Friday, February 27, 2009

Botox Bert

One of the requests for a free computer I received yesterday was from a first year university student. Our education system is in crisis if this young guy graduates.
Last night I sat through a repeat of 'Botox' Bert Newton's TV program 20 - 1. It was called the 20 biggest dummy spits......most of them very old shots of people getting a bit testy. Poor TV!

Telstra's boss Sol Trujillo has announced he is going back home to the U.S.. He is taking his Three Amigos with him. When Sol won the top job, he imported three of his U.S. colleagues from home to help him fix Australia's telco. He is leaving us with a nice package of $3m cash and up to $20m in options.
Not bad for a 3 year stint at the reins. Last year his salary package was $13.4M.
Prime Minister Rudd was asked what he thought of Sol's departure and all he could manage was 'Adios'. Sol looks like a Mel Brooks character.

Telstra has not been doing as well of late. Many people are using mobile phones rather than traditional landlines.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

We are all doomed!

Bold headlines on the front page of the West Australian newspaper yesterday proclaim that Family power bills will rocket by $246 a year . Shock; horror! That works out to about $4.74 a week.....about half the price of a cheap bottle of bubbly of which we consume quite a few each week.

People need to live in a place where electricity is non existent or comes at a few hours a day. A couple of days without power and everyone would start to change their attitudes. Only in an outage does one realise what it would be like without a good power supply....same goes for good clean tap water delivered to our doors.

Actually I haven't heard anyone whinge about the proposed increases; it's just a newspaper shocko story.

I have been working like a Palestinian one-armed bricklayer over the last four days distributing computers to a wide variety of worthy causes. It has been good for me. I have enjoyed preparing machines to suit individual needs; giving a short run down on the operating system and meeting people from all walks of life. I have learned much about the inner workings of different models and managed to get 'dead' machines once again working.

I was initially offered another lot of later model Macs by an IT bloke working in a private company, but his boss is reluctant to hand them over because I am not a registered charity. The IT man has appealed to his boss on my behalf, but I haven't heard from them yet. I guess he thinks that I may be selling them on. W.A. Newspapers have offered me some more as well and I should get them in a fortnight.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Avian discrimination

I read an article in today's newspaper about the Israeli President selecting Benjamin Netanyahu as Prime Minister. Ben was described as Hawkish. This is blatant discrimination against hawks! How is it that Hawks get to be the bad guys and Eagles the proud, good guys that many nations have used as national symbols?

The almost concerning interest in Free Computers as communicated to all and sundry has made me a little worried about the possibility of Apple Computer asking me about software licencing. Asking me??? They could sue the poo out of me! I have thought it over and the operating system I am loading on each machine can no longer be purchased from Apple and so could well fall into the category of 'Legacy Software'. Also, I wonder about the millions of computers that end up changing hands and given to others without the original OS disks? I don't think Apple would want bad publicity over a handful of Macs going to worthy cases if it went to court.

I just rang an Apple retailer and neither OS 10.3 or 10.4 are for sale. The salesperson suggested that they could possibly be bought on eBay or a local free paper called the Quokka.

Yesterday I talked with an IT colleague at a large W.A. senior high school and he informed me that they have up to 400 PCs heaped in passageways. The government has a policy of turning over computers every 4 years. There are 64 government high schools in overload!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The power of the internet

A friend, Paul, writes a daily blog. This morning he wrote about my efforts to distribute refurbished computers to needy people locally. His posting included my email address and by 11am I had fielded about 15 emails and phone calls from people wanting one of the Macs. By evening two computers had been collected and another 8 were set aside for weekend pickups. I wasn't really prepared for such a response. I shall have to get busy preparing another lot in case this level of interest continues. Also during the day I received two emails from people who want to donate more Macs. I admit to feeling a sense of satisfaction from the response and the genuine thanks that I have received from those who have contacted me.

The amazing trail of the spread of this information started with a lady who told me that she had read Paul's blog and would put the information on a librarians' news site. From there it went to a number of other sites; probably about ten.

A young woman who came at 7pm to collect one of the computers, works for Aboriginal Affairs and has also had a lot to do with Women's Refuges and female ex-prisoners. She can see that placing some of these computers in refuges and prisons will greatly benefit these unfortunate women. I hope I can continue to collect and distribute machines that otherwise would end up in landfill.

