Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Private health insurance cover

As most people reading this will be aware, you can get a range of cover for "extras" with private hospital insurance. And for services that are not too dear and not too often called upon that can be worthwhile. The cover is for such things as spectacles and hearing aids and dental costs up to a limit.  A small contribution to some medical costs can also be available.

I have maximum ("top") cover so my experience might help others to get a grip on what is available.  The premiums I pay to my fund (CUA) are higher than most but they are unusually generous with hearing aids.  My last lot cost nearly $4,000 and they paid nearly half of that.  I rarely have dentistry and what I have is simple so last time they paid all my costs.  There was also a substantial benefit for new spectacles.

But the most interesting case is what it cost me for my recent big cancer surgery. I was on the table in Brisbane Private Hospital within a week of the cancer being detected. I was in intensive care for a couple of days afterwards so that would have generated an enormous bill from the hospital which my fund paid in full.

The surgeon and her assistant sent me a bill totalling over $5,000, of which Medicare paid $1500 and my fund paid nearly $500.  So I was around $3,000 out of pocket.  In my younger days however I lived frugally and was able to put aside substantial funds to cover "a rainy day" -- so $3,000 was no problem.  Savings are the true health insurance.  It's towards the end of your life that you incur most of your life's medical bills. Proverbs 6:6-8 refers.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

A geriatric cook reaches out

For almost my entire adult life I have had both my breakfast and dinner made for me.  If there was not a lady on hand to do the honours, I would eat out -- for both breakfast and dinner. Some time around when I turned 70, however I decided that eating out twice a day was a bit gross -- and night-time traffic was a bit hairy.  So I decided that I would cook my dinner myself.  I have no background in cooking however so have bungled a few dinners along the way.  There are a few simple dinners I make that regularly turn out well, however, so I even cook for other people on occasions.

And last night I cooked for Ken.  It was for his birthday. As Maureen is quite ill these days, I surmised that there would not be much happening for his birthday -- so I offered to make him a home-made dinner to mark the occasion.

So I made him my "best" dinner, one that is routinely complimented -- a version of savoury mince.  And I even trotted out my best tablecloth for the occasion -- a pretty embroidered one from China that Anne gave me recently.  I seem to have accumulated rather a lot of tablecloths over the years

I don't think Ken noticed the tablecloth but he complimented the food and the champagne so all was well.  For canapes I offered salty biscuits plus a choice of three cheeses.  Quite to my surprise, however, he said he doesn't much like cheese these days.   I thought everybody liked cheese.  Maybe it was a polite way of saying that he didn't like the cheeses I offered. English politeness can be extreme. You have to know the English to decipher it accurately, as Kate Fox has shown us. He also said however that he didn't like tea or coffee very much these days and rarely drinks either.  So maybe he is just generally gloomy in his old age.

Ken and I always enjoy conversations and that is rather helped these days by the fact that Ken and I seem to agree a lot. We have known one-another for over 30 years so our conversations also  can be rather frank at times. We have many shared memories.

We talked a fair bit about real estate as Ken is selling his warehouse in order to invest in upscale retirement living.  I hope the vendors don't rip him off.  There is a history of it. The price you buy at can be critical for investments.

One topic that we disagreed on last night was the concept of "healthy" food.  I go against the almost universal concept that there is such a thing as "healthy" food.  I doubt that there is much difference in the goodness of various foods and if there is I don't think we know which ones are healthier than others. So Ken cannot be blamed for being unconvinced by such a radical view.

It is however a well-informed view.  I have been reading the medical journals for years and have even had a few things published in them. And I still read JAMA almost daily.  And from a statistical point of view it is mostly crap.  I used to teach research methods and statistics at the University of NSW so see the sleight of hand that underlies an awful lot of the statistics in medical journals.  Most of the "findings" they report are not significant in any important sense and may even  be totally wrong.

Despite his earlier disavowal of it Ken accepted my offer of coffee. My brain seems to have short-circuited at that point however as I gave him some instant coffee I had which turned out rather badly.

I should have given him the coffee that I usually drink as I recollect him once speaking well of it.  It is however the most unprestigous form of coffee: Bushell's coffee and chicory essence. It was the first coffee that the British and Australians  got to know. My father used to drink it.  So perhaps  I thought it was too humble to offer last night.  So that was sad note on which to end a generally pleasant occasion

Update:  I mentioned above that articles in even the most prestigious medical journals often report conclusions that are  poorly supported by the underlying statistics.  As it happens, the very next day I put up commentaries on two such articles -- here and here

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My recollections of Harry Beanham

When I first came down to Brisbane from Cairns in 1963 I had left my Triumph Tiger Cub motorbike in Cairns for Frank to sell -- which he did with some difficulty.  So one of the first things I did in Brisbane was to look in the Courier mail classifieds for a secondhand motorbike.  I found and bought an old ex-army BSA -- a low revving 500cc single pot machine complete with manual advance/retard. Military equipment is often not reliable but this machine never let me down

I used it to get to work at my first Brisbane job, Abraham's Paper Sacks out at Rocklea, a firm that made heavy paper bags for the sandminers on Stradbroke Is.  But I have described that experience  elsewhere

Later in 1963, I got 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 some optimism I applied for a 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 green-suited 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.

Harry was usually resident in Sydney but he visited his interstate shops occasionally.  His Brisbane shop in George St. was mostly called Gearco.  The job was to run a business selling second hand factory machinery and some new machinery: Mostly to do with lathes and other machine tools. I found it interesting.

