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Tuesday, October 20, 2009


... for the duration of my Indonesia trip!

Follow my ramblings through my rantings on The Road to Bali blog.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I must admit ...

... I miss "Riverbend" already - and I haven't even left yet!

The early mornings when I walk, cup of tea in hand, amongst the trees, occasionally spying a quietly-grazing wallaby; when I feed the almost tame ducks in the pond who share the food I give them with the one lonely black rabbit that for so long has defied the foxes; when I take out the tin of dog-food to the five kookaburras that are lining up on the verandah; when I sit on the jetty and watch the boats go by; when I listen to little Rover softly snoring on the pillow beside me ...

Still, I'll be back in three weeks' time and isn't the homecoming always the best part of travelling?

This computer station will be un(Goer)manned...

... until I return from my trip to the islands next month!

If there is anything terribly, terribly urgent that absolutely cannot wait and which you're busting to tell me, you can send a message to my webmail riverbend@live.com.au which I shall check (very) occasionally.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

In memoriam

born 7.10.1923 - died 18.10.2003


Do not stand at my grave and weep;
I am not there. I do not sleep.

I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the sunlight on ripened grain.

I am the gentle autumn's rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.

Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there. I did not die.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My bag is packed!

Well, my rucksack is packed - all 5 kg of it! I will carry only the most essential items. One change of clothing will be enough as, apart from the cruise, I will always stay in hotels that have a swimming pool.

For somebody travelling as light as me, a pool is just one giant washing-machine: jump in fully clothed and do a few breaststrokes to remove whatever stains are on the front; a vigorous dog-paddle works wonders on the old jocks; and backstrokes remove all those sweatstains from under the armpits!

As a last-minute item, I've added a buoyancy vest in a bright red colour. If the old PERAMA boat should suddenly spring a leak, I will not only stay afloat but also be seen to have stayed afloat!

That just leaves the selection of suitable reading-material for those long hours on the plane and for those long, tropical nights under a starry sky. I've settled for Dan Brown's "The Lost Symbol" and, for a bit of thoughtful and slow reading, I've packed Hermann Hesse's The Glass Bead Game.

I couldn't find anything in the local bookshop written by my old Greek "mate" Ἐπίκουρος, so he will have to wait until my next trip. Travelling is the perfect time for a bit of "heavy reading", quite apart from the fact that if something should happen to me, it's good if they find me clutching an intelligent book in my rigor mortis hand. It will make them think that I was somebody important enough to be stuffed into the body-bag with a litte more reverence.

When I'm finished with my books, I usually pass them on to fellow-travellers. In this way, I have introduced others to the thoughts of Joseph Conrad, Ernest Hemingway, Somerset W. Maugham, Patrick White, et al, which has resulted in the odd email, received long after the trip was over, saying "Thank you for having enriched my life."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Divorce German-style

A 43-year-old German decided to settle his imminent divorce by chainsawing a family home in two and making off with his half in a forklift truck.

Police in the eastern town of Sonneberg said the trained mason measured the single-storey summer house -- which was some 8 meters (26 feet) long and 6 meters wide -- before chainsawing through the wooden roof and walls.

"The man said he was just taking his due," said a police spokesman. "But I don't think his wife was too pleased."

After finishing the job, the man picked up his half with the forklift truck and drove to his brother's house where he has since been staying.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bundesversicherungsanstalt für Angestellte, Berlin

Behind one of those windows in the "Bundesversicherungsanstalt für Angestellte" (Federal Insurance Institute for Salaried Employees) in Berlin sits a "Herr Hainsch" who advised me on the 14th of November 2002 that "... gemäß einer unverbindlichen Probeberechnung haben Sie nach heutigem Stand mit Vollendung des 65. Lebensjahres eine monatliche Rentenzahlung von 78,28 EUR zu erwarten."

Just in case you are not a polyglot, let me translate,

"According to our calculations, you will be entitled to a monthly pension of €78.28 upon reaching the age of 65."

