Thursday, February 28, 2008

failed gardener

I have been growing vegetables most of my life and over the past few years our small vegetable plot has produced many tomatoes and we have had lots of tomato sauce.
This year I have been plagued by insect damage to almost every tomato. We have lots of wasps around to kill off moth larvae, but somehow these critters get into the fruit by the smallest fruit-fly type strike. I have used malathion in the past, but not in the last few years.

I did a bit of reading up to find out how 'organic gardeners' attack pests. Very easy stuff. You plant host plants to attract bugs to eat the nasty bugs. Sounds like BS to me!

When we lived in PNG, the tomatoes on sale in village markets were so bitter that bugs didn't attack them. When I bought in some good seeds from Aus, the insects had a field day.

I have ripped out my tomato plants and will plant only stuff that bugs don't like. A few weeks ago when I was fussing over my tomato plants, a case of tomatoes was selling for $6.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

workshop crowding again

I have stopped collecting computing equipment, but today my cousin dropped a couple of printers off to me. I don't really need them, but I don't want to see them go to landfill. He also tried to offload a scanner and a PC. No thanks Ted!

Before lunch I visited my mate John in the dementia ward of SCGH. He was bright and not at all anxious as he has been previously. He really liked the small bottle of ginger beer I took him and we had a long, calm conversation.

The conversation was a series of stories seamlessly interwoven without a break. He told me of the drowning death of his nephew on a farm. It wasn't in a water dam, but in a flooded paddock. His nephew, just 4 years old, was in the muddy water and was grabbed by a farmhand who was within 250 metres of the flooded paddock. The farmhand dropped the lad and took a long time to lift him back up out of the water. John told me that there were two cameras recording all that happened and there were indications about a suspicious death. He warned me not to talk to anyone about these suspicions. The story was very real to him.

In the 1950s, John and his father worked on outback farms doing the odd building job and I asked him if this took place on one of those farms. He shot back that it was 'now; currently', and the flooded paddock was just at the end of the hospital ward. He was quite emotional about the imagined loss of his nephew. The brain is a powerful organ.

A team of doctors and nurses visited whilst I was there. The Resident is a Chinese man and he had an African and probably an Indian doctor in tow. The nurses were of a similar mix.
I guess that most graduates from medical school go into private practice after their internship and of late, places in public hospitals are being filled by foreign doctors.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A funeral

I have just returned from a funeral service in Fremantle. It was pretty good as far as funerals go. Lily died peacefully at age 92 with her family around her. Turns out that only in the last two weeks of her life the family worked out that she was a year older than everyone thought.

The service was conducted by a celebrant who was so 'sincere' that he seemed like a close family member. There was a short period where he suggested that people might like to lay flowers on the coffin and surprisingly suggested that 'believers' might like to offer a prayer to Lily. Only one person took up that offer and it was her carer.

Getting ready this morning I had to iron my trousers. They were a bit wrinkled and neglected since retirement has not meant that I need to dress formally to go to work. It reminded me of some early morning ironing I had to do whilst in PNG in 1962. I had a kerosene heated iron. The method there was to heat up the vaporising tubes with methylated spirits and pump up the tank pressure and just as the metho was almost gone, turn on the vaporised kero and you were away. The principle was much the same as a kerosene plumber's blow lamp.

The urgent ironing at about 4am was to get dressed for the Government Station ANZAC day dawn service. In those colonial days on a small station with approximately 12 Europeans, to miss an ANZAC service would have almost meant a public flogging, but most certainly the cold shoulder from the Administration.

My problem was that I didn't have any methylated spirits left and had to try and heat the iron with bourbon whiskey. It took half a dozen charges of bourbon before it was hot enough to roar into life. Later postings put me too far from government stations to have to worry about ANZAC services and I figured I had done my bit when in the Sea Scouts every ANZAC Day dawn service.

Joan collected a kerosene powered iron years ago and today I decided that I would refurbish it and get it going again.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Car warranty service

Yesterday we had our Hyundai serviced. It was the 30,000 kilometre service and cost a whopping $351. I asked the service manager to see if they could locate a rattle in the head lining. He advised me that after the first 1000 kilometers rattles, squeaks and bumps are not covered in the warranty. Knowing that it can take hours to locate a rattle we decided against an expensive job and I will try and locate it myself. Most annoying in a nice car which has not been on any rough roads to have such a rattle. Next service will be by a local mechanic at half the price.

