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.
Saturday, July 22, 2017
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
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
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
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
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.
Friday, June 16, 2017
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
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
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
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
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.
Sunday, May 28, 2017
The last 12 hours have been very tearful for me. After a long battle, Chris Brand has just passed away. Chris and I were born on opposite parts of the world but we could well have been twins. We were the same age, we both had a classical education (though Chris acquired his in circumstances much more distinguished than mine) and both of us were very self-confident and independent and thought very similarly. To defy all the nonsense that is taught in our society we had to be very self-confident and independent. Both Chris and I waged an unrelenting war on political correctness.
Sadly, I never met Chris in person but I am pleased I had a proxy with him up to the end. My stepson Paul and I had always got on exceptionally well. Paul too is very independent and there was a time in his teens and early 20s when I was the only person Paul would listen to if any kind of advice was being offered. So when Paul moved to Edinburgh for business reasons I was greatly pleased that I could send him a friend very much like myself. And Paul did indeed develop a great friendship with Chris.
Something that upsets me about Chris's death is that I could have prevented it if I had known earlier what I know now. He died in an NHS (government) hospital of hospital-borne infections. He got one after another, progressively weakening him until he had nothing left to fight with. NHS hospitals are riddled with hospital borne infections and Scottish NHS hospitals are said to be worse even than English ones. Private British hospitals are however usually free of such infections. With the benefit of hindsight I would have asked Paul to put Chris in a private hospital very early on. I could have funded it and he would be with us today.
Curse and goddam the NHS!
It is however a comfort that Chris's wife, Dr. Shiou-Yun Fang [email@example.com] sat with him to the end. Perhaps in deference to a Chinese custom she even sat with him for some time after he died. She is from Taiwan and is a distinguished art historian. Those who enjoyed Chris's thoughts in life may wish to comfort her in her great loss by sending her your condolences and prayers and recollections of Chris's wisdom. I will leave his blog in place for as long as Google permits it. It is IQ & PC.
UPDATE: Joe and I had a small "wake" after dinner for Chris. It consisted of Scotch and Coke plus a cake that Joe chose from Woolworths: A "White mud" cake. White mud sounds pretty strange but it was a nice cake. Joe met Chris a couple of times when he was in Scotland and was favourably impressed by him.
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
My mother is deceased so I was uninvolved with the festivities. But things happened anyway.
Anne came over on Friday with a firm request for Japanese food so we repaired to the Sunny Doll. I had omurice as I often do and Anne had three courses: Tempura vegetables, Gyoza and Yakitori lamb. I did "help" with all 3 of her courses. The restaurant is next door to Woolworths so we afterwards went looking for things we "needed" there. Anne put a packet of white tea -- whatever that might be -- into my shopping basket and we also got some Pancetta.
Then on Saturday morning we filled up my $8 Aldi thermos and went in the Toyota to Muzza's to get pies. I got steak, tomato and onion as I usually do and Anne ordered steak & mushroom. We then took pies and thermos to Orleigh Park for a breakfast beside the river. It was raining a bit but we found a shelter. Rather surprisingly, the thermos worked well enough. I once had a thermos that was actually made by Thermos! Can't remember what happened to it
On Saturday night the Pancetta came into its own. I used it as a base for some yummy sandwiches. I make a good sandwich so Anne chose that for supper.
Sunday morning was a bit different. Joe could not join me for breakfast as he was shouting his mother a breakfast. I suppose I could have come along but I thought they deserved some interrupted mother-son chats on mother's day. So I went into Stones Corner for breakfast instead. I had a Tandoori chicken bagel, which was good but surprisingly large. That night, however, Joe and I together dined at Guzman y Gomez -- on Burritos.
Then on Monday night I shouted another Nando's visit, with Jenny and Joe coming along but without Kate as she had to work late. Jenny and Joe had a lot of discussion about Joe's present search for a new job. She warned him about various pitfalls in job advertisements.
Monday, May 15, 2017
Wine talk is a lot of fun. It describes things that mostly reside in the talker's imagination. Dan Murphy's have an advertisement that describes a wine originating in the Adelaide hills as follows:
Picked at night to preserve the nose of tropical fruit flavours of passionfruit, guava and pineapple with classic gooseberry for good measure. The grapefruit and citrus palate is fresh and lively with a clean finish. The hint is in the name as this is a perfect wine for a light lunch or al fresco dining.