Harry was in partnership with a very smooth man (Bob Naesmith) selling new and secondhand photographic gear. I ran my (engineering) side of the shop and the other side of the shop was run by George Smith and Mrs Staer. I had for many years a SLR Pentax camera I acquired from the other side of the shop when it came in second-hand.

I once had a Pom come in to buy some chain off me. He was a bit vague about what he wanted but assured me that he was a great British engineer.  I gave him some 1/2 x 3/16 inch chain which he accepted. He came back next day rather irate because the chain did not fit.  It turned out that he wanted 1/2 x 5/16 inch chain.  I was a bit mocking about a great British engineer not knowing something as basic as the difference between 1/2 x 3/16  and 1/2 x 5/16 chain.  He couldn't recognize the difference between pushbike chain and motorbike chain.  He went away very angry with me!  A sad soul.

I made my mark in Harry's mind by being a very successful seller of diehead chasers. There was a complexity to them that interested me. He eventually sent his total stock of them up to Brisbane for me to sell. Don't ask what they are. You don't need to know. Mechanical engineers know already.

Harry was pleased to find that I was a motorcyclist as that was very much his hobby.  He was riding them well into his later years.  His favourite bike when I knew him was the Velocette, a high quality British bike.  He had one  stored in the basement of his Brisbane shop for his use when he was in Brisbane.  It was a bit like a motorscooter so I am pretty sure it was an LE model.

A 1953 Velocette LE

Harry seemed to monitor my sales and orders fairly closely and would send me up handwritten notes about them.  I suspect that he couldn't work a typewriter.  On one occasion he wrote that something I was doing was NBG.  He was a bit on the grumpy side but never unpleasantly so. He saw it as his job to teach me things about the business -- which I was glad to learn.

As well as selling new lathe gears and other new machinery.  Harry had a big stock of secondhand machinery which he had bought at auctions.  Auctions were his second favourite hobby, I gather.  So there were various things I had to do with his second-hand stock  to get it ready for sale.

And that stood me in good stead in 1968 when I was fired from the Dept. of Technical Education of the NSW public service.  You did not think ANYONE could get fired from the public service did you?  But I behaved unusually rebelliously.  I was not meant to be a bureaucrat.  Details of that episode here.

When I was fired, I went and saw Harry at his Sydney business -- in case he might want me to work for him again. He did. Harry remembered how I sold lots of diehead chasers for him in Brisbane so had a high opinion of my usefulness.  So he promptly put me to work preparing his secondhand stock for sale.  So I got a job that did not exist until I asked for it!

There are a number of affectionate stories about Harry online -- e.g. here

Monday, September 9, 2019

A new Ingeborg Hallstein channel on Youtube with lots of videos

See here.  Many of the videos are of her in her younger days.

My favourite is her version of Frühlingsstimmen Walzer (Voices of Spring Waltz) by Johann Strauss. I will never be able to listen to anybody else's version now.  See below:

The owner of the channel is "megadim" (, who informs me that he has a lot more videos of her that he will put up in due course.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

A wonderful Brisbane afternoon in winter

For people who like warm weather -- as I do -- Brisbane is a great place.  Even our winter afternoons are almost always warm.  But yesterday Brisbane really excelled itself.  The midafternoon temperature was 34C -- which is a normal SUMMER temperature for Brisbane.

Warmists would regard that as a global catastrophe but for Brisbane people it is just a part of normal variations.  And if Brisbane people carry on regardless in such temperatures, does anyone need to fear the one or two degees of warming that the climate fanatics foam about?

Monday, September 2, 2019

An unusual Father's day

I am one of those people for whom it is hard to buy gifts because they already have everything.  So when my birthday or fathers' day comes up, I make it easy for Joe by saying that all I want is for him and Kate to make me a dinner for us all to have on the verandah -- which suits us all. I have got some good dinners that way.

This year however, I complicated things a bit by inadvertently scheduling something else for Sept., 1st, which is when Fathers' day is observed in Australia.  I scheduled one of my men's dinners for that day

So we had my "day" a little early instead.  I suggested that instead of a Sunday observance I would be happy for Joe to join me at a breakfast on the Thursday beforehand -- to take place at the Gold Leaf coffee shop at Kangaroo point.  I particularly like the Lot burger they do there and wanted Joe to try it too.  We both had other things already on that morning so we set out at 7:30am to fit it in.  And it all went well, a very pleasant breakfast in a pleasant milieu. 

Then on the Sunday Joe and I breakfasted together again -- as we always do on Sundays.

And that evening we had our men's dinner.  Present were myself, Joe, Chris, Graham and H**.  It was the first time H** had attended.  H** is a jolly soul and has political views similar to mine so he fitted in very well and helped the night to roll along as a fun occasion. 

We did talk politics as usual -- with particular derision for global warming -- but a whole range of other things as well.  Speaking from his background in counselling, Graham was informative about pedophiles.  He said that most of them had themselves been abused in their childhoods.  From there we went on to discuss homosexuality.  Graham was again informative there and noted the extreme bitchiness that is often found in "bottom" male homosexuals. There have been two Lesbians in the Ray family so it was a topic of some interest to Chris and myself.  I noted that I had always got along well  personally with any homosexuals in my orbit.

To feed the horde, I made my usual mince dish, Chili con carne this time, which all went right down.  I also provided tinned fruit salad and icecream as a dessert, and that vanished rapidly too.

Chris brought long a replica Gladius for "show and tell" which was much admired.  The possibility of him bringing along a classic machine gun next time was discussed.