SOME MEMOIRS -- by John Ray
Some occasional personal notes from a quiet life...
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Old folk at lunch
As Oscar Wilde may have said: "Life is too important to be taken seriously". But the Hagakure had the idea too: "Matters of great concern should be treated lightly"
17 November, 2017
As Von flies out
On Friday I invited Von & Co to a lunch at my usual brunch place. I had Vietnamese Brioches, Simon had a chicken burger and Von had a chicken wrap. We had some moderately serious discussions as you would expect from that being the last day of Von's visit. Von is optimistic that she will be back next year.
Over the years I have shouted various Johnnsons food -- Ken, Paul and Von. And they have always honoured my offerings by eating every last crumb
But I have discovered that there is a small Johnson who has a very Johnson tummy too. At my High Tea on Thursday, Hannah made good use of the offerings. After consuming a significant amount, she was ready for a choc-chip cookie but her mother put her foot down and would not allow it. Von is a surprsingly "taking charge" person at times. Anyway, that quite small tummy that Hannah has inherited had true Johnson capacity: Large.
Something unusual on my cake-stand for the High Tea were Medjool dates. They are a species that has been around for thousands of years but have become popular only recently. They are very soft and juicy. Israel is a major supplier of them but from my packet of them, they seemed to be Australian grown. They all went down well anyhow
Anne did the cucumber sandwiches as usual and did a great job.
We also did one of my mini-plays on Thursday, just before the High Tea. It was, "Building the "Dreadnought"". It was greeted as very educational. It is one of a series of three plays.
We also had some big political discussions about Scottish and NZ politics, with Paul being very vocal, as you would expect. Paul was particularly incensed at the money spent on putting up the Scottish Parliament building: £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m. A lot of Scots were disgusted when it was completed in 2004 but Paul is maintaining the rage. It's not even a dignified building: Just a scrappy mess. But that's "postmodernism" for you.
Simon never gets incensed as far as I can see but he was clearly disgusted by Jacinda Ardern becoming Prime Minister of NZ with around a third of the vote. There are some odd electoral systems in the world. Even Hitler got 44% of the vote in 1933.
Paul's house has Ruskin connections from when it was built and Susan is descended from him so I read out a couple of good quotes from Ruskin. They were quotes I had collected in my late teens of long ago, not the ones you normally see online. Here they are:
Resurrection: "I fancy the goodly bricks of some of our family vaults will hold closer in the Resurrection day than the sod over the labourer's head" -- From "The Crown of Wild Olive"
Mankind: "And truly it seems to me as I gather in my mind the evidences of insane religion, degraded art, merciless war, sullen toil, detestable pleasure and vain or vile hope, in which the nations of the world have lived since since first they could bear record of themselves -- it seems to me, I say as if the race itself were still half-serpent, not extricated yet from its clay; a lacertine breed of bitterness -- the glory of it emaciate with cruel hunger, and blotted with venomous stain; and the track of it on the leaf a glittering slime and in the sand a useless furrow -- "Queen of Air, p. 101.
The quotes are masterful literary English -- which is why I collected them -- but that also meant that nobody to whom I read them understood a word of them. I explained what was being said and then they were comprehended
Ruskin was a famous literary and art critic of the late Victorian era. He was rather full of himself but was undoubtedly a brilliant man. Like most arty people, he was of the Left. My second quote from him above is almost a Leftist catechism in its profound discontent with just about everything.
On Wednesday Simon cooked a few of us a butter chicken curry at Jenny's place. It was excellent
13 November, 2017
The visit -- continued
On Tuesday 7th we all met at Jenny's at dinner time to welcome Paul and Matthew back to Brisbane. Ken picked them up from the airport. Jenny made a BIG batch of egg-rolled pork as that is the family favourite -- and there were some big eaters among us -- 3 Johnson's no less (Von, Paul and Ken). I think I got a total of five of the rissoles so I did OK too. Jenny of course also provided salads and such things to go with the pork, including Kim Chee and Japanese ginger. I got a fair bit of those things too. Paul had a lot to tell us after a long while away so talked at a great rate.
On Wednesday evening was a dinner arranged just for Paul and me. It was to commemorate the life of Chris Brand. Paul had brought all the way from Scotland a bottle of light Port that Chris had given him so he thought I was the right one to share it with It was a "Cavendish" Port from South Afria laid down in 1956. Some wine guide said it was worth 400 pounds. I cooked meat loaf to go with it as Paul and I have fond memories of previous meatloaves and this one was pretty good. It popped up at Woolworths about 6 months ago so I grabbed one with a view to sharing it with Paul some time So all I did was heat it up and serve it with salad. We were half way through our dinner on my verandah when Joe came by on his way home. We managed to get him to join us as he too had met Chris. So he got an unexpected dinner of Port, meatloaf and salad. Paul finished the Port off and Jenny was kind enough to come and pick him up after the dinner.
On Saturday we had Christmas! Both Von and Paul will be gone when Christmas arrives so we decided to have one of our normal Christmases while they were still here. And it did work out as usual, complete with amusing games with presents. Von took on the job of MC and did it very well. I shouted the ham as usual, Anne contributed and iced a Christmas cake and Simon did great work frying lots of small kebabs. The ladies also brought various cakey things which were all enjoyed. It was good to see Timmy with us. He brought along a very presentable girlfriend too -- another Kiwi. One of the more memorable events was when I tripped over but managed to fall sitting down in a chair rather than on the ground. I dropped the fruit salad I was carrying, however. But there was plenty more.
And on Sunday it was Dosa lunch time. We always have dosas when Von is here. We mostly order masala dosas but Kate was feeling bold and ordered a Ghee dosa sight unseen. It was enormous and she didn't finish it. But the dosas were good as usual. Indians have them for breakfast.
Mon 13th was another Monday so we all went again to Nandos -- this time including Paul and Matthew. We took up 5 of their tables between us. Quite a lot of chips were left over after the meal but Paul fixed that in his usual way. There were a lot of good reminiscences, mainly about assertive things I had done over the years -- from my sitting on a glass shop counter to booming my way through a crowd at a Katoomba restaurant. The kids enjoyed such antics at the time and probably enjoy them even more now in the retelling.
There was one memory we were all very hazy about. I took the twins bike riding in the Botanic gardens and hired bikes for the purpose. But one of the bikes had a flat tire and I apparently talked rather sternly to the bike hire people about it. Suz might remember more details.
6 November, 2017
Von & Co. arrived at the beginning of this month (Wednesday 1st) for a couple of weeks and it has been something of a whirl ever since. Jenny put on a sausage BBQ on the evening of their arrival. Ken picked them up from the airport and Joe and I also were there to greet them. Hannah was wound up like a top and we were all of course a bit excited. Jenny supplied some wine with the dinner but nobody drank much, as usual.
Then on Friday I shouted Von & Co. a brunch at my usual brunch hangout in Woolloongabba. I got them all one of my special toasted sandwiches with "everything" in it. They went down very well. They always do. We went back to my place for tea and biscuits afterward until Ken picked them up at 11am for a trip to Southbank.
Then on Saturday night I put on a small pizza and champagne night with the "supreme" pizzas from Pizza Hut being very good. Kate was helpful with dishing out the pizzas.
Then on Monday night came time for Joe and me to have our usual excursion to Nando's. So I invited Von & Co to that too. As seems to be the norm at Nando's, we had trouble at ordering time but the food was good as usual. I had the "thighs and slaw" in a wrap, which I always enjoy.
24 October, 2017
My diagnosis: Osteoarthritis
I went in yesterday for a scan of my bones in my lower back and right hip. You can read the report here
Basically, old age has caught up with me and I have a degree of bone degeneration in my right hip and lower back. And that gives pain in response to certain movements. I can walk without pain and sit in a chair without pain but other movement tend to give pain to some degree. Since walking and sitting in a chair in front of my computer is all I do, I have got off lightly.
There is no cure but pain killers give some relief. Alcohol does too! I have also learned how to move when doing various things and can often do them without pain if I go carefully. I can still drive, for instance, but getting in and out of the car is a bit tricky. My biggest beef is that it always gives me some pain to get in and out of bed. I have normally had a couple of lie-downs during the day so that is a pest.
I believe that about half of all men of my age get osteoarthritis somewhere so time has just caught up with me
20 October, 2017
The Humber and a bad back
Yesterday I did my back in. Most movements are now difficult and painful. I am relying on aspirin to speed recovery and I think it has already done some good. I think I did it by lifting a heavy kitchen benchtop into my car at Bunnings. It's still there in the back of the car. I am renovating an old kitchen sink downstairs. The invaluable Dudley is doing the work.
Then today the sale of my Humber was finalized. It took me over a month to get a roadworthy certificate for it as it needed some work that required replacement parts. There was however only one man who had the parts and he was in hospital! So we had to wait until he got out.
Then the wife of the buyer went into hospital so that kept the buyer preoccupied for a few weeks. So both the buyer and I had to be patient. So seeing it finally depart was a relief. I bought it for $8,000 and sold it for $7,000 -- plus I spent a lot on it while I had it but I got some fun out of for around 10 years it so that is all fair enough. I sold it to a man who seems to be a collector of old cars.
I am due for new hearing aids soon -- at $8,000 -- so the Humber sale will help pay for that.
18 October, 2017
Lucky I have a cheerful disposition
Today I had a long set of sutures taken out of my arm. I had a new excision from my neck. I had a punch biopsy on my cheek. I had cryotherapy for a few things. I booked a big (Moh's) procedure to remove some lumps in a few weeks time
And I don't feel the least bit bothered. It helps that I have had a lot of that stuff done in the past
2 October, 2017
An interesting Sunday
Sunday night was another night of secret men's business. Graham was up from Victoria, Christopher came and Joe joined us. I cooked my usual savoury mince for 6pm dining. Not flash food but satisfactory. The dessert was also humble: Tinned fruit with ice cream. But the fruit was mango slices so that was good.
The others were all amazed at my method of serving ice-cream -- with a carving knife. You would have to see it to believe it.
The occasion was one for conversation but that was rather assisted when straight after dinner Christopher unveiled his collection of WW2 German daggers. A dagger was part of dress uniform at that time and each branch of the armed forces had its own uniform and dagger. There was even an SS dagger with Meine Ehre heisst Treue engraved on it. Roughly translated that means "My honour is to be called faithful and true".
So Graham told us a lot about how to use daggers and we talked a lot about WW2 generally. Christopher is also a gun collector and is very knowledgeable about them so we talked about the Sturmgewehr and many of the modern military rifles. I was surprised to hear that the Tommy gun was used by American forces in WW2 -- though with a stick magazine instead of the famous circular one.
As part of our political discussions, I asked Chris whether Eric Butler's League of Rights still existed. They were pretty far Right and Christopher used to have some interest in them but he no longer does so, apparently. I see however that they still exist online. They had some funny money beliefs (Douglas Credit) in the old days but I am not sure if they still do.
Graham wishes to publish a manual on the art of fencing and Joe advised him on how to do that as an E-book.
26 September, 2017
India, India: Anne and I had planned to go on a cruise early in the New Year but we have now decided to fly to India instead. I have always liked India and Indians and I have in fact been there three times already. Past trips have been to Delhi and Bombay only however and this time I aim to get to know Tamil Nadu -- so will probably spend most time in Chennai, once known as Madras.
And Anne will enjoy India because I do. I know how to get on with Indians. A smile is my passport and a very effective one it is too
I want to get to know Tamil Nadu because it is actually a very ancient culture. Tamils say they are the last of the classical civilizations (such as ancient Greece and Rome) and they do have continuity that far back. The standard grammar for modern literary Tamil continues to be based on Middle Tamil of the 13th century. Few of us can understand English of the 13th century.
25 September, 2017
Cash refund or credit note?
When a store accepts back unsuitable goods, the customer expects a full refund. In the bad old days that often did not happen. All you got was a credit note to enable you to buy other things at that store.
In the early '60s I bought some tapes for my tape recorder from Dixons in Elizabeth St., Brisbane. Dixons was the local tentacle of a big British electrical goods retailer. It still exists there.
When the tapes were not suitable I took them back and was hit with the credit note caper. I refused it and insisted on cash. No luck
So the next Saturday morning I got an old white t-shirt and used a big black marking pen to write on it: "Dixons are dishonest" in big letters. I then wore that shirt and paraded up and down in front of the shop entrance -- chanting "Dixons are dishonest. They swindled me. They may swindle you". I saw no one enter the store while I was there so I gather I destroyed their entire Saturday trade.
I got a cheque in the mail for the required amount the next Tuesday.
As I understand it, the credit note caper has been long ago outlawed in most jurisdictions so I was surprised to encounter it at Officeworks last Sunday. This time, however, I was a bit more wised up so simply wrote a letter to Mr Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmers, who own Officeworks. Below is the letter.
Dr John Ray
24 September, 2017
TO: Richard Goyder
Dear Mr Goyder,
As a long-term Wesfarmers shareholder, I have always taken a keen interest in the business and have written to you a couple of times before over policy matters. I have been very impressed by your courteous responses.
I am writing this time over what seems to me to be a surprising refund policy at Officeworks. As you will be aware, the ACCC recently levied large fines on some retailers over their illegal refund policies. So I was surprised today when I took in a faulty armchair for a refund to be told that I could get only a credit note, not a cash refund. My information is that a customer is always entitled to a cash refund for defective goods.
Being a cautious person I paid for an extended 2-year warranty when I bought the chair on 19/10/2015 for $190 and I still have all the relevant paperwork. So when the seat started to fall apart recently, I concluded that I was entitled to a full refund.
So I took it in today and was then told that I had to ring a number to get the return authorized and even then only a credit note would be issued. As I needed a new chair immediately, I bought another one there and then for cash. So a credit note would be useless to me.
Please instruct Officeworks at Woolloongabba to give me a cash refund of $190. They already have the chair and I have the sales receipt ready for inspection.
Dr John Ray
I emailed that letter on the Sunday night and got a phone call Monday lunch time telling me the cash was waiting for me!
11 September, 2017
In Praise of New Zealand
As we all know, New Zealanders hate Australians -- just as Canadians hate Americans and Scots hate the English. Big brother is rarely popular. But I forgive them. They can't help it. So I am going to perhaps make them feel a little better.
