Solving the problem of bra straps slipping off shoulders

2 08 2020

For decades, I’ve had to hoist up my slipping bra straps, typically several times an hour. No matter how much I tightened the straps, the slope of my shoulders meant they still fell off. I tried the clasp things at the back, but someone else had to put them on or do them up for me, or they didn’t suit my wide back and couldn’t pull/connect the straps as the diagrams indicated. When wearing a t-shirt, I’d often tie some cotton tape between the straps at the front to pull them together, but that only worked for high-necked t-shirts and not for any garment that had a scooped or v-neck. Crossover straps at the back never seemed to reach either.

So when I was in the lingerie shop the other day getting a new bra, I asked if they had a solution. They suggested silicone cushions that your slip your strap into and said that women who’d had mastectomies etc. found they reduced the pain from shoulder straps. I bought some (they were pricey from the lingerie shop!), and they work brilliantly for me! I put them on with my bra in the morning and don’t have a slipping strap all day. Such a relief.

You can find them on Amazon, eBay etc. Just search for silicone bra strap cushions.





Cataract surgery

4 07 2020

The time had come… Back in February, I went in to the optician to get new glasses as mine had a scratch on the lens. He did an eye exam and advised me NOT to get a new script until I’d seen my ophthalmologist about my cataracts. Cataracts? What cataracts??? He said I’d had them for a couple of years now, but he only mentioned them now because I was only now mentioning that my vision was getting worse—didn’t want to scare me, or something like that. So off to my lovely ophthalmologist, Russell.

Russell confirmed the cataracts and said that they typically didn’t tell people they had them until the patient started to complain about vision loss. That’s to stop patients worrying unnecessarily about something that could take several years to manifest as an issue. I could see the logic in that, but still, I think I would’ve liked to have known earlier.

Anyhow, we booked my surgery for 2 July; it was originally going to be March before my planned trip to the US and Morocco in April and May, but as the recovery time before you can get new glasses would be about 6 weeks, I pushed the surgery back until after I was due back from my trip—I certainly didn’t want to be away and travelling and not being able to see properly! Of course, between February and March 2020 the world changed with COVID-19, and with it a whole lot of things that we could and couldn’t do. My trip was off, for starters. And in Western Australia, all non-urgent elective surgery was cancelled to free up medical staff, PPE, and hospital beds for the expected influx of COVID-19 patients. That didn’t happen in our state, so by May 2020 restrictions on elective surgery were lifted. I fully expected my cataract surgery to be pushed back to October or later, but the 2 July date was still OK.

I was scheduled to have both eyes done at once, under general anaesthetic. This is NOT the norm—typically, you get one eye done under light sedation, then the other eye gets done some two weeks later. But I freak out if any instrument comes near my eyes (long-lasting trauma from major eye surgery when I was 12), so Russell, who knew about this phobia of mine, suggested he do both eyes under general. He said it’s not the norm, but he was fine with doing that, and besides, he didn’t want me to have two lots of general anaesthetic a short time apart.

My surgery was to correct my medium- to long-distance vision and Russell said that I’d need about 1.5 magnification glasses afterwards for close work. I had originally opted for good short vision as I do a lot of computer work, sewing, reading etc., but then I thought about the long-term situation with glasses and realised that if I went for good short vision, then I’d forever be getting prescription glasses and sunglasses (at $400 a time) for driving, watching TV etc. However, if I went for good medium to long vision, I would only need to buy el cheapo magnifying glasses for close work from any pharmacy or other places that sell them (and there are a LOT of places that do); same for sunglasses. And I wouldn’t be restricted to special frames or styles as I was for my prism prescription lenses. So within days of my appointment with Russell in February, I called to change the request to be for good long-distance vision.

2 July 2020

Off to the hospital for day surgery… The first stage of prep was getting several courses of drops put into my eyes over about an hour; this was to dilate the pupils. One of them really stung, but the other was fine. Then into the very stylish (not!) gown for the operating theatre and into bed under the snuggly heated blankets. Next came the anaesthetist who had trouble finding a vein (I did warn him) and so he waited until I was in the very bright light of the anteroom outside the OR, and even then he had to try several places to get a cannula in. Then he left me in the very bright light (dilated pupils and bright lights really don’t do well together) while he went into the OR to discuss things with Russell.

He came back in to tell me he had to mark my eyeballs with some sort of marker while I was sitting up but that he’d give me a local anaesthetic first. It would’ve saved me a LOT of angst had he told me HOW he was going to administer this local anesthetic. Instead, he left me alone with that information for about another 10 mins, but which felt like a lifetime. I was already stressed to the max about this operation, so hearing about a local just added to that. I seriously considered getting up and doing a runner because the idea of a needle near my eyes was too much to bear! When he came back, I asked how he was going to do the local and he said via drops! He could have told me that right from the get go!!! The most difficult thing was trying to tame my brain from the terror and worry that if anything went wrong…. And my body was as tense as a board because I was so mentally stressed.

Once he administered the local anaesthetic drops and did the marking (no pain, though it was a bit perturbing having the marker coming at my eyes), I was wheeled into the OR and put under. Russell said he’d be putting in a Toric lens, which is hoped to reduce/eliminate my strabismus, and that’s why the marker.