I had a double banger today. I visited my friend John in the dementia ward at SCG Hospital. He recognised me and immediately started telling me of his plans to escape. Other conversations included sailing around his room, climbing over a large black rock in his room and other stuff that could be perfectly reasonable in another situation. Sudden mood swings with a little aggression thrown in. I was exhausted after 45 minutes. Joy, his wife is under great stress visiting daily. I suggested that I could fill in whenever she needed a day off.

Second part of the day was with my bro-in-law trying to sort out his PC to use Skype. Part of his Parkinson's affliction is an obsessive streak he has developed which causes him to attempt to fix things which often leads to disabling equipment as in his computer gear. I think someone needs to reload all his software as he may have made changes to preferences. I took a printer cartridge home to refill for them as I feel that his dyskinesis would make it near impossible to fill the carts without making a mess. Mike is scheduled for his Deep Brain Stimulation operation on the 15th of April. It should stop the dyskinesis but maybe not the obsessive behaviour. Two very sad stories.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Goodbye Daewoo

Our son's old car, a Daewoo Cielo died a few weeks ago. We bought him another bomb and I decided to try and sell off some parts before recycling it. I managed to sell about $150 worth of bits. One fellow who wanted the fuel injection system also stole the alternator whist I was inside the house. Bummer! A couple of days later a young guy rang urgently needing an alternator and willing to pay $100. Sorry mate! (that's me that's sorry).

It sounds like I'm a bit cheap trying to get a few dollars for bits, but it's beer money. I felt that the neighbors might be getting a little offside about me dismantling a car, so decided to sell the body to a metal recycler for a $50 shopping voucher. A big truck came today and collected it.

I asked the driver what happens to the bodies. It seems that Sims Metals has a recycling plant quite close to us here and the car goes through a huge 'grauncher' which chops it all up into small bits and then a separation process separates metals from plastics, rubber and glass. The metals are separated into ferrous and non-ferrous by huge magnets. The trash is sent to landfill and the metals go to China to the Zing Gan Ironworks to be made into jet fighters, cars or iPhone copies.

Some pics of the operation.

Also today, I Googled for information about how to get hits on blogs. One page had some good ideas: mention a film star, nude bathing, start a thread about PC vs Mac, Fords vs Holdens etc etc. So here goes...Elle McPherson, Russel Crowe, Holdens beat Fords, Macs are more reliable than PCs. That should stir up a few Googlers.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I don't plan ahead by looking at TV program guides. A friend asked me if I had recorded an ABC program called 'Land of the Morning Star' which was shown at 2.15am a couple of days ago. I was sorry that I hadn't since I was in Papua New Guinea in 1962 when Netherlands New Guinea was being threatened by Sukarno and his considerable military power.

I decided to see if anyone on the MacIntosh Users Group had recorded it and fortunately one group member had and he made it available to me through a link to an ftp server. It was about 650mb and on our slow broadband connection took a few hours to download. Nevertheless, it was well worth it. I have seen parts of this film before, but all together it was a potted history of the events of the Indonesian takeover and subsequent violent squashing of the West Papuan Independence movement.

Indonesia has since flooded the place with 'Trans Migration' Indonesians who have been given land.

I was in Rabaul, Papua New Guinea in 1961 when things were hotting up between Indonesia and the Dutch. In Rabaul harbour there was a Dutch freighter with two DC3s wrapped in plastic on the deck bound for Netherlands New Guinea. I did wonder at the time why they didn't just fly them there.

In 1962 when the 'invasion' was complete the Australian Administration was concerned that smallpox could make its way across the border to PNG. Fortunately it didn't because villagers rejected immunisation. They thought that the inoculation scar was an Australian mark which would make them targets in any Indonesian invasion of PNG.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Six degrees of separation

Yesterday was a busy one. In the morning I went to our daughter Helen's unit to remove old blinds and curtains in preparation for the installation of new timber blinds. At 1.30pm I collected four distant relatives over here from the U.S. on a family discovery trip. I took them to visit the Perth Mint. The mint is a fine old building with plenty of security because of all the coins minted there. It is a good tour lasting about an hour. Firstly there is a potted history of the Mint and its activities and lastly a pouring of a bar of gold. The chap who demonstrated the gold pour has a good and humorous story to tell. It seems that that particular bar of gold has been melted down and cast about 30,000 times. The crucible used lasts only about two weeks and the residue of gold extracted from the old crucible is worth about $300.

I wanted to take my guests to a favourite pub, but they are Mormons and so.....

