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Today's quote:

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Ahlan wa Salan to an old friend

Thamer, I no longer need this t-shirt; would you like it? ☺

Some emails received from my late Saudi boss's nephew, Thamer Mofarrij, have dredged up a lot of old memories.

Such as the three most useful words in Saudi Arabia: Inshallah, Bukkhra, Malesh, meaning that something will be done if God is willing; with luck by tomorrow; if it is not done, then never mind. They were also the favourites among the expatriate community!

Rudimentary Arabic phrases such as Ahlan wa Salan, hello, welcome; Sabah El Kheir, good morning; Tisbah ala kheir, good night; Ma –salamah, good bye; and Kamsah dargigah, five minutes.

And who could forget the muttawa, the religious police? They had luxuriant beards and could be seen in brown gowns wielding a stick admonishing citizens to heed the call to prayers. There were five prayer calls a day; the first at sunrise (shurooq), then midday (zhuhr), in the afternoon at about 15:00 (Asr), around 18:00 at sunset (maghrib) and evening (eshaa). The shops were closed during prayer times and customers had to wait outside for ten to fifteen minutes before resuming their shopping. I got so used to the prayer calls that I kept listening out for them long after I had left Saudi Arabia.

But what occupied most expatriates' minds was sidiki (friend), an illegal bootleg spirit distilled from grape juice. All the ingredients and equipment for brewing wine, except brewing yeast, were available in the local supermarkets. The recipe was quite straightforward: into a 25-litre jerry can was poured twelve litres (bottles) of red or white grape juice. To this were added one to two kilograms of sugar and a spoonful of brewer’s yeast. The mixture was then topped up with water to twenty litres.

A hydrometer was used to measure the specific gravity of the brew to determine when it was ready for drinking. In the absence of a hydrometer, a rather ingenious method was to cover the top of the jerry can with a condom that had a small pin hole at its tip. When fermentation was taking place, the condom would fill with carbon dioxide that would leak out very slowly. Thus the condom would be erect. As soon as fermentation stopped, the condom would wilt like a spent penis. One then waited a couple of weeks before sampling the wine.

All this is now a very long time ago! Just look at Peter O'Toole of "Lawrence of Arabia" fame, then and now. Still, they are the memories which are now the sum total of my life. I drink to that!

My favourite Frenchman

How to get on well with people, how to deal with violence, how to adjust to losing someone you love - such questions arise in most people's lives. They are all versions of a bigger question: how do you live? How do you do the good or honourable thing, while flourishing and feeling happy?

This question obsessed Renaissance writers, none more than Michel Eyquem de Montaigne (1533-92), perhaps the first truly modern individual. A nobleman, public official and wine-grower, he wrote free-roaming explorations of his thought and experience, unlike anything written before.

He called them 'essays', meaning 'attempts' or 'tries'. Into them, he put whatever was in his head: his tastes in wine and food, his childhood memories, the way his dog's ears twitched when it was dreaming, as well as the appalling events of the religious civil wars raging around him. The Essays was an instant bestseller, and over four hundred years later, Montaigne's honesty and charm still draw people to him. Readers come to him in search of companionship, wisdom and entertainment - and in search of themselves.

This book by Sarah Bakewell, How to Live : A Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer , a spirited and singular biography (and the first full life of Montaigne in English for nearly fifty years), relates the story of his life by way of the questions he posed and the answers he explored. It traces his bizarre upbringing (made to speak only Latin), youthful career and sexual adventures, his travels, and his friendships with the scholar and poet Etienne de La Boetie and with his adopted 'daughter', Marie de Gournay. And as we read, we also meet his readers - who for centuries have found in Montaigne an inexhaustible source of answers to the haunting question, 'how to live?'.

You can read Montaigne's Essays online.

And some of his quotes are worth repeating:

I have often seen people uncivil by too much civility, and tiresome in their courtesy.

Ignorance is the softest pillow on which a man can rest his head.

It is not death, it is dying that alarms me.

Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out.

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.

Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.

A good marriage would be between a blind wife and a deaf husband.

A man who fears suffering is already suffering from what he fears.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Rainy day at "Riverbend"

A good excuse to take a nap with little Rover while waiting for the sun to come out again.


