the WAFFLE page

January 31, 2011. There ya go... final Waffle for January and the first for 2011. I posted a portrait of myself on Red Bubble this morning. Up until that photo was taken I thought I might be an alien or somehow not related to the rest of the human race, but I was sadly disappointed.

I still feel unconnected (as distinct from disconnected) to my family though. I know I'm related but I don't FEEL related. I watched a program on telly last night about genealogy, featuring famous Americans including Meryl Streep. Basically, we're all carriers of genes passed down through the generations. Essentially, we're a continuation of our ancestoral genome. And we're all related despite different colors and shapes. The original humans came from East Africa and eventually spread out into the Middle East and Europe, and throughout Asia and down into South East Asia and the Pacific.

Nonetheless, I still feel unconnected... as though I'm a visitor from another galaxy taking notes. If I'm ever in a nursing home and asked to join a singalong around the piano or a card game with all the loopies, I'll scream.

Just had an email from my ex-neighbor in Glebe: Thought you might be interested in this recent sale - the terrace opposite yours 12 Hegarty which housed the two polish guys was sold last week for $720k, needs at least $300k work.  We had a sticky beak ....need to gut and start over.

Jeremy loves to keep reminding me of how much my old house is worth these days hehe. I remember those old Polish guys, even though I didn't know them very well. One of them appeared at my front door one Christmas and gave me a beer. He was all smiles and quite jovial, and I was rather impressed by his generosity, especially since we'd never really talked before. Anyway, all those real estate prices are telephone numbers and something with which I can't identify these days. I'm in a totally different league. But as I said to Richie this morning, being a pensioner means the pay is pretty lousy but at least it's reliable... and you can't be sacked.

Jeremy also commented on the recent Rowing Regatta in Taree: Love the rowing regatta pics, our friends and their daughter were participating for Balmain. Pity I was unaware of that or I could have taken a few pics of the Balmain team. "Excuse me, I have a friend in Sydney who asked me to take some pecs... er, PICS... of you guys."

Here's another house just around the corner in John Street that sold for $844,000. And to think I bought mine for $31,000 back in '78. Unbelievable. Dontcha love real estate speak? Stylishly redesigned, sought-after area, exceptionally desirable locale, remarkable eminence, bright flowing interiors, sleek open plan kitchen, generous bedrooms, ample storage. And of course, all homes boast something... they don't have it, they boast it. Ample storage, by the way, means you're a stamp collector. Estate agents are soooo fulla shit. That's what it boils down to.

Did you know that Oz has its own version of Table Mountain? Yes, ladies and genitals, it's just outside Sydney and it sits above a canyon that's 1 kilometer longer than the Grand in Arizona but not as deep. Here's another Red Bubble pic of Barrington Tops taken at sundown. I was there on one my mini Odysseys but had to get home to cook for THEM. On the real Odyssey I won't have to worry about such things, and I'll be able to take pics at the most favorable times. Like when I'm sober.

Oregon Richie has been bitching about being too busy lately but when he saw what was on Obama's plate this month, he changed his mind.

Beeb time: Police are ordered back on to the streets and the curfew is extended, but anti-government protesters remain in central Cairo and call for a strike. It's only a matter of time before Mubarak is history. The people can smell victory. A court in Indonesia has sentenced one of south-east Asia's best known pop stars to three-and-a-half years in prison for making and distributing sex videos on the internet. The tapes of Nazril Irham, or Ariel as he is known, and two other celebrities, were made public last June. He is the first celebrity to be charged under Indonesia's strict pornography law that came into effect in 2008. How absurd. Next! Two of the most senior surviving leaders of the Khmer Rouge are appearing in court in Cambodia. They and two other senior figures face charges of genocide for their parts in the deaths of around two million Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. They've got a bloody hide. Lock 'em up and throw the key away. A new parliament opens in Burma, after last November's elections, but the military is likely to retain overall power, despite a new constitution. Of course, what else? British movie The King's Speech is awarded the top honour at this year's Directors Guild of America Awards. Not surprising. 

So much for the news. Anyway, it's been another hottie today... 33C or thereabouts. So it's salad tonight. Too hot for anything else. Oh, and Bluey's trip meter clicked over today - 2000kms in 2 years. Hehe. Gary

January 30, 2011. Not sure why but Green Room and Green Room II have been selling lately. It's not exactly a stampede but it's encouraging. The book is currently with NY publishing company Alyson... maybe that has something to do with it. Who knows?

I was wondering about National Parks and camping fees so I checked out a government web site, which is pretty comprehensive. It lists all NSW parks, facilities, fees, etc. There's a daily fee of $7 per vehicle but pensioners are exempt. However, there is a fee of between $5 and $10 per person per night depending on the level of facilities, which can include electric/gas BBQs, hot showers, picnic tables, flush toilets and drinking water. Some even have powered sites. There are also free parks with little or no facilities. I plan to make a day trip soon to see one for myself. Or maybe two - and perhaps chat with a couple of campers.

I remember years ago, some bright spark got the idea to park his campervan in The Domain near Sydney's Botanic Gardens with million-dollar views of Sydney Harbor. It didn't take long for the word to get around and pretty soon there were scores of campervans lined up along the road, forming a small village of happy campers with their washing hanging out to dry, and camp furniture spread around the place. All very cosy and cheap. Hehe. But it hit the newspapers and Sydney Council stepped in to put a stop to it.

Camping in National Parks is cool though. You get access to things you wouldn't normally, like the beach or a lake or a river or mountains or waterfalls, etc. I can imagine becoming pretty attached to a camp site after a day or two and being reluctant to move. Imagine waking up to something like this in the morning.

Beeb time: World leaders call on Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak to avoid violence and enact reforms as protests continue into a sixth day. History in the making... again. Five Somali men suspected of hijacking a South Korean cargo ship in the Arabian Sea are flown to Seoul to face possible criminal charges. Do the crime, do the time. I have no sympathy whatsoever for crooks. The Dutch government has frozen all contacts with Iran in protest over the hanging of a Dutch-Iranian woman. The Dutch foreign ministry said it was "shocked, shattered by this act by a barbaric regime". They're right about the regime. The suicide bomber who killed 35 people at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport was a 20-year-old man from the North Caucasus, Russian investigators say. That's all it takes, dear Breth, just one loonie

Not much happening on the news front today, although I expect tonight's 7 o'clock edition to stretch the full half hour as usual. Funny about that. They never stop at 7:15 and say, "Well, that's all that happened today. Sorry, folks."

Rissoles tonight. I'll skin a bunch of "less fat" sausages and add a few extra goodies. The snags themselves are pretty bland. So in goes chopped onion, garlic, mixed herbs, a teaspoon of curry powder, a teaspoon of gravy powder, ground pepper and a bit of tomato paste. That should do the trick. Then shape into patties, coat with breadcrumbs, and grill. I'll fry a few eggs and make some chips to go with it. A meal fit for a pauper! A pauper with taste, that is. Gary

January 29, 2011. I received an offer recently to purchase a trailer at a bargain price but I passed. There was a time when I had decided to use Bluey as my "sleeping quarters" while I towed a small trailer filled with my belongings. But I've since ditched that idea. I need my home comforts. My current thinking is that I'll pay off all my debts, which should see me debt free by the end of this year. Then I'll trade Bluey on a used ute... something fairly modern with a lotta miles left on the clock. After that, I'll go looking for a used slide-on camper. The condition of the ute is more important than the age and condition of the slide-on, and I think it's easier to find an ideal combo by buying the package as two separate items rather than one (as in a single unit campervan). Mind you, anything might happen... but that's the current plan.

The difficult part is being patient. I HATE BEING PATIENT! But I really must wait until I'm debt free before I do anything more. It'll help me finance the ute. Then I can use my Mastercard to buy the slide-on, and then live on Vegemite sandwiches for the next 3 years. Here's an interesting ute with a difference.

Okay, you're familiar with the ukulele, right? But have you heard a ukulele orchestra? This is wonderful!

Beeb time: Egypt's President Mubarak defends the role of the security forces in suppressing protests which have left 26 dead, as he dismisses his government but refuses to stand down. Right, so it's all their fault and not his. Who do these guys think they're kidding? The African Union is setting up a panel of heads of state to seek a solution to the crisis in Ivory Coast over disputed presidential election results. Ivory Coast, Uganda, Zimbabwe... is there a common theme here? South African ex-President Nelson Mandela leaves a Johannesburg hospital and is said to be in good spirits after spending two nights there for tests. A living legend... for a bit longer. Ugandan police have escorted a priest away from the funeral of a gay rights activist after he told homosexuals to repent, sparking scuffles. Anglican priest Thomas Musoke told mourners that homosexuality was "evil". Hundreds of people had gathered for David Kato's burial in his home village near the capital, Kampala. If Musoke thinks he represents Jesus, he's got another think coming. He's an absolute disgrace. US economic growth accelerated in the last three months of 2010 to an annualised rate of 3.2%, corresponding to a 0.78% quarterly increase. Boing, boing. It's called pogo stick economics. Amazon has announced that in the US it sold more e-books for its Kindle device than it sold paperback books in the last three months of 2010. That's interesting. The Pentagon has begun preparing the US military for the presence of openly gay troops in its ranks and said a training programme would begin in February. Gay troops could begin serving openly by the summer, once training has been completed and the White House agrees the policy will not hinder fighting. But the Pentagon warned that troops' same-sex spouses would not be eligible for military benefits. Such as subsidised lipstick. The French constitutional court has upheld a ban on gay marriage, which was challenged by a lesbian couple with four children. The court ruled that the ban, challenged by Corinne Cestino and Sophie Hasslauer, was in keeping with the constitution. Activists had hoped France would join states like Spain and Belgium in legalising same-sex marriage. An opinion poll suggests most French people are in favour. I'm lucky. I have absolutely no desire whatsoever to be married. US carmaker Ford reports a profit of $6.6bn (£4.1bn) in 2010 - its best performance in more than a decade. Obama will be pleased. Internet connections across Egypt appear to have been cut, as authorities there gear up for a day of mass protest. That stinks to high heaven

You have to wonder about good and evil. I'm inclined to think they were born of a single egg; that they exist in tandem, forever intertwined.

Every January I think of Pilot. Pilot? January was a huge hit in the '70s by an English group called Pilot, and it's one of those songs I fell in love with. Very catchy. Check it out and see if you remember it.

Well, another Satdee comes to a close. Time to cook fish 'n' chips... well, chips for THEM, I'll have tomato and shredded lettuce with mine. Gary

January 28, 2011. Almost one down and eleven to go. And by November it will be 10 years since Cody was killed. I remember reading that email from Cody's friend John like it was yesterday.

Hello Gary 
This is the very hardest correspondence that I have ever had to write and I hope that you understand, once you have read it, why it has taken so long to write this to you, in spite of pleadings from Steve. 

There have been some extraordinary friendships throughout history but I'm not aware of any more so than the friendship between Cody and me. Of all the gin joints in all the world...

Meanwhile, the loonies from the Religious Right are still active. Here's one who suggests that the repeal of the US military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy was responsible for thousands of birds falling out of the sky in Arkansas. She was smart enough to ask the question "is there a pattern?" without actually answering the question herself, knowing full well that the mere suggestion of a connection is sufficient to convince the ratbags to believe there is.

Yesterday, I lamented that I won't be around in a few hundred years to see whether or not religion survives despite the Devil's Advocate we call Science. But I failed to take into account that, unlike science, religion can survive without proof. Religion doesn't need to be rational or logical. All it needs is faith. If people wanna believe that birds fall outta the sky because God hates gays, then so be it. Signed, sealed and delivered.

The Bible is full of stories that defy logic, such as Noah and the Ark, but that doesn't stop people believing them:

And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. 

Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive. 

And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them. 

There were no insurmountable problems, however, according to Dr. Max D. Younce, who says by his calculations from Genesis 6:15 that the ark was 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet deep. Tons of room for everybody, no worries. Sheesh. But as one skeptic points out, when religious faith is backed into a corner, it simply answers criticism by arguing that God has an infinite ability to work miracles, or that we don't always understand God's intentions. Go figure.

Remember the old Airstream caravans made of aluminium like an aircraft body? Check this one out.

Beeb time: Egyptian forces are on high alert as thousands prepare to join anti-government rallies after Friday prayers, amid reports of mass internet disruption and arrests of opposition figures. History repeating itself yet again. Tunisian PM Mohammed Ghannouchi announces a reshuffle of the interim government in which he stays but many allies of the ousted president leave. Ah, yes, of course, the good ol' deck chairs trick. Brazil says it will build 8,000 free houses for people made homeless by floods and landslides in Rio de Janeiro state. Sounds like a pretty generous offer to me. Former South African President Nelson Mandela stays in hospital for a second night amid growing concerns about his health. Well, he sure ain't no chicken. Now there's a bloke who deserves to be canonized. The US space agency has held a day of remembrance for astronauts who have died in the line of duty, particularly the seven who died in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster. Yes, who could forget the footage of that disaster? David Kato, a Ugandan gay rights campaigner who sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual, has been beaten to death, activists have said. Police have confirmed the death and say they have arrested one suspect. Uganda's Rolling Stone newspaper published the photographs of several people it said were gay, including Mr Kato, with the headline "Hang them". The BBC's Joshua Mmali, in Kampala, says it is unclear whether the death is linked to the Rolling Stone campaign but police have said there is no connection between Mr Kato's activism and his death. The police say that though they have arrested one suspect, the main suspect - who they say lived with Mr Kato - remains on the run. Gay activists are quick to blame Kato's murder on anti-gay sentiment, probably because that would suit their cause. But the attack may be unrelated. Stay tooned. A car bomb has ripped through a funeral tent in a mainly Shia Muslim area of Baghdad, killing 48 people. Officials say that another 78 people were wounded in the mid-afternoon blast in the north-western Shula district. A spate of bombings in the past month against pilgrims, police recruits and security forces across Iraq has killed more than 170 people. The recent rise in violence comes as the US military prepares to withdraw from the country at the end of the year. I can't believe any sane person would want to live in the Middle East. Honestly. Australia's Prime Minister Julia Gillard has announced a new tax to help pay for devastating floods that she says will cost A$5.6bn ($5.6bn; £3.5bn) in reconstruction. Ms Gillard said the 12-month tax, starting from 1 July, would be levied on those earning A$50,000 or more, and those affected by floods would not pay. $1 a week for 60% of Australian taxpayers, $5 for the remainder. I don't see what the big deal is. 

Here's an interesting vid. What happens when someone spots a rat on a NYC train?


January 27, 2011. Former Gosford High student Steve wrote: Nope, Mark is at the top above your right shoulder, with the impressive side-burns. He is now as bald as the proverbial badger.......serves him right. Caught up with him a few years ago. We may both be grey, but still have hair.......but then we still have to wash it and have it cut....bugger!

Gray? What's this gray business? Mine's white... kinda silverish. Gray is the American spelling but I notice they don't spell 'they' thay or 'hey' hay or 'sleigh' slay. I do prefer American spelling to English as a rule. I can't see the point of having a 'u' in color, for example. However, there are inconsistencies in American spelling. They spell realise realize, but not wise wize. And the Poms don't spell size sise.

Yes, one has to draw the line somewhere. If we pronounced Z as zee instead of zed, we'd have to refer to our cousins across the Tasman as Enn-Zee'ers instead of Enn-Zedders. Doesn't sound right. Anyway, language is and always has been at the mercy of the people. Usage has determined things such as the 'b' in plumber being silent but not in number or slumber. Gonna and wanna are now acceptable, and so is the dropping of the 'l' sound in vulnerable. Language doesn't remain constant. If it did, we'd all be speaking and writing Shakespeare.

One of the Americanisms that puzzles me is their use of the word 'do', as in do lunch or do drugs. Does Obama do politics? Does a philatelist do stamps? Yes, it's all a bit confusing but then so is language itself. A common expression that intrigues me is 'isn't it?' Remove the apostrophe and you have 'is not it?' I've heard 'is it not?' used plenty of times but not 'is not it?' Kids often use 'goes' instead of 'said' or 'says'. And he goes, "yeah, that's cool with me." And I go, "Cool." Hehe.

Averil says she was taught at school never to begin a sentence with 'and'. Her teacher must have never read the Bible. And God said, "Let there be light" and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day. And God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters."

My personal priority is ease of comprehension. If I have to re-read something I get frustrated. I like to scan sentences quickly and absorb the meaning without fuss. And that's the way I write. Forget all the fancy bullshit and get the point across pronto. Simple and effective, that's moi.