For a small population, they have done remarkably well in business. Take wines. Australia has long had a lot of success in selling wines to the world. The Poms buy twice as much Australian wine as French. So the idea that anybody could sell much wine to us is improbable. Yet the Kiwis have done it. Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is now a big seller in Australia. The one I sometimes buy is under the "Giesen" label.
And New Zealand chocolate? Not Belgian, not Swiss? Yes. For a long time Whittakers of NZ used to export small bars of milk chocolate filled with nuts to us. Then they managed to get a big order from Australia's biggest supermarket: Woolworths. Now they have on offer everywhere a great range of all sorts of choolate.
And New Zealand cheese? Australia has many dairies that make cheese but more or less forever New Zealand has been selling us a cheese called Epicure. It was what you bought if you wanted a strong-tasting cheese. Then a few years back they started selling us "Mainland" cheese in a number of varieties.
But here's the latest. Australia is a big market for pre-sliced cheese. And the odd thing is that sliced cheese is the only cheddar cheese that you can buy. Presumably cheddar slices more easily. The "national" Australian cheese is "Tasty". From the look of the supermarket shelves "Tasty" is what 80% of Australians buy. Lots of dairies make it. It is basically a cheese that is made as sharp in taste as possible without becoming crumbly. It is a compromise cheese and, true to their British heritage, Australians like to compromise. It's less hassle than the alternative.
So when I was looking yesterday for a pack of sliced cheese I saw a newcomer there, a brand called "Hillview" that was cheaper than any other. Being born frugal, I bought it. When I got home I tried it and found it to be perfectly good so I wondered why it was so cheap. So I studied the pack. And there in small letters was, "Made in New Zealand". They have now invaded our big market for sliced cheese! They will do well.
10 September, 2017
Hooray! I have been censored
I was beginning to feel neglected. I frequently write relentlessly factual things about race, IQ and social class -- and they must be the big trifecta of political incorrectness. If those topics don't get me censored what would? Actually there IS one thing more likely to get me censored: Praise for Donald Trump. And I do a lot of that. I am as Trumpian as you can get.
And I think that is what lies behind the ban that has been placed on me. I spend more time than I should reading the questions and answers on Quora.com. Most of the questions there are puerile but some of the answers are interesting.
The answers I have myself been putting up there have all however been very brief, usually only a few words. For instance, in answer to the question "What would you do if someone threw a basketball to you?" my answer was "Dodge". And in answer to "Who is the most influential person in history? Why?", I wrote "Hitler. People will never get over him". And in answer to "If first contact was established with aliens, what one person, dead or alive, would you use to represent the human race?", I answered "Trump. He speaks in simple sentences"
And in my answer to "Why does Ernest Adams hate social conservatives so much?" I wrote "He was born that way". And that seems to have torn it. That answer was apparently so incorrect that I was banned from putting up any more answers or asking any questions.
For background Adams is a Quora heavyweight and a very supercilious Leftist. He is absolutely full of himself and conservative Quorans do criticize him for that at times.
So why was my answer so bad? It is a common research finding that political dispositions are highly hereditary so my answer was highly factual. It's not the political opinions by themselves that are inherited so much as the underlying psychology that determines those positions. Basically, conservatives are the contented people and Leftists are the angry people. And that has a big impact on your policy preferences. Leftists want to attack whatever they are angry about and conservatives want stability.
And where you stand on the happiness/contentment scale has repeatedly been found to be very much inborn. Some people will be happy no matter what and some will be miserable no matter what. So both the actual opinions and the underlying psychology have been found to be hereditary.
So Quora penalized me from giving a scholarly and well informed comment. To them it was so wrong that it couldn't be right. I have no idea of the details of their angry thinking but I suspect that their objection was really a pretext. My constant praise of Trump would undoubtedly have jarred them. It was that which really lay behind my banning, I suspect. It is a very Leftist site.
I won't protest my banning. Matthew 7:6 tells you why.
Footnote: If you doubt that Leftists are the angry people and conservatives are the contented people, just ask any Leftist what he thinks of Mr Trump! And if you doubt that conservatives are the contented people ask yourself why the Congressional GOP has done so little to give Mr Trump the changes he wants.
8 September, 2017
How bureaucracy destroys research in U.S. hospitals
I originally wrote this for one of my other blogs but I think it has a place here too
There is a long article here which gives a blow by blow account of a doctor trying to get permission to do a research study -- a study that seemed to need doing. He spent years dealing with the bureaucracy only to be defeated by all the nitpicking in the end. He was not able to do a perfectly reasonable study.
The article had a particular resonance to me because what he wanted to do -- a questionnaire survey -- was something I did many, many times in my research career. And I never asked ANYBODY for permission. I just did it. So how come the difference? Several possible reasons:
I did my research in the '70s and '80s. Things may have tightened up more by now.
I also did my work mostly in Australia, a much less uptight country than the USA. Many of my fellow academics, including the head of school, would have had a pretty good idea of what I was doing but trying to rein me in would have needed effort and they just could not be bothered with that
But perhaps the key factor was that I did not ask. I did not set the bureaucratic machinery in motion. The bureaucracy just did not know of me. I was below their horizon. I had not foolishly set their rumbling machinery into motion. "Just do it" was an old piece of Hippie advice from the '60s and I was there in the '60s.
So with my experience I read with great horror what this guy experienced. But he makes the correct point that bureaucracy does that. The job of the bureaucracy is to say "No" to anything that might conceivably be dangerous in some conceivable world and it takes a lot to get around that. And sometimes you can't.
And the end result? I had 200+ academic journal articles published whereas this guy had none. What a waste!
I think his final comments are worth reproducing:
"I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine itís Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasnít been my experience. Big Business Ė heck, Big Anything Ė loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. Itís everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.
Bureaucracy in science does the same thing: limit the field to big institutional actors with vested interests. No amount of hassle is going to prevent the Pfizer-Merck-Novartis Corporation from doing whatever study will raise their bottom line. But enough hassle will prevent a random psychiatrist at a small community hospital from pursuing his pet theory about bipolar diagnosis. The more hurdles we put up, the more the scientific conversation skews in favor of Pfizer-Merck-Novartis. And the less likely we are to hear little stuff, dissenting voices, and things that donít make anybody any money.
There are so many privacy and confidentiality restrictions around the most harmless of datasets that research teams wonít share data with one another (let alone with unaffiliated citizen scientists) lest they break some arcane regulation or other. Closed access journals require people to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees before theyíre allowed to read the scientific literature; open-access journals just shift the burden by requiring scientists to pay thousands of dollars to publish their research. Big research institutions have whole departments to deal with these kinds of problems; unaffiliated people who just want to look into things on their own are out of luck.
5 September, 2017
I sometimes nearly forget that I have a sister. She lives quietly in Rockhampton and it is many years since I have been to Rockhampton.
She is however a very vivacious woman so I was greatly pleased that when she was briefly in Brisbane this evening, I was able to shout her a dinner at the "Sunny Doll". Her equally lively husband was with her plus her daughter Katie. Katie is rather quiet. Maybe she could never get a word in edgewise when she was growing up with two very chatty parents.
My brother Christopher was also in attendance as was Jenny. Joe had to work back so arrived rather late but everyone was pleased to see him when he did arrive.
Roxanne was in good form and many things were discussed. I was updated on why and how Rox was "bumptious" during her schooldays and we decided that she got it from her very independent mother. Her mother was also a great talker. We decided that there should be more bumptiousness.
We also mentioned my Aunt Maude. Yes. I did have an actual Aunt Maude! How oldfashioned can you get? My mother was a very critical woman -- I probably get my irreverence from her -- and I recollect that there were only two people she normally spoke well of -- her niece Shirley and her sister Maudie. Stefan said that when he met Maude, she dismissed him as "blue collar". That would have been Maudie. She was a toughie.
In her youth Rox was something of a hippie. Yet now she is a contented wife and mother. How come? In her youth she found most of the males she met to be too shallow. But then along came Stefan, who was just right for her. He is intelligent, very verbal and with a very positive outlook. And they have been together a long time now and still seem to greatly appreciate one another. The pretty little shop assistant met the tall slim telecom technician. And that was it. Roxanne is a teacher these days.
Joe had a few chats with his cousin Katie and it was an amusing contrast to see them together. Katie is rather short and slight and Joe is 6' and well-built so he rather towered over her. Her father Stefan is about 6' tall so her height is a little surprising. Roxanne is also rather slight so Katie seems to have taken after her mother entirely.
At one stage I mentioned that I am a great fan of Mr Trump! Both Rox and Stefan could see that the constant barrage of negative comment about him from the media was biased and unbalanced
The food was good as usual and we had coffee there afterwards
4 September, 2017
An informal Fathers' Day
Joe and I went to the pie shop for our usual extended Sunday brunch yesterday morning. I had not kept any awareness of when Fathers' Day was but Joe informed me it was that day. So before we left, he bought me a creamy cake with Fathers' Day lettering on it. We took it back to our place and Kate joined us on the verandah to cut and try it. It was quite good but a bit rich.
Then that evening Joe came in and said we should have a Fathers' Day drink together. I of course agreed and he poured each of us a dram of his Islay single malt: A very respectful drink. We then chatted on for quite a while -- in part about Mr Trump, of course. Mr Trump keeps everybody on the hop. So it was quite a congenial Fathers' Day.
31 August, 2017
An amusing visit
I went in to see a vascular surgeon today about my swollen foot. As soon as I walked in his door, he said, rather abruptly, "What are you doing here?" I gather that most of his customers are old ladies with varicose veins so I did not look the part at all. For all their faults these days, my legs are actually rather smooth and shapely. In my long-gone past it was not unknown for female persons to compliment me on my legs, believe it or not.
Anyway he started taking notes and as soon as he heard that I was a retired university lecturer, his manner became much more relaxed and communicative. That is always so when I deal with medical people. They recognize me as a peer and treat me accordingly. It's academic privilege, I guess. There is a lot of Leftist grumbling about privilege these days so I think I should note that academic privilege is earned. With an average of 8 years of study leading to a doctorate it is a big time committment and a lot of work.
Anyway, he didn't think he could do anything for me other than give me diuretics but he sent me for a scan just in case.
30 August, 2017
A visitor and Portugal
I had a visitor from Sydney yesterday. Because I am a bit deaf, I don't encourage visitors a lot. I am content to see people I already know. But cartoonist Zeg recommended this young bloke to me as someone who needed help to get started in blogging. Brodie is of solid Scots ancestry and has the red hair to prove it. So when I picked him up off the Airtrain at Park Rd. I saw that red hair and immediately warmed to him. I am biased in favour of redheads -- but my father was one so I guess I am allowed.
Setting up the blog was quite a performance but we managed it. See here. Brodie could see that we had to be sitting together to do it. The name he chose for his blog was The Sober Scotsman, which was interesting. Finding a name for the URL of your blog is often difficult as all the obvious names have already been taken. But when I submitted "soberscot" as the name it went straight through. The concept of a sober Scotsman was clearly unusual. Scotsmen do like their "wee dram". I do too.
I have just heard from Anne in Portugal, with pic. Here she is. Note mobile phone at the ready.
She is at Monsaraz. Never heard of it? It is a civil parish (freguesia) of the municipality of the Reguengos de Monsaraz, on the right margin of the Guadiana River in the Portuguese Alentejo region. Got that? It still tells you nothing, doesn't it? Here's another description of it: "Monsaraz is achingly beautiful, occupying a commanding position on a steep hill with commanding views above the Guadiana river". Here's a picture of it:
24 August, 2017
An English curry and a departure
On Friday I made a last attempt to get some goodness out of Keen's curry powder, a type of masala. Keen's was a fixture in every home in my youth. It WAS curry. But I have never been able to get much taste out of it in my cookery. So on Friday I tossed a whole tinfull of it into my crockpot with some diced chicken, tomatoes, carrots, celery and sultanas. And that worked. What came out was a curry of sorts, quite passable. Anne even had some kind words about it. I will use only Indian masalas in future, however.
A small excitement that night however was that Anne announced she had a pesky lump on her cheek. I suggested that it looked like an SCC, which was displeasing. So Anne needed to get to Russell Hills about it. She managed to get a referral from our local Buranda family practice on Sunday and went in on Monday. Russell was not sure what the lump was so took a biopsy. As Anne was booked to fly out to Portugal on Wednesday night it was a big rush. The report came in just after lunch on Wednesday: Solar keratosis, so not urgent.
Tuesday was the night for a bon voyage dinner for Anne, She will be in Portugal and Spain for four weeks. I was feeling a bit bushed that night for unknown reasons but I managed to do something towards a bon voyage dinner. I took her to what I think is the best Indian restaurant in Brisbane -- at Tingalpa -- and brought along a German champagne she particularly likes: Henkel Trocken.
As it happens she did well with the dinner -- not only finishing up her lamb Rogan Josh but also having some spinach and cheese naan -- and also getting most of the Henkel. So she made it a good dinner.
I have just heard that she is now safely arrived in old Lisboa.
15 August, 2017
More free books
Joe has just recently taken a big carton of fiction to Vinnies for me so I am now starting the process of culling my non-fiction. I am listing my throwouts here in case anybody reading this might be interested in taking some of them off my hands. More than half of my offerings last time did walk out the door that way. Maybe not this time, though. They are mostly historic books.
Aeschuylus: Prometheus; suppliants; persians
A dictionary of Biblical traditions in English literature
Aristophanes: Lysisstrata; Clouds; Acharnians
Bagehot: English constitution
Boswell: The life of Johnson
Caesar: Conquest of Gaul
Cicero: Selected works
Clausewitz: On war
Early Christian writers
Friedman: Free to choose
Great books: Montesquieu ; Rousseau
Great books: American State Papers; The Federalist; J.S. Mill
Great books: Machiavelli; Hobbes
Greek rudiments (Attic)
Harvard Classics: Homer (Odyssey)
Harvard Classics: Plato; Epictetus; Marcus Aurelius
Harvard Classics: Dante
Harvard Classics: Edmund Burke
Hume: Treatise of human nature
Merriam Webster dictionary of American English (3 large volumes)
New Testament Greek
Plato - Republic
Plato: Socratic discourses
Plutarch: Makers of Rome
Plutarch: Lives of the noble Romans
Sophocvles: Theban plays
Xenophon: Persian expedition
13 August, 2017
I am a poor thing
During the week, on Wednesday, I underwent plastic surgery to excise a couple of cancerous bits on my neck. And despite my being in expert hands, surgery is never any fun.
