Wednesday, April 30, 2008

a bad patient

Today we visited Martin in hospital. It was a most unpleasant experience. After being in dire straits and thinking he was dying, he has, in one day, gone from being rescued by the public health system to being its harshest critic.

The bank of tests has not positively identified the problem and his echo cardiogram was scheduled for today. When I went to visit him this afternoon he was very dark about the fact that it was re-scheduled to tomorrow or even Friday. I tried to explain to our 37 year old son that this was a public hospital, funded by taxes that he has not largely contributed to and that a delay of a day or two is not something to be angry about. He should have looked around the ward to see how other patients are coping with their situation.

Treatment in Australian hospitals is free. If you have a life threatening problem you are in hospital immediately. If it is something like a hip replacement, you may have to wait up to 18 months to have the procedure. By and large it is a very good system; world class.

This afternoon our son complained to us about hospital food. Daughter Helen went and bought him some sandwiches, but he didn't try them and she had to go out and buy some chicken. Send him off to Bagdad General Hospital I say!

I reckon one of the most trying times nurses have in the hospital situation is abusive patients.
I guess they are aware of the five stages of dying (Kubler Ross) and are sympathetic to their grumbles. Personally, today, I decided that I could not be a medico.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

stressful day

Today has been quite stressful. Our son, Martin, is in Fremantle Hospital emergency ward.

For that past three days he has complained of breathlessness, fluid retention and headaches. He has also been coughing up blood and vomiting.

I collected him from his unit this morning and took him to Next Step, the government drug rehab centre where he had an appointment for 11.30am. He has been on a quite high dose of Suboxone and I thought that this was what was causing him problems.

The doctor at Next Step examined him and she thought there was a heart condition and suggested that we get him to Fremantle emergency immediately. It took a while for the machinery to get going, but he underwent a bank of tests, scans and X-Rays and they determined that he had a massive infection somewhere and also pneumonia. He was started on a drip of a diuretic and three different bags of anti-biotics. Joan went and bought him some essential toiletries and when she returned to the hospital she was told that they believe he has a blockage in one of his heart valves and that blockage is collecting other solids passing by. Tomorrow morning a camera is to be fed down a blood vessel to take a closer look.

He is destined to be in hospital for a couple of weeks if there are no real heart problems. The oedema and the pneumonia will take that long to treat. For all the complaints about the state of the public health system it certainly functions well when the condition is life threatening.

Monday, April 28, 2008

80th birthday bash

Saturday morning we were treated to breakfast at Hillarys Boat Harbour. The occasion was the 80th birthday of Joan’s aunt Pat. After breakfast everyone joined her and Uncle Boy at one of the daughter’s house for speeches and pressies. Boy is so called because he was the first and only boy after 4 daughters.

Pat, and Boy are very young for their chronological age; both active and very ‘with it’. They have eight kids and what seems like dozens of grand and great grandchildren all of whom show genuine affection to their grandparents.

The family has a tradition of theatre at such occasions and there is usually some poetry and often an item by the grandchildren. Very impressive family stuff that is born, I think, from a large family. One son awarded her the OBE (Over Bloody Eighty).

Joan and her sister Dorothy were invited because they were flower girls at Boy and Pat’s wedding.

A nice touch was a bookmark featuring Pat made by a daughter for each guest.

Yesterday I visited bro-in-law Mike in hospital. It is today that he is to have the controller inserted under the skin in his chest and the wiring connected. It will still be another month before the system is activated. Hope it works. He told me that nurses are continually asking him if he knows where he is. At one stage early after his operation he couldn’t remember and replied with a ‘who wants to know?’

On Saturday he was told that he had ‘done a little poo’ and needed to be cleaned up. It turned out to be bits of dark chocolate scattered in and around the bed by his dyskinesia.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Good news

Brother-in-law Mike has had the big operation to insert the electrodes in his brain to stop the dyskinesia of Parkinson's Disease. The operation was done over five hours and Mike is well. I truly do not know how they kept him still for that time as he had to remain awake during the procedure. Yesterday the surgeon tested the circuitry and it all seems good. The next stage is to bury the wiring and battery/controller under the skin of his chest. It will be one month before it can be activated because of the healing that needs to take place.

