Sunday, June 30, 2019

An after effect

The usual treatment for prostate cancer these days is injections of a testosterone antagonist -- degarelix in my case.  You get an initial high dose followed  by much lower doses at one month intervals

I had the initial dose in the form of two injections on Wednesday 26th.  Within hours the injection sites had become very painful and I was much inhibited from getting about as most movement was painful.  It is only now on Sunday that the pain has abated to a trivial level.  I expected the healing to be almost overnight but that was not to be

Apparently some pain is normal but I suspect that the nurse who did the injections did not do it quite right. One injection was much more painful than the other. I will ask my GP to supervise it next time.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Savings (frugality) is the key to having money when you need it

I mentioned some days ago the importance of putting money aside in your youth for a rainy day in your latter years. There is a lot of medical rain in your latter years and medical rain can be particularly expensive.  So I thought I might set down some notes about what I did to put money aside.

I have been frugal from childhood.  Frugality was preached to me at my Presbyterian Sunday school and I took to it like a duck to water. So as a kid I saved my 2/- per week pocket money rather than spending it on confectionery  -- which is what most of my peers did.  Though I would always buy the latest "Phantom" comics. But every now and again, my mother would borrow the money in my money box to buy family needs.  How poor can you be when you have to borrow the money in your kid's money box in order to put dinner on the table? My mother's purchases were almost all from convenience stores so she just did not have a frugal mind.

So I have always lived simply and very economically, which has left me in a very comfortable situation in my old age.

The high point of my frugality came during my student days, when I lived on skim milk plus a few vitamins for around six months.  I bought the skim milk from the local dairy factory in the form of a 56lb paper sack of dried skim milk, which was almost a give-away product at that time but was very nutritious all the same.  So in modern terms my food bill was something like $5 per week.  It was ridiculously small.  As the recipient of a government scholarship to go to university I had a small living allowance and I saved virtually the whole of my allowance at that time -- and also remained in perfect health.

With my savings much reinforced, I gave that up after a while,  and moved back on to a more normal but still economical diet featuring a lot of cheese sandwiches.  I still like a slab of cheese on a fresh bread roll. Did you know that a dollop of plum jam on top of the cheese in your cheese sandwich really lifts it?  Plum jam has always been the cheapest jam.

There are many ways you can have a good and healthy diet for a small cost -- with anything featuring eggs being high on the list.  A 3-egg omelette makes a very good breakfast, with the eggs costing you a total of around one dollar only. And oats for making porridge are also very cheap. I still like a nice plate of porridge on occasions.  And you can often get day-old bread for a song.  It makes great toast.

These days my frugality consists of buying most of my groceries as "specials" and "markdowns" from my local supermarket.  And I buy most of my alcohol in the form of Vodka, which is generally the cheapest of spirits. And if I eat out, I eat at ethnic restaurants, which often give me amazingly good dinners for a very modest price.

And I am not seized with the vice of old age:  Travel.  Travel can be very expensive but I did all I want of that when I was younger and highly paid.

So I now spend very little on myself and give about half of my income away to friends, relatives and conservative causes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

An unusually interesting two days

Over the years I have had quite a few tests to see if I have prostate cancer -- and all have come back negative.  I suspected that it had finally got me now that I am 75, however.  I am in the middle of the age range where it is most usually detected.  So Thursday last I went and saw my GP, who ordered some tests for me.  I had the blood test that day plus an ultrasound on Friday. And on Monday I had another scan, a PET scan (nuclear medicine) which lights up your insides.  Nothing to do with cats and dogs.

It was a bit pesky to have the test on Monday as that was the day I had already booked my car in with the panelbeater to get some minor dings fixed up.  And another complication was that I had dropped in to Vinnies on the Saturday and spotted a large and beautiful TV cabinet with umpteen drawers etc.  It was a very fine piece of furniture going for a song.  So I could not resist.  I bought it. So I had to organize for it to be picked up and taken to my place on Monday or Tuesday.

So on Monday I had to take my car in for two days, have a very lengthy PET scan, do all my usual activities and host my usual Monday night dinner for Jenny, Joe and Kate.  We went to the Sunny Doll, which was up to its usual high standard.

