Old folk at lunch

Sunday, May 1, 2016

I know the poor

Poverty is a shortage of money, right?  It is not.  In our society, poverty is an effect of foolish decisions.  It is a behaviour problem, not a money problem.

I have seen it many times but I saw it most frequently when I was the proprietor of a 22-room boarding house located in a poor area. Many of the residents would buy basic groceries etc from a nearby service station, where the prices were about 50% dearer that at the supermarket.  And there was a branch of a large supermarket chain only ten minutes walk away.

And on "payday" (the day when government welfare money was paid into their accounts) it was a wonder to see the casks of "goon" (Sweet white wine in a cardboard box) coming into the place.  There was always money for alcohol.

And I had to be on the ball on "payday" too.  I had to get my rent before the money was all spent.  I even knew where some of them drank and would go in and collect my money from them at the bar.

And they would often have fights, usually over women.  And that often left me with property damage. I always had a glazier ready on call to fix broken windows.  I could have tried to claim that cost back off them but that would have been in vain. By the end of the week most had nothing left in their pockets.

And the fighting was not limited to my place.  They would also get into fights in bars and elsewhere.  And the loser in a fight generally had his money stolen off him, often on the night of "payday".  So, sometimes, if I had not got his money that day, he would have nothing left by the time I got to him.

But not all welfare clients are like that.  Many are prudent enough to have money left over at the end of the week and accumulate some savings.  One such was a tall black Melanesian man -- named Apu if I remember rightly.  When I approached him for his rent he said:  "I got into a fight last night and lost my money ... so I went to the bank and got some out".  He was the only man ever to say that to me.

So he was not poor. He had money for his needs and could put something aside as well.  He got the same "pay" as everyone else but he was more prudent in his behaviour.

I spent many years endeavouring to provide respectable accommodation for the poor but the poor did not make it easy for me.  Many are their own worst enemies.

And in my younger days I lived on Australia's student dole for a couple of years -- and led a perfectly comfortable life.  The student dole was actually a bit below what the unemployed got.  So I have NEVER been poor.

I sometimes had only a little money but I have always had savings, have always eaten well, have always had comfortable accommodation, have always had sufficient clothing, have always had lots of books (mostly bought very cheaply secondhand), have always had good access to the sort of recorded music that I like,  have always been able to afford the day's newspaper and have rarely been without an attractive girlfriend.

I did not however drink alcohol until I could afford it.  I was teetotal until I was about 28.  And I have never smoked or used illegal drugs.  So I made good choices -- for which I largely thank my fundamentalist Christian background -- and have always been contented


While I am enormously grateful to  my Protestant background for putting my teenage feet onto the right path, there seem to be some genetics involved too.  I say that because my son, who did not have that background, is a lot like me.  He seems to save as  much as he spends and yet has an attractive girlfriend, a job he enjoys and vast amounts of "stuff" - mainly books and computer games.

He does however have an addiction -- as young people these days mostly seem to.  So is he addicted to heroin, cocaine, marijuana  or "Ice"?  Far from it.  He is addicted to flavoured milk. He finds it hard to get past the flavoured milk display at our  local supermarket.  At a time when young people pour all sorts of foul things into themselves, I am overjoyed about that

Milk IS bad for his waistline but he has the self-discipline to  get that under control from time to time too.  I think that both he and I have inherited Puritan genetics.  I am convinced there is such a thing.  It is a great gift.

And let us not forget that Puritans founded America.  So Puritans can be people of considerable personal effectiveness.  And for some people Puritanism feels right.  It did for me.  People exiting restrictive religions tend to be resentful of their times in the religion concerned.  But I revelled in it. And it is still a fond memory of that time in my life

So in the end I have to agree with a great Rabbi:  "The poor ye always have with you". There may not be such a thing as "white privilege" (most of my lodgers were white) but there may be such a thing as an inborn Puritan privilege -- JR

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Jason brings home the golden fleece

After Joe built my new Windows 10 computer recently, we had some leftover bits from my old Windows 7 computer that I wanted to re-use, an old hard drive and an A-drive. Joe bought an old secondhand computer for $80 for that purpose and set it up using Windows XP.  Alas, however, my leftover hard drive was so old (about 10 years) that it could not be used even with my old $80 computer. It is an IDE drive, now obsolete.

My old mate Jason had an idea, however.  He knew of an adapter that you can get from China for $20 that converts an IDE interface to a USB interface.  So he got me one. And today was the big day to install it.

It didn't work. But Jason is not accustomed to defeat by any computer.  He has been using personal computers since he was a kid -- starting out with the venerable VIC-20. The VIC-20 was the first computer of any description to sell one million units.  So his brain is full of all sorts of understanding of computers.

So he kept trying all sorts of strategies to get the new system to work.  After nearly two hours of hard work and at least a dozen tries he finally did it.

It turns out that an IDE drive uses slightly more power than more modern drives -- so the power supply that came with the USB adapter was inadequate.  Fortunately, however, my old $80 computer was a originally a quality one -- a Hewlett Packard.  So it had inside it a variety of power outlets to enable use of various peripheral devices.  And one of them had the extra power that my old IDE drive needed.

