I went to the RTA today, because I’ve been living in NSW for ever so slightly under three months, no more than that, please don’t fine me.

“I don’t know the first issue date of my Victorian licence,” I said.

“Just make something up,” she said.(*)

So I did. And it went through the system. Note to people getting their Victorian licences converted to NSW ones: make up a first issue date and then you won’t have to pay $8.50 for the letter! But don’t tell the RTA!

For eye tests they have a cunning setup where you look into a mirror suspended above the desk and the RTA person opens a cupboard under the desk and the eye chart is reflected in the mirror. It’s really cool. I want one to go with my box of lenses.

“Can you read the fifth line from the top?” she asked.

“I can read the bottom line!” I said.

“That’s the same as the fifth line from the top,” she said, shattering my illusions. But I read it anyway and was rewarded with the removal of the S of shame from my licence. (Not the S of my middle name, though.)

Another note for people getting their NSW licence: as with passports you’re not allowed to smile in your photo. Knowing this will make you want to smile when they take your photo. Also, you can’t have floppy emo hair or anything in your face (although heavy-duty concealer to hide dark circles appears to be OK). Unlike a passport, if you make a mistake on your form you don’t have to go and stand in the naughty corner while you think about what you’ve done.

So now I have a shiny piece of plastic with my current address on! Now I can join one of these new-fangled video libraries. I think there’s still one in Wingham.


(*) Actually she said “do you know approximately when it was? Just put down the month and year”, and then she said “put the 8th for the date, go on”. Don’t tell the RTA.

I am a miracle of modern science

So last week I went to get my eyes tested, since it’s been three years since the last time. I’ve had glasses since approximately age 4 (this is what happens when you start teaching your children to read before they can talk) and I’ve always loved getting my eyes tested. I want to go to an optometrist’s closing down sale and get an eye testing machine of my own, or at least one of those cool boxes full of lenses. (If you’ve never had your eyes tested you are seriously missing out.)

The optometrist’s assistant sat me down in front of this machine that looked a bit like a printer and made lovely futuristic noises, and balloons suddenly appeared before my eyes as I peered through the viewfinder.

“Is that it?” I thought, disappointed. But it was just a preliminary thing to give the optometrist an idea of what my eyes were like. Of course she could have just looked at my prescription, but that’s not nearly as futuristic and involves many fewer balloons.

I went into the room with all the cool machines and sat down in the comfy chair and read various lines on the eye chart (and might I say they could do with a better font, it was hard enough to distinguish P and F even when I could see the line clearly), and went over to the other machine so I could have air blown in my eyes (twice, because I’m a flincher), and then came my very favourite part of the eye test – the bit where you have to look at the optometrist’s ear while she shines a bright light in your face and you can see all the little veins in your cornea.

This time the optometrist looked worried.

“You have a big ulcer on your cornea,” she said. I’d had an optometrist notice this before so it wasn’t a shock.

“The cornea has the largest concentration of nerve endings in the body,” she continued.

This is also good information to have.

“You really ought to be screaming in agony right now.”

I guess I could try?

So some incident in the past that I can’t recall has given me an active ulcerated scar on my cornea, about 5-7mm across, a sort of oval shape, just below the pigmentation line and out of my field of vision. You can see it if you look closely, and if I could get my macro lens to cooperate, I could take a decent picture. And the size of it means I should be in extreme agony. The words “vomiting from pain” and “verge of hospitalisation” were used. Sadly this has not got me out of a single night’s washing up duty.

On the bright side (well, semi-bright side, since it’s going to cost) my weaker eye has improved to the point where it’s on par with my good eye, although there’s a bit of astigmatism so it’s still my less good eye. I’ve been getting around without my glasses on quite frequently (when I don’t need to drive a car, anyway; I’m short-sighted so I don’t need them for reading, and my camera has auto-focus) and my inner 14-year-old wants all the cheap $2-store sunglasses that I could never wear when I was an outer 14-year-old. Enormous polarised mirror wraparound cat’s-eye sunnies, here I come!

35-70mm macro lens

I love op shops.

In January I wandered into my local Vinnies (actually my local Vinnies is in Wingham; this was the Taree one. But close enough) and idly perused the front display cabinet, to see (among other things) a camera case. “Ooh! I need a camera case,” I thought. And this one had the enticing words “Canon EOS” and “Working”, not to mention “$10″.

So I had a look.

The EOS in question was a film camera with a 35-70mm lens on it, which looked like it would fit my beloved EOS 600D. Fortunately I carry my camera around almost everywhere with me, and the lovely Vinnies staff were quite happy for me to try out the new lens. It fit, but there was some kind of issue with the connection, so they knocked $2 off the price and said I could bring it back if it didn’t work. Did I mention I love op shops?

I cleaned the connections about 100 times (estimated) with isopropyl alcohol and an eraser, and managed to get it working at the widest aperture. I could then increase the aperture value, except for the random occasions when the camera would chuck a hissy and refuse to recognise it.

Then one day I looked through the viewfinder and everything was very dark. Unfortunately I was out in nature at the time and didn’t have another lens (I don’t have a proper camera bag and I’ve spent the past few months with only one working lens anyway, so I’m not used to carrying a lot of kit). Back at home I investigated and found the aperture blades were stuck on what I estimate to be about f/22. Judicious whacking and use of the depth of field preview didn’t help (and the camera sooked out when I tried using anything other than the widest possible aperture anyway) so I put the lens aside to be used only in very bright conditions.

Then I discovered that on some lenses you can remove the front element and get a macro lens. This was relevant to my interests. I spent many fruitless hours trying to find a tutorial or at least a set of pictures for the 35-70mm, but all I could find was “here is a detailed description on how to take your 28-80mm lens apart, and btw it works for 35-70mm also”. So I dithered. And dithered. And then there came a day when I was in a bad mood and felt like taking things apart, so I took it apart. And shamefully I forgot to take photos of the process.*

But it worked!

The focal length is about an inch, which is really fun when you’re trying to sneak up on bees, and there’s no autofocus; apparently the front element has three lenses in it, and if you remove the outer two and put back the inner one then you can get autofocus, but I haven’t tried that. For now I’m having fun (for some values of “fun”) improving my manual focusing skills.

Here’s one I prepared earlier:

A picture of a plastic ruler taken with my macro lens.

I love my macro lens <3

I still don’t know if the film camera works…

(*) There’s a grub screw on the side; I’m not sure if it’s an actual screw and mine was stripped, or if it’s just a plug, but I ended up pushing mine into the lens body. This allowed me to unscrew the front plate. Then you have to do some other stuff that I can’t remember because I was in a bad mood and didn’t document it, and the lens surround doesn’t come out of the lens but it does pivot, and you then have to undo three screws and the front element will screw out and you can ease it past the pivotty bit if you’re careful. If you put it somewhere safe you can undo the process. Hope this helps!