And then Tuesday was even busier.  I had to wait for the carriers to deliver my cabinet from Vinnies to start with.  When that had arrived and been put in place, I went off for a late breakfast and a trip to Woolies at Buranda.  Early that afternoon the car was ready so I had to go and pick that up.  Then at 3:30 I had my appointment with the urologist.

He seemed a rather gloomy man and I suspect I know why.  He had to tell me that I had prostate cancer which had already metastasized and was therefore beyond surgical cure.  He probably gets some bad reactions when he tells people that sort of thing.  I was however mentally prepared for that so had no emotional reaction at all -- and simply had an interesting conversation with him about the matter.  He was much warmer to me by the time I left.

Anyway, the treatment for the problem is simply a monthly injection of a testosterone antagonist, which should keep me going at least until I am 80 -- by which time I will be happy to bow out.

Anne came over in the evening to find out how I had gone and was surprised to find me in perfectly good cheer, given the diagnosis.  I have always been hard to bother. I then went and got us dinner in the form of Barramudi n chips from a nearby place which does fish n chips superbly.  We had it on my verandah.  I even got out the fish knives for it -- which I usually forget. We washed it down with German "champagne" -- Henkel Trocken,  Anne's favourite.

So in one day, I received and set up furniture, went out for a cooked breakfast, shopped at Woolworths, picked up my car from the panelbeater, had a medical consultation, did my usual blogging, and had a dinner with the lady in my life.  Busy!

The PET scan was quite expensive ($700+) so I was a little surprised that neither Medicare nor my private insurance gave me anything back from it.  I understand why, however.  Most men do get prostate cancer eventually so paying for a PET scan for them all would break the bank.  Once again there is no substitute for putting money aside in your youth for a rainy day.  Medical rain can be particularly expensive.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Mr Halloumi again

Halloumi is not his actual name. It is just a version that amuses me. I last wrote about him here on 28 December last year.  He  has a shocking driving record but does not like that to be publicly known. He is battling uphill over that one, though.  If you google his unusual surname, the first three hits that come up are all about his driving record and his troubles with officialdom resulting from that.

He is probably a bit of a poor thing.  He has given me a number of indications that he is not very bright and it seems to be part of that that he needs to drive expensive sports cars at excessive speeds.  It's his way of showing what a big man he is. He has an ego need that repeatedly puts him in conflict with the law.

Anyway, I once reproduced on one of my blogs a news report about his amazingly bad driving record. He has been described as the worst driver in the state, due to the number of tickets he has received. He has been disqualified for many years

Some years after I reproduced the newspaper article about him, however, he discovered my copy of it and was hellbent on getting me to take it down. He was very aggressive about it. I described the outcome of that in my previous post  Various negotiations produced a satisfactory compromise.

Just this month, however, I heard from him again.  Some other blogger who does not reveal his identity had also become amused at the antics of Mr Halloumi and had copied one of my pages about him -- a page which I had subsequently modified to be less upsetting to Mr Halloumi.

Mr Halloumi had just come across the copied page and assumed that I was responsible for it.  That I had written it but someone else had copied and posted it without my knowledge was too difficult for him to load. It was obviously not one of my blogs but he was too dim to see that.  I never copyright anything I write so if someone copies what I write I take no notice of it.

Anyway, Mr Hallomi was in a rage about his discovery of the copied page so sent me an email as follows:

"Mate your a liar & a keyboard coward hiding behind a computer thinking your safe & insulated... This is the last warning before I jump on a plane & visit you at your redneck shack ... 24hours to remove your garbage."

An only slightly veiled threat!  He was dumb enough to threaten me over something over which I had no control!  Epic folly.

Anyway, I eventually managed to explain to him what the situation was and he has now gone off to Google in the hope that they will take it down for him.