Joan and her sister Dorothy were to meet at the show grounds today to go to the annual craft fare. They have been going together for at least five years. Joan waited for over an hour out the front and sensing that something may have gone wrong with Mike's operation, rang her eight times on her mobile without reply, before heading off to Sir Charles Gardiner Hospital to see if Dorothy was there. She wasn't, but Joan did catch up with Mike and he seemed fit and well. Joan rang again and Dorothy answered to say that she had been in the craft show for over two hours and had left her phone in her car. She has had a lot on her plate lately and I guess forgot to go outside to see if Joan was waiting out there.

Perth has had quite a few artistes on tour recently. An 'old' favourite, Neil Sedaka is soon to be in town. Elton John was to play Perth too, but he was stopped at the airport when they found a false bottom in his suitcase.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Mobile phones

I drove to Huntingdale today to collect some software I had ordered. The software is Photoshop Elements. Looks good, but it is going to be another learning process for an old bloke like me. Some of the tools are Photoshop like, but it seems that a different team of developers built PS Elements and they decided to make it different to the original photoshop. I will sort it out.

This was the first trip using my new NavMan GPS. It worked really well. Most impressive!

Whilst driving I noticed a woman using a mobile phone in a car next to mine. At first I got a bit offside and thought of motioning to her that she was doing the wrong, and illegal, thing. Then I started wondering what the reasoning is for banning the use of mobile phones whilst driving. I am guessing here, but I think it is because the driver talking on the phone in flight cannot concentrate?

I then wondered if there was any loss of concentration when using the legal hands-free phone in the car. I don’t have one, but I figure one would have to concentrate on what was being said just as much as if using a hand held phone. What about the drivers with iPod earbuds blasting their eardrums? I hate those ads on the radio that have a car horn blasting or a siren. They scare the poo out of me!

Or is it the one handed driving that is the problem? If so, then truckies should be done for eating their breckie of a pie and choc milk whilst hooning along in a thirty tonne truck.
Or the ciggy smoker who is constantly waving his/her cigarette out the driver’s window; or the driver drinking a can of coke.

They could come down on those posers who have their lap dogs sharing the driver’s lap.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mushies and Toadies

I recently found some fungi popping up in my small garden area. I took a good look at them to determine if they were mushrooms or poisonous mushrooms...toadstools. They had a grey colour under the mantle which usually points to them being mushies, however they had strange spots on top of the mantle and it spooked me. They went into the compost.

I have always thought that field mushrooms with an almost flat mantle and black underneath are the real item and anything slightly different was a bit scary. One of the internet sites I Googled suggested that if it didn't look like the typical mushroom it was a toadie and that rang true for me as most toadies have a mantle like a half-opened umbrella and are very soft.

When we lived in New Guinea we could buy sago mushrooms...mushrooms that grew in the sago swamps. Delicious! They didn't look like the regular mushies. Later when I taught at a country town, Goomalling, the golf course was mushroom heaven for about three weeks after the first heavy rains.

Bali has its Magic Mushrooms and even down south here in Western Australia there is an annual cat and mouse game with hippies and the police when the Karri forest spawns its own magic mushrooms.

I've tried the home cultivation of mushies in a box. It works, but there is nothing like large field mushrooms freshly picked and fried on a skillet with lots of butter, pepper and salt.

Disclaimer: I don't really know poo from clay about Toadstools, so don't take my advice when eating wild fungi.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gas leak

At my brother’s house one of the trees on the street verge has turned up its toes.
There is a strong smell of gas nearby and bro reckons it is that that has killed the tree.
I of course, said that I didn’t think gas could do it, but when I Googled ‘Gas Killed Trees’; there it was. In fact the city of Boston has many trees dying because of old cast iron gas pipes leaking.