Well, thank you very much, Herr Hainsch, and I can't wait to receive my first cheque! Let the good times roll!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Times must be tough ...

... when World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz has holes in his socks, as seen here when leaving the Ottoman era Selimiye mosque in Edirne, western Turkey, in January 2007. Just one more reason why he was replaced as president?

Want to be neighbours?

Aerial view in south-easterly direction towards the Pacific Ocean; "Riverbend" is located on the inside of the bend in the river which is partly obscured by the inscription "Sproxtons Lane"

Sproxton Lane is a peaceful cul-de-sac where nothing much ever happens. Of the few properties in the lane, very few ever go on sale. This one has just been listed! So if you agree that since you have to live somewhere, it may as well be paradise, why not inquire?

Any price idea? Well, here's what one agent says:

"Comparable sales in this location are as follows:
The property next door (Number 19) sold in May 2006 for $925,000.
A property two blocks down in the other direction (Number 25) sold in March 2006 for $750,000. It is now being built on, with ongoing construction costs already exceeding $1 million.
A property next to that (Number 27) sold in March 2007 for $705,000.
We believe the property now for sale will sell at anything between $850,000 and $925,000."

Says he!

With these waterfront beachshacks on 1,700 square metres of dirt having sold for as much as $950,000, what offers for a substantial double-storey brick-house on 30,000 square metres of land (more than all the other waterfront properties in Sproxton Lane combined) with a huge 400 metre waterfront? Register your interest [here]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Just in case you have nothing else to look at:

"When Nietzsche Wept"

Based on Irvin D. Yalom's novel of the same title, this film is a good fictional introduction to the man and his thought for people who aren’t yet acquainted with Nietzsche’s philosophy. While a better book for finding out about Nietzsche is "Thus Spoke Zarathustra", reading it requires stamina and dedication. Nietzsche’s gift to anyone who reads his words is to hand them control over themselves and their destiny. "When Nietzsche Wept" is a pleasant introduction to some powerful, possibly life-altering ideas.

... and you call this "progress"?

Camp 6, Bougainville Island, Papua New Guinea

I left this in 1973 ...

... to move into this in 1993!

"Riverbend", Nelligen, N.S.W., Australia

Friday, October 9, 2009

"The Lost Symbol"

There has always been a cloak of mystery over the Knights Templar and, what are supposed to be their modern-day successors, the Freemasons.

The American author Dan Brown, best known for his book "The Da Vinci Code", has just written a book, "The Lost Symbol", which is doing for the Freemasons what its predecessor, "The Da Vinci Code", did for the Catholic Church's Opus Dei — showering new fame, and new fictions, on an age-old brotherhood which has been accused of everything from conspiring with extraterrestrials to practicing sexual deviancy to engaging in occult rituals to running the world — or trying to end it.

I've bought this book as bedtime reading during my forthcoming travels in Indonesia.


The word you're looking for is 'Couch Potato'

Ig Nobel Prize

A woman's bra which in an emergency can double as a pair of gas masks has won one of the awards handed out at the prestigious Harvard University for the year's most eccentric research. The Ig Nobels, a tongue-in-cheek homage to their Scandinavian counterparts, were announced just days before the Nobel committee in Stockholm began awarding its prestigious awards on Monday. The bra that can be turned into two protective face masks -- one for the wearer and the other for whoever else may need one -- won its inventors Elena Bodnar, Raphael Lee and Sandra Marijan of Chicago the Public Health award. The patent states that each of the bra's cup sections is fitted with a filter device, meaning the wearer can whip it off, and detach each section to fit it over the face.