So once we discovered that it was all plain sailing and I now have up and running an old XP machine complete with two functioning hard drives and an A-drive -- a genuine museum piece.  I now have 3 different old computers up and running in my mini-museum.  The others are a DOS machine and an Amiga 500.  Men like their machines.


There really was a golden fleece

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

How old people give directions

When a young person wants to tell another person where something is, he will pick out prominent buildings or features that are nearby.

Old people do that too but they have another tool at their disposal.  When talking to another old person, they will often describe where something USED to be.  Anne and I do it often.  We might for instance say:

John:  Where do that young couple live these days?

Anne:  Opposite where the Thompsons used to live

John:  Opposite where the Thompsons used to live!  Ah!  Now I get you

So being old has some advantages

But health problems usually ensure that it is not a golden age. I think most of us oldies look back to the time when we were involved in bringing up children as our golden age.  Maybe not for everyone

But old age does have a few advantages.  We are under less pressure to achieve.  We know by then who we are and where we are.  We no longer have to strive to get somewhere or establish anything.

There is some tendency for older people to get more religious too -- particularly in women

I am still as atheist as ever but I will probably say on my deathbed "Shema Yisreal" -- not out of any expectation of a reward -- just in an appreciation of the good.  I would like to be able to say the whole prayer but I can't memorize anything much these days. I am glad I learnt a lot of poetry when I was young. Perhaps if I am compos mentis enough I could get a Rabbi to come and say it for me.    It's a prayer of devotion but I like its triumphant tone

Monday, April 25, 2016

A rather mad ANZAC day

Because everything was going to be shut up for ANZAC day, Anne came over to cook me breakfast.  I had a leftover pack of hot-cross buns in the freezer so that was the main focus.  Anne put them in the oven for an inscrutable time and they came out fine.  She also brought over the leftovers of a chicken she had cooked for her and June the night before so I cut my hotcross buns into two, buttered them, and ate them with chicken in the middle. Very satisfactory!

And somehow we used an amazing amount of crockery and cutlery for the process.  There ended up plates and cutlery all over the place on my verandah table afterwards

We both watched the march on TV after breakfast.  I watched only a bit of it but Anne watched it all.  She was on the lookout for people she knew  There were huge numbers in the march so that was not unrealistic.  She saw no-one this year, though.

Then that night I offered Anne a Thai curry dinner (out of my  freezer) while I cooked a pack of snags for myself.  But it didn't end up that way.  Anne cooked up some rice to have with her curry but I found when I opened my offered packet of curry that it already had rice with it.

So how to proceed?  I had expected to have toast with my snags but I decided that rice would be good too.  And six snags were a bit much for me alone so both of us ended up having three snags and rice for our dinner -- which neither of us had foreseen.

But the snags were good, the rice was fine and I had a new bottle of "Chipotle" (Mexican) BBQ sauce to have with the snags -- so we did well. The sauce was only a bit peppery.

I grabbed out of the fridge what I thought was a bottle of beer to have with it all but it turned out to be a bottle of ginger beer only.  But it was fine.  Chaos was still pretty good.  And we ended up with lots of cutlery on the table for that meal too!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

St. George's day

I missed out on celebrating St. George's day yesterday.  St. George is of course the patron saint of England and I do often celebrate it. I thought of it rather late in the week and Anne was ill the day before so it was all too hard this year.  I fly the flag of St. George daily on the flagpole at the front of my house but that is probably just a token of my eccentricity.  I also have a large brass Hindu idol (Ganesha) greeting people as they walk in my front door so I think my claim to be eccentric is on firm ground.  We bright sparks are allowed to be eccentric.

In Britain these days, the St. George flag has been adopted by people who are proud to be English rather than British.  People of immigrant origin from all over the world are described as British these days.  So I have a certain sympathy for that. My origins too are mainly English and I am most grateful for that.  Britain has a lot of troublesome immigrants these days whereas our main immigrant group are Han Chinese -- who are no trouble at all.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Reflections about my forebears

Taking an interest in one's forebears is a very conservative thing to do. Leftists usually act as if the world started yesterday.  They are certainly slow to learn from history. Despite all the horrors that Communism has unleashed on the world, you still have a neo-Communist, Bernie Sanders, running for President of the United States at the moment.  His rhetoric is over two centuries old and there is no doubt about where it has previously led.

I am rather bemused by what the more addled Leftists in American universities call "whiteness" studies. Whites are an evil lot who should be ashamed of themselves and give all their goods to minorities -- is the general message.

But I am not at all ashamed of my whiteness.  I am very pleased by it.  And I am impressed by my white forebears.  Two of my ancestors came out to Australia from the other side of the world in frail little wooden ships.  When men went to sea in such ships there was always a high likelihood (a third?) that they would never come back  Yet they repeatedly did it  Why?

