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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The eyes have it!

I don't know what's causing it, too much computer-work or too little of something else, but unless I squint my eyes I don't see much at all!

How are you doing?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Deutschland über alles!

The Teutonic genie is out of the beer bottle!

Restored or resold?

Click on image for an aerial view of Restoration Island
I haven't heard from David Glasheen on Restoration Island for quite a while but he's still in the news.

Here he is, posing with the Bounty Boat Expedition 2010 as they make landfall on his tiny island in June. Of course, Restoration Island was the first landfall made by Captain Bligh and his men after their hazardous voyage in an open long boat from Tofua, 6,500 km away, after the Mutiny on the Bounty. Bligh's journal in the Mitchell Library, Sydney, records the joy with which they discovered a safe sandy bay on its north-west coast, and the great quantities of life-restoring oysters, berries, fernroots and other edible plants.

Dave moved to Restoration Island ("Resto") in the early 90s to escape the rat-race, after being hit hard in the stock market crash in the late 80′s. His partner wasn’t so keen on the isolation so she headed back south, leaving Dave as lord, king and emperor of his own little tropical island. He’s been living on Resto ever since as a modern-day Robinson Crusoe.

Dave managed to live a relatively private life up until about 2008 when a friend suggested he put his profile on RSVP in order to find a female companion to share his island paradise with. Apparently the dating scene is not that hot when you live alone on an island in the middle of nowhere. The media got hold of the story, and Dave became something of a celebrity, with the New Yorks Times and other newspapers publishing articles on him, followed by a TV documentary.

Dave is everything you’d expect of an island castaway. In his late sixties, he has a shock of white hair and a big, white bushy beard, that would give Santa a run for his money, and his piercing blue eyes complete the Santa look. Dave rarely wears a shirt and generally makes do with a pair of the short stubbies which men (and probably women) of his generation still think are cool.

It turns out that even in the isolation of Cape York, Dave’s entrepreneurial background has come in handy. The waters around Resto are frequented by a handful of the more adventurous prawn trawlers and commercial fishermen. In exchange for fresh prawns, fish and other goods, Dave provides these fishermen with bottles of his own special home-brewed beer.

{Here] are some images of Dave on his island, taken by some WWOOFers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) who stayed with him for a while to help him in his gardens.

Is David still on the island? I've just discovered this "For Sale" ad which lists David's lease on Restoration Island as having been sold for around $3 million.

Has he sold up and rejoined the rat-race? If so, has he taken his faithful dog Quasi with him? And has he found a female companion? If so, how much of those $3 million has he got left? I'm wearing my "Save Dave" t-shirt. Hope it helps!

P.S. Just had this email back from Dave:

Hi Pete No the island has not been sold and is not for sale. I am however looking for another partner ideally female who can replace my current partner who wishes to exit.If you know someone i would appreciate a call regards and happy xmas etc etc to you/family Dave

So there you have it! And if you're female and want to write to Dave, email me. I am on a commission!


FAST FORWARD TO AUGUST 2012: read the latest news [here].

The Big Scanm

By now, anyone who does not live in a cave, and everyone who does, is aware of the American TSA's policy of putting passengers through the Scylla of nude scanning or the Charybdis of "enhanced" pat-downs, which involve breast and genital contact. What do mathematical laws have to say about these new "safety" measures preventing anything?

According to U.S. government statistics, there are 620 million domestic passengers per year. The average number of flights per trip is about 1.5, so there are 410 million gate entries. At 10.8 million domestic flights per year, there is an average of 86 on board.

Let us generously stipulate that there is an average of one terrorist incident per year that is not stopped by current security practices, a 0.75 probability that the nude scanners and enhanced pat-downs would preempt these incidents and a 0.5 probability of a successful attack once the terrorist is on board, given technical glitches and vigilant passengers. The probability of dying in an attack that would have been prevented by the new measures is thus 8x10 to the negative eighth power.

In other words, Americans are having their genitals and breasts imaged and groped, and TSA employees are being made to execute said imaging and groping, in order to prevent an outcome for which the odds are less than half that of dying by lightning strike!

By contrast, the odds that both pilots on any given flight are alcoholics is 630 times higher, and the odds that at least one of the pilots is an alcoholic is a whopping 180,000 times higher. If this new "safety" measure is not impractical, nothing is.