Tropical fruit in Adelaide? Pineapples and Guavas? I ate a lot of guavas in my tropical childhood but I have never seen them anywhere South of the tropics. I am slightly surprised that the writer has even heard of Guavas. I can still taste them when I think about it. It is certainly a very pleasant taste but unlike any other. Unlike the wine writer, I won't presume to describe it
Monday, May 8, 2017
Anne came over on Friday and we had one of Muzza's excellent family steak pies for dinner, with salad.
Then on Saturday morning we set off for a picnic breakfast. I made chicken & mayonnaise sandwiches, filled up the thermos and we Humbered out to Wynnum. Win with Wynnum! Before we left I said there was no need to take picnic things as I keep a picnic basket permanently in the car. And I do. In the Toyota. But we arrived at Wynnum in the Humber. Embarrassment! But the sandwiches went down well. I make a good sandwich! And it was nice sitting beside the seaside in one of the shelters at Wynnum North. To make up for the missing tea, I took Anne to the Phams for coffee and cakes -- where we had some excellent apple and apricot crumble.
Then Sunday night was secret men's business again. I had Jason over for dinner. And Joe came too. I cooked us up one of my versions of chili con carne which turned out quite well. I used my secret ingredient: A Masterfoods flavour sachet! I probably put a bit too much water in with the meat and beans so there was quite a lot of juice left in the pan when dinner was over. So I poured that off into a bowl and put it in the fridge. So it became a very tasty Gazpacho (cold soup).
Then after dinner on the verandah we cleared the dishes away and out came the computers instead. We brought out my old XP machine and an Amiga 500. Joe had bought a card for the XP which enabled file transfers between an IBM and an Amiga hard drive. There are not many Amiga hard drives around but I got a 50 meg one years ago and filled it up with games and other Amiga software.
So the task of the day was to get the new card working. It took some doing but Jason was a tower of strength in the matter, as he always is in computer matters. So he and Joe did get the new system working. Files were transferred! Some other problems did arise however so another night of secret men's business is on the cards. Neither Anne nor Kate came to the dinner part of the evening, though they were invited. Being shooed away after the dinner in favour of computers would not have been good for female self-esteem. Kate and I are agreed that computers are Joe's first love so she is a Trojan to cope with that.
Then on Monday night was a sort of last supper for Suz and Russell. They have packed up their house ready for their emigration to the shaky isles so are spending the time between now and when they fly out staying for a few days with various friends. On Monday they were staying at Jenny's place. So for dinner that night, Jenny and I decided to make it a champagne and pizza occasion for the emigrants plus Joe, myself and Kate.
We had quite a jolly time with lively talk about all sorts of things plus some fun photo taking. Dusty and Sahara were pretty wound up so I had a bit of fun playing with them. Kate very patiently let Sahara play with her hair. So it was a good farewell dinner.
Monday, May 1, 2017
I had some big bits of chicken schnitzel that I had got off Woolworths which had been done with some sort of savoury crumbs -- so I was interested to try them. So when Anne came over on Friday night (28th), I got her to fry them up. I supplied a basic salad and bread rolls. And the "enhanced" crumbs were in fact quite good. We had a bottle of "Dopf" Alsatian wine to go with them.
Anne stayed over but because we were going to a lunch later in the day we had a light breakfast at home the next day -- croissants plus leftover salad from the night before. I am rather eccentric in what I put on croissants so this time I opened a bottle of old-time Peck's Anchovette. It still tasted good. Anne had some French blackberry jam on hers.
Then at 11am Joe drove us all over to Suzs's place for a farewell lunch. Suz and Russ emigrate to NZ soon. There were plenty of dips on the table and I contributed a small but very fruity fruit cake. I sampled the dips extensively. I talked to Russ about how cold he would find it in Invercargill but he was resigned to it. They both have good job prospects there, apparently. For lunch Russ cooked us up some excellent sausages on his big Italian BBQ, as he usually does.
