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Monday, December 31, 2012

Preparing for tonight's New Year's Eve


We're keeping it 'low-key' this year so our apologies if we didn't invite you. On second thoughts: congratulations if you haven't been invited!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Sure it's on the fiscal cliff but what a view! ..


With the deadline to solve the latest potential economic crisis in the US rapidly approaching, you have probably heard of the fiscal cliff - but what is it? Here are some answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the fiscal cliff.

What is the fiscal cliff?

The term fiscal cliff refers to a combination of dramatic spending cuts and tax increases mandated to come into effect in January. To avoid the cliff, US president Barack Obama has to strike an agreement with Republicans who control the US House of Representatives by the end of the year.

But why?

The Budget Control Act of 2011 codified in law a grudging political compromise forcing the government to slash spending by $US1.2 trillion over 10 years from January 1. Next year's cuts, called sequestration, would be about $US109 billion. Also on that date, a package of tax reductions and an extension of unemployment benefits will expire, meaning taxes will rise significantly for most Americans.

Why will this happen?

Democrats and Republicans have long been deadlocked over whether to address a $US1 trillion-plus annual budget gap with higher taxes or lower spending. The Budget Control Act was a poison-pill deal designed to force them to find a less austere compromise, but political wrangling and dysfunction meant no deal was done, and the deadline is now looming.

What happens if it is not avoided?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the higher taxes and lowered spending could slice the $US1.1 trillion deficit racked up in the 2012 fiscal year by almost $US500 billion next year. While this would vastly improve the government's financial picture, the CBO estimates the shock treatment would send the country back to recession and push the unemployment rate to 9.1 per cent. Deep cuts would come to both domestic programs and defence spending. Government suppliers and contractors would lose business, and temporary furloughs could be in store for tens of thousands of federal employees. Taxes and automatic pay check deductions would increase for most Americans - reducing the cash they have for spending - and taxes on capital gains and dividends would rise, hitting investors.

What is the debt ceiling?

The US government will hit its statutory $US16.39 trillion debt limit on Monday, according to treasury secretary Timothy Geithner. The limit is set by Congress and if it is not raised, the US will not be able to borrow any more money and would, in theory, be forced to slash spending to make ends meet. Possible, but desperate, remedies would include halting pay to the military, retirement health benefits, social security and failing to pay government debts.

Will the US default on its debt?

Not immediately. The treasury has various extraordinary measures in its armoury, including halting the issuance of securities to state and local governments, which could buy about two months of leeway.

What would a default mean?

No-one is sure: the dollar and US treasury bonds are the primary currency of global finance, and holders do not really have any alternatives. Most believe that eventually the US government would make good on its debts. However, the country's credit rating could be further downgraded, likely pushing up its borrowing costs over the medium-term and possibly diminishing the dollar's cachet in world finance.

What will Congress do?

Eventually, Congress is likely to raise the debt ceiling, but Republicans who run the House of Representatives will use the showdown as leverage to demand spending cuts from the president in return. It is uncertain how high the raised borrowing limit will be, and in any case, any resolution will likely trigger a new confrontation between Mr Obama and Republicans the next time around.

What dit I do?

I liquidated a large part of my share holdings in anticipation of a market fall.

What did the market do?

It went UP!

Seeking air-conditioned asylum

Manus Island

Asylum seekers on Manus Island, through Amnesty International, have demanded a response from the Department if Immigration by close of business today about a range of things, foremost a lack of air conditioners.

Why didn't I think of contacting Amnesty International when I spent all those years in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Thursday Island, Samoa, Rangoon and Penang Island with not a whisper of an air conditioner?

In fact, the last few days at "Riverbend" have been pretty hot and I could've done with Amnesty International's help to have the Australian government give me an air conditioner.

I had better get started and write them a letter. Mind you, I don't like my chances of getting a reply. I am still waiting for a reply to a letter I wrote to the local council some months ago. Of course, I am not an asylum seeker; I am merely an Australian citizen and taxpayer.

P.S. By the way, a South American scientist from Argentina, after a lengthy study, has discovered that people with insufficient brain and sexual activity read blogs with their hand on the mouse.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

I receive Christmas cards, therefore I am

Christmas cards are said to have been around since 1843. Well, not with me! I only became a recipient and reluctant sender of such cards when I settled in deepest Australian suburbia in 1985 after a Christmas-less and Christmas Card-less lifetime spent in some of the remotest corners of the world.

