the WAFFLE page

December 31, 2011. Well, here we are, new year's eve. What will the new year bring? In my case, a bit of weight loss around the mouth and neck area. Hehe. And new carpet flooring in the Ute. Maybe even a slide-on camper! Other than that, I'm not sure.

Sydney skies will be alive with fireworks tonight, as millions of people line the harbor foreshores for the best view... many of them tourists. Taree will put on a show as well but it'll be pretty low key by comparison. I was telling Oregon Richie the other day about what it was like when I was a kid: When I was a kid, "Cracker Night" (or Empire Night - the Queen's birthday) was confined to the backyard. Dad would make a little campfire and after dinner we'd all go down to watch him light all the fireworks. We were allowed to light sparklers and little Tom Thumbs but nothing dangerous. We'd see a few sky rockets whizzing through the sky from other people's backyards but it was a pretty tame affair compared to what we see these days. Eventually, fireworks for private use were banned because too many kids were losing an eye or whatever caused by accidents and/or mischief. Now, councils and other groups need to be licensed to stage a fireworks show.

Yes, I remember the "catherine wheel". Dad would nail it to the laundry door then light the wick, and the thing would spit colored lights as it spun around. Hehe. Magic! I think there was the "Vesuvius" as well, one you placed on the ground before lighting the wick, then stood back as the thing spewed all kinds of pretty lights as it erupted like a mini volcano. However as kids we liked the double bungers. All they did was go bang, but loud noise and kids are inseparable - a marriage made in hell. It was also cool to investigate the cardboard wrapping after the explosion to see just how much damage it had caused. Some of the local kids had a habit of putting lighted bungers in people's letter boxes. I never did that.

BTW, when I travel to Sydney I won't be taking the overnighter. I had enough of that last time with all those snorers keeping me awake all night. Instead, I'll catch a coach that leaves Taree at 6.23am and arrives in Newcastle at about 9am to meet the XPT for the rest of the trip to Central, arriving about midday. Then I'll cab it to the hospital.

My ex-neighbor in Glebe just phoned to say the offer of the house in Hegarty St is still open, and that the person who lives there (away until Saturday) is quite happy for me to stay overnight. Isn't that sweet? I don't even know the person! But Jeremy must've sung my praises and told her I wouldn't steal anything or make a mess. It's been 20 years since I lived there ya know. Maybe I'm some kinda legend. I still think of it as the only "real" home I've known apart from the house I was born and raised in. Makes me wonder what a slide-on is gonna be like.

I also wonder about this business of "belonging" to a particular place. At the moment, I "belong" to my little corner of the room, here at my desk with my comp and access to the internet. All my goodies are within reach... medication, tissues, phone, pencil and paper, clock, calendar, keys, glass of plonk, books, calculator, envelopes, and all the bits and pieces so essential to life. Not far away are things like my TV, stereo, fav chair, filing cabinet, cameras, etc. So if I can duplicate this little corner of the world - my world - in a slide-on camper I'll be fine, and feel at home no matter when I happen to be. That's the theory.

Beeb time: Syrian troops fire on tens of thousands of protesters as they hold rallies in front of visiting Arab League monitors, killing 35, activists say. I don't understand a military that can shoot its own countrymen. World stock markets finish one of the most dramatic years for the global economy, with most well down for the year. Boing, boing, boing. That's why we have a new year... so that we can hope for better things to come. Spain's new conservative government announces 8.9bn euros in austerity measures in order to lower the country's borrowing. As someone said, austerity measures stifle growth, and without growth you get stagnation. I dunno what the answer is. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney maintains a slim lead over his rival, Ron Paul, days before the Iowa caucus, according to the latest poll. Rick Santorum's surge continues - he is third - while Rick Perry has inched up to fourth and Newt Gingrich has slipped to fifth. Michele Bachmann was last. Meanwhile, Mr Gingrich wept at an Iowa campaign event as he discussed his mother's battle with bipolar disease. The candidates are making their final pitch to voters ahead of Iowa's vote. The Hawkeye state's 3 January gathering marks the start of the six-month period during which each US state will hold primary elections or caucuses to pick a Republican candidate, who will be officially nominated at the party convention in August. From where I sit here in Oz, it looks a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. For the life of me, I can't see a Republican candidate that inspires confidence. As Ohio Jace says, all Obama has to do is sit back and watch. Samoa and Tokelau have skipped a day - and jumped westwards across the international dateline - to align with trade partners. As the clock struck midnight (10:00 GMT Friday) as 29 December ended, Samoa and Tokelau fast-forwarded to 31 December, missing out on 30 December entirely. Samoa announced the decision in May in a bid to improve ties with major trade partners Australia and New Zealand. I think Samoa will be the first sizeable nation to see in 2012. Oz won't be far behind. 

Here's a map showing Samoa's location relative to N. America, Japan, Oz and NZ.

I'll always remember what Cody wrote on New Year's Eve 1999. He said he would be with his "best friends" at the local beach to watch the sun rise on a new millennium as they sipped champagne. He was referring to his folks. I hope they are remembering that morning as we slide into 2012. And me? I'll be sound asleep, and wake up next year. Gary

December 30, 2011. Got a call this morning from Dr Sydney Ch'ng, a colleague of Dr Johnathan Clark. They managed to book theater time at the Royal Prince Alfred hospital on Thursday January 5. Whoa! That soon! Clark is unavailable that day so Dr Ch'ng will be the surgeon. She phoned again just a few minutes ago to say they need me there the day before for X-rays and whatever, which presents an accommodation problem. She said she'll be able to get me a bed overnight rather than make two trips to Sydney. But another option is B&B at my ex-neighbor's house in Hegarty St Glebe, just a short taxi ride from the hospital.

Ch'ng confirmed what Clark said about being in hospital for 10 to 12 days. It's a fairly complicated operation which requires a skin graft to my neck (where the lymph gland is). My right arm will be out of action for a while... that's where they'll take the skin from (I'm left handed). Sounds like a fun couple of weeks.

B&B at my ex-neighbor's house in Glebe is a no-no. His mother is staying over for the new year. He says he has the keys to a friend's house who's away but I wouldn't feel right being a stranger in another person's house. I think I'll leave it to the doc to find me a bed overnight at the hospital.

Plastic surgery trainee, Dr Sydney Ch'ng is a PhD student at the University of Otago, under the supervision of Drs Swee Tan, Helen Brasch, Michael Sullivan and Paul Davis. She has won several awards for her work in skin cancers. She was a co-recipient of the award for the best scientific paper at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australian and New Zealand Head and Neck Society held in Melbourne this year.

Do you know about Helium 3? And why China (in collaboration with Russia) is so keen to get to the moon? Check it out.

Beeb time: Syrian activists call for mass demonstrations on Friday against President Bashar al-Assad, as Arab League monitors continue their work. If you were a betting man, who would you put your money on? The protesters or al-Assad? I think my money's on the former. North Korea tells the international community not to "expect any change" in the wake of Kim Jong-il's death, as the US sends a top diplomat to the region. Have you seen Kim Jong-un's face? I'd expect to find something like that in a reject shop. The United States confirms the sale of nearly $30bn (£19.5bn) of new fighter jets and upgrades to its key Middle East ally Saudi Arabia. Obama scores another point. A petrol tanker crashes in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, engulfing other vehicles in flames and killing at least 13 people. If that had happened when the LP gas tanker crashed outside my house in November, you wouldn't have read about it from me. A reality show about American Muslims has said its penultimate episode will address emotional responses to the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The characters, living in Dearborn, Michigan, wanted to tackle the topic, US cable channel TLC said. The show drew headlines in December when a national home improvement chain withdrew its advertising, on appeals from a conservative Christian group. The group accused the show of hiding an "Islamic agenda" against US values. At least one other company, travel website, also pulled its sponsorship from the show in response to calls from the Florida Family Association. Oh dear, here we go again. We're the goodies and they're the baddies. God's on our side, not theirs. If it weren't so serious it'd be a joke. Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has vowed to press ahead with her campaign, a day after a high-profile defection. Her Iowa chairman, Kent Sorenson, endorsed Texas Congressman Ron Paul on Wednesday night, hours after appearing alongside Mrs Bachmann. She says Mr Sorenson was  offered "a lot of money" by the Paul campaign, an allegation denied by both. Some people believe they're destined for greatness. Sometimes it's called delusion. New helicopter-style drones with 1.8 gigapixel colour cameras are being developed by the US Army. The army said the technology promised "an unprecedented capability to track and monitor activity on the ground". A statement added that three of the sensor-equipped drones were due to go into service in Afghanistan in either May or June. Remember the old Hollywood Westerns when the Indians sent a few scouts out ahead of the main contingent to check out the scene?

Yes, it's called reconnaissance which has nothing to do with the revival of arty stuff. It's all about peeking.

Are Australians racist? And what is it about swearing that warrants merit? Billy Connolly explains. Hehe. And make sure you watch parts 2, 3 and 4. It's a brilliant interview on "Enough Rope" with Andrew Denton.

And here's a link sent by NC Art to an hilarious vid about how to wrap a Christmas present. Ya gotta watch this one.

And now it's time to do the kitchen thing. Gary

December 29, 2011. At last, the secret to eternal life.

Meanwhile, NC Art has his say about human beings and their penchant for warfare: The trouble with staying out of wars is that it's harder to do than fight them. In the beginning of the United [?] States of America, most of the leaders adopted a policy of avoiding European entanglements. George Washington and John Adams held that view. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton were more realistic, but still tried to remain at arms length as possible. The hitch: Trade and the wealth it engendered.
    While professing neutrality--sort of--as England and France kept shooting at each other for 30 years or so, America kept supplying shot and shell to both, plus domestic goods. Ah well.
    To my thinking, WWII is the last war that was "won" clearly, but actually even that continued as USSR sought to communize every place it could reach--a "cold" war we called it. Cuba, China, North Korea, etc., are still "lost" as far as democratic regimes go.
    As I watched U.S. troops rolling out of Iraq, I knew it would be only hours before our politicians started gabbling that we should have left a military presence until the Iraq government was completely in control. Hah, my son agreed that no difference would be seen if we stayed five more years or 55 more years. Afghanistan is cut from the same ragged fabric.
    Oddly, there are a (number of) small and quiet voices murmuring that war is obsolete--at last--as an effective weapon of foreign policy. Now wouldn't that be a wild and crazy thing to take root and demand action?

I like the sound of that... war is obsolete. However, to make it work, everyone has to believe it. Even in a democracy, you can't have just one party standing for election. People are not happy unless there's a choice - unless there's someone or thing to oppose. Hehe. They've even divided God up into bits to suit various interpretations. But Art goes on to say:

Here's a news bulletin: American Samoa's president has decreed that the country will switch from left to right side steering wheels and the necessary switch to left lane traffic pattern. Reasonable because trading with Australia and New Zealand is far more important than is America now! See what can start wars--or at least a revolution? So Asia will soon be supplied with cars and trucks of Asian manufacture. Mostly Chinese. Watch out Oz, the giant is awake and hungry. Hehehe.

Yes, the giant is certainly awake and hungry... and doing a lot of its shopping here in Oz. We can only hope they don't decide at some stage just to walk in and take over. The Japanese tried that in 1942 by bombing the crap out of Darwin and attacking Sydney but they failed, thanks to our American allies. Obama was here recently to announce that the American military presence in Darwin will be increased. Imagine the horror back in the States when they return home saying, "Owyagoinmate, no worries." I remember the American sailors here on R&R from Vietnam in the late '60s. It was a real novelty to hear those accents in Sydney streets and pubs.

This morning, a small package arrived for moi. It was from my Brazilian mate Joao... two CDs containing 40 classic hits from the '80s. "They're not exactly Christmas carols but good songs to remember," he says. Remember Sade and Smooth Operator? What a great song that was. Other favs are Kokomo by The Beach Boys, You're the Voice by Johnny Farnham and Footloose by Kenny Loggins. All good stuff! Thanks Joao.

There's no big deal about hearing music from the 60s, 70s and 80s on the radio these days. Recording techniques have been fairly sophisticated since the mid to late 20th century, and what wasn't quite up to scratch can be digitally remastered these days. Back when I was growing up in the 50s and 60s, music from 30 or 40 years ago was virtually non-existent. Can you imagine the radio playing recordings from the 19-teens, 20s or 30s? No way, Jose. I think the first recording I remember was Buttons and Bows by Dinah Shore. I honestly thought back then that there were tiny little people inside the radio. Hehe.

Sometimes I wonder about myself ya know. Back in the late 80s, I drove my Kombi camper down to Kangaroo Valley with my mate Phil and my dog Kelly, and camped just out of town. We walked into town that night to have dinner at the one and only pub. HUGE T-bone steaks. We sat at a table outdoors - me, Phil and Kelly (perched on one of the chairs). Phil and I tucked into our T-bones and gave Kelly regular scraps to munch on as we slowly demolished our meal. She was happy just to sit there quietly and patiently as the morsels kept coming her way. None of the other patrons batted an eyelid. Hehe. It was all quite normal, or so it seemed. And I couldn't see anything wrong with the arrangement either. Not then. But now? Well, I look back and think... whoa... that was just a tad eccentric, Gary.

Beeb time: Arab League monitors overseeing compliance with a peace plan have been fanning out to cover various parts of Syria amid continuing anti-government violence. Activists reported at least 10 deaths on Wednesday in the cities of Homs, Hama and elsewhere. The monitors visited Homs for a second time, to be met by angry residents. The team's head said he had so far seen "nothing frightening", dismaying some activists and Western observers. Meanwhile, Syria released 755 people detained during the nine-month-old uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule. State TV said their "hands were not stained with blood". Nothing frightening so far? Maybe they're saying this is normal life in the Middle East. The US Navy has said it will not tolerate disruption to a vital oil-trade route, following an Iranian threat to close it. Iran warned it would shut the Strait of Hormuz if the West imposed more sanctions over its nuclear programme. The US and its allies believe Iran is trying to develop a nuclear weapon - a charge Tehran denies. Reacting to Iran's warning, a US Fifth Fleet spokeswoman said it was "always ready to counter malevolent actions". It's a game of bluff. But sooner or later, someone is gonna call the other guy's bluff. JFK did that in the 60s and sent the Russian fleet packing. Nigerian Christians will have "no other option" but to defend themselves if Islamist attacks continue, a church coalition says. Yes, I'm afraid this "turning the other cheek" idea doesn't work too well. Venezuela experienced a record number of murders this year - 53 a day on average - the highest in South America, a campaign group says. Makes living in a quiet little town like Taree seem pretty ideal, really. Scuffles have broken out between rival groups of Greek Orthodox and Armenian clerics in a turf war at Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. Bemused tourists looked on as about 100 priests fought with brooms while cleaning the church in preparation for Orthodox Christmas, on 7 January. Palestinian police armed with batons and shields broke up the clashes. God must find it very difficult to choose which side he should be on. Five days after a failed launch, the Russian Soyuz rocket system has been pressed back into service. The vehicle successfully put six spacecraft in orbit for US satellite phone and data company, Globalstar. The Soyuz lifted away from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan at 1709 GMT, ejecting the last of the six Globalstar platforms an hour and 40 minutes later. If at first you don't succeed... A chimpanzee who apparently starred in Tarzan films in the 1930s has died at the age of 80, according to the sanctuary where he lived. The Suncoast Primate Sanctuary in Palm Harbor said he died on Saturday of kidney failure. He had acted alongside Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O'Sullivan in Tarzan films from 1932-34, it claimed. I was always intrigued by the fact that Maureen could live in the jungle with Tarzie baby and yet still find a local hairdresser. Most teenagers will find any reason under the sun not to do their homework. But 16-year-old South Londoner Nick D'Aloisio's excuse is better than most - he has been busy developing an app which has made international headlines and attracted a big investment from a Hong Kong-based billionaire. Summly is an iPhone app which summarises and simplifies the content of web pages and search results. Currently it can condense reference pages, news articles and reviews but has the potential to go a lot further. Mr D'Aloisio - the son of a lawyer and an investment banker - had the brainwave for it while studying. 16 and on his way to becoming a billionaire. Read the full story here. An Australian crocodile reacted badly when a noisy lawnmower invaded his space - he stole it, forcing keepers to make a daring rescue. Elvis, who lives at the Australian Reptile Park, lunged at the mower, grabbing it from operations manager Tim Faulkner and keeper Billy Collett. Pulling it under water, the five-metre saltwater crocodile "drowned" the machine at the park near Sydney. I know exactly how he feels. There's a bloke who mows the lawn across the road early on Sunday mornings. Watch the croc video here

I love inventors like that kid who developed the app. Imagine life without a vegetable peeler or toilet paper. Inventors are so cool. They don't just sit there and bitch about problems, they solve them. One day, a bloke wandered into the village rolling a round thing and said, "Hey, check this out!" And one of the villagers said, "What is it?" And the bloke said, "It's a wheel." And the other bloke said, "What does it do?" And the first bloke said, "Do? It doesn't actually DO anything. You just roll it around." So the second bloke gave it a bit of thought and said, "Why don't you make another one, and put holes in the middle and make a stick that goes through the holes and call it an axle?" And the first bloke said, "Yeah! Good thinking, 99."

It's interesting how much we take for granted these days. When cars were first invented they used a tiller for steering instead of a wheel. Even when cars became more sophisticated, there were no driving instructors. That job was left to car salesmen who had a job trying to convince their students to stop pulling on the steering wheel in an attempt to stop the car. They were used to reins and horses. And even with a steering wheel at their disposal, it took students a while to realize that you needed to turn it left or right to change direction. They were accustomed to a horse following the path of a road. It was all pretty hairy back in those days.

I dunno what the hell Ohio Jace would do if he weren't the official looker-afterer of the local kids. He's at it again, keeping them amused and feeding them pizza and/or chicken. It seems all the locals send their kids to Uncle Jace's house when they need to go out somewhere. His living room is scattered with sleeping bags and clothes. Boys are such untidy buggers. Sean and his older bro are there too, making the most of the rain and the mud and their ATVs. In 40F temps? The cold doesn't seem to bother them. And don't tell me 40F ain't cold! Jace asked if we get a lot of news here in Oz about the republican primary race circus. Yes, we do. As far as news is concerned, we might as well be the 51st state of the union. I've also noticed that the Beeb covers a lot of news from the US.

Jace tells me that Ben Breedlove died of heart failure on Christmas Day aged 18. Here's what Ben posted about his life on Youtube while he was still alive. Jace asked if I was aware of Ben's case but I wasn't. I'm glad I am now though.