In the evening we joined some friends on the river at Point Walter and had a very pleasant meal and a few drinks. This is where the six degrees of separation comes in.

Our friend Joy recently told us of a friend of hers who had a direct link to my grandfather and grandmother. It seems that in 1927 her friend's father emigrated from Ireland and landed at Fremantle. After a short time in Fremantle he caught a train to the wheatbelt town of Narrogin and then travelled another 30 miles east to my grandparents' farm at Toolibin where he was employed as a farm labourer. Some time later he married a lass on the next farm. Their daughter was at last night's riverside gathering and it seems that we played together as children and have another family as common friends. Amazing stuff! We were able to recall events, names of farm neighbors and events. We look forward to catching up with her again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Nurse Ratched

Today I went with Joy to visit her husband John who is in a dementia ward at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital (Charlies!). John was in need of a haircut, so I took my clippers etc to do a job on him.

He recognised me at first and started telling us all sorts of stories including a robbery which was Ben Hall like. He was very talkative, but little was related to reality, although the way he talked, it was very real and worrying to him.

After a bit of cajoling he let me shave him and cut his hair whilst semi sitting up in bed. He has an extreme fear of heights and his placement on the seventh floor with a nice big picture window wasn't doing anything for his acrophobia.

He has the best nurse I have seen. She is a young gal, kind and somehow knows what will calm John. Her language is suited to John and we felt that he was not afraid when she was there.

There are quite a few nurse Ratcheds (One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest) out there but this young lady is certainly not one. I complimented her and hope she will be John's nurse until he is placed in care.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Retirees are busy people

Who said retired people have nothing to do? Certainly not me.

Tomorrow I am going to visit my friend John in a psychiatric ward at Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital. John is awaiting placement at a nursing home. He is rapidly losing what lucidity he has had until recently. I hope he recognises me tomorrow.

On Thursday, our daughter has booked dad to go to her unit early to remove the existing blinds and drapes in preparation for installation of wooden blinds. The blind man (the man installing the blinds) is due somewhere between 9.30am and whenever.

On Friday Helen wants me to go to her school and drill some holes for hanging work on the classroom walls.

Today I braved the ladder to the roof to do a service on our evaporative air conditioner. The pads were removed and a year's dust washed out and the mud in the base of the cooler washed and siphoned out. Inside the house, all the duct louvres needed removing and washing. Several hours there and a goodly bit of exercise up and down ladders.

Yesterday I waited for a TV antennae man at my brother's house while he was at work. That used up a few hours.

Monday, February 11, 2008

A special Mass

I have been helping a single mother and her autistic six year old child get a computer set up with games, movies and still pictures of aircraft. It is all running smoothly. She is a Serbian Australian and her elderly mother hovered nearby when I was showing mother and child the basics of the Mac operating system. They seem to have done well as they have not called me for help.

Mother of the gal I have helped is a very religious old woman and today I was told that she had arranged for a special Mass to be said for me. I am not a believer, but if any benefit should come from this special Mass, I hope it will do some good for our son.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

the beginning and the end

Over the last two days I have had contact with ex-students from the beginning of my teaching career and one near the end of it.

Hae Mama was in my 1962 primary school class in Papua. Silje Carling was in my 1998 high school class in Western Australia.

Hae rang me early yesterday morning on his government phone and asked for Mr Lock. Being constantly plagued by Indian call centres I told him to 'piss off and don't call again'. It was only after that I realised it may have been from Hae and I had to ring him back and apologise. He understood.

Silje, tonight, sought me out on FaceBook. I am into the internet technology, but not young enough at 68 to participate in all the ad-ons that FaceBook has. None-the-less I was pretty chuffed that Sil searched me out for her first 'friend' on FaceBook. She is an American and spent one year in W.A. at my school when her father was on exchange at Murdoch University.
We have kept in contact and I have followed her career as a teacher. This contact came out of the blue because it has been over a year since we last talked. Must get her on Skype although I might get a younger handsome brother to front up to the video chat.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Sith Efrika

Our daughter Helen is nearing the end of the first week of the school year teaching Kindy kids. She rang today and gave us a word picture of her charges. They are mostly lovely kids with the exception of a couple of difficult ones. One young fellow is a new arrival from South Africa. Helen has had a couple of years with bad mannered South African children. This particular 4 year old yelled at her telling her to shut that awful Sith Efrikan accent.

The attitude of the children can, I believe, be attributed to having African servants who look after their every need but are not able to discipline the child. I observed some of this in Papua New Guinea when we lived there.

