Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Washing machine for Martin

We decided that we would not try to buy a secondhand one. Even if it looks good you can't be sure that it will actually work. Instead we decided to give him ours and buy a new one for us. At least we know that ours works well, even if it is 10 years old. We delivered it yesterday.

Last night I did a bit of research on the net. Today we saw that The Good Guys had a special on washing machines, including the one I thought would suit us, so I set off to look at it. I have been doing a bit of comparison shopping for white goods lately, so I have developed a shopping loop.

This is the way it works. From our place travel north on Stock Road to South Street. Turn left and make a right turn to visit Fridge and Washer City. Back onto South Street (a left turn driving east), turn left at Stock Road and turn right at Garling Street to visit Harvey Norman and The Good Guys which are next to each other. Turn left back onto Stock Road and left again at South Street for Rick Harts. Another left turn onto South Street and continue east to Retravision.

The above paragraph will be totally meaningless to anyone who does not live South of the River in Perth, but it means that 5 different white goods retailers can be visited in a travel pattern that does not involve many right turns against the traffic.

I did not need to follow the loop today. At the first stop the machine I thought I wanted was on sale at a price that matched or bettered The Good Guys. Out with the credit card.

Kevin picked it up this afternoon. He has installed it and I have done a load of washing. No problems.

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's almost over . .

Kevin took a load of Martin's stuff down to the unit this afternoon, including his bed. Apparently a whole heap of it is junk from GutterMart. We had hoped that he would be willing to chuck a lot of stuff out, but it seems not.

He is sleeping there tonight. Tomorrow the sofa bed may be moved with the help of Graham. There are 2 sofas, but there is only room for one in his living area. He has decided that the sofa bed will be more useful. We will offer the other for a minimal sum in Quokka.

We still have to find him a washing machine. Quokka again.

Now we just have to hope he pays some rent. I broached the subject of direct debit this evening. He was amenable, but in his present job he is paid in cash. I somehow doubt that the rent money will actually reach the bank account.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

To lose a friend

I have previously mentioned our friend John who has Lewy Body dementia. Last night he was quite violent and his wife and his sister were afraid of him and the havoc he was creating. Joy called an ambulance and the police and he was taken to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital dementia ward. I am unsure if the police were required and I understand they waited outside the house in case they were needed.

This man was an intelligent academic, well respected at the university he worked at and liked by family and friends. Until recent times he could still carry on a conversation and indeed answer questions within his field, biology. That ability has rapidly been lost.

The next emotional hurdle Joy will face is letting him be placed in secure accommodation. He has been in respite care for a week at a time and is very unhappy at being locked away. About a year ago he threw a chair through a glass window and made his escape. It will be very difficult to visit him.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Setting Up House continued

Martin was supposed to move most of his own stuff today with the help of a friend. Apparently that didn't happen, so the unit is still only partly furnished. Yesterday we only got in the basics - fridge, table and chairs and a small outdoor setting for the balcony.

We went down this morning to do a few little things. The vinyl in the kitchen and bathroom was torn in a few places so Kevin glued that down and it looks much better. It will need replacing fairly soon, but we'll see how it goes.

Kevin also scraped back some bubbled plaster next to the toilet door, only to find that the metal door frame itself had rusted. The rust is now scraped away and will be painted with Ranex to prevent further damage before repainting. That is a task for another trip.

He also did some painting in the main bedroom. For some reason (possibly he could see he was running out of paint and didn't want to buy any more) the previous owner painted around a large object, either a mirror or a painting, on the feature wall. So there it was, a large white square in the middle of a red wall. Pity we didn't take a photo.

Fortunately there was a bit of the paint left so we were able to match it. It was Dulux Heritage Egyptian Red which is a very nice shade. We had a room painted that colour in the Bicton house. A sample pot cost $6 and after two coats the white square is no longer visible and there is even some left for future touch ups.

What did I do while all this was happening? I organised the kitchen. Martin has a cupboard and a fridge full of food. His cutlery and crockery has been washed and put away. It's all ready.

Now he just needs to get his own stuff in there.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Busy week

It has been a very busy week. Today we are to get possession of the unit we bought to house our son. The trailer will be loaded with as much gear as we can carry to start the shift.
Martin has a lot of junk that he as collected from roadside pickups and most of that will go to landfill. We have decided to furnish the place with new, or good, stuff in the hope it will inspire him and start a new life at 37 years of age.

