Old folk at lunch

Monday, September 11, 2017

In Praise of New Zealand



As we all know, New Zealanders hate Australians -- just as Canadians hate Americans and Scots hate the English.  Big brother is rarely popular.  But I forgive them.  They can't help it. So I am going to perhaps make them feel a little better.

For a small population, they have done remarkably well in business.  Take wines.  Australia has long had a lot of success in selling wines to the world.  The Poms buy twice as much Australian wine as French. So the idea that anybody could sell much wine to us is improbable. Yet the Kiwis have done it.  Sauvignon Blanc from the Marlborough region is now a big seller in Australia.  The one I sometimes buy is under the "Giesen" label.

And New Zealand chocolate?  Not Belgian, not Swiss?  Yes.  For a long time Whittakers of NZ used to export small bars of milk chocolate filled with nuts to us.  Then they managed to get a big order from Australia's biggest supermarket:  Woolworths.  Now they have on offer everywhere a great range of all sorts of choolate.

And New Zealand cheese?  Australia has many dairies that make cheese but more or less forever New Zealand has been selling us a cheese called Epicure.  It was what you bought if you wanted a strong-tasting cheese.  Then a few years back they started selling us "Mainland" cheese in a number of varieties.

But here's the latest.  Australia is a big market for pre-sliced cheese.  And the odd thing is that sliced cheese is the only cheddar cheese that you can buy.  Presumably cheddar slices more easily.  The "national" Australian cheese is "Tasty".  From the look of the supermarket shelves "Tasty" is what 80% of Australians buy.  Lots of dairies make it.  It is basically a cheese that is made as sharp in taste as possible without becoming crumbly.  It is a compromise cheese and, true to their British heritage, Australians like to compromise.  It's less hassle than the alternative.

So when I was looking yesterday for a pack of sliced cheese I saw a newcomer there, a brand called "Hillview" that was cheaper than any other.  Being born frugal, I bought it.  When I got home I tried it and found it to be perfectly good so I wondered why it was so cheap.  So I studied the pack.  And there in small letters was, "Made in New Zealand". They have now invaded our big market for sliced cheese!  They will do well.

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

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hooray! I have been censored



I was beginning to feel neglected.  I frequently write relentlessly factual things about race, IQ and social class -- and they must be the big trifecta of political incorrectness.  If those topics don't get me censored what would?  Actually there IS one thing more likely to get me censored:  Praise for Donald Trump.  And I do a lot of that.  I am as Trumpian as you can get.

And I think that is what lies behind the ban that has been placed on me.  I spend more time than I should reading the questions and answers on Quora.com.  Most of the questions there are puerile but some of the answers are interesting.

The answers I have myself been putting up there have all however been very brief, usually only a few words.  For instance, in answer to the question "What would you do if someone threw a basketball to you?" my answer was "Dodge". And in answer to "Who is the most influential person in history? Why?", I wrote "Hitler. People will never get over him".  And in answer to "If first contact was established with aliens, what one person, dead or alive, would you use to represent the human race?", I answered "Trump. He speaks in simple sentences"

And in my answer to "Why does Ernest Adams hate social conservatives so much?" I wrote "He was born that way".  And that seems to have torn it.  That answer was apparently so incorrect that I was banned from putting up any more answers or asking any questions.

For background Adams is a Quora heavyweight and a very supercilious Leftist.  He is absolutely full of himself and conservative Quorans do criticize him for that at times.

So why was my answer so bad?  It is a common research finding  that political dispositions are highly hereditary so my answer was highly factual.  It's not the political opinions by themselves that are inherited so much as the underlying psychology that determines those positions. Basically, conservatives are the contented people and Leftists are the angry people.  And that has a big impact on your policy preferences.  Leftists want to attack whatever they are angry about and conservatives want stability.

And where you stand on the happiness/contentment scale has repeatedly been found to be very much inborn.  Some people will be happy no matter what and some will be miserable no matter what.  So both the actual opinions and the underlying psychology have been found to be hereditary.

So Quora penalized me from giving a scholarly and well informed comment.  To them it was so wrong that it couldn't be right.  I have no idea of the details of their angry thinking but I suspect that their objection was really a pretext.  My constant praise of Trump would undoubtedly have jarred them.  It was that which really lay behind my banning, I suspect.  It is a very Leftist site.

I won't protest my banning. Matthew 7:6 tells you why.

Footnote:  If you doubt that Leftists are the angry people and conservatives are the contented people, just ask any Leftist what he thinks of Mr Trump!  And if you doubt that conservatives are the contented people ask yourself why the Congressional GOP has done so little to give Mr Trump the changes he wants.

Friday, September 8, 2017

How bureaucracy destroys research in U.S. hospitals


I originally wrote this for one of my other blogs but I think it has a place here too

There is a long article here which gives a blow by blow account of a doctor trying to get permission to do a research study -- a study that seemed to need doing.  He spent years dealing with the bureaucracy only to be defeated by all the nitpicking in the end.  He was not able to do a perfectly reasonable study.

The article had a particular resonance to me because what he wanted to do -- a questionnaire survey -- was something I did many, many times in my research career.  And I never asked ANYBODY for permission.  I just did it.  So how come the difference?  Several possible reasons:

I did my research in the '70s and '80s.  Things may have tightened up more by now.

I also did my work mostly in Australia, a much less uptight country than the USA.  Many of my fellow academics, including the head of school, would have had a pretty good idea of what I was doing but trying to rein me in would have needed effort and they just could not be bothered with that

But perhaps the key factor was that I did not ask.  I did not set the bureaucratic machinery in motion. The bureaucracy just did not know of me. I was below their horizon.  I had not foolishly set their rumbling machinery into motion.  "Just do it" was an old piece of Hippie advice from the '60s and I was there in the '60s.