Beeb time: About 700 people are arrested across Egypt as police clash with anti-government protesters in several cities, with two people reported dead in Cairo. How dare the people protest! Don't they know what's good for them? Tunisia has issued an international arrest warrant for ousted President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and his family, the nation's justice minister has said. Lazhar Karoui Chebbi said the interim government had asked members states to work via Interpol to detain Mr Ben Ali, who fled to Saudi Arabia on 14 January. Mr Chebbi said Mr Ben Ali was accused of illegally acquiring property and assets and transferring funds abroad. Well, well, well, how about that. The Hubble Space Telescope has detected what scientists believe may be the oldest galaxy ever observed. It is thought the galaxy is more than 13 billion years old and existed 480 million years after the Big Bang. So much for Genesis. The Hubble was launched in 1990, and a new one is due to be launched in 2014. The US budget deficit will hit $1.48tn (£930bn), or 9.8% of economic output, this year, a spending watchdog said. It is a record deficit in dollar terms, and almost equals the 10% of GDP overspend recorded by Washington in 2009 at the depth of the recession. I think most of us simply can't comprehend those kinds of figures. Japanese car manufacturer Toyota is to recall nearly 1.7 million vehicles worldwide over concerns about a possible fuel leakage. About 1.2 million models are being recalled in Japan and 421,000 overseas. There have been 140 reports in Japan of the problem. It's not easy being perfect. There is now even more evidence that life on Earth may have been seeded by material from asteroids or comets. Prior research has shown how amino acids - the building blocks of life - could form elsewhere in the cosmos. These molecules can form in two versions, but life on Earth exclusively uses just one of them. God certainly does work in mysterious ways, dear Breth. Very mysterious indeed. An unlikely sight has appeared off the the coast of Miami. A grand piano, which weighs at least 300kg (650lb), now sits on a sandbank in the middle of the Biscayne Bay. Exactly how and why the piano came to be there remains a mystery. And there's another one

Well, there ya go. Turns out that God created Adam and Eve, put 'em on an asteroid and tossed them into space. No wonder the Vatican put Galileo under house arrest for the rest of his life and called him a heretic. I think that also explains why some religions, such as Islam, prefer to remain in the Dark Ages. I wish I could hang around for a few hundred years to see if religion still exists despite the Devil's Advocate we call Science.

Justin posted this link on his blog to a NY Times article about a couple of white gay men who adopted two black boys and raised them, along with a horse named Rocky. It's a fascinating read.

NC Art has been reading Steve's "epistles" on MrB and wrote: But to the subject line, who other than some old dude like me would know who in the world Dame Nellie Melba was? Damned few I’m betting.

Ah yes, Dame Nellie. ( Vocalist Nellie Melba (1861-1931) rose from a childhood in provincial Australia to become a world-renowned opera soprano who performed regularly at London's Covent Garden and the Metropolitan Opera in New York. A diva with a commanding stage presence and a beautiful voice, Melba was the out-standing coloratura of her era and one of the biggest celebrities of the early 20th century. 

Not only was she a celebrated opera singer, but she also had a dessert named after her... Peach Melba. I bet Art didn't know about that!

I'm not a fan of opera. I don't even like Hollywood musicals where the leading man and lady sing dialogue to each other. How preposterous! As to pop songs in which a male and female express their undying love, bleh. Not for me. I just don't get it. If you have something to say, say it, don't warble it, dammit. Obviously, I'm missing the point somewhere - millions of opera fans would accuse me of being uncultured - common and vulgar. Oh well...

Ya know, it's just occurred to me that not many people can say, "I was kidnapped, tied up, and wheeled around town in a wheel barrow for charity." But I can. So I figure that's my claim to fame. And it's nice to know I wasn't put on this earth for nothing.

Tony the Painter has finished his job, so I'll put all the pics together and copy them to CD for him. He's probably never had a customer do a "documentary" on his work before. Soon, he'll start work on Averil's place next door, which needs a bit a spruce up. Tony drove his old Holden panel van (similar to TT) to the house today instead of his modern Holden ute. The old van, fitted with a big throbbing V8, is for sale, and it didn't take long for a bloke to turn up to check it out and take lots of pics. This house is on a main road near a major intersection - the perfect place to park a car for sale. Anyway, the young bloke was blond and muscular, probably a surfie. When I spoke to Tony about it he said, "It's a good thing I'm not gay. I might've had an orgasm." Hehe.

Kitchen time again! Gary

January 26, 2011. Well, here we are... another Australia Day. The first was on January 26, 1788 when Captain Phillip said, "Where the bloody hell are we?" Back then, it was a bunch of tents at Sydney Cove amidst all the bush. "Somebody stole the Harbor Bridge!" "Idiot! It hasn't been built yet!" "Oh... sorry." The 2d on that stamp, by the way, is two pence (tuppence). LSD were the symbols for pounds, shillings and pence... 12 pence to a shilling, 20 shillings to a pound. Oz went decimal in 1966. I remember the stamp dispensing machines at the local Post Office that sold stamps for sixpence, threepence (thripence), twopence (tuppence), a penny and even a ha'penny. The cost of a regular stamp in Oz now is 55 cents. It'll be a dollar before the decade is out.

As I remember, my first middy of beer cost 11 pence, a penny short of a shilling (10 cents). Now it's almost $3. Back in 1962, I bought a used Morris for 200 quid ($400). Almost 50 years later, I bought Bluey for $350. So there ya go, I guess some things get cheaper.

It's coming up to 4pm now, and I've not done much. TOO BLOODY HOT. I had contemplated visiting the local river park to get some shots of Australia Day celebrations but... no way I could handle wandering around in 35C heat. Even doing a little shopping for Averil and us was tiring.

Beeb time: US President Barack Obama uses his 2011 State of the Union address to say the US is facing a Space Race-style chance to invest in research and science to create jobs. Makes sense to me. Much of what we have today is the result of space and arms races

And that's about it except for all the usual rubbish. There was one interesting magazine article about a Christian proprietor of a B&B hotel who refused to let a gay couple share a room even though they were "married". Actually, the responses from the public to the article were more interesting than the article itself. 

Steve, former student at Gosford High when I was "kidnapped" back in '71 wrote: Just further to your kidnapping - if you look at the names in the newspaper clipping, one of your kidnappers was a Mark Edmondson - who became the last Australian to win the Aussie Open Tennis in 1976 - beating John Newcombe. Not everyone can lay claim to that! How's that for trivia!

Well, I see that Mark Edmondson now designs and builds tennis courts. Can you recognize him from the school photo? I think it's the bloke just to my right with the cap on.

Anyway, that's it. It's just too hot to do anything but flop. Steve reckons it's 40C in Sydney. Gary

January 25, 2011. Tomorrow is Australia Day, and here's a bloke who reckons he's got the perfect Aussie Burger recipe. Even McDonalds in Oz has succumbed to satisfying Aussie tastes by adding beet, pineapple and egg to some of their burgers.

Tony's back painting the garage doors, so I had to get Bluey outta there before I drive to the doc's for the removal of my stitches, etc. The more I talk to Tony, the more convinced I am that there's hardly a building in Taree he hasn't painted. There's not much I can tell him about making home-made chips either. His dad ran a fish 'n' chip shop in England before migrating to Oz.

Back from the doc's and got this email outta the blue from a bloke named Steve:

Hi Gary,

I stumbled across your website and found it fascinating reading and brought back a lot of memories. I lived on the Central Coast when 2GO opened and was also a student at Gosford High and remember your kidnapping very well and you were such a good sport about it.

I also recall 2GO had an open day one weekend and I went through the studio and you were on hand to show how it all worked. I did have a great interest to become a broadcaster but it never happened.

Anyway, I am pleased that you are still enjoying life and good luck with your travels and look forward to checking your scrapbook to see what you are up to.

Well, what a lovely surprise! My "kidnapping" happened 40 years ago.

By the way, the "excision" of the two skin cancers 2 weeks ago cost $264, of which $226 was rebated this morning by Medicare. There's another one at the base of my neck which needs to be excised February 16. It was hardly visible 2 weeks ago and then whammo. As the doc said some time ago, "they'll just keep popping up". That's one of the things I'll need to take care of on the Odyssey... regular checkups, prescription renewals, and the occasional excision by various docs around the countryside. Imagine that! I might get stitched in Kakadu!

Beeb time: Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to track down and punish those behind an apparent suicide bomb attack at Moscow's Domodedovo airport killed 35 people and injured more than 100. Two Britons were among those killed as the blast rocked the international arrivals terminal at Moscow's busiest airport on Monday afternoon. Last March the Russian capital's underground system was rocked by two female suicide bombers from Russia's volatile Dagestan region, who detonated their explosives on the busy metro system during rush hour, killing 40 people and injuring more than 80. I will never understand that kind of mentality or behavior. Supporters of Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri have taken to the streets in protest at efforts by Hezbollah to form the next government. Protesters, who accuse the Shia Islamist movement of staging a coup, are blocking roads and burning tyres in several towns and cities. Hezbollah and its allies earlier won the nomination of their candidate Najib Mikati as the next prime minister. The US expressed "great concern" over Hezbollah dominating government. No wonder they call Oz the lucky country. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a visit to Mexico, says there is "no alternative" to the fight against drugs gangs, despite rising violence. I agree. You can't reason with those criminals. They need to be treated like vermin. The man accused of the Arizona shooting attack that killed six people and wounded 13, including a US congresswoman, has pleaded not guilty to three attempted murder charges. Jared Loughner, 22, entered the pleas over the attempted assassination of Representative Gabrielle Giffords and two aides. Wearing glasses and an orange prison jumpsuit, Mr Loughner sat quietly through the whole hearing, smiling broadly, the Associated Press reported. I don't understand how a person so obviously deranged and disturbed was not locked-up before he caused so much damage. A young woman has survived after falling from the 23rd floor of a hotel in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. Her fall was broken by a taxi, whose driver got out moments before the impact crushed the roof and shattered the windscreen. Eyewitness said the woman had climbed over a safety barrier and leapt from a restaurant at the top of the Hotel Crown Plaza Panamericano. Surely the restaurant food wasn't THAT bad. Iranian authorities have hanged two men convicted of taking part in protests following the disputed presidential election in 2009. Iranian prosecutors said Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Hajaghaei had taken photos and footage of the protests and distributed them on the internet. They were also found guilty of chanting slogans promoting the exiled People's Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI). Welcome to the Dark Ages. Toyota beats General Motors to end 2010 as the world's largest carmaker despite suffering a series of recalls and safety issues. I remember when I first saw the name back in the 60s and thought, "What kind of name is THAT for a car?" 

Well, I'm certainly glad I don't live in the Middle East. They're all nutz! I remember my mother saying years ago (she's been dead for 20) that if there was a third world war it would start in the Middle East. I dunno where she got that idea from because she didn't really follow politics but it seems like a fair assessment to me. If you read the Old Testament it's as though little has changed since Moses was a boy, including fashions. Honestly, those people are in a time warp.

It's hot. And I mean HOT. I dunno how Tony handled the heat outside as he painted and did various handyman tasks. But it doesn't seem to bother him. He quit at about 2:30 and will be back Thursday for some finishing touches. Meanwhile, Averil and I have agreed to share a pizza tonight... a Chewsday Cheapie supreme with double topping. Yum! Steak and onions for the troops.

And that's it. Too bloody hot to write any more. Gary

January 24, 2011. It'll be Australia Day in a couple of days. More fireworks and celebrations... another excuse for a party.

Meanwhile, TX Greg commented: Ok I could just see you here trying to load a slide-on camper....

I agree with what Richie said the other day about a cab-over design or Class C Mini Motorhome. You do plan on living in this 365 days a year, right? You'll be surprised how much time will really be spent inside. Remember last week at the rowing outing, "it's bloody hot! I lasted only 1 hour". And yes I agree totally with what you said about a ute and slide-on being "independent".  It would suck that if something goes wrong with the engine you have to take your whole house into the shop!!! I know you're against towing a caravan but perhaps you shouldn't rule that out, way less headaches than a slide-on :)

True... the sun and I don't get along too well in the summer, so an awning is a must, especially in situations where there's no shade. I plan on spending as much time outdoors as poss. As to towing, I can't afford to stay at caravan parks (other than an overnighter occasionally), so I need a vehicle that can handle dirt roads and narrow tracks which are often the only way to access national parks and free or low-cost camping areas. A caravan in those circumstances is a no-no. We ain't talkin' a 5-star Odyssey here ya know.

This is the kind of thing available in National Parks. Here's another one. I have a book called Camps Australia Wide which contains a huge list of free camping areas and cheap caravan parks, plus facilities available at each site, type of road access (4WD or otherwise), thousands of maps and other important info. Many travelers refer to it as their "Bible".

Tony the Painter is back using a power sander to smooth some brickwork on the front veranda before painting. That put paid to Lindsay's little snooze hehe. But Sue is blissfully sleeping through the whole racket. Tony's son is a part-time truck driver and the pair traveled to Brisbane in a convoy of B-doubles to deliver a stack of stuff to various McDonalds outlets. "That was a real experience," Tony said, and told the story of a nervous woman driver "who shouldn't be allowed on the road" traveling under the speed limit. So his son got up the ass of the woman and blew his air horns. Tony was worried that the woman would throw her hands in the air in panic and let go of the wheel (and I've seen that before) and crash. He said to witness the devastation of the Queensland floods first hand is mind-boggling... millions of dollars of damaged property and machinery everywhere you go. "And the smell," he added. "The smell is everywhere."

I've spent the best part of the last hour chatting with Tony... he loves to tell a story or two hehe. Turns out he lives on a farm and has a tractor. He also has chooks (chickens) and rabbits. "Oh, the rabbits are for eating," he explains. Hmmm. "I've got lots of things... way too much, really." His son is a farrier, which is a rare trade these days.

Beeb time: Leaked documents released by al-Jazeera TV suggest Palestinian negotiators agreed to Israel keeping large parts of illegally occupied East Jerusalem. The TV channel says it has thousands of confidential records covering the peace process between 2000 and 2010. The alleged offers relating to East Jerusalem are the most controversial, as the issue has been a huge stumbling block in Mideast talks and both Israelis and Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital. Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 1967, settling close to 500,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. Julian Assange is setting a new trend. Brazilian officials say the number of deaths known to have been caused by this month's flooding and landslides in Brazil is more than 800. That is one serious tragedy. Parts of the south-eastern Australian state of Victoria are braced for the approach of a giant lake of floodwater 55 miles (90km) long, as Australia's severe flooding problems continue. Deputy PM Wayne Swan said the recent floods would rank as one of Australia's most costly natural disasters ever. More than 30 people have been killed since flooding began last month. That's God letting us know we've got too many bloody poofters, ya know. An Australian soldier has been awarded the country's highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, for bravery while serving in Afghanistan. Cpl Benjamin Roberts-Smith, 32, was given the medal for single-handedly overpowering Taleban machine-gunners attacking his platoon last June. He's one of many heroes at the moment. I've heard countless stories of friends, neighbors and even total strangers coming to the aid of flood victims in Oz lately... huge numbers in their tens of thousands, volunteering their labor. You hear a lot about the tradition of Aussie mateship but when you see it on such a massive scale in real life, it brings a tear to your eye. The King's Speech has won the best film accolade at the Producers Guild of America Awards, beating off competition from Oscars favourite the Social Network. The British film about King George VI also beat other strong Academy Awards contenders including Black Swan, 127 Hours, Inception, The Kids Are All Right and The Fighter. The film tells the story of King George's VI battle to overcome a debilitating stammer with the help of an unorthodox speech therapist, played by Geoffrey Rush. Geoffrey Rush is one of the all time great actors, in my opinion. A driver in Canada with a camera on his dashboard captured the moment he came within inches of being struck by an out of control lorry. Matthew Krizsan was driving along a road in Ontario when a truck going the other way came crashing through the central reservation. He managed to swerve out of the lorry's path just in time. No one was badly hurt in the accident. Check out the video here

Yes, volunteers offering assistance to flood victims in Oz turned out in such huge numbers that they needed to be co-ordinated by various organizations such as the army, Community Emergency Services, council authorities, police, etc. Flood victims who suddenly had dozens of people helping to clean up their stricken homes, and assist in various other ways, were overwhelmed with gratitude, especially with the assistance offered by total strangers.

And that's it for Mondee. Tomorrow morning it's off to the doc's to have my stitches removed, and a few other little nasties burned off with freezing gas. How thrilling. Gary

January 23, 2011. Laundry time. How boring. No wonder rich people hire domestic help. However, I do appreciate the old Simpsomatic washing machine... mucho preferable to using scrubbing stones by the river bank. And I rather like John Steinbeck's idea of putting his undies and things in a bucket of water and soap with a lid, and allowing it to shimmy and shake for an hour as he traveled along the road in his motorhome. Very sensible.

Speaking of motorhomes, I spread a few pages of newspaper on the kitchen bench to tip stage 1 of the chips onto in order to cool before stage 2. The page was full of used V Hickles for sale, two of which were utes (pickups). So I thought about maybe trading Bluey on a ute from a local dealer. Buying privately means you can't trade, or get access to finance, so a dealer has those advantages. Also buying locally means I don't have to travel anywhere. So that means I would have a ute to use as transport while I save for a used slide-on camper. When I spot a suitable slide-on, I can drive the ute to wherever it happens to be located, bung it on the back, and bring it home. Yeah?

Anyway, that's another option to consider. The main advantage of a ute and slide-on as I see it is that they're independent. I can keep one and sell the other - upgrade them separately. It's like having a caravan without towing anything. And when the ute needs servicing, the slide-on can be parked somewhere else on its drop-down jacks. If I happen to be camped somewhere, and want to save my spot, I can detach the camper and use the ute for a bit of sightseeing or shopping.

Oh... and I remain forever indebted to FL Josh for giving me the tip on how to keep the old washing machine pumping and grinding during its geriatric phase.

