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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Your old toothbrush could be worth a fortune!


A toothbrush used by Apollo 13 astronaut Jack Swigert who flew to the Moon has just been sold at auction for nearly $13,000 - triple the starting bid.

I change my toothbrush every three weeks or so after which it gets a second life as grout-cleaner in the bathroom. However, from now on I shall auction it off on ebay.com.au. To make a bid, search under "toothbrush used by retired chartered management consultant and accountant who flew around the world a few times" (if you couldn't find it, you probably didn't enter my full professional handle ☺ )

Don't worry if you miss out on the first auction as there will be another one every three weeks. I have that 'Ring of Confidence' that tells me I'll be cleaning up big and more than just my teeth.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Why struggle when you can retire in paradise for just $40 a day?


Where $1,200 a month – for a couple – buys you a comfortable home in a beautiful setting, pays for food and utilities, entertainment, even a housekeeper.

Where prices for everyday things are from the 1950s: A taxi ride costs three bucks. Lunch out for $5. A first-run movie is $4. A housekeeper will clean once-a-week for $15.

Where you don’t have to re-adjust: English is widely spoken, respect for seniors is ingrained in the culture, and large, thriving Aussie communities already exist.

Where family isn’t a million miles away: Your new time zone is the same as Perth… another spot is only three hours behind Melbourne.

Time to give this some more thought?

Click here!

P.S. No, I'm not on a commission; I just thought you might be interested ☺


Monday, May 26, 2014

We are a country of great winkers
(no spelling mistake intended)


Appearing on ABC Radio, Prime Minister Abbott winked at host Jon Faine when an angry pensioner told him she worked on an adult sex line to “make ends meet”. The wink seemed to have got him into even hotter water than the budget itself.

Quite apart from the doubts I have about the authenticity of the call which may well have been a stitch-up by the Labor Party, I wonder what has happened to our sense of humour.

Almost fifty years ago, I left a country of great (and some not-so-great) thinkers to come to this country of great winkers whose lanonic sense of humour I immediately found appealing. And what could be more laconic than a wordless wink when confronted with the idea of a pensioner working on a sex line?

Personally, I'd rather have Tony the Winker than all those wankers who broke out into a red-hot fury over it. Perhaps they should go and meet Gloria the sex worker grandma to cool down a bit (or a lot):

I think I've just saved you a phone call, haven't I? Wink wink nudge nudge say no more ☺


Sunday, May 25, 2014

The Noble Society of Pudding Owners has been put on notice


Successive generations of Australian children who grew up with Norman Lindsay's book of The Magic Pudding - read the online book - refused to believe it's just a fairy tale.

Having been card-carrying members of the Noble Society of Pudding Owners for the past three to four decades, they gladly traded their votes for the party handing out the most ‘pieces of silver’. Entitlement (to a share of another person’s income) having long ago replaced gratitude, they chucked a tantrum when somebody tried to take away the lollies.

When I came to this wonderful country in the 1960s, I never heard of unemployment benefits, rent assistance, family allowances, and single mothers' pensions. Men relocated to secure employment even though their prolonged absence would cause their wives and young families a degree of hardship. When somebody got injured, there was no disability pension to be claimed. Were the people tougher then, or was it they simply had no other option than to draw on the resilience within and do what had to be done?

The sacrifices and solid foundations laid by these earlier generations have been crucial to Australia being one of the most blessed nations on earth. But what is the legacy that today’s generation is going to leave to the yet unborn?

If the venom, vitriol and disappointment being expressed about the recent (not so tough) budget are any indication, then we must go down as the greediest, most self-centred, petulant and narcissistic generation that ever lived.

We have become a nation that's taken way too much for granted for way too long and will be shock-horror mortified when reality bites us in our overweight arses. In the meantime, the cargo cult mentality continues ...


Friday, May 23, 2014

Charlie's Country


Who doesn't remember the 1976 movie Storm Boy, based on a children's book by Colin Thiele, about a boy and his pelican? Storm Boy's real name in the film is Mike — the moniker "Storm Boy" was given to him by Fingerbone Bill, played by David Gulpilil, an Aboriginal man who becomes his friend.

The same David Gulpilil now stars in Charlie's Country as blackfella Charlie, who is getting older, and is out of sorts. The government's intervention is making life more difficult on his remote community, what with the proper policing of whitefella laws that don't generally make much sense, and Charlie's kin seeming more interested in going along with things than doing anything about it. So Charlie takes off, to live the old way, but in doing so sets off a chain of events in his life that has him return to his community chastened, and somewhat the wiser.

The movie will be released in July and I can't wait to see it.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sleeping around


When I began to read Brian Thacker's Sleeping Around and discovered what it was really all about, I felt a bit like the chap in the above video clip.

Only kidding! I had already read several of Brian Thacker's travel books and knew I was in for a few belly-laughs. Sleeping Around is about travelling like a local, staying in someone’s home and experiencing the world in a way money can’t buy - or, as www.couchsurfing.org put it, having friends all over the world you haven’t met yet!

