Wednesday, March 31, 2010


We have been very busy over the last couple of weeks....I think I might go back to work for a rest.

An Aboriginal lady asked for help with her PC laptop last week. It presented with the Blue Screen of Death and would not do anything. She had a lot of data on it which she needed to modify and print over the weekend for a submission. Whilst I don't have any great skills in the PC repair business I said I would take it to a friend and we would see what we could do to restore her machine.

We (mainly Rob) managed to drag the data off the hard drive with some magic software and reload WindowsXP and the data. That took some three hours of pretty intense grey matter pressure. The disk used to reload XP wasn't the one that came with that particular computer and that is where the fun began. Unless you use the original disk, the drivers for things like the USB port, Video control etc etc have to be found on the net and loaded separately. It all worked and I gave the machine back to the lady vowing to stick to what I know well....Macs.

Yesterday I went to Rob's school, where his IT students had refurbished a stack of 10 PCs for an Aboriginal group. My job was the clean up the cases, crank 'em up to see if everything worked and search to see if the drivers were all there. Three machines needed driver downloads, so we configured another three machines from the dozens Rob has in his classrooms. All done and they will be delivered today.

Enough technobabble for now.

Today is the day we find out if the CT scan done last week shows continuing decrease in Joan's tumour size. She has around 30 tumours in her liver and the last scan a month ago suggested 'Small, but significant tumour size reduction'. Today also sees the start of chemo round 7. After having round 5 delayed a week because of low white blood cell count and the next round reduced because of that we are a bit apprehensive that the dosage reduction may not give the same benefits. Joan is ready to tell the oncologist that she would like to get the full dose if he thinks that is necessary to continue the good results. Who are we to tell the man what should be done, especially when on a trial?

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Hello dementia

This morning I made a cooked breakfast and we sat down and read the newspaper and took our tablets with coffee. Well, I took my tablets, which happened to be Joan's tablets. They are quite different physically and chemically to mine and during today her diuretic tablet has been working well. I don't know what else is in store for me in the next couple of days.....will I start developing breasts?

Today we had a small family gathering to celebrate our son Martin's 39th birthday. He wasn't too happy about it at first, but warmed to it after a bit of common-interest conversation. Helen, our daughter and James her partner took the opportunity to look at a couple of houses for sale nearby. The houses turned out to be reasonable, but the base price was over a half a million dollars. I must investigate relative incomes and house prices when we first bought in the 1960s. It may well be that house and land prices compared to wages and salaries have not really gone up that much over the years. I know that vehicle prices have come down considerably over the last 30 years. Similarly, has the price of fuel versus wages soared in recent years? As a youngun, I recall petrol prices bit hard even though a gallon of fuel was only a couple of shillings. Stop whinging folks!

Friday, March 26, 2010

We carnivores

Sometime in the late 1940s I remember being at my grandparent’s farm at Toolibin in the W.A. wheatbelt. I must have been about 7 years of age and I clearly remember my grandfather and some other men readying a horse team for winter ploughing in preparation for seeding. They had a John Deere steel-wheeled tractor in a bush material shed and I guess it wasn’t used because of petrol shortages. Years later when I was about 14, I recall two men arriving at the farm to collect that tractor and load it on a big truck and take it away. Even after many years of it sitting idle in the shed, they managed to start it and drive it up a big ramp onto the truck.

I cannot remember seeing the horses working again after that first time. My grandparents bought a large diesel International Harvester tractor and the horses were put out to pasture.

Every holiday when I stayed at the farm I would go to the horse paddock fence and the huge draught horses would rush up to me at such a speed that I couldn’t imagine how they could stop in time and not crash through the fence and me.

One holiday I went to see the horses and they were not there. A bit later in a stand of gum trees I found their sunbleached bones. Practicality deemed them to be pig food. I was shocked. They were mammals like us!

Farming has a different outlook on such things. When a sheep was to be slaughtered for the ‘house’, it was trussed up in a wheelbarrow and its throat slit and left to bleed to death.

We sensitive carnivores should maybe take a tour of an abattoir

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bertholt Brecht

I have just returned from Perth City where I dropped off Joan at Royal Perth Hospital. She is having a CT scan and we are hopeful that there will be good news of significant tumour reduction in her liver.

She is going to catch a train back to Fremantle and I will collect her from Fremantle Railway Station. She rings me when she is about ten minutes away from Freo. Mobile phones are just so convenient.