Well, dear Breth, I ain't gonna try to top that one. Seeya tomorrow. Gary

December 28, 2011. And not only that... SF Bill has more to say: One of the biggest reasons I'm against any more frivolous military action by the US is that many in my country want "feel good" actions with no long-range planning for desired results; people also don't want casualties, not only for our troops, but "civilians" must also not be hurt.  What stupid shit.  Military actions are not video games.  As one US general said before Congress when questioned about what the army was for if it didn't want to do country building, he answered "we kill people; that's what we're trained to do."  The US can't take the heat that comes with military actions so that means we cannot be effective in using that option; hence my opposition to costly non-effective military interventions.  Also, if I remember my old history, a big reason contributing to the fall of the old Roman Empire was the cost of military actions that could not be sustained over a long period of time.  And the US is approaching bankruptcy with all the money we're wasting in bribing regimes who are basically against us anyway.( for instance, Pakistan and Afghanistan)  Time to take care of our own needs back home.  And as far as 9/11 incidents, punish those perpetrators with whatever actions we need to take and the hell with world opinion.  That will be more effective than our flailing around with  massive  military forces who are not allowed to do their jobs effectively.  Wow, what a rant.  Thanks for the chance to get that out of my system.

Maybe the problem is democracy. Just because it works well for us, we figure it must be good for everyone. Maybe that's not the case at all. Islam is the same. They figure the whole world should be a theocracy. What's good for them is good for all. They love their strict codes... it saves them having to think for themselves. They don't want freedom. That said, it still gets down to one group trying to impose its beliefs on others, so we who cherish our democratic way of life need to be ever vigilant. If we allow weeds to flourish in the garden next door, it'll only be a matter of time before they invade ours. That's the nature of weeds. And rabbits.

While I hung around the Quay in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I noticed a girl in a kiosk selling newspapers and magazines amusing herself by throwing hot chips (one at a time) to a number of seagulls on the ground. One of the gulls spent so much time chasing others away, he missed several opportunities to grab a chip due to another bird sneaking in while he was busy defending his territory. Hehe.

I watched an interesting program on telly last night about music and how it affects our emotions and memories. Songs evoke vivid memories of events during our lives, and the emotions associated with them. Sting was the "guinea pig" on the show... undergoing brain scans to identify the parts of the brain affected by various forms of music. He spoke about Indian music which is mathematically far more complex than Western music, which explains why many of us Westerners can't identify with it. It was the Indians after all who discovered the zero which revolutionized mathematics. He also spoke about jazz, and how musicians like Felonious Munk push the boundaries. He said it takes a lot of persistence for the "untrained ear" to appreciate what Munk is doing. He also spoke about "flat B" which is apparently a key that takes quite a bit of getting used to. James Morrison, Australia's most famous jazz trumpeter, said if you try to understand jazz, you're missing the point. Anyway, music is certainly a powerful influence on our lives, and one that starts during childhood with nursery rhymes.

And how do you get a racehorse to pee? Well, it's simple... you whistle. If you need to take a sample of a racehorse's urine to test for performance enhancing drugs, rather than stand around all day holding a pot under the horse's belly waiting for something to happen (which could resemble Niagara), you give a little whistle (no doubt a special one that the horse understands) and out comes a little squirt, just the right amount for a test sample. Hehe. Thought you might wanna know that. It might come in handy one of these days.

Beeb time: Angry protesters have confronted visiting Arab League monitors in Syria's restive city of Homs, demanding international protection. The observers are verifying compliance with an Arab League plan to end the government's violent crackdown. Tens of thousands protested in Homs as the monitors arrived. The Arab League said the first day was "very good". Tanks reportedly withdrew before the monitors arrived but activists say some were simply deployed out of sight. The UN says more than 5,000 people have been killed in protests against President Bashar al-Assad's rule since March. I'm not sure international protection is something available on demand. Thousands rally in the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh against ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremism, prompted by attacks on "immodestly" dressed women. Extremists simply don't understand the meaning of "everything in moderation". A Cairo court has ordered forced virginity tests on female detainees in military prisons to be stopped. The court made the decision after a case was brought by protester Samira Ibrahim. She accused the Egyptian army of forcing her to undergo a virginity test after she was arrested during a protest in Tahrir Square in March. Human rights organisations say the Egyptian military has used the practice widely as a punishment. What we need is a time machine that sends all those nitwits back to the Old Testament where they belong. North Korea is to begin two days of funeral services for its late leader Kim Jong-il, with hundreds of thousands expected to attend in Pyongyang. Spare me the bullshit. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin dismisses calls for a review of disputed parliamentary election results, despite mass demonstrations. What would you expect of someone who has something to hide? A freight train has been derailed and two people were swept from their car in flooding that struck Australia's Northern Territory. Two crew members were stranded and hurt when the freight train derailed from a bridge near Katherine, 300km (186 miles) south of Darwin. A man and a woman were found clinging to a tree after they were swept away from their vehicle in the same area. Check out the video

Here's a Youchewb vid of a Russian cargo plane taking off from a small airport and using up every inch of runway. The guys in the control tower have Aussie accents so it must have been downunder somewhere.

I saw a funny clip on last night's TV news. A bunch of Speedo-clad footballers swimming in a pool got a surprise when one of the guys discovered an uninvited guest. I think it was a water dragon. He picked it up by the tail and placed it on the ground outside the pool. But the damn thing turned around and dove straight back in! Maybe it was hungry and felt like a bit of a nibble. 

Back from a little shopping. The Ute started first time after 3 days sitting in the garage, no problems. Just after those six pots burst into life, I went around to the back and checked the exhaust. No sign of smoke.

I watched ABC News 24 on line for a while and saw footage of the funeral procession in Pyongyang with crowds of people weeping and wailing over the death of their "dear" leader Kim Jong Il. It's so ludicrous it beggars belief. Those people really do live in la-la land. Nonetheless, you have to wonder if *all* the people of North Korea are represented by the faces you see on television.

Meanwhile, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the chook that gave its life in order that the zoo and I can enjoy our chicken schnitzel tonight, with corn on the cob. Gary

December 27, 2011. Seems like yesterday I was bitching about having to remember 2011 instead of 2010. A lot happened though. It was the first year that Bluey breezed through registration without needing any further repairs. It was the year I drove all the way to Tamworth to discover I'd bought a lemon. It was the year I sold both Bluey and the Bus. And it was the year I bought the Ute. Oh yes... and the year I discovered the mouth lesion and had to step over lots of sleeping bodies on the train to Sydney.

Will 2012 be the year I buy a slide-on camper for the Ute? Stay chewned.

SF Bill sums up 2011: You know, after watching headlines and stories the past few weeks, what did the US accomplish after 9 years, 40,000 casualties, uncountable lost billions, the destruction of the Iraqi infrastructure and the wreck of the US economy?  Not a week after the last US troops left, Iraq is already starting to fracture.  Sunni's and Shia's are at each others throats again and I predict Iraq will dissolve into sectarian and civil war soon.  There will be no democracy as we know it in Iraq or any other Middle East region.  All I can say is Obama should withdraw all US presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan and leave them to their own miseries; we can't make a difference except to make corrupt rich dictators and tribal leaders more rich at our expense.  Bah, screw them all.

Bill has a point, and one with which I empathise. On the other hand, the US decided to remain insular during the early stages of WWII. Leave the Europeans to sort out their own mess. We had enough of their shit during WWI. But what happens when you're having a nice time minding your own business? Along comes Pearl Harbor. And the rest is history. More recently, along came Nine Eleven. So the question is, is it possible to remain isolated from the loonies of the world?

If you have any thoughts on America's involvement in foreign wars during the past decade, I'd like to hear them. If it hadn't been for America's involvement in WWII, NC Art would never have ridden in a Ford Prefect or understood Cockney rhyming slang. And Oregon Richie probably wouldn't have become a huge fan of Winston Churchill and Merlin powered Spitfires. Incidentally, Richie sent this link to a pic of a Qantas Airbus taken at night, which I think is rather spiffy. I must tell Richie there's only one 'e' in Kelly though. The poor dear's not Irish.

Beeb time: A group of 50 Arab League monitors arrives in Syria as 23 people are reported killed in continuing violence in the city of Homs. Why don't they send people like NC Art, Oregon Richie, SF Bill, TX Greg and me there? We'd sort it out quick smart. Officials were guilty of multiple failures in their response the nuclear disaster at Japan's Fukushima plant in March, a government-commissioned study says. When everything runs smoothly for many years, and there are no problems, people get lazy. An 18-year-old man has been stabbed to death in London, on one of the UK's busiest shopping streets. The victim died outside the Foot Locker sports shop on Oxford Street, near the junction with Stratford Place. Police said they were called to the scene at about 13:45 GMT. Eleven people were arrested and part of the street, near Bond Street Tube, was closed. Det Ch Insp Mark Dunne said there appeared to have been two groups of young people "opposing each other". Life's pretty boring without hate and confrontation. Yeah? Brazil has overtaken the UK as the world's sixth largest economy, an economic research group has said. The Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) said its latest World Economic League Table showed Asian countries moving up and European countries falling back. Maybe that's not so surprising since Australia's economy is way healthier than most in the developed world. The gunman who shot dead six relatives before killing himself at a family Christmas celebration in Texas was dressed as Santa Claus, police say. Investigators found four women and three men, aged 15 to 59, dead among unwrapped presents and Christmas decorations in the flat's living room. Two handguns were also recovered at the scene in the city of Grapevine, near Dallas, on Sunday. Investigators do not know what prompted the killings. How do you head those loonies off at the pass before they commit their atrocities? I guess you can't. Greg Fisher is a train manager on a line which crosses Australia from Sydney to Perth. He paints portraits and landscapes as he travels 4,000 km across the Outback on Great Southern Rail. Great story and video. Vinyl is to make a comeback on the radio, but for only one day. BBC Radio 6 Music has announced it will be playing only vinyl on New Year's Day. Most BBC stations phased out vinyl in favour of CDs in the 1990s and the majority now use digital versions of songs. Presenters Jarvis Cocker and Guy Garvey will be among those dusting off their turntables and Don Letts will be bringing his own seven-inch singles. But 6 Music bosses have turned the clock back with an "All Vinyl" day to round off a month-long celebration of vinyl. Station editor Paul Rodgers said: "In a world dominated by digital music, vinyl is a format still close to the hearts of many music lovers and increased sales demonstrate its enduring appeal." That's the way it was during my days as a DJ on radio. Even reel to reel tape was a bit of a novelty when I first started. I had a mini-xylophone thingy that I struck with a felt-covered hammer during pauses between announcements hehe. If we can stop thinking about what the future might bring and embrace the present for what it is, we would be a lot better off, writes John Gray. It's been some time now since history didn't end. Twenty-odd years ago, when the Berlin Wall was coming down, there were many who believed that there would be no more serious conflicts. The American writer Francis Fukuyama, who promoted the idea of the end of history in the autumn of 1989, declared that the chief threat in future would be boredom. A new era, different from any before, had arrived. Of course it hadn't. Read on...

While I was in the bathroom shaving, etc, I listened to the cricket commentary on radio. It's not that I'm interested in cricket, but the commentators are quite witty and entertaining. One of them was Safrican and it made me wonder what Cody & Co sounded like when they where chatting. It's hard to imagine them speaking with that accent but obviously they did.

Here's a pleasant surprise. I just popped in to Youchewb to see what was there and came across this version of Pavane For a Dead Princess (one of my favs) by Depapepe on classical guitar. Very nice.

Yesterday, I mentioned Francis Albert Sinatra and the Big Band days. Do you remember Stevie Wonder's Sir Duke? That's from the 1976 album Songs in the Key of Life on VINYL!

And now, once again, dear Breth, it's time to part for yet another day. Chicken and veg pies tonight. Gary

December 26, 2011. Thank God that's over! Back to normality. Not quite normality for Averil though... she's got enough licorice allsorts to last the rest of her life.

I've been feeling guilty for ages about the Bluey page and all that crap about the Nissan and the repairs and high hopes and, and, and... So I shortened it today. Kept the name Bluey Page but condensed the text down to just a few paras with links to the appropriate photo albums. What a load of old codswallop that was... three years of buggerizing around with old bombs and spending thousands on a lost cause, trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

So what does a bloke do on a sunny Boxing day? Laundry.

Rewriting the Bluey Page reminded me of my brief time in Walcha, a small town east of Tamworth where I stopped to sleep over for the night after purchasing Das Busse. It was an experience I'll keep in mind when I finally travel Oz. I parked outside the town pub and wandered inside to buy a beer. The locals pretty much kept to themselves and showed no interest in talking to strangers. The publican, a woman, was abrupt and only just short of being downright rude. It was a Monday night and the town was dead quiet, so I asked one of the drinkers at the bar where I could get a meal. He suggested the cafe just a block away, the only one open. "They serve good meals there," he said. He must have been easily pleased. Then he turned his back on me as if to say, "Don't ask any more questions." I finished my beer and went to the cafe. "What would you like?" the seriously overweight woman behind the counter asked. I checked the overhead menu-board with umpteen things listed, most of which looked unappetizing, and couldn't decide. "Um, what would you suggest?" "You can have anything you like," she said, obviously getting impatient with my inability to make a choice. When people standing on one leg get impatient, they shift their weight to the other leg to let you know you're wasting their time. "Burger and chips," I said, thinking that would be the safest choice. "Plain or with everything?" "Plain." When the waitress (daughter) came to my table, she plonked the cutlery down in a heap and put the salt and pepper shakers on the table, then left without saying a word. I sat there for 10 minutes watching other customers arrive (not many - only a handful of desperates), and spend a while checking out the remaining two shriveled BBQ'd chickens sitting in the warmer before they made a decision. I imagined the overweight lady getting impatient again: "Well, don't take all bloody night... which chicken do you want? The one on the left or the one on the right?" Finally, my meal arrived. A zillion chips (those horrible frozen ones with artificial coloring), and a ground beef pattie topped with limp salad between two enormous buns. I barely ate any of it which was just as well. I spewed what little I ate down the sink in my room back at the pub. The group of bikers who slept in the adjacent rooms must have gone to bed with their boots on because I heard them all night clomping up and down the hall to the loo and back.

A few weeks ago when I was in Sydney, and decided to grab a bite at McDonalds at the Quay, the girl at the counter asked me what I wanted. I didn't have a clue. I hadn't been to McDs in over a decade. I scanned the overhead menu-board trying desperately to choose something from the myriad of offerings and eventually settled on a McMuffin with egg and sausage. "Anything to drink?" "Er, yes... coffee." "What kind?" "What kind? Oh, er..." "McCafe?" "Yeah." Took me forever to figure out you're not supposed to remove the lid. But why do people automatically assume you know the menu as well as they do? That girl made me feel like I was a nuisance. Everybody in Sydney is in such a rush. As to Walcha on a Monday night, I got the feeling, "If you don't like it, mate, piss off."

Beeb time: World powers condemn a series of Christmas Day bomb attacks in Nigeria that killed almost 40 people and injured many more. If those perpetrators are ever caught, I hope they are treated with utmost contempt and shown absolutely no mercy. They are nothing but despicable scum. Pope Benedict XVI uses his traditional Christmas Day message from the Vatican to pray for an end to the bloodshed in Syria. I hate to be the one to break the news to you, Benny, but no one is listening. God doesn't exist. The activist hacker group Anonymous says it has stolen thousands of emails, passwords and credit card details from a US-based security think-tank. The hackers claim they were able to obtain the information because the company, Stratfor, did not encrypt it. They say Stratfor's clients include the US defence department, law enforcement agencies and media organisations. Back to the drawing board, guys. Seven people are found dead with gunshot wounds in a flat in the US state of Texas, with one of them believed to have killed the other six. Don't ask me to understand things like that cos I never will. Tens of thousands of people attend a rally in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi for former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan. He's a very popular figure over there (as well as internationally) but I don't envy his job of leading a flock of Pakistani sheep. The Queen has used her annual Christmas Day broadcast to speak of courage and hope in adversity. In her message, recorded on 9 December, the Queen said the Royal Family had been inspired by the courage shown in Britain, the Commonwealth and around the world. Yes, I watched it. It showed clips of her visiting Oz to inspect the damage caused by the Queensland floods earlier this year. She referred to the carnage as being the work of Nature. God had nothing to do with it. An American teenager has become the youngest person to climb to the summit of the highest mountains on each of the seven continents. Jordan Romero, 15, reached the 4,897m (16,067ft) summit of Vinson Massif in Antarctica on Saturday, the final peak in a quest he began six years ago. His team, which includes his father and stepmother, hope to complete their descent to base camp later on Sunday. Aged 10, Jordan climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in Africa. At 13, the Californian climbed the world's highest mountain, Mt Everest. He called his mother, Leigh Ann Drake, on Saturday to confirm he had reached the top of Vinson Massif. Good on him. "Hey, mom, guess where I am?" 

Finally, all the washing is on the line. It takes forever! Mind you, if I did it more often it wouldn't. Blame Ohio Sean. I've got so many T-shirts I can go six months without doing the laundry. Ah, the backup has finally finished! Here's the pic of the porcelain frame with Cody's pic from the Ohio gang.

And here's proof of what I've been doing today.

It's cricket season in Oz, with Oz and India at it. Cricket? Remember this song from 10CC called Dreadlock Holiday? "I don't like cricket, I love it..." The Aussies love it, the Poms love it, the Safricans love it, the N Zedders love it, the Jamicans love it, as do the Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans and West Indies. Even some Americans love it! It doesn't do much for me but I love the song.

Anyway, it's late and I gotta bring all that washing in before nightfall and cook dinner! I'm outta here. Gary


December 25, 2011. Christmas in Brazil. Thanks Joao. I'm sure Cody would approve of that shot. Not sure about the surf though. Meanwhile, I spotted a pic on an auto newsgroup this morning that I thought was cute:

It's a quiet day here in Taree (except for the police car that took off like a startled gazelle a few minutes ago). Lindsay's itching to give Averil her mountain of candy but she's seriously anti-social until about 11am. The weather's okay which will please all the kids with their new outdoor toys as well as holidaymakers here on the coast and those planning a barbecue lunch or picnic. Beaches will be a popular destination, which must sound a bit weird to you northern hemisphericals.