Beeb time: Foreign powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear programme say they are "disappointed" after a round of talks ended without progress in Istanbul. Iran's chief negotiator said any deal should be based on Tehran's right to uranium enrichment. The US and other Western powers say Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon, a charge Iran denies. Perhaps we should wait until Iran drops a nuclear bomb on New York before we rush into any hasty conclusions. The BBC has apologised after Japan's embassy complained over jokes on an episode of comedy TV quiz show QI. Panellists made light of the experience of Tsutomu Yamaguchi who survived the Hiroshima atomic bomb in World War II and the Nagasaki one three days later. Presenter Stephen Fry described him as "the unluckiest man in the world" (for having been in both cities when the bombs were dropped). I suppose a line should be drawn somewhere but those bombs were dropped for a very good reason, and there's certainly nothing funny about the way Imperialist Japan treated Aussie prisoners of war forced to work on the Burma railway. Nothing tops that for sheer vulgarity and barbarism. Tony Blair has said he "regrets deeply and profoundly the loss of life" during and after the 2003 Iraq war. The ex-PM said his refusal to express regret for the decisions that led to war at his first appearance before the committee had been misinterpreted. But his words were met with cries of "too late" from the public gallery. Mr Blair also urged the West to stop apologising for its actions and warned of the threat from Iran, during a four-hour grilling by the inquiry. Asked whether what had happened in Iraq had made the risk from Iran and other countries developing nuclear weapons worse, rather than better, he said: "I don't think so." Jeez, they're desperate for this bloke's scalp. One bloke interviewed on the TV news called Blair a criminal. They're all experts in hindsight, if you ask me. They've conveniently forgotten about the removal of one of the most despised despots of all time, Saddam Hussein

Big, Bigger, Biggest was interesting on telly last night. This time it was about telescopes of the optical kind using mirrors instead of lenses. Lenses split the colors of the spectrum and distort distant images, especially those billions of light years away. Isaac Newton was the dude who first used mirrors in a telescope. But last night's program traced the history of telescopes and various improvements made along the way. There was one on the west coast of the US that needed a mirror that (at the time) could only be manufactured in New York, on the other side of the country. The mirror, about 5 meters in diameter, needed to be transported by rail and then road but word got out that a religious fundamentalist group planned to destroy the thing en route, so extra security precautions needed to be taken. Imagine that. The telescope would be the first of its kind to prove that the universe is continually expanding, thus giving the "Big Bang" theory serious credibility as a scientific fact. The religious fundamentalists didn't want that to happen because it would jeopardize the notion of creation. Go figure. Fundamentalists are not interested in truth, they are only interested in preserving their own fantasy.

That's the way fundamentalists and fanatics of any persuasion - religious or otherwise - are. They are intolerant of any argument that might destroy their faith in whatever it is they believe, and they are willing to ignore the facts, or even destroy them, in order to preserve their absurd convictions. I suppose that's where the term "blind faith" comes from.

Okay, the washing is done, folded and stored away. And the bed is made with clean sheets and even TWO NEW PILLOWS! I threw the oldies out. They were disgusting. The newies cost $14 for two, so that was pretty cool... and they're nice and plump and fluffy - and smell good. And the shopping's done. The reason the laundry takes so damn long is because Ohio Sean keeps sending me stuff. So blame him. Anyone walking by and seeing my stuff fluttering on the clothes line could be excused for thinking I'm an immigrant.

Ohio Jace wrote to say the weather "over there" ain't too rosy. This morning it was minus 23C. Wow. I've never experienced anything like that, and what's more, I don't intend to. Meanwhile, Jace is doing his regular baby sitting thing: I learned one thing, Stevie is far ornerier than Cody and is taking advantage of being the only one here. He pushes a chair around the kitchen and uses it as a ladder to get into the freezer or cupboard for whatever he wants to eat. He turns the water on but not off, and worst of all he likes to flush things down the loo, even if it won't fit. I keep the deadbolt set on the door so he can't go outside and the stove turned off with a circuit breaker to keep him from burning himself. Otherwise we get along just fine. Unlike Code, he will take a nap, if I lay down with him and hopefully not fall asleep before he does.

I don't know how Jace handles it. Then again, he probably wonders how I handle L&S. Jace also mentioned he's quit an internet forum he belonged to. He says the guys were getting too nasty. Yes, that happens with cyber relationships sometimes. You have to take the whole thing with a grain of salt... a big grain. It's not worth getting too involved. Meanwhile, Sean is tutoring after school and occasionally teaching class. The science teacher is retiring in June so maybe Sean will be teaching next year full time.

Jace asked if I thought Cody would have been on Twitter or Facebook if they had existed back then. Hard to say, but I doubt it. He liked to do his own thing with his web site, the same as I do. Besides, he was a busy boy with a million things going on in his life, and he kept his cyber life totally separate from his private life.

So that's it for today, dear Breth. Time to feed the multitude. Gary

January 22, 2011. The host of a game show on Oz telly the other day said he quite enjoyed playing football, cricket and other competitive sports at school but that he didn't care who won. Hehe. I can identify with that. And that reminded me of a Red Bubbler who entered a photographic competition and posted a plea for fellow RBers to vote for his entry. Hmmm. I guess that means the best photo is not necessarily the one that wins.

Bobby, who's been reading The Codeman, wrote: Why aren't you some famous rich ass writer? It breaks my heart, you're so talented. Well, who knows? I suspect it's because I lack the necessary competitive spirit... the killer instinct, as some call it. In any case, I believe a bloke needs to do what he feels is right for him regardless of what others may think. Imagine reaching a ripe old age and saying, "I owe my success to doing what others expected of me (while denying what I expected of myself)."

I've told this story before but I'll tell it again: When I started AO my older bro said to me, "How are you gonna compete with all the other travel sites?" Well, competing with anyone else was and still is the furthest thing from my mind. AO is not about competition, AO is about one bloke doing his own thing, that's all. If anyone else is interested, fine, if not, fine. I'm not entering a popularity contest.

That is not to say I don't care about hits. I do. I also appreciate feedback. But they're not the sole reason I'm here.

Anyway, nuffa that. I saw on the news the other night that Australia Post is considering closing some of its post offices, including the one built in 1890 at Glebe where I used to live in Sydney. Email and various other electronic means of communication, paying bills, etc, is eating into Australia Post's traditional business. Glebe Post Office is an icon of the area, and there was a huge protest by locals at the decision to close it. So, what price progress? To what extent should we embrace our future without losing our past? I'm not sure what the answer to that is but I can tell you I would never go back to using a typewriter, and it's a long time since I licked a stamp. Actually, that's not true... I used a stamp to send a letter off to Anyel in Nicaragua the other day. But neither he nor his mom has access to the internet.

Beeb time: Tunisia's long-time PM Mohamed Ghannouchi pledges to quit politics after polls, amid calls for all figures linked to the ousted president to stand down. There's nothing more annoying than people who are not wanted and who refuse to take the hint. Former Haitian leader Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier tells reporters he returned home to work for national reconciliation and apologises to the victims of his 15-year rule. Oh? So now he has a conscience? Doctors treating a US congresswoman who was shot in the head last week say her transfer to a rehabilitation centre has gone "flawlessly". Lucky girl. Tony Blair says he "regrets" the loss of life in Iraq but urges the West to stop apologising for the 2003 war, in a four hour grilling by the Chilcot inquiry. I don't remember too much opposition to the decision to invade Iraq back in 2003. If there had been, it would never have happened. Pope Benedict XVI has said public officials must offer a strong moral example, his first apparent comment on the sex scandal engulfing Italy's PM. Benny knows a thing or two about sex scandals. It's time we ditched "Dear..." from work e-mails, according to a US political figure, who says it's too intimate. So what is the most appropriate way to greet someone in an e-mail - hi, hey or just get straight to the point? For me, straight to the point

"Dear" has lost its meaning. If a company writes me and calls me "Dear Mr Kelly", what's that all about? And I'm very suspicious of "fond regards" and that kinda thing from strangers. So I tend to steer clear of all that formality and stick to "G'day". Hehe. Straight up and down, that's me. No frills.

Actually, it's amazing how many people in a public place such as the street or a shopping center respond to "g'day" with "fine, thanks". Hehe. I DIDN'T ASK YOU HOW YOU ARE I SIMPLY SAID G'DAY! I DON'T NEED OR WANT A RESPONSE! I DON'T EVEN CARE HOW YOU ARE!

Cody had a thing about signing off, "Your friend...", which was fine. Friendship meant a great deal to Cody. Sometimes he went a little further and threw in a *Hugs* or *Loveya*. But he was always sincere about his greetings and signoffs. I'm a great believer in not saying anything I don't mean. I know some people take that as being aloof, but I'd rather be aloof than insincere.

Anyway, these days in my deliriously delicious grumpdom, I've concluded that ya git whatcha git, and I don't intend to apologize for who/what I am. I can't be bothered with all that nonsense.

Ah! Here's a little gem of info I just discovered: Australia has the greatest number of reptiles of any country, with 755 species. I'm not surprised, really,  my ex-business partner was one.

I spent a bit of time earlier checking out Google's street view of places where I lived in Potts Point/Elizabeth Bay (Sydney) back in the mid 70s, and they're still there. One was a 3-storey mansion in Billyard Ave, overlooking Elizabeth Bay - a former grand residence built in the 19th century, converted into flats. Mine was at the back on the ground floor with no view... just two rooms with a shared bathroom, but it did have direct access through French doors to the rear courtyard. One of these days I'll spend a bit of time wandering around my old haunts and take lots of piccies. It would be fascinating to see those places again. I won't be able to have a beer at my two favorite pubs, though. They're gone. Oh well, cest la vie.

Din dins time again. See you tomorrow. Gary

January 21, 2011. Only 344 days to go to 2012. It's kinda scary, actually. My current rut will have come to an end. My security blanket will have evaporated. Averil doesn't say too much about my disappearing on the Odyssey but I know she doesn't like the idea of losing her messenger and shopping boy. But as I said to her the other day, the thought of getting my own little flat somewhere and living on my own in a nice, comfortable, secure environment has a certain appeal BUT... what happens in 10 years when I look back and ask the question, "what have I done, where have I been?" 10 years can dissolve like an asprin in a glass of water. I'm also mindful of something an old bloke said to me a few years ago. I remarked on the caravan he was towing and mentioned my dream of traveling Oz, and he said, "Don't leave it too late." Sounded to me like he had a few regrets himself.

Anyway, memories are important. There comes a time in life, I suspect, when memories are all you have left, so the more the merrier. Actually, it's a pity it takes so damn long to reach the conclusion that life is short. But, while you can't lengthen life, you can pack more into it. Cody certainly achieved that in his short 19 years.

A copy of Green Room sold the other day, and today a copy of Green Room II was sold. So there's another reader who's following the story with interest. I realize I'm biased, but I still think Green Room deserves to be a best seller. It's all about marketing, ya know, and I ain't got the wherewithall.

Beeb time: US federal agents have charged 127 suspected mobsters in multiple investigations into New York's organised crime families. The arrests were made on Thursday morning throughout New York City, New Jersey, Rhode Island and other areas in the north-east US, FBI officials said. They were accused of a range of crimes including murder and extortion. Attorney General Eric Holder said the arrests were the largest single-day mob crackdown in the history of the FBI. "We are committed and determined to eradicating these criminal enterprises and bringing their members to justice," Mr Holder said during a news conference in Brooklyn. Elliott Ness lives again! Dunno about eradicating though... fighting crime is a never-ending battle. President Hu Jintao says China has no interest in pursuing military dominance over other nations, after meeting US politicians and business leaders. He should have added, "at the moment." Tunisia's new interim government says it will recognise all banned political groups and grant an amnesty to all political prisoners. Ah, there's nothing like a good spring clean! Google co-founder Larry Page is to take over as chief executive of the search giant in April, with Eric Schmidt moving to executive chairman role. I wish I knew what hasn't been invented yet. The world may have twice as much natural gas than previously thought, according to the rich nations' think tank the International Energy Agency (IEA). The world may have 250 years of gas usage at current levels thanks to "unconventional gas" from shale and coal beds, Anne-Sophie Corbeau, senior gas expert at the IEA told BBC News. Could be a worry if you believe in reincarnation. The victim of a high-profile New York baby-snatching case has been reunited with her mother after solving the mystery of her abduction herself. Carlina White was abducted from a hospital in Harlem in August 1987, when she was just 19 days old. Raised as Nejdra Nance in Connecticut, Ms White, 23, always had a sense she did not belong to her family, police said, and began her own inquiries. DNA tests this week confirmed Carlina as the daughter of Joy White. Police are now investigating the woman who raised Carlina. What a fascinating story. Stay tooned for the movie. A woman in the US is able to speak for the first time in 11 years after a pioneering voicebox transplant. Brenda Jensen said the operation, which took place in California, was a miracle which had restored her life. Thirteen days after the surgery she said her first words: "Good morning, I want to go home." It is the first time a voicebox and windpipe have been transplanted at the same time and only the second time a voice box has ever been transplanted. I wonder what her husband has to say about it. Hehe. A Roman Catholic priest has appeared in a Canadian court after being extradited from Belgium to face charges of molesting boys more than 30 years ago. The Reverend Eric Dejaeger, a Canadian citizen, had been wanted since 2002. Pedophiles need to understand one vital thing above all else: kids don't stay kids. A live hen was thrown through the open window of a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant in Warwickshire. RSPCA inspectors say they want to speak to the two men who approached the restaurant in Bermuda Park, Nuneaton, on a moped on Tuesday evening. The RSPCA is now looking for a new home for the hen, which it has named Mrs Sanders. Cruel and tasteless prank but I love the name. Dozens of people flocked to a cash machine in Dundee after it started "spitting out" money, it has emerged. Police were called to the Scotmid branch in Fintry Road after staff noticed a crowd gathering outside the ATM at the front of the shop. A witness told the BBC Scotland news website the machine was paying out double the amounts requested. How lovely! But I wonder if the amount requested or the amount actually received appears on the bank statement. Oops!

So there ya go, China has no intention of pursuing military dominance. Back in the 50s and 60s, Australia was paranoid about China, which was referred to as "The Yellow Peril." That was back in the days of the "White Australia Policy". Now, of course, China is our largest trading partner and the White Australia Policy is dead and buried. The Prime Minister of the time Robert Menzies (Australia's longest serving PM) was nicknamed "Pig Iron Bob" because he sold Australian iron ore to Japan before World War II, which the Japanese turned into warships and fighter planes.

The TV volume just went through the roof as I attempted an afternoon snooze. So I went into the living room and there was Sue pressing buttons furiously on the remote. The harder you press, and the more determined your facial expression, the greater your chance of success, right? Well it is according to Sue's logic. So I switched off the TV, told Sue to leave the remote alone and tried to resume my snooze. A minute later, the volume went through the roof again. Same process. But I've given up on my snooze. Later, Lindsay will emerge from the bedroom (he sleeps most of the day) and blast Sue for buggering up the TV again. He'll phone Austar technical assistance to get the thing working, and then tell Sue for the umpteenth time NOT to touch the remote. But she'll do it again tomorrow or the next day. Decades of alcohol abuse have shrivelled her brain and her short term memory is shot to pieces. What a pair.

So I ask myself, could life as a vagabond on an aimless Odyssey be any worse than this? Surely not.

I just favorited a few more pics on Red Bubble including this one. Baby orang utan was leaping about the cage having the time of his life when daddy arrived, so he scampered back to mom's arms and tried to look innocent. Hehe. It's nice to think that on the Odyssey I'll have the opportunity (often, I hope) to be at the right place at the right time to take pics that are exceptional. Meanwhile, there's no shortage of inspiration on Red Bubble.

Kitchen time again. Chicken schnitzel and hash browns for HIM and soy, honey and garlic stir-fry chicken for Sue and me. Gary

January 20, 2011. Just as I suspected... last night's storm kicked up a bit of a stink for about half and hour and then drifted away to annoy someone else.

I heard a story on QI last night from Stephen Fry that the oldest woman in the world died at 125. She was asked to what she attributed her longevity and she said olive oil. "I drink it every day and put it all over my skin. I only have one wrinkle and I'm sitting on it." I think Stephen was having a lend of us.

Pay/Bills day again, and I've done it all on Netbank in 5 minutes. No envelopes, no stamps, no checks. A bunch of numbers comes in, and a bunch of numbers goes out. L&S pay their share in cash so I use that for shopping, etc. Rarely do I use plastic, and I haven't had a checking account for years.

Would you like to take a train ride from Milson's Point over the Sydney Harbor Bridge to Wynyard Station in the city? Okay, no worries. Just make sure you've got your ticket. It's a trip I've taken a zillion times.