It was partly because of the way that men are fascinated by machines. And their ships were quite complex wooden machines, probably the most complex machines of their day. Sail was perhaps an even older technology than the wheel.  It enabled people to move things through time and space without being totally reliant on human or animal muscle

Bodies of water were the highways of the ancient world.  People  had little in the way of roads so you could not go far or easily on land.  But you could by water.  So your technology was focused on movement across water.  And thus you could move things long distances and bring back things from far places.  Sailing ships were a very USEFUL technology.  They expanded greatly what humans could do.  They could even remove humanely problem people from their society.

And two of my ancestors were such problem people.  But by dint of the great skills of white people they arrived safe and sound  after long and wearying transport across a vast distance. Another society -- e.g. a Muslim one -- might simply have killed off or mutilated those two of my petty-criminal forebears but the humane white people of England simply sent them far away.  I am proud to be of that ilk.

But what do we know of my more remote forebears? There is always disputation about these things but it seems that they were originally Celts, ancestors of most of the people who now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales. And the people now living in Cornwall, Brittany, Scotland and Wales are very similar to the rest of the current British population.   So it seems likely that the Celts were much like we are today.

Most of what we know about the early Celts we get from Roman writers, particularly Caesar.  In Commentarii de Bello Gallico he tells us about his conquests of the Celts in Gaul (now France). We learn that they were big and fierce fighters who would rush into battle with great  enthusiasm.  They were too disorganized, however.  They were regularly defeated by the discipline of the little Roman troops.  Roman soldiers from Italy were mostly only about 5' tall but the taller Celts were regularly defeated by the  better organization and discipline of Caesar's troops.

When it came to the Germans however, the Romans had REAL trouble.  Those guys were even bigger and even more ferocious.  They wiped out whole Roman legions at times.  They stopped Roman conquest at the Rhine.

Caesar invaded Britain in 55BC but did not occupy it permanently.  That took place nearly 100 years later, leading to Britain being under Roman control for around 400 years.  And around 500 AD  later the Germans arrived, conquered and settled.

So you would think that modern-day British people  would have a blend of Celt, Roman and German genes.  And it is partly like that.  And I have no doubt both Celtic and German genes in me.  But what about the Romans?  The  DNA studies of the current British population find little or no trace of them.  We know that the first thing conquering armies did in the old days was to rape the women of the conquered population so what happened to all the Roman genes that should have entered the British gene-pool at that time?  Unlike the Greeks, the Romans weren't baby-killers so there does seem to be a mystery there.

But there is in fact no great mystery. Rome was very multicultural.  You did not have to be of Italian origin to have all the advantages of Roman citizenship.  Even St. Paul, a Hellenized Jew, was a Roman citizen.  And so it was with Roman armies.  It was very unlikely that many Italian troops ever went to Britain.  The legions that did go were probably raised from somewhere more conveniently located, most probably Celtic Gaul (modern France).  So Celts trained in Roman military discipline went to Britain and defeated Celts using Celtic customs.  The Roman conquest and occupation probably did very little to alter the Celtic nature of the British population.

So I have in me the genes of two very capable white populations, the Celts and the Germans -- plus a bit of Norman and Scandinavian probably.  And I know enough about both groups to be  rather pleased about all that.  I am privileged to be descended from such capable people.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Joe is back from the middle kingdom

The middle kingdom?  Has one of Joe's computer games come to life?  Not quite.  There really is such a place.  We refer to it as the land of the Chin, though the Chin dynasty is long gone -- China, in other words.  The Chinese name for their country cannot adequately be translated into English, though it can be translated well into German.  In German it would be Das Mittelreich.  So the "Middle Kingdom" is the best we can do.  The idea is that the Chinese see China as the centre of the world.  They always have and they still do.  And by the end of this century they will be right.

Joe went there with the CIO of the company he works for.  The firm is buying some hardware from China -- as you do -- and Joe had the job of working out how to program it.  The fact that his boss took Joe with him suggests to me that they see Joe as their hotshot programmer.  He probably is:  Not only because he is a versatile coder but mainly because of his problem-solving ability, I would think.  An old word for problem-solving ability is IQ.

Anyway Joe can himself see that he has hit the ground running in his new job so is looking forward to a bigger pay packet in due course. Pay packets tend to be healthy in his line of work.

They went to Shanghai on a Qantas airbus and arrived back yesterday at around midday.  Joe brought me back a big bottle of "Bombay Sapphire" London dry gin distilled for the Asian market.  To my limited palate, it tastes much the same as any other middle-range gin. All gin has lots of botanicals in it and the ones added to this one were Thai lemongrass and Vietnamese black peppercorns.  How do I know that?  It says so on the bottle.  International trade is an amazing thing:  A gin distilled in England, named after a place in India and designed for China.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Innisfail State Rural School -- a document

If you google Innisfail State Rural School,  you will mostly get links to things that I have put online.  Other than that there are only some old newspaper clippings put online by Trove, the excellent service by the National Library of Australia.

So I want to put online a document that will show once and for all that it did exist.  It is one of my old report cards -- from Grade 4.

