Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Hard Sell

The good ship Pacific Dawn is a very commercial enterprise. Just about everything is for sale. Joan and Dorothy went to an auction of artworks yesterday. The idea is that artists give their work to P&O ships. P&O is also in an alliance with Cunard and Star ships selling art works on 34 ships worldwide. The auctioneer told us that the artists get a better deal and the buyers get a better deal than on land based auctions. Not many pieces presented yesterday interested me much.

Before the auction the auctioneer ran a little art quiz with prizes of bottles of Champagne. Joan and Dorothy won all three bottles answering pretty standard questions such as ‘Who painted waterlilies?’ Another was ‘Who was famous for dropping paint on the floor?’, and “who was famous for being the artist for the Saturday Evening Post?’ If you don’t know those; Google is your friend!

D&J went back for today’s auction and although they yelled out the correct answer to “Who was famous for painting melted watches?’ They were ignored and another person won the bottle. Only fair I guess, as most people would have thought it was a set-up if our team won for a second day running.

Noumea: We have been ashore and done the city and surrounding hills tour. It is definitely a French colony. As we toured many people waved to us I guess we must be a bit of a novelty, as I doubt many Australians wave to tourists in Aus.

On one of the hills, Notre Dame de Pacifique, there is a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. It does seem a bit tacky with a circular fluorescent tube for a halo. I’m sure the Anglicans wouldn’t do that!

The architecture is like other South Pacific/S.E. Asian towns and cities. Unfortunately there is a lot of graffiti on walls and buildings and quite a few windows on shops have been broken. I am not sure whether the locals (kanaks) are disaffected with the colonial masters or if it is just bored youth.

Our cabin steward is going all out for a gratuity at the end of the trip. Here is a towel left out on our bed.

Here is a pic of the ship. 70,285 tonne; 245 metres.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Fine Dining

Last night we all dined in the Palm Court dining room and very swish it is too. Five star service and great food. We were sat at a large table and were joined by another five diners. Katherine introduced us to them and we were told that they were on an organised trip done through RSPV an on-line dating/matchmaking .org.

There were in total around 20 RSVPers but it seemed that the majority were under 25 years of age and these five grouped together to commiserate at the lack of potential partners. Of course the introductions around the table turned to ‘where do you come from?’ One of the RSPVers wearing a distinctive red blouse, told us that she came from W.A. and Dorothy announced that they also came from W.A. Then they matched suburbs and to top it off Dorothy had thought of buying the red blouse that the woman had bought from a boutique at Hillary’s Boat Harbour. Small world!

This morning it is windy and overcast. The ocean looks like it is running about a three metre swell. It would be rough going with a small boat, but our ship is managing well with a slight roll. This weather should keep all those body beautiful show-offs indoors or at the gym.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Second day

Day two of the cruise sees us somewhere north-east of Stradbroke. There is absolutely nothing to see from our balcony except water and flying fish. On a previous cruise in South East Asia there was always another ship, a reef or islands to see. It is a pity that the TV doesn’t show our progress as can been seen on most aircraft flights.

The Ship: The Pacific Dawn was launched in 1991 and it shows in a few areas. The only other cruise we have been on was on a more modern ship from Singapore through South-East Asia.
The Pacific Dawn has lots of creaking noises even in relatively calm weather. Lots of rust has been painted over and external woodwork needs sanding back and revarnishing.

The food is great and there is plenty of entertainment at various locations. The ship has a full complement of passengers (around 2,000) with lots of young people showing off their tattoos and midriffs. On tattoos: many young Australian blokes have just their right arm tattooed. I guess this may be because it costs so much, but I reckon it is because the right arm is the one that hangs outside the driver’s door on the ute. We have urged Katherine to check out the guys in the U.S. when she returns after the cruise and let us know if Yanks have most tattoos on their left arms.

Katherine is our niece and she paid for her parents Dorothy and Mike to go on this cruise. The cruise was booked months ahead and specific requirements were given for cabins and location. Mike has Parkinson’s disease and requires a separate bed and Katherine asked for her cabin to be close to her parents’ cabin to help them. Upon getting to their cabin they found just one double bed and Katherine’s cabin was a long way from Mike and Dorothy. Katherine was/is very upset and harangued the Purser to no avail; probably because the ship is full and once unpacked it would be difficult to get someone to move cabins.

