Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Figs and Pomegranates

This morning I returned the computers to Castlereagh School all set up ready to go. The IT lady there had made an urgent trip to Malaysia to be with her dying sister. Her sister is dying of lung cancer. She has never smoked!
As I returned home I drove past Bibra Lake and noticed a woman harvesting pomegranates from a large tree near the lake. I have a friend who has prostate cancer and he has been taking a pomegranate drink which is believed to slow the progress of the disease. The drink he has been taking comes from the U.S. and is very expensive. I rang him and we went to the lake equipped with bucket and a rake hoping to get some; alas the cockatoos had eaten every ripe or near-ripe pomegranate. In the same lake area when we were on our morning walks we followed the progress of figs ripening only to miss out on a feed when someone stripped the fruit off the tree before we could do the taste test. Goes to show...anything in the public domain is usually not so good.
Our daughter Helen is here now after her first day with pupils. She loves the school, teachers and kids.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

School's In

Students at Government schools resume tomorrow - teachers have been on deck since Monday (or, if in an administrative position like my sister, since last week).

Neither of us is the least bit nostalgic. Between us we gave more than 55 years to the WA Education Department, plus another 15 years to Papua New Guinea, and we are happy to be out of the system. But our daughter Helen has just started her second year of teaching. She is at a different school with a different year level. Last year she taught Year 2/3, this year she is teaching Pre-Primary.

She rang us yesterday after her first day (student free). Everything is great at the moment and she is happily planning her first term's program. She knows she can rely on us for assistance with the additional resources that every teacher needs and which are never easily available within the constraints of a school's budget. State education is chronically underfunded at the grassroots level.

I am starting on the dress-up box tomorrow. So far Helen has found nothing in her classroom for this essential Pre-Primary activity. Maybe the previous teacher took it all with her, maybe she didn't have a dress-up box at all. So I have bought a large plastic crate on wheels from Red Dot, and tomorrow I will go through my collection of fabrics to find lengths that I can hem. These will be cloaks, robes, sails, walls for rooms under tables . . . anything the imagination can make of them. Of course, this weekend we will also buy a few props like toy stethoscopes, tiaras, cowboy hats - look out the $2 shops! - but it is better that the major part of the box be anonymous bits that can be transformed into anything, rather than specific pieces like Batman, Superman or fairy costumes.

Tomorrow she will meet her 2007 students. I hope they will be happy together.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday, Monday

I went to Castlereagh School today to attempt to set up some computers donated to the school by W.A. Newspapers. After mucking around for some time I decided to bring them home here to do the set-up at home in the aircon with hardly any clothes on....not a good look! The IT gal at the school is a great hard-working lady who for some unknown reason thinks that my small input is something out of the ordinary. I attempt to reassure her that it isn't but I am overwhelmed with praise and gifts.
Whew....back on the job after a mate dropped in with a little welding job and a six-pack of Australia's best beer....Coopers' Sparkling Ale. Reminds me of the bar at the last high school where I taught. The bar was open on Fridays and once in a while there was a home brew competition open to staff brewers. I decided to enter the comp and bought a large Coopers Sparkling Ale and removed the label and replaced the cap with a generic one. When the judging was made with suitably experienced judges, mine was placed last out of seven home brews!!!
I have two friends who are not doing too well. They both have Parkinson's Disease and one of them also has Lewy Body disease. My brother-in-law has the very visible form of the disease and is on a waiting list for deep brain stimulation therapy. This involves electrodes being guided down into the brain to block the wrong messages being sent. There have been amazing results from this operation and indeed a student I taught has had a remarkable recovery and is now leading a normal life. The trouble for my bro-in-law is that there is a 12 month wait for the procedure. My other friend has frightful hallucinations day and night as well as the accompanying Parkinsons' symptoms. I have been lucky that my diagnosis with Prostate Cancer was early and surgery was successful. The radical prostatecomy got the cancer, but left me impotent. However....dead men don't get erections!

Sunday, January 28, 2007


I really don't like the heat and this is the third day in a row of temperatures in the high 30s. However, it is much easier to cope when the house has air conditioning.

We are not quite accustomed to this luxury. The house in Bicton wasn't air conditioned, but the stone walls, high ceilings and large roof space provided pretty good insulation for the rooms in the original house. It was only the rooms at the back that got a bit hot. But when you had a week of heatwave the front of the house became a heat sink.

I can remember many summers in the past when the only relief to be obtained was from fans. When we were living in New Guinea in the 70s there was no air conditioning of course and we depended on fans, which work really well in a humid climate. All the main rooms had ceiling fans. This was fine when the power was on, but in many places, such as Maprik, there were limited hours of power supply. We were so happy when a new power station was built and we had 24 hour power.

