the WAFFLE page

February 28, 2011. You know what this means... I'm gonna have to turn my day/date watch forward several times to get from 28 to 1 tomorrow.

It also means we're about to launch into the third month of 2011. The passing of time is much slower when you're young. How can you say time flies when you're 20-something? You look over your shoulder and there's nothing there! I remarked on Justin's blog the other day that I never listen to my elders because I don't have any. That's not quite true, of course. NC Art has 20 years on me, and I listen to him.

I was watching the program Collectors the other night and there was a bloke who collects fountain pens. But he also uses them. He's written 10 books with his favorite fountain pen. He loves the tactile nature of a pen... the feel, the smell of the ink, and seeing the letters take form as the nib travels across the page. He must be a very patient man. For me it's all about speed... keeping up with all the thoughts bubbling around in my brain and getting them onto the screen before they disappear. 

Besides that, I write left-handed. At school, I gave up writing words at a forward leaning angle because the heel of my hand, which followed the pen, smeared the wet ink. So I developed a vertical style, with my hand directly beneath the words. However, I'd already established my signature, so my signature is still written in the forward style while everything else is written in a vertical style. Barack Obama is younger than me so he was probably brought up with ball-point pens which don't have a problem with wet ink. Yes, sir! Give me QWERTY anytime.

I watched the story of America again last night. Very interesting stuff. The creation of mass-produced steel used in the construction of sky-scrapers. Edison's electic light. (He tried thousands of different filament materials before he arrived at the one that worked). Henry Ford's Model T and the production assembly line. The discovery of oil. Prohibition and the emergence of organized crime in big cities such as Chicago. The spread of suburbia after cars became available to the masses. The building of massive road networks. The assembly of the Statue of Liberty in New York (which nearly didn't happen because NY didn't have the money to construct it). And the millions of immigrants who came from all parts of Europe to try their luck in "the land of opportunity". Quite a story, and it all happened in a relatively short period of history.

There was a particuarly interesting segment about the sudden increase in cars because of their affordability as well as availability. People had to learn to drive. Brake? Wot dat? You just pull on the steering wheel and yell "whoa!". It's true! And some people were so used to steering horses with reins, they didn't really understand what to do with the wheel. Horses follow the direction of the road, not so automobiles. Hehe. Musta been pretty scary for the car salesmen whose job it was to teach their customers to drive.

Beeb time: Libya's border with Tunisia is being overrun with migrants, many of them from Egypt, fleeing turmoil in Libya, aid workers say. A UN refugee official told the BBC that 20,000 Egyptians were stranded and needed food and shelter. Many are sleeping in the open despite the cold. Some Egyptian refugees staged protests shouting: "We want to go home." About 100,000 people have fled anti-government unrest in Libya over the past week, the UN estimates. Amazing, isn't it? This whole Middle East rebellion thing happened out of the blue, and has gathered extraordinary momentum in just a matter of weeks. Tunisian Prime Minister Mohammed Ghannouchi announces he is resigning, a key demand of demonstrators following last month's uprising. Toppling like ten pins. At least two people are killed in the Gulf state of Oman, in clashes between security forces and protesters demanding political reform. And on and on it goes. The countdown to the Oscars is on with The King's Speech and The Social Network going head to head for the best picture prize. Oh well... whatever blows your hair back

As to the email I received about the sale of, I sent a paste of the offer to TX Greg who wrote: Oh what a scam!!! Next they'll want your bank info. Gary, think about this, why the fuck would they write you thru the "privacypost" addy. Remember you added that when got the domain name. So they (or a bot) searched for the owner and reached you using the privacypost addy posted there. You would think if someone really wanted to reach you they would have used your addy on the home page :) I don't believe they ever really saw Cody's site or they wouldn't have asked that kind of a rude point blank question.

So there ya go. The world is full of naughty people trying to take advantage of naive old fossils like me. Anyway, it didn't work cos I wrote back and said the domain name is not for sale. Actually, I get a stream of emails asking me to link to other sites, usually weight-loss sites, saying that they were impressed with Aussie Odyssey, yadda, yadda. A load of old codswallop, so I delete them.

And there goes another Monday. I paid the doc's bill today for the recent surgery. $240, but I got $175 back from Medicare. Anyone who reckons Medicare is not a good idea has way too much money. Now all we need is Medicar. Every time I get Bluey serviced I can get a rebate from Medicar. Yeah, right. Like that's gonna happen. Gary

February 27, 2011. Lovely day, and headed for 32C, which is a tad warm. So I'm all ready to toddle off to Tinonee for the assemblage of artisans at the Tinonee Artisans Workshop/Collective thingy. They're probably all bearded and strange looking - and smoking funny cigarettes. Society dropouts - leftovers from the Flower Power days. Hehe.

I do admire people who are clever with their hands, though... glass blowing, pottery, wood work, iron work, instrument making. It's a wonderful thing. I think most people have great admiration for a true work of art made by hand. In fact, I think hands themselves are a true work of art. Just watch the hands of an experienced potter as they caress and smooth a lump of wet clay into something truly marvelous. It's magic!

Speaking of art, NC Art forwarded this message from a disgruntled shopper on eBay: I recently got ripped off on E-Bay.  Please pass this on to all your buddies who might trade on E-Bay so they can be aware and protect themselves.  They should really watch out for people who will take advantage of them. I spent $50 on E-Bay for a penis enlarger.  Bastards sent me a magnifying glass.

The pipes are calling.... Yes, they certainly are. Sue's taking a shower. She never turns the shower taps on sufficiently to stop the squeal from the pipes at low pressure. It's bloody annoying.

I watched a program last night about old subs - the Oberon class. A number of them had been anchored in Canada for years and left to rot until someone got the idea to save one of them and transport it (1000 tonnes) to a proposed maritime museum. Towing the thing across the Atlantic to its destination was quite a hazardous task, and then dragging it up a rocky beach to its final resting place was even more frustrating. But they eventually got it there. The interesting thing to me was that subs are built from the inside out. Once built, it's too late to get a grand piano in there. Or anything else larger than a human being. There's no way I could sail on a sub... way too claustrophobic for me.

Oberon subs were battery powered, and very quiet. They were also very strong and could dive to a depth of 200 meters. "When we were on a mission, nobody knew where we were or what we were doing."

Let's do a quick Beeb before I tiptoe out to Tinonee: The UN Security Council is meeting to consider action against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's government in Libya over its attempts to put down an uprising. A draft resolution calls for an arms embargo, travel ban and asset freeze. It also proposes referring Col Gaddafi to the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. But it took an uprising and the loss of innocent lives to make it happen. Why is that? Do you wait for a snake to bite you before you act? I suspect that opponents of the war in Iraq would answer that question with a yes. A third of city centre buildings in Christchurch could face demolition after the massive quake, New Zealand officials warn. Yes, I heard anything from a quarter to a third. That gives you an idea of the scale of this disaster. The Irish Republic's main opposition leader Enda Kenny says his party has won a "massive endorsement" to govern after parliamentary elections. I expect a similar result next month in NSW when our state election is due. The encumbent Labor party has made a total mess of things. The army in Egypt has passed a draft of constitutional amendments to be submitted to a national referendum. Under the proposed changes, the president would only be allowed to serve two four-year terms, instead of unlimited six-year periods. Deposed President Hosni Mubarak was serving his fifth six-year term when he was toppled by a mass uprising earlier this month. The amendments would also reinstate judicial oversight of elections. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces that now controls Egypt asked a panel of experts to suggest constitutional amendments that produce democratic reforms. It's encouraging to see that the army is doing the right thing by the people of Egypt. Hopefully they will be a role model for the rest of the Middle East. Oil prices retreat after reports suggest Saudi Arabia has increased production to offset shortages caused by unrest in Libya. Our dependence on oil certainly needs to be addressed, and the sooner the better.

A bloke who runs a company in southern California (so he says) wants to know how much I want for my domain name Well, it ain't for sale. That's a memorial to Cody. Goodbye campervan but them's the breaks. No, I could never do that.

Well, I tiptoed out to Tinonee only to discover that the artisan's thingy was on Friday and Saturday. And what's today? Sunday. Oh well. I managed to get a few pics anyway, including a couple of a koala in a tree. Koalas sleep 20 hours a day ya know, which is almost as long as Lindsay and Sue. Gum leaves don't have a lot of nourishment so the poor things spend most of their time wondering what day it is. So does Lindsay, actually. He put the bins out this morning before he realized it was Sunday and not Monday. Hehe.

Well, that'll do for today. Time to rustle up some vittles for the dingalings. Gary

February 26, 2011. Further to Art's question about Oz yesterday, I was answering Oregon Richie's email this morning and remembered the old '30s song, Is 'E An Aussie, Is 'E, Is 'E... So I checked Youchewb and sure enough, there it was.

The Duo, Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam was composed of a New Zealander and an Englishman who performed in Australia during the 20s and 30s. The NZer was a bass baritone with one of the deepest voices on record (no pun intended) and I read where he had shattered a couple of mechanical microphones by standing too close.

So here we are thinking how wonderful it is to be living in the digital age with all kinds of marvelous technology... compared to what? Compared to what went before? I wonder what people 50 years from now will think about the technology of 2011. Which reminds me. I watched The Collectors last night, one of my fav shows. People love to collect all kinds of things, and it's endlessly fascinating. The host was saying that the time to collect stuff from 2000 to 2009 is NOW! And he referred to the period as "The Noughties", which I thought was cute. He said there's a plethora of stuff available now that's not only collectable but cheap! He says it's vital to keep the original packaging as well as the receipts. So if you're in your 20s or 30s, get cracking.

I think I'm the type who loves to admire other people's collections rather than be a collector myself. However, I am grateful for having kept my old scrapbook together over many years of moving around all over the place. Luckily, the digital age came along and enabled me to digitize all the material and assemble it on AO so that it has some sort of permanency, and is available for perusal by others who for whatever reason may be interested in taking a peek. I wonder what Cody would have thought about my Scrapbook page. Hmmm.

Cody knew very little about me. Just the basics. Our relationship was all about him - his life, his interests, his friends. I was "there" but not really. I was like the person religious people call God. You don't ask God how he's feeling, or if he had a nice day, or what he did yesterday. Your relationship with God is all about YOU. Hehe. It's all about how YOU'RE feeling, and YOUR problems, and YOUR hopes and dreams. God can bloodywell take care of himself. And that's how it was with Cody and me. But that was fine with me. No problem at all. In fact, that was the whole point of the exercise.

Beeb time: United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has urged the global body's Security Council to take "decisive action" over the Libya crisis. He said violations of human rights had been carried out by Muammar Gaddafi's regime, and more than 1,000 had died. Speaking at a meeting of the Security Council in New York, Mr Ban warned of a growing refugee and food crisis. At a hastily organised news conference at the UN in New York, Libyan deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi described Col Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, as a "madman". He warned that thousands would die in Tripoli because the Libyan leader would never flee and would fight to the end. Gaddafi didn't suddenly become a "madman" ya know... he always was one. Brazil's two biggest companies, Petrobras and Vale, post record profits, in the latest sign of Brazil's growing economic might. Now all they have to do is get rid of the slums. The polls have closed in the Republic of Ireland's general election, with turnout believed to be close to 70%. There are 566 candidates contesting 165 seats in the Irish parliament and the first results are expected early on Saturday afternoon. 70% is high. I watched a program on telly the other night about lots of young Irish people abandoning the Emerald Isle to seek their fortunes overseas. Well, there's no shortage of Kellys and O'Shaunesseys and O'Learys in Oz, I can tell you that. The UN's nuclear watchdog says it has received new information on "possible military dimensions" to Iran's nuclear development programme. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the report raised "further concerns" about Iran's activities. "Concerns" is putting it mildly. Italian auto giant Fiat has announced it is to manufacture up to 300,000 vehicles a year in Russia, days after its deal with local manufacturer Sollers fell through. Fiat intends to produce saloons, SUVs and light commercial vehicles. One of those famous automotive Marques that has outlasted many of its competitors over a very long time. Some 6,000 Jordanians have taken to the streets of Amman, in the biggest pro-democracy rally in eight weeks of protest. Fearing a repeat of last Friday's violent clashes, more than 3,000 police were deployed in the city centre for this week's so-called day of anger. Inspired by Tunisia and Egypt, demonstrators want greater political say and economic change at home. Not surprising, yes? Rescue workers in New Zealand found no survivors during another day of searching in the quake-hit city of Christchurch, as the slow process of identifying the dead began. More than 220 people remain missing in the wake of Tuesday's earthquake. Rescuers believe multiple bodies lie beneath three collapsed structures. The death toll stands at 113 people, of whom six have been formally identified. As many as 120 people are thought to have been killed inside the collapsed CTV office block, including Japanese, Chinese and Philippine nationals. I was thinking about that place last night... a busy TV station with people working at computers, in edit suites, running around with papers, chatting on the phone, etc. And 2 minutes later, with no warning, they were dead, crushed by tons of rubble. It just seems so improbable.

I just searched the etymology of "codswallop". It appears that "cod" is a word meaning testicles, as in "codpiece", which is a brief worn to protect a male's wobbly bits in sport. From Wikipedia: A codpiece (from Middle English: cod, meaning "scrotum") is a covering flap or pouch that attaches to the front of the crotch of men's trousers and usually accentuates the genital area. It was held closed by string ties, buttons, or other methods. Wallop, on the other hand, is British slang for beer. Put the two together and you have codswallop, which basically means a load of rubbish... something that doesn't make sense. Codswallop and diddly squat are two of my favorite expressions. I just love the sound of them.

If you were posh in Oz, but you couldn't afford a Rolls Royce or a Bentley, you bought a Rover. My mother thought Rovers were lovely cars... not that we ever had one. She liked the leather and the woodwork and the gentlemanly way Rovers did their thing. Like this one.

I'm pretty sure my mother was thinking of something more along these lines.

But my father's first car was an Austin 7. Not very flash at all, I'm afraid. Then he drove a Chevy panel van. After that, a Commer. Ew! Mom thought it was okay because it had a Humber Hawk motor in it. But it was sprung so harshly, anyone not tied down was catapulted through the roof every time it hit a bump. Anyway the Commer didn't last long, so he got an Austin. Actually, that's a Morris but it's the same stable. Mom thought it was kinda cool because it had bucket seats instead of a bench. And finally a Holden. When he retired he bought a '49 Standard Vanguard for 50 quid at a repo yard. Mom didn't like that much either. So he bought a '53 Desoto also from a repo yard. Mom thought that was pretty posh because it had tinted windows. Then he bought a Ford Cortina. And finally, his last car (which I actually arranged for him), another Holden

I was supposed to toddle out to Tinonee (Tin-own-ee) today to check out the artisans doing their thing but time got away. So I'll do that tomorrow. Gary

February 25, 2011. Thanks to TX Greg for doing the $600 @ 3% compound interest over 10 years. It's about $800. I was wondering what the rental bond on this house is worth after 10 years. It'll probably cost that to repair the damage Sue's Daily Demolition Derby with her walker causes.

NC Art has some interesting things to say: Browsing your blog today and noted your continuing quest for a travel camper. Look for a used hearse, maybe. The things are soft-riding, roomy and durable. Not easy on petrol use, I first saw them on a long trek across Canada and on to Alaska. Four guys, me included, bought an A-Model Ford vintage 1929 and drove the thing from Athens, GA, to Anchorage, AK in 1949. We were last year at University and burned out by too much study. A helluva trip, but quite an experience.

Yes, of course! A hearse! It could come in mighty handy at the end of my trip. Art is 85, by the way, in case you're trying to figure out how he managed to make that trip back in 1949. I was 5 then. Now *that* would have been one helluva trip, especially all those years ago. Pity they didn't have digital cameras back then.

Art wants to know what Oz means: Please tell me what is meant by "Oz." Google search cites a publication, either a newspaper or magazine, but you use the term as a name of a place apparently. Is it a colloquialism? Yes, it's a colloquialism. An Australian refers to himself as an Aussie, and other Australians as Aussies. But Aussie is pronounced Ozzie and doesn't rhyme with posse as some Americans believe. Oz is a shortened version of Aussie and has come to mean the country itself. 

On the subject of comedy, Art says: South Park is mildly amusing once  a year or so. However, for a great and sophisticated send up on current follies of our dear leaders, look for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central TV channel. Or do you say telly, like the Poms? The show is 30 minutes and followed by Stephen Colbert for 30 minutes. Both are satirical and hysterical at times. Note: Among the old time comics you cited, the Marx Brothers was omitted.

Yes, who could forget the Marx Brothers. Or the Three Stooges. As to pay TV, I don't have it. I'm a Scrooge who watches Free to Air, and not very much of it in any case. L&S have pay TV but their whole lives revolve around watching the boob tube (when they're not sleeping).