Shopping's done and it's late. Maybe time for a quick Beeb: Chinese President Hu Jintao acknowledges "a lot still needs to be done" in China over human rights, after talks with US President Barack Obama. And Barack said, "So what the fuck is taking you so long?" Yeah, right. Some 33 members of ousted Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali's family have been arrested, state TV reports. Oooo! Doesn't look too good for those guys. Controversial US pastor Terry Jones, who last year threatened a Koran-burning protest, has been banned from entering the UK, the Home Office says. Good. Swiss police have re-arrested a former banker on fresh charges of breaching bank secrecy laws by passing data to whistleblowers' website WikiLeaks. Only hours earlier Rudolf Elmer was found guilty by a Zurich court of breaching another bank secrecy law. Elmer, 55, was fined more than 6,000 Swiss francs ($6,250; £4,000) but escaped prosecution demands for a prison sentence. He had said the leaks were to expose tax evasion by the rich. Rudolph needs to learn that it's much safer to expose the poor because the poor can't do anything about it. Republicans in the US House of Representatives have passed a bill to repeal President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, in a symbolic move demonstrating their gains in Congress. The vote fulfils a top promise made to Republican voters in the November's mid-term elections. Yes, if the poor can't look after themselves, fuck 'em. A US Air Force sergeant has been sentenced to eight years in prison and dishonourable discharge for exposing sex partners to HIV at swinger parties. David Gutierrez had been convicted of aggravated assault and of violating orders to notify partners of his status and to use a condom. Gutierrez begged a Kansas military judge for a lower sentence, noting he had not infected anyone. He feared he would be unable to afford HIV drugs without medical benefits. The poor fellow. People in the south-eastern Australian town of Kerang have been told to leave their homes, as rising river levels threatened another community in the worst flood crisis in decades. More than 1,000 Kerang residents have moved to a nearby evacuation centre, as the Loddon River continues to swell. When Prince Charles commented on the floods in Oz recently he quoted two lines from Dorothy Mackellar's poem: 
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
The US has signed a $45bn (£28bn) export deal with China, according to a Washington official. The trade deal includes a $19bn purchase of 200 Boeing aircraft. That'll make a few Yanks happy!

Well, time to vamoose ladies and genitals. The day has almost vanished, and I have a couple of hungry mouths to feed! Maybe I should swap L&S for a couple of budgerigars or something. Gary

January 19, 2011. Another cloudy, mild and showery day. Normally, I associate this time of year with heatwaves and humidity, but it's very different this year, including record floods in Queensland and Victoria after a decade of drought. So what's all this global warming stuff?

It just occurred to me that the naming of Aussie states is interesting. On the east coast we have Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria... all very British. The Australian Capital Territory was annexed from NSW in the early 20th century to house the Federal Parliament so that doesn't count. And then in the middle and further west we have unimaginative names like The Northern Territory, South Australia and Western Australia. How dreary. Further south we have the island state of Tasmania, named after Abel Tasman the Dutch seafarer and explorer who sighted the west coast of Tasmania in 1642 and named it Van Dieman's Land. Meanwhile, WA, SA and NT are stuck with pretty uninspiring names.

I grew up hearing popular songs about towns and states in America... Carolina, California, West Virginia, Chicago, New York, San Fransisco, Hawaii etc, and I realized it was no wonder we didn't have songs in Oz about Woolloomooloo or Oodnadatta. Hehe. Australian names are not very musical whereas those in America are. I Left My Heart in Boggabilla just doesn't work.

Boggabilla is near Goondiwindi, by the way, which is pronounced "Gun-da-windy". Don't ask.

Speaking of which, Oregon Richie reckons a cab-over design is better than a pop-top campervan, and I'm inclined to agree with him. But I still worry a little that it might be difficult to negotiate narrow dirt tracks with something that big. I don't intend to stick to freeways or stay at 5-star holiday parks, ya know. On the other hand, the price is right for me, and life is, after all, a compromise. The problem is, for every hundred or so campervans there's only one cabover, so they're quite difficult to find, especially at a price I can afford. Anyway, dozen madder... whatever happens happens.

How about something historic like this?

Beeb time: Former Haiti leader Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier is charged with corruption and embezzlement just two days after his return, prosecutors say. Some crooks just cannot resist returning to the scene of the crime. Apple made record profits and revenues in the run-up to Christmas, but the company's statement makes no mention of boss Steve Jobs' health problems. Given the runaway success of Microsoft, I'm surprised Apple has lasted long enough to make it this far. Chinese President Hu Jintao has kicked off a four-day US visit with a rare private dinner at the White House with President Barack Obama. Analysts say Mr Hu's visit is the most important by a Chinese leader in 30 years given China's growing military, economic and diplomatic clout. Yes, I can't see Julia Gillard getting that kinda treatment. Floodwaters in Australia's state of Victoria have split the town of Horsham in two, as the body of a young boy was found in another flood-hit town, Shepparton. Heavy rains which had laid waste to Queensland are causing an escalating emergency in Victoria. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is to form a panel of corporate leaders to help rebuild devastated infrastructure. The floods are said to be Australia's most expensive natural disaster. That's putting it mildly. Technology that links vehicles into "road trains" that can travel as a semi-autonomous convoy has undergone its first real world tests. The trials held on Volvo's test track in Sweden slaved a single car to a lorry to test the platooning system. Trains of cars under the control of a lead driver should cut fuel use, boost safety and may even cut congestion. A most interesting concept, which you can read about here

Yes, imagine that... lock into a lead vehicle on a long freeway and relax as your car is "towed" along. Kinda like riding in a train carriage except the carriage is all yours. You can read a Donald Duck comic, or fiddle with a Rubic's Cube, or press lots of buttons on your cell phone.

Right, baked cocktail frankies and chips for Lindsay and me, and baked chicken chippies and corn fritters for Sue. They're such a picky lot.

There's a big black cloud hovering over Taree at the mo, and I can hear a bit of rumbling. What's the bet it'll make a bit of noise for 10 minutes and drift towards the coast? That's what usually happens. Gary

January 18, 2011. Tony arrived again but stayed only 2 hours. It's cloudy and threatening to rain so he toddled off. He's chosen a different color to the one we had before. We had gray and white trim which is now peach and white. I'll post a few pics when he's finished the job... which could be any time between now and 2020 hehe.

One of my favorite Cody expressions was one he used to describe Wingnut after a game of rugby: "Wingnut looked like he'd been dragged through a hedge." Hehe. Well, I was reminded of that when I saw myself in the bathroom mirror just now. I won't be able to shower until tomorrow when I remove the bandage on my leg. All I've been able to do this past week is shave and wash my pits. Ew!

Selling an old Austin Cambridge has its drawbacks as this Youchewb vid shows. I was surprised when a potential buyer turned up in an old '50s Morris Oxford like the one I had (my first car). Pininfarina designed those BMC cars of the late 50s and early 60s, and I reckon they still look good today. The British 4-potters didn't have much grunt so BMC in Oz competed with Holden, Ford and Valiant with an Austin Freeway 6, and a Wolseley 6, based on the Pininfarina design. But the experiment was "too little, too late".

Yes, dear Breth, those were the days when cars were cars, and they were interesting. Now they're a dime a dozen and boring. Or maybe I'm getting older and less interested. As a kid, I was totally absorbed by cars - the smell of leather upholstery, and the shine of all the dials on the dash. Most people in our street didn't have a car. My dad had a van he used for work, which was better than no car at all, but until my older bros reached their late teens, and bought their first cars, our street was virtually car-less. Occasionally, someone would by an old bomb which sat out front in the street until the tires went flat and weeds grew around the wheels. My mate Jimmy up the road had a car. Well, his dad did. It was a late '30s American something or other that sat in the front yard and never went anywhere, so we used it as a cubby house. Ya know, when you're four foot something sitting on a fat leather seat in a monster Yank Tank, it's pretty impressive... even if it won't go.

Beeb time: Italian prosecutors have alleged that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had sex with a "significant number" of young prostitutes. In a request to search some of Mr Berlusconi's properties, they cited allegations that he had paid the women or given them free use of apartments. The prosecutors are investigating whether Mr Berlusconi paid to have sex with a 17-year-old nightclub dancer. Prostitution is not a crime in Italy, but paying for or helping arrange sex with a prostitute under the age of 18 is an offence. Ho hum. The extent to which Queensland's soils became saturated with water as the Australian state was deluged with rain is evident in new satellite imagery. The maps were made by Europe's Smos spacecraft, which carries a novel instrument capable of seeing the moisture held in the ground. The hope is that its data can be used in future to give flood warnings where wet soils are becoming overloaded. Check out the image here. The chief executive of one of Germany's leading space companies has lost his job because of the Wikileaks saga. Berry Smutny was alleged to have told diplomats at a meeting in Berlin in October 2009 that Galileo, a flagship space programme of the EU, was a waste of taxpayers' money. As my mother used to say, "the chickens always come home to roost". A former Swiss banker has passed on data containing account details of 2,000 prominent people to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The data - which is not yet available on the Wikileaks website - was held on two discs handed over by Rudolf Elmer at a press conference in London. Mr Assange promised full disclosure once the information had been vetted. Mr Elmer is scheduled to go on trial in Switzerland on Wednesday for breaking bank secrecy laws. Stay tooned. The impact of the King James Bible, which was published 400 years ago, is still being felt in the way we speak and write, says Stephen Tomkins. No other book, or indeed any piece of culture, seems to have influenced the English language as much as the King James Bible. Its turns of phrase have permeated the everyday language of English speakers, whether or not they've ever opened a copy. The Sun says Aston Villa "refused to give up the ghost". Wendy Richard calls her EastEnders character Pauline Fowler "the salt of the earth". The England cricket coach tells reporters, "You can't put words in my mouth." Daily Mirror fashion pages call Tilda Swinton "a law unto herself". Read the full article here

Yes, I suppose when it comes to language, we're all guilty of plagiarism to some extent. "Cool" is one of the most interesting words to my mind. It's been around for 50 years or more and is still used by the younger generation to describe anything acceptable. As with most things, they think they invented it.

Bangers and mash with fried onions and gravy tonight. "Heart Smart" bangers with less fat. Gary

January 17, 2011. Tony the painter is back. Talk about casual hehe. A bit here, a bit there, no worries. He spotted the wound on my neck (the bandage wouldn't stick, so I ripped it off), and asked what it was about. I told him about the skin cancers, and how they keep popping up from time to time, and how I have to get the more serious ones surgically removed. "If you were a horse," he said, "they'd take you out to the paddock and shoot you."

This morning on a newsgroup I was fortunate enough to find a bunch of pics of cars caught up in the Queensland floods, so I made an album.

Justin posts quite a bit of material about relationships on his blog, which got me to thinking about the need for most people to be one of a pair or a group. How often do people go out to dinner on their own, or to a movie or concert on their own? I think most people feel insecure on their lonesome. Maybe I've gotten used to being solo over the years but it certainly doesn't bother me. I'm quite happy to dine alone in a restaurant or go any place by myself. I don't feel conspicuous at all. And it saves a lot of disagreements. It's not that I prefer to be alone, necessarily - I quite like company - it's just that I don't see a need to be part of a pair or group in order to be whole. Does that mean I don't suffer from feelings of insecurity? Or does it simply mean I'm a grumpy old fart?

Mind you, I wouldn't be writing this blog or running this site if it didn't have an audience, so I'm not entirely self-reliant, and I do enjoy a bit of tap dancing.

Yesterday, I referred to imported RVs and Australian compliance. Well, in Sydney there's apparently a company that imports Right Hand Drive RVs, probably from places like Fiji, Papua, and other countries where RHD is the norm, but where the used car market is very small. For example, this Toyota has very low mileage for a 15 y/o car, which makes me think it was purchased from a rental company operating in a small country... perhaps New Zealand. Even the Great Barrier Reef is 1000 kilometers longer than the whole of NZ. At the moment, the starting price is $10K with no bids yet, and 9 days to go. My guess is it'll go for something like $15K or more. Maybe a lot more!

Of course, camping and touring is a seasonal thing, so the best time to buy a camper is in winter when prices are lower. That's something to keep in mind.

Beeb time: The condition of US Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in the head in Arizona, is now "serious" rather than "critical", hospital officials say. Doctors said Ms Giffords' condition was upgraded because she was sucessfully taken off a ventilator. They replaced her breathing tube on Saturday with a tracheotomy tube in her windpipe to protect her airways. I wish her all the best. Thousands of people have fled their homes in Victoria as major flooding hits the southern Australian state. The floods have already swamped some of the state's northern towns and are threatening 1,400 homes in 43 others. Victoria state officials said the flood is set to be one of the worst ever seen in the state. Around 3,500 people have left their homes so far. Here we go again. We're so used to reading about drought in Oz, this is almost unbelievable. Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor's right leg, which was infected with gangrene, has been amputated in a life-saving surgery her doctors have deemed a success. She is in "frail health" and will be closely monitored in a Los Angeles hospital, Dr David Rigberg said. Isn't that sad. Poor ol' Zsa Zsa. I hope whatever time she has left will be pleasant and even fruitful.

Meanwhile, I watched a program on telly last night about fishermen in Tasmania who catch pseudocarcinus gigas - giant crabs. And I mean giant. The biggies weigh 10kg (22.2 pounds). But they are thrown back... way too big to serve at a restaurant table. Smaller crabs about 3kg are preferable. Very few fisherman are involved in catching these expensive crabs (up to $200 served in Asian restaurants) because they live very deep in the ocean. Raising the traps can take ages. So there ya go... now I'm a crab expert.

And so ends another hot summer's day in Taree. Time to head to the kitchen and rustle up some tucker for the misfits. Hehe. Fish cakes and chippies. Gary

January 16, 2011. Well, I did it! I actually got off my saggy old butt and went OUT THERE to take a few piccies for AO. I didn't last long, though. It was too bloody hot!

Meanwhile, TX Greg did some comparison work on RVs in the US and Oz: Ok so the Oz and US dollar are right at the same price. I was window shopping some of the used Oz RV's and I'm quite shocked that they are soooooooo much higher than ours.

Yeah, well I figure there are two reasons for that. 1) Oz is a much smaller market with a pop of 22m and 2) that was a dealer. Dealer prices are usually more expensive because they buy stuff they can warranty. Most of the stuff on that site is way too big as well as pricey for me. At the bottom of the page there were a couple around the $20K mark which I could be interested in. But I've noticed that private sellers on the used campervan sites, or eBay, have a lower price tag. On the other hand, you don't get a warranty or finance.

There's tons of deals like this here.

Here's one less than Bluey.

Great value compared to similar vehicles in Oz but again, too big for moi. In some cases left-hand drive vehicles can be registered in Oz but they are exceptions. There are other factors as well, such as complying to the Australian Manufacturing and Safety Standards. That would not be a problem with modern cars but I imagine older cars would not measure up. In the case of older cars already registered in Oz, and previously sold here as new, the current Australian standards don't apply. Thanks for the info and comparison, Greg, but I'm afraid I'm stuck with what I can buy here.

FL Josh wrote: When the banker said, "No," to you on borrowing $20,000 on a pensioner's income, was that no a personal loan with no collateral, or no to a vehicle loan where the value of the vehicle would serve as collateral?

It was a personal loan, unsecured. I figure a car loan with the car used as collateral would be a different situation. As Oregon Richie has suggested, buying a car from a dealer would solve the finance problem. However, banks and other finance institutions also have car loans available, as opposed to personal unsecured loans. I intend to apply for a car loan, have the money ready and waiting, and then do the shopping. That way I'll be in a position to bargain a little. I also think I would get more for Bluey by selling it privately rather than using it as a trade. However, anything might happen. Stay tooned.

I also got an email outta the blue from a bloke I used to work with. He's a cameraman/editor who did some shoots for the TV program I worked on. He also operated a production studio in Petersham where I did a bit of freelance stuff before moving to Taree. In the meantime, he moved to the Central Coast. But now he's at Canowindra (pronounced C'nown-dra) where he flies his own home-made hot air balloon and does aerial photography. He's a bit older than me and has to be nudging 70, but he's one of those infuriatingly energetic people who's always on the go. He's also a SCUBA diver who thinks nothing of swimming with sharks, or shooting footage from the skids of a chopper. Total lunatic, so I'm not surprised he's into ballooning. I used to annoy him when he phoned by saying, "Richard Swansborough", and putting a lot of sibilance/whistle on the two s's in Swansborough. So he wised up after a while and let me get as far as "Richard" before saying, "DON'T... say it." His father was 90-something before he conked out so I guess Richard still has a few more productive years ahead.

No Beeb today, ladies and genitals. I ran outta time doing my little AO excursion and all that buggerizing around putting the photo album together. And now, it's kitchen time again. Too bloody hot for anything but a salad, so that's what we're having. Oh, and Rodney? I'm pretty sure I heard him sniffing around at about 4am but I made a bloody racket and I think he got the message. So I managed to sleep in until 6:45. Gary

January 15, 2011. Rodney woke me at 4am. Read the story here.

BTW, I've updated my Red Bubble favs page with some pretty awesome stuff. One shot I find particularly inspiring is The Final Frontier by William Bullimore... a shot of the Parkes radio telescope at night under a starry sky.

Cameras are such wonderful things. Little did I realize back in '65 that the pics I took of my new Beetle would be so important to me almost half a century later. When I scanned the old family photo album recently, and sent copies off to the rellos, my older bro said, "I wouldn't have these photos if it weren't for you." He was referring to stuff I took of him and his family back in the late '80s. Yes, never underestimate the importance of a photo. And the older it gets, the more important it becomes.

Speaking of which, I suppose I should motivate myself to take a wander down to the Manning River to check out all the rowing boats and teams visiting Taree for the regatta or championships or whatever the event is called.

And now for something completely different from Eikevon Stuckenbrok.