So with my experience I read with great horror what this guy experienced.  But he makes the correct point that bureaucracy does that.  The job of the bureaucracy is to say "No" to anything that might conceivably be dangerous in some conceivable world and it takes a lot to get around that.  And sometimes you can't.

And the end result?  I had 200+ academic journal articles published whereas this guy had none.  What a waste!

I think his final comments are worth reproducing:


"I sometimes worry that people misunderstand the case against bureaucracy. People imagine it’s Big Business complaining about the regulations preventing them from steamrolling over everyone else. That hasn’t been my experience. Big Business – heck, Big Anything – loves bureaucracy. They can hire a team of clerks and secretaries and middle managers to fill out all the necessary forms, and the rest of the company can be on their merry way. It’s everyone else who suffers. The amateurs, the entrepreneurs, the hobbyists, the people doing something as a labor of love. Wal-Mart is going to keep selling groceries no matter how much paperwork and inspections it takes; the poor immigrant family with the backyard vegetable garden might not.

Bureaucracy in science does the same thing: limit the field to big institutional actors with vested interests. No amount of hassle is going to prevent the Pfizer-Merck-Novartis Corporation from doing whatever study will raise their bottom line. But enough hassle will prevent a random psychiatrist at a small community hospital from pursuing his pet theory about bipolar diagnosis. The more hurdles we put up, the more the scientific conversation skews in favor of Pfizer-Merck-Novartis. And the less likely we are to hear little stuff, dissenting voices, and things that don’t make anybody any money.

There are so many privacy and confidentiality restrictions around the most harmless of datasets that research teams won’t share data with one another (let alone with unaffiliated citizen scientists) lest they break some arcane regulation or other. Closed access journals require people to pay thousands of dollars in subscription fees before they’re allowed to read the scientific literature; open-access journals just shift the burden by requiring scientists to pay thousands of dollars to publish their research. Big research institutions have whole departments to deal with these kinds of problems; unaffiliated people who just want to look into things on their own are out of luck.

SOURCE

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A reunion


I sometimes nearly forget that I have a sister.  She lives quietly in Rockhampton and it is many years since I have been to Rockhampton.

She is however a very vivacious woman so I was greatly pleased that when she was briefly in Brisbane this evening, I was able to shout her a dinner at the "Sunny Doll".  Her equally lively husband was with her plus her daughter Katie.  Katie is rather quiet.  Maybe she could never get a word in edgewise when she was growing up with two very chatty parents.

My brother Christopher was also in attendance as was Jenny.  Joe had to work back so arrived rather late but everyone was pleased to see him when he did arrive.

Roxanne was in good form and many things were discussed.  I was updated on why and how Rox was "bumptious" during her schooldays and we decided that she got it from her very independent mother.  Her mother was also a great talker. We decided that there should be more bumptiousness.

We also mentioned my Aunt Maude.  Yes. I did have an actual Aunt Maude!  How oldfashioned can you get?  My mother was a very critical woman -- I probably get my irreverence from her -- and I recollect that there were only two people she normally spoke well of -- her niece Shirley and her sister Maudie. Stefan said that when he met Maude, she dismissed him as "blue collar".  That would have been Maudie.  She was a toughie.

In her youth Rox was something of a hippie.  Yet now she is a contented wife and mother.  How come? In her youth she found most of the males she met to be too shallow.  But then along came Stefan, who was just right for her. He is intelligent, very verbal and with a very positive outlook.  And they have been together a long time now and still seem to greatly appreciate one another.  The pretty little shop assistant met the tall slim telecom technician.  And that was it. Roxanne is a teacher these days.

Joe had a few chats with his cousin Katie and it was an amusing contrast to see them together.  Katie is rather short and slight and Joe is 6' and well-built so he rather towered over her. Her father Stefan is about 6' tall so her height is a little surprising.  Roxanne is also rather slight so Katie seems to have taken after her mother entirely.

At one stage I mentioned that I am a great fan of Mr Trump!  Both Rox and Stefan could see that the constant barrage of negative comment about him from the media was biased and unbalanced

The food was good as usual and we had coffee there afterwards

Monday, September 4, 2017

An informal Fathers' Day


Joe and I went to the pie shop for our usual extended Sunday brunch yesterday morning.  I had not kept any awareness of when Fathers' Day was but Joe informed me it was that day.  So before we left, he bought me a creamy cake with Fathers' Day lettering on it.  We took it back to our place and Kate joined us on the verandah to cut and try it.  It was quite good but a bit rich.

Then that evening Joe came in and said we should have a Fathers' Day drink together.  I of course agreed and he poured each of us a dram of his Islay single malt:  A very respectful drink. We then chatted on for quite a while  -- in part about Mr Trump, of course. Mr Trump keeps everybody on the hop. So it was quite a congenial Fathers' Day.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An amusing visit


I went in to see a vascular surgeon today about my swollen foot.  As soon as I walked in his door, he said, rather abruptly, "What are you doing here?"  I gather that most of his customers are old ladies with varicose veins so I did not look the part at all.  For all their faults these days, my legs are actually rather smooth and shapely.  In my long-gone past it was not unknown for female persons to compliment me on my legs, believe it or not.

Anyway he started taking notes and as soon as he heard that I was a retired university lecturer, his manner became much more relaxed and communicative.  That is always so when I deal with medical people.  They recognize me as a peer and treat me accordingly.  It's academic privilege, I guess.  There is a lot of Leftist grumbling about privilege these days so I think I should note that academic privilege is earned.  With an average of 8 years of study leading to a doctorate it is a big time committment and a lot of work.

