Saturday, November 18, 2017
On Friday I invited Von & Co to a lunch at my usual brunch place. I had Vietnamese Brioches, Simon had a chicken burger and Von had a chicken wrap. We had some moderately serious discussions as you would expect from that being the last day of Von's visit. Von is optimistic that she will be back next year.
Over the years I have shouted various Johnnsons food -- Ken, Paul and Von. And they have always honoured my offerings by eating every last crumb
But I have discovered that there is a small Johnson who has a very Johnson tummy too. At my High Tea on Thursday, Hannah made good use of the offerings. After consuming a significant amount, she was ready for a choc-chip cookie but her mother put her foot down and would not allow it. Von is a surprsingly "taking charge" person at times. Anyway, that quite small tummy that Hannah has inherited had true Johnson capacity: Large.
Something unusual on my cake-stand for the High Tea were Medjool dates. They are a species that has been around for thousands of years but have become popular only recently. They are very soft and juicy. Israel is a major supplier of them but from my packet of them, they seemed to be Australian grown. They all went down well anyhow
Anne did the cucumber sandwiches as usual and did a great job.
We also did one of my mini-plays on Thursday, just before the High Tea. It was, "Building the "Dreadnought"". It was greeted as very educational. It is one of a series of three plays.
While we were doing the play, Hannah dropped over the railings of my verandah her miniature Thomas the Tank "Train", prompting as big a cry as you have ever seen. It hadn't fallen far however so Matthew did a "Knight in shining armour" performance by retrieving it.
We also had some big political discussions about Scottish and NZ politics, with Paul being very vocal, as you would expect. Paul was particularly incensed at the money spent on putting up the Scottish Parliament building: £414 million, many times higher than initial estimates of between £10m and £40m. A lot of Scots were disgusted when it was completed in 2004 but Paul is maintaining the rage. It's not even a dignified building: Just a scrappy mess. But that's "postmodernism" for you.
Simon never gets incensed as far as I can see but he was clearly disgusted by Jacinda Ardern becoming Prime Minister of NZ with around a third of the vote. There are some odd electoral systems in the world. Even Hitler got 44% of the vote in 1933.
Paul's house has Ruskin connections from when it was built and Susan is descended from him so I read out a couple of good quotes from Ruskin. They were quotes I had collected in my late teens of long ago, not the ones you normally see online. Here they are:
Resurrection: "I fancy the goodly bricks of some of our family vaults will hold closer in the Resurrection day than the sod over the labourer's head" -- From "The Crown of Wild Olive"
Mankind: "And truly it seems to me as I gather in my mind the evidences of insane religion, degraded art, merciless war, sullen toil, detestable pleasure and vain or vile hope, in which the nations of the world have lived since since first they could bear record of themselves -- it seems to me, I say as if the race itself were still half-serpent, not extricated yet from its clay; a lacertine breed of bitterness -- the glory of it emaciate with cruel hunger, and blotted with venomous stain; and the track of it on the leaf a glittering slime and in the sand a useless furrow -- "Queen of Air, p. 101.
The quotes are masterful literary English -- which is why I collected them -- but that also meant that nobody to whom I read them understood a word of them. I explained what was being said and then they were comprehended
Ruskin was a famous literary and art critic of the late Victorian era. He was rather full of himself but was undoubtedly a brilliant man. Like most arty people, he was of the Left. My second quote from him above is almost a Leftist catechism in its profound discontent with just about everything.
On Wednesday Simon cooked a few of us a butter chicken curry at Jenny's place. It was excellent
Monday, November 13, 2017
On Tuesday 7th we all met at Jenny's at dinner time to welcome Paul and Matthew back to Brisbane. Ken picked them up from the airport. Jenny made a BIG batch of egg-rolled pork as that is the family favourite -- and there were some big eaters among us -- 3 Johnson's no less (Von, Paul and Ken). I think I got a total of five of the rissoles so I did OK too. Jenny of course also provided salads and such things to go with the pork, including Kim Chee and Japanese ginger. I got a fair bit of those things too. Paul had a lot to tell us after a long while away so talked at a great rate.
On Wednesday evening was a dinner arranged just for Paul and me. It was to commemorate the life of Chris Brand. Paul had brought all the way from Scotland a bottle of light Port that Chris had given him so he thought I was the right one to share it with It was a "Cavendish" Port from South Afria laid down in 1956. Some wine guide said it was worth 400 pounds. I cooked meat loaf to go with it as Paul and I have fond memories of previous meatloaves and this one was pretty good. It popped up at Woolworths about 6 months ago so I grabbed one with a view to sharing it with Paul some time So all I did was heat it up and serve it with salad. We were half way through our dinner on my verandah when Joe came by on his way home. We managed to get him to join us as he too had met Chris. So he got an unexpected dinner of Port, meatloaf and salad. Paul finished the Port off and Jenny was kind enough to come and pick him up after the dinner.