We didn't realise how much basic stuff is needed to furnish a two bedroom unit. Furniture, fridge,washing machine, cutlery and crockery, pots and pans, linen, towels, cleaning gear and a week's food, not to mention a fan which is really necessary in the present heat wave. The unit is on the second floor so will be a test of our muscle getting the larger gear up there. Martin will shift in on Saturday or Sunday.

Another project I have been working on is setting up a computer for a six year old lad who lives in a unit with his mother. At first I took along a nice Mac, but he has a collection of PC games on disks and needs a PC to run them. So I had to get a PC and configure it for him. After a day of fiddling it is running well, but has a sound problem. Not good for a six year old gamer! More fiddling today and I should be able to deliver it tomorrow.

This lad has Aspergers Disease, which is not really a disease, but a form of Autism. He has a collection of model aircraft probably in the dozens. He knows the names and purpose of each plane. Rain Man?

Monday, January 21, 2008

A sad day

We drove up the coast north of the river today and I stayed with my brother-in-law while Joan and her sister went to a textile gathering. Mike, my bro-in-law, cannot be left alone as his Parkinsons is very debilitating and he is apt to fall and hurt himself. He had a long period of freezing where he could not move at all. He had a shower and then froze and I heard him call for help. He was naked and couldn't get dressed. When I found him in the bedroom he assured me that I didn't have to wipe his bum. With a bit of a struggle, we got him dressed. Surprisingly he still has a sense of humour.

Although he is due for a final assessment for the Deep Brain Stimulation procedure on the 4th of February, there is no definite date for the procedure. He is suicidal.

A work colleague and friend from 40+ years ago was having chemotherapy for mesothelioma he contracted from being a ship's engineer in the bad old asbestos days. The good news was that the tumors were shrinking and the chemo was working. The bad news is that he had a heart attack on Saturday and died. There has been a ring-around between his friends from long ago and it will be a big funeral. Unfortunate that these friends are brought back together by his death.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Pickled Eggs

I love pickled eggs and also pickled onions. In a friend's blog, for which a link can be found, here on our blog, Paul wrote of making Scotch Eggs. He did some research on the best way to boil googies so that the shell comes away nicely. He tried a few different methods and none really measured up.

I decided today to make some pickled eggs and turned to my friend Google for info. On the page for 'How to boil an egg' there are approximately 695,000 hits for the would-be googie boiler.

I decided to ignore all the suggestions and put 'em in a pot of cold water and boil them for a long time. As it happened we forgot about the eggs and they almost boiled dry. They all peeled beautifully and are now in bottles with dark pickling vinegar. We should wait about two weeks before trying them, but I reckon a week might be as long as I can wait. Yum!

I bought the eggs at a local market for $2.80 a dozen. I should have bought several dozen.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Freedom Medal Award Ceremony

Last night I watched Tom Cruise preaching at his Freedom Medal Award Ceremony. That was one big medal awarded to Tommy by Scientology head David Miscavige; who is even a couple of hands shorter than Tom. Or was Tommy standing on a box?

Tom ranted in a very cultish way, especially about Psychiatry. The Scientologists believe some strange things. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the cult/religion, was a science fiction writer which no doubt helped him form some theories about life and humanity.

For example:
In Scientology doctrine, Xenu is a galactic ruler who, 75 million years ago, brought billions of people to Earth, stacked them around volcanoes and blew them up with hydrogen bombs. Their souls then clustered together and stuck to the bodies of the living. These events are known as "Incident II" or "The Wall of Fire," and the traumatic memories associated with them are known as the "R6 implant." The Xenu story prompted the use of the volcano as a Scientology symbol.

It seems that quite a few prominent people around the world, including Australians, are Scientologists. James Packer is amongst the Aussie lineup. Worrying!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Scotch (?) Thistle

A few weeks ago I mentioned finding a lot of Scotch Thistle in parkland near Bibra Lake. I rang the local environmental people at Cockburn City. The gal I talked to said she would get their blokes to have a look at it. Nothing has been done to eradicate this nasty weed, so I took a piece of the very prickly stuff along to show the environmental people at the council.

Nice bloke; decked out in environmental gear, khaki shorts, shirt, floppy hat and lackey-sided boots. He looked like the real thing.

He explained that it wasn't actually a Scotch Thistle, but a cousin of the ST. I asked whether any action had been taken to wipe it out and got the spin doctor answer about far more invasive species and eradication program priorities etc and after asking again he had to say 'no'.