Beeb time: Tunisia's president steps down and flies into exile in Saudi Arabia, after unrest in the capital and other cities. People Power. It works sometimes. BP announces a major deal with the state run energy giant Rosneft to explore in Russia's Arctic region. Well, well, well. The name's Bond, James Bond. Pope Benedict XVI has formally approved a miracle attributed to his late predecessor, paving the way to John Paul II's beatification on 1 May. The Vatican credits him with the miraculous cure of a nun said to have had Parkinson's Disease. Too bad about Muhammad Ali and millions of others. An extensive study of tree growth rings says there could be a link between the rise and fall of past civilisations and sudden shifts in Europe's climate. A team of researchers based their findings on data from 9,000 wooden artifacts from the past 2,500 years. They found that periods of warm, wet summers coincided with prosperity, while political turmoil occurred during times of climate instability. How interesting. No wonder everyone talks about the weather. New Caledonian crows use tools to investigate unfamiliar and potentially dangerous objects, according to scientists. New research shows crows cautiously investigating new objects using sticks as an extension of their beaks. New Caledonian crows are known to fashion tools to access food sources such as wood-boring beetle larvae. While that may be true, I can tell you they never went to music school. As floodwaters in the Queensland capital Brisbane begin to recede, scientists are casting their eyes out to sea and wondering whether the region's greatest natural feature, the Great Barrier Reef, will be scarred by the experience. This is the world's largest reef system - in fact, the largest thing on Earth made by living organisms, stretching for 2,600km along the coast. That's the trouble with human beings: they make a terrible mess

I've been buggerizing around on Red Bubble again. I spotted this shot of Thomas The Tank Engine by my old mate Terry Everson, so I thought, bugger him, why should he get all the damn glory? So I posted my version. Mine was soon favorited by William Bullimore, photographer extraordinaire, who then posted this shot of the interior of the Siding Springs Telescope near Coonabarabran in NSW. William and a couple of mates have been touring western NSW on a camping trip for the past few weeks.

As to borrowing money from banks and other institutions, Oregon Richie has this to say: Don't get bummed about that bank.  Try another bank.  There are many banks with different programs and lending parameters for people with down payment and rate adjustments calculated in, just like anything in lending I have ever done, or in the mortgage biz, etc.  True, "it is their money" but a lot of different sources are in competition to sell the only main product they have... money, period... and to a less but still viable extent... service.  I'm reasonably well aware of your situation for some years and would not really regard it as problematic, and jeez... you ought to see the CRAP we often deal with at the stores.  THAT is one helluva eye opener, mate... I have royally shit-canned some pretty puke pink banks and credit unions in my time and found other sources... especially when they seem to think they are high and mighty and their IT don't stink, as it were.

I like this line: but a lot of different sources are in competition to sell the only main product they have... money, period... Yes, I'm not aware of any bank manager who went down in history as a great contributor to the benefit of mankind.

Well, time to rustle up some vittles and watch a bit of telly. I hope Rodney doesn't wake me at 4am again. It buggers up my day. Gary

January 14, 2011. 
January 1-31
‘Live on the Edge’
Experience a Tandem Parachute Jump
Free fall for up to 50sec at 200 kph
100% pure adrenalin 
Venue: Taree Airport
Time: Bookings essential
Entry: $295 from 10,000 ft - $340 from 12,000 ft
DVD or Photo’s extra 

I was checking out the local council's What's On page and noticed the ad above for parachute jumping. Hmmm. I think I'll pass. However, there are things more suited to old fogies happening this weekend; sand modeling at Old Bar, a major rowing regatta on the Manning, and model trains in Taree. And the weather is improving. The rowing usually provides opportunities for interesting, pics... not so much the rowing itself, but just the crowds and close-ups of the boats, etc. I've gotta get myself OUT THERE before January disappears.

I just saw a 2000 model Toyota camper with 585,000 kms on the clock! Wow! That makes Bluey's 360,000 look pretty tame. I checked the web again for used campers and there's a million of 'em. My main worry is that when I'm ready to buy, I don't rush into the first thing I see. I'm a bit like that ya know... spontaneous... a sucker for making impulsive decisions. I need to think clearly and carefully before I make a choice. Yeah, right.

Beeb time: Rescuers are trying to find survivors in cut-off areas of south-eastern Brazil hit by deadly floods that have left more than 400 people dead. Well, that tragedy certainly puts our problems in Oz into perspective. Mind you, for every individual devastated by floods, it's a personal nightmare. Christina Taylor Green, the nine-year-old killed in Saturday's shooting in Arizona, is buried, marking the first of six such funerals. Grief such as that cannot be measured. UK scientists have created the world's first genetically modified chickens that do not spread bird flu. Evolution has been genetically modifying all living creatures for millions of years. Scientists can't wait that long. Banks repossessed a record one million US homes in 2010, and could surpass that number this year, figures show. Foreclosure tracker RealtyTrac said about five million homeowners were at least two months behind on their mortgage payments. Foreclosures are likely to remain numerous while unemployment remains stubbornly high, the group said. Among the worst hit states were Nevada, Arizona, Florida and California, once at the heart of the housing boom. So what's the problem here? The world financial crisis or people biting off more than they can chew? The Australian state of Queensland is facing a reconstruction task of "post-war proportions", as floods left swathes of it under water. State Premier Anna Bligh said the state was reeling from the worst natural disaster in its history. She became very emotional last night as she talked about Queenslanders being tough and resilient. Oz was built from scratch, so we're used to it. A New York man who says a rat bit his penis during a jail stay may sue county officials, a judge has ruled. Peter Solomon, who said he later had to endure a course of rabies jabs, says jailers knew the ward in which they placed him was infested with rodents. Rodney bites Dick. I have to tell you, I do worry about that kinda thing happening to me. A total of 34,612 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico over the past four years, according to new, more detailed government statistics. Unveiling the database, President Felipe Calderon acknowledged that 2010, which saw 15,273 deaths, had been "a year of extreme violence". That makes Al Capone's Chicago look a bit tame. The first recognisably modern computer is to be rebuilt at the UK's former code-cracking centre Bletchley Park. The Electronic Delay Storage Automatic Calculator (Edsac) was a room-sized behemoth built at Cambridge university that first ran in 1949. However, one part of the original Edsac that is unlikely to be re-created is the 1.5m (5 feet) long tubes of mercury used as a memory store. Modern health and safety regulations preclude the use of mercury, said Dr Hartley. Yes, such dinosaurs should be preserved as a reminder of what life what like when I was 5 years old (not that I remember). 

Yes, Oz was built from scratch, like the US was. So I figure it takes a pretty enterprising type of individual to leave the country of their birth and heritage to venture forth into the unknown to make a better life for themselves. Even prisoners who had no choice still had to adjust to a life of hardship and initiative to improve their lot. In fact, convicts probably did it a lot harder than free settlers.

Patience is definitely not one of my virtues ya know. I keep looking at campervans and I WANT ONE NOW. And then I figure out how long it's gonna take before I'm ready to borrow the cash AND I CAN'T WAIT!

Hello? Borrow the cash? I decided to phone the bank to see if a pensioner with no debts is eligible to borrow $20,000. In a nutshell? No. "You don't meet the criteria." Well, I'm glad I checked. So that puts paid to Plan A. I asked the bloke if I might be able to get the credit limit on my Mastercard increased from $7,500. He said if I've always paid on time, never late, yadda yadda, then I'd be in with a chance. But what the increase might be is another question, and I doubt it would extend to $20,000. Mind you, $20K is a ballpark figure. There are good vans for $10 to $15K available. And Bluey is worth maybe $4K. In any case, I need to re-think my strategy. Forget about a personal loan. It's back to the drawing board. Banks schmanks.

Where there's a will, there's a way, and I'll find it. Gary

January 13, 2011. Ah! Here's the perfect motorhome and only a quarter of a million bucks. No worries. I'll use PayPal. Actually, I'll probably meet a few peeps with motorhomes like that one on the Odyssey. It'll be quite interesting really to meet the millionaires and the backpackers and everyone in between, as well as people from different countries and cultures.

Here's something more in line with my budget, but probably a bit too big and bulky for me.

Hmmm, now this is the kinda thing that interests me. And it's cheap! If I had the money now I'd probably make a bid for that one.

But I suspect I'll ultimately end up with something like this.

For now, I'm just window shopping. It keeps the dream alive and amuses me. Besides, every time I look at one of those campers, I imagine myself sitting at the table loading a bunch of pics into the laptop after doing a David Attenborough, and updating AO accordingly. What fun!

Beeb time: More than 230 people die in the mountains of Rio de Janeiro state as flooding and mudslides hit south-eastern Brazil. Jeez, that makes ours look a bit ordinary. Haiti marks the anniversary of the powerful earthquake that killed 250,000 people and devastated much of the country. And that makes ours look like a total non event. The flood-hit Australian city of Brisbane wakes to widespread inundation but the peak level is a metre lower than feared. Better to prepare for the worse than be taken by surprise. President Barack Obama arrives in Arizona to pay tribute to six people killed in a shooting on Saturday and to praise US lawmaker Gabrielle Giffords. I doubt he'll say anything about gun laws. A gang which trafficked mainly Afghan migrants into Europe has been broken, European police force Europol has said. It said 26 alleged gang members had been arrested in Italy with further arrests in Germany and France. It said the gang was responsible for smuggling about 200 illegal migrants into Europe every month, a fifth of them children. Are there more bad people than good in the world, or is it just that the bad people make the headlines? US actor John Travolta is to receive one of Germany's top entertainment honours, the Golden Camera. The Pulp Fiction star will collect the award for best international actor at a ceremony in Berlin on 5 February. Travolta, 56, was praised by German listings magazine Horzu, organisers of the awards, as "one of the greatest actors in the world". Seems like yesterday I was watching him in Welcome Back Kotter. A winter storm that pummelled southern US states in the last few days has now hit the north-east, causing travel disruption in the air and on the roads. Eight inches (20cm) of snow fell on Central Park in New York City and up to 12in in New Jersey and Connecticut. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled and commuters faced major disruption to road and rail services. I'm sure the Westboro Baptist Church has a perfectly reasonable explanation for it all. South Sudan has reached the 60% turnout needed to pass the referendum on secession from the north, the south's ruling party and ex-rebel group says. "The 60% threshold has been achieved but we are asking for a 100% (turnout)," the SPLM's Anne Itto said. I'm always surprised by such headlines because I'm so used to compulsory voting in Oz. David Nelson, the last surviving family member from the 1950s US sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, has died aged 74. The actor-turned-director died at his Los Angeles home of colon cancer, a family spokesman said. Nelson starred in the real-life sitcom which featured his parents - bandleader Ozzie Nelson and singer Harriet Hilliard - and his brother Rick. The TV show ran in the US for 435 episodes from 1952 - 1966. I don't remember David as well as I remember Rick "I'm a Travelin' Man". Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin has attacked as a "blood libel" suggestions that political rhetoric contributed to Saturday's fatal shootings in Arizona. Ms Palin, a possible 2012 presidential runner, hit out at commentators' "irresponsible statements" laying "blame for this terrible event". Her remarks came as new details emerged about the attack, in which six were killed and a congresswoman wounded. I can't stand that woman... not one bit

Right, shopping's done. It's such a pain... ours and Averil's. I showed Averil the pic of Anyel Antonio and she thought he was a cute little fella, which he is in a grumpy kinda way. I wrote a letter yesterday that I printed, and bought a couple of Taree postcards today... pics of kangaroos and koalas and pelicans and that kinda thing. He's only 2 ya know, so he's not into anything too serious yet. According to his bio his favorite hobby is "playing with toys". Fair enough. I'll post my letter and cards tomorrow.

And here we go again... kitchen time. Lamb chops and spuds for THEM and I'll settle for a Black Pepper Beef with Rice in a box. Hehe. 2 minutes in the micro and Bob's yer uncle. Actually, the last one I had... sweet and sour with chicken and rice... was pretty good. Not brilliant but not bad. I'm practicing for the Odyssey... no refrigeration required. Gary

January 12, 2011. I kept shaking my head in disbelief last night as I watched footage on telly of the floods in Queensland. There was a freak event in one town that sent a wall of water down the streets, tossing cars around like corks. And there were people in those cars! Even houses were knocked off their footings. There was no warning - it all happened in just minutes. If it weren't for mobile phones with cameras, that footage would not exist. Anyway, it's a dark hour for Queensland, "Beautiful one day, perfect the next". Here's some footage shot by a guy with a mobile phone.

But as Art from North Carolina writes, things ain't so rosy where he is either: Global warming or something has got the weather all out of whack. I’m looking at a car under five inches of white stuff and weather forecasts meaning it won’t melt unless I turn a warm water hose on it. It just doesn’t DO this kind of thing In Wilmington, NC! But people are not supposed to drown in Queensland, and Race 4 fungus wasn’t supposed to wipe out Australia’s Cavendish bananas either. So we can just hunker down and dream of better days, I spose.

Hmmm, well I dunno about dreaming of better days. I'd like to think we can turn things around. I mean little Anyel is only 2 years old and he could very well live until the end of this century. Imagine that! He might even make into the next! I can't even begin to imagine what life might be like then, given what has taken place over the last 100 years.

Back from the doc's and being very brave under the scalpel. I went in with a couple of spots and came out bandaged like someone who'd just survived a major car crash. Six stitches in the neck and four in the shin. Just before I left the surgery, the nurse asked if I felt dizzy. "How could I be dizzy if I'm not blond?" I asked. She's blond. Oops. During the op, I asked the doc if he ever thought about being a full-time surgeon. "I don't mind skin," he said. "Cutting people up and stitching skin is fine, but internal organs? No thanks." I'm with him. No I'm not... I couldn't even handle stitching skin.

Can you imagine anyone with half a brain saying something like this? The Westboro Baptist Church said Monday it plans to picket Thursday's funeral for Christina Taylor Green because "God sent the shooter to deal with idolatrous America." The fundamentalist church has picketed many military funerals to draw attention to its view that the deaths are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality.

But as J begins his response on Justin's Blog, these fantatics should never be underestimated: It is easy to dismiss the Westboro crowd as being the worst sort of white trash, but you have to be careful with them. They are quite cunning, and have a thorough knowledge of First Amendment rights.

Beeb time: Up to 20,000 homes may now be hit in Brisbane, officials say, as deadly floodwaters surge towards Australia's third city. This is the kinda thing we expect to read about happening in other countries, not this one. A judge in the US orders the personal doctor of Michael Jackson, Dr Conrad Murray, to stand trial for the involuntary manslaughter of the singer. I wonder what Michael would have to say about all this if he were able. An off-duty policeman has opened fire on a train in Egypt, killing a Christian man, but it is unclear whether the attack was sectarian. At least another five people were reported to have been injured in the shooting on a train between Assiut and Cairo. Officials said at least four of those hurt were Coptic Christians. The Egyptian interior ministry named him as police officer Amer Ashour Abdel-Zaher. Officials have not given a motive for Tuesday's shooting. The ministry statement said the officer "opened fire on some train passengers from his pistol and ran away", adding that he was later arrested at his home. Don't look at me. I think the whole human race is nutz. Astronomers have released the largest-ever colour image of the whole sky, stitched from seven million images, each made of 125 million pixels. The Sloan Digital Sky Survey's latest effort tops its own record, published publicly for professional astronomers and "citizen scientists" alike. Data from Sloan have helped to identify hundreds of millions of cosmic objects. And we're one infinitesimal speck amongst all that. Check out the animated vid on Youtube. Former President Bill Clinton has told the BBC the US political climate must change after the shooting of a US Congresswoman and others in Arizona. "No one intends to do anything that encourages this sort of behaviour," he said. But political rhetoric "falls on the unhinged and the hinged alike". Some commentators suggest the vitriolic political rhetoric in the US may have contributed in some way to the attack. Did someone mention Palin? A new James Bond film has been given the go-ahead and is due to be released on 9 November 2012, film studio MGM and EON Productions have announced. Producers Michael Wilson and Barbara Broccoli and MGM said the 23rd Bond would go into production in late 2011. The latest 007 adventure, starring Daniel Craig for the third time, will be directed by Oscar winner Sam Mendes. James Bond is one of the longest running franchises in film history. 48 years to be precise. I was 18. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who published leaked US diplomatic cables, fears he could face the death penalty in the US, defence documents say. He is fighting extradition from the UK to Sweden over allegations, which he denies, of sexual offences against two women. His lawyer said there was a "real risk" the US would then seek extradition over the leaking of the diplomatic cables. No comment. A pilot project to see if cash crops can be grown in the salty ground of India's coastal areas has been launched. The area in Tamil Nadu state will house dozens of species of halophytes - or salt-loving plants - that can be used for producing cash crops. Halophytes can be used to produce edible oils, medicines, vegetables, and cattle and fish feed. How interesting. Salinity is a problem in some areas of Oz as well. A study has found that around 40 sites that allow people to upload illegal content had more than 53 billion visits in 2010. That's over 8 times the world population, and over 25 times the web population. I think that says most people are willing to be dishonest if they think they can get away with it. Film star Michael Douglas, who was diagnosed with throat cancer last year, says his tumour is gone and he is beating the disease. Buying a little more time. 

Well, it's almost time to attend to kitchen duties. Crumbed chicken thingies tonight with hash browns. Hehe. I love the word 'thingies'... it saves you having to figure out what the real word is. Actually, that reminds me. During surgery this morning, the nurse dropped some implement on the floor. My immediate response was, "Cut! Take two!" And now if you'll pardon me for a moment, I'm going to whip some cream and make a coffee.

Done! Whipped cream in coffee is wonderul because it's aerated... kinda like a cappuccino. And according to the spell checker, I spelled aerated and cappuccino correctly. So there ya go. I'm not all that silly after all. I've gotta be careful about such things ya know because FL Josh is always ready to pounce as soon as I make a boo boo.