Then I lost a filling from my remaining front tooth for having bitten down too hard on some black chocolate out of the fridge. So I had to go in next day and get that fixed. And dentistry is NEVER fun. I remember a little rhyme from my childhood:
"Some pains are physical and some are mental, but the one that is both is definitely dental"
But a nice Han man put me back right the next day so I have no complaints. Long live the Han!
And then on Friday, Anne somehow dropped a large kitchen knife on my foot! Which left me bleeding all over the kitchen floor until I could get to the bathroom and run the tap over it. That did fix it but it did look bad at first.
Anyway, Anne got as much aggravation out of it as I did -- as she had to clean up the blood. We had a good dinner of chicken Kiev anyway. Washed down with a bottle of (NZ) Oyster Bay Sauvignon blanc.
30 July, 2017
A busy Sunday
The basic reason why I make these personal notes is that I forget most of my life with great rapidity. I seem to have forgotten at least 99% of my life. So much so that I can have an enjoyable dinner with friends and relatives and not be able afterwards to remember one thing that we discussed. If I make my note of the occasion within about an hour afterwards I can remember a bit but after that I am pretty sunk.
And that arose the morning after the dinner that I put on for Nanna's 93rd. By the time I wrote the memoir of it I could remember little of the occasion. So when Joe and I met for our usual Sunday brunch I asked him what he could remember. He was pretty vague too but remembered that I talked to Kate about feminism being misleading to women and causing them to make unrealistic relationship decisions. As Kate does have some feminist sympathies I was a little embarrassed as I probably seemed a bit of a bully.
Anyway, that led into Joe and I making feminism the main subject of our morning deliberations. Although Joe and I have very similar views on most things political, I tend to be a bit more extreme than he is. And on feminism, my views are well out of the mainstream: I think feminism is a low-grade mental illness. That flows from the fact that the defining mark of mental illness is loss of reality contact. And a rather clear example of such loss is the central feminist claim that men and women are not really genetically different -- though, rather confusingly, men are still the "enemy", the "patriarchy" or some such.
Joe argued for a more moderate view -- that feminism is just another example of Leftist devotion to the Marxist view that all men are equal. The American revolutionaries thought that in a sort of a way too -- but they attributed the equality to exist only in God's poor vision. God apparently needs optometrical assistance.
And Joe is of course right to see feminism as just a branch of Leftism -- but I think that belief in human equality is pretty deranged too. But Joe has the probably correct view that the Left can see reality but just don't want to. And various Freudian mechanisms such as denial, compartmentalization and projection enable them to serve that need.
Another thing I mentioned to Joe was that I had kept the receipts from the night before and that I was a little surprised to see that the bottle of Mawson Sauvignon blanc that I had bought on recommendation had cost me $26, where the shop price is $14. That is of course routine for a restaurant but I had some vague recollection that clubs don't usually mark up so heavily. The wine was however perfectly nice and I would buy it again.
And after most of the morning discussing heavy subjects, Anne and I had an afternoon outing. It was to celebrate a great Saxon occasion: The first successful break with Rome by Christians -- at the hands of Martin Luther and his King, Frederick, "the wise" of Saxony -- 500 years ago
So together with Anne's sister June we went to a "Praise Fest" at St Paul's Presbyterian church in Spring Hill. It is Brisbane's grandest Kirk. It is a large church but it was full of geriatrics for the occasion. So Anne and I fitted in there.
The point of the occasion was to sing Protestant hymns, which must seem rather mad for Anne and me, seeing that neither of us I are believers these days. But we both enjoyed our time as Protestant Christians greatly, particularly the hymns. And we still sing them together at times. We even sing them in the bedroom, which is probably bizarre but neither of us care much about what others think.
I am obviously completely incapable of judging hymns as music objectively but I do enjoy them as much as I enjoy Bach and Mozart so maybe that means something. Bach often based his chorales on hymns, of course.
Anyway, the occasion was rather disappointing to me. It was put on by some teacher lady who could not resist the urge to teach. So for about half the afternoon we got lectures about the history behind the hymns rather than just singing the hymns. I would have preferred more hymns and a lot less talk. I wished to myself that she had followed the Biblical instruction:
"Let the women keep silent in the congregations. For it is not permitted for them to speak". -- 1 Corinthians 14:34, NW. See also 1 Timothy 2:12 .
It is an amazement to me how alleged Christians pick and choose what to believe in the Bible. They say the Bible is God's word but seem to think that they are capable of editing God. The same goes for homosexuality, despite 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1: 8-10, Romans 1:27 etc.
And the woman conducted the gathering as a service, with prayers etc. But as far as I can gather she is not an ordained Presbyterian minister so that seemed impertinent to me. I suspect she is an attention-seeker.
29 July, 2017
The birthday celebrations continue
On Monday, Jenny put on a dinner for Joe and myself at her place. Joe's birthday and mine are only 5 days apart s celebrating both together makes sense.
Jenny made that great family favourite for dinner: egg-rolled pork. It is a regional Korean dish and by far the best rissoles you have ever tasted.
Jenny also gave me a bottle of my favourite jam: Cumquat. It is not usually commercially available so is a great "craft" product. I actually have a thriving cumquat tree in my front yard but its crop so far is too small to do much with. Leaving the brilliant yellow fruit on the tree does however make the tree very attractive-looking.
Then today was my birthday offering for Joe. Seeing this birthday is his 30th, I thought he should have a big family dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant. Wisely, however, Joe is a pretty private person, so that did not appeal to him at all. Instead he asked for just the two of us to go down to Wynnum for a sandwich lunch -- which we did.
I made four good sandwiches of 4 different types and guess what we had for drinks? A thermos of tea? coffee? beer? mineral water? -- or Joe's addiction -- flavoured milk? No. I took two cans of Coke. Joe drinks heaps of Coke and I also drink it at times so that's what we had. Unpicnicy? Probably.
Anyway, the tide was in, the day was fine and we found a fairly secluded seat overlooking the water. It was very pleasant. And as usual we talked almost entirely about politics.
We even got into political history, with me updating Joe on some of the less-known facts about Abraham Lincoln, the Horace Greeley letter, for instance. I also updated Joe on the economic reasons behind the uncivil war. We got onto that topic because Joe asked about it. He recited a sarcastic parody of the Gettysburg address at one point.
I don't like upsetting Americans as they are mostly good people but they sure have been taught an incredible load of bull about their past.
Then tonight I put on a dinner for Nanna to celebrate her 93rd. Rather amazingly, she is still going pretty well at that age. I took us to the Yeronga RSL, which has a very nice family atmosphere. It was buffet night, which Nanna particularly likes. I think it is the best smorgasbord in Brisbane, as a matter of fact. Joe and I just pigged out, as you would expect, and even Anne went back for seconds. But I didn't overeat. I still felt comfortable afterwards.
I discussed with Kate her Catholic background but very little of it seems to have remained in her head. She comes from Canberra, where the real religion is Leftism. She was dressed nicely in a midnight blue outfit.
Joe didn't say much, as is his wont. He talks plenty one-to-one but doesn't like group conversations. I don't either.
Jenny talked mainly about shopping. She is an expert at that. I still get her to buy presents for me to give to others. She does it far better than I would.
22 July, 2017
Griffo's "Pik a hot Pak"
About 55 years ago when I was about 20, I had a job selling transmission machinery from a shop in George St., Brisbane. It rather strangely had 3 names: Gearco, Irvine's and Munro Machinery. That is such a strange job for a literary type like me that I think I should say a few words about how I got that job.
There were not many jobs advertised in the local paper for experts in Middle-English poetry -- which is what I knew most about -- so with supreme optimism I applied for job as an engineering equipment salesman.
I was interviewed by Harry Beanham, who owned a chain of similar shops in other capital cities. I turned up for the interview in a green suit wearing a green fuzzy felt hat. That was not a good move. But Harry was a cautious man so he just asked me two questions which should have sent me on my way. He asked: What is a tap and what is a reamer? Being a country kid I answered both questions correctly. And if you think a tap is something you get water out of you don't know engineering machinery. Harry was so delighted to meet a kid who actually knew something that he gave me the job straight away.
And I vindicated his faith in me. At one stage I made a big sale of diehead chasers -- which are sort of complicated things. Apparently none of Harry's other people were selling diehead chasers so Harry gathered together his whole stock of them and sent them up to Brisbane for me to sell. In his mind I became the diehead chaser man. Which actually served me well on a later occasion. But that's another story.
Anyway, while I was working there in the shop, most people in the area seemed to know of a Greek cafe nearby called "Griffo's". And people flocked there to buy a lunch called "Pik a hot pak". It was yummy. It was basically a toasted bacon & egg sandwich but with other stuff in it as well. At that time in my life I was busy saving money so my lunch was usually a cheese and pickle sandwich that I brought from home. But the Griffo's product was so attractive that I did splash out on one at times.
Sadly, however, Griffo's eventually vanished, as so much does over the years. As one gets older, however, one does tend to reminisce about "the good ol' days" a lot and the memory of Griffo's came to me recently. So I decided that I would try to recreate a "Pik a hot pak". I am of course not sure how close I got to the original but the taste is at least pretty similar -- and super-yummy.
So what's in it? The first constraint was that it had to contain pretty familiar ingredients. Any "foreign muck" would not have been well received in Brisbane of that era. So I used absolutely routine breakfast and lunch ingredients as I knew them at that time. So it is something that any cafe would be able to put together for you to this day.
It is simply bacon, fried egg, cheese, sliced tomato and fried onion topped by a small dab of tomato sauce all piled together into an ordinary toasted white-bread sandwich and cut into four. My local cafe puts it together well for me and it's the best toasted sandwich I have ever had! So some long overdue thanks to Griffo's.
Warning: If you try it you could become addicted!
18 July, 2017
A week that was
Both Joe and I have birthdays in July so various activities were entered into by way of celebration.
Last Tuesday Anne made me a dinner at her place of corned beef fritters, which were absolutely perfect. She makes such good fritters that I am making them my equal favourite dinner alongside French (lamb) cutlets.
Then on Friday Jill & Lewis accompanied Anne and myself to the Sunny Doll Japanese restaurant, where everybody agreed the food was outstanding. I had the curry, Anne had the Wagyu beef and Jill and Lewis both had the Teriyaki chicken Don. Japanese curry sounds an odd idea but Japanese curry is in fact as good as any.
After dinner we adjourned to my verandah to cut my birthday cake, a rich fruit cake with white icing. Joe and Kate came in for the cutting as well but had to go out after that so didn't stay for the coffee.
Then on the Saturday evening Anne came over and cooked me French Cutlets, which has long been our favourite dinner. Anne also brought over Sydney rock oysters to start. Anne even got my candleabrum going for the occasion so we dined by candle-light. I opened one of my last three bottles of Barossa Pearl. I think it's a brilliant wine -- slightly sweet, with a slight sparkle and quite fruity -- so it seems crazy that they have discontinued it.
Then on Sunday morning Joe and I had our usual 9:30am brunch together at the pie shop We talked (of course) about Mr Trump and politics generally. Joe was a bit ill but was nonetheless in a good mood for conversation. We didn't get home until about 11:45.
Then on Sunday night I arranged a secret men's business dinner on my verandah. Ladies have lots of ladies' lunches so we men need to catch up. I got my friend Graham up from down Melbourne way and both Joe and my brother also attended. As well as being a most insightful psychologist, Graham is also an absolute guru in martial arts, Western and Eastern. So he very kindly brought up with him a big armoury of swords to show us. They were blunted practice swords to avoid mishaps but were otherwise authentic.
He said the sabre is the best all-round sword. And he didn't think much of the katana (Japanese samurai sword). He said that most Western swordsmen could defeat a Samurai. I mentioned the Klewang to him, which has a record of outclassing a katana but he had not heard of it and said he would look into it. I asked him about the Gladius but he said it was only useful in the Roman style of fighting behind big shields.
My brother is also a martial arts enthusiast so he and Graham had an interesting time discussing and practicing unarmed combat moves. From some moves that he showed us it is clear that Graham could break someone's neck in a matter of seconds. Luckily he is a peaceful and ethical soul so he is no danger to anyone but the baddest of baddies. I certainly learnt a lot about both swords and unarmed combat.
Then on Monday night Joe and I were ready for our usual expedition to Nandos but went to the Sushi train instead as Joe needed to be in time to pick Kate up afterwards. Sushi is the ultimate fast food
17 July, 2017
My expensive new watch
This is it:
It is a Braithwait slimline classic, selling for just over $200.
I actually bought mine from Target for $15 but it is exactly the same as the one above. It is made in China and keeps perfect time. My previous Chinese watch lasted for years until someone stole it. And it kept perfect time too.
You might guess that I don't understand the expensive watch scene
I mentioned the matter to Anne's son Warren, who is an expert in expensive trinkets. He sells them. And he said that he personally preferred the very simple style such as is featured in my watch. Maybe he was just being polite but I also like the minimalist style in lots of things so I believe him.
23 June, 2017
The chuckout continues
I noted on 14th that I was throwing out my collection of (mostly) classical novels. And I listed half of them as a first step. At that time I held back all the books with nice bindings (hard covers, mostly gold lettering on spine) and a few others. I found them a bit hard to let go. But I have discovered new strength from somewhere and am about to throw out my pretty books too. I list them below for anyone interested. My last list got 50% mopped up by readers of this blog and Joe has just boxed up and taken away the remainder. So now on to step 2:
Asimov, I. Collection
Austen, J. Collected works
Australian writers collection: M. Franklin; H. Richardson; A. Gunn, R. Park
Boccaccio, G, Decameron
Boldrewood, R. Robbery under arms
Bronte, C. Jane Eyre
Cervantes, M. Don Quixote
Chesterton, G. Complete Father Brown
Conrad, J. Collection
Dickens, C. Tale of two cities
Dickens, C. Oliver Twist
Dickens, C. Great expectations
Dickens, C. The old curiosity shop
Doyle, A. Sherlock Holmes collection
Durrell, L. Alexandria quartet
Eliot, T. Cocktail party
Goldsmith, O. Vicar of Wakefield
Guareschi, G. Don Camillo omnibus
Guareschi, G. Comrade Don Camillo
Hawthorne, N. House of the seven gables
Hemingway, Islands in the stream
Herbert, F. Dune
Hughes, T. Tom brown's schooldays
Humphries, B. More please
Kipling, R. Kim
Kingsley, C. Hereward the wake
Kingsley, C. Westward ho
Lewis, S. The god seekers
Pepys. S. Diary selections
Priestley, J. Bright day
Richardson, H. The fortunes of Richard Mahony
Scott, W. The fair maid of Perth
Shaw, G. Complete plays
Simenon, G. Maigret and the madwoman
Simenon, G. Maigret hesitates
Simenon, G. Maigret's boyhood friend
Simenon, G. Maigret and the lazy burglar
Simenon, G. Maigret and the headless corpse
Sterne, L. Sentimental journey
Sterne, L. Tristram Shandy
Stevenson, R. Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde
Stevenson, R. New Arabian nights
Stevenson, R. The Amateur emigrant
Stevenson, R. The wrong box
Stevenson, R. Kidnapped
Tolstoy, L. War & peace (3 vols.)