Art goes on to comment on digital cameras: Don't even try to read the user's manual on that camera; they are written by engineers in no recognizable language. My son just bought a digital number with a manual running to 60 pages. He just points and shoots. How sensible. But you can (and I do) use Focus Lock which locks the apperture and shutter speed by pressing the shutter button half way. It means you can take a reading of part of the scene rather than the whole scene, and lock it before you rearrange the composition. It's handy in situations of high contrast or if you want to highlight something in particular where an overall reading doesn't work too well. BTW, my Fuji manual runs to 120 pages.

Art also said something interesting about Daniel: Still am working my way through Daniel's Diary, more methodically now because I read in bits and snatches originally. Your imaginary character is as depraved as he is lovable. Good job! Yes, that was the whole point of creating Daniel. I wanted to see if an incorrigible scallywag could also be "lovable". And it worked! I wanted to show Cody that he had no reason to apologize for who he was. Mark summed that up one day when he said to Cody, "Under what rock did I find you?" Hehe. But he loved him anyway. In fact, as he confessed later to Steve, he loved his spiky-haired mate more than anyone.

Beeb time: Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi has told state TV that Osama Bin Laden and his followers are to blame for the protests racking his country. In a phone call addressed to residents of the town of al-Zawiya, Col Gaddafi said young people were being duped with drugs and alcohol to take part in "destruction and sabotage". Col Gaddafi said the protesters had no genuine demands and were being dictated to by the al-Qaeda leader. Jeez, talk about grabbing at straws. The US shuttle Discovery blasts off from the Kennedy Space Center on a historic final mission before retirement. Sounds a bit like Aussie Odyssey. US authorities in Texas say a Saudi student sought to make a bomb and drew up a list of targets including former President George W Bush's house. Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari was arrested on Wednesday and charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction. The US said he had sought to purchase chemicals and other kit needed to construct a bomb to wage "Jihad". Mr Aldawsari, 20, is due to appear in federal court on Friday. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison. Idiot. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, a judge has ruled. At Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south London, District Judge Howard Riddle said the extradition would not breach Mr Assange's human rights. Mr Assange said the ruling, which he will challenge, was due to a "European Arrest Warrant system run amok". The 39-year-old denies three allegations of sexual assault and one of rape last August in Stockholm. He believes the claims are politically motivated because of Wikileaks' publication of sensitive material - including leaked US diplomatic cables - from governments and high-profile organisations that has made headlines worldwide. It seems it's gonna be a while yet before the fat lady gets her chance to sing. Stay tooned. Officials in New Zealand have released the first four names of the 113 confirmed victims of Tuesday's earthquake in the city of Christchurch. They include two adults and two infants - aged five and nine months. Rescue workers are still combing through rubble but no survivors have been found since Wednesday afternoon. Police say 228 people are missing, including 122 believed to have been in one smashed building where it is thought no-one survived. I watched a live report on ABC TV last night and the correspondent in Christchurch, a young man, was desperately trying to control his emotions. He was within an inch of bursting into tears. The anchor person back in Sydney was very sensitive to the situation and kept crossing back to herself to give the young bloke time to recover his composure between crosses but you could see he was struggling to cope. It was very moving and spoke volumes about the depth of the human tragedy there. The city of Shanghai - which already follows China's one-child policy - has announced a new rule for households. From May a one-dog policy will be introduced, and more than 600,000 unlicensed dogs will be declared illegal. Jeez, only one dog for the whole city! US carmaker General Motors has posted a $510m (£317m) profit for the fourth quarter, and of $4.7bn for all of 2010. The latter figure covers its first full year after bankruptcy, and represents its first full-year profit since 2004 and largest profit since 1999. Good to see the US economy getting back on track. Toyota is recalling 2.17m vehicles in the US over reports that accelerator pedals could become stuck in floor mats and carpets. The company has now recalled more than 14m vehicles globally since 2009 over safety concerns. Attention to detail, chaps, attention to detail! Keep your eyes on the detail! A restaurant in London's Covent Garden is serving a new range of ice cream, made with breast milk. The dessert, called Baby Gaga, is churned with donations from 15 women who responded to an advertisement on an online mothers' forum. One of the women, Victoria Hiley, 35, said if adults realised how tasty breast milk was more new mothers would be encouraged to breastfeed. Each serving of Baby Gaga at Icecreamists costs £14. Um... yes... well... er... lemme think about that.

I supposed it's what ever you get used to... cow's milk, ewe's milk, goat's milk... we take it for granted. But milk from a human breast? That might take an extra bit of getting used to.

I was talking to Lindsay in the living room as he shuffled through the TV channels and stopped for a few seconds at a scene of a couple of guys playing pool. It reminded me of a time a few years ago at a local pub where I was playing pool with a couple of young blokes. We were divided into teams, two apiece. It was my turn to have a shot and I'm hopeless at judging angle shots off the cushion. Anyway, my opposite number went to the loo and my team mate, a young cheeky bloke wearing a baseball cap, put his finger on the cushion opposite where I was standing. So I lined up the shot and whammo! My ball bounced off the cushion, struck the ball I was aiming at and sent it into the pocket. Bloody amazing! How some people manage to calculate those angle shots just by looking at them I'll never know.

I enjoy a game of pool even though I'm hopeless at it.

Back from shopping, and scored a couple of good specials. I also paid Averil's rent at the estate agent's office. There were a couple of young Irish lads at the counter. One had two drinking straws in his mouth. No, this is not an Irish joke... it actually happened. So I asked the bloke if there was a lolly on the end of the straw, and he pulled them out to reveal nothing. "No," he said in that wonderful Irish accent, "I just like suckin' on 'em." Hehe.

After they left, the receptionist and I got to chatting and she said, "You've got a radio announcer's voice." "That could be because I worked as a radio announcer." And then I went on to tell her I used to work at the local ABC. But I haven't worked in radio for decades, so I'm surprised it's still there. Not the ABC, my dulcet tones, you twit.

Right, meatloaf tonight. I just turned a wholemeal bun into fresh breadcrumbs. A bit fiddly, and it takes a bit of persistence with just a knife, but I got there. Then I added an egg, finely chopped onion and celery, a sprinkle of ground pepper, a dash of mixed herbs, a dash of garlic, a slurp of barbecue sauce, some parsley, and 650gs of heart-smart ground beef. I hand mixed it all in a bowl and now it's "marinating" in the fridge. I'll bake it later with spuds and pumpkin, and serve it with gravy. Sound cool? Pretty hard to beat the ol' meatloaf ya know.

The roast spuds are easy. Peel and quarter lengthwise, place in baking dish round side down with meatloaf (and chunks of pumpkin), spray with cooking oil, sprinkle with mixed herbs. That's it. Bake the whole shebang for about an hour and a quarter. And that's what I call yummy din dins. In fact, if I ever open a restaurant, that's what I'll call it... Yummy Din Dins. Of course, all the macho guys conscious of their image would call it YDD's but the girls wouldn't. And all the TV ads would end with "Yummy!" I could make a fortune. BUT... I can't be bothered. Gary

February 24, 2011. Now here's a bloke who can spin a great yarn... Ronnie Corbett with his Parrot Joke.

And here he is again with his Handyman Joke.

I think the secret to Ronnie Corbett's talent is not in the joke itself, but in its telling. He has a wonderful knack of keeping you interested and amused while he waffles on about all sorts of irrelevant jibberish.

Now, IF I were currently on the Odyssey, and camped at Pacific Palms (about an hour's drive south of here), I could wander over to the beach and take pics of the 13th Annual Pacific Palms Surf Club Battle of the Boats. There'll be surf boat crews from NSW, Victoria and Queensland... about 180 crews in all. So the 2-day event promises a lot of exciting and colorful activity and wonderful photographic opportunities. BUT, I won't be there. Commuting back and forth and having to be here to cook the evening meal is all too hard, so that kinda opportunity will have to wait until I'm on the road. Dammit.

The thing is, I don't like to be too far away from where I belong... my bed, my chair, my kitchen, my "things"... the place I call home. I'm very much like Peanuts' Linus and his security blanket in that respect. And I don't like commuting. An hour there and an hour back, that's 2 hours wasted. I could have used that time to much better advantage.

Now that might seem a bit of contradiction to my intention to travel Oz. But I don't intend to spend all that much time "on the road" traveling. Certainly no more than an hour or two at a time. Then it'll be stop and camp time, and a bit of a stroll around the hood for a day or two or five. I won't be in a hurry to get from one place to another, and I intend to sniff out all the little places in between. At that rate, I'll be 103 by the time I'm done. "Scuse me, mate, what country is this?" "Bloody Australia, mate." "Oh... are you sure?"

Beeb time: US president condemns the violent crackdown by Libyan authorities on peaceful protesters as "outrageous and unacceptable". And what was he saying a couple of months ago before it all happened? Hundreds of people remain missing in Christchurch as New Zealand authorities continue search and rescue efforts after Tuesday's deadly earthquake. They say it's a once in a 5000 year event... a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. A former Serbian police officer is jailed for 27 years for his role in the 1999 murder of more than 700 ethnic Albanians in Kosovo. Most of us couldn't live with the death of one person on our conscience, let alone 700. It's unspeakable. The US government says it will no longer defend in the courts a law banning federal recognition of same-sex marriages approved by states. US Attorney General Eric Holder said President Barack Obama had found the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma) unconstitutional. The 1996 law defines marriage as "only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife". Okay, so a heterosexual couple marries and then one of the pair decides to have an operation to change their sex to the same as their partner's. Does the marriage remain legal under the law? Just wondering. A woman in Brazil was shocked to find an alligator hiding behind her sofa after heavy rains flooded her house in the central town of Parauapebas, in Para state. She said she was alerted to the animal's presence by her son, who was patting the alligator's head. The woman snatched the child away and called the fire brigade, who trapped the 1.5m-long (5ft) reptile. The firefighters said the family was lucky the animal was not hungry. Indeed! Sofas are expensive. Veteran broadcaster Larry King, who left his CNN talk show in December after 25 years, is to tour the US with a one-man comedy show. The 77-year-old will give fans "a hilarious and insightful look" at his life both behind and in front of the cameras, producers said. Audiences will also be able to ask King questions during the tour, which starts on 14 April in Connecticut. I don't really know the guy but I imagine the show will be a success. The Zimbabwe authorities have detained 46 people for attending a lecture on the unrest in North Africa and the Middle East. The group has been charged with seeking to overthrow President Robert Mugabe by emulating the protests which toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Ah ha, the message is spreading. Bombs are not the only means of removing dictators. It's quite simple, really. A dictator's power lies in his ability to control the masses. If the masses refuse to be controlled, then the dictator has no power. 

I took another peek at campervans. Those on eBay are generally more expensive than those for sale on Gumtree Classifieds by backpackers who need to return to their country of origin... which makes sense. Desperate people do desperate things. In fact, I've heard of campers being abandoned at airport parking lots by people who just don't have time to sell them before they leave. The thing is, most of them are for sale in Sydney, and I think it would be wise to inspect any vehicle in person before making a decision to buy. When the time comes, I think I might have to ask my old neighbors in Glebe if they can accommodate me for a weekend while I do a little camper shopping. Many of the campers are in the city area, which is just a bus ride away. If I'm lucky - and careful - I might get myself a bargain. Naturally, I'll catch the train to Sydney and leave Bluey here.

The last time I rode the XPT was in 2002 when I returned to Taree from Sydney after my heart attack operation. Which reminds me, I should post that story with pics on AO. I still have the story which was posted on my old web site. I remember being desperate for a drink on the train. When the bar finally opened at lunch time, all I could get was a thimble of wine. Hardly a mouthful. That was the longest 5 hours of my entire life.

Anyway, that's a while away yet, and anything could happen in the meantime. 

Kitchen time again. Anyone out there who knows math? Wot's $600 over 10 years @ 3% compound interest? Gary

February 23, 2011. Goodbye stitches! The doc checked the wound and pronounced it "fine". It's still a bit tender but I'm glad the stitches are out. They kept getting tangled in the cotton of my shirt. And yes, the lesion was cancerous (according to the biopsy). It was quite large - about a centimeter in diameter, which meant an incision about 3 or 4 times longer. So that's it until the next one. And to quote the doc, "We got it all".

Speaking of cancer, here's a short film about the filmmaker's father, an old man with terminal cancer. The filmmaker decided to tell his father how much he loved him before it was too late. It was selected as runner up at TROPFEST 2011 (the world's biggest short film festival). Jeremy my ex-neighbor in Glebe is related to the filmmaker and sent this link.

Well, here we are with just a few days to go before this February is history, and I'm feeling guilty about not having ventured forth to do a bit of happy snapping. Hmmm. Lemme check the schedule of events at the local council's web site. Okay... here's something interesting this weekend, an Artisans Expo with various skilled artisans working with wood, clay, glass, iron and other materials. There's also a Luthier who repairs and makes stringed musical instruments. That's something different, and would probably provide opportunities for interesting images. It's out at Tinonee which is not far from here... in the bush. 10am to 4pm. Whaddaya reckon? Anyway, I gotta get off my saggy butt before the month ends.

The last thing I want when I'm photographing indoors is for the flash to fire. I want to capture the natural ambience of existing lighting, like a candle or an artisan working by the light of a single lamp. Soooo, I read the Fuji Finepix manual. Gimme a break, I've only had the camera 2 years. It took me ages to finally find the relevant paragraph. I read everything else. And that's why I hate manuals. Anyway, if the flash pops up, push it down again. That's it. By pushing it down again, it turns off the flash. Too easy. But not too easy to find. Grrrrr.

While I was furiously pushing buttons, I tried a few different settings. My fav is AUTO but there are others labeled S, P, A, M and whatever else. And when you select one, little numbers appear on the screen. Hello? Don't ask me to read the manual again cos I probably won't live long enough to finish it. So one of these days, when I'm camped somewhere, there'll be a camera buff who knows about all that stuff camped nearby and I'll do the ol' "G'day mate" trick and ask him if he knows what all that stuff is about... and to explain it to me.

Actually, I did know about F stops and apertures and depth of field and manual focus and all that stuff years ago when I used semi-auto SLRs and 35mm range-finder film cameras but I've forgotten most of it. I need a refresher course. I even had a separate light meter in those days.

Here's a cute idea posted on Justin's blog. You'll be met with a black screen. Click your mouse anywhere and see what happens. Or hold down the left mouse button and drag the mouse all over the black screen. Spring is in the air! Over there, that is. Over here it's coming into autumn.

Beeb time: Libya's Col Muammar Gaddafi condemns anti-government protests and refuses to cede power, in his first major speech since unrest began. 40 year old habits die hard, yes? New Zealand Prime Minister John Key declares a national state of emergency as the death toll from Tuesday's earthquake in Christchurch rises to 75. Our PM recently referred to our mates across the Tasman as "family", which I think is an apt description. You can't get much closer than ANZAC. Oz has responded to the earthquake with "anything you need you'll get". Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel is elected mayor of Chicago in the most competitive city hall election in more than two decades. Yes, I remember him. An Iraqi immigrant to the US is convicted in Arizona of the second degree murder of his daughter, in what prosecutors said was an honour killing. Ah yes, the old honor killing trick. Sheesh. So has he restored his family's honor? NOPE. What a twisted twit. Four Americans hijacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Oman have been killed by their captors, US defence officials say. The US military said its forces trailing the vessel had responded to gunfire heard aboard but found all the captives shot when they arrived. US Navy Seal special forces sailors boarded the ship without firing a shot, then killed two pirates while they were taking control of the ship. But the BBC's Will Ross in Nairobi says the pirates' telling of the encounter differs from the US Navy's. The pirates report the US warship attacked first, killing two pirates, and the hostages were killed in retaliation. Either way, the pirates were trespassing and had no right to be there. They're scum of the highest order and should be dealt with accordingly. Two Iranian warships have sailed through the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea, canal officials say. Iranian officials have said the warships are heading to Syria for training, a mission Israel has described as a "provocation". I'm sure it is. Union unrest is spreading through the mid-western US, as labour activists in at least three states protest against pending anti-union legislation. Thousands of protesters gathered in Ohio and Indiana and, for the second week in a row, Wisconsin. Republican-led governments there have argued the moves are needed to balance state budgets wracked by deficits. But Democratic-leaning unions say fiscal woes are being used as an excuse to erode collective bargaining rights. I've never been a union man, but I've always believed that power should be shared equally and fairly. Scientists have named a new dinosaur species "thunder-thighs" because of the huge thigh muscles it would have had. Fossil remains recovered from a quarry in Utah, US, are fragmentary but enough to tell researchers the creature must have possessed extremely powerful legs. The new species, described in the journal Acta Palaeontologica Polonica, is a sauropod - the family of dinosaurs famous for their long necks and tails. Check out the video here. An unpublished and previously unknown Enid Blyton novel is believed to have turned up in an archive of the late children's author's work. Mr Tumpy's Caravan is a 180-page fantasy story about a magical caravan. Blyton, who died in 1968, remains a children's favourite and a publishing phenomenon thanks to such characters as the Famous Five, the Secret Seven and Noddy. An estimated 500 million copies of her books have been sold around the world, with updated and reprinted versions of her most popular stories still selling eight million copies a year. Oh dear... where did I go wrong? Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro says the US has no interest in seeing peace in Libya but is solely concerned with the country's oil reserves. Mr Castro, in a column published in state media, said it was too early to evaluate what was happening in Libya. But, he said, it was clear the US would not hesitate to order Nato to invade. "What is for me absolutely evident is that the government of the United States is not worried at all about peace in Libya," he writes. Instead, Washington will not hesitate to order a Nato invasion of the oil-rich North African country, in "a matter of hours or a few days". I'd be too ashamed to show my face in public if I were him. He's a fool. Peru says it has suspended diplomatic relations with Libya over the use of force against civilians there. It is the first country to take such a step since the anti-government protests erupted in Libya last week. Up You says Peru. "History is sweeping" through the Middle East and North Africa, UK Prime Minister David Cameron has said. In a speech to the Kuwaiti Parliament, he praised the "brave and peaceful" protests by people "hungry for political and economic freedom". It's nice to know that Cameron has been reading the papers. 

