Saturday, May 29, 2010

of Cats and Computers

Took the plunge and changed ISPs from iinet to vividwireless. iinet have been a great ISP, but our phone lines and distance from an exchange would not give us any better download speed than .43mb......vividwireless is giving us around 8mb. So sorry iinet, but goodbye. For $25 a year we can keep our iinet email address.

Yesterday Joan went with her sister Dorothy to the Cat Haven to collect her birthday present, a ginger female. The new moggy is not so new...five years old and is gradually settling in. It will be some time before we let it outside and it will be a house only cat at nights.

We, and our next door neighbors, have ongoing problems with noisy, fighting tomcats in our back yards. Dave has loaned me the ultimate deterrent...a super soaker water cannon. Can't wait to blast them tonight. Perhaps a judicial addition of a small amount of ammonia will discourage their return?

Lemme at 'em!!

Last night we went to the Melville Art Awards in which Joan has a piece called 'Windows on the Wetlands'. The art, especially the painting, was a mixed bag...some outstanding and some quite naive. An ex student of mine who is now approximately 32 is a successful portrait artist and her self portrait should have won an award, but didn't.

The background music was a chap playing Spanish guitar. Great stuff!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Starting Xeloda

My dear Joan has embarked on a different regime of chemotherapy. The last one Folfox6 did have some positive result but the main component Oxyliplatin (Oxyplatin) was damaging her nervous system and was discontinued. The new regime is Avastin infusions once every three weeks and daily tablets of 7 Xeloda tabs, four after breakfast and three in the evening. they are 500 mg tabs and I reckon she should take them with some tomato sauce.

She is to have a CT Scan later this month and we hope to see some improvement in tumour reduction.

The three week break she had with the crossover from Folfox to Xeloda saw some increase in the tumour marker, CEA, result. The last blood test showed the level at 768 and the latest result was over 1000. Still, that is lower by far from the 9,300 at diagnosis.

The oncologist is a pleasant looking bloke who has a predictable patter. When he invites us in to his office the same greetings are made every time.

He is quite similar to a pensioned-off Nun who is resident in the Ivy Suite (the cancer ward). She has been trained in dealing with patients in a most stressful time in their life and does it very badly. 'How are you?' 'Not bad' 'well keep staying well'. "You can make a cup off tea over there'.

One step to the next patient and exactly the same story for the next patient who has listened. St John's...give her a job somewhere else.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

WW2 Aboriginal servicemen

The Aboriginal Lady I gave a Mac to and whose Wireless account I set up has had a lot of trouble connecting to the net. She is not very familiar with the technology and I have had to visit her place quite a few times doing ‘in service’ courses on email and Googling. She is getting there and will one day be able to let me go.

Yesterday I went to the Optus store where I bought her modem and wireless plan telling them that there seemed to be a problem with the modem. The young Chinese/Australian guy I had previously dealt with gave me a new sim card and after fitting it today, the connection is holding up fine. I have spent more time helping her than any other person I have given a computer to and this is because she was the wife of an Aboriginal teacher we knew in Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. He died some three years ago.

Her house has a garden area which is not well looked after and bare garden beds, so I took a pile of plants from our garden along with some soil wetting agent and fertiliser and if she waters them occasionally there should be a flourishing garden in a few weeks.

She and her sister are children of the ‘Stolen Generation’ and were brought up and educated by a Catholic Mission some distance North of Perth City.

Her father was one of more than 5000 aboriginals who served in World War 2. Many Aboriginals joined as Maoris or Indians because of a ban on recruiting Aboriginals. He served in Borneo at the close of the Pacific War in 1945 in the 2/16 Battalion.

Ted Farrell 2/16 Battalion

It is not widely publicised, but Aboriginals were treated very badly for their sacrifices. No pensions, citizenship or medals for them. No reunions on ANZAC day; no welcome at the local RSL club. Things have changed, but most of those veterans didn't see much change before they died. Sad!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Zucchini and Yakult

The last time Joan was denied chemo it was also because of a low white cell count. She did a bit of reading on the net and a seemingly reliable source says that Yakult is good for repairing damaged bone marrow and since then Joan has been drinking one small drink per day. It didn't seem to do much good when looking at the latest blood test results. Also when she was reading the very comprehensive document of the new Chemo she will (we hope) start next Wednesday, she found a warning about taking Yakult when the patient has a low white cell count?? The warning was specifically about the danger of infection when the blood's defences are down. No more Yakult for Joan!