Previous prizes were won by three researchers at the Universidad Autonoma de Mexico -- Javier Morales, Miguel Apatiga and Victor Castano -- for creating diamonds out of tequila; by the Irish police for writing out more than 50 traffic tickets to one Prawo Jazdy, whose name in Polish means "driver's license"; by Stephan Bollinger and other doctors at the University of Bern in Switzerland for demonstrating that empty beer bottles are more likely to crack heads in a bar-room brawl than full ones; by two researchers from Newcastle University in Britain who discovered that cows with names produce more milk; by Brian Witcombe, of Gloucestershire Royal NHS Foundation Trust, UK, and Dan Meyer for their probing work on the health consequences of swallowing a sword; by a US-Chile team who ironed out the problem of how sheets become wrinkled; by Dr Johanna van Bronswijk of the Netherlands for carrying out a creepy crawly census of all of the mites, insects, spiders, ferns and fungi that share our beds; by Mayu Yamamoto, from Japan, for developing a method to extract vanilla fragrance and flavouring from cow dung; by a University of Barcelona team for showing that rats are unable to tell the difference between a person speaking Japanese backwards and somebody speaking Dutch backwards; by Glenda Browne of Blue Mountains, Australia, for her study of the word "the", and how it can flummox those trying to put things into alphabetical order; by the US Air Force Wright Laboratory for instigating research and development on a chemical weapon that would provoke widespread homosexual behaviour among enemy troops; by Brian Wansink of Cornell University for investigating the limits of human appetite by feeding volunteers a self-refilling, "bottomless" bowl of soup; by Kuo Cheng Hsieh of Taiwan for patenting a device that can catch bank robbers by dropping a net over them; and by a National University of Quilmes, Argentina, team for discovering that impotency drugs can help hamsters to recover from jet lag.

Three cheers to science!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Need I say more?

One of the most interesting news items was on the cover of The Financial Times recently about a guy named Lahde who "made tens of millions of dollars from betting against the financial and property sectors during [the] past two years", and he now wanted to thank "The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, [who were] there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy, only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America. There are far too many people for me to sincerely thank for my success. However, I do not want to sound like a Hollywood actor accepting an award. The money was reward enough. Furthermore, the endless list those deserving thanks know who they are."

Monday, October 5, 2009

As always, Australia has the answer (-ing machine)

Reading the famous 2300-year-old quadrilemma of Epicurus ...

... "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?", convinced me that he was not your average philosopher and so I read on.

Having attended a number of funerals this year, as one does when one gets to my age, I was drawn to what Epicurus had to say about death and the fear of death:

"Don't worry about death." While you are alive, you don't have to deal with being dead, but when you are dead you don't have to deal with it either, because you aren't there to deal with it. "Death is nothing to us," as Epicurus puts it, for "when we exist, death is not yet present, and when death is present, then we do not exist." Death is always irrelevant to us, even though it causes considerable anxiety to many people for much of their lives. Worrying about death casts a general pall over the experience of living, either because people expect to exist after their deaths and are humbled and terrified into ingratiating themselves with the gods, who might well punish them for their misdeeds, or else because they are saddened and terrified by the prospect of not existing after their deaths. But there are no gods which threaten us, and, even if there were, we would not be there to be punished. Our souls are flimsy things which are dissipated when we die, and even if the stuff of which they were made were to survive intact, that would be nothing to us, because what matters to us is the continuity of our experience, which is severed by the parting of body and soul. It is not sensible to be afraid of ceasing to exist, since you already know what it is like not to exist; consider any time before your birth - was it disagreeable not to exist? And if there is nothing bad about not existing, then there is nothing bad for your friend when he ceases to exist, nor is there anything bad for you about being fated to cease to exist. It is a confusion to be worried by your mortality, and it is an ingratitude to resent the limitations of life, like some greedy dinner guest who expects an indefinite number of courses and refuses to leave the table.

I was so attracted to Epicurus's reasoning that I searched ebay for his writings as it would make absorbing reading in the quiet hours of my forthcoming Bali-trip. Not surprisingly, the local ebay has neither a copy of "The Essential Epicurus" nor "The Epicurus Reader" whereas there are several dozen on offer overseas. I suppose unless it's printed on the back of a cornflakes packet, it just won't become general reading in this country!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Do you miss your old trusty typewriter?

If you are like me and were brought up on a real clankity-clank clankity-clank typewriter and miss the romantic writing experience of days gone by, despair no more because help is at hand! Buy yourself Visual Typewriter software that types, sounds and feels like the real thing. It even comes with a bottle of correction fluid. In fact, all that's missing is the smell of ink!