Monday, June 10, 2019

More protection for "Old Queenslander" houses in Brisbane

I originally wrote the notes below for my "Australian Politics" blog -- as a comment on the news item below.  But I thought they had a place here as well

There can be conflicts between stability and economic efficiency and it is sometimes important to prioritize stability.  Money is not everything. People do value stability.  Change can be too much.  So a balance is needed.  And Brisbane people do value their reassuring streetscapes of old wooden houses.  They want them to stay

For many born-Queenslanders such as I am, those houses have a warm and comfortable feeling whereas a modern brick house seems cold and lifeless.  Hard to say why but there's probably more to it than familiarity.  Timber is from a living thing so that may have some influence.

I have spent a lot of time and money restoring old Queensland houses and when I walk into an empty one of them I can feel all the families who have lived there before.  I can almost hear the children playing. Its a feeling of continuity with other people like myself in the past. It feels right.

I suppose I am a sentimental old fool but I am far from alone.  There is already in Brisbane a total ban on demolishing any pre-war house

A ban on townhouses and apartment blocks in Brisbane’s character suburbs could come into effect before the end of the financial year, after the state government gave the green light for public consultation.

In September last year, the council requested state government's approval to amend the council’s City Plan 2014, in a bid to prevent apartment blocks and townhouses from being built on blocks larger than 3000 square metres in low-density residential zoned suburbs.

On Wednesday evening, Infrastructure and Planning Minister Cameron Dick gave Brisbane City Council the go-ahead to progress to public consultation.

He said council was required to consult with the community on the proposed amendments for 20 business days.

“Once the council has completed the consultation they will be required to submit the proposed amendments, including feedback received during the consultation period, for my approval to proceed to adoption,” he said.

“It is now up to the council to consult with the community to test the adequacy of the proposed amendment with the broader community and industry.” The ban would last for two years, if approved.

Brisbane lord mayor Adrian Schrinner welcomed the government's tick of approval for council to progress its plans to halt "cookie-cutter townhouses".

“I am committed to building the infrastructure our city needs, while protecting the liveability of our suburbs and that is exactly what this proposed major amendment can achieve,” Cr Schrinner said.

“Brisbane is growing, but Council is committed to maintaining the character of our suburbs and ensuring any development fits in with the existing surroundings.

The opening of public consultation comes as nearly 6000 properties around Coorparoo have been rezoned to character residential under Brisbane City Council’s latest neighbourhood plan.

The rezoning means more properties will be protected to retain the typical Queensland house from being demolished or altered significantly.


Sunday, June 9, 2019

I hollered for a Marshall

The battery in my Toyota Echo was sounding a bit feeble a couple of days ago so I went into Beaurepaires on Ipswich Rd -- which I drive past everyday -- and asked did they test batteries.  The clod at the desk said "Yes we do but the machine is broken".  No further comment that he would take my number and ring me when the machine was fixed.  I would have accepted that. So I turned on my heel and left without another word. The battery was definitely low so I would probably have bought a new one from him if he had shown any interest in business.

So then I went to the local Repco outlet, who are big on all things cars. The bloke said a new battery would be $209.  But I haggled him down to $160.  I then asked how much to fit it as at 75 I am getting a bit old to do that.  He said that they don't fit batteries.  So again I turned on my heel and left without another word.

The only other nearby battery place was Marshalls at Greenslopes so I drove to their depot.  The bloke there attended to me promptly and in a friendly manner and quoted me $160 plus $15 to fit the battery.  I said: "Let's do it now" and he did. I walked out of there after no more than 10 minutes a happy man with a new battery under the bonnet. And he had the $$$ that the previous businesses had seen walk out. And even the price was right.

That's about the usual score for Australian businesses.  Only about a third know and care what they're doing. See here and here for previous examples

Something I didn't know is that Marshall is actually an Australian company, not American at all. Something else I didn't know is that Marshall can help with a lot more than batteries

To quote them:

Why keep paying for traditional Roadside Assistance membership every year, when you don't need to? Marshall has revolutionised traditional roadside assistance programs with its new 'Pay to Use Roadside Rescue' service! THAT MEANS NO MEMBERSHIP OR ROADSIDE JOINING FEES!