Yes, ladies and genitals, it's THAT time of day again... time to think about kitchen duties. So we're having butterflied prawns, turned into cutlets and crumbed, with home-made cheeps. And a squeeze of lemon. Lindsay came into the kitchen and I said, "Yes, a stitch in time is worth two in the bush", and he said, "Yep." And then I said, "And a rolling stone is a joy forever". And he said, "Yep" as he left the room.

I deserve a medal ya know. Gary

February 22, 2011. Why do I choose the BBC to do the news thing? I could choose the ABC in Oz (which is what I rely on locally), or any number of American news outlets. I think it's because the BBC has been around for ages and has a rep for being accurate and impartial. The Poms are terribly proper, you know. I don't like the press as a rule because it tends to be opinionated and 'colors' its reporting. I gave up reading newspapers 20 years ago when I read an article in the Sydney Daily Telegraph that was so preposterous I tossed the paper in the bin and never bought another copy of any newspaper again. Lindsay does, and I use them for wrapping household garbage.

FL Josh wrote: I don't know if you get the animated TV show South Park there in Oz, but since you like to cook, I thought you'd like this episode about cooking. South Park, season 14, episode 14 - Creme-Fraiche.

Yes, South Park is shown in Oz but at the mo there seems to be a contractual problem and "we are working hard to bring you (Oz) full episodes as soon as possible." Meanwhile, I miss out on the joke. I'm not a fan of South Park but it does have a strong cult following here. In fact, I'm not a fan of most (if not all) animated sit coms. I have no idea why people watch The Simpsons, for example. Even non-animated sit coms bore me... too many puerile plots and smart-ass one-liners for my liking. It's like every line has to be hilarious (at least according to the canned laughter). Comedians like Charlie Chaplain, Bud Abbot and Lou Costello, and Laurel and Hardy didn't need canned laughter. Go figure. Actually, there was one famous American (British born) comedian who NEVER made me laugh. Bob Hope.

I'm not sure I have a favorite comedian. Jack Benny was pretty cool, and I like his classic sketch with Mel Blanc. My earliest recollection of a comedian was when a workmate lent me an LP of Shelley Berman. I was about 16 at the time. The workmate was Jim McGuiness, a dwarf, who nicknamed me Gary Patrick Thomas Francis O'Dooley Kelly - which I've never forgotten. 

Here's a couple of Berman's routines on vinyl.

The Two Ronnies were classic as well - Ronnie Corbett and Ronnie Barker. Here they are with Fork Handles.

Yes, I could go on... but I'd be here all day if I did. Okay... one more... Ronnie Barker and his Mispronunciation sketch.

Beeb time: Libya's leader, Muammar Gaddafi, makes a brief appearance on state TV in the capital, Tripoli, dismissing "malicious rumours" that he has fled the country. Churchill said, "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." But he also said, "It has been said democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." Multiple fatalities have been reported after a powerful 6.3-magnitude earthquake struck Christchurch on New Zealand's South Island, police say. The powerful tremor, which struck at 1251 on Tuesday (2351 GMT on Monday) only 10km (6.2 miles) south-east of the city, caused widespread destruction. Christchurch's mayor said there were "scenes of great confusion" as people gathered in the streets for safety. TV pictures of the aftermath of Tuesday's earthquake showed several collapsed buildings in the centre of Christchurch. People could be seen wandering the rubble-filled streets in distress. Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker said he was on the top floor of the city council building when the quake hit, throwing him across the room. "I got down onto the street and there were scenes of great confusion, a lot of very upset people. I know of people in our building who are injured and I've had some reports of serious injuries throughout the city." They ain't called the "shakey isles" for nuthin'. Obviously building codes will need to be upgraded, like now. At least 30 people have been killed in a stampede at a stadium in the Malian capital of Bamako, officials say. Seventy others were injured in the incident, which occurred at the end of a sermon given by imam Osman Madani Haidara. The crowd reportedly wanted to be blessed by the imam after the speech, made on the festival of Maouloud, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday. No comment. In an old townhouse in East Boston an elderly stooped man is tending rare orchids in his shabby office. His Labrador Sally lies on the floor between stacks of academic papers watching him as he shuffles past. This is Dr Gene Sharp the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government. A most interesting article which you can read here. Hacker group Anonymous appears to have singled-out its next target - the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church in the US. And I suppose the Westboro church will use the hacking to its advantage by calling it the work of the devil. Susan Boyle scored the most successful album overseas by a UK artist for a second year running, research by Music Week magazine suggests. The Gift sold 3.7 million copies abroad compared with the six million shifted by her debut I Dreamed A Dream. If you want to be reminded of how it all started, click here. Eagle-eyed motorists were in for a surprise when pranksters tampered with a petrol station price sign. The 24-hour Tesco garage in Fleetsbridge, Poole, Dorset, was targeted on Sunday morning. The unleaded petrol price was changed to 25.9 pence per litre and the letters LOL - which normally stand for Laugh Out Loud - were written below it. The normal price of unleaded petrol at the station is 125.9 pence per litre. Tesco said it had corrected the sign. A spokesman said: "Staff corrected the sign as soon as they were alerted to the prank." Hehe.

Wow, that's about 2 Aussie dollars a liter! Petrol in Oz is about $1.30 to $1.40 a liter. So the Brit price for petrol is almost 9USD a gallon. Here it's about $6. A little while ago Justin (MA) said his little Honda FIT gets 40mpg, but he's only paying about $3 a gallon. When I was his age, it was 40 cents a gallon.

Back in 1962, my mate and I went to Queensland's Gold Coast for a holiday in my old Morris Oxford. After a few weeks we ran outta money, so we headed back. I switched off the ignition and coasted down hills wherever I could to save petrol. The old Morris finally ran dry at an intersection about a mile or two away from his house in Sydney. We pushed the car across the intersection into a service station and searched under the rubber floor mats and in the boot/trunk for coins, and found 11 pence. It was enough to buy a quarter of a gallon of petrol to get us home. My mate's sister lent me 4 bob (40 cents) to get another gallon so I could get home as well... and that lasted me the rest of the week. Jeez... bloody kids.

While we were camping around the Gold Coast (it was pretty much a seaside village in those days... no glitz or glam, no high-rise) we met a couple of girls. My girl and I went for a bush walk one day and found a spot where we laid on the grass and I did the boy thing. Silly me. I kissed her and her lipstick rolled into little balls of fat and stuck to my lips. No tongue... no no no. I wasn't too impressed with the kissing routine but I undid her bra anyway, and sucked her nipples, wondering where the hell all this would lead. Then I looked up and spotted a peeping Tom up the hill in the bushes. Thank god for that! He saved the day. So the girl put her bra back on and we returned to the car. Saved by the bell! 

Oh dear. Was I really THAT stupid? Kids are nutz in case you haven't figured it out yet. Gary

February 21, 2011. I watched America last night, part 3 of The Story of the US. It was about how cotton revolutionized the economy and introduced mechanization. It showed how the north became increasingly industrialized, and explained the events, including slavery, that led to the Civil War, which was responsible for more deaths than all other wars in which the US has been involved combined. It told of the rise of Abraham Lincoln, and the fall of Robert E Lee who commanded the Confederate Army. It told of Lincoln's use of the railway to transport troops and supplies to the front line, and of civilization's first "email", the telegraph. It's an amazing story, and one which certainly fascinates me. It's a docu-drama... part movie, part narration, in which the actors don't have speaking roles.

Oz didn't have slavery but it did have convict labor which was used extensively in the early days of European settlement to construct roads, bridges and various buildings. I suppose there wasn't all that much difference between slavery and convict labor, really, except that convicts could eventually earn their freedom. Some actually became quite famous. Francis Greenway was an architect who designed some of Sydney's most famous buildings. Mary Wade had 21 offspring, and 300 descendants at the time of her death. One of her eventual descendants is Kevin Rudd, current Foreign Minister and previous Prime Minister. John Kelly, who was sent to Tasmania for stealing two pigs, became the father of Australia's most notorious bushranger, Ned Kelly. 

Georgia Bobby left a note on Cody's tribute book: Cody I want to see the sunrise over the beach you surfed at. I wanna hike the mountain you loved. I want to breathe the air you once breathed. Soak it all in and cherish it always. I wish i could have known your friends. It causes both pain and joy knowing about you. Yet i have found out that i cannot help coming back here. I think it is possible to be retrospective and yet still be positive by moving forward. Take care my friend.

Beeb time: Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's son, Sayf al-Islam, has warned of civil war in the country. He said that the government would "fight to the last bullet" to stay in office. Hitler did that... and used it to blow his brains out. Thousands of Moroccans rally in the capital, Rabat, demanding political reform and an end to the current regime. It could get a bit confusing ya know. Is it a minority making a lot of noise, or a genuine majority that wants change? Uganda's Yoweri Museveni has been declared the winner of presidential elections, extending his 25 years in power. He took 68% of the vote in Friday's poll, the Electoral Commission announced, with his challenger Kizza Besigye on 26%. Mr Besigye alleges election fraud and has rejected the results. "It is now clear the will of the people cannot be expressed through the electoral process in this kind of corrupt and repressive political environment." Surprise, surprise. "If the Big Bang was the start of everything, what came before it?" That is one of the questions being posed by a new website being set up by the Vatican and Italy's scientific community. After centuries of mistrust between religion and science, the intention is to give the public a greater understanding of both sides. How interesting.You can read the full article here. Nearly 70,000 protesters have taken part in rival protests in the US state of Wisconsin over planned budget cuts. On the fifth day of such protests, opponents of the Republican state Governor, Scott Walker, outnumbered supporters of the bill. The bill introduced in the Wisconsin congress would cut sharply the wages and benefits of public sector workers, and curtail collective bargaining. Waffle's North Carolina correspondent Art reports: The governor of Wisconsin and his all out war against public service employees re labor unions and collective bargaining (is making the headlines). The teachers and school kids are picketing the gov's mansion. These Republican ideologues are getting too big for their boots.

Art berated me yesterday for omitting to include the Wisconsin debacle in Beeb time. He's 85 and he gets a bit uppity sometimes. Hehe.

Here's what Art has to say about sex: This seems highly offensive to Old Mother Nature--the wily old bitch. She tricked us all into spending a good part of our lives sniffing out the next sexy encounter. Besides starting wars, sex acts just make everyone look ridiculous. All that twisting, grunting, contorting is laughable--and dangerous for your vertebrae. Anyway she did a great job of making sure we overpopulate the environment with sperm to spare. Just think of how much seminal fluid is splattered all over everyone just to get one wiggler to find a welcoming egg. Yeppo, she did a number on us alrightie! And we LOVE it.

Well, I dunno about 'we'. The older I get the more ridiculous I think it is. Ya know, it's a bit like Ivan Pavlov's dog... give it sufficient reward and it'll do all kinds of silly tricks. Pavlov simply observed what Nature's been doing all along. And humans are no different. The old carrot in front of the donkey trick.

Ohio Jace has added a bit to the Wisconsin issue: The state (Ohio) is trying to pass a Union busting law for public employees so they can not have collective bargaining on their contracts. Wisconsin is trying the same thing and made the national news because so many teachers called off sick to attend the demonstrations schools had to be closed. IF the states get the laws passed every union in the country will become fair game for corporations big and small. Public employees are already prohibited from striking, they do of course. Cops get the blue flu, etc.

As to the US deficit, Jace has this to say: An ex-forum buddy sent a few numbers about the American deficit, not sure of his source, which he did not include. In 1981 the US debt was $1 Trillion partly left over from war spending in WW II, Korea, and Vietnam. Plus the construction of the thousands of miles of new Interstate highways that crisscross the country. Under Reagan (Republican) it tripled to $3 Trillion with no wars and most of the highway system completed. Under daddy Bush the debt went to $4.6 Trillion in only 4 years. During the Clinton (Democrat) years it went up another $1 Trillion in 8 years. Now get this; under baby Bush the debt went from $5.5 Trillion to $13.5 Trillion in 8 years that is $1 Trillion per year of his two terms. During the 20 years the Republicans were in charge the debt rose by $11.5 Trillion. Clinton added $125 Million per year to the debt, but the Republicans added $575 Million per year on average. How is that for a so called conservative party. Again I do not know his sources but he is a retired chemical engineer.

Otherwise, the Ohio gang has been glued to the TV screen watching the V8 Supercars, Formula 1, the Daytona 500 and Motocross... except for young Cody who went to town with his parents for the weekend to watch the Rodeo. Gary

February 20, 2011. Okay, now that I have my savings plan, it's patience time... and my name ain't Job. The sensible thing would be to save enough to buy a camper without needing to sell Bluey beforehand. I really don't wanna be without a car for longer than a few days. Oh dear... how I hate being patient, let alone sensible.

What I will enjoy is watching the numbers mount up in the savings account, fortnight by fortnight. But when it reaches an amount where it's "possible" to buy something not quite up to scratch, I'm gonna be tempted. I just know it, dammit. And I really need to exercise a bit of restraint and wait for the "right" camper to come along before I rush into anything. Grrrr.

Rush? What rush? I've been buggerizing around since 2007 with this thing. Bluey arrived in 2009 and proved to be a mistake. So it's about time I got my head together and stopped being so damned impulsive. Hehe. Yeah, right. If Cody were here right now he'd let me have both barrels. Steve probably would as well. And I don't even wanna think about what Mark would say.

Beeb time: Intense violence has been reported in Libya's second city, Benghazi, with troops said to have opened fire again on anti-government protesters. At least 15 people were killed and many more wounded, unconfirmed reports say. Witnesses described scenes of chaos as snipers opened fire. Some reports spoke of machine-guns and mortar bombs being fired. At least 84 people have died, rights groups say, but reports have been hard to verify amid tight controls. Reports emerging from Libya are sketchy and sporadic, after the government moved to control internet access, but the Associated Press news agency and al-Jazeera television both said troops had opened fire on people attending a funeral on Saturday, killing 15. The government move to control internet access speaks volumes about the internet's ability to influence change. Thousands of jubilant protesters in Bahrain are occupying Pearl Square in Manama after police pulled out, as the government opens preliminary talks with opponents. It's kinda like watching a game of 10 pin and seeing the pins drop. Algerian security forces have prevented anti-government protesters from staging a march through the capital. Several hundred members of an umbrella group for some opposition parties, human rights bodies and trade unions, gathered in central Algiers but were dispersed by police in riot gear. Inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, Algerian opposition parties and other groups have been staging rallies. I wonder what we'll be reading about the Middle East this time next year. And I wonder how this pro-democracy revolution will affect the Taliban in Afghanistan and Al-Qaeda. The US House of Representatives has approved deep cuts in federal spending, in a vote regarded as a victory for the new Republican majority in the house. The vote - largely along party lines - approved $61bn (£38bn) in reduced federal spending between now and the end of budget year on 30 September. After the overnight vote, the House of Representatives' Speaker, John Boehner, said it was part of Republican efforts "to liberate our economy from the shackles of out-of-control spending". Did I miss something? Didn't the republicans get the US into this mess in the first place? And wasn't the economy in surplus during the Clinton administration? 

A week or so ago, FL Josh had something to say about budget cuts, and the ability of "the masses" to vote for politicians who promise policies that are doomed to failure: A perfect example is the mid term elections we just had here in the states where the masses voted in many Republicans because of promises to reduce the deficit and give more tax cuts.  Hello!  Are tax cuts really a way of cutting the deficit?  Can you cut your credit card debt by telling your employer to keep half your salary?  Floridians elected a governor four years ago who promised to lower property taxes.  He did and the local communities were devastated by the loss in income and police and firemen had to be let go and libraries closed and school budgets were cut.  Some schools eliminated all sports programs.  The people went to the meetings of their local governments pleading with them not to cut the programs that effected them.  Well, elections rolled around again a few months ago and they elected a new governor who promised to lower property taxes again and he will take care of the deficit by cutting corporate income taxes.