After visiting 'our' Bunnings store to report that a packet of BroadBean seeds had also spawned quite a few Zucchini, the horticulture lady reported back on what the seed merchant's Rep. had to say. It seems that one of three things have happened. 1. Some seeds from last year have sprouted. 2. My compost contained some Zucchini seeds. or 3. Some imported soil has brought in the Zucchini seeds.

None of these explanations filled the bill. I have never planted Zuchini before; I haven't used compost in that garden and the soil is exactly the same as when we shifted in here 5 years ago.

I went back to Bunnings and found Judy. I once again reiterated that I was seeking nothing, not even another pack of seeds. I told her that all those assumptions were invalid to which she replied that in the photo of the plants I had given her she and the Rep. noticed that the Zuchini seedling was not quite in line with the other two Broad Beans in the photo suggesting it (they) were not planted at the same time. At that moment I walked away from her.

I will return and buy another pack of seed and open it in front of the store gatekeeper in the hope that there are more Zucchini seed inside. I know, I should get out more!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

New chemotherapy delayed

Today we attended St John’s Oncology Centre first for a consultation with the Oncologist and then the new regime of Chemotherapy.

Not good news; Joan’s white blood cell count is down and the first dose of Xeloda has to be delayed for another week. I hope that Mr Bone Marrow gets back on track. The Oncologist rescheduled Joan to return in another week to hopefully get a triple dose of Avastin and start the Xeloda tablets. Today she had a single dose of Avastin after more on the spot urine tests looking for blood and excess protein…fortunately that test was OK.

The Avastin inhibits the growth of tumour blood vessels. Blood vessels grow uncontrollably in cancer and Avastin can stop tumours creating new blood vessels.

All other tests were fine, except that the blood tumour marker (CEA) went up slightly from 700 to 768. Not a biggy really as it has come down from the initial 9,300 to 700 and a little increase 68 isn’t too much of a worry. Better next round!

Joan was due to have a gathering of fabric artists next Wednesday and I was asked to get a pile of computers out of the sitting room by then….no need to worry about that now as she has had to cancel the gathering because of the rescheduled chemo on that day.

If one consults Dr Google there are a number of remedies for tired bone marrow, but the Oncologist tells us that there isn’t really much that can help. He suggests plenty of fruit and vegetables and less meat. Did he read that on Google?

Afghanistan and the Taliban

On Monday evening I watched 4Corners on ABC TV. It featured a story about a young Afghan girl who was taken to Britain when she was 5 years old and had a burning desire to return to see ‘her country’, Afghanistan.

She met up with her family and cousins and travelled out of the city of Kabul to see what was happening in the countryside. She was obliged to wear the Burqa to fend off the almost threatening looks of males and indeed females. She found complete suppression of females, and students at a girls’ school were frightened that they would also be, like other girls’ school students, attacked by the Taliban.

The male domination also extends to family members. Her cousin, a young man, told her that he would be humiliated if she didn’t ‘toe the line’. Shades of the ‘Honour Killings’ practiced in India and Pakistan.

She returned to Britain saddened by the condition of her country…even though there is much more freedom after the routing of the Taliban regime; glad that her parents opted for a life of freedom and emigrated to the U.K..

I hope that all the rednecks who decry boat people for attempting to come to Australia saw that program. In the same position I would use any means available to get out of that hellhole.

Sadly, some of the Afghans and Iraquis who do manage to gain entry to Australia bring along some of their bad habits…the Burqa and male domination.

Despite the might of the U.S. military, the U.N. and allies, when the west has declared the war won and leave, the Taliban will return.

Monday, May 17, 2010

of Birds and seeds

Yesterday I was trying, for the tenth time, to replicate a chilli con carne dish famous in my youth. No luck! It is OK, but just doesn’t look and taste the same; in fact it’s ‘not within a bull’s roar’! Pity. I will give it another go some other time.

The fatty and gristly meat scraps I carefully trimmed off were tossed out on our back lawn for magpies and crows to eat. I watched as four maggies and one crow (Raven) swooped in for a feed. The Magpies each took one piece of meat and worried it on the grass and eventually swallowed it. The Raven went around collecting ten pieces of meat, holding them in his beak and then flew off to eat or share with other Ravens on someone’s roof. I’m not sure that Crows/Ravens are that nice and probably don’t share with the rest of the mob. By the way, the collective noun for a mob of Crows/Ravens is a ‘Murder’.