Trollope, A. Collected novels
Wilde, O. Collected works
Next to go will be my "serious" books
16 June, 2017
Russian ladies and Slavic ladies generally
For many years I admired female persons from behind the Iron Curtain. The curtain is now gone but Russian ladies still make waves in the West. Most billionaires seem to have one. Czech ladies are pretty good too. Mind you, I have always been particularly impressed by the gorgeous ladies of Poland
A friend of mine from Poland -- Janusz -- related to me that when he would be walking along a street in Poland, you would often see a lady so attractive that you would just stop watch her go by. That had never happened to him in Australia. Despite being loyal to my own ethnic group, I did have some idea of what he meant. I have met some gorgeous Polish ladies in Australia.
I have however arrived at old age without experiencing an Eastern European lady in my life but I am content
However, it so happens that there are TWO Russian ladies I see occasionally. They are just friends but very bright and lively ones of my own vintage. And, like ALL Russians abroad that I know of, they have praise for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin. And I do too. He attends his Russian Orthodox church, slaughters Jihadis and tries to point out that Russia should be respected as the world's biggest country -- stretching from Vladivostok in the Pacific right across the Eurasian continent to Petersburg in the Baltic. Even aside from their beautiful ladies, Russians have much to be proud of.
14 June, 2017
Curry, books and a birthday
My week started out well. Joe is in Sydney so on Monday I cooked up an Achar Gosht Keema for Kate and Jenny. That's curried mince in plain English. I got a packet of Achar Gosht masala (curry powder) from an Indian shop and tipped the whole of it into 500g of semi-fatty mince plus a can of tomatoes and some celery. And the result was quite tasty. We had it with rice, raita and chutney. You need a bit of fat in a curry to carry the flavour.
My post about books I was giving away had by that time attracted some interest. Jenny saw some she wanted and even Kate picked up some she felt she should have read but had not yet done so. I think "1984" was one of them.
Ken is a great bibliophile so he came over after dinner at about 8pm with a long list of the books he wanted. I made him wait until the ladies had taken their pick however. But both ladies were very gracious and offered to give Ken one or two from their selection if Ken was really after it. Ken did take up that offer for an anthology of an author he liked. Having nice ladies in your life is a great boon
And Jenny had just acquired a second-hand cat so she showed Kate pictures of it and they had a very lively discussion about cats. Kate is a cat lady.
So it was quite a jolly evening
Then on Tuesday it was a dinner at Anne's place in honour of sister June's birthday. So as well as Anne and me, June and Ralph were along. June and Ralph both live in the same oldie establishment and Ralph is the 84-year-old widower of Merle, the deceased sister of Anne and June. I like Ralph.
Anne did well with the dinner. She served up pieces of prawn on Jatz for canapes, followed by a very tasty casserole with mashed sweet potato plus greens. June brought along some very good apple crumble that she had made and I contributed a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne" that Anne particularly likes.
June is a rather cheerful person and I stir things up so the conversation flowed.
Then today I saw Dr. Cockburn about my latest excision. And we agreed that it had gone well. So for the first time since March 1st I now have no surgical dressings on me
8 June, 2017
Books, books, books
Like all academics I know, I have always collected books. I even read most of them. When I was a kid I used to read two or three kids' books a week until I had read everything from that collection in the local library. At that point they reluctantly gave me access to the main collection, from which I read a lot of history, mainly.
And when I got my first job I spent part of my earnings on BUYING books. I remember the first such I bought: A collection of Plato's Socratic dialogues: Unusual reading matter for a teenager in a small Australian country town but it probably tells you what I am. And most of my reading from then on was in history and philosophy, plus most of the classical Greek canon.
I moved around a fair bit in my early life and books are a huge anchor when you do that so every time I moved I would give away half of my books. So my book collection got steadily whittled down to the books I most particularly liked -- mostly classic novels and various reference books.
And now I have arrived at a new time in life -- where books are mostly obsolete. Whatever people read these days, they mostly read it off a screen -- online or on Kindle. Even I do that. Even when I have a relevant reference book, I don't use it. I just Google it and read online the bit I want.
So I have come to the sad conclusion that it is time to give half of my novels away. I don't want to dissociate myself from them completely, however. So I have decided to list below the books I am abandoning:
Andrews, J. Shamela
Asimov, I. Banquets of the black widowers
Braine, J. Room at the top
Brickhill, P. Reach for the sky
Bronte, C. Wuthering Heights
Burroughs, E. Tarzan, Lord of the jungle
Butler, S. Erewhon
Caldwell, A. God's little acre
Capote, T. Breakfast at Tiffany's
Chesterton, G. The club of queer trades
Clarke, A. Cradle
Collins, T. Such is life
Conrad, J. Heart of darkness
Cooper, J. The last of the Mohicans
Defoe, D. Journal of the plague year
Dickens, C. Pickwick papers
Dickens, C. David Copperfield
Dostoyevsky, F. Crime and punishment
Doyle, A. A study in scarlet and The sign of four
Doyle, A. Great stories
Dumas, A. The three musketeers
Dumas, A. The black tulip
Eco, U. The name of the rose
Eliot, G. The mill on the floss
Eliot, G. Silas Marner
Faulkner, W. Absalom, Absalom
Faulkner, W. The sound and the fury
Fielding, H. Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. The last tycoon
Forster, E. Room with a view
Forster, E. A passage to India
Gray, Z. The call of the canyon
Haggard, H. King Solomon's mines
Hardy, T. The return of the native
Hawthorne, N. The scarlet letter
Heller, J. Catch 22
Hugo, V. Les Miserables
Hugo, V. The hunchback of Notre Dame
James, H. The ambassadors
James, H. Short stories
Lawrence, D. Sons and lovers
Lawrence, D. Lady Chatterley' lover
Lawrence, D. The Prussian officer
Lawrence, D. Three novellas
Lawrence, D. Women in love
Lawrence, D. The rainbow
Lawson, H. Joe Wilson's mates
Lewis, S. The God-seeker
Mackenzie, C. Rockets galore
Mann, T. Death in Venice
Marlowe, C. The tragedy of Dr. Faustus
Maugham, W. Of human bondage
Maugham, W. Points of view
Maugham, W. Painted veil
Meyer, N. The seven percent solution
Moravia, A. Roman tales
Orczy, B. The scarlet Pimpernel
Orwell, G. Animal farm
Orwell, G. Coming up for air
Orwell, G. A clergyman's daughter
Powell, A. Hearing secret harmonies
Powell, A. Valley of bones
Rand, A. The early Ayn Rand
Rand, A. Fountainhead
Reade, C. The cloister and the hearth
Richardson, H. Maurice Guest
Richardson, S. Pamela
Roth, P. Portnoy's complaint
Scott, W. Waverley
Scott, W. Quentin Durward
Shelley, M. Frankenstein
Simenon, G. Maigret stonewalled
Simenon, G. Third omnibus
Smollet, T. The expedition of Humphry Clinker
Steinbeck, J. Grapes of wrath
Stevenson, R. The master of Ballantrae
Swift, J. Gulliver's travels
Thackeray, W. Henry Esmond
Thackeray, W. Vanity Fair
Thackeray, W. Barry Lyndon
Thoreau, H. Walden
Tolstoy, L. Anna Karenin
Warren, R. All the king's men
Waugh, A. Path of dalliance
Waugh, A. Who are the violets now?
Waugh, A. Consider the lilies
Waugh, E. Scoop
Waugh, E. A handful of dust
Wells, H. Short stories
Wells, H. Tono Bungay
Wells, H. The war of the worlds
West, M. The shoes of the fisherman
Woolf, V. Moments of being
Yates, D. Blood Royal
Young, F. Dr. Bramley remembers
I am pretty sure that people can access copies of all those books online. I have kept the more recent ones that may not be online. If anybody would like a book above and can collect it, be my guest. I won't be taking any of them to the charity shop for maybe a week.
1 June, 2017
As I see it, there are three groups of travellers: Young people who are seeing the world before they settle down, People on higher incomes who can afford to go overseas at least once a year and people on average incomes who can't afford to travel much but who save up for the BIG TRIP when they retire. And with the price of cruising way down, people in the latter category are finding that they can afford several trips instead of just one big one.
In my 30's I was getting good money as a university lecturer so I went overseas a lot and saw just about all I wanted to see. So these days I prefer the comforts of home to the hassle of travel.
But now that she has retired Anne is making up for lost time. She travels quite a lot both in Australia and overseas. She is at present on a guided tour through the Top End. She likes art galleries in particular so there is a picture of a happy Anne at Darwin Art Gallery below.
She looks like she has found an "Aboriginal" car door there. We both like Aboriginal art but there is no telling how much of it is actually done by Aborigines these days.
MAY 28, 2017
IN MEMORIAM: CHRIS BRAND
The last 12 hours have been very tearful for me. After a long battle, Chris Brand has just passed away. Chris and I were born on opposite parts of the world but we could well have been twins. We were the same age, we both had a classical education (though Chris acquired his in circumstances much more distinguished than mine) and both of us were very self-confident and independent and thought very similarly. To defy all the nonsense that is taught in our society we had to be very self-confident and independent. Both Chris and I waged an unrelenting war on political correctness.
Sadly, I never met Chris in person but I am pleased I had a proxy with him up to the end. My stepson Paul and I had always got on exceptionally well. Paul too is very independent and there was a time in his teens and early 20s when I was the only person Paul would listen to if any kind of advice was being offered. So when Paul moved to Edinburgh for business reasons I was greatly pleased that I could send him a friend very much like myself. And Paul did indeed develop a great friendship with Chris.
Something that upsets me about Chris's death is that I could have prevented it if I had known earlier what I know now. He died in an NHS (government) hospital of hospital-borne infections. He got one after another, progressively weakening him until he had nothing left to fight with. NHS hospitals are riddled with hospital borne infections and Scottish NHS hospitals are said to be worse even than English ones. Private British hospitals are however usually free of such infections. With the benefit of hindsight I would have asked Paul to put Chris in a private hospital very early on. I could have funded it and he would be with us today.
Curse and goddam the NHS!
It is however a comfort that Chris's wife, Dr. Shiou-Yun Fang [firstname.lastname@example.org] sat with him to the end. Perhaps in deference to a Chinese custom she even sat with him for some time after he died. She is from Taiwan and is a distinguished art historian. Those who enjoyed Chris's thoughts in life may wish to comfort her in her great loss by sending her your condolences and prayers and recollections of Chris's wisdom. I will leave his blog in place for as long as Google permits it. It is IQ & PC.
UPDATE: Joe and I had a small "wake" after dinner for Chris. It consisted of Scotch and Coke plus a cake that Joe chose from Woolworths: A "White mud" cake. White mud sounds pretty strange but it was a nice cake. Joe met Chris a couple of times when he was in Scotland and was favourably impressed by him.
16 May, 2017
A non-Mother's day weekend
My mother is deceased so I was uninvolved with the festivities. But things happened anyway.
Anne came over on Friday with a firm request for Japanese food so we repaired to the Sunny Doll. I had omurice as I often do and Anne had three courses: Tempura vegetables, Gyoza and Yakitori lamb. I did "help" with all 3 of her courses. The restaurant is next door to Woolworths so we afterwards went looking for things we "needed" there. Anne put a packet of white tea -- whatever that might be -- into my shopping basket and we also got some Pancetta.
Then on Saturday morning we filled up my $8 Aldi thermos and went in the Toyota to Muzza's to get pies. I got steak, tomato and onion as I usually do and Anne ordered steak & mushroom. We then took pies and thermos to Orleigh Park for a breakfast beside the river. It was raining a bit but we found a shelter. Rather surprisingly, the thermos worked well enough. I once had a thermos that was actually made by Thermos! Can't remember what happened to it
On Saturday night the Pancetta came into its own. I used it as a base for some yummy sandwiches. I make a good sandwich so Anne chose that for supper.
Sunday morning was a bit different. Joe could not join me for breakfast as he was shouting his mother a breakfast. I suppose I could have come along but I thought they deserved some interrupted mother-son chats on mother's day. So I went into Stones Corner for breakfast instead. I had a Tandoori chicken bagel, which was good but surprisingly large. That night, however, Joe and I together dined at Guzman y Gomez -- on Burritos.
Then on Monday night I shouted another Nando's visit, with Jenny and Joe coming along but without Kate as she had to work late. Jenny and Joe had a lot of discussion about Joe's present search for a new job. She warned him about various pitfalls in job advertisements.
15 May, 2017
Wine talk is a lot of fun. It describes things that mostly reside in the talker's imagination. Dan Murphy's have an advertisement that describes a wine originating in the Adelaide hills as follows:
Picked at night to preserve the nose of tropical fruit flavours of passionfruit, guava and pineapple with classic gooseberry for good measure. The grapefruit and citrus palate is fresh and lively with a clean finish. The hint is in the name as this is a perfect wine for a light lunch or al fresco dining.
Tropical fruit in Adelaide? Pineapples and Guavas? I ate a lot of guavas in my tropical childhood but I have never seen them anywhere South of the tropics. I am slightly surprised that the writer has even heard of Guavas. I can still taste them when I think about it. It is certainly a very pleasant taste but unlike any other. Unlike the wine writer, I won't presume to describe it
2 May, 2017
Secret men's business and a last supper
Anne came over on Friday and we had one of Muzza's excellent family steak pies for dinner, with salad.