In the late 1950s there was a wave of Rhodesian immigration into Western Australia through Fremantle Harbour and I remember reports of the immigrants ordering the wharfies to carry their baggage. That went over like a lead balloon.

There are quite a few real African migrants here now. I doubt they are living in the same suburbs as the white South Africans. The ones from Somalia are the most mentioned in the newspapers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

waste disposal

I have been collecting computers for overseas aid projects for a few years now. Most of them, after refurbishment and configuration, went to Zimbabwe and some to an impoverished school in the mountain area of Bangli in Bali.

I have another 13 computers, 10 monitors and 4 printers, but not the wherewithal to get them to either Bali or Zimbabwe. They are still good machines, but nobody here wants a computer that runs at a processor speed lower than 800mhz. Most of the computers I have range between 200-350mhz. So I thought I should send them to a recycling yard. Problem: no one wants CRT monitors because they contain lead, mercury, cadmium and arsenic. One yard will take them at a charge of $18 per monitor as they are shipped to Holland for recycling. Other scrap yards will take the CPU and ship them off to China where small villages salvage the solder, copper wire, steel and gold from the contacts on plugs and cables.

So what to do with the monitors?? Landfill is the only answer. As it happens, the ACT (Australian Capital Territory) is the only state/territory with legislation banning dumping of monitors and TVs at tip sites. I hate to do it, but there is no alternative. I will take them to the tip tomorrow.

Recycling is a good news story, but there is a bit of spin involved. Glass/bottles are shipped to South Australia to be recycled. At our local landfill site there are bottle banks, but they are difficult to get to. It is obvious that the Council would rather have you dump bottles in the landfill.

Not much encouragement to recycle.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


We have had a bit of extra work to complete at Martin's unit. Almost all the taps needed new washers. Also the steel door frame near the shower recess is heavily rusted from water leaking through the shower wall. Rust treatment and a sealer will fix that. We have one last item to take there and that is a lounge. At the same time we bought the lounge we also bought a sofa bed, but it is so back-breaking heavy that we have decided to take only the lounge and sell/give away the sofa bed.

I have been reading a blog about recipes and meal planning and I was reminded of my single days in Papua New Guinea in the 60s. Upon Graduation from Malaguna Teachers' College in Rabaul, we were advised on how to set up house in extreme isolation in bush locations. We were told where to order food etc and how to plan meals. Most food was only available in cans flown or shipped in from major centres. On meal planning we were advised to divide the kitchen cupboard (if you had one) up into three sections: meats, vegetables and sweets, and if you were posted to the highlands you could add a soup section. In these sections you stacked the cans with the labels removed to give you a surprise meal each time. There were some strange combinations from that idea.

Friday, February 1, 2008

religious fervour

Tonight on TV there is a program about the Mormons. Part of it covers the missionaries and their training. The training at a special college is more intense than that for an insurance salesman.

I recall working on my WW2 jeep on my back with oil and grease and dirt all over and two of the blackties approached me down the driveway...."Hi that an army jeep? It's a beauty!' said one whilst the other lad positioned himself ready to start the spiel. "Yes and no thanks" was all they got from me. Tonight on the TV show I saw the training with exactly that approach.

Another time when I was Teacher in Charge of a school in the Gulf of Papua in 1962, sitting on the steps of my one-roomed donga looking out to sea when I saw a white man walking past on the beach. Someone to talk to! I yelled and he stopped and looked at me; walked toward me and as he approached started telling me he was on a mission for God. A bloody Jehovah's! Even though he was going to give me a serving of the bible I invited him to stay the night. As I recall he wasn't too heavy and he may have had a beer?

Teaching high school back in Western Australia I have taught a number of Plymouth Brethren kids. They are easy to pick out in a crowd. The girls wear denim skirts and have long hair with a head scarf. The girls are not allowed to study academic subjects. The boys look very vegan somehow and always get employment within a large circle of Sect businesses. When they were in the government education system they were not allowed to eat with other humans and at lunchtime a string of people movers arrived at the school to take them away for lunch. They are not allowed to have or view computers. Any member of the sect who opts out is denounced and not allowed to talk to family remaining in the sect.

I taught genetics to a year 10 class in which there were five 'Brevo' members. I had to announce at the start of each lesson whether I was going to mention anything concerning sex. They would get up and leave if we were going to get a bit rude. Lots of fun with that one!

I could go on with stories about AOGs, Seven Day Adventists, Methodists and Catholics, but I won't, because some of my friends belong in that lot.