Anyway, he didn't think he could do anything for me other than give me diuretics but he sent me for a scan just in case.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A visitor and Portugal



I had a visitor from Sydney yesterday. Because I am a bit deaf, I don't encourage visitors a lot.  I am content to see people I already know. But cartoonist Zeg recommended this young bloke to me as someone who needed help to get started in blogging.  Brodie is of solid Scots ancestry and has the red hair to prove it. So when I picked him up off the Airtrain at Park Rd. I saw that red hair and immediately warmed to him. I am biased in favour of redheads -- but my father was one so I guess I am allowed.

Setting up the blog was quite a performance but we managed it. See here. Brodie could see that we had to be sitting together to do it. The name he chose for his blog was The Sober Scotsman, which was interesting. Finding a name for the URL of your blog is often difficult as all the obvious names have already been taken. But when I submitted "soberscot" as the name it went straight through. The concept of a sober Scotsman was clearly unusual. Scotsmen do like their "wee dram". I do too.

I have just heard from Anne in Portugal, with pic.  Here she is.  Note mobile phone at the ready.


She is at Monsaraz.  Never heard of it?  It is a civil parish (freguesia) of the municipality of the Reguengos de Monsaraz, on the right margin of the Guadiana River in the Portuguese Alentejo region.  Got that?  It still tells you nothing, doesn't it? Here's another description of it:  "Monsaraz is achingly beautiful, occupying a commanding position on a steep hill with commanding views above the Guadiana river".  Here's a picture of it:




Thursday, August 24, 2017

An English curry and a departure



On Friday I made a last attempt to get some goodness out of Keen's curry powder, a type of masala.  Keen's was a fixture in every home in my youth.  It WAS curry. But I have never been able to get much taste out of it in my cookery.  So on Friday I tossed a whole tinfull of it into my crockpot with some diced chicken, tomatoes, carrots, celery and sultanas. And that worked.  What came out was a curry of sorts, quite passable.  Anne even had some kind words about it.  I will use only Indian masalas in future, however.

A small excitement that night however was that Anne announced she had a pesky lump on her cheek.  I suggested that it looked like an SCC, which was displeasing.  So Anne needed to get to Russell Hills about it.  She managed to get a referral from our local Buranda family practice on Sunday and went in on Monday. Russell was not sure what the lump was so took a biopsy.  As Anne was booked to fly out to Portugal on Wednesday night it was a big rush.  The report came in just after lunch on Wednesday: Solar keratosis, so not urgent.

Tuesday was the night for a bon voyage dinner for Anne,  She will be in Portugal and Spain for four weeks. I was feeling a bit bushed that night for unknown reasons but I managed to do something towards a bon voyage dinner. I took her to what I think is the best Indian restaurant in Brisbane -- at Tingalpa -- and brought along a German champagne she particularly likes:  Henkel Trocken.

As it happens she did well with the dinner --  not only finishing up her lamb Rogan Josh but also having some spinach and cheese naan -- and also getting most of the Henkel. So she made it a good dinner.

I have just heard that she is now safely arrived in old Lisboa.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

More free books



Joe has just recently taken a big carton of fiction to Vinnies for me so I am now starting the process of culling my non-fiction.  I am listing my throwouts here in case anybody reading this might be interested in taking some of them off my hands.  More than half of my offerings last time did walk out the door that way. Maybe not this time, though.  They are mostly historic books.

Aeschuylus:  Prometheus; suppliants; persians
A dictionary of Biblical traditions in English literature
Aristophanes: Lysisstrata; Clouds; Acharnians
Aristotle: Politics
Bagehot: English constitution
Boswell: The life of Johnson
Caesar: Conquest of Gaul
Cicero: Selected works
Clausewitz: On war
Early Christian writers
Friedman:  Free to choose
Great books: Montesquieu ; Rousseau
Great books: American State Papers; The Federalist; J.S. Mill
Great books: Machiavelli; Hobbes
Greek rudiments (Attic)
Harvard Classics: Homer (Odyssey)
Harvard Classics: Plato; Epictetus; Marcus Aurelius
Harvard Classics: Dante
Harvard Classics: Edmund Burke
Hebrew grammar
Homer: Odyssey
Homer: Iliad
Hume: Treatise of human nature
Machiavelli: Prince
Merriam Webster dictionary of American English (3 large volumes)
New Testament Greek
Plato - Republic
Plato: Socratic discourses
Plutarch: Makers of Rome
Plutarch: Lives of the noble Romans
Roman Readings
Sophocles: Electra
Sophocvles: Theban plays
Virgil: Aeneid
Xenophon: Persian expedition

Saturday, August 12, 2017

I am a poor thing


During the week, on Wednesday, I underwent plastic surgery to excise a couple of cancerous bits on my neck.  And despite my being in expert hands, surgery is never any fun.

Then I lost a filling from my remaining front tooth for having bitten down too hard on some black chocolate out of the fridge.  So I had to go in next day and get that fixed.  And dentistry is NEVER fun.  I remember a little rhyme from my childhood:

"Some pains are physical and some are mental, but the one that is both is definitely dental"

But a nice Han man put me back right the next day so I have no complaints. Long live the Han!

And then on Friday, Anne somehow dropped a large kitchen knife on my foot!  Which left me bleeding all over the kitchen floor until I could get to the bathroom and run the tap over it.  That did fix it but it did look bad at first.

Anyway, Anne got as much aggravation out of it as I did -- as she had to clean up the blood.  We had a good dinner of chicken Kiev anyway. Washed down with a bottle of (NZ) Oyster Bay Sauvignon blanc.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

A busy Sunday


The basic reason why I make these personal notes is that I forget most of my life with great rapidity.  I seem to have forgotten at least 99% of my life.  So much so that I can have an enjoyable dinner with friends and relatives and not be able afterwards to remember one thing that we discussed.  If I make my note of the occasion within about an hour afterwards I can remember a bit but after that I am pretty sunk.