Paul's blog can be read here...well worth a serious look.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Last night Joan went to a meeting of WAFTA (W.A. Fibre and Textile Association) It finished quite late and we ate when she returned home. I was watching a documentary by an English chap named Louis Theroux. Yes I know,that doesn't really sound like a Britisher, but he is.
The doco was quite disturbing. It dealt with a religious cult in the U.S. and their railings against the Fag government . They specialise in going to funerals of military people killed in Iraq and Afganistan and yelling insults and waving large signs declaring the dead to be faggots and never to see heaven. It seems that the government is to blame by allowing same sex marriages and that all citizens, apart from them, have condoned it.

As usual they have an elderly prophet having fathered lots of children in the group. Unlike many other crazy sects this lot have the most foul abuse to anyone who is not of their faith. It would seem that only they are going to get to heaven. I am surprised that in such a gun-happy society nobody has dispatched them and sent them off to heaven.

One of the units we own has had a fence problem for some time. I entered into a verbal agreement with the neighbor of our unit....I would have another row of limestone blocks laid and he would replace the three sheets of fibro-cement fencing. Easy....except he didn't keep his end of the bargain. I rang him this evening and it was still a no go. 'Maaaaate, I have been in hospital several liver has packed it in....I will do the job if I can get me missus to help coz I'm as weak as a kitten!' Yeah Right! BS artist!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Second chance

Just had a few drinks with my brother Graham. He has been single, apart from a few short partnerships, for the last 24 years. Just lately he has been working at finding a partner to spend the rest of his life with. He is almost ten years younger than me. It seems that he has found a soul-mate and they have spent lots of time together over the past two weeks. At his age, 59, he and his new partner have much to come to terms with.....she likes opera and ballet; Graham doesn't. 'What is the point of listening to Pavarotti if he sings in a foreign language????' Graham likes different music, different food and different comedy. I guess a successful partnership recognises individual differences. Ours does.

I have made up some fliers to put up in shopping centres to place all the computers I have readied to give away. I suspect that people will not believe that I am offering free computers, tutorials and telephone backup with no 'catches'. Landfill is the only other option.

We were tonight thinking back on our South Pacific cruise. The fares were too cheap allowing too many yobbos to disturb our once in a lifetime. Mr. Rudd is to blame...throwing lots of dollars at the peasants. Confession here....we got a handout from Kev too. I guess that the money did help suppliers and their employees. Someone in Australia must get some benefit from the 16 miles of cocktail sausages etc purchased in Sydney prior to departure.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


When we were in Sydney town recently, I visited the National Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. It had an exhibition of photographs and text from the diary of a young American fellow who prior to attending university, decided to take a sea journey on a whaling ship from the U.S. east coast to Fremantle in 1905. It was a wonderful exhibition on loan from the Smithsonian in Washington and I will see if the Fremantle Maritime Museum is going to show it in Freo. They should, as the ship's voyage ends in Fremantle harbour.
The whaler in Fremantle Harbour.

One interesting story was the capture and killing of an albatross. Yes, I know, sailors don't kill albatross as they bring bad luck. The story describes how the albatross was lured onto the deck of the ship, probably with fish. The albatross couldn't fly off the ship because it relied on water and its webbed feet to get airborne again. Trinkets were made from the claws and the beak.

Back in Sydney: the Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour is a very nice example of an old (opened to traffic in 1902) swing bridge. The opening swung around to let ships through. I am unsure where the ships were going to as there is now nothing much beyond the bridge. I imagine that before infill, the water went much further upstream. The monorail service runs over the bridge, but I believe the swing span could still be opened.
The swing span showing the Monorail pylon just outside the swing span.
The lovely bridge controller's cabin

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Inappropriate posts

A friend rang to day to tell me that when reading our blog posted from the Pacific Dawn, a blue notation told her that it was an inappropriate post. I read the post and even though I manage to offend some people with what I write and say there was nothing in the post to upset anyone.