I pointed out that the council is giving small land holders $3,000 grants to maintain their bush settings and clear weeds. No comment.

At the moment there are about thirty large healthy plants in an area of approximately 100metres X 50 metres. Most of them have already disgorged their airborne seeds and I would be surprised if the next crop of this very prickly invader cover twice this area.

I have just received an email from the John Fawcett Foundation in Bali. They cannot (don't want?) to help with transportation of computers for a school in the highlands of Bali. Bugger!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Parkinsons and Lewy Body disease

Our friend, John, has this nasty combination of debilitating conditions. Lewy Body is a form of dementia with hallucinations. Both diseases have progressed fairly rapidly and John is very confused most of the time. On Sunday night he lost the use of one of his legs and couldn't move. Joy, his wife, called an ambulance and took him to Fremantle Hospital thinking this might have been a stroke.

Fremantle Hospital gets a bit of a caning from the public and the press, but Joy was most impressed by the attention shown and the battery of tests performed. Unfortunately there were no beds available and he had to spend the night in emergency on a gurney. The next morning John became agitated and he was given a shot of Quetiapine, a drug used for calming aggressive dementia patients. Joy had previously used this drug in tablet form with bad results. Almost immediately John became very aggressive and was abusing nurses and doctors in very racist terms. Joy was very embarrassed at his out of character actions and had to leave.

Today the transformation was amazing. He was calm and talkative and seemed to know where he was and why he was there. He should be able to return home in a few days.

I have always thought that when people, including me, get intoxicated and say some outrageous things, that it was just the grog that loosened the tongue. With John, I have had to step back and look at that proposition again. John is certainly not racist. I have been a close friend for over 50 years and have never heard him utter any racist comments. Maybe alcohol as well as such drugs do alter a person's character and mood to the point where they do and say things completely out of character?

One of the TV shows that John likes to sit and watch is MASH and a friend who also knows John thinks that he may have seen the foreign faces of nurses and doctors as characters out of the series. I will talk with John and see if he remembers any of his ranting.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

The V word

In today's Sunday Times' newspaper there is a column by Phil Haberland about his vasectomy. His was done with a laser-beam instrument. Quick, efficient and painless.

I reflected on my vasectomy performed at Port Moresby General Hospital in 1974.

We were stationed at Popondetta Vocational Centre in the Northern Province of PNG and as Manager of the centre I was to fly to Moresby to buy a new tractor for the centre. I had a Filipino agricultural teacher working at the centre and he told me about his vasectomy done in Manila. It sounded good, so we (Joan and I) thought I should get it done.

Before departing for Moresby I rang the hospital to book in for the op. I talked to the registrar, and Indian chap, who told me he couldn't do it because...'I am katolic'. He did say that there was a English doctor there who could do it. I made the appointment and a couple of days later flew in to Moresby.

The tractor purchase was made and I also bought a small motorcycle which I was to take back on the plane. On the day, I rode the motorcycle to the hospital and parked it in the parking area and entered the hospital and was introduced to the registrar and the Brit. doctor. We walked to an open area which had a banana-lounge type of operating table. I got up on the table and then the Indian bloke came in with some 30 trainee nurses to watch. His religion didn't stop him using me as a teaching aid!

It turned out that the doctor doing the job had never done one before. In fact he was just past his internship in Britain and was a VSO; a British volunteer abroad. Great! He started on me with a local anaesthetic and scalpel. I was interested to see it all and it was quite easy because of the elevated operating table. He made an exploratory slash with the scalpel and dug around in the mush trying to find the luck. This went on for about 15 minutes and the nurses and the registrar left as nothing was happening. The Doc was embarrassed and I was pained.
It took maybe twenty minutes for him to find the tube to be cut and when he did he grabbed it with some forceps and gave it a yank. That little tube seemed to be attached to my neck and my toes as it curled me up with each pull. Having chopped a bit out of the tube he moved on to the other side and with a bit of experience he located the vas deferens in no time. Before I knew what was happening he had left and a native nurse was soaking up the mess and I was left on the table alone in the room. 10...15 minutes passed and nothing. I tried to call out, but all I could manage was a pathetic squeak. So I decided to leave and with a bit of a struggle, got off the table and made my way to the change room and got dressed. I was a bit offside at this stage and walked out to the parking area without paying the 20c outpatients' fee.

