Saturday, November 29, 2008

Birthday (old) boy

Today I turned 69. Got a couple of nice pressies and happy birthday wishes.

I went to a large shopping centre with brother Graham and we had a very mediocre Chinese meal at a food hall. Bro decided that he wanted to buy an electric carving knife and so we went to several stores looking for them. En route I bought a lotto ticket and folded it into my wallet. I remember that part. After exiting K Mart I realised that I had lost my wallet with a hundred dollars cash, but more importantly ALL my cards.

Bro did the sensible thing and asked the infuriating question: 'where did you lose it?' After visiting all the places we had been I suddenly remembered that whilst we were in K Mart I had put the wallet on a shelf to show him how a hand-held vacuum cleaner worked. We dashed back to K Mart just as a K Marter was handing it in to the front desk. Much thanks and relief expressed.

That lotto ticket could be a lucky one?

Is it something to do with being 69? Probably not as I have been doing things like that since I was sixteen.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Midnight marauders

I get up reasonably early in the mornings and when I go out to inspect my veggie patch I see snails making their way back under cover for the day's sleep. The buggers only eat at night and the only other time they are active is when it rains. They are apparently the same breed of snail that the French eat. I guess that would be one way to control them, but I'll go for the snail pellets thanks.

Another observation I have made with our magpies is that they do not have the instinctive chicken foot scratching when foraging for food. Strange really, seeing that we have lots of earth worms in our garden. Two pieces of worthless information for you!

We have some problems with fences at one of the units we own. On two sides, the fences have been forced with a heavy vine growing on an adjoining vacant block and the other which a neighbor is using as a retaining wall for a metre of rubble, old bicycles etc etc. Both of the owners are going to be difficult to deal with. Dividing fences are a major problem in suburbia and the W.A. government has even published a 29 page booklet about dividing fences and the bylaws pertaining to them. It is most likely that we will have to bear the costs ourselves.

Monday, November 24, 2008

So the Real Estate market has collapsed?

On the weekend bro and I went to a house opening in Bicton. The house was one that our family owned which we sold in 1993 for around $215,000. It is now on sale for $990,000 - $1.o5M. The house has had a very nice work-up since we sold it, but it is still a timber-framed asbestos clad three bedroom suburban dwelling. Here is a pic from the advert:

Also on the market is a country residence in the town of York. York is a lovely country town with a lot of Western Australian history. It has many fine colonial buildings and a vibrant art and museum culture. We could live there. This York residence is a major building and whilst I can see that working in the city, accommodation can command high prices, the York house wins on value. Trouble is ...1. We would be really stretched to find that sort of money. 2. We like where we are and 3. Once we start to get really oldie-sick we would have to be in Perth for serious treatment. And one other thing....we would need servants just to keep the place clean.

Here is the York place. See it here.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Drugs in sport

Ben Cousins, our local football star with a drug problem is back in the news as the AFL demands that he undergo regular urine and hair tests to make sure he doesn’t get back on the good stuff. I hazard a guess that there are quite a few players in the League throughout Australia who also party hard on weekends and use a bit of the good stuff.

The local newspaper seems to put up a bad photo of him whenever there is any news about Bennie. This is one photo that regularly crops up and shows him a bit worse for wear, shirtless, showing off his large tattoo ‘Such is life’. At first I thought they were being a bit mean to Ben, but then he had it done and probably wants people to see it.

He missed his first hair sample test because he had his hair and indeed his body hair, cut short making the test worthless. Most reasonable people would think that that is a bit suss.
We love curries and before John went into care, would dine out at Indian restaurants with John and Joy. Remembering, that I decided to take him a curry for lunch this last Wednesday. It was a Thai Red Curry chicken dish. He left nary a grain of rice. That of course doesn’t mean that he loved it. John can eat more than most people of our age.
I ran into a bit of a problem with setting up the computers for shipment to Africa. Murdoch University Student Guild was a bit worried that all the software I was about to load didn’t have licences specific to each machine. That is a bit of a worry as it could cause Murdoch and me a bit of strife if Apple found out about it.

Today I rang Apple Australia and explained that I had saved these machines from landfill and the software (operating system) I was loading was legacy software anyway. I was passed on to three different blokes who explained the legalities and the last fella explained that each computer must have its own OS disc and they could do a deal @ $10. For each OS Disc. I explained that the machines were going to remote African schools which could not afford to buy computers anyway. The man said he would talk to the boss of Apple Australia and get back to me. Within 30 minutes I was told that they would waive any claims over software licences. I did think that that would be the case. I wonder if Microsoft would do the same?

About Bill Gates; he has stepped down from running Microsoft.... just like Vladimir Putin has stepped down from running Russia.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Early word-processors

There was a news item on local TV about a bloke who had collected lots of typewriters. We have just two; an Underwood Standard Portable and a wonderful Standard Folding Typewriter.