Read about it here.

Bro reported the gas smell to the gas company and they have been out and marked the footpath in line with the tree. So there, leaking natural gas doesn’t worry humans, apart for the tell-tale smell they add to the gas, but can kill trees.

This week I have a complicated job to do for a friend. He has a severely disabled 43 year old son who lives in a group house situation. I had previously set up an iMac so that he could do simple emailing and get the footy results. I, with help from a Mac Guru, locked all other settings out so that he couldn’t delete or change settings and preferences etc.

The big job now is to remember how to get into the locked down system and transfer his mail addresses etc onto the new Mac, set up his Broad Band connection and once again lock the new machine down so that he can’t make any changes. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth for this sort of thing.

Monday, April 21, 2008


The Prime Minister's 2020 Summit is over. It could be, and has been, alleged that it was a gathering of hand-picked friends of the government.

It reminds me of the late 1980s when I, along with all the government teachers in Western Australia, attended lavish Professional Development junkets to see the introduction of the Unit Curriculum into schools. These PD presentations were inspiring, but as I recall there was little follow-up. One of the tenets of UC was that students could achieve at their own pace. If young Billy failed a unit he could repeat that unit next semester. Great idea, but timetabling constraints kiboshed that one! Education seems to have a revamp about every 8 years. The current trend is Outcomes which teachers are largely opposed to. We are thankful that we no longer have to keep up with ever changing changes. Why don't they wait until all the old teachers have retired before making changes? That was a joke!

Yesterday we visited Joan's sister and husband Mike. Mike is having the operation to insert electrodes into his brain on Tuesday. He is very worried that it may make him worse. Their daughter Katherine is there to be with him for the operation. She is a Partner in the San Francisco branch of Price-Waterhouse. She is not on leave but conducts her business via the internet whilst away from their offices.

Now a rant. 4WD drivers have taken over the lead of annoying people from Volvo drivers. They block out the view at corners and drive 'up my ar..' I don't know how many Mitsubishi Pajero drivers realise that Pajero means wanker in Spanish. If the name fits!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Annual Reunion today

of women who used to live in Wongan Hills in the late 40s and early 5os. It is organised by Laurel who used to teach the Infants class. Both my sister and I as well as our cousin Sylvia were taught by her, as were Judy and Barbara who lived on the farm next to us. Their mother came too - she is 93 or 94 and very with it still. I don't know for sure how old Laurel is, but I would like to look like her when I get to be 80 (she has to be at least that old, given that Sylvia is now 67). Notice I am not saying how old I am?

The group gathers at Miss Maud's and indulges in the lavish smorgasbord. Today there were 18 attendees, slightly down on last year.

Kevin was going to Helen's unit in East Vic Park to replace quarter rounds and do other odd jobs, so I had him drop me off at the Oats Street station. A bit of a wait because the trains were running late, but an easy trip to Perth. Cost me 70 cents using my Seniors card. I did a bit of browsing in Myer and Angus & Robertson bookshop on my way to the restaurant.

After lunch I caught the train again - this time to Cockburn Central on the new Mandurah line. We have worked out that if we call home on a mobile as soon as the train emerges from the tunnel to cross the Narrows and a signal is available, the other has time to get to Cockburn for an easy pickup. This trip cost me 90 cents.

I could have caught a bus from the station to home and paid no more, but it is a long trip. It takes 16 minutes from Perth to Cockburn by train (approx 20 km); 34 minutes by bus from Cockburn to Bibra Lake (less than 7 km).

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Moving House

After living in the same house for 28 years we moved in 2003. We had to get rid of a lot of things, especially antique furniture which was too big for the new house. Kevin sold many tools and has gradually bought replacements! Lots of nicknacks went too - some of them to Helen.

Now she is moving house too. She has only been in her unit for 8 years, but she has been staggered by the amount of STUFF she has collected. A lot of it has come to us.