And speaking of saving a buck, NC Art reckons the recession has gotten so bad that if the bank returns your check marked "insufficient funds" you call and ask if they mean you or them. He reckons it won't be long before truckloads of Americans will be caught sneaking into Mexico. And he says when Bill and Hillary travel together now they have to share the same room.

Meanwhile, I watched Big Bigger Biggest again last night. This time it was about wheels, beginning with the one Mr Ferris invented. It was basically a very large bicycle wheel that used wire spokes to hold it all together. But whereas bicycle wheels are driven by turning the hub, the large wheels are driven by turning the rim. All very interesting. The biggest at the mo is the wheel in Shanghai.

BTW, here's the transcript from Can We Help with Kate Burridge talking about metathesis - pronouncing words such as spaghetti and ask, and why the 'g' often goes missing from words that end in 'ing'.

Let's talk about squeaks. I can handle a squeak if I know where it's coming from. It's the ones you can't find that are sooo irritating

Well, time to think about din dins and feeding THEM. Gary

February 19, 2011. I regularly have visions of being camped somewhere on the Odyssey soaking up the awe-inspiring atmosphere. But is it all it's cracked up to be? I read this blog and laughed my head off.

Here's another blog, this time from a Dutch lady who recently traveled the south coast of NSW. It's quite an interesting read and mentions many of the places I visited in the past. She could learn a thing or two about paragraphs, though.

I'm afraid my trip won't involve hire-cars or expensive accommodation. Nope, it'll be the poor man's Odyssey. But that's okay. I'm sure I'll have my fair share of stories to tell. And I'm not worried about the views from the camper.

It's a hottie... 33C at the mo, and tomorrow will be 35C. The rest of the week will be mid 20s. I'm getting VERY itchy feet, dear Breth... I've spent hours looking at used campers and checking loan companies and all that baloney - like a kid with his nose pressed against a candy store window. And I've come up with ANOTHER idea. Hehe. How's this for logic? The money I already owe I don't have to borrow, right? It's already owed. So instead of using all my spare cash to pay off my debts, why don't I put it into my savings instead, and only pay the minimum off my debts? Okay, so it's costing me interest, but I'm accumulating CASH. When I have enough, I can use it to buy a camper. That way I don't have to borrow anything or ask some nerdy, tight-ass, bespectacled banker to lend it to me. THEN, I can go back to paying extra off my current debts to get rid of them. Does that make sense to you? It's just that as a pensioner I don't like my chances of borrowing anew. My current borrowings go back several years. I could end up paying off all my debts and then discover that I'm ineligible to borrow more. And that would suck.

I've already got 3 or 4K tied up in Bluey, so that's not a bad start. I reckon another 6 or 7K should get the ball rolling, and I reckon I can sock away close to a grand a month. Soooo, that's the new plan.

Beeb time: At least 46 people are now known to have died in clashes between anti-Gaddafi protesters and security forces in Libya since Wednesday. The true death toll may be higher, with 35 deaths reported by a single hospital in the second city, Benghazi, on Friday alone. State media have warned of retaliation against critics of Muammar Gaddafi, in power for more than four decades. Websites have been blocked and electricity shut off in some areas. The mainstay of the unrest is in regional towns and cities, where many people live in poverty. I saw Gaddafi interviewed on telly some months ago and that dude is one ugly son of a bitch. King Hamad of Bahrain asks his son, Crown Prince Salman, to start a national dialogue after bloody clashes in the capital Manama. I suspect we ain't seen nuthin' yet in terms of the entire Middle East. The US has vetoed an Arab resolution at the UN Security Council condemning Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories as an obstacle to peace. All 14 other members of the Security Council backed the resolution, which had been endorsed by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). It was the first veto exercised by the Obama administration which had promised better relations with the Muslim world. Washington was under pressure from Israel and Congress, which has a strong pro-Israel lobby, to use its veto. The Obama administration's decision risks angering Arab peoples at a time of mass street protests in the Middle East, the BBC's Barbara Plett reports from the UN. It's actually getting pretty scary. Four Americans sailing on a yacht off the coast of Oman have been taken hostage by Somali pirates, an international maritime watchdog says. Those pirates don't realize just how dumb they are. That's like kicking T-Rex in the shins. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned Taliban fighters in Afghanistan that they face a stark choice between war and peace, as US military pressure on them mounts. "They cannot defeat us. And they cannot escape this choice," Mrs Clinton said in a speech in New York. Pardon my cynicism but that sounds like saying once we've weeded the garden, all the weeds will be gone forever. It crops up in our speech dozens of times every day, although it apparently means little. So how did the word "OK" conquer the world, asks Allan Metcalf. And here's the story of OK

Yes, back to the savings plan. Cash talks all languages, and it means I can buy privately instead of from a dealer. Now why didn't I think of that before? I could be half way there already. Oh well... better late than never. HOWEVER, it may change my plan to buy a ute and slide-on separately. I might go for a single unit campervan. Dozen madder. Just so long as I get this tired old butt outta here and on the road!

Chicken cordon bleu tonight. It's in the oven now. Yum! Gary

February 18, 2011. Jeez, midday already and I've only just started this page. There's some bloody crooks out there ya know. I got a reminder recently that my domain name aussieodyssey is due for renewal, but it's from a crook. I phoned my ISP to check it and they said it was a phoney, and to ignore it. My ISP takes care of re-registration and then bills me automatically...and that's the way I prefer it. Actually, I need to upgrade my disk space usage. I've used 850MB out of 1GB so far so I need to go to the next level. I haven't uploaded a lot lately but that will change dramatically when I hit the road. My shutter button will suddenly get VERY busy. I won't be able to step out of the camper without snapping away furiously at whatever happens to be there. AO is currently averaging 3.5K visits a month but I expect that to change significantly once I'm up and running.

Beeb time: Washington has urged Bahrain to show restraint in dealing with protesters and called for meaningful reform in the small Gulf state kingdom. Security forces cleared hundreds of demonstrators from a square in the capital Manama on Thursday, leaving four people dead and hundreds injured. Washington is watching with growing concern as unrest and violence spread across the Middle East, threatening its regional interests, BBC state department correspondent Kim Ghattas reports from Washington. While Bahrain iwiths tiny, with a population of less than one million, it is home to the US navy's Fifth Fleet and is near another key US ally in the region, Saudi Arabia. This is one Middle Eastern plot that is certainly thickening, and no one really knows where it's headed. Japan has stopped its annual Antarctic whale hunt before the end of the season, saying "harassment" by US activists had made it impossible to continue. The hunt had been halted temporarily last week, after the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society chased the Japanese fleet's mother ship. Now the fisheries minister says the fleet will return home. Anti-whaling nations, led by Australia and New Zealand, and environmental groups say the hunts are cruel and unnecessary. Australia is taking legal action in the International Court of Justice against Tokyo over whaling. Go back a hundred years or so and Oz was one of the world's most prominent whaling nations. IBM's supercomputer Watson has trounced its two competitors in a televised show pitting human brains against computer bytes. After a three night marathon on the quiz show Jeopardy, Watson emerged victorious to win a $1million (£622,000) prize. The computer's competitors were two of the most successful players ever to have taken part in Jeopardy. But in the end their skill at the game was no match for Watson. On the other hand, Watson can't make tomato sandwiches. Check out the video here

Obviously there's a lot more news than that, but it's all a bit ho hum. Obama will pay a state visit to the UK in May. Catholic bishops in Brazil have complained that TV reality shows are immoral. And scientists have created an anti-laser.

Last night on telly I watched a program about Australia's new radio telescope, the SKA, with 10,000 times greater discovery potential than present-day instruments. Welcome to the Big Bang, ladies and genitals. Gary

February 17, 2011. Pay day, bills day, shopping day. The old revolving door trick. My priority at the mo is to get rid of my debts... pay off the credit card and other loans which - provided nothing catastrophic gets in the way, and I manage to put up with L&S for another 10 months - will mean I can get the Odyssey happening. What I'll be doing, basically, is using the money I currently pay in rent to pay off a mobile home.... swap one for the other. Make sense? The money I currently spend on energy will be used to buy a solar panel and batteries. And in a few years, I'll own the bloody lot.

Beeb time: Security forces in Bahrain have dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters in Pearl Square in the centre of capital, Manama. Hundreds of riot police using tear gas and batons moved into the square before dawn on Thursday. The US has expressed concern at the violence and called for restraint. Bahrain is a key US ally, hosting the US Navy's Fifth Fleet. Oops! Anti-government activists in Libya have been using social networking sites to rally support for protests on what they are describing as a "day of anger". Pro-democracy protests have recently swept through several Arab nations, with the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt forced to resign amid growing unrest. But this week's demonstrations were the first display of defiance in Libya, where dissent is rarely tolerated. Over 2000 years ago in ancient Athens, democracy was born. It's taken quite a while to catch on

Sorry about the short waffle today, dear Breth, but that's the way it is sometimes. No dramas, just ran outta time. Gary

February 16, 2011. Okies, in about half an hour I'll be on the operating table. It's so much easier to go to the doc's surgery rather than the base hospital. The hospital asks you a zillion questions and makes you fast for 12 hours and yadda, yadda. And then they make you wear a silly gown, and plastic shoes, and wheel you backwards along corridors into an operating theater with a big light hanging over you and about half a dozen people gathered around. At the doc's I don't get any of that baloney. I'm in and out in less than half an hour. The thing that pisses me off about this skin cancer is that it decided to pop up AFTER the previous two were removed about a month ago.

ZYX commented on what I said yesterday about still working on my first million. Still working on your FIRST million? I'm working on my
SECOND million.  (Gave up on my first million decades ago).

And here I am back again, minus the lesion. The doc had a medical student with him, a Muslim girl who was born in Iraq. She was very nice and pleasant as the doc allowed her to give me a couple of injections and even 2 of the 5 stitches. During one injection, she kept pressure on the plunger after removing the needle and squirted me in the eye! Oh well, no harm done. She thanked me afterwards and announced that I was "her first" (guinea pig). Hehe. She said she wants to go back to Iraq when she's a qualified doctor to "see what I can do to help". Earlier, I was lying on the operating table in readiness for the procedure when the doc first walked in and asked the nurse, "Is this the victim?" He's a cheeky bugger.

Anyway, I'm glad that's over... over until the next one, that is.

Here's an interesting use of creative imagination on Red Bubble.

Beeb time: A US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent has been shot dead and a second wounded in Mexico. Officials say the pair, described as "special agents" shot "in the line of duty", were driving between Mexico City and northern city of Monterrey. The investigative arm of Congress, the General Accounting Office (GAO), said the area lacked enough border agents to stop illicit activity such as gun running and illegal immigration. There are some baaaad dudes in this world. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad says recent opposition protests in Iranian cities are "going nowhere" and vows to punish their organisers. To quote Oregon Richie: Sooner or later the worst of 'em will react in predictably nasty manner and I can still recall... even though I was a kid... the late 60's when the evil Soviet tanks rolled into Czech cities, but I suppose a wave of pissed off humanity can overcome a wave of tanks..... A senior CBS correspondent is recovering in hospital in the US after she was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob while covering the Egyptian protests, the US network says. It says the attack occurred on Friday in Cairo's packed Tahrir Square after President Hosni Mubarak stepped down. Ms Logan became separated from her crew and was rescued by women and soldiers. Yes, 'mob' is the right word to describe those nut cases. I've seen them screaming into the news cameras. Anyone who yells at me has NO CHANCE of convincing me of anything other than their complete lack of intelligence. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has warned repressive governments not to restrict internet freedom, saying such efforts will ultimately fail. She said the US was committed to global internet freedom, in her first major address since the Egyptian uprising. She's not too thrilled about Julian Assange though. Hehe. Toronto police say they have seized marijuana with a street value of 1m Canadian dollars ($1m; £618,811) from a takeaway pizza restaurant. Pizza Gigi's owner, 57-year-old Salvatore Crimi, sold the drug from the restaurant, police alleged. I've heard of hash cookies but not pizzas. Once round-ups on Ben Tapp's vast cattle station in northern Australia took a month. Now he can bring in 2,000 cows in five days, using low-flying helicopters. Ben Tapp flies a helicopter like a cowboy rides a bunking bronco. The cattleman owns two vast stations - the Australian term for ranch - deep in the Northern Territory. Maryfield Station alone covers 1,500 square km (370,000 acres) and holds some 20,000 cattle. Check out the amazing footage of those crazy chopper pilots. Islamic morality police in Malaysia have arrested more than 80 Muslims in an operation to stop them celebrating Valentine's Day. Officers raided budget hotels in the central state of Selangor and capital, Kuala Lumpur, detaining unmarried Muslim couples who were sharing rooms. The religious authorities in Malaysia say Valentine's Day is synonymous with immoral activities. Lemme check my calendar. Yep, 2011. Maybe the Malaysian one is different. The world's biggest miner BHP Billiton has made record half year profits and is promising to give back $10bn to shareholders. Wow. Back in 1885 when Broken Hill Pty Ltd began mining silver, lead and zinc in New South Wales, things were a lot different. 

Here's a pic of Argent St. Broken Hill in 1888. And here is Argent St (the main street) today. It still has that lovely country town look. Here it is back in the early '40s.  Yep, Broken Hill is one of the many towns I'm looking forward to visiting. It's gonna take forever!

What was that you said? Did you say Harry Baals or Hairy Balls? Anyway, there's gonna be a building named after the former mayor.

So that's it. I survived the day. Check ya later. Gary

February 15, 2011. One more sleep before the doc whips out his scalpel. And then whips out a needle and thread for a bit of sewing. This getting older business has its drawbacks, dear Breth. It's all such a bother.

Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to one day sitting in my little club lounge parked somewhere out in the sticks or by a beach or wherever. I love those  U-shaped club lounges in campers. They remind me of the booths in old fashioned restaurants - your own personal space. Prob is someone has to move out or over each time you wanna go to the loo. But there's something homely about a club lounge as opposed to regular bench seating or individual chairs. There goes my cubby house fixation again.

It's the old primeval territorial thing ya know. Park your camper at a particular spot and it's all yours. Trespassers Beware! Private Property! Plonk your umbrella on a spot at a crowded beach and that's it. If anyone dares get too close to your spot they'll be glared at (unless they're good looking, in which case they'll be ogled which is different to glared).

Beeb time: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has expressed her firm support for the thousands of opposition supporters who protested in Iran's capital on Monday. Mrs Clinton said they deserved to have "the same rights that they saw being played out in Egypt" and that Iran had to "open up" its political system. "What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people, and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime - a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt," she said. Hillary is not a big fan of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ya know. A court in Ecuador has fined US oil giant Chevron a reported $8bn (£5bn) for polluting a large part of the country's Amazon region. The oil firm Texaco, which merged with Chevron in 2001, was accused of dumping billions of gallons of toxic materials into unlined pits and Amazon rivers. So now the focus shifts from BP to Chevron. Oops! An Australian man has fended off an attack by a 10ft (3m) crocodile. How could anyone possibly defeat such a beast? Get your pad and pencil and take notes here. Ancient Britain was a peninsula until a tsunami flooded its land-links to Europe some 8,000 years ago. Did that wave help shape the national character? The coastline and landscape of what would become modern Britain began to emerge at the end of the last Ice Age around 10,000 years ago. Quite an interesting article that you can read here. China has overtaken Japan as the world's second-biggest economy. Japan's economy was worth $5.474 trillion (£3.414 trillion) at the end of 2010, figures from Tokyo have shown. China's economy was closer to $5.8 trillion in the same period. At its current rate of growth, analysts see China replacing the US as the world's top economy in about a decade. The US economy is currently almost three times the size of the Chinese economy in dollar terms. Hmmm. The status quo is a-changing. A planned $8bn-merger between stock market firms in Australia and Singapore may be moving closer as talks start again. After reading about trillions, billions don't seem all that impressive anymore. Meawhile, I'm still working on my first million

Yes, it pays to know a thing or two about defending yourself against a crocodile. If you're fortunate enough to be attacked by a gay croc, just yell "handbag!" and you'll be fine. How do you tell if a croc is gay? Er... I'm still working on that.

In any case, croc farming in northern Oz is big biz. Koorana Crocodile Farm is Australia's oldest (1981) and it's also a... wait for it... restaurant. Now there's a bit of a turnaround... people eating crocs instead of crocs eating us. It's an interesting story because the farm started with no breeding stock, so rogue crocs that were terrorizing local communities were captured live, and they ended up with 100 of the buggers. In nature, not many of the hatchlings survive which keeps the numbers down, but in captivity all the eggs (or the great majority) survive. So you get lots of handbags! 

And that's it for Mundee, folks. Gary

February 14, 2011. TX Greg reminded me that it's Valentine's Day. I'm about as romantic as a piece of burnt toast so obviously I don't take much interest in such things. However, if that's the kinda thing that blows your hair back, go for it - with my blessing.

