Sunday, September 30, 2007


I went to the Cockburn City landfill site today and took some pics of the new methane collection set-up being constructed. I am not sure how they will extract the gas or what it will be used for,but it is a huge area covered with heavy plastic with piping to collect the gas. It's hard to imagine how much gas can be produced by mattresses and such, but it is being done successfully at other landfill sites around Perth.

In the 1970s at a Vocational Centre near Port Moresby in Papua, I saw a methane producer working well and producing methane which was used to fuel the cook-house. The producer was a circular pig pen of about 15 metres diameter with a central circular pit into which the pig wastes were washed daily. The fermentation of the wastes and water gave off methane and that was trapped under a snug-fitting inverted cupola. A hose from on top of the cupola allowed the gas to be taken to the kitchen stoves. The pressure was regulated by weights around the edge of the cupola. I may try and sketch the system and post it at a later date.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


I have had two phone calls from Joan; one from Sydney Airport and one from Wellington Airport, and then an email message from Wellington confirming that the MacBook is accessing local networks to talk with me. I will suggest that she download Skype so that we can talk VOIP (google it).

I had a phone call this evening from Joy the wife of a long- time dear friend. She told me that John wanted to talk to me because he was a little confused. When he was on the phone he was most lucid and told me he was at the college (his previous workplace)and couldn't get out. He wanted my phone number to ring me in an emergency. He was at home and didn't associate his wife with his perceived situation.

John has a wide circle of friends who want to support him, however it is becoming obvious that very soon he must be put into care.

John has a condition called Lewy Body Disease which is akin to Altzheimers and is a major burden to his wife. What can we do to help?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Out of the box

We have had so much trouble with the WiFi setup on Joan's Presario laptop that we went out and bought an Apple MacBook. Everything worked fine straight out of the box. Beautiful! We will sell the PC laptop later.
I will be taking Joan out to the airport at about 10.30pm and she will be in Sydney at about 6am for a three hour wait for her plane to Wellington. Kev will have a similar flight next Wednesday night to Brisbane where I will be met at the airport and travel to catch up with friends from New Guinea days I last saw 46 years ago. Four days in Brissie and then I join Joan in Wellington and start the 8 day bus tour of the South Island. The weather seems bleak and pretty chilly. It is, after all, the land of the long white cloud.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

countdown begins

Joan is packing her gear ready for her trip to NZ. She is leaving around midnight on Friday night. She hasn't actually packed my bag for my departure the following Thursday,but she has organised my travel documents etc. Eeek,I will be travelling alone! Who is going to look after me?

Our battle with the WiFi technology is ongoing. Joan has made many calls to Belkin via India without success and also talked with Hewlett Packard, who as it happens, make Compaq computers. None of the advice has helped, so this evening I will take it to a friend who is a PC Guru and if he can't sort it out,then to Willetton SHS Tech. people to configure and test on their network.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

An escapee

I mentioned the ‘bring out your dead’ rubbish collection of last week. I got rid of a number of computers, printers and a heap of keyboards. The truck made a sickening crashing noise as it compressed all that technology. After it departed our street I went to see how much was left on the lawn…nothing. Only today as I went out to collect the newspaper did I see a small piece of plastic. It was a key from a keyboard….the escape key!

Our daughter Helen has just left for her school’s parents' night. She has a slide show of her pupils set up to run continuously and I printed off photos of the latest class project which is the construction of space craft as a follow-up on a unit about space and space flights. These kids are pre primary and have done some great work.

Last week I dropped into Willetton SHS to visit a couple of colleagues. It did seem that there was a lot of discontent and that teachers were not happy. I loved the place when I taught there and it is sad that the vibrant staff social life no longer exists. No staff parties, no progressive dinners (very 80s), no quiz nights etc etc. I have taught at a few high schools and they seem to go through a cycle of wonderful camaraderie and after a few years end up just a work site. Pity! When I was at Rockingham Senior High the staff fell in a heap as I have described and a few of us thought of ways to revitalise the social life of the staff. I came up with an idea to farewell a sheep ship from Fremantle harbour. After all, the sheep are Australians going overseas and almost certainly not returning. I could see it all…streamers; champers, formal dress on the wharf. Everyone thought is was a great idea and we thought we could invite Channel Nine along to film it.
When I rang the Port Authority I was told that the police would lock us up if we tried such a stunt. I guess we weren’t as brave as the Chasers….they would have gone ahead and done it.