George and Jenny were late arrivals and I had quite of lot of chats with George. He always has something interesting to say. George is a civil engineer, in both senses of the term "civil" and he told us things about his work that were surprising -- like the problem of an undotted line on a road. I was also impressed to hear that one of his daughters has just completed her Ph.D. studies -- in taxonomy, of all things. I would have imagined that 99% of taxonomy was old history now. No. Taxonomy has nothing to do with either taxis or tax.
After a big lunch, Anne and I felt like something a bit light for supper so we got out some more Moroccan vegie burger patties from my freezer and I cut up an onion to have with them. Anne fried both up and with a slice of bread they made quite a good simple meal.
Then on Sunday morning, Joe and I had our usual Sunday brunch at the pie shop together, and for around 2 hours we talked solid politics -- with particular enjoyment of Mr Trump, of course. Wotta guy! He is the ultimate norm violator.
And on Monday night I shouted Joe and Kate a dinner at Nando's, a place Joe likes. They had the paella and I had half a chicken and chips. We discussed jobs a bit as Kate has just got a good one and Joe has handed in his resignation from his present job. Joe gets a lot of attention from recruiters because of his high IT skills and it looks like his next job might be at a much increased salary.
Sunday, April 23, 2017
First order of the day was a lunch for Suz's birthday held at Suz and Russell's place and catered by Jenny. I was uncomfortable with Jenny bearing the full cost of the catering so I gave her some money in advance to help with that.
Joe was on his way back from a job in China at the time of the lunch so could not attend. He arrived at the airport at 2pm. So Jenny picked up Kate and me from our place and drove us and Nanna out to Mt. Cotton.
Jenny had catered very well and included some South African sosaties in the lunch, which was much appreciated by me. She also did a cheese board afterwards. Russell of course cooked up all the kebabs and sausages on his big BBQ. He does that well.
I spent most of the time talking to Ken. We of course talked about Mr Trump and I predicted that Mr Trump will mount an all-out conventional attack on all North Korean military facilities. I also mentioned to Ken that I was intending to do a bit of cruising to please Anne, who is very keen on travel. So I asked Ken for all his cruise ship hints. He has done heaps of cruising so gave me a lot of useful hints and really put me in the picture.
Jenny delivered us back to my place at 5 to 3, which was just in time for the arrival of a guest: Graham R. He arrived 5 minutes later.
I had arranged to cook a Sunday dinner that night for Joe and my brother Christopher partly because I felt a bit bad that I rarely see my brother even though he lives only ten minutes drive away. He is the perfect brother and shares most of my political views. We both enjoy Mr Trump greatly. And having arranged that, I also saw it as a good opportunity for Joe and Christopher to get to see more of one another. So a Sunday date that suited both Joe and Christopher was arranged.
Noting that it would be a meeting of three very conservative people, it occurred to me that the other person I know who is in a similar ideological space should join us. So I emailed Graham down in Victoria that I would shout him the airfare if he could make it to our dinner. Fortunately he could make it. He flew from Melbourne to Brisbane for a dinner! So it was he who arrived at 3pm. Joe was still a bit jet-lagged so joined us at 6pm for the dinner but retired early. I cooked savoury mince and noodles for us all.
I made the dinner for men only as women often get together over ladies' lunches etc so I thought a men-only dinner might balance that. The conversations in mixed sex gatherings tend to be different from those in single sex gatherings so I thought there should be provision for both. So I proclaimed the dinner to be about "secret men's business", in a nod to Aboriginal customs.
It turned out that Graham actually had more in common with Christopher than he did with me. Both have been very keen martial arts exponents in their day so had a lot to say about that. We agreed that martial arts people are probably mostly conservative. So the conversation stretched well beyond Mr Trump, though his possible moves in North Korea were of course discussed. Another thing we discussed a lot was the old days. Old people do a lot of that and even though he is a mere youth in his '50s Graham had some interesting things to say about that.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
At breakfast time around 9:30 I popped into the local medical practice to see if the patholgy report on my ankle that I had asked for last week had arrived. It had so I arranged for it to be copied to my specialist.
Joe had arrived from Canberra late the night before looking bleary but he must have got a good night's sleep because he didn't pop out until around 10:30am.
My good immune system would have contributed to the eradication of the bacterium. Some people cannot defeat it and have to have their limbs cut off to stop it spreading. I was not looking forward to that possibility. I am rather attached to my left leg, even if it is a bit swollen at the moment.