Meanwhile, FL Josh wrote: Come on, Gary, get real.  You live in a democracy where the masses elect the leaders and if the masses believe things like that (economy quick fix), they will elect the people who promise what they believe will work, so they are in a position to put it into action, and the elected leaders take great joy in doing what the masses thought would help them when in fact it does just the opposite.

Yes, I live in a democracy. And a democracy allows people of all political persuasions and beliefs to present their case and stand for election. That's what democracies do. The alternative is called an autocracy.

You go on to say, "As to idiocy that floats around on the internet, it's not confined to the internet, mate. Never has been, never will be."  The problem with the idiocy on the internet is that it is able to spread so fast at virtually no cost.  That is what is so unsettling. 

I hope you're not suggesting censorship, Josh.

Josh also sent this link to a video about a photographer who (like me) carries a small digital camera wherever he goes and takes pics of everyday things. The pics have been compiled into a book which is selling like hot cakes.

When I was a kid of 12 or 13, I used to accompany my dad to work during school vacations, and I remember a derelict building in Sydney whose street-level shopfronts were covered in hoardings of corrugated iron and plywood. I was also intrigued by the almost nude statues that one never saw in suburban Lakemba where I was raised. My dad was a delivery driver and spent most of the day on the road in the city. I couldn't fathom why such a large and beautiful building was allowed to deteriorate into such a sad state of disrepair and neglect. I had no idea at the time that it was the Queen Victoria Building, one of the great pride and joys of Sydney during the 19th century. Anyway, I noticed a Red Bubbler who posted a pic of the interior of the now fully restored and refurbished QVB, one of the best projects ever undertaken by the Sydney City Council, and a fitting tribute to one of the great cities of the world. Here's one of the Red Bubble pics. Here's another. And yet another

If that marvelous building had been demolished in Sydney's mad rush during the 50s and 60s to modernize, it would have been an unforgivable tragedy. It was during those days that lobby groups were formed to protect Sydney's heritage and put a stop to thoughtless and greedy developments.

Beeb time: Egypt's new military authorities say they are dissolving parliament and suspending the constitution. In a statement on state TV, the higher military council said it would stay in power six months, or until elections. Egypt's current parliament is dominated by supporters of President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted on Friday after 18 days of mass protests. The statement was read out on state TV on Sunday from the higher military council, saying it would suspend the constitution and set up a committee to draft a new one, before submitting it to a popular referendum. History in the making, folks! About 2,000 people have clashed with police in Yemen's capital Sanaa on the third day of anti-government protests. Violence broke out as demonstrators, inspired by the Egyptian uprising, marched through the city, demanding political reform and the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Yep, stand by for the stampede. The King's Speech has walked away with a clutch of Bafta awards, including best actor for Colin Firth. Helena Bonham Carter was named best supporting actress and Geoffrey Rush picked up best supporting actor. It also won best film, outstanding British film, best score and best original screenplay. I'm glad Geoffrey Rush was recognized. He's an amazing actor. Malaysia has stepped up a campaign to stop Muslims celebrating Valentine's Day - labelling it a "trap" that could encourage immoral behaviour. Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said Monday's celebration of romantic love was "not suitable" for Muslims. Yassin must be a grumpy old fart like me. Returning to the US, former BBC North America editor Justin Webb is perplexed by a gun ownership surge in his old crime-free neighbourhood, where people leave front doors unlocked. Interesting article and worth a read. A man fatally stabbed his stepfather, ex-girlfriend and her mother, before running over a pedestrian in a 28-hour rampage in New York City, police said. The man, alleged to be Ukrainian-born Maksim Gelman, 23, was armed with five knives when he went on a stabbing spree early on Friday, officials said. Four other people were knifed but survived the attacks. Mr Gelman was finally arrested on a train on Saturday morning after an all-night manhunt. It was horrific enough but could have been worse if............................. (fill in the blank space). Ministers are expected to publish plans to enable same-sex couples to "marry" in church, the BBC has learned. Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone is to propose lifting the ban on civil partnerships taking place in religious settings in England and Wales. It'll take many people a bit of getting used to, but I reckon it's ultimately inevitable. 

Meanwhile, GetUp in Oz is trying to raise the money to put this ad to air about marriage equality. Twins - one gay, one straight. One married, one who wants to marry but can't. YET. It's a pretty powerful message.

That's pretty interesting, actually. One sperm, one egg split into two, identical twins, same genes, one straight individual, one gay individual. So what does that say about being "born" gay? Does that validate the argument of those who say sexual orientation is a matter of choice? Don't ask me. I'm just watching the show.

Yes, Virginia, there are talking dogs. Ohio Jace just sent me a Valentine e-Card with a talking dog whose eyes follow the cursor around the screen. The audio message was from Sean Cody and Jackson Steven hehe... the two young neighbors Jace is baby sitting while their parents celebrate an early Valentine dinner on the town. It'll be June and Jace's turn tomorrow night... the boy's treat.

Now here's a camper designed for a table top ute. It's almost $30K just for the camper, which is a bit rich for me thank you very much. But it's got a loo! So if I win Lotto...

Now at $6.5K this is something more suited to my budget

And here's a cheapie at about $4.4K that would be great. If I had the bikkies now I'd get that one.

Anyway, I like looking at them. They're kinda like tree houses without the tree. Hehe. I was big time into cubby houses as a kid. Oh yes, dream on, dream on...

Baby you can drive my car! Beep beep, beep beep, yeah! Okay, bangers and mash and peas tonight. That'll do. And onions and gravy. Gary

February 13, 2011. I discovered last night that 'pasghetti' rather than 'spaghetti' is quite common. Lots of people have difficulty with certain combinations of consonants. The lady who explained the 'condition', linguist Kate Burridge, has her own problem with 'crisp' and, unless she deliberately thinks about its pronunciation, pronounces it 'crips'. 'Ask' is another one... some people can't help but pronounce it 'aks'. I love Kate's language segments on the TV program Can We Help? Here's one where she discusses the addition of 'er' or 'est' to certain adjectives, or using 'more' or 'most' instead... but never both. A few months ago I heard one of the local radio announcers refer to part of the mid north coast as "the most beautifulest..." Last night Kate Burridge talked about the dropping of the 'g' sound on words that end with 'ing' - which Cody did all the time. It was apparently fashionable and acceptable up until the end of the 19th century, and is still so in poetry and song lyrics. The dropping of the 'g' segment hasn't been transcribed yet.

FL Josh was not amused by my inclusion of the letter to the President yesterday suggesting simple ways to fix the economy. That bit from Justin's blog shows the idiocy that floats around on the internet. But, you know what, many will read that and think that is such a great idea.  The pen can be mightier than the sword, but when the pen is making available things that just are not true, like so much stuff on the internet, it may be mighty but in a destructive way.

I wouldn't worry about it, Josh. Anyone who took that suggestion seriously would not be in a position to put it into action. As to idiocy that floats around on the internet, it's not confined to the internet, mate. Never has been, never will be. Oregon Richie referred to the economy quick fix as "jocular" which I think sums it up pretty well.

But FL Josh is not one to leave the room without having the last word: And speaking of those over 50 earning good money, from what I've heard, Mubarak got paid $850 a month for being the head of Egypt for 30 years and he is now worth over 60 billion, so that just goes to show you how if you are careful with your money, and invest it wisely, you can build quite a nest egg.

I just worked that out: 30 years x 12 months = 360 months @ $850 a month = $306,000. Yes, Hosni has certainly done a sterling job of turning $306,000 into 60 billion. Half his luck, hehe. Actually, one will do. He can keep the other 59.

Beeb time: Egypt's military vows to oversee a transition to civilian rule, as crowds continue to celebrate President Mubarak's resignation. I hope the leaders of Burma and Fiji are taking notes. Actually, I have to say that Australia's military played a crucial role in the clean-up operations after the floods and cyclones and fires here. They were a very welcome sight indeed. Egypt's military authorities have reaffirmed the country's commitment to all its international treaties. The announcement, which was read by a senior officer on state TV, implicitly confirms that the country's peace treaty with Israel will remain intact. Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed the announcement, saying the treaty was a cornerstone of Middle East stability. Iran won't be pleased about that. Eleven people have died in a stampede at an election rally in Nigeria. The rally in the southern city of Port Harcourt was part of President Goodluck Jonathan's election campaign ahead of a poll due in April. At least 29 others are said to have been injured at the rally, which was held in a crowded sports stadium. President Jonathan has ordered an investigation and said the incident was "sad, unfortunate and regrettable," adding: "I mourn with those who mourn." The crowd panicked after a policeman fired in the air to try to disperse crowds at the gates as people left the rally, according to witnesses quoted by Reuters news agency. What a dumb copper. Try a megaphone next time, dickhead. Anti-government rallies in the capitals of Algeria and Yemen, inspired by events in Egypt, have been broken up. Riot police in Algiers dispersed thousands of people who had defied a government ban to demand that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika step down. A similar march in Yemen's capital, Sanaa, calling for President Ali Abdullah Saleh to leave office was attacked by government supporters. Monkey see, monkey do. US marine archaeologists have found the sunken whaling ship belonging to the captain who inspired Herman Melville's classic 19th Century novel, Moby Dick. The remains of the vessel, the Two Brothers, was found in shallow waters off Hawaii. Captain George Pollard was the skipper when the ship hit a coral reef and sank in 1823. His previous ship, the Essex, had been rammed by a whale and also sank, providing the narrative for the book. Oh dear... another of the many books I've not read. Mankind's capacity to store the colossal amount of information in the world has been measured by scientists. The study, published in the journal Science, calculates the amount of data stored in the world by 2007 as 295 exabytes. That is the equivalent of 1.2 billion average hard drives. Don't rush me. I'm working my through it all. Rome wasn't built in a day ya know. 

Back from shopping. The young checkout bloke was "vision impaired" and I noticed how close his face was to the computer screen before he announced what I owed him. "Do you wear glasses?" "No, they don't work for me." I didn't have time to ask him anything else, but our brief convo interrupted his concentration and he had to study the change he put in my hand up close to check if it was the right amount. Poor kid, but I suppose he's learned how to make the best of his lot.

Actually, that reminds me of a segment I watched on Can We Help last night. The host was blindfolded and led through city streets by a sighted person. He learned how to "read" certain obstacles and tactile signs with his white cane, and to listen to the sounds of walk signs at pedestrian crossings, etc. His next mission was to be led around town by a totally blind person who was experienced at getting about on his own. All pretty amazing stuff and something most of us don't even think about.

Fresh corn cobs 66 cents each. That's cheap! Obviously, the corn crop was unaffected by the floods. So half a corn cob each for Sue and me with our chicken Kiev tonight. Grumpy Lindsay can have a boiled spud. He's such a dreary tart. And I mean d-r-e-a-r-y. Gary

February 12, 2011. Satdee again. Averil doesn't say 'windows' she says 'windaz'. She's very old school Aussie. She likes to think she's a bit posh but she's not. Far from it. My mom thought it was posh to pronounce 'dear' as 'dee-ah'. Hehe. She also referred to older folks as 'eldery' but I didn't have the heart to correct her. I knew a young bloke who simply could not get his head around 'spaghetti', he used to call it 'pasghetti'. Lindsay calls cockroaches 'cock-a-roaches'. Actually, so does Averil.  And she calls hydrangeas 'hide-a-rangers'. Years ago, I was corrected by a bloke about how I spelled ridiculous. I used to spell it rediculous. When I realized it was related to 'ridicule', it all fell into place. Anyway, if you wanna check out the literacy of Aussies, just visit eBay. I can't believe how bad much of the spelling is. And it ain't just typos.

FL Josh wrote: I saw on the news where the people of Egypt are pleading with the military to remove Mubarak from office.  That and protesting are about all they can do.  This is why we here in the States cherish our right to bear arms because it also gives up the ability to overthrow a corrupt government.  Imagine a million man march on Washington with guns.

Yes, Josh... or even overthrow a non-corrupt government. Remember, it's not only the goodies who have the right to bear arms. Anyway, I don't like guns. A firearm gives an individual an inordinate amount of power, and you know what they say about power. I watched a doco on telly last night about WWII and saw footage of General Patton with his two pistols strapped to his belt. He was probably sorry to see the war end.

I believe the pen is mightier than the sword. And these days, the pen is the Internet, which basically means there's a helluva lot more pens than there used to be.

This was posted on Justin's blog just now:

Dear Mr. President,

Please find below my suggestion for fixing America's economy. Instead of giving billions of dollars to companies that will squander the money on lavish parties and unearned bonuses, use the following plan. You can call it the "Patriotic Retirement Plan":

There are about 40 million people over 50 in the work force. Pay them $1 million apiece severance for early retirement with the following stipulations:

1) They MUST retire. Forty million job openings - Unemployment fixed.

2) They MUST buy a new AMERICAN Car. Forty million cars ordered - Auto Industry fixed.

3) They MUST either buy a house or pay off their mortgage - Housing Crisis fixed.

It can't get any easier than that!!

P.S. If more money is needed, have all members in Congress pay their taxes..

Mr. President, while you're at it, make Congress retire on Social Security and Medicare. I'll bet both programs would be fixed pronto!

Beeb time: Hosni Mubarak has stepped down as president of Egypt, after weeks of protest in Cairo and other cities. The news was greeted with a huge outburst of joy and celebration by thousands in Cairo's Tahrir Square - the heart of the demonstrations. Mr Mubarak ruled for 30 years, suppressing dissent and protest, and jailing opponents. US President Barack Obama said that Egypt must now move to civilian and democratic rule. Yes, there's a helluva lot more pens these days. Swiss police say the father of missing twin girls posted a letter saying he had killed his daughters before he killed himself. Tragic. The US trade deficit ballooned in 2010 by the largest amount seen in a decade, Commerce Department figures have shown. The trade deficit - the difference between imports and exports - hit $497.8bn (£311bn) last year, up 32.8% on the year before, the biggest annual percentage gain since 2000. Imports from China hit record levels, totalling $364.9bn for the year. I'm sure most people don't understand that a high standard of living comes at a high price. Claims Julian Assange would face a "secret trial" on sexual assault charges in Sweden are inaccurate, a UK extradition hearing has been told. The Wikileaks founder's lawyer said his client might not have a fair trial. At Belmarsh Magistrates' Court in south-east London, Geoffrey Robertson QC, representing the Wikileaks founder, said rape trials in Sweden were "secret" and heard behind closed doors - a claim that was denied by representatives of the Swedish authorities. In addition to this, he said, criticism of Mr Assange by Sweden's prime minister could damage his chance of a fair trial. Fredrik Reinfeldt's remarks had shown "complete contempt for the presumption of innocence", he said. Mr Robertson told the hearing that the prime minister's comments this week had created a "toxic atmosphere" in Sweden. "Mr Assange is public enemy number one as a result of the prime minister's statement," he said. They don't come any better than Robertson. An artist who had a camera implanted into the back of his head has been forced to remove it after his body rejected part of the device. Iraqi-born Wafaa Bilal had surgery last week to remove one of three posts holding the camera in place as it posed a risk of infection. The camera had been taking a photo every minute as part of a year-long project. That's art? Fossil evidence seems to confirm that a three-million-year-old ancestor of ours dubbed Lucy could walk upright consistently - one of the major advances in human evolution. There was no booze back then

Here's a pic posted by a Red Bubble mate who's been around Oz quite a bit during his life. He's a fair dinkum Bushie. Believe it or not this is called a highway... Plenty Highway, and what you see there is red dust, called bulldust. It's fine like talcum powder and gets into absolutely everything. I don't think you'll ever see me traveling roads like that one, folks.

BUT, traveling on one of these old girls is something I just gotta do when I'm in Victoria. That would be something really special. Come to think of it, I've never ridden in a horse-drawn vehicle so I better put that on my list too. And let's not forget... no, come to think of it, let's forget it.

So there goes another Satdee, 'cept for a bit of telly. I think Big Bigger Biggest is on tonight, which is always good. Gary

February 11, 2011. Well, another couple of weeks and that will be the end of another summer. Not that it's noticeable here on the mid north coast. It's pretty summerish during March, April and May... and even beyond. And speaking of April, Bluey will be due for re-registration for the second time since I bought it. How flieth time. 

I just phoned the bank and asked why I'm still getting statements for my old redundant credit card. "Because you're 19 cents in credit." Sheesh. So she transferred the 19 cents to my valid credit card. "You'll get one more statement to say that the old credit card is now finalized, and that'll be it. No more statements." And there they were, spending 55 cents on postage every month to tell me I owed them nothing.