It got me thinking about birds and the wide diversity of different habits and foods of the some 18000 species of birds. Magpies and other species use their pointed beak to search out worms in the soil. Chickens (fowl) are scratchers, others are good at removing bark on trees searching for grubs and Parrots use their pincher beaks for cracking nuts and eating fruit. Hawks and Eagles eat meat, live and carrion. Crows eat anything! Smaller birds are mostly insect eaters and some fly under our covered area searching out spiders.

So why is it that other species such as the cats, the dogs and the reptiles all eat the same tucker? They are all carnivorous. Is that they key to it?

Humans are omnivorous and we can eat just about anything …and do. A recent show on TV showed people eating poo.

Enough of that silliness.

Before we travelled over to Queensland I bought two packets of Broad Bean seeds and planted them in two different gardens. They had germinated before we left and when we returned I noticed that there seemed to be some ‘ring-ins’ amongst the germinated plants. Some look very much like Zucchini plants and I am sure they are. Just for interest sake I took some photos of the plants with my new camera, printed off a pic of the broadies alongside the foreign seedlings and went to Bunnings where I had purchased the seed packs. I also pulled out one of the foreign seedlings to show her. I tried to explain that I wasn’t after any freebies but just wanted to show them that it seemed that Yates seed had somehow been mixed up at some stage.

The lady in the gardening section told me the problem was powdery mildew??? I discussed that possibility but went on to say that the plants were obviously different. She then thought it was important that I identify which type of BB seeds I had bought…..Frustration! I again told her that it didn’t really matter which type of BB seed I had bought; the problem was that some different seeds had become mixed into the packet.

At last she saw that the BB seedlings were quite different to the foreigners and mentioned that the Yates Rep. is going to be at their store tomorrow. I am now to expect a visit from the Rep. with no doubt another packet of seeds…not really what I was after.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pics from Brisbane

Patrick and ? with Greta behind. Greta was a college lecturer 50 years ago. Click the pics to enlarge them if you want to see all the age spots.
Howard and John
David and Patrick
Fred Ebbeck; lecture of 50 years ago, still in good shape.

The Glass House Mountains. My very efficient sub editor Graham, who lives in Sydney town, informs me that these 'mountains' are named The Glass House Mountains because a navigator named James Cook thought they looked like English glass houses. Maybe too much ship's rum?
Australia Zoo
This koala doesn't need superannuation.
The Ettamooga Pub. A repro of a cartoonist's hotel. Read about it here.

Before we left for Qld I ordered a Canon G11 digital camera online from Sydney. It arrived yesterday and I am 'suitably impressed'. I have a Nikon D70 Digital SLR with all the trimmings, but I have for some time thought it was too damn heavy and bulky to tote around. I read a blog by a chap in Madang PNG and he uses a Canon G11 to get great closeup underwater shots and above water landscapes. It retails in big stores for around A$780, but online, all up including Fedex delivery it cost $525. It looks like it will take me a bit of reading to get full use of all its functions. I started to read the handbook yesterday. It is a photocopied book. Yikes; I have been diddled!!!! I don't think so. It is sourced from China and they have made an English language copy of the handbook. I emailed the suppliers this morning to confirm that there is a valid Australian warranty on it. Love it so far. Now I will sell the Nikon, all the lenses, flashes and other bits

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Back home in W.A.

We are home. Every trip away is good if one has a return airfare ticket!

The flight from Brisbane to Perth was five hours and 15 minutes. Once again I sat in the middle of a three row seat and got arm cramps trying to eat lunch. Daughter Helen was at the airport to meet us and drive us home....thanks Hel!

Over the past few days we have done much driving and siteseeing. After the Gold Coast and the reunion, we drove North to Caloundra for a two night stay over and look at the local sights...more on that later.

The reunion was good, but sitting at our 5 tables with another 600 guests making a lot of noise was not ideal for a 50 year reunion. At our age some of the folk were in pretty poor shape. We both enjoyed it though. It will never happen again.

The Gold Coast has a reputation of being very tacky, but we didn't see it that way. Sure, the name is tacky, but the infrastructure is huge and there is lots of fun for younger people and those wishing to show off the bod. The hotel was good, with free secure parking and good guest facilities. Friends who also attended the reunion scored a suite in the Q building which at 80 floors is the tallest building in Australia and the world's tallest residential building. They were on the 6th and thought they would take the lift to the top for a view. I wasn't told how much that was but Albert and Kathy decided against it.

From the Gold Coast we headed North to Caloundra. Our SatNav device was absolutely useless in Brisbane City, but sort of worked between places on the road. Joan is the complete navigator and trip planner. I couldn't have easily driven to all the places we visited without her. She was brilliant with the exception of some confusion about left and right. I am good at other things.....I cannot recall what they are/were at this moment but we did manage some fast curvy mountain roads without too much drama.

