Old folk at lunch

Friday, October 20, 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.

Wednesday, October 18, 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

Monday, October 2, 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.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Jai Hind!


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.


Monday, September 25, 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.

----------------------

FROM:
Dr John Ray
Woolloongabba
Qld 4102
24 September, 2017

TO: Richard Goyder
CEO
Wesfarmers

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.

Yours faithfully,

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!

Monday, September 11, 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.

UPDATE: My trip to the supermarket this morning yielded a big surprise.  Hillview has really invaded the market. Today there was a big new display of Tasty cheese by them.  They have obviously stitched up a good deal with Woolworths and are here to stay.

Sunday, September 10, 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.

Friday, September 8, 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 it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – 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. It’s 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 don’t make anybody any money.

There are so many privacy and confidentiality restrictions around the most harmless of datasets that research teams won’t 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 they’re 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.

SOURCE

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A reunion


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

Monday, September 4, 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.

Thursday, August 31, 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.

Tuesday, August 29, 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:




Thursday, August 24, 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.


Tuesday, August 15, 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
Aristotle: Politics
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
Hebrew grammar
Homer: Odyssey
Homer: Iliad
Hume: Treatise of human nature
Machiavelli: Prince
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
Roman Readings
Sophocles: Electra
Sophocvles: Theban plays
Virgil: Aeneid
Xenophon: Persian expedition

Saturday, August 12, 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.

Sunday, July 30, 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.


Saturday, July 29, 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.

Saturday, July 22, 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!

Tuesday, July 18, 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

Monday, July 17, 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.

Friday, June 23, 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