Some of you may recall this announcement in March 2020: “Purchased Vodafone Pocket WiFi today. Just getting used to it. Some may find it ironic that it is a Huawei product!”

And here is the beast:

Generally speaking I have been happy with it, despite occasional glitches. It has suited my needs. One major incident involving a defective SIM card was resolved with some marathon phone calls to India!

That was in August 2021 and I chronicled it on Facebook:

One hour of conversations over the past two days with 3 lovely people in India — two of whom I kept having to say “slow down” because we people in Wollongong talk slowly — and Vodafone came good at last! Mind you, it was their defective sim card that caused the problem in the first place… As one lovely person in India admitted when I told him I was about to dump them and go with Telstra!

That has not been a problem since though the service did have to get a new number. The new SIM card I could buy at the local servo in West Wollongong!

Now meet my phone:

Back in June 2021 I said on Facebook:

Telstra’s nice little earner.

Now as an old fogey I am a smart phone resister. My dumb phone does all I need, and I have a laptop and internet access for everything else — and a blog. So I am not a total technophobe.

Government and others discriminate against me all the time of course, as they seem hand in glove with the sellers of smartphones. My dumb phone will not download QR codes or apps, you see. But it does take and send messages, make calls and tell me the time.

Also I have never had a contract. Pay as you go suited me, even more so when I could top up online. Now Telstra — who obviously want me to buy a smartphone and get a contract — have made this difficult by not sending bills and changing the BPay number without letting me know what the new one is.

So I get a message yesterday telling me to pay my widow’s mite for the upcoming month or else they will keep all the money that is sitting in my account — enough I might say that I could if I liked talk to Sirdan in NZ all day.

And it is MY money, not theirs!

So today I go into the Telstra shop first thing. Last month I actually said to the lovely girl who took my money — “This is a nice little earner Telstra has, eh! Not that I expect you to comment…” She did smile sympathetically. And I kept my money, adding a little to it….

I have since worked out how to do the Telstra thing online so that problem was resolved — but next year Telstra is closing their 3G network so then I will need a smart phone. They are all conspiring to make them necessary!

Including Vodafone of course. Their current scheme involves how one logs onto their site, which of course I do quite frequently to check usage or to prepay my internet. Works a treat really.

In recent times they have instituted two-step log in for greater security. Fine, You could opt either to get an SMS link on your phone or an email link — on my laptop in my case. Woolies every now and again does two-step but in their case the SMS they send is not a link but 3 digits that you enter in the appropriate box on their log-in page. No worries. Vodafone do not do that. You just get a link.

Trouble is my dumb phone will not let you click links — or copy them — in SMS messages. A good thing in a way as those scam SMS’s are thus rendered harmless.

The other trouble is that during August Vodafone are making their security log in SMS only! Which I cannot use.

So I have prepaid enough to cover most of August while I consider my options which include: get a smart phone and learn how to use it and/or change my internet connection. All of which I explained yesterday in Facebook Messenger to an actual human at Vodafone Australia, who was both helpful and a canny sales person. For example:

What phone are you currently using, Neil? You may be able to open the link by copying and pasting it into a web browser on your phone. Having a smartphone will open up a world of opportunities and is becoming more and more essential these days! We’ll be here to help out if you’d like to look at upgrading your phone 🙂

On seeing my “dumb phone”:

What a beauty! It may be sad to say goodbye but we’d suggest an upgrade to help with those link problems. We have some amazing deals on our phones at the moment, if you’d like to bring your number over to us we can help set you up with our best phone and plan deals to suit your needs 🙂

And finally:

Check out the oppo A16s when you pop into store. It’s just $2 a month when you sign up to one of our plans. We’ll have you Snapchatting in no time 📸😄

I see Woolies has them too! Interesting.

My niece Christine Parkes commented on FB:

Think of it as a new adventure. You will have a phone, camera and computer in your pocket.

An absolutely fabulous invention one in which you will have a lot of fun.

So if you have to change over I’m sure you will be fine 😊

These things gained my attention in the last day or two — our changing world!

Given our Prime Minister’s embarrassing performance on Joe Biden’s climate summit our government seems to have retreated to some kind of bubble….

OK, #1:

With that in mind, #2 is particularly impressive — indeed dramatic. When I showed it to Colin MacD at Illawarra Leagues yesterday he too was amazed. Are you?

Data from the World Bank. Animation made in Brazil — hence the title in Portuguese.

Then I wondered:

There was an impressive feature on the following on ABC News Breakfast this morning — on the world chip shortage. Silicon chips, that is. An earlier version of the story.

The current shortage highlights the fragility of this system and how easily production can be slowed by, say, a freak snowstorm.

The cold snap in Texas last month saw electricity shortages, which led to Samsung halting production at its Austin chip foundry.

Meanwhile, a drought in Taiwan (where the largest producer, TSMC, is based) has dried up manufacturers’ reservoirs.

A single computer chip requires up to 8,000 litres of water to produce, and the big foundries use thousands of tonnes a day. 

Dreaming, blogging — and an impressive fellow-blogger

I don’t usually remember my dreams, but I slept later than usual this morning and consequently remember a bit of the dream I woke from. Chronology, setting and character have rules of their own in dreams, so it is unsurprising that this one was set during World War 1 in Glebe in an Alexandra Road house I once really lived in, but 1978-9, not 1914. Michael Xu was there too, which is pretty unlikely. The nearby Chinese temple does not feature. I was in uniform and setting off to join the war… And that is pretty much it!