There are some very nice curvy road in the Glass House Mountains...can't imagine why they are named that? Also in the mountains there are some nice little towns with real country atmosphere. I have noticed that hills suburbs both here and Queensland attract a certain type of people on a Tree Change......Reiki, massage, arts and craft people.

We visited the Australia Zoo. It is very large and takes up a whole day if you attend all the scheduled shows such as the elephant feeding etc. The main arena which looks like it can hold around 5-6000 people had a great show of animal talents with a bit of showtime humour. I was ready to give it a miss when the main 'Ring Master' did the warm up with silly school kids games such as a shout-out competition for the loudest groups internationally and statewise. The birds stole the show and a flight of parakeets zoomed low over the audience at high speed for some time. The 'monster' croc was lured out with some tasty dead rats and he did his duty and leapt for his tucker. We looked at quite a few animals before deciding that Joan was too tired to take any more. The lizard we saw in the Brisbane Art Gallery was also aplenty at Aus Zoo. It seems that it is a Water Dragon and a large one we saw at the zoo was probably around 500mm long. They are seemingly unafraid of humans, even noisy kids who try and grab them. I suppose they are capable of a little disciplinary nip if they are upset.

Pictures later

Saturday, May 8, 2010

The Queensland Gold Coast

This evening we are attending a reunion of the remnants of a group of teacher trainees who were trained in Papua New Guinea in the 1960s. There were, in total, probably around 500 graduates. This first and almost certainly only, reunion only managed to attract only about 20 survivors and partners. On the course I attended, I am the youngest survivor at age 70.

We will be cabbing to and from the show at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. If it seems a bit grand to have so few people meet there, it is only because we have piggy-backed on another PNG reunion, The Bikpela Pati. You don't need to know much Pidgin English to work that name out! Their reunion is expected to have over 1,000 attendees.

Tomorrow we check out of this hotel and head for Caloundra, and if Joan is up to the walking, take a look at Australia Zoo. Overnight in Caloundra and next day head back to Brisbane airport for our flight back to Perth.

Some more pics...
Interior of Brisbane Art Gallery

Very stern Gallery Attendant

The Story Bridge

A 'Queenslander', a typical Queensland style of housing...built high on stilts, made of timber and iron (steel) roofing.

The timekeeper's office at the Ipswich Raillway Museum. At its peak there were 3,000 workers employed there. In cooperation with the Queensland Museum it is maintained as a working museum with steam and diesel trains continually being rebuilt and maintained.

One of the engines in the main entrance.

There is a working loco which was one of 30(?) brought to Qld in the lend-lease program from the U.S. in the 1940s. A massive machine!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Brisbane and beyond

'tis difficult to remember all the things we have done and seen over the past four days. Brisbane is a very cosmopolitan city with, compared to Perth, many seriously high rise buildings. The areas we have walked, were, it seems, rather closeted. All the people friendly malls we initially saw were peopled by business and lawyer-type folk. It was only yesterday when we got a little lost that we stumbled across the odd-people malls. They aren't bad 'dudes' but the are the Goths and Strangees of Brisbane. They didn't intimidate us as we shuffled past them and they would probably be nicer than the lawyers if we fell over....Oh yeah!?

We drove out to the burbs to visit a couple we knew in Papua New Guinea in the 70s. Romy worked on my staff at Popondetta Vocational Centre and after Independence when we returned to Australia, he and his family stayed on until 1986. Romy and Bella are Fillipino and they were wonderful people and friends when we were in PNG. This visit was a bit of a shock as they have both had major medical problems. Their kids have made good in Australia and are successful in their professions. Sad that Romy feels that he is finished...and it seems that he has every reason to think so. His memory is failing him and I think he feels that his kids are not too supportive. It will happen to lots of us. It was good to see them again and we all know that we won't see each other again. Sad!

When we returned to we went on a river cruise on the CityFerrry and the CityCat. It wasn't really a cruise, but a fare paying trip at $7.80 for the both of us for a day's travel on boats, buses and trains. Not too bad at all! The Brisbane River is a good trip. There are lots of ferry stations and lots to see, although most of the passengers would have nothing on their mind except the trials and tribulations of work in the big city. We saw a whole lot more.
On the trip back to North Quay ( 'key' to you non- nauticals) we stopped of at the wheel, a junior version of the London Eye. Not too bad!