Read [more].

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The €uro - a whacko idea!

No-one delivers a good dressing-down like an Englishman. They may have lost the Empire, but they still do a good job of verbally kicking ass.

Good ol' Nigel Farage! There should be more like him! Read [more].

And here's the transcript of his speech:

Good morning, [EU Council president] Mr. [Herman] Van Rompuy. You've been in office for one year, and in that time the whole edifice is beginning to crumble, there's chaos, the money's running out, I should thank you - you should perhaps be the pinup boy of the Euroskeptic movement. But just look around this chamber this morning, just look at these faces, look at the fear, look at the anger. Poor old [José Manuel Durão] Barroso [president of the European Commission] here looks like he's seen a ghost. They're beginning to understand that the game is up.

And yet in their desperation to preserve their dream, they want to remove any remaining traces of democracy from the system. And it's pretty clear that none of you have learned anything. When you yourself Mr. Van Rompuy say that the euro has brought us stability, I suppose I could applaud you for having a sense of humor, but isn't this really just the bunker mentality?

Your fanaticism is out in the open. You talked about the fact that it was a lie to believe that the nation state could exist in the 21st century globalized world. Well, that may be true in the case of Belgium who haven't had a government for 6 months, but for the rest of us, right across every member state in this union, and perhaps this is why we see the fear in the faces, increasingly people are saying, "We don't want that flag, we don't want the anthem, we don't want this political class, we want the whole thing consigned to the dustbin of history."

We had the Greek tragedy earlier on this year, and now we have the situation in Ireland. Now I know that the stupidity and greed of Irish politicians has a lot to do with this: they should never, ever have joined the euro. They suffered with low interest rates, a false boom and a massive bust.

But look at your response to them: what they are being told as their government is collapsing is that it would be inappropriate for them to have a general election. In fact [EU Economic and Monetary Affairs] Commissioner [Olli] Rehn here said they had to agree to their budget first before they are allowed to have a general election.

Just who the hell do you think you people are? You are very, very dangerous people indeed: your obsession with creating this euro state means that you are happy to destroy democracy, you appear to be happy with millions and millions of people to be unemployed and to be poor.

Untold millions must suffer so that your euro dream can continue. Well it won't work, because it's Portugal next. With their debt levels of 325 percent of GDP they are the next ones on the list, and after that I suspect it will be Spain, and the bailout for Spain would be 7 times the size of Ireland, and at that moment all the bailout money has gone - there won't be any more.

But it's even more serious than economics, because if you rob people of their identity, if you rob them of their democracy, then all they are left with is nationalism and violence. I can only hope and pray that the euro project is destroyed by the markets before that really happens.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I just love poetry!

And my Canadian friend knows it - he's sent me this rather short but insightful poem:

Winter in Canada


It's cold!

The End.

And here's a picture of the poet himself:

William Wordsworth, stop turning in your grave!

In the meantime, summer has arrived in Australia! Same expletive, different adjective!

My next project

Click for a full-size view of the fale

Ever since 1978 when I lived and worked in Samoa, I have been in love with their fale, the Samoans' traditional dwelling, so perfectly adapted to their lifestyle and climate.

When I returned to Samoa in 2007, I lived in a miniature fale on Taufua Beach and jotted down its dimensions so I could one day build something similar at "Riverbend".

Not having a tape-measure with me, I used the length of my trouser belt and came up with the following dimensions:

Floor height off the ground: ¼ trouser belt length
Height from floor to lower edge of roof: 1 trouser belt length
Roof height from lower edge to apex: 2 trouser belt lengths
Floor area (approx.): 4¼ x 2¾ trouser lengths

Three years ago, my trouser belt was one metre long. Let's build the fale before my trouser belt gets longer and the building costs go up!

P.S. Noticed my t-shirt drying on the fale's roof? It's the Samoan equivalent of the Australian Hill's Hoist, one of our many great inventions.

Still muddling, not through yet


My fencing job is slowly taking on shape! Like in life itself, you get the best ideas towards the end of the job after you've made all your mistakes.

I've got to bolt another twelve railings of 6 metres each, decapitate the excess lengths on top of the posts, and do my Vincent van Gogh impersonation by splashing green paint all over it.