After the rain came the strong winds. Time to do some reading:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Finally, an actual hearing on eligibility

For four long years, compelling evidence has been available that challenges the constitutional eligibility of Barack Obama to occupy the White House.

But it was not until Thursday that the evidence – any of it – was heard in a single courtroom in America.

Not until very recently has any of it been examined by any official public proceeding or reviewed by any agency of government.

They say the wheels of justice grind slowly, but this is ridiculous.

The good news for the rule of law is what happened in a Georgia courtroom this week and what is happening in the office of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department in Arizona. Justice may yet prevail.

In the courtroom of Judge Michael Malihi of the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings, sworn testimony was delivered rapid-fire over two hours to the effect that Obama is not qualified to have his name on the 2012 presidential ballot because his father was not a U.S. citizen, which precludes him from being a "natural-born citizen," a clear, unambiguous requirement of the Constitution.

Obama refused to honour a subpoena to attend the hearing, produce records answering the charges or even send legal representation to dispute the evidence. Instead, they sent a letter to Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp suggesting the judge was letting attorneys "run amok."

In response, Kemp warned Obama and his counsel that if they chose not to participate in the proceedings, "you do so at your own peril."

The judge is expected to rule in the case shortly. However, he has little choice but to issue a default judgment in favour of the challenge – potentially removing Obama from the ballot in Georgia in November.

That would be an astonishing development to the major media in the USA that have collectively scoffed at and caricatured the notion that there is any doubt as to Obama's eligibility.

Things are about to get very interesting.

STOP PRESS: Here's an update on the court proceedings.

Does debt matter?

Angela Merkel and the rest of Europe's embattled 'leaders' would do well to read Lord Skidelsky's article "Does Debt Matter?":

"Fear of debt is rooted in human nature; so the extinction of it as a policy aim seems right to the average citizen. Everyone knows what financial debt means: money owed, often borrowed. To be in debt can produce anxiety if one is uncertain whether, when the time comes, one will be able to repay what one owes.

This anxiety is readily transferred to national debt – the debt owed by a government to its creditors. How, people ask, will governments repay all of the hundreds of billions of dollars that they owe? As British Prime Minister David Cameron put it: “Government debt is the same as credit-card debt; it’s got to be paid back.”

This, the official doctrine of most developed countries today, contains at least five major fallacies, which pass largely unnoticed, because the narrative is so plausible.

First, governments, unlike private individuals, do not have to “repay” their debts. A government of a country with its own central bank and its own currency can simply continue to borrow by printing the money which is lent to it. This is not true of countries in the eurozone. But their governments do not have to repay their debts, either. If their (foreign) creditors put too much pressure on them, they simply default. Default is bad. But life after default goes on much as before.

Second, deliberately cutting the deficit is not the best way for a government to balance its books. Deficit reduction in a depressed economy is the road not to recovery, but to contraction, because it means cutting the national income on which the government’s revenues depend. This will make it harder, not easier, for it to cut the deficit. The British government already must borrow £112 billion ($172 billion) more than it had planned when it announced its deficit-reduction plan in June 2010.

Third, the national debt is not a net burden on future generations. Even if it gives rise to future tax liabilities (and some of it will), these will be transfers from taxpayers to bond holders. This may have disagreeable distributional consequences. But trying to reduce it now will be a net burden on future generations: income will be lowered immediately, profits will fall, pension funds will be diminished, investment projects will be canceled or postponed, and houses, hospitals, and schools will not be built. Future generations will be worse off, having been deprived of assets that they might otherwise have had.

Fourth, there is no connection between the size of national debt and the price that a government must pay to finance it. The interest rates that Japan, the United States, the UK, and Germany pay on their national debt are equally low, despite vast differences in their debt levels and fiscal policies.

Finally, low borrowing costs for governments do not automatically reduce the cost of capital for the private sector. After all, corporate borrowers do not borrow at the “risk-free” yield of, say, US Treasury bonds, and evidence shows that monetary expansion can push down the interest rate on government debt, but have hardly any effect on new bank lending to firms or households. In fact, the causality is the reverse: the reason why government interest rates in the UK and elsewhere are so low is that interest rates for private-sector loans are so high.