We are a little embarrassed by all this because a couple of weeks ago, we were offered an upgrade to a mini suite for $100 each and took the offer. The difference is well worth the $200. At the time Joan rang Dorothy and told her about the offer, but unfortunately these offers are given to travel agents at random and most likely offered to our travel agent because of volume sales or something similar.

Another full day at sea tomorrow before we dock at Noumea the following morning.

STOP PRESS: Katherine has been given a cabin change adjacent to her parents’ cabin and the bedding arrangements have been sorted in Dorothy and Mike’s cabin. We think that a cabin upgrade has been the key to get people to change cabins for Katherine.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Starting Out

We are about halfway to Sydney, had a reasonable lunch and a couple of mini bottles of white wine. We are travelling cattle and it shows when the person in front of me puts the seat back. There isn’t enough room to read a newspaper. I guess if we were Sydney-siders we would know how to fold a broadsheet newspaper down to paper- back book size.

We arrived a Perth domestic airport well ahead of departure time and got a coffee at one of the coffee shops. All of a sudden about 6 armed police started questioning a man and took him away. He looked perfectly normal to me and it wasn’t until sometime later that we overheard what had transpired. The police produced an X-Ray photo of the bloke’s baggage showing what looked like a hand grenade concealed in his case. They took him down into the bowels of the airport and he had to open the case in front of the boys in blue. It turned out that his wife had tucked a belt with a large buckle into one of her slippers. I have often wondered what happens to baggage deemed to be suspicious at the X-Ray machine.

Just before we boarded our flight to Sydney a flight from Karratha arrived and the ‘fly-in,fly-out’ miners disembarked. A motley lot of passengers they were too! Scraggly, bearded, thong wearing tattoo pallets. We Sydney passengers were a much more civilised lot.

Just another one hour and a bit to landing and our Qantas Boeing 767 hasn’t had a major drop in altitude and no panels have fallen off, in fact it has been quite a pleasant experience. There were a few minutes minor turbulence, but overall a smooth flight.

We are in the hotel at the moment. The room is modern but about the same size as our bathroom at home.

Just had a bit of a drama…..Martin sent a text message saying he needed to talk to us. It seems that when Joan wrote the cheque for his TAFE fees, she wrote it for more than the actual fee and TAFE could not accept the cheque and give change. Think,think,think?? We rang Helen and she is happy to pay Martin’s fees in cash and text her bank details to us so that we can do an electronic transfer into her account.

Later still:
We have just returned from a pleasant meal and a walk along Darling Harbour. I spied the National Maritime Museum and I will visit it tomorrow while Joan visits the Museum of Contemporary Art. We will board the ship after lunch. Our hotel is just 5 minutes walk from the ship.

Next door to our hotel is KPMG, a big accounting firm. One of my ex-students is a partner in the firm and in the morning I will see if it is possible to see her.

short post

7am and we are soon to head off to the airport to fly east to Sydney town. In this morning's newspaper there is yet another article about the Education Department having difficulty finding teachers for the start of the school year.

I am unsure of the difficulties involved, but our daughter Helen and quite a few of her fellow teachers still haven't received any notification of a placement at this stage. Methinks the Dept couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cruise the Pacific

Joan is busy preparing our luggage for the South Pacific cruise. We leave Perth on Tuesday morning and board the ship in Sydney the following day. Daughter Helen is going to baby-sit our place for a few days at a time. She is hoping for a teaching placement before school starts on 2nd of February.

The reporter from the local newspaper who wrote a story on my efforts to distribute free computers did not include a contact number, but agreed that if I wrote a letter to the editor including my contact details they would print it. I wrote the letter, but they didn't print it. I'm sure they want me to take out a paid advertisement. The paper is one of the Community Group .........they don't seem too community minded to me!

I managed to place four computers with one family yesterday. The mother firstly took two for her kids and when the rest of the family visited they wanted one as well. I think this will be the best way of getting the word around and placing the other 25 machines in my workshop. One of her sons looked a bit dodgy and seemed to be looking around whilst inside our place. We will use the alarm system for the period we are away in case he visits to get more than a computer. Might also park a car out the front on the drive to give the impression that someone is home.