It is a rather tattered document but it is the only record I have of 7 years of my life.  It is from my primary school days.  A Rural School was a combined primary and secondary school in a place that could not support  separate primary and secondary schools.

Another Ingeborg Hallstein clip

I have just come across her singing "Ich bin die Christel von der Post", from  1973.  I am used to the version sung by Ute Gfrerer but they are both very good.  The operetta was "Der Vogelhandler" by Zeller

She once again uses heavy eye makeup.  I think that was characteristic of the time.

Below is another clip, with her singing the famous Nightingale song by Grothe. She has just the voice for that

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A quiet Easter

Anne was away camping with one of her sons and his family and Joe was in Canberra with Kate so I just sat in front of my computer for most of the time. But I got a lot of writing done so that was good.

My usual breakfast haunts were closed for Easter so I just went to Stone's Corner.  There are about six cafes in a row there so a couple were open and the breakfasts there are good. I did go to Buranda on the Saturday, however, as that is not an official holiday.  The restaurants were however all closed.  But Woolworths was having a sausage sizzle so I had some of that.  I like sausages so I was quite happy with that.

For my evening meals I had stuff out of my freezer -- which was excellent.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Cheese quest

When I was helping to bring up kids many moons ago, computer games like Kings Quest, Space Quest, Police Quest etc were all the rage.  My present quest is obviously much less important than that but it has some importance to me.

Going back further: When I was a kid in the '40s and '50s there was no variation in what cheese we ate.  It was always Kraft cheddar cheese in the blue packet and with the silver foil inside.  That it didn't need refrigeration even in the tropics was probably part of its appeal.  And I don't think our household was much different from any other at the time.  I think Australia had something of a cheese monoculture at that time.

As time went by however, the available types of cheese proliferated -- and Kraft cheddar faded from view.  But the variety did not conquer all.  What happened was that a new monoculture arose: "Tasty" cheese arose to rule the roost.

And like a good Australian, I too for many years mainlined on Tasty.  Recently, however, I have looked outside my rut a bit and have tried some other cheeses.  And as part of looking more widely, I wondered if you could still get the old Kraft cheddar.  Rather to my surprise I found that I could.  My local Woolworths has it in a small corner down the bottom of one of its shelves.

So I wondered how it matched up against more modern cheeses.  I bought a packet. And it was still quite pleasant but a bit bland.  It goes very well as grilled cheese on toast however.  So Kraft cheddar was the beginning but not the end of my quest.

Other cheeses I have tried include Club Cheddar from the Mary Valley (Queensland) -- with pickled onion in it -- and Cracker Barrel black label.  The Onion cheese has the best taste in my view but both are a bit too crumbly for me.

So my quest continues. Is there a cheese with a strong cheesy flavour that is not crumbly?

Friday, March 11, 2016

A dinner with JM

I am rather bad at keeping up with old friends, which is rather regrettable, as I have come across some pretty fine people over the years.  Someone I saw a lot of around 20 years ago was JM.  He used to be my repairman for wonky Amiga computers.  Whenever I arrived at his shop, however, we would have a chat, which we both found rewarding. I think I had a lot of influence in getting him interested in real estate and he got me into options trading on the stockmarket.

Options trading is a bit of  a mug's game, I have concluded.  It's only the stockbrokers who do well out of it.  By the time JM and I both gave it up he a had lost big money and I came out about square.  But real estate has been kind to both of us.

When the fashion for Amiga computers passed, I lost touch with JM  for a long time.  One morning about a year ago, however he spotted me in a coffee place where I often go and we caught up with one another.  Since then he has been helpful to Joe in getting all my old Amiga gear going again.  Joe remembers spending years on the Amiga when he was a kid so likes to have an Amiga still available

Anyway, I woke up to myself and shouted JM and his lady a dinner at the Sunny Doll tonight, with Joe also coming along.  I am  resolved to keep in some touch from now on with the clever and pleasant man that JM is.

The Sunny Doll did their usual trick of putting before us some amazingly good Japanese food amazingly promptly.  We also arranged for JM to come over next Tuesday to do a bit more work on getting all my Amiga gear up to scratch.  I now have an Amiga hard drive going, which is a bit rare.

I am something of a sentimentalist, which is why I kept my old Amiga stuff.  I thought some of the kids might one day want their own kids to experience the old games.  And I always suspected that Joe would turn out to be a sentimentalist, since both his mother and father are.  And it has now happened.  He is sentimental about the old games and has in fact introduced some of his friends to them.  He and JM spent some time over dinner talking about them.

What is sentimentalism?  I think it is just an appreciation of how things once were.  Not all good resides in the present. It does not exclude being fully engaged with the present.  Certainly in his job as an IT professional, Joe is really at the cutting edge of how things are evolving.

The biggest sentimentalist in the family is Von, Joe's sister.  Mostly, to be a sentimentalist you have to have something to look back upon, so you usually become sentimental well into your adult life.  But Von has been sentimental since she was a little girl.  She has kept mementos of things she enjoyed throughout her life.  She is basically a very happy lady.  I think that is basically what underlies sentimentalism.  It is a capacity to enjoy many things.