Next thing I’m waking up in the recovery area. The lights were very bright but I was able to see out of both eyes so that was a massive relief. The plastic shields over my eyes were removed after about an hour and were no longer required. After some food and drink, my DH came to pick me up and we headed home. We watched TV that night and I could see everything clearly with NO GLASSES! First time ever, I think. But boy, every light in the house was certainly bright and all the LED lights had BIG halos around them. That night I slept semi-upright in the recliner as I didn’t want to sleep on my side in the bed in case that was an issue for my eyes.

3 July 2020

Day 1 with my new eyes: Everything is so white and bright! I was able to watch TV last night without glasses for the first time in probably forever. But now I have to wear glasses for computer work, reading, sewing, and quilting. I’d been using magnifiers for some reading for a while (e.g. newspapers, but not ebooks ‘cos you can increase the font size for that), so that’s no different, but wearing them for computer work is. Fortunately, I have a few magnifiers, so I just leave one pair near the computer. Today was a normal day other than getting used to the brightness outside the office window, and getting used to putting on my glasses for the computer or anything I have to read, like the fine print on the eye drop bottles.

My eyes seem fine, though they’re a bit weepy and feel like they are just brimming with tears for much of the time. I slept in the bed tonight, with no problems at all.

Some of the precautions I have to take:

  • two different types of eye drops 4 times a day for two weeks
  • NO water in my eyes from showering etc. for at least two weeks—I borrowed a friend’s diving mask to wear in the shower so I can wash my hair and it works a treat!
  • no bending over, unless you keep you head on a fairly even horizontal plane—I have a grabber tool I can use to pick things up off the floor if my DH isn’t close by, or for getting the newspaper from the driveway in the morning
  • no strenuous activity (that one’s not hard for me!!!)

4 July 2020

Day 2 with my new eyes: Everything is still very bright (I’m glad it’s the middle of winter here—it would be much worse in summer when the Australian summer light is so harsh), but I seem to have lost the big halos around the LED lights, which is good. We went for a 160 km drive today, but first I had to get some new sunnies from the pharmacy (and another pair of 1.5 magnifiers so that I’ve got enough to leave in all the places I need them). I had to wear the sunnies at lunch as the light coming from the bright sky and from the water outside the restaurant were too much to bear. I noticed that by mid-afternoon on the drive home the vision in my right eye was a bit blurry. I believe this is normal. In general, my left eye seems to have more clarity than the right eye (which was the case before the surgery too).

I also noticed when I was reading the paper this morning (head tilted down to the table, which probably wasn’t a good idea) that I was getting little flashes of light at the far corners of my eyes. I’ll have to hunt out an angled drawing board I have for reading the paper and doing the crosswords to see if that helps get rid of the flashes. Again, these are likely normal for the first few days/weeks.

One other thing I noticed is that because I can’t wash and splash my face in the shower, my eyelashes have got a bit matted from the ‘sleep’ and the drops. When I was at the pharmacy getting my new sunnies and magnifiers, I asked about something to gently clean my eye area, and they suggested eye wipes (a Murine product). They helped a lot in getting rid of the accumulating gunk!

The watery eye feeling seems to have gone, except after putting in the drops, of course.

My follow-up appointment with Russell isn’t for another few weeks yet, so I’m using this blog post to note down all the changes, differences, and variations of vision that I experience.

From here on, I’ll only update this post if I notice changes.

Bottom line: Am I glad I had the surgery? So far, after two days, a resounding YES. There has been no pain and no issues other than sensitivity to light as my new eyes adjust to their ‘new normal’.

Update 9 July 2020, one week after the surgery: I’m getting used to the brightness of everything, and it’s becoming my ‘new normal’. I still get the occasional white flashes on the outer corners of my eyes, but these are very intermittent and very seldom. I’ve had some ‘floaters’, again very seldom and very intermittent, and much smaller than the floaters that I had occasionally before the surgery. The wateriness has well and truly gone, and I’m getting used to wearing glasses for reading instead of distance.

Update 16 July 2020, two weeks after the surgery: As for 9th July. One eye has a bit more clarity/sharpness of vision than the other, but I’ll talk to the ophthalmologist about that when I see him for my post-op follow-up next Tuesday. It’s likely related to the type of lens used to correct the astigmatism (strabismus), and the slight blurriness is nowhere near as bad as the double vision I had before. I can stop the eye drops at the end of today too, and shower without eye protection!





Mrs America (TV series)

3 07 2020
Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, from the Mrs America TV series (photo from IMDB)

Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly, from the Mrs America TV series (photo from IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9244556/mediaviewer/rm3950416641)

I watched Mrs America recently and it took me back to my late teens when I segued from high school in a regional Western Australian town to university in Perth.

For me this transition occurred in the early ’70s, right in the middle of the US and then global women’s rights movement. It was an awakening time in many ways, as it often is for those going from the comfortable existence living under their parents’ wing in a country town, to the ‘radical’ ideas and different norms of life at university in a big city. Perth was a city, but in terms of population and mores it was more like a big conservative country town. Things from the outside world didn’t penetrate very far—there was no internet, social media, etc. so all news and information came via tightly (and conservatively and male) controlled newspapers, TV news etc. Of course, some at university had other sources and so there were alternative opinions and ideas offered in the student newspapers and at the protest marches of the time (mostly against conscription and Australia’s involvement in Vietnam, though there were some women’s right marches too—I’ve never been an overt protester so I never went to any marches). That sets the scene for where I was for much of the time period covered by Mrs America—sheltered from the big bad world, living on the far west coast of Australia under the wings of my parents, and then at university. I was a member of the Women’s Electoral Lobby for a short time while I was at uni.