Monday, September 24, 2007


We bought a WiFi card for my laptop on Saturday so I can take the machine to NZ and not suffer computer withdrawal. I installed it yesterday. Today I decided to test it.

I had checked the internet for free WiFi access points and discovered that the Dome cafe in Fremantle was one such hotspot. So today I dragged the laptop along when I went in to arrange travel insurance. I ordered a latte, booted up the computer and tried to connect. Local network appeared, I did everything I was supposed to do according to both the hard copy instructions and the onscreen directions, but I couldn't establish a connection. Gave up, drank the latte and came home.

I have tried again this evening. The card picked up a wireless network nearby (the next door neighbours I think. I didn't try to hack in!) Obviously the card is working. The Dome's network is shown as a profile that I could access if I were physically close enough. I don't know why I couldn't connect when I was. Tomorrow I will go back to where we bought the card, laptop in hand, and see if they can show me how to establish a connection that works.

I am not a technophobe, but I hate it when I follow all the directions and it doesn't work. It usually turns out to be a very simple step that was either overlooked by me or an assumption by the writers of the directions that everyone would know a particular point. I don't know which this will be.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Bibra Lake is a lake again

Earlier this year Bibra Lake near our home was totally dry. The doomsayers were all of a quiver. 'Climate change is here!' After the rains the lake is full and even the catchment dams are looking good. The water authority has said that there will be no need to impose further restrictions on our water usage. The lake looked good as we walked along the western edge. The bottle brush trees are in full bloom. For some strange reason the cockatoos cut the flowers off and drop them to the ground. Figure that one out?

We have purchased a WiFi card for Joan's laptop so that when we are in NZ we can tap into public networks to read mail and post to our blog. We haven't tested it yet and will probably go to a McDonalds restaurant tomorrow to see if it is working.

This afternoon we visited Joan's sister Dorothy and Mike, her husband. I have mentioned him before. He has severe dyskinesias as a result of Parkinson's disease. The surgeon will not tell them when the operation for deep brain stimulation is scheduled or even if it is scheduled, so they don't know whether it is to be this year, next year or never. I think I would be going to the radio shock-jocks or Channel 9 to get things moving. On the other hand it might well upset the man and he could be delayed past his use-by date.

Friday, September 21, 2007

TV and Bubbly

Yep, I'm a TV freak...only at night time. I watch 'my show'; Temptation and pit myself against the contestants. I fear that I am falling in love with one of the hosts, Lavinia Nixon. What a doll! Channel Nine is going to drop Temptation for another Eddie McGuire (?) show. He can't replace Lavinia! On the show tonight, one of the contestants won a Wengler watch which is waterproof to 1000 metres. I am quite sure my head would implode at 100 metres.
Another TV show I have flipped over to and really gets up my nose is 'Australia's Funniest Home Videos' presented by some blonde sheila and a lot of the vids are from the U.S.....not Aus. The programme almost always shows people damaging themselves seriously and the audience laughs themselves stupid at the unfortunate star who probably needs follow-up surgery and therapy.

Another show on TV here is New Zealand Highway Patrol. Well, if you ever thought our cops were a bit dumb, you should take a look at this show. Last night a car was pulled over and the driver didn't have a valid licence and his car was out of licence. He was given a hefty fine and told to drive straight home???? We are off to NZ in the next couple of weeks. I shall report back. NZ police have been in the spotlight for their very poor performance on a murder case this week. Methinks they couldn't find warts on a frog.