I was in no condition to kick-start the bike and asked a local bloke if he could kick it over for me. No success! Port Moresby hospital is in about the flattest place in the town and I had to walk the bike several hundred metres before enough elevation was gained to get on board and do a rolling start. The bike started and I was off. I should have gone immediately back to my accommodation at a friend's unit, but no, I decided on a motorcycle tour of Moresby and surrounding villages. Wrong! It took me three months to get over that 20c operation.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hilake died

One of my Std 6 lads was missing from class for a few days and other students told me that he had died. That was sudden and very sad. Hilake was a good student and pleasant lad.

It was tradition that the head teacher should buy a white bedsheet to wrap the body in for burial. I purchased a sheet and went into the next village and found Hilake's house with dozens of mourners around the step wailing and beating themselves. I asked to see him and after climbing up a ladder-type set of stairs found Hilake still breathing. 'He's alive', I yelled, but they told me that he was dead; his spirit had gone.

I did a bit of yelling and sent another student on the school bicycle to the LMS Mission station to summons a nurse. About two hours later she arrived on a moped and inspected Hilake declaring him well and truly alive, but with meningitis. He was carried to the Mission Station and in a couple of weeks was back at school.

Even though I knew his father and we talked on occasions, he never thanked me, and Hilake never mentioned his return from the dead. I guessed that most, if not all, village people who lapsed into a coma, did go on to die. There were many situations where only later, as I grew older, did I fully appreciate some of their beliefs.

Later in the 1970s I was told that crocodiles have four eyes. I discussed that with my native staff and found that they too believed that crocs have four eyes. Even when I had a student bring a small croc to school from weekend leave they believed that the other two eyes hadn't developed yet.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Kev's Cult

Back in the early sixties I was a 22 year old kid in charge of a primary school in an isolated part of the Gulf of Papua. Over one week I noticed that almost all the girls were not attending school. I asked the boys what was happening and was told that they were dancing on their ancestors' graves. Being a relatively newby in Papua New Guinea, I thought that it was a traditional thing. In the next village I had noticed a newly built platform around a large tree; a nice meeting spot for villages under the shade of the tree...not!

About a week later I heard loud engine noises and lots of villagers shouting, and as it was late afternoon I went with villagers to see what was happening. To my amazement there was a contingent of native police officers and three Australian kiaps berating the villagers for starting a cargo cult. Apparently the platform around the tree was to receive the cargo. From what I could make out the kiaps (patrol officers) ordered the villages to tear down the platform and gave them some work on a road as punishment for being so silly.

As they left, the whole contingent of police and Kiaps drove past me in Landrovers and neither said anything or even looked at me. Kev was starting to feel that they thought I had started the cargo cult.

Later, on reflection, I figured out what the likely cause was. When I wanted to order some supplies to be shipped out from Port Moresby by coastal trader I would ride into the Government Station at Ihu and talk on the two-way radio to Steamships Trading Company and place an order. When it arrived it was usually boxed and sent out to my school on a government tractor and trailer. When the tractor arrived in the village, school kids would help unload the box and we all waved the tractor driver goodbye as he left......without any money changing hands. I figured that the villagers thought that my ancestors over the horizon (another unfathomable concept) had sent me the goods.

Nothing was ever mentioned about cargo cults and I never heard any talk about what they believed about my 'cargo'. I did talk to the other teachers and suggested that we explain how orders are paid for by cheque. Around that time I had a staff member who disliked me and I did think that maybe he was mixed up in it at some level.

Recently I have tried to access Patrol reports to Arehava, to try and find what it was all about and whether my name was mentioned. Unfortunately most of the Patrol Reports have been destroyed in arson attacks on government stations. The University of Southern California has a comprehensive collection of patrol reports covering most of the colonial period, but they must be accessed in person. The Australian Archives in Canberra also has quite a bit of information on patrols etc. When we visited Canberra a few years ago we did a search, but nothing came up regarding Kev's Cult.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Cargo cults and sorcery

Joan, the kids and I spent 6 years in Papua New Guinea from 1970. It was an absolutely wonderful adventure in a relatively safe environment. Not so now. Cargo cults and sorcery are still rife.

I read of a survey conducted in PNG about the effectiveness of the Justice system. The question asked was..Should sorcery and witchcraft be used as alternatives to solving law and order problems that have remained unsolved over a long period of time?
The results so far: Yeas 55%, Nays 42%, Don't knows 3%.