The Underwood is probably a 1950s model. The Standard was patented in 1904 and ours was built in 1910. Both still work. The folding job comes in a nice flock-lined box.

No problems disposing of old typewriters; one could just construct a very nice piece of sculpture like our friend Haddon did.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Having exhausted most avenues to send SH computers to third world countries, I thought I would have to try and give them away to individuals. Out of the blue I received a comment on our last blog with details of a Murdoch University scheme called '8Ball Computer Recycling Program'. I contacted the gal who fronts the program and she was very happy to use my cache of computers until she found out that they were Macs. 'Our IT students don't know anything about Macs', she said. I got over that one by offering to set them up with all the programs that come with the Apple operating system and she was very happy about that. The next shipment goes in February, so I have plenty of time and no doubt more Macs will come my way from other sources.

The Murdoch IT students overcome the software piracy problem by installing Ubuntu, an open- source operating system on the PCs they configure. That stops the computers 'phoning home' to Mr Gates and getting sued. Ubuntu can be installed on Macs, but OSX is such a nice OS and it comes with everything needed without having to use Mr Gates' stuff.

The Murdoch Students' Guild page is here...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Malaria antibodies

Yesterday I received a letter from the Red Cross Blood Service letting me know that after some 45 years since I had a malaria attack, my blood still has Non-Parasitaemic Malaria Antibodies in it. Not that that means much; I can still donate for plasma. I would like to blame that malaria hangover for something, but cannot think of what.

I have mentioned before that I collect good computers from institutions for re-distribution to poorer countries. My shed has around 30 machines in good condition with monitors and software ready to go. Previous destinations have been Bali and Zimbabwe. Both those destinations are no longer viable because of transport problems. This week I have contacted the Lions Club, Rotary and Notre Dame university in Fremantle to offer them for shipping to East Timor. Alas, all three have ceased shipping gear to ET. Next I searched the net for Aboriginal Missions in outback Western Australia. I talked with the Principal of an SDA Mission school in Meekathara. Their web page suggested that they find funding difficult and looked like a good target for my gear. 'Sorry', she said 'We are about to receive our new computers and dump our old ones.'

I cannot let these machines go to landfill and so will approach our City Council to get an article placed in their newsletter offering them to people who cannot afford a computer or are a bit afraid of technology. There must be lots of oldies thinking about writing their memoirs. The offer will include set-up, instructions and follow-up help. I have done it for a few people in the past and it isn't that difficult.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Bali 9

So, the Bali Bombers are no more. I found it amazing that western journos and photographers were able to film amongst the radicals at the funerals without even a brick chucked at them.

The Australian Foreign Minister has just today; the day after the executions, appealed for a moratorium on the death penalty around the world. This must surely inflame the radical Muslims of Indonesia when Australian citizens from 'The Bali 9' are also on Death Row. Maybe the Minister should have waited a couple of months until things cooled down before speaking out. Maybe he has been informed that the Australians are also going to be executed very soon??

In my lifetime there have been some amazing inventions, but I think the best one for me is the no-leak, no clog, sauce bottle top. This wonderful aid to pie eaters has a sphincter-like lid which with pressure allows the sauce to squirt out and immediately cease as pressure is released. I can see applications here for we elderly. I have always been amused when I see people trying to shake out sauce from a bottle by banging on the base of it. Physics tells us that hitting the base of the bottle should make it go further back into the bottle.

A quote from Irish author Hugh Leonard....."There is only one immutable law in life — in a gentleman's toilet, incoming traffic has the right of way."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Arabica and Robusta

Rummaging through the pantry cupboard for some spices for my pickled cabbage project I found several bottles of instant coffee. I thought that Joan might be doing a Nell. Nell was my dear grandmother who, when late in her life started buying daily amounts of bacon and chicken. We had to dispose of quite a lot of her hoard and my mother managed to restrict gran’s cash.

No this wasn’t Joan sliding into dementia, she just buys it when it is on special at the supermarket. I was astounded at the price of instant coffee and wondered why we actually drink it. Coffee houses are doing great business and I can’t see what it is all about. I don’t get any sort of buzz from drinking coffee. Wine works for me!

I do understand why coffee is expensive as I have had first hand experience of the harvesting and processing coffee when we worked in Papua New Guinea before independence. The plot my school had was owned by the agriculture station nearby and they let us have use of it for a couple of years. The small coffee farmer in PNG works very hard to earn very little from their coffee crop. To get the ripe beans (called cherries) to the dried state (called parchment) is hard work.

