Friday, July 31, 2009

A small bouquet for the wallopers

There are a lot of goons and drongoes in the Queensland police "service" but there are some decent people too

Last night I was pulled up for a breath test and the lady cop with the test kit took one look at me, smiled, said "I think you're OK", and waved me through without testing.

I was stone cold sober, neatly dressed and had Anne with me so I suppose we just looked like an elderly couple out for the night -- which we were. So the lady cop got it right and behaved to a higher standard than duty required. I congratulate her.

A couple of months ago another lady cop stopped and helped me change a tyre, as I was in fact having a spot of bother with it. And she was most pleasant too.

If only all police were of that quality!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A birthday and a graduation

Joe recently had a birthday and not long after graduated from the University of Queensland with First Class Honours in Mathematics. I could not be more pleased. Having a son who is tall, good-looking, nice natured and brilliant is hard to beat! And his only artificial euphoriant is computer games. Though I believe he does have a weakness for iced coffee also.

At his request, his birthday dinner was low key, with just myself, Jenny, Nanna, Anne, Joe himself and his old friend from school -- Andy -- invited. Jenny managed to seat us all in her living room and cooked us egg-rolled pork with rice and Kim Chee -- a dish of Korean origin which is a great favourite in the family. Samantha had an open-book exam to do that night so could not come. Andy is a most personable young man. He is Han Chinese and was dux of the school when Joe was there. I hear that he is quite tough, too, which rather surprised me. I didn't associate that with charm and politeness. After dinner more family members were invited over for the cutting of the cake and coffee afterwards: Suzy, Paul and Von with respective partners.

The graduation ceremony was for the Science Faculty only and about half the graduands would have been of Han origin. The Arts faculty graduation would be where you would see a majority of Anglo-Celts. When Joe stepped forward to be handed his degree, it was something of a notable break. After a parade of small Chinese, there was this 6' tall blond getting a degree! There were apparently quite a few bright sparks in the Maths Dept., as you might expect. One of Joe's fellow students there was awarded student of the year for the entire faculty! So Joe has been keeping august company. He has already started work on his Ph.D. programme.

We had a VERY small celebratory dinner for him on the night of his graduation: Joe, Sam, Jenny, Anne and myself. There was a special reason for keeping that dinner small. I opened a 16-year-old bottle of Grange to have with dinner -- at a cost of $600 for one 26 oz. bottle. I suppose that there might have been better uses for $600 but how often does one have a son graduate with First Class Honours in Mathematics? Jenny made us some excellent steak with Bearnaise sauce to go with the wine. Grange goes best with French cuisine.

Joe tells me that academic publications in mathematics are dominated by the Han, regardless of which country they may be writing from. The most recent recipients of the Fields medal included Terry Tao, an Australian-born Chinese, partly for work in PDEs, which is Joe's interest. And journals actually published in China are important sources of advancement in mathematical thinking too, apparently. With Chinese friends, a Chinese supervisor and a half-Chinese girlfriend, however, Joe is already in the right company for that. But he is seriously thinking of learning Mandarin as a long-term project. In the meantime, his very pleasant Chinese supervisor will be there to alert him to any developments in Chinese journals that he may need to know about.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A wedding and a birthday

My gorgeous stepdaughter Suzie was married a little while ago but I have just got hold of a DVD of wedding pictures with n pictures on it. Joe has done a fair bit of statistics so he will understand my usage of "n". So how does one choose from n pictures? Arbitrarily. I reproduce just two above. The old geezer lurking under the panama is I and below that is a picture of the happy couple. See my blog note of Feb 9th for more details

This week was my birthday week. Jill invited Anne and me over for lunch on Sunday 12th. and produced an excellent roast dinner. True to my British heritage, I always appreciate a roast. The dessert was Pavolva, however, a great Australian specialty and favourite.

On Wednesday Anne came over and cooked me some of my favourite foods -- including cabbage. Liking cabbage is about as humble a taste as one can have but Anne does it very well. And she brought over a big dish of apple crumble, another of my favourites. I am afraid that there was very little left in that dish by the time I got to bed.

As a birthday present, Anne gave me a 3 DVD set of Handel's Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) which recorded a live Glyndebourne performance and which she had bought at the Glyndebourne shop while she was there. I had already emailed her about how wonderful the Glyndebourne performance of that opera was so I was delighted to have it. It is great to hear the richly deserved applause after the spectacular bits -- such as the long aria towards the end of Act 3. I have so far managed only to listen to it (several times). Seeing it as well as hearing it could well be a bit overwhelming for me.

Joe was also over on Wednesday to work on a project we are doing. I have converted my old Windows computer back to a DOS computer, with the aim of making it a museum for the old DOS software -- particularly games -- that we used to play around with back in the pre-Windows era. I had forgotten a lot about how to set up a DOS machine but I finally got everything running.

And yesterday, Friday, Jenny made the "kids" (now all in their 20s and 30s) and I (plus relevant partners) that prince of Indian dishes: A Dhansak -- complete with Parsee pillau, green chutney and an excellent raita. It was a great party, with the kids and I swapping memories of the days when I was helping to bring them up. There was much hilarity between us back then and it was probably nearly as hilarious remembering it all. I had completely forgotten some of the jokes I played on them back then but they remembered heaps!

