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Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What would Freud have said about this?

 

What started off as a handful of my favourite movies - "Lawrence of Arabia", "Zorba the Greek", "Das Boot", "Im Westen nichts Neues" etc. - has morphed into the biggest DVD collection this side of the Clyde River.

During my peripatetic years when all I owned fitted into one medium-sized suitcase, I met a whole range of collectors, from the one who kept every copy of the local newspaper going back several decades to the philatelist who rushed out to buy not just one but several sheets of every new postage stamp on issue. Another one had only ten objects in his collection, but they were tractors - and I mean REAL ones! -, while yet another had the problem of storage neatly solved by only collecting the certificates of his many interest-bearing term deposits.

Neurologists who study the collecting and indeed hoarding behaviour posit that the need to collect stems from a primeval drive to collect basic supplies such as food. Freud had a more extreme view. He postulated that all collecting stems from unresolved toilet training in that the loss of bowel control was a traumatic experience, and the product from the bowels was disgusting and frightening to the child. Thus the grown-up collector is trying to gain back control of their bowels as well as their "possessions" which were long flushed down the toilet.

Well, try and flush those thousand-plus DVDs down the toilet!


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Reflections

 

While waiting for Padma to finish her shopping, I sat on a bench on Ulladulla's teeming thoroughfare and started dipping into my latest acquisition, "Ustinov at Large", a friendly little book of short essays by my favourite Renaissance man, Peter Ustinov.

Looking up in between chapters, I saw this old codger sitting on the footpath across from me. He was staring right back at me and I was about to wave when I noticed something familiar about him: it was my own reflection in a shopfront.

Not the mental image I carry around in my head which is slim and agile with a full head of hair and a full set of teeth, but a later version which has put on weight and finds it difficult to bend down to tie the show-laces. As for the full head of hair and full set of teeth, let's just say I now get a discount at the barber's and dentists start checking out the latest catalogue of BMWs when they see me coming ☺


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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Gone up in smoke

 

After over 31 years, the trusty old NATIONAL NA860-AN washing machine has gone up in smoke. It was my first domestic purchase in late 1985 after I had returned from overseas and settled in deepest suburbia in Canberra.

Needing a replacement, we went to the Homemakers Centre in the Bay and stated our case, "A 5kg-top-loader is all we want, but it must have a footprint of no more than 550x550mm to fit into the existing space."

"What you want is a hire", the salesman said.

"No, we don't want to hire; we want to buy", I replied.

As it turned out, Haier is a Chinese brand and an abbreviation of the German brand Liebherr who in the 1980s sold their technology and manufacturing know-how to a small refrigeration factory in Qingdao who subsequently became the biggest appliance company in China.

As every China traveller knows, Qingdao - or Tsingtau, to give it its German name - was a German concession from 1898 to 1914 and is the only place in China where the Chinese still wear Lederhosen.

Just kidding! However, when I visited it in 1998, I was surprised by the large number of German-style buildings in Qingdao city centre and, of course, I visited the Tsingtao Brewery, founded by the Germans in 1903 and still producing Tsingtao beer, the best-known Chinese export beer.

With such impressive antecedents, I had no hesitation to buy our new Haier HWT60AW1. May it last another 31 years!


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

All in jest

King Taufa'ahau Tupou IV's royal decree

 

Ruling a medieval kingdom used to be serious business, what with all the warfare and beheadings and dying of the plague. Yet a staple of royal courts was the jester, an entertainer whose skills could include jokes, music, storytelling, juggling, acrobatics, or magic.

While jesters haven’t entertained the crowned heads of Europe for centuries, they aren’t entirely extinct. Tāufaʻāhau Tupou IV, king of the Pacific island nation of Tonga from 1965 until his death in 2006, appointed a court jester on the 1st of April 1999.

His choice - who celebrated his 44th birthday on the very same day - was Jesse Bogdonoff, a Bank Of America employee who at one time also sold magnets to cure back pain. He had been Tonga's financial advisor for five years before making the transition to jesting. As jester, he wisely recommended moving the national stock portfolio out of the stock market before the dot-com bubble burst, possibly while juggling.

 

The king and I: Jesse Bogdonoff with Tonga's late king, Taufa'ahau Tupou IV.