If I were a few years younger, I'd be happy to meet them! As it is, my days of sleeping around are over ☺


Five shades of autumn at "Riverbend"


Granny orals PM


My friend, this may take away some of the pleasure from the next phone call you make, but I am here to report the facts, not your fantasies:

A 67-year-old grandmother who says she had to live on $400 a fortnight and had to work on a phone sex line to "make ends meet" while battling life-threatening illnesses has challenged Prime Minister Tony Abbott over budget cuts during an ABC Radio phone-in.

The Prime Minister offered this response: "Well, Gloria, I'm not saying you're on easy street, I'd never say that, obviously you're doing it tough."

Is this what Bob Hawke meant when he exhorted us to become a clever country? Are we becoming a country of phone sex workers?

Don't call me; I'll call you!


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Premeditated meditation


Padma and some of her Indonesian girlfriends plan to attend a lecture by Lama Choedak Rinpoche at the Manjushri Buddhist Centre in Milton, some 50-odd clicks north of Batemans Bay.

All those competing smells of bare feet (to say nothing of bared souls) and burning incense sticks is a bit too much for my sensitive nostrils.

So, while waiting for them, I shall lose my anger, anxiety, depression, insecurity, and fear of old age and death in a pint of light ale at the Commercial Hotel which is just a short stumble down the road.

Here's one of Lama Choedak Rinpoche's talks sans the smells:

He goes on a bit, doesn't he? Reminds me of the little boy who comes home from school and says "Dad, I've got a part in the school play as a man who's been married for 25 years." His dad replies, "Never mind, son. Maybe next time you'll get a speaking part!"

Anyway, give the Honourable Lama a crappy nine-to-five job, six kids, a nagging wife, a huge mortgage and no light at the end of the tunnel - except from an oncoming train - , and see what happens (not that I have kids or a mortgage or ever held a crappy job, on top of which I've been retired for fourteen years - although sometimes I'm not so sure about the nagging wife ☺ )

The Lama's revised speech may be a very short and emphatic "Oh shit!" ☺


Monday, May 19, 2014

Next time you speed across Nelligen Bridge, don't!


I nstead, give us a friendly wave! We are where the yellow "x" is placed on the photograph (click on image to enlarge). If you see us waving back, call in for a cuppa at "Riverbend".

Join us in the "Clubhouse" for an afternoon of nothing more exciting than watching the ducks going round in circles on the pond. It may just remind you of what you've been doing all your life ☺

And the dogs are always good for a cuddle, too!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose


It sounds so much nicer in French, doesn't it? But it's just as true in English - "The more things change, the more they stay the same" - just look at today's "Riverbend" Cottage above and below my Bougainville donga in the 1970s.



Can you spot the difference? Correct; the red chair is of a slightly different design but it's all a friend of mine could find as he went shopping - PHOTOSHOPping, that is! - to make me feel at home before I move into "Riverbend" Cottage while Padma is in Indonesia.

I mean, why keep a big, two-storey house clean and warm when I can relive the good ol' Bougainville days sitting in a red chair on the porch of "Riverbend" Cottage? Throw in a dash of rain on the tin roof and I can almost hear the surf crash on Loloho Beach!

My donga is my castle! And I'm the boss in it - and I have my (absent) wife's permission to say so ☺


The morning after the Budget Night before


The older you get, the more budgets you see, the more political leaders you witness sweeping through the system trying to sell us their gibberish, which makes you realise that none of them give a hoot about the long term welfare of this country. Yet as an electorate we’re continually seduced by the words and ideas of these two-bit salesmen. Sadly, we get what we deserve.

‘You get what you pay for,’ was one of Milton Friedman’s dicta. You pay people to be poor, unemployed, and in single-mom households and that’s what you get: a whole bunch of people with no real job and no idea how the real world works, imagining everybody lives on government handouts; the rich just get more.

And don't even get me started on the bloated 'Public Service' (surely the greatest euphemism ever invented!) Remember the old chestnut about how many public servants work in Canberra? 'About half', is the suggested answer (although, having had the dubious pleasure of working on a government contract for six months, I can tell you that even that low estimate is grossly overstated).

All of which may explain why during Australia's 10-year resources boom, twice as many public servants than mine workers were hired, bloating the bureaucracy and inflating public spending. Cutting back is now a priority for a government seeking budget savings.

‘In the 10 years through June 2013, 375,000 public sector workers were taken on compared with 173,200 mining workers, according to government data compiled by Bloomberg. Even as the mining boom boosted growth and tax receipts, the ballooning government wages bill added to strains on the budget and helped push sovereign debt to a record A$318 billion.’

Of course, the biggest financial disaster in recent Australian history has been Canberra itself, and all because a whole bunch of pollies couldn't agree. I've read various estimates ranging from fifty billion up to three-hundred-billion spent to create a city that had no economic basis for its existence. Imagine how different Australia would be if that amount of money, whatever it is, had not gone into this Albert Speer fantasy but instead into hospitals, roads, research, manufacturing, universities, defence and anything else you can think of. It's too late to reverse this but we can try and keep the lid on how much we spend on that Orwellian place.