I cannot remember when we visited the Cultural Centre on Southbank. And that it surely is! We viewed "Taim Bepoa" Thursday Island photo exhibit, the Year 12 student artworks and then the Hat Salon by Stephen Jones. Joan loved that exhibit, and I was one of only three men attending, the other two, like me were in tow with their wives. We had a coffee at the art gallery cafe and we spied a very unafraid, unworried and unspooked lizard. He/she is obviously a local as we saw another at the Roma Street Parklands later.

This morning we checked out and headed for Ipswich. First stop was the Railway Museum which was well presented and we were the only people for the first tour of the Steam exhibition. Ipswich was a major player in the Queensland Railway story. Well worth a visit!

After that we visited the Art Gallery where Joan wanted to see an historic quilt exhibition. After that we headed off towards the Gold Coast where we had booked into a nice hotel. About 50 kilometres from Ipswich Joan suggested we stop for some lunch and it was at this time that we realised that she had lost her purse containing wads of cash and all her cards. Panic! What to do? We had no money. We rang the Art Gallery in Ipswich and they were going to look for Joan's purse. We left our mobile No. and headed back to Ipswich. When we got back to the Gallery they told me that nothing had been found, so off to the cop shop. As it happened a little old lady...probably around our age, had handed it and cards. Whew!!!

We will make every effort to find out her details and at least thank her.

We made it to our hotel on the Gold Coast and all is well. More later.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Brisbane photos

A few Brisbane Pics until our next post.

A city resident

City contrasts

Gotham City Brisbane

Thursday Island Dancers Brisbane central

The band..'been in a good paddock'

The Big Picture...a painting of Brisbane in the museum. It is accompanied by a nice book which dissects the painting naming parts of the scene.

Sorry the spacing is messy....I can't seem to fix it.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

First Taste of Brisbane

First day in Brisbane and it is raining and overcast. We have been out for breakfast and had a look at the main commercial area of the city. Very impressive!

There are large, wide pedestrian areas with plenty of eateries. Just around the corner from the hotel is a small oasis in the city; a restaurant with lots of trees and greenery named Java Coast. It was recommended by a friend of Joans. We’ll try it out for lunch. Pic from our room on the 12th shows the rear of the Java Coast.

Departing from Perth yesterday was easy, but unfortunately we were given seats in the centre of the aircraft. The foot room was adequate but elbow room for the centre passenger; me, was very cramped when eating. We were in flight for over an hour and a half before being served lunch . The aircraft, a Boeing 767, was full and it seemed like there were only four stewards serving. We were placated with a second bottle of wine.

Four hours and fifty-two minutes is a long time with a screaming and nasty two year old performing non-stop Perth to Brisbane.. This lovely young boy continually slapped, punched and head-butted his young mother. It made us remember how good our two kids were on the many flights we had to make within Papua New Guinea and to and from annual leave to Perth.

Arriving at Brisbane we collected our bags and went to collect the hire car we had booked. When the insurance cover was explained to us we decided to take out the extra $34 dollars a day insurance to avoid massive charges if we had any sort of accident. Car rental in the U.S. is cheaper, less restrictive and more relaxed. That $34 was more than the daily car hire!

You can see that I am a bit of a TA and when we drove to our hotel, was a little peed off to find it cost $20. per day for parking. Joan soon told me to cool it, and today I have tried and seem to have calmed down a bit. I wont mention the small snack we had in the hotel dining room last night…the cost and the 15% surcharge.

First impressions of Brisbane. Very modern with a retention of lovely old buildings. People-friendly malls. Plenty of smokers…many more than seen in Perth. Perth has smokers out on the street at smoko and lunch times, but here it seems they are out at all times. This afternoon we are off to South Bank, culture central, museums etc etc..

Recycling: The Treasury Building is now Treasury Casino.

The old among the new

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Castaways Sculpture Awards

Yesterday we drove down to Rockingham to take a look at the annual 'Castaways' Sculpture Awards on the beach.

I am not big on art, but sculpture I find interesting. Here are a few of my favourites out of the 48 entries. I voted for the simplest exhibit which had the most impact on me.

'Once a King' is merely a stack of Jarrah firewood. The Jarrah tree is a mighty Western Australian hardwood which has, since the white settlement of Australia, supplied excellent timber for houses, bridges, wharves, small ships and boats and lately very expensive furniture. The Jarrah needs a little protection from those who would knock them down for railway sleepers.

Once a King

Light Shadow


Part of 'The Sea's Sculpture'

Extinctus is made of old motor tyres and yes, the scales on the fish are sunglass lenses.

Joan's, has more pics.