I’d heard of some of the American women involved in the women’s rights movement—Gloria Steinem and Betty Freidan, mainly, though I think I’d heard of Bella Abzug too; Shirley Chisholm was a vague recollection—but I never read any of their books. In Australia, the publishing and bookselling industries were very controlled and getting books from the US was almost impossible, so I’m not sure we even had access to those books at that time, except perhaps from underground sources. Being Australian, The Female Eunuch (Germaine Greer, 1970) was the main feminist work I was exposed to. Other writings I recall included Our Bodies, Ourselves (Boston Women’s Health Collective, 1970; I think I still have my copy of that!) and a bit later, Damned Whores and God’s Police (Anne Summers, 1975 [Australian]).

I had never heard of Phyllis Schlafly, though I think I’d heard of the STOP ERA group.

So I came to Mrs America knowing a little about the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) struggle, but not much, and what I did know was way back in my memory banks and half a world away from where I was living.

First, I loved this series and all aspects of its production. The costumes and sets were exactly as I remember from the time, even the excessive smoking everywhere. And the acting was superb. The two Australian leads—Cate Blanchett as Phyllis Schlafly and Rose Byrne as Gloria Steinem—were brilliant and both deserve awards for their performances. The plot moved along at a good pace, and the focus of each episode on the main players of the time and the chronological sequencing of those episodes was done well. There was SO much to love about this series, and I intend watching it again.

But then there was the subject matter, and so much of it brought back feelings of frustration and anger rage at how little has changed for women in general, and especially for women of colour and LBGTQIA women. And anger that the ERA STILL has not been ratified in the US (I can equally point fingers at Australia—we certainly don’t have a good track record on the rights of anyone but white men either).

But my deep well of anger was reserved for Schlafly and her team of STOP ERA slaves (what else do you call people who work for all hours for nothing but the crumbs from their controlling mistress?) and for the far-right wing evangelist Lottie Beth Hobbs (played by Cindy Drummond) who Schlafly joined with (well, bulldozed is a better description) to gain more supporters for her cause, and as a result added a pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-gay aspect to her platform to appease Lottie’s conservative right-wing Christian evangelical followers.

Schlafly, as depicted in Mrs America, was the biggest hypocrite. Her platform was against women working outside the home, yet she had a job as a political lobbyist (adviser on nuclear and defense policy at the highest levels of the US government), ran for the US Congress twice, wrote several books, gained two degrees, and had 6 children by the time Mrs America starts, and had a law degree by the time it finishes. And how did she do all these things? She had Black women to run her household (no doubt paid a pittance), a well-heeled lawyer husband to support her financially, and an unmarried (and belittled) sister to palm her children off to when the Black women weren’t available. And once she started her newsletter and the STOP ERA movement, she had a team of unpaid volunteers (women like her with children, but not necessarily with the same support networks to look after them) who she worked to the bone and treated like her minions. As depicted in the series, one of these was obviously being abused by her husband, but Schlafly’s response was for her to dismiss it and to tell the woman to stay in the marriage. Schlafly was bossy and super controlling, was always right (in her mind), and what she said was law. She saw no hypocrisy in taking the stand that a woman’s place was in the home, yet working for a living and doing few, if any, homemaking activities herself. She was anti-gay, yet one of her sons came out as gay in 1992. She was supportive of her minions and staff baking bread and pies (no doubt financed by them, not Schlafly) to bring along to ‘bribe’ officials, yet did no baking herself. She swanned around bossing everyone with her upper middle class white privilege, yet taking no responsibility for what happened in her wake. I hated her. I love how well Cate Blanchett played her (she had to be good for me to hate the character), but I was so angry that Schlafly and her tribe hijacked the ERA.

(Aside: Some names that appeared in some of the episodes are still appearing in news stories today — Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, etc.)

 





Vale Mrs M

5 06 2020

My high school biology teacher passed away earlier this week, aged 103. A pretty good innings! But what was remarkable about her was how she touched the lives of all members of my immediate family.

In the 1940s and as a single woman, she taught my dad science at the Perth high school he attended for a short time, then later she taught my mum science/biol at the country high school she attended. My parents didn’t meet until much later, and it was likely even much later they found they’d had the same teacher.

Move forward a few decades… She’d married by then so had a different surname. She was my biology teacher at high school (the same school my mum had attended) and also taught my sister a couple of years later. At some point I think my parents met her when she was my teacher and realised that she was the same person who’d taught them. The other connection was that her son was in the same biology class as me — I always wondered how weird it would be to have your mum as both your teacher and your parent!

I don’t think I ever saw her again after finishing school (though maybe she attended our 20th year reunion??). But I still remember her… and dissecting frogs in biol!

Rest in peace, Mrs M.





From little things, big things grow

2 06 2020

In this case, the title of this post reflects a tiny pinprick hole in a water pipe that resulted in a LOT of water damage in just a few hours. Who would’ve thought that such small thing would lead to repairs and remediation that took seven weeks to complete? Much of that time was drying time, but there was still a lot of work to do to get it back to normal. All this happened last October, but I haven’t written it up until now. Much of this is a record for me as to what happened and how long it took. NOTE: We work from home, so the leak would’ve only been going for a few hours before being noticed. Had we worked away from home, or been on holiday, this could have been MUCH worse.