Back to the salinity thing in India. When Europeans first settled Sydney Cove, they tried to grow crops they were familiar with back in England and almost starved. It took a long time for the penny to drop... to figure out what works here, and how to take advantage of the local environment. It's the same with salinity. If X won't grow, try Y. I think that's a pretty good lesson in all of life. Don't piss into the wind. But I have to admit I'm glad they figured out how to grow spuds here cos I can't live without my spuds. And grapes... yeah, gotta have grapes. Gary

January 11, 2011. I thought I heard Rodney early this morning but maybe it was just my imagination. I'm getting paranoid. Why can't rodents mind their own damn business like most other creatures and stay OUTSIDE?

The postman arrived today with a pic and some background info from World Vision about my sponsorship of a child living in Nicaragua. Mr Grumpy, otherwise known as Anyel. He makes me laugh. I didn't think anyone could look grumpier than me. He lives with his mother and has no father or siblings. His mother is unemployed. Anyel was born January 29, 2009, which means he'll turn 2 at the end of this month. I must send him a birthday card. Isn't it weird that what I spend on a card and postage will be as much as they have to live on for a whole week... less than $2 a day.

So there ya go, I'm a daddy. Maybe that's why Anyel looks so grumpy.

I wrote the above and included a scan of Anyel before I read the World Vision handbook. They ask not to scan photos or publish information that could compromise the child's identity, which is fair enough given how many assholes there are in cyber space. It's a pity because I'm quite taken with the little bloke and feel just like a proud father.

I'll dedicate a page to Anyel on Aussie Odyssey and update it as I receive reports of his progress. World Vision sends annual updates but they may send more in response to stuff I write to him, such as my first letter and the birthday card. Fair dinkum, every time I look at that grumpy little face I have to laugh. He's got a high intelligent forehead and big brown eyes, and he's kinda cute.

A bloke named Scott Blain, music student, subscribed to my Youchewb channel, so I checked him out.

I think if I had to nominate my absolute fav song of all time it would have to be this one... Mad World by Gary Jules.

Beeb time: Officials in the Australian state of Queensland say at least 72 people are missing after flash floods which have already claimed eight lives. A massive deluge overwhelmed Toowoomba, a city west of the state capital Brisbane, without warning. Sandbags have been given out to residents of Brisbane, where the flooding may not peak until Wednesday. State Premier Anna Bligh called the flash floods Queensland's "darkest hour" since the flood crisis began. At least two of the dead were children, Ms Bligh said, and she warned that the death toll was likely to rise. I saw some of the footage last night on telly. Unbelievable. See the video and/or read the full report here. A man charged with trying to assassinate a US congresswoman in a shooting that left six people dead and more than a dozen wounded has appeared in federal court in Phoenix, Arizona. Jared Loughner, 22, faces several charges over the attack on Saturday. During the 13-minute hearing, Mr Loughner said very little, only periodically leaning forward to speak into a microphone. When asked, he said he understood that he could get life in prison or the death penalty for allegedly killing federal Judge John Roll on Saturday in Tucson, Arizona. Go forth and multiply and hope like hell you don't bring a monster into the world. Pope Benedict XVI has called on Pakistan to repeal its blasphemy laws, which can carry a death sentence for insulting the Prophet Muhammad. He said the laws served as a pretext for acts of injustice and violence against religious minorities. The Pope referred to Pakistani governor Salman Taseer, whose assassination last week was blamed on his support for changes to the blasphemy laws. I agree with Benny. Only narrow-minded, mentally-deficient fanatics could possibly support strict laws against blasphemy. 

Well, the day kinda went that way... not that I did all that much. Tomorrow I'm off to the doc's for minor surgery on the skin cancers, which I'm not looking forward to. Bleh. Gary

January 10, 2011. Rodney has thus far not returned. Good. And nobody complained last night about the scrambled eggs with cheese and tomato and chips. And why would they? I do a damn fine job of that particular dish even if I do say so moiself.

The weather's gone a bit loony... cool and cloudy with showers. And this is summer? It's one of those el-nino thingies. Blame Joao.

Last night on telly they were doing a cricket post mortem about our loss to England during the recent Ashes tour, when up popped a Tasmanian cricketer who seems to have the potential to take over the Australian captaincy at some future stage. Weeell, I think we have a sex symbol on our hands. Cricket is not normally a sport associated with scrummies, but this bloke is an exception, and I can see a lot more young Aussies, particularly girls, being suddenly interested in the sport. Yeah? Obviously, I'm not the only one who thinks so because he's already done a bit of beefcake modeling.

Tour is a funny word in Oz. We pronounce it too-wa. Hehe. So one day I'm gonna too-wa Astraaaylya.

Beeb time: US congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is responding well to treatment for gunshot wounds, surgeons say, as her suspected attacker is charged. She's a very lucky woman, albeit traumatized for life. As for the perpetrator, what can you say? Insane? Huge numbers of southern Sudanese vote amid scenes of jubilation in an independence referendum expected to split Africa's biggest country in two. That sounds about right... them and us. That's pretty normal. You can't have a world full of us's or thems. That's not the way it works. Hehe. An Iranian passenger plane with more than 100 people on board has crashed in north-western Iran, killing at least 72, officials say. The IranAir Boeing 727 was flying from Tehran when it came down and broke into pieces near the city of Orumiyeh. Iran's civil fleet is made up of planes in poor condition due to their old age and lack of maintenance. Nuff said. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has aired concerns about China's rapidly developing military capabilities, as he flew into China on a four-day trip. Mr Gates is to meet President Hu Jintao and other top officials, at a time of strained military relations. The visit comes days after websites published pictures apparently showing a working prototype of a Chinese stealth aircraft, invisible to radar. They call it maintaining the balance of power, provided the US has a bit more balance than the opposition. 

But back to the killer in Arizona. As Oregon Richie points out: This young man was clearly unbalanced and erratic which had been noted in the past and yet he does manage to waltz in to a Sportsman shop and pick up a handgun.  Background investigations my ass. Yes, I know about insanity. I live with two peeps who are mentally challenged. They are well practiced liars in order to divert attention away from the real issue. When I went to the living room the other day to investigate the loud TV volume, Sue was pointing the remote toward the window instead of the TV, and pressing buttons furiously, saying, "Do you know what program this is on?" She figured "Do you know what program this is on?" sounded like an intelligent thing to say, which would somehow excuse her behavior and remove any guilt. Both Sue and Lindsay are most adept at vehemently denying any wrong doing. When caught red-handed, they explode in fierce denial in order to shift the blame elsewhere. When all else fails, Sue bursts into hysterical tears. Lindsay simply storms out of the room. I wonder if they were living in America what would happen if they waltzed into a Sportsman shop.

AND... I have to say that I found Richie's use of the phrase 'Background investigations my ass' rather curious. Think about it. Sounds a bit like a rectal examination.

Speaking of doctors, I'm due for a bit more surgery on Wednesday... a couple of skin cancers, one on my shin and one on my neck. Dangit. But it's gotta be done. As my doc told me years ago, "they'll keep popping up". And they do, so I guess I can look forward to periodic surgery for the rest of my life. That's fair skin and the Aussie climate for ya.

Shopping's done - the usual bits and pieces. As I wheeled my trolley to the escalator, a young midget bloke was fooling around and apologized for getting in my way. He was a nice young fella, full of fun and wearing a big grin. Then he traveled down the escalator ahead of me, jumping from side to side with his little legs. He was little but obviously very fit. Now there's a young person with conspicuous issues to be dealt with, but from what I could see he was doing very well.

Kitchen time again. Steak and onions for THEM, and I'm gonna pig out on a Beef and Guinness pie which was on spesh at three buckeroonies. Gary

January 9, 2011. Rodney's back, albeit a different Rodney. The last one was as stiff as a board. This bloke was scratching around and woke me at 4am. No way I could sleep with that critter buggerizing around in the dark, so I skedaddled outta the bedroom, closed the door, booted the comp, made a cuppa, set a trap and went online. Later, I heard him scratching around in the wall cavity. I'll check the bait under the house later to see if he's taken it. If he has, he's history. I'll also check the hole I plugged with steel wool. (Checked. The bait is not disturbed and the steel wool is still intact).

I watched an interesting documentary on telly last night called Big Bigger Biggest. It was about ship building. I was surprised to learn that paddles were replaced by propellors only in the 19th century. The problem with paddles at sea was that when the ship rolled to one side, one of the paddles would be spinning around in mid air. That problem was solved by the use of a propellor at the stern. I think it was Archimedes in Ancient Greece who invented the screw which, when inserted into a tube and revolved, became a pump. Anyway, bigger ships had difficulty maneuvering in harbors. One of the world's biggest ships The Independence at 160,000 tons solves that by having twin screws at the stern that can rotate in any direction. It also has smaller screws parallel to the hull built into the bow that can maneuver the front of the ship sideways. I watched The Independence sail into a harbor unaided and position itself perfectly alongside a wharf. Sister ships Oasis and Allure of the Seas weigh in at 220,000 tons. And it all started with a dugout canoe.

The program also talked about things like speed, bow waves, drag reduction, gyroscopes, side fin stabilizers, etc, which was all rather fascinating. When the French built the Normande back in the 1920s, it was the most luxurious ship afloat, so the Brits decided to build a faster ship rather than compete in the luxury department. The Queen Mary at 90,000 tons was the fastest ship for about 20 years. It's a floating hotel now.

When I was a kid, my grandmother sailed on the Orion down the east coast of Oz and across Bass Strait to Hobart in Tasmania. She had relatives there. That's about the only sailing story by the family I'm aware of (apart from its initial arrival in Oz). The Orion certainly has an interesting history, and I just learned that my grandmother was on the Orion's final voyage before the ship's sailing days were due to end.

And now more on motorhomes and campers. TX Greg suggests something like this:

Or perhaps something more economical...

Thanks for the finds, Greg. That's really kewl stuff!

This is not a bad Toyota for $16,000.

This is not a bad chariot either and it's 4WD.

Beeb time: A US congresswoman has been shot in the head and six other people have been killed by a gunman in Arizona. Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords, 40, was shot at close range during a public meeting in Tucson. She is in a critical condition, but the doctor treating her said he was "very optimistic about her recovery". Police said a total of 13 people were shot and wounded during the attack. Doctors said five of them including Ms Giffords were in a critical condition. A suspect named in local media as 22-year-old Arizona resident Jared Loughner was arrested after the incident. That won't stop the gun lobby. Nothing will stop the gun lobby. Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi says his country is now capable of making the fuel plates and rods used inside nuclear reactors. Western analysts have previously said the Islamic republic did not possess such technology. It's only a matter of time. The US government has subpoenaed the social networking site Twitter for personal details of people connected to Wikileaks, court documents show. The US District Court in Virginia said it wanted information including user names, addresses, connection records, telephone numbers and payment details. Those named include Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and an Icelandic MP. Do they still blow a bugle when they come charging over the hill?

Anyway, what I wanna know is why the US government isn't targeting newspapers and other media responsible for disseminating the leaked cables to the general population. Has anyone asked a government spokesperson that question and gotten a straight-forward answer? It all sounds a bit suss to me. Australia's PM Julia Gillard was asked a similar question during an interview but avoided it.

Oh yes, my old analogue TV. I accidentally discovered how to get all the regular channels. Takes a bit of fiddling but it works, and it means I don't have to worry about getting a new digital one... just yet. The old Samsung is pretty much on its last legs but it'll do for now. And it's good for my health cos it doesn't have a remote so I gotta get up off the chair to change channels. I bought the thing second hand from a TV repairer 8 or 9 years ago for $90 and it was a dud. Every time I turn it on I have to adjust the contrast, brightness, color and volume. It refuses to remember the settings. It's a pain in the ass but the picture quality is pretty good. Hehe. 

And here we go again, kitchen time. I was gonna go shopping today but didn't, so I'm gonna rustle up scrambled eggs with cheese and tomato. And if anyone bitches about it, too bad. Gary

January 8, 2011. The Man With The Golden Voice! Ted Williams was very clever in announcing (no pun intended) to the world that he has a golden voice without attracting criticism of his ego. He said it was God given, which means he's allowed to brag. Hehe.

He didn't thank God for his teeth, though. No. FL Josh wrote a tome yesterday about flossing. In this country, one never sees someone in a responsible position with dirty and missing teeth, and you rarely see the bum on the street with clean and nice teeth.  I do add the disclaimer "in this country," because we are fanatic about our teeth, particularly having them very white.  I look at pictures on the internet of people from different countries and Americans have very white teeth and other countries not so white with Britain in a world all of its own.  The British and their terrible teeth has become a world joke. 

I disagree, Josh. It's become an American joke. American jokes are not world jokes. In any case, if it weren't for the British, Hollywood would have no one to play pirates. American actors in Hollywood all have perfect teeth and two legs. Australians don't have a problem because we speak with our mouths closed to keep the flies out. But back to flossing: Flossing introduces oxygen at the gum line where the bacteria that cause gum disease hang out.  They cannot tolerate oxygen and it disrupts their little party for about 24 hours.  Thus, by daily flossing, you keep the bacteria that causes gum disease in total disruption and gum disease can't exist. Josh started flossing daily 32 years ago after being told by a periodontist that he was in danger of developing gum disease. He says all traces of gum disease cleared up. Healthy gums do not bleed when one flosses.  Also, floss up and down the side of the tooth, not back and forth.  This keeps the side of the teeth smooth and free of plaque. I remember when I was young and would go to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned and how afterwards, as I ran my tongue along my teeth, they would feel so clean and slick.  Now my teeth feel like that all the time. 

In all my 66 years I've never flossed, and I've never had any problems with my gums. Reminds me of the old story about the bloke in Sydney who was throwing confetti out the tram window. A fellow passenger asked him what he was doing, and he replied that he was keeping the elephants away. The fellow passenger said, "But there are no elephants in Sydney!" Boom boom.

I just checked the weather forecast. Rain. Lots of it. For the whole damn week. I had planned to check out the sailing and sand modeling tomorrow but that looks like getting the flick. So much for the driest continent on earth and global warming. Did I mention that floodwaters in Queensland will take six months to drain into the river systems and make its way down to the mouth of the Murray in Victoria and the Southern Ocean? The amount of water in Queensland at the mo makes Sydney Harbor look like a puddle.

Beeb time: President Barack Obama cautiously hails a "clear trend" of rising employment as the jobless rate drops to 9.4%, and calls on businesses to boost investment. 9.4 is still high though. I think ours is almost half that. However the improvement is welcome. Beatriz Elena Henao, accused of trafficking large quantities of amphetamines, is extradited from Colombia to the US to face trial. These people wouldn't exist if it weren't for demand, which is what puzzles me. Captain Andrew Strauss says England's Ashes-winning heroes have yet to reach their peak after meting out a 3-1 series thrashing to Australia. Yes, but while you're busy reaching your peak don't expect the Aussies to be sitting around twiddling their thumbs. Men and women have been banned from shaking hands in a district of Somalia controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabab. Under the ban imposed in the southern town of Jowhar, men and women who are not related are also barred from walking together or chatting in public. The BBC's Mohamed Moalimuu in Mogadishu says the penalty would probably be a public flogging. Insanity is recognizable only by the sane

Right, so here's what I'm thinking. You can buy a pretty good motorhome for about $20K. Once all my debts are paid off, and I owe nothing, which at the current rate will be in about a year or less, I could borrow $20K. Over 5 years that would cost about $400 a month @ 7.5%. But that's what I currently pay in rent, and if I had a motorhome I wouldn't be paying any rent. Boom boom. Selling Bluey would fetch about $3.5K which would set me up with solar and whatever. Are you with me? Most of the older vans for sale are pretty rough, and average around the 5 to 7K mark, so I think it's better and wiser to go for something like the Mazda advertised. I'm not a kid anymore, and I don't wanna rough it too much. I like my creature comforts, and I wanna play with my electronic gizmos.

So that's the plan. Get rid of what's left of the debt and start again. Use what I currently pay in rent to pay off the van. Make sense to you? Reminds me of the time Cody was in a pickle about his future while Mark was getting himself organized in the yacht building biz. Mark said to Cody, "You gotta make a plan." So that's my plan, and unless some unforseen circumstance buggers it up, that's the way it'll stay, in which case the Odyssey should be underway by the end of 2011.

Just now I heard a lot of chattering outside and went to investigate. A family of galahs was sitting on the power lines, enjoying a shower of rain. One of them, the bloke who was doing most of the chattering, was hanging upside down, cooling his wingpits. Hehe. The batteries in my big Fuji had gone flat, dangit. So I grabbed the little compact but the zoom is only 3x, not enough to get a good close up. Galahs are very comical birds, as are most parrots.

Sue is very comical too. She tried to change channels on their TV and the volume went through the roof. So I went into the living room and turned the TV off. The noise woke Lindsay from his afternoon snooze and he tried to get the thing happening again but couldn't. Sue had buggered it up by pressing a zillion buttons on the remote. So then he stormed about the house swearing his head off, and now he's on the phone to the pay TV company trying to get his reception back on track. "She's not that fuckin' stupid, Gary," he said to me the other day. Yeah, right.