The bubbly part of this story is of a local discount deal on, dare I call it..Champagne. Hardy's Crest is on sale for $13.00 a bottle but two for one and if you buy 6 of them there is a further 20% off making it around $5.30 a bottle. Nice too!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Don't look a gift horse in the mouth

Yesterday I went to Castlereagh Special school to collect some of their discards. Two G3 Mac computers which were not working, six printers, a couple of boxes of new floppy disks and a mountain of new ink cartridges. The cartridges are worth at least $400....if one has a use for them! They are mainly for the printers that don't work and other brands I don't have. The floppies are no longer used. I guess that is why I got them?! I should be able to get a couple or three printers working with a bit of patience and the Macs are always able to be fixed with the spares I have available. Printers presenting with poor quality print usually indicate blocked nozzles and can usually be cleaned up with hot distilled water or isopropyl alcohol.

Why am I collecting old equipment? I hate seeing it go to landfill and I may get to send more gear to Bali. So there!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

News from Papua New Guinea

In 1973, when returning to Australia on annual leave from PNG, we decided to take one of my students on the big trip to Aus. We had to make a pretense of randomly selecting one of the 65 Vocational School students. It was a bit tricky to make it appear that we drew the name out of a hat, when in fact we had already decided on a lad who spoke good English and we felt sure would fit in in Perth for the six weeks. The whole trip went very well and Michael learned lots of swear words when he spent a couple of days on a farm. We eventually returned to Australia permanently in 1975/6 and never heard from Michael again until I wrote him a letter a few years ago. He wrote back telling of his village life and his family. A short time later I received a very well written letter from one of his daughters. In the letter she gave me her banking details so that I could do a direct transfer of $2000 for her studies at Teachers' College. I must have been busy at the time because I never got round to sending the money.
Today I received another nice letter from one of Michael's sons asking for K5,000 (A$2,500) so that he can commence university studies in 2008.

It is not uncommon for teachers to be asked to finance education or businesses for their PNG ex- students' kids. I guess they see movies of seemingly affluent Australians and figure that we can afford to shell out.

Monday, September 17, 2007


ASOPA was the former Australian School of Pacific Administration and trained Teachers and Patrol Officers to serve in Australia's territories; mainly Papua New Guinea. Today I discovered that their newsletter mentions our family blog in quite glowing terms. The ASOPA site is also a very interesting read.

I had to visit Martin's workplace to get him to sign the vehicle licence transfer form for his new car. He didn't seem too good. Last week I filled some prescriptions for him and one was overdue. The pharmacist gave me an advance on that prescription, so today I attempted to get the GP to write a script for the already dispensed drugs. He wouldn't do it without a consultation. The GP doesn't work past 4pm and doesn't do weekend surgeries. I explained that Martin has just started a job and can't expect to take time off. Still no bending. I returned to the pharmacist and he told me that many GPs write a script and leave it at the desk for collection. He may have to go to another GP after hours and get a new script for the exact medication.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Kev gets lost

A couple of days ago I arranged to meet an ex-student of mine over a coffee. She suggested the Dome coffee place in Ardross. Seemed easy. I arrived early and waited and waited and she didn't show up. It was bucketing down and I thought she may have had an accident. After an hour I went home. On my mail was a note from her asking where I got to. It seems that the coffee shop I thought was the Dome was sold several years ago and she was about 100 metres away at the new Dome. She rang today to say that she would visit me at home in case I got lost again. We had lots to catch up on. What we both have done over the last ten years and news of other students in her cohort. She finished a science degree at RMIT in Melbourne majoring in photography so it was a bit of the student teaching the teacher when photography was mentioned. It is strange that most of what she learned is no longer valid. Wet photography has died and digital is supreme. She, Jayd, starts a new job with the Public Trustee on Monday and is constructing a website from which she hopes to establish a photography business as a sideline. I am a pleased that such a nice gal would wish to visit me.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Home alone

Joan has left me all alone. She has gone on a retreat for one of the sewing/quilting/fabric Arts groups. I confess I don't know which one. I do know that she took a lot of fabric dyes.
So, I am all alone...woo-hoo! Bring on the dancing girls! Just kiddin!