So, what happened?

Wed 16 Oct 2019

  1. Approx 3:30pm: Discovered a large patch of wet carpet in the bedroom at the entrance to the en suite bathroom and on the other side of the wall from the walk-in-robe (WIR). Identified that the water had seeped through the wall from the WIR. The WIR ceiling had water coming down from it, via the cornices and wall, and the alarm system box above the top shelf of the WIR. The water was pooling on the top shelf of the WIR, then running down the wall that adjoins the en suite shower. The carpet in the WIR was soaked, the back wall of the WIR was soaked as were the skirting boards, and water was still running down. The carpet on the other side of the WIR was soaked, as were its skirting boards—there’s possibly damp in that wall too.

  2. Raced outside to turn off the water main as we suspected a pipe had burst in the roof space. Called the plumber to attend ASAP.
  3. Approx 4:30pm the plumber attended. He went into the roof space, and located the source of the leak, which was still running, though not as much. It was the hot water pipe from the hot water system (HWS) to the en suite shower. He got us to turn on the hot water tap in the shower to drain the rest of the water out. The cause of the leak was a very small hole/tear in the pipe. The plumber took photos, then cut the pipe and capped it as a temporary solution. The plumber identified only one insulation batt that was quite wet and removed it from the roof space; he put it in a large garbage bag and we put it in the bin.

    This pipe is only about 12 mm (half an inch) in diameter

  4. Meantime, we were running around madly trying to mop up the water from the carpet in the WIR and outside it, and remove clothes and shoes that had been wet by the leak, as well as storage boxes on the top shelf of the WIR.
  5. I emailed my handyman (away on holidays) to let him know that we would need him very soon. He gave me the contact details of a handyman friend of his (Eric).
  6. I emailed my insurance broker to let him know and ask what to do next. He told me that no insurance policy will pay for the plumbing repair, just for finding it and the damage caused by it. Go figure!
  7. I called the alarm system people to see if someone could come out to check that the alarm box and its contents had not sustained any damage.
  8. During the night, we continued to mop up water using old towels, using the washing machine to spin out the water every so often, then laying them down again to soak up more water.  We also ran a pedestal fan in the WIR to try to evaporate some of the moisture (not very successful).

Thu 17 Oct 2019

  1. I called three different carpet cleaners before I found one (Village Carpet Care, Bunbury, Western Australia) that had the equipment and knowledge to extract water from carpet in the hope of rescuing the carpet from potential mould and avoiding replacement. They came late in the afternoon. The carpet guy pulled back the carpet, cut out the wet underlay, extracted as much water as he could and left us with two floor-level fans (not heated—heated fans promote mould!) to help dry out the carpet and concrete slab. He will come back next week after everything is dry to re-lay the underlay and carpet and treat and steam clean the carpet. After the underlay was removed and the carpet peeled back, the extent of the water damage—both inside the WIR and outside it—was revealed. In addition to the carpet, the concrete slab in the WIR and outside it was wet, as was the wood holding the carpet in place, and very likely the skirting boards and wall between the WIR and the entrance to the en suite (still to see evidence of moisture—the handyman and the carpet cleaner both said it could takes weeks or even months to know the full extent of that damage). After extracting the water, peeling back the carpet, and cutting out the affected parts of the underlay, the carpet guy placed two powerful floor fans—one in the WIR (under the lifted carpet) and one at the entrance to the en suite—to dry out the carpets. We had these fans on constantly from 8am to 11pm for the next few days, and kept the windows in the bedroom and bathroom open for cross-ventilation, as well as running the exhaust fan in the WIR for those hours, and the air-conditioning. The aim was to extract as much moisture as possible from the carpets and save them from being replaced, if possible.

  2. The plumber arrived to repair the pipe. He had to gouge out and ‘chase’ the hot water pipe in the area above the shower, replace the pipe and reconnect it to the HWS piping in the roof. When finished, he cemented in the hole he’d made, leaving enough room for the handyman to patch the hole at a later date.
  3. The alarm guy came in the afternoon and checked alarm control box at top of WIR—bone dry, so no water ingress..
  4. I received an insurance claim form from the insurance broker.
  5. Meantime, we identified all clothing that had got wet and needed to be washed (including many towels) and started doing laundry to prevent the clothes from going musty/mouldy.
  6. I called Eric (the handyman) to get him to check the damage and see what needed to be done, in preparation for a quote. He found no evidence of any bubbling or bulging in skirting boards or behind paint, but he said that wasn’t uncommon at this stage and could take weeks/months to become evident. He left us an industrial floor fan (not heated) to help circulate air to remove moisture. He’ll quote me on the work needing to be done, based on this initial inspection.
  7. Approx. 24 hours after discovering the leak and after mopping up as much moisture as we could from the carpet and having the pedestal fan blowing over it for at least 18 hours, it was still quite wet both inside the WIR and on the other side of the wall near the en suite.

Sun 20 Oct 2019

Eric (handyman) came to collect his blower fan and to discuss the next steps. He will likely return the week starting 28 Oct to:

  • replace the insulation batt(s) in the roof space
  • while in the roof space, check the attachment of the WIR ceiling/cornice to see if it has been damaged and will need replacing
  • patch, paint etc. the partially repaired hole in the wall above the shower where the plumber had to replace the pipe
  • replace some or all of the top shelf in the wardrobe.