Lowland coffee is Robusta coffee and is used as the poor cousin to the finer Arabica which is grown in the NG highlands. The plot we worked was Robusta which needs to be grown in shade. The shade tree is Leucaena-leacocephala, a sort of mimosa with fine leaves. When the cherries are ripe they are picked by hand by pulling down the coffee tree branches which spills the dead leucaena leaves on the picker. Another foe is the nasty Korokum ant which, although not poisonous, is a right mean bugger. The cherries unfortunately do not ripen all at the same time so there is a bit of hunting for ripe beans.
Coffee pulper

Once enough beans have been picked they are put through a huller which breaks off the outside flesh, and the beans are then fermented in water for about a week to get rid of the adhering fruit flesh. After much washing the beans are laid out on plastic in the sun to dry, which takes about a fortnight in dry weather until the beans are so hard a tooth makes no impression on them. At this, the parchment stage, the coffee is ready for sale to a buyer who usually drives past the village if it is on a road.

The factory door price for highlands Arabica coffee is around A$1.20 per Kilo. Robusta is much less and buyers of course pay even less at the village. Hardly worth the effort!

Papua New Guinea produces about 1% of the world’s coffee, most of it Arabica.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lincoln & Obama

Yesterday, the 6th of November, 148 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Those states were hardly united and seven of them seceded before Lincoln took the oath of office.

Lincoln had only one year of formal schooling.

It is a pity that Barack Obama missed out by one day.

He has been elected at a time when things are looking a bit bleak. On the other hand he cannot be blamed for the economic crisis or the minor wars the U.S. is involved in. I cannot see how he can fix things, but if he does he will be remembered as not only the first black president, but also the saviour of that nation.

In an Australian poll taken during the election run-up, 76% of Australians thought Obama would make the better president. I thought he looked and sounded statesman like.

There are enough gun nutters in the U.S. to keep the Presidential security personnel employed for quite a few years.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Christ Church Grammar

A couple of days ago we received a letter from the agents looking after a rental property we own. It seems that the tenants have given notice that they are moving out. Looking at the dates shown in the letter, we reckon we should go them for backdated rent.

Last night a friend and I went to a show at Christ Church Grammar School, an Anglican College in Claremont. Not too shabby at all. The purpose of the show was a MacIntosh Users' Group meeting to take a look at their 'Future Sphere' IT Centre. The School has a student population of around 1310 boys and the fee structure is heavy compared to government schools. I guess this is why their facilities and equipment is state of the art. The school that I taught at before my retirement has nothing like the equipment and facilities at CCGS. The fees payable at government schools are very modest indeed. Lower school fees are set at $250 per year. These fees are calculated to cover the basic courses and if a student elected to take, for example, continental cooking; additional fees would be levied for ingredients etc. Upper school fees are calculated at $400 per year. At Willetton SHS, where I taught, about 96% of fees are paid. Other schools in poorer areas would probably only collect about 30% of their fees.

Don't spread it around, but it is not generally known that Government school fees are not compulsory.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Bali Bombers

The Bali Bombers are soon to die. Speculation about when is rife. It may have already happened or it may again be delayed by a last minute appeal from family and lawyers.

The last execution in Australia was 41 years ago with the hanging of Ronald Ryan. It took a few years more for most states to abolish the death penalty. Many of the arguments against the death penalty were based on the fact that quite a few innocent people on death row were executed. Not so with the Bali bombers. They freely admit their guilt and are looking forward to martyrdom and the virgins which are going to be theirs in paradise. Question: Do female martyrs get male virgins?

It might be a cultural thing, but I think that most Australians are disgusted to see the trio laughing about their atrocities along with their prison guards and soldiers. Even if a cop here was sympathetic towards a prisoner, there would be no public acknowledgment of it.

For six years we have heard news reports of the trial and the repeated phrase 'killed 202 people, including 88 Australians'. I haven't heard much about the deaths of over 100 Balinese people and if there has been any significant aid going to those families.

Should the Bali bombers get another reprieve and there is a change of government in Indonesia at the next election and a radical is elected as President, the Bali Bombers could well get a Presidential Pardon.

Australia does have conflicting views about the death penalty in foreign countries.

Not in my time, but Radical Islam is going to be a problem for Australia in the future.

Let them go to Paradise.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How to beat the Trick or Treaters

Halloween is not an Australian tradition, but seems to be creeping more and more into suburban life. We were never visited at Bicton by costumed blackmailers, but the first year we were in this house we were. At least three groups. Totally unprepared, we had to resort to small change.

I was prepared last year. I made sure we had some sweets on hand. We had one visitor, a teenage girl who retreated in fright when Kevin let out a roar as I was handing out the goodies.

Yesterday we were just about home when we noticed some kids in costume coming out of their house. Ooops, I had forgotten it was October 31. Kevin went to the shop and we prepared a bowl of tooth destroyers.

No visitors. So now we think we have hit upon the formula to avert visits by Trick or Treaters. No need for garlic or silver crosses - just buy a couple of bags of home brand lollies and they will never come near the house.