In the 70s we experienced two major cargo cults; one in the Sepik District and one in the Northern District. In the Sepik District a villager told other villagers that a large obelisk on a hill was actually a stopper to a tunnel overseas where white men (and women) got all their, trucks, boats, planes and of course, money. He had a huge following and some crazy schemes were followed without question. Chinese-made suitcases were purchased and money was put in them and buried. The idea was that at a certain date they were to be dug up and the money would have multiplied. In his village he had a money making factory where silver coins were passed from one room to another through bamboo pipes. The sound was certainly convincing to his followers. It all ended up with a large group of his followers removing the obelisk and carrying it into town. After all the non events, it just died out. I never heard of any disappointed followers getting even a bit cranky. How he explained it all away is not known. I suspect the followers believed that whitey had stymied their operation.

The concrete obelisk was, I believe, part of a geodetic survey of the world by the US Air Force carried out in the late 60s.

When I was single teaching in Papua in the early sixties I was unwittingly involved in a cargo cult in the village I lived in. More about that next post.

Monday, January 7, 2008

D Day

Today is the beginning of the first full working week after the Christmas and New Year holidays. According to a news item in the West Australian this morning, today is also known amongst lawyers as D or Divorce Day, with more than the usual numbers of people deciding to start proceedings to end their marriages.

The article doesn't say whether it is the stress of the holidays, the unavailability of lawyers over the break, or both that contributes to this spike in legal work.

Today is also our 42nd wedding anniversary. No lawyers for us.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Holden Caulfield

I have been a bit tardy writing our blog entry. I could have told a Holden Caulfield and said that I have just had a brain tumor removed. I was thinking of Holden from ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ yesterday and thought that I must revisit it soon.

I googled Catcher in the Rye and got heaps of information and reviews. One of the reviewers was scathing, suggesting that it was a poorly written, unrepresentative piece of drivel. He sounded just like Holden in Catcher. Wikipedia has a good plot analysis, plenty of other information and an interesting list of names for the novel in other languages.

Don’t bother reading the book again, do what most students would have done and read someone else’s review.

J D Salinger wrote a few other short stories after Catcher, but they failed to match up to his only novel. He refuses many offers to make a film of Catcher and will not be interviewed

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Slow start to the day

My head is a bit rattly this morning. Yesterday we had visitors and they are staying over for a couple of days with their lovely kids. Sean is an ex student from the eighties at Rockingham Senior High and we have kept in touch over the years. Sean and Denise have sold their home in NSW and are having a caravan purpose built to their specifications to embark on a two- year odyssey around Australia. Denise is going to home-school the kids and Sean will get whatever work he can. He is an accountant as well as having teaching qualifications so should be able to pick up relief teaching jobs in country towns.

Today they are off to Adventure World just a short distance from here. Adventure World is a mini theme park with lots of water features: just the thing for a day that promises 40c temperatures.

Yesterday I rang the environment officer at the Cockburn Council to advise them of the Scotch Thistles we found at Bibra Lake. She said that she would get the 'guys' to look at them. We will check them out over the next week to see if anything is actually done about them. Might have to take a sprayer with a bit of Roundup down there myself if nothing is done.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Mean weeds: Scotland's gift to Australia

Last night we celebrated New Year's Eve with a few friends. We are no longer party animals and decided we would be on Sydney time and finished at ten. Very pleasant evening with nice food and some drinks.

This morning we walked near Bibra Lake and found an area which was host to quite a few Scotch Thistles. Neither of us has ever seen a Scotch Thistle in the flesh, or in the prickle for that matter. Very pretty bush with nasty thorns all over them. Tomorrow I will contact the local council and maybe the 'Friends of Bibra Lake' and suggest that they poison them off ASAP. If they don't want to, I will.
Western Australia has a few nasty weeds. As a kid I remember bicycle tyres were often punctured by doublegee seeds. Similar devices were employed during WW2 to puncture vehicle tyres. Doublegee has mostly been eliminated in the metropolitan areas but I am not sure about the country. One mean country weed, Caltrop has been seen in the city. It also was a weapon against horses in medieval times. It seems that the seeds of good plants aren't viable for too long, but the nasties have seeds that are viable for up to 40 years. Once again, the good die young.

The fight against Scotch Thistle is not new as shown from this snip from an early W.A. Government Gazette.