A comment from my brother:

A view I can identify with. I still have my father's old rifle and I know every old tool in my tool box that Frank used to own -- and keep them in good order. Alas I have trouble passing the concept of history onto my children bought up with a throwaway society before certain possessions were supposed to last a lifetime or more. It is a rare pleasure that I fear few now understand to pick up an old hammer or pair of pliers and know that your father used to use the same tool.

Friday, March 4, 2016

A birthday

My brother CER has just had a birthday so I decided to buy him a dinner in celebration. He and his wife came along to my favourite Japanese restarurant near where I live and a few others came along to help with the celebrating. Anne came, Joe came  plus Jenny and Nanna so there were seven of us all told.

The restaurant was unusually busy but I had booked in advance so I got my preferred table and the kitchen was well prepared so our dinners came out as promptly as usual

We talked a bit about The Donald, with both my brother and myself saying we hope he wins.  I had my old faithful plumber over during the day and he also was hoping for a Trump win.

We washed our dinners down with Fourex Gold and Barossa pearl, which my brother declared he liked.  It's considered an unprestigious drop but that did not deter him.  Anne and I are very keen on it.  It was one of the earliest Australian wines but it went out of production in 1983.  Owing to popular demand, however, it was brought back a couple of years ago

We had quite as few dishes from the menu with some of them shared but they were all, as usual, good.  To save me the trouble of mentioning them, below is the sales docket I got.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A saint's day, a birthday and a funeral

14th was St Valentine's day, now quite shorn of any thing religious.  But the ladies like it so we men do it.  I bought Anne roses, chocolates and a card as usual and offered to take her to a restaurant we haven't visited lately.

On the day, however, I also gave her a table!  She wanted a table on which to lay out a big jigsaw so I took a 4' (1200 mm) one I had in storage downstairs and, with Anne's help, brought it upstairs and made a place for it in her room. I have had a fair bit of removalist experience over the years and I needed all of it.  Getting it through a series of narrow doorways was quite a job.  Anyway, getting a table as a Valentine's day gift must be a rarity.

Also on the day, however, Anne was feeling a bit down due to the fact that her eldest sister had died the night before.  It was very much an expected death after a long decline but the reality is of course still a blow.

So rather than go out to a restaurant, we just got in fish & chips from a local fish shop that we knew to be good.  We had it al fresco on my verandah with some champagne so we both enjoyed it.  Both Anne and I regard fish 'n chips as a treat.

And yesterday I put on a dinner for Jill's birthday.  Jill is one of the few people outside family that I keep in touch with. As usual we went to a West End Greek restaurant that we know.  I like to make the dinner one of 4 or 5 courses so the courses have to be small.  But the restaurant concerned offers many of its foods in appetizer form so we had a lot of them.  We had Keftedes, Haloumi, Tarama, Pastourma, traditional Greek salad plus alcohol and dessert -- all at a very modest cost.  It was good to catch up with Jill and Lewis and particularly good to see Lewis still hale and hearty in his 80s.

And today was the funeral for Anne's eldest sister.  I did not go to the interment but attended the church service afterward, mainly to give Anne support.  It was at the local Presbyterian church and attracted a full house -- as Anne's sister had been very active in the church for a long time.  Being a bit deaf, I understood very little of the sermon or the prayers but I doubt that I missed much.

The "wake" afterward was better.  The fare was very Presbyterian -- ham sandwiches and cold water -- but I am very keen on sandwiches so it was fine by me.

I cooked Anne a shepherd's pie for supper -- a ready-made one from Woolworths that just had to be popped into the oven for half an hour to cook.  I have no idea who the Woolworths cook is but he makes great dinners and we enjoyed that one -- helped by a cold bottle of Tyrrell's Verdelho.  Tyrrell does Verdelho much better than other vintners in my opinion.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anne's birthday plus two things that did not happen

Anne was deadset on going to the Hilton for her birthday so I took her there on Saturday.  I almost always find fancy places like that disappointing.  The food is often "innovative", which usually means "strange".  So I was not totally surprised at the strange dinner we did get.  I thought that ordering a mixed grill for the both of us would be pretty safe but it wasn't.  It allegedly included: "slow roasted pork belly. outside skirt. kangaroo fillet. lamb cutlet. duck breast. handmade italian sausage. lemon. salsa verde. micro greens."

That sounds OK on a quick glance but the "sausage" was just some sort of small rissole and the last two items were just some kind of sauce.  I am quite keen on mixed grills but I have never before come across one consisting of meat only.  No eggs, no bacon, no fried onions, no salad etc.  And I didn't even get a bread roll with it!  And the dessert I ordered again sounded good on paper but turned out to be tiny: Good for the waistline, I guess.  And the ambiance was non-existent.  We were seated facing a blank wall!  A very poor return for the nearly $200 I spent. No wonder they had so many empty tables on a Saturday night.  I didn't complain about it to Anne or any one else at the time but I will never set foot in that place again.  I often host family dinners at the Bollywood which cost me $300+ so I don't mind spending the money. I just like to get good food and good value for money.

