Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Some good news

Daughter Helen is starting to get relief teaching work. She now has two regular days at a nice school for the rest of this term, plus usually another one or two days when people ring in sick (or tired/hungover). She is pretty happy with that amount of work.

I rang the agent who is looking after my unit at Orelia. I had not heard from her since the tenants had a small fire in the unit destroying the stove. The tenants went out leaving a plastic cutting board on the hotplates which were left on. Fortunately, downstairs neighbors noticed the smoke and had to break the door down to put the fire out. She told me that the insurance company finally replaced the door yesterday and the stove would be replaced very soon. There is a $200 excess on the claim, but the tenants have accepted blame for the fire and are happy to cough up the $200. Good tenants!

Today I contacted Student Services at Murdoch University to offer refurbished computers to this year's new lot of students. They were keen and I have to make up a flyer and get it approved before putting it on a student notice board. I have had previous Murdoch students take machines and been very happy with them.

Helen and James and the kids (their dogs, Ruby and Rosy) are coming around to my place this evening for a curry meal. I have cooked two different curries and they are very nice. I still have to prepare some condiments to accompany them. The dogs aint gettin any curry.

Monday, February 27, 2012


Well, it's all over. The attempted coup-d'etat of the office of Prime Minister has failed and we are back to boring old government. For a while there I felt a little like a third-world citizen. A bit exciting actually!

I don't know much about politics and I confess to knowing little of the politics of other countries. Australia has a British Parliamentary System and it seems to work reasonably well most of the time. It is said that we don't elect our Prime Minister as the U.S. elects its President, but by the time the election is underway everybody knows who will be the Prime Minister depending which side of the two major parties wins.

We don't have a first past the post system; preferential voting is used here. Check out Preferential Voting if that interests you.

There are two major political parties and a few minor parties and a handful of independents. The current government is able to govern only with the support of a few independents and a minority party who have pledged their support by demanding trade offs with their own agendas.

One thing you will never see in Australian politics is a bi-partisan gesture as done by Barack Obama the U.S. President, when after his election, he appointed four opposition party members (Republicans) to cabinet posts in his government.

Australia is a big place and we have a population of only around 22,000,000 and that doesn't count the 50,000 illegals here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

One year

Yesterday, the first anniversary of Joan's death, passed with a few tears all round from me and Helen and James. We set a glass of bubbly for Joan on the dinner table.

I received messages of condolence from quite a few of our friends including a wonderful poem written for me by our friend Joy.

It is said that the first year is the hardest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I have a jungle area of my yard with Passionfruit vines, Paw Paw and Lemon.
The Passion vines have gone feral and I hope the neighbours on two sides are pollinating the flowers to get a good crop for themselves. I don't seem to have a lot of bees here and so I do the job myself with a soft brush.

How things have changed in my lifetime! When I was a lad I remember newspaper and radio stories about the sudden disappearance of a Soviet political character from the lineup on the balcony at a parade of goosesteppers. Another story that featured for some time was the phenomenon quite unknown to us in the west, of the Workers Creche in the Soviet Union. Now we have both. Our Prime Minister is about to be challenged by the bloke she deposed a couple of years ago....and the childrens day care centre (creche) is all the go in western society.

The Big C

This Saturday is 12 months since Joan left us. We do not need a special day to remember Joan, she is in our thoughts every day. Helen, James and I will get together and talk with our son Martin who now lives in Melbourne

Dorothy, Joan's sister, rang me a couple of days ago to tell me that she had been diagnosed with a malignant lump in her breast. She is to have a Lumpectomy tomorrow and the surgeon has told her that as it is a stage one cancer, the Lumpectomy and some followup radiation will give a good result. Hope he is right.

I have mentioned before, Carole, who lives in London. She gave great support to us during Joan's fight against cancer. She has also been battling cancer and now it has suddenly spread to her bones and another organ. She has only months to live and whilst I try and offer comfort, I find it hard to gather suitable words.

Carole's blog can be found here.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A bright young gal

I recently delivered a Mac laptop and a printer to a young Aboriginal gal. She is young....probably about 20 and has three children, two in school and one babe. I am unsure of her situation, but she is being looked after by a welfare organisation and is housed, at least temporarily, in a large block of units. She has never used a Mac computer before but seemed to grasp the basics of the operating system in minutes. She told me she was off to buy a USB modem the next day and I am sure she is on line now. The welfare agency told me that she wanted to return to studies and complete her education. Hope it works out for her.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Hyundai Elantra

I had my car serviced yesterday. It is the 1500 kilometre service which is free. I delivered the vehicle to the service centre on Tuesday afternoon so that mechanics would have more time to try and sort out the stalling problem I am experiencing.