We moved house again in 2005. This house is bigger (need it for the stuff WE have) and boasts a very large workshop and storeroom. These are rapidly filling up, not least by boxes belonging to Helen. She has also returned some of the nicknacks she collected from us in the first place.

Moving house involves a lot of effort - not least for hapless parents. My contribution has been negligible. I have bought a few bits and pieces, went with her to look at a replacement for her lounge which is going to the new unit and helped organise where things are to go. Kevin has borne the brunt of the labour.

In her new unit Kevin has helped her prepare walls for painting, helped paint and put up picture hangers and curtain rods. At the old unit, now to be rented out, he has replaced an exhaust fan, painted around it, made a frame for the bathroom mirror, repaired scratched floorboards and repaired a shelf in one of the wardrobes. Today he has bought, stained and varnished new quarter rounds for the living area - she had a termite invasion a couple of years ago which left the old ones a shell. He has cut a piece of board to replace a section of sink cupboard back which has rotted and will replace that tomorrow.

Graham and he will collect the replacement lounge tomorrow. It needs to have some wooden blocks removed. They may leave delivering it until the weekend.

The tenants move in on Monday. Helen plans to clean the carpet tomorrow afternoon. Kevin hopes she doesn't find anything else for him to do.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Country religion

I have discovered a group on the net which discusses people and events from around Narrogin 120 miles south east of Perth in Western Australia. There are sub-headings for smaller towns and sidings. One is the town of Wickepin which was about 15 miles from my grandparents' farm at Toolibin.

It seems that there was a group of families in the Wickepin District who started a Jewish based sect with one man believing he was the Messiah. It is thought that the group is still living rough in isolation in the area. There are some interesting stories I have heard about the original leader. At one time he asked his flock if they believed he could walk on water, to which they all yelled 'Yes'. He replied, 'Good, so now I don't have to demonstrate'. When he died he was buried facing down. I have yet to find out what that was about. More on this story later.

About 50 years ago my uncle left his wife and family in Narrogin to start up his own church. I am unsure how he got his funds, but he paid for his weekly religious column to be published in the Narrogin paper for many years...sort of a rambling dissertation as I recall. His wife, my aunt, is a deeply religious person and I do not know what caused the split.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Class Action

Tonight there was a 'report' on TDT (This Day Tonight) about people initiating a Class Action against two chemical companies producing a Dopamine derivative drug for Parkinsons Disease.

The claims were not denied by the companies and several people were interviewed and told of their compulsive behaviour after taking the drug. There were two main compulsions: gambling addiction and sexual addiction. I saw a few visual examples of of the gambling addiction, but unfortunately there was no footage of the sexual addiction.

My bro-in-law Mike has been taking a similar drug and his addiction is to try and repair equipment which, by and large, doesn't require fixing. No gambling or sex for Mike!

His operation for the deep brain stimulation has been put back another week. One would think that there would be more medicos who would want to enter this field. There is only one in Western Australia.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


Sister Shirl is visiting us here. She lives in Esperance on the South coast and flies up rather that driving the 735 kilometres. The plane fare is expensive as there is only one carrier to Esperance, however in her case, Medicare pays for the fare as there is no specialist medico in Esperance.

Shirl came up here to see her specialist as she is mildly epileptic. The visit went well, but this morning she had a turn. She doesn't 'fit' as most people think is the norm for epilepsy. The episodes are quite rare and when they come on she knows what is happening because they start with a strong unidentifiable smell, then a feeling of Deja Vu and usually some nausea.

This morning's episode was accompanied with a loss of memory of the event. She is resting now and should be OK in a couple of hours. I have to get her to the airport for a 6.00am flight tomorrow morning.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Politics - politically incorrect comments!

I am not a political animal, in fact I am one of those 'idiots' who don't belong to a political party and frequently change my vote at election times depending on what I glean from the pork barrelling etc of election lead-up.

The local junta ( say Hoonta) is a Labor party and they seem to be doing as good as the other side at running the state. Just lately there has been a bit of juggling of sitting members. One John D'Orazio was accused of a couple of bits of naughtiness and was suspended from Parliament and faces charges. He was rumoured to be the Godfather in his electorate.