And that arose the morning after the dinner that I put on for Nanna's 93rd.  By the time I wrote the memoir of it I could remember little of the occasion.  So when Joe and I met for our usual Sunday brunch I asked him what he could remember.  He was pretty vague too but remembered that I talked to Kate about feminism being misleading to women and causing them to make unrealistic relationship decisions.  As Kate does have some feminist sympathies I was a little embarrassed as I probably seemed a bit of a bully.

Anyway, that led into Joe and I making feminism the main subject of our morning deliberations.  Although Joe and I have very similar views on most things political, I tend to be a bit more extreme than he is.  And on feminism, my views are well out of the mainstream: I think feminism is a low-grade mental illness.  That flows from the fact that the defining mark of mental illness is loss of reality contact. And a rather clear example of such loss is the central feminist claim that men and women are not really genetically different -- though, rather confusingly,  men are still the "enemy", the "patriarchy" or some such.

Joe argued for a more moderate view -- that feminism is just another example of Leftist devotion to the Marxist view that all men are equal. The American revolutionaries  thought that in a sort of a way too -- but they attributed the equality to exist only in God's poor vision. God apparently needs optometrical assistance.

And Joe is of course right to see feminism as just a branch of Leftism  -- but I think that belief in human equality is pretty deranged too.  But Joe has the probably correct view that the Left can see reality but just don't want to.  And various Freudian mechanisms such as denial, compartmentalization and projection enable them to serve that need.

Another thing I mentioned to Joe was that I had kept the receipts from the night before and that I was a little surprised to see that the bottle of Mawson Sauvignon blanc that I had bought on recommendation had cost me $26, where the shop price is $14.  That is of course routine for a restaurant but I had some vague recollection that clubs don't usually mark up so heavily.  The wine was however perfectly nice and I would buy it again.

And after most of the morning discussing heavy subjects, Anne and I had an afternoon outing. It was to celebrate a great Saxon occasion:  The first  successful break with Rome by Christians -- at the hands of Martin Luther and his King, Frederick, "the wise" of Saxony -- 500 years ago.

So together with Anne's sister June we went to a "Praise Fest" at St Paul's Presbyterian church in Spring Hill.  It is Brisbane's grandest Kirk. It is a large church but it was full of geriatrics for the occasion.  So Anne and I fitted in there.



The point of the occasion was to sing Protestant hymns, which must seem rather mad for Anne and me, seeing that neither of us  I are believers these days.  But we both enjoyed our time as Protestant Christians greatly, particularly the hymns. And we still sing them together at times. We even sing them in the bedroom, which is probably bizarre but neither of us care much about what others think.

I am obviously completely incapable of judging hymns as music objectively but I do enjoy them as much as I enjoy Bach and Mozart so maybe that means something.  Bach often based his chorales on hymns, of course.

Anyway, the occasion was rather disappointing to me.  It was put on by some teacher lady who could not resist the urge to teach.  So for about half the afternoon we got lectures about the history behind the hymns rather than just singing the hymns.  I would have preferred more hymns and a lot less talk. I wished to myself that she had followed the Biblical instruction:

"Let the women keep silent in the congregations. For it is not permitted for them to speak". -- 1 Corinthians 14:34, NW.  See also 1 Timothy 2:12 .

It is an amazement to me how alleged Christians pick and choose what to believe in the Bible.  They say the Bible is God's word but seem to think that they are capable of editing God. The same goes for homosexuality, despite 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1: 8-10, Romans 1:27 etc.

And the woman conducted the gathering as a service, with prayers etc.  But as far as I can gather she is not an ordained Presbyterian minister so that seemed impertinent to me. I suspect she is an attention-seeker.


Saturday, July 29, 2017

The birthday celebrations continue


On Monday, Jenny put on a dinner for Joe and myself at her place.  Joe's birthday and mine are only 5 days apart s celebrating both together makes sense.

Jenny made that great family favourite for dinner:  egg-rolled pork. It is a regional Korean dish and by far the best rissoles you have ever tasted.

Jenny also gave me a bottle of my favourite jam: Cumquat. It is not usually commercially available so is a great "craft" product.  I actually have a thriving cumquat tree in my front yard but its crop so far is too small to do much with.  Leaving the brilliant yellow fruit on the tree does however make the tree very attractive-looking.

Then today was my birthday offering for Joe.  Seeing this birthday is his 30th, I thought he should have a big family dinner at our favourite Indian restaurant.  Wisely, however, Joe is a pretty private person, so that did not appeal to him at all.  Instead he asked for just the two of us to go down to Wynnum for a sandwich lunch -- which we did.

I made four good sandwiches of 4 different types and guess what we had for drinks? A thermos of tea? coffee? beer? mineral water? -- or Joe's addiction -- flavoured milk?  No.  I took two cans of Coke. Joe drinks heaps of Coke and I also drink it at times so that's what we had.  Unpicnicy?  Probably.

Anyway, the tide was in, the day was fine and we found a fairly secluded seat overlooking the water. It was very pleasant.  And as usual we talked almost entirely about politics.

We even got into political history, with me updating Joe on some of the less-known facts about Abraham Lincoln, the Horace Greeley letter, for instance.  I also updated Joe on the economic reasons behind the uncivil war.  We got onto that topic because Joe asked about it. He recited a sarcastic parody of the Gettysburg address at one point.

I don't like upsetting Americans as they are mostly good people but they sure have been taught an incredible load of bull about their past.

Then tonight I put on a dinner for Nanna to celebrate her 93rd. Rather amazingly, she is still going pretty well at that age.  I took us to the Yeronga RSL, which has a very nice family atmosphere.  It was buffet night, which Nanna particularly likes. I think it is the best smorgasbord in Brisbane, as a matter of fact.  Joe and I just pigged out, as you would expect, and even Anne went back for seconds.  But I didn't overeat.  I still felt comfortable afterwards.