I watched a movie on the weekend...not bad! It dealt with German troops in Russia and there was plenty of blood and guts and the usual honorable soldier on both sides. In the titles there was a quote by Bertolt Brecht.

Don't rejoice in his defeat, you men
For although the World stood up and stopped the bastard,
The Bitch who bore him is in heat again.

Brecht wrote many plays and poems. Read about him here.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sculpture by the Sea

Saturday afternoon we went to Cottesloe Beach to see the Sculpture by the Sea exhibition. It is an annual event which attracts loads of people. There were around 100 installations and we tried to see them all. When we later looked at the catalogue it seems that we missed quite a few. Maybe we should have studied the catalogue first? My faves were the horses.

We were there just on sunset so the pics have a bit of a suntan.

Yesterday we had a visit from a couple of friends, one of whom we both taught back in the late 70s at Rockingham SHS. Robbie and Huw brought their baby, Ripper, a Spoodle. Ripper is a Spaniel/Poodle cross and extremely bright. Rob and Huw have obviously spent lots of time teaching him words which he recognises. At the mention of the word 'cat' Ripper jumps to attention and races off looking for the cat. Fortunately, the cat who visits us wasn't in the yard.
It was a most pleasant afternoon with lots of good conversation, food and drinks. Thanks guys for being good company and staying longer than required when visiting oldies.

Rob, Huw and Ripper.

Friday, March 19, 2010


The results from the ultrasound scan were good although hard to believe. I am amazed at the interpretation of the specialist who reads the fuzzy pictures of my internal bits and can make such pronouncements. Liver: normal size, Gall Bladder: good, Spleen and Pancreas: normal , Kidneys: normal size,shape and texture.
Is that my liver or am I pregnant? Click to enlarge to make a diagnosis.

Of course the report didn't use those simple descriptions, they were couched in medicalese.....echotexture, intrahepatic/extrahepatic, parenchymal, lymphadenopathy etc etc.

Joan is due to have the chemo pump removed today then she has 12 days without chemo...just the side effects. It is in this typical 12 day period that we will be travelling to Brisbane for a PNG teachers' reunion in May.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Madang Ples Bilong Mi

Joan is today starting round 6 of chemo. Each time we front up to the oncologist we worry that the blood test will show a low white blood cell count and void the session.

I follow a blog by an American fellow who has lived in Madang PNG for lots of years. He has a boat and is an avid diver and photographer. His blog.. features lots of photos of Madang sunsets and dawns as well as great underwater photos of fish and reef coral. Well worth a look. The blog is called Madang, Ples Bilong Mi.

Recently he told of almost being scammed by what he later discovered was the London Face Book Scam. The scam goes along these lines. Scammers set up fake FaceBook sites with details of interests and lots of photos etc. They become friends and correspond with the target on FaceBook.
Then comes the scam. In this case, the young woman (?) is stranded in London and urgently needs a loan of 1,250 pounds Sterling. There is the promise to pay the money back as soon as she gets back to the states. I think this is the essence of the 'Confidence Trick'.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Upper Abdomen Scan

Yesterday I had an UltraSound of my upper abdomen. The young lady who did the job took lots of pictures, probably about 30+, and seemed to be concentrating on an area where my liver lives. When she was finished I asked if everything looked OK. She told me that radiographers were not allowed to comment, that was the job of the Doctor who analyzed the scans. I tried a new tack...'Do you think my GP is likely to ring me in the next few days?' to which she replied, 'I doubt it.' Which was pretty good news.

I had to fast for 8 hours before the scan and in the 30 minutes before I headed off to the Radiography centre had to drink a litre of water. I can't even drink a litre of beer over 30 minutes.

Last bit of medical stuff...... I have had some kidney pains for a few months and my GP sent me off to a local nephrologist. He sent me off for blood and urine tests and the results showed protein levels in the urine above normal. Several visits later he wrote to my GP suggesting that there is a link to the kidney problem with a possible contra-indication with Nexium which I take for acid reflux. He must have looked that up on Google; everyman's medical book. So I'm off to see the GP on Thursday and he is going to give me an alternative drug for acid reflex.

Don't you love getting old?

Monday, March 15, 2010

Hanging Up

Last night there was a re-run of a 2000 movie Hanging Up. The TV guide critic gave it one and a half stars. I liked it and gave 3 stars.