On Saturday we had Christmas! Both Von and Paul will be gone when Christmas arrives so we decided to have one of our normal Christmases while they were still here. And it did work out as usual, complete with amusing games with presents. Von took on the job of MC and did it very well. I shouted the ham as usual, Anne contributed and iced a Christmas cake and Simon did great work frying lots of small kebabs. The ladies also brought various cakey things which were all enjoyed. It was good to see Timmy with us. He brought along a very presentable girlfriend too -- another Kiwi. One of the more memorable events was when I tripped over but managed to fall sitting down in a chair rather than on the ground. I dropped the fruit salad I was carrying, however. But there was plenty more.
And on Sunday it was Dosa lunch time. We always have dosas when Von is here. We mostly order masala dosas but Kate was feeling bold and ordered a Ghee dosa sight unseen. It was enormous and she didn't finish it. But the dosas were good as usual. Indians have them for breakfast.
Mon 13th was another Monday so we all went again to Nandos -- this time including Paul and Matthew. We took up 5 of their tables between us. Quite a lot of chips were left over after the meal but Paul fixed that in his usual way. There were a lot of good reminiscences, mainly about assertive things I had done over the years -- from my sitting on a glass shop counter to booming my way through a crowd at a Katoomba restaurant. The kids enjoyed such antics at the time and probably enjoy them even more now in the retelling.
There was one memory we were all very hazy about. I took the twins bike riding in the Botanic gardens and hired bikes for the purpose. But one of the bikes had a flat tire and I apparently talked rather sternly to the bike hire people about it. Suz might remember more details.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Von & Co. arrived at the beginning of this month (Wednesday 1st) for a couple of weeks and it has been something of a whirl ever since. Jenny put on a sausage BBQ on the evening of their arrival. Ken picked them up from the airport and Joe and I also were there to greet them. Hannah was wound up like a top and we were all of course a bit excited. Jenny supplied some wine with the dinner but nobody drank much, as usual.
Then on Friday I shouted Von & Co. a brunch at my usual brunch hangout in Woolloongabba. I got them all one of my special toasted sandwiches with "everything" in it. They went down very well. They always do. We went back to my place for tea and biscuits afterward until Ken picked them up at 11am for a trip to Southbank.
Then on Saturday night I put on a small pizza and champagne night with the "supreme" pizzas from Pizza Hut being very good. Kate was helpful with dishing out the pizzas.
Then on Monday night came time for Joe and me to have our usual excursion to Nando's. So I invited Von & Co to that too. As seems to be the norm at Nando's, we had trouble at ordering time but the food was good as usual. I had the "thighs and slaw" in a wrap, which I always enjoy.
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
I went in yesterday for a scan of my bones in my lower back and right hip. You can read the report here
Basically, old age has caught up with me and I have a degree of bone degeneration in my right hip and lower back. And that gives pain in response to certain movements. I can walk without pain and sit in a chair without pain but other movement tend to give pain to some degree. Since walking and sitting in a chair in front of my computer is all I do, I have got off lightly.
There is no cure but pain killers give some relief. Alcohol does too! I have also learned how to move when doing various things and can often do them without pain if I go carefully. I can still drive, for instance, but getting in and out of the car is a bit tricky. My biggest beef is that it always gives me some pain to get in and out of bed. I have normally had a couple of lie-downs during the day so that is a pest.
I believe that about half of all men of my age get osteoarthritis somewhere so time has just caught up with me
Friday, October 20, 2017
Yesterday I did my back in. Most movements are now difficult and painful. I am relying on aspirin to speed recovery and I think it has already done some good. I think I did it by lifting a heavy kitchen benchtop into my car at Bunnings. It's still there in the back of the car. I am renovating an old kitchen sink downstairs. The invaluable Dudley is doing the work.
Then today the sale of my Humber was finalized. It took me over a month to get a roadworthy certificate for it as it needed some work that required replacement parts. There was however only one man who had the parts and he was in hospital! So we had to wait until he got out.
Then the wife of the buyer went into hospital so that kept the buyer preoccupied for a few weeks. So both the buyer and I had to be patient. So seeing it finally depart was a relief. I bought it for $8,000 and sold it for $7,000 -- plus I spent a lot on it while I had it but I got some fun out of for around 10 years it so that is all fair enough. I sold it to a man who seems to be a collector of old cars.
I am due for new hearing aids soon -- at $8,000 -- so the Humber sale will help pay for that.
Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Today I had a long set of sutures taken out of my arm. I had a new excision from my neck. I had a punch biopsy on my cheek. I had cryotherapy for a few things. I booked a big (Moh's) procedure to remove some lumps in a few weeks time
And I don't feel the least bit bothered. It helps that I have had a lot of that stuff done in the past
Monday, October 2, 2017
Sunday night was another night of secret men's business. Graham was up from Victoria, Christopher came and Joe joined us. I cooked my usual savoury mince for 6pm dining. Not flash food but satisfactory. The dessert was also humble: Tinned fruit with ice cream. But the fruit was mango slices so that was good.
The others were all amazed at my method of serving ice-cream -- with a carving knife. You would have to see it to believe it.
The occasion was one for conversation but that was rather assisted when straight after dinner Christopher unveiled his collection of WW2 German daggers. A dagger was part of dress uniform at that time and each branch of the armed forces had its own uniform and dagger. There was even an SS dagger with Meine Ehre heisst Treue engraved on it. Roughly translated that means "My honour is to be called faithful and true".
So Graham told us a lot about how to use daggers and we talked a lot about WW2 generally. Christopher is also a gun collector and is very knowledgeable about them so we talked about the Sturmgewehr and many of the modern military rifles. I was surprised to hear that the Tommy gun was used by American forces in WW2 -- though with a stick magazine instead of the famous circular one.
As part of our political discussions, I asked Chris whether Eric Butler's League of Rights still existed. They were pretty far Right and Christopher used to have some interest in them but he no longer does so, apparently. I see however that they still exist online. They had some funny money beliefs (Douglas Credit) in the old days but I am not sure if they still do.
Graham wishes to publish a manual on the art of fencing and Joe advised him on how to do that as an E-book.
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
India, India: Anne and I had planned to go on a cruise early in the New Year but we have now decided to fly to India instead. I have always liked India and Indians and I have in fact been there three times already. Past trips have been to Delhi and Bombay only however and this time I aim to get to know Tamil Nadu -- so will probably spend most time in Chennai, once known as Madras.
And Anne will enjoy India because I do. I know how to get on with Indians. A smile is my passport and a very effective one it is too
I want to get to know Tamil Nadu because it is actually a very ancient culture. Tamils say they are the last of the classical civilizations (such as ancient Greece and Rome) and they do have continuity that far back. The standard grammar for modern literary Tamil continues to be based on Middle Tamil of the 13th century. Few of us can understand English of the 13th century.
Monday, September 25, 2017
When a store accepts back unsuitable goods, the customer expects a full refund. In the bad old days that often did not happen. All you got was a credit note to enable you to buy other things at that store.
In the early '60s I bought some tapes for my tape recorder from Dixons in Elizabeth St., Brisbane. Dixons was the local tentacle of a big British electrical goods retailer. It still exists there.
When the tapes were not suitable I took them back and was hit with the credit note caper. I refused it and insisted on cash. No luck
So the next Saturday morning I got an old white t-shirt and used a big black marking pen to write on it: "Dixons are dishonest" in big letters. I then wore that shirt and paraded up and down in front of the shop entrance -- chanting "Dixons are dishonest. They swindled me. They may swindle you". I saw no one enter the store while I was there so I gather I destroyed their entire Saturday trade.
I got a cheque in the mail for the required amount the next Tuesday.
As I understand it, the credit note caper has been long ago outlawed in most jurisdictions so I was surprised to encounter it at Officeworks last Sunday. This time, however, I was a bit more wised up so simply wrote a letter to Mr Goyder, CEO of Wesfarmers, who own Officeworks. Below is the letter.
Dr John Ray
24 September, 2017
TO: Richard Goyder
Dear Mr Goyder,
As a long-term Wesfarmers shareholder, I have always taken a keen interest in the business and have written to you a couple of times before over policy matters. I have been very impressed by your courteous responses.
I am writing this time over what seems to me to be a surprising refund policy at Officeworks. As you will be aware, the ACCC recently levied large fines on some retailers over their illegal refund policies. So I was surprised today when I took in a faulty armchair for a refund to be told that I could get only a credit note, not a cash refund. My information is that a customer is always entitled to a cash refund for defective goods.
Being a cautious person I paid for an extended 2-year warranty when I bought the chair on 19/10/2015 for $190 and I still have all the relevant paperwork. So when the seat started to fall apart recently, I concluded that I was entitled to a full refund.
So I took it in today and was then told that I had to ring a number to get the return authorized and even then only a credit note would be issued. As I needed a new chair immediately, I bought another one there and then for cash. So a credit note would be useless to me.
Please instruct Officeworks at Woolloongabba to give me a cash refund of $190. They already have the chair and I have the sales receipt ready for inspection.
Dr John Ray
I emailed that letter on the Sunday night and got a phone call Monday lunch time telling me the cash was waiting for me!
Monday, September 11, 2017
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
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
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.
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Hume: Treatise of human nature
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
Sophocvles: Theban plays
Xenophon: Persian expedition
Saturday, August 12, 2017
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
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
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.