My suburban neighbours engaged in an annual 'look-I-received-more-cards-than-you-did' contest by stringing up their Christmas cards across their lounge room windows. With my competitive spirit aroused and short of 'doing a Mr Bean' and sending cards to myself, I began to keep the few cards I received each year until, a few years later, I was able to string an impressive-looking collection across my own window. 'Look I received more cards than you did!'

When asked by one neighbour why a Christmas card on display in 1997 had been signed, "With best wishes for 1989", I told him that some of my friends were dyslexic.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cool Christmas Day


After yesterday's sweltering heat, today's drop in temperature to the mid-twenties is most welcome as is the light rain which I was eager to catch by adding another red downpipe to the carport's roof.

I took the periscope design straight from DAS BOOT:



I hope you're enjoying Christmas as much as I do. I'm slightly pissed which is entirely your fault as I've been drinking too many toasts to your good health and continued good fortunes. May the best of your yesterdays be the worst of your tomorrows. As for myself, with six new pairs of socks and a like number of new boxer underpants beneath the Christmas tree, I am ready to face whatever the new year wants to throw at me.

Meanwhile, good ol' Miranda Gibson has been listening to the Queen's Christmas Message from the top of her own Christmas tree:

"Tasmanian anti-logging activist Miranda Gibson is spending her second Christmas Day in her tree-top home. Ms Gibson has been living on a platform in a eucalyptus tree, 60 metres above the forest floor in the Tyenna Valley in southern Tasmania, for more than a year. She has been campaigning to protect high conservation-value forests from logging, and says she hopes it will be her last Christmas in the tree. 'I would really like to be coming down in 2013,' she said."

Monday, December 24, 2012

Our first guests for the season are due today


Our short holiday rental season is upon us and the first guests are due in today. All the last-minute jobs are done and the Cottage is ready!


I even managed to bang a few Melamine boards together to house the fridge and microwave.

Come on, all ye faithful, we welcome you to Riverbend Cottage!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nelligen Yacht Clubhouse


With the help of the very much alive Troy of Nelligen and the long-dead Pythagoras of Samos, I've laid out the foundation of the club house for the Nelligen Yacht Club.

The foundations are 6 x 6 metres, and rather than buying a giant carpenter's square, I fell back on Pythagoras' 3:4:5 triangle to ensure all four corners are an exact 90°:

First measure along one edge 3 feet. Then measure along the adjacent edge 4 ft. If the diagonal is 5 feet, then the triangle is a 3:4:5 right triangle and, by definition, the corner is square. Of course, any multiples of 3,4,5 can be used, for example 6,8,10, whatever is convenient at the time.

Strange how some simple rules stay with you for the rest of your life! The Rule of 72, for example, by which you determine how long it takes to double your money at compound interest: simply divide 72 by the rate of interest to give you the number of years. Or when your accounts don't balance: if the difference is divisible by 9, it's almost certain to be a transposition of figures. Or π being the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. And the ratio of 3:4:5.

Anyway, the work will continue after Christmas. Watch this space!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Something to make you go "Hmmmmm"


As I was lying in bed pondering the problems of the world, I rapidly realized this:

  1. If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal.
  2. A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, and is fat.
  3. A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years.
  4. A tortoise doesn't run and does nothing, yet it lives for 150 years or more.
And you tell me to exercise?? I don't think so. I'm getting old. Go around me. Now that I'm older, here's what I've discovered:

  1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
  2. My wild oats have turned into prunes and all-bran.
  3. I finally got my head together, and now my body is falling apart.
  4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
  5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
  6. If all is not lost, where is it?
  7. It is easier to get older than it is to get wiser.
  8. Some days, you're the dog; some days you're the hydrant.
  9. I wish the buck stopped here; I sure could use a few.
  10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
  11. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.
  12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
  13. The only time the world beats a path to your door is when you're in the bathroom.
  14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.
  15. When I'm finally holding all the cards, why does everyone want to play chess?
  16. It’s not hard to meet expenses . . . they're everywhere.
  17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
  18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter. I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm hereafter.
  19. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
  20. Have I written this before???

Have you ever wondered ...

Where do nudists keep their hankies and why do men fall asleep after sex and why did people think that masturbation made you blind? (Doesn't it?)