Who knows when one of those unforeseen breakdown situations may occur? Maybe you have a flat battery, locked your keys in the car or have run out of fuel? Simply 'Holler For A Marshall'

Flat or damaged tyre? We will come to you and change over your flat or damaged tyre with your vehicles spare, saving you the hassle of doing it yourself.

Locked your keys inside your vehicle? Don't worry, Marshall can access most standard vehicles to retrieve your keys.

Friday, June 7, 2019

A trip to Persia

Well, not quite but nearly.

Ann and I have always thought that the Persians are the past masters of how to grill meat.  You would think that there is no great skill to it but there is.  I have no idea of how they do it but the result the Persians get is superb.

So when I noticed that a new Persian restaurant had opened up on the main road at Stone's Corner I had to try it.  It's called the Taste of Saffron and it's in 55 Old Cleveland Rd., opposite the charcoal chicken place

Anne and I had the platter for 2, which included kebabs, salad and chips, served with a variety of rice seasoned with saffron, dill and barberries.  It was a big meal but we got through it -- just.  And it was everything we expected it to be.  You don't know how good grilled meat can be until you have tried the Persian product.

I thought initially that the restaurant might  be "dry", as befits a Muslim establishment, but there were some people there drinking. so they were definitely "bad" Muslims -- maybe refugees from the Ayatollahs.  They had some of the iconography of the ancient Persians up in places so that could well be.  Maybe if I had shouted out "Make America Great Again" I might have been cheered.  In the best Britiah style I did not want to "make a scene", however.

And there were a lot of robust-looking Iranians in the room -- about 20 of them, male and female -- who all seemed to know one-another -- all part of some club, perhaps.

Monday, June 3, 2019

Living on the dole

Yesterday, in response to calls to raise Centrelink unemployment payments by $75 a week I wrote briefly:

In my youth I lived on the dole for a time.  It was then  £2/7/6 pw., if that notation means anything to anybody these days. Equal to $70.00 these days. I lived well and even saved money on it.  But I spent nothing on beer and cigarettes and I ate exclusively at home.  I could even afford an egg or two with my breakfast porridge.  Eggs, porridge and milk are very cheap to this day and form a very solid  foundation for a day's nourishment. And you can generally get day-old bread for a song. Good for toast. I don't think it is hard at all if one is not spoilt by uncompromising expectations

My comments that in my youth I lived on an unemployment dole of $70.00 pw evoked some incredulity. The current dole in Australia is $200 more than that. Why the difference?

For a start, I initially gave the actual dole I received: £2/7/6.  I then used the Reserve Bank's online calculator to translate £2/7/6 in 1960 to current dollars.  And $70 was the answer.  The Reserve bank calculator was based on official price indices so is a very scholarly figure which makes allowances for just about anything  that might distort the answers that it gives.  So I think we might have to live with the fact that I really did live on that little.

So how?  A revealing part of the answer is that before I went on the dole I had a job as a junior clerk -- in which I was paid around £6 pw So ALL young sprouts at that time had to live on very little by modern standards.  I was 17 in 1960.

Note the age factor.  As a junior I did not get the full dole.  The full dole was the equivalent of about $100 pw in terms of current purchasing power. But it's still not much, is it?

So how come?  I am afraid the explanation is pretty simple.  We ALL were a lot poorer 60 years ago.  The vast influence of international capitalism has been incredibly enriching for us all over time.  Back in 1960 we did have a lot of the things that people now do but we had to work a lot longer for them.  We did for instance have motor cars but only the well-off had new ones. My father never had a new car in his life.

Eating out was almost unknown but most people could afford a square meal at home at dinner time.  But it was a VERY square meal. Day after day, month after month and year after year it consisted of the same thing: Meat and 3 veg.  Australia has great herds of beef cattle so even working class people could often afford steak a lot of the time but when that failed there were always sausages or minced beef. And it was amazing what you could do with mince. The 3 veg. that came with the meat ALWAYS included some form of potatoes (usually boiled) plus a selection of boiled beans, cabbage and carrots. If you were a bit fancy you might get cauliflower.