Beeb time: Tens of thousands of people have rallied in central Moscow in a show of anger at alleged electoral fraud. They passed a resolution "not to give a single vote to Vladimir Putin" at next year's presidential election. Protest leader Alexei Navalny told the crowd to loud applause that Russians would no longer tolerate corruption. First, the collapse of Communism and the USSR and now the collapse of corruption. The Queen visits her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, in hospital, where he has received treatment for a blocked coronary artery. The poor dear can't go anywhere without attracting attention. I wonder if she's ever gone shopping or for a stroll around the block to the fish 'n' chip shop. Thousands flock to Bethlehem for Christmas celebrations, culminating in Midnight Mass at the site where Christians believe Jesus Christ was born. Hmmm. Newt Gingrich, one of the leading US Republican presidential candidates, has said Virginia's electoral system is flawed, after failing to qualify for the primary ballot in his home state. Virginia party officials say he did not submit the required 10,000 signatures to appear on the 6 March ballot. Maybe he and Putin should get together for a chat. Thousands of people have attended the funerals of the 44 victims of Friday's twin bomb attacks in Syria's capital, Damascus, amid a strong show of support for President Bashar al-Assad. Mourners flew flags of the ruling Baath party and held portraits of Mr Assad. Syria blamed the attacks on al-Qaeda, but the opposition said they were staged by the government to justify its crackdown on anti-Assad protesters. Remember Ray Stevens' hit song Ahab the Arab? I wonder if that's still played on American radio given the current Middle Eastern situation. Ambulance bosses (in Britain) are condemning a man who rang 999 to say he had run out of toilet paper. The call was released by South West Ambulance in an attempt to make people realise pranks and hoaxes can stop genuine calls from getting through. Maybe he was serious, in which case I can imagine his dilemma. Hehe.

And for those who don't remember Ray Stevens' Ahab the Arab, here it is.

Here's something much more soothing and delicate... Yan Krendel with Closer to the Stars.

Now, where's the pic of the Ohio Gang's porcelain frame of Cody? The backup thing that my techie started the other day is STILL going. It's checking all the program files and has been running 24 hours every day for 4 days already, and looks like running for at least another 1. It's using the USB port that I normally use for transferring camera pics.

Just heard on the radio that compilations of Frank Sinatra's hits are making the charts again. Not bad for a bobby-soxer from the 40s. The track they played was from 1956, I've Got You Under My Skin with the Nelson Riddle orchestra. That bloke had more hits than most of us have had hot dinners. I'm no expert but I've heard he had perfect phrasing, a technique he learned during his days as a singer with the big bands, taking notes from trombone and saxaphone players. He was a capable actor too. It must've been a bit of a buzz for Paul McCartney when Sinatra chose to sing Yesterday, and for Art and Paul when he chose to sing Mrs Robinson. Not sure why - maybe I liked the movie - but as a kid I bought the single High Hopes. The label was blue/purple as I remember, and I think it was Capitol.

So what's for Christmas dinner tonight? Turkey? Plum pudding? Nope. Fish 'n' chips. Gary

December 24, 2011. All was quiet on the ceiling front last night, so hopefully Rodney has been dispatched. And it was nice to get a good night's sleep.

Meanwhile, TX Greg's sense of humor is alive and well:

No worries about the tongue... as long as the fingers can still tap the keyboard. I posted the image on Red Bubble but buggered it up, and had to do it twice. Grrrr. I hate making silly boo boos.

Thanks to NC Art who sent a Christmas message from "one grouch to another" (he's experimenting with colored lettering to make it look festive hehe). And to Oregon Richie who sends his best wishes. Lindsay has gone ballistic with the Christmas spirit. He arrived home from shopping this morning with a truckload of candy for Averil... an enormous box of licorice allsorts, bags of lollies and several blocks of chocolate. God knows how Averil will ever get through that lot.

Beeb time: Cuban President Raul Castro says 2,900 prisoners, including some convicted of political crimes, will be freed in the next few days as a goodwill gesture. No more bed and three hots (as a lawer friend of mine puts it), so I hope they all have homes to go to. The US Congress approves a payroll tax cut deal, in a rare win for President Obama over House Republicans who have frustrated his agenda all year. Really? Fancy the Republicans doing a naughty thing like that! Interpol has said it is seeking arrest of the founder of a French firm at the centre of a global breast implants scare. The international police agency listed Jean-Claude Mas, aged 72, as being being sought in Costa Rica for offences concerning "life and health". Earlier, France advised 30,000 woman to remove faulty breast implants made by Mr Mas' Poly Implant Prothese firm. I'll never understand why women have those dumb things implanted. Who the hell wants to fondle a bag of silicon? The Duke of Edinburgh has been taken to hospital after suffering chest pains, Buckingham Palace has said. Prince Philip was treated for a blocked coronary artery and a successful "invasive procedure of coronary stenting" was performed. The duke, aged 90, had been taken from Sandringham to the cardiothoracic unit at Papworth Hospital in Cambridgeshire. I had my stent implant almost 10 years ago and I'm still cruising. Rowdy scenes have broken out at stores across the US as shoppers jostled to lay their hands on Nike's new shoe. There was disorder from California to Georgia as shoppers vied to buy a retro version of a classic Air Jordan model. A new pair costs about $180 (£115), but they are already being listed on eBay for as much as $605. The ugly scenes recalled the violence that broke out in the early 1990s on streets across America as the shoes became popular targets for thieves. Get a life, guys. Sheesh. The Turkish prime minister has accused France of committing genocide during its colonial occupation of Algeria. Recep Tayyip Erdogan was speaking after French MPs passed a bill making it a criminal act to deny that Ottoman Turks committed genocide in 1915-16 Armenia. He accused President Nicolas Sarkozy of using the bill to fan hatred of Muslims and Turks for electoral gain. He said Mr Sarkozy should "ask his father, who served in the French Legion there" about the Algerian "massacre". I don't get it. Do two sins make a right? Russia's recent poor launch record has continued with yet another Soyuz rocket failure. This time, a Soyuz-2 vehicle failed to put a communications satellite into orbit after lifting away from the country's Plesetsk spaceport. Debris is said to have re-entered the Earth's atmosphere near the western Siberian town of Tobolsk. What is it they say about any publicity? I no think so.

Ever heard of anyone throwing some chopped leftover chicken into a bolognaise? Well, you have now. What's wrong with veal and chicken? No worries. Anyway, that's what's on the menu tonight, with spaghetti (vermicelli), and a generous topping of shredded parmesan. I do love my spag bol ya know. I've been making it for donkey's years.

A shorty today, dear Breth. Time to serve dinner and say Hooroo! I can hear lots of jingling outside and someone singing ho, ho, ho. Gary

December 23, 2011. I mentioned to Lindsay this morning that Rodney was back last night chewing on something in the ceiling. "They've been doing that for weeks!" he said. "I hear them of a night in the bedroom and the living room." Oh really? NOW he tells me! I've been putting bait UNDER the house. So I asked him why he didn't tell me before. *Shrug*. We're not just talking a sandwich short of a picnic here, ladies and genitals... we're talking the whole picnic missing. Anyway, I just did the ladder trick and threw a couple of baits through the manhole. Christmas lunch for Rodney.

Sue's recliner chair just arrived - big and plump and comfy... the sorta thing you could spend hours in (or get lost in). When I met Lindsay, he didn't have a bob to bless himself with.

Well, that's Averil's shopping done. The mall was jam packed again. As one car left its parking space, another took its place immediately. All the checkouts were in operation and the queues were quite long. Bleh. Kids were everywhere: "Mommy, can I have this? Mommy, can I have that?" All staff were on deck to restock shelves as quickly as they were emptied. So it's nice to be back home away from all the madness. One old bloke I spoke to said it was the first time he's done the shopping in about 40 years. "The wife normally does it but she's crook. I have a lot more respect her now."

What was I just saying about madness? Sue's been busy in the bathroom putting makeup on. She wants to walk up the road to the shops. Yeah, right. If she tried to cross that road outside she'd be flattened. Apart from that she has no idea where anything is, even this address. I was in the loo when I heard a fall. Lindsay came to the rescue and I heard him telling Sue she can't walk without the aid of her walker, and that she should forget about going to the shops. But she doesn't understand. She's like a child, and bursts into tears because she can't have what she wants. Anyway, I locked the front door from the inside so she can't get out. Yes... one does wonder what will happen when I'm away for 2 weeks.

Beeb time: Iraq's Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi has said Prime Minister Nouri Maliki is to blame for a sudden surge of violence in the country. Dozens of people were killed in a string of blasts across the capital, Baghdad, on Thursday. Mr Hashemi, who is subject to an arrest warrant on terror charges, said that Mr Maliki should be focusing on security not "chasing patriotic politicians". The crisis has sparked fears of renewed sectarian conflict in Iraq. Now I'm wondering if an iron fist like Saddam Hussein's is what it takes to control those people. Maybe they're not equipped to handle democracy. House of Representatives Republican Speaker John Boehner has agreed to accept a bipartisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut, in an abrupt U-turn. He had refused a vote on the bill, which was passed by Republicans and Democrats in the Senate last Saturday. Correspondents say the move amounts to a cave-in by House Republicans, and victory for President Barack Obama. That must have been a bitter pill for the Republicans to swallow. They're obsessed with ensuring Obama is a one-term president. The US has offered a reward of $10m for information leading to the arrest of a man they say is a key al-Qaeda facilitator and financier operating in Iran. That's pretty cheap compared to what America has spent so far. A strong earthquake rocks the New Zealand city of Christchurch, closing the airport and sending residents rushing from buildings. A pretty strong incentive to pack up and move to another town, I reckon. The US military has admitted it bears significant responsibility for last month's air strike on the Afghan border that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. A statement said US and Afghan troops acted in self defence, but conceded there had been a lack of proper co-ordination with Pakistani forces. A Pentagon spokesman later expressed "deep regret" over the incident. For many reasons.

Ohio Jace sent a Christmas e-card with a dog, cat and a couple of meeces plus a snow man, and I had to help by clicking the snow balls to put the snow man together. I feel a bit guilty about the meeces cos I've got a problem with Rodney. But it turns out so does Jace... at least with Rodney's smaller cousin Mickey. He reckons his have learned how to lick the peanut butter off the trap without setting it off hehe. Smart meeces. Actually, I spied a lady at the checkout today with quite a few boxes of rodent bait. Weatherwise, Jace reckons it's cool here in the southern hem because it's not so cold up there. He says it's been the wettest year ever in the whole state. The kids bought him 3 solar-powered snowmen for the front yard but they've only worked 3 days so far. But they look good when they're lit. Turns out that pic of the fridge with Jace in it was taken back in his college days when he shared an apartment with his mate and June. He didn't marry his mate but he did marry June... and reared a couple of sons. His mate was best man at the wedding, and has remained a close family friend all these years.

Whoa! It's after 6pm already and I gotta hit the kitchen. Gary

December 22, 2011. Inanout. That's my new word for pay day. It's also shopping day and I expect the mall to be jam packed with Christmas shoppers AND THEIR CARS. What a hassle. Averil is feeling guilty about her "long list". I dunno what the big deal is, the shops are shut for only one day. Anyway, I'll do ours first, and then hers, so I don't have to separate the two. I can deliver hers straight to her driveway.

What is Christmas all about? Justin posted this on his blog. It sits well with what Cody had to say.

I'm not a donator as a rule but I read a message from Wikimedia yesterday when I researched something and decided to part with $30. I use Wikipedia a lot and appreciate the great job they do by unpaid volunteers. Lindsay arrived home this morning with his and Sue's share of the rent and groceries, and instead of the usual $50 notes he had $100s. Must be a lotta peeps withdrawing cash from the banks for their Christmas shopping. They're very pretty things (even though the bloke in the picture isn't). Here's the Yankee one with Benjamin. Notice "pay to the bearer on demand"? That's a promisory note, and that's why we call 'em notes instead of bills.

Beeb time: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki has urged the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to hand over fugitive Vice-President Tariq al-Hashemi. An arrest warrant was issued for Iraq's most senior Sunni Arab politician on Monday on terrorism charges. Mr Hashemi denies the charges and his entire political bloc is boycotting parliament and the cabinet. Tensions between Sunnis and the Shia Arab majority appear to be coming to a head, a BBC correspondent says. And what does Allah have to say about all this? Does anyone know if Allah is Sunni or Shia? Eurozone banks have rushed to take out cheap three-year loans offered by the European Central Bank, borrowing 489bn euros ($643bn; £375bn). The central bank had originally hoped to lend up to 450bn euros to stop another credit crunch crippling the banking system. Over 500 banks raced to borrow from the scheme, which was far beyond market expectations. Reminds me of our next door neighbor when I was a kid, Mrs Purcell. She had chooks, and when she went to the chook yard in the morning she would call "here, chook, chook, chook", and then scatter grain all over the ground. The chooks came from everywhere. Sony has unveiled a paper-powered battery prototype in Japan. The technology generates electricity by turning shredded paper into sugar which in turn is used as fuel. If brought to market, the innovation could allow the public to top up the power of their mobile devices using waste material. The team behind the project said such bio-batteries are environmentally friendly as they did not use harmful chemicals or metals. Employees invited children to drop piece of paper and cardboard into a liquid made up of water and enzymes, and then to shake it. The equipment was connected to a small fan which began spinning a few minutes later. I like it, I like it!

Well, the postie arrived today with a parcel from Ohio. What a lovely surprise! Sean wrote a letter updating me about the latest goings on at home with all the kids (of which there's no shortage). Sean has a good job working four 10-hour days a week with 3-day weekends. Interestingly, they have the same number of days each week over there as we do here in Oz. :o) He sent me ANOTHER T-shirt... this time a khaki one with "Greetings from Los Angeles, California" (another place I've never been). June and Jace sent a beautiful Christmas card with a Christmas wreath on the front and two Cardinals, the State Bird of Ohio. There's a picture of a fridge inside with a bloke sitting next to it - Jace at about age 20 (looking a bit bewildered, actually). I dunno who took the pic but we could have done with a bit less fridge. Also inside was a little box wrapped in Christmas paper. Soap? After shave? "What on earth could it be?" I wondered as I unwrapped it. Then came the tissues. It's a heart-shaped porcelain frame with a banner across the top - Forever in our Hearts - and a sprig of Holly to one side. In the center is a photo of Cody, the one his folks thought looked most like him, emerging from the swimming pool with a big grin on his face. For the moment it's hanging on part of the frame of the computer desk right beside me. I took a couple of close-up pics of it but I can't upload them to the comp at the mo cos the backup software is still doing its thing (almost 24 hours straight so far). I'll do it tomorrow and paste it on the Waffle page. That's a very beautiful and thoughtful gift, Ohio Gang... thank you very much. It's a Cody Christmas!

There's about a dozen prawns that won't be celebrating Christmas this year. Prawnim bilong belly... with chips... and maybe a dollop of sweet chilli sauce. With a bit of luck, there's also a Rodney that won't be celebrating Christmas this year either. He was banging about between the walls of my bedroom last night, the noisy bugger, and kept me awake. But I think he was getting a bit crook towards morning. I checked later today under the house and it looks like he's been feasting on the rat bait. Good riddance! Gary

December 21, 2011. Dr Jonathan Clark phoned my mobile last night about 8:15 and said the results of the latest biopsy and scans revealed exactly what he suspected - the lesion is cancerous and the nearby lymph gland is swollen. I mentioned his interest in gardening and he said that's where he was, standing in his garden at home. His office will contact me again early January and advise me as to when the operation will take place, probably mid January. It'll be at the Royal Prince Alfred hospital, Newtown (close to where I visited the doc's surgery last time). Theater availability is at a premium there so he said he'll have to ask the hospital for extra. So that's where I'll be for the second half of January. How thrilling.

Meanwhile, TX Greg has been digging around in Codys World to find something Cody had to say about Christmas, and more specifically, how to have a Cody Christmas.

Here's a pic of Cody's beloved mountain and his stomping grounds taken from a chopper. Oregon Richie sent the link.

NC Art also sent a link to a collaboration by a man and the boy he once was. ...Then came Welsh singer Aled Jones performing “O Holy Night.” Once a boy chorister of great renown, Jones has survived voice change and become a popular tenor and television personality. Here's a nice video of Jones the boy and Jones the man performing a duet.

Good. Now that that's all done I can go back to being grumpy.

Well, if this weather we've been having all month continues, this will be the coolest Christmas (temperature-wise) I can remember! It's flat out reaching early to mid 20s and there's been lots of showers/rain. So much for global warming. But I must say it's comfortable... no humidity or oppressive heat.

I wonder how the weather will affect the holiday season up here. There's normally a major influx of holidaymakers at this time of year. The funny thing is, people who live here on the "Holiday Coast" go somewhere else for their holiday hehe. Why wouldn't they just stay here? Change... that's what it's all about... change... something different.

Now that I've got a fair idea of what's in store in terms of hospitals and operations, I decided to do something about the new floor carpet for the Ute. Phoned Ford and the bloke said those after-market things are a bugger of a thing to fit. He said they take them to Taree Upholsterers anyway, so I might as well go straight there. Phoned the upholsterers and they're taking a break over Christmas/New Year (which figures) and they're booked up till the end of January. Sooooo, I'll wait till after the op in Sydney and phone them when I get back. Dammit, I was hoping to get it done before then. Oh well... Ford said they do a really schmick job so that'll do me.

Beeb time: US Vice-President Joe Biden urges Iraq's leaders to resolve a deepening political crisis which has sparked fears of renewed sectarian conflict. It's the Middle East, mate, what do you expect? North Korea reports pledges of loyalty to new leader Kim Jong-un as his father Kim Jong-il lies in state in the capital Pyongyang. What a joke. Scores of civilians, troops and army deserters are killed in Syria, opposition activists report, in a second day of heavy bloodshed. What can you say? It's just crazy. Alleged Wikileaks source Bradley Manning communicated directly with the website's founder Julian Assange, prosecutors argued on the fifth day of his pre-trial hearing. But Private Manning's lawyer said the US soldier should never have been given access to the classified material. They also argued workplace security at his Baghdad post was inadequate. As I said the other day, it's a Pandora's box and my feeling is that the Military will be the one to end up with egg on its face. How genuine are the tears in North Korea? Read the article here. Japan has chosen the US-made F-35 stealth fighter jet to replace its aging F-4s as the mainstay of its air defence fleet. Tokyo announced it would buy a total of 42 of the Joint Strike Fighters from defence giant Lockheed Martin, in a deal worth some $8bn (£5bn). The jet was chosen over the Eurofighter Typhoon and Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet. I'm not certain about this but I think Oz went for the Hornet.

NCArt commented on my reference to the origins of "Hello" yesterday: And there are idiomatic variations on 'hello.' My mother was born in Charleston, SC, where the language was influenced by Sea Island black mashups of several countries. She pronounced the word 'heyo' always, even after losing some of her Charleston pronunciations. The Charleston 'brogue' sounds paper as pepper, bacon as beckon, and other curious conversions. A heavy Sea Island language called gullah is almost lost now, and decipherable by few. 

That's a bit like the way New Zilanders pronounce 'e' like an 'i'... hence Zilanders or... with kids today thire's too m'ch imphasis on six.