I came back from town with some more liquids to cheer me up over the merry season, some plumbing and hardware stuff for several DIY-jobs to do in between drinks, and this cute little book.

No, I won't give you the answers. You have to buy your own book. Only sex is free!


Monday, December 17, 2012

10 Aussie books to read before I die


Well, according to the ABC's First Tuesday Book Club, they are:

  1. Cloudstreet - Tim Winton
  2. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
  3. A Fortunate Life - A.B. Facey
  4. The Harp in the South - Ruth Park
  5. The Power of One - Bryce Courtenay
  6. Jasper Jones - Craig Silvey
  7. The Magic Pudding - Norman Lindsay
  8. The Slap - Christos Tsiolkas
  9. The Secret River - Kate Grenville
  10. Picnic at Hanging Rock - Joan Lindsay

With one foot in the grave, I'm glad I've read seven of them already. I guess I just have to catch up with numbers 6, 8 and 9 before my own number is up.

Have you sometimes wondered why not all your Christmas wishes come true?


Who is this overweight, conspicuously costumed, nocturnal, breaking-and-entering alien with no visible means of support anyway? Does he collect GST on all the gifts he leaves? Are the elves getting time and a half? Does the RSPCA know about the workload those reindeer face? Does he have a licence for his off-road vehicle, which, by the way, appears to have no running lights for night travel ...

Anyway, I hope it wasn't your "Dear Santa" letter he picked and that all your wishes come true and you have a wonderful Christmas!

Herzlichen Glückwunsch zum Geburtstag, Karl-Heinz !

von Deinem Bruder

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The thick plottens


The vegie plot, that is: cucumbers, tomatoes, beans, shallots - it's amazing what you can fit into an old cut-in-half watertank. This morning I played human bulldozer and, armed with no more than a pickaxe, cleared some ground around the pond. I've never physically worked this hard. I don't know if it's going to shorten my life; it sure shortens my breath.

Time to take a break with my latest book, The Story of the Fly and How it Could Save the World.

An Open-and-Shut Case


The second Open House in as many months at our ex-neighbours' property across the lane has been another fizzer: just the salesman turned up. What? Isn't the Greater Fool Theory working anymore?


Click here to open in a separate window

Friday, December 14, 2012

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Red chips in the coming sunset

I've just bought another five cubic metres of red euci chips but the spreading of it will have to wait until after sundown as the temperature has already soared to the high thirties.

A bit of weeding in the shady places and then a spot of lunch before sleeping it all off in the hammock.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Breaking news from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia


Ever since the early 1980s when I spent several years in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, I have had an abiding interest in this somewhat forbidding and secretive country. I therefore was very pleased to hear that Saudi women are now allowed to drive their own cars - see above picture.

The shape of things to come

Click here to open in separate window

Fenc(esitt)ing no more!

Graffiti artist's impression


Our new neighbours of little more than a year are no longer our neighbours! The removal van has been and gone and the FOR SALE-sign is up.

Has this got anything to do with Council having refused to approve their new fence? No sooner had it gone up than several residents phoned Council and complained. Not me! As I told my new neighbours, having spent the first twenty years of my life next to the Berlin Wall, I could probably bear to live next to theirs for the last twenty. Vive aliisque vivatur!

However, now that they're gone and selling, I asked Council what would happen next. Here's their reply:

"Hi Peter

I refer to your email of the 3/12/12 regarding the refusal of the above DA and advise the following:

  • The application was assessed on its merits. The principle [sic] failing of the proposal was the inadequate design response of the fence to its full site context. The proposed fence is out of context with the site and surrounding area, and particularly as the impact is significantly increased to Sproxtons Lane due to the double frontage. Consequently the application failed to adequately comply with Council’s fencing provisions and the objectives of the E4 Zone.
  • The type of fence constructed is not consistent with the fencing provisions; solid unmodulated colorbond fences to the perimeter of a lot are not characteristic in the area. The fence is contrary to the preferred landscape character of the area.
  • In relation to your question about the removal of the fence, Council’s compliance team are now dealing with the removal of the fence. I am unable to advise on a timeframe for its removal but at this stage given the refusal the fence must be taken down.
Should you have any further questions please contact me on the number below or via return email

Bryan Netzler
Development Assessment Officer"

There goes $15,000 worth of fencing! And our new neighbours!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Not even a foot(in-mouth)note in history

Read the Pickering Post, always a good laugh while being deadly serious. Makes me feel good I never voted Labor in my life!