I discussed with Kate her Catholic background but very little of it seems to have remained in her head.  She comes from Canberra, where the real religion is Leftism. She was dressed nicely in a midnight blue outfit.

Joe didn't say much, as is his wont. He talks plenty one-to-one but doesn't like group conversations.  I don't either.

Jenny talked mainly about shopping.  She is an expert at that. I still get her to buy presents for me to give to others.  She does it far better than I would.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Griffo's "Pik a hot Pak"



About 55 years ago when I was about 20, I had a job selling transmission machinery from a shop in George St., Brisbane. It rather strangely had 3 names: Gearco, Irvine's and Munro Machinery. That is such a strange job for a literary type like me that I think I should say a few words about how I got that job.

There were not many jobs advertised in the local paper for experts in Middle-English poetry -- which is what I knew most about -- so with supreme optimism I applied for job as an engineering equipment salesman.

I was interviewed by Harry Beanham, who owned a chain of similar shops in other capital cities. I turned up for the interview in a green suit wearing a green fuzzy felt hat. That was not a good move. But Harry was a cautious man so he just asked me two questions which should have sent me on my way. He asked: What is a tap and what is a reamer? Being a country kid I answered both questions correctly. And if you think a tap is something you get water out of you don't know engineering machinery. Harry was so delighted to meet a kid who actually knew something that he gave me the job straight away.

And I vindicated his faith in me.  At one stage I made a big sale of diehead chasers  -- which are sort of complicated things.  Apparently none of Harry's other people were selling diehead chasers so Harry gathered together his whole stock of them and sent them up to Brisbane for me to sell.  In his mind I became the diehead chaser man.  Which actually served me well on a later occasion.  But that's another story.

Anyway, while I was working there in the shop, most people in the area seemed to know of a Greek cafe nearby called "Griffo's".  And people flocked there to buy a lunch called "Pik a hot pak".  It was yummy.  It was basically a toasted bacon & egg sandwich but with other stuff in it as well. At that time in my life I was busy saving money so my lunch was usually a cheese and pickle sandwich that I brought from home.  But the Griffo's product was so attractive that I did splash out on one at times.

Sadly, however, Griffo's eventually vanished, as so much does over the years. As one gets older, however, one does tend to reminisce about "the good ol' days" a lot and the memory of Griffo's came to me recently.  So I decided that I would try to recreate a "Pik a hot pak".  I am of course not sure how close I got to the original but the taste is at least pretty similar -- and super-yummy.

So what's in it?  The first constraint was that it had to contain pretty familiar ingredients.  Any "foreign muck" would not have been well received in Brisbane of that era.  So I used absolutely routine breakfast and lunch ingredients as I knew them at that time.  So it is something that any cafe would be able to put together for you to this day.

It is simply bacon, fried egg, cheese, sliced tomato and fried onion topped by a small dab of tomato sauce all piled together into an ordinary toasted white-bread sandwich and cut into four. My local cafe puts it together well for me and it's the best toasted sandwich I have ever had!  So some long overdue thanks to Griffo's.

Warning:  If you try it you could become addicted!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A week that was



Both Joe and I have birthdays in July so various activities were entered into by way of celebration.

Last Tuesday Anne made me a dinner at her place of corned beef fritters, which were absolutely perfect.  She makes such good fritters that I am making them my equal favourite dinner alongside French (lamb) cutlets.

Then on Friday Jill & Lewis accompanied Anne and myself to the Sunny Doll Japanese restaurant, where everybody agreed the food  was outstanding.  I had the curry, Anne had the Wagyu beef and Jill and Lewis both had the Teriyaki chicken Don. Japanese curry sounds an odd idea but Japanese curry is in fact as good as any.

After dinner we adjourned to my verandah to cut my birthday cake, a rich fruit cake with white icing. Joe and Kate came in for the cutting as well but had to go out after that so didn't stay for the coffee.

Then on the Saturday evening Anne came over and cooked me French Cutlets, which has long been our favourite dinner.  Anne also brought over Sydney rock oysters to start. Anne even got my candleabrum going for the occasion so we dined by candle-light. I opened one of my last three bottles of Barossa Pearl. I think it's a brilliant wine  -- slightly sweet, with a slight sparkle and quite fruity -- so it seems crazy that they have discontinued it.

Then on Sunday morning Joe and I had our  usual 9:30am  brunch together at the pie shop We talked (of course) about Mr Trump and politics generally.  Joe was a bit ill but was nonetheless in a good mood for conversation.  We didn't get home until about 11:45.

Then on Sunday night I arranged a secret men's business dinner on my verandah.  Ladies have lots of ladies' lunches so we men need to catch up.  I got my friend Graham up from down Melbourne way and both Joe and my brother also attended.  As well as being a most insightful psychologist, Graham is also an absolute guru in martial arts, Western and Eastern. So he very kindly brought up with him a big armoury of swords to show us.  They were blunted practice swords to avoid mishaps but were otherwise authentic.

He said the sabre is the best all-round sword. And he didn't think much of the katana (Japanese samurai sword).  He said that most Western swordsmen could defeat a Samurai.  I mentioned the Klewang to him, which has a record of outclassing a katana but he had not heard of it and said he would look into it.  I asked him about the Gladius but he said it was only useful in the Roman style of fighting behind big shields.

My brother is also a martial arts enthusiast so he and Graham had an interesting time discussing and practicing unarmed combat moves.  From some moves that he showed us it is clear that Graham could break someone's neck in a matter of seconds.  Luckily he is a peaceful and ethical soul so he is no danger to anyone but the baddest of baddies.  I certainly learnt a lot about both swords and unarmed combat.