A story about some geechies (another curious term} hunting coons at night gives an approximate example. They made a fire to cook a bit of pork, rest until midnight before the hunt. Bare feet to the fire, one chap's feet were getting too warm. Quoth he, "Sumbafudabun!" After a few more minutes, he cried, "MUHfudabun!!" Their unshod foot soles were so tough that the odor was apparent before the heat got to a nerve.  Given the context you can follow that, but without what the hell would you make of it? There is a group of historians and linguists trying to preserve the old tongue by recording the few islanders who still can speak it.

Pidgin English is still spoken in Papua New Guinea. It makes sense if you understand it. To tok pisin is to talk pidgin. For example "lose him" becomes lusim which means abandon. To have an abortion becomes kilim pikinini. Hehe. I like this one: barbecue sauce becomes blakpela sos (blackfella sauce). You can check more Pidgin here

Beau my mobile techie was here fiddling around with a few things. He's a funny bloke. "You're not going anywhere," he said when I told him about the Ute and getting a slide-on. "Gary, I've been coming here for 5 years and you're still here." Hehe. Yes, well, I have been procrastinating a bit. Anyway, now that I'm a Ford man with a ute, he reckons I should go the whole hog with a cowboy hat, big Mack bar, large mud flaps with lots of flashing lights, giant CB radio aerials and a couple of fox tails. As to my laptop playing up, he checked my internet speed and it's fluctuating wildly. He says it's my ISP. But he fixed the backup thingy. That'll be cool cos I'll take the little Acer netbook with me to Sydney plus the external HDD, and I'll get one of those prepaid wireless internet things you plug into a USB port to keep me on line.

Here we go again... it's THAT time... time to wind up the show for another day. Beckon, iggs and ch'ps tonight. Pigim bilong belly. Gary

December 20, 2011. Five days to go, huh? It certainly doesn't feel like Christmas to me. Hey, if I don't make a fuss of my own birthday or anyone else's, why should I make a fuss of his? As to it being the season of peace and goodwill, I don't see why that should be confined to any particular period. Christmas for me lost its relevance when Cody died. He always made a fuss of Christmas and birthdays because they were opportunities to demonstrate his love and gratitude to his family and friends. Remember the Harley calendar he gave Mark for his birthday, with all the little notes? This is the day you flattened me in the ring. This is the day we went on the Dawn Patrol, etc. I wonder if Mark still has that calendar.

Just checked the stats of MrB, Cody's World and Aussie Odyssey and they're all firing pretty well.

Stan the Lawn Man's back. I think he spends more time here than I do! I suppose he's getting all the lawns done before Christmas so he can take a week or two off. He owns a pretty swisho caravan and likes to spend a bit of time holidaying somewhere on the coast with his missus. 

Well, will the doc in Sydney phone me this morning or not? I'll have to wait and see. In any case, nothing's gonna happen before Christmas or probably before the New Year. But all this waiting business is a pain in the butt. I wanna know what the score is!

Hello? I just received an email that started with "Hello, Gary". Where did the word hello come from, and what does it mean?

Beeb time: Scenes of public grieving greet news of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il's death at the age of 69, reportedly of a heart attack. They've gotta be joking. Grieving over the death of an asshole? Good riddance, I say. But I suppose his son will maintain the regime of tyranny and suffering of the poor. I saw a woman newsreader choking back tears as she read the bulletin. Yeah, right. Makes me wanna puke. An Iraqi judicial committee has issued an arrest warrant for the mainly Shia Arab country's Sunni Arab Vice-President, Tariq al-Hashemi. The warrant was issued under anti-terrorism laws, interior ministry spokesman Adel Daham said. The decision came after arrested bodyguards of Mr Hashemi reportedly accused him of links to terrorism. The BBC Middle East correspondent Jim Muir says the country is facing its biggest political crisis since the unity government was formed a year ago. Would it surprise you to see Iraq return to chaos now that the Yanks have pulled out? It wouldn't surprise me in the least. Dozens of army deserters are shot dead by Syrian troops as they tried to flee their bases and join anti-government protests, activists say. Charming lot, aren't they. Saab, the clever person's car looks to be fading into history. Check out the story here. So you've lost your TV remote control. Again. Not to worry, says a tiny Israeli start-up company called XTR3D - soon you'll be able to flick through channels and adjust the volume using only... your hand. You'll just have to turn your palm towards the screen, and zap away without ever getting off the couch. And no need for under-the-skin electronics or fancy microchips. Instead, the TV - or rather gesture recognition software installed inside - will "read" your moves and execute appropriate commands, without any need for physically pressing any buttons. Thank God my mother didn't have one of those. She was infuriating enough as it was changing channels before a program had fully ended. That was back in the days when you had to leave your chair to turn the dial.

AND THEN we'd have to watch the last few minutes of another program without having a clue as to what it was all about!

For some reason, I decided to do a Google of my doc in Sydney. I'm still waiting for him to call, dammit. It means I can't go anywhere or do anything. Here's a bit more about him: During his time in Canada, Jonathan has gained considerable experience and interest in microvascular reconstruction of complex head and neck defects. His January 2006  VMO appointment spans across the Sydney South West Area Health Service to include both RPA and Liverpool hospitals. Jonathan has also been awarded a Cancer Institute NSW Fellowship. Jonathan's recreational interests include gardening with his son, Harrison and spending time with his newborn baby, Sebastian.

So then I did a search of my own GP, Dr David Healey, and discovered he specializes in AGED care! Hello? What's this aged bullshit? I'm 67, not 107. I do know, however, that when he does his regular "rounds" he visits aged care institutions, and quite often when I visit him at the surgery he will have a student in attendance... usually a pretty young girl. Hehe.

Couldn't wait any longer so I called. The doc's in surgery all week trying to get everything done before Christmas, and his receptionist said he'd be there until about 9 tonight, so I guess that puts me at the back of the queue. No wonder he likes gardening with his son, and relaxing with nature. Oh well... I'll just have to wait. But don't ask me to be patient... it's not in my nature. Meanwhile, my mobile techie is gonna call around tomorrow to take a look at why my comp is not doing automatic backups to the external HDD like he programmed it to. Naughty! It's also running slow so he's gonna check that out as well.

Today could be described as totally uneventful. Nothing memorable about it at all. Easy feed tonight... Eddy's chicken rissoles and crispy potato balls. Gary

December 19, 2011. So what's the news from the doc in Sydney? Dunno yet. I phoned but there was an emergency and he's in theater today, so his receptionist said he'd phone me later today or tomorrow. She's not sure if they've received reports or copies of the scans from the hospital up here in Taree yet so she's gonna follow that up. I've got all the hard copies anyway. So there ya go... consider the news pending.

Well, that was a bit of an anti climax. There I was all prepared for the worst scenario and I got zilch. At least for now. The receptionist is quite abrupt... definitely a no-nonsense girl, and no doubt very efficient. She has no time for dilly dallying or idle chat. I gather the surgeon is always very busy. The pressure of dealing constantly with life or death issues must be enormous... certainly not the kinda lifestyle I could handle.

TX Greg responded to my mention of the checkout dude at the supermarket yesterday: Dam right I'm furious, hehe, you carry that camera everywhere.

I made up my mind to get a small compact camera some time ago when I went up the road to the shops and saw a magnificent Harley Davidson trike. Can't remember the license plate now but it was funny. I think it might have been OLFART. Anyway, I was pissed off cos I didn't have a camera with me. NOW I DO. TX Greg also sent this pic:

Beeb time: Vaclav Havel, the Czech Republic's first president after the Velvet Revolution against communist rule, has died at the age of 75. The former dissident playwright, who suffered from prolonged ill-health, died on Sunday morning, his secretary Sabina Tancecova said. As president, he presided over Czechoslovakia's transition to democracy and a free-market economy. Now there's a man who put his life to good use. And I reckon that's what it's all about. More than 650 people are dead and hundreds more missing after floods triggered by a tropical storm sweep through the southern Philippines. Just in time for Christmas jollies. Iranian state TV has broadcast what it says is the confession of an alleged CIA spy, a US man of Iranian descent. The man, named as Amir Mirzai Hekmati, was shown allegedly confessing to a mission to infiltrate Iran's intelligence services. The report said Mr Hekmati joined the US army in 2001 and received special training before being sent to Iran. When the man's capture was first announced on Saturday, US officials rejected the claim as propaganda. Washington has made no comment on the alleged confession. Meanwhile, there are no Iranian spies in the US. The last convoy of US troops to leave Iraq has entered Kuwait, nearly nine years after the invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The final column of about 100 armoured vehicles carrying 500 soldiers crossed the southern Iraqi desert overnight. At the peak of the operation there were 170,000 US troops and more than 500 bases in Iraq. Nearly 4,500 US soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have died since the US-led campaign began in 2003. The operation has cost Washington nearly $1 trillion (£643bn). Was it all worthwhile? Stick around for the next generation of history books. New York police have arrested a man for murder and arson after he allegedly doused her with fuel and set her alight in the lift of her block of flats. CCTV images captured a man entering the lift, wearing surgical gloves, a protective mask on the top of his head and spraying an accelerant over her. Police said Jerome Isaac, 47, had surrendered and implicated himself in the attack. The victim was named as Deloris Gillespie, 73, of Brooklyn. New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said Mr Isaac walked into a police station hours after the Saturday afternoon attack, smelling of gasoline, and implicated himself. He told police Ms Gillespie owed him $2,000 (£1,300) for work he had done for her, Mr Browne said. I'm at a loss for words. The US soldier accused of leaking thousands of government secrets struggled with emotional problems and gender issues, a court has heard. Private Bradley Manning faces 22 charges of distributing state secrets to anti-secrecy site Wikileaks. But his defence have questioned whether he should have been given access to the sensitive documents in the first place. Under cross-examination of military investigators, details emerged of incidents during Pte Manning's deployment as an intelligence analyst in Iraq between November 2009 and his arrest in May 2010. His defence lawyer, David Coombs, highlighted emails his client had sent to a superior officer explaining that confusion about his gender identity was impacting on his ability to do his job. Investigators admitted they had found evidence that Pte Manning had created an online alter ego called "Breanna Manning". The soldier had also reportedly assaulted a superior, turned over a table, damaged a computer and on another occasion was found "curled up in a ball". Sounds like the ideal type of person to be given access to classified info if you ask me. A man in the United States popped out to his local petrol station to buy a pack of cigarettes - only to find his card charged $23,148,855,308,184,500. That is $23 quadrillion (£14 quadrillion) - many times the US national debt. "I thought somebody had bought Europe with my credit card," said Josh Muszynski, from New Hampshire. He says his appeals to his bank first met with little understanding, though it eventually corrected the error. It also waived the usual $15 overdraft fee. It appears we've made an error, I hear the bank saying.

Last night I watched the Schools Spectacular on telly. I think it was celebrating its 30th year... something like that. Again, it showcased some extraordinary talent... kids in their teens (and younger) as good as anything I've ever seen or heard. One young bloke with a shock of white hair sang Lennon's Imagine which was mind blowing. And these kids are from high schools in NSW, just one state! That kinda talent just wasn't around when I was a kid... or maybe it was but not fostered. Maybe opportunities didn't exist, or were not encouraged due to ignorance. These days, with internet access and huge emphasis on pop music, and people doing their own thing on Youtube, I guess many more young people are aspiring to greatness. Anyway, it was a great show and an absolute joy to watch.

I sliced a bit of that pineapple I bought yesterday (on spesh for $1.50) and had it on toast with sharp cheese for lunch. Have you ever tried fresh pineapple and sharp cheese? Heaven! The two flavors really complement each other. I'm making home-made burgers tonight - big fellas - and I'll fry some slices of pineapple in the pan juices to go with them.

Ah, I just discovered who that the kid is who sang Imagine. He's 14 y/o Jack Vidgen. No wonder I was blown away by this young fella. I did manage to find a clip of him singing Imagine on last night's Schools Spectacular but it was cut short, dammit. And the other clips were amateur stuff from people in the audience with hand-held phone cameras. Bleh. Jack Vidgen... there's a name you'll be hearing a lot more of. He comes from Sydney's north shore... surfer territory.

Honestly, kids like Jack just didn't exist in Oz when I was a kid. Maybe there's a new species of Aussies or something. Actually, I think it might have something to do with the influx of migrants after WWII. We did produce Dame Nellie Melba and Joan Sutherland but pickings were pretty slim up until fairly recently. John Farnham is another. Check out his Whispering Jack

Got a haircut today and happened to mention my encounter with Taree's version of Elvis Presley the other day. The other barber, an older bloke who's probably retired but helps Mark out occasionally, said, "Barry Catt!" Obviously, Barry is quite well known around town but it was the first time I'd seen him and I've been here 10 years. I gathered from the convo that followed that Barry is pretty harmless but not so his ex-missus, the one who allegedly tried to poison him and was sent to jail. She was eventually aquitted on appeal but it seems the locals are not convinced of her innocence. The older barber said she was one tough mama who ran the jail from the inside. Yep, when you wanna know what's going on in town, get a haircut.

No call from the doc in Sydney so far so it looks like it'll be tomorrow. Meanwhile, it's THAT time again... burgers. Gary

December 18, 2011. I watched Billy Connolly's interview on Michael Parkinson's last show and it's a riot. Connolly is such a funny guy... and smart. He also has some interesting things to say about "positive thinking" and making dreams come true.

Athiests like Connolly and Hitchens make me think more about why religion appeals to so many people. It's quite simple really. People believe in God for the same reason kids believe in Santa Claus. If there's "something in it for me" then let's go for it! Nothing could be more absurd than the notion of a bearded, red-suited man from the North Pole whizzing around in a sleigh drawn by 6 flying reindeer, delivering prezzies to houses all over the world by descending chimneys. But absurdity is put aside in favor of the need to believe in something magical. Ditto God and religion. Adam and Eve? No problem. The Immaculate Conception? No problem. The resurrection? No problem. Mickey Mouse and Disneyland? No problem.

Yes, dear Breth, whilever there's a willingness to believe in self-importance and immortality, human beings will remain vulnerable to snake-oil salesmen.

Well, here we are on a Sunday morning but that's okay, I can still pay my Greenslip compulsory third party insurance by phone using the NRMA's automated payment system. In about an hour, the payment details will be available at the Roads and Traffic Authority, so I can go ahead and renew the Ute's registration on line and then put the sticker on the inside of the windscreen. And that'll be it for another 12 months. Tweezy.

Roite, all done. Das Busse has gone, Bluey has gone, and the Ute is here to stay. I'm organized.

Well, I dunno about this global warming business, seems more like global cooling to me. This is mid December, with Christmas just a week away, and it's barely 23C (about 73F). Normally at this time of year, summer, it's up around the late 20s early 30s. So what's the story? Don't ask me. I'm just a spectator.

Back from a little top-up shopping. The checkout chick wasn't a chick. Nope, it was an exquisitely handsome young man with strong, muscular tanned arms and a T-shirt that hid little of his well-developed pecs. The reason I'm not bandaged from head to toe at the mo is because I resisted the temptation to take a pic. However, my pineapple was missing a scannable label so he had to ring his little bell and wait for customer assistance before he could complete the transaction. Hehe. Which meant extra gawk time for me. TX Greg will be furious but... well... there ya go. Actually, if I were to describe that young bloke I would say that he looks exactly like I've always imagined Mark to look.

Beeb time: Rescuers are continuing to search for survivors after floods killed more than 400 people and left many others missing in the southern Philippines. Life is so cheap, as we are continually reminded by Mother Nature. A rescue operation is under way after a boat carrying hundreds of asylum seekers sank off the Indonesian island of Java. Strong waves wrecked the wooden boat about 90km (55 miles) out to sea, rescue officials said. At least 250 people were said to be on board, although some reports put the number nearer to 400. The boat was believed to be heading for Australia carrying asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Turkey and Iran. Desperate people do desperate things, and now the opposition in Oz will have a whale of a time criticizing the government's refugee policy, which they say doesn't do enough to discourage people from trying to sail illegally to Australia. US President Barack Obama has signed into law a spending bill, averting an impending shutdown of federal government services. The bill, worth nearly $1tn (£645bn), was earlier passed by the Senate and had already been backed by the House of Representatives. Government agencies including those for defence and labour faced shutdown this weekend without the legislation. How could the Republicans vote against that? Seems to me there's a bluffing game going on at the White House, and Obama is winning. A US army appeals court has rejected a request for the officer overseeing the hearing of an army analyst accused of leaking government secrets to withdraw. The military court case of Private Bradley Manning has resumed for its second day - on his 24th birthday - with Lt Col Paul Almanza presiding. The defence had accused the investigating officer of "bias". Well, he IS a military officer, and it IS a military hearing. How could there not be bias? US band The Beach Boys have announced plans to reunite for their 50th anniversary next year. The five-piece, which includes founding members Brian Wilson, Mike Love and Al Jardine will embark upon a 50-date world tour and record a new album. Jardine said they will appear at the Grammy Awards on 12 February and "do something really exciting". The band, whose hits include Good Vibrations, will stage their first gig in New Orleans on 27 April. The surviving original Beach Boys will be joined by Bruce Johnston and David Marks, who have been associated with the group for decades. Wilson said: "This anniversary is special to me because I miss the boys, and it will be a thrill for me to make a new record and be on stage with them again." I wonder if that's a wise move after all these years. I guess we'll find out soon enough

And there goes Sundee. Tomorrow, I'll phone the doc in Sydney to learn about the results of the scans and what's next on the agenda. Meanwhile, it's fish 'n' chips. Gary

December 17, 2011. NC Art commented on the Republican nominations: A Comedy Central TV personality said last night that playing with Newt Gingrich is "like waking up in a Dumpster with another guy's condom in your pants." You're right about the Republican hopefuls. The scary thing is that one of them might become our next president. I can't fathom it, but supposedly rational people often do insane things.

I gather Art is referring to the voters. Art also commented on the story Justin posted on his blog about the twin boys, one of whom is transgender: The story of the twins is powerful. And how attractive those kids are! They may just make it in a screwball society if they can keep their eyes fixed on a future.

Screwball society? I think that's the reason we humans don't live more than a century or so. Any longer, and we'd find living in this nuthouse totally insufferable. No wonder God is pissed off... he's been around way too long.

I took another look at the pics from my trip to Sydney last Monday during all that dreary weather. And the more I look at them the more I like them. I was disappointed at first because there was no sun and blue sky - I'd anticipated picture postcard perfect conditions. Instead I got lots of a rain and a gray sky. So I think I've learned another lesson in how to make the best of a bad situation. Why should everything be picture postcard perfect? What's wrong with rain? What's wrong with gray? How many peeps get to take a bunch of pics of ol' Sydney Town in crook weather? Anyway, I posted another one on Red Bubble and it'll be interesting to see what the reaction is.

