The perfect, durable, compact umbrella

Melbourne’s rainy season is upon us. It’s been a few years since my blog post about good strong compact umbrellas, so here’s a quick update.

A good umbrella is vital for a dedicated walking/PT person.

The brief: an umbrella that, folded, can fit in my work bag (eg a maximum length of about 35cm) and go anywhere. And — this is the hard bit — as durable as possible. Foldable umbrellas tend not to be made of the strongest material due to compactness, and what I don’t want is it falling apart when caught in the rain.

Broken umbrella (happily, not mine)

Senz

I did buy a Senz Mini. It went well for a while, but then part of it got bent out of shape, and it wouldn’t close properly. It was replaced under warranty. I had also bought Marita a Senz Mini. It lasted a bit longer (out of the warranty period!), but she had some similar problems with it.

Then I lost mine… and bought a newer model, the Senz Mini AO (the acronym standing for Auto Open, not Adults Only). So far, that has been fine. I wouldn’t be surprised if they have upgraded the parts we had issues with.

In fact the Senz AO has subsequently been replaced by the Senz Automatic and the Senz Smart S (a budget version).

As with all the Senz models, the shape of it (with the handle set forward, rather than in the middle) means good coverage, even for a relatively small design.

And when folded, it’s very compact; about 28cm long. It’ll stick out, but can go into a pocket.

Blunt

When M’s Senz was becoming too problematic, I bought her a Blunt XS Metro to replace it.

Feedback from her and others suggests there are pros and cons here; in comparison with the Senz foldable umbrellas the coverage is less, and the folding mechanism isn’t as compact, meaning when not being used it may not fit in some bags.

But the Blunt models do seem to be constructed to a high standard, making them very durable.

There’s also a variant of this one: the Blunt XS Metro + Tile, which has a Tile inside it, a chip designed to prevent it being lost. When activated it can play a tune so you can find it. It can also tell you via the app where you last saw it (I’m guessing this simply tells you where you were when your phone was last in range of it). It might help you find it if lost somewhere static. Not sure it’d help if (like I did) you leave it on a train.

Is there a perfect compact umbrella?

Comparing the Blunt XS Metro (A$89) vs the Senz Automatic (not even sure of the current cost, as they are so hard to find):

  • The Blunt looks like it is tougher (fibreglass ribs vs the Senz’s aluminium and steel).
  • But the Senz is more compact when folded (Senz 28cm vs Blunt 36.5cm, and while the canopy is slightly smaller, the shape and handle position provides better rain protection.

Surfing around the net I did find this: the Gustbuster Metro (A$64) got a good review. This Metafilter thread also has some suggestions.

Has Choice reviewed umbrellas? Judging from their web site and their paper magazine index, apparently not.

Anybody know some other contenders for the perfect, durable, compact umbrella?

Just do us all a favour: don’t bring out the golf umbrellas on busy city streets. They belong on the golf course.

Stamps going up to $1

What can you buy for $1?

You certainly can’t buy a newspaper. The Herald Sun costs $1.40 on weekdays; The Age costs $2.50; The Australian is $2.70.

So I’m finding it difficult to be too outraged at standard stamps going up to $1. In fact this letter in Saturday’s Age perfectly sums up how I feel about it:

For $1, I can send a letter from the most out-of-the-way PO in the local store in Victoria for delivery to the most remote location in the Kimberley. What else can I buy for $1? Not much. Can a competitor deliver a letter from one side of Sunbury to the other for $1? No. People still use mail when it is the appropriate method. We long ago switched to fax then email where appropriate, including because they are cheaper and quicker. The price increase from hardly anything to not much will not change most decisions. Please, public, stop complaining about this trivial price increase.

Don Hampshire, Sunbury

70 cent stamps, 2015

Granted, it’s a jump from the old price of 70 cents.

Notably, concession stamps are available for concession card holders — up to 50 per year, at 60 cents each, so hopefully those on lower incomes (including seniors) who still send a lot of letters won’t feel a huge impact.