It is a comedy/drama with a good cast...Walter Mattau, Lisa Kudrow, Diane Keaton and Meg Ryan.
It is sort of a comedic dumbed-down On Golden Pond and is about three daughters coming to terms with their father's demise in dementia.

It reminded me of our friend, John who is in care with his companion Dementia. John is neither cranky nor violent like the Matthau character and occasionally he shows a glimmer of his old self. I am visiting him to day to give him a hair trim. I will be surprised if he recognises me.

His wife, Joy wrote this about her lost husband John....


Dementia is a cruel disease
It steals from families - we're one of these
It stole our loving Dad and friend
And made us feel it was the end.

He walks all day - is he aware?
With a faraway look that is elsewhere
As he walks up and down the Nursing Home
Does he realize he is so alone?

Is he looking for something he knows is lost?

Does he remember his former life
And is trying to find his loving wife.
Can you imagine a greater loss
Or a heavier burden to carry this cross?

Our beloved man is there no more,
Just a shell behind an empty door,
Dementia has stolen him away
But we remember a different day.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Scuplture on the Canning River

Friday was a busy day for both of us. I delivered two computers to a young Maori family north of the river. The younger son is in our daughter Helen's class at Padbury Primary School. They were delighted with both machines. The one for the kids is a slot loading iMac running an older operating system OS 9. I loaded 9 on it because I have been given dozens of great educational games on CDs. They come from Castlereagh School, a government school which caters for severely disabled children. Not many people know about Castlereagh and it should be given acknowledgment for the great job the staff does with their charges.

It is sad that because of a government dictate computers must not be held longer than 4 years, and so, the fleet of iMacs Castlereagh ran had to be dumped in favour of brand new PCs which don't run all those educational programmes. I would have thought that it would have been OK for the school to keep a few iMacs specifically to run these educational programmes....but no.

In the evening we attended a sculpture opening at Deepwater Point on the Canning River hosted by the City of Melville with lots of free drinks and food. The sculptures were good, especially one installation (see, I am getting with the arty terminology) which was completely made from discarded plastic drink containers. To quote a Peter Seller's line to be said in a strong Scottish Accent...'I noo say little aboot the Arts, but ah was soootably imprrressed ba what-a saw'

A few pics of the plastic marine life. Click them to enlarge.

Joan is about to embark on round six of chemo next week. Another six after that in the Folfox6 regime. What happens after that we have not been told. There is another CT scan at the end of the month and we hope to see more reduction in tumour size. All the bookings for the Queensland trip are made and we hope that the chemo does not make her too sick to travel.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kopi Luwak

Today's news presented a couple of interesting articles. President Susilo Bambang YUDHOYONO of Indonesia is making a state visit to Australia. He, like a recent Phillipine President, is a bit of a crooner and Prime Minister Rudd presented him with an Australian electric guitar. BangBang reciprocated by giving the PM some Kopi Luwak (civet predigested coffee beans). Read about them here.

How on earth did he get them through quarantine? The Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea, Sir Michael Somari had to run the gauntlet when he last made a state visit to Australia and had to remove his sandals at Brisbane airport. I guess Customs thought there might have been a bomb in the soles? The Indonesian population would be a bit cranky with Australia if he was subjected to any Customs scrutiny and they might launch a Jihad.

Another story was about the birth of a baby elephant at Toronga Park Zoo in Sydney. TV footage showed zoo keepers tending the baby whilst mother looked on. The babe was thought to be still -born and the keepers were most surprised when it turned out..literally, to be alive and well. It reminded me of a cow we had when I was manager of Bainyik Vocational Centre in Papua New Guinea. Our cow was the nicest animal and let all the students cuddle her. We had her mated with a Brahman bull and watched as she approached delivery of a calf. One day I was driving past the cow paddock and noticed a newborn calf. Jeep skidded to a halt and I jumped out and climbed through the barb wire fence to congratulate mum. She wasn't elephant-like and put the head down and butted me into the barbed wire fence. Shocked and scratched I made a hasty retreat. I wouldn't fiddle with a newborn elephant within trunk distance from her mum!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Worrying Pain

I have had a steady pain just below my sternum for about a week and at odd times it hits me hard. My GP thinks it is gastric reflux stirring up a Hiatus Hernia. At my age and thinking about Joan's cancer, I get a bit worried about such pains. He thinks the trouble may be a fungal (?) attack and prescribed a drug called Nilstat. I am also off to have an ultrasound.