Beeb time: The UN Security Council lifts sanctions on Libya's central bank to ease a cash crisis in the post-Gaddafi country, diplomats say. How nice of them. A military officer overseeing the hearing of the US Army analyst accused of leaking government secrets has rejected a request to recuse himself. The request was made by a defence lawyer for Private Bradley Manning, 23, as he appeared at a military court. He faces 22 charges of obtaining and distributing government secrets - which he allegedly leaked to anti-secrecy site Wikileaks. During the hearing, which is expected to last around five days according to the defence team, prosecution and defence lawyers will each make their initial cases and are permitted to cross-examine witnesses. That promises to be one very interesting case. Bureaucratic secrecy versus freedom of information. Ratings agency Fitch affirms France's top-notch AAA credit rating but revises its outlook on the country to "negative". That leaves only one course of action... turn it around. New Zealand plane heads to Russian fishing vessel holed beneath the waterline in icy Antarctic waters to drop equipment and fuel. Fancy that! The Kiwis to the rescue! The US financial regulator brings civil fraud charges against six former top executives at mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. My guess is that those guys thought they were above the law. Serves them right. Tributes have flooded in for the British-born author, literary critic and journalist Christopher Hitchens who has died at the age of 62. He had been suffering from oesophageal cancer. Tony Blair described him as "a complete one-off, an amazing mixture of writer, journalist, polemicist, and unique character". The author Salman Rushdie, a friend, paid tribute to him on Twitter after the announcement of his death. "Goodbye, my beloved friend. A great voice falls silent. A great heart stops," he wrote. Well, his voice has fallen silent but his words never will. I saw him interviewed on telly last night. His greatest regret about dying early was that he was robbed of the opportunity to bask in the glory of his hard-earned success, at least for a few more years. I'm impressed with this comment from a friend and colleague: The author and prominent atheist Richard Dawkins described him as the "finest orator of our time" and a "valiant fighter against all tyrants including God". Efforts to create self-cleaning cotton fabrics are bearing fruit in China. Engineers have created a chemical coating that causes cotton materials to clean themselves of stains and remove odours when exposed to sunlight. The researchers say the treatment is cheap, non-toxic and ecologically friendly. Retail experts say the innovation could prove a hit with retailers thanks to a growing demand for "functional clothing". Well, well, well, how about that! Tens of thousands of children have suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions since 1945, a report says. The report by an independent commission said Catholic officials had failed to tackle the widespread abuse at schools, seminaries and orphanages. But the report also found that one in five children who attended an institution suffered abuse - regardless of whether it was Catholic. Pity it's taken so long to be exposed

But back to what Dawkins said about Hitchens, and God being a tyrant. God is not the tyrant... God's creator is the tyrant, and guess who that is? Here are some excerpts from things Christopher Hitchens said and wrote during his life. It's definitely a must read.

Which reminds me about that Charles Dickens article yesterday. You get Dickensian, Shakesperian, Churchilian, Darwinian... I wonder if we'll get Hitchensian. Can you think of any others? What about Codemanian? Or Wingnutian? I don't think Markian works cos it seems you need a name with two syllables.

And as to the Wikileaks issue and Pt Manning, I'm reminded of something I saw on a WWII documentary last night after Britain and France first declared war on Germany. The first "kill" by a German U-boat in the Atlantic was the unarmed SS Athenia carrying over 1100 passengers including women and children. Hitler denied the sinking (by a U-boat) and blamed instead the British who he said deliberately sank the Athenia to discredit Germany and curry favor with the US to join the war. So much for official secrets. I'm aware there's a case both for and against this Wikileaks business, and I understand the arguments, but that's precisely why I think it will be an interesting case to observe as it unfolds. In fact, if I were on the side of the bureaucrats, I'd be worried about opening a Pandora's box. Hehe.

I've been curious about the Ute and the cold-start smoke - not that it's an issue. So I checked the oil level. Full. AND CLEAN! Mind you, I've only done about 30 kilometers since the service. They also fixed the odometer which means the trip recorder works as well.

Just returned from the backyard where I had to fetch something, and saw a blue tongue lizard in my path. "Hello," I said, "you're in my way!" He wasn't all that friendly, actually, and gave me a couple of blue zaps with his tongue before disappearing into a hole under a concrete garden border. He's not very big... maybe 8 or 9 inches, probably a juvenile. But I happened to hear something about blue tongues on the radio in the car the other day. A woman caller was saying she saw one with a strawberry in its mouth. "Oh, yes, they love strawberries," the program host said. "Better than a snail." Well, I don't have strawbs in my garden but I do have snails. So this bloke will just have to put up with a restricted diet. I saw him a couple of days ago so it seems he's adopted this place as his own.

Well, it's 5pm so that's it for Satdee's waffle. Time to check out the telly and throw together something for the zoo. Gary

December 16, 2011. A Red Bubbler did a Google on Elvis Lesley (Barry Catt), the character I photographed the other night. No wonder he was emerging from the cop shop. I had the feeling as we chatted that I shouldn't get too cozy with that fella. Interestingly, the young bloke who did the rust job on Bluey almost 3 years ago is Chris Catt, one of Barry's two sons. Shortly after doing the job on Bluey, Chris started his own business called Smash Zone, but sold it shortly afterwards to the blokes who quoted on Das Busse (and also did the rear window repair after I collided with the garage door).

Oregon Richie remarked on the picture of the Opera House taken from the promenade: Thanks for the link to the RB picture presentation of the grand ol' Opry House and yes... it had a nice perspective... and good comments to go with it.  "Walking up" TO the Opera House is another somewhat symbolic view of it, too.  In any event, it was pleasingly different than so many of the tourist-board perfect weather and skies and same old look to the place.  And it appeared.... somewhat "potentially quiet" in your picture... awaiting the next show or act. Quiet it was - not many people about. I think it was about 11am. But on my return from the walk, heading back to the wharves, there were restaurant people starting to unpack the chairs and get the outdoor tables ready for lunch. However, I can't imagine too many people dining al fresco in such miserable conditions. Almost all the businesses along the promenade are restaurants, fashion boutiques, and gift/tourist oriented shops. By the way, did you notice the name of this store? I thought it was interesting enough to take a pic. Hehe.

Back from my second scan, which was a lot simpler than the one I had the other day where I had to fast and be transported through a tunnel. I should have taken a pic of that tunnel thing, which was a lot more interesting and dramatic, but I didn't bring the little Fuji. This time I did.

I had to stand in there with those ear things attached while I held the two handles at the bottom, lean forward and bite on a plastic thingy. Then the machine did a semi-circular scan of my upper and lower jaw.

It was all over in 20 seconds, then the girl operator disappeared for a few minutes before returning with the image in an envelope, which she handed to me. "That's it, Mr Kelly. You're free to go... all done." "Are you trying to get rid of me?" "Yes."

I took at look at the image. Not pretty. My bottom teeth look like a row of wobbly piers leftover from a dilapidated wharf.

Have you seen the story of twin boys, one of whom is transgender, on Justin's blog? Nature really does screw it up sometimes, then the bigoted hate brigade comes along and makes it worse.

I took a look at how the existing rubber mat floor in the Ute is fitted. It's not just a matter of sliding in a new one, and the new carpet mat is in two pieces, one of which slides under the seat. All too hard for lil ol' me. So I'll get Ford to do it. They have the knowhow and all the bzzzzzt tools to do it in 10 minutes. However, before I go booking the Ute in for anything, I'll have to wait until Monday when I phone the doc in Sydney about where we go from here, and when.

Beeb time: IMF head Christine Lagarde has said the world economic outlook is "gloomy" and no country is immune from rising risks. She said all nations, starting with Europe, needed to head off a crisis with risks of a global depression. "There is no economy in the world immune from the crisis that we not only see unfolding but escalating," she said. "It is going to be hopefully resolved by all countries, all regions actually taking action." Forewarned is forearmed, yes? I hope so. Republican presidential candidates are in Iowa for the final TV debate before the state's keenly anticipated nominating contest next month. So far, I've not seen anyone who I would call inspiring. Unless there's a dramatic change, I can't see Obama losing. However, Ohio Jace has this to say: We yanks have an ancient election law (electoral college). A candidate can win the popular vote and still lose the election. Just think of George W Bush in 2000, he lost by around 500,000 popular votes but won the electoral college by five. And if he had not been given the election we would not be in the mess we are in now. So Obama may not get his second term. He is definitely the best of the bunch. Legalising same-sex marriage may create a healthier environment for gay men, say US researchers. The number of visits by gay men to health clinics dropped significantly after same-sex unions were allowed in the state Massachusetts. This was regardless of whether the men were in a stable relationship, reported the American Journal of Public Health. A UK HIV charity said there was a clear link between happiness and health. Read the full article here. Russia has circulated a UN Security Council resolution aimed at ending the crisis in Syria, in a move that surprised the Western nations. The draft condemns the violence by both Syria's government and the opposition, but does not mention sanctions. Western nations said the proposal was not tough enough but that they were prepared to work on the document. Good. Freedom and peace are in everyone's long term interests. Police in Bahrain have detained prominent blogger and rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja during a protest near the capital Manama, reports say. Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades to disperse hundreds of anti-government protesters trying to block a main road, according to witnesses. The Gulf kingdom's Shia Muslim majority have staged regular protests in the past 10 months demanding more rights from the Sunni-dominated monarchy. Sheesh. Even the Muslims can't get along with each other. Human rights groups in Bangladesh have demanded a severe punishment for the husband of a young wife who allegedly cut off most of her right hand. Police say Rafiqul Islam, 30, attacked her because she pursued higher education without his permission. They say Mr Islam, a migrant worker, admitted to the crime shortly after returning home from the Gulf. Sometimes it's hard to believe this is the 21st century. With the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens quickly approaching, and an entire series of events planned, what is the lasting legacy of his work and his causes? A most interesting read.

Outta the blue, I get a letter from QBE insurance quoting $103 less than my normal insurer NRMA for compulsory third party, personal injury insurance, which is part of the re-registration process for motor vehicles. $214 compared to $317 + another $65 off for being a good driver with no demerit points! Hello? Small print? What small print? Oh, THAT small print... the quote is for 6 months, not 12. I hadn't noticed that. Bloody crooks. I'll stick with NRMA.

A pretty quiet day, and now it's time for you-know-what. Lindsay wants curried scrambled eggs and chips. No worries. Gary

December 15, 2011. Stan the Lawn Man just sprayed all my weeds. Hmmm. It's cloudy and looks like rain but he says it won't rain. Being a lawn mowing man, I guess he's a pretty good judge.

Last evening, I walked up the road to get a shot of the reflected sunset in the windows of a new building. Instead, I got this. Be sure to read the story that goes with it.

Here's a pic I took in Sydney the other day. I like it, and wondered what other Red Bubbleonians might think of it.

Yes, photography is a very interesting and rewarding hobby. My main problem is getting off my lazy butt and actually DOING it. Being a member of and a contributor to Red Bubble has helped expand my technique enormously, simply by observing what other Bubbleonians are doing. The site has a wealth of inspirational ideas. While I have no ambition to become a master photographer, I do aspire to achieving a reasonably high standard of workmanship. Another thing I've discovered is that you don't need a high end camera to get a good result. The Sony is almost 10 years old and the Fuji is about 5. Mind you, they're not too shabby. The Sony cost almost $2k new, and the Fuji cost about $1k... but I bought both second hand.

Beeb time: US President Barack Obama marks the end of the Iraq war by praising the "extraordinary achievement" of US troops in a conflict he once called dumb. It's a politician's prerogative to do the Shoeshine Shuffle. The eurozone is facing a "bleak" winter including a recession in the first half of 2012, according to audit firm Ernst & Young. Yes, it's not looking good for them (or us as a consequence). A commercial US satellite company says it has managed to take a picture of China's first aircraft carrier during its sea trials in the Yellow Sea. If confirmed, it would be the first known photo of the former Soviet vessel recently refitted by Beijing. You can see the pic here (not that it's very interesting). The US House of Representatives approves a defence bill that includes provisions to put terror suspects into military custody and permit indefinite detention. Terrorism is a very serious threat to democracy, and I agree that we can't pussy-foot around with those maniacs. Years of astronomical observations show an enormous gas cloud spiralling in toward the supermassive black hole at our galaxy's centre. Blame God. Six days just wasn't enough to do the job properly. Pretty shabby if you ask me. Police in Belgium have found a woman's body in a shed belonging to a gunman who went on the rampage in the centre of Liege on Tuesday. The body was found with a bullet wound to the head, say Belgian officials. Nordine Amrani launched his attack with guns and hand grenades in a busy marketplace in Liege, killing three people there and himself. What the hell can you say? A New Zealand woman has had an unexpected visitor; a baby fur seal wandered into her house and was found resting on her sofa. A nice story, and one the woman can dine out on for years to come. Check out the BBC video report. The merger of two major Latin American airlines has been approved, creating the largest carrier in the region. Brazil's anti-trust authorities said they approved the merger of the Brazilian airline TAM with Chile's LAN, first proposed in 2010. The new airline, LATAM, is valued at about $14.5bn (£9.4bn) and will represent 6% of global air transport. Last year, TAM and LAN flew more than 45 million passengers and 754,777 tonnes of cargo. The combined airline would fly to 115 destinations in 23 countries, with a 40,000-strong workforce. Wow! That's a big airline! A camera capable of visualising the movement of light has been unveiled by a team of scientists in the US. The equipment captures images at a rate of roughly a trillion frames per second - or about 40 billion times faster than a UK television camera. Direct recording of light is impossible at that speed, so the camera takes millions of repeated scans to recreate each image. The team said the technique could be used to understand ultrafast processes. Dunno about you, but I've got a problem wrapping my brain around that speed. Check out the vid

Oh yes, before I fergit... I won $27.10 in last night's Lotto. I'll celebrate with a glass of tap water.

Just checked email and Oregon Richie had seen the story about the seal wandering into the NZ woman's house. He sent this link to the Huffington Post.

I mentioned to Richie earlier that I was pretty impressed with the later model trains in Sydney... quiet and comfortable, air conditioned and nicely furnished... far, far different to the old Red Rattlers I traveled on as a young bloke. The buses have improved too. Some of them are articulated; two buses joined together. God knows how the drivers handle something that big in Sydney traffic! The ferries are pretty much the same except for a few sleek cats that ply the Parramatta River now that it's been cleaned up and returned to a useable and efficient route to Sydney's west. Parramatta was actually the site of the first government house in New South Wales, built in 1799 before being extended and refurbished in the early 1800s. However, the seat of government, Parliament House, remained in Macquarie Street, Sydney. Standing within 260 acres of Parramatta Park, Old Government House is Australia's oldest public building. For seven decades it was the 'country' residence of the first 10 Governors of the colony, including Governor and Mrs Macquarie who, from 1810 to 1821, preferred the clean air and space of rural Parramatta to the unsanitary and crime ridden streets of Sydney Town. "Rural" Parramatta? You should see it now! It's a city in its own right.

A bloke could spend months in greater metropolitan Sydney photographing everything of interest and still not get it all done.

Well, there's a stuffed and marinated chicken in the oven, which takes about 2 hours to cook. Soon I'll throw in some spuds, quartered and sprinkled with herbs. And that'll be tonight's tucker, with a bit of gravy made from the pan juices. Tomorrow morning, I have to go back to the imaging place for another scan... this time a dental scan (OPG) to check out the lesion in my mouth. Bleh. Then on Monday I have to phone the doc in Sydney about the results of the scans and be informed about what happens next. I have a feeling it's not gonna be fun, ladies and genitals. And on the weekend? Er... dunno yet. Gary

December 14, 2011. Oregon Richie enjoyed the pics of Sydney I posted yesterday. I must say, despite the inclement weather, I managed to get a few "creative" shots. "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone". Bill Withers. But ya know... ya gotta make do with whatever ya got, and sometimes you can surprise yourself with what you CAN do with what's available.

On the other hand, TX Greg wrote: The pics turned out good even if it was raining and cloudy. I mean some great pics are taken where the sun don't shine, hehe. Ok so I asked for a good gawk pic and what did I get, a cab driver hahahahaha. Yeah... well... at least he was an INTERESTING cab driver. It was definitely "spot the Aussie" in Sydney. Lots of Asians, Middle Easterners, Africans, and you name it. 

Back when I was a kid, it took us a while to get used to the Italians and Greeks, but it all worked out okay. In fact, those people have made a valuable contribution to our society and way of life. I don't have a problem with whoever migrates to Oz provided they're willing to assimilate, abide by our laws and leave behind whatever cultural conflicts they may have had back home. We don't need that shit over here, thanks very much.

There was a Kenyan woman on the return train trip. She was on the opposite side of the aisle, and she gave me a long, depressing stare as if to say, "I know you don't like me, and I know you don't want me in your country." When the inspector arrived to check the tickets, the Kenyan turned away and handed her ticket to the inspector without so much as a hello. She made it abundantly apparent that she was in no mood to speak. Later, after the train had stopped at another station, a young girl approached one of the two seats the Kenyan had occupied, but the African refused to allow her access to her allocation. Strange piece of work, that one. The girl didn't argue. Instead she went somewhere else. "What the fuck am I supposed to do?" she said to her friend. "She won't let me in." Whatever problem the Kenyan had was an individual matter, I believe. I'm sure most Africans are fine. In fact, there's one who lives up here in Taree. She has a small child and from what I've observed she gets along just fine with everyone. She's blacker than most of our local Aborigines.

Beeb time: Police in Belgium seek a motive for a local man's gun and grenade attack in Liege which left five people dead, including the attacker. Who needs a motive if you're nutz? It's a worry. An Italian man has opened fire in two markets in central Florence, killing two Senegalese traders and injuring three others. The attacker, 50-year-old Gianluca Casseri, belonged to a far-right group, Italian media said. He killed two men and injured a third in Dalmazia Square before opening fire in San Lorenzo Square, wounding two. Casseri was later found dead in an underground car-park, having turned the gun on himself, police said. Pity he didn't do the shooting in reverse order. A collection of jewels owned by late actress Dame Elizabeth Taylor is being auctioned at Christie's in New York. A necklace containing a huge 16th-Century pearl once worn by European royalty has sold for a record price of more than $11m (£7.1m). Nearly 400 dresses the actress wore to premieres and movie awards will also go under the hammer as well as the 269 items of jewellery. She certainly wasn't short of a quid. Jeez, what extravagance. Iran has rejected a US call for the return of a surveillance drone captured by Iran's military earlier this month. The unmanned aircraft was now "property" of Iran and it was up to Iran to decide what to do with it, Defence Minister Ahmad Vahidi said. Mr Vahidi said the US should apologise for invading Iranian air space. Figures. More silly games if you ask me. Big kids with whiskers. Toronto's so-called gay penguins, Buddy and Pedro, have officially split, say zoo keepers, after one of them found a female mate. They were separated last month by zoo officials who said they needed to reproduce because African penguins are an endangered species. Buddy has now paired with a female, but Pedro has yet to get lucky, though it is not said to be for lack of trying. Buddy and Pedro shared a nest for about one year after arriving at the zoo. Poor Pedro... he was doing fine until "that woman" came along and spoiled everything.