I paid for and collected, Martins car today. It has a few little quirks that need ironing out, but overall it is very good. I drove to Martin's work place to pick him up in the car and he found that he had been underpaid. He went back in to see the boss, but was told it was correct. Not good! He immediately fell into a dark mood and I could see depression written on his face. When I gave him the car keys he barely thanked me. About an hour later I rang his mobile to check on him and his boss had rung and apologised for underpaying him and all was well again. I even got a sincere thank you for the car. Whew! He also had a better day at work. Things will improve over the next week when he gets a handle on the computer programs and machinery at work.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

A car at last

The bloke who was selling the Daihatsu Mira yesterday told me that he would have the car available for inspection at 9am this morning. (this was the fifth time we had arranged to view the car) I drove to his business (a car detailing yard with a horrible pit bull as a guard dog) but he didn't live up to his word. I returned an hour later and he was there...without the car. He rang his sister and told me that she would be down with the car and he would ring me. By 3pm we hadn't heard from him so I looked in the Quokka and we went and looked at a pretty nice Daewoo Cielo. Even though it has lots of kilometres on the clock it is in very good condition, so we bought it for $1100. Our Son Martin is well pleased.

Martin is under the hammer at his new job. He needs to be very proficient using Corel Draw and operating sign cutting machinery. He didn't claim that he had experience with such equipment and reckons that he will need a couple of weeks to get up to speed. His boss has him on lower wages for a few weeks, but is still pushing him hard. Hope he doesn't toss it in.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


Update: Car hasn't been found yet. My new Betacord VCR is playing up.

I am going to give up chasing the guy who is selling the car. It is so frustrating to hear that I can see it and then some excuse is made why it will have to be tomorrow.
Fortunately my eBay purchase of a Betacord VCR was made locally and I can take it back for repairs. The fellow I bought it from is a reasonable chap and we have many interests in common...vintage cars, beer brewing etc. He has already agreed to service it thoroughly.

Yesterday our daughter Helen told us of a rather nasty event with a good outcome. It seems that some ex-students of her primary school (now in Year 8) made a home movie of vandalism to schools and cars at a shopping centre and posted it on You Tube. It was a good quality flik and everyone was recognisable by staff at the primary school. They even put their names on a list of credits at the end of the clip. Police have rounded them up. Ah, the price of fame!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Phantom car

I have been on the trail of a small car for our son...a Daihatsu Mira, which is like a shoe box on wheels. Trouble is the bloke who is selling the thing can't seem to get his act together to let me see it. It has been almost a week now since I replied to his advertisement and several dates/times have come and gone without me actually setting eyes on it. Maybe tomorrow.

Our son Martin started his new job today and he actually likes it. It is up his alley with computer graphics producing plastic badges and signs. If I don't find him a car I will be driving him to and from work every day. If I do find him a car I will be paying for fuel every day. That's easier than driving him!

It is this suburb's 'bring out your dead' collection and I have a nice big heap of what looks like good computer gear etc etc on our front lawn. Actually there is nothing good there. One of our neighbors has added to the heap with a few bits from a drier. This afternoon Joan walked further down the cul-de-sac to check out a nice looking bookshelf, but alas it had been ravaged by termites.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


I have been bidding for a Betacord Stereo VCR on eBay and won it. Strangely they end up costing about three times as much as a brand new VHS VCR...there is a Luddite demand for them! I ended up winning it with a bid of $350. and as it is local there are no shipping charges.
Sounds like a lot of money, but I have a nice collection of movies and personal tapes I will convert to DVD. Also I spent more than that last night in tickets and booze for my kids to go to the Steely Dan there! We all rationalise on such purchases.

Our son Martin starts a new job tomorrow. That doesn't mean that we don't have to keep shelling out cash for some time. He won't be paid for a couple of weeks and there is rent, a car to buy (paid for by us), food and ongoing expenses including the money he has borrowed from a few mates over the last couple of weeks. Not sure we would have kids if we had a re-run.