Electric fans used to be really expensive. I remember us buying one in Wewak in 1971 or 1972 that cost about $50 (and $50 was worth a heck of a lot more then). Now you can buy one in the supermarket or at Bunnings for $14. The quality is nowhere near as good though. We had that $50 fan for more than 20 years. I can't remember what happened to it in the end - it was probably given to one of the kids when they moved out. I suspect a $14 fan will not last more than a summer or two.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Wedding

I received an email from my nephew who lives in the U.S. He is to wed an American gal in July of this year. His in-laws to-be are a musical family and some of them will be doing the music for the reception. Bruce, my nephew, tells me that they already know a few Australian pieces, but we here have never heard of them. "Orotaba Waltz" from Charlie Batchelor, Bingara, NSW "The Walk Around" from Stacey Treacy, Limerick, NSW, "Jack's Waltz" from Sally Sloane of Lithgow, "Sofala Cuckoo" from Joe Yates, Sofala near Bathurst, NSW.???
Bruce has asked me to find some recognisable Aussie tunes that they can practise before the wedding. There are the oldies of course....Waltzing Matilda, Pub With No Beer, The Wild Colonial Boy and On The Road To Gundagai. And then some lovely songs by John Williamson; 'I Was Just 19', 'Cootamundra Wattle' and 'Bound For South Australia'. I don't think the band will try to sing the songs, merely play the melody. I will consult with Bruce to see if my selection is suitable.
This coming Monday is the start of the 2007 school year. Our daughter, Helen, has been posted to a very nice Primary School in the suburb of Leeming for her second year of teaching. I also will be heading off to school on Monday. I am assisting the IT teacher at a special needs school set up a few computers donated by the local daily newspaper The West Australian. The newspaper makes sure that no data is left on the Hard Drives and so they need to have the operating system loaded on board and all their specific educational software.
We have had two days of over 40c, but there may be a thunder storm tonight.

Friday, January 26, 2007

A Brush with Bureaucracy

Yesterday I went to give blood. I am a regular donor and front up every three months. It's pretty straight forward - answer some questions, do an interview, have your iron level and blood pressure checked, then have a needle put into your arm and have 45o ml of the red stuff removed. I've done it more than 50 times. But I got knocked back yesterday and I am still annoyed about what happened.

Let's go back a little. In September I had a skin lesion removed. It was a squamous cell carcinoma, quite minor, but on the lower leg. I was warned it would take a long time to heal completely and it has. It is still not completely healed, but it is almost there. My GP advised me to keep it covered, so I do.

When I went to give blood in October I took along the pathology report which said the excision was successful, edges were clean etc. The nurse who interviewed me read the report and O.K'd the donation. I was not questioned about whether the wound was completely healed.

Yesterday I got a newbie. It was her first day with the Blood Service. She fumbled with the computer, losing information time and again. Then we tackled the questionnaire. I said I had been to the doctor since my last donation and explained it was to check on the wound healing. She wanted to look at it, but when she saw it had a dressing on it it was panic stations. She went to find a supervisor who instructed her to look up the guidelines. The guidelines state an excised carcinoma must have clean edges and the wound be completely healed before blood can be taken. Fair enough, but I had given blood three months before with absolutely no ill effects. The nurse who had accepted that donation was the supervisor. She was apologetic, said she had made an error then, but that the guidelines had to be followed and I could not give blood on this occasion. So I left, but as a further aggravation I had to sign the questionnaire that I agreed to give blood, when I was not actually permitted to do so. I thought that this was the pits and an awful example of following bureaucratic rules to the nth degree.

I hope I never get a beginner again. Kev says I am over-reacting, but I am still seething.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

First entry

I don't really know whether this is a good idea. I usually get an idea and run with it for a while and then drop it. The plan is that Joan will do alternate days and we should cover most of what happens here.
Today I helped a friend set up his new Mac for BB and email. The settings were transferred from his old iMac to the new machine. Tomorrow I am doing the same again for other friends who bought an eMac from us. I am not a techie, but seem to have learned quite a bit by messing around with computers over a long period.

In recent times I have been involved in a project getting equipment to a primary school in
Zimbabwe....chairs, blackboards, shoes and around 40 Macintosh computers and peripherals. A British mining company has adopted several schools (most likely to keep Mr Mugabe on side) and has commenced building a new school and put down a water bore on the school site. When all the gear arrives there, and the new school is built, they will fly me over to give lessons to staff and kids on the computers and the internet.

The picture is of a classroom in the present school which is used by 26 pupils. Note the high standard of resources available, but at least they don't have OBE.