By the way, I favorited this pic on Red Bubble today. Not sure why, but it intrigues me. It strikes me as a wonderful example of what human imagination can do.

Oh, and I collected my parcel from the post office today... my new molded floor carpet for the Ute. The current rubber mat is a mess. I asked the bloke at the PO if it was a blow up doll. He said, "No, it's a floor carpet for a car." But he smiled anyway. Then he added, "We sell all kinds of things here but not inflatable dolls." Anyway, it's still in its wrapper in the back of the Ute, so I'll get around to fitting it when the weather improves and I can do a little vacuuming before installing it. Should look pretty cool. I really do like that car ya know, but it's a bit like a frisky pony. I try to ease out of a parking spot but the damn thing wants to bolt!

Speaking of bolt, I gotta hit the kitchen - fish 'n' chips. Gary

December 13, 2011. Short Waffle today, ladies and genitals. I spent most of the day putting together the Journal about my trip to Sydney yesterday and the photo album of the pics I took. It was a terrible day weatherwise, but I managed to get a few interesting shots... making do with what was available. I dumped about 20 of the pics which were either substandard or duplicates. However, two of the pics I took at the end of the shoot have been repeated at the beginning of the album. Don't ask me why... I don't have a clue... but it dozen madder. I've also mentioned what the doc had to say about my "oral cavity" lesion. I'm afraid it's more serious than originally thought.

I'm booked in for a scan tomorrow at the local imaging place and I can't even have a cuppa in the morning! Only water. Oh well... the appointment is for 9:30am. Could be worse.

Got time for a quick Beeb? Yes we do. More than 5,000 people are believed killed in the uprising in Syria, the UN's top human rights official says, but Syria's UN envoy says she is "not objective". Not objective, huh? I guess Syria's envoy means the deceased were criminals trying to overthrow a dictatorship by illegal means. Canada will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, the minister of the environment has said. Peter Kent said the protocol "does not represent a way forward for Canada" and the country would face crippling fines for failing to meet its targets. The move, which is legal and was expected, makes it the first nation to pull out of the global treaty. And I dare say not the last. President Barack Obama says the US has requested that Tehran return the surveillance drone captured by Iran's military earlier this month. Hehe... how cheeky is that? That's like a bee asking for its stinger back after it's impaled you. Hundreds of anti-Wall Street protesters have blocked gates and delayed lorries at three ports on the US West Coast. The partial shutdown of harbours in California, Oregon and Washington states resulted in a handful of arrests, but no major clashes. From early on Monday, activists picketed gates, beat drums and carried signs with slogans such as "Shut Down Wall St on the Waterfront". Sure as eggs, this "Occupy" protest is not gonna go away in a hurry. Canada's government has introduced a ban on the wearing of veils while swearing the oath of citizenship. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney told a news conference in Montreal anyone wanting to become a Canadian would have to show their face. He said citizenship judges and MPs had complained it could be hard to tell if veiled applicants were actually reciting the oath. An estimated 940,000 Muslims live in Canada, about 2.8% of the population. And how many Canadians live in Muslim countries? I believe in "When in Rome..." Otherwise, go back home. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has said he will challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in next March's presidential election. Mr Prokhorov said it was "the most serious decision" of his life. Saturday saw Russia's biggest demonstration in years by protesters calling for fresh parliamentary polls over alleged voting fraud. With a bit of luck, maybe something constructive will result from all this chaos and corruption. A traditional court in Zimbabwe has fined Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for breaking a cultural taboo by paying a bride price in November. He was ordered to pay two cows, two sheep and 10 metres of cotton cloth. Mr Tsvangirai paid a bride price to marry a businesswoman before calling off their relationship, saying it had been "hijacked" for political reasons. Hang on a minute till I check my calendar to see what century this is. Maybe I got it wrong. A Saudi woman has been executed for practising "witchcraft and sorcery", the country's interior ministry says. A statement published by the state news agency said Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was beheaded on Monday in the northern province of Jawf. Hmmm. Seems like there are two calendars... ours and theirs.

Well, I'm starving. I've hardly eaten anything for a couple of days. But... there's a fresh (unfrozen) pizza in the fridge... a stone-baked Della Rosa pizza topped with char grilled chicken and all kinds of fresh yummy Italiano things. 12 minutes in the oven and Bob's yer uncle. THEY, meanwhile, will be having T-bones. The pizzas were on spesh, marked down from $8 to $5.50, so I got one for Averil as well... a ham and pineapple Hawaiian. Enough for two feeds each, easy.

If you wanna read more of the story about me and the Indian taxi driver in Sydney, check this out on Red Bubble.

And now, dear Breth, as the sun sinks slowly and all that jazz, it's time to "Beetle" (as Cody used to say). Gary

December 11, 2011. Just happened to check Red Bubble and saw a pic of the overseas passenger terminal at Circular Quay. It was taken a few weeks ago so I guess the "big girl" is no longer there. Actually, I checked arrivals and departures and there's no ship at the OPT tomorrow. The earliest to arrive is the Diamond Princess next Friday. Here she is again docked at the OPT a while ago. She's a big girl, alright. Read about her specs here.

Yes, I'll be there tomorrow morning doing the usual touristy stuff. TX Greg reckons I'll have plenty of gawking time. I better see at least one or two good shots! Haha! Well, it all depends on what pops up in front of the lens. Seven hours seems like a lot but you could easily spend a week in Sydney and still not see everything, especially if you include icons like Kings Cross, Bondi Beach, The Rocks, Darling Harbor, Manly and a stack of other places. I'll try and grab as much as I can tomorrow but it'll only be a fraction of what's available.

Still and all, a bunch of decent pics will make all the hassle worthwhile. The appointment with the doc, for me, is coincidental hehe. That's the boring bit. Meeting up with my friend for an ale will be restricted to half an hour or so... not nearly enough time to catch up on 20 years. On the other hand, I'll be back in town sometime early in the new year for the operation, so I may get more time then.

BTW, that pic of the big ocean liner is taken from Circular Quay. The buildings on the right of the pic, on the far side of the Harbor, are at Kirribilli. I don't have time to get to Manly but I'll take a ferry over to Kirribilli and get some pics from there, looking south towards the city. Then I'll work my way back through the city to Central and then to Newtown and the Medical Center. It's all a bit daunting, really. So much to do, so little time!

Beeb time: Thousands of election protesters hold the biggest anti-government rally in the Russian capital Moscow since the fall of the Soviet Union. Ya know what I reckon? I reckon people are like cooking. When you have a bunch of different nationalities like we have in Oz (and the US) you get a more interesting and palatable dish. India is emerging as the country leading opposition to a strong binding deal on climate change at the annual UN talks in South Africa. Other important countries including the US are prepared to negotiate an emission-curbing "legal instrument" by 2015, taking effect by 2020. India is holding out to start after 2020, and the weaker "legal outcome". That figures. The rest of the world has an industrial head start. Skywatchers enjoy the last total lunar eclipse before 2014, with Australia, Asia and North America enjoying the best views. I didn't see it, but here are the pics shot in Sydney and other places around the world. You can also watch the BBC video report here. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has said it would be an act of cowardice for him to retire ahead of elections expected to be held next year. Closing his party's annual conference, Mr Mugabe, 87, condemned the current power-sharing government as a "monster" which should be buried. I think we all know who the monster is, and who should be buried

It's 8:30pm and I'm gonna catch forty winks before I drive to the station. Seeya when I get back. Gary

December 10, 2011. I've been thinking more about how I'll spend my time in Sydney on Monday. I'll have 7 hours of free time between arriving at Central station and my appointment with the doc. Soooo, I'll get a day pass for public transport (bus/rail/ferry) and use that to get around the city. There'll be plenty of time to do the obligatory shots of the Opera House and the Bridge, plus a few shots from a local ferry of the Harbor. The weather forecast for Sydney for Monday is showery with sunny periods. Oh well... There are fresh batteries in the camera and there's another set charging.

On the subject of Obama's stance on gay marriage/equality, NC Art wrote: "Right bold of this gal writer, what?" Here's the link to the Washington Post article.

Seems like I have an appointment for a catch-up coffee while I'm in Sydney on my photographic expedition. My ex-neighbor in Glebe emailed me and asked for my mobile/cell #.

Okies, got the ticket from the local railway station, and asked about a day pass in Sydney. I'll have to get it from Central station. No prob. And it's cool to park at Taree station while I'm away. 1:30am is not a good time to order a cab around here, and it'll be nice to have the Ute waiting for me when I get back.

Beeb time: There are appeals for calm in the Democratic Republic of Congo as disputed elections threaten to plunge the volatile Central African nation into chaos. All par for the course in those places... and others. What is it about those people? At the UN climate talks, nations appear to be edging their way to agreeing that a process towards a new carbon-cutting deal should start in the New Year. Yep, sooner or later it's inevitable that we have to lessen the crap we put into the atmosphere. Either that or perish. It's a no brainer. Top US military commander Gen Martin Dempsey says he is concerned about "the potential for civil unrest" as Europe's financial crisis unfolds. That's how it is, unfortunately... people don't like to be broke and struggling for the next feed. Police name Ross Truett Ashley, a student at a nearby school, as the gunman who shot a campus police officer at Virginia Tech on Thursday. Gunman. Go figure. Moscow is braced for what the opposition claims will be the biggest demonstration in Russia for 20 years. Tens of thousands are expected to gather in a square south of the Kremlin, in the latest show of anger over disputed parliamentary polls. The protesters allege Sunday's elections - which gave Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's ruling United Russia party a small lead - were fraudulent. This report from Oregon Richie: I'm not surprised about Vladamir the BAD over there in Russia but often believe he appeals to the more nasty element of Russian national sentiments and is sure one cold-eyed looking son of a gun.  He pretty well strikes me as the archtypical KGB Thug to begin with. A woman in the Czech Republic has been mauled to death by as many as 25 Rottweilers, police have said. Officers were reportedly called to a house by a woman saying she was being attacked by her family's dogs. When they arrived at her home, in a village north-west of Prague, police said they found the dogs and the body of a 60-year-old woman. Neighbours quoted in the media said the dogs belonged to the woman's daughter, and were neither fed nor looked after properly. One neighbour said he had ignored the woman's screams, as the family would often shout at the dogs for barking too loudly. Go figure. Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich have hit back at his main rival Mitt Romney. A day after Mr Romney's campaign set its backers on Mr Gingrich, an ally of the former House Speaker accused his competitor of "a panic attack". Mr Gingrich has surged past the former Massachusetts governor to lead opinion polls in several early voting states. They are among eight candidates vying to be the Republican who runs against President Barack Obama in 2012. My money's on Obama. I'll be very surprised if he fails to get a second term. Skywatchers in Australia, Asia and North America are gearing up for a total lunar eclipse on Saturday. This is the second total lunar eclipse this year and the last until 2014. This type of eclipse occurs when the Earth casts its shadow over the Moon. But indirect sunlight can still illuminate the Moon turning it a dramatic shade of red. The shadow starts falling at 11:33 GMT and ends after 17:30 GMT. The eclipse will last 51 minutes eight seconds. All very interesting... but I'll watch it later on telly. Hehe. Comic book artist Jerry Robinson, who created characters including Batman's sidekick Robin, has died aged 89. Mike Marts, editor of the Batman series at DC Comics, called the artist "a pioneer in storytelling". Robinson, who was first hired to draw comic books in 1939, aged 17, is credited by many as crafting the Caped Crusader's arch-enemy The Joker. Yes, an amazing story teller for sure. The whole world knows those comic book characters. 

The day has vanished again, so I better get cracking in the kitchen. Chicken schnitzels and corn on the cob, dripping with butter and sprinkled with freshly ground pepper. Ooooooeeeee! Gary

December 9, 2011. Had an appointment with Dr Simons this morning at 8:15 and he said he doesn't wanna do the operation on the mouth lesion... in the "oral cavity". Dammit. He said it's a bit tricky, and requires the skills of a head and neck specialist surgeon. He recommended a bloke in Sydney, which will mean traveling down there and staying over. What a pain! But Simons says I don't have a choice. He reckons although the lesion biopsy proved negative, there's a chance that part of it may be malignant, so it's wise to have the whole thing removed. "Sorry I can't do it for you," he said as he booted me out of his office.

Simons' surgery is in a flash house down by the river, next to a park. Naturally, I had to take a pic of the park garden.

Time for the 'oh so terribly well spoken' David Niven and his prawn joke.

And here are a couple of very naughty Aussies pretending to be Americans in England asking passers by if they speak English. Hehe.

Back from a couple of errands in town. The sun was in a better spot to take a few more pics of the park garden. Here's one of them. And don't forget to read the little story I told about the lady at the pub.

Beeb time: Nah, forget about the Beeb. I got caught up with booking a train trip to Sydney at short notice cos the doc in Sydney had a vacancy on Monday, and I spent AGES trying to decipher the XPT timetables on the web. Anyway, I eventually got myself organized and I leave here Monday 12th at 1:30am (yes... AM) to arrive in Sydney at about 7am. The appointment is 2pm (just a consultation... no operation... the doc wants a look-see). Then I catch the 4-something-pm train back to Taree which will get me home about 9-ish-pm, same day. No overnight stays. I could drive but there's nowhere to park cars in Sydney without it costing a bomb. Besides, I get the train trip free cos I'm a pensioner, and driving would cost me $100+ for petrol. It'll mean 10 hours of boredom but what the hell.

Just checked Red Bubble and Mieke is boasting about having one of her pics accepted by 1X, a photographic site with very high standards. She's thrilled, and I don't blame her.

I made the mistake of parking right next to a brand new blue Ford Falcon with all the tricky stuff when I was in town. Dammit. The Ute looked pretty shabby by comparison. But vacant parking was at a premium so I had no choice. It was nose-to-kerb angle parking so the two cars were side by side. I HATE THAT.

Okay, so what the hell am I gonna do between 1:30am on Monday until 9:30pm the same day apart from open my "oral cavity" and let the doc take a peek? Well, I guess I can make the most of visiting Sydney (and Newtown) by taking a camera and pointing it in various directions. I can use the time as a Mini Odyssey. There's a stack of stuff I can photograph... even Central Station is interesting. So that's what I'll do (and make sure the batteries are fully charged). From 7am (when I arrive) I can wander around town until about 1pm before I head out to Newtown (not far away) for the appointment. Newtown's interesting too... an inner city suburb with a long history and lots of 19th century architecture. Sound cool to you?

Roite... better go. It's late! Gary

December 8, 2011. Here's a 14 y/o kid with a message about bullying at school. According to Justin, the kid admitted to faking it. 

I just bought myself a Chrissy Prezzie! The rubber floor mat in the Ute is a mess so I ordered a charcoal gray loop-pile molded carpet for my model. $130 + $25 delivery. Not bad. It's also got a double thickness PVC heel pad built in. That'll tart up the old girl a bit!

NC Art commented on the piece yesterday about the 8 y/o kid who said "My mom's gay and she doesn't need fixing" to Michele Bachmann at a book signing. Mistress Bachman looked like a deer caught in the headlights for a moment. Priceless. And yes, let's do go back to those golden times when decent definition of morality was rampant in the lands of Earth. That quaint Spartan custom of dealing with a baby born with a hairlip or clubbed foot, for instance. Park the kid on a remote hilltop and forget it. Wolves will get a meal and buzzards happily tidy up the place. Only young lads who will be fit to fight are worthy of care and feeding. On another note, those Spartan soldiers lived in their training quarters--married or not--and customarily got their regular sexual jollies in the barracks. Brief furloughs to service a lonely wife at home were permitted. A convenient arrangement, what? Oh the manners, oh the mores, oh hell.

Hehe. Art has a way with words, not to mention an elevated view of life at 86 storeys high.

Pay day, bills day, shopping day, yadda, yadda. And now it's Beeb time: EU leaders are preparing for a "do-or-die" summit in Brussels, hoping to overcome differences to clinch a deal on how to tackle the eurozone debt crisis. Of course, the situation is much different in Europe compared to federations like the US and Oz. All the "states" in Europe remain individual countries despite the single currency. Thailand has jailed a US citizen for two and a half years after he admitted posting web links to a banned biography of King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Joe Gordon, a used car salesman from Colorado who was born in Thailand, admitted lese-majeste, or insulting the king, at an earlier hearing. The US consul general in Thailand said the sentence was "severe". "He was given the sentence for his right of expression," Elizabeth Pratt told reporters. "We continue to respect the Thai monarchy but we also support the right of expression which is internationally recognised as a human right." I agree. The female head of a gangland prostitution ring in Chongqing in south-west China has been executed, Chinese media say. Wang Ziqi was convicted in 2010 of luring hundreds of women to beauty salons or hotels and forcing them into prostitution. She and her sister seized the women's identity cards or ruined their reputations, reports said. People who treat others with that kind of heartless contempt deserve to be eliminated. Disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption. He was found guilty in June of 17 counts of graft, including trying to sell the US Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. At the sentencing in Chicago, he said he was "unbelievably sorry" and had made "terrible mistakes". Do the crime, do the time. Simple as that. Syria's president has said that he feels no guilt about his crackdown on a 10-month uprising, despite reports of brutality by security forces. In an interview with the US network ABC, Bashar al-Assad said he had given no orders for violence to be used against protesters but admitted "mistakes" were made. He said he did not own the security forces or the country. The US later rejected President Assad's assertions that he did not order the killing of protesters. "It is just not credible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. Dictators don't need to be credible because they aren't. The Pearl Harbor attacks' few remaining survivors have led US commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the event that changed World War II's course. It certainly did, Olly. Have you noticed this Waffle page is not written in Japanese? Barbara Orbison, the widow and manager of rock n' roll pioneer Roy Orbison, has died of pancreatic cancer aged 60. A family spokeswoman said she died at a Los Angeles medical centre on Tuesday - the 23rd anniversary of her husband's death. Roy Orbison died of a heart attack in 1988 at the age of 52, in the midst of a comeback with supergroup The Traveling Wilburys. Ah yes, the Big O. A legend. Scientists from Russia and Japan are undertaking a Jurassic Park-style experiment in an effort to bring the woolly mammoth out of extinction. The scientists claim that a thigh bone found in August contains remarkably well-preserved marrow cells, which could form the starting point of the experiment. The team claim that the cloning could be complete within the next five years. But others have cast doubt on whether such a thing is possible. We shall see, we shall see

Here's the Big O the year before he died singing Blue Bayou at a live performance. I remember reading that Elvis Presley's biggest concern when he was a rising star was competition from the Big O hehe. And yet Orbison did nothing but stand there and sing. He had a magic voice. So did Elvis for that matter... pretty hard to beat Love Me Tender. They were the days... Rock Ola juke boxes, pinball machines, milk shakes with double ice cream and double malt, burgers with the lot, Sputniks and black and white TV. AND... let's not forget the Drive In movies!