Congratulations Australia, you’re run by a bunch of fiscally incompetent clowns. Unless you want to spend your next welfare cheque at McDonald's, being served by your own grandparents, you'd better start kicking up more of a stink about this because things will only get worse.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Divide and collect more!


The world is divided not only between the have and the have-yachts but also into six regions - six DVD regions, that is, depending on how affluent that part of the world is. The U.S. comes in as region 1 (very expensive DVDs) whereas China is region 6 (very cheap DVDs). It supposedly stops region 1 and 2 viewers buying those five dollar "other region" DVDs you see in video stores, flea markets and for sale on eBay.

From our previous trips to Indonesia we had brought back some Indonesian-made DVDs which, however, did not play on our locally bought DVD player. Nor did the German version of the movie "The Riddle of the Sands" which my brother had copied for me from the German television. We had recently bought the cheap VCR/DVD-combo TEVION TEV8400 from ALDI. Without expecting it to be any more "region-friendly" than all the other players, I tried to play one of the Indonesian DVDs and then the German copy, and - SURPRISE! - they played perfectly!!!

Encouraged by this, I ventured out and ordered three Region 1 DVDs which weren't available in Australia but which I had always wanted to see:

"In a Savage Land" is an exploration of the sexual politics and cultural differences against the stunning vistas of the Trobriand Islands in New Guinea. I had heard of the Trobriands when I lived in New Guinea in the 70s but I had never visited them. In the film, two anthropologists travel to this remote island group to study its culture in the 1930s. Evelyn (Maya Stange) is an adventurous freethinker, while her husband Phillip (Martin Donovan) is a rigid scholar bound to convention and propriety. Tension develops between the couple when Phillip fails to acknowledge what Evelyn sees as obvious: that women run this lusty culture. Tensions are upped another notch when Evelyn falls for Mick (Rufus Sewell), a macho American pearl merchant. As Evelyn's life begins to crash in around her, the Japanese army invades her island paradise and tragedy strikes her priggish husband. "In a Savage Land" was screened at the 1999 Vancouver Film Festival.

"Never on Sunday" ("Pote Tin Kyriaki") is a classic romantic comedy that blends "Pygmalion" with "Irma La Douce." Melina Mercouri is the earthy Piraeus prostitute who is "educated" by an American visitor (director and Mercouri hubby Jules Dassin) trying to find ties between the modern world and ancient Greece. Eventually, he tutors Mercouri on her country's history. It features a memorably bouncy musical score which takes me back to the time in the 80s when I lived and worked in Piraeus.

The third film, "Lord Jim", is a majestic adaptation of one of my favourites of Joseph Conrad's many classic tales chronicling the exploits of adventure-seeking seaman Lord Jim as he joins the crew of a merchant vessel travelling the Orient. After abandoning ship during a fierce storm, the Englishman becomes overwhelmed with feelings of guilt for his cowardly act. But when he has the opportunity to help overthrow a tyrannical general in the jungles of Southeast Asia, will he find the redemption he so desperately seeks? It stars Peter O'Toole who, of course, played so convincingly in another of my favourite movies, "Lawrence of Arabia".

How great was my disappointment when of the three DVDs, only "Lord Jim" played on my ALDI machine! It wasn't all that "region-friendly" after all!

I had heard that there was usually a way of opening up the regions on DVD players but the manufacturers keep very quiet about it (no mention of it in the user's manual!) I GOOGLEd the internet with the keywords "unlock" and "regions" and discovered hundreds of entries all dealing with how to unlock a DVD player to make it an all-region player. Each "code-breaker" was specific to a particular brand and model. None of them mentioned ALDI's TEVION TEV8400 until I came across an enterprising Peter Titcumb of Everton in Victoria who sold this information on ebay for US$5. I parted with what was some AUS$7-plus and received by email a bunch of pages and webpage links which were of little help. Back to GOOGLE! I finally found the instructions I was looking for in the public domain:

The steps for the TEVION TEV8400 model are as follows:

(Beware: the instructions are different for each brand and model!)

  1. Turn on player
  2. Press DVD Select button
  3. Open DVD tray
  4. Press 0520
  5. Press Up (^)/PR+ button
  6. Press Down (V)/PR- button
  7. Press Left (<) button
  8. Press Right (>) button
  9. Watch the TV screen, and select 0 for Region Free
  10. Press OK/ENTER button

IT WORKS!!! Pity I fell for that chap in Victoria who is $7 richer thanks to my naïvety - it's the first time a Victorian got the better of me! However, I take off my hat to his enterprising spirit in selling public domain knowledge to the gullible. I wonder if he would mind telling me how many he's roped in already!?

If YOU have a problem opening up your DVD to all regions, send me an email. I promise I won't charge you $7! (better still, do your own research; start here)


Monday, May 12, 2014

The end of another endless summer

There is something both sad and reassuring about autumn: sadness that another summer has passed and reassurance that this is all part of the predictable cycle of nature and that summer will return.

Autumn invites us to reflect on life and reminds us that time is not standing still. It's a muffled cry of 'CARPE DIEM'