Another Labor party 'colleague' came out yesterday and described him as the 'most ethnic Branch stacker' of the Western Australian Labor Party. It seemed that he had rallied the 'ethnics' of his electorate to 'stack' the local party branch. I seem to remember that happening with union types and other 'ethnics', not that I am a mate of Big John.

I was talking to my sister about this and she posed the question....'Why don't Italians like Jehovah Witnesses?' The answer was...'They don't like any witnesses!'.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The Born loser?

About a month ago our NavMan (car satnav device) died. I rang NavMan Australia for advice and was told that it was terminal and would cost more than two hundred dollars to repair. The man told me of their trade-in deal. Just pay $199 and post in my dead one and they would post out the new revised NavMan.

I paid the $199 and received a consignment number to affix to the package before sending it through Australia Post.

Three weeks and no new NavMan, so I emailed them asking for an ETA of my new machine. They replied saying they had received my old one, but due to overwhelming demand on the trade-in deal it would be a couple of weeks yet.

Three weeks passed and I once again emailed them only to be told that they had not yet received my trade-in NavMan. I reminded them, by pasting in their last message, that it had arrived and they countered with another email apologising for misleading me. 'That was a mistake and we have not yet received your machine.'

They then asked for a registered post reference No., and of course I didn't register the package.

After a bit more correspondence they said they would give me my new NavMan if I filled out a Statuary Declaration with dates, serial numbers etc etc. Bit hard remembering the exact dates, so I had to say 'on or about the 9th' to cover my backside. It has been faxed and I will wait and see if that does the job.

I reckon someone with tech knowledge at the NavMan complex has snaffled it and will try and repair it to sell off to a mate.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Oh dear!

Yesterday evening I had a call from a friend who said that he was going to send me an email which would probably upset my liberal sensibilities. He was right. The email message was one which has been circulating for about four years in Canada and the U.S. and now Australia.

The message suggests that refugees in Australia get a much better deal than Australian pensioners who have paid taxes and contributed to the development of this nation.

It is a rehash of a Canadian email hoax and then an American email hoax and now an Australian email hoax. The dollar figures are the same in each email and none of the assumptions are true!

Refugees to Australia are treated very harshly.

I searched on 'Snopes' and verified that it is a hoax, but my friend didn't want to know. He was happy to go along with the assertions. I emailed the URL for the Snopes page, but I doubt that he will visit that page and be convinced.

I have probably lost a friend over this, but I cannot abide people who blindly accept internet truths. This is tantamount to racial vilification. See the Snopes page here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Yesterday we went to talk with our financial adviser. He called us in...I suspect it was to get another fee from a minor adjustment to our portfolio.

He showed us a graph of the last year as well as a graph of the last ten years to explain how our capital has to take a big dive. "Don't worry' he said 'it'll take a year to settle down and things should get back to a 'realistic' 8% dividend'. It reminded me of when the newspaper would publish the most winning lotto numbers over a period. It looked good but didn't help in the next week's selection.

My sister's husband Don was a graph devotee and in the '87 crash told us that anyone with any brains would have seen it coming. My brother told him that Mr Bond didn't see it coming, but there again Mr Bond was a little greedy.

We still have more money in our Super than we initially put in, so we are not wetting our pants yet.

Monday, April 7, 2008

more outgoings

Our son Martin has fouled up again. After us spending $602 on a brake job on his car he totalled it by falling asleep and mowing down six (6) steel bollards. These bollards were set in concrete and look pretty tough. They ripped out the radiator, snapped the front cross member and wrecked the engine and gearbox.

I had to get a cheapo tow truck to remove the car and take it to his place. We may be able to sell some parts, but I suspect it will go the way of his previous car and end up going on a long trip to China and be turned into shifting spanners or BBQs.

We re-licenced the car only a few days ago and I have the plates and the paper work and hope to get a refund on the licence fee.