We will post from the cruise liner. They have WiFi on board but it costs. They (P&O) also x-ray baggage for alcohol and have sniffer dogs searching for drugs. P&O bans passengers from taking any drinks on board to protect their monopoly. They also charge A$5 per passenger per day for tips to be distributed amongst the crew at the end of the cruise. Let's see....say 600 passengers X $5 X 8 days= $24,000. The ship is the Pacific Dawn which can carry 2000+ passengers with a crew of 700. With a full complement of 2000 passengers the tips would amount to $80,000 for the 8 day trip. That would work out at $114 each crew member. I wonder whether the toilet cleaner gets the same as a Deck Officer?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Australia Day

Australia Day is looming and along with that is the flag business. Each year the flag is promoted and cars and trucks are flying Australian flags (all made in China). I get a bad feeling about mass flags. In military parades different flags representing different units seems OK to me, but masses of a nation's flag sends Nuremberg shivers up my spine.

Joan bought some doughnut peaches and I tried a couple....brilliant! They are easy to eat, freestone and taste good. If that is an example of genetic manipulation, bring it on!

I have spent a couple of days servicing, cleaning and polishing our son's car. He has given it to me to sell. He was supposedly paying off traffic fines to keep his drivers licence, but has not made a payment for months and the boys in blue came and took his licence away. They are also issuing a summons for driving without a licence so he figures he wont be needing a car for at least a year. There is sure to be a substantial fine as well. I wonder who will pay that?

Martin has decided to do a draughting course at TAFE. If he is accepted he will train and bus to Leederville TAFE from Kwinana. Would have been easier with a car.

We are thankful that Australia has a good medical benefits scheme. Joan filled our current scripts yesterday and the total for a month's pharmaceuticals for the two of us was $42.40. The real cost was $334.51. Additionally, once we reach the safety net of $318.00, all scripts are free. We usually reach that amount by October. In the pic below you can see the real cost of my 80mg Lipitor.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NavMan GPS

Sister Shirley flew back to Esperance this morning. I always panic a little getting her to the airport on time. Even though it is only about a twenty minute drive most times; at 8am, peak traffic makes it a bit dodgy on the freeway. I decided to travel on the highway rather than the freeway and we made it in plenty of time. As we passed over the freeway at Canning Bridge we could see that it was a parking lot.

Shirl used one of our cars with a NavMan GPS device and she loved it and has asked me to get one for her down at Esperance. Esperance is quite a big place and if one is a bit dithery, NavMan is well worth having. But I reckon she just wants to show off to the grandkids.

Helen, our daughter is starting to panic about a teaching position for the 2009 year. She rang this morning asking me to contact a friend in staffing at the Dept. I am a little hesitant to put on him as we rarely talk and I haven't actually met up with him in about 15 years. Might put it off until tomorrow in the hope that she receives a posting in today's mail.

Joan and I never argue and for the 43 years of our marriage have had very few bad words. There is just one thing that is a little competition between us and that is the placement of the paper towel roll on the stand. The stand was given to me by an ex-student who was brain damaged in a car accident. Anyway, when I see that the paper towel has finished I get to place it on the holder with the leader on the right hand side.....makes sense, both of us are right handed! Joan on the other hand prefers to tear the towel from the left?? I haven't dared flip the roll over when she has put the new roll on.

This morning we received a call from the travel agent who booked our South Pacific cruise leaving Sydney on the 28th January. She rang to offer us an upgrade of a much better cabin at a cost of $100 each. We took the offer. I reckon there are people a lot smarter than us who realised that January is the South Pacific cyclone season and decided not to book a cruise at this time and thus the availability of more cabins?

Sunday, January 18, 2009


We have my sister Shirley staying with us for a few days. She is up in Perth from Esperance. Esperance is a nice seaside town (is it a city?) which is a day's drive south. The airfare is $400+ return. She is up here for a 70th birthday celebration of a long time neighbour from when she and her family lived in Wattle Grove. She is also here to buy lots of clothes, shoes and bling.

We loaned her one of our cars and a SatNav to get to the party house which was a further 37 kilometres north of here. I gave careful instructions on how to press the Home button to get instructions to return home today. I guess we will get a phone call if she can't work that out.

This morning I removed a passionfruit vine from a large terracotta pot. It hasn't had one flower and there were many root stock shoots crowding the pot. As I was pulling it out I found a gopher cricket, or as we call them here, a Sandgroper. They are an amazing little animal and their tunnelling is done with two very strong 'paddles' each side of the face. Read about these beauties here. We have another two Passionfruit in large pots and although they are both healthy, only one of them is setting fruit. One of the vines has flowers but very little pollen and unfortunately both vines flower at different times.