Next morning was better.  Anne and I went along to a breakfast organized by her son Byron at "Lock & Load", a West End cafe we know well.  Byron has two little boys so I sat with them and had the sort of fun I always have with little kids. They amuse me and I amuse them.  The food was good as it always is there.  We had it in the back garden, which makes a pleasant venue.  A much better ambiance than at the Hilton.  If I were a Muslim I would say:  "Death to the Hilton".  Fortunately, my values are Christian.

The things that did not happen:  I have in past years put on a Burns night on 25th but that got a bit hectic for an old guy like me. With a birthday on 23rd and Australia day on 26th it was a lot of celebrating.  So I no longer do a Burns night.

But, as it happens, our usual family BBQ on Australia day was cancelled at the last minute so I had a quiet day.

That evening, however, Joe came in to help me set up a small computer museum.  So, in addition to my Windows 10 main computer and my notebook computer, I now have a DOS machine and an XP machine up and running.  Joe did all the work as he knows a lot about hardware as well as being a programmer. He told me recently that he is writing some firmware for his employers, which I found impressive -- though I suppose it is just another "C" exercise.

UPDATE:  Joe wrote the program using C#, which is blue, he tells me, in a rare burst of synaesthesia. C# is a Microsoft version of "C"

Friday, January 1, 2016

A quiet New Year

With Anne being away I spent my New Year's eve pretty much alone.  Joe came in however and connected the new DVD drive for my computer so that was good.  The new drive does work well.  I watched an operetta DVD on it and the new drive did not hang up on a bad patch where my other DVD players did.

And I decided to go shopping at Aldi to see what the latest of their ever-changing range was. I was rather pleased to see that Aldi do markdowns on slowly-moving stock too. I bought a few things, including an allegedly Angus beef family pie for $3.59.

That night I microwaved a frozen dinner of Gyoza plus Udon noodles that was quite good.  Frozen dinners have improved a lot these days.  I had it with leftover salad from Tuesday, a leftover bread roll and some leftover tomato juice.  It added up to a reasonable dinner.

Today I went in search of breakfast at the Buranda shopping center, as I often do.  As I expected, it was all closed up but as I also expected, the Pakistani kebab shop over the road was open.  They do quite a good kebab so I had that.  One of the sauces offered for the kebab was "chuckney" sauce.  I deduced that "chutney" was meant so ordered that.  It was nothing like any chutney I know but it was OK.

I then decided that I needed a treat so noted that the frozen yoghurt shop was open.  I went in and had a bowl of half mango and half chocolate flavour topped with mulberries.  A definite indulgence.

And for dinner I had the discounted pie that I bought from Aldi.  It was fine.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

An early New Year's eve

Anne will be away bushwalking on New Year's eve so we brought our celebration forward to today.

Anne brought along some fresh Sydney rock oysters as she usually does for special dinners. They are small but very tasty.

We had our favourite main course: Lots of lamb cutlets with plenty of salt and fried onions -- plus salad and bread.  I guess it seems humble but it suits us.

It may surprise some but lamb is a rather dear meat in Australia these days.  Not many families can have it routinely.  There is a lot of demand for the bodies of our dear little woolly creatures from overseas, which jacks up the price.

Von and Simon live in NZ sheep country and they in fact produce lambs with some regularity.  So they can always have all the lamb they want as long as they can explain to little Hannah where all the dear little lambs have gone.  Not easy!

Simon told me where NZ sheepmeat mostly goes but all that I can remember is that mutton mostly goes to India.  What the main markets for hogget and lamb are I forget -- but I think the Middle East is big somewhere there.

We had a bottle of St. Henri shiraz with it.  St. Henri used to be regarded as the second best wine from Penfolds after Grange. That may not still be so.  It is a fairly expensive drop but nowhere near as dear as Grange. It used to be a lighter wine than Grange and it still is but it is much closer to Grange these days.  Anyway, it went down well

We finished off with some Christmas pudding and cream.

Then we took a trip to the Mozarthaus in Salzburg to take in an excellent performance of one of the world's most famous comic operas, Così fan tutte.  We went there via my big screen and a two-DVD set I have recently acquired.  You see more on DVD than you would by going there physically anyway.

As anybody who knows the show will tell you, it was was 200 minutes of silliness,  but amusing silliness.  It was the 2013 performance that I have.  I did not know any of the singers but it was a good production all round:  Minimal sets but lots of wonderful Mozart music.

BTW:  People who know no Italian sometimes pronounce the name of the show as if it were "Cosy fan tutte".  It is not.  The squiggle on top of the i tells you that the final syllable is accented.  It is an "ee" sound. Italian almost always stresses the penultimate syllable but, like all natural languages, it has some irregularities.


Von found the useful chart below about where our lambs go. The big consumer is Europe, followed by Japan. Makes sense. There's lots of well-off people there. Australia and New Zealand may sell into different markets, however.