After a few weeks/months, he will come back to fix any issues with bubbling paint, water damage to cornices/walls etc. that reveal themselves over time.

Mon 21 Oct 2019

The carpet guy returned and spent several hours reinstalling the underlay and the lifted carpet, treating the carpet, then steam cleaning the carpet.

Sat 26 Oct 2019

Received partial payment of insurance claim to cover things like the carpet remediation, alarm box check, plumber exploratory work (though NOT the plumbing repair).

Tue 29 Oct 2019

Insurance assessor arrived to assess damage and compare quote from Eric to what he thought needed doing:

  • Didn’t need to see my photos—his moisture meter clearly showed that water had penetrated the walls (some readings were >80%; normal is <15%). Took readings on red wall outside WIR and wall inside en suite near cornice just outside shower stall. Did not take readings of pillar on outside wall of WIR.
  • Advised that getting the paint off ASAP and drying out the walls with a fan was necessary to prevent further damage, mould, and a long-term wait before painting etc. can occur. Indicated it could be weeks before remediation work could happen.
  • Decided that the red wall and skirting board outside the WIR weren’t showing signs of water damage and so crossed that off the quote, for insurance purposes. (Ultimately, these DID need quite a bit of repair/remediation, but weren’t an allowable claim on the insurance policy because the assessor deemed that they weren’t an issue.)
  • Said that cornice and ceiling in the WIR didn’t appear to be structurally damaged, but didn’t go into the roof space to check.

After the insurance assessor left, I contacted Eric to arrange a time for him to start prep work

Thu 31 Oct 2019

Eric did these tasks:

  • Replaced insulation batt that was removed from the roof space by the plumber
  • Removed some of the melamine shelving from WIR to allow air flow (left the shelving framework for now—it will need replacing too)
  • Scraped all paintwork from back wall of WIR and partial areas of side walls to expose the plasterwork; marked with pencil the extent of the water ingress on the side walls
  • Provided an industrial floor fan to help dry out the walls; we left this on 24 hours a day for several days, along with the exhaust fan in the WIR.

Sat 2 Nov 2019

Received final insurance payment. Didn’t pay for everything, of course.

Mon 4 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture in walls:

  • Moisture in walls in WIR down to <10%, so the fan has worked well
  • Moisture in walls on the other side of the WIR: approx. 25% on the red wall in the bedroom, and about 30% on the en suite wall, so still a way to go.

Eric’s advice: keep fans on and he’ll be back later in the week to take more measurements and plan from there.

Fri 8 Nov 2019

Plumbers here all day to replace the grey pipe in roof space with all copper. We decided to replace all plumbing inside the roof space with copper pipe—both the plumbers, the carpet guy, and the insurance assessor all said independently of each other that the grey pipe used 10–15 years ago was a bad batch. The carpet guy said he did water extraction and carpet remediation for about 300 houses a year just in the Bunbury area that had water damage from split pipes in the roof; the insurance assessor said similar, as did the plumbing company.

Mon 11 Nov 2019

  1. Eric tested moisture levels. Good in WIR, but still 20–35% on outside wall, pillar, and en suite shower wall.
  2. Eric stripped off paint in en suite to expose to fan air to dry out as much as possible.

Thu 14 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture levels.

  • Almost all are <15% in the en suite, but the pillar outside was still registering ~20–25%, so he focused the fan on that area.
  • Moisture levels in the WIR are either the same or 1–2% higher than when the fan was on them, but still under 15%, with most under 10%.

Mon 18 Nov 2019

  1. Eric tested moisture levels: Readings on pillar still over 20%, so he stripped pillar and part of red wall in bedroom and put fan onto this area. Also, put initial patch on wall above shower in en suite.
  2. Air con serviceman here because no a/c going into the sewing room. Found a piece of ductwork had been dislodged fully from the unit!!! Only possibility was the plumbing team. I emailed the plumbers to let them know. A/c guy took photos and refitted the ductwork.

Tue 19 Nov 2019

Cleaner here; asked her to do 2nd shower as we had used it when the en suite shower was out of action a month ago. She discovered there was NO water to the shower taps. Called plumbers, who discovered that those taps had never been connected when they did the copper pipework! Added a T-piece in to pipe water to those taps.

Thu 21 Nov 2019

Eric tested moisture levels—all below 10%!!! Started work on sealing the walls.

Mon 25 and Thu 28 Nov 2019

Eric did main painting on walls, fitted WIR shelf etc.

Mon 2 Dec 2019

Eric finished off almost everything, including painting the feature wall in master bedroom.

Wed 4 Dec 2019

Eric painted last coat of red wall, final touch ups. DONE.

So, 16 October to 4 December—one tiny pinprick hole that spurted water and resulted in damage that took seven weeks to get back to normal. The insurance paid about 75% of the total cost of the repairs and remediation. Additional costs were for replacing the pipework in the roof with copper—that was always going to be our expense.





