journey twice more, including one trip to check up on progress of the second wash. By evening, everything had been put away in the cupboard.