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.

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