Summer hailstorm

25 02 2020

Yesterday afternoon we got hit by a big summer thunderstorm—dense dark cloud, thunder, lightning… First came the rain (16 mm in about 10 mins), followed very closely by the most frightening hailstorm I’ve ever seen. Within minutes the ground was covered in what looked like snow but was hail the size of an Aussie 10 to 20c piece (about the size of a quarter for USians). The pounding on the metal roof sounded like a freight train was rolling over it. The gutters and soakwells couldn’t cope and all overflowed, creating some localised flooding and washing away part of the driveway’s blue metal. In 10 minutes it was all over and the hail started to melt—it was still 25C outside! I took some photos and videos (my first attempt at videos from my phone, so be kind) to show the ferocity of this hailstorm. And I felt really sorry for anyone out driving in this—it would have been the scariest 10 mins of their lives.

I’ve timestamped the photos and videos (to the hundredths of seconds) so you can see how quick this thing was. All the videos and most of the photos before you get to the videos were taken from inside the house—there was no way I was venturing out into that! (The videos are all less than 30 seconds each. Note: I have NO control over what videos YouTube promotes at the end of each one.)

Update: According to the weather bureau, the town 25 km from us had less than 2 mm of rain, which means this hailstorm was very localised. I’ve seen no reports of it in the media, at all.

2:52:37pm

The first hailstones

Oh, this is cool! We’ve got hail—wow!

2:52:40pm

3 seconds later - more hail

Wow, that hail is coming down quick (3 secs after first photo)

2:52:46pm

9 seconds after the first photo - the hail is coming down even more. Time to go inside as the lightning strikes seem close

9 seconds after the first photo – the hail is coming down even more. Time to go inside as the lightning strikes seem close.

2:52:55pm

18 seconds after the first photo -- now that hail is getting a little bit scary

18 seconds after the first photo — now that hail is getting a little bit scary

2:52:58pm (video)

From inside the front door, looking over the front lawn

2:53:48pm (video)

From inside the front door, looking over the front lawn

2:54:47pm (video)

From the side door, looking out over the driveway to the house across the road

2:55:26pm (video)

From the back door, looking over the back lawn and raised garden beds—the hail looks like snow

2:55:51pm (video)

The gutters and soakwells were not coping with the deluge of so much rain and hail in such a short time—this was getting a little bit scary…

2:57:11pm (video)

The soakwells were full and the water and hailstones had nowhere to go so they just pooled around on the concrete

2:57:36pm (video)

The soakwells were full and the water and hailstones had nowhere to go so they just pooled around on the concrete (apologies for the change of orientation of this video, but it shows the pooling water really well, so I didn’t want to delete it)

3:03:23pm

Five minutes later, the worst of it was over. The rain and hail stopped and I ventured outside to check for damage and to take photos. Already the ice was melting fast (it was still 25C—the temperature hadn’t dropped with the hail as usually happens), but I needed to record as much as possible in case there were damages that we needed to claim on insurance. Fortunately, I think we dodged a bullet on that! My “he’s a keeper” handyman will check the roof, gutters, solar panels etc. later this week to make sure everything is still OK.

Minor flooding on the back verandah---the water near the back lawn was about 4 cm deep, the skies had gone from dark grey to medium grey. We NEVER get water coming in past the line of the pillars.

Minor flooding on the back veranda—the water near the back lawn was about 4 cm deep, the skies had gone from dark grey to medium grey. We NEVER get water coming in past the line of the pillars.

3:03:33pm

More flooding at the back veranda. The ice is disappearing fast.

More flooding at the back veranda. The ice is disappearing fast.

3:03:40pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:03:49pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:04:03pm

This soakwell just couldn't cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

This soakwell just couldn’t cope with the deluge, so the water and hailstones pooled there for several minutes. The water here was about 6 cm deep.

3:04:55pm

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out.

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out.

3:05:19pm

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out. Steam was coming off the metal roof and the land as the sun started to work its magic.

15 minutes after it started, it was all over. All the hail was melting fast and the sun was out. Steam was coming off the metal roof and the land as the sun started to work its magic.

3:05:32pm

Some small pockets of hail took longer to melt than others

Some small pockets of hail took longer to melt than others

3:04:45pm

Side year. Hail is melting fast.

Side year. Hail is melting fast.

3:06:43pm

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went

3:06:50pm

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went, creating big gouges and carrying the blue metal to the lowest point (the kerb in the picture is about 10-15cm deep)

The water sloughing off the land and the gardens had to go somewhere, so down the driveway it went, creating big gouges and carrying the blue metal to the lowest point (the kerb in the picture is about 10-15cm deep)

 

A day later, and the lawns and gardens are positively SMILING with relief at getting some rain. We haven’t had rain for months, so even though this was scary, the benefit to the garden is immense.





I have called her ‘Christine’

23 01 2020

Warning—long!

I bought my current car (2008 model) in 2012 from my parents when they upgraded to an SUV around the time my Dad had a hip replacement and needed a car that was easier to get into and out of. It’s served me well and has given me almost no bother (except a couple of small light globes going out) in the 9 years I’ve had it. Until now. Now I think she’s slightly possessed, so I’ve called her ‘Christine’.

It all started when I went on a quilting retreat at the beginning of this month. This retreat is some 3 hours’ drive from where I live. I parked my car in their car park and except for the first night when I drove it into town, didn’t go near the car the four days I was there. When I went to pack the car at 6am to leave later that morning, I couldn’t open the car with the key fob. Nothing. My first thought was the battery in the key fob was dead, or the car battery was dead. I remembered there was an emergency key in the fob, so pulled that out and opened the driver’s door. I put my fob in the ignition and turned it on. Nothing. Not even the ‘whrr’ sound of a dead battery.