Then on Saturday morning we set off for a picnic breakfast. I made chicken & mayonnaise sandwiches, filled up the thermos and we Humbered out to Wynnum. Win with Wynnum! Before we left I said there was no need to take picnic things as I keep a picnic basket permanently in the car. And I do. In the Toyota. But we arrived at Wynnum in the Humber. Embarrassment! But the sandwiches went down well. I make a good sandwich! And it was nice sitting beside the seaside in one of the shelters at Wynnum North. To make up for the missing tea, I took Anne to the Phams for coffee and cakes -- where we had some excellent apple and apricot crumble.
Then Sunday night was secret men's business again. I had Jason over for dinner. And Joe came too. I cooked us up one of my versions of chili con carne which turned out quite well. I used my secret ingredient: A Masterfoods flavour sachet! I probably put a bit too much water in with the meat and beans so there was quite a lot of juice left in the pan when dinner was over. So I poured that off into a bowl and put it in the fridge. So it became a very tasty Gazpacho (cold soup).
Then after dinner on the verandah we cleared the dishes away and out came the computers instead. We brought out my old XP machine and an Amiga 500. Joe had bought a card for the XP which enabled file transfers between an IBM and an Amiga hard drive. There are not many Amiga hard drives around but I got a 50 meg one years ago and filled it up with games and other Amiga software.
So the task of the day was to get the new card working. It took some doing but Jason was a tower of strength in the matter, as he always is in computer matters. So he and Joe did get the new system working. Files were transferred! Some other problems did arise however so another night of secret men's business is on the cards. Neither Anne nor Kate came to the dinner part of the evening, though they were invited. Being shooed away after the dinner in favour of computers would not have been good for female self-esteem. Kate and I are agreed that computers are Joe's first love so she is a Trojan to cope with that.
Then on Monday night was a sort of last supper for Suz and Russell. They have packed up their house ready for their emigration to the shaky isles so are spending the time between now and when they fly out staying for a few days with various friends. On Monday they were staying at Jenny's place. So for dinner that night, Jenny and I decided to make it a champagne and pizza occasion for the emigrants plus Joe, myself and Kate.
We had quite a jolly time with lively talk about all sorts of things plus some fun photo taking. Dusty and Sahara were pretty wound up so I had a bit of fun playing with them. Kate very patiently let Sahara play with her hair. So it was a good farewell dinner.
1 May, 2017
A busy weekend
I had some big bits of chicken schnitzel that I had got off Woolworths which had been done with some sort of savoury crumbs -- so I was interested to try them. So when Anne came over on Friday night (28th), I got her to fry them up. I supplied a basic salad and bread rolls. And the "enhanced" crumbs were in fact quite good. We had a bottle of "Dopf" Alsatian wine to go with them.
Anne stayed over but because we were going to a lunch later in the day we had a light breakfast at home the next day -- croissants plus leftover salad from the night before. I am rather eccentric in what I put on croissants so this time I opened a bottle of old-time Peck's Anchovette. It still tasted good. Anne had some French blackberry jam on hers.
Then at 11am Joe drove us all over to Suzs's place for a farewell lunch. Suz and Russ emigrate to NZ soon. There were plenty of dips on the table and I contributed a small but very fruity fruit cake. I sampled the dips extensively. I talked to Russ about how cold he would find it in Invercargill but he was resigned to it. They both have good job prospects there, apparently. For lunch Russ cooked us up some excellent sausages on his big Italian BBQ, as he usually does.
George and Jenny were late arrivals and I had quite of lot of chats with George. He always has something interesting to say. George is a civil engineer, in both senses of the term "civil" and he told us things about his work that were surprising -- like the problem of an undotted line on a road. I was also impressed to hear that one of his daughters has just completed her Ph.D. studies -- in taxonomy, of all things. I would have imagined that 99% of taxonomy was old history now. No. Taxonomy has nothing to do with either taxis or tax.
After a big lunch, Anne and I felt like something a bit light for supper so we got out some more Moroccan vegie burger patties from my freezer and I cut up an onion to have with them. Anne fried both up and with a slice of bread they made quite a good simple meal.
Then on Sunday morning, Joe and I had our usual Sunday brunch at the pie shop together, and for around 2 hours we talked solid politics -- with particular enjoyment of Mr Trump, of course. Wotta guy! He is the ultimate norm violator.
And on Monday night, I shouted Joe and Kate a dinner at Nando's, a place Joe likes. They had the paella and I had half a chicken and chips. We discussed jobs a bit as Kate has just got a good one and Joe has handed in his resignation from his present job. Joe gets a lot of attention from recruiters because of his high IT skills and it looks like his next job might be at a much increased salary.
23 April, 2017
An interesting Sunday
First order of the day was a lunch for Suz's birthday held at Suz and Russell's place and catered by Jenny. I was uncomfortable with Jenny bearing the full cost of the catering so I gave her some money in advance to help with that.
Joe was on his way back from a job in China at the time of the lunch so could not attend. He arrived at the airport at 2pm. So Jenny picked up Kate and me from our place and drove us and Nanna out to Mt. Cotton.
Jenny had catered very well and included some South African sosaties in the lunch, which was much appreciated by me. She also did a cheese board afterwards. Russell of course cooked up all the kebabs and sausages on his big BBQ. He does that well.
I spent most of the time talking to Ken. We of course talked about Mr Trump and I predicted that Mr Trump will mount an all-out conventional attack on all North Korean military facilities. I also mentioned to Ken that I was intending to do a bit of cruising to please Anne, who is very keen on travel. So I asked Ken for all his cruise ship hints. He has done heaps of cruising so gave me a lot of useful hints and really put me in the picture.
Jenny delivered us back to my place at 5 to 3, which was just in time for the arrival of a guest: Graham R. He arrived 5 minutes later.
I had arranged to cook a Sunday dinner that night for Joe and my brother Christopher partly because I felt a bit bad that I rarely see my brother even though he lives only ten minutes drive away. He is the perfect brother and shares most of my political views. We both enjoy Mr Trump greatly. And having arranged that, I also saw it as a good opportunity for Joe and Christopher to get to see more of one another. So a Sunday date that suited both Joe and Christopher was arranged.
Noting that it would be a meeting of three very conservative people, it occurred to me that the other person I know who is in a similar ideological space should join us. So I emailed Graham down in Victoria that I would shout him the airfare if he could make it to our dinner. Fortunately he could make it. He flew from Melbourne to Brisbane for a dinner! So it was he who arrived at 3pm. Joe was still a bit jet-lagged so joined us at 6pm for the dinner but retired early. I cooked savoury mince and noodles for us all.
I made the dinner for men only as women often get together over ladies' lunches etc so I thought a men-only dinner might balance that. The conversations in mixed sex gatherings tend to be different from those in single sex gatherings so I thought there should be provision for both. So I proclaimed the dinner to be about "secret men's business", in a nod to Aboriginal customs.
It turned out that Graham actually had more in common with Christopher than he did with me. Both have been very keen martial arts exponents in their day so had a lot to say about that. We agreed that martial arts people are probably mostly conservative. So the conversation stretched well beyond Mr Trump, though his possible moves in North Korea were of course discussed. Another thing we discussed a lot was the old days. Old people do a lot of that and even though he is a mere youth in his '50s Graham had some interesting things to say about that.
20 April, 2017
Wotta day Tuesday was
At breakfast time around 9:30 I popped into the local medical practice to see if the patholgy report on my ankle that I had asked for last week had arrived. It had so I arranged for it to be copied to my specialist.
Joe had arrived from Canberra late the night before looking bleary but he must have got a good night's sleep because he didn't pop out until around 10:30am.
I had my appointment with the specialist at 11:30 and he gave me the joyous news that I had defeated the pseudomonas in the wound on my ankle. So gradual healing will now take place. Pseudomonas does however sometimes come back so I will be watching for that.
My good immune system would have contributed to the eradication of the bacterium. Some people cannot defeat it and have to have their limbs cut off to stop it spreading. I was not looking forward to that possibility. I am rather attached to my left leg, even if it is a bit swollen at the moment.
To celebrate the good news I went to Muzza's pies in Coorparoo and bought myself a tomato & onion pie and a lemon slice -- at around 12 noon. Both were most enjoyed.
Then at around 12:30 Joe popped in looking very chipper. He asked if I wanted to join him for lunch at Hungry Jack's. They must have a bargain going at Hungry Jack's. But I had already lunched so declined with regret.
His flight to China took off at 4pm. A work visit only.
Then that night to celebrate a memorable day I went and got Anne and myself fish n chips from her local Greeks. It is beautifully done there and is one of our favourite meals. We had it with one of my remaining bottles of Barossa Pearl. I think I qualify as a real Ocker if I celebrate with meat pies, fish n chips and Barossa Pearl. Humble food but it is my ethnic food.
Kate and her mother arrived from Canberra about 11:00pm and I told Kate that the cats had been asking after their mother. She took me seriously and said they are probably just hungry -- which was a very motherly response. I shouldn't joke so much.
I eventually conked out after only one and a half gins and even missed my late night snack. Being wound up during the day must have tired me out. If I had kept awake long enough, I would of course have concluded my celebrations with a late night feast of Vegemite on toast.
18 April, 2017
A self-indulgent Easter
My Easter did have a touch of holiness but mostly it did not. I will say something about that anon.
Anne came over on the Thursday afternoon and for dinner we cooked up some skinless sausages I got from Woolworths. They have little wooden handles on them but that is just a gimmick. I made a Waldorf salad to go with them and I really enjoyed them.
On Friday morning Anne made me a bowl of porridge, which I always like, and she had some red pawpaw she had brought over. After that we had hot cross buns. After breakfast I took us first for a sit by the river at Orleigh Park and then drove us up to Mt Gravatt to take in the view there. The council have built a nice kiosk there but it was not open. It rarely is. It is run by a charity, The Hope Foundation and appears to have unmotivated beneficiaries staffing it.
Coming down Shire Rd from the mountain, there is a Red Rooster shop on the corner of Logan Rd so we stopped there for an early lunch. I had a quarter chicken and chips, which was very succulent, and Anne had fish n chips, which was quite passable. Anne is not a Catholic but she was married to one for many years so she has acquired the habit of not eating meat on Friday. So that night I produced some Moroccan vegieburgers for her. With leftover salad they went down well enough.
That night was our holy observance, though it was not really a church service. We went to St John's cathedral for a concert performance of Bach's Matthew Passion. There was a big choir and the orchestra included four celli. Add that to the brilliance of sound given by the soaring stone arches of St John's and we got repeatedly excellent choral music. The many chorales of the Matthew Passion are its great strength. There was one disappointment, however. The young baritone messed up my favourite aria from the work: Mache dich mein Herze rein. His diction and phrasing were terrible. He clearly had no idea of the rules of German pronunciation, which is slack if you are into classical music.
Anne's sister June drove us there so we had coffee and Anzac biscuits on my veranda after the show. The concert took about 3 hours so there was a rush to the toilets when we got home. Elderly bladders.
On Saturday morning Anne and I took ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches up to the rotunda on Highgate Hill. I made them fairly thick so one sandwich each was enough for us. From there we visited the Buranda shopping centre to see what was open and found the Phams closed. So we went over the road to the Cafe Essence for coffee and cakes. I had a small lemon tart and Anne had a caramel slice. That night we just had leftovers, with salad, which were pretty good.
On Sunday morning we had Vegemite toast, which I greatly enjoyed. Vegemite is gourmet food to me. Followed by Easter eggs. Anne then went off on family visiting. For dinner I cooked myself up a big lot of bacon n eggs.
I intended to have toast with it but found I was out of butter. But I had cooked the bacon in a mix of olive oil and peanut oil and the bacon gave off grease too. So I tipped the juices out of the pan onto my toast. And that made a very good alternative to butter. I had read that in the Mediterranean countries they tip oil on their bread so I learned from that.
Then on Monday night I had bought some big pork mid-loin chops. So Jenny cooked them up for us. Jenny recommended red cabbage pickles to go with them which did work well.
So that was a very pleasant Easter.
12 April, 2017
Is there such a thing as a minceburger? If not, I must have invented it. I had some savoury mince (ground beef) that I wanted to use up so, for dinner, I bought two hamburger rolls, put plenty of butter and a cheese slice on each and topped each with a thick coat of mince. It was delish. But it depends on the mince of course. Your mileage may vary.
10 April, 2017
Is there a Carla Holland out there, daughter of Nola Holland? Jenny and I thought Nola was a really fun person but last we heard she had significant medical problems. So we fear that she may be deceased. Perhaps Carla could enlighten us.
Carla probably goes by a married name these days but maybe not. One effect of the frequent breakups these days is that women often revert to their maiden name. Though Nola did not. She was originally the Boyle girl from Dubbo but when she married John Holland she became a Holland for ever after -- even though that marriage lasted only one year -- if memory serves. Nola did not like the bog-Irish sound of Boyle
There was a barrister named John Gleeson who also knew Nola. Maybe he is still around and communicating
One conversation that I remember with Nola I have never before mentioned to anyone: We agreed that women do not fart! That was Nola for you. She sent Carla to Kambala but she herself remained the Boyle girl from Dubbo.
6 April, 2017
About the only excitement in the lives of people around my age is usually their health problems. They are nearly all taking buckets of pills. I take no pills regularly and have what I think is an interesting life outside my occasional health problems. My blogging is my big interest in life and I have the hope that what I do there is worthwhile. You can see most of what I write in one place here.
But recurrent skin cancer is a big problem for me and I had four bits cut out of me at the beginning of March. Two of the wounds got infected however so healing was not straightforward. There is however only one that is still a problem but it too seems to be under control.
My last lot of pathology results came in last Friday and told me that the wound in my ankle has become infected by soil bacteria such as Pseudomonas. Those nifty little bacteria can give you necrotizing fasciitis, where your flesh just keeps getting eaten away. In extreme cases they amputate to stop it.
My infection, however, is a slow-moving one and I am now on two antibiotoics to combat it: Ciprofloxacin and Metronidazole. They seem to be working as I am out of pain and healing is therefore indicated. But it is a bit of a waiting game at the moment.