 

However, by 2001 the US$26 million he had moved from the Tonga Trust Fund into a series of speculative investments was all gone, and he fled the country in 2004.

The Tongan Trust Fund was set up with money received from Tonga's controversial passport sales started in 1982 which, according to this academic research paper, resulted in the sale of 8,450 passport at an average of US$11,000 for each passport, or a total US$92.95million. US$92.95 minus US$26 million - what happened to the other US$66 million?

Those 8,450 passports - equal to about 8% of Tonga's population - went to such notables as General Motors Vice President, Michael Nyland, and family to allow them to avoid massive inheritance taxes (Australian 1/1/99); Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, his wife Imelda (on 8 June 1986) and their daughter Aimée on 8 June 1987 (Tonga Government Gazette Extraordinary 15/2/91); the subsequently imprisoned former head of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, billionaire Ronald Li Fook-Shiu; Hong Kong textiles billionaire Chen Din-hwa; former chairman of the Diamond Importers' Association of Hong Kong, Maximilian Ma Yung-Kit; George Tan Soon-Gin, who handed over his Tongan passport to Hong Kong police after his Carrian group of shell companies (most in tax havens) was discovered to have fabricated hundreds of millions of dollars of profits -- precipitating the colony's financial crisis of 1982 and 1983 (Asian Wall Street Journal, 30/9/96; Naylor 1994: 209-24); Zhu Hua Yu, a Chinese millionaire who acquired a Tongan passport and moved to Nuku’alofa and lost over NZ$46m ($30.7m) at Auckland’s Sky City Casino and in November 1998 was convicted of cheating in its ‘high rollers’ area to finance his gambling addiction (New Zealand Herald 31/3/99).

 

 

There has been a decades-long inquiry into those passport sales but nothing seems to come of it - click here and here and here. Not for nothing was Tonga named the sixth most corrupt country in the world by Forbes magazine in 2008. That's some record for a tiny nation.

As for Jesse the jester, he now calls himself Jesse Dean, BA, MBA, PhD(c), ABH Certified Clinical Hypnotherapist, Certified NLP Master Practitioner and Trainer, TimeLine Therapist Practitioner and Trainer, and founded the Open Window Institute of Emotional Freedom and Prosperity which provides unique personal development and communication-enhancing seminars to corporate clients seeking to increase executive and team performance. As one does after having been a royal jester! ☺

Compared to this, what's happening in Tongan real estate is almost a sideshow of a sideshow.


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Wonderful virtual reality

 

With his Tongan "Cocomo Village" promotion running out of steam, lovable raconteur and realtor extraordinaire Robert Bryce has come up with Go Native Fiji which looks wonderful in virtual reality, doesn't it?

He wants to get it up and running as soon as possible, so "in our effort to get the first beach house village formed the offer for March is; order a home now with just $1000 down and you will get free delivery and installation, which is worth up to $3,800."

Trouble is, as with his Cocomo Lodge, it's just a figment of his vivid imagination or, in today's computerised world, a bit of virtual reality.

Okay, Robert, you got me interested. Please accept this image of a US$1000-bill as downpayment and send me your virtual receipt.


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Monday, March 20, 2017

The most-loved dog in the world!

 

Exactly fourteen years to the day, we were celebrating Padma's birthday in the beergarden of the "Adelaide Hotel" overlooking the Moruya River, when a man on a pushbike pulled up for a rest.

He had a tiny Maltese puppy in his backpack which made us talk to him. He turned out to be an Austrian by the name of Robert Krenn who was pedalling from Melbourne to Sydney (a distance close to 1000 km), had ridden his bike all over the world, and had many stories to tell.

We invited Rob to stay with us at Riverbend and he turned up late that same afternoon to overnight in our guest cottage. We talked and talked and became very good friends. And his little Maltese puppy and our dog Malty became very good friends as well! So much so that when it was time for him to leave next, we suggested that if he ever needed a good home for his little puppy, we would be very happy to have him!

Late that same evening, Rob called us from Burrill Lake, some fifty kilometres north of Batemans Bay, to ask if we had been serious about wanting to take care of his little puppy as he felt we would give him a much better home than he ever could. Of course, we had been serious! So we got into our car and met Rob at his campsite where we drank hot tea, walked along the beach, gazed at the stars, and talked some more. We returned home well after midnight with the new member of our family whom we have called "Rover" as he has already travelled so much!