The Concert

We were lucky that none of the rain that drenched the southern suburbs reached the Swan Valley for the Steely Dan Concert. It was very cold though...especially for me the skipper. On the skipper thing; don't be a skipper. Being sober whilst the others are intoxicated is no fun, in fact it can be very frustrating and unrewarding keeping your friends and family in line in a public place.

We decided to go early to get a good position. Sandalford Vineyard now specialises in concerts and good for them too....all the wines were exclusively Sandalford and the lowest price was $22. Beer was $8 a stubbie. They must have sold truckloads of bottles to the estimated 5 - 6000 concert goers. Entry into the vineyard was easy with lots of marshals guiding cars to a paddock parking area. Once parked we joined a queue of what looked like 2,000 plus people in a long line waiting for the gates to open. After probably 45 minutes the line started to move and eventually we reached the gates where our gear was searched for bring-in alcohol, metal cutlery, glassware and umbrellas. Once in, we positioned ourselves in the 'high chair' area and rugged up to wait for the two support bands to start.

The two bands were Gangajang and World Party. Gangajang did their well known stuff and world party from the UK did theirs. When Steely Dan came on with their ten piece band the mob went wild. It was a great show with many of their older and newer numbers performed. It was amazing to see and hear Walter Becker and Donald Fagan looking and sounding like they have over several decades. And they played their stuff exactly as the audience wanted it. I have been to concerts where the artists tell the audience that they are tired of the same old sound and are going to play it a bit different. Bah!

The concert was great, but getting out of Sandalford was horrific. It took about 45 minutes and it looked like there was a police road block at the entrance back on to West Swan Road. Being sober, I wanted to run the gauntlet, but we had the opportunity to go the opposite direction and join Roe Highway for a straight through trip home. It was a quiet trip home for a number of reasons. I think that will be my last concert.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Weather concerns and the Steely Dan concert

Kevin will probably comment on this tomorrow. I didn't go, but Kevin, Helen, Martin and Graham did. It is being held in the open air at Sandalford Winery in the Swan Valley.

We watched the skies anxiously this morning. The forecast was for showers clearing, and that seemed to be happening. However, our preparations included rain ponchos for everyone, as well as folding chairs, rugs and a picnic basket.

The event was due to start at 4pm. It had been dry and sunny for a couple of hours by then. The main event was to start at 7.30. It poured here just after 7. Sandalford is miles away in a NEasterly direction, and maybe the rain didn't get there. I hoped they had played safe and not left the ponchos in the car.

There have been several heavy showers since. I hope they don't end up like drowned rats.

Friday, September 7, 2007

George Bush

Dear me, George really mucked-up today. He was addressing an Australian Business gathering in Sydney town and in front of the TV cameras made a couple of bloopers most unworthy of the President of the U.S.A. Firstly he thanked PM John Howard for being a gracious host to the OPEC meeting. He did of course realise that he had made a blunder and corrected himself with a little blush saying 'of course that is... APEC'. Next he praised our PM for recently visiting his Austrian troops in 'Eyerack'. I guess by now the clip is on You Tube and every news service around the globe will be running it on their evening news slots. Jeez, if I did something like that I would go away and hide. Let's hope he doesn't launch an attack on Austria...we could get severely damaged.

I predicted that the Corryn Rayney murder case would be solved in about a week. Bad guess! Still no suspects on the radar which seems strange as it was rumored that she had been threatened by someone and had asked friends to tell the police if anything happened to her.

It has been bucketing down today and is supposed to ease off tomorrow morning. We hope so, because we are off to the Steely Dan concert at an open-air vineyard venue. The concert is to go ahead regardless of weather conditions, so we went out today to buy ponchos. Awful things which one doesn't see in use these days. Hope we wont need them tomorrow night.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Near neighbors

In today’s newspaper there is an article reporting a large arms deal between our close neighbor, Indonesia and Russia. The deal is worth $1.2 billion and is to purchase 2 new submarines, 22 helicopters and 20 tanks. Let’s hope that most of it is to keep any internal strife under control…but what are the subs for?