4 April, 2017
On Monday of last week, I shouted Joe, Kate and Jenny a dinner at Nandos: A humble venue but the food was much enjoyed. Nandos fits in with Joe's diet. And Jenny found out in advance that Nandos can do their Paella in a way that avoids gluten, which she cannot have. Jenny was in good form with lots of family news and we sat there for quite a while talking. The translation of Suz and Russ to NZ was much discussed, as was NZ generally.
Then Monday this week Jenny came over to my place for dinner. I had a couple of good T-bones and had made up a salad but I got Jenny to supervise the frying of the T-bones. She got them just right and I really enjoyed mine. I had forgotten how good a T-bone can be. I suppose I sound like a dog but so be it.
29 March, 2017
An eventful weekend
The excision on my ankle was always a bit sore but when I finished my course of antibiotics in the middle of last week it got worse. On Friday morning I was woken up by the pain of it. I tried to ring the surgeon to get a new supply of antibiotics but he was not working that day. So I visited a nearby medical centre to get my prescriptions (Clindamycin and Dicloxacillin) from a GP there.
The GP was quite good but thought I should get an xray of my foot and ankle. So I did that same day. But the antibiotics I was using seemed to have lost any influence so the wound just got worse.
On Saturday morning about 9am I encountered Joe and Kate headed for the beach at Surfer's Paradise. With Kate's alabaster white skin and Joe being nearly as fair they looked a most un-beachy couple. But they had big hats and sunblock so they were to a degree prepared. Young Brisbane people are always going "down the coast" so I guess Joe felt it was about time they joined in. They didn't stay long though. Got home around 2pm. Good that they did because Joe did get some sunburn.
That night Joe, his good friend Eugene and I went to Sunnybank for Mosburgers, Japanese hamburgers. I think they are the best in Brisbane. Very yummy. I liked the peach tea too.
On Sunday, Anne came over, the first time since Tuesday. She came over about midday and at 3pm we went to a local party, held in the newly created "Community Garden" at the top of Fleurs st. The people behind the garden have done a great job of converting a bit of "waste" ground into a flourishing garden. They are Greenies so it is good to see them putting their efforts where their mouth is.
A curious thing is that some Real Estate mob have donated a small pizza oven to them. And on Sunday afternoon there were a couple of experienced Italian pizza makers there to make it hum. They poured out huge amounts of pizza that all went down well. People kept turning up as the afternoon went on so there was quite a crowd in the end, with many being young families.
The pizza was cooked Italian style -- with thin base and thin topping. Anne particularly liked that. See below:
Then that evening we went along to Evensong at The Metropolitical Cathedral of St. John. It is a magnificent venue for anything musical. The PA system was pretty bad, however, so neither Anne nor I understood a word of the spoken part of the service. We got some good Anglican chant, however, which I like.
Then by Monday morning the wound on my foot had deteriorated so much that it was quite smelly. I did have to go in to the local GP practice to get my X-ray results so I asked the doctor there to clean up and re-dress the wound. He did that personally.
Then on Tuesday, I went to see the surgeon. He was shocked by the state of the wound so took a swab for the pathologists to tell us what bacteria we were up against. I also persuaded him to give me some Bactrim to supplement my other antibiotics.
And that seems to have been a breakthrough. I felt some benefit from the Bactrim after just the first tablet and improvement has continued since then. So there is a light at the end of a very dire tunnel. An expanding wound that is proof against a lot of powerful antibiotics is bad news.
8 March, 2017
The bright side
I tend to be a rather cheerful positive person, not out of deliberate policy but because I was born that way. My mother was a very self-confident person.
So I see some positives out of my recent surgical travails. By dint of taking regular doses of two powerful antibiotics, I seem to have defeated my recent infections. I am now in no pain and am enjoying my life again.
And one of the compensations of being ill is that Anne came and made me a lot of good traditional British/Australian dinners -- which I enjoyed greatly. Last night I got corned-beef with roasted veggies -- which was great! I like my ethnic foods!
And may I mention that in the midst of my surgical travails, Joe and Kate have announced their engagement! He proposed to her whilst they were both up the top of the Eiffel tower in gay Paree. That seems amazingly romantic to me. Apparently when Joe first asked, Kate said, "What?" But Joe persisted. What a fine, traditional man!
Anyway I have now seen the ring. It is a colored stone, basically, with a few bits surrounding. The stone is Tanazanite -- a stone recently discovered in Tanzania (in Africa). It is purple so looks like Amethyst. Amethyst was a very popular jewel in the ancient world. They bought it from an "Antique Jewellery" place, Let's not mention that Tanzanite was discovered only in the 1960s.
The important thing is that Kate likes it.
3 March, 2017
A trying couple of days
I had a wog last week which had just cleared up when I went in for surgery this week. Skin cancers pop up on me rather regularly. And the ones that look like expanding have to be killed some way -- by freezing or excision. I had a rather pesky crop recently. So this time getting rid of them took two days -- at an overall cost of $7,000.00. So that is going to restrict my spending in other directions. The time could come when I am spending all my spare cash on surgery. I will however look at options for cheaper treatment.
Included this time was a Moh's procedure -- where the extent of the cancer is not clear so they have to keep cutting until the microscope gives the all clear. It's never pleasant. It is so time consuming that they don't stitch you up same day. You have to go home with a gaping wound that they stitch up the next day. Wednesday's procedure removed a big cancer on my chest plus a smaller one nearby.
So on Thursday, Anne drove me out to Northwest private hospital for both the Moh's repair and an excision on my ankle. The ankle excision was expected to be a bit big, requiring a skin graft to put it back together. They have good grafting facilities at Northwest. And as it turned out, the gap created by the Moh's procedure also required a graft. So I came home very patched up.
As expected, I had to be very careful about walking in order not to flex too much the graft on my ankle. So I bought some crutches to get around on for a few days.
An unforeseen problem is that the big graft on my chest seems to have got infected. I always seem to have some nasty skin bugs -- Staphylococcus Aureus or "Golden Staph" -- on my skin waiting to pounce on a surgical site so I have been subjected to infections of wounds for some years now. On a couple of occasions I have had to go into hospital and be put on a Vancomycin drip for a couple of days. So that may be coming up again.
In the meanwhile I am on high doses of both Clindamycin and Dicloxacillin in an endeavour to close down the infection. But I am in a rather bad way for a while: I have a rather painful chest wound that stings me when I move and I can't walk any distance. Fortunately Anne has moved in to look after me. She is doing well. She is a nurse by profession. But it will be a few days yet before I can move about freely.
1 March, 2017
A major obsession on the Left at the moment -- particularly in the universities -- is "white privilege" It is alleged that just being born white gives you privileges not available to others. And whites are supposed to feel shamed and humbled about that and -- ideally -- give all their money to non-whites. It is part of the general and quite deranged attack on mainstream people that caused many Americans to become totally disgusted with the Obama/Clinton Left. They were ready to vote for ANYBODY who would stop the rot. So Donald Trump got the job, despite his hair and many other faults.
I pointed out recently that the "white privilege" concept is racist -- very similar to Hitler's thinking about Jews. In both cases we see hostility to people purely on the basis of their race.
So let me relate a true story about a privileged person I know. L. is an elderly Jewish man who recently had a bad turn. An ambulance was called to take him to hospital. When they were loading him on board, they asked him which hospital he wanted to go to. Brisbane has some big centrally located government hospitals plus a lot of excellent private hospitals scattered about. L. said to take him to WXY, a highly regarded private hospital with about 500 beds.
But after about 15 minutes the ambulance had still not driven off. The ambulancemen said that it was a very busy time with a lot of hospitals "on bypass" (full up) -- and WXY was one of those on bypass. So the ambulancemen had been ringing around to find a hospital with an available bed. L. said not to bother with that. Just ring hospital WXY and tell them whom you have got on board. The ambulancemen did that and L. was promptly whisked to his preferred hospital. He was taken in where others were not.
So was that Jewish privilege? Many people would leap to that conclusion. And Jews are often generous donors to all sorts of charitable causes. So that could have been it. It might have reflected gratitude to a donor. But that was not it at all.
Even though he is in his '80s and has had a stroke, L. has that restless energy we so often see in Ashkenazi (Western) Jews. After his stroke he could have just stayed at home all day and watched TV. He likes watching football on TV so that would have had some appeal.
But that was just alien to him. He wanted to be active and to contribute something to others. So he became a hospital visitor. With his own recent experience of stroke he felt sympathy for people lying in bed all day waiting to get better. So, by arrangement with the WXY hospital, he would spend days just walking around the wards and looking for people who felt like a chat. He is himself a cheery, flexible, positive person who is a good listener so he brightened the days of many.
So you see why everybody at the WXY hospital knew him, appreciated him and leapt to help him when he needed it. The "privilege" he had is the privilege of being a good man. He EARNED his privilege. He is just a good natured conservative man who likes to contribute to the society in which he lives.
And so it is with most privilege. What you do to earn privilege can vary greatly. You can even inherit it. But privilege is not random and is not assigned just by something as incidental as the color of your skin. There are many trailer park denizens -- poor people -- who just get by from week to week even though they are white. Where is their privilege? It doesn't exist because they have done nothing to earn it. Just being white earns you nothing
27 February, 2017
My meatloaf was yea-yore
When Joe was 3, he decided that it was unfair that Jenny and I made up all the words so he too invented a word: yea-yore . It meant completely no-good. Anything he did not like or want was yea-yore.
It seemed to me to be the only word adequate to describe a meatloaf I made last Friday evening. I should not have been too surprised by the result as I am no cook but I had nonetheless had hopes. In theory, what I cooked should have been good. But it was a bit like global warming theory. The predictions from the theory were not borne out in practice.
The problem had been that Anne is at the moment on a very restrictive "plain food" diet to fix her indigestion. So I decided that I would make a meatloaf that included only ingredients that were on her "OK" list. So I went on to the net and found there about 1,000 recipes, all of which included at least four yummy ingredients that Anne cannot at the moment have. So I decided to use just stuff she can have: The famous "Mixed herbs", grated carrot, eggs etc.
After an hour in the oven, the result was completely tasteless and not even a good texture. It was definitely yea-yore. It quite cast me down. I am used to eating good food so to find that my own creation was yea-yore rather depressed my spirits. The best I can say of it is that it fed us and did not make us sick, so I suppose that is something. Lesson learned: Always work to a recipe from someone who really is a cook.
I also cooked for myself the next night and the night after so I cooked bacon & eggs on both occasions to restore my faith that I can cook something. Bacon & eggs is hard to ruin.
24 February, 2017
Ya gotta laugh
I went into Dan Murphy's today to buy a few things. One was Henkel Trocken. I could not find it anywhere. So I asked. It was in the Australian sparkling wine section. It is in fact produced in Germany.
20 February, 2017
Lunch with Jill and Lewis
Jill and I normally help celebrate one another's birthdays. Usually I shout a dinner in February for Jill's birthday and she cooks me a dinner in July for my birthday. Somehow or other, however, we got it the other way around this year, with Jill cooking Anne and me a dinner in connection with her birthday.
We have something of a tradition that Jill cooks us pasta with seafood and a creamy sauce. She does it well and I always look forward to it. This year the seafood consisted of lots of small prawns, which went down well. I get a bit freaked if I have to peel large prawns. I generally get someone else to do it for me. The pasta was either tagliatelle or fettucine. I can't tell the difference between those two.
Jill and Lewis go on a lot of cruises and Anne does too so most of the conversation revolved around foreign parts, particularly South America. Mr Trump however did of course get a mention. Can any dinner conversations avoid a mention of Mr Trump these days? Jill noted that on one of her recent cruises most of the American passengers were very enthusiastic about Mr Trump.
Lewis noted that Australia's Pauline Hanson has similar ideas about Muslim immigration. He rather embarrassed himself at one stage with his criticism of such immigration. But Lewis is Jewish so he has excellent reason to be critical. Muslim scripture, particularly the hadiths, does after all tell Muslims to kill Jews! And Mohammed himself wiped out Jewish communities.
From the Pharaohs to Mohammed to Hitler, Jews have certainly not has it easy, to put it mildly. Among both religious Jews and Christians there is a view that the long survival of Jews against all odds is a sign of divine intervention. I can see the logic of that.
In recent years Anne and I have got rather bushed in driving to and from Jill's place. Anne drives and the GPS system that came with her Toyota is a bit brain-damaged. So this year she turned it off and let me give directions. There have however been a lot of changes in the roads since I used to drive out that way so I feared that I would misdirect us. As it happened, however, we got it all right both going and coming back. It was actually pretty simple.
19 February, 2017
A breakfast with Joe and Kate
Joe and I usually have a late and relaxed breakfast together at a certain pie shop on Sunday morning. Today Kate came along, looking very mysterious behind "navigator" dark glasses. The glasses did highlight her alabaster skin, though. See how sexist I am, talking only about her appearance? But most ladies, including Kate, take great care over their appearance so to notice it is, in my old-fashioned view, merely gallant. But I suppose gallantry is bad these days too.
We talked a bit about diet as Joe announced that he has recently lost 5 kilos. He came back from holidays with a distinct "spare tyre" so that was an achievement.
We also of course mentioned Mr Trump and I pointed out that his rather confused speech delivery may be no bad thing. It is eerily reminiscent of "Sir Joh", a distinguished Queenslander but a very small footnote in the history of the world. But it is a very informative footnote. Sir Joh also had a messy speech delivery that the elite all dismissed as being beyond comprehension. Journalists and others claimed it was just impossible to understand what he was saying. But Joh was a farmer and he spoke like a farmer, not like an educated man. And ordinary farmers and working people generally understood him just fine. He kept getting their vote and ended up running Queensland for nearly 20 years -- from 1968 to 1987. So who was the fool?
The Honourable Sir Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, KCMG
Trump comes from the opposite end of the socio-economic scale but he has always had a hands-on attitude to his building projects and has often been on site talking to the workers doing the building. So it would seem that his conversations with them have led to him gaining not only respect for them and their views but also some of their speech patterns.
So he really does sound a lot like Sir Joh so should easily get a second term in office. I don't think Kate had ever heard of Sir Joh and Joe would not have known much either so I was glad to give them a bit of fun history. In the day I was myself a member of Joh's political party and always voted for him. So I am a sort of living political antique. These days I vote for Pauline. In the circumstances I am sure that many Leftists would conclude that I must have got my Ph.D. out of a cornflakes packet.