Early Wednesday afternoon I received a phone call to tell me that the car was ready to collect. When I asked if they had fixed the problem I was told that the mechanics could not get it to stall and so they had reset the parameters on the gearbox and the fuel system and that will almost certainly cure the problem. Then came the 'silly old bugger' statement telling me that if it hasn't fixed the problem I should bring the car back and drive it with one of their mechanics in the car to see if I was driving it in way that was causing the problem. Bloody hell! I don't think I can win on this one unless I leave the car with them to let a mechanic take it home over a couple of days so there is a good chance the problem will present to him/her.

Late News: The problem is still there and I am getting very frustrated with the inability of the service centre to fix it.

StopPress: I have just received this email message, so I will do as my brother Graham did....get rid of this car and collect my BMW and the 1 million British Pounds.

Daughter Helen got her first day of teacher relief yesterday. Usually relief teachers get most of their work during the winter months.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Junior technician jobs

The remote control showing the rubber function buttons.

In my bathroom I have a remote controlled heater light and exhaust fan. It must have been installed after the hard wiring had been done. It works well!
On Sunday evening I came home from Helen and James' place after helping them with their fish pond and having a few beers. A few??

After eating some supper I fell asleep in a chair waking at 10.30pm. I went to my en suite bathroom and turned on the fan and the heater light and then dropped the remote controller on the floor damaging it so that it would not turn off the fan and light. Damn! I tried turning off the mains lighting circuit and turning it on go, the heater light was still on. I figured that I could get a ladder and remove the heater bulbs, but the fan would still be running.

So I dismantled the remote and found that a battery contact had fallen out of the circuit board. How can that happen? I repositioned the battery contact and it worked well enough to turn everything off. The next morning with steadier hands and a soldering iron I re-soldered the contact back in place and it is back in good working condition.

Underneath of the circuit board showing the re-soldered battery contact.

This is not the first time I have repaired remote controls and I thought I should pass on to readers a little info on fixing a problem which often presents as remotes get a bit old. On the remote are the rubber function buttons which when manufactured have a metallic pasted-on surface which when pressed, contacts a corresponding part of the circuit board completing a circuit for that particular function. When the remote gets old and has been used lots, that metallic surface on the rubber button deteriorates. I have glued small pieces of aluminium foil where the metallic paste is/was and if the glue is one which will stick to that rubber surface, things are back to normal. Fiddly work, but most rewarding when you are finished. Don't be shy about having a go....there is nothing inside the remote to bite you. If your remote isn't easily opened (secured by screws) then it is a bit of a fiddle getting inside it....see here

The rubber buttons with alfoil glued works! These fixes are born out of a need to save money and it is hard to change that attitude in old age.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Bring out your dead 2012

This week is Bring Out Your Dead in this area and all manner of discards are put on the verge for council collection. My neighbours had a huge pile of stuff, but that is almost all gone, taken by the bower birds who drive through the district looking for goodies. I must confess to grabbing a very nice late model Canon printer from a pile of techo stuff a few doors from my place. I got it home and found that the ink carriage was jammed because someone had tried to remove a cartridge and the printer decided to return the carriage to its start position with the cartridge not properly seated and protruding causing the jam. A ten minute job and the printer is running like a Buick.
Yesterday Helen and James emptied out a fish pond and cleaned up the tangle of stringy algae and fungal growth. When the pond was empty we noticed some decidedly nasty looking bugs and they were removed from the pond. Only later did we realise that they were the nymph of the Dragonfly. Helen was a bit upset because the Dragonfly is one of her favourites. The Dragonfly breeding season is probably not yet over and we may yet see some homegrown Dragonflies. When I was young in the 1950s, Dragonflies were colloquially called Horse Stingers. Doubt if they do sting and if they did they would probably sting people rather than horses. PS: Google says that they don't sting but can bite.

Helen recently invited me over to dinner and she was trying to replicate a dish; one course served at her cousin Katherine's wedding in San Francisco. The dish was created by the chef Alan Wong.

I am not sure of the name of the dish but it was lovely.

It is chilled tomato soup with a Parmesan chip and toasted Kalua Pork sandwich. Delicious!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Boer War

My cousin Val and I have had an interest in family for many years and one thing which interested me greatly was my grandfather and his brothers' service in South Africa during the Boer War. I have his discharge papers from 1902 which noted a gratuity of Five pounds. Was that a reasonable reward for serving King and Country?

All the documents are written in copperplate handwriting by the same person. Even the signatures are written by the same person...not my grandfather. We have wondered if it was because many volunteers would have been illiterate? In Papua New Guinea in the early 1960s I witnessed labour recruitment for plantations where illiterate natives touched a pen and the recruiting person wrote their name. Was that what it was?Click image to enlarge

On reflection I came to the conclusion that the original documents are kept in the National Archives in Canberra and the documents given to the servicemen were copies.....hand written by a scribe in copperplate in a time before photocopiers were even thought of.

My grandfather and his brothers returned to Australia at a time when it was thought the war was over and re-enlisted when it flared up again. It must have been very exciting stuff, or living in country Australia at the time must have been extremely boring.