Brother Graham works in an industrial area and nearby is a car dismantler (wrecker). He is Lebanese Australian and runs the messiest yard imaginable. Wrecked vehicles are on the verge and roadside and he is constantly being warned by the local Council to clean up his act. I bought a car from him for our son.....bad move! He and one of his countrymen have been charged with corruption. It seems that many of the wrecks he had bought had been examined and registered for the road by his mate in the vehicle inspection centre over the phone for a small fee of $10. The cops have played phone taps of conversations between the two on local TV stations.

Our house has a built in vacuum cleaning system. It is a Valet branded system and it works very well. Yesterday I investigated an air leak in one of the hose points and decided to change the rubber seal. The seal was held in place with a star fastener. I went to the agent only to find that they don't sell parts for this and I would have to buy the whole wall fitting @ about $90. No thanks and thanks for not keeping spares! Easy. I replaced the rubber seal but had broken the star fastening. Today I went to seven fastening specialists without any joy. Most didn't even know what a star fastener was. Hot glue is my friend! Here is a pic of a star fastener...
Star fasteners are used on kids' tricycle wheels and are usually domed.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

As Dorothy said....

There is no place like home. We are very happy to be in familiar surroundings and not relying on the good grace of friends. Those friends were wonderful when we disembarked from the ship. Graham had timed his arrival well and we were soon on the way to his house in Sutherland. The following evening Graham had organised a get-together of friends who were all expatriate Australians stationed in Maprik in the Sepik District of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. Plenty of memories there.

On Sunday as we recovered from the party, we were collected by Albert, a mate from the Gulf of Papua in the early 1960s. He showed off his very nice apartment on Sydney Harbour and Kathy, his wife, served us a nice lunch before we visited the Australian Museum to see an exhibition of photographs by the famous Australian photographer, Frank Hurley. There were many photos taken by Hurley in this 1920s expedition in places that I had worked near or visited. The expedition took two float planes to Papua...the first aircraft to be seen by the local population. One can only imagine what they made of these amazing, noisy, beings. Hurley was a bit of a villain at times, stealing artifacts from village long houses. I'm sure he gave out some beads to the locals.

Albert kindly dropped us off to Syney Airport and we departed Sydney at approximately 7.15pm.

I am 'down' with a very bad cold. Thinking back I seem to recall that I always return from a trip with a cold or flu. The ship was very aware of the possibility of spreading nasties to the passengers and we were all asked to use a disinfectant gel provided before going to food serveries.

Tomorrow I will drive up to Quinns Rocks to replace a tap washer at the rear of one of the units we are renting out. Even with the fuel involved in the 100km round trip it is far cheaper than getting a tap doctor in. Just have to take care not to break anything necessitating a major repair job.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Last day at sea

Yesterday (Thursday) Dorothy and Joan went along to the Art Auction again. Free bubbles were the major attraction – neither intended to bid on anything. They were hopeful there might be bottles up for grabs again. There weren’t, just glasses offered to the audience. I watched from the gallery above.

As most of our friends know, I am not an art aficionado. If it can’t be photographed it ain’t real.

The auction was selling originals and prints of sort of known artists for enormous prices. There weren’t a lot of buyers from the Aus. Yobbos. We know what is likely to be an investment and it isn’t some European sounding name who is flogging off prints of his/her mediocre ‘art’ at an inflated price.

Both of the girls know a bit about art and weren’t impressed either. Of the hundreds of pieces that were being flogged they identified about five that they liked – except for the prices, which they felt were far too high. But several pieces were sold to young couples.

There is a final auction today – the last day of the cruise. The only reason to attend will again be the free bubbles. Not much is free on this cruise.

We arrive in Sydney at 7 am tomorrow and start disembarkation at 8.30. They reckon they will have everyone off the ship by 10 am.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

en route to Sydney

Rigelio our cabin steward

At breakfast this morning we were greeted by the usual ‘Hello Ma’am; hello Sir’ from every passing waiter. One pleasant waiter made the mistake of greeting a sad sack of a passenger close to our table and had to endure a 15 minute expose of the passenger’s life, his medical condition, dangerous foods and super-foods (Yoghurt is one if you want to write it down) and the main reasons why at the age of (possibly) 60 he has never married. The waiter was a very diplomatic young man. I bet there are a few laughs to be had back in the crew’s quarters.