Then on Monday night Joe and I were ready for our usual expedition to Nandos but went to the Sushi train instead as Joe needed to be in time to pick Kate up afterwards.  Sushi is the ultimate fast food

Monday, July 17, 2017

My expensive new watch


This is it:



It is a Braithwait slimline classic, selling for just over $200.

I actually bought mine from Target for $15 but it is exactly the same as the one above.  It is made in China and keeps perfect time.  My previous Chinese watch lasted for years until someone stole it.  And it kept perfect time too.

You might guess that I don't understand the expensive watch scene

I mentioned the matter to Anne's son Warren, who is an expert in expensive trinkets.  He sells them.  And he said that he personally preferred the very simple style such as is featured in my watch. Maybe he was just being polite but I also like the minimalist style in lots of things so I believe him.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The chuckout continues



I noted on 14th that I was throwing out my collection of (mostly) classical novels.  And I listed half of them as a first step.  At that time I held back all the books with nice bindings (hard covers, mostly gold lettering on spine) and a few others.  I found them a bit hard to let go. But I have discovered new strength from somewhere and am about to throw out my pretty books too.  I list them below for anyone interested.  My last list got 50% mopped up by readers of this blog and Joe has just boxed up and taken away the remainder.  So now on to step 2:


Asimov, I. Collection
Austen, J. Collected works
Australian writers collection: M. Franklin; H. Richardson; A. Gunn, R. Park
Boccaccio, G, Decameron
Boldrewood, R. Robbery under arms
Bronte, C. Jane Eyre
Cervantes, M. Don Quixote
Chesterton, G. Complete Father Brown
Conrad, J. Collection
Dickens, C. Tale of two cities
Dickens, C. Oliver Twist
Dickens, C. Great expectations
Dickens, C. The old curiosity shop
Doyle, A. Sherlock Holmes collection
Durrell, L. Alexandria quartet
Eliot, T. Cocktail party
Goldsmith, O. Vicar of Wakefield
Guareschi, G. Don Camillo omnibus
Guareschi, G. Comrade Don Camillo
Hawthorne, N. House of the seven gables
Hemingway, Islands in the stream
Herbert, F. Dune
Hughes, T. Tom brown's schooldays
Humphries, B. More please
Kipling, R. Kim
Kingsley, C.  Hereward the wake
Kingsley, C.  Westward ho
Lewis, S. The god seekers
Pepys. S. Diary selections
Priestley, J. Bright day
Richardson, H. The fortunes of Richard Mahony
Scott, W. The fair maid of Perth
Shaw, G. Complete plays
Simenon, G. Maigret and the madwoman
Simenon, G. Maigret hesitates
Simenon, G. Maigret's boyhood friend
Simenon, G. Maigret and the lazy burglar
Simenon, G. Maigret and the headless corpse
Sterne, L. Sentimental journey
Sterne, L. Tristram Shandy
Stevenson, R. Dr Jekyl & Mr Hyde
Stevenson, R. New Arabian nights
Stevenson, R. The Amateur emigrant
Stevenson, R. The wrong box
Stevenson, R. Kidnapped
Tolstoy, L.  War & peace (3 vols.)
Trollope, A. Collected novels
Wilde, O. Collected works


Next to go will be my "serious" books

Monday, June 19, 2017

My experience buying boots is the perfect example of why retail is declining



I originally wrote this for one of my political blogs but I think it has a place here too.  I sympathize with the woman's story below.  I have had experiences like this more or less forever.  It's worst of all in Britain but it crops up a lot in Australia too.  Computer shops are the worst -- I have written about them before --  but clothing shops can be bad too.  My most recent experience was from 28 August 2015, when I was trying to buy bespoke shoes.  My feet are a bit swollen due to a medical condition so regular shoes that fit me are hard to find.

So I went in to BFS Pedorthics in 128 Logan Rd, Woolloongabba  -- a specialist in bespoke shoes. Nobody was serving but I found a pair of shoes that suited me on the display and got out my $200+ to pay for them.  But nobody would acknowledge me.  The blonde receptionist was glued to her phone and when I went out the back nobody there wanted to help either.  So I went elsewhere and bought a suitable pair of shoes for $60.00.

So the blonde bitch saved me money but I felt sorry for the owner, a Mr Tye. So I wrote him the following letter:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

This morning I made a special trip into your Logan Rd shop in order to buy a special type of shoe I need.  There was no-one to assist me but I did find a pair that seemed right.  They appeared to be over $200 but that was OK.

I could not however find anyone to take my money.  There was a young blonde there but she was glued to her phone and I could not unglue her.  I went out the back but no-one there was willing to help either

May I suggest that you train your workshop staff to handle customers if need be?

I also think that a customer who walks in should have priority over someone who just picks up a phone but that is for you to decide.  As it is you missed out on my $200+

I was offended by the lack of service that I received

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

Was Mr Tye bothered by the fact that his receptionist took $200 out of his pocket?  Who knows?  He never replied.  The blonde probably intercepted the letter before he saw it. But I did what I could for the man anyway.


SOMEWHERE in the corporate headquarters of retailers, meetings are taking place.

Entire executive teams are seated around the boardroom table, laptops open, spreadsheets and sales charts as far as the eyes can see. No doubt the scent of caffeine permeates the air because everyone knows these meetings can be quite tiring.

The first slide comes up on to the wall and shows sales on a steady decline. Some of the stores this retailer operates have had days without making a single sale.

“It makes no sense,” opens the property development manager, “the shop is in an ideal location and the centre is really busy at the moment. There’s loads of passing traffic.”

“We have ample stock and the product range is up to the minute,” adds the planner.

“So why aren’t we selling any shoes?” wonders the sales manager.

It must be highly frustrating for this bunch of suits. They must be wondering why their businesses are not making money, and I know the answer.