I have had a few ultrasounds and I'm damned if I can see anything when I look at the films. I can sort of see a foetus when the US is shown on TV, but to diagnose something from a mass of fuzzy dots is not in my training....naturally!

Earlier in the afternoon I visited my elderly computer student Vera. She is sort of getting the hang of sending an email message...sort of. Today we sent several messages to my home and we wrote down each step. Attachments are a long way down the track. Just as well I don't charge as I have made five trips to her home and spent many hours going over the simplest of things. Maybe I am not a good teacher? Today I introduced her to eBay and Google. I think she will enjoy Google.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Room with a view

On Friday I had a Pinball repair man come and take a look at our machine. He is based in East Perth but had a job to do near our place. He worked on the machine for about an hour and a half and replaced several important bits and did a general tune up and clean for a grand total of $130. Bargain!
Yesterday evening we attended a two family show at my nephew's luxury suite on the 14th floor of a tower at Burswood, near the casino. Bruce bought the unit for $1M from the plans and he is back with his wife from the U.S. for a visit and to sell the unit. It's on the market for $1.2M and he has had one offer this last week. The views are fantastic looking West to the city and down the river. Interestingly his unit on the 14th floor is actually the 13th floor, but the builders were instructed to not name the floor the 13th, should it deter Chinese buyers.
Looking down river

We left reasonably early and others including my brother Graham and his partner, kicked on. When I got up this morning there was a message from Graham on the phone. He was ringing from the high rise and asked me to ring back. There were a few giggles in the background so I thought he was just joshing me. It turns out that as they tried to leave the building they went through a wrong door and were locked in. Fortunately, after a half hour or more, a resident was returning home and used the combination lock to let them out.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Vintage Scam?

Today we received a letter from the Readers Digest informing us that a $55,000 prize has already been drawn and it seems that we, along with thousands of others, have been given the chance of entering the numbers shown in the box to possibly match those already selected by the good folk at Reader's Digest.
Click the pic to enlarge.

I didn't think that anyone read the Digest anymore?

'Tis a fine line between scam and spam and this one is pure vintage. I can remember such letters from RD as far back as the 70s...probably earlier.

It isn't quite as simple as it reads. To qualify for the draw it seems that one has to subscribe to the Readers Digest to be eligible to have a crack at the cash.

I know it isn't as crooked as a Nigerian scam which relies on people being greedy and gullible, but I bet it still sucks in plenty of people.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Back on track with chemo

Joan is back on track with her Chemotherapy and today had a full dose of rat poison and brought home 'her' pump to infuse the last 100ml of fluorouracil over 48 hours.

We were concerned that the low white blood cell count would not have improved enough to recommence chemo. Fortunately all was well. Another good bit of news was that the CEA tumour marker (CarcinoEmbryonic Antigen) has once again fallen from the initial 9,100 to 1,300. Got to be good news there!

We also asked about our chances of going to Brisbane in May for a Papua New Guinea reunion. He reckons there will be no problem doing that so we will go ahead and make plane, car and hotel bookings for a week away.

Our daughter Helen teaches a child who is 'not the sharpest tool in the shed' and she suggested that I give the family a computer for educational games and internet connection. I have set up two Macs, one with an older operating system which has dozens of really good educational packages and another for Mum and Dad to hook up to the net. I talked to the family tonight and they are really stoked. I will deliver them next week and do a quick instructional course on their use.

At the same time I deliver those machines I will deliver another more up-market Mac to Vera's sister who needs something to occupy her so that she doesn't scoot off to the Casino. That is not my assessment of the situation...blame Vera.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Technology for the Young

This afternoon I drove out to Vera's house to give her another lesson on computer operation. Vera is an elderly (jeez, she is only three years older than me!) Aboriginal lady. I use the term 'Lady' because she is a lady....nice and pleasant company.

She has almost no experience with computers and I had forgotten how difficult it is to remember the steps to do things, like use a word processor, log onto the net, use an email program and Google for information. We went through all those processes and I wrote up instructions for each process and showed her how to make a photocopy, scan a document or picture and either save it or print it. Photoshop is far down the road yet.

Over the weekend when we had two kids stay over at our place I saw again what youth has that we oldies don't...immediate understanding of the technology or the where-with-all to nut it out; quickly.

Oldie get thee to a retirement village.