At 7am I called the RAC (I’m a member, but as I found out, not a ‘high enough’ member, despite some <mumble> decades since I joined at age 17). They said someone from a nearby country town would be out in about 90 minutes. Two hours later and no-one had arrived, so I called them again. They told me the guy was sick and couldn’t come until at least the afternoon, but I could pay an extra $130 for someone to come from another town, and it would be another 2 hours at least before they got there (where I was staying is only an hour from Perth, so these times seemed a bit odd). I said I’d wait for the local guy, but in the meantime would call my dealership.

I described the symptoms to the service manager, and she said it may not be battery at all, but possibly the steering system, in which case a battery recharge from the RAC may not even work, and if it did, I’d have to drive straight to the dealership with NO stops along the way. So now the question was how to get the car to the dealership (remember, it’s 3 hours’ drive away) so they could assess it. Yes, there are some dealerships in Perth, but then I’d still have to get the car to Perth and then collect it from Perth at a later date. Having it local was really the only way to go.

Back on the phone to the RAC to change my request from roadside assistance (for a battery kickstart) to towing. The RAC person was most helpful and gave me quotes for getting the car to Perth (around $300) and to the dealership close to home ($800). And told me that my membership level meant I was only eligible for a free tow in the Perth metro area for up to 80 km round trip. (One reason I haven’t gone to a higher level is their restriction on towing to the metro area only—it’s useless if you’re outside Perth). My service manager said if I got the car to the dealership in Perth, then they could get it from there for $160 on a car carrier, for a total of around $460. But all this was a lot of running around and having to be picked up by my other half (OH), who already had a 6-hour round trip in front of him to collect me from the retreat location. Extra trips back and forth to Perth weren’t really practical.

Did I mention that phone reception at the retreat is poor, which meant going outside to make/take calls, and it was 42C that day, and I was in semi-panic mode?

I bit the bullet and decided to go with the tow direct to my local dealership. The towing guy from the nearby town called me shortly after and we got that all sorted—he would pick up the car the next morning (it was already 1:30pm by now and too late for him to get it to the dealership before they closed). I waited for my OH to get to me (that was an exercise in itself, as he’d never been there before), and we drove back home.

Next day, my car got delivered to the dealership by noon, and the service manager called me later that afternoon to say it was ready to pick up the next day. The steering system wasn’t at fault (thank goodness as that would’ve cost an arm and a leg), but the battery was severely compromised and they had to put their super-duper charger on it to get any response. They were all gobsmacked that the battery was dated 2008, and was the original one! It lasted 12 years, which was amazing. They replaced the old battery with a new one, and I drove the car home.

The service manager also told me that someone had very slightly touched my car’s front bumper with theirs and that the dealership would pay for it to be repainted. She showed me the damage, and it was a minor paint scrape at worst. But she insisted that they would get it fixed for me and we arranged for me to bring the car in the following Wednesday afternoon. I went about my normal business, going to the shops on Friday and again on Monday, with nothing untoward.

Late Tuesday afternoon, my OH went into the garage to get some drinks from the fridge and didn’t turn on the light. This was a blessing in hindsight, as he noticed that my car’s right rear tail light was reflecting back from the closed garage door. He called me and we noticed that the front right parking light was also on. I locked the car, unlocked it, relocked it, but no matter what I did those lights would come back on and start flashing intermittently. The service department at the dealership was about to close for the day, so I called the service manager right away. She got me to try some stuff with the headlamp switch but that made no difference, so she said to bring the car in straight away and hand it off to one of the other staff. Fortunately, she had a loan car available for me, so I was able to get home. Remember, I’d already booked the car in to go to the panel shop late Wednesday.

On Wednesday she called and said they were able to get the car into the panel shop right then, and had figured out that the light controller was faulting, causing the brand new battery to drain. After it had been to the panel shop, they got it back to the dealership, and had to wait on a replacement light controller part to arrive from Melbourne (by air to Perth, then road to the dealership some 2 hours’ south of Perth). Once they got that all installed and recharged the battery, I went back in to pay yet another bill (ugh!) and pick up my car on the Thursday.

You’d think that would be the end of it, but not quite yet…

Either later that day or the next day, I decided to put all my stuff back into the car that I’d taken out when it went in to the dealership for the panel work etc. (maps, phone chargers etc.). One of the things I do is keep a mini pack of tissues under a flap in the dashboard where there’s a screen for the audio system etc. I rarely open this flap, and have only done so when I’ve been driving. This is significant. I repack my car with the bits and bobs, including the tissues, then close the car and lock it. The keys are in my hand, and this is a 2008 car, so there’s no ‘talking’ between the fob and the car as there is on more recent vehicles. I turn to go back into the house when I hear music. And it’s coming from inside the car! The CD (yes, this is an older car) that was playing when I last drove it, is now playing again. OK, so that’s weird. And creepy! I call my OH, and we try various things—start the car and move it out of the garage then back in again to see what happens, then turn it off. All is OK. Then I explain to him what I did when I repacked the car, moving the flap open as I do so (the car is off at this point). I lock the car and turn away and the CD starts playing again! At this point, the car becomes ‘Christine’!!!