So EVERYBODY lived very economically in those days. They had to.  But there were also people who were really poor -- people who spent half their money on beer and cigarettes mainly.  They had to live the way I did: feeding themselves mainly off milk, porridge, eggs and day-old bread with plum jam on it.  Day-old bread was generally available for half price or less and made very good toast.  And you bought plum jam in big tins to keep the price down. Most houses had a substantial backyard where you could grow most of your fruit and vegetables if you were thrifty.

Food aside, unemployment was less than 2%.  You could get on a steam train and go interstate to visit family and friends at vacation time. There was always the family car for local trips. The newspapers had lots of interesting news, particularly from overseas. You could hear all the latest songs on the radio. The ladies could buy pretty dresses occasionally and even in small towns there were several bars where one could drink cold beer after a hard day's work.  What else is there?  So it wasn't too bad, all told. And there was a lot less obesity!

What I have writen above is a very abbreviated account  of working class life in Australia in 1960 but I think it still has the lesson in it that unemployed people today have lots of scope to cut back rather than raiding the taxpayer for money that will keep them in the style that they aspire to.

And there are some unwise people for whom no dole would ever be enough.  There is a story here of a "struggling" Sydney single mother who spends two thirds of her dole on rent.  And where does she live?  On Sydney's prestigious and very expensive North Shore.  And she feels hard done by! I lived in a small Queensland farming town when I was on the dole. For people with "expectations", that would not do at all at all, of course

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Permissive parenting -- some recollections

I grew up in the age of Dr Spock, a widely respected American pediatrician who preached permissive parenting.  He saw permissivenessas being as much a moral issue as a practical one.  His influence was particularly strong in the '60s, which was a time to question all values, so the Biblical advice -- "He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24) -- was regarded widely as impossibly obsolete.

And for Spock and other reasons I was a beneficiary of permissive  thinking. I have no recollection of my parents ever saying No to me in fact. Dr Spock later changed his mind and decided that some parental guidelines were needed but it was all too late for  generations of kids. But permissiveness suited me.  I had a very untroubled childhood.

I was sent to Presbyterian Sunday school from about age 7 -- which I greatly enjoyed --  so I accepted the rather Puritanical wisdom that was preached to me there. And those were pretty safe guidelines. I am pretty sure I am a born Puritan, in fact. I was teetotal until I was about 28. But I like my gin these days. I was 17 in 1960 but the unhealthy substances that people poured into themselves in that era had no appeal for me. I have never even smoked tobacco, in fact.

Let me give two examples of the permissiveness of my parents:

My youngest sister at age 3 was the most gorgeous little blonde-haired tot you can imagine.  And she was plenty verbal by that stage. If my parents told her to do something she did not want to do, she would reply in a loud voice:  "I don't wanna".  No-one ever seemed to have an answer to that!  So she went her own way.  She is now a happily married lady with 3 adult daughters.  I think she was born with Puritan instincts too. On some occasions in her youth, she had 3 jobs at once.

Then there is my brother.  He had a very simple trick.  If ever he wanted to do something from which he might be deflected, he would say "I gotto do this" -- where "this" was very variable.  My parents would then let him do whatever he had "got" to do.

My son had an easy time too. I am an instinctive libertarian so he got no aggravation from me, to put it in a rather Cockney way. I would even defend his wishes to his mother!  His mother was basically a "No nonsense" lady with her first three kids.  Her eldest son thought -- and still thinks -- that his mother was a bit of a tyrant.  He had a way of expressing that view on one occasion that I had better not record, in fact.  She was of course a perfectly loving mother and has four high-functioning adult children these days.  And they all love their mother!

But his mother could see so much of me in my son that she was pretty permissive with him when he wanted to wander off in a direction she would normally question.  He was for instance allowed to spend a lot of time playing computer games.  But a boy who has a father who was a computer programmer would do that, wouldn't he?  He is now a well-paid IT professional with good friends of long standing so he didn't come to any harm either.  What he wanted to do was right for him. That he has spent just about all his life in front of a computer screen could be a health problem but he knows that and does dieting and exercise regularly.  He is in really good shape, in fact.

So I think a lot depends on the kid.  Permissiveness won't always work but it should always be the first approach.