Friday, December 25, 2015

A good Christmas

On Xmas eve Jenny put on a sausage sizzle for 6 of us: Herself & Nanna, Joe and Kate and Anne and myself.  The sausages were allegedly by Heston Blumenthal but the degree of his involvement must be speculative.  They were good anyway.  Sausages are one of my favorite foods.  And we had a good Pavlova for dessert.

So Kate had a real family occasion for Xmas even though she was away from her own family.  There were 3 generations present, including a 91 year old grandma.

Jenny had presents under her tree for us all and Anne brought along some presents too. I just handed out cheques of a sufficient amount to buy something pretty good.  They seemed well received.  Nanna said she is going to spend her cheque on a "nice" new watch.

Joe got a game called "5 second rule" which we all later played. To progress in the game you have to answer simple questions very rapidly.  My brain has slowed down in my old age so I was hopeless at it.  Kate was the youngest present and she won it.

And on Xmas day Joe drove us out to Suzy & Russell's place -- our frequent venue for family occasions.  We had cheeses for morning tea including one that was vegetarian -- made from tofu or some such!  I didn't try it. Lunch was mainly the product of a big and nicely cooked ham, with accompaniments, of course.  There was no food-freakery about our Xmas fare.  It  was totally "incorrect" according to a lot of modern notions but we all just bogged in to it all.  Timmy had brought along some creations based on Tim Tams that seemed likely to cause instant diabetes!

I talked mainly to Jenny, Ken and our Squadron Leader.  He really is a Squadron Leader -- back in Brisbane for the holidays.  Not being an airforce type, I always have to ask him if he is a Squadron Leader or a Wing Commander but he informed me that Wing Commander is way too high up for him.  He doesn't fly aircraft but he does supervise them.  We had a big debate at one stage over whether fantasy fiction is good fiction.  Ken and I thought not and Kate weighed in with a defence of Harry Potter.

We talked a fair bit about global warming at one stage, which we all find hilarious.  Kate was not aware of the facts about it so Joe, Ken and I explained it all to her.  As a psychology graduate, she is familiar with the concept of statistical significance so was surprised to hear that the differences between average global temperatures for recent years have not been statistically significant.

In that case, a scientist should report that global temperatures have been flat for nearly 20 years -- with no warming whatsoever.  As Kate said in proper philosophy of science terms, the null hypothesis should have been accepted. The media however always report the tiny differences -- usually in one hundredths of one degree -- as showing that the recent year has been the "warmest".  Sadly, most people believe it.  Tiny random fluctuations are held to prove something.

I actually spent most of Xmas eve writing a small essay about global warming and I made some other points to Kate that are the same as the last two paragraphs of that essay.

So it was a day of interesting and fun discussions.

For the kids there was a water balloon fight in which some of the adults joined too.  That was obviously the biggest fun of the day. There were three littlies present: Dusty, Sahara and Ava-Marie.  Little Ava-Marie has turned out to be a very pretty little girl.

We arrived at about 10 o'clock and left at about 3 o'clock. As soon as I got home I had a big nap.

At around 7pm Anne arrived at my place after being at her son's place for most of the day.  We watched the Queen's Xmas message and then had our usual Christmas night supper: ham sandwiches.  I always buy the ham for our Christmas lunch so get to take a few  offcuts with me when I leave to go home. So it makes very nice ham sandwiches later on

I liked the Queen's Christmas message.  I was pleased that she quoted chap. 1 of the Gospel of John, a most interesting chapter that I have studied at great length.  I can even recite some of it in the original Greek!  The gnostic elements in it make it interesting.

I am rather pleased to see that the Queen, who is Head of the Church of England, is actually a Christian.  As she said in her 2014 message: "For me, the life of Jesus Christ, the prince of peace, whose birth we celebrate today, is an inspiration and an anchor in my life."


And Anne and I carried on our gastronomic adventures into Boxing day.  For breakfast Anne made us some chipolata sausages and beans with fried onions and and a fried egg.  Plus toast off course.  It is undoubtedly humble food but I enjoyed it.  It is food of my own ethnicity and I am happy about that.

And that night was a Saturday night, which is my sandwich night.  I don't like going out on Saturday night among all the drunks so I eat at home and use the time to indulge myself with another of my likes: Sandwiches.

And the bread you use for sandwiches does matter.  For some reason unknown to me the far-and-away best white bread in Brisbane comes from Chinese bakers. So I went to the brilliant Chinese bakery at  the Woolloongabba Fiveways and got a loaf of it for my sandwich night.

We still had some ham off the bone left over from Christmas so we had ham sandwiches without any pickles or anything else on them.  And that was great.

The Chinese also make brilliant meat pies, rather surprisingly, so when I was there I saw some of them winking crustily at me in the display cabinet so had to buy one of them too.  Anne and I had half of it each.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A welcome visit

I was pleased today to receive a visit from Martin C**, a relative on my mother's side.  As far as I can figure he is my second cousin.  And he looked in good form.  He is a good-looking blue-eyed and good humoured man in the prime of his life.  He even has hair. I have some but he has more.