Martin is going through a rough stage with substance addiction and his rehabilitation is hopefully going to help. Ironically it was the rehab medicines that made him drowsy and bowl over the steel bollards. He is a handsome and intelligent man who should be in a better position than he is now.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Great Escape

Our friend John did a runner from his nursing home on Thursday. He must have hovered at the main door until a visitor opened it from the outside an took off down the steps and headed out into suburbia. It was about 30 minutes before anyone noticed he was missing.

He got about three kilometres away using a wheely bin as a walker before some people found out his name and rang a couple of local nursing homes. When staff arrived at the address to collect John, he was seated and in earnest conversation with his hosts.

He had a fall and his shoulder is bruised, but otherwise OK. Joy, his wife, thinks that this will not be the last escape John attempts.

Another friend had his father in a similar walled nursing home which had a bus stop and bench installed where potential escapees happily waited for transport out.

My bro-in-law, Mike is scheduled to have the deep brain implants done on the 12th. Unfortunately he will not know if it is successful for another month after the operation as the machine will not be activated until the surgery has healed. That would be frustrating. At a final assessment done a few days ago, he was assured that he was an ideal subject for the procedure. I guess that his somewhat dramatic dyskinesis will be reduced or eliminated if the procedure is successful.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

On the Beach

The centre ground-floor apartment
The View
The Beach
Le Fanu
Helen, our daughter, is preparing to shift house. She has decided to take up an offer by a friend to move into her beachside apartment. The friend and her partner work on a mine site up north and return home one week in four. The apartment is on the Cottesloe beachfront and although a bit old, is very nice. She will be paying $200 per week for two bedrooms and shared facilities such as the lounge and kitchen.

In the block of eight apartments there was only one occupied by an owner and the redevelopers have paid that elderly resident $5M and allowed her free rent for another year before they tear the block down and rebuild for the rich people.

A little further up the road is a very old derelict house named Le Fanu, spread over half an acre. No doubt the owners have been plagued by potential buyers. Joan tells me that it was recently sold to someone for a rumoured $8-10 million to be refurbished as a residence. There goes another couple of million. As my Mum used to say..'Where do they get the money?'

There is still more maintenance on the cards for Kev as plumbing and painting in the new apartment needs a bit of help.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


I have almost finished the maintenance at our daughter Helen's unit. She has a large wall mirror in her bathroom and the silver backing has deteriorated around the edges of it. Fortunately this deterioration is only about 20mm in from the edges and I decided to glue a picture frame type edging around it. The only other job to do is to try and fill some deep scratches in the faux wooden flooring. I have some wood filler which matches up quite well. If it doesn't look too good she will get a flooring man in to replace the damaged boards. Unfortunately the scratched boards are in the middle of the room and it looks like it would be a big job.

Our son's car needed a brake job done and we shelled out $602 yesterday; two thirds of the value of the car. The day before that we paid the licence fees and other debts he has. We continue to hope he will make a new start to life but are not too optimistic. An amazing thing happened when he went back to his previous employer to return some borrowed cash and to get his termination certificate. The boss told him to get himself better and return to work as soon as he felt he was ready. This is probably because of the difficulty of replacing him, but never the less it is a generous offer which he has taken up.

The mechanic who did the brake job on Martin's (our) car has a profoundly disabled daughter. I saw her yesterday for the first time. She was virtually locked up in his office to stop her getting out into the workshop. She cannot speak and looks to be about 8 or 9 years of age. His wife is studying at university and insists on home-schooling her. I have made repeated attempts to get them to take her to Castlereagh School which is a free special school for such kids, but his wife is in denial about their daughter's situation. Castlereagh want her to attend school there. They have wonderful facilities and almost one to one teacher-student ratio with many teachers' aides. Even in the most profoundly disabled kids they aim to teach control and the ability to do simple things such as feed themselves. I have seen wonderful results over a year. The parents of this girl will not even visit the school. Sad.