Beeb time: US President Barack Obama says the Egyptian government has yet to put forward a "credible, concrete and unequivocal" path to democracy. Mr Obama said "too many Egyptians remain unconvinced that the government is serious about a genuine transition to democracy. The Egyptian people have been told that there was a transition of authority, but it is not yet clear that this transition is immediate, meaningful or sufficient," Mr Obama said in a statement. With all due respect to Obama, who is he to tell leaders of other countries how to suck eggs? A suicide bomber dressed in school uniform attacks an army facility in Pakistan, killing at least 31 people and injuring others, officials say. All in the name of Allah. How pathetic. What you look at can influence how much pain you feel, a study has revealed. Contrary to many people's compulsion to look away during a painful event such as an injection, scientists found that looking at your body - in this case the hand - reduces the pain experienced. So what do you look at when you get a jab in the butt? A group of former gangsters, homeless men and street kids from Compton, a Los Angeles city notorious for gang violence, is possibly the world's most unlikely cricket team - but it's now making history as the first all-American side to tour Australia. I saw the story on telly last night and it's very interesting how the British 'gentlemen's' game has changed the fortunes of this group of former misfits. Click here for the full article. A drug derived from the curry spice turmeric may be able to help the body repair some of the damage caused in the immediate aftermath of a stroke. Ah ha! Love dem curries.

My ex-neighbor in Glebe wrote to say their dog Molly died last weekend during the six-day heatwave. She was 10 1/2. Poor little thing. She was cremated and "her ashes are at home with us". I thought about it and realized that their son was 8 or 9 when Molly arrived, and they were probably great mates, playing in the park out back and spending lots of quality time together. So there's a long history of mateship there, which explains why Molly's ashes have a special place in the home. Letting go is very difficult.

I remember when Cody's dog Sox was put down because of old age and arthritis (she was almost 14). Cody came home from school and saw that the yard was clean and all of Sox's dishes and things had been "put away". Cody went down to the beach and sat on a rock and wept. Cody was just 3 years old when Sox arrived. They grew up together. Well, Cody grew up, Sox grew old.

So if you're gonna have a pet, get a cockatoo. They can live for 80 years or more. My parents moved into an apartment in their latter years, next door to an old house where an old lady lived with her cockatoo. The cockatoo was as ancient as she was, and had barely any feathers left. In the mornings, my parents would hear the old lady yelling at the cocky and the cocky yelling back. Hehe. They were both as cranky as all getup, but also inseparable. 

I've seen a lotta shots of Uluru but this one is quite different, and I can imagine traveling that road and seeing it in the distance with great anticipation of being up close and personal to the world's biggest monolith. Two-thirds of it are underground. That's one helluva pebble!

Here's a shot of one of the 72 houses burned in Western Oz bushfires last week.

And there goes another day. I saw the colors of the sunrise this morning when I got up for a pee. And now we're about to hand over the sun to our northern hemispherical bros and sisters so they can do their thing between breakfast and dinner. Then it'll be our turn again. Imagine if the earth didn't revolve. We'd have no days. We'd have no weeks or months or years. We'd have no calendars or clocks. We'd have no seasons. Fish 'n chips tonight. Gary

February 10, 2011. What's the difference between moved and removed? You don't have a skin cancer moved, you have it removed. Therefore, removed doesn't mean moved from one place to another, it means to be taken away, to eliminate. A thing moved from one place to another is relocated, and I'm not having my skin cancer relocated. English must be terribly confusing to newbies.

Anyway, this latest skin cancer popped up just a few weeks ago and it's been pretty aggressive since. I was supposed to have it removed yesterday but the house inspection got in the way. So I postphoned it till next week. You know that little hollow between the collar bones, below the Adam's Apple? The cancer is sitting just to the right of the hollow. Ew! Stan the Lawn Man looked at it a while ago and said, "Jeez, mate, you better get rid of that pretty soon."

If you love Air New Zealand's puppet Rico (and who doesn't?) you'll love these bloopers.

Just spoke to Stan the Lawn Man about buying a ute. He's had a few so I asked him about what's better for a slide-on; a table top or a tub. He says definitely a table top, and I think I agree. If you put a slide-on on a table top, you've got those two areas each side of the narrow base vacant for attaching front opening tool boxes for extra carrying capacity. Furthermore, there are under-tray tool boxes for even more carrying capacity.  Alternatively, there are slide-ons specifically designed for table tops, so I can buy either one - a slide-on designed for a tub or one designed for a TT.

Beeb time: The US administration steps up its criticism of Egypt's leadership after a 16th consecutive day of protests against the rule of President Mubarak. I don't think anyone officially appointed the US as the world's political arbiter but that hasn't stopped it. Besides, who else is there? A married Republican congressman from New York state resigns amid a report he flirted online with a woman and sent her a shirtless photograph. I'd last about two seconds in politics. A US man has pleaded guilty in a court in the state of North Carolina to plotting terrorist attacks. Daniel Patrick Boyd filed a guilty plea at the New Bern court to charges of conspiring to provide support to terrorists and conspiring to murder, kidnap and injure people. Prosecutors claimed that Boyd, a 40-year-old building contractor who converted to Islam at a young age, stockpiled weapons at his home in a quiet corner of rural North Carolina. From there, they said, he fostered a cell of young Muslim men, including his two sons, who trained with firearms and plotted an attack on a US military base. Once you own a man's mind, you own him lock, stock and barrel. The threat of terrorism against the US homeland is in some aspects "at its most heightened state" since the 9/11 attacks, US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said. The US faced new threats by groups already inside the country, inspired by al-Qaeda. Ms Napolitano warned that attacks could be carried out with little warning. Yep, you can't drop bombs on your own territory. Singer Barbra Streisand is to give a rare performance at this weekend's Grammy awards, organisers have said. The eight-time Grammy winner, 68, is nominated in the best traditional pop vocal album category for her latest record, Love is the Answer. Jeez, 68 already. My generation is getting old! The Prince of Wales has hit out at climate change sceptics for what he calls the "corrosive" impact they have on public opinion. He warned against the pursuit of growth at the expense of the environment. And the Prince said environmentalists should sell the benefits of sustainable living rather than just telling people what to give up. Such as Buckingham Palace

Yes, I wonder how much of Buckingham Palace is powered by renewable energy. Gary

February 9, 2011. This is just wonderful... a photo of a bloke with a wife, three kids and a mortgage taken when he was 25 years younger.

And here's a little ditty I just posted on Red Bubble.

The real estate people are due here in half an hour for the inspection. Lindsay is all excited about having "visitors" and has been busy getting the place ready. He even dragged Sue out of bed. Hehe.

Actually, I had a visitor early this morning. Another Rodney. He was scampering about between the inner and outer walls of my bedroom so I banged on the wall to let him know I wasn't impressed with his unsolicited arrival. I wish those things wouldn't keep investigating this house for goodies. THERE AREN'T ANY GOODIES! Piss off and go somewhere else. However, it appears that my bait has attracted a nibble or two.

I was telling Oregon Richie this morning that I might have all kinds of wildlife stories to tell on the Odyssey... 'roos sniffing about looking for a handout at the campsite, snakes taking a peek to see what's going on, monitor lizards skulking about, dingoes looking for an easy feed. The only creatures I've encountered so far on my mini Odysseys are a kangaroo which was about 100 yards away, a 5' monitor lizard which was pretty harmless (just a few feet away) and a bunch of leeches that took a very personal interest in my blood. Oh... and a few pelicans, but they prefer fish.

I'm not particularly worried about sharks. As far as I'm aware, there are no species that lurk in ankle-deep water. But jellyfish do. Swarms of bluebottles get washed up on shore sometimes. I sat on one in a rock pool when I was a kid, and it retaliated by stinging my bum. What a painful experience that was! They're not easy to spot either... almost colorless except for the bluish tentacles.

Well, Les the Inspector has just left. He says the place is looking good and tidy but he couldn't resist running his finger along a couple of edges and showing us the dust. Cheeky bugger. "I'm just doing my job, Gary."

Beeb time: The US has called on the Egyptian government to immediately lift the country's emergency laws, which have been in place for 30 years. Vice-President Joe Biden made the call during a telephone conversation with his Egyptian counterpart Omar Suleiman. It came after a day of renewed anti-government protests in Cairo and other Egyptian cities. I guess if there hadn't been anti-government protests the US would have remained silent as it has for the past 30 years. Oops! Did I say something naughty? The Middle East peace process could become a "casualty" of the calls for change sweeping across the Arab world, the foreign secretary has warned. William Hague, who is touring the region, said it could "lose further momentum" if international focus shifts to countries like Tunisia and Egypt. He urged Israel to avoid "belligerent language" and called for "bold leadership" from the United States. Peace process? How long is a piece of string? A US investigation into Toyota safety problems finds no electronic flaws to explain complaints about unintended acceleration. Bluey certainly doesn't have that problem hehe. Swedish prosecutors did not follow "proper procedure" while investigating rape claims against Julian Assange, a UK extradition hearing was told. Sven-Erik Alhem, a witness, said it was "quite peculiar" that authorities did not get the Wikileaks founder's version of events before seeking his arrest. The Swedish case sounds a bit suss to me. US President Barack Obama has not smoked a cigarette in almost a year, First Lady Michelle Obama has said. It must be getting a bit stale by now. Australia's prime minister and other MPs have wept as they paid tribute to the thousands of people whose lives have been rocked by natural disasters. Julia Gillard struggled to hold back tears while speaking of the 35 killed in last month's floods in Queensland. I'm convinced Gillard is a hard-nosed, career politician, but I'm pleased she's not completely devoid of heart. Sunday's Super Bowl breaks the record for the biggest US television audience for a single broadcast. Next! Beer found in a 200-year-old shipwreck, the world's oldest surviving beer sample, is to be chemically analysed by Finnish scientists - and brewed again. I'm glad the Fins have got their priorities right. A 95-million-year-old fossil is helping scientists understand how snakes lost their legs through evolutionary time. Found in Lebanon, the specimen is one of only three examples of an ancient snake with preserved leg bones. I think it's important that we don't make the same mistake. Can you imagine Sarah Palin without stilettos?Read the full story here. A portrait of the muse who transformed painter Pablo Picasso's life has sold for £25.2m ($40.7m) at Sotheby's auction house in London. La Lecture went to an anonymous phone buyer after six minutes of bidding. Is he an art lover or an investor? Methinks the latter.

It's after 6pm already and the troops are expecting dinner. I'm running a bit late after doing the shopping for us and Averil, and having a bit of a chat with Av after delivering the goodies. The young bloke at the newsagency was looking pretty fit so I said, "Have you been doing things?" "What things?" "Lifting things and pushing things and jumping up and down things." "Yes, why?" "Because it shows." I decided not the say any more about that and paid Averil's bill instead. But I think he was pleased with my observation. Hehe. Gary

February 8, 2011. Well, I lied yesterday. I hardly did any cleaning. So I had to do it all today. And I am, to put it mildly, BUGGERED. My back's killing me.

I've decided dirt is cool. I like dirt. I also like dust. And from now on I'm gonna live and let live. Dirt, dust and me are gonna get along together just fine.

Anyway, it's after 5pm already and I've still got a bit to do before the estate agent arrives for the inspection at 11:30am tomorrow. AND I've still gotta cook for the troops.

Ohio Jace wrote: The French are going to be very upset with you. From Waffle: The satellite photo of cyclone Yasi you mentioned the long island below the storm was Norfolk Island, it is in fact New Caledonia a French territory and you know how they feel about English speakers trying to steal their thunder away. The tip of the north island of NZ is barely visible in the lower right so Norfolk should be under the thinner cloud bank and would be a tiny speck.

Hmmm. Well, it did occur to me that it might be New Caledonia and not Norfolk. But I went for Norfolk. And now that Jace has chastised me, I do remember Norfolk's most famous resident, author Colleen McCullough (The Thorn Birds), referring to the island as a "speck" in the Pacific.

While I was bitching about our recent heatwave, Jace had this to say: I spent three hours chipping an inch of ice off my sidewalk and driveway Wednesday. It would have been worse if the temps had not risen above freezing overnight. It fell as rain instead of snow and froze on contact with the still frozen ground. It started Tuesday afternoon so schools let out early and did not go back until Friday. The rain ended Wednesday afternoon with temps just above zero C. Power was off to thousands of peeps, but we lucked out here it was only off a few hours not days like other parts of Ohio. My driveway is lower than the road so I have an uphill run to make. And it is too short to get up any speed so the truck just spins the wheels halfway up.

Otherwise, the Ohio Gang is doing well, and the kids are making the best of the snow and ice. Kids are like that, ya know. Fun is their #1 priority.

Time for a quick Beeb? Let's do it: Protesters on Cairo's central square call for a new push to oust President Mubarak amid signs they are losing momentum. Yes, being on the streets yelling and screaming ain't a lotta fun after a while. One of Russia's most wanted men, Chechen warlord Doku Umarov, says he ordered last month's bomb attack which left 36 dead at a Moscow airport. That's the way it is, ya know. There are those you just can't reason with, so it's pointless trying. Former Philippine army chief General Angelo Reyes dies in an apparent suicide after facing corruption allegations. It ain't worth it, baby, and you found that out the hard way. Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld releases his new 800-page book, Known and Unknown, on Tuesday. Some critics pick up on what they see as an attitude of defiance over the Iraq war. Read the full article here. US President Barack Obama has said he believes there has been progress in Egypt, one day after Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman met with oppositions groups in the country. "Obviously, Egypt has to negotiate a path and they're making progress," he said after a speech at the US Chamber of Commerce. Fair enough

It's late, and I gotta skedaddle. Gary

February 7, 2011. Clean up day. Lots of scrubbing, vacuuming, washing, dusting, and all that BORING stuff. The house needs to be spick and span for an estate agent inspection on Wednesday. I really hate doing things that don't stay done, such as cleaning and mowing lawns. Write a book and it stays writ. Take a photo and it stays took.

TX Greg wrote to say I should get a slide-on (he says slide 'in') camper with a wet room. That's all very well but he's talking about a truck camper. I'll be getting a ute (utility), not a truck. A ute is basically half a car with a strengthened chassis and a tub or table top at the back. It's not a truck or pick-up. Slide-ons designed for utes (and they are the most popular) are not big enough for a wet room. I'll have an external pop-up tent where I can shower, etc. Actually, I've already got the tent and it's still boxed! It cost about $30. The porta-potti will go in there as well. Apart from that, water is heavy stuff and the more you carry the heavier the load. My Camps Australia Wide book lists all camp sites and what is available. If there's water available, I won't carry it. If not, then I will... but no more than necessary. I've already been advised by an experienced traveler to carry bottled water for drinking/cooking. He says some people have a habit of emptying their porta-pottis into rivers and streams. Ew! Some people are just sooooo gross! Not to mention thick.

Last night, I watched telly for much longer than usual. There's a new docu-drama series about the birth of the US and its rise to nationhood. Fascinating stuff. Last night focused on the first arrivals and the Pilgrims. I found myself rooting for the rebels against the Brits during the War of Independence, and the reading of Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. Very stirring stuff indeed. But then followed another docu-drama about The Battle of Britain and I found myself rooting for the Brits against the Nazis. Lots of Hurricanes and Spitfires giving the Messerschmitts and Nazi bombers a hard time. It also contained interviews with some of the old pilots. And so a great night's TV was had by.... me.

One of the current day pilots, who served in Afghanistan flying British fighter jets, underwent a special training exercise to fly a Spitfire. He began with a Tiger Moth bi-plane, then graduated to an American mono-plane, single-engine trainer before he was ready to take the controls of a genuine 400mph, Merlin-powered Spit. After his first flight, he was almost speechless. He said it was like being an integral part of the aircraft... that pilot and plane were a single unit. He said it was incredibly responsive to every touch, and awesomely powerful. He was obviously very emotional as he slid back the canopy after landing. All he could do was smile and shake his head for a while. To describe his experience was beyond articulation in words.

Beeb time: Egypt's opposition groups say government proposals on how to end the political crisis are not enough. The banned Muslim Brotherhood and other groups took part in landmark talks with the government following days of protests aimed at forcing President Hosni Mubarak to resign. The government has proposed a reform of the constitution, but the opposition said the talks were only a first step. US President Barack Obama said Egypt would not "go back to what it was". Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, he said: "The Egyptian people want freedom, they want free and fair elections, they want a representative government, and so what we've said is, you have to start a transition now." You can read excerpts from Bill O'Reilly's interview with Obama here. The Pittsburgh Steelers take on the Green Bay Packers for the NFL title. Whatever blows your hair back. Christina Aguilera fluffed a line of the Star-Spangled banner as she belted out a version of the US national anthem to open Sunday's Super Bowl in Texas. Well, after all she's only human... ish. Three Americans accused of spying and illegally entering Iran have gone on trial in Tehran, with the proceedings being heard behind closed doors. Prosecutors said they had evidence the three were connected to US intelligence agencies. Surely no intelligent person would want to visit Iran. Prison officials in Colombia say they have caught an 11-year-old girl trying to smuggle dozens of mobile phones and a gun into a jail. The guards became suspicious when they saw what they described as irregular shapes underneath the girl's jumper (pullover). When they investigated they found 74 mobile phones and a revolver taped to her back. From out of the jumpers of babes. Wildfires have destroyed a number of homes in western Australia, as the north-east of the country continues to be affected by flooding brought about by Cyclone Yasi last week. Flooding also affected the southern state of Victoria after Yasi caused a series of thunderstorms over Melbourne and other large towns in the state. In the western Australian city of Perth, wildfires tore through suburbs, destroying at least a dozen homes. There have been no reports of casualties. In Victoria, the Melbourne suburb of Elwood was one of the hardest hit, with floodwaters cutting off many houses and washing cars off roads, the Associated Press news agency reports. Melbourne received half its average annual rainfall in just a day, AP says. Yes, folks, we've got it all here in Oz... floods, droughts, fires, cyclones... take your pick. Japan and Australia will hold talks in Tokyo on Monday aimed at securing Japan's first free-trade agreement with a major agricultural exporter. For years Japan has protected its inefficient farming industry, and has put high tariffs on imports. But Japan's sluggish economy could be causing a shift in policy and thinking, analysts said. Given all our natural disasters lately, and the destruction of many crops, it's a good thing Oz has a very BIG garden! 