As with “the specter of Communism” that haunted Europe in Karl Marx’s famous manifesto, so today “[a]ll the powers of old Europe have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise” the specter of national debt. But statesmen who aim to liquidate the debt should recall another famous specter – the specter of revolution."

To which I may add the preoccupation with the fallacious ratio of national debt to GDP: why express the national debt as a percentage of one year's national output (GDP) and go all gaga when it reaches 100% or - Heaven forbid! - 120% or 130%? Why not express the national debt as a percentage of two years' national output, or three years', or, for all it matters, six months'? When private individuals buy a house, they borrow the equivalent of several years' earnings and don't get sweaty palms over having a debt ratio of 600%, 700%, perhaps even a 1000% so why should governments who in fact print their own money and also determine their own income level through taxation?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Poor fella, my country


This space is reserved

for the Australian flag which,

to avoid Ethnic Provocation,

cannot be shown.

Poor Fella, My Country indeed!


On Australia Day I received this email from one of my 'city cousins':

"Hope that you spent a pleasant Australia Day. Unfortunately no matter where you go now, well certainly in Sydney, there is the yobbo and ethnic factor to consider and no matter how it is glossed over, the latter is a very big problem. I do not know what it is like down in your peaceful area, but up here most Councils either actively discourage, or ban entirely, the flying of the Australian flag. Other flags are presumably sanctioned. One of my clients was stopped by Police as he was about to enter Lakemba on business, and told in no uncertain manner that if he did not remove the Australian flags that he had on his car, he would be charged with Ethnic Provocation. This is a business person but apparently Lakemba, like many other suburbs, are now a virtual no-go area. Great stuff! I think that we have lost this country and like Britain, it will not be long before we see Sharia Law proclaimed in these areas, as already very strong representation has been made for its intoduction. If the politicians think that there is votes in it, the result is foregone."

Is this the country I emigrated to in 1965? Is there anybody left with any common sense?

Cory Bernardi, Senator for South Australia, seems to be a lonely voice in the politically-correct wilderness when he writes on his website that it is "Time to stop the people smugglers" as follows:

"...recent media reports have shed a great deal of light on the plight of the Afghan economic refugee.

In many cases, their plan starts in Kabul with the purchase of a range of fake documents to enable them to ‘have a good story’. These documents include warning letters and death threats from the Taliban, which are promised as keys to a new life in the west.

For the princely sum (even by Australian standards) of $11,500, a one way trip to Australia is then arranged. This begins with a flight to Malaysia, a quick trip across Indonesia's porous borders and ultimately, a leaky boat to Australia.

Incredibly, somewhere along this route any legitimate travel and identification documents are lost, leaving little chance of confirming the identity or history of some of the new arrivals.

The advice to the would-be new Australian colonisers is to “have a good story”.

Of the Australian authorities, the experienced hands strategically advise “they will know you are lying, but as long as you say the same thing whatever they ask you, you will be fine.”

The entire process is disheartening to anyone that believes our welcoming nation and accepting nature are being taken advantage of. It is also an insult to the hard-working men and women who ultimately bear the cost of supporting these wealthy Afghans.

Surveys show that 85 per cent of accepted refugees live on Centrelink benefits for the first five years. They often receive priority services, some of which are not readily available to Australian citizens who are currently doing it tough.

Something has to be done to stop this obscene rort that one can only surmise is endorsed by some of our elected political representatives. Their refusal to re-enact legislation that has previously stopped the boats, stopped the deaths and stopped the abuse of our humanitarian program is an indictment on all of those involved.

Of course, we should maintain our very generous humanitarian refugee intake but in the enduring words of former Prime Minister John Howard, “we will determine who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come”.

To do anything less is to sell out Australia’s national interest."

You can subscribe to Cory Bernardi's updates or email him here.

George Orwell was right

"The very word 'war', therefore, has become misleading. It would probably be accurate to say that by becoming continuous war has ceased to exist. ... War is Peace." (Nineteen Eighty-Four)

Thursday, January 26, 2012


Thanks to ebay, I have just discovered (and bid for) the 1954 black-and-white film of a favourite book of mine: 08/15.