Glebe: Sze Yup Temple

That’s not a bad segue into the next bit — the impressive fellow-blogger. (The note on this blog can wait.)  I refer to Russell Darnley OAM, who is also a former colleague from Sydney Boys High where, in the early 2000s, he was in Social Science (Economics, Geography) while I was English/ESL. Here he is today, literally, looking much better  preserved than I do.


He currently lives in Singapore. The Order of Australia Medal came from his efforts in Bali after the tragedy of the first Bali  bombings of 12 October, 2002.  Many more details of Russell’s life — and why he is also Maximos — may be found on his blog.

Aside from the fact he has said nice things on Twitter about some of my posts, including yesterday’s — and I am coming to that — it is a major book (five stars in Goodreads) he has written that got my attention yesterday because of the following video which I had not seen before.

There is a section of the blog devoted to it.

Australian engagement with Asia and Melanesia spans a vast time. Aboriginal Australians are descendants of a diverse group of people who journeyed through the region at the very dawn of human awareness. Western historians have sometimes been reticent in their willingness to accept the evidence of a long and varied Aboriginal contact with the regions to our north, but time will reveal more of its extent.  Such ancient occupance is already clearly inferred in such things as the rock art sites of Arnhemland and the ancient trade in intellectual property manifest in the emergence of the dugout canoe. Their presence and custodianship is everywhere present and their customary land rights affirmed and undeniable. They are the very foundation of modern Australia.

Those Australians, and their descendants, who have arrived since 1778, at first largely of European heritage, have completed a far shorter journey. Some still must return to the lands of their origins to make sense of their place in the world. Many continue to look directly to Europe, but as a quest for identity, this is as if through a glass darkly, a glass full of the muddied waters of a self that, in a sense, belongs elsewhere but is now grounded in Australia. Such quests can serve to obscure the subtle yet compelling forces that shape us and offer us new meanings of self, here in our region….

My own time in Asia and Melanesia has had a significant impact on the way I see the world.  It has brought me into contact with the practices of the region’s primal religions and also the more recent expressions of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. It has allowed me to step outside Western paradigms. From this place and subsequent encounters with Egypt, Turkey and finally Greece, I have found my way to Orthodox Christianity and a point in life where I’ve come to acknowledge that the mystery of creation cannot be fully expressed with the tools of western scientism.

Perhaps the following two quotations sum up best where I stand in my approach to this body of work.

. . . there is an invisible dimension to all things visible, and a beyond to everything material.  All creation is a palpable mystery, an immense incarnation of cosmic proportions. [1]

All things worth knowing about the world, in fact, came in incompatible pairs: position and momentum, energy and time, wave and particle.  Knowledge of one somehow destroyed the possibility of knowing the other. [2]….

There is another sense in which I’ve used the unseen world, this is its application in the political domain.  During the Howard years, and central to the Howard Doctrine, were several basic beliefs that could only be held as reality if one was to completely ignore the elephants in the room.

For me the Howard Doctrine rapidly unravelled post Bali Bombing.  This was a period in which any last challenge that it might have presented to my sense of reality was totally dispelled.  My own involvement in the relief effort following the bombing of October 2002, was a watershed experience.  Ironically it crystallized much of this work in my mind.  Such was the impact of the bombing that I’ve written two pieces on that time and one set in the immediate aftermath.

I begin this journey in 1914 with the story Sid Thompson and D Company the story of a little known Australian Naval and Military Expeditionary Force (ANMEF).  This was the first Australian force to engage the enemy during WWI, undertaking landings in the Bismarck Archipelago.  I’ve concluded this part of the journey with a work Headland that reappraises sacred space in Australia.

So happens that my father’s cousin, Norman Whitfield, was part of that same Expeditionary Force, later going on to service in Gallipoli and the Western Front where he earned a Military Cross and Bar.

I really commend Russell’s work to you. There is also a volume of short stories.

Now to  this blog which did by its standards quite well yesterday. Here is where viewers came from:

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I usually have a fair number of US readers, including one or two regulars who quite often hit the “like” button. Not yesterday though. Their usual form suggests they would not have been over-offended by what I said about Donald Trump.

I am wondering if it what I said about Norman Vincent Peale and The Power of Positive Thinking — and incidentally there is a clear link between Peale and the Trump family. Could it be that is a hot button issue in the American psyche? Mind you, two truly great American writers — Scott Fitzgerald and Arthur Miller — were the reason I renamed the phenomenon the Gatsby Disease or the Willy Loman Syndrome.


Really another post about my ongoing senescence

Or Google, which is apparently 20 years old! Mind you that puts it around eighteen months ahead of my own getting on the Internet, which still terrified me twenty years ago, though I had by then mastered a Brother Word Processor in pseudo laptop form. I do recall that in my early Internet days — dial-up of course — there were heaps of search engines. My colleague Tony Hannon was an early advocate of Google as the pick of the crop, and it still is. Bing doesn’t really cut it, does it?

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Happens that twenty years ago I was in the last term of my Graduate Certificate TESOL at UTS, part of which was with this man. He much praised my work too: see Looking back 20 years: the Japanese surfer. I was doing the Grad Cert — it has a longer name these days — because my work increasingly between 1996 and 2005 centred on ESL at Sydney Boys High. I liked the impressive row of letters in the staff directory too — this one from 2002:

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But 20 years! I can’t believe it! And I felt old then, being back at — but enjoying — university. Thanks too to M who made it all possible at the time by enabling me to avoid a HECS debt.