Speaking of which, I was so taken by the limegreen leaves of some shadetrees in Batemans Bay that I bought two semi-advanced Robinia pseudocacia (which is Latin for 'the beautiful limegreen shadetrees I saw in the Bay and which I now can't live without').

They are a fast-growing specimen which, at my stage in life, are just what the doctor has ordered.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Crista M Kurmeier

I am trying to locate Crista M Kurmeier in Sao Paulo in Brazil.

I last was in contact with Crista when she worked for Hamburg-Süd shipping line.

If you can help, please

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Sydney or the bush

Click on image for map of Sydney's CBD

It's official: I have been admitted as a member of the ANZ BANKING GROUP RETIRED OFFICERS' CLUB (NSW) - see [here].

I have booked my bus ticket to Sydney for the 5th of December and two overnights at the CTA Business Club in Martin Place to attend the ANZ Bank's Christmas Cocktail Function which is being held, rather conveniently, also in Martin Place at the Bank's headquarters on the 19th floor.

The Bank's Chairman, John Morschel, will talk about the current world of banking. I much rather look forward to meeting old friends and talking about banking in the '60s.

P.S. I have since become the official "blogmaster" of the club's blog.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Plan B

This is Hunga Island on Hunga Lagoon. I spent a week on nearby Fofoa Island. Yes, it is pretty and, yes, the water is deep-blue as is the sky and it is warm but there is nothing else, absolutely nothing, and after a week you feel like screaming, "Let me out!"

When I visited Tonga in 2006, I ran into Robert Bryce, an American real estate spruiker. I see he's still peddling his wares even though he left Tonga under rather obscure circumstances and now lives in Fiji. Here is his latest mouthwatering offer:

"19,000 of us out of over 6-billion people (going on 7 billion) on this planet are living free and secure here in Paradise. 19,000 is the Tongan population of Vava’u, plus a growing expat community from all over the world. “We found it,” is the message, the ultimate place to live.

This is an invitation for you to join us. You can call it “Plan B.” It is always good to have one. We have room for just a few more, and you will be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to get a residency visa. Investing in your own or any business of just $26,000 USD earns you a business visa. A retirement (non-working) visa requires only $5,500 USD in annual assured income to qualify. Where in the world is it easier than Tonga? Like the foot soldier that made it to the safe bunker, we are home-free, or free from home, as it might more accurately be restated. We are now in full control over our lives here in paradise. We are self-sufficient. We don’t rely on any system in the hands of others that might fail us. We provide our own electric power, water and even food and lots of it. We are insulated from the worst that might come to pass and yet, for better or for worse, we would still chose this paradise to live and prosper." [Read more]

His particular "brainchild" is Cocomo Village which, according to the old spruiker, "has everything you need to live plenteously [sic] and for less than the cost of an old clunker ($5,000 USD) you can lock up a home site in paradise now and secure your future. The only other costs will be your annual payment of $348 USD, which includes taxes and fees. That’s all you have to pay for your piece of Heaven in paradise. You can even build a proper home in Cocomo for under $10,000 USD (not a typo)—add your amenities, solar, water catchment and septic and you are fully self-sufficient for under $30,000 USD."

It seems that Robert isn't quite self-sufficient yet as he still waits for more dreamers to send him their money. CAVEAT EMPTOR!

P.S. More on Tongan real estate here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

To make my friend, Nick the Greek, feel at home ...

... I built an amphitheatre by the water. Well, not quite amphi but it's wooden, just like the Trojan Horse.

Nick has just bought himself a two-seater Sevylor Colorado Inflatable Canoe (the second seat is for his inflatable doll but that's between you and me) and he'll bring her it down to Nelligen next weekend.

Friday, November 19, 2010

I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there

One of my milestones was my work with Bechtel Corporation on the Bougainville Copper Project.

If you have been with Bechtel and want to track down some of your former colleagues and friends, the Bechtel Community Network may be the place to find them.

Through them I have just now tracked down my old boss from the days on the Bougainville Copper Project, Sid Lhotka. We last met in early 1982 over dinner at the old Papua Hotel (which was destroyed by fire in 1991 and is being replaced by the five-star Grand Papua Hotel).