Daylight Saving starts today!

We've just lost an hour! But so what? It's all relative, as a man found out who was praying to God.

"Lord," he prays, "I would like to ask you a question."
The Lord responds, "No problem. Go ahead."
"Lord, is it true that a million years to you is but a second?"
"Yes, that is true."
"Well, then, what is a million dollars to you?"
"A million dollars to me is but a penny."
"Ah, then, Lord," says the man, "may I have a penny?"
"Sure," says the Lord. "Just a second."

The Painted Veil

Somerset W. Maugham was as great a reader as he was a writer and his stories are peppered with literary allusions. Even the title of his story "The Painted Veil" is a very apt literary allusion.

Sonnet:" Lift not the painted veil . . ."
by Percy Shelley, 1818

Lift not the painted veil which those who live
Call Life: though unreal shapes be pictured there,
And it but mimic all we would believe
With colours idly spread, --- behind, lurk Fear
And Hope, twin Destinies; who ever weave
Their shadows, o'er the chasm, sightless and drear.
I knew one who had lifted it --- he sought,
For his lost heart was tender, things to love,
But found them not, alas ! nor was there aught
The world contains, the which he could approve.
Through the unheeding many he did move,
A splendour among shadows, a bright blot
Upon this gloomy scene, a Spirit that strove
For truth, and like the Preacher found it not.

This story was made into a beautiful film, shot on location in China where the story is set. It has some of the most breathtaking scenery. Unfortunately, the most fitting literary allusion - indeed the "punchline" of the whole story - spoken by one of the protagonists, "The dog it was that died", has been left out of the film.

An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog

Good people all, of every sort,
Give ear unto my song;
And if you find it wondrous short,
It cannot hold you long.

In Islington there was a man,
Of whom the world might say
That still a godly race he ran,
Whene'er he went to pray.

A kind and gentle heart he had,
To comfort friends and foes;
The naked every day he clad,
When he put on his clothes.

And in that town a dog was found,
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
And curs of low degree.

This dog and man at first were friends;
But when a pique began,
The dog, to gain some private ends,
Went mad and bit the man.

Around from all the neighbouring streets
The wondering neighbours ran,
And swore the dog had lost his wits,
To bite so good a man.

The wound it seemed both sore and sad
To every Christian eye;
And while they swore the dog was mad,
They swore the man would die.

But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied:
The man recovered of the bite,
The dog it was that died.

-- Oliver Goldsmith

However, the film adds a tagline of its own: "Sometimes the greatest journey is the distance between two people." And it does a good job of describing this journey. Read the story and the veil shall be lifted!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

An inflated foot and an inflated bill


Today we drove to Moruya to have my swollen foot "ultra-sounded". It took them little more than five minutes to tell me that they couldn't find anything and then another fifteen minutes to charge several hundred dollars to my MEDICARE card and a further $217.75 to my personal credit card.

We continued our drive to Tuross Head where we had fish'n'chips at O'Brien's Boatshed before taking a look at a small house for sale nearby. It sits on a tiny 594m² block of land and they want over $300,000 for it. Not cheap!


The Ring of Fire

Earthquakes off the coast of Sumatra and earthquakes off Samoa!

Just two years ago, I stayed in this open-air fale on Taufoa Beach at Lalomanu which I used to visit when I lived and worked in Samoa in 1978.

Yesterday a giant tsunami swept away this place and many others on the south-east coast of Upolu Island, including the new Seabreeze Resort at Paradise Cove which had opened in November 2007.

The Australian owners Wendy and Chris have just posted this message to their website:

"Please bear with us throughout this time after the tsunami. The resort has been destroyed, and we are currently unable to take any more bookings. For the people who have booked, we will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible once electricity and internet has been restored, but we have no way of telling when this will be. Thank you for your patience throughout this terrible time, and we hope to be up and running again as soon as we possibly can."