I got my brother to come along as he is the one who is up with our family genealogy.  Martin has done heaps in that direction so I needed help with that.

I was amused to find that Martin is like most of my relatives -- very conservative,  I am not going to dob him in but what once was said of Syngman Rhee (who was he?) is roughly true of Martin: "He is so far Right that he is almost out of sight".  My brother and my son are similar so Martin was in congenial company.  It's a pity he does not live in Brisbane normally. He would be a fun guest on many occasions.  I would like to hear him talk to some Leftists.  They wouldn't believe their ears.

He lives in the far North, where I come from. And views such as his or mine are perfectly mainstream there. I suspect that my surviving sister, Mrs. Smith (Yes. That really is her name), might think that way too. I know she loathes Arabs. She lived in Saudi for a couple of years, while her husband was working there, so experienced first-hand the disgusting way Arabs treat women.

Martin very kindly brought with him a selection of the photographic treasures he has discovered.  Below is one of old Paulina, when she was working as a maid in England.  She was my great-grandmother on my mother's side.

Another very rare picture below -- of old Joe, Paulina's husband. We have quite a few pictures of him but this is unique.  It shows him as a boy with HIS father.

Note the sharp shoes on the father. And note his confident stance. A man of fashion? My father was "a bit of a lair" in his youth

Monday, December 7, 2015


I like hummus so when I was in Woolworths recently I asked an employee where where I could find some.  She promptly directed me  to the appropriate place on the shelves.  And I found there a number of offerings. And the one I bought was excellent.

But, being an old guy, I could not help reflecting on how differently my enquiry might have been received one or two decades ago.  I would have got: "Hummus?  What's that? We don't stock it".

How times have changed -- for the better.

I look forward to hearing of Von's experience with hummus.  Do they have it in the shaky isles?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Le nozze di Figaro

I have just finished watching on DVD a 2006 French performance, sung in the original Italian with English subtitles, of "The Marriage of Figaro" by Mozart.  It is one of the most famous operas of all time so I am perfectly sure that I can say nothing original about it -- except perhaps to say that I still prefer Viennese operetta. Operetta is shorter and wittier.  But Mozart's wonderful music makes up for everything, of course.  The overture is one of my favourite pieces.

So what I want to do now is just to leave a few notes here for my own future reference about the cast of the performance I saw. I might at first note something amusing, however.  Apparently there was an IKEA in the 18th century!  The opening scene is of Figaro putting bits of a disassembled bed together!  In the original libretto he is just measuring up the room at that point so the producers of this show obviously had a little joke.

Pietro Spagnoli as the Count was very Italian, rather like a Mafia Don, so definitely well-cast.  Luca Pisaroni as Figaro is actually Venezuelan-born but probably from Italian parents.  He grew up in Italy, anyway. He gave a very strong performance.

Well-known German soprano Annette Dasch was strikingly pretty as the Countess.  She is quite tall too, taller than everyone else in the cast aside from Figaro -- and she seems about the same height as him.  And we see at one point that she is wearing FLAT shoes!

Her looks rather show up the gaunt-looking Welsh soprano Rosemary Joshua as Susanna, though Susanna was very well played.  Joshua is very experienced in that role. Maybe Joshua was on a very severe diet at the time. I gather she was born in 1970 or thereabouts so should not have been noticeably aged in 2006.

I disliked Austrian mezzo Angelika Kirchschlager as Cherubino. She is probably a fine woman but I thought she was very unconvincing in the role.  But I detest trouser roles anyway.  The part was originally written for a male so why not stick with that?  I appear to be quite out of tune with the times in that matter, though.  There is actually a currently fashionable feminist claim that men can play women's roles and women can play men's roles and it makes no difference.  As far as I can see, the difference is in fact highly visible.  It is just not good casting.

Looking into the ethnicity of opera singers is a little hobby of mine.  I like to guess what they are on first encountering a singer, even though I mostly get it wrong.  So Sophie Pondjiclis as Marcellina quite puzzled me. At times she looked very Italian but at others did not.  So I looked her up.  She is Greek.  So that rather solved it.  Greeks can be as explosive as Italians but don't do it as often.  That is as I have seen it, anyway.

Some of the info above was a little hard to get. Most of the singers are not well-known.  I very often in such searches find that I can get the info I want from sites in German only.  There is just nothing in English.

When looking up Pondjiclis there was nothing useful in English so I got the info off a non-English site.  I assumed that I was reading German but when I looked closely I saw it was in French, a language I have never studied. The foreigners begin at Calais, you know, to bowdlerize an old expression.

But, if I know roughly what the text is about, I find I can follow most European languages.  I remember reading a scientific paper in  Romanian once!  With only two major exceptions, European languages are all related, so the Latin, Italian and German I have studied open up other European languages fairly easily.

There are online quite a lot of excerpts from this performance, particularly of the arias sung  by Annette Dasch.  Below are two. Both have English subtitles.  The first is "Dove sono i bei momenti":

And we also have "Che soave zeffiretto"