Rover became a great addition to the family and, fourteen years later, is a 'senior citizen' who enjoys his daytime naps and at night still sleeps on our bed between the two pillows, usually on his back with his four legs spread out in all directions, snoring softly.

He's probably the most-loved dog in the world!

 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Grand Barron Lodge

 

Back in the days when I was still highly motivated to relocate to some place where the temperature never drops below my age - I am thinking of good ol' Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit! - , I visited Kuranda where Regine Bergmann of Australian Property Connection was selling a spectacular property at 46 Cadagi Drive.

 

 

Well, I never bought it but an American artist, Steve Royster, did in late 2006 or early 2007 and, if you can believe the internet, paid $800,000 for it. He listed it again for sale in late 2014 at $1,200,000 but has since turned it into the Grand Barron Lodge.

 

 

As I said, it's a spectacular property with large rooms and high ceilings and some quite extravagant attention to detail. What I didn't know is that it was built in 1986 for Peter Armitage, Alan Bond's accountant.

 

 

"Bondie" was the poster boy of the roaring 80s and famously won the America's Cup in 1983 with his yacht Australia II. Less famously, he was declared bankrupt in 1992 with debts of $1.8 BILLION, jailed for fraud in 1996, and released in 2000. Despite his criminal past, he rebuilt his fortune and in 2008 was named one the 200 wealthiest people in Australia with an estimated $265 million. He died in 2015, aged 77.

 

For more photos, click here

 

Alan Bond's accountant sold the property for $500,000 in late 1993 and it was again for sale at $850,000 when I inspected it in 2003. Maybe it's time I visited it again but this time as a paying guest.


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Friday, March 17, 2017

A ten-dollar-lunch with a million-dollar-view

Million-dollar-view from the restaurant at the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club

 

My printer won't print and so I drove into the Bay to visit the local library where they let you print for nothing if you hold a senior's concession card - which I do not - or at thirty cents a page if they deem you to be rich.

Having taken all the trouble of shaving and getting dressed, I thought we might as well have some lunch in town and, never having joined up before as I was born on the opposing side, I finally mustered enough courage to join the Batemans Bay Soldiers Club so as to try their ten-dollar-lunch with a million-dollar-view.

The clientele was of decidedly (war) veteran age but no longer likely to be offended by my German accent which encouraged me to take out the discounted five-year membership on the clear understanding that any unused portion will be refunded to my estate.

Now I'm back at peaceful "Riverbend" and ready to hit the old sofa in the clubhouse by the pond. East or west, home is best!


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Happy St Patrick's Day

May the road rise up to meet you and have traffic lights like these!

 


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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Dental departures and arrivals

The Dental Surgery of Dr Grant Brodie, (SYD.UNI.)

 

My previous dentist was more interested in her financial than my dental health and so I took my money and my mouth to Dr Brodie who had been recommended to me for his high professionalism and low fees.

I've just come back from his friendly surgery in Ulladulla and wasn't disappointed as he simply oozed confidence and competence and put right whatever had been wrong with a minimum of fuzz and for a minimum fee. As I told him, "Coming here is almost a pleasure!"

A 'Schedule of Fees' in Dr Brodie's waiting room

And while we're on matters medical, remember when I saw my GP recently about my blocked ears? The National Hearing Centre was running "free" hearing tests in the GP's office at the time of my visit, and stitched me up for a $50-consultation before I even had time to get my ears unblocked. They seemed more disappointed about their loss of business than pleased about my having regained my hearing when I cancelled my appointment.

Rather prematurely, they had already passed on my personal details to Industrial Deafness Australia Inc. from whom I received a letter extolling me to enlist their services by qualified audiologists and legal consultants to claim 'up to $1,850 for every 1% Industrial Deafness'.

According to them, no time limits apply and I could even claim if I finished work many years ago. So which of the many offices whose deafening silence I worked in can I blame for my hearing loss? Or should I simply continue to suffer in deafening silence?


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Monday, March 13, 2017

What if this hadn't been a typo?

 

The elderly manager of the ANZ Bank where I worked, Mr Tillett, did all his own typing, sometimes with devastating results. At one time he dyslexically started a letter to a customer with "Dear Madman" instead of "Dear Madam".