Roite, time to organize some grub for the inmates... Eddy's chicken rissoles with peas and corn and MY chips! That'll do. Gary

December 7, 2011. I forgot to mention yesterday that NC Art never flew on a bombing mission over Koblenz, so we can't blame him for the unexploded bomb found there the other day. Hehe. But as one of the locals said, it makes you wonder how many more unexploded bombs are lying hidden around the area. War is such a silly business... one of those things that seems like a good idea at the time.

While I waited at Ford the other day for a lift home, there was an old bloke there talking to the service manager, and itching to tell everyone about his recent triple bypass. Next thing ya know, he lifted his shirt to reveal the scar, and then went on to tell everyone about the gory details of the operation. When he got to the bit about having a tube inserted into his groin I thought, "Oh God! I hope he doesn't show us that one!" Thankfully, we were spared. But he did show us another scar on his inside leg from a separate operation. Sheesh! All credit to the service manager though... he was very polite about it all and appeared interested. Hehe. But then he disappeared out of the office, so I avoided the old bloke's eyes hoping he wouldn't target me.

Averil is a bit like that too... can't wait to tell me about her aches and pains. Why is it that some older people think their misery is interesting? Maybe it's the full cycle thing... babies take great delight in bawling their eyes out or bitching about whatever it is that displeases them.

So what's the latest with the Ute? I wish I knew. It'll pass rego no worries but it's the valve thing I wanna know about. If it needs to be done - and I suspect it will - it'll have to be next week or the week after, which is getting close to Christmas when the whole world shuts down to sing Jingle Bells. I suppose Ford is busy as hell at the mo with customers wanting their cars serviced and checked before the Christmas hols.

What's all this business with Christmas anyway? People keep saying it's a time for families to get together and goodwill and blah, blah. So what are the other 51 weeks all about? Here's a pic of me doing my Chrissy thing back in the early 70s. I sent that photo to Justin and he wrote back, "Gary, is this cutie YOU? Do you want/would you like me to post this on the Dunes?" ;-))

Beeb time: Afghan President Hamid Karzai has cancelled a visit to the UK to return to Afghanistan, after Tuesday's deadly attacks in the capital, Kabul, and in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. The twin attacks apparently targeting Shia Muslims killed at least 58 people. A suicide bomb struck a Kabul shrine, killing at least 54, while the other blast struck near a Shia mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif at about the same time. The attacks seemed to be sectarian, raising fears of new violence. And all because the bombers believe in fairy tales. Russian protesters defying a ban on unapproved rallies have faced off with supporters of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Moscow city centre. Protesters chanted slogans against the ruling party as the Putin loyalists beat drums and chanted "Putin, Russia". Police arrested at least 250 protesters, including veteran liberal politician Boris Nemtsov. Mr Putin has played down losses by his party, United Russia, which won but with just under 50% of the vote, a sharp drop in its support. Correspondents say the result reflects Mr Putin's declining popularity ahead of his bid for the Russian presidency in March. Putin on the Ritz? Bad joke... sorry. Startling new images from the depths of the Pacific Ocean reveal one of Earth's most violent processes: the destruction of massive underwater mountains. The pictures were created by sonar in waters up to 6km (4mi) deep. They expose how tectonic action is dragging giant volcanoes into a chasm in the seabed. The volcanoes are strung across several thousand kilometres of ocean floor and are moving westward on the Pacific tectonic plate at up to 6cm per year. The extraordinary scene was captured along the Tonga Trench during a research expedition last summer. The trench is a highly active fault line running north from New Zealand towards Tonga and Samoa. The first images have been released to BBC News as the findings are presented to the annual conference of the American Geophysical Union. US President Barack Obama has drawn a clear distinction between Democratic and Republican economic arguments in a rare address in the state of Kansas. In Osawatomie, he echoed President Theodore Roosevelt, who spoke there in 1910, saying the US faced a "make-or-break moment for the middle class". Mr Obama's remarks come less than month before the first Republican vote to choose a presidential nominee, in Iowa. "Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I'm here to say they are wrong," Mr Obama said. A Republican spokeswoman said Mr Obama was "desperately trying new slogans". Yeah? Well, I wouldn't be too sure about that, madam. Brazil says the rate of deforestation in its Amazon region has fallen to the lowest level for 23 years. The National Institute for Space Research said 6,238 square km (2,400 square miles) of rainforest disappeared between August 2010 and July 2011, a drop of 11% from the previous year. The government says the fall is due to its tougher stance on illegal logging. And it's not before time! This planet is all we've got!

Justin's Blog also has a clip of Michele Bachmann at a book signing. This one you just gotta see.

And how about this from dear Michele? On Wednesday, presidential candidate Michele Bachmann held a town hall meeting at the Pizza Ranch in Waverly, Iowa. The highlight of the evening came when a high school student in attendance raised her hand and asked Bachmann what she would do to support and protect the gay community. Bachmann responded that all Americans should and do have the same rights, which drew a smattering of applause. The student responded: "Well, why can't same-sex couples get married?"  Bachmann responded that gay men and lesbians do in fact have the same rights as everyone else because they can marry members of the opposite sex. So, a gay man could marry a woman. And a lesbian woman could marry a man. Even though they are gay. Got that?

Roite. Lemme get this straight (pun intended). A heterosexual can marry the person of their choice but a homosexual person can't. Does that sound like the same rights to you?

I keep hearing opponents of equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians say that marriage has been around for centuries. In essence, they're saying what was good enough back in medieval times and back of beyond is good enough now. Hello? I can think of lots of things that have changed since those dark days of ignorance - slavery for one - so why not marriage? Their argument doesn't stack up. Are we Aussies supposed to go back to treating Australian Aborigines like they were treated during the early days of European settlement? Should we rescind voting rights for women? Or reintroduce child labor? Or burn witches at the stake?

If people like Michele Bachmann were voices in the wilderness, it wouldn't be a problem. The problem is that far too many people think they make sense. You see, dear Breth, it's not so much about good versus evil, it's about smarties versus dummies.

I just phoned Ford and asked if I should throw on a party frock or not. In other words, is my car ready? "I'm sorry, I can't answer that because Derek's not here at the moment. He shouldn't be long, though. What's your number again?" Sheesh. The trouble is, people really do believe that being busy is a legitimate excuse to ignore you... that their problems are more important than yours.

Roite, Derek phoned back. "I've been flat out all day." I figured that. So I told him whoever picks me up needn't wear a uniform or drive anything flash. "A tandem bicycle will do." So he's sending a bloke on a bicycle. Hehe. Then I'll do some shopping on the way back.

Back! Well, it was a pretty flash bicycle! The young mechanic who drove me home the other day picked me up in a snazzy new Ford XR6. Talk about 21st century! But it had a crack in the windscreen already. The young bloke didn't say much the other day but he was pretty chatty today. Anyway, the service and repairs cost a tidy $750, including the welding repair to the cross member. Derek reckons the exhaust smoke issue is not worth worrying about. If it ain't broke, etc. He said it's only a puff of smoke anyway, and it could have been because the car sat idle for a few days (which it did) and/or old dirty oil in the sump. So I'm happy with that assessment. There are a couple of minor oil weeps but nothing to be concerned about. He said the car is in pretty good nick for its age, and that I got me a pretty good deal. He drove it to and from the welding place and was quite impressed with how it behaved on the road. Woohoo!

So, if you add the new windscreen to the cost of Ford's repairs and rego inspection, plus what I paid for it, the Ute has cost me $3000. Not bad. Oh... and two new tires... but we won't count that. 

I did a bit of shopping on the way back. Lindsay wants bangers and onions and mash tonight, so that's what he'll get. And me? I'm not telling... except to say that I bought something scrummy from Eddy's Chicken Shop. So there. :-P Gary

December 6, 2011. Just received the latest World Vision Report with a pic of a group of happy black African kids surrounding a smiling young white woman (a welfare worker). Funny you never see a smiling black woman surrounded by a bunch of white kids.

I'd love to know what's going on with the Ute but it's only 9am, dammit. TX Greg sent a link to fold-out camper trailers that retail for about 6 or 7 grand brand new. Pretty neat bit of gear but not for me. When I stop for a couple of hours somewhere I don't wanna be setting up camp. I want something that's ready to occupy. Also I don't wanna tow anything so a slide-on it'll be. There are slide-ons with a pop top but to gain the advantage of less height while traveling you lose the extra storage space you get with solid walls - all those little cupboards at head height, handy for storing all kinds of nick nacks. However, whatever you end up buying, there are always compromises of one sort or another.

One bloke I spoke to has a converted bus. He said once you're on a narrow dirt road you're committed. There's nowhere to do a u-turn, and you just gotta hope there's room to turn around at the end of the road. Hehe. Yep, lots of things to consider.

I just watched a 3-part vid on Four Wheel Campers, an American company that builds the things. It's quite interesting if you're into how campers are constructed and the materials they use.

Stan the Lawn Man is here. He was telling me about how sick he was the other day after mowing lawns in the hot sun. He went down to the river park to have his lunch when it hit him. He was vomiting and couldn't move for an hour and a half. He said he couldn't even move his fingers let alone walk or drive. He eventually got himself together and drove towards the hospital but vomited again in the car. "I thought I was dying." He decided to drive home and shower. But even then his movement was so restricted, he had great difficulty undressing and washing himself. His wife Sue arrived home and found him in a distressed state, and called an ambulance. The hospital staff diagnosed dehydration and heat exhaustion. They pumped him full of fluids and did a few checks. His kidneys were stuffed. Blood count not good (something to do with red and white blood cells). Pretty scary. Now there's a bloke who's never smoked, doesn't drink to excess, mows lawns, plays competitive tennis, eats lots of fruit and veg, appears to be healthy as and strong as an ox, and yet at 69 suffers a frightening turn like that. He thought he was a goner for sure. But, he's back today mowing lawns. He says he won't push himself again, especially during hot weather. Too bloody old.

Beeb time: Ratings firm Standard and Poor's puts Germany, France and 13 other eurozone countries on "credit watch" due to fears over the impact of the debt crisis. I hope these people finally get their act together. It's a worry even though Oz seems to be doing well despite the crisis "over there". Or should that be "up top"? Several thousand people take to the streets of Moscow shouting "Down with Putin" after international observers criticise the election. That's the problem with elections, I hear Putin complaining. Astronomers have confirmed the existence of an Earth-like planet in the "habitable zone" around a star not unlike our own. The planet, Kepler 22-b, lies about 600 light-years away and is about 2.4 times the size of Earth, and has a temperature of about 22C. It is the closest confirmed planet yet to one like ours - an "Earth 2.0". However, the team does not yet know if Kepler 22-b is made mostly of rock, gas or liquid. If it doesn't have grapes, I'm not interested. Syria has responded "positively" to an Arab League initiative aimed at ending eight months of deadly unrest, its foreign ministry spokesman has said. Jihad al-Makdisi told reporters that he expected a deal to be signed soon. Syria is under pressure to end its crackdown on an uprising the UN says has left more than 4,000 people dead, with reports of 17 new deaths on Monday alone. Funny word that... uprising. Do you know of any other kinda rising? The US Postal Service is shutting more than half its mail-processing centres in a $3bn (£1.9bn) cost-cutting drive expected to shed 28,000 jobs. Vice-President David Williams told a news conference that the closures were designed to stave off bankruptcy next year. At the Postal Service's headquarters in Washington DC, Mr Williams told media that the volume of stamped mail had been steadily declining. Customers were increasingly using the internet for bill payment and other communication, he said. From nearly 100 million in 2006, first-class mail volume was down to 78 million and expected to halve by 2020. Build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door.

Lately I've been watching ads on telly for funeral insurance that remind us of how expensive funerals can be, and that for just a few dollars a week we can have "peace of mind" knowing that our loved ones won't be saddled with the sudden expense. It's nothing short of a scare campaign. No one is complaining about why the cost of a basic funeral is so high. The insurance companies are delighted with the high cost of funerals because it gives them something to scare you with. I think it's a disgrace.

Averil paid about $5000 to bury Kev 4 years ago. The twin plots were already bought and paid for. So all the funeral director had to do was get somebody to dig a hole, organize a simple headstone, put Kev's body into a casket, read a few passages from the Bible, lower the casket into the hole and say "thank you very much, here's the bill". It was all over in less than an hour. There was no church service, no procession through the streets to the cemetery, and only a handful of people in attendance. Three of those a day is $15,000, or $75,000 a week. And that was a cheapie! I reckon it's a rort.

I intend to leave my body to science. They can fiddle around with it to their heart's content and then burn the bloody thing. It's of no value to anyone else, including moi.

Roite, how's the Ute going? Well, "half the bushes arrived and the other half didn't." So it's only half bushed. "I didn't get a chance to check the cold start because the panel beater who did the welding had already started the car when I got there." In the interim, I did a Google about cold-start smoke and there are a couple of reasons for it... so I'm really none the wiser. But Derek (the Ford service manager, who's a really nice bloke) said he'll sort it out once he gets a chance to check it out in person. "There's no guesswork here," he said. He'll phone me in the morning.

Meanwhile, the pantry's empty so I went next door to Averil's and said, "Whaddaya got?" Hehe. She gave me a box of frozen chicken breast "tenders". That'll do. I'll make some chips to go with it.

I'll be glad when all the initial bullshit with the Ute is sorted out, and I can get back to just plain old uncomplicated regular services. Gary

December 5, 2011. Here we go... the 53rd anniversary of my first day as a junior clerk at the Registrar General's Dept in Sydney in 1958. Imagine that... a 14 y/o kid going out into the big wide world... from the burbs to the big smoke. Whoa!

Now here's something funny. A house in suburban Oz is all dolled up for Christmas with a stack of lights and decorations. And the house next door? It's happy with the word "Ditto". Hehe.

The Ute is at Ford today, getting serviced and checked out for rego. I've also asked them to look at the valve stem seals. By late this arvo I should know the story. Yes, Aussies have "arvo" and Safricans have "arvie". Aussies have sangers (sandwiches) and Safricans have sarmies. Hehe. Lots of Aussie colloquialisms end in "ie" or "y", like footy (football) and Aussie while others end in "o" like arvo. Ending a person's name with an "o" is also popular... Thommo, Robbo, Stevo, etc. Yeppo!

Just got a call from the service manager at Ford. The Ute needs a few bits and pieces... suspension bushes, a new tail pipe, etc. A more serious and unexpected problem is the main cross beam under the engine. It's cracked. Must've hit a BIG pot hole! So it needs to be welded, which they'll do tomorrow. But when I asked about the valve stem seals he said "If it's not blowing smoke, I wouldn't worry about it." After the convo, I was talking to Lindsay who happened to be sitting on the front veranda when I drove past this morning on the way to Ford, and he said he noticed lots of smoke from the exhaust. The previous owner said that happens after a cold start in the mornings but stops after 1 or 2 kilometers. That was probably the case with Ford this morning when they started the car after I'd driven it there. So they're gonna keep it overnight and check it again tomorrow morning with a cold start. Looks like a valve job to me. Oh well... It won't affect registration, but I want it done anyway. According to the service manager, the rest of the car seems "not too bad", which is Aussie for okay.

That's usually the case when you buy an old cheapie. You have to be prepared to shell out a few bikkies for repairs, and that's the risk you take. So I'm not pissed off. I'm glad I took it to Ford though, instead of an independent mechanic. I made that mistake with Bluey. So I figure the Ute is gonna cost about $2K more than I paid for it... $4K all up, which ain't too bad for a car that should provide quite a few good years of service... and travel. :o)

I was just checking my old stuff on Red Bubble to see how many views I've had and surprisingly, this one is the most popular by far with 437 views.

This one is second with 256.

This one is third with 230.

And this is fourth with 222.

Many Red Bubblers get thousands of views but I don't try very hard to solicit them. I'm not all that serious about it. For me it's a bit of fun to post stuff and to interact with other photographers. I've had about 36,000 views all up.

Beeb time: A major international conference on Afghanistan's future is due to open in the German city of Bonn on Monday. It comes 10 years after a similar gathering held in the city, weeks after the Taliban fell from power. Organisers want to bolster long-term international engagement with Afghanistan and support efforts to restore security. But key player Pakistan is boycotting the talks in protest at a Nato attack on a border checkpoint last month. Nato apologised for the air strike on 26 November in which 24 Pakistani troops were killed. The US and other Western nations have long suspected Pakistan of harbouring the Taliban and other insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, blamed for attacks on the Afghan side of the border. Are you thinking what I'm thinking? French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are to meet to unveil proposals intended to stem the eurozone debt crisis. We've come a long way since Europe during the 30s. Early returns indicate a sharp drop in support for Vladimir Putin's United Russia party in parliamentary elections, down to 50% from 64% in 2007. The whole thing is rigged anyway (if I may say so). Bomb disposal experts in the German city of Koblenz have successfully defused two bombs from World War II found in the riverbed of the Rhine. They were discovered when water levels fell because of a prolonged dry spell. The bigger of the two bombs weighed 1.8 tonnes and was dropped by the Royal Air Force between 1943 and 1945. It is the biggest bomb disposal operation in Germany since 1945. The other bomb was American. I'm dying to crack a joke about Art but I better not. Tiger Woods won his first event for two years at the Chevron World Challenge, finishing birdie-birdie to see off rival Zach Johnson on the 18th hole. Woods was one behind overnight leader Johnson going down the 17th but sunk a 15-foot birdie putt to draw level. Johnson missed his birdie attempt on 18 before Woods drained a six-footer to clinch his first title since the Australian Masters in November 2009. "It feels great," said a jubilant Woods after his spectacular finish ended a run of 26 tournaments without a victory. Hehe. I imagine it would! Australia's governing Labor party has voted to overturn its long-standing ban on exporting uranium to India. Australia, which holds an estimated 40% of the world's uranium, already exports it to China, Japan, Taiwan and the US. The country has excluded sales to India because it is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. During a passionate debate on the issue at Labor's annual conference, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the change would be in the country's interests. Labor delegates to the conference voted 206-185 in favour of the motion to change the party's policy. Doesn't bother me as long as we don't sell it to New Zealand. :o

New Zealand lost a test cricket match against Oz the other day and I think they're pissed off with us. Ya never know what those buggers might do.

Well, let's see what the story with the Ute is tomorrow. Until then, it's fish 'n' chips and a bit of telly. Gary

December 4, 2011. Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day... Oklahoma (I think). But that's how it is here in Taree at the mo.