I remarked to someone the other day that I must be some kinda weirdo to live with such a pair of wallies, especially for a whole damn decade. But then I thought about some of the people I've known previously - allegedly respectable and intelligent people - and I'm here to tell you that L&S ain't all that much different. Fair dinkum, I'm not kidding. I've known some real doozies in my time and I figure that's why I can handle living with this pair. So far, that is. Gary

January 7, 2011. FL Josh wrote: I saw on the news this evening Ted Williams, the homeless man and he has a haircut and is all cleaned up and was doing radio spots somewhere.  He has been offered several full time jobs and a company has offered him a home, allowing him to take over the mortgage.   One of the best investments he could make if he really wants to move into the big time is investing several thousand dollars in his teeth.  His teeth are so bad, you'd think he was British. Josh sent this update.

As Ted says, radio is "theater of the mind", so teeth are not as important on radio as they are in movies or on TV. You can have severe halitosis on radio and nobody notices, unless they're being interviewed live in the studio. Americans have a fixation about teeth anyway - they figure you can be as ugly as a hatful but if your teeth are cool, then it's not a problem. There's an old saying in the biz: "He has a great face for radio." I used to tell listeners that I was broadcasting my show naked. I never did, but I was often barefoot - as I am now.

I'll tell you who has perfect teeth - young Josh. If they weren't real you could be excused for thinking they were false. I've never seen more perfect teeth, and they are all natural - he never wore braces. My doc, on the other hand, has prominent spaces between his teeth. He could eat an orange through a tennis racket. Gaps between the teeth may not be cosmetically desirable, but it's better for the health of the teeth because bits of ikky stuff don't get trapped and cause decay.

Beeb time: US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has announced a $78bn (£50.3bn) military budget cut, in part by scrapping a $14bn amphibious fighting vehicle. The cuts over the next five years come in addition to $100bn in internal savings already announced. Mr Gates has been sceptical about whether large military vehicles, like tanks and amphibious Expeditionary Fighting Vehicles, will continue to be crucial military instruments as engagement in modern warfare changes. Makes you wonder what would happen if the dream of world peace ever came true. French carmaker Renault has said that suspected industrial espionage against its business poses a serious threat to its "strategic assets". "The biggest advantage Western car makers have against rivals with lower labour costs elsewhere is their advanced technology. Hence the talk in France of an economic war." I really dunno what to say about that. The Chinese government is considering making it a legal duty for children to visit their aged parents, state media report. Parents who can't stand their kids won't be too happy about that. England beat Australia by an innings and 83 runs to seal the Ashes series 3-1 and secure their first series win down under in 24 years. If the Poms keep this up, they'll beat us again in 2035. A new edition of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is causing controversy because a racially offensive word has been removed to avoid offending readers. Twain scholar Alan Gribben says the use of the word "nigger" had prompted many US schools to stop teaching the classic. In his edition, Professor Gribben replaces the word with "slave" and also changes "injun" to "Indian". That's taking political correctness too far. Why not rewrite all history books to remove the offensive bits? How ridiculous. Reminds me of the way people refer to the 'N' word or the 'F' word. Do they mean Naughty or Fiddlesticks? No. You know what I suspect? I suspect that black people are less offended by the word Nigger than white people are. Hehe. Oh well... people are such funny animals.

You see, ladies and genitals, I can talk about anything on the Waffle page... halitosis, radio announcers, niggers, faggots, Oregonians, Floridians... whatever comes along. Nothing is sacred. I don't have to worry about political correctness... at least not other people's ideas of what constitutes political correctness. I refer to the Pope as Benny, and to the Queen as Betty, but nobody gives a toss.

One of the bodyguards of a moderate Pakistani politician saw fit to shoot his boss in the back and kill him because the politician was against the death penalty for blasphemy. That bodyguard betrayed the trust placed in him in order to dispense his own version of justice. I'm right and he's wrong, so therefore I have the right to murder him. He was a Judas, and yet the lunatic followers of his fanatical creed are calling for his release from custody and declaring him a hero. Have you heard them on TV? The don't speak, they yell. And they yell at a high fever pitch. They talk over the top of anyone who might be at variance. They're not rational. They don't know how to make a point calmly and intelligently. They scream. They wave their arms all over the place. They're insane! I really worry about people like that. I really worry about people who simply don't understand reason.

But back to the word Nigger. I personally prefer not to use those kinda derogatory terms as a general rule, but I'm not afraid of them. To delete them from a work published in 1885 when they were commonly used terms is to pretend they never existed. That's denial. That's rearranging the truth. 

In Matthew 13:42, Jesus says: "And shall cast them into a FURNACE OF FIRE: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." Should that be removed from the Bible? It's barbaric. It's not the way we civilized people behave. We don't incinerate souls (which apparently have a larynx and teeth) for eternity. Torture is against the law.

Oh, it's all so silly. It really is all so silly. And now it's time to cook din dins. Din dins is not silly. The fish is not too thrilled about it but that's his problem. Gary

January 6, 2011. Pay day/bills day again. But I'm slowly getting my debts down and making progress. Actually, I'm paying way above the minimum required so I'm pretty pleased with that.

My ex-neighbor Jeremy sent a link to a fascinating article written for the New York Times about modern Sydney's convict past. I really enjoyed reading it.

This morning by snail mail I received a pic of the Royal Hotel at Young (formerly Lambing Flat), built in about 1864. That was my initial accommodation when I got my first job in radio back in 1969. I called the museum there and was told by a very sweet old lady that it would cost me $10 to have a photo of the Royal mailed to me. But that was back in early December and I'd forgotten about it. I guess old folks are never in a hurry, especially if they're from the country. Yes, my stay at the Royal was my first experience as a guest in a hotel, and I thought I was a celebrity. Hehe. Scroll down the page until you get to the pic.

FL Josh sent a link to a Youchewb clip of an amazing homeless man who has an awesome voice with what we call in the biz, timbre.The clip has had almost 8m views. Actually, I just sent the link to John Laws who's coming back to Oz radio on January 31. Using this guy for voice overs would be a good gimmick, and would give the guy a break. Lawsy is 75 now and just can't leave that microphone alone... like I can't leave the keyboard alone. 

Beeb time: A series of decisions to cut costs contributed to the BP oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a US presidential panel has found. Greed, to put it in a nutshell. On the other hand, show me a company that spends more to make less. The 112th US Congress convenes, starting a new legislative session in which resurgent Republicans aim to cut the size of government and spending. You see? Microsoft shows a full version of Windows running on chips usually found in mobile phones, a move it says will benefit portable gadgets. Yes, Nature gave us legs for a very good reason. Passengers on a Turkish Airlines jet have overpowered a man who tried to hijack their flight from Norway to Istanbul, security sources say. Turkish media reported that the man put on a mask and tried to force his way into the cockpit, saying he had a bomb. Turkish media said the suspect was a Turkish citizen from a Kurdish village in the south-eastern region of Anatolia. Bloody dingaling. The Archbishop of Canterbury is to marry Prince William and Kate Middleton at their forthcoming wedding, St James's Palace has disclosed. The palace says Miss Middleton will travel to the 29 April ceremony by car. But the newly-weds will return to Buckingham Palace in a glass carriage along Parliament Square, Whitehall, Horse Guards Parade and The Mall. The Queen will host a reception at the palace, followed by a private dinner and dancing in the evening. While the rest of us watch telly and eat fish 'n' chips. Matt Prior hits England's ninth century of the series as England's lead goes past 300 on day four of the final Ashes (Cricket) Test in Sydney. Next! Heavy summer rains have left huge swathes of Queensland swamped by muddy brown floodwaters, which have cut off rural communities and created a vast inland sea the size of France and Germany combined. With the help of audio from BBC News and Australia's ABC - and images from across the state - take a look at the scale of the challenge facing hundreds of thousands of people who live there. Check out the slideshow with audio. Most global car executives do not see reasonably priced electric vehicles being available in the next five years, a survey suggests. I'll stick with Bluey then. Children's author Dick King-Smith, whose book The Sheep-Pig inspired hit film Babe, has died aged 88, his agent confirms. Leaving something worthwhile behind is about the best a bloke can do, I reckon. 

Okay, showered and shaved, and soon it'll be time to hit the shops for the groceries and all that mundane domestic business. Same old, same old, week in, week out. I think I need an Odyssey. Yeah, think about it. If I were to tell you what I did on this day a year ago, or two or three or four years ago, it would be the same thing I'm doing today. Right? But on the Odyssey it would be very different. VERY DIFFERENT. So that's why I need to do the Odyssey even though it's a totally lunatic idea. X years down the track I'll be able to say I was at this place and that place and the other place, and I took these photos and those photos and a bunch of other photos, yadda, yadda, yadda. And that's the thing about life. If you look back and see the same old routine... well, what kinda life is that? If you want the most out of life, don't do today what you did yesterday. You can quote me on that. Hehe. I might have that inscribed on my tombstone.

All done. Bills paid, shopping's over (for a while), Averil's happy and I'm buggered. I saw young Josh, his mom Stephanie and younger bro Brendan at the mall. Brendan is a BIG boy now but, according to Josh who slapped his fist against the palm of his other hand, he still rules the roost. Hehe. Yeah, right. Josh is looking well... and still has that whispy excuse for a beard on his chin. Oh well... His mom says she's hardly seen him since he came back home for his summer vacation. He says he'll pop in to see me sometime next week. "You better," I said, "I'm feeling rejected, and I'm getting a complex." Actually, Josh is looking more like an Aborigine as he gets older. You can't conduct a convo with Josh in a public place though. He knows everyone in town and is constantly being distracted by passers-by.

So what's for dinner tonight? Burgers, eggs, onions and chips for THEM, and I'll settle for a sesame seed bun with egg, salad meats, tomato, onion and lettuce... and maybe a few chips on the side. Boom boom. Gary

January 5, 2011. Oregon Richie managed to get improved internet connection in Albuquerque and caught up with my nooz, as Americans insist on pronouncing it.

Just checked what's on at the local council's events page, and there's a sand modeling comp next weekend at Old Bar. Last time I went there wasn't much happening but I suppose I could take another look next Sunday. There's also a rodeo at Wingham with all the usual cowboy stuff, but... well... seen one... etc. Hmmm, there's also a Marathon Sailing Event next weekend at Manning Point, so that could be an opportunity for some good photographs. I really need to get out there - somewhere, anywhere - and start snapping, ya know. The following weekend there's a model railway exhibition.

Oh dear... tissue time. I just got an email from an ex-neighbor in Glebe, the house next door to mine. What she wrote was totally unexpected. Here's part of it:

It is always great reminiscing the 'good' times of the past Gary,  as it certainly makes our journey along the way interesting, and memorable, a learning curve with many cherished memories.  These are a few of the memories that make who we are and what we stand for:-

*    A lovely man from No 15 who would give his shirt off his back to anyone - and he did at that.  A very kind and trusting gentleman.  His name is Gary.
*    A man of much humor, intelligence, kindness, creativity and determination.
*    A man who loved his dog - Kelly.  I hope you have some new pet love and energy in your life from our wonderful animal kingdom - they never replace our cherished ones now in 'doggy' or 'çat ' heaven, however they bring so much joy and unconditional love that sometimes humans can not. 
*   A talented neighbour of words - of careers in radio, writing, story telling - and ideas and much much more,
*  A caring neighbour - an icon of the street.  He was not far from sitting at his door step on a hot balmy night clunking a glass or two and I would be coming home late at night from one of my several jobs!!!!!  There would be a cheery chat.
*   Oh and the amazing story you wrote to 2 GB (a copy that I still have filed) when my house was broken in to......
*  Our street / park parties.  I think the first one in Hegarty Street and we were slouched in bean bags on the street / road and I think traffic had to re route almost as this very important social event of neighbours transpired over bubbling liquer, laughs and analyses of world events!!!!
*    Entertainment in the street with ambulances mopping up the damage from head blows to a neighbour who gave nothing but trust and support to those in need .
*   Trust and financial support given by you to someone not so trusting and honest for an amazing business venture you so believed in - and the devastating loss of the roof over your head - and we won't go there!!! 
*   The yellow Kombi - which became a home for a while.

I have missed this neighbour ever since - as no one will ever replace you Gary.

Well, how the hell do you top that? That's the last thing I expected from anyone, let alone Kim. Bloody hell. That has absolutely floored me. She wouldn't have written anything like that 20 years ago so maybe it's true what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder. The years have clouded her vision hehe.

Beeb time: There has been strong international condemnation of the assassination of one of Pakistan's best-known liberal politicians in the capital Islamabad. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regretted the death of Salman Taseer, governor of Punjab province, saying he had promoted tolerance. How ironic. It happened to another man 2000 years ago who preached tolerance and peace. Flood preparations in the Australian city of Rockhampton are being put to the test as levels on the River Fitzroy approach their peak. One bloke on telly last night who had survived all kinds of natural disasters in his time shrugged and said, "She'll be right, mate, we've survived worse than this before. No worries." The US Navy relieves an aircraft carrier captain of his command over the production of lewd videos aboard the ship. Apparently he was well liked and respected by his colleagues so it's a pity he overstepped the mark of a man in his position. You can't be one of the boys when you're "the" boy. A photograph taken by a Philippine politician moments before he was shot dead has led to the arrest of his suspected killer. Justice prevails. Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty has died at the age of 63 after suffering a long illness. His career high came in the 1970s and included the anthemic Baker Street and Stuck in the Middle with You, recorded with his band Stealers Wheel. Rafferty had battled a drink problem and spent time in hospital in Bournemouth with liver failure. What a pity. Who could ever forget Stuck in the Middle with You? What a classic. Click here for a clip of Baker Street. A man in the US state of Texas has had his robbery conviction overturned after serving 30 years in jail - longer than anyone in Texas cleared by DNA. Cornelius Dupree Jr was jailed from 1979 to 2010 as part of a 75-year sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. The 51-year-old was freed on parole in July 2010. DNA test results proved his innocence roughly one week later. Isn't that outrageous? He wasn't convicted, he was lynched by a mob of hillbillies who wanted blood. How disgusting. "I must admit there is a bit of anger but there is also joy, and the joy overrides the anger," he said. Alastair Cook and Ian Bell push England into the lead on day three of the final Ashes (Cricket) Test in sunny Sydney. Do we really need to know that? Flushed out by Queensland's rising flood waters, deadly snakes are on the move in the region's cities and towns. There are also fears that crocodiles are now floating in flood waters. Residents have been advised not to enter the waters. The Australian state of Queensland is home to some of the world's most venomous snakes, including the Common or Eastern Brown snake, the Coastal Taipan and the Death adder, as well as saltwater crocodiles - among the largest of the species, and a notorious man-eater. Man-eaters tend to be notorious, yes. Insightful British reporting there. Iran has invited foreign diplomats to tour its nuclear facilities, ahead of fresh talks with key world powers over its controversial nuclear programme. The offer was reportedly extended to Russia, China and several EU countries, but not the US. US State Department spokesman, Philip J Crowley, has dismissed the offer as a "clever ploy". I guess we'll find out sooner or later. Remember WMD in Iraq? US carmakers report strong sales for December, confirming the auto industry's steady recovery during 2010. All bad things come to an end, yes?

Getting back to what my ex-neighbor Kim wrote, before I put the scrapbook together I tended to look back on my life and saw just a shambles of disjointed and unrelated events that amounted to nothing much worth talking about. But that changed when I began to assemble all the bits and pieces, like pieces of a jigsaw, to create a big single picture. I'm not sure it all makes sense in terms of purpose or direction but at least it gives me a better perspective of what my life has been all about. If I were to compare it to anything I'd compare it to the Big Bang. Hehe. But the Big Bang ended up okay. Yeah?

Yes, it's funny how other people see you, and say things you would never say about yourself. Kim was a sweetheart, and obviously still is. I'm grateful  she wrote the things she wrote because I was tempted to think of myself as a total wally - a naive twit who couldn't help getting himself into trouble.

Well, it's THAT time again. Pork chops and onions and spuds for THEM and I'll settle for a Maharaja's Choice - Vegetable Biryani - basmati rice with vegetable curry. Sounds pretty good to me. I love all that kinda spicy stuff. Which reminds me, I must write toilet rolls on the grocery list for tomorrow. Gary

January 4, 2011. That's 4 times so far I've remembered to type 2011 instead of 2010. So much for Alzheimer's. Oregon Richie is still traipsing around New Mexico. He says he can't get this page (waffle #16) to load on his computer for some weird reason. He's using the motel internet connection which fluctuates in efficiency somewhat.

Coincidentally, I watched a repeat of Stephen Fry in America last night on telly. He toured the south west including New Mexico where he visited the Los Alamos nuclear research center and interviewed one of the scientists there. He also spent some time in Monument Valley where he chatted to some of the local Indians and joined them for lunch. That's one helluva place. Santa Fe was another place he visited. All very interesting stuff. He also took a hot air balloon flight over the Grand Canyon.

I can't see myself floating around in a balloon, although I'd love to. Looking over the edge of the basket would freak me out. Actually, Fry took a flight in a vintage WWII bomber, a B something or other, a "Flying Fortress", the same type that dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Those huge radial engines make a helluva racket and Fry had to yell at the camera to be heard. He didn't say much. Later he took a peek at the mothballed fleet of aircraft in the Arizona desert. Billions of dollars worth of airplanes that could be put back into service if required. They're injected with expanding foam and covered in a skin of protective film.