08/15 was a WWI machine gun that was very unpredictable. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it did not. 08/15 became a German slang expression similar to F.U.B.A.R. or S.N.A.F.U. These films are a scathing black comedy based on the popular books by Hans Hellmut Kirst. Follow the hero Asch from basic training through Stalingrad to the end of the war.

Die Verfilmung des Erfolgromans von Hans Hellmut Kirst erzählt die Geschichte des Gefreiten Asch während der Zeit des Zweiten Weltkriegs.

Kasernendrill 1939: Gefreiter Asch und Kanonier Vierbein gehören der gleichen Korporalschaft an. In ihrer Gegensätzlichkeit verkörpern sie zwei ganz bestimmte Soldatentypen. Asch gilt als einer, der "mit allen Wassern" gewaschen ist, während Vierbein als Niete der Batterie gilt und immer wieder bei Vorgesetzten unangenehm auffällt.

Vor allem der gefürchtete "Schleifer" Platzek lässt keine Gelegenheit aus, dem etwas unbeholfenen Kanonier das Leben schwer zu machen. Immer häufiger wird Vierbein zu Strafdiensten herangezogen, bis dies schließlich zu seinem körperlichen Zusammenbruch führt. Asch nimmt sich des Kameraden an und beginnt gegen Schikane und vorsätzliche Schleiferei zu opponieren.

German Wanderlust

In this four part BBC series, Julia Bradbury takes her boots and backpack to the Continent to explore the landscape of Germany and the cultural movement that made it famous, Romanticism. The Germans enjoy a relationship with walking that has lasted over 200 years. By walking in four very different parts of Germany (the Rhine, the Bavarian Alps, the island of Rügen, and Saxony) Julia explores river valleys, coastlines, mountains and gorges, following in the footsteps of Richard Wagner, Caspar David Friedrich, Johannes Brahms as well as British romantics like William Turner and Lord Byron.

Want to save yourself a trip to Germany? Sit down and watch this series. As they say, "(Armchair-)Travel broadens the behind."

Al Murray's Germany

Making fun of the Germans has had 'Pub Landlord' comedian Al Murray's audiences laughing in the aisles, but behind the scenes Murray is a serious historian with a fascination for the real Germany.

In the second of a two-part documentary, Al sets out to discover the truth behind the wartime jokes and banter that still plague all things German. In a breathtaking journey through one of Germany's coldest winters, he discovers a country of warm and welcoming people and two centuries of stunning arts and culture.

From Bach to Bauhaus and the Brothers Grimm, Al falls in love with the true historical, natural and cultural beauty of this much-maligned land.

Enjoy, Manfred! And send it to your German friend in the arctic wilds of Canada.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cutting Edge of Technology

Click on image to activate

As a man already cruising at the cutting edge of technology, you may not need early warning of a new "must-have" I-phone App, but in case you haven't, here it is!

They're not sure exactly when the release date will be.

You should put your name on the list for when they do.

The sales rep said I was number 94,587,692!

What's the cost?

Does it matter what it costs?

Happy Australia Day

A little over two hundred years ago a small contingent of convicts and their guards arrived in Sydney Cove and founded a nation. Within 40 years Australia had become such a desirable destination for migrants that transportation had lost its deterrent terror. Within 100 years great cities had grown up with all the accoutrements of European civilisation. Democracy was flourishing. The rule of law was observed. Freedom was cherished. Prosperity was the norm. Not bad for a penal settlement. Worth a party in anybody's language I would say.

But be careful this year if you are planning on proudly flying the Australian flag because it could turn you into a racist! Drivers who fly Australian flags on their cars to celebrate Australia Day are "more racist" than people who do not, according to sociologist and anthropologist Professor Farida Fozdar of the University of Western Australia.

I find this offensive, Farida! But I guess it makes for a good headline and perhaps pulls in a bit more grant money for your 'research'. According to your UWA staff profile, Australian taxpayers, directly or indirectly, have already given you grants totalling $1,913,924 for studies such as "Effectiveness of a Whole-School Approach to Creating Supportive Environments that Remove Barriers to Learning for Refugee Youth" and "Good Food for New Arrivals".