Sid had come back to Papua New Guinea with Bechtel Corporation for the construction of the Ok Ted Copper Project, and I was busy setting up the administrative and accounting functions for Steamships-Swire Group's tug-and-barge operations which was contracted to Bechtel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Old bankers never die, they just lose interest!

Yours truly outside the ANZ Bank Kingston A.C.T. in 1969

The ANZ Retired Officers' Club is holding its Christmas Party on the 6th of December in Sydney. Some former colleagues, whom I last saw in the late 'sixties, have urged me to attend so we can meet up again.

However, only members can attend. To become a member, one has to have had at least 20 years' service with the ANZ Bank.

20 years! That's half a lifetime!

Instead of working with the ANZ Bank for 20 years, I stayed for just two-and-a-bit and moved on to 50-odd (or should that be 50 odd?) other jobs in Germany, South-West Africa, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Burma, Singapore, Iran, Australia, Western Samoa, Malaysia, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Greece. Much more fun than serving behind a bank counter for 20 years!

Anyway, I submitted my membership application and promised that, if they let me come to the Christmas Party, I'll wear the old ANZ-Bank tie, with my underwear on the head and two pencils stuck up my nose.

The tie that binds

Some of the "Bank Johnnies" in 1967 outside the boarding-house 'Barton House'.
Yours truly third from right. Click on image to see the boarding house

Old bankers never die, they just want to be a loan!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

See you on Facebook?

Well, maybe not!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

45 years ago ...

... a 'schmart' commercial just like this one convinced me to make a fresh start in Australia!

Apart from my genetic German arrogance and too much self-confidence, the Immigration Department's medical officer could find nothing wrong with me.

The Interviewing Officer described me as "Appears good type. Understands employment prospects. Should settle without difficulties. Questions to the point. Neatly dressed." and marked the Processing Sheet with "ACCEPT".

With regards to employment prospects, he had already put me down as "Factory Worker". Little did he know that I was never going to see a factory from the inside - see [here].

I quickly signed the undertaking that "Should I require for special reasons to depart from the Commonwealth of Australia before the expiration of two years from the date of arrival, I will, prior to such departure, pay to the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia a sum equal to the amount that was granted to me ... towards the cost of passage to Australia ..." and "That, while I remain in Australia, I will use every endeavour to learn the English language ...", and I was on my way!

More [here].

Happiness is a red plastic chair

Or rather, it was!

It was when one's "home" was a 9x9ft donga tastefully decorated with PLAYBOY centrefolds of girls waxed to the point of martyrdom, when one's wordly possessions easily fitted into a 2ft-wide metal locker, and when one's needs for comfort were satisfied by a red plastic chair on the porch.

Click on image to enter Bougainville Copper Project website

Life was so simple then; we were so innocent!

Or, at least, some of us were. The old saying that Papua New Guinea attracted three types of men, namely missionaries, moneymakers, and misfits, had to be rewritten for the Bougainville Copper Project to include those running away from their wives, the police, or themselves.

Forgot about reverse mortgages, Canadian Chris; just get yourself that old red plastic chair from Loloho to sit around in!

A voice in the wilderness

David Suzuki created this lecture (and the book and film that followed) in response to the idea of leaving a legacy, or an answer to the question, “If you had one last lecture to give, what would you say?” Suzuki delivered his legacy lecture with passion, vigour and honesty. Much like the title of the film, he reminded us that as a human species, “we have become a force of nature.”

At the ripe old age of 74, David Suzuki spoke with the wisdom of a grandfather and the energy of a young college student. He was never officially asked to give a “legacy lecture”, but that hasn’t stopped him. With age comes wisdom, and he believes that his generation should start talking: “it is our duty as elders to distill a legacy [because] we can speak the truth.”

Once you withdraw, you lose all your interest!

That's what John Burke, my boss at the ANZ Bank, used to jokingly tell me! However, I have never lost my interest in the ANZ Bank for whom I worked for a relatively short time only, from December 1965 to December 1967 which were my first two years in Australia, and again from April 1969, after I had returned from South-West Africa (now Namibia), until December 1969, when I decided to go to Papua New Guinea.