Residents of Western Australia are colloqially called 'Sandgropers'. I guess each state has similar, but I can only think of another two at the moment......Crow Eaters are South Australians and Banana Benders are Queenslanders.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

W.A. Teacher shortage

In today's daily newspaper there is an article telling of the teacher shortage in Western Australian government schools. The Education Dept is down around 170 teachers as the start of the school year approaches. This is very hard to understand as our daughter Helen and no doubt hundreds of other teachers still do not have notice of their 2009 placement and indeed if they even have a job this year.

There are permanent teachers and temporary teachers. Helen is a 'temp'. It is quite difficult to become a permanent teacher. There are three avenues to permanency as I see it. 1. You select a country school with the flies and the heat and cold with often poor accommodation and stay there for a few years. 2. You can ask to be sent to a school which is difficult to staff. In other words a school in a poor area with difficult students and parents. The third way to gain permanency is to apply for a position in a school offering Merit Selection. Not many schools offer Merit Selection and quite often the position offered is already marked for someone. There are many female teachers who remain temporary because of family or other commitments.

So, are these teachers, the temps, counted in that 170? Many teaching positions are notified within days of the start of the school year. Thank goodness Joan and Kev were always permanent and didn't have that hanging over us up until the day before the start of the school year.

Helen has been looking at other jobs and one I pointed out to her was at the U.S. Consulate in Perth. The job was an Executive Officer and the salary started at $87,000 per year with nice working conditions etc. The job was well within Helen's experience, having worked in a similar position at BHP for a number of years. When we came to read the Selection Criteria it was obvious that the job was written for someone already in the job. The education level was High School! This high-flight job should demand at least a degree, with some business quals. Damn!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The perfect tourist

must have a camera around his neck.

I saw this Tshirt today and bought it for Kevin to wear on the cruise. I am not sure if he actually will - but he at least tried it on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Beware of Dutchmen bearing gifts

Way back in 1974 we were teaching in Popondetta in Papua New Guinea. I was manager of Popondetta Vocational Centre and Joan was head of the Girls Voc. Section. We went on leave to Australia at the end of '74 and returned to Popondetta to find that one of my staff, 'Dutchy' had damaged our car. A front mudguard was ironed out flat by a steel power pole. Dutchy was contrite and gave me a Black and Decker bench grinder. I accepted the bribe as I was restoring a WW2 Jeep left in the area by departing military. That grinder, with wire wheel on one side, did stirling work on old Jeep parts found around the place. When we left PNG in late 1975 we packed it and it has seen much more work up until yesterday.

You will note the the sturdy metal construction and the bakelite on/off switch (non standard).
Yesterday I noticed that the switch had cracked and would no longer work. Easy, I'll just replace it with another.
WorkSafe safety covers.

When I removed the switch I pulled the wires further out of the hole to attach a new switch and that's when I found the bare wires. In all those 34 years the bare wires had not come into contact with the metal body of the grinder. Now that deserves a Lotto ticket!
I will rewire it and install a suitable, safe switch.

Just recently I have noticed a number of burned cars at various roadside locations. Abandoned cars usually have their plates removed and after a few days get a notice stuck to the body saying that this 'vehicle has been reported'. That is also the death notice for the smashed, parts taken and just recently arson attacks. I guess it's fair game if the car is really abandoned. I'd be pretty unhappy if my car was left on the roadside after it was stolen and nobody checked who it belonged to.

Even when the plates are removed a vehicle is easily traced from the chassis and engine numbers. Begs the question; why don't the authorities trace the owners and charge them for the disposal? Up until a couple of months ago a car body could be collected by a scrap merchant and $100 cash given to the owner. Maybe somebody in authority was pocketing the scrap metal money?

Friday, January 9, 2009

IT stuff

One of our local free newspapers did a story on my efforts to distribute free computers to locals. The reporter talked with me at length and I gave him my contact details and sat back waiting for the phone calls to come....nothing! I went and picked up a paper at the local shopping centre and the article was pretty accurate, but no contact details. When I rang them they apologised and muttered something about their policy of not giving out phone numbers to all and sundry. They seemed reluctant to do another short follow-up, so I asked if they would print a letter to the editor which included my contact details and it seems that that will be OK. So I wrote to the editor thanking him for the article and mentioning that I still have lots of free computers and people interested could call me on our phone number. We'll see if it works.