But for most of us, technology means regular letters are just not something we send as often as we used to. I still send a few Christmas cards in December, but I probably receive more parcels (via online shopping) than I send letters.

On the occasion that I do send letters, a dollar (or even $1.50 for “Priority”) for transporting physical paper, whether it’s across the city or across the country, still feels like a bargain to me.

How long does a dishwasher last?

Just on five years ago my dishwasher door spring broke. In that instance a secondary fault also affected the actual washing of dishes.

Now another door spring has broken. It hasn’t affected the washing – it’s just the door is heavy, and needs to be opened very carefully.

Dishwasher

Repair from Fisher And Paykel is expected to cost $135 for a call-out fee, excluding parts. I actually have the second spring from the pack from last time. I had a look at instructions on the internet to do it myself, and got through the first stage, but after that it looks too hard; I’d risk rendering the machine inoperable.

Given this unit is probably at least 15 years old (I moved in 10 years ago, and the kitchen renovation looks to have been a few years before that, though the house also had some renovation in 1995), I’m wondering what the typical life of a dish washer typically would be.

$135 to repair (if I don’t want a heavy door), or perhaps $900ish for a decent, brand new unit? (I’ve had good luck with Bosch products, and they have several models in that range). Hmmm.

How hard is it to install a dishwasher, anyway? Just connect up power and a couple of pipes? Sounds like it may be worth paying a little extra for installation.

On the other hand, the current one works fine, and it would seem to be a waste to scrap it in favour of a new one.

Investments

Sorry, few updates this week due to general busy-ness and a web hosting issue that prevented posting.

Last year I dipped my toe in the sharemarket: I bought shares in Xero, the cloud accounting service.

They were about $25 at the time. Since then they have dropped in price by about half.

Xero share price, last 2 years

If only I’d bought them back when I got a tip-off to do so, when they were at about $6. Oh well, I didn’t put too much in, and I knew it was a gamble.

Meanwhile I noticed this story: Lego a ‘better investment than shares and gold’

Apparently I should have bought Lego, not Xero.

The ABC Shops to close

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My first recollection of the ABC Shop in Melbourne was a small space in their then Lonsdale Street radio HQ, which was where the County Court is now — on the corner of Queen Street.

I think it’s where I got the 1983 Doctor Who 20th Anniversary Special book (a local reprint of a UK Radio Times publication), as well as the Doctor Who Technical Manual (in hardback no less) – both still in our family.

Later on they were in the Galleria (in bottom of the gigantic State Bank, later Commonwealth Bank building at Elizabeth/Bourke Streets), and at times I bought Monty Python VHS tapes, DAAS Book (which I got autographed at the shop by the Doug Anthonys… since sold on eBay) and lots more Doctor Who merchandise, of course. This includes a bunch of laminated posters of paintings from renowned franchise artist Andrew Skilleter, one that also marked the 20th anniversary story (The Five Doctors) — which eldest son Isaac has since had autographed by Fifth Doctor Peter Davison — at an ABC Shop, of course.

Doctor Who 20th anniversary poster

Since then the Melbourne CBD shop has moved to the GPO, then more recently to Emporium. And meanwhile they’ve popped up in most big shopping centres.

We still love browsing, and occasionally buying there. The selection of DVDs is more focussed than somewhere like JB Hifi, and the range of other merchandise is good. (Have you seen the amount of Doctor Who stuff that’s available nowadays?!)

Admittedly I browse more than I buy, but purchasable gems still abound… in March I found this excellent documentary:

So it’s sad to hear all ABC Shops will be closing in the next year or two.

I’ll miss them.

Online will continue, but it won’t be the same.

PS. Trivia: before the recent crop of Doctor Who pop-up shops, there used to be a BBC Shop. Okay, it wasn’t a standalone shop, but a dedicated section of Thomas’s Music on the ground floor of the Southern Cross hotel building.