Despite this short employment record, it was a hugely important milestone in my life. I will always be grateful to Mr Robert Reid, the then manager of the ANZ Bank in Canberra who passed away in 1996, aged 86, who hired me as a youngster, fresh off the boat from Europe, and gave me the chance of a new start in a new country.

And, of course, the Bank's social life and the team spirit, together with living in a boarding-house full of other "Bank Johnnies", left me with many memories. I indulged in some of those memories in my Barton House webpage.

I've recently discovered the webpage of the ANZ Retired Officers Club and emailed them in the hope of making contact again with some of the old colleagues and friends. John Burke, Reg Elliott, Jeff Bennett, John Sheppard, Bob Willard, Dennis Everitt, John McKeon, Kevin Sloan, John Julian, Peter Simpson, Merv Quine, Greg Forster and Doreen and Sue Loudon, Colleen Murray, Kay Atkinson, Pam Dewhurst, and the Assistant Manager, Mr Bradford, come to mind.

Sadly, Mr Reid, the Canberra manager, passed away in 1996, and quite recently, in September, Bob Southwell did, too.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ταξίδι στα Κύθηρα

Cythera, in Greek mythology, is the isle of dreams where one can dedicate oneself to happiness.

Voyage to Cythera is really a reworking of the myth of the Return of Odysseus according to a myth which preceded Homer. Similar to Dante's version, there is a pre-Homeric version that Odysseus set sail again after reaching Ithaca. So the film becomes more a leaving than a homecoming. Everything has already been dealt with in the ancient writings and there really is nothing new. We are all just revising and reconsidering ideas that the ancients first treated.

Voyage to Cythera is about an old man, a recently returned political exile who's been in the Soviet Union for thirty-two years and is now stateless, who cannot become reconciled to his country's present or perhaps it is Greece that is not ready to come to grips with its past.

In the end, the old man is set adrift on a raft headed away from Greece into international waters, with no home to steer toward, joined by his wife, a latter-day Penelope, who, despite the fact that this man is more a stranger than a husband to her after so many years, chooses to share the rest of her life with him and in doing so accepts all of his past, his sorrow, his politics and his failed dreams. It is a journey to the dark side of Greek history where it crosses paths with myth.

I gave this DVD to my friend, Nick the Greek. I suspect the visual impact of this movie, coupled with Eleni Karaindrou's music score, will moisten his eyes as it did mine.

P.S. For another dark side of Greece, read [this].

Oyster Farmer

We live on the Clyde River which is famous for its fantastic oysters. More fantastic even than the oysters on the Hawkesbury River. They haven't made a film about it yet but they made one about the life of the oyster farmers on the Hawkesbury. We've just watched it and it's a great Australian romantic comedy - with typical Australian black humour - about love and life on the Hawkesbury River.

The little river communities, the oyster farmers with their long-held traditions, and the Vietnam vets who have formed a kind of isolated commune are beautifully evoked in an affectionate examination of unusual lifestyles.

The movie is wonderfully relaxing and visually appealing, even with the shots of the very sub-standard accommodation that many of the oyster farmers endure. Some of the images are just so peaceful and moving that it's a shame some of them have to end to make way for the next scene - early morning on the river is a classic example of this.

"Oyster Farmer" is a revelation. It is warm, humourous, engaging and most of all, totally believable and very rewarding. Bring on the oysters!

Every granny needs a nook!

In the new year we will start on the renovation of our old kitchen.

The plans are drawn up and the quotes are in. It took a while to find a kitchen installer who was willing and able to build an eat-in kitchen nook similar to these examples.

Now I have to find a supplier for a "Zugleuchte" (pull-down lamp) which I want to fix above the kitchen nook table.

In the 'fifties such lights were a common fixture in German households. Many were the nights when I did my homework at the kitchen table, with the "Zugleuchte" drawn down low onto my books.

It seems that they have become a lot more elegant and expensive since then as the one I tracked down costs well over €400.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A colander may have been more useful!

I have sent my Canadian friend (a fellow-'inmate' from my days on Bougainville Island) a 2011-calendar of the beautiful South Coast.

Using this Australian calendar, he'll be one day ahead for the whole year, suffering from Mondayitis on a Sunday and expecting to get paid on a Thursday.

Perhaps a colander for his wife Jean would have been more useful?

Calendar image of beautiful Bermagui just 'down the road' from Batemans Bay