I shall proudly fly the Australian flag tomorrow and on any other day I choose, Farida! But then, of course, I came to this wonderful country almost 47 years ago and passed through the 'supportive environment' of the Bonegilla Migrant Centre where they knew I would enjoy lamb chops and mixed grill and steam pudding without first having read your "Good Food for New Arrivals" study.

Political spin

According to hoax-slayer.com, this is no more than an entertaining tale but, heck, it's so close to the political spin we're subjected to every day, it may as well be true:

Judy Rudd, an amateur genealogy researcher in southern Queensland’s, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that ex-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd great-great uncle, Remus Rudd, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Melbourne in 1889. Both Judy and Kevin Rudd share this common ancestor.

The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows at the Melbourne Gaol. On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription:

'Remus Rudd, horse thief, sent to Melbourne Gaol 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Melbourne-Geelong train six times. Caught by Victoria Police Force, convicted and hanged in 1889.'

So Judy emailed ex-Prime Minister Rudd for information about his great-great uncle. Remus Rudd. Kevin Rudd's staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

"Remus Rudd was famous in Victoria during the mid to late 1800s . His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Melbourne-Geelong Railroad.

Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad.

In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the Victoria Police Force. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honour when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

NOW that’s how it's done, folks!


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A book for honest-to-God atheists

I've just bought Alain de Botton's latest leap into the dark, Religion for Atheists: A non-believer's guide to the uses of religion.

"It is when we stop believing that religions have been handed down from above or else that they are entirely daft that matters become more interesting. We can then recognise that we invented religions to serve two central needs which continue to this day and which secular society has not been able to solve with any particular skill: firstly, the need to live together in communities in harmony, despite our deeply-rooted selfish and violent impulses. And secondly, the need to cope with terrifying degrees of pain which arise from our vulnerability to professional failure, to troubled relationships, to the death of loved ones and to our decay and demise. God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inacurracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes."

Why then should secular society lose out on the benefits a religion can offer merely because it rejects certain of its catchphrases? Religion may offer empty promises of a happier afterlife, but we should not overlook its power in helping people to cope with the fact they are never going to be as rich or as clever as me ☺.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Costa Concordia

When Winston Churchill after his retirement took a cruise in the Mediterranean and was asked by a bunch of Italian journalists why as an ex-British Prime Minister he had chosen an Italian ship, he replied:

"There are three things I like about being on an Italian cruise ship: first their cuisine is unsurpassed; second their service is superb; and then, in time of emergency, there is none of this nonsense about women and children first."

The Costa Concordia is probably the most expensive thing to go down in Italy since Berlusconi's last hooker. When her captain was asked if he knew where he was going, he replied, "Off course!"

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Dedicated to my friend Manfred in Brisbane ...

... who still dreams of going back to Tonga but perhaps never will. Here are two clips for the wheelchair-traveller, Manfred ☺ Enjoy!

The second clip is of Ha'apai with glimpses of my old favourite, Billy's Place, Pangai's main street, and Virginia Watkins' 'Smallest Museum in the World'. She'd just passed away, aged 77, before my visit in August 2006. Horst inherited one of her easy-chairs which now graces his house on Uiha.

The wheels are coming off

The little woman has just reversed the car over the wheelbarrow!

Of course, by women's logic it was my fault, wasn't it? Never mind that she had to walk right past the wheelbarrow to get into the car and that she should have seen it in the rear-vision mirror when she reversed out of the carport. It was I who had put the wheelbarrow there and therefore it was my fault. MEA CULPA!

Reminds me somewhat of the traffic laws I had to live under in Saudi Arabia where every accident between a Saudi and an expatriate driver was the expat's fault. Why? Because if the expat hadn't been in the country, the accident wouldn't have happened, would it?

Who says women don't make the laws in Saudi Arabia?

Another siren call

It has been some years since I received a message like this morning's email from the U.K.:

"Dear Peter,

I work for WYG International, a leading British consultancy firm working on development projects worldwide. We are currently preparing an expression of interest for the Asian Development Bank’s “Strengthened Public Financial Management Project” in Kiribati – please find attached the Terms of Reference for your information. I have found your profile online and wondered if you might be interested in one of the positions.