Another thing we talked about over breakfast was the similarities between Joe and myself. Joe is a very different person from me but the fact that we share 50% of our genes does make itself known at times. It is perhaps most notable in the similarity of our political views. We both rather like Mr Trump, for instance. NO-ONE upsets applecarts like Mr Trump! He is a true radical. Mr Trump is so entertaining that if he didn't exist we would have had to invent him. Another similarity is that Joe and I both tend to sit down in something of a yoga position. We do it unconsciously. It just seems most comfortable.
The similarity I mentioned today is how both of us are "no fuss" people. We don't sweat the small things. When things go wrong we just carry on regardless without swearing and cursing and leaping about. I gave a couple of recent instances of Joe being Mr. Cool in that way.
Another similarity is that we both like the complex music of J.S. Bach. As it happens, the Bach Klavier concerto was playing on the car radio as we drove to breakfast and we both enjoyed it greatly. I suggested that a liking for Bach might be related to a liking for order, as Bach's music is very orderly with its fugues and counterpoint generally.
And I extended that to being good at computer programming. Computer code is VERY orderly. Just get one comma out of place and the program bombs. And I was very good at FORTRAN coding in my day. I used to say that I could write FORTRAN in my sleep. It was not a literal claim but my dreams would sometimes feature FORTRAN code. Joe trumped that, however, by claiming that he really CAN write "C" in his sleep. He writes a lot of it so maybe he can.
Because Kate has recently taken her honours degree in psychology, I went on to talk to her a little about a liking for order. Traditionally in personality psychology it is deplored as being "Fascist", with tolerance of ambiguity being praised in its stead. I pointed out that seeking for order in the universe it what scientists do so deploring that is a bit nutty. Some people (e.g. autistics) have an excessive need for order but to condemn a liking for order generally is incoherent.
A degree of orderliness that Joe and I share is great punctuality but I noted that I saw punctuality as being mainly a courtesy and Joe agreed with that.
And our bacon and eggs was good too.
17 February, 2017
The Saint's day was appropriately observed
Valentine's day was on Tuesday this week but Anne had choir practice on both Tuesday and Wednesady so observances were postponed until Friday. Flowers, funny card, chocolates and a dinner were all delivered. We went to the Kafe Meze for Greek food. It was a while since we had been there so we were a bit put out to find that the easy parking over the road had been abolished. But we did find a spot round the corner near a supermarket car park. The supermarket used to be Jack the Slasher many moons ago but I am not sure what it is now. Coles, I think.
Below is the docket showing what we had. We could have given the Pastourma a miss but the rest was as good as usual.
16 February, 2017
A good letter gets results
I have always found it easy to write and as a result I write a lot of letters, mostly by snail mail. So when I see something happening that I don't like, I don't just bitch about it. I send a letter to whomever is likely to be able to fix it. And it will be no surprise that I have written to the big bosses of banks quite a lot. As I think everyone reading this will know, banks can be very frustrating
One thing that has been bothering me a bit lately is the way Australian banks keep closing branches or downgrading the services that they offer from a branch.
For a while there was a sort of mini-branch of the Commonwealth babnk right next to where I often go for brunch so that was very convenient. I rather liked the looks of one of the female tellers they had there too. Even we oldies can admire from afar.
But it was of course too good to last. The tellers were abolished and you were expected to do everything through a sort of super-ATM they had installed. There were however still some staff there to help people who could not do what they wanted with the ATMs.
So recently I walked in with a big cheque that I wanted to deposit. But the place was full of customers waiting for personal service. So I decided to give up and visit a real branch the next day. But where was there a real branch? It is not easy to look up. They have a list of branches online but some of them have been abolished and there is no way of knowing what services the remaining ones offer. In a couple of cases there were phone numbers I could ring but when I rang I got only an answering machine that had no answers that I wanted to hear.
What to do? I also have an account at the Bank of Qld. and I have never had to wait long there. So I went in to my nearest branch, found two tellers behind the desk and only one person ahead of me. So I deposited my cheque, was given a printed receipt and walked out happy. Because of their poor services, the Commonwealth missed out on getting my money despite considerable efforts on my part to give it to them. Amazing.
So I wrote a letter. Here it is:
28 December, 2016
Dear Mr. Narev,
As a CBA shareholder and a customer I am appalled at how your standards of customer service have slipped.
I went into your recently downgraded Buranda branch today and found a big queue-up of people waiting for personal service. I had a big cheque to deposit that I was not willing to entrust to your machines. I left rather than wait. Please reinstate its former status
I then went online to find an alternative branch near me. I wanted to find one that had full service. There were several possibilities. But the phone nos. for them were not provided. So I went through the rigamarole of calling your general number. When I was eventually put through to the branches, however, all I got were answering machines that were as uninformative as your website.
After all the hassle I deposited my cheque with another bank.
Why can't you have more contact details available online? Are you afraid your customers might talk to you? Can't you get it into your bald head that customer service matters?
In the absence of an accommodating reply from you, I will raise the matter at the next AGM.
I got a reply from someone called Emma Taylor who did little more than restate her bank's policies. So I wrote another letter. Here it is:
Dear Ms Taylor
Thank you for your letter of 19th.
I am disappointed that Mr Narev did not see fit to reply to my letter in person. A year or so ago I wrote to Richard Goyder of Wesfarmers and got back from him a courteous handwritten note. Perhaps Mr Narev has more dissatisfied customers than Mr Goyder has.
I have found your reply in which you do little more than restate the bank's policies quite unsatisfactory. So I still have comments that I wish to address to Mr. Narev. The following is for Mr Narev's eyes only:
Dear Mr Narev,
I am sure you find as revolting as I do the old stereotype of the fat Jewish banker smoking a cigar, wearing a top hat and looking contemptuously down his long nose at the simple people whom he exploits.
So why in G-d's name are you doing your best to validate that image? You are Jewish, you are head of Australia's largest bank and you treat your customers with contempt by making it as hard as possible for them to contact you and your officers.
WHY do you not have on your website a phone number for each branch? You are constantly changing your branches and what each branch does, so people need to enquire in advance to ascertain what services are available at a branch they intend to visit.
I myself some months ago was going to be in the Stone's Corner area so looked up your webpage and found the Stones Corner branch listed as fully functional. It was not. I made the trip there to find it closed down.
So if it is such an enormous problem to provide phone nos., could you at least keep your website up to date with the level of service offered at each branch? It is surely an elementary courtesy.
And it might even be good business to upgrade your services. The extra costs could result in happier customers who do more business with your bank.
In the absence of a reply from you, I am inclined to post a copy of this letter on the net.
Dr John Ray
There was no reply. BUT, today I had another large refund cheque to deposit. So after my brunch I wandered in to the nearby Commonwealth branch that had given me problems previously. Hey Presto! Big change! A teller's counter had sprung up again, everybody in the branch was being helped and there was a lady standing at the teller's counter waiting to help me. Very different! Exactly what I had asked for! Even though Mr Narev was too grand to reply to me, someone somewhere in the bank must have sprung into action. My letters got results.
A Leftist would of course have found my reference to Mr Narev's origins to be RACIST! Even though I was writing with the intention of helping Jews. I have in fact been a great supporter of Israel since I was a kid. My immersion in the Bible made it permanently clear to me that Israel is the proper home of the Jews.
Some extended background on my thinking about that is here
12 February, 2017
An Australian breakfast and a Szechuan dinner
Joe got back from overseas yesterday (Saturday) and took the airtrain straight to my place. We didn't talk much as he was jetlagged and had a lot to do but he arranged for us to resume our customary Sunday brunches at the pie shop. We both like the bacon & egg breakfast there.
So we had that this morning and, as usual, had quite a long chat. This time substantially about Mr Trump. Mr Trump must be the world's most discussed person at the moment. Joe and I both like Mr Trump though we can of course understand the reasons why many people do not. Regardless of his hair and other personal flaws, we think his policies are mostly about right.
Trump is certainly the most amazing politician in that he is doing exactly what he said he would do and what he was voted in to do. Has there ever been another politician like that?
We also talked about Real Estate. Joe wants to get his name on something as soon as possible and both he and Kate are saving up at a good rate so should be able to buy jointly a Brisbane house in the not too distant future. As I know Brisbane Real Estate very well I was able to help Joe think through the various options involved. He is pretty firm that he wants to buy a house and not an apartment. I agreed with him on that. I nearly always bought houses before I went into the stockmarket instead.
Joe's idea is to continue living at my place and let his house out. He gets free accommodation and utilities at my place and he now has a small one bedroom apartment for himself and Kate so he can save money in comfort that way. I am of course pleased to have him under my roof as long as he wants.
And I know that just about every spare penny will go into savings. Joe has a very Scottish attitude to money. He makes sure he gets best value from everything he buys. But what he regards as good value can be surprising.
In Edinburgh he spent about $100 on two big and HEAVY books he saw in a book shop. They were a detailed history of a computer game company. Joe has been big on computer games since he was 2 so the purchase was not entirely surprising. The surprising thing is that, rather than mailing such heavy things back to Australia, he carted them all around Europe with him and has already read every page of them: A true eccentric. But since I too have many eccentricities I am delighted to have an eccentric son. I have a large brass Hindu idol in the entryway to my house so that is a warning of eccentricity ahead.
As we were finishing up breakfast, Joe mentioned that Kate had not had a chance to talk to me since they got back to Brisbane and suggested that the three of us might have dinner together. So this evening we did that. We went to the Memorized Place, a strangely-named Chinese restaurant that has excellent Szechuan food -- and waiters with a very limited comprehension of English. So ordering is always quite a trial but the food is worth it.
I had satay lamb and Kate had BBQ Pork with plum sauce. I forget what Joe had. The food was good as usual. We talked again about Real Estate and the future generally. We avoided talking about the entertaining Mr Trump as Kate is still in the grip of a university education.
I was told of a forthcoming event that I am not allowed to mention yet but it involves the Eiffel Tower. Gustave Eiffel can have had no idea of how entertaining his tower would be. It's basically a bridge turned on its ear.
27 January, 2017
Two good dinners
I have for around 30 years now attended an Australia day (26th) BBQ with relatives on my mother's side of the family. We are all pretty old by now however so enthusiasm for the event has waned. This year even my brother chose to attend the public celebrations at Southbank. So Anne arranged something for me.
She invited her sister June and Ralph (widower of Anne's late sister Merle) over to her place to join us that evening in a sausage BBQ. I provided the sausages and a bottle of Seaview brut champagne, my favoured champagne for many years.
In the event Anne decided not to fire up her BBQ and cooked the snags in her frypan. We had them with a chopped salad, a potato bake and white asparagus. Anne put fresh basil in her salad, which really made it. We had mini-lamingtons for dessert, which was good ethnic Australian.
It was good to see Ralph in good spirits and ready to chat. The death of Merle was a big blow to him but he is getting over it.
I forget what we talked about but Mr Trump undoubtedly got a mention or two.
Then the next day (27th) an event that I arranged last November came to fruition. I shouted a dinner that evening for two people I was in the army with -- Rod H. and Peter H. Peter bought his wife Lana along and Anne also came along.
We had the dinner in the Sunny Doll, a favourite Japanese haunt of mine. I began the evening with two toasts, one to the Queen, which is traditional, and one to our former army unit: 21 Psych. If you can't toast your old army unit what can you toast? The wine I contributed was Henkel trocken, a German champagne.
The food was brilliant as usual and we talked mainly about old times. Since we are all in our '70s that had to happen. We did have a rather jolly chat about Mr Trump at one stage, though. As usual the ladies mostly talked to one another. Anne found she shared a lot of interests with Lana.
We shared among 5 people so everybody got to taste a range of dishes. The Omu rice and the Wagyu beef Don were particularly appreciated. The docket below shows what we had but I think they left something off. They have done that before.
25 January, 2017
A birthday and a scan
It was Anne's birthday recently so I always let her say where we should dine that night. This year she chose what I normally choose for my birthday and what we normally choose for any special occasion: Fried French (lamb) cutlets with a good salad and other accompaniments. I supplied a total of 17 cutlets, of which only 3 were left over. We had it on my much-praised verandah, among the gentle breezes but with no sightings of possums this time.
We had one of my "Greek" (no lettuce) salads, including feta cheese, Manzanilla olives and avocado. For starters Anne brought along Sydney rock oysters -- which are the tastiest oysters in my view. We had them natural. It is in my view sacrilege to put sauces on Sydney rock oysters. And for dessert we had cheesecake. To wash it all down we had a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne". I recommend it. I think it beats Moet and Veuve Cliquot.
It probably seems like a rather simple meal for a special day but we really like it.
And I have just got the results of my latest scan. Being a cautious old guy, I get lots of scans for possible health problems, none of which, fortunately, have revealed anything much wrong so far.
My latest scan was motivated by the fact that Chris Brand, who is the same age as I am and who also likes his "wee dram", is at the moment hospitalized with cirrhosis of the liver. I thought therefore that someone should have a good look at my liver in case I need to cut back my gin consumption. And below is the result: ZERO cirrhosis. I average 4 gins a night so I guess I am just lucky. I am rather proud of my heroic liver, in fact. It's even got a "smooth hepatic contour"! Beat that! Who else do you know who has got a good-looking liver?
16 January, 2017
Carpet and I
When I was growing up in the tropical North, nobody had carpet on the floor. We had lino (linoleum; Congoleum) on the floor. Lino was cool, somehow. On really hot days, people would lie down on the lino to keep cool.
So my first encounter with carpet was down in Sydney, when I acquired an offcut of Westminster carpet. If you don't know Westminster carpet you have missed something. It was indestructible. Nothing seemed to harm it. And that was appreciated for a while. It was widely laid in the '60s and '70s. But it came in plain colours only. No patterns. So after living with the stuff for 10 years and having it look as new as when it was laid, people got very bored with it. They ripped it up and threw away perfectly good carpet. After a few years, I also ended up abandoning my offcut somewhere. It is still available but probably not from your local carpet shop. I believe you can get some patterns in it these days.
In Sydney I became quite an expert on carpet. Joy and I owned 22 flats (apartments) between us so we had a lot of tenants. And tenants are hard on carpet. So I was replacing a carpet somewhere pretty often. So to cut costs I would go to carpet auctions and buy it by the roll. A roll of carpet is HEAVY. Special forklifts are needed to move it. But somehow I managed. And I would hire layers to cut and lay it. Layers are a bit of a breed of their own but we got on one way or another.