I have always thought of Indonesia as a relatively poor country…and it seems that the Australian government also thought that with a large annual aid package given to them. This year’s aid totalled $328,000,000 and the next financial year it will be boosted to $460,000,000.

Indonesia has the largest muslim population of any country and a military of 396,150 persons. Australia hopes to boost our ADF force to 57,000 over the next ten years. Methinks that we should be nice to the U.S. and remain a staunch ally. It worked in WW2.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Bayzil or Bazzil?

Whatever pronunciation you prefer, fresh basil is a fabulous herb, especially with tomatoes. I used some tonight with a tomato concasse (chef term for a thick vegetable sauce/stew - I did a commercial cooking course some years ago and find that the terms pop occasionally into the brain). It was great, served with veal schnitzels, also made from scratch - hammered, egg and breadcrumbed and fried in a small quantity of olive oil with a little bit of butter for taste. And a green salad on the side - lettuce, cucumber and spring onion. Though it's cold tonight, it has been a beautiful sunny day, so summery fare seemed suitable.

While I like to grow my own herbs, I have not managed to keep a basil plant in production in winter. Even the perennial basil is straggly and I don't like its flavour as much as the traditional one. Thank goodness that some local grower keeps the fruit and vegie market down the hill supplied. The bag I bought this weekend was small, but good quality. Not so, the stuff available in the supermarket. Buyer beware.

While basil doesn't like rain and cold, parsley obviously does. The Italian parsley is huge and even the little pot of curly parsley is flourishing. The mint is doing well too. In summer it tends to die back if it is not watered morning and night. At Bicton we had mint planted in a small header pond and we could always find some to harvest.

Helen gave me a kaffir lime for my birthday, and it has now produced some new shoots and leaves after sitting stolidly in the pot for months. And the lemon grass has flowered. I have never had a clump do that before.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Boo Hoo!

I have just lost in an eBay auction. One has to be pretty smart at organising bidding to win. The last three minutes were fast and furious. I believe I was outbid by eBay's auto bidding feature. You put in a maximum amount and eBay bids on your behalf to counter each winning bid. Kev neglected to do that and manual bidding takes important extra seconds to get there. I was trying to win a professional Sony Betacord VCR with little use (5 tapes it was claimed). The winning bid was $225.50. I have heaps of great movies on Beta and my current machine is getting a bit tired. I guess I'll have to get it repaired if I can find an adventurous technician.

In my car hunt for our son, I rang a mechanic we have used before. This guy is a front yard mechanic....a dozen wrecks are a mechanical garden right up to the verge. A variety of parts and tools litter the ground and buckets of dirty oil are standing around. How his neighbors have not had the council come down on him I don't know. I guess he services their cars for free? I thought that he may have a customer who is trying to sell a car, instead he offered one of his cars for sale for $1200. I cruised past his place and saw the car. Rear glass missing; rust, bald tyres and the interior used as a storage place for still more used car parts. No thanks!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Fathers' Day

Our daughter Helen visited and cooked a nice 'Posh Seafood Pie' for this Dad's day. Lovely!

I am still on the used car trail for our son. It is virtually impossible to get to a workplace by public transport if it is not on a bus route or in the city. Australians love single dwellings with our backyards and this causes an urban spread for which it is difficult to provide a workable transport system. I am hoping to pay around $1,000 for a licenced, reasonable car. It can be done; there are little old church-going ladies who want to sell their cars...just got to find one.

We have a 'bring out your dead' collection next week and I have quite a few computer and printer carcasses to get rid of. Each suburb produces different quality treasures for the drive-past collectors. Our suburb is pretty new and I have seen very little in the way of old stuff on the verges. The expert collector knows his suburbs. In New York City the weekly rubbish collection is a treasure trove. The lack of landfill sites means that a walk around Greenwich Village on a nice summer's evening could almost furnish a house with pretty good stuff. We have a wonderful vintage press camera which was put out for collection in the village.