Recently I went shopping with the express purpose of buying a pair of boots. I knew what I wanted; colour, style, price point — I had the whole thing sorted.

I was so confident in my pursuit I even wrangled my husband into joining me, there was going to be no endless dilly dallying, no hours spent browsing — just me and my credit card going into a shop and exiting with a pair of short-heeled, brown ankle boots.

The first store we went to didn’t have them. No drama, there is a shop across the way from them that seems to have an extensive collection of winter boots.

The fact that the stores are this close together doesn’t surprise me, I know the head honchos at headquarters like to position their stores in proximity for this very reason — if I don’t like what the first shop offers I am primed and ready for the next shop selling brown boots.

I enter the store and immediately see the boot I like. I also see the sales woman standing at the counter peering at her laptop. I take the shoe off the shelf and look to see what size it is. The saleswoman takes out a highlighter and starts to highlight things that are much more important than customers.

I walk over to her and ask her if she has the boots in my size. My husband asks her if she has a pair of socks that I can try them on with. She says no. It’s the only word she has said to us and we’re not sure if she’s saying no to the socks or the boots.

But then she reluctantly leaves her computer to retrieve the correctly sized boots which she thrusts at me before returning to her desk. I assume the no was for the socks. Clearly she is very busy and far too important to be selling shoes.

In fact she’s far too busy to serve customers. This I know because while I am trying on the boots two more customers enter the shop and she ignores them as well.

I’m not suggesting that the woman employed by the company to sell their products should fawn over me or tell me my feet look perfect in the boots. It’s just that the sale of product under her watch goes some way to paying her salary. Is it too much to expect her to assist the sale in some way?

Maybe she had really important documents to read and highlight, documents that couldn’t wait a single minute. But she lost my sale and the other two customers also walked out empty-handed.

Sadly she’s not alone in her refusal to sell the products she’s employed to shift, in fact she’s just one of the many people I encountered sitting behind their counters that day.

And before you blame Millennials or Generation X or any other group who you’d like to point at, let me assure you that the people refusing to help customers by actively avoiding contact with them, do not belong to one demographic or age group.

This is a retail issue. And with Amazon literally primed to enter the Australian marketplace and completely change the retail landscape surely it’s time for bricks and mortar businesses to step up the service a notch.

Somewhere in the race to be competing online it seems likes these businesses have forgotten to train their staff, or at least to incentivise them to do their jobs.

I eventually went online myself where I didn’t except any service other than an easy-to-load shopping cart. But I can’t help thinking about those people in head office who are wondering why their shoes aren’t being sold in their physical outlets.

It’s simply because no one is selling them.

SOURCE

Friday, June 16, 2017

Russian ladies and Slavic ladies generally



For many years I admired female persons from behind the Iron Curtain.  The curtain is now gone but Russian ladies still make waves in the West. Most billionaires seem to have one.  Czech ladies are pretty good too.  Mind you, I have always been particularly impressed by the gorgeous ladies of Poland

A friend of mine from Poland -- Janusz -- related to me that when he would be walking along a street in Poland, you would often see a lady so attractive that you would just stop watch her go by.  That had never happened to him in Australia.   Despite being loyal to my own ethnic group, I did have some idea of what he meant.  I have met some gorgeous Polish ladies in Australia.

I have however arrived at old age without experiencing an Eastern European lady in my life but I am content

However, it so happens that there are TWO Russian ladies I see occasionally. They are just friends but very bright and lively ones of my own vintage.  And, like ALL Russians abroad that I know of, they have praise for Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.  And I do too.  He attends his Russian Orthodox church,  slaughters Jihadis and tries to point out that Russia should be respected as the world's biggest country -- stretching from Vladivostok in the Pacific right across the Eurasian continent to Petersburg in the Baltic.  Even aside from their beautiful ladies, Russians have much to be proud of.





Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Curry, books and a birthday



My week started out well. Joe is in Sydney so on Monday I cooked up an Achar Gosht Keema for Kate and Jenny. That's curried mince in plain English.  I got a packet of Achar Gosht masala (curry powder) from an Indian shop and tipped the whole of it into 500g of semi-fatty mince plus a can of tomatoes and some celery.  And the result was quite tasty.  We had it with rice, raita and chutney.  You need a bit of fat in a curry to carry the flavour.

My post about books I was giving away had by that time attracted some interest.  Jenny saw some she wanted and even Kate picked up some she felt she should have read but had not yet done so. I think "1984" was one of them.

Ken is a great bibliophile so he came over after dinner at about 8pm with a long list of the books he wanted.  I made him wait until the ladies had taken their pick however.  But both ladies were very gracious and offered to give Ken one or two from their selection if Ken was really after it.  Ken did take up that offer for an anthology of an author he liked. Having nice ladies in your life is a great boon

And Jenny had just acquired a second-hand cat so she showed Kate pictures of it and they had a very lively discussion about cats.  Kate is a cat lady.

So it was quite a jolly evening

Then on Tuesday it was a dinner at Anne's place in honour of sister June's birthday.  So as well as Anne and me, June and Ralph were along.  June and Ralph both live in the same oldie establishment and Ralph is the 84-year-old widower of Merle, the deceased sister of Anne and June.  I like Ralph.

Anne did well with the dinner.  She served up pieces of prawn on Jatz for canapes, followed by a very tasty casserole with mashed sweet potato plus greens.  June brought along some very good apple crumble that she had made and I contributed a bottle of Henkel Trocken, a German "champagne" that Anne particularly likes.

June is a rather cheerful person and I stir things up so the conversation flowed.