Beeb time: Huge swathes of Australia's Queensland could remain submerged for weeks, hampering recovery efforts, the state premier says. Some people are refusing to move because they fear looters. It's a sad fact of life that those bastards exist everywhere in the world. Snakes are a problem too... large blacks and browns seeking refuge from the water, and entering people's homes if doors are left open. Oscar-nominated British actor Pete Postlethwaite has died at the age of 64, a spokesman has announced. Former girlfriend Julie Walters praised him as "the most exciting, exhilarating actor of his generation". She said she agreed with Steven Spielberg, who worked with the actor in films including The Lost World: Jurassic Park, when he described Postlethwaite as "the best actor in the world". That's a compliment if ever I heard one. The US Navy says it is investigating the production of lewd videos aboard a US aircraft carrier which have turned the spotlight on a veteran commander. The videos were apparently made in 2006 and 2007, and one features gay slurs, simulated masturbation and women pretending to bathe together. The films' key figure is Capt Owen Honors, now USS Enterprise commander. Let me quote J's comment on Justin's Blog: This man should be relieved because he doesn't have the dignity and sense of proportion required of command. Ailing actress Zsa Zsa Gabor is being treated with powerful antibiotics as doctors try to save her right leg, which is infected with gangrene. Her publicist John Blanchette said she had a deep lesion which could have entered the bone. The treatment would last two to three days If unsuccessful the leg would have to be amputated. The 93-year-old has been admitted to hospital a number of times since breaking her hip in July. It's very sad when a reputation built on being physically attractive deteriorates to that extent. Hundreds of Cambodians have celebrated the unusual wedding of two snakes, in the belief the nuptials will bring those attending prosperity and peace. Serpent bride Chamreun, a 16ft-long (4.8m) python weighing 200lb (90kg), wed her smaller mate in a village just south of the capital Phnom Penh. Buddhist monks blessed the pair and villagers showered them with flowers during the two-hour ceremony. Many Cambodians are superstitious, and merge animist practices with Buddhism. Animism is the belief that spirits can inhabit living and inanimate objects. Well, there ya go. Each to his own peach. Australia begin day two in some trouble after being reduced to 134-4 by England on a rain-shortened opening day in the fifth (Cricket) Test in Sydney. It'll be a bloody miracle if Oz manages to even the score, in which case you'll hear the cheers no matter where you are in the world. A US judge has ruled that a woman from Pennsylvania can sue Disney over claims that a staff member dressed as Donald Duck groped her at a theme park. April Magolon, 27, says she was holding her child at Disney's Epcot theme park in Florida when the employee grabbed her breast and joked about it. Remember the song by Andy Stewart, 'Donald! Where's your troosers?' A Ugandan High Court judge has ruled that media companies in the country should not publish the identities of people they say are homosexuals. The decision was described as a "landmark ruling" by gay rights activists. The case was brought against The Rolling Stone newspaper which last year published several lists of people its editor said were gay. Many said they were attacked after their names and photos were printed. That newspaper should be ashamed of itself. It won't be, though, not if it's being run by peanut-brained homophobes. Advertisers have always sought to influence and persuade - no more so than at this time of year. But since the advent of mass communications, there has been only a handful of ads that monumentally changed the way people think about a product. One of the most interesting articles I've ever read (being an old ad man). 

A Taree photographer on Red Bubble went to the south side of the Manning River to take pics of the fireworks on NYE. I thought of that too but got lazy. The fireworks are launched from a barge on the river, and the lights of the town are in the background. Pretty good shot. Maybe next year I'll take the hint. Here's another one.

BTBW (by the bloody way), I've added a few new pics to my RB favs.

No biggie but I found one of my original Kellys Copy Shop biz cards. Scroll down the page to just below the pic of the old Amstrad computer.

And now it's 5pm ladies and genitals, time to think about peeling a few spuds. Gary

January 3, 2011. Aussie Odyssey is attracting more visitors. December's visits averaged 120 a day compared to 106 a day during November. And I haven't even left home yet! Total visits for December were 3720, up 500 on November. Once I'm on the road, I think it will make a big difference to the hits. However, I don't wanna become a walking neon sign wherever I go. I'm no David Attenborough and have no wish to be. I'm just a bloke doing his thing.

One of my fav Red Bubblers is bundling his missus into his "van" (I guess it's a camper) and toodling off to mid-western NSW for a couple of weeks to check out the scenery and do a bit of camping. Half his luck. He's a very good photographer and will no doubt post some pretty stunning pics. I've put in an order for an image of a few bangers sizzling in a pan on a campfire at dusk, with a billy on the boil.

Meanwhile, I noticed the other day that I'm losing a bit weight, so I stepped onto the bathroom scales just now. A little under 10 stone, so that's a tad under 140 pounds, or about 63 kilos. Eeeek! Maybe it's because it's summer, and hot, and I'm eating like a sparrow.

I've heard that food tastes better outdoors in the bush, and according to my limited experience it's true. Don't ask me why. Maybe the fresh air sharpens the taste buds or something. On a couple of my mini Odysseys, I've packed a sandwich and a thermos of tea, and stopped at one of those roadside picnic areas out in the sticks. Cheese, meat, tomato and lettuce never tasted so good. Back in my teens, I camped with a mate at a place called Bendemeer and we did a bit of panning for gold in the MacDonald River. I remember the grassy banks and the large stones in the river. A couple of fellow campers shot a 'roo and made kangaroo tail soup, some of which they gave to us. It was delicious... or so I thought. I took some home to Sydney and it was bloody awful, so I threw it out. I was about 16 then and didn't have a car, so my mate drove his mother's Renault. Sheesh, that was 50 years ago.

As I searched for pics of Bendemeer, I found the Bendemeer Pub, which we visited. I don't think I drank beer back then so I probably had a pub squash. It's a lovely old country pub and I hope to visit it again one day... next time for a beer.

That'll be $3.80, mate.
What? Last time I was here it was 10 cents!
When was that?
50 years ago.
Times have changed a bit since then, mate. :)

Beeb time: Floodwaters in the Australian city of Rockhampton are rising faster than expected, Queensland authorities say. The city has already been badly hit, with many people being forced to flee. More than 20 towns have already been cut off or flooded across an area larger than France and Germany, with more than 200,000 people affected. Earlier, a woman swept from the road in her car has become the first victim of the widespread flooding, and at least two others are reported missing. While waters are receding in some areas, in Rockhampton - a city of 77,000 - they have yet to reach their peak. This is one flood they'll be talking about for decades to come. Check out the vid here. Egyptian Coptic Christians angered by a deadly bombing at a church in Alexandria clash with police for a second day. How much longer do we have to wait before evolution gives our brains the intelligence to stop all this nonsense? Bad light curtails play in the final Ashes (Cricket) Test in Sydney with Australia 92-1, debutant Usman Khawaja on 22 and Shane Watson 34. England retains the Ashes no matter what happens but Oz is trying to even the score which at the mo stands at 2-1. If England wins this final test, it will be 3-1. If Oz wins, it'll be a face-saving 2-2. Russia's airlines must ground their Tu-154B planes, after a fire in Siberia which killed three people, the country's transport watchdog says. At least 43 were injured when the plane, carrying 124 people, burst into flames before take-off from Surgut. Russia's transport safety regulator said the ban would remain in place until the cause of the disaster had been established. Those passengers are undoubtedly thanking their lucky stars that the plane was not in the air when it burst into flames. Iran's Revolutionary Guards have shot down two "Western spy drones" in the Gulf, a senior Iranian commander has been quoted as saying. "Many" other drones have been shot down over an unspecified period of time, the Fars news agency quoted him as saying. Do those Iranians have any idea how much those drones cost?

Oregon Richie is bizzy checking out Los Alamos and other attractions around New Mexico from his current base in Albuquerque - museums, science thingies and wotnot. He's into all that techno and retro stuff. I'm more into trees and campfires and beaches but... whatever blows your hair back. However, I will be interested to visit Parkes Observatory one of these days... and the radio telescope at Tidbinbilla near Canberra. I'm also interested in visiting the old mining towns of Lightning Ridge, Coober Pedy and Kalgoorlie. Heck, I could go on and on and on about what's on the must-see list. Actually, I have a sort of melancholic interest in abandoned buildings and ghost towns...lots of cobwebs and squeaky hinges and untold stories. Hehe.

And that's it for today, dear Breth. Gary

January 2, 2011. Last night, a thought suddenly entered my head. Why not make a difference in 2011? So I jumped on the computer and sponsored a child through World Vision. I chose the grumpiest looking kid I could find, as well as the one who had been waiting the longest for sponsorship. He's 1 year old Anyel Antonio from Nicaragua, so he'll be less grumpy this year, as well as in the years to come. As I get correspondence from World Vision about his progress, I'll post it on a special Anyel page on Aussie Odyssey.

I did a similar thing back in late 80s but lost the plot when I went broke. I remember getting regular updates about the kid's progress, and the progress of his family. They were from SE Asia. It was a big deal when they got a concrete floor in their hut to replace the earthen floor. His education had improved and his parents were able to establish a vegetable garden in their backyard. They sent hand-written letters and a photo or two every few months.

Joao made a comment on my Youchewb video: Hi Gary. Fireworks are always cool. Here in Floripa we have a "minor" version of Sydney party with fireworks over the old suspended bridge but I don't use to see that. I stay in my beach. Fireworks in Brava beach have more or less the same dimensions of those in Taree. I wish you a happy new year! 

Yes, one wonders what 2011 will bring. So far, there's been one surprise. Anyel Antonio is now part of my life because of an impulsive decision.

So what's happening at the Beeb? Dilma Rousseff is sworn in as Brazil's first woman president, succeeding the popular President Lula, who leaves office with approval ratings of 80%. The kinda ratings any politician would kill for. President Hosni Mubarak urges Egypt's Muslims and Christians to stand united against terrorism after a bombing outside a church in Alexandria kills 21 people and sparks clashes. If there's one thing humanity needs to get through its thick skull it's that friends are better than enemies. Tolerance is the key. Members of a Russian pop group, Na-Na, have described the panic on board a passenger jet when it caught fire and later exploded at a Siberian airport. Three people were killed and at least 43 were injured after the Russian plane, carrying 124 people, burst into flames before take-off. One band member said people had "been literally stepping on each other's heads" in an effort to escape. Read the full story here. A number of people with Hotmail accounts have posted complaints on Microsoft forums complaining that their e-mails have been deleted. A spokeswoman for Microsoft said that the issue of missing e-mails was not a widespread problem. The company said it is working to rectify the problem and apologised to customers for any inconvenience. Oh yes, the good ol' "we apologize for any inconvenience" trick. Pope Benedict XVI has said he will organise a summit in Assisi with religious heads to discuss how they can promote world peace. Too easy! Three Hail Marys and a bit of incense. No worries! A senior official has described the flooding in Queensland, Australia, as a disaster of "biblical proportions". State Treasurer Andrew Fraser said the economic impact would be severe, with huge costs compounded by lost income from mining, farming and tourism. Rockhampton, where 77,000 people live, is the latest city bracing for impact, amid warnings of 30ft (9m) floodwaters. More than 20 other towns have already been left cut off or flooded across an area larger than France and Germany. Too many Hail Marys if you ask me. After a 10 year drought, all the bloody Catholics got together and whipped out their Rosary Beads to pray for rain and look what happened. Sri Lanka's government has decided to change the names of all state institutions still bearing the nation's former British colonial name, Ceylon. The Ceylon Tea label, however, is unlikely to change, as the industry believes it's a brand of quality for the country's most famous export. Oh... I wonder if that has anything to do with my comment yesterday. Hollywood action star turned California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is preparing to leave office in January, following one of the more challenging periods in the state's history. The BBC's Peter Bowes looks back at the so-called governator's transition from muscle-bound Austrian actor to US politician. Read the full article here.

Another hottie today with a forecast max of 34C (about 95F) in Taree. Holiday makers on the Mid North Coast won't be complaining, unlike our Queensland neighbors. I won't be anywhere near the northern tropical areas during summer on the Odyssey... probably down south in Tassie or somewhere. However, summer heat is almost impossible to escape on the Aussie mainland. Even Victoria and South Oz get heatwaves in the low 40sC at this time of year. Yesterday, I walked barefoot from the back door to the laundry along a cement pathway and thought I was walking on hot coals.

Oregon Richie by contrast is now in Albuquerque where he says the weather is not too bad: I suspect the mountains north of ABQ and to the west is where the ratty weather is, and you can see snow on the surrounding mountain foothills, but it's predicted to warm up progressively from tomorrow on. I'll probably head north/northeast tomorrow to Santa Fe and possibly a zing up towards Los Alamos, famous for where the "Manhattan Project" of the wartime nuclear research took place.  ABQ is a fair enough clean city with splendid roads and freeways but not a huge local attraction of scenery, from what I have seen thus far.

I hung my new Red Bubble calendar for 2011 yesterday and this is the 8x11" pic I'll be looking at for the next 4 weeks. I gave one to my doc who hung it on his office wall, so I wonder what his overweight patients will have to say about it. Actually, it looks pretty good blown up to 8x11.

And that's it for this second day of 2011. Fish cakes and chips tonight. Gary

January 1, 2011. Welcome to the New Year. I fillumed Taree's fireworks last night and, to my surprise, the bloody thing worked. Well, it did after I buggerized around a bit. It was all very professional... I used a tripod and everything. I even edited out "Is this bloody thing working or not?", "Jeez, I'm stupid!" and a bit of coughing.

I had to go to the help page of Windows Movie Maker to refresh my memory and got myself into a tizz as usual, but I managed to figure everything out eventually. I prefer stills but little movies have their place, and they're quite fun to do. I used the Sony F717 which I bought used for $400 back in 2007. It's a bit long in the tooth now at 5MP but is still a good camera. BTW, eBay has offered to refund the $30 I paid for that dud memory stick because I used PayPal. So all's whale that ends whale.

And now, for a REAL fireworks show, let's check out what Sydney did last night.

Ohio Jace sent me a happy NY e-card. He's had a busy holiday looking after a zillion kids, but the gang's doing fine. Thanks, Jace.

Beeb time: Firework displays, parties and other celebrations are taking place around the world to usher in the new year. Festivities ranged from the release of thousands of silver balloons in Tokyo in Japan, to the first countdown of a western new year in Hanoi, Vietnam. In Sydney, crowds watched what is hailed as the world's biggest New Year's Eve fireworks display. It was the tiny Pacific island nation of Kiribati that was the first to welcome in the new year at 1000 GMT. Celebrations across Asia and Australasia followed, New Zealand - the first major country to see in 2011. You know those knots they tie in a length of rope to measure the speed of a sailing ship? Well, it's kinda like that. Welcome to the new knot. Sri Lanka's government has decided to change the names of all state institutions still bearing the nation's former British colonial name, Ceylon. The government wants the country's modern name to be used instead. The decision comes 39 years after the country was renamed Sri Lanka. I remember when the best tea came from Ceylon. Now it's "blended and packaged in Indonesia from local and imported teas". In small print, of course. Wild West outlaw Billy the Kid will not receive a posthumous pardon for killing a county sheriff in 1878, the governor of the US state of New Mexico has said. Bill Richardson had been asked to pardon the infamous 19th Century bandit in order to fulfil a promise supposedly made in exchange for court testimony. But Mr Richardson told US TV that Billy the Kid's name - linked to as many as 27 murders - would not be cleared. Billy the Kid was shot dead after escaping from jail in 1881, aged 21. Three years younger than our own infamous Ned Kelly, hanged on November 11, 1880. The western United States is bearing the brunt of new winter storms, with heavy snow blanketing an area from New Mexico to Minnesota. Snow and ice have closed a number of major roads, with Arizona and New Mexico particularly badly hit. New Mexico is where Oregon Richie is headed. Great timing. Two alleged armed robbers are in police custody after a botched heist at a Chase bank in a suburb of Houston, Texas. The men had taken seven hostages and fired gunshots during the attempted robbery. Five hostages were released and one suspect apprehended earlier in the day. The problem with most robbers is that they try to hold up banks without proper training and a certificate of proficiency. Bloody amateurs, that's what they are. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is to sell his 33-year-old car to raise money for a charity that funds housing projects for young people. Mr Ahmadinejad was often seen in the white Peugeot 504 when he served as Tehran's mayor, but has rarely used it since becoming president in 2005. It will be auctioned in February in the south-western city of Abadan. Officials hope it will fetch more than the $2,000 (1,500 euros; £1,300) such cars sell for in Iran. The 504 was a pretty good car. I've driven a few. Thousands more people are preparing to evacuate their homes as one of Australia's worst floods continues to inundate the state of Queensland. Forced evacuations are being planned in Rockhampton as rising floodwaters threaten the town of 77,000. The total affected area is larger than the size of Germany and France combined. Pretty serious stuff. 

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo was on telly last night. I thought tattoo schmatoo so I wasn't planning to watch it. But I got involved with setting up my camera to fillum Taree's fireworks and the program started already. Hmmm, not bad. So I got hooked. They had pipes and drums, marching bands, brass bands, precision mini motor cycle displays by young kids, Scottish dancers doing all that Highland Fling business in tartan kilts, plus a bunch of other colorful and interesting stuff. So I watched it all! They also featured bands from various countries including Australia and New Zealand. Here are the closing scenes.

And that's it for the first of the first one one. Lamb chops for THEM and I'll have the chicken stir fry that Mr Misery rejected the other night. What a way to start the new year. Gary


← Older posts      Waffle Index      Newer posts →
Return to Home Page