Here's a paste of an email I received from GetUp last night:

Dear Gary, 

I’m writing to you from the Sydney Convention Centre, having just watched a 10,000-strong crowd converge on the Labor Party National Conference to demand marriage equality. 

It was an incredible moment. 

As the crowd rolled in, ALP delegates to the Conference voted in favour of a platform change proposed by Rainbow Labor. Now, for the first time, Labor party policy supports full marriage equality. The crowd went wild – thanking both grassroots campaigners like you and those brave individuals who have fought for this change from within. 

Today’s change sends a message to all gay and lesbian Australians that finally our nation’s governing party considers their love and relationships equal. 

But while today shows Australians have removed discrimination from their hearts, we cannot rest until we also remove it from our laws. 

That’s why our focus now turns to the each and every MP in Parliament. Within months they will be debating whether or not to end marriage discrimination and when the legislation is introduced, the ALP will be allowed to vote with their conscience. We look to Tony Abbott’s Coalition to do the same. Many Liberal MPs believe that it’s not for the Government to limit the freedom of Australian adults to marry the one they love and our challenge is to make this a majority view. 

Respected gay rights campaigner Rodney Croome told today’s crowd how, in his home state of Tasmania, his love was illegal until a few short years ago when homosexuality was decriminalised. He told the crowd that the impossible happened when these discriminatory laws were overturned, and Tasmania became the first state of Australia to support marriage equality. 

The impossible can happen again. Together, let’s continue the fight. 

Here’s a quick photo we took from the stage as the crowd rolled in, but be sure to tune in to the news tonight to see the coverage of this massive rally and momentous occasion. 

To the 10,000 who gathered in Sydney today, to the 150,000 who have signed our petition for change, to the 3 million people who’ve viewed and shared our TV ads online and to all who’ve been a part of this campaign: thank you. 

Here’s to our continuing fight for equality, 

Paul, for the GetUp team. 

I can't say that I'm passionate about marriage equality, but I certainly do believe in equality period... marriage or otherwise. The more we dismantle the Us and Them Syndrome in society, the better.

My Red Bubble mate Terry Everson kicked a goal when a portfolio of his pics of the Flinders Ranges in South Oz was selected for publication in Australian Traveller magazine. Nice one, Tezza. Terry loves the Australian bush, and has been traveling all over Oz since he was a teen.

Beeb time: US Republican Herman Cain says he is suspending his campaign for the presidential nomination, in the wake of allegations of an extra-marital affair. Surprise, surprise. Two Islamist parties appear to be strengthening their lead in Egypt's parliamentary elections, as secular liberals trail behind. It's a worry. Theocracies are dangerous in my book. Russians head to the polls for parliamentary elections amid allegations of violations of election law ahead of the vote. More surprises! The traditional start of Switzerland's ski season is marred by a shortage of snow, following the driest autumn on record in the country. There's a shortage of snow in Taree too, hehe. A plan to open a barbers with topless staff in Norwich is facing opposition. The Qube bar in Prince of Wales Road, the city's nightclub district, could be run as a daytime salon with topless stylists. It is not clear from the application whether the staff will be men or women. A Facebook group, Against Topless Barbers in Norwich, has also been set up. It claims the salon would damage nearby businesses, negatively change the street's daytime trade and reduce potential business growth. I like the fact that you're sitting in front of a big mirror so you can perve to your heart's content. Getting up from the chair could be a bit embarrassing though.

I can't help looking at slide-ons, dammit, even though I'm not ready to buy yet. This one is about the cheapest (in reasonable condition) I could find from a dealer, but it's perfect for a tub ute like mine - and it's pretty well equipped (unless you're a Yank). 10 grand is a bit rich though.

Here's one for about $6K from a private seller. Bit rough but not too bad. Oh well... one of these days. Meanwhile, the Ute goes into Ford tomorrow for a full service and rego inspection. It'll be interesting to see the verdict. Gary

December 3, 2011. NC Art commented on yesterday's BBC article about hazing: Hazing can indeed be brutal, especially at institutions such as military schools, and has been outlawed at several in the U.S. I guess benign initiations stunts would include shaving Wingnut's prized pubes; hazing would be bending his boner back thru his legs and stuffing his butt with it?

Yes, it's the old 'oh we did that last year, let's try something different' trick. There was a time we were satisfied to laugh at Charlie Chaplain and Buster Keaton slipping on banana skins, or the Three Stooges poking fingers in each other's eyes or slapping pies in their faces. But audiences tire of the same old, same old and demand something different. That's when things can get nasty.

But you have to wonder at a species that likes to laugh at the misfortunes of others. Remember Candid Camera and Funniest Home Videos? Pathetic stuff with big ratings. However, I do think that Wingnut's initiation on the swim tour was funny, especially when they dressed him in a mini skirt (minus undies) and made him walk to the local McDonald's to order a burger and bring it back. Hehe. Feisty Winger almost got himself into a barney with some smartass kid, and it was a good thing Cody was with him to diffuse the situation. But there is an important difference between having a bit of harmless fun and outright ridicule that causes serious and permanent harm to a person's self esteem... or worse. I don't think Winger was any the worse for wear after his little experience.

Mine was making rock glue as a novice boy scout. I spent hours stirring a pot of boiling water with rocks in it over a campfire, waiting for the rocks to dissolve. Hehe. On the other hand, I thought it was such a dumb thing to do, I quit the scouts.

But it all goes to prove how silly the human race is, which is why I love that "Stupidity" article so much. He's another of my fav bits about ties: 

Let's take an example. Wearing ties might be pretty fucking stupid, but a number of people have worn them over the years. Tying a knot around your neck might not seem like the best way to convince God that you're a smart species, but it's not by far the stupidest fashion idea any culture has ever come up with. There's always been heavy competition in that category (hey, how about we all stick a bone through our nose!). But the Social Brain, the one that encouraged us to build the automobile, will seize upon something like a tie, as if it was just as good an idea as Advil (which it wasn't by the way, Advil is one of the best ideas anybody has ever come up with, period). 

Because the Social Brain reasons like this, 'I don't know why everybody around you is wearing ties to work, but if you want to survive this mess of a culture you got yourself into, you damn well better wear one too.' And it will reward you immensely if someone says 'nice tie!' Even though you are just as glad when you get a different job and never ever have to fucking wear one again. Stupid as ties are, they do not interfere with your ability to reproduce, tie-wearing people breed. In fact, if everyone in your goddamn environment is wearing one, then not having one, or having a crappy one can hurt your ability to breed. Because people will say to themselves, what the fuck is wrong with that guy? Doesn't he know how to dress? And they will think you are socially defective, which you might very well be, in spite of the fact you are smart enough not to wear one of the neck-chokers, and all the pretty women will mate furiously with the stupid tie-wearing people and leave you out in the cold with no money and the very chilly comfort of being smarter than all the people who won't breed with you. 

Other People and sex and bonding are way more important than intelligence and if there is a conflict between the two, the smart money's always on stupidity and sex. 

Of course, wearing ties is just one example of a whole host of stupid human behaviors that manage to exist and survive and not prevent people from breeding. 

Here's a paste of what I wrote Richie this morning about the person who wrote that article: That "stupidity" article has quite a few gems, one I particularly liked was about the absurdity of ties. I've always felt that way about ties, but it is interesting to watch the news on telly and see which politicians are wearing what color ties. The suits are inevitably dark blue or gray so the tie becomes an outlet for expression of personality and individuality. Hehe. Some are terribly conservative while others are a tad adventurous or daring. It's all so silly really... as the writer of the "stupidity" article so hilariously points out. However, the main thrust of the article is to point out that stupidity is no barrier to breeding. I have a feeling that the article is anonymous because it's been written by a pro who needed to vent his (I'm pretty sure it's a he) spleen without divulging his identity. He probably moves in very respectable circles and deems it necessary to maintain the status quo.

Beeb time: US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta calls on Israel to work with Turkey and Egypt to end what he calls its growing isolation in the Middle East. Not an easy task for a country that believes it's God's chosen people. You can't get much more Us and Them than that. The great thing about we Aussies is that we're such a bunch of licorice allsorts there's no way we could be the chosen anything. Hehe. The Israeli government has ordered adverts that urge Israelis in the US to return home to be pulled amid outcry from the American Jewish community. The ads suggest expats could lose touch with their Israeli identity because of assimilation into the US. Funded by an Israeli government agency, the campaign was criticised by US Jewish organisations. The ads were posted on the agency's website and ran on Hebrew-language US satellite channels. Lose their Israeli identity? How paranoid is that? Anyway, if they do, it probably wasn't worth having in the first place. Tuesday's attack on Britain's embassy in Tehran had the "acquiescence and the support of the state", says the UK's former ambassador to Iran. You're not wrong, Narelle. The European Space Agency says it is ceasing efforts to try to contact Russia's wayward Mars probe, Phobos-Grunt, after a week-and-a-half of silence. Next! US Republican Herman Cain is expected to announce on Saturday if he will continue his beleaguered presidential campaign. Oregon Richie reports: His Highness Herman Cain is probably black toast for his presidential aspirations but I'm not sure he intended for anything MORE than sheer publicity and improve book sales but who knows for sure.  The R party is pretty screwed up.  Romney and Newt have the best chances but both have way too much baggage attached for the majority of center-line mainstream America.  A guy who was cheating on his wife and having an affair while he tried to impeach a sitting US President for much the same and AFTER he damn near tried to shut down the government, well... go figure.  Mitt is okay as a person, probably in the back-pocket of big biz or lobbyist types, and no matter what anybody sez... a Mormon can be a governor but not a President.  Fact of life, mate !! A report in Saudi Arabia has warned that if Saudi women were given the right to drive, it would spell the end of virginity in the country. The report was prepared for Saudi Arabia's legislative assembly, the Shura Council, by a well-known conservative academic. Though there is no formal ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, if they get behind the wheel, they can be arrested. Those Arabs are a funny lot. It's a well-known and accepted fact in Oz that many a girl and boy lost her/his virginity in the back seat of an FJ Holden. Hehe. The US unemployment rate dropped sharply to 8.6% in November, its lowest level in two-and-a-half years, from 9% the month before, official figures show. The US economy added 120,000 new jobs in November, the Department of Labor said, in line with forecasts. Encouraging news. 

I'm not familiar with any reason why a Mormon can't become President of the USA, so I did a Google.

Saturday the second? Oops! 30 days hath November... and I forgot to change my calendar watch. Done.

A hockey match is on telly at the mo - Australia vs Spain. Bleh. Before that, there was a promo about how the channel was gonna give us a Happy Summer. Yeah, right. Summer programming in Oz means all the regular programs have completed their 39 weeks and it's time for all the crap that fills in the remaining 13 weeks. But they sell the summer season like it's a wonderful thing. Hehe. Showbiz is sooooo fulla crap it's sickening.

Anyway, it's goodnight from him, and it's goodnight from him, as the Two Ronnies used to say. Time to rustle up some grub. Gary

December 2, 2011. I took an hour or so this morning to read the rest of the site about Why Are People So Stupid? and it was worth it. Lots of gems including this one:

Good things about being pretty fed up and pretty fucked up No. 1:

It's entertaining. Being fed up and fucked up are sometimes two of the only ways your body can keep itself entertained in a boring and frequently uncaring world that is often apparently suffering from a major deficit in Equitable Happiness Distribution. Without the backup strategy of being fed up and fucked up, your body would be forced to hang out in potential meaninglessness land, a neighborhood it doesn't care for as it leads to a slow wasting death of despair and encroaching meaninglessness. You don't want to die a slow wasting death of despair and encroaching meaninglessness, now do you? 

Of course not. So cut your body a break and accept that fedupness and fuckedupness are two major sources of meaning for your body. Treat it to a healthy and nutritious diet containing adequate amounts of both and your body will feel very cared for and worship you as the heroic, studly being you are. 

It should be noted that everybody already knows how goddamn fucking entertaining being fed up and fucked are - which is why these are the number one world-wide leisure time activities - well ahead of gardening, television watching, and thinking about sex. Fatigue, unhappiness and disgruntlement make the world go round! Everybody else is indulging in them. Why should you be left out?

Yesterday was World HIV/AIDS Awareness Day which prompted NC Art to remind us about Miss Beatrice:

Miss Beatrice, the church organist, was in her 80s. She had never married but was admired for her sweetness and kindness to all. One afternoon the pastor called on her and she showed him into her quaint sitting room where she invited him to take a seat while she prepared tea. As the pastor sat facing Miss Beatrice's old Hammond organ, the young minister notice a cut glass bowl sitting on top of it. The glass was filled with water, and floating in the water was, of all things, a condom! When Beatrice returned with the tea and scones, the pair engaged in polite conversation - while the pastor tried valiantly to stifle his curiosity about the glass and its floating contents. But eventually it got the better of him. "Miss Beatrice," he asked, pointing to the bowl, "I wonder if you could tell me about this?" "Oh, yes," she replied, "isn't it wonderful? I was walking through the park a few months ago and found this little package on the ground. The instructions said to place it on the organ, keep it wet, and it would prevent the spread of disease! Do you know I haven't had the flu all winter!"

Beeb time: Aung San Suu Kyi says she is hopeful that Burma can get onto "the road to democracy", after talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The Ancient Greeks would approve. The US Senate has unanimously approved economic sanctions on Iran targeting the country's oil industry, despite warnings the move could backfire. The measures, passed by 100 votes to nil, would ban foreign firms from doing business with the Iranian central bank. Before it can become law, it must be approved by the House and President Barack Obama, who is sceptical. Hmmm. Is it the old "money talks" trick again? The UN Human Rights Council is to hold an emergency session on Syria, after a report says security forces committed crimes against humanity. Another meeting. Lots and lots of meetings. Actress Meryl Streep defends her portrayal of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher as a frail old woman suffering from dementia in The Iron Lady. Yeah, I agree. Whaddaya want? A fairy tale? Republican candidate Herman Cain has admitted giving money to Ginger White, the woman who says they had a 13-year affair. In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper, he also said he had not told his wife, Gloria, about the friendship. But Mr Cain still insists he never had sexual relations with Ms White. Dozen madder. Cain is finished. A Florida university has expelled four students for their alleged role in the death of a member of a famous marching band last month. The death of Robert Champion, 26, a drum major, is thought to have been linked to hazing. Hazing involves subjecting members of a group or fraternity to abuse or humiliation, often as part of an initiation. Sounds to me like yet another form of bullying. Massachusetts is suing five major banks alleging "illegal" and "deceptive" conduct in the way they seized homes during the financial crisis. Bank of America, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and GMAC must pay for the "harm" caused, the writ says. Martha Coakley, the state's attorney general, said the banks had no legal right to foreclose on "hundreds, if not thousands, of properties". Looks like Goliath hasn't been paying attention to the story of David. We (BBC) received hundreds of emails in response to our story about the large numbers of British people giving up on life in Australia. Some readers have been sharing their experiences of leaving - and staying - Down Under. Interesting anecdotes and observations, worth reading

Roite, shopping's done, and Averil is happy. The only problem was I parked the Ute behind a newer model hehe. I shouldn't have done that. Oh well... can't have everything. And now ladies and genitals, it's Din Dins time! Gary

December 1, 2011. Another month! Almost another year! BTW, Neile arrived home safely, and Bluey did the 5-hour trip without incident. Neile said it was hot and boring, with cops and roadworks everywhere. And something else he told me yesterday... he's married to a chef! His lady works at a restaurant at nearby Casino. Now some blokes marry a good cook but to marry a chef is something else! Lucky bastard.

Cool and raining today but looking pretty good for the next week or so. Might be an excuse for a bit of a mini AO somewhere. However, I'll wait for Ford's assessment of the Ute next Monday before I get too adventurous.

There was a story on tele last night about Ford quitting manufacturing in Oz. GMH, Toyota and Mitsubishi rely on exports to keep them in the black but Ford never took the opportunity to export, and there's not enough demand locally to support design and manufacture. Only a fifth of the population buy locally made. The program said the US has a choice of 35 different models and makes, whereas we have 65. That's a lotta choices for a pop of 22m... unlike Russia where most people are running around in a Kalina or Lada. 

Back from the local office of the Roads and Traffic Authority because I couldn't (for various reasons) do the changeover details of selling Bluey and buying the Ute on line. It was at the RTA office that I was told I was late declaring the transfer of registration of the Ute, and was fined $145. Fucking hell. I didn't read their precious bureaucratic piece of paper! That's what I was fined for... not for being late. Bureaucrats and their their fucking idiotic rules! I'm so pissed off I could SPIT! Anyway, I vented my spleen by writing to the department - not that it'll do the slightest bit of good. Bureaucrats wear bullet-proof vests. I also wrote to the Federal and State members of parliament. Grrrrr!

BUT... there was a consolation. I sat next to a bloke wearing the most incredible hat and asked if I could take a pic. Hehe.

Beeb time: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets Burmese President Thein Sein to discuss the pace of reform, on the second day of her historic visit. Funny innit. Rarely do foreigners ever visit the US to tell Americans how to suck eggs. Asian markets jump, following a rally in the US and Europe, after a group of central banks move to boost global lending. Things are looking up! I hope so. Amnesty International accuses Saudi Arabia of reacting to the Arab Spring by launching a new wave of repression, with thousands of people arrested. Is anybody listening? Discussion of new moves against Iran is expected to dominate a meeting of EU foreign ministers, in the wake of the UK's expulsion of Iranian diplomats. According to countries like Iran, the west is wasting its time because it doesn't have Allah on its side. A copy of the first issue of Action Comics, featuring Superman's debut, has become the world's most expensive comic, fetching $2.16m (£1.4m). It was auctioned online for a starting bid of just $1, with a reserve price of $900,000. The buyer or seller's name was not disclosed, but there is speculation it was owned by actor Nicolas Cage. It is the first time a comic book has broken the $2m barrier. The issue was published in 1938 and cost 10 cents. As Cody used to say, whatever blows your hair back. Oscar Wilde's restored tomb has been unveiled in Paris, complete with a glass barrier to make it "kiss-proof". Work was carried out on the gravestone because it was covered in lipstick marks left by tourists, which was gradually destroying it. Wilde was convicted of gross indecency in 1895 and was sentenced to two years in prison in the wake of his love affair with Lord Alfred Douglas. Meanwhile, the judge who passed sentence has faded into obsurity. Judge who?

Why did people kiss the tomb of Oscar? All is explained here. The other reason is that people are stupid.

I can hardly believe this. When I wrote that last line above, I thought, "I wonder what would happen if I asked Google why people are so stupid?" And this is what I found. It's hilarious.

Here we go again... kitchen time. Easy tonight... leftover meatloaf, mash and gravy. Gary


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