After I had rejoined the bank in early 1969, only to leave again for New Guinea at the end of the same year, he deigned to give me a short reference which he dated "1979" instead of "1970". I have sometimes wondered how my life would've panned out had I stayed with the Bank for nine long years instead of nine short months.

It would've been so easy to stay for nine years because the work was undemanding and the surroundings pleasant. Then, after the first nine years, staying another nine years, and then another, would've become almost inevitable. After all, what else would I've been capable of doing, other than to turn up on time, execute some clearly defined functions, and repeat them the next day, and the next, ad infinitum?

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

Instead, I left my comfort zone to learn and grow and never allowed myself to get comfortable again. By the time I reached Mr Tillett's typographically erroneous date of 1979, I had already moved on through a dozen-plus jobs in a dozen-plus countries, and I kept on searching for new challenges and opportunities right until the end.

Who was the winner? That other me who could've gone through life on auto-pilot, routinely receiving small but regular salary increases whether merited or not, routinely drinking with the boys on a Friday night, and routinely watching the footie on a Sunday, before routinely returning to work on the dreaded Monday morning, or the real me who lived on the edge, went from bust to boom and back again, and never quite knew where he was going to be and what he was going to be?

I think there's a time for everything and the time to take risks and test myself was when both my body and mind were still willing and able, and to switch on the auto-pilot only after my body had begun to long for some rest and in my mind I was already typing "Dear Madman ..."


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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Is doing nothing still an option?

 

There is a substantial minority in Islam in Western countries who value sharia above democracy and want to establish sharia-compliant communities. When as a next step they try to impose upon and restrain those who wish to live by democracy and freedom, violence erupts. This is the basis for a civil war.


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It's Sunday so let's talk about God

Take the time to watch and listen to this movie right to the end. It will be worth your time.

 

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?' So begins 'The God Delusion', a 2006 best-selling non-fiction book by English biologist Richard Dawkins.

In 'The God Delusion', Dawkins contends that a supernatural creator almost certainly does not exist and that belief in a personal god qualifies as a delusion, which he defines as a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence. With many examples, he explains that one does not need religion to be moral and that the roots of religion and of morality can be explained in non-religious terms.

I like Bertrand Russell's 'Teapot' analogy, "If I were to suggest that between the Earth and Mars there is a china teapot revolving about the sun in an elliptical orbit, nobody would be able to disprove my assertion provided I were careful to add that the teapot is too small to be revealed even by our most powerful telescopes. But if I were to go on to say that, since my assertion cannot be disproved, it is an intolerable presumption on the part of human reason to doubt it, I should rightly be thought to be talking nonsense. If, however, the existence of such a teapot were affirmed in ancient books, taught as the sacred truth every Sunday, and instilled into the minds of children at school, hesitation to believe in its existence would become a mark of eccentricity and entitle the doubter to the attentions of the psychiatrist in an enlightened age or of the Inquisitor in an earlier time."

Want to join the Teapot religion? Repeat after me: "I am the Lord thy Teapot. Thou shalt have no other teapots before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any coffee. Thou shalt not brew thy tea in vain. Remember teatime, to keep it holy."

 

Click here to open book in separate window

 

Richard Dawkins' book concludes with the question of whether religion, despite its alleged problems, fills a "much needed gap", giving consolation and inspiration to people who need it. According to Dawkins, these needs are much better filled by non-religious means such as philosophy and science. He suggests that an atheistic worldview is life-affirming in a way that religion, with its unsatisfying "answers" to life's mysteries, could never be. An appendix gives addresses for those "needing support in escaping religion".

Enjoy your Sunday because the here and now is all we have!


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem

 

Although little Rover seems to be able to take it into his wobbly four-legged stride as he sleeps when I sleep, eats when I eat, walks when I walk, and acts as my shadow, I caught him this time unawares ☺

If you have never loved a dog or been loved by a dog, you are missing out on so much. They are not called 'Man's best friend' for nothing.

They don't judge. They don't talk back. They know the right words are no words. They are never moody. They don't hold grudges. They are loyal. They are always happy to see you. They are always up for whatever you want to do. They love unconditionally and want to be loved. They love you more than they love themselves.

While little Rover is not my whole life, he makes my life whole. Thank you, little Rover, for being my best friend! I hope it's not too much of a problem to you.


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