To celebrate the good news I went to Muzza's pies in Coorparoo and bought myself a tomato & onion pie and a lemon slice -- at around 12 noon. Both were most enjoyed.
Then at around 12:30 Joe popped in looking very chipper. He asked if I wanted to join him for lunch at Hungry Jack's. They must have a bargain going at Hungry Jack's. But I had already lunched so declined with regret.
His flight to China took off at 4pm. A work visit only.
Then that night to celebrate a memorable day I went and got Anne and myself fish n chips from her local Greeks. It is beautifully done there and is one of our favourite meals. We had it with one of my remaining bottles of Barossa Pearl. I think I qualify as a real Ocker if I celebrate with meat pies, fish n chips and Barossa Pearl. Humble food but it is my ethnic food.
Kate and her mother arrived from Canberra about 11:00pm and I told Kate that the cats had been asking after their mother. She took me seriously and said they are probably just hungry -- which was a very motherly response. I shouldn't joke so much.
I eventually conked out after only one and a half gins and even missed my late night snack. Being wound up during the day must have tired me out. If I had kept awake long enough, I would of course have concluded my celebrations with a late night feast of Vegemite on toast.
Monday, April 17, 2017
My Easter did have a touch of holiness but mostly it did not. I will say something about that anon.
Anne came over on the Thursday afternoon and for dinner we cooked up some skinless sausages I got from Woolworths. They have little wooden handles on them but that is just a gimmick. I made a Waldorf salad to go with them and I really enjoyed them.
On Friday morning Anne made me a bowl of porridge, which I always like, and she had some red pawpaw she had brought over. After that we had hot cross buns. After breakfast I took us first for a sit by the river at Orleigh Park and then drove us up to Mt Gravatt to take in the view there. The council have built a nice kiosk there but it was not open. It rarely is. It is run by a charity, The Hope Foundation and appears to have unmotivated beneficiaries staffing it.
Coming down Shire Rd from the mountain, there is a Red Rooster shop on the corner of Logan Rd so we stopped there for an early lunch. I had a quarter chicken and chips, which was very succulent, and Anne had fish n chips, which was quite passable. Anne is not a Catholic but she was married to one for many years so she has acquired the habit of not eating meat on Friday. So that night I produced some Moroccan vegieburgers for her. With leftover salad they went down well enough.
That night was our holy observance, though it was not really a church service. We went to St John's cathedral for a concert performance of Bach's Matthew Passion. There was a big choir and the orchestra included four celli. Add that to the brilliance of sound given by the soaring stone arches of St John's and we got repeatedly excellent choral music. The many chorales of the Matthew Passion are its great strength. There was one disappointment, however. The young baritone messed up my favourite aria from the work: Mache dich mein Herze rein. His diction and phrasing were terrible. He clearly had no idea of the rules of German pronunciation, which is slack if you are into classical music.
Anne's sister June drove us there so we had coffee and Anzac biscuits on my veranda after the show. The concert took about 3 hours so there was a rush to the toilets when we got home. Elderly bladders.
On Saturday morning Anne and I took ham, cheese and tomato sandwiches up to the rotunda on Highgate Hill. I made them fairly thick so one sandwich each was enough for us. From there we visited the Buranda shopping centre to see what was open and found the Phams closed. So we went over the road to the Cafe Essence for coffee and cakes. I had a small lemon tart and Anne had a caramel slice. That night we just had leftovers, with salad, which were pretty good.
On Sunday morning we had Vegemite toast, which I greatly enjoyed. Vegemite is gourmet food to me. Followed by Easter eggs. Anne then went off on family visiting. For dinner I cooked myself up a big lot of bacon n eggs.
I intended to have toast with it but found I was out of butter. But I had cooked the bacon in a mix of olive oil and peanut oil and the bacon gave off grease too. So I tipped the juices out of the pan onto my toast. And that made a very good alternative to butter. I had read that in the Mediterranean countries they tip oil on their bread so I learned from that.
Then on Monday night I had bought some big pork mid-loin chops. So Jenny cooked them up for us. Jenny recommended red cabbage pickles to go with them which did work well.
So that was a very pleasant Easter.