We are currently looking for a Treasury Specialist/Team Leader and an Attaché Specialist to be included in our team for this project – you can find the descriptions of the positions in the TORs attached. I only have a very brief version of your CV, so I wanted to check whether you had experience of using Attaché accounting systems and whether you think you’d be qualified for either of these positions?

The project is due to start in early April 2012, and will run for 21 months – the Treasury Specialist will have 10 months of inputs and the Attaché Specialist 3 months of inputs during that period. The ADB is following the Consultants Qualification Selection method, meaning that we will not need to submit a full proposal, and we should know relatively quickly whether we have been successful in our application (the deadline for submission of EOIs is 11th February).

WYG International has a specialist public finance management practice area, and we are currently expanding our work in South East Asia and the Pacific. We have a representative office in Cambodia and have significant experience of working with the ADB, including a current project in the Solomon Islands, large PFM reform projects in Papua New Guinea, Cambodia and Laos and previous experience in small island states, including the Maldives and Fiji. We are therefore confident that we have a strong chance of being selected for this assignment.

If you would be interested in being included as part of our team, please send me your latest CV (stressing your Pacific islands and Attaché experience as much as possible) as soon as you can – as I mentioned, the deadline for submission is the 11th February and we need to ensure that we have the right team in place before submission. Please feel free to contact me with any questions you might have in the meantime.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards

Sara Breen
Senior Consultant
100 St John Street, London, EC1M 4EH"

Of course, there was a time (before email and the internet) when a single phone call was enough for me to give up a secure job, pack up my things, and follow the siren call of yet another challenge in yet another country. Alas, not anymore. I am now stuck in this big place called Domesti-City which won't let me step onto that "canoe that flies" and wing it to Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas), and so I sent this email in reply:

"Hello Sara,

thank you so much for your email. What you have to offer is indeed very tempting but, alas, I am no longer 'in the game'.

My knowledge of ATTACHÉ has also become somewhat dated even though I was one of the first to use it after Michael Rich, the owner, had bought out the rights from MICROTIGER in the USA and 'Australianised' it for the local market way back in the 1980s.

I am now a self-funded retiree and live on the beautiful South Coast of New South Wales in Australia. Under Australian tax law, being a self-funded retiree makes me entirely tax-free but also does not allow me to re-enter the paid workforce which is another reason why I can't answer this tempting siren call ☺

However, I know from my past assignments that consulting firms sometimes find that a member of a team suddenly becomes unavailable. Should you find yourself in such a situation, I would be happy to bridge the gap for a much shorter period of time and as an unpaid volunteer."

P.S. The name Kiribati is the local pronunciation of "Gilberts", derived from the main island chain, the Gilbert Islands. Gilbertese or Kiribati (sometimes Kiribatese, a mixture of both) is far from extinct, and just about all Gilbertese use it daily. Only 30% of Kiribati speakers are fully bilingual with English, meaning that the language is in no current danger of being swallowed by English. It is written in the Latin alphabet, and has been since the 1840s, when Hiram Bingham Jr, a missionary, first translated the Bible into Kiribati. Previously, the language was unwritten. Bingham had only a typewriter with a broken "S" so it does not occur in the language and "ti" is used for that sound instead. One difficulty in translating the Bible was references to words such as "mountain", a geographical phenomenon unknown to the people of the islands of Kiribati at the time (only heard in the myths from Samoa). Bingham decided to use "hilly", which would be more easily understood. Such adjustments are common to all languages as "modern" things require creation of new words. The Gilbertese word for airplane is te wanikiba, "the canoe that flies". Almost as good as the Pidgin Inglis word for helicopter: Mixmaster blong Jesus Christ. I just thought you might like to know ☺ .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tinker, Tiler ...

I ordered 32 square metres of Italian floor tiles from RIVOLAND in Canberra which arrived this morning. They will replace the old carpets in the two small downstairs bedrooms. Out with the dustmites, in with the tiles!

It will be a real pleasure to feel those cool, clean tiles underfoot as I jump out of bed in the morning. As they say in German, "Getiletes Leid ist halbes Leid.

P.S. To my Greek friend Nick: the boxes come with laying instructions in Greek (not that there are many in Greece right now who can afford them). I think they read, "Never on Sunday!"