Friday, July 17, 2009

A good toon

The cartoon below sums up one reason why I usually avoid fancy restaurants and eat ethnic instead. I like waiters just to take my order promptly and answer questions if asked. Waiters who want to talk and talk just give me the pip. I imagine that chatty waiters suit some people but they don't suit me. I would much rather talk to the person I came there with.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunday lunch

Jill gave a small party of us lunch yesterday. Present at her place were: Jill, Lewis, myself, Anne, Henningham, Helen, Jenny, Joe and Sam. Jenny, Joe, myself, Anne and Sam Humbered out to River Hills. Jill likes my verb "Humbered". But when you have a 1963 Humber Super Snipe Series IV, you do such things.

A snipe is a waterbird and it always amuses me the way the English name lots of things after waterbirds: boats, cars, locomotives. Who has not heard of the Mallard and Bittern steam trains? How can a steam locomotive be like a duck? Search me!

The lunch was on Jill's large patio, surrounded by garden. Jill's garden has grown up tall and lush so it was a very pleasant setting. Jill made us some tagliatelle with seafood, which everybody liked. And pavlova for dessert -- one of Australia's few notable contributions to cuisine.

Henningham was in his best jovial form so it was a very relaxed occasion.

As part of the festivities we did a small play that I wrote especially for the occasion. Henningham is an amateur thespian so he got the part of the old man. I got a round of applause for writing it and it does seem to have amused those present. It was rightly noted that the play was very cynical, however. You can read it here or here

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Geneva Bible

A great pleasure! I have just received my copy of the recently reprinted Geneva Bible, the translation that the Pilgrim Fathers mainly used. The Geneva Bible was the popular version in the English-speaking world until the "official" King James Bible gradually supplanted it.

I bought my copy via World Net Daily and it cost me rather a lot, which may seem rather mad since I already have many Bibles, including three recensions of the Greek New Testament (i.e. in the original Greek) and some excellent modern translations. But it is exciting to read the words of the Bible just as they were read by the great English Protestant reformers who changed the world and whose reforms are the basis of our entire modern civilization.

Because it was so popular in its day, the Geneva Bible underwent many printings, not all of which were identical. The version I have is a reproduction of a 1599 printing. The King James Bible, of course, was first printed in 1611.

I tend to judge Bible translations by their translation of the first few verses of the Gospel of John. John 1:1 is much used by afficianados of the originally pagan Trinity doctrine to justify their nonsensical dogma. So I was most pleased to see that the Geneva translators gave in their footnote a much better sense of the original Greek than we usually see. The Geneva Bible was renowned in its day for its many informative footnotes and they are still a useful resource. The explanatory footnote for John 1:1 reads: "The son of God is of one, and the selfsame eternity or everlastingness, and of one and the selfsame essence or nature, with the father". That puts the sense of the original much more clearly than the literal translation of the original text itself. The underlying idea in the Greek original -- that the Logos was of divine essence -- is clearly there in the Geneva footnote.

If I were to express the meaning of the original Greek in a purely Anglo-Saxon vocabulary, I would translate it as "And of god-stuff was the word". (See also my many previous exegetical comments on John 1:1 -- e.g. here and here)

So the Geneva Bible did allow the people of the 16th century to get close to the original meaning of the New Testament. And the transformative power of doing that was evident then and continues to this day. Those now ancient words still have enormous power to move the minds of men. The many clergy of the "mainstream" churches who think they have a better or more "modern" message to preach from their pulpits are just self-defeating fools. There is no substitute for the original Gospel.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Hair washing and a moment of enlightenment

Where I grew up in tropical Australia, very few people had what the rest of the world call a bath. For us, to "have a bath" meant to take a shower. What other people called a bath, we called a "plunge" and many houses had no such thing. And in hot weather (which it almost always was), taking a shower at both morning and evening was common. And the shower head was large and positioned right overhead for maximum cooling and cleaning.

Since I have moved to more Southern parts, however, I have always been disgruntled to find that, instead of being overhead, the shower rose is fitted so that it shoots water at you from roughly eye level or not much higher.

So when I had a shower recess put up in my bathroom recently (I previously had just a shower over the bath -- which posed hazards of slipping and falling over), I instructed the plumber to put the shower head high up and overhead -- which he did.

I was pointing out this achievement to Anne when she said she didn't like it. It meant that she would always get her hair wet. So I finally got it. Those pesky low-down showers are for the convenience of women. I imagine that most men are like me and don't mind getting their hair wet. I don't feel properly bathed unless I have washed my hair, in fact. But I can see that long hair and expensive hairdos might require protection at times.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


My sister Jack (Jacqueline Margaret Ray aka Ward) died this morning of the family illness -- breast cancer. Her death was expected and her female companion was with her until the end.

She was only 2 years younger than me but we were not close. I had seen her only once in the last quarter century -- at my brother's wedding.

She leaves no children.