I call the dealership in a panic fearing that the entire electrical system is out to get me. The assistant service manager answers (my main person is out). She has no idea what’s happening either, so I tell her I’m bringing it in to be checked. Off we go, me in my ‘Christine’ and my OH in his car. I get to the dealership and the service manager is back—she knows exactly what it is, as it happened to her in a similar model car just the day before. It seems if you open the screen flap when the car is off, the auxiliary entertainment system comes on—this allows a passenger waiting in the car to listen to music etc. when the driver is away and has the key fob. And it’s ‘by design’. Who knew?? Certainly not me, even after 9 years owning the car, and when I asked my Dad about it, he said he never knew either. So that was a wasted hour-long round trip for the two of us, but at least we knew the car wasn’t possessed!

While I write this, she’s being a good girl in the garage—no disco lights and music. I’m still calling her ‘Christine’ though.





Ducks… and snake

16 11 2019

We’ve been in this house for nearly 10 years. In that time, I’ve seen plenty of Australian Wood Ducks (aka Maned Geese) when I’ve driven to and from town — they tend to live near the water courses on the low-lying land close to the estuary. And I’ve seen maybe three snakes (likely dugites) in 10 years crossing the road on that same drive.

So imagine my surprise when a family of wood ducks wandered across our front lawn a couple of weeks ago! We’re up a hill at least 200 m from a natural water course, and we’ve never seen adults here, let alone adults with seven babies!

Then just two days ago, something caught my eye outside the office window at the front of the house — it was a snake, likely a young adult dugite. It slithered across the concrete pad, took in some shade behind the portico pillar near the front door, then slithered over the lawn and over the retaining wall beyond, then disappeared. The previous owners of the house (who built it) said they’d seen three snakes in the garden/around the house in the three years they were here, but in our 10 years, I’ve never seen one. Until now.





Trying something different

28 10 2019

I purchased a Bluprint (ex-Craftsy) class the other day when it was on sale. And decided to watch part of it yesterday and tackle the techniques shown. The class was ‘Step-by-step Photorealistic Colored Pencil Portraits’ by Karen Hull (an Aussie!). I certainly didn’t have all the materials she used, and only had drawing paper (she uses matt or bristol board), but I did have a set of standard (i.e. not watercolour) coloured pencils that I hoped had enough range of colours to do things such as skin tones. I’m a couple of chapters in, and have already made inroads into the first eye and cheek area (with freckles!).

Progress so far:

And I’m finished:

Here’s the original photo I worked from:





Can’t delete my OLA account

21 10 2019

Did you know you can’t delete an OLA account???? (OLA is a ride-share service in Australia/NZ [elsewhere?]; it’s like Uber but the drivers supposedly get a better cut.) (see Update dated 23 Oct below—it looks like you can do so now)

I signed up when I was in NZ, but there’s no way to delete your account if you no longer need it. Not only does OLA have my personal contact details, it also has my credit card info.

You can’t delete your account through the app, and Googling the issue told me that the only way to get deleted or ‘blocked’ was to send OLA an email (support@olacabs.com). I sent an email on 8 Oct, another on 12 Oct, and got nothing except a ‘we’re working on it’ reply. I tried again today (this time sending the email to care.australia@olacabs.com). I got another automated reply, followed by this a few minutes later:

“We would like to inform you that we cannot delete the driver’s information due to rules related to record-keeping. At this stage, we need to preserve the information and this overrides any general privacy law considerations. So do not worry as we keep the data with high safety.

We understand that this is not a resolution that you were hoping but we hope you will be able to understand our limitations in the matter and not take this as a representation of our services.”

So drivers’ info/OLA recordkeeping trumps a customer’s right to delete their account?

I responded asking for my account to be blocked, and got this (unedited):

“We can understand your worries about your account. We would like to inform you that your account will intact as it was but as you are not using it .So keep it in a safe way. We can understand that you are concern about the account but it is totally in safe hand.”

To say I’m not happy would be an understatement. I’ll now look into reporting the company to my state’s consumer affairs department or the ACCC.

Update 22 Oct 2019: After more emails with OLA support personnel, finally someone told me how to delete my credit card from the app, which was my main concern. If you need to do this:

  1. Log in to the OLA app.
  2. Under the menu, tap Payments.
  3. Tap on the credit card you want to delete.
  4. Tap the trash icon.
  5. Tap Delete.

Your account isn’t deleted (their latest email says: “we want to inform you that according to the Ola policy you have taken rides with us, deletion of your Ola account is not possible.”), but your credit card details are.

Update 23 Oct 2019: I fiddled around in the OLA settings looking to put in a temporary email account. Instead, I found a way to delete my account—I swear this wasn’t there a week or so ago! Now, whether it will actually get deleted or not, I don’t know, but when I tried to go into the app after ‘deleting’ it, it asked me to sign up, so here’s hoping. Here’s how I did it:

  1. Open the OLA app on my phone.
  2. Under the menu, tap on My Profile.
  3. Tap Data and Privacy.
  4. Tap Manage your data.
  5. Tap Delete your account.
  6. You get information about what will happen next—essentially, they don’t delete your account immediately. Instead, they deactivate it for 30 days, during which time you can sign back in. At the end of the 30 days, your account is meant to be deleted.
  7. Tap Delete my account.
  8. Confirm the deletion.

I then got an error message (‘auth failed’ or something like that). I closed the OLA app, then reopened, at which point I was asked to sign up again, and offering to sign me up with my previous credentials. So it looks like my account is now deactivated. I’ll set a reminder to check again in 30 days…