Another enchanted morning at "Riverbend"

I am so fortunate to live at "Riverbend" and yet, after eighteen years here (the longest I have ever been anywhere!), I want a change.

I want a change from static domesticity full of clutter and a return to a more peripatetic lifestyle with just the bare essentials, going wherever the mood takes me, recapturing some of my freewheeling past.

First stop would be Banjar Hills in the north of of Bali, after which I could easily spend a month or two trekking around Munduk, the nearest thing to the New Guinea Highlands sans the bows and arrows.

I feel that this will be the year when "Riverbend" finds a buyer. I will be both sad and happy to leave: sad for the memories I leave behind and happy for the things that await me in the next place, and the next, and the next ...

"I've never seen a sight that didn't look better looking back."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The tax system explained in beer

Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100…

If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this:

The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing.

The fifth would pay $1.

The sixth would pay $3.

The seventh would pay $7..

The eighth would pay $12.

The ninth would pay $18.

The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59.

So, that’s what they decided to do.

The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve ball. “Since you are all such good customers,” he said, “I’m going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20″. Drinks for the ten men would now cost just $80.

The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes. So the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men? The paying customers? How could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his fair share?

They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody’s share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer.

So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man’s bill by a higher percentage the poorer he was, to follow the principle of the tax system they had been using, and he proceeded to work out the amounts he suggested that each should now pay.

And so the fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% saving).

The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% saving).

The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% saving).

The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% saving).

The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% saving).

The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% saving).

Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But, once outside the bar, the men began to compare their savings.

“I only got a dollar out of the $20 saving,” declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,”but he got $10!”

“Yeah, that’s right,” exclaimed the fifth man. “I only saved a dollar too. It’s unfair that he got ten times more benefit than me!”

“That’s true!” shouted the seventh man. “Why should he get $10 back, when I got only $2? The wealthy get all the breaks!”

“Wait a minute,” yelled the first four men in unison, “we didn’t get anything at all. This new tax system exploits the poor!”

The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up.

The next night the tenth man didn’t show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had their beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn’t have enough money between all of them for even half of the bill!

And that, boys and girls, journalists and government ministers, is how our tax system works. The people who already pay the highest taxes will naturally get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas, where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier.

For those who understand, no explanation is needed.
For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible.

These are possibly the five best sentences you'll ever read:

1. You can not legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity.

2. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving.

3. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

4. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it!

5. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that is the beginning of the end of any nation.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Worth listening to!

And this:

Gerald Celente blog

Friday, January 13, 2012

Escaping into landscaping

May I suggest that red woodchips be declared a prohibited substance? They are terribly addictive: you spread the first five cubic metres and say to yourself, "Bugga, that looks nice" (well, you don't actually say it; you just think it ☺), and so you order another five metres. And then perhaps another two metres because there's that small corner you want to chip over as well.

Before you know it, you've spent a thousand dollars on blooming woodchips and can no longer afford even fish'n'chips for lunch!

P.S. As a sufferer of triskaidekaphobia and today being Friday the 13th, I had better take it easy and just stick to spreading the remaining few metres of woodchip.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Older folks can be such inspiration to today's youth!

Mr Kanwar, we want you in Australia!

Mahfooz Kanwar

My Canadian friend has just emailed me a cutting from an article in the Calgary Herald.

What is Canada becoming? Canada 's tolerance misplaced?
By Mahfooz Kanwar, For The Calgary Herald, March 30, 2009

Canada's Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is getting flak from the usual suspects, but he deserves praise instead.

Recently, Kenney pointed that out while at a meeting in Toronto . Members of Canada's Pakistani community called on him to make Punjabi one of Canada's official languages. It makes me angry that such an idea would enter the minds of my fellow and former countrymen, let alone express them to a Minister of the Crown.

A few months ago, I was dismayed to learn that Erik Millett, the principal of Belleisle School in Springfield , N.B., limited playing our national anthem because the families of a couple of his students objected to it.

As a social scientist, I oppose this kind of political correctness, lack of assimilation of new immigrants to mainstream Canada , hyphenated-Canadian identity, and the lack of patriotism in our great nation.