I did get two phone calls about the computers; one from the office of the Federal Member for Fremantle. She is supposedly interested in local efforts like this and will write me a letter of thanks. I'd like her to take a couple of computers. The other phone call was from a lady who wanted me to collect an old PC. I agreed to collect it and although the PC is rather old and slow the monitor and attached speakers are very nice.

Today I received the two black ink cartridges I ordered from Hong Kong. They work well and are just a fraction of the price of originals here in Aus. Total cost including postage was $11.59. Best price I could find in Aus. was $29 each plus postage.

Now something quite different.....find the Nude Dude

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

43 years

Kevin Arthur Lock and Joan Lilian McHugh were married at Wesley Church, Perth at 4 pm Friday January 7, 1966.

Check Joan's blog for further information

Monday, January 5, 2009

Big Brother

Today I was trolling through blogs through the 'next blog' tab on Blogger and came across an American family who are into shooting the watsaname out of deer. At the top of their blog is a sort of counter which shows who has been looking at their blog and all the details of their ISP and indeed the computer system and browser used. Ours showed up.

If that information is easily seen, then all those people who are accessing naughty stuff should be worried. So if you are into devious stuff on the internet, open your computer case, take out the hard drive, find out where Main Roads is doing highway repairs and surreptitiously toss the HD under a road roller, go to a computer shop and buy a new one and install your Operating System again. If you don't know how to do that, then start worrying.

Our daughter Helen has not yet been offered a school for next year. She has been in the system for a few years now and is a bit jacked off that she doesn't know what school she will be offered for the 2009 school year. It could be a bogan school with lots of anti-establishment parents and kids that usually appear on 'The Nanny' on TV. The appointments are as late as a couple of days before the school year. So she is applying for an executive type job with one of Australia's big players; Kerry Stokes. Her resume reads very well and she has a shoe-in having met Stoke's Employment Officer socially a few days ago. Go Hel!


I have recently ordered a couple of black cartridges to suit my HP Photosmart D5360 printer from Hong Kong. The best price I could find in Australia was $29.95 plus postage.
The HK price was $1.25 each and $9.00 postage for two carts. I shall report on the quality of the print. Our HP photosmart printer has a warning message when I refill the cartridges with bulk ink...'It appears that you have used a fake cartridge' or something similar.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Kilroy and Foo were both there!

During WW2 Kilroy appeared everywhere U.S. troops were stationed; even in battlefields. His Australian cousin was Foo. They looked identical and were usually depicted peering over a wall.

Kilroy is even engraved into the wall at the WW2 Memorial in Washington DC.
There is a movement in the U.S. to have the U.S. Postal service strike a ‘Kilroy was here’ stamp. Patrick Tillery is pushing for the postage stamp, but has not yet been successful. Maybe next year we will see something like this on letters from the U.S.?
Wikipedia has a story on Kilroy and his cousins here.

We have Magpies back again. There is one young fella who makes a very loud noise when he wants to be fed. He can fly well and is bigger that his mother and can eat himself, but it seems that mum won’t let him and she still feeds him. Maybe this is some precaution against him eating something potentially bad until he knows what’s what?
How do I know it is a He? Because he reminds me of our son who still gets sustenance from us at the age of 37.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year's Eve

New Years Eve went quietly at our place. Our guests have been celebrating the New Year at our place for the last few years. This year John was absent. I usually take a group photo, but last night I didn't. At our age, any future photos of NY celebration could start to look like the photos from Back to the Future with fading images of individuals.

I would hope that this year brings peace and goodwill to all, however peace is not on the agenda for about 10 war torn countries and when they settle down, other countries will no doubt be involved in new wars.

Yesterday I received, along with 25 others in a group mailing, an email titled 'It's Our Country' which tells refugees and other immigrants to go away if they don't like Australia and the way we run it. Unfortunately one of the paragraphs is lifted from a similar rant about immigrants in the U.S.. See here:

In God We Trust' is our National Motto. This is not some Christian, right wing, political slogan. We adopted this motto because Christian men and women, on Christian principles, founded this nation, and this is clearly documented. It is certainly appropriate to display it on the walls of our schools. If God offends you, then I suggest you
consider another part of the world as your new home, because God is part of our culture.

I can't think what our National Motto could be but it certainly isn't 'In God We Trust'.