Then today I saw Dr. Cockburn about my latest excision.  And we agreed that it had gone well.  So for the first time since March 1st I now have no surgical dressings on me


Thursday, June 8, 2017

Books, books, books



Like all academics I know, I have always collected books.  I even read most of them.  When I was a kid I used to read two or three kids' books a week until I had read everything from that collection in the local library.  At that point they reluctantly gave me access to the main collection, from which I read a lot of history, mainly.

And when I got my first job I spent part of my earnings on BUYING books.  I remember the first such I bought:  A collection of Plato's Socratic dialogues:  Unusual reading matter for a teenager in a small Australian country town but it probably tells you what I am.  And most of my reading from then on was in history and philosophy, plus most of the classical Greek canon.

I moved around a fair bit in my early life and books are a huge anchor when you do that so every time I moved I would give away half of my books.  So my book collection got steadily whittled down to the books I most particularly liked -- mostly classic novels and various reference books.

And now I have arrived at a new time in life -- where books are mostly obsolete.  Whatever people read these days, they mostly read it off a screen --  online or on Kindle.  Even I do that.  Even when I have a relevant reference book, I don't use it.  I just Google it and read online the bit I want.

So I have come to the sad conclusion that it is time to give half of my novels away.  I don't want to dissociate myself from them completely, however. So I have decided to list below the books I am abandoning:


Andrews, J.  Shamela
Asimov, I. Banquets of the black widowers
Braine, J.  Room at the top
Brickhill, P.  Reach for the sky
Bronte, C.  Wuthering Heights
Burroughs, E. Tarzan, Lord of the jungle
Butler, S. Erewhon
Caldwell, A. God's little acre
Capote, T. Breakfast at Tiffany's
Chesterton, G. The club of queer trades
Clarke, A. Cradle
Collins, T. Such is life
Conrad, J. Heart of darkness
Cooper, J. The last of the Mohicans
Defoe, D. Journal of the plague year
Dickens, C. Pickwick papers
Dickens, C.  David Copperfield
Dostoyevsky, F. Crime and punishment
Doyle, A. A study in scarlet and The sign of four
Doyle, A. Great stories
Dumas, A. The three musketeers
Dumas, A.  The black tulip
Eco, U. The name of the rose
Eliot, G. The mill on the floss
Eliot, G. Silas Marner
Faulkner, W.  Absalom, Absalom
Faulkner, W.  The sound and the fury
Fielding, H.  Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. The last tycoon
Forster, E. Room with a view
Forster, E. A passage to India
Gray, Z. The call of the canyon
Haggard, H. King Solomon's mines
Hardy, T.  The return of the native
Hawthorne, N. The scarlet letter
Heller, J. Catch 22
Hugo, V. Les Miserables
Hugo, V.  The hunchback of Notre Dame
James, H. The ambassadors
James, H. Short stories
Lawrence, D. Sons and lovers
Lawrence, D. Lady Chatterley' lover
Lawrence, D. The Prussian officer
Lawrence, D.  Three novellas
Lawrence, D.  Women in love
Lawrence, D.  The rainbow
Lawson, H. Joe Wilson's mates
Lewis, S. The God-seeker
Mackenzie, C.  Rockets galore
Mann, T. Death in Venice
Marlowe, C.  The tragedy of Dr. Faustus
Maugham, W. Of human bondage
Maugham, W. Points of view
Maugham, W. Painted veil
Meyer, N.  The seven percent solution
Moravia, A. Roman tales
Orczy, B. The scarlet Pimpernel
Orwell, G. Animal farm
Orwell, G. Coming up for air
Orwell, G. A clergyman's daughter
Powell, A. Hearing secret harmonies
Powell, A. Valley of bones
Rand, A.  The early Ayn Rand
Rand, A. Fountainhead
Reade, C. The cloister and the hearth
Richardson, H.  Maurice Guest
Richardson, S. Pamela
Roth, P.  Portnoy's complaint
Scott, W. Waverley
Scott, W. Quentin Durward
Shelley, M. Frankenstein
Simenon, G. Maigret stonewalled
Simenon, G. Third omnibus
Smollet, T. The expedition of Humphry Clinker
Steinbeck, J. Grapes of wrath
Stevenson, R. The master of Ballantrae
Swift, J. Gulliver's travels
Thackeray, W.  Henry Esmond
Thackeray, W.  Vanity Fair
Thackeray, W.  Barry Lyndon
Thoreau, H. Walden
Tolstoy, L. Anna Karenin
Warren, R.  All the king's men
Waugh, A. Path of dalliance
Waugh, A. Who are the violets now?
Waugh, A. Consider the lilies
Waugh, E. Scoop
Waugh, E. A handful of dust
Wells, H. Short stories
Wells, H. Tono Bungay
Wells, H. The war of the worlds
West, M. The shoes of the fisherman
Woolf, V.  Moments of being
Yates, D. Blood Royal
Young, F. Dr. Bramley remembers

I am pretty sure that people can access copies of all those books online.  I have kept the more recent ones that may not be online. If anybody would like a book above and can collect it, be my guest.  I won't be taking any of them to the charity shop for maybe a week.



Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Travel



As I see it, there are three groups of travellers: Young people who are seeing the world before they settle down,  People on higher incomes who can afford to go overseas at least once a year and people on average incomes who can't afford to travel much but who save up for the BIG TRIP when they retire.  And with the price of cruising way down, people in the latter category are finding that they can afford several trips instead of just one big one.

In my 30's I was getting good money as a university lecturer so I went overseas a lot and saw just about all I wanted to see.  So these days I prefer the comforts of home to the hassle of travel.

But now that she has retired Anne is making up for lost time.  She travels quite a lot both in Australia and overseas.  She is at present on a guided tour through the Top End.  She likes art galleries in particular so there is a picture of a happy Anne at Darwin Art Gallery below.


She looks like she has found an "Aboriginal" car door there. We both like Aboriginal art but there is no telling how much of it is actually done by Aborigines these days.