Increasingly, Canadians feel restricted in doing things the Canadian way lest we offend minorities. We cannot even say Merry Christmas without fear of causing offence. It is amazing that 77 per cent of the Canadian majority are scared of offending 23 per cent of minorities. We have become so timid that the majority cannot assert its own freedom of expression. We cannot publicly question certain foreign social customs, traditions and values that do not fit into the Canadian ethos of equality. Rather than encouraging new immigrants to adjust to Canada, we tolerate peculiar ways of doing things. We do not remind them that they are in Canada, not in their original homelands.

In a multicultural society, it is the responsibility of minorities to adjust to the majority. It does not mean that minorities have to totally amalgamate with the majority. They can practice some of their cultural traditions within their homes -- their backstage behavior. However, when outside of their homes, their front stage behavior should resemble mainstream Canadian behavior. Whoever comes to Canada must learn the limits of our system. We do not kill our daughters or other female members of our families who refuse to wear hijab, niqab or burka which are not mandated by the Qur'an anyway. We do not kill our daughters if they date the "wrong" men. A 17-year-old Sikh girl should not have been killed in British Columbia by her father because she was caught dating a Caucasian man.

We do not practice the dowry system in Canada , and do not kill our brides because they did not bring enough dowry. Millions of female fetuses are aborted every year in India, and millions of female infants have been killed by their parents in India and China. Thousands of brides in India are burned to death in their kitchens because they did not bring enough dowry into a marriage. Some 30,000 Sikhs living abroad took the dowries but abandoned their brides in India in 2005. This is not accepted in Canada .

In some countries, thousands of women are murdered every year for family or religious honour. We should not hide behind political correctness and we should expose the cultural and religious background of these heinous crimes, especially if it happens in Canada . We should also expose those who bring their cultural baggage containing the social custom of female circumcision. I was shocked when I learned about two cases of this barbaric custom practiced in St.Catharines, Ont. a few years ago.

I have said it on radio and television, have written in my columns in The Calgary Herald, and I have written in my latest book, Journey to Success, that I do not agree with the hyphenated identity in Canada because it divides our loyalties. My argument is that people are not forced to come to Canada and they are not forced to stay here. Those who come here of their own volition and stay here must be truly patriotic Canadians or go back.

I am a first-generation Canadian from Pakistan. I left Pakistan 45 years ago. I cannot ignore Pakistan, because it is the homeland of my folks, but my first loyalty should be and is to Canada. I am, therefore, a proud Canadian, no longer a Pakistani-Canadian. I am a Canadian Muslim, not a Muslim Canadian.

I do not agree with those Canadians who engage in their fight against the system in their original countries on Canadian soil. They should go back and fight from within. For example, some of the Sikhs, Tamil Tigers, Armenians and others have disturbed the peace in Canada because of their problems back home. Recently, a low-level leader of MQM, the Mafia of Pakistan, came to Canada as a refugee and started to organize public rallies to collect funds for their cause in Pakistan . On July 18, 2007, the Federal Court of Canada ruled that MQM is a terrorist group led by London-based Altaf Hussain, their godfather. As a member in the coalition government of Pakistan, this terrorist group is currently collaborating with the Taliban in Pakistan. That refugee was deported back to Pakistan.

Similarly, I disagree with newcomers who bring their religious baggage here. For example, Muslims are less than two per cent of the Canadian population, yet in 2004 and 2005, a fraction of them, the fundamentalists, wanted to bring Sharia law to Canada. If they really want to live under Sharia, they should go to the prison-like countries where Sharia is practiced.

I once supported multiculturalism in Canada because I believed it gave us a sense of pluralism and diversity. However, I have observed and experienced that official multiculturalism has encouraged convolution of the values that make Canada the kind of place people want to immigrate to in the first place.

Here, we stand on guard for Canada, not for countries we came from. Like it or not, take it or leave it, standing on guard only for Canada is our national maxim. Remember, O Canada is our national anthem which must not be disregarded by anybody, including the teacher in Springfield , N.B.

Mahfooz Kanwar, PhD
Sociologist and Instructor Emeritus at Mount Royal College
Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

And there's more and more ...