How big is Oz compared to other countries? Early explorers called it Terra Incognita.

It's lovely and cool today, but not cold. A welcome change from the past week or so. Heatwaves are the pits. And now for something a little different... Clarke and Dawe, a couple of Aussies (actually one of them is originally an EnnZedder) with the Year in Review.

And that's it for today, dear Breth. Pork medallions and roast spuds for THEM and Thai Mussaman chicken curry with jasmine rice for ME. Gary

February 6, 2011. Geoff Brown wrote: I've so enjoyed reading your Scrapbook Journal. What a journey. Now you wouldn't remember me, but we were at radio DJ together all those years ago (I was paneling at 2GB at that time) and I think we just missed each other at 2KY and later at 2GB. But anyway, just thought I'd drop a note and say "Hi"... and thanks for sharing your memories. (PS Found your site by Googling 'Tony Langshaw' who I just recently spoke to after maybe 20 years...)

It's always a pleasure to have old radio colleagues "discover" the Scrapbook story on AO. I'm sure it brings back a lot of memories for them too. I wrote the thing for myself really, and perhaps any rellos or friends who might be interested so I'm rather chuffed when people like Geoff write me.

Speaking of radio, I was seaching Youchewb for something about John Laws' return to radio this year after his retirement in 2007 but found this instead... Kevin Bloody Wilson singing a song about trying to call Lawsy from a public phone.

TX Greg also wrote about an ice accident at the new Super Bowl: Well it just gets worst for the Super Bowl, six hurt one serious.

Greg adds: Wow there is this big bright object in the sky today, oh yeah forgot what the sun looked liked :) We've been over 100 hours below freezing now, but hopefully that will change today and the roads will clear up, it better because I'm almost out of FOOD!!!

Greg also alerted me to a formatting prob on AO which I've fixed. Thanks, Greg. He knows I'm getting a bit dottery in my old age so he keeps an eye on me.

Not dottery, it seems, is FL Josh who just finished building himself a new whizz bang computer that uses his favorite old software but at a much higher speed. He's just caught up with the Waffle page and, apart from commenting on Yasi being "one hell of a storm", has this to say:

As to the situation in Egypt.  I find it interesting that the Egyptian people have had it with Mubarak because he has always favored big business at the expense of the working man.  When Obama was running for the presidency, the opposition said he was a Socialist who wanted to "redistribute the wealth," and why should you "penalize the wealthy for being successful."  He managed to get elected but the opposition (aided by Murdoch's FoxNews) has hammered away at him on this same theme.  After the midterm elections, enough Republicans took Democratic seats to start shifting things back to what they were, and basically just like what Mubarak has done.  The Republicans say we must reduce the deficit, and cut spending.  But they also not only continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, but include new tax cuts.  The result is what they have passed will result in about $800 billion dollars less in taxes collected, making the budget even more out of kilter.  So now government spending must be reduced.  The masses love the concept of not having the government intruding in their lives so they buy into this, but how do you cut spending?  You reduce and eliminate programs.  Who do the programs effect?  For the most part, the working masses.  So what is happening here in the States is programs that help the working class are being reduced and eliminated because it is the wealthy who pay for them and they want to keep their money.  So, our leaders are doing the same thing to us that Mubarak did to the people of Egypt.  The masses are generally dumb as a box of rocks on how things work so they go for whatever the leaders tell them.  Here in Florida, our new governor is trying to cut the budget and he is lowering the taxes on corporations because this will draw new companies into the state and create jobs.  But those lowered taxes benefit existing companies mostly.  A better thing to do to draw new companies in is to give them financial breaks in building new facilities.  So how is our governor going to compensate for less income?  He is requiring government workers to contribute 5% of their salary towards their pension plan.  Prior to this, they did not contribute directly, but salaries were lower than other states where one did contribute, so in effect they were already contributing.  He also is going to lower their salaries by 5%.  Florida's government workers have not seen a pay increase in 6 years.  So, here in Florida, the machine is moving right along to shift the wealth from the workers to the wealthy business owners.

I don't normally publish Josh's stuff in full but I think he has some worthwhile things to say. He also says my "heart-throb" Sarah Palin is preaching don't redistribute the wealth, but she means don't redistribute it downward, only upward.

Josh also has this to say about Rumsfeld: Rumsfeld's comment about how Saddam Hussein had to be removed made me think how Iraq was a stable country before we attacked it, and now it is in total chaos, and while Hussein was a ruthless dictator, he at least kept all the religious factions under control.  Now we look at Iran.  I don't know about the make up of Iran's people but I wonder if we were to get rid of Ahmadinejad, would the country cease to be a potential nuclear threat, but end up like Iraq?  As far as the world goes, Iraq isn't a threat right now, but one has to feel sorry for the people living there.  Most will not live long enough to see their country settled down and the place looking beautiful again.

Last evening I downloaded a bunch of pics from the net of tropical cyclone Yasi, and this morning assembled them into an album I just posted.

Let's check the Beeb: Egypt's most influential opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, says it will enter talks with officials on ending the country's political crisis. The group told Reuters the talks would begin on Sunday and would aim to assess how far the government was "ready to accept the demands of the people". The Brotherhood had earlier said it would not take part in the negotiations with Vice-President Omar Suleiman. President Hosni Mubarak has rejected protesters' demands that he quit now. Waffle's North America correspondent Oregon Richie reports: I have also learned that the so-called "Muslim Brotherhood" are, by and large, not traditional fanatical wack-jobs and neither have a leading role in the affairs of state, and probably won't, and it's a bit interesting to me that the few Americans I have chatted with have such a knee-jerk reaction about all that.  Say what we or you will for public consumption but the crude interpretation of THAT, to me... is that most Yanks still hold those who follow that religion in fundamental contempt and deep distrust. The blame game goes on, and pointing the earthly finger at those who CAN be blamed.... goes on. David Cameron says Britain must abandon multiculturalism and robustly defend liberal Western values, in a speech on the causes of terrorism. I'm still not sure what he's talking about. The Queen has appeared to have given her blessing to the Oscar-nominated film The King's Speech, which portrays her father King George VI. The BBC's Rajesh Mirchandani said Her Majesty is understood to have had a private screening of the film and is said to have found it moving. The story details her father's battle against his speech impediment and also shows a young Princess Elizabeth. Screenwriter David Seidler said the approval was the ultimate honour. I'm not a film-watcher as a rule but I'd like to see that one. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak holds talks with key ministers on reviving the economy as protesters keep up pressure from Tahrir Square. Looks like Hosni is a lot tougher than protesters anticipated. 

In any case, I wouldn't be surprised if leaders of other Arab nations have urged Mubarak to stay on. If he goes too easily, it could be the start of a domino effect throughout the region. 

Big Bigger Biggest was on telly again last night, this time about the history of building offshore oil rigs. All very fascinating stuff, and testament to the genius as well as perseverance of mankind. For all its faults, mankind is a remarkable animal.

I heard the a/c turn itself off a little while ago, and now it's back on. I set it to 25C instead of 22. Oregon Richie mentioned that point as did others on the web thread I read the other day... too low a setting causes the machine to work overtime. Years ago, I was returning to Sydney up the Hume Hwy in my '73 Valiant with under-dash a/c. I had a mate on board who complained that the a/c wasn't working properly... it was spitting chips of ice. So he wound down the window and in came a blast of hot air straight from hell, so he quickly wound it up again. There was a huge storm behind us and I was desperately trying to beat it to Sydney. The air was thick with humidity. But the storm eventually caught us on top of Bulli Pass and reduced visibility to an alarmingly short distance. I couldn't stop for fear of someone ramming me from behind (no jokes, please) and I could barely see the white lines on the road ahead. Frightening stuff. But Big Val made it home, for which I was most grateful. I called all my Valiants Big Val. They were great cars, every one of them.

In Oz, most names given to cars and other machinery are female. But I've noticed used campervans for sale by European travelers touring Oz have male names. We are sad to sell our beloved Henry after a wonderful trip around Australia but we must return home now.

Anyway, now that I've experienced a/c at home, I'm a definite convert. I wouldn't be without it.

Now here's the kinda slide-on I'm after... or something similar. Seems like you can get a fairly decent one for around the 5k mark. Here's another one but it's a tad rough.

So that's it. Lamb chops and spuds for THEM and buggered if I know what I feel like. Dozen madder. Gary

February 5, 2011. I watched the live stream of Julian Assange last night on the web. Actually, his piece was pre-recorded. But it was all pretty lame, I thought. Nothing unexpected except a bit of extra criticism of Julia Gillard, who irritates me. Kevin Rudd was also irritating but she's worse. There was a side bar of live comments from viewers which was also lame... lots of LOLs and silly small talk from puerile minds. Another bit of juicy news was Assange's assertion that Hillary Clinton's backroom dealings with the UN are dodgy and even unlawful. Stay tooned.

Meanwhile, here's Julian Assange interviewed by Larry King. It's in 3 parts.

BTW, I forgot to mention yesterday Irish/Australian comedian Jimeoin who can find humor in almost anything...including eyebrows.

Okies, it's 35C already and it's only 11:30am, so on goes the a/c. If I encounter weather like this on the Odyssey, which I undoubtedly will from time to time, I suppose I'll have to seek refuge at the seaside (which is often about 10 degrees cooler), or find a pub or shopping center with air conditioning. If I happen to be camping out in the bush somewhere, I'll either be taking lots of cold showers or floating around in a local stream... or both. But these hot conditions only occur during a relatively short period of one or two months on the mainland. In Hobart Tasmania at the moment, the temps are in the low 20s C.

I'd forgotten that if you wanna know something, Google it. So I typed in "cost of air conditioning" and found a thread that was very helpful. Costs can vary, obviously, depending on the type of house construction, external temperature, type of a/c, etc, but it seems that the cost of cooling is not horrific. Maybe a couple of dollars for 6 or 7 hours. This is the first time I've used the a/c for cooling in over 9 years since we've been here, so it's only in extreme conditions that it's needed, perhaps a total of 10 or 20 days a year, if that.

Beeb time: Barack Obama has urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak "to make the right decision" to end weeks of unrest, and reiterated a call for an orderly transition of power "that begins now". However the US president stopped short of telling Mr Mubarak to step down immediately. And I can understand why. The (British) prime minister will criticise "state multiculturalism" in his first speech on radicalisation and the causes of terrorism since being elected. I'm not sure what he's saying. Here in Oz multiculturalism is hailed as a success. Two of Malawi's most senior judicial officials are arguing over whether a new bill includes a provision that outlaws breaking wind in public. Justice Minister George Chaponda says the new bill would criminalise flatulence to promote "public decency". "Just go to the toilet when you feel like farting," he told local radio. Is there any reference to farting in the Bible? The Ten Commandments don't seem to cover it. The hit show Dallas is making a return to our screens, with many members of the original cast including Larry Hagman and Patrick Duffy. At its height - in the 1980s - it was one of the most watched programmes on television, but will it be a success this time? It's the question on everyone's lips, ladies and genitals. The BBC has apologised for remarks made on the television programme, Top Gear, that caused outrage in Mexico. Top Gear presenters characterised Mexicans as lazy and feckless. I wonder what on earth made them say that? More than 20,000 anti-government protesters gathered in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, for a "day of rage" against President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The demonstrators called for a change in government and rejected Mr Saleh's offer to step down in 2013 after more than 30 years in power. Meanwhile, a similar number of his supporters rallied in a central square. The gatherings are the largest in two weeks of protests inspired by the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Go figure. Thousands of Australian soldiers, police and emergency workers have been sent to help Queensland's stricken coastal communities, left reeling by the state's worst storm in a century. Emergency teams are cutting through the debris to reach towns still isolated after Cyclone Yasi hit on Wednesday. Watch the video here.

Oregon Richie sent links to Ronald Reagan's speech in Germany about tearing down the Berlin Wall. It reminded me of Sydney radio personality Mike Carlton who used to do some very funny voices in his weekly Friday News Review, which was probably the most listened to segment on Sydney radio back in the 80s. Here he is pretending to be an Indian offshore customer service rep for Telstra. Carlton did a magnificent impression of Reagan which was hilarious, and I'm desperately trying to find a vid or soundtrack. But alas it seems all that wonderful material from the 80s has disappeared. Oh well... I can't say I liked Carlton as a person. He could be harsh and sometimes rude, but I certainly admired his genius for comedy.

Well, that's about it for this Satdee. No one's hungry so I'll do scrambled eggs for Sue. Gary

February 4, 2011. Here's a pic I found on a newsgroup this morning of tropical cyclone Yasi.

The damn thing is almost as big as Queensland itself. Taree, by the way, is about midway along the clear section between the two areas of cloud on the lower east coast. The area is called the Mid North Coast of New South Wales. Not sure about that island on the upper right just below Yasi but I think it's Norfolk of The Bounty fame. The island directly above Oz is Papua New Guinea, the world's largest tropical island.

TX Greg wrote: Wished you send some of that heat wave your having over here. Been trapped in the house since Tuesday when a major sleet and ice storm came thru. Hasn't been this cold here in more than twenty years. All the schools have been closed for the last three days now and yesterday Texas was in a state of emergency as two power plants went offline forcing rolling blackouts to keep the whole system from going down. They shut my area off for a couple of hours yesterday and now they say more snow Friday!!!  And to top that off it's Super Bowl weekend here at Mr. Jerry Jones new one billion dollar Cowboy Stadium... Amazing the big screen tv cost more than the entire old stadium!!!

Everything's bigger and better in Texas, right? Yep, that's a pretty impressive structure. Looks like you could fit a couple of pyramids in there with room to spare.

Beeb time: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak says he would like to resign immediately but fears the country would descend into chaos if he did so. He may have a point. On the other hand, he may be using that as an excuse to buy more time. Tricky situation, yes? A Pakistani politician has dropped her attempt to amend the country's controversial blasphemy laws, accusing her party of appeasing extremists. Pakistan People's Party MP Sherry Rehman made her decision after the government ruled out changing the law. There has been a climate of fear since the murder of Punjab governor Salman Taseer who opposed it. Mr Taseer was killed in January by one of his bodyguards, who later admitted murdering the governor because he had spoken out against the blasphemy law. That's the way religion works: believe or be damned. Last year's Amazon drought was worse than the last big one, in 2005, raising new fears for the region's capacity to continue absorbing CO2 emissions. Basically, what human beings have done over the past century or two is shit in their own nest. Americans and Canadians are recovering from a monster winter storm that crippled air and road transport, closed schools and destroyed buildings. Authorities warned over conditions across the mid-west, where temperatures were set to fall below -34C. And here we are basking in +34. French actress Maria Schneider, best known for playing Marlon Brando's lover in Last Tango in Paris, has died in Paris aged 58 after a long illness. The actress was 19 when she was cast opposite Brando in Bernardo Bertolucci's controversial 1972 film. Did I miss much? I've not seen the movie. Some of the toughest anti-smoking measures to be adopted in a major city have been approved by councillors in New York. The measures are set to extend a smoking ban to municipal parks, beaches and even Times Square. The ban will take effect three months after it is signed by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It will make it an offence to light up in any of the city's 1,700 parks and along 14 miles (23km) of coastline. I heard on some news report about a clean-up of rubbish of which 70% was cigarette butts. Former US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld remains largely defiant about the Iraq war, saying in a new book that had Saddam Hussein remained in power, the Middle East would be "far more perilous than it is today". Mr Rumsfeld, 78, has written an autobiography due out next week. He concedes he could have sent more troops, and that internal US rivalries hampered post-war reconstruction. Leaked excerpts have been published by the Washington Post and New York Times. There ya go, Rummyleaks. Cyclone Yasi has battered the state of Queensland in north-eastern Australia, leaving a trail of destruction. Worst hit were the coastal towns of Tully, Mission Beach and Cardwell, with hundreds of houses destroyed. The cities of Cairns and Townsville were relatively unscathed but are being lashed by heavy rains; warnings of flash floods have been issued. At least 180,000 homes are without electricity; relief workers are using heavy equipment to cut through fallen trees and debris. In Cardwell, boats were piled on top of each other in the Port Hinchinbrook Marina. A storm surge there sent boats up to two blocks inland, ABC news reported. Check out the video here

Back to Mubarak's fear of chaos if he resigns now, what does he call the current situation? On the other hand, when I see news footage of protesters yelling and screaming and carrying on like lunatics, it looks to me like they are caught up in a wave of mass hysteria - demanding immediate change without considering the consequences. What will immediate change be replaced with? Who is at the helm ready to take over? When Saddam was toppled, the country's services went to pieces - water, power, law and order, food, roads and other infrastructure. Even now it's a mess. So what is the answer? Don't ask me. I'm just watching the show.