Come on! It's time you read a good book!

Click here to open ebook in larger print

Please be patient as these 200 pages take some time to load

Friday, December 7, 2012

Some looney has just sent me twenty of them


No doubt the Canadian economy will take a turn for the worse after a good friend has taken 'vingt loonies' out of circulation and put them in my Christmas stocking. And I haven't even so much as sent him a card!

All I can say is that if all my friends were as generous, I'd still be only twenty dollars richer.

Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I always knew this but it's nice to have it confirmed

Click on image to enlarge
(don't you wish you could enlarge all things so easily? ☺)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What if fish did to us what we do to them?


Imagine a delicious-looking chocolate bar, still in its shiny wrapper, lying on the riverbank. Along comes a middle-aged-looking guy with a fishing rod over his shoulder, obviously out for a day of angling. He spies the chocolate bar, picks it up, unwraps it and pops it in his mouth with a contented smile.

Next he's dropped the fishing rod and his eyes are as big as golf balls. His mouth is all puckered and distended - and now you can see a thin, taut line running from the corner of his mouth straight across the riverbank into the water. The fisherman is on his knees and he's being dragged - reeled in - inexorably into the water.

When next you look, all you can see is the surface of the water with just a few bubbles rising and the fisherman's hat floating beside them.

Makes you think about angling from a different ... angle, as it were, doesn't it?

Don't take yourself too seriously;
no-one else does.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

If it's Tuesday, it must be Ulladulla


After a quick chat with our neighbours across the fence, we were off to Ulladulla for our weekly roast beef at the club, our weekly swim at the pool, and a few other not so weekly things like cashing a cheque and renewing the car rego.

As I stood there at the bank counter, signing the cheque, the florish of my signature was cut short by the chain with which they had tethered their cheap ballpoint pen to the counter. What is it with these people? They want you to trust them with your money but they won't even trust you with a 50-cent ballpoint pen?

I had made out the cheque to "Cash" and written across the top "Please pay cash" and duly initialled it and also produced my driver's licence which was scrutinised at great length even though I'd been in that bank so many times that some staff already greeted me by name. None of which seemed to matter as I was sternly reprimanded for not having crossed out the "Not Negotiable" already printed on the cheque by the bank. What must I do next to get my own money out? Genuflect and grovel?

After she had counted out the fifties in slow motion, she asked with a frozen smile, "Anything else we can do for you today?" Why the royal 'we' and why the qualifying 'today'?

Walking down the main street, I thought for a moment that some epidemic of earaches had broken out. People were all walking around with one hand jammed to the side of their head. Then I realised they were talking into their mobile phones. When did it become mandatory for everybody with an index finger to own one of these damn things?

The Road Transport Authority is never a busy place. I mean, they never have an end-of-season sale or offer 30% off, do they? The old guy who sat behind the counter in past years used to spend more time reading the sports page of the local rag than issuing licences or renewing regos. There was never a queue: you just walked up to the counter and within minutes your business was done.

Not anymore! Technology had caught up with our small motor registry: I was stopped at the door by a computer touchscreen which required me to "Press A for Car Registrations", "Press B for Licences", "Press C for ..." - well, you know those things, don't you?

I was the only customer (or was I a "client" now?) as the idle counter staff - all three of them and just three metres away - watched me from behind their bullet-proof screens (are they afraid of somebody coming in with a licence to kill?) as I navigated my way through "Press 1 for New Registrations" and "Press 2 for Renewals". It took so long, one of them - he must've been trained by the old guy - began to read the sports page again.

Eventually, the machine grudgingly issued me with a computer-printed ticket which read, "WELCOME - Your number is R004. Please wait until your number is called". Presumably mine was the fourth registration for the day. And that at 3 o'clock in the afternoon!

Some minutes later, a tinny computer-generated voice rasped out, "Arrh Zero Zero Four". I walked up to the chap reading the sports page and plonked down my rego paper and credit card. All done! I asked him how much it had cost to instal all this space-age junk but he had already turned back to the sports page.

I was glad to return to the sanity and serenity of "Riverbend" where I gave a quick wave to our new neighbours in that brilliantly white cruiser who had been moored across from us for the past three days.

My motor-sailer in front; our new neighbours in the distance

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.