The breakfast waiters are the same ones as in the main formal dining room which wound down at around 10.30pm last night. They would have had another 15-30 minutes final clean-up before they were able to hit the sack then on deck as it were for breakfast. After breakfast there is just half an hour before lunch starts then afternoon tea and the evening meal starting at 5.30pm. Not much time for the crew to relax.

Food service is almost continuous from 5.30am until 10pm and then if you aren’t full to the regurga-tube you can order room service 24 hours a day.

Last night I asked several waiters if they were going to re-sign after their contract ended. All three said they are going to….one having completed 14 X 10 month contracts with P&O.

When U.S. navy ships dock at Fremantle on R&R the local newspaper often tells us that supplies taken on board include ‘4 miles of sausages; sixty tonnes of ice cream’ etc etc. The Pacific Dawn has a small brochure about such statistics. For example the ship has two water production plants. One is an evaporative system producing 92,000 gallons a day and the other is a reverse osmosis plant producing 480 tons per day.
There are other statistics about disposal of poo etc, but I won’t go into that here. On food and beverage consumption daily a couple of figures show that on average 3.125 eggs are consumed; 487 bottles of wine and 1.284 cans/bottles of beer. Vegetables weigh in at 1,798kgs. The gross weight of the ship is not diminished by this consumption as it stays on board as adipose tissue and sewage.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Tuesday morning

We are sitting at anchor off the island Ouvea in New Caledonia. It apparently has the nicest beaches in the Loyalty Islands. It is approximately 35 kilometres long and has three villages on it.

The Captain made an announcement about an hour ago that the initial team (the ubiquitous photographers and others) went ashore and found the landing pontoon damaged by big seas. He said that he was dispatching an Executive Officer and a carpentry crew to see if repairs could be made for passengers to safely land on the island. The news came back that they deemed it unsafe for passengers and we are soon to up-anchor, drop off the pilot somewhere close to Noumea and head back; slowly to Sydney to use up the extra day.

Another bit of not-so-good news from the Captain was the fact that a cyclone is rapidly bearing down on us. We expect some rock-n-roll soon.

The Captain seemed very sorry that we couldn’t get ashore. I reckon that is probably because of the lost revenue in the obligatory photo session we endure at each landing.

Last night after the usual sumptuous meal in the Palm Court dining room we decided to take a look at the floor show. It was a stand-up comedian and he did a very good job. There were two exits from the International Show Room and we took the one that did not have the comedian and his DVD sales stand.

Tuesday PM

I went to the service desk to find out how the obligatory tipping toll of $7.50 per day, per passenger, is distributed as we want to give our cabin steward adequate reward for his good work. I was told that all the collected tips are allocated to the catering, cleaning and laundry staff. The administration and clerical crew don’t get a divvy of that amount.
The fellow on the desk then told me that 90% of passengers opt out of the tipping collection…..great; 10% of the mob are left to carry the burden and the staff get virtually B all! I think I will drop back our levy to the original $5. per day.

I asked our cabin steward about his working conditions and it seems that they all work 13 hours per day with no days off for 10 months straight. It is not a great deal for them, but must be a reasonable earner compared to wages in their own country. Most of the catering service crew are from the Philippines. Many of the cabin crew are Filipinas. They are largely handsome and pleasant people. I believe that Filipino overseas labour is the main Philippines export. I wish I could write music here to show you how their ‘Hello Ma’am’ goes.

I asked one of the bar staff if he was going to take a new contract when his finished. It seems that he/they can’t just sign up on the ship, they have to return to the Philippines and sign up again through a recruitment agent who takes a percentage of their contractual earnings. I guess it would be easier to earn some money on the side with a land-based job. On the ship, the only chance for extra income not being taxed by their agent would be to work hard for tips.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Vila, Vanuatu

This morning, Monday, we docked in Vila, Vanuatu. The harbour is very picturesque with a few islands in the entrance and small early morning ferries transporting people to the mainland. The passenger dock is very grotty compared to Noumea.