From an organization called Get Up: Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder Sarah Palin said should be hunted as a terrorist and whose activities Julia Gillard pre-emptively judged as "illegal" is at the centre of the debate over freedom of speech. You can watch him speak on an internet video stream at 6pm Melbourne time here. That's about 2 hours away as I write this. A video recording of the live steam will be made available shortly after the event.

It's been another hot day but tempered by a cool breeze, which has made a huge difference, so much so I didn't use the a/c. Next week we have a string of days with tops in the mid 20s - far more comfortable! Gary

February 3, 2011. Lindsay is delighted about the cost of tickets to England during the peak season of July. $4,500 each. He's in his element, storming around the house, swearing his head off. Hehe. He loves it when he has something to bitch about... makes him feel important. Meanwhile, if the rellos in England are unable to juggle their schedule (they promote stage shows and concerts), then it's stay-home time for L&S.

Apparently the temp reached 39C yesterday in Taree (about a ton F), and the heat wave will continue until Sunday. Meanwhile, cyclone Yasi has caused serious damage to a couple of coastal towns in north QLD but it's been downgraded to a category 2 as it makes its way inland. Religious fanatics will be having a field day blaming the sins of man for all the devastation.

Wiz wrote: I think Cody would have loved this video/song. Thought I'd pass it on as I thought of the both of you when I saw it. I think you're right, Wiz. And you know what happened, G? I got this huge lump in my throat and wished you were there with me to see it (my first green room). Then it closed out and put me into the washing machine. I've always been impressed by Cody thinking of me in his moment of triumph.

So what about Ian "Thorpedo" Thorpe making a comeback to competitive international swimming? He's aiming for the 2012 Olympics. He's 28 now, same age as Cody who was a big fan. I think Cody liked the name Thorpedo, as well as the guy's talent.

Another Cody wrote today: I just wanted to tell you thank you for writing the stories. I am currently reading Wingnut and I love it, I wish that I had his life.

Beeb time: Egyptian anti-government protesters defy orders to leave Cairo's main square, after three die in the worst violence in more than a week. Waffle correspondent Oregon Richie reports: I guess things in Egypt are coming to a head, so to speak... and Mubarek may as well pack his bags.  First he gives a slightly conciliatory speech of sorts, then threatens them, continues to shut down all media and comm contact with everybody beyond the border, and... he wonders why they are even more pissed?  He's over 80, too... and probably cannot even fathom it.  So he'll just sink deep into the fathoms of murky disdain and shame, and... next ! The Australian state of Queensland is counting the cost as a powerful cyclone carves a trail of destruction across the north-east. Cyclone Yasi struck the coast south of the city of Cairns at about midnight, ripping roofs from houses and toppling trees and power lines. Small communities bore the brunt of winds up to 290km/h (181mph) as the storm swept inland slowly weakening. About 30,000 people have been evacuated from Yasi's path and taken to shelters. Others spent a terrifying night in their homes as the colossal cyclone - the most powerful to hit the area in nearly a century - roared overhead and lashed them with rain. Averil's niece who lives in Cairns says the damage to her place is mostly superficial but she had to give her cat valium. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation says income at its television businesses helped its profits jump 150% in the last three months of 2010. The boy from Adelaide certainly knows how to make a quid. Human Rights Watch urges Pakistan to release a boy of 17 who has been charged under controversial blasphemy laws. How can you blaspheme against a figment of human imagination? There ya go, I've just blasphemed. Four people including a Muslim cleric have been arrested in Bangladesh in connection with the death of 14-year-old girl who was publicly lashed. The teenager was accused of having an affair with a married man, police say, and the punishment was given under Islamic Sharia law. I feel like blaspheming again. A bitter winter storm stretching 2,000 miles (3,200km) is crippling swathes of the US and Canada with heavy snow, rain and high winds. More than 20in (51cm) of snow fell on Chicago, bringing the typically bustling city to a frozen halt. I dunno what's worse... our summers or the northern hem's winters. The United States has said it "deplores and condemns" the violence in Egypt. "We are deeply concerned about attacks on the media and peaceful demonstrators. We repeat our strong call for restraint," White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said. US state department spokesman PJ Crowley said: "Egypt's path to democratic change must be peaceful." You're talking to a lot of hot-heads over there, Uncle Sam. Ugandan police have arrested a man over last week's murder of David Kato, a gay activist who sued a local newspaper which outed him as homosexual. Police say Enock Nsubuga, the second person arrested in connection with the killing, is their main suspect. They deny that Mr Kato was killed because of his sexuality and that initial inquiries point to robbery. We will be sure to follow that case with interest, and it's not just the police who are interested. Moscow has warned Dublin it will retaliate for the "unfounded" expulsion of a diplomat over the alleged theft of six Irish citizens' identities. Their identities were allegedly used to provide cover for members of a 10-strong Russian spying ring which was cracked in the US last year. One spy, Anna Chapman, allegedly used details stolen from a member of Dublin children's charity To Russia With Love. Now that's what I'd really love to see... an Irish Jimmy O'Bond. News Corporation's Rupert Murdoch unveils the Daily, a digital newspaper made exclusively for the iPad. Smart move, Rupert

Oregon Richie mentioned the other day that Egypt's leader Mubarek has been in power now for 30 years, which got me to thinking about Robert Menzies, the longest serving PM in Oz. Second longest was John Howard with 12 years, 1996-2007. Menzies was PM for 17 years (1949-1966). He was also PM for 2 years between 1939-1941, a total of 19 years in the top job. And he wasn't voted out in the end... he retired gracefully during his final term. Menzies was replaced by his deputy Harold Holt, a keen sportsman who disappeared at Cheviot Beach when turbulent water suddenly built up around him, and he disappeared. Help was called and a major rescue operation was mounted. By nightfall some 190 people were looking for the prime minister without expecting to find him alive. The search was scaled down on 22 December and officially terminated on 5 January 1968. Holt's body was never found. One of the more loopy speculations was that he was picked up by a Russian submarine waiting off shore. Hehe.

Another hottie and the a/c has been on since about midday. Shopping's done, bills are paid, and life goes on. Gary

February 2, 2011. I rather like the quote on this morning's desk calendar... nicely put: Happiness is a by-product of an effort to make someone else happy. Gretta Brooker Palmer. And who is/was Gretta? An author, that's all I know.

Red Bubble is celebrating its 4th birthday. 4 years is not a long time, but the site has done very well in that short period, attracting thousands of amateur and professional photographers from around the world to show and share their wares. I've learned quite a bit by just observing the work of other happy snappers, and also from comments made about my own efforts. I love the site. The vast majority of the members are nice too.

I also uploaded a pic of Tony the Painter's portable radio.

Meanwhile, as if QLD hasn't suffered enough with the recent floods and associated devastation, tropical cyclone Yasi is headed for the north QLD coast between Cairns and Mackay and is expected to hit tomorrow. There were fears that it might affect the Mid North Coast of NSW (my area) but it seems that won't happen. Yasi has been upgraded to a category 5 with 300kph winds at its core. That's a pretty stiff breeze, dear Breth. About 3000 tourists have already been evacuated from the Whitsunday Islands (Great Barrier Reef).

I can tell you one thing for sure, I won't be up north on the Odyssey at this time of year. No way.

NC Art wrote: Yeah, sermonizing is a word. [Steve Part 43]. That’s when preachers quit making sense and just preach at you anyway. Also, your take on the selling game is right on target. Not sure what Art is referring to about the selling game but I sure do understand what he says about sermonizing. You hear it all the time. When in doubt, quote the Bible. Well, for mine, you might as well quote Donald Duck.

Art also adds: Ouch, what Queensland doesn’t need is a category 4 cyclone!

Beeb time: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said he will not stand for re-election in September, as protests against his rule grow. Speaking on state TV, Mr Mubarak promised constitutional reform, but said he wanted to stay until the end of his current presidential term. The announcement came as hundreds of thousands rallied in central Cairo urging him to step down immediately. US President Barack Obama said that Egypt's transition "must begin now". That's eight months away. Who will trust him not to use those eight months to strengthen his position? Australian officials warn Cyclone Yasi, approaching Queensland with winds of up to 295 km/h (183 mph), could be the deadliest storm in living memory. Droughts are a lot less spectacular. King Abdullah of Jordan sacks his government and appoints a new PM charged with carrying out reform, as protests continue. Variety is the spice of life, yes? But I think I'd rather live in Australia. The US braces for another onslaught of bitter winter weather as a storm expected to hit a third of the country gathers in the mid-west. God must be mad at something. The global consumption of fish has hit a record high, reaching an average of 17kg per person, a UN report has shown. Fisheries and aquaculture supplied the world with about 145m tonnes in 2009, providing about 16% of the population's animal protein intake. I'm honestly surprised that the world can feed over 6 billion people (apart from the starving masses). The British Heart Foundation is to begin a major new research programme to find a cure for heart failure, a condition affecting 750,000 UK people. The charity hopes to harness the miraculous healing abilities of zebrafish, a species that is able to mend its own heart muscle. Ultimately, the research may make this possible for people to do so too. There ya go. God has been working miracles for zebra fish while ignoring us. A Buddhist monk is likely to face five years in prison for violating strict anti-smoking laws in the tiny Himalayan nation of Bhutan. Police have not named the monk but said he is 24 years old and was caught with 72 packets of chewing tobacco. Bhutan says it is determined to become the world's first smoking-free nation. It banned the sale of tobacco in 2005. But authorities admit that booming contraband traffic from neighbouring India has largely undermined the ban. If you want to know what's good for you, or bad for you, ask someone else. Anyone will do. But don't ask more than one person because you might attract conflicting opinions. A Swiss male social worker has confessed to abusing 114 children and disabled adults in care homes over three decades, prosecutors say. The unnamed man, 54, who worked in nine care homes, also admitted to eight cases of attempted abuse, most of them taking place in the Bern area. You have to wonder who was the more mentally disabled. A Labrador retriever has sniffed bowel cancer in breath and stool samples during a study in Japan. Okay... moving right along... 

Come to think of it, it's probably a good thing that our sense of smell is nowhere near as sensitive as a dog's or we might be tempted to do things that are not considered dignified.

Well, it's just too bloody hot to put up with the discomfort any longer, so I turned on the air conditioning. I'm gonna freak when I get the bill but there's really no option. Besides, I was beginning to feel ill. I guess I must be getting a bit long in the tooth to withstand this kinda heat. Some bloke is outside running around with a lawn mower. He's gotta be nutz. If I encounter this kinda heat on the Odyssey, it'll be straight to the nearest pub.

Joao from Brazil was unaware I'd dumped my old Post Office box, so he sent my Chrissy pressie to the wrong addy. Oh well... So it was returned to sender and Joao was asked to try again. He wrote me and asked for my street addy. Today, over a month later, I received my pressie: Xmas gift in February? It happens. Why Rubber Soul? I like it. And it's remastered. :-) Thanks a stack, Joao. I like Rubber Soul too! Some of the Beatles greatest songs are on there... Drive My Car, Norwegian Wood, Nowhere Man, Michelle... timeless classics. I saw Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones interviewed and he was asked if he could explain The Beatles' success. "They wrote better songs," he said. You're a gem, Joao. Thanks again. "Rubber Soul stayed at the top for nine weeks of its 42 week stay on the (British) albums chart. The American version of Rubber Soul reached number one in the first week of January 1966 and stayed at the top for six weeks. It had an impressive initial chart run of 51 weeks." They don't make bands like that anymore, ladies and genitals. And they did it all on a four-track tape recorder almost half a century ago. Bloody amazing.

Well, I tellya what, this a/c certainly makes a big diff. It's the first time I've used it in summer since we've been in Taree, which is now approaching 10 years. I phoned Averil to let her know we're luxuriating in 22C while she's sweltering in 36+. Hehe. "Darling, you've got a few bob in the bank and you can't take it with you. Get one of those air conditioners you stick in the bloody window." She's gonna think about it. Mad if she doesn't. Gary

February 1, 2011. Off to the doc's again for a few squirts... burning off skin cancers with freezing gas. Stan the Lawn Man gets quite a few as well. He's spent decades in the sun every day, 5 days a week. The other day he showed me one on his neck and another on his lip, both of which need surgery. When he gets the one on his lip done, I'll say to him, "No worries, mate, you never smile anyway." Then he'll curse me for making him laugh... probably chase me around the yard with his whipper snipper.

Getting older has its compensations, to be sure to be sure, but it also has its drawbacks. I'm not sure if the compensations outweigh the drawbacks. On the other hand, if I were asked if I wanted to go back to some point in my life, I'd decline the offer. Been there, done that. Next! Although.... I wouldn't mind spending a night or two at some of the restaurants I used to frequent. "A bottle Margaret River Chardonnay, please, and I'll have the filet mignon with green pepper sauce."

Well, that's done. I've been squirted, my blood pressure is excellent, my cholesterol is low ("That means I can still make chips." "Yes, you can still make chips.") and my prescriptions have been updated. So there ya go, there's life left in the old dog yet. He also said my brain is fine. Hehe. Well, what he doesn't know won't hurt him.

Beeb time: Egypt's army vows it will not use force against demonstrators, as the government says it is preparing to open talks with the opposition. How interesting. Consumer spending in the US grew at its fastest pace in three years during 2010, official figures have shown. The sales team has gone back to work. North Korea has at least one hidden nuclear site and should face tougher sanctions, a UN report says, according to diplomats. I wonder if they realize that just one bomb from them would mean total obliteration. Composer John Barry, famous for his work on Born Free, Out of Africa and the James Bond films, has died in New York of a heart attack aged 77. Born John Barry Prendergast in 1933, the York-born musician first found fame as leader of the John Barry Seven. His arrangement of Monty Norman's James Bond theme led to him composing scores for 11 films in the series, among them Goldfinger and You Only Live Twice. His work saw him win five Oscars, while he received a Bafta fellowship in 2005. Pretty good effort, John. Here's a compilation of some of his music. Undercover New York City investigators bought high-powered pistols from an Arizona gun fair without undergoing a background check, officials said. One made the purchase despite telling the seller he was "probably" barred by law from gun ownership, a report said. Well, well, well, who would have guessed. Fax machines, ham radio and dial-up modems are helping people get around the net block imposed on Egypt. Never underestimate the will of the people

Another hottie. It's almost 36C right now, and that's the way it will stay for the rest of the week. Ohio Jace wrote the other day to tell me it's warmed up to 0C over there. Sheesh. He says he's also having problems with crows and Jehovah Witnesses with crooked teeth. So the sheriff hired some people to let off fireworks to scare the crows (5000 in one flock) away, but it didn't work with the Jehovah Witnesses. Otherwise, the Ohio gang is getting along quite nicely, which is always good to hear.

Sue has lost another tooth in the front. Lindsay wonders why. He places jars of lollies and biscuits in front of her to keep her amused while she watches TV all day and he sleeps, but he fails to make the connection. Anyway, he's organized a visit to the dentist for her, and a set of dentures. The free dental service has a 5 year wait, so this guy is a regular dentist who needs to be paid. "It's up to you, Sue. You've got the money saved so you can still afford your ticket to England. I'm not putting up with your sister's criticism again, so if you don't get a denture, I'm not going to England. But it's up to you." Same old trick... blackmail. Do what you like as long as I approve or I'll stuff your plans. Personally, I couldnt give a shit.

It's interesting about the sister and her husband. They figure they know all the answers. When Sue was last in England, they bought her a pair of reading glasses and gave her the paper to read every day. Yeah, right. Sue is smart enough to "look" like she's paying attention, so she managed to fool her sister and husband into thinking she was actually absorbing what was printed on the pages. Wrong! They didn't think to ask her about what she'd supposedly read. She can't even remember what she had for dinner last night.

They also made Lindsay promise to take Sue out for a "nice dinner" at least once a month. The last time they went out for dinner, it was compliments of a free coupon I'd won at a local pub. It was their wedding anniversay so I gave it to them. That was over 10 years ago. Lindsay ended up in hospital and Sue was found by a good Samaritan sprawled on the footpath, so he brought her home.

I know what you're thinking, ladies and genitals. What a way to make a living. Gary


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