Grandfather and his brothers were in a unit called Kitcheners Fighting Scouts. I am sorry I didn't talk to him more about his experiences in S.A..

Harry 'Breaker' Morant was recruited from South Australia and along with another Australian was executed for taking part in the murder of a couple of Boers and a German priest who had witnessed the killings. At the time and even today, it is felt that 'The Breaker' and his mate were executed to placate the Germans who were thinking of joining the war on the side of the Boers. Recent attempts to clear their names have failed.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Bees and blowies

About a year ago I had a 'tradesman' extend a kitchen exhaust fan duct through the roof and finish it off with a 'Chinaman's hat'. As summer came on, every time I cooked a curry or some other food which had a strong smell, blowflies came down the duct and even got through the fan blades and mesh filter to get into my kitchen. So I decided to convert the hat to a beekeeper's hat and fashioned a screen of flywire around it to keep the flies out. When I went up on the roof (silly old man) I noticed that the tradie, an Irishman, had not bothered to position the Chinaman's hat and the duct so that it would be standing vertically. It doesn't really matter as it cannot be see by anyone else, but it is sloppy workmanship. I will have to see how long before the screen clogs up with grease.
The Irish Leaning Tower of Chinaman Beekeeper

I have cooked a curry since I attached the flywire and it seems to be working.

Daughter Helen and James came around for dinner a couple of nights ago and Helen spied a Turkish loaf of bread I had bought. When she asked me what it was like I had to tell her that it was a bit stodgy. She then told me that it was a Home Bake pack and I should have cooked it. Live and Learn!

Helen has had only one offer of relief teaching as yet...this morning. By the time she picked up the phone the Deputy Principal at the school had hung up. She immediately rang back to say that she was happy to do the job, but the message went to the school switchboard and the deputy had already returned to his office and missed the call. Helen also missed the job. She is not desperate for cash yet and I am able to help out if things do get that way.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Spudshed

On Sunday afternoon Helen, James and I drove to Jandakot Airport and visited the 'Spud Shed'.....along with about 1,000 other shoppers. The large carpark was almost full and inside it was a struggle to manoeuvre a shopping trolley around between produce and shoppers who looked like Myer sale-day fiends. This particular Spudshed is open 24/7 because it is on Commonwealth land surrounding the airport and does not have to comply with state trading regulations. I guess if I were to return to the Spudshed it would be at 2am when things would probably be less frenetic. OK, there are some bargains there.....but the checkout queues are long and I noticed some folks getting a bit 'testy' when people in the queue sent partners off to continue shopping.

A couple of observations......The meat is so so. I bought some casserole beef to make a curry. When I opened it at home it had more than its fair share of gristle and ropy bits. Somehow, such a crowded bargain-basement establishment attracts cheats. We noticed fruit and nuts being consumed before arriving at the checkout and the trays of mangoes were being re-packed by customers who wanted only the really good ones despite large notices requesting that they not be swapped around.

I'll spend the extra few bucks and shop locally.

My newish car is now due for its first service @ 1500 kilometres. I am still having problems with what I now believe, is a fuel delivery problem at low speed when taking off. I noticed that when the tank is almost empty the problem is much worse, so when I deliver the car to the service centre I will ensure that the tank is low so that the mechanics may experience the problem. Previously I have not been able to show the service centre what happens and they have suggested that I am just an old fart and there is absolutely nothing wrong with the car. I will arrange for the car to stay overnight if the problem does not occur during the service. Morning startup usually presents the problem.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Relief teaching

The school year has started and my daughter Helen has not been appointed to a school for the first time in seven years. She is a 'Temp' and has not secured permanent status with the W.A. Education Department. Becoming a permanent employee with the Education Department these days is quite a business. There are basically three methods available to get permanency. One is to 'go bush' to a country town for a few years. This path has some disadvantages because the preferred country postings on the coast are usually filled by teachers who have become permanent residents in these places. If she were to get a wheatbelt town posting, there is also the chance that after the usual three years there it would be difficult to get a placement back in the city. There are many teachers in this situation.

Another method is to opt to teach for three years at a disadvantaged, hard to staff, school which is not a great option. And the last avenue is to apply to one of the newly created 'Independent' government schools. These schools can recruit staff independently of the Education Department's staffing department. I imagine there are cases of 'friends' getting employment at lots of these schools.

Helen has delivered her resume to around 40 schools within 12 kilometres of her house putting her name down for relief teaching. At the beginning of the school year there is not much work for relief teachers as most staff do not take 'sickies' for a few weeks into the term. She should start to get work later in Term 1.

I had a most pleasant visit by my cousin Ann and husband Doug from BC in Canada. They stayed overnight and we had a BBQ with daughter Helen, hubby James and brother Graham. Yesterday we went for lunch at the Fremantle fishing boat harbour and had a drive around the interesting spots around Fremantle and up the River to Mosman's Bay. They visit Australia about every 2 -3 years.