My next bit of amusement was when I needed carpet for the anteroom of my present house. Carpet is expensive stuff but I needed only a small piece so I went to a shop that sold secondhand carpet. When carpet is ripped up, it mostly goes into a landfill but some shops save a few good bits. The bit I got looks like an Axminster, a very expensive carpet. It is all browns and golds in floral patterns. I like it. But it is in fact not an Axminster at all. It is a bit of rubberback (a cheap carpet) that has lost its rubber. But it acts like an Axminster. It has been down about 20 years now and still looks as good as ever.
My most recent adventure was when Anne decided to change the carpet in her living room. She had a nice plain oatmeal colour down. I believe that The Lodge in Canberra was once laid with carpet in an oatmeal colour. But it stains rather readily and is hard to keep clean so Anne was tired of it. So she went around the shops and found something she liked. I however insisted on seeing what she had chosen. It was a mid-brown and looked like poop. So I went around the shops with her to look at other options. To my amazement ALL the options were shades of poop. It must be a fashion. The only thing floral I could find was Axminster. So I bought that for her. It cost $1,000 more than poopy carpet but was well worth in it in my opinion. There's a sample of it below
People all seem to like it but one of Anne's sons referred to it as "granny carpet", which I suppose it is.
And another carpet experience was only nominally with carpet. It is really a rug. But people do call handmade rugs carpets so I guess I can too. The floors in my house are all polished boards so, perversely I suppose, I have lot of rugs down. There are three "Persian" (handmade) carpets and three Belgian cottons (machine-made).
And there is an interesting story about one of them. A friend was throwing it out as it had been badly treated and was all stained and dirty. I am however something of a salvor. I don't like seeing useful stuff being thrown out. "Waste not, want not", as my old Presbyterian mother used to say. And this was a large and heavy carpet so must have been worth a lot once. So I collected it and managed to talk to a dry-cleaning man and persuade him to do a run of his drycleaning machine with just my carpet in it. So I ended up with a carpet that was both clean and stripped of any oil and grease. Sadly, however, there were still stains on it so it didn't look clean. So I just put it away.
Recently, however, I decided to put it on my verandah. But it got very dirty again and the sun faded it a bit. So I got a man with a truck-mounted cleaning machine over to clean it up. I thought that with lots of detergent, lots of warm water and the big brushes of his scrubbing machine he might get my carpet cleaner than the dry-cleaning man did. He got the carpet smelling as fresh as a daisy but there were still stains there. So I now have it laid at the foot of my bed.
And if this were England, having an old and worn Oriental carpet down might not be bad at all. An eccentricity of upper class people in England and to some extent in America is that they like having old things around. And they regard fitted carpet as common. You mainly have old oriental (Persian, Baluchi etc) rugs down on your floors.
I inadvertently verified that once when I was first in England and rather unaware of the myriad social rules there. That unawareness actually got me a girlfriend from the aristocracy -- a lady who can trace her ancestry back 1,000 years. No Englishmen of common origins would have dared approach her but I did. And she was a very nice girl and we got on well.
But one day when I was in her apartment at Holland Park, I remarked that someone had given her a pretty tatty carpet. It was of course an old Oriental rug. She just smiled and said nothing. We had a nice time anyway.
11 January, 2017
A new taste sensation! Last night I had a dinner that I had never tasted before. I have been eating out off and on since I was 16 and I am now 73 so it is rare to find a dinner that is new to me. I have eaten much from all the world's cuisines. I have had Chinese food in Hong Kong, Philippine food in the Philippines, Mexican food in Mexico, South African food in South Africa, French food in France, Indian food in India and Indian food in England (don't mention English food). And during my 15 years in Sydney just about all the world's foods were available right there anyway. So I was surprised to encounter a taste I had not had before
It all began when I somehow noted that people in Northern Europe grow and eat a lot of barley. I had never had anything made from barley. So I bought some. And I wandered around the net looking for barley recipes. I found one that looked promising. But it looked a bit complicated for me to make so I put off making it. Eventually I told Anne that I was going to cook some barley for our next dinner. She was amused. She was even more amused when she saw the recipe. "You'll never make that!", she said. She knows that most of my cookery is just heating up something already prepared by the chefs at Woolworths.
So in the kindness of her heart Anne offered to make it for me. There was clearly a lot of time and work in the recipe so I gladly accepted her offer.
And I have just had the result. It was very good. On the plate it looked rather like savoury mince but the taste was quite different: Not a strong taste; a subtle taste but very more-ish. I am going to be asking Anne for more of it. I got the recipe off the barley organization so I imagine I might be getting some free barley soon if Google leads them to this post.
The recipe is below. Anne used pork mince and cut up the mushrooms finely. The recipe says "cooked barley" without explanation so Anne soaked it in for half a day and then boiled it until it was soft. Anne was surprised about the amount of salt but it was OK. Despite what the food freaks say, salt is good for you.
Barley Mushroom Stroganoff
Family favorite with a twist.
1 pound lean ground turkey, chicken
2 teaspoons olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
8 ounces sliced fresh mushrooms
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon chicken seasoning base
2 cups low-fat sour cream
1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
2 cups cooked pearl barley*
Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
Spray large skillet with non-stick cooking
spray; heat over medium heat. Add ground
turkey; crumble and cook until turkey is no
longer pink. Remove from pan and drain.
Pour off liquid from pan. Add olive oil,
onion and mushrooms; sautā 4 to 5 minutes,
stirring occasionally. Season with oregano,
salt and pepper. Cook 4 more minutes. Stir
in water and chicken seasoning. Blend
together sour cream and flour. Stir in sour
cream mixture, cooked barley and meat.
Continue to cook over low heat until heated
through. Garnish with parsley, if desired,
Makes 8 servings.
9 January, 2017
The female voice in song can be a most exciting thing. And none better than the voice of beautiful Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins below. It reduces me to tears. She sings it in the original Italian. Italy has given us much. The best known performance of the song is a duet between Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli at the Piazza dei cavalieri in Pisa but Jenkins has a much more powerful voice. She is, incidentally, a Christian.
The words and translation are here.
7 January, 2017
My new kettle
What is the difference between a kettle and a jug? It seems to me that a jug has the handle at the side and a kettle has a handle at the top.
I have a perfectly good plastic jug that boils water in an exemplary manner and has never given trouble in many years of use. So why did I buy the kettle above? Because I liked its retro looks.
But how well does it work? It's not quite as convenient as the jug because its water level indicator is hard to read. You have to jiggle the kettle to see it. It's easier to keep an eye on the water level as you fill the kettle. That's certainly retro!
The brand is Ambiano but that is an Aldi house brand. Most designer kettles are up around the $200 mark in price so getting this one for $30 seemed very Aldi.
Something that struck me as soon as I got the kettle home was the booklet that came with it. It may be the most defensive booklet I have ever seen. It was full of all sorts of conceivable warnings and claims of no responsibility for this and that.
And I think I now know why. I have googled Ambiano products and there are quite a lot of complaints about them. They are obviously trouble-prone. But the one I have does not seem to have been complained about so here's hoping!
My prediction about a possible problem? The handle will come off! I don't like the look of how it is fastened. That will of course make the kettle unusable.
6 January, 2017
And a good time was had by all
We somehow didn't see George over the Christmas period and Anne and I both always find George interesting to talk to. He often has something different and interesting to say. And he was around a lot somehow when I was helping to bring up kids -- so I was missing his cheerful face. Any family dinner or party I host always includes an invitation to George. He feels like part of the family.
So sometime around New Year I arranged to host a dinner for both George and Ken. George and Ken came out to Australia on the boat together so seem in my mind to be some sort of a pair. They certainly get on well. So tonight we got together --- including Anne and Maureen -- at my favourite dinner haunt: The Sunny Doll Japanese restaurant at Buranda. Meeting at 6:30.
Ken very kindly picked up Anne and myself on the way to the restaurant as he had noticed that I don't like driving these days. His newish VW car has all sorts of knobs and buttons in it that do things so that was interesting. The roof was a bit low for my 5'10" frame though. That's the penalty for sportiness, probably.
George got lost trying to find the restaurant. I told him it was next to Woolworths but "next" was a bit too imprecise apparently, and George at first picked the wrong Japanese restaurant. There are three of them at Buranda for some strange reason. So we initially thought he had forgotten but none of us had his mobile no. Anyway, he arrived just as I was ordering so that was no problem.
When we were arriving, I said to Maureen that she must have been well to come along. But she denied it. Maureen is always ill. She was pretty lively and alert at the dinner though. She is on some sort of restrictive diet so chose prawn tempura for her dinner because it fitted in with her diet somehow. She tried bits of the other dishes on the table though so the diet must be flexible.
I brought along a bottle of Wolf Blass "champagne" for drinks and we had a variety of dishes, chicken karaage, chicken teriyaki, omurice, vegetable tempura, Wagyu beef etc. The grilled Wagyu beef was unbelievable: a symphony in tenderness and taste. I think it is the best steak I have ever had. But I rarely eat steak so may not be a good judge.
Ken did his usual job of cleaning up the leftovers. I like to see that. "Waste not, want not" was a motto when I was growing up. A lot of Westerners at Japanese dinners just eat the meat and leave a lot of the beautifully-cooked rice. But between myself and Ken just about all the rice went down this time.
After the dinner we repaired to my verandah for tea, coffee and Arnott's Premier chocolate chip cookies. I always buy them for either Ken or Paul as both of them vacuum them up. If both Ken and Paul are there, the whole packet gets rapidly dispatched. Anne very kindly got us all our teas and coffees. She only does that for people she likes.
And during the evening the major topic of conversation was probably the world's most popular topic at the moment: Mr Trump. I did my little bit to campaign for Mr Trump, of course, so all conversations about Mr Trump are pleasant to me. When people are unenthusiastic about him, I assure them that most people find fault with him -- even those who support him -- but his policies have so much appeal to many of us that we overlook his faults. "Let him who is without fault cast the first stone", anyway (To paraphrase John 8:7). That Trump offers peace with Russia is alone enough to recommend him in my view. Any war with Russia would be just too dreadful.
Anyway, Ken thought Trump's policies were just common sense, which I agreed with. George was more doubtful. He was against Mr Trump during the campaign but has warmed to him after he won the election. The ladies just left politics to the men, in the traditional way.
So we wrapped up about 9:30 after much good food and much good conversation.
3 January, 2017
Australians are great lovers of meat (steak) pies. and of course we prefer freshly baked ones -- at around $4 each.
But in most supermarkets you can get a pack of 4 pies for $4. So what are THEY like?
An odd feature of them is that they are microwave friendly. Heat up a freshly baked pie in the microwave and the pastry comes out soggy. But put one or two of your $1 pies into a microwave for 4 minutes and they come out about right. By contrast, put a $1 pie in a conventional oven and they come out with "cast-iron" shells.
So the great discovery about frozen supermarket pies is the exact opposite to the wisdom about fresh pies. Microwave them! In the microwave, the crust softens and makes a perfectly nice pie. Not a great pie but pleasant enough.
I have had a couple recently accompanied by a few pickles: Cucumbers, Manzanilla stuffed olives and cocktail onions.
1 January, 2017
I saw in the new year in what seems to me to be a very good style. I had a naked woman beside me in my bed and a glass of gin on my bedside table. Can you beat that?
And where I live is close to Brisbane's Southbank so I could hear the Feuerwerk -- fireworks -- from my bed - even if I couldn't see any of it.
But I think that once you have seen one fireworks you have seen them all. Yes. I know. I have no soul.
As she returned to her bedroom, Anne wished me a happy new year. I replied in Latin: "et tu" (you too). But Latin is a European language so it probably made some sense to her.
For posts on this blog in 2016, see here
What would I like to be remembered about me long after I am dead and gone?
I would like it to be remembered that I too often experienced one of life's greatest pleasures: The first mouthful of cold beer on a warm day.
That pleasure will last as long as human beings are human beings, I believe
I am less certain about Bach. The last thing that people will remember about me long after I have gone will probably be: "He liked Bach". Will J.S. Bach continue to inspire people for a thousand years more? I think so. But beyond that I am not sure.
As Oscar Wilde might have said: Life is too important to be taken seriously
My full name is Dr. John Joseph RAY. I am a former university teacher aged 68 at the time of writing in late 2011. I was born of Australian pioneer stock in 1943 at Innisfail in the State of Queensland in Australia. After an early education at Innisfail State Rural School and Cairns State High School, I taught myself for matriculation. I took my B.A. in Psychology from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. I then moved to Sydney (in New South Wales, Australia) and took my M.A. in psychology from the University of Sydney in 1969 and my Ph.D. from the School of Behavioural Sciences at Macquarie University in 1974. I first tutored in psychology at Macquarie University and then taught sociology at the University of NSW. I am Australian born of working class origins and British ancestry. My doctorate is in psychology but I taught mainly sociology in my 14 years as a university teacher. In High Schools I taught economics. I have taught in both traditional and "progressive" (low discipline) High Schools.
Jenny is the first wife of Ken and the third wife of John
Maureen is the second wife of Ken
Paul and the twins (Vonnie and Suzy) are the children of Jenny and Ken
Joe is the child of Jenny and John
Timmy and Davey are the children of Ken and Maureen
Paul is married to Susan
Matthew is the son of Paul and Susan
Twinny Suzy is married to Russell
Von is married to Simon
Tracy is Ken's sister
Tracy is married to Simon (another Simon)
Hannah is the daughter of Von and Simon
Sahara and Dusty are the children of Twinny Suzy and Russell
George came out on the boat to Australia with Ken
George has a son named Simon (The 3rd. Simon)
Jill and Lewis are old friends of John
Anne is the lady in John's life these days
Anne has sisters named Merle and June. Merle is married to Ralph
Anne's sons are Byron, Nigel and Warren
Byron has two sons named Koen and Ethan and a wife named Bonnie
My brother is Christopher (married to Kim) and my surviving sister is Roxanne (married to Stefan)
Quite simple really!
DETAILS OF REGULARLY UPDATED BLOGS BY JOHN RAY:
"Dissecting Leftism" (Backup here)
"Education Watch International"
"Political Correctness Watch"