We were herded toward our tour departure point around 9am. The area was very hot with no shelter, mud and large potholes in the bus area. Everyone was pretty happy about boarding the airconditioned bus. First stop was a “cultural/art’ centre with a mismatch of fake and poorly made local artifacts. In the display were Easter Island repros, Sepik Totem poles from Papua New Guinea and some Balinese stone carvings. It impressed most of the tourists who had no idea of the origins of each piece.

Next stop the National Museum where we were given a talk on the Vanuatu numbering system and a demonstration of it in a sand tray. The rest of the exhibits were good, but lacked the artistic finish of Papua New Guinea’s art.

Outside the museum I tried my Tok Pisin (pidgin English) on our bus driver. We were both surprised that apart from a few words we understood each other well. We had previously been told by the tour guide that Missionaries did away with sorcery. The bus driver told me that that was not so, that in his village people could turn themselves into sharks to take another villager. Christianity 1; sorcery 1!

Vanuatu had a joint French/English administration up until 1980 when Vanuatu gained Independence . French and English is taught in school, but we heard nobody actually speaking French except our fellow tourists. Traffic drives on the right hand side of the road in Vanuatu. The issue of road rules was eventually settled in favour of the French because the first car in the Co-Dominium was owned by a French Priest.

Vila town is not too clean but there seems to be no graffiti or Raskol Gangs as in PNG. The people seem reasonably happy and surprisingly there is no betel nuts growing or chewed in Vanuatu. Big bonus there, as in PNG, red betel nut spit stains roads, footpaths and markets. Most of the roads in Vila have huge potholes. This may be because they have just had 5 weeks of heavy rain and no chance to do repairs. The heat and humidity is almost unbearable and we both wondered how we ever lived in coastal PNG. It was wonderful to get back to the ship with its excellent airconditioning.

We are departing Vila sometime after 6pm tonight and tomorrow we visit another sparsely populated island back in New Caledonia. After that visit, it is down hill to Sydney harbour.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Mystery Island, Vanuatu

Sunday. We are anchored near Mystery Island, a deserted island about 1.5 kilometres offshore from Anatom Island, a mountainous timbered island about 200 miles from Vila, Vanuatu.

The ship has lowered four tenders (lifeboats) and passengers can go ashore to swim, get melanomas and buy tacky trinkets from stalls set up by locals from the main island. A walk around the entire island takes 45 minutes and there is a reasonable airstrip still in use after U.S. forces left in 1945. Locals do not live on Mystery Island because ‘spirits’ turn up at night time. More likely because it looks like it is only a metre above sea level, so doesn’t have much in the way of arable land or fresh water.

In Noumea there are still long huts in use as accommodation which were part of a U.S. military hospital for casualties of the many South Pacific battles from Guadalcanal to Iwo Jima. They must have had good termite control to last this long. From 1942-45 there were over a million Yanks stationed or hospitalised in Noumea. On a hill overlooking the city are two large coastal guns installed by a contingent of Australian troops (Robin Force) as pre-war aid to the French. Say what?! I photographed the serial numbers of one of the guns in case I find someone interested in such artillery.
Coastal gun with graffiti and a mother trying to console a cranky kid.

Late news from cruise ship Pacific Dawn.
P&O has cleaned up its act after some very damaging publicity following the death of a female passenger in very grubby circumstances some 5 years ago. Yesterday the word getting around is that two passengers were kicked off the ship at Noumea and had to find their own way back to Sydney. Harsh treatment! The story is that they were busted taking a leak over the rail of the ship; probably into the wind and wetting a deck officer. ‘Keel-haul those men’!

Back to Sunday and Mystery Island: We went ashore and had a walk around part of the island. There was a small market of about 30 stalls all selling much the same stuff. Pandanus leaf baskets, fans, a bit of shell jewellery and some drinking coconuts. The water was beautiful and quite cool for the tropics. Snorkelling gear was for hire @ $40 for flippers, snorkel and mask. Thanks but no thanks!

We took a photo of the airstrip terminal building which is “under construction” and obviously has been for some time.

Back to the ship for lunch, we had to go through metal detectors and our hand gear was run through an X-ray machine. Mike has a device in his chest to adjust the electrodes into his brain. He had to go around the metal detector and undergo a very thorough body search with a hand held device. What they could possibly think anyone could bring on board